Free tips to put some LOVE back in your wardrobe.

Fit Story: Shelagh’s Owning her Shape and Taking Names

Fit Story: Shelagh’s Owning her Shape and Taking Names

We are not alone. Most women have trouble with fit right off the rack. Not even a perfect size 8 is a perfect size 8 to every manufacturer. By avoiding the rack, and the stress it creates, we are saying yes to our bodies and embracing our uniqueness.

There is no need to sacrifice style or fit at Dress Mavens. With every Fit Story, we know we are helping women in need of fabulous. Looking and feeling confident when they walk out that door to take on the world.

Today we talk to Shelagh. She is a powerful woman with a strong sense of self. This is her Fit Story. (I feel like the theme from Law & Order should play here. Is that just me?)


  1. Describe when you first remember struggling with or feeling body image issues. When did you first become aware of it? Why? How did it feel? Was anyone else involved?

I was 5’9″ at 12 years old and a competitive swimmer with shoulders that filled a doorway. Having always been described by others as big or strong, I internalized and accepted that being big was my path in life. When I stopped swimming 11 times a week, I forgot to stop eating as if I still was. The residual fitness from swimming protected my weight gain for a few years but then with age and life I slowly started getting bigger.

My weight often reflected my life–when things were going great, I was fit, trim and on my game. When I was unhappy or feeling out of alignment, the weight would come on. Three times I have managed to shift down by 6 or more dress sizes, which reflect the fluctuations in both my sizes and my happiness. Being someone who has, up until now, self-medicated with food, it makes sense that my body would be indicative of other things happening around me.

I was fine pursuing and accepting speaking gigs, I was all right doing the presentation, but when you want to build your business, you need to follow up and promote where you were with social proof that you were on stage. When my weight has been at a comfortable level for me, I have no problem doing it. When I was at my heaviest, I would hide my successes because I was shocked at seeing myself. I was embarrassed. I was disgusted at how I let my body get to that level.

The reality is, getting there was easy. I was working night and day to build my business while raising three kids under 5. There was no time or capacity for self-care. It was stressful. I was exhausted. And, I was eating whatever I could get my hands on while on the fly. I also ate to try and stay alert, to soothe my feelings, and deal with the stress and chaos around me. The next thing you know, I had an additional 40 lbs protecting me and It. Wouldn’t. Move.  I tried cleansing, fasting, dieting, investing in every shake available and nothing would budge the weight. So I accepted that it was who I was.

I found the Dress Mavens when I was at my heaviest. My first dress was the Nancy, which I ordered before an important talk. Wearing it that first time on stage (see below), I felt powerful. Confident. My body was no longer a focus for me. I nailed the talk and received many compliments about how flattering the dress was. I made the choice that day… no more flowy and shapeless tops that made me look like a tent. I was a professional, and damn good at my work, and I wanted my image to reflect it. I now wear Dress Mavens almost exclusively on stage. When I put on one of my dresses, I become my professional self. The confidence shifts me to my Place of Power so that I can deliver strong, compelling and impactful training sessions and speaking engagements.

Raise a glass


  1. What now makes you feel different about yourself, or a particular part of your body, and when did that happen? Tell us a little about the journey to self-love or acceptance. Or if you’re still on the journey, how are you moving towards that goal?

Timing is everything. My three kids are now in school full time, and so I have a capacity and time to take on more things. I have some breathing room to insert self-care into my busy day.

The first thing I did was understand my sleep. Sleep has a critical impact everywhere on our lives. I started on a CPAP machine when I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and found a whole new leash on life. Sleeping well meant I was alert, high functioning, happier and, life was simply better.

Then, I made a bold move in January to see a naturopath specializing in middle-aged women who can’t lose weight and have annoying belly fat. I have been on a regime under her care and have since dropped one dress size and 15 pounds. I am just at the start of my journey. The food is only a small part of the battle which includes regulating my hormones, diet and hiring a coach to help me deal with my relationship to food.  

It’s not an easy journey, but a critical one if I am going to regain control of my body and function in a state of peak performance. I deserve to feel great again, I am excited for my business to continue growing and, I am ready to feel good about my body. I want to be a good role model for my daughter who, at age 7, is already showing signs of being unhappy with her body.

We can’t control our genes, but we can control what food we feed ourselves, and how we exercise and take care of our bodies.


  1. How did you compensate for those feelings in the past?

I have been trying to hide and cover up my body for years. Dress Mavens helped me embrace my body as it is today and show my best self. I finally found dresses that are flattering to my figure (my bottom is two sizes smaller than my top). Ruching and seams hit at just the right place. The designs flatter my body and the personalized cut and fit make wearing a dress the easiest choice I make in the day.


