The Force

AJ is obsessed with his new Darth Vader costume. He’s assumed the iconic role with impressive conviction for someone who has never actually watched a Star Wars movie. He even has the breathing down. Unfettered by humidity, DV stoically guards the driveway, synthetic black cape absorbing August heat, plastic robotic mask askew on his little face. In lieu of a light saber (on backorder) he practices anti-Jedi moves switching mommy’s skinny yellow J.Crew belt at family members.

Costumes dictate the quality of your behavior – and your audience’s reaction. Whether you’re a lady lobbying for beads on Bourbon St., in line at the bank in an army uniform, the only guy at the meeting without a tie or swathed in custom Christian Siriano and electric teal Christian Louboutins on your cold, rainy wedding day – costumes can grant you power or take it away.

I can be am obsessive about my appearance. Having two children under 3 has loosened my (weekend) standards but believe me I am just as compulsive about casual. Every ensemble must fit just so, coordinate and be appropriately accessorized. Why? Because if it doesn’t I am uncomfortable ALL. DAY. LONG. I can’t concentrate. I tug and over think and seek out mirrors to scrutinize. When my outfit is sorted my mind space is clear. I am empowered to perform and the world responds accordingly.

We went to the mall last night for flip flops and Shake Shack. After lengthy negotiation it was settled that AJ could wear his cape and mask, and we would leave the body suit at home. Matt requested that AJ stay on my side as we strolled through Lord & Taylor so he didn’t have be associated with the crazy kid in the Halloween costume. I didn’t mind. The Darth Vader costume empowers my little guy to strut like a big guy. I get it. AJ, I am your mother.

The Dark Side has inspired this week’s outfit choices, too. When all else fails (and half of your 35 items are at the dry cleaner) bet on black. 

Outfit details: Chloe Havana sunglasses, (2014); BCBG cuff earrings (2015); Stella & Dot Rebel pendant necklace, (2014); BCBG black asymmetrical tunic (2014); J.Crew Minnie pants (2012); Tahari blue peep toe flats (2012); Marc by Marc Jacobs Metrooptic cross body (2015); Lanvin tassle keychain (2014)

Outfit details: Chloe Havana sunglasses (2014); 14K gold hoop earrings (Mother’s Day gift, 2015); ASOS black dress (2014); Miguel Ases necklace (2012); Renvy sandals via Gilt.com (2014); Loeffler Randall open work tote (2015); Hermes scarf tied on handle (2009); Stella & Dot bangle (2013); David Yurman classic cable bracelet (2006)

Head Case

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This weekend I unearthed hundreds of vintage pictures. You know the kind we used to take on a camera that housed a film roll, which you then removed and dropped off at CVS to develop and pick up one week later? I scanned through these relics pictures contemplating two decades of fashion choices. From Gangsta Chic to Raver 1.0, Miss Steeple Chase to Bebe Goes to Vegas, mine was a vast and varied trend trajectory.

I have always prided myself on possessing a definitive personal style but my fashion moments seemed disconnected.  Unnerved, I looked closer, willing a pattern to emerge. And there it was, right on top of my head. Be it a bucket hat or a bandanna, beret or backwards visor, the only thing more prevalent than the one arm on hip pose was my enthusiasm for headwear.  

Why the obsession with headdress? I pondered this. Does it convey status? Nobility? Class distinction? Nope. Simply put, I find the head the perfect place to put an accessory. Makes you look. Plus a jaunty hat has an attitude that just resonates with me.

Twenty years later, only the quality of my scarf selection has changed. I’ve upgraded the bedazzled JLo-era bandanna for a collection of Hermes twill but the attitude remains. As they say, you can take the girl out of Norfolk but you can’t take the Naughty out of the girl.

Today’s outfit reflects my 2015 style – a settled, comfortable and colorful aesthetic, accented by a baby. Of course I had to throw on a gypsy wrap for good measure.

