July 21st, 2015

Style Diary: Last-Minute Dress Shopping from DC to Chicago

Sometimes my job throws me curveballs.

I started working with a new client this summer — a 40-something “desperate Washingtonian real-size woman.” We did an initial consult on her closet and then booked a shopping trip. She was “cusp size,” which means a straight size 14 or 16 is often snug (along her bustline mainly), but a 16W or 18W are then often roomy. Took some creative maneuvering but we got her what she needed before her move to her new home in Alexandria. She was thrilled. I was thrilled. We laughed. We hugged. I sent her on her merry sartorial way.

Then I got an email from her with “Semi Emergency” in the subject line. In the midst of moving, shopping for work clothing, etc., she had forgotten that she hated her formal party dress options. And she had a wedding. That Saturday. In Chicago. Flight Thursday…and it was Monday.

“No problem!” I cheerily emailed her. I started strategizing how I would make this work on a tight time frame with what I knew would be slim pickings during this mid-summer season.

First step — local. I went and scouted Nordstrom and a few other retailers. The plan was to put on hold dresses for her to try on by herself after work.

Nope. We are not Mother of the Bride.

Nope. We are not Mother of the Bride.

As I guessed — slim pickings. Nothing spoke to me and, knowing her personal style, I knew she would NOT be happy with the selection. No-go on the local stuff. We would have to take this search online and do some overnighting. We went on ASOS and founds some great options on ASOS Curve that fit her style.




She loved the ASOS dresses. I told her to order stat!

ASOS is in England so we were going to be cutting things rather close. But, she was game for doing the overnight shipping. Except…in ASOS terms that actually takes four days (buyer beware).

Back to the drawing board. Time was ticking. She would be boarding a plane soon and there was no time left to order or scrounge up a local dress that she would be “meh” about anyhow.

The Nordstrom in downtown Chicago is pretty spectacular so I decided to figure out how to get some stylish eyes out there to help me secure some dresses for my client to try on.

I texted my bestie.

“Help. Client traveling to Chicago for wedding. Stop. Can you head to Nordstrom and look at dresses? Stop. I will send you pictures of what we want, plus sizing and body-type specifics. Please say, “yes.” Stop.”

My friend Rachel is stylish. I mean she is in a cool indie rock band out in Chicago with her husband. Truth be told, she keeps ME hip. But, she hasn’t worked with styling individuals, body types, etc. I knew I would need to give her  specifics about my client, tell her what departments to go to, and have her send me pictures. I sent her pictures of some of the ASOS dresses my client really liked. I knew keeping it simple was key. We were on a tight time frame and would need to just get the fit and silhouette right. No party dress bells and whistles.

Understated chic was going to the name of this style game.

I texted my client and told her I had someone in Chicago that was going to pull dresses for her to try on Friday morning before her friend’s wedding on Saturday.

“You are my hero!” she wrote back. Well…I haven’t found the dress yet, I wanted to tell her. Don’t count your chickens, right? But I am a professional. As in a PRO-fessional shopper. Which means I get it done. No matter what. There is no crying in professional shopping… or giving up.

The search was on. It was early evening, and I was at the pool with my kids when pictures started streaming in from Rachel:

"Too work-y."

Too work-y.

Sheer lace back won't accommodate bra.

Nice but maybe not festive enough.


The lace back won’t accommodate a bra.

 "Cute but it is an evening wedding and yellow feels a little too daytime."

Cute but it is an evening wedding and yellow feels a little too daytime.

We found a few promising dresses at Nordstrom. Pretty simple LBDs. Silhouettes looked good. Had Rachel put them on hold and let my client know exactly where to pick up.

Friday morning I messaged my client: “Up and at ‘em!” (Yes, I can also be a style drill sergeant). I wanted to make sure she had a least a couple of dresses to choose from by that afternoon. The wedding was the next day! She messaged me that she was on her way, and I waited in nervous anticipation for her texts.

Tick, tick, tick.

Tick, tick, tick.

Fingers crossed. Sweating. Please let this work. Please let this work. Please let this work.

First picture came through…with this message:



She paired her new LBD,  with a fun cape-like detail around the arms, with Franco Sarto wedges we had purchased for her during our DC shopping excursion. My client went to her friend’s wedding and felt beautiful.



