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Ask Allie: Wearing White Jeans in Winter

I don’t know why there’s snow on the ground and I want to wear my white jeans but I do. How can I make them work in winter? I’m 45, self-employed and prefer a more classic yet relaxed style.

Get those white jeans out of storage because they are hotter than ever in the winter months! As long as they are denim and not linen, twill, or another summery fabric they can easily be winterized. I’ve written about white jeans before, but you are not the only one who has asked me to revisit this topic in the dead of winter. Below a few outfits to get your sartorial juices flowing and to see how white denim can really rock in winter.

Ideas on how to style white jeans in winter by Wardrobe Oxygen


White jeans look so fresh with soft neutrals. Cream, tan, taupe and grey look so elegant against white. Choose rich textures like suede, cashmere, alpaca, and angora for a rich and seasonally appropriate effect. With this ensemble, I chose shades of pebble and taupe, and highlighted a popular look this winter – tall or over the knee suede boots and slouchy poncho-inspired sweaters. Gold jewelry and a glossy pinky nude lip add just the right bit of shine. To prevent being too matchy matchy, not only is the bag a different shade from the boots it’s a different fabric. It’s more stylish to mix up colors and textures so don’t be afraid to pair leather with suede, or brown with a color.

Ideas on how to style white jeans in winter by Wardrobe Oxygen


When white denim is paired with something obviously wintry, it helps the jeans look purposeful. I love the contrast of a plaid flannel and white jeans. If the shirt has a feminine fit, consider leaving it untucked, maybe with an extra button unbuttoned to show a peek of a camisole or low-necked Henley. A pair of rugged boots in a soft shade keep your feet warm, and the low contrast color keeps the look cohesive. Again, don’t be afraid to mix leathers as I did with a tan leather watch band and gray glazed bag. The choice of three leather/suede pieces is purposeful so it doesn’t look as though you grabbed boots and bag willy-nilly, you made a conscious decision to mix fabrics and did it with style. If you’re a low-fuss woman, no need to apply makeup for your relaxed style; regular application of a balm (this is my current favorite) will keep your lips soft and supple.

Ideas on how to style white jeans in winter by Wardrobe Oxygen


And finally, this look is polished and classic with a modern twist. Considering your personal style you likely already have a gray turtleneck and black blazer in your wardrobe. Balance the dark colors on top with a black Chelsea boot for a classic yet comfortable ensemble, but consider adding a bit of personality with a statement bag and a wash of a sheer red lipcolor (I have this balm stain and swear by it; I’ve had friends of different ages and skintones agree it’s a wearable soft red for most everyone and budget friendly too!).

Hopefully these ideas will show you that it’s okay to wear white jeans in the snow, and you can do it without losing your personal style aesthetic or looking like a fashion victim!

Ask Allie: Colorful Cusp Sized Workwear

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

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

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

nordstrom

Nordstrom

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

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

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

eloquii

Eloquii

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

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

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

ASOS

ASOS

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

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

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

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

Ask Allie: Are Pantyhose Stylish?

Since I’m in my 60’s now, I am uncomfortable in dresses without hosiery. Is it ok to wear them now? Or is bare legged still the trend?

how to wear sheer hosiery pantyhose style fashionable

Three cheers for Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge who brought nude hose back en vogue. While the bare legged trend isn’t going anywhere, because of Kate there’s far more stylish sheer hosiery options available in stores and no one will wrinkle their nose at your choice to don hose (sorry, I just had to!). Below are my tips for wearing hosiery, and my favorite brands of pantyhose and tights:

Nude Pantyhose

If you’re wanting to wear sheer natural-looking stockings, you won’t find them at your neighborhood CVS. Quality is key for finding sheer, well-fitting, and natural looking pantyhose. The hose should be as close to your natural skintone (no matter how pale you are); tan legs with fair arms and face is NOT stylish. Donna Karan’s ‘The Nudes’ comes in seven different colors so you’re more likely to find a natural looking shade for your skintone; the quality is excellent, they’re sheer and not too shiny making them like BB cream for your gams. ‘The Nudes’ come in toeless, high waist, control top, sheer to waist and even plus size so you can find a style that is most comfortable for you. I’ve also had luck with Nordstrom’s in-house brand. It’s a little bit cheaper and I think is a bit more visible when wearing, but still elegant. Nordstrom’s Sheer Control Top Pantyhose come in nine different “nude” colors, and are available in plus size. If you’re a fan of thigh high stockings (also known as stay ups), you can’t beat Wolford; while they’re pricey, they’re well-made, natural looking, and one of the few brands I’ve found that stays up without putting dents in your thighs. I prefer their Individual 10 which come in six shades, aren’t shiny, are sheer, and cover imperfections nicely.

Sheer Black Pantyhose

Black sheers came back in style a few seasons ago and have again become a classic. While black stockings were popular for daywear before, this time it’s best to keep them for evening events. As with nude pantyhose, choose a pair that is not too shiny, high quality, and as sheer as you can go while covering that which you wish to cover. Since black sheers are for evening, it’s more acceptable for them to have a bit of sheen or have a higher denier (are thicker/more opaque). I’m a fan of SPANX’s black sheer stockings, which are pretty durable while still looking elegant. Their In-Power Shaping Sheers blends a control garment with pantyhose reducing the layers under your cocktail dress; their All The Way line is an elegant alternative to support hose, offering not just tummy control but ankle and leg compression to improve circulation.

Opaque Tights

Opaque tights are still a style mainstay this fall and winter. While I’m partial to very opaque non-shiny black tights with black shoes to create a long line and not compete with my dress, these days most any level of opacity and any color is acceptable and available in popular retailers. Shiny tights can look cheap and more like dancewear, a matte finish will look more expensive and be more versatile. For a traditional level of opacity, I’m a big fan of Nordstrom’s Everyday Opaque Tights. These are durable enough to last more than one season, and have enough transparency that they can work for less formal evening affairs.  Not only that, they come in regular and plus sizes!

For truly opaque tights, I again recommend SPANX. I adore their reversible Tight End Tights, which have extra thickness not just for opacity but warmth and no shiny finish. I’ve accidentally had these go through the dryer and come out still wearable which shows how durable and well-fitting these tights are! While their reversible tights have a higher waist that some may not like, their ‘Blackout’ version has a lower waist and the same thickness and opacity and the original Tight End Tights have a classic waist height and are still a bit more opaque than Nordstrom.

If you’d like a blend between sheer hose and opaque tights, DKNY’s Semi-Sheer Tights are a great choice. Durable like their traditional tights and with a subtle shaping top that doesn’t dig into your waist, these come in neutral colors that would look great peeking out from a feminine floral midi skirt or a pair of tall leather boots.

Patterned and Fishnet Stockings

This may not be advice you desire, but if you’re looking for advice on how to wear patterned, fishnet, or novelty hosiery you probably shouldn’t wear them. These are very tricky to wear; one misstep in regard to hem length or shoe choice and the whole look can go from classy to trashy. If you wish to dip your foot into creative hosiery, I recommend starting with something subtle like a nude fishnet, and pair with a longer skirt or tall boots. See how you feel, see what honest friends think, and then go from there.

Alternatives to Pantyhose

These days, there’s a plethora of products that will do for your legs what foundation and concealer do you’re your face. I like Sally Hansen’s Airbrush Legs (I’ve had better luck with the lotion than the spray), which blends seamlessly, looks natural, and is water and sweat resistant. You can read my review of Sally Hansen Airbrushed Legs here. Self-tanners have improved greatly over the past couple of years but I still am klutzy enough to end up with streaks; I’m a fan of Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer, which offers a subtle tint to legs after several days of use. The gradual color means less chance for orange fingers or streaky ankles.

