In Memory Of My Grandmother

I’m not sure how to start this.
Maybe being blunt is best?

My grandmother passed away.

If you are new to this site, you can read in the About page that the reason I’m in the clothing business is because of my grandmother. She was an incredibly talented dressmaker who ran a successful custom clothing business for 50 years. I had the privilege of being taught what looks best on me from an early age and was able to have my dress/skirt/pant/coat/accessory ideas come to life through her.

I have no patience for sewing; so you can double that when it comes to making a garment on a non-electric sewing machine (i.e. using a foot pedal). I’ve made a few things—a summer romper…ok, maybe I’ve only made one thing? I’m drawing a blank on any other ‘creations,’ but I understand HOW pieces SHOULD be correctly made. I know my grandma was a little disappointed that I didn’t pick up her skill, but then again, she didn’t have a huge amount of patience either! (She’d laugh at me and then just rather make it herself.) Regarding the designing aspect, she pretty much gave me free range—within hemline reason. It’s funny because when I look back, we didn’t agree on dress lengths when I was in high school, but then once I graduated college, she started proposing key hole necklines and more revealing backs. (It’s as if she then wanted me to get picked up…then hitched—ha.)

My grandmother was my favorite person. I feel so lucky just to be able to say that—to have had a healthy, strong relationship with a family member. You can’t pick your family and just because you are related does not mean you need to get along or even want to hang out. After college, I moved to Los Angeles and I remember thinking the people I would miss the most would be her and my very little sister. Maybe I thought this because those were the two that I couldn’t communicate with via phone or email, just straight up letters.

Bacia (our Polish slang for grandmother) passed away in September from breast cancer. From the time she ‘officially’ discovered she had the disease, to the time it took her life, it was less than a year. Even before she became sick, the thought of not having Bacia in my life would send me into panic. What would I do without our Saturday afternoons of talking, designing clothes and her feeding me meatballs? And selfishly, who would do my alterations and those of my clients? I didn’t trust the quality of other tailors (and they over-charged). Think about the foundation people in your life; now you understand my feeling. But like all things in life, they are temporary.

When she died, I wanted to announce it to everyone because I was so sad and she was such a special person. I wanted people to know this—but I wasn’t ready. Instead I took a hiatus from writing blog posts. Why is it that the things that make us feel better are often put off to the side during times when we need to do them the most? It makes no sense. At first, I wanted to include images of some of my favorite pieces she’s made—but that would take up way too much space. Then, I wanted to write about her life and the incredibly horrible obstacles she overcame (surviving concentration camps during WWII, coming to America with nothing except her husband and a baby, the riots in Detroit and so on). Bacia was one of those great listeners (even with people to whom she didn’t really care to listen to!). She didn’t like attention or to talk about herself, so making a big fuss about her on my site, though it is relevant, didn’t seem fitting either.  So while it may not be the epitome of eulogy-ish writings, I simply want to focus on one old picture.

In this picture, my grandmother is showing off the first pair of women’s pants she ever made. She told me that women started to wear pants in the U.S. so she wanted to make a pair for herself—to test it out. (Which, can you imagine women NOT wearing pants until a certain time? We really don’t realize how many sartorial options American women now have!) My grandfather took the picture.


black and white photo of women starting to wear pants in the United States

Photo by: Antoni Piskorowski

Pants were a staple for my grandmother to make for me. In addition to the average 14 weddings per year she would sew (this includes bridesmaids, ring bears etc), she managed to create well-fitting pants for me. A lot of times, especially when I was younger, I really didn’t see why she thought this was so important. I wore a uniform for 12 years to school, and my college garb was in no way polished. But every time she found a ‘good quality’ material, she wanted to make me a pair of pants. Bacia was an elegant dresser. So the cool thing about that was, everything we made (aside from experiments with summer rompers) never went out of style. I had culottes before they were cool, flares that made me look much taller than my actual 5’4 and trousers in materials for each season. (Who doesn’t love a good pair of winter white?)

