I loved clothes and fashion even before I loved to write. My grandmother used to tell me over and over again about how at age three, I would sit by the seamstress everyday and watch her make my clothes. When I was growing up, my mother, herself a fashion model, had a little dress shop on the ground floor of our home. I loved to watch her sketch and design and create outfits – the beautiful people in our city would walk in and out of our home during the day. My sisters and I were lucky to have something new to wear for every occasion – prom, parties, dances.

Sadly, I wasn’t thin enough, tall enough or pretty enough to make a living out of wearing clothes.

Instead, I made a living so that I could wear nice clothes. Not a bad trade-off.

Of course, we all have priorities at every stage in life. First it was bringing up the children and then paying for private school. Private high schools were next, cars and insurance and then two children at a time, changing universities three times, out of state, in state, whatever it is they thought was their “calling”.

I always complain to my husband about being too old to wear anything nice by the time we could finally afford it. And now that I’m spending all of our disposable income on self publishing books, what’s left? (LOL)

But I digress.

I often get compliments about what I wear, how I look, how I put things together. What’s the secret, you ask? How do you have time to shop and look and search for things that fit you just right?

So, I bring you, some CB Fashion Advice.

  1. I never share my favorite stores. I have a terrible fear of looking exactly like someone else. Once, years ago, I walked into an elevator and stood right next to a woman who had the EXACT same outfit as I did. Needless to say, I went home to change. I have also stopped shopping at any of those “mall” stores. And when a friend of mine told a friend of hers about a new discovery I told her about, I stayed away from that store as well.
  2. My Kindle is my left limb and my personal shopper is my right.

For women like me who hardly have the time to see her family, a personal shopper can be your best friend. Nowadays, large retail stores have personal shoppers who spend the time putting together the best looks of the season. For anyone who hasn’t tried them, you are missing out on a lot.  I have a few of them (from various designer stores) who send me packages each month on consignment. I try them on in the comfort of my own home, choose what I want and send back what I don’t. *(SHOUT OUT: PAT FROM NORDSTROM Oakbrook has the best taste)

  1. The older you get, quality matters more than quantity. Each season, I choose one to three statement pieces that I can mix and match with the season’s basics. It could be a blazer, a sweater, a wrap or a really cute dress. You splurge on these statement pieces because they make your basics look unique.
  2. You can never have too many purses. Or shoes. Or jeans. Do NOT listen to your husband.
  3. Subscribe to a few good websites that give you the latest in fashion news and deals. My favorite designer is Rachel Zoe. I find all of my beauty products, fashion tips and outfits via The Zoe Report. I also love to read NY Magazine’s the Cut. It makes me feel smart and hip and makes me proud to be an obsessive, dedicated career woman.
  4. Don’t believe the hype. Go with what feels comfortable but fits you well. Sometimes, you have to adjust your size up or down to get the look that you need to have with a particular style of clothing.
  5. Don’t be a lemming. Stop following what everyone else is wearing. Those stretchy thingies that are printed and look like leggings. I don’t know. I just don’t know.
  6. Accessories matter. You can have the most plain looking dress look fabulous because of that really sweet choker you have on. Chokers also hide neck wrinkles. That’s why I love them. I also feel ten times taller when I’m clutching a beautiful purse.
  7. SHAVE. Guys don’t like hair on a woman. My mom used to teach at Finishing School and she told me that every single day of my adolescent life.
  8. Be your own fashionista. Quit listening to this crazy author who doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

 

And now a little PSA for the upcoming Fall season.

Velvet is in. Don’t you just love these pants?

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Does anybody know who makes these boots? Because I want them.

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Don’t you love Fringe? This was last year’s find and I still haven’t had a chance to wear it.

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I know, so cliché.

And I’m totally aware that I need to write all about my trip to L.A. It was a trip filled with incredible memories. But since this visit is linked to many things I still can’t talk about, I want to share what I’ve learned instead. Here’s the first thing. NO MATTER what happens from this day forward, this has been a journey of a lifetime.

I mean, I was in Hollywood.

Two days before my trip, I made a conscious effort to take the time and ground myself, focus on the reasons for this visit. The day before I left, I repacked my suitcase just like I repacked my frame of mind. I was going to be me. I was going to wear what I normally wore, present myself as the person that I am – A mother, a writer, an advocate of strong, independent women, a humble author (who hasn’t made any lists), trustworthy friend.

TRIPLE SHOCKER: I only brought ONE purse for the entire trip, didn’t change it for dinner, brought only ONE pair of sunglasses (ask those who know me), walked around Rodeo drive in a T-shirt (okay, I lie a little bit. A nice t-shirt).

And despite finding my ABSOLUTELY FAVORITE store from Paris right on Melrose Avenue and going a little crazy – the trip to L.A. was a deeply personal learning experience for me.

And then I ran a simple little test. As part of keeping up with social media, I had to post stuff about my trip. I waited. And waited. And waited. For “friends” to text me, send me a message. I’ve been waiting for months.

Oh yes, back to the lesson.

