Thank You

I had a Friday Favorite scheduled for today but decided to hold off because I need to thank you all, and this thank you is way overdue. Heads up, this post may ramble. A lot.

Last year fucking sucked. Sorry about the swearing, but really it was so bad the F word is necessary to fully state its suckdom. Yeah yeah, I broke my arm twice but other stuff went down along with it that it all really rattled my core, shattered my confidence, and made me question so much about this blog, my life, my purpose.

And then I turned 40. And I said it was awesome because it is, but even if you think positive thoughts and see the glass half full, some milestone ages can still pick at your psyche.

This June, Wardrobe Oxygen turns 10. That’s a major milestone in blogging, I think even more major than a human turning 40. And there’s no way that I could accomplish such a milestone if it weren’t for you. You reading, you sending me emails, you sharing my blog with your friends. In February I decided to show you the love with a bunch of giveaways from some of my very favorite brands. To start it off, I did a giveaway with a bunch of products I love and bought for one of you. I thought it would be fun, but I figured y’all would be far more psyched by a shopping spree at a popular store. I was blown away by all the comments that came on that post, for weeks I caught myself crying almost every time I checked my email.

I felt the universe was telling me something when the winner was Clarissa, a person who started as a hate reader from GOMI and is now my email/Whole30/kindergarten mom buddy. It’s damn hard to not peek when you know someone’s talking about you, but there’s a Firefox add-on called LeechBlock I added to all my computers that has encouraged me to stay away. There’s no point in focusing on those who don’t like you when you’re surrounded by supporters.

So I started individually thanking each of you who left a comment on that giveaway post, and all the emails I received, but it got really overwhelming. It reminded me of when I sent thank you notes after our wedding; the last thing you want to do is send a, “Thank you so much for your generous gift, it will be used in good health” when that loved one went to such effort to pick it out, to attend, to celebrate that next life step and the love of your life. What can you write to truly express what you’re feeling? I got writer’s block, not just with replies but with writing all together. I started overthinking everything in regard to this blog. I wanted this to be a great year – my 10th year, and one where I came back better than ever. But instead I was stunted. I struggled to put together outfits, wanting so badly to do my best, give you what you deserve. I questioned my advice posts and left more posts than I could count in draft form on my computer because I worried they weren’t good enough. And then the money, oh the money ate me up. If I was finally successful, was I the cause of a reader’s financial ruin? Oh gosh, was I hurting people with my blog?

I have some very dear friends who are in this industry. Some are bloggers, some are writers, some are stylists, but we’re all connected by a passion for fashion and a desire to be authentic and honest with our businesses and purposes in life. A couple years ago, I was part of a women’s circle in my community and I still see some of these women from time to time. One night, I saw a woman from that community circle and she gave me some advice. A couple days later I received the same advice from a woman in my other circle of friends:

You are only responsible for what you put out in the world, you cannot be responsible for what people do with it.

That advice not only broke my writer’s block, but also broke this fear I was still holding. The fear of being judged. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of… well being human. Human. We’re all humans, beautifully flawed. How am I benefiting you if I am trying to be perfect for you? That is the problem, not the affiliate links. There’s so much perfection out there right now, it’s so easy to feel as though you’re doing life wrong.

I printed out your comments and emails, even those I haven’t yet replied to. I have them in a binder, I have them taped inside my planner and my work notebook. When I go off course, and worry too much about the them, the everybody, I read them and I remember why I do this and who I do this for.

Last weekend I wrote my post about the word Smug. While I set up LeechBlock, I have Google Analytics and StatCounter, two tools that let you see where traffic comes from. I receive Google Alerts, which provide a snippet of text from sites that mention me. With these tools I saw that five different locations recently had individuals who described me as smug and it blew me away. Me, who has been eating herself up because she doesn’t think she’s good enough. It was another reminder that there’s no point in trying to please everyone, because no matter what you do, you won’t succeed. My post wasn’t a “woe is me, there’s meanies on the Internet” post, but one where I decided to just lay the cards out. And the outpouring of love and support in the comments, the comment form, and emails again left me in tears.

I love you guys. And if you got through all my crazy rambling I want to thank you for being such amazing human beings. So many of you I now consider friends, whether or not we have met, whether or not I even know your real name. I read your comments, and even if I haven’t replied yet, I take them to heart. In these past ten years I have become a better person because of you. Because of you I am more open minded, less judgmental, more giving, kinder. Because of you I get out of my holes of self-doubt and writer’s block. Because of you, this blog exists and will continue to exist, and continue to be more honest and human. I am so damn proud to have such a community of amazing, wholehearted, badass folk here. You have power, you have strength, and you have such amazing beauty. Thank you for sharing it with me.

Love,
Alison

Ask Allie: Two Weeks in Europe, What to Pack?

