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Lady Crush: Annie Dean and Her Elements of Style

Nandita Khanna has been our go-to style maven for quite some time. She spent years as an editor at luxe glossy magazines like Town & Country before making the move to digital (check out her blog Dress Like Nan). Every so often, Nandita will be dropping in on the blog to share her favorite fashion and beauty finds. But be forewarned! You’ll quickly find that her picks may have you saying goodbye to your latest paycheck.image

It’s not everyday that we come across a blog so utterly charming that we wish we could befriend its author—immediately. That’s exactly what happened when I stumbled upon New Yorker Annie Dean’s new lifestyle site, Elements of Style, which quietly launched over the holidays.

A scan of her most recent posts reveals a kind of modern-day Miss Manners (but a downtown one who lives on Bond Street, and wears her husband’s Rolex and J.Crew sweaters with equal aplomb). She’s the girl who knows exactly where to find the perfect housewarming gift (John Derian) and loves Paperless Post but will also tell you how to appropriately fill out an R.S.V.P card for a formal event. Did we mention her day job is as a lawyer? We checked in with Annie to learn a bit more about how she juggles a new site launch along with life as a newlywed, and just how she ended up with a Twiggy-style crop.

How did the idea for Elements of Style come about?

I was raised with a lot of little rules that I absolutely resented as a child: mandatory thank you notes, no makeup, no nail polish, no television, no pierced ears until I turned 13, polite introductions (“How do you do, Mr. and Mrs. ______”) and permission from the hostess to be excused from the dining room table.  I wore mary-janes, knee socks and jumpers to school until I was in about seventh grade (no sweatpants, no leggings and much to my supreme devastation, no Keds). 

Eventually I grew to appreciate the childhood torture. But it wasn’t until 2010 when I stayed with my grandmother while studying for the bar exam that I found a pile of etiquette books from the 1940s and saw just where all those rules had come from.  I was fascinated by them! And I knew I wanted to share them.

So tell us about your recent haircut—you had really long hair before, right?

A few months after the wedding my hair was driving me nuts! I asked my husband Peter if he would divorce me if I cut it all off. He said no. So I made an appointment the next day and made the chop. I’ve had bobs before but I just couldn’t get Twiggy out of my head.

My friends were shocked—but they all loved it! I loved it too (although I’m already growing it out) but it was really challenging in the beginning.  I used to wear a lot of boyish pieces that I made feminine with a top-knot and some red lipstick. After the haircut I had to rethink my go-to outfits. I started wearing liquid eyeliner on my top lid with tons of mascara (top lid only), and rarely left the house without earrings and a bold lip. In a way I think the short hair made me more feminine, though, because it was all about my face. Next up: center-part bob. Think I’ll be there by March? 

What’s the best beauty advice you’ve ever been given?

I have never seen my mom wear makeup.  Not even in pictures on her wedding day.  She was just natural and pretty. I love makeup, but I think having her as reference point is a reminder to keep things simple and classic. 

Tell us a bit about your own beauty regimen…

I have a very simple beauty routine: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser, Cetaphil Moisturizer, Kiehl’s Rosa Arctica Eyecream and Kiehls Crème de la Corps body moisturizer. Peter and I have a tiny bathroom so we try to overlap on a lot of products, and Kiehl’s is a great unisex(ish) line. I was never a hair product person before my pixie, but I’ve been heavily reliant on Bumble & Bumble styling creme since then.  I swear by NARS tinted moisturizer and their velvet matte lip pencils (which I probably own in every shade).  They stay on for hours and I layer to get colors just right. 

Any current fitness obsessions?

Chaise23! (The programs specialize in core workouts) Rachel Piskin & her mother Lauren started Chaise23 last year. Rachel is a former New York City Ballet ballerina so she knows what it means to be really dedicated to a healthy body.  She is so fun and a natural-born performer, so taking class with her is a blast. Her mother Lauren has more contagious energy than anyone I’ve ever met. Their new ballet bungee class is my favorite. Also, Peter is a marathoner (in 2011 he ran 150 miles in 6 days through the Sahara Desert, yikes), so his habits have rubbed off on me and I supplement days between classes with three miles runs, no more than three days a week.

You talk a lot about easy entertaining with friends. Can you share a last-minute dinner party trick with us?

Yes! We have last minute dinner guests all the time! Visitors who happen to stop over when it’s dark out are either stuck for dinner or are sent home with a meal (or at least snacks!) to go. The key is to have great pantry items. I always have pasta, rice, quinoa & cous cous on hand. Keep canned artichokes, tomatoes, beans, soup and panko crumbs in your pantry, frozen broccoli and peas in your freezer. Plus fresh parm, garlic and lemon in your fridge—and you’ll always have at least a dozen options. 

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Style mantra…

Less is more. I try to keep things simple. I like simple, classic silhouettes without too many accessories or too much makeup. Piling on a million accessories is eye-catching, but it doesn’t always come across as elegant. All you need in life is a good haircut, healthy skin and a good lipstick. 

—Nandita

Need more style picks? Don’t miss more great advice from LA-based blogger Natalie Alcala.

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