Bella Italia

Julie,

First let me tell you, in all honesty, I had plenty to wear while it Italy – even though I only  brought my carry-on suitcase. I know that you never would travel with only a carry-on, but you could

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Now, I did come home with a much larger, fully stuffed suitcase filled with some of the beautiful things I found over there. But, that was always the plan.

Here are a few of my favorite Italian things (many of which came home with me!):

I was very focused on buying one particular item while on the Amalfi Coast. When I traveled to this area almost 20 years ago, I had a pair of braided, gold leather thongs hand-made for me in a little house, high atop the island of Capri.

At some point in the past decade, those shoes disappeared from my closet and I’ve missed them – not only because they were a timeless style, that made me feel oh-so-jet-set-chic, but because they reminded me of that magical trip that I took with my mother and sister.

I knew I wasn’t going to make it back to the mountaintop in Capri, so my first stop when arriving in Positano was another well-known, custom shoe store, Safari Club – a teeny, tiny storefront on Villa Della Tartana, crammed with over 300 styles of sandals.

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You choose the sandal style you like, including strap design and heel height, then pick the color and type of leather. Your foot is measured so that the correct leather sole is used, then it’s all handed over to a gentlemen who sits on stool at the entrance. He rapidly ties the leather, punches some holes and hammers it into the sole, you try on the sandal again, to ensure proper fit, and, ecco la, within five minutes you have a beautiful, custom-made shoe.

My nostalgia led me to choose a design similar to the one that I had all those years ago.

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I did the rest of my shopping in Florence. I could have stayed in that city for another week – just admiring all the elegant clothing and accessories. The Italians truly have an amazing sense of style. I have to say it – I prefer Italian fashion to French. Mon Dieu.

I don’t know how, but somehow I had forgotten that Italian fashion is intricately tied into leather goods. Duh. Leather was everywhere.

Belts

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Gloves

IMG_7446Handbags (notice all the Lady bags here!)

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And, of course, shoes.

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Don’t let the masses of product fool you into thinking the above goods are cheap. Every thing was so exquisitely produced and styled, it was hard to choose what to buy (that’s why I came home with a second, completely full suitcase). In fact, at the shoe store, shown above, not only do they design and produce their footwear and handbags at their small workshop around the corner from the store, they also hand-pick and tan their own leather (which feels like butter, by the way).

But, my favorite shopping destination was Pucci

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As you can see, I did not leave empty-handed.

Ciao,

Ann

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Fall Trend – the Lady Bag

Julie,

One of my favorite things to do when perusing the phone-book-sized September issues of fashion magazines is to try to pick out one or two overwhelming trends. Not so much from the editorial photos, but from designer’s advertisements – let’s face it, that’s the bulk of the magazine – because that’s what the average consumer tends to see while out shopping.

Hands down, the most prevalent trend I spotted was the continued prevalence of (what I call) the Lady Bag – a trapezoid shaped handbag of varying sizes and finishes, with large handles, no shoulder strap.

Here it is in grey, from Prada and Fendi

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Dolce and Gabbana have one in grey too – and black – and black lace (notice how the models grip the handles, like a paranoid grandmother, or the Queen of England)

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Marc Jacobs tries to make it look downtown cool with his creepy looking models

ylpladymarcjacobsAnd Diane Von Furstenberg funks it up with a leopard print

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But no matter how you serve it up, the Lady Bag is everywhere!

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This one, from Hugo Boss, is my favorite

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Although it’s still “lady” it also looks like it’s there to get a job done.

Ann

 

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Life is Good

Sorry we’ve been MIA for the past few weeks.

Like many parents around the country, we were busy getting our children ready to go off to college.

It’s hard to believe how fast the time has gone…

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Julie, far left, Ann, second from right

Georgetown University Graduation May, 1988

when it seems like only yesterday, they were our little bundles of joy and we were sleep-deprived new moms…

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Julie, holding her daughter Joyce, Ann, holding her son,Connor

January 1997

…now, they are sleep-deprived college freshmen – together at our shared alma mater.

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Joyce, Julie, Ann and Connor

Georgetown University Convocation

August, 2014

Life is good.

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Four Years of Dressing DC Women

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Ann,

I hope you’ve had a spectacular time in Italy – can’t wait to see the photos next week.  In DC, amidst trunk shows and trips to the beach, I’ve been celebrating four years since I opened my doors to JULIA FARR boutique on July 21, 201o.  Every year I write you about this anniversary because as every small business person knows, each year is a milestone in progress.  Making a hard right turn from the practice of law to apparel retail and the business of fashion, I have experienced complete on the job training that Retail For Dummies couldn’t begin to teach me (although I tried).  What I didn’t know was a lot and what I’ve learned is a ton.  Everyday I open the door to my store – greeted by gowns, cashmere wraps, sheath dresses and leather handbags —  knowing my mission but never knowing how the day will unfold.  Here are a few not-so-serious but valuable observations I’ve made through the years by consulting with the women who frequent my shop finding the perfect piece (or two or three or four) for just the right occasion:

1) Most women like their arms covered. Even the 30 year olds. Most dresses have no sleeves.  See the issue here?

