The Friday Find // Mar y Sol 'Caracas' Tote


Is it too early to declare that I've found my summer bag? Mar y Sol's 'Caracas' Tote undoubtedly has a future on my arm. Sizable enough to haul around all of my (and my fiancé's for that matter) goodies, but also pretty and fun (those pompoms though), making it the perfect dose of arm candy. Can it just be summer already!?

Kentucky Derby Style + Four Ways


When you think of the Kentucky Derby, what comes to mind? Horses? Mint juleps? Big hats? While technically the Derby is about the horses, it's really all about the fashion. So when the opportunity presented itself to attend Chicago's biggest Derby party and enjoy The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports (check out last year here), after immediately saying yes, I had one thought "What am I going to wear?"

When planning for a derby look, one is faced with the age-old dilemma; What should come first, the hat or the dress? If there is one thing I know, it's that I look absolutely horrid in hats. (For someone that comes from a baseball family, you would think I could pull one off with decent success; not the case). So currently I am in desperate search of the perfect hat, and once found, the right dress will follow.

The Kentucky Derby is always one of the most fun fashion events of the year, making it the perfect excuse to try out some of spring's hottest trends, like culottes, matching separates, and woven handbags. Hold on to your hats and shop the looks seen above, in the links below!

Look 1: Rebecca Taylor DITSY TULIP JUMPSUIT (rent it here) / Topshop Crochet Floppy Hat / ASOS Horse Shoe Swing Earrings / Mar y Sol 'Giselle' Woven Clutch

Look 2: BCBG JENNI RUFFLE-SHOULDER RACERBACK DRESS / Alex and Ani 'Kentucky Derby - Race Horse' Bangle / Brooks Brothers Flower Derby Hat / BP. 'Luminate' Open Toe Dress Sandal

Look 3: Pixie Market Little Dreams Matching Separates / PIERS ATKINSON Flower-embellished sinamay trilby / Karen Walker 'Number One' Sunglasses / SOLE SOCIETY GEMMA bejeweled sandal

Look 4: H & M Ribbed Dress / Mar y Sol 'Collins' Woven Tote / SOLE SOCIETY MIX STRAW SUN HAT / SOLE SOCIETY Nahara wedge

Neutral Territory


When I find something that I love, whether it be a television show (House of Cards), food (Starburst jelly beans), or an outfit (the very one you see here), I can't help but binge. I have worn this outfit, in one version or another, at least once a week for the last month. The neutral / blue combination is perfect for transitioning to spring, and one with which I'm kind of obsessed... 

Truth be told, basics such as these are all that I'm wearing these days. Some may call such pieces boring, but I find that filling my closet with classic staples like these makes getting dressed each day a breeze. And with my wardrobe budget depleted due to wedding planning, I've been taking a stab at creating a capsule wardrobe (another concept I'm obsessed with these days), which allows a mere 37 clothing items that can be mixed and matched infinitely AND no shopping this spring. Paring down my wardrobe is going to be a challenge, but at least it won't stifle my neutral wearing, Netflix watching, jelly bean scarfing ways! 

Photos by Rachel Schrader 

What You Really Need To Know (But Nobody Tells You) About Wedding Gown Shopping


In the weeks following my engagement I consumed a lot of champagne, got back-to-back-to-back manicures, and logged an embarrassingly large amount of time on Pinterest. In the midst of that I caught a nasty bug, forcing me to spend more than a week couch- bound, doing little more than watching Bravo and you guessed it: more Pinterest. While perusing the boundless supply of wedding blogs, pin-boards, and websites that the Internet has to offer, I stumbled upon the most incredible wedding gown!

I've never met a bride who's beauty didn't take my breath away. I LOVE brides and seeing them in their beautiful gowns is thrilling! That said, in my all years as a wedding attendee, I've rarely seen a dress that I could imagine for myself; leaving me skeptical that I would find one. So when I thought that I may have virtually found a dress that seemingly had it all, I needed to see it to believe it (and as soon as humanly possible).

I'm a freak of nature and said YES to my dress after trying on a mere eight gowns, at the first boutique I visited, sixteen months prior to my wedding. It wasn't the dress that I'd originally seen online, but that dress lead me straight to THE dress. When I found my dress, it was so special that it almost brought a tear to this cold hearted, wedding gown disbeliever. The experience itself is nothing short of surreal, and is both nothing and exactly what you'd expect. Therefore I wanted to discuss what the shopping process is really like, and share few tips with y'all on finding that perfect dress.

Wipe away any expectation that resembles Say Yes To The Dress: Unless you are actually going to Kleinfeld's, your experience will likely be nothing like the popular television show.  Trust me, I went into my appointment with that fanciful idea as well. That was until I called to confirm. My first appointment was at a popular, yet independent bridal boutique. When I spoke with the boutique, I was told to wear modest undergarments because I would be changing in front of my shopping companions. That's right, they'd be IN my dressing room! Excuse me, that is not how it's done on TV! Luckily on the day of I had a large enough entourage that they gave me a private dressing room. My experience was wonderful, largely because I didn't have to prance around in my boy-shorts and Nubra in front of my grandmother. 

