Category Archives: Fashion

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Have you ever regretted volunteering for something? That’s the position in which I find myself this week.

As a member of the homeowners’ association board, way too much of my time is currently spent trying to navigate the petty disputes that constantly crop up between neighbors.

While I’m sympathetic to the concerns being raised on both sides of the latest kerfuffle (and deeply grateful to my fellow board members who share this thankless job), I am bone-tired of trying to be mom/cop/shrink/legal interpreter to a bunch of adults acting like whiny children – especially since I’m only actually qualified in the first category. Arrgh.

In between e-mail barrages, phone calls and meetings, I’m putting the stress to more productive use by pounding some dough.


My weapon of choice!

Current baking challenge: the definitive buttermilk biscuit. Two recipes down so far, each pretty good but in need of adjustment.

Plus, more decisions to make: Cookie sheet or cast iron skillet? Butter, shortening or a combo? Baking soda as well as baking powder? Rolling pin or flatten by hand?

At least they don’t talk back.


If anyone has a recipe they love, please share! xxxx

Lipstick On Your Collar?

Calling all ladies, drag queens, and overly-enthusiastic lovers: If you’ve ever gotten lipstick on your clothes (e.g., on the collar as you pulled a blouse or sweater over your head, or on your sleeve as you brushed your hair) you’ll appreciate the following advice I found online.

After you stop swearing, act quickly and there’s a good chance you can salvage the situation and avoid a permanent stain on your shirt or reputation.

(Adapted from WhoWhatWear)

  1. Remove excess lipstick. Using the smooth edge of a butter knife or credit card, gently scrape off any pieces you can without rubbing more into the fabric. This keeps the stain from spreading.
  2. Blot with alcohol. Dampen a clean cloth or cotton square with isopropyl (“rubbing”) alcohol. Dab gently (don’t rub!); then, rinse the fabric thoroughly with cold water. For delicate or vividly-dyed fabrics, test an inconspicuous area first to make sure the color won’t run.
  3. Apply stain remover if the stain persists. Although eco-friendly stain removers tend to be gentler on fabric, stubborn stains may require a chemical-based product. Either way, check the care label before using a stain remover.
  4. Wash with liquid detergent. Submerge the stained area in warm water and rub gently, using a small amount of liquid detergent. (Note: very hot water can cause the stain to “bleed”.) Once the stain is hard to see, machine washing should be safe.
  5. Another option: hairspray. Spray hairspray directly onto the stain and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Dip a clean cloth in warm water and gently blot the stain. This should remove both the hairspray and the lipstick.

If all else fails, visit your dry cleaner.

A quick Google search reveals that the first use of “dry” cleaning (which is, in fact, a wet process using solvents instead of water) was to get stains out of togas. You’ll be happy to know that modern methods no longer use ammonia derived from urine, which was the ancient Roman method. Ewww.

Today, clothes are loaded into a machine that looks similar to a regular washing machine, and dry-cleaning chemicals are added. One of the most common solvents is tetrachloroethylene, aka perchlorethylene (“perc”), which has fallen out of favor due to health and environmental concerns. As a result, there’s been more widespread demand for biodegradable alternatives such as siloxane.

Finally, here’s a totally random hack I love: To shorten sleeves on a blazer or coat without tailoring, gather the inside sleeve fabric at the elbow and secure with a safety pin. Genius!






Hair Today, and Other Resolutions

My new hair stylist says:

“As we get older, our hair should get softer and our clothes more structured.”

Words to live by! Layers of flow-y fabrics can make us look shapeless, while sharply angled, severe or stiff hair styles can be a harsh contrast to a softening jawline.

January brings with it not only the predictable resolutions (eat less, floss more) but also the sobering bills resulting from December splurges on gifts and entertaining.

