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December Holiday Party:
Your Personal Chicago Manual of Style

Oh, the weather outside on Thursday, December 8, 2011, was far from frightful. But the company inside Matilda, at Sheffield just south of Belmont, outshone “delightful.” And if there's a thing or two that CWIP members who missed the holiday celebration ought to know, styles show, smiles glow, and CWIPers grow!

A stellar evening of camaraderie; lively and insightful conversations; informative and entertaining presentations; delectable hors d'oeuvres and desserts (the latter homemade by a very talented Karla Yeh of Narrative Events, the evening's sponsor); raffle prizes; and swanky bags of swag made the event a laudable success for every woman involved—CWIP member or guest, presenter or event coordinator. The event's theme of “Your Personal Chicago Manual of Style” afforded attendees the opportunity to learn about various facets of enhancing their overall well-being. Presenters included Holistic Health Practice practitioners Tara Sullivan, holistic healer, and Sara Davenport, life coach; fashionista and personal stylist Ayo Fashola of Ayo Fashola Lifestyle Consulting; freelance makeup artist Lisa Elsen of Elsen Vanity; fashion blogger and street-style photographer Amy Creyer of; and special guest Kate Jacobsen, contributor to


CWIP members welcomed the chance to learn a few pointers on dressing for success and looking their best. “I think we're not as good at promoting ourselves as often as we could be,” noted anatomy professor Michelle Singleton, who joined CWIP less than a year ago. “A lot of us spend so much time buried in front of our work and before the computer and so forth—having the time to think about fashion, makeup, all that kind of stuff takes second place.”

“We hand-picked these vendors because they would bring the most to the table,” declared Ms. Yeh. “We worked really hard to make sure there was a good mix, a good vibe, a good dynamic. Hopefully, people can get a lot out of it and we hope that this starts relationships for people as well. To bring Narrative Events, which is the company I started with Katy [Solomon] and Ruthie [Kott], into this is really great. The focus is to keep up the storytelling—getting other people's stories out there. And through that I think you can understand people, and what better gift is there than understanding your peers? It's exciting.”


Connectivity was certainly a huge motif of the evening, not just in terms of networking, but at a more philosophical level of reaching out to our fellow humans, our co-travelers on Spaceship Earth. Certainly, this sensibility is part and parcel of the good will that many people feel during the holiday season. But for Ayo Fashola, it's a worldview that informs every aspect of her business and her communications style. And this leads to the related motif of bridging the gap between the personal and the professional.

“It's all together,” observed Ms. Fashola. “Be the person you are from the inside out. And how you do your business is a part of who you are. There is no separation. What's your passion? If you're a writer and you like horseback riding, then write about it. Bring those interests together. And when you roll it all into one, you attract clients in the right way.”


Her take on a holistic lifestyle is for a woman to leverage her relationship-building skill sets: “When I was in Africa earlier this year, I asked my girlfriend, ‘What's more valuable than money?' She said, ‘I don't know.' I said, ‘People are more valuable than money.' So focus on strengthening your relationships with others because that's where real value is. Strike out and get to know others. And that can start with being bold in what you wear. Wear color! Bring it! Color is the most potent form of communication. I know what you're feeling and I know what you're thinking based on the colors you have chosen to wear. Use that to communicate your energy, your spirit energy.”


Holistic healer Tara Sullivan of Holistic Health Practice knows a thing or two about spirit energy. “Really, what I am is a glorified window-washer,” she said, referring to her work of helping people learn how to “reengage with their own power.” Whether through the cumulative effects of low-level stress/exposure to negative energy or sudden traumatic events, individuals routinely lose a part or parts of their vital essence, so the body-mind-spirit connection needs some readjusting in order to be balanced and fully functioning again. When the connection is there, the body's defenses will capably stand up to threats, whether pathogenic or of a more subtle nature. When the connection is disrupted through an imbalanced lifestyle (all work and no play, for example, can inflict damage far worse on Jack than making him a dull boy), an individual can fall prey to various forms of illness that can manifest at the physical, emotional, or spiritual/energetic levels. But there is a method that Ms. Sullivan encourages people to perform on a daily basis to shield themselves energetically; it costs nothing and she claims that the results are highly effective: “Imagine yourself in a pink bubble—like Glenda the Good Witch!—that envelops you and protects you; anything negative that tries to come into contact with you is bounced back to its source. Wrap yourself and just breathe in your bubble. Fill it up with your positive light and you'll be amazed at the positive responses you get out there in the world as opposed to feeling wide open and having negativity get in your head. And you can do it any place. It works!”


