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Entries in Best of 2011 (4)

Friday
Dec302011

The Best of the Best 2011, Day 4

Over the holidays, I was in Topsail Beach, NC, with The Candyman and my family. The week of Christmas in BlogLand is a rather slow one. Traffic peters out because folks are busy shopping and cooking and traveling versus blog reading. I’d been pleasantly surprised that mine didn’t dip quite so much as it has in years past, but I prepared my ego for the drop all the same. 

Imagine my surprise on December 23rd when I checked in on the bliggity blog early in the morning and saw a LOT more traffic than normal. I was on vacay, so didn’t really dig into the source. Instead, I went for a walk on the winter beach. The next day, I checked in and nearly pissed myself. Traffic had SKY ROCKETED to numbers that I’d seen only when folks had built some robots to illegally vote on a photography contest I had earlier in the year.

This is not an old post. It’s recent. The reason for the high traffic? It appears that a rerun of Say Yes to the Dress that featured  my Unfake Bride, Erin Pianko Howarth had aired.  Sadly, from the time the episode first aired when Erin was in remission to the time of the rerun, Erin had lost her life to breast cancer. The Say Yes to the Dress folks added this factoid in at the end of the show and apparently it struck a cord. My traffic came from people Google-ing Erin’s obituary information.

While this broke my heart all over again, it did give me some solace knowing that perhaps her life was not lost in vain. People are reading her story, learning about Young Survival Coalition and the importance of self examination, particularly in women under 40 who aren’t privy to mammograms by the insurance giants. This makes me feel a little better.

I’m happy this was the “winning” post. As the New Year rolls around, we all start to make resolutions we won’t keep; we make promises to the gym and to our eating habits and to the nails we will no longer bite. Perhaps this post and its popularity are a sign.  Let’s give our resolutions some focus: to love as if our lives depended on it, to live each day as if it were our last, to concentrate on the joy life brings us. It looks like Erin lived life in these ways and I resolve to do my best to live similarly.

{Unfake Wedding Feature} A Tribute to the Bride

Original post date November 14, 2011

I had this wedding feature submitted to me a while back and like I do with any wedding I’m interested in featuring, I sent the photographer a copy of my “Veteran Bride” questionnaire for the bride to complete.

Often times, it takes a while for the photographer/bride to get back to me. So I follow up and generally say, “Where the hell is my questionnaire?” OK, I’m lying. I’m more polite than that. I just follow up and find out what’s going on.

I loved the look of this destination wedding and couldn’t wait to find out how the bride managed the Gandia, Spain, wedding from her home in Orlando, Florida.

I received an email from the photographer with news that the bride had passed away from Stage IV breast cancer.

Um, WHAT?

The photographer shared her Facebook page story with me and I read a few of her online obituaries to find out her story. It’s one that makes me mad (mammograms only being covered by insurance after the age of 40, Erin was 34 when she died), sad ( a young life that ended much, much too soon) and inspired (Erin’s strength in her battle against cancer).

You might recognize Erin. She was on an episode of Say Yes to the Dress (Season 5, Episode 11).

If you can get through her Facebook story (she was pregnant when she was first diagnosed) and her obituary with a dry eye, you’re a stronger person than I am.

I read that in lieu of flowers, the family wanted  donations to be made to the YSC, Young Survivors Coalition. If you’d like to honor her young life, please donate.

I rarely ask this of my readers, but those of you who blog, tweet or on Facebook, I’d love for you to share this story and the link to the Young Survivors Coalition.

Young Survival Coalition (YSC) is the premier global organization dedicated to the critical issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. YSC offers resources, connections and outreach so women feel supported, empowered and hopeful.

And ladies, the one thing I want us all to take away from this? If something feels wrong in your body? PAY ATTENTION. Pay for that extra office visit. Ask the questions. Demand answers. Get a second opinion, or third, or fourth if you must. Trust your gut. Self exam. As someone whose OB/GYN found a lump (it was nothing), I quickly realized how careless my self-examinations had been. Do not be sloppy. Be thorough. Be concerned. Protect yourself.

So, enough with the sad. Time for the happy. At the time of her wedding in May 2010, Erin was cancer free, living in remission.

Her wedding was held at the Borgia Palace in Gandia, Spain. Her bridal portraits taken at Xativa Castle. I’m including some causal pictures of the couple in Spain before the start of the celebration, just ‘cuz they are so darn cute.

Photographer: Andrew Morrel Photography

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Welcome to the Unfake Wedding of Erin & Adam!

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Erin lost her life to breast cancer on October 17, 2011.

In memory of Erin Pianko Howarth.

