6 Stunning Sweaters that Transition Easily from Fall to Winter

You’ll notice after grazing over this list that I don’t really do color. After about a decade of trying to convince myself that I like patterns, florals, and vibrant color in general, I’ve finally decided to call it quits. And, though it pains me to say it, my style definitely leans more towards the French aesthetic than it does bold and vibrant Italian. Somehow all those years I spent growing up in Italy have been overshadowed by a sea of neutrals in the wake of moving to New York.

sweater weatherThe older I get, the more I find that I’m drawn to minimalism with a hint of flare. I love solid neutral color blocking with a really great embellished shoe. I also really love contrasting fabric weights against one another. Below you’ll find bulky sweaters with unique shapes to pair with everything from leather skinnies to feminine midi skirts. And, though winter may be swiftly approaching, there’s always a place in my wardrobe for something a little sheer. Much to the surprise of my inner 6-year-old, turtlenecks are one of my favorite pieces to use a base for layering or to wear along under a leather bomber. The sheer number below would actually pair really well with the off-the-shoulder moment I’ve included in this list. After all, who wouldn’t carry over the off-the-shoulder look into winter if they didn’t have to worry about getting cold?

Because I haven’t completely given up on color, I still make an effort  to venture beyond my go-to tones of navy, cream, olive, and grey—albeit, the effort is very minimal. I’ve included a gorgeous red embellished Anthropologie sweater that I could pretty much live in all winter long. Every once in a while, I surprise myself and fall in love with dramatic sleeves. Anthropologie has definitely mastered the art of balancing rustic cool with just the right amount of drama.

Living in New York, I definitely have a love/hate relationship with the months— including and those that fall between—December through May. Sweaters are great until you need six layers and a fur-lined coat just to feel like you’re still roaming amongst the living. I am committing to letting the pieces in my wardrobe meet one another this year, so come May I expect to be a master of stylish layering. If you’ve got any special tricks for wearing pieces in your wardrobe year-round, feel free to share them!

 

 

 

Anthropologie Layered Off-The-Shoulder Pullover

ANTHROPOLOGIE Layered Off-The-Shoulder Pullover, $98 at anthropologie.com

 

Urban Flossy High Neck Jumper

FRENCH CONNECTION Urban Flossy High Neck Jumper, $138 at frenchconnection.com

Endless Rose Ruffle Sweater

ENDLESS ROSE Ruffle Sweater, $88 at revolve.com

David Lerner Knit Turtleneck

DAVID LERNER Knit Turtleneck, $84 at revolve.com

Free People Fiesta Jacket

FREE PEOPLE Fiesta Jacket, $228 at freepeople.com

 

10 Over-The-Top Heels That Are Totally Worth Breaking the Bank For

It is not a secret that I am shoe obsessed. One of my earliest fashion memories dates back to 1996 when my mother and I lived in Naples, Italy. On warm summer Sundays, we’d walk from our house in Pozzuoli to a small neighborhood trattoria on Via Montenuovo Licola that—to this day—still prepares the best pizza margherita and penne all’arrabiatta that I’ve ever had. It’s called Da Bernardo, in case you’re ever hungry in Napoli. After a healthy serving of bruschetta, pizza and pasta (carbs, carbs, and more delicious carbs) and of course the obligatory serving of coffee drenched lady fingers (tiramisu), we’d continue our promenade down to the flea market.

Italian flea markets are nothing like the weekend bazaars of America. They’re far more adventurous and riddled with treasures and gems of the premium and luxury fashion variety. One Sunday, after dinner at Da Bernardo, we ventured once again to our coveted treasure trove and were greeted by the usual hoard of bustling vendors yelling prices in sing-songy voices “Cinque-mille Lire! Dieci-mille Lire!”— this was before the Euro was the national currency. And that’s when I spotted them: cream Valentino lace-up woven wedge booties, size 37. They were gorgeous and I have to have them.No 21 Mustard Yellow Elaphe Heel Sandal w: Pom Pom Tassel Fringe I pleaded with my mom to buy them for me and after lots of bargaining with the vendor, they were mine. My first pair of designer shoes and I loved them recklessly. At six, I wasn’t old enough to wear heeled wedges and at size 37, the shoes were still way too big for me, but I cherished them. They were my prized possession and I couldn’t wait to grow into them.

