Erin Carpenter Fashion Stylist

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Top 10 Fashion Trends for Summer 2011

Well, dear readers, it looks like summer in Chicago has finally – blissfully – arrived. Now that we can officially banish those scarves to the back of the closet, I thought I’d share my “It List” for the season. From runway trends to perennial classics, here are my 10 fashion picks for serious summer style.

  1. White, White, White!
    With your brightest brights – or more white! – it’s Summer’s coolest neutral.
  2. To the Max
    Day or night, an ankle-grazing dress is effortlessly cool.
  3. In Bloom
    Reach for flower-bedecked blouses and swingy skirts.
  4. Bold Color
    Electric hues call for simple silhouettes.
  5. Flared Jeans
    Channel the ’70s with this groovy staple.
  6. Navy is the New Black
    Banish those black pants in favor of nautical navy.
  7. Little Bit of Lace
    Feminine, romantic and big for fall!
  8. The Summer Cardi
    Perfect for dinner al fresco or an overzealous AC.
  9. Touch of Coral
    Evoke tropical dreams with this universally-flattering shade.
  10. LBD (Of course!)
    Update yours for 2011 with clean lines or a sweet ruffle detail.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me, what are you craving this summer? (Besides a double scoop at Bobtail, that is!)

This post originally appeared on July 12, 2011 on my blog, Notes on Style, for Today’s Chicago Woman magazine.

“Big” Style: The Best of Carrie Bradshaw

Last weekend, my girlfriends and I made the pilgrimage that most self-respecting groups of gal pals have made of late: to the big screen to see “Sex and the City: 2.” Yes, the world has Carrie fever, and I’m afraid I’ve been touched by the affliction myself. And while the fashion in the movie was (as expected) completely over the top, Carrie Bradshaw, as we came to know and love her during the six seasons of the television series, absolutely earned the title of Style Icon. I mean, where would we be, ladies, without oversized floral corsages, nameplate necklaces and Manolos?

Here’s my all-time top ten from a character who inspires me to take risks and reminds me that fashion is not to be taken too seriously…and who wisely intoned: “I like my money right where I can see it–hanging in my closet.”

All photos from

This post originally appeared on June 10, 2010 on my blog, Notes on Style, for Today’s Chicago Woman magazine.  For more fabulous Carrie ensembles, check out this roundup on FabSugar.

Intimacy Boutique Reveals Key to Properly Fitting Bra

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Intimacy co-founders Suzanne "The Bra Whisperer" and David Nethero

It’s a funny thing, a woman’s attitude toward her bra. Every day we don one, and wear it for 16 hours. It touches our skin. It supports us through our morning commute, our long day at the office, our dinner date…in button-front blouses and flimsy tee shirts alike. And how do we treat it in return? Often with equal parts disdain, irritation and neglect. We complain that straps fall down or dig into our shoulders, underwires cut into our breast tissue, bands create back fat, support just isn’t supportive enough. The bra becomes our frenemy.

Susan Nethero, founder of Intimacy lingerie boutique, is out to change all that.

Dubbed the “Bra Whisperer” by the inimatible Carson Kressley of “How to Look Good Naked” (and coming soon to the Oprah Winfrey Network), Ms. Nethero believes that the proper fitting is the key to transforming one’s attitude toward her bra–and in turn, her body.

I had the pleasure (no, really!) of experiencing a fitting from the Bra Whisperer herself at an exclusive event hosted by Step Up Women’s Network last week called “Change Your Bra, Change Your Life!” And by the many wide grins and astonished exclamations of “Wow! I was totally wearing the wrong size!” I heard from the women in attendance, many lives were changed that night.

Ms. Nethero has developed what she calls a “holistic” method of fitting that does not involve a measuring tape. Instead, the bras themselves are used as measuring tools. I’m not sure losing the tape results in a more accurate fitting (although I did end up in a smaller band size than I have at fittings elsewhere), but it does feel less judgemental somehow. In appointments that last 30 minutes on average, the expert at Intimacy fits the client in multiple styles and a few different sizes to both determine the ideal size and demonstrate the many varied silhouettes that are possible just by switching from a demi to a plunge. “See how your breasts are more centered with this one?” Ms. Nethero asked me. “When I showed Oprah a similar style, she was amazed by how much taller and slimmer she felt.”

