Always Be Overdressed

One of my life philosophies is to always be overdressed. This may be rooted in the fact that I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, where everyone is, by average US standards, overdressed.

One of my life philosophies is to always be overdressed. This may be rooted in the fact that I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, where everyone is, by average US standards, overdressed. After 20+ years in the US, where yoga wear is considered stylish outside of the yoga studio, and sneakers are worn off the running path, I have had to create a daily motto for myself to maintain these Swiss standards in my appearance. 

Dressing (up) is not about pretention or vanity, but about how I present myself to the world, and hence, how I behave. Every occasion is made more special by a nice dress or powerful pant suit and the perfect pair of shoes. I reminded myself of this yesterday when I had a 3:30 am wakeup time to fly across the country for meetings. All I wanted to do was to wear comfortable (of course presentable) clothes, but I reminded myself that in particular because of my wake-up time, it behooved me to pay extra attention to my outfit.

Why? 

1. When I dress up, I want to live up to my outfit. If I look good, if I feel beautiful, I want to behave that way. I am less likely to be rude when I am wearing fancy shoes. I am more likely to smile and be polite when I am wearing a fancy dress. After all, when I dress up, I am putting my best self forward – and my behavior needs to be coherent with my appearance. 

2. When I dress up, when I look good, people compliment me on my outfit. That means two things. First, I am happy and I feel good about myself, so I am nicer. Second, I smile and say thank you after each compliment, and the more I smile the easier it is to keep smiling (no matter my wakeup time). 

3. When my husband and I both dress up for date night, I feel that we are doing something special for each other – we are putting effort into how we look, for each other. That makes me feel good, like he did something for me, which in turn makes me act nicer, and less likely to pick a fight. It also makes it harder to pick a fight because he looks so good!  

Somehow, how I dress really does make a difference in how I feel, and thus how I act. It is not about expensive clothes. It is not about vanity. I have come to think of it more as a uniform. When I put on something dressy, I am putting on my “best behavior uniform.” And it works every time… 

Mardi Gras

I married a man from Louisiana. A condition of our union was that we would never miss Mardi Gras weekend. And here I am, on Mardi Gras Friday, writing from New Orleans. I wish nothing more than for all of you to experience this amazing time in this amazing city. And trust me, there is much more to Mardi Gras than Bourbon Street.

I married a man from Louisiana. A condition of our union was that we would never miss Mardi Gras weekend. And here I am, on Mardi Gras Friday, writing from New Orleans. I wish nothing more than for all of you to experience this amazing time in this amazing city. And trust me, there is much more to Mardi Gras than Bourbon Street. Here is what you need to know:

  1. Mardi Gras is the culmination of Carnival season, which starts on January 6th.
  2. The actual Mardi Gras day depends on when Easter falls (which depends on the Moon). This means that Carnival season can be as short as a month or as long as two.
  3. The colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold.
  4. The foods of Mardi Gras season are delicious, and fast – given that no one has time for a sit-down meal: King Cake, finger sandwiches, fried chicken, and one pot Louisiana dishes such as red beans and rice, jambalaya, or gumbo.
  5. King Cake is the Louisiana version of Galette des Rois. In New Orleans, the two best sources of said King Cake are Gambinos and Dong Phuong (at a recent taste test at my friend Angie’s house, Dong Phuong won hands down). It is not possible to eat King Cake after Fat Tuesday.
  6. Krewes are Carnival organizations that exist solely for the purpose of putting on parades and balls during Carnival season.
  7. Costumes are de rigueur during this weekend. Most New Orleans residents have entire costume closets, and costumes don’t necessarily represent specific characters (one year I dressed up as the color purple).
  8. Mardi Gras day is followed by Ash Wednesday, which is the official start of Lent.
  9. The Mardi Gras rules of our household are the following:
    1. Me first.
    2. No plans.
    3. Always have something to drink in your hand.
    4. No breaking up.
    5. No fighting.
    6. Everyone is welcome.
    7. If one partakes in the revelry of Mardi Gras, one must give up something for Lent. (I am still trying to figure out what to give up on Wednesday).

Happy Mardi Gras weekend y’all!

