Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: Eliza Parker Portofino By Night Dress

Alternatively Titled, "Kelsey vs. The Cleavage-Baring Dress"

Dress: c/o Eliza Parker/ Portofino By Night Dress in Black (here)
Earrings: Forever 21
Bangle: Forever 21
Belt: Target

When Eliza Parker recently offered to send me an item of my choosing from their online store, I squealed with delight. Lilli and Rebecca had both managed to convince me that Eliza Parker makes some of the comfiest -- and most beautiful! -- clothes out there, so I had been dying to feature the brand on Charming Pumpkin. I waffled back and forth a bit about what I wanted, but ultimately settled on the Portofino By Night Dress in Black. My reasons were two-fold: first, I own exactly zero -- count 'em, ZERO -- long dresses. Second, low cut dresses and I have had an interesting? hate hate? relationship in the past. In the interest of trying something new, though, I figured this would be a wonderful opportunity to give a long, low cut dress a whirl, and boy am I glad that I did!

Made of a soft, weighty, wrinkle-free and luxurious jersey knit fabric, the Portofino by Night Dress is fully lined, and has thick straps for those of us with, ahem, heftier maidens in the chestal area. No spaghetti straps here, ladies. Hallelujah! I sit right around 5 feet 6 inches tall, and the dress proved to be the perfect length with flats; it doesn't drag on the ground at all.

I initially had no idea what kind of a bra to wear under this dress, low cut as it is. Enter the amazing and oh-so-helpful Jessica. I sent her an email enquiring what the models on the website wore under this dress, all the while crossing my fingers that they hadn't rigged something up that involved copious amount of duct tape, and no small amount of luck. Thankfully, she responded promptly and informed me that the models had worn one of Lane Bryant's plunge bras. How's that for customer service?

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love this dress. As I'm sure you've noticed, I don't typically wear low-cut dresses. I apparently have the sensibilities of a Victorian maiden that way. I felt surprisingly comfortable and at ease in this dress, though. I felt sophisticated. While it certainly falls ever-so-slightly on the dressier end of the spectrum, the Portofino By Night can be dressed up or down depending upon the occasion, which makes it a versatile addition to anyone's closet.

Eliza Parker carries dresses from sizes 10/12 to 26/28, and every single item on the site is impeccably tailored, beautifully colored, and utterly flattering for curvier figures. I have my eye on the Monaco Dress in Burgundy and the Nantucket Dress in Navy. If you haven't checked out Eliza Parker's site, you should head over there right now! I would be shocked -- shocked! -- if something doesn't catch your eye.

Eliza Parker's founder, Jessica, was kind enough to answer some questions for all of you about her clothing collection! Enjoy reading her answers; I know I did! =)

CP: When did you first know that you wanted to break into the fashion industry? 
I have been plus size my entire life, and I have always been passionate about fashion. Throughout my life, I have struggled to find stylish clothing that fit my body. I did a bit of research and found that I was not alone. 43% of women in the US are size 14+ and many of them are unsatisfied with current apparel offerings. If you walk into a shopping mall, there may be six stores where a plus size woman can shop, but 40 stores for a "straight-size" woman. The opportunity was apparent, and I knew that with the right team, we could offer curvy women stylish clothing that fits.

CP: What's your design and/or fashion philosophy?  
Fit is critical and I love silhouettes that show off a woman's curves.  I also spend a lot of time thinking about fabrics, colors, prints, and special details and trims.  My goal is to excite our customers.  I want women to wear our clothing and love it.  I develop silhouettes that flatter the curves, pick fabrics that are luxuriously comfortable, and add details, like pockets, that make me smile. 

CP: What is your design process?
We sketch out different ideas, develop patterns and samples, and have fittings with our fit model to perfect the fit and details.  We will never produce anything unless everyone on the team loves it.  I even wear all of the samples out on a couple of occasions to make sure that I'm happy with the fit and that the style can be worn multiple ways.  The fit, style, and fabric all have to work together perfectly before we'll put it into production.

CP: What's your favorite thing about what you do?  
I love interacting with our customers.  I try to personally answer as many emails from customers as possible.  I want to hear feedback (good and bad!) about our clothes and service. 

CP: How would you describe the quintessential Eliza Parker woman?
I am designing for a woman who is always on the go. Our customer needs great separates for work and party dresses to wear to weddings, cocktail events, and other occasions. She is stylish and loves clothing that fits her curves. 

