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Beating the Heat

Cardigan: Another Line (similar) | Dress: LOFT | Belt: Anthropologie (similar) | Shoes: Softspots (similar) | Bracelet: c/o Lifetherapy | Glasses: Derek Cardigan 7003 c/o

It was hot. That thick, steamy hot that happens before a summer thunderstorm. The kind of hot where you have to swim through the air to get to your destination. The kind of hot where there’s no point to do your hair, and no point to really try to pull together a fancy outfit. The kind of hot where you realize you did the same darn pose for every shot.  I recently got this dress from LOFT and was going to take to the tailor to hack of a couple inches for a more flattering length but it seemed pretty perfect for today and decided I could get it tailored after today. The dress is jersey, but the skirt is lined so it hangs nicely and won’t cling to my butt after getting all sweaty in a Metro “Hot Car.”  Cardigan is purely for office comfort and decorum, it was removed each time I left air conditioning.

My brown heeled sandals died in the hurricane and I have yet to get replacements. I think this outfit would have looked far better with some height, but then I think it’s just the wacky hemlength. And gosh darn it, these are the comfiest sandals I have ever owned and look forward to any opportunity to wear them. They’ll be going with me again to Forecastle (in TWO WEEKS!), they are THAT comfortable.

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Another Coming Clean Post…

I know I haven’t posted a lot. It’s because… I hate my wardrobe.

Yes, Alison Gary, author of Wardrobe Oxygen has a closet full of stupid stuff. No staples, no go-to pieces. A bunch of things that don’t fit, don’t flatter, or don’t work with her lifestyle.

Today I am wearing one of my few go-to work outfits – black pencil skirt, white ribbed tank, green cardigan, scarf tied to make a necklace. But the shoes are my black patent t-straps which don’t go as well as the peeptoe pumps but my feet are still hurting from Bonnaroo and those high heels aren’t going to cut it. And the tank has been worn a lot and is a bit stretched out and meh looking. And my hair is a mess because my husband gave me a head massage last night while watching something on the History Channel about real pirates of the Caribbean and I didn’t have time to shower this morning.

Yesterday I wore my Muse knot-front dress.

The day before I wore my blue print Ann Taylor wrap dress.

Last week was a bunch of dresses too, because that’s what I have a lot of. And that’s what fits. I have even tried to figure out ways to make my Bonnaroo sundresses work-appropriate. No luck.

Yesterday I decided, so what if all I wear are dresses. But if all I am going to wear are dresses, I need to get a few more. I don’t have enough clothes to get through the work week without… well without wearing a stretched out white wifebeater with a pencil skirt. I went to my go-to sites – Ann Taylor, LOFT, Nordstrom, Gap. No inspiration. Dresses I liked were not in my size or price range. So I Googled brands I love – Calvin Klein, Maggy London, London Times, Muse. I also hit the other department stores online – JCP, Macy’s, Dillard’s, Lord & Talor, even Saks. Not much luck. So I thought… what store online has a great return policy if I hate these things, doesn’t cost a lot to ship, and will have 14 and 16 but not plus size?!

Overstock is where I got our living room rug, storage bins for the shelf on Emerson’s changing table, the velvet quilt on our bed. I have never bought clothes there before, but I know they carry great designers. And even better, they have great reviews by customers.

And even better, is partnered with Ebates. And you KNOW I love Ebates. Seriously, I have made over $500 with Ebates just this year alone. Why shop online if you don’t first hit up With Ebates, I would get 4% cash back on my entire purchase at So I went to Ebates, searched, and went to their site.

I ended up getting a pair of yellow espadrille wedges and three dresses. My fingers are crossed, and I will let you know how they work out. I feel good about it based upon reviews and the silhouettes of the dresses.

I have done something else which I know will help my wardrobe situation. I hate to post it, but figure I should because posting it, making it public puts me accountable.

I have signed up for Weight Watchers.

I have been meaning to do this for MONTHS. I did Weight Watchers in the past and had some success. Two readers of this blog that have become virtual friends have had recent great success with Weight Watchers. I was going to start last week but my husband had to sub last-minute for a fellow yoga teacher that evening and with letting him get ready and get Emerson settled and all, I couldn’t get there in time. And I wanted my first meeting to be at the location I plan on going to on a regular basis.

Okay, I just realized that if you sign up for Weight Watchers online through Ebates you get $10.00 cash back.  How cool is that?  LOVE you Ebates!

To encourage me further, I asked my mom if she would like to join me. We did WW together in the past and it was fun to do it together. We would often go to dinner together after, having a nice low-point meal, celebrate losses, discuss plans and menus for the upcoming week.

Today I brought my lunch – brown rice and a fantastic stew-like thing my husband made last night with fresh veggies and beans and lots of spices and no fat. And then I found out we would have lunch at the office – Pizza Hut pizza and salad from Cosi full of gorgonzola and pistachios and sweet dried cranberries. I was thinking… I could keep the brown bag lunch for tomorrow and enjoy my last chance at Pizza Hut lunch today. I went into a conference room to help a member of upper management set up her laptop for a Webmeeting. This is a woman I find very cool and inspiring – we used to take lunchtime yoga together, she recently had a baby, and has been so influential at this company and in her field. Well she opened up her Internet browser and guess what her home page is – Weight Watchers. Yeah, pizza wasn’t going to happen for lunch today after that sign!

Me and my sister at Dave Matthews Band at Bonnaroo – the only picture of me that I liked from the entire trip.

So anyway, I am trying to make some great strides in loving myself. This body is a great one – it is beautiful – it created and nourishes my child, it carried me miles in the Tennessee heat at Bonnaroo, it loves my husband and treats me well. Well I need to respect it, and treat it well in return by clothing it in pieces that flatter it and match my personal style, and by losing excess weight that it is carrying.

Oh, and Sunday I spent an entire hour tweezing my brows and other random facial hair. Something I took for granted two years ago, but now see as decadent as a weekend at a spa. And it feels good to look in the mirror and see groomed brows. I recently got a haircut and color, and plan to have it be a more regular occurrence. I am making baby steps to bring style and self-love into my daily practice. And with it, my full personal style WILL return!

Another Ann Taylor Sale!

Ann Taylor: 25% off EVERYTHING!

Yep, that means sale, clearance, you name it (of course it doesn’t include gift cards – I used to HATE it when people would ask that when I worked retail. Come on, THINK before you speak). PLUS you get free shipping if you spend $100 or more!

Code: 25FORYOU

Code valid May 8 through May 10. Only valid at Ann Taylor online and store (this coupon doesn’t work for Ann Taylor Loft or the factory stores).

As always, if you need the actual coupon for in-store shopping, drop me an email and I will send it your way! There has to be some good stuff, I stopped by the Connecticut Ave. location in DC last night and it seemed as though half the store was on sale – shoes, accessories, tons of clothing and suiting (all I bought was a $10 top). Much on the sale rack was full price just last week!


Another Rainy Monday….

And in trying to wipe the dog’s feet, cover up the grill that was left out in the elements from last night, I forgot to take my picture. Here’s a shot of my short back hair in high school…. it is so much fun going through these pictures and really makes me look forward to my reunion!

Today I am wearing my black, teal and green print short-sleeves surplice-top matte jersey dress from London Times. Black camisole for modesty from Body By Victoria/Victoria’s Secret. Black thong heeled sandals from Mossimo, silver cuff bracelet and hoops.

Hair is actually THIRD day dirty! I woke up with the coolest beacy/almost Medusa curls and jsut brushed out the knots and let it be.

Makeup is MAC MoistureBlend foundation, Body Shop stick concealer, MAC Blot Powder. NARS Orgasm blush, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in neutral – the ivory in the inner corners and along brow bone, khaki on the lid. Fine line of black Ultra Liner from Maybelline ont he top lash line, L’Oreal Voluminous mascara on curled lashes and The Body Shop’s sheer lipcolor in Sheer Caramel.

Another Late Day…

But not as bad since it’s casual Friday.

Blue merino v-neck from J. Crew. Necklace of sea glass and various beads (shades of blues, greens and peach). Dark cotton denim jeans from The Gap Outlet store. My teal suede wedges. Pretty basic and dull.

Makeup – same i.d. Bare Escentuals foundation and concealer, a touch of Almay bronzer to make me look alive, some Nars orgasm on the apples of my cheeks. Fawn shadow, touch of pale gray int he crease, charcoal at the lash lines. My tan/tawny whatever Sally Hansen lip gloss. Two coats of mascara.

And now you see my winter attire. Turquoise pashmina as a scarf, brown sueded 7/8 length single breasted coat from Express that I got for less than $10.00.

