Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To Regift or Not To Regift?

Few of us has disposable income for brand new expensive gifts and most of us have too much stuff, anyway, so this question has come up in my circle of friends and family more than once in the last few weeks.  Some consider regifting to be the height of tacky and insulting and others think it an alternative to unwanted items gathering dust under beds or filling landfills.  
Please, discuss:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Advice to a Young Actor-Musician

Dear Leenya,
My name is Andrew and after seeing a performance of Company last spring on PBS I immediately fell in love with it. After I saw Company I wanted to know more, so I looked it up on the internet and happened to stumble upon your website which then led me to your blog. The reason I'm telling you all this is because I have many questions as to how you've managed to become successful as both a musician and an actress. I myself am a trumpet player and I also enjoy acting, though was unaware that I could find a common ground. Please reply with any advice that you feel would help guide me in the right direction to having a career as enjoyable as yours.

Humbly yours, Andrew

Dear Andrew,
I'm so glad you loved Company!  It was one of the most rewarding artistic experiences of my life and am so glad that PBS aired it for all who missed it on Broadway! (I'm pictured here with Raul Esparza as Jenny experimenting with pot for the first time.  Check out excerpts on Youtube)
I'll offer some advice I often give that pertains to this blog.  Aspiring performers are told that persistence is the answer to success, but they are very rarely taught HOW to persist, how to stick it out during the dry spells that all artists who are trying to make a living at their art inevitably go through. 
There are so many paths to "success" in this business, not just doing-it-for-the-love-of-it amateurs (a noble and rewarding motivation, by the way!) or Madonna super-stardom.  For those of us who fall somewhere in between, ways to pay the bills vary.  
The key is to first find a "day job" or "survival job" that is flexible and doesn't suck the soul out of you (Mine have ranged anywhere from Sunday School Guitar Lady to Department Store Christmas Tree Decorator and Celtic Rock Fiddle Player) and then when you do finally book that fabulous Broadway gig (the actor-musician concept WILL be explored again, either by John Doyle or other daring directors.  I did tell Stephen Sondheim that he should write a musical with us crazy quadruple threats in mind.  Wouldn't that be cool?!), you must put half of your shiny new paycheck in the bank and continue to live cheaply (definitely a challenge in the most expensive city in the world!) so that when that wonderful show closes or you can't bear performing that show for one more day (It happens!  Sad...) you can live off those savings.  
The truth is, there is no "making it".  It's one in a million actor who escapes having to auditioning for that next job (eventually with the help of an agent or manager, which makes open calls unnecessary, thank God!) and you will always have times of unemployment, especially if you don't want to take work out of town or do shows that don't interest you artistically.  
But that's the downside.  The upside is that if you prioritize and find ways to live with a small overhead, you get to spend most of the hours of your day doing what you love.  
You're right.  I am having an enjoyable career!  Have a blast and embrace this crazy thing that you've chosen to do.  It's an adventure that not everyone has the guts to do.  And keep logging in to What Would Leenya Do for more tips on living stylishly and inexpensively at the same time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ornaments that Complement

If you've been reading my blog from the beginning, then you should feel like you already know my friend Chad.  I wanted to include a photo of his living room this Christmas as he not only has a great sense of design and love of  all things holidays, but he does it all on a budget with stoop sale finds and antique shops.  Pictured here are decorations that caught his eye, but are mostly chosen carefully to fill out a color scheme.
Merry Christmas to you all and here's to a creative and rich-in-spirit 2009!  
Don't forget to take my Resolutions poll...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wrap it Up

Don't be boring! 
Anyone can go out and buy expensive wrapping and matchy- smatchy bows and ribbons. If you've saved wrapping from last year, your gifts will all look different and the look under the tree will be more festive, fun, and eclectic.  
Obviously, some large gifts will have to be wrapped with new paper (best to buy only paper that is recyclable and/or biodegradable!  Jack's 99 Cent World is the best for bargains), but if you have a bag of bows and ribbons that you've kept, you can put together some great combinations.  You can even keep brown boxes unwrapped, using ribbons and try multiple bows of different sizes.  Experiment with taping tiny stockings or other ornaments that have lost their hanger to gifts.  Ribbons with wires can be instantly brought back to life with some reshaping.  
And what about Christmas Cards from years gone past?  Cut off the tops and use them as gift cards or tape two tops together and create a gift envelope for small gifts.
It's not just for Grandmas!  Find one small shopping bag and save the wrapping that wasn't hastily ripped off by children young and old.  You'll thank yourself next Christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ornaments that Document

The year that Ted and I bought our first little country cottage together, we wanted to give gifts that would also serve as announcements but of course, we didn't have a lot of money left that Holiday season.  What I did have, though, was a bag full of leather scraps that I found in the Garment District, a small box full of random jewelry fasteners, and some fabric paint.  Ted had a leather punch and some good wood glue.  I found some festive ribbon and after about three days of our little assembly line, we had about 45 ornaments to send out, each slightly different.  The paint is metallic and quite opaque and worked perfectly on the leather.  We ripped paper squares for a rustic look and glued them to the back for documentation.  Et Voila!  Homemade Christmas Gifts done! And it's fun to go to apartments of friends and family and see little likenesses of our Gingerbread House (that's what we affectionately call it) hanging on the tree.

Show Off!

Go on, admit it!  You're popular!  So why not display your Christmas Cards for all to see?  
There are probably many ways to make them part of your Holiday decor, but here is one of the simplest:  Tack a fun ribbon across a room and hang your cards like they're clothes of love and praise out to dry in the light of the season.  

Friday, December 12, 2008


Sometimes we forget Advent.  Every year, you might think that Christmas starts the day after Thanksgiving and by the time we reach December 24th, we're exhausted and Christmas-ed out.  I'll admit I rarely get to church these days for one reason or another, but one thing that keeps me coming back is our Rector, Bill Tully and his fabulous sermons.  He sends out a weekly message called Crossroads and I wanted to share this week's, all about the season of Advent.  Even if Christmas is just a secular celebration for you of family and the season, I think his message offers a great perspective.