We believe beautiful dresses are a reflection of the beautiful women who wear them. Do you have a Fit Story to share? Email me at to feature yours.

xo Nadine

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Oscars to the Office

Oscars to the Office

I love to watch the runway at the Oscars. The inspiration for Dress Mavens is everywhere! This year the Oscars featured so many bright, vibrant colors, often paired with soft neutrals that I was inspired to wear bright colors and great heels just to watch! (joking, I was in my pajamas.)

I love that most of the runway featured simple, or sans jewelry, and focus was on the face and the dress. It seems the oh-so-skinny silhouette is less prominent with lots of dresses offering full movement and a comfort that going without the shapewear gives you. Bring on those flowing skirts!

If the following stars were to come to us for a personalized Dress Mavens creation for their everyday use, we would know what to suggest. And the awards for best-dressed Mavens go to…

Embed from Getty Images

cotton casmere in black


Jennifer Lawrence – Her Oscar dress was dramatic, and the V neckline suited her shorter hair. I see her in our Liya dress which is beautifully structured making sure to show off Jennifer’s curves but versatile enough that if she was running, or tripping, up the stairs she would have the comfort she needs. The waist seam on this dress would emphasize Jennifer’s tiny midsection and the comfortable yet sleek A-line is perfect for ‘taking aim’ at her opponents. JLaw enjoys a boisterous lifestyle and the black would hide any red wine stains, should someone else spill on her, of course. I would also like the red on Jennifer. She has taken to the runway in red many times, and her complexion is perfect for it.

cobalt blue


Mindy Kaling always looks fabulous! The Oscar dress she had on this year was no exception. Mindy’s beautiful coloring would look gorgeous in a cobalt blue Emily dress. The fit and flare silhouette would keep Mindy stylish and comfortable all day while she is on set or out with her friends. The pockets would hold her camera to be ready in hand for those impromptu Instagram shots. Besides, I think she’d rock a swishy skirt 😉 Being a comedian requires flowing movement, don’t you think? Mindy is not afraid to be sexy too, and this dress is understated sexy personified.

nancy teal


Cate Blanchett – we had to include Cate in this roundup because her whimsical styling always makes a bold statement. I would put her in our Nancy dress. Cate can pull off edgier clothing, and the asymmetrical neckline would be stunning on her. Her color? Teal, of course. Imagine how green her eyes would look in that dress? She would stop traffic with these flattering lines on her small frame and the striking bright hue. Who am I kidding? She always stops traffic.

It was hard for me to pick just three winners in the best Dress Maven category. Who would you have selected?

xo Nadine

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Real Women. Real Dresses. Real Fit.

Real Women. Real Dresses. Real Fit.

I don’t think I’ve ever talked to you about our tagline and why it is our branding: Real Women. Real Dresses. Real Fit.

I guess it’s about time.

Real Women

We worry that some people may think that the term Real Women means plus-size, or curvy women. I will be clear on this—it’s not. We are not referring to bodies at all. Real Women are women who love themselves for themselves. They put themselves out there. People would call them self-actualized and self-aware. Real Women are empowered, independent and exude confidence.

Real Women come in all shapes and sizes. Dress Mavens is for Real Women, and we feel, can be a part of developing them. Women who work and live in their place of power or who aspire to be there.

It is pretty lofty to be a Real Woman by this definition at all times. I get it. It may not even be attainable every day or any day for some of us. I think I can safely say though that is where we all hope to be. I know I do. I would love to be that definition of a Real Woman every day and put on my dress and take on the world. I don’t, every day. But I do some days, and I feel good about that.

That is who our customers are. Women who are Real. Women who are fabulous and who aren’t ashamed to be just that. We’re talking about you.

Real Dresses

Our dresses are Real because our customers are. Real Women need clothes that are comfortable to wear, are easy to care for, travel well and make them feel good about themselves right off the hanger. Real Dresses are effortless and inspire self-confidence. We don’t make dresses designed to disguise perceived flaws, instead, we design them to flatter you in ways that allow you to spend the day comfortable in your skin and forget any thoughts of flaws. We see the positive in all shapes. We want our customer to feel confident about her outward appearance, so she can focus on her impact.

Real Fit

Real Fit sounds simple, but excellent fit is about comfort, flattering lines and style that expresses who you are, not who the world wants you to be. We think beautiful dresses are a reflection of the beautiful women who wear them. We want the fit to be there so that our customers don’t give it a second thought in the morning. We believe that only a custom fit can be a Real Fit. So few people are able to shop off the rack, and really why should women have to fit into an industry standard of normal. The fashion industry should adapt to us. I say, the dress should fit the woman, not the woman having to fit into the dress!

