The Fashion Magpie Magpie Mail Blog Q and A

Magpie Mail: College Grad Gifts, Storage Solutions for Small Spaces, + Whether We’re Moving or Not.

*Photo above of calligraphy by Plume. Smitten!

Q: I am looking for a special college graduation gift of jewelry for a girl (ideas include something like the Tiffany Elsa Peretti gold diamond necklace) between $500-$1000… is this an impossible feat? I feel like you would know or have good advice 🙂

A: Ooh la la, what a lovely gift for a gal.  I have a few thoughts.

+On the trendier side (if she’s a fashionista), I absolutely adore the Hermes clic clac bracelet my husband bought me nearly a decade ago.  I wear it constantly.  Very stylish!

+On the “heirloom” side, I am smitten with a new-to-me label based here in NYC called Aurelia Demark.  The founder is lovely (used to design for Tory Burch) and has exquisite pieces.  Some of their small pendants would fit your budget, and you can get them engraved on the back with date (you could do her graduation date!) and/or initials.  Super special!

+On the personalized side, Atelier Paulin does these really cool custom bracelets.

+On the high-end side, a bit over your budget, but I have been lusting after a Van Cleef & Arpel bracelet like this forever.

+My husband gave me a Mikimoto pearl pendant necklace similar to this one (but with a diamond embellishment) on our wedding day and I cherish it.  Mikimoto is THE brand for pearls, but not every gal is a pearl girl.

I also think just about anything from Tiffany is appropriate for a graduation gift, so you’re on the right track already.  Who doesn’t love seeing that little Tiffany box on a big occasion?!

P.S. A couple of other thoughts on gift ideas for gals at a lower price point.

Q: I have little storage at home and have a few bulky winter blankets to store. Any tips?

A: Oh, I so feel you on this one. The best solution for us has been to stow out of season clothes and bulkier items in these Ziploc Space Bags. They aren’t a perfect solution — I find that they don’t stay “sucked up” permanently and eventually air gets in — but they are as good a solution as I could find for stowing bulkier items in as small a space as possible.

P.S. I shared a lot of my other favorite gear for small apartments here.

Q: What toy did you end up having mini buy for micro?

A: I ended up buying one of the gorgeous DeBuci Baby bears with my son’s name embroidered on it. I thought it would be special to have her present something to him that specifically has his name on it, and that is sort of heirloom-worthy. My hope is that my son will have that bear forever and understand it as a gift from his big sister! On the flipside, my son will give mini this Bullseye toy from Toy Story. Mini LOVES the Toy Story series and especially loves her Woody doll. I thought it was cute that he’d be giving her Woody’s trusty sidekick/buddy.

Q: Will you continue to live in your current apartment or move to a larger place?

A: We will be moving this fall! We are busting at the seams already, and micro hasn’t even arrived. We are looking at three-bedroom apartments in Manhattan right now — if we can swing it, possibly one with a small fourth bedroom/den/second living area that I can convert into an office for writing, ideally with a Murphy bed or daybed to accommodate guests. Our biggest dilemma is whether to buy or rent. We simply cannot make up our minds on whether we imagine ourselves raising our children here for the longer-term or moving somewhere with more space. Could we be suburban people? It’s funny how my perspective on this subject has changed. I used to be a ringleader for urban living: “I’d rather live in a shoebox in the city than a big house in the suburbs!” Now, though, with a large dog, two children, and some of the fleeting concerns I’ve shared about my children’s exposure to “normal” childhood pastimes, I’m not so sure. Selfishly, too, I work from home and crave the space to sprawl out and write and think — one that isn’t cluttered with toys, city sounds, foot traffic, etc. I dream of having a backyard to grill in, watching my babies run around in bare feet, letting Tilly roam around, unfettered. On the flipside, I can feel Manhattan extending its tentacles around us with every passing month, as our friendships grow stronger, as mini heads off to school this fall, as we become more engrained in the flow of life here.

Long story short: we will be moving, but TBD on whether this will be a move to own or rent.

Q: I’ve just been invited to a wedding in Maine in July for which the rehearsal dinner dress code reads “summer party casual” and the dress code for the wedding which is in a rustic barn venue reads “barn cocktail” Any thoughts?

A: For the rehearsal dinner — my first thought was a chic and on-trend jumpsuit like this or this.  If a jumpsuit isn’t in your wheelhouse, a simple sundress like thisthisthis, or this dressed down with some easy slides.  Alternately, I’m DYING over the idea of some elegant linen trousers with a smocked top like this.

For the wedding, I like something romantic and boho, like thisthis, or this.  Or anything from LoveShackFancy, which feels synonymous with “barn cocktail.”

Q: What are your favorite shows on Netflix?

A: I saw a meme once that said something like “I pay my monthly Netflix bill so that I have permanent access to Parks & Rec and The Office.” That pretty much captures it for me — I almost always fall asleep with reruns of one of these two shows on. I also love The Great British Baking Show. I think that it captures the American obsession with all things British so well — so civilized, so mannered, so mild. I feel like an American version of the show would be riddled with drama and verbal warfare.

More generally on the TV show front, we have been making our way through Billions on HBO, which we watch while vacillating between eye-widened fascination and eye-rolling (a lot of the characters feel so improbable and ridiculously sketched) and we just consumed Pen15 in one long drink — it is so cringe-worthy and truthful and weird and hilarious. I loved VEEP (just finished) and we’re sticking with Game of Thrones because everyone else is, but it’s a pretty crappy final season.

