Fashion Forward Fridays: Fashion for Smiles

Hoping you all had a fantastic holiday and are enjoying some down-time now. While you're relaxing, please enjoy reading about this fabulous, up-and-coming non-profit, currently located in Pittsburgh called Fashion for Smiles, and how you can get involved with helping their mission! Here's an interview with the co-founders of Fashion for Smiles, Kyle van der Kemp and Kristen Tomkosky.

Tell us what Fashion for Smiles is all about.
Fashion for Smiles is a nonprofit (application pending) company that is changing children's lives through fashion. We've strategically aligned with two incredible charities, Operation Smile and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. We are set to host various fashion related events throughout the year, which all leads up to the Pittsburgh Smile Gala in September 2014.
We are also in the process of developing the Smile Fund at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, which is designed to help any family with a child suffering from a facial deformity, by completely covering the cost of surgery and other medical expenses.

Why did you create this non-profit & what motivated you to do so?
Kristen and I started Fashion for Smiles because of our love of children and passion for helping those in need. We both have a huge interest in fashion, which is what drove us to create an organization that combined fashion and philanthropy. ‎‎


Pretty Presents: Small Business Holiday Catalog

So whether you're a very last minute shopper or just ready to look for something for yourself as a treat for getting through the holiday rush, Pretty Living has you covered. With their holiday gift guide, Pretty Presents, you're sure to find something that satisfies your need to shop. And every item included in the guide is from a local small business, which is really a present to this community as well, since your purchases will help those little guys grow and thrive in Pittsburgh, and you can shop easily from home! Win-Win-Win.

Above I've selected just a few of my favorite pieces from the catalog in hopes that you will browse through it for yourself and support these great businesses! The catalog includes items for men and women, so you're sure to find something great for yourself or a friend. 
Wishing you a very happy holiday and happy shopping!

This is a partnered post, but all opinions are my own.


KANDALS: Planet-Friendly & Cruelty-Free Shoes

A while back I was contacted to do this review for KANDALS, which at the time, I had never heard of. After a little research, I agreed, and in the mail were these cute and comfy shoes. I must admit that while they look similar to other shoes, I personally think they're more comfortable and seem like they'd survive longer than others that are like them. They feel very well made and they have lived up to the test of bartending all night and the running around like a crazy person test of working a weekend night shift at Family Video. These suckers are built to last. There have been multiple times while I was wearing them that I either moved awkwardly or scraped the top of them against something and I thought for sure it would damaged them in some way, and yet, there's not a mark on them at all.

As a lover of shoes, I'm still hopelessly abusive towards them. Which is the main reason I keep them in their boxes while not in use. But my new KANDALS seem to be living up to the battle very nicely. They also smell amazing, which is weird to say, but since they are scented, it's something worth pointing out. Especially since you probably would never wear them with socks, it's nice to know that they won't have that awful foot smell to them anytime soon. Small things are important to me, okay guys?

The big amazing thing about these shoes, and really this company in general, is that it is student-run and entirely vegan. When buying and wearing these shoes, you can feel good about the fact that you are not only helping a small business, but that what you're wearing is not harming the environment in any way. They are made in Spain with organic cotton and natural rubber, are machine washable, and for every pair sold, a tree is planted through the partnership of KANDALS with Trees for the Future. And they come in a variety of colors and styles.

I feel like the fashion industry has a long way to go when it comes to being sustainable and eco-friendly. I love that vintage and consignment shopping is currently on trend and that reusing or repurposing items seems to be on the rise in today's fashion culture, but it also helps if the products we buy are good for the planet from the beginning. I really believe that KANDALS is helping to create that positive change.

This is a sponsored post, I received these shoes as a gift, 
but as always, all opinions are my own.


Painting With A Twist: In Pittsburgh!

Around Halloween, I won a Twitter contest for two free tickets to an upcoming class at Painting With A Twist in Robinson. Just hearing this made me jump out of my skin with excitement because I have seen pictures on Facebook of friends who have gone to similar studios or this one in particular, and because my mother did not pass on her painting skills to me, I always thought that this would be more my speed, since they teach you as you go along. And of course because it's BYOB.

I unfortunately was unable to use the Halloween tickets because of work conflicts but the fabulous owners, Jamie and Nicole Orlando, allowed me to pick another class to join them. I, of course, choose the Smithfield Street bridge class, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, it's my favorite bridge in Pittsburgh. No, I don't think it's weird to have a favorite bridge, we have 446 to choose from after all! And of course, being that he lives near the location and he's one of my favorite humans, I took along MJ. I thought, what better way to celebrate our 4 year anniversary then to paint some pretty pictures and have dinner afterwards. MJ was not too thrilled at first, considering he doesn't have artist genes either, but that quickly changed when we got there.

After checking in and finding our awesome, and perfectly appropriate for us aprons, we settled in by snacking and meeting some new friends, and then the class started, and MJ began to feel right at home. Our awesome teacher/artist, Amie, was going through routine things, like how the class would go and such, then she came to naming the brushes we'd be using, so we would know which one she wanted us to use and when. So, there's this big brush that she named Big Daddy. She also decided to call MJ, Big Daddy, and being the natural people-person (aka flirt) that he is, by the end of the class, everyone there was calling him Big Daddy, and needless to say, we had the greatest time ever.