Is Advent taking hold?
Is it my wishful thinking, or is Advent a little less frenzied this year?  Is the Spirit taking rueful advantage of recession and touching us all in that place where we self-regulate a little--maybe even get a bit contemplative?
Small and compact, Advent as a season on the sacred calendar has always been counter-cultural.  In its earliest form it was six weeks not four, and it deliberately served for Christmas the same penitential purpose as Lent does for Easter.  Counter to the theme of "coming" in the sense of Christ coming by birth into the world, its themes focused on last things, the "second coming" agenda of Heaven, Hell, Death, and Judgement.
So if our usual over-indulgence and hurry are muted by the genuinely tough times, is that so bad?  That's not the same as asking if God is sending bad things to punish us.  Such a theology assumes God is puppeteer pulling every little string of our lives, a surprising way of seeing God that otherwise thoughtful people often fall into.  A different but perfectly traditional, even orthodox, way of seeing things is that God does NOT pinpoint every action or occurrence in history or our lives.  Instead, God gives us the ability to respond to what happens, and even to work with God to redeem the times.  
That's what I think we're seeing this Advent.  I'm actually hearing more and more people struggling to find meaning in what we're going through.  Some even turn to the riches of our tradition to see how our practice might change lives, ours, and others.
That's more enlightened theology, of course, but it's more than that.  You CAN slow down, care for yourself, make loving and proportionate decisions about how to live and celebrate, and reach out in love to at least one other human being.  
The New York Times is taking reader comments this week on the question, How do you celebrate the holidays when your loved ones are away?  I was struck by one melancholy reply:  "I'm usually depressed... I go to church where people say "may peace be with you" and then ignore me."
Wouldn't the world be different-- and a little closer to the love Jesus lived and died for-- if each of us could turn that unhappy moment around, and pay attention to someone who needs that love?  If Advent is touching you in this hard year, you'll know what to do.
Bill Tully

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Original Renaissance Girl

I came across these photos of my Great Grandmother, Amber May Fowler Rideout.  She was the original Renaissance Girl.  My childhood beds were covered in her bonneted-girl quilts and I now have my parents' wedding ring quilt in our bedroom.  I've talked to several relatives and each has a quilt from her somewhere.  How many quilts must she have hand-sewn?  I can't begin to imagine...
My Father reminded me that she also knit amazing thick zip-up sweaters, very stylish in the 50's, for many of her grandchildren, even with matching hats.  I remember seeing photos of my Father and his three brothers wearing slightly different but matching sweaters in the snow.  I have one of the sweaters now and it is so substantial, I can wear it in place of a coat!
Every birthday for the last 10 years of her life, I'd receive a different doll in the mail.  She embroidered a different outfit for each one:  One a pink and white 18th Century Lady, one a red and black Senorita, the next year a Princess in blue and white.  Each even had undergarments and perhaps a hat or matching tiny purse.   They must have taken forever to embroider with a tiny needle and the finest yarn she could find.  Her dolls were too small and delicate to live the fast-paced life that my Barbies lived, so they remained admired on upper shelves and I can only really appreciate them now. 
My grandmother raised many children on the rural plains of Alberta, Canada and I can imagine that ingenuity and creativity meant actual survival for her.  I'm guessing bargain shopping wasn't really an option and my efforts to survive in show business and a big city probably pale in comparison.   I remember meeting her once when I was about four, but I wish I could have really talked to her.
Thanks for your hand-made works of art, Great Grandma!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Progress Check

How's it going?  Have you finished your Holiday preparations yet?  No?  Have you even made a dent?  
It's a bit out of character for me to NOT procrastinate, but I made my gifts again this year and am about halfway done already!  Just thought I'd celebrate a bit by posting...
Who's making their gifts this year?  Share, please...  


Holiday travel:  Is it bringing out the Grinch in you?  I used to love to fly, but shoe removal and liquid restriction (not to mention escalating airfares) are enough to make one wonder if taking the bus would have been a better option after all.  And with baggage allowances dwindling monthly,  advanced preparation is a must.
I used to be an overpacker.  I'd show up at Grandma's local airport with a suitcase that even two people couldn't lift and on top of that, I'd still have a carry-on and a heavy coat.  Half the clothing and shoes that I stuffed into my bigger-than-God suitcase went unworn.  My reasoning was, I didn't know what I'd feel like wearing once I reached my destination.  Better to be prepared.  Well, I'll tell you:  There is nothing like two months of carrying a 60 pound sea bag all over Europe (Ah, the post college graduation Eurail Pass!) to make even a hearty Renaissance Girl mend her ways.
These days, being prepared means having one carry-on bag that you don't have to worry about losing during flight delays and unexpected travel changes.  It means you won't take up too much room where you're staying and that you will actually be able to locate things when you want to wear them!  And let's not underestimate the joys of being able to go directly to security without checking a bag.  Note:  Pack your carry-on WITHOUT unzipping the optional expanding zipper.  Save that for shopping that might accidentally (yeah, right!) take place during your travels.  
But how to START packing?  
I make at least a mental list of what I'll be doing during my stay and what wardrobe requirements there will be.
I start selecting clothes from my closet by deciding on the nicest outfit first (seeing a performance, going out to dinner with family, etc.).
I choose 2 pairs of shoes (okay, with my athletic shoes for working out, three), one of them completing the event outfit, the other, perhaps, a boot that is comfortable and stylish and that I can wear on the plane (leaving room for clothes in my carry-on).  Don't forget, make sure they're easy to remove for security...
I always choose too much at first, knowing I'll be putting at least half of it back in the closet.
Keep it all neutral so it will work with anything you pack.  Don't forget hose or tights for skirts, socks for athletic shoes and boots.
Hey!  I mention this in my advice to On the Verge in the Lady Godiva post!  Well, it works for packing, too.  If the boots you chose are brown, then that would be a fabulous neutral to match a belt to.  Then why not choose more natural and Earth tones?  If they're black, find a black belt and choose brighter colors.   
Depending on the length of your stay, you'll only need one pair of jeans (I know, that's a tough one), one skirt, 2 long sleeved tops, 1 sweater, one jacket, maybe one pair of slacks, and a couple camis and a t-shirt.  Separates are better than one-piece items (dresses) because everything you brought can be mixed and matched (Yay, color scheme!) to create different outfits.
Just bring the earrings, watch, and necklace that you wear all the time.  Much less hassle, maybe plus something for the nice outfit...  A Pashmena scarf can be worn a couple of different ways.
Remember the liquids thing, as it applies to carry-ons.  You can always buy stuff there.
Keep it simple.  It's winter, you'll have a coat.  (Does the coat match your color scheme?)  And reading material for when your flight is inevitably delayed.  
Actually, I'm wondering that for myself about this post, but seriously, that should probably be
your next question.
When the flight finally takes off, I remember how I actually do love to fly.  It's a miracle, if you think about it, being that far above the clouds and seeing the world from a wider perspective.  See how small all of our problems are in this big universe?  
Where are you going this Holiday Season?  Have a great time!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sample Sale!

