“Do You Want To Die On This Hill?”

“Snap”

I looked in horror at the broken thread in my hands. 

My breath caught as I held back the tears that were welling in my eyes. 

“How are you so stupid Christena”, I muttered under my breath as I slowly put down the thread and made a new resolution.

I would never ever ever, under any circumstances sew ruffled pillows again. 

But let’s rewind to the beginning of this sewing saga shall we?

It was the beginning of the summer… the world had all but collapsed and in a panic, I threw everything I owned into my car and drove down to North Carolina. 

When I say everything, I do in fact mean everything. Espresso maker, entire wardrobe, spin bike, home decor… you name it, I had it. 

To be honest, I didn’t initially plan on spending the entire summer living with my family. However, with my options being, “Fulfill every bucket list dream with my family” or “Spend the summer crying and alone in my Detroit apartment”… it’s not exactly hard to see why things unfolded the way they did.

At the top of my bucket list? 

-Learn how to sew-

Now I wasn’t a complete beginner, I had done a few little projects in my life with my momma. I’ve always had this innate desire to do everything a 19th century woman could do and of COURSE sewing is a must in that regard. But I don’t think I realized what a mountain of life lessons awaited me. 

It started off great. My parents gave me my Grandma’s sewing machine which I was told by the sewing machine guy who serviced it, that it’s the “Roll’s Royce of Sewing Machines and they just don’t make them like that anymore”.

What could be more fun? 

Patterns. 

Talk about fun. 

Did you know you can just walk into any craft store and open up GIANT books filled with patterns for almost any type of clothing you want to make. Legitimately, it’s like an entire world of creativity just opened it’s doors to me and I was positively intoxicated with glee. I ran up and down the fabric aisles like an insane person. Touching, analyzing, having in depth discussions about pattern matching… it was all exhilarating. 

Then came the actual sewing part. Aka the part where personalities differences are highlighted to the ‘nth degree. I had no idea I was such a free spirit until my mom told me that I had to lay the pattern on the fabric a certain way and that was the only way to do it. I felt like my inner artist *said with a French accent* was slowly dying. 

“What do you mean I have to follow the exact directions?”

I had imagined channeling my inner Italian atelier worker and throwing fabrics about as the sunlight dazzled through the windows. Beautiful chaos and somehow my stunning, sculptural and artistic visions for clothes would just magically come to life. 

Ha!

An alternate title for the circle skirt that my mom and I made could be, “Do you want to die on this hill?” 

It was a painful process. I wish I didn’t have to admit that I cried a couple times over something as simple as a skirt. But even that pales in comparison to the saga that was making ruffled pillows. 

Did you know you can’t just make things up as you go when doing ruffles? If you miss one small step such as, I don’t know, setting the machine to the right tension, your thread will snap in the middle of you painstakingly gathering the fabric. At 1am. When you’re hungry. And tired. And sick of making pillows. That’s actually the scientific formula by the way. 

You’d think I had put my poor mom through enough trauma for one year. But no, after somehow managing to make the skirt, make 2 1/2 pillows (mom graciously finished the last 1/2 after I curled up into the fetal position and declared that I would rather die than look at the sewing machine again), I decided, “Let’s make a dress”.

“Let’s make a dress” 

Those words might as well go on my tombstone as the perfect encapsulation of my personality. “Here lies the girl that decided to tackle a sewing feat meant for advanced sewers after barely being able to finish 2 ruffled pillows”

But wait, there’s more.

Let’s wait to do it until I’m back in Michigan, far away from the sewing master, aka my mom. 

And also, let’s decide that one pattern isn’t enough. Let’s combine 3. 

With my mind made up, my mom graciously flew up to visit me to help me start the dress.

We did the now familiar traipsing though the craft stores, discussing pattern placements, but somewhere along the way my sewing skills… nay, life skills shifted. 

No longer was I trying to pretend that I was a moody and creative genius, I decided to accept the fact that if I could just follow the directions and acknowledge the areas in which I needed help in, it would probably go a lot easier for me. (Insert how this is also insanely applicable to life in general) 

I began to find my groove. I’d put on podcasts after my mom had returned to NC and would just spend my evenings sewing. It was wonderful. Not only did it give me something to look forward to when I came home from work, but it also gave me something to achieve, to accomplish, to feel proud of. Sometimes that’s all you need, something to hold in your hands and feel proud of. 

With a lot of virtual help from my mom via FaceTime and just the tiniest amount of my inner Italian atelier worker, I finished the dress.

