Beauty + Style

First, thank you for all the kind words so many of you sent me after reading this post. I didn’t write it in a cheap attempt to get compliments (I swear, I really am over it now), but it was still nice to realize how far that support system I mentioned reaches. You’re all wonderful.

Now, let’s talk about something frivolous, shall we?

As you may know (from the 8 million times I mention it), I’m taking a little trip this week. To Paris. The primary purpose is to run my first full marathon, but the rest of the week will be dedicated to enjoying France. (Life is such a trial sometimes, isn’t it?)

I started packing last night, and then I thought, you know what I haven’t done in a while? Written a “what to wear” post. Heaven forbid this blog goes legit and only posts about feelings, right?

Here are three variations of outfits I’ve put together for three of the activities I’m most looking forward to on our trip. You know, just in case anyone out there is looking for a little Parisian inspiration.

First, a general sight-seeing uniform:

Paris Sightseeing

Next up, what I plan to wear whilst touring Monet’s gardens:

Touring Monet's Garden

And finally, my ensemble for our all-day wine tour:

French Wine Country

I’m hoping to contain my overpacking instincts by sticking to a simple color palette — only black, white, navy, and pink/coral are making the cut. Anyone else have good tips to avoid overpacking for long-ish trips?

I can’t even begin to express how excited I am for this trip! I’ll be back in a week with (hopefully) tons of great photos and stories to share. À bientôt!

The last time I shared a few of my favorite beauty products, it was met with a flurry of positive response. (Seriously, I heard from blonde pals I hadn’t talked to in a while.)

I think I just always assume I’m the last to discover anything (see: the time I “discovered” the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and Pandora), so when I find out I’ve introduced people to something, I’m kind of standing there like, “Me? I’m kind of hip?”

It’s just unheard of, guys.

But anyway. In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d reveal a few more of my favorite products in the hopes of spreading the love around.

products I like

1. Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector: Combination to Oily
I was a bit rough on BB cream when it first came out (I mean, it’s pretty much foundation, right? This is like trying to rebrand a bun as a top knot). But after using this product for a few months, I stand corrected. I have pretty good skin, but I get some uneven-ness and redness around my nose, and this stuff completely smooths it out. The overall effect is totally glow-y without looking greasy. Plus, it’s under $12. Love that.

2. Queen Helene Mud Masque Pack
I tried this mud masque after it was recommended as a coworker, and it might be the best gift she has ever given me. If you’re prone to blackheads or the occasional pimple, it’s a miracle worker. It pulls the dirt out, and I can’t even see my pores after I wash it off. Seriously, that’s pretty amazing for a $4 mud mask.

3. Salux Beauty Skin Cloth
This disposable wash cloth will change your life. I know, I know; bold statement. But my skin has never been softer than when I started exfoliating with this. It’s from a Japanese beauty brand, and it’s cleaner than your typical loofa because it rinses so completely. Order a bunch now. (Note: The exfoliation is probably too much for your face and…delicate areas. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

4. Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray
Y’all know I love big hair, so I was excited to try this spray after it was recommended by a well-coifed friend. And, guys, it didn’t disappoint. It can sub in for dry shampoo, or be used on clean hair for a little extra oomph. It’s a bit pricey, but makes curls and lift last all day. Can’t be mad at that.

5. DryBar Southern Belle Volumizing Mousse
Like I said, I like big hair. And this is my favorite mousse I’ve ever used. It never makes my hair feel greasy or look like it has a lot of product in it, and it protects from heat styling. Dontcha just love a twofer?

6. Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge fan of the cat eye liner look, and this is the best product I’ve found to create it easily. It seriously lasts all day, and the pen makes it so simple to use. (The trick is to use the point as a sort of stamp to create the eye liner “flick” at the outside corner of the eye. Then simply draw the rest of the line on your eyelid.)

So now you know all my secrets. Anyone else have any great tips to share? (And if you want more suggestions, don’t miss my pal Kayla’s recent post on her top ten favorite makeup products.)

When I posted the final reveal of my Blogger Style Swap on Monday, the strongest reactions went something like this:

“Yeah, sure, the clothes are cute blahblahblah HOW DID YOU DO THAT TOP KNOT?”

Seriously, a bunch of people reached out to me across various media and asked for a tutorial. You guys are way too nice.


I’ve actually made a bit of a study of the top knot/ballerina bun (not surprising, I know), so I know not one, but three ways to create it. And today, I’m sharing all my secrets.

First, collect the necessary materials.


