Magpie Mail: Crib Sheets, Mother of the Groom Outfits, and Applying to Twos Programs in Manhattan.

Q:  I need new crib sheets for my daughter and want something super nice. Any suggestions?

A: The first two brands that came to mind were De Buci Baby (I had one of their bears hand-stitched with Hill’s name on it — precious! — and am especially enamored of their house toile — seen above) and Biscuit Home. If we’re going serious splurge, D. Porthault. OMG. I’d kill for a set of their classic coeurs print — the baby would be sleeping on finer sheeting than I! On the slightly more affordable end of the spectrum, I love the prints that Pehr Designs puts out, like this bird print or this gingham, and Serena + Lily has some darling prints, too, like this bold print for a boy or this botanical print for a girl.

Q: Our son is being married in Beaver Creek, Colorado in August.  I have a black crepe jumpsuit for our rehearsal dinner and of course my “day of” dress — however, we are hosting a barbecue on Thursday night and I haven’t a clue what I should wear.  Normally I’m pretty good at picking my outfits, but not for this event.  I have a short Saloni dress, but think it may be too much.  I do NOT want to take ANYTHING away from my future daughter in law.  Could you help me? I’m way older than you, but love your taste.  I think I prefer something shorter since every other event we attend that weekend will be me dressed in something long. 

A: Ooh! Congratulations! I am so flattered you’d check with me. I think Saloni is the right lane — elegant, timeless, but often deftly walking the line between casual and dressy. A couple of other options:

+This floral Veronica Beard. So chic and tasteful — and, as you’ve probably gathered from reading the blog, florals are so major right now.

+Similar, but splurgey: anything from Emilia Wickstead, but especially this dress (swoon) or this one. So Charlotte-York-garden-party-appropriate.

+A tunic dress like this feels punchy and festive but barbecue appropriate if the vibe is a bit more casual than the picks above. I also LOVE her tiered maxi but I know you want to avoid long, and the prints are pretty loud.

+Not sure about your comfort level with bare shoulders / strapless, but I adore this gingham midi and this gingham-and-printed number. Both feel like elevated backyard BBQ attire.

+I’m head over heels for all things Banjanan. Such pretty, fun, festive prints! I’ve been eyeing this dress — the ruffled sleeve detailing is on-trend while the rest of the dress is demure.

+For something a bit more sophisticated, this Nicholas dress looks like something Grace Kelly would wear to her son’s wedding festivities. Stunning, understated, chic, flattering. (Also comes in a fun plaid print — on sale!)

+Finally, the loudest of the styles: this floaty jumpsuit. Fashion-forward and in such a fantastic print.

Q: Hamptons recommendations with a baby/toddler — would love to hear what your family has enjoyed in terms of location, how you’ve found week-long rentals (so many seem to be monthly), and any other general recs for a relaxing trip out East!

A: Hi! We had the best time. We found our rental through AirBnB and my biggest tips are to try to book early and to be flexible on location. We ended up with a home north of East Hampton proper — it took us about 10 minutes via car to get into town — but it was totally worth the tradeoff because we spent most of our time in the backyard/at home given all the nursing/breastfeeding and naps we had to navigate around. Since the location was slightly less desirable than being, say, walking distance from E.H. or Sag Harbor, we managed to find a home with an enormous backyard, pool, and access to a private beach! For this season of life, it was the right move. If we were in our 20s, I would have been much happier being walking distance from bars/restaurants. Check out Springs and the neighborhoods that are a bit off the beaten path from Sag Harbor. (I also found it helpful to have a car as home base when we were out and about if I needed to sneak in to nurse my baby or if we just needed to abort mission and get home quickly.)

Honestly, most of mini’s activities were hanging out in the backyard with new lawn toys, swimming in the pool in the backyard, enjoying classic summer treats for the first time in her life (watermelon, popsicles, ice cream sandwiches), and playing at the beach. So — my honest, biggest suggestion is to get a house with a pool and stock your fridge with rose! Ha! We did take her out for smoothies and muffins at Mary’s Marvelous in EH and then let her run around the playground a few blocks away one morning, but in general, if we were out of the house, she was in her stroller. We also went out for coffee at Jack’s Stir Brew in Amagansett and they have a great little grassy knoll behind it where tons of toddlers were playing. (We also picked up sandwiches from Cavaniola’s, right along that grassy knoll, and it was SO GOOD. Strongly recommend both Jack’s for coffee — iced oat milk latte SVP — and Cavaniola’s for cheese/charcuterie and their sandwiches, especially their pate sandwich and their turkey one.) I had really, really wanted to take her berry picking but it just so happened that strawberry season ended on June 30th — the day we arrived — and it was too early to pick raspberries. I had been considering either Hank’s or the Milk Pail. I had also really wanted to take her to Wolffer Vineyard so we could taste wine and she could run around, but we just couldn’t get our acts together for some reason! Ha! We ended up having happy hour at home every night, which was just fine by me. But, something to consider.

