Dec 31, 2014

What to Wear to a...


While lipstick stains on martini glasses and sparkling heels on stockinged feet are always fun. sometimes a girl just wants to stay in with her friends.  Make everyone bring a favorite DVD from their collection, pick up a fancy six-pack, and get ready for some serious one-on-one time with that ricotta cheese pizza. And while most would think to arrive in sweatpants for this occasion, not your group of friends. Oh no, you don't miss a chance to play. Instead, choose a poppy vintage red coat as your starting point, and devise a feminine ensemble inspired by it's sweetness. Go for a full, pleated skirt that's paired with a pussybow blouse and classic bluchers, and then add a touch of quirk with a cat beret and a fish-shaped clutch. Can't wait to see what your pals wore!

  1. Shop Vintage Minnie red coat
  2. Chicwish A-line skirt
  3. H&M blouse with bow
  4. Eugenia Kim cat felt hat
  5. Zara Blucher with fringes
  6. Don Fisher Shop handmade fish shaped purse


Tired of seeing nothing but ugly Christmas sweaters and sequined 80's dresses at thrift stores? Break out of the rut and go to an estate sale this weekend, poking around enviable collections of mid-century furniture and racks of furs with matching pillbox hats. While you pretend you're on the set of a 50's black and white movie, play the part with a vintage inspired outfit. Opt for a demure sweater dress and play up its Doris Day vibe by pairing it with a simple, clean wool coat and a playful fox stole. Add some interest to the look by adding in a touch of fur in the form of a small clutch, and throw in a pompom baseball hat to give it a slightly sporty twist. 

  1. Fiery Finish Vintage sweater dress (only $27!)
  2. Zara structured collarless coat
  3. Celapiu mustard fox
  4. Zara buckle flat leather boot
  5. Marxiano faux-fur minaudiere
  6. BCBG Maxazria snowbunny baseball hat


Have you been itching to sweep your hair up into a wispy bun and spend a quiet day admiring and thinking on wooden museum benches? Revisit favorite paintings like old friends and fall in love with the brushstrokes of new ones, wondering just how an artist can capture light like that. While doing so, don't blend in with the rest of the crowd with their winter puffer jackets or zip up hoodies. Instead, go for sleek and understated, choosing a geometric wool skirt as your starting point. To underline its clean lines and minimal look, pair it with sharp accessories, like suede boots and a structured clutch with a touch of hardware. Keep with the urban feel by pairing it with a leather jacket and add some interest by choosing a bejeweled sweatshirt and a neon beanie. Both pieces will keep the look casual and unfussy, but will add a touch of playfulness. 

  1. Lone Pony geometric pleated wool skirt
  2. J Crew Factory jeweled sweatshirt
  3. Zara faux leather jacket
  4. Macy's Bandolino Carrington booties
  5. J Crew Factory slouchy beanie
  6. J Crew Factory chain strap clutch


You've been trying your hardest not to admit you've been waiting for tonight all week, but face it sister, you have. You've got a special night planned with your new gentlemen caller at that one restaurant that keeps its lights a bit too low and their booths a bit too intimate, and you have all sorts of plans to get him smitten. Which would be easy, if it weren't for one thing. It's freezing outside. Don't opt to get pneumonia for the sake of a cute outfit- you can dress warm and stunning all at once. Start with a tutu skirt for a wow factor and work outward. Pair the skirt with a chambray and then layer a dark plaid on top, letting the cuffs and collar of the denim poke out from underneath, creating interest and warmth. Add some glamour to the look by pairing it with a crystal necklace and a leopard clutch, but then balance it out for the biting cold with sheerling lined booties and a trapper hat. You look stunning dahling, stunning.  

  1. Coco Tutu House ombre tutu (only $32!)
  2. Southwest Vintage denim shirt
  3. H&M suede boots
  4. J Crew Factory crystal necklace (only $19!)
  5. Macy's envelope clutch
  6. J Crew Factory trapper hat
  7. H&M plaid cotton shirt

Dec 30, 2014

Layering 101: 10 Winter Styling Tricks You Need to Try

This is it, folks. That time of year where the city streets are filled with boring black coats, bowed heads, and nothing but sweaters and fleece tights underneath jeans. Winter can make for some boring people watching, but if you're some of the few that refuse to think that "stylishly warm" is an oxymoron, than you've come to the right place. There are ways to layer up and wear double the amount of clothes and still resemble a stylish lady. Read on to see just how!


