Shopping

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to pay more attention to my appearance. Now I’m not really a shallow and image-conscious person — okay, maybe I  am — but I was definitely in an ongoing style slump. You see, ever since I traded writing in a newspaper office for writing at my kitchen table a couple years ago, I’ve been going steadily downhill, fashion-wise. Not that I always wore full-body business attire when I worked fulltime, but I did usually try to look professional and put-together when I had an office to go to. But despite everybody’s advice to treat working-at-home just as if I was working in an office, it felt so liberating — at first – to hang out in three-day-old jeans and an old “Save the Manatees” T-shirt. I mean, if I’m interviewing unseen folks on the phone and fighting only the cats instead of cubicle-mates for leftover doughnuts, who’s going to notice? The problem was that I noticed. And as my fashion-sense gradually eroded, I started to feel dowdy and frumpy. All the time. And lazy. If, for instance, a friend would call at 10 a.m. for coffee or lunch and I was still in my PJs, I’d be inclined to decline — too much trouble to get cleaned up. (Although I promise I always got dressed by lunchtime. Or around there, anyway.) In addition, the severe reduction in my clothes-budget due to that whole leaving-a-good-paying-fulltime-job thing meant I had the perfect excuse for just shlumping around.  And that is not good. Not good at all. So as 2009 wound down, I knew I had to make an effort and make a change. Luckily, Younger Daughter moved back home after college graduation to work part-time — and she does not allow style slacking. Or pity parties. So I’ve promised myself to do better — and I’m working on it, even if it means just putting on good jeans and a sweater that doesn’t look as if it were born in the 1980s. And to get myself back in the fashion mood, I’ve been perusing magazines and Web sites for inspiration. Then I head to TJ Maxx – or my own closet. Here are my new favorite style sites — see if you like them, too.

Stylecaster, http://www.stylecaster.com/, is like getting your own personal edition of Vogue in your mailbox every day. This “fashion social network” offers articles on style, trends, designers, jewelry, hair and makeup, but the best part is the personalization aspect — for instance, you can get e-mailed style suggestions for the day based on your town’s weather. How cool is that? It’s like when the TV weather folks say, “Make sure the kids have a coat for the schoolbus this morning,” but for grownups. I also like the trend breakdown of putting together separate elements to come up with a unified look. And you can buy things and upload your own photos — but I mainly just read and look.

The Gilt Groupe, at http://www.gilt.com, is all about luxury and designers and Things You Wish You Had Somewhere To Wear Them To but it’s perfect for looking and dreaming. And being on the lookout for affordable versions of the real thing. You have to be invited so there’s sort of a behind-the-velvet-rope feel to this, but e-mail me if you want in. I mean, if they take me nobody else should have any problem.

And then there’s Shopbop, at http://www.shopbop.com/. This totally is a retail site but it covers all price points and the daily e-mails are full of the latest trends so you always know what’s hot and what’s not.

Shopping and Style

Children's clothingOh my goodness. My husband always cautions me against turning into a Styleblubbering grandmother and overwhelming you all with photos and praise of grandson Capt. Adorable, but I just can’t help it. And you know I think all of y’all’s children and grandchildren are adorable, too. I really do.  I always want to hear more about their cuteness. And I’m not posting these pics because I think my grandson is the most adorable and cute of them all. Oh, no. You know that’s not the case here, I promise. I’m just posting these pics because … well … let’s see … uh … hmm … because I want to talk about children’s clothing. Yes, yes — that’s it. I want to have a completely objective discussion about little boys’ clothes and how they wear the exact same thing that big boys and men wear but somehow it just looks so especially adorable on their little 19-month-old selves. I mean, have black sneakers, dark cuffed jeans, a white untucked oxford shirt and a knitted sweater vest and matching scarf ever looked so cute? Somehow even though a grown man could wear the exact same thing, it just wouldn’t look the same, would it? Baby Gap and Old Navy excel at this look – translating grownup style to toddler chic at affordable new-parent prices. Until I had a grandson, I always thought that little girls’ clothes were far more fun than little boys’, but now I head straight for the T-shirts and cargo pants and don’t even notice the pink lace and ruffles across the aisle. See, now we’ve had our discussion about children’s fashion and I didn’t once mention our model, Capt. Adorable. It’s just a coincidence that he’s wearing the exact same thing I wanted to talk about, really it is.

