Search Results for: label/Boutique 9

The Return of an Old Friend

I guess everything does come back in style if you wait long enough.

Anyone remember Generra? Hot brand of the 1980s most famous for creating the much loved Hypercolor shirts. I remember Generra well; my family was too poor for name brands and I found a yellow canvas pullover with lots of grommets and drawstrings and New Wave embellishments at a yard sale for 75 cents. Though yellow has never been my color and the top was at least two sizes too big, I wore that thing every week because I owned a popular label.

Generra, Outback Red, Benneton, Esprit, Guess?, Forenza… brands that were as much a necessity to a young girl in the 80s as a Liz Claiborne purse and matching wallet. How is it that brands like these that were such a hot commodity ended up being fodder for discount superstores and cheesy mail order fashion catalogs? Who decides when a brand is hot, or when it is not?

Many of these oldies yet goodies have tried to make a comeback. Heck it works for hair bands, why not for the clothes that complimented the Aqua Net? Gloria Vanderbilt and Jordache had their fifteen minutes of fame a couple of seasons ago. We saw the return of jelly shoes, clear vinyl bags, high waists, neon colors, even mullets.

But Generra? They aren’t having just fifteen minutes of campy fame. They are back, and they are far better than ever. Every hot boutique online and in town has a few of their pieces, there is even an in-store Generra boutique at Henri Bendel. This isn’t a flash in the pan, Generra has slowing been taking over the past couple of years, being seen on the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Alexandra and Theodora Richards and also having their moment at New York Fashion Week 2007.

I like it when brands make a comeback. I may not purchase Lacoste, Burberry, Generra or Le Tigre, but I admire their tenacity and impressive marketing skills. I find Generra’s new line to be a bit too utilitarian for my tastes, both in cut and color; but am excited to see an old friend back up on the runway. Now I just need to dig through my mom’s attic to see if I can find that yellow canvas pullover with the grommets…

Style with Substance: Karen Kane

One of the best parts of blogging is getting to know brands on a different level. Not just a label in a boutique or department store, you learn the story behind the name, their purpose, their history, and sometimes, they become friends.

I heard of Karen Kane before I started blogging, it was a brand I’d see at the mall, just like all the other garments wearing some woman’s name. The alliteration was catchy, I figured it was made up to represent the ideal customer for the brand. But thanks to my blog I got to know that Karen Kane is a real woman who cares for and designs for fellow real women.

karen kane history

A little Karen Kane history, learn more at this link

Karen Kane has been a California Girl since she was 9 years old, attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in LA, and after graduation got a job as a pattern maker for a sportswear company. In 1979 Karen and her husband Lonnie begin the clothing brand Karen Kane out of their garage. After just one year the company reaches $1 million in sales. In 1986, their son Michael was born. To combine work and personal life, they brought Michael to work with them every day. Michael is now the Director of Marketing and the super nice person I work with when partnering with the brand (he even “likes” my Facebook page!). Karen and Lonnie still run the business. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to work with a company that sees me as a person, not just a blog, and who understands how Wardrobe Oxygen’s readers are different from another blog with different interests and needs.

karen kane blog love

My favorite Karen Kane outfits that have been featured on Wardrobe Oxygen

Before many other brands, in 1999 Karen Kane launched a Women’s division after hearing requests from their customers. And as of 2013, over 95% of Karen Kane’s collection is manufactured right here in the United States. The clothes are high quality, comfortable, true California style with a touch of femininity and sex appeal. Many of my wardrobe favorites, such as this dress, these pants, this dress, and this jumpsuit (sorry for the bad photo, I’ll have to do an outfit post in it soon, they still have it in stock!) are from Karen Kane.

This season I’m admiring the Studded Wrap Dress, Safari Jacket, Gold Sequin Front Dress, and can’t wait for this spring when Karen Kane will be offering jewelry and hats! I know I will be adding more Karen Kane to my closet this season and for many seasons to come.

I had a Small Business Saturday series before my surgery, but since then have realized how I love many brands who aren’t small but still have heart. I’m changing this series to Style with Substance and will be featuring brands who offer great fashion with great ethics or goals.

Thursday Rant

I guess I am setting myself up for blogging failure. Yes, I have great readership, but my blogs are not considered “successful” in many people’s eyes because I hardly make a cent off of them. I don’t get weekly freebies from retailers, I don’t bring in the big bucks from my minimal ads, I blog for… you, and not for me.

Well I guess in all honesty it is for me. I do love to write, I love to shop, and I love to tell people my opinion. I love to make fellow women feel good about themselves, and I love it when I get a comment or email that tells me I made a difference in a person’s life.

But unlike many blogs that have been around less time than I, I am not profitable. I know fellow bloggers who have been able to go to part-time or quit their job all together from the success of their blogs. Ads alone bring in a huge portion of their income, and affiliates help even more. Retailers contact them, offering free goods and money in return for praise on their blog. They promote products they have never used, $1,200 purses they can never afford, fashions that fit a very small minority of the population. They have fancy banners and avatars and glossy ads for Sephora and Nieman Marcus and Strawberry Net all over their page, receiving profits per click. They offer links for that designer bag, receiving a percentage from each bag sold to that online boutique.

