When Your Clothes Speak Louder Than Your Words: Four Factors to Ensure Your Verbal Message Is All Your Audience Hears

Even in this digital age, where phone alerts of breaking news developments pop up on my screen, I still watch the news. I have since I was little.  Growing up, we’d routinely watch the news during dinner. I even worked out to the 6 am news while in college and law school.  As a grown adult, with kids of my own, I still can’t fall asleep without catching the first five minutes of the local news, at the very least.

Why bother, you might ask?  Probably not for the reason you think.

I grew up trusting news anchors not just because they were the gatekeepers of the most up to date information concerning the state of the world pre-internet, but because of how they dressed. Female anchors, dressed in a suit or sheath dress; and their gentlemen counterparts, clad in a suit and tie, commanded respect and appeared credibly by virtue of the way they dressed and before even speaking a word.   Their polished appearance inspired the audience’s trust — and mine– in providing accurate answers and reliable, credible information.

And it’s no coincidence.

Before working as a professional fashion stylist, I worked as a litigation attorney for over 15 years.  After hundreds of depositions, I became fascinated less with impeaching a witness or catching them in a half-truth; and more with why I approached them the way I did.  If a witness showed up looking polished, in a coat and tie or a dress, I instinctively felt the need to “up my game” because the individual was likely well-coached by their counsel, he/she was a “know it all,” or some combination thereof.  If they arrived looking like they had just rolled out of bed, they were likely unprepared, uninvested, and disinterested — which meant they didn’t know what was coming and I was about to have some fun.

Call me judgmental. But I’m not alone.

Studies show that it takes less than seven (7) seconds to form a first impression of someone. Worse still, it takes less than one tenth (1/10) of a second to assess someone’s trustworthiness.

What does that mean, practically speaking?

It means we all judge a book by its cover, whether we want to or not.  These statistics don’t lie — they strongly suggest we are hard-wired that way, likely because it was better to be safe than sorry in the caveman days. Indeed, it was better to wander out into the night to find the source of that rustle in the grass, lest allow your family to perish because you assumed the best of the animal out there, wanting to feast on you for supper; or the enemy wanting to seize your land or property.

In modern times, it means before you’ve even said a word, or shook a hand, someone has already decided who you are, what you are about, and whether you can be trusted.  And it’s not your resume, your pedigree, or your actual character upon which they are basing that judgment.  It’s based on one simple thing: how you showed up.  Based on what you are wearing, how you carry yourself; whether you are put together; your makeup; your hair; whether your clothes are pressed; your accessories; and/or whether your shoes are polished, someone has decided whether they like you, can trust you, whether you are credible; and/or whether you pass muster.

So, regardless of whether you are interviewing for a job; broadcasting on television; or delivering a speech/presenting to a crowd of 100 or 1000, your goal is the same: to deliver a clear, consistent, powerful message.  The key to doing that is simple:  focus on the things over which you have complete control, namely  (1) the message itself; and (2) how it’s delivered.

While the first is more obvious, and likely the natural focus on your attention, I urge you not to overlook the second because how you deliver your message is arguably more important than you may initially think. 

Sure, delivering your message entails mastering your intonation and driving home your key points in a manner consistent with the message’s content.  But, how you deliver your message is as much about how you show up to deliver it as it is anything else.  To ensure your message packs a punch, devote as much time to crafting it as you do your look — i.e. what you wear and how you wear it because how you show up to deliver your message may send a message different from your verbal one.  And if you do, it’s highly unlikely you will get a chance to clarify or correct.

To ensure you dress the part and communicate effectively, remember the ABCD’s in assembling your look.

A: Audience, Appropriateness and Authenticity:

First, consider your Audience. Who are you speaking to and what are their expectations of you?  Where are you speaking and does your look align with your surroundings and/or venue? Is your topic sensitive, ethereal, academic in nature, or spiritual? Are you inspiring or educating people?  By keeping these factors in mind, your outfit can draw the audience in as easily as it can alienate them if you opt for the wrong silhouette and/or fabric, for instance.

Next, dress Appropriately.  This goes well beyond dressing in a weather appropriate manner, consistent with your surroundings.  It means avoid wearing stiletto heels if you are delivering your speech while standing on grass.  The stilettos may elongate your legs and be the perfect shoe to match your look; but in this context, it reflects unpreparedness — and will likely result in both your message and stance searching for firm footing.  It means being mindful of your hemlines and necklines (i.e. not too short or long).  It means avoid wearing a suit or a structured jacket if your topic is emotional or ethereal in nature — it will incorrectly convey that you are unapproachable and undermine your message overall.

Finally, be Authentic Brene Brown said it best when she described authenticity as “the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.”  To authentically communicate your message, strike a balance between the other “ABC” factors and your personal style — all the while remembering that the balance is circumstance and situationally dependent.  Without it, your message will be diluted because it will fundamentally lack credibility.

B: Branding:

The “B” factor, or Branding, is especially critical in this day an age, perhaps more so than ever.  The reasons for this are simple: the internet has a perfect memory and you are the face of your brand.  And, you don’t have to own or work for a Fortune 500 company owner to have a “brand.” Personal branding and being “on brand” is just as important, if not more important in communicating your message.  How you show up is both a promise and an expectation:  it’s the promise you are making about what people can expect from you.  Always bear in mind that who you think you are may differ from who others perceive you to be based on how you choose to show up, so make sure to strive to align those on every occasion.

C: Consistency:

Speaking of which…  “C”  is about Consistency.  Consistency is key — plain and simple — in how you show up and in everything you do.  The world struggles with change, so the best way to firmly establish yourself — and effectively communicate your message– is to hone your personal style, pick a signature look in line with the factors we have discussed, and run with it. It’s why Steve Jobs gained notoriety and success he did — and why everyone knows him:  it all came down to a simple black turtleneck.  Each and every time he addressed an audience, he wore a black turtleneck. It became his calling card.  People knew precisely what to expect from him, his company and their products — which thereby enhanced the efficacy of his message and his brand’s awareness and popularity.

