Search Results for: label/Commuter Bags

Ask Allie: Durable Commuter Bags

I have been finding it a challenge to find a work tote/satchel that can handle all of my work items (iPad, shoes, book, and occasionally lunch) without having the handles break. I am preparing to take my latest two off to the great purse surgeon for some love and repair and am wondering if you can recommend a great tote/satchel for work that can carry all of the above and handle the weight of it all? I’d like to stick to a price tag of no greater than $200.

Some things I think are worth the price – well-crafted tall leather boots, a winter coat, and a work tote. It’s very hard to find a decent tote that can handle wear and tear without looking like crap. Honestly, few bags can carry all that on a regular basis and survive nicely unless you purchase a heavy-duty tote. While I recommend a black tote for business, for your commute a bag like the L.L. Bean Boat and Tote or Lands’ End Canvas Tote is a brilliant choice since it will hold up with a lot of weight, wear, and tear and won’t be worn outside of the commute. The version with elongated straps will fit over your shoulder even if you have on a heavy winter coat, and they have options with open or zip tops and storage compartments. Choosing a darker color will be better for public transportation and city life as these totes can’t be thrown in the washer and do best when spot cleaned.

I often carry multiple bags instead of stuffing my work totes to preserve their condition and shape, but it’s still great to have a bag that doesn’t look sloppy and can carry both your Kindle and your bottle of water without bursting at the seams. My two favorite work totes were both purchased on sale and would have been over $200 otherwise.

However, price doesn’t equal a good work tote – you want to look for heavy straps that are sewn into the body of the bag (even better if they wrap around the body of the bag), metal feet to protect the bottom of the bag, and a bit of structure so it keeps it shape over years and random contents. The two bags I have are leather with leather straps, fully lined, and one has a center dividing compartment which keeps the shape and structure of the bag, even when seated on a table or the floor. While a crossbody can seem convenient, I find that if you plan on stuffing a bag, a crossbody can be hard to carry, dig into your shoulder, and put far too much wear on the straps.

The bags I suggest below have not been seen in person and I cannot vouch for their quality and appropriateness; their style and fabrication lead me to believe they would be good choices and are all around $200:

Love the canvas boat bags but yearn for something more polished? Lands’ End has you covered with this brown leather tote with brass feet and organizing interior pockets. Reviews are positive and show owners use it for everything from hauling books back to the library to packing for a trip. Supple leather, classic design, smart styling and less than $200!

No frills, but who needs them when you’re trying to cart your work essentials via mass transit? Plenty of pockets, full grain leather, and a variety of subtle shades make this a great commuting tote. The reviews are positive and seems many use this to lug around heavy 17” laptops with no issue. A classic style and less than $90 makes this bag a great option.

The best thing about this tote are the straps that continue through the body of the bag – this will keep your straps in one piece far longer. Generously sized, and fun yet work-friendly fabrics and colors. Currently on sale for less than $140 and free shipping.

I have a Brahmin and can attest to the fact that they are sturdy, well-made bags. My tote has a thin crossbody strap but easily supports a bag full of heavy things like leftovers and bottled water. Though the straps aren’t sewn deep into the body of the bag, they are wider at the bottom and secured all the way around for a strong foundation. Metal feet, interior organizing pockets, and a variety of conservative and fun colors make this a great work bag. While it is a bit over $200, it’s a classic style that should give you years of wear and is polished enough to use for corporate meetings and conferences and work travel. In fact, if you’re interested in splurging, the larger ‘Melbourne Large Anytime’ tote has a padded compartment inside just for your iPad.

I feel inauthentic recommending a brand I wore strapped above my fanny in the ‘80s, but LeSportsac is known for high-quality, sturdy, and lightweight bags that last forever. The Travel Tote is famous for being the perfect tote you didn’t know you needed. Lightweight, durable, expandable, and not covered with overly visible logos or prints, this is a LeSportsac that can fit with most any personal style and will comfortably carry everything from your gym clothes to your netbook with ease. Less than $100, and many say they are still happily using the same LeSportsace Travel Tote that they purchased over a decade prior.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Winter Weather and Commuting: Style Tips

Wind, rain, snow, and sleet can wreak havoc on a morning commute… and your commuting style. When it comes to dressing for inclement weather I learn so much from my fellow DC office workers and commuters. Some is what not to wear, but more often than not it’s tips and tricks on how to stay protected, comfortable and stylish when the weather outside is frightful. This week is cold, rainy, a bit windy and down-right gross in DC; here’s some things I’ve learned on my walks to work:

Go Monochrome. Walking up the escalator from the Metro, I was behind a woman in all shades of blue and green. Teal tweed wool coat that almost hit her knees, dark jeans tucked into seafoam wellies, indigo leather tote, and a navy umbrella. The monochromatic look made each separate look so cohesive, so purposeful, and like a true ensemble. I am not a fan of wellies  (how often does one deal with water over the ankle when walking to the office anyway? And I am not asking those of you in Seattle and similar climates or those in rural areas…)but with her look… it worked. I could imagine flats or booties in that indigo tote ready to be slipped on once she reached her desk.

The other day, I saw a woman in a black belted wool coat, a raspberry chunky infinity scarf, plum knit beanie, and deep purple wellies. None of the colors were the same, but the consistent color story made the ensemble cohesive and downright stylish. If each piece was a different color the chunky knits and shiny boots would have looked childish; the consistent color gave it polish and professionalism.

Have Neutral Commuting Shoes. I was walking behind three women chatting with one another. They were varying sizes, ages, and personal styles but all had one thing in common – black tights or pants and black flats. I could tell that these were their commuter shoes – they didn’t quite match their outfits, they looked well worn, and pretty comfortable. However, by them being the same color as their legs the shoes weren’t on display and didn’t take away from their outfits. I turned the corner and saw two women waiting for the light to change – one had gray tights and red flats, the other had black pants and yellow patent flats. While their shoes were in better condition than the women in black, their shoes looked just as out of place as a pair of white sneakers. While it’s tempting to add “fun” to a pair of shoes you only wear on your commute, it can really detract from your personal style.

Own a Tiny Umbrella. While many companies claim that they sell travel umbrellas, what it essentially means is a non-Mary Poppins style that has a collapsible shaft. However, some brands sell really small umbrellas that are reliable, but take almost no space in your purse or laptop bag. While you want a durable umbrella that can survive strong gusts, having this little bitty umbrella tucked at the bottom of the bag is a lifesaver for unexpected showers or if you accidentally leave your big umbrella on the train.

Have a Spare Pair of Gloves. Same reason as the umbrella. Especially handy when the bus is late, you have to carry large things home, or you need to hold the rail on the train and you don’t want to catch the flu. While I have gloves in my two work coats, I have lost a glove on the commute, have changed coats last minute, and have many times wished I had a pair tucked in the bottom of my purse or laptop bag.  Since I got another pair for Christmas, I have remedied this situation.

Wear a Hat. While you may be more likely to get Hat Head, a hood flies off in the wind, and the weather will already destroy your hairstyle. Having a hat, be it a cloche, beanie, fedora or otherwise will keep your ears warm, your hair in place, and your body far warmer than a bare head. If you loosely tuck your hair in your hat, you’ll be less likely to get dents in your ‘do.

Wedges Rock. While they give a bit of lift, they are far kinder on the foot when standing, walking, and even dashing across the street to make a light. I see many women who seem to have wedge commuter shoes – they don’t have to worry about cuffing their trousers but have more comfort than heels. Wedges have come back en vogue, be they on pump-like professional shoes or a pair of trainers or TOMS.

Own a Water-resistant Winter Coat. When there’s frigid temperatures, there’s often precipitation, and it’s not always fluffy white flakes. A wet wool coat can be a drag; if you purchase a quilted, waxed, or water-resistant fabric coat, you will be far more comfortable on those days that are both cold and wet. Choosing a style with a unique detail (read this post for great examples) will prevent you from looking as though you just came from the slopes.