Have I mentioned Sample Sales as sources for stylish bargains?  No?  Well here's one this week!  Worth has a GORGEOUS fall and winter collection and the website is a great place to see examples of assembling stylish outfits (On the Verge, this one's for you!).

Laura & Saundra of Strategic Image Partners
Invite you to the Fall/Winter Worth Sample Sale
For the first time ever, Worth is marking down it's show room samples at 50% off!
Come in on Friday for the best selection and ask for Saundra or Laura.

Unsold fall & winter inventory from the warehouse
will also be available for special order (by Saundra and Laura) at 35% off.  

Strategic Image Partners Client Appreciation & Early Bird Shopping
Friday, December 5th, 11am -7pm
Enjoy wine and hor d'oeuvres from 4pm-7pm
@ Worth Showroom:  37 West 57th St. 8th Floor
(continued on Saturday, December 6th from 11am -7pm
and daily Monday, 12/8 to Friday, 12/12 from 11am-7pm
No Appointment necessary

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Where do you get yours?
In this post, I'll be talking about finding ideas for designs for painting Christmas gifts.
With fabric paint, you can personalize just about anything:  Napkins, aprons, jeans, t-shirts, things you can buy inexpensively and spruce up in your own way.  Metallic paints (available at most arts and craft stores) provide the best color saturation and show up on most fabrics.  With such paint brands as Lumiere by Jacquard and Delta Glitter Stuff for fabric, the sky is the limit.  Add Aleene's OK to Wash-It Fabric Bond glue and fake jewels and beads can be added to the mix.  
So now you're staring at your blank canvas and have no idea where to start.  But you can find inspiration for your designs almost everywhere you look.  Here is a photo of one of my house plants.  Leaves and berries are the basis for so many patterns.  I visited a Victorian "castle" this weekend and was overwhelmed by the ornate designs that covered each surface, most with vines and leaves and flowers of some kind.  Pictured to the right is wallpaper that I saw in an art deco hotel.  It has such an interesting take on paisleys and swirls I had to document it.  Below are photos of details of the stone wall surrounding the Bethesda Fountain in New York.  Usually, the fountain gets all my attention but for some reason that day, I really studied the other stone work.  I realized that I have walked past these amazing designs for years without noticing that though the wall is fairly symmetrical and seemingly repetitive, each of these little stone carvings is slightly different, it's own gorgeous ornate design.  

So the best thing to do once you've decided on an inspiration is to find a practice scrap.  I like to paint freehand, but stencils and sketching out your design with a washable pencil is a great option.  Mistakes are difficult to wipe off.  I compare this process with music improvisation, where turning your mistakes into brilliant choices and uniqueness is key.
Finishing requires air drying (read the directions on the bottle for drying time) and then ironing to set.  The end result of a painted design is less time consuming than embroidery and can be more striking or more subtle, depending on your color choices.  

Pictured here are my own projects and experimentation with this design technique:  a jean jacket and jeans.  They have held up to machine washing.  For my Holiday gifts this year, I am considering sewing some napkins (use 100% cotton fabric)(lots of hemming, but pretty easy once you get used to the first one) and then painting the corners in simple designs, each slightly different like the Central Park Wall stone work above.  The thing about cloth napkins, too, is that it cuts down on the amount of paper towels that fill land fills.  I love using them every day.

Have fun!  Let me know where your design inspiration comes from!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lady Godiva

Dear Leenya,
I just visited your blog and understand that you offer advice.  Here is my problem:
I don't enjoy shopping, am not a thrift store person, and cannot sew.  All of my clothes are old and falling apart.  I used to have a personal shopper (a gay male friend you and I share in common) but we have not lived together for 13 years.  What should I do?
- Woman on the Verge of Being Lady Godiva

Dear On the Verge,
Wow.  Starting from scratch.  I love a good challenge!  Buckle your seat belts...  
First of all, let's look on the bright side.  This is an opportunity for a fresh start!  It sounds like you have nothing to stubbornly hold onto or cherish for sentimental reasons and therefore, making an entire change is going to be easy!  Now, since you're writing to me and not Martha Stewart or Sarah Palin's former personal shoppers, I'm also assuming that your funds are limited.  Some might look at these challenges as daunting, even paralyzing, but I see them as a chance to relocate your creativity and imagination bones.   Break free!  But not in a Lady Godiva kind of way.  Save that for the summer season.
I hear you about about losing your Fairy God Roommate.  There is nothing like shopping with your bestest gay friend (Hi Chad, I miss you!) but don't despair!  Once you are able to commit a bit of time to your personal makeover, you'll get into the spirit.  Think of it as a gift to yourself and you deserve it!  It sounds like you've been denying yourself for far too long.
Start with  PILIBST.
Is her spellcheck on the fritz, you ask?
Why, no!  In fact, it stands for:

3. LIST     

PILIBST.  It's kind of fun to say!

