Inside Stitch

The official Vera Bradley blog

8 Ways to Be a Great Hostess During the Holidays

With Thanksgiving later this week and the holidays just around the corner, we have all things holiday on the mind. From shopping lists to party plans, evenings and weekends are filling up fast. Your first hosting duties of the year are coming up and if this is your first experience as a hostess ever, we’re sure you have a question or two. Lucky for you, we’re kind of pros when it comes to hosting events and planning parties. Here are 8 tips to make your first hosting stint as seamless as possible.

tips for hosting

1. Give guests ample notice

With chaos of the holidays, it’s important to give your guests plenty of notice. Whether you send out handwritten invitations via snail mail or invite your guests to a Facebook event, we recommend notifying guests at least two to three weeks in advance. This will also allow them plenty of time to RSVP so you can know how much food to make.

2. Choose a theme

A party is never complete without a theme. Festive décor makes a huge difference on the impression you’ll leave with your guests. Once you choose a theme, you’ll be able to better plan your menu and set the tone for when guests arrive.

tips for hosting

3. Plan your menu

As you’re inviting guests, you should already be thinking about your menu. The menu can be the most daunting part of hosting, but it doesn’t have to be. If a five-course meal is overwhelming for your first hosting experience, stick with cocktails and appetizers. If you do go the appetizer route, you will want to let you guests know so they aren’t expecting a full meal. Lastly, request RSVPs a week prior to the event so you can start planning for the amount of ingredients you’ll need.

4. Ask for help

The best hosts aren’t afraid to ask for help. Don’t feel like you need to be responsible for everything — you’re already doing so much! Potluck-style dinners are very popular, so it wouldn’t be uncommon to ask guests to bring a dish to pass. Many guests will even reach out and ask if they can bring anything — graciously accept and let them know what you need.

5. Make more food than you think you need

Even the most seasoned hostesses will tell you that it’s nearly impossible to nail down how much food you’ll truly need. Once you have your headcount, increase your servings — you never know who may unexpectedly bring a guest or have an additional serving. It’s better to be prepared and have leftovers than send your guests home hungry.

6. Have a backup plan

Sometimes things just don’t go as planned, so it’s important to go with the flow. Whether you have a bottle of wine as a back up to that fancy Pinterest cocktail fail or a deck of cards if the conversation dies out — it’s good to always be prepared.

7. Gift your guests

There is nothing that will have guests talking about your party for years to come like a little party favor. You’ve already put a lot of time, effort and money into the event already; so don’t worry about over-the-top gifts. A small gift that can double as part of your décor is a great option. We love using our Zip ID Cases as name cards — it’s an extra special touch on the table that your guest will cherish long after the party ends.

tips for hosting

8. Enjoy yourself

Last, but certainly not least, enjoy yourself! It’s easy to get caught up in hosting duties, but it’s important to let yourself relax and enjoy the company surrounding you. Your guests are there because they want to socialize with you, so after your cooking and serving are complete, have a drink and enjoy the party!

Not hosting this year? We also have 8 tips on how to be a better guest that you’ll definitely want to brush up on.

Meet the Change It Up Collection

We know how important it is for you to have a bag that can do and carry it all. You are constantly on the go and moving from one activity to the next, so you need a bag that can keep up! Our Change It Up Collection was designed with your busy lifestyle in mind. Each style has versatility, unlike any other handbag you’ve carried, able to convert into an entirely different style of bag with ease. Comprised of three styles — a tote, crossbody and backpack — our Change It Up Collection allows you to carry just one bag, adapting to your various occasions and mood.

Change It Up Crossbody

Change It Up Collection
Your favorite hands-free style just got even better. Our Change It Up Crossbody can actually be worn three different ways, allowing for maximum versatility. Wear it as a classic crossbody for busy days on the go, then tuck in the straps to convert it into a top-handle bag for lunch dates and shopping. Are you planning a big night out? Fold it top to bottom to create a stylish clutch silhouette.

Change It Up Tote

Change It Up Collection
Get the most out of your workbag with a tote that can do it all. Our Change It Up Tote easily converts from a spacious tote, perfect for your laptop and work essentials to a shoulder bag for happy hour and beyond. Just tuck in your handles and pull up the straps to take this from work to weekend.

