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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 Awear.

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!

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!

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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Learning from You: Changes to Wardrobe Oxygen thanks to Reader Survey Feedback

wardrobe oxygen reader survey resultsLast month I started an anonymous reader survey and the feedback has been AH-MAY-ZING! You all have been so great, sharing ideas, telling me what you like, what you don’t like, and what you’d love to see. Each time Survey Monkey has emailed me letting me know I have new responses I get excited. I’m going to keep the survey open in case anyone wants to add feedback at any time, but wanted to share what I have gathered thus far and how I’m going to use it to improve Wardrobe Oxygen. Heads up, this is a pretty lengthy post so I am truncating it on the blog for those who don’t care much and want to get back to the fashion!

[Read more…]

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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