We moved back to America a year later and our weekend flea market excursions were no more. Side note: were I ever to run for fashion office of America (if that was actually a thing), the first order of business on my campaign agenda would be to increase the number of luxury flea markets. I mean, hey—we’re in a recession and bartering is a necessary skill in every culture and in every corner of the world.

Anyway, upon moving back to America, I was grounded for something and our home, being grounded was always represented by losing some sort of fashion privilege (image has always been a big deal for me. I could have cared less about losing my allowance). I was nearing the point where those gorgeous Valentino boots were beginning to fit so my mom took the boots and a few other choice items from my wardrobe and put them in a black Gucci Embellished Cutout Leather Pumpstrash bag and “gave them away.” I found out later that she hid them in the garage. After a few months in the garage, I sort of forgot about them. When I went to retrieve them, to my surprise the bag was gone. My mom had forgotten she’d bagged them and mistook them for donation clothing and gave them to the Salvation Army. My shoes were gone forever. I was heartbroken and some lucky shopper was one glorious, life-changing, Earth-shatteringly beautiful pair of Valentino booties richer.

My mom still apologizes about those shoes but the damage has been done. I am forever scared, and twenty years later, I still think about their shoes and shudder at their absence. So, yes— I take shoes very, very seriously.  Every year, I lie to plan my life around a theme. Last year was my year of travel— fitting because I turned 25, so I spent five months traveling around Europe and the US alone as a sort of coming-of-age trek. This year I focused on image and appearance and decided to curb my shopping habit by only buying investment pieces. In the shoe category, I committed to only buying shoes that double as art —ordinary shoes have no place in my wardrobe. I like this because it allows me to wear really basic pieces and dress them up with a fabulous shoe, cutting my morning prep time in half now that I don’t obsess over mixing and matching pieces.

In honor of my oath of “shoes as art,” here are 10 seriously stunning shoes that are so gorgeous they could double as room decor.

1. No.21 Mustard Yellow Elaphe Heel Sandal with Pom Pom & Fringe ($456, at forzieri.com)

2. No.21 Satin Wrap High Heel Sandal ($858, at forzieri.com)

3. 3.1 Phillip Lim Kyoto Silver and Malbec Leather Ankle Knotted Sandal ($650, at forzieri.com)

4. Pierre Hardy black and White Leather Lola Sandal ($358, at forzieri.com)

5. Proenza Schouler Black and White Leather Open Toe Sandals w/ Chunky Wooden Heel ($426, at forzieri.com)

6. Tabitha Simmons Flouncy Linen Heel in Red & Ecru ($279 , at fwrd.com)

7. Loeffler Randall Nicolette Multicolor Fox Fur & Suede Ankle-Wrap Sandal ($450, at saks.com)

8. Gucci Embellished Cutout Leather Pumps ($1850, at asos.com)

9. Maison Margiela Mirror Leather Heels ($545, at fwrd.com)

10. Alexander Wang Ellery Studded Leather Block-Heel Pumps ($995, at saks.com)

Meet Miller, The Muse

Artist of the Week: Miller

In her debut song, “Take It Off,” Houston native singer/songwriter, Miller, delivers depth and range uncanny to those who are rookies in the game. Far from conventional pop music, Miller is an R&B artist–true to form– who sings with gusto and soul-barring emotion. Keep up with the rising starlet via her Instagram, YouTube, and Soundcloud channels.

Brazilian Wax 101: Grooming Below The Belt

While the whole world is tuned into Rio for the Olympics, I’m channeling Brazil in my own way courtesy of the European Wax Center—it is summer, after all! And who wants extra foliage down there when you’re trying to show off a new bikini or flex on the Gram? If shaving just isn’t cutting it (see what I did there?), and laser hair removal is a little too pricey, then waxing is probably your next best bet. And, while the process may not be the most comfortable, the end results are well worth it. Last year, I wrote an article for ESSENCE.com depicting my first “trip to Brazil,” and with the Olympics in full swing and the mercury steadily rising, I think it’s only fitting that I share it with you here. So, consider this an act of charitable giving if you’re considering going bare down there, but you’re unsure of what to expect. Here’s a play-by-play. Thank me later!

