July 30, 2012

Singin' in the Rain

Even a summer rain shower cannot get the best of my stylist, Amy Keller, and my amazing photographer! While shooting this weekend, I may have been dressed up and ready to go, but we embraced the moment as I happily hummed "Singin' in the Rain" for this sequence:




Dress: vintage (stylist's own) / Scarf: Coach (commemorating first fragrance launch in 2007)
Shoes: vintage Chanel (stylist's own)
Styled by: Amy Keller

July 27, 2012

Styling it Forward

When I first reached out to my stylist, I admitted to her that I had absolutely no idea how to dress casually.  I had adopted the philosophy that once you find an outfit that works for you, you copy it and wear it every way possible. That "uniform" consisted of dark wash denim, a white oxford, and a black blazer. For work, that meant some sort of a suit (i.e. anything with a blazer). For stage, I hauled out the diva gowns. But for play ... wait, what?

I tried cargo pants, double-knit v-neck tops and platform flip-flops. I tried workout clothes. I resorted to a variation on my pajamas. That's when I finally realized, I needed help because I did not understand. When I was "on," I had an idea of what worked - and felt very different about myself in a positive way. But when it was time to be "casual," "out and about," or "everyday Jenn," I hadn't a clue. To make matters worse, what I did choose was the exact opposite of what looked flattering on my (very) hourglass shape. Non-tailored, slouchy, double knit, cropped cargo does not a flattering look make on this lady! So I hid in my house in the middle of the desert.

For a series of gigs I had on the East Coast during the summer of 2008 (which would ultimately lead to our move back to New York), I worked up the nerve to actually ask for the help. (Remember, I'm a Virgo. We don't do that well!) My girlfriend Amy happily came to my aid. She explained to me the basic fundamentals of dressing for my shape, the staples I needed in my closet, and the danger zone of pieces that just were not going to work on my body. She talked me through as we went rack-by-rack while she picked out looks that worked for my body. And good heavens did I buck her! "You want me to wear that?" "Uhhhhhhh ... I have to belt this?" "I can't just wear that with a blazer?" "Aren't dresses just for being dressy?" Those were some of my more common responses. 

However, I instinctively trusted her. And I had good reason - she had the know-how, the experience, and was getting ready for her own move to New York to continue her career in fashion. So, I listened. I stepped outside my comfort zone ... and in all truth, the process really did change my life.

I would like to believe in my very new age, self-help way that it shouldn't matter what we wear. We should just be these incredible spiritual beings having a human experience, and all of the love & light that comes from that way of being is enough.

Maybe in a perfect world.

However, changing what I put on my body back in 2008 helped me put the bat down. I no longer felt dumpy in my clothing, even though at the time I was struggling with my weight. I distinctly remember Amy saying to me:
"Jenn Newman. I can dress you at any size. Stop worrying about that. Your shape is your shape, and I will put you in clothing that looks amazing on you no matter what." 
That was the turning point.

4-1/2 years later, a cross-country move, life-changing circumstances, and everything in between, that sassy strawberry blonde girl I met years ago while working together at Coach has dressed me for all of it. When I landed back in the City in January 2009, I knew I could get up every morning and go get 'em because I wasn't worried about how I looked. Which translated to feeling great. Which translated to wanting to take even better care of myself. Which translated to eating well, lessening the need to "cover myself up" with too much makeup and over-sized clothing. I actually discovered something: my true self is worth taking care of on the outside, too!

Over the last several weeks, we (Amy, my photographer & I) have given you a glimpse of how Amy continues to style me. My hope is that even just one lady can put the bat down, stop hating her body type, or take the time to invest in learning how to dress for her true self. This curvy mama will tell you: just be you - but - why not be the best version of yourself?! It will mean some changes, yes. It will mean some cost. And it will mean having someone help you. But the end result, I promise, you will actually feel.

After all ... you are worth it!

xx JN

July 26, 2012

Muppet Pride

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Over the course of the last several days, Chick-Fil-A has made quite a name for themselves. Set aside their reputation for delicious waffle fries and chicken sandwiches, they have a new reputation: as an anti-gay organization.

I find it ironic they serve chicken, because the Chick-Fil-A organization is certainly acting like their feathered friends. Along with Dan Cathy's words are the company's donations to Exodus International and the Family Research Council - organizations that are rooted in fear, bigotry and hate - all under the guise of words like, "Bible," "Jesus," "freedom," "faith," "family," etc.

Since Dan Cathy's statement, a social media storm broke out against the 6-day-a-week-fast-food-chain. The line has been drawn in the sand, and there are now two distinct camps.

I stand with the Muppets.