1. Goody Spin Pins
2. Pony tail holder
3. Sephora Collection Bunette (comes in blonde or brown…mine isn’t quite that yellow, I blame my camera)
4. Bobby pins

You want to start out with slightly dirty, texturized hair. If your hair is super straight, like mine, I recommend waiting until the day after you’ve curled it or used a bit of product. Dirty hair has more grip, so the bun with stay better. I’ll usually just wash my bangs so they don’t look gross, like so:


Heeyyyy, it’s my face. Anyway.

The first way to create a top knot is the Roll-And-Twist Method.


1. Start with hair in a very high ponytail. Think Barbie in Malibu. I usually create it by hanging upside down so gravity can help out.

2. Wrap the hair around the ponytail like a cinnamon roll.

3. Twist one Goody Spin Pin into either side of the bun, ideally interlocking them. You may need a few extra bobby pins for stray pieces.

4. Ta-da!

The next method is a true Top Knot Style.


1. Again, start with your high ponytail.

2. Separate the ponytail into two pieces.

3. Tie the pieces into a knot.

4. Wrap the ends around the ponytail to form a bun.

5. Use bobby pins to secure.

6. All knotted up and good to go.

And finally, the Ballerina Bun. (This is the style I was wearing in the swap photos.)


1. Again, you start with the high pony. Thread your hair through the Bunette and slide it to the middle/end of your ponytail. (The more layers you have, the less you will be able to slide the Bunette without hair falling out.)

2. Roll the Bunette forward toward your face. That is very important.

3. Bend the Bunette back into a bun shape. Use bobby pins to secure any loose pieces in the back.

4. Go on with your bad ballerina self.

So there you have it!

Are there any techniques I don’t know about? I’d love to hear how you create this kind of up do.

Thanks to my handsome husband for his help taking these photos at 7 a.m. You’re the best.

Time to get off those tenterhooks, folks, because the time has finally arrived to reveal how I styled the six items I received from Kayla and Madison for our Blogger Style Swap!

For those of you just tuning in, Kayla, Madison, and I were all cleaning out our closets around the same time and thought it would be fun to send each other three items that we never wore anymore to see if a new person could breathe some life into them. While some of the things I received were right up my alley, others took me right out of my comfort zone. (Get my full first impressions here.)

Here’s how I styled each piece (please don’t judge my awkward poses…a model I am NOT):


What it was: Black and camel striped skirt
This skirt was definitely one of my favorite things I received. The colors, pattern, and shape were totally the kind of thing I would have bought, so styling it happened pretty naturally. I added a pair of tights, black booties, and an over-sized black sweater to balance out the fitted bottom. At the last second, a gold necklace and one of my sister’s hats was thrown into the mix.


What it was: Ivory satin tank with black lace detail
I loved how this shirt was neutral but still had some visual interest. It paired easily with a pair of black jodhpurs, brown boots, and a navy tweed blazer I had just bought on Black Friday.


What it was: Orange jeweled statement necklace
Statement necklaces are a big part of my every day look, so this one was easy too. I simply threw it on over a crewneck, long-sleeve black dress, and I was good to go.


What it was: Gray turtleneck
As I mentioned last week, I haven’t worn a turtleneck in ages. But I loved this one so much, I actually recently ordered two more in a similar style! I styled the one Kayla sent me with a burgundy pencil skirt, a furry infinity scarf my sister had given me, and the highest top knot I could manage.


What it was: Gray contrast-cuff blazer
I’ve always been a fan of blazers, and this one had cute polka-dot cuffs that gave an otherwise basic piece a little somethin’ extra. I wore it over a black dress with tights and added a jeweled statement necklace. Because I like bling, ok?


What it was: Champagne-colored trapeze dress with jeweled collar
Aaaand finally, the dress I was most nervous about from the moment I took it out of the box. Ironically, it also ended up with the least amount of styling! All I did was add tights and black booties and another top knot. The dress was a little long on me, so the added height of the hair helped. If I’d had more time, I might have tried to get it altered in length and around the waist a bit, but in the end, it worked out just fine.

So there you have it! Overall, I had a great time exchanging clothes with both these stylish ladies — and got a few new favorite pieces out of the deal!

Don’t miss how Kayla styled her pieces here. (I’ll add a link to Madison’s post when it goes up :)

All photos by Figment Art Photography.

Time for an update on my Blogger Style Swap!

As I’ve said, I was so excited to see what Kayla and Madison had sent me — they both have such great personal style, and I covet their clothes on a regular basis.

For this reveal post, we decided to rate each item we saved on the following scales:

What it was:
First impressions:
Comfort Zone Score: (with 1 being “exactly my style” and 10 being “whoooa Nelly!”)


