Bring Your A Game

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Every now and then, you need to bring your A game. Last week, the university I work for held an inauguration for its fifth president. So I surveyed my closet and picked out the best of the best.

I sat on the planning committee for this event and finally, after months of planning, the day came. This outfit was perfect for the event. It’s professional, feminine and polished. Most importantly, it helped me feel confident as I left the house, off to talk with key constituents of the university.

As hard as it may be to believe, I finally added a blazer to my closet this summer thanks to J.Crew’s big summer sale. This one is perfect and I can’t wait to incorporate it with other outfits. Now that I have one, even I can’t believe I lived and worked this long without one. A blazer is a must-have.

When dressing for a “very professional” event, keep your accessories simple and minimal. I went with stud earrings, pearl bracelets, a gold bangle and my gold watch. I pulled my hair back and wore nude pumps. Keep it simple. Not too busy or distracting.

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(Photos by Kelly Montgomery)

Blazer: J.Crew
Blouse: Elizabeth McKay (old, but similar one here)
Skirt: J.Crew
Pumps: Cole Haan
Earrings: Kate Spade
Bracelets: gifts from family (similar here)

Go Get ‘Em, Kid

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Photo from "Coffee in the mountains" tumblr

Photo from “Coffee in the mountains” tumblr

Yesterday evening I attended a PR workshop at my friends Allison and Pat’s agency, AM:PM PR. A local TV news reporter was brought in for a discussion on the ever-changing media industry as well as a conversation on how to effectively pitch reporters.

Truth be told, this is something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve been eager for opportunities to learn, to grow and to practice. In my current job, I’ve had loads of practice, but very little success. Being the perfectionist that I am, I’ve struggled with my inability to gain as much media coverage as I’ve wanted at times.

Enter today’s workshop. As the reporter talked about pitching, he brought up so many great ideas I’d never thought of. Tips and strategies, galore!

Suddenly, without really thinking I found myself raising my hand, asking a question and presenting my current struggle. Looking back, I can’t believe I was so honest, so vulnerable. But then, the most glorious thing happened. In a room full of PR pros (some of them my friends) we began unpacking my problems and identifying why I’d previously been unsuccessful. They were so kind and so gracious. It felt like I was wrapped in a box and each person began ripping open the box, allowing light to shine in until all the flaps were open, the packaging peanuts began spilling out and I suddenly realized all I had to do was climb out, one foot at a time.

Real deal–being a young professional is scary. Real scary. There’s a whole lot of “fake it till you make it” going on. When I get in the car at the end of every day and realize I didn’t didn’t screw everything up, I’m both shocked and relieved. I’m more of an insecure young professional than I realized.

Here’s the trick.

Don’t go at it alone.

Find a professional mentor. Join a professional society. Attend workshops. Network. All these things will build you a community that will care and support you along the way. You’ll be surprised by the amount of people who are further along the road than you are who are very willing to come alongside you and help you along the way.

After the workshop, the reporter graciously took time to answer my many follow-up questions and was tremendously encouraging with each piece of advice. As he left, he shook my hand and looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Go get ‘em, kid.”

Monday Motivation

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Dear readers, I had the most lovely weekend. I celebrated the second birthday of my sweet nephew, Rowan and attended the ballet with two dear friends. It was perfection.

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Thanks to my job in education, I have today off. Yippee! So I’m relaxing in jeans and a tee today, headed out to shop and then to lunch with my mom.

Whether you’re behind a desk today or not, I have a feeling you’ll like today’s Monday Motivation.

Go Pink!

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Tonight my Oregon Ducks take on Arizona and as they run out of the tunnel at Auzen Stadium led by Puddles on the Harley, you’ll quickly notice something different about them. It will be their pink uniforms. The Ducks have gained quite the reputation in recent years for their stylin’ uniforms thanks to Nike. Thanks Uncle Phil! Tonight they’ll wear pink in honor of October Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pink and the Ducks. Talk about combining my favorite things!

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As October kicks-off, so do many breast cancer awareness campaigns.  Estee Lauder’s is one of my favorites. The reality is that cancer doesn’t just affect the patient, but the family and friends of that person. This campaign captures that.

