Search Results for: label/DHC Skincare

My Skincare Routine

A few of you have asked about my skincare routine. I am by no means an expert, but I am pretty happy with my current routine.

In the morning, I wipe my face with Thayer’s Rose Witch Hazel. This gets off any sweat, non-absorbed night cream, and that little bit of mascara that ends up under your eyes even though you thought you got off all your makeup the night before.

Then I apply eye cream – I am currently using The Body Shop’s Vitamin E Eye Cream. I used to use it back when I worked for the company but switched to higher-end formulas and types with treatments for dark circles, puffiness, or aging. I got this as a free sample with a beauty purchase and I must say I am digging it again – it absorbs quickly, seems to reduce puffiness, and keep the eye area soft and hydrated.

I then take a scoop of Philosophy’s Vitamin C Turbo Booster and put it in the palm of my hand, and add two pumps of the L’Oreal Youth Code Serum. Mix together, and rub into skin until fully absorbed. I’ve been using the Philosophy powder for a little over a year and I think it has made my skin look better, and I think it also helps protect it from further damage. Once absorbed, I add my SPF moisturizer. Right now I am using Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair and like it – no irritation, not greasy, and SPF 30.

In the evening, I add two pumps of DHC Deep Cleansing Oil to my hand and rub over my face. I give myself a bit of a face massage during this, massaging upwards to get in the pores and boost circulation. Then I use Avene Thermal Spring Water to remove it. I spray the water on my face and use a cotton round to remove it. It usually takes 2-3 sprays to get everything off. I then apply the same Body Shop eye cream.

For years I have used ROC Deep Wrinkle Night Cream off and on, and always wonder why I stray. Reasonable price, doesn’t irritate, and I think makes my skin look better. Lately I have been switching between ROC and Arcona’s The Solution because I got it as a free sample and like it. I rub it in until fully absorbed, and then apply night cream. Usually I use Olay Regenrist (or the CVS version), but I also got a free sample of Caudalie Premier Cru which is ah-may-zing but not in my budget so I pamper myself with it once a week or so.

GOING GREEN: While you can use cotton balls, rounds or even sturdy toilet paper to apply skincare products, I highly recommend reusable cotton rounds – they work just as well, save you money and reduce waste.  Just toss in your laundry, they get softer with time.  You can find some great ones on Etsy.

Though this is my standard daytime and evening regimen, I do play with other products:

  • Clarisonic Mia and CeraVe: This is the combo my husband and I use in the shower. If I am showering at night or before going out, I will use this combo to do a deep cleaning.
  • Mary Kay TimeWise Microdermabrasion Kit: I received this free a couple months ago and do it once or twice a month to give my skin a glow.
  • The Body Shop Vitamin E Mist: I keep this beside my bed to add some extra hydration, use it to set makeup or make my face a bit moist before applying foundation, and always carry it when flying to hydrate on the plane.
  • Vaseline: It is also beside my bed. I add to my lips before I go to sleep, and if I have dry patches on my face I’ve been known to slap it on them as well to heal as I sleep.
  • Toothpaste: I am allergic to salicylic acid, which is unfortunate because that stuff will clear up a zit like nobody’s business. Nothing else I have tried is anywhere as good… except old fashioned toothpaste. I’ll put a blob on before bed and wake up to a zit that is 90% gone.

What are your favorite skincare products?

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Best Beauty Buys of 2013

I bought a lot of beauty products this year. Maybe it’s getting closer to 40 or maybe it’s changing my makeup to change my personal style, but I did a lot of experimenting, watching more YouTube tutorials, and subscribing to more beauty blogs. Through it all I lost some money, but I found some real winners. Some of these have been mentioned before on the blog, some have better reviews now than they did last time I reviewed them, some were never before mentioned which is crazy since I love them so much…

Revlon Revlon ColorStay Whipped Foundation in Natural Beige
So good. So good I’m buying a second jar this week.  It’s rich and creamy but doesn’t slip off your face by lunch or even by 5pm. It blends really nicely, doesn’t enhance my fine lines and pores, stays all day and gives a natural finish. You don’t have to head to the department store to find quality makeup, and this foundation proves it.