One last note: I just came across this company called Hamptons Baby Gear that will rent you cribs, etc. at reasonable prices, and drop them off at your rental! I might consider this next year.

Q: Some of my best friends are finally getting married (they’ve been dating since middle school, so this has been a long time coming) and the wedding is days after Christmas, so I need a really good winter wedding-guest dress. Since the wedding is so close to Christmas, I’d love something I can also wear to midnight mass. It seems simple enough, but my problem is that I feel like my list of requirements is too long and impossible to meet. My dress needs to be semi-formal, modest (I’m thinking tea-length with at least short sleeves), not white/black (the bridal party is wearing black), under $200, and available in a 14 (a lot of dresses don’t go up to a 14 in straight sizes or they start at a 16 in plus sizes, so this gets frustrating). Do you have any recommendations for me? I know it’s really specific, but dressing modestly when you’re 21 and still in college is a lot more difficult than I expected, so I would love to see what you come up with.

A: Hi! I hear you! That sounds super frustrating. My first thought was that my friend Grace of The Stripe might be a good resource — she’s done a lot of work/posts with brands that offer inclusive sizing. So if I come up short, be sure to follow along with her. My second thought was Gal Meets Glam Collection. I know that she offers demure but chic pieces in up to a size 20 — this feels like it’s right in your wheelhouse. Most of her collection is very summery so I might check back once her fall/winter collections are launched, but something like this might be perfect. It reminds me of a Saloni! Pair with dramatic earrings like these. Spendier, but I love the label Rebecca Taylor, and they carry a size 14. This dress in particular is stunning and would meet all your requirements — but oof! Pricey. I am confident it will drop in price at Nordstrom or Bloomingdale if you wait long enough, though probably not below $200. Still, worth tracking. It walks the line between conservative and sexy in the most fetching of ways. Finally, I always love the label Self-Portrait. Their styles are pretty expensive, but this nails the look for under $200 and again looks sophisticated but also youthful and saucy.

I’m going to keep my eye out for you over the next few months as labels start releasing their fall collections. Ted Baker might be a good one to keep an eye on — their dresses tend to be slightly above your target price range, but I am confident you can score one on sale. A curvier friend of mine wore this to an event and looked spectacular in it.

Q: I am stumped in my search for bridal accessories. A few things to give you some context: my dress, my veil, and my shoes. I have no idea what to wear with that neckline because my normal day-to-day is a delicate necklace my fiancee gave me and I’m not sure that is ideal for it.I also don’t know what to do for my “something blue”… Is there a way to make that discreet? I love the tradition of it, but blue is not in my wedding colors.

A: Congratulations and thank you so much for reaching out for my advice!
Let me just say that I am literally obsessed with your look — especially your veil.  GORGEOUS. For jewelry, I would probably just wear a pair of earrings OR a pendant necklace with coordinating earrings.  I think anything else will compete too much with the neckline.  I wore a Mikimoto pearl pendant similar to this one and some vintage pearl and diamond earrings that belonged to my grandmother.  They looked like they belonged together — a similar look would be chic with your style, in my opinion.  You can find amazing pieces at RealReal (like this pair of elegant earrings and OMG THESE — SWOON AND SPLURGE).  I love statement jewelry, but I stuck with more traditional, fine jewelry pieces for the wedding day; Even a simple pair of pearl studs would be perfect and timeless.

For something blue: I had a custom “dress tag” with my initials and wedding date stitched in blue sewn into my dress.  SUPER discreet.  Only I knew it was there!  But it made for a pretty detail picture for the photographer, too.  You could also have a handkerchief monogrammed/embroidered with something special to keep in your purse or wrap around the base of your bouquet.  Both options are $20 or less!  Oh, also — I wore a pair of blue Hanky Pankies 🙂

Q: We will be undergoing the Manhattan preschool application process this fall (dun dun dun!) for a 2’s program for my daughter, and I’d love any specific advice you have on navigating this! Your post on finding a Montessori program for your daughter was reassuring – any specific tips on writing the essays, what to expect at interviews etc? We live on UES so will be applying to several nursery schools there (one of which is affiliated with our church so I’m hopeful that will be a good fit). Did you have to do this dreaded post-Labor day call to obtain applications? Luckily more seem to be online these days but a couple on my list still follow the old school protocol. I fluctuate between trying to remain sane about the whole thing and spending irrational amounts of time thinking about what she (and I!!) should wear to interviews/tours!

