Search Results for: label/Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

Ask Allie: Creating a Bra Wardrobe

 

Allie, I hope this isn’t too personal but you have large breasts and they always look great no matter what you wear. Can you let me know more about your bra collection? What styles work best for you?

I breastfed my son for three years and my breasts are now saggy. I know you breastfed Emerson, but your breasts look perky even in fitted tops, what bra do you wear?

What kind of bra do you wear with all these spaghetti strap dresses?

I can’t stress this enough – get a professional bra fitting. Sure, there’s instructions online on how to do it yourself, and chain stores like Victoria’s Secret claim to be bra experts, but you will get a better and more honest fitting, especially if you are large busted or have special needs, if you go to a bra boutique or lingerie section of a high-end department store. Who cares what brand you’re wearing or what trends you’re sporting if your foundation isn’t its best?

Seriously, I don’t believe in scrimping on bras. Go ahead, get cheap jeans, cheap tops, cheap dresses. But things that you wear every day and determine the look and fit of everything else deserve the money, time, and effort. If need be, get fitted and don’t buy anything but note the brands, style number, and size and look for it cheaper online, but the same size but a different brand won’t necessarily fit the same or give you the same shape and lift. And while I am preaching, just because it looks online that you and I have similar figures, I still stress you should get fitted and find the right style for YOU. Some bodies are built for Bali, others look wonderful in Wacoal.

That being said, here’s my bra wardrobe:

Molded Tee Shirt Bras – Two Nude, One Black
I have two in nude because I mainly wear nude in the summer, and you shouldn’t wear the same bra two days in a row, and often one is hanging from the shower curtain rod drying while the other is on my body. These are my everyday bras, worn under blouses, sweaters, tee shirts. They are free of bows, jacquard, lace, or any adornment that would show through a lightweight white tee. The straps are plain as well so if one peeks out of a neckline it’s not as obvious. I strive to have the nude be my nude color, but find the less I allow sun to tan my skin, the harder it is to find a good match.

I do not own a white bra because I don’t see the point – it positively glows under white shirts, and is dreadful under a black knit. My skin isn’t white, so there’s always going to be a contrast. Black under dark colors, nude under the rest.

I choose a molded cup because I think it gives my breasts a nice lifted, youthful shape. I also find the extra support awesome when it’s that time of the month and my breasts are 50 pounds each. Also, less issue with headlights, which can be darn sexy and a natural occurrence but not the best for the office.

What I Own: Fantasie Moulded Smoothing Tee Shirt Bra and the Fantastie Esme

Molded Strapless Bra – One Nude
The type of bra I get has removeable straps, so it can be strapless, but can also be halter, crisscross, one shoulder. Again, I like molded because of the shape, and I think it makes a strapless bra more natural looking and more comfortable.

And yes, large-busted women can find strapless bras that stay up, hold breasts up, and don’t hurt after an hour of wearing. This is when I again stress getting yourself fitted, I have spent hundreds on disappointing strapless bras and with one try I found my Holy Grail strapless at a bra boutique.

I don’t wear strapless bras often enough to find a need for more than one, I choose nude because it’s the most versatile.

What I Own: Simone Perele Velia Strapless Plunge

Sports Bra
I’m not one to workout on a regular basis – I’ll wear a normal bra for yoga and walking, but sometimes you need a bra that can handle high impact and sweat. I choose black because it usually DOES end up being seen, and I think it looks less bra-like in black.

What I Own: Freya Active Underwire

Bras That May be Seen
I have two bras that I call “fun bras.” One is red with violet lace overlay and lacy violet straps, one is a molded cup, but a berry color with lace detail and prettier and slimmer straps. Both have matching panties, and a couple other pairs of underpinnings that coordinate nicely. Both I got on clearance because I can wait on these.

These are worn when I want to feel a bit more sassy, and are also worn when I wear pieces that sort of work with an exposed bra strap. I don’t usually promote visible lingerie, but sometimes when you’re walking to the farmer’s market on a hot July day, you wear a breezy hot pink cotton voile camisole with denim shorts, and a berry bra strap, aviators, and a straw hat just seems to work.

What I Own: Josie Etoile Underwire and Wacoal Embrace Lace Tee Shirt Bra

And that’s it. Six bras, and I must admit some of them seem to collect dust from time to time. I replace the nude bras every 6-8 months because they get grody, the others every year or when they start to get misshapen, lose elasticity, or my size changes.

Bra Tips:

  • Be gentle with your bras. Hand wash if possible. If you’re like me you’d end up with crusty stinky bras before you have time for hand washing, so put in a lingerie bag and wash on the gentle cycle and hang them off a hanger on your bathroom shower curtain rod until they’re fully dry.
  • Don’t turn one cup inside-out to be able to fold your bra in half – let them lie flat in your drawer so one boob doesn’t get misshapen.
  • Your bra should be comfortable on the middle hook, then you can go to the tightest hook when it gets a bit stretched out and then when that’s stretched out it’s time to get a new bra.
  • Your straps should not be what is holding up your bra. If your back strap is up over your shoulder blades or you have mega dents in your shoulders from your bra, you need a different size.
  • Quad boob is not sexy. If your breasts are being dented by the top of your bra cup, you’re wearing the wrong size or the wrong style.
  • Not every woman can wear a demi or balconette, not every woman can wear a molded cup, not everyone looks best in unlined. Just because your best friend’s boobs look great in a certain bra doesn’t mean yours will. Your breasts are like you – unique and wonderful and deserving of custom style.
  • Quality, not quantity. You don’t need 50 bras, honestly you only need two… maybe a few more if you do sports or wear strapless dresses. Buy quality, get professionally fitted, care for them and enjoy better fitting clothes, people saying you’ve lost weight, and less back and shoulder pain!

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Capsule Wardrobe: Skinny Jeans for Winter

Allie you shared something on Facebook about skinny jeans aren’t stylish any more. I just bought three pairs of skinny jeans in brown, jean color, and a tan cord. How can I make them look okay this winter? What tops are best with them, what shoes? I live in Michigan so I need to be warm.

The conversation on that article went deeper into what jeans are coming back en vogue, and how even though they say skinnies are dead they aren’t going anywhere. Like boot cut jeans, peasant tops, a-line shift dresses, and tall boots; there’s some trends that won’t go away even though fashion “experts” say they are dead. They don’t ever die because we real women with real bodies find these trends flattering and extremely wearable. It’s funny how five years ago many of us refused to adopt the skinny jean trend and now we refuse to let the trend go. But just because one news article says skinnies are passé doesn’t mean you need to find a whole new wardrobe. I’m still rocking my skinnies because though I was a late adopter, I now LOVE THEM.  And what matters most when it comes to style is wearing what is true to you, wear what you love!

capsule wardrobe casual winter skinny jeans cold weather

I’ve found the best way to incorporate a trend, whether hot off the runway or something the New York Times deems dated, is to wear it with similar colors. Create a color story with your wardrobe, mixing varying shades of similar hues or going monochromatic. For this capsule collection based off your skinnies wardrobe, I stuck to a warm palette of neutrals that will look luxe and show the skinnies are a purposeful addition to your closet.

When wearing skinny pants, it’s important to balance the figure or you can quickly look like a lollipop. Luckily, this is easy to do when it’s cold and you want lots of weight and layers. The first row of tops are the type that can just be thrown on with skinnies and look chic: tunics, slouchy sweaters, ponchos, and chunky knits that balance the frame. The second row is all about the layers; a knit blazer adds polish without sacrificing comfort or warmth, and waterfall cardigans and sweater coats are cozy and on trend while balancing the frame.

Shop the Look:

Speaking of base layers, this year has really embraced layering, and practical layering at that. Turtlenecks are easy to find at all pricepoints, henleys are back in style, and there’s nothing wrong with even putting another layer under these pieces. Because I’m Allie, I added a striped knit which adds interest to an outfit of solids, and I also find to be the easiest pattern to mix with other patterns.

As for shoes, I also believe balance is important and I also believe in the importance of function over fashion. I chose three different shoes that will balance the skinny jeans while keeping you warm and dry through the winter. A pair of tall boots are a perfect pairing over skinny jeans. A pair of ankle boots are also a great pairing and this season chunky marled socks have come back in fashion and look great filling the space between cuffed skinny and boot (or over tucked-in skinny for extra cold weather protection). Use a waterproofing spray on your leather shoes and put rolled magazines in them to improve ventilation and help them keep their shape. Finally, if you’re in an area that has snow and slush, by all means wear boots appropriate for the weather! A traditional lace-up style of duck boot is back on trend and looks great laced up over skinnies.

Accessories are what pull a look together. Pashminas and infinity scarves are stylish while adding warmth and color to an outfit. A wide leather belt can cinch those sweaters to create a completely different look. Having a quality bag can add a luxe look even to discount mart knits and make the wearing of snow boots quite chic. Choosing one in a color similar to your leather shoes ties an entire ensemble together.

Ask Allie: Creating a Wardrobe Wish List

How do you go about making a ‘wish list’ for each season? I’m at a loss as to how to kick it off. In fact, I’m not even sure what I want. I know what I like when I see it but I don’t know that I can conjure it up in my head first.

First things first, before you create a wish list be sure your closet holds only that which you can wear. You can use this post on honing your personal style through a closet clean-out as a guide.

Once you have cleaned out your closet in this manner, you should have a better idea on what is missing, what you need to make the current closet more cohesive. Before you have wishes and dreams, you need a secure foundation. Clothes to get you dressed for work, for ordinary social events, for the grocery store and your son’s playdate.

Once you have that, you’ll get a feel for your personal style. With a wardrobe full of things that fit and work with your life, you’ll start gravitating toward certain pieces because they make you feel great or are so perfect for your life. Note these feelings, be it in your mind or in a journal. Be aware of colors, patterns, cuts, and silhouettes that feel right and those that garner compliments (sometimes a great piece doesn’t get a compliment, but you may get one about how you have lost weight, look rested, possibly changed your hair when you didn’t).

