Monday, July 27, 2015

Once Upon a Perfumed Summer....ootd

Oh, this dress.  It's one of those dresses that just makes you feel pretty, even,  dare I say glamorous.  The color is bright, but not intense.  The fitted waist, flared skirt, and half sleeves are oh so flattering, and I love the little details in the peter pan collar with little cut outs.  And the belt came with it; it's just perfect!  At this point I do need to mention that it is a second hand dress and is not without its flaws.  There are some snags around the waist, but I'm certain I can fix those and since it was only $10, I'm totally willing to try.  When I saw this dress, I knew exactly how to wear it.  A dress like this needs a perfume bottle purse and some killer black heels.

Shop the Look:

Dress is second hand
Perfume Bottle Purse from Eaby
With Haute a Doubt Heels from

Friday, July 24, 2015

Belts, Blazers, & Cardigans: Closet Necessities and Your Waist Line's Best Friends

    I've never been a belt wearer.  I've always stayed away from them, mainly because it was just one extra step that I wasn't interested in taking.  In the last year or so, I've seen the light and totally reformed.  I think back now to all those outfits that looked so frumpy that I gave them away, and I see now that all they were missing was a great belt.  Sometimes we have to look beyond something as it is presented to see the potential it has with just a little tweaking.

    Very often pieces don't start out great, they need to be tailored or personalized in some way to make them right for the individual.  I think of certain items like cotton dresses "the basics," they're a starting point not a finished piece.  The most frequent culprit in a blah waist line is the empire dress. So, I've chosen it to demonstrate the how to unlock the potential of a piece. 
    An empire dress has its place in the world, but quite frankly that place is in Regency literature like Pride and Prejudice, and the closets of four year old girls.  However, every now and then I see a really gorgeous print, so versatile, so lovely, and so unfortunately attached to an empire waist.  My solution is very simple and one that I hope you'll employ before tossing out the next frumpy dress you find buried in your closet: Add a belt.  
    There are of course some things to keep in mind when choosing this route.  First of all, forget about the belt loops on the dress and put the belt on the narrowest part of your waist.  Second, make sure that the belt is standout color.  It makes a world of difference in drawing attention to the narrowest part of your waist when you have some sort of visual contrast there.  
    I know I've focused on belts so far, but if you've kept up with my blog for any amount of time, you've probably noticed all my cardigans.  I own so many of them for a very good reason; they are a relatively inexpensive way to that add pop and polish that make an outfit look complete.  
    When it comes to cardigans, I have one in every color and length, but the opposite can be said of blazers.  I have only two blazers at present, and while it's true that blazers tend to be more costly than cardis, the fact is that a good blazer will go with just about anything and make it look classier in the process.  
   I decided to demonstrate the drastic difference these items can make on an outfit with one of my recent thrift store purchases.  This dress is by Maeve, a very nice brand by Anthropologie, and it cost me $18.  The pastel mosaic print is gorgeous and the cotton is so soft, I decided to take a chance and see if I could work with it.  

My reason for hesitating was, of course, the empire waist.  I had a pretty good idea how it was going to look on my frame and I was correct.  I don't mind saying that without a belt this dress looks horrible on me.  It feels like that awful, old style of maternity wear from way back when women were trying to hide their baby bellies.  In other words, it looks like I put on a circus tent.

    At the back of the dress there is some smocking to give a more comfortable fit to the top, but again I look much wider without a defined waist in the dress.

    Even though the dress came with a belt, you'll notice in the store photos that it's meant to be worn around the empire waist.  That's an absurd notion, so I didn't even waste time doing a photo of it.  However, even moving the belt to my natural waist was not the way to really fix this dress, because the belt is made of the same fabric and print as the dress.  This means that it is completely camouflaged and therefore does little to improve the shape of the dress or to bring visual interest to the outfit.

    Because the darker orange is such a standout color in this dress, I decided to make it a focal color and chose an orange grosgrain ribbon for a belt.  

    I love to use grosgrain because it's not as slippery as satin ribbons, it's inexpensive, and available at most craft stores, so  I can easily and inexpensively accent my outfits.

    Right away there is a huge change in the silhouette of the dress.  Now there is some visual interest and the eye immediately goes to that pop of orange right at the narrowest part of my waist.

    Since I was on a roll with the orange, I decided to take it one step further and replace the orange ribbon with an orange cropped cardigan.  This really brought out the colors, and created a smooth silhouette.  The poof in the skirt needed a little flattening around  the belt and this cardi did that perfectly.  

To give it just a little extra something at the waist I went back and added the original belt.

    This is the finished look.  It was taken on a different day than the others, but there is such a huge contrast between the original shape of the dress and the finished look that I wanted to recreate my process when putting together an outfit in the hopes that it will demonstrate the value of belts and cardigans in your own wardrobe.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Artist Spotlight: Erin Johnson

This week I'm pleased to feature the breath taking work of Erin Johnson.  From rustic scenes to old world landscapes to nature portraits, each moment she captures is its own lovely world. 

Bleu Avenue:  Thank you so much for joining me to talk about your work.  How did you become interested in photography and graphic design?

Erin Johnson: I have been interested in photography since I was about 8 or 9, I guess. My first camera was a hot pink 110 film camera. I took my first real photography class when I was a senior high school. It was a black and white film class and I was hooked. When it was time to choose my major in college, I knew I wanted to minor in photography but felt like I needed a more “practical” major so I chose graphic design.

