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My Wardrobe Today – Thursday (and movie review)

Picture taken in the bathroom of Mussel Bar, where I had dinner last night.

Jacket – The Limited (no longer available), Black tankAnn Taylor, Lace skirtAnn Taylor, ShoesSofft “Pavia”, Bracelet – Anthropologie (no longer available), Bag - Mulberry for Target (no longer available)

This weekend Bethesda Row is hosting The Front Row, a series of fashion events.  Thursday night kicked off The Front Row with a screening of the documentary Bill Cunningham New York.  Today there are many trunk shows in boutiques along Bethesda Row, a fashion show and book signing by Kelly Cutrone.  On Saturday they are hosting the Chic Children event with all sorts of activities for the little ones.

Last night I attended the DC screening of Bill Cunningham New York.  If you haven’t heard of Bill Cunningham, it’s about time you did:

“Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.”
- Bill Cunningham

This is why I love fashion – fashion is a suit of armor to help you get through life, to have the confidence and strength for what comes you way. Caring about how you look is a way to express yourself, define yourself, and defend yourself. Bill Cunningham captures street fashion – he doesn’t care about celebrities, brand names, socialites.  He looks for the unique, the expressive, the beautiful.  He has been chronically fashion trends for over 50 years.  You can find his weekly slide show and commentary entitled, “On the Street” on the New York Times website.

And do look for a screening of Bill Cunningham New York at a theater near you; if one is not available put it in your Netflix queue so you get it once its available.  This film is a documentary about Cunningham.  You see how he works, but you also get a peek into who he is as a man.  There are interviews with fashion, art, and society greats like Patrick McDonald, Anna Wintour, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Tom Wolfe, Annette De la Renta, and Anna Piaggi.  The documentary was so well crafted, it lead up to a very emotional and powerful moment, but ended on a positive note.  I laughed, I cried, I wanted to see it again!

After the screening, there was a VIP after party at Mon Ami Gabi were we all could chat about the film, and get to know other fashionistas in the DC area.  I was honored to be the guest of Alison from DC Celine.  She invited me and Liz of So Much to Smile About to come and we had a fab time enjoying St. Germain cocktails and Georgetown Cupcakes.

Me & Alison from DC Celine

 

Liz’s fab shoes from Banana Republic  
(she hosted an event at Banana before the movie; check out her blog for details!)

Liz, Alison, Me

I had met Liz before at a couple DC Fashion Blogger events; Alison I had yet to meet even though I had been reading her blog for years and we are virtual friends through Twitter and blog comments. It was awesome to finally meet, she’s as great as I expected and she has the greatest husband too (not in the pics since he was the photographer).  A lovely experience, I only wish I could attend tonight’s events at Bethesda Row.  If you’re going let me know, and be sure to come back with a recap!

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Easy, Elegant and Empowering Cooking: scratchDC

I used to be a good cook. Before I started working in DC with a longer commute, before I had a child, I was a creative cook. I loved making things from scratch, trying new recipes and tweaking them to better fit Karl and my personal tastes. Then life changed and now my cooking usually is a doctored ragu with pasta while my husband has become quite the talent in the kitchen. However, Karl teaches four evenings a week and I like to have a meal waiting for him as soon as he gets home, and spaghetti gets pretty old. When scratchDC contacted me asking if I wished to try out their program, I was stoked!

scratchDC is a unique company where they use primarily local and organic ingredients to prep gourmet meals for you to make in your own home. A different meal for two each day (Monday through Thursday), scratchDC measures, chops, and prints out uber-easy instructions and delivers it to your Washington DC home or kitchen for you to cook and serve.  Perfect for date nights, special events, or when you want a fab meal but don’t want to make reservations.

This past Thursday, I tried out scratch DC with duck breasts, asparagus, and goat cheese polenta with a port reduction. I have never cooked duck so I was curious to see how it would turn out. I scheduled a delivery between 2-3pm and at 2:03 scratch DC arrived at my office with a small brown box tied with a twine bow. I tucked it in the office fridge until the end of the day. When I got home, I opened the box to see everything carefully measured, chopped, and marinated and all packaged in compostable or recyclable packaging. Inside was a card that explained what was in the package, from where the ingredients were sourced, and extremely clear instructions on how to cook the dish. They even included the aluminum foil needed for the recipe – all I had to provide were two pants and a medium sized pot with lid!

In 30 minutes, I had created a gourmet dinner for two. The instructions were so clear, even explaining that medium-high on a stove is between 7 and 8. I loved that I not only cooked a meal but learned so much – I now know how to cook duck breast (five minutes skin side down, one minute other side, flip again and put in the oven, then let it rest in a loose tent of foil), know a delicious way to incorporate goat cheese and fresh oregano into polenta, and to use the drippings from the duck breast to sauté asparagus (and that two minutes is perfection for us!). I feel as though I am a better cook from the scratch DC experience.

As for the food? It was INSANE! The box produced two generous portions, enough that if it wasn’t so insanely delicious, we could have at least had polenta leftovers. scratch DC even offered suggestions on how to plate the dish for an elegant presentation. Karl was highly impressed by my cooking skills, but I was highly impressed with how scratchDC created the perfect program to not only provide fresh and delicious meals but to empower at home cooks.

I know you’re all wondering about the price – for around $22 – $28 you receive high quality fresh ingredients to make a special meal for two. This meal rivaled dishes I have eaten in highly-rated establishments around DC but with more generous portions. The price is really astounding for what you receive. The menu changes weekly, so there’s always variety. You can order same day, as supplies last, or order in advance for delivery later in the week. From steaks to curry to pot pies, the selection is varied and there’s always something to fit everyone’s tastes. As scratchDC is still new, there’s only one selection each day, but there’s usually a vegetarian option each week and they plan to have gluten-free, allergy-sensitive and diet-friendly options in the future.

