Monday, November 30, 2009

Faking Fashionista with the Fashion Studio

The Office Party
The Family Christmas Dinner
The Girls Night Out
The Stagette
The Christmas Party

You will never hear me claim to be a fashionista. Do I love clothes? Check! Do I try my best to look stylish? Check! Do I have the time to scour fashion mags and blogs to educate myself on what's hot this season? Negative.

Okay okay, I'll give myself a bit more credit than that- I'm well aware of the whole "neons are back" and "sequins are in" trends that have surfaced. I can put together an acceptable outfit and no fashion police will ever try to arrest me. But fashionista? Regrettably, no.

I've traded in my Vancouver dwellings and downtown hopping for a cute lil home in the burbs and trips to Home Depot with the hubby. This means that I'm removed from my previous habitat and since I spend more time in my office doing weddingy/eventy things, I am slightly oblivious to the world of fashion. Shopping for pretty wedding things, pretty things for my home, well I'm a pro! Pulling an outfit together while trying to not become horribly depressed with the fact that the freshman fifteen (or thirty) has lasted far beyond university is a challenge. A challenge I don't often take...until now.

Recently being invited to a big wedding industry party downtown has got my fashion-brain churning. What to wear? Where to get it? How to pull it together? South Surrey doesn't have a TON of options (yet), but it does have an H&M. Although nothing will ever surpass the experience of my first H&M visit in NYC, I must admit I do get a slight rush every time I walk in. All the pretty things, the designer-collaborated collections...and all for a very fair price. Well, the H&M shopping experience just got a LOT better.

I discovered the Fashion Studio while searching for outfits for previously mentioned party. When you live in the burbs, you don't have the opportunity of checking out hundreds of stores in person to find that perfect outfit. Instead of making my way from downtown to MetroTown to Coquitlam, I figured, let's just search catalogues online and see what the stores have before I go there. THANK YOU GOD for online catalogues. I love you.

BCBG has a great selection online (which will also be on my go-to list), as does H&M. But the Fashion Studio. Oh, the Fashion Studio. How I heart thee. Choose a similar looking model to yourself (don't you see the similarities? the 100 lb frame and 4 ft tall legs? Yup that's me...ok, maybe not, but we've got the blonde thing going on!). Then select from the easy-to-navigate categories and dress your model! They obviously don't have their entire stock online, but there are some great selections that should make shopping for your holiday party/ engagement party/ stagette THAT much easier.

The best part? Create a look you like, use it as inspiration, and you can go to any store to find similar pieces. Just because you're using H&M's wonderful online tool doesn't mean you need to get everything from their store. Mix and match with pieces you have, and find a similar H&M version on the Fashion Studio to see what it would look like all pulled together.

I came up with these creations, and hopefully I'm not breaking any fashion rules! Lucky for me, I've volunteered my uber fashionable friend and fashion editor Chloe as my personal stylist to double check any of my ensembles to make sure they're appropriate for the downtown crowd. Chloe, check your inbox! I need help!

Winter Bolero Round-Up

Tulle bolero: Eve of Milady, $995, Bridal Reflections; Beaded bolero: Monique Lhuillier for Kleinfeld, $2,500, Kleinfeld

Here we are, well into the months of dreaded Vancouver weather. It feels like yesterday that spring was just starting to break through....and now we're right back to long dark days and frigid windy nights. Just because the weather isn't very happy right now doesn't mean there aren't tons of lovely couples choosing to have their big day in the Winter. There is something very whimsical and romantic about a winter wedding (any Twilight lovers will see the romance in dreary grey and endless rain).

Although it's totally acceptable to wear a strapless gown at any time of the year, I love finding options for those who want the look of a strapless with a little bit more coverage. These daring and fashion forward boleros are just that find. I stumbled upon these on the incredible blog Classic Bride, and just had to share them with you! A bit out of your price range? Yes, I know- these do cost a pretty penny. But take the inspiration and head on over to etsy, where you can get alot more bang for your buck, and get a unique, hand-crafted bolero to boot. There are plenty of pre-designed options to choose from, or you can commission a custom designed bolero through etsy's Alchemy (don't you just love that word "commision"? I wish I could commission a lot more things in life, like a hand carved cameo, or perhaps an original painting!).