Ask Allie: How to Style Chelsea Boots

I saw your post about Chelsea boots just at the time I was looking for a shoe that could be worn in the winter that doesn’t have much of a heel and that wasn’t a tall boot (sometimes I just need a break!). I’m still looking for the right pair for me, hoping to go with a fairly traditional style, but could really use some outfit inspiration. I would typically wear them with pants and outside of work, running errands, going out with friends, etc. Any chance you’re working on a post that showcases outfit ideas for Chelsea boots?

A Chelsea boot is a great addition to a wardrobe for its versatility and amazing combination of trendiness yet classic style. They look modern, but will still be wearable for years to come. If you purchase quality and take good care of them (take them to the cobbler to be reheeled and resoled as necessary, have a day between wearings so they don’t get stretched out or stinky, polish and protect the leather), this is the kind of shoe you can have in your wardrobe for over a decade. A few ideas on how to wear them outside of the workplace.

how to wear chelsea boots dress


Chelsea boots are low and roomy, making them perfect shoes for days when you’ll be on your feet. I created this look for the sight-seer, spending the day at museums and historic homes. A shift dress is comfortable but looks nice if you enter an historic place of worship or decide to dine somewhere nicer. Fleece tights and a pashmina or scarf will keep you warm while maintaining style. The Chelsea boots give a modern downtown feel to the look, continue it with an on-trend crossbody bag.

weekend style leggings chelsea boots


Chelsea boots are the type of shoe you can easily slip on when dashing out the door. This is a very typical weekend look for me – heavyweight leggings or jeggings, a flannel or denim shirt, and a puffer vest. Chelsea boots work great with this look, just slip the leggings under the boots and head out. A bit of gold in accessories keeps you from looking like a lumberjack.

how to style chelsea boots night out


Chelsea boots can go glam for a night out on the town. Pair with a little skirt or leather shorts and black tights for a hip base to show off a fun top. For this look I kept it simple with a white silk shirt and oversized gold hoops. Add some kohl liner and a perfectly messy ‘do and you’re ready for Saturday night.

what pants with chelsea boots


Chelsea boots don’t have to be paired with leggings or tights; roll up some jeans to go above the top of the boot for a different look and let a bit of socks peek out. A Breton tee is a weekend staple; a swipe of bold red lipstick and a bright bag complete the look.

chelsea boots skinny jeans style


This is the classic look for Chelsea boots this winter. Tuck skinny jeans into the boots and top with a slouchy or oversized sweater for weekend cool comfort. Chelsea boots can be a bit chunky, balance their weight with a larger bag and bold accessories. A bit of nude gloss on the lips is the perfect way to add a bit of polish to a busy weekend.

Ask Allie: SAHM Chic

I am a 44 year old SAHM. I have a daughter who is involved in sports, this means tournaments and several in a row. I want to look pulled together sitting in the stands, not in hoodies like the other mothers. I love the blazer from the old navy, definitely picking that up. I just need some ideas on how to not look to over the top but still chic.

I like that you gravitated towards the knit blazer in that post, because it’s right in line with my suggestion: polished alternatives to traditional casual wear. You want to be comfortable, have pieces that will hold up over many hours, but fit in with the situation.

To create a cohesive, small yet versatile wardrobe, it’s important to have a clear vision of the story you’re trying to tell. Writing it down, creating a collage or Pinterest board can help you define this story and stick to it. This way, each time you shop, you can refer to it and be sure the garment or accessory will be a valuable purchase and you can have more variety with fewer pieces.

For this collection, the concept is tailored draping, warm tones. Slouchy and draped knits, but with belts and bits of structure that keep them from looking sloppy. With a brown base, simple pieces look luxe. Put the most money towards the trimmings – a pair of nice leather riding boots will quickly glam up slim pants and jeans and even dresses for more polished affairs. If you care for your boots (polish, put rolled magazines in them when not worn to ventilate and prevent creases, reheel and resole before each season), they can work three seasons of many many years. A quality leather bag in the same color and finish as your boots will make any outfit look chic and pulled together. Gold jewelry in classic styles adds shine without looking cheesy. A scarf is a great finishing touch and a budget-friendly way to dress up knits and add color to an outfit. As the weather warms, heavier sweaters and knits can be replaced with linen blends, slub knits, and refined jersey.

For this collection, I have to admit, I was thinking of myself and my weekend style as I shuttle Emerson to ballet class and birthday parties, dash to the grocery store and Target. With a similar base of stretchy yet structured pants and jeans, this look is more structured with proper blazers and jackets, though in knits that won’t wrinkle or bind through hours in the stands. Cool neutrals of black and gray are the perfect backdrop for unexpected brights like cobalt and candy pink. Like the first look, having quality shoes and bags that fit the story will make cheaper pieces look luxe; a scarf is the perfect finishing touch and a way to show your personality. Silver jewelry fits the “Suburban Rock” feel; a statement necklace with a bit of sparkle will add a feminine touch and though it seems contradictory to band tees and engineer boots, it will actually make you outfit look complete and cohesive. As the weather warms, consider slouchy refined knits, tops with a boho vibe, or a pair of tastefully distressed boyfriend jeans.

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Ask Allie: Feminism and Fashion

I don’t like wearing pants but as a feminist I feel I should embrace them. I want to be respected for my thoughts and not seen first as a woman but it’s hard to do so in a dress. Any tips on how to incorporate pants into the wardrobe of a petite plus sized apple shaped woman?

Feminism, according to Merriam-Webster is, “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Nowhere in that definition does it state a woman has to look or dress in a certain manner to achieve that. You can be a feminist and shave your legs, wear false eyelashes, sky-high heels, and skirts and dresses of any length that you like. Feminism has no dress code.

If you want a pair of pants because YOU want them to make YOU happy, then consider:

  • Wide waistbands (they give a smoother look, be your top tucked in or not). A tab-style waistband gives the cleanest look and you don’t have to worry about whether or not a belt is needed.
  • The smaller and fewer the pockets, the better. Pockets add bulk and gape especially on apple figures. If the pants have front pockets, they should be small and not the type that slash open on or near the side seam of the pants. Steer clear of back pockets with flaps and other obvious details.
  • Choose a style without cuffs at the hem. Not only does a cuff shorten your figure, but it’s a detail that can look dated in a couple seasons’ time.
  • If in doubt, choose the size up and then have them altered to fit; tailors can narrow pants at the hips and thigh to better fit your apple figure.
  • Same with length; better to go too long and have a tailor (or even your local drycleaner) hem them to the right length to work with your favorite shoes.

Clothing is only one part of a person’s image and persona. A woman can be powerful, intelligent, a leader, a badass in most anything if she wears it with confidence.

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Ask Allie: Ponte Suiting

I am working on purging by closet and replacing my overfilled closet with higher quality classics a bit at a time. I just love the ponte suits you post from time to time and wondered if you had a suggestion on where to find a great one? I travel frequently for work and love the idea of a packable suit.

Oh ponte, how I love you so! You’re stretchy, you’re as comfy as yoga pants, but with your tight refined weave and heavy weight, you look appropriate for the office and even on the dancefloor. You often match with ponte pieces from other retailers, and you’re machine washable!

A ponte suit is a great addition to any wardrobe, especially if you travel on a regular basis. You mentioned that you’re petite and a different size on top than the bottom. Here’s some retailers that offer ponte suiting separates to help you find a custom fit:

CAbi is an at-home shopping experience by Carol Anderson; think Stella and Dot or Pampered Chef for fashion. They occasionally have petite lengths in their pants, and I have found their jackets to be flattering to a short torso. Each season, they have pieces in ponte, and their pieces coordinate from collection to collection as well as from season to season. I have this season’s Jet Set Jacket and My Favorite Trousers both in Gravel (charcoal gray), and together they make an elegant suit. The jacket works on a petite frame, though you may need to have the sleeves shortened professionally (won’t cost as much as traditional suiting since it’s not lined); the pants come in inseams from 32” – 35” and I found the 32” inseam to work on my frame with my favorite pumps. Each season they have different silhouettes, so you can really build up a suiting collection quite nicely; if you live in the DC/MD/VA area I can’t recommend my CAbi consultant Lisa enough!