Paulina and I have been focusing a lot on the future of Dress Mavens. So many hours that we haven’t been as active in communicating through our blog and social media as we would like to be. That is changing. We have hired help and done some restructuring so each of us can do what we love to do and operate from a place of power. Our Dresses and our Women are still Real and still fabulous. That hasn’t changed. But we do have some exciting ideas in the works. So, it is about to get Real.

xo Nadine

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Making Life Better: How to Make Over Your Closet

Making Life Better: How to Make Over Your Closet

Whether you’re a neat freak or a pack rat, one thing is clear: you like to be able to find what you’re looking for. It may not be second nature to everyone, but staying tidy and organized can be a great way to clear your mind and be more productive. And when it comes to your clothes and accessories, it’s even more important to have an organized closet.

Picture this: You’ve overslept. You’ve got to get to work, and you can’t be late because you’ve got an important meeting first thing. You head into your closet to grab the perfect power outfit.

Except… you can’t find ANYTHING! Your summer clothes are mixed up with fall, and even though it’s the middle of winter, there isn’t a cashmere sweater to be found.  Half of your blouses are on the floor, and the camisoles are hanging by a strap from your wire hangers. The icing on the cake? Shoes and handbags are piled willy nilly in the corner.

Oh, and what you can find is wrinkled beyond help. But that’s because those items are probably meant for the dry cleaners bag.

It’s a disaster. It’s time for a closet recovery. Stat.

You have a tiny closet, you say, and an even smaller budget? No worries. We all have to work with the closet space we’re given, be it small or spacious. The challenge of organizing your bedroom closet is unique to all of us, and takes into account the size of the closet, your personality, how much you want to spend, and even your ability to keep things in their place.

We’ll admit. Storage needs can be challenging to say the least.  But what’s good is that they’re not insurmountable. After all, when push comes to shove, it IS just a closet. 

Depending on your budget here are a few options for making yours work for you.

Tip: Before getting started check out Pinterest for neat storage ideas and configurations you may not have thought of.

How to Organize Your Closet - Easy Wire System Quick and Easy Wire Systems

If you have a limited budget and/or know that the living arrangement is temporary but still want to get organized, try visiting your local Home depot or Lowes for a do-it yourself closet organizing kit. These systems are easy to plan and install and do have some neat innovations that will help you stay tidy. Many stores will have an expert on staff who can help out.

Come with:
* an idea of what you want
* measurements

closets-organizerCloset Organizing Companies

If you’ve got a little more money to spend, then a closet organizing company might be you best best. They can help with designing a shelving system that fits your space, will take care of ordering pieces, delivery and installation too.  Choose one that has great referrals from people you know, and that also has a range of systems starting with budget-friendly to a little more elaborate. Some even have pieces that look like custom cabinetry but are actually prefabricated. Make sure that they . They design and install shelving systems based on the closet size and the clients needs.

Come with:
* your questions
* an idea of your needs
* a budget

Custom Cabinetry

If you’re building a new construction or re-designing an existing space, custom cabinetry is an excellent (and very beautiful) option. Custom wardrobe systems are designed to line the walls of a room allowing you to choose the finish, features, and details based on your taste and individual wardrobe needs. This type of closet looks like furniture so it can be very pricey. But if it’s in your budget, it can give you years of happiness. 

Come with:
* a budget in mind (or things can get out of control)
* a wish list of features
* some style ideas or a plan from a decorator

Let us know: What are some of your Closet Challenges?

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Renew and Refresh: Ideas for Starting the New Year Right

Renew and Refresh: Ideas for Starting the New Year Right

The holiday season is so exciting: parties, family time, getting all dressed up to celebrate. But we all know what happens when it’s over. The dreaded let-down. We’re determined to try and keep our spirits up. We make resolutions (often the same ones we didn’t follow through on the year before), scrounge up the crumbs from the last piece of fruitcake, and get ready to dig into another year – but those measures don’t always work. There must be other ways to start January?

Let’s make sure that we don’t fall prey to the winter blues. Been feeling stale?

How about shaking things up and set the tone for a great year ahead by reinventing yourself? 

Think about how you’d like to accomplish this semi-new you. If you’re impulsive then make a spur of the moment decision. If you like lists, then set some goals. But first, take stock on how you’re feeling, and simply choose one of these easy ways to be an upgraded version of you in 2016. Small commitments, or minor changes can really shift how we feel!

Renew and Refresh for a New YearGet a New Do. If you’re tired of looking at the same hairstyle in the mirror, then January is a great time to change up your look. Color is an easy—and highly reversible—way to make a difference. There are loads of temporary and semi-permanent products on the market, so ask your stylist about them. You could add extensions or a colorful wash (pastel is the Pantone of 2016!). If you’re feeling daring, maybe cut some bangs or start straightening your curly hair. For a fast fix, treat yourself to a little pampering in the form of a sleek blow out.  