Gift Giving Guide

‘Tis the season… the season of gratitude, and the season of giving. In many ways, I find even more pleasure in giving the perfect gift than in receiving gifts! Finding the perfect gift for everyone really is one of the most satisfying things ever. If you are stuck buying yet another tie for your father, here are some out of the box ideas that will bring a smile to even the “hardest-to-shop-for-person-ever.”

‘Tis the season… the season of gratitude, and the season of giving. In many ways, I find even more pleasure in giving the perfect gift than in receiving gifts! Finding the perfect gift for everyone really is one of the most satisfying things ever. If you are stuck buying yet another tie for your father, here are some out of the box ideas that will bring a smile to even the “hardest-to-shop-for-person-ever.” (I have three of them on my list…)

For your significant other: Erotic Poems by E. E. Cummins. (With the promise of a live reading by candlelight)

For your dad: Smartphone Film Scanner. (So all of those pictures of you as a baby can make it to his phone instead of being relegated to a cardboard box at the bottom of a closet)

For your mom (in particular if, like mine, she loves art and espresso): Color Lab espresso cups.

For your brother (or brother-in-law): a top of the line double-edged razor. (And for an even smoother shave, add Alchimie Forever Antioxidant skin repair gel)

For your sister (or sister-in-law): a gorgeous sparkly clutch that will take her from day to night.

For your best friend (or for your mother-in-law who has everything), this hand-beaded silk chiffon bib necklace is the perfect accessory, and it won’t be one that all of her friends have.

For your co-worker, the most beautiful candle from the unique NYC boutique Aedes de Venustas, which smells as delicious as it looks.

For your secret Santa: a bottle of Bourbon and these will for sure help him/her stay warm throughout the winter.

For that special person on your list who has everything, these two options always enchant: an artsy iPhone case, and a beautiful notepad.

Tips For a Successful Boudoir Photo Shoot

I am always referred to as the most “conservative” of the Polla sisters. Not politically perhaps, but certainly when it comes to “those things.” (Indeed, Rachel might be at the opposite spectrum of the Polla sisters, I am sure you read her latest blog post…).

I am always referred to as the most “conservative” of the Polla sisters. Not politically perhaps, but certainly when it comes to “those things.” (Indeed, Rachel might be at the opposite spectrum of the Polla sisters, I am sure you read her latest blog post…).

Sometimes, however, the “crazy Polla” side of me comes out. For example, a couple of years ago, I did something I never thought I would do – a boudoir photo shoot. I was inspired by seeing the boudoir photos of one of my best friends, who is beautiful and looked absolutely stunning. My excuse was that it was a gift for my husband, but in the end, it was a gift for myself. I am pretty sure I look at those pictures more than he does. Often to remind myself that I look fabulous and sometimes to help motivate myself to go to the gym.

Should you decide this is something you wish to try, here are some tips, from actress and Stript brand ambassador Rachel Sterling (I love these women named Rachel!). We met in LA not too long ago and caught up over a glass of wine. Boudoir photos came up (don’t ask why), so I couldn’t help but pick her brains about it.

Getting in character

For Rachel, the most important key to success to any boudoir photo shoot is to get in character. “Part of my process of getting ready is getting my hair and makeup done; this helps me remember that I am transforming myself into a different version of myself and need to get in character.”

Make a playlist: pick songs that make you happy, make you want to dance, make you want to sing in the shower, make you feel powerful and sexy. Rachel adds “Even if you are doing it as a gift for someone else, it is really about you; It should be fun. Play the soundtrack a few times before the day of the shoot, dance in front of your mirror when no one is around as practice – use this as an opportunity to get to know your body. You would be surprised, but we all should know our bodies, angles we look good in, curves, much better than we actually do.”