Here’s what I thought of Madison’s shipment:

What it was: Black and camel striped skirt
First impressions: LOVE. Seriously, can I wear it right now?
Comfort Zone Score: 1 (I mean, it’s from Banana Republic, and as Joey established, BR is my jam.)

What it was: Ivory satin tank with black lace detail
First impressions: The colors are great, and I’ve been looking for more interesting tops (aka, shirts that aren’t just solid navy, black, or white).
Comfort Zone Score: 4, mostly because I don’t wear a lot of blouse-y shirts in general.

What it was: Orange jeweled statement necklace
First impressions: I love a good statement necklace, but I hardly ever wear orange. Time to get creative!
Comfort Zone Score: 5 for color, 1 for sentiment :)

And here’s what I thought of Kayla’s items:

What it was: Gray turtleneck
First impressions: Solid color, and I’ve actually been meaning to try out turtlenecks again. I don’t think I’ve worn one for over a decade — it’s time.
Comfort Zone Score: 2. I can rock a solid long-sleeve shirt like nobody’s business.

What it was: Gray blazer made with sweatshirt material (I don’t know if there’s a fancier term for that.)
First impressions: I love mixing casual and dressier styles, so this blazer is a great example of that in a single piece (and who hasn’t been tempted by the whole fancy sweatshirt/sweatpants trend that’s happening right now?). Plus, I love the contrasting polka dot material at the ends of the sleeves.
Comfort Zone Score: 4. I love blazers, but this material is still new to me in not-actually-sweatshirt form.

What it was: Champagne-colored trapeze dress with jeweled collar
First impressions: I’m going to be totally honest, I was a bit intimidated by this dress. It’s a silhouette I never wear (I’m convinced you have to be tall and teeny-tiny to make it work — two things I am not), and I had serious concerns about looking tent-like. Serious. Concerns.
Comfort Zone Score: 9 for the silhouette alone. I am clearly very particular about my fits ha.

SO HOW DID I STYLE THEM? Guess you’ll have to come back next Monday to see. But just because I’m super generous, here’s another sneak peek:


Get Madison’s first impressions here, and Kayla’s here.

See you next week!

Photos by my ever-so-talented sister, Joelle of Figment Art Photography. (She’s awesome, so if you live anywhere near Des Moines, you should hire her right this second to photograph your senior pics/baby pics/family pics/wedding pics/awkward blogger style photos. Like, now.)

I’m pretty excited about today’s post.


So I have these two friends, Kayla and Madison. (If you don’t read their blogs in the regular, you’re seriously missing out.)


The thing about Kayla and Madison is that not only do they write great blogs, not only are they both incredibly talented, not only are they the nicest gals you could ever hope to be friends with, they’re also incredibly stylish. (As I tell them every time they post anything outfit-related on Instagram.)


Which is why I was so thrilled a couple of weeks ago when we all decided to participate in a clothing swap. We each sent the other two three items from our closets that we never wore anymore, and I can’t wait to see how they styled the items I sent.


But first, we thought it would be fun to kick off our swap with an interview with our husbands on what they think of our style. Joey’s responses were predictably hilarious, but also a little enlightening. It was also like pulling teeth to get him to say anything critical about what I wear. What can I say? The guy likes me.


Here’s what he had to say:


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Q: How would you describe my style?
Joey: Classy and individual. You have your own style. It’s kind of trendy but not like everybody else. None of our friends dress like you.

Q: What is your favorite thing I wear (and why)?
Joey: I think your accessories always make your outfit. Most notably your shoes and necklaces. You always look good in boots…I would say boots. I don’t want to sound pervy. [Justine note: Bahahaha]

Q:What is your least favorite thing I wear (and why)?
Joey: Flats. They’re a bit plain and boring. [Justine note: REALLY?] Yeah. Something else I hate — that fortunately you don’t do — is when girls wear platform sandals. I think that’s a thug thing. And what are those flood pants? Khaki things? [Justine note: Capris?] Yeah, maybe I don’t like those either.

Q: Do you remember what I was wearing on our first date?
Joey: I believe it was a blouse and jeans with a scarf of some sort…very casual for Chili’s. [Justine note: It was a navy dress. The strawberry margarita must have clouded his judgment :)]


Q: What do you wish I would wear more often?
Joey: A smile. [Justine note: Come on.] Bikinis? I don’t know.


Q: What store best describes my style?
Joey: Banana Republic or J. Crew. [Justine note: Nailed it.]


So there you have it. Check our Kayla’s husband interview here, and Madison’s here. And stay tuned for most posts about the swap, including what the girls sent me.