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#Blog4Good: Suppporting Goodwill Come Rain or Come Shine

A while ago, to maintain balance (and my sanity), I decided to stop attending blogger events unless they were really worth it.

An event for Goodwill is always worth it.

Why Goodwill? Because this January, the unemployment rate in the District of Columbia was at 8.1% compared to 5.5% just six years ago; the unemployment rate in DC’s Ward 8 is 18.9% and is one of the highest in the country. The people Goodwill serves want to work, but lack the skills, education, resources or opportunity. A purchase from Goodwill can offer the resources to get these people back to work.

Last week I sloshed my way through a torrential rainstorm to the Pepco Edison Place Gallery for the VIP Launch Party of #Edited4Goodwill, a spring Trunk Show featuring some of the very best fashion from local Goodwill locations. Racks and racks of curated fashion for men and women, bags, and shoes galore.

Shocker, I’m checking out the shoe selection!

I eyed an amazing embroidered silk caftan but knew I was too short to even consider it; my friend Alison tried it on and even Catherine Meloy, President and CEO of Goodwill Greater Washington and Debbie Jarvis, Vice President Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility of Pepco told her she HAD to get it, it was so perfect (see on my Instagram). My friend Deb went home with adorable pink studded Sam Edelman flats and I was thisclose to buying a buttery soft black leather jacket but held off knowing it’s not the right time of year for such a piece. I saw brands like Victor Costa, Cynthia Rowley, and Ralph Lauren, and amazing vintage one of a kind pieces like the caftan Alison got, as well as an adorable navy summer dress.

Check out her fab pink heels – Goodwill score!

A clear example of how a purchase from Goodwill was shared at this event. A representative from Goodwill Young Professionals Council stated that the adorable pumps she wore were purchased from Goodwill for just $20; that one shoe purchase can provide an hour of one-on-one resume building (and by the way, those shoes mentioned were a still in stock style from J. Crew!).

A view of the crowd socializing and scoring great fashion.
Perusing the racks with Alison and Deb holding the leather jacket I almost purchased

It was fun to connect with other fashionistas and fashionistos who know that you can have great style and make a difference at the same time. I will always make time for Goodwill, come rain or shine because Goodwill is a way to look good and do good at the same time.

May 4th through May 10th marks Goodwill Industries Week, an annual celebration of Goodwill’s mission to provide free job training and employment services to people with disabilities and disadvantages. In support of Goodwill Industries Week, I am participating in #Blog4Good – a social media campaign designed to help put the most vulnerable members of our community back to work by devoting a blog post this week to explain how Goodwill impacts lives and communities in the Washington, DC area.

We support #blog4good to help end unemployment

Images via the Goodwill of Greater Washington Facebook page .

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Long Time, No Blog!

I’m baaaaaack!!!!

My arm surgery May 22nd went great. The arm had rebroken so my doctor had to put in a new bigger plate, a bone graft, and an implanted bone stimulator that will be removed in a few months. For two weeks I was just in a splint to let the sutures heal and swelling subside, this past Friday I got a cast (and if you follow me on Instagram you know it’s bold and bright and has become my summer signature color!) and Monday I returned to work at 100%.

Writing is slow going with my right hand (and yep I’m right-handed) in a cast, Dragon Software is great for text but not for the formatting and linking needed for posts, so blogging will continue but not on a daily basis… more like 2-3 times a week. I’m much faster on my phone, so be sure to check me out on Facebook and Twitter!

And if you’re visiting the actual site you’ll see it looks a bit different. I meant to have this change take place early spring but… well arms take priority! I’ll write a separate post about it soon, but after NINE YEARS (this month is my blogoversary!) I finally made the jump from Blogger to self hosted on WordPress. There’s still some quirks (you may notice a bunch of comments missing from recent posts, they’ll return soon, if you don’t see a link to comment click on the title of this post and you’ll get to the area), if you find anything weird or frustrating do let me know. But the hope is with this change, once I have both arms at 100% I can make this site easier to navigate, search, and view on different devices. Let me know what you think!

If you’re reading this, thank you so much for sticking around. It has been a crazy year so far, but I can just feel the positivity for the rest of 2014. Would never think a second arm surgery would brighten my outlook, but it gave me a chance to really stop and think about the blessings in my life. And I do feel blessed, and one reason is you. Gosh I love you guys, and I love this blog, and I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things!

Love,
Alison

My Blog, My Choice

No pics today.

My husband took pictures this morning… but I don’t like how they look. Shirt ended up a bit untucked, belt looks better IRL than in a still, and I am a sweaty mess. I guess this is the real Allie, but I don’t feel like sharing it. Every time I have an “off” day (which happens to all mere mortals), it gets plastered on a dozen different forums where people criticize my gut, my cankles, my fivehead saying, “THIS woman is giving fashion advice?” I have been blogging for six years, I am used to criticism, I know it’s a part of being a fashion blogger. However, sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming for anyone, even someone who knows it’s par for the course.

I am the first to say if you choose to put yourself on the internet, you have chosen to have yourself scrutinized. You made this decision to have a public lifestyle, and if you can’t handle the mean comments, the snark, and the criticism, the heat… then get out of the kitchen. But even moi, who has a pretty tough skin, can sometimes want to scream at the computer, “ENOUGH ALREADY!”

I have cellulite and wrinkles and flat hair in this humidity. I have a gut, which existed pre-pregnancy and is even more pronounced now that I have had a child and have no time or desire for a zillion crunches a day. Today my hem is held up with a safety pin because I didn’t have time to tackle it with Stitch Witchery, which holds up most of my hems these days. A good percentage of my wardrobe is being held hostage at the dry cleaner’s because I have spent my clothing allowance for the month and can’t afford to pick them up until August. I have big calves, and big ankles and my knees are lumpy and scarred from far too many disastrous bike rides as a child and drunken escapades as a college student. I enjoyed tanning beds far too much as a young adult and have the wrinkles and age spots to prove it. I have bad posture, soft arms, I chew my cuticles, and I am in need of a root touch-up.

