Real Talk // My Love Affair with San Francisco

I wrote this a year ago but as the sun begins to surface at the start of our late San Francisco summer, I felt it was time to share with you all. Enjoy…

I must admit that for the past 8 years I’ve been in a tumultuous, polarizing, dysfunctional, magnetic, beautiful love affair with this city. For as long as I can remember, I have had a small case of commitment-a-phobia. A prolonged commitment to careers, to people, to cities, to dreams, to things, to places, to love all tends to suffocate me. By nature, I love to constantly toy with the idea of new and next. I live for the next adventure, the next chapter and the next great love. So for someone who tends to avoid routine at all cost, how is it that I’ve ended up living in the same city for the majority of my twenties? How have I kept the same geographical lover for the past 9 years? I get asked this question so often, as everyone I meet seems to think I was born for somewhere else.  Continue Reading

Real talk, and why we need more of it.

I admitted something today.

 

I talk about safe, surface level things on this blog. I post pictures about my travel, my style, my experiences, and my recent projects. I upload pretty pictures, flattering photos and daily fashion tips. 

 

And, yes, I have always tried to be honest with my readers. I tell you that I eat In n’ Out even when I know I shouldn’t. I work my booty off at the gym 5 days a week to be able to drink and eat the way I do. I mention my therapist, the fact that I’m a complete head case at times and my socially awkward, obsessive nature. That feels honest, on a very self-deprecating, very light-hearted level. But I don’t write a lot of depth. 

 

That’s the honest truth. I love the escapism of the blogging world. Pretty pictures, inspiring outfits, exotic locations and Pinterest worthy decorating projects are a welcome reprieve from my “real life” news feed. However, on a personal level I respect those writers and bloggers that aren’t afraid of “real talk.” Those are the voices I keep coming back to.

 

Although uniquely beautiful, none of our lives are perfect. The comment I receive the most when discussing my blog and various social media accounts? “I want your life.” and “You are always traveling, when do you work?”

 

Well, here’s the truth. Yes, I travel, a lot. And yes, I work, a lot. I work when I travel. Sometimes, most times, I forget to clock out. There are times that I don’t get to truly enjoy the experience because I’m still at work in my mind, or I’m actually still clocked in to my work on the road. I’ve made travel and new experiences the highest priority in my life over the last 5 years. I was panicking about turning 30 and about how quickly time seemed to be going. I spent the first half of my twenties in a serious relationship, one which didn’t end in the fairy tale way that I had counted on. And that’s a story for a different time. After, I decided to focus on accumulating as many new moments, places and experiences as I could possibly manage in a desperate attempt to defy time. Sometimes, I have let that take precedence over things that it probably shouldn’t have, budding relationships, finances, stability, and love. I love saying yes. I work hard, I take on side projects, I scramble, I grind in order to say yes to a life jam-packed full of new and now.

 

But there are sacrifices that have been made to live this life. To the “I want your life” commenters: I envy you as well. I envy your beautiful new baby, your fiance, your daily routine, your perfectly managed home and the fact that your Sunday morning yoga instructor remembers your name. At times, I want to slow down, sit still, and focus on some stability.

 

And that’s usually the moment that I buy another flight out-of-town, because I have yet to accept what Emerson so wisely stated, “My giant goes with me wherever I go.”

 

So here is to appreciating our unique paths and life choices, to accepting that no lifestyle is more envious than another and to having more “real talk” going forward on 5 o’clock sunday.  I hope we all like the pretty pictures as much as getting to know the human that’s wearing them.

 

💋 Brooks

Wedding Season // How to Mix and Match Your Maids Part I

It’s not every day that you are asked to be part of a wedding where you know every detail will be Pinterest-worthy.

 

Now, I’ll be the first one to say it out loud: as a fashion conscious friend, being a bridesmaid – although flattering – does tend to strike up a certain fear in us all. A small little selfish voice inside our head whispers, “Oh yes. Someone else will be dressing me for the day as well as making all my hair and beauty decisions. Yes, this is love… and, well, this is trust.”  

 

That’s why it is so exciting when the friend that asks you just happens to be one with a very keen sense of style, a coordinating home to match and an equally well-edited closet. You know the friend I’m talking about, the one whose living room is so well curated it could easily be mistaken for a page pulled from Rue Magazine or The Coveteur.

 

Meet my friend Masha. Successful. Smart. Beautiful. Russian. And a woman of exceptional taste.