In many respects, getting a Brazilian is a rite of passage; a leaving behind of one’s childhood and entering into a smoother, sleeker future— one paved in wax. I have a theory that waxing below the belt is a very metropolitan thing to do. There’s something about New York, LA and certainly Miami that make waxing a lifestyle. Women in these areas simply don’t do hair “down there.” In fact, upon leaving the European Wax Center, I felt a lightness of being—or perhaps it was more of a sleekness given my newly acquired ‘do. Either way, I felt as though I’d joined a tribe. I was also just pleased that I’d actually gone through with it.

body-hair-roundtable-discussion-shaving-man-repeller

Art Credit: Manrepeller

I should note here, that at this point I have literally bared it all in the name of beauty—my body having served as the site of many a social beauty experiment. But, it was still somewhat nerve-racking to walk into a room and be asked —very politely— to “strip down from the waist down.” If I’m completely honest, I’ll admit that I paused for a moment to give my wax specialist, Ambure, time to leave the room while I undressed. I also waited for her to hand me a robe, but when she turned away and began stirring a vat of wax, I realized very quickly that privacy was obsolete in this setting. After all, hadn’t I come —quite literally— to “bare it all” anyway? I took a moment to breathe a grateful sigh of relief for the serendipitous chance that I’d worn a tunic that day, so I wouldn’t have to mount the waxing table bare-bottomed.

Tip: If it’s your first time or you’re a little body conscious, wear a tunic or long tee the day of, so you can cover-up leading up to and immediately after waxing.

Memories of the Waxing Fiasco of 2012 flashed across my mind— that time in college when I tried to give myself a Brazilian because my roommate told me she did her own all of the time. It was then that I learned the meaning of “everything ain’t for everybody.” I tugged the slightest bit on that wax strip, decided it wasn’t worth the pain and spent the next 30 or 40 minutes gently peeling the strip off with coconut oil. (For the record, coconut oil, you’re the real MVP!) I mounted the table, laid on my back and tucked the bottom of my tunic between my legs to shield myself from both the wax and the waxer. I still had a chance to escape, right? Shaving isn’t so terrible. And there’s always laser hair removal.

When asked to press my feet together and spread my knees, I instinctively pressed my knees together and spread my feet.bikini-wax-nsfw-1490748

“Don’t be shy. Take a breath and relax, this will be more uncomfortable if you’re tense,” Ambure assured me.

A few things kept me on edge: Do wax specialists compare their client’s “situations?” Had I trimmed enough this morning to make this process as painless as possible? Winter’s coming, do I really want to do this? I still had a chance to escape, right? I was still clenching my tunic.

Tip: Your hair should be the length of a grain of rice before waxing. Any shorter and hair removal may be difficult. If your hair is on the longer side, trim down to about a quarter of an inch. 

“On a scale of 1-10, what should I expect pain-wise?” I asked out of curiosity, but also desperate for conversation to draw attention away from my oddly decent, indecent exposure. She explained that pain receptors are located near pressure points, so the more pressure she applied during the waxing, the less likely it was that I would focus on the pain. By the time she’d finished that statement, she’d already prepped my skin with body powder and applied the first two strips of wax. In other words, it was too late to escape. By the time I’d finished my request for a landing strip, she’d already waxed and applied two more strips of hard wax. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought to myself. It wasn’t comfortable, but I could tolerate it. Four strips down.

“Almost done. You’re doing great!”

Wax and needles are two things that cause people to revert back to their childhood, making statements like, “you’re doing great” necessary. She applied more wax and the few undisturbed follicles left below my navel wept as Wait. There’s more? scrolled through my mind. Two strips later, I was hair free and then I was asked to flip over. Surprisingly, the backside waxing is seemingly painless. If anything, I focused more on the warmth of the wax than the waxing itself, but the anxiety of waiting for the strips to be removed is almost overwhelming since you can’t watch as it happens.

EWC Ingrown SerumTip: Exfoliate the skin around your lady parts 2-3 times a week to prevent in-grown hairs and slough off dead skin. It will keep your skin smooth and make waxing easier, as the pain experienced during waxing is often caused by dead skin built up around the hair. We recommend this product.

