Monday, June 30, 2008

Plus-Size Problems Solved!

Monif C. has the curviest women covered!

The other day my co-worker emailed me the following question:

Another pal is looking for a suitable size 12 dress to wear to a "formal" wedding in 2 weeks. Can you recommend a store or two that has inexpensive (>$50 is ideal but may be unrealistic), fancy but not too fancy dresses for a curvy, busty size 12?

I totally enjoy helping folks out with this kind of stuff so I promptly responded with this reply: (On my LUNCH BREAK of course, lol!)

Ann Taylor immediately comes to mind. Zara and Banana Republic do as well. The Victoria Secret catalogue is another great resource. She shouldn’t sleep on these chain stores because they just might have the perfect dress for her at the right price. (As crazy as it seems, these retailers have already started to mark down many of their summer items because fall I merchandise will be rolling in soon.)

She should also check out Lee Lee’s Valise in Brooklyn which apparently has stylish options for plus-size gals. The price points might be on the high end but she should think of this type of purchase as an investment.

Monif C. is another strong option for her. They have a store in midtown. ***Fabulous and affordable wrap dresses...

In general, she should try to look for a wrap dress or a silhouette that will accentuate her bust line. This includes v-necks and low scoop necks. Proper foundation is very important too so tell her not to forget about wearing the right undergarments with whatever dress she chooses. (Spanx is a no-brainer here but not the only option.)

If I think of something else, I’ll hit you back...

My co-worker was elated and quickly passed the info onto her pal. It wasn't until a couple of days later that I realized this exchange would make the perfect PPT post. I hope this info helps someone else. In addition to the resourses highlighted above, I thought of a few others after like Kiyonna, Igigi and Cherished Woman which was started by a former plus size model.

And about that under fifty bucks caveat. While it isn't completely unrealistic, it is more important to consider value when shopping rather than price. Paying $100 for a dress that will be worn multiple times per year over five years or so (as this type of dress probably will be) is a lot more cost-effective than a dress that cost $30 and can only be worn twice because it lacks quality.

Oh and there is always the vintage/thrift route but in my experience when shopping for a specific item as this size 12 wedding goer is, a reliable go-to resource is a much better bet. Vintage shopping can be very hit or miss and is not ideal for anyone under pressure.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Style Notes From Michelle Obama

Michelle "everyone is sweating me right now" Obama can teach us all a thing or five about how to embrace our own personal style, whatever that might be. I debated on posting this because as I just mentioned, EVERYONE is sweating Michelle these days. And I must add that she is handling all this sweat - the good and not so great - with grace, poise and just a hint of Chicago swagger.

Yes, the black and white Donna Ricco dress she wore on The View last week sold out in mere days. Yes, Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Talley hosted a celeb-filled dinner for her at Calvin Klein’s crib last week. And yes, every major media outlet has already reported on how flawless she looked beside Barack at Democratic presidential election celebration wearing her purple shift and wide black patent leather belt.

While I am not a fan of the head to toe copying of what anyone else is wearing regardless of who they are (that isn’t style, it’s…copying) I did think it might be cool to identify the elements of Michelle’s current style m-o that we can all benefit from. Enjoy!

The black ribbon detail on this dress helps hide a possible bulge below.

1 - Play up your assets. Michelle has an hourglass figure so she cinches her waist any chance she gets. Ladies, this works if you’re a size 2 or a 22 providing you truly have an hourglass shape. Trust me. But maybe you hate your midsection and want to take attention away from it. Remember that the area right under our breasts is the smallest part of most women’s torso which is why Michelle’s black and white View dress was such a flattering silhouette as well.

2 - Embrace color. Although Michelle tends to favor black, it was the violet hue that made us all take note, right? And how pretty is that orange against her chocolate brown skin? Once we learn what colors best compliment our complexions, it is easier to pull this off. Regardless of our size or skin tones - the "right" pop of color always ups the wow factor. Use trial and error to figure out what right is for you.

Michelle switches up from the pearls...

Here, she kicks her jewelry up a notch for the dinner in her honor co-hosted by Talley.

