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Ask Allie: Colorful Cusp Sized Workwear

I have lost weight recently and now I am CRAVING color. I am interested in finding some beautiful, bright, jewel-toned pieces to wear mainly for work. I like a bit of structure but having had a personally-dark winter, I just need color. Tops, dresses, and suits. Now that I can shop more on the non-plus size spectrum, I’m at a loss where to look. I’d prefer NOT to break my bank account; I hope you can point me in the right direction.

I can tell by your email that you’re feeling great and want your wardrobe to properly represent this positive outlook. I completely support this, and after some gloomy winter months there’s nothing better than looking to spring and summer with some color!

This time of year isn’t the best for shopping unless you’re trying to score some major discount deals. Retailers are trying to thin their stock for inventory and make room for spring collections. Don’t be discouraged if you hit the mall and only find racks of gray, black, and random sale orphans. New collections should be in stock by March. However that doesn’t mean you can’t find some beautiful pieces that will add color to your wardrobe, a pep in your step, and be appropriate for the office. My favorite places to shop online for colorful workwear fashion, and the pieces that caught my eye:

nordstrom

Nordstrom

Oh gosh Alison, Nordstrom AGAIN??? Yep, I’m a Nordstrom megafan, and have been since my apparel days a decade ago. Their service is amazing, their buyers brilliant, and they are a surprisingly reasonably priced retailer. Nordstrom has some great in-house brands like Caslon and Halogen that are easy on the wallet, not too trendy, and always have a variety of Crayola hues available. A few of the pieces from these two brands that caught my eye:

  • Halogen Zip Back Knit Pencil Skirt. Pink Caliente is a gorgeous color for now as well as come spring and summer. Pair with gray, black, olive, burgundy, and navy now and come spring liven things up by wearing it with red, turquoise, and coral. I’ve had a couple of Halogen’s pencil skirts and they are well made, a nice fabric that doesn’t show every lump and bump, and wear nicely. Also available in black and in regular and petite sizes up to 16 (if between sizes I recommend size down), the back zipper is a fun touch that isn’t so trendy it will be passé by 2016. $58.00
  • Halogen Ottoman Rib Cap Sleeve Sheath Dress. The Teal Peacock shade available in this dress is one that will make a statement without being too loud for the office. The doubleknit fabric will hold things in without being constricting and also give a more professional look to a fitted frock. Winterize it with black tights and either a black blazer over it or a black turtleneck underneath. Pair with a colorful cardigan in red, orchid, berry, or even a darker teal and nude pumps when the temps warm, and come summer this dress is begging for a colorful statement necklace and wedge sandals. Also available in black, this dress comes in regular and petite sizes up to XL and plus sizes up to 24W. $98.00
  • Halogen V-neck Cashmere Sweater. Cashmere is often passed over because it seems too expensive, but with Halogen being a reasonably priced brand and their cashmere on sale, now’s the time to get a few classic sweaters in cheery hues to wear now until the warmer days of late spring. Available in regular, petite, and plus sizes, there’s still a ton a smashing shades available in every size. This is a piece you can dress up with a pencil skirt or wear on weekends with jeans.  If between sizes, size up for a more classic fit. $58.90
  • Halogen ‘Taylor’ Skinny Ankle Pants. The ‘Taylor’ collection from Halogen has been available for a couple years, meaning you can buy pants this season, a blazer next season, a skirt the following month and they should all coordinate nicely. The quality is nice for a more casual suit or for workplace separates; these ankle pants in Blue Mazarine are a fantastic way to jazz up a closet full of neutrals. Pair with a black or teal turtleneck for a colorful twist on an Audrey Hepburn-like outfit, go professional with a blazer, blouse, and pumps, or do some work-friendly monoblocking with a teal merino or cashmere sweater and a pair of turquoise or navy suede flats. Come spring, these pants will easily transition and look great with softer shades like aquamarine, mint, and chambray. In regular and petite sizes up to 16, also available in white and black. $69.00
  • Caslon Cashmere Tunic. ‘Tis the season to purchase cashmere! The classic shape of this tunic and its flattering neckline will make it a wardrobe favorite. This is a great Casual Friday pick; pair with slim pants and pointed toe flats, or dark wash stretch denim and your favorite tall boots. Regular and petite sizes up to XL available. $76.80 (also check out the similarly cut wool and cashmere tunic from the same brand, a bit cheaper and different colors available)

That’s not to say the only colorful budget-friendly brands at Nordstrom are these two, far from it! It’s just that when you’re cusp-sized it’s sometimes better with this retailer to search their site by type of garment (skirt, dress, tops), and then narrow down by your size to get a better feel for what is currently available. I can also recommend the brands MICHAEL Michael Kors, Karen Kane, and Vince Camuto as brands that consistently use great colors and offer cusp sizes and are often on sale. I didn’t feature specific pieces because their sizes were more limited for color, but you may be able to find a real gem at a great price this time of year.

eloquii

Eloquii

Eloquii is known as a plus-size retailer, but as a cusp-sized woman I have found many pieces there (especially dresses and tops) that fit me nicely. Their prices are great, their style is on trend without making you a fashion victim by next season, and if you sign up for their emails you’re notified when they have fantastic sales (at the time of writing this post, the entire site was 40% off and they promo code was offered on the home screen). All this plus they have not just customer reviews but customers load pictures of themselves wearing the pieces to get a true feeling for how the piece may look on you. They always have a lot of great color, some of the pieces I liked best:

