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Middleton Place Plantation

To get a full feel and appreciation for the history of Charleston, Emily and I ventured out of the city to explore two gorgeous plantations. The first was Middleton Place. Middleton Place was a stunning eighteenth century plantation whose original design was inspired by French Chateaus and the gardens of Versailles. Visiting the grounds you feel as if you have stepped back in time, they even have adorable sheep grazing the property.

We were excited to tour the surviving portion of the residential plantain. But my excitement quickly turned to dismay as the tour progressed. You see, our docent slowly took us through the house detailing every portrait, piece of furniture, piece of silver, and trinket of the Middleton family. As a historian, I get especially angry when people make history so boring. I am not sure how they do it. History is so interesting and there is a reason people love historical dramas and the idea of time travel -- the sex, power, and politics of the past are both completely relatable and strange and unfamiliar all at the same time. I wanted to raise my hand on the tour and say, "no one cares about that breakfast table, why don't we discuss the politics, racism, and issues of class and gender that fueled the economy and culture of this plantation?" It is not that the Middleton family shouldn't be the subject of historical investigation, it is just that history has been there and done that. A much more fascinating story would be the human story of the greed, power, class tension, misogyny, negotiation, conflict, and coercion of the southern plantation system.

I am not sure why people think slavery is only a topic of African American history. It is U.S. history, and it is world history. More enslaved West Americans lived, died, and worked at that plantation than the Middletons and without extreme coerced labor, transforming cypress swamps into rice plantations would have never been a viable or profitable enterprise. Plantations, Charleston, southern cities more generally, and the cultures and traditions that developed from these were intimately connected to slavery. I think it is a shame and a disservice to present a white-washed narrative of a such a complex period of American history.

But did I mention the grounds are lovely? Sorry for this historical rant!


Ashley B
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Southern Charm

Borrowing from the boys, the shirtdress interprets the crisp fabric, button details, cuffs, and collar of a man's dress shirt in a feminine dress silhouette. It is a classic piece that has been fashionable since the 1950's. Today's versions, however, come in all sorts of styles, from fitted and feminine to slouchy and casual. You can never go wrong with a great shirtdress.

The key to a great shirtdress has always been the quality of the shirting material. Too thin and it lacks shape and gapes, too thick and it can add unnecessary weight. While I love a great shirtdress, as a busty girl, finding a well-fitting shirtdress (or button up shirt for that matter) has never been easy.

When Lauren James reached out and asked if I wanted to try their signature shirtdress, I was hesitant, but hopeful. I was so pleasantly surprised when I received my perfectly-pink shirtdress. I sized up to a medium to accommodate my chest, but the wide tie at the waist means you can easily cinch any extra fabric at the waist. This fun bow detail can be tied in the front or back. In addition to a great cut, the fabric is the perfect weight. It has just enough body to flatter your figure without adding bulk. Oh, and did I mention there are pockets! That always seals the deal for me.

Lauren James's adorable shirtdresses come in lots of fun colors and even seersucker. I thought my pink version would be perfect for my trip to Charleston, and I was right! I am not sure which is more charming, this dress or Charleston. And when I saw the amazing (and historic) pink Mills House Hotel, I knew it was kismet. We must have taken a thousand photos of the Mills House. So many that the door man started offering recommendations on photo locations in and around the hotel. That is how we ended up on the historic terrace (fun fact both Robert E. Lee and Theodore Roosevelt stayed there).

While the shirtdress will never go out of style, it is especially trendy this season. I think we will be seeing a lot more shirt dresses all spring and into summer. I have rounded up some of my current favorite shirtdresses below!

c/o Lauren James Dress // J.McLaughlin bag (similar) // wedges // hat // sunnies (old)



Ashley B
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The Perfect Gingham Dress

I have a huge soft spot for gingham. I love it and own way too much. But, that did not stop me from purchasing this dress. Of all my gingham purchases, this one takes the cake. Not only is it the perfect navy check, but it is the cutest and most flattering spring/summer dress. I apologize in advance for how much you will see this dress on me this summer!