D: Dressing free of Distraction:

Finally, “D” stands for Dressing free of Distraction.  Generally speaking, avoid:

  • loud, bright colors (unless it’s on brand);
  • prints (especially large ones; stripes can sometimes be ok, depending on their width (too small can make your audience dizzy; and too wide can be distracting));
  • logos;
  • patterned fabrics;
  • large, bulky accessories and
  • too much bling.

Be mindful about color choice, and make sure your color selection aligns with your audience, your messaging and your environment.  Wearing a power color (aka black, navy, dark grey) can communicate authoritativeness, confidence and strength, which is great in court, but bad if your message is emotional in nature, generally speaking.  If you are covering a sport team, be mindful about your color choices.  Donning the opposing teams’ colors will have your audience questioning your loyalty, your choices, and worse still, your credibility.

Be careful with fabric and silhouette choices as well.  A lace dress is great for a cocktail party but will undermine your message broadcast from almost any other venue.  Worse still, wearing a nude colored dress at a manifesting spirituality conference will undoubtedly manifest thoughts in your audience better suited for a private venue.

In sum, dress in a way to ensure that your message is the only thing your audience remembers.  It’s in part, why I still watch the evening news every night before bed, even though CNN never leaves me void of news updates.  I just want to make sure I hear it from the people I’ve grown up watching and trust.  In the end, that’s what we all want: to work with, know, hear from and be in the company of people we know, like and trust.


Fashion Sequel: Derek Lam 10C + Athleta Winter Collaboration Drops Today!

Everyone who has seen a movie they love hopes for a sequel.  As the audience, we can’t wait to experience the newest adventures of the characters we revere, know and love.  A successful sequel hinges on striking the perfect balance of giving people enough of what they initially loved about the first installment with just enough twists, turns, nuances, drama and intrigue that push the envelope a step forward.  But not too far. Sequels fail because they step too far outside the box, or play it too safe.  The ones that succeed go just far enough, but stay true to what’s original.

I love me a good movie, but it should come as no surprise that I’ll take a fashion collaboration sequel over a movie sequel any day (sorry Star Wars episode VII!). And the best part? I don’t have to wait several decades for it to drop!

Part Deux of the Derek Lam 10C + Athleta collaboration drops today.  Like the original, it seamlessly fuses functionality with a fashion forward aesthetic, achieved both through couture silhouette and fabric choices — all in an athleisure line.  But like a perfect sequel, it goes a step further by incorporating an on-trend, oldie-but-goodie style —  a 70’s flair – in a completely innovative,  mind blowing way that exactly the hook every sequel needs!

So much strikes me about this collaboration….where to begin!

First, it is replete with amazing athleisure and athletic pieces we have come to know and love of Athleta.  The En Route Jogger Pants; the Union Top; the Tower Pant; and the Tower Track Jacket, to name a few, will keep you as cozy as they do stylish.  Completely interchangeable, they function both as their own capsule collection; and pair seamlessly with your favorite Athleta pieces — whether pants (think Aspire, Jogger, Metro), or tops (hi Odyssey top!).

True to form, the athletic wear capitalizes on the first collaboration’s design genius and aesthetic, and features similar creative color blocking patters to reflect aerial views of urban cities. This facilitate mixing and matching with earlier pieces from the collaboration. Some notable new arrivals include The Layer Up tank and long sleeve shirt: the stripe detail peeking out under a cropped sweater or jacket is a great little peekaboo pop. Yet, the pieces perfectly function as a base layer for winter outdoor activities. The Union tank is far more than just a tank — the neckline highlights the shoulders like no other. The linear pattern embedded within the fabric mimics cars lined up in traffic — perhaps those lining the streets of 10 Crosby and others in Manhattan.


You may look at the Highline tank and think – cute.


I see much more. Knowing the history of the brand, and Derek Lam’s Inspiration (see my earlier blog), this piece is much more. I’d like to think it pays homage to the infamous High Line in NYC (the disused New York Central Rail line turned linear park, which due to private efforts, is now a crown jewel in New York, known for its linear parks and artistic communities).  Leave it to Derek Lam 10C and Athleta to design a top that literally creates the High Line — side stripes like rail way tracks–on either side of this piece.  Somehow, this simple crop top embodies the High Line project’s innovation and creativity — and leaves me gasping for air.  I will own this piece because of the new creative design heights it reaches; and because, in some way, it symbolizes the collaboration’s bold ingenuity.

Second, to find a single collaboration that does cashmere, silks and leather in an elevated way that incorporates fashion forward design, on trend elements, functionality and versatility is novel. Unsurprisingly, this collaboration does it — and astoundingly well.  Almost magically so.  Cashmere sweaters with bell sleeves embrace the 70’s vibe that is THE trend this winter — but in a way that is so very on brand for both design houses (Athletic (aka Athleta); and so very Derek Lam 10 C (fashion forward, sleek and contemporary, with athletic undercurrents)). Genius. Pure genius.


The blocking technique on the Central Dress, Central Sweaters and Elevate Jackets are universally flattering, blending the colors of the season (baby pinks, black and white) in a modern, edgy yet classic way.  The sweater and jacket will elevate athleisure pants, while the Central Dress is the modern woman’s perfect knit dress:  it pairs as seamlessly with leggings and sneakers as well as it does with heels and a statement necklace (or even pearls!) for work. Don’t overlook the Dwell Cashmere pant. It’s a must for pares ski, for lounging and sipping cocoa or a hot toddy; or even paired with a leather  jacket (even your Derek Lam 10C + Athleta Downtown Jacket!), peep toe booties and tee shirt for an elevated urban athletic look.

Speaking of leather, the Elevate jacket is the modern woman’s varsity jacket!  I dare you to find a woman who did not covet the varsity athlete’s letterman jackets in high school!  Fast forward, this one provides a more sophisticated yet purely sporty vibe to even the most conservative of LBDs, pencil skirts, slacks, or your Athleta jogger pants!


