My lack-lustre post-partum wardrobe had me wondering if I’d been a member of a Goth band prior to getting pregnant. Everything was black, with the exception of a couple of army-green pieces, and either too short or too tight. After a year in leggings, loose fitted tops and pants with elasticated pouches the thought of purchasing a whole new wardrobe was as overwhelming as it was thrilling. It was my husband who after watching me tear through my closet like a madwomen looking for anything that might resemble an outfit from this decade, suggested that I consult a fashion stylist.
We decided to make my wardrobe overhaul a family vacation to Laguna Beach and Santa Monica in Southern California for some sunshine and much needed fashion advice. The power of Google led me to Leslie Christen (lesliechristen.com), a Laguna Beach local, fashion editor and personal stylist to none other than Orange County housewife ‘Fancy Pants‘ Heather Dubrow. Prior to our shopping day, Leslie had me send her some pictures of myself as well as the celebrities who best represented the style I was hoping to achieve. We also spoke on the phone to discuss my shopping budget, types of outfits I was looking for (casual chic for a mum-on-the-go) and what I hoped to accomplish on our shopping day (complete transformation please).
Laguna Beach Power Shop
‘Fashionista Forewarning’: shopping with a stylist is a focused mission that requires comfortable shoes (preferably slip on), quick-change clothes and an open mind.
On the big day I wished my slightly panicked husband good luck, kissed my 6-month old daughter and left to meet my guru in the lobby of our hotel. From the moment I met Leslie I felt confident that my clothing calamities would soon be over and I’d never again have to figure out which faded black leggings best complimented my oversized, slightly pilled off-black cardigan. At Leslie’s suggestion we bypassed the infamous Fashion Island in Newport Beach as well as the other larger malls to shop at some of the area’s smaller boutiques, which as a tourist I likely wouldn’t find on my own.
Our first stop was Westerly in Corona del Mar. This darling little shop offers an array of sought-after labels, all of which are handpicked by owner and former LA stylist Lindsey Garland. Leslie’s first style tip was ‘try everything on’. Yes, this sounds logical but I know I’m not the only person to have picked through a rack of clothes and walked away dismayed that a store didn’t carry anything that would work. And so the circus began. Leslie circled the store, plucking piece after piece that in my mind wouldn’t be suitable; after which she did another loop and pulled even more items. I spent the next 45 minutes trying on umpteen sweaters, jeans, blazers and blouses all under the critical eye of my guru, who parlayed advice on wardrobe must-haves and how to shop for outfits versus individual items. After the whirlwind of fabric settled I was left with two pairs of jeans and a blouse, blazer and tank top, the majority of which were on sale. More importantly a pivotal change had occurred in the way I approached clothing. From that moment on I vowed to follow Leslie’s simple but closet-altering advice. The other key tip that she shared was ‘dress for the body you have, not the body you hope to have in six months – you can always have clothes altered. Although this may be another seemingly logical sound bite, it resonated with me and I’m sure many other new mums can relate.
We spent the rest of the day in boutiques along the East Coast Highway, including Harper’s in Corona del Mar and the glitzy Bardot in Newport Beach where I picked up a beautiful sweater and third pair of jeans. The day was a total success and after five hours of shopping we parted ways and I returned to the Inn at Laguna hoping that my husband and child had survived my absence.
After a day of intense retail therapy my body begged for some pampering, and so I left my husband and daughter yet again for an afternoon at the Montage Laguna Beach Spa. The Montage is a stunning five-star oceanfront retreat with beachfront guest rooms, outdoor pools, lounge, three signature restaurants and a 20,000 square foot spa. The menu at Spa Montage is inspired by the resort’s natural surroundings, with the ocean playing an integral role in many of the treatments. I chose the body wrap, which included a custom masque of botanicals, herbs and clays to cleanse and purify my skin. Once applied, I was wrapped like a burrito in plastic wrap and foil and left to relax while the mud worked it’s magic. Following my mud meditation, the masque was rinsed from my body with a warm Vichy Shower and a lovely citrus hydrating lotion was applied leaving my skin soft and silky smooth.
Feeling a little guilty for my reoccurring absenteeism, I had my family join me for dinner at the resort’s Loft restaurant. The food was impeccable, and the interactive cheese bar, featuring over 150 local and international cheeses paired with house made condiments, seduced my husband and eased the stress of playing Mr. Mom for a few days.
The remainder of our time in Laguna was spent sightseeing and exploring the coastline. In addition to offering outstanding views and newly renovated rooms, the Inn at Laguna where we stayed, is just steps from the beach and the many beautiful boutiques, galleries and cafes that Laguna Beach is famous for.
Prior to heading home, we spent a couple of days in Santa Monica. This beautiful city is easy to navigate on foot, which is always preferable when you’re travelling with a stroller-bound child. Although my purchases were complete, the shopping in Santa Monica is phenomenal. Third Street Promenade is a mix of local and chain stores sprinkled with cafes and restaurants, while the tree-lined Montana Avenue offers a selection of higher end shops and boutiques often frequented by celebrities. Of course a visit to the Santa Monica Pier is a must, whether to ride the iconic Ferris Wheel, learn about local aquatic life at the Aquarium, pick up a souvenir or simply stroll the boardwalk and take in the sights.
As we were travelling with our baby daughter, who goes to bed at 6:00 pm, I wanted a hotel that has suites, baby-friendly amenities and is within walking distance of the beach, shopping, restaurants and Santa Monica Pier. The Fairmont Mirimar Resort and Bungalows was the perfect choice. A stunning 80-foot fig tree, which the hotel’s signature farm-to-table style bistro FIG is named after, stands at the entrance of the historic property. While our suite was elegant and beautifully furnished, I was more impressed with the size of the room, quality of the crib, diaper genie, baby bath supplies and thoughtful stuffed toy for my daughter. Most new parents will attest that anything to help simplify the bath and bed routine while away from home is greatly appreciated.
I returned from the sunshine state feeling relaxed and with a new wardrobe and outlook on shopping. Hopefully nobody will notice that my new yummy mummy outfits often have a little handprint mark and half-chewed Cheerio stuck to them.