B:  That's very true, there is always a practical side to dreams.  I really admire stories like yours.  In your Etsy Bio you say that you, "really fell in love with photography during my senior year of high school when I took a black & white photography class (with film!) I decided then that this is what I was meant to do."  That's really a wonderful way of describing it.  Finding your calling is a bit like falling in love.  It's difficult to explain beyond that moment when "you just know."  The creative process can be like that as well, when you see a place and it has a certain feeling to it.  When taking photos, do you often seek out a location to photograph or do you live in the moment so to speak and find inspiration where ever you are?
EJ: I do often choose vacation locations based on where I want to go and what I want to photograph, but I also love just getting in the car and driving around a town or city nearby and see what I can find. I do love small rural towns and back roads. There are a lot of those in Alabama.

B:  I'm a southern girl myself, maybe that's why I feel so at home with your photos.  Do you have a favorite theme or subject to photograph?

EJ: I don’t know that I really have a favorite. I will photograph just about anything if I like it. I love to photograph flowers but they don’t really sell for me. I also love travel photography and try to do that as much as I can.

B:  In all the photos you've taken is there one moment or experience that stands out from the rest?

EJ: Hmm.. I don’t know if there is just one that stands out from all the rest. I think the great thing about photography is that while I’ve taken all of these photographs, I don’t usually travel alone so I’ve gotten to experience new (and revisited) places with someone close to me and I will have those memories forever.

B:  You mention in your Etsy Bio that you've love to travel and have recently made it to Europe.  How did that experience impact your work and what have you learned throughout all your travels?

EJ: I have wanted to go to Europe for as long as I can remember. I had decided that I was going before I turned 30. I missed that by about a month but it was amazing. We went to Spain, Italy & Croatia. I couldn’t believe that we had actually made it. I was ready to go back as soon as we left. I wish travel was free!

However,  I was so focused on taking photographs that I forgot to stop and just enjoy the moment. The photographs are great to have but once you leave, are you going to remember where you were when you took them or are you just going to remember having a camera in front of your face?  I think that is what I have learned: Enjoy the moment.

 See more of Erin's beautiful work at
And on Facebook at

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Summer School Cool: Dress Review

    Summer's heating up and there is nothing better on a hot day than a breezy dress and sandals.  Fervour is one of my favorite brands, I don't think there is anything that I own by them that I don't get tons of compliments on.  
    I really don't have any complaints about this dress. I love the fit, the color, and the fabric.  My only idea for it so far was to pair it with these gorgeous dark coral flats by Chase & Chloe.  No complaints about the shoes either.  They're so cute and comfy and I think they'll be great for fall too.  
    I ordered my normal size, and I could maybe have gone up a half size, because my big toes do seem to peep through the top a bit.  
    I also got some blisters from the straps, but I really can't think of a pair of shoes that I own that doesn't give me blisters after walking a mile or more in them.  So, I don't fault the shoes for that.

Shop the Look:
Summer School Cool dress in Forest Green by Fervour at ModCloth for $54.99 in sizes XS to 4X

Washington Square Spark Flat in Coral by Chase & Chole at ModCloth

Rings are handmade by me

 No Place Like Roam Necklace from ModCloth

Nectar in Line Necklace from ModCloth
In a Nutshell Travel Wallet by Disaster Designs

Monday, July 20, 2015

On a Barrel Roll Dress: ootd

    I'm still thinking up ways to wear this Bea & Dot dress, and of course I love to pair yellow and blue.  I've just found a shop here in town that I'm pretty excited about.  It's called GU and my first purchase was this lovely yellow skinny belt. 

    I had some left over yellow fabric from the shoe clips I made a few months ago that matched the belt, so I made this yellow bow and attached a brooch clip to it so I can wear it with different tops.  Under the dress I wore a sheer white peter pan blouse by Forever 21 and I think this completely changes the dress.

     I'm also doing something different with my hair color this month.  I only use semi-permanent hair color because I'm kind of commitment-phobic when it comes to my hair. 

    I usually use Natural Instincts brand's the only semi-permanent dye available here.  So, it will be dark red for a month and then back to brown. 

Shop the Look:

Natural Instincts 23R
Cover Girl 307 "Seduce"

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Camilla Lace Skirt: Review & ootd

    Another great purchase from Ruche.  I don't wear skirts very often and I don't have an explanation as to why.  I suppose a skirt takes more thought than a dress because I have to choose a top to go with it.  I already had a second hand yellow and blue polka dot blouse, so when I saw this skirt I knew exactly how I'd wear it.  

    I know it's a bit early to say this, but this outfit is really feels like a back-to-school look.  Which is perfect, because although this skirt is too heavy for the humid summer days, it will be perfect in September and October.  All that's missing really is a (faux) leather satchel.

Shop the Look:

Camilla Lace Skirt at in S-M-L for $44.50

Alice Moon Polka Dot Blouse

Rocket Dog Flats at for $24.99

Handmade Rings & Earrings

Thrifty Layers: ootd

    In the spirit of my last post on the benefits of second hand shopping, I thought I'd feature this outfit which is almost entirely second hand.  The skirt and purse were purchased on the same visit, so I knew that the oranges matched.  However, the skirt needed to be hemmed up two inches to make the length more flattering.  The blouse was taken right off the mannequin on a later visit.  I wasn't even thinking of putting them all together at the time, but as soon as I got the blouse home, it just seemed right.
    My first instinct was to pair this set with black shoes and jacket, however when I held it up next to the brown sweater, it softened the colors in the plaid and in turn the overall look is now warmer.  I was a little uncertain that a drawstring peplum top would look nice with a skirt, but it hits at just the right place on my waist and flows well into the skirt.  My thrift store purchases probably totaled about $25 and I'm looking forward to putting them together in lots of different ways.

Shop the Look:

Blouse is second hand
Skirt is second hand
Purse is second hand
Cameo ring is second hand
Multi strand necklace from Forever 21
Star necklace is a boutique purchase
Brown Cardi is from myangelsboutique on Ebay for about $10
Brown heels by Qupid and purchased from ModCloth
© Bleu Avenue. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.