Want to know more? Check out the scratchDC site or follow them on Twitter. Want to try scratchDC? They have offered Wardrobe Oxygen readers with a code to get 15% off your first order! Just enter the promo code wardrobeoxygen at checkout (code is valid until March 22, 2013).

Have you tried scratchDC? What did you think of the program?

Pictures have been enabled to enlarge if you click on them.  While I did receive one free order from scratchDC, I was not compensated to write this post. I just went on and on and on because I really love this program, found the service and quality stellar, and the finished product was honestly amazing. We will be using scratch DC again!

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My Wardrobe Today – Friday and fashion:district by ReadysetDC

Yellow boyfriend cardigan - Ann Taylor
Navy and white striped scoop tee – J. Crew Factory via eBay
Jeans - NYDJ
Black booties - Cole Haan “Air Talia Bootie”
Red print silk scarf – Liberty of London (gift from sister)
Silver earrings – Nordstrom (no longer available)
Silver cuff

Sleepy morning. Last night I went to fashion:district and didn’t get to bed until midnight. So this outfit was pulled together pretty darn quickly. I can’t believe I own a yellow sweater, but I find I wear it often, especially when I myself aren’t feeling so sunny. The color is just so joyful!

This tee shirt is another recent eBay score – still had the tag on it and I think it was around $9! However upon receiving this top in the mail I realized I have a striped shirt addition and MUST. STOP. NOW. Unless I find the most adorable unique striped shirt (would really like a short sleeved one with a deeper scoop and puffed or ruched sleeves) this is it. Seriously!

So last night… I was excited to attend because I really haven’t attended DC fashion events.  I never admitted I was a “DC Fashion Blogger” until last summer so though I am not new to the blogging scene, I am new to the DC scene.  I wasn’t even planning on going, but then the brilliant Em of Metroventure offered me up a ticket, so I just HAD to go!  I was excited because not only would I get to see the work by DC fashion designers, but I was going to meet some fellow DC bloggers.

Me & Deb from Real Girl Runway

I was able to meet up with Deb of Real Girl Runway for dinner before the show – we had never met but ended up chatting away immediately, barely able to even place our orders!  Once at Longview Gallery, we met up with Keri from A Diva State of Mind and Jill from Presenza

All my pics sucked from the event – silly little point-and-shoot. Seriously, this was the best one – at least it shows where I was standing!

The show was pretty awesome.  Before the show was a cocktail hour of sorts where we got to mingle, People Watch, sip wine, check out the fashion up close.  When the show took place, we lucked out and got a spot right against the runway.  Most of the fashion was amazing – so creative, well-made, innovative.  Some was a bit strange.  The same held true for those in the audience – I saw some phenomenal fashion, but not as much actual style.  However, last night proved all the critics wrong – DC actually is a very cool, very fashionable city.  That gallery was full of some really talented, creative, fashionable people and it made me proud of my city!

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Guest Post: Which Necklace with Which Neckline?

Guest post by Rosana Vollmerhausen

I gave a talk recently about necklaces and necklines. It’s a typical question we get here at DC Style Factory: Go long? Go choker? Go statement?

The easiest necklaces to wear with just about any neckline is a longer one. The length of the necklace clears any v, scoop, drape or boat neckline. Whether you decide to go longer or shorter, you don’t want your necklace bumping up against your neckline. So either select one that is about an ½ an inch to an inch above your neckline or one that drops under your neckline at least several inches.

Longer necklaces, much like v-neck tops, lengthen your neckline, which in general is more flattering. Chokers shorten your neckline, which sometimes can sometimes be a more challenging style to wear. If you are petite, pay attention to how long the long necklace goes. Right below the bustline is good – grazing your bellybutton is too long.

Here is quick, easy guide for selecting which necklaces go best with which neckline.

V-neck Top

Wear with:

what necklace v-neck top

Smaller drop/pendant necklace that flows into v of the top

what necklace v-neck top

Longer non-pendant necklace that clears the v of the top and flows with the draping.

Pass on: Wearing with a choker, which shortens your neckline and counteracts to the lengthening effect of the v shape.

Scoopneck

Wear with:

what necklace scoop neck top

A statement necklace that mimics the curved shape of the neckline covers expose neck/chest surface area.

Pass on: A choker that will leave too much empty surface area and not cover enough neck/chest area.

Boatneck Top

Wear with:

what necklace boatneck top

what necklace boatneck top

A longer necklace, which draws attention up and down, and balances the high, horizontal neckline.

Pass on: A choker/collar necklace that will bump up against with the neckline.  A statement necklace higher up on the neck that will grab and pull at the horizontal neckline.

Collared Button-down Shirt

Wear with:

what necklace button collared shirt

A statement necklace under the collar for a “brooch” effect.

what necklace button collared shirt

A statement under the shirt with some color peeking out.

Pass on: A long necklace that will compete with the vertical button placket on the shirt.

Crewneck

Wear with:

what necklace crewneck shirt

A longer necklace that lengthens your neckline since the high neckline of the crewneck top shortens it.

what necklace crewneck shirt

A statement necklace that “creates” a new, longer neckline. Select a statement necklace that covers the top of the crewneck.

Pass on: A collar necklace; it just further shortens your neckline.

Strapless

Wear with…

what necklace strapless

A shorter statement necklace that leaves about 1/2 an inch of space between the necklace and the neckline, a longer necklace that clears the neckline, or the two together as pictured!

what necklace strapless

Another fun option is to wear with a collar necklace.