I have never claimed to be perfect, and I have never claimed to be an expert. I write this blog in hopes it can help some women feel better about themselves. To help the fashion clueless gain some insight into how style evolves. To offer suggestions on how to update a current wardrobe to make it more useful, more personal, more effective. To show fellow women that you do not need to be rich or thin or young to be stylish.

I blog for those who want this help, want a virtual friend who will offer suggestions and ideas they may have not thought of before. For gorgeous fashion, there is The Glamourai or Atlantic-Pacific or Sea of Shoes. For beautiful women, there is Keiko Lynn or Fashion Toast or Karla’s Closet. For professional fashion advice, there are amazing books by folks such as Bridgette Raes, Tim Gunn, or Nina Garcia.

For suggestions from an average woman who has been a size 4 and a size 16 and everything in between; who has worked in creative and conservative offices and knows how it can be to have a body and life change from having a child, deal with wide calves and large bust; has been a personal shopper and wardrobe consultant for women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and lifestyles… then read my blog. Feel free to like what I write, or hate it immensely. Tell me when I am wrong, offer suggestions on how to improve my style or my blog content, I encourage and appreciate such feedback. But please, tell it to my face.  In the words of an ’80s psychotherapist, “Help me help you.” 

A blog only shows a small portion of a person. The blog owner chooses that which she wishes to share with the world. I usually am pretty good with sharing myself warts and all, but today I just don’t want to open myself up for more criticism. I made the choice to not share. I have bad days… and I have feelings.  I am after all, human.

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Cool New Blog…

One of the coolest things about blogging is making new friends all over the world. I have been blogging since early 2005 and have made friends that I have met, that I have gotten to know on a personal level, and that have helped me become a better blogger.

One of these friends is Melissa Street, a very talented professional makeup artist. I don’t know who found whom first, but we have communicated via blog comments, email and social networking for quite a while. I have learned so much from her – cosmetic brands to try out, products that have changed my life, etc. And just wait until Emerson is big enough to sport the adorable “Gucci Gucci Goo!” tee shirt Melissa got for her! :)

Anyway, Melissa has a new blog entitled, “In My Professional Opinion” and I adore it. Melissa has over 20 years in the TV and film industry, so has a great idea of what beauty products can really work for special events or every day wear. Her blog isn’t just high-end lines; Melissa will mix drugstore with higher end brands.

I have learned a lot from Melissa Street; I hope you will check out her blog and enjoy it as much as I have! :)

Blog Action Day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

What if every blog wrote about the same topic on the same day? what impact would it have? What change could us bloggers make?

This coming Monday, October 15th join me and over 10,000 bloggers and write about the same topic – the environment. A topic that we’re all talking about, and many of us want to do more to help.

From Blog Action Day:
On October 15th – Blog Action Day, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind.

In its inaugural year, Blog Action Day will be co-ordinating bloggers to tackle the issue of the environment.

What Each Blogger Will Do
Bloggers can participate on Blog Action Day in one of two ways:

1. Publish a post on their blog which relates to an issue of their own choice pertaining to the environment.

For example: A blog about money might write about how to save around the home by using environmentally friendly ideas. Similarly a blog about politics might examine what weight environmental policy holds in the political arena.

Posts do not need to have any specific agenda, they simply need to relate to the larger issue in whatever way suits the blogger and readership. Our aim is not to promote one particular viewpoint, only to push the issue to the table for discussion.

2. Commit to donating their day’s advertising earnings to an environmental charity of their choice. There is a list of “official” Blog Action Day charities on the site, however bloggers are also free to choose an alternate environmental charity to donate to if they wish.

And that’s it.

I really cannot think of a single theme blog who cannot write about the environment and not have it be relevant to their topic and their readers. I know the majority of you who do read this blog write somewhere else – you may have your own blog on fashion and beauty, a personal online journal, maybe a Facebook or MySpace page where you sometimes post your thoughts. I encourage all of you, no matter the size of your readership to participate or at least promote this campaign.

And if you do take part, leave a comment with a link to your blog so we can all share in your ideas and thoughts!

Modern Technology and the Anonymous Blog Commenter

I am not terribly tech-savvy when it comes to blogging. I am still on Blogger for my blog, I don’t know much about how to optimize this blog for search engines, I have never used Photoshop. However, I do know that in 2012 it’s pretty hard to truly be anonymous on the Internet.

I don’t delete comments on this blog unless they are hurtful to others – nothing racist, nothing about my family, nothing against a certain group of individuals. Also if you write about something that may embarrass or offend another I will delete it. But go ahead and critique my outfit, say I’ve gained weight, or that you disagree with my post. I have chosen to put myself on the Internet, and with that you have the right to your opinion. And even if you write a comment saying I am stupid, fat, ugly, or annoying I will post it – you have the right to your opinion since I made the choice to put myself out there.

But do realize that you’re not completely anonymous. All these comments above come from the same IP address, and as you see, this same IP address has been leaving non-constructive comments for over a year on my blog. I also like to see that this commenter replies to his or her own comments, acting as though he or she is different individuals. This is just a snippet of what she has left.  And yes, all of these comments have been published on my blog and this person will continue to be published on my blog if she or he decides to leave a comment.

Per Wikipedia, “An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a numerical label assigned to each device (e.g., computer, printer) participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication.” And so dear Ella/Ainsley/Meredith/Andy/Sandy/Lizzie, your computer is letting me know you are all the same person, and you need to get out and find a new hobby.

It’s fine to not like me, I do not expect the whole world to. I don’t blog in hopes of winning some virtual popularity contest.  There’s a lot of things about me that are really annoying – you don’t know the half of them because you don’t have to deal with me in real life or on a daily basis. But to keep coming back to the same blog over and over and over again, thinking up new names and email addresses to leave comments that rarely give food for thought, constructive criticism, or a well-crafted opinion is a pretty lame hobby. Read a book, volunteer in your community, invite a friend for coffee, or if you really do think your style is better than mine… show it with your own blog.  And go ahead, link to it in my comments, I’d love to check it out.