Of all the political, philosophical and religious debates that are forever going on in our world today, there is one I will engage in time after time, and that is the debate over civil rights as Americans, as citizens of the world. Citizens who have been given the God-given right of a free will to live their personal truth and consequently make choices that work best for themselves.

The Muppets have (brilliantly) taught us that it's not easy being green. They sing about the Rainbow Connection among us, a Pig is madly in love with a Frog, teamwork is key, sometimes you have to travel the world and back to help your friends. You don't stand at a podium and tell people they're wrong, they're despicable, and that they are the antithesis of everything God created.

If you strip us all of the cloak of religion, what's left underneath? Aren't we all a huge human family, each with our own unique set of fingerprints? Didn't we all come to life after living inside a womb? How are we to just "do" and "be" when we came in to this world so unique that even the mere marks on our hands will never again be replicated? I'm thinking that uniqueness is really worth fighting for and keeping alive.

If we're boiling this down to basic fundamental, human and civil rights, isn't it possible that Frogs and Pigs and Bears and Dogs and Martians all celebrate their uniqueness? There is love in that difference. And certainly, if two people know that the love between them is worth committing their lives over, then in this free country, let it be.

This idea that humans know exactly what God is thinking and saying and "dictating" - let alone take it upon themselves to legislate - seems a bit presumptuous. If we let love in, the world is a better place. And if we try to contain it to a certain group of people, what about the rest of our brothers & sisters? For all the talk about the afterlife - for all the talk about heaven and hell, none of us have been there yet, have we? So if you're going to stand at a podium and mandate that this must happen or else ... aren't you counting your chickens before they hatch? So to speak ...

Stop the bullying. Stop the hate. Let the love in. It may surprise you how much more in common we all have when that is the fundamental glue that binds us together. The "us" versus "them" mentality is only going to do one thing: keep us segregated, divided, and against each other.

So far the movies I've seen where everyone is divided don't end up with a Rainbow Connection ...

xx JN

July 25, 2012

Living In Wonderland

This Howard Wolf find was too perfect for words ... especially when paired with the Mayor's piece of 50's mini-luggage, and my stylist's own suede belt:




Dress: 80's vintage Howard Wolf retro fit dress / Belt: stylist's own
Earrings: Calypso by Julie Collection / Bag: 50's vintage houndstooth mini luggage
Sunglasses: Boulevard by Ann Taylor
Home: Jason Belz
Styled by: Amy Keller

July 24, 2012

Interview with the Mayor

He's been referred to as the unofficial "Mayor" of Park Slope due to his commitment & enthusiasm for our neighborhood. Here's my sit-down with longtime friend, Jason Belz:

View from Jason's brownstone down Berkeley Place

DD: Jason, your home evokes such a calm energy upon entering it - was it love at first sight? What first drew you to it?

JB: It was definitely love at first sight. After an exhaustive, year-long search that included about 45 apartments, I got off the subway and walked up this handsome, tree-lined block. I then entered this tiny, charming space and instantly felt the warmth of the old wood floors, tin ceiling, and the arch into the kitchen. Looking out into the small garden out front was just the icing on the cake - I knew this one was home.

DD: It's hard to believe your apartment is less than 300 sq. ft. How do you make such a small space feel so open and inviting?

JB: I have to give credit where credit is due. The former owners (a couple) built some incredible storage into the apartment including a lofted bed with storage underneath. They took advantage of every nook and cranny, adding shelving, storage boxes and the large unit in the kitchen which holds nearly all of my kitchen wares.

Despite its small size, there are dedicated and functional spaces: a comfortable living area, the queen-sized loft bed creates the feel of a small bedroom, the archway creates and a separate kitchen (well-sized for a studio!) with a full sized refrigerator and plenty of storage. The bathroom is a calming and relaxing space as well. 

Hand drawn floorplan I created for Jason's entry in the Small Cool 2011 Contest

DD: Have you always ascribed to a vintage-infused design aesthetic, or has your style evolved over time?

JB: My personal style has really evolved. I have always had a passion for older things and antiques stemming from my days flea market shopping with my mom as a kid. About five years ago, this really started to blossom. When shopping for my apartment and my wardrobe, I don't ascribe to any specific 'style,' but look for items I love for their beauty or particular uniqueness. Somehow, everything manages to work together. It is a wonderful feeling to come home every day and be surrounded by so many visually delightful objects.

DD: With a garden-level apartment, how important is the communal outdoor space, and do you have a hand in maintaining it? 

JB: Living on the garden level of a brownstone, it is impossible not to be intimately connected to the outdoor space fronting the street. When I met the co-op members for my interview, I made mention of my love for gardening. The board told me they had previously hired a gardener to come a few times each season for the front area, and I wondered aloud whether I might take over instead. They were agreeable, and for the past 5 years, I have taken on the gardening of both the space in front of the building as well as the 20 foot tree garden by the street. We have a beautiful 10 foot tall Japanese maple tree, a Morning Glory along the fence and lush beds of perennials and annuals. Neighbors and passersby regularly start up a conversation about the garden, so it's really been a wonderful way to meet people and feel a part of the community.