  • Brandi Sheath Dress. Holy flattering seaming, Batman! This is a true desk to drinks dress; wear to the office with a blazer or cardigan, then ditch it and add some higher heels for an evening out. While it comes in navy and black, the green is a gorgeous color that will look great year round. $88.00
  • Leather Sleeve Cardigan. Bold color and an edgy yet office-appropriate detail? Swoon. This cobalt cardigan would look great with a black and white striped tee, over a more basic black dress, or with a print incorporating both colors in the sweater. $88.00
  • Empire Flare Top. Another piece with flattering seaming, this top is made to highlight your assets while still being conservative enough for the office. The three-quarter sleeves makes it a piece that can easily be worn through spring and come fall and the cut would look great with skirts and trousers. Available in three bold hues. $48.00
  • Studio Faux Leather Skirt. Not every color has to yell, some make quite a statement with just a whisper. This pencil skirts comes in basic black but the two pastel hues are the ones that impress. Pair this peachy shade with a bolder color for a look that is more elegant; I’d love it with neutrals like gray and taupe but it would also look amazing with darker shades of pink, Pantone’s Color of the Year and other shades of dark red, and dark greens from olive to hunter to peacock. $88.00
  • Kady Fit Ankle Pant. Eloquii is one of the few brands out there that offers short, regular, and long lengths to plus sized fashionistas. These pants come in those three lengths as well as seven different colors. A classic trouser that can dress up with pumps and a blazer or be casual with a sweater or tee and flats. $78.00
  • Kelly Blazer. The perfect piece to add a pop to your office wardrobe staples, this blazer has a flattering shape and a statement-making neckline. Hook it closed and wear over a dress to give the frock a new look, or wear open with a striped or printed top and trousers. $110.00

Eloquii adds new styles on a regular basis so it pays to return every so often to see what’s new. Also consider following them on social media, where they’re very active and are quick to answer style and fit questions!

ASOS

ASOS

ASOS can be pretty overwhelming at first glance, but it’s a great resource for cusp sized (and tall since you mentioned you were 5’8”) apparel at reasonable prices. Like Nordstrom, your best bet may be to choose a category like Dresses or Tall, and then narrow down by price or occasion. A few colorful pieces that I found in their new arrivals, dresses, and tall categories:

  • River Island Sleeveless Vest. This chiffon layer top is so cheery and so versatile. Wear now with a blazer or cardigan and trousers; come summer pair with distressed boyfriend jeans for the weekend, or a pair of wide-leg white pants and wedges for work. Yellow is surprisingly versatile and goes with everything from neutrals (gorgeous with olive), to other bold hues like plum, teal, fuchsia, and cerulean. $49.27
  • ASOS Woven Full Swing Dress. Oh this green color is divine! Right now pair with black tights and ankle boots for a mod look but come summer you can easily lighten this dress with nude pumps or even a statement shoe in yellow, pink, or blue! $47.38
  • ASOS Wide Leg Trouser with Piping. A red pant is so chic and such a great way to update closet basics. Pair with a black or gray cardigan, a crisp white shirt, a Breton stripe tee, a print blouse with a hint of red. Come spring and summer, wear with a silk or rayon sleeveless shell and statement necklace. $72.01
  • ASOS Tall Shift Dress in Textured Rib. A heavyweight fabric makes this great for the office, and the half sleeves makes the piece work into spring. Consider wearing with a pashmina or infinity scarf in a different bold hue for a fun winter look. $39.80
  • ASOS Sleeves Swing Dress. I own this dress in black and think it’s a great price and a versatile wardrobe piece. I’ve worn as-is with a statement necklace and booties, have used skinny and wide belts with it to change up the silhouette, paired with cardigans and blazers for the office, and find it can dress up or down with a quick change of accessories. $18.95
  • Oasis Ponte Jacket. Oh ponte, how I love you so! You’re stretchy and comfy yet tightly woven and heavyweight so it’s like sweats for the office! This bold blue color is a great way to jazz up the wardrobe and would look amazing with bold hues but can also look quite smart with a mix of white and black or white and navy. $75.80

ASOS also has a lot of sales, it’s smart to sign up for their emails to be aware when they take place. Their shipping and return policies are customer-friendly, making it a great online clothing retailer to try out.

And now I ask you readers for your suggestions – where do you look for work-friendly cusp-sized clothing in bright bold colors?

Fab Faux Furs from ASOS

Fur is on trend this year… and it disgusts me. I can’t believe that it’s 2014 and people are comfortable wearing new fur garments and that magazines (WTF latest issue of Lucky) are still promoting it. I think by now we are all too aware how fur coats are made, and thanks to technology and improvements in fabrics we don’t need to wear the pelt of an animal to protect ourselves from the elements. In fact, faux fur has come such a long way there’s no need for real fur to achieve fun and fabulous fashion.

When it comes to low-cost but high-fashion faux furs, ASOS is the site to visit. They always have the greatest ideas – fun pieces, on-trend details and colors, and looks that will stand out in a crowd. I love shopping ASOS – shipping is free on orders over $25, returns are super simple and free, and if you get on their email list you’re notified of their regular sales and promotions. And international readers – a company that ships to most of you! These are the fab faux at ASOS that stood out to me:

leopard faux coats under 200 asos

For the leopard fans, head thee to ASOS! Every year they come out with at least one covetable faux leopard and I love their choices this fall.

  1. This faux leopard fur coat from River Island is classic cool and a great length and cut that will flatter everything from jeans to trousers to skirts. $189.50.
  2. The stand collar of this faux leopard coat from Only gives a vintage vibe and ups the glam factor. I like that it’s a softer print, making it easier to dress up. $170.55
  3. This leopard faux fur coat from New Look is the type that looks so chic thrown over your casual weekend attire. Simple jeans and sweater? Not any more when it’s topped with this glam baby! $104.21
  4. The subtle leopard print on this fluffy faux fur coat from ASOS’ house brand is utterly adorable and the type that will still be fun to wear years from now. The oversized collar adds glamour and fits with its vintage vibe. $161.08

fur trends 2014 faux asis

My favorite look for faux fur this season is the use of color. While previous seasons had chubbies in candy colors, this year has brought stripes, colorblocking, and patchworks in rainbow hues. Ans as expected, ASOS delivers this trend.