Change It Up Backpack

Change It Up Collection
If you love a hands-free bag that can fit all you need to get through the day and more, our Change It Up Backpack is just for you! This lightweight style can easily go from on your back for errands to slung over your shoulder for dinner and drinks. Did we mention this also has a charger pocket so your battery will never drain again on the go?

Which style is your favorite? Share with us below in the comments!

Shop our entire Change It Up Collection

3 Outfit Ideas for Your Holiday Party

what to wear: holiday partiesThere’s no time like the holidays to make you realize how large your social circle truly is. From friends and coworkers to family and in-laws, invitations are steadily streaming in for upcoming dinners, gatherings, trips and parties.  Once you RSVP and select the perfect gift for the hostess (we can help you here), it’s time to plan your outfit. Although winter weather can limit your wardrobe options, you shouldn’t feel less fabulous than you would for a summer party. If you have a strict no-outfit-repeating rule for each of your holiday parties (which we definitely understand), we’re here to help. Whether you have just one holiday party or several, we have a bag (and outfit idea) for all of your holiday occasions.

what to wear: family dinnerWhether it’s your annual holiday family dinner or Friendsgiving with your family away from home, this tends to be a more casual event. We recommend wearing your favorite cozy-but-cute sweater dress. With some over-the-knee boots and simple jewelry, you’ll look put-together, but feel super comfortable if you go overboard on sweet potato casserole (no judgment). A small crossbody like our Carson Mini Hobo Bag is the perfect size to fit your essentials for an evening out while keeping your hands free to hold that toasty apple cider.

Pro tip: Use the interior-charging pocket to stash your portable charger so your phone won’t drain if the party runs over.

what to wear: office partyWe don’t know about you, but the office holiday party is one of our favorite events of the year! Getting to enjoy the company of your coworkers outside of the office over a few drinks is always a good time. Since you’ll likely spend a few hours mingling, it’s a good idea to wear something comfortable. A burgundy sweater and leather leggings are equally festive and comfortable, while loafers are practical for being on your feet. A wristlet is an excellent option for events like these — all you really need on hand is your phone, lipstick and ID.

Pro tip: Ditch the wallet and use the Iconic RFID Wristlet’s six card slips and interior zippered pockets to organize your cards, cash and ID for the evening.

what to wear: new year's eve

New Year’s Eve is always the perfect excuse to get dressed up with your friends. It’s the one day of the year that you can never be too fancy, so break out your favorite heels and that statement necklace you’ve been dying to wear. Combine two of this year’s top trends — lace and bell sleeves — for a classy-meets-sassy look that’s sure to turn heads. Our favorite bag for big events like New Year’s Eve is the RFID All in One Crossbody. Scoring a spot in O, The Oprah Magazine’s list of Favorite Things 2017, this style can be used as a crossbody, wristlet or wallet and has a pocket just for your phone.

Pro tip: Styles with RFID protection like our All in One Crossbody ensure your personal information stays safe while in big crowds.

Wondering which bag is best for your upcoming event? Comment below and we’ll share our recommendations!

How One Blogger Shops Small for the Holidays

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the corner, we’re putting the finishing touches on our holiday gift lists. On November 25, we’re encouraging everyone to visit local boutiques and specialty stores to support small businesses. Supporting small businesses is a part of our heritage and continues to be an important part of our brand, with Vera Bradley products offered in thousands of specialty stores today. Blogger Jordan Berecz was first introduced to Vera Bradley at her local specialty store years ago and continues to shop small to this day. Jordan shared with us her recent experience shopping small for the holidays and choosing gifts for everyone on her list.

How One Blogger Shops Small for the Holidays

My sixth-grade birthday was one I’ll never forget. My mom got me my first designer bag from a local boutique, and I immediately fell in love. It was a Bermuda Blue Vera Bradley handbag from the Spring 2005 line. I was obsessed with the look and wore it daily until I replaced it five years later with a Large Duffel in Twirly Birds Navy. I took my duffel to countless sleepovers, weekend trips and ended up bringing it with me to college. When I graduated and landed my first job, my parents gifted me a Vera Bradley luggage set that I can’t travel without.

As you can see, Vera Bradley holds a special place in my heart, and it’s always my go-to brand when I’m thinking of holiday gifts for friends and family members. Their styles are so versatile and loved by all the ladies on my Christmas list!