BeautyBlender
So my friend Lexa emails me and tells me this is a “gamechanger” so I order one the very same day. And I get it and I feel meh for a week or so, then for some reason it kicks in and I understand the gamechanger status. It doesn’t rub everything away or rub product into your pores (which your fingers can do), it doesn’t leave a weird finish on your skin (which I find with brushes), it doesn’t soak up as much product as a traditional makeup wedge, and its shape makes it easy to gently blend around your eyes and nostrils. Also if you do any contouring, it does a good job of blending without muddying it or rubbing it all away. It’s not cheap, it takes a while to get the hang of it, but I gotta agree with Lexa, it is a gamechanger.

BareMinerals Tinted Touch-up Veil
Yes, I am still obsessed.  I have a compact in my dressing table, one in my purse, and one in my desk. I don’t use it as much in the winter, but in spring and summer I swore by this compact. I used as powder to set my face before leaving the house, at noon to powder a shiny nose, and at the end of the day to refresh my look for an after-work event. It doesn’t cake, doesn’t look false, doesn’t make the dry parts of my face look more dry, and doesn’t make me itch like other mineral-based products.

NARS Light Reflecting Pressed Setting Powder
Sometimes I have a lot of fun with my makeup and the time to play with it. Primer, multiple concealers and contouring products, foundation, highlighter, blush… and even with proper blending I can look pretty made up. But then I take a fluffy powder brush, swipe it over this compact and cover my whole face and everything suddenly looks toned down, cohesive, natural, finished, polished, and pretty. It doesn’t dull any shine or dewy-ness, it doesn’t cake or get weird in lines and pores, it just airbrushes everything and makes my skin look pretty and it lasts for a couple hours before needing a touchup.

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
I reviewed this before and received many suggestions on cheaper alternatives. And I tried a bunch of them and sorry… they don’t compare. Other oil cleansers left makeup on my face, irritated my eyes, wouldn’t rinse off, came in a bottle that made a mess. DHC really sticks to makeup and dirt and oil and removes it from the face. It rinses off nicely, not leaving goopy eyes or greasy cheeks. A little goes a long way, and when I use it I have fewer bumps and a nicer complexion overall. While it seems to be best when removed with Avene, it still works great with regular water.

Reusable Cotton Rounds
Still using the same ones I bought a year ago and work even better after several washings. I keep them in an oversized mason jar on the back of my toilet, and keep a mesh lingerie bag hanging in the bathroom with the towels to hold the used rounds. When I’m down to just a few, I zip up the bag and throw it in the laundry with other linens. I don’t use them for nail polish remover, but use for makeup remover, toner, removing face oil, and anything else that will wash off without staining.

PSSSST
Still the only dry shampoo I like. Blends into my dark hair, doesn’t leave it gummy or overly fragranced. It works best if I put it in before bed and let it rub into the scalp while sleeping, but I can still put it in my hair in the morning (if straight/brushable style) and a few swipes of a brush will blend it nicely.

Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette
Wrote about it before, but so good it needed to be in my Best Of list!  I use W.O.S. for the top part of my lid, Naked 2 on the lid. I will create a subtle smoky eye for day by adding Faint in the crease and along the lash line, a more intense smoky eye with Crave and a bit of Venus in the inner corners of the eyes, or wet a slant brush and use Faint or Crave like a liner. The shadows are the perfect color and last all day.

Two Faced Better than False Lashes
Good enough to mention twice!  It’s messy, it needs eye makeup remover to get it all off at the end of the day, but by golly does this product give me amazing lashes! Once you get the hang of it you can get full-on drag queen lashes, light fringy long lashes, or just a bit of oomph on the outer corners. I don’t recommend putting it on your lower lashes, I don’t recommend going to sleep wearing it, and you want a good eye makeup remover so you don’t have to rub to get it off, but it really does give you fab long lush lashes without falsies.

Kevyn Aucoin Lash Curler
I don’t even miss my Shu Eumura any more, this lash curler is fantastic. Can’t go on and on because it’s only a lash curler (and I already wrote about it), but it gives a natural curve, doesn’t pinch, doesn’t stretch out after a week of use.

ARCONA The Solution
I got a sample from Beauty.com and liked it so much I bought it… and I still love it. At night after cleaning, I put on eye cream and then choose some treatment before my night cream. Sometimes it’s retinol, sometimes it’s a sample I received, but every other night it’s The Solution. Two pumps and rub into the face and it keeps away little bumps, makes my skin glow, and I think helps keep my skin looking healthy and happy.