Only then, should you be able to craft a wish list. Each season you’ll pull out the clothes you already own, try them on, see what still fits and flatters and what holes are in your wardrobe. As you scroll through blogs and flip through magazines you’ll see current trends. This is the perfect time of year because every fashion website is sharing what is hot for the season; check Harper’s BAZAAR, Style.com, Glamour, Fashionista.  Note what appeals to you, be it a certain color, a popular pattern, a fresh new accessory or silhouette. It’s not about if you can wear the exact item or afford the specific designer, it’s about using it as an idea launching pad.  Can a similar item or trend work with your wardrobe and personal style? Sometimes it’s better to admire than to own.

When you do have down what you like and will work with what you have and who you currently are, make the list and carry it with you. Don’t veer off course, use your wish list to stick to your budget as well as your personal style. Cross off items as you get them, and adjust as you actually try such pieces and find a better alternative.

Personal style is not something you figure out over night, in fact it is something that is improved by taking the long route. Baby steps, small revelations will make the most impact over time and help you figure out not just your current style, but what items you desire to better hone it. Best of luck!

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Sample SAHM Capsule Wardrobe for Summer

Some of you have requested it, and some of you have asked for it on forums (I see you BabyCenter peeps and welcome you to my blog!). I created a SAHM capsule wardrobe previously, but here’s an update for the warmer months of the year.

I don’t like a lot of prints most of the time – they are too memorable to wear often, and they look dated more quickly. However, my opinion changes for summer and for a few reasons:

  • They hide sweat and stains nicely
  • They are distracting during a season when so many silhouettes are fitted and shrunken

A solid blue tank can look cheap and dumpy if you have curves or if it gets washed too much, a printed tank creates an optical illusion, and also looks more expensive. A pair of solid capris can be a bit too harsh in summer and the thin fabric may show more than you like; a printed pair camouflages curves, adds a bit of light and if you choose wisely, a print can actually fade nicely with regular washings (I’m partial to light-background retro florals, Ikat prints, and dots). A print can also dress up and down nicely with a quick change of accessories.

I have a lot of dresses in this capsule, and it’s because I find them to be more wearable, more simple, and more comfortable in summer than skirts and separates. While you can find jersey dresses anywhere, they can cling with sweat and humidity if too thin. I’m partial to cotton, chambray, linen and silk (and blends with these two fabrics). Such fabrics dry quickly, catch the slightest breeze, float away from the body and don’t cling. If you choose a style with a bit fuller of a skirt (even a-line) that comes to knee or lower, you can still chase after your toddler and crawl under a table to capture a lost sippy cup. My secret for summer dresses? Bike shorts. Get a pair of moisture-wicking bike shorts in a solid color, and they will prevent chafing as well as provide modesty.

Social events in the summer are never as dressy as those in the colder months; you can get away with a night out with the girls in a pair of white jeans and an interesting top; leather sandals with some metal detail will be a dressy enough shoe and is just as comfortable as cheap flip flops. For summer weddings, a dress in a silk or linen blend paired with wedge or heeled sandals and an interesting necklace will be lovely, and such pieces can be incorporated into your daily wardrobe.

Switching out black accessories for tan makes most everything look more summery. This is a great way to make winter staples (chambray shirts, darker colored knits) look seasonably appropriate. Not only that, a tan bag doesn’t have to be stowed away come September. I always prefer leather bags over fabric because they can be cleaned and conditioned, and look good with a bit of wear. Fabric bags can be very hard to clean, and a stained tote can really ruin your overall look. A bag with a shoulder strap as well as a crossbody strap means you can sling it over your body when your hands are full, or carry it on your shoulder or the crook of your elbow if in a rush or have a little one on your back.

Shorts are terrifying for most women, but these days there’s more than 2” inseams and skintight cutoffs. Last summer I lived in two pairs of shorts – weathered denim and a pair of white chinos. With my curves, I find it best to size up with shorts – this way you get less creasing with sitting, less VPL, they’re more comfortable, and aren’t fitted on the thighs. I also like to cuff them once to get a better length on me – petites are too petite, regulars are too long; in denim and chino a single cuff isn’t a bad thing. When it comes to denim, I encourage a more distressed look so you have a modern and hip look to your outfits. Summer is the time for prints, and for a more distressed or boho feel to your wardrobe. Very dark denim shorts and longer denim shorts with a very severe cuff can look dated and dowdy. Last summer I bought a pair of denim shorts at Target and self-distressed them. Check out this post that has many tips on how to DIY denim. But once you get over your shorts fear, you’ll find they can be as flattering as skirts. If need be, take them to a tailor – a great fitting pair of shorts is worth the trouble. White is a great summer neutral and in denim or heavy chino they are relatively opaque. If you fear white, consider olive (military inspiration is all over this season’s fashion), or a signature color (I have a pair of faded orange chino shorts I love and pair with everything from hot pink to Breton stripes to a simple white v-neck).

It may seem too hot for jeans, but often you are spending time inside instead of out. Loose boyfriend jeans that cuff above the ankle bone are lighter weight denim, have some ventilation with distressing, and are a trendy way to update simple tee shirts and tanks. White jeans are a great way to dress up knit tops for the evening or even for a daytime event like brunch or a casual shower.

Come summer, I prefer beaded necklaces to metal. Costume jewelry doesn’t play nice with sweat – it will tarnish, peel, and often irritate your skin. Not only that, it gets hot when the sun beats down on it. You can find beaded necklaces for cheap, be it at craft shows, Etsy, big box discount shops, or the teeny-bopper jewelry kiosk in your mall.

Stick to a single color story and aesthetic for the season so pieces mix and match more easily. As you can see with the first collection, it’s black, white, and rusty orange shades. The second one, it’s black and ivory with aqua and yellow.  For some, it may be shades of blue, for others it may be tans and browns. I recommend at least one pop of color for variety, and consider summer accessories to switch things up.

Speaking of accessories, I am all for signature sunglasses. A pair that is well-made, comfortable for long periods of time, and on trend will improve all outfits. I’m glad oversized Ray-Bans are back in style, I have a gold pair and a black pair; my sister is more the type to wear oversized plastic frames and my mom has been rocking the same black plastic Fendi frames for a few years and they still look quite chic.

For shoes, it’s tempting to spend all summer in $2 Old Navy flip flops, but I highly recommend investing in at least one pair of leather sandals – they’re just as or more comfortable and add a level of sophistication and style to your casual outfits. Sandals in a skin color with a wedge or slight heel can be worn with pants, dresses, skirts, and even shorts of all lengths and add a bit of a dressy vibe. A pair of canvas shoes, be they Keds, Chucks, or TOMS are perfect for mulch playgrounds, walking to the farmer’s market, or running errands around town while keeping you cool.

Sunglasses and shoes are two accessories you can find mega cheap come summer (hello Old Navy flip flops) but the quickest way to ruin your style. Buy the cheap v-neck tee shirt (hello Old Navy Vintage V-necks) but buy the best quality your budget can afford for sandals and shades and you will look more polished, trend aware, and sophisticated.

Finally, a comment to all – do not sacrifice comfort because you have an issue with your limbs.  Your arms, your legs, we all find them to not be toned enough, too veiny, too soft, too pale, to lumpy, too something.  No one is analyzing your arms and legs as much as you are.  While there are lovely cropped pants, below-knee skirts, and floaty sleeved tops out there, sometimes you just need to wear some shorts or a sleeveless top.  You will look more conspicuous sweating in an elbow-sleeve top and cropped pants than having fun and living life with exposed arms and legs.  Live your life, enjoy yourself, and dress the part!

Other posts you may find helpful:

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Capsule Wardrobe: No Fashion Victim, No Frump

Dear Allie, I’m having a hard time shopping. I may be old, but I’m not dead! I’m 55, in pretty good shape though my midsection does show age and giving birth to three wonderful sons and I don’t feel confident in short skirts or sleeveless blouses. I want to look fun and cool and hip but I don’t want to look ridiculous or that I’m not happy with my age. Where can I shop, what shapes should I look for?

I’m 45 and suddenly feel that Talbots and Ann Taylor are too old for me. Does that make sense? When I was in my thirties I could wear a suit or sheath dress and feel chic but now it just makes me feel frumpy. I’m not ready to be frumpy but I can’t wear H&M any more. Advice please.

Would you do a capsule wardrobe for women over 50? We can’t wear the skinny jeans and spike heel ankle boots and sheer blouses but also desire to be stylish.

I am so glad to read your letters because fashion should not stop being fun just because of an age on your driver’s license! While you may not feel comfortable in a lot of the popular current trends, you’ll be surprised at how many styles, fabrics, and brands out there can be quite flattering to your figure, lifestyle, and personal style without making you feel frumpy.

This capsule wardrobe was created for the woman who wants to look modern but not a fashion victim, wants comfort but also a polished style. I kept the color palette very simple – black, grays, and pops of cool jewel tones. This way your wardrobe stays in style for many years; no having to update each season with the new hues. Minimal prints – some stripes and blocks of color, with interest in the accessories – scarves, shoes, and jewelry.

