Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ringing in 2012: Experts Share Their Tips For Hosting A Sublime Celebration at Home

Everyone loves a good wrap-up party. So what better way to say, "Au revoir!" to the year that gave us so much to celebrate  the death of Osama bin Laden, Prince William and Kate Middleton's Wedding of the Year, and Chicago's new mayor, Rahm Emanuel (we'll miss you, Richard Daley!)  and to welcome in a brand new one than by hosting an intimate New Year's Eve celebration at home, surrounded by dear friends and loved ones.

If tossing a New Year's bash sounds like a daunting task to you, don't fret. Luxe File talked to some of the city's leading party-goers, and givers, and got their top tips for giving "good party". Answers ranged from "do-it-yourself" DJ'ing and organizing A-list guest lists to designing cocktail libraries and serving presidential-preferred sips.

Justin Jacobson

If Chicago were a party sandbox, Justin Jacobson would be at its center, building fantastical settings and inviting you to come inside to play.

Herewith, some event advice from BizBash Chicago's "Event Producer of the Year":  

Clean House: First impressions count. Before you start decorating, make sure your party pad is clean. Skip doing doing the deed yourself and hire a pro to do the messy work for you. The cost is minimal and you’ll enjoy the results long after the party’s over.

Décor Dress-Up: Christmas is over so replace all the green and red in your space with touches of silver and gold. I suggest filling up ultra-large glass vases with silver and gold Hershey’s Kisses  they look spectacular and you’re guaranteed a kiss at midnight. But what is a New Year’s Eve party without lots of streamers, balloons, and confetti sticks? Hit your local party store and stock up.  

Do-It-Yourself DJ: Music adds personality to any event. If you have time, reach out to your guests before they arrive to find out which songs they liked best from that year and add their suggestions to your iPod. Create a playlist with their songs and a few of your favorites and you’ll be good to go. Finding ways to incorporate your guests’ preferences into your event is the sign of a good host/hostess.

Hats Off to You: Nothing screams “Happy New Year Theme Party!” quite like top hats and tiaras. So while you’re at the party store, you might want to splurge and pick some up. Guests will love them and they make perfect favors.

Palate Pleasers: Every good host knows that keeping guests happy, is keeping them well fed. Keep things simple with a selection of small bites. I like serving a selection of cheese spreads, mini beef sliders, chicken and beef skewers, and grilled cheese bites.

3…2…1…: It’s New Year’s Eve, so be sure to have a couple bottles of champagne chilled and ready to serve once your guests arrive and when the New Year’s countdown begins. I always splurge on top-shelf liquor and keep bottles of Grey Goose and Ketel One close by along with an assortment of juice and sodas. Pick up a couple bags of ice, so you don't run out.

Extra Tip: We all worked hard in 2011. New Year’s Eve is about rejoicing with good friends. Don’t over-complicate your event and have fun. After all, it’s just a party, not your taxes.

Misc.: If you decide you would rather go out than stay in, join Platinum Events at “A Starry New Year’s Eve 2012” at the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago, 8:00PM-2:00AM. 

Lee DeWyze - American Idol Winner, Season 9

Highlights include premium open bars, passed hors d’oeuvres, and a champagne toast.  Live DJ sets and special performances by American Idol’s Lee DeWyze; OAR's Chris Culos; Celebrity DJ Chris Kennedy (aka ”Chris Masterson"); Chicago's DJ Timbuck2; The Gold Coast All-Star Band; Saam from Hey Champ and more. 

General Admission tickets cost $160 per person; VIP tables are available. For more information or to purchase tickets, click HERE.

Rachel Schwanz
Caterer & Event Planner

If there is anyone in Chicago who knows how to throw a party, it's caterer and event planner extraordinaire, Rachel Schwanz, whose posh parties are always the talk of the town.

Rachel shares her tips for turning your home into a party palace:

Make It Work: Any space, no matter how small or large, can be staged for a party by moving furniture or storing it away. You will want to make room for a bar and determine where food will be placed. For the bar, I recommend using a counter or a table console. Turn bookshelves into a cocktail library by removing books and replacing them with alcohol and bottles of wine and champagne. 

