Find your bliss at Bliss Boutique in Baltimore

The next time you're cruising on the Baltimore Beltway (I-695) near exit 31B, take a quick detour by exiting off the ramp, then make a left onto Kenwood Avenue and take a peek inside Bliss Boutique: a quaint shopping destination owned by Cyreeta Curbeam. You’ll be greeted by delicious scents, amicable staff and racks of current fashions. I had the pleasure of visiting the boutique on its opening day, got an opportunity to meet the owner and left with the most wonderful “one-size-fits-most” tank I have ever tried on; it is soft, stretchy and simply amazing.

Cyreeta was kind enough to take some time to engage me in a question and answer session, where I discovered the inspiration that fueled Bliss Boutique and learned more about the blissful items she carries.

What inspired you to open Bliss Boutique?

It was a pleasant surprise, actually. I started out with a very specialized type of retail business which was also geared towards women, but it narrowed my target market. When that idea didn't work out, I just thought, 'What better way to cater to a broader spectrum of women than to open a fashion boutique with great affordable merchandise?’ And thus, Bliss Boutique was born.   

What is the approximate price point for most of the items you carry?

$20 - 90. My goal with Bliss Boutique is to provide very affordable quality fashions for individuals like me that shop on a budget. I'm always looking for good deals, so I figure why not provide them.  


When was the official opening of Bliss Boutique?

Our first official day of business was June 24, 2010, but by then we had already established a small customer base. By offering private preview sessions for friends and family via Facebook, we began to draw in our VIP Bliss guests. Ladies were able to make an appointment to come in, be among the first to preview the boutique & the merchandise and put items on reserve for opening day. It was a great way to get a head start, and now we have our elite VIP guests who will forever receive royal treatment. 

What was that yummy smell we were greeted by when we entered the boutique? Is it for sale?

That was the sweet smell of Lavender. We not only offer fashions & accessories at Bliss Boutique, but we also sell candles and bath & body products. Our current signature scent is lavender. The HeART N Honey line of bath & body products is homemade by a young lady named Sherria Green. The line includes bath teas, scented Shea butter (made of all natural products), and tea tree cleansing oil.

What distributors or designers can we expect to see as staples in your store?

See Thru Soul is our primary line for denim, and we offer an array of other lines from New York and L.A. for all other fashions. 

You mentioned that the unique hand-made headbands you carry are made by a local Baltimore designer. Will you offer other local designers the opportunity for placement in Bliss? 

Yes, the Hawte Headbands are hand-crafted by a young lady named Ebony Nelson, a native of Baltimore. We also feature Hard Candy Couture by Carmen Cameron, which includes vintage jewelry embellished with Swarovski crystals, hand-painted glassware and hand-crafted picture frames. Lastly, Taliah Somone provides a line of fabulous Brazilian-made comfortable flip-flop sandals embellished with trendy trinkets, studs, bows and Swarovski crystals that are fun and perfect for the ladies to take on their vacations this summer. We also have a new team member coming onboard very soon. Marsha Cowan is a very talented seamstress and designer who is going to bless us with her swimwear line. We are always looking to offer local designers the opportunity for placement in Bliss Boutique. I love supporting talented individuals from my hometown of B-more!

Where did you find those amazing one-size-fits-most tanks and will you carry more items like them?! 

The Amazing Stretch Tanks, as I have actually termed them so it's funny that you use the word 'amazing', are from L.A. Aren't they just wonderful? Every girl should have at least one. They are definitely an item that we will carry for quite some time. They fit like a glove and hold everything in while stretching to fit all types of curves at the same time. What more could a girl ask for?

Visit Bliss Boutique on the web at www.blissbaltimore.net for regular store hours and to view weekly arrivals, as well as stay tuned for information about Bliss Boutique’s official grand opening event.

