Search Results for: label/Carol Anderson by Invitation

Hosting a CAbi Party – My Experience

Some of the CAbi Fall 2011 Collection

After my first experience with Carol Anderson by Invitation (CAbi) clothing, I really wanted to see the fall collection. Many of you readers told me that I needed to see more of this line, that they did have dresses and skirts, that their collections coordinated not just within each other for a season, but across seasons and years. That CAbi deserved a second look.

So this Sunday I hosted a CAbi party. For those who haven’t heard of CAbi, it’s a line of clothing that is sold at home parties, a la Pampered Chef or Silpada. Carol Anderson used to sell her line of clothing at department stores like Nordstrom, but soon was frustrated that shoppers couldn’t experience her entire line, only that which the buyers decided was best for their stores. She decided to go independent, and CAbi was born.

My CAbi Party
An hour before the party was to start, my consultant Lisa showed up. She had two collapsible rolling racks, and at least four giant canvas garment bags holding all the clothing. On one rack, she had one piece from the entire fall line, separated by collection (this season each collection is named after a movie); on the other rack were duplicates of the line in different sizes. She covered both racks with a black CAbi-logoed drape, but not before she invited me to pull a couple pieces from the line to change into. As she said, it’s easier to see how the clothes fit and look if you see them on a human body. I immediately was drawn to the Classic Shirt, and after not really liking any of the skirts on me (and knowing the pants would be too long for my petite frame), I grabbed a pair of the Classic Jean. I dashed upstairs for an application of red lipstick to finish the look. When I came down, Lisa had set up two full-length mirrors in my house, and had a basket full of order forms, catalogs, and pens. She even had two pairs of hot pink reading glasses and a CAbi calculator! Lisa also had style boards – big black posters with pictures of the clothing being modeled in different combinations.

At 3pm, my friends started showing up. I must say, it’s hard asking friends to attend a party like this – you know you are expected to drop some cash at the end of the affair. I found CAbi to be even more difficult because of the high pricepoint. I told my friends I didn’t expect them to buy anything, I just wanted their opinions on the clothing, and wanted to experience a CAbi party. Eight friends ended up at my house – for me I found this to be a perfect size.

Lisa showing off the Curl Wrap Tee

Once we were all settled in, finished hugging one another hello and all were armed with a glass of wine, Lisa began her presentation. She gave a brief history of how CAbi came to be, and told us a bit about her experience as a consultant. Unlike many other at-home party consultants, I didn’t feel as though she was trying to force me into being a consultant, but she still made the job and the company sound appealing. Lisa then presented me with a CAbi canvas tote as my hostess gift (I am such a sucker for reusable bags, and this one is big and sturdy!).

My mom modeling the Corporate Jacket

Lisa presented each collection individually, pulling out pieces, hanging pieces over one another to create looks. The rolling rack had a bar off the front over the drape so she could hang the garments while mentioning them. She not only showed the pieces, but explained a lot of the thought process behind them – why there was certain seaming, why a ruffle was placed where it was, how a piece could be worn in multiple ways. It was interesting to know that not each CAbi piece is made to fit the same exact fit model, and that seams and details are not just to look pretty, but to specifically flatter a woman’s figure and help with what Lisa called “situations” (soft belly, soft arms, etc.). Every so often, Lisa would ask me or my mom to come up and model a piece so my friends could see how different it looked on a human body.

While this part of the party was really helpful, informative, and thanks to Lisa quite entertaining; it does take a long time. There is far more to display and discuss than say at a Pampered Chef party. And unlike kitchen gadgets, you really need a good description and visual for clothing. We also kept asking questions about sizing, washing instructions, and garment details, which added to the length of the party. Lisa did a good job of answering our questions and showing all the clothing without making us bored. You could tell how much she believes in CAbi and the clothing.

