Summer is one of the most beautiful seasons. Even though I’m naturally drawn to cooler weather and crisp fall leaves, there’s something about a Kansas City summer that I love. I slip into The Emma Dress… It’s one of my favorite pieces in the latest Baldwin summer line and it’s ideal for the balmy 95+ degree weather that Kansas City natives are all too familiar with. I grab my Madewell bandana and tie it loosely around my neck to add a chic Americana vibe and head off to one of my favorite events in Kansas City, Boulevardia.
While we’re on the subject, what is your favorite item in your summer wardrobe? Leave your answers in the comments below!
When I arrive, I’m engulfed by the smell of food trucks and the sounds of Hembree playing on the main stage. I grab Kyle and wander through the crowd to catch the last few songs by this amazing KC band. Nostalgia hits me hard as I remember listening to some of these guys in their pre- Hembree days. It’s been a while since I last saw them live and it feels good to celebrate their success. The band line up is excellent this year, with bands like Guster and Sir Sly gracing the stage.
I take it all in, reminding myself to live in this moment of light, laughter and joy. I’ve got Boulevard Wheat in my hand and a whole lot of beauty right in front of me.
After the set ends, I take a lap around the grounds. My dress is hiding the sweat and the beer I’m spilling on myself. I plow through crowds of people in the Makers Market and scan over some of my favorite goods from Gypsy Bandits (if you’re a fan of Back Bite, these vintage threads are for you) and The Jeweled Gypsy truck.
I can’t help but notice how wonderful this event is for the KC community. It allows people to celebrate art, music, culture, food and all of the little things that make life so nice. I truly believe if we could all learn to love our every day surroundings just a bit more, we might actually have a chance at finding happiness.
Speaking of local makers, I had the pleasure of hosting my TSO pop up shop at one of Kansas City’s most iconic events, First Friday’s in the KC Crossroads. Accompanied by two very talented friends, we had everything from handmade candles and crochet tops to new and pre-owned designer clothing. It was a fantastic way to engage with the community and fellow artists. I certainly hope Kansas City continues to cultivate these types of events, because I’ll be attending as many as possible.
The Boulevard Jam Band Berry Ale is fully stocked, our Western Auto sign is back in all its retro glory, and life as a KC lady is pretty good.
It all started my senior year of college when I got hooked on hot yoga. I felt so much lighter amidst personal confusion, excessive emails, and the overwhelming anxiety of “what are you going to do with your life.” It was an alternative way for me to check out instead of hitting the bars and taking a shot of tequila… Though I still lovetequila. I learned to appreciate slowing down. The most important part of my day was no longer the success of an Instagram post, but the rest between two deep intentional breaths.
And then I graduated. I went on to teach in a low-income community with a program called Teach For America. Though the program was incredible, some of the places where I was located left me in some seriously traumatic and compromising situations. The pressure was intense, my mental and physical health declined rapidly, so I stopped…
We are all presented with a choice: evolve or remain. The choice is yours.
I flew to Bali, Indonesia by myself for some profound soul-searching and a yoga certification. I didn’t have a ton of knowledge, but I knew that I felt full, healthy, and centered when I was practicing and meditating. It was perfect… Right out of a novel. Everything I wanted and more. After a month or so of cleansing and ritual, I came back to the states and accepted a corporate job in sales at Groupon headquarters in Chicago.
Everything boils down to Love and Fear: Is what you are saying coming from a place of love or fear? Are you pursuing an opportunity because of love or fear?
I loved the job at first, but after six months I felt myself slipping again. Falling into negative thought patterns, searching for love from people instead of myself. That feeling of emptiness and discomfort just hovered constantly. I became what many would call mentally ill. This took me to 4 months of therapy. Technically it was called partial hospitalization. I had a lot to work through and this was the perfect place. They were very heavy on exposure therapy and mindfulness. Yet again, the holistic world began to transform my life. All the while I was infrequently practicing but craving more, ignoring my intuition. After the conclusion of the program, I decided to move back to Kansas City to spring into a fresh start. I took a job at a non-profit working with kids who suffered from severe mental health, neglect, etc. I knew it wasn’t forever, but it was perfect for now. Though my health was at a much better place, I was encouraged by a friend to see a woman in Kansas City who was a Reiki Master.
So often we are using our bodies merely to transport our brains from one place to the next. It is imperative that we explore the most beautiful instrument that we poses: our body.