In 10 minutes, I was the newest member of the care-free, hair-free tribe. Ambure followed the wax treatment with EWC Ingrown Hair Serum ($25), an oil-based serum chock-full-of gentle exfoliants and hydrating goodies like glycolic acid, tea tree oil, and berry extract. I slipped into my pants, left a 20% tip (it’s only right!) and prepared to make use of the European Wax Center‘s motto, “walk in, strut out.”

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I felt like a new woman. I may even have texted a friend something to the tune of “Honestly, it’s so smooth I just want to dance in the street… naked!”giphy-2 Needless to say, I’m a convert. Two things are certain: Shaving is out. And I’m introducing all of my closest girlfriends to my waxologist-turned-unofficial BTBB (below the belt bestie).

 

Virginia Lowman originally wrote this article for ESSENCE.com

Considering baring it all for summer, but scared to try it? Share your concerns and send me your questions!

Social Media Obsessed: Living for Likes

During my freshman year of college, a male friend asked me via text one evening if I thought I was beautiful. It seemed an unusual question to pose and so it gave me a moment of pause—not because I was unsure, but rather because my answer made me feel guilty and a little vain. “Yes, I’m beautiful,” I answered, and quickly followed it by stating that answering otherwise would imply that I didn’t find my mother beautiful—that I considered her genes to be flawed or lack-luster in some way resulting in my dissatisfaction with my appearance. And, while I do think that I’m beautiful, I found it troublesome that I felt the need to justify my thoughts with a safe “if, then” scenario.

In an interview with TODAY, Northwestern Psychology professor, Renee Engein, addressed the issue of mixed messages, which dictate what is acceptable and desirable for women stating, “We still live in a world that isn’t quite comfortable with women who [do] acknowledge their worth.” In an age of transparency and authenticity, and with the advent of the selfie, social media has proven to be bilateral in its effects— encouraging women to claim and flaunt their beauty, but equally discouraging as the face of beauty has morphed into something that is becoming increasingly more difficult to achieve.

023_Virginia_Solange_Fashion_shootSomewhere during the transition from dark room SLR film to digital cameras, beauty lost its way. And though the concept of beauty has always been framed by men from a point of authority and possession, beauty in its most perfect form has become a paradoxical concept fashioned after that which is created by a filter or cosmetic surgery—photoshopped or otherwise. While society has always used beauty as a tool for critique and treated it as a private gentleman’s club—elite territory reserved for men’s folly where women are sex objects that are bid on for pleasure—some women still accept this as the norm and vie for entry, though everyone is not granted access because not everyone possesses a beauty that is delicate, diaphanous or traditional.

The crux of social media is its ability to deceive. Once upon a time, print and television outlets were reserved for the uncharacteristically beautiful—or those who had access to professional airbrushing and teams of people who made them appear perfect. Today, the tools for beauty are no longer limited to makeup, but technology as well. Filter-filled social media and photo manipulation apps have expanded that once limited pool of perfection to everyday people creating a virtual auction block for Millennials and Gen Z-ers, where double-taps and likes are used in place of currency. This new man-made beauty is impacting the way that women view themselves. In a recent Dove #SpeakBeautiful campaign, a study revealed that “82% of women feel that imposed beauty standards are unrealistic.”

In lieu of Donald Trump’s interview with the New York Times in which he stated that supermodel, Heidi Klum, is “no longer a 10,” I asked a few close male counterparts about their qualifications for a “10.” Of the many answers that I received, one stood out in particular, “The perfect 10 doesn’t wake up as a 10; she wakes up as a solid 7 or 8. Social media has changed the game,” stated 27-year-old music industry professional, Trevor Washington*. While this statement is interesting for a number of reasons—namely the judgment of women based on a point system—it is equally intriguing because social media has played a role in altering beauty standards for some modern men. This should not come as a surprise considering that a recent study revealed that the average millennial spends “18 hours a day consuming media, 5.4 of which are spent on social media.”

In January of last year, The Renfrew Foundation Center conducted an online survey of 1,710 millennial men and women and found that nearly 48% of those who post photos to social media sites enhance their looks. Seventy percent of women admit to photo manipulation— everything from removing blemishes to changing skin color and weight. “All this taking and posting photos has become an obsession of sorts. We feel pressured to edit and alter our images so we look like what we think of as our ‘best selves’ instead of our real selves”, said Adrienne Ressler, Vice President, Professional Development, The Renfrew Center Foundation, and renowned body image expert.