3 - Accessories are our friends. Mrs. Obama favors pearls but not of the former First Lady Bush variety. (See this is where her Chi-town swagger comes in. On many others, those same pearls would appear matronly. So style really is about attitude.) The black patent leather belt added just the perfect dose of panache to her purple shift. The right accessories are sorta like the vanilla extract in my French Toast batter. The dish is okay without it but sooo much more memorable when included to the mix.

Another fly wide belt...

4 - Form fitting - not tight - clothing is key. Michelle is a grown woman with two children. So she has curves. But she, or whoever shops for her, opts for tasteful, age-appropriate clothing that accentuates her figure while keeping her camera ready. An ill fitting garment can ruin a look no matter how fly it is.

You rarely go wrong with a crisp white shirt and dark bottom. Of course this is not any white shirt. Details, details.

5 - Always dress the part. My father used to often say, "If you look good, you’ll feel good and you’ll do good." Okay maybe you had to live in my household to totally appreciate that one the way I do but it holds the same philosophy as "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have." Doesn’t Michelle already look like a First Lady?

P.S. - Totally random but worth sharing: I ate at a super-cool restaurant in D.C. this weekend that I just had to include in this post. Bodega is located in the heart of Georgetown and serves up tasty tapas and fruity cocktails all inspired by Spain. (Well, maybe not the mashed potatoes...) The portions are healthy and the ambiance is just delightful. A sweet and intimate courtyard are located in the back of the restaurant and the prices are pretty reasonable for Georgetown. Try the garlic spinach - it was really yummy!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Waiting, Anticipating...

Ethiopian born beauty Liya Kebede in a ridiculous fur situation.

Notorious bad girl Naomi Campbell looking quite regal and sophisticated. She turns it on and off in a flash - I guess she's a supermodel for a reason.

What is it about black and white images that are so compelling? Steven Meisel surely knows...

Model turned media mogul Tyra Banks still knows how to turn it on for the camera.

So the rumors were partly true, Jourdan Dunn did score the cover of this monumental issue. But there are three other cover stars as well. Will you purchase all four? (From left to right: Liya Kebede, Sessilee Lopez, Jourdan Dunn and Naomi Campbell.)

Yes, I'm waiting and anticipating for the July 2008 issue of Italian Vogue to hit newsstands here in the U.S. As if the buzz factor wasn't already through the roof, Cathy Horyn's piece in The New York Times today has officially made me beyond eager to read this issue. (Cathy is such a good writer!)

As I discussed in this post, I will give a full re-cap of the issue once I have digested it cover to cover. And yes I am still brushing up on my, ahem, Italian.

Meanwhile, let's all drool over these images shot by uber-photographer Steven Meisel.

Oh and Parlour Magazine is on it! I would not have known about this NYT article until much later in the day if it weren't for their Morning Coffee post today.

P.S.- I truly hope that this issue makes some difference in leveling the playing field (in mags from Vogue to XXL) and isn't just the birthing of an insulting trend. The recent coverage of Michelle Obama is yet another reminder to me about how misunderstood Black women are.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sample Sales 101: Get Savvy

About a month ago I paid a visit to the Catherine Malandrino sample sale in NYC. I always do well there. I once scored a yummy lemon halter dress that I wore to two of my close friends' weddings later that summer. It was a good investment especially since I can’t afford Catherine’s designs at retail. Well fast-forward to the recent sale. I was in the fitting room trying on a sweet purple spaghetti strap number. Frustrated that it wasn’t fitting properly I threw my hands up in angst and was on my way out the door when two of my co-workers asked a salesperson for assistance on my behalf. Not only did the salesperson help me realize that I actually needed a smaller size than the one I originally tried on but she didn’t pressure me to buy anything. Seriously, she was cool as a fan. I paid $95 for the frock and a couple of weeks ago I peeped the exact same dress in Intermix on the sales rack for $295. (Originally tagged at $495!!!)

Are you interested in learning how to really catch a B-A-R-G-A-I-N at a sample sale too? Of course you are! Read on for insider tips from Heide Kennedy, the super-duper sales rep who helped me out with my latest Catherine purchase. With Heide’s help, the NY based company Savvy produces sample sales for cult designers like Tracy Reese, Rebecca Taylor and Vivienne Westwood in addition to Catherine. Read on to find out the best time to attend a sample sale, how nice gals really can finish first and why it is so important to focus, focus, focus.