CP: How would you describe your collection's aesthetic?
Our aesthetic is classic with a twist. Many of our looks can be worn season after season and are easy to
transition from work to play. At the same time, we add great details and trims that keep our styles youthful, special and on trend.

CP: What are your current favorite pieces?
It's so hard to pick a favorite (it's like picking a favorite child!).  I will say that I wear the Sofia dress every week and I wear the Million Ways Cardigan almost every other day.  Both are just so easy, comfortably and chic.  My favorite party dresses right now are the Monaco and Portofino.  

CP: Where do you find your inspiration?
I love to draw inspiration from 1950s and 60s silhouettes -- a time when women's curves were really celebrated.  Our Monaco dress was inspired by a dress that Grace Kelly wore in Rear Window.  It's timeless and dramatic, yet wonderfully charming. 

*Eliza Parker was kind enough to send me this item free of charge. This in no way affected my opinion of the item or the company. I'm an opinionated beast of a woman, so you can be sure that if I hadn't liked the item and/or company I would have said so. For serious.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: Hana Titanium 1.5" Flat Iron

Hold on to your seats, friends. You're about to behold something truly special. Something so horrifying, something so uniquely grotesque, something so poofy that you may find yourself scrambling away from your computer screen in terror. But be brave, dear friend, for your courage shall be rewarded with a brief glimpse into the power of a truly magnificent -- and, dare I say, magical -- work of electronic brilliance.

I give you.... FRIZZY HAIRED KELSEY! (Yeesh, I hate referring to myself in the third person, but it's so much more dramatic this way, don't you think?)

This is what I look like when I roll out of bed. On a good day. It's a constant source of amusement for Mr. CP. In fact, most mornings he can't actually focus on my face when we're speaking, distracted as he is by the Frizzy Mane of Horror. Seriously, guys, I look like Simba.

Enter the Hana Titanium 1.5" Flat Iron. When Missiko contacted me recently about doing a review of a flat iron, I was truly excited. I love new toys. I'm like a five-year-old that way. If the idea of the flat iron was exciting, though, the reality of it is even more so. I don't typically wear my hair straight, so I was thrilled to hear that, in a seemingly oxymoronic twist of fate, my new Hana flat iron could actually curl hair. Behold: Curly Haired Kelsey!

While in the past I've relied upon my trusty old curling iron to accomplish curly hair -- dur! -- I've found that I actually like the results of the Hana flat iron just as much. The curls I get are much looser and messier; they're very beachy curls, which I appreciate.

In keeping with its true purpose, I decided to go ahead and straighten my hair as well. Lookie! Straight Haired Kelsey!

To give you an idea of how wonderful this flat iron really is, the photos above chronicle the pattern I followed. I started out scary, went curly, and then went straight. Even more impressive, I only had to give each group of hair a single pass with the flat iron to achieve the results you see in the photo above. What did I tell you? Magic!

If you're in the market for a new flat iron, I strongly encourage you to snap up a Hana flat iron. In addition to flat irons, Missiko is also the place to go for CHI Hair Dryers, and curling irons. And while I don't want to ruin the surprise, what I can tell you is that, should you chose to place an order with Missiko, you will receive a truly special package full of extra goodies that will make you smile. =) <--- like that.

*Missiko was kind enough to send me this item free of charge. This in no way affected my opinion of the item or the company. I'm an opinionated beast of a woman, so you can be sure that if I hadn't liked the item and/or company I would have said so. For serious.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Pumpkin and the Giant

Sweater: Anthropologie
Leggings: Merona/Target
Boots: Enzo Angiolini/Nordstrom Rack
Necklace: Brighton/Gifted
Head band: Nordstrom
Earrings: Small shop in Rome

Several months back, Mr. CP and I decided that we wanted to spend President's Day weekend exploring Portland. As soon as our plans were settled, I immediately contacted the adorable Gracey from Fashion for Giants about a wee blogger meet up. And oh, what a meet up it was.

Gracey picked me up at the hotel on Sunday morning, and we made our way to several thrift stores. We pretty much hit it off right away. Gracey is so full of life, so smart, so hilarious, and so charming that it's hard not to find yourself immediately at ease with her. She comes across as someone who genuinely enjoys life, someone who sees the potential for laughter and joy in just about every situation. You can imagine, then, how enjoyable thrifting with her was. Perhaps my favorite item she tried on: a uniquely unfashionable 80s prom dress, complete with a puppy-sized ass bow and puffy sleeves. That dress was a thing of beauty, my friends. Over the course of the day, we bonded over our shared love of reading, our individual proclivities for swearing like sailors (it's true... we're seriously ladylike), and humiliating stories of the past.