Speaking of accessories, you’re likely in a better situation financially than you were at 25 so shop with care, looking for quality, and occasionally considering a higher-end brand for longevity of quality but also style. While a pashmina is always a smart choice (loop around the throat or wear as a shawl or even use as a blanket on a plane flight), lighter-weight scarves of silk and fine linen will have less bulk at your neck and bust. I specifically chose two designer scarves (Alexander McQueen’s famous scull scarf and a gray leopard from Saint Laurent) because such details, if in your budget, show you’re aware of trends, care about style, and shop with purpose. If you cannot afford, don’t choose a cheaper copy – it’s better to choose something completely different than try to fool people into thinking you have the real thing.  Bold silver accessories are also purposeful – bold, confident, clear in your message. A bag that has a current silhouette without being too trendy will also make your outfits look more hip, current, purposeful. For the shoes, I chose styles that won’t cause pain but will add style. A low wedge works with most any length of pant or skirt; a mid-heel pump will dress items up for evening or a special occasion. I chose a sneaker that is also on-trend and hip, but not too trendy (Jack Purcells) – pair with jeans or even cropped pants for an on-trend but not too trendy vibe. A pair of flats are always a wise choice – instead of sticking to a safe neutral consider an unexpected color, print, or embellishment so they aren’t just footwear but an accessory.

For bottoms, I chose pants that have classic silhouettes and comfortable fabrics. Ponte trousers, stretch jeans with a waistband that won’t dig into your midsection, classically cut white jeans. Yes, white jeans! White jeans are extremely versatile, chic, modern, and if in a heavyweight denim just as flattering as darker shades. For cropped pants, keep them closer to the ankle bone than calf, have the cut slim or straight (no super wide or tapered) so it’s modern and crisp.

Dresses are an easy way to dress for day or evening. Choosing unusual fabrics, silhouettes, and colors will show you’re aware of trends and have a specific sartorial point of view. The black dress has a faux leather front while the rest is ponte, making it modern but also comfortable and washable. Pair with pumps for a special occasion, with wedges for work, with the sneakers for a day at the museums. The same holds true for the gray dress – it’s something that will look like an old grocery bag on a hanger but will look very modern and architectural on and can dress up and down (even pair with leggings) with ease. The other two dresses are more traditional, but the colors keep them from looking dowdy.

Layers are a great way to transition between seasons and also to flatter the figure. A soft blazer out of ponte is not only comfortable and flattering, but will easily make your ponte bottoms into a suit. Soft jackets add interest and in a lightweight fabric with stretch will flatter the figure. For tees and tops, look for softer fabrics (silk, poly, rayon blends) that will drape nicely and not add bulk. Instead of a classic crew neck which can look severe, consider rounder necks, surplice and drape necklines.

To look modern but not a fashion victim, it’s important to shop with a clear sartorial message in mind. Create a mood board or use Pinterest to collect images of the personal style you have or want. Celebrities, clothing pieces, vacation spots, makeup that inspires you. Keeping it very specific will make it easier to add to your wardrobe, mix and match, and get your point across to others.

For the capsule I created, you may visit the Polyvore collage I created for specific brands, but some brands I have found that can give you this look:

  • Nordstrom, Macy’s, Dillards: Check the brands Leith, Eileen Fisher, Alexander Wang, JAG Jeans, NYDJ, Theory
  • ASOS: You need to dig a lot and it can be overwhelming, but they have amazing ponte pieces for great prices
  • MYHABIT: They often have brands like Rick Owens and Alexander Wang for much less and I have gotten some amazing deals on stylish leather bags and shoes

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Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe of Neutrals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over 30 Possible Combinations

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

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

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

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

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Ask Allie: SAHM Capsule Wardrobe

Dear Allie, any suggestions for a stay at home mom’s capsule wardrobe? I left the workforce two years ago when my second child was born and I have a terrible wardrobe of cocktail dresses and stained sweatpants and never seem to have the right thing to wear anywhere. While most days are spent in comfortable knits playing with the kids or working around the house, I’d like a wardrobe that could get me back out of the house and not look a mess. Clothes for volunteering at the school and church, wearing to book club or an unexpected night out with my husband or the girls or just basic clothes that won’t make me look like a mess when running errands. Clothes have to be comfortable, be washable, and be versatile since I don’t have an income any more. Any suggestions?

This sample capsule wardrobe will have you ready for everything from your husband’s work party to book club to the market to the playground. Stretch denim, ponte black knit separates, and colorful knits keep you looking polished even when you’re spending the day on the floor with your little ones. Choosing solids makes the pieces less memorable and more versatile; fabrics like ponte and merino wool look luxe but are machine washable on the gentle cycle and hold their shape through washings and wears.

Twenty Possible Ensembles (though you can make many many more):

  1. Black leggings, striped tee, cardigan, boots
  2. Black leggings, black turtleneck, boots
  3. Black leggings, chambray shirt, boots
  4. Black leggings, gray tee, pashmina, boots
  5. Jeans, striped tee, pashmina, boots
  6. Jeans, turtleneck, flats
  7. Jeans, gray tee, pink cardigan, statement necklace, flats
  8. Jeans, purple sweater, boots
  9. Jeans, chambray shirt, statement necklace, boots
  10. Black pants, black turtleneck, pumps
  11. Black pants, purple sweater, flats
  12. Black pants, gray tee, statement necklace, pumps
  13. Dress, boots
  14. Dress, leggings, flats
  15. Dress, pumps
  16. Skirt, scoop tee, flats
  17. Skirt, striped tee, cardigan, pumps
  18. Skirt, purple sweater, boots
  19. Skirt, turtleneck, flats
  20. Skirt, chambray shirt, flats

Black ponte leggings are thicker than jersey knit, making them look more polished, are more opaque and better hide any lumps and bumps. With a boyfriend cardigan and tall boots, comfy leggings and a tee can look downright chic. The same holds true for dark narrow jeans with stretch – the added Lycra keeps the jeans in shape when you’re active and keeps them comfortable. A dark wash will look more sophisticated and stay stylish longer than a trendy wash. A pair of trousers in black ponte dress up easily but have the stretch and machine washability that makes them practical; pair with everything from a tee shirt to a silk blouse for a put-together look. For ponte, even if it says dry clean only, it can be washed on the gentle cycle and hung to dry.

A black ponte dress in a simple silhouette can be worn with leggings and flats for a weekday casual look, with tall boots for Date Night, or with pumps for a social engagement. Dress up with a statement necklace, dress down with a pashmina. A gathered or pleated skirt in cotton blend (100% cotton may need ironing, a bit of poly will keep the wrinkles at bay) or a heavy knit like ponte gives you the fabric you need to be able to get on your knees to retrieve your child’s toy from under the table but still looks polished. A skirt can make simple flats and an old v-neck tee shirt look chic and purposeful and a lightweight sweater sophisticated.

A mix of different necklines keeps your wardrobe from looking like a uniform and makes layering a breeze. A black turtleneck sweater is insta-chic when paired with everything from trousers to jeans to a fuller skirt.  Merino wool is a great alternative to blends or cashmere as it doesn’t pill and can be washed on the gentle cycle of your machine.  A striped knit is an unexpected neutral which looks great on its own or with a sweater or shirt layered over it. Stripes also do a great job of hiding spots that are visible even on dark colored solid knits.  Chambray is also an unexpected neutral which can add interest under the dress, alone with jeans, or tucked into a skirt.  Unlike a white shirt, chambray looks okay a bit wrinkled, gets better with time and wear, and easily hides stains.

A big slouchy leather bag in a statement color can hold everything from your Kindle and bottle of water to a bag of Goldfish crackers and change of clothes for your child.  No need to be matchy-matchy with your bag, choose one that you like the color and shape and it can become an accent to the rest of the hues in your wardrobe.  Steer clear of metallics, suede, crinkle glazes or patent – all show wear and stains much faster than regular leather or a microfiber. Owning a sleek purse and pair of comfortable pumps in classic black leather will make dressing up your staples simple and they’re easy to polish up for special events. No need for a ton of different shoes – tall boots are surprisingly versatile and quickly add polish to simple knits and jeans. A pair of flats in a print like leopard are often times more versatile than a solid. Simple black pumps are there when you need to dress up.  If you’d like another pair of shoes, some ankle boots with a low heel or slight wedge would look great with all the pants and if they have a Western or engineer look, can also work with casual skirts and dresses.

Update: I created some sample capsule wardrobes for the summer months, you can check it out here!

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Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for a Fluctuating Figure

I’m going through a divorce and at the same time my only son has left for college [thousands of miles away]. I know I am self-medicating with food and I need to do something about it but in the meantime my clothes don’t fit. I don’t want to spend a lot of money because A. I don’t have it and B. I don’t plan to be this size for long but squeezing myself into too small clothes is doing nothing for my confidence. Any ideas on a capsule that can get me through this rough patch? I’m 48, average height, and right now a size 14 though usually I am an 8.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but a pair of too-tight jeans just make me want to raid the fridge. Having some flattering and well-fitting clothes will not only make you look better but likely feel better. Not only that, having a few garments that fit and are versatile will reduce stress over getting dressed, giving you energy to focus on caring for yourself.

What to wear when you temporarily gain weight: A Capsule wardrobe for the fluctuating figure

There are some fabrics that are more forgiving and budget friendly than others. During this time, ponte knit and matte jersey are your friends. Found everywhere from Target to the fanciest boutique in town, these fabrics have stretch, don’t cling, and can dress up and down with ease. Ponte is so heavy of a fabric it will smooth the figure while giving a nice drape. Matte jersey can dress up beautifully but be washed in the machine and doesn’t wrinkle.

Dresses are also your friend during this time, for they are more likely to adjust to your changing size without sacrificing your style. In this capsule I put two dresses that are extremely versatile and flattering to a softer or curvier figure. A wrap dress in matte jersey whittles the waist, flatters curves, and turns you into a bombshell. I purposefully chose a rich color in place of black so people will notice the color before anything else. This dress can be worn to work, but also can dress up for an after-work event, a wedding, or if you choose to do so, a date. The second dress is of ponte knit so it won’t cling; a fit and flare style highlights the smallest part of your torso and gives you an hourglass shape. A dress like this is just as versatile as the wrap dress but a bit more conservative. For work wear on its own, or pair with a cardigan or blazer; it can be worn with pumps, booties, or flats.