Third, I’m obsessed with the Uptown Jackets. Seriously?!  These pieces epitomize why I am –and why you should be– obsessed with this collaboration.  These pieces push the envelope literally into the stratosphere! The craftsmanship, fabric choices and silhouettes combined together are barrier breaking in this fashion genre.  The Uptown coat (left above) could be worn on a red carpet — and will be my coat of choice this fall to every holiday party.  The Satin Uptown Funnel Jacket is the more affordable version of the first collaboration’s Leather Downtown Jacket that is as party ready as it is casual — with the same functionality and draw as its leather older sister – but without the price tag.  And the Pink Uptown Bomber jacket is finally my entree to being the Pink Lady from “Grease” I’ve longed to be ever since I was a little girl singing “Beauty School Dropout” along with Frenchie and Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons.  Over my grey wool Jogger pants, or a pencil skirt, it’s going to be my new fall go to –leaving everyone tickled pink, and the T Birds clamoring for more!

A sure fire winner, this sequel is not to be missed.  Run, don’t walk, to Athleta Corte Madera this Friday (or your local Athleta store or online at athleta.com) to snatch these limited edition pieces.



xx Betina

Where Fitness and Fashion Fuse….Derek Lam 10 Crosby x Athleta Collaboration

If ever there was a perfect marriage between two brands, it’s Derek Lam 10 Crosby and Athleta.  Derek Lam’s 10 Crosby line is the epitome of contemporary women’s sportswear for today’s on-the-go woman:  clean lines, sophisticated pallete and silhouettes, modern yet classic. Any designer whose muse is “understanding how women live” is just going to get it right. And he does. And this collection is no exception.


I was so honored to have been asked to style and cohost the launch of this collection at my local store in Corte Madera. In preparing the model’s looks, and my words for the evening, I could not control my excitement. It was electric and fueled me in a way no other collaborative experience I’ve worked on had before. After much reflection, I was finally able to articulate it–and  three ideas emerged.

The first was how this was TRULY a collaboration — and not a collection.  It’s  rare that two design houses working together can create pieces that are on brand for both brands— until now.  The reason is simple: both parties came to the table with as much to learn as they had to offer. Derek Lam and Liz Giardina (Derek Lam 10 Crosby VP of Design) educated Athleta’s design team on seamless color blocking techniques.  Athleta designers shared their expertise in performance fabrics and built in support design– techniques Derek Lam now seeks to incorporate into their future collections. The result was a seamless collection that is authentically Derek Lam as it is Athleta – and nothing short of pleasing to the eye, the silhouette and the touch.


(Pictured, Nancy Green, GM of Athleta and Derek Lam)

The second salient feature is the truly couture approach to designing fitness and athleisure wear. The Downtown leather jacket embodies this to the core — it’s a leather jacket that is as buttery and soft as it is edgy and sophisticated. Yet, it breathes and it bends. It was 102 degrees yesterday during the launch party, and I threw on the jacket to test for fit to better educate myself. The jacket never came off — the whole day and the whole night. I needed another leather jacket like a hole in my living room wall — and certainly not one in blazing heat.  But, as I explained to everyone (and justified to myself), I did not need it, but could not live without it. I could bend my elbows and feel like I was wearing a sweatshirt while wearing leather. It’s what dreams are made of – and epitomizes this collection: functional, fashion forward, performance athleisure wear. In leather!


Finally, I’m awestruck by how the inspiration behind this collection translates.  After studying aerial photographs of major cities across the United States, what emerged were shades of greys and blacks– the concrete jungles which drive our economies; with pockets of blues and greens–our natural surroundings which ground us. The Block Avenue pieces — the performance leggings, capris, tanks and crop tops fuse these so beautifully in a carefully orchestrated, physique flattering way that feels nothing short of organic.  The city streets, full of traffic, chaos and busy people who are alone, together, glued to their tech device of choice, getting from one place to another appear full of order from above — simple, unchaotic mathematical orderly grids, as reflected in the Mesh Tank.  Angles and shapes seen from above manifest from what feels amorphous below showcase themselves almost ethereally in the Corner Lane pieces. The mix of the emerging prints feels natural and effortless paired together, or with the Downtown Leather Legging, pant or short for a subtler statement — all the while channeling the symbiosis of our urban and natural surroundings.


(Stylist, Betina Baumgarten, Best Foot Forward; Lesley D, Athleta Brand Ambassador and Senior Yoga Instructor at Yoga Works; Grace Yu, fitness and yoga guru, Bay Club Marin; MJ of Aveda; Sarah Knowles, Designer)

In sum, the word that keeps coming to mind is seamless — and I don’t mean the fabric.  What modern woman – the woman who is trying to do it all, and be everything to herself and those that matter to her –does not want THAT in her life?  I strive for seamless transitions, seamless pick ups and drop offs with my kids, and pieces that seamlessly outfit me head to toe, looking and feeling fashionable, fearless and fabulous as I attempt to seamlessly get through my day – trying to fly as much as I try to remain grounded.  In Derek Lam’s own words “For me, the greatest compliment is when something I design can walk off the runway and right into her life.” This collaboration does so — and more–seamlessly.

The limited edition collection is available in stores now and online at http://www.athleta.com. #powertotheshe

Sitting Shivah for Jen and Ben….and their loss of privacy

Today, I am in mourning. True sorrowful mourning. Admittedly, when I saw the tabloid cover reporting the near dissolution of their marriage, it sent shock waves through me. Sure, he’s an alcoholic, and has a gambling problem – but no one is perfect, right? She’s gorgeous, smart, talented — what man would not want to be married to her? She’s as demure as she is a total and complete bad ass (um hello, remember Alias??).  Maybe she is controlling? What working mom is not to some degree. Most importantly, they have three gorgeous kids together. When they got together years ago, it seemed like a match made in heaven. You kind of just knew they would end up together- their onscreen presence in Daredevil (admittedly, I did not see the movie, but the promotional posters said it all). When they married, I secretly hoped it would the THE modern Hollywood fairytale. Move over Tom and Rita — Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner have arrived.  She, like the rest of the female species, drooled over his good looks.  Men drooled over all of her – period.  G-d knows, with the divorce rate being what it is in Hollywood, let alone the US these days, we needed Bennifer part deux to be the real deal.