Ah, the story of the suede coat. I was working at Express in 2000 and a woman came to the counter. She had a coat to return. Her mother had passed away and they were cleaning out her house, and they found this coat. It was never worn, the tags stillon, the receipt in the pocket. The receipt was from 1993. The coat in 1993 was $279.00. It is brown suede, notch collar, three buttons, single breasted, hangs to below the knee. Great tailored fit, Thinsulate lining. Size large, and I worked amongst women stressing because 1/2 is too big.

So no sale was final in those days of Express, so we gave the daughter her $279.00 and figured – we can’t put it on the floor because it is seven years old. We would have to damage it out. I asked if I could buy it. I know we are allowed to buy past season (the term is LY for Last year) clothing. The rate is usually $9.99 for LY tops, sweaters and such. I offered to buy the coat – how much would it be? The contacted the District Manager. She said $9.99. I snatched it immediately and that is how I ended up with this fabulous brown suede coat for less than $10.00!

Another Theme Day!

Today it is College Sweatshirt Day.

And I don’t own a single college sweatshirt! No jersey, no tee with my college’s logo on it! How can it be?

I wore a sorority sweatshirt. I have plenty of those with my five years managing a fraternity store. I whipped out that Champion sweatshirt with the billboard letters that I haven’t worn since 1997:

(gotta love those driving to work photos – I really must remember to take my pictures in my home before my daily commute!)

With it I wore full college regalia. Vintage jeans, New Balance trainers, white ankle socks. I straightened my hair, tucked it behind my ears. very simple makeup and the lightest baby pink gloss I own. The perfect sorority girl!

Another Theme Day!

Yuck. THIS is a morale booster? Today is “Logo Day.”

What the heck does that mean?

Wear a shirt with a logo! Any logo! Make it fun! Fun, but clean.

Oh gawd. I don’t wear logos. I reach into my bottom drawer of my bureau – this is where I keep my casual clothes – yoga pants, tee shirts, fleeces. the husband offers suggestions.

“What about that tee? It’s funny, it has a logo”

“Babe, that from the Good Vibrations store, it says ‘if you want something done right, do it yourself.’ That’s not clean.”

“Well if you wash the dildo after each use….”

“Not appropriate.”

“Well how about one of your soroity tee shirts from college? Ooh, here is a tee shirt from that conference you went to when you worked for The Body Shop. How about that Verizon sweatshirt I borrowed from Mike?”

“Sorority – lame to wear when 30. Body Shop tee? It has purple stains on it – I wear it when I dye my hair. Verizon? That’s a 3X sweathirt and a hoodie at that! No thank you.

So I am wearing my trusty CBGB tee shirt, my vintage Levi’s, my black pointy boots from nine West, my silver cuff, and silver chain earrings that dangle to my shoulders. Smoky eyes, straight but rumpled hair.

And about three other people dressed up. I look like a bum for no reason.

I am boycotting Theme Days from now on.

Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?
Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?
I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?
Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

I am not sure why the world thinks women over a size 12 don’t hold professional jobs. They must think that with the poor selection of career wear for plus-sized women. While quality suits and stylish business casual clothing does exist, it’s hard to find. Below I feature some brands who realize that just because you wear a larger size doesn’t mean you wish to sacrifice style, quality, or professionalism.

If you’re plus sized, I’m sure you already know about Lane Bryant, Avenue, Ashley Stewart, One Stop Plus/Woman Within/Roamans/Jessica London, and other retailers who specialize in plus size fashion. Below are some suggestions on brands I know who aren’t the typical shops, and who provide quality, well-crafted and stylish career wear in plus sizes

I know, I know, Nordstrom again? Thing is, they offer a great selection of quality brands and style for plus sizes. MICHAEL Michael Kors, Rachel Palley, Calvin Klein, Karen Kane, Eileen Fisher, Tahari Woman, Vince Camuto, Kenneth Cole… all these brands and more are offered in plus sizes at Nordstrom stores and online.

Unlike many other department stores who think a woman in a size 22 dress wants a muumuu or a flowing polyester pantsuit, Nordstrom buyers find brands and pieces that are in the same vein of style as the rest of the store. Great colors, fun silhouettes, lots of options. Nordstrom has free shipping and free returns, will perform alterations onsite, and have personal shoppers that can help you secure a professional wardrobe for your job.

Macy’s is another department store who offers a fantastic selection of brands and styles for plus sizes. Alfani, Calvin Klein, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Jones New York, and then their in-house brand INC International Concepts are great resources for great plus size office wear. Like Nordstrom, Macy’s provides a good amount of real estate in most of their stores for plus-sized fashion.

Macy’s always has promotions for discounts and shipping deals. Macy’s has a great return and exchange policy, where you can return by mail or at any nearby store.

Talbots Woman comes in sizes 12-24 regular and 12-22 petite. Each season they offer several styles of suit separates so you can mix and match for the perfect career look. Talbots also specializes in business casual looks, with tailored trousers, well-crafted skirts, polished knits and sweaters and even shoes and accessories.

While many retailers hide their plus size department in a dusty corner or keep it only online, Talbots often has separate stores just for their Woman line, or else it gets plenty of real estate in their mixed-size store. Talbots is phenomenal with customer service, seeking out sizes at other locations, taking returns in-store, and giving you honest feedback and offering suggestions at the fitting room. When I was a size 18, Talbots was my go-to store, where I knew I would find quality, style, and a supportive staff.

Jones New York
While Jones New York is a department store staple, they also have their own online boutique that has a large selection of career wear in extended sizes. Since you have to return by mail (they offer a pre-paid shipping label), it’s good to try out JNY in a store to know how it fits, and then go online to find a larger selection.

Kiyonna knows how to dress a woman. They make well-made pieces that are stylish and flattering to a plus-sized figure. No muumuus and garish prints here, Kiyonna offers beautiful dresses, and also a beautiful selection of separates. While their bottoms are very basic, they are well-made and classic. Some of their tops can run on the sexy side, but many are great pieces for business casual environments or fabulous shells under suits. Their return policy is pretty standard but I hear their sizing is quite consistent so once you know how you fit in Kiyonna you won’t have to make as many returns and exchanges.

Ann Taylor
If you enter an Ann Taylor store, you may think they don’t care about anyone over a size 12. However online they go up to size 18 and XXL on the majority of their pieces. I also find Ann Taylor runs a bit large and many of my readers have agreed that their size 18 can often fit a size 20 woman.

Ann Taylor regularly has promotions for free shipping and percentages off select items – it’s smart to sign up for their emails or follow them on Facebook or Twitter so you stay updated. Their online selection can sell out pretty quickly when they have such sales, so shop early. While Ann Taylor doesn’t offer free returns, they do accept returns even of larger sizes in any store. And if you have to do a return, check out their sale rack where I have regularly seen larger sizes from other women who have made returns.

Lands’ End
Lands’ End may not be the retailer you would think for career wear, but they do have a pretty great selection of workwear staples. While their summer selection is more geared towards shorts and dresses, they always have a good selection of blazers and coordinating bottoms and come the cooler months have an even greater selection of suiting and work-appropriate pieces.

Lands’ End often has promotions for discounts and free shipping so sign up for their emails to get the latest news. Lands’ End also accepts returns at Sears stores which makes shopping with them even more convenient.

Eddie Bauer
Like Lands’ End, Eddie Bauer mainly focuses on casual weekend fashion. However, like Lands’ End they have a few stand-out pieces each season for career wear. Eddie Bauer often focuses on easy-care pieces, and you’re likely to find wrinkle-free suiting, no-iron button-front shirts, and machine washable trousers and dresses. Eddie Bauer offers free exchanges and accepts returns by mail (they will provide a pre-paid shipping label or you can send by your own method) or in store.

I’m quick to head to Overstock to find a toaster oven or an area rug, but I have now learned to go to this site for fashion. Popular brands like Tahari, Kasper, Calvin Klein, and Ann Klein are featured by Overstock, and at nicer prices than at the department store. While some of the styles offered on Overstock are a bit strange, you can also find some gems – often pieces being sold right now at your nearby Belk or Macy’s. Overstock has customer reviews, ridiculously cheap shipping, and a reasonable return policy.

TJ Maxx
While most of my local discount big box retailers will have some plus size fashion, it’s usually a small section, messy, and full of strange pieces I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Not so for TJ Maxx, who usually carries higher-end brands than similar stores, and they usually have a larger and better organized plus size department.

Where do you find stylish and well-made plus size career wear? I’d love to know your suggestions!

