When I helped promote the Braderie de Mode Quebecoise in Gatineau this past fall, my eyes were opened to what felt like hundreds of Canadian (Quebec-based) designers. I always knew our neighbours to the east were super stylish (Montreal, I’m looking at you!), but to see so much talent gathered under one roof was pretty amazing.
One of the Canadian designers who completely captured my heart is Nadya Toto – her Italian background translates to minimalistic, yet sophisticated designs, but what I love best is the touch of whimsy and femininity. I walked away with this simple long sleeved sheath dress in burgundy. I’ve worn it many times already because it checks off all my boxes; effortless, relaxed (it’s so comfortable), and chic. This is one of those pieces where you truly reap the power of a good investment purchase. Not only is it classic, but it’s a great foundation piece from which to build so many great looks.
Give her website a browse; it will be worth it. I often fall into the trap of thinking that sustainable style and ethical fashion mean scouring the web for hours to find the right combination of style and sustainability (plug for shopeitheror.com where you can find Canadian-made clothing all in one place!) when we have some amazing Canadian designers in our own backyard.
Dress: Nadya Toto // Boots: AGL at Nordstrom (old, great alternative here) // Scarf: Toria Rose (old, alternative here) // Coat: Mackage, old and altered, but love this one // sunnies: Kate Spade at Merivale Vision Care // Good hair day (sorry, felt like it had to be mentioned!): Fiorella at Rinaldos (the power of a great cut – this is what it looks like 4 months grown out!) // pics by: Melody Iafelice
It’s the middle of winter, we’re all hibernating, and maybe you’re just feeling blah. It’s easy to scroll through your instafeed and Pinterest and get inspired by some amazing outfits and fashion and think a little retail therapy is in order to spice up your life wardrobe.
Sometimes we need to shake things up, and I believe our wardrobe has just what we need – the trick is in restyling the pieces you already have to create something new. Here are three ensembles, or outfit formulas (I think I’m going to use this word way more often) that you might not have thought of but that are easy to create from your existing wardrobe:
monochromatic: maybe you found yourself jumping on the pink train last year, or you have so many neutrals you don’t know what else to do with them – a monochromatic look is always polished, and playful if done in a fun hue. Given my limited wardrobe I kept my monochromatic look in the cream family but if you rock this in anything other than grey, black, cream or navy, major kudos to you.
Coat: Mackage / Top: Judith & Charles from ShopAlfred.com / Culottes: Thrifted but love these / Boots: UGG at Nordstrom / Sunnies: Kate Spade at Merivale Optometric
canadian tuxedo: this classic ensemble should never be underestimated. If you add a feminine element like a heel, interesting jewelry or a colourful neck scarf, your friends with think it’s groundbreaking.
Jeans: Alexa Chung for AG at schad / Top: a hand-me-down from my cousin! But here’s a great option / Booties: Club Monaco / Coat: Value Village but I love this one / Purse: Naked Vice at schad / Neck Scarf: Vintage but here’s a beautiful one / Sunnies: Kate Spade at Merivale Optometric
tone on tone: similar to a monochromatic look, this type of outfit is great if you have a lot of the same colour in your closet. A two tone outfit in a colour that suits you is a creative mix of colours that is still unexpected but easy to pull off. Again – major props if you do this in anything other than a neutral colour.
On Monday, I wrote this post about using Instagram and social media for fashion inspiration instead of envy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy, I am guilty of lamenting my lack of textured, personality-infused, and seemingly effortless pieces that invade the wardrobes of my favourites; Olivia Palermo, Blake Lively and Emmanuelle Alt. But as promised dear readers, here’s my example of pulling inspiration from a whole look and how it was put together vs. simply going bananas over each piece that creates that look. Ya feel me? Here’s an ensemble that I stumbled upon and loved, brought to us by the inimitable Olivia Palermo:
I had never thought of pairing my faux-fur vest with a simple white shirt. This is ludicrous because I wear my white button downs with literally EVERYTHING (including sweatpants), but I loved that this inspired me to put it together instead of run out and buy another white shirt or fuzzy vest. My pants aren’t leather, my boots aren’t as edgy, but I liked how the ensemble was polished enough for the corporate world and think a simple black pant and bootie achieve this look.