Sure, there were signs. His Oscar acceptance speech for Argo (our marriage is work – but the best kind….WTF?!) was not a good omen — was it the beginning of the end? Or maybe it was the end of the beginning for them. The end of the courtship — which she fully acknowledged was long gone–but there’s truth to that. You need not be in the spotlight to acknowledge that relationships change as they endure the test of time – like old pairs of shoes, you stop working them in and just wear them. Until they get worn out.

Yesterday, the news broke. And with it my heart — for them, for the hope, and for their kids. Shivah began at precisely 5 pm when I saw the post on Facebook. What followed was even more harrowing — surfing the internet incessantly for any bit of information to confirm what I refused to believe. And there it was — everywhere. Confirmation that they are indeed splitting.

Today is the second day of shivah for Jen and Ben. I mourn the loss of yet another fairytale — and the idea that there is no such thing as the fairytale. Fairytales just set everyone up for failure. Talk about outrageous expectations. I mean seriously — who wears a glass slipper to a ball anyway? Who has mice make a ball gown not once, but twice, that requires no alterations? Yet, we all cling to them for one simple reason, I believe: that we too might be so lucky to experience a tiny drop of it.  Glass slipper in size 6 please?

But what saddens me most is not the fact that they are divorcing (which is so sad, don’t get me wrong). It’s the fact that they have to divorce publicly. The truth is people are people – whether their faces are blasted all over newspapers, magazines, 20 foot screens, or 4×6 photos in your office. They have problems just like the rest of us. They understand that marriage is as much about loving the person with your whole self as it is hating them just as much. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. And what I mourn more than their split is how public it is, and how hard that must be for them and their kids. When something ends, when your heart breaks, it’s visceral, palpable. It overtakes you and overwhelms you. Then you add flashing lights and tabloids — and inquiring minds (I’m one of them, and I apologize). I’m sorry you have to endure this, and so sorry your kids have to experience any of this to boot. I sit shivah and pray that the media grows a set of values that include respect and integrity to allow Hollywood personalities the one thing we all deserve: privacy. Where is that invisible bubble shield when we need it??

xo Betina

THE Biggest Fashion Faux Pas You Can Ever Make at a Wedding…..and Martha Stewart (and Pippa Middleton) Will Help You Make It

Fashion faux pas happen daily. I’m sorry to say it – but if I could bet my life on anything, it’s that. From the VPL, (visible panty line) and black “opaque” tights as leggings, to the way too short short-shorts,  I struggle to wrap my head around what someone must have been thinking when one got dressed that morning. Or, if they were thinking at all. Here are a few flagrant examples…

fp4fp5 FP1

I say this tongue in cheek because it happens to us all. Even me. Maybe not the VPL – but definitely fashion choices that miss the mark.   Let’s just say that there were days when I would hide in my office when I realized that my “night before” fashion choices did not stand up in the light of day. I’d hide until the stores downstairs opened when I’d make a break for it, and try to redeem myself.  See, it happens to us all. Even Martha Stewart.  Martha’s orange as the new black stint was far from her finest. But that was not her only fashion faux pas….

As I was researching best dressed wedding guest fashion choices for this summer’s season, I came across a 2014 Martha Stewart Weddings web article entitled “20 Outfits to Make You The Best Dressed Wedding Guest.”  As I scanned the article, the cardinal fashion rule blares in my mind: unless you are the bride, never wear white to a wedding.  I don’t care how envious you are, how fabulous your new white or white-like dress is, or if the bride says it’s ok — it’s not. It’s the biggest fashion faux pas you can make. Listen to Nancy Regan: don’t do it.

Ironically, it always happens. I do not think I’ve ever been to a single wedding where at least one guest tried and failed to compete with the bride and wore white, or some version thereof (think bone, ivory, pale pale pink, or some other dimly dyed pastel resembling white in low light). Don’t think people don’t notice — they do. Do it and you will forever be THAT girl.  So, ignore the sales girl desperate for her commission at the boutique who  convinces you it’s ok to wear that white dress to a wedding (it happens – I was there) – it’s just not. Her job is to make the sale – not to be the social fashion police.

You should also ignore Martha Stewart. She and her fashion editors at Martha Stewart Weddings suggest this frock as their number one pick for best dressed wedding guest:


Seriously. I’m not making this up. See for yourself: http://www.marthastewartweddings.com/best-guest-of-wedding-dresses-summer-2014#363810

Where do I even start? Never mind that it looks like you just disembarked from your trip to Rio, or that you were en route to your flamenco dancing class, but it’s white. Black trim does make it less white.  While Martha may have cornered the market in home decor, she should respectfully relegate her talents to the four walls of any space in or outside the home MINUS your closet.  Let the simple rules of etiquette guide your fashion choices in putting your best foot forward at your weddings this summer.

Check out my picks on my blog at Union and Fifth (forthcoming), and reposted soon here at bffbybetina.wordpress.com, to see fashion DO’s for this summer’s weddings!

Happy dressing! xo Betina

Styling Caitlyn…..

Caitlyn Jenner has arrived. And she’s gorgeous – inside and out. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than someone being their authentic selves and leading an authentic life. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering she has undergone for 65 years! It’s a testament to how powerful fear can truly be — and how courage and bravery can ultimately triumph in the quest to find authenticity when fear is cast aside.

While I am sure celebrity stylists are LINING up to dress Caitlyn, if I lived in LA, I would certainly throw my hat in the ring — but not (invoking the Bachelor/Bachelorette terminology) for the “wrong” reasons. Doing that would be inauthentic. I too hid from my authentic self for many reasons – fear of disappointing others, fear of failure, fear. When I surrendered and heeded my feelings and true passions, ones I tried to suppress for so long about my career aspirations, how I saw myself, what I wanted from my life, I finally felt at home: in my skin, in my life, as myself. I think we all, to some extent, act out the roles, the person, others perceive us to be or want us to be – sometimes, even need us to be. But being who you are is the ultimate freedom. And having experienced that on a fractional level to what Caitlyn must have gone through, I’d love the opportunity to help her express herself, be herself and show herself to the world.

Where to start?!?!  How about the red carpet at the CFDA awards last night?

Here are a few looks Caitlyn could easily rock on the red carpet. Which would you pick for her?