  1. Oh this collarless faux fur is utterly badass, from the hook and eye closure to the boxy fit to that amazing color combination. While I love how they styled it over a casual look, imagine this over an LBD for the holiday season! $151.60
  2. Be Cruella without hurting a single puppy in this black and white striped faux fur from Story of Lola. Zoom in on the detail of this coat, the mixing of textures and you’ll fall in love. What a statement piece! $151.60
  3. I’ll admit, seeing this coat on the ASOS site is what inspired this post! What a fun mix of colors and textures, and the length adds drama. Pastels are so hot this year for winter, but the addition of gray makes it a piece that won’t be dated come 2015. $189.50
  4. Oh this vest is so cool and unique. I adore the unexpected color combination, the unusual print, and the clean lines. Pair over a leather jacket or sweater coat for winter warmth, or belt over a turtleneck dress for a chic day look. $123.18

faux fur coats plus petite vintage

Vintage-inspired faux are in style and are a look that will still be chic seasons from now. ASOS not only has vintage-inspired faux furs but actual vintages pieces for sale (and no they’re not insanely priced!).

  1. I adore this pale gray faux monkey fur jacket. It’s the perfect topper for all your holiday dresses, but don’t be afraid to pair with jeans and boots for a downtown cool look. $113.70
  2. This plush camel-toned faux fur from ASOS’ plus size line Curve has that vintage vibe that will always make it look chic. This would look amazing paired with a turtleneck, dark jeans and boots, or a camel and cream wool dress. $123.18
  3. Pink isn’t what you’d usually consider a neutral, but this blush oversized faux fur from River Island is the shade that will go with absolute everything and the vintage look and oversized shape means it will look as chic with jeans as it does with a cocktail dress. $189.50
  4. Some trends are harder to carry off when you’re petite, and faux furs are one of them. Luckily ASOS realizes this and offers this vintage coat just for us shorties. With shorter sleeves and a trim fit, it won’t overwhelm a petite frame and will look classic for many winters to come. $132.65

Kudos to ASOS Curve!

Kellie at And I Get Dressed (if you’re not reading her blog, you should, she’s fabulous!) shared a fall preview of ASOS Curve and I love the collection on many levels. But my favorite part is that the collection isn’t obsessed with making the model look thin.

asos curve fall 2014

There’s nothing wrong with not being thin, and I’m getting really tired of every brand and fashion expert focusing on this. While more and more brands are offering plus sized fashion and more experts recognizing that women in double digit dress sizes enjoy fashion and desire style, the focus seems to be on how to make our curvy bodies look leaner instead of how to wear fun, fashionable and event-appropriate quality clothing.

asos curve fall winter 2014

No matter what direction the stripes or the length of our skirt, we’re moving, living women who deserve to have as much fun with the contents of our closet as our slimmer sisters. We shouldn’t be restricted to “figure flattering” styles when fashion, especially this year, is just so much fun. Cool silhouettes, references to past decades, use of drape and texture… we deserve to enjoy whatever trend we like!

asos curve fall preview 2014

There’s nothing wrong with choosing fashion that slims the figure, but it’s nice to have options to choose what you want to wear, not what society thinks you should.  So kudos to you ASOS Curve for showing on-trend fashion that focuses on style instead of just trying to whittle a waist or lengthen a line (or give up on us and put us in cheap polyester prints). I think I’ll be picking up a few pieces from your line to add fun to my wardrobe!

What I Wore: Bandana Badass

Tee: Leith | Jacket: ASOS (similar) | Bandana: Vision Street Wear (similar) | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Vince Camuto

The bandana is back this season, and it gives me an opportunity to pull out some oldies but goodies like this one from Vision Street Wear. It’s always fun to take something old from the wardrobe and give it a new life with new trends.

Though my cast is off, my arm is still healing and my hand isn’t strong enough to perform many daily tasks.  Clothing is still best when it’s a bit loose, but I’m liking jackets because they cover the still healing scar and provide some protection.  Adding the jacket and the bandana make me feel less like an invalid and more like a badass!

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Styling a Metallic Pencil Skirt I Don’t Even Own Yet…

The danger of reading blogs is you end up buying things you never thought you needed or wanted.

Thanks to this piece on The Cut, I went on a search for a metallic pencil skirt, and found one. I got the silver ASOS one featured below but unfortunately my size is now out of stock.  Here’s a few reasonably-priced metallic pencil skirts I found online:

Top row, left to right: Etsy, Tinley Road, Zara, Pink Tartan. Second row: Milly, ASOS, ASOS, Etsy

Now I can’t imagine my closet this fall and winter without a metallic pencil skirt!  I’ve already started thinking of ways to style it for work and play and even through the holidays…

I just hope I like the skirt when it arrives, since I have built an entire wardrobe around this one piece I never thought I would want or need.  Okay Alison, back AWAY from the RSS reader!

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What I Wore: Polished Shine

Shirt: Foxcroft | Skirt: Kate Bosworth for Topshop (similar) | Shoes: Nine West “Flax” | Bracelets: Ann Taylor (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon Matte in Real Red

You may recall I was on a hunt for a metallic leather pencil skirt. I ordered one from ASOS that was returned same day – too cheap looking and the fit was dreadful. Found another at ASOS, it was too stiff and too big. Ordered one off eBay that is a hair too small and I can’t decide if I want to stretch it to fit or hold it to see if some of this winter weight comes off. I saw this one at Nordstrom but it sold out before I could score it in my size. I wrote some self-congratulating tweet on Black Friday about not shopping because there’s nothing I needed and I won’t buy it on sale if I didn’t need it full price. Then Nordstrom sent me an email letting me know this skirt was back in stock and in my size. So haughty Alison did actually shop on Black Friday!

This outfit isn’t quite right.  I still am on the hunt for a great white shirt - my InStyle Essentials one is a bit sheer and wrinkles quickly and looked too fitted into this hip-slung skirt, this one is too big and boxy.  I wanted to just wear this tucked in but this fits me more like a man’s shirt so it’s too much bulk. Guess I’ll just have to wear the skirt again and try a different combination!

