Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tee It Up

College Football season kicked off tonight and I could not be more excited!  Probably my favorite sport, it combines optimism, hard work, joy, passion, and an all around good time.  But what does this have to do with fashion?

You won't find much in the way of University of Georgia fashions in the DC area.  When it comes to football, we are mostly an NFL town.  Virginia Tech, UVA, and Maryland battle it out for college prominence but with no major concentration in the Alexandria area.  I may occasionally see something for Zoe and think "Oh, I'll bet a Maryland grad would love that."  But we don't get a lot of requests for school color clothing.

A boutique in a college town, however, must do their buying with the local University in mind!  Two of my favorite boutiques, Duo in Charlottesville and Sonia Says in Athens, GA make sure to have plenty of school color merchandise on hand, especially in the Fall.  As I scrolled through my Facebook News Feed yesterday, I saw this adorable Bulldog scarf at Sonia Says.

I immediately asked in the comments if they took phone orders and they confirmed that they did and would ship to me!  When I called today, they quickly processed my order over the phone with the promise to send it out tomorrow!  I will be fashionably adorned in time for next weekend's game.

Like Sonia Says, Zoe does phone orders too!  We even did one in response to our trunk show this past weekend!  It is not at all unusual for a customer to ask us to take pictures to send them them and then decide to place an order.  And of course, it is very easy to see our new arrivals (and sale items) on our Facebook Store (and purchase from there also!)

I hope your team wins this weekend (unless you are playing UGA, of course!)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Double Standard

I've heard it all my life - "No white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day."  After doing a little research, I ran across this explanation for the oft-repeated fashion rule from the blog
"[The rule] comes from a time when “summer” was still a verb and the elite class would leave the city at the start of the season, vacation wardrobe in tow, and return only post-Labor day to the drab suits of the urban working class.  By the mid-20th century, the “no white after Labor Day” rule had become a hard and fast way to draw class lines and educate the “nouveau riche” on the prevailing etiquette of the time."
I'll confess - I have a double standard when it comes to the "wearing white" rule!  You can find me wearing it as early as possible in the Springtime (I may have even been known to wear it in early April!)  Yet these last few weeks of August have found me squeezing in every opportunity to wear white slacks and white jeans.  It is as if I'm preparing to say good-bye to a dear friend!  
I'm apparently not alone.  The blog goes on to show a graphic (from that indicates the "wearing white" habits of their fashionable readers.  The results may surprise you.
How do you approach wearing white?  A rule follower?  Or a rule breaker?  (or like me, a rule "bender"?)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

College Fashion

Yesterday, my Twitter Feed and Facebook News Feed were full of college move-in pictures.  It brought me back to that day many years ago (notice I'm not saying HOW many years ago) that I moved into my dorm room in Barrett Hall at The College of William and Mary.  The next several days were a whirlwind - getting to know your roommate and hall mates, registering for classes, finding your way around, deciding if you wanted to rush a sorority.  And, of course, deciding what you wanted to wear to your first official day of classes as a college student!

Of course, we all felt quite grown up (or we pretended to be, anyway).  A few weeks into our tenure, as a group of us were walking back to the dorm from the dining hall, some upperclassmen fell in with us and started talking to us.  "You're Freshman, aren't you?", they said.  "Uh, yes," we replied.  "How could you tell?"  Laughing, they said to us "Well, first off, you all carry purses.  No one carries purses beyond the first month of their freshman year.  And you actually look as if you care about what you are wearing.  You'll be in sweatpants and sweatshirts within a couple months."

Our bubble burst, we considered their words.  We WERE all carrying purses.  (I was carrying this one. And yes, I had multiple covers that could be interchanged).  And we weren't wearing sweats.  I'm not kidding, I think we all ditched our purses that very evening.

We were not your typical Southern Football School.  We didn't dress up for football games.  I once had a date to a UVA game where I dressed to the nines, including a hat.  But a W&M Football game found us in shorts and t-shirts.  What I see on the UGA campus when I attend games in Athens looks like a fashion show!  

I often wonder, how do Freshmen women (and college women in general) dress on campus?  And can you pick out a Freshman girl from the way she dresses?  And is it regional?  Do women dress differently in different parts of the country?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Can Smart Women Be Beautiful?