Once a woman learned how to energetically shield herself and become stronger from within, it seemed fitting that her next step was to properly learn how to put her best face forward into the world, and that's where makeup artist Lisa Elsen of Elsie Vanity had much to show and tell. Concerning makeup in the workplace, she advised women to aim for a look that's “natural but also feminine at the same time.” She demonstrated on her model techniques for concealing blemishes and acne scars, as well as the proper method for applying foundation. Applications of eye shadow, liner, and the right way to dab a blush brush on the “apples” of her model's cheeks followed suit. Major tip: Mind those eyebrows! “The eyebrows are usually ignored, but they're very important in framing your face. There's nothing wrong with a nice, thick brow, either. A lot of people pluck away at their eyebrows. A big brow is beautiful if it's kept in shape,” said Ms. Elsen.

From applying makeup to selecting clothes, the Number One rule for women to bear in mind when cultivating their Chicago sense of style is the same: Accentuate your best features and conceal your problem zones. “Sometimes it's all about simplicity,” said fashion blogger Amy Creyer as she treated onlookers to a slideshow of photos she'd randomly taken of style-savvy women on the streets of Chicago and New York (the latter city particularly gains Ms. Creyer's attention during Fashion Week). The trends? Playing with proportions, layering one's look, and not being afraid to wear prints. Also, high-waisted pants are making a comeback. In concert with the motif of connectivity between the personal and the professional, Ms. Creyer noted that “work-appropriate clothing is not just confined to work.” Yes, the proverbial “little black dress” can and does work wonders, provided that it's suited for a woman's shape.

As soon as the round robin of presentations was traversed, CWIP Programs Co-Chair Brooke O'Neill announced that it was time to declare the winners of the various raffle prizes, which ranged from gift certificates at local boutiques (such as Seek and Frill) to handcrafted jewelry from Katy Solomon of Narrative Events and special guest Kate Jacobsen. The women who didn't win any of the official prizes didn't feel too bad, however, as everyone received a generous goodies bag—stuffed with treats such as coupons from local merchants like Akira and skincare product samples from Kiehl's— from Narrative Events as a parting gift.


As the successful event drew to its close, many CWIP members shared with this writer their assessments of the year 2011—how they grew personally and professionally—and how they hope to enhance their word-nerd lives and networking opportunities in 2012. “It is all about networking,” mused Sarah Roggio, VP of Strategic Planning for CWIP. “And CWIP is a very comfortable place to learn how to do that if you're not comfortable with it because it really is just like coming out and talking with a group of friends. You may not get a job lead from every person you meet, but it doesn't matter: [This group] gives you a chance to comfortably practice those networking skills—talking about what you do, selling yourself—all those things that are scary. CWIP is an organization that cheers for you when you succeed.”

And what could pair better with that sentiment than a choice glass of malbec served up at the bar at Matilda? Rosy and textured—just like us, our futures. Cheers to a happy and prosperous 2012!

Anna Applegate, M.A., admits to overplucking her eyebrows since high school, but she thinks it's a look that works for her. She is a senior copywriter in the marketing communications department of Tripp Lite, and is elated that her latest poetic offering has been accepted for publication in an anthology (Mandragora) by UK-based Scarlet Imprint Press (release date: summer of 2012). She can be reached at

Ruthie Kott is primarily a writer and editor, but she's starting to dabble in photography. Check out more about her at

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