I’m not calling out just this one individual, but all of you who “hate read” blogs. I’ll admit, I do occasionally check out a train wreck online, and yes, I occasionally visit GOMI. There’s some crap out there on teh interwebs, and talented people who snark on that crap. But the mean-spirited comments that lack constructive feedback are so lame. If you think I have fat legs, you’re not the only one – I fully agree. Telling me they are fat doesn’t change things, but telling me what you think I should wear instead could make a difference. I have often changed my wardrobe or purchased new things based upon reader comments and feedback.  Go ahead and snark, and go ahead and snark on me. But do it with style and intelligence. If you can’t manage that and don’t understand how the Internet works, I recommend you get yourself a new hobby.

Love,
Alison

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The Writing’s on the Wall… of my Blog… (Meme)

So I was visiting my friend Nicole’s blog (won’t link because she likes her job – and not for them to read her blog) and she did a meme that involves handwriting.

Interest piqued!

I used to get failing grades in handwriting when in elementary school.  I hold writing utensils in a weird way, where I have two to three fingers on top of the pen, versus the standard one finger (I say this is a good thing since Princess Diana and Michael Jackson both supposedly held writing utensils in the same manner).  This caused my handwriting to slant in 50 different directions.  I would come home with that mushy wide-rule paper with big red slashes through it, showing my crooked illegible cursive.

I decided to embrace my handwriting, make it an art form, love it for what it was.  I love my handwriting, and I LOVE to write.  I write in journals not to pen my thoughts, but for the relaxing meditative results of pen to paper.  I prefer old-school college-rule spiral notebooks (the more subjects the better) and a black pen with a medium tip that just glides across the paper.  Seriously, I dig my Bic.

So the meme is – write the answers to these questions on a piece of paper:

  1. What’s your name/your blogger name?
  2. What’s your blog’s name/URL?
  3. Write “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” (original meme forgot the word brown)
  4. Favorite quote?
  5. Your Favorite song?
  6. Your favorite band/singers?
  7. Anything else you want to say?
  8. Tag three to five other people.

As you see above (if you can read my handwriting), I am tagging everyone who wants to participate.  I would love to see your handwriting!  Blogging is a great way to connect with fab people from across the globe, but we rarely get to know regular in person things about our blogging friends – what we sound like, how we laugh, what our handwriting looks like.  Gosh in this day and age, how many of us still write on a daily basis?

I want to know you better!  If you do this meme, come back here and let me know so I can get to know you better!

And if you would like to know more about what your handwriting says about you, check out these links:
http://www.personalityquiz.net/innertraits/handwriting.htm
http://www.3smartcubes.com/pages/tests/handwriting_analysis/handwriting_analysis_instructions.asp
http://handwriting.feedbucket.com/

#Blog4Good with Goodwill Greater Washington

In honor of Goodwill Industries Week, I am taking part in #Blog4Good, a campaign to highlight Goodwill of Greater Washington‘s mission to end employment by supporting and training the unemployed and underemployed in our area.

Thrifting has become a hot way to look on trend and hone your personal style. I embrace this trend because it’s budget friendly, it keeps clothing out of landfills, and it helps others. Goodwill of Greater Washington’s primary mission is to provide job training and employment services to people with disadvantages and disabilities. They strive to provide the populations they serve with the tools they need to become self-sufficient.

In 2012, Goodwill of Greater Washington directly affected the lives of more than 3,200 locals who found re-dignity that comes with being a contributing member of our society. Goodwill is also responsible for diverting more than 20 million pounds of trash from DC-region landfills through their donation program. This is just stats for my area, imagine how much good Goodwill does with their 2,650 retail stores and shops across the country and Canada!

Visit the Goodwill of Greater Washington website to learn more about its mission and programs that are being recognized during Goodwill Industries Week. You can also follow the DC Goodwill Fashionista (and the Spanish version too!) and share your stories on Twitter with the hashtag #blog4Good. If you desire to shop or donate, you can find your local Goodwill at Goodwill.org.

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BlogHer Life Well Lived – Finding Inspiration

BlogHer asked me to answer their Life Well Lived Looking Your Best question,

“What are your favorite resources for inspiration on style, fashion, beauty and living life well?”

 

Books

I love reading books because they force me to create images in my head. While a novel may state that the protagonist is a brunette or wearing a navy dress, the rest of the description is truly up to me. I envision each character – how they dress, they walk, they talk and I think about why I chose that trait. It’s a great exercise to see style beyond what is on the television, and also to see how I look at style. From this, I often get inspiration for my own wardrobe.

Along with novels, I also love style books. This past weekend I finally got around to reading Ari Seth Cohen’s book Advanced Style and it was so inspiring. These fabulous women with fabulous personal style, making their own rules and looking gorgeous while doing so. The book has very little text, but each quote gave me such food for thought.

Magazines

If you read this blog regularly, you know I love Real Simple. They show wearable fashion at reasonable price points, and each issue ends up adding some new item to the shopping list for Target, Sephora, or Drugstore.com. Through Real Simple I have learned about life-changing night creams, skin-clearing gentle face washes, and lip glosses that make me actually like lip glosses. I also learn ways to simplify my life and daily routines, giving me time to actually life my life and not be a machine.

While I love Real Simple for showing great pieces that are buyable now, I do love falling into the fantasy that is in high-end fashion magazine spreads. I could look at a Vogue spread for an hour, creating characters, imagining situations, and also trying to see into the stylist’s head as to why she put things together in the way she did. Letting my mind wander on a spread gives me a lot of inspiration for my own wardrobe – creative pairings and unexpected additions.

The Street

Yesterday I passed a woman on the street in lavender skinny jeans, a white v-neck tee, and a gray tweed blazer. The look was so simple, but so fresh and crisp it made me want a pair of lavender jeans in my life. Washington DC isn’t necessarily known for its fashion, but every day I see women who push sartorial boundaries, or who take class and style up a notch.