Now I would love nothing more than to be able to quit my job and write. I would love to write a book based on this blog, and have always dreamed of being a personal shopper and wardrobe consultant. However I am an adult with a mortgage, a car payment, student loans and yes… a conscience. I cannot and will not ever promote something I do not believe in.

Retailers, feel free to send me samples of your stuff, and if I like it, I will be more than happy to review it on here. I will offer links to your website, may show myself wearing your product. But if your product is sub par or inappropriate for my audience, I will not write about it. Or, I may warn you readers to stay away from these vendors. I have no fear.

I also can’t advertise that which I think is just wrong, like a $1,200 purse. A lipgloss that costs $40 and is nothing better than Revlon’s Super Lustrous line. Clothing that does not go over a size 10.

If I can’t afford or fit it, I’m betting the majority of you can’t either.

Reports have shown that there is an influx in purchasing of designer goods and experts believe it is linked to the influx of bloggers writing about said products. I know when I was in middle school I just HAD to have a Liz Claiborne purse and a Forenza roll-neck sweater because everyone else had it. Gosh, Betsy and Heather had both and look at how pretty and popular and blonde they were? Maybe if my stubby, brunette self had both I would be just as popular and glamorous.

I saved up for both because my parents couldn’t afford those sorts of things. I sported my white Forenza roll-neck sweater with my navy Liz Claiborne purse with the navy trim, and that day at lunch, my friend tripped and spilled chocolate milk all over me, permanently staining that beloved sweater. Soon, I realized people liked me whether or not I wore designer duds. Instead of worrying about the label, I worried about the fit and how it expressed my personality. To the 8th grade school dance when the rest of the girls wore ruffled dresses, I wore a black mock turtleneck, black harem pants, black suede booties and my brightly-printed bedroom curtain pinned around my waist like a cummerbund. That was the first time a “cool boy” asked me to dance. And that was when I realized money does not equal style, labels do not equal fashion, and I will never be a slave to them. And I hope none of you ever will either.

Decades later I am the author of this blog. I am still stubby, I am still a brunette, and I am still lacking designer duds in my closet. Yes, it feels amazing to own a designer garment or a coveted beauty item – I’m not going to say I don’t enjoy my DiorShow mascara, my Joe’s jeans, or would love nothing more than to strut around town in a pair of Jimmy Choos. But you know what? I am happy in my skin, happy in my heart and still getting looks from the “cool boys.” I may not be a financially successful blogger, but when I get an email from you guys that says you’re happier as a woman because of some of my advice… I feel like the richest blogger in the world!

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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True Fashionista: Pearl

We “old school” bloggers stick together. We remember when the fashion blogosphere was much smaller, less commercial, and just about sharing personal style and connecting with like-minded folks across the globe.  While we may lose touch a bit from time to time, there’s always a place in our hearts for one another.   Pearl Westwood is one of those “old school” bloggers who I have followed over the years. While she has always had killer style, it has been so much fun to see her hone it over the time on her blog, Fashion Pearls of Wisdom.

Pearl really knows herself, and how to use clothing to express it. Her look shows that she is an individual, celebrates it, yet has a passion for fashion. Pearl epitomizes what I think of as British fashion – edgy, eclectic, yet relaxed.  The Brits see the fun in fashion, yet take it quite seriously.  It is no surprise that Pearl’s favorite fashion designer is Vivienne Westwood.   

Pearl’s blog Fashion Pearls of Wisdom doesn’t just feature her personal style and recent purchases, but breaks down the latest looks and runway shows, analyzing the concept, thought, and designer. Pearl understands and respects the talent and history behind fashion.  She will often feature a designer I had never heard of but instantly love and respect thanks to her analysis.  I love how she will drop a fact about an obscure brand or a designer’s collection from a decade ago as easily as many speak of reality TV or current events.  Sharing of such information isn’t for Pearl to show off her immense fashion knowledge, but because she loves and lives fashion.

While Pearl is quite aware of what is current in fashion, she stays true to her personal aesthetic, and only takes on the trends that adhere to her personal style.  I think what I admire most about Pearl’s style is how consistent it is.  Consistent isn’t a bad thing – one look at Pearl’s blog and you can see that her style is anything but boring.  But she knows herself, what she likes, and what she wishes to say with fashion and is always true to herself.

Enough of me raving about Pearl, here’s her side of the story.  As with every other True Fashionista, I have asked her to answer the same five questions:

How would you describe your personal style?
‘Like Vivienne Westwood vomited all over me’ is how one friend likes to describe me ha ha good job we share a wicked sense of humour! I hold my hands up and have to admit Vivienne Westwood features heavily in my wardrobe, I just love everything about her designs. I don’t think there is any other designer who pushes the boundaries quite liker her and the fact that many of her pieces come with political messages, such as to save the rainforests, they have have meaning as well as style. Mixed in with that are other carefully chosen designer pieces and a stack of vintage. I don’t really care where my clothes come from, it’s not about the label, but about how they look. I would rather have one thing that I am totally obsessed with and wear everyday than a bag full of things I wasn’t all that fussed about. My key items are jackets particularly vintage sequin ones, ankle socks and crazy heels.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
You know I’m not really sure, it has always been something I was interested in. My mum says I get it from my maternal grandmother, who I sadly never met and since my mum is totally glam herself I would say it runs in the family. I think my mum really helped by encouraging me to experiment with fashion as a child, when I was a kid she would braid multi-coloured ribbons into my hair so I could look like 80’s pop star Boy George!