At first, I wasn't sure if I could pull of this midi length, but the trumpet cut and cinched waist gives you plenty of length. And just to be safe, I paired it with my favorite wedges for a bit of height. I purchased these wedges last year and they quickly became a favorite. They are super comfy and go with basically everything. Fortunately, J.Crew has released them again this year. Be weary though, that the Factory version is not nearly as comfortable (maybe it is the cheaper fabric they are using?).

I wore this sweet spring look for a morning stroll around Mount Pleasant - a neighborhood that is as idyllic as this dress. It was still chilly so I threw on the only cardigan I packed. Fortunately, you cannot go wrong with pink and navy.

Another piece of this outfit I love is the wicker bag. Wicker bags are huge this spring, and this one is just the cutest and it is gingham lined (I also love this one)! Sadly, it is no longer available online. But I checked with the J.McLaughlin store I purchased from and the company has plenty, you just have to visit in store or call to order.

Looking at these pictures makes me long to be back in Charleston. It was such a fun trip and I have been stuck inside all weekend writing a paper for a conference I am attending later this week (yes, I should have started writing sooner). Exploring Charleston definitely trumps paper writing. But, at least my conference is in Chicago and I get to explore a new city!

Ashley B
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Sullivan's Island & Mount Pleasant

When planning our spring break trip, Emily and I decided that we wanted to make an effort to see more than just historic downtown Charleston. So, we decided to explore the surrounding neighborhoods of Mount Pleasant and Sullivan's Island. We also headed north to explore a couple historic plantations, but more on that next week.

Sullivan's Island and Mount Pleasant are idyllic places that look more like a movie set than real life. In fact, much of The Notebook was filmed in these two locations. Everywhere we turned we felt like we were in a Nicolas Sparks novel.

We started our morning on Sullivan's Island. As west-coast Floridians, we are accustomed to sunsets at the beach, but this was the chance to appreciate a sunrise. Unfortunately, our ambitious plans were thwarted by the time change and a crazy cold snap. We still arrived early, but had to endure freezing temps. No seriously, it was 32 degrees! Neither of us had packed appropriately. Emily was walking around in a sundress and sandals. I had at least packed this adorable yellow ruffle sweater and sailor jeans (size down in these jeans, they stretch a ton). I could see the jealously in Emily's eyes in between shivers!

ruffle sweater // sailor jeans // J.McLaughlin bag (available in store, and similar here) // wedges

We only lasted about an hour on the beach before we ran back to the car and headed towards Mount Pleasant. Mount Pleasant was definitely my favorite area (technically it is a town). It is beyond cute and charming. We strolled the picture perfect neighborhood, picking which picket-fenced, pastel house we wanted before heading to the main street for a little boutique shopping and coffee.

After such a picturesque morning, Emily and I headed back towards Charleston to meet our fabulous friends Louis and English for lunch at The Park Cafe (you can check out all of the fabulous places we ate here). After lunch we returned to historic downtown Charleston, since there is so much to see and do there. But, I am happy we took the time to see some of the gorgeous surrounding areas.


Ashley B
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Charming Charleston

Y'all, I am completely charmed by Charleston. Every step I took and every corner I turned I was stopped in my tracks and struck by the city's beauty, history, and charm. The only other city that stops me in my tracks like this is Paris. I know it seems like a weird comparison, but Charleston reminded me of Paris in many ways. Very few cities are so consistently beautiful and aesthetically pleasing.

Originally settled in 1562 (by a Frenchman) and then resettled in 1670 (by the English), Charles Town (as it was then known) is one of the oldest and most important cities in American history. Not only was it the first successful English city in the south, it was the fourth largest colonial city, not to mention the wealthiest. Needless to say, American history is alive and well in Charleston. Furthermore, despite being the birthplace of secessionism, Charleston (along with Savanah and New Orleans) was one of the few southern cities that was not burned by General Sherman. So the city not only offers interesting colonial history, but a rare glimpse into the antebellum south.

Last minute, Emily and I decided to head to Charleston for spring break. Neither of us had made any real plans for our week off. With my summer abroad fast approaching and a conference in Chicago in a week and a half, I couldn't afford a big trip or anything out of the country. Since Charleston is only a 6.5 hour drive from Tampa, we decided why not?!