There are a multitude of other necklines and variations on necklines, but just remember, you simply want the necklace you choose to make sense with the neckline of the top. If you are fussing with it too much or it just doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. But selecting the right necklace can really make a difference in adding polish, personality and finish to your look. Happy accessorizing!

DC Style Factory is a personal styling and shopping business based in the Washington, D.C. area. The company creed is that style is for anyone who wants it – regardless of size, age or budget. Clients include high-profile experts in the public eye who need polish for television appearances and stay-at-home moms juggling carpool. Our job is to prepare them to look and feel good for different events in their lives no matter how big or small.

Stylist and owner, Rosana Vollmerhausen, has had more than a decade of fashion retail and styling experience, including owning, running and buying for an award-winning boutique in Washington,D.C. She has styled local fashion events and photo shoots, and has written expert fashion tips for local publications. Her true passion, though, is one-on-one work with clients, building wardrobes that make sense for where they are in their lives. As a wife and mother of three, she is a firm believer that you don’t have to sacrifice personal style because life is busy. If key wardrobe pieces make sense for who and where you are, personal style can be accessible to anyone who wants it.

Learn more about Rosana and DC Style Factory at www.dcstylefactory.com or on the blog at www.dcstylefactory.com/blog.

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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How to be a Stylish Woman in her Thirties

Years ago I wrote a piece on the Closet Cleanout for women over 30, and then an update on that post. Many complained that it was too extreme, dated, ridiculous, judgmental, whatever. Since writing that piece, style has changed a lot. To make this more timeless, I decided to focus less on the specifics and more on my eternal beliefs for being a stylish woman over 30:

1. Pack Away the Crazy Statement Necklaces. I know they’re fun, they’re cheap, they’re an easy way to add a pop of color to a simple knit. Thing is, they’re over, dunzo, passé and by wearing them you sacrifice your style.

The great thing with accessories, is that you can jump on a new trend bandwagon without breaking the bank. However, if you decide to go down the trendy accessory highway, you need to know when to get off. Pearls never go out of style, you can wear diamond (or CZ) studs every day of the year, but a lot of larger flashier pieces of jewelry go with the trends. If a Dannijo or J. Crew piece is being recreated in Claire’s or Charlotte Russe it’s time to let the trend go.  If you love big, flashy, and bold jewelry I can relate – shop craft festivals, Etsy, and shop on your travels to acquire a collection that is as unique as you and far more timeless.

2. Better No Boots than Cheap Boots. Seriously ladies, I know boots are expensive and I know how hard it is to find a pair when you have wide calves or narrow calves or wide feet or need orthotics or are very petite or very tall. I get it. And I get when you have that feeling of euphoria when a pair actually fits everywhere, you want to strut up and down the street and style every piece of clothing in your wardrobe around them.

The thing is, when the boots are cheap pleather or trying desperately to look like a designer version or is trying to distract the eye from shoddy construction with a pound of buckles and baubles… it doesn’t matter how well they fit. They look cheap and tacky, and they will ruin your style.

I have hard to fit legs, I understand the issues and the desire to have boots.  But if you can’t afford quality and style and fit in one pair… it’s better to go without any pairs. Save your money, you don’t need a closet of boots if you can find one pair that does it all.

3. Find a Tailor. You’re not an undergrad anymore, and it is not acceptable to have your blazer sleeves swallow your hands or have your trousers drag in puddles. For simple alterations like a pant hem, your nearby dry cleaner can usually do the job quite nicely and for a nice price. However, when it comes to tailoring suiting, preventing waist gap on trousers, or nipping in a dress I strongly suggest you visit Yelp or a nearby suiting or bridal boutique and get advice on a local reputable tailor or seamstress.

4. Invest in Your Edges. When you’re 30, you can still carry off a top from Forever 21, a pair of cheap jeans, a wacky thrift-store score. However, you are no longer a teenager or poor college student, and you need to take care of the edge details: hair, hands, bag, shoes.

When I was in college, I could go a year without a haircut. I’d often trim off split ends with a pair of cuticle scissors and had been known to sport a crazy cut or new color that I did in my bathroom at 3am. I could carry off crooked bangs or a botched dye job with some fun makeup, a couple barrettes, and confidence. The thing is, when you’re over 30, such things don’t look edgy, they look sloppy.

Take care of your hair; this doesn’t mean you need a $200+ salon visit every month, but get a proper cut, quality color (if applicable), and keep it maintained. If you keep slicking back your hair into a bun or ponytail it may be life telling you it’s time to hack it off and choose a lower-maintenance style. You can still be edgy and wacky and different, but do it with a bit of polish and more care.

5. Take care of your Hands. This is something I put off until the end of my 30s and I wish I hadn’t. If you’re a nail and cuticle biter like me, consider regular manicures, taking NAC (with your doctor’s approval), or even hypnosis to break the habit. If you work a lot with your hands, keep your nails short and your polish long-wearing or else naturally colored or buffed so chips aren’t as much of a factor. Moisturize regularly; hands show age and weather-related stress faster than any part of the body.

6. Purchase a Quality Bag. In my 20s I had a different purse for every day of the month. I’d buy one to go with a certain dress or pair of shoes, caring more about the fun than quality. The older you are, the cheaper that cheap bag will look. I don’t expect you to buy a Birkin, or even a bag with a designer name, but look for quality over trendiness or color.

