February 9th, 2014

Where I Wear My Heart

bunny love tee


When I announced to my New York friends in 2005 that I was leaving for law school in Nashville, TN, everyone had wisdom to offer. A fellow traveler who spent high school musing on Nietzsche with me said that some Southern gentleman would likely sweep me off my feet. That’s not what this love letter is about.

My female friends encouraged me to be more guarded. “Don’t lead with the crazy,” they said. They feared the South wouldn’t embrace neuroses the way Manhattan had. While in the South, I should smile, keep my head down, and hide the eccentricities. I complained to them that hiding didn’t suit me. I felt, as always, that ultimately I wanted to reach out and find all the other misfits. I told my friend about how I wanted to one day create a place where teenagers could go to feel welcome and empowered. “But Rachel,” she said, “not everyone hurts the way you do. Those teenagers are fine. They don’t need your help.”

And for some reason I believed her.

So, I settled. I hid my discomfort, gave up that notion of helping the flawed and wounded, and kept moving through the paces of law school. Eventually, I saw a movie called The Devil Wears Prada and realized that smart people could do fashion. (OK, everything is obviously more complicated than that, and I had actually worked in the fashion industry for 6 years before going to law school, but that is also another story. The point is: that summer I left law school and chose fashion.)

I began dreaming up my store and never for a moment thought back to those kids I wanted to save. I just kept building. And I built what was later lovingly referred to as a magic little house on 12South. (I’m not bragging; people called it that!) I lined the inside with dark wood and leather-bound books, because I wanted it to look like the small libraries at Yale, the first home I had ever chosen for myself where once upon a time I felt safe. It was a house masquerading as a retail establishment where we sold lemonade on the porch, hula-hooped on the lawn, and held high school days where fashion-minded teens could “intern” for a day. It was a home more than it ever was a store.

And then we grew up, moved to something bigger, and dreamed accordingly. It was a playground where you could stay all day and chat. I’d serve up college counsel or resume editing from behind my bar, as if those were the services rendered. We’d sing or play pool or laugh or cry. You’d stay all day even though you had only popped in on your way to Whole Foods. It was home for us. The hatters were always slightly mad, the rabbits were always late, and no one ever lost their heads.

It’s not that I set out to build a haven for the wonder-minded, but let’s be honest: I put a giant wall of graffiti in the middle of the Hill Center where a Vera Bradley now sits. Surely, I was announcing something. So, it seems that somewhere along the way I lost sight of my mission. I just kept building what felt natural, but it seems I built the very thing I was supposed to let go of. I built a place for us to feel safe and welcome and empowered. I built us a home. I built us a wonderland.

My friend might have been wrong. You do hurt, sometimes like me, sometimes like you. And you do laugh. And you live, and you love, and you wear clothes. We all do.

So, thank you. All of you. I built for you and with you, and somewhere along the way I wove my heart back onto my sleeve.

Or I wear it on a chain, courtesy of Tarina Tarantino, hanging in the middle of my chest:

Tarina Tarantino Heart

Or, thanks to the current Kate Spade collection, I wear it where my money goes:

Kate Spade coin purse

Happy love month, bunnies. Let’s wear our hearts wherever we can!

Posted at 3:25 am by rachel in: After Wonderland, Bunny Love

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February 5th, 2014

Still Making Messes

Counting sheep

If you’re following me on Instagram (@twoellerachel), then you already know that I’m making good use of my A Beautiful Mess app and creating daily, well, beautiful messes. Here’s what you’ve missed if you’re not on Instagram. Above was a blustery day that threatened to blow me over my Kate Spade blue suede heels. I was protected by a purple Diesel beanie, a Madewell counting sheep sweater, Marc Jacobs leopard print pants, and bangles by Tarina Tarantino, Carolina Herrera,  Marc Jacobs, and my very own Rainbow Loom.



This was a sporty recreational day (not to be confused by the very present Nike Sporty Spice moment I’m living that I will surely tell you all about some other time). The birdie top is by Primp purchased at the wonderland formerly known as Two Elle, and the shoes are Adidas purchased perhaps a decade ago in the wonderland still known as New York City.