I know I for one have had several dear friends who’ve been affected by breast cancer. It’s a gnarly, merciless and horrid disease. This month I not only encourage you to support breast cancer research, but to also make time to hug those who you know who’ve survived breast cancer and tell them how much you love and appreciate them.

 

How-To Dress High & Low

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I am frequently asked, how I shop for professional clothes on a budget. The answer is simple. It takes work. Hard work, folks. It’s a matter of knowing the rules of the game and then learning to play it. It takes practice.

What are the rules? Well, it depends on the season. Fashion rules change constantly. There are some however, that remain true throughout the decades.

For example, when dressing for work, you should dress conservatively. I’m talking closed-toed shoes, no cleavage, no mini-skirts, etc. Hopefully you’re getting the picture.

There are basics that every girl should own. These include: a blazer, a black pencil skirt, black flats, a “grown-up woman’s handbag” and a variety of blouses that can be rotated. What you choose to mix in there is up to you. If animal print is hot one season, incorporate leopard flats in an otherwise conservative outfit.

Now, how to do this on a budget? It’s the “high & low” concept. A successful outfit has both high and low pieces.

Here’s what I mean-Invest in a couple things that will go the distance (leather shoes, leather handbag, pencil skirt, blazer.) For these items I recommend Nordstrom Rack, DSW, Rue La La and Marshalls. If you do go to bigger brand name stores, my favorites are Nordstrom, J.Crew Brooks Brothers and Banana Republic, shop the sales, really shop the sales. I’m taking about waiting until there’s 50 percent off sale items to buy that pencil skirt or those italian leather ballet flats. In between your investment pieces, weave trendy pieces. For these items, I shop at Target, Old Navy and H&M. These are great stores for costume jewelry, blouses, cardigans, tank tops, tees and dresses. A cardigan that’s made of 100 percent cotton is a cotton cardigan whether you buy it at Nordstrom or Old Navy. Look for what the garment is made of.

I do a happy dance when I fool people with my clothes. For example, in the outfit below a friend asked if it was from Nordstrom. Nope. Old Navy, folks. Win! I actually bought it because it really reminded me of Tory Burch.

Read fashion magazines (now that’s cheap to do!) and look for trends and look for what the designers are putting out on a particular season. Then, go try and find that at a fraction of the cost.

I’m beefing up the “Style” section on my blog and starting today you’ll begin to see a steady stream of professional outfits that live out this “high & low” concept.

Hope you enjoy and I hope it’s helpful as you build you own high & low outfits! As I begin this process, let me know how you dress for work and where you find pieces. I want to hear from YOU!

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(Photos by Kelly Montgomery)

Blouse: Old Navy
Skirt: J.Crew
Shoes: Tory Burch
Bag: Kate Spade
Necklace: Banana Republic (old, but similar here)
Watch: Kate Spade

One-Year Work Anniversary Celebrations

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I recently celebrated my one-year work anniversary. I decided to celebrate in two ways.

First, I treated myself to something lovely. This oh-so-perfect Kate Spade bag. I’ve been wanting a Kate Spade bag for years, so when they just happened to have a flash sale the week of my anniversary, I thought it must be fate. I love it. So classic, so beautiful. When it came in the mail, I squealed and continue to be so impressed with the quality.

Kate Spade Magnolia Park Laurel

Kate Spade Magnolia Park Laurel

Second, I took my parents out to dinner. They are the two most incredible people. I’m so ridiculously blessed that they are my parents. Through all my health struggles in the last few years, they have been right there beside me the whole way. They are so loving and so supportive. I couldn’t have done the last year without them. Also, I had a blast spoiling them.

We went to Nostrana, an EPIC restaurant we had heard about from a friend and fellow food snob and it far exceeded our expectations. Dad and I had pizza, which sounds simple, but OMG, when done right, it’s out of this world. First, they served bread with olive oil that made me feel like I’ve never tasted olive oil before that moment. (Obviously, we bought some to take home and have since done extensive research on olive varieties and which olive oils are the best in the world.) My pizza was cooked in a wood-fired oven and the dough, oh the dough. Just thinking about it gets me giddy. It was an outstanding meal and I can’t wait until I can go back.

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Yes, this is a picture of me cutting my pizza with scissors. The pizzas were served with scissors and our server explained that when the owner was in Italy, she went to a restaurant that served pizza like this and she loved the idea so much, she implemented it in her own restaurant. Quite the experience!