Start your shopping day off right by eating a hearty meal, and follow it up with a lot of water. Everyone looks their best fully hydrated. Save the champs for the post- shopping celebration because an intoxicated bride-to-be is never a good look. Additionally, I wore a bit more makeup than usual, fluffed up my hair, and finished things off with some sparkly, but dainty jewelry. Nothing should distract from your wedding shopping experience, but those little details helped enhance it. 

Do your research and prepare your elevator speech: The first question they ask upon arriving at a bridal salon is about the type of dress you are dreaming of. It's helpful to describe what you're looking for in a clear, concise sentence or two. Think of it as being able to explain your dress in the time it takes to ride an elevator. I believe that knowing the names of designers that I admired, styles and fabrics that I preferred, really served me well and set me on the right track to finding a dress so quickly.  Descriptive buzz words like "ethereal," "traditional," "embellishments," or "wispy silk" help paint a clear picture of what you want. For example, my consultant coined the term "back interest" for those dresses with a dramatic back. Between you and I that sounds like a code word for something else, but that's just me! 

Become besties with your consultant: Joke around, let her get a sense of who you really are. She is helping you find what is perhaps the most important dress of your life! Mine served as the perfect cheerleader and ally, especially when some of my entourage's opinions start flying or when they were oohing and aahing over a blinged out gown that was so not me. 

Stay true to who you are, while remaining open minded: Just because you are getting married doesn't mean you have to suddenly turn into a silk ruffle marshmallow bomb wearing princess. However, you'd be shocked at what looks so-so on the hanger, but dynamite on your body. These consultants know their dresses. I thought I was done shopping, with no dress to speak of, until the owner brought in one last dress to try. It was nothing special on the hanger, but sure enough, it blew me away.

The clamps: They pull a handful of beautiful dresses for you, and you can't wait to see your gorgeous (mid- wedding diet) silhouette in each one. Guess again ladies. Many boutiques carry each dress in only one size, to accommodate every bride in every size. It makes sense, but I was still dumbfounded when I found out that I wouldn't be trying on any dresses in my size. Yeah bridal runs small, but so what? My lovely consultant clamped and pinned each dress to death to give me a rough idea of what it would look like on the big day. In my mind this system is SO flawed, right? I would never shop this way for my regular clothes, let alone my wedding gown! But this is the process that's been done for years, so these people in the bridal world obviously know what they are doing. Your best bet is to find something that manages to look great when you're wearing more pins than a voodoo doll, because it will most certainly look phenomenal in your actual size! 

Accept that you probably will not be wearing white: Shockingly, most people do not wear true white on their wedding day. That is because most people do not look very good in true white, present company included. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many gorgeous shades gowns come in these days, like champagne, blush, and even gold! 

Customization: The right dress may not have it all, but it should have most of what you want. If you feel like a dress could be the one, but you're thinking of the small details that another dress possessed, ask about adding beading or sash to take it to the next level. I was very concerned (borderline obsessive) about keeping my bust in place, and my consultant assured me that they could add sufficient support to the dress to make me feel comfortable. If you can dream it, they can do it!

The train/ bustle debate: I've been given the daunting task of bustling a friend's dress. That was an EPIC fail. While I was properly trained in this task, I was really feeling my spirits when I had to actually carry out my job... Our bride's sister had to step in and relinquish us of our duties as we left our bride's backside in total disarray. When you're trying on dresses and considering a long train, ask if it bustles easily. If not, then you may need to enlist the help of a responsible, non- drinker to help you on the big day.

You may not cry: It seems as though crying comes with the territory when wedding dress shopping. There is about as much Kleenex around these bridal boutiques as there is at a funeral home. I'm not a cryer (that is until an ASPCA commercial comes on, or I see a clip of someone in the military being reunited with their families. Then I'm a mess. But I digress.), and for that reason, seeing others cry makes me feel icky inside. So I sort of mentally prepared myself for the tears on this shopping trip. What's weird is that I did tear up once, but not for the dress I chose ultimately. The dress that wrung my single tear was an extremely sophisticated, Allure lace gown. I loved it, and quite honestly had never seen myself that way. That lone tear completely psyched me out, because isn't that a tell tale sign that you've found your dress? If it brings you to tears. When I was certain I'd truly found my dress (a different one) I was trying to push out tears like they were kidney stones! Excessively blinking too, in hopes of inducing a tear or two. That can't be normal.  As Carrie Bradshaw once asked herself, "Am I missing the bridal gene?" Or better yet, am I void of emotion? Definitely not, just ask my fiancé. The reason that I didn't cry at my chosen dress was because it just excited me so much! And I didn't want to take it off! So in the end, THAT is how I knew! 

