The Staples

There are tons of women that look into a closet full of clothes and say they have nothing to wear. People think we are crazy, but sometimes, conceptually, it’s true. We cannot conceive in our minds what to put on, because most of our closets are packed with trendy, outdated, or bland pieces. The staples, that can usually pull together any outfit, are glaringly missing. I’m guilty of this myself, at times; I always go into the store with the intention to by a great piece that goes with everything, but leave with a show-stopping piece that just goes with itself. And what is funny is that I may be the most conservative shopper of all my friends.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon an article that Glamour magazine had put together of a list of all the pieces a woman should have in her closet. As I scanned the list of about 50 pieces, I think I had eight. I was in my twenties, so I deserved a pass. However, now, in my thirties, I’ve scoured my apartment trying to find the list that could possibly be the savior to my chronic fashion insanity. I can’t dress like my 26-year-old sister, with seasonal, trendy pieces; but I also can’t dress like my mom. Still, no matter what the age, I do think that there are some staple pieces that every woman should have in her closet. Those are the pieces you build around. Those pieces never fail, and they go with whatever trendy accessory or clothing piece is currently out. I’ve compiled a list of what I think is necessary in my closet for balance. Here are just few.  I hope you find them helpful.

**The key to all these pieces is the fit. You have to make sure everything fits well and is tailored to showcase your body in the best light. It can’t be too tight or too baggy.

1. Classic White Button Down Shirt -I wear this item for job interviews or casual business meetings. I would purchase at Club Monaco, J.Crew, or Banana Republic.

2. The Black Pump- this item can be thrown on with literally anything. Christian Louboutin is my preferred choice but you can find a great, classic pump with a lot great, less costly designers, like Dolce Vita. Just make sure it is of great quality and won’t have creases by the toe after a few wears.

3. The Blazer- this piece makes everything just a little more sophisticated. It can be worn with jeans, skirts, or thrown over dresses. Boyfriend blazers have made a big comeback, but I prefer the tailored blazer, which never goes out of style. J.Crew, Smythe, Elizabeth & James, and Theory all have great fitting blazers.

4. The black skirt- the pencil skirt is always a bona fide classic. However, I believe you can venture out a bit on this item and wear a fuller, below the knee, black skirt and still achieve the same chic look. Club Monaco, Theory, and BCBG all carry great skirts.

5. The Leather jacket- everyone needs a nicely fitted leather jacket. The leather has to look of great quality though. There are great finds out there that can look expensive but be inexpensive. I suggest black, or taupe, as a neutral pick to go with almost anything you wear. BB Dakota just came out with a well-priced leather jacket, but Vince usually wins my heart in this area.

It is always cool to be fun and add trendy pieces to your closet, but it serves no purpose to your pocket when those fashions go out of style and you don’t have these pieces as your forever “go-to” items. More to come…

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Unveiled Beauties…

During the time I was going through my interview process for the job I was contemplating in Baltimore, I would always see this store front window as the taxi would drive me to the train station for my departure.  It grabbed my attention because it was the only thing on the historic Charles Street that exhibited any type of nouveau flair. Because of my love for fashion, I always wondered what was inside the store, whose window display had boas, couture-styled mannequins, and the stenciled name, “The Doll House”.

A few months later after my decision was made that Baltimore was my new home; one Saturday I decided to go find out. I arrived and the store was closed. A young store owner quickly opened the door and said they were having a trunk  show and to come back later. However to both of our surprise, we knew each other. The young woman was Natalie Graham, a girl who attended Hampton University with me years ago. I was elated because I knew no one in Baltimore and seeing a familiar face was comforting. I was also super excited to see that a fellow Hamptonian had achieved success with the opening of her very own boutique. We embraced and started chatting about how ironic that I chose this store, on this day to visit. She and I had a connection years ago at Hampton because we both lived in the same dorm and became captains of the step team in this freshman competition. She was from Maryland and I was from New York, which traditionally on Hampton’s campus are seen as rivalries; however we struck a mutual respect for each other and placed 2nd in the competition that year. That was the last time I had seen her and now here we sat chatting in her boutique playing catch up.