The Bra Whisperer didn’t have to convince me how important a properly fitting bra is to create a foundation for one’s clothes (and with over 90 sizes in cups from A to K, Intimacy has a bra for everyone). But she did school me on the causes of women’s most common complaints about their bras (fact: many back fat ails can be cured by wearing the bra band much lower on the back), and wowed me by one complimentary service Intimacy provides: free alterations! I had no idea it was even possible to alter a bra. Intimacy commonly takes an inch or two out of bands to ensure a perfect fit.

“Ninety percent of the support of a bra should come from the band. By making sure your band fits snugly, we are lengthening the life of your bra,” Ms. Nethero said. “A bra is an investment, and we want you to get as much wear out of it as possible.” I heard her loud and clear.

This post originally appeared on my blog, Notes on Style, for Today’s Chicago Woman magazine.

Fashion Find of the Week: Bootights, Tights for Boots!

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Bootights, from $30, at

During my all-too-frequent virtual trips to online boutiques and retailers, I often find pieces so fabulous, they absolutely demand to be shared. So, in addition to passing them along to my beloved clients, I wanted to let you in on the stylish fun, too…

This week, a little trivia question: what’s half tight, half sock and all genius? The answer: Bootights! Invented specifically as tights to wear with boots by a woman embarassed when the airport security line revealed the frumpy “gym socks over tights” concoction she was sporting under her sassy boots, Bootights are both stylish and practical. They fuse an ankle- or mid-calf-length sock with an opaque tight to provide comfort under a boot, without the discomfort–and potential fashion faux paux–of tugging an old pair of socks over your tights. Love!

Bootights, from $30, at

This post originally appeared on my blog, Notes on Style, for Today’s Chicago Woman magazine.

Style 911: Handbag and Accessory Tips for the Tall and Petite

best handbag for tall women

Legs for days? Reach for carry-all styles like this hobo by Hinge, $168 at


If my four years styling women has taught me anything, it is this: women of all sizes, ages and shapes struggle with many of the exact same wardrobe conundrums. From finding the perfect jeans to wondering whether one really can wear brown shoes with a grey suit (yes! try it!), their fashion emergencies have hatched my solutions, which I call Style 911.

My first edition of Style 911 is accessorizing to scale. Many clients ask me – is it true that our accessories should correspond to our height and size?

In a word, yes. And being vertically challenged (okay, at 4’11” I’m just plan short!) myself, I can empathize. Huge, hold-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink handbags are everywhere, and its tough striking a balance between “fashionably large” and “swallow you whole.”

A few tips on handbags and size:

(kind of like a little girl wearing her mom’s heels). When shopping for handbags online, try styles that are categorized as small or medium instead of large.

Satchel style handbags, which are meant to be carried on the arm instead of the shoulder, are very safe bets for petites, size-wise–and also happen to be plentiful this season. If, like me, you prefer shoulder carries, try a crescent-shaped hobo or narrow tote (one that would hold a magazine vertically) rather than a huge bucket or shopper style handbag. If you’re in store, take off your coat and try on the bag in front of the mirror. If you think it may be dwarfing you, it probably is.

Of course, the reverse is also true. If you are very tall, plus sized or just generally curvy, tiny bags get lost on you. If you’ve got a tiny monogrammed designer handbag under your arm, it may look expensive, but it’s also advertising your voluptuousness and/or making you look taller-than-life. Unlike their petite friends, tall and curvy girls run the risk of dwarfing a bag.

When handbag hunting, look for styles that are categorized as large or oversized instead of small or medium. Tall girls can get away with the new slouchy cross-body styles that hang past the hip. Curvy girls look great carrying wide shoppers and totes with all the bells and whistles–outside pockets, decorative hardware, etc. I’m not advocating the gaudy, but don’t be afraid to be bold!

Beware the choker – how to wear jewelry, belts and scarves:

  • Cuff bracelets and chunky watches abbreviate the length of your arm. Especially important to remember when pairing with three-quarter length sleeves…beware of visually eliminating your entire arm!
  • Dainty earrings should be left to those with dainty ears and earlobes. See the “dwarfing effect” above.
  • Be mindful of belt widths: petites and short-waisted girls should stick to under 3 inches; tall and curvy girls look best in over 3 inches.
  • If you have a short neck, chokers and scarves tied ’round the neck serve only to highlight that fact.
  • On second thought, chokers are flattering on no one.

The above guidelines aside, I always encourage my clients to have fun with their accessories. Don’t take the “rules” too seriously…after all, it’s just fashion!

This post originally appeared in my blog, Notes on Style, for Today’s Chicago Woman magazine.