How a Fashion Segment Gets Made

Last week, I did a "Mommy & Me Style" fashion segment on "Today". While I have been contributing segments to the show pretty consistently for over 10 years (GULP!), this was my first segment in almost a year. I took a break after Goldie was born in an effort to thoughtfully reflect on time management, life priorities and career goals- as many of you read in what I think is my most popular- and most honest- blog post ever.

Friends, family, and complete strangers often expressed their confusion at how on earth I could not want to do TV segments all the time if given the opportunity because "it must be so much fun!" 

Yes, spending a morning at 30 Rock (or any studio, for that matter) is a blast. The culmination of weeks of work unfolding in real time is a total adrenaline rush. Plus, it is an honor I take seriously to be given such a trusted national stage. And the players involved- from the producers to the on-air hosts, the wardrobe team to the hair and makeup crew, and the stable of experts I have spent countless hours in greenrooms with over the years are many of my favorite people.

But few people know what goes into those few minutes of live television. Inspired by this post from Style by Emily Henderson, I decided to share a glimpse behind the fashion segment curtain.*

1) Booking: For every one segment I do, typically at least twenty are pitched (and passed on). In order to secure a booking, a cohesive idea needs to be put together- and, the more timely and trend-driven the idea, the more likely it is to be approved for air. Crafting a pitch takes time- you gotta do the research and distill it down to the most compelling points, written up in a way that feels like it is happening, even though you don't know if it ever will. If said pitch speaks to the segment producer, they then pitch it up the ladder and hopefully, if all goes well, a day or two later an email will arrive in my inbox saying "Good news! They love the idea. Let's do it."

2) Detailing: At this point, the idea needs to be flushed out into a four minute fashion show of sorts, complete with outfit groupings based on occasions or trends. Using my recent "Mommy & Me Style" segment as an example, I suggested we categorize by trend (black & white graphic prints, modern florals, white shirt gone chic and superhero style).

3) Confirming: Once the detailed concept has been sent to my producer, she will review and give me the green light to start pulling together the pieces. In the case of my "Mommy & Me Style" piece, she requested I connect each trend to an occasion so we could better position it as a Mother's Day style guide of sorts. As such, I went back and put more thought into the kinds of looks I would create  around each trend to make sure we had a good mix of fancy, fun and everyday appropriate. 

4) Casting: Morning show models are typically "real women"- which is great in many ways (relatable, diverse) but also tricky (not everyone knows their sizing exactly, people have hang ups about wearing certain fits/colors/styles that you aren't privy to in advance of the fitting, etc.) For "Mommy & Me Style", I was lucky to have a group of Today Show producers at the ready to model along with their kids- since the segment fell on "Take Your Child To Work Day". Usually, however, the casting process is arduous. I try and work from word-of-mouth so as to avoid a barrage of volunteers via Facebook since it always feels terrible to tell someone that he or she was not chosen. Even though the reason rarely if ever has to do with appearance, I lose sleep over the potential of hurting someone's feelings. It is more like a putting together pieces of a puzzle to achieve the right balance of ages, ethnicities and sizes.  Once my producer signs off on the model mix, I create a detailed document assigning a look/trend/occasion to each model, and detailing all of their sizing information along with photos.

5) Pulling: For every one piece of clothing you see on a model in a segment, at least 15 other options had to be pulled. Which means for a segment with 4 looks, each one consisting of, say, an average of 4 items (top, bottom, jacket, shoe/bag/statement accessory) we are talking about at least 240 items. At least. I gather options in two ways- one by calling in from brands and PR agencies directly, and two, by hitting up the mall and shopping. I always say that my PR background is a blessing and a curse when it comes to my TV career. I know how to get what I need from publicists- the polite but direct way to ask, the info they need to share with clients, the questions to pose in order to find out the insider details that turn into great on-air anecdotes, etc. But it is a curse in that I am overly sensitive to the reality that, especially in a fashion show format segment, I may not be able to give verbal or on-screen credits to the items that they secure from their clients. And securing samples is a decent amount of work for a publicist- especially when we aren't working with model sample sizes that they have on hand in the showroom. Which is why I shop for the majority of items at retail, and hope that everything stays in tact so if said item is not used or harmed in the segment process, I can return them after the fact. Plus, shopping myself cuts down on follow up emails ("Are you able to use XYZ?"/"Did the items arrive?"/"When will you know if my client is going to be featured?) that (mostly innocently, but still) overwhelm my inbox. 