Boleros from top left, clockwise: Tocatta, $178/ Bonzie, $145/ Toccata $185/ Trendy Knitting $159

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Show Your Kitty

Show Your Kitty. Get the goods. Or so sayeth the people over at Kitty Card. I stumbled upon the Kitty Card tonight, and I'd be lying if I said that their website didn't titillate me first, urging me to discover what product was so deserving of such luxury design treatment. The Kitty Card is to the fashionista/bride-to-be/pretty much any girly girl what the Entertainment Book is to my mom (minus the big book and annoying coupons part). Show your adorable pink and black Kitty Card at participating locations for exclusive discounts and deals (which, I'm not going to lie, I'd much rather do than present a ripped coupon). The card is $25, which offers you deals on wedding makeup, tanning, fashion, restaurants and more. The company is fairly new, so their directory has a bit of growing to do, but I'm sure as it becomes more wide stream that the savings will be endless. Also, there are loads of services geared to the bride-to-be: wedding make-up, personal training, wedding photography, clothing & accessories etc. It costs a lot to be a why not save a few bucks while looking fabulous?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rum and Eggnog Cupcakes: The Recipe

Mmmm mmmm good.
These tasty little holiday treats were actually born from my in-the-making Christmas Bella Bash (consider this a sneak peak). Although I probably won't be throwing my own Christmas party this year (shocking, I know), I wanted to make my Bella Bash photo shoot realistic so I brainstormed some festive goodies I would have served were I to have played hostess. Well, lets just say the photo shoot is days away, and the cupcakes are ready right now. Thank goodness it was my mom's birthday tonight, because it definitely saved me from eating them all (and I didn't have to bake her a birthday cake- yay!)

Why rum and eggnog cupcakes? Rum cake is a family birthday staple in my household, and well, eggnog is eggnog, it doesn't need any explanation because it's just that good. The rum cake all started with my dad, who likes a little bit more rum than cake, but got us all hooked after requesting this moist and delicious treat for every one of his birthdays. My mom makes the best rum cake, and for those who have tasted Tortuga Rum Cake from the Caribbean, well, her's puts it to shame. She just uses boxed cake mix, putting a little spin on it by adding vanilla pudding powder and substituting rum for some of the water in the directions. She uses a rum/sugar glaze for the actual bundt cake, but for cupcakes, we'll stick with the eggnog buttercream.

To make the rum cupcake batter:

  • 1 package yellow cake mix
  • 1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup dark rum

Follow instructions on cake box and spoon into cupcake cups.

To make the eggnog buttercream icing:

1 C. room temp. butter
6-8 C. powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla
1/2 C. eggnog
1-2 t. nutmeg
(for an extra punch, add a few drops of rum flavoured extract. If you find your buttercream too thin, add more icing sugar, or a little meringue powder to stiffin it).

Cream the butter for 30 seconds until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until combined. Use a pastry bag and round tip to pipe onto cupcakes, and sprinkle with a bit more nutmeg.

Because of the eggnog in the icing, the buttercream will expire so make sure to use it up quick (like that will be a problem). Also, the cupcakes are best served chilled, straight out of the fridge. The icing will get fairly soft if left at room temp because of the amount of liquid and butter in it ;)


Classic Bridal Shower on the Bella Bash Boutique

Here is the third and final party from my premiere collection. It's classic and simple, and was inspired by the elegance of traditional wedding stationery. I love cerulean blue and figured it would be a great palette to work with for those wanting to host a very non-themed, elegant bridal shower for a like minded bride to be. I'm all for uber girly, but not everyone else is! I actually think this set would be perfect for a high tea shower. Have the girls wear white gloves and a fancy chapeau, toss in some petit fours, mini scones and little sandwiches, and you're set to go!

