Rethink + Refocus

A few months ago, someone told me, “Man, you’re obsessed with your wedding.” I laughed at him and quickly argued that I really wasn’t. I would never be the type of person who would obsess over flowers, fabrics, dresses and bathroom trailers.

Except I was.

I became that person.

Not at the time this particular person said that to me, but eventually I’d morphed. It was a mortifying revelation.

And like most personal discoveries, mine came as a result of something much bigger and much more important — the type of thing that puts all the other, much smaller things, into perspective.

I got a call that my grandparents — the two people who raised me from age 11, and who helped mold me into what I am today — had both fallen ill at the same time. And one was hospitalized. There was no other information available.

They live five hours away.

My family, of course, joined together to give them the immediate care they needed, and I drove north for a few days to help out, as well. But it’s a scary thing when the family’s pillars — the people you looked up to and respected your entire life, the strong ones, the leaders — show weakness. Everything else becomes obsolete.

Suddenly, posting a blog first thing Monday morning didn’t really matter. Choosing a bridesmaid dress could wait another week or two. Returning those few phone calls wasn’t such a priority anymore. That growing to-do list went to the bottom of my pile.

My focus became something much more important. Something that really mattered.

I vowed from Day 1 that I wouldn’t be a Bridezilla. That’s just not my style. And I never imagined I’d obsess or stress over wedding details. But it’s funny how that all happens, despite your best intentions. I really had gotten to the point where at least part of each of my days was spent on something wedding-related. And that’s stupid … because (and I know some brides and maybe even mothers of brides will disagree) it’s just a wedding. Honestly. The outcome is the same whether you have matching place settings and filet, or plastic forks and barbecue — you’re still saying “I do” to your partner and best friend in the company of the people you love most. The little things just don’t matter.

I really wish it hadn’t taken such a scary ordeal to shock me back to reality, but I’m not mad. I took two weeks “off” to refocus on myself, my family and my best friend (with whom I got to spend the entire weekend, celebrating his birthday and thanking his dear mother for bringing him into this world and into my life). And mark my words right now — I will not go back to the place I was before, where someone would be tempted to say, “Man, you’re obsessed with your wedding.”

Brides, take this advice: don’t sweat the small stuff. I know it doesn’t seem like “small stuff,” but it is. It will all come together. Trust me. Don’t let all the details consume you. Don’t let stress and frustration take over. This is supposed to be the happiest time of your life. Make every effort to keep it that way.


I’m Snow White, b*tch!

I’m a huge nature lover. All nature. Trees, plants, animals, mountains, beaches, forests, water… all the Mother Nature-y things. Animals probably have the biggest part of my heart, but I love it all, nonetheless.

I try to do as much as I can to “save the planet.” And again, I’m probably saving more animals than rain forests, but it’s the thought that counts. One person can only do so much, you know?

I’m getting married in the woods. Surrounded by nature. Trees and moss and sticks and dirt and (hopefully) wildlife. It will be simple and rustic and serene. Plain, perfect and beautiful. Snow White’s very own fairytale.

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Our decorations will be minimal. Nature doesn’t need decorating. We’re doing what we can to utilize what’s available around us, and reuse and recycle as much as possible for our wedding — bouquets of ferns, twigs and moss; hand-painted signs on wood from old buildings and fences; vintage dinnerware from family and friends.

Every day, I come up with a new idea for something we can do to make our wedding more “eco-chic” (I just learned that word today). And then I get all giddy and excited, and I probably talk a lot faster than I need to, and a whole lot louder (and maybe even a few pitches higher), when I try to explain it all to my fiancé (who always has the same response: “That sounds great, babe.” Then silence.). But I just really love finding ways to mix my love of nature into the day!

I remember reading an article a year or so ago about “weddings that give back.” It was more about charitable organizations and less about the environment, but the basic idea is one I appreciate: make a difference where you can.

And that’s what I’ve vowed to do throughout this whole wedding planning process.

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So I’m on the hunt for unique ideas. Eco-friendly and (ahem…) eco-chic ideas that will make my wedding a little more green. More “organic” than “synthetic,” if you will. I have some of my own, of course, but I could always use some more. And even if I don’t use them myself, I will certainly share them.

Because the world could use a few more Snow Whites.


I already said yes to the dress…WTF?