It’s worth it to purchase a simple skirt and classic-cut trousers in your current size, and if necessary tailor for a great fit. I recently purchased these pants from LOFT and found the price very nice for work-ready attire. Not only that, the pants are machine washable, reducing the money and time spent on dry cleaning. These pants from Old Navy are also machine washable and a classic fit.  A skirt in a heavyweight knit like ponte will look appropriate at the office, dress down with flats and a tee for the weekend, and also work with your changing size. This one from Target is a nice price and receives great reviews.  For Casual Friday and the weekends, it’s smart to buy one pair of jeans, a simple dark wash, free of trendy details that fit comfortably.  While my beloved NYDJ ‘Hayden’ jeans are pricey, you can often find them on sale at 6pm, and these jeans by Style&co are a nice alternative.

The best way to save money and feel comfortable is to forego wearing crisp button-front shirts, perfectly tailored wool dresses, and classic suiting and go for items with stretch. A v-neck cardigan with a longer line keeps you warm on crisp autumn days and dresses up a knit to make it office appropriate. As with the wrap dress, choose a cheery color that adds interest to your closet staples. A blazer is often necessary in Corporate America, but is also a great way to dress up denim for drinks with friends or weekend brunch. Choosing a blazer in ponte knit not only coordinates with the other ponte pieces in your wardrobe, but offers stretchy comfort. For this item, choosing a neutral will make the piece look more expensive and be more versatile; pair with fun printed and colored tops and simple dark or denim bottoms.

Finally, take care of the underpinnings. Though it may sound like torture right now, you need to be fitted for a bra. Our busts change with weight loss and gain as well as age; a well-fitting bra can make you look 10 pounds thinner, years younger, and have your entire wardrobe fit better. Speaking of underpinnings, consider purchasing a new pair of very opaque, well-made tights. Black tights with black shoes will elongate your frame and look modern with knit dresses and skirts; invest in a new pair that doesn’t sag or segment. I’m a fan of the Spanx Tight End tights which last me multiple seasons and can handle being machine washed on gentle in a lingerie bag. Little details like well-fitting underpinnings can make all the difference in how you look, but more importantly, how you feel.

I can’t stress this enough – it’s okay to wear the same pants two or three times in a week, to wear the same dress to every wedding, to only own two pairs of shoes. Style comes from quality, not quantity. Buy few items, but choose colors that make you happy and fabrics that are kind to your body. Keep it simple and add personality with accessories already in your wardrobe. Clothing can seem very important, but it’s really only important in that it covers you and lets you get through the day. You have far more important things in life to care about, first and foremost you. Buy what makes you comfortable, feel good, and give you the time to focus on what’s important. Sending you vibes of strength and love.

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Ask Allie: Feminine Capsule Wardrobe of Neutrals

I love the idea of capsule wardrobes and minimalism but I can’t seem to make it work. I buy basics but they don’t work with each other so I end up buying more and more. I like neutrals (camel, cream, grey with jeans and brown shoes) and I like a polished and professional but feminine look but I’m buying and looking like a forest ranger instead of Katharine Hepburn. Help me get on the right track!

Oh those must-have closet essentials, they get us every time! The thing is, what is considered a classic or essential to one woman can be useless or terribly unflattering to the other. The best way to figure out your personal closet staples or wardrobe must-haves is to look at what you already wear and love the most. Guessing by your forest ranger comment I’m betting you’re purchasing a lot of structured pieces like crisp button-front shirts, trenches, straight trousers and that may be the problem. I made a capsule wardrobe of very classic pieces, but with a softer, more feminine touch to steer clear of any park ranger vibes.

A good way to make neutrals look luxe instead of uniform is focusing on texture. Leather, denim with strategic fading or distressing, lace and crocheted fabric, silk, cashmere, wool, ruffles and draping, cable knits. Almost every piece in this capsule has some sort of texture to make it stand out. Instead of a crisp button-front, choose a silk blouse or a weathered denim shirt. Instead of a blazer or twill jacket consider toppers in tweed, boucle, denim, and leather. Strategic pleating and ruffles make a simple camel dress or silk shell showstoppers without affecting their versatility.

The best way to make pieces in your wardrobe work with one another is to imagine or write down potential outfits before you shop and as you consider every new purchase. If it can’t be incorporated into at least three outfits with what you already own, it doesn’t deserve space in your capsule wardrobe. The point of a capsule is to have everything work in harmony, and adding items that aren’t versatile can quickly cause your capsule to collapse and have you spend far more than you want. To help, make an album on your phone or jot down in a small notebook the current pieces in your wardrobe that work so you can stay focused when you shop. I also recommend wearing pieces from your wardrobe and the shoes you’ll likely wear with the future garment when shopping so you get a realistic feel for its versatility and appropriateness.

And finally, go slow. It’s not as though your closet is bare, it’s just not what you like. So shop with care, adding slowly so the pieces are ones you love now and will still enjoy a year from now. If you shop slowly and purchase fewer items, you can wait for great sales and invest in higher quality items that will last more than a season. The point of a capsule wardrobe is to have more with less, more style with fewer garments, more options while spending less money, more outfits with less stress of figuring out how to put them together each morning. It’s worth the wait for the right pieces that make you feel and look great and work nicely with one another.

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Summer Lingerie Must-Haves

When summer arrives, I don’t just switch out my sweaters and long-sleeved shirts for tanks and shorts, but I also switch out my lingerie drawer. Sweat, heat, and lightweight fabrics just NEED different underpinnings. My lingerie drawer must-haves for when the temperature rises:

Summer lingerie essentials

Tee Shirt Bras

Slub knits, linen and linen blends, and cotton voile are brilliant in the heat and humidity, but are prone to transparency. Tee shirt bras are a must with such fabrics as they are slightly padded, molded in shape, and free of adornments to virtually disappear while providing modesty. I always have a couple in a color close to my skintone for white and light shades, and a black one to wear under dark colors. My personal favorite is the Fantasie 4510 Smoothing Balcony T-Shirt Bra.

Nude Slip

Warmer weather is far more comfortable with lighter weight fabrics, but these fabrics (even in darker colors) can be quite transparent, especially on a bright sunny day. Having a nude slip can prevent embarrassing exposure, and if you choose wisely it won’t add too much weight or heat. I love this slip from Calvin Klein, which skims the body without adding bulk under slim dresses and doesn’t cling even in high humidity. Free of adornments, it won’t ruin the look or line of your summer frocks. Adjustable straps and plenty of stretch make the slip comfortable and well-fitting.

A little tip: For years, my favorite summer slip was the cotton lining of a dress I thrifted but didn’t like. It came with a beige cotton slip only stitched in at the shoulders, so it was easy to snip it out. It was breathable, the right length, and virtually invisible under my dresses and cost about $4.

Another tip: Check eBay for traditional slips. I find gently used, vintage, and never worn half and full slips of all colors and styles for pennies on the dollar.

Nude Thongs

I know some of you despise thongs, but I find nothing better to prevent visible panty lines (VPL) with white or lightweight pants. The Godiva Thong from Hanky Panky is a new favorite; the nude color is a perfect match for my skin and the fabric seems to mold to my body, preventing shifting, wedgies, or cutting into my waist without feeling grody on a sweltering summer day.

Black Briefs

If I’m not wearing a pair of bike shorts or slip shorts under my sundress, you can bet I’m wearing a pair of black briefs. Also my undies of choice with denim shorts. My favorite is Hanro, they really are worth the hype and the money. They hold up great and last eons longer than cheaper versions from Target meaning it’s a better value in the long run, also they fit like a dream.  Another favorite is Knock Out! Panties, which have a moisture-wicking cotton gusset to keep you dry and comfy even if the rest of you is a sweaty mess.

Nude Briefs

Same deal, for white and light colored shorts and sundresses.  I forgot to mention Hanky Panky’s Retro Vikini Briefs, some of the most comfortable undies I have worn, and pretty lace that doesn’t dig or chafe even on the hottest summer day.

Black Bike Shorts

Bike shorts are brilliant under dresses and skirts for preventing chub rub and offering modesty. I recently reviewed Jockey’s Skimmies Slipshorts which are great for this, but you can also use most any bike shorts. Check out the comments on this post for a ton of great options.

A little tip: Pettipants are a pretty alternative and easily found at online lingerie shops. I have found many on eBay; there are sellers who offer overstock and sellers who make brand new product.

Bra with Pretty Straps

I don’t think it’s stylish to purposely show your underpinnings, but summer clothes often cause bra straps to show no matter how careful you are. I’m not talking about wearing a straight bra with a racerback tank (PLEASE don’t do this, wear a racerback bra or buy one of these gadgets), but traditional tanks and camisoles sometimes slip and you get a peek. Instead of showcasing your nude tee shirt bra, having a bra in a pretty color and with attractive straps can make it less awful. This spring and summer I picked up this bra, but love the leopard straps on this one.

Strapless Bra

Comfortable and supportive strapless bras DO exist, check out my post on a bra fitting to see proof! Since realizing this, my summer wardrobe has grown exponentially. I recommend getting one similar to a tee shirt bra – very simple, smooth, one that will disappear under your clothing. As for color, it depends on your wardrobe. I choose one in nude (the Fantasie 4530) since I wear more light colors in the summer, but if your wardrobe is mostly dark colors a black one would be wiser.

What are your warm-weather lingerie must-haves?

Ask Allie: Summer Capsule Wardrobe with Polish

“I’d love to know what you plan on wearing this summer, what are your top buys?”

“Can you do a summer capsule of business casual but that works with after work ball games, happy hours, and other events? I can’t figure out summer day to play like I can for fall and winter.”