What do you think? Would this type of thing make you more frustrated that your outfit isn’t the same, or would you be satisfied that you were able to pull something together with your own spin on it? Or maybe you’ll realize you’re missing a staple button down … I’d love to know your thoughts!
I hope you are reading this feeling relaxed and happy after the holidays. This time of year is often associated with Pinterest boards full of inspiration, goals of all kinds and lofty ambitions. These days however – and for the stylishly inclined – “inspiration” also comes in the form of a perfectly curated Instagram feed, or those infamous style roundups that are supposed to help us get dressed when we’re feeling “blah”.
I think this abundance of style inspiration is a double-edged sword – on one hand we have an infinite source of ideas for different outfit combinations and styling. On the flip side, it is a constant reminder of the things we don’t have (this article is proof), which can turn into a perpetual feeling of needing more, and that if we acquire what’s in these photos, we too will have a fulfilling closet and will ultimately reach fashion nirvana. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of pressure to put on style – something that’s supposed to be fun.
So for 2017, instead of using social media and fashion websites as a source of envy (which – let’s be honest, I totally do, nobody is immune to the likes of the uber cool style set), I’m going to try and use them instead as what they were originally intended for: inspiration, and only that. Next time I see myself admiring another blogger’s put together look, before going all heart-eyes emoji and clicking on the link that will take me to an opportunity to spend money and acquire more stuff, I’m going to look in my closet and see if I can recreate a similar ensemble with items I already have.
The easiest way to recreate a look or style you love is about obsessing less on one particular item of clothing and paying more attention to the overall formula of the look and how the clothing is being worn. Here’s an example; maybe you like one blogger’s #ootd: a chunky knit worn over ripped skinnies and a cute heel. Instead of lamenting the fact that her skinnies are Paige ($$$) and her knit is a super cute of-the-moment-lace-up-cuff-detail chunky sweater (trend trap!), think of what is actually attracting you to this ensemble. Here are some q’s to help you out:
am I attracted to this outfit’s colour palette?
do I like the proportion play?
do I like the quirky mix of styles (in this case, casual wear with dressy – a high heel)?
do I like how the sweater/pants are styled (sleeves rolled up/pants cuffed? sweater half-tucked in? etc.)
Answering these questions can do wonders for discovering your own personal style, as well as avoiding impulse buys, and going gaga over a purchase that could end up being potentially wasteful (not to mention expensive!).
And dear readers, just so you know – I tried this little experiment prior to writing this post. The idea of posting about it actually came to me when I came across an Olivia Palermo outfit (or 1,034,876 of them, actually) that I really liked and thought – wait a minute, I can make something similar! Do you want to see how it turns out? Come back Thursday to find out what the rest of this outfit looks like and the original pic I used as inspo!
While anything associated with ‘slow’ carries an unfavourable undertone in today’s ‘now’ world, this past year I’ve come to love slow.
It happened after a Dailey Method workout when we were stretching after a session and the sun was filtering in through the trees into the studio. One of those perfect moments where everything is OK and you convince yourself that it’s going to continue being OK because of the endorphin-induced state of mind you’re in.
But that state of mind seemed to stick with me for the very last half of 2016 along with my cemented affirmation and public declaration of slow fashion. As I thought about the owners at the Dailey Method, they seemed to me a wonderful example of being able to work extremely hard to build a thriving business without succumbing to the “i’m-too-busy-to-put-pants-on-and-eat-breakfast” mantra. In other words; to me, they represented great balance in a world where the scales are forever tipped to “busy being an entrepreneur”. Maybe time is doing what it does best (as in, making me older), or maybe I’m delusional. But I know that I’m over the glorification of being busy.
