Fashion // June 16, 2014

As a personal stylist, clients often ask me what my budget is for updating my wardrobe. Honestly, not much. And I don’t shop for myself very often. Why? Because I have a closet full of clothes I love. I wear everything in my closet and am constantly clearing it out as I find pieces that have either lived a good life or just aren’t me anymore.

As you evolve as a person, so does your style. Your style is an outward reflection of your inner self. I usually buy pieces one at a time as I realize a need or a strong desire and I already have a few outfit ideas for the new piece. If you’re going on a shopping spree with a friend and impulsively buying new pieces, I guarantee you are wasting money on your wardrobe. How many items in your closet still have the price tags on? Why aren’t you wearing them? What is holding you back?

There are two possible scenarios:
1)    You were drawn to a piece for its color/print/style, but you just don’t know how to create an outfit around it. All you need are the right tools and an expert to guide you.
2)    You were forcing it to work because you were trying to fit a trend or a mold. It doesn’t fit quite right and/or the print/color are a bit off.

During a style session with a client, often some of my favorite finds and the most exciting new outfits are created with the pieces from scenario one. Figuring out what works is even more fun because it’s the first step for a client to evolve and define her style. She sees herself more clearly.
Now, how to stop wasting money on your wardrobe:

  • Assess The Situation. Ask yourself what do you have versus what is missing? This is the number one way U*styled helps clients – literally merchandising your closet so that it starts to feel like shopping in the best boutique each morning.
  • Create A Wardrobe you Love Action Plan (WYLAP). Create a list of items that would really maximize your wardrobe and allow for lots of fun mixing + matching. Prioritize that list. Identify designers and stores that will have great options for you in your price point.
  • Set A Budget. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Give yourself a monthly clothing allowance and start checking off your WYLAP list every month or every other month.
  • Stop Buying In Bulk. Aim for 3-5 new items with each shopping trip. Even with Boutique Box, we are mindful of the client’s budget and needs. To maximize value, we’ll go up to eight items or so, but that is with expert help. Pace yourself. You have a lifetime to build a wardrobe you love.

Have you already created a WYLAP? I would love to know what is next on your shopping list! Leave me a comment below.

Published in Fashion
Thursday, 20 March 2014 18:37

Weddings | Planning For Your Marriage

Weddings // March 24, 2014

There are less than three months until my wedding and I just found my dress and I still have not sent out save the dates, or wedding invitations. Like many brides, I have become overwhelmed in the swirl of dress shopping, fine tuning the guest list, selecting a caterer and finding a D.J. (This is a truncated list, of course.) When I feel inadequate to make decisions on flowers, color schemes and cake decorations, I find confidence in knowing that I’m at least taking the right steps to ensure that Mathias (my fiancé) and I will still have a healthy relationship after the wedding.

So, while I envy the women who seem to be the perfect wedding planners, I’ve tasked myself with being a diligent marriage planner. I won’t attempt to offer expert relationship advice, or claim to know the keys to having a perfect anything, let alone a perfect marriage. However, I do know that being successful at anything requires a plan. Here are the tactics I’m using to make sure that Mathias and I get a healthy start to our marriage.

Make a Life Plan

When Mathias and I got engaged our first priority was mapping out our lives together. Questions like, which city will we settle down in? How many children will we have? Should I go to graduate school? All came up as we focused on planning our future. A good place to start with this planning process is goal setting. Everything starts to come together when you ask yourself what you really want and work toward that. For example, if what you really want is to be a stay at home mom in five years, then that might impact your decision to pay for graduate school right now.

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Create a Budget

The time to start planning your financial future with your partner is now. Both parties need to lay out what they bring to the table in terms of assets and debt. Just like life planning, it’s important to set goals. Are you the couple who wants to go on a big vacation every year, or is your biggest priority saving for a down payment on a house? Is eliminating student loan debt or investing one of your goals? Determine where you want to be financially and it will become easier to create a plan on how to get there together.