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Outfit details: Hermes scarf as headband (2008); Girls Day Out raw amethyst pendant, Charlottesville Farm Market (2015); J.Crew cardigan (2014); Tart Collections top (2014); J.Crew #2 Pencil Skirt (2012); Renvy by Gilt.com sandals (2014). On Ashby: Baby Gap onsie and bubble shorts

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Raver 1.0 in fairy wings, candy necklaces and a glitter crown, 1997

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Sporty spice goes to beach week in a Ralph Lauren bucket hat, 1997

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Naughty by Norfolk in a classic gangsta bandanna and Tommy zip neck, 1999

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Miss Bebe in a beret, 2001

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Steeplechase vibes at Gold Cup, 2006

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Etsy rosettes and a Cibu pin at Washington Life’s Young & the Guest List Party, 2009

Sleep Training 101

Recently I had the bright idea to bribe my toddler for sleep. If he stays in his own bed all night long he earns a new Lego set in the morning. I am proud to report that seven days and seven Lego starter sets later, this mommy feels quite refreshed. The arrangement is what corporate types call a WIN/WIN – except in the ways that it isn’t.

For instance, AJ now wakes at 6:02AM, on the dot, every morning. With rooster-like clockwork, he bounds into our room and bellows “I slept my own bed mommy, where’s my Lego set.”  Immediately after directing him to his prize he returns and demands that I build it. Have you ever tried to assemble Rockit the Mixle at 6:05 in the morning? I don’t know about you but my dexterity doesn’t peak until 9. 

Last Thursday I capriciously mentioned to AJ that I stopped by the Lego store. As the words left my mouth I recognized my first mistake. “Lemme see! Lemme see! Lemme see!” he repeated. I resisted, futiley, and finally let him peek inside the yellow bag. Mistake #2. “Give it to me!” he demanded. Slightly panicked, I realized my toddler negotiations were unravelling, quick. I had entered into a “mutually advantageous” agreement with a 3 year old who lacked impulse control and any concept of delayed gratification. Standing my ground, I calmly explained the difference between earning and demanding. This teaching moment earned me two bruised shins and a 45 minute meltdown. 

This morning, after watching Matt struggle to assemble Batwing, I reclaimed our power and declared that there would be no more Lego sleep prizes. To which AJ replied “OK, mommy. Tomorrow I want Iron Man.”  Fair enough.

Unlike pre-dawn City Bulldozer builds, today’s outfit was very easy to put together. Favorite skirt, Hermes scarf, reclaimed cashmere shell – 3 of 33 pieces – all within easy reach.

Outfit details: Chloe Havana sunglasses (2014); J. Crew summer cashmere shell (2007); J. Crew navy eyelet skirt (2012); Hermes scarf as belt (2014); DVF color block wedge (2014)

Alternate Realities

I have been awake since 5:45AM. Someone left the sunroof open in my car and it rained. There is a pimple the size of Manassas on my lip. The baby is congested and teething. It feels impossible to get anything cleaned or organized with a full time job and small children. Our refrigerator is very small. Daycare costs more than a mortgage in a normal town. I waste too much money on Starbucks. I am having a bad hair day. 

Or

Our new home has a playroom. It takes 14 minutes to get to my office from my driveway. I am paid to make Cibu hair products. People love Fresh Crunch pickles. It is nearly summertime. The bruises on my triceps are from extended side crow. I’ve been blessed with beautiful children, a very cute dog and an excellent cook for a husband. Everything is funny. The peonies are blooming. Life is full of creative opportunity.

Which of version of my story is more interesting? Which version of your story do you tell each day?

Today’s outfit is so much more put together than warranted for my level of fatigue. Why? Because last night I said eff it, let the baby cry a little in her crib and ruthlessly edited my summer capsule down to 33 items, exactly. More on that story later. 

Outfit Details: Chloe Havana sunglasses (2014); J.Crew white button down shirt (2012); Hermes scarf as belt (2009); J.Crew #2 Pencil Skirt (2012); Brian Atwood nude peep toes (2008); Coach Legacy tassel cross body (2012); Fake ass Hermes cuff from Party City (2014)

This girl cleaned out her closet, and what happened next was epic.