Have Matching Bags. I regularly see this woman on the train who has a gray leather purse and gray leather tote. The combination is so lovely and she doesn’t look as hunkered down with multiple bags. Today walking to work, I saw a woman with a red leather purse and a red and navy print microfiber tote for her yoga mat and likely workout clothes. If you need to carry more than one bag, having the two bags match or coordinate really does add polish and cohesion to your ensemble. I wrote about work totes here, but this is something I hadn’t before considered and will be thinking about the next time I am purchasing a tote or everyday purse.

You Never Know Who You Will Bump Into. So you’re wearing a power suit and have a pair of sensible pumps tucked into your bag, yet on your commute you’re wearing a knit cap with earflaps and cat ears, have a hot pink sparkly faux fur snood, and sequined boot liners under your polka-dot wellies. And then you bump into your CEO at Starbucks. Sort of defeats the purpose of your power suit. If your job is a career, work doesn’t end when you walk out of that office door, and if you work in a city you are very likely to bump into a colleague on the train or street corner. Consider this when shopping for accessories and outerwear and have them match the professional style you show in the workplace.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Showing the Love: Adora Bags

Late last year, Adora Bags contacted me and asked if I’d like to try out one of their totes. Why not, I’m a bag junkie, I love having different totes and purses for every occasion and have been jonesing for one of those raw-edge totes everyone has been carrying. Once I received my Adora Tote I’ve used it weekly and know it will continue to be a favorite tote for years to come.

ADORA Bags Review

Adora Bags’ totes are not like all those other raw-edged totes everyone has been carrying. The 100% Italian full grain leather is supple, rich, and high quality. The bag is soft enough to feel comfortable slung over the shoulder or be easily packed into luggage but the leather and construction is durable enough that it has become the bag I use to cart supplies to Girl Scout meetings and work. The tote comes with a matching pouch that you can attach with a removable cord to be the place to hold small items and your phone, or you can unclip it and use it as a clutch. It’s big enough to be your carry-on bag for a flight but small enough to replace your handbag when you have a little more to carry.  Not shown in the photo, the tote has a hook and clasp inside that can cinch the top closed keeping your contents safe.

the adora bags way

All this, and Adora is a company with ethics. Adora Bags proudly show the faces of the skilled craftsmen who create their line in Vinci, Florence by the same artisans that worked for the highest quality brands in the world like Prada, Gucci, and Armani. Adora bags will never outsource production overseas because they want to be in control of the quality of their products, as well as the prosperity of the craftspeople of Tuscany. Pietrantonio Di Ienno (known as Piero) is the sixth generation of leather craftsmen his family and the creator of these bags. After more then forty years spent working the leather in Vinci, Piero and his assistant Renato still get light in their eyes when talking about their work. Adora Bags’ founders Matteo Gamberale and Matteo Gemignani both grew up in Tuscany but met in New York City in 2013. They were inspired to create a luxury bag line that celebrates the Italian passion for style combined with the quality of Tuscan craftsmanship. Bags of this quality would usually cost far more, but because they bypass retailers and middlemen they are able to bypass the associated marked up prices.

I adore my Adora Bag, and I think you would love these bags too! Matteo and Matteo have been sweet enough to offer Wardrobe Oxygen readers 10% off their purchase; use code WARDROBE at checkout for 10% off your entire purchase!

Giveaway is closed and the winner has been notified and received her gift.

The Commuter Curse

One of the greatest things about my new job is taking public transportation. I know you must think I am crazy to say that, but I love the People Watching (a sport that deserve to be capitalized), and I love the interaction. For years I have lived in my car, alone on my rush hour commute and then alone in my office or cubicle for the majority of the day. Often I would spend a day never speaking to a soul outside of a hello when passing a coworker in the hallway. Now I get to read, listen to music, and be surrounded by my fellow humans. It’s pretty great… until I am assaulted by the hideous fashion of the Woman Commuter.

I too am a female commuter, and I understand why so many fellow women end up getting the Commuter Curse. It is so easy, so comfortable, and you think no one will notice.

Well ladies, though we may pretend that the sweaty mouth-breather may not be pressed up against us on the subway, we are not invisible. Think about your next commuter – try as you may to hide behind your New York Times Bestseller and iPod, you are aware of those around you. If you are aware of them, they are aware of you.

The Commuter Curse is when women (I hardly ever see a man succumb to this curse) begin to let certain elements of style slide. They feel that no one will notice, or justify it based upon cost or comfort. As someone who walks about a mile each day from her car in the commuter lot, through the Washington DC subway system to her place of employment, I too look for that which makes that trek the most comfortable and easy. The thing is, you are able to be a comfortable and organized commuter and not get The Commuter Curse.

Some steps to be cured of The Commuter Curse:

1. Don’t ever think swag is appropriate fashion. This means fleeces embroidered with your company logo, or microfiber messenger bags with silkscreened designs. It seems the higher up the corporate ladder (or the longer you work for a government agency) the more conferences and workshops you attend. With every workshop there seems to be at least one item with a logo on it: a travel mug, a tote bag, a polo shirt. These are great things to wear and use for your company retreat, to wear for your next conference or even to carry your groceries in, but they are not appropriate fashion.

2. If you must have commuter shoes, treat them with respect. I am starting to have knee problems, and realize it is due to me walking down so many stairs in subway stations while wearing heels. My commute home has me walk down five separate escalators, most that are out of service. I am looking into a pair of flat shoes I can tuck in my bag and put on just for my trip home.

This doesn’t mean I will be strutting around the Nation’s Capital in white Reebok Classics with black hose. Modern technology has given us many styles of footwear that are just as comfortable and supportive as a pair of tennies but look far more stylish. Every day I see women in gorgeous coats over stylish suits and outfits and then clunky sneakers ruining the whole look.

Nor will I be wearing a pair of old, scuffed and run-down flats that have been in my closet for a decade. These types of shoes are even more prevalent than the foot marshmallows. Yes, they have been molded to fit your foot perfectly after all these years, but they look disgusting and totally ruin your entire look. This also includes newer yet cheap flats that have lost their shape, been permanently stained or torn. They may be cute little yellow suede ballet flats, but they have a grease stain down the side, the sole is peeling from the shoe and you have walked on the back so much they have morphed from flats to slides.

I never understand it; many of us walk blocks and blocks passing hundreds of people in such monstrosities, and then get to the office, put on our nice shoes and then hide behind a desk all day, the only person seeing the fancy footwear is the receptionist or the one coworker in the kitchen when you went to grab your morning cup of coffee.

3. Don’t wear your bed linens to work. Yes, it can get quite cold, and it is silly to wear a cute jacket and chance frostbite or illness. However, this does not mean you need to walk around town in a down comforter with sleeves. Don’t get me wrong, I have a black quilted knee-length coat that I wear on blustery days; I am talking about the really puffy coats, the ones that fall to your ankles with a huge hood, fur trim and no shape. I am talking about the thick fleece and wool coats that look like bathrobes.

Again, modern invention have brought us wonderful materials such as Thinsulate, Gore-Tex, and Windstopper that are thin yet keep you warm and dry.

Keep in mind that your coat will be worn more than almost any other item in your wardrobe. It is worth the time and money to find the right style that will flatter and properly fit your figure, compliment your clothing collection and still keep you toasty.

4. Have your pants hemmed to match your shoes. I understand that a commuter shoe is flat and an office shoe may have a heel, however it is never acceptable to peg or cuff your work trousers to keep them from dragging on the street or spend the day in highwaters. If you feel a flat commuter shoe is a necessity, you may have to suck it up like I have and adjust your office heel height. Every day I see beautiful, well-dressed women in pants that are dragging, cuffed awkwardly or above the ankle bones. No point in spending good money on trousers if they make you look like Pee-Wee Herman.