Grooming tips

  • The number one tip is to be hair-free. Of course, legs and bikini line, but also think underarms, arms, legs, brows, mustache. On the brow front, make sure they are professionally shaped. Good brows make all of the difference…
  • Be careful about too much makeup – make sure you still look like yourself (from personal experience I can add that that is the one thing I would change from my boudoir photo shoot – the makeup is just too much, and I almost don’t look like me). Rachel’s personal favorite brand of makeup is Runway. She recommends that if you are getting your makeup professionally done (which is not a must) that you work with someone you have worked with before (again – this is where I went wrong; I had the photographer’s makeup artist do my makeup, and we didn’t do a practice run and she did not know my style).
  • If you can, get eyelash extensions; at the very least curl your lashes and layer on extra mascara.
  • Spray tanning is helpful to even bumps. Sterling’s recommendations are of course to apply after waxing (not before), apply with gloves to avoid orange hands, and again if you can get it professionally done. Stript offers professional spray tanning using South Seas Spray Tan, which is what she does. Her favorite at home alternatives are L’Oreal’s self-tanning wipes and the Norvell at home kit which is very user friendly.
  • Have your nails done. You don’t need polish, or to have them red or long, but do get a manicure and a pedicure so that you are perfectly groomed.

Outfits and accessories  

When I ask Rachel about outfits and accessories, she reminds me that “When looking at the photo, the eyes of the viewer should go to the face. Yes, it is a boudoir shot, but the highlight is always the woman’s face.” She adds:

  • “If you are shy, a great prop is a boa – you can use it to hide certain parts and it makes you feel better or put it in front of you.
  • I love the retro theme of an apron and plate of cookies – it is particularly fun and slightly ironic if you never cook.
  • I also love a boudoir shoot in a sports jersey; there is something appealing about the very feminine photo and a traditionally masculine item of clothing being juxtaposed together.
  • Another great juxtaposition is a work shirt and glasses – kind of playing on the theme of sexy librarian.
  • Whatever do you, high heels are a must – ideally some you have not worn out so that they look pristine in the photos.
  • But remember, the eye of the beholder should go to your face – you don’t want too much distraction.”

As we finish our second glass of wine, I ask her what not to do. “Don’t have unrealistic expectations or be disappointed in your photos,” she says gently. “They will not look like pictures in magazines, nor should they. The most important thing is to love yourself and to realize that there are infinite definitions of beautiful and sexy. Every woman is beautiful and sexy in her own special way. That’s what a boudoir photo shoot is all about.”

Amen sister!

Style and Grooming Lessons from My Godmother

Once in a while, I wake up and feel like putting on my “fat pants” and sweatshirt and call it a day. I imagine we all have these days… When I have those days, I end up dressing extra well and looking extra good, because I imagine running into my godmother Dominique in that “fat pants” outfit. And I imagine her disapproving look. After all, she is the one who taught me so much about style… Here are my favorite style and grooming lessons from her, the ones I cherish and refer to on a daily basis.

Once in a while, I wake up and feel like putting on my “fat pants” and sweatshirt and call it a day. I imagine we all have these days… When I have those days, I end up dressing extra well and looking extra good, because I imagine running into my godmother Dominique in that “fat pants” outfit. And I imagine her disapproving look. After all, she is the one who taught me so much about style… Here are my favorite style and grooming lessons from her, the ones I cherish and refer to on a daily basis.

  1. Perfect manners are the most elegant accessory any woman can have.
  2. Great posture gives any woman class, elegance and a slimmer look.
  3. Leaving things to the imagination is more elegant than putting it all out there. Think backless dresses rather than low-cut dresses.
  4. There is no excuse for imperfect grooming.
  5. Nails (hands): The most elegant nail length is short; the most elegant shape is a slightly square oval; the most elegant polish color is clear; and there is nothing French about a “French manicure.”
  6. Feet: take care of them daily with a good moisturizer in the evening; but no socks in bed, please.
  7. Groomed eyebrows make any face look more elegant; overly-groomed eyebrows will age you.
  8. Don’t save your jewelry for special occasions. Wear your diamonds, pearls, chunky necklaces to celebrate the fact that it is Tuesday.
  9. You always look more elegant holding a champagne glass than a beer mug or a shot glass.
  10. You never look elegant smoking (no matter that Audrey Hepburn might disagree).
  11. You never sound elegant swearing.
  12. Drink water. Lots of it. Ideally, Contrex.
  13. It’s hard to look elegant in cheap fabrics. It is much easier to look (and feel) elegant in fabrics such as linen or cashmere. Buy less, but better quality.
  14. It’s hard to look elegant in an outfit that doesn’t fit; fit is everything; find (and be kind to) a seamstress you love.
  15. Elegance is not about trendy outfits; it’s about finding styles, shapes, fabrics and colors that work for you and sticking to those.
  16. If you find the perfect pair of pants, buy three.
  17. If you find the perfect pair of heels, buy two.
  18. On the shoe note, don’t walk around in heels that need TLC or shoes that need polishing.
  19. Pay attention to your weight and don’t let pounds creep up on you.
  20. It is always elegant to smile and be kind.