1.  PURGE  First, take all of your clothes out of your closet and making a giant mountain in the middle of your room.  This could get messy but that's okay.  Separate any less-than-flattering and ill-fitting clothes in a DONATE pile  (large saved shopping bags come in handy at this point).  Actually try things on.  There should be clothes flying around the room at this point.  Good rules of thumb here are:  If you haven't worn it in a year, there's a reason for that.  I know, your ex-boyfriend bought it for you or it might fit when you lose five pounds, but consider that after you drop it off at the Salvation Army tomorrow, someone else could be enjoying it or using it to keep warm.  Keep thinking, "new start" (and PILIBST)  and zap zing ta-da!  You have room in your closet for your new wardrobe!  That alone should help psych you out for shopping!
2.  INVENTORY   Look at the pile that is left including shoes and accessories (Sounds like yours is going to be small indeed, On the Verge).  
3.  LIST  Actually grab a notepad and pen and start writing down what is missing from your KEEP pile.  Record your present sizes.  This will minimize the time you waste shopping and will help focus your search.  Here's a list of wardrobe basics that should go on the list if you don't see them (workout clothes are necessary but are not part of this post):
Cute Jeans:  Medium rise, either boot cut, straight leg, wide leg or skinny, dark washes are most flattering
Pants Suit that you can split up and wear as separates
Black or Solid Color Turtleneck  and Cardigan Sweaters (wrap sweaters are a flattering alternative) and Separates
Tank Tops and Camisoles that are long enough to cover the hips
Button-up White Shirt, at least one, tailored and fitted in the waist, ruffles, anyone?
Modern Print Dresses and Skirts, knee length is best
Tall Leather Boots, black or brown
Pointy Toe Pumps, high or kitten heel
Ballet Flats, metallics or animal prints are fun...
Big Belt that can be cinched tight or loosened to fall across the hips, black or brown
Dress Slacks in a neutral color, should fall from the hip, not tight in the leg
And while we're at it, let's talk color.  What's your favorite?  What seems to be predominant in the KEEP pile?  Find the average and begin a scheme.  Since we are building you a starting wardrobe, it would be great to have items that could all mix and match with each other (and not in an 80's way, if you know what I mean...).  Is Black your Neutral?  Nowadays, you can make anything into a neutral (color is the new black) but that is a bit of an advanced technique.  Brown and Black are wonderful places to start.  Then, do you prefer muted Earth tones, like cranberry, sage, and purple, or are you more of a pastel girl?  Your natural coloring is a good gage, but if you're brunette and love Navy, don't let rules limit you completely.  You'll add a splash of red for pop in the accessories.  
4.  INSPIRATION  Though I try to get my current events and interesting reading from almost anything else, I pick up a fashion magazine every once in a while.  Vogue can be intimidating and hard to translate into every day fashions, but Elle and Cosmopolitan always have some good "What's New This Season" articles.   Fold over the page of what you like.  It's a good place to get ideas of how to put together things you already have in a new way as well.  Also, I do love a good makeover show and one of the most helpful, I think, is What Not To Wear on TLC (8pm Friday nights with reruns at noon weekdays). The hosts, Stacey and Clinton, are hilarious, but if you watch how they take into account each unique fashion victim's style issues, it's all about packaging, about presenting your best self to the world in a way that is accessible to every size and shape.
5.  BUDGET  If you have two hundred dollars to commit to updating your wardrobe, that's a good starting point, believe it or not.  Just know that the boots, suit, and jeans will take up the most of this amount.  I brought my Mom shopping and after just two hours and two hundred dollars, we had started a good collection of staples for her.  It was a Mom Makeover!
6. SHOPPING  Yes, you can.  And you can learn to love it!  From now on, there is a treasure out there (your new wardrobe) and you are going to find it.  And I won't make you start at Thrift Stores.  Thrift Shopping takes technique and practice and you will work up to it, I promise.  But in the meantime,  Overstock is going to be your friend.  
Now some people recommend Outlet Malls but I find them a bit of a trap and not much more "bargain" than a sale at Macy's (which is nothing to shake a stick at but I find department stores exhausting).  Going to Old Navy and H & M for basics is great,  but then head to Daffy's, TJ Maxx, Century 21, Marshalls, Filene's Basement, and Strawberry and if you're feeling daring, Conway.  DSW Shoe Warehouse is good for discounted shoes  and for jeans, you should try Blues or OMG on 8th Ave. in the 30's.  Oh, that we could shell out the hundreds of dollars it would take to own Sevens and Lucky's, but you won't need those jeans 'cause you can find up-to-date Levi's in the aforementioned stores.  
I hate to say it, but try things on. In the dressing room in front of a mirror.  Ask fellow shoppers and sales people what they think.  It's frustrating and time consuming, but it will save you time in the long run, and if you you can't return, money as well.  If you wear low maintenance clothing, changing won't feel so tedious.
Look for easy care.  I love silk and cashmere, but if you have to dry clean it every time you wear it it can become expensive.  
HOLIDAY TIP:  Didn't find the perfect belt or turtleneck?  Why not add them to your Christmas List when your Mom or Aunt calls to ask what you need?  
7.  TAILOR  You are not the only one who can't sew.  And even if you can sew, sometimes it's better to outsource alterations to the professionals (like shoe repair it can be worth it).  Hems and bringing the waist in are easy and inexpensive operations and can make the difference between clothing you'll wear and those that become a permanent fixture on a hanger in the back of your closet.
And that brings us to the end of PILIBST.
WHEW!  I feel like Superman after he made the world spin backwards on its axis to save Lois Lane's life!  But, On the Verge, you are going to feel and look like a million bucks  in your new wardrobe  and no one has to know that it cost significantly less than that!  I mean, Lady Godiva is so "last millennium".  Have fun and let me know how it goes...  

Monday, November 24, 2008

NPR backtrack

National Public Radio featured a fabulous interview this weekend with Tina Seamonster who hosts a website about homemade gifts.  She also talks about searching Google for instructions, some including video footage, on hundreds of craft ideas.  (Feel free to leave links in comments for your favorites) 
I loved all the comments posted on about this subject... Apparently, homemade and creative gifts are now all the rage.  Who knew?  
Oh yeah, we did!

Deck the Halls

No, I'm not going to write about cutting snowflakes out of newspaper or stringing popcorn and cranberries to trim your tree, though those are always cheap, fun  ways to start decorating for the holidays.  Today I'm posting about your next step:  Overstock and 99 Cent Stores.
Okay, who hasn't been to Jack's World?  
There are two:  One at 110 W. 32nd St. between 6th and 7th and the other at 45 W. 45th St. between 5th and 6th Ave. and if you're looking for unique and practically free Christmas decorations and gifts, run, don't walk!  It is also great for beauty products and gourmet food items, believe it or not, but in this post, I'm talking holidays.  
Obviously you'll look for tree ornaments (you never know what you'll find), wrapping paper and gift bags (more than half the regular price), gourmet candy and chocolate, and  stockings (I found the cutest beaded ones this year for 9.99!) but there is 
also a plethora of garlands and faux greenery (pictured here in both photos).  Rifle through the linens as well, as table runners (pictured here adorning my living room mirror) can be used creatively.  Some years, there is an extra amazing selection of tree skirts in modern designs.  I bought three 
boxes of Christmas Ball ornaments a couple of years ago that I pile into my large assortment of vases from opening nights gone past and create festive holiday sculptures (an idea I stole from my sister-in-law, Marie).   Instead of your standard red and green, I've chosen purple, terra cotta, and gold for my holiday accents.  Silver and blue are another creative alternative.
Don't forget to score the aisles of kitchenware and toys 
for your Christmas list.  With all the bargains, it's easy to forget what you came for,  but go any other time besides lunch hour and after work and you won't feel overwhelmed.  
While you're there, pick up some clothespins (most likely a packet for 99 cents) and some festive ribbon to string across your apartment (idea courtesy of my friend Elizabeth).  Hang your holiday cards from it instead of stuffing them in a drawer this year.  The cards add a holiday flair and every day, you'll be reminded how popular you are!  My holiday gift to you:  I've given you yet another way to multitask!  