So what were your best beauty buys from 2013? I’d love to hear as many of the products I buy are from your recommendations. And stay tuned, I asked a few of my friends to share their favorite beauty products from 2013 and will be sharing them next week!

FYI I noticed that Beauty.com is having 20% off all BareMinerals products today, and if you first go through Ebates, you’ll get 4% cash back from Beauty.com (you also get 4% cash back from Ebates for Sephora, there’s no point to NOT use Ebates when shopping online!)

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Scrimp or Splurge – What’s Your Number?

scrimp or splurge

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Favorite: The Body Shop Satsuma Shower Gel

body shop satsuma shower gel

From fall 2001 to the beginning of 20014, I was a trainer for The Body Shop stores. After many years in apparel and merchandising I desired a change. I was making a concerted effort to get out of debt, and it would be easier without temptation around me and the need to be dressed in the latest and greatest (hello all-black dress code!). And it worked, I not only got out of debt, but I learned a lot about skincare and ingredients, how to be profitable and philanthropic at the same time, and finally how to properly apply eye shadow!

When I worked for The Body Shop back in the early oughts, we would burn fragrance oils in an aroma jar at the front entrance. I learned quickly that a blend of Satsuma and Exotic oils would bring in customers from all over the mall, and it would be easy to sell them a jar, bag of candles, those two oils and much more. After two and a half years with the company I couldn’t stand the smell of Exotic but I never tired of Satsuma. After leaving the company I’d still buy the shower gel and glycerin soap bars. It’s a sweet orange scent that doesn’t get weird, isn’t too fruity or pungent, and is a nice pick-me-up in the morning. But with time I forgot about Satsuma and moved on to new brands and different scents.

When my arm broke, I realized simple things like squeezing shower gel onto a pouf or washcloth were nearly impossible. I went on a hunt for spray and pump products that could be used with one hand and came back to The Body Shop. I ordered a bottle of Satsuma shower gel… and I don’t think I’ll go back to any other bath products!

Not only do I love the clementine scent, I love how it doesn’t dry my skin. It doesn’t scent my skin, so no competing with perfume or lotions but it does scent the main floor after a hot bath or shower. Even Karl uses it! A little goes a long way; I bought a 25 oz. bottle in February and just hit the bottom of the label and that includes all the times I indulged in very bubbly baths. While it’s a perfect summer scent, I know I’ll love it in the colder months too. A little bit of sunshine with every shower or bath!

Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

jessica alba tolani scarfTo celebrate me coming back to work and to blogging, I have a great contest for you readers!

One of you can win a Tolani scarf that has been seen on the likes of Jessica Alba (pictured), Sienna Miller, Vanessa Minnillo (pictured), Halle Berry and Mary-Kate Olsen.

The Tolani scarf is courtesy of chickdowntown.com, an awesome site that sells hip women’s designer clothing from the likes of Black Halo, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Vera Wang Lavender Label.

I am so excited, because you KNOW I love scarves, and these beauts from Tolani are fabulous!

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to mywardrobetoday@gmail.com with the word “TOLANI” in the subject.
In the body of the email, please provide your name and mailing address (I promise these addresses will only go to me – except for the winner, and will be deleted once the contest is over). Winner will be chosen by random.

Contest ends Friday, March 20th, 2009 at midnight ET. Winner will be contacted by email. Scarf will be mailed out from chickdowntown.com. Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know chickdowntown.com:
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (twitter.com/chickdowntown)
YouTube (chickdowntownTV.com or youtube.com/chickdowntowntv)

Good luck!

Why Didn’t I Think of That – Volupties

These days, there’s a subscription program for everything, from tee shirts to lip glosses to statement necklaces. And for a long while there have been subscription services for lingerie and underpinnings, but they weren’t that nice of quality and never fit plus size women. As a woman with larger curves, I often feel left out of such programs – they all seem great but they don’t offer extended sizes. We women want fun and flirty and fabulous things in our mailbox too!

Enter Volupties, a subscription service that offers high-quality pretty underwear for curvy and plus-sized women. For just $17 a month (shipping included), you will receive three pairs of quality underwear delivered discreetly to your door. Each month you will receive different brands, different styles, different colors.  They are constantly adding new brands and manufacturers to their collection, providing members on occasion with undies that are valued at over $20 each in select packages!