Faux leather looks the fakest when on a bag; with all the stitching and angles the material catches the light and has more chance for stretching and tearing. If you don’t wish to carry a leather bag, consider a bag of a higher quality fabric or a durable material like microfiber. Avoid wacky glazes and finishes, too much bling, or obvious logos; even if you can afford the real deal logos always cheapen a look and they look dated far faster than plainer styles.

Once you have your bag, care for it. Use cuticle scissors to trim fraying straps, invest in a leather conditioner, stuff with paper and store in an old pillowcase when not in use, don’t overstuff it and when you get home, don’t hang it full from its straps (weakens the straps and alters the shape of the bag). Cobblers can perform repairs on handbags and even replace handles, zippers and re-dye exteriors.

7. Care for your Shoes. Be they from Prada or Payless, care for your shoes. Let a day go between wearings so they can air out and retain their shape. Get them reheeled and resoled when necessary. Polish to keep a nice shine. Consider commuter shoes to keep your best footwear protected from city streets. Don’t shop for trends but your actual lifestyle and needs, purchasing the best quality your wallet can justify. It’s better to have one great pair of well-maintained black pumps than a rainbow’s worth of heels.

8. Find a Cobbler. Speaking of shoes, a cobbler can be your best friend, right after your tailor. A cobbler can stretch too-tight shoes, add an elastic gusset in tall boots, reheel and resole years-old shoes to make them look brand new, and much much more. You’re old enough to start buying quality, and that means having a team who can protect your investment. it’s far easier to stomach a high price for a pair of boots when you know that for about $25 each fall you can have them looking brand new and prepared for the weather.

You’re old enough to care for your shoes, and you should. Unless you can afford to toss your footwear after each season (and if you can why the heck are you reading my blog?), it’s worth your time and money to baby them a bit. Let a professional help you extend the life and style of your footwear.

9. Get Professionally Fitted for a Bra. A professional bra fitting doesn’t mean the teenager working at Victoria’s Secret. Go to a higher-end department store’s lingerie department or a bra boutique and get sized. Invest in bras that better the bust you have; no matter your size a proper bra can enlarge, reduce, lift, separate, and make all your clothes fit better. Get measured once a year; your body changes with age, exercise, weight, and life experiences.

While we’re discussing bras, care for them properly. If you must machine wash them, do it on the gentle cycle in a lingerie bag. Always line dry, bras should never go in the dryer. Replace when they get stretched out, and be sure to own more than one so you can let them rest between wears (extends the life of the bras).

10. Wash your Face. Wash your face every evening. Seriously, it’s worth it. If you’re too tired or drunk or whatever to accomplish this, put a packet of facial cleansing cloths on your nightstand so you can swipe with your eyes already closed. You’re at the age where things like clean and moisturized skin now can drastically affect how your face looks in a decade. Along with this…

11. Moisturize. Moisturize your face. Moisturize your body. Apply hand cream on a regular basis. Use conditioner. Baby your body; as I mentioned above you’re at the age where what you do now may not seem important but it will affect how you look in ten years. Your 40-something self will thank you.

12. Wear Sunscreen. I spent my college years in a tanning bed, and my post-college summers baking on the shores of Dewey Beach. I was tan and felt I looked healthy and hot with a glow to my skin. And then at 29 I acquired my first age spot. A decade later, I have wrinkles and stretch marks in unfortunate locations and dark spots on my face, chest, and legs. I feel extremely lucky that I haven’t gotten melanoma from my bad habits.

It doesn’t matter your skin color, your ethnicity, or if it’s cloudy… wear sunscreen. Not only will it help prevent skin cancer, it will keep your skin looking younger, softer, and healthier far far longer. Learn from my mistakes.

Do you have any advice for women who have reached their Thirties?

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Winter Weather and Commuting: Style Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ask Allie: Very Casual Office Attire

I was wondering if you could do a capsule collection for the casual workplace. My workplace is so casual that I have coworkers who walk around in cargo shorts and flip-flops all summer, pretty much everyone wears jeans always, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a coworker or two in actual pajamas. I like dresses and skirts, I love jewelry, but lately I’ve been defaulting to a uniform of jeans/sneakers/artsy tee/cardigan. I’d like to get out of that rut but still fit in.

I work in a very casual place people wear yoga pants and flip flops to work. I like to dress nicely but don’t want to stand out or look snooty any advice?

I work for myself but in a collaborative office setting; the dress code is casual but everyone is very visually inspired and aware of fashion. I’m a jeans and tee shirt sort of girl, any ideas on what I can wear to be comfortable, be me, but not be a clueless slob?

I once worked in a very casual office environment, and understand your issue. While on the surface a very relaxed dress code can seem like a treat, but when you really break it down it can be even more difficult and confusing than a conservative corporate environment. Even if you CAN wear yoga pants and dollar store flip flops, that doesn’t mean you should. You want to fit in, but also show your dedication to the company, be ready for the chance meeting with a customer, and also lead by example. This can be done without a single blazer or blouse!

With this sample capsule wardrobe, I took casual basics and stepped them up a slight notch so they look a bit more polished, but just as comfortable. With jeans, I chose a dark wash that looks more polished and is usually more versatile than distressed. A pair of jeans or twill pants in a neutral like olive adds variety to a wardrobe without being too memorable for versatility. For knits, break out of the basic tee-shirt rut by incorporating classic prints, unique fabrics like linen and silk, and interesting draping. Layers keep you comfortable in an overly air conditioned office and add mileage to your wardrobe basics. A denim shirt looks great on its own, tied over a dress, or worn open with a tank and skinny jeans. An open cardigan can be worn as-is or can be transformed with a wide belt. A short-sleeved sweater in a loose weave is comfortable in an office in the summer, but also layers nicely over longer-sleeved knits and shirts when the temperature drops. Tee-shirt dresses are easy one-piece dressing that can dress up with a scarf and wedges or get uber casual with sandals and a ponytail. A gathered knee-length skirt in a lightweight cotton dresses up simple tees and tanks without sacrificing comfort.