I spent last weekend peddling my fashion baggage all over Northern Virginia. It took three consignment stores (who does Current Boutique think she is, anyway?), one for-the-sisters pile and several trash bags earmarked Goodwill to shed my worn wears. So how does it feel? Simply put, it feels really good.

The creator of Project 333 suggests that clearing the physical and mental space previously occupied with shopping and storing purchases allows for richer, more meaningful experiences to enter your life. So far, its biggest impact on my life is the emotions I’ve left behind. You know that feeling when it’s 8:35 7:35 and you are frantically looking for a work outfit but you can’t even slide garments down the rack to select anything because your clothes are packed so tightly? I do not miss that feeling. Or the one when you try on a dress that you bought online for the fifteenth time and it still looks weird but it’s been over 30 days and now you can’t return it. Don’t miss that one, either.

Before I curtailed impulse shopping and minimized my wardrobe I routinely felt guilt, annoyance and disdain towards my closet. Now I feel proud, creative, savvy and mindful about pretty much everything. Three months ago I could produce any number of excuses to buy something new. Now I can’t find an excuse to buy anything at all! In fact, I missed the boat on these Loeffler Randal sandals and these J.Crew flats in gold, both planned purchases for my summer capsule, because I delayed the purchase and now they are sold out. On the bright side, I saved myself $568.

How’s this for a rich and meaningful experience? On Sunday night Matt and I attended the annual Blue Jeans Ball to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank. Impulsively, we bid $700 on a three night stay in Paris – and won! That opportunity was made possible by Project 333 – for once, an extra $700 was actually sitting in my bank account. Plus it was for a good cause. ‘Cause we’re going to Paris!

The round up of outfits in today’s post all share simple foundations highlighted by joyful pops of color. What a way to live.

Top Outfit Details: DVF wrap dress (2012); Joie military jacket (2014); Tangerine cashmere scarf, origins unknown (2012); Loeffler Randal Tasmin ponyhair pumps (2014); Loeffler Randall Industry Bag (2014); Stella & Dot Norah Chandelier earrings (2014); Stella & Dot Rebel pendant (2014)
Outfit Details: Chloe Havana sunglasses (2014); J.Crew necklace (2013); LA Made dress via Stitch Fix (2015); Coach purple Legacy tassel cross body bag (2012); Loeffler Randal gold gladiator sandals (2009)
Outfit Details: Chloe Havana sunglasses (2014); Stitch Fix top (2015); Hermes scarf as belt (2009); J.Crew Minnie pants (2013); Elie Tahari teal peep toe flats (2013) Coach Legacy purple tassel cross body bag

Let It Go

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Perhaps the omission was a gift from the universe, easing our family’s transition through a late winter cold snap: For several months my toddler forgot to sing the theme song from Frozen. In early April, however; The Frozen Song re-emerged as a thematic element in our collaborative bedtime story. In summary: AJ hosts an egg hunt and all of his cousins are invited (”All of them, Mommy!”). There is a custom Play Doh decorated surprise egg hidden for each cousin. Anna’s egg is wrapped in a tutu and when she opens it a real ballerina dances out (these are big eggs). Caroline’s egg is decorated as an egg and when she cracks it open, baby Ashby is trapped inside and AJ rescues her. Finally, Isabelle opens her egg, emblazoned with a glittering crown, and out jumps Princess Elsa, singing “Let it Go, Let it Go, Let it Go...” At this point he falls asleep softly singing the only words anyone really knows from that song.

Yesterday the nurse at the doctor’s office needed to confirm my last name. “Is it Mapp or Bressan?” After a very pregnant pause I responded “Bressan.” I have been married for nearly six years but man was it hard to let that one go. We cling to things, don’t we? Maiden names, college scrapbooks, dog eared copies of Judy Blume’s Blubber, a $175 silk Joie blouse that never actually looks good on - they all tell a story about who we are, or were. But where is the line between identity and junk?

That evening I enjoyed a glass of champagne with a chic friend to celebrate her newly acquired American citizenship. Thinking back on the last name conversation I asked if the ceremony sparked any sort of identity crisis. “Not at all,” she replied. “I retain both my Swiss and Italian passports.”  Leave it to Ada to be a triple citizen of the world. After a moment she added, “It was kind of hard for my Dad, though.”