4. Know you are never invisible. Often we women feel we are invisible when we have a less-than-perfect body, average wardrobe or what we deem as ordinary features. We think no one will notice if we go a day without brushing our hair or have our pants too short. We’re not important, right?

Wrong. You are never invisible, and you are important. Think about yourself when heading to work; don’t you notice those around you? Do you ever start daydreaming, and wonder about that person on the seat across from you? What is she reading, what does she do for a profession to warrant her attire? If you do it about another, be sure it is being done in regards to you.

When you feel you aren’t important enough to be noticed, it is as though you have a neon sign blinking above your head saying “LOW SELF ESTEEM!” I am not saying one should dedicate her whole life to looking good to impress others, but give your body the same respect you hopefully give your home or your office. You should be clean, tidy, and look as though you like yourself. You have this body whether you like it or not, make the best of it. As you would jazz up an apartment with new drapes and artwork to make it look less like a sterile white box, so should you decorate yourself. You are noticed, every day whether you realize it or not. Give the right first impression, the one that properly represents the true you!

What I Wore: Monet

gwynnie bee spruce sage dress review hobo bag red leather clutch

outfit blog size 14 mom over 30 wardrobe oxygen

Dress: Spruce & Sage c/o Gwynnie Bee | Shoes: Nine West “Flax” | Bracelet: Nordstrom | Bag: Hobo Bags (similar) | Cast Cover: c/o CastCoverZ! | Lipstick: NARS Red Square

Emerson said this dress looked like rose petals underwater. I said it reminded me of a Monet, she quickly agreed which freaked me out because we haven’t really taught her that much about artists. A Monet fan in a past life? Besides the dress being a pretty print, it’s pretty comfortable too. It’s fully lined, but the lining is a bit stretchy and not as hot as a traditional acetate one. While this would look cute with a skinny belt or shoes in one of the great colors of the print, I decided to keep it simple with nude pumps and a fun little bracelet.  And this bag was a Hobo Sample Sale purchase that has given me years of happiness; it has a chain strap making it uber versatile and an unexpected classic.

This dress is a perfect example of why I love Gwynnie Bee; it’s a pretty dress that I kept for more than one wear, but it’s the type of dress I would purchase and then grow tired of before the season is through.  With Gwynnie Bee I can keep and wear as long as I wish and the return for a new dress to love!

Ask Allie: Commuter Shoes for Summer

I have to wear comfortable shoes during my daily commute, as I walk 20+ minutes each way. Okay looking shoes/boots are easy enough to find for the cold winter months but I’m at a loss for summer. Flip flops aren’t an option as I have high arches and can’t stand feeling of something between toes. Gym shoes are too dorky. Any ideas?

I am so glad to find a fellow woman who won’t wear flip flops on her commute. Not only do they not provide arch support and can be deadly on slick sidewalks (and feel weird between the toes), but they are just plain tacky looking with your corporate attire. Keep the flip flops to the backyard barbecues and beaches!

I also am anti-the beaten-down ballet flats; this morning when walking to get coffee, I overheard two women discussing their commuting shoes. A woman said she loved ballet flats from Gap, but admitted she was on her fifth pair in two years because they got, “Super gross, super fast.” I’m glad that she would replace them once they got “gross,” but think it would make more sense to invest in a higher-quality shoe that could survive more than a couple months. There are great quality summer shoes out there with comfort and arch support, here’s a few that have been on my radar:

I like that this pair of Ecco shoes isn’t your typical ballet flat which is free of structure and support. This shoe has a proper sole and a tiny bit of a heel to put your foot in a more comfortable position. Leopard is an unexpected neutral that will go with almost everything in your closet. This shoe also comes in solid colors.

I have a pair of Cole Haan shoes with Nike Air Technology and can attest to the fact that they are really comfortable, wearable for long spans of time, and great for walking. These adorable bow flats from Cole Haan have miles of style and great reviews for comfort when walking. While black is a safe bet, I am partial to the red for a fun pop of color on your commute.

A driving moc or loafer is always a classic choice, and looks fresh with everything from menswear-inspired trousers to flippy sundresses. I love the orange color, which screams summer and would also look smart come the weekend with twill shorts or cropped pants.

When I was pregnant, I had a flat from Naturalizer very similar to these. They were utterly amazing – so supportive, comfortable, and fit right out of the box. These may not be the most chic of flats, but your feet will be happy by time you finish your walk and the color is subtle enough to not destroy the look of your ensemble.

I own these sandals and adore them. They are so comfortable, they have become my sightseeing shoe and even wear them when attending concerts when I know I will be standing the whole time. While they have an ankle strap, once you wear them twice you don’t need to unfasten to get on and off, which makes it easy for commuting. I also like the covered toe, which will keep your feet clean and your pedicure intact when walking down city streets.

Very similar to the Ventura, but with a different heel or sole. I love that this shoe comes in widths so you can ensure a comfortable fit from the get-go.

Great selection of colors, great reviews on comfort and the ability to walk for miles in them. I like the adjustable straps for a custom fit, and love that they are under $100.

Do you have a favorite commuting or walking shoe?  Please share in the comments!

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Fab Bags For Spring Under $100

The best way to update your wardrobe each season is with accessories. It’s an easy and lower-cost way to incorporate current fashion trends, and it’s more likely for that accessory to be wearable past the trend (or when the trend returns) than a garment. Right now is a great time to buy accessories for many are on sale to make room for new merchandise. But that doesn’t mean the sale merchandise is outdated. Knowing current trends or your personal style (which transcends fashion trends) can help you score some great deals for less. Below I share some fantastic bags I’ve seen online, and all are under $100!

Blush is the hot color this spring and looks great on more skintones and with more personal styles than you would think. I love it with denim and chambray, paired with white or cream, but it’s also gorgeous as an accent with black or even a jewel tone like ruby or teal. A blush clutch is a great choice for spring weddings, giving a fresh look to your LBD; a blush wristlet will hold all your essentials and look adorable with boyfriend jeans or a floral dress; blush is on trend yet looks professional enough to pair with a business suit.

You all know I love a touch of hippie chic in a wardrobe, and it’s the perfect way to infuse spring into your wardrobe. Be they paired with a band tee and cutoffs, a sundress and slip-on sneakers, or even boyfriend jeans and a lightweight blazer, boho-inspired bags are more versatile than you think for the everyday as well as for a concert, wine festival, or picnic in the park.

Black and white are classics that work year-round; paired it is a fashion trend that won’t quickly look dated. It’s also a trend that is office appropriate. A structured tote or large bag can carry your purse essentials as well as lunch, a laptop, or commuter shoes. Classic ladylike shoulder bags are back in vogue and look smart with business suits and work dresses; a cross body that’s structured with metal details looks crisp enough for the workplace. When it comes to basic black and white, any colors pair nicely.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Ask Allie: Purses, Bags, and Totes

Dear Allie,
I don’t go out a lot, but each time I do I wish I had something other than my big day purse to take with me. What would be a good choice of bag that I can have for when I get invited to a bachelorette party or a wedding or my husband’s office Christmas party?
Thanks,
Tonya

To have a bag that works for all those situations and to span seasons (and years) you will need to either go very simple, or choose something really unique.

As soon as I read your email, I thought of my patchwork clutch from Novica. It’s a mix of cotton and leather and it contains most every color in the rainbow. The bag is so unique and eye-catching it can dress up and down pretty easily – I have paired it with a LBD, and as you see in this post, wore it with a chambray shirt and wool skirt. A clutch is a smart choice because it’s a more timeless silhouette – bag shapes and sizes come and go but clutches have maintained popularity over the past decade and will continue to be popular and stylish.

Nicole Ritchie shows how a snakeskin bag can work with all sorts of colors and styles

Something out of snakeskin or leather (real or a quality faux) is a classic choice and will hold up over the years; however don’t rule out an unexpected finish. A twill or canvas bag with beading or feather detail can often be just as versatile. If there is a variety of colors, a print, or a statement color, you can have it work with most anything (even if the color of your dress is not in the bag).