6) Fitting: Two to three days before the air date, I lug all the samples into NYC for a fitting. Fortunately, I am lucky to have help from friends in the industry who offer to collect samples that arrive via messenger and give me access to their showroom for the morning- sometimes also lending me an assistant or intern to help unpack, organize and eventually repack the clothing.  Models come in every 30 minutes, try on a bunch of things, and, fingers crossed, end up with an outfit option that both of us feel good about. I snap a photo, collect the outfit back, and package it to send to the studio so that it can be prepped by the wardrobe department. If only it ever went as smoothly as the two prior sentences sound...

7) Finalizing: Every detail about each outfit is collected: brand, price, and where to buy. This involves emails to brands and publicists, as well as significant online research and fact checking. The info is put into an overview along with the photos from the fitting, and sent to my producer as quickly as possible for approval. I wait, literally at the edge of my seat knowing that whatever feedback I get dictates the next 48 hours of my life. Will I have to re-pull an entire look and do another fitting?/Does XYZ producer personally not like XYZ trend and requests a total change?/Based on said change, will the other looks have to be altered as well to insure the right mix? Regardless of the initial feedback (and the ensuing private tantrums I may have behind closed bathroom doors in which I swear over and over again I will NEVER do a fashion segment EVER again), eventually it all gets worked out. I confirm all the lower thirds (TV speak for the information you see on screen during a segment telling you item names and prices), do one final shop for extra just-in-case jewelry and accessories, and put together the hair and makeup concepts for each model. It is at this point that I finally relax- no more nerves, no more stress- the hard work, for me, is done.

8) Executing: The morning of the segment, I get up around 5am, pack my outfit (sad but true- I usually have no idea what on earth I am going to wear in advance, so I raid my closet at the crack of dawn as quietly as possible so as not to wake up my husband), load up the extra accessories, climb into the car (thankfully the shows/networks typically provide car service, which is huge for me), put on my headphones and log on to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote the segment- trying to do so as cleverly and conversationally as my brain can muster. As soon as it is light enough to see, I start reviewing my notes- secretly praying for a little bit of traffic so I can sneak a cat nap in along the way. Upon arrival at the studio, its go time- making sure all the models get through hair and makeup, prepping their looks (Today happens to have the most amazing wardrobe team which makes this part easy), and answering any questions the models have in an effort to calm their pre-segment jitters. 

9) Returning: Seconds after the segment ends, craziness ensues. I gather all the items back from each model (and explain why some pieces are okay to keep but others need to be returned to stores/showrooms- it can get tense!), and organize them to make sure everything gets back to the place it belongs. The emails and texts start to pile up too- many of them super sweet, grateful and/or congratulatory. Some are not as kind ("Why didn't my client's jacket get credited on screen"/"I thought the jeans I sent for the model would get more air time"/"So, you didn't include any of the items I sent for the fitting?!"/"My client isn't so happy with the way the model looked in our dress, is there anything you can do about that?") and over the years I have learned to take it all with a grain (or barrel) of salt and try and remember the pressure PR people are under from clients, having been there myself. I try to send the link out to brands that were featured so the PR teams can have them on record, and, if my kids don't bombard me the second I get home after not seeing me days and days while I prep and plan, I put together a blog post or social media post to share the video for anyone who missed it. 

So, there you have it. The work that goes into creating a hopefully well-styled, relevant and thorough fashion show segment. At least, this is what goes into it for me. I imagine it is different for all the style experts you see when you flip on your favorite morning shows- the methods may be different I have no doubt the effort is the same. 

*Note: Table top (you know, where you products showcased on top of a table and the expert goes down the line sharing each find) and beauty segments are the other kinds of segments I am typically called upon to do- and they are VERY different- and in my opinion, significantly more manageable- than fashion show format segments.  




The Jeans I Live In Cost Less Than My Workout Pants.

You GUYS. I had to share the scoop on the jeans that I throw on with the same frequency that I do leggings these days. They are just as comfy and easy to wear and, as ridiculous as this may sound but you know I spend a silly amount of money these days on overpriced activewear, they are less expensive than my workout pants.