Today’s outfit wasn’t quite as inspiring as the pink magnolia letting go of her petals in the background. Looking to the indigo top and flats to elevate grey base layers and an overcast spring morning. 

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Outfit details: Salvatore Ferragamo silk twill scarf (2009); J. Crew ruffle trench (2008); South Moon Under indigo hi low t-shirt (2012); Banana Republic ruched grey jersey skirt (2015); Steve Madden Kstudd indigo studded flats (2012); Stella & Dot Rebel pendant necklace (2014)

It’s Fashion Season

Spring is outfit season. April heralds death to tights and a glorious return to bare legs and open toed shoes. Granted, these newly appropriate outfit extenders do not come without great responsibility, namely pedicures and shaving, but all in, it’s worth it. 

But uh, back to the lecture at hand. Perfection is perfected, so I'ma let ‘em understand. I have worn all but five of my 33 items. (Go back and count them, I’ll wait.) The last ladies standing are: J. Crew navy blue eyelet skirt; no name navy blue pleated dress, Gap teal and navy blue wrap dress, DVF black and white wrap dress and a teal Max Studio sundress. All have been waiting for this warm weather week to reveal themselves. That and I haven’t purchased navy blue tights since eighth grade. 

One month in and a third of the way through the first season of my capsule wardrobe. It took a month to wear 33 items. Go figure. It’s easy to wear an outfit once, but it takes some creativity to rework the same outfit into something fresh and new for the upcoming 60 days. Now comes the mixy-matchy. Now I reveal my fashion chops. I am game! It is warm! 

Outfit details: Chloe Havana sunglasses (2014); YSL Muse handbag (2008); Kiton navy double breasted blazer (ultimate clothing swap find 2011); J. Crew vintage cotton v-neck t-shirt (I may have bought this in the past two weeks); J. Crew navy blue eyelet skirt (2012); Butter teal suede sandals (2012); Ases throat chakra pendant (2012); diamond pave disk necklace (anniversary gift from Matt, 2014); teal FitBit band to count the Spring in my steps  

We Need Space

Yesterday my husband and I were sitting on the couch, I nursing a baby, he nursing a beer, when the toddler crammed his little behind in the middle of us. “Give me space!” He ordered. “I need space!” Dutifully we scooted aside to give the boss a seat.  I started to explain that if he needs space he should go sit on the empty side of the couch and maybe not cram his butt in between two people who are clearly comfortable - but really? Who’s listening?

With tropical travel on the horizon, I am faced with the ultimate wardrobe edit – vacation packing. Determined not to purchase anything new, I set out to cull through my existing warm weather clothes. But where are they? Skinny (ish) casual items are boxed in storage loft, occasion and dry clean selections hang in AJ’s closet and a mix of maternity and summer casual dresses (including nine several Tart Collections frocks that aren’t actually “maternity“ and thereby viable for vacation) are crammed against the wall in the baby’s wardrobe. I am left wondering where anyone else in my family stores clothes. Do they even own clothes? Are my children naked at this very moment? 

It took all weekend to edit my selections. Dozens of additional items were routed to the “donate, consign or give to Pamela” pile and I am reminded of how this whole excess reckoning experiment began – pawing through Pinterest for creative solutions to manage my massive clothing collection. Instead, I will soon live in a world where I can store clothes in the space available to me. Imagine that.

If you like today’s outfit, I will grant you three wishes. Mine are for sleep, a tan and 45 minutes to get a pedicure before Saturday.