As shallow as Trevor’s* “perfect 10” comment may seem, the thought process behind it is far from unusual. Social media has exacerbated the pressure to fall within this new “traditional” standard of beauty i.e, clear skin, prominent features, slim waist broad hips,  and feminine facial features. We’ve acknowledged that beauty is power and social presence is becoming increasingly more prevalent. Since its genesis, Instagram has become much less of a photo diary and much more of a curated experience. We’ve recognized that people often follow lifestyles that they aspire to, which often require beautiful photos. Personally, I use three different apps before posting any picture on my Instagram account, selfie or otherwise. And, while I do not discredit my worth and I still consider myself to be beautiful, were my college friend to pose that same question to me today, my answer may be a little different. Instead of falling back on an “if, then” statement—if was I being completely honest—my answer today may be something along the lines of “Yes, I’m beautiful; but sometimes I like myself more on Instagram.”

*Names have been changed.

Virginia Lowman originally wrote this article for ESSENCE.com

How to Apply Mascara Like a Pro

I’m typically a minimalist when it comes to makeup, but two things are certain when I leave the house: my brows are perfectly groomed and my lashes are lengthy and feathery. In fact, I have a running joke with my friends that outside of skincare, my eyes are the most important part of my face. Friends—my boyfriend in particular—know that when I’m doing my lashes or filling in my brows I am not to be disturbed. They understand that this is a process. I typically use three different kinds of mascara applied in timed intervals for various parts of my lashes. To be frank, often times, it’s less about the formula and much more about the brush. Although, I will say that I tend to prefer smoother mascara over the ultra-creamy ones because those tend to clump more and they also feel heavy on the lashes. Read on to discover my lash routine and my top picks to nail my signature feathery, bright-eyed look.

1. For your first coat use a lengthening mascara. The spooley should be long and should not have densely packed bristles. Apply one coat of this mascara to clean lashes wiggling the brush upwards from the base of the lash. Be sure to coat all of your lashes once, but double-up on the center lashes.

2. Using the same mascara coat the back of your lashes drawing upwards from mid-lash to tip

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GETTY images

3. Alternating to your second mascara— preferably one with a densely packed brush— hold your mascara at a vertical angle and focus on the outer lashes, drawing your mascara wand outward from the base. You want to be sure that your outer lashes are as separated as possible.

4. Keeping with the same mascara, focus on the lashes on the inner corners of your eyes and repeat step three.

5. Switch to your last mascara and hold your arm at a 90-degree angle keeping your mascara wand parallel to the floor and run the wand over the tips of your lashes.

6. Coat your bottom lashes with a single coat of the mascara that you used in step one, drawing the wand from mid-lash to tip. Avoid touching the base of the lash to keep your lower lash line clean.

Virginia Lowman originally wrote this article for ESSENCE.com

6 Steps to Landing the Job ‘A Million Girls Would Kill For’

 

It is all too cliché to cite the 2006 film, The Devil Wears Prada in an article about working in the fashion industry, but it is quite fitting.  Of course, interns who double as fashionista’s and aspiring editors-in-the-making all enter the world of fashion anxious and with a sense of doe-eyed wonder, but many are remised to learn upon entry, that they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Success in this business requires tumblr_mp6z0q5Ire1s0scpzo1_500
more than just a love of fashion and an obsession with all things couture; it takes patience, it takes drive, it takes coffee, maybe  a Percocet, and —undoubtedly—a happy hour or two (not to be paired together of course.) So here it is Ladies, a little advice and a quick crash course in the world of fashion publishing.
  1.  Dress for the job that you want.

While being a fashion intern is not regarded in the highest light, interns often make the mistake of thinking this gives them leeway to dress as if they are attending gym class instead of working in a multi-million dollar corporation. Not that you will be doing a great deal of activities that require you to wear heels, in fact, trainers would probably be the wiser choice in footwear, but they are not a representation of the industry that you are in; unless you are working at a fitness magazine, but even there, I’m not so sure that their fashion editors wear Stella McCartney by Adidas to work on a daily basis. I’ll tell you what my mother told me, “If you want to be editor in chief, you dress as if that’s who you are. If she doesn’t wear jeans to work, you don’t wear jeans to work.”  I took my mother’s advice and dressed as the people who held positions I was interested in. As a result, my supervisor recommended me to model in a shoot for an upcoming issue. Thomas Fuller was right, “Good clothes [really do] open all doors.”