After the presentation, Lisa took the drapes off the racks and we got to try on the clothes. The main rack had primarily size medium clothing, while her other rack had larger and smaller sizes (CAbi runs XS – XL or 0-16).

Sizing of CAbi Clothing
While I am usually a Large or 12/14 in most retailers, I found that I was comfortable in Medium and 10 in CAbi. One of my friends had a hard time accepting the fact that she looked best in a 0 or size XS in CAbi clothing. Friends who usually wear larger than a 16 found that there were pieces of CAbi clothing that fit and flattered their frames.

When I first experienced CAbi clothing in March, an issue I had was that they didn’t offer petite and long sizes. With the fall collection, I saw that a couple styles of jeans and pants came in regular and long lengths. I mentioned before that I wore the Classic Jean during the party – the Classic Jean comes in regular (32” length) and long (35”). The regular was a perfect length for me if I was wearing heels. Unfortunately, they do not have any of their tops in petite or long lengths – yet again I drooled over their gorgeous jackets but didn’t even consider purchasing one because I would have to spend so much on alterations. Even in a Medium, every single jacket was at least 2” too long in the arm.

I also mentioned in my original post that I was surprised that CAbi didn’t offer plus sizes. After seeing my friends try on CAbi, I am a bit more forgiving. CAbi clothing runs large; a woman who wears an 18 or 20 shouldn’t completely rule out the line. She may be surprised at how well many pieces may fit and flatter.

Styles of CAbi Clothing
When I checked out CAbi clothing this past spring, I was dismayed to see there weren’t that many skirts or dresses in the collection. This fall they had one dress (Faux Wrap Dress) and five skirts (one maxi, one mini, and three that are designed to hit right above or at the knee). I tried the Faux Wrap Dress on in a Medium and while it fit me in the shoulders and length, it was too tight in the body and arms, and I think a Large would have been too big. If I had a smaller bust or was more toned, a Medium would have fit my 5’3” frame quite nicely. The only skirt I tried on was the Vogue Skirt, and found a size Medium fit me perfectly. Not only that, I found it to be incredibly flattering. The pleating is very strategic, making it unique looking, but also kind to curves. While it’s cotton, it looks like a wool blend; I think the cut would look lovely with a top tucked in, but also with a fitted untucked top.

As I saw in March, you really need to try on CAbi clothing to get the full feel of each garment. Pieces I thought were utterly fugly on the hanger were really flattering on my body; in turn pieces I thought I would like didn’t hang properly on me when I tried them on. While a piece would look ridiculous on me, it would look fabulous on a friend with a completely different shape. The Ponte Bootlet pant in Medium made it around the party – four of us with completely different shapes, sizes, and heights tried it on and liked how it fit (if I was an inch taller or shorter I would have bought them).

My mom in the Ponte Trench Coat

And speaking of Ponte… you all know how much I love this fabric. Well CAbi had over a dozen separates in black and charcoal Ponte! Sleeveless shells (both plain and embellished) to pair with a skirt for an elegant dress-like look or with pants for a work ensemble, a trench that could be a lightweight fall jacket or a chic alternative to a blazer, a simple pencil skirt, and pants in multiple cuts and lengths. Lisa informed us that they carry Ponte clothing all the time, so you can mix and match with pieces from previous seasons. They also have a lighter-weight version of Ponte for Spring/Summer.

I was very curious about the denim. With my weight loss, I am at a point where I have very few jeans that fit. I found the Classic Jean to fit extremely well. The denim has a lot of stretch, but a heavy, sturdy feel that looked polished and felt great. The waistband was comfortable – slightly wider than usual, curved so it didn’t dig into my tummy when I sat and I didn’t have to hitch them up every time I stood. No goofy embellishments, washes, or labels.  I would have purchased them except I didn’t like the stonewashed color (they only had a dark rinse wash in one style, which was too skinny for my frame), and my friend told me that they had started to sag in the rear over the course of the party (love honest friends!). However, the jeans are really well made, nice weight and quality of denim, and flattering yet classic cuts. My friend with a longer, leaner frame looked fantastic in the Contemporary Jean and Lisa looked great in the Bootlet Jean. While it’s nice that some styles come in long lengths, it would be great if they also considered petite lengths (the styles that didn’t come in lengths were far too long for me to wear and I wouldn’t be able to wear the regular length with flats or kitten heels).

