Friday, June 27, 2008

Sneak peek at 'Affluence'

This Chanel evening dinner suit of silk lace over wool is among some 40 couture ensembles featured in the exhibit.

I got a sneak peek at the Mint Museum's 'The Art of Affluence' exhibit during a party at the museum on Thursday.

It was like I died and went to fab shoe heaven. And couture heaven. Prada, Balenciaga and Chanel, oh my!

The exhibit, which opens to the public July 5, features just a small sampling of the Mint's extensive collection of clothing and accessories.

And, for most of us who will never have the means to spend $25,000 on a gown, this is a wonderful opportunity to get thisclose to some amazing works of art. The artistry employed in the construction and design is marvelous.

Thursday's Style section will have a more detailed preview, so be sure to check it out.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

70 percent off @ Just Grace

I stumbled on a bittersweet retail happening in Birkdale Village in Huntersville (exit 25 off I-77).

Just Grace, a cute boutique, is closing its doors on Saturday. It's always a bummer to see an independent store go out of business.

At the same time, there are killer deals to be had -- the entire store is 70 percent off, including William Rast and Denim of Virtue jeans, adorable dresses and tops and some funky accessories.

I tried to restrain myself -- I left with only a Lewis Cho wrap dress (about $40) in my bag.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What's your fashion skeleton?

During lunch with some new friends, I inadvertently disclosed two fashion skeletons buried in my closet: A big fat wool cardigan with wooden buttons and a pair of Dr. Martens.

I can't remember the last time I wore those shoes or that giant, unflattering gray sweater with magenta and white around the collar. But I can't stomach the thought of tossing them.

That sweater was the pride of my I-wish-I-followed-the-Dead phase. I rocked it with jeans, with skirts, as a jacket ... And those shoes! Sigh. They are just cool.

The friends threatened to out me, or stage a closet intervention. No way. It's just one sweater and one pair of shoes! It's not like I've saved every bit of my fashion past.

Now that I think about it, I think I still have my rhinestone-crusted airplane earrings from middle school. They'd probably qualify as vintage by now, right?

What fashion skeletons are buried in your closet?

Friday, June 20, 2008

A fashion darling emerges

I missed watching Michelle Obama, 44, on "The View" earlier this week, but it's been hard to escape news of the dress she wore.

Which dress? The $148 sundress from White House/Black Market (there are three locations in our area -- Birkdale Village, SouthPark Mall and Blakeney).

Donna Ricco, designer of the dress, has been making the rounds of morning talk shows. Some of my fashion colleagues are dissecting her fashion status. Others are speculating on the hidden meaning of the name of the store.

I think it's about time we saw a strong, confident woman in politics dress to accentuate her body rather than hide it. You'll rarely see Michelle Obama in suits. Giant Barbara Bush-sized pearls, yes, but few pantsuits.

She's a mother, a professional, a potential first lady. She's also not afraid to dress as she pleases. And, she's got the upper arms to make sleeveless work. I think I just found my new arm role model.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More bridal drama

I spoke recently with Alan Fields, co-author of "Bridal Bargains" a straight-talking consumer guide for wedding planning in its eighth edition.

Fields and I were discussing the closing of La Bella Sposa, which continues to make news. He and his wife Denise have been dispensing bridal advice for 18 years (their book is in it's eight edition). After planning their own wedding in 1989 -- "this was pre-Internet, pre-a lot of resources," he says -- there wasn't a lot of information about being a smarter consumer.

"Our mission was two parts," Alan Fields says. "How to save money without having to look like you’re cheap, an the other mission was how to be a savvy consumer, how do you avoid ripoffs, protecting yourself. (The La Bella Sposa situation is a) consistent story – happens every year. Another shop just closed in Modesto, Calif."

He shared tips for helping protect yourself as you shop for gowns.

Locally, one of the La Bella Sposa brides has started a blog to help connect brides, orphaned dresses and those trying to help. They've also got a Facebook page as well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tightening the belt: What's your tip?

Times are tight. Now is a good time to evaluate how/when/why we are spending money. What are some of your favorite money-saving tips? Here's a few of my recent faves.

  • Trader Joe's Peppermint Pure Castile Soap. I use it in the shower to shave my legs, wash my face and body and it's got a zingy, minty kick. It's gentle enough for my children to use and can be used around the house. It's a steal at around $3 a bottle.