Photo by Kara Brodgesell

Photo by Kara Brodgesell, Shoes from J.Crew, Robe custom made in Cambodia

Masha had a clear image of what she wanted for her summertime backyard wedding, which I gladly discussed over red wine and hand-crafted cheese plates at the aforementioned home. However, the one detail that stood out to me was the fact that she would be the first of my friends to try the mismatching bridesmaid dress trend …..in-real-life. It’s great in theory, yes, and in the glossy editorials of Modern Bride but in-real-life it is a bit more of a risk.

 

“I love it!” I practically shouted as she described her vision of “champagne, rose and beige dresses with texture, beads and draping.” She wanted each of us – all 12 of us – to look and feel like ourselves on her big day. “This is going to be brilliant, everyone just picks a dress,” I thought. Until I remembered that there were going to be twelve of us ladies standing besides her.

 

Well, in typical Masha fashion, it was no surprise that come wedding day the bridal party’s look was impeccably executed. We did, however, learn a thing or two about this mismatched trend along the way.

 

  1. Neutral is not a specific enough description. We know by now that everyone defines color differently. Some people think blue grey is a neutral, some think rose means pink and falls into a similar category. It’s much better to give more direction up front than less. Trust me, your maids will thank you and you will not come across like a freshman year pledge handbook, I promise.
  2. Choose a palette early and remember that with large groups less is more. The fewer colors, the easier it is to keep everything feeling cohesive. Our palette started with 4 to 5 color choices and we quickly learned that 3 colors would suffice. Our final selection was a simple palette of beige, champagne and rose.
  3. Choose a theme. Don’t forget texture and to vary the designs. If you wanted mismatching but everyone shows up in simple Grecian floor length gowns in slightly varying shades of blue it will look poorly matched rather than eclectically chic. Our theme was vintage, Grecian, clean lines, hints of chiffon and an overarching feminine feeling. Is one of your girls in copywriting or marketing? I’m sure she can come up with some descriptive words.
  4. Decide on a ratio. Yes, a ratio. One that includes color, textures and materials. Our ratio was 12 girls in 3 rose, 3 champagne, 2 beige, 2 floral and 2 fully beaded gowns. We told them that beaded embellishments were always welcome and kept track of our over-all numbers as the ladies each purchased their dress.
  5. Get organized. Even if you feel crazy doing it, it really is the only way to make it work. With a large bridal party of 8-12 women, it can be hard to keep track of who is wearing what. Start a shared Google document or Pinterest board where the girls can save links to the dresses they are considering and so that you can keep track of how many of each color have already been accounted for.
  6. Offer suggestions. Remember that Pinterest board you started? Upload dress options in multiple price points and styles that you know would work with your theme. This a great way to get that dress you love into the roster. Trust me, someone in your bridal party hates shopping and really wishes you made the decision for her.
  7. Try them on. When in doubt, it’s always safe to do a test run. Only five of our bridesmaids were local so we set up a time to go to a bridal salon** and try on various dresses as a group. This way we could see what worked together, what didn’t and whether or not the bride even liked the over-all vision.
  8. Purchase an extra dress or two- just in case. You never know when they will come in handy or, in our case, when a maid finds out she will be pregnant at the wedding. We had an extra few dresses lying around on our end, one of which was beautiful on our glowing gal. Worried about strict return policies? Ask around in your group of girl friends to borrow dresses from weddings past that fall into your palette or theme. You can offer them as back-up dresses to your girls. I guarantee that we are all happy to get a second or third wear out of bridesmaid dresses gathering dust in the back of our closet.
  9. It doesn’t hurt to use a stylist. At the end of the day, someone needs to make the final call, even if it just ends up being your most fashionable friend. That someone, professional or not, is quite helpful to have around when the bride is focused on everything else. They can offer insights, suggestions, reassurance and replacements if dresses are just slightly off theme.
  10. Trust your vision. It does start to feel like visual chaos before you see everything laid out next to each other and a bit of panic may set in. Don’t let it; trust yourself. Once the hair and makeup is set and your ladies are all lined up beside you, it will look like a cohesive collection.

 

Photo by Kara Brodgesell

Photo by Kara Brodgesell

Love this bridal look? Stay tuned for Part II where I show you a sampling of the dresses we chose for the big day and how you can recreate them.