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
I gobble up everything and anything fashion, from runway shows, glossy magazines and hundreds of blogs it is my job to know about all the latest trends and I love to learn so I can’t deny this has influence on me. But what I really find inspiring is vintage shopping, just getting to examine beautiful and unique things sets my imagination off. I also really like to see what other people are wearing, I find it fascinating how two people can wear the same thing in such a different way. I admire people who dress for themselves regardless of current trends such as Dame Vivienne Westwood and the late Anna Piaggi. I try to take all this on board to feed my own imagination but most of all the one thing that inspires me are the clothes themselves. Nothing can beat that feeling of finding a item which you just fall for head over heels, be it for it’s beauty or unusual construction, the pieces that you put on and want to twirl around in, fashion should be fun above all else.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Ah the ago old question! I think anyone can go out and buy fashion but it takes style to be able to wear it well. That said everone has their own opinions on what defines the two. Personally I love fashion, I love a new trend and I love getting dressed up. Perhaps it is more to do with your attitude, you could wear a bin-bag and be stylish so long as you had the confidence. I am reminded of a story about Vivienne Westwood, when she had gotten caught out in the rain whilst riding her bicycle to a meeting. Ever the DIY advocate Vivienne had fashioned herself a hat out of one of her store carrier bags to save her hair getting a soaking. Pulling up under the window to park her bike, those she was meeting laughed and ridiculed her, even taking a photography and publishing it in a mocking way. So Vivienne went and embroidered that very photo inside her couture clothing, the eccentric lady with a plastic bag on her head grinning at you as you handed over thousands of pounds to her. I think we can safely say it was Vivienne to get the last laugh. Have faith in yourself and take your own opinion, it is you who has to wear the clothes at the end of the day.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Enjoy it! I actually started my blog because I wanted to record the style journey I was on. Having had an interest in fashion for many years it wasn’t until I finished my undergrad degree at uni and I guess started to grow up that I really found myself conscious of fashion again. I was on a personal journey as I had to decide on my career and also a journey of self discovery as I finally lost the weight I had been wanting to shift for the past couple of years. Suddenly fashion became something I was able to play around with instead of just having to wear whatever I could find to fit. I realise now that most of my problems with fashion had been in my own head, it was more to do with confidence than dress size. So now I would advise everyone to stop worrying about what anyone else thinks, stop worrying about all the ‘style rules’, pick and choose what tips you like and get out there and start having fun. If you want to wear bright pink and orange do it! If you want to go into a designer boutique do it, don’t be intimidated. Have no fear! 

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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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How to Not Hate Fashion (AKA On Being a Fashion Connoisseur )

I love wine, but I don’t know a lot about it. I once subscribed to Food and Wine magazine to educate myself better, but got overwhelmed. I go to the store, look for a bottle between $9 – $15, and often decide based upon the look of the label.

I love coffee, but I don’t know a lot about it. My husband will ask me whether I like today’s coffee better than yesterday’s as it is a different brand or roast… and I can’t tell the difference. Sometimes I like coffee black, sometimes I don’t, but I don’t really think about why that must be. I am not a brand snob- I like Starbucks because they have fun drink ideas and yes, I am a sucker for their bright green straws. When it comes to coffee, I just know I like coffee – I like it hot for breakfast, I like it iced on a warm sunny day, and I love Frappucinnos and coffee-flavored ice cream.

When I go to IKEA with my sister, she will comment on how a chair is inspired by Jonathan Adler, or a table is a copy of Saarien. I just see a shiny white table or a pretty chair. I buy home décor based upon what appeals to me, having no clue what is currently hot, trendy, or a bad copy of a famous designer.

What’s the point of a fashion blogger rambling about furniture and beverages? The point is that I am not a connoisseur but I still allow myself to enjoy these things. No one judges me because I don’t know the difference between coffee from Jamaica or beans from Costa Rica, that I know how many points my Riesling received from Wine Spectator, or what designer inspired my Target shower curtain. No one judges me, and I enjoy myself.

And all this can be true about fashion. The thing is, you can treat fashion the way you may treat coffee, or wine, or furniture. Enjoy what you enjoy, don’t let all the facts and figures ruin your good time. Go slow, and relish in each pleasurable moment.

I often meet people who tell me they find fashion is stupid. During our conversation, I find that they don’t necessarily find it stupid, but instead they don’t understand it, or its relevance in their life. We often find that which we do not know or understand to be “stupid” or “pointless.” Think about it, have you ever found your husband’s passion for football or your best friend’s love of electronica to be strange? It’s not that it is stupid, it’s just foreign to you.

Unless you are a nudist, fashion is a form of art we all have to embrace in some manner. I always feel that if you have to do something, you might as well find pleasure in it. You don’t need to be a connoisseur to have fun with fashion.