If you would like something more classic, you can’t go wrong with a soft black leather clutch. Classic size (around a foot to 18” in length and slim) and silhouette (pouch or envelope). The leather should be soft, buttery, no funky glazes, no flashy details. This is the type of bag you can wear today and 20 years from today. You may have to pay more to find such a bag (or search vintage boutiques), but it will be a wardrobe staple for a lifetime.

Hi Allie–
I was advised by my physical therapist to consider wearing a cross-body bag, rather than a bag with a shoulder strap (to help with my neck/shoulder problems). However, I’m busty and feel uncomfortable with the ‘boobage issue’ created with a cross body strap. Any thoughts on how best to work with a cross-body bag?
Marcy

Like you, I shied away from cross-body bags for years because of my large bust. They always seemed to accentuate them, falling right between the breasts, often pushing them to the side. However, once I became a city commuter, I realized how very necessary they can be. Now I have several cross-body bags in my collection. A few tips:

Be picky about the strap. My Brahmin handbag can be carried in my hand, worn as a shoulder bag, or the strap lengthened to become a cross-body. More often than not, it is worn across my body when I go to work so I can have hands free to hold onto a support bar on the Metro, read the paper, or hold a cup of coffee. The reason this bag works so well is because it is very narrow (about a half an inch), yet extremely sturdy (no chance of it breaking or cutting into my neck). The combination of narrow yet thick/sturdy helps with comfort… and it also helps with the ‘boobage’ issue by being too stiff to really slide between and under the breasts.

For smaller cross-body bags (I like to use these when going to concerts and festivals), I go the opposite route with a very lightweight strap. By being so lightweight of a bag and strap, it doesn’t fall between the breasts causing separation.

Reese Witherspoon in a Crossbody Bag

For a large heavy bag (daypacker, to carry your laptop), there are bags made with an usually wide strap which ends up working more like a sash across your body.

Adjust the strap. Sometimes one inch can make all the difference with a crossbody destroying the line of your figure. Look for an adjustable-strap bag so you can play in front of the mirror to find the perfect length for your body. For me, I find a longer strap (bag hitting lower on the hip) works better with my bust if the bag is heavy and large; I will do a shorter strap for smaller crossbodies.

Minimize. A big problem with current handbags is the size – the larger a bag, the heavier it will be, and the more room to hold everything except the kitchen sink. The heavier the bag, the more likely it will divide your body.

Look for the absolute smallest bag you can handle – if you need a bag to carry your laptop or iPad, find a slimline style to minimize bulk. If you don’t need a bag to carry your electronics, shrink the size all together. Seriously look over your bag contents – do you really need 5 lipsticks, 2 paperback novels, and that travel umbrella even though there isn’t rain on the horizon for weeks? I find it’s easier to organize and pare down when I keep my bag contents in smaller bags – one for cosmetics, one for purse essentials such as safety pins and gum, my wallet, and then my phone etc. When it is already compartmentalized it’s harder to justify a random addition.

Hi, Allie!
I have recently started a new job in the finance industry at a more “corporate” location as opposed to “business casual.” With my new position my manager wants me to bring my work laptop home with me each day. I have been carrying both my purse and small laptop bag each day, along with a water bottle, and if I pack my lunch a lunch bag. I’m looking into consolidating it all into just one bag. Do you think it would be better to get a laptop/tote bag with a padded section for the laptop and carry all my necessities in it, or should I get a basic work tote that would be large enough for all my stuff and buy sleeve to protect my laptop? Do you have any suggestions for a work bag that would accommodate carrying a laptop daily?
Thanks!
Karla

I guess it depends on you and your lifestyle. I personally have a laptop bag that I use for everything when I need to carry my laptop. My work laptop is pretty large and integral to me being productive at work, so I have chosen to have a bag that best supports and protects it. It’s not glamorous – it’s black microfiber and clunky, but it keeps my bag safe and looks professional for onsite client meetings.

If I had a smaller standard-size work laptop, I would consider a sleeve, but the problem is that a sleeve can slide around in a non-structured bag, making it feel heavy and clunky and possibly stretching out your purse. I have carried my netbook in a sleeve in my structured leather J. Crew tote – the netbook and sleeve fit perfectly in the large center zipper compartment leaving plenty of space for my personal purse contents. I can then slip out the netbook and carry a lighter bag to after-work events or a lunch meeting.

As for your lunch… it may be hard to find a bag that can carry that and everything else. My laptop bag is the size of a piece of carryon luggage and I still can’t seem to fit more than a Lean Cuisine in there, and if I do I don’t have room for a water bottle. With all the padding to protect your laptop, it becomes hard to carry everything in one without dragging around a bag the size of a small child. It may less cumbersome to just carry your lunch separately.

Before you decide you need to consider:

  • The size of your laptop – is it standard (meaning it’s easy to find a sleeve and easy for it and the sleeve to fit in a standard-size bag)
  • How often you need to carry your bag sans laptop (lunch or client meetings, after-work events where you can slip your laptop in the trunk of your car, etc.)
  • How much walking will you be doing – would it be more practical to get a rolling laptop bag? I know my laptop with it’s cord and extra-large battery is ridiculously heavy and I have considered getting a rolling bag to transport it and all my other essentials. With such a bag, also carrying your lunch wouldn’t be an issue.

A few laptop bags I have seen that are stylish while being professional:

The MobilEdge Milano Tote


MobilEdge Milano Tote – This bag holds a lot without looking bulky or as though it was purchased at REI. Online reviews state the faux croco finish looks quite nice and expensive in person. The strap is long enough to fit over your shoulder even while wearing a winter coat. While the version I link to fits a 17” laptop, there are other retailers (like this one) who have the same bag for a 15” laptop. This is regularly rated as a top choice for professional women (if you like it, Google it to find the best price as it is available on a variety of online shops).

McKlein “Deerfield” Laptop Tote – A very sleek modern look, Italian leather, and a variety of amazing colors makes this 17” laptop bag a winner. Special compartments for business cards and pens, while still having room for essentials such as a wallet, cosmetic bag, and bottle of water. The dark red would be quite elegant with classic gray and black suiting, while the choice of other colors could be a fun choice for more creative offices.

Piel Multi-Pocket Laptop Tote – This one even has a side pocket specifically for a water bottle! This bag gets rave reviews from business travelers which means it would have all the space and organization for one who wants to use this in place of a separate purse. Available in classic brown, black and cognac as well as a few subtle shades that would also work in most professional settings.

Royce Leather Cosmopolitan Computer Brief - Very simple style, tons of pockets for all your essentials, and a size to fit most standard-size laptops. While black is a safe bet, I really like the red to add a conservative pop of color to a corporate wardrobe.

While there are thousands of different types of bags out there, I chose ones that were pretty conservative in silhouette and made to be primarily a laptop bag. If you find that a sleeve or a rolling bag is more appropriate for your needs, do check out these sites that have a great variety of bags:

  • eBags - a fave of mine because of the extensive customer reviews
  • Kolobags – amazing variety of fashionable bags designed for laptops and other technology
  • McKlein USA – laptop bags specifically designed for women
  • Handbags.com – quite a large selection of work-appropriate laptop bags
  • Overstock.com – I have a laptop bag from there that I got at 75% less than a similar (and same brand) bag at Macy’s. If you know what you want, this site is worth a gander.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Vendor Review – MetStyle Bags

MetStyle is a very cool company concept, offering professional bags for women that are feminine and stylish while still giving the owner the respect she deserves in the business room. This is a hard task for any company, to have all the features necessary for your laptop, writing supplies and lipgloss without being boring and bulky like the carry-all that came with your computer, but not frou-frou and frivolous. In this day and age we all need to carry around our gadgets; we should ahve the ability to do it with style and class.