As for setting up food, kitchens are always a popular place to congregate so consider placing hors d’oeuvres and other prepared dishes on an island or in an area just off of the kitchen. Make sure you have plenty of plates and glassware and silver and crystal should be cleaned before guests arrive.

Le Decor: Create ambiance with candles (votives and scented) and place them all around your space. My current favorite is “White Pepper” by Henri Bendel. New Year’s Eve screams confetti, but I don’t like the mess it makes. Try this instead: Fill vases filled with confetti and metallic ornaments. Get the va-va-voom without the vacuum. Another idea I like is hanging noise maker garlands – from fishing line! – from door frames which guests can easily grab. 

Om Nom Nom Nom: For hors d’oeuvres, my go-tos are Lamb Chops with Chimichurri, Sausage & Gruyere Wontons, Crab Claws, and a presentation of cheeses & charcuterie. For your main course, I would suggest seared steaks, homemade pastas and sauces, and fresh, roasted veggies. Round out the evening with a selection of petite desserts or something more decadent like a gateau or tiramisu.

How you display food is also key. Remember those vases filled with confetti and ornaments I mentioned earlier? They can also double as levels for hors d'oeuvres. I like to add cake stands in varying heights too. Complete the look with metallic branches and lots of glowing candles.

Drink Up: As you don’t want to run out of alcohol before the clock strikes midnight, make sure you stock up on extra bottles of bubbly, vodka and bourbon. You also may like to create a “signature drink” for the occasion. This New Year’s Eve, I will be serving my guests “Terra Rella Punch”, which I’ve named after my place. It’s a simple concoction of white grapefruit, vodka, and Champagne.

Fête Favors: Besides noisemakers, I love a stack of New Year’s Eve top hats. For smaller groups, try this unique idea I picked up from Möet’s Peggy Lanigan: personalize Champagne splits with your initials in Swarovski crystals. Click HERE for more details.

Extra Tip: I have hosted many celebrations at home that end with one or two of my guests needing to stay the night. If you don’t have a spare guest room, an air mattress or pull-out couch will do. Stock bathrooms with clean towels and disposable toiletries they can use to freshen up in the morning. 

Jessica Altieri
CEO & President
WineChannelTV with Just Jess

We know: So much Champagne. So little time. That's why we asked WineChannelTV's Jessica Altieri to weigh in on the best bubbly for New Year's Eve:

Quartz Reef Methode Traditionnelle Non-Vintage: With its beautiful balance and bursting with delicious aromas of royal gala apple, lime and brioche, this New Zealand bubbly is the ultimate apértif for kicking off any event.

Iron Horse Vintage Wedding Cuvee: Made predominately of pinot noir, this blanc de noir boasts a peach hue and delicious strawberry and cream flavors. It is a wonderful wine to serve at celebrations (and was even one of the late President Reagan's favorites).

Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blancs Cremant d’Alsace Brut: This lovely sparkling wine, with its aromas of citrus, almonds and baked bread, will complement any dish you serve.

Kim Lichtenstein
Founder & Co-Principal

When she isn’t generating big buzz for her Who’s Who clients, Kim Lichtenstein is planning the glamorous parties and red carpet events we love to read about.

Kim offers coveted tips that will land your NYE party on the newsstands:

Art of the Invite: When I host a party or event, I like to send my guests two invites  electronically and by mail. Mailed invitations should include a personal note and have a New Year’s Eve vibe. For added whimsy, fill envelopes with loose colorful glitter. Create free, customized e-invites that will also keep track of your guests’ RSVPs. Eventbrite is a good site to try. 

Guest List 101: Set up an RSVP email address (example: and provide guests with a date they need to respond by so you have enough time to plan accordingly. Unless informed otherwise, add a “plus 1” for each guest. For large parties, consider staffing a greeter at the door, with a copy of the guest list. Welcome guests personally and with a glass of Champagne.

Say, “Cheese!”: Hire a photographer to take photos of the space before your guests arrive, and to get group (posed and candids) and midnight photos. If your party features something unique, such as a live musical performance, or you want to get some fun, interactive moments with friends, like finding out their New Year’s resolutions or their favorite memories from 2011, opt for a videographer. Use the footage to create a video or photo montage you can present at your next New Year’s Eve party, in 2013!