The Classic Bride Party includes:

Invitation & Envelope
Thank You Card & Envelope
Cupcake Wraps (for Regular and mini cupcakes)
Cupcake Pick Toppers
Napkin Wraps
Candle Wraps
Favor Box
Favor Bag
Gift Tags/ Place Cards/ Labels
Gift Log
Patterned Paper

Check out my etsy shop The Bella Bash Boutique!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Photographer Portrait: Cathy Empey

When I say that I am in love with everything that has to do with these photos, I mean it. These INCREDIBLE wedding details were shot by local photographer (and November vendor crush of the month) Cathy Empey. Cathy had the opportunity to attend a photography workshop put on by the incomparable Jessica Claire and styled by some of the best vendors the wedding industry has to offer. Yes, this wedding was already stunning to begin with, but Cathy's photographs take it to an entirely new level of pretty. I find her images soft and delicate, whimsical and airy, and undeniably feminine. This shouldn't come as a surprise, however, considering her primary subjects are boudoir clients! I usually select vendors that I've personally worked with for my picks of the month, but I honestly couldn't shake the emotions her photos evoked. I just had to share these with you and hope that you get that same feeling too!

Cathy also generously answered a few questions, so check out her interview below!

Hello Bella: How and when did you start your career as a photographer?

Cathy Empey: I have always had an interest in photography. My mom recently gave me a photo of myself pretending to take a photo with my Dad's light metre. I was copying him at age 2 or so. Then, in high school I took a few blocks of film photography, print production and art (taught by my Dad who was the high school art teacher). I have always enjoyed taking photos. So, after having a maternity session after the birth of my sixth and final child, I felt wonderful and beautiful. So, I decided that I wanted to buy a camera and get back into photography. I knew I could make others feel just as beautiful as I did that day. And so, that was just over one year ago. It has been an amazing journey!

Hello Bella: Obviously the experience of shooting a wedding is much different than a boudoir session. What are your favourite aspects of each?

Cathy Empey: Boudoir is my first love, and is true to my heart. It is so exciting to help other women feel sexy and beautiful! The sessions are fun, they are posed and are short sessions. A wedding is a whole different environment. Every couple is different, their stories are different, and each wedding is unique. I LOVE LOVE, and to be able to capture that love between two people on one of the most important days of their lives, is such an honour! I knew after helping shoot at one wedding at the beginning of the year, and attending the Jessica Claire workshop that this would be the next direction I would take in my business. I am pleased to offer wedding photography to the Fraser Valley area and beyond in 2010. My goal is to offer a complete wedding experience! My goal is to create lasting images the go beyond the ordinary!

Hello Bella: What are your favourite wedding shots to take?

Cathy Empey: Besides capturing portraits of the bride and groom, I would have to say the little details that make the couples wedding unique. Items that tell their unique story. I like details that are interesting and captivating.

Hello Bella: What is the most valuable thing you learned from the incomparable Jessica Claire?

Cathy Empey: Jessica Claire reminded us that EVERY photographer has a point of view. It is my job as photographer to be sure to be the best ME I can be, and to share my point of view with my clients, and my blog readers. Managing clients expectations down to the tiny-tiny details is another very important part of the equation. She also taught me to invest in my brand, and in myself. And to BE myself. I am passionate about photography, and I believe that I can give the best experience to my clients. This passion is what drives me to do the best I can, for everybody that I photograph.

Hello Bella: Who are your boudoir clients mostly composed of? (brides-to-be, newlyweds, etc)

Cathy Empey: I have noticed that the majority of my boudoir clients are women that want to do the session for themselves. ( This is an awesome side benefit to their spouse, or husband-to-be!)

Hello Bella: Words used to describe your work?

Cathy Empey: Timeless, beautiful, modern, simple and warm.

[The Details]

The First Ever Jessica Claire OC Workshop, Orange County, California - September 21, 2009

Photographer: Cathy Empey,

Event & Photo Stylist: Grey Likes Weddings,

Floral Design: Lauryl Lane,

Hair & Makeup: Vivian Tran: All Made Up,

Wedding Stationery, Favors, and Paper Suite: MaeMae Paperie,

Printing of paper products: Czar Press,

Fabric Rosettes, shoe clips, and "just married" banner over cake: B. Poetic:

Cake: Cheryl Stewart of Cake My Day

Monday, November 9, 2009

Real Wedding: Sarah + Sean

The new Mr. & Mrs!

