Wednesday, September 30, 2015

black midi dress

The first time I wore this dress was a really great night in August—the evening costume change on a "date day" stretching from 10:30AM to bar close. I smile whenever I see it hanging in my closet. And while summer is fading fast, I'll remember that Saturday every time I wear it this fall with a scarf, ankle boots, and eventually, a warm coat.

I liked the idea of keeping the copy short and sugary today, but I couldn't forsake all rational persuasiveness. If you don't have a black midi dress, don't hesitate to buy one. For someone really trying to limit her clothing spending this season, its versatility makes it an investment (only $52) I haven't doubted once. I love the second-skin fit of this Leith style, making it sexy (but not skanky) for a night out. With a sporty neckline and deep-cut armholes, it works for day with flats, or even weddings when dressed up with bold jewelry and killer pumps. Whatever your schedule, the stretchy fabric keeps comfort a priority.

Leith Dress | Charter Club Scarf | Seychelles Boots (similar here)
Kate Spade Saturday Sunglasses (similar here) | Essie Wicked | Ear Cuff
photos by Andrew Saxum

Monday, September 28, 2015

tailgate essentials

The few times I've considered canceling my cable, I've always stopped because of football. Between the Packers and the four Big Ten teams among my family's alma maters, I would have way too much football game FOMO to go without ESPN or ABC. But what I love isn't just watching the downs—it's decking myself out in a cozy crewneck sweatshirt and sipping spiked cider in a crowded parking lot until kickoff. The 2008 Iowa/Minnesota game on a FREEZING November night is still one of my favorite tailgates in memory. There's a unique camaraderie that forms among strangers when you're braving single-digit temps together in the name of team spirit. The regularity of such all-day extravaganzas has tapered off as college drifts further away, but I make sure to dedicate at least one or two weekends per season to all things pigskin. Given my fairly extensive Upper Midwest tailgating experience, I wanted to share my must-haves for a successful football Saturday.

Scroll to shop and browse favorite game-day snacks from Minneapolis bloggers! 

Wool Throw | Gloves | Sweater
*A luxe fabric makes such a difference for accessories you spend all day (and all season) wearing.
**Classic shapes trump glam styles for sports events.
***Make sure to have two hands free for eating, drinking and selfie-snapping.

Cowboy Caviar
"This makes a big batch, so there are leftovers, and it feels a bit healthier than other traditional tailgate food!" — Rachel at Rachel's Lookbook

Pretzel Skillet with Beer Cheese Dip
"I've been intrigued by the resurgence of cast-iron cooking, and this recipe is perfect for fall football. Add caraway seeds to the pretzels, use German beer, and it doubles for Oktoberfest!" — Laura at Bow & Arrow Magazine

Baked Funfetti Donuts
"It can be tough to come up with creative foods for early morning games, but these donuts are easy to make and use ingredients probably already in your kitchen. Use sprinkles in your team's colors for a festive twist!" — Lindsey at The Curly Diaries

Sugar & Spice Cupcakes, see below!
"While these are great for fall, my husband begs me to make them all year. They're a hit every time!" — Tamara at Champagne & Macaroons

Combine 1¼ c. boiling water and 1 c. oatmeal. Let stand 20 minutes. 
Cream together: 
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs slightly beaten
1½ c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
Once combined, add to oatmeal mixture. 
Pour batter into cupcake pan and bake at 350º for 25 minutes. Let cool before frosting. 

Cream Cheese Frosting: 
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
½ c. butter, softened
2 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine cream cheese and butter. Add vanilla. 
Gradually stir in sugar. 
Frost cupcakes and store in refrigerator.

Friday, September 25, 2015

FOUND. Alexander McQueen Slider Cinch Belt.

As I get older and continue to simplify my wardrobe while finding the few key styles that work best for my body, the importance of accessories increases. A black midi dress, dark skinny jeans and semi-fitted sweaters would get a little tired without some scarves, jewelry and hats to revive them. I haven't focused much on belts in the past, but recent Pinterest images (like this and this) have me searching for a statement-making waist cincher.

This bold Alexander McQueen belt has major fashion appeal—its width makes it hard to miss, but the minimalist design keeps it sleek, sophisticated and expensive-looking. Its size gives it the power to totally transform an outfit: layer it over a sweater dress for day, flowing maxi for formal events, or streamlined topcoat for an elevated commute.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

red hot

Grab some coffee and let's catch up! 
Sharing a few updates from the past week for this quick hump day hello!

When my alarm blared at 5:00 last Saturday morning, I almost said "screw it" to my 7-hour volunteer shift at Muckfest, but I'm happy I made the hour-long haul to the Somerset, WI, event site. Zip-lining and belly-crawling through the muddy obstacle course (and tailgating the afternoon away after) looked so FUN, and I definitely want to participate next year.