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Seasonless Black Trousers

A pair of black trousers in a seasonless fabric is a necessity to any woman’s wardrobe. What deems a fabric “seasonless?” This means the pants are not wool, they are not cotton. They are most likely a blend of fabrics, usually a good portion synthetic. Ann Taylor has a seasonless fabric they call Triacetate. Express’ seasonless fabric is called Microtwill. J.Crew (and many other brands) calls their version Gabardine. All different fabrics, all seasonless. Maintains it’s shape, often has a bit of stretch, has a slight texture or sheen (great for dressing up and dressing down!), and sort of blends into the background. Not only should these tousers be seasonless, they should be eventless (if that is a word). You want trousers that can go from work to a happy hour to a cocktail party to an interview, to a night club. What cut achieves this? A bootcut leg, not tight, but not Palazzo pants (those pants that look like a skirt on each leg). A tab waist if often a good choice. You never need to worry about a belt, it lies flat under fitted, untucked shirts, yet looks smart with a tucked in oxford. Due to a tab-wait trouser having a wider waistband, it is less likely to cut into the torso, creating a spare tire above the waistline. Very flattering on women with hips, bellies, rears, or straight shapes.

These trousers should not have front pockets. I do not care what your body shape is, front pockets ruin a smooth line and make trousers look more casual and less versatile. These pockets often bow out, wrinkle under the tousers, and look messy. They can make Kate Moss look like Kathy Bates. Back pockets are okay, as long as they are small besom pockets, and not patch pockets (again, detroy the versatility and make the trouser more dated and casual).

Examples of good trousers:

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Yes, I said these trousers should be black, but I chose a lighter color so you could see the detail. The bootcut leg adds a modern look to the pant, elongates and slims the leg. This is an example of a tab waist. See how it is a wider waistband, less likely to cut into the middle. The lack of pleats, seaming and pockets in the front minimizes a belly and gives a smooth line. The strong crease down the front elongates the leg and gives a long, lean look. See how you could see these pants with an oxford and matching blazer with pumps for work, a beaded camisole and pointy toed heels for a night club, a cotton v-neck sweater sweater and some boots for a jaunt to the mall. These pants are from Ann Taylor, and are a cotton/rayon/spandex blend (rayon gives it the seasonless fabric, strech gives it the smooth fit wear after wear).

Here is a great example from Lane Bryant:

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These pants are a seasonless nylon/rayon/spandex blend. They are cut just below the waist (reduces the look of tummy bulge), have a bootcut leg, and smooth lower torso. These pants would look great with strappy heels, a beaded shell and matching jacket for a cocktail party, or a merino turtleneck and some crocodile pointy boots for lunch with the girls. At the time of writing this, these trousers are on sale for $20, regularly $45. You really can find stylish classic pieces for a steal at your local mall. I cannot stress this point enough.

The point is that with the right black trousers, you can dress for almost any event. I have black trousers I purchased five years ago, and still wear weekly. They do not have to cost a lot, most of the trousers I buy on sale and get for less than $50.00. Do keep in mind that though a bargain is always great, black trousers is one thing you do not want to look cheap. They will be worn more than most anything else in your wardrobe, so don’t settle for a chintzy fabric with a cheap sheen, a pair that wrinkles easily, isn’t lined, isn’t the right length, the right cut, the right anything. I do believe in buying in bulk. If you find the trousers of your dreams, you may wish to invest in a second pair in black, and possibly a third pair in another versatile color (gray, brown, tan, white). Consider this especially if you buy the matching suit jacket. I purchased a pair of amazing trousers and the matching jacket at Ann Taylor four years ago. I often wore the trousers without the jacket. One day my dog jumped up to greet me as I returned home from work, his claw got caught in the fabric and ended up snagging and tearing the thigh of these coveted trousers. Ann Taylor no longer makes pieces in this same fabric, so I have a lovely well-fitting jacket and no trousers to match. Since then, I always buy two pairs of pants for every suit jacket, allowing one pair for every day wear, and one pair to preserve to wear with the jacket or for special occasions.

As for care of these pants. I will let you know ahead of time that often these pants say “Dry Clean Only.” I DESPISE spending money on dry cleaning. I end up taking my clothes to the cleaners and forget to pick them up for two weeks. Most of the knits and sweaters I purchase I ignore this “Dry Clean Only” label and wash in Woolite on the gentle cycle of my machine and hang to dry. I have tried this with trousers, and rarely have had good luck. They end up wrinkled, losing that nice front crease and long line. They look cheaper, they often get tighter, the legs shorter (often leaving the lining the same length, which is NOT a good look!), the threads weaken, leaving the potential for an embarrassment the next time you sit down. I have a stain remover I actually purchased in the lingerie department of a department store. I spot treat with that or a Shout! Wipe (always have 5 or 6 in my purse – available at your grocery store in the detergent aisle) and then take them to the local discount dry cleaners. Every so often, they get a better cleaning at the higher end dry cleaners. This may seem like a pain, especially if you have children, a busy schedule, a tight budget. I must tell you this is an investment. If you take care of your clothes correctly, they will take care of you in return, looking gorgeous and lasting for years. Though it may be more appealing to buy all clothing that can take a tumble in the washer and dryer, you lose that polished look, that classic look, the look that shows you care what you look like and others should as well. If you can’t go beyond Tumble Dry Low, you will have a hard time following the closet rules of this book.

How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

The best accessory I acquired in the past decade was getting out of credit card debt.

My Experience:
When I worked in retail, I found it far too easy to shop. I was spending at least 45, usually closer to 65 hours a week at a mall. Lunch hours were spent strolling through other shops, sipping on an overpriced coffee drink, or treating myself to a very nice lunch at a nearby restaurant. As a personal shopper and visual merchandiser, I felt I had to be a perfect example of style and current fashion and made sure to have the latest shoes, makeup, accessories and always a perfect professional manicure, pedicure, haircut and highlights. When our shop was thisclose to making the day’s sales goal, they could always count on me to purchase something from the new line to get us over the hump.

When I left working at Express, they gave me my associate purchase logs. In one year, after my employee discounts, I had purchased $7,000.00 worth of their clothing. When I maxed out my Express card, I opened a Structure card and used that (hey it was the late ‘90s/early ‘00s when Structure still existed). When I maxed that out, I found out that I could use my Limited or Victoria’s Secret cards and shop at Express. I won’t even go into details about the major credit cards I used for salon treatments, binges at Sephora or Nordstrom, and many a steak salad at the Nordstrom Café.

As women, we are constantly attacked by media telling us to spend, spend, spend. The dress that will get you the guy. The moisturizer that will make you look ten years younger. The bag you must have this season. The five or ten or hundred items every woman must have in her wardrobe. And then of course, the purchases you need so that you can be as lovely as Anne or Mila or Kate. Magazines like Lucky are completely geared towards assisting women on shopping, while glossies such as Vogue and W bring couture to Middle America, encouraging everyone to feel that they too need a fancy label on their dress to be special.

As you know, I love fashion. I love clothing. I find it to be a great way to express your personality, your individuality, your passions. Fashion can also help you feel more confident and more beautiful. But no garment is worth falling into debt. A woman cannot be strong if her finances are crumbling around her.

So how do you achieve personal style while sticking to your budget?

When I got to the point where I was fearing every telephone call, thinking it was a debt collector, I knew I had to make a major change – FAST. For me, it was changing careers. I had to get away from that which was causing the debt – easy access to current fashion. However I still had mountains of debt and wasn’t willing to sacrifice style along the way.

This was when I started understanding wardrobe staples. Pieces slowly collected that could multitask and make a woman ready for any event in her life. I looked at women I knew as stylish and really examined their wardrobes. They didn’t own a lot of clothes, they seemed to wear the same things over and over. And those clothes they wore were perfect. They were well tailored, high quality, flattering. Few prints, few trendy details. Classics like cashmere turtlenecks, crisp dark jeans, white tailored shirts, simple sheath dresses, elegant black leather pumps, simple pencil skirts. They would add their own look to these staples with accessories like scarves, bold jewelry, and belts.

I thought back to the exchange students we hosted when I was in high school – how they could survive weeks in another country with just a small suitcase of clothing. Even with their small wardrobes, they were ready for any event in the US. Their wardrobes were of simple pieces that mixed and matched with one another – pieces of similar fabrics, colors, and silhouettes so they made a true collection.

I looked in my own closet – spangled knit tops to wear out to clubs that still had tags on them, a dozen cocktail dresses, four pairs of leather pants (and one pair bright red!), three pairs of tall black boots, over 20 pairs of jeans. Who the heck needs 20 pairs of jeans?

