Note: we know that last combo isn’t technically a dress—but we think mixing stripes and florals for spring is an absolute must, so we thought we’d inspire you to do the same with a shirt & skirt combo.
This is part of an ongoing series called Embodied, which features women who we feel embody some element of the persona they’re featured in. As a former J.Crew personal stylist and shopper, and now owner of her own styling company, Marina Dobreva is a true Stylist indeed. Read on to learn more about Marina’s takeaways from working at J.Crew, personal style, and must-have wardrobe basics.
Hi Marina! Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
First and foremost, I am very excited to contribute to Darling and be a part of this wonderful community! I am a NYC-based personal stylist and wardrobe consultant who helps women look and feel their best every day. I worked with J.Crew for four years as a stylist/personal shopper while also styling commercial and editorial photo shoots. Last winter, I decided to merge my experiences from those two worlds and deliver regular women my knowledge, passion and devotion to image by starting my own company, CloseteurNYC, Inc. I spent the past six months traveling the world, largely gathering inspiration, and now I’m back in NYC building my new company.
We are big fans of J.Crew here at Darling! How has your past experience with the company influence your present ventures?
J.Crew raised me in this industry in many ways, and I am very thankful for my time there and everything I learned. I define myself by it even today, and I think my style and views on wardrobing still largely reflect that image. J.Crew taught me how to look at color and not be afraid of mixing it in unexpected ways. I learned how to put an article of clothing on a woman, completely manipulate it to suit her shape and make it hang in all the right ways—from rolling
a sleeve, to belting, to cuffing, to synching. I learned to take chances with unexpected combinations of colors, materials, patterns, layers and ensembles. All of those things I now apply to every brand my clients wear and that knowledge translates over beautifully.
How would you describe your personal style?
Depends on the day, funny enough! I have fun with mixing different styles and I try to never look like a cookie-cutter copy of a particular genre. I usually start with a conservative base, consisting of more traditional, timeless pieces rather than trend-influenced items. I then accessorize with more theme-based, of-the-moment pieces that are an afterthought to the outfit. On a very typical Marina day, I usually look Chanel-conservative with an edgy piece of jewelry like an Alexander McQueen ring. My shoe is often a high heel like a Manolo Blahnik pump to give the look a sexy and elevated, yet still classy feel.
What are your must-have wardrobe basics, and what items would you recommend our readers have in their closets?
Borderline obvious: nude heel. It’s my ultimate go-to when I can’t pick a shoe to go with an outfit. It goes with everything; it elongates your leg and grounds the look. I can’t live without my men’s saddle brown belt. Every outfit looks more complete with a belt, and somehow I have found that my brown belt can complete many looks from my cozy jean and sweater days, to my summer looks of tee tucked into a silk skirt, to even the occasional LBD that looks blah without an accessory. A great pair of dark skinny denim is also essential, and well-fitting dark denim compliments any body type. The chambray shirt is a staple in any woman’s wardrobe—you can wear it tucked into a pencil skirt to mix the feminine with a bit of masculine or wear it open as a cardigan over almost anything. And just a couple more: a white silk button up can go a million directions, a long gray cardigan as a go-to third piece, and of course, a well tailored pencil skirt that can carry from day to night.
What’s the biggest style lesson you’ve learned since you started your career?
Mixing pieces. Every great outfit I have seen or put together in my career and my life, really, has bits and pieces from different places. A super feminine outfit needs a boy piece to ground it, like an oxford shoe or military-inspired bag. Every preppy-based look needs a touch of rock-n-roll or bohemian to make it less stuffy. For my power women—every gray suit needs a fun accessory such as a bright color skinny belt or some fun jewelry to lighten it up. A homogenous look never turns heads nor makes you feel like you are ahead of the times.
This is part of an ongoing series called Embodied, which features women who we feel embody some element of the persona they’re featured in. Today we are featuring Kallie Dovel, founder of 31 Bits—a socially minded business designed to give internally displaced women in Northern Uganda an opportunity to counter poverty. To catch up on previous Embodied posts, click here.
Hi Kallie! Could you start by telling us about what 31 Bits is all about?
31 Bits is a business using fashion and design to empower women to rise
above poverty. Their jewelry is made from recycled paper by women in Northern Uganda. Through the sales of the jewelry, 31 Bits is able provide each beneficiary with a sustainable monthly income and holistic development programs such as health education, finance training, English lessons, counseling, business training, and more. Each woman is being empowered to start her very own business in Uganda when she graduates the program. Every 31Bits necklace and bracelet changes a woman’s life, it’s that simple.
We love the way you’ve combined style with service. What inspired you to start 31 Bits and what was your original vision?
I went to Uganda in 2007 with the aim to work in an orphanage. While I was there I met some amazing women that were making beautiful jewelry but were not able to sell them. The women did not have enough money to send their kids to school, put food on the table or facilitate a stable home. It was this that inspired me to start 31 Bits; it was the women that put so much time and skill into their jewelry but didn’t have a market. I saw that I could make a difference through what they were already doing. We could empower them to change their own lives.
My original vision for 31 Bits was not even close to what it has become. My vision was to see change in the 6 women we started working with. This vision has not only come about but has surpassed itself greatly. We now work with over 110 women in Uganda and have developed programs to provide holistic care for the individual. I am blown away and extremely grateful.
You focus on women in Northern Uganda. Why did you choose that region?
I first decided to go to Uganda to work in an orphanage when I was still in college. To be honest I just picked it out of random. I had heard some news about Uganda and wanted to see a change take place. There was nothing planned or over the top thought out about the decision. I just went.