PPT: What exactly is Savvy and what is your role there?
HK: Savvy produces traditional brick and mortar and online sales. I am responsible for getting the designers to work with us. We just started our online sales in November of 2007. Then of course we have stock sales and the company has been in existence for about ten years. Now we have our own venue which is on 18th street in NYC.

PPT: Will you explain the difference between sample sales and stock sales? I don’t think most people know.
HK: Well, sometimes designers cut too much or stores cancel orders so they [the designers] are left with overstock. This allows the public to buy the product at a lower price. The name "sample sale" has just been coined and has stuck but most of what the general public attends are stock or warehouse sales.

PPT: You mentioned that you work directly with the designers. What is your career background?
HK: I grew up in fashion. My dad had an outerwear company so I was always in the garment district. I went to Parsons School of Design, lived in Paris for a while and I’ve done some personal shopping. I also go to all the fashion week shows and the trade shows.

Me cheesin' at Nassau's One & Only Ocean Club wearing my Catherine sample sale find

PPT: How is the explosion of online sample sales good for indie designers?
HK: There are so many new designers, especially in this economy, who are struggling. It’s hard to survive without corporate backing. There are many designers who don’t have enough units for a traditional sale with us because they’re not a big company. But with the online sales you don’t need that many units so it’s great.

PPT: What are the biggest mistakes people make when shopping at sample sales?
1 - Not being focused. It’s so easy to walk into a sale and get distracted because everything has been marked down. It’s like going into the supermarket hungry.
2 - Not remembering that there are no returns or exchanges at most sample sales. Since this is the norm, more people should make sure they have their desired size and style, color, etc.
3 - Not being organized. Most sample sales have an open fitting room so buyers should be most careful with their belongings and hold onto their desired purchases tightly.

PPT: When are the best times to visit a sample sale to get the best deals?
HK: Well the first day is best to purchase the most-wanted pieces because those always go first. The last day is best in terms of prices because most designers slash their prices on the last day. So I suggest grabbing the piece that you love and must-have on the first day and holding out on the ones you’re iffy about because chances are others will be too and it will get marked down drastically.

PPT: Most savvy shoppers know how important it is to befriend the sales associates in their favorite boutique to get the scoops on new shipments, sales, special events and the like. Would you say this transfers to sample sales as well?
HK: Absolutely. At Savvy, we try to mimic the non-sample sale retail environment as much as possible. We treat our customers the way we would like to be treated so it becomes contagious all around.

These bags and more will be on sale courtesy of Savvy and L.A.M.B. by Gewn Stefani beginning June 18th. Read this for the details. I seriously have my eye on that green one...

If you wanna get in on more online sample sale fun, also check out (thanks Ben!) and always check which has some of the best sample sale alerts hands down regardless of where you live.

PPT NOTE: Many sample sales require buyers to check their bags so be sure to carry an oversized wallet that fits your cash, debit/credit card and most importantly a phone to call your best friend before you blow the mortgage money on that fushia, sequin ball gown… Get even more sample sale tips here.

Friday, June 13, 2008


(From left to right: Constance White, Kevan Hall, Ruby Dee and Andre Leon Talley at Melba's on June 9th.)

I caught up on my WWD reading last night and was so pleased to learn that Mrs. Ruby Dee was feted by the cream of the crop in fashion publishing on Monday. Andre Leon Talley, Constance White (she's one of my mentors), Kevan Hall (Remember he designed this dress for Kimora? Well, he also designed Dee's Oscar gown.), Gayle King, Robin Givhan and Harriette Cole were all in attendance. The event took place in Ruby's old stomping grounds of Harlem at the soul-food restaurant Melba's. (The mixed drinks at Melba's are delish!)

It seems like it was a first class event for a well-deserved recipent. Constance presented Ruby with several items from eBay where she is the creative director, among them an original 1950's playbill from A Raisin in the Sun. The trailblazing actress was hooked up with a pair of $10,000 Mikimoto earrings as well.

I was blessed to meet Ruby and Ossie Davis (RIP) in 2004 and she was just as graceful as you might expect. But she was also kind of sassy which I respected as well. Although I wasn't in their presence long, their love for each other was palpable. Ruby is much more than a talented actress and the power couple stood up for what they believed in together. I've met many celebs in my day but that encounter is by far one of my most cherished.