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 01:  Taraji P. Henson attends the 2015 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on June 1, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 01: Taraji P. Henson attends the 2015 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on June 1, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images)

attends the 2015 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on June 1, 2015 in New York City.

attends the 2015 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on June 1, 2015 in New York City.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 01:  Victoria Beckham attends the 2015 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on June 1, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 01: Victoria Beckham attends the 2015 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on June 1, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images)

attends the 2015 CFDA Fashion Awards  at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on June 1, 2015 in New York City.

attends the 2015 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on June 1, 2015 in New York City.

attends the 2015 CFDA Fashion Awards  at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on June 1, 2015 in New York City.

attends the 2015 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on June 1, 2015 in New York City.

Congratulations on being the woman you want to be, Caitlyn. Put your best foot forward each and every day and know we’re in your corner.  Always. xo Betina

Zoe for less….

Confession: I love Rachel Zoe. I loved her reality show. She has great taste and great style — something that I think you are just born with. I can do without most of her jargon (because it’s BANANAS), but she’s an icon as much as she is a live cartoon character.

That said, she’s living on a different planet. Her idea of a small shopping spree is what some countries yearly GDP is. While I love her designer picks, I refuse to be the little old lady who lived in her shoes because she could no longer afford her mortgage (Sorry Carrie Bradshaw – I love you, but there’s not enough room in my Louboutins for my two kids and my 55 lb labradoodle, nor my husband – and I’m not going anywhere without these folks.)

When I opened her latest picks email, first I drooled, then I laughed at dollar figure on each of these pieces – especially when one of her editors claimed a $400 pair of Gucci sandals were “affordable.” Maybe for Gucci – but again, $400 for a pair of sandals is not really what most people on earth consider affordable.

I, however, found some great alternatives to some of her picks I thought I’d share:

1. Jumpsuit:  Like the $900 Missoni jumpsuit?

Missioni js

Try this from Calypso, for $350.

Calypso jumpsuit

2.  Like the $400 Gucci Sandal?

gucci sandal

Try Zara’s version, which incorporates the fringe trend ($99):

zara fringe

3. The Red Dress by Cedric Chalier ($ 1117 on sale) is gorgeous:

CC red

Get the look for less at Old Navy ($37):

ON nred 2

4.  The Eyelet Isabel Marant Ruffle Blouse ($575):

isabel marant

Get a similar look for a whole lot less without losing an ounce of style, femininity or flair with the Ruffles and Lace blouse ($110):


Happy shopping….and saving. You can thank me later. 🙂

xo Betina

40 Days of DVF: Days 21-40

DVF Days 21-39


Day 21: The floral silk shirt dress was an off the cuff purchase several years ago when I moved back to Marin county from Tucson, Arizona. I had always been drawn to dark colors. Like most lawyers, my wardrobe was mostly black, navy and grey. Sure, I had a few colorful tops here and there. But generally speaking, I was color averse.

On a retail therapy excursion many years ago, with an arm full of closet hopefulls that accompanied me into the dressing room, a sales woman remarked that she too used to wear nothing but black. Though unsolicited, she told me that the day she started wearing color, her life changed. “Suddenly, it was as if I started to lead a different life. It made me wonder why I hadn’t worn color before.” Outwardly, I smiled politely in response, as I entered the dressing room and closed the door behind me. My internal reaction, however, was a bit different. It was powerful enough that it manifested outwardly in a small but sharp eyebrow raise only I could see. But I saw it — really saw it. And I took note in my mental rolodex and filed it away for a day I knew would come eventually, when and if I was ready to “go there” and delve into what it truly meant.

Fast forward a few years, as I ascended the escalator at Nordstrom, I looked up to see a mannequin wearing this dress. It was early spring, and I felt it. What that woman said many years ago finally resonated — even though the dress was comprised mostly of pastel hues, it was a step in the right direction. And she was right. Once I let a little color into my life, I never saw the world the same way. xo Betina


Day 22: Cobalt blue meets leopard. Though afraid of them in my younger years, as an adult, I’m kind of obsessed with animal prints. They are always in style, sophisticated when worn right, and classic DVF. This one especially appealed to me because of the twist: the cobalt color addition. I loved how the blue popped, yet felt so innate and natural in the print. I can’t refuse a twist on a classic, and it remains one of my favorite wrap dresses! xo Betina


Day 23: The matching dresses. The moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew it was a girl. The ultrasound 15 weeks later confirmed it — and that she would be a force to be reckoned with. The 3D image showed our baby girl striking a pose — literally. One hand rested on her face, one on her hip. Just like Taylor Swift’s lyrics indicated, I knew she was going to be trouble in the best kind of way when she walked into this world. Six years later, she has yet to disappoint.

As soon as Gabby became mobile, my closet was her playground of choice. Seeing her play dress up in my shoes and clothes is that stuff that mommies’ dreams are made of. And when DVF’s Gap Kids collaboration emerged, the true playing dress up began as my daughter could now wear the prints that inspired me, that I only experienced from flipping through pages of the Sunday newspaper, seeing her sales ads for Bloomingdales. The vintage prints of yesteryear were now donning the bodies of my daughter and generations even younger than mine, at a far earlier age. Now that’s the way to ensure your longevity.

Though I picked a few pieces for her budding boudoir – including two wrap rompers and a pantsuit–the jaw dropping dress was a spaghetti strap A line pleated dress with an abstract tribal inspired print. As the only size available was a size 7, Gabby affectionately referred to it as her “Seven Dress.” The fact that it was longer in length than she was stood as no barrier to her wearing it — immediately. She loved it as much as I did — and like every budding fashionista, where there is a will, there is a way. Two hair clips later, and her seven dress was a maxi dress for her three year old frame.