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Thursday
Dec292011

The Best of the Best 2011, Day 3

Not surprised that this post is one of the most popular this year. It caused quite the ruckus over on Wedding Wire, as did my response.

Something I’d like to point out here though I feel I may have said it before, but without clarity. I’ll try again.

I do not like David’s Bridal. I had more than one bad experience while I was dress shopping and wedding planning. I find their marketing tactics cheap. I find their customer service model to be obnoxious and not at all helpful to bride sanity. The quality of their gowns compared to most other gowns is sub-par and quality is important to me. This is MY opinion based on MY experiences. I do not believe this makes me a snob or a bitch or a horrible person, contrary to some of the things said about me.

However, I have spoken and interacted with a huge number of brides who have been elated with their David’s Bridal experience. I have featured their weddings right here on this site. I do not think buying a gown from David’s Bridal makes you cheap or stupid. If your gown makes you happy, that’s what’s important.

My effort in this post was education. I wanted brides to understand the difference in quality, design and construction so as to help them make the best decision for themselves. I tried to come at the topic from all angles. Perhaps I failed? At any rate, here’s the second most popular post of 2011.

David’s Bridal vs. Vera Wang

Original post date February 1, 2011

So everyone's heard the news, right? Vera did the unthinkable. She crossed the couture line and walked straight into David's Bridal. I believe there was an audible *gasp* in the wedding community. The tweets and posts were blowing up my Google Reader, that's fo sho! I had an email exchange with a designer friend of mine about it. Even The Candyman had an opinion.

You can look at this in few different ways, plus some I'm sure I can't think of.

  • From the standpoint of a stylish bride on a budget: HELL to the YEAH! I get to wear Vera Wang and not break the bank!
  • From the standpoint of a stylish bride NOT on a budget: My "real" Vera Wang is way better.
  • From the standpoint of a designer dress boutique: What the hell is Vera doing? She's sending my customers to David's Bridal! That BITCH!
  • From the standpoint of David's Bridal: $$$$
  • From the stand point of Vera herself: $$$$

OK, maybe it's not that cut and dry.

Personally, I question the move. You have a high end, coveted wedding gown designer. She's appealing to the masses by making her line more affordable and available. One one hand, I feel like she's "dumbing down" her incredibleness. The moment you move from couture to ready-to-wear, you've cheapened yourself. She's cheapened her end product. On the other hand, she's made her incredibleness available to women who don't have $6K+ to blow on a gown. Had this happened when I was wedding gown shopping, I might have faced the horridness that I believe to be the inside of a David's Bridal shop, just to see what they looked like.

And what about those brides who do spend the $6K on a Vera Wang gown? Do we take those people into consideration? I think if I had a gown that cost me that much money and another bride could get similar for a mere fraction of the cost with the same brand name? I think that might piss me off. I don't know why. I don't think it would be the right emotion to have either, but I still think I would be at least mildly irritated. In all honesty, I think that would just be the snob in me being a big ol' bitch. It happens.

Now, if I were a designer boutique owner person, I would be pissed. PISSED! Sample gowns are not cheap. Running a luxury item business in this economy is not easy. Vera just made it even harder for these guys to eke out a living. These are shop owners who have supported her line for years. Yeah, I'd be super-pissed.

David's Bridal? Now they get some style cred above and beyond Oleg Cassini (*insert snarky comment here*). They get traffic into their stores. Win-win there.

Vera? She gets massive bucks. I'm sure her sales are not what they used to be because she's the supplier of a luxury item when the economy is in the Tinkletorium. She's probably protecting her own income. No one can fault a person for that, right?

What I think I am struggling with the most is what many people don't get: the DIFFERENCE between a Vera Wang gown and the David's Bridal White line by Vera Wang. Trust me, there will be a difference.

Fabric: Silk, satin, crepe de chine versus polyester. The major contributing factor to inexpensive gowns is in the choice of fabric. Synthetic fabrics have come a long, freakin' way in terms of aesthetics. Most everyday people walking around on the street cannot tell the difference between a poly blend and the real deal.

Beading: Hand-beaded versus pre-fab appliques or machine beading. Get close enough and you can tell.

Construction: French seams, built-in corsets, boning, lining, covered buttons/loops versus serged seams, standard fitting, zippers and little to no lining.

Here, let's compare:

 

Vera on the left. David's Bridal on the right at $1200.

 

Vera left, David's Bridal on the right at $1000, $58 for the sash.

 

Vera on the left, David's Bridal on the right at $1200, crystal sash is $148.

 

Vera on the left, David's Bridal on the right at $600, with a crystal sash at $148.