I’m having a hard time choosing a dress for my bridesmaids. For two reasons: 1) I hate shopping and 2) there are too many damn options. Seriously, like hundreds of websites, hundreds of thousands of dresses. It’s impossible to focus.

Plus, I already said yes to the dress. I don’t feel like going through all that again.

I thought I found “the one” a few times. And then I found “the one” that would have actually been “the one” had I gotten that one wedding dress from that one place… Plus another that totally looked perfect next to the wedding dress I DID choose. At least it did that one day. The next day, my mind said, “What are you thinking?”

It’s a full-on sensory overload. Too many dresses, too many styles, too many colors, too many prices. It’s turning me into someone I’m not — someone who cares about fashion and matchy-matching things.

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PHOTO: Danny Bostwick Photography

A year ago, before any talk of my own wedding, I found a bridesmaid dress I absolutely adored. It was perfect. The bride who fashioned her tribe did a flawless job. I remember seeing the photo and just swooning over the whole “Great Gatsby” feel of it.

And then I saw it again, in another wedding photo. And then again. And again…

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Photo: Sarah Murray Photography

THE GOOD NEWS: The dress is versatile. Each bride in every photo made it fit her theme, and did so perfectly. Palm trees and white sandy beaches, or 1920s-style in a rustic barn — doesn’t matter. It all works.

That Adrianna Papell really knows her sh*t when it comes to dresses.

THE BAD NEWS: The dress is versatile, so every bride can make it fit. And A LOT of brides are “making it fit.” As beautiful and perfectly flattering as it is, I just can’t get that dress now. I’ve seen it far too many times since the day I fell in love.

Here’s my problem: Since I originally set my heart on that dress, I can’t seem to get it out of my head. So I’ve been on the hunt for something similar. Something vintage-y. With some sparkle, but not too much. Floor-length. Rose quartz.

I search and search, and I go from website to website, and I either end up back at that damn dress, or on some obscure web page looking at some random dress that is so far off-course that I don’t have any idea how I got there in the first place.

So then I have to stop, shut my eyes and take a breath, and remind myself what I’m supposed to be looking for. At which point I usually just say “screw it” and go to bed.

I got lucky the other day and stumbled on a fellow bride’s post in a Facebook wedding group. She was looking for the “perfect” burgundy bridesmaid dress, and a whole lotta women had a whole lotta suggestions.


More than a few brides suggested Azazie, so I checked it out. So far, I love it! A bunch of dress styles available in a bunch of colors, and lots of positive reviews. The best part? You can order fabric swatches, and other brides post their own photos to the site so you (a potential buyer) can see how the dresses look in real life!

I’ve already picked a few favorites, and I’m crossing my fingers that I love one of the color swatches that arrive in the mail. Because, oh my god, if I have to keep looking for a bridesmaid dress, my poor girls just might be walking down the aisle in their own LBD!

Wish me luck! Oh, and if you have any suggestions for finding the perfect bridesmaids dress, feel free to send them my way! You know, just in case …

Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen…

I never wanted to get married. It wasn’t a fantasy of mine. Like, when I was little, I didn’t walk around in a veil made of pillow cases (although, if you tuck a towel behind your ears just right, you can look like Virgin Mary). And I didn’t organize some elaborate ceremony for Barbie and Ken. It just wasn’t my thing.

So, as an adult — an engaged adult — it’s not like I have any dreams, or a real plan, or any preconceived notion that my wedding will be this absolutely perfect, completely flawless thing. I expect imperfection. I plan for the unplanned.

But you really never know how much will not go as planned. I’ll save you the surprise — it’s a bunch.

I’m not going to say anything went “wrong.” I’ll just say that a few things haven’t read straight from a storybook. Instead, they may have been better suited for the highlight reel at the end of the film.



As you know, I put a lot of time and effort into the hand-painted boxes I put together for my bridesmaids. I packaged each piece (hand-painted champagne flute, bottle of bubbly, etc.) into the box all nice and cozy, wrapped it in a bow, and then packaged it again in a much bigger shipping box with the help of UPS, who assured me that my beloved gifts would arrive at their destination safely and promptly.

That was not necessarily the case.