How to Not Hate Fashion:
- Buy colors you love. I am always surprised when I meet people who have colorful lives and personalities yet dress in drab neutrals. With discussion, I find they buy nondescript clothing to hide the fact that they fear fashion. 2012 is a wonderful year for color lovers, where you can find everything from dresses to denim in almost any color in the Crayola box. No need to leave the silhouettes and garment styles you find safe and comfortable, but if you love green why not buy a piece in that hue?

- Create a uniform. When I visit the closets of people who don’t like fashion, they usually have two to three times more clothing in their closet than I. Stop with all the mindless shopping and purchase garments that are tried and true. Heck, buy multiples. There is nothing wrong with having three pairs of the same black pants, and the same sweater in four different colors. I may seem to wear a different thing every day, but if you look closely I stick to a uniform of similar silhouettes that I know work for my body and lifestyle.

- Embrace accessories. If you feel most comfortable in simple pieces, show who you are with accessories. Scarves, necklaces, bangle bracelets, brooches, headbands, belts… simple low-cost pieces that can revolutionize your wardrobe.

- Consider shopping online. I used to hate my body. I would stand in a fitting room in a too-tight skirt and see-through blouse, my pale large legs and black trouser socks, glistening with sweat and tears from another horrific mall session. Each time I went shopping, I felt as though I was too fat, too soft, too short, too unusual for fashion. Then I had a baby and no time to actually go to a mall or boutique and had to rely on the Internet. This simple change improved my feeling about my body and the clothes that go on it every day.

Now I can try clothes on with natural light, with a mirror I trust. I can take off the trouser socks and put on a pair of pumps. I can see if a blouse fits better with a different bra, a dress with a pair of Spanx. I can really know if that belt will work with the dress I already own. Now online shopping can be daunting, but once you find brands and retailers you know like your body, it makes it easier; also more and more companies are offering free shipping and easy/free/in-store returns.

- Act as though fashion is a restaurant. If you despise liver yet it’s on the menu, you don’t reject the entire restaurant, you just choose a different entrée. If you find an entrée that looks appealing, but would prefer vegetables instead of the rice you ask the waiter for a switch and enjoy your custom meal. If you’re a vegetarian, you pick entrees that are animal-free, asking the waiter for suggestions and clarification. While society claims that you should drink red wine with beef but you’re craving a glass of Chardonnay with your filet mignon, get the Chardonnay and drink it with joy.

You don’t have to wear what everyone else wears. Heck, you really don’t need my wardrobe staples if you know yourself and your personal wardrobe needs. However, like a restaurant, you may not even know your favorite entrée until you try something new. Start small, an appetizer as you will. Step outside your comfort zone with a different retailer, different color, different silhouette. If you don’t like it, move on. Don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame fashion as a whole. You can’t blame a whole restaurant because you personally don’t like their risotto.

- Treat personal style the way you would a ‘Couch to 5k.’ No one expects you to be an expert fashionistas in a day… or even a year. The only way to find your personal style and have your exterior match your interior is with small steps. Slowly, gently venture out of your comfort zone and find out what looks and feels right.

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No one expects you to be a fashion connoisseur unless you have chosen fashion to be your profession and life. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t become comfortable with some aspects of it. Honing your personal style helps people understand the true you, helps you feel and look like a cohesive person, and can make life easier and more enjoyable. Go slow, use care, and remember that half the fun of reaching your destination is the journey to get there!

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A Proper Bra Fitting – My Experience

I believe a woman should be fitted for a bra every year. Our bodies are constantly changing with age, weight loss and gain, changes to our exercise routine, childbirth and nursing and so much more. Getting properly fitted for a bra does not mean heading to your local Victoria’s Secret to have a teenager who works 4 hours a week try to figure out your size and get you to buy a bra at that store, even if your size isn’t in stock. Getting properly fitted doesn’t mean trying to measure yourself at home and cross your fingers that your online purchase fits.

What it means is going to an expert who can measure you, and then offer you a few styles and brands to try so you can find not only your band and cup size, but the specific type of bra that gives you the best shape, support, and style.

I have been putting off being fitted for far too long; the last time I was fitted was a little over a year before I got pregnant. Since then, I lost weight, carried a child, nursed it for over two years, gained weight, and lost it again. My breasts were sitting like deflated water balloons in my molded-cup bras, they were obviously the wrong size and on top of that, stretched out and in need of replacement.

My community parenting group scheduled a bra-fitting party at A La Mode in Annapolis, Maryland and I jumped at the chance to go. I had been meaning to be fitted but kept putting it off… too busy, not enough money, too lazy. The event was yesterday and it was amazing.

A La Mode Intimates in Annapolis 
Click for a larger version (and to see my mom being rung up at the counter!)

I had heard of A La Mode before, but never visited. They have a new location at the Annapolis Towne Center and it is gorgeous. Bright and airy, yet romantic. The sales area is broken into little rooms which made shopping more fun, and you felt less on display when fingering a lovely charmeuse camisole or reading about nursing bras. Through curtains is their lounge. They set up a lovely little spread for us of brie with crackers and grapes, wine and ice water. They had a couple chairs, a couch and coffee table that were surrounded by gigantic fitting rooms with large mirrors and flattering lighting.