This was an academic day. J.Crew schoolboy blazer and loud pants that received a lot of notice. Banana Republic purple necklace (For real! Banana Republic circa 2003!). Sensible and classic saddle shoes by Rachel Antonoff for Bass. Madewell Paris tee. And the wrist of that day: Alex & Ani, Kate Spade Escape the Ordinary, and J.Crew.


I think I bought art supplies on this day, if memory serves. Chip & Pepper Tennessee Vols shirt for a look back. J.Crew holiday plaid pants, which kind of look like 90s Roger in Rent pants to me. Kate Spade blue suede again on the feet. Purple Diesel again on the head. And an inspirational assortment on the wrist including the Alex & Ani hummingbird and some more Rainbow Loom creations.


New Girl

And finally….moments like this happen more often than I’m comfortable admitting with both New Girl and The Mindy Project. Apparently Fox uses my closet for Tuesday nights. At least I’m not the only beautifully messy one!



Posted at 1:22 am by rachel in: After Wonderland

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January 30th, 2014



Lesson of the week: a rabbit hole can take many different shapes.

When my friend Sarah (responsible for my purchase of the A Beautiful Mess app) announced that she would need mix CDs for her cross-country road trip, she had no idea that she was essentially throwing on a pair of White Rabbit bunny ears. I told her I’d like to help out and planned to make her a little assortment of what’s on my current playlist. “From you in particular,” she said, “I’d like a 90s mega mix. I feel like you’d be really good at that.”




Down the rabbit hole I fell.

Now, the first thing you should know is that I was an over-achiever in the 90s. And the next thing you should know is that, unlike the babydoll dresses, my over-achievement didn’t start and end in the 90s. Remember how I functioned on over-drive when I was building the Hill Center store? Remember how I was up on the scaffolding graffiti-tagging the wall and zipping over to 12South for our moving sale and loading antique pinball machines into the back of a truck? All in the same day? And loving every minute of it?

Building the 90s mega mix for Sarah is JUST LIKE THAT.

It has consumed me and given my days new purpose. I quickly learned that a mere sampling of the 90s was not something I could deliver. It needed structure and depth, so I began the research and revisting. I sorted through the boxes of CDs stored in my childhood bedroom, encountered old friends, and had to will myself away from distraction by anything recorded after 2000. My desk is now flooded with notes and resurrected relics of a life I had packed away decades ago. Even my outfits are becoming music inspired:


{Sonic Youth, blue suede shoes, Phoenix; you get it.}

So, the only answer was to expand the project and journey farther down the hole. The one-disc mix found a Wonderland “Eat Me” cake and grew larger and larger. I thought about different groupings for the CDs: things we now talk about nostalgically as our favorite 90s music because it makes us seem cooler vs. things we were ACTUALLY listening to in the 90s (yes, I went to Lilith Fair). And do we make an entirely separate CD for the ska moment that happened in the mid-90s?

The history is overwhelming me, so I’ve decided to let it guide the way instead. Sometimes the easiest answer is simplicity: do a chronological study. Instead of telling Sarah what to think about the 90s or imposing my personal experience and judgment upon her, I’m sending her off with a 10-disc set that takes her on a chronological voyage from 1990 to 1999.

A week of unwavering focus and 10+ hours of your favorite sounds seem like a lot to deliver to a friend at her going-away party, but the truth is 1) that’s just how I do, and 2) she has given me so much more. Sure, she had no idea she was doing it, but she gave me back my rabbit hole. She reminded me that when I fall, I fall hard. And she reminded me that I love the intensity and singularity of my type of fall.

So, right now I’m listening to 1996:


So far, it’s my favorite, but I think I’ve said that about every year. And I hope I don’t stop.