Volupties let me try out the program and I received three different yet all pretty and flirty pairs – a cotton bikini by Intimate Basics in a gorgeous teal color with fun stitching and bow detail, a fabulous lace hipster from Vision Intimates in a gorgeous shade of hot pink, and a racy gray leopard of a stretchy silky fabric by Jennifer Intimates.  All three are high quality – better than what you can find in a big box store and far more fun than what you can usually find in a department store in larger sizes.  Packages arrive wrapped in pretty pink tissue paper.

Volupties has subscriptions in three size combos, XL/1X, 2X, and 3X. They have a size chart on their site to help you choose the right fit, and make it easy if you need to change your size or cancel your subscription. If you are smaller, try their sister site, Splendies. While I love a great lipstick or trial size of skincare, sometimes a new fabulous pair of undies can transform your outlook even more!

And just for Wardrobe Oxygen readers, use code OXYGEN when you subscribe, and you can save $4 off your first month with Splendies and $5 off your first month with Volupties!

Note: While I was provided a free month, I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.  I just think it’s a pretty fabulous program and am thrilled when companies recognize that plus size women deserve products to make them feel sexy and fabulous!

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Showing the Love: Isaac Mizrahi Beauty

This month, the month of love, I want to celebrate you. It’s the tenth year of Wardrobe Oxygen, and this blog wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for your love and support. To show my love in return, I’ve partnered with some of my favorite brands to offer you some amazing gifts. These giveaways are not sponsored, I am receiving nothing in return for hosting them, I will not be promoting these giveaways on social media so to increase the chances of you regular readers winning. The brands know this, and have chosen to donate great gifts because they too want to show you the love.

It’s no secret that I adore Isaac Mizrahi and have been a fan for years. I love his use of color and how his looks are feminine but full of fun and energy, and how he designs for real women. Researching for this post I found this quote by Mizrahi, “…One of my goals as a designer has always been to get my customer to look in the mirror the right way. I don’t want her to buy this because it’s a big fantasy, but because she will look in the mirror and think she looks good.” This goes right along with my thoughts on fashion and personal style and what Wardrobe Oxygen is all about, so when I was contacted by his brand I was uber psyched and asked if they would like to host a giveaway this month.

true isaac mizrahi beauty cosmetics

Issac Mizrahi recently teamed up with True Cosmetics to launch TRUE Isaac Mizrahi, a line of skincare and colorful makeup. “I am so happy to be launching a beauty line. I love color, and now I get to share my passion for it in this new and exciting way,” says Mizrahi. Housed in elegant gold packaging, the 144-piece collection is cruelty-free and infused with blends of green and white teas, marine algae, Vitamins A and E. I love that the shades are named after Mizrahi’s favorite Hollywood icons and New York locales.

The shadows in this line are made with a special ceramide complex that help smooth the eyelids so powder never creases, while reducing fine lines and wrinkles. I love the Eyeshadow Trios compact which comes in three color combinations for a bold runway-ready look. The Pure Lipcolor comes in eight creamy, long-lasting shades that will hydrate and protect your lips while delivering bold color. I’m partial to Audrey Red which would bring a much-needed pop of color to a gray winter day yet still look fresh come spring. There’s 20 shades of the Nail Lacquer available, and the formula claims to be water resistant, chip resistant, and fade resistant. While I’m a classic red nail gal, I’m drawn to the dark navy shade of Jean Blue.

If this collection sounds as good to you as it does to me, today is your lucky day. One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win their color choice of the Eyeshadow Trio, Nail Lacquer, and Pure Lipcolor. I think so many pieces from TRUE Isaac Mizrahi sounds fabulous but thought these three pieces would let anyone of any skin tone or type enjoy this prize. Enjoy, and good luck!

Wardrobe Oxygen + TRUE Isaac Mizrahi Beauty Giveaway

A Minty Miss – My Experience with StyleMint and JewelMint

If you follow fashion and beauty bloggers, I’m sure you have heard of JewelMint, StyleMint, and ShoeMint. These are celebrity-sponsored sites that offer a monthly “showroom” of pieces based upon your personal style.

You start by filling out a survey of your personal style – are you more Zara or J. Crew? If you’re getting a pedicure would you rather read InStyle or Cosmo? From this, the Mint site decides what from their collection is most appropriate to your taste and creates your custom showroom. The collection is updated each month, so you have new pieces to choose from.