I don’t know what made me go to the “Doll House” boutique that day but I’m glad that I did. I was able to rekindle a friendship with a dynamic woman who has defied her odds, continues to challenge herself and achieve her goals. Natalie is not just a store owner but she is a designer of her own fashion line called Rag Dolls which mainly focuses on reconstruction and producing couture and one of kind pieces. Her corsets are usually on back order and her customers love her down-to-earth spirit which keeps them coming back for more. They just don’t enter the store for a quick purchase; they enter for the experience.

Natalie’s tenacious spirit keeps her thriving and she is coming up on her 6 year anniversary as a boutique owner. And anyone who is in retail knows that is a well-respected accomplishment. This year she has transplanted herself in Los Angeles to embark on a new chapter of her career. Already she has celebrity clients clamoring for her attention and she has only been there for a couple of months. She is one of my closest friends and also my August “Unveiled Beauty”. If she tells you her story, it is one of perseverance, self-belief, and courage. She is someone who should be always supported and acknowledged as paving the way for other young African-American women and designers. For more information on Natalie Graham visit her website @ www.dollhouseboutique.com or her store @ 525 Charles Street. 443-874-7900.

INTI-MATES

As I get older, I’m beginning to understand more about why some relationships don’t end up working out or standing the test of time. I’ve come to the conclusion that people underestimate how important intimacy is in a relationship. I just finished watching Entourage, and it looks like Ari Gold is headed towards marital problems because of his lack of attentiveness to his wife and their relationship. He has a tendency to put other things before his relationship; in his case, his job, child, or friends, taking for granted that the relationship, and she, will always be there.

I’m not sure whether people are afraid, or simply don’t know how to have that intimate connection with their mate that is supercedes any other connection in their life, aside from the one with their God. They view the union as two separate entities coming together, but not as one cohesive unit. I’ve seen two people married, yet still living like they’re single. They pop into the marriage here and there to fulfill emotional and physical duties, but 90 percent of time they are with their friends and other people, living a very uncommitted life. You wouldn’t even know they were married unless they told you.

Children often add another dynamic to the relationship. Some men and women completely neglect their spouse/partner when a child is born, forgetting that that foundation needs to be just as strong in order to raise their child to be a loving, responsible individual. There are certain boundaries that need to be understood. I may alarm some when I state that a child should not take precedence over the marriage. For my religious folks, there are verses that support the theory of “God first, spouse second, children third.” However, some people fall more in love with their children than their partners, causing a rift in the relationship. In my opinion, pouring all the love into the child is a selfish way to protect themselves from the day-to -day woes of a marriage. Clinging to a child’s unconditional love allows a parent to have intimacy without the disappointments and frustrations associated with long-term, committed, adult relationships.

This is my second reference to The Cosby Show on my blog, but there are some fundamental values that that show showcased that are heavily overlooked today. We took it for granted then, but when we look back at Claire and Cliff’s relationship, nothing was more important than that. It was, in many ways, the basis of the entire show. They loved their kids, but it was very important that they made time for intimate moments with each other, aside from sex, and their kids understood those boundaries. Even their careers took a back seat to what was necessary for the union to work. Relationships don’t thrive on air. They need emotional, physical and spiritual fuel to work. Tons of marriages and relationships are surviving on air because people are too scared to commit 100 percent of their being to someone else. They’ll give it to their child, job or friends, and give 80 percent to their partner. And sadly enough, they don’t even realize what they are doing because they feel like getting married was a sufficient display of their commitment.

Some would call me an idealist, but I do want that marriage or relationship where I’m not thought of as a pronoun- “yeah, I’m with HER” as opposed to “we are together.” The “us” and “we” references provide a sense of intimacy and make me feel like he and I are in this together; that our bond is unbreakable and we are constantly taking steps to be closer, because that closeness helps us with the rearing of our children, careers, and life obstacles. Romantic love is great for shallow fulfillment, but intimate love is the deep, undeniable attachment between two people; one doesn’t work without the other. However, some people like to maintain their emotional independence within relationships because they feel more in control. The fear of dependence, heartbreak, or vulnerability makes them destroy their relationships from the inside out. Although intimacy isn’t the easiest thing for some individuals to grasp, it is necessary, from both men and women, on an everyday basis for a relationship to thrive. Some people understand that, and some never will.