If you love fashion, January can be a minefield of temptation. Below are 10 ways to trim your fashion budget this (or any) month, no matter your age:

  1. Break the browsing habit. Whether you’re scrolling or strolling, something’s sure to catch your eye. Unless you need a specific item to fill a gap in your wardrobe or replace an old/worn-out/ill-fitting favorite, resist!
  2. Likewise, note inspirational looks on Pinterest, Instagram or in magazines; then bookmark and set aside to see if you’re still obsessed next month.
  3. Don’t buy multiples or duplicates of stuff you already have. Chances are, one of your many black blazers is still your go-to.
  4. Save on tailoring. Yes, it makes everything look better but try to limit yourself to clothes that fit you right now.
  5. Skip the sales. You’ve undoubtedly heard the advice, “If you wouldn’t buy it at full price don’t buy it on sale.” You’ll avoid temptation and shopping regrets.
  6. Put your monthly fashion fix subscription box on hold. If it doesn’t arrive on your doorstep, you won’t crave that new belt, scarf, blouse etc.
  7. Avoid dry-clean-only purchases. They add significantly to the price of an item.
  8. Be careful when ordering from overseas e-tailers. Shipping costs can be significant, especially if you need to return your purchase.
  9. Similarly, don’t order from places without generous return policies and free shipping. That Chanel jacket on RealReal may seem like a bargain, but if it doesn’t fit you’ve just blown real money sending it back.
  10. Space out your beauty appointments. Extending the time between haircuts by 2 weeks (say, every 10 weeks instead of every 8) can save you the cost of two appointments per year.

Happy New Year, dear readers and fellow bloggers! And here’s hoping that 2018 is better than 2017 – a pretty sucky year worldwide.

Cheers, Alisa


Mama’s Got a Brand New Bag – And You Should, Too!

As many of you know, I love using my small platform to introduce you to people whose work I respect. This week, I’m delighted to share the gorgeous handcrafted designs of the very talented Bernice Angelique.

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I’ve can’t remember how/where I first saw her bags — I think I was researching “genuine ostrich bags” online — but eventually we started corresponding. One thing led to another and now I have two of her beautiful (and amazingly well-priced) bags and always get compliments on their simple yet sophisticated lines. Their appeal to me is much more than skin deep because unlike a lot of designers (including most stratospheric-priced name brands) hers are lined with suede instead of fabric. Luxury through and through.

A quick note about ostrich: the quills (bumps) are where feathers are removed during the tanning process. Ostrich leather is extremely durable and softens over time, retaining both its beauty and value. Just like us!

After graduating from the London College of Fashion, Bernice launched her brand in 2011 with a focus on exotic but affordable leather in clean, architectural shapes and an absence of gimmicks.

Hand made in Cape Town, South Africa, Bernice Angelique leather goods use the highest quality ostrich leather, hardware and techniques. She’s recently changed her business model to focus solely on custom-made bags. (Below, bags in progress.)

This means not only consistent quality control but lower prices as well. Win-win!

As she notes on her website, sustainability, empowerment and a desire to support local trade are the foundations of the brand. The leather is all locally sourced, providing employment to South African artisans. And the tannery, Klein Karoo, also sells the meat – primarily exporting to France and complying with strict international standards in every aspect of their business.

I asked Bernice to share some of her experiences with us.


What has been your biggest challenge? Oh my! Just one?!? Well, I would have to say keeping the belief alive and never losing sight of my dream. It’s challenging to hold on tightly to your dreams through all the ups & downs, but my mom always told me growing up, “Slow and steady wins the race!” I remind myself of this through the challenging times and just keep persevering.

Can you share any funny stories from the “early days”? One memory I have goes way back to before I even started the business. It was during my time at London College of Fashion, and I was just being introduced to handbag crafting. The first handbag I ever made was a complete disaster…but nevertheless, I knew that this was what I wanted to do!

What are your hopes for the brand in the future? I am so fulfilled now with how I’ve been able to structure the business. I would love to continue to craft custom handbags for women around the world. My time designing and crafting in my studio is my magical escape and I find it absolutely amazing that I get to share this magic with such wonderful women from around the world.