My maid of honor lives in Pittsburgh. She lives on a tiny street where cars jockey for parking with garbage cans, piles of snow and each other. And from what I remember, it’s a semi-high-traffic area, where a lot of younger folk frequent. Not necessarily the sort of place you leave an adorable little pink package on the doorstep.

I worried about sending this package. But I thought, hey, UPS knows more about shipping than I do — they’ve got this. And then, after days of not hearing a peep from my potential MOH, I panicked — at 4 a.m. — and checked the tracking information online. My package had been delivered days earlier, to the wrong address — right house number, wrong street. Probably the most important package I’ve ever sent in my entire life, delivered to someone else.

Thankfully, after a call, it was sorted out and Kim’s package was taken to a UPS Store. She just needed to pick it up. Which she did NOT for a few additional days. So again, I panicked. I wondered if she got it, read my proposal and was then trying to think of a polite way to say “no.”

That, of course, was not the case. She said “yes,” and all was right in the world again.

Now, for Kristi’s package… Like I said, each one included a hand-painted glass and that teeny bottle of bubbly. I had it all planned for weeks. Bought the individual pieces, and painted and packaged each one. And then I received the amazing news that my girl was expecting a little one.

FYI: Sparkling grape juice does not come in teeny bottles.

That’s OK. I worked out with her husband that, upon the package’s arrival, he was going to pull out a bottle of grape juice and explain the snafu. Thing is, Kristi travels quite a bit, so timing was shaky, and it just didn’t go down as this sitcom skit I had laid out in my head. Regardless, she, too, accepted my proposal, so it all worked out.

My final bridesmaid is one I haven’t yet mentioned — my fiancé’s daughter. Who’s 14. And who clearly does not drink champagne from hand-painted flutes (at least, she better not).

I thought about presenting her with the same package as the other bridesmaids, but replacing her champagne with sparkling grape juice. But drinking sparkling grape juice insinuates drinking, in general, and I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that. Maybe I put a little too much thought into that one, but I played it safe and nixed that idea altogether.

So how exactly do you ask a teenager to be part of your wedding party, and have it be memorable? I’ll tell you what I did. And how I failed. And then if any of you come up with a much better, super rad idea, please share. Because teens are effin tough…

My soon-to-be stepdaughter, like every other girl her age, is obsessed with Josh Dun from Twenty One Pilots. (*Parents: He’s the drummer. The one with that hair. The green mop.) So I thought, how cool would it be if JOSH asked her to be my bridesmaid? Brilliant, right?

I found the perfect picture of him — a goofy close-up with a Cheshire Cat grin and a drumstick in his grill. I had it printed true-to-life, and I painted a “Will you be my bridesmaid” sign that I hung with ribbon from the drumstick. It was awesome! Turned out WAY better than expected!


She was going to visit us on a Friday, and my plan was that, when she opened the door to her bedroom — BAM! There he’d be, in his black-and-white glory, holding my super cute, super colorful sign, asking my very important question.

(*Cue the emotional track, slow the film reel for our hug…)

She’d get all excited and squeal. Clap her hands and say, “OMG, thank you thank you thank you! I just LOOOOOVE him!” And then she’d take 4,9723,801 Snapchat photos…

Again, blooper reel. That didn’t happen. In true 14-year-old fashion, she had another obligation she “oh my god, couldn’t miss” (you remember those days), hours away, so the trip was postponed. And I was left with a picture and a phone proposal. Not exactly how I had envisioned, but the result was the same. I got myself a fourth and final bridesmaid, and one I absolutely knew I needed in my Bride Tribe from Day 1.

I also got a few more days with ’ole Josh, and a few Snapchat photos of my own.


These are only a few of the things that haven’t exactly gone as planned, but that all worked out. I’m gathering that this is kinda what wedding planning is all about — a bunch of things that don’t necessarily go as planned, but that still work out in the end. Plus, they make for fun blog posts.

Will you be my bridesmaid?

I’m super crafty. I’m not typically a bragger, but I AM quite artsy. Like, if Martha Stewart knew I existed, she’d totally want to be my BFF (sorry Snoop). I like to think of myself as Lady MacGyver — I can pretty much make anything out of nothing. A real trash-to-treasure kinda gal.

My grandmother, on the other hand, has a much different way of describing my “talent.” What I think is “innovative,” she often times calls “cheap.” Whatever. I love a good challenge and creating something really pretty from next to nothing is fun for me.