Seek Wise Counsel

I like to think of pre-marital counseling as preventative maintenance for your relationship. You can pinpoint trouble areas that currently exist, develop a strategy for dealing with future pitfalls and cultivate deeper intimacy with your partner. There are several options for counseling, so explore what works for you. It could be seeking advice from an older couple who you respect, group sessions with a religious guidance counselor, or private sessions with a professional counselor. Mathias and I are currently taking six sessions with a professional counselor who is helping us prepare for the three issues that cause the most conflict in marriage: sex, money and in-laws.

Learning how to fight fair, financial planning and deciding whose family to spend Christmas with may not seem romantic. However, these things are essential to having a healthy relationship. The details of wedding planning are important and I'll get the invitations out, hire the caterer and try to remember to smile and breathe through the ceremony. More important than the wedding is what will happen after we say “I do,” cut the cake and ride off into the sunset. I’m looking forward to enjoying the rest of my life committed to Mathias and happy to know that we’ve got a plan.

Published in Weddings
Saturday, 22 February 2014 00:30

Travel | Chic Travel on a Budget

Lifestyle // February 23, 2014

So, you want to plan a trip with friends and family but no one in your entourage is ‘rolling’ yet? If you add up the cost of flights, resort fees, food, activities, and rental cars, trips can get pretty costly.  Oh, and then there are all these destination weddings you are getting invited to this year… I mean come on. The invitation is flattering but, when you get down to it, you have to figure out where you’re going to get $1,000 of disposable income.  If you wait until you’ve stacked up cash, you may never get to spend a fun, relaxing weekend with loved ones. Life is made up of a series of wonderful moments - here are tips to plan a memorable getaway without breaking the aqua bank.

1. Pick a vacation destination central to the majority of your party. Consider where your friends and family are coming from. If you’re lucky, they’re all in the same general area, so picking somewhere convenient to travel to together will be easy. But if you’re like me, they’ll all be spread out. In this case, try selecting a location convenient for the most folks, or for those whose budgets are less flexible. It’s the nice thing to do…

2. Pack light! With the exorbitant fees for checked baggage these days, you can save yourself upwards of $100 by only taking a carry-on. If you are going away for just a weekend you should be able to pull this off… Just say no to that third pair of stilettos!  

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3. Keep an eye on flash deals! One of the keys to cheap and chic travel will be to remain flexible. You never know when deals will become available. I have found fantastic opportunities via resources like Gilt City, Jetsetter, Groupon, Travelzoo and Vacationist. The one caveat is, you have to be ready to pull the trigger. So, if you want to welcome adventure, flash deals could be the right move!

4. Take advantage of the off-season. Some of my best vacations have been during the off-season. Prices are way more reasonable and there are crazy deals. No snow on the slopes? Try Lake Tahoe. A little warmer than usual, check out Miami. This past Fourth of July, some friends and I visited Palm Springs. Sure, it was 107 degrees at its peak, but we spent the majority of the time in the pool or inside our wonderfully air-conditioned house, which brings me to suggestion #5…

5. Find home and vacation rentals. I wanted to get a big group of friends and family together for the 4th of July. We were all on a budget, so it was important that this be a quick, cheap, and easy getaway. Given that we had eight people, I searched for home rentals via:,, Eight people contributing to the rental widened our net. Suddenly, we were able to afford a three bedroom three bathroom house, with a pool and gourmet kitchen (see picture above). I was really nervous about renting through a website. I worried that someone might run away with my money, or that the home wouldn’t be as advertised.* Fortunately, it turned out better than expected! Having a kitchen allowed us to cook for ourselves and save money on dining out. In preparation, I planned out our meals for the two-day stay and got just the right amount of supplies from Costco and Whole Foods. Once there, we happily chilled at the house, swimming, cooking, drinking, talking, and playing games. Our two-day Palm Springs vacay worked out to under $140 per person!

*TIP: Read reviews and customer advice before purchasing. Obviously, the more positive reviews the better, but don’t just look at the number of stars, be sure to read the text. Other vacationers will help you determine if the house will fit your vacation needs.