The awesome thing about owning something in quality material that fits well, is that it stays in your closet for a really long time. So when the trend becomes X, you simply reach in your closet and pull it out (or choose not to, if you aren’t feeling being part of the trend). Fashion does repeat itself, but it’s the way you wear it that changes. How you wore flare jeans 15 years ago is probably (and should be?) different than how you’d pair it now, even if you remained the same size.

If you’ve gotten this far in the reading, thank you. If not, I understand; it’s long! But it feels good to get this out on paper and fill you in on a special person in my life.

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Check out these 4 activewear brands

Who would have ever thought that activewear would branch into different categories? I remember when I was in high school, plain cotton sports bras, baggy t-shirts and long lacrosse shorts were our activewear. In college, for some reason, cutting the neckline of your hoodies—so they looked ripped—was a ‘cute’ sweatshirt.

Now your options are:

High-end: adidas by Stella McCartney, tennis skirts that make me want to belong to a club! Or at least start keeping real score instead of playing “how many times can we hit it back and forth.”

Affordable: C-9 by Champion at Target or Old Navy’s line

Crunchy: Patagonia

The newest category, which has really stepped up its game lately, is Design. (I just made up that title.) Here we have Without Walls, the year old activewear brand by Urban Outfitters. The cuts, patterns and usage of color are unique. Some of the pieces, I can easily see being incorporated into a “real clothes” outfit—especially for summer. Available online and in select Urban Outfitter stores. Photos by:

Seea Hermosa One-Piece Surf Suit by Without Walls at Urban Outfitters

Remind anyone else of her Shera doll?

WithoutWalls floral reversible wrap bra

black short sleeved poncho by WithoutWalls

floral running shorts, grey zip up hooded jacket

black and white stripe surf legging or yoga pant

blue, orange bikini top and skirt

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My Baby Shower

A personal post—just for fun!

baby shower at Nico & Vali Plymouth, MI

baby onesie decoration station at baby shower with baby block letters

onesie decorating station

decorated white baby onesies with stencils and fabric markers at Lena's baby shower

A sampling of the decorated onesies—aren’t my friends creative?!

hot chocolate bar with martini glasses filled with toppings—crushed peppermint, truffles, marshmellow, sprinkles, whipped cream

hot chocolate bar, compliments of Signature Grill in Detroit

diaper cake filled with...diapers, towels and toys!

diaper cake filled with…diapers, towels and toys!

baby shower centerpieces baby socks with flowers on top of baby books

stacks of baby diapers

the result of Mike’s diaper party; this should last awhile, right?

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An Example of How a Guy Can Wear Joggers

Here my friend and fellow Stylist, Alvin, shows how a guy can wear joggers (i.e. dressed up sweatpants).

This look isn’t for everyone, but over the past year I’ve gotten so many questions about how to pull it off, that I thought it time to show how a real person (non-model) wears them while going about his day.

When you see mainstream brands, like Banana Republic, featuring the style, it has many men asking if it’s something they ‘can’ do. But a better question is, “Do you want to?” (Or are you just being lazy and the idea of wearing sweats and having it be acceptable is enticing.)

If you are in a non-corporate or creative environment or are an entrepreneur, this may be an option for you. Something to think about before each time you dress, “How would my client/the people I’m seeing today feel about this?” If you’re trying to win a client over or seal a deal (this includes dating) give some thought as to how you’ll be perceived, then proceed!

* Part of what makes this ensemble ‘work’ is that it’s all cotton. You don’t see Alvin grabbing one of his wool suit jackets (would look ridiculous). Also, shoes are important. He has on Cole Haans; other boots or sneakers are smart choices too—just don’t throw on wingtips or monkstraps etc. The idea is to stay casual, instead of hodge-podging your dressy + casual clothes.

white dress shirt, brown cole haan boots, Bonobos khaki jacket, black joggers

Photo Credit: Alvin Cooper III

grey and yellow plaid tie, copper tie bar, orange pocket square

Photo Credit: Alvin Cooper III

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My Favorite Winter Boots Are Clogs

Are you still wearing UGGs? Do you hate me for implying that it’s not the coolest winter choice?