Fall Beauty Resolutions

As we are in the middle of what always feels like the last weekend of summer, I am turning my attention to the rest of 2018, and to my fall beauty resolutions.

As we are in the middle of what always feels like the last weekend of summer, I am turning my attention to the rest of 2018, and to my fall beauty resolutions.

  1. I will discard any left-over sunscreen (any sunscreen I bought this summer will not be good next summer).
  2. I will continue to apply a day cream with SPF protection even when the sun stops shining (SPF 20 or above, per the recommendation of my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla).
  3. I will practice regular exfoliation, on face and body, to help cellular turnover (I love the Alchimie Forever Gentle refining scrub twice a week).
  4. I will diligently use my Advanced retinol serum twice a week to repair any sun damage from the summer.
  5. I will continue to take extra care of my toes even after putting away my sandals (I am loving the clear polish natural look these days, beautiful in summer and winter).
  6. I will get two trims between now and the end of the year (this may sound like a minimalist approach, but considering I usually get one trim per year this is actually an aggressive goal for me).
  7. I will continue to exercise three times per week and will be mindful of my eating and drinking, in particular during the holiday period.  
  8. I will purchase a new lipstick color for the fall. I am intrigued by the new Aveda Feed My Lips colors…

What are your fall beauty resolutions?

Strong and Healthy is The New Sexy

While I work to be healthy and active year-round, I can’t help but pay more attention to my diet and exercise routine during the warmer months, in particular as   my annual trip to Greece approaches. So for the past six weeks, I have been particularly diligent. It’s not easy… while in my 20s I could diet for 3 days and lose 2 pounds, the reality of being 40 is quite different. I have had to develop some new strategies along the way. Here they are – may they be useful to you as well.

While I work to be healthy and active year-round, I can’t help but pay more attention to my diet and exercise routine during the warmer months, in particular as my annual trip to Greece approaches. So for the past six weeks, I have been particularly diligent. It’s not easy… while in my 20s I could diet for 3 days and lose 2 pounds, the reality of being 40 is quite different. I have had to develop some new strategies along the way. Here they are – may they be useful to you as well.

Eating and drinking

  • For much of my adult life, I have lived on bread and cheese. That is now a treat versus my usual meal – once per week max.
  • Fish and vegetables have instead become my friends… (and I’ll keep telling myself that until I believe it).
  • I enjoy wine and champagne. In the warmer months, I switch to wine spritzers and “piscines” (literally, swimming pools – also a word to describe champagne in a large red wine glass filled with ice).
  • I am forever trying to drink more water… still, sparkling, naturally flavored, with Emergen-C powder in it – anything to help!

Exercising

  • I set out my work out clothes the night before… seeing them right there helps me put them on.
  • I’m a morning work out person, so I get in my workout clothes the minute I get out of bed. It’s often the hardest part. Once I’m in them, I know I’m heading out for a run.
  • I have been taking advantage of the nice weather to run outside more. Something about the river (the Potomac in DC) and the songs of the birds is so soothing.
  • Even if I have only slept 4.5 hours (as I did last night), I remind myself that a 30-minute run will do a lot more for me than 30 minutes of extra sleep.
  • When I know I am going to need some extra help motivating, I call one of my best friends to see if she will come to SoulCycle with me. Knowing she will be there helps me make it there. (Thank you Julie!)
  • Finally, I have realized that going for a fast walk in Dumbarton Park with a BFF is just as lovely as going out for a glass of wine. My friend Isabel in particular has been a fan of this idea (which now that I think about it might have been hers!). A way to blend exercise with girlfriend time.
  • I try to walk as much as possible – for errands, around my favorite spots in Georgetown, to and from SoulCycle. Every step counts.

It’s about making healthy choices and moving. Every single day.