Flying Monkey jeans are $68 a pop.  And they look every cent as expensive as designer denim.They work great on petite frames (I am 5'2" and did not need to get them hemmed) as well as longer-legged ladies (hitting just above the ankle which is apparently the big denim trend of the moment anyway). I wear this distressed grey pair most often, but as we head into warmer days, these medium wash blue skinnies and this white released hem style are sure to make regular appearances. 





Four Style Questions Everyone Seems To Be Asking Me Lately

One of the fun things about my recent travel spree (Alabama and Cabo, off to my next destination tomorrow) is the opportunity to catch up with old (and make some new) friends. Once the topic of my work life comes up, the rapid-fire fashion and beauty questions begin. Here are the four that came up time and time again, along with the links I promised each and every girl I would share so they can compile their spring shopping lists accordingly:

1: Where do you buy workout clothes?

Every single item in my workout clothes drawer (ok, I'll be honest, it is more like drawers plural) is purchased on either Carbon38 or Bandier. I am addicted. If you have never shopped these sites, you need to bookmark them immediately.  There is lots of overlap between the two sites- but as a result, lately many of the best brands they sell have been creating exclusive styles for one or the other (here are the latest exclusives for Bandier.). And, Carbon38 recently launched their own collection  with a slew of well-priced and awesome essentials. 

2: What are the best workout leggings?

Easy. The Power Pant capri style from The Upside, which you can find on both of the sites I swooned over above. Should you want to know exactly WHY I love these things so damn much, check out this post I wrote a few months back going on and on about them.

3:  Can you recommend a cool pair of white sneakers that won't make me feel like a geriatric?

You can't go wrong with this new style from Superga. And if you want to splurge (because you know you are gonna be wearing them every single day), dying over these new ones from Iro. For an Italian soccer vibe with gold accents, love these- and you can NEVER go wrong with the timeless yet never dated Adidas Originals styles.

4: Your eyeliner has not smudged even once while we swelter in the sun! What kind do you use?

After what feels like an eternal quest for a product that works in waterlines but doesn't run down my face the second I blink, Urban Decay launched this collection- the answer to all my eyeliner prayers. 

If you have any style/beauty/home questions you want answered, please don't hesitate to email me via the "CONTACT" page up on the nav bar. I love this stuff. 




Lessons in Adulting: Have Cousins, Should Travel.

Family is important. As a kid, you hear it all the time, and as a parent, you start to notice yourself saying it all the time. At least I do. And while visits with grandparents and siblings may happen with some frequency, when it moves beyond that first layer (for lack of a better term), I have come to realize that the more you put in to those relationships, the more your kids (and you) will get out of them.

This is something I think about often as a mother to two girls- on my side, they have no first cousins. So the ball is in my court to create those close relationships for them now so that they can continue them long into the future. 

But it isn't served up to you on a silver platter. You have to work at it- stalk down mutually open dates for visits, figure out flights, get over your fear of feeling like you are "inconveniencing" someone by declaring that you will indeed be at a hotel a few miles from there home on such and such date. 

My grandma Nora had 2 sisters- Molly & Edith. Between the 3 of them, they have 6 daughters (my mom being one of them). Those daughters had a bunch of kids- 13 in total (for my mom, it was just me- I can only imagine I was more than enough to handle). Of that 13, 6 are girls, and we are all very close in age. And once, many many years ago, a few our moms took us on vacation together- Park City, Utah and an overnight to Las Vegas. The fact that I remember it so well is proof that is was hugely important. As the lone cousin living in the northeast, and not being on an official "first cousin" basis, I rarely got to spend time with everyone outside of special occasions. 

3 of those girls- Elisa, Brooke and myself- have 5 year old daughters. 2 of said 5 year old daughters are named Alexa. The last time they were all together was a little over 2 years ago- and my Alexa has not stopped talking about it ever since.  So a couple months ago, I decided to put on my big girl panties (or maybe better described in this context as "mom jeans" but the term is so unsettling) and plan a trip to see them all (and then some) in Birmingham, AL. 