Bliss Boutique ~ 4419 Kenwood Avenue ~ Baltimore, MD 21206

Shopping Guide: Forever 21

I often get complimented on adorable items that were purchased at Forever 21 stores. I also find that many people in my age group or older are surprised to learn that Forever 21 is the source of the items they like; they generally respond with a bit of surprise, followed by a flurry of conversation about how they can NEVER find anything “in that store” with instances and examples of times they visited as confirmation. At this point, I will usually offer a few pieces of advice on how they can locate items that will work for them and I’ve decided to share these tidbits here as well.

According to estimates at Quantcast.com, Forever 21’s core buying demographic is women between the ages of 18 – 34, with a secondary demographic of 13 – 17 year-olds. So, while women who fall within or outside the higher end of this range will not want to wear ALL of the things that are available, they can absolutely find great pieces that will accent their wardrobes as well. The key, I believe, is in these tips:

Expect to get what you pay for.

Do not expect to get Marc Jacobs quality on a thrift store budget. The Forever 21 brands are built on the premise of affordability. And, in my opinion, their business is also very apparently based on quantity over quality, just judging by the overwhelming amount of merchandise on their sales floors at any given time. I’ve been told several times upon inquiry into whether or not “you have this item in a another size/color in the stock room” that all merchandise is already out on the floor. Despite the overwhelming amount of clothing they churn out, in many cases their pieces are fairly well made for their price point, and I find that if properly cared for, you can get several seasons of wear out of most of your items.

Forego trendy in favor of classic.

Military inspired, Alice in Wonderland inspired, 80s inspired—there is no shortage of themed inspiration at play by the clever fashion geniuses who market the stores. As a golden styling rule, know that not every trend is for every person. Bypass that ultra short, ruffled, mini in favor of a skinny black dress for more functionality and longer wearability.

Pay attention to how the clothing is positioned in themed sections.

The fact that most of the stores are organized into themed sections is a gem of a discovery. There are generally sections organized with some variation of the following:
  • NEW items
  • dressier items that would be work appropriate such as blazers, jackets, cardigans, sweaters and slacks 
  • casual areas that include long sweaters, belted sweaters, jeans, tees, casual button down shirts, etc.
  • racks and/or tables of leggings in varying colors, lengths and materials
  • sections with shorts, tanks and casual tops
  • what I like to call “club” sections where you’ll find all the sequins, micro-minis, backless/cutout/strapless numbers and general “get it in all night long” garb you can handle 
  • dresses, dresses and more dresses 
  • accessories and shoes
The areas described are by no means all encompassing, as many of the newer Forever 21 stores are quite large and many have multiple floors. It is instead, intended to encourage you to let your eyes categorize things in a manner that makes the choices less overwhelming; allowing you to easily gravitate to sections where what you want to wear will be located, while avoiding all the things that, well… give you a headache.

Pay little attention to the styling on the mannequins.

The mannequins and inspiration style sets in Forever 21 stores are created with a flair for drama, and are riddled with attention-seeking trendiness. But they are supposed to be as they are designed specifically to entice and inspire you to buy these items. It is important that you keep an open mind, and use this to draw out your own creativity, while staying true to your personal style and aesthetic. You want to avoid purchase guilt later on; OR worse—finding yourself wearing something ridiculously wrong for you because you don’t want to feel like you’ve wasted your money.

Be advised that most items will run smaller than the printed size.

In general, Forever 21’s clothing runs about 8 sizes too small. Okay, perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration, but rest assured that if you have any little bit of curve or fullness anywhere on your body, you will have to go a size up and sometimes two sizes up from what you would normally slip into. I am already well aware that I cannot squeeze my curvy bottom half into any Forever 21 pant currently or previously in existence--and I am okay with that. (The Faith 21 “plus size” line is one way to get around this, but these sizes run small as well. I have been told by some of my plus size friends that they still cannot find a huge number of items to fit). Be prepared to throw away all your conventions about that little bold number on the inside of your item and if it fits, rock it. Period.

Don’t be afraid to have fun!

