Stylish Swimsuit Alternatives Under $50.00

By: Staci Rutherford

My last post highlighted tips for buying swimsuits according to various body types.  I hope that it was helpful in providing a less stressful approach to shopping for a swimsuit. Let’s face it; some of us are a little reluctant (or dare I say self conscious) when it comes to showing our body, so this time around, I decided to feature stylish alternatives to swimsuits.

On vacation, I prefer to wear tunics, caftans, maxi dresses and rompers when I’m not in the pool or sunbathing on the beach.  They are perfect for a leisure day of lounging, shopping and/or sightseeing, and can easily go from day to evening.  Best of all, if you decide to hit the beach, a tunic, romper or maxi dress can also double as a cute swimsuit cover up!

I am always looking for a good deal, so I decided to focus on options that are priced under $50.00.  Bright colors, bold prints and lightweight fabrics were also a must!  Here’s what I found:

GB Printed Romper, original price: $54.00, now $32.40 at Dillards.com

Arizona Dolman-Sleeve Tunic Coverup, $18.00 at JC Penney

Old Navy Tie-Waist Tube Maxi Dress in orange print, original price: $29.94, now $27.50

LOFT Shadow Stripe Caftan in turquoise waters, $49.50

Sol & Mer Print Tunic Cover Up in amalfi blue, price: $48.00

Swimsuit Fit Guide + 5 Figure Flattering Swimsuits

By: Staci Rutherford

Memorial Day marks the official start of summer in my book, which means that it’s time for a new swimsuit!  How many times have you set out to buy a swimsuit and ended up frustrated, overwhelmed or disappointed?  I usually avoid shopping for swimsuits but this year, I decided to do a little research before venturing out so I know exactly what style to get for my figure.  Yes, I research almost everything because knowledge is power.  If I can identify my body type and understand which swimsuits are the most appropriate and flattering, shopping will become less stressful and more fun, as it should be.

Nordstrom has a fantastic swimsuit guide that I want to share with you.  You are not limited to only the swimsuits outlined below, however, I thought this was a great starting point for anyone who wants a little more direction before hitting the stores.

Straight – Little definition between bust, waist and hip measurements.

Prints, patterns, horizontal stripes and strategically placed seams can create the illusion of curves. Look for underwire styles and close-together, padded cups to enhance and lift a small bust. Or try thicker, textured fabric on top to add fullness without padding.

Pear – Fuller at the hips and bottom and smaller on top.

Suits with detailing on top or at the waist will draw the eye up. Straight and high necklines visually broaden the shoulders to balance out proportions. Wear a paler shade on top with a darker bottom. Sheaths and skirted suits also work to cover trouble spots.

Hourglass – Curvaceous, with full bust, defined waist and full hips.

Wide strap tops and underwire bras with soft cups offer best bust support. Many tankinis and sport bikinis also flatter curves and provide lots of lift. To minimize cleavage, opt for a straight or higher neckline that conceals while providing a pretty silhouette.

Apple – A rectangular shape without a well-defined waist.

Banding will give the appearance of a waist as will chevron or diagonal stripes. Look for tummy control and side panels, side seaming and shirring to create curves. Classic styles and solid colors are the most slimming. Sheer cut-outs offer a sexy peek of skin.

Full Bust – Bust measurement is fuller than hips and bottom.

High necklines help minimize the bust, while V-necklines draw the eye downward for a slimming effect. A keyhole back or sport style with an additional back closure will provide good support for a fuller bustline. Halters with bra cups provide more coverage. High-cut armholes can minimize side bust exposure.

Now that we have discovered some of the common body types, check out some of my favorite figure flattering swimsuits that I found online.  If it is more convenient for you to shop for a swimsuit online, make sure shipping (and returns) are free, and whether there is an option to return or exchange items at the store.  Try to avoid any “all sales are final” deals because there is always a chance that you won’t like what you buy online.

LOFT Floral Print One-Piece Swimsuit in summer plum, Price: $79.50 at www.loft.com

Swim Solutions Bandeau Floral Printed Ruched Tummy Control One Piece, Price: $94.00 at www.macys.com

Merona 1-piece swimsuit in pink/black floral print, Price: was $34.00 one sale now for $12.24 at www.target.com

Lane Bryant Pinpoint one piece swimsuit, by Miraclesuit Price: 156.00 on sale now for $109.20 at www.lanebryant.com Robin Piccone Ikat Swimsuit in emerald, Price: $122.00 at www.nordstrom.com

If you find a swimsuit that you love, please share the details in the comments section.  Next time, I will feature my favorite swimsuit cover-ups, which are perfect for lounging by the pool or strolling along the beach.