So in addition to slow fashion going forward, I’m going to try and figure out a way to continue to grow in my business/career with grace, love and peace, and live slowly. Forgive me if you don’t see me at every event, or saying yes to every project – paid or creative collaboration. After being taken advantage of to my own detriment too often this year, my only goal in 2017 is to say ‘no’ when it counts the most.
Finally, I want to wish each and every one of you reading this a most amazing holiday season and wonderful 2017. I truly appreciate your eyeballs on my words and images, your support and encouragement, and I don’t think I acknowledge it enough – so thank you. I won’t be posting anything between Christmas and New Years, but will be back to regular twice a week posts (aiming for Mondays and Thursdays) the first week of January.
In the meantime, enjoy whatever this time of year means to you.
You may have noticed that the blog has taken a different direction lately. Without the fanfare of a complete rebranding (which is coming, I swear, but there won’t be much hoopla because – I don’t know, who needs more hoopla in their life!?), I am happy to announce that going forward, blog.msbeltempo.com will be a site focused on sustainable style – with content that is geared towards making more thoughtful and deliberate decisions about how we consume fashion; from our shopping habits to our daily styling.
For lack of a better term, I chose the words “sustainable style”, but the word “sustainable” is thrown around so much these days, it’s important for you to know how I’m using it in the context of this blog.
BUT FIRST, A BACKSTORY
A few weeks back, a corporate client hired me to present a “shop your closet” session during their “green week”. After researching the topic and brainstorming content for the presentation, I realized that shopping your closet is only one piece of the giant lifestyle puzzle of a conscious consumer. It was the kind of information-gathering session that kept me up for nights in a row because I was just so excited about the topic. And it wasn’t the mind-numbing and scary statistics that got to me (we see enough of those tear-inducing videos via our facebook feeds, and I don’t think guilt and shame are the right vehicles to inspire action) – it was the fact that there is a different story to tell about being kind to our planet through conscious consumerism. And so I told it. From the perspective of someone who has been shopping for a living, I went through each phase of the consumer purchase process and gave tips on mitigating the environmental impact (from a fashion perspective only – I do not claim to be a sustainability or environmental expert) in each.
You should also know that I manage a very minimalist wardrobe, (seriously, it’s about half the size of a standard closet because I live in a tiny condo – I’ve mentioned this before – and literally don’t have room for more) that started more out of circumstance, but has now become a habit. I’ve realized that I wear almost everything in my closet, and that my purchases are more deliberate by design. This has been going on for the past 5 years, but I never really thought of how these habits could be useful or impactful to anyone else. Until I made this presentation.
This culmination of thoughts and ideas got me so excited, I realized I wanted to share it on the daily via my blog, which led me to a shift in content.
SO HERE’S WHAT SUSTAINABLE STYLE MEANS TO ME
I believe that sustainable style is expressing oneself through clothing while being a responsible consumer who considers the environmental and human impact of their consumption. In addition to buying less and choosing well, I believe sustainability means mindfulness at every stage of our fashion consumption – from avoiding wasteful purchases, to taking better care and loving the clothing we do have. It means altering the perspective and eliminating this crazy notion that fashion is “disposable” because it is inexpensive. I don’t care if you pay $5 for a tee shirt at H&M or $150 for an Alexander Wang at Holt Renfrew. Each of those cotton tees cost approximately 2,700 litres of water, and several hours of human labour – among many other finite resources – so they should both be treated with care and purchased with the expectation of lasting.