As a female technology professional, I am often asked my opinion on well-known women in the field.  This can vary from my thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In" to the decisions made by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.  Recently, Mayer ignited a firestorm by posing for Vogue.  Here is her picture:

The woman who sparked heated conversations on her two-week maternity leave and her decision to end the "work at home" policy at Yahoo was at the center of controversy again.  Because she chose to pose for Vogue Magazine.

I'm not going to talk about my thoughts regarding being a female in a male-dominated field.  Ask me to coffee and I'll be happy to share at length my thoughts (and it may surprise you, but many of them are positive).  But as I read some of the commentary around this photo, I thought to myself "Would I do it?"

1)  Would I wear the shoes?  Yes
2)  Would I wear the dress? Yes
3)  Would I pose for Vogue if ever asked? Yes, in a heart beat (although I would be horribly nervous!)
4)  Is it wrong for a smart woman to love and care about fashion and style and want to embrace that side of herself? No

I am in the unique position of living in both worlds.  And some of the comments from this CNN article (here) frankly amazed me.    I make decisions and distinctions every day to keep my worlds separate.  But I don't every lose my sense of self in the process.  And if Vogue came calling, I would definitely answer the phone!

What are your thoughts?  Was this appropriate?  Or not?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Don't Own Yoga Pants

Well, until now.  I do own yoga pants...I think - I'm still questioning it.  But let me explain.

I've wanted to get back to some type of structured exercise for some time.  And I had heard a great deal about The Barre Code, located in the Del Ray area of Alexandria.  One Sunday afternoon, I stopped in and met the owner, Amy, and was impressed by her and the facilities.  So last Sunday night, I decided to take the plunge and buy a 10 lesson package, figuring I could determine in that amount of time if it was for me or not.

Determined to jump right in, I registered for my first class on Monday evening.  Womp Womp.  I was wait listed!  On Monday, thinking that it was a possibility that I might make it off the wait list, I grabbed the first few items I saw in my "exercise clothing" drawer and headed out the door.

A quick check of my email just after 5 pm revealed that I had made it off the wait list and into that evening class.  And it started at 6:30.  Time to jump in the car and take off like a mad woman for Alexandria!  I made it in time to change into the clothes I brought with me....and then I realized I had a problem.  The bottoms were ok - Nike tights that I used for other exercise classes and running.  But the tops.  Oh, the tops.  I had a pink sport bra and what turned out to be a red tank top that was actually a pajama top.  Made even worse that it was a Christmas pajama top with two reindeer kissing on it.  (And lets not talk about the fact that I had brought no shoes to change into - rather than going out into the parking lot in my high heels, I chose to put on socks).

Note 1:  Whenever I am with someone and we see someone who is wearing ill-fitting or unmatching exercise gear and the person I am with makes a derogatory comment, I always say "Well, at least he/she is trying!!"  When I looked at myself in the mirror in class that night, I just had to say "Well, at least you are trying!"  (And hope that my classmates were saying the same thing).

Note 2:  When I told both Tara and Alexandra about this, they were both ashamed of my fashion disaster.  I promised them it would not happen again.

Pressed for time, I did not get the chance to check any of the local stores for the appropriate exercise wear.  I found myself in a Lululemon.  Kind of like a craft store, I felt like an impostor.  But I took a deep breath, tried on a couple items, and left with a top and pants that seemed appropriate.  And I said to myself "Did I just buy yoga pants?"  I checked their online store - my top is definitely a yoga top.  I think the pants could qualify as running pants.  That's what I'm telling myself anyway.  (Not that there is anything wrong with yoga pants.  I just never pictured myself wearing any.  As I always say "Never Say Never")

I looked much more stylish in my Friday class.  By the way, I do love it and really recommend it if you are looking for a great, challenging workout in the Alexandria area.  But, as always, it made me think.  Why couldn't I easily find workout clothing in a local store?  Where could I find it?

I have taken steps to get approved as a reseller of exercise clothing for three different lines.  I'll pick one to see if I can satisfy an unmet need for my customers and women in Alexandria.  And try to make sure I don't go to class as a fashion disaster anymore!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What Kind of Shopper Are You?

Some of you may remember when magazines had quizzes.  Your answers to these 10 questions might tell you anything from what type of prom dress you should buy to the type of man who was your ideal mate to the sort of home you prefer.  They were affirming and, even more so, entertaining.