 

Vera left, David's Bridal on the right at $800 with a $58 sash.

I could keep this up all day, the comparison of her couture line to David's Bridal. There are little differences, as a designer and seamstress, that I can see right away. On the first dress? All those layers on the DB version are most likely more symmetrical and easier to construct. Vera's original gown is much more random and artistically created. It's literally harder to make and takes mad fucking skills to accomplish. The top of the Vera gown most likely has a built in corset so that the sucker can be fitted to your torso and NOT MOVE AN INCH, while still being comfortable as all hell. The DB version? I'm going to guess it's lined and that's about it. Alterations on the DB gown will most likely be easier and less expensive to do too. The fit on a DB gown will definitely be different than on the real deal.

My first inclination is to say, "Hey! Just go try on one of each and see how you feel!" DO NOT DO THIS. If we've learned anything from "Say Yes to the Dress" it's NEVER EVER EVER try on a dress you cannot afford. Just don't do it. For your own sanity, please just don't. Why? Because if you do, you'll fall in love with it. You'll start to see the differences, the detailing, the weight of the fabric. You'll see how good really great designs fit and look and feel. It's a lot like flying first class and then having to fly coach. The comparison spoils you for life.

But the great thing is that there are designers out there that give you a little bit more of everything: fit, style, fabric, construction, all without breaking the bank. My Mikaela gown was $1300, as much as these new David's Bridal dresses. Overall, the thing that I "lost" on my dress was the overall construction. There was an issue with one of the straps, my pre-made bustle failed at the end of the night (I ripped it out dancing) and I needed serious bust alterations (*ahem*). I did try on gowns I couldn't afford, but I knew what I was getting myself into. Happily, the designer gowns I tried on weren't The One so I was able to shrug off the comparison quite easily. This is not something I'd chance to an inexperienced gown shopper.

But what do you, as an average bride (sorry, I don't mean YOU are average), care? Most people will just think you look beautiful in your dress. After you walk down the aisle, you'll still be married regardless of whether you wore Dior or Casablanca. You need to find The One and it can be done on a budget. I tried on over 100 gowns. That's right, over 100. It wasn't until I put on my Mikaela gown that I felt anything that I can only describe as "right."  It felt good. It felt right. I felt like me, cranked up a notch. I felt beautiful. I felt elegant. My photographer's wife cried when she saw me in it. My friends who I had dragged to various appointments all slowly nodded when I modeled it for them. I didn't want to take it off. That's how you should feel about your dress. Personally, I don't think that feeling comes with a particular price point attached to it.

So what's your take on the Vera thing? Does it even matter?

Wednesday
Dec282011

The Best of the Best 2011, Day 2

The Candyman and I are home from Topsail Beach and I have to say, that I’d rather be back at the beach! Though it was chilly and not very much like how the beach is in the summertime, it was still glorious; beautiful, deserted, comforting and most of all, relaxing. Getting back into the swing of things is going to be difficult, at best!

So until I can come to grips with getting back into the day-to-day stuff, let’s continue with out Best of 2011, shall we? Another popular post this year was regarding wedding favors for guests, focusing on the edible kind, specifically how to DIY a Cake in Jar. Hope you enjoy this post the second time around!


DIY Cake in Jar Favors 

Original post Date March, 30, 2011

I'm all about edible favors at a wedding. Everything else just seems sort of....well, lame. If you want my opinion (and if you don't, stop reading) the following favors are the lamest of lame:

1. Anything with the couple's name and/or wedding date on it. Even if the item is remotely cute, I will not use it if it's got YOUR stuff on it. Ever. I mean, my OOT bags had our names and wedding date on it and  I don't use them (even though I should use them on grocery days). I was totally expecting people to throw them out (which is why I spent like zero dollars on them). I think my mom uses her OOT bag for toting books and knitting and stuff, but she's my MOM. Mom's are the exception to the lame favor rule.

2. A candle of any sort. Candles don't transport easily and people are sensitive to the stinky ones (yours truly had eyeballs that went bonky-bananas at the bridal shower this weekend where they had scented candles burning).  And candles have seen their heyday, it's time to move on, folks.

3. Anything that looks like this:

Just don't do it. You'll see them left over on your tables and wonder why you bothered. So will your guests. The best favors are the edible ones, I promise. At our wedding I saw people with multiple boxes in their hands as they were leaving our wedding. I wondered to myself, "Holy cow! Is Kathy stealing cookie favors from other guests?" And I answered myself too, "You snooze, you lose. Wedding favors are fair game if you leave them unattended."