Summer should have a wardrobe as fun yet relaxed as it is; it’s a time to embrace color, consider bold prints, and choose fabrics that can handle the heat and your more active lifestyle. Below is a sample summer capsule wardrobe, envisioning what I’d be buying and wearing this summer, featuring my favorite trends of the season as well as many wardrobe classics that could already be residing in your closet.

capsule wardrobe - summer polish

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printed shell | gray tee | band tee | white blazer | black top | blue camisole | striped tank | wedge sandals | Birkenstocks | printed pants | white shorts | denim shorts | hat | sunglasses | cuff bracelet | white jeans | boyfriend jeans | purse | belt | pencil skirt | midi skirt | scarf | necklace | printed dress | yellow dress

Tops:

  • A silky sleeveless top in a bold print is surprisingly versatile, it’s a hot trend this summer but a piece that will be stylish for many seasons to come. Wear untucked with white shorts, wedge sandals and gold jewelry for your friend’s annual summer bash, with jeans for happy hour, tucked into the chiffon midi skirt for a sweltering day at the office, with a pencil skirt and the white blazer or cardigan to ward against the frigid temps of an overly-air conditioned workplace. I even love the contrast of silk with distressed denim; pair with the boyfriend jeans or denim shorts and Birkenstocks and look comfy chic for an outdoor concert or barbecue.  I just got this one from Nordstrom and have worn a dozen times in just a month.
  • I love a gray v-neck tee, I have a couple Old Navy Vintage V-necks and have heard good things about Everlane; if linen or stretchy, it has a dressier feel that looks great knotted over a chiffon midi skirt or under a white blazer with boyfriend jeans. Also consider knotting over a dress to give it a completely different look.
  • I love band tees, a great way to show your personal tastes and incorporate a hot summer trend. I always cut the neck out of mine, and occasionally snip off a bit of length of the sleeves for a more feminine fit. Pair with the chiffon skirt or printed pants and Birkenstocks for a concert or weekend party, wear with distressed denim for the weekends and add the blazer for a more refined look.
  • A white blazer in a relaxed cut and fabric is an easy way to dress up a casual summer look or transform a “play” look into something “day” appropriate. I have a white linen blazer from LOFT; I roll the sleeves to get a casual summer vibe and pair with separates or wear over a dress.
  • A black drapey sleeveless top is a summer wardrobe essential for me; last summer I had this silky one from MICHAEL Michael Kors and this summer I added this jersey one from Two by Vince Camuto. It’s nice enough to wear to the office with the printed pants or either of the skirts or slip under a suit. However it can dress down and work with the white shorts or jeans for a casual dinner out or drinks at a waterfront bar.
  • A floaty camisole in a fabric like crepe, silk, or cotton voile is perfect for day to play dress. Wear under a blazer or cardigan for the office and remove the topper for drinks or dinner. If the color is in a similar hue as the pencil skirt (teal with cobalt, purple with navy, etc.) the two paired with a blazer makes for an elegant office look and without can make a lovely outfit for a daytime wedding. Wear untucked with any of the bottoms for breezy summer style.
  • You know I love stripes, and that love continues through the summer. A striped tank in a heavyweight stretch or refined knit can dress up enough for Business Casual; pair with the printed pants for black and white pattern mixing, with the chiffon skirt and wedges, or the pencil skirt and blazer. For play, it would look great with any of the bottoms, add a belt with gold details to dress it up.

Bottoms:

  • Printed pants are my new favorite wardrobe addition. In a lightweight fabric, it’s a way to look polished while keeping your cool all summer.
  • Shorts come in so many cuts and lengths this summer, there’s a flattering style for everyone. My favorites are a distressed denim (I self-distressed a cheap Target pair, see them here, and I used this tutorial), and crisp white. I find white versatile and easy to dress up, while many feel white is bad with pale legs, it’s less harsh than black and complements more colors and fabrics.
  • Some can’t fathom wearing denim in summer and I get that. For me, I like it for the evening or Casual Friday. White jeans can be flattering if you choose a heavyweight denim or a denim blend, and consider a looser cut or going up a size. Boyfriend jeans are still hot this summer, and their looser fit makes them more comfortable in the heat and great for sitting in the grass for a picnic or festival.
  • Skirts are a summer essential, especially if you work in an office setting. A pencil skirt in a cotton or linen blend is seasonally appropriate and office appropriate. A chiffon midi or maxi skirt floats in the breeze and dresses up and down with ease.

Dresses:

  • Gotta love one-piece dressing during the summer months! Featured are my two favorite summer dress cuts – the tee or shift dress and a more feminine fit and flare style. The tee dress can dress up for work with heels and a scarf or necklace and can dress down with a topknot and Birkenstocks. The yellow dress can be paired with nude heels and a sparkly necklace for a wedding, with a blazer or cardigan for the office, and simple sandals for play. Tie a tee over it or wear a belt (or a scarf tied at the waist) for a completely different look.

Accessories:

  • Wedge sandals are brilliant for summer; they can work for more casual office settings and won’t sink into grass at an outdoor wedding. They also work with pants, jeans, skirts and dressier shorts. Flat sandals are a comfy summer must; I’m loving the return of Birkenstocks and their availability in metallic and patent leathers but a simple sandal, gladiator, or thong style can also work.
  • It’s important to protect yourself in the sun, along with sunscreen it’s smart to don a hat and sunglasses. A white Panama hat is on trend, looks at home with a tee and denim cutoffs as well as a pretty summer dress and heels. Classic Ray-Ban Wayfarers also dress up and down nicely and are a classic that will still look cool next summer.
  • A small black leather clutch with a strap that can be removed or tucked inside is my favorite type of summer bag, and perfect for day to play. Use the strap for the office and transform it into a clutch for happy hour. Wear across the body for a daytime festival and without for a wedding.
  • A black leather belt with a bit of hardware is a quick way to dress up wardrobe basics. A thin belt isn’t as hot and can nicely cinch a floaty tunic or dress or add some polish to white jeans or shorts.
  • A square scarf in silk or cotton voile is extremely versatile. Tie bandana style and add interest to a simple tee and jeans, knot over a ponytail or to the strap of your bag. I sometimes tie a scarf to a front belt loop of my jeans to spice up a simple outfit.
  • In the summer, heavy jewelry can be hot. A simple chain and charm and a thin cuff of the same metal is enough sparkle needed to dress up wardrobe basics.

 

When it comes to summer dressing with a touch of polish, what are your wardrobe tips and suggestions?

Ask Allie: Young Professional Summer Capsule Wardrobe

I began graduate school this January and was able to hide in coats and jeans during winter months, but now it’s getting HOT. Do you have any tips for building a spring/summer capsule wardrobe for a college graduate student? I want to become a little more sophisticated than my sweat pants and flip flop undergrad days, but am not sure which direction to go.

I just graduated and got a job in an office where the dress code is business casual. While I can wear jeans on Friday, the rest of the week I’m supposed to wear pants, dresses and skirts. It’s hot out, how do I look business casual and stay cool?

I’m new to the workforce and have no clue where to start when trying to find clothes that are right for summer and right for an office and right for me – I am 24. I don’t need to wear a suit at work, can get away with khakis or even jeans but sometimes I need to look nice for a business meeting or corporate visit. Oh, and I have a limited budget. Help!

The summer does make it harder to look professional but still keep your cool. A lot of it has to do more with the fabrics and silhouettes you choose than how much skin is covered. Because no matter the number on the thermometer, showing a lot of skin is never appropriate at the office. Cotton, linen, fabrics that catch the breeze – this will help you keep your cool while looking professional. Even though it’s hot outside, it’s usually chilly indoors so having a couple easy layers to put on once inside keeps you looking great no matter the temperature.

All three of you mentioned relatively relaxed dress codes, so I considered the one I have at my current job. We are allowed sleeveless as long as it doesn’t expose bra straps, and they are okay with sandals and open-toe shoes as long as they are not flip-flops. A tee shirt is even acceptable if in a refined knit, tailored, and in good condition. If your office is more formal, it’s easy to find alternatives that cover the tops of the arms, are closed-toe, or an more polished fabric (switch tees for silk or synthetics). I decided to create a capsule that is youthful and age-appropriate yet still appropriate for an office.

Suiting separates are a smart wardrobe addition, even if you aren’t expected to wear a suit to work. You never know when you may be asked to travel on business, represent your company at a conference, or speak in front of clients at a meeting. I chose separates in ponte knit, which isn’t as stuffy as classic suiting, and works better as individual pieces in a business casual environment. Along with this, also have a pair of classic pumps on hand – while they can be worn on a daily basis to work, they are ready to go for a business meeting or even for a weekend wedding or social affair. Get them reheeled when necessary, polish regularly and they can provide you with years of stylish wear.

As you can see, I chose a collection of brights with black and white accents. In summer, brights are more acceptable and solids are always more versatile. The black and white keeps it looking clean, modern, and classic; black immediately gives an air of formality and will tone down cheery hues and give a business vibe. The same holds true for a pair of classic pumps with an almond or slightly pointed toe and is why I constantly recommend a pair in everyone’s wardrobe.

When shopping, keep in mind that these are clothes for the office – while a casual or business casual dress code is in effect, nothing should be overly tight, cleavage should be under wraps, skirts should be around the knee, shoes shouldn’t be too wild (too high, too big of platform, crazy colors or fabrics, etc.).

It’s better to err on the side of conservative until you have a better feel of the true office culture and dress code. Don’t base your assumptions on the look of the receptionist who greeted you for your interview or even the attire of the manager who interviewed you. Get to know your department, your clients. I know at my company, each department dresses a bit differently depending on if they meet with clients, have offsite meetings, have to lead meetings, or are holed up in a cubicle all day long looking at two monitors. Don’t buy your whole wardrobe before your first month is through.

Links below the collage are similar items at reasonable prices.  Some of the pieces used in the collage are no longer for sale or too pricey for an entry-level employee; collages should be considered inspiration only.

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Ask Allie: All Black Capsule Wardrobe

After a six year hiatus, I am back to sign language interpreting as my part-time gig. As a sign language interpreter, we are required to wear dark, solid clothes (they are the background for our hands, and anything else would be “visual noise”). Do you have any suggestions for spring/summer outfits that will make me look and feel fabulous?