My friend and I both in the Editor in Chief Jacket

I fell in love with CAbi’s jackets this past spring and I did again this fall. My friend and I agreed that the Studio Jacket and Cameo Cardigan looked very Rachel Zoe, the Editor in Chief Jacket was drool-worthy, and I know I will be snagging the Chinchilly Jacket from my mom (she bought it at the party) at least once this winter. Again, I wish they came in petite sizes.

The knits are brilliant. Their camis have adjustable straps, and all of their tees have strategic rouching and wrapping to flatter the figure. Other than the slub-knit tees, the white knits are opaque – no bra straps or belly buttons showing through! The Slouch Tee looked ho-hum on the hanger, but on it looked incredibly chic and expensive – think one of those amazing tees that an Olsen twin would wear shopping. I really liked the Button Up Tee – a button-down shirt made out of jersey. Again, a piece that looks far better on the body than the hanger.

Summary
I like CAbi. I think the quality is stellar – can rival brands like Talbots or Ann Taylor in that regard. I liked the mix of trendy and classic pieces, and loved how pieces from this season not only mix and match with one another but with other seasons. I love how they show how the pieces work in different combinations, giving inspiration for ensembles.

Have you attended or hosted a CAbi party?  What did you think of it?

Note: While CAbi was aware that I was hosting a party, they did not ask me to host one nor did they ask me to write this post.  All opinions and decisions are 100% my own.

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CAbi Clothing – An Honest Review

My friend Lisa has recently become a CAbi Consultant and offered me the chance to come to her house and check out the Spring 2011 line. For those who haven’t heard of CAbi, it stands for Carol Anderson By Invitation. It is a line of sportswear that is only sold by independent consultants (think Pampered Chef for fashion).

I jumped at this chance; for years I have had readers and fellow bloggers rave about CAbi clothing – the great fit, great quality, the ability to mix and match. Many of you readers have suggested CAbi clothing to me saying it fits with my style and beliefs that clothes should be stylish, but also versatile. I didn’t attend a CAbi party; instead Lisa had me over and gave me full rein to try on anything I wished and get a real feel for the collection.

Carol Anderson at Work

Carol Anderson has been a fashion designer for over 28 years, with her first sale to Nordstrom in 1977. Anderson eventually left the traditional retail industry and decided to cut out the middle-man and sell her fashion directly to her consumers.

CAbi – Carol Anderson by Invitation prides itself on great quality and even more amazing service. By attending an at-home event, you get the experience of a personal shopper – great attention, a salesperson highly educated on the line and how it works for different women, a collection of clothes that work together.

The “Blogger” Collection

CAbi changes up their line each season, but does seem to stick to silhouettes and fabrics that are best-sellers. They create mini-collections within each season – pieces that can work alone, but also coordinate with one another with ease. This spring they had nine collections, all named after professions (Art Teacher, Apprentice, Shop Keep, Photojournalist, Musician, Designer, Domestic CEO and even Blogger). The clothing comes in sizes XS-XL or 0-16 and from what I found, many pieces are stretchy and most seem to run large.

Lisa had a large portion of the collection available to try on, I must have been running from the bathroom to the dining room for two hours straight, doing mini-fashion shows for her and my sister. I was impressed with the quality – the attention to detail, the consistency in sizing and fit.

What I Liked:
CAbi does a great job of interpreting the trends without making pieces seem passé in a season. No one will look like a fashion victim in CAbi clothing, and no woman will look unstylish or outdated. I really feared finding a collection that would be full of stretchy polyester flowing separates and overly-embellished jackets; instead I found a great line of pieces that could work for a woman who usually shops at The Limited and Ann Taylor LOFT, or a woman who usually shops at Chico’s or J. Jill.