I highly suggest that you attend a class. There are locations all around the US (for those of you reading from somewhere that isn't Pittsburgh). Though I can only comment on how fabulous everyone is at this particular location, I'm sure you'll have a good time at any other Painting With A Twist as well.   I honestly, have never believed in Art Therapy until going to this class. (Sorry to my friends who majored in AT in college, but I do believe you now!) And although we still do not have painting skills, MJ and I did have a great night following along to an artist who is obviously very talented, but who could very easily teach and help everyone when needed. Thanks for your patience, Amie! Also, in other news, MJ won the November Tag & Brag that PWAT has on their Facebook each month, so we're very excited to be able to go to another class soon....you should join us!


Chels Wears: Houndstooth With Love

Sweater: Old Navy | Dress Shirt: Macy's | Skirt & Tights: WalMart | Boots : Payless | Purse: mark.
Necklace: Boutique la Passerelle | Ring: Old Navy

I have a confession. I hate houndstooth. I'll give you a minute to take that in. Okay, so I know that making that bold statement means that I should probably turn in my "fashion blogger" badge now, but I just cannot look at this print and not think grandma's skirt suit, which isn't what I'm really going for when getting dressed as a 24 year old. My friend Hannah (hey, girl!) and I have discussions about our different views on what is classic and fashionable...A LOT....and she has always been a stickler for the houndstooth, so I'm sure she's proud of this outfit.

To be honest, two things made me rethink this print. Project Runway and the Kardashians. Project Runway season 11 had a duct tape prom dress challenge and the duo of (winner) Michelle and Amanda made this awesome dress with an exaggerated houndstooth print, which made me rethink it because it looks bold and young in my mind. And the Kardashian Kollection at Sears has this cute little summer dress with the print super tiny, which I also think makes it look younger. As a side note, I would have worn houndstooth earlier in my life, had that Kardashian dress not been totally see-through, where there was no way to save yourself from flashing everyone without buying all kinds of other under garments that I wasn't really in the mood for looking for when I originally thought of getting it.

Left: Project Runway Season 11 duct tape prom dress challenge | Right: Kardashian Kollection dress
Moving on, when I saw this skirt at WalMart, I appreciated that it had the tiny houndstooth print and I could instantly envision this outfit. Winner. Also, these pictures were taken about a week ago during the "first real snow of the season" which I thought would make for pretty pictures, but I didn't think the whole process through, obviously. You should probably know that as a life-long Western Pa dweller, I hate snow. Yes, more than I hate houndstooth. I think it is pretty while falling and before it turns into slushy messes piled up in parking lots and along the roads, but otherwise, I can live without it. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of realizing that a giant pile of snow is covering the only should-be parking spot left in the lot, feel blessed.


The Times They Are A-Changin'

After taking a long break from blogging to reevaluate whether or not to stick with this or not, I've come to the conclusion that instead of giving up this space, it just needs a change. Since moving away from the city I love it has been rather hard to keep up with trying to be a "Pittsburgh-based" blogger. Which, more recently, has made me feel limited in the kind of content I should share. But today, that's changing.

At this point in my life, with the possibility of moving back to the city, but also possibly moving further away for a career opportunity, I can no longer make this blog simply about Pittsburgh. From here on out, Chels & the City will be a lifestyle or life and style or, what I like best, a "styled life" blog. What you will find here will still be adventures in the city (whatever city I may be in) but you can look forward to A LOT more fashion. Which, I don't think the bulk of my readers will be upset with hearing.

Now I understand that by making this change I open up my content areas, while also making me a small fish in a huge pond. There are millions of fashion blogs authored by twenty-something women. I get that, but there are not millions of fashion blogs by twenty-something women, who are considered plus-size. I know that there are plenty out there, trust me I follow a good bit of them, but I know that there is room for more. Especially in a world where women are still judged for being any size at all, let alone "plus" size.

And just so we have this all clear, I love my curves. I know I have "problem areas" but I honestly know very few women with more confidence than I have, across different sizes. Seriously, if you need some, just ask, I've got plenty to share. I'm hoping that this will become a space that allows women to see that having style has nothing to do with the size you're wearing. Just because you're above a certain size or not within your goal weight, that does not mean that you are unworthy of looking and feeling amazing. And while it might seem superficial, how you dress does make you feel a certain way, so why not always dress your best? I'm hoping this blog becomes a space to talk fashion, life, and still occasionally showcase fun things to do in the city, but mostly, I want this to be a place for inspiration. And while getting that inspiration through looking at outfits might seem weird, I hope you'll go on this new path with me and enjoy it. Style is not a luxury just for the rich and skinny - I'm hoping you agree with that, and if not, I hope this blog will prove it to you.

"Clothes aren't going to change the world, the women who wear them will." - Anne Klein

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