Talbots regularly has ponte separates, and I love that they are well made, elegant, and occasionally lined. Talbots never fails me when it comes to quality and classic styling, I recommend you actually try their pieces for they sometimes style their clothes (especially in their stores) to look a bit dowdy, but I find they can look quite on-trend when actually worn and styled to your liking. I find their Signature Slimming Ponte Pants to be flattering on a variety of sizes and shapes of women, and they come in petites, misses, womens and womens petite which is a refreshing change from most retailers who believe short women can’t possibly be a double-digit size.

Ann Taylor has jumped on the ponte trend train and I couldn’t be happier. While they don’t have blazers every season, they always have dresses, skirts, and pants in ponte and I have found an Ann Taylor ponte piece from last year matches a ponte piece from this year. While I have questioned some of the style and quality of Ann Taylor in the past year, I have still found their ponte suiting to be well-crafted and classic enough to last more than one season. With Ann Taylor’s recent trend to have some sort of discount every day of the year (and be sure to first go through Ebates!), you can likely find some great ponte separates at a nice price.

Yes Target! The Merona and Mossimo brands regularly feature ponte suiting, and while it’s not always as thick as higher-end retailers, it still has a nice finish and is just as travel-friendly. Not only that, I have bought Merona ponte one year and have had it match Merona ponte from a different year. While I haven’t had the best luck with the trousers keeping their shape, their jackets are quite nice and make a great suit with their dresses, and I have found the jackets pair nicely with ponte trousers I own from other brands.

I have also found great ponte pieces in petite and regular sizes at Lands’ End, Banana Republic, and the Halogen brand at Nordstrom, but they aren’t as likely to have continuing collections and I have found their pieces don’t always match perfectly from season to season.

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Ask Allie: Winter White

You’ve written before about how we shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day, but I saw a lot of white on the runways and even saw it on Man Repeller. How do you feel now about white after Labor Day?

The old rule in America was to retire your white clothing and shoes from September (which begins with Labor Day) to… well some say Easter (early spring), others say Memorial Day (end of May). And yes, this fall and winter as well as last year’s cold months showed an awful lot of white.

I have accepted white year-round… if it is still seasonably appropriate. Just because Leandra Medine is wearing white from head to toe in October doesn’t mean we can all don our white chino trousers, make a GIF of us squatting on a city street and look chic.

Winter white is called that for a reason, it is clearly different from regular crisp white. It has a hint of warmth to it – not quite ivory but its far paler cousin. A color that against true white would show contrast. Not only is winter white appropriate for winter, but it is more flattering to our skin which is likely more pale from the lack of warm sunshine.

And yes, many stylish women have been sporting crisp true white in fall and winter, but they do it with careful thought. No linen, no chino or cotton sateen; their white is wool, denim, leather, heavyweight knits and other fabrics appropriate for the season. The white trend is not an okay to make your summer clothes “work” in winter. No matter the hue, your garment should be seasonally appropriate.

When Lightweight Bright White is Appropriate:

  • White Shirts. Each time I write about white someone asks if their white cotton button-front shirt is appropriate in winter. Yes, a white shirt, be it silk, cotton, or lace is quite lovely in winter. Same goes for white tee shirts, and other white knit tops.
  • White Denim. I personally prefer winter white or white denim with contrast stitching, but all-white denim can work if it is paired properly. I find white denim quite chic when paired with neutrals like cream, tan, and khaki; white and black is always chic; and you can look like a winter wonderland when you pair white with gray, silver, and pewter.
  • Warmer Climates. If you live in Hawaii, I don’t expect you to dress in black as soon as it is September. Go ahead and wear your white, and wear it in fabrics that are comfortable for your specific environment. However, I do encourage you to consider the season in a sartorial manner, and consider pairing white with neutrals like gray, tan, and other shades of semi-white or incorporate a seasonally-appropriate accessory or trend.

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Ask Allie: Collars and Crews

The ever lovely Natalie emailed me and asked,

“Allie, when I try to wear a crew neck over a collared shirt, I look dumpy. How do you look so un-dumpy? What am I doing wrong?”

My email response:

My secret is… the only two buttons buttoned are the second one (the very top one makes me dumpy) and the bottom one (so the untucked shirttails look straight). The rest is gaping open underneath. I did this the first time with this shirt because it’s now too small, but was amazed at how it improved the look of a shirt under a crew, and now do it all the time with all my shirts whether they fit or not!

So there you have it!  I find this helps since I am so top heavy – somehow the buttoned-up shirt emphasizes all my roundness, but when I let it gape open, my figure shows a bit better.  Of course this works far better with a thick sweater that won’t show the buttons and gaping fabric, but if it’s a thinner crew, I will not button the last button, let the shirt sort of go to the sides of my body and tuck it in so it’s out of the way and more invisible.  Sort of like a dickey with sleeves!

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Ask Allie: Are Heels Feminist?

You regularly claim that you are a feminist, but then you always recommend heeled shoes to your readers. This contradiction has bothered me for a while, as I find heeled shoes to be a tool to hold women back. High heels not only cause foot pain and disfigurement, but they make women sexual objects and oppress them literally (try keeping up with a man in his flat shoes). As a feminist, I would think you would want to use the power of your blog to encourage women to dress in a way to be powerful and equal.

I am a feminist. I am a feminist who loves heels and makeup and skirts. I love that I have a choice in what I wear, and that what I wear can better express the person I am. I believe clothing and accessories are a fabulous way for a woman to express her personality and to help her realize how utterly gorgeous and wonderful she is. As a feminist, I think she can do it in the way she finds best.

Orthopedists have proven that a slight heel is healthier for the arch and your back than a completely flat shoe. That being said, I wear heels because they make me feel tall and they make me feel powerful. Not in a sexual way, but in a way that I walk differently, I stand differently, and I like how that feels. I personally don’t like how I feel in flat shoes – I pronate more, my arches hurt, it doesn’t flatter the type of clothes that I like, and it doesn’t feel true to my personal style.

I recommend heels because… well it is a personal blog and I am influenced by my own style and tastes. I also recommend them because most women I meet like at least a bit of a heel – just as a suit and tie makes a man look and feel dressed up or professional, a pair of shoes with some heel makes many women feel more dressed up. A pair of heels can oppress a woman if she isn’t comfortable in them, and the last thing I would ever recommend is for a woman to wear something that makes her feel oppressed, uncomfortable, or untrue to herself.

I think expecting a woman to not wear something because of her beliefs is just as oppressive. Read my blog, you will never see me recommending one to wear something to attract a man or be sexy – I don’t believe in dressing to please another person. I write about wearing clothes to please yourself, to be true to yourself, to fit your lifestyle and personality. A woman is powerful when she feels good in her skin, and good in that which adorns her skin. Be that a skirt or pants, heels or flats, it isn’t my place or your place to tell her what makes her feel powerful. I write advice, not gospel. I often offer flat-shoe options, and I often admit that my advice may not be universal. But I don’t believe for an instant that because I enjoy something different from you that I am any less of a feminist or doing my fellow women a disservice. For the definition of feminism is the belief that women are equal human beings, and that means that we women have choices, the right to choose the option that is best for us, and not be judged by our sisters for that choice.

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Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobes

I keep reading that I should have a capsule wardrobe, but I don’t really know what that is. How do I make a capsule wardrobe for me, I work in a business casual office and am a mom to two boys ages 6 and 8. Thank you.

Your recent post really resonated with me; I find I purchase too many things and then am at a loss as to how to make outfits. While I love the idea of a uniform, I am not one to wear all neutrals and I like adopting current fashion trends. Is it possible to have a pared-down closet and be trendy?

I need to build my wardrobe, starting from scratch. I have read through many of your posts but am still unsure where to start. What are the minimum items I need to buy to get started?? Could you suggest about 10-15 items I need to get started?