Allie I found you on Pinterest through your list of what to wear to Paris. I’m going to England and Europe for two weeks and need help knowing what to pack. No offense, can my capsule have some actual color and no leopard? I love bright colors and want to fit everything in one suitcase. Can you help me?

what to wear to europe spring capsule wardrobe

When I travel I usually stick to primarily neutrals (okay to be honest, it’s primarily black) with a couple pops of color because I find it hides stains, is more versatile, and dresses up and down with ease. However, I do know I often rely too heavily on black so for this wardrobe is a base to showcase the colors and keep everything cohesive. Last year I made a capsule wardrobe of what to wear to England in the spring, but this capsule is for warmer weather and with brighter colors. I’ll admit I made this capsule a month ago but it got lost in my files and I hope isn’t too late for your travel. You didn’t specify what parts of Europe and England you’ll be visiting or what sort of activities you will be partaking in, so I made some assumptions and geared this towards sight-seeing, but also visiting nice restaurants and possibly staying with friends and family.

A jacket is a must when traveling; while I often feature trenches in capsules because of their classic elegance, an anorak can also work if it’s a longer length and has clean lines. Look for something water resistant which will also resist wind; a hood is a lifesaver and also provides warmth. Packable versions can handle being shoved into the bottom of a tote when seeing museums and will take up less space in your suitcase. This is an item where it’s a great idea to choose a favorite color; while it may not dress up as easily, it’s far more enjoyable to wear a cheery hue than khaki or black on a gloomy day!

Dresses and skirts are a great idea for travel; they take up less space, can dress up easily, and are quite comfortable and wrinkle-resistant if you choose fabrics carefully. Matte jersey, modal, silk jersey, and ponte are all fabrics that give and stretch to continue to look great after being shoved in a suitcase and then worn for several hours. Solids are less memorable and easier to mix and match. While the tee shirt dress and skirt are black, consider them base pieces to feature colorful tops and accessories. I love wrap dresses, which are figure flattering and usually made of matte jersey, a very travel-friendly fabric.

I recommend always bringing a pair of trousers as well as jeans. While jeans have become more commonplace across the globe, a pair of pants are an easy way to make your knits look more dressed up. Choosing a pair of pants in a ponte knit means they won’t stretch out or wrinkle with wear, and are easy to spot clean. A pair of leggings don’t take up a lot of room and are a godsend under dresses and skirts if the temps drop, are great to have for any athletic activities, and make for comfy loungewear. As for jeans, a hint of lycra stretch will be more comfortable for long bus rides or days on your feet.

With tops, go for pieces with a bit of Lycra which will resist wrinkles. A striped tee is quite versatile, can be tucked into a skirt, worn under a jacket with jeans, or left untucked with leggings. A flowing tank or shell in silk or a synthetic with a hint of shine can look casual with jeans or dress up nicely with the trousers or skirt. Knits with interesting necklines (scoop, surplice, etc.) immediately look more dressy than a standard tee and are also more flattering. A few tanks tucked in your bag are great for changing the look of a wrap dress, slipping under other tops for warmth, wearing under jackets and sweaters, or on their own if there’s a heat wave. As for cardigans and toppers, I recommend going with lighter knits which fit better in your bag and can more easily tuck into a tote if it gets warm. Merino wool is a great choice for warmth without bulk, plus it repels odors and water.

Accessories are a great way to switch up the look of a capsule wardrobe. A pashmina is a travel must – wear looped around your neck for the flight and have it as a blanket for the plane. Wear to change up your outfits, as a shawl when it’s chilly, or to cover shoulders when entering a house of worship. Scarves are a great accessory to purchase while on your trip – they don’t take up much space in your suitcase and each time you wear you will remember your vacation. A couple bold necklaces will dress up simple knits. A watch is stylish as well as handy. Bring along a slim belt in a contrast color to switch up the silhouettes of dresses, cardigans, and untucked tops. A pair of classic wayfarers are chic sunglasses that will go with everything in your suitcase. A tote and a small crossbody in black leather are all you need – use the tote as your carry-on or fold into your suitcase. The tote can be for sightseeing, lounging by the pool, and shopping. The small crossbody carries essentials close to your body to prevent pickpockets, but can also dress up for the evening. Tights and an umbrella don’t take up much room but can be very useful is the weather isn’t on your side.