There’s a heavy dose of minimalism and pragmatism when it comes to my thoughts on sustainable style. I don’t expect the entire world to suddenly wake up, realize Mother Nature is suffocating, then subsequently demand only eco-friendly products and boycott fast fashion. It’s an overwhelming narrative that can leave people feeling hopeless. So, going forward on the blog, you’ll find articles around the following:
fashion, styling, and shopping habits that can help reduce your environmental footprint (and can save you money – bonus!) like this one
caring for your clothes so they last longer (even the fast fashion pieces!)
getting more creative with what you already have so you don’t feel the need to shop for more (especially your fast fashion pieces!) like this post
thrifting and consignment outfit inspiration – like over here
spotlights on locally made, locally purchased, and ethically sourced items when they suit my aesthetic
This quote I love sums it all up:
“There’s no such thing as fast fashion, just increasingly accelerated consumption” – Dilys Williams
For the longest time, I couldn’t tell you my blog’s why. Now, it’s clear that as someone with a voice (albeit a tiny one – thanks for reading, mom and dad!) , I want to perpetuate smart, conscious shopping vs. promoting the need to constantly have that mouse hover on “add to cart”. I will still do shopping posts like this one – and I realize that the purists may not be happy, but I think it’s so important that individual consumers harness the power they have in their decision making, and if these small actions are what slowly shift our thoughts on consumption, then that’s what counts for me.
If you’re still reading; thank you so, so much. I hope whatever I’ve already posted or what I’m about to post resonates. I would love to hear your thoughts on this new direction, or if you have any suggestions or questions.
Sending so much love and thanks as always, for reading xo
As far as I know, most ladies love a fancy night out on their calendar. It’s a special night, maybe you’re bringing a date who is not your mother, and maybe you want to take the time to feel more glam than normal. It’s a fun, and fabulous occasion to channel whatever Sex and the City character you identify with for 24 hours. For all of those reasons, I totally get why you would want to shell out some of your well-earned money to feel amazing for a social soiree.
But I’ve got a little challenge for you: the next time something special comes up on your calendar, shop your closet first to see if there’s not an item already in there that you can Cinderella into something more glamorous. (yes, I just used Cinderella as a verb, she’s a Disney Princess after all) See it as a sartorial challenge if you will.
If you make a purchase with only one intended use in mind, it might end up like closet roadkill. ie; the poor pieces in the back of your wardrobe or on the floor that get completely neglected once they’ve served their purpose. Kudos if you consign or donate that piece afterwards, but what if you had never bought it in the first place, reducing your consumption of fashion just a teeny bit?
I would never offer up a challenge without a little bit of advice to get you started, so here are a couple of tips for a closet that you can count on for a chic evening – a creative alternative to making a potentially wasteful purchase that doesn’t give you the kind of joy a glass slipper really should.
1 – Invest in a few key fancy separates (skirts are useful here) – a long lace number, a fun party or ball gown skirt, or a tulle skirt are all workhorses that you can reimagine again and again. Because they are only one half of an outfit, other elements (like tops, accessories and hair) can make a drastic difference in changing your look entirely.
2 – Layer your floor-length – We typically have a maxi or a jumpsuit in our closet that we wore for a fancy wedding or event and haven’t worn since. Throwing a chic turtleneck underneath or a gamine sweater or button-down overtop can bring new life to those pieces. Don’t forget about changing up accessories too!
3 – Borrow from the boys – If you work in an office, chances are you’ve got a great pair of black slacks, a blazer, or a suit in your closet. If you’ve got a suit – you’re in luck; why not wear it with a sexy cami, some killer heels and sparkly accessories? Otherwise, throw that blazer overtop of a maxi dress or fancy skirt and belt it for an androgynous but killer look. Small styling touches will make a big difference here – roll up your sleeves and cuff your pants to keep it office inappropriate.
A few weeks ago, I discovered what Alice must have felt like after she fell down the rabbit hole. If you’ve ever entered Vava Vintage, the brainchild and fashion masterpiece of Karen Oprea, you’ll know the feeling too.