Candid shots I started taking in 2008 of Jason's 20-foot street garden - it literally stops traffic!

DD: Rumor has it you love to cook - but your kitchen has minimal counter space. Any recipes you care to share?

JB: I do love to cook, but with limited counter space I try to keep things as simple as possible. One of my favorite things to make is a pan of roasted vegetables with freshly picked rosemary from the garden, a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. It's healthy, easy, and when paired with a chicken breast and my favorite Brooklyn beer, it's the perfect summer meal!

Interested in what Jason cooked up above? Then make sure to join us on Facebook as he shares some of these delicious recipes with us.

More from the Mayor's place tomorrow!

xx JN

July 23, 2012

Seeing Red

This week, I'm featuring the home of my dear friend, Jason Belz. Over the course of our 15-year friendship, we have always shared a distinct love of home interiors. When I first saw Jason's Brooklyn apartment in 2008, I was overcome with inspiration - to the tune of knowing that when Team Newman returned a few months later, we would call Park Slope our home.

Jason's incredible mix of old-meets-new is one of the things I love most about his space. And drawing from my collection of vintage wares, my stylist, photographer & I decided his home, garden, and surrounding block were the perfect canvas:



Dress: 80's pleated v-neckline with extended shoulder line and drawstrings from Vice Versa 
Necklace: oversized acrylic pearl bead strand (personal collection)
Home & Garden: Jason Belz
Styled by: Amy Keller

Check back tomorrow for my interview with Jason!

xx JN

July 20, 2012

Chic in the City

The beloved Century 21 Department Store is a New York City staple, and spending half a day combing through the racks looking for treasures is my idea of a fabulous day!

I recently added this blue, one-shoulder treasure to my closet, and my stylist approved. We decided to give it an urban edge with over-stated bangles and hoop earrings ... because after all, this is New York:


Dress: Century 21 / Earrings: stylist's own / Bangles: personal collection + stylist's own /
Shoes: Karen Scott 
Styled by: Amy Keller

July 19, 2012

Creating a Gallery Wall

As we discussed earlier this week, my bedroom received quite the revamp over the weekend! One of my favorite features in our "new" space is the gallery wall my hubby & I now view at the foot of our bed.

Here's how you can create one at home:

1. Start by gathering the pieces you wish to feature. I recommend spreading them out on a flat surface so you can easily rearrange them (in this case, I used our bed):

Keep in mind that putting a gallery wall together is a bit like working a puzzle ... you will know when the pieces "fit" together. On this wall, I had a piece much larger than the rest. I worked at achieving balance by treating the largest piece as the "anchor" on one side of the space and filled in the other side with the rest of the pieces.

2. Choose the nails/wall anchors best suited for each piece you're hanging:

3. Measure out your wall space - I prefer the "eyeball" method, but you can certainly use a leveler/measuring tape - and start by hanging the pieces that either are on opposites sides of each other, or the pieces you will treat as center:

4. Add your remaining nails/wall anchors:

 5. Hang your individual pieces:


6. Tweak and adjust as you go to ensure everything is lined up properly - again, use your eyeballs! They won't fail you!

7. Voila!

 xx JN

July 18, 2012

Easy Breezy

Clearly, a dress found by my stylist at Vagabond Boutique proves to be incredibly special. (Remember this one?) When in need of something dressy enough for a day out, yet cool enough for this heatwave, she suggested this:

Dress: vintage from Vagabond / Necklace: Silpada / Rings: three Milano Stack Rings by Julie Collection / Belt: stylist's own / Nails: OPI
Styled by: Amy Keller 

July 17, 2012

Bedroom Makeover

Our bedroom went through a makeover this weekend. My side of the closet had exploded, and my mom intervened during her stay. Off to The Container Store we went, home came a rolling rack ... and the transformation began:

Organizing my vintage collection on my new Commercial Garment RackPlatinum Huggable Hangers
from The Container Store

With clothing I love so much, how could this rack not become a focal point?

Transformed this Socker plant stand from IKEA to a dressing table

My statement necklaces hung on hooks, sunnies in a vintage plant holder & my Grandpere's christening gown from 1909

Duvet, sheets & silver throw pillows from IKEA | Printed throw pillows from Fab.com

"The Brooklyn Bridge" by our daughter using oil pastels & watercolors - great way to personalize your space!

Created a gallery wall at the foot of our bed with our favorite artwork & photographs
Ready to create your own gallery wall? Stay tuned for my DIY later this week!

xx JN