Reiki… that is a weird word. How do you even pronounce it? It was definitely a little far-fetched. However, my friend and I have shared many seasons of life and I trust her judgment, so I went. It changed EVERYTHING. It wasn’t crazy or trippy like I expected, but cleansing and refreshing.
Reiki allows you to get out of your head by getting into it and rewiring your mental computer.
I felt like I was nudged not by my healer, but by myself to pursue what I have always been drawn to: healing and connection. When I help others heal themselves, they in turn heal me. It finally hit me that I could literally do whatever I wanted with my life. I felt permission from the confidence and myself to do so. After the first session, I was in deep. I rapidly began seeing signs that this was my path: helping others develop themselves, healing through touch, moving our bodies, creativity. And ever since then it has just snowballed.
A few different descriptions of Reiki…
Reiki is a Japanese stress reduction technique that promotes the body’s relaxation response & natural healing ability. Reiki dissolves the illusions of fear and empowers your soul to reveal your loving and authentic truth. Filling your entire being with love and peace so that you may overcome obstacles.
Reiki is a healing technique based on the principle that the therapist can channel energy into the patient by means of touch, to activate the natural healing processes of the patient’s body and restore physical and emotional well-being.
Reiki is an energy healing method that is done by placing the hands in a series of postures over or slightly above the body. Ex: when someone gives you a hug, oxytocin levels increase and serotonin increases. Intentional safe touch. Very similar to the chemical brain response when Reiki is administered.
All of my Reiki certifications, picking up yoga classes, working with clients, and doing what I love. It has all come full circle. I now teach an average of 15 yoga classes a week (including privates), attune Reiki students, take a small amount of individuals on a 3 month journey of personal development, and hold healing sessions. I am off the mental health medication that I was told I would be on until the day I die. I sleep through the night. I am not scared to be alone in my head. Most importantly, I feel purposeful, I am connected, and I am healthy. I feel it is my duty to share with others what so drastically flipped my life upside down.
My business will bring a world with connection to life… A world not run by electronics, likes, and Photoshop. A world where your love for yourself is not determined by the love given to you by others. A world that is transparent. A world that loves each other SO HARD! A world built on relationships, love, and light. Expressing light, discovering light, and seeing the light in each other.
I am standing for unity, breath, self-love, deep connection, faith, freedom, creativity, and acceptance.
We are divine atoms that exploded from the stars and we all deserve to feel that way.
Cranking out content is important… I get it. But, I’ve always been dedicated to authenticity. So, when I say that sometimes it just takes a minute to get into your groove… I mean it. I typically only write when I’m feeling inspired and know that what I have to share with you is bigger than just some random musings. I want you to feel inspired, empowered and just a little more jazzed about getting out there and trying new things for yourself.
Recently I’ve been feeling very inspired by all things culture, lifestyle and art and there is no better place to wake up my brain cells and truly inspire me than Colorado.
A couple of weeks ago I made the trekk to Denver for a few days. I packed lightly and was ready to see more of what Denver had to offer. This time was different from the last, the call of the mountains was a bit louder and that landed me in some beautiful moments. One of my favorite Colorado adventures was my trip to Boulder… I fell in love with that town. Let’s just say the girl who has always had her eyes on New York miiiight just be having eyes on, well… Boulder (and that’s a big deal, y’all.)
I was lucky enough to wonder into what I think might be one of the coolest restaurants I have ever been to…. Emmerson Restaurant . I’ve been to some pretty amazing restaurants throughout Kansas City, NYC and Chicago, but Emmerson in Boulder absolutely won my heart (and my taste buds) over.
I’m now going to try to explain why…
Emmerson opened in August 2017 as a Cafe, Neo Bistro and Cocktail Bar and I must say it is all of those things and more. The craft cocktail list is extensive with vintage comic book style characters representing each drink… And just to really drive the whole “cool” argument home… There’s a fricken Mezcal cocktail called Queen of the South. You win, Emmerson.
One of the minds who helped craft all this coolness is Benjamin Foote, who was artfully preparing our cocktails for us as we chatted about tattoos, restaurants and other things life and style. I love hearing stories about how places like this started, especially when they are told by the people who cultivated them. There is a passion and joy that is all their own.
The interiors where retro meets vintage perfection with pops of light pink and a delicate mix of modern and eclectic…. Yeah yeah you know that’s my style.