It started on a bright sunny Saturday when I was invited to check out this new vintage spot. Not realizing it was in someone’s home, I wandered up the leafy street in old Ottawa South for a few minutes before confirming with my contact if I was indeed at the right address. After taking a creepy peep through the open door, I saw two women sitting at the kitchen counter drinking coffee. Thinking I must have surely misunderstood, it was confirmed – this was the place, and I tentatively opened the door to “walk on in!” as instructed.
I was immediately greeted by a tall, beautiful woman who was ecstatic at the fact that a stranger she’s never met just entered into her home. This is Karen – Vava’s founder and life-force. She ushered me upstairs, gave me a wicked cool pair of fuzzy slippers (which she now refers to as “my” slippers whenever I make a visit) and I started perusing … Vava Vintage is unlike any vintage store I have ever experienced. And let me tell you; I seek out these places in all parts of the world. Asia, Europe, Central America … my travel companions tolerate the odd places I bring them to, but this is a true dream.
Vava Vintage is located on the second floor of Karen’s beautiful Edwardian home, which – in it’s own right – could be in a magazine, it is so well decorated. The second floor is divided into four sections; Vava Woman, Vava Girl, Vava Sport and Vava Vintage. In each collection, personality vibrates from every rack of colour and texture. Each piece has been carefully selected by Karen over the last 15 years … this isn’t just a haphazard compilation of clothing. Because Karen is attracted to fine things, luxurious fabrics and rich colours run the gamut through a range of designer, high street and vintage garments and accessories. You will find an epic ZARA sweater alongside a Louis Vuitton Sac-Plat for example – both exquisitely merchandised with flair. For the past two years, Karen had been dreaming up this concept of Vava Vintage; using the beautiful items she has been collecting as both showroom and shop. In Vava Vintage; gorgeous dresses, coats and accessories are offered up for styling rentals. If you’ve got an event coming up and want to look out of this world; this is the place to go – Karen will add the right touch of whimsy and combine it with empowerment to culminate in a look that you feel comfortable and completely yourself in. You will also find jewelry and art by local artisans; a strong testament to Karen’s goal of lifting the creativity out of people she meets and sharing their talents with the community.
This is the crux of Vava; giving women the power and confidence to be themselves through style. It’s for everyone – everyone who has the courage (or maybe needs a little nudge) to harness what’s in their heart and own it.
So who is this woman?
Karen Oprea was born in Romania and lived the first 13.5 years of her life there. She attended a German school in Bucharest -Goethe – Institut Bucharest, and has spent many years traveling, creating her persona, moulding her into the woman she is today. As an engineer, she strikes a rare balance between calculated moves and a love of pure artistry. It is a compelling combination, one that she feeds with a fierce dedication to working hard, showing up, and building this vehicle of love and empowerment that is Vava.
It is very clear, after spending time in the space that is part closet part showroom part fashion fantasy land, that Vava Vintage is more than just an assortment of beautiful clothes. There is an energy that permeates throughout, and a huge part of that energy is Karen. After about a half hour admiring the eclectic merchandising, unique garments, locally crafted accessories and all around inspiring space, I’m told to sit down in a small sitting room with a deck of Goddess cards. We spread them out on the ground face down and I’m told to pull one out from the deck. Oddly enough, I chose “transformation” which I was (still am) truly undergoing – in many things; career and life. It was downright uncanny, awe-inducing and energizing to have the universe validate this change in my life in this beautiful way.
In a way, this validates Karen’s vision of Vava too. Yes, it’s about the clothing and using style to develop whatever your inner Vava is; but it’s also about developing our power in whichever way we see fit. According to Karen, women are experiencing a revolution; we are learning how to be in our power, and she’s going to help us do it. In her own words: “Vava is a revolution in the human evolution”.
So what does the future hold in store for Vava Vintage? Karen definitely sees her store applying to both men, women, and the LGBTQ community eventually. Maybe it means a storefront. Maybe it means a publication that serves as a platform for budding artists of all types. Maybe it is monthly workshops. There are many forms Vava may take but Karen understands that things come into focus as she’s driving. I love this analogy. Some ideas, thoughts, people even, get left in the rear view mirror and that’s OK. But let me tell you – if you’re along for the ride, you’d better buckle up.