Challeeeennggeee!!!

Does anyone remember that scene, during The Cosby Show, when Sandman Sims kept challenging Bill Cosby to a tap dance challenge? Sandman Sims kept yelling “Challenge,” but Bill Cosby wouldn’t give up no matter how exhausted he was. That’s how I feel some women’s dispositions are toward other women. There is always some competitive feat to prove who is better than the other. I’ve been guilty of it myself when another competent woman is “pitted” against me with a job, a man, or an activity. It’s like this alter ego emerges, which will not let that woman be viewed as a better lover, friend, co-worker or businessperson. I’ll be damned!

However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to check my ego at the door, or at least be more cognizant of it. Sometimes it’s human nature, when it comes to matters of the heart; but other times it’s just pure vanity, immaturity, and insecurity. I still have friends who feel like they have to prove that they are better at everything than you, or any other woman in the room, are. They want to show that they are brighter, flyer, or in some way superior to anyone that they deem has the power to decide. To me, it gets exhausting. Everyone is good at what they are good at, and that’s that. The “super ego” has to be controlled, because I’ve seen it ruin relationships.

The episode of Girlfriends, when Joan is completely jealous of Toni getting married first, is a prime example of what goes on in some female relationships- even close friends. The idea that one person is supposed to be “first” in achieving anything is a notion that could rot any friendship to its core. Instead of being happy for another woman, or acknowledging and respecting talents that she possesses, there has to be this underlying feeling of competition for the other woman to feel secure within herself.  It’s sad that we have to fight for sisterhood harder than men have to fight for brotherhood.

The competitive spirit is something I’ve always championed, but not when it’s pitted against a friend, or another woman who isn’t looking at you as a threat, but more as an equal. We also shouldn’t let men instill that “catfight” mentality into the dynamic either, because they are the only people being entertained by it. Instead of being instantly defensive, look at the relationship as being stronger in numbers. Another smart woman, in her own way, is doing her thing. Why should there be hate attached to someone trying to achieve success? Sometimes we are only competing against ourselves, and our egos. That competitive spirit is welcomed in certain arenas, but pose bigger problems in our personal lives if we let it.

A lot of people question, and hate on, Oprah and Gayle’s friendship, but I think that it’s a relationship that some women need to analyze. Here is a woman whose friend is highly successful, yet has no problem supporting her friend and championing her success, even if it surpasses her own. They both started out as journalists, but Oprah had a bigger calling, and Gayle did not let that get the best of their friendship. Of course, there probably was a time that Gayle looked at her career and thought, “I’m just as smart, articulate, and engaging,” but she didn’t let that deteriorate her self-esteem or their friendship. She checked her ego at the door.

I commend Gayle’s integrity. And everyday I work on myself and try not to get caught up in my friends’, or other women’s, need to compete with me. If my friend is good at what she does, I don’t question it or try to disprove her value in any situation. If my friend is achieving something before I am, like earning more money, getting married, or accomplishing a goal, I don’t try to dissect the reasons why. I try to be happy for her and accept that my journey and lessons are different.  I hope that women read this blog and strive to do the same.

Model Call

Dress For Success is a non-profit organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. This year, their chapter has a goal of suiting 400 women.

On Sunday October 17th, I will have the pleasure of producing their 3rd annual charity fashion show at the Tremont Grand Hotel. Last year was a big success with host, educator, and author Al Reynolds; motivational speaker Debbie Phelps; and Miss U.S. Beauties Juanita Ingram, extending their time and effort to help the women of Dress for Success.

This year’s theme is “Hidden Charms” because there are so many women in “Charm City” who have suffered setbacks in their lives and have lost the confidence to achieve their career goals. We will showcase some of these women and give them the opportunity to be part of this fabulous fashion show. They will be “made over” and get to walk the runway — giving them a boost of confidence that most of these women haven’t felt in a long time.

Currently I am looking for models as well. If you are interested in participating, please email me at sdecaires@gmail.com for more information. I will need pictures, experience, contact info, and measurements. Thank you for your interest. Will be in touch if needed.

