4 Ways Georgia O’Keeffe Inspires Me

During my last visit home to Cleveland, I got the chance to attend the Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern exhibit. It was the last weekend of the show, unfortunately. Before seeing it, I never knew much about her other than she lived in the southwest and was famous for her big flower paintings. I’m embarrassed to admit, it wasn’t a must-see show for me. As a Cleveland expat, my home visits are planned down to the hour, making sure I spend time with everyone. I have to choose my extracurricular activities wisely. But after seeing a clip of it on the news featuring some of her handmade dresses and repurposed clothing, I changed my tune. The show went into much more detail than just her famous flower paintings. It showed how her approach to life and art were very much the same. The minimalist aesthetic you see in her paintings is a reflection of her everyday sensibilities, from the way she dressed to the way she designed her home. Her modern approach to life still seems relevant today and left me feeling inspired and ready to follow her cue.

Here were just a few of my favorite takeaways:

1.    If you can’t find the clothes you want, alter what’s available, or better yet, make them yourself.

This really spoke to me. I’ve had the desire to make my own clothing for a long time. It’s only because of lack of time and skill that I haven’t. I have altered or repurposed clothing I found at the thrift store, dying something to make it a more pleasing color or having something hemmed for a better fit. Either option is much more sustainable than our current state of fast fashion.

Silk dresses she made herself.

A button down shirt that she altered to have a straight collar.

2.    If that doesn’t work, borrow from the boys.

This is something every style blogger and fashionista can relate to. We’ve been borrowing from the boys for a long time: boyfriend jeans, oversized button downs, hats, shoes, etc. But, O’Keeffe seemed to be one of the first. The difference, of course, is she was doing it during a time when it wasn’t in vogue. Such a boss!

3.    Find what works for you and stick with it.

In a time of capsule wardrobes and uniform dressing, this is another area where she was ahead of her time. Toward the end of her career, she had two outfits she wore when being photographed: wrap dresses and pant suits. When putting together my capsule wardrobe for spring, the guide I was using said, “Identify some of your uniforms.” Because there is efficiency in knowing what looks good on you. You don’t have to waste time or money obsessing over what doesn’t, giving you more time to do everything else. O’Keeffe clearly reveled in this.

4.    Nature is a great source for inspiration and materials, especially home décor.

This is probably my favorite photo from the exhibit. During her time in the southwest, O’Keeffe let its nature and landscape inspire more than just her art. Animal skeletons were used as subjects, but also as home décor. I feel like faux skulls have become really popular recently. Finding the real ones in the wild seems like a much cooler story and a lot cheaper.

Cleveland Recap: Lake View Cemetery Self-Guided Tour

As you may have guessed, I was in Cleveland this past weekend visiting family and friends. One of the Cleveland attractions I’ve always wanted to do, but never got around to, is a tour of Lake View Cemetery. So with family in tow, I traversed the gravestone-lined, sometimes hilly landscape in search of history, both personal and otherwise. The cemetery boasts a number of gravestones and monuments dedicated to famous people, including our 20th president and Ohio native James Garfield, Eliot Ness, and Rockefeller to name a few. Some of my relatives rest in peace there, so it was nice to go and pay my respects, especially to my great grandparents whose gravestone I had never visited before. It’s also home to Wade Chapel, which features an interior completely designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and his studios, and still hosts weddings and services. It amazes me that I am still discovering these hidden gems of Cleveland that are free and open to the public.

My family and I opted for our own self-guided tour, but you can schedule a private walking or bus tour for groups of 12 or more. If you go the self-guided route, I would highly recommend finding a map online to help plan your trip. Most of the major landmarks are easy to find, but we had trouble finding Eliot Ness and some of our relatives. My sister actually used Google maps to find some of the points of interest. 
We started out with Eliot Ness (Section 7, Plot 8), the prohibition agent who brought down Al Capone, because his grave is not near any of the other major landmarks. When looking for his site, we also came across Harvey Pekar, the author of the autobiographical comic book American Splendor. His grave site is fittingly covered in pens and pencils that people have stuck in the ground over the years. Ness’s gravestone has a small toy cop car on top. Kind of charming.
We then moved on to Wade Chapel, the neoclassical building with the Tiffany-designed interior. It is one of the few like it left in the world. The theme is titled “The Voyage of Life.” Beautiful mosaics are featured on both the east and west walls, but the most stunning part is the stained glass window titled “The Flight of Souls.” It features Tiffany’s “Favrile” method, which makes it seem like the window is lit up even on a cloudy day.
Rockefeller is close by so we visited him next. While looking up the different monuments to visit online, I was reminded of the fact that Rockefeller was the first billionaire. It’s crazy to think someone could have amassed so much wealth during that time period.  
Last of the major landmarks is the James Garfield Memorial. It’s quite an impressive sandstone structure with a second-floor balcony that you can access by venturing up 64 steps from the lobby. The statue of Garfield is surrounded by stained glass windows depicting the 13 original colonies plus Ohio. You can find his casket covered with an American flag in the basement. It’s the only presidential casket on full display. 
The grounds are beautiful and feature various trees, shrubbery, and ponds. A cool but sunny fall day was the perfect time to walk around this lovely place.

