Monday, April 25, 2016

Dakota Chappy: Making the Fashion and Business World a Kinder Place

When Tori asked me if I'd be interested in writing a testimonial for the Dakota Chappy blog, I was so honored and excited about it that I realized, after reading through two days of writing, I'd Barney-Fifed it. I was endearingly and embarrassingly long-winded. There are so many aspects of Chappy, her Total Tight invention, her team of stylists, her Chappy TV production team, and her "new consciousness" business approach that I wanted to talk about that it was hard to narrow it down--because all these parts make up the cohesive whole that make Dakota Chappy the one-of-a-kind, joy-filled experience that it was, and still is, for me.

I'll start at the beginning:

As an explorer of everything new consciousness, you can imagine my delight at realizing my own little community of Minot, ND, USA, was the home of a new consciousness kind of business.

I was first introduced to Chappy Windsor and her Total Tight creation in the spring of 2014 at a ladies night event hosted by Satori Skin and Body Care in Minot. Chappy had a couple small racks of tunic style clothing and her tights to share with us. In eye-catching, one-of-a-kind, Chappy-style boots, she demonstrated the freedom of movement and versatility of her Total Tight system while whipping these darling tunics and accessories on and off over the top of it.

I purchased my first ballerina style Total Tight that evening. I was a jeans-wearing lady all my life, so even though I'd observed leggings and tights coming back in style, I still felt a bit exposed in any kind of tights. You may as well know--I'm one of those Dakota Chappy lovers whose Total Tights sat in my drawer for the first six months.

My first styling experience with Dakota Chappy:

Chappy had encouraged us to set up an appointment for a style session, and it was always in the back of my mind to do that sometime with a friend. I was intimidated by the idea of just going it alone. I was afraid of being judged, even though that's not the vibe Chappy put out that night. It seemed like an extravagance that would be easier and more fun for me to do with another.

As it turned out, that fall, Chappy moved her store to the Broadway location, which is much closer to my home; and after watching one of her videos showcasing men's merino wool shirts for Christmas presents I found my way there on my own, wearing my total tights for the first time (just in case I wanted to try on a tunic or dress while there) with a long active wear pullover.

I was greeted by cheerful Margarite and given a tour of the store. She helped me select my Christmas gifts for my husband and one of their smudge-proof, 48-hour color lipsticks.

Then Chappy arrived. I had a nephew's wedding coming up in December so I decided to ask Chappy if she had any suggestions for dresses. She asked if I liked cashmere, and would I like to try some on? I had, the winter before, finally allowed myself  to splurge on a cashmere turtleneck that I loved, so I decided to just let myself go with whatever this experience brought me.

As we chatted about my interests, like two people getting to know one another, she gave me a pair of fur boots to try out and wear for the session. Then she handed me several styles and colors of cashmere sweaters to try on. I'd self-consciously step out of the fitting room to allow her to see each sweater on me and we'd discuss what I liked or disliked about the fit and color. With each one, she'd place an accessory on me to help balance out my silhouette--I could see myself then in a whole outfit all at once, instead of trying to figure it out in my head.

When the sweaters weren't long enough to cover that cellulite area I was so haunted by, she handed me a black Circle Tight that not only covered me, but it also pizazzed up the outfit.

It turned out to be my first of many joyful shopping excursions at Dakota Chappy. I had SO much fun with her and Margarite! Chappy helped me pull together a comfortable and elegant wedding outfit consisting of a cuddly teal blue cashmere sweater and black Circle Tight over my black Total Tights, accessorized with a couple of  interesting necklaces to break up the solid block of color. I have gotten so much more wear out of it than a dress.

Later that day, as I modeled my new outfit at home for my husband, I was rewarded with a pleasing eye-pop and head nod.

Garment care:

Chappy also shared with me that day that the best way to care for my cashmere items was to hand wash them in shampoo for colored hair and to hang them up to air dry.

Most of the clothing items I own from Chappy's--from my Total Tights and Jeggings to tunics--get washed in my washing machine on the "hand-wash" setting. I hang them all up to air dry.

