Search Results for: label/Bianca deBardelaben

True Fashionista: Bianca

The other day I was chatting with my friend Alison and we were discussing menswear. While she can totally pull it off, I find it looks costumey on me and that I can’t carry it off with my curvy frame. And as soon as I said that, I thought of Bianca. Bianca isn’t built like Katherine Hepburn yet carries off the menswear look so beautifully and oh so effortlessly. She knows what she likes, has a defined style aesthetic, and that is why I consider Bianca a True Fashionista.

Bianca is the author of the blog Avant Blargh, where she shares her thoughts on fashion and photographs of her personal style. Self described as living, “in a world between gamine and grandma,” Bianca has a defined personal style of cropped trousers, blazers, a hint of the ‘80s, hint of Leisure World, splash of city life and a good dollop of vintage and thrifted finds. This unusual mishmash completely works, giving Bianca a look that is menswear with a feminine touch as well as a look that is completely unique and endearing.

While Avant Blargh is primarily photos, her bit of text adds depth to her ensembles, understanding where she came from in creating the look. She often references pop culture that influences her style, be it Woody Allen films, Family Ties, or the style of the eldest Huxtable daughter. She discusses how her personal style is evolving – how it’s becoming more granny-chic than avant garde, how she’s playing with silhouettes of jackets. It’s refreshing to read the honest mindset behind the ensembles on a fashion blog and to read how one analyzes her look.

Bianca is proof that you don’t need a ton of clothing or a bunch of new pieces to have a defined personal style. Be it a sweater she finds in her mom’s basement, thrifted shoes, or a new jacket from American Apparel, Bianca adds to her wardrobe with thought not just to the look, but how it works with her current closet as well as her budget. She doesn’t shop willy-nilly, and thinks about her personal style before adding to her collection. She keeps her look fun and fresh with personal touches such as her hair, glasses, and jewelry.

Bianca inspires me because she is so true to her personal style, she has a great look without spending an arm and a leg, and breaks all the rules and makes fashion work for her, not the other way around. As with every other True Fashionista I asked Bianca the same five questions; here are her answers.

How would you describe your personal style?
Oatmeal, no really. Something old fashioned but substantial. You can dress it up, or have it plain, but it all starts with the classics.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
My mother works in the industry so I think it stemmed from there. That and my love for pop culture.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
Almost any movie with Diane Keaton, ’70s music, and the Huxtable sisters.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Fashion is a way of doing things while style makes it your own. Fashion says color-blocking is hot, style says I’m going to color block bright yellow from a Paddington bear style raincoat to yellow Target tights!

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Remember the joy of getting dressed when you were a child dressing yourself for the first time, nobody dictated to you how, you just did. Dress to make yourself feel happy whether or not it’s considered “trendy” at the end of the day, you have to make yourself happy.

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

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe of Neutrals

Allie, I love your capsules but I don’t wear color like you and your series. My signature style is shades of cream, black, gray, tan, and ivory. Could you do a capsule of neutrals?

I am in love with the idea of capsule wardrobes. However I’m terrible at choosing pieces that mix and match in interesting ways. Do you have any tips on choosing versatile pieces and building a small wardrobe that does a lot? And/or do you have any capsule wardrobes WITHOUT skirts?

I work in an office where it’s smart business casual, blouses and jackets and cardigans with pants and skirts and ‘nice’ denim allowed on Fridays. I feel my closet is a big mess of super casual, super dressy, and nothing in between and my coworkers are a stylish bunch. Any advice on how to get my work wardrobe on track?

I don’t wear skirts, but I have a feminine personal style. Any suggestions on a capsule wardrobe that will embrace both my inner Emma Pillsbury and my inner Ellen DeGeneres?

The past couple of months I have been gravitating towards more monochromatic ensembles, focusing more on shape and texture. So when I saw these questions in my comment box, I got excited to have reason to make a more neutral capsule!