Unless you are living in SoCal (Jill! Sara!) we’re all pretty much looking for the same benefits in a winter boot:

  1. They have to be comfortable.
  2. They can’t look torched after walking through:
    brown slush
  3. They have to be warm.
  4. Ideally, you can wear them around town, day and night.
  5. They aren’t solely suitable for mountain resorts.
  6. They are as esthetically pleasing as possible—because sometimes a stylish winter look is tough to achieve, especially when the rest of you is layered and bundled.
    For example: Hunter boots look darling when skin is showing. Think: Kate Moss at a muddy concert.
Kate Moss wearing Hunter Boots at muddy concert

Photo Credit:

Today I had a check-up and my doc was way into my No.6 clogs. I adore them and probably should get some sort of kickback for all the orders I’m sending their way. (!)
Last week, I sat on the steps of a dressmaker’s shop to take off my boots so my client could try them on and establish her size. (She then bought a pair that day.)

I’ve been living in these boots, and though 6 months have passed—filled with heaps of snow, slush and ice rink-like streets, they still look as good as new. Isn’t that refreshing to hear about a boot living in the Midwest?

black sherling lined No.6 store clog boots

No.6 clogs have:
* water repellant leather
* lacquered wooden base

So you simply wipe clean after getting home. I have the fully lined shearling boot because I live in Michigan. For you 310’ers, there are tons of fun non-toasty leather or suede clog options. Check out the ones for spring too—because “technically” that’s a few weeks away.

Old School Clog on High Heel in Cement


P.S. A note on swingers?
Mike’s friend was over the other day and, after entering our house, informed us that pineapples are the new indicator of a swinging couple. I had just gotten this new doormat…and we had 2 pineapples on the counter. (Hey—they’re in season!) Oops! Is this a geographical thing or have you heard of this too?

black clog boots on pineapple doormat

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$20 Off a New Pair of Jeans + Maternity Options Too

Look in your closet, at that stack of denim.

How many pairs do you have?

Now how many pairs do you actually wear?

Maybe you don’t like the wash anymore. Maybe they haven’t fit, for awhile. Whatever the reason, if you can get rid of a pair, here’s a fantastic opportunity to help people in need and insulate their houses!

I’m on-board with the Madewell + Blue Jeans Go Green repurposing denim mission. To provide you do-gooders with some fun, Madewell (inside Somerset) is having an in-store party this Thursday and they’re giving you perks:

  • $20 OFF a new pair of jeans
  • FREE hemming. (That’s like $40 total and a time save.)

Here are the details.

Madewell is recycling denim into housing insulation in partnership with Blue Jeans Go Green

Now for the pregnant set:

Before I was pregnant, I’d often hear of how important it was to have a ‘good’ pair of maternity jeans. Since I appreciate a well-made, comfortable pair of denim, I agreed with this statement. Then, I was the pregnant one. From the start, I wanted to wear my own clothes for as long as possible. It wasn’t for reasons of denial or vain, I just like what I own and didn’t want to overhaul my closet.

Jeans, it turns out are crucial. It doesn’t matter what is your lifestyle, job type or due date, a comfortable pair of jeans that looks great on you is essential and will carry you through all four trimesters.

I couldn’t have said it any better than 9 In The Mirror, so click on the link below to see their beautiful maternity denim options. I adore how they’ve broken down your ideal choices based on trimester. And the very last thing to discover is “which woman are you—over the bump or under the bump.” One of them will feel best. 9 In The Mirror: Denim Guide

first, second, third and fourth trimester style options

pregnant woman in red and black plaid coat and light jeans

Photo: 9 in the


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Loungewear Instead of Lingerie

Loungewear sounds so much more sophisticated than sweats, don’t you think?

Since most relationships go through phases (flirting, courting, officially dating, then whichever direction you choose—moving in, getting married and so on), so to does your form of dress. Disclaimer: I’m not saying that everyone should start off in sport coats and heels and then plateau at hoodies and sweat pants. But you all know that a level of comfortability comes with longevity when you’re a couple.