Monday, November 17, 2008

Water Water Everywhere...

Caution:  What I'm about to post about is a shocking proposal but here goes.  
I'm talking water.  
Think back, way back to a time long long ago, a time when we would drink water from the tap.  We would turn our faucet on and fresh, clean, potable water would just flow freely into our glasses or from drinking fountains and our thirst would be no more. It was a simpler time, a time when we didn't fill our already over-burdened land fills with empty bottles made of petroleum-based plastics that put us deeper and deeper into a dependency on Middle Eastern oil.  We brought water bottles and filled them as needed with this life-giving substance and no one ever imagined that we would pay more for bottled water than we would for soda or milk or even gas.  Water was free.  Remember those days?  
Oh, wait.  Water is still free, or for those who pay a  nominal monthly charge for water use, practically free.
And by some miracle, in most parts of the United States, tap water is completely drinkable and often delicious.  
We should never waste it or take it for granted, as fresh unpolluted water is a rare commodity that should be conserved and protected, but while it is still an option, we should not buy bottled water.  Ever.  
Start now.  Invest in a water bottle, or at the very least, refill the bottle that you bought yesterday and bring it with you tomorrow.  Now I think that the taste of New York City tap 
water rivals even Colorado mountain water, but if you live in a place that provides less-than-perfect water flowing from your pipes, use that Brita Filter (for sale at half the price at Jack's 99 Cent World on 45th St. between 5th and 6th Ave.)  in your refrigerator and fill your water bottle up with that.  It takes one more extra thought a day, but we could reduce our landfills by a significant amount and yes, use less foreign oil.
I know, it's crazy talk.  But we have power as consumers, more than we know.  And it's another way to save money.  See how I always come back to that?
Okay, is anyone else thirsty for a long tall drink of water?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tighten Your Belt

  Last night, I was heading to another of Ted's opening night parties  and I had nothing to wear! 
Okay, I have plenty to wear but I was in one of those moods.  You know the feeling.  Flipping through my dresses, I didn't feel like wearing something I'd worn before.  I mean, who wants to show up on in the same outfit more than once?  On the other hand, now is not the time to be spending money on new clothes.
It was obviously time to experiment with putting things together in a new way.   So many things have come back in style (the thrifter's dream!) but what items from days of yore can be reworked and what should we let fade into nostalgia?
I worked for a wardrobe supervisor at college one summer and I remember her talking about the 60's retro revival at the time.  "If you were able to wear it the first time around, you're too old to wear it when it comes back in style."  Doris did teach me how to sew a professional hem, God rest her soul, but I beg to differ on her style advice.  You just have to know what you can get away with.

shoulder pads
too much matchy matchy
pure polyester, unless the print and style are just too hard to resist...

skinny jeans
cuffed or cropped boots
tall boots (no square heels or toes), high heel or low heel
large geometric earrings
multiple bracelets
oversized movie star sunglasses
costume jewelry
leggings and legwarmers (not for the faint at heart, and even harder to pull off if you're over thirty)
oversized sweaters
pencil skirts
tab collar or tie sash collar flowing blouses, look for gathers at the yoke and sleeves
oversized belts

Yes, the belt is back!  And it's a great way to add a fresh look to wardrobe staples.  It's a hard one for me to get used to again, especially since low rise jeans have put the emphasis away from the real waist for so long.  It feels strange to have something cinched around my middle and I can't help but feel I'm breaking up the line.   You know, the line you try to create, the illusion of the hourglass...  But I'm branching out! Patent leather is a great look this fall and sometimes I'll even layer two belts, one over the other.  If I don't feel like I have the perfect belt, I'll throw on three at a time and knot them instead of buckle them.  It gives a great layered look with boots. Even a scarf can act as a belt, tied on like an obie or a cummerbund.  Give it a try.   Go ahead tighten your belt!  
So the outfit I wore last night (pictured above) consisted of things I already had in my closet: 
brown leather boots I found at Beacon's Closet in Williamsburg for 25 dollars
a grey wool and spandex pencil skirt that I took in on the sides for 8 dollars
(try it on inside out and pin, undo the hem and waistband if needed, then sew and re-hem)
a violet 80's blouse that I darted in the waist, front and back, and shortened the long sleeves to the cap sleeves for 5 dollars
vintage necklace and bracelet from Love Saves the Day in the Village for 8 dollars
Grandma's earrings
a long brown wool trench that I found at the, you guessed it, Salvation Army Coat Sale for 30 dollars
a big brown belt, cinched tight, of course, from Salvation Army for 2 dollars

A stylish new outfit to wear to Ted's opening night party:  Seventy Eight Dollars.
Getting the chance to be inspired by my husband's acting once again:  Priceless.  

Sunday, November 9, 2008

First Stop Holiday Shop

If you're able to spend money this season on gifts, a great place to start is by supporting local artists.  Here are some suggestions:

Actorcraft Fair
Tia Zorne
Erin Reiter, "Stem Jewels"
Marie Koch, Jewelry & Visual Art
Sarah Jane Nelson Millan Jewelry Design, Life is Rosey 
Holiday CD's
American Modern Ensemble, Three Holiday CD's
Boyd's for Praise Company, "Joy in the Morning Light"
Original Music
featuring Leenya:
the Chillbillies
Please feel free to add to this list in the comments... No self promotion is shameless in this post!
Pass the art around!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It's That Time Again.

