Leslie in NorwayAs a freshman in college, way back in 1986, I desperately wanted a Levi’s jean jacket and I broke the bank by buying one at the Gap. But a great ROI it was because I wore that jacket everywhere. Paired with the plaid skirts, button-down oxfords, and Bass penny loafers, my jean jacket was my attempt at making my dorky self seem a little bit “cooler”.

Fast forward 22 years later as I am planning a fall business trip to Vienna, followed by a few days of R&R in Venice. Moving away from my former dorkier self (I hope), my prepster attire has evolved into a more fashion-forward interpretation of classics paired with trendy pieces. But with the same need to be “cool”, I was on the quest for a designer denim jacket.

And that’s when I discovered eBay:  God’s affordable answer to us haute-couture-wearing- wanna-bes.  Desperately searching the thousands of jackets for that “just-right” look, that’s when I saw a Prada denim jacket.  “Slightly used” and “$135.00”, I bit the bullet, hit the “Buy It Now” option, and bought it with the hope that it was authentic and sans moth holes.   Leslie_Venice

Just three days prior to my trip and much to my relief, the jacket arrived and it was love at first sight (yes, I fall in love with clothes).  It fit.  It had the right fading in all the right places.  And it was the perfect weight to throw over a dress, a sweater, or a long-sleeve t-shirt.  Carefully packed away in my suitcase, it made its international debut in Vienna, and then to Venice, and it hasn’t stopped its globe-trotting ways ever since.

This thing goes with me everywhere and in its left breast pocket are coins from all the countries in which it has been worn.   Wearing it with leggings and a tunic or over a black cocktail dress, I love the look it gives with anything it accompanies.  It’s the right weight for those chilly evenings and can be worn under rain coats for when the drizzle starts coming.  But best of all is the feeling I get when I wear it because it reminds me of all the places I’ve been while encouraging me for all the places I’ve yet to be.

So, here’s to the beginning of a lifelong love affair to this jacket and to Prada for creating the perfect denim jacket with long-standing quality and fashionabilty.  Don’t knock vintage until you’ve tried it. Leslie_Lisbon

10bw_touchupcrop3.jpgCliches about beauty.  If it isn’t one thing to be beautiful on the inside, it’s another to be beautiful in the eye of whomever is beholding us.  And if beauty is only skin deep, then why should physical beauty or appearance even matter?

It does matter.  And it matters because we are inundated with images of what is considered physically beautiful.  Based on the the images that dominate mainstream media, beauty is manifested in women with impossibly languid figures, structured facial features, and perfectly poreless skin.

Because a prosthetic leg is part of my “physicality”, I’ve gratefully believed that physical beauty is individually unique and not to be compared to others.  And growing up female in a society where looks do matter, I clung to this notion because the images of women walking the runways or covering the magazines did not equal my own physicality.

But times are changing and so too will the perceptions of what is considered  beautiful.  Thanks to Sheryl Sandberg and her Lean-In organization, together with Getty Images, they are launching the ‘Lean In Collection’ of stock photos.  Ranging from the stock photos that fill magazines, catalogs, advertisments, and other media, the new collection intends to replace the “cliched, sterilized images of women and girls”.

And with the Huffington Post’s recent headline reminding us that ‘Disabled’ Mannequins represent that beauty does not equal perfection,  we are introduced to images that portray the beauty of the human spirit.  The human condition.  The visual manifestations of people accepting the lives they’ve been given.

A woman comfortable in her own skin:  what could be more beautiful than that?

These Boots Were Made for WalkingFrom the perspective of a young-schoolgirl who is utterly smitten with her crush du jour, I recently blogged about my all-time favorite brand of boots.  And much to my surprise, I was overwhelmed with comments and emails asking me where to buy the boots and to buy shoes, in general.

You see, for those of us living with limb loss; the idea of shopping for shoes is a less-than-desirable event because looking for shoes that are both fabulous and functional is not easy.  Prosthetic feet have pre-engineered features making them necessarily functional (i.e. proper heel heights) so that they most appropriately mimick a non-prosthetic gait.  Love that.  Need that.  Wouldn’t want it any other way.