For more styling inspiration, visit the sources: ONE| TWO| THREE| FOUR| FIVE| SIX| SEVEN| EIGHT| NINE| TEN

Dec 19, 2014

6 Outfits to Try This Weekend

Weekends are meant for playing and exploring, and when one does that she needs to dress the part. You can't just wear any old dress to that new underground speakeasy bar. And will pants or a jumpsuit work better to that one book reading you heard about last week? In the spirit of that, here's a new series offering you fun ideas to try out this weekend, as well as suggestions on what to wear to them. 

Chicago readers- these are real events happening this weekend. And everyone outside our area, go find these in your own town! I want to read all about it come Monday :)

  1. Pair a fur collar with your blanket scarf and head to Dusek's in Pilsen to warm up from the biting cold with a Belgian-twist cocktail. Tasting faintly of raisins and caramel, it'll get you right into the cozy mood and make living in the mean Midwest a fraction better. 
  2. Match a thick knit cardigan with a summer jumpsuit and treat yourself to a gingerbread donut at Bottlefork in River North. Just say the word "donuts" and I'm there, but for those of you that need more coaxing, this sweet treat is part of the restaurant's brunch menu, which is chock-full of fun options like Bourbon jam and coffee cocktails. I...I think I found my new hangout. 
  3. Pair a casual cardigan wit a full evening skirt and attend Culinary Fight Club at Hub Studio Loft on December 29th. An amateur cooking showdown, attendees get to join in taste bud challenges as the chefs battle it out to claim the top prize. And bonus points: it's to raise money for Fight2Feed, a charity that feeds hungry Chicago residents :)
  4. Layer lacy summer tops underneath a cable-knit sweater and take your white skates onto the new Ice Ribbon skating rink at Maggie Dlaey Park in downtown. A quarter mile of winding icy paths, it's definitely a lot more fun than going round and round the usual circles. And at the end of the road? A hot chocolate cafe to warm up that cold nose of yours. 
  5. Layer a turtleneck underneath a summer dress and finally learn all those different cocktails the sophisticated seem to know about by joining in the Classic Cocktail Class at Henry's Swing Club in River North.  Are you like me and just discovered what a Manhattan was about a week ago? It's shameful, I know. I'll save you a seat and we'll not only learn the names, but how to make 'em! After that, we'll be fit to rejoin society again. Yay for being adults!
  6. Pair a denim pinafore over a peter pan collar dress and go to Lincoln Park Zoo to enjoy the animals and the decked out trees at night. Wander and moon over the holiday displays with spiced wine or hot chocolate in hand, and afterwards go take a spin at the ice skating rink to show off your killer parka-padded moves. 

Glad Rags Etc Etsy Giveaway!


Today I'm excited to introduce you to a favorite Chicago Etsy boutique of mine, Glad Rags Etc. The little store has a sharp eye for quirky printed dresses, bold eye-catching coats, and beautiful riding boots and blocked heels alike. It's eclectic, stylish, and cultivated, just like the ladies that it aims to attract. And I think we all fit the bill of that perfectly, which is why I have a little treat for you. Today Tricia, the owner, is offering one lucky reader a $30 giftcard! To enter is easy, all you have to do is:

  1. Mandatory Entry: Leave a comment with your favorite item from Glad Rags Etc and follow them on Etsy
  2. Bonus Entry: Follow the Glad Rags Etc board on Pinterest!
  3. Bonus Entry: Follow Glad Rags Etc on Instagram 
  4. Bonus Entry: Follow Messages on a Napkin on Instagram

This is open internationally and will run for a week- good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dec 18, 2014

Styling Tips: How to Wear Over Sized Clothing and Not Drown

Oh, baggy clothing. Two ideas come to mind: 1) the effortlessly cool concoctions of the Olson twins, where they swim in cardigans that loosely shrug off their shoulders, and sweaters that effortlessly flirt around their knees or, 2) me eating off-brand ice cream on the couch while in the middle of a Lifetime movie marathon, wishing I had a cat to bury my face and sniffle into.