Accessories are a way to add personality and jazz up simple knits and denim. For this collection of soft neutrals, I added a wood necklace and a floral printed gauze scarf; neither are too glitzy or shiny for a casual office. As for shoes, a pair of ankle boots with a flat heel look great with dresses, skirts, and pants; a pair of leather sandals are smart with dresses but also pair nicely with denim for a bit of a boho look. As previously mentioned, a wide belt (smart to have in the same color/material as your shoes) can transform not just an open cardigan, but dresses and tunics.

Stick to casual fabrics – linen, cotton, jersey, denim, chambray. This will keep the casual vibe even if it’s a more formal silhouette. While staying in these fabrics, choose saturated colors. Faded, distressed, and weathered fabrics are hot this summer but can easily look messy and too casual for an office.

And finally, flip flops should be kept for the pool and yoga pants for yoga. These days there are so many comfortable shoes and pants available, there’s no need to wear workout clothes to the office. Consider stretch denim, jersey, and ponte knit for pants and a pair of espadrilles or flat sandals in place of the flops.

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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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DC Sip and Swap

Image via So Much to Smile About
 
Last Thursday I attended the DC Sip and Swap, hosted by the lovely Amy & Melissa of The Swapaholics and Swap.com. For those who didn’t attend, you purchase a ticket (between $10 – $20 depending on when and where you got it), bring a bag full of gently used clothing, shoes and accessories and then get to grab all the donated items that work for you.  Anything leftover was donated to Goodwill.

Image via The Feast

Have you ever seen footage of Filene’s Running of the Brides? This was like that, but with less stripping of clothes in the center of the room and more black clothing.

I brought an XL LL Bean Boat and Tote overflowing with lots of great pieces – clothes from my now-defunct Shop My Closet as well as a few other pieces that no longer fit or no longer fit my personal style. While the Sip and Swap team organized all the donations, we attendees got to enjoy downtown Clarendon. Then we came back for the official beginning of the swap.

Images via Fasshonaburu, DC Goodwill Fashionista

I was excited to meet many bloggers I have respected and read for a while, such as District of Chic, Megan Nielsen, Fasshonaburu, Cardigans & Couture, whippedSTYLE, and La Rue Neuve. I also got to catch up with DC blogger buddies like Heart Print and Style, So Much to Smile About, and MartaFacts. We sipped wine, chatted, caught up… and didn’t realize that there were some rabid swappers in attendance.


I love this video from Quarter Life, which shows what the swap was like when they opened the doors. Since I was wearing a blue maxi dress, it’s pretty easy to see me in the video (I am in the center left, and it takes me a while to come in because I wasn’t expecting Running of the Brides). There were rolling racks along the sides of the large room, tables separating jeans from blouses from skirts from trousers. The stage at the back of the room held jewelry, scarves, shoes, and other accessories.

By time I got into the room, it was packed with women who were throwing anything they could reach into their bags. Fabric was flying, a few were stripping down to bike shorts and sports bras to try pieces and throwing back into the crowd the pieces that didn’t work. It was crazy. I headed to the stage, figuring I would have a better chance finding good jewelry than clothing that would fit. I grabbed a mother of pearl bangle bracelet and a strand of pearls, turned around to apologize for bumping into someone, turned back and 90% of the jewelry was gone. I figure someone must have swept it all into a bag. I grabbed some bright purple beads, figuring I could take off the thread and repurpose, or give to Emerson as costume jewelry.

Image via The Feast

The crowd started thinning, I saw women with those giant blue IKEA bags overflowing, women crouched in corners hugging their scores. A woman walked by with two huge totes overflowing and a few items tucked under her arm. I guess I was looking with my mouth agape because she defended herself by saying, “What? I have three kids I need to dress.”

This was the swap in a nutshell. Many women who were there to donate, hope to get one or two good things, and mingle. And then there were those who were out for the kill, leaving no prisoners. I didn’t let it get me down, I went expecting to not find anything, so I ended up being pleasantly surprised. I met some awesome readers of Wardrobe Oxygen (so great to meet you, I love it when readers introduce themselves!), some awesome bloggers, and the fabulous women of The Swapaholics and Goodwill. And really, I didn’t go for the items, I went for the experience. And the experience taught me that I would definitely attend next time… but next time I’ll be sure to put down the wine glass and wear flat shoes!

What I got:

  • A gold beaded frame clutch – when I got home I realized its actually a wallet, but I can fit my cell in it and it will still snap shut and not look ridiculous
  • Navy twill pants from Ann Taylor in like-new condition, wide waistband, flat front, straight legs, very classic
  • Dark denim sailor-inspired jeans from LOFT that will fit like a dream in five pounds
  • A strand of 30” small ivory pearls that look really nice (quality costume)
  • A slim gold bangle with mother of pearl panels
  • The purple necklace (which Emerson sported this weekend)
  • A pair of perfectly faded and distressed Levis 515s that do not fit and probably will never fit so I will be passing on to someone else
  • A black LOFT jersey dress that must have been shrunken in the dryer because it hardly covers my rear (will be re-donated)
  • A black jersey MICHAEL Michael Kors top that looked cute but wasn’t my style – I gave it to my mom who totally rocks it
   
Have you ever been to a swap?  What did you think?

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Washington DC Funny

Those from the DC area have probably already seen this as that it was put on YouTube two days ago and already has almost 50,000 views.  But I watch it, and I laugh because I can relate far too well…

Thanks DC Goodwill Fashionista!!

