Trend alert: Pattern Mixing

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design mixed patterns

Elle favors this warm-weather combo of polka dots and lace.

By Abby and Elle
The change of seasons always offers an opportunity to shake things up, and if you’re like us, you prefer to shake things up in small, low-risk ways, such as trying a new cocktail or swearing off Facebook for a week, because what’s the worst that can happen?  Exactly.  Continue reading

How to transition your wardrobe from winter to spring

Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion winter/spring transitionBy Elle

Spring is officially here, according to the calendar, but the days, at least in Northeast Ohio, are still chilly — and today was downright frigid. Although we are eager to bust out our spring things and tuck our woolies deep into the closet, a move like that can be dangerously premature. OK, maybe not dangerous, but certainly premature.

Here’s how I put together one outfit to wear on a recent March day:

Continue reading

Shrug It On

By Abby

In case you didn’t know already from my previous post, All Wrapped Up, I love a good shrug. I like them so much because my core gets hot but my arms will be cold, the answer: a shrug. And yet I only have four shrugs, a black, a white, and two brown. One of the brown shrugs I have is very similar to the one pictured below.

I noticed that I was getting into a wardrobe funk. I would only wear my brown shrugs with the same outfits over and over again. And so I wanted to see how many outfits I can pair with this shrug; below are two outfits. Next week I’ll post another set on Facebook. Be sure to like us on Facebook so you won’t miss out.

Shrug It On

Do You Have This Bad Habit?

Match game

Match game

By Elle

Do you wear the same pair of slacks every time you slip into your favorite silk top? Or the same silver belt with your blue tank dress? Makes getting dressed easy, but also makes you look, dare I say, predictable.

Don’t feel bad. Humans are creatures of habit, and we sometimes have to go out of our way to shake things up, especially when it comes to our wardrobe. What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t, you ask? Your stale fashion habits will lead to boredom, a desire to buy an entirely new wardrobe and, very likely, eternal self-loathing.  Don’t kid yourself. You don’t need that.

The good news is, there’s hope. And in this case hope comes in two options:

Path of Least Resistance  While you’re standing in your closet, grab a piece of clothing that could use a new mate and hold it up against potential suitors — and I don’t mean only items you think might work. Be open to new combos! Be bold! Even if sparks don’t fly, you may well discover that what your silk sari skirt really needs is a drape neck tank in polished linen rib (, $158), or a lace-inset cowl neck top (Banana Republic, on sale right now for $32.99). Then you get to go shopping. And that’s so bad?

Road Less Traveled  When I’m really in the mood to create some new combos, I throw several items on my bed and just start mixing and matching. (I imagine it’s a lot like cross-breeding dogs, but certainly more civilized and probably less messy.)

I often take the road less traveled ironically right before I actually travel, looking for coordinating items so that I can pack lightly. And although I’ve been doing this for years, even I can’t anticipate the surprising new combos that result!

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Accent on Jewelry

By Abby

I love color, and I like to incorporate color into my wardrobe. Even though all my professional clothing is grey or black, I can selectively add some colorful jewelry to finish the look. I have nearly every color of jewelry imaginable: red, pink, orange, blue, purple, gold and green.

Deep emerald necklace and earrings

Deep emerald necklace and earrings

Usually I buy a piece of jewelry at a time and later find pieces that match. I’ve had a gold necklace with a green stone for years. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I found matching earrings. (Just between us: I actually bought the earrings as a Christmas present for Elle that year, but they matched my necklace so perfectly I just had to keep them.)

One of the great things about jewelry is that each piece doesn’t have to match exactly; close is good enough.  And it can be inexpensive. Try Kohl’s, Target or department stores, where you can skip the jewelry cases and go right to the racks of fashion jewelry. A lot of it is stylish and classy, but you have to browse.

My husband found this assortment of sparkling red jewelry for me at Kohl’s, and the dark silver of the metal perfectly complements dark grey clothing (aka my professional wardrobe).

Assortment of sparkling red jewelry

Assortment of sparkling red jewelry

Other great places for inexpensive jewelry are small fashion boutiques and thrift stores.  And when you have an occasion where you want the real thing (gold and diamonds), I suggest looking in places like pawn shops (where you can haggle for a better price), online or at shops that sell new and used jewelry.

I bought my husband’s wedding ring — a simple band — for $50 from a local jeweler who sells new and used jewelry and believes there’s nothing romantic about paying extravagant prices for it.

So keep your eyes peeled for bling to add dazzle and color to a monochromatic wardrobe.

“Overdress,” You Say?

By Elle

As Abby always says, “We don’t dress; we overdress.” The other day someone asked me what this means. It’s like this: When we’re at home, you may find us lounging around in sweatpants and a t-shirt — uh, possibly. But if we’re going out in public — even if it’s just a quick trip to Trader Joe’s — the sweatpants stay home.*

OK, so we don’t wear sweatpants in public. Not that unusual, you think. Ah, but it’s more than that.

In years past, people used to dress (as in “dress up”) for air travel. Traveling by airplane was a luxury; not everyone could afford to fly, and those who could naturally dressed for the occasion. Obviously those days are gone, but there’s no reason anyone should appear in public looking like they just stepped off the treadmill. Or rolled out of bed.

Abby and I are of the opinion that every day is an opportunity to feel luxurious. After all, is every day not a gift? Eat off the bone china, drink wine (or soymilk) out of your finest crystal and replace paper napkins with cloth, we say. Don’t save the good stuff for the holidays that roll around once a year. Make the ordinary luxurious. What better way is there to live? (And if you’re afraid of breaking the china or the crystal, consider this: Have you ever risked having your heart broken? And is that not more valuable?)

So with that in mind, one shouldn’t simply dress. Don’t go out in a pair of jeans and a random shirt. (You’ll look like everyone else, and how boring is that?) Don’t settle for the ordinary. Consider the “presentation of self,” and overdress.

To overdress is not to say that you should grocery shop in a cocktail dress and heels. Good grief, no. But it does mean that you should put yourself together in such a way that you will feel, and people will think, that you’re someone worth knowing. Because you are, aren’t you?

Save the jeans and random shirt for the weekend you’re hosting a garage sale. Or raking leaves. Or writing your novel. But when you step outside your door, do it with pizzazz.

I recall Abby’s Uncle Michael once saying that he doesn’t tip wait staff. He overtips (and that’s not a lie). This over thing…must be something that runs in the family.

*True confessions: Sometimes (rarely, actually) after a workout, I have been known to pop into a store in, yes, my workout clothes and Nikes. But only if absolutely necessary. And let it be known that the entire time I feel as if I’m sporting a tired bathrobe, bunny slippers and pink foam curlers in my hair.