Rebecca assisted me; she whipped out her tape measure and in about three seconds flat had measured me over my shirt. From that she brought me a bra to try. I didn’t look at the brand, I didn’t look at the size, I just tried it on. And I was amazed. My breasts looked smaller, firmer, younger. I had a waistline! Then I looked at the tag…

When I was last fitted, they said I was a 38D. When I got pregnant, my breasts grew and I made the decision to go to 38DD. After Emerson was born, I seemed to be at 38DD and stuck with the same bras. As I have lost weight and stopped nursing, my breasts shrunk. I bought a 38D but kept falling out of the top, and it irritated me under my arms. I went back to my 38DD bras which looked crazy, but at least were reliable.

This bra was a 36F
F as in Frank
F?!?! 

How could that be? I have these deflated, smaller breasts! An F?? But this bra was a perfect fit, it almost felt as though I wasn’t wearing a bra, it was so comfortable. Rebecca informed me that different countries have different bra sizing methods. The US goes from D to DD and then skips E for F, but Europe skips DD and goes straight to E. In the UK they use both single and double letters. This means that a bra from Wacoal, a bra from Elomi, and a bra from Chantelle may fit the same but have different cup letters on the label.

Rebecca checked the bra on me, informed me that the straps shouldn’t really be doing the support (which I do, tightening my straps in an attempt to lift), the bra itself will do the work. She showed me how the band should sit low on my back, not up near my shoulder blades – this prevents your skin from pouring over the bra, and also helps with support. She asked me my bra needs (something that is invisible under thin knits, something that won’t show when I wear a scoop neck, and something that gives me a great shape) and came back with a couple more bras to try. I am a fan of the molded cup and she brought me some of those, as well as a couple other types I may not have considered. I got plenty of time to try on by myself, I didn’t feel as though a salesperson was breathing down my neck, yet if I just said, “Rebecca?” she was right there to bring a different size or color.

 Me in my original bra

 
Me in the bra I purchased

I had two bras that I loved, but unfortunately they didn’t have either in a skin color.

The Winners:
Fantasie Moulded Smoothing T-shirt Bra. Very basic, but gives amazing shape. No lace, no frills, no nothing so it’s invisible under knits. Incredibly comfortable, with incredible lift. I fit a 36DD.

Fantasie Ava. Another simple t-shirt bra, but with a bit of lace detail and pretty straps. Again, I fit best in a 36DD.

I don’t need two black bras right now, so I chose the one with the thinner, less-decorative straps (makes more sense for summer with sleeveless tops). A La Mode will let me know when the bras are back in stock in skin colors.

I went to be rung up… and remembered I needed a strapless bra. Since Rebecca had helped me try on a good dozen different bras, it was easy for her to guess which styles and brands would work best for me. She handed me a skin-colored strapless and I tried it on. Did you know that there are strapless bras out there that are comfortable? I put on my shirt and came out into the lounge to show the other women in my group. “THIS IS A STRAPLESS BRA!” I exclaimed, and they all ooohed and aaahed because really my bust looked almost as good in this strapless as the Fantasie bras above. On top of that, this strapless has straps that can be attached, so you can make it a one-shoulder, criss-cross back, halter or standard bra.

I tried on another strapless, but it didn’t compare to this one in regard to fit and comfort.

THIS is a strapless bra!

The Winner:
Simone Perele Velia Strapless Plunge in Praline. I wanted a strapless that wouldn’t peek out of a sweetheart or surplice neckline and this one did the trick. I tried it last night with my new Gap maxi dress I was going to return because it can’t be worn with any bras I own. Now the dress looks adorable and I am still uber comfortable!

Now this strapless is more than I have EVER paid for a bra… but to have a strapless that is invisible under thin knits, hides under plunging necklines and is so comfortable that I am wearing it all day today as a standard bra… sounds like a worthy investment to me! Also with researching online, I found that A La Mode’s prices are competitive with what I found at department stores and online boutiques (I paid the same price for this bra as it is listed on the Simone Perele site Bare Necessities, Neiman Marcus, and HerRoom).

The benefit of going to a bra boutique or lingerie department of a higher-end department store is you will find an educated bra specialist, and a large variety of brands and sizes. When you visit your nearby Victoria’s Secret, all you have to choose from is Vickie’s bras. Your breasts are just like every other part of your body – unique. What may be Holy Grail jeans to one woman may be terribly unflattering on you; the same holds true with bras.

Bras aren’t cheap. As Rebecca said yesterday at the bra fitting, “You get what you pay for.” Before Bonnaroo, I was desperate for a bra and went to Target and got one from their Gillian and O’Malley line. It itches, it makes my breasts look a bit square in shape, and come the end of the day I can’t WAIT to get it off. I have purchased bras at Frederick’s of Hollywood that lifted my breasts practically to my neck, but I found them horribly uncomfortable after a couple hours, and they would fall apart after a few months (even with proper laundry care). A bra that properly fits, supports, and is comfortable will completely change your figure, your posture, the way your clothes fit. This morning, I wanted to wear a light-colored top and put on my old nude bra. It was… fine. I then tried the new strapless and I looked as though I had lost ten pounds and was five years younger. Seriously, this is the difference between and okay bra and a great bra.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself fitted, and get yourself some quality bras. You won’t regret it!