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Tuesday: Bundled Up

Jacket: ASOS | Dress: Felicity + Coco | Scarf: c/o Nordstrom Rack (similar) | Cuff: Gap (similar) | Shoes: Nine West

Last night we were supposed to get a lot of snow, so much my husband cancelled his yoga class for fear of having students drive home in such a mess. Not a single flake and today isn’t even that cold. However, I planned this ensemble this weekend when trying to pull together cold weather ensembles that still have polish. While I could take off the biker jacket, I think it works with the ensemble even indoors, and I love the scarf peeking out of the collar!

Saturday night, Karl and I had the pleasure of seeing Houndmouth and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at Rams Head Live! in Baltimore. I love Grace, think this was my 6th or 7th time seeing her perform, and it was awesome to see Houndmouth live after months of just hearing their EP. I think this band is really going to go places and I will look back and say I saw them when! BTW, kudos to Grace Potter and the Nocturnals for ending their show Saturday night with a cover of Seven Nation Army, and I heard they opened their show in Baltimore last night with that song. Talk about a professional, to cater to Ravens Town!

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A Life, Replotted: Finding My Path

chelsea henderson for wardrobe oxygen

In my adult life, I’ve been an English as a Second Language Teacher, a school administrator, a Capitol Hill staffer, an environmental advocate, and an energy lobbyist. I’m also a single mother, a wannabe writer and an intermittent blogger with the best of intentions to post more frequently. I’ve toyed over the years with becoming a stylist and spin instructor, and I’ve interviewed (albeit unsuccessfully) for two CEO positions.

To say I was lost is an understatement.

A year and a half ago, driving to work one morning, the left side of my face and neck went numb. I thought I was having a stroke. A doctor friend I texted (yes, while driving) ran me through a series of tests.

“You aren’t having a stroke. You’re having a panic attack,” he determined. “You need to find a stress reliever.”

That numbing sensation returned every time I hit the same intersection in my daily commute. A friend suggested we go to yoga; I reluctantly said yes, kicking and screaming internally the entire way to the studio. Then, as I lay in savasana (corpse pose) at the end of the class, I started sobbing. Call it an epiphany, a reawakening or just a moment of clarity: the stress of my job was killing me, and I had to get out of it.

I left my lucrative high-pressure job and founded my own one-woman policy consulting firm. Between some strategic budgeting, a separation package and a few clients I picked up, I made the financial transition work for my family. But the tug to leave the career I’d spent eighteen years cultivating was strong; I found myself spending less and less time seeking policy clients and more and more time on the yoga mat and working on my novel.

Fast forward to today. I have written not one but two novels, both of which I’m in the process of pitching to literary agents. By the end of January, I will have completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training certification. I also manage a boutique fitness studio and get paid a small sum to write for an energy policy blog.

My income is not the highest it’s ever been. We don’t eat out much, and I didn’t take a “real” vacation in 2014. I’ve consigned many of my old work duds and the heels I used to don religiously Monday thru Friday. I don’t mind spending most of my time in loungewear. I write and practice yoga daily; hope to add yoga teacher and author to my bio; and I’m home when my kids get out of school.

What else do you need to know about me? Someday I will tell you about how my son got his name. Let’s just say it involves a certain handsome brooder from literature. I love wine, books, red lipstick and George Clooney, though I’m trying not to let his recent nuptials depress me. And whatever walk of life you find yourself in, I’m here to inspire, cheerlead and support. I recoil at the label midlife crisis. For the first time in my life, I feel authentic.

I look forward to sharing tidbits of my journey here.

chelsea hendersonChelsea Henderson is an aspiring novelist and recovering Capitol Hill staffer. When she isn’t sneaking time to finish writing her second book, she advocates on behalf of clean energy and environmental policy, reads, practices yoga, and single parents her perpetually hungry pre-teen boys. She also periodically contributes to her lifestyle blog, the Chelsea Chronicles and is intermittently good at Twitter.

Don’t Let Purchases Haunt You

nothing haunts us like the things we didn't buy

Have you seen this quote floating around Pinterest? I have and every time I see someone I know pin it I cringe.

I believe in the power of clothing. A great outfit can be a suit of armor that helps you feel confident during a stressful or difficult situation. Wearing a certain type of clothing can show respect to your workplace, to a house of worship, for the deceased, or those hosting an event. And sometimes just the right cut of a dress can take you from schlump to sex goddess.

However there isn’t a single purchase you can make for your closet that will change who you are. I don’t care what name is on the label or how amazing it makes your boobs or ass look, it’s not going to change your brain, your heart, or your soul. And maybe I sound like your mom, but it’s what’s inside that counts.

clothing is only the book jacket to your life novel

Clothing is only the book jacket to your life novel. Choosing clothing that fits and flatters not just your figure but your lifestyle and personality help better represent your novel and may attract more interested readers, but they don’t affect the plot or the outcome.

I’ve caught myself many times doing what I know many of you have done – shopped for a new self. This year I’m going to wear more power colors, I’m going to embrace my femininity, if I start over with a new minimalist capsule wardrobe my life will be simpler, I’m not going to be “that” mom, “that” corporate drone, and yes “that” blogger.

And the closet gets new additions, but one’s core, one’s self is unchanged. Because money can’t buy happiness, and it can’t buy a new soul. It’s easier to throw money at a closet than do self-analysis and work to improve our selves, but it doesn’t work. You have to do the work, not your wardrobe. Life is more than clothes, don’t let purchases define you, don’t let that which was unpurchased haunt you. You’re so much more than what you buy and own, so much more precious and interesting and beautiful. Believe that, and remember that a book jacket is just marketing; the plot of the novel is what really matters.