For every woman in an ill-fitting polyester suit and pair of worn-down TOMS there is one in a perfectly tailored vintage blazer or one-of a kind frock. I also see women who give me ideas for my beauty routine – natural waves, fresh dewy skin, or a shock of color on the lips, eyes or even in the hair. These women give me inspiration, and regularly help me shop within my own closet for completely new ensembles.

We want to know, what are YOUR favorite resources for inspiration on style, fashion, beauty and living life well?  Visit BlogHer and let us know in the comments!  Also be sure to enter the Life Well Lived sweepstakes, where you could win an iPod Touch!

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Why I Blog my Daily Outfits

I don’t take pictures of myself because I think I am beautiful, or young, or a fashion maven. I don’t think I am perfect. I take pictures of myself because I am not perfect. I share my daily outfits because there aren’t enough examples out there of women who are not a model size, or model height, or have a model face who embrace fashion. I take these pictures to show you don’t have to be any of these things to have personal style, to have fun with fashion, and feel beautiful. All women deserve to realize how fabulous they are, and clothing is a great way for women to express themselves and flatter their body. I hope with each outfit post I motivate a fellow woman to try color, to embrace fashion, and find her own personal style.

If you think I post my pictures because I am a narcissist, you’re dead wrong and obviously not reading the text that accompanies the photos on this blog. And if you think I’m in love with myself… well you’re correct and I am damn proud of that fact. If you stop hating on other people, you may have the time to get to know yourself a bit better and realize you’re worth loving as well!

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FFB Blog Event: Dressing Like a Feminist

This week’s topic for Feminist Fashion Bloggers is, “How do you express your feminism in the way you dress?”

I found this question difficult to answer. I don’t think about any message I wish to portray when I get dressed every morning. But then I thought, I do think about you, my blog readers when I get dressed. I want to show that you don’t have to be a size 4, 22 years old, or 5’9” to look stylish and feel beautiful.

The average American woman is 5’3”, she wears a size 14. Yep, that’s me. I have brown hair, brown eyes, beige skin. I am neither fat nor thin, not remarkably tall or short. I am typical.

I use this blog to celebrate my typical exterior, and show how an “average” woman doesn’t have to look average. I use this blog to help other women find their personal style. My personal style won’t be the same as any other woman’s, but maybe it can inspire another to get outside her box, embrace her figure and her personality through her dress.

Clothing is a wonderful way to express yourself – a walking billboard of your passions, your thoughts, your beliefs. For some women, clothing is a way to show their religion or cultural heritage; for other women, clothing is a way to express their passion for music or a certain era of time environmental concerns. Clothing has a way of making the wearer feel powerful, feel graceful, feel confident, feel unique. Clothing can be a suit of armor – having a wardrobe of workhorses/wardrobe staples means you are ready for whatever life throws your way; you can spend less time in front of the closet and more time living.

Clothing is something that we all have to wear to participate in everyday society; we should use it as a tool to properly express and showcase ourselves. As a feminist, I choose clothing that makes ME feel good, makes ME happy, flatters my figure, but also my soul.

I have never dressed in a manner to attract a mate. I fully believe that a mate is attracted to a person who is beautiful to them in every sense. At work, I wear what makes me feel confident, not what seems to be the office uniform. I respect etiquette and cultural expectations because I respect my company, my family, and the hosts of events I attend; I don’t dress to please others.

I dress to show how much I love this amazing body. I honor it with garments that flatter and feel good. I share my spirit and my artistic side by wearing colors that please me, combinations that may not necessarily go with the runway trends but go with my heart. I wear jewelry and clothing that belonged to (or were made by) family members because it makes me feel good to honor them and thank them for such gifts that were passed down to me.

When I get dressed each morning, I think about this blog. I don’t care if someone likes or hates my outfit. Instead, I think about how I may inspire another woman to realize that she can be smart AND stylish, a wonderful mom AND a person who follows her passions, a strong person and a fashionable one. You don’t have to sacrifice style for substance.

Click here to see the other posts by fellow Feminist Fashion Bloggers.

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The Old Fashion Blog She Ain’t What She Used to Be: Why Blogs Change

blogging

You’ve been a blog reader for a long while, long before every single girl in America with a Rebecca Minkoff Mini MAC started one. You’ve had favorites who really spoke to you, but lately their blogs are disappointing. What happened to that awesome blog from 2007, 2009, or even 2012 that you loved so much? I’ve been blogging since 2005 and have made friends with many fellow veteran bloggers. We all hear this complaint from old readers that our blogs have changed, they miss the old us. Here’s some of the reasons why our blogs ain’t what they used to be:

Audience Growth

It’s easy to be brutally honest and candid when you’re writing for an audience of 30. But when that audience grows to 3,000 or gosh even 300,000 you start questioning what you choose to share. On top of it, it gets weird when your blog life merges into your real life: work clients mentioning they read your blog, local politicians emailing an “Ask Allie” fashion question, distant relatives “Liking” your blog on Facebook, the mom of your daughter’s friend asking if the birthday party the two of you are at will end up on Instagram.  Suddenly those pageviews become real people who have influence on your day job, your child, your community, you and your family’s future.

It’s not always easy to realize when your favorite blog has grown in popularity. Sure, they may have a few more sponsored posts or followers on social media, but sometimes when the increase in traffic is viral (Google searches, a link on a popular site or feature in a newspaper) that traffic can be hidden to the average blog reader but can cause the blog writer to have a minor freakout when she sees her Google analytics and make her more careful with what is shared.

Personal Growth

When I started my blog I was 29 and thought I knew everything. I had a very definite opinion and voice on this blog, a voice I created envisioning my posts someday becoming a book. As my audience grew, I occasionally did things to be controversial to increase traffic because that bit of growth was so addictive. With time, I’ve gotten to know many of you as people I care about instead of exciting numbers, and my voice and direction for this blog has changed because of it.  I also feel that with age comes wisdom and experiences that have changed who I am, my priorities, and my voice.  A lot can happen in the years you’ve been following a blog: marriage, divorce, children, job change, religion or spiritual change, moving to a new location, weight loss or gain, health issues… all of these changes will affect not just the blog’s content but how content is delivered.  As a blogger grows and experiences things, her voice will change with that personal development.