Highlights From Our Louisiana Memorial Day Weekend

Last October, I turned 40. It was a milestone birthday for many reasons, including the fact that I felt I could ask my 3 sisters for a significant present. And I did. I asked them to come to Louisiana for Memorial Day 2018. Why? Because I wanted them to see that side of my life, because I wanted to share the delights of New Orleans and the Natalbany River with them, because I wanted them to meet my husband’s family (in particular his many brothers). And my sisters being who they are, humored me. Our time together surpassed all of our expectations… here are the highlights.

Last October, I turned 40. It was a milestone birthday for many reasons, including the fact that I felt I could ask my 3 sisters for a significant present. And I did. I asked them to come to Louisiana for Memorial Day 2018. Why? Because I wanted them to see that side of my life, because I wanted to share the delights of New Orleans and the Natalbany River with them, because I wanted them to meet my husband’s family (in particular his many brothers). And my sisters being who they are, humored me. Our time together surpassed all of our expectations… here are the highlights.

Roxane:

The highlight of my Louisiana trip was without a doubt my haircut. More than a haircut, it was an experience. As soon as I entered Paris Parker Prytania, I felt a positive buzzing energy. My hairdresser (and brother) Tatum Neill sat me down and gave me a “consultation” – something I had never experienced before. He asked me questions about my hair-styling routine and about the products I use. I confessed that other than shampoo, I don’t use any products, and was relieved when he assured me his questions were not about judging, but about understanding my hair. He then asked his apprentice to shampoo my hair and was very specific about which products to use – I loved knowing that even the shampoo treatment was personalized! While cutting my hair, he explained each movement to his apprentice – I loved being part of a teaching moment and it was extremely interesting to learn about hair cutting techniques. I have never had someone cut my hair with so much attention to detail, which resulted in the most perfect haircut I have ever had. Having understood how I deal with my hair, Tatum was able to recommend the perfect products to incorporate in my daily routine: Aveda Smooth Infusion. Everything was perfect. There is one problem however… I am now faced with the following dilemma: how do I reconcile the fact that I live in Switzerland with the fact that my favorite hairdresser lives in Louisiana? I guess the future holds many more trips to Louisiana!

Rachel:

I adore my sisters and brother-in-law, so every moment was magical – especially because for once we were outside of Switzerland. My highlight of the trip was the stroll we took in the French Quarter the day after we arrived. When I am on an adult-only vacation, I relish the complete lack of planning. As a working mom, my life is ruled by plans, by schedules, so my vacations need to be the opposite. This trip was all about making the best of our four days together, and there were things to check off the list, such as meeting the (fabulous) Neill brothers and family, wakeboarding, and more – there was a plan and there was a schedule. So this unscheduled afternoon spent meandering the streets, randomly entering boutiques (and bars!), trying (and buying) items from brands not available in Europe (including the amazing Krewe sunglasses), tasting absinthe for the first time and deciding to take it to go, being together but respecting each other’s rhythm was magical in two ways: I felt free, and in a “discovery mood” of this great city I fell in love with.

Cyrille:

I could sense this vacation was going to be something special. This was the first time the four Polla sisters were together in the US since… well, ever! It was my first time in New Orleans and my first Memorial Day celebration. But I didn’t expect to live so many other “first times.” Here are my top 10 firsts:
First taste of a homemade southern breakfast with fried eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuits; first daydream on a porch swing; first attempt at wakeboarding on “Louisiana glass”; first swim with alligators; first hula-hoop game; first feel of warm rain; first topless water balloon contest; first sip of a “Worm Bucket” – a colorful and tasteful 😉 drink containing a wiggly piece of candy; first time seeing Kermit Ruffins live; first midnight hot tub.

Me:

Where to begin… My highlight of the trip has to be the various moments the Polla sisters got to spend with the Neill brothers. Both the Pollas and the Neills are such strong, large families, two families with family businesses – one family more girl-dominant, one family more boy-dominant. The moments (in the salon, on the boat, at the Prop Stop, at dinner, in their homes…) during which the Neill brothers saw the Polla sisters interact, and vice versa, are moments that I will cherish forever. Moments I will cherish for so many reasons, including because having met my sisters, the men who I call my brothers now know and understand me better; and having met my brothers, my sisters also now know and understand me better.

I can’t help but hope that this becomes an annual tradition…