Sarah and her father

I love this jumping shot!

Wine Labels: Hello Bella Events

This beautiful September reception was so much fun to plan. Everything pulled together wonderfully, including gorgeous weather, a stunning bride and groom, and plenty of tearful moments with close family and friends (some who flew in from Australia!). It wasn't an easy road to get there, however. Sarah and Sean planned to be married in Mexico this last May, and to have a big reception when they got back. Well, a few weeks before their departure to Cabo, travel came to a BIG halt because of the prevalent swine flu. Fast forward to September, where the happy couple finally made their trip to say their vows, and came home a Mr & Mrs! You might remember Sarah from the Vegas themed bridal shower, but for a little refresher, check the post out here.

The after-marriage reception felt very much like a traditional wedding reception- well, except for the fact that the head table was replaced with a treats table, complete with a candy buffet, a cupcake tower and an assortment of wine favors. A video of their Mexican wedding played in the background, and a magician entertained kids and adults alike with his amazing card tricks and incredible magic. Morgan Creek was a beautiful location ( and not just because I hosted my own wedding there), and the food impeccable as always! I still have fantasies about that chocolate fountain (the best chocolate you will ever ever ever taste).

The cupcake tower was a joint effort, with the father of the groom building the massive cupcake tower, and myself and Sarah baking the cupcakes. I iced all 200 of them that day at the venue, and with heart racing, was able to get them finished off just in time. The flavours were delicious: purple vanilla, pink cotton candy, blue raspberry, and orange creamsicle buttercream icing on an assortment of chocolate, french vanilla and lemon cupcakes. Sarah wanted a couples cutting cake to resemble a supersized cupcake, so I used fondant and buttercream to create the look. And the flowers. Oh, the flowers! Sarah brought a picture out of a magazine for Cathy of All Tyme Florists to recreate, and boy did she deliver. I think the bouquets actually looked better than the ones in the bridal mag. The stunning colours of the flowers and the cupcakes complimented the pared down and neutral decor of the room. With subtle touches of the beach to reference their ocean-side wedding, everything really really worked to create that romantic feel Sarah and Sean were looking for.

And last, but certainly not least, Larissa Addison of Luxe Photography took all of these gorgeous photos above, plus so many more incredible shots. I profiled her for my October vendor of the month, and you can check that post out here.

Magician: Vancouver Magic
Candy Buffet, Favor Labels, Cupcakes: Hello Bella Events
Photography: Luxe Photography

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bridal Fashion: The Dropped Waist

Liza by Modern Trousseau

Style SH6260 by Saja, only $810!

Spring 2010 Look 12 by Vera Wang

Kenna by Amsale

Marguerite by Christos

Fashionista by Kenneth Pool

With the abundance of options available when it comes to your wedding gown, it's likely that you're going to have a very, very difficult time narrowing down your favourites. It just takes one episode of "Say Yes to the Dress" to understand the confusion that comes with selecting the most important fashion purchase of your lifetime. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to find "THE" dress, because we know that we only have one day to wear it (well, hopefully just one ). I'm not going to lie, I flip flopped SO many times before finally selecting my wedding dress.

My 2 big pieces of advice are: 1) Before you fall in love with wedding styles you see in magazines or on TV, try a few different styles on to figure out what works on YOU, 2) Once you find your perfect silhouette, keep your options open. You may be surprised and end up falling in love with something you never thought you would. Personal example: I knew I wanted a dropped waist gown, and I wanted lace, no beading and no ruffles. I ended up finding a dropped waist dress with beading, ruffles, and no lace. The point was, I loved the silhouette more than anything else, and when I tried on the dress I chose, I was smitten.

In an ode to my favourite dress silhouette, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite dropped waist dresses. Enjoy!