The DC Goodwill Fashion Blog is one of my favorite sites. Em does an amazing job at writing about the current trends, fashion in general, and tying it in to Goodwill (an awesome organization and a great shopping resource!).

The DC Goodwill Fashion Blog has started a new weekly feature called “Blog the Blogger” where they ask the same five questions of fellow bloggers. Well guess who was today’s interviewee? Yours truly! So stop on by DCGF’s fabulous blog and read about me, stay to read about some pretty other awesome topics by a witty fellow fashionista!

How to Rock a Crop Top

How to Style a Crop Top

The crop top is back. I know, I know, I hear your moaning through the Internet. I wore crop tops in high school when I was channeling Kelly Kapowski, when this trend showed up on runways I KNEW it was one I would not revisit. However, brilliant style bloggers across the globe have been proving that anyone can carry off a crop top this summer, and here’s some tips on how to rock the crop without looking like a Fly Girl:

Pair with a High-waisted Bottom

When a crop top is partnered with a skirt or pant that starts above the belly button, a crop top can be downright flattering. The smallest part on a woman’s body is usually at the bottom or right below the rib cage; a crop top and high-waisted bottom highlight this area, and your sliver of skin flatters in the same manner a wide belt does. Having the visible skin so high prevents muffin top, and showing your belly button or post-baby stretch marks. While this pairing can work with most any type of top and bottom, the combination of a fitted top and fuller skirt or pants is both figure flattering and on trend (and with a fitted top there’s no chance you’ll flash your bra). Great examples of this trend can be seen on Jay Miranda and Girl With Curves.

Wear Over a Dress

Gosh, why didn’t I think of this? I’ll admit, seeing this outfit on The Classy Cubicle was when I started realizing crop tops can look modern and be age-appropriate. Treat a boxy crop top like a cropped jacket and pair with a simple sheath to update your workweek wardrobe staples or to freshen up your Date Night LBD. Also on Refinery 29, they featured an editor wearing a striped tank dress with a different striped crop top over it and the combination was fun and very wearable.

Layer over a Longer Top

You’ll see retailers have already thought of this combination, styling mannequins in this manner and also selling shirts that create this effect. I love this top from Vince Camuto; it looks like two tops, achieves the crop top look, but has enough coverage to wear at more casual workplaces or weekends when you don’t want to flash a ton of skin.

Get Matchy Matchy

When the top and bottom are the same color and/or fabric, the flash of your midsection isn’t as obvious and doesn’t feel so risqué. Mindy Kaling wore a jacquard crop top and skirt to an event and it worked because it was a matched set, the skirt was high, and the sliver of skin showcased the slimmest part of her figure.

Play with Volume

Not every crop top is fitted, and a bit of volume can make this shorter silhouette far more wearable.  The Tiny Closet shows how a floaty crop top can be quite flattering; while the post linked has her wearing it with higher-waist pants, she wears this top often with all sorts of bottoms. The August Diaries pairs a boxy crop with a high-low hemline with a skirt that is fitted on top, creating a balanced silhouette. I love this eyelet crop top with matching full maxi; both pieces in the same color gives a feel of a dress, the cropped top flattering the figure in the same manner as a belt. Adding volume is a great way to balance your frame and keep cool as the temps rise.

 

What do you think about the return of the crop top? Are you willing to try this trend?

 

The Bandana is Back!

Some trends come on the scene that make me wonder what designers and street style icons were smoking or ingesting when they decided on them. And recently, a lot of trends were impossible to recreate on a budget. I’m loving how so many trends this spring and summer are honestly achievable on any budget; it’s less about the logo and more about the look.

Top Row, Left to Right: Rosy Cheeks | Man Repeller | The Not Vanilla | ELLE España via Le Fashion
Bottom Row, Left to Right: Louis Vuitton via GQ | Stockholm Street Style | Vanessa Jackman | The Blab

And one of those trends is the bandana. That white-pattered cotton scarf you can pick up at the dollar store or take from your college Halloween costume is now an on-trend accessory. I’ve always loved the classic bandana print and prefer a cotton scarf to a silk one, so I am thrilled about this trend. But how do you wear a bandana without looking like an extra from a John Wayne movie?

  • Create a Contradiction. A bandana with a chambray shirt is cliché, a bandana with a leather moto jacket or a silk blouse or a crisp blazer is unexpected.
  • Keep it Crisp and Classic. For now, keep your pink and purple bandanas in the drawer and stick to classics like navy, red, and black. These should also not be the weathered, worn, and torn bandanas you use to mop sweat when gardening or to hold back your hair on a camping trip. The classic color and the crisp finish makes the bandana purposeful and not a leftover from cleaning out the garage.
  • Simplicity is Key. Leandra Medine’s all-white outfit with the bandana tucked into the collar of her shirt is a fabulous example of how to wear a bandana this spring. Minimal color, no competing prints, use the bandana as you would a silk Hermes scarf and let it take center stage.
  • Get Creative. A bandana doesn’t have to be worn knotted in back and draped in front. Check out The Not Vanilla’s post and how she wore it knotted around her throat, and even as a purse and wrist accessory. I recently rolled a bandana , wrapped it twice around my neck and had it peek out of a white button-front shirt; I think it’s fun to spice up a monochromatic look with a bandana tied to a single belt loop at the front of a pair of trousers; don’t be afraid to use a bandana as a headband, kerchief, headwrap, or tied around your ponytail.

