Summer: The Season for Inspiration, Creation, and Escapism

Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of summer, a time of lingering evenings spent dining al fresco, filmy tops and dresses that catch a breeze, and picturesque locations on the water. In my 20’s and early 30’s it was quite effortless to unfold into this hedonistic season. Somewhere around the time my children started school, summer took on an entirely different existence. I had 10 weeks to fill with activities, play dates, and carve in a family vacation to ward off the most offensive summertime phrase a parent can hear…”I’m bored.”

As my children get older, the DNA is finally settling and proving they are indeed my offspring as they relish in the same unplanned existence I enjoy. There is something about summer that allows us to open ourselves up to a different version of ourselves. Perhaps it’s a longing for someone we innately desire to be and have the time to experiment with our alter ego.

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About a month ago, my hair stylist, Marcella, shared her newest obsession with me, “The Night Manager,” a British-American television miniseries based on the 1993 novel of the same name by John le Carré. We often exchange our most current inspirations regarding style and beauty, so Marcella’s encouragement to delve into this world of intoxicating espionage, beautiful people, and off-the-hook style did not fall on deaf ears. The other tidbit of intrigue was that Marcella, the woman who I’ve trusted with my hair for two decades, had a girl crush on the main character that centered on a haircut. Upon hearing this, “The Night Manager” had just become a priority.

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Sometimes the hype is more than what the reality can provide. This is not the case here. The characters are alluringly sexy, the backdrop of exotic locations provide unadulterated escapism, and the clothing is romantic minimalism at its finest. I was hooked and enjoying the scenery on all accounts (and now have a new appreciation of Tom Hiddleston).

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Somewhere between episodes 2 and 3 however, I realized what I could no longer ignore. The female character, Jed, felt undeniably familiar in some respect.  This happens to me quite often and has become a key technique in my styling business. I start channeling looks to people I know.

This is where the idea was born for this post:

1) I’ve always yearned to be a wardrobe stylist for movies and television.

2) The dress is very reminiscent of the TSALT custom collection.

3) I had just the person in mind to step into the role of Jed, giving me a way to tie in escapisminspiration and creating custom clothing.

Wheels turning…

First, I proposed my idea to Tamara, requiring we make one of the stunning gowns from “The Night Manager.” Although she had not seen the show (it’s now on her short list), I sent her some screen shots and she immediately agreed that these were in complete alignment with her custom collection of bias cut gowns and dresses. Rebecca had already developed a similar dress pattern for a Madeira graduate that could be somewhat easily adapted into one of my favorites.

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Now, I needed to contact my muse…

Alicia and Courtney

Jed is played by the stunningly beautiful (and impressively tall at 6’3”) Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Alexandria’s own Courtney Cox. I texted in a favor to Courtney with very little information except that I wanted to style her for a Stylebook post. She graciously agreed but was going out of town so we didn’t have an opportunity to take exact measurements. I showed Rebecca a photograph, stood in for Courtney for some baseline measurements, and within two days there was the most sublime gown in a soft champagne. Having worked with Courtney another time for her spread in Washingtonian Mom magazine, I was certain beyond a shadow of a doubt the color would work for her. A few modifications were made in order to create a TSALT original inspired by the show.

So often we see something in a movie or television show and spend way too much time and energy searching and trying to find the exact item only to find it really didn’t work for our shape or wasn’t offered in a flattering color. Choosing custom can be an ideal way to bring your ideas and inspiration to the table and secure the result that works best for all that is unique to you. We arranged for Courtney to come in for the one and only fitting and concluded it fit to near perfection. In fact, a client was in TSALT and became smitten with the dress upon seeing it on her proving that some clothing really needs to be in motion to be fully understood.

Next I contacted Annie Leibovitz and Pat McGrath, aka Alexandria Stylebook’s own Sarah Marcella Hallee and master of makeup, Elizabeth Whitcomb. Everyone was amped up and excited to participate on my little project except my final participant, the weather. However, waiting out the rain allowed me to finish the final episode of “The Night Manager” on the night before the shoot and conclude that this was definitely worth navigating the details. In many ways I was living out my dream of being a movie stylist.  The budget was a little tight and flights to Majorca were booked so we opted for the next best location for our shoot…the Jones Point Lighthouse.

With our TSALT summer intern Zoe at my side, we met Courtney at Bellacara where Elizabeth took her look into a new and exciting place as all of us decided Tom Hiddleston could easily become our guilty pleasure. We loaded up on as much mascara that Courtney’s delicate features could handle and explored the wonderful world of lip color, as that was all I felt was needed in the way of an accent to her natural beauty (both Courtney and Jed). Slowly the lines became blurred as to where Courtney ended and Jed began to take form.