I want to look professional but still youthful , however, most of my closet consists of plain t-shirts, cardigans, and dresses. I only have one pair of dress pants and one suit. Anyways, I’m basically just asking what type of outfits I can pull together? What type of clothing should I be on the look out to add to my closet?

I love that you are thinking about smaller, quality wardrobes. A smaller wardrobe is surprisingly easier to work with than one that overwhelms you with options. When you shop smart, a few pieces can go a long way in creating many outfits for a variety of situations. My wardrobe staples list is a good starter guide for multi-use classic pieces, but below I made two sample wardrobes for two different women’s personal styles and lifestyles to show how a few pieces can be extremely versatile, and don’t all have to be black and gray.

[via]

The first capsule wardrobe is for a woman who occasionally needs to dress up for work or events, but has a more casual lifestyle and office environment. The pieces used are ones that will travel well – ponte pants, dress, and blazer, refined knits, machine washable garments. A bag large enough to be a plane carry-on, or to stow sippy cups and Goldfish crackers for a trip to the playground with your kids. While the base is black, there are warm pops of colors to keep it from being dreary.

Weekend or Casual Looks

  1. Jeans, striped tee, flats, pashmina
  2. Jeans, chambray shirt, boots
  3. Jeans, chambray shirt, sweater over it, flats
  4. Jeans, sweater, pashmina, boots
  5. Jeans, striped tee, cardigan, flats
  6. Jeans, blazer, tee already in your closet, flats
  7. Skirt, chambray shirt, tights, boots

Business Casual Work Looks

  1. Black pants, striped tee, blazer, flats
  2. Black pants, sweater, orange belt, boots
  3. Black pants, striped tee, cardigan, flats
  4. Black pants, cardigan, tee in your wardrobe, boots, statement necklace
  5. Black pants, blazer, tee in your wardrobe, boots, pashmina
  6. Shift dress, tights, boots
  7. Shift dress, leopard belt, pumps
  8. Shift dress, cardigan, flats 
  9. Shift dress, blazer, leopard belt, pumps 
  10. Shift dress, pumps, statement necklace 
  11. Skirt, sweater, flats 
  12. Skirt, sweater, tights, boots 
  13. Skirt, striped tee, cardigan, pumps 
  14. Skirt, blazer, simple tank or tee in your current wardrobe, pumps 
  15. Skirt, cardigan, leopard belt, tee you already own, boots
[via]

The second capsule wardrobe is for the woman who has a professional position in a creative field, loves to incorporate current trends, and possibly has an active social life or does a lot of business entertaining. The collection is primarily neutrals, with pops of color to add interest. While the pieces are pretty classic, they have a modern edge to keep the wearer looking on-trend and contemporary without being a fashion victim.

Casual Looks:

  1. Jeans, turtleneck, boots
  2. Jeans, sweater, scarf, flats
  3. Jeans, white shirt, sweater, booties
  4. Jeans, tee shirt already owned, blazer, booties
  5. Jeans, tee shirt already owned, jacket, boots, scarf
  6. Jeans, white shirt, necklace, flats
  7. Jeans, turtleneck, jacket, booties

Work or Night Out Looks:

  1. Pants, turtleneck, belt, booties
  2. Pants, white shirt, belt, necklace, flats
  3. Pants, sweater, scarf, booties
  4. Pants, turtleneck, blazer, booties
  5. Pants, turtleneck, jacket, booties
  6. Pants, tee shirt already owned, blazer, booties 
  7. Skirt, turtleneck, tights, boots 
  8. Skirt, sweater, necklace, booties 
  9. Skirt, white shirt, boots 
  10. Skirt, turtleneck, jacket, tights, booties 
  11. Skirt, blazer, tee shirt already owned, boots 
  12. Dress, white shirt underneath, tights, booties 
  13. Dress, blazer, boots 
  14. Dress, turtleneck underneath, tights, boots 
  15. Dress, scarf, boots

These capsule wardrobes are simply examples – such wardrobes can be created for any lifestyle or personal style. The key is to have neutral basics and a single color story – all jewel tones or all warm shades or some combination of colors that place nice together and with your neutral shades. That accessories can completely transform a look – cinch a shift or sweater, fill a low neckline for the office, dress up or down a pair of wide-leg trousers.  Choosing classic basics and just one or two trendy pieces is kinder to your wallet, and provides more versatility.

Capsule wardrobes require the owner to be careful in her purchases – quality fabrics and construction, textiles that complement other textiles, and understanding that each piece may have to be professionally tailored to get a custom fit that makes any pricepoint look more luxe.  A small wardrobe means attention to detail, and caring about your clothing.  This is not the type of wardrobe that you throw on the bedroom floor at the end of the day or ignore the laundry instructions on the garment tag.  However, with care this is the type of wardrobe that can give you years of wear and take you through most any situation with style!

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Ask Allie: Keyword Analysis

I sometimes check my blog analytics to see what Internet searches bring people here, and I can see that many people have the same questions. It seems some have been answered by posts I already have… but some I have yet to address… until now.

Are Black Suede Sandals Appropriate in Winter?
Well it depends. If they are platform heels, I say yes and rock them with opaque tights (black, contrast color, even a texture) and a flippy skirt or a-line shift. If they look like traditional summer sandals, store them away until next year.

What Bikini Suits Large Breasts and Thighs?
A halter or underwire top will best support your breasts and flatter them. Also look for suits made specifically for larger busts to get the coverage, comfort, and support you need.  As for the bottom, I often find trying to hide thighs makes them more on display. However, I do adore the vintage-inspired bikinis with flirty skirts or wider bottoms; having your midsection exposed will emphasize your hourglass figure (which is a good thing) and flatter your curves.

Boots for Women Over 50?
The boots that a woman over 50 should wear are the boots that she thinks look great on her and fit her personal style. Now I don’t think it makes sense to pair your blouses and jeans with hot pink suede over-the-knee boots with a Lucite heel, but I really think that boots are like any other wardrobe piece – if you wear them in a way that is authentic to you, they can’t be wrong.

Now if you’re new to the boot trend, a safe bet for most any woman of any age is the riding boot. Knee-high, low heel, classic shape. Be it black or brown, it’s a style that goes with everything from a shift dress and cardigan at the office to jeans and a hoodie on the weekend. Keep them polished, stuff the shafts with rolled magazines when not being worn, get reheeled and resoled as needed and they can give you years of stylish wear.

Gingham Mesh After Labor Day?
No. And not before Labor Day either. I honestly can’t see a place in this world for gingham mesh unless you are dressing up as a sexy Raggedy Ann for Halloween.

How to Wear a Sheath Dress in Winter?
With a cardigan, tights, and tall boots
Put a crisp white shirt under it, add opaque hose and Mary Janes with a chunky heel
Belt a blazer over it, wear with tights and booties
Black turtleneck underneath, black tights and boots
Just a few combinations that come to mind…

How Much Wool in a Coat Should I Wear?
The more wool content, the warmer the coat and likely the longer of a life it will have. Wool blends aren’t as wind-resistant, insulating, and often pill and shed. A wool blend is a great choice for those who live in places with mild winters, or for a fall/spring coat but 100% wool is a far better choice for cold winters.

Are Suede or Leather Shoes Warmer?
Warmer than the faux version? Yes. When it comes to a small shoe like a pump it doesn’t really matter, but I have found that real leather tall boots are far more insulating than faux ones and you don’t sweat as much either. If you prefer vegan shoes, look for a breathable fabric like microfiber and an insulated lining – it will be warmer and more comfortable.

What Color Tights to wear with an Emerald Green Dress
I think black is a nice choice because it would really make the green pop, but you could also do a color like navy, purple, or even a bold color like orange or gold if that’s your personal style.

Do Scarves Minimize Heavy Breasts?
No, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear them. To minimize breasts, get fitted for new supportive bras every year, wear pieces that skim the body but don’t cling so they curve in under the breast and show you have a waist, and look for flattering necklines to elongate the neck and detract from the bustline.

