Friday Favorite: Grown-up Coloring

I’m a doodler. Look at my work notebooks and my paper planner and you’ll see squiggles, boxes, and flowers in the margins. My tattoo is of a swirl design I have been doodling since high school; that doodle I used to draw as a teenager on friends’ jeans and jackets with fabric markers and they would sometimes pay me for the work. Doodling, like writing longhand, helps me listen, focus, and remember. So when I broke my right arm twice last year and couldn’t write or doodle, I felt like a fish out of water.

I began coloring in Emerson’s coloring books with her last year as a form of physical therapy; at first it was to get better control of my left hand. Later in the year, it was to regain the strength and dexterity of my right hand. Soon I was back to being able to doodle again in some capacity, and it made me realize how important it is in my life for calming my mind and focusing. One frustrating day at work, I did my swirly doodle all over my office dry erase board. I bought a box of Crayola markers and during conference calls went from ink-drawn squiggles to filling a piece of blank white paper with doodles, squares, mazes, and more. Sick of my gloomy mud-brown windowless office, I began taping these doodles up on the wall my desk faces to have some color in my day.

PicMonkey Collage

The first time I did The Artist’s Way, I bought myself a pack of 26 markers and one of those velvet posters you can find in Target. I loved the meditation of coloring the pattern on that poster, and ended up using it to be a bookcover for my Artist’s Way journal. I don’t know why I let that habit lapse, but this year when wandering the aisles of A.C. Moore finding supplies for a Girl Scout project, I picked up a spiral-bound sketchbook, just like the one I used as my Artist’s Way journal. I started carrying it around with me to doodle in there instead of random pieces of paper, and I bought this pack of 100 markers from Amazon. Inspired by reader Judy’s Instagram photo, I bought this coloring book and this coloring book. While I like making my own doodles, sometimes I’m just too stressed to be creative and the process of choosing a marker, carefully staying within the lines, and seeing a pattern come to life brings me back to center.

When I get home from work, I am F R I E D. Either a hellacious Metro trip or fighting DC traffic after 8-10 hours of work makes me a pretty crappy parent. I give myself a moment to use the bathroom, brush my teeth, change into comfortable clothing and have a short moment alone. It’s not enough, I’m still wired, angry, stressed. So now what I do is come into the living room and invite Emerson to color with me. She grabs one of her coloring books or some blank paper (or I let her color in one of my books, which thrills her to no end) and we sit on the floor with the coffee table as our workspace. Sometimes we add construction paper, glue, pipecleaners, tape, or fabric to the mix. We color, I ask her about her day, she often draws what she experienced, and I am able to calm down while still spending quality time with my daughter. I notice that she’s more open with me when distracted by drawing a castle or bending pipe cleaners; I hear more about the social dynamics, more details about what she did in class, more hoensty.  She now asks to color with me at other times during the week, it’s our “Mommy and Me” time.

This past week I saw on Instagram that my friend Christen has also taken up grown-up coloring, she and her husband taking markers to mandalas as a form of meditation and mindfulness. She agreed that she finds the process of coloring so relaxing.

Why do we stop coloring as we grow up? Coloring is even better as an adult, as we know how to stay in the lines, we can afford the fancier markers or make the switch to pencils, pastels, or watercolors. There are plenty of coloring books created just for adults that have complicated, inspiring, thoughtful, or spiritual images, but there’s nothing wrong with just doodling with a #2 pencil in the margin of your spiral notebook. But if you feel a bit stressed, have a hard time meditating or slowing down, consider going Old School and picking up a coloring book. It’s a pretty fun way to relax and center!

Spring Shoe Trends: Style Like a Pump, Looks Like a Sneaker

When writing this post, I could NOT get this jingle out of my head, but with the revised lyrics, “style like a pump, looks like a sneaker.” For it’s true, this spring sneakers have become THE hot shoe and their purpose goes way past the gym or tennis court.

The street sneaker trend started last year with the return of Vans and Chucks and variations of these shoes in fun textures and fabrics. Well the trend has only improved, offering more silhouettes, fabrications, and options to fit most any foot or personal style. While high-tops, lace-ups, and slip-ons are all en vogue, I am only featuring lower-profile shoes in this post because I find them more flattering and more versatile. A low shoe that can be worn without socks (or with Peds or socks like these which hide from view) can be paired with ankle pants, flared jeans (which are also back in style this spring), wide-leg trousers, midi skirts, pencil skirts (yes, seriously!), sundresses, and shorts of every length. This is a great shoe choice for travel as you can spend all day on your feet but still look on trend and style it with most everything in your suitcase.