For this capsule, I was thinking of a woman who works in an office that doesn’t necessarily expect suits every day, but to be more polished than chinos and a knit top. Embracing the “Emma Pillsbury meets Ellen DeGeneres” vibe, I mixed clean lines and classic separates with pussy bows, peplums, and other feminine touches.

Over 30 Possible Combinations

When many think neutrals, they feel they MUST have certain colors of trousers – black, gray, and camel. Thing is, these are great neutrals, but they aren’t always the most versatile. Over the years, I have seen the value of a pair of ivory or French vanilla trousers. They are amazingly versatile and don’t make you look any larger than gray or camel. Paired with black, it’s crisp and modern, but ivory looks great with colors as well as other neutrals like white, gray, tan, and olive.

A tweed or glen plaid trouser is also extremely versatile and adds a bit of interest to an ensemble made of neutrals. Mixing a more traditional menswear fabric with a pleated silk blouse or feminine leopard sweater always looks polished and chic.

You can keep a wardrobe neutral without making it boring by choosing accessories with polish and a bit of interest. While many fashion magazines will encourage pops of color (and you all know how much I love a pop of color), you can also accessorize neutrals with more neutral. A scarf with a soft print, a snakeskin shoe, a leopard haircalf skinny belt, a unique looking wedge boot – such pieces will take neutral separates and pull them into a cohesive and chic capsule.

The best part of neutrals is that quality separates can be found at most any pricepoint. I have a great black gabardine sheath I found at Target for $30, my favorite ivory trousers were found on the Ann Taylor clearance rack for less than $40. Neutrals are regularly on sale, and can better hide cheaper manufacturing. However, neutrals need to have great fit to keep them from looking dowdy – there’s nothing wrong with taking a $5 clearance rack or thrift store find to the tailor and spend an extra $20 to make it look like a million bucks.

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My Head is Too Big to be Hipster: A Warby Parker Review

Once I got new glasses, I wanted more. A pair of red frames to channel my inner Sally Jesse Raphael, a funky blue or green pair to jazz up all-black ensembles, a funky shape to show personality at the office. I had heard a lot of great things about Warby Parker and decided to try a pair of frames from them.

Me in my new glasses – Lafont’s Issy & La collection, the frame is called “Gloss”

Warby Parker Eyewear’s mission is to offer reasonably-priced fashionable frames. On top of that, for every pair of Warby Parkers sold, a new pair is given to someone in need. Warby Parker is also proud to be a carbon-neutral company.

Warby Parker has a try-on program where you can pick five frames and try them on at home. They will ship the glasses to you for free and offer free return postage; I decided to take advantage of this program and see if I could find a new pair of signature prescription frames.

The Warby Parker site is very easy to navigate; click on your gender and then whether you desire optical or sunglass frames. From there you can choose material, color, frame shape, and width. From experience, I know my face is pretty wide, so I stuck to the medium and wide styles of frames. Since I already have a pair of tortoiseshell frames, I stuck to more unusual colors.

The glasses arrived quickly in a sturdy shipping box, and then a lovely navy linen box. Each pair of glasses was in its own compartment, wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name. Each pair of Warby Parker frames has the brand and style name inside on the temple. I found the quality to be stellar, especially for the price. These frames rival the more expensive designer styles I tried at my nearby glasses shop. The return process is simple – peel off the self-adhesive UPS label and drop it in a nearby UPS drop box. I couldn’t be more impressed with Warby Parker and their process… except that my face is too big for them.

Maybe I should have tried men’s frames, but I felt that almost every pair I tried (except for the Bensen, and they just weren’t a style I was looking for) was just a hair too small for my face. I often have this issue not just with glasses, but sunglasses as well. In fact, when I got my new glasses, they were the only ones I liked after trying on about 20 pairs – each other pair seemed just a bit too small for my face shape, even some of the men’s frames I tried.