Can You Wear Patent Leather in Winter?
Yes, unless it is white (and then it’s still a yes if you are a True Fashionista)

Can You Wear Black Patent Leather Shoes with Black Tights?
Sure, why not? I have worn it here and I think it looks okay.

Gray Leggings with Brown Boots?
Sounds fantastic! Would love it with an oxblood blazer and striped tee, a chunky ivory fisherman’s sweater, or a darker gray knit tunic!

Can I Wear Black Leggings with Brown Boots? 
Black Tights with Brown Boots?
Sure! Just make the look purposeful – have a black top or something that incorporates that black and brown together like a leopard-print scarf or a tweed jacket.

Large Calves and Thick Ankles Shoes Brogues?
I understand your problem, I too find these shoes utterly adorable yet horrible looking on my body. I think they look best on my figure with menswear trousers or skinny jeans and a blazer. I can’t make them look right on me with cropped pants or skirts or even regular jeans, darn thick ankles!

Funeral Dress for Women?
If you are a guest at a funeral, just wear something you would normally wear to a house of worship. A simple dress, skirt and knit top, suit, nice trousers with a blouse or jacket, that sort of thing. No need to wear all black, but don’t show up in bright red or lime green. Dress to show respect for the deceased, their loved ones, and the religion and/or culture of the family.

Boots over Jeans Business Casual?
If your dress code permits jeans, this is actually a fantastic way to dress them up and make them look more office-appropriate. I love jeans tucked into boots and paired with a casual blazer – so chic and quite office appropriate for more casual of work environments!

Business Casual for an 18 Year Old
Trousers that fit well and don’t cling, lighter-weight refined sweaters to wear alone or over button-front shirts, cardigans to dress up simple tanks and knits, a blazer or two to do the same and for a makeshift suit on days where you need to dress up, a pair of classic black pumps with a heel under 3”, if your figure allows a button-front shirt in a stripe that fits well is a great way to make simple pants and skirts look office-appropriate; on Friday you can pair with jeans and tall boots and the blazer or cardigan for a chic ensemble. Nothing too tight, nothing sheer, nothing that exposes lingerie, no visible logos. Good luck at your new job!

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Ask Allie: Wearing Heels

Alison, you said you couldn’t wear heels after you had Emerson yet you wear them now, how did you get used to them again? I stopped when I gained a lot of weight but have lost 63 pounds on Medifast and want to wear heels again. Any suggestions?

How does one adjust to wearing heels? I see that you wear some sort of heel or wedge almost every day, and was wondering how you manage it? Do you use special insoles to cushion your feet? I desperately want to wear my heels more often, but after a couple of hours, can’t bear them anymore. Any suggestions?

I don’t know if my advice will work for all women because I have a weird advantage – I have walked on my toes all my life. My relatives called me Tippy Toes as a kid, and I had to wear special shoes to fight against pronation and all sorts of other things that happen when you run around town on the balls of your feet. This is why I have such trouble finding boots to fit – walking on my toes not only built up my calves but also my shins and ankles. This is also why you will rarely ever see me in ankle-strap shoes. So walking in heels has never been a problem for me, I even wore 4” heels when working retail; I’d dash around 12-hour shifts on tile and concrete and do a few calf stretches behind the register while ringing up customers.

However, when I was pregnant my legs and feet swelled. A lot. A whole heck of a lot. By the end of my third trimester, I, Alison Gary, Crocs Hater was wearing my sister’s Crocs because they were the only thing that would fit (she wore two sizes larger than I). After Emerson was born, I spent the first few weeks barefoot or in sneakers because I was so unsure on my feet. Not only that, my feet permanently grew a half size, meaning all my lovely heels no longer fit.

When I knew I had to go back to the office, I purchased a pair of black ankle boots with a 1” heel. They were practically flat for the Old Alison, but the Postpartum Alison ended up with aching tootsies by noon. I decided to only wear them twice a week, and have those be days when I didn’t have to do a lot of walking. I looked into brands who specialize in comfort – Fitzwell who strategically places heels to have the least amount of pressure, Sofft who makes uber comfortable shoes that are also stylish. As I got comfortable with these shoes, I ventured into higher heels and different styles. I found that hidden platforms were a Godsend – I would look as though I was wearing high heels but they felt as though they were up to an inch shorter thanks to a platform in the footbed.

I stick to just a few brands for heels – ones that I know fit my foot well. If the toebed is too narrow or the heel is loose you will be spending much time clenching your toes just to be comfortable and keep the shoe on, which affects your gait and the comfort of the heel. For me, Vince Camuto, Nine West, and Sofft are safe bets for heels.

A shoe that stays securely on your foot will always be more comfortable. I love my Miss Sixty booties because they wrap around my foot – I can run in the rain and they will stay on. T-straps, lower ankle straps, Mary Janes, booties, caged sandals… all styles that will let you focus on walking and make the shoe more comfortable.

Almost every pair of shoes I own has a pair of Footpetals in it. Footpetals are very slim, but are very effective. They absorb sweat so your foot doesn’t slide into the toebox, and they offer a bit of cushioning making the heel wearable a couple extra hours. My favorite feature of Footpetals is that they collect the funk. Sweat, dead skin, gosh knows what ends up on the Footpetal and at the end of each season I pull them out (they have adhesive backing but are still easy to remove from the shoe) and replace with a fresh pair. Not only do they make the shoe comfortable, but they extend their life.

Before I wear a pair of shoes to work, I wear them at home. I put them on at the end of the day when my feet are swollen so they stretch out and I wear them while making dinner, putting Emerson to bed, watching TV. This way I can break them in and also get a true feeling for how they will feel for an entire day. If a shoe is too tight to fit at the end of the day, I try this process on a weekend morning. If the shoe is uncomfortable first thing in the morning when my feet aren’t swollen they go right back in the box and to the store – I don’t believe in a major breaking in process for shoes. There are plenty of shoes out there that are relatively comfortable right out of the box – give those shoes your hard earned money and save your time and effort for more useful endeavors.

Give your feet a break. On weekends I wear lower heels and flats. I rarely wear the same heel height two days in a row. I put my feet up under my desk to give the tootsies a rest. If shoes are really high or crazy, I will pack a pair of flats in my bag for the commute.

And finally… heels aren’t necessary to be stylish. There is many a stylish woman on this planet who don’t leave the land of flats. If you have foot issues, don’t exacerbate them with uncomfortable or inappropriate shoes. Your feet work hard enough as it is – don’t torture them. Sites like Maryland Square, The Walking Company, and even Nordstrom have amazing selections of comfort shoes, many that are right on trend and stylish. Blogs like Barking Dog Shoes review and feature comfortable shoes for women with all sorts of personal style.

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Ask Allie: Office Beauty

I am about to start my first internship in D.C. this fall and can’t wait. I was wondering if you have any recommendations for subtle office-appropriate lipstick? Preferably something by Revlon or an inexpensive brand. I love wearing red lipstick but don’t want to look too crazy in the office. Thank you!

Red lipstick doesn’t necessarily look crazy if you do it right. I love Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butters for they provide sheer color that you can layer for strong pigment – one swipe of Cherry Tart is cheery without stopping traffic; add a few more layers for drinks after work. I also like matte reds for the office – they may have the pop of color but don’t have the added shine to really call attention to your face – Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stains are a great budget-friendly option that can let you wear color without the color wearing you.

For at least the first week though, I would steer clear of a bold lip. Get a feel for your office culture. Choosing a brownish pink is a wise choice – something similar to your natural lip color yet a bit darker or more intense. A shade that has mauve, dusty, or natural in it is a good choice. CoverGirl Continuous Lipcolor is a great budget-friendly lipstick that will last through your morning cup of coffee without drying out your lips; Iced Mauve and It’s Your Mauve are great choices for women with fair to medium complexions that are neutral to cool in tone.

