31 January, 2017

The Importance of a Sounding Board

/ˈsoundiNG ˌbô(ə)rda person or group whose reactions to suggested ideas are used as a test of their validity or likely success before they are made public.

artist William Powhida | Mid-Career Anxieties 
Hello again! It's officially been five months since I last posted to my blog. WOW. I needed a long break. I started my blog to produce my own content at the pace I wanted to. It quickly evolved from an inner monologue, to a full blown fashion blog and then back to a lifestyle blog. My content felt a bit inauthentic and I wanted to take a hiatus from writing until I had an idea I felt compelled to blog about, which brings me to today's post. 

I am at a pivotal stage in my life. Finishing my final year of college, deciding where I want to start my career, and deciding which city to call home for my first few years. A lot of people feel compelled to throw negativity and pessimism your way when you're a 20-something-year-old. It can be draining, discouraging and absolutely exhausting. That's not what I choose to focus on, though. 

The way I see it, being this young has far too many advantages to let myself get stressed out about the future. Instead, whenever I do feel like I'm getting stressed or overwhelmed, I look to those who have been in my shoes before. 

I have never been afraid to ask for help or advice. I actually prefer to collaborate with those around me opposed to doing everything by myself - something unusual for someone as independent as myself. I like to think of the people in my network as my sounding board. 

In the past week alone, I've reached out to parents, friends, my boyfriend (shoutout to Christopher), and my teachers for advice on everything from which highlighter I should buy next (hi Deeba) to what city I should move to after I graduate. 

I would never be able to google the tailored advice and words of wisdom that my sounding board provides me. I cherish and respect their opinions more than anything. I value the insight my friends, family, teachers and even mere acquaintances offer. It's important to think beyond your inner circle when it comes to getting advice.

As I start my final semester of college and begin to make some of the biggest decisions of my life, I will most definitely rely on my sounding board to guide me along the way. Here's to blogging *at least* once a month this year. Deal? Deal. 

04 August, 2016

The Case For Anticipation

ONE MONTH LATER I'm back with a new blog post. Thanks for being patient, guys. New York has wined me and dined me and utterly consumed every ounce of my being. To be clear, the last thing I've wanted to do is write a blog post about crop tops or nail polish or summer sandals. I don't plan on  totally abandoning those topics on this blog, but it is important for my content to evolve with me.

Let's talk about this summer. I can't type these words without smiling like an absolute lunatic. I'm so insanely happy and that's certainly not something I've always been able to say. It is, however, something I've always highly anticipated being able to say.

Anticipation can be such a powerful tool when used in the right manner. Waiting is the most difficult part of anticipation, though. Waiting is a pain. Whether you're waiting for food at a restaurant or waiting for direct deposit to land in your bank account - waiting is brutal.

For some people, myself included, waiting is discouraging. Why am I waiting so long to hear back from a job application? Why am I waiting for someone to text me back? Why am I waiting to go on that vacation I've always wanted to book?

A few years ago I decided to redirect the negative energy associated with waiting and put it towards something positive, like plotting my next badass move.

I am currently facing the fact that I have to peel myself away from Manhattan to go back to DC and finish my final year of college. It might as well be a prison sentence. I can only imagine how dramatic this must sound, but how could someone look forward to leaving New York?!

The ironic part is that when I was in high school all I wanted to do was move to DC and start college. After about two months in college all I wanted to do was move to New York and start my career. It's all about the anticipation. My advice is to make sure you always have something to look forward to.

I never allow myself to stop thinking about what's next no matter where I am. 

22 June, 2016

I Feel Like Carrie

Kanye West feels like Pablo. I feel like Carrie. I've been in New York for nearly one month now and I can't help but wonder how I ever survived anywhere else. What I love most about this city is absolutely everything.

I remember watching Sex and The City before I even visited NYC and thinking to myself, "Okay, Carrie Bradshaw is so melodramatic and annoying... but also fabulous... but also ANNOYING!"

If you've watched the show you understand what I'm saying. She waxes poetically about romance, fashion, life and love all from the comfort of her rent controlled apartment on the Upper East Side. It's a lot to handle at times.

I get it now. She was only annoying because I couldn't relate to her. When she talked about being in a relationship with Manhattan I'm pretty sure I rolled my eyes into the next century. When she typed her column while looking out of her apartment window at the skyscrapers adorning her block I thought it was such overkill.

"We get it, you live in New York," I thought to myself. I didn't understand, though. Sure she was a fictional character but Carrie was onto something. Carrie brought to light what every 20-something year old girl experiences when she's in New York - whether the girl admits it or not.