The collection isn’t specific to one age of customer – I tried on pieces that I liked, but also knew my mother would like and wear beautifully. I also tried on pieces that flattered my figure, but also flattered my friend Lisa’s slim athletic frame. I really felt as though these pieces were made thinking of a variety of women’s bodies, not a fit model.

The pieces really were versatile – knits that could be paired with jeans or dressy trousers, tunics that also looked great tucked in, and unexpected combinations like gathered knit tops under cardigans that didn’t leave a lumpy mess. Everything was color-coordinated – not just within mini collections, but within the entire line. You could easily take a top from the Designer line and have it coordinate with pants from the Blogger line. There were also pieces that could really dress up nicely – a knit jacket and skirt from the Apprentice line could easily be corporate chic with a simple shell, be a more sophisticated look with a silky cami, the pieces as separates would look great for stylish yet comfortable weekend wear. The Hook Back tunic from the Shop Keep collection would be adorable with skinny jeans for a concert, could be worn as a dress on a shorter woman, and Lisa told me she knew a woman who purchased it to be a beach coverup. It also would have a completely different silhouette with a belt or topped with a shrunken jacket.

The Phoebe Coat

The line is crisp, the prints aren’t overly-fussy, the details make sense. I was in love with many of their jackets – the Gabrielle Cardigan is Chanel-esque with its quilted knit, ruffle trim, and black stone accents; the Daisy Jacket looked far more expensive than its pricetag and could look professional with a pencil skirt, but also be a great downtown look with jeans and a tank. I almost purchased the Phoebe Coat, which is a collarless tweed jacket with a frayed edge also had a Chanel vibe and would look great with the CAbi Transition Trouser, as well as denim or over a simple sheath dress.

Unexpectedly Awesome Tops – Drape Striped Tee, Gypsy Top, Shakespeare Tunic

The fabric and color choices are brilliant. The Draped Stripe Tee from far away looks like a simple Breton-striped top. However upon closer inspection, you find this is an unusual stretchy and almost spongy textured fabric with an unsual neckline. It has the most unusual cut – it looks to have a drape neck but the fabric is actually on their weird bias which creates this wrap look in the front, really whittling the waist and tricking the eye into seeing the wearer’s torso as longer and leaner than it actually is. This top could be a simple sailor tee to wear with jeans, but can also be dressed up, rouched to the waist, pulled down like a tunic, and easily tucked into a skirt or pants without showing bulk. The Gypsy Top from the Domestic CEO line is something I would normally not even take off the rack at a store – girly floral, blousy tunic of a shiny fabric. However once on I saw it was incredibly flattering – though it was blousy it wasn’t overly so, it skimmed where it needed to so not to look maternity, the sleeves flowed without being tent-like, the neckline the perfect level of scoop to be feminine and flattering yet modest. It made me almost a floral blousy-top convert.  The Shakespeare Tunic was another piece that amazed me – it was something I would never ever EVER wear – a bold floral print, colors of brown and orange, sheer layered cardigan-like top.  However Lisa pressed me to try it on and even my sister was amazed at how incredibly flattering it was.  The sleeves made my arms look long and slim, the slightly curved back gave my body an amazing shape and really made my rear look fab.  I could really see myself wearing it with a pair of dark jeans, some big hoops and heeled boots to a concert or date night with my husband.

Real Women in CAbi 
(BTW that dress is actually the Sigourney Skirt)

I was impressed with the catalog I received – at the back it dedicates six whole pages of real-life CAbi consultants wearing the clothes.  It showed how the clothes really can fit and flatter a variety of sizes, ages, and personal styles of women.  In fact all of CAbi’s marketing, branding, website and materials are brilliant – polished, sophisticated, easy to read and navigate, prices and sizing always clear and available.