I look at it like this: if it’s something I can make myself, and that’s something I absolutely love doing anyway, why wouldn’t I? And doesn’t a personalized, handmade, straight-from-the-heart gift mean more anyway? It does to me…

Last week, I talked about how I chose my bridesmaids. This week, I’m going to talk about how I asked them to join my crew. And, I’ll be honest, I’ve been SUPER DUPER excited about this blog post for a LONG time!

These women — Ginger, Laura, Kim and Kristi — have been a part of my life for what seems like forever. In fact, Kim, my maid of honor, was a college roommate, so she’s seen 20+ years of trials and tribulations! Those kinds of relationships deserve a Bride Tribe proposal as special as they are to me.


I created a gift box for each one. A pretty little wooden box, filled with all sorts of love and goodies hand-made just for them.


I started with an 8.5-inch, unfinished wood box from Michael’s. I removed the hardware, sanded the edges and then painted it metallic rose gold, one of our wedding colors. Once the pieces dried, I replaced the hardware.


Our wedding décor will include a lot of collectibles and antiques, so I found small frames that look aged and I filled each one with a “vintage” photo of me and each of my girls.

I bought a set of four stemless champagne glasses and hand-painted each woman’s name on each one. This took a little bit of time because (1) I’m a perfectionist and (2) I painted and baked each one twice to ensure the lettering was permanent [*shameless plug: this hand-lettering gig is actually something I do quite often. Check out Love Letters on Facebook + instagram].


I tucked each glass into a small fabric bag that featured little bird feathers, and I wrote long, personal and deeply heartfelt massages to each woman in cards that matched the fabric bags (I won’t say anymore about those messages cause I’ll cry. Again.). I shredded newspaper for my filler, and popped a teeny bottle of champagne into each one. And then I wrapped a shiny rose gold ribbon around each one and shipped them off to my girls… sending out a little prayer with each one that the recipients would accept my proposal with a “Hell yeah!” [*Spoiler alert: they did]


In total, I spent about $40 — $10 for each completed box. I thoroughly enjoyed creating every piece of those gifts, right down to the shredded newspaper. Those boxes contain more of “me” than any store-bought gift ever could, and my girlfriends know that. It’s not the amount of money that counts (although we all know I love the challenge of finding a good deal), but the amount of love that comes with a gift like this. And these boxes overfloweth…


I’m getting married in October and I still haven’t asked all my bridesmaids. Is that bad? Here’s the thing: I didn’t really comprehend how important they were until just recently. Not my friends, mind you — I TOTALLY get how much I need them in my life and on my wedding day. But “bridesmaids,” in general.

I’ve been in a handful of weddings. I’m absolutely honored that, of all the people in each of these women’s lives, I was asked to be among the few who stand by her side on one of the most important days of her life. In the months, weeks and days leading up to the wedding, I offered my services and support. I pitched in on bachelorette and shower planning, and on the big day, I fetched bottled water, held doors, zipped zippers.

And I drank free champagne from a fancy flute.

But in reality, don’t all friends do those things? Like, were those tasks super special because I had a new title? Not really. So honestly, what’s the point of a bridesmaid? That’s the part I had trouble with.

And what’s a good number? Like, how do you choose how many of your many friends you’ll separate out on your wedding day by dressing them in something snazzier than what everyone else is wearing? The whole concept was just silly to me.


So here’s what I did: I figured out who knew most of my dirty little secrets, and I asked them to join my Bride Tribe. Seriously.

And here’s why: Those are the women I trust the most.

I’m a very private, very hard-to-get-to-know person (outside of this über public, available worldwide blog, of course…). But a few (and I mean FEW) people have pushed through the cracks of my hard exterior and gotten to know the real me, good and bad. I trust them with all my troubles, all my heartaches, all my successes, all my passions. I can talk to them about anything and not ever worry that the details of our conversation will go any further.

These are the women who have stood by me through my finest and darkest moments, and the ones I go to for advice, encouragement and support. These are the women I need to offer their services in the months, weeks and days leading up to my wedding. And on my big day, I’ll probably need them to fetch bottled water, hold doors and zip zippers.

But I will also need them to make me laugh, which they’re all SO good at doing. And fetch tissues when I get emotional, which is often. And hug me when the weight of the day gets too heavy. And remind me that, although they’re not there physically, my parents are there in spirit and that’s enough.