Playing it cool with the boss

Outfit details: Chloe Havana sunglasses (2014); Joie Hooded Military Jacket (2014); White + Warren cashmere scarf (2012); South Moon Under indigo hi-lo t-shirt (2012); Joe’s Jeans “Genie” or Slim Jogger Pant (2013); Schutz Lace Cutout Bootie; Stella & Dot Rebel Pendant (2014); Pave diamond disk necklace (Anniversary gift from Matt, 2014) - On AJ: GapKids + JunkFood Spiderman sweater (2014); Seven for all Mankind Brett Jeans (Gilt.com - only $35, don’t judge - 2014); Carter’s socks

On the Wagon

Project 333 has helped me curb the urge to shop compulsively. Proudly, I am 14 days clean. I still peruse the 9 PM Gilt.com sales while waiting for my toddler to fall the eff asleep; the difference is that I choose not to indulge. It’s an empty high, anyway. Almost never does an impulse purchase emerge as the link that connects my entire wardrobe. Little things trip me up, though. It’s easy to delay the purchase of $495 Loeffler Randall tassel sandals; but damn you indigo Ikat print scarf, with your $45 allure of outfit completion and on-trend pop of color. Just a nip, she says. A sweet little sip of accessorize.

In the face of an upcoming tropical vacation, I rationalized my summer clothes hoping to find an excuse to shop. What I found, however; was three pairs of white jeans, four barely used and extremely versatile beach wraps; a floppy straw hat and a straw fedora; two pairs of J. Crew chino shorts that fit and FIVE pairs of J.Crew leather thong sandals. Truth be told, I did purchase two new bathing suits. Give me a break! I just had a baby and itty bitty string bikini season is over.

A rainy day is so suitable for draping gray layers. Comfort clothes, if you will. Also an example of an outfit I own in 24 variations. 

Outfit details: Design History gray open front cardigan (2014); Gap Body black t-shirt (2014); Banana Republic gray ruched skirt (2015); DKNY tights (2014); Nine West Heartset Wedge Knee High Boots (2014); Striped scarf from Posh, Charlottesville, VA (2010); Red tassel pendant from a boutique in Charleston, SC.

The Marketer and the Muse

Yesterday I went to New York City for a business meeting with Cibu Celebrity Stylist Sharon So. Sharon So is super cool. Even her name is cool: “Sharon So.” So what? You fill in the blank.

Every inch a platform artist, Sharon’s look is on point. Hair and makeup flawless – always; apparel is that rocker edgy situation that you’d find on an off duty model with a mean streak.

Though toned down, her outfit yesterday was no disappointment: Draped asymmetrical cardigan, paneled leggings, leather corset and sharp (yet sensible) over-the-knee flat boots. The monochromatic gray ensemble was set off by a brilliant blue saddle bag and those nerdy chic thick black glasses that only the chic can pull off without looking like an actual nerd.

Sharon and I have been travelling together since Cibu was born; over the past 13 years my personal style has evolved under her influence. But it only took one mishap (a bi-color mullet in 2005) for me to realize that while Sharon’s personal style is inspiring, it wasn’t my style to imitate. Sharon makes me cooler by osmosis.

So that is my explanation as to why the outfit I selected for a day trip to NYC, fashion capital of the world, was so deliberately DC. I dress in deference to the coolest person in the room.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of Sharon’s entire outfit, but this shot captures the edgy vibe she emanates 

Sharon on stage and in her element

Outfit details: Hermes Eperon d'Or Remix silk maxi twilly scarf (birthday gift from Matt, 2014); Citrine pendant on gold chain (birthday gift from Matt, 2010) Stella & Dot Norah Chandelier earrings (2014); JCrew ruffle trench (2008); Theory white knit sweater (belonged to my original muse, my beloved Aunt Catherine, 2015); layered over JCrew silk camisole (2015); JCrew Minnie Pants (2013); Loeffler Randall Tamsin Haircalf pumps (2004)

Surprise Inside

My toddler can’t read so I don’t know how he found the “Surprise Egg” YouTube network. The premise is simple: Faceless adult hands crack apart plastic eggs to reveal tiny licensed treats. With great ceremony the anonymous fingers rip open a shiny foil parcel. A wee Minecraft horse tumbles out. Sometimes the creepy hands unearth a nutritious packet of Hello Kitty sugar candies or a Lego Spiderman Mini Figurine. How delightful! I think. Another adorable plastic nightmare to clog the corners my home. After each 3 - 5 minute video its  “Another one mommy, another one!” And I oblige because I like quiet.