2).  Women don’t shop on rainy days. But they will shop during ice storms and sometimes heavy snow.

3). Many women aren’t fond of their knees.

4). Most of my clients say they have too many black dresses. Most designers lead each season with black dresses.  This makes my head hurt.

5). Fall is the most exciting season for fashion as seen in all the magazines – especially my favorite –  the September issue of Vogue, HOWEVER, women shop more in the Spring because the sun comes out then and everyone is much happier.

6). Many Washington women like to find the perfect dress for their event minutes before the event starts.  During the weekend of the 2013 Inaugural Ball, MANY women came to the store and bought their gowns between 4-7 pm the day before the Ball.  We did alterations through the night and had them ready for pickup at noon the day of. True story.

7).  Washington women are smart, sophisticated and funny and love to share their thoughts on my business.  This is helpful – really.

8). The clothing and accessories come and go but meeting, getting to know and working with the women who walk through my door is above and beyond the most valuable part of my daily experience.

There are many more things to share along the way, Ann, but for now I am nothing but grateful to be opening the door to my store every morning to see what the day brings my way.  Four Years and absolutely counting….

–Julie

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A Journey with No Packing Required

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Ann,

I’m extremely impressed with your carry-on perfect packing program for your Italian adventure.  You know I would most certainly add 5 of everything to your list and lug around a large, cumbersome suitcase with no handle or wheels on it for ten days – but that’s just me.  I’m not traveling abroad this summer, but I have spent the last several weeks on a major journey that required no special packing at all.   I just finished a 33 Day spiritual guide book by contemporary thought leader, Panache Desai.  The 33 days became around 66+ for me, as I lost concentration at Day 17.  But I jumped back in after a bit of an unfocused break and finished my journey just yesterday.  It was like a detoxification for the soul without all the kale and bok choy ground up into juice.  I love this book and I think the author, Panache, is my new favorite person.

Discovering your Soul Signature is a daily guidebook to, well, discovering your soul signature, or as Panache describes, your spiritual DNA.  “It is who you are at your core – your singular contribution to the world.”  Each day you read a short chapter that is broken down into a morning, noon and evening reflections of a page or two (so it’s tough to get overwhelmed, although apparently I did).  He begins with a chapter on Fear, ends with a chapter on Love, and lights a path for the reader embracing topics (and these were my favorites to name a few) on Shame, Patterns, Self-Sabotage, Roller Coasters, Harmony, and Messengers.  What I liked the most about it were the clear messages on how to absorb, understand and release certain difficult emotions that we are all really good at suppressing or pushing aside as we barrel through life.  The book is more than inspiration or a new way to be grateful, it is a instructional clearing of the overgrown weeds in our respective gardens to allow the light in again.   We are to embrace our tripping and falling in life, knowing that the stumbles are moving us closer to our higher self.  And Panache explains how we make more room on our path for harmony and integration, celebrating all parts of our life experiences.

At the end of these 33/66 days, not only do I feel detoxified (you should have seen me cry for 2 weeks when we were supposed to release our sadness in the chapter on Sadness), I feel lighter, more clear, and relieved.  So if you have room in that little carry-on of yours, shove in this remarkable book that I believe will bring you a lot of joy on your travels, to Rome and beyond.

–Julie

 

 

 

 

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What to Wear in Italy

Julie,

We are so excited for our upcoming trip to Italy. Although I lived in Italy when we graduated from college, it’s been almost 20 (!) years since I’ve been back.

When packing for  a trip to Italy, there are two essential things to keep in mind:

1. La bella figura – this means “the beautiful figure” but it doesn’t apply just to the body, it’s how one presents oneself, from hair to clothing to shoes to attitude.  Italians appreciate beauty – whether it’s in a painting, a handbag, or a bowl of pasta, they like to look at beautiful things – and not just things, but people. And that means you, American tourist descending upon their medieval village. Do yourself a favor. Leave the baseball caps and tennis shoes at home. Take the idea of la bella figura to heart and take time to pack clothing and accessories that will not only travel well but will look polished and sophisticated.

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This does not mean that you have to sacrifice comfort, but bring clothing that is on the dressier side: instead of jeans, bring a pair of black capris, substitute a skirt for shorts. Pack a pair of your most comfortable ballet flats instead of flip-flops. Then, while enjoying your afternoon gelato while strolling along the Arno, you’ll feel like a real Italian.

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2. The Italian Grandmother I mean this both figuratively and literally.

Figuratively – Italy is still very old-fashioned in many ways. You don’t see women (even young women) in short shorts, mini-skirts or skimpy tops. For men, think about how you would dress if you were going to escort your grandmother to Sunday brunch at her favorite restaurant. No cargo shorts or untucked shirts. And certainly no tank tops.  The overriding principle is to dress modestly and respectfully.  Most churches, and several museums (the Vatican Museum in particular) will not allow women to enter if their shoulders are bare or their skirt is too short. Women should always keep a lightweight scarf in their bag, to throw over their shoulders if the need arises.

Literally – the big-bosomed, black-sweatered, opinionated Italian grandmother is alive and well in Italy. And if you try to dis her church or her village by looking like a bum, she will not hesitate to shake her finger in your face while chewing you out, making you feel like you are a naughty toddler.