But when it comes to finding shoes, it’s not an easy task.  Enter the convenience of e-shopping in which we can literally wander through an entire store, albeit it virtually, without ever setting a foot inside their door. And with competition growing amongst the online marketplace vendors, the consumer becomes the intended third-party beneficiary of their marketplace volleying techniques.  Hello! Great sales, free shipping, and free returns?  What’s not to love about that?

Wanna see what I’m talking about? Go to one of my fave on-line shops and get started.  The beauty of each is that you can search through thousands of shoes with your search terms. For example, if I am looking for flats, I would search “flats”, “low heel height”, or “heel height less than 1 inch”.  Then, if I am looking for dressy shoes, I would select the “evening” option and let the images begin.

From most of the images, you can look at different views of the shoes from the top, bottom, side, front, back and so it.  And in the end, you have thousand of options to find the perfect shoe.   Ready, set, shoe!

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It's Winter in MinnesotaIt’s January in Minnesota.  Last week’s low temperature was -23 degrees Farenheit and this week’s temperature is +23 degrees Farenheit. And what that 46 degree temperature gradient brings is snow, snow, and more snow.

With today’s snowfall dumping approximately 4-6 inches of that fluffy, white, wet stuff all over the land; desperate times call for desperate measures, and I’m pulling out the boots.  Sure, I could don some Sorel’s, but I’m pretty sure that those wouldn’t pair so well with the leopard print sweater and black pencil skirt I’m wearing today, would they?

Walking in Vienna
Walking in Vienna, November 2013

And as a firm believer that fashion must fit function, the Sorel’s stayed in the store and out came the Claremont riding boots, by Sofft.  Calling myself their unoffical brand ambassador, I have been promoting these boots from the first time I walked throughout China in them.  Three years and three pairs later, I remain head-over-heels in love with them.

Why?  Because they are fashion-forward.  They are uber comfortable. They have a rubberized flat, nubby heel.  And they have a full side-zipper.   So from my “limbitless perspective” (that’s how I view things from the perspective of someone using a prosthetic leg), they have every functionality to make donning and using them a breeze.

And from my “fabulous perspective” (that’s the perspective from me just being me), they have the classic riding boot look with a bit of an edge, as they sit just above the knee.  They’re like the Hampton’s meet Soho, all in one boot.

Exploring Lisbon
Exploring Lisbon, December 2013

So, whether I’m globe-trotting across Europe or tredging through knee-high Minnesota snowdrifts, there’s no other boot for me. Nancy said it best:  “These boots were made for walking”.  And that’s just what I’m gonna do.

Taryn Rose“Entrepreneurs have a profound grasp of the obvious” is a quote that Taryn Rose, M.D. said during her keynote speech at the Women Venture event in Minneapolis yesterday.  Herself a “serial entrepreneur”, Dr. Rose shared her family’s story of fleeing then-Saigon in 1975 and persevering to find an American to sponsor her family as a partial basis for her success.  Being a physician’s daughter, Dr. Rose went into medicine to eventually become an orthopedic surgeon. During her medical training, while working in a Diabetic foot clinic, she brilliantly devised a research study that successfully demonstrated that fashion-forward diabetic-friendly shoes. had a higher rate of compliance by the people who used them. In other words, she designed shoes that were functionally appropriate for people with Diabetes by engineering the shoe inserts with materials that helped protect their feet from skin break-down or foot ulcers which, left untreated, could lead to amputation.  Taking it further, she started designing shoes in her garage and eventually developed her Taryn Rose shoe line into a multi-million dollar shoe empire.

Although her bio on the Women Venture’s website is what initially piqued my interest in attending yesterday’s event, I had no idea that I would be so motivated by her story. What first interested me in her story is that she is an orthopedic surgeon who forged her own path into fashion by creating fashionably functional shoes.

As someone with a life-long love affair with fashion, I chose the legal and medical (as a nurse, a histotechnician, and a clinical researcher) professions because I didn’t think fashion careers were “credible” (by my own perception). Not that I would forego the amazing career path I’ve chosen but I’ve reached that point in my life to find my truer self and to do that which brings me passion.