Many complain that CAbi clothing is expensive. Well it’s not cheap, but I think the prices are equal to higher-end department store brands and retailers like Talbots and Ann Taylor. I feel the quality is equal to these brands as well. This isn’t disposable fashion – Cabi clothes could easily be flattering and stylish a year from now, and many pieces would still be on trend a decade from now.

What I Didn’t Like:
No petite, no tall, no plus sizes. In this day and age I can’t believe that any brand of clothing wouldn’t at least carry their best selling pants in lengths, and at least a couple pieces in larger sizes. The average American woman is a size 14 – this means there are plenty of women in this country who are over a size 16. To really tap into at-home sales, you would think a line would try to cater to women who hate shopping at malls. I can often wear regular length trousers at many retailers, but found every single pair of pants from CAbi to be at LEAST six inches too long for me.

No real basics. I did like their camis, which had brilliant adjustable straps and the perfect amount of Lycra to keep shape, hold you in, be comfortable and not roll up. However I was looking for the straight skirt, simple tees, maybe a collection of heavyweight knit/ponte pieces you could mix and match (skirt, one or two jackets, sheath dress, capris, pants). The closest was the previously mentioned Delicious Blazer and Skirt, which was begging to be joined by some other pieces in that fabulous refined knit.

No dresses (at least this season), and hardly any skirts. Again, untapped opportunity. As a curvy woman, I find skirts to often be more flattering and forgiving than trousers, and a garment that can work for a larger variety of female shapes. On top of that, many women in this country choose to wear skirts instead of pants for modesty and religious reasons. I would think a couple bias-cut shifts and/or simple sheaths in heavyweight fabric with stretch (twill, ponte) would work really well with the current CAbi look and style.

***

My friend Lisa was fresh from the CAbi conference where she was loaded up with product information, tips on how to fit women, and excitement and passion for the brand. With the terrible customer service found in many shops these days, a CAbi party is a breath of fresh air – a consultant who really cares about your needs, knows her product, taking time to help you find the right clothes. She may want you to spend money, but she wants you to be a happy, loyal and repeat customer and knows a hard sell may make a fast buck, but will not make you return the next season. As someone who loves fashion, I would think a CAbi party would be a heck of a lot more fun to attend than other at-home products.  Imagine sipping wine and chatting with your friends while trying on clothes in the comfort of your own home, with a personal shopper at your beck and call?  Brilliant!

CAbi is geared towards the woman who wears many hats – she may be a full-time office worker, but also a 24/7 mom, a community volunteer, an artist, a social butterfly. The clothing is made to be versatile, wearable, flattering. It’s not cheap in price, but it’s also not cheap in quality or style. It’s simple pieces to make a woman’s life more stylish, but not more complicated. If you’re at least 5’5” and under a size 16, it’s worth checking out.  Hopefully in the future, CAbi will extend their line to accommodate those of us who do not fit that specific mold.

Note: All opinions are completely my own.  I was not asked by anyone to do this review, and did not receive any compensation for it.

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Giveaway: Gap Skimmer Jeans – Save and Win!

Last week I featured the new Gap Skimmer Jean and how incredibly versatile and adorable it is. Many of you were interested in trying the Skimmer for yourself, well now’s your chance! From February 21 – 27, 2013, try the New Skimmer and get $20 off! When you try the New Skimmer at any Gap store, you’ll get an automatic $20 off any regular-priced pair.  What a fab promotion, I’m thinking I may have to grab a pair of their camo-print skimmers for spring!

Want even more encouragement to try these awesome new jeans? One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $50 AmEx gift card that you could use to buy your Gap Skimmers!

How to Enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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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!

