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Late last November, while reading several different blog posts about the upcoming holidays, I had an overwhelming moment when I realized the season’s “must-have” items in the various posts would cost well over $2500. A dress. A pair of heels. A jacket. And a handbag. $2500. Uh, no thanks.

The consistency of the posts noting the must-haves combined with the euphoria felt wearing the item noted by each blogger made me feel like what I had wasn’t enough. And that very moment is not like me at all. I am proud for every struggle and every accomplishment I have made over the years. I’m a smart and confident woman. I have an amazing family and loyal urban tribe of friends. As for my body image, like many others I’ve had my fair share of struggle, but overall I’m so proud my body was able to create two healthy babies. And when it comes to fashion, I’m aware of trends and have a certain willingness to step outside my own comfort zone. I also know the importance to dress and style within my means, being true to myself.

That day though, while looking at those posts, I felt like the “every woman” – my sisters in arms – had been forgotten. I wanted to see something else included in those posts. I wanted to see how to create the style shown from my own wardrobe – or at the very least see one option footnoted that wouldn’t break the bank. I wanted to feel what I was on the inside was valued more than what I would I wear at a party. I wanted to see a woman – an every woman – looking beautifully confident in something she didn’t have to max her credit card or dig into savings to purchase. I wanted to see something based in reality, not something just floating around in a fantasy. (In the same breath, yes, I know blogging is about creating a mini-escape, but that’s another topic for another day).

After mulling it over I called a few friends: Wendy, owner of Style by Wendy; Taylor, owner of Taylor Gage Photography; and Dana and Michelle, co-owners of Domino Beauty Boutique. I told them about my moment and asked if we might be able to do a project together. After putting our heads together, we came up with an idea of doing a photo shoot with women, our friends and clients, to honor the confidence and beauty in every woman. As for the venue, I realized my “other” office would be the perfect backdrop: the Women’s University Club often serves as a meeting place with clients and thanks to a few quiet spaces, I often work there.

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With Wendy at the photo shoot. By the way, talk about high-low fashion: the striped skirt I’m wearing is paired with a basic, white tank-top. I grabbed the jacket to ward off the AC’s chill.

It was important the outfits Wendy styled would be put together by looking in each model’s closet because that’s the reality we all face daily. Showing a great, yet functional and budget friendly outfit from an accessible store was paramount as well.

After receiving Wendy’s notes about a specific piece from each model’s outfit, I wanted to make sure options were available. This way if you loved the featured piece, there wasn’t just one link but options were available.

Our main goal was Love Your Look would serve as inspiration. Maybe you have a striking red skirt that hasn’t seen the light of day for months (or years!), but when it’s on, you feel like a million bucks. We say get that skirt on! Add a favorite black or white tee, jean jacket, and top it off with great earrings. Who doesn’t love the high-low takeover?!

By the way, if you ever need a boost of daily wardrobe creativity, I highly encourage you to check out Dean Street Society’s monthly Style Me Closet Challenge. It’s a favorite of mine for serving up closet inspiration.

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Amy having her hair and make-up done by Jamie, stylist at Domino Beauty Boutique. The hair and make up had to pass the reality check; no one was overdone because we wanted to highlight the natural beauty of each model.

And now for the giveaway: $150 Visa gift card! We want to hear from you! In the comment section below, please tell us about a favorite item you currently own or something you’d love to get with the gift card – and most importantly, why. Does it make you feel beautiful? Does it instill a sense of confidence? Will it play well with other pieces you already own? Will it highlight a favorite body part? Are you trying to spice things up for date night?

Entries need to be received by 9pm PT, Friday, September 12, 2014. If you wish to enter on Instagram to show us the item or outfit, please use the hashtags #LoveYourLook and #BodyPositive; and tag @sparrowsoirees, @dominobeautysea, @taylorgageolcott, and @stylebywendy so we can see your entry easily! And yes, we’d love it if you followed us too!

Just a small request: entries should be realistic and safe for all eyes to read – or see (my Grandma reads this!). While I know many lovely ladies still love their wedding gown, it’s not exactly something you’d wear at work, running errands or meeting up with ladies for brunch. *wink*

The winner will receive the gift card to use as you wish, but we secretly hope it will be for yourself. Maybe to purchase the item you used as your entry. Maybe it’s for fresh haircut. Maybe you want to walk more to feel healthier and need a new pair of sneakers to kick off your new routine. There are so many possibilities. Good luck!

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who entered! The giveaway is closed!

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On behalf of the Love Your Look partners, we hope you enjoyed this series. We wanted to show our models, these amazing women, empowered and confident. We wanted to show beauty inside and out. We wanted to show women loving their look. Thank you for being a part of it.

Love Your Look Posts: Michelle (purple skirt) // Amy (patterned skirt) // Lina (yellow crossbody bag) // Dana (red leather jacket)

Love Your Look Partners: photography: Taylor Olcott, Taylor Gage Photography // stylist: Wendy Peterson, Style by Wendy // hair & make-up: Jamie Strube, Domino Beauty Boutique // location: Women’s University Club // creative: Asia Rau Vinton, Sparrow Soirées

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