Life Changes

When I was pregnant I started a baby blog. I thought it would be a great way to journal the journey into motherhood, and maybe I’d publish it into a book that my child could enjoy when she was older. I shared all the vegetable and fruit she was supposed to resemble in my body, a very detailed birth story, problems with breastfeeding, experiences with cloth diapers and baby led weaning. It was all fine and good until she got to the age where she was being potty trained and I realized… this isn’t a sweater, this is a human being that is being raised in the era of the Internet. Do I really want to be sharing her bodily functions with the world? Should I be sharing ANYTHING about her for that matter? She doesn’t really have a say, and I’m here writing posts about her to garner attention and income. I made the blog private, and soon after shut it down completely.

My fashion blog also changed because of Emerson. My personal life no longer belonged just to me. While many readers had become friends, I knew there were a lot out there who were complete strangers, and I knew some readers didn’t like me very much. It felt very wrong to put my family and personal information out there to the universe, not knowing who was reading it and what they were doing with it. It’s a very weird experience being a blogger; the most intimate posts and details are the ones that get the most feedback and “likes.” It’s tempting to share more to get more positive feedback, but there’s this weird point where you wonder if you’re having special family moments for your family or your readers; if you’re infringing on your loved ones’ privacy by sharing that which involves and affects them.  I’ve chatted with many bloggers who also struggle with this balance.

Lack of Comments

The old blog commenter, she ain’t what she used to be either. With RSS readers, mobile phones, and social media, comment areas have become a wasteland of, “Cute shoes, check out my blog!” and spam for Viagra and Louis Vuitton. While my subscribers have quintupled in the past three years, the comments on many of my posts have dwindled down to a trickle. It’s hard to be real when you feel you’re talking to a wall. I’m grateful to you readers who do leave comments, and I’ve built up my Facebook community to have a platform to get real with those who use it to follow me and other blogs.  But because comment fields have become a place for trolls, spammers, and self-promoting bloggers instead of a venue to interact and get to know readers, many bloggers are shutting down comments all together. I never wish to do that, but the longer I blog and the larger my audience the more I understand their choice. And this gets to my next reason…

The Anonymous and the Creepy

I’m not talking about the activist group, I’m talking about the ability for blog readers to be unknown. Anonymous comments, fake email addresses, tools to hide IP addresses and where they clicked from to get to your blog. Having anonymity gives people a feeling of power, and they sometimes abuse it. This isn’t about the anonymous comments or emails that say you’re ugly or fat; I’m talking about those who take it to the next level. Many of us deal with strangers who have threatened our lives, our careers, or our families and some have acted upon it, contacting places of work, blog advertisers, spouses, and neighbors to harm us in some manner.

Some other readers don’t try to be malicious, but they cross the line from loyal and loving reader to downright creepy. There’s a difference between being a fan and being a Stan, and this doesn’t just happen to the more famous bloggers. I know from experience and conversations with my peers that this happens to bloggers of all size and genre of audiences. We don’t talk about it because we don’t want to look ungrateful or as though we have a big head but it still creeps us out.

When you choose to be a blogger, especially one who works to grow her traffic and monetizes her site, you’re choosing to be a public figure. However, when things start getting upsetting and you’re not famous enough for an entourage to filter out and protect you from it (or have the bankroll to justify dealing with it), you can’t help but have it affect what you choose to share on the blog.

Numbers Don’t Lie… or Do They?

We bloggers have a kazillion tools at our disposal to know about our blog traffic. We can see general demographics, location, and we can see which posts are shared the most. If you see that posts about a certain subject perform better (more shares on social media, higher traffic that day, other bloggers linking to it, more sales from your affiliate program, more traffic from search engines), you of course are going to write about that subject more often.

With the reduction in comments and an increase in traffic, stats are what bloggers go by to gauge the temperature of their audience and choose the direction of the blog. If you feel a beauty blog is writing too much about her home décor, it’s likely because her home décor posts are getting the most traffic. Most bloggers try to be authentic, but provide content they believe their audience desires, and we have to use our numbers to figure that out.

ROI

When I started blogging, I’d maybe change my blog’s background or font color but that’s about it for admin work, and that was more for fun. But blogging’s come a long way baby, and to stay relevant you’ve got to keep up with the times. This means templates that are clean, easy to navigate, and mobile-friendly. Images that are high quality but not so big it takes ten minutes to load a page. Ways to connect on social media and by email. Maintaining content not just on the blog but on social media. All of this takes time and some know-how. That know-how takes more time to learn, or a very nice person who will do it for a very nice price. Oh, and that awkwardly long blogspot.com URL has GOT to go, which means hosting fees and all that jazz. There’s gotta be a return on investment to make it worthwhile to successfully blog in this day and age.

As blogs have become more popular and more professional, it takes even more time to make a blog successful financially. Advertisers don’t just pick a blogger who writes about their brand. They look at the numbers, see how influential a blogger is on social media, and yes, how pretty the brand will look on that blogger and her blog. They don’t just contact you and offer a free dress, now there are expectations for number of photos, word count, Pinterest boards, shares on social media, videos and content for their sites and social media. A regularly updated media kit and plenty of contracts and conference calls.  Things that worked great in 2013 are archaic in 2014; advertisers want their brand featured on the latest and greatest and expect more with their partnerships.