And me? I lit a candle for the style gods…and ate a bag of (celebratory) cookies.


July 5th, 2015

El Paso Teachers Get DC Style Factory Makeover

Last month, I was thrilled to take part in a video series for the National Education Association. I traveled to El Paso, Texas, got to know three local teachers and gave them each three new looks for back to school, What-Not-to-Wear style. Each woman were different ages, had different body types and different style needs. The promo for each teacher’s makeover segment can be viewed here.

Each woman was at a different points in her career as an educator. One just started teaching a couple of a years ago, one has been in teaching for almost a decade  – both in the classroom and now as a guidance counselor — and the last has been in education for 30 years and is re-entering the classroom this fall.

I had such a blast. It’s everything I love about personal styling: making those connections and showing how transformative clothing can be.

I also got to work with a stellar video crew at Sapling Pictures. We worked hard, but I learned so much about the video/tv production process. Something that looks so easy and seamless? Unless you work in that industry, you have no idea what goes into it on the backend.

Each teacher will have her own video segment, featuring her story and her makeover. Check out this short preview of what is to come on July 23, and stay tuned!



June 26th, 2015

DC Style Factory Hosts 10 Years of Wardrobe Oxygen

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Three cheers for the woman of the hour!

Earlier this month, DC Style Factory had the honor of hosting an event to honor the 10-year anniversary of one of our favorite style bloggers, Alison Gary of Wardrobe Oxygen. Wardrobe Oxygen provides thousands of readers everyday with on-the-nose style advice delivered with Allie’s signature dose of humor, wit and warmth.  The crowd that came out to support Allie’s work was like a group of girlfriends hanging, eating, drinking, laughing, dancing.

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When we decided to host this event I immediately knew the perfect venue – my wonderful friend Sak’s restaurant, DC Noodles on U Street (that’s me smothering him in the picture below — LOVE me some Sak Pollert). I could picture the party in his event room at the restaurant. The space is equal parts cool and modern, unpretentious and  intimate.  We designed the Thai fusion menu together from the mini soba  noodle bowls to the pad thai wraps to the specialty cocktails and more. Sak generously donated 20 percent of drink proceeds to Dress for Success.

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The room was filled with Allie’s friends, family (yes that is her spectacularly adorable daughter Emerson below), supporters and colleagues. Loved looking around and seeing local bloggers and women business owners I have come to know and respect:  Tammy from A Loyal Love, Virgina from DeNada, Vivi from Heart, Print & Style, Sydney Page from Chic Stripes, Alison from DC Celine,  E from Distric of Chic, Maria from A Very Busy Mama, Christen from The Shoe Hive, writer Amanda Miska, writer Chelsea Henderson and so many more.

Allie gave a heartfelt speech with tears and laughter. She thanked all of our amazing sponsors — businesses and brands who made the evening possible:

Betsy Fisher,South Moon Under, Anthropologie, GoodWood, Proper Topper, Dobbin Clothing, Scratch DCKimpton Hotels, RestoPresto, Jag Jeans, Talbot’s, Nora Gardner NYC, Karen Kane,  Social Shop Media, Dagne Dover and Zophia.

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Allie’s blog is not only a DC Style Factory favorite, but Allie has become a colleague I turn to for business advice and feedback. She is also a wonderful friend I call upon when the going gets tough as a small business owner. She tells the truth as a friend…just like she does on her blog. It is what makes us all — readers and friends alike — love her.

After the emotional speeches were done it was time to…PARTY! The evening was exactly what I envisioned when I proposed hosting it months ago — fun and silly and, most importantly, all about women coming together to support one another. Thank you to everyone who came out to cheer on one bad-ass woman. And I also have to thank my wonderful staff for the hours they put into planning the event.

DC Style Factory was honored to be part of such a special night. Here’s to the next 10 years, Allie!

Thank you to Emma McAlary who captured in photos the joyous mood of the evening perfectly.

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June 25th, 2015

DC Style Factory at Smithsonian Folklife Festival


Moroccan carpets woven with abstract black and white patterns; colorful Andean sweaters as warm as the Buenos Aires streets are hot; silky Turkish headscarves that seem straight out of “The Arabian Nights.”