What are the biggest rewards? My biggest reward would have to be that I feel that I live an authentic life, as I am able to fully express who I am through my work. I feel that if one loves what one does, it just filters into the rest of your life and relationships.

The newly revamped Bernice Angelique website shows most of the new styles with chain straps and embellishment. If you prefer a leather strap or a single color, as I do (I love my Temptress, below: 340 GBP/about $450) just send her a message.


Everything is bespoke, i.e. made to order and personal to you. For instance, you can have a longer strap made if you’re very tall or want the option to wear a shoulder style as a cross-body. In her own words, “I love getting to know each client and crafting a specific piece just for her. I treasure the unique.”

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And if an older style featured in the “News” section of the website catches your eye, ask about that as well; she may be able to revive something from the archives just for you.

Try getting that level of service from an ordinary store!

Bernice has generously created a special 10% discount for readers of this blog. Check out online with code BLOG10. You deserve it.

She’s now added Nile crocodile to the line, available in 60 colors with a matte or glazed (shiny) finish. Fabulous! A croc Provocatrix may be my next purchase.

xo, Alisa

(An unsponsored post, as always. Just a company I admire and believe in!)

Mystery and Myth: We All Need Some.

I was reading this morning about a fashion show fixture whose name wasn’t familiar to me. A quick jump to the link provided and — voilà — another half hour down the rabbit hole of pseudo-celebrity and one of its more bizarre denizens. It’s a great story.

This got me thinking about mystery, reinvention and reality as it applies to the rest of us “mere” mortals.

We’re on Facebook or Instagram over-sharing the minutiae of our lives. We volunteer intimate details to strangers and acquaintances. We embroider, embellish and gloss over the unseemly bits. We seem uncomfortable with just “being”.

Of course we all need approval. But isn’t there a middle ground between “I vant to be alone” aloofness and Kardashian-level accessibility?

A little mystery is always appreciated. I don’t want to know everything about you in our first hour of conversation, and vice versa. I’d like our secrets to unfold with time and trust.

On the other hand, creating a mythological existence out of whole cloth is pretty extreme. The authentic self is fascinating enough, regardless of one’s connections or accomplishments. We shouldn’t need to pretzel our life stories, manufacture drama or keep people guessing about our origins in order to seem interesting.

At Wednesday’s exercise class, a woman I hadn’t seen in nearly a year came over to introduce herself. Thanks to my current longer hair, a few less pounds and contacts replacing my usual glasses, she hadn’t recognized me.

For a fraction of a second I was tempted to invent a whole new persona. I could be anyone!! But then, the other ladies started laughing and told her who I was.

I’ll never be as enigmatic as Amanda Lear. But it’s quite nice to be known by a select few. As for full-on mysteries… make mine Dorothy Sayers.

My French Obsession

Along with many other women, I’m fascinated by the way French women appear to create endless outfits with minimal wardrobe resources.

A WhoWhatWear post caught my eye the other day and I thought I’d share my version of it.

The article says that the five-piece French wardrobe concept hit the Internet around 2014. It makes sense in these days of KonMari’ing everything and culling our closets to manageable sizes. I generally fail in the “culling” department, despite regular clear-outs, but I aspire to only have items that fit well, look good, and hold up.


French in Five Steps overall guidelines:

  • Start with quality basics in every category, and eliminate clothing that you don’t love to wear. Buy new basics to fill any gaps, choosing quality over quantity (even tee shirts should be well-made).
  • Limit additional purchases to five non-basic items per season (once in spring/summer, once in fall/winter) to stay current and reflect your personality. Don’t spend too much on passing fads!
  • Edit your closet at least once a year and ditch anything that’s irreparably worn, stained, doesn’t fit, or simply isn’t “you” anymore, no matter how much it cost. Then make a list of what should be replaced and don’t get distracted by items you don’t really need.

The five-piece approach is intended to help you build a wardrobe that feels true to your own aesthetic, works year-round and stands the test of time. The result: less money spent on items you won’t love long term, less time trying to figure out what to wear, and a newfound feeling of deep satisfaction with your wardrobe.