Still dreaming about last weekend's gourmet popcorn and All the Single Ladies tequila cocktail at cozy Parlour. My love affair with the North Loop is in full effect.

It's sad to see summer go, but the amazing slow-cooker turkey chili I threw together on Sunday with football buzzing in the background was fall perfection. Planning to add a petite pumpkin to my coffee table for some seasonal flair ASAP!

I dressed up and hit up the Foshay last night for Minnstafashion, a Minnesota Fashion Week event featuring complimentary wine and the chance to win swanky prizes for creating the best Instagram caption for styled looks. I wish there had been a runway or a bit more action, but still—not bad for a Tuesday. Catch more of the #FWMN fun with this guide.

Red is HOT for fall! I love how InStyle spinoff publication Your Look styled the color with winter whites for pretty, Snow White-inspired contrast. It was 80 degrees when we shot the below photos, but as the weather cools down, I'll swap my tank for a sleek white sweater to mimic the magazine feature. Make a more subtle statement by carrying a cherry clutch or slipping on garnet leather gloves!

Scroll to shop the best ways to wear red this season! 

Necklace: J.Crew | UO Tank Top | Pants: J.Crew
Bag: Banana Republic | Shoes: Nine West | Toes: OPI Cajun Shrimp

photos by Andrew Saxum

Monday, September 21, 2015

men's fall essentials with lands' end's alex kirwan

Coming in hot on a Monday with my first casse-croute interview! After working in men's apparel for three years prior to my current job, I have a full-blown thing for guy style—browsing Askov Finlayson or just passing a masculine button-down/dark denim ensemble on the street makes me feel warm 'n fuzzy. While I'm no longer writing copy for Lighthouse Chinos or Squall Jackets, I maintain a healthy hobbyist interest in the field. And with October around the corner, it's time to start surveying your cold-weather wardrobe and filling in the gaps! Rather than curate my own list of fall essentials, I enlisted my former coworker, Alex, to share what's on his radar this season. As both a male and a menswear merchant, he offers a smart and stylish insider perspective that has me beat on both counts!

Get to know Alex then shop his must-haves for a handsome fall!

NAME: Alex Kirwan
TITLE: Associate Merchant, Men's Knits at Lands' End
HOMETOWN: Rochester, NY
LANDS' END IS RIGHT OUTSIDE MADISON, WI. FAVORITE MADISON RESTAURANT? Too many, but my top three are Forequarter, Grampa's Pizza and Natt Spil.

A TYPICAL DAY AT LANDS' END LOOKS LIKE: This is cliché, but almost every day is different. We're constantly collaborating with Design, Creative, Sourcing and Planning, so one day we might review key looks for the season, and the next, analyze financials.
WHAT WOULD PEOPLE BE SURPRISED TO KNOW ABOUT WORKING AS A MERCHANT? Someone might be surprised at the level to which we're involved in product development. When I tell people what I do, most say they thought merchants just bought fabric or placed factory orders.
WHY IS NOW AN EXCITING TIME TO WORK AT LANDS' END? Our new CEO has a lot of exciting ideas about evolving and growing the brand while staying true to our classic, nautical roots.

WHAT FALL TRENDS ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT? I'm just excited about layering in general. I love outerwear, too, so I'm ready to break out my coats and jackets.
WHAT MENSWEAR PIECE NEVER GOES OUT OF STYLE? Jeans. Denim in general, actually.
LAST THING YOU BOUGHT FOR YOURSELF? A garment-dyed Gitman Vintage Oxford shirt from the Unionmade seasonal sale.
FAVORITE BRANDS? I can't afford them, but currently love Officine Générale and AMI.
STYLE ICON? Ariel and Shimon Ovadia, the twin brothers behind Ovadia & Sons.

This coat is made with a beautiful wool donegal from Abraham Moon, one of the most famous woolen mills in the UK. The little colored neps in the fabric give it great texture and dimension. 
Chambray shirts are a staple in my closet. I wear the light-wash one with dark jeans and the darker with faded denim. 
The tipping detail on this polo reminds me of vintage Fred Perry polos, and gives it a bit of a mod feel. 
The Serious Sweats crew and full-zip are the most comfortable sweats I own—seriously. I like the nautical update the Breton stripe gives this one. 
I love the look of indigo and navy with white leather sneakers. These are classic and a great solve if you like the look of Common Projects, but not the $400 price tag.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

found. teeki yoga leggings.