Yesterday I received a promising e-blast from J.Crew. Considerate gal that she is, J.Crew wrote to remind me that SPRINGSALE earns 30% off all orders. Won’t you just take a peak? Oh OK. My eager fingers scan the responsive-for-mobile product pages and land on the surprise inside: Ribbed racer back tank top. Select Color. Gray, white and black, please? Only $29.50 each (plus 30% OFF!). A steal, a deal, a downright GIFT from the tank top goddess. Another one!  Another gray, white and black tank top to clog the corners of my closet.

Reason prevailed. It would be wrong to lead you astray, dear reader, on our journey to minimalist nirvana. I defied the tank tops’ sweet siren song and instead took this picture of her would-be sisters.

Outfit Details: Hermes horse bit scarf (2007); JCrew ruffle trench (2008); Rachel Pally striped tunic (2014) on top of BCBG Layering Tank Dress (2014); DKNY tights (2014); Nine West Heartset Wedge Knee High Boots (2014); Loeffler Randall Industry Bag (2014); Stella & Dot Rebel Pendant (2014)
Spring 2015 Core Capsule Wardrobe  by  jennmapp     After much deliberation my master 33 piece Spring 2015 core wardrobe is complete. There are caveats to this capsule that you must note. March is notorious for rapid cycle weather patterns. As the forecast improves, some items will be swapped for seasonal-appropriate replacements. Like great art, Facebook app updates and noncommittal ex-boyfriends, this relationship is a work in progress. You may spot a tank or pant that is not on the master list. I will share the sub collections at a later date. Each is sparsely populated, containing shoes and accessories, seasonal replacements, licensed sports apparel and backup dupes of the master collection (the baby spit up struggle is real, ya’ll).   Happy Spring and Go Hoos!       Details: White + Warren cashmere beanie (2012);  Joie Hooded Military jacket  (2014);  Gap 1969 Deconstructed Western Denim shirt  (2015);  Hooded UVa long sleeve tee shirt , gift from Matt, Mincers, Charlottesville, Va (2015);  AG “Stevie” ankle jeans  (2013);  Hunter Boots , gift from sister Emily (2013)     Details:  David Yurman Cable Classics hoop earrings  (2013);  Tiffany & Co. Elsa Peretti Tear Drop necklace  (2001);  David Yurman Color Classics Bangles with Black Onyx  (2013);  David Yurman Cable Classics Bracelet with Titanium and 14K Gold  (2006);  David Yurman Petite Albion Ring with Hematine and Diamonds  (2006);  Loeffler Randall Industry Bag  (2014)

Spring 2015 Core Capsule Wardrobe by jennmapp 

After much deliberation my master 33 piece Spring 2015 core wardrobe is complete. There are caveats to this capsule that you must note. March is notorious for rapid cycle weather patterns. As the forecast improves, some items will be swapped for seasonal-appropriate replacements. Like great art, Facebook app updates and noncommittal ex-boyfriends, this relationship is a work in progress. You may spot a tank or pant that is not on the master list. I will share the sub collections at a later date. Each is sparsely populated, containing shoes and accessories, seasonal replacements, licensed sports apparel and backup dupes of the master collection (the baby spit up struggle is real, ya’ll).

Happy Spring and Go Hoos!

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Details: White + Warren cashmere beanie (2012); Joie Hooded Military jacket (2014); Gap 1969 Deconstructed Western Denim shirt (2015); Hooded UVa long sleeve tee shirt, gift from Matt, Mincers, Charlottesville, Va (2015); AG “Stevie” ankle jeans (2013); Hunter Boots, gift from sister Emily (2013)
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Details: David Yurman Cable Classics hoop earrings (2013); Tiffany & Co. Elsa Peretti Tear Drop necklace (2001); David Yurman Color Classics Bangles with Black Onyx (2013); David Yurman Cable Classics Bracelet with Titanium and 14K Gold (2006); David Yurman Petite Albion Ring with Hematine and Diamonds (2006); Loeffler Randall Industry Bag (2014)