A: So much to say here! First, there is a lot of hype around the private school application process here in Manhattan. I was intimidated when I discovered that a friend had hired a consultant to help with her son’s application process — and I’d barely gotten started with my own research. I can only speak from my experience, but I think that things are overhyped, so let that reassure you. I think there are a handful of schools — especially on the UES — that are super intense (we did not need to call on a specific day to request an application; meanwhile, I’ve heard of a school that requires all correspondence be done IN WRITING VIA SNAIL MAIL), but I would assume that if you have an affiliation with the church/synagogue attached to one of them, that should help. Second, here are a few scattershot observations and thoughts. Take them or leave them, as I am certainly no expert:

1) I would start by figuring out two elements: geographical requirements and preferences around school philosophy. Is it more important for your child to attend a school that you can walk to / is in your neighborhood, or is there a specific learning philosophy you favor? I really struggled with this one. I think of myself as a fairly pragmatic (?) person and so a part of me said: “Oh Jen. She’s two. This isn’t college. Pick a local pre-school that you can walk to — something a few blocks away.” But the other part of me knew that I’d always wanted to send her to a Montessori because my mother was a Montessori school teacher, I attended Montessori, every niece and nephew has, and I firmly agree with their approach. At the end of the day, I decided the philosophy was more important and that I’d be willing to commute with mini every day (we’ll need to take a subway to get to her school — no line-switching, but still!) If I am honest, this decision was also in part informed by the fact that I’d like to send mini to a private, preferably Catholic, grade school, and I knew that sending her to a well-regarded twos program would help with that step — should we still live here in Manhattan when the time comes. (I don’t want to be disingenuous and pretend that I’m not aware of the fact that certain schools feed into other schools! After all, though the process felt overhyped for us — it still felt very competitive and decently serious.)

2) Maybe you will be lucky and find a school that is both easy to get to AND in line with your preferred methodologies, but regardless, I would then spend time boning up on the school(s) you’ve narrowed in on and their philosophy (ies). This is primarily important because you don’t want to be surprised by something that feels weird to you down the road. I found a couple of schools whose messaging felt strange to me as I poked around their websites and read reviews online — as if they were trying to advance a social agenda or something? I won’t go into details, but some of it just felt a bit much for two and three year olds. It’s also important because I think that if you can articulate why you want to send your child to a particular school using their own lingua franca, everything will go much more smoothly. I remember seeing a few parents at the Montessori open house night express intense confusion over the model. “But…wait, there aren’t any lessons like where the teacher is at a blackboard?” and “So kids are just doing whatever they want to do all day?” These were misinterpretations of the Montessori model and their earnest questions revealed that these parents didn’t understand the approach — not that it was a bad thing at that stage (that’s what open houses are for!), but it occurred to me that I was in a much better position to articulate why we wanted to send mini to this school in particular, and it wasn’t just because the school was proximal to our home or that it was where so-and-so’s child went.

3) The essays and interviews were straight-forward. I think they are intended to make sure you aren’t going to be problem parents, i.e., aren’t going to fight them at every turn over their approach, and aren’t way overselling your child (“my son was reading by age 1”), which is likely a red flag. My sister (a first grade teacher / reading specialist) underscored this point when we discussed the applications. “Just don’t exaggerate or lie — share your observations simply and go from there.” My sense after going through the process is that the schools want engaged, thoughtful parents who will support the teachers and staff. The questions are general, i.e., “Describe your child” and “Why do you think she’d be a good fit for this school?” We tried not to overthink it, but provided specific examples that demonstrated “Montessori values,” i.e., independence, inquisitiveness, focus, etc. I recall talking about how mini enjoyed stacking/organizing things, the fact that we attempted to include her in daily household chores like folding laundry and setting the table (big lessons in Montessori), and some notes on how she liked to learn (she tends to hang back and observe at first, and then, once she’s given plenty of verbal reassurance, dive in with both feet). I thought these demonstrated that we’d be a good fit for the program and that we were attentive to her educational style.