As you can see, it has both a good and a bad rep. Today, we're going to focus on the former rather than the latter. Over-sized pieces can be really fun when you know how to style them, but the problem is they're a tad tricky to do just that. It takes some trial and error and an eye for proportions. But once you get the hang of it, you'll start realizing it all has to do with what you pair these cozy pieces with that makes it work. 

For example, in this look I flirted with bag-lady territory by pairing the chunky sweater with a loose maxi dress, but one that still had a clean, column-like shape. To balance the over-powering tendency of the knit, I paired the dress with a turtleneck to add more interest (and to attract the eye) to the top-half, and tie the look together with a fur collar for just the same reason. That way, the sleek but eye-catching elements on top help balance out the heavy and attention-grabbing knit. Then, to give this outfit a lady-like look, I paired it with some sharp booties, a structured satchel, and a floppy hat.

What do you think- will you be playing with over-sized pieces this week?


PS: For more posts that show how to wear maxi dresses during cold weather, check out: The Bohemian Went CasualWhy You Need a Tent Dress in Your Life Right NowWhy Heavy Knits & Delicate Summer Dresses Make SenseStyling Baggy Maxi Dresses in a Chic Way

FUR COLLAR: c/o New Old Fashion Vintage (vintage similar: here)
TURTLENECK: Thrifted (store similar: here)
PURSE: Thrifted (vintage similar: herehere)
BOOTIES: TJ Maxx (store similar: here | vintage similar: here)
DRESS: c/o Rebel Closet (vintage similar: here, here, here, here)
HAT: Urban Outfitter (store similar: here)
SWEATER: Urban Outfitters (store similar: here | vintage similar: here

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Dec 16, 2014

The One Styling Piece That'll Fix Every Outfit, Ever


You know the type of girl. The one sitting across the train from you with scuffed boots that look stylish and not like they were dragged out of a dollar bin. With red lips that never seem to fade no matter how many sips of coffee she takes, a beanie that slouches over her bangs just so, and a cocoon coat that doesn't  look like she stole it from dad's closet. And to top it all off? A blanket scarf wrapped all haphazardly but perfectly around her neck. We hate this girl. She's perfect and makes us want to go home and toss our whole closet down the garbage chute and start again from scratch.

But big secret revealed: she's not as amazing as we begrudgingly think she is. She might be even having an off day and wearing her baggiest, comfiest pieces. But do you know why we'll never guess it?

Because she owns a blanket scarf. They. Fix. Everything. Want to wear your baggy sweater and a pair of leggings, but don't want to look like a shmo? No problem, wrap a blanket scarf around your neck and now you look Mary-Kate-Olson-intentionally-sloppy. Or, how the common folk call it: stylish. Don't feel like trying this morning and just keep coming up with a boring black and white dress combo? That's perfectly fine. Slap a blanket scarf on the ensemble and you're now chic in a minimal way. Have a coat you're bored to tears with? Pep it back up with an over-sized blanket scarf in a complementing color. You see? All problems: fixed.  Now why don't you own one yet?


PS: For more scarf layering posts like this one, check out: The One Infinity Scarf That Isn't Like All the OthersHow to Layer Your Maxi Dresses for the ColdHow to Style Sheer Pieces for Fall, and  Tip on How to Style Blanket Scarves: There's More Than One Way!

DRESS: Thrifted (store similar: here | vintage similar: here, herehere)
BLOUSE: American Apparel
BOOTIES: TJ Maxx (store similar: here | vintage similar: here)
PURSE: Thrifted (vintage similar: here, here)
SCARF: Marshalls (store similar: here)
HAT: Urban Outfitters (store similar: here)
BELT: Thrifted

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Dec 15, 2014

How We Wore It: 10 Ways to Style Cardigans Right Now

Ever seen a trend, liked it, but weren't necessarily sure if you could style it in a "you" kind of way? "How We Wore It" will show you how different women braved the trend and played with it until they got it to fit in with their styles- and hopefully that'll inspire us to poke a toe out of our comfort zones and try something new, too! Today's trend will be cardigans. Happy creating!