Focus on Blogger Fashion: Heart, Print & Style

Not until a little over a year ago, did I admit I was based out of Washington, DC (I used to have a pseudonym and just say I was somewhere on the Mid-Atlantic). Once I admitted my location, I decided to make an effort to get to know my fellow DC fashion bloggers. Thanks to the Capital Area Fashion and Beauty Bloggers, I have met so many fashionable bloggers in this city.

I met Vivi of Heart, Print & Style at one of my first blogger meetups, and immediately loved her fabulous sense of style, as well her sweet personality. On top of that, we realized we only live a couple miles from one another! Every time I visit Vivi’s blog or see her at an event, I am wowed by how she translates current trends to fit her figure and personality.

This holiday season, many of you have asked how to carry off hot trends, sequins, and sparkle when you are plus sized or have curves. I asked my friend Vivi to share some of her recent party looks, and how she makes popular trends work for her figure.

Vivi on Shopping:

“I have a love-hate relationship with shopping. I get excited about the task but once I get there, I lose interest immediately. Usually when I plan to shop, I already have in mind of what I want. Window shopping live, in person is not one of my favorite past time; I enjoy ‘window shopping’ online.”

“I can spend hours in a thrift store scouring for unique items. It’s a bit more exhilarating to shop there than at retail stores. You never know what you will find!”

“[My second favorite place to shop] is Old Navy. One main reason why I love the store so much is because their XXL tends to run a bit big. That is a HUGE plus (no pun intended) for me since I have a sizable chest and all my weight is distributed to my middle area. My favorite online retail store is ASOS. If you want to be ahead of the fashion curve in ANY size (regular, petite and plus size), ASOS is the place. Their accessories and bags/purses section is just amazing. And finally, ASOS has THE BEST clearance sale around. Regarding shoes, I shop at Avenue, Lane Bryant and a couple of online stores like Simply Be and Evans. Each store offers classic and trendy shoes for my 10WW feet. I buy all of my lingerie from Lane Bryant.”

Vivi on Making Trends Work for Her Figure:

“The best advice I’ve heard is to always know what works best for your body. Also, you must know your body type. Like for me, my body type is an apple: smaller on top and the bottom, bigger in the middle. I barely have any hips and my butt is non-existent. Because of this, I tend to gravitate toward items that I know will hide the middle area a bit more; blazers, cardigans, vests, jackets – anything that I can layer over a dress or a blouse. Speaking of dresses, I go for those that have a slight empire waist, not too form-fitting, and highlights my chest area (v-style or low u-style). If the dress is form fitting, I’ll layer it with a blazer, etc. If the dress is shapeless, I add a belt. Having small hips, I need to create an illusion of a hour glass figure and a belt accomplishes that. For bottoms (skirts, pants, jeans), it’s all about a high waist to prevent the dreaded ‘muffin top’.” 

“I am a lover of color and print. Color and prints can work for anybody, in any shape; the key is finding the item that can work best for your body. The same applies to the popular trends you see today – sequins, velvet, plaid, polka dots, bright pants, maxi skirts, mixing prints, etc. As long as you know your body type, you can definitely make it work!”

Thank you so much Vivi for sharing your personal style with us!  To learn more about Vivi of Heart, Print & Style please visit her blog; you can also find her online at:

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Gwynnie Bee: Helping Women Feel Like Princesses Every Day

I think you all know by now how much I adore Gwynnie Bee, which is like Netflix for fashion. Sizes 10 – 26, you choose a plan based upon how many pieces you want to have available at a time. Return an item, get another. You can keep any item for as long as you wish, and even now purchase pieces you don’t want to return. Free shipping, free returns, popular brands that flatter a woman’s curves and embrace current trends, and plenty of reviews from fellow clients to help you better pick the right pieces for your figure and lifestyle!

Gwynnie Bee makes me feel princess with a limitless closet. In honor of Gwynnie Bee’s one-year anniversary, Gwynnie Bee asked me and fellow DC blogger and Gwynnie Bee fan Lexa from Lemmonex to do a photo shoot in our fabulous city featuring some of our favorite fashions from the company. Again Gwynnie Bee made me feel like a princess, having a photographer follow us around DC capturing me and Lexa shopping, walking past our favorite haunts, even sipping a cocktail at a local bar.

Shopping at Violet Boutique:  
Lexa in the AX Paris Stud Cuff Dress, me in the Simply Be Beaded Tunic Dress

Window Shopping in the Nation’s Capital: 
Lexa in the Spense Bird Print Shirtdress and me in the ASOS Curve Shift Dress in Animal Print
Happy Hour at Smoke and Barrel:  
Me in the Simply Be Geometric Print Tunic (my petite self rocked it as a mini dress), Lexa in the ASOS Curve Peplum Top in Dog Tooth

Ready for a night out in DC:  
Me in the Coldwater Creek Lace Scroll Dress, Lexa in the Kiyonna 3/4 Sleeve Scalloped Boudoir Lace Dress

Girls Night in the City:  
Lexa in the Coldwater Creek Fluid Wrap Dress, me in the Simply Be Printed Sheath Dress

For more photos from the day, follow me on Facebook!

It’s fun to feel like a princess when you don’t have to spend royal prices. Gwynnie Bee lets you play with fashion without the financial risk – shake your tail feathers in snakeskin, party in a peplum, stand out in sequins, wear a new color or silhouette without having buyer’s remorse. Borrow a piece for a day… or two months. The choice is up to you!

If you’re not a member of Gwynnie Bee yet, what are you waiting for? Get your diva on, and right now get a nice offer in the process! To celebrate Gwynnie Bee’s anniversary, new members receive an extra one month one garment upgrade + 30 day free trial (valid until March 7th at midnight). If you are already a member, refer your friends with your personal referral link to earn free months of Gwynnie Bee! If you’re not a member, click on this link and say Wardrobe Oxygen referred you to get the great deal!
Note: I do receive a commission on all new subscriptions to Gwynnie Bee when my name or Wardrobe Oxygen is mentioned.  I was not compensated to do this post, though the photographer hired for this shoot was the talented and hot as heck Karl Gary.