Adventuring is fun, especially when you get to do it with people you love. Some of the coolest experiences I have ever had were because I let myself stumble through the randomness. Walking along Pearl Street, I had no idea where I wanted to go (other than Buffalo Exchange). I followed my senses and landed in the right place. Sometimes you have to trust the call of the mountains to guide you. When you do, you’ll end up in towns like Boulder and in spaces like the Emmerson Restaurant.
Isabella Fernandez, know as “Bella Donna” has set the bar very high for fashion models all over the Midwest and continues to grow her careerand brand on a global scale. After graduating from Stephens College in 2016, Bella pursued a career in retail and curated her own shoots which were artful, fresh and featured herself as the model. Over the past year, she has walked in New York Fashion Week and been published in Vogue Italia — all while representing some of Kansas City’s most iconic brands.
BD: Vampy Grandma. I like to wear loose clothing and be comfortable! A majority of my outfits have dark, sexy colors in them (hence the vampire part.) Wearing color is difficult but I know black will match everything. After all, if you’re going to spend money on an item, you want to know you’re going to wear it.
TSO: Why do go by the name “Bella Donna” for modeling?
BD: Bella is short for Isabella and Bella Donna, also means “beautiful woman” in Italian and “Donna” is a joke from eighth grade… So that worked out very well!
TSO: What do you do on the weekends?
BD: If I have a day off, I do things intentionally. I’m an introvert with extroverted tendencies so I always try to schedule days just for myself. I work A LOT and am always going to meetings or photo shoots. Many of my activities incorporate work in some way.
TSO: Does your work play a role in your personal style?
BD: I’ve been lucky to work (retail) for places that are very open to personal style and comfort. When it comes to life outside of modeling, I just want to be comfortable. I don’t want to have to worry about anything.
TSO: What’s your favorite item in your closet?
BD: Dresses are my go-to as the weather gets warmer, but my vintage denim jacket with faux fur cuffs is definitely my favorite! Although my style doesn’t always reflect it, I love 70s aesthetic. If I had all the money in the world, those are the items I would buy.
TSO: What brands you are passionate about?
BD: I love Reformation and their message. Sustainability is key. I was raised in a very environmentally conscious household so I like to thrift. I’m constantly changing up the items in my closet. When I need something new and funky, I hit up Arizona Trading Company in Westport or Rivermarket Antiques.
TSO: What is your favorite food?
BD: Cheese and hotdogs. I lived in Chicago for two and a half months and had a goal to try to eat 50 Chicago dogs. I consumed about 27 hot dogs in 54 days… I was basically eating hotdogs every other day.
TSO: I can imagine you’re busy all the time, but what does your ideal day off look like?
BD: Being at home, enjoying breakfast, organizing my space mentally and physically and going to the gym. Then the rest of the day would be spent doing nothing. I strive for stillness.
TSO: So are you basically always working?
BD: No, but I do model for things like figure drawing classes, which help strengthen certain aspects of my nude modeling. It’s actually very relaxing. I do hang with my friends! [laughs]
TSO: What do you want people to know about you?
BD: My education and what I learned in the classrooms of Stephens College really shaped who I am today. My education made me stronger and it made me not take any shit. They taught us that there will be times when you’re not going to feel empowered and people will try to walk all over you… They gave me the tools I needed to fight the bad guys.
TSO: What did you want to be when you were little?
BD:[laughing] A garbage man!
TSO: That’s a little different from what you’re doing now…
BD: Honestly, I’m very happy with my career, but I’m always fighting for more. I want to continue to inspire others even after I’m finished modeling.
Bella has recently taken her career to the next level by launching her model consulting and coaching business and hopes to one day start an agency of her own.
BD: My favorite holiday is Halloween and I love Harry Potter. I wanted something with my name in it, so it was perfect.
Regardless of whether Bella learned her tricks inside the classroom at Stephens College or in front of the camera during her extensive modeling career, she is an inspiration, a role model and a TSO Creative Cultivator.
And I must say… I agree with them. My mother is my muse.
I often recreate and reincorporate my mothers iconic 1970s fashion pieces into a majority of my looks. I’m obsessed with the items she wore while engulfed in the beauty of that era. Because of her, I’ve learned to love quality pieces over quantity and respect the idea that when it comes to statement pieces and accessories, sometimes less is more. This chamois jacket was purchased at a North Beach boutique in SF in 1974.