Last week when I shared my outfit featuring a bandana, I received a few styling questions from you folk:

  • When You Have Short Hair. If you’re draping the bandana in front and the “ears” are peeking out making you feel as though you’re wearing a bib, consider a bit of fashion tape to hold them down. I keep all those tiny safety pins that hold garment hang tags and find them great for a situation like this (I pin the “ears” to the underside so they don’t ruin the line of the scarf).
  • When the Bandana is Too Stiff. A brand new bandana can be as stiff as a piece of paper, and often have hard creases in it. Before trying anything, wash it and throw it in the dryer, preferably with bulky items that would make it bounce around a lot. This often does the trick. If it’s still too stiff for you, an overnight soak in fabric softener or vinegar will soften cotton without fading the fabric. Rinse and tumble dry.
  • When You Want a Bigger Bandana. I desired this very thing to have more variety (and to double-look around my big neck). On eBay I found “Texas Size” bandanas which are 27” (most are 22”). If you search for 27” bandana, you’ll find that many online stores like Amazon offer them, which will give you the length you desire.

Ask Allie: Collars and Crews

The ever lovely Natalie emailed me and asked,

“Allie, when I try to wear a crew neck over a collared shirt, I look dumpy. How do you look so un-dumpy? What am I doing wrong?”

My email response:

My secret is… the only two buttons buttoned are the second one (the very top one makes me dumpy) and the bottom one (so the untucked shirttails look straight). The rest is gaping open underneath. I did this the first time with this shirt because it’s now too small, but was amazed at how it improved the look of a shirt under a crew, and now do it all the time with all my shirts whether they fit or not!

So there you have it!  I find this helps since I am so top heavy – somehow the buttoned-up shirt emphasizes all my roundness, but when I let it gape open, my figure shows a bit better.  Of course this works far better with a thick sweater that won’t show the buttons and gaping fabric, but if it’s a thinner crew, I will not button the last button, let the shirt sort of go to the sides of my body and tuck it in so it’s out of the way and more invisible.  Sort of like a dickey with sleeves!

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Summer Sartorial Rules for Corporate America

These days it can be confusing when trying to dress for the office. With retailers showing “secretary” dresses that hardly cover one’s behind, painted-on pants paired with blazers, and cleavage-baring blouses with suits, you wonder what actually is acceptable these days. Add to this a sweltering hot summer, and one could easily stray in the wrong sartorial direction. From one corporate employee to another, here’s some rules on summer office fashion that apply to you whether you’re a cubicle dweller or reside in the corner office.

Even if they’re metallic or beaded, they’re still flip flops. And if they’re flip flops, they don’t belong in the office. Period.

A cardigan doesn’t make a strapless dress work-appropriate. Seriously ladies, we can still tell it is strapless. This also goes for low-cut dresses, spaghetti straps, and every other dress more appropriate for happy hour on the terrace than the boardroom.

If I couldn’t wear spaghetti straps when working at the mall, you can’t wear them to the office. When I worked in apparel, even at trendy companies like Express, we had a dress code. That dress code restricted many things like sneakers, but it also restricted revealing attire such as spaghetti straps. If I couldn’t be a 21-year old in Express with spaghetti straps, you sure as heck shouldn’t be an adult with them at work. It’s just not professional.

Even if your bra strap is the same color as your tank, it doesn’t make it invisible. A peach racerback tank with peach bra straps is still a shirt exposing bra straps. A navy x-back sundress with a navy traditional bra is still a dress exposing your lingerie. I commend your attempt, but it’s still not appropriate for the office.

Hemlines shouldn’t rise with the temperature. Your skirt should be near your knee, not near your rear. If you can’t bend down to pick up your pen or sit on a standard chair without fear of flashing, your skirt is too short.

A hoodie is not an appropriate layer for offices that blast the A/C. Even if it’s cashmere, if it zips up the front, has two pockets and a hood, it’s not professional looking. Switch to a cardigan, pashmina, or soft jacket.

White is almost always transparent. I personally think thin white cotton and twill and light-colored linen should not be worn to the office, but if you do, wear with skin-colored seamless undergarments. No lace, no bows, no stripes, and not even sheer (the better to see the cotton crotch and waistband, my dear). If it’s a dress, wear a slip, if in doubt, don’t wear it to work.

Cleavage isn’t appropriate, no matter the season. Somehow, those who understand office attire let everything literally hang out come summer. Low-cut tanks, deep Vs on wrap dresses, strapless tops under cardigans… and none of it is appropriate for the office. If you wouldn’t show your décolleté in December, you also shouldn’t in July.

Dress code still applies. If it’s business casual, that means nice pants and skirts with refined tops or a simple dress. It does not mean chino Bermudas, seersucker sundresses with flip flops, logoed tee shirts with capris, tropical printed maxis with beaded sandals, or super-short cotton skirts with ribbed tanks. This is your office, not a tiki bar. You can beat the heat without dressing for Margaritaville.

Dress for respect. Again, this is your place of work. This is how you pay your rent, buy groceries and gas, and where you should be striving to move up the corporate ladder. Dress the part, no matter how hot it is outside.

For some suggestions on appropriate office attire, please visit:

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The Passing of a DC Legend – Chuck Brown

{via}

While hearing the passing of MCA last week was heartbreaking, and finding out that Donna Summer died today was awful, for me the most painful recent passing of a musician is Chuck Brown.

For those who are unfamiliar with Chuck Brown, he is known as The Godfather of Go-Go, a DC legend, an icon for our Nation’s Capital. Chuck Brown became famous in the ‘70s for his hit with the Soul Searchers “Bustin’ Loose.” His version of funk and his call-and-response routines during performances gave birth to go-go, a genre of music that defined DC 30 years ago, and still defines it today.