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What I Wore: Blame Megan

size 14 petite blog latico red purse stripe dress
Dress: ASOS | Bag: Latico via MYHABIT (similar) |  Bracelet: CC Skye via MYHABIT (similar) | Shoes: Converse ‘Shoreline’

There are many friends in my life that I met through this blog, and one is Megan. Though we live on opposite coasts, we were pregnant at the same time, emailed back and forth over maternity fashion and breastfeeding, and became friends. One day she messages me these $89 Jason Wu shoes on her MYHABIT waitlist that came available. I had heard of MYHABIT but tried to steer clear from such sites because I didn’t NEED anything. But $89 Jason Wu heels had me curious enough to check it out and I became a fan.

I still try to steer clear from MYHABIT and other sites because it’s too easy to get caught up in the excitement of the bargain and buy things you don’t need or even really want, but it’s a fab site to find brands you already like at great prices. I like Latico bags; the leather is high quality, the styles simple and timeless, the price extremely reasonable for the quality, the brand has a cool rock and roll history, and they’re not covered with logos. Last year I wanted a red bag, and found this one on MYHABIT for around $40. This Spring, I realized I had a $20 credit at MYHABIT (refer friends and get credit, FYI my links are referral ones) and got this over $100 bracelet for just $9. So if I have someone to blame for this weekend look, it’s my bloggy friend Megan!

Blogging Love – Interview!

I was honored to be interviewed by Elle of the new blog Label Ho. Elle’s discusses fashion and her personal style on this site. I love supporting fellow fashion and style bloggers so I jumped at this chance to have us get to know one another better!

You can check out the interview here.

I loved the questions she asked (and if you go back in her archives, you can see her answers to the very same questions!). The name of her blog cracks me up. It reminds me of when I was Editor of my high school yearbook. I had such the fight with the sponsor over the proper spelling of this word. “If you add an ‘e’ it’s suddenly a garden tool!” (Let’s not even get into why this word was in my yearbook – let me just state that my high school was a fabulous one where I learned Japanese and was in International Baccalaureate courses, but it wasn’t in the most chi chi of neighborhoods.)

Since she interviewed me, I decided to ask her a few questions as well. Get to know Elle!

Name: “Elle,” author of Label Ho, a fashion and personal style blog

Why did you start blogging? What could be better than writing and posting about something you love? I thought it would be a fun hobby and a great way to connect with other fashion-minded people.

Favorite item in your closet: An authentic vintage Gucci handbag circa the 70s. I love that its suede and doesn’t have the GG logo plastered all over it. I found the bag at a thrift shop and its in immaculate condition. Best of all, I got it for an excellent price!

Favorite Web site to visit: FabSugar.com. They have pretty comprehensive coverage of what’s going on in the fashion world, delivered in quick, short posts. I also like that they post great outfits that members of their community put together. I’m fascinated with seeing what people put together.

Top five items on your style wish list for this season: I can only think of three since I think I pretty much have most of my key pieces already:

1. Another pair of dark bootleg jeans. I’ve pretty much worn my favorite pair so much (Joe’s Jeans in the Honey fit) that the color’s faded significantly.

2. More dresses. I’ve purchased a few already, but I just can’t get enough. They’re so easy to pull on in summer.

3. A pair of wide-leg jeans. I’ve tried on a ton of different ones, but still haven’t found a flattering fit.

Outlet Mall Shopping

Yesterday I visited a major outlet mall in my area. Over a mile of stores – some with great bargains, some with great piles of crap. There have been many stories about discount stores – how some of the product is not on sale, the clothes are made specifically for the outlet and are not the same quality that the brand name usually delivers, etc. After all that, you find designer duds for less, when is it worthwhile to spend, when should a bargain be passed by?


Fit
If it doesn’t fit well for $300, still doesn’t fit well for $150 and even for $65, don’t buy it. Just because it’s a great bargain does not make the fit any better. Shoes that are too tight or too big, jackets that pull at the back, pants that would be lovely if you just lost 15 lbs., no matter the bargain these items should just stay on the rack.

If the jacket’s sleeves are too long, the skirt’s hem at an awkward length, the shoulders a bit too big, these things can be altered easily by a tailor. You must be in love with the piece and find multiple places and ways to wear it to justify the tailor expense. I found a cream silk linen suit at a discount store – the suit fit perfectly except for a broken zipper and too long of sleeves and legs. I bought the suit for $65, regularly $350, and for $40 had the zipper and hems all modified. I have worn the suit to work, to religious events and as separates for three years. That purchase was worth the added tailoring expense.


Style
Often times the items at the discount store are there because they are leftover from last season. When it comes to classic pieces like suits, dresses and knits, this is not a problem. A blue merino v-neck is lovely almost every year, and more lovely when 50% off. The problem comes with the trendy p[pieces.


If Lindsay, Mischa, Nicole or Chloe was wearing it last spring, it’s a good chance that piece is passé now. Pass on the embellished jeans, the metallic leather bags, the rainbow-hued sunglasses and most other accessories. Just because it’s on sale does not mean it is a good buy. When it comes to scouring outlets, your best deals are the ones that will last through more than one season. Sweaters, suits, outerwear, cocktail dresses, leather goods and most shoes are great bargains if you find quality and value in the same item.


Name Brands
Just because you found a pair of Manolo Blahniks for $100 at the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet does not mean they need to be purchased. Do they fit your current style? Are they comfortable? Are they current or classic?

We have all seen the label whores – those women with a Coach purse, Jimmy Choo shoes that JLo wore last year, Baby Phat jeans, a Bebe tee with the rhinestone logo, Chanel sunglasses and a Pucci scarf in her hair. These items weren’t bought for the quality or the style. They were bought because a stranger could spot the brand a mile away. She looks trashy, obvious and victimized by fashion. None of these are appealing. Labels do not suddenly make you well dressed or well liked.