The print captivated us both – and left me determined, since it appears a size 14-16 dress does not accommodate a 38 year old bust, to find the dress that would. ). Fortunately, that journey ended about as quickly as it started. Three days after the Seven dress entered Gabby’s life, the Mommy seven dress entered mine. On a quick day trip to Calistoga, we took a right turn that was wrong for navigation purposes, but right (the way wrong turns always end up being, in hindsight at least). As I looked to the left, I screamed for Adam (my husband) to pull over. On the mannequin, outside a vintage clothing store, was the grown up seven dress. And like Gabby’s, which was four sizes too big for her, so was the grown up version. Though I did not end up buying it, I photographed myself in it — knowing, that at some point, I would have an occasion to showcase the me and mini me together. Today was the day. Every girl needs a seven dress to inspire her and remind her of who she is and who she can be — at any and every age. Even at 38. xo Betina


Day 24: Silk DVF top + distressed jeans and metallic DVF clutch. This is a favorite look for grabbing dinner on date night or drinks with the ladies. I love pairing refined fabrics, like this black silk blouse with boho detail in the neckline, with distressed jeans and evening heels. It feels juxtaposed, sexy, and thrown together but in a totally intentionally unintentional way. And while I generally don’t like matching my bag with my shoes, I figured throwing a little more gold metallic into the pewter and silver mix would be a “the more the merrier” fashion moment. Sometimes a little extra bling turns out to be just the right amount. Don’t be afraid to throw some metal in the mix – your look could be as good as gold. xo Betina


Day 25: TBT: The Journey of a Dress, April 2014, in my cotton poplin shirt dress. I bought this dress on a visit back to Tucson, Arizona, in 2012. I saw it in the window of the cutest boutique in town, and bought it off the mannequin without even trying it on. I loved the print – it looked both like barbed wire and tie dye stripes at the same time. That juxtaposition in description for a single fabric pattern that could resemble both something so harsh and uninviting, as well as a dyeing technique associated with the 1960’s hippy “make love not war” movement spoke to me. Screamed to me, really. We fight for the things and the people we love in life. It was so much the core of DVF (love is life!), and what I was trying so desperately to embrace wholly and completely in my life. I love that a dress in a window can say so much yet remain silent. Now that’s the power of DVF — and subconsciously, I think, why I wore the dress to this special exhibition. I was finding the woman I wanted to be — and wanted to show it on more than just my countenance. I think it worked. xo Betina

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Day 26: When lace meets leopard:   One of my favorite vintage prints from the DVF archives, I loved this dress from the moment I laid eyes on it. The blue lace somehow tames the bold print, and yet adds a certain sexiness that remains understated and classic. The color combination is modern, the silhouette classic, and the versatility: endless possibilities. Might just be my favorite wrap yet….xo Betina


Day 27: The olive leopard dress: Clearly, I have a thing for animal prints. But more so than that, I love twists on a classic. The olive hue makes the leopard print feel camouflage inspired — and what woman does not love a fierce subtlety about herself? Her message has legs and longevity when it is slowly and completely absorbed – and I have yet to see an instance where slow and steady never wins the race…for anything and everything. The slow burn always trumps the quick explosion. Plus, I love standing out in subtle ways. It’s the woman I’ve wanted to be. xo Betina


Day 28: The Green shift dress: I’ve always shied away from green. Generally speaking, it’s a tough color to nail for most. Too yellow and one appears jaundiced. Kelly, however, always struck a balance for me — just like a good shift dress. The dress’ waist line is slightly lower than my real one, and elongates my upper half. The A line bottom elongates my legs, giving the illusion of height which I otherwise lack. I find in life, we all seek balance: in our work and home life, in relationships, within ourselves. It’s kind of nice when a dress does it for you — and when it does, it will leave those around you green with envy. Namaste. xo Betina


Day 29: Pretty in Pink: For many years, I hated the color pink. Pink, to me, sent a message — the wrong message: that I was sweet, demure, weak. Not only was there no pink to be found in my closet, but none in my life. I opted for grey and black, navy and brown – “solid” colors. In my brainwashed mind, where I was told to “check my femininity” in at the door everyday if I were to survive the “old boys club law firm” I worked at, there was no room for pink and everything that came with it. That changed the day I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I woke up one morning, after trying NOT to get pregnant, and just knew. It was women’s intuition unlike I have ever known. When the test showed positive, all I saw was pink. It was everywhere, and all around me. And to this day, I know my life is a better place because there is pink in it: not just because I get to experience being a mother to a little girl — one who emanates more smiles and joy than I ever thought possible–but because of the power pink possesses. While some may equate it with being feminine, it’s also the color of life, of our skin, blood, of love. The power in being a woman, power I never before unleashed, is something I refuse to “check in at the door” any longer. It’s my core, my essence, and where my strength, ambition and fury derives.   So while you may just see a pink shirt when you look at this picture, I see the story of my evolution into the woman I wanted to be. xo Betina


Day 30: Black tee shirt dress with leather piping. Who says that black dresses are reserved for evening?? This tee shirt dress pairs as seamlessly with leopard sneakers and a great fringe tote (Tory Burch) as it does with heels and a clutch. Women always seem to reserve their “evening” clothes for evening….but why put labels on our clothes? Wear what feels good, what reflects who you are in the very moment, who you want to be today. Today, I wanted to be the cool mom on the go — so I made it happen. Now its your turn. xo Betina


Day 31: The leopard tunic: Hard to believe, but this tunic hit the pool, along with me and the kids, mid-February during a hot spell during our California “winter.” I love this piece because it truly goes poolside to table side for dinner, thrown on over some skinny white jeans. When I bought it, I envisioned myself holding a cocktail with a tiny umbrella, with a large black brimmed hat, sunglasses, engaged in conversation, overlooking a very blue sea. Until that moment comes, when I can call the company I keep “darling,” I’ll wear it with my kids in tow at the local pool, water bottle and cheese crackers in hand, relishing the fleeting moments when my kids want to keep my company. xo Betina


Day 32:   The ink blots cocktail dress: Life is about discovery: discovery of one’s self, one’s place in the world, or relationship to the world, as well as our relationship with ourselves and others. Diane has long said that the most important relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself. And as we grow and experience the world around us and the people in it, if we are truly present, we grow, evolve and develop. Sometimes, we even go so far as to reinvent ourselves because the need for change is so profound.