So if you have a normal to small-sized noggin, I encourage you to try Warby Parker. The Warby Parker at-home program is completely free so you have nothing to risk; if you find a pair you like you can feel good that not only will you look great, but your purchase will also be doing good. As for me, I will have to look elsewhere, my head is just too big to be hipster.

Note: Warby Parker has no idea I am doing this review and I was not compensated in any way for it.  I just decided to try the brand and share my experience with you!

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Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?

Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?

I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?

Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday’s Tip – Making the Clearance Rack Your Friend

When I go into a store, the first place I look is the clearance or sale rack. I don’t want to be tempted by full priced items when a good equivalent is available at half the price in the back of the store. Even when planning my wedding I first scored sample sales and discount bridal shops before even looking at a single full-priced gown. It is better to buy quality instead of quantity, but just because it’s on a sale rack does not mean it’s poor quality or lacking style or fashion.


Take Your Time
Clearance racks are a mess. Why waste good salespeople hours in cleaning up the back of the store when the real money making is in the front displays of new product? Because of this, do not limit your search to the section designated with your size. Take the time to flip through all the racks. You may find a size 10 amongst the size 2s or a great size Small blouse hidden amongst size 14 blazers. Grab everything that even remotely appeals to you, and a few things you would not usually consider. The best way to spend money on trendy pieces and unusual finds is to pay for them at a discount – less buyer’s remorse.


Sizes Can Be Deceiving
Sometimes items are on sale racks because they are missized. I have tried on size 6 jackets that are too big for me and size 14s that are skin tight. Don’t just look at the label – pull the item from the rack and see if it may possibly fit. Often the missized items are at a super reduced price because they are being looked over.


Consider a Tailor
I decided to write this post because of my clearance rack prize of yesterday. Sueded cotton trench, hip cut, gorgeous color, originally $179 on sale for $29.99. No obvious flaws but the coat was too large for me – I am petite and it is not. It is an XL and a generous cut, I am not. I bought the awesome bargain after trying it on and seeing that the shoulders were fitting decently, though the sleeves were past my fingers, the waist was too big and the length too long. I took it to my local dry cleaner and for $35 she is shortening the arms and hem and nipping in the waist. So for $65 I got a $179 jacket that is perfect for the upcoming fall.


Sleeves that are too long, hems dragging on the ground, gaping waists and baggy jackets can all be easily fixed by a neighborhood tailor or dry cleaner. They can also replace missing buttons, broken zippers and some torn seams. If the price is right, often the tailoring still keeps the garment at a discounted price. I have bought suiting pants 75% off just because the zipper is broken, a suede blazer at 80% off because the lining had pulled away from the jacket body.


Do not invest in garments that are stained (salespeople usually try to remove the stains with a cleaning fluid, if it’s still stained it probably won’t come out in the wash or at the cleaners), torn (resewing a seam may make the item fit differently), irregular (remember quality is key – no one should be wearing a sweater with two different sleeve lengths) overly large (tailor costs will be insane and the true look of the garment will be lost) or too small (don’t buy for the body you hope to have, buy for the current you. Also tailors can’t make things larger – there’s usually not enough fabric at the seams and if they attempt the fit of the garment will be compromised).


If You Don’t Love It…
Don’t buy it. Would you buy it if it were full price? If the answer is a quick “no” leave the item in the fitting room. Just because an item is cheap does not mean you can scrimp on cut, style or fit. A 50% markdown does not justify a gaping armhole, an unflattering color or even a staple that you really have enough of already. The world sees you and your outfit, not the reduced price. They don’t know if what you bought cost $200 or $20, they just know it doesn’t look good, doesn’t flatter your body or your personality. Every dollar in your wallet is precious, don’t waste it on crap. If you can’t imagine the item with at least two other things in your closet, it’s not worth your time or money.