The past two weeks I've been taking advantage of free yoga at Lake of the Isles. Until now, I've always chosen more aggressive forms of cardio and largely avoided group exercise, preferring the flexibility to sweat on my own schedule. But despite high school being the last time I whipped out a Warrior One, the idea of some calming vinyasa flow overlooking the water was too enticing to turn down. I love that there's no pressure to be the fastest sprinter or sharpest shooter—the Wednesday night group is all ages and if you can't quite grab your ankle for a certain pose (guilty!), no problem. The only goal is letting go of the day and finding balance. And for me, the middle of the week is a great time for that.

It appeals to my stingy side that no special socks or expensive equipment are required (you can use a beach towel in lieu of a mat), but I can't help myself from picking up a couple pairs of colorful leggings to really get me in the "namaste" groove. Teeki uses recycled water bottles to create activewear that is not only ethereally beautiful, but earth-conscious—kind of perfect for a peaceful mind, right? I'm mesmerized by the mix of softer colors and fluid, kaleidoscopic patterns for a mystical, Wild West look and feel. This was the last week of The Yoga Garage's outdoor summer sessions, but Teeki's tights are just the kick I need to continue practicing on my own.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

nude midi dress

Mindy Kaling's sophomore memoir hits Amazon today! Have you ordered a copy? I read her first book over the weekend in preparation and really enjoyed it—literally LOLing more than a few times ("When I see a perfectly hairless, tanned guy on-screen, I am forced to recall the Chihauhau."). It was really endearing to learn how a successful writer/actor flubbed her way through many firsts and boldly persisted in putting herself in new and scary situations (pitching sketches for SNL alongside Tina Fey and Seth Meyers? Hello intimidating.) in her quest to be a TV comedy queen. Not all Hollywood heavyweights were pros from day one! The page-turner was not only entertainment for a beautiful Sunday night on my roof deck, but motivation to keep plugging away at my own passions. It takes time and tumbles for anything to take shape—Mindy's previously successful play flopped at Aspen—but something you love doing is worth the skinned knees and judge-y side-eye.

And when you finally hit your stride, there's no better feeling! I met my blog photographer early this summer and after six or seven shoots together, I think we've both found our footing. He captured some amazing shots (that light!), and this nude dress is my favorite look so far. It's simple but sexy, makes me feel really confident and comfortable, and is incredibly versatile, spanning wearing occasion and season. The ribbed midi has skinny straps and side cut-outs, which I'm all about in the right situation. But with a classic jean jacket thrown over the shoulders, it's more modest and fall-appropriate. I plan to wear it for dinner & drinks with visiting friends on Saturday (can't wait to take them out!), and it would look just as good trolling the mall with low-cut Chuck Taylors.

Thanks for joining me as I stumble along in my own hobby! I certainly scrunch my nose as I look back on some of the outfit photos I've posted so far (so not a natural in front of the camera..!), but I'm taking a cue from Mindy in laughing and continuing on.

Get more Mindy over on Shopbop today where she's talking fall must-haves!

Topshop Midi Dress (sold out—similar here and here)
American Eagle jacket | Boden heels (old) | J.Crew bag (old)

photos by Andrew Saxum

Monday, September 14, 2015

daytime sparkle

THIS WEEKEND. AHH. I'm officially obsessed with Minneapolis. Nothing major happened, but a combination of amazing weather that cast the city in the most gorgeous on-the-brink-of-fall glow and the exploration of hip neighborhoods and historic hot spots has me appreciating the 612 in a whole new way.

In the spirit of second looks, I'm embracing sequins via fall's mixing-night-and-day trend. Even at prom and New Year parties—occasions made for gaudy glamour—I've always said "no" to sequined gowns and their plea for attention. But now, thanks to Jenna Lyons and a tip from InStyle, the idea of introducing a sparkly nighttime shirt or shoe to the bright light of day is really appealing. I love the confident contrast of high-shine glitz against casual & conservative sweaters, denim and earthy fabrics. And judging by Tibi's spring '16 runway show, the look won't be a one-season wonder.

If you're too timid to let your glitter flag fly, a flashy sparkly manicure does the trick!


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

sleeveless sweater shell

I bought this summery mini dress for a lakeside birthday celebration a few years ago and despite loving it, haven't had occasion to wear it since (or, more accurately, overzealously bought too many dresses that year and and it never surfaced a second time..). But with the temperatures dipping a bit this week and my continuing quest to maximize my existing wardrobe, I slipped it under a sleeveless sweater shell for a completely new look. The split-hem ribbed knit gives the lightweight party dress a casual, everyday feel that was totally appropriate for lunch at Icehouse over Labor Day weekend (loved the sloppy nachos!) and the chunky texture offers just enough warmth and coverage for this transitional time of year.