This is not your gardening sneaker, and this is not your Keds or Tretorns of yore. This is a shoe that can easily replace your sandals on weekends, but also your heels for a night out or your slingbacks with a summer dress. Treat them as well as you would your leather pumps, and realize to have the style and comfort you deserve, you’ll likely have to pay more than expected for athletic shoes. Choosing a unique material, pattern, or metallic is actually more versatile than a neutral; let your shoes this spring be an accent piece like a statement necklace or a colorful silk scarf. Don’t match, complement or contrast with purpose.

2015 spring shoe trends

Consider this your cue to drop the beat-up elastic-backed ballet flats or the frumpy “comfort sandal” for an upgrade that’s high on style but still comfortable. A few styles I’ve been admiring, and how to style them for spring:

1. Aerin ‘Liza’ Slip-on: While available in stone and white calf leather, I chose to feature these shoes in Azalea Multi because it’s proof of what I wrote earlier about a unique pattern can be more versatile than a neutral. Pair with jeans and a Breton tee for the weekend, or style with a midi-length boho sundress for the farmer’s market. Style with white jeans and a silk tank for drinks with the girls, or gray ankle pants and a crisp white shirt for a more relaxed workplace. The perforations keep you cool on a warm day and the ultra-slim profile makes these more like a loafer than a clunky sneaker. Aerin (as in Lauder, granddaughter of Esteé ) makes beautiful footwear that is classic with a touch of elegance and this slip-on is a perfect example of her aesthetic.

2. Chico’s ‘Agatha’ Champagne Sneaker Flats: Sometimes a lace-up is a necessity, and sometimes it’s a sartorial preference. I fell for this lace-up “sneaker flat” because it has such a great sole for pounding the pavement, but an elegant low profile that would look great dressed up. Pair with a tee shirt dress and denim jacket for a day at the museums, style with a midi skirt and a large-brimmed sunhat for an afternoon at the winery or flea market, with ankle jeans and a tee shirt for running errands, with wide-leg ivory trousers and a silk blouse for a creative or more casual workplace. This shoe can easily hide a pair of Peds for additional comfort.

3. bernie mev. ‘Verona’ Slip-on Sneaker: I bought a pair of bernie mev. shoes last spring and adore them. Super cushy insoles, and the body of the shoe is made of elastic strips woven together in a basket pattern. This makes the shoe stretch and give with your foot and movement, but also provides support and a bit of ventilation. I had a hard time choosing which color of this shoe to put in the collage as there are so many great options. While the Leopard and the Black Patent/Silver combos are pretty awesome, the Pewter (pictured) is a good basic that would look great with a black midi skirt or white boyfriend jeans and be comfortable enough for all the sight-seeing on your spring and summer calendar.

4. Rachel Zoe ‘Chandler’ Pointy-toe Sneaker: One of the best variations on last year’s sneaker trend is this year’s elongated, slim, and pointy-toe versions. A big problem with sneakers is that they can make a foot look blocky, which is tough to carry off if you’re petite or have larger legs and ankles. The slimmer and longer toeboxes on sneakers work like pointed-toe pumps and flats to elongate the leg and balance the figure. Available in black leather and ivory (which is more like a champagne) metallic, this pointed-toe sneaker will look amazing paired with any pant or skirt in your wardrobe. This is a statement shoe that will dress up a simple look of boyfriend jeans and a band tee, or look at home peeking out of tropical wool trousers or paired with a shirtdress.

5. Boden Slip-on Trainer: Boden is my go-to when trying to find casual shoes that look great with dresses or a more feminine wardrobe. Available in five different fun prints, this slip-on has a slim profile that will look great with casual cuffed ankle jeans or paired with a floral circle skirt. The Black and White Spot Pony is a brilliant choice; a calfhair finish adds interest, the brown trim ensures the shoe will go with most everything in your wardrobe, and the green elastic adds a bit of whimsy and humor to what could become your go-to shoe for the next two seasons.

6. Dr. Scholl’s ‘Sterling’ Sneaker: The bowling-inspired sneakers are coming back in style (the ‘90s are back baby, whether you like it or not), and it’s a great trend if you need a supportive comfortable shoe that still has style. The retro mix of cream and black will look great with denim or paired with a striped knit dress and can even be styled nicely with cream wide-leg trousers. This is a shoe that can accommodate an orthotic and sock without sacrificing style.

7. Nine West ‘Banter’ Perforated Suede Slip-on: The low profile and choice of suede upper makes this sneaker downright elegant. This is a sneaker you could pair with a silk midi skirt or shirt dress without looking confused, but it can also pair nicely with your favorite denim, shorts, or cotton dress. Pair with a black pantsuit to add a modern touch.