Now, I loved baking my cookies for our favors. It was a team effort between me, my MOH and my mom and it did take a lot longer than expected, so expect that if you're heading into the kitchen. For me, I'd made these cookies a bazillion and one times so knew the recipe inside and out. However, I'd never made them en masse before and it was that part that was challenging. Plan for challenges.

So now onto the DIY part of this here post: Cake-in-a-Jar favors. Turns out it's not as hard as you think. I've been researching a shit-ton of these recipes and how-to's and it seems fairly straightforward, although there are many, many arguments as to how long these little suckers actually last. To be on the safe side, I'd say make these up to a week in advance and you're good to go. Anything longer and you might kill your guests with botulism (safety first!).

Cake-in-a-Jar (via Suite101, adapted ever so slightly by me)

You will need:

  • Cake mix of choice
  • Mason Jars and lids (You can use either the pint size or the 1/2 pint size. To save on cashola, go for the 1/2 pint size. They are way cuter too!) I found the best price here for $.75 a piece. 
  • Frosting
  • Ziploc bags or pastry bags with tips

For the prep:

  1. Wash and dry the jars and lids. It's best to do this in a dishwasher where the water and drying are super hot. It helps sterilize the jars.  Put the lids in a pot of water and set aside to be boiled later (again, boiling sterilizes the lids).
  2. Lightly grease the sides and bottom of the jars with shortening. Keep the rims clean.

For the Cake:

  1. Either use a personal cake recipe or a box cake mix, both will work fine. Prepare the cake batter according to the recipe’s instructions.
  2. Fill the jars about half-way with the batter, but NO MORE than 2/3 full—the batter rises significantly while baking.
  3. Put the jars on a cookie sheet and put them into the oven to bake. The baking time is the same as a regular cake, though if the tops are too brown or not brown enough, adjust the time accordingly. The oven I have now runs about 15 degrees hotter than it should, so watch them!
  4. About five minutes before the cake is done baking, start to boil the lids. When the water has reached a rolling boil, drain the lids from the pot and pat dry with a clean towel, set aside.
  5. When the cakes are done, remove the jars from the oven. The following steps need to be done within ten minutes of removal from the oven. The jars need to be hot in order to create a seal with the lids.

Frost and Finish:

  • The simplest way to frost jar cakes is by using a pastry bag and medium tip or by taking a large Ziploc bag, filling it with frosting, and snipping one corner. Squeeze the frosting out of the cut corner into the jars. The best place to start is on the sides of the jar where the cake has cooled away from the glass.
  • Add as much frosting as desired to each of the cakes. The frosting will melt a bit and run down the sides of the glass, making a cake that is frosted on all sides.
  • While the jars are still hot, seal with the lids. It is very important to do this while the jars are still hot– the heat of the glass creates a natural seal with the lids that will keep the cake fresh. After a few minutes you should hear the lids making popping or "ping" sound, indicating that they have sealed. If the lids have not popped after 15 minutes or so, try re-boiling the lids to re-heat them.
  • Let the jars cool and decorate the outside.

You can get all kinds of creative with tags and tops and bows and shit. You can even tie those little green-friendly bamboo spoons on the outside for uber-cuteness, although those suckers aren't cheap. Here are some cutie-pie pics from around the interwebs.

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And here are some other how-to's for other yummy ideas:

Hazelnut Marzipan Jar Cakes from Vintage Mixer.

Pie (PIE!) in a Jar from Our Best Bites.

Pumpkin Cake in a Jar via Cakespy from Serious Eats.

Swirled Nutella Cake in a Jar from The Girl with a Curl.

Now, last but not least, if you think these are super cute and yet you don't have a freakin' DIY/cooking bone in your poor little body, do not despair. I just found (via Charlotte Wedding magazine) a local Charlottean who can do these for $2.50 a pop, $4 for large ones. Check outEdible Art of Charlotte.  Additionally, these are awesome if you like cake, but don't want to have a regular ol' cake sitting out on your counter tempting you day and night with it's cakey-goodness. You can keep these stored away and eat them only when you're damn good and ready. Happy eating/baking/buying!

Tuesday
Dec272011

The Best of the Best 2011, Day 1

I’m jumping on the Best of 2011 band wagon. Pack me into my shiny metal box, lemming that I am. But there’s some good stuff here and I think you’ll be surprised by the number one slot…that will be revealed later in the week…stay tuned.