Reading Rainbow…

Reading Rainbow

Remember Levar Burton? He used to have that funky mustache and those big eyes, trying to coax us into using our imaginations. I used to be glued to the television set, waiting for the next adventure and the next book. I had no problem watching it on television, but then I used to cringe when my mother would force me to actually “read” two books during summer break, and then write a book report. I would stare at “Heidi” thinking, “Get up that stupid mountain, little girl.” Then something happened; I began to love to read. I would go through novels written by VC Andrews, Judy Blume and Francine Pascal, with such interest. It wasn’t a chore anymore. It had become a leisurely activity. I didn’t know why my mom was so adamant about me reading, or about learning the 10 vocabulary words she would post on the refrigerator every week for me to memorize, until I got older.

When I got older, I realized that there are so many adult people walking around who can’t spell, or aren’t on the reading level they should be on. Twitter is a prime example of how people are semi-illiterate. I gawk at celebrities who post tweets, sounding like they are in the 8th grade. Reading helps you develop your comprehensive skills; it builds your vocabulary, helps with your grammar, and helps you articulate yourself in meetings and other public domains. America is the land of personality, videos and music, and people are getting by being illiterate. I wouldn’t be surprised if a statistic came out that said that most Americans aren’t on the reading level they should be. Giving a friend a newspaper article and having them read it out loud would probably shock us all; or having them write a letter would probably look like they dropped out of high school, because the punctuation and period placements would be all incorrect. Just because someone can pronounce words doesn’t always mean they comprehend them or the context in which they are being used.

My mentees are always laughing at me because I am such a disciplinarian when it comes to this. About eight years ago, an intern of mine wanted me to forward a letter he had written to get a job with one of my colleagues. I said, “No problem. I’ll put in a good word for you, just send it over.” He had just graduated high school and was a very bright, enthusiastic young man, whom our morning show had grown to love. However, when that letter was deposited in my inbox, my mouth dropped. My mind raced at how he could have possibly graduated high school. He had written the letter in a way that reflected the way he spoke to his friends on the corner. Grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and slang all graced the page. With my sternest voice, I called him up and told him that the letter was completely inappropriate and that my colleague would look at him like a fool. He was alarmed, but at the same time thankful. I had taken the time to constructively correct him, and when he sent the letter the next day, it was perfect. Presently, he is an executive at a television station and we correspond via email often. His writing is impeccable.

He is one of my favorite success stories, and my current mentees are along the same path, because I take the time to chastise them about their writing, simply stating, “If you write like that in casual text, you will forget how to write properly when it’s necessary.” They grunt, but appreciate my constant concern about their success. I wish all parents took that initiative instead of positioning their kids in front of video game systems or the television. I was far from happy to have to read as a child, but I’m glad my mother stuck by her guns and helped nurture my creativity and imagination. It took a minute but, like everything else, it became a habit.

Although our society is changing rapidly, and we are becoming a fast-paced, technology savvy culture, the fundamentals should not be lost. When you look at the statistics of education, ask yourself what demographic is at the bottom of the totem pole. There are some drastic changes that need to be made immediately. So instead of just buying a child a 60-dollar video game, also buy them a 15-dollar book. Education is nurtured in the home, first and foremost.

I don’t want to come off as a hypocrite, or give the impression that I’m the best writer or grammatical tactician. I asked two friends to proofread this blog because I have no problem understanding my weaknesses and am always trying to improve upon them. They are better writers/editors because their professions warrant them to be. I just urge everyone to do the same.

Here are some various books that challenged me, changed my perspective, and sparked something in my spirit. It’s never too late to try to improve ourselves. Ask yourself why slaves weren’t allowed to read- Knowledge is Power.

Check them out:

1. The Alchemist– Paulo Coelho *favorite*

2. Makes Me Wanna Holler– Nathan McCall

3. The Glass Castle– Jeanette Walls

4. The Art of Seduction– Robert Greene

5. War and Peace– Leo Tolstoy *favorite, but challenging*

Baby Boys…

I’m going to try to write this blog without seeming like I’m coming down on men because it’s not all men but it’s a growing trend and something has got to give. I’ve always stared in an amazement when a man I was dating grabbed something for himself before he offered me anything. Or the ever so famous walk ahead of you like you’re supposed to follow like an obedient dog. My eyes have glared in the back of an ex-boyfriend’s head as he scarfed down a plate of food and then his eyes would get big at the afterthought of me and I would get a “My bad”. It made me think that either he was raised by savages or no one at all.