I was born in DC and have lived in the metropolitan area all my life. Whether I was obsessing over Madonna, Morrissey, or MC Lyte, go-go was also a fave. I can recall dancing to Junk Yard Band’s  “Sardines” at one of my first boy-girl parties, cheering on the school bus every time Rare Essence mentioned Central Avenue in “Work the Walls” (my high school was right off that road). To this day, you can expect go-go classic such as “Da Butt” and Brown’s own “Bustin’ Loose” to be played at any DC-area party or event.

Chuck Brown wasn’t just a musician, he was a true member of the community. He never left this city, HIS city. He patronized local businesses, supported local events, and always was willing to chat with fans who recognized him. He was an example of how one could turn his life around (he served time in prison as a young adult) and an inspiration to many. He was such an icon in DC, many companies such as the DC Lottery and The Washington Post used him in their ads to represent the city. He was performing up until he got ill – he even had an upcoming sold out performance scheduled at the historic Howard Theater that was cancelled due to being sick.

Chuck Brown, you made a difference in this world, and the world will not be the same with you no longer part of it. Thank you for your contributions to music, and to this wonderful city.

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Guest Post – The DC Goodwill Fashionista

I am a huge fan of thrifting – it’s a great way to shop on a budget, and I have found some ridiculous fashion scores at thrift stores.  

My favorite thrift store chain is Goodwill – they do an amazing job at organizing their locations, the money goes to such a great cause, and we lucky DC-area folks have the DC Goodwill Fashionista – a blog that brings high style to thrifting, and offers many amazing promotions and events to support the cause and show how fashion is available at your local Goodwill. 

I asked the DCGF if she would be willing to share some of her “tricks of the trade” for a successful thrifting experience:

Even after all these years, I find myself decoding the great mysteries of the Goodwill experience to the uninitiated. Case in point, two days ago a friend of mine mentioned that she’d seen something about Goodwill posted on a social networking site. And how totally awesome it was that I wrote a fashion blog for them. And how they have a great mission. She practically leaped at the chance to say all of this to me, but then concluded that she personally never shopped there. Wait – huh?

Actually, this happens all the time. People love the work that Goodwill does in their community. They love to donate their gently used goods. And they love an opportunity to be a part of the fashion scene by reading the blog or joining the Facebook page. But when it comes to actual shopping in the stores…that’s a different matter entirely.

It’s not that my friend – and others like her – are afraid of resale items, or don’t live close to our stores. It’s that mostly they feel overwhelmed. Like my friend told me, “I think it would be fun to go in a Goodwill store, but I wouldn’t know where to start!” Aha! She feels overwhelmed by the selection and doesn’t know where to start. It’s a common problem for newbies. Ha.

I’ve given out some of this advice before, but it bears repeating. Hitting up a Goodwill or thrift store or garage sale, or really any place that merchandise isn’t arranged into rows of identical items in a variety of colors and sizes, can be a scary thought. That’s why I tell people these three tips to keep in their back pocket – literally, if needed! – in order to have a great experience when they shop second-hand for the first time:

1. Determine ahead of time which department(s) you want to visit. Although it’s fun to scour the whole store for that next treasure, take it easy on your first few trips. Identify ahead of time what you might want to purchase – say, a frying pan or a black dress – to help you zero in on that area. Our stores are easily labeled by departments to make it easy to find what you want. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for and you still feel like you want to browse for something else, go right ahead!

2. Be flexible in your expectations. If you go in saying that you only want to purchase a floor-length red sequin gown in a size 6 Petite, well, you might come out disappointed. Because we rely on donations to supply our stores, you never know what might be on the racks from day to day. Which means that particular dress might not be on the rack, but similar styles or colors or sizes are often available. On the flip side, there might be a dress so fabulous that you haven’t even imagined it yet!

3. Learn the best days of the week to shop. If you want the best selection of the freshest merchandise at your local Goodwill, chances are you’ll find it on Tuesday mornings. Why then? Well let me put it this way: the weekends are high-volume times for donations, but it takes a day or so to process all of them. Ergo, Tuesday mornings are the best! If you shopped the week before, but didn’t find what you were seeking, check back in on Tuesday for all of the new goods we’ve put on the floor.

I hope those tips encourage you to take your first trek to a Goodwill. And if you’re a seasoned shopper like me, it’s still always good to keep in mind the best times to shop, and to remind yourself that you never know what’s waiting on the racks and aisles! It’s an exciting adventure for me every time I step into one of our stores, and I hope these tips will help YOU to have many great experiences like that, too!

And for those savvy thrifters in the DC area, Goodwill is having a Sweetheart of a sale:

On Valentine’s Day, all donated goods (basically everything in the store) will be 50% off at the new Goodwill Retail Store located in Falls Church, VA (2936 Annandale Rd Falls Church, VA 22042).  How awesome is that?  Happy thrifting!!

Guest Blogger at DC Goodwill Fashionista

If you read Wardrobe Oxygen regularly, you know I love boots.  I recently was a guest blogger at the DC Goodwill Fashionista and wrote about some fabulous boots for this season.  Check it out!

I also have many new posts in the works so head back soon for fresh new content!

Attention Washington DC Area Women…

For this month, bring your gently used career wear to any nearby Zips Dry Cleaning location, and they will donate it to Suited to Succeed, a non-profit that assists women in transition from training programs and unemployment to self-sufficiency by providing free professional clothing and workshops. We all have some random suits and dresses in our closet that we hang on to but don’t really need or wear; why not simplify your closet and help a fellow woman in the process? Goes pretty well with the recent closet-gutting project!