 

Photographer: Kara Brodesell / Wedding Planner: Spreading Lovely / Venue: Private Residence / Beauty: Aille Beauty / Catering: Weir Catering / Florals:Bell and Trunk / Band: Hip Service / Videography: Patrick Ang

 

**Big thanks to Bella Bridesmaid and Nordstrom Bridal Shop in San Francisco for all their help in finding these looks.

 

💋 Brooks

 

Packing guide // Kauai Wedding

 

What: Destination wedding

Where: Kauai, Hawaii

Venue: The Sheraton Kauai

When: Late June

Duration: 4 days

Special Notes: As a plus one, I’d never met the bride or groom so there were no girlfriends to call for dress code tips or “what are you wearing” advice.

DAY 1

Catamaran Outfit

Event: Catamaran Cruise to the Napoli Coast

Time of Day: Midday to Sunset

Dress code: Not stated

What I wore:

  • Printed bikini from Yamamay (find a similar style here). I discovered this bikini brand while vacationing in Florence and have yet to find a better fit for a natural-looking padded top and Brazilian cut bottom. 
  • Off-the-shoulder eyelet tunic from Nordstrom (similar style here).
  • Willow hat from Brixton. This hat was an impulse buy while waiting for the man to finish surfboard shopping at Proof Lab in San Rafael. Since then, I’ve gotten a shocking amount of use out of this $58 purchase. 
  • Mossimo platform sandals from Target. I have to be honest, I bought this sandals on sale for $9.99 as an experiment. I figured that the platform Birkenstock trend was a step too trendy, even for me and something that I wasn’t fully on board with. That said, an extra 2 inches of leg with the comfort of a flat still intrigued me. I told myself that I’d only wear them when I wasn’t around the man, that way I could limit the “what on earth are those” comments. Well, not only does he think these shoes are “pretty cool” they are also surprisingly flattering and have also been worn down to their soles. I think it may be time to invest in the real deal here.

The Result: I felt perfectly comfortable, appropriate and just a bit sexy.

Welcome Drinks Outfit

Event: Welcome Cocktail Party on the beach

Time of Day: 8 pm

Dress code: Beachy casual

What I wore:

The Result: I felt perfectly comfortable, appropriate and just a bit sexy.

DAY 2

Beach Surfing Day Outfit

Event: Rent an open air Jeep, explore the island and find some surf

Time of Day: Daytime

Dress code: “Babe, we are leaving in 5 minutes”…

What I wore:

The Result: All the bits and pieces stayed exactly where I wanted them to.

Day 3

Kauai Wedding Outfit

Event: Wedding at the Sheraton Kauai Resort

Time of Day: 5pm

Dress code: Semi-formal

What I wore:

  • Coral printed, high low dress from BCBG (newest version available here).  I originally bought this dress for a trip to Greece 3 years ago and this is only the second time I’ve had the opportunity to wear it. Since then it has traveled to 3 weddings abroad and been borrowed by numerous friends for that hard to fulfill “breezy cocktail” dress code. 
  • Gold strappy heels from Nine West (similar pair here).
  • Hand beaded clutch from on a trip abroad 5-6 years ago. This clutch always gets a compliment or two and I wish I could remember where exactly I was when I found it.
  • Hair/makeup: A simply blow out and bronzed glowing skin, I was pressed for time so I let my tan do most of the work for me.

The Result: I have never felt more spot on with a dress code. Guest arrived in linen suits and bright chiffon dresses and I fit right in. -Sigh of relief-

DAY 4

Airport Travel Outfit

Event: Straight from post wedding brunch to the flight home

Time of Day: Morning/ Afternoon

Dress code: Not specified

What I wore:

  • Silk crop top from Forever 21.
  • That same Willow hat from Brixton. I have learned never to pack my hats in my bag, even if it’s a carry-on. It is far easier (and chicer) to incorporate them into your travel outfit. 
  • High-waisted printed silk pants (similar style here).

The Result: What’s more comfortable than fashionable pajamas?

And finally, a few snapshots from the weekend. Enjoy!
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More about the trip coming soon but for now I hope this helps. Enjoy!

💋 Brooks

Why it’s harder to pack for 3 days vs. 3 weeks.

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As you have probably noticed, I’ve been traveling a lot this year. When I say a lot, what I mean is that I’ve been out-of-town 3 out of 4 weekends a month for the past 6 months.

 

Turning 30 means I’ve officially entered into what is commonly known as the second wave of wedding seasons. Between bachelorette parties, bridal showers and destination weekends, my free time has been taken over by shopping for, planning for, packing for and unpacking from a constant stream of 3 to 5 day trips.