And the ways to make money on blogs have changed dramatically. Two years ago, most of my income came from sidebar ads. Took only a couple of minutes to install the code, and it didn’t interfere with my content.  In 2014 though my traffic is much larger than it was in 2012, I make a third of what I did with sidebar ads. Money is now from affiliate links and “native advertising” (sponsored posts and partnerships).  And sponsored posts continue to be more complicated – create a corresponding Pinterest board, lead a Twitter chat, create a DIY tutorial, make a video, have X amount of original photos and a minimum word count of Y.  All of this used to be handled with a couple emails, now brands request phone calls, Skype sessions, proposals, and contracts.  This means we bloggers need to work more hours and change our content just to make the same money we used to.  To keep a blog from being one gigantic ad, you need to work extra hours to fill the space between sponsored content with authentic stuff, which makes that ROI harder to achieve.  Vicious cycle, no? And you wonder why all the “good” blogs shutter.

In Summary…

If you are still reading a blog you read five or more years ago, it’s because that blogger is passionate about blogging. They’re still here because they love it, and because they love you.  In the internet world, if you don’t keep up with the times you might as well be Geocities, Friendster, or LiveJournal. And in the real world, if you’re the same exact person you were five years ago, you need to step away from the computer and live the real life. Blogs are special because they’re (usually) written by humans, not corporations. And humans change and grow, make bad decisions, feel pain and sadness, and learn from mistakes. Our blogs grow with us, and I’m pretty sure my peers would agree that we’re so honored that you have stuck with us through it all.

As for me, I’d love to hear from you. Wardrobe Oxygen is NOT what it was even a year ago, and it will continue to change. But let me know what you love, what you hate, what you miss, and what you wish I’d start including. With Disqus (the tool I use for comments) you can sign in as a guest and use a fake name and email if you wish to be anonymous; I also have a comment form where you can put in a fake email and name if you wish. I also take feedback on Twitter and Facebook. There’s no point in having this site if you don’t enjoy it. I look forward to connecting with you, and I look forward to the future of this blog and your part in it!

True Fashionista: Ariel

When I try to make personal style make sense to others, I often compare it to art. Fashion is a form of art, just a different medium, and many designers are inspired by art. You can admire Monet’s work without wanting to hang it on your wall, you can see the skill in a Renoir without him being your favorite painter… the same holds true for fashion and trends. And a good way to know what you like in regard to colors, textures, and silhouettes is to look at what appeals to you with art. Art and fashion truly go hand in hand, and so when I found Ariel Maile Adkinsfashion blog I fell in love.

“‘One should either be a work of Art, or wear a work of Art.’ This quote from Oscar Wilde describes my life’s pursuit–to express my artistic obsession from head to shoes.”
     – Ariel Maile Adkins

Ariel is the blogger behind Artfully Aware, one of the most addictive fashion blogs I have encountered over the years. Ariel uses works of art to inspire her outfits, and with each post is a mini art history lesson on the piece and the artist. I love when I see a new post and try to guess the artist just on her outfit.

“When in need of inspiration, I usually turn to an art book before a fashion magazine, because there are so many ways to interpret art via clothing, and I am able to combine the two things that I love!”
     – Ariel Maile Adkins (source)

Ariel wrote her thesis on “Clothing as a Cultural Medium in Contemporary Art,” (source) and attended FIT; her expertise in this subject shines in every blog post, and how she effortlessly connects her daily ensemble to her passion for art. She helps me see more not only into the clothes I choose to purchase or wear, but the art I love (and the artists I didn’t know of and now love and/or respect).

Not only does Ariel have an amazing mind full of art and art history, but she has such a zest for life. Her pictures show not only her creative and fabulous style, but her spirit and enthusiasm for life. She’d rather have a picture of her twirling with hair in her face than one of her posed just show to flatter her figure. By doing this, the clothes and Ariel look even more fabulous and draw you into Artfully Aware.

Ariel is a True Fashionista, a woman who wears fashion and never lets it wear her, who sees fashion as a way to express herself and her interests. She knows her body, her mind, her heart and chooses fashion to represent it properly. As with all other True Fashionistas, I asked Ariel to answer the same five questions, here are her answers.

How would you describe your personal style? 
The most important thing to me is expressing my love for art through what I wear. Bright colors, prints, embellishments, structural details: these are all things that I wear that reflect my appreciation for art. 

Where did you get your passion for fashion? 
My mother had a beautiful sense of style which was based on her understanding of color and form as an artist. She encouraged me to express myself artistically and ultimately inspired me to do so through what I wear.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration? 
I try to surround myself with visually compelling things; namely art of all different media, genres, and eras. I maintain inspiration by seeking out as much art as possible in my daily life; by visiting museums and galleries, reading books and blogs, and absorbing what I see on the street.

What is the difference between fashion and style? 
Fashion is determined by trends, i.e. what is “in vogue”. Style is a reflection of oneself. 

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style? 
Determine what inspires you the most and try to find a way to translate that enthusiasm into your wardrobe.

***

The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday for the next few weeks. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments!

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Guest Blogger at In My Professional Opinion

In My Professional Opinion LogoHi all, I recently was asked to be a guest blogger at In My Professional Opinion!

I love this blog and the two authors – Melissa Street (who has become a good blogging friend of mine) is a mom and professional, freelance makeup artist with 20 years of experience in the film, television and live event industries; Aileen Wrench has worked as a Strategic Marketing Professional for 13 years. The two offer very valuable advice on beauty and products from their “insider view.”

Piggy BankMy guest post is the second in a series of posts about How to Be a Budget Bombshell.

Many of us are feeling the pinch due to the current economic situation, and I have always believed that style can be found at any budget level, so I find this series of posts very beneficial to any woman.

I encourage you to go visit In My Professional Opinion (and check out what I wrote). Hope you find it entertaining and helpful!

Guest Blogger at In My Professional Opinion

In My Professional Opinion LogoHi all, I recently was asked to be a guest blogger at In My Professional Opinion!

I love this blog and the two authors – Melissa Street (who has become a good blogging friend of mine) is a mom and professional, freelance makeup artist with 20 years of experience in the film, television and live event industries; Aileen Wrench has worked as a Strategic Marketing Professional for 13 years. The two offer very valuable advice on beauty and products from their “insider view.”