For a lot of newer romances, Valentine’s Day gifts = lingerie. For the lay person, it’s a trip to Victoria’s Secret. But, what if you’ve been there and done that? Why not tap into loungewear aka cute sweats. ‘Cute’ meaning something someone past college would wear.

It’s cold, it’s snowy and we’re all busy, which means shopping online sounds like the best idea. For this type of clothing however, the material is really important. No one wants a scratchy cotton PJ set.

* I adore modal (fabric).

I’ve seen the below brands in person and would vote ‘yes’ on the fabric and design.

2 piece blue women's pajama set Eberjey

Photo Credit:

white tank top and pants pajama set Eberjey

Photo Credit:

pink cashmere dance yoga sweater Athletica

Photo Credit:

grey romper

Photo Credit:

A Last Minute Valentine’s Gift For Your Guy:
Don’t you want the man by your side to look good too?
With J.Hilburn, you can choose casual or dressy clothes—you know it will fit since the shirts are custom made. Yes! Gift cards are easily available online.

men's custom shirts, J.Hilburn gift card, cashmere sweaterHappy Valentine’s Day! (And remember, gift-giving yourself is completely acceptable. :))

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Celebs Who Have Upgraded Their Style

While watching the red carpet lineup of the Grammys via E! News, I started to think about a few of the ‘stylish’ celebrities and how they used to dress. Kelly Osbourne, for example, is one of the hosts of Fashion Police—so that means she’s regarded as a style expert. She dresses her shape well and embraces a style all her own…now.

Kelly Osbourne red hair, grey hair

Photo Credit: Getty Images, WENN via whowhatwear

I’m not re-posting these pictures to knock any of these ladies. Instead, my intention is to bring awareness to your own style and to go easy on yourself. For many of these women, their style transformation was due to age (teenager to adult), changes in lifestyle (you’re now a princess) or career. And yes, for others, their style upgrade is credited to now working with a stylist.

Taylor Swift in moccasin boots and long navy coat

Photo credit: WENN, Getty Images via whowhatwear

Kate Middleton in jeans and knee high boots, green dress

Photo Credit: Getty Images via whowhatwear

solange knowles yellow outfit

Photo Credit: Getty Images via whowhatwear

We’ve all looked through old photos and had some ‘eek’ moments. Since so much of our world is focused on the looks of musicians, actors and…people that don’t act but are on TV, I think it’s important to remember that people are people. We all go through changes in life which alter how we feel and how we want to be perceived. If you are in a rut style-wise—your usual go-tos just aren’t feeling like you anymore—know that this is normal. How do you get out of it? The best place to start is to pay attention to what catches your eye: maybe it’s cruising around Pinterest, ripping out of a magazine or really digging the ensembles from your favorite TV show. Without putting any pressure on yourself, this mess of pictures will start to form a look just for you. {If this is too much effort, you can always hire a stylist! (cough: me)}



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3 Pieces to Hack into Maternity Work Clothes

Guess what? I’m having a baby!
I’m seven months pregnant!

I’ve written before on maternity clothes—resources and ways to wear them…I even offered a Chic Mama style package several years ago. (No one booked it, by the way. It turns out the post-baby mamas like to come to me to tweak their style.) Anyway, I’m not negating my previous pre-natal posts; I’m now adding on to give a first-hand perspective.

In talking to lots of mothers, I’ve learned that each pregnancy is different (from when you ‘pop,’ to delivery, to the behaviors of your newborn).

making a snow angel in Plymouth, MI

My playing in the snow activities are now limited to…

This past fall, while working with Saks Fifth Avenue on their fashion marketing, I found myself needing to be in a corporate dress code, daily. When I’m working one-on-one styling women and men, I don’t wear suit separates and pencil skirts; the environment is much more relaxed. I.E. I’m deep in someone’s closet or carrying armfuls of clothes through a store. In order to blend with the rest of the executive team for a few months and look appropriate, I hacked my wardrobe. Please note that I was 4-5 months pregnant and not massively showing. It was an in-between stage where maternity clothes were too big and my regular clothes, a bit tighter. So what did I do?