My new job requires me to wear all black, and they encourage fashionable styles that aren’t too over the top. I work long hours and do a lot of standing and sitting so I need clothes that can hold up for it. Where do I start?

I just changed [retail store] companies and my new place has an all-black dress code. I’m a trainer so I need to look good but also be able to wear clothes that can handle a lot of business travel and washings. Suggestions?

For a few years of my life, I worked for a skincare company as a manager and trainer and had to wear black every day. At first I felt it was so limiting to be forced into one color, but over time I think it was a good experience for honing my personal style. By being confined to black, I cared more about fit, style, silhouette. I also found that black can be found at most any pricepoint, so I would purchase quality basics (well-fitting pants, nice dresses for speaking engagements) and have a bit more fun with budget-friendly tops that incorporated current trends.

Above is a sample all-black capsule wardrobe and it shows that you can have style and fun while sticking to a single color. I was channeling a modern-day Audrey Hepburn with this collection, choosing simple pieces with a touch of femininity.

I can recall days where I was processing shipment or completing floor moves and was happy just in a black tee with a flattering silhouette, some cropped pants and flats. However, it was great to have a jacket or cardigan in the back room to pull the look together if I had to be out on the sales floor. Sticking primarily to fabrics with stretch (matte jersey, ponte, quality jersey) means the clothes will survive a long day and a lot of movement. Wrap dresses are one of the greatest inventions of our time – in matte jersey such a dress can look great at work with wedges or glam up for a weekend wedding with heels and sparkly jewelry. Even better, the fabric is resistant to stains, can be machine washed, doesn’t wrinkle and dries quickly. When I worked retail, a large percentage of my wardrobe was matte jersey for this very reason, and I regularly wore a wrap dress for training seminars.

A variety of shoes is a must to keep your feet happy for a long span of time. Wedges, flats, and kitten heels can look great with pants and skirts of all lengths without leaving you in pain at the end of the day. If your wedge and heels are the same length, you won’t have to have different lengths of long trousers. I learned quickly that if you wear a different shoe every day, even if it’s the same heel height, your shoes will last longer (they have a chance to air out and return to their original shape), and your feet will be happy.

To add personality, consider accessories. Your job may not allow colorful accents, but you can better define your style with a strand of pearls, a crystal statement necklace, or a studded leather cuff. Also belts in different textiles (haircalf, patent, tumbled leather) can really switch up the look of black wardrobe basics.

Finally, buy in bulk. If you find a pair of trousers that make you look three inches taller and ten pounds thinner, purchase two pairs. When I worked for the skincare company, I had five of the same black pants I found on clearance at Express. They fit, they flattered, they were machine washable, and no one was keeping count how many times I wore them because they were so great. I did the same with blouses and knit tops that were perfect for my career and style – black can fade over time so if the price is right, prepare of the future by having one in reserve!

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Ask Allie: Denim-based Office Capsule Wardrobe

I really like the capsule wardrobe posts that you have been doing. Would you consider doing one for a jeans work environment? Our company recently switched policies to allow casual dress everyday, as long as the jeans are dressier.

My last three places of employment have allowed jeans as long as they were dressed up. This post I wrote about work-appropriate denim is a great start in figuring out which jeans are considered business casual, and which are best left for weekends and evenings. For a denim-based capsule wardrobe, I recommend at least three different silhouettes and washes. For this capsule, I chose a dark wash of a traditional cut (straight, bootcut, etc.), a denim trouser which is a bit more refined and usually has a wider leg, and then a novelty piece. Depending on your personal style, it could be a subtle brocade print, corduroy, velour, or even a dark color like oxblood, black, or olive green. With all your work jeans, narrow and slim is acceptable with longer tops but skin tight is never appropriate.

Twenty Possible Combinations:


The best way to make jeans versatile is to have a variety of footwear. Narrow jeans look drastically different with flats than they do tucked into tall boots. Since you wrote in your email that you recently had a baby, I chose shoes that are more comfortable – a low-heeled boot, flat with arch support (I actually own these very flats from Ecco and find them extremely comfortable and cute), a wedge which is easier to wear than a standard heel.

Accessories can really transform an outfit – a tunic sweater is slouchy cool alone, streamlined when cinched with a wide belt. Thinking of my own wardrobe, I added a patterned skinny belt and a statement-making wide belt because I find these two types of belts to be the most versatile and best at transforming wardrobe staples. Scarves give denim a chic vibe – a patterned silk scarf with anything from a tank and cardigan to a striped tee makes a look instantly sophisticated, a lightweight pashmina adds interest and is a makeshift shawl in drafty offices.

Also since you said you recently had a baby, I chose fabrics and silhouettes that have stretch, are comfortable, and can look polished without being super fitted and structured. These pieces will also work if you lose any weight in the next couple of months – you can tuck in, belt, and adjust as your body changes. I stuck with solid colors because they are more versatile and less memorable. I used a lot of neutrals with pops of extreme brights, which always look so great next to denim.

When wearing jeans, it’s more important to think about what is on top. While one could carry off a simple knit top with pants or a skirt, with jeans such a top could easily veer into cleaning-out-the-garage territory. Soft-structured jackets, sweater coats, and cardigans help make jeans look polished as well as making more narrow silhouettes office-appropriate. All of these pieces would easily work with pants and skirts as well if there are days where you need to dress up for a visit from corporate or clients.

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Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for Business Travel

I loved your SAHM capsule – any chance of you doing something similar for the Road Warrior? I have worked with the concept but still am missing a few pieces that I can’t for the life of me figure out what they are.

I got a new job in November that will have me traveling quite a bit this spring. I will visit client sites, and will be away from home for up to three weeks at a time. I haven’t had to travel for work before more than a couple days or a conference and have no clue how to do this. My coworker is a man and he says he keeps his suitcase always packed and ready to go, how does a woman make three weeks of professional clothing fit in one carry on suitcase? HELP!

In my past career lives, I did travel for business. While I was never away for more than a week, I often saw the same clients multiple times in a month, and often only had a week between trips before I was again on the road. It may seem daunting to look professional and pack smart, but it is possible. These days professional attire is found with Lycra, spandex, and fabric blends that make it comfortable and travel-friendly. Matte jersey, stretch wool, ponte knit, crepe, and gabardine can be your friend when you are a road warrior. I made a sample capsule wardrobe based upon my experiences with business travel. Only the suit in this capsule is high-maintenance fabric; pack wrapped in dry cleaning bags to prevent wrinkles, hang up as soon as you arrive and it should be okay for the big presentation. The rest are work-appropriate separates that all have some sort of stretch to keep them looking great right off the plane or train or out of the suitcase.

Over 30 outfits with only 14 garments (details):

 

Lots of ponte separates. I’m a ponte addict, I can’t deny it. Heavyweight knit that works year-round, doesn’t wrinkle, and can be machine washed. Pretty spectacular. On top of that, it looks refined enough for the workplace. In this capsule I have black ponte pants, an ivory ponte blazer, black ponte dress, black ponte top, and gray ponte skirt. Since they are the same fabric, they mix and match with ease and the combinations looks more like ensembles. Ponte is also great when you have to fly or take the train and immediately head to a business meeting – you won’t be full of wrinkles and will be comfortable sitting for long spans of time.

Strategic pops of color. While it seems smart to pack an entire suitcase of neutrals, that can look pretty boring pretty quickly. Choosing suit shells and soft jackets or cardigans in colors will stretch your neutral capsule further. Mix two for a bold look, or just have one piece to give a neutral you already wore a new life. The choice of color is dependant on your personal style and profession. For more conservative fields, consider softer or more traditional hues; if you’re in a creative field you can amp up the color and even add more to the capsule.

Stick to solids. While prints can break up a wardrobe monotony, they are also so incredibly memorable that you can’t easily wear the same print twice with a client. If you are in a more casual or creative field, you can consider a print like leopard for some accessories, but having solids for your Road Warrior wardrobe means you can likely wear the same garment twice in a week without a client being the wiser.

Choose pieces that can dress up and down. While you may be meeting with clients and needing a professional wardrobe, not every moment of your day is suit-worthy. Maybe you’re meeting colleagues for happy hour, or your client is taking you to a baseball game. Be ready without having to stuff a suitcase with a casual wardrobe. A striped tee with a flattering neckline and fabric can be dressed up under a suit jacket, or paired with jeans and flats for a barbecue or sporting event. Pair the jeans with the cardigan for a casual meal, or with the ivory blazer (maybe tuck a band tee shirt or simple tank into your suitcase) or just a sweater shell with pashmina or statement necklace for drinks at a neighborhood bar.

As for dressing up, a ponte or crepe dress can work for the office or for a cocktail party. The black dress I featured could work with a blazer or cardigan by day and with red lips and mascara will make it perfect for an evening affair. Use the pashmina as an evening wrap.

Pack smart accessories. While I am all for having a large accessory collection for changing the look of wardrobe staples, when you’re a Road Warrior you need to keep your wardrobe to a minimum and keep it super easy. A statement necklace that isn’t too sparkly or too arts and crafty can jazz up a classic suit, or dress up a work dress to look cocktail appropriate. A pashmina can be your travel blanket on the plane, add interest to a simple dress or ensemble, be your evening wrap for a cocktail party, and ward off chill in overly air-conditioned office buildings. If you know you will be there longer, consider wearing tall boots on the trip for they will give a completely different look to skirts, dresses, jeans and narrow pants. Finally, choose a structured and polished bag to be your purse, your carryon bag, as well as your work tote. Find one that can hold both your laptop as well as a bottle of water and copy of InStyle for the flight.