 

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So, let’s get down to specifics.

We are only bringing carry-on bags (I know the very idea of that terrifies you). Our trip will last only for 11 days and we plan to cover a lot of territory, so we’re travelling light.

-Packing smart is essential. But, I want to look good, right (see above)?

-Italy is hot in the summer, especially southern Italy.  Lightweight clothing is key.

-I won’t pack anything unless it matches at least two other pieces of clothing, i.e. every top has to go with at least two bottoms and vice-versa.

With that in mind, here is my packing plan:

1. Four dresses – two sleeveless shift dresses, a maxi dress and our Julia Farr Collection Eastern Market Dress -

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Won’t this look fabulous while I’m strolling through San Lorezo Market in Florence?

 

2. Four Skirts  – our Julia Farr Collection M Street skirt,

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because it goes with everything and I can dress it up at night. A maxi skirt that I’ll wear on the plane ride over there (easy care and will keep me warm on the chilly plane), and two other midi-length skirts in fun patterns.

3. One pair of Joe’s Jeans – in hot pink, so they don’t look like jeans, more like trousers. And, I’ll take my chances with the Italian grandmothers and throw in one pair of tailored shorts.

4. Four tailored, cotton tops to pair with my skirts. I’ll also bring our Prospect Linen blouse

The Prospect with J. Crew seahorse print shorts on a humid day in Charleston, SC

-it’s perfect because it covers my arms (so maybe the grandmothers will let me get away with wearing it with shorts), but, since it’s linen, it’ll keep me cool on those hot Roman days.

And, I can’t leave home without my Sequoia sleeveless top – my essential travel piece.

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5. A lightweight scarf that will fit easily into my handbag.

6. Speaking of handbags, I’m packing one of my old, neutral cross body bags in hopes that I can ditch it over there and come home with a fabulous, new Italian handbag!

7. For shoes, I’ll bring one nice pair of ballet flats, two pairs of sandals and a pair of wedge heels. All of them are comfortable to walk in.

A packing tip: I always pack my shoes in a nice, fabric shoe bag like this one

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It keeps things tidy and keeps the ancient European soil from spreading all over your suitcase.

8. We will be spending time at the beach, so I’ll pack a bikini and my favorite Trina Turk cover-up, which could pass for a dress.

9. I only bring costume jewelry with me when I travel – and only a few pieces – two pairs of earrings, a couple of necklaces and bracelets. For some reason, I love to wear lots of bangles when I travel. I’m not sure if it’s because bangles seem so footloose and fancy free – perfect for a vacation – or because I feel the need to make a lot of noise, so I don’t get lost from my travel companions (much like wearing a cowbell).

For the plane, I’ll wear the maxi skirt with a loose t-shirt and my favorite silk/cotton wrap in cream to keep me cozy while I try to catch some zzzzzs.

That’s it!

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And, guess what – it all fits in my carry-on.

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Of course, I’ll also pack a duffel bag that can expand to carry home all the great treasures I’m sure I’ll find in la bella Italia. I promise to bring some goodies for you!

Ann

 

 

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Julie,

The craziness of the beginning of summer has settled down and I finally had some time last weekend to do a bit of shopping and to peruse my fashion magazines.

Because I’m surrounded by clothing all the time, I rarely shop like I used to. But, last weekend, I ran into Old Navy to see if they had any casual tops I could bring with me on my upcoming trip to Europe. I didn’t find any, but I did find an amazing pair of sandals.

THE GOOD

These simple, elegant t-strap sandals will be coming with me to Italy.

Women's T-Strap Sandals - Gold

They are surprisingly comfortable, with a cushioned insole, and will offer much more support than a pair of flip-flops. In fact, they remind me of a pair of sandals that I bought in Capri the last time I was in southern Italy. It’s ridiculous how excited I am about these $19.95 pair of shoes. Sure, they’ll probably only last a season, but they look timeless during that short time.

THE BAD

There wasn’t much fashion to excite me in either issue of InStyle or Vogue. In fact, I completely disagree with two of InStyle’s predictions of the new “it” items.

Did you know the jumpsuit is the new maxidress?

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I like the novelty of the jumpsuit, it’s fun to see it on people like you – who are over 5’10” –  but for the rest of us? I know I certainly can’t pull it off.  Don’t get me started on the logistics of going to the bathroom while wearing one – I’m sure it takes the better part of a half an hour to disrobe. I prefer the comfort, elegance and ease of the maxi dress.

THE UGLY

Really? These awful Adidas pool shoe knock-offs are supposed to be good looking?

 

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Or, do they arise from Miuccia Prada’s belief that ugly is more interesting than beauty? These go on our feet, for heaven’s sake, which need as much help as they can get in the beauty department.

Vogue had the sandals all over their June issue: like these from Sam Edelman.

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Look how large and ungainly the model’s feet look in this photo – and I’m sure she is at least 5’9”. Imagine them on a diminutive person, like myself, but one who also has large feet. I’d look like an “L”.

No thank you.

Ann

Top Image – Old Navy, next two images: InStyle Magazine. Bottom image: Vogue

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