We met back up with Mr. CP for dinner at a delicious local Portland restaurant called The Veritable Quandary. Gracey got to hear lots of stories about the early days of my relationship with Mr. CP, most of which reflect very poorly on me, and which may or may not show up on this blog in the future. Gracey, in turn, regaled us with tales of her dating adventures. Let me just tell you, every last one of them was absolutely hilarious. By the end of the night my sides were aching from laughing so much.

Mr. CP and I are planning to head back to Portland again in May, and I can't wait to meet up with Gracey again! 

p.s. If you want to read a bit more about our adventure, Gracey wrote about it in this post!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Non-Plans

Dress (gifted): Brushed Terra Dress/Anthropologie (here)
Lace top: Anthropologie
Head band: Target
Earrings (gifted): Betsey Johnson (here)
Belt: Target
Tights: Hue/Macy's
Boots: Enzo Angiolini/Nordstrom Rack

Over the last week or so, I couldn't help noticing all the wonderful posts about Valentine's Day popping up around the internet. All the heart-print clothes, and Valentine's Day inspired outfits made me squeal with delight. Except... well, we don't celebrate Valentine's Day. Long before Mr. CP and I were together, I realized that it just wasn't a holiday that resonated with me. I didn't find any meaning in a single day that celebrates love, because to be perfectly honest, I think every day should be a celebration of your affection for those closest to you. Don't get me wrong. I always loved hearing all about my girlfriends' elaborate Valentine's Day plans: where they were going, who they were going with, what they were going to wear. For my part, though, Valentine's Day just wasn't my style. I preferred to stay in, bake cookies (and not burn down the kitchen, thankyouverymuch), and watch silly movies in my PJs. 

A friend of mine recently asked what Mr. CP and I were going to do for Valentine's Day. When I responded, she looked horrified. No dinner plans? No fancy outfits? No flowers, or chocolate? Thankfully, I was able to alleviate at least one of her fears: there is always chocolate in our household. Always.

Do you celebrate Valentine's Day? What are your plans this year?

p.s. Don't forget to check out my Victory Garden Yarn giveaway here! You have until next Monday (2/20) to enter!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

CP Temporarily Gets Deep...ish

It is a truth universally acknowledged (or at the very least a truth that should be universally acknowledged) that there are hateful, bitter people in this world. Allow me to recount for you a recent experience wherein I had to deal with one such person.

Curious about J.C. Penney's new no-sale marketing strategy, I popped in with Mama CP to browse through the clothes. There I was minding my own business when a tiny, very elderly woman wandered up and started chattering away at me for no apparent reason. This in and of itself was hardly an unusual occurrence; for most of my life people have randomly come up to me and shared their life stories. It wasn't at all out of the ordinary, then, that the woman shared with me her age - 80 - and that she managed to maintain her youthful appearance by rubbing petroleum jelly all over her body. Let me just tell you, at the top of the list of mental images I never, ever, ever wanted to have was that of an 80-year-old woman slathering herself in petroleum jelly. (Oh, and you're welcome for sharing the image with you. Apparently misery really does love company).

What was unusual was what happened next. "You would be beautiful if you lost weight," she said. "You obviously eat too many potatoes." Say what?!  Initially, the only reaction I could summon was uncomfortable laughter. Apparently she saw this as an invitation to continue with her criticism, and kept yammering on and on about how I needed to lose weight... and about how I need to cut back on potatoes. My internal dialogue was something like, "Uh, my deep-seated love for potatoes won't be changing any time soon, so kiss off." What I actually said was, "I enjoy life, and, through some sort of curious magic, you have correctly deduced that I love potatoes." "There's a difference between enjoying life, and eating too much," she said. Tired of listening to her, I finally told her that if I had to eat nothing but lettuce for the rest of my life to look as youthful as her at 80, it simply wouldn't be worth it. "We're done here," I said, and wandered off.

I could tell you that what the woman said to me didn't hurt my feelings, didn't make me feel bad about myself. But it would be a lie. What I can tell you is this: her criticism, unsolicited and unwarranted though it may have been, stung. And for a few minutes, I allowed myself to feel the pain of her words, of her ignorance, of her obvious bitterness. I wallowed in it. (What can I say? I'm a wallower).

And then I let it go. I thought about what she said, about the sting of pain it caused me, and let myself forget about it. Easier said than done, I reminded myself that the opinion of a stranger -- that the opinion of anyone but myself, really -- should not have the power to ruin my day, to alter the way in which I perceive myself, to undermine my self confidence.