Note: I was not compensated in any way for this post; A La Mode did not contact me or know I was going to write this post.

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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.

Hump Day!


My trusty denim blazer from Ann Taylor. Black cotton knit shell from Ann Taylor Loft. Black trousers from… you guessed it, Ann Taylor. Black pointy boots from Enzo. Three strand silver necklace bought at a renaissance festival. Two coral glass chip necklaces bought at at a boutique near the beach. Long wood and bead necklace wrapped twice – bought at Claire’s Boutique. Silver hoops and cuff.

Makeup is very subtle because I was running late and fetl sort of icky from all the cigarette smoke last night. Even Bare Escentuals couldn’t cover my red eyes and bags. Pale taupe shadow (The Body Shop), fine line of liquid liner (Maybelline), dustong of blush (Nars), and a clear lipgloss because I left my Spice tinted lip balm (Aveda) in my desk at work.

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.

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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Thursday: Comfortable Corporate

Blazer: c/o Karen Kane
Tank: Ann Taylor (similar)
Pants: Tahari
Shoes: Michael Kors
Necklace: Boutique in Rehoboth Beach (similar)
Bracelet: c/o IN PINK

Have a few meetings today so needed to look professional, but felt a bit under the weather last night so had restless and little sleep. Lycra to the rescue! Each piece in this ensemble is stretchy and comfortable but still maintains a level of professionalism.

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Holiday Gift Guide for the Practical Pal

We all have that friend or relative who doesn’t NEED anything and finds most traditional gifts frivolous. While she may be perfectly happy with a gift card to Target, it’s nice to buy actual gifts for people to unwrap and realize you thought of them. While I have been scouring the web for other posts, I’ve been bookmarking things I find to be so practical yet lovely that most anyone would like it as a gift. All of these are under $100 and have free shipping.

gift guide practical presents holiday

1. Large Personalized Canvas Tote – $34.50

A little secret, this is one of my favorite baby and bridal shower gifts. While many sizes of this tote are available, I find the Large Tote to be the most versatile size. It can be a beach bag, overnight bag, reusable grocery tote, tote all your kid’s toys to grandma’s, tote your dirty clothes to the Laundromat… I love carrying potluck items in it – I wrap the casserole in towels on the bottom and on top I can put a 6-pack, bottle of wine, present for the hostess and it won’t topple over in the trunk on the way there. Personalization is free, making it the gift she didn’t think she needed but will be using regularly for years.

2. Stabilicers Lite Hikers – $29.95

I may be biased from my ice slip last year, but this was an AWESOME gift from my sister. They’re rubber so they stretch over shoes pretty easily, and are easy to slip off once you get to your destination. A great choice for anyone in an icy location, and especially good for those who aren’t as steady on their feet (or fear black ice after a previous fall, jus’ sayin’…). Do know they run a bit small, if unsure go up a size because they still won’t be too big for boots and sturdier shoes.

3. Starbucks Stainless Travel Mug – $19.95

Almost ten years ago, I won a $50 Starbucks card and I bought that year’s version of this mug. And I am still using that mug today. Most travel mugs get weird with time – the lids get stretched out, they leak, the double walled system separates. Not this baby. While it doesn’t look brand new any more, it keeps my coffee hotter longer than any other mug I’ve had, fits in all the cupholders in both of our cars, and it holds a full 16 ounces. This is something that is worth spending a bit extra and your loved one will thank you five years from now when she’s still reaching for it for her daily work commute. Do note, this isn’t one with free shipping (it is on Amazon with free Prime shipping but costs $10 more), but I’ve seen it in several Starbucks locations this year so it’s easy to pick up in person. If you plan to buy more at Starbucks, code AFF10 should give you 10% off your first purchase with them online plus free shipping if you spend at least $65.

4. Refurbished Kindle Paperwhite – $99

I got one free last year as part of a blogger promotion and it made me a Paperwhite convert. My mom bought her boyfriend one last Christmas and he loves it. Long battery life, great for the practical person who doesn’t want to add more stuff to her house, and especially nice for those with poor vision or dexterity. While the newest generation Paperwhites are $119, you can find perfectly good refurbished ones under $100 and Amazon provides a 1-year limited warranty and proper packaging so you can feel good giving refurbished as a quality gift.

5. Portable Power Bank – $49.95

The more we rely on our smartphones, the faster we deplete their batteries. This compact charger that isn’t much bigger than a smartphone adds a boost of power to small appliances just when you need it most.

6. Silk Long Johns and Socks – Starting at $17

Of course you better know the person quite well to give such a gift, but it’s likely one that will be loved and well used by the recipient for many years to come. Since he doesn’t read my blog I’ll let you know I got Karl the Silk Interlock Crew and Pants for a gift this year (thank you Lands’ End for carrying it in Tall!) and I know he’ll go gaga for it while he usually finds most gifts silly. Lands’ End has a great return policy, are known for quality, and have a nice variety and pricepoint making it a good destination for such gifts.

7. Legacybox – Starting at $75

What a cool concept; fill a Legacybox with old films, photos, slides, negatives, tapes and more and send it back with the pre-paid shipping label and they will carefully digitize all your memories. You will get back all your original memories as well as DVDs with your digital copies. At the time of writing this, if you visited the site and provided your email you’d automatically get a 25% off coupon and last week I received a coupon for 40% off and a promise to have Legacybox delivered in time for Christmas.