How the Total Tight System feels on me:

Chappy is about heart and integrity in creating a product that makes women's lives easier, more comfortable and versatile, without us having to compromise in aesthetic appeal. I'm astounded at how much she's added to and improved her line of Total Tight products in the year and a half I've followed her on Facebook. Plus, she and her team have worked tremendously hard to find the largest range in style and size of clothing possible in order to accommodate any woman or young lady who walks in that little boutique. She even developed a total tight for little girls.

Her selection of accessories, such as belts, scarves, and jewelry, is incredible! Her boot and shoe selection are expanding, too--and are to die for!

The Total Tight is so easy to pull on. It glides on and stays comfortably in place--no wedgies here! This is in stark contrast to the tussle I had a few months back while trying to put on a pair of (mistakenly bought) control-top pantyhose. I gave up after straining a back muscle just trying to stretch them wide enough to fit my big toe.

I love the simplicity of wearing an outfit consisting of two garments--my Total Tights or Total Jeggings and a tunic. It's so much easier than tugging on jeans and camis and shirts, and worrying about bulges (what Chappy calls "wardrobe fatigue"). I accessorize with a belt, scarf or necklace or all three when I'm out and about.

I currently own three sets of Total Tights (black and brown in the camisole bodice and a black tank bodice) and a Total Jegging. The tights are not hot to wear--I wear them all four seasons--and they are awesome for not picking up cat hair. They also wick moisture away from your skin, so you're not a hot, sweaty mess under all your other clothes.

I purchased my first Total Jegging last fall, and I've found them to be a bit warmer than the tights in these North Dakota winters. I don't need my Circle Tight with them because they look like denim fabric and diffuse the lighting around my thighs enough that I really have to concentrate to pick up on any lumps and bumps. They are my new version of the jeans I used to love and find so comfortable until the pressure of waistbands, and the belts used to hold them up, caused me back and leg pain.

I gifted myself this past winter with another cashmere piece from Chappy--a cardigan that I'm currently wearing right this moment. It's that daily piece of comfort I having hanging over the back of a dining room chair for whenever I feel a little chilled--and I can still wear it around town and feel classy and not frumpy. I also have a couple comfy cashmere scarves and other accessories that came with her sales promotions.

I have Bennies I can layer over that add length to a hemline, or I can pull them up to wear as a sleeveless top. These, together with the Circle Tight, have enabled me to wear the sweaters and tops purchased pre-Chappy with my Total Tight garments.

I have Lollies and tunics and dresses in my favorite colors and patterns to choose from now. This jeans-wearing lady was a closet dress-lover. I love to twirl around in a skirt with the best of them.

I own a black sleeve solution that gives my arms that little extra coverage when I desire it, as well as changing the looks of my tunics and dresses. I can take a sleeveless dress, add my sleeve solution and extend its wear into the cooler seasons. Or I can keep it handy in my purse for a little extra warmth in air conditioned environments.

This is only a sample of the array of versatile and comfortable and affordable items available at Dakota Chappy. You really have to experience it for yourself. We each have a unique style of our own, and they're awesome at helping one discover that part of oneself.

The evolution of Chappy TV and our blossoming relationship: 

Chappy's videos on Facebook, where she features her Total garments worn under new arrivals and sale items, are helpfully informative and full of tips on how to accessorize and wear things backward or stick your head through an armhole--she's brilliant on making one piece of clothing versatile in unconventional ways. Her videos are also the most entertaining item to hit my news feed.

As I watched the videos occasionally popping up on my Facebook page (because I'd chosen to follow the site), I noted that Chappy was constantly working to improve her Total Tights.

She began to offer them in a more more matt-finished, light diffusing fabric, with a bit more compression as options for those who desired those choices. I encourage you to try on the different compressions when investing in a Total Tight, so you can feel what serves you best.

She widened the straps on the ballerina style top to improve the comfort.