It’s unfortunate that decent men haven’t been in the households to raise their boys to be gentlemen and those little boys have had to rely on the drug dealers or the “pseudo-pimps” on the corner to teach them about men and women relationships. However I’ve encountered these mannerisms from the men who were raised with silverspoons in their mouths and middle class backgrounds as well. My friend blames the mothers. She says women are raising their sons to be selfish, narcissistic individuals which are crippling their interactions with  other women. They don’t hold them accountable for anything and spoil them rotten by waiting on them. I was perplexed by that notion because wouldn’t a woman want to raise a son to be the man she would want to marry or date. A gentleman, who has no problem opening the door, carrying the heavy bag, or walking on the outside of the curb to protect her. Then my friend said a lot of women are also products of their environment and don’t set those standards for their sons or their mates. So then we are left with men whose social etiquettes towards a woman are non-existent.

I have been chastised by my significant others for having my expectations too high. One would call me old-fashion, but  I do expect a man to offer to get my car washed if he sees it’s dirty. Yes, I expect a man to move whatever is on his front car seat so I can sit down before I have to ask. The simple things like consideration, sharing, and being kind I feel are lost by the men our age. Those were some of the very first characteristics we learned in kindergarten. I know I’m not lowering my expectations because I’m a lady and hope most women start demanding a certain level of gentleness and respect as well. The only gentleness I ‘ve seen some of these men have to concede to is the birth of a daughter. Some of these men are then forced to melt away that hard exterior and tackle the emotional interactions with their daughters. Making it the first time they have had to be considerate of a woman’s feelings before their own. Treating her like a lady is the only way to raise a lady.

Regardless of whether a man has had a daughter or not, that learning process of being a gentleman is not something that should be frowned upon. Men wanting a lady but aren’t willing to treat her like one doesn’t add up. Eventually the baby boys of America will grow up and realize that being a considerate person doesn’t make you a weak person. It sets the framework for a healthy relationship. The sooner people start to realize this, demand it, and implement it I think the better off our  community will become.

“Have a baby by me, baby…”

I’ve never seen myself as a baby momma. Not saying an unplanned pregnancy can’t happen to me but I tell any man I’ve even had the conversation about children with that I’m not having a kid out-of-wedlock. So if he wants me to have his child, then he wants me to be his wife.  And it kind of irks me when I hear young girls mocking “That’s my baby daddy”, like it’s cute. It’s like the carriage before the horse is normal now. I remember the first time an ex boyfriend asked me if I was going to be his future baby momma. I snapped back, “I’m a wife not a baby momma”. He already had one of those.

Maybe because I grew up in a two-parent home and seeing my dad love my mom as his wife was deemed normal. My household wasn’t the most functional but regardless he was proud that she was his wife. I just think that people need to learn each other, see if they share the same values in child rearing before the misuse of contraception is brought into the equation. I know I have a certain way I want my child to be brought up and if my partner isn’t on the same wave length then it will cause strife for myself and the child. I don’t want to enforce one thing and my partner counter what I say to spite me because we’re beefing this week. When you raise a child, you raise a child on the same accord. Most people don’t even have those conversations or think about those aspects before conceiving a baby. Then the beefing, child support, and drama ensue.

I’ve heard the countless arguments about marriage and why does it matter but if it didn’t matter then it wouldn’t be this big debate to go through with it. From my perspective, I see something else happen in a man’s eyes when his girlfriend becomes his wife at that altar. It’s like a calm comes over his spirit and that woman is now part of him forever. She’s not just his child’s mom or his girlfriend but she’s now an extension of him. That’s scary for most men because it’s a different kind of concession of their heart. The wedding ceremony is a rite of passage where this woman becomes a responsibility now, not just the kids.   

Call me old fashion but those kinds of things matter. I just don’t see why people want to have kids out-of-wedlock. Marriage is the afterthought. Sometimes I think guys use the child as a placeholder for when they are ready to settle down. “I’m not ready now but you are the mother of my child so why not”. Giving of life is less important than giving of their vows. It’s so peculiar that a person has no problem being bound to someone forever with a child but can’t walk down the aisle. She isn’t the one for marriage but she is the one to have his baby?! Seems backwards to me.