1. I paired a blazer to cover the fact that my dress pants weren’t able to zip up all the way. (It wasn’t like I was running around with my pants undone! But an inch or so was definitely not zipped.) No one knew.

2. Wrap dresses with knee high boots became my go-to. These dresses are like an elegant version of elastic pants! They will grow with you. And as long as your boobs aren’t spilling out of the V-neckline, you can wear these for quite awhile during your pregnancy. IF, you do start to notice cleavage, simply pair a cami underneath.

3. Speaking of camis, I’m loving the Ingrid and Isabel ones that were gifted to me. They were the first pieces of pregnancy clothes I got and can be worn at any body stage: normal self, all stages of pregnancy self, and I believe post pregnancy as well. (Thanks Kara!)

paisley wrap dress, burgundy wrap dress custom made

The dress on the left has a cinched belt. As pregnancy progresses, move it up to give definition to your body. The wine colored dress on the right is made of structured material with a pre sewn wrap design. This doesn’t allow as much for expansion and therefore you may not be able to wear through all 3 trimesters.

wrap dresses

The sleeveless wrap dress allows you to get creative and have multiple looks. Wear a long or short sleeved shirt underneath or blazer or vest over top. It can be worn year round! All 3 styles shown can be worn through all 4 trimesters as the belt is self adjustable.

* If you are wondering about the “W” and “D” hand stitched inside each dress, that isn’t the designer. For me and her customers, my grandmother would sew one of these letters inside each garment she made so that the wearer would know if it had to be dry cleaned or could be washed. Smart and easy!

The ‘maternity clothes journey’ has been interesting. No other time in your life can you potentially wake up each day and have things fit differently. I also want to talk about forecasting for your future size—my adventures in maternity swimwear—will save that for another post.

If you know of someone that is pregnant and her job requires a business dress code, please share these tips. Knowing ways to extend your wardrobe is always useful!

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The New Fashion Feedback App

Should I get this?

Lena Porter tries on a Andrew Marc x Richard Chai leather jacket for the Snapsure app

dressing room decisions

Raise your hand if you’ve ever taken a picture of yourself while in a dressing room or at home, to help decide if you should buy it/wear it?
You may have also sent this photo to someone—usually a friend, family member or significant other for their opinion.

If you’ve answered yes, check out this brand new app, Snapsure. It simplifies the whole debating to buy something/does this look good question, that we sometimes ask ourselves.

BONUS: I’m going to be a guest Fashion Expert this Saturday for the app. So, although you love your sister, if you’ve been dying for a professional’s style advice…whether that be on an item you’re thinking about getting or on an outfit combo that just needs another set of eyes to help make a verdict, NOW IS YOUR CHANCE. :)

Read here for the official press release:

Let me help you shop the holiday season in style!

Great news, everyone! I’ve been selected as a featured fashion expert in the Snapsure 12 Days of Instant Fashion Feedback event!

Snapsure is an app that makes it quick and easy for you to get instant feedback on the things you buy from the people you trust. Snapsure has chosen a select group of fashion experts to use the app to provide instant feedback on holiday shopping purchases.

On Saturday, December 13, as my gift to you, I will provide FREE personal styling advice to you as you shop and style your way through the season.

Connecting with me on Snapsure is simple:

1. Download the Snapsure application in the App Store and register yourself as a user.

2. Connect with me on Snapsure–my username is Lena.

3. On Saturday, December 13, use Snapsure to take a picture of your holiday style or a holiday shopping item, set the timer and send it to me. I can give you instant fashion feedback as you shop. You can also send your pic to other friends and family. All the responses come back in one easy to read graphic. NOTE: You must have an iPhone or iPod to participate.

Let me help you shine this holiday season with styles that work best for you and your loved ones. Every fashionista could use a little feedback… see you on December 13!

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