She started offering more color options and a hidden zipper option for those ladies who wanted to use the bathroom facilities without having to slip out of the upper portion of the tights to do so.

She expanded the line to include the Total Jeans and the Total Jeggings with capri lengths for the warmer seasons. It's phenomenal what she's done in such a short time!

After enjoying a few months of Chappy and Margarite's videos, when my birthday rolled around in March of 2015, I decided to gift myself with another visit. I had a blast with Chappy again--partly because I'm willing to try anything, and also because Chappy has created a safe and unconditionally-accepting space. In a world of "you need fixing" marketing and bottom-line, profit-based business practices, this is a refreshingly precious gift!

The videos helped me to point out the styles and colors I liked. So we started with those items and Chappy would add to the pile of possibilities as we went along and as inspiration struck her. She pulled out sale items for me, new arrivals from the back, and she threw in a little black dress for me that she thought would look fun with my black combat boots. I'd come out of the dressing room with a dress or tunic on, and she'd look with me in the mirror and grab a scarf or a necklace to accessorize, and we'd gaze some more--giggling and oohing and ahh-ing just like a couple of little girls loose in Mom's closet. The items she chose for me that day--all conservatively priced--are still some of my favorites to wear, and they look as new as they did when I first bought them.

Dakota Chappy has amazing sales, and many of her clothing items are reasonably priced even without a discount, so don't equate the fact that it's a boutique with it being expensive. She does carry the cashmere and fur and some more expensive pieces but it's as an option for those looking for those types of things. Chappy is truly focusing on serving and celebrating the broadest spectrum of women that she can.

The consciousness and energy of Dakota Chappy is such an easy and fun place to be that I've found myself drawn there: 

Chappy is a truly genuine friend to be around. I love what she's doing and I support her passion. It's only natural to desire her help...and...she is just one being playing multiple roles. Along with being this innovative business owner and mentor, she's a loving mom and wife with a family and private life, and she's an active participant in showcasing and nurturing her community, our state, our many ways of life...

She's been wise to hire stylists of all ages, shapes and sizes--and genders--who are passionate about her message, mission and products. This inventive tiny boutique owner in Minot, North Dakota, took 12 members of her staff to market back in February of this year. They not only learned what the market experience was like, they also participated in choosing the clothing and accessory selection for Dakota Chappy. And they were treated to a helicopter ride over Las Vegas. I don't perceive these people as her "employees"--I see them as a team of friends. That translates into being a lovely energy to walk into in a store.

She has two men on her team: Michael (aka, the outrageous Diane) and Daniel (coiner of the phrase, "You're way too cute to dress so average!"). They film and produce what we've come to know as Chappy TV.

She has stylists who are on different paths and at differing stages in life, and she's drawing upon each of their unique experiences and personalities to offer all of us more. She encourages the trying on of new arrivals so they know the feel and drape of the garments and the look of accessories, so it gets the juices flowing of how to style it. She has them model and style, with her, the outfits for Chappy TV episodes.

I never know which stylist I'm going to get when I walk in these days, and I like being surprised. It's been a joy to interact and visit with all of them. Tori, whose personal style I just adore, recently asked if she could pull some things for me to try. Again, it was a pleasure, and she gave me more ideas to help me develop my own expression of style.

Your clothes should be serving you RIGHT NOW, just as you are!

I love getting to connect with more and more people in this manner--women and men. Chappy is the pioneer of a truly new consciousness business. I appreciate that when I purchase something, I'm not put in the uncomfortable position of having to listen to the person waiting on me being forced to foist their store's credit card or rewards card on me. She's provided us, mainly by example, with a service and a message that we're all worthy of a life of joy in being just as we are in the moment now at hand. That we're each to be celebrated simply for being.

What I bring to my styling sessions with Chappy:

I am aware enough to know that I shouldn't expect Chappy to make me happy about myself, but I can help her facilitate me in doing that for myself. The interactions I have with her and her stylists depends more on me being open and allowing of a new experience than anything.

