Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011 Hat Obsession - the Fedora

I love hats. About once a month, I sadly reflect on why I was not born into an era where the hat was a mandatory staple. Hats can add an element of glamour, sophistication or fun to any outfit. And here in Milwaukee, they are virtually necessary for five months. There are a surprising amount of hat options available, even after the winter wool caps have been stuffed into the back of the closet.
This spring I must have a fedora. A fedora will serve at least two purposes here in WI. Not only will it keep you warm until winter (fingers crossed for June), but it will make any boring outfit look sharp and pulled together. My challenge, while searching for the perfect fedora, was to find one that will travel well. Possibly even scrunch up into a corner of a suitcase without suffering permanent damage. I'm also conscious of not breaking the bank on this purchase. It is just a trend after all. Before you can say Hypercolor it will disappear with the rest of the menswear-inspired items currently waltzing around Manhattan and LA.

How exactly do I plan to wear this fedora? I'm here to share. First, my pathetically thin hair results in the occasional scalp sunburn and resulting (horrifying) skin-peeling dandruff. If I'm going to be in the sun and want to wear my hair down, a fedora will keep me perfectly protected. I expect to wear it with straight or skinny jeans and long t-shirts while visiting churches and markets in Prague this spring.

I plan to wear it with tailored shorts, gladiator sandals, and tank tops to summer festivals. Perfect example, Ashley Tisdale below (not my photo, please credit appropriate paparazzi).

I will throw it on with a sundress before heading out to Jazz-in-the-Park. I might use it as a baseball cap alternative while golfing. I will even attempt to use a fedora to add an edge to a sweater set and capri combination for a family picnic. Check out Ashley Green's street style below (photo again by Ashley seeking pap, not me).

I happen to find a great version at Urban Outfitters for under $20. I saw equally cute options at Target and tons of ideas at ShopStyle.com. Will you sport a fedora this year? What type of hat will you wear?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Awear Fashion Show for Sojourner Family Peace Center

I spent Thursday evening at the Awear Fashion Show to benefit the Sojourner Family Peace Center. The fundraising event was held at the Harley-Davidson Museum and presented by the Brewers Community Foundation. The 'Garage' building held the fashion show portion of the night and it was a great facility for the several hundred supportive and slightly buzzed (maybe that was just my row) crowd members. To keep this post as concise as possible, I'm bulleting my general thoughts and comments on each store represented.
  • Unique combination of professional models and local 'real' women who were clearly recognized and appreciated by the crowd.
  • Hair was right on trend and done by Neroli. Lots of messy french braids and low buns.
  • The looks were all appropriately conservative for the crowd while still incorporating the spring trends; maxi length skirts and dresses, floral prints, bright colors.
  • First highlight of the night was a performance by local R&B artist Cincere. He has a personal interest in the charity and is starting to make national waves with his music.
  • Favorite store represented: Simon Oliver. I love a man in a suit. And these were really good looking men in exceptionally well tailored clothes. My partiality might not be totally related to fashion here, but I'm woman enough to admit it. At least I wasn't the only lady in the crowd wiping drool from her chin.
  • Most cohesive presentation: Goldi's. Perhaps predictably, I especially loved the shoes they showed. Kehri, their manager and buyer, was nice enough to give me a sneak peak into their looks. The styles she picked, retro inspired bohemian with a military influence flowed together seamlessly and all of the models looked comfortable and confident. I also loved the multiple trenches she choose to include. It adds a polish to any look.
  • Best single dress: Zita's silver sequin, halter dress with a black cross back. It reflected the spotlights beautifully and stood out among the rather uninspired prom dresses it was surrounded by.
  • Kudos to Miss Groove for rocking the runway lingerie. Extra kudos to the models!
  • Several 'seam-layered' skirts from M.E. Lou. I'm undecided on the look and can't find a good picture to share with you.
  • Picardy Shoe Parlour concentrated on classic knit wear and Boston Store highlight casual basics with a nice on-trend coral dress to finish.
I really have to thank Sojourner for a great evening of fashion and the opportunity to attend my first official event as media. Please check out @berniceinmilw to see my live comments during the event as well. I hope that this is just the beginning for me and an opportunity to provide exposure to a extremely worthwhile cause. Sojourner works every day to eliminate domestic violence in our community and support the victims emotionally, physically, and legally. I encourage you to support their mission as well!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Elephant in Menomonee Falls

We can't pretend to talk about fashion in Milwaukee without devoting some time to Kohl's Corporation. Headquartered in the Falls, Kohl's employs hundreds, maybe thousands of designers, buyers and photographers working everyday in the fashion industry. Right here in Wisconsin. It is easy to forget about this corporate giant as we delve into charming boutiques and find innovative design students. But, I challenge you to find one person you know who hasn't stopped at Kohl's in the last month (seriously, email me if you have).

It is really too much to try to dissect everything they offer, but here is a quick look at a few of their woman's clothing options by line. They have really covered almost every style personality (have I uncovered the key to their success?).