I obviously had plenty of clothes at that time, and really tried to make do with what I had. My new job required me to wear all black, so when I didn’t have the right item in my wardrobe, I stalked sale racks until I could find what worked at the lowest price. I often bought in bulk – who cares if you’re wearing the same black pants every day as long as they are clean and fit well?

Over time, I got a grip on my finances, but realized yet another new profession and a changing figure required me to shop again. I decided to keep those stylish women and my exchange students in mind. I looked through my closet with fresh eyes and decided to purge. Gone were all the spangled club tops, the evening gowns, and any clothes that didn’t fit and flatter my current frame.

However for purchasing, I needed to figure out a budget so I wouldn’t get back into a financial mess. Before I went shopping, I took a month or two to look at where my money went, and what were my priorities. Thanks to my sister who is the Excel Spreadsheet Queen, I started tracking where all my money went – that pack of gum, that latte, that issue of Marie Claire. I didn’t just note how much I spent on groceries, but what exactly I purchased. I saw that a lot of my money went to food – dining out, alcohol, and purchasing items at the grocery store that I don’t really need (hello another lip gloss) or that I can’t afford (artisanal cheeses, sushi, out of season produce). I decided to adjust my current spending before shopping to see what I could cut and still lead what I felt to be a joyful and comfortable life.

Only then, could I figure out my fashion budget. Some months, I spent that money. Other months, I saved it up so I could get something really special. I stuck to my list of essentials, and decided I would only buy fun items when I got a work bonus, birthday cash, special events. This way, I not only stayed on budget but I was even more careful with my money and those special items not only were nice to buy, but had special meaning behind them.

Each woman’s budget will be different, but it is important to first pay yourself before you do any shopping. Pay off your debt, save and invest your money. Prepare for the unexpected. Yes, a great pair of shoes can make your day, help you land a job or perfect your wardrobe but shoes won’t pay the rent if you get laid off. Shoes won’t buy you a new car when yours dies on the side of the highway. Shoes won’t give you independence and freedom.

If your budget is small, that’s actually a good thing. Small wardrobe funding requires one to do homework to find the best quality for the price, to really get to know one’s body and lifestyle and only purchase that which makes sense. Keep your wardrobe small, hard-working, classic, elegant.

Tips to Stay on Budget:

  • Have a Life Budget. No point in having a clothing budget if you are blowing your paycheck already on other items. That being said, have priorities. Clothing is probably higher on my priority list than the list of many other women. Each woman is different – some budget for world travel, some budget for books, some budget for art supplies, some budget for home renovations. It’s important to first be true to you – prioritize and then figure out where fashion fits.
  • Make a List, Check it Twice. If you have an actual written list that you carry with you, you’re less likely to get off track when you hit the mall.
  • Do Your Homework. You need a black suit? Go to the mall, try on brands, and then go home. Research online for coupons, deals, maybe the same item on eBay or in a thrift or vintage store. Never accept full price unless it is absolute perfection, absolutely necessary, and still fits your budget.
  • Stay Away from Shopping Triggers. For me, it’s malls. I only visit a major shopping mall once or twice a year because I can get lost in there and leave hundreds poorer. Maybe for you it’s Target (can always justify another tee or a $19.99 sundress but it adds up), possibly an adorable boutique in your neighborhood or maybe it’s Net-a-Porter. Whatever it is, accept your trigger and control your visits. Schedule them according to seasons – maybe only allow one visit each season, or maybe once a month.
  • Cancel the Magazine Subscriptions. I am a magazine-aholic, but I know that when I read them, I end up shopping more. Magazines do a great job of making items look amazing, and seem necessary. The most recent Vogue made me spend an hour of my life looking for a certain Brahmin bag – something I don’t need, can’t afford, but loved upon first sight. I did stop before purchasing, but if I hadn’t received that magazine, I would have never known about that orange bag and would have still lived a happy and stylish life. For some, it may be fashion blogs instead of magazines – even if it’s my blog that encourages you to shop, unsubscribe and just visit maybe once a month or every other week.
  • Play “Which Would You Rather.” Sally McGraw of Already Pretty often hosts a “sudden death” question on her Facebook page – which would you rather do – wear only white for a year, or wear your high school colors for a year, and only your school colors. It’s a good exercise for shopping – which would you rather have – that It Bag, or a sushi and sake date night with your mate once a month for a year? Which would you rather own – the perfect pair of black leather pumps, or six pairs of sandals from Payless? Which is more important, your morning Starbucks, or a pair of riding boots? Break down the price of the item and compare it to other items in your life.
  • Get Creative. No one knows you’re wearing the same black pants every day if you switch it up. One day, wear with a tucked-in blouse, the next day with a blazer and shell. Another day wear a cardigan over them and belt the cardigan to change the silhouette. Use your small wardrobe as a brain teaser – who needs Sudoku when you can take the dozen or so quality pieces in your wardrobe and make dozens of outfits from them.

A woman should get fitted for a new bra every year. She should have the perfect LBD in her wardrobe to be ready for unexpected social events. And she should be able to sleep well at night, knowing full well what is going on with her finances. The best accessory I acquired was getting out of debt – the best accessory any woman can wear is self-confidence, and confidence comes from being true to one’s self, feeling strong, and being financially solvent.

Be sure to check out the first of my How to Shop Series: An Introduction

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In the morning, I ran to get my hair cut and colored in the nearby town, and then run a few errands. Olive ribbed tank from J. Crew, white ribbed tank from Old Navy, Joe’s Jeans in “Provacateur,” brown stacked flops from J. Crew, silver hoops from The Icing, silver cuff.

Hair was brushed out but on the second day; blew the bangs straight.

Makeup was Body Shop bronzing powder in Light as face color, Max Factor Lash Perfection mascara on curled lashes, Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow.

Kathleen did her magic – all I told her is that I wanted to go darker and that I wanted heavier bangs. I trust her, and was not disappointed. Choppy layers that can work straight, wavy or curly, fun sideswept bangs, and a very rich multi-tonal color of dark brown that looks closer to what I was born with.

Got home and had to dash to get dressed. Friday night I had a friend over so I didn’t have time to play dress-up and figure out my theater outfit. Thank you soooo much to everyone who wrote in suggestions, you guys are awesome and have good ideas! For the one who suggested my Old Navy dress… I completely forgot about it. I had set to wear my black cashmere tank from Banana Republic and my orange-red shantung full skirt also from Banana (seen here), but when I saw how spiffy and sleek my husband looked (flat front gray tropical wool trousers from J. Crew, white tailored shirt from some brand sold at Mens Wearhouse, black blazer from… J. crew? Not sure…, black slip-on sleek shoes from Ecco) I decided my outfit may look a bit like a costume. I tried a few different skirts, but settled on the black matte jersey dress from Old Navy, my red stone necklace, my leopard peep-toe heels from BCBgirls,silver hoops from The Icing, and silver cuff natch. :-)

Didn’t have to do my hair since it was done by Kathleen my talented stylist. She used the Pureology line on me, and swears by it for protecting color. I bought the shampoo and conditioner and once I can wash my hair (was told to go as long as humanely possible without washing) I will be using it and let you k now how it is.

Same makeup as earlier, just a re-touch of the bronzing powder, a bit of Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint on my cheekbones, a medium line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line, a quick swipe of Maybelline Great Lash waterproof mascara in black over existing mascara, Body Shop Lip and Cheek Tint with Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow over it.

We took the Metro and it was not even a block to the little restaurant (I don’t know if there are even 20 tables in the place). The menu seemed different from the one online and the only entrees that were vegetarian were spaghetti with tomato sauce (yawn) and a risotto with corn and truffle shavings. My husband and I chose the risotto, we shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio (not sure the label, our friend chose the wine) and had a nice, yet not inspiring or overwhelmingly unique meal. We then walked not even three blacks to the Kennedy Center where my friend and I sidestepped grates in our heels (she too wore a black sheath and heels) while the men tromped over everything and got there in time to marvel at the acre-sized curtains in the lobby and get a cocktail in the Terrace Bar prior to the performance.

The performance was great! As I said, I had never seen The Phantom of the Opera other than the movie. Back story – 1992, for Christmas I got my first boom box with a CD player in it, and with it two CDs – Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. For several months until I got my high school arsenal of REM, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I listened solely to these two soundtracks. Come 2007, I am silently singing along to this performance and even a tear came down my cheek at finally seeing live what I had in my head 15 years ago. I think also seeing Shakespeare in Love the night prior made the theater experience that more intense.