Piggy BankMy guest post is the second in a series of posts about How to Be a Budget Bombshell.

Many of us are feeling the pinch due to the current economic situation, and I have always believed that style can be found at any budget level, so I find this series of posts very beneficial to any woman.

I encourage you to go visit In My Professional Opinion (and check out what I wrote). Hope you find it entertaining and helpful!

Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

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 chickdowntown.com, 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 mywardrobetoday@gmail.com 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 chickdowntown.com. Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know chickdowntown.com:
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (twitter.com/chickdowntown)
YouTube (chickdowntownTV.com or youtube.com/chickdowntowntv)

Good luck!

Go Ahead Put Your Red Dress On

Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Necklace: Leona Pendant c/o Kristin Biggs, Stella and Dot | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Bracelets: Nordstrom (similar), Nordstrom (similar), had forever | Glasses: Derek Cardigan 7003 c/o Coastal.com | Shoes: Ivanka Trump

One thing bloggers get flack for is wearing too many c/o (courtesy of) items. How can a reader tell your true personal style or find you inspiring when you have a completely gifted outfit? I guess it depends on the blogger, but over the years I have learned to not accept every free thing that is offered to me. It does water down your personal style, it makes you seem less credible… and between you and me it is a pain to them take these gifted items that aren’t really your style and try to style them in a good way for the blog. I have had mornings when I have cried over not knowing how to make a garment or accessory look decent, and I feel guilty to my readers and to the brand that was kind enough to send it my way.

I don’t feel guilty wearing gifted items. One, it’s a lovely perk for working hard on this blog, but two it’s such a great chance to showcase lesser-known amazing brands. I for one may never have known about Dobbin Clothing if they hadn’t contacted me and sent me a dress. Dobbin Clothing has now become such a fave of mine – high quality garments made with fine fabrics from European mills but created here in the US of A.  They pride themselves in making tasteful stylish workhorses for your wardrobe.  The women behind Dobbin Clothing are just as lovely as their creations too!

So yeah, there’s a lot of c/o above… but every c/o up there is one you have likely seen before or will likely see many times again because I love the pieces and I find they fit my personal style. Each piece above I would purchase with my own money if I was able.  I think with blogs, it’s less about how one gets a garment or accessory and more about how they style it and whether it fits their style and message.

UPDATE: Like this dress?  This is the “Nora” by Dobbin Clothing, and they are offering all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off it, in black or red.  Use the code WARDOX20 at checkout to get 20% off the Nora Dress in black or red.  No expiration date, but this code cannot be used in conjunction with the first-time buyer code.

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#GivingTuesday and The Health Wagon

giving tuesday

We had a day for giving thanks. We had two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. Today, Tuesday, December 2, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s simple: find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Join and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity. Share on social media how you gave and use the hashtag #Giving Tuesday.

This year, I am supporting The Health Wagon for #GivingTuesday. Earlier this year I saw a piece on 60 Minutes regarding The Health Wagon and have been a supporter ever since. I donate a portion of my revenue from the blog to The Health Wagon and for those who visit Wardrobe Oxygen’s actual site will know I donated ad space to promote the organization.

Nearly one million Virginia residents lack health insurance. Those who work full time at minimum wage make too much to be eligible for Medicaid, but not enough to afford healthcare even via the ACA. On top of that, many parts of Southwest Virginia have little medical access or health resources. The Health Wagon is a nonprofit organization providing mobile health services in Southwest Virginia since 1980. Every dollar donated to The Health Wagon is approximately $100 reaped in health care benefits. In 2013, the Health Wagon assisted more than 11,000 patients obtain access to care valued at over $1 million.

The Health Wagon strives to meet the unique challenges of health care delivery to the medically under-served and indigent in poverty-stricken areas of rural Appalachia. Through the use of this innovative mobile health unit, health care doors are opened to many needy individuals, families, and communities; doors that would have otherwise remained closed. The Health Wagon visits eleven sites in Southwest Virginia’s Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, and Wise counties on a weekly, biweekly, and monthly basis. Accessibility to culturally sensitive primary health care services that emphasize education and prevention is considered the key to improving the health status for populations residing in these rural areas. Services are rendered essentially free of charge; however, donations are encouraged and accepted.

Please consider participating in #GIVINGTUESDAY and donating to The Health Wagon by clicking here or texting WAGON10 to 41444 to donate $10.00, WAGON20 to 41444 to donate $20.00 or WAGON (enter amount) to 41444 to donate any amount.  To donate online visit this link to go to The Health Wagon’s donation page via Network for Good.

I’d love to hear how you are participating in #GivingTuesday, do share your stories in the comments below!

What I Wore: Winterized

Dress: Issa for Banana Republic | Tights: DKNY | Shoes: Nine West “Lottie” | Bracelets: had forever, c/o Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design | Glasses: Derek Cardigan 7014 | Lipstick: NARS “Hyde Park”

I wore this same outfit on the blog before, even down to one of the same bracelets… but last time it was warm enough to run around with bare legs. This dress is a nice heavy weight that doesn’t cling to tights or any of my curves, and is a bit warm. The neck is high enough that I can wear a v-neck cami underneath, and these tights are super thick; paired with a knee-length coat, scarf, hat, and gloves I’m good to go this winter!

And yes… new glasses!  Coastal.com has some deals that are just too good to pass up.  They have a few styles that are free to new customers (look at the top of the site for the promotion), and once you buy from them they send you 50,000 emails, but most have good promotions.  With a $49 Derek Cardigan promotion they were having and a promo code I found on RetailMeNot these ended up being about $20.  And if you go through Ebates, you get 5% cash back on purchases from Coastal.com!

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How to Look Current: Fashion Trends to Keep or Retire for 2014

We’ve had a few crazy seasons of fashion, where color, statements, and whimsy were embraced. And I think that’s great, it gave women a true opportunity to have fun with fashion, to embrace something new and step out of the box that we were in for quite a long while. But when a trend is good, it often ends up becoming too popular and ends up losing all the charm that made it popular in the first place.