A Bra Fitting with Soma Intimates and a Giveaway

Soma contacted me and asked if I’d like to come to their boutique at the Westfield Montgomery Mall and get a bra fitting and try their Enhancing Shape Bra. I heard about this bra through InStyle, who considers it to be the solution for “ski slope” (the gap at the top of bra cups). I’ve always been a busty woman, but after years of breastfeeding, age, gravity, weight loss and gain, I’ve lost some of my breast volume and was interested in a bra that would address this issue and improve the allover shape of my bust.

Soma Intimates Bra Fitting

In 27 sizes from cups A-DDD there’s a Soma Enhancing Shape Bra for many women; the padded comfort straps and cushioned hook and eye closure ensures the bra is comfortable all day, while the smooth style makes it invisible under fitted knits. In eight solids and four prints this bra is anything but boring.

Wardrobe Oxygen Soma IntimatesSoma Intimates Enhancing Shape Bra

Visiting Soma Intimates was a pleasure; though it was a busy Sunday afternoon, the boutique was well staffed so each of us customers received quality assistance and an unrushed experience in the fitting room. I was partnered with Karien, who took me to a spacious fitting room to determine my bra size. She had me remove my shirt but I kept on my bra as she used a tape measure to size me. Karien then went out to the sales floor and brought back bras in the size she determined and one a cup smaller since the Enhancing Shape Bra does occasionally run big for some. We found that a 38D fit me best, and as you can see from my fitting room selfie above, the bra was pretty much invisible under Soma’s Smoothing Seamless Cami. The bra did give a look of fullness to my bustline without making it look bigger (and without the dreaded “quad boob”), and the bra is super comfortable. No digging in the back, I can’t feel any of the hardware, and I wore the bra all day and there wasn’t any discomfort under the arms or in the shoulders. I was tempted to get the Light Nude which was very close to my skintone and would make for a perfect tee shirt bra, but sweater weather is here and I decided to indulge in the black and white Indulgent Lace pattern which is so beautiful and can be worn under thicker fall and winter clothing without showing. It’s fun to have pretty bras that are also useful!

Soma Intimates Westfield Montgomery Mall Maryland

Karien (pictured above, I had to get a photo with her after such a pleasant bra shopping experience!) was so knowledgeable about bras in general, proper fitting, and of course knew the Soma collection inside and out. I loved how all the employees I interacted with were so friendly and professional, knowledgeable but not pushy. They told me about their Get Gorgeous Parties where you and at least three of your friends can schedule an event at your local Soma boutique to get fitted, all of you receive 15% off your purchases (or you can choose to donate that 15% to your favorite charity), and you receive a free bra for hosting. I also signed up for Love Soma Rewards, a free program where you earn points towards cash rewards, birthday gifts, exclusive offers, and free shipping when you shop online. After my experience at Soma, I know I’ll end up a regular customer!

Giveaway

If Soma sounds great to you, then today’s your lucky day! One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will receive a $60 gift certificate to Soma to use on their own Enhancing Shape Bra or any other merchandise from the brand. To enter, leave a comment letting me know what color of the Enhancing Shape Bra you’d choose if you won. Giveaway ends November 2, 2014 at 11:59pm ET. Winner will be chosen by random and must have a valid email address (in comment, signed in as guest in Disqus, or in Disqus profile). Winner will be contacted by email; if winner does not reply to notification email within 48 hours a new winner will be chosen. Winner may use gift certificate online or in Soma Intimates boutiques.

To learn more about Soma, click here to find your local boutique, click here to get their catalog, or visit them on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest. And if you live in the Maryland/DC area, I highly recommend you visit the Soma Intimates location at Westfield Montgomery Mall!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Soma via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Soma. The opinions and text are all mine.

Ask Allie – Age, Weight, and Wearing Sleeveless Tops

As we women age (almost 60), and our arms aren’t as firm, should we avoid sleeveless altogether?
-Celeste
I am a size 20 and have read that I shouldn’t wear sleeveless or strapless dresses because I am plussize. Is this true? It’s hard to find cute clothes with sleeves that don’t make me look like my grandma, I am 22. What do you think?