Visit the sources for more styling inspo!: ONE| TWO| THREE| FOUR| FIVE| SIX| SEVEN| EIGHT| NINE| TEN

Dec 13, 2014

What to Wear to A...


Slap on a beanie and grab  friends closest to your apartment and head to the burger bar for crispy curly fries, good beer, bad music, and the occasional fried twinkie. You'll be the cutest one dipping her fries in ranch what with your cozy skirt look. Take one of your bright summer skirts and make it winter appropriate by layering it with a traditional cold-weather hue, like chartreuse or mustard. Add in a suede coat and brown booties to further cement you're not confused over what season it is, and pop on a beanie for good measure. Now, who's buying the second round of drafts? Ugh, Margret never offers. Stinkin' Margret. 

  1. Little Miss Vintage 3 pleated floral skirt
  2. H&M wool blend sweater
  3. Mango leather biker jacket
  4. Mango buckle leather ankle boots
  5. H&M knit hat

You know how you misplaced that file and had zero idea what your boss was going on and on about during that meeting? Well, you hid the frazzlement rather well- I applaud you. But now it's time to shrug on your coat, walk-run to the elevator, and speed dial your best friend, letting him know it's Emergency Manhattan Time. There's nothing a cute bartender and a drink in a fancy glass can't fix. And you're dressed the part what with your casual slash done-up outfit. To achieve the look, bring out the pastels in your winter wardrobe by choosing greys, camels, and blush tones. Pick a plaid skirt in different shades of charcoal, and pair it with an oatmeal colored sweater. Bonus points if the sweater is a bit baggy, to offset the primness of the traditional skirt. Then choose a pair of very modern loafers, pick outerwear in a poppy, almost Spring-like color, and round off the look with a slouchy pom beanie for good measure.

  1. Jessamity wool plaid skirt (only $21!)
  2. Zara cashmere poncho with side slits
  3. J Crew cocoon coat
  4. Belle & Clive fur pompom beanie
  5. Zara fringe flats 

In the mood to just curl up and watch a good movie? Forgo the sweatpants and Netflix cue and instead grab a bottle of cheap wine and head to your coffee shop that's playing classics like Addam's Family and Manhattan. Laugh over Wednesday's death stares as you trade some of your wine with the table next to you for a piece of their tartlet. And what do you wear to an affair like this one? Easy: something fancy but with a casual twist. Give your metallic skirts some air-time by pairing them with cozy and laid-back pieces like tartan sweaters and pompom slippers. To add a touch of polish to the quirky look, add a duster vest in a deep hue to offset the flashiness of the skirt, and a fur hat to give you a touch of winter. Now lean back and try to think of a polite way to ask for a another bite of your neighbor's pastry. 

  1. Height of Vintage liquid gold dress
  2. Topshop windowpane check sweater
  3. Topshop pom-pom velvet slippers
  4. Topshop hybrid slim coat
  5. Topshop fur hat

Sometimes it's nice to forgo the fancy restaurants and the crowded dance floors and just go to a movie with your hunnie. Cuddle up to each other- armrest be damned- and whisper verdicts over previews as you eat popcorn by the handful. To ensure that you're extra snuggly for your date, go for a simple but chic look. A jumpsuit is always comfortable, no matter the occasion, and you can add some interest to the piece by pairing it with a white pussybow blouse. Keep the outfit casual by pairing accessories in neutrals- like olive suede booties and oatmeal colored hats- allowing you to let your outerwear be the statement maker. A soft, plaid number always works for any season, and the neutral tones ensure that it'll match with any look you whip together. Now try not to spill the soft drink that's wedged between you and enjoy the show!