Finally, I am a big fan of Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balms and now own four different colors. Rose is a sheer red that is playful yet office-appropriate, Red Dahlia is more of a sheer wine, Hibiscus is a sheer candy pink, Tiger Lily is a warm neutral that looks fantastic with a hint of a tan.

You often wear very bold makeup at work. I can’t imagine smokey eye or magenta lips in my office yet you do it and from what I assume you have a managerial position at your company. Is such makeup now acceptable in the workplace?

Each office environment is different. I work in a very relaxed environment where people are free to show their personal style as long as it is within the dress code guidelines. I also work in a position where I don’t meet with clients every day and only interact with my teammates.

Before you decide whether to wear a smoky eye or bold lip in your office, take a look around. Are there any colleagues who wear bold fashion? How are they perceived by upper management? Do they get the respect they deserve?

While I may wear a smoky eye once in a while and this winter did rock quite a few bright lipstick colors, I keep most of my “fun” makeup for after hours. No sparkle or shimmer, no intense or bold eye colors, no false lashes, nothing overly trendy. While my workplace may not blink at hot pink lip gloss, a peer company with a similar clientele may freak out over navy eyeliner. Respect your office, your position with the company and the position you desire to have in the future before going bold with your office beauty.

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Ask Allie: Wearing Sleeves

Is there an age when older women should NOT wear sleeveless/short sleeves?? I am almost 60 and I feel when I wear sleeveless tops, people see my jiggley arms and sagginess. Doesn’t that detract from the rest of me? It’s hard to find elbow length tops/tees/dresses that are stylish. I don’t want to look like a granny. Your thoughts??
The first place I gain weight is in my arms and I’ve gained weight lately and haven’t lost the baby weight and I think my arms are HUMONGOUS. I live in Florida and it’s too hot to go in long sleeves, is there a way to distract people from my arms?
I hate my arms, are there stylish options for women who have flabby arms but don’t want to roast in the summertime? I can’t find any, the stores are full of tanks and sleeveless blouses.
My daughter is getting married next spring and I am already looking for what to wear. It seems every formal dress is sleeveless or strapless. I am 65 and my arms are far too old to be exposed in such a manner, any suggestions?

First of all, I hate to break it to you but no one is noticing how big, soft, wrinkled, jiggly, or wriggly your arms are as much as you. Seriously, when was the last time you noticed and woman and thought that her arms were just not nice enough to be exposed in the manner they were? When did you think, “Boy that woman would have looked so much better if she just had sleeves on her blouse.” See this article I wrote on this very subject.

We women are our harshest critics – we see the crooked nose, that one eye is larger than the other, that our knees are knobby and yes, our arms are too big or soft to see the light of day. We will sacrifice comfort, pleasure, and life experiences because of the parts of our bodies that we find unappealing. What is unappealing is a woman who doesn’t live life to its fullest because she doesn’t appreciate her body.

So whether your knees are knobby, your nose crooked, your eyes different shapes, or your arms not like Michelle Obama’s, enjoy your life. Dance, laugh, and walk with confidence. People notice your attitude far faster than they do your body parts. See this article I wrote on this topic.

It’s hot out, and it will be far more attractive to bare your arms than to sweat and steam in extra fabric. However, if some fabric on your sleeves will give you the confidence to walk straighter and dance with more gusto at your daughter’s wedding, here are some suggestions.

Talbots creates clothing for women – clothes that skim curves without clinging, necklines that flatter without exposing too much, and dresses and tops with various sleeve lengths. I love this flutter-sleeve top which will let the breeze cool your arms without exposing too much; their surplice-wrap sash dress (on sale!) is the perfect dress to go from work to play with a quick change of shoes and accessories.

A reader mentioned CAbi in this article’s comments and I couldn’t agree more. Thanks to a friend who is a CAbi consultant, I have gotten to know this line pretty well and find that they too do a great job of dressing to flatter a woman’s curves and any areas of concern. While they already have their fall collection out, you can see from the line that they cut pieces to flatter; their Side Pocket Blouse cold be worn now and the oversized armholes will minimize upper arms nicely.

Lands’ End makes practical clothing with a touch of style. Right now is a great time to shop from them since most of their summer clothes are on sale. Tops like their Cotton Voile Polo, Pintuck Linen Tunic, and Lace Tee give arm coverage while being in fabrics that keep you cool during the hottest months of the year. This season they have so many utterly adorable dresses like their Shirred Linen Sheath and Sateen V-Back Fit and Flare Dress which are high on style but still have sleeves.

When I got married, my mom went to Nordstrom to buy her Mother of the Bride dress. She ended up with a bronze lace-overlay tank, bias-cut long skirt, and sheer jacket. This kept her looking stylish, covered her arms for photo opportunities, but she could take the jacket off when she hit the dance floor. I found a very similar set on their site by Damianou.

The Adrianna Papell Flutter Sleeve Tiered Chiffon Gown gets rave reviews from women who say it’s flattering and nicely covers the arms. The Patra Beaded Flutter Sleeve Mesh Gown would be gorgeous for a formal affair, and this set from Soulmates gives a very similar effect to the ensemble my mom wore to my wedding.

Do know that most Nordstrom stores do not have a large selection of such dresses, however they will have staff who know how to dress you to flatter your figure and can track down certain sizes and styles for you.

Now I ask you readers, where do you shop for dresses and tops that flatter the arms?  Do you feel comfortable exposing your arms in the summer, and if so what helps you have that confidence?

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Ask Allie: Wardrobe Maintenance

I have a silly question to ask you, how do you deal with ironing your clothes? my closet is full of garments that need ironing but as I have little space in it, every time I iron and put the clothes back in the closet, by the time I want to wear it, they’re all wrinkle again. I hate to iron piece by piece (because I hate to iron in general), I prefer to take one day and iron a few pieces and get over with it. Can you please give me some ideas?

I have a bin at the bottom of my closet (the Junque Trunke from Scout by Bungalow), in there goes anything that needs to be ironed, dry cleaned, repaired. Once a month on a Sunday after I put Emerson down for a nap I try to get these things cared for – I’ll replace the buttons, iron the shirts, bag up the clothes for the cleaners. Sometimes I get lazy with the complicated wrinkled pieces and toss them in the cleaners’ bag as well and let them deal with it (items with pleats and lots of detail). More often than not, I don’t buy things that wrinkle. Seriously, the only things in my wardrobe that get super wrinkled are two oxfords and a shirtdress, and both of them have been at the bottom of that bin for so long they are probably covered in dust. I don’t have time to iron, so I try to steer clear from wrinkly purchases.

I wonder if you might consider doing a post on out-of-season clothes storage. In a couple of your closet posts, you’ve mentioned that you store some clothes in your attic. I’d love to know how you store them and if you have any strategies or products you’d recommend for storing out-of-season clothes.

I have written about it here, here, and here. But really, up in my attic I have a bunch of clear plastic bins that are stacked in columns. I use a Sharpie on the front to label them size 10 clothes, size 8 and smaller clothes, winter tops, winter bottoms… that sort of thing. I also have a bin that holds out of season accessories (gloves, hats, velvet scarves, bathing suits, etc.). When Hurricane Irene decimated my closet I purchased a garment rack and plan to use that to store coats and dresses in the off season. I have a few hanging garment bags that I will use so those garments won’t get dusty, and I’ll use some cedar rings to keep the critters away.

You’ve mentioned before about how you baby your shoes, but can you go into more specifics? How often do you shine, clean, etc. What products do you use for this? What’s your shoe maintenance routine exactly?

Before Emerson, at least once a month I would sit down in front of the TV with a can of black shoe shine and my dad’s old brush and rag and polish all my black shoes (if you don’t have shoe shine products, Kiwi makes some great basic kits). I specifically chose black shoes over brown so it was easy to mindlessly polish them while watching Bravo or a rerun of Sex and the City. I also had a polish that was used to re-black heels and non-leather parts of shoes. Before each season, I would take shoe staples like boots and black pumps to the cobbler in the nearby mall to have them reheeled and if needed, resoled. They would also stretch the leather to cover up any nicks on heels and give them a really good polishing.