The youthful energy  infused into the vibe of the store can help you to indulge your inner style rock star. Don’t be afraid to punch up your staple look with vibrant colors or prints, high high heels, huge accessories or funky hats/headbands. I will sometimes edge out my look with a racy shoe, or by stacking millions (okay--maybe tens) of bracelets on one arm, or draping on a colorful scarf. It’s fun to keep the style that is comfortable to me, while adding a little something extra as well.

The great thing about Forever 21 is that it does indeed have something for everyone…if you only take the time to look around. I’ve included an example of a sweet frock, styled in a way that is appropriate for summer fun in the sun at any age.

Happy shopping!

Jimmy Choo Crush

This is love at first sight.

This morning my heart lept, birds sang, rainbows appeared and stars shone in my eyes when this Jimmy Choo Pre-Fall fabulousness landed in my email from Bergdorf Goodman. I cannot afford to purchase the Jimmy Choo Crystal-Detail Suede Sandal (the name reads like poetry as I type it), but I will forever crush on its apparent velvety lushness from afar.

What are you currently crushing on?

Style Confidential: Fancy

One day at work recently, someone said to me, “You look great today. Somebody needs to see you!” (“Somebody” meaning someone like a date, not my co-workers.) My son often breezes by me in the morning with a quick, “You look awfully fancy today.” While many of my friends can don jeans, a pair of low heels, a chandelier earring and a bracelet and look perfectly polished and suitable for a night out—I, in the same thing, might feel underdressed for anything other than the most casual of occasions; it seems that the barometer for level of dressiness is much higher for me (in my own head, of course). I think this might be because I treat every day of my life as another opportunity to play dress up.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not strutting around in empire-waist gowns and tiaras on a daily basis (even though I SO would)...

..but one might be hard-pressed to find me in a heel shorter than 3” high, and my daily clothing item of choice is a dress or skirt. So I recognize that perhaps I do more with my styling than the average person might deem necessary on a daily basis; but that is what makes sense for me. Getting dressed in the morning is an adventure in creativity. It gives me an opportunity to decide how I want to present myself that day, and to dress accordingly. Whether I decide upon looking exceptionally girly, polished and professional, trendy or otherwise, there is a level of confidence that comes with knowing that I look my best and that translates into feeling my best.

In my world, style = confidence. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing as long as you’re being true to whom you are, to what fits well and to what makes you smile with the assurance that you’re putting your best foot forward. What are some of the things that make you feel at your best? Is it heels and a dress or skirt like me? Or do you prefer jeans and sneakers? I would love to hear all about it! Do share, Dolls!

Summer Trend: White Haute

Oh, it’s summer time and the weather is fine. And one of the most chic ways to stay cool is in summer’s hautest color: white! Neon, pastels and prints come and go, but white remains constant. It is a signature sign of endless days of sunny skies to come; and it looks beautiful against the bronze glow of tanned skin. Get it in comfy cottons, ultra-light fabrics and draping styles.

White House/Black Market Tiered Silk Shell $88 – This delicate cascade of silk ruffles will add sophisticated flair to a simple pair of skinny jeans.

Zara dress $39 – With crochet detail around the collar and a flowing silhouette, this white racerback dress from Zara is a dream.

Asos Side Ruffle Skirt $50 – Let your inner child out to play in ruffles from Asos. Casual styling and minimal accessories keep your outfit on trend and let the whimsy of the skirt shine.

American Eagle Women’s Pintuck Boyfriend Shirt $39 – The white button-down shirt is a timeless closet staple. American Eagle’s version gets a slight twist with a pintuck stripe detail and trim. Roll up the sleeves of the lightweight cotton and pair with Capri leggings and flats for a day about town.

Lilly Pulitzer Callahan Short $68 – Simple cotton shorts with clean lines and button closure are perfect for pairing with just about anything; add a sleeveless tank and flat sandals for shopping, or wear to the beach over a bathing suit.

Uniqlo white denim Straight Skinny Jean $39 – Denim? Check! Skinny? Check! Retro? Check! What more could a girl ask for in a bottom that is destined to be a summer staple?