Pack repair and care supplies. Stitch Witchery, a small sewing kit, bar of Ivory soap or a small bottle of laundry detergent, Shout Wipes or Tide-to-Go pen, safety pins, a black Sharpie (covers snags in tights and fabric, tears in leather, etc.), lint remover. When I used to travel on business, I had my toiletries kit already packed and ready to go with mini versions of all my beauty products, and I also had an emergency outfit kit in a small bag with these essentials. Both stayed in my suitcase when I was home, only removed to replace that which ran out. This way, I never forgot them and was already ready for any situation (or any stain). Most hotels have a shine cloth for shoes and an iron to get out wrinkles and fuse Stitch Witchery.

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Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for Cruise and Resort Evenings

I LOVE your wardrobe capsules. They are always amazing. I would love to see a simple mix and match capsule for evening. Specifically, I just returned from a 10-day cruise of the Caribbean. It was amazing, with one glitch. The evening dress code was smart casual; and on a cruise ship this is more dressy than I expected (I’m from California, where jeans are cocktail attire!). I was woefully underdressed with dowdy shoes. I usually travel with black and white clothing, but a color capsule would be awesome too!

While I haven’t been on a cruise for a few years, I have experienced the issue of “smart casual” and formal nights on cruise ships, and understand how hard it is to dress appropriately for the situation. Not only are you dealing with limited luggage space, but you have folks from all over the globe dressing in all sorts of different manners. I found it’s best to pack simple garments and statement-making accessories.

Three years ago, I was asked to be in my friend’s wedding and she let me pick any black dress I desired as my Matron of Honor gown. I got a black matte jersey maxi dress from Calvin Klein that had twisted straps that were thin but thick enough to cover my bra, a faux wrap skirt, and a self-tie belt. I wore that dress for the wedding with black heeled sandals and a statement necklace. A few months later I attended a destination wedding in Charleston, South Carolina and wore that same dress with flat gold sandals, gold dangly earrings, and an armful of gold bangles. I also wore that dress with beaded earrings and a weathered brown leather belt and brown leather thongs. My point is that such a dress is surprisingly versatile. Choosing a silky jersey (Rachel Pally dresses fit the bill, are a classic style and come in a broad range of sizes) or matte jersey (Calvin Klein continues to have great options season after season) maxi dress means you can dress it up or down with ease and it will travel well (few wrinkles, any you get can come out easily if in the room with a hot shower).

Here I took a simple black maxi dress and showed how a switch of accessories can completely transform it. I know you mentioned comfort shoes in a different part of your Ask Allie request, so I chose shoes that aren’t sky-high. The wedge can easily be lower or even flat – another perk of maxi dresses is that they look great with flat shoes and said shoes aren’t the focal point of the ensemble.

A black maxi dress is a great choice if you have a formal night, but many cruises and resorts just require “smart casual” or “festive” attire. This capsule wardrobe helps you pack light but with many options:

  1. Maxi skirt with sequined tank and black sandals
  2. Maxi skirt with orange top and gold sandals
  3. Maxi skirt with a simple neutral tank or tee in your luggage, gold belt and gold sandals
  4. Black jersey pants with sequined top and black sandals
  5. Black jersey pants with orange top and black sandals
  6. Black jersey pants with sheer top and black sandals
  7. White jeans with any of the three tops and gold sandals (add the hoops, bracelet, and belt for discothèque drama)
  8. Black jersey tee shirt dress with black sandals
  9. Black dress with gold belt and gold sandals
  10. Black skirt with any of the tops and either sandals

This can be dressed up with a different choice of shoe (a heel is always seen as more formal), switching the pants to a tuxedo or shantung cigarette pant, the skirt to something sparkly, the dress to something more form-fitting or dramatic in silhouette. However, I used this based upon my own experiences on cruises and at resorts, where some nights you will find folks in full-length gowns, the other nights in club attire or sundresses. Solid colors and fabrics like matte jersey and stretch silk look elegant while being travel-friendly and versatile. These pieces can also be worn during the day – the orange top would be adorable with olive chino shorts, either of the skirts with a simple tank top, the dress could even be a beach coverup.

Choosing a single concept for accessories lightens your luggage load – I chose gold jewelry because it’s easier to find decent-looking costume pieces and instantly adds glamour. I really believe in a long necklace of chain or sparkly beads like jet – it really changes the silhouette of any ensemble and can make the simplest dress look chic. The addition of a belt, be it a scarf cummerbund, a leather obi, or a gold chain can quickly change the shape of a dress, add definition to a monochromatic ensemble, or dress up a simple tank and maxi skirt. Using color sparingly and thoughtfully will give extra miles to neutral pieces – the skirt could easily be switched to a neutral or a bold hue, the orange top could be a print or another dressy fabric, all the black pieces could be gray or ivory. This just gives an example of how very simple pieces can create an elegant and festive evening wardrobe for a vacation.



 

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How To Create Capsule Wardrobes

A few of you have asked how I get the inspiration for my capsule wardrobes.  I think how I figure out these capsule wardrobes may also help you create simpler wardrobes for yourself and benefit you when packing for a trip. Below I share how I come to creating these capsule wardrobes (while sharing some of the most popular ones I have made), and how you can use this to help in building your own capsule wardrobes.

Imagine the Person
I don’t imagine myself, but I create an imaginary woman. I usually envision her around 5’6”, size 8-10. Not one who has to deal with petite or tall lengths or the trouble that cusp and plus size women do with finding quality options. As for age, that usually has to do with the reader question; if it’s not a factor I play with her age, imagining her 30, then 48, then 35 to see if the pieces are versatile across the general age of my readership.

When creating a capsule for you, imagine how another would see you.  In my head, I am taller and slimmer and smaller busted than I am in real life.  When planning for myself, I describe myself as someone else would describe me.  It not only helps me put my figure into perspective, but also my lifestyle and personal style.  If this is hard to do, ask a close friend to describe you.  Significant others often provide the most accurate descriptions of us, but I don’t recommend asking them because it can hit a bit too close to home and what they find to be adorable you may find to be a flaw.  Save the relationship, ask your bestie!

Imagine the Week
Be it a trip to Paris or the first few days at a new job, I work with dressing for a week. Most of us hate wearing the same look in one week, but don’t feel as weird wearing the same combination on Tuesday of Week 1 and then Friday of Week 2. Within that week, I think of what may take place – a networking event after business hours, a board meeting, drinks with a client, you make friends at a museum and they invite you to their party that evening.

I think about my own experiences. With my recent capsule wardrobe for Paris, I thought of my own trip to Paris and the items I wish I had packed. I remembered my longer trip to Italy and how varied my days and nights were and the pieces that got the most mileage (and how many were the same piece I wore the most when visiting Paris a year later). With work wardrobes, I remember changing from retail to a desk job and how I had to overhaul my whole closet. I think of my last job where I traveled on business on a regular basis and would have to pack for a hole in the wall barbecue joint, a fancy five-star restaurant, three client meetings and a bowling networking event in one carry-on.

Be it a family cruise or a business trip, you likely have a general idea of how each day will be laid out.  Prepare for the unexpected, but be realistic and know you likely won’t be invited to the White House or take part in a triathlon.  Do a bit of research online and see what the hot spots are in your destination, how people dress in your field, what excursions are available at your resort.

Start With the Star
So you’re going on a business trip, what’s the most important event of the trip? Usually it’s the first client meeting, so I start with that. For a trip, it’s usually an outfit to go sightseeing that first day. I try to make that be something my imaginary woman would already have in her wardrobe. Simple black pantsuit, pair of jeans and a lightweight jacket, LBD, that sort of thing.

Then I think of ways of incorporating that star into other situations. Can the jacket be worn with jeans or over a dress? Can the LBD be dressed down with flats and a cardigan? Considering she can wear the pants at least twice over a week, what could she wear with them that travels well and could pair with something else?

Never buy a whole new wardrobe for a trip.  Always start with pieces you already own, know, and love.  Save the money for the excursions and events.  Heck, the main purpose of a capsule wardrobe is to buy less and choose quality versatile items over quantity!

Stick to a Color Story
Along with that imaginary woman, I think about who she is. What is her favorite color, does she work in government or graphic design? Does she have short spiky black hair, or long blonde waves? Does she prefer shoulder pads or chiffon ruffles? That helps me narrow down what colors I use, and I try to stick to very few that mix and match with ease.

Look in your closet, you likely already have a color theme.  Work with what you have, and build from there.

Consider the Shoes
You’ll see I often have the same black pumps in every collage – the MICHAEL Michael Kors “Flex” Mid-Heel Pump. Why? Because I own them and I know they are comfortable, reasonably priced, and a heel height where my pants I wear with flats don’t look wonky with them. Seriously, I wear my Tahari Hazel pants with my flats (which do have a sole and a mini heel, they’re not ballet flats) and with these shoes and neither looks awkward. I also choose pant legs that look okay a bit shorter with that heel (not so full, more of a tailored look).

Not only in that regard, I look for shoes that are versatile in that they look good with pants and skirts, can be worn to a business meeting and a cocktail party, can be worn for hours walking on cobblestone streets but also be smart with a business outfit. I try to never have more than three pairs of shoes because shoes add the most weight and take the most space in a suitcase, and be the most expensive part of a wardrobe.

When shopping for new shoes, consider the wardrobe you already have.  If they don’t work with at least three different pieces (and I don’t mean three pencil skirts or three pairs of skinny jeans), they don’t deserve to be in your capsule.  It’s better to keep your shoes neutral and add interest with other accessories.

If it Doesn’t Hit Ten, Do it Again
I then make imaginary outfits from the pieces. I keep thinking about the imaginary woman and her itinerary or lifestyle. Who needs club outfits when you’re a new mom? Who needs tall leather boots when you’re vacationing in Key West? If I can’t break ten REAL outfits (no turning a top backwards and wearing a bulky dress under a sweater to pretend it’s a skirt and making a scarf into a blouse), I keep working. Sometimes it’s just removing one piece, sometimes I save it and come back the next day and start from scratch.