Five Summer Dresses Under $100

By: Staci Rutherford

I currently have one maxi dress that I wear to death!  I challenged myself to style it differently each time I wear it so no one else recognizes that it’s the same dress.  It has a very distinct print so it’s relatively easy to remember.  I wore it once with a navy and white pin striped button down shirt, another time with an olive green short sleeve hooded top over it, and most recently, with a gray v-neck sweater.  The v-neck sweater received the most attention, because it accentuated the jeweled neckline on the dress.

It soon occurred to me that I never wear dresses, and for the life of me, I could not figure out why.  Summer after summer, I have been missing out on all of the pretty dresses because of reasons that add up to my own silly insecurities.  This time around, I am determined to wear more dresses because they are easy to shop for and extremely versatile.  If you want to update your summer wardrobe with a few new dresses, check out my top five favorites, all priced under $100!

V-back Dress, Price: $89.90 at Zara

T Tahari Samara Dress, Price: $88.00 at Bloomingdale’s

Evan Picone Sleeveless Paisley Printed Dress, Price: $99.00 at Macy’s

FELICITY & COCO Stripe Jersey Tank Dress, Price: $68.00 at Nordstrom

Donna Morgan Flame Print Blouson Dress, $64.99 (original price: $94.00)

The key to making a dress versatile is to experiment with how you wear it.  For a daytime look that is appropriate for work, throw on a cardigan or cotton blazer to cover up bare shoulders and arms.  For evening, add a bold statement necklace or metallic accessories.  Don’t be afraid to switch from your everyday tote to a clutch or from a flat sandal to a platform pump so your dress has a totally different personality.

Women In Philanthropy’s 9th Annual Power of the Purse

By: Staci Rutherford

Last year I was invited to join the planning committee of “Power of the Purse,” a fun event with fabulous bags, fantastic women and fundraising for a wonderful cause.  “Power of the Purse” is in its 9th year that includes a silent and live auction of purses to benefit local women and children charities.  It is the signature fundraiser of Women In Philanthropy, a diverse group of professional women dedicated to investing in helping disadvantaged women and children in the Midlands.

I was excited to help with “Power of the Purse,” and made it my mission to find unique, handmade, and designer bags for the auctions.  Since I spend a majority of my time researching and networking with handbag designers and companies, I decided to contact them, along with anyone else I could think of, to donate a bag.  The experience was far more rewarding than I anticipated.  Everyone who attended enjoyed an evening of guilt free shopping, a martini luge and mingling with other dynamic women.  In the end, every handbag sold!  Check out a few pictures from last year’s “Power of the Purse” below:

Women In Philanthropy’s goal is to make this year’s “Power of the Purse” bigger and better than the last. Wink Magazine is the official digital media sponsor, and has offered me the opportunity to feature the “best of the best” bags in a future issue.  Proceeds from “Power of the Purse” are invested in Women in Philanthropy’s grants that benefit women and children in the Midlands.  In addition to community philanthropy, Women in Philanthropy stimulates positive change in community leadership by increasing women’s involvement in the community, increasing women’s community networks and increasing the personal development of all women involved.

“Power of the Purse” is expected to sell out, so visit www.womeninphilantropy.com to register in advance.  If you are interested in becoming a sponsor or donating to the gift bags (there will be 250 women attending), there are opportunities to do both!  Grab your girlfriends and come out to shop while supporting a fantastic cause!

Help Feed the World with Feed Bags

By: Staci Rutherford

When I’m not researching the latest “it” bags, trends and designers, I enjoy finding handbags that are designed for a good cause.  I discovered FEED Projects a few years ago, and constantly feature new FEED bags on my blog.  Today, I want to introduce you to FEED, because these meaningful products have a tremendous impact on different parts of the world.

FEED Projects’ mission is to create good products that help FEED the world.  The merchandise mix includes eco-friendly FEED bags, t-shirts, and other accessories, with a set donation factored into the cost of each item.  FEED believes that everyone has the right to basic human necessities, such as healthy and nutritious food.  Every product has a stenciled number that signifies the actual impact of your purchase.  Here are a few of my favorite bags available at feedprojects.com.

FEED 5

Front

Back

The FEED 5 Africa Bag was designed in honor of FEED’s 5th anniversary.  It is handmade by artisans in Kenya.  The outside of the bag is made from burlap material, along with the “FEED the Children of the World” logo from the first-ever FEED bag, the FEED 1 Bag.  The bag is lined with traditional African kitenge fabric.  Each FEED 5 Africa bag provides 5 children with micro-nutrient powder for 1 year through the FEED Foundation’s Nutrients Fund.

