Fashion Undressed: From the Runway, with Reason

alison santighian for wardrobe oxygen

As a child, I was one of those (misguided) girls with a smidgen of artistic talent who sketched teal gown after teal gown (it was the 80s, after all). I dreamed of attending fashion school and presenting at runway shows in New York. But then I wanted to be a marine biologist, a biology teacher, a history teacher, a German teacher, and then ended up in the current day job, nowhere near fashion.

Then it all changed with bad pageant wear. There were batons, an off key opera, a stilted sonata, too. The Miss Virginia pageant was on a local cable channel, and a woman I followed on Twitter, known only to me as a pair of red soled black shoes in her profile pic, was snarking it up.

I tuned in, snarked along, and the rest is history.

Fast forward through childbirth, new jobs, new businesses, a lot of writing, opportunities made and grabbed, and I ended up right back in fashion, thanks to that snarky woman on Twitter whom I now call colleague and friend. Through social media we connected, realized our shared love of fashion, design, and the well-written word, and then of more “mundane” things like motherhood and reality TV. She was an editor for Glass magazine, and brought me on as a contributing writer, covering New York, London, Milan, and Paris runway shows.

And she asked me to come with her to NYFW to report from the tents. New York Fashion Week, my lifelong dream.

As the email correspondence between my editor and the designers’ PR reps hit my inbox, the whole thing got more surreal and more real simultaneously. I was a mess. Quickly, I had to learn the app used for RSVPs, invite etiquette, and all sorts of other logistics. All while juggling significant day job deadlines, activities for my kids (whom I call “the Beans”), and, oh yeah, had to still complete writing reviews from previous runway presentations.

It wasn’t until the night before the trip that I could even think about packing. How to pack for the most stylish event I’d ever attended, and in below freezing temps? I had no idea where to start. What I did know was that I wasn’t in the least bit worried about standing out. I wasn’t vying to be photographed by the tents (we’ve all seen the pictures of the “celebrities” and, now the bloggers, posing). I wanted, above all else, to simply look like I was meant to be there, even though I felt like a big ol’ pretender. In a bit of an existential fashion insider crisis, though, I realized on Friday night, that not only do I belong, but I have something to contribute to the fashion conversation. And just as my writing is what got me the gig at Glass, my writing is what earned me a spot next to the runways where I would soon almost literally feel the fashion fly past my face. That realization calmed me, and made it easier to pack. I put in four ensembles that make me feel good and strong and powerful, and off I went.

When I arrived in NYC by train, the train pulls into Penn Station through dark tunnels. I couldn’t see New York. I didn’t know where I was. Out of the platform, then up to the street I came. It’s bright, alive, and the world was zipping around.

Into a cab I went…off to experience my lifelong dream and get deeper into my passion for writing about fashion.

Look. Fashion with a capital “F” might not be your thing. You might look at those same runways I practically drooled over and think “Pshaw! That’s a crazy dress. Not only does she not look like me – at all – but there’s no way on this green earth that I’d put that on my body.” What I’ve learned over the years I’ve been reading and writing about fashion is that there’s a fascinating business of art and design behind it all. Sure, there’s drama about who’s taking over which fashion house, or hullabaloo about the gaffe someone made on the runway, but for most of us, that’s not the interesting bit. What’s interesting, and even useful, to the average woman buying clothes is where a textile began or why all the stores are carrying that infernal color that suits no one or their mother.

There are reasons, I promise you, and I hope to shed a little light on mysterious halls of Fashion in my time here at Wardrobe Oxygen.

Alison SantighianBy day, Alison Santighian is a contractor for the federal government, using her super powers to serve our country, but by night (after bedtime for her “Beans” now 7 and almost 5), she pines after the “it” factor. Alison and “H” (better known as #besthusbandever) don’t believe badass has an expiration date, so they hit concerts, shows, restaurants, and openings across the globe. Alison also writes for Glass Magazine, adding a business woman’s eye to fashion week reviews and style features. Follow her on Twitter.

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The Girl on the Train, Blogging, and the Whole Story

the girl on the train paula hawkins

I heard about The Girl on the Train on NPR; I caught the last bit of an interview with the author Paula Hawkins and was interested. I had finished the second book in the Outlander series and was looking for a change of pace before I delved into the third. I listened to The Girl on the Train via Audible on my commute to and from work and ended up not just with a change of pace from Dragonfly in Amber, but a new perspective on blogging, social media, and its audience.

The Girl on the Train is a thriller, very reminiscent of Gone Girl, but it’s also a great example of how looks can be deceiving and what happens when people become invested in the lives of strangers. Rachel Watson is a lonely, lost woman; she’s recently divorced and her life is a mess. She takes the train every day, and every day she passes the same row of houses next to the tracks. One is her old house, still inhabited by her ex and now accompanied by his new wife and baby; but the one that interests Rachel is a few doors down. A couple lives there, a couple that she sees as perfect. She doesn’t know them, but she imagines their lives between glimpses of them sipping wine or coffee on their patio or rooftop terrace. In her head she imagines their relationship, their professions, their hobbies; she even creates names for them – Jason and Jess. When tragedy strikes, Rachel ends up being involved in the life of this couple and realizes they aren’t the people in her morning commute fantasies.