If you’re jonesing for time away with friends, try something a little non-traditional. Even if it doesn’t turn out like one of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s fabulous vacations, at least it will be an adventure.

Published in Travel
Monday, 15 August 2011 08:59

Makeup Tips | Beauty On A Budget

I’m writing this anonymously. Maybe I’ll even use a pseudonym. I don’t think my superiors at the high-end makeup line where I work will appreciate what I’m about to write. On second thought, maybe I should close my door. And lock it. And pull down the window shades.

In all seriousness, I really do work for a very popular, higher-end cosmetic line and am constantly receiving free swag—but for some reason I can’t seem to pull myself away from the cosmetic aisle at the CVS across the street! It could be due to my lack of knowledge (despite working for a cosmetic brand, my job has very little to do with the actual application of makeup), my laziness (I’m sure if I really wanted to take the time to figure out how to use fancy liquid eyeliner without ending up with it all over my face I could, but I just don’t have the time or the energy), or the loyalty I’ve developed for these familiar brands (I’ve been a frequent visitor of drug store make up aisles since middle school).

Whatever the reasons, I have come to put my trust in a few drug store products and have learned how to incorporate them into my everyday look.

Foundation is the key to every flawless face and the most important product I use. Mineral makeup has always been my foundation of choice because of its natural ingredients, the hostile environment it creates for bacteria, and how light it feels on my face. When I first started using mineral makeup I opted for the popular Bare Escentuals line, a pioneer in the mineral makeup business. I was satisfied with the product and the price, $28 a unit, until I discovered Mineral Powder by Maybelline. It boasts 8 different shades, 100% micro minerals, 0% oils and preservatives, and is safe for sensitive skin. It was even picked by Oprah as the most comprehensive mineral makeup line in 2008! Upon application to my face, I noticed absolutely no difference between this $9 product and my Bare Escentuals $28 powder. It gives me full coverage and the airbrushed look I love without looking like I’m wearing pounds of makeup. I’ve been a faithful user of Mineral Powder by Maybelline in Sandy Beige for two years and don’t plan on switching up my powder anytime soon.

Eye liner is the one other product, besides foundation, that I absolutely cannot live without. I discovered Revlon Colorstay Eyeliner for $7.50 after trying a liquid liner pen from a more expensive brand. I was so excited to try the pen because I felt that it would give me the look of liquid liner without the hassle of the brush applicator. I didn’t get the results I expected. Again, this could just be my own lack of expertise/motor skills, but the pen just didn’t cut it for me. When I saw Revlon Colorstay in the drugstore, it seemed like the perfect compromise between chalky eye liner pencils and liquid liner. It was love at first application. It’s easy to use and gives my eyes the smooth definition I crave. It doesn’t smear and I can be sure that my morning application will last through my entire 9-5 work day (at least).

My latest drug store find is the Nicole by OPI line. I love OPI nail polish (I think I lived the entirety of 2007-2008 in OPI Lincoln Park after Dark), but it’s difficult to find stores that carry the brand. The only store I’ve seen with a full line of the polish is Ulta, and there are only four of them in the whole Los Angeles area. The Nicole line, however, can be found in most drug stores. Though it targets teenagers (their latest promotion is the Justin Bieber endorsed “One Less Lonely Girl” collection... Yeah, no joke.), they have just as many colors as OPI. They even stay true to the quirkiness of their namesake with shades such as the fire engine red “I Stop for Nicole” and the bubble gum pink “Ink a Dink a Pink.” The best part about the Nicole line is that it doesn’t skimp or cut any corners just because it’s at a lower price point. It provides all the colors of the rainbow and even has a feature on its website where you can see what colors look best against your skin tone and the color of your pants. You’ll be hard pressed to find another $7 polish line with as much variety and ingenuity as Nicole by OPI.

Would I ever give up my high end products? Probably not. At least not while I have such easy access. But I am a loyal person, in life and in makeup, and have found ways to incorporate the budget friendly brands I have used since my adolescence into my adult look. I’ve been getting my drug store fix for years and see no reason to stop using now!

Published in Beauty