If you can find a Furla bag for 40% off and it suits your style as well as lifestyle – then go for it. If you are buying a bag purely because it’s Prada and you don’t like the style, size or fabric… well you have become a label whore.

Don’t buy that jacket just because it’s designer. Pretend that it is an unknown label – do you still like it? Do you still find it attractive and necessary? If not, put it back on the rack. That goes for ill-fitting designer duds, last season’s “It Bag,” obvious logo advertising (if it’s that obvious, it will be that obvious from last season – not worth your time or money) and damaged designer goods.


Damaged Goods
Many discount retailers sell the irregulars from a label. Some irregulars can barely be seen by the naked eye – may be an incorrect dye lot or the wrong buttons sewn on a jacket. Some may work in your favor – pants cut too short or sleeves that are too long or too narrow. Often times these stores received the garments that were damaged in production, transit or through many jaunts to the fitting room. Broken zippers, missing buttons, fabric snags are all defects that can easily be repaired or covered up if the price and style is right. However there are other defects that are not worth the purchase, no matter how low the price. Runs in nylon, stains, button holes at the wrong height, linings that do not align with the trouser, two pieces stitched together from two different dye lots. Even if it is Versace, it will look like Gallo Clothing on you if it is this defective.


Buying in Bulk
I used to be a huge fan of buying in bulk – find a tee shirt you love, buy it in eight colors and three of white and black. Flattering trousers? Buy one in every color. I then found that my wardrobe was like one big uniform… one big boring uniform. Mixing basics with fun pieces offers versatility, ease but individual style.


At outlet malls, buying in bulk is a good idea. Yesterday I was at the Banana Republic outlet and found high quality stretchy tees in tons of colors – $9.99 each. I bought one in black, one in white, one in gray and one in red. These shirts can be worn with jeans on weekends, with a little skirt for happy hour with the girls or under a suit for work. I found a great pair of wool trousers at Off Fifth, bought them in brown, gray and black. They were so standard and fit so amazingly well (and were only $39.99 each) that it was worthwhile to buy every color I liked. I knew with my work and lifestyle I would find regular use for such trousers. Another time I found a pair of really cute studded pointy heels from NYLA. They were 75% off and tres cute. I decided to buy them in hot pink, ivory and black, thinking that if they fit well, they would get much use. I was imagining sparkly tops and designer jeans with the ivory, a sexy power suit with the black, and envisioned an outfit a la Carrie Bradshaw for the pink. I took them all home, have worn the pink ones multiple times, and have barely touched the other two. I don’t wear designer jeans with sparkly tops on a regular basis, and don’t own a single chic black power suit. Those two shoes have barely seen the light of day. Consider your current lifestyle when considering to buy in bulk – items that look too familiar may not be worn and too many of the same thing may make them all too boring to regularly wear. Also, if you don’t wear red patent stilettos now, you probably won’t after purchasing a pair.


In conclusion, don’t buy just because of a label, or just because of an amazing price. Less money for an item is still money, and money should be spent carefully. Be willing to take the time to find quality purchases, not pick up every shiny bauble that sort of resembles what Gwen or Jessica wore last Spring. Fashion is not about the specific item, but the allover look. A Louis Vuitton bag or a pair of Chanel sunglasses will not make you a fashionista, the pairing with appropriate and complimentary pieces is what takes you from being a label whore or a fashion victim to fashionista status.

What I Wore: Tin Man

Jacket: ASOS (similar) | Tee: Old Navy | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Bass “ELY-3″

It’s nice to take a break from heels every so often, but finding flats that fit is hard for me.  From years of toewalking, I have thick padding on the balls of my feet and high arches so my feet are… not really wide but tall/puffy.  My pinky toes fall out of most flats because they are so short, my feet don’t curve like most shoes so Chucks and loafers cause pain after a couple hours, and lace-ups are usually too streamlined and hurt the top of my feet.  I’ve tried on dozens of oxfords and brogues and none of them fit feet like mine.  So when I saw these shiny silver ones from G.H. Bass & Co I had to try them.  I’ve had luck with Bass shoes in the past, and was pretty excited that they had them in a finish that was more my style.  Finally, oxfords that fit!  They took a day to break in, but now they’re quite comfortable.  So comfortable, I think I have a new pair of concert shoes.  I’ve worn them to work peeking out from under a pair of trousers, but this more how I wear them on the weekends. I’m looking forward to wearing these in, while they’re fun now all shiny (Karl calls them my Tin Man shoes), I think they’ll look pretty great come spring weathered and worn.

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What I Wore: Turband Hair Day

Tunic: Ann Taylor (similar) | Jacket: ASOS (similar) | Jeans: NYDJ | Boots: DUO (similar) | Bag: Rebecca Minkoff (similar) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban | Turband: c/o Nepali by TDM Designs | Lipstick: Korres Guava Lipstick in Wine Red

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I wore this outfit last Friday. Last week was insanity – long hours at the office, dreadful commutes, Emerson had nightmares.. you name it, I drank a lot of coffee to compensate for stress and lack of sleep and the last day of the week left me looking as frazzled as I felt. No way was I going to try to make my hair look good or wear something that wasn’t super easy and comfortable. Honestly, I wasn’t going to do an outfit post, but well… I don’t try to be HIGH FASHUN, I use my outfit posts to show real-world personal style on a woman who loves fashion and is over 30 and over a size 10… so here you go, real life!

Nepali TDM Designs sent me this cashmere headband/turband and I thought it was pretty awesome. Soft and cozy, keeps my ears warm this winter, and it hides a really bad hair day! Brilliant! Not only that, the amazing folks at Nepali by TDM Designs are offering Wardrobe Oxygen readers 50% off these cashmere headbands! They come in a bevy of colors, can be adjusted to be wider or more narrow, and your purchase will help support the women of Nepal with above-market compensation, access to healthcare, and scholarships for the education of their children in order to help break the cycle of poverty.  Use code ellie50 at checkout – this code will only work for the headband. However, with code wardrobeoxygen you can 25% off the rest of the site!