Love to My Mamma

 While I was home this weekend for the Goodwill Good Style Fashion Show, I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with my Mom to celebrate Mother’s Day. My Mom actually helped me out a lot with the fashion show. Since I did all of my shopping for the show in Cleveland, I left the outfits at my parent’s house when I went back to Pittsburgh. My mom washed and ironed every look for the show. Not to mention, she provided her always-encouraging moral support while shopping and getting ready for the show.

Thanks Mom!

My sisters and I treated my Mom and ourselves to dinner in Little Italy at Tratorria. This neighborhood, close to the art museum and Cleveland Clinic campus, is one of my favorite places to visit while in Cleveland. During this visit, I was really able to walk around looking through boutiques and stopping for a few pictures. The neighborhood truly represents old meets new. There are still brick-lined alleyways and many very old businesses remain, but there are also new restaurants and new boutiques popping up along the busy sidewalks.

Happy 4th!

Although I wore this outfit probably a month ago, it seems very appropriate for the fourth. The preppy blue and white striped shirt, nautical-vibe white pants, and 70s aviators and head scarf speak for themselves on our nation’s birthday.
H&M trench coat, purse, and top; Kohl’s pants; Nine West shoes; Old Navy Scarf; Ray Ban aviators 

Fashion Week Cleveland 2011: Black Tie Gala and Runway Show

As we walked up to the two Italianate Renaissance mansions that make up the majority of the Western Reserve Historical Society, it was easy to feel like we were in a different place in our own city. That transformation continued as we opened the doors to the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum for Fashion Week Cleveland’s Black Tie Gala and Runway Show. The Cleveland I know, where jeans and a nice top are sufficient for any range of social outings, was Cinderella at the ball for the night, decked out in evening dresses and tuxedos.

Arriving “fashionably late”, we were still able to partake in the cocktail drinking, mingling, classic car ogling portion of the night. We were impressed by the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT in the lobby—the same model used in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.

Guests pose for a picture before the show:

There was also a Pop-Up Boutique Mall, which I wish I had had more time to peruse. Fortunately, I did get in touch with a representative from Crocs, one of the sponsors and outfitters of the event. Models wore footwear from its YOU by crocs and Translucents Collections. From YOU by crocs, models wore the Babasita, which features an ergonomically designed footbed for minimizing muscle fatigue. I am extremely impressed by how stylish they are. Here is Justinea modeling a pair:

(Above): Translucents Collection on display. (Below): Models wearing the Transluscents Collection.

After navigating our way through the crowd and cars, we realized that getting a seat close to the front row would be more difficult than we imagined. The Plain Dealer estimated attendance of 500+. We grabbed a seat in one of the corners hoping to glance at the models right as they walked out.

The show began with comments from event founder Donald Shingler—and some regrets from city officials including comments from the offices of Mayor Frank Jackson and Sen. Sherrod Brown. Performing on the violin was famed Cleveland Institute of Music graduate, Andrew Sords. Of his selections, I really enjoyed Bhrams’ Hungarian Dance No. 5.

Despite what seemed like some technical difficulties with the sound system, the event had high energy as the crowd buzzed over the knitwear, swim/cruise wear, men’s fashions, and evening and wedding dresses from designers: Corrine Brothers, Pamela Truemper, Tracey Kiefer, Michael Wilson, and Britini Brocker.

Maybe I just love a good floor-length gown, but the gorgeous evening and bridal dresses from BBG Couture by Britini Brocker really caught my attention. One such dress was a blue evening gown with frilly ruffles flowing around the neckline and cascading down the back of the dress. A graduate from Kent State University, Britini started out as a designer for Abercrombie & Fitch. Her experience definitely showed as I thought she had a great eye for creating designs that women would like.