So you've just finished putting away your Hallowe'en Costume (homemade from thrift store finds  and recycled items, of course) and we know the election results...  Time to start making our holiday gifts!  
And why not?  If there was ever a time to make your holiday gifts, this is it!   Many a Christmas season past, I procrastinated my holiday shopping until well into December  and while waiting in some line for an hour and a half I would make a pledge that next year, next year, I would plan ahead and make my gifts again like I used to when I was  a kid.  
I was just talking with my cousin Molly about this over dinner last night.  Our Moms were the ones who got us making our own gifts, partly because money always seemed tight, but also because handmade gifts can mean so much more than something storebought.  Making gifts takes time, but it's time spent getting into the Spirit of giving and less time spent waiting in lines shopping.  Even diehard shoppers can lose the spirit in holiday shopper crowds.  
First, make your list and check it twice.  Of course your parents, siblings,  and your spouse get something unique from the money you save making gifts for others, but 30 or so of your family, friends and coworkers would be titillated by a small one-of-a-kind gift.
I have so many great family Holiday  memories involving glitter, felt, and the occasional applehead doll.  Mom and I would set up a little assembly line and an ornament that hangs on a relative's family tree thirty years later would be created.  Could the same be said about that click of your mouse at  
The year we purchased our cabin, Ted and I made ornaments out of leather scraps that I had saved.  I painted them with fabric paint to look like our little "gingerbread house".   Ted bored holes in their tips and red ribbon looped around for tree hang-age.  I still see them in friends and relatives' houses during the holiday season!   They are such a great reminder of a milestone in our lives and they were extremely inexpensive to ship.  
This last year, I recorded a CD of holiday music on Garage Band on my iMac.  I was able to make   thirty five copies with a festive label and CD case that served as a holiday card of sorts.  I also was able to email mp3's from the CD to people as a Holiday E-Card.  I can picture that this would be a great gift idea from young parents.  Even if you go into a studio, for just a couple hundered dollars you could record your child singing or talking and relatives could cherish it for decades. 
How many of you reading have too much stuff?  Me.  I have too much stuff.   My husband and my parents have too much stuff.  There's nothing wrong this year with sending a card that indicates that money has been donated in your loved one's name to your favorite charity.  Or why not send a homemade gift certificate offering a personal  service (tailoring, accounting, balloon tying)?  Or a movie night?  It's time to get creative, people.   No worries.  Next season you'll be able to purchase the newest useless expensive gadget from Brookstone or Christie's again.  Why not use this season to search your soul?

Friday, November 7, 2008


It was a moment in America's history, a moment when we were looking for a leader.  
We had been attacked and after 9/11, our president was going to tell us how to carry on.  We listened and we believed.  I mean, who wouldn't want to live in a reality where buying whatever we want regardless of our income could save the Nation?   We took it to heart and went deep into an unprecedented debt that has brought us to the greatest economic crisis in our lifetimes. 
Now, it may be true that measuring our buying power will tell us the health of our economy.   Chris Matthews  said today before  Barack Obama's first press conference as President Elect that we can't all turn into Ebenezer Scrooge now, hiding our money under the mattress.  Conversely, we are being called for the first time in decades to sacrifice in other ways besides sending our sons and daughters to fight over seas.  
So how does this all relate to my theories of Future Style, in living Ren?  
For me, it's about priority.  It's about putting our hard earned dollars into our future, not into worn out past policies.  
It's like with energy.  We have reached the future.  We can video phone and communicate in unbelievable ways.  We can fly, but we are still fueled by the inefficient, polluting energy source caused by burning stuff .  Scientists are finally looking to nature to try to find out how trees have been living for hundreds of years at a time just by storing sunlight.  This is what I'm talking about.   Looking at old things in a totally new way.  It's getting excited about having a new puzzle to solve.
How can you be money-wise and not be a Scrooge?  I suppose it's a balance but it's not an impossible one and it's not reserved for us low income-ers.  I watched a show on HGTV last night about a woman who made her house out of a recycled 737 Jet.  I'm sure it wasn't a cheap way to build a house (it was also beautifully designed), but  it involved focusing her finances, prioritizing where her money was spent.  
Maybe my ideas of saving money can help someone spend money where it counts, like buying energy efficient appliances, or building with recycled products and heat saving windows.  Maybe you don't have to wait to make a million dollars to live your dreams as well as give money to charity.  Hopefully, my artist's perspective can help someone live a fulfilling life while getting out of debt.  
I can dream, can't I?    

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Measuring the Drapes

There comes a time in everyone's life when you wonder, is it too soon?  Can I truly begin to picture what my life could be, or will I get my hopes up, only to have my dreams be crushed?  When can we start measuring the drapes?  
And the answer is, as soon as possible.
Creative visualization is one of the best ways to start redesigning your life.  When looking for apartments or houses, I spend time with each promising choice and picture how it could become home.  I do take measurements, lots of them.  I choose color schemes (see previous post, Change) and imagine storage possibilities as well as what of my furniture can fit, what get's donated, and treasures that I have yet to find.  I window shop Restoration Hardware and browse Pottery Barn catalogues.  I take note of what catches my eye, but I know that I will eventually have more fun treasure hunting in thrift stores, Ikea, and even street shopping.    Then I spend time daydreaming.   I draw up several different floor plans and make lists.  I'm definitely a list girl... I even imagine entertaining there.  Even if it the rental or sale doesn't work out this time, I'm that much closer to imagining the perfect space.  
Then, before you know it, you're there, standing in the middle of your new bare floors, surrounded by unpacked boxes and possibilities.  All of your cynicism and negative thinking seemed such a waste of energy.  Anything is possible from now on.  And it all started by measuring the drapes...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I told you I'd let you know when the next Coat Sale at the Salvation Army at 536 W. 46th St. happens and it's upon us!  Get up early THIS SATURDAY, November 8th.  It opens at 9:00am and goes throught to 5:00pm.  Re-read my previous post for more instructions... 
And if you're wondering What Leenya Would Do, I definitely WOULD go, that is, IF I had any room in my closet! 
Have fun!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Everybody is talking about change.  
But some people are afraid.  Thoughts about the tanking economy are paralyzing.   Some may try to convince you that you can't afford to revitalize your surroundings.
But what if it's less about purchasing power and more about alternative sources?  A change in perspective?
Why not start by changing color?
Look at the color wheel.  One great way to choose a color scheme is to pick a favorite color or a color of a large piece of furniture that you know you won't be able to afford to replac now and then go across the color wheel to find it's opposite, it's complement.  This will be your theme, your color scheme.  Though before, it was easy for you to sit in your room and knit-pick on 
differences, from now on, you are going to concentrate on unifying atttributes.  Let's get excited about facing challenges!  If you go to a paint store and pick out sample cards that have these colors, you can bring them around with you as you choose accessories for your new room.  I like to start by going to Sally or Conway's and go directly to the linens:  sheets, curtains, table cloths.  All of these provide huge amounts of fabrics to work with.  If I'm still searching, I go to the garment district.  Those fabric stores can be intimidating, but make sure they don't say wholesale only.  Paron Fabrics on 40th St. has reasonable prices and not-too-snobby salesclerks.   In my bedroom, I mixed sheets and pillow cases I found at Sally that seemed incongruous (celebrate diversity!) except they all fit into my unifying color scheme:  Blue and yellow with white as my neutral.  (always a fresh choice)  I chose these two colors from the antique map print pictured here.  The headboard was a Ted-and-Leenya project from plywood we found on the street cut to size wrapped in what was left of a navy blue duvet that Maya chewed in her puppy days.  See, she's a designer, too!  The trivets are a collection from my Mother and the matching lamps were made by Ted's father.  I made a bedskirt cut on a bias from a sheet matching the second pillows from the top.  Curtains in the bedroom are white with a valance draped from fabric matching the long roll pillow.  
(see my earlier post entitled The Gene)  Curtain tips:  Use the lines in your wood or tile floor to cut 90 degree angles in material for curtains.  Hem them after they are hung, just like a skirt.
Now, some of us want to cling to our white walls.  We've had white for a long time.  We know what white is like.  Choosing a different bold color for the walls can seem scary and it's hard to look at a small sample card and really imagine what it will look like on an entire wall.   Though it seemed like a dark bold choice, I knew I wanted Colorado Sky Blue on our bedroom walls, a reminder of home.  In our living room, we painted terra cotta (our 2 main colors are purple, chosen because of the one nice piece of furniture I owned already, the couch I purchased during Cabaret days, and terra cotta) but on a large surface, it looked too orange for us.  We bought a smaller can of brick brown paint, added one part water to one part paint and after loosely applying it with a roller, wiped it off with a ripped up towel.  It was much easier than sponging.  The more we wiped, the more the walls looked like they were covered in rich suede.  And don't we all wish that we had money to add beautiful crown molding?  My answer to this is tape right under the ceiling with wide masking tape so that you're leaving a white strip.  Leave the baseboards white as well.  This gives the illusion of molding and adds a fresh pop of white and you don't have to "cut" into a popcorn ceiling when you're painting.  
It's time for a change.  Don't let fear or the country's financial woes stop you.  Go bold with color in a completely new way.  Yes we can!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Favorite Wines for Under Ten Dollars