Her dinner with the stylish set apparently left quite an impression on Ruby. She had this to say about the evening:

"This is the first time I've ever had such an occassion where people like you have come to honor me. It's like the great hand of God is reaching through the sky and patting me on the back and saying, 'Atta girl!'"

Spoken like a true living legend.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Soul of Summertime

It. Is. Hot.

I have a couple of blog posts in the works but they're not complete and I haven't made the time to finish them. I'm hot. Very, very hot. Did I mention that I am hot? Still, I needed to post something today and then I remebered the piece below and thought it would be cool to share with you guys. It was written by Kevin Powell and orginally appeared in the June/July 1996 issue of Vibe. Yes I keep clips from that long ago. Even older ones in fact if they really speak to me. I'm a magazine junkie so I can't help it.

What is so special about these words you're wondering? They're actually not all that "special" at all. Very plain and simple but honest and vunerable too. It is more about the memories they evoke. Great writng is like great style: timeless. Every single time I read this article by Kevin I smile and think back to the summers I spent in my grandparents yard "Down South" in North Carolina and the ones I spent at home in Jamaica, Queens. Memories of matching short sets (my mother was big on coordinating), Skips (generic/knock-off Keds), double-dutch (I never learned how to jump and I'm double-handed) and lightening bugs (why don't they come out anymore????).

Okay, I'm rambling but I hope someone feels this. Thanks for these words Kevin. It is 12 years and counting... And although it is technically still Spring -- Happy Summer!

Me and my cousin D in our great Aunt Des's yard circa 1984 (or so). I had just arrived from the "big city" for a N.C. visit. Don't let the barefoot, country thing fool you. D is now married to an awesome guy, is the mother of two bright children and has some fancy-smancy gig as a hospital director.

The Soul of Summertime by Kevin Powell

Just when things seem to be getting worse around the way -- so and so got shot, that girl's having another baby, homeboy's pops got the AIDS -- summer in all its multiflavored blissfulness steps to us, bathes us in sunshine and says, Yo kid, everything's gonna be I-ight.

Really, though, there is something truly theraputic, even liberating, about the sights, sounds, and soul of summer: the boys scopin' out the girls and the girls scopin' out the boys, the colorful and all-too-revealing clothes, the mobile stereo systems better known as cars and jeeps, the all-day barbeques and spirited games of dominoes, the tiny bodies splashing through water blasting from open hydrants, and all the folks taking in the show from the safety of their rooftops and fire escapes.

Summertime is like that cool-ass cousin from Down South who makes his or her way to the big city just to chill for a few months and -- along the way-- shows you things you never dreamed possible: walks in the park with a newfound love, house parties without beefs or turf wars, music festivals where your body moves in ways your mama said would surely lead you to the devil, and a scorching sun that makes it okay to sweat and smell a little funky 'cause everybody is sweaty and funky.

That cool-ass cousin from Down South knows what time it is: time to lay back in the cut, reflect, regroup from a hellish winter or hard year at school, switch jobs, plot for the rest of the year, and eat as much food as you can -- especially when somebody else is cooking it. And just like that cool-ass cousin when he or she's about to peace you out and head home, as summer fades, you can't help but smile and say, Thanks for everything. I can't wait to see you again next year.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Natural News


I'm excited because it is a gorgeous day here in NYC and I have picnics and bbqs to catch up with old friends at later today. Oh and I love to eat. So, life is good. And it just got a little better for you if you're a natural haired woman. I realize that not all PPT readers are Black or Latina, 'Hi Sarah!' so maybe I should be more specific. If your hair is kinky, curly, wavy, locked, braided or if you're growing out a relaxer, you're going to appreciate THE COIL REVIEW in a big way. The recently launched site offers a wealth of information to those with "natural coily and textured curly" strands. Although I just relaxed my hair after being natural for eight years (yeah, it was numbing for me too) I still greatly appreciate that this site was created and provides a such comprehensive resource on the web for those who choose not to chemically straighten their hair. While I was slightly disappointed that some of the celeb photos are outdated (Goapele no longer has locks), I found the state-by-state Salon Directory to be quite up to date and certainly needed since every other week someone asks me for a natural hair stylist recco. Also, the Homeade Mixes and Natural Tips sections are quite informative.