As it turns out, our timing was perfect. We arrived just at the beginning of Charleston Fashion week, which was super fun and also meant that there was a lot going on in the city. Weather wise we were less lucky. It was so freaking cold all week! Neither of us had really packed appropriately, so we just kind of grinned and beared it. Fortunately, with each passing day temperatures rose.

Per usual, Emily and crammed as much as we could while we were in town (so brace yourself for lots of posts and pictures), most of which centered on eating (again, per usual). It seems like everyone is visiting Charleston at the moment, and with good reason. It is a charming little city with great food and lots to see and do. I thought I would share where we ate and what we saw/did.

Where we ate:
Zero George
This place is very fancy and very conceptual. Emily's stracciatella cheese was served blown up like a balloon! While Zero George offers a unique culinary experience it is not the type of place you want to show up hungry or in a rush.

The Park Cafe
Great breakfast and brunch options. I highly recommend the avocado and egg breakfast sandwich. 

Black Tap Coffee
Three words - Iced lavender latte.

Caviar and Bananas
Delish breakfast options, great quick lunch bites, and a fancy grocer all in one.

Le Farfalle
Think southern meets Italian. I loved the buckwheat pasta calcio e pepe.

Adorable bakery just off Canon.

Definitely the place to go if your looking for some comfort food.

Another great option for southern cuisine.

The Darling Oyster Bar
I think the name says it all.

The Ordinary
A great spot for drinks.

Rue de Jean
A cute but unassuming French place for when you're tired of soul food.

Poogan's Porch
Amazing weekend brunch! The mascarpone and raspberry french toast is life affirming.

What we did/saw:
Rainbow Row
A must see row of candy colored house that has become the unofficial symbol of Charleston (the pineapple is the official symbol).

The Mills House
A historic pink hotel, need I say more?

Shopping on King Street and Canon Street

The Market
The historic town market is alive and well. It offers an eclectic mix of food, souvenirs, and crafts.

Pineapple Fountain and Waterfront
Gorgeous waterfront park and from here you can walk to the battery and gawk at the stunning historic homes.

Milford Place (Plantation)
Stunning grounds and gardens (and plenty of adorable farm animals), but offers a sterile more white-washed history (but more on this later). 

McLeod Plantation
Smaller plantation than Milford, but gives a fascinating account of slavery and plantation economies.

Mount Pleasant
Absolutely gorgeous neighborhood that is well worth a stroll.

Sullivan's Island
Beautiful beach area.

I wish we had even more time in Charleston, because I am sure there is so much more to see and do. One thing is for sure, I cannot wait to return to Charleston! Please share your favorite sights and restaurants below.


Ashley B
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15 Most Instagram-able Spots in NYC

Hey y'all (can you tell I am in Charleston?), apologies for the lack of a blog post Friday. I had hoped to get this post up then, but frankly, I was having too much fun in Charleston. I finally, however, forced myself to put down the biscuits and pralines and get some blogging and photo editing done (Charleston pics coming soon)!

I am very excited to share this post. Sure, there are lots of posts out there on Instagram-able spots in NYC, but everyone's aesthetic is different and I love seeing what people think are the most photogenic spots. Not surprisingly, my picks tend to be pink and more soft and romantic than industrial. It is amazing how the same city can be interpreted in so many ways.

Gay Street

Sweets by Chloe

Pietro Nolita

While We Were Young


Top of the Rock

Central Park Bow Bridge

15 Most Instagram-able Spots in NYC:
1. Top of the Rock
2. Pietro Nolita
3. While We Were Young
4. Gay Street
5. Central Park Bow Bridge
6. The Met (Steps and the Temple of Dendur)
7. Brooklyn Bridge
8. Dumbo
9. Two Hands
10. Café Henry
11. Sweets by Chloe
12. do (pronounced dough)
13. Colorful Townhouses on Macdougal St.
14. Washington Square Park
15. Cha Cha Matcha

Ok, now it is your turn. What are your most favorite spots to Instagram in NYC?
Ashley B
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