It's going to be a long 8 days.  
Let's weather the remaining week of this never-ending campaign together by sharing our favorite inexpensive wines!  I don't claim to be a wine connoiseur by any stretch, but I do drink a lot of wine, especially when I'm nervous about the future of this Country that we call home.  
Here are some of my favorites:
  Eyzaguirre Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile (in a little burlap sack)
  Yellow Tale
  Charles Shaw from Trader Joes (Three Buck Chuck)
El Gato Negro
Marques de Caceres, Spanish Wine
Please feel free to add your favorites in comments on this post:

Sunday, October 26, 2008


There are so many polls out there now. It's easy to get confused with the differing numbers.  But now, results are in: The poll I posted last week showed that 61% of readers of polled wanted to have more adventures! 
It is interesting to watch the news these days.  As we might expect, people are consuming less, searching for bargains.  In these dire economic times, it seems that the decades of living on credit is over.  People don't feel they can travel or eat out as much.  So I say, come to the light!  Why not make inexpensive living an art form?
Ted and I have been having adventures the entire seven years we've been together and about 50 percent of those years have been economically tight.  By some definitions, even dire.  But tough times have never stopped us from having romantic dates and exploring this city that has become our home.      
First, Central Park.  Worth an entire post by itself!  It has taken  me years of adventuring, but I know my way around this huge park like the back of my hand and still I find new pockets of natural beauty and quirky surprises.  The zoo alone, despite it's size, is well worth a day's visit.  It costs a mere eight dollars for adult admission and you can spend hours in front of the ant exhibit, the snow monkeys,  the penguins and the polar bears.  This biological gem is beautifully designed and it's good  to be reminded about fragile ecosystems all over the world.  Though Tavern on the Green and the restaurant at the boat pond are higher priced menus to avoid, visiting a deli before entering the park can buy you a picnic lunch or dinner that can be enjoyed on Sheep's Meadow (no dogs allowed...) or at the Bethesda Fountain  or while waiting in line for free tickets to  Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater.  Skating in the winter is cheaper and more spacious in Central Park than at Rockefeller Center and once after a heavy snow, Ted, Maya and I even went sledding above the softball fields!  
Skip chain restaurants.  They are tourist traps and more expensive than in other parts of the country.  But the biggest reason to walk that block or two farther West or East, depending on where you are, is that there are thousands of amazing places to get food from any part of the world, and of course, ordering it to be brought to your apartment is nothing short of a miracle.  Better yet, call and then pick it up yourself to save on delivery tips.  Now, thanks to Ted's sister Peg and her husband Stu, we were able to celebrate an early anniversary once at One if by Land, Two if by Sea down in the West Village.  The service itself was astounding, and I'd never experienced a tasting menu before!  But when we don't have two hundred and fifty dollars to spend on an evening out, we eat at some of our favorite restaurants that have no liquor license.  This means that we can bring our own bottle of wine with us for under ten dollars (like Bogle Merlot), saving almost half the normal bill to eat out.   6th St. in the East Village is lined with  half a dozen Indian Restaurants with this setup.  (My cousin Molly introduced me to this
phenomenon years ago!  Thanks, Molly!)  Chili Thai on 9th Avenue is also in this category, featuring creative and fresh fusion dishes.
One of the best thing to have happened to NYC in the past 5 years is the completion and connection of the bike path that stretches from South Street Sea Port all the way up to the Little Red Light House under the George Washington Bridge.  Adventures along this path include free kayaking on three of the piers in Clinton and the Upper West Side, lunch or dinner at the 79th Street Boat Basin (bring your dog and your bike!), happy hour at the Frying Pan  , a resurrected sunken ship on Pier 66 at 26th Street, and free concerts in the summer.  And why not take a ferry?  Just being on the water and getting different views of the New York Skyline are well worth the low fares.  Ted and I once picked up some takeout  at one of our favorite inexpensive Indian Restaurants, paired it with a bottle of wine from the corner wine store, and parked ourselves at the little built-in table and swivel stools on our very own mini pier on the newly renovated Riverside Park South.  The sun was setting and we had the best river-view in the city while feasting on Indian cuisine!  And all for under forty dollars!
Riding across the George Washington Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge are fantastic adventures that are completely free.  Once accross the GWB, riding up the Palisades puts you suddenly on a low traffic road with  a view of only the river and lots of trees. And in the fall, what a wonderful way to leaf peep for the cost of your picnic lunch!  If you don't have your own bike, bike rental is available all over Manhattan.  You can even rent tandem bikes near the Intrepid museum on Pier 86.  
All of this adventure for a low low price... and without burning oil or adding to pollution!  (not to mention getting a workout!)  Renaissance Girls never miss a chance to multitask.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sarah Palin