Our friends live in Virginia and parked at the theater; it was a gorgeous night and declined their offer to drive us to the Metro and decided to hoof it. All in all a lovely evening!

Trying Le Tote: My Experience with the Clothing and Accessory Rental Company

You all know my love for Gwynnie Bee, but many of you have asked if there is a similar program for those who are smaller than a size 10. Le Tote is also a clothing rental company, but with a different concept.

A review of Le Tote by Wardrobe Oxygen. Opinion as a size 14 and discussion on whether the clothing is a good fit for women over 35.Le Tote helps you curate a box of not just clothing but accessories. For a $49 monthly fee, you receive a box with three garments and two accessories. You can keep items as long as you wish, and anything you love you can keep forever and Le Tote will charge your card. Send items back, and get news ones – you have unlimited Totes for your subscription fee. If you love and choose to keep everything in your shipment you get a free month of Le Tote. Le Tote wants you to love what you receive; you fill out a style profile upon joining, you can customized your delivery and know exactly what you will receive, and Le Tote has stylists on staff to help choose the perfect items for you and your personal style.  Not only that, when you go to the page for a certain item, you can see photos from other Le Tote members wearing the piece, helping you decide if it’s a good choice for your figure.

I received the opportunity to try out Le Tote free for one month. When you join, you will fill out a survey about your size and style and from that certain items will be suggested. However, you can look at all items available and add anything you desire to your virtual closet. Unlike Gwynnie Bee, you can choose exactly what items will arrive in your next shipment – this is great if you’re planning around an event or travel. Like Gwynnie Bee, shipping is free and return packaging and shipping label is included. While it’s called Le Tote, my items arrived in a sturdy Le Tote branded box, wrapped in tissue. Le Tote is big on communication – you’ll receive emails and texts when your next tote is ready to customize, when it ships, and more. You have the ability to control what kind of communication you receive.

le tote review

A few of the Fall 2015 New Arrivals at Le Tote

Le Tote features popular department store brands like Vince Camuto, Max Studio, French Connection, and BCBGeneration and some lesser-known brands that I have seen at TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. While Le Tote offers clothing up to an XL or 16, pickings get slim when you go larger than an L or 10. While the majority of the vibe of Le Tote is relaxed simple fashion, they do offer a few cute dresses or jumpsuits for a night out, and lots of separates that would be office appropriate.

I tried out LeTote at the end of August and had a very hard time finding anything I wanted in my first collection. The accessories weren’t my style – very delicate, simple, a bit too trendy, and as a 40 year old professional, a bit too young and cheap looking for my taste. The clothing felt very… basic. One thing I love about Gwynnie Bee is that it often forces me out of my comfort zone and introduces me to new brands, silhouettes, and prints. Le Tote is simple clothing, which could be amazing for one who doesn’t like or have the time for shopping or really isn’t into fashion but felt too simplistic for me. I ended up going with a black and white striped knit tee shirt inspired dress, a spaghetti-strap midi dress, a blazer, a delicate necklace with a pave circle, and a pair of ear jackets.

Everything fit like Juniors. The black and white dress was a nice heavy weight and well constructed, but so short it hardly covered my bum. The midi dress was a gorgeous teal color and one of those convertible pieces that has a smocked bodice that can be worn with the adjustable straps, styled strapless, or slid down and turned into a maxi skirt. It was fine, but it really felt like something I’d see on the rack at TJ Maxx for $19.99 in 50 different colors. The jacket was very tight in the arms and shoulder, unlined, and just looked and felt cheap. The same with the accessories; the necklace was pretty but looked like it was from Claire’s Boutique and the earrings were a weird overly yellow shiny gold that just looked too cheap for me. The only piece I wore was the teal midi dress, and it was because I was going to be outside volunteering at a fair and knew it would be hot out. It was perfect for such a situation, but not awesome enough to keep or even wear a second time.

I hate to dismiss Le Tote because it truly could be a great option for some. If you are a size 10 or smaller, if you’re not terribly tall or petite, if you’re under 35 and you’re looking for a reasonably priced way to add a bit of variety to your wardrobe without looking too trendy or outlandish, Le Tote could be a great option. The price is also pretty great – it’s easy to spend this much on a sweater or casual dress that only gets worn a handful of times; with Le Tote you get three garments for the price of less than one plus two accessories to complete the look.  And like Netflix, send back and get another one right away.  Le Tote could prove to be a great way to shop and build a wardrobe as the company will adjust recommendations based upon your reviews and what you choose to keep. Just don’t expect to find any garments that will stop people in their tracks, transform your personal style, or find a ton appropriate for weddings and more formal social occasions. Their fall collection looks more promising and stylish than their summer selections, if you did want to try such a service this looks to be a good season to do so.

If you’re interested in trying out Le Tote, use code LTWO20 and receive 20% off your first month’s subscription.  Code expires October 31, 2015.

Have you used Le Tote? What are your thoughts on the clothing and accessories rental service?  Do you think it’s worth it for me to try it again?

Contest: Tolani Scarf from

jessica alba tolani scarfTo celebrate me coming back to work and to blogging, I have a great contest for you readers!

One of you can win a Tolani scarf that has been seen on the likes of Jessica Alba (pictured), Sienna Miller, Vanessa Minnillo (pictured), Halle Berry and Mary-Kate Olsen.

The Tolani scarf is courtesy of, an awesome site that sells hip women’s designer clothing from the likes of Black Halo, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Vera Wang Lavender Label.

I am so excited, because you KNOW I love scarves, and these beauts from Tolani are fabulous!

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to with the word “TOLANI” in the subject.
In the body of the email, please provide your name and mailing address (I promise these addresses will only go to me – except for the winner, and will be deleted once the contest is over). Winner will be chosen by random.

Contest ends Friday, March 20th, 2009 at midnight ET. Winner will be contacted by email. Scarf will be mailed out from Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (
YouTube ( or

Good luck!

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: 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.

How to “Read” Fashion Magazines

Pre-pubescent women below 100 lbs. showing off dresses in the thousands. Ads for Armani, Versace, Missoni, Chanel and any other brand you couldn’t possibly afford (and possibly couldn’t even find for sale in your neck of the woods). Crazy outfits of sheer blouses without camisoles, plaids with polka dots, turquoise false lashes and 6″ platform wedges. How are these magazines supposed to help the typical woman in America? How can Vogue, W, Bazaar and Elle assist you in your journey to the suburban shopping mall?

Some fashion magazines are more helpful than others. Lucky magazine not only tells you what is hip, but where to purchase these hip items. They categorize trends, with a page dedicated to the lace trend, a page dedicated to wedge shoes, a page dedicated to croco bags. While encouraging the shopper to visit New York boutiques, a few chain stores are mentioned. Even if you cannot afford the Prada skirt, you can see the length, fabric and cut and can look for a similar version at Macy’s.

Bazaar is one of my favorite magazines. They show celebrities and socialites in what’s hip for the next season, have all the hot new ads from the most luxurious brands, but also breaks fashion down for the Every Woman. So the trends for Spring are a bit of cowgirl, a bit of nautical and a bit of safari? Bazaar will show how a woman in her 20’s can wear the trends, a woman in her 30’s and all the way up to her 70’s. They also will have a spread informing the reader about the hot new trends. As always, they have a What’s Hot/What’s Not on the very last page.

Every fashion magazine can be beneficial to you, no matter your age, dress size or income. It’s not about going into debt for a Dior bag or even for trying to replicate a Dolce and Gabanna ad with pieces from Target. No, it’s getting concepts.

Look at the ads. Really examine them as you would a painting in a museum. What colors are being worn? What does the shoe look like? What kind of fabric? Is there a specific print that is the theme? Now flip the page and look at the next ad. Is there any similarity? Though each high-end designer has their own signature style, there is often a theme for each season that resonates on the runway and in the ads. Maybe it’s lace trim, maybe it’s wood heels on the shoes. It could be a lot of black – it sure was this winter. Don’t look at these ads and roll your eyes over the age or weight of the models, the astronomical prices and ridiculousness of the garments. See it as art, and then break it down.