I feel like Carrie when I walk down the street and the cool city breeze transfers from the sides of the buildings into my hair blowing it around so dramatically you'd swear there was a fan in front of me.

I feel like Carrie when I regularly spend too much money on clothes and not enough money on food.

I feel like Carrie when I venture out completely and totally alone with no intentions of seeing anyone except the city itself.

I feel like Carrie when I fall in love with every avenue the same way one falls in love with a significant other.

I feel like Carrie when I surround myself with friends who are unapologetically determined, independent and intelligent people with goals and passions and talents.

I feel like Carrie when I type these words onto this screen realizing that I have fought my way to New York City all on my own after years of looking at the city through reruns of Sex and The City.

05 June, 2016

Year in Review: Blogging

I would be super cliche and type something like, "I can't believe it's been a year since I started my blog!" but I'd be lying to you. I can believe it's been a year and to be quite honest it feels like it's been ten years since I started because of what's happened in the last 365 days.

The goal of this review isn't to recall everything I've done in one long dry and self-centered blog post. Instead, I want to reflect on how important it is to keep a record of what you're doing in your own life. 

I started keeping a journal when I was in the first grade and to this very day I still take time to write whether it's in my current journal or on this blog. It's so important to me because words go beyond photos and blurred memories. Words are the evidence of your experiences. 

Before I sound too much like a Hallmark card, I'll say this: keep track of what you do with your life. If you get too caught up in work or school or relationships, you'll lose sight of the goals you're trying to achieve in the first place. 

It's impossible to know how far you've come unless you have a paper trail that traces back to where you started. I grew up in what I call the world's smallest town in southern Virginia. Every other day I found myself writing about how I wanted to be in the world's largest city.

Now nearly 12 years later here I am typing this blog post from the desk in my room in my apartment in Manhattan. I wouldn't appreciate this as much had I not written down my thoughts and feelings and goals and aspirations. It's a cycle.

When I started this blog, it was largely because I wanted to keep record of my summer abroad in Milan. It evolved into a full blown fashion blog with the help of an expert photographer and my best friend Michael Collins. Now, this blog serves as an extension of my inner monologue. 

Time to get cheesy. I chose the name "The Fashion Speak" because I wanted to leave space for all kinds of content rather than just daily posts on what I'm wearing. The "Speak" represents everything I have going on in my mind of which I want to keep a record. Here's to many more years of written records. 

25 May, 2016

Break Out The Crop Tops (Maybe)

I've never been more ready to sweat. I mean it, people. I've been freezing since October and it's finally time to defrost. Summer is upon us and it's time to start dressing appropriately. Put away your jeans and Chelsea boots and break out the crop tops!

I love walking outside and feeling the immediate presence of the sun's rays beating down on my skin. It's like a giant hug from a heated blanket you didn't know you needed. Even if you're not cold, the warmth of the sun feels so very comforting. 

Let's get real, though. This season can be brutal. Last summer I commuted to my internship in DC on the Metro each day. I remember how disturbingly sweaty I would get just WALKING to the Metro, much less on the suffocating 30 minute ride into the city. Summer can feel even more brutal when you're trekking to work instead of lounging poolside. 

The remedy? Dressing appropriately. Some of you are probably wondering how a blog post with "crop top" in the title can be about dressing appropriately. It's all in the styling. There's a way to rock a crop top and look put together without trying to be the Victoria's Secret Angel that we are not. 

The first step to rocking a crop top anytime anywhere is to find one that is long enough to "tuck in" to a skirt or a pair of pants. This trick can also work with high waisted shorts, like I wore here. Once you've found the perfect crop top, you should find the right bottoms to wear depending on the occasion.

You can pair a crop top with a pencil skirt to create the chicest office-appropriate outfit ever. Not in the office? Pair your crop top with a shorter skirt like I did to look like a summer style queen who has risen above the short shorts/spaghetti strap combo. 

For even more ideas, shop a few of my favorite crops below from Subdued, a little shop I discovered last summer in Milan. 

sleeveless turtle neck | Subdued $23

off shoulder crop | Subdued $28

boat neck tank | Subdued $18

11 May, 2016

Spring (Closet) Cleaning

It's been ages. I feel like I've been scattered in a million different places over the last two weeks. Since my last blog post I've finished my junior year of college, found a summer apartment in Manhattan, moved out of my college apartment, traveled to my parent's house and have now returned to northern Virginia before heading up to New York in a few days.