Stocking Up

Original Post Date April 20, 2011

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Back when I was first cutting my teeth as a buyer, I worked for Frederick’s of Hollywood. I worked in the home office, which used to be located smack-dab in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. This was in the mid 90's before the place got cleaned up some. I’ll tell you, going to work at 7am and seeing the riff-raff still stumbling about from the night before was, uh…interesting. I have to admit though, it was all kinds of fun. We’d sneak away to go watch actors and musicians unveil their stars on the boulevard or down to Mann’s Chinese Theater to watch movie premier red carpet stuff. We’d hit up Musso and Frank’s after work for some Picon Punch and since the Frederick’s receptionist worked nights at The House of Blues VIP room, she’d always let us in to hob-nob with the stars. Good times.

At the time, I was a lowly assistant buyer, in charge of three categories: crotchless panties, hosiery and the plus size categories. Wanna know the best selling item in all of those categories combined? Get ready for it….the satin and lace, all-around zipper crotchless panty in size XXXL, red with black lace. Not something I can explain and not sure I ever wanted to know….at all. Anyway, since the assistant buyers were in charge of all the samples, we always got first dibs on things meant for the annual sample sale! I used to have a nice little cache of lingerie! I’ve since trashed a lot of the trashy lingerie and it hasn’t been replaced. I bought some cute thongs for the wedding, but they have been sitting in my drawers collecting panty-dust ever since.

My favorite sexy lingerie item is stockings. I love the idea of the garter belt. Through my years as a hosiery buyer, I learned a lot about the quality and craftsmanship of stockings. I had manufacturers sending me real silk stocking samples from Germany, France and England. Simply gorgeous! I had a really cool pair that was nude, but had these cool black designs trailing up the side of one leg. When I wore them, people constantly stopped me to ask me about my leg tattoo! These remind me of those a little bit:

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Nude with black seam and “love” for $17.93 from ASOS.

For more “tattoo” style stockings, check out these on Etsy.

If you’re going to shop for quality stockings, you should know a little something about denier. Denier is unit of weight that measures the fineness of a textile, equal to the weight in grams of 9000 meters. Basically, it measures the thickness of something. Think of it like thread-count on your sheets, only the number goes down, instead of  up. The sheerest you can find these days is around 7.

You might be tempted to splurge on real silk stockings, but forewarned is forearmed: silk stretches and then doesn’t un-stretch. Lots of sitting and standing and your cool silk stockings will be bagging around you knees and ankles. No bueno.

And here’s a little factoid: do you know why they stopped making silk stockings? They had to because of World War II. The number one supplier of silk to the U.S. was Japan. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, that trade route was closed. The small supply of silk that we did have went towards making parachutes for soldiers. And then the Mack-daddy of all things vital to women was invented: nylon (followed closely by Spandex). Nylon was a ton less expensive to make than silk, so it opened up a whole new world of availability to lower-income women.

Dr. Wallace Hume Carothers invented nylon in the 1930s and DuPont introduced the stockings in 1938 and promoted them at the 1939 World’s Fair as a rival for silk stockings. In October 1939, according to Sodibas.com, the entire stock of four thousand pairs was sold out in Wilmington, Delaware within three hours.

Dupont then designated May 15, 1940 as "Nylon Day" nationwide and four million pair were sold within four days.*

Can you imagine? FOUR MILLION in FOUR days. Can you say shopping free-for-all?

Here are some of my favorite go-to recommendations for luxury legwear:

Wolford – Home for luxury legwear. Founded in 1949 Germany, they are the go-to for great hosiery. They have co-branded with the likes of Jean Paul Gautier, Philipp Starck, Vivienne Westwood, Karl Lagerfeld and Emilio Pucci.

Gerbe – French manufacturer since 1904. These folks know how to do it.

Girardi – Making them Italian style since 1933!

Most of these manufacturers do lots of private label stuff for Agent Provocateur, La Perla and Faire Frou Frou. If you’re looking for the luxury stuff, go to any of these places to shop.

Here are some more of my favorites from around the interwebs, both bridal and otherwise!

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$31.00 from SockBox via Etsy.

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16.56 € from Trasparenze.

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A little something blue in 15 denier? $49.99 from StockinGirl.

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85.00 € from Cazar.

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£ 54.95 from Lascivious.

More pretties:

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There are a million, jillion places to buy this stuff at all price levels and in all kinds of styles. If you want to try stockings or thigh highs, I suggest buying an inexpensive pair and giving them a test run before seriously investing. They aren’t for everyone, comfort being the biggest factor.

I have a request though, nay a demand. Regardless of what you see in fashion magazines, hosiery with open toed shoes is LAME, even those marked “sandal foot.”  I beg of you, do not do this.

So, what’s your take on legwear? Thigh highs? Stockings? Or are you simply going to rock some Spanx and call it day?