Be Realistic. If the magazine says every woman needs the new Fendi purse, don’t buy the Fendi purse if you don’t make enough money to buy a Fendi purse for fun. The purse will be passé in a year. Don’t go on a street corner and buy a faux Fendi purse. It will look fake, and it will look tacky and desperate. Don’t wait two years and buy a cheesy knock-off of what the Fendi purse was shaped like from Wal-Mart. Again tacky and desperate. Instead, break it down. What makes that bag new and hip? Is it the oversized shape? Use of silver hardware? A short handle? Croco leather? White with black trim? Take those details with you when you go shopping. Look for something that is beautiful on it’s own, fits your lifestyle and needs, but may incorporate those details. I for one adored the Balenciaga Motorcycle bags that celebs like Nicole Ritchie and Jessica Simpson were sporting. I couldn’t afford the bag, and didn’t want to look like an idiot with a faux silver or turquoise pleather wanna-be bag on my wrist. Therefore I analyzed the look of the bag. What about it did I like? The hardware. The large size. The short handle. The way the leather looks a bit crackled and a bit glazed. When I went to buy a new purse I found a slouchy oversized purse with lots of hardware and metal detail in a similar leather finish and a color that complimented my wardrobe. Not Balenciaga, couldn’t be mistaken for a Motorcycle bag, but receives many compliments, holds all my stuff and keeps my image current.

Don’t be a Label Whore. I was in an elevator yesterday with a woman. A gorgeous woman with a gorgeous figure. Her beauty was not the first thing I saw. She was wearing a puffy Baby Phat coat with a faux fur trim in a weird olive/taupe color. She had on extremely tight Seven for All Mankind jeans that were too low on the waist and too long on her ankles. She had on a Tiffany bracelet AND a Tiffany necklace. She had on a Coach logo purse – quite large and quite pink. Under her coat was a black fitted tee with “Bebe” in rhinestones across the chest. She had on false eyelashes, very pink glossy lips and barely any other makeup. Her hair was in a formal updo with tendrils around her face, her hair obviously meticulously highlighted, lowlighted and streaked on a regular basis. And then on her feet were those high-heeled Timberland-esque dress boots. Her outfit probably cost a ton of money, but she looked terrible. Her clothes didn’t compliment her figure, or one another. She was a walking fashion victim, a slave to the name brands. By caring so much about the names, she lost sight of what the brands were trying to create – FASHION. I highly doubt you are going to the Academy Awards any time soon. No one is going to stop you walking down the street and say “Who are you wearing?” Even if they do, how cool would you be by saying, “This old thing? I picked it up at Target last season.” Think Sharon Stone when she wore a Gap tee shirt to an awards ceremony. No one wrote her off as cheap or tacky. Instead she was celebrated for that fashion move.

It is understandable to want to buy luxury, to splurge on designer. You work hard, you want to reward yourself. I respect that, and I indulge in that as well. Just when you do, think about the rules you hold for all other aspects of your life:
Does it fit into your life?
Does it flatter?
Will it work for the long haul?
Is it worth it?

If you got that promotion, go ahead and buy a Coach purse, but buy one that will go with your current wardrobe, and will still be beautiful next year. My friend has a Coach bag that she bought herself after getting her degree in 1998. She still carries around that camel colored tote, and still gets compliments all the time. She bought something luxurious, something obviously a brand name, but something that fit her lifestyle, fashion style and something that works in the 90’s as well as the new millennium. A few years ago I found a beautifully tailored black wool coat from Calvin Klein. I put it on and felt like a socialite. I felt elegant, tall and slim. It was at a discount store, but still out of my price range. It was the first item I ever put on layaway. When I made the final payment, I still adored the coat. Now a few years later, I still love the coat, it’s cut, it’s feel. To me, it was worth the money. I wear it and look expensive, but I am not shouting “This is a Calvin Klein coat from 2001!” I am whispering “I am wearing an expensive, well made garment and it is designer.”

Again, look in the magazines. Look at the spreads of celebrities at galas and fundraisers. Are they showing up in head to toe labels? Unless you’re Kimora Lee Simmons or Missy Elliott, the answer probably is no. The women who look polished, elegant, sexy and expensive do not flash their designer labels. They wear what is stylish, flattering and beautiful.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read. When a magazine totes a certain top or moisturizer as great, it’s not always because it’s great. Magazines receive free stuff all the time, and are encouraged in different ways to promote this stuff. These freebies end up in fashion spreads, articles about great new things for the season, or advice columns. Don’t take what one magazine says as gospel. It’s best to have something to compare it with. Don’t worship Vogue if you won’t also pick up In Style. Don’t read Lucky without W. By reading more magazines (even in the line at the grocery or at the pharmacy while waiting for a prescription) you get a more well-rounded view of what is hot, what is trendy, and what is utterly ridiculous.

Make it Age and Shape Appropriate. Anyone over 27 and a size 4 should not be wearing dress shorts. Mischa Barton and Nicole Ritchie and Lindsay Lohan are all wearing short creased shorts to red carpet events. Well good for them. Are you built like Lindsay Lohan? Are you the age of Mischa Barton? If you answered yes to both, God Speed and Good Luck. For the rest of us, STEER AWAY FROM THE SHORTS. Just because it’s hip, doesn’t mean to wear it. We don’t live in the era of cut and dry fashion. My mom speaks of circle skirts, piped charcoal blazers and cigarette pants while growing up. They weren’t flattering on her, but she wore them because EVERYONE wore them. That, and nothing else. Fashion has changed and has become more flexible and forgiving. If this season is all about olive green and you look terrible in olive green, then don’t wear it. If magazines are telling you that leggings are hot this season (which they are) but you are over 25, you’re over 105 lbs. and you wore in an office setting you shouldn’t pick up a pair your next trip to the mall. If the new look is nautical, that doesn’t mean you need to go buy a navy and white striped boat neck shirt to make your torso seem twice it’s size. Instead consider pieces that may be more appropriate. Crisp white trousers with a solid navy sweater. A navy blazer with gold buttons paired with a white shirt and vintage washed jeans. There are different ways to incorporate trends without looking like a fashion victim or worse… unflattering.

Make a List. So you like the polka dots featured in Bazaar. You like the new width of jeans seen in In Style. You love how navy is coming back into vogue on the pages of Vogue. Write these things down, or tear out pages from your glossy magazines and take them with you on your shopping excursions for inspiration. When you get overwhelmed in a sea of fabric at Lord and Taylor’s pull out your list. It will keep you centered and less overwhelmed.
And finally, See Fashion as Art. If you stop looking at fashion as the unobtainable, you’ll despise it. The majority of our country cannot afford a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes, a Prada dress, a Chanel suit. That’s okay. Just look at that Chanel suit or that Prada dress in the magazine’s fashion spread and try to figure out why they chose to display it. Is it the color? The cut? The fabric? What about makes it less insane (because much high fashion is totally insane and unwearable in normal society) and more beautiful? Take that one thing with you as you go shopping this season. If you try to see the beauty and detail in fashion, you will be more likely to buy what makes you look more beautiful when you wear it.

Shop My Closet – On Poshmark!

WardrobeOxygen on PoshmarkI’ve been saying for a while that I needed to get off my tuchus and sell all the clothes I don’t currently wear. While I may clean out my closet I do have a dirty secret… I have bins and bags full of clothes in my attic (and there were a couple full contractor bags in my home office). I regularly donate career wear to a charity and have Freecycled and donated all my maternity clothes and clothes that are in “well loved” condition, but the nicer stuff I’ve been holding on to.

No more. All this clothing is doing no one favors being boxed and bagged up in my attic. A couple weekends ago, my best friend came over and for eight hours we dug through three bags. All pieces were photographed, packed up, labeled, and ready to ship. While I have used eBay and a Shop My Closet blog in the past, this time I decided to use Poshmark. My friend Alyson has raved about it for a long time and many of you have told me you use it with great success. It seemed simpler than eBay too.

For the past two weeks I have been using Poshmark and I have become as big of a fan as my friend Alyson! It’s an app-based program; while you can visit Poshmark on your computer, to buy and sell you need to do it on your phone. As a seller, I think this makes the process uber easy – my pictures are already on my phone so I can easily upload them, write a quick description, and even answer questions and negotiate counteroffers. I’ve found the customers to be more… reasonable than on eBay. You’re not usually expected to offer 5,000 measurements for a $6 LOFT tee, people are super friendly and quick to share and comment, and while I have had a couple ridiculous counter offers (no, I will not sell that NWT original retail still in the store $250 item for $15), in general it has been a friendly and painless experience.