I received the Champs Elysees Hand Bag (pictured) in the mail this week and boy am I impressed! Do not let the photograph on the website fool you into thinking this is a utilitarian piece. The dark purple quilting has a slightly iridescent satiny finish that is chic yet professional. The hardware is polished silver, the trim and handles a high-quality faux leather that has the flexibility and sheen of the real thing. I am petite with thicker arms and I found this bag comfortable in my hand or over my shoulder. My Dell D610 fits comfortably (and my husband’s larger 17” Dell just fit if no notepad or accessories were included) with my portable mouse, USB, Blackberry, digital camera, a slim notepad and a few goodies like gum, powder and lipstick. Inside compartments keep everything organized and the slim look doesn’t resemble a purse in any way. I love the dark plum shade – very subtle yet adding a bit of panache to the subdued business suit ensemble. My husband even liked it saying it “looks very Art Deco and classy.”

Prior to this bag, I was using a black microfiber laptop tote from the Michael Graves collection at Target. I found the Dell shoulder bag that my company gave me to bee too heavy, bulky and useless. Not just that, but it was hard to carry around with my petite frame. I purchased the Michael Graves tote because it was a more feminine shape, but professional enough for the toughest client. I found even that seemed to be too bulky for business meetings and travel and desired something smaller. Usually smaller pieces were just a sleeve with a strap with no room for accessories or personal effects, or else they were too girly (my clients would not appreciate a glossy pink croco bag with a tassel). I found appropriate bags online, but they were often way over $100 – not appropriate to my budget.

The bags from MetStyle are a good price for the quality, they achieve style without compromising your level of respect with your colleagues, and they are made to really accomplish all the tasks of a true business bag – hold the laptop, the legal pad, the pen, the computer accessories, the wallet and the lipstick and powder for lunchtime touch-ups. Visit the site and find a retailer near you to check out this great new brand!

Ask Allie: Warm Winter Commuter Coats

I lived in Florida all my life, but am moving to DC for a new job and need to get a winter coat. I will be taking the bus for work and want a coat that looks professional but can survive public transportation and DC weather. Suggestions?

I need a new coat. I have the Squall from Lands’ End and have had a version of this coat for over a decade but want to get something more fashionable for work and stuff. I want it to be water repellant and I want it to have a hood and cover my [behind] when I sit on a bench. Where should I look?

I don’t wear wool but want a coat that looks nice, where can I find one that is stylish but also warm?

DC is a strange place, where it can be 70 degrees in November and 30 degrees in April. It is also quite wet in this area, many days that are cold are also with sleet, rain, or snow. In previous posts I have stated that a wool coat is more versatile and chic than one of a synthetic material, but I’ll admit it’s far more comfortable to deal with public transportation, walking, and commuting in general when you are both warm and dry and not worrying about your dry cleaning bill. Here’s some suggestions for winter coats that will keep your warm yet stylish all winter long.

 

I have a coat from Lands’ End that is very similar in style and made me a synthetic coat convert. The belt on this coat gives you a feminine shape and prevents the Michelin Man look, the faux fur trim on the hood adds a luxe feel, the longer length will keep your rear warm on cold metal benches at bus stops, and the large variety of colors and sizes means there’s a right one for each person. I like buying pieces like coats from Lands’ End because I feel confident that if a zipper breaks or there is some defect, I can easily return or replace it.

 

Quilting doesn’t have to add bulk and destroy your figure; strategic quikting and padding can actually accentuate your curves and emphasize a feminine shape. This coat from Betsey Johnson gets rave reviews even from those in Alaska for it being warm, but the shape, stitching, and belt give it a modern, fashionable, and flattering fit.

 

Wool doesn’t mean cold, on the contrary. If you live in a more mild climate like DC, you can get away with a wool coat for your winter. If the coat is long like this one from DKNY, you’re able to keep your legs cozy as you walk to the office or sit waiting for the train. While this coat doesn’t have a hood, it has a high collar to protect your neck and would look tres chic with anything from a cloche to a knit beanie.

Again, strategic quilting to the rescue! The varied sizes of quilting give this coat shape without sacrificing warmth. While black is a safe choice, the Prussian Blue adds a level of fashion and fun to a traditional long parka.  This coat is not only warm, but also water resistant – perfect for the woman who walks or takes public transportation to work!

 

Fit and flare with single breasted buttons makes this coat slimming, the traffic-stopping collar makes it stylish and extra warm. The cashmere blend will look equally at home with jeans and boots as with cocktail dresses and heels.

Tips for Purchasing a Stylish Warm Coat:

  • Look for a single statement-making detail. Fur-trimmed hood or collar, military-inspired metal buttons, belt, unique color or texture – such details will take a parka from play to professional. Keep such details to a minimum – only one statement needs to be made or it will go from chic to cheap.
  • Flatter the figure. Strategic quilting, a belt, single breasted, curved hem… such details can make the difference and have a coat be warm and chic.
  • Choose sophisticated colors. Some colors like yellow, orange, barn red, and baby blue scream ski slope or shoveling snow. Black, olive, navy, ivory, gray, dark plum, and teal give a more elegant feel to a parka.
  • Read the ingredients. Who cares what a coat looks like if it doesn’t keep you warm? Read the details – many outerwear retailers will state what temperature such a coat was made for. Wool, cashmere, down, Thinsulate – these are all materials that will keep you more warm than most synthetic blends. If you live in a wet climate be sure to find a coat that is also water-resistant or waterproof. If you choose the right textiles you can often achieve equal warmth to a bulkier coat of cheaper materials.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Small Business Saturday: AlmaRose Bags

2014 for me was the year of the bag. I curbed my clothing shopping, I purchased fewer but better chosen pieces, but I fell hard for handbags. There was the Isabella Fiore tote, the blue Chancebanda, and a few bags I acquired before this year ended up getting more play in 2014 than ever before (hello Latico crossbody, Fossil satchel). I also received some amazing bags from amazing brands, and one is AlmaRose.

Almashea’ Spotser was a busy working mom who left Corporate America when her Navy husband was transferred to a new duty station. She took her love of sketching, and while pregnant with her second child, created AlmaRose Bags. Being a busy mom, Almashea’ considered this with her bag creation and made each bag a great merging of fashion and function. As stated on the brand’s site, “Each bag was created with the woman who happens to be a mom in mind first.”

almarose bags maxine

AlmaRose bags are diaper bags, and I am (thank goodness) a couple years past that point with Emerson. However, the brilliant part of these bags is that while they have have that function, they work so much further past diapers and wipes. AlmaRose was kind enough to send me the Maxine, which I saw to be a gorgeous statement-making weekender bag or work tote. I slipped out the changing pad to enjoy a quality leather tote with perfect pockets to store everything and find everything at a moment’s notice. The water and stain resistant interior keeps it looking gorgeous even if the cap falls off my lipgloss or I spill a bit of my bagged lunch. The feet on the bottom of the bag and the shape of the Maxine keeps it upright no matter the contents, making it a great choice for those of us who always seem to have their hands full when their phone starts ringing in their bag. I love the included Express Bag, which is a removable pouch perfect when you need to dash to the restroom or Starbucks but don’t want to take your entire tote; it also makes switching from day tote to evening clutch a breeze. There’s even a padded pocket to store my tablet or Kindle! And come on, who can resist the gorgeous green tumbled leather exterior?

almarose bag review

AlmaRose has two other styles of bags: the Claire and the Lydia. These totes are also classic shapes and come in classic colors making them either a chic alternative to most diaper bags, or a brilliantly-designed day tote. With the same great features of the Maxine, these have elasticized side pockets that can hold bottles, but are also great for stuffing in gloves, water bottles, or even your current novel. The leather is thick making all AlmaRose bags built for longevity.

Right now the Maxine is 50% off, making it only $145. Where else can you find such a beautiful large leather bag in such a beautiful color for such a low price? And at the time of writing this, AlmaRose is offering free shipping on their bags.