2. Heels on carpet, flats on pavement.

When I first moved to New York I started looking into applying for a gym membership. I thought it would be a great way to meet professionals around my age who were interested in health and personal up-keep. “Gyming” also seemed to be a part of the New York culture. In a City so driven by appearance and populated by well-sculpted bodies, getting a gym membership only seemed right, but then I went to work. After my first week, I quickly realized that paying $200 a month for a gym membership would not be necessary. Interning is a work-out all of its own. While editors and assistants are often assigned interns, at some point every intern will be required to go on “runs; a joyous activity in which you brave all elements to pick up garments, props, supplies, and things of various nature that the magazine has requested. Unlike Andrea Sachs, you are not privileged enough to be chauffeured by a company car. You, my dear, will be riding in style….via subway. So always bring two pairs of shoes to work, one for looking the part, the other for running.

3. Volunteer for anything and everything.

Traditionally a magazine will have a team of at least 30 interns most of whom are hoping to turn this into a full-time job. It’s a tight-knit and highly competitive industry, so doing more than asked goes a long way. My first day I had little to no work to do because I was being trained. In my downtime, I would clean up the supply closet and organize magazine archives. People appreciate those who take initiative. So whether it’s going to grab coffee or dropping something off for a shoot in Brooklyn at 8 AM the following morning, the more favors you do, the people you impress—the better.

4. Don’t ask twice.

Fashion, like New York City, is unforgiving and has very little margin for error. It is a fast-paced industry composed of people who barely have time to get themselves lunch, much less repeat something to you. Carry a small notebook, write everything down, and pay close attention to detail. Once, my boss asked me to scan and e-mail a series of layouts for an issue that we were working on. The layouts were either unmarked or marked incorrectly with the wrong month. I literally had seconds to process as she flashed layouts at me and mumbled their designated months. One layout marked “March” was actually for January. I asked her after copying to clarify that I had marked them correctly, and she replied, “this is why I asked you to pay attention.” Organization and attention to detail are key. Asking questions only becomes a problem if it is apparent that you were not paying attention in the first place. In an avant-garde industry such as this, it’s very easy is to fall from grace.

5. Be audacious.

Perhaps you do have the job that “a million girls would kill for,” take pride in that but do not lose yourself on the road to becoming who you are working so hard to be. Fashion is rough, it’s exhausting and incredibly egotistical; having a backbone is essential. I was told numerous times not to speak to editors or share a space with them. If a person of importance comes into the restroom, then interns were expected to leave; and were only expected to speak when spoken to. In my opinion, it is important to be mindful of such things, but you should also be aware of the fact that you’re working in an industry in which talent is constantly overlooked because of a lack of connections, or a lack of audacity. As an intern, you should make yourself available to both. An internship is a perfect opportunity to network, take advantage of it. As for being audacious, I am not recommending that you stroll into the EIC’s  office, sit down and strike up a conversation about Ashish’s new collection of sequined jumpers, but you should smile and—when appropriate—greet those people who fill the positions that you find interesting. Offer to get them water and make yourself known—with tact.

6. Be a team player.

While most interns work for free (or rather for credit,) they often form a hierarchy amongst one another. Older interns often instruct newer interns and as a result, they deem themselves superior. Remember that each intern on your team is a valuable asset, and while it’s important to network with authority figures, it is equally as important to network with your peers. It is not unlikely that one day that girl or guy, you interned with once upon a time and considered to be subordinate to you, will serve a point of contact for you. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a very small, very tightly knit industry. Everyone knows everyone.

Interning in fashion publishing will either make or break your interest in the industry. I think the most important lesson that I have learned since the beginning of my internship is that those who are successful have the audacity to ask for what they want. If you are lucky, your internship will challenge you, you will work for someone who is the epitome of the industry–ego and all, and there will be times that you’ll wonder why you did this to yourself in the first place. If you are lucky enough to have an experience that tests your patience and introduces you to the many facets of the industry, and you still wish to hold a place within it, then my dear, you have found your calling.  So be audacious, be sensible and be fearless—you have a chance to get the job that a million girls would kill for! Bon chic et bonne chanceVL