- Jessica

I get this question often. I feel that no, you should not shy away from sleeveless pieces if you feel good in them. Often what you hide you end up emphasizing. Also, that which you find to be a glaring issue is not as obvious to others.

Women over 60 who look fabulous in sleeveless tops:
Diane von Furstenberg, Sally Field, Susan Sarandon, Gloria Steinem

Plus size women who look gorgeous in sleeveless dresses:
Beth Ditto, Queen Latifah, Nikki Blonsky, Mo’Nique


A few tips:

  • Stay clear from cap sleeves. Cap sleeves usually hit at a very unflattering place on soft arms. It hides the curve of the shoulder and ends right at a large part of the arm. 
  • Watch cut-out or racerback sleeveless tops. A true sleeveless top can be quite flattering, but more sccoped-out or tank styles can make a soft arm look larger. A scooped-out armhole shows the under-arm skin, back skin, and any softness in the shoulder, which can just emphasize the look of extra skin.
  • If you do a short sleeve, consider one that hits the middle to bottom of the upper arm. Like a cap sleeve, a short sleeve can cut your arm at a very unflattering point, making it look wider and softer.
  • Color makes a difference. Wear colors that flatter your skintone, which will make your arms look healthier, and actually slimmer and more firm. A good example is white – while white is a popular basic, it is a pretty difficult color for many to carry off, and it can make an arm look more pale, more wrinkled, less toned. If you want to wear a color like white, consider it as a bottom layer or wear with a sleeve.
  • Distract the eye. A scarf or necklace with your top will draw the eye from your arms to your accessory. 
  • Reduce the prints. While prints can often trick the eye in a good way (such as hiding curves), it isn’t that kind to the skin that is exposed. Prints can emphasize pale or crepey skin, and highlight your arms (or any exposed appendage).
  • Balance the outfit. An exposed arm is more on display if it’s paired with a tight dress and a short skirt. Using structured pieces on the bottom (straight leg jeans, crisp twill cropped pants), and cleaner lines for the top (not a lot of ruffles or chiffon or clinging knits), the figure as a whole is balanced. If you are more one to wear flowing fabrics, you can still achieve balance with a skirt that hits at the knees or longer, and by wearing heavier knits like stretch wool and Ponte de Roma.
  • Consider your accessories. If you are exposing your arm, you can trick the eye into thinking the arm is smaller and more firm by your choice of accessories. Small, delicate pieces can make an arm look larger, while bigger, structured pieces can make one look smaller. A large bag, a scarf looped around the neck, a chunky bangle bracelet – these pieces can really help balance out the body when wearing sleeveless garments.

I often use my mother as a style example, and I have to again for this situation. My mother is in her ‘60s and regularly wears sleeveless pieces and looks amazing. While she regularly practices yoga and is very active and fit, gravity and time of course has affected her skin. When she wears sleeveless tops, she wears bright jewel tones, accents her outfit with a statement necklace, and balances the lack of sleeves with a crisp structured pair of pants or shorts and a larger bag. She always looks smart, polished, and confident when wearing sleeveless pieces.

Don’t let your body restrict you from wearing what you love, and what is practical. When it’s hot, it’s hard to restrict yourself to sleeves. Come shopping for a formal affair, it’s very difficult to find fashions that are not sleeveless (or not dowdy). Try different silhouettes and mix it up with different accessories and I think you will be pleased with the result!

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Seasonless Black Trousers

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

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

Examples of good trousers:

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

Here is a great example from Lane Bryant:

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

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

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

Friday Night

Went to dinner and then out for drinks with my husband and his cousin who recently moved here from the South.

Black merino turtleneck from Ann Taylor, same jeans and boots from the day prior, a bit of BioSilk applied to the hair to de-frizz, my Revlon LipGlide Sheer in Sheer Raspberry reapplied. No time for any other modifications.