I'm 52 years old and I've been described as being relatively on the slender side. I'm 5 feet 4 inches tall and I weighed in around 100 pounds most of my adult life--that is, until the last couple of years when I developed a few more curves. I inherited my build from my Dad's side of the family.

Because Chappy has so graciously shared with all of us her own insecurities about her body, I thought I'd add my experience, as well. Here are some of the old body judgments I grew up with, and still deal with:

As stick-thin as I was, I never sported a six-pack abdomen. I love Hilary Swank and her vintage outfits in the movie, "P.S. I Love You"...and...even though I know better than to compare myself with her, the insignificant-feeling Little Human part of me still has me avoiding gazing at my own belly in the mirror after watching it.

When I was in high school, it was pointed out to me that I had cellulite. I still have those days when I'm feeling a little less-than, when I glimpse myself in the mirror and cringe at the cellulite--on me--not on anybody else. It has stayed there no matter how or what I eat, or how much I exercise.

In the early 80s in Phys-Ed class, our body measurements were taken, and I remember one of the girls being told she was perfectly proportioned. That wasn't me, and that wasn't most of us girls.

I was blessed with an amazingly beautiful, strong, and compassionately-gentle mom who struggled with a weight issue on the other side of the spectrum--and any cruel judgments of her were felt by me, so I'm not one to turn a stylist away because of the preconceived judgment that we won't be able to relate with one another just because our bodies are different.

I've struggled with finding clothes that fit me well. I have an amazingly patient and supportive husband when it comes to clothes shopping, and still, many times I felt tears of disappointment staring at me from the mirrors of those dressing rooms through the years. I felt flat-chested and stuck in the less-well-made fashions for juniors. Most things made for more mature women looked like a box on me. Chappy's Total Tight has transformed this whole experience for me, and I wish my mom were alive to share this--as it is, we do so in spirit.

I had a life-altering experience back in 1995 while standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. I found myself in the midst of a "Conversations with God" moment. In complete frustration and feeling so ashamed of my failure to change myself, I asked for help in quitting that judging-my-neighbor habit.

I was surprised this time when a divine voice answered me. I didn't actually hear a sound, but I had a comforting tingling feeling and a knowingness of the conversation that clearly came through.

That voice within me replied, "Penny--how do you expect to love everyone else unconditionally if you don't love yourself first? Love yourself first, and the rest is easy."

It said, "I love you. I have always loved you--in all your ways...yes, even that time...yes, that one, too...etc., etc."

Learning and practicing to love myself didn't happen overnight for me. I had to first become aware of how I was talking with myself most of the time--and I discovered that, internally, I harped on myself far worse than I did with anyone outside of me. If I had ever done that to another person, I would have been absolutely mortified and ashamed of myself.

Some very wise advice I've heard in the years since is that if you can't love yourself right off the bat, start with simply choosing to be kind to yourself. Focus on simply getting to know and like yourself. Be supportively compassionate with yourself--BE A FRIEND TO YOU!

Dakota Chappy was, and continues to be, an awesome place for me to put that into practice. She--like me--is all about celebrating who and what we are right NOW! That creates a better life.

I encourage you to gift yourself with the Dakota Chappy Experience--alone, or with a friend or loved one.

I've yet to see any woman wearing a Total Tight outfit, put together by Chappy and friends, walking around hunched over in shame and embarrassment. Instead, I see women standing tall, present in themselves, no matter our shape, size, or age. I look for opportunities to wear my Chappy outfits. I wear them at home, to the grocery store, to the library, out dancing. (Okay, and I wear them to Dakota Chappy to socialize, play with my friends there, and to meet new shoppers). I have a Dakota Chappy closet of delightful possibilities, and I find myself playing dress-up and putting outfits together in new ways. The little girl in me delights in it; and the woman in me loves the ease and comfort and quality.

Love you, Chappy and my beloved Family in Spirit--you've succeeded in making this a kinder world for me!

Related Links:
Dakota Chappy Facebook Link
Dakota Chappy Blog
With this body...

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