If I were to write one of these quizzes, I would write one to ask "What kind of shopper are you?"  My first question would be "Who do you prefer to go shopping with?"

As you can imagine, I have the opportunity to observe lots of different shopping styles.  And while shopping is intensely personal and each person approaches it in her own unique way, there are some trends.

1) With a partner or friend - This is probably about 45% of our shoppers.  Spouses, a significant other, a good friend, a co-worker, or even a son/daughter!  This shopper is then split again by those who value the opinions of the person with them and those who are secretly wishing the other half of their party would go on down the street to Ben & Jerry's!

2) On her own - We probably have another 45% fit this category.  She might be enjoying a leisurely hour to herself, be on a mission for a special piece, or simply prefer her own feedback to someone else's.  I must confess that I am this type of shopper.  If I feel comfortable with the salesperson, I might interact with her and discuss possibilities regarding shoes or accessories but if not, I will keep to myself.  That's why we like to give each customer their "space" at Zoe.  If we feel you'd like interaction, we love to work with you.  If not, we understand that you'd like to browse or try on in peace!

3) With a group of friends - If I had to guess, I'd say our remaining 10% falls into this category.  In some cases, everyone is trying things on and modeling for each other and in others, maybe 2 or 3 are shopping seriously while the others are providing moral support and opinions! Shopping is a social activity and they consider it a great day out with friends.

What kind of shopper are you? And why?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Not My Hometown Sidewalk Sale

If you've read this blog for a while, you know that I grew up in a small town and shopped boutiques with my Mom.  Not because we were trendy or cool but because there were no chain stores!  Boutiques were the ONLY place to shop.  But it did shape my shopping and fashion choices forever!

Our hometown sidewalk sale always took place in August (just like Alexandria's this past weekend).  And, to be honest, it was kind of a letdown.  Most of the stuff out on the sidewalk looked like it was 10 years old and had been drug out of the store basement!  Or the boutique that also had shoes that had their one cent sale - buy one shoe at the sale price and get the second shoe for a penny.  (Um...I don't think anyone was just going to buy one shoe).  Needless to say, we went but we mostly ended up going into the stores to see their new Fall merchandise.

I contrast that experience with the Alexandria Sidewalk Sale.  Not even a comparison!  I am always amazed at the beautiful items that stores offer during this fabulous end of season event!  All weekend, we not only had delighted customers at Zoe but also customers showing us their finds from the other stores!  (The only negative - if you work the sale, you often don't have the opportunity to visit everyone else's offerings!)  This was definitely NOT my hometown sidewalk sale.

While we are fortunate to not be transporting the store (ala The Warehouse Sale) to another location, it still requires planning and work.  On Friday afternoon, Tara and I were busily marking down prices, assembling the H-rack, and talking about product placement inside and outside the store, as well as making our disaster recovery plans for rain (Good thing!  More to come on that).

I set my alarm for 6 am on Saturday morning so I could get to the store early and start to finalize preparations.  With an open time of 9 am on the first day of the sale, we needed to make sure everything was ready to go.

(Thanks to our friends at Alexandria Stylebook for this live action shot of me and Tara getting everything set up!)

The questionable weather kept things uncertain during the first few hours of the sale.  In total, we brought the clothes inside and then back out FOUR times over the course of the earlier hours on Saturday!  By the last time, I think we did it in 3 minutes flat.  As fine tuned as a NASCAR pit crew!

Our shoppers perusing the temporary racks inside during one of the drizzle periods outside!

Once the weather cleared up and looked more certain, the shoppers came out in droves.  As always, it is so much fun to see so many of our existing Zoe friends and customers and make new friends.  And there is nothing more satisfying than seeing someone happy over getting a great addition to their wardrobe at a great price!

Shoppers enjoying the wide open surface of the outside patio shop!

This year, the Sidewalk Sale was slated for 2 days!  We had always put Zoe's merchandise out on Sunday anyway (since the patio is private and doesn't block the street).  But this was the first time it was official!  We not only had great weather but continued good crowds on day two.  When we shut down on Sunday evening, we deemed the weekend a success.

I can't go without mentioning the amazing work done by Tara and Julie this weekend!  They kept our customers happy, our doggie visitors well-treated (literally!), and our dressing rooms well managed and clean.  Nothing about this event would have been a success without them.