What I've realized in this moving process is that I don't actually have a home at the moment. I'm in this really weird phase in my life where I can't settle down anywhere just yet because I am constantly transitioning from place to place. I don't mind, though. I know when I do have my own place (after I graduate next May) it will feel so much more rewarding after all of the running around I've done the last two years.

Something else I've realized is I need to scale back on stuff. Anyone close to me knows how organized I am and how I like to keep my life free of clutter. I try to pack light and I don't hold onto keepsakes. I'm not sentimental and I like to donate things I don't use or need. So why and HOW did I accumulate so much STUFF?

My mom swears it's because I online shop too much. I stand by my "I really don't have a lot of clothes" comment I made several times while my parents helped me move out of my college apartment. The clothes took the longest to move. I had to evaluate myself and then decide what to do differently.

I got rid of two trash bags full of clothes and one trash bag full of shoes. I sold most of them to Plato's closet and then donated the rest to Goodwill. It's hard to decide what to give and what to keep but I've devised a few rules to follow when trying to clean out one's closet:

1. If you haven't worn it, toss it

If you're cleaning out winter clothes and you have three sweaters you didn't wear once last winter, you should get rid of them. The same goes for shorts, dresses, tops, etc. Don't be a hoarder. 

2. If it isn't flattering, toss it

I've been known to keep an item because it was expensive or because it has a high end label sewn onto it. Neither of those things matter if the item isn't flattering! Things that are ill-fitting, poorly made or just overall unflattering - toss them ASAP.

3. If you aren't in love, toss it

This rule will make it easier to get dressed in the morning. It can be annoying to look into your closet and be repulsed by your clothes. If you get rid of the items you don't completely love, you will have an easier time managing your wardrobe. 

26 April, 2016

Life Update: The Power of Planning Ahead

I can finally breathe. I can finally relax. I can finally refresh my email without an irrational fear of seeing a rejection note. I can finally give a solid answer when asked, "Ashley, what are you doing this summer?"

Last summer consisted of my first ever internship in DC along with my study abroad program in Milan. Both changed my life exponentially and motivated me to work even harder to pursue my goals. I felt so blessed to have these experiences and I immediately thought about what I wanted to do next.

I bought a planner in August 2015, immediately turned to the June 2016 page and wrote, "Move to NYC..." 

I knew at the time that interning in New York would be the most natural step in my undergraduate career, especially because this is where I want to live after I graduate in May 2017. I scoured the internet for opportunities but no applications were open for the summer.

In November I found out about a summer fellowship opportunity in New York City doing public relations for Ketchum, one of the world's largest PR firms. This stayed on my mind from November to January, when the application finally opened.

From January to April, I devoted myself to this fellowship. I immersed myself in the company and researched it as if it were my senior thesis. I only told my close family and one or two of my friends that I was applying. I didn't want to make a big deal about it in case I didn't get it.

I was consumed. I'm not lying when I tell you I dreamt about this fellowship! It's all I could think about even though I had a tsunami of school work and prior commitments rushing at me in every direction. I stayed focused. I remembered what I wrote in my planner many months ago. I had to devote myself to this application.

After an undisclosed number of phone interviews and sets of writing samples, cover letters and follow up emails, I got the call.

I was in class when the New York number showed up on my phone. I left the room without hesitation and heard the wonderful HR manager say "Congratulations, Ashley! You've been selected for the Ketchum Summer Fellows program!"

After the conversation with the HR manager, I hung up the phone and began to cry. Let's be real. I sobbed. Tears of pure joy! I was so overwhelmed with happiness and I felt so proud of myself for securing this position.

Over 500 people applied and they selected 14 individuals... To be one of those 14 makes me smile more than anything ever has before. I turned back to the same page I wrote about moving to NYC back in August 2015. I wrote down the June 2016 start date of my fellowship.

I hope this post demonstrates the power of planning ahead. People will question you, people will laugh at you. The thing to remember: no one else IS you. With the right mindset and the right work ethic, planning ahead will get you wherever you want to be. Even somewhere like New York City.

Get ready for my blog to flood with New York stories this summer. You can't say I didn't warn you!

19 April, 2016

How to Avoid Cliché Coachella Style

If you're confused about the increasing amount of suede, fringe, crochet and knitwear appearing in major retail stores, there's a good explanation for it. It's festival season!

Every spring, music festivals roll out one after another, after another.... Coachella is the most famous music festival of them all as hoards of celebrities, models, and generally COOL people attend year after year. These people claim to go for the music but I know they only go to show off their Coachella-fied designer clothes.

You've seen the types: bohemian chic with a rocker vibe, 70s glam with a modern twist, and edgy punk with feminine glam. These are the style combos I heavily associate with music festivals like Coachella.