Shopping

Scruggs in Tupelo, MississippiAny store with a sign on its front door requesting customers to “check Saddlestheir firearms at the customer-service desk for safety purposes” goes straight to the top of my favorites list. This is Scruggs, in Tupelo, Mississippi — a sort of combined feed store, general store and John Deere dealership. Think Home Depot, farmer-style. My husband swears it’s the best place to buy mouse traps and other mysterious manly things he uses around Scruggs the house and I’m happy to let him be in charge of those chores. And even though we don’t have a horse or cows or cornfields, I still like to wander around Scruggs’ aisles and browse. I think I like this store because it reminds me of one of my all-time favorite retailers — Rural King. And my all-time favorite Rural King store is in my mother’s hometown of Effingham, Illinois. When we’d go visit my grandparents, we’d usually stop at the Rural King, which anchored the local mall. (Who needs a JC Penney’s or a Sears when you can buy everything from jeans to seed at the Rural King?) For the longest time, that Rural King was the only place my dad could find Carhartts, and I’d usually find a comfy and cozy sweater while my brothers would head for the toys and my mom to the flower-gardening aisle. Maybe I’m just a country girl at heart. Check out Scruggs at http://www.scruggsfarm.com and Rural King at http://www.ruralking.com/

Shopping

White FlowersHomewood, Alabama — a small town that’s virtually White Flowersindistinguishable from adjacent Birmingham — is one of my favorite shopping destinations. Seems as if something new and different always is popping up there — such as the store White Flowers. Owner Diana Hansen recently relocated her gift and clothing boutique to Homewood from nearby Mountain Brook Village, and the all-white window displays immediately grabbed everybody’s attention — in a quiet and serene way, of course, because that’s how you feel as soon as you open the door and are surrounded by all things white. Hansen sells  jewelry, candles, home decor and clothing as well as T-shirts, nightshirts and baby clothes that feature her own designs inspired by art and gardens — all in varying shades of white and natural neutrals. Be sure to visit the White Flowers Web site, http://www.whiteflowers.com – it’s as graceful and peaceful as the shop.

Jewelry Part 2

 Younger Daughter is one of those people who has an eye for color and texture and she puts together the most gorgeous earring creations. Every time I wear her designs, people ask me where I’ve been shopping. She just made

Pair No. 8 -- icy lavender and green drops

Pair No. 8 -- icy lavender and green drops

some new ones and I told her I’d be honored to put them up in the blogosphere for worldwide admiration. So here you go. Each pair is $15 including postage — I’ll just wrap them up and mail them to you in a first-class envelope if that’s OK. E-mail me at cathylwood@gmail.com and I’ll send you payment info. All earrings are sterling-silver findings and most of the beads are glass. She can do special orders, too. And because I can’t figure out how to do all these pics in one post, be sure to check out Jewelry Part 1. Click on any pic to enlarge it.

Pair No. 5 -- my favorites -- love the green patterned glass bead at the bottom

Pair No. 5 -- my favorites -- love the green patterned glass bead at the bottom

Pair No. 6 -- beautiful shadings of lavendar and green

Pair No. 6 -- beautiful shadings of lavender and green

Pair No. 7 -- classic navy and white -- the blue color practically glows

Pair No. 7 -- classic navy and white -- the blue color practically glows

Jewelry Part 1

I don’t mean to brag here or anything, but I pretty much have the most creative and talented daughters ever. Ever.

Pair No.4 -- classic brown and black for fall

Pair No.4 -- classic brown and black for fall

Older Daughter is a wonderful dancer and can construct the most incredible costume  you ever saw out of the most mundane fabric and a random pile of assorted beads. Younger Daughter is equally skilled at making earrings. She is one of those people who has an eye for color and texture and she puts together the most gorgeous creations. Every time I wear her designs, people ask me where I’ve been shopping. She just made some new ones and I told her I’d be honored to put them up in the blogosphere for worldwide admiration. So here you go. Each pair is $15 including postage — I’ll just wrap them up and mail them to you in a first-class envelope if that’s OK. E-mail me at cathylwood@gmail.com and I’ll send you payment info. All earrings are sterling-silver findings and most of the beads are glass. She can do special orders, too. And because I can’t figure out how to do all these pics in one post, be sure to check out Jewelry Part 2. Click on any pic to enlarge it.

Pair No. 1 -- classic black and white

Pair No. 1 -- classic black and white

Pair No. 2 -- Beautiful blues and greens

Pair No. 2 -- Beautiful blues and greens

Pair No. 3 -- a fun mix of color, shape and size

Pair No. 3 -- a fun mix of color, shape and size

Fashion

Old Navy little boy clothesWhen my two now-20-something-year-old daughters Old Navy women's blouseswere younger, Old Navy was Clothing Central. We could find whatever we needed there for all three of us: School clothes, T-shirts and shorts for summer, jeans, jackets and even work basics for my office. Lately though, I’ve been disappointed. I don’t know if we’ve changed or Old Navy has, but I’ve walked out empty-handed most times I’ve gone in recently — if I even went in. With grandson Capt. Adorable’s arrival almost 13 months ago, however, Old Navy has regained its top spot for family fashion. I bypass everything else and head straight back to the baby-boy corner, where shirts and shorts like these are off the cute-0-meter. And cheap. In size 12-18 months, each of these pieces was about $12. I think Capt. Adorable’s going to be the best-dressed toddler at the playground. And of course, on my way out of the baby-boy section, I just happened to spy these blouses for me. Perfect! They’re lightweight and fitted just like I want button-up blouses to be and they give winter-weary closets some of that cheerful color warm-up we’re all craving right now. At $25 each, they come in literally a rainbow of shades. Hard to choose — I may have to go back for more. Check them out also at http://oldnavy.gap.com/.