I started my blog too late!
Alas, the Republican Vice Presidential Candidate didn't know about big city values and how we Renaissance Girls stay in style while keeping on a low budget!  
I mean, I love how her stylists updated her hair,  but if she would have read my blog, she would have been able to turn that $150,000 price tag on her campaign wardrobe into more like $5,000.  I'm not suggesting redistribution of wealth or anything, but McCain is talking spending freeze so let's get serious, my friends.  
Okay, if shopping for a Vice Presidential candidate, I might actually skip the thrift stores and 99 cent stores, but I would start at places like Target, H & M, and Old Navy so that we'd save the campaign as much money as possible to tackle important issues like breaking our addiction to foreign oil and researching alternative energy sources that would reduce our carbon emissions.  This is where I'd find wardrobe staples and basics.  If I were her campaign shopper, I'd go to DSW Shoe Warehouse and Payless and I'd take the time to find bargains that appear current and expensive so that I could spend money elsewhere, like finding a way to make  healthcare affordable to all Americans.  And she does have a limo and a private jet. Expensive shoes are wasted on her as she's not navigating city streets and subway stairs.  If I still couldn't find the right power suits at these starter stores, I'd go to Century 21, Filene's Basement, and TJ Maxx where there are plenty of designer clothes to mix and match.  I'd still have money left to figure out how to attract better teachers to our educational system without adding more of a tax burden on the middle class.  If I was still missing, say, evening wear for fund raising galas, in a pinch I'd move up to the sale racks at Lord & Taylor and Macy's, but I don't think I'd have to go that far.  I would never even pass by Neiman Marcus, Tiffany's or Bloomingdales.  The Economy is too fragile.  Foreign diplomacy is needed more than ever.   Children are starving here on American soil. 
Like Sybil Sage said about me (How sweet!  Thanks, Sybil!) in a recent comment on my post about the Coat Sale, Sarah Palin really could look great in anything anyway.  Dressing her is not brain surgery.  And don't middle class hockey Moms and New York artists have one thing in common:  a limited budget? Governor Palin, it's okay to look to New Yorkers for what could be considered patriotic advice.  We grow good American people here in our big cities.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


It was my Barbies who served as my first dress design clients.  I still have those early creations somewhere, all packed together in a little-girl flowered suitcase:  Tiny metalic tube dresses, evening gowns that involved head removal to get them on... My first human-sized garment designed without a pattern was a Hallowe'en Costume for my first Highschool Party.  I went as a princess in a flowing green-polyester-curtain gown, complete with a matching cone hat.  My Dad even said, why don't you start designing clothes for yourself?  
My relationship with my Mom's 1934  Singer "Feather Weight" (I sew on it still) was rocky at first. I  went through a lot of the scrap fabric that was piled in ragged cardboard boxes in our basement and yards of thread before I learned to thread the machine correctly and adjust the tension and stitch length for each project:   knit, denim, or naugahyde.  I followed patterns first, practicing sewing basics and techniques.
  But eventually, at my Senior College vocal recital and on the opening night of my first Broadway show (pictured here with Natasha Richardson at the Cabaret opening) I wore gowns of my own design.    I named my "line" after my fellow college vocal students' affectionate term for wonderfully gaudy and oversized wardrobes of Star Opera Singers:  Divawear.
So it was only fitting that my wedding dress would be made out of a tablecloth and a sheet.  Okay, it wasn't any ordinary table cloth.  
And it wasn't  just because of our limited budget (9,000 dollars for everything).   After the love of my life proposed to me in a Canadian Bay, my Mother pulled a bag out of the bottom of her linen closet.  In it was an exquisite linen table cloth salvaged from the house of my Great Grandmother.  Mom suggested that I use it to make my wedding dress and my first worry was that I'd be destroying a family heirloom.   But I packed it in my suitcase back to New York and when Ted and I finally found the perfect location for our special day, I set to work.  I was acting in a new play at American Repertory Theater in Boston at the time and brought my little Feather Weight back to my cast housing with me.  As I am wont to do, I started doodling at rehearsal and came up with a sketch of my dream gown.  But since much of the tablecloth was handmade lace, I needed an under dress.  I didn't know the Boston fabric scene but DID know how to find TJ Maxx and Marshall's and so I headed for downtown.   I bought a 600 count cotton king-sized sheet set for 30 dollars that was almost the exact shade of ivory as the antique table cloth.  I knew that
I'd never be able to find modern linen that had the same  movement and flow as the tablecloth and this sheet set had an almost satin finish.  It would look beautiful through the lace.  I thought through my design and decided that the only other thing I needed were snaps, beading, and matching thread.  Between rehearsals and performances at ART, I began to sew.  The great thing about having an entire sheet set is that not only did I have plenty of material for mistakes, but I had pillowcases for storage and transport.  But making the first cut into the tablecloth proved an emotional moment and after much procrastination and careful measurements, I gritted my teeth and closed the scissors into the linen.  I was committed!
I ended up hand-sewing much of it as I find hand-sewing to be easier and more precise for delicate work.  I sewed tiny fake pearls  into translucent sequins onto the just the upper bodice.  I wanted something sexy AND traditional, ornate AND subtle all at the same time.  What is more expressive of you as a bride than something you designed yourself?  
When Mom and Dad came a week before the wedding to help with setup,  Mom put the finishing touches (a hem & ivory tassles) on what was left of the table cloth to make a shawl/sash that I wore draped over my arms (a veil felt too artificial for me) and I found ivory espadrilles (I knew I'd be walking down the aisle on a lawn) at DSW that I then decorated with scrap lace and pearls.  My darling new sister-in-law, Marie, (a future guest blogger!) designed and made me the most exquisite pearl grape-cluster earrings and matching bracelet.  And last but not least, my cousins Kim and Kris  pinned fabric flowers into my hair and my fellow renaissance girls Penny and Elizabeth taped me into my dress! (thank you, Topstick, double sided tape!  A fashion-secret must...)  But unlike my Barbie dolls, I was able to put it my gown on without removing my head!
It took months of gradual designing, but after all, I was stitching generations of my mothers and grandmothers into my wedding dress.  As I sat and sewed, I thought about what it meant that I was getting married, what it meant for all of us as women over generations.  I even quilted my Great Grandmother's monogram in a prominent place on the front of the underskirt.  Did she ever dream about a life that her great-granddaughter might lead in New York City? 
I hope you have found your own "line", in what you choose to wear out into the world each morning.  Express your own inner Diva!