I love the Alexandria Sidewalk Sale (can you believe this was Zoe's third time to participate?)  And as many things as I like about my experiences shopping in my hometown, I'm glad our Sidewalk Sales are not the same!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Different Point of View

This past weekend was not only Jim's first trip to New York but also the first time he had seen me "at work".  He provides his point of view in today's blog post.

Susan:  This was your first trip to New York City.  What did you like best about it?

Jim:  Getting to see you in your role as "the buyer".  I never could really understand this process without seeing it first hand.  I was really impressed with your reps and their presentations.

Susan:  What was the worst thing about your trip?

Jim: One of the cab rides was horrible!  And all of them have road rage!  But I probably would too if I had to drive in Manhattan every day.

Susan:  What was the biggest surprise?

Jim:  The cost of EVERYTHING!  Food, drinks, attractions.  I couldn't believe how expensive it was!  The other thing was the size of Central Park.  I didn't realize just how big it was - and I spent parts of two days there and still didn't get to see all of it.

Susan:  What were three observations that you had about the buying process for Zoe?

Jim:  1) How difficult it would be to make a decision on what to buy, 2) The size of the collections - when you told me that the Resort/Early Spring collections were small compared to Spring/Fall, I couldn't believe it.  I thought these collections were big, and 3) The locations of some of the showrooms.  It is hard to believe these beautiful spaces exist in these nondescript buildings.

Susan:  You compared the visits to sales calls that you make in your job.  What did you observe about my interactions with my reps?

Jim:  I was impressed that your reps seemed to know what you wanted to see.  That they knew your previous orders and didn't waste time showing you things that didn't fit the Zoe customer.  And the interactions between them and you were pleasant and friendly.  And when you went to work, you didn't even seem to remember I was there!  Meaning that you were very natural and seemed liked you behaved the same way you would if I wasn't there.

Susan:  I can always use a chaperon!!  But I did ask you to feel the fabrics sometimes!  What did you think?

Jim:  The fabrics were amazing!  They are even softer than they look!  It is clear that companies are making clothing with a focus on how they feel on the body.  They want people to be comfortable.

Susan:  We met with fab jewelry designer Katie Bartels in her shared workspace office.  What did you think about that set-up and meeting?

Jim:  The shared workspace set-up was very interesting.  I am not sure if I could work in that environment but it seemed like a great fit for Katie and the others working there.  I enjoyed seeing the two of you as small businesswomen talk about the different methods for building and publicizing your brands.  And she took us out for the MOST delicious chocolate chip cookie!  And it was fun getting to see (and weigh in on) the design of the Zoe necklace.

Susan:  Would you go back again?

Jim:  Yes, without a doubt.

Friday, August 2, 2013

5 Days, 5 Outfits

Today was the final day of work for a dear friend and valued co-worker at my day job.  People showed their love and appreciation for her in a variety of ways, including gifts of all types.  But being so fashion and style focused, I just had to share my favorite gift with you!

A self-confessed tomboy who nonetheless loves pretty clothes, my friend has always said she struggles to put together the right combination of clothing and accessories for work.  In order to start her off in her new job in style, three friends got together and outfitted her with clothing and accessories to cover the first 5 days in her new job (plus a bonus outfit to wear to go out with her husband next Friday night to celebrate a successful week at her new company!)

Each day's outfit was wrapped with care in tissue paper, tied with ribbon, and included a card outlining how it could be worn "as is" or combined with other things in her wardrobe!  Included in each day's package were outfit appropriate earrings and accessories!  She may have a lot of things on her mind as she adjusts to a new commute and a new work environment next week, but she won't have to worry about what to wear!

It really made me think about gift giving in a different way.  We all notice what our friends wear - why not give them something to accent that great skirt or pair of jeans?  And tell them you were thinking of that favorite piece in their wardrobe when you purchased it!  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Happy Birthday!

But not to me (not yet, anyway)!  Fellow Alexandria businesswoman Katie Wells, Founder and Event Stylist of Petite Social, celebrates the second birthday of her business starting today!

As part of the celebration, she teamed with so many wonderful locally owned businesses, Zoe included!  By entering the contest on the Petite Social website, you can be eligible to win one of two iPad minis!  All through following the social media sites for the businesses of your choice!

Styling and planning everything from business events to fashion shows to kids parties to bridal showers, Katie brings her gift for making everything just perfect.  What an honor to celebrate with her!