We have to discuss Simply Vera by Vera Wang. Adding a Vera Wang line to their offerings was a real coup for Kohl's. I would consider it their 'fashion forward' offering and can tell you that I literally planned a shopping trip to the store the weekend it launched. While the price point is higher than most other merchandise at Kohl's, it still allows the average woman to buy Vera Wang. Check out their online look book first since the pieces can intimidate on the rack. Or is that just me?

Also notable is the Dana Buchman line. Buchman, the former head of Ellen Tracy, offers her line exclusively at Kohl's. It's more conservative than the other lines, but definitely appeals to the large Talbot's crowd around town.

Kohl's also capitalizes on celebrity names to promote their lines and drive business to the stores. Current and previous lines included Britney Spears, Lauren Conrad, Daisy Fuentes, and an upcoming JLo and Marc Anthony line in the fall of 2011. I have to assume these lines are successful as they continue to introduce new ones. (Sadly, Kohl's did not respond to my request for information. Should all twelve of us boycott?)

Kohl's nationwide expansion has been impressive, in particular given the economic climate in the last several years. I have to hope that their success continues as it directly impacts the job market, fashion schools, style choices, and new talent in Milwaukee.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Can I convince you to wear high heels?

Yes, high heels. I know many ladies who avoid them at all costs and I can certainly rattle off a list of situations for which they are not appropriate, but I wanted to spend some time in an attempt to convince you to wear high heels. I enjoy wearing heels as evidenced by my collection which currently stands at 17 (not too horrible, right?). I'll admit that some of my favorites don't hold up well to extended cocktail parties or wedding dancing. But, for me, the look is worth the pain. Here are my reasons why:

Elongage. Lets be frank, for 90% of us the goal of figure flattering fashion is to lengthen, elongate, streamline, even slim. High heels provide an actual physical means to accomplish this. Proportionally, it adds two, three, maybe even four inches to your frame without any added pounds (a miracle, I know). And I know you don't want to hear this, but the higher the heel, the more it will lengthen, elongate, streamline and slim. To really make this trick work, find a pair of heels in your skin tone. If you are above 5'10" and wear a size 6 or less; you are the rare exception to this rule.

Confidence. Wearing high heels requires every woman to let her inner Angelina Jolie free. You must have a certain swagger and purpose to your gait just to stay up on the damn things. A shrinking violet on three inch heels will end up with a sprained ankle. Have a hot date, a board meeting, an in-law encounter to survive today? Add heels for extra attitude.

Sexiness. Although directly related to confidence, sexiness gets its own bullet here. Poll the men you know. Heels equal sex appeal. They also hint at naughty undergarments, another bonus if you're aiming for sexy. Word of warning; there is a fine line between sexy and trashy. The more outrageous the heels, the more you may consider toning down the sexy-factor of the rest of your outfit.

Fun. Wearing heels exponentially increases the amount of shoes available for your enjoyment and/or purchase. The thousands of varying styles, colors, shapes, designers and materials in which heels are available boggles the mind and provides hours of fun options for any fashionista.

Shoes = the great equalizer. Tired of button up shirts that pull across the chest, pants that fit around the thighs but are too loose at the waste, or sleeves that are always too short? Shopping for shoes, while not without its challenges (have a wide heel?), is a fashion equalizer. It doesn't matter how the rest of your body fits into clothes - you'll always fit into your shoes. Feet don't have fat days or need Spanx. No matter how badly you FEEL like you look; you can add an old pair of heels and be leaner, more confident, sexy, and fun.

Now that I've convinced you to wear more heels, you might be asking where to go. My personal favorites are the shoe department at Boston Store in Brookfield Square, DSW, and Zappos. Stay tuned this week for a report on the Awear Fashion Show to benefit Sojourner Family Peace Center and coming soon, "flats that I love."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Date with a Fashionista - Bree Rose Bower

On a http://www.http://www.projectmboutique.com/projectmboutique.com/On a brisk Saturday afternoon in March I ventured into a little boutique in Riverwest called Project M. Project M Boutique is located at 801 Center Street and carries Midwest designers only. As I browsed the small boutique and its unique array of women’s clothes I began chatting with the shop girl, and as it turned out, owner of the small store. Once I was donning a blue vintage dress from her own line, Rosefly, I felt it was safe to fess up about my fashion blog aspirations. As a clearly more successful and ambitious entrepreneur, Bree spent an hour pointing me in different directions to explore, explaining her own vision, and chatting about the local fashion scene. I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming and helpful conversation as I have sadly found this is not the norm.