When I let go of the sting of her criticism, I found only pity left behind. How sad must her life be -- how sad must any hateful person's life be -- that they have to troll for strangers to insult? I don't know the specifics of her life, and at least as far as I'm concerned, they're irrelevant. All I know is that, instead of wallowing in righteous indignation the way I desperately wanted to, Empathy kicked in and insisted that I try to be understanding (she's pushy that way).

I wanted to share with you this particular incident, because I firmly believe that, regardless of size, ethnicity, gender, sex, or sexual orientation, we've all come face-to-face with hateful people. With all of those voices telling you that you're imperfect, and at the risk of sounding completely hokey, I wanted to take this opportunity to paraphrase Darcy from Bridget Jones (the movie version): you're perfect... just as you are. Be the person you want to be for you, not for the hateful people in the world who think you should be someone else.

I was reading some of Gerald Manley Hopkins's poetry and essays recently, and was struck all over again by his idea of "inscapes," those internal qualities and characteristics that give each thing it's uniqueness. A bunny, for example, has a unique set of characteristics that lend it it's "bunny-ness." Revel in your you-ness, my friend, and know that you're unique, wonderful, and oh-so amazing precisely the way you are. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Head over to Says Skippy!

Hellooooo! I'm sorry I've been absent this week; my computer is currently off somewhere being fixed.

I've temporarily highjacked Mr. CP's laptop to let you all know that I'm guest posting over at Skippy Says today. Inna has quickly become one of my blogger BFF's. We bonded over a shared love of mashed potatoes, silly jokes, the Backstreet Boys, and Inna's general awesomeness. Anyway, head here to check out my guest post, and show Inna some love. She's swell!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

#3: Another Anecdote

Behold! One of the few "normal" pictures of us in existence.

In thinking about our wedding, it's hard not to look back to the early days of Mr. CP's and my courtship. Though I've already told you about our first date, I thought I would share another story from the early days of our relationship.

Mr. CP had been horrified to learn that I subsisted entirely on turkey sandwiches and cereal. You see, cooking just isn't really my thing. At all. So, he kindly offered to start cooking dinners for me. I know you're probably thinking, "Oh my God, he so obviously liked you!" I'm a little bit slow on the uptake, though, so I just assumed he was a nice guy offering to feed a decidedly un-domestic girl. 

Anyway, after about 2 weeks of feeding me, I offered to make him dinner as a thank you. I settled on a simple stir fry. I had made it before for myself, and it certainly wasn't difficult(ish), so it seemed like a nice and easy(ish) choice.

Despite having lived in my apartment for 4 months, I still hadn't actually used my stove. True story. What this meant, of course, was that I had no idea just how hot my stove actually burned. I was a little surprised when the oil in the pan started smoking. I was even more surprised when the smoke detector started going off. In an effort to get it to stop shrieking angrily, I tasked Mr. CP with waving a throw pillow at it to waft the smoke away.

Can you guess what happened next? The oil burst into flames. In my kitchen. While I was cooking dinner for a really cute guy. My initial thought -- fleeting though it may have been -- was, "That's about right. The Universe has a pretty serious hate on for me." My second and more useful thought was, "Ruh roh. Gotta put it out." Except that I didn't know how to put an oil fire out. Cue Mr. CP. "Throw flour on it," he yelled. I grabbed my super adorable Pottery Barn flour container, and started throwing dainty little fistfuls of flour on the flames. "No! Smother it!" Which I did. Except that I threw the container at the fire from across the room. It definitely put the flames out, but it also meant that I had smelly burnt flour caked all over the walls, counters, and floor. And a broken flour container. 

This is where my story diverges from Mr. CP's. I remember laughing hysterically -- because that's just how I roll -- for about 5 minutes. By the time I sobered up, Mr. CP had magically cleaned the entire kitchen. It was spotless, and I was in awe. Who was this magical man who could clean a kitchen in 5 short minutes?

Mr. CP's story is that I was hunkered down in the corner, rocking back and forth, cackling like a crazy person for closer to 30 minutes. It gave him plenty of time to vacuum, scrape, scrub, and dust until I regained lucidity.

So, now Mr. CP's favorite thing to tell people is that I tried to burn him to death when we first started dating. And that I dislocated his shoulder just two short weeks later (which you can read about here).

Oh, and for the record, we had pizza that night. I may not be able to cook to save my life, but I can order a pizza with the best of them.