Tips for Selling on Poshmark by Wardrobe OxygenA couple of you saw on social media that I was on Poshmark and have joined to buy and sell. If you’re interested, if you use this link and code PMZYS you’ll get $5 off your first order and I too will receive a $5 credit (find me, I am wardrobeoxygen).  There’s no auction or bidding, you can counter-offer and some sellers (myself included) offer  “bundling” where you can purchase multiple pieces from a seller at one time and save on shipping ($4.99/order).  If you’re interested in selling on Poshmark, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Be Honest.  Like other selling sites, Poshmark has a rating system.  Buyers can give you up to five stars for orders.  It’s not worth it to ruin your reputation by trying to pass off replicas, lie about the condition of a garment, or its original price.
  • Provide Details.  Is it an XL but fits more like a L?  How did you style it?  If you recall the original style name or number or even color name, include it.  While Poshmark won’t let you write a novel, you can offer quite a lot of information.  The more details you provide, the more likely the item will sell and the more likely the buyer will get what she expected and leave you a favorable rating.
  • Take Good Photos.  I use my iPhone 6s and take the pictures in natural light near a window.  For Christmas I got this dress form; it’s not high quality (in fact I cracked the base the day my friend and I were on a Poshmark selling spree and it’s now held together with packing tape) but it gives a better idea of how an item will fit than lying a sweater on your bed or floor.  If you have a photo of you wearing the item, include that too.  I also search the internet for stock photos of the item.  A mix of all three is a great way to get an item sold.  Poshmark lets you upload four photos per item with the first photo being your cover photo.  I’ve found the most successful cover photos are those with me wearing the piece.  If you don’t have a photographer taking your picture in items for a blog, a mirror selfie in a well-lit room is still good (and you can cut off your head in the photo if you wish to be anonymous).
  • Stock Up on Free Priority Mailers.  Your post office has Priority Mail Tyvek envelopes and boxes for free; these are perfect for shipping out your orders.  Included in the cut Poshmark takes from your sales (20%, or $2.95 if the item sells for $5 or less) is a shipping label.  When you make a sale, Poshmark emails you this Priority Mail label.  You can order shipping bags and boxes from for free but know it takes up to two weeks to receive your order.  If you have a post office nearby, grab a few to get your sales going.
  • Take Care with your Sales.  I fold nicely, wrap in tissue, tie with a bit of curling ribbon, and carefully slip into the box or bag.  I got a pack of cheap tissue paper; you only need 1-2 pieces per order.  The curling ribbon I purchased when I attended a baby shower where all presents were to be wrapped in blue.  That yet-to-be-born baby is now 5 and as you see in the photo above, there’s still plenty left even though every shower and birthday present since the shower had turquoise ribbon on it.  I bought some rolls of packing tape, and because I’m a dork like that, ordered some cheapy business cards from VistaPrint (this is a referral link that will give you $10 off your first order) that thank the buyer for her order, have my name and my Poshmark address on them.  The overall cost is minimal, but it makes the experience much nicer for the recipient.
  • Raise Your Rates.  Poshmarkers LOVE to counter-offer.  Consider this when making your prices.  It’s worth it to up the price a few dollars to be ready for a counter-offer (if you accept a counter-offer the item sells immediately to that individual).  Also, if you have stagnant items that don’t want to sell, you can then lower the price without too much heartache.  A plus to lowering the rate is anyone who “liked” the piece will end up receiving reduced shipping.
  • Be Quick with Communication.  If someone asks for additional details or makes a counter-offer, be polite and reply within 24 hours.  Since Poshmark is on your phone, it’s easy to quickly type in a response and move on with your day.
  • Follow the Rules.  Don’t accept sales through PayPal or offline.  Don’t try to sell used makeup or clutter Poshmark with items they don’t allow to be sold on their app (home goods, electronics, health and wellness products, used underwear and makeup).  Don’t label something a blouse when in fact it’s one of those belly wrap things that spam social media.  And don’t call something Chanel-esque or like Louis Vuitton – that’s a trademark violation and such names can only be used if the item is legitimately from that brand.
  • Be Part of the Community.  Share other people’s sales (I only share that which I actually like), follow other accounts, leave comments and reply to comments.  Poshmark is very social, and by being part of the community you’ll get a larger audience to see your closet, resulting in faster and more sales!

Are you on Poshmark?  I’d love to hear your experiences and feel free to share your closet in the comments!

Holiday Gift Guide: Beauty Edition

Holiday Gift Guide: Beauty Edition - great gift ideas at different price points for all sorts of beauty loversFor the holidays, I gotta say I love receiving beauty gifts. It’s something I usually won’t spend money on, it’s something I can use almost daily to pamper myself, it’s that lovely mix of practical and decadent that makes a gift people will love. That being said, no one wants that cello-wrapped package of holiday scented lotion, shower gel, and body spray. Here’s some items that I would love receiving as a gift and I think your loved one would as well.

Holiday Gift Guide: Beauty Edition with products in all sorts of prices and for all types of people on your gift list

  1. Brushing Emerson’s hair is an ordeal, no matter what we do she wakes with the most insane tangles and her scalp is uber delicate and she freaks no matter how careful I am with picking apart knots. I saw an ad for the Tangle Teezer and took a chance. While she still cringes when we brush the underpart of her hair, it’s sooo much better. She is also better at brushing her own hair with the Tangle Teezer than with a standard brush. Karl liked it so much he got one for himself. We’ve had them for almost a year and they’ve held up great. Not just for detangling hair, this is also a good tool for brushing in conditioning treatments on wet tresses.
  2. Living proof sent me their Perfect Hair Day collection earlier this year. While I wasn’t a fan of the styling product for my type of hair and style, the shampoo and conditioner totally blew me away. Karl loves it even more than I; he started growing his hair this year (was to his shoulders before a recent trim) and won’t use anything other than his “Jennifer Aniston shampoo.” So much, I bought him bottles for his birthday and he’ll be getting more for Christmas. A lot of bloggers have been writing about Living proof and I’ve often rolled my eyes and been turned off by brands that saturate the blogosphere all at once… but sometimes those brands and products are as good as the raves in the sponsored post. This is one of them. This travel set is a budget-friendly way to try out the line or share with a loved one.
  3. I bought reusable cotton rounds a couple years ago to use in place of disposable ones to remove makeup, wipe off cleansing oils, and wipe on Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel each morning. I have a mesh bag hanging off the bathroom door where I drop them, then zip it up at the end of the week and throw into a laundry load in the washer and dryer. They have only improved with time, and this past Christmas I bought my sister a set. It’s a great gift for the beauty maven, the eco-minded mama, and the frugal friend. I bought mine from the Etsy store Little Green Nest but there’s many stores on Etsy that sell these and you can likely find a set that perfectly fits your loved one’s style.
  4. Bliss’ Body Butter is legendary. Unlike Body Shop’s Body Butter which I positively adore but find it’s hard to apply from a tub, this body butter comes in a squeeze tube and is easy to use even with wet slippery hands post-shower. And though it’s not as thick, it’s just as hydrating. I personally love the classic lemon + sage scent, but they have a ‘naked’ version that truly is unscented (no weird chemical plastic scent). This is a little luxury that someone may find odd when they unwrap but will adore each time they use it and see how it transforms dry skin and rough elbows.
  5. Skindinavia sent me their primer and setting spray earlier this year, claiming the combo of the two will keep makeup on for 18 hours even in a hot sweaty Miami nightclub. Oh really? I totally took the products through the wringer – humidity, the gym, rain, tears… and well they’re right. This stuff is pretty phenomenal. The thing is, using two products together your face feels like rubber and when used often, I experienced breakouts. But yeah, this is a great combo for a special occasion. The primer is pretty intense and really makes everything stick to the face. The setting spray alone? A great regular product and works better than other products I’ve raved about and makes a primer unnecessary. I think it keeps oil at bay (and I don’t have the oil control version), and I look far fresher at the end of the day than I have with any other finishing spray. This is a great gift for the beauty fan as she may not have heard of this; also a great gift for a bride-to-be.
  6. I think this set from Deborah Lippmann is fantastic for the young adults (or the young at heart) on your list! Deborah Lippmann nailcolors are high quality and luxe, the two colors are a great combo – one that’s a good day color and incorporates current nailcolor trends but then a bottle that’s fun and festive. All in an adorable bag that is a gift in itself and all for less than $20.
  7. Last year I succumbed to the Sara Happ hype and bought the Clementine Lip Exfoliator. I know, $24 for a lip scrub? Just use a dry toothbrush, Allie! Make your own with some coconut oil and sugar! But gosh, this stuff is lovely. It smells good, it tastes good, it’s the perfect consistency and it’s sitting there in my medicine cabinet ready to use. This is a great gift because it’s likely something your loved one would never indulge in purchasing. Made in the USA, I’m partial to the sunny Clementine flavor, but there’s tons of other choices.
  8. Smith’s Rosebud Salve is a classic and a welcome stocking stuffer. It adds moisture, shine, and has a beautiful scent. Not just for your lips, it’s also great on cracked cuticles, burns, and some swear by it for diaper rash. It’s a great gift for tweens because it’s “cool” and used by celebs, but isn’t actual makeup but is welcome by folks of any age.
  9. You can’t go wrong with a tube of Burt’s Bees Lip Balm in a stocking or added to a gift basket. The classic Beeswax version is a safe bet, but they now have a ton of wonderful scents (I’m partial to coconut pear) that are still 100% natural and free of parabens, phthalates, and petrochemicals.
  10. Kiehl’s makes some of the best skincare and has been around since 1851 for a reason. This gift set has their iconic lip balm and hand salve in a travel-friendly size and it comes in a limited edition package designed by Peter Max. For those who don’t like lots of fragrance, this is a great choice – Karl and I both use both of these products because they’re neutral but effective.
  11. I SWEAR by Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray. The more I use it, the more I love it and the more I realize no other dry shampoo can compare. No ashiness, no stickiness, no cloying smell, and it gives that perfect bit of texture. Sure I’ve used it when my roots are a bit greasy, but I mainly use it as a styling product. It’s that price that is hard to stomach for yourself, but a good price for a gift. Add some hair ties or a paddle brush for a complete kit that your friend will be thanking you for after a just few uses.
  12. Have you ever found a fragrance that you swear is perfect for you but just doesn’t work with your chemistry? I feel that way about kai. I smell it on others and swoon. I love that it’s a roller ball of essential oils, I love the minimalist look, the blend of feminine and sensual. I continue to love the scent (and love that they have home fragrance options), but realized it’s not for me. So I gift it and get to enjoy it on my loved ones. This gift set has the lotion and fragrance together in a white mesh bag and I promise will far more appreciated than another package of holiday berry or juniper breeze.