What I Wore and a Giveaway – Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design

Shirt: c/o Foxcroft | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Halogen (similar) | Necklace: c/o Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Bag: Brahmin (similar)

Accessories can transform the most basic wardrobe staples and make pieces a cohesive outfit. I just received this necklace from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design and while it is BEGGING to be styled with an LBD for the holidays or worn with a beautiful silk blouse, I thought it could really make a statement with a simple white shirt and dark jeans. I haven’t carried my Brahmin bag in a while, and I thought the bright blue really made the emerald necklace pop!

Giveaway:

If you like this necklace and the other beautiful pieces I have featured from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design, well today’s your lucky day! One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $100 store credit to Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design!

Ruth Barzel makes all her unique pieces in the United States and is a local-yokel to me.  Not only that, she’s an awesome human being!  While I love the Emerald Quartz Nugget Statement Necklace I’m wearing here, I also love wearing her Blue Quartz Pendant Necklace and wear her Mixed Metal Chain Bracelet on a weekly basis. Ruth has offered all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off her entire store, just use code OXYGEN20.  This discount will be in effect until the end of November, 2013.

How to Enter:
Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. This contest is open to both US and international readers. Contest ends November 30, 2013 at midnight ET.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
As a reminder, if you can’t wait for the giveaway to end and want to get yourself some jewelry from Ruth Barzel, use the code OXYGEN20 at checkout for 20% off your order!

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Wednesday – Black and White and Red All Over

Sweater – Banana Republic (similar)
Shirt – c/o CAbi
Pants – Ann Taylor (similar)
ShoesMichael Kors “Flex”
Silver cuff (similar)
LipstickNARS “Heatwave”

Last week it felt like summer, this week it has returned to typical DC March weather – windy and chilly.  Glad I kept my sweaters in the closet!

Today I will be walking from my office to Georgetown to meet my sister for her follow-up MRI (proving she is tumor free!) so I wanted to wear comfortable shoes – these pumps are perfect for this – work-appropriate yet can handle a 20 minute walk in the city.

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Monday

Same dress as yesterday, same hair, same makeup! the only change is that I am wearing my silver cuff bracelet and a silver and seagreen glass bead necklace from Target. I also tossed my black Naturalizer flats in my bag because I am joining my company’s Walking Club for 20 minute walks at lunch.

Hair is acting a bit different because I used the Dove conditioner for Darkened hair. Makes the hair very soft to the point of unmanageable. It was a free sample, heading to get my hair cut tonight and will probably buy some new shampoo and conditioner if my bank account will allow it…

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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Go Ahead Put Your Red Dress On

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

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

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

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

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

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Unlock the Perfect Cup this Holiday with TASSIMO™: Review and Giveaway

Looking at how often I write and tweet about coffee, you’d think I was a coffee connoisseur. Notsomuch. When I hit my local coffee shop I ask for it plain and big because all the –inos overwhelm me. At home, Karl is the master of the coffee domain. I have no idea how to use the French press so I rely on him to fuel my caffeine fix. Lately I have been working more early mornings and I have to stop by the local coffee shop or fast food drive-through to get my cup of Joe because I just can’t figure out how to make a decent cup of coffee. You know what would be a perfect holiday gift for me? A super simple single-serve coffee maker that would make a great cup of coffee every time.

Enter TASSIMO™, who was awesome enough to send me the TASSIMO™ T55 Single Cup Brewing System JUST at the perfect time. I was working a lot of long days and hated spending so much on take-out coffee or watching Karl make me a cup still bleary-eyed in dawn’s early light. No needing to wait until the holidays to become a coffee-making expert!

Place the T DISC upside down so that the INTELLIBREW™ technology can read the barcode. Snap the lid shut, press Start and in minutes you’ll be enjoying a perfect cup!

The TASSIMO™ Brewer is super easy to use too. Add water to the reservoir in back, insert your TASSIMO™ T DISC in the top, and press start. The built-in technology INTELLIBREW™ scans the barcode on each T DISC to identify precise brewing instructions with the exact temperature, water, and time duration, so each and every drink is perfect every time. This Home Brewing System isn’t just for a cup of joe–the TASSIMO™ can also make cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolate, tea, and more. One of my favorite features is how quickly it heats water; for little energy you can have a piping-hot cup of water for soup or tea in seconds.