  • Buying second hand. There are tons of options around Charlotte, from higher-end consignment to Goodwill, Salvation Army and Value Village. They're all great for furniture, clothing and accessories, among other things. If you're saavy, you can sometimes find designer gear, too (those Donald J. Pliner never-worn pony-hair mules I picked up for $4 are among my top gets). Check out ShopGoodwill, too. This Website adds a bit of eBay -- it's an auction site. I've seen designer bags (Betsey Johnson, Prada) and tons of killer shoes as well as great vintage on there before.

    What are some of best money-saving tips?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bridal fallout

DAVID T. FOSTER III / Staff Photographer
A note to customers is taped to the front door of La Bella Sposa earlier this week.

The sudden closing of La Bella Sposa bridal shop in Charlotte as reported by my Observer colleague Kara Lopp this week has garnered quite a bit of attention and a lot of sympathy for the jilted brides.

As the story made national news cycles (including CNN), offers for help/support in fixing the dress disaster poured in.

"We own a Bella Bridesmaid boutique in Raleigh as well, and already carry Jenny Yoo, one of the popular designer collections previously offered by La Bella Sposa, and have made arrangements with the designer to immediately begin servicing brides in the Charlotte area as well," owner Cecily Jowers said in an e-mail. "We are not interested in making a profit from someone else's loss, but feel that it is important to maintain integrity for our customers during this time."

Among the shops trying to connect brides with their dresses:

  • Bella Bridesmaid: 2133 Southend Drive, Suite 104, Charlotte; 704-817-7547.

  • J. Majors Bridal Boutique: 2400 Park Road, Suite G, Charlotte; 704-372-0082.

  • Enchanting Moments in Fuquay-Varina (eastern N.C.) will offer discounts on in store merchandise to those who have purchased from La Bella Sposa. 919-552-6393 x 102.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Road Trip: Ya'll welcome H&M!

I just shouted out loud to no one in particular that H&M opens in Hot-lanta tomorrow at Atlantic Station. Hm ... I was only going to clean the house this weekend ...

Those of you familiar with road-tripping to ATL for your IKEA fix (guilty!) now have even more incentive to drive four hours for cheap imports. Yes, there's another H&M in Georgia (Alpharetta, at North Point Mall), but you could reason you're saving gas if you can hit both joints in one stop now at Atlantic Station. Not that I'm rationalizing, or anything.

H&M, the oft-imitated cheap, chic chain got its start in Sweden in 1947. They've now got 1,500 stores in 29 countries. The clothing and accessories (for men, women and children) are "created centrally by around 100 in-house designers together with buyers and pattern makers."

Did I mention the goods are cheap and cute? I get tons of compliments on all the H&M goodies I could wrestle into my suitcase while I was in NYC in February.

Maybe this is a sign for H&M devotees in Charlotte. The QC is constantly in Atlanta's shadow ... does that mean we'll finally get our own shop soon? Please?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fab Finds: Psycho Bunny for Dad

If you want to go the traditional route this Father’s Day, do so with a little ’tude.

The Psycho Bunny line of menswear tweaks convention in stylish, witty ways. Among our faves are the silk neckties, which feature garden gnomes, pineapples and grenades, the signature bunny and crossbones logo and this subtle, ’80s throwback Space Invaders pattern. $125, Old Dog Clothing, 6822-A Phillips Place Court, Charlotte. 704-554-5000;

LISTEN UP! I'll be on the Matt & Ramona radio show around 4 p.m. today (Wednesday) sharing more tips for last minute Father's Day gifts. Be sure to listen at 107.9 FM or online.

MORE FATHER'S DAY GIFT IDEAS: Check out Thursday's Style section. If you can't wait, here are links to the products we're featuring.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Travel fashion: cute or comfy or both?

Paul Oakley illustration

I'm headed to Colorado for an old friend's wedding. I was stressing about what to wear to the ceremony (outdoors, temps are considerably cooler than Charlotte).

I was also stressing about what to wear on the plane. I want to look stylish, but also want to be comfortable. I want to be practical and cute. Is is possible to do both?

My flying ensemble will be a long tiered dress, cotton shrug and black kitten heel flip-flops. I figure the shoes will come in handy at security. But I'm still a bit freaked out by the cool nighttime temps around Denver, though -- 33 as a low? In June?

What's your favorite piece of travel fashion?