4) Finally. I hear you on wanting to remain sane — it’s easy to get swept away and suddenly pre-school applications feel like the most important thing on your plate, which we can all assure one another THEY ARE NOT. But a friend said something interesting to me. I was walking that fine line — rolling my eyes while also anxiously discussing my options, and she said: “You know what, Jen? If you’re in it, be in it. If you want her to get into this school, go for it. Don’t spend half your time explaining why this application process is crazy. Just do it and own it.” It was liberating. From then on, I went all in and shut up about how weird the process was. I took every step seriously, talked at length with my mother, sister and a few trusted confidantes who appreciated what we were trying to do without making us feel like we’d jumped into the loony bin, and otherwise attempted to avoid discussing/fretting/overthinking.

Not sure if that helps! Obviously can write a lot on this topic…

Q: I’d like to buy my husband a weekend bag. Suggestions?

A: I’d look at the one by Paravel (love love love — and can be personalized) or the one by Filson. (Mr. Magpie uses their briefcase — incidentally, a really good gift for a loved one. They never think they need it and then they use it every day.)

P.S. Life lately: postpartum edition, including all of my favorite products.

P.P.S. Some of my favorite products from winter — I still love all of them.

P.P.P.S. The best toddler gear.

12 Comments

  1. Such good advice here. I’m referring my NYC friends with babies specifically to this schools comment! So helpful.

    xx

  2. two comments, one big one little:

    Crib Sheets:
    Serena and Lily sheets are GREAT! We have used them for four years, across three kids and they get softer with each wear. Pottery Barn Kids were scratchy and small IMO.

    Schools:
    You know your kid(s) best. You know what may work for them, and what will NOT. Remember that! My son is outgoing, inquisitive, bright, and an easy social mixer. I do not request certain pairings or teachers for him, not that I don’t care, but because I know that he will be FINE. I save those conversations for my daughter, who does not have the same confidence, who needs help with social interactions, and some extra love around her physical limitations. Basically: advocate for your child when he/she needs you to! (you already do this!)

    1. This is FANTASTIC advice. Thanks, Anna! Such a good reminder as I prep for school.

      xx

  3. This advice is a goldmine, per usual. No clue what I’m going to do with my son once he ages out of his daycare — send him to the park and let the ducks teach him?—but the Montessori philosophy appeals. (As did the Waldorf, until I learned of their anti-vax strain, ugh.) But SPEAKING OF PRESCHOOL—did you catch the recent NYMag feature on the brouhaha at Grace Church School? As many noted, the screenplay writes itself.

  4. Re. crib sheets, Garbo & Friends has some gorgeous prints too! I’m waiting for the toddler bed upgrade to go full-on woodland botanicals 🙂

    Jen, do you have a favorite photo book company? I’d like to start making yearly albums now that we’ve moved past the one year baby book, so consistency is sort of key. I’ve used Artifact Uprising and Chatbooks in the past, but am looking for something new that is also clean, chic, and minimlistic (so a grouping over the years will look consistent). Sort of like Artifact Uprising quality without the price tag 🙂

    Any ideas?! xoxo

    1. Was not familiar with Garbo — thank you for that intro! Gorgeous! Love the woodland botanical theme.

      Ugh, unfortunately I don’t have a photo book company to recommend :/ I’ve never been on that train — we just do everything digitally via a shared iPhoto album and then print ones we love and frame them in isolation. I’ll keep my eyes peeled though. xx

  5. On Jennifer, you NAILED it! I love your picks (which I knew I would) and will order a few to decide. I’m really leaning toward the Nicholas dress as it is so perfect! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Love that bride’s veil too! I’m dying over her dress and veil. So simple and elegant!

    Schools! UGH!!! Unfortunately, this admissions process goes on forever! And colleges are the worst! Don’t even get me started. It is such bunk! Grrrrr! We went the Catholic school route but unfortunately it didn’t work out well so we switched to another academic private school which was a perfect fit! My advice (having done this for years!) Is two fold:
    1. If you like the headmaster, you will like the school. They drive the ship and everyone answers to them.
    2. LISTEN to your child! If they are not happy with a school, get out of there asap! I kept saying, kids are kids and some are not nice! No, my biggest mistake was not listening when he said he didn’t like it. LISTEN!!!
    Thanks again!
    So happy!!! 😉

    1. Yay! So glad some of these were a fit for you!! 🙂

      Great tips on school w/r/t children. Really interesting point on the headmaster. Hadn’t thought of that, but it makes sense — just as in any business, it’s important to get a sense for the leadership before joining/taking a job. Culture flows from the top down.

      xxx

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