Unlike bloggers and social media celebs, Jason and Jess don’t realize they have an audience. But like bloggers, what Rachel the audience sees is only a snippet of their life and she is making the decision to fill in the blanks.

While listening to this book, I couldn’t help but think about how bloggers and Internet personalities are analyzed, criticized, and sometimes idolized. I see on Twitter, on message boards, and on fan/hate blogs how people like Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train make the decision to fill in the blanks. That somehow, if one looked hard enough at the photos chosen by a blogger for their blog or how a paragraph is phrased they can determine if someone is having an affair, miserable at their job, upset that she can’t conceive, a terrible friend, a neglectful parent. Or the opposite, that by examining one’s Instagram account enough one can determine if someone’s husband really loves her, she’s such a nice and giving person, or she’s a really good mother.

The thing is you don’t know why someone chooses to share what they do. Maybe all the pictures turned out terrible except the one where she’s looking down at the ground. Maybe she always wears sunglasses because even after all these years she’s still awkward in front of the camera and the oversized shades hide her deer in the headlights gaze. Maybe she doesn’t share her husband on Instagram because he’s uncomfortable being photographed.  Maybe the post was written in a rush before the baby woke from his nap and she hit publish before proofing.  And maybe she knows how to play the game and sees from her analytics that she makes more sales when she has that smug smile than when she shows her teeth, or that when she writes something controversial she gets more pageviews, more hate followers, more fame, and more money.

The Girl on the Train is a good reminder that with those we follow on the Internet, and even those we know in real life, we make assumptions and fill in the blanks. And often, our assumptions are dead wrong.

I’m not saying getting invested in a blogger, vlogger, or even reality show star is a bad idea. I love blogs, and I have many favorite bloggers and personalities on social media, some who have become friends in real life and some who feel like a friend though I have never met them and likely never will. This isn’t bad, the Internet is a way to not feel so alone or unusual, to connect and relate to others across the globe. To find kindred spirits and gain inspiration. But it’s important to remember you don’t really know them, you only know what they choose for you to know and through the filter they have picked. It’s entertainment, it’s art, but it’s never the whole story.

The Girl on the Train was a well-written psychological thriller. I don’t want to share much more because it’s definitely the type of novel that is more enjoyable when you have no idea what happens before you start reading. And it’s clear I enjoyed how stereotypical characters were proven to be far more complex than originally thought; something that holds true for everyone you meet in real life, and on the Internet.

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Ask Allie: Wearing White Jeans in Winter

I don’t know why there’s snow on the ground and I want to wear my white jeans but I do. How can I make them work in winter? I’m 45, self-employed and prefer a more classic yet relaxed style.

Get those white jeans out of storage because they are hotter than ever in the winter months! As long as they are denim and not linen, twill, or another summery fabric they can easily be winterized. I’ve written about white jeans before, but you are not the only one who has asked me to revisit this topic in the dead of winter. Below a few outfits to get your sartorial juices flowing and to see how white denim can really rock in winter.

Ideas on how to style white jeans in winter by Wardrobe Oxygen


White jeans look so fresh with soft neutrals. Cream, tan, taupe and grey look so elegant against white. Choose rich textures like suede, cashmere, alpaca, and angora for a rich and seasonally appropriate effect. With this ensemble, I chose shades of pebble and taupe, and highlighted a popular look this winter – tall or over the knee suede boots and slouchy poncho-inspired sweaters. Gold jewelry and a glossy pinky nude lip add just the right bit of shine. To prevent being too matchy matchy, not only is the bag a different shade from the boots it’s a different fabric. It’s more stylish to mix up colors and textures so don’t be afraid to pair leather with suede, or brown with a color.

Ideas on how to style white jeans in winter by Wardrobe Oxygen


When white denim is paired with something obviously wintry, it helps the jeans look purposeful. I love the contrast of a plaid flannel and white jeans. If the shirt has a feminine fit, consider leaving it untucked, maybe with an extra button unbuttoned to show a peek of a camisole or low-necked Henley. A pair of rugged boots in a soft shade keep your feet warm, and the low contrast color keeps the look cohesive. Again, don’t be afraid to mix leathers as I did with a tan leather watch band and gray glazed bag. The choice of three leather/suede pieces is purposeful so it doesn’t look as though you grabbed boots and bag willy-nilly, you made a conscious decision to mix fabrics and did it with style. If you’re a low-fuss woman, no need to apply makeup for your relaxed style; regular application of a balm (this is my current favorite) will keep your lips soft and supple.

Ideas on how to style white jeans in winter by Wardrobe Oxygen


And finally, this look is polished and classic with a modern twist. Considering your personal style you likely already have a gray turtleneck and black blazer in your wardrobe. Balance the dark colors on top with a black Chelsea boot for a classic yet comfortable ensemble, but consider adding a bit of personality with a statement bag and a wash of a sheer red lipcolor (I have this balm stain and swear by it; I’ve had friends of different ages and skintones agree it’s a wearable soft red for most everyone and budget friendly too!).

Hopefully these ideas will show you that it’s okay to wear white jeans in the snow, and you can do it without losing your personal style aesthetic or looking like a fashion victim!

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