FEED USA

The FEED USA Bag includes a $5 donation to the FEED Foundation’s FEED USA program to improve school food and nutrition education in America through DonorsChoose.org.  After purchasing your FEED USA Bag, use the 8-digit code provided on the hang tag and visit the FEED USA platform to choose the initiative you want to fund.  The bucket shape bag is made of 100% organic cotton.

FEED LOVE

Front

Back

The FEED LOVE Bag was designed in partnership with (RED).  The purchase of the (FEED) RED LOVE 30 Bag will provide approximately 30 days of ARV treatment through the Global Fund and 30 nutritious school meals through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), thus providing one month of life-saving assistance.  Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment not only helps people live with HIV/AIDS, but also helps prevent the transmission of the disease from moms to their babies (RED)-supported Global Fund grants deliver this treatment to some of the countries hit hardest by the disease.  The (FEED) RED LOVE bag is made of natural burlap with signature PRODUCT (RED) logo, faux suede bottom and large back pocket.

FEED HAITI

In January 2010, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti.  The FEED Haiti bag was created to help raise funds to maintain local school feeding operations during that critical time. Today, FEED continues to support Haiti’s school feeding operations as the country slowly rebuilds and faces challenges in nutrition, health, and education.  Each FEED Haiti Bag will provide 50 meals through the UN World Food Programme (WFP).  The tote is made of 100% organic cotton and uses the red and blue Haitian national colors.

As you can see, FEED bags are making a difference in helping feed the world.  The next time you are looking for a gift for a loved one, consider showing your support in the fight against hunger, and invest in a FEED bag.

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone – Part 2

By: Staci Rutherford

“Believe with all of your heart that you will do what you were made to do.” – Orison Swett Marden

I am beginning part two with a meaningful quote that sums up how I have been feeling since before stepping out of my comfort zone.  I spent the month of February on an emotional roller coaster.  At times, I was overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, however, my excitement and happiness outweighed those feelings and I came out on top.

The HandbagReport.com showroom officially opened its doors to the public on Thursday, March 1, 2012, which was also First Thursday at Tapp’s Art Center.  First Thursday is a big event that takes place every month at Tapp’s, where the work of different artists, photographers, and sculptors are featured.  It’s a fun, laid back atmosphere that is perfect for networking and connecting with kindred spirits.  I met some fantastic people and received positive feedback on the space that I worked so hard to make just right.

As I explained throughout the evening, the HandbagReport.com showroom is extension of the blog.  It’s a place to personally connect with my readers and customers, and to bring the blog from virtuality to reality.  I chose accessories from a local designer to feature in the showroom, Nana by Sally.  The collection is one-of-a-kind handmade clutches and handbags made from vintage, vintage-inspired and designer fabrics.  I also interviewed the designer of Nana by Sally, Sally Peek, which is currently posted on the blog.

The next few weeks will be spent continuing to decorate the space, and preparing for the official grand opening.  I look forward to sharing the showroom with my friends, family, and all of the women in town who love handbags.  I believe with all of my heart that I am doing what I am meant to do, which is an exciting and scary adventure!

Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone – Part 1

By:  Staci Rutherford

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

I found this quote months ago and it made me stop and think about where I am in my life, and where I want to be.  I have many goals that I want to accomplish, but often struggle with determining what to do first.  My time management and procrastination issues often leave me wondering how I will get it all done.  I follow a group of bloggers who are my source of motivation, because they are living a life doing what they love.  I have already established my love of handbags, and nothing would make me happier than turning my passion into a profitable business and life-long career.  Since my last post, I finally made the first move.

Before I share my exciting news, I must acknowledge two dynamic women who have come into my life believing in my vision, and challenging me to take the next step – Roshanda Pratt and Alicia Zeigler.  After several conversations about my short term and long term plans, both Roshanda and Alicia have offered advice and resources that have given me the confidence to market what I have to offer beyond my handbag blog.  Roshanda, a fellow Every Woman Blogger, is also a media consultant with R.E.P. Communications Network.  She took the time to help me focus on developing my ideas into something tangible.  While donating a handbag to a pre-Columbia Style Week event, I met Alicia, the founder of FFS Model & Talent Agency, Columbia Fashion Alliance, Columbia Style Week and the new editor of Wink Magazine, Columbia’s premiere fashion magazine.  We immediately clicked, and she too gave great advice that has been instrumental in my stepping out of my comfort zone.

After a few days contemplating whether it was the right time, I decided to follow my heart and rent a studio space at the Tapp’s Art Center located downtown on Main Street. “Studio 26” is the new home the HandbagReport.com office and showroom!  It will be an extension of my blog – a place to connect with others who love handbags.  I plan on having monthly purse parties, designer trunk shows, themed events and more.  I am excited to share this journey with you as my life is just beginning!