Truth be told, it was an incredible day that I will never forget! 

Do you have any bridal shopping tips? Or any wedding planning words of wisdom? I'd LOVE to read them! Please share away! xo

photos via / via

Spring Bags That Pack A Punch


I don't know about you, but I'm desperate for spring to begin. February is historically a brutal month in Chicago. Winter is at it's harshest, the holiday season is long gone, and the signs of spring are nowhere in sight. So when March rolls around, we celebrate any day with temperatures above freezing! 

Yet as the month marches on, getting dressed each day becomes tricky. We want to enjoy all of the pretty spring frocks and shoes that stores have to offer, but there is still snow and ice on the ground. So how's a girl supposed to embrace spring while still keeping weather appropriate? Break out the bright bags! While our brains are most definitely ready for spring, Mother Nature hasn't quite gotten that memo. So until we all thaw out, brightening up your outfit with a bold bag is the perfect way to incorporate spring style, while still keeping warm in your wintery duds. Best of all, this spring's best bags come in eye-catching shades and at every price (as low as $17!). 

Photo taken by Rachel Schrader

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My Beauty Saviors


When I'm immersed in an amazing meal, and close to completion, I instantly become sad. Why? I'm filled with unhappiness because this culinary joy will soon be coming to an end! The same rings true for beauty products. I love my favorite products like my (unborn) children. I depend on them daily. So I become fearful of the day that they will be finished or even worse, discontinued!

Currently I'm in a state of beauty bliss over my latest finds. Some you may have heard of, some may be new, but all you MUST try! 

For the lips: A gift from my brother's fiancée, Beautycounter's Lip Conditioner Peppermint Balm  has quickly become my favorite winter lip treatment. I use it all day and all night. I'd be lying if I said that I was anything less than addicted to it's minty flavor and smooth application. Since using it, my typically extremely dry lips have not chapped once this winter! 

I decided to go bold with my lips for our engagement party, and NARS Audacious Lipstick in 'Jeanne" was the perfect shade to make a statement. You must check out NARS' entire 'Audacious' line. Each shade is named after a fabulous famous woman. 

For the face: I've struggled with concealing my dark circles for years, but to little avail. However the killer combo of Bobbi Brown's Corrector and NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer  has truly worked wonders for me. The corrector alone instantly lightens my under-eyes and the concealer makes a tremendous difference.

My aunt is a loyal costumer of La Mer. While I've been lucky enough to use their amazing facial elixir here and there, it's not quite in my budget these days as I save for a wedding. But La Mer's 'The Powder', now that is a different story. Their powder is a perfect light cover for day-to-day, or finishing powder when combined with a liquid foundation. For only $65 the container is huge and could easily last you a full year.

For the nails: essie's, 'cocktail bling' is a nice departure from my standard emo winter manicure. It's pretty, without being too cheery for the winter months. Then the moment I return home for the nail salon, I immediately top my mani with Nails Inc. Kensington Caviar Gel Effect Plumping Top Coat. I've never been a fan of no-chip manicures, as they wreck havoc on your nails and are a pain in the you-know-what to remove. But this top coat gives you the benefit of a no-chip (maintaining my manicures for up to two weeks) without the pitfalls of the real thing! 

Fragrance: I discovered Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black's spicy scent through one of my closest friends. She carried it in her purse, and rolled it on us throughout and the smell was truly intoxicating. Now, no date night outfit is complete without it! 

What are your beauty saviors? I'd love to hear! xo

All Black Without Being Boring


What I'm wearing: Club Monaco sweater and skirtVince Camuto boots, J.Crew tights, Gorjana bracelet (similar)

Without much effort one usually wears black to make a statement. I'm powerful! I'm alternative. I'm chic. I'm boring. Like 90% of women out there my go-to "nice" outfit is usually black. While black is undoubtedly the easiest and most flattering shade to wear, it can also be a bit tricky when it's worn head- to- toe.

In my younger days, head- to- toe black is something that I wore incorrectly, constantly. I was completely swallowed by fashion apathy. What's worse, combined with my ghostly pale skin, I appeared to be wrapped in cloak of emo sadness. Ugh, teenage angst! So then how does one manage to wear all black without looking like a goth punk princess, Wednesday Addams, or a funeral attendee? The answer my friends is texture.

Varying textures like knit, leather, and suede, within one outfit, gives dimension to an otherwise potentially boring outfit. Take for instance my leather skirt. It's black obviously, but both the sheen from the leather and the laser cut flowers give it depth and give the eye something else to look to, aside from a blob of black. Also, the gold hardware on both the exposed zippers of my boots and skirt (no pictured) is an interesting detail that again, draws the attention of one's eyes. So yes, black may be synonymous with the darker side of life, but when done right, there's nothing chicer! 

 Photos taken by Rachel Schrader

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