Models wear Corrine Brothers’ unique, funky designs and Crocs’ Transluscents Collection:

One of Tracy Kiefer’s daring swimsuits. Model is wearing Crocs’ Transluscents Collection:

As always, it was nice to see my fellow local bloggers. In the purple is Dina from Dina’s Days:

Stacey from Goodwill Huntingg:

The event ended with a quiet after party at the classy L’Albatros. It seemed that many event-goers found alternative after parties due to the limited seating. Had the weather been better, the outdoor patio would have been perfect.

Overall the event seemed like a fun way for recent grads and newer labels to gain experience and exposure. It was a good showing of artistic and creative talents, and a perfect excuse for me and the boy to get all gussied up.

(Photos: A mixture of my own, Crocs, and BBG Couture)

Cleveland designer: R.Levine

“Enjoy this Day” print cotton scarf in cream- 100% cotton, 16″ X 93″, retail $36

“Peacock” Hand-dipped and painted silk sash-100% silk, 5″ X 70″, retail $120

“Peacock Paisley” print collar necklace in aqua- cotton and silk original print strips with hand-painted silk button with crystal embellishment, retail $88

 “Silver Queen”, Hand-painted original print, retail $68

“Inspiration Rose” Wristwrap- Rayon band with hand-painted silk button with crystal embellishment, retail $42

I am constantly amazed by the talented people that live in Cleveland. Outsiders have no idea. The more people I meet, the more interesting stories I hear. I first met Rebecca Levine, of R.Levine designs, at a social event hosted by the Cleveland Alumnae chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Already, we are tied by sorority bonds. Then I find out that she designs her own line of scarves and accessories. This girl is seriously impressive. I mean check out her work above. Every piece looks like a wearable work of art.

She attended the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago for Fashion Design. She is inspired by everything from her travels to Spain to conversations with her clients. And she started out as a girl from Solon, Ohio, who loved doodling and coordinating outfits. A girl after my own heart. Please check out her other designs on her website, and read my interview with her below:

How did you start designing your own jewelry and accessories?

I grew up in Solon, Ohio. I found myself doodling patterns in a notebook and coordinating outfits with the perfect accessories at a young age. My friends always asked me for fashion advice and I enjoyed making handmade gifts for as long as I can remember. I started off by painting designs on canvas and adding decorative pieces (fabric, ribbon, gems, dimensional paint) to “dress the walls.” I continued to paint through college at Miami University (OH). However, it wasn’t until I went to grad school at the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago for Fashion Design that I found my true calling. I took a surface design class and I was introduced to silk painting. I absolutely fell in love with the art of painting my designs on fabric. It gave movement and functionality to my work. I started painting silk scarves on my own and from that my business was born. My business has expanded to original prints for clothing and accessories (scarves, collar necklaces, headbands, wristwraps). My accessories are unique in that each print comes from a sketch and then it is manipulated into the final print. All of the accessories are made of fabric (a combination of silk and cotton) and utlilize the R.Levine signature fabric strip design.

Any other interests?  

I seem to always have a sketchbook/paper on hand to jot down my ideas. I find that I’m always working-thinking of my next project. I enjoy designing and creating a new piece so much that is just becomes a part of my everyday life. However, when I’m not designing, I enjoy working out. I like to be active-whether it’s at the gym or getting outside. I love to play golf. It is my way of taking it all in. I also like to travel. Traveling gives me the inspiration to come up with ideas and make new connections. I think it is exciting to see new places and meet people.

It says on your site that many of your designs are inspired by travel, is that something that is important to you in your life? 

Yes! Travel inspires many of my designs- whether it is a texture/color I see in architecture or a design interpreted from the people and energy of a place. Oftentimes, it is the nuances of a place that inspire me. It can be something as simple as a pattern  I see in passing. Some of the best ideas come in the simplest form. Outside of design, I think travel is important for a healthy mind and body. The challenge of taking on an adventure and experiencing a new place gives me perspective and helps me grow as a person. It doesn’t have to be a far trip either. I think getting out of our routine once in a while helps to keep us fresh and sharp. At least that is what keeps me motivated and inspire.

What is your favorite travel destination? 

Spain! I have only been twice, but my study abroad experience in Salamanca, Spain, while I was at Miami University (OH) was one of my most memorable trips. In fact, the experience heavily influenced my design aesthetic and my extensive use of bold colors and patterns. There is a lot of passion in the people and culture surrounding Spain. I strive to express that same strong emotion in my work.

Do you have any packing tips?  