The Small Business Saturday series on Wardrobe Oxygen features US- and/or women-owned independent brands and artists that focus on style with substance and soul. Stay tuned to learn about more great small businesses, and if you know a business that deserves to be featured please share it in the comments!

What I Wore: Suit Up

wo2 7 wo2 3 alison gary wo2 2 wo2 4
Jacket: LOFT (similar) | Top: ELOQUII via Gwynnie Bee | Belt: Lauren Ralph Lauren (similar) | Pants: LOFT (similar) | Shoes: Nine West | Bag: HOBO (similar) | Bracelet: Had forever (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon in ‘In the Red’

With the change in my company and role over the years, I have fewer and fewer needs for a proper suit. However I can’t stress the importance of still having one for those unexpected moments – an interview, client meeting, conference, business workshop… the pieces can be used separately increasing the price per wear. I purchased this jacket over a year ago from LOFT (last seen on the blog here) and figured it would match black pants from LOFT that I already owned.  Notsomuch, the jacket was a refined twill with a sateen “tux” detail while the rest of my LOFT suiting was more like gabardine.  Then I found these pants on clearance at LOFT this past fall; I think they were meant to be with this jacket!  With the same tux-details and trim as the jacket and the same fabric I have made a match; though it took over a year it also cost less than $100!

I haven’t shared Gwynnie Bee on the blog lately, but that doesn’t mean I am not still a subscriber AND fan!  With the colder weather, I’ve been choosing more casual pieces from Gwynnie Bee; ways to maintain style even when bundled up.  But I saw this ELOQUII top in their collection and had to try it.  As a cusp-sized woman I find ELOQUII to be a hair too big; I sometimes have success with tops and dresses but sometimes find them a hair big for my 5’3″ self.  This top was a bit loose, but adding a belt cinched it and gave it a subtle peplum look that worked with the ruffles at the shoulders and hem.  The top is from a scuba fabric that is uber comfy and doesn’t cling.  I’m a huge fan of ELOQUII and am glad that Gwynnie Bee features them and other hot cusp and plus sized brands!  Gwynnie Bee is offering a 30-day free trial of their program; if you’re size 10 or up it’s worth a try.  I love that for the price of one item I can get three pieces each month in current trends and try out brands I may not otherwise be able to afford.  Click this link to learn more!

I wore this look last Thursday; my dear friend Rosana of DC Style Factory had an event, Skirting the Issue, at Betsy Fisher, where she educated the audience on what skirt was best for each figure and lifestyle need and then had custom fitting by Betsy Garcete at Zophia and personal styling by Rosana and her team.  It was a really fun evening; if you’re in the DC area I can’t recommend DC Style Factory enough for personal styling, closet cleanouts, shopping support and helping you find your personal style.  I’ve recommended DC Style Factory to many Wardrobe Oxygen readers and they have all reported back with rave reviews.  Be sure to follow DC Style Factory on Facebook to learn when they have their next training seminar; I know I’ll be at that one too!

Shop the Looks Featured in this Post:

What I Wore: Foxcroft (plus a giveaway!)

foxcroft collection sweater
Sweater: Mixed Stripes Cardigan c/o Foxcroft | Tee: c/o SixTwenty | Jeans: NYDJ | Boots: DUO (similar) | Bag: c/o Fossil (similar)

foxcroft collection shirt
Shirt: Mixed Sateen Stripe Non-Iron Blouse c/o Foxcroft | Skirt: c/o CAbi (similar) | Shoes: Nine West | Bag: c/o Adora Bags

I’m proud to be partnering with Foxcroft again. For over 25 years, Foxcroft has provided impeccably made, well-constructed clothing that makes style simple. I’ve featured their clothes before, styled a photoshoot for them, and have gotten to know the people behind the quality brand. I’m excited to introduce the latest looks from Foxcroft, that’s now helmed by head designer, Laura Poretsky-Garcia. Laura, a CFDA member since 2007, has brought a chic, updated attitude to the brand while continuing to give women easy, wearable fashion.

foxcroft collection giveaway review resort collection

Stripes and dots – in bold, sophisticated colors – are the key themes for Foxcroft’s resort collection and all pieces in the collection are under $100. Foxcroft understands a woman’s body, creating clothing that flatters curves and comes in regular, petite, and plus sizes. Foxcroft sent me two pieces from the resort collection – one of their famous shirts and a sweater. The Mixed Stripe Blouse is a silky cotton that feels luxurious and doesn’t wrinkle. Foxcroft has different cuts of their shirts; this one is tailored to fit the figure, making it a great choice to wear tucked in and under blazers and cardigans. Their Mixed Stripes cardigan is a new favorite. The strategic stripes and waterfall front flatter the figure and make quite a statement – when I wore it to work I received many compliments, even from strangers. I wore it with a simple black shell and trousers to the office, but liked it for the weekend with a white tee and boyfriend jeans. Learn more about Foxcroft and their latest collection by following them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Giveaway

If you like the pieces that I’ve featured in this post, Foxcroft is offering one Wardrobe Oxygen reader this shirt and this sweater in the size of their choice (if items are not available in your size, we will work with you to find replacement pieces at the same or lesser price).  Giveaway is open to residents of the United States.  Winner will be chosen by random and contacted via email.  If winner doesn’t reply within 48 hours of receiving email another winner will be chosen.  Giveaway ends December 30, 2014.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What I Wore: Air Flow

wardrobe oxygen what I Wore Gap Real Straight Jeans Karen Kane Messh Top Nine West Pumps wardrobe oxygen what I Wore Rough Tumble bag Ray Ban Aviators Nine West Flax wardrobe oxygen what I wore Gap Real Straight Jeans Karen Kane Top Rough Tumble Bag

Mesh top: c/o Karen by Karen Kane (similar) | Tank: c/o J.Jill | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Nine West (similar) | Bag: Rough & Tumble | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban | Bracelet: Had forever (similar) | Lipstick: MaryKay ‘Mystic Plum’

If you follow me on Instagram you know I wore this look to work Friday. Karen Kane was sweet enough to send me this awesome mesh sweatshirt this spring but then the whole cast situation made it impossible to wear. Once the cast came off this was one of the first long-sleeved tops I made sure to wear.  The jeans are the ones from Gap I mentioned in this post; after some weird years I find Gap to again be a destination for quality but reasonably priced denim.

And this bag I continue to adore; no need to buy a trendy brand name to enjoy high quality and style.  I found Rough & Tumble on Etsy and am thrilled to see they are growing, now with an e-commerce site.  A woman-owned business with everything made here in the USA?  Yes please!

Shop the Post:

My Wardrobe Today – Tuesday

Jacket - Caslon (similar) | Tank - Ann Taylor (similar) | Necklace – Found at a boutique in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware | SkirtHalogen | Shoes - Payless (similar) | Bag - Sabina

It’s raining, it’s pouring… you know you’re a blogaholic when you stand in the rain for your outfit photos! And you know your husband loves you when he stands in the rain to take your blog photos!

I have to give my 50,000th shout-out to the Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis. If I could never buy another eye shadow again, I would be okay if I had this palette. A matte ivory for highlighting, a golden khaki that is a great warm neutral for lids, a deep chocolate for contouring (or use wet as a liner), and then an olive. I buy olive colored clothing just so I can get all matchy-matchy and wear an olive smokey eye with this shadow. Oh, and the color really DOES stay. I will be heading home with just as smokey of an olive eye as I did leaving the house today. Fabulous!

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

The Best of 2014, Swag Edition

I have often written about the difficult parts of blogging, but there’s some pretty sweet parts too. The friends that have been made with fellow bloggers, readers, and even some brands. The ability to get paid for a hobby or passion. And yeah… swag. We bloggers can get a lot of free stuff. Granted, that free stuff isn’t without strings – we get with the expectation that we will share with you folks (with stipulations on number of photos, links, social media touts, first born…). Because of this, I have become pickier with what swag I’ll actually accept. In the past I’ve been stuck trying to be tactful in a mention of a subpar something and I don’t want to have to do that again.