“Hostess with the Mostess”: Keep guests happy by making sure they have enough to eat and drink. Before the New Year’s countdown begins, replenish everyone's glass and pass around horns and noisemakers. Before friends depart, thank them for coming to ring in the New Year with you.

Sweetly Said: Treat your guests to something scrumptious  monogrammed cupcakes! Customize them with a special inscription, such as “2012” or your initials. Have them individually boxed with a ‘Thank You’ written on the front.

Marcus Riley
Multimedia Entertainment Reporter
NBC Chicago 

From high brow fashion shows to champagne-infused beach polo matches, Marcus Riley is the king of the social butterflies.

Marcus remembers New Year's Eve parties past and reveals what he'll be wearing when the countdown begins: 

Most Memorable NYE Party: The year I rented a cottage with a few friends. We all pitched in to cook a meal and drank champagne in an outdoor hot tub while it snowed around us.

Least Memorable NYE Party: The year I got caught in traffic gridlock in South Beach. I couldn't find a parking spot and ended up ringing in the New Year in the driver's seat of my rental car.

Lil' Jon and his Playboy Bunnies

NYE Parties I'll Be Attending: Eve of the Eve, The Playboy Party at the Hilton, and the Hard Rock Hotel party.

A Marcus Riley NYE Party: I always believe that however you start the year is indicative of how you're going to end it so the most important thing is to have the special people in your life around you.

Jay-Z sporting a burgundy velvet jacket 
and bow tie. #winning

What I'll Be Wearing: Burgundy velvet sport coat, black velvet bow-tie, black slacks, and crimson leather John Varvatos Chucks.

NYE Party Essential: Lots and lots of my favorite champagne, Möet Nectar Imperial.

Dana Kessler Weiss

While you’re not (ever) likely to find Luxe File sitting at home watching an episode of Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars, it doesn’t mean we don’t want to dress like Aria and Serena! Thanks to Dana Weiss and her brilliant fashion blog, Possessionista, we can duplicate the looks of our favorite thespianistas, but at discounted prices. How divine! 

Here, she shares her pretty little fashion secrets for success: 

Hair How-to: As the hostess, you're not going to want fussy hair. Opt for loose waves or a glamorous ponytail like Reese Witherspoon's (above). Experiment with a rhinestone headband or embellished hair tie for a little drama and to keep hair away from your face.

Makeup Magnificent: Go for a dramatically, feminine look with luxe lash extensions and a smoky eye. I love “Babydoll” by tart because it gives cheeks a soft flush. “Chelsea Girls” lips gloss by NARS is a lovely neutral and stays on all night.

What-To-Wear: Ring in 2012 with embellishment  feathers, sequins, even a tutu. Just not all at once.

Shoe Me: Nothing spells "p-a-r-t-y" like a pair of platform pumps or ankle boots. Just make sure you can walk in your shoes before the big night and scuff the bottoms so you don't faceplant.

Wrist Candy: From Cartier to Forever 21, 2011 was the year of the bracelet. Load up on bangles and baubles and ring the year out right.

Extra Tip: Many things can ruin a perfect evening  tight shoes, clingy clothes, too-heavy earrings. Add a few glasses of champagne to the mix, and you could have a recipe for disaster. Before your party begins, practice sitting, dancing, and bending. If your feet begin to throb or your dress keeps riding up, you'll have time to change.

Photo Credit: Photo of Rachel Schwanz courtesy of Lori Allen/LA Photo Designs

Posted by Kerry & Sally Shorr

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chicago's Style Set Share Their Top Holiday Essentials

Luxe File Chicago’s Creative Director Kerry Shorr rounded up a stylish tribe of locals and quizzed them on their must-haves for looking, and feeling, dazzling during the holidays.

Answers ranged from spray tans and statement coats to customized Champagne bottles and OPI's "Gettin' Miss Piggy With It" nail polish.

Kiran Advani
Fashion Programming Director

MANE: For the best hair color and coif in the city, I swear by my colorist, Tracey, and stylist, Josie, at Maxine

NAILS: Pamper nails with a premier manicure at NoMI Spa. Then dress them up in Deborah Lippmann's luxurious nail polish, “Glamorous Life”. An anything-but-subtle shade of metallic rose gold.