I don’t believe in chasing every fashion trend, and I believe that if something really fits with your personal style you can wear it even after it has left the retail stores. Look at a street style blog (or Advanced Style my favorite site for style inspiration) and you’ll see many a fashionista sporting last year’s hemline, heel height, color, or It Bag with amazing style. But if you haven’t yet defined your personal style, it’s good to be aware of trends, and to know when to let go of passing trends to stay current. Wearing trends past their prime overshadows any progress you have made in defining your personal style. With a new season upon us, I ask you to reexamine the trendy pieces in your wardrobe and decide if you’re wearing them because they help define your personal style or if you’re riding a trend train that has already left the station.

Bubble Necklaces. When there’s a display in Walmart featuring these necklaces in every color of the rainbow for only $5.00, it’s time to let the trend go. Bubble necklaces were great, they added a wonderful pop of color to a neutral outfit and really dressed up a simple knit top or dress. Heck, I wore my red bubble necklace to death (see here and here). But this style of necklace is no longer popular. J. Crew started the bubble necklace trend, and you won’t find anything on their site that even slightly resembles them. Look at celebs and style bloggers and you’ll see they aren’t wearing them any more.

Alternative: If you desire a big pop of color on top, consider a scarf; for spring a gauzy lightweight scarf won’t add too much bulk or heat and can look very on trend. If you desire a longer necklace, consider a chain with a pendant (a horn, crystal, or natural-inspired piece is current but not too trendy). If you like the bold statement, statement necklaces are still popular, but they’re shorter and more about pastels and sparkle than big pieces of primary-colored plastic and enamel.

Shop this look: skirt | scarf | bag

Chevron. Oh gosh, has chevron been popular! From infinity scarves to maxi skirts to area rugs and cell phone covers, I think chevron print will always be synonymous with the beginning of the ‘10s. Chevrons remain popular for those with a preppy personal style but for others the print may look quite dated.

Alternative: To achieve the clean look of chevron stripes, consider classic straight stripes. This season I’ve seen a lot of mixing stripes, be it different colors, or a mini stripe mixed with a larger bolder one. If you’re looking for a scarf to jazz up wardrobe staples, consider a fun floral, or a mixed-print scarf. But don’t be afraid to leave the crispness of chevron and try something a bit softer, more unexpected, or subtle. You may find the transition to be a refreshing change!

Sock Buns and Topknots and Barbie Hair. This season is letting hair be hair, with all its bendy, unruly, wacky glory. The slicked back, very crisp looks are over, and we should all celebrate. It has been a few years of hard hair to achieve without a lot of hot tools and many have resorted to falls and extensions to make it work. Retire the fake hair and keratin treatments and allow your hair to show its true self. Let it be long, cut it into a pixie, or consider the lob – a long bob that is long enough for a quick ponytail but not so long it takes an hour to perfect.  A good way to see the change in hair trends is to look at Taylor Swift; Google pictures of her in 2013 and see thick straight bangs and long hair.  This year she has allowed a bend, texture, and even cut off some of that length.

Alternative: If you wish to put up your hair, allow it to be relaxed and a bit messy. Consider putting it half up and allow it to be disheveled a la Brigitte Bardot. Let it be down, and embrace your Bad Hair Day. I type this with what I have decided to call Diane von Furstenberg Hair; my hair is frizzy, it parts in the middle and likes to feather away from my face. This spring I am going to allow it to do it more instead of forcing it into submission with bangs and perfectly crafted waves or curls.

Shop this look: bucket bag | earrings | shoes

Neon. Don’t get me wrong, neon is still a fashion statement in 2014. However, we just went through a period where everyone was wearing big neon yellow statement necklaces, hot pink patent platform pumps, Breton tees done in acid green and fluorescent yellow, and lot of clear and Lucite neon accessories. It was a popular way to dress up a little black dress or make denim and chambray really pop. The thing is every time neon shows up, it comes on too strong and ruins the moment for everyone. Keep the neon tank, the skinny belt, the cashmere sweater but instead pair them with gray, khaki, and olive for an unexpected and more luxe look.

Alternative: Consider not needing that pop of color. Omigod, did I just WRITE THAT? Yes, it is possible to have your outfit look cohesive without a bright belt or necklace or shoe or bag or lip or jacket. After seasons of BRIGHT and BOLD and POP it’s a breath of fresh air to have an ensemble that isn’t carefully crafted and held together with accessories.  If you do desire color, consider a pastel or an icy pale version of the fluorescent brights; they seem subtle but can add much impact to your look!

Shop this look: blue dress | yellow dress

Peplum. I remember peplums from the ‘80s and swore I wouldn’t revisit the trend… and then I bought a peplum top and a peplum dress. I found the trend to be very wearable and an easy way to update the wardrobe. While I don’t think you have to burn every peplum in your closet, I don’t recommend purchasing any more of them and retiring the Judy Jetson-esque stiff extreme peplums you may own.

Alternative: Draping. An asymmetrical hem or draping and rouching can add that level of interest and architecture that made peplums so popular and at the same time flatters curves and camouflages areas you wish to not be on display.

Arm Parties. You all KNOW I love my bracelets. With large breasts and a metal allergy that makes earrings uncomfortable, my wrist is a way to play with jewelry and add color or shine to an outfit. But even I, the bracelet junkie, am paring down. This doesn’t mean get rid of all your bracelets, but wear fewer at a time. I used to wear my gold Citizen watch with a bangle, a chain bracelet, a stretch bracelet, and a bead one; now I pair it with only one or two pieces.

Alternative: Quality, not quantity. Stop buying the cheap flash, and save your pennies for a piece that really speaks to your personal style and makes a statement without yelling. As to what it is, it doesn’t really matter this year; you can wear any color of metal, any textile, any shape as long as it works with the rest of your wardrobe and isn’t paired with 20 other ones.

What trends are are you glad to see retiring this spring?  Which trends will you continue to embrace because they fit your personal style?

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