At some point I should mention a leap of faith I took with Courtney. As a stylist, I often find tantalizing solutions that I would love to own for myself…clothing, accessories, and yes, even a haircut. I was as charmed by the look as Marcella was however, not all things work for everyone. Yet when I see an idea that works so perfectly for someone, I want nothing more than for them to consider it. The night before the shoot, I texted Courtney a picture of The Haircut with only, “Your new summer coif!” At the risk of overstepping boundaries, I was encouraging her to CUT HER HAIR! Who in the world did I think I was??  And as though it was no big deal, Courtney responded, “I love it!”

So before you get excited, we did NOT cut her hair for the shoot. We did pull it up giving it the feel of a shorter cut.  Don’t be surprised though, if you see this young mother of two, footloose and fancy-free this summer rockin’ her locks short. She thanked me for putting the idea in front of her and reflected how often times we are too busy to see ourselves in any other light than the status quo, thus falling into a rut. This haircut would offer her an ease and modern approach to her already effortless style. If anyone knows the precious aspect of time and the benefits of opening yourself up to finding ways to create more hours in the day with the people you love, it’s this inspiring woman.

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For Courtney’s first quintessential “Jed” look, I chose the black silk slip dress. This is pure, understated luxury, and still trending so strong from last summer. The kimono is from my own closet but was the perfect finish to this ensemble. I had given Elizabeth some direction with photos of Jed from “The Night Manager.” The true professional can find the perfect bridge, allowing a new incarnation of a character while still being mindful of a palette that works for Courtney’s skin tone. The interesting part of this was Courtney does not typically wear a lot of color in her clothing or her makeup. I borrowed the minimalistic choker from our neighbors at Mystique. This felt youthful with a brush of edgy and satisfied exactly what I was attempting to create. I had thought about shoes but reconsidered once on location. For those who are interested, I chose the Belcaro by Rachel Zoe, a black lace slide keeping the look more casual with an unexpected flat, available at The Shoe Hive.

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Dress, TSALT Custom Collection Slip Dress with adjustable straps; Necklace, Mystique Jewelers.

Dress, TSALT Custom Collection Slip Dress with adjustable straps; Necklace, Mystique Jewelers.

Of the two looks, this one feels closest to how we know her but be prepared as we are about to push the envelope and go into some unchartered territory…bright lipstick! The lip color is way out of her wheelhouse and know how difficult it can be to go where no color has gone before!  I kept reminding her that she was not Courtney…she was Jed.

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Complete disclosure, Courtney was more than a willing participant; she went above and beyond as we walked through mud and navigated ever so carefully over rocks. Sarah also surpassed my expectations for this idea, having not only the enthusiasm but great instinctual insights. I had no hesitancy handing her the reigns in order to create the mood. Needless to say, the photography is impressive and captured my every desire for this shoot.

The dress has a natural ease about it that moves with you — as though you’re moving in slow motion with a light mist following your every choice of direction. It also has an innate ability to disguise any number of flaws — none of which are seen here — let’s be clear.

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The necklace is a minimalistic gold lariat from Mystique. Again, we shot barefoot but had a chosen a shoe here, it would be the Bernardo Moon Jelly from The Shoe Hive.

I want to thank everyone who made this shoot possible. Clearly, we had some fun and anticipate the joys of summer! So as you set out to enjoy your holiday weekend and kickstart your summer of hedonism, I’ll continue to color outside the lines and encourage you to do the following…

1) Find one or two ways to simplify your life that will offer you the priceless commodity of time.

2) Take a risk — whether with your hair, makeup, or a new style of clothing — and explore some unchartered territory with a little whimsy and delight.

3) Watch “The Night Manager”!!

Be on the lookout for Part 2 of this post where Tamara and I will break down the process of custom clothing. It’s not as intimidating as you may think.

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  • The latest from Alicia

Alicia was born and raised in Alexandria, and married a local boy. She is happily married and the mother of two amazing children and one adorable and terribly smart border terrier named Dixie. Alicia has always known she was a creative. She collected editions of Vogue from junior high on and has always loved clothing and design. She studied interior design at VCU and parlayed that degree into commercial interior design, the web design, and ultimately found herself managing a local boutique and serving as a stylist to many Alexandrian women. She now has a successful full-time styling business, The Tulle Box, and makes it her business to make her clients feel great about themselves and the way they look.


  1. Elizabeth Moon says:

    I’m distraught that The Night Manager is over! How will I live without my Jonathan Pine fix? The clothes and location were amazing. Truly a great, thrilling television escape. Thanks for the story and the suggestions.

  2. katherine says:

    I love the black slip — available? If so, fabric content? Bias cut? Price?

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