I decided to add a picture of the bag I bought this year as my daily purse. It’s from Banana Republic, I got a good deal on it via eBay and well, it looked so lovely hanging off the doorknob of the bar bathroom stall, I just had to snap it!

Ask Allie: Fashion Advice for a Petite SAHM

Dear Allie,
I am currently rocking the awful “mom” look aka yoga pants and huge t-shirts and I am so over it! Could you direct me to a few classic pieces to start my wardrobe? I am a stay at home mom with two under two, so I need a practical look. I live in Ohio where the weather is always changing. I am very petite (5’ and less than 100 lbs). I also have trouble finding comfortable shoes that look stylish and fit my size 5 feet. Any advice?
- Megan

Dear Megan,
I am so glad you realize that one can be an active mom while maintaining style. I recently wrote an article on Savings.com about new mom fashion, but will offer some basics that should get you on track without looking like a mom, or like a college student:

Dark Straight Jeans
A dark straight jean is classic, can be worn any season of the year, looks more polished than lighter washes, and doesn’t need a fancy label to look chic. Having a straight leg means this jean should work with most any length or style of top in your wardrobe – simple tanks and tees, longer tunics, blazers and cardigans, blouses tucked in or left untucked. Add a bit of spandex so that you won’t be showing your undergarments or cutting into your stomach when crawling on the floor after your little one.

The Lee Slender Secret 5-pocket Jean is a classic style that is great for women who may have a bit of that baby pooch still left. Oprah recently rated them as a top jean, and reviews state that these jeans in petite are not needing of hemming for those who are 5’ tall. $29.99



Levi’s 512 jean is a straight, classic style that is made for a woman’s shape. Their Perfectly Slimming 512 Jean has the Lycra to keep your body looking smooth, and giving you the flexibility you need to keep up with your children. Again, this jean is rated great for the really petite woman – they run short so you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg on alterations. $40.00

A Versatile Trench
When the weather is chilly one day, hot the next, and rainy the third it’s hard to be prepared. A simple trench or mac in a water-resistant fabric that is lined will keep you looking stylish yet comfortable on those in-between days.

The Sunshower Coat from Lands End is a favorite – it’s a classic style, breathable, and wrinkle-resistant. Lands End is known for their quality and service so you know you will get a great piece that will give you years of wear. Khaki is a safe bet, but a more memorable color like their Wine Grape will look great with neutrals, make your skin glow, and will give you a sunnier outlook on the day, even if the sky is cloudy. $99.50

Macy’s Style&Co brand offers great style for a reasonable price. This double-breasted trench has a shorter length that won’t dwarf your petite frame, and the soft sage color will look great with neutrals, but be a fresh change from beige and black outerwear. $79.00

Solid-colored Seasonally-appropriate Tops
Toss the oversized tees and stiff striped button-downs. It’s easy to be comfortable, get dressed in an instant yet look great if you have an arsenal of flattering, well-fitting knits in your size and colors you adore. Wash on the gentle cycle, line dry and these pieces can give you years of great wear. Look for pieces with 5% spandex or more – they will be more likely to keep their shape, not need to be ironed, and maintain their color longer than 100% cotton tops. For winter, I love merino wool because it acts like a knit in keeping its shape and flattering the figure, and can also be washed on the gentle cycle.

Ann Taylor LOFT is a fave of many petite women thanks to their extensive collection, reasonable prices, and truly petite sizing. Their Petite Twisted Boatneck Tee is a fashionable version of the comfy tee shirt. The neckline adds drama to a casual day look, and would fantastic under a cardigan or casual twill blazer. Great colors like Balsam Green and Ocean Depths will complement dark denim, khaki, white, gray, and black. $19.50

I love Nordstrom’s Caslon line – great wardrobe basics of great quality. The petite Caslon Ballet Neck Tee is a feminine and flattering twist on a simple knit top – the ¾ sleeves make it wearable almost year-round and a scoop neck is lovely on most every woman’s figure. $24.00

A Casual Blazer
A great way to jazz up simple tees and jeans is with a casual blazer. If it’s unlined and has a bit of stretch, it’s as comfortable as a hoodie but with far more polish.