PicMonkey Collage

But not all swag is wack, and through blogging I have learned of some awesome companies and many pieces I have received for free have become some of my favorite pieces in my wardrobe. Since it can be hard to tell in posts which C/Os are truly adored, I’m going to share the best items I have received this year and why.

DUO ‘Santana’ Boots

I did a little squeal of joy when DUO finally contacted me. I’ve been writing about this high quality footwear brand for almost a decade and have purchased two pairs of their custom width calf boots with my own money. So this fall when they asked me to pick a pair of boots to feature on the blog, it wasn’t hard to say yes. I chose the ‘Santana’ boot in brown leather and they have become a weekly wear. In fact, I am wearing them right now as I type this post! The quality of leather is fantastic, and it’s nice to get stylish yet classic boots that fit my very large (44cm) calves and thick shins. These are especially flattering because they’re a bit shorter than knee-high, hitting at a better place on my petite frame. The color and subtle distressing rival Frye boots and I find them to be comfortable enough to walk and stand in them all day. A bit of a backstory – since I tore my left calf muscle last year my calf is even BIGGER than before so when I ordered my normal size in DUO they were too tight. DUO was amazing about the exchange, I spoke to them on the phone, we discussed how it fit to determine the correct replacement size, and they were so super nice and helpful. It’s so great to work with a company that you can feel cares about their customers.

Adora Bags Leather Tote

Guess this one is a bit unfair because it hasn’t yet been featured on the blog (yet!), but it’s darn awesome. I’ve loved the looks of the unfinished edge simple leather totes that have been in style, but couldn’t justify buying once since I already own totes that work as well (even if they don’t look as nice). So when Adora Bags contacted me and offered to send me a tote I was psyched. They come in black, a gorgeous blue, and a rusty orangey natural color; I chose black thinking it would be the most practical and timeless. The leather is insanely delicious – tumbled but soft. The straps sturdy and fit over my shoulder while wearing my parka yet short enough to carry in my hand. The shape isn’t too structured, but not a lumpy sack. It comes with a removable pouch on a strap so it can be an easy-access pocket for essentials, or pulled out to be a clutch. Mine also came with a little empty book/agenda in the same leather which was a lovely touch. This is a true tote, it wouldn’t really make for a great handbag, but it’s a good size for an overnight trip, a carryon bag, or for running errands. It’s handmade in Italy, smells divine, feels luxurious, and makes me carting 250 flyers for the Girl Scouts or returns to Ann Taylor feel a bit more posh. And speaking of customer service, they followed up with me to ensure the bag came in perfect condition and have been so lovely to work with. A super nice company.

Karen Kane Jersey Pants

Before my arm broke, Karen Kane contacted me and asked if I’d like some pieces from their Spring collection. I got a pair of wide-leg drapey pants from them they year prior and wore the heck out of them so when I saw their blue paisley jersey pants I knew I had to have them. I envisioned them with a drapey jersey top in white, lots of silver jewelry, flat sandals and a hint of a tan come Summer, but I ended up wearing them quite a lot while convalescing. They were one of the few bottoms I owned that weren’t pilled and faded yoga pants that I could get on and off with my left hand, were comfortable enough to rest in them, but felt sassy enough in them if a friend came to see how I was doing. Even better, since I lived in them they went in the washer and dryer dozens of times yet are still as rich in color, no pills, no shrinkage, and looked cute enough that when I was healed I did pair them with a drapey top and silver jewelry! Obviously the pants they sent me are no longer available, but these look to be the same pants in a different print. And we all know I love Karen Kane, in fact it was hard to pick one item from them to feature. I love the black drapey jersey dress they sent me and the lace overlay dress from them was not only a fave of mine, but I loaned it to a friend to wear to a wedding! Karen Kane continues to have my heart and a place in my closet.

SOREL Joan of Artic Wedge Boot

In my sponsored post I stated I was a fan of SOREL boots and I have been, but I’ll be honest – they never fit over my calves. So when they asked me to do a sponsored post with their boots I was excited… and terrified. Last year I did a footwear post with a brand and the boots they sent did NOT fit my legs and I had to cobble together a wonky outfit to make it work. But after last winter and my broken arm, I couldn’t pass on a pair of quality boots that are made to handle inclement weather. So I chose this style of boot, figuring it laced up and was softer leather higher up so it could possibly flex over my ankles and shins. I also ordered a half size bigger than usual to give a bit more space. And well, I’m glad I took the risk. In the post I wore the boots folded down because they did look a bit goofy laced up on my legs, but I have been wearing them both ways. I wear them folded down, cuff my jeans, and have rag socks slouched between the two for warmth and a bit of a ‘90s vibe. But I also wear them laced up which may look weird but feels comfortable and wear my pants over them to hide the tops. However when it snowed the other week, I laced them up over a pair of jeggings and had my wool socks peek out over the tops of them and while no one would give me an award for figure flattery, it looked casual cute. The boots are super grippy, super comfortable, waterproof, and warmer than my other boots. They stay at the front door because I wear them so often now that the temps have dropped and I know once it gets icy they may not leave my feet.

Dobbin Clothing Sophie Silk Crepe de Chine Blouse in Leopard Print

We all know I love me some Dobbin Clothing, but I’ve mainly stuck to their dresses. This year I tried their tops and I am a mega fan. While the green silk tunic they sent is lovely, this leopard blouse has become a closet favorite and I wear it almost weekly. I tuck it in and wear it with black or ivory trousers, I wear it untucked with skinny jeans or black ponte skinny pants and boots. It’s a top that works when I’ve gained a bit, but also looks lovely when I’ve lost a bit. It says dry clean only, but I have put it in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle and it has come out quite nicely. I like the gold buttons, the mate crepe finish, and how the leopard is elegant, not cheesy. As with all the other Dobbin Clothing I own, the quality is stellar and it’s a piece that’s stylish now and likely will be stylish for many years to come. And from a blogger standpoint, they are one of my favorite companies to work with!

Talbots Leopard Coat

Talbots sent me their fall look book and it impressed me so much I shared it on the blog with all of you. You all reacted so positively (and I’ll be honest, clicked those affiliate links in the post and bought a lot of Talbots merchandise) that I let Talbots know how successful a post it was. And they asked me what size I wore and sent me this coat in thanks. I wore it in this post, but if you follow me on Instagram you know I wear it quite often. It looks great with jeans, is chic with workwear, and has become one of the coats I wear with dresses for evenings out. I got a 12 Petite and it fits as though it was tailored to my frame; the fuzzy texture gives an almost vintage feel but is a classic piece.

Dagne Dover

I don’t usually reach out to brands, call me a “Rules Girl” but I like to be approached by brands instead of cold pitching (I mentioned this before). But when you guys ask me about a brand unknown to me, I do my homework. And I did my homework with Dagne Dover, reading reviews online and being bold enough to email them. They were awesome, replied in less than a day with a super sweet email and the offer to choose the bag of my choice. We’ve stayed in communication and I look forward to sharing more from the brand in the future. They’re a small brand, but one with heart and one that makes well-made and cleverly designed bags. I’ve had really demoralizing experiences reaching out to brands, but my experience with Dagne Dover has given me confidence to keep doing it with companies that seem like a good fit for this blog.

CastCoverz!

I spent about 25 weeks this year in a cast. If you’ve ever worn a cast, you know how utterly disgusting they can be. While my second doctor replaced them bi-weekly for me, they still got sweaty and dirty and stinky and grubby. My sister told me about CastCoverz! and I bought two long-arm covers to make my broken arm a bit more stylish – I got leopard print (naturally), and a sparkly disco gold one. I featured them in a post , CastCoverz! saw it and offered to send me covers for when I graduated to a short arm cast. That short arm cast came in the middle of the summer when there was no way to keep my cast looking halfway decent after a day or two. The cast covers didn’t make the cast any hotter, but they covered the grubbiness with fun patterns and color while keeping my cast from scratching me and wearing against my knit tops. When Karl broke his foot at the end of the summer, CastCoverz! was sweet enough to send him two boot covers. While their cast covers (and other supplies for those in casts or wearing crutches) are awesome and high quality, what won me over was CastCoverz! customer service and kindness. Everyone I interacted with, from the person on the phone to Annette the owner were so genuinely kind and cared for me be it when I was any old customer, or when I was a blogger promoting their products. Amazing company run by amazing people.