Now that my life is frantic, my shoes get polished… almost never. Before a wedding or big event, or if they got something on them. Now I work in the city and my shoes get quite a beating – they can easily go to the cobbler five times a season to be reheeled, and each time they polish them up and fix any nicks on the heels.

I do care about my shoes when they aren’t on my feet. As soon as I get home, I take off my “nice” shoes and put them on the stairs. When I go up, I take them and immediately put them in their proper box on the shelf in my closet. All my “nice” shoes are in boxes, labeled with a clear description. I have a bin on my closet floor that holds Chucks, flip flops, and that sort of thing. My boots are in the corner of my closet, I have old magazines rolled up in them to keep them from falling over and creasing. When it’s summer I store my boots in old pillowcases so they won’t get dusty.

What sort of hangers do you use? I have such a crazy assortment and I know that the metal ones from the dry cleaner are bad for your clothes. Why are they bad and what should I use?

I worked retail for 50 kazillion years (okay, more like a decade) and amassed quite the collection of those standard-issue black plastic hangers. They have removable grippers on the shoulders, divots for straps and dress loops, a hole to “monkey-hang” clothes, and swiveling hooks. Pretty darn near perfect. Thing is, I have been out of retail for a decade and these hangers are starting to fall apart.

I have started switching to velvet “huggable” hangers. The velvet fabric will grip slippery fabrics and wide necklines, and the slimline gives me more space in my closet. You can find them at discount stores like Marshall’s for a good price.

For heavy items, coats, and blazers I don’t wear regularly I choose molded hangers. These will prevent the “wings” that can happen from slimmer hangers, and will maintain the proper shape of the garment.

I prefer hangers with clips for my pants and skirts. I know many fold such garments over a hanger, but I end up losing the garment in my closet because I can’t see it easily. Also, if left there too long you end up with a crease. Also the eternal retail gal in me gets a kick out of seeing all my skirts and pants hanging in line with the edge of the hangers.


Metal hangers get a bad rap thanks to Mommie Dearest, but also because they aren’t meant for long-term storage. They are cost-effective for cleaners, but they can rust, stretch out lightweight fabrics, cause those “wings” and shoulder creases. However, don’t toss them out – many organizations need hangers for their charities, people on Freecycle are always looking for them, many dry cleaners will take them back and reuse them, and they can even be recycled!

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Ask Allie: Passé Pants

Dear Allie,
I was going through some pre-pregnancy clothes that now fit and found a bunch of cropped dress pants. Would they still be stylish?? They are nice brands, but that could be an over trend for all I know. One pair has a wide leg that falls a bit below the knee; the others are about mid calf length. None are “slim” or fitted.
Thanks!
Megan

For those types of pants… it really depends.

The cropped pant is very on-trend for this spring and summer, but it’s slimmer. Some styles are pleated, some are tapered, some are skinny straight from the zipper, but all have a pretty narrow silhouette and end at the bottom of the shin to the top of the ankle bone.

However, right now fashion is pretty forgiving. Most any trend is in if you wear it with confidence and purpose.

For such pants, you need a fitted top – a shrunken blazer, very slim boatneck sweater or tee, something that is very classic in style but quite trim. This will balance the wider leg and make it seem more purposeful and a bit more preppy or nautical, which are popular trends this year.

As for a shoe, I would do something slim and feminine to again make the fuller leg seem purposeful – a kitten heel would be a good choice. For the shorter ones, you may want to consider a flat or almost-flat so the amount of skin between pant hem and shoe is minimized. While chunkier shoes are being seen with crops this year, pairing a chunky shoe with a wider legged crop will look unbalanced and frumpy.

Channeling Audrey Hepburn

With such pants, think classic, like Audrey Hepburn. How would Audrey wear such pants and make them look chic, polished, and feminine? Channel Audrey with a Breton-striped boatneck and driving mocs or a kitten heel. You could also create a modern take on Audrey with a fitted neon top with tan cropped wide pants and a printed heel and big cuff bracelet. By incorporating hot trends in such a manner with these pants, it will as though you are so knowledgeable about fashion you can rock the old trend.

I don’t recommend a loose or flowing top – this may look attractive, but it will look very dated or frumpy against 2012 trends. While flowing tops may be on trend this season and also are seen with flowing pants, these pants are not flowing or slim so the current trend effect will be completely lost. Also be careful with the shoe – again, a chunky shoe will look unbalanced, and wearing any shoe that is very clearly trendy from a couple years ago will make the entire look dated. If unsure, stick to a classic shoe (pointed-toe flat or slim heel, driving moc, etc.) to make the ensemble look classic.

Finally, such pants can be altered by a tailor or seamstress to make them more on-trend. A little tapering or narrowing of the legs could completely transform them and make them look as though they were purchased just this year from a trendy boutique!

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Ask Allie: Colorblocking

The Ann Taylor Stretch Colorblock Skirt – Available in coral and blue (blue in stores only)
I am writing with a request for help… A couple of weeks ago I got a great skirt from Ann Taylor [see above, but the stripe is blue instead of coral], but I’m having a hard time figuring out what to do with it. This is my first venture into color blocking and I’m a bit unsure about what will work. I tried it on with a black sweater at the store, and liked that; I even tried it with a great shirt that was the same blue, but it felt a little too matchy/blocky. I have no idea of the “rules” for colorblocking, any thoughts? 

-Martha

Ah colorblocking, one of the strongest trends of the past year. As you know, I am a huge fan of this trend – I am thrilled to see bright hues back in the stores, and that wearing more than one color has become acceptable and even fashionable! However, this isn’t a trend for the timid, and it’s hard to know how much can be stylish or if you go too far and look like a clown.

What is Colorblocking?
To make an ensemble colorblocked, it means incorporating two colors, and in my opinion, those colors are not neutrals (gray, tan, beige, cream), nor are they black or white. While the types of colors can vary, I think a true colorblocking is mixing unexpected colors together – many would expect pink with navy, but one wouldn’t expect pink with bright turquoise, or navy with orange.

What is Monoblocking?
Monoblocking is having an entire ensemble in one shade. This past fall, red monoblocking was a hot look – wearing a red blouse, red pants, and red shoes. Another variation on monoblocking is to wear an entire outfit in one color story (magenta blouse, red trousers, hot pink belt, berry shoes).

Beginning Colorblocking:
With such a skirt that already has a bold look, it’s not boring to wear it with black. Keeping the top simple and understated will highlight the bold choice of the skirt. You could even keep the simple look going with black opaque tights and black shoes or boots.

Choosing a blue top could end up looking too matchy, unless you incorporate another color. You could do this with a skinny belt in a warm color like orange or pink, or maybe a green statement necklace or heels. That unexpected pop of contrast will break up the monotony.

Intermediate Colorblocking:
If you’re feeling bold, such a skirt could work with a top of a completely different color. I would steer clear of thematic color combinations (red and blue, red and green, red and yellow, black and orange) until you have a colorblocking comfort level. Instead, choose a color with the same level of intensity and clarity – such a blue would look great with hot pink, Kelly green, orange, a green-tinted turquoise, orchid. Pick a piece with a complementary fabric – this skirt has stretch, so it would pair better with a fluid fabric with a similar finish (another knit, merino or cotton sweater, Ponte de Roma, etc.).

To not have it look as though you dressed in the dark, it’s important to pull in one of the colors from the skirt – a necklace or scarf at the throat with blue or black in it, black hosiery and shoes, a bag with black or blue. This small detail along with the right type of color and fabric will create cohesion and an ensemble.

{via}

Growing up, my mom would have us use her painter’s color wheel to choose complementary colors – I can recall having a purple sweater and skirt, and using the color wheel to choose a green necklace to balance the ensemble. If you fear mixing colors, you may want to pick one of these up at an art supply store to help you create your colorblocking outfits.