I’m a big believer in treating yourself. Especially when it comes to professional accomplishments.

This last year has been a bit of a whirlwind, but I’ve learned so much, been stretched further than I thought I could withstand and still succeeded. Each day I find myself loving my job more and more and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.

Take Care of Yourself

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When I say in my bio that I am a “recovering work-a-holic,” that’s the complete truth.

It wasn’t something that I always struggled with.

I was raised by an American and a Dane. Growing up I didn’t even think about what it meant to balance things. My mom always created a structure within our family schedule that ensured we were never stretched too thin. Mom would put a cap on weekly activities and she always set Sundays aside as “family only” days. To be honest, I thought that whole idea was crazy and groaned every time my mom wouldn’t allow me to have a friend over on Sundays.

Once I got to college, I was thrown into managing my time and my schedule on my own. Moment of honesty, it all hit the fan. I moved into a house with 45 girls and with our brother house included, we were a community of well over 75 people. There were activities and distractions galore. Then combine that with attending a PAC-12 school and being the big sports fan that I am, I dove into being a Duck fan. No surprise my grades suffered fall term of freshman year.

The further I got into college, the more my schedule became jammed. On top of classes, I worked as an intern for a PR agency all four years. With a crazy schedule, came stress. I managed my stress with exercise. It should come as no surprise that I was totally one of those people who had their homework propped up on the ledge of the exercise machine. I barely slept and somehow I managed.

Then after graduation, when I entered the workforce, it only continued.

A season of chronic illness brought my life to a complete halt. Now, after that long season, I’ve learned the importance of what’s truly important in life. It’s easy to take your health for granted. Especially when you’re young.

Now that I’m back to work, I’ve noticed those old habits creeping back in. Thankfully I have a wonderful family who helps keep me in check. I still find exercise to be a wonderful way to de-stress at the end of a crazy day.

When prAna offered to send me some pieces from their fall line, I was thrilled and picked out two pieces that will be great for rock climbing, running and other exercises. (Side note: I went to their store here in Portland and it is so cool! The design makes you feel like you’re having an adventure experience.)

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Olympia Knicker c/o, Meadow Top c/o

I love the design on this top because it’s super airy and keeps you cool while you’re working out. The pants were also super comfy and fit well.

Staying fit is important and although finding time for exercise can be difficult, it’s important. Even if it’s a neighborhood walk after dinner, do it. Walk during your workday. Get out there an move! It’s good for your heart, mind and soul.

It will make you a more productive professional. I promise.

Disclaimer: The items pictured were provided by prAna. That being said, I would never share any products unless I totally loved them. Rest assured.  

Pink Me Up

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Finding the right go-to nail polish can be a struggle and a significant trail and error process. Allow me to save you some time and money. Regardless of where you profession, all of these polishes are work-appropriate and are suitable for your style all year round. #guaranteed

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(From left to right: Ballerina Pink by Estee Lauder, Bubble Bath by OPI, Sugar Daddy, Ballet Slippers, Fiji and Good to Go by Essie)

In this list, I’ve included my favorite top coat, Good to Go by Essie. Finish with this and not only will it add shine, it will help your polish to stay chip-free for up to five days.

Now, a word about chips. Don’t have them.

For real.

A true lady keeps up on her personal maintenance. When your polish starts to chip, take it off. If you find yourself with constant chips, you have three options: start washing your dishes with gloves, invest in a better top coat, or stop wearing nail polish all together. Lastly, always keep your nails trimmed and filed. Wearing nail polish is a commitment and it takes time. So be mindful of who you are and who you represent at all times. Even down to your nails.

It’s the little things.

Just In Time For Sweats and Hot Chocolate

Oh, wait. It’s still in the 80s here in Portland.

Whatever. With football season and pumpkin spice lattes, I’m beginning to feel the excitement of fall approaching.

With fall, comes the return of some of my favorite shows. Now judge away, I like television. I legitimately don’t care what you think. It’s one of the joys of being an adult.

Both New Girl AND The Mindy Project start this week! Happy dance!!

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Photo from One Fine Day

Photo from One Fine Day

Tune in Thursday nights on FOX.

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