A Brow Beating: Reclaiming My Eyebrows

Above, you can see my brows in their natural glory, never before waxed or plucked or powdered. I never did anything with my brows, they seemed fine to me.  Cut to Junior year of college when I went to visit my Sophomore-year roommate at her new apartment. She was always so stylish and well groomed and as soon as I walked in the door she exclaimed, “Those brows have GOT to go!” For an hour, we sat facing one another on the living room floor next to the sliding glass door for natural light as she tweezed by brows into oblivion. It was 1995, the era of the pencil-thin brows and she made me look modern and quite groomed. I’ll admit, I sobbed when I got home and saw 90% of my brows were gone, but within a week I felt tres chic and kept my brows waxed into crisp perfection for many years after.

And now it’s 2014 and everyone wants thick brows a la Cara Delevingne. For those who have only been waxing, threading, or tweezing for a couple years you likely have an easy time getting back to a more natural look. But for those of us who have been removing brow hair for decades may find it’s hard to change our brow style with the trends. Though I am only 39, I find the grow-out phase for my brows slow-going, and I will likely never regain the thick rectangles of brows seen in the photos above.

Therefore, I am working with what I have, and looking for products to enhance, groom, darken, and give the look of a fuller brow without looking painted-on crazypants. What I have tried, and what I have liked?

Maybelline Great Lash Mascara (clear) and Brow Powder
In the past I swore by dark brown Maybelline brow powder; I can’t tell you the name because the lid is missing, the back label has faded away, and when on travel it’s wrapped in foil to prevent coating everything with brown dust. I’d apply it with a Trish McEvoy brow brush, which was stiff enough to give a natural look but soft enough to not have brow powder all over my face. Once applied, I’d hold the color and brows in place with Maybelline Great Lash Mascara in clear. I did this combination for over a decade; it filled in light spots, it made my brows look a bit longer on the outer edges, and it held up well enough. However, it wasn’t enough to get the very sculpted and thick brows that are hot this season and anyway I was ready to buy a new product and toss the ratty old powder compact!

Anastasia Beauty Express
This seemed like perfection – powder for color, wax to groom, a brush to do it all, stencils to help me have a crisp modern shape and even a shadow to enhance my brow bone! The Petite Arch stencil seemed like the best fit and even used it to know which stray hairs to tweeze but keep the fullness. I used this kit for a couple weeks. I asked friends what they thought of my brows and they said they looked fine, but I kept looking at myself in the mirror and feeling like a Muppet. So I asked the most honest person I know, Karl. He said he was glad I asked because he thought my brows looked fake and angry. I tried the other stencil shapes, I tried the product sans stencil, but without the stencils the powder wasn’t any different from my old Maybelline method. So I moved on.  But do know, this is a pretty spectacular product and a nice price; check it out somewhere like Sephora where you can try out the stencils before purchasing.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Brow Mousse
I read about it on one blog, found a beauty vlogger use it on YouTube, read online reviews and thought this may be just what I was looking for. It’s a creamy waxy product, sort of like a pot of liner, and it comes with its own spooly groomer/brush combo. No stencils, no fancy tips on creating perfect brows. I use the brush that comes with it, pat it into the pot and then start in the middle of my brow to draw the outer edge towards my hair. I then go to the inner half near my nose and do a combo of smooth line and feathering to add thickness and a natural look. The product sets after a couple of minutes and doesn’t budge all day, even if you wipe sweat off your brow or get caught in a rainstorm or anything else. I also find the color (I chose Medium Brown) to look quite natural.

What do you feel about the latest brow trend? What product/s are you using to groom and shape your brows?

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My Wardrobe Today – Tuesday

Dress – Eliza J (no longer available – similar. Also recently saw this dress at Ross for around $20)
Belt Another Line c/o Nordstrom Rack
Shoes – Nine West (no longer available – similar)

I miss my closet! It SUCKS trying to figure out what to wear every morning from a crowded rolling rack in my home office, with pieces monkey-hung six down. I have no clue what I own, I don’t have a mirror nearby, and I just get overwhelmed. Today they were to come and start repairing the roof, but it’s raining off and on, will be doing such for the rest of the week so I fear repairs will be delayed.

Not to be Negative Nelly all over this post, but the sound of rain falling on a tarp covering a huge hole in your roof is not pleasant. It made getting to sleep and staying asleep very difficult last night. I have been trying to stay positive about this whole experience (no one was hurt, little material damage, yadda yadda) but it’s starting to get to me. While it really isn’t a big deal (again, no one was hurt and my house is still liveable), it reminds me of when I was on bedrest for pregnancy. Everyone asks a ton of questions, constantly bringing it up, and they keep sharing their horror stories of missed water damage destroying a home, second hurricanes coming, etc. which just stresses me out more. I can’t wait until this is all over and done with (and note to all, if your friend is on bedrest while pregnant, don’t tell her stories of HELLP, placenta previa and abruption, and early labor and forced C-sections. Just bring her magazines and snacks and come by to say hi.).

This weekend I started feeling under the weather on Saturday night, by Sunday early evening I was full-blown sick. Chills, body aches, sinuses freaking out, eyes hurting, fever. Sunday Emerson woke with the same thing I had so we were sicky poos together all day on yesterday. Today I am better, though still sniffling and feeling grody. While Emerson’s nose is running like a faucet and she is pretty low-key, she too seems to be feeling better today.

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What I Wore: Autumn Brights

Wardrobe Oxygen wearing a Talbots Skirt and carrying a Dagne Dover tote Wardrobe Oxygen wearing a Talbots Skirt with Dagne Dover tote and Hermes scarf Wardrobe Oxygen wearing a Dagne Dover tote with Hermes scarf and Talbots skirt Wardrobe Oxygen in Talbots and Dagne DoverSweater: Halogen (plus option) (XL) | Skirt: c/o Talbots (14) | Tights: Commando | Boots: Jessica Simpson (on sale!) | Scarf: Hermès via MYHABIT (similar concept) | Bag: 13″ Tote c/o Dagne Dover

I’m a bit of a MYHABIT addict.  I find the most amazing pieces at the most amazing prices.  Not only that, when someone uses your referral link, they receive a $20 store credit and you do too!  I collected store credit for a year and treated myself to a Hermès scarf on clearance. How else would I ever be able to afford an Hermès? And it’s all my favorite colors too!  When putting away the scarf in my closet, I saw the color of the skirt was in the scarf and had to pair the two.

This cashmere sweater from Halogen is a mega bargain.  It’s a quality weight, a classic style (straight, a tad longer than usual with slits on the sides to look cute untucked with slim pants or jeans), and reasonable price.  Halogen cashmere sweaters can vary from year to year; I have bought some that are transparent and pill, and some that are thick, lofty, and soft.  This year has been a good one for Halogen cashmere, it’s tempting to get another one in a fun color.

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