The feeling I felt when I slipped it on and it fit perfectly, it’s hard to put into words. 

I looked in the mirror and saw not just a lot of hard work, but a ton of growing up, an enormous amount of love and guidance from my family, but especially my mom and the perfect combination of creativity and following the rules. 

The grand total for this dress? Under $50. And it was only that much because one of my coupons wouldn’t work. To have a custom dress that I will cherish forever for that price tag? I mean TALK ABOUT #ThriftyAndGlamorous. 

If you’re looking for a way to create beautiful pieces for a fraction of the cost of a designer item, why not give sewing a try? If you’re a detail oriented person you will thrive. And if you’re a creative soul like me, you’ll definitely learn some life lessons along the way. 

Stay tuned for another sewing saga as I just started on a making a beautiful blue summer dress.

XOXO,

Christena 

Overstimulation and A-Line Skirts

I don’t know what I was thinking when I chose this coffee shop to write in. Well, actually, I lied. I know exactly what I was thinking. I envisioned myself perched at a corner table, wistfully gazing out the window and then turning to my computer and letting the words flow out of my fingertips.

All I really want is for my life to closely resemble a Jane Austen novel mixed with a 90’s rom-com. Is that too much to ask for?

Instead my current situation is me being incredibly overstimulated by the floor to ceiling windows which are open and letting in the most gorgeous breeze and the soft hum of traffic. It’s not the open windows, but the ability to see every single person walking by and I can’t NOT look ya know?

If you notice a spelling error or a grammatical mistake… I’m not going to lie, it’s most likely because someone walked by the coffee shop. We’re just going to roll with it okay.

So today I want to talk to y’all about thrift shopping. When I initially had the idea to share with y’all how to be #ThriftyAndGlamorous – “How to Thrift Shop” was right on up there in the top posts I wanted to write. Mostly because I think most people envision themselves being able to tell when something has been bought at a thrift shop… but that’s only if you don’t do it properly *wink*. So today I’m going to walk you through how to do it properly and honestly, no one will ever know if you don’t want them too.

Take a sip of your coffee, I just took a sip of mine and let’s talk all things thrift stores.

To make this a little more fun and into a little challenge for myself, I decided to see if I could find one full outfit for $20 or less.

I headed to my favorite Salvation Army (a thrift store in a nicer area is usually going to be your best bet) armed with $20 and less than an hour. Time management is admittedly not my forte. Now let’s talk about what we’re not trying to do. We’re not trying to get crazy and find a Gucci jacket for $10. Now a similar jacket? Maybe. That would be quite the find. But more than that I look for classic cuts that even though the item might be 5-10 years old, it’s still relevant and if made well, a good addition to your curated wardrobe.

I also look for color families that I know work well with my complexion. Blues are a big love for me right now.

Here’s some items I saw while shopping that caught my eye.

This is a Talbots button down and if I worked in a business environment I would have snatched this up. They retail for around $60-$80

This would be amazing for a layover outfit with some leggings and a chunky scarf. Just the outfit to go grocery shopping in Amsterdam haha.

Now White Stag is a Walmart brand (another thing that helps you with thrift shopping is knowing your brands and how each brand fits you). I saw a similar shirt at Banana Republic for $50 and this was $2. Not a hard choice.

This had the most darling chiffon flutter cap sleeves and with some sleek black trousers and sky high stilettos… all you need is a Christmas party invite.

I almost got this one because it was a Calia by Carrie Underwood piece and I adore her athletic attire. This would usually retail for $55 and it was marked for $5.

This A-line piece was incredible. I typically look for A-line pieces over incredibly tailored options like a pencil skirt or a tapered suiting pant, just because you want a cut that is a bit more versatile especially if you don’t know the brand and in my case, can’t try on anything.

Are you ready to see what I got?

Okay, don’t faint.

But I bought the jeans for $2 off the rack without trying them on. I KNOW! IT’S INSANE. Because of COVID most dressing rooms are closed… so how exactly did I do this?

One word – STRETCH.

This applies to everything I bought. I’m not going to find a “looks like it was made for me item” without it having some give to it. That way, even if I buy the wrong size, it’ll most likely stretch to the size I need it to be.

The shirt is a simple tunic by Ann Taylor for $3. I picked it because I knew it would fit me because of the flowy-ness. I also envision it tucked into a super high waisted pencil skirt with some big blingy earrings.

Now I thought I would just buy the one outfit and then realized I had only spent $5 so I found another outfit.

Couldn’t you just die?