8. Adult Shearling Insoles – $16

Slip them into a pair of your tall leather or snow boots for warmth and comfort or give new life to an old pair of slippers. Made from natural shearling which wicks moisture and EVA foam which adds cushioning, these would be a welcome treat for anyone’s tootsies this winter.

Little Bits of Luxury: The Series

With age comes wisdom. It’s taken a while, but I have learned to truly buy quality instead of quantity. I unsubscribed from most retail emails so I am not wooed by 50% off (if I didn’t need it at full price, I don’t need it now), I rarely enter a mall because I know myself and I will leave at least $100 poorer with bags full of things I don’t need and will likely collect dust. When I visit a store like Target or TJ Maxx I have a written shopping list that will be a visible reminder to stay on track. And in the past year, when I have added to my closet I have looked for what I can remove – to store for the future, to donate, to sell, to admit defeat and cut up into rags.

And the things I purchase are better quality too. Now I am no Martha Stewart, so for me quality is likely Nine West, Etsy, L’Oreal. But I have learned it’s not about the name on the label, but how the piece works with my life and performs in the long run. Be it bras, BB cream, baking dishes, or boots I research, save, and buy the best within my budget. This also goes for luxury items (and items that are luxurious just to me). I have never admitted being a minimalist, and with age I have learned that some luxury items just make life better (and are far kinder to the body than cupcakes and nachos). I’ve also learned that luxury can come at all pricepoints, and some of the best indulgences are quite kind to my wallet.

I’ve found that series on this blog are some of my most popular posts on Wardrobe Oxygen. And so my newest series will feature little luxuries I indulge in, and how I budget for them, and why they are worth it. I hope you enjoy!





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Friday

I am sitting in a living room chair in a coral colored scoop neck tee from Gap and black yoga pants from Old Navy.  I figure I will be wearing this until noon, when my husband gets home from his photo shoot and I can go to the grocery store and get some provisions for tonight’s women’s circle at my house.

I wanted to send a big congratulations to Boutique Girl from the blog, Things a Boutique Owner Sees.  She gave birth to a little girl.  Best wishes to you, and your family!  I love blogging, it’s fun to connect with people and make new friends.  Boutique Girl and I met through this blog, I started following her blog (and gosh I would love to hop across the pond and check out her fab shop!), we became friends on Facebook and got to know one another more as people and not just blogging personas.  When I gave birth to Emerson, a fantastic woman I met through blogging sent me a gift of a few CDs of children’s music – cool music by cool artists that her cool kid enjoyed.  When I knew Boutique Girl was expecting, I sent her a few CDs of our favorite music for Emerson.  It’s cool how I will look at my Facebook friends list and see that a good dozen of those friends I truly consider FRIENDS and I met them through my past five years of blogging. 

As a person who reads and loves blogs, I know how it is to feel as though you really know the author – that person is like a friend in real life (IRL) to you.  Well do know, as a blogger I see those recurring screennames who comment.  I visit your profiles and your blogs if you have them, and I see you too as real people and friends.  I blog because of the friendship and the sense of community, and I think it’s a pretty fab community!

I see so many bloggers who have had get togethers with other bloggers in their town.  I have met bloggers for shopping trips and coffee, had sushi and tea with readers, met up with readers in their home towns when I have traveled for business.  It’s really cool to put a face (and VOICE!) to a name and a site.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend.  And for you lurkers on any blog… today consider leaving your favorite blogger a comment.  Let the author know how her blog entertains, inspires, or educates you.  You never know, that one comment may develop into a true friendship IRL!

What I Wore: Real Red

Dress: Belle c/o Dobbin Clothing | Bag: “Erin” Satchel c/o Fossil | Tights: Nordstrom | Boots: Ros Hommerson  | Bracelets: had forever, Nordstrom (similar) | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Coat: Via Spiga

Fossil was kind enough to send me this bag and I immediately fell in love with the color. It’s not cherry, it’s not tomato, it’s not ruby or oxblood or any other fancy terms. It’s as clear and true of a red as a crayon. I checked the bag’s label and it’s called Real Red. I like that, no crazy made-up name, just what is exactly is. This bag is pretty phenomenal, and perfect for a commuter like me. Two side zipper pockets to hold things like farecards and lip balm, and inside there is a zipper pocket on one side, and the other side five different pockets to hold anything from a Smartphone or your keys to business cards and a pack of gum. And in this bag I have my wallet, Kindle (did you enter my Kindle giveaway?), makeup bag, myAgenda, sunglasses, gloves, journal, and two reusable containers to hold my lunch. Impressive! The crossbody strap is adjustable to become a shoulderbag, or it can be removed. I know this bag is going to be used quite a lot this season!

I never understand why street style models and bloggers wear their coats on their shoulders like a cape.  How can they move their arms?  Why not just put on the coat?  Then I realized on cold days I do this very thing – I wear the coat like a cape from the house and over my shoulders until Karl gets ready to take pictures.  This way my outfit doesn’t get as rumpled and I’m less likely to mess up my hair.  Karl got this picture of me in the coat at the beginning of the shoot and it showcases the coat I bought last winter on a whim and still adore a year later (and it’s still available at Nordstrom and now on sale!).