Vintage pic of L Boogie sporting a short natural style (I've always loved this picture of her...)

The Coil Review had a launch party in NYC this past Wednesday that I missed because of a work commitment but it appears as though there are more special events in the near furture so be sure to check those out as well.

Now I'm off to play spades, eat corn on the cob and laugh until my stomach hurts.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Superhero Stylin'

Through fashion we are free to fantasize, to escape the ordinary.

-Superheros: Fashion and Fantasy Exhibit, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tuesday after work I made good on a promise to myself to take better advantage of New York City this summer. For the record, I do this every year around the end of May. And every year around the end of September I’m kicking myself for not making it to all the places and events on my (very long) wish list. Well I’m proud to type that I’m starting the Summer of 2008 off right. For the first time (but certainly not the last) I attended the Museum Mile Festival. It's like a huge block party on 5th Avenue for the art loving set. Lots of Upper East and West Side families and their nannies mingled with NYC boho transplants for the event. (Most native New Yorkers don’t regularly go to these types of shindigs…)

Since I left work late (shame on me) I didn’t get uptown to Museum Mile as early as I wanted forcing me to only make it inside the MET. But it gave me the opportunity to view the newly launched Superheros exhibit. (Remember I didn’t make it to the gala kick-off a couple weeks back, lol.) So cool. I’ve never thought about the similarities between fashion, especially high-end fashion and Superhero costumes. They both offer a bit of fantasy. And think about it – how mean was Catwoman’s black bodysuit and Wonder Woman’s knee-high boots? Some of the designers included in the exhibit are John Galliano, Julian Macdonald, Alexander McQueen, Rick Owens and Nicolas Ghesquiere. I have to go back because there were too many baby strollers in the mix for me to fully take in the exhibit the way I wanted. Unlike the BLOG exhibition, visitors were unable to take pics so I grabbed one from the web to give you a quick taste of what I saw.

Since I haven’t blogged in a minute I didn’t get to dish on the recent passing of Yves Saint Laurent. However, many of my fellow bloggers did. Reading Monday and Tuesday’s WWD educated me on how influential of a designer he was -- even more than I realized. And he opened doors for many models of color in his day including Naomi Campbell and Pat Cleveland who both speak very highly of the groundbreaker. Check out The Fashion Bomb’s coverage of YSL here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

My Soul Is A Witness

Listen here. Before I attempted to get into the style and fashion ish I had to write a lil’ something on the man they call Barack Obama, his wife Michelle (gangsta I tell you, that woman is just gangsta) and their two adorable daughters Malia and Sasha. There are a number of stories out there in the blogosphere that offer profound and critical posts on what Obamas running, especially now, means for the presidential election and politics on a whole.

Did the republicans plot this from the get to nail the election? Are we being set up for the okey doke? Do we really want Barack to inherit the mess that Bush is going to leave behind?

Ya not gonna get that here.

I am just happy doggonit. Because I know, rather WE know that Barack can actually win this thing. And that feels dang good. I used to collect buttons as a child and I pulled this one out to reflect on Jesse running back in 1988. No offense to Mr. Jackson but it felt nothing like this. Sure I was merely a youngin’ and couldn’t vote back then plus Jess didn’t get this far but knowing that I’m witnessing history right now is quite special. As I have blogged about before, one of the reasons I was so excited that Barack was running in the first place is because it reminds me of how far I have come (Bloody Sunday, I still have a lot of fam in Selma, AL) and how far I have to go (Sean Bell, I live about 10 minutes away from where he was murdered).

Every time I think about all the "inner city" teenage mothers who have been given up on being inspired by Michelle (born and raised on Chicago’s South Side) my heart smiles. When I realize that my nieces and godchildren might be able to see Malia and Sasha playing in the White House, my eyes well up.

I don’t follow politics nearly as much as I should but my soul knows what feels good.

Oh yeah and I’m rocking my Obama t-shirt to work tomorrow! (And I NEVER plan outfits the night before.)


So my girl E just emailed me a link to her blog Six Figure Sisters where she too posted on Barack and Michelle. Her post titled Looking For The Big O is a must read. Check it out here.