TASSIMO™ sent me a few T DISCS to get started, and it’s fun to make hot chocolate, cappuccinos, caramel latte macchiatos, or espressos by myself and know it will be delicious. With well-known brands like Twinings, Gevalia, and Maxwell House partnering with TASSIMO™ for their T DISCS you know the quality and the flavor is great. I love that there are great limited edition flavors like Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Peppermint Mocha for the holidays!

Now I’m a pro at making fancy coffee house drinks from my kitchen counter!

If you’d like to unlock a perfect cup with TASSIMO™ this holiday season, they are offering some great deals on their site. With Cyber Monday code TACYMON3 you can get 20% off T DISCS; you also get 20% off Brewers and with each Brewer purchase, you will receive two free packages of T DISCS (valid in the US only on TassimoDirect.com. Cannot be combined with other offers . Limit one coupon redemption per customer. 20% T DISC discount limited to 6 T DISC packages. 20% Brewer discount limited to two Brewers. Offer only valid on 12/2/2013 until 11:59PM PST).

If you miss the Cyber Monday Deal, brewers and T DISCS are also available at Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon.

Giveaway
Thank you for entering, the giveaway is now closed and winners have been notified.

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InStyle Essentials TrioFit Discount Code and Giveaway

Remember when I told you about the amazing white shirts from InStyle Essentials that are sized according to your bust? I’ve worn my classic white shirt dressed up with a taffeta skirt to a gala, and to work with a printed midi skirt. I love how it doesn’t gape at the bust, isn’t hanging off my shoulders, and follows the curves of my body. The TrioFit technology really gives you a great fit and flatters your curves.  Finally, reasonably-priced white shirts for us with larger busts!  While I have the Classic Button-front there are three other styles to choose from (yep there’s a new tuxedo shirt style that will be shipping next month!) all in crisp classic white cotton with much-needed stretch.

If you’d like to get yourself one of these brilliant shirts, the lovely folks at InStyle Essentials are offering Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off your orderUse code 20WO at checkout to save 20%.

And for those who are feeling lucky… well look what other great thing InStyle Essentials is offering…

Giveaway
One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win their TrioFit Prize Package valued at over $400!

InStyle Essentials TrioFit Prize Package includes:

Pretty awesome, no? You get to choose your three styles of shirts and receive all the fixings to be stylish while wearing them!  You must enter via the Rafflecopter form below.  Participants must visit ShopInStyleEssentials.com and let me know in the comments which is you favorite style of shirt, and how you’d style it. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents age 18 or older. Winner will be selected via random draw and will be notified by email. Winner has 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise an alternate winner will be chosen.  Giveaway is open from November 19, 2013 until December 6, 2013 at midnight ET.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

20% off promo code is valid from November 18, 2013, 12:01am ET through December 31, 2013, 11:59pm ET. Discount cannot be applied to The TrioPack, previous purchases, the purchase of gift cards and cannot be redeemed for cash or used in combination with any other offer. To redeem enter your valid promo code in the promo code box at checkout. Limit one promo code per order. Terms of offer are subject to change without notice.