BLING: My hand-engraved name tag necklace with my husband's and daughter's initials from jules is a great conversation starter at fashion holiday mixers.

WARDROBE: I'm a big fan of local designers and I always feel extra special in my custom Miriam Cecilia dress with a mica mineral-accented necklace from the designer.

Jessica Altieri
CEO & Founder

MAKEUP: Les Scintillances de Chanel has every-thing you need to heat up the holidays!

SHOES: These sparkly, spiky Louboutins are red-hot and pair perfectly with anything - jeans, a little black dress, or a trench coat.

GIFTS: A Bathtub Champagne Chiller (and a bottle of bubbly!) is the perfect way to celebrate at home.

Jennifer Ann Banks
Bella Maison & Alabama Restoration

ACCESSORIES: For evening, I love carrying Judith Leiber's  exquisitely-crafted bags. Each one expresses its own unique statement.

WARDROBE: These skinny ALLSAINTS leather jeans are the perfect blend of "rocker chic" and femininity.

SHOES: My father always told me to wear high heels when going out for a date. Make a great impression every time with a pair of Gucci Python Platforms.

OUTERWEAR: Paired with leather pants and python shoes, this Gucci fur jacket spells G-L-A-M-A-Z-O-N.

MISC.: Here's a Fashion Mantra for the New Year "Knowing who you are and having confidence are your BEST accessories!"

Samantha Saifer Berngard
Director of Marketing 

SKINCARE: Planning the magazine's parties and playing hostess can be tough on my skin. I get it smooth and glowing with Laura Mercier's Face Polish and Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream (above).

MAKEUP: YSL's Touche Éclat provides instant RX for “I-drank-a-little-too-much-at-last-night's-holiday-party” eyes. 

Chanel's Rouge Double Intensité lip stains will never transfer color, no matter how many cheeks you kiss! 

LASHES: Give your eyes the opulent attention they deserve with the season's most coveted accessory: lash extensions. Check out Salon Lashe, a popular haunt for fashion insiders and local celebs.

WARDROBE: For festive, one-of-a-kind party dresses, Sarca (above) and Sofia are my favorite destinations. Luxe File loves them, too!

Ashley Bond
Personal Trainer
Chicago Luvabull & Miss Illinois USA 2009

MANE: Like the pros do, always use a good hair spray to keep holiday hair looking the way you want it to. I like Spray and Play Volumizing Hair Spray by Big Sexy Hair.

SKINCARE: Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30 brightens skins and helps keep makeup looking flawless.

WARDROBE: Kick the holidays into high gear with the stuff that SPARKLES! Get ready to get noticed in these sequined shorts by Express.

LASHES: Spoil your eyes with sexy, faux lashes. My favorite is MAC Eyelashes #4.

MAKEUP: A shimmery lip gloss is the perfect way to play up one of our sexiest accessories. Pick your favorite and go rock those lips! NARS' "Chihuahua" Lip Gloss is a Luxe File fav.

Nicki Brashear

FRAGRANCE: Prada Candy Eau De Parfum – I recently fell in love with this ultra-feminine, get-noticed fragrance.   

ACCESSORIES: C/Fan's Adele rabbit beanie (above) is a chic, winter must-have and Anastasia Chatzka's seasonal headbands make any party dress perfect.

BLING: These gold bracelets by NickiJean stand out by themselves or mix well with gems and other metals.

J. Lynne Bredfeldt
Director of Public Relations

SHOES: Pair Aizza's Glitter Pumps with any outfit for insta-GLAM!

NAILS: Deborah Lippmann’s “Some Enchanted Evening” is a pretty, pink nail polish that's perfect for the holiday season.

WARDROBE: Allison Parris' strapless Beaded Fringe Dress has New Year’s Eve written all over it!

BLING: What femme fêter doesn’t need a pair of "I die" earrings? Encrusted with pink Swarovski crystals, I adore this dazzling pair by Rebekah Price.

MISC.: My #1 beauty secret: eyelash extensions. For covetable lashes, head to Salon Lashe on Oak Street.