There’s a funny story behind this dress. I bought this dress when I was 9 months pregnant. I bought it off the rack, in the clearance section of an upscale boutique when I was on my lunch break, when I was living in Tucson, Arizona. It was 70% off and DVF. Seventy percent off + DVF = no brainer. The sales woman was shocked – are you sure you want to buy a dress you can’t try on, and one you don’t know will fit you? My response was quick and terse: Yes, it will fit. Because when you know, you know.

Though it took several months for my body to recovery from a long, really tough pregnancy, I saw something in the dress that I needed in that moment: I saw reinvention. It was outside my comfort zone in every way — from the material (stretch silk); to the shape (asymmetrical); to the color palette (black and yellow). My husband called it my “MILF” dress (as seemingly inappropriate as that was — but when you are recovering from having a baby, you’ll take any positive compliment other “oh how cute you are pregnant – how far along are you?). In that moment, wearing that dress, I was someone else — or maybe just another version of myself for that night alone. It reminded me that even in the throws of motherhood, where I felt more bovine like than human, I could be, dare I say it, sexy?   The point is that for that evening, I felt reinvented, like the best version of my adult self – the one not covered in spilled or spit up breast milk, residue from poopy diapers, under-appreciated and sleep deprived. And that felt like a mini-reinvention.

Seemed fitting for this photo blog that I do it again – reinvent this dress 6 years later when now, as a mom of two school aged kids, I too have grown. With this Madewell jean jacket and these metallic Blahniks, I say we have reinvention. That’s my story — and I’m sticking with it. Agreed? xo Betina


Day 33: There’s nothing that screams fierce more than animal stripes. So I thought. Then I met this dress. As DVF taught me, women possess subtle powers that defy logic. Take zebra stripes, add some cobalt blue and feminine pouf sleeves, and pow! You’ve got a dress that is as sexy as it is sweet. Total knock out — game over. It’s fun getting in the ring sometimes…. xo Betina

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Day 34: The Interview. Casting for House of DVF at the Grove in Los Angeles. Suffice it to say that at 9:15 on a Wednesday night, I was packing for a family ski trip. By 9:20, I got the invitation and booked myself on a flight to LA for 24 hours to complete the interview process for a coveted spot on House of DVF. Met great people – check. Saw Brittany Hampton – check. Met DVF – check. I wore my olive leopard dress and leather jacket and was ready for anything – because when opportunity knocks, you open the door wide and with arms wide open to make it happen. All of it. xo Betina


Day 35: Lead On! Before I received the invitation to interview for House of DVF, I was so excited to attend Watermark’s first women’s leadership conference, entitled “Lead On.” Speakers included so many women I admired – Hilary Clinton, Brene Brown, Jessica Herrin, and of course, DVF. She did not just sign my coffee table book, but she accepted a letter I spent about 10 hours crafting (I mean, when you get the opportunity to write a letter to your lifetime idol, what do you say?).

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Here she sat, right before signing my book. I was too interested in speaking with her to even bother with a photo op other than this one I tried covertly to snap with my iphone. Somethings can’t be captured in a photo — like how much I was trembling. Was worth the 4 hour commute to Santa Clara, and 3.5 hours back! Anything for DVF, right? xo Betina


Day 36:   The red lip romper. This is one of my all time favorite DVF prints because of it’s playful sophistication. Like most girls, lipstick fascinated me. There is something so sexy, strong and feminine about a Veronica Lake red lip. Though I had seen the print done in different silhouettes, never in the wrap romper. It was the perfect length to be flirty without being inappropriate (because it’s a skort, not a skirt!). And now that I’m the big 4-0, I figured I might as well flaunt it while I still got something to flaunt. So take that! S.W.A.K! xo Betina


Day 37: The leopard flip flops! This vintage print feels anything but. Of all of DVF’s iconic prints, this one is my true obsession. But of all of the pieces I have in this print, these flip flops may be my absolute favorites. They just scream fabulous – and who doesn’t want something fabulous to waltz into summer with? xo Betina

IMG_9863   Day 38: Spring is almost here; and wearing this wrap dress of yesteryear, paired with pink suede heels, means I can finally taste it! I bought this dress many years ago for my mom’s 60th birthday party. Ironically, it was my “second” choice at the time. My sister, who lives in Los Angeles, flew up for the event. After I picked her up, brought her back to my parents’ house, she began unpacking. She pulled out a garment bag and when she unzipped it, there hung the identical (non-DVF— I know, blasphemy, right?) dress I had purchased to wear for my mom’s party. If you know my sister and I, we could not be more different — yet we still manage to buy the exact same things, from the exact same stores, on the exact same day. It caused quite the raucous in college, as we lived across the hall from one another. Most days, we’d open the door to walk to class and stare across the hall only to see the other wearing the identical outfit. Right down to the shoes. The hollers of “I changed last time, you change” echoed throughout the sorority house. But it continued even after I graduated and moved back home to San Francisco, leaving her behind to make her mark on LA. Every time I picked my parents up from SFO, having spent the weekend in LA with my sister, they would laugh, saying “Oh, Wendy was wearing that;” or “How funny, Wendy has that too.” It never ended so why should this occasion be any different? Well, it was in that no argument ensued. Seeing that she had flown up from LA and lacked transportation to shop for another dress, I assigned myself the task of finding “alternate wardrobe options” as she put it.

On a mad dash the morning of her event downtown, like my very first DVF experience, I ascended the escalator at Bloomingdales (which had just opened in San Francisco a few months before — SF residents — do you remember that day?? Glorious does not even do it justice!) and grabbed it right off the rack. Into the dressing room I went, on it went, and out the door I ran to get to my mom’s luncheon. I’m convinced it’s what gave me the spring in my step that day. It was also the first and last time I would ever experience when I did not have a fashion Plan B. The truth is, the dress hardly felt like Plan B – it felt like I was meant to wear it all along. I remember that day, that moment, the kismet I felt when things just happen to work out well. Maybe I willed it. Who knows. But when I wake up in the morning and get that feeling, I love wearing this dress. And I’m never one who will turn down an extra spring in my step. I will take all the help I can get! And there’s no shame in that — ever. xo Betina