I hope people start making smarter choices about conception. “Have a baby by me, baby” is a clever line in a song but not something to mirror your life after. Your child needs two parents who love each other and share the same values. Too many single parent homes in the African-American community exist. If a man doesn’t want to take the step to make you his wife, then you shouldn’t want to take the step to be the mother of his children. It’s a bit harsh but it’s my reality.

Who are you?

Knowing yourself takes awhile to develop. There are so many phases to go through with growing pains along the way. But when you get to the point where you are in tuned with that little inner voice, you then know that your choices, indiscretions, and mistakes brought you to the contentment of your present being. -SD
 
I think the first time I knew who I was in 2005. Sometimes you must have your spirit supressed for you to emerge as your true self. I had just come out of a situation and I felt like this was the first time I could breathe in a long time. People who saw me 6 months prior noticed the change in my spirit immediately. I knew what I wanted and that passion inside has continued to flourish over the years.
 
As a woman, you are challenged on a constant basis about your thoughts, wants, and desires. If you come off too strong, you’re considered a bitch or overly emotional and aggressive and if you are too lenient, you’re overlooked or your capabilities are doubted. We are consistently on a balancing beam. Although this may be the case in some circumstances, I always feel everyone needs to be true to their selves. If you’re emotional then be emotional. No one should be able to dictate your moods or your passion. Men and women were created different for a reason.
 
Too many times people change their innate thoughts to please others. We are put on this earth to live our own lives. If we disagree, we disagree! Things can always be discussed and worked out; just don’t cower and compromise yourself or your values. Socially, women tend to be the pleasers and are the ones that are forced to bend or take the lesser in situations. I’ve been considered a bitch or unreasonable in several instances but I didn’t give a f*ck because my heart and spirit said I was right. If I wasn’t going to be true to my feelings it would have eaten me up on the inside. I’m not saying to be a stark raving maniac or unreasonable but holding your tongue because of insecurities will never gain you respect or confidence.  
 
It took a minute for me to be so sure of myself and, as human beings, we will still have our doubts. However there is a voice inside you that will never deny your truth; the truth to who you are and the truth to what you deserve. There will be learning curves and growing pains along the way. Just take heed but live for yourself and not others.
 
 
 
 

That one major heartbreak…

I hadn’t talked to my “first” in over 14 years and the first thing he said to me was “you broke my heart”. I didn’t know how to respond. What do you say to that? We were 17 and we both did things to each other that were irresponsible and callous. I just moved on quicker than he did and it left him in a state of heartbreak. He said he treated women like crap after that for a long time. I felt bad but I knew he had done stuff to me that hurt my feelings and violated the trust between us forever. Regardless of what he had done, I was the one he loved and gave his heart to. Understandably, he will always love me but hate me at the same time.

After you hear that you broke someone’s heart, you then start reflecting on your heartbreak. The one who crushed your heart into a million pieces. Happened so long ago but the wounds never go away. It’s like the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and your face gets warm like it’s happening all over again. Deception, lies, disrespect, never seem to lose their bite. I’ve had guys hurt my feelings and I’ve cried but that one rip down to the core takes forever to heal. It’s like that person will forever be walking down the street with a piece of your heart in their back pocket. lol.

It happens to the best of us. I wouldn’t change a thing though. Some people say they have never been heartbroken and I wonder if they’ve ever let themselves just fall into someone without being in control. Yes it hurts like hell but strength comes from pain. You just can’t let those scars ruin your life and possibilities of a new love. If my heart wasn’t broken, I probably wouldn’t have met the people I’ve met or accomplished the things I’ve accomplished. My pain made me seek out comfort in unfamiliar places like Baltimore. Being afraid to love after heartbreak only hinders your growth and happiness. You have to let it go. Love is a risk but it’s a risk worth taking. That one major heartbreak happens but that one major lifetime romance is right around the corner if you let it. 

So to the one whose heart I broke, I’m deeply sorry and I hope you have been able to heal and find the love you deserve. And to the one who broke my heart, Touche! 🙂

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