As for shoes, if you keep them all around the same height they will work with skirts as well as all the pants and jeans in your capsule wardrobe. While sneakers seem like a smart choice for a lot of walking, you can find just as much support and comfort from brands like Sofft, Naturalizer, and Clarks yet a style that will be more elegant and more able to dress up. Depending on the time of year you attend, a pair of tall boots can be a great choice; protect with a waterproofing spray before you go and they will be great for inclement weather.

two weeks Europe what to pack what to wear

Fashion Undressed: Three Designers You Didn’t Know You Knew

alison santighian for wardrobe oxygen

Winnie Beale had on a worker’s peaked cap, properly tilted over one eye, and the squarish, broad-shouldered suit offered by Schiaparelli that was popular for communist events. Elsa Schiaparelli had journeyed to Moscow in 1935 to observe the workers’ styles that would, it was felt, now take precedence in the fashion world.
Alan Furst, Night Soldiers, “Paris, 1937” chapter

There’s an assumption, I think, that American designers were the first to tend towards the utilitarian, particularly during the austere times between World War I and World War II. We know the Rosie the Riveter images and the new work wear’s practicality. Those preferences, though, made it to the runway most famously in Paris, and at Elsa Schiaparelli’s  normally surrealist direction. Suiting had already come up in hemlines for wartime, but Schiaparelli put down the lobster and the lips in the late 1930s. She played – I’d like to think pointedly and with an entrepreneur’s sense of what would sell – on the garishly rich’s proclivity for fashionable political protest, and took the Soviet uniform to new heights. Schiaparelli’s Paris workshops reportedly produced nearly 10,000 garments annually, many in the silhouette many of us now appropriate and think of as a “safari” jacket, or even the military jackets we’ve seen on recent runways.

PicMonkey Collage
Summer 1940 (suit): Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Millicent Huttleston Rogers, 1951 (image); Suit, wool, Fall 1938, credit Gift of Mrs. J.R. Keagy, 1974 (image); Pantsuit, wool and leather, Winter 1938-39, credit Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1955 (image)

More dark and stormy nights (and not the kind over ice, though those are delicious), and a few wars earlier, a design house known to most Brits, but to few others, laid claim to an item on every “Things You Have to Have in Your Closet” list: the trenchcoat. Granted, the interwebs debate who had the first one (Burberry also has a stake in the historical market), but Acquascutum’s case goes back to the 1850s. Unlike Schiaparelli turning the communist egalitarian ideal into a couture, and therefore elitist, symbol of social and financial prowess, the trenchcoat was an entirely practical garment. Founder John Emary turned his patented waterproof fabric into the first version of today’s trench, an overcoat for British soldiers in the first World War. Can’t you just hear the forbidden song playing in the background, as Rick and Ilsa stumble awkwardly through meeting again?

Ilsa: I wasn’t sure you were the same. Let’s see, the last time we met…
Rick: Was La Belle Aurore.
Ilsa: How nice, you remembered. But of course, that was the day the Germans marched into Paris.
Rick: Not an easy day to forget.
Ilsa: No.
Rick: I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.
           (Casablanca, quotes courtesy IMDb)

WOX 3 Designers Aquascutum History(top image; bottom image)

As ubiquitous as the trench and the military-inspired suit, but possibly more groundbreaking, given its place in fashion and women’s history, is Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress. Admittedly, the “DVF” name and brand is much more of a household name than either Schiaparelli or Aquascutum. That being said, von Furstenberg did something neither other fashion house did. A couple of things, really. First, von Furstenberg wasn’t a known designer. She wasn’t backed by a known label, nor did she have the power of a historical brand behind her first pieces. Reportedly, von Furstenberg took the training she earned as an apprentice for a textile maker, a $30,000 investment, and presented her revolutionary jersey dress to Vogue. On top of that balls-to-the-wall savvy, von Furstenberg did something else radical. She didn’t borrow a shape, a design, or even a detail from any existing walk of life. She answered the women’s movement with a decidedly feminine uniform for taking on the boardroom; the wrap dress honored and even flaunted a woman’s body, instead of hiding it or adding to it (as the next decade’s shoulder pads would do). “I dare you,” the wrap dress said. Guess what? We took the dare. 30-some years later, it’s still in heavy rotation, an easy, stylish go-to in many women’s wardrobes.

WOX 3 Designers DVF Famous

The wrap dress is so iconic that we immediately link it to the businesswoman. Even the Oscar-winning costume designers for Hollywood darling American Hustle put Amy Adams in the daringly cut one-piece. Suits-no-more, ladies. Shall we say “use ‘em if you’ve got ‘em?”  J.Lo’s (in)famous Versace gown might not have happened if it weren’t for the DVF wrap dress. Von Furstenburg on Newsweek’s cover.

All three of these iconic pieces are entirely shop-able today. Granted, the designers here are higher end, but the best part about them is that they’ve been – ahem – borrowed by brands and designers at all levels, from Target to Ann Taylor. Here are three of my favorites from each of the three.

PicMonkey Collage

  1. Maison Schiaparelli, Spring 2015 Couture, Look 12: While it may remain haute couture only (and not have a ready-to-wear or licensed lines down the road), this oversized, broad shouldered jacket pulls the workers’ aesthetic forward to 2015. Over leggings or boyfriend jeans, anyone?
  2. Aquascutum’s Franca Single-Breasted Raincoat: As a mama to two smaller beings, this gorgeous pale trench makes me nervous, but the shoulder detail gives a tough asymmetrical look, and the hidden buttons are sleek and modern.
  3. Diane von Furstenberg, you can’t go wrong with her original green twigs print

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.