Advanced Colorblocking:
Yesterday as I left the office my boss stopped me, “I have to ask since you know more than I… pink with red? Is that now a THING?”

Yes… and no. We got into a discussion about how fun fashion is right now – most rules have been broken and you can really do what you want as long as you have a sense of style, sense of self, and confidence. And with that, you can mix pink with red, or wear previously-feared color combinations like red and green without looking like Kris Kringle’s helper.

You can also incorporate more than two colors, though I really feel that if you add more than three you can easily end up looking like a box of Crayons. If you feel you have too much color going on, adding a print (leopard or polka dots are popular choices) or a metal (lots of bangles or chains, a metallic shoe) can balance the color and make it look more purposeful and cohesive.

Advanced colorblocking, you can get outside of the same color tone. Mix bright red with a muted plum, pumpkin orange with lavender, forest green with candy pink. This can be more tricky, it’s important to have a good eye for color and texture. With your black and blue Ann Taylor skirt, you could pair it with a pumpkin-colored silk blouse and a pair of purple suede shoes, connecting the ensemble with brushed gold bangles and chain necklaces.

In Summary:

  • Choose similar or complementary fabrics for your separates
  • If new to colorblocking, choose colors with similar intensity
  • Use a pop of a contrast color to break up a matchy-matchy ensemble
  • Consider a color wheel to find complementary colors
  • Break up a high-intensity colorblocking ensemble with a classic print or metal
  • Have fun with color!

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Ask Allie: How to Style a Kilt

I have a knee-length red plaid woolen kilt I picked up on a college trip to Scotland almost 20 years ago. I trek it out once a season or so, usually around the holidays, but I like it and am trying to think of ways to get more wear out of it beyond the expected “Going to the Nutcracker” kind of look. Any ideas?

Yes, that skirt deserves to come out more than once a year! However I do understand the issue with looking too holiday, as though you’re wearing a costume, or trying to be Mid Life Crisis Britney. The best way to wear accomplish this is to style it as though it is not a kilt. Steer clear of traditional pairings and add something unexpected and it will look fresh and modern.

how to style a kilt women

Gray will tone down the red and keep it from feeling Christmas-y. While a cashmere crewneck and white button-front is pretty classic, pairing the look with modern black leather ankle boots keeps it current. Hair and makeup can really make this look; keep both relaxed and a bit disheveled. Beachy waves and a bit of kohl will go a long way and look far more modern than polished hair and red lips.

how to style a kilt scottish woman

Add a bit of a tough edge to your classic kilt with leather. A black leather jacket and biker boots will be a modern contrast. Unlike the above look, style such an ensemble with very polished hair and face to keep it from looking like a costume; smooth hair with red lips and gently flushed cheeks will look fresh.

how to style a scottish kilt women

A bit of purposeful rumpling will take a look from prep overload to modern cool. A gray tweed blazer with a tailored fit is a great pairing for your kilt; roll the sleeves and maybe pop the collar to keep it from feeling like a uniform. A classic Breton tee is a pattern that will mix nicely with the plaid and also keep it from feeling too much like a uniform. A pair of tall boots with a solid heel will finish the look and keep you warm.

Ask Allie: About Me!

Yesterday’s post brought a lot of you readers out of lurking and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I didn’t write it hoping for comments… I considered not writing it at all because I feared I would look boo-boo kitty, and I was more angry than sad about the whole shebang. But I am glad I posted, because many of you left comments, sent me messages through my feedback form, emailed me, and got around to asking some questions about me that were on your mind:

Hi Allie, you never seem to wear pants. Is this a religious thing?

I never realized that I don’t wear pants until today, and I used to be such a fan of pants I joked I would get married in them. Skirts were difficult – special undergarments, couldn’t sit on the ground easily, couldn’t wear my trusty black city boots. But as I have gotten older, I feel that this body is better suited for skirts. I have a soft stomach, round rear, very curvy legs. Pants that fit often stretch out on me over the day and look a bit dumpy come 5pm; slimmer styles don’t fit over my large calves; my petite frame looks better with tops tucked in, and pants seem to draw attention to my midsection more so than skirts.

Today I am wearing a pair of pants I picked up at the DC Sip and Swap the other week. They are slightly high-waisted, wide waistband, sailor-inspired trousers that looked very retro this morning (I felt tres Katherine Hepburn), but now look schlumpy. So my lack of pants isn’t due to religion, but due to my figure. Gotta flatter what you got!

What skincare do you use? I’m your age and have no clue where to start.

I have yet to find any product that makes me a loyal follower, so my regimine changes each time I empty a tube or pot.

Right now I use either Neutrogena Cleansing Wipes or Clarisonic Nourishing Care Cleanser (and sometimes I use the Clarisonic Mia, sometimes not) at night. I then use the CVS brand of Roc Retinol Correction Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, and then over it the CVS Anti-Wrinkle & Firming Advanced Night Cream (this is their version of Olay or Roc, can’t recall).

In the morning, I use Thayer’s Rose Witch Hazel to clean my face, then use the Olay Total Effects Line and Dark Circle Minimizing Brush – this has a very faint color on its own which is awesome for summer low-makeup looks. I put it of course on my eyes, but also under my nostrils and around my lips (I read somewhere that Evelyn Lauder always put eye cream around her lips to prevent wrinkles). Then over the whole face it’s some random moisturizer with SPF. Right now it’s DDF because I have a trial size.

This combination right now is pretty good – the day moisturizer is almost empty so I will need a replacement and will probably look for a lighter formula to work with all the oil and sweat of July and August. The Clarisonic face wash is meh – it doesn’t do a very good job of taking off eye makeup and doesn’t work well without the brush. I won’t buy the Neutrogena wipes again (bought for Bonnaroo) because I feel it is too much landfill waste, though they do work phenomenally well. So I am on the hunt for a decent face wash as well that can handle waterproof liquid liner and the occasional waterproof mascara without drying out my face.

So um yeah… this is why I am not a beauty blogger. I know I should be better… getting there…

Allie you were in a sorority? Which one?
My Bid Day for the Sorority, 1994 (pledged my sophomore year)

I went to the University of Maryland College Park (go Terps!) where I was a member of Alpha Chi Omega. Not only was I in a sorority, but I was the social chairperson for one year (I guess a few of you aren’t shocked). Many people stereotype those who join a sorority, find them to be superficial, stupid, etc. When I rushed, half my head was shaved and you couldn’t get me out of my Doc Martens if you tried. Being in a sorority had its ups and downs, but if I hadn’t joined I probably would have dropped out of college my sophomore year. It made a big school feel much smaller, my GPA went up, and I met some brilliant, creative and good people – some who I am still friends with to this very day.

What do you do for a living? I can’t tell from your posts!

Well then I have done my job on here quite well! My job knows I blog and some coworkers read it, but this blog has nothing to do with the wonderful place where I work or what I do for them on a daily basis. I work in web communications for a company who works with the government. I am proud of where I work and the people I work with, and for that reason, I won’t be sharing much else about them.

Do you get any of your clothes for free?

Sometimes. When I do, I let you know. I will write a pretty detailed review of the product when it arrives. I may not always write “C/O” every time after because I don’t think it’s really relevant, the item is just a part of my wardrobe. I wear what I like, not what is given to me for free. I don’t think it matters if I scored it for 99 cents on eBay, paid $200 for it at Nordstrom, or a company was kind enough to send it to me. I will always link to an item I wear whenever possible, and if a company sent it to me free but they no longer sell that specific item, I will link to their main website.

How tall are you? You don’t look really short in your photos.
This was the most recent picture I could find of us standing and I am wearing 2″ heels in this pic!

I am 5’3”. Not terribly short, but pretty darn short when trying to buy jeans or when standing next to my 6’5” husband!

I am sorry I haven’t been able to answer all of your emails and feedback messages. Do know I read them and I try to get back to you as soon as I can! Thank you all for your amazing support and friendship!

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