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Monday: Milkmaid

Dress: c/o eShakti | Cardigan: Ann Taylor (similar) | Shoes: Ivanka Trump | Bracelets:Emerson” c/o Kristin Biggs, Stella and Dot (other two are from sets I purchased this past year from Nordstrom)

Two years ago, I tried out eShakti and didn’t have the most perfect of experiences. So when they contacted me last month asking me to try the line again but do a custom fit dress, I was excited. Many of you said the fit of the dress was bad because it was a straight size, so the idea of a custom dress appealed to me. At home, I had my husband measure me and entered it all into the eShakti site. Less than two weeks later, the dress arrived. And yes, the fit is MUCH better. No bra showing under the arms, the waist is at the right place for my petite figure, plenty of room for my bust and no chance of a strap slipping throughout the day. However, I just don’t think the dress is very flattering on me; my husband said I looked like a milkmaid or a beer wench.  The fabric is very stiff and the entire dress including the bodice sticks out from my body making the dress look more like a costume. I think such a fabric may work better on a taller person who can better balance the volume.  The dress doesn’t seem to be on the site any more, it has a square neckline in front, a v-neckline in back, a size zipper (though I didn’t need it to get it on), and pockets.  The black are ribbon stripes sewn onto the navy dress; there is one of these ribbons defining the waist which is sits just above my belly button.

While today is springlike in DC, there’s still a chill in the air. I tried a traditional cardigan and it looked a bit too twee on me; this wrap cardigan not only make the ensemble fit better with my personal style, but also cinched in the dress. I have to say, this dress will be pretty awesome in the hot humid months of summer but I’ll have to do some tinkering with it so it is a bit more flattering. The fit issue could be my fault – maybe the measurements weren’t accurate, and maybe I chose the wrong style dress. Have you used eShakti? What have you thought of the experience?

UPDATE: eShakti is sweet enough to offer all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off their next order!  Just use code WRDRBEXYGE at checkout for 20% off.  This code is valid until March 20, 2013.

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#GivingTuesday and The Health Wagon

giving tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Guest Blogger at In My Professional Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

Guest Blogger at In My Professional Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

The Return of Foxcroft Style Stars (and a Giveaway!)

Last year I had the opportunity to head to NYC and style a photoshoot for Foxcroft Collection. I’ve been a fan of their no-iron shirts for a while (and love that they come in Plus and Petite), and it was fun to support them with this project. And it wasn’t any old project either. To celebrate their 25th anniversary, Foxcroft invited teachers from NYC’s P.S. 159 Bayside to model their silver anniversary collection and be Foxcroft Style Stars.

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For the second year, Foxcroft is celebrating the hard work and dedication of New York’s public school teachers with Foxcroft Style Stars 2014. Twenty women from P.S. 31 in Brooklyn, a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, received the star treatment.  L’Appartement Prive Salon hosted the teachers for the day of pampering: hair consultations and styling by celebrity hairstylist Laurent Dufourg, and a custom wardrobe from Foxcroft.

foxcroft style stars

Janet Zukowski, who has taught at P.S. 31 for over 30 years, said the day was “magical.” Zukowski continued, “We felt appreciated and were treated royally. I think it was a once in a lifetime kind of event.”  Laurent Dufourg, who has worked with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Sophia Loren, and Tina Fey enjoyed styling the teachers, stating, “Working with these ladies is extremely rewarding because they leave the salon feeling like a million dollars. I love it. It is very satisfying.”

Foxcroft Collection will reveal the 2014 Style Stars as the center of their back-to-school digital campaign, launching this month. The campaign will showcase the ladies dressed in the brand’s latest looks for fall, which will be highlighted on the Foxcroft Collection homepage. You can shop their looks at this link and get 20% off the pieces (valid until 8/20/14)!

Giveaway

You can have a bit of the Foxcroft Style Star experience for yourself! Please visit Foxcroft Collection and in the comments below let me know your favorite blouse. One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win the blouse in the style and size of her choice!

Giveaway ends August 31, 2014. Giveaway is open to residents of the USA only, and winner will be chosen at random. You must have a valid email address in your Disqus profile/signed in with a valid email address or else include it in your comment to be eligible. No need to provide size, if you are the winner we will contact you for details.  If winner doesn’t reply to winning email within 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen.  Good luck!

Ask Allie: How to Style a Kilt

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

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

how to style a kilt women

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

how to style a kilt scottish woman

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

how to style a scottish kilt women

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

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.