The WhoWhatWear post credits blogger AfterDrk for these helpful guidelines. Add or subtract based on your own needs (for instance, after a certain age leather pants may be off the table and I personally find the idea of one day bag a bit too limited).




  • Silk Blouse
  • White Button Down
  • Black Dress
  • Boyfriend Blazer
  • Cashmere Sweater (don’t cheap out and it will last for years)
  • 3 T’s: black, white, grey  (I love Majestic Filatures and James Perse)
  • 3 Tanks: black, white, grey


  • Leather (black is timeless; brown is less harsh after age 50)
  • Trench
  • Black Suit
  • Seasonal Coat


  • Black heels/stilettos
  • Mid-heel ankle boot
  • Classic flats (loafers, ballets)
  • Summer sandals (espadrilles for city)
  • Sneakers (Parisians love Converse; I’m a big fan of Woman by Common Projects too)


  • Black pants
  • Skinny jeans (blue of course; white works year-round)
  • Wider-leg jeans (boyfriend, trouser)
  • Leather pants (but avoid “mutton dressed as lamb” – you’ll know when you hit it!)
  • Black skirt
  • Black shorts (Over 40? Proceed with caution and a full-length mirror)


  • Watch
  • Diamond studs
  • Everyday ring
  • Signature necklace
  • Clutch for evening
  • Leather day bag
  • Silk scarf

Does this approach work for you? I’d love to know! xx


Desire, Anticipation, Realization

Remember the old Heinz commercial with the Carly Simon soundtrack? Anticipation has been motivating people long before it was an advertising theme. I’ll bet Mrs. Caveman found saber tooth stew more appealing after waiting all day for Mr. C to bring home the goodies. (Imagine how a little ketchup would have helped!)caveman-159964_640

I’m not a patient person. But I love pre-planning vacations: reading about my destination; researching places to explore and eat; making and revising endless lists of what to bring and wear; creating a wish list of possible purchases. Anticipation extends the trip well beyond the actual time away if I start enjoying it months in advance.

I also find anticipation half the fun of baking – the long, slow rise of the bread or waiting for some delicious dessert to come out of the oven. And what’s nicer than looking forward to a hot cup of tea or coffee after being outside on a cold, rainy day – or a frosty beer after a blisteringly hot one?

Although it can be frustrating, time-consuming or confusing, anticipation is especially useful when purchasing something expensive. When’s the last time you bought a car or house on impulse before taking the time to decide exactly what you wanted? (If you did, you have far more disposable income than I do; please buy me a Bentley!)


Psychologists tell us that desiring something is more satisfying than actually acquiring it (scientists call this “habituation”). There’s often a letdown after getting the object, which is why prolonging the process can be so enjoyable. (Check out a fascinating article on this topic in The Atlantic.)

I’ve been thinking about this since arriving at our summer house 20 lbs. lighter than last year and discovering that “I have nothing to wear” wasn’t hyperbole. I had exactly one pair of jeans and three sweaters that fit; everything else down to my underwear needed to be replaced.


The surprise, for a dedicated shopper like myself, is that mass acquisition isn’t much fun. I’ve pretty much had to blitz-shop online (hello, The Outnet) to compile an instant wardrobe. As a result, I’ve been denied the pleasures of anticipation, window-shopping, weighing pros and cons, etc. as part of the experience.

Years ago, on a trip to Milan, my husband and I watched a group of young women return to our hotel laden with shopping bags from every high end store you can imagine (Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior etc.) woman-1329790_640

I’ve often wondered: Did those girls really appreciate everything they bought, after the shopping high wore off? If you could acquire anything you desire without a second’s thought, would it be special?

What do you think — is anticipation more satisfying than acquisition? And what about delayed gratification… does something have more value to you when you’ve saved up for it? Are there things you bought that you love as much — or more — now that you have them?

In other words, does the “high” always fade?