Boden Ravello Silk Top

I had a partnership where I was provided a specific amount of money to spend at Boden and I was PSYCHED. However it was when I had my cast and when I had gained a lot of weight and I worried I wouldn’t be able to find anything to fit properly. But it’s Boden, and Boden is awesome. I had to call them to place my order and chatted with the sweetest person on the phone. We discussed everything from my arm to my bust size to my weight gain and she helped me pick this top (and a basic striped tank because I love stripes and I couldn’t afford at the time to spend more than the store credit). And well, I freaking LOVE THIS TOP. I wear it ALL THE TIME. And every time I wear it someone raves about it. The colors are amazing, the fit is great, and it’s one of those tops that looks cute tucked in or left out, that shows I go in under the chest, and doesn’t make my arms look like hamhocks. The post where I featured it doesn’t do it justice; I had JUST gotten off my cast a day or two prior and was feeling pretty darn awful and was just glad to fulfil an obligation. But if you follow me on Instagram you know how often I’ve worn this top and I likely will wear it to death again this coming spring.

Reebok Skyscape Sneakers

This is another post that took place right after my cast came off and I was in a very dark place emotionally and uncomfortable place physically. But I signed contracts and had to comply. So Karl rolled out his white backdrop, took pauses between my cryfests and makeup reapplications, and we got it done. Another behind the scenes being a blogger – one ad network contacted me the year prior about partnering with “an athletic footwear company” and had me fill out a form to be considered. Then a couple months later, a different ad network contacted me and asked if I’d like to be considered for a campaign with Reebok. Well I said yes to both, and come to find out both were for Reebok Skyscape and set to take place the same week. So the second company who contacted me to confirm my participation, I declined explaining the situation. They’re a great company and understood, and told me to let them know when the shoes arrived so they could mail me a return shipping label. They arrived, I contacted them, two weeks later they finally got back and said don’t worry about it, I could keep them. Well what the heck am I going to do with two pairs of black Reebok Skyscapes with pink soles? At the time, I didn’t know if I’d even wear the pair I wore in the post. And now it’s December and you couldn’t pry BOTH pairs of Skyscapes from my dead cold hands. These things weight nothing and fold easily making them the best commuter shoes. They are uber cushy and cozy, flexible, but have grip on slick sidewalks. One pair I keep at home, one pair is at the office, and these are the sneakers I take with me when I travel because of size and weight and comfort level. I’ll admit I don’t love the pink details; both pairs came with pink and black laces so I switched them to black. Not only that, one pair I took a Sharpie to the pink grommets and exposed sole. I did this so I could wear them with my outfit for Halloween, but it does make them less athletic-shoe looking and have become the ones I slip in my bag (like I did last night) to put on after a long day in heels. They are utterly awesome shoes and while I didn’t get the hype when I wrote my post, I totally get it now.

 

Please don’t think that because I didn’t mention an item or brand here I think it’s bunk. Far from it. I think I’ve gotten better and better over the years in picking the appropriate brands to partner with so I can provide completely honest and positive reviews. I feel truly honored to partner with such amazing companies, and proud that I can introduce them to you. The older I get, the more I experience ageism and sizeism as a blogger when connecting with brands. When I feature a brand, it’s usually after establishing a relationship with them and making sure they understand you all, Wardrobe Oxygen’s audience. While swag is pretty cool, what’s cooler is the relationship I have built with all of you. I want to maintain your trust, I want to continue our honesty, and I want to be able to continue to introduce you to the companies who respect the Wardrobe Oxygen reader and deserve your attention.

What I Wore: Leggings Are Not Pants

nordstrom collection cashmere cardigan svelte leggings svelte leggings review

Sweater: Nordstrom Collection | Tee: Old Navy | Leggings: c/o Svelte | Boots: Ros Hommerson | Bag: c/o ADORA | Necklaces: Fortuna Drop Pendants c/o Deb Vaughan Stella & Dot, Sparklepop c/o POPSUGAR Must-Have Box

Leggings are not pants! I’ve said this many times, yet I dare to stand here in the middle of the street in a pair of them? On weekends I’ll admit I wear them with tunics and long sweater coats like this one.  When dashing around town from Girl Scouts to dance class to Target to the dry cleaner’s to the market (and a stop at Starbucks to keep going) I want something comfortable, easy, and machine washable.  These leggings from Svelte are nice; the double-knit ponte maintains opacity even when stretched and the built in tummy tucking panel keeps things smooth.  I’ve washed these leggings multiple times and they maintained their color without a single pill or fuzz ball.  If you’re considering them, I recommend if you’re between sizes go down since the quality material and construction prevents all the issues with most leggings.

Karl calls this sweater my Matrix jacket; it has become one of the most-worn things in my closet with these frigid temps.  The cashmere is super thick and plush and warm and the real leather lined sleeves are are also warm and protect me from the wind and I wrap the waterfall part around me to stay cozy.  Tall boots add a layer of warmth (there’s cashmere knee socks under there) and a level of style to what essentially is luxe loungewear and comfy cozy weekend garb!

Festie Frame of Mind

Dress: Seafolly Saltwater Crush Maxi c/o InStyleSwimwear.com | Necklace: Had forever (similar) | Sandals: Softspots | Sunglasses: Kentucky gas station (similar) | Bag: HOBO Bags (similar)

The weather is getting warmer, we’ve bought tickets for Forecastle and Americanarama and I can’t help but be in a festie frame of mind. InStyle Swimwear was kind enough to send me this fabulous tie-dye maxi dress from Seafolly and I just KNOW it will be worn to at least one festival or outdoor concert this summer! Lightweight cotton, comfortable, and adjustable straps to boot! I was also thinking it would look cute with my denim shirt tied over it, and I also liked it cinched with a vintage brown leather belt (expect to see that combo on the blog later in the summer!).

Update on the hair: what I am doing to get it like this is I am applying Paul Mitchell Surf Spray and Rusk Thick on my hair, blowdrying it in a haphazard manner or letting it air dry.  I then put big sections in my curling iron, curling away from the face.  Finger comb, and then a bit more of the surf spray to have it piecey and messy and more casual.  So far, so good and it works well in the heat.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

My Wardrobe Today – Thursday

Olive cargo jacket – Caslon (no longer available – similar) | Navy and white stripe knit tank – H&M (similar) | Dark stretch jeansJag Jeans | Black and cork heeled sandals – Payless (no longer available online) | Black leather studded bracelet – picked up in a boutique in Rehoboth Beach | Pumpkin Leather Purse - Hobo International “Libby”

Just as I had my stride with getting my personal style back after having a baby… a hurricane tackles my closet. While most clothes are salvageable, they still need to be cleaned and most need a professional to handle it. So I am working with a shrunken closet and I feel that the result isn’t the consistency I like. Ah well, a challenge for me to overcome! So for now, I look as though I am going to a wedding one day, and game night at a friend’s house the next!

The biggest reason why I went casual today is because tonight my husband and I are going to see The Hold Steady at the 9:30 Club. I haven’t seen them before, so when they came to town I had to get tickets!  I needed something that would work for a quiet day at work, dinner, and then a general-admission show.  How awesome to find comfortable enough heels for this day from Payless!  And this bag from Hobo International is one of my best buys in a long time – it can fit my phone, my smallest point-and-shoot camera, lip gloss, ID and cash with no problem – the perfect concert bag!

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

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!).

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram