I received so many questions this go around that I’ve had to split the latest batch into a series of mail posts — so if you don’t see an answer to a question you submitted here, rest assured I will answer it in the following one (probably early next week). Please keep the questions coming! You can always email me at email@example.com.
Q: I was wondering if you had any hair straightener recommendations? I have referred back to your blowout post many times, (and LOVE B+B Don’t Blow It…omg! Will replace forever!) but don’t recall any straightener recs? Would love to stay under $100 as I would be doing just pieces and not my full hair!
A: Yay! Glad that post has been helpful! (I would also suggest this detangler/primer, which I use all the time nowadays, then let my hair air dry to basically 80% dry and finish with the blowdryer.) At any rate: flatirons! I have an ancient Chi I’ve used for like a decade and I think it does the job perfectly. Heats up quickly and lasts an eternity. I have also randomly heard good things about this super inexpensive one. I think I read about that one in Into the Gloss and bookmarked it in case my Chi ever gives out since I use a straightener fairly sporadically! But — and Mr. Magpie always makes fun of me for my obsession with Amazon reviews — this $36 one has like 30,000 favorable reviews!
Q: I’ve been digging into your archives lately, as I’m expecting my first child in February! My husband and I have opted not to find out the gender ahead of time, and we generally enjoy the anticipation that comes with that decision. However, I would really love to have a special “coming home” outfit for our little one and am thinking I’ll buy something for each gender. I love your traditional and classic taste in children’s clothes, but I am stumped when it comes to newborn apparel for winter. Would you please share some boy and girl recommendations?
A: Thank you so much for the sweet note and congratulations! How exciting! I can imagine that it would be incredibly thrilling to wait to find out the gender. I’m flattered you would seek my input. I was startled to find that for the first few weeks (basically until they are six weeks old, I’d say), the only thing I wanted to dress the baby in was the softest cotton. Anything fancy and frou frou felt almost cruel on her sweet and delicate skin! So, I would bring the baby home in a comfy, supersoft pima/cotton footie and coordinating hat and then either layer with an extra bunting/fleece set (like this) or bundle with a receiving blanket. (I love the supersoft, thick ones from Little Giraffe.) Here are a few options I’d suggest:
+Pixie Lily: I adore these beautiful gowns and footies with the hemstitch edging. Come in either pink, blue, or white (white would work for either gender…just a thought). Note that you should probably dress the baby in a footie for the ride home because you’ll need to put him/her in a carseat and you don’t want his/her legs bare with the gown!
+Love these smocked footies (come in pink or blue).
+A bit more whimsical, but I love everything from Livly Baby and brought Hill home in one of their printed footies (the newborn size actually fits newborns!!!) and hat sets and also bought him one of the velour bunny suits (<<could be good for winter), though he was too little for it when he was born. (He was 7 lbs 3 oz, for reference.)
+All of the layette stuff from TBBC is ultra-precious and the 0-3 month size runs super small and properly fits a newborn (they are unbelievably tiny when they come out!). I dressed micro in their Sir Proper Stork jammies while he was still at the hospital and mini wore this when she was itty bitty.
+If you want to go super high-end, check out these ultra-luxe cashmere footies. Maybe get it in ivory so it could work for either gender?
Q: I am getting married this winter at the end of December at the Central Park Boathouse and we are having our rehearsal dinner at an upscale casual (is that a real thing?) restaurant in Midtown. I am stumped on what to wear! I am open to wearing any color and am 5′ 4″ and petite. What would you wear?! Open to having a very fun fashion moment. Budget is anything under $1000!
A: Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! So exciting, and sounds like a lovely affair from top to bottom. What a FUN challenge.
My favorite fashion-forward labels are:
+Alice McCall — though at the moment, there’s nothing that really catches my eye for a bride to be. Maybe check back when their next collection launches.
+Self-Portrait. I love love love this for a bride.
+This slinky dress from new-to-me label Rotate would also be EPIC for a winter reception with a bouncy blowout.
I was personally into wearing all white errythang to all wedding related events. Cinq A Sept always has the most gorgeous LWDs — like this or this — but this is one of my all-time favorite jumpsuits (I own it in red) and it would be SO fun with some loud statement shoes and huge earrings in the white.
Q: I find myself in a new city these days and despite my UVa education and over a decade in digital media I still feel like my networking efforts feel forced, heavy-handed or clumsy at best (it’s like my inner introvert totally takes over). Any tips whether you’re desperately looking for a new position or would just like an introduction (personal or professional)?
A: I hear you! I personally feel that honesty/earnestness is best in this situation — let someone know why you want to get coffee or connect, even if it feels uncomfortable. It puts people at ease or at least lets them mentally prepare themselves for your ask. No one wants a hidden sales pitch. This might also make you feel more comfortable, since you’re being up front and can therefore pre-empt the feelings of clumsiness or heavy-handedness. Whether it’s “I would one day love to work at a company like yours and would love to hear about your path to where you are” or “I don’t know many other women in marketing here and would like to get to know the community” or “I’m beginning my job hunt and would love to hear about your experience and learn what you like about your current role/company” — I would just spell it out!
More tactically, and specific to conference-type venues, I got pretty good at networking at events because I rehearsed a “cold opener” and would literally force myself to walk confidently into a room (after a pep talk in my hotel room), find the first cluster of people that were arranged in a way that would make it easy for me to interrupt (you don’t want to have to tap someone on the shoulder or climb over a banquette to start a convo), and deliver it within the first minute of entering the room. Mine was: “Hi, I’m Jen! I don’t know anyone here but I work in xyz and wanted to introduce myself.” Who can say no to a friendly, open appeal like that?!