Baby Showers

Baby giftsI love getting baby-shower invitations, because who doesn’t Baby showersall adore all those sweet tiny baby things? And I would never express a preference for baby-girl things over baby-boy things because I’m having so much fun shopping for my precious 11-month-old grandson, but there’s just Baby giftssomething about little and pink and frilly that makes us grown women go sort of silly. We can’t help it. And guests got a delightful dose of that baby-girl femininity this past weekend at a shower for the daughter of a friend of mine. So much Baby shower decorationsfun! As much as I like to be sophisticated and grownup –  no, really, I do –  I cannot resist miniature pink baby buggys filled with candy. And one of the best things about baby showers in my Alabama town is shopping at the Baby’s Room, our local baby store. Expectant moms go there to pick out shower presents, parents-to-be shop there for nursery furniture and giddy grandmas go there to buy those gorgeous and impractical outfits only grandmas can get away with. Plus, I love the way the Baby’s Room folks do gift registries: You’re assigned a cubicle and you physically put what you’d like in your cubicle. Friends and family members shopping for you get to see and touch and feel your choices before deciding. (Coming in and perusing the cubicles is also a good way to keep up with who’s pregnant.) The best part of Baby’s Room shopping? The free and beautiful gift-wrapping. Actually the best part is that the Baby’s Room owners and staff make you feel special just for coming in. That’s the way shopping used to — and should —  be. Check it out at http://www.thebabysroomstore.com/.

New Orleans and Mardi Gras

Beignets for Mardi GrasAs Fat Tuesday rolls around — it’s tomorrow — everybody has a little New Orleans in them. And if you didn’t make it to Mardi Gras this year, you can celebrate at home (and a little quieter) with your Books about New Orleansown personal tribute — and you don’t even have to wear purple beads. For instance, you can find Cafe Du Monde Beignet Mix and ground coffee in almost any grocery store. And it’s pretty good, too. Not the same of course of sitting at a Cafe Du Monde outside table and brushing powdered sugar off your clothes while you make fun of other tourists people-watch, but it’ll do until you can get there yourself. Check out http://www.cafedumonde.com/ for details. And for some delicious New Orleans Mardi Grasreading while you’re sipping your chicory cafe au lait, pick up a copy of “Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table.” Sara Roahen was a professional cook when she moved to the Crescent City while her husband attended medical school. She soon got a job as a food writer, and this book chronicles her joyous exploration of New Orleans’ food and people. She falls in love with her adopted city, and she’ll make you want to book the next flight there. Go to http://www.sararoahen.com to learn more. And for another New Orleans fix, don’t forget about “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” If you haven’t seen it in the theater, put it on your must-rent list when it comes out on DVD. This intelligent and cinematic film is so thoughtful and artistic — and the city of New Orleans should have gotten a supporting-actor award for its part in it. I thought that such a mystical and magical and slightly other-worldly film could have been shot only in New Orleans, despite the Baltimore locale of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original story. Visit http://www.benjaminbutton.com/ to find out more. Need more NOLA? Go to http://www.nola.com/mardigras/ for Mardi Gras parade webcams and up-to-the-minute details on what’s happening. Best viewed with a Sazerac in hand.

Fashion

Billy Reid fashion designerFlorence, Alabama, is a small Southern town known as the home of W.C. Billy Reid fashion designerHandy, Division II football powerhouse University of North Alabama and two famous and successful fashion designers. Natalie Chanin is one of those designers (see yesterday’s post for a look at her newest collection) and the other is — have you guessed it yet? — Billy Reid. Billy was born in Louisiana and grew up in Texas (Florence is his wife’s hometown), and his men’s and women’s clothes are evocative of a gently elegant and quietly genteel Southern way of life. He has stores in New York, Dallas and other cities, but the flagship store is in downtown Florence. It’s in a gorgeous 1833 house called Pickett Place that glows with family antiques and photographs — well worth the trip to Florence just to wander around and admire. Like his friend Natalie, Billy always is friendly and gracious — they both have that Southern way of making you feel they’ve waited all day just for the chance to talk to you. They each see their work not only as businesses but as connections for reaching out and reminding others of the art and food and history and craft that’s around every street corner and county road in Alabama — and your hometown, too. Check out Billy’s Web site at http://www.billyreid.com.

And if you’re like me and have to enjoy New York’s Fashion Week vicariously, check out these Web sites: Vogue’s http://www.style.com/ for photos and complete coverage of each show (don’t forget The Sartorialist for photos of off-the-runway fashion); http://www.nytimes.com/pages/fashion/index.html for intelligent discussion and background; and http://gofugyourself.celebuzz.com/ for the Fugly Girls’ signature and hilarious snarkiness. But we laugh because it’s true.