When I travel, I tend to stuff my suitcase with such handicrafts — beautiful, tangible, usable pieces that remind me of far-flung times and places without crowding my house or closet with kitschy “I Heart Ocean City” souvenirs.

In her dreamy job of buying and running the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s Marketplace, my friend Jackie Flanagan traveled to Peru (the focus of this year’s festival) to indulge in a whirlwind of craft-shopping, artisan-meeting and ceviche-eating. The goods she brought back — delicate silver bracelets, colorful woven jackets, bright bags — headline in the festival’s jumbo pop-up shop, open June 24 through 28 and July 1 through 5 inside the Museum of the American Indian . June 30 from 4-5:30 p.m. I’ll be at the shop with my pal Anna Kahoe of GoodWood giving a free workshop on how to mix worldly goodies into a modern wardrobe and home.

We’ll be showing and telling how to rock colorful alpaca scarves, woven belts and gorgeous table linens.

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But indulging in what Flanagan calls “wearable stories” doesn’t mean you need to dress up like a folk musician. “I love understanding a piece’s cultural significance, but I ultimately see clothing and decorative pieces as colors, shapes and silhouettes,” says GoodWood’s Kahoe. “Then I can take them out of context, and I don’t end up dressed like a character from Disney’s It’s a Small World ride.”

This means pairing a diamond-patterned bag (woven high in the Andes) with a summery white frock from Nordstrom or putting an alpaca poncho with skinny Rag & Bone jeans and booties. “I’m going to try one of the embroidered jackets over a little black dress,” says Flanagan. The key is to combine exotic items with crisper, modern pieces, aka the pointy-toed blue leather slippers I scored in a Marrakech souk that I don with white jeans, a graphic T-shirt and a blazer. Call it North Africa-meets-Northwest DC.

jenny krauss Diamond handwoven tote black

At home, you can be a little more freewheeling with pillows, runners and pottery from Peru and other locales. “For me, it’s just textiles, textiles, textiles,” says Kahoe. For a nomadic, gypsy-cool vibe, you could pile Peruvian woven pillows on a sleek, mid-century sofa that sits on a Turkish kilim rug. Just be sure you choose harmonious shapes and colors.

And, in the end, buying handcrafted items, whether at the Folklife Festival or on your summer vacation to Vietnam, you aren’t only making yourself or your pad look good, you’re doing good, since the items are fair trade and money often goes straight back to the craftsperson.

“It’s the most authentic buy, right?” asks Flanagan. “You close the gap between the maker and the wearer. You know the artisan received most of the cost of the item. The price point may not be the lowest, but pieces crafted by artisans stand up to many years and many wears.”


Post by DC Style Factory stylist, Jenn Barger. Check out Jenn and get free, fun style tips on how to incorporate these gorgeous Peruvian pieces into your modern wardrobe. She will be at the Folklife Festival Marketplace on  Tuesday, June 30 from 4-5:30. The marketplace will be located in the Potomac Atrium on the first floor of the National Museum of the American Indian.

Jenn has more than 15 years of experience working as a fashion and design journalist in the nation’s capitol, including serving as the founding editor in chief of the Washington Post’s FW magazine. Today she works with DC Style Factory clients, injecting polish and personality into their wardrobes. You can read more about her on our website. To book a style consult, email Jenn at jenn@dcstylefactory.com.

June 16th, 2015

Corporate Style Talk at Troutman Sanders

A couple of weeks ago, Washington, DC law firm, Troutman Sanders asked me to speak to its women’s group about spring trends and office style. I featured some of DC Style Factory’s favorite professional looks and styles from Betsy Fisher, The Shoe Hive and Bloomingdale’s at the evening cocktail-hour presentation. The group of women was full of great, fun questions. Is the pencil skirt still THE professional skirt silhouette for women? Yes. Hosiery with open-toe shoes? No. Midi skirts for petite women? Yes! We talked slouchy trousers, cigarette pants, high-waisted longer pencil skirts, scarves, pointy-toe pumps and more. And as with any DC Style Factory presentation, there was lots of laughter. Because even in the office…what you wear is supposed to make you smile, right?













Photography by Emma McAlary.