Posted at 11:11 am by rachel in: After Wonderland

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January 23rd, 2014

Sure, I’ll Be a Beautiful Mess


It started innocently enough, as most things do. It was a Thursday, and my dear friend Sarah Rhodes and I were long overdue for a friend date. I don’t use the word “dear” lightly. Sarah occupies a very special place in my heart. She first came into my world on 12South, where she made me coffee at Frothy Monkey, visited the porch swing at our magic house of a store, and looked a little something like this in our original two elle tee:


By some incredible stroke of luck, she and her husband Josh chose to make Phoenix their new home at roughly the same time I did, and they’ve been a source of strength, connection, and Southern comfort on this journey. You can read more about her at www.arrowandapple.com, but for now, just trust that she’s a creative dear and an inspiration.

So, when she suggested we try Nami, a vegan pastry shop in Phoenix, and promised dairy-free frozen yogurt, I was there.


Here’s what: ask me to go here any time. I will say yes.

It was a beautiful yet bittersweet afternoon, because Sarah and Josh will soon be relocating for a new job. Sarah will be working for A Beautiful Mess, and that, friends, creates trouble for you and me! As many of you know, I’m an outrageously loyal friend. When Sarah told me about the A Beautiful Mess iphone app, loyalty dictated that I immediately purchase it.

It turns out that one can use this app to create little “outfit of the day” collages, which means that I’ve learned a new trick! If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (@twoellerachel), you already know that while Sarah prepares for bigger and brighter things, Rachel has been making some beautiful messes.


This particular mess is a Marc Jacobs Paris hat, a Kate Spade silver linings necklace, a J.Crew top, Madewell heart pants (ok, pajamas….sleep meets street!), and Nike Sky Hi Air Revolutions.


And this mess: Marc Jacobs beanie, Crewcuts dress (yes, we wear sundresses in January in Arizona), charcoal Chucks, Tarina Tarantino heart bracelet, and my own Rainbow Loom creations. Obvi.

Sarah, my red-headed heart, I will miss you dearly, but thank you for leaving me with this beautiful mess to play with!


Posted at 8:43 pm by rachel in: After Wonderland

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January 16th, 2014

The First 15


OK. So, I suppose if you’re trying to create a universally appealing pop culture nostalgia moment, you shouldn’t choose a show that only lasted one season. I really thought that Jordan Catalano had touched so many lives, but I’ve now spoken to representatives from SO MANY AGE GROUPS, and no one knows who he is. My sage Isabella (age 12) encouraged me to sprinkle in a little 2014, so here goes: a fast and loose version of my first 15 days of 2014.


Makeup has re-entered the building. When we went makeup shopping and I dumped too much knowledge on her, Isabella thought it was insane that I knew (and owned) so much but wore so little. Look, I’ve been on a break and have become a bit of a Nike queen, but point taken. Makeup is back. For Isabella, and really for good, clean fun. Plus, my brother Danny is working for violetgrey.com, so it’s becoming too present to ignore. Oh, and that’s Chanel on the lips and Marc Jacobs Glinda on my nails.

Although my proverbial palette runneth over, one makeup item was missing: another Nars lipstick to complete the display pictured above. I think I started functioning as a merchandiser when I first joined the Anthropologie team in 1999…..and I never stopped. Even in my home, I’m merchandising displays. So, problem solved when Mom and I got matching Guy Bourdin Nars lipsticks in Last Tango:


These first 15 days also have me a little obsessed with and inspired by Rachel Antonoff. She first had me when she collaborated with Bass, but I’m currently loving my new El Royale sweatshirt:


I even wore it to my community college moment (more on this as the story develops; it’s only the first 15!):


HOWEVER, while at community college, I was pleasantly surprised that their bathrooms matched my Marc Jacobs Lux nails (Yes, I judge a school by its bathroom, among other things):


So, there you go, kids. It’s been a busy 15, and I’m kind of exhausted. Oh, and I bought myself a Rainbow Loom, because no one took the hint even though it was the ONLY item on my Christmas wish list.


Spoiler alert: Rainbow Looms are more complicated than I’m comfortable admitting.

So, 15 days in, and 2014 is looking colorful and inspired, just the way I like it. And as a final note, these are saddle shoes, Isabella. Playful girls like me wear them on days when we have to be fancy!


Posted at 10:35 pm by rachel in: After Wonderland

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