Before I begin my holiday shopping, I always make a list of the people I plan to gift, as well as a few of their likes and dislikes. Since I got married last June, I now have double the family members to shop for! This year I headed to Ivy Lane, a local specialty boutique in Atlanta, with my friend and photographer, Cat Galletti, to get a head start on my holiday shopping. My goal was to find the perfect gift for my mom, mother-in-law and long-distance best friend who lives in New York City. Since each of them is different and has their own unique styles, I try to personalize each gift to fit their personality.

How One Blogger Shops Small for the Holidays

How One Blogger Shops Small for the Holidays

My mom and I are very similar, so I decided to get her a matching Cardinal Red Triple Zip Hipster that lets her go hands-free while shopping or traveling. Luckily for me, shopping and traveling are our two favorite things to do together. This crossbody is lightweight, easily packs in a suitcase and most importantly, looks stylish. Now, we’ll have matching bags to wear on our adventures!

How One Blogger Shops Small for the Holidays

My mother-in-law, on the other hand, loves all things tech. I went with a Smartphone Wristlet to keep her iPhone and credit card in one place. This style will provide her with worry-free shopping, while also staying connected and fashionable.

How One Blogger Shops Small for the Holidays

For my best friend, I decided on a blanket scarf (much like my reversible one) to help keep her effortlessly stylish during those harsh New York winters. I know that every time she wears a cozy scarf, she will think “warmly” of me!

How One Blogger Shops Small for the Holidays

I have always enjoyed shopping small year round. These local businesses provide a special experience and story that make adding a personal touch to your holiday shopping list a breeze while supporting your local community.

How One Blogger Shops Small for the Holidays

Shop Jordan’s gift picks

How One Blogger Shops Small for the Holidays

1. Iconic Triple Zip Hipster in Cardinal Red  |  2. Reversible Blanket Scarf in Penguin Check  |  3. RFID Smartphone Wristlet in Cardinal Red  |  4. Scented Candle in Tin in Gingerbread Pumpkin  |  5. 18 Month Student Agenda in Lilac Medallion  |  6. Gallatin Cargo Backpack in Black

5 Travel Tips to Know for the Holidays

Even the most seasoned travelers can feel overwhelmed during the holidays. The back-to-back trips and busier-than-usual airports can easily trip you up (pun definitely intended), so we went straight to the pros for travel tips. Jessica, blogger at My Style Vita, gave us the scoop on what she always packs no matter her destination and the five rules she follows when packing for each trip.

Jessica

Blog: My Style Vita
Location: Atlanta, GA
Favorite Travel Bag: Jet Set Go Weekender

travel tips

VB: We know you have a couple of exciting trips coming up this season! What bag are you planning to take and why do you love it?

Jessica: “The Jet Set Go Weekender has become my go-to weekend bag and carry-on for flights for so many reasons. I love the trolley sleeve on the back that allows me to slide it over my rolling luggage, so my bag is secured. It’s also very spacious so I can fit everything I would typically put in my backpack and handbag combined.”

travel tips

VB: Which travel essentials do you always bring on your trips?

Jessica: “I have a packing list I keep on my phone that I reference for every single trip. The obvious items include my outfits and toiletries, but other things vary based on location and length of the trip. Two of my mainstays are a sweatshirt as an extra layer and workout clothes because you never know when you’ll go on an adventure.”

travel tips

VB: As someone who travels very often, what travel and packing tips can you share with us that you’ve learned over the years?

Jessica: “I’ve been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit over the last few years with my blog and previous jobs. I was on the road often, which meant I had to be ready to leave my home quickly, which didn’t leave much time to pack, unpack and repack at the same time. From that experience, I now do a few things differently when it comes to packing and traveling.

1. Create the best cosmetic bag
I always have my cosmetic bag packed and ready to go. After a few trips, you’ll learn what you need to have in there at all times. Having this ready to go at a moment’s notice allows you to cut down on your packing time. I love that the Large Blush and Brush Case has a spot for my brushes and makeup in addition to my toiletries. I also use the Curling and Flat Iron Cover to keep my things from melting. I often leave hotels early in the morning right after getting ready, so this helps to protect everything in my bag.

travel tips

2. Roll your clothes
I didn’t believe this trick would work until I tested it out for myself. I packed all of my folded clothing in my luggage, then took it out and rolled it. I was able to pack a few more tops and an extra pair of jeans by rolling!

travel tips

3. Stick to a neutral color palette
I like to stick to neutral or similar color palettes to save space when packing. I usually bring black or brown shoes and go from there. It helps to narrow down your closet and keeps you from overpacking!