So with my inner voice telling me that I had to meet Dr. Rose, I did just that.  At the conclusion of the luncheon, I made my to the front of the ballroom, patiently stood in line for her, introduced myself, told her about this blog, and said I am going to buy a pair of her shoes so that I can blog about them. I told her that I’d love to consult with her about developing shoes for prosthetic feet and she didn’t say “no”.  

Meeting her put it all into perspective for me.  Maybe this blog is my only foray into fashion and that’s okay.  It’s manifests my academic amalgamation of providing advocacy (that’s the legal brain speaking) by giving peer support to people with limb loss (that’s the medical care-giver-wanting-to-help-people brain speaking) about life-style expertise on fashion, travel & fitness (that’s the passionate true-self brain speaking).  

So, if by blogging about fashion is the extent of my fashion “career” and one person feels beautiful or more confident about something they’ve learned, then I have achieved success.  

And now, time to shop for these uber fabulous Taryn Rose shoesImage

My love of tights started as an 8-year-old fair-haired second-grader in a small town USA.  That was my first year of school after losing my leg just three months prior.  Because prosthetic technology, circa 1975, was nothing like it is today, my first leg was an anatomically shaped leg carved from willow wood.  The back of it had an open space, the size of a fist, the purpose of which was due to the physics of the prosthetic knee.  And because I was not a fan of that posterior open-space, my mom and I got creative in the sewing room.  LPS young

Living in the throes of 70’s fashion with gauchos and bell-bottoms making the runways, my mom’s sewing skills kept me right in the mix with longer hemlines and other modifications keeping my prosthetic leg covered.  What we couldn’t fix with fashion, however, was the shiny skin-tone exterior of my prosthetic shin.  And then we discovered tights: the denier gods answer to prosthetically induced fashion situations, which I affectionately refer to as “PIFS”.  Not only did they withstand the forces that articulating prosthetic knees put on fabric, but they made my leg less “artificial”.

FlorenceFast-forward 22 years later and I am aimlessly wandering the Florentine streets when I have my first encounter with an Italian a hosiery shop.  Tucked in the corner of a side-street from Piazza della Repubblica, I came across a little shop with samples of their fabulous goods adorning the windows.  Not knowing that I had hit a fashion mecca, I entered the door; walked into fashion paradise; and renewed my passion for tights all over again.

Why do I love tights?  They are hosiery’s equivalent of hats-not a lot of women wear them but a lot of women look at tights thinking that they wish they could pull them off.  And like hats, they are fashion’s answer to a busy girl’s life.  Not only do add that little something to an outfit too difficult to accessorize with jewelry or other accoutrements, but they can be worn time and time, again.

Mind you, however, not all tights are created equal as the denier count is what makes or breaks a tight.  Generally, the higher denier count makes tights more opaque.  And these are the ones that can be washed and dried like ordinary clothing.  Lower denier count tights are more like nylons and are a bit more fussy (but that’s just me).

But even with comparable denier count, a tight is not a tight.  I am lucky in that business travel frequently brings me to Europe where I fill my free-time with checking out the local fashion scenes and adding to the local economy by doing some major power shopping.  When it comes to buying tights, there is nothing better than Italian tights.  Not only are they the best quality but they are fabulously fashion forward.  Next, are Austrian-made tights which tend to be really high quality since they are made for colder climates.  Although less fashionable, every once in awhile one can find some Swarovski crystal blinged-out designs.

When time and resources precludes me from indulging in European shopping sprees, I have found less expensive shopping trips through none other than Spanx. Though known for all-things related to body-shapers, Spanx brand’s “Tight-End Tights” is the closest thing I have found to European-made tights.   Made of 85% Nylon and 15% Lycra, these tights have a high-quality opaqueness, meaning that you cannot see your skin tone through them, with the added value of the Spanx-hold-it-all-in engineering which works wonders for the wobbly parts.

Limbitless ThoughtsWhat’s especially great about these tights is the fact that they withstand most PIFS and they are easily laundered: this lazy fashionista’s dream.  What’s not so great is that their quality isn’t what they were several years ago.  But overall, they have a limbitless* rating of 4 because they withstand several months of weekly wear at $38.00 a pair.

What’s not to love about tights?  Fabulous Thoughts

And so it is.