After coming to Milwaukee for art school, Bree found her way into fashion first by interning with Erika of Bay View’s renowned Fashion Ninja (now relocated to LA) and then by organizing the Milwaukee Indie Fashion Market to highlight local designers. Bree is a true grassroots designer and shop owner. She appears to have surrounded herself with local artists, professionals and designers she knows and loves. Her own line, Rosefly, is made from all recycled material and jewelry. Project M Boutique is designed specifically with sustainability and affordability in mind and appeals to more than the avante-garde nature of the typical Riverwest dweller. She keeps the inventory fresh, mixing in twenty to thirty different designers and running it by consignment. In addition to clothing, I found purses, jewelry, vintage scarves and material (Bolted) throughout the store. But the highlight for me was Bree’s inspiringly cluttered sewing table. Taking up a quarter of the available space, its sat without pretense reminding me of the blood, sweat, and tears that go into the store and her own line.

Bree was refreshingly honest about the challenges of running her own store. The combined responsibilities don’t leave much time to work on her own line and she is dependent on foot traffic for business. Unfortunately, during the winter months foot traffic tended to slide across the icy sidewalk bundled in fleece instead of stopping in to browse. Taking a page from her mentor, Erika’s, playbook, Bree has begun offering small group classes in sewing and construction. She is enjoying the new direction, feeling it has given her new purpose and an additional income stream.

I was appropriately impressed with Bree’s positive attitude, entrepreneurial spirit, and seemingly endless creative energy. What I really envied, however, was her bravery. An independent market, a fashion line, a boutique, a sewing school...her ideas become reality. It was an inspirational lesson that I heard at just the right moment. As I strive to be fearless and create my own new reality, I encourage you to also follow Bree’s example and do the same in your own life.

Project M is celebrating its one year anniversary this Saturday night at the Red Room. Stop by their ‘Labor of Love’ party, visit Project M Boutique (or the website which is fabulous), buy something, and find your own inspiration.

Introducing Babs

Babs is my new Burberry (Brit) trench coat. She was officially adopted on March 10th from London. Her full name is Barbara, but the minute I opened the box it was obvious she is a Babs. Like any proud mama, I think she is more beautiful, durable, versatile, and fashionable than any other trench coat. She has been acclimating to the Wisconsin weather for the last few weeks, but this past Wednesday she was finely ready to venture outside. I seriously considered whether Babs’ first outing should be a special occasion; a good friend’s wedding or maybe a birthday dinner. But Babs’ true beauty lies in her ability to be appropriate for every occasion. So, she came to work with me where she received her own special hanger in the safe confines of my cube. I fully expect that she will accompany me to work, dinner, parties, weddings, trips, and every other foreseeable event for the next decade. Then I will meticulously store her away so that my own daughter, or even granddaughter, can pull her out and bask in the beauty of designer vintage. Please admire Babs and post about a fashion purchase so special to you that it became a member of your family. (It is also appropriate now to admire the kick-ass-ness of the Burberry Prorsum line which I can barely afford to drool over.)

Please check back this week as I have lots of fun things to share with you. Tomorrow is my first 'Date with a Fashionista' with Bree Rose Bower of Project M Boutique. Later this week I'll try to convince you to wear high heels and will report from Thursday night's Awear Fashion Show to benefit Sojourner Family Peace Center.

Happy Birthday Bernice

Thank you for stopping by Bernice in Milwaukee, a blog dedicated to the celebration and promotion of fashion in Milwaukee. I hope that this will be a fun place for locals to find information about fashion and style, specifically here in Milwaukee. If you know of an event or you have a fashion related question, please send me an email (berniceinmilwaukee@gmail.com) so that I can share the news or point you in the right direction. This blog should be a fun outlet (for me and you), a communications tool, an event promoter, and even a place where we can laugh at ourselves. I hope that you will share the link with your friends and family. The more people who send me event info, leave comments, post questions, and share favorite stores and links, the more we can all enjoy this site. This week I will post every day, just to get the ball rolling. In the future, I plan to post two to three times a week. If you can not survive every day without hearing from me, follow me on twitter (@berniceinmilw) for even more fashion fun.

Bernice in Milwaukee Background
True style icons exist everywhere, even in Milwaukee. Bernice was my grandmother and the best kind of fashionista, before anyone knew what that was. She was well known amongst her circle of friends for dressing in bright, fun colors (pink was her favorite) and running between social engagements in dangerously high heels. In addition to her other many talents, she served as a fashion inspiration for all of the women in my family. Today, March 21, was her birthday and therefore the perfect day to launch her namesake blog. Bernice never missed an opportunity to express herself through fashion. As her granddaughter, I hope that this blog becomes an opportunity for us all to do the same.

I imagine many of us have been influenced by women (or men) in our families and their fashion sense. I have wonderful memories of my grandmother taking me shopping, an annual event, and prodding me to put the brown sweater down and veer towards the jewel-tones. I spent countless Saturday afternoons on the floor with my sister watching Bernice and my mother don St. John’s knit dresses at Zita’s. All of these memories and experiences helped form my personal fashion style. In fact, I’d like to think Bernice would be thrilled I am currently wearing a purple sweater dress. I hope she’ll give some allowance for it being an H&M standard instead of a designer original.

Please share, how was your style influenced by a family member?