 

It’s not that I’m complaining, these short jaunts have been a welcome reprieve from the extensive planning that goes into a 1 to 3 week vacation.  I take smaller yet more consistent chunks of time away from work and, in turn, feel far less burn out than usual. And honestly, who really needs more than 5 days in Hawaii? But here is the thing I didn’t quite expect – packing for 3 to 5 days is much harder than packing for a month away. Let me explain…

 

  1. I’m now traveling with a man. Yes, a man who thinks that bringing any bag larger than a weekender is considered over-packing. It doesn’t matter if the trip is for 2 nights or 2 weeks, he will still pack a barely full carry-on with three outfits inside. You would think that after a year and a half together I would get over my need to appear low maintenance and spontaneous yet also always impeccably and appropriately dressed. Alas, no, I will forever obsess about being prepared for every possible last-minute situation he could throw at me. “Surfing lessons? Beach volleyball tournament?” “Why yes, I have the perfect bikini that won’t fall off or ride up and it just happens to be lying here” …..”Last minute drinks with my business contact you’ve never met that happens to be vacationing here with his wife?” “I’d love to, let me just throw on that fashionably artistic yet conservative shift dress I packed last minute.” You can see where I am going with this.
  2. I may be a bit OCD when it comes to dress codes. I’ve found that most people simply want to be sure they don’t look like they are “trying too hard” or are “inappropriately dressed” for events; I, on the other hand, have a full checklist of requirements. I’d prefer to be over-dressed to under-dressed — I can blame my Italian grandmother for that. I’m sure that my therapist would tell you it’s my way of countering the anxiety I feel in new social situations. You know the drill, obsess over the elements you can control because you have no influence over the rest of it.
  3. Method traveling. We can talk more about this concept at a later date but in summary it is the term my sister coined for my obsession with character dressing while I travel. I have always thought of my life as a series of short scenes from a movie and myself as the heroine (as well as the costume designer of course). “What would my character wear as she sauntered through a marketplace in Barcelona?”… “And what about when she first sees him across the cafe sipping espresso?”… “What dress is she wearing, standing on the cliff of a beach wedding, that perfectly swirls around her as the wind catches it?” My character clearly has a consistent sense of style and individuality but she fully emerges herself into each experience. In my opinion, her (my) wardrobe should reflect that. And, let’s be honest, it makes for some beautiful photos. My therapist would also have plenty of thoughts on this one, but I’ll stick with my theory that I’ve always had a penchant for the theatrical, even if it’s only in my mind.
  4. Ok, it really is ridiculous to pack more than a small piece of luggage for a weekend away. Smaller suitcase equals less space equals tighter editing. Gone are the days of having 3 outfit options for every occasion as well as a few extra pieces “just because there is extra room.” I’ve learned to edit, to commit to my outfits beforehand and yes, I’ll say it, to pack less shoes. I’ve finally excepted that shoes are the killer of a perfectly packed suitcase.

 

So after countless weekends away, I feel as if I have almost perfected the art of the short-term, condensed packing. And because I would like to save you all from the hours of Pinterest scrolling, Google searching and Facebook stalking of your most stylish friends, I’ve decided to breakdown some of my recent trips into outfits and corresponding events. I’ll leave the rest up to you.

 

Note: Yes, I’ll fully admit that I have searched the hashtag #weddingseason to determine what’s appropriate to wear for various events. 

 

I hope you enjoy and safe travels!

💋 Brooks

Current Obsession: Olivia Palermo + Chelsea28

Girl crushes, we all have them. Those woman that just seem to always get it right, even when they are wrong. Olivia Palermo is that girl for me. And part of me hates it, because it’s a bit cliche. Who doesn’t love her effortless makeup, undone hair and classic chic with a boho twist style? And her husband is an equally stylish and equally as handsome German model. She wore a sweater and giant tulle skirt on her wedding day. She pretty much sums up everything I’m not when it comes to personal style: well coiffed and intentional. Maybe that’s why I love her so much, because I’ll never be patient enough to get my hair blown out, I look terrible in a ponytail and ballet flats are never going to be my go-to dog walking choice. That said, I crush hard on the imaginary world of Olivia and her #sundays spent each week with her beau. Side note: If you don’t follow them on Instagram you are missing out on some serious couple goals. That’s an embarrassing to admit truth but seriously they are adorable. 