I will need them to give me the strength I need on my wedding day, and hold my hand through a few of the tasks I’ll muster through before we even get to that day.

And, in exchange, I’ll give them champagne and a fancy flute.

When I really put some thought into what a bridesmaid is, it made more sense. I mean, I realize some people choose bridesmaids based on various reasons, but for me, on my most special day, I wanted the people closest to my heart to be closest to me in distance.

Turns out, it’s a pretty big deal. So narrowing the few “candidates” (which is a horrible word, but I don’t know what else to call them) to even fewer is hard. And each one deserves a proposal that means as much to them as those women to do me.

This is a lot of pressure, people!

So, by next week and my next blog entry, I will have completed my Bride Tribe and I will be able to introduce you all to the crew who knows all my dirty little secrets and continues to love me anyway…


I said ‘YES’ to the dress!

I said “yes” to the dress this weekend.

Thank god that’s over.

To me, wedding dress shopping is like shopping for needles. And not even in a haystack — that search would be much too confined and far too easy. I’m talking a Google search for needles. Like, what do you enter in the search bar?

“Silver needle, but not the super shiny silver. A little duller. And wide like that one needle I used in my high school Home-Ec class, but not like that big one my great-grandmother used to use. And not real long. Like, maybe as long as my cousin’s pinky finger. The one in Pennsylvania, not the one in Ohio.”


“Google has found 2,984,167,925 matches to your query”

As part of my job at the bridal magazine, I see wedding dresses every day. Truly, every day of my life. And I’ve tucked away pictures of ones I like. I also have a few on my Pinterest. So I had a pretty good idea of what wanted. Sorta.

But when it came time to actually start a serious search for a dress, my brain checked out. There are literally hundreds of thousands of dresses online. The options are endless and absolutely mind-numbing.

Where the hell do you start? That’s not a rhetorical question… I’m seriously asking your opinion.

I picked a handful of dresses that I’d saved and looked them up individually online. And I found that the prices were all over the place — anywhere from $799 to $2,000. There are cheaper and more expensive ones, of course, but mine teetered in this area. So then I dug a little deeper and found that the same gorgeous dress that’s $2,000 on one website, is $362 on a website for some company in California. Wait, what?

The image on both sites shows the same dress, the same model, the same description. Clearly, something’s not right. I mean, obviously the dress is worth more than $362, but who wants to pay $2k when you can pay just a few hundred? And how do you really know you’re getting the same dress?

And that’s just ONE of the confusing things I stumbled upon. Why is wedding dress shopping so hard?

Now that I kinda sorta had a semi-idea of what I might want in a dress, I decided to visit a local bridal boutique to try on a few. Which brought on a whole new list of questions: Do I need to make an appointment or do I just walk in? Do I have to already know what I want, or will I basically start my search from scratch? And, most importantly, who supplies the champagne?

I emailed the only local bridal shop I’d ever dealt with personally, and asked those same questions, because, I figured, I’m not the only first-time bride out there and it doesn’t hurt to be honest about the stuff I don’t know.

**My personal recommendation: If, in your online dress searches, you find a designer you are drawn to, find a shop that carries that line and schedule an appointment. In my case, I seemed to really be drawn to Maggie Sottero dresses, so I made sure Scher’s Bridal Shop carried that line before I scheduled my appointment. I also had a list of style numbers I loved so I could try them on.

If you’ve never been to a bridal shop, it’s overwhelming. There are dresses everywhere, and it’s very, very easy to feel claustrophobic in all that white and poof. They all look the same, and each rack is completely full. Don’t go in alone. You will get lost and you will die.


I took a few of my girlfriends. They scattered like rats as soon as Marc, the owner, greeted me and introduced me to my adorable stylist, Hailey. She and I chatted briefly about the style of dress I was looking for. I showed her the few dresses I had saved to my phone, and I told her all about Maggie, and then I remember her saying, “You’ll find most of her dresses right here,” as she sifted a few hangers on the rack next to us. I, too, sifted a few hangers, and I may have even pulled a dress from the rack — but then I got lost in the whirlwind of the day. Like, immediately.

By the time Hailey and I finished our brief exchange, and I was given the green light to look around, each of my friends had already pulled a few dresses EACH from the racks, so Hailey suggested hitting the dressing room.