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Lifesaving Lilac

Dress: “Sabrina” Sheath c/o Dobbin Clothing | Shoes: Joan & David (similar) | Jacket: ASOS | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Large Bracelet: J. Crew (similar)

You all know I adore my Dobbin Clothing dress; I was excited to see their new Spring collection – fun new colors and silhouettes. Jessica at Dobbin Clothing was kind enough to send me the Sabrina Sheath in this perfectly springy shade of purple. It was just the ticket – I had a majorly stressful day at work yesterday and a long evening at a blog event (if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you know what it was, the rest of you a post will be coming soon!). So to be able to have one-piece dressing this morning was so very needed, and it’s nice to have it so easy yet look quite professional and be comfortable in high quality ponte knit. I thought it was going to be chilly and added the jacket, but it’s actually colder in the office than outdoors!

This week is a bit of a killer for me at work, and this weekend is going to be busy. This past weekend I had some serious writing mojo and have a couple posts in the queue for the rest of this week and next. I’m trying to blog less often, but work smart not hard on what I do write. While I seem to be putting out just as much content, it’s not stressing me out as much and feels more authentic… more old school Allie. The wardrobe change, the blog change, the season change… it’s a lot of change but it all feels very good!

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Friday – Breton Stripes and Boho Scarves

ShirtArmor*lux (gift from reader – similar)
Skirt - Halogen (think the same skirt, just this year’s version)
Booties – Miss Sixty (similar)
Necklace – LOFT (similar)
Jacket - ASOS
Scarf – c/o Lolly
Bag - Sabina (similar)
SunglassesMarc by Marc Jacobs

Cute kid – Mah Belly!

I feel very Old School Allie in this look, and it really shows how my personal style has developed over the past year. A year ago, my typical outfit would be with a scarf like this; over time I have worn such scarves less often and I realize how much I miss them. They give that boho vibe I love so much to the more classic wardrobe pieces I love for work-appropriateness and style longevity.  I was thrilled when Lolly sent me this scarf – the colors are so perfect for spring and a great accent to many of the hues in my closet.  And if you like it… stay tuned, there may be a chance for you to get one free for yourself!

And again, a big thank you to Karen in France who sent me this fabulous shirt! When I reviewed the L.L. Bean Summer Boatneck Pullover,  she mentioned Armor Lux in the comments.  I realized that this brand isn’t easy to find in the US (ASOS has a few for men, but not for women) and she offered to send me one.  Boy is she right about how perfect these shirts are! Great quality, perfect weight, crisp stripes, flattering neckline… I am a major fan!  Now Armor Lux you need to sell these shirts in the US so more of us can enjoy your brand!

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Thursday – Back in Black

Dress – Eliza J (similar)
Belt - Lauren by Ralph Lauren
Tights - DKNY
Mary Janes – Nine West (similar)
Jacket - ASOS
Clutch - Boutique in Rehoboth Beach (similar) - it has a strap to make it a foldover crossbody or a square larger crossbody

As I mentioned in a recent post, wide belts are a great way to make too-big clothing work for your current figure. This dress is a 14 and while it nicely skimmed the body here, it’s now shapeless on my figure. Big belt to the rescue!

I have wanted a biker jacket since… well forever. I still have mine from high school, but it’s a weird silhouette with dolman sleeves and padded shoulders. While I desperately wanted a biker jacket, I couldn’t justify spending more than $175 on one. Now that winter styles are going on sale, I started finding jackets in my pricerange, but rarely in styles or sizes that would work for me. I had never shopped with ASOS before, but saw they had a Leap Day discount on everything, including sale. I ordered a leather biker jacket, and on a whim also ordered this pleather one. While the leather one is really nice (in fact, nicer than many I tried on twice its price), it’s not what I was looking for, and I needed a petite version. However this one was a pleasant surprise and now a new addition to the wardrobe!

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Out and About: Spirit Animal at the W

Spirit Animal POV W Hotel Brandlink

As a blogger, I receive many invites in my inbox, but having a job and family means most of them I decline. However, when I received an email from Brandlink to see the band Spirit Animal perform at the W, I immediately emailed my mom to see if she could watch Emerson so Karl and I could have a fun date night. And fun it was!

This wasn’t our first event at the W; they often hold fashion shows, book signings, and live performances. Karl and I always start or end our W Date Nights at the Old Ebbitt Grill bar, enjoy a bourbon and ginger and a dozen or two oysters. Wednesday night was packed with tourists and business men, but we were able to snag two stools for dinner.

The P.O.V .Lounge at the W is on the top floor of the hotel with huge windows providing a view of the Washington Monument. Events here are great because it’s an intimate setting and the performers usually mingle with the crowd before and after their set.

IMG_0992

I came straight from work, so I needed something that was appropriate for the office as well. I wore the ASOS Swing Dress in black with my old Miss Sixty black heeled booties, a couple silver necklaces, my silver cuff, and my leopard Rebecca Minkoff bag (which is a crossbody so I can dance and hold a drink even with my cast).

Spirit Animal Band photos by Karl Gary

Spirit Animal has ties to the DC area; lead singer Steve Cooper grew up in a Maryland suburb not far from me and bassist Paul Michel spent much of his childhood in the District and previously worked at DC institutions like the Black Cat and the Tabard Inn. The band also includes guitarist Cal Stamp and Ronen Evron on drums. I read one review that stated they were a fusion of Red Hot Chili Peppers and LCD Soundsystem, another that said they sounded, “like Rage Against the Machine in an unusually good mood.” I think both are pretty good descriptions, I danced all night and had a blast.

spirit animal wardrobe oxygen

It was great to get out; I’ve been on the DL since the arm incident and this was my first time out on the town wearing the cast. It was totally worth it; if Spirit Animal’s playing at a venue near you do check them out!

Photos by Karl Gary <3