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Tuesday

Tuesday I had the day off because I had some family and personal things to attend to. Lots of running around town.

Olive linen puff-sleeve shift dress from Old Navy, faux tiger eye necklace and earrings from beach boutique, black Reef “Sandy” flops.

Hair was second day, bedhead straightened with round brush and dryer.

Makeup was L’Oreal Bare Naturale foundation in Nude Beige, Nars blush in Orgasm, Body Shop shadow in Slate over lid, black eye definer from Body Shop and Max Factor Lash Perfection in black. On lips is Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Glossy Rose.

What I Wore: Issa for Banana Republic

I’m not a fan of designer collaborations. I don’t understand clamoring for a cheaper version of a designer piece. I don’t want a glued-together pleather bag or ill-fitting polyester blouse no matter what name is on the label. However, once the Issa Collection came out for Banana Republic I was intrigued. Banana Republic already has good quality and fits me relatively well, and the pieces in the collection were things I would buy no matter the designer. I liked the kimono dresses, and felt this print was one I would wear now and five years from now, in spring and in winter. For those considering this dress, I chose a 14, and yes, they do run short (it’s veering on not work appropriate and I am 5’3″). However it’s made extremely well, a heavy matte jersey that feels good and is a style that I think would work if I gained or lost weight. And you know me, I waited until it was on sale, Banana Republic was having a big sale, and I had reward dollars!

And how great is this bracelet? Wearing gold jewelery? No problem! Silver? No problem! Everything goes with this piece from Ruth Barzel, and I love that it’s rock and roll while still being elegant. I’ve been wearing this bracelet a ton lately (check my Instagram for proof), I like it mixed with other bracelets, but with such a bold dress, I felt it looked best all by itself.

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Scrimp or Splurge – What’s Your Number?

scrimp or splurge

Tuesday’s post about white tee shirts got me thinking. I believe we all have a number, that price we won’t cross for certain items for our closet. I often read interviews with style icons and they’ll say how they scrimp for X but splurge for Y, and often I feel the complete opposite about those items. That our numbers are personal based upon our age, our figure, our lifestyle, our budget. They are as unique as our personal styles.

While I wouldn’t have spent over $30 for a tee shirt two years ago (maybe $45 if striped or embellished), I now obviously will drop $80 for a plain white v-neck to stop the hunt and finally be satisfied. I couldn’t imagine spending more than $75 on a pair of jeans (but owned over a dozen pairs), but now don’t even blink at a $100 pricetag; though I now only own a handful of pairs.

On the other hand, some things I won’t pay as much for now that I used to. I can recall putting designer wool and leather coats on layaway because I considered them a worthy investment; now I buy my coats on clearance in the spring and don’t care the label inside as long as I like how it looks on me. Most of my makeup bag contents are from CVS, and I’ve learned some natural budget-friendly products like witch hazel, coconut oil, and jojoba oil do just as well as the high-end skincare lines.

The part missing from the tee shirt conversation was lifestyle and budget. What are the white tee shirts worn for, and how much can you spend on clothing in general? For some people $150 is a drop in the bucket, for others it’s the food budget for a month. For some, a white tee shirt is a piece of fashion as important as an It Bag or designer jeans while others just see it as what they slip on under their sweaters or wear on weekends with shorts.

So I ask you, what are your numbers? What’s the max you’d pay for a pair of jeans? A winter coat? A pair of tall boots? A handbag?  A dress to wear to a wedding or gala event? Where do you scrimp and where do you splurge? I know there’s such a variety of people who read this blog, this conversation would be interesting to highlight your unique lives and personal styles, but also help me know what to share on Wardrobe Oxygen in the future!

My Wardrobe Today – Monday

Tee - LOFT
Skirt – Ann Taylor (bought on eBay 5 years ago for $14.99, no clue how old, label style unfamiliar to me)
TightsNordstrom
BootiesCole Haan
Scarf – c/o Nordstrom Rack
BagSabina
Silver cuff

I forgot to set my alarm last night. My body woke me up at 7:15 (glad it wasn’t 8:15) and I had 45 minutes to get myself together and out the door. I had pulled this skirt out of my stash of potential winter things and a month ago it was just too tight, too short, and I thought I would re-eBay it. I pulled it on this morning since it was sitting on the cedar chest at the foot of the bed… and it fit! Only thing wrong is I guess the hem dry rotted and has fallen out while wearing (easy to fix). Very excited to have another leather skirt in my arsenal!

New bag – I had $40 in Nordstrom rewards, saw this bag for $129 and decided to try it.  I have wanted a bigger bag to carry my netbook and such, and wanted a soft black purse (currently have my Banana Republic one which is that textured hard leather like a football). Love the bag, so soft, holds so much, necessary front pocket (with magnet closure) and hey… gotta love such a quality bag for only $89!

Sorry for the delay in posting, work has gotten really hectic. Glad I stocked the office fridge with Lean Cuisines because that’s the only way I get to eat anything. The only time I have left my desk is to hit the printer or the bathroom (and refill my water bottle!). Whew, what a crazy couple of weeks!

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