Friday, January 27, 2012

Technology with a heart

Art collectors and those passionate about United Family Services' mission of helping victims of domestic violence have made the nonprofit's signature fundraiser, the annual Art With Heart Auction, a must-attend event.

If you want to support the cause and mingle with Charlotte's best amid a truly amazing offering of art, it's Feb. 4 at Founders Hall, 100 N. Tryon St. in the Bank of America headquarters. The featured artists - all represented by Allison Sprock Fine Art - are Anne Neilson, Felice Sharp, Gee Gee Collins, Kathy Wochele, Louis St. Lewis, Margaret Dyer, Roman Chatov and Tracy Sharp.

Tickets are $100 per person; Patron level tickets are $200 per person. Tickets can be ordered online at; by calling 704-367-2799; or at the door.

New this year is a technological twist that event chairs Hillary Lacouture and Katherine Daly are hoping will make the evening even more successful: a new gadget called BidPal.

When guests enter, they'll receive a BidPal, an electronic device that resembles an iPod-Touch. It will have all the photos of art loaded onto it, plus information about the artist, and will literally do your bidding for you after you enter some information including the maximum amount you're willing to pay for the work of art you want. The gadget came highly recommended by organizers of a fundraiser at the N.C. Museum of Art who used it recently and saw a significant increase in bidding.

Here's how it works: During the silent auction, instead of having to write your name on a piece of paper underneath the work you have your eye on - and keep coming back to make sure no one has outbid you - you can do it on the BidPal from anywhere at the party and receive updates on the status of the items you bid on. It's really a genius idea. I know there have been times when I have bid on a silent auction item the old-fashioned way, then I got lost in a conversation and lost out on the item I wanted. This way, BidPal will update you on the status of the art up for grabs, plus it will be a fun icebreaker with other guests.

Here's a picture from another gala courtesy of so you can get a general idea of what it looks like:

The live auction will be held in the traditional manner because there's no way a gadget can replace the excitement and immediacy of that portion of the evening. But for the silent auction it's perfect - especially since it means no long check-out lines at the end of the evening.

According to research, BidPal can increase bids by 20 to 80 percent. Every dollar is crucial to United Family Services right now as it builds a larger shelter to house victims of domestic violence in our community and their children while expanding the services offered them so they can rebuild their lives. Ground has broken on the project, and $8.3 million of the $10 million needed has been raised, so funds from this year's Art with Heart are especially crucial.

Domestic violence affects every strata of society - from those in million dollar homes to families struggling financially - and people forget that men can be victims, too, although most are women. Previously, victims could only be given refuge at United Family Services' shelter for 30 days before they had to move because of space reasons. With the new enlarged shelter and expanded programs, they'll be able to stay for a year and their children will receive even more help in hopes of breaking the cycle of domestic violence.

Whether you love art, you love the cause or you just love a great party - supporting the event by attending will truly make a difference.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Arlene Goldstein says Spring fashions will dazzle and delight

Arlene Goldstein, vice president of Trend Merchandising and Fashion Direction for Charlotte-based Belk department stores, was right on trend, naturally, during a recent Spring fashion presentation for members of the media held at Belk at SouthPark mall.

She was giddy with excitement over the upcoming season, and that attitude of optimism and happiness is the overarching theme that consumers will see reflected in stores. "Spring fashions will dazzle and delight," she told her style-obsessed audience.

Among the biggest trends she talked about were the continuing influence of the 1970s. Whether it's bohemian chic or Studio 54 glamour, it's the decade that continues to inspire designers.

Another is a vintage lace look and classic American preppy style, both of which are reflections of the ladylike trend that is mercifully making a comeback.

My favorite is what Goldstein calls "color hype," which are bright colors, especially if worn in unexpected combinations. She let her lips do the talking by wearing an almost neon shade of Mac lipstick called Morange (as in More Orange) that was both cutting edge and elegant.

Citing research from Pantone, the ultimate source of color trends, she says the color for Spring clothes is coral. Whatever color appeals to you, she's thrilled because it fits with Belk's new tagline: Modern. Southern. Style. "The Southern state of mind is synonymous with color," she said.

Here are five more of Goldstein's thoughts that I found inspiring:

1. When we see new trends, it sometimes takes our minds awhile to adjust. Don't write off a new look right away until you let it percolate in your brain for awhile.

2. It's a season of options. One day, you may want to wear a shorter skirt, the next you may want to go for a maxi dress. (Maxi dresses will continue to be a big trend but the newest versions have a sleeker silhouette that Goldstein says will broaden their appeal from barbecues on the weekend to be something you can wear to work.)

3. Showing the shoulders or other subtle ways to be sexy are much more appealing than revealing too much skin.

4. Neutral colored shoes are still fresh and can be worn even with black. A neutral wedge is the shoe of the season.

5. Although skinny jeans are still in, the wide leg pant is going to be "big."

Whatever items you choose to buy to update your wardrobe, heed these final words of wisdom from Goldstein: "Boring is not an option!"

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Want to be a Glam-ma?

I'm not a Glam-ma (a glamorous grandmother), but I sure do want to look and act like one.

For a Style section story coming out in tomorrow's paper, I profiled three of them (Joan Zimmerman, Dee Dixon and Liz Hilliard) and included tips from style expert Marcia Simon, another Glam-ma.

After talking to these vibrant women, and observing many other Glam-mas, I found five things they all have in common that can inspire women of any age to live their lives to its fullest potential - and look fabulous in the process.

1.Glam-mas love to exercise. Seriously. How they exercise is different (Pilates, yoga, spinning classes and walking are a few examples), but whatever it is they've found what works for them and they all sincerely enjoy the way exercise makes them feel.

2. Glam-mas care about what they eat. The take a genuine pleasure in fueling their bodies with food that is healthy and delicious.

3. Glam-mas are minimalists. They know what works for them and they've streamlined their look. They've found an easy hairstyle that fits their lifestyle and they wear minimal makeup.

4. Glam-mas have learned which clothing styles look best on their figures. They never look dowdy, in fact they love to update their wardrobes with sophisticated takes on current trends, but they are keenly aware of what is appropriate for their age. Because they are so fit, they can wear clothes at many different price points, and they do, but they all have learned that investing in quality pieces is also key.

5. Glam-mas are vibrant members of their communities who have loving, giving spirits. That is truly what makes them so beautiful - an inner joy that manifests itself in their outward appearance - and big hearts that care not only about their families but the health and happiness of others.

Glam-mas want to be healthy and look their best so they can enjoy their grandchildren, and hopefully great grandchildren, for years to come. But it is their beautiful spirits that will be their lasting legacy to their families for generations to come.