Nicole Briese
Managing Editor

BLING: Finger Candy! An attention-grabbing, black Druzy ring by local designer, Angela Gianfrancesco.

WARDROBE: Get ready! Get set! Let's go shopping for chic, affordable finds for the holidays! Romantic, wine-hued velvet shorts (above) from Topshop are perfect even for dressed-up occasions and where can you find a dazzling Versace top for less than $100USD? H&M, of course!

MAKEUP: Dolce & Gabbana's Lip Jewels Compacts - which were a huge hit backstage at Milan Fashion Week! - are packed with four creamy, pout-perfect shades. 

SHOES: Sam Edelman's "Roza" spiked heels are perfect for the girl who likes to keep her tough side close to her toes.

Jena Gambaccini
Editor & Founder

SKINCARE: Laura Mercier's Tinted Moisturizer gives skin a hint of color and a gorgeous glow.

WARDROBE: shift dress is my favorite silhouette because it's easy to reinvent. I love this feminine version by Stella McCartney.

Every woman needs the perfect statement coat and this metallic one by ADAM can be worn with patterned tights and ankle boots.

NAILS: Get your nails in the festive spirit with one of Deborah Lippmann's glitter polishes.

ACCESSORIES: Complete the look with a chic clutch, like this purple mink skull clasp version by Alexander McQueen.

Julianne Glatz
Creative Director & Owner

MAKEUP: Smash Box's Photo Finish Foundation Primer can be worn alone and prevents shine. 

MANE: Filled with healthy ingredients like Vitamin E, Olive and Tea Tree oils, O'pro's Organic Protein Leave-In Conditioner De-Tangler keeps my hair healthy and super shiny. 

SKINCARE: Fans flock to the Wynn Resort Las Vegas for its trademarked Desert Bambu Body Lotion. Smooth over legs and shoulders for a sexy-anytime shine.

FRAGRANCE: I adore Coco Mademoiselle Parfume by Chanel. Everyone goes gaga whenever I wear it. 

MISC.: For the holidays, I love wearing anything that glitters! Luxe File suggests rocking a rock like this 33.19-carat Asscher-cut D color potentially flawless “Elizabeth Taylor Diamond” ring (above) which recently sold for $8.8 million at Christie's.

Candace Jordan
Media Personality & Blogger

MAKEUP: I can’t live without MAC’s “Mellow Mood” sheer shimmer powder – it highlights cheekbones perfectly and looks great on camera. 

ACCESSORIES: Bebe's Paillette Infinity Scarf is a chic pick that adds loads of sparkle to evening wear. 

With its black paillettes and a silver frame, the patent Lola Clutch is a little bag you'll love to carry.

GIFTS: For holiday gift-giving, try Nonnie Waller’s Gift Cakes. Her delectable Southern-style pound cakes are topped with fresh flowers and delivered in a keepsake fabric box.

Stephanie Feher Krol

SKIN: Skin Wellness Center's Cranberry Peel leaves skin feeling fresh and renewed.

MAKEUP: Before the cameras start snapping at your holiday event, brush on Benefit's Bella Bamba face powder (above) for a glowing, sculpted appearance. Colorscience makeup camouflages imperfections and offers a flawless finish. 

ACCESSORIES: Produced by a collection of Peruvian artisans, emiLime's handmade Alpaca hooded scarves, with their pockets and punches of color, make perfect winter accessories. 

MISC.: Pets need to look stylish for their holiday parties, too! Pick up fashionable duds at Barker & Meowsky.

Erica Bethe Levin
Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief
Correspondent, NBC's Chicago Non-Stop
Contributor, Gilt Groupe's

NAILS: Dress up your fingers with a pretty, shimmering polish! Bursting with chunky sparkles, I like OPI's “Gettin' Miss Piggy With It!” polish (one of twelve limited-edition colors inspired by the "Muppet" movie).

ACCESSORIES: Loop it up or leave it long, Echo's Sparkly Infinity Scarf looks sexy as you stay snuggly warm.

SKINCARE: Give your skin the gift of luminosity with Shiseido's luxe line of skincare products – I'm a fan of their moisturizing face wash, serum, moisturizer and eye cream.