Comfortable, stylish, compact clothing! I try to keep that in mind when I’m packing up my bag. I also designed my pieces keeping it in mind. My shirts, scarves and other accessories are all easy to pack. Best of all, I create prints throughout my collection that complement each other so everything can be mixed and matched to make more outfits. Another great aspect of my line is that I create accessories that can be paired with what you already have in your closet. You can take your favorite shirt or dress, add an R.Levine accessory, and it instantly gives you a new look!
What else inspires your designs? 

Everything around me. It is amazing how much inspiration is all around us. Inspiration can come from something as grand as the Eiffel Tower or as simple as a pattern left in the sidewalk from a day’s rain. I have even gotten a lot of great ideas from talking with people at my shows. I find it interesting to hear what people are looking for and what they want to wear. I have had many conversations that have sparked ideas for new designs.

I see that you have an online shop. Are there any brick and mortar stores that carry your designs?  

As for now, I’ve been focusing on selling online as well as doing shows in the area and around the country. The most exciting show I did was at Henri Bendel in NYC. I stood in line at a casting call and they picked my scarf collection to debut at a trunk show in the NYC store. I did the One of a Kind Show in Chicago over the holidays and the California Gift Show (LA) a couple of months ago. I’m looking into shops to carry my line, but for now I like to show/sell my work directly to the customer. It is a great way for me to personally tell people about my brand and to get great feedback so I can offer products people are excited to wear!

Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in starting his or her own business? 

I would say find your passion, something you can do around the clock- because to do it well, you will be doing it around the clock! You have to really want it and you have to feel the need to pave your own path. It is an exciting opportunity to share your dream/vision with others. It is important to stay true to yourself and follow your instinct. However, it is also essential to do plenty of research and network as much as possible. A great idea/product is nothing without the support of people around you. The people who support you make your business relevant and enable it to thrive. Above all- you have to keep on-be persistent and patient!

Lastly, who is your favorite designer(s)?

Nicole Miller is my favorite! I love her use of color and detail. I had a chance to intern at Nicole Miller in NYC during my time at the Illinois Institute of Art as a fashion design student. It was an unforgettable experience. I also like Ralph Lauren for timeless, sophisticated style. And Balenciaga for his creative pieces with Spanish flare.

Weekend recap: Terminal Tower

When I found out that the Terminal Tower in Cleveland would be opening for a few weeks this summer, I knew I had to check it out. Chicago has the Sears Tower, New York, the Empire State Building, but Cleveland has the Terminal Tower. The last time it was open was before 9/11. I had never gone up the tower before that. It was interesting to find out that until 1964, it was the tallest building in North America outside of New York. Here are some shots of the city from the 42nd floor.

Jacob’s Field (Progressive Field) and the Gund Arena (Quicken Loans Arena).

Lake Erie

BP Tower
Public Square
Key Tower

A photo (Kodachrome) of Terminal Tower from the mid 50s courtesy of Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean. The tower went through a five-year $40 million-plus makeover after it closed post 9/11.

Mad Men Casting Call

When my dad, a part-time actor, asked me to help him with his submission to the Mad Men casting call, I thought it would be fun to send in my own submission as well. I already knew I had a great dress for it. An $8 thrift store purchase.

I knew we needed a good background for the photos so I suggested we head over to University Circle where Case Western Reserve’s campus sits. Thankfully my big sis went to school there so I know the lay of the land. I remembered an old dormitory that is now used as offices and classrooms for the English Department—it’s where I belong. It has yellow paneling and white window details with a big porch and columns; it’s Guilford House. I thought some closeups would give it the feel of a nicer old home from the 60s. So I plopped myself on the porch railing, looking all dolled up and waiting for my husband to come home—that was the motivation anyways. So if you like what you see, please vote here. You can vote daily, as you can tell, because some people already have over 1,000 votes.

Over all it was a lot of fun to check out the house and get dressed up.  I am excited to watch the premiere this Sunday.

Polka dot perfection

My flight back to the beautiful city of Cleveland last night kept getting delayed because of the weather. I didn’t get home until 1:30 am so I am staying awake at work today with a sliver of hope and an IV drip of coffee. Needless to say I am glad to be home, despite us being LeBron James-less. Let’s get over that and move onto fashion. This polka dot shirt was a birthday gift from my mom and dad. I had been eying it at H&M for a while and just never purchased it for this reason or another. It’s nice to finally have it in my wardrobe. And I of course was excited when I realized it would go well with my red pants that are so hard to style.
H&M top; H&M pants: Nine West shoes; Nordstrom cardigan

Me looking to the future, hoping LeBron will come back. One day…