Ann Taylor LOFT’s Petite Urban Twill Blazer is a great choice. The grosgrain trim gives it a unique, higher-end look, and in navy it would go with most any color tank or tee in your closet. $69.99

The striped blazer from Banana Republic would look amazing with neutral tanks, tees, and bottoms. It would also look quite chic with a pop of color underneath – try candy pink, blood orange, or apple green. The standup collar elongates the frame, making you look taller. $149.99

A Trendy Knit
Right now, striped tees are a hot look – this is a great way to add some variety and current fashion to your wardrobe without looking passé in a season. Striped tees look great with a simple denim or twill skirt, under a blazer, with shorts, capris, jeans, and even dressed up with a fuller skirt or with trousers. Add a bit of contrast with a turquoise or coral necklace, or a cardigan in a color like leaf green, tangerine, or yellow.

This black and cream striped boatneck from Lauren by Ralph Lauren isn’t your ordinary tee shirt – the silver buttons and boatneck make it a refined piece that would look great with jeans, and also with a white twill skirt for spring outings. $59.50



I own the Striped Sailor Tee from Ann Taylor and adore it – the scoopneck is flattering, the knit heavy and durable, the epaulets give a bit more style and panache. It comes in three colors. $38.00

A Not-so Little Black Dress
I have a black wrap dress from Old Navy that I bought years ago on clearance. I wear it with leggings and flats around the house, with heels for a wedding or funeral, with tall boots to work. It’s so versatile, and the matte jersey is a fabric that stretches, gives, washes easily, and looks timeless and seasonless.

The Petite Gemma Wrap dress from Banana Republic is a great choice – ¾ sleeves work year round, and a true wrap style means you can cinch the waist for a more custom fit. $98.00



Merona for Target has really come a long way in the past year – the quality has improved immensely, and the style is quite on-trend yet classic. The Merona Petite Faux Wrap Knit Dress is a great choice – the empire waist hides any post-baby pooch, and makes it dress up or down with ease. $20.98

Shoes
It often impossible to find size 5 footwear in stores, however the selection is pretty impressive online. Sites like Nordstrom and Zappos have a great selection of smaller sizes that are still stylish and comfortable. I recommend investing in:

  • A sandal with a low wedge heel (more comfortable than heels, able to wear with shorts or with a dress).  The “Amber” wedge-heel sandals from Munro is a great summer choice – uber comfortable, thin elegant straps, will look great with skirts and dresses of all lengths, as well as shorts, trousers, and cropped pants. Munro is known for comfort and quality – these shoes should be wearable even for a day of sightseeing or a trip to Disney World. $179.95
  • A pair of ankle boots you can slip on with jeans and a sweater (low heel, brown or black depending on your wardrobe – more versatile than flats as that they can dress up and also be waterproofed for rainy days).  The “Wisteria” by Merrell has a wedge heel which is comfortable when standing or walking for a long period of time, but can still be paired with casual trousers. They get great reviews for comfort. $140.00
  • A pair of tall riding boots (wear with dresses, over jeans and you will be amazed how they will transform wardrobe basics into something stylish – waterproof them for more versatility).  These riding boots from La Canadiene are so classic – waterproof Italian leather, moisture-wicking lining, memory foam insole, low heel, elegant styling. These are boots you buy now and will still be wearing a decade from now. $256.00
  • A pair of simple black leather pumps for those times when you do need to dress up (they work with pants, dresses, and even with your dark jeans for a Date Night or drinks with your girl friends).  The Nuncio pump from Nine West is a classic pump that will look elegant year-round and years from now. 2.5” heel, elongated toe, and available in narrow and wide widths. $69.95