And, something I learned from Mr. Magpie: pay attention to your body language! If you’re hunched over your phone with your back to the door, no one will approach you. Try standing confidently with your shoulders back by a table facing the door, with your body angled outward. I swear it makes a difference! People will approach someone approachable!
Also — sometimes drinking a glass of wine at the lobby bar beforehand helps 🙂
Q: I loved your post from a few months back about your nightly affirmation for Mini. I have a baby boy and I have been workshopping ideas about a similar affirmation. In this time of #MeToo and toxic masculinity, I want to raise a “man of substance” who is respectful, thoughtful, and caring — basically, what it sounds like you are seeking to do with Micro. I’d love your thoughts of affirmative words to share with an infant that will foster a growth of the attributes we all hope our sons will have.
A: Wow! What a thoughtful question. My first reaction was that I am 100% sure — just based on the phrasing and intent of this question — that you will raise a boy who is sensitive, kind, and aware. Your mindfulness will radiate through every decision and comment you make as a parent. So trust your gut, mama!
Personally, I’m a little troubled by the notion that I can’t or shouldn’t tell my son that he is or is not a certain thing. Can we no longer tell our boys that they are strong and brave? Is that feeding into an antiquated gender norm dichotomy? Etc. I don’t know the answers to these questions but they are worth considering so you can determine what feels right to you.
I have just recently started saying prayers and affirmations aloud with micro and I find myself organically telling him that he is “smart, curious, calm, and sweet.” These descriptors might evolve over time but they capture his personality at the moment, and my intent with the nightly affirmations is to call out and celebrate the strengths I see in my children.
Q: I don’t have children myself, but would like to buy some cute sleepwear for my godchildren. Where should I look?
A: For more of a traditional look, I love Petite Plume. They do great seasonal prints/patterns! For something a bit more whimsical, Roller Rabbit — the softest pima cotton and the coolest prints! Both of those brands are great because you can coordinate the siblings. And for itty bitties, I love Kissy Kissy, which are the absolute softest and hold up well in the wash. More children’s nightwear labels I love here.
Q: What is your favorite housewarming gift for a couple in their late 20s with a 1 year old?
A: I like giving Matouk Auberge towels (with the couple’s last name letter on the front), really fancy hand soap for the type of gal who notices that kind of thing (it’d be lost on some friends, but others would be so grateful for the splurge), or a super nice bottle of champagne. It depends on how close you are to the couple and how much you want to spend!
The two best housewarming gifts I have ever received, though:
+a gift card to a home decor shop! It was nice to be able to use it as I was decorating the house! Ours was to West Elm, but it would also be cool to pick a local home decor shop like (in Chicago) Jayson Home or (in New York) Scully & Scully.
+a set of beautiful and simple silver crosses to put over the front and back doors, from my mom. They’ve followed us everywhere and give me incredible peace of mind. It’s a blessing every time you come and go! When I lived abroad in France in college, I essentially lived in a garage, but the landlord had tacked a cross above the door. I’ll never forget this because it was one of the first things my father noticed about the apartment.
“How beautiful that this was here for you,” he mused. It made me realize that every Catholic home should have a cross somewhere.
P.S. My ultimate gift guide.
Q: Do the Hermes Orans hold up on the streets of NYC?
A: YES. These are easily my most-worn sandals (I own them in the “gold,” which is actually a beautiful saddle brown color); I think I wore them at least five out of seven days a week this summer. They truly get better with age and patina. They are soft as butter and have never, ever given me blisters! I’ve worn them extensively over the past four or five summers and though they do look “lived-in,” they’re still holding up nicely. I have been known to wipe down the footbed with a damp/mildly soapy washcloth or even a diaper wipe when I’m being savage to clean them from the dirt that comes with traipsing through a city, but they still look great.
P.S — I love these Oran-esque python slides for $129.
Q: How did you decide to stay in the city versus move to the burbs?
A: We agonized over this for a long, long time, especially after I spent part of this summer worrying about raising my children alienated from the simpler joys of summer. At the end of the day, with two little children, we prioritized the brevity of Landon’s commute over all else. We wanted to make sure he would see the children everyday (and I’d have his help — ha!) and also — long commutes can be soul-sucking, and we had Landon’s quality of life in mind during this busy and intense season of life. Mini is also starting school downtown and we were overwhelmed by the thought of reapplying to a toddler program elsewhere after all that went into getting her into this one in the first place — or dealing with commuting her into the city every day!
Beyond that, we like living in Manhattan (my grumbles and gripes notwithstanding). We both feel that the next time we move, it will be “for good” in the sense that we want a home we will live in for the majority of our children’s lives, if at all possible. That will probably not be Manhattan — and so, if we’re in New York City for now, let’s DO NEW YORK CITY.
Q: What to wear to a London wedding at four months pregnant?
A: This is a tricky time since it’s hard to fit into non-maternity clothes but maternity clothes can be voluminous. My first thought, though, was this gorgeous, bump-friendly tiered satin dress. It’s a GREAT price — and that marigold color is so on-trend right now. Would be perfect with jewel-encrusted heels or oversized, glam earrings.
Around the start of the second trimester, I also liked wearing shift dresses like this (perfect for a day-time wedding) that could be worn post-pregnancy but would accommodate a bump. A lot of the LoveShackFancy dresses are cut in such a way that they work with a smaller bump — I wore one with a similar waistline to this one to Christmas and it worked perfectly (and I’ve since worn it post-partum!). The loose, tiered fit of this polka dot number could also be fetching with some black pumps and oversized earrings, and this could be epic if you’re a little bit more of a fashion risktaker. For black tie, something like this worn with major earrings would be perfect. And depending on season/venue, I’m smitten with this bump-friendly embroidered long dress! It’s incredible!
P.S. More Magpie mail.
P.P.P.S. Just ordered this.