How would you describe your personal style? Would you say 31 Bits reflects it?
I would say my style is full of color. My personality is very bright and bubbly and I like to portray that through the things I wear. I also really like to push my perceived limits of my style, always trying things that aren’t currently in my wardrobe.
31 Bits definitely is reflected through my style. Our jewelry is very colorful and key on color combinations. I also like to push the limits with our designs just like I would with my style.
The 31 Bits website describes you as “the creative genius” behind the brand’s jewelry designs. What does your involvement in the design process look like?
They are too kind I am one of the head designers, along with Emily Applegate who works in Uganda overseeing all of our up-and-coming designs. Emily and I do everything from choosing the seasonal color stories to designing the individual necklaces and bracelets. My favorite part of the design process would be choosing the color for the season. Color is the backbone of the line for 31 Bits.
What does “style” mean to you?
To me, “style” is the way you project one’s individual personality. It is a way to showcase who you are and what goes on inside of you. Sounds kind of deep, but I see a lot of my silly side through my style as well. I don’t take “style” too seriously, it is something to have fun with and to play around with.
What advice would you give to readers who are both style- and service-oriented?
I really advise people to look at who they purchase from and how they treat the people who make the product. There is a way to impact and help people just by purchasing products through companies that pay fair wages.
Images and video courtesy of 31 Bits.
The following is the first of an ongoing series we’ll be doing across all personas. The posts will feature women who we feel embody some element of the persona they’re featured in, and we hope you’ll be inspired by hearing their stories! Today we are featuring Tanesha Awasthi of Girl With Curves, a revolutionary style blog that celebrates the beauty of a curvy, feminine form. She is a true beauty, inside and out, as you’ll soon see through her responses …
Hi Tanesha! We are thrilled to have the opportunity to feature you here on Darling. Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Thank you so much! I’m a full-time Account Manager in the tech field, and a blogger in every other moment of my being. I have a an English degree, am a licensed esthetician, and have a passion for helping girls and women. I’m also a mommy to a one-year-old English Bulldog named Kingston, who sneaks into blog photos once in a while!
When did you start your blog and what inspired you to do so?
I started the blog in February of 2011 as a way to share my love of fashion and shopping, but it quickly turned into a mission for change. I want to change lives through fashion, by promoting positive body image and self-esteem.
Girl With Curves is clearly more than just a fashion blog—it’s a catalyst for change in the way we view beauty. Did you begin the blog with that intention, or did that mission form along the way?
Not at all! I started off just posting images of me wearing my everyday outfits, and when I received the first note from a reader saying that seeing me made her feel better about herself because she could relate to having curves, I had the feeling I was on to something. Being able to help women feel good about themselves is an amazing feeling, and I’m beyond fulfilled just in knowing I’m helping at least one person in the world.
We saw an interview you did on Bay Area Focus where you mentioned that you had the privilege of attending NY Fashion Week one year. As most of our readers have never had that opportunity, could you share about what that experience like for you—the good and the bad?
It was a dream come true, but a true reality check. I got to meet fashion designers and celebs I look up to—Oscar de la Renta, Nina Garcia, Kim Kardashian—and it was an amazing feeling to get to meet people you look up to and admire. But, the harsh reality that plus size women, or anyone over size 12, isn’t catered to in the fashion world was really in my face and it was hard to digest.
Attending runway shows where the biggest sizes most of the designers make is a size 12, is a sad but true reality that the average woman has to deal with. (Not to mention the fact that the average woman is bigger than a size 12, so she can only dream of wearing the beautiful designs that grace the runway each season!) It was nice seeing the designs up-close and personal, but not being able to wear them is a torture in itself.
What does your process look like when you’re styling your outfit for a post? Does it differ from your everyday outfit selection?
My mood typically determines what I wear, unless I have a special event to attend and then I dress for the occasion. (Any excuse to wear a dress, is a welcomed one!) When I can’t find anything to wear, I usually start with the shoes, and work my way up.
We all know that body image is a big issue among women. Would you say you have good body image? If so, what advice could you give to readers who are unhappy with what they look like or feel unworthy because of their mind’s view of their appearance?
I definitely have a good body image now, but it wasn’t always this way. It took me years to embrace my height, my curly hair, my big feet (LOL), and my natural curves. Being able to accept one’s body takes time and mental toughness, in a world where the ideal beauty portrayed in the media isn’t what most of us look like. The majority of women don’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of beauty as portrayed in the media, and until society at large realizes this, we won’t be able to be happy with what we look like, and we won’t accept ourselves as we are.
The best advice I can give to anyone is to realize that if you focus on being the best version of yourself, playing-up the things you love and not worrying about things you don’t, you will attain true happiness. It wasn’t until I started viewing myself this way that I was able to stop obsessing about the things I wanted to change.
And lastly, what are three style tips you could leave our readers with?
1) Never shy away from a trend because fashion rules say you shouldn’t wear it. Rules are meant to be broken, and anyone of any shape and size can wear anything, with the right fit!
2) Be yourself when it comes to fashion and getting dressed. Don’t follow trends just because magazines say you should. Wear what you love, and stick to it! That’s what personal style is all about.
3) Make sure your clothes fit well—even if it means going up a size! Size is just a number, and they’re not created equally among all designers/brands, so ignore sizing. When you ignore the number and simply wear something that fits amazing, you’ll be happy you did!
Images via Girl With Curves