'Tis the Season for Holiday Gift Guides

I'm a big fan of holiday gift guides, primarily because it plays host to gifts that I haven't seen or even knew existed.  This year, I was asked to curate not one, but two separate publications, which meant that I had to (not that I minded one bit!) spend a few hours online in search of fabulous finds and fun gifts. Read on to see mine, and others, gift selections for 2013.

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Sunday Funday: Fashion vs. Football

Imagine this.  You're in a department store and someone tells you to select your favorite outfit from all of the beautiful clothes you see on display before you.  Now,  imagine that the company gave you a serious incentive to pick the best outfit possible -- if you win (there are two other women who are doing the same) you get to take home one item up to $500!  

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Fall Beauty Favorites

With the changing of the season and the new fashions rolled out, the beauty companies also showcase their new products in colors and shades to match the season.  As a newcomer to the beauty industry and the elixirs, this is the first year I've discovered this concept.  I'm a creature of habit, and when I wear make-up it's always the same: tinted moisturizer, a swipe of blush, eyelash curler and 50% of the time, liquid eyeliner along the top lid.  I didn't wear lipstick (or gloss) until my dear friend Kate took me into Sephora last year to buy an "everyday gloss."  It's a process, but what a difference a year makes!

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Neiman Marcus, the luxury retailer out of Dallas, Texas has re-branded their Contemporary department, with the new name of CUSP.  Full of pieces, including James & Elizabeth (the Olsen twins design), Milly, DVF and a wall full of jeans, the name is not new, but it is to their department store.

As a resident of the Washington, DC area, I've been fortunate to have the standalone CUSP store in Georgetown for 5 years; it was the first stand alone boutique that the store opened.  Since 2006, another five, for a total of six, have popped up across the country.

With 42 Neiman Marcus stores open across the country, we are fortunate in the Washington area to have two locations (one in Chevy Chase and one in Virgina, in Tyson's Corner).  The other day, I headed to the Tyson's Corner store for a tour of the updated department, and I noticed the changes immediately! Bright colors on the walls drew me in and the designer's name labeled each of the walls, helping the customer track down an item or label.

The Spring Trends that will take us through the Summer include: Savvy Stripes, bold and bright pops of pink and yellow, and Flirty skirts in fun textures and prints.  My personal favorite is the White Out, wearing the monochromatic look, head to toe in white, off-white or neutral, just be smart about where you take this particular look... a BBQ or picnic is not an ideal choice!

If you don't have a Neiman Marcus or standalone CUSP near you, don't fret... both are available online!

How SJP met Manolo Blahnik

"Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world" Marilyn Monroe

On Saturday, a group of women gathered at Neiman Marcus to watch a parade of gorgeous shoes walk down a carpeted runway.  George Malkemus, President of Manolo Blahnik, was in store to share with us the Spring collection of shoes.  Everything from high heels to flats were showcased on the feet of the models, who showed the shoes in a graceful fashion.

Mr. Malkemus has been president of the famed shoe company for 30 years, since buying the rights to North and South America from Mr. Blahnik in 1982, when they bonded over their love and ownership of Scottish Terriers.  While one is the creative designer, the other is financially savvy -- a partnership from which many an elegant woman benefit.

Mr. Malkemus told us the story behind each shoe and how comfort is the most important element when designing the classic, never trendy shoes.  "The shoe should never be the totality of the woman, but always a complimenting factor," he told us.  If you have trouble wearing slingbacks it's because you have a narrow heel. (Marc Jacobs puts a dab of mustache wax on the heels of his models to secure the skinny slingback straps.)

As the last model walked down the runway in the shoes that Sarah Jessica Parker's character Carrie lost on an episode of Sex and the City (When Tatem O'Neil required her guests to remove their shoes before entering her home for a baby shower) we were told the story of Sarah Jessica Parker and how her connection with Manolo came to be...



Many years ago, when SJP was dating Robert Downey Jr. (we're talking 80's here), the dynamic shoe duo were having a trunk show in Los Angeles.  The new starlet asked Mr. Blahnik if she could purchase three pairs of shoes, but needed to put them on a layaway plan, as she couldn't afford to pay for them outright.  Mr. Blanhik, hailing from Italy and confused by the term "layaway" asked Mr. Malkemus how they should proceed?  For the first, and only, time they agreed to the layaway plan.  Several years later, when Sex and the City burst onto the TV and cultural scene, Ms. Parker repaid the company by requesting that Manolo Blahnik shoes be used on the show and in the movie.

Neiman Marcus was the first department store to purchase the shoes, initially securing a total of 60 pairs, 30 for Beverly Hills and 30 for their San Fransisco store.  How the times have changed! The shoes are now available in all Neiman stores, as well as Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, as well as in 14 independent retailers and two stand-alone stores, in New York and Las Vegas.

The day wrapped with Mr. Malkemus in the shoe salon, assisting women with their selection and doing what Mr. Blahnik credits him as doing best, "knowing what women want."