 

So why does the fact that Miss Palermo is currently dominating my Pinterest Style board matter today? Because I just saw her release of her collection for Chelsea28 for Nordstrom. And because I can actually see myself pulling off some of these looks, with far messier hair of course.

So what will I be purchasing for my Summer wardrobe? Take a look at my favorite looks below:

Suede Sleeveless TrenchMidi Skirt and BlousePeplum Blouse

 

 

Travel Journal // 5 o’clock in Portland

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This last month has been a bit of a whirlwind with work and it has forced me to be on the road a bit more than usual. I’ve spent so much time behind the camera lately that I haven’t had a chance to play in front of it. During the day, I’m the Creative Director for an activewear company — check out my designs at BBDfitness — and this month we had the opportunity to showcase our newest collection on the FashioNXT runway in Portland, Oregon.

The constant fittings, meetings, shoots and travel made me adjust my typical work wardrobe from boots and dresses to a comfortable, easy yet stylish athleisure look. My go-to items? My favorite worn-in motocycle boots, sneaker wedges, flannel shirts and leather leggings. My favorite accessories? My Canon Rebel and some electric blue hair.

Some of my favorite moments from Portland and Seattle:

  • Finding amazing industrial walls and warehouses to shoot
  • Eating my favorite sea-salt dark chocolate caramels at Boehm’s Candies in Issaquah, WA (20 mins outside of Seattle)
  • Shooting with one of my favorite models Taylor Bodine for the new Bleeding Edge collection
  • Sewing alterations at 1 am in my hotel room
  • Exploring the Pearl District with our founder Rachel Sigl and the team

I’m excited to share some of the new designs from the BBDfitness Fall/Winter Collection with you on the blog as well as some of my favorite shots from the shoot above. Stay tuned for more this week on the blog.

💋 Brooks

Look of the day / It’s Better from the Boy

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Leather Skirt: H & M; Shoes: similar here; Hat: Stetson (borrowed from the bf’s closet); Tank: Groceries Apparel; Coat: My actual roommate’s closet.

Date night outfits are always tough, especially in San Francisco where the weather can be un-predictable and the dress codes quite casual. That’s why I have a go-to date night look which usual consists of heels and a cute skirt contrasted with something casual like this amazing, comfortable cotton tank from Groceries Apparel. I found Groceries through an incredibly stylish friend of mine who is always on top of what’s next in comfortable, casual and sleek minimalism. I honestly live in this tank top and pair it with pretty much everything in my closet.

Now let’s talk about the hat. What is it about mens hats? I swear they always fit better, although as you may have figured out by now, I tend to think that all things fit better when borrowed from a boy. Lucky for me I have one with very good taste. Until next time.

💋 Brooks

Look of the Day / Sister Sister

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Dress: Nordstrom, similar here; Ballet flats: Sam Edelmen “Felicia” Flat; Sunglasses: Kate Spade “Gayla” Sunglasses; “Love” Necklace: Something Silver

Meet Issa, my sister and psuedo-twin — we share a birthday and a closet. We have very different careers and, in turn, very different senses of style. Issa is the mastermind behind the majority of the 5 o’clock Sunday “Look of the Day” photos and by day she’s a 7th grade Language Arts teacher at a local middle school. The one thing about 11 year olds is that they are hyper-focused on visual details which makes her acutely aware of her personal style everyday.

I like to think of her as a combination of Zoey Deschanel and hipster tomboy chic. I finally got her in front of the camera to capture a few of her work-day wardrobe looks. She may be more taking photos until now but I’m excited to feature her more on the blog in the future.

💋 Brooks

 

Look of the Day / Lazy Fridays

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On Brooks:  Dress: Divided from H&M– similar here; Shoes: Vince Camuto; Bag Belt: Michael Kors; Sunglasses: Justin by RayBan

One benefit of living with your sister and best friends is a more than a tripled wardrobe and one of the best things about sharing is that I get to see all of our clothes styled in three very different ways. My sister and I share a birthday, a size and a closet but have a very different sense of personal style. She always seems to feel a bit more pulled together than I do with her casual cool hipster-teacher vibe. I caught her post class Friday to snap some 5 o’clock photos and am excited to feature her a bit more on the blog especially to show how she styles my staples in the future.

Side note on the messy bun half-up trend: At first I wasn’t a believer, thinking that there was absolutely no way this look was going to be flattering on anyone other than supermodel-esque, baby-faced twenty two year olds but after a few days of dirty hair half up attempts, I’m officially on board. More about my new messy bun obsession to come. 

💋 Brooks