Day 38: The pink ballet wrap sweater. I loved this sweater the moment I saw it. The bubble gum color had a sweetness to it — a sweetness like the girl next door who looks so innocent but you know has a wild streak in her, like a fenced in stallion. It’s why I had to unleash this girl and let her loose — by pairing it with an edgy leather skirt and black nails. They balance each other in a fresh, unexpected way. Just how I like it because even though I’m a straight shooter, it’s always good to keep people on their toes a bit too. Expected is boring – and I’m anything but. xo Betina


Day 39:   Oh Zarita! How do I love thee….let me count the ways! I firmly believe that this dress is the perfect cocktail dress ever made. The lace gives it an elegant, classic feel. The length makes it perfect for evening occasions — even black tie– and if you are traveling to such an event, it easily packs and does not wrinkle. (Accordingly, it’s seen the light of many an event back east or in the mid-west and is quite accustomed to being shoved into a stuffed carry-on bag. Poor baby.) My favorite part of the dress is the part that is least expected –and it’s not the sheer arms (though it’s a close second). It’s also not the boatneck — which I also love as it’s so turn of the century in feel. It’s the floor to ceiling zipper. It screams confidant, sexy and effortless. It commands attention in a subtle way (since it’s in the back) – and if you know anything about me and my fashion philosophy by now, you know that I’m all about subtle statements that pack a punch. Hence, the platform slingback patent Louboutins to boot. Va va voom! I’m not one to usually toot my horn….but I think event DVF would approve — don’t you? xo Betina


Day 40: No. Words. #dreamcometrue. #bucketlist

Blame it on Mercury….

It’s true. Mercury is in retrograde. For many years, I admittedly never believed that the movement of the planets hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of miles away affected my seemingly insignificant actions and decisions on earth. Sure, I could see the immediate cause and effect of my actions, words, decisions here on earth to those around me — the ripple effect of throwing a stone into a calm body of water. But what was the true expanse of that? Cosmic? Doubtful — so I thought. Then, something happened. Something changed. It happened in response to a simple question someone once asked me: “What if there was another possibility?”

What if there WAS? I never really thought about it, as silly, almost naive, as it sounds. I mean, I’m a logical, forward thinking person. But, aren’t some things JUST SO? Maybe. But maybe not.

And just like that, there existed another possibility.

Suddenly, it felt like a whole new set of doors opened — ones I never even knew were there; and if I did, I never bothered to knock, let alone peek in them. What if everything — even Mercury moving in a direction opposite (relatively speaking) to other celestial bodies around it–was connected, even tangentially? Is that why suddenly, I’m feeling movement in my life in a way I never did before? Traction I’ve sought? Progress I’ve strived for? Maybe. Maybe not. But the possibility exists — and I’m running with it because I choose to believe that perhaps, there are other reasons, options and avenues. Maybe ones well beyond the small body of water in which I cast the first stone.

It is in that vein, that I posit this: if we have to move backwards sometimes to move forward, do it. If things seem out of alignment, if you feel like you are moving backwards, go with it. Looking at and approaching things from a different vantage point can and will yield results — maybe some are good, maybe some are not — but what do you have to lose by surrendering to it, and letting the current take you?? We fight so hard against things — some, clearly, worthy causes to constantly champion. But, in our lives, why not sometimes just surrender and put your weapons down, drop your fists and see were the current takes you?

Change is hard for most of us – but you can always change back. That’s the thing I think we all forget — we can always change it back. Whether it’s finally going for that job you always wanted; taking that trip, exploring a certain relationship — or a certain look that you’ve always coveted but shied away from because “it’s just not you” — consider this: what if it really IS you? And all these years, you’ve been too afraid to explore it? Explore it. Go for it. Make it happen. What’s the worst that can happen?? And if you you fail miserably, you tried. But maybe you won’t? Maybe you will rock it and it leads to the next big thing for you? The fall back plan is always a good one — because if you ever need a scapegoat, you can just blame it on Mercury (at least until June 11). Make it happen. #MIH. Love, Betina

It’s the one piece you will ever need and can’t believe you lived without…..

As a child, I remember seeing a photo in a magazine of a woman with a large brimmed hat, wearing a flowy caftan like garment, strolling across the beach, holding her children’s hand. There was an effortlessness about her — she looked and felt exactly as she was. She was in the moment – and it was palpable. In my adult life, I yearn to be that woman because let’s face it, life with two kids (as beautiful and wonderful as they are) is not about walking on a beach, wearing a caftan. Yet, I want it to feel that way.

We all strive for that – the effortlessness and ease of living — and of dressing for our lives. Technology has helped with that in some ways (arguably made it worse in others), as your phone goes the distance not only as a telecommunication device, but as your calendar, computer, social networking mechanism, your grocery cart, to do list, and even virtual secretary. But things don’t need to be digital or technological to do the same for your life — to take you through the course of your day, no matter where or when. Indeed, one great piece in your closet can be everything you need and want, too. It too can be your one stop shop.

Enter the modern day caftan: the tunic, by Phiren.

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San Francisco Fashion and Beauty Photography

San Francisco Fashion and Beauty Photography

Phiren is a company by women for women — real women. Not the ones you see airbrushed in magazines. Not women of the Giselle Buchenden variety. Women with curves, and bumps, and shape — all of the beauteous features our biology affords us for the better, in my opinion.  From fashion veterans from Armani and DVF (the ultimate woman who dresses women), this line features couture fit and design details that rival custom pieces. From the drape to the darts, their pieces not only fit well, but fit every woman’s lifestyle. If you are a mom, this is truly the piece that takes you from the kids’ playground to an adults’. And if you are a working woman, this piece will take you day to night, whatever your event: boardroom to business dinner; under a suit, over a swimsuit, or for a night out anywhere. The fabric is luxurious and flattering.  The hand beading and beautiful details in the arms and along the décolleté provide the perfect amount of design element without it feeling overdone — these design details give it the versatility most tunics lack. It’s the piece you will reach for time and time again — not just because it looks good, but because you look good in it. And in a pinch, or even if you have all of the time in the world (quite frankly, I’m still waiting for that moment!), who doesn’t want that?

Come experience Phiren on May 28, 2015. Email me: bestfootforwardbybetina@gmail.com for details.