  1. New Old Fashion Vintage plaid coat
  2. H&M strapless jumpsuit
  3. H&M blouse with bow (only $29!)
  4. Topshop classic fedora hat
  5. Topshop Missile Chelsea boot

PS: Want more ideas on what to wear to winter shindigs? Check out this What to Wear to A post with a Moscow Mule Slushy Date, this one with a Wine and Tapas Bar, and this one with a Truffle Making Class 

Dec 12, 2014

6 Outfits to Try This Weekend

Weekends are meant for playing and exploring, and when one does that she needs to dress the part. You can't just wear any old dress to that new underground speakeasy bar. And will pants or a jumpsuit work better to that one book reading you heard about last week? In the spirit of that, here's a new series offering you fun ideas to try out this weekend, as well as suggestions on what to wear to them. 

Chicago readers- these are real events happening this weekend. And everyone outside our area, go find these in your own town! I want to read all about it come Monday :)


  1. Play with contrasts by pairing flannel with an evening skirt and head to the restaurant Table, Donkey, and Stick in Logan Square for their Wine Tuesdays. This is for all you wine enthusiasts (or just people in a chi-chi mood): they let you try otherwise inaccessible wines that are usually impossibly to try, so if you like your reds and whites fancy, be sure not to miss out!
  2. Pair a maxi dress with a tailored velvet blazer and go to Wrigleyville for Comedy Against Humanity, an improv show where the audience has decks of Cards Against Humanity and play with the comics on stage. As Sosh described it: "The show works like the card game: the scene is set by a black card detailing a situation like "What are my parents hiding from me?", and the best answer from the audience's selection of white cards determines how the scene plays out. It's raucous, ridiculous, and perfectly offensive."
  3. Layer a midi skirt over a feminine peter pan collar dress and go to Katherine Anne's Confections in Logan Square for a truffle-making class. Wine is included, so don't worry if your baking attempts usually end up not-so-stellar. The drinks will ease the pain. 
  4. Pair a tartan midi skirt with a vintage beret and head to Rebuilding Exchange's holiday bazaar in Bucktown. It's a fair made up entirely of stores and businesses that repurpose materials to make their goods, giving you a chance to buy eco-friendly gifts for the Christmas tree. Tacos and baked goods will also be involved, so be sure to pencil it in for Friday, December 12th.
  5. Top a plaid skirt with a bowler hat and go to Sauced- Emporium Bar's monthly Night Market on Tuesday, December 16th. Sip on dranks, listen to music, munch on local food, and shop from vendors around the neighborhood- all under the roof of one bar. 
  6. Tuck your cardigan into your skirt and go to the comedy show A Very Merry Mother F@#$% Christmas in Bucktown on Saturday, December 20th. Filled with stand-up, sketches, and songs, this will give you some R-rated humor in an otherwise tinsely, stocking-pinning time. Last chance to get on the naughty list, any one? 

Dec 11, 2014

A Look You Need to Copy Right Now: The French Girl

The French girl. We've all wanted to be her at one point or other. Bitten lips, perfectly messy hair, a simple style that somehow, yet, makes a statement. Words that sound like they belong in intimate corners of smokey cafe bars, and a cloud of delicate perfume clinging to her clothes. Quiet and sophisticated, with the ability to eat a croissant without a mess of crumbs down her shirt. As if she and she alone was helping Hansel and Gretel get back home. 

We've all wanted to be her, and at times it's fun to channel your inner Parisian when flicking through your sweaters and vetoing your skirts. And the key to pull it off is to think simple but classic.

In this look I went for a dark color palette, really playing up my black pieces to let the layering stand out in a non-overwhelming way. I started off with a grey turtleneck and layered a plaid pinafore dress on top. Feeling more school girl than French in the ensemble, I reached for a pleated black midi to mature the look, and then tied on a black peter pan collar to add some interest. Then add a beret, black chelsea boots, and a cross body bag, and you're ready for some macarons and chilled white wine.  Oui oui!


DRESS (worn as vest): Urban Outfitters (vintage similar: here, here, here- only $15!)
TURTLENECK: Banana Republic (store similar: here)
COLLAR: c/o Franceys Corner
SKIRT: Thrifted (store similar: here- only $9! | vintage similar: here- in blackhere- in navy)
BOOTIES: TJ Maxx (store similar: here | vintage similar: here)
PURSE: Thrifted (vintage similar: herehere- only $30!)
BERET: c/o Moonchild Vintage (vintage similar: here)

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© Messages on a Napkin.Maira Gall.