4. Pack a smart handbag
I never take larger handbags on big trips. Instead, I always pack a small crossbody bag that can transition from day to night. I also unpack my wallet and move it into a small travel wallet to cut down the unnecessary items. This way, you can pack your travel bag more efficiently and keep it as light as possible.

5. Bring cash
It may seem silly now that everything is so automated, but wherever you go, cash is king. You know never know when you’ll need to get yourself out of a bind quickly, so I always keep a few twenties on me in case of emergency. Plus, between hotels and taxis, tipping a few dollars is expected.”

Raise your hand if you feel way more prepared for that upcoming trip? We sure do!

travel tips

Shop Jessica’s travel essentials:

Jet Set Go Weekender
Large Blush & Brush Cosmetic Case
Curling and Flat Iron Cover

Images by Sydney Brutton Photography

8 Ways to Be a Better Guest During The Holidays

November is keeping us busy between decorating for the holidays, planning gift lists and coordinating where to spend each holiday. If you’re like us, you’re probably in the midst of divvying up hosting responsibilities for the upcoming family dinners and cocktail parties with friends. While hosting definitely requires the most planning and responsibility, there are plenty of things that should be top of mind for your evenings as a guest. After years of both hosting and attending holiday parties, we rounded up our top tips on how to be a better guest and make the hostess’ life a little easier.

8 ways to be a better guest during the holidays

1. RSVP

No matter how informal the party is, always let your host know ahead of time if you plan to attend — and stick to it! This is also crucial if you’re planning to bring a guest. The host is planning their menu based on a specific head count, and if you ditch at the last minute or bring an unexpected guest, it’s going to result in unneeded stress and potentially not enough food for everyone.

2. Ask how you can help

Reach out to your host ahead of time and ask how you can help. If your host insists that you don’t need to bring anything, still show up with something – a bottle of wine, extra appetizer or bag of ice. Being helpful is one of the top attributes of a great guest. Anything from drying the dishes to taking out the trash is greatly appreciated.

3. Be prompt

You should treat a party almost like a job interview when it comes to arrival time. We recommend arriving no earlier than five minutes prior to the party’s start time. Arriving too early makes the host scramble and may not allow enough time to get ready herself. On the flip side, don’t keep the party waiting for your arrival — and if you are running late, shoot a text to the host as a heads-up.

4. Gift the host

Never arrive at a party or dinner empty-handed. Whether you bring a bouquet of fresh flowers or her favorite bottle of wine, even the smallest gift is appreciated. Handwritten thank you notes are always a nice touch, whether you bring it with you or send it afterward.

5. Take off your shoes

Always take off your shoes when entering someone else’s home. Even if your host is pretty casual, this is a sign of good etiquette and will ensure that you’re not tracking in snow and slush onto their new rug.

6. Avoid controversial topics

It may seem like a given, but always try to avoid any controversial topics during the party. It’s best to play it safe and keep the conversation light. Politics are off the table, as well as anything that could get the host in hot water. We like to pack a deck of cards in our bag. If you don’t know many people at the party, it can serve as a great icebreaker and help fill the time before and after dinner.

7. Don’t overstay your welcome

We can’t stress this one enough. Pay attention to social cues of the host. If dinner and dessert are over and they don’t have anything else planned for the guests, it’s probably time to wrap things up. The host likely prepped for this party for hours ahead of guests’ arrivals, so although you could easily sip wine and chat until the early hours of the morning, she may be ready to go to sleep.

8. Offer to host next time

Nothing is worse for a host than always being the host. Give her a break and offer to host next time! You can even set up a hosting rotation in your friend group if you regularly have dinner parties. This makes it easier on everyone and will give you some quality hosting experience.

What tips do you have to be a better guest? Share below in the comments!

Monthly Edit: November

The cold front has swept in, and November is finally here! Between the weekend get-togethers and holiday shopping trips, we definitely have the holidays on our mind. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of holiday parties and hosting preparation this time of year, so we’re making things easier on you. Jot down these five dates that you won’t want to miss this month.

November
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What are you looking forward to most this month? Tell us below in the comments!