Basically, we’re boring. Many nights recently, I’ve been preferring to read while Mr. Magpie watches Nats games on his MLB sports package…

Q: My husband and I are going to a black tie party in early June at the MFA in Boston – and the dress code is “creative black tie.” I’m totally at a loss and have looked at so many dresses that I can hardly tell what I like anymore. What would you suggest? I’m pear shaped so a defined waist is a must for me and ideally I’d like to keep it under $500.

A: Wow — lots of creative dress codes floating around these days, eh?

I would interpret this to mean “formal, but with flair” — i.e., don’t be afraid of color or dramatic shapes. It sounds like they want a stylish crowd rather than a see of prim black dresses. A few dresses I’m loving:

+I’m always drawn to Needle & Thread dresses, and I’m besotted with this embellished, tiered style. Stunning.

+This gorgeous pale blue style. I’m not sure if the cut-outs would be too revealing (hard to tell on the model), but I am swooning over it. (So into blue right now!)

+This ruffled, tiered style — what a bargain! Cha cha cha!

+This printed Self-Portrait stunner is insane. Looks like haute couture to me.

+This playful maxi in the chartreuse green. Sure to turn heads — super chic paired with black accessories. (And you can get 15% off by signing up for emails, which brings the price point down.)

P.S. I did a roundup of my favorite Rent the Runway dress options in this Q&A in case you’d prefer to runt for the occasion versus buy!

Q: What are your favorite sources for hairbows?

A: PoppyBows on Etsy! I usually get mini the 4″ or 5″ styles, but note that I prefer an oversized look in general. When I’m in a bind and need something immediately for an outfit (which has happened…#BOWCRISIS), I also like Wee Ones bows, which you can find via Amazon Prime. They deliver the next day.

Q: Is it weird to have stationery with your child’s initials to send thank you notes on their behalf? Is that a faux pas? Also, recommendations for favorite stationery — bargain buys, too, please!

A: Not at all. I send all of mini’s (and micro’s) thank you notes on stationery with their names on it! I’m actually doing a roundup of some of my favorite sources for stationery next week, but my favorite childrens’ stationery comes from Preppy Prodigy (sweet designs, inexpensive, free shipping). I also love their personalized stickers, which I used to demarcate mini’s playground toys — I kept finding that other parents would accidentally pick mini’s stuff up! (Incidentally, also a cute add-on gift for a kiddo about to head off to nursery school. Kids love their names on everything!) More to come soon on the stationery front!

P.S. If you’re looking for posts featuring my absolute favorite products (ones that I’ve vetted over time and updated/reviewed carefully), these are some good places to start: my favorite beauty products, my favorite affordable beauty products, my favorite baby travel gear, my favorite home finds, my favorite maternity products.

P.P.S. I’ve been stirring the pot lately with some of my contrarian views on very popular books…does anyone else share my opinion on this bestseller?

P.P.P.S. What makes you laugh?


  1. I’m just now watching Parks and Rec for the first time with my husband, and I LOVE it. So glad I finally gave in to the many (many) people over the years who encouraged me to persevere through the first season! And agreed on Bake Off – another favorite of mine for many of the reasons you listed!

    1. Ha – I had the same late-in-the-game reaction when I started watching P&R two years ago. I was like, “Oh, I get what all the fuss is about.” So good! 🙂

  2. These posts are always full of good advice! I love that La Vie RT jumpsuit — I recently found a puff-sleeved jumpsuit by the same label for like $35 at Nordstrom Rack! I’ve also been eyeing the Ref Marabella dress for what seems like ages … it’s so good.

    Also loving your picks for the MFA gala — I’ve noticed since moving to Boston that many people here tend to be more conformist and “safe” in how they dress. These are all great, slightly envelope-pushing picks for this town! 🙂


    1. Ooh yay! Glad I struck the right balance. And BLBLBLBLBLBLB?!?!?!? A La Vie RT jumpsuit for $35?! Score of the year, right?!


  3. I get my personalized stationery from Fine Stationery dot com- it’s quite affordable and while it’s not letterpress or anything like that, the cardstock is fairly substantial. I’m not a monogram gal, so I just do my First Middle Last name in block print across the top of correspondence cards in a deep blue color. (I’ve got a very unusual, masculine middle name and I kinda like showing it off!)

    Also, “barn cocktail”?!?! People have got to lay off these completely inscrutable dress codes! You should show up in wranglers and a bolo tie, holding a martini glass.

    1. Haha! I know, I’ve seen a lot of creative dress code requests lately, too…

      Had forgotten about FineStationery but I’ve definitely gotten some good sets from there, too! Thanks for the reminder!


  4. If you’re considering a suburban move, can I put in a suggestion for Locust Valley? It’s a gorgeous little town and everyone is very friendly. The schools are amazing and there’s a lot of space, including several arboretums (Planting Fields and Bailey Arboretum) and the beach. The North Shore is gorgeous and not as crowded as the rest of Long Island. Plus, it’s on the Sound!

    1. Yes! Thanks for the rec! Have officially added this to our list of spots to scout. Sounds lovely. xx

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