Never buy anything if it doesn’t go with at least two to four other pieces.  If you can’t sit in that fitting room and envision it working with a bunch of pieces in your closet, leave it at the store.  The point of a capsule is to have versatility.  If you shop thoughtfully, slowly, and carefully you will find that you can have fewer garments and build even more ensembles!

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Ask Allie: Plus Size Wardrobe Staples

Dear Allie, I found your wardrobe staples post many years ago and it changed my life. I cut my closet in half but finally had the right clothes for everything. Since then, I have had two children and some health issues and I’m now a size 22. I gave up on fashion the past five years but my New Year resolution is to get back in shape and in style. Thing is I go to the mall and I can’t find anything on your list, everything is so ugly and old looking and cheap in plus sizes. Help!

My first suggestion to you is to get the heck out of the mall. While more and more brick and mortar shops are offering plus size fashion, most neighborhood malls have pretty slim pickings. Shipments are done by a buyer, one who just looks at generic demographics and statistics for the store, mall, and zip code and makes general decisions on whether to feature more plus size or less, more suiting or more weekend wear, more formal dresses or cotton sundresses. While you could drive around town to find plus size fashion Mecca, you could also head to your computer.

I hardly ever enter a mall anymore because I find them frustrating, messy, and overwhelming. When I do visit, I plan out my trip and head first to my go-to stores where I know the clothes fit my body and my personal style. Then if I still have some energy left, I’ll investigate other retailers. However, I find far more luck sticking to online retailers. Better selection of styles as well as sizes, easier to find discounts, and I can try on pieces in my bedroom with flattering lighting and proper shoes and undergarments.

I did a little searching online and was able to quickly find all the wardrobe staples I suggest in plus sizes. These days many retailers offer free or near-free shipping and returns; I did a review of my favorite plus-size retailers here. Keep in mind that this time of year is awesome for deals, but awful for selection. We’re entering inventory season, and every retailer tries to have as little merchandise as possible for inventory to make the process easier. If you’re looking for bargains you’re likely in luck, but if you’re striking out in sizes, wait until mid-March when spring collections will be stocked in the stores.

In the collage above, I left out the wool coat and accessories from the staples list because I find them relatively easy to find and likely you have the accessories already in your collection. Here’s a list of some of my go-to retailers for specific plus size fashion:

I also recommend you check out some plus size blogs and forums. I personally am not part of any boards or forums so I suggest you lurk some and find a good fit. While there are so many blogs out there who showcase their fabulous plus size personal style, here are few plus size-specific blogs I find to be quite helpful in reviewing lines and offering fashion suggestions. I also recommend reading their blogrolls and comments for additional blogs and online resources:

I’m so happy that you are using this year to care for yourself. Everyone deserves to feel fabulous and you’re gorgeous no matter your dress size. Dressing to flatter your current figure and personal style makes you feel confident and helps showcase your beautiful self. Don’t let the malls get you down, head online and you may find just what you were looking for!

Readers, I look forward to your comments on this subject, as I am not an expert.  Where do you find plus size wardrobe staples?  Who are your favorite plus size bloggers?  What online resources do you recommend?  

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Change for the Better: Creating a Walking Routine

With my second arm surgery, I made a decision to reclaim my body. I couldn’t control what happened to my arm, but I could take control of the rest of my body and make changes to better care for it and improve my health and well-being. I didn’t want to throw myself into something I couldn’t maintain, I’ve done that too many times before. This time was about small, lifelong changes that were not about dress size but longevity.

Walking-quotes-Few-people-know-how-to-take-a-walk.-The-qualifications-are-endurance-plain-clothes

One of these changes was walking. I could walk with a cast, I can walk no matter the season, and it doesn’t cost additional money. I committed to 30 minutes a day (though life happens and it’s usually more like five times a week than seven). No goal distance, no goal speed, and no need to take a path full of intensity. My 30 minutes could be slow meandering down the street, or power walking up the highest hill in town. I started at the beginning of June, and two months later I’m still walking almost every morning. Still, some days are a slow meander down a flat road, and some days I push myself and go a harder trail or a longer period of time.

I started keeping my shorts, tee shirt, and bra in the bathroom to prevent getting distracted and losing motivation. When I started, I just wore a pair of capri yoga pants or my J. Crew twill shorts and a tee shirt. I knew if I worried too much about the “right” attire I’d lose focus. But with time, I realized proper athletic gear would make for a more comfortable walk. Graced by Grit was kind enough to send me a pair of their Land & Sea Knickers and they’re fantastic. They do run small (I have XL and think they’re no bigger than a 12), but they’re super comfortable (no rolling down, no bagging), the fabric feels good even in the heat and smooths out lumps and bumps, and there’s a pocket in the waistband on the front AND the back so I can slip in a key in one and my iPhone in another. Every pair of Graced by Grit apparel also comes with a safety whistle that is lightweight enough to wear when exercising without being uncomfortable. I also ordered two pairs of running shorts from Old Navy. I was worried about shorts riding up and my legs rubbing together but it was way too hot and muggy to spend every day in my Graced by Grit knickers. The Old Navy Active Perforated Shorts are pretty much what I expected – ride up, don’t fit my curves well, not flattering. However I got their Side Mesh Running Shorts and I love them. They have a tiny pocket for a key or ID, they don’t ride up even when I’m really sweaty, and they’re comfortable and work with my curves.

When I started walking, I listened to a playlist I made on Spotify. Then I tried an audiobook and now I’m hooked and subscribed to Audible. I lose track of time with the book, while music I have the desire to pause after the end of each song. I mix it up, sometimes it’s a novel, sometimes it’s nonfiction.  I’ve really enjoyed listening to motivational books on my walks; #GIRLBOSS, Brené Brown, Thrive by Ariana Huffington. By only letting myself listen to the book on my walk it’s extra motivation to get up and move each morning.

I didn’t start with an app to track anything because I know that I can get obsessed with numbers. After a month I did download MapMyWalk to see how long I was actually walking. Like I expected, next day I went longer and harder to “beat” my previous day and I worked so hard I lost motivation and didn’t walk for two days. Since then, I stick to the same path if I use MapMyWalk so I don’t make it a competition and keep it just a daily habit. I do NOT connect it to social media because that just gets me into competition mode instead of lifelong change mode.

I haven’t weighed myself since I started because I don’t want to get too focused on weight loss or defined goals, but after two months of walking almost daily I feel more… lubricated. I don’t wake up stiff, my back doesn’t hurt at the end of the work day, and I sleep so much better and wake up more easily. Now, waking up this early is a habit, and a pleasure. I like walking, and find myself getting up from my desk and taking a trip around the block when I feel stuck on a project or overwhelmed by my inbox. I sneak squats in the elevator (oh what the front desk person must think watching the security video!), take the long way to a coworker’s office, and enjoy dancing and running around with Emerson.

I’m okay with being this size for the rest of my life, but I’m not okay with having my body fall apart around me. Choosing new habits like walking that I can do no matter my size or age can create a lasting change that will improve my health, my well-being, and improve the quality and length of my life.

Not all Pregnant Women Are Created Equal

When ordering maternity clothes, a basic rule of thumb is to order your pre-maternity size. This doesn’t always work – I am ordering items in Medium (though I haven’t worn a medium item since freshman year of college) and though I was a 12 petite pre-baby, I am ordering 10s, 12s and 14s and finding all sorts of fits. That’s fine, just as I found which retailers fit my body best pre-pregnancy, so I am having that journey with maternity!

One thing that is really irritating me though are inseams on maternity jeans and pants. Whether I am in my first or third trimester, I am still going to be 5’3”. Yes, as the belly (and bum and hips and thighs) grow with each month, fabric from the legs will be used up to accommodate this change. However, that doesn’t mean I need an extra 6” on my hems.

I have shopped at The Gap since I was 14. When I was thinner, I got away with the regular length of trousers and jeans. As I have gotten older and curvier, I flip flop between regular length (with heels) and ankle length or petite (which is too short for anything but sneakers and flats). The bigger my tummy gets, the less I feel like wearing heels (the less balanced I am feeling and the less strain my tootsies are willing to take) so I know petite or ankle-length bottoms is the way to go for maternity.

Gap and Old Navy both recently had major clearances so I ordered a bunch of stuff off their Web sites (gotta love free shipping with my BR card and free returns for all maternity wear). As that my job is changing their dress code to a more professional look (jeans only acceptable on Fridays) I was in search of short-length trousers, preferably in black. I found a pair of twill trousers from Gap for around $30 that were 12 Ankle, and a pair for about $20 from Old Navy, also 12 Ankle.

Here are the Gap trousers. IN 12 ANKLE:

I am not four feet tall. Usually I can purchase from a store off the rack. Ann Taylor, Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew, all the major retailers I can usually get away with a regular length in a pinch, but always find the petite or ankle lengths appropriate and ready for me to wear.
And here are the Old Navy trousers in 12 ankle:
Same retailer, essentially. Rise the same (though different type of maternity waistband), same sort of fit in the bum and hips. Everything the same except the length (and that the Gap trousers are a crisper, darker black which would look more professional and probably wash better).

WHAT THE HECK PEOPLE? When women get pregnant they don’t grow a foot in height! Who in the WORRLD would think this is an ankle length on anyone under 6’ tall?

I would think this is an error in labeling or from the factory, but this is only one of SIX different petite or ankle-length maternity pants I have tried on from FOUR different retailers that would require several inches hacked off at the tailor. This is what grates my nerves and makes me wonder why retailers just hate all pregnant, short, tall and overweight women. I now have to decide if they are worth it to take to the tailor to make wearable, or if I just return them. The Old Navy pants are not something I would usually wear (not too chic of a cut) but they are cheap and don’t require the annoyance and cost of extra alterations. Argh.