What I learned is that people can be genuine and kind without expecting anything in return. For the first time in my life, the tables were turned, and I didn’t know how to deal with it, really. When you’re constantly making an effort to fit into a world that is totally out of your element, it gets so exhausting. I’ve always been on the giving end, investing end, working end, keeping up end. And then, without anything at all, there were people that weekend who were sharing opportunities, new friends who were looking out for me, involving me, trusting me. And I didn’t have to try too hard, didn’t have to constantly keep up.

It’s different at work, you know. You do your job, you do it ten steps ahead of everyone else, and you get recognized. Rewarded. Respected. As a person, it does nothing to your self-worth. Your success is never really indicative of who you are as a person.

But your friends, those in your inner circle, they kind of do.

And that’s what life has taught me through this “back door” experience. That friendships and connections are born, not made, not forced. That you should gravitate towards those that enrich your life. It may be one single person. It may be five, or ten. It will never be a thousand. And that to me, after this trip, is super-duper okay.

And so to that person, to these people, to L.A. and the places we visited, the really cool experiences, I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. The doors you’ve opened up will never be taken for granted. And I will never forget.

MORE TO COME in October and November! Stay tuned because I pray that L.A. stays in my life for a little while longer.

 

branding

So this year, I had a plan. I wanted to release “In This Life“ in January, stop writing, focus on my real job and work on strengthening my brand.As you know by now, the stop writing part was a bust.  Eight Goodbyes is finished, and will be in the hands of Jim Thomas (my editor) right after Labor Day. I have to say, this was the least strenuous writing approach I have ever taken. Except for a handful of late nights, I wrote only when I found the time. There’s much to be said about the fact that since the last book, I’ve shed so much of the things that have weighed me down. I found time to enjoy the summer with my family, invested in them so that the give and take was fair. They understood the time I needed to take for writing and work, because they knew I wouldn’t disappear this time.

There’s also something to be said about all the time you save by not going outside for a smoke break. Add that up and you probably gain half a day to do other things! Ha.

I’ve been working on major career moves over the summer that look promising… Let me tell you. All you need is a boss and mentor who believes in you and you are golden. And if you have that experience, you become a boss who believes in your people too. And you take them with you wherever you go.

And now, about the brand thing.

I spent so much time trying to figure out what this meant to me. Did it mean promoting my books or promoting myself? Both? Or none of the two? And then I started looking around to see what others were doing. On Instagram, for example, there are many different genres of posters – the photography people had their photographs of course, and models and different scenery. The authors had their books, their quotes, their writing journeys and changes. The corporate trainers had these corporate quotes and events all over their feeds. The “Like it to Know It” posts were all about clothes. I still haven’t figured out how to find the cute outfits I’ve liked over the past few months!

I was impressed by all of them. Still am, and still following them every single day.

But when I tried to post pictures of my work, I got bored. And then when I tried to post pictures of my books, I only had four. I didn’t want a format. I wanted to bring out the reasons why I wrote in the first place – to show women from all walks of life that they’re not alone AND that they can do everything they want if they put their hearts and souls into it. And of course, this brings on all the hurt, pain, love and loss that has come into our lives.

I wanted to carry on the message that IF I CAN DO IT, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING.

And so, I chose to do something that may not be the right format. I chose to be ME.

Who am I?

I’m a wife and a mother with a very loving and supportive family.

I’m a career executive who migrated here from another country and found success through hard work.

I’m a woman who has fallen a few times, loved and lost, gone through a midlife crisis, acted like an idiot. I’m unapologetic about most of my actions. I’m at peace with myself.

I’m a shopper. A fashion addict.

I’m a traveler, a free spirit, a lover of different cultures and languages.

I’m a networker, a people person. I make friends and connections for life.

Oh, and by the way, I’ve written four books. For me.

And mind you, what’s with the followers? I keep getting unfollowed when I post about my family. And then I get followed again when it’s a picture of me and awesome people. And then unfollowed again. And then followed when It’s just me in silly poses. That’s the fickle world of social media. I’m understanding it now.

(Christine Brae PSA: I NEVER unfollow people. Once I follow you, you have me for life. I just think it feels very disappointing when people do that to you. I never want you to feel that way.)

It’s important that you believe in your brand. Because if you support it, then who cares if others don’t?

There’s nothing better than being YOU. Because you’re a good brand. People want to be you because you’re awesome. And you’re beautiful and exciting and soulful. Even if you stay home all day to take care of your family. There’s something about you that no one else does or has.  You’re one in a million.

Build your brand the way you build your life.

There’s no better way.

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THANK YOU, Sweet Home Chicago Author Event for having me at this weekend’s book signing! I had a wonderful time with all of you! Thank you to Reggie Deanching from @RPLUSMPHOTO and @THESTABLEMODELS for all the wonderful cover model recommendations! Can’t wait to work with you again soon.

Michelle Kannan, thank you for our friendship. What a whirlwind it’s been!

Shout out to Leo Burnett and all my wonderful friends from there.

I’m sad that this is my last book signing event for the year, but excited for what the rest of the year will bring. I’m focused on getting Eight Goodbyes out, as well as pursuing some new and exciting opportunities in my full time career!  Thank you for all all the blessings of 2016.

More Announcements to Come!