I find myself loving certain pieces of these outfits but feeling overwhelmed when they're all combined. It can be a little *too* much, you know?

Here are a few outfits I find to be cliché (RE: overdone) at Coachella and other music festivals...

Doing the most:

photo |
photo | E Online

These outfits have a million different things going on at once. Mixing trends is great but it needs to be done tactfully.

The left photo shows how fringe can go wrong when paired with an intense graphic tee.

Similarly, the right photo mixes an uber-popular suede front button skirt with a printed long cardigan. Verdict: too busy!

Doing it right:

photo | E Online
photo | Splash News

You can't go wrong with black and white. I've said it before and I'll say it again and again!

These two looks stand out because they are getting the festival feeling across while looking fabulously chic.

I love the monochromatic look on the left, accented by a ribbon choker and long chain necklace. The booties are an excellent update to the gladiator sandal.

The look on the right is SOoooOo cute! I'm loving the front button shorts - a nice update to the front button suede skirt from above. The double-buckle belt is trending and fabulous.

Doing it yourself:

Shop these affordable pieces to get your music festival wardrobe fix! 


SPLIT ROMPER missguided

12 April, 2016

Interview Season: The Power Outfit

The first chance you have to make a good impression is always through your outfit. This is particularly true when it comes to speaking with potential employers. 

Let's pretend you're interviewing someone for a job. They walk into your office wearing tight ripped jeans, a wrinkled shirt and worn out shoes. What does this tell you about this person's attitude? For me, this outfit says this person doesn't think the interview is worth looking their very best. 

Don't be that person. Don't let your friends be that person. To avoid being that person, you must invest in your appearance. You need to buy a classic outfit that will take you the distance so that you will get the job that pays the distance. It's a cyclical process.

I bought a suit from Express when I was a senior in high school because I had a tour of The White House. At the time I didn't know I would be relying on that suit for nearly every job/internship interview or professional event during my college career. You don't have to buy a suit, but you should definitely consider buying a go-to professional outfit to wow everyone around you.

Here are three different outfit choices I recommend for that important occasion:

1. The Power Suit 

This is a classic outfit for virtually all ages. As a matter of fact, I envision myself wearing only Chanel tweed suits when I hit age 70. For now, I'll stick to wearing things like this Express Columnist suit with a flattering fit and swoon-worthy price:

Express Columnist Suit

2. The Do-It-All Dress 

How many times have you reached for a dress in your closet but couldn't wear it because it was either too short or too tight for a professional occasion? It's amazing how long my legs look when I'm trying to be ~appropriate~ UGH. Here is a dress that does it all, for every business occasion:

LOFT Paneled Sheath Dress 

3. Skirt and Top Combo

When all else fails, grab a skirt and go. It is SO important to choose wisely. The wrong skirt could cost you the job. My rule of thumb is this: if you can't decide whether or not your skirt is appropriate, you shouldn't wear it. There should be no second guessing about your outfit because you want to feel 100% confident. Here are some combos to do the trick:

J. Crew Pencil Skirt 

07 April, 2016

Spring Loving and Sandal Shopping

I love this time of year because the air is filled with a floral perfume so sweet, it can only be produced by nature. I enjoy seeing flowers right before they bloom; these flowers are always my favorite because I can already see their full beauty even though the rest of the world may not yet be able to.

Spring seemed to appear out of nowhere with sunshine and tee shirt weather beckoning me to pack away my winter clothes. Although the weather still differs on a daily basis (thanks Northern Virginia) I am leaning towards warm weather clothes over the chunky knit sweaters I've been living in for months. 

Shoes are typically the last layer to change between winter and spring, simply due to the fact that the weather still likes to play with our emotions by being super cold in the morning and super warm in the afternoon. However, you can get started shopping for sandals and the warm weather will be here to stay before you know it. 

Last summer I discovered Forever 21 sandals. If you've been following my blog since the beginning, you may have seen me slightly trash talk Forever 21 here. I have a new attitude towards the store ever since discovering their sandals. I wore them non-stop last summer in *Milan* (brb, crying). They were the perfect walking shoes and I can't wait to break them out again.

I prefer sandals without a strap around the heel simply because I always get blisters. Always. These shoes are the remedy for my sensitive heels because they simply slide on my feet. 

Shop my favorites from the Forever 21 website below:

Faux Suede Sandals (+colors) $12.90
Crisscross Faux Leather Sandals (+colors) $8.90
Braided Faux Leather Sandals (+colors) $8.90