This past weekend, Alexa and I boarded a plane, wearing smiles from ear to ear, equally excited for a mommy/daughter getaway and quality time with some of our cousins. It was 48 hours of total joy for us both. Granted, there were meltdowns that had me psychotically texting my husband, but that is to be expected when spending 24/7 with a 5 year old least my 5 year old girl. 

As shy as she is, Lex immediately took to her cousins. Within 30 minutes on Friday night, she and the other Alexa had put on the matching pjs we brought down for everyone, and were inseparable. And when the third 5 year old girl in the crew, Maddie, entered the scene on Saturday, it was just the same.  Fast friends, chatting and drawing at lunch, getting manicures, and being silly.  

It is crazy how, even though the technical blood-relative proximity is not close, there is this immediate element of closeness that the words "my cousin" bring to a relationship.  I feel it with my generation on this branch of our very confusing family tree- even extending to the husbands and wives, such an amazing bunch- and I plan to do everything I can to set Alexa and Goldie up for the same success.  

Here are some more pictures from our weekend- smiles all around, and for sure moments that Alexa will never forget:



NEW Subscription Services To Make You Smarter, Smoother & More Smiley.

The last thing I want is another delivery at my door. Between an Amazon Prime addiction, Carbon38 & Bandier habits, and work-related packages that arrive daily, I actually hide on Thursdays when the garbage man comes to pick up boxes for recycling. 

For this reason, I have resisted getting on the "yada yada yada of the month" subscription service train. (The only exception has been Bestowed, the healthy snack sampler subscription curated by my bestie and nutritionist extraordinaire, Heather Bauer.) 

But recently, three services caught my attention- each because it offered a smart (and of course convenient) solution to a problem. I decided to sign up and give them a go. I am super happy I did, and I think you may be too, so here are the details:

Problem: I can't pick the perfect book, so I don't read enough, and then feel bad about it.
Solution: Book of the Month Club

An assortment of 5 books, curated by a rotating cast of influencers whose taste is always interesting and respectable (examples include Ellie Kempner, David Sedaris & Hoda Kotb) is offered each month. Before you select a pick (BOTM pre-selects an option for you based on your profile but invite you to change it up as often as you want via email so you don't end up getting a book and being like WHAT?), you can peruse compelling reviews and descriptions that go way beyond generic back-of-the-book summaries. Members have access to ongoing book discussions and exclusive insights from authors and editors which basically makes the experience akin to a book club, however sans the awkward excuses we all know we make up to get out of the monthly meeting because either we have yet to finish the book or we just can't eat another pot luck meal accompanied by cheap wine.
(Price: $9.99/month, find out more here.)

Problem: I forget to change out the brush heads on my electric toothbrush, likely because I hide the whole thing out of sight thanks to the bulky, aesthetically un-pleasing design. 
Solution: Quip
The most high design electric toothbrush ever- sleek, portable, and effective, plus love that is has a 2 minute timer built in so you know you aren't shortchanging your smile. Place an order for the toothbrush and membership model of your choice (options include individual or family sets with quarterly deliveries of new brush heads and toothpaste), and never think "eek should I not be using this dilapidated brush/oops I forgot to get toothpaste/um where did I hide that hideous charger, my toothbrush is dead" again. (Price: From $40, find out more and get a free $5 refill here.)

Problem: I always run out of razors, and when I run to pick them up at CVS and see the astronomical prices, I cheap out, get the dinky ones, and end up with razor burn. 
Solution: Dollar Shave Club
(*I know this is not new but, well, it is new to me and I really love it, so bear with me.)
Please someone tell me why I did not sign up for this genius concept when it launched?! Seriously- why didn't you sit me down and say "JENN! For $6 a month this may be the smartest and kindest thing you can do for the rest of us who have to look at your stubbly legs in spin class/at the pool/etc. ever!?" I do "The 4X" plan set to deliver every other month (I'll change it monthly in May, and will go back to every other month in October). The plan comes with a high quality, substantial razor that pivots 90 degrees for easy knee-area gliding and such, and four razor blade cartridges arrive at the frequency of your choosing. I plan to sign my husband up as well- he feels committed to some Gillette razor he has used since college but I know if I make this switch on the sly he won't notice one bit and I won't have to cringe at the $40+ dollar price tag every time he sends me to buy new blades.
(Price: From $1, find out more here.)