Find Vava Vintage on Facebook, Instagram @vavaandvintage xx
Contrary to the title of this post I did not get flown to Paris in a private jet to watch the technology inspired SS2017 Chanel show.
That would have been a dream.
But – I did come pretty close when I met with Dia Shams, owner of Valamode, and we chatted all things designer and of course – Chanel. As a luxury consignment matchmaker, Dia feels and looks like luxury. She is both a product and a reflection of her brand, and it suits her.
A dedicated and hard worker from a young age, Dia is an immigrant of Iranian descent, and has always had an eye for what works stylistically. She was able to nourish her passion for luxury fashion during her time at Holt Renfrew, and it’s there that a little bud of an idea started (don’t you love it when that happens?) … She saw that Ottawa had both the supply and demand for a luxury consignment player, and after Holt Renfrew left town and she had spent a few years subsequently working in the corporate world plotting her luxury world take-over , she struck out with Valamode. Dia’s cache of designer consignment is as well-curated as it is vast, which is a tough balance to achieve in the luxury market. It’s a mix of being on constant alert to trends, scouting what people are buying in stores, and always being ready to serve her clients.
So – what is it, exactly? Valamode is an online luxury consignment store, but there have been a few very successful pop-ups at Bayshore Shopping Centre too. Perhaps it’s her Iranian background, but Dia meets with her clients personally as often as possible – a unique characteristic in a world where most retail transactions are done via login and “add to cart”. It’s part of her “luxury matchmaker” status … clients can sign up with an item (or 5!) of what they’re looking for and Dia will keep her eyes and ears peeled until you get what you’re looking for. (I was impressed when I consigned my Louis Vuitton Artsy bag and it sold within 2 weeks because she already had a few clients in mind who were looking for it)
As someone who keeps a tightly-edited closet, luxury consignment is key for being kind on my wallet, good to the environment, and a subtle yet significant way to perk up my uniform. I styled this gorgeous vintage Chanel with a dressed up version of my daily ensemble which includes some of my old faves. A belted blazer (it’s seriously so old – remember that suit I told you that I bought when I was 16? Here’s the top half), my trusty patent pumps and Alexa Chung for AG jeans. The whole thing feels very french and very glamorous so my Jimmy Choo frames from Merivale Optometric without makeup felt right. Very French. Almost as french as Paris Fashion Week runway show. Almost.
Am I the only one who is way too impatient to paint their own nails? Every time I’ve tried, they end up ruined because I can’t be bothered to wait the 5,632,987,475 minutes it takes for them to dry completely. There are times when you think they’re dry, so you try doing menial tasks like – type on a keyboard, or open a door. And even then it seems to be too much. Somehow, dents happen out of nowhere. Pick up a set of keys? Hang up a shirt? ABSOLUTELY NOT. AN. OPTION. The nail gods frown on you and out of nowhere will conjure a random wall frame, or pant leg that sabotages your painstaking efforts in one fell swoop.
The alternatives are, of course, shelling out for shellac or a professional mani. Occasionally I’ll do this, but in all honesty I’d rather spend my hard earned cash on something way less materialistic and silly like, you know, clothing and shoes. (Insert laugh/crying emoji here) So I opt for DIY manis at home, thinking that I can head over to Netflix, watch a documentary and paint my nails on a quiet Sunday evening.
But then I wake up the next morning with little scratches all over my nails that I thought were completely dry after 2 hours of Madmen said documentary. Seriously – WHO has TIME for THIS!?!
The issue however is that I LOVE a manicured hand. It says; “I have my shit together, I’m coordinated … look! Even my hand gestures have panache.” And of course, a manicured and well accessorized hand looks great beside a pretty latte in an instagram photo. #priorities