I think I did. And y’all… this IS the norm for thrift stores. I find amazing stuff EVERY. TIME. I. GO.

Remember what I said all pieces need to have? STRETCH. This piece is no exception. I was able to do the pencil skirt because of the elastic waist and the material being a cotton tweed made it more forgiving. It was $5.

The t-shirt – well the minute I saw the Karl Lagerfeld letters shaped into the Eiffel Tour I knew it was the one. At $5 it compliments the skirt, but could also be just as cute with some ripped jeans and a messy bun.

The piece de resistance *insert an Italian kiss exclamation* was this leather purse I snagged for $5. I couldn’t find a brand in the interior, but it’s luxe y’all. You can never never go wrong with a black or brown leather purse. It’s a classic. To say I was floating on cloud nine out of that store is an understatement.

So let’s recap shall we?

  1. Look for thrift stores in nicer areas of town
  2. Classic cuts are the way to go – avoid trendy
  3. Know your brands and what cuts you like on your body. Stick to that.
  4. If dressing rooms are closed – STRETCH is the name of the game
  5. You can never go wrong with a brown or black leather bag or really any simple, but elegant accessory.

So with that, my meter is about up for my car which means I simply must dash. I hope you enjoyed this installment of #ThriftyAndGlamorous. Please let me know if you have any questions and be sure to tag me if you find something fabulous at your local thrift store. Have a dreamy weekend.

XOXO,

Christena

Just Keep Spinning: Peloton Dupe

The sweat slid down the side of my face and intermingled with the faint residue of Sauve hairspray. My bun high and tight as I gazed at my reflection floating across the room. The sheer black ballet skirt floated softly as my toes pounded the floor silently. My worn and supple pointe shoes like a second skin. 

Dancing was like breathing. I had put in so many years of work into it that there were magical moments where I would loose myself in the music and no longer have to tell my muscles what to do. It was magic. Pure unadulterated magic.  Continue reading “Just Keep Spinning: Peloton Dupe”

A Lady at the Opera

“BOOM”

I jumped in my swivel chair as the curling iron I was holding exploded in my hands. Sparks flew into my lap as the lights suddenly switched off.

“Oh come ON”

I whispered to myself as I surveyed the damage. Clearly the converter didn’t exactly convert and I was now faced with the grim reality that my hair was only halfway done and I would have to go to the opera with half straight/half curly hair.

They say hindsight is 20/20. Well, when I was blow-drying my hair I really should have taken note of the fact that it was WAY hotter than normal, BUT at the time I counted it as a blessing for someone with thick and unruly hair.

Fast forward to my call to the concierge.

“Yes, hi! So I think I accidentally blew up my room with my curling iron….” *concierge replies* “… no I already tried the lights and they just don’t work! I’m SO so sorry, but I really have to leave for the opera. Can you just let yourself in?”

If there was ever a definition of a Flight Attendant it would 100% be the above sentence. “Sorry I have to catch the opera but please do hurry and fix the room that I just completely destroyed in this 4 star hotel – ta ta now”

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Meet Holly.

The person that replies to your message saying, “Let’s go to the opera in London… by the way I’m going to wear a vintage fur coat” with… “I just so happen to have my vintage leopard coat with me and my opera gloves – it’s a date”.

And with that we crawled into a taxi and were whisked through the brightly lit streets of London to “The Balcon”. A truly magical place that has a cocktail list based on fairy tales.

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There are certain moments where reality becomes blurred with a dream. It’s the moment you find yourself sipping on a pink cocktail called “Satine’s Dilemma” based on “The Moulin Rouge” and you look out the window and see the Christmas lights twinkling over the streets of London.

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I find it really hard sometimes to do what makes me happy. It can feel so selfish. Yes I love my job, yes I love my life, but so often I find that it’s been months since I’ve consciously set out to do something that’s uniquely “Christena”.

Something that simply brings my soul joy. It can be as simple as getting an overpriced Starbucks drink just because or listening to the “Cinderella” soundtrack over and over because let’s face it, it’s my favorite music of all time. But in this case it was wearing my favorite dress and heels even if I was impossibly overdressed, spending an evening with a friend who became even more dear as we discovered so many similarities and swooning over the awe-inspiring talent of “Phantom of the Opera”.

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Perhaps this is all sounding so cliche to you, but stepping into my hotel room tonight I can’t help but smile thinking about how magical it felt to just chase after what my heart loves. I hope this week you chase after something, no matter the size, that your heart and soul loves. I just pray that it doesn’t involve you blowing up your curling iron.

XOXO,

Christena