In addition to what some of the worlds most famous designers had to say about their mothers, I asked a few women how they would define their mothers style…
“My mom is my role model and the main reason I have the style I have today. She’s trendy, inspiring and cool. This Easter she picked out my jumpsuit and I’m in love with it.” – Fashion Model, Braydie Elliott
Our mothers have shown us some of the most classic styles and inspired our aesthetics. Aside from being graceful, classy and timeless, my mother taught me that one of the best ways to express myself or my feelings was through the outfits I wore.
Leslie Casterman Cates // Mama of The Style Operandi
Some of my most beloved accessories were passed down to me from my mother and grandmothers. Often I mimic my mothers love of Southwest styles and colors into my outfits. From Native American jewelry to concho belts and turquoise… These are some of my staple pieces.
South of Truman… Also known as SoT — A tasteful and artsy cocktail bar located in Downtown KC. It’s one of my favorite spots in KC and I’ll tell you why. Rarely do I find a gin cocktail that I can happily sip, and I’ve defiantly NEVER found one to match my personal style. I’ve been disappointed at some cocktail bars in KC recently because I feel they lack consistency and continuity. At SoT, I’m not just getting a delicious drink… I know I’ll receive an incredible experience.
As you all know, I’m no doctor… But I do feel that I can be a reference for people to go to when it comes to certain situations. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a tricky beast, especially for people who already suffer from depression. Although my SAD is not as intense as some others and occurs more in the spring than it does during winter, it still affects my day-to-day… Particularly whenever the seasons are lingering in the air. Lately, we’ve had days where the snow has suffocated newly sprouted flowers… And just picturing that makes me feel hopeless. However, I do feel as though I’ve found some tips and tricks on how to cope with SAD and depression in general.
The Style Operandi is all about sharing and celebrating the journey that others are on… I’m here to help facilitate those stories. However, sometimes you just let people take the reins. So, here’s Maggie… Our featured femme fatale.
Prince said something I think of often…
“Cool means being able to hang with yourself. All you have to ask yourself is ‘Is there anybody I’m afraid of? Is there anybody who if I walked into a room and saw, I’d get nervous?’ If not, then you’re cool.”
Style is the cool elixir. It’s social armor. If you’re feeling your fit, nobody can intimidate you. How I dress is no different, and it’s funny how we even got here. My style is the surprise result of adapting to life’s curveballs. I know- it sounds weird… But it’s true. It’s odd to realize that the whimsy I crave in clothing is seemingly the direct result of a former darkness.
I used to wear all black- entire outfits, and black hair to match. I took myself so seriously. I hated my body. I had zero concept of self love. You know how they say “what’s bad for your heart is good for your art”? That’s true. I have to credit heartbreak a little- I had my feelings hurt badly and just COULD NOT live any longer in my body as I knew it, and that included what I was wearing (we almost had to throw the whole Maggie away, lol).
A remodel was coming and it wasn’t for anyone else. I knew I had changed inside and the outside had to reflect that change. I wanted to feel lightness instead of the heavy dark I’d been used to, I began craving color. My taste in music changed. I had to shed my old skin I’d lived in too long in.
For the first time I felt truly alive in more revealing cuts, in pastels, in sparkles, and just about anything with a sense of humor.
I find the purest joy in festival wear because it allows me to see MYSELF how I feel internally. Y’all, what a feeling! People think I’m extra but I just feel blah any other way.
Hair… Curly, Straight, Wavy, Fine… Our hair plays an integral part in who we are and can even help us define our personal style. When you see someone with curly, bouncy hair, sometimes they even have personality traits to accompany it. Pink hair is daring, straight hair is controlled… The list could go on.
When it comes to her style inspiration, she follows some of her favorite bloggers & Youtubers… And I’m def hoping TSO is one of em! I just officially launched my Youtube channel where I’ll be sharing beauty and styling tips will y’all and I’m s t o k e d. But back to my girl Vanessa. She could spend hours on Youtube watching clothing hauls & getting style ideas and inspo.
Some of her favorite ladies on Instagram are Tess Christine and Olivia Jade. Her go to fall and winter outfits include lots of black and warm colors, but when summer rolls around, she loves bright girly attire.
“I always go to the sale section first at any website I go to for clothes, I’m a college girl on a budget! I love to dress up but you’ll definitely find me lounging around in a comfy shirt and shorts when I’m at home or studying.”
I’m loving her girly vibes mixed with sophisticated edge. Plus, she’s always adding amazing accessories and casual elements.