I've been loving the combination so much that I've also worn the colorful dress underneath my black Jackie Shell with coordinating pumps after dark, and plan to use the same strategy with full-sleeved sweaters and midi dresses throughout fall—such an easy trick to make basic separates look a bit more fashion-forward.

I hope your transition back into the work grind and faster pace of fall is going as smoothly as your sartorial endeavors. I woke up Tuesday with chills, congestion and VERY tired eyes, so the changing-of-the-seasons struggle is feeling very real. If you also need an assist, check out this interview with wellness guru Gabby Bernstein on mindfulness and maintaining that buoyant summer attitude all year. Meanwhile, drinking all the tea...

size down (wearing Small)

the rest of my outfit is old. 
necklace: Anthropologie
dress: Shopbop
bag: J.Crew
shoes: Halogen

photos by Andrew Saxum

Monday, September 7, 2015

falling into the gap: the 8 best denim pieces this season

A sundress is summer's calling card, but with the return of fall, it's denim's day in the sun. The Gap has fallen in and out of popular favor over the years, but for wardrobe staples like jeans, it's forever IN—a knee-jerk reaction to a tough question. Unwaveringly timeless, like Norma Jean and Steve McQueen.

I've definitely explored other brands. And designer denim has its appeals, but aren't jeans inherently non-exclusive? They're cotton after all, not crocodile. Yet, still a tricky thing that requires a degree of quality and craftsmanship to which the Gap is the easy answer, falling comfortably between thrift and Thakoon.

I combed through Gap's current selection for the best denim to buy this season, from the essential jean jacket to more modern joggers. Click through below for my picks—I'm obsessed with the light-wash deconstructed jeans, loving the throwback feel of a button-front jean skirt, and of course, still not over overalls. In the end, I just want something flattering I can mindlessly slide on well into Kanye's command of the West Wing—and not be out $200. And if it's good enough for Joni and Cindy, it's good enough for me.

Friday, September 4, 2015

found. james jeans satin combo blazer.

Let me preface this post by saying I originally created this series for aspirational, probably-out-of-my-price-range pieces that the fashion lover in me can't help but flirt with (so if you see $600 boots and wonder whether I know my audience, there's my answer). I will also feature lower-end items that really strike me, but FOUND is an end-of-the-week, we've-made-it-to-Friday, free reign safe space for me (and you) to go gaga over a really amazing boot, bracelet, beret—or in today's case, blazer.

So let's gaga.

Both menswear and velvet were identified as discrete trends for fall, meaning this James Jeans Satin Combo Blazer kills two sartorial birds with one stone. And the type A in me loves that efficiency. Satin lapels add a level of luxury to an already fit-for-a-queen velvet garment that will have the masses gathering at your knees and yearning for a feel. There's something about a tailored jacket that makes you feel like snapping some whips and capable of commanding a room, right? The business-minded silhouette mixed with festive, here-to-party fabric means this cold weather must-have will stun for work or play—versatility that I say justifies a little splurge.

Get inspired with more ways to wear velvet this season from Vogue.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

september edit

Welcome to September at casse-croute! The humidity in Minneapolis this week makes it hard to start living and breathing fall, but the savvy shopper's at least THINKING it. Rather than focusing my monthly budget on chunky cowl sweaters and heavy corduroys, I'm nodding to the new season with autumnal colors (loving plum and TEAL!), rich texture (braided choker, leather backpack), and depth in pattern (jacquard stripe scarf, patterned rayon pants). Wood Clubmasters are a revelation—the natural next step if you love tortoise—and a buttondown boy shirt with bold stripes is a modern variation on a traditional Oxford that's more appropriate for this time of year. I also threw in a Clinique cleansing brush because skincare is always a priority, this brand never makes me break out, and I STILL don't have a sonic facial tool (#behindthetimes). As the weather shifts and skin reacts, I'll be giving mine extra love to ensure a smooth transition.

Shop everything below while you listen to my song of the month—Seventeen by Sjowgren. It has a really comforting message, easy melody and is a good reminder to just chill—I've needed that lately. I'm saying hello to a five-day weekend starting tomorrow, and am excited to catch up with a visiting college bestie, lie by the pool, sleep in and do some end-of-summer celebrating a la this post. How are you spending Labor Day? Any great new songs on your radar? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. You can now shop my Instagrams straight from your inbox! Just sign up at—then when you "like" one of my snaps tagged with #SHOPSTYLEit, you'll get product info and links emailed to you!

Nail polish in Chat Up | Sonic Brush | Shirt | Backpack
*Maybe too soon to start wearing, but the best blanket styles get scooped up fast! Don't risk your favorite selling out.
**Gray goes with everything, and this glossy finish will stand out from a sea of matte leather.