8. Trouvé ‘Evans’ Leather Slip-on: Available in black and a very pale gray, this streamlined leather sneaker is downright elegant in its minimalism. This is a shoe that can replace your Keds, your loafers, and your ballet flats! Gray (pictured above) is more wearable than true white, looking great with everything from a pastel pleated maxi skirt to a pair of khaki Bermudas. The black version is crisp and modern and would look great with everything from a modern art-inspired printed shift dress to vintage denim and a slouchy knit top.

9. Via Spiga ‘Gingi’ Leather Slip-on Sneaker: Available in four leather and suede options, this slip-on sneaker is a great alternative to canvas versions. While the other options available are quite lovely (I’m partial to the black leather), the Red Pepper Suede is my favorite because it’s that perfect pop of red that goes with most everything. Like a bold lip or glossy tomato nails, a hint of red is an elegant addition to a wardrobe of neutrals, a denim-based ensemble, or a look incorporating leopard or another animal print.

Inspired by this post, I ordered the ‘Brenna’ Slip-on sneaker from Banana Republic in Super Silver. Last summer I wore the heck out of my shiny silver Birkenstocks but wish I had something more substantial to wear for Casual Fridays and crowd situations where I wanted my toes protected. I’ll be sure to report back in a future post on what I think of them – they’ll either be featured in an upcoming post or rated a “fail” in a shopping recap!

Shop the Looks Featured in this Post:

Fashion Undressed: Attention to Detail

alison santighian for wardrobe oxygen

I just read a piece on a American school for what should be a defunct trade. Nay, an art. The North American Institute of Swiss Watchmaking teaches new craftsmen building and repairing watches in the Swiss tradition. We’re talking about those timepieces you put on your wrist and marvel at their heft, wondering what could possibly make them so heavy. It’s just cogs and wheels. Isn’t it? Truth is, we’re not talking about Swatches, people (except we are, as the Swatch company had a hand in the the Swiss watchmaking revival). These are the most reliable machines on the earth, built entirely by hand, not a single minuscule piece machine-made. They, and the way they continue to operate, second after second, for generations, are works of art. They also cost tens of thousands of dollars.

In today’s pushes for minimalism and living with fewer things and increased austerity, it would seem that couture fashion, like Swiss watchmaking, should be history. Who has the resources – both for commissioning and maintenance – to own a piece of art made wearable only for its owner? And yet, the shows continue, year after year. I’ve wondered about the runways’ relevancy before, with increasing showmanship inching into our fashion consciousness more than the designs and the workmanship behind them.

PicMonkey Collage

This past couture season (there are two major ready-to-wear “fashion months” a year, then the Paris couture shows; we won’t go into the oddities of the in-between “resort” collections), Viktor & Rolf (1) showed crinolined babydoll dresses topped with headdresses that make Africa’s grey crowned crane look plain. Galliano returned via Maison Margiela (2) with models wearing masks a cross between a department store mannequin and the Terminator. Armani Privé (3) on the other hand, showed a deceptively simple silhouette in muted colors. Then there was the embroidery and beading like Elie Saab (4) (an American movie star red carpet favorite). Like the careful mosaic work in a Middle Eastern square, or recalling the delicate scenes on a European church nave, the gowns are worth just seeing.

This kind of detail takes hours upon hours of painstaking work. There are reports that artisans need 400 hours to create a single piece in Chanel collection. Like the Swiss watchmakers, the couturiers who measure, fit, cut, piece, sew, and finish the designs are a dying breed. They work with the same tools their predecessors centuries before used. With so few pieces even created, there are only so many spots for new artists to join their ranks.

The Swiss watch started it all, then Swatch figured out how to replicate the clockworks and its precision timing with plastic pieces. That revolution became a resurgence for a lost craft. In the same way, when a seam lays just right, vice the one that never, no matter how much ironing you do, is never, ever flat – and it bugs you all day, even to the point of not wearing something because you’re distracted by it. Couture, as it started, with its intricacies and detail work, stems from and is responsible for, the craftsmanship we have in our daily garb.

Alison SantighianBy day, Alison Santighian is a contractor for the federal government, using her super powers to serve our country, but by night (after bedtime for her “Beans” now 7 and almost 5), she pines after the “it” factor. Alison and “H” (better known as #besthusbandever) don’t believe badass has an expiration date, so they hit concerts, shows, restaurants, and openings across the globe. Alison also writes for Glass Magazine, adding a business woman’s eye to fashion week reviews and style features. Follow her on Twitter.