In hindsight, I wish I’d had more time to look at dresses myself. But these are things you learn along the way. Almost every dress I tried on that day was chosen by my friends. Fortunately, my friends really know my style and my vision for the wedding. And as I tried them on, I figured out what I like and don’t like, and my stylist was then able to narrow my search to dresses that fit my criteria.



I had no intentions of walking away with a dress that day, and I stuck to my guns on that. As a first-time bride, I wanted to see how the whole thing worked before I made any major decisions. And I’m VERY glad I did it that way.

**My personal recommendation: Visit a local bridal shop first. Be honest about what you know, what you don’t know and what you want in a dress. Be completely open to trying on anything. The owners/stylists at those shops have done this for a long time, and they know their shop inside and out. Trust them. And be comfortable. Once you get the first experience out of the way, the search becomes much less daunting.

Also, have fun with it! Honestly, how often do you get to play dress-up? I don’t typically wear strapless tops, but I tried on a strapless gown for sh*its + giggles. Turns out, I liked it. I also tried on a birdcage veil, a Great Gatsby-style dress, a “Pretty Woman” dress that “looks like it came from the ’80s,” according to my cousin, and probably the biggest, heaviest, poofiest dress in Maryland.


This past weekend, I had two more appointments — each in Central Pennsylvania, the area my family still calls “home.” The first was at The Paisley Bride in Lewistown, a quaint little shop in a gorgeous old house near my old stomping grounds. I did a little homework first — I searched for dresses by each of the featured designers on the boutique’s website, and wrote down the style numbers of the specific dresses that caught my eye.

My family (as well as my soon-to-be MIL and step-daughter) joined me for this one. Here’s the thing about family: they’re not afraid to speak their minds. Here’s the other thing: they can, because there’s a chance they’re footing part of the bill.

Not everyone loved the same dresses as me. And they let me know that.

**My personal recommendation: YOU are the bride. This is YOUR wedding. Don’t let anything make you forget that. It’s very easy to become jaded by others’ opinions, but don’t allow the magic to fade. Kudos to Paisley owner, Morgan, for reminding me of this after every mini fashion show. Of course their opinions count, and they each have your best interests at heart, but if you’re not careful, their honesty could dissuade you from choosing a dress that makes you feel like the sexy, beautiful, breathtaking princess you’ll want to be on your wedding day.

My second appointment of the day, and third overall, was at a much larger, much more mainstream, bridal shop. And I cannot say this enough — THANK GOODNESS I KNEW WHAT I WAS DOING. Had I not visited smaller bridal boutiques, or received the personal attention I did from those owners and stylists, or been given unlimited time to peruse their shops and sift through countless dresses, I think I may have “settled” for a dress at this last appointment.

Let me be clear — I received the BEST attention at this last store. I absolutely did! My stylists were amazing — very accommodating, sincere and knowledgeable. We laughed and cried and genuinely had a great time. But, because these types of stores are so big, their clientele base is massive, and they seem to be busy from open to close. As a result, appointments are strict, time is limited and everything seems regimented.

Because I’d done it a few times before and I knew what I wanted, what looked best and what options were available, it was MUCH easier for me to say, “No, I don’t like that. Put it back,” “Doesn’t matter what you think, this one stays in the ‘maybe pile,’” or “Let’s try this with a ivory sash and cap sleeves.”

In the end, the dress I fell in love with wasn’t one of the $2,000 dresses I’d saved to my phone or Pinterest. Even now, I couldn’t tell you whose name is on the label. It’s not one I imagined wearing on my big day, or one I’ve ever even seen before, for that matter. In fact, it was hidden on the mega sale rack, but it was one I plucked from the hanger as soon as I saw a portion of the lace. It’s not perfect, and it will take some work, but it’s absolutely perfect for me.

**My personal recommendation: Know your options. What you see doesn’t have to be what you get. Something as simple as a sash or belt could give you “shape” and absolutely change the look of a dress. Spaghetti straps can be replaced by cap sleeves. A strapless dress can be paired with a “shoulder necklace” or jewel cape to make it look like a completely different dress. In other words, a “mega sale rack dress” could be made to look like a $2,000 dress if you open your mind to it.

Wish me luck…