For additional petite inspiration, check out:

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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On a Lighter Note – Pajama Jeans

I don’t know if I have written about pajama jeans on here or on Twitter or my Facebook page.  All I know is they are awful. Yes, I agree that jeans can be uncomfortable, but that isn’t an excuse to wear these monstrosities.  They remind me of the denim diapers for babies – so very wrong.  If you want to be comfortable, consider a pair of heavyweight leggings or stretch jeans with tall flat boots, or even a pair of trousers in a heavyweight refined knit like Ponte de Roma.  No one needs pajama jeans in their life.

Anyway, I adore the brilliant style expert Bridgette Raes and follow her on Facebook.  Today she posted this hysterical parody video of the pajama jeans infomercial.  I just had to share…

Thursday

Attire:
- White wrap shirt – Ann Taylor (hidden safety pin to hold wrap from opening)
- Black tropical wool trousers – Ann Taylor
- Leather sandals – Mossimo
- Red necklace – boutique in Rehoboth Beach, DE
- Red earrings – gift from my mom from her African safari

Makeup:
- Philosophy – The Present
- L’Oreal True Match foundation in C3
- Nars blush in Orgasm
- Revlon Super Lustrous lip gloss in Pink Afterglow
- Cover Girl LashBlast mascara
- Clinique eye shadow duo in Like Mink

Hair:
Second day, brushed and tossed in a messy updo with an ouchless elastic. It’s hot out and I am in desperate need of a hair cut and color. I ended up wearing my Celine sunglasses on top of my head the majority of the day.

Monday

Black stretch cotton v-neck sweater from Banana Republic, black stretch poplin trousers from Caslon, black booties from Sudini, silver cuff and red stone necklace from a boutique in Rehoboth Beach, DE.

Hair was washed and conditioned and dried with my Croc wet-to-dry flat iron because I haven’t yet gotten a replacement hair dryer.

Makeup is philosophy’s The Present, Benefit’s You Rebel Lite, philosophy’s concealer trio, Make Up Forever’s HD loose powder, Cargo Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife, Body Shop Eye Color in Granite on lids and along lash lines, Too Faced Lash Injection mascara, Body Shop Eye Definer in Slate and Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey.

Monday

Black Ponte de Roma knit jacket from Banana Republic Outlet, teal scoop-necked tee from gap, black city shorts from Gap Outlet, black croco peeptoe heels from BCBGirls, silver pocketwatch necklace from Ann Taylor Loft, silver chain from Renaissance Festival, silver hoops and cuff bracelet.

Hair was washed last night and air dried. This morning I straightened it with a paddle brush and the dryer.

Makeup is L’Oreal Bare Naturale foundation in True Beige, Nars blush in Orgasm, Pop Beauty shadow set for brown eye – the celadon green on the lid, Maybelline UltraLiner in black on top lash line, DiorShow Unlimited mascara in black, Maybelline Shine Seduction Glossy Lipcolor in Blushed Bass.

Thursday

White stretch poplin trousers from Caslon, orange-red silk knit tank from Banana Republic, black ponte de Roma jacket from Banana Republic Outlet, leopard peeptoe heels from BGBGirls, silver cuff.

Hair is second day, random pieces blown out with dryer and round brush. Didn’t try to do more because of the humidity.

Makeup is L’Oreal true match concealer in W4-5, L’Oreal true Match foundation in C3, Nars blush in Orgasm on apples of cheeks, some Body Shop Brush on Bronze across face. Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral khakis – khaki on lids, chocolate in crease and along lash lines. Max Factor’s Lash Perfection in black on curled lashes. On lips is Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow with The Body Shop’s Sheer Lipcolor in Sheer Caramel over it.

Blogging Love – Interview!

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

You can check out the interview here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outlet Mall Shopping

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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