Renew and Refresh for a New Year

Shake Up Your Makeup. Our skin’s colour and texture changes in the winter months. Even if you avoid the sun in summer, you’re still bound to get a little more pale this time of year. This is why the beginning of the year is a good time to switch up your make up. Look for a glowing bronzer, or a new blush that will give you a flush of healthy color or learn how to contour and highlight to accent your positives and make your face appear brighter. Perhaps a visit to the beauty counter is in order to learn a new technique or two? Makeup easily becomes routine, so doing even one step differently can feel like a big change.

bra and pantiesGet Pretty Underthings.
 It might seem silly, but buying new underwear can make you feel like a new (maybe friskier) woman. Underwear is your little secret, especially since you’ll be the only one who knows what you’re wearing. Yes, we know it’s the time of year for flannels and onesies, but imagine how hot you might get by slipping on something a little slinky. Friends might notice that something seems a little different about you, just from the twinkle in your eye.  Talk about beating the winter blahs! 

skin care

Up Your Skincare Game. Winter’s harsh temperatures, home heating, and wind can wreak havoc with your skin. The best way to start off a new year is to reveal your most radiant skin. Treat yourself to a facial and a new skincare routine including a gentle exfoliator to take care of dead, dry skin and a good moisturizer to replenish and hydrate. It’s key to help slow the aging process of our skin, and nothing feels better than knowing you’re working against the clock. 

Renew and Refresh for a New YearHave Happy Hands and Feet.  Don’t neglect these oft used parts of your body. Especially in the colder months, our hands and feet get stressed. This is why an ultra-moisturizing cream is key. If you’d like a natural product, coconut oil really does the trick and will give you the smoothest skin you’ve ever had. If you’re feeling like a treat, go for a manicure & pedicure. Maintenance is the best way to avoid tragedy when it’s time to pull out the sandals again. 

For the team at Dress Mavens, ringing in the New Year is like the first day of school. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to start fresh with a clean slate! Do you have any rituals you’ve created for yourself to get a new year off to the right foot? 

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Holiday Love: Giving Gifts With Purpose

Holiday Love: Giving Gifts With Purpose

‘Tis the season to get completely consumed by visions of gift giving dancing through our heads. It’s so easy to get taken over by the “Buy Buy” frenzy that accompanies the build-up to the holiday that it’s easy to lose sight of the true beauty in giving. In all sorts of ways.

This is because whatever your celebration, gift giving is probably a big part of it. So how can you dial things back? Try combining a favorite pursuit (shopping) with another—more existential—pursuit (helping those in need).

If you haven’t noticed, gifts that give back are becoming much more popular. It’s not hard to find special items with a charitable component. We think it’s because many organizations and companies know that consumers are interested in making their gift giving a little more meaningful and are looking for ways to do so.

But how to know which organizations to support and in what way? Straight donations? Purchased items with a charitable component such as a portion of the cost or proceeds? Supporting directed donation (such as water for a family)? It’s hard to decide what’s right. But it is possible to figure things out.

Start with asking yourself these three questions:

  1. Is there an organization or cause that I’m passionate about?
  2. Is there an organization or cause the receiver of the gift is passionate about?
  3. Do I want a ‘thing’ with a charitable component or do I want a charitable donation ‘in their name’ be the thing?

We think those hard to buy for friends and family are perfect candidates for less concrete gift giving. If you have someone on your list that seems to have everything already (or who don’t care about stuff), here’s an idea. For them, make presenting a present a joint effort, a thought that will be especially meaningful if they’ve got strong ties to their community. For example, you could support a local food bank or toy drive in their name. Or, turn your gift into one of time and make a plan to help out at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

If you’re seeking some other ideas, take a look at these three organizations that we find particularly interesting. Why? They offer opportunities to make an impact in a unique way. 

The Empowerment Plan, Detroit

sleeping coat bag - empowerment plan

This organization employees previously homeless people in the hope of helping them to create a better life for themselves. Gifting opportunities can be found on their gift registry page. From supplies for coats to GED support and gas cards, you can help to better someone’s life with your gift.

Just One

Gifts that Give Back: I Am Just One

Whether it’s beautiful handcrafted items from around the world or the purchase of chickens and goats for communities in need, Just One seeks to offer hope, raise awareness and create advocates. Buy purchasing these goods you’re offering a hand up and not a hand out. Your purchase will put a smile on the receiver’s face and give dignity and purpose to the item’s maker in the process.


Kiva Loans

Gifts that Give Back - Kiva Loans

Instead of giving a cash gift, loan money to a borrower in someone’s name and help them to change their own future. change their future. When they’re ready to repay the loan, it means they’ve made a success of their business venture. Your gift recipient can choose to re-loan the money to a new borrower or donate it to Kiva for good. This gift is really a win/win opportunity for everyone.

What are some organizations that you like to support this time of year? Do you have any interesting ideas for giving back? 

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