WARDROBE: Who says you can't wear shorts in the winter? I am rocking a sparkling, long-sleeve romper this weekend for my annual Chrismukkah party. Luxe File likes this 24 karat gold version (above) by Korean designer, Son Jung Wan.

MISC.: The holiday season isn't complete without the perfect spray tan. Try Golden Girl Chicago's organic, paraben-free version. 

Dana Levy
Designer & Founder

BLING: The "Margo Ashley" necklace – it's delicate enough to wear every day and perfect for the holidays.      

ACCESSORIES: You can't help but love ash&dans' Black Circle Trim Infinity scarves. Fun and flirty, dress them up or down.

WARDROBE: I wear a lot of Rag & Bone, their pieces transition perfectly from day to night. 

OUTERWARE: Stay warm/look cool in this leather jacket by Rick Owens. 

SHOES: Jimmy Choo makes the most comfortable boots and this pair is great for getting around Chicago or simply getting you noticed.

Mel Muoio
Assistant Editor

FRAGRANCE: Jo Malone's Pomegranate Noir is one of my favorite scents and is easy to layer.

SHOES: Dress up your stockinged gams with these ultra-glamorous heels by Charlotte Olympia.

SKINCARE: During the winter, I can't live without my L'Occitane Lavendar Hand Crème.

BLING: Solo or stacked, I love Chaumet's exquisite “Bee My Love” collection of handmade rings.

MISC.: Jonathan Adler's Hashish candle has a deliciously oaky scent that will make you want to howl (at the moon).

Amanda Puck
Executive Vice President of Public Relations

MAKEUP: Chanel's Illusion D'Ombre eyeshadows give eyes a glamorous, grown-up look.

BLING: I have six stretch stone bracelets with fireballs from space519. Stack them up for a glitzy look or layer them with other bracelets.

GIFTS: Customized Möet Champagne Imperial bottles make lovely gifts for the holidays (check out Luxe File's version above). Pair them with Swarovski crystal-covered Champagne flutes by Maloda.

MISC.: Whenever I need to get into the holiday spirit, I take a stroll down Michigan Avenue (above) or enjoy the lights and treats at the Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza. FA-LA-LA!

Sally Shorr
PR Specialist

SKINCARE: Some girls love spray tans, but I prefer Jergens Natural Glow Revitalizing Moisturizer for the ultimate, year-round glow.

MANE: Cashmere Luminance is a healthy hair-straightening alternative that keeps hair smooth, soft, and shiny for up to three months! Try it at SHO Studio.

WARDROBE: I'm always rocking head-to-toe black so during the holidays I enjoy dressing up in ivory-colored pieces like this Caftan Cocktail Dress by Aidan Mattox.

SHOES: Stillettos are the ultimate accessory and I love this insanely flirtatious pair by Valentino  

GIFTS: Fresh flowers make stylish holiday gifts for friends and loved ones. For something truly memorable, send a floral gift subscription from H.Bloom.

Ashley Zisook
Owner & Stylist

SKINCARE: Create a gorgeous, dewy complexion that’s silky soft and satiny smooth with Kate Somerville's Quench Hydrating Face Serum.

MAKEUP: I do not leave the house without Sue Devitt's Eye Intensifier Pencil. This oversized eye pencil goes on super smooth and has a built-in blender to create the perfect, smoky eye.

FRAGRANCE: Juliette Has A Gun's original line of five fragrances and one bullet-shaped purse spray smell delicious and are beautifully packaged.

WARDROBE: Our Sofia hoodie is buttery soft and keeps urban girls warm.

BLING: The Sofia X Luxla Friendship Bracelet is the perfect gift for friends and loved ones. 

Jessica Zweig
Co-Founder/Director of Sales & Marketing

MAKEUP: Smooth on NARS’ Copacabana shimmer for a sexy, on-the-go glow.

MANE: My secret weapon for soft, silky tresses? Elixir Ultime by Kerastase keep hair shiny and intensely conditioned.

SHOES: For some super-comfy, stylish struts, slide on UGG's pointed toe, knee-high boots instead of heels.

OUTERWARE: Dress up for the great outdoors with Madchen's winter green cape from Anthropologie.

Posted by Kerry Shorr