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Champagne, Cranberry Salsa and Entertaining in an LBD | The Realest

Why should models have all the fun? Each month we take a lady we admire and give her the model treatment in our photo shoot, The Realest. We bring the wardrobe, stylist, photographer and makeup artist; she brings her anything-but-one-size-fits-all personality and style. Then we all head out on location for a professional shoot that showcases the looks in our monthly Dress Spotlight.

Sheena Kalso, The Invisible Hostess

Adelyn Rae strapless jumpsuit | Topshop velvet choker | similar style flat: KENDALL + KYLIE Sage ghillie flat

When October rolls around, the holiday party invitations start rolling in. So we turned to Sheena Kalso of The Invisible Hostess for pointers on surviving the busy entertaining season in style. Not only did she give us excellent advice—and a killer recipe for cranberry salsa—but she also showed us how to rock a little black dress (or jumper) with serious panache. As we goofed around while photographing her at the funky party venue WithinSodo, we learned that part of being a great hostess is knowing how to relax and be available. Sheena’s fun-loving temperament makes her a natural. Here’s what else she told us.

Tell us about your job and company, The Invisible Hostess.

Sheena Kalso, The Invisible Hostess

I started The Invisible Hostess in 2006 to help the average party hostess enjoy her event.  Shortly after launching, I was asked if I coordinated weddings. My excitement for domestic hospitality seamlessly translated to weddings. After 10 years, The Invisible Hostess has won a record amount of local planning awards in Seattle. I’m really proud to say we executed 250 events in 2015 with a staff of 50.

With the 10-year anniversary, I reflected on what made me get out of bed every morning and what kept me fulfilled—as one will with any milestone in one’s life. This year I decided to streamline operations by offering wedding coordination only and to focus on my next adventure, mentoring college grads as The Wedding Mentor.

Sheena Kalso, The Invisible Hostess

Dress the Population Gwen lace dress | Jimmy Choo Pearl ankle-strap sandal | similar style clutch: Jimmy Choo large Maia glitter clutch | Nadri pavé inside-out hoop earrings

Sheena Kalso, The Invisible HostessHow do you juggle time as a mother and a business owner?

I am very disciplined in keeping a focused daily schedule via the method of time batching. Each night I look at my to-do list for the next day, categorize the items to fit the repetitive “categories” of my life and then assign every minute of my day to tackle tasks within these categories. My day always has some mix of personal chores, family time, client needs, business growth, team support, and administrative and free time. If I allot 2-3pm to personal chores, at 3pm I move on to my next allotted category, regardless of if I finished all personal tasks. This method has forced me to focus on my top priorities and to make progress in all areas, so my days are well-rounded. With time batching, everything that matters to me gets my attention. This topic has piqued so much interest that I go into a lot of depth and provide examples of it in my mentorship program. There’s a lot of white noise in this world, and I think everyone is hungry for a way to really focus.

What do you usually wear to work?

My work takes me from the home office to a client meeting to networking happy hours, so I need an outfit that can work in all settings. I recently described my look as “W Hotel happy-hour chic.” I attract clients who like my ability to be professionally put together yet ready to grab a cocktail with them at a moment’s notice. This usually means dark rag & bone skinny jeans with a great leather Kork-Ease bootie, an on-trend top layered with a Trouvé leather jacket. For my weddings, I wear a Maggy London cocktail dress, custom tailored with pockets so I can stash my phone and safety pins. I typically buy my outfits at Nordstrom because I love the on-site tailoring. I’ve had dresses tailored to fit and have had pockets put into all my skirts. It’s really my favorite place to shop!

Sheena Kalso, The Invisible Hostess

What do you usually wear to a party?

Parties are my chance to dress for myself and get creative and subtly sexy. I rang in the New Year in a Topshop strapless jumpsuit and classic black Louboutins. For a night out with my girlfriends, a black pencil skirt and a graphic crop top paired with cobalt blue BCBG heels works to perfection. In the last two years, I’ve achieved a physical fitness level I’m really proud of, so I don’t shy away from showing some midriff.

Sheena Kalso, The Invisible Hostess

Eliza J burnout velvet fit & flare dress | BP. faux-leather choker | Prada 52mm cat-eye sunglasses | Jimmy Choo Mavy lace-up peep-toe bootie

Any great entertaining tips you’d share?

When getting ready for a party, don’t save the last hour before guests arrive as your time to get ready.  The last hour ends up being rushed, no matter how prepared you are, and you end up having not enough time to get ready the way you want. If I have a party at 6pm, I’ll plan on being almost show ready by 4pm, get ready from 4-5pm, and then have the last hour for finishing touches and last-minute tasks. It’s the least stressful way to host and feel fabulous.

Sheena Kalso, The Invisible Hostess

What is something that makes or breaks a party?

If you’re stuck in the kitchen or playing bartender all night, you miss the opportunity to introduce guests to each other and facilitate conversation. Guests are relying on the host or hostess to make them feel comfortable in a group of mixed company. If you can hire a party helper from a reputable company, or even a neighborhood teen, you’ll free yourself from the host duties and can fully engage your guests, which in turn makes them feel comfortable and keeps the party going!

Sheena Kalso, The Invisible Hostess

Adrianna Papell sequin mesh sheath dress | Jimmy Choo Romy pointy-toe pump | Jimmy Choo Sweetie acrylic clutch | Nadri ear jacket

Sheena Kalso, The Invisible Hostess

What’s your favorite party recipe? Can you share it?

I get to try so many types of appetizers during the holiday season. One year I tried a cranberry salsa that was phenomenal. Guests couldn’t get enough, and everyone was asking for the recipe. The client shared it with me.  My tip: wear gloves when you cut and de-seed the jalapeños; I learned the hard way how potent the oil is.

  • 1 (12 ounce) bag of fresh cranberries
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt

Directions

    1. Combine cranberries, cilantro, green onions, jalapeño pepper, lime juice, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a medium blade.
    2. Chop to medium consistency.
    3. Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate if not using immediately. (It tastes even better after a day in the fridge.)

Sheena Kalso, The Invisible Hostess

Adrianna Papell illusion-sleeve blouson dress | Jimmy Choo Lacey pointy-toe pump

Sheena Kalso, The Invisible HostessWhat was your favorite piece from our shoot? How would you wear it?

I really loved the Adrianna Papell dress with the sleeves and the cutout. It’s my favorite mix of conservative and sexy. That peekaboo cut takes that dress to the the next level. I’d wear this to a more formal industry party, such as Get Hitched, Give Hope. I’d pair it with sexy heels, something a little strappy, to amp up the spice factor, but keep them black so as to not distract from the details of the dress bodice. I’d wear some sparkly stud earrings and pull my hair up to show off the whole shebang.

Images: Elizabeth Rudge | Styling: Keara Matthiesen | Hair & Makeup: Jenny Verador

Special thanks to Jeff Powell, WithinSodo and Pedersen’s Event Rentals

—Britt Olson