The idea is fabulous – jewelry designed by Kate Bosworth and her stylish friend, shoes picked for you by Rachel Bilson, tees via the Olsen twins (and skincare via Jessica Simpson, though I won’t be discussing BeautyMint site in this article).

All of these sites are subscription sites – once you make your first purchase, your credit card is on file and you will be charged every month. You have the first five days of the month to dash to their site to say “skip this month” or else you will be charged the monthly cost ($29.99 for Style and JewelMint, $79.99 for ShoeMint).

Last year, I won a “gift certificate” to JewelMint. I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to use it, and realized in essence it was just a free credit for the site. I went to the site, and wasn’t too impressed with the options – my skin doesn’t react well to rings not made of silver or platinum, I am not really an earring person, and I don’t like delicate necklaces. However, they had a green pendant on a longer gold chain that looked promising.

My JewelMint necklace

The necklace came quite quickly, and I was impressed with the packaging. A glossy mint green box with magnetic closure, the necklace was carefully displayed on a velvet-covered foam box insert. The packaging was so pretty and luxe, I felt I was getting an item from a high-end designer. Then I opened the box… and was underwhelmed. The necklace was… fine. The quality was average to below average – lightweight, a weird color of gold that looks fake even from several feet away, an odd length of chain. A stylish friend said it looked like a piece from Forever 21 and I had to agree.

My JewelMint bracelet

JewelMint has a referral program – get others to join with your custom URL and you get free credits towards more jewelry. I ended up acquiring four credits in 2011. Each month I would go to JewelMint to use my credits, and leave with nothing. Seriously, I could get free jewelry and couldn’t find a single thing I would actually wear. Last month I saw a gold link bracelet that looked promising and used a credit towards it. Again, the piece arrived very quickly, and in quite luxe packaging. And again the piece is underwhelming. While this bracelet is a better color of gold, it’s still lightweight, simplistic and should cost less than $29.99. I have heard from friends and fellow bloggers that pieces have turned their skin green and have broken in just a couple months’ time.

Even with my less-than-awesome experience with JewelMint, I was curious about StyleMint. I respect Mary Kate and Ashley’s personal style and taste. Also,the blogger A Girl in Boston had the StyleMint “Venice” tee and I liked how it looked on her. I also got an email from StyleMint for a discount on my first purchase so I decided to give the site a go.

Based on the size chart on StyleMint, I got a size 5/XL. With my shoulder, arms, and bust I usually err on the side of too big with tees to get a flattering and work-appropriate fit. While I felt the cut of the “Venice” tee would be cute with jeans on weekends, I was also hoping to wear it sucked into pencil skirts for an office-worthy ensemble.

As with JewelMint, the purchase arrived quickly and was wrapped with care. At first glance, the tee looked pretty nice – a soft lightweight knit that had a luxe, silky finish. Unlike cheapy big box retailer tees, there was care to have the stripes line up at seams. I liked the neckline – a slim hem that would look appropriate with a blazer or for casual wear.

The other night I tried on my tee… and it was huge. HUGE. The sleeves were so long they went past my fingertips, the neckline gaped and displayed a bra strap, and the swing cut made it look like a maternity piece. With all these Mint sites, returns are accepted but it cannot be worn, washed, must be in its original packaging, you need to contact them for a shipping label, and while shipping is free there is a $5.95 restocking fee.

I looked at the label – 100% cotton (though online it says 50% cotton, 50% modal), though it said to wash on gentle and lie flat to dry. I decided to throw it in the washing machine and dryer in hopes it would shrink. It did – not a lot, but enough to make it wearable. I was pleased to see that the color did not fade, and the knit held up nicely through the machines.

Me in the StyleMint “Venice” tee

Yesterday I wore this tee, and I like it… okay. It’s a beautiful color scheme, and a unique silhouette, but I don’t know if it’s really worth it for a tee sight-unseen, especially with the return process. The swing style is a bit too short to be flattering on most – even my sister agreed that a couple more inches would make the style more wearable (able to tuck in), and more flattering. It’s nothing dramatically awesome, and by looking at this month’s options, I don’t really know if any of them are. While the price is reasonable for a designer brand tee shirt, I don’t really consider StyleMint to be a designer brand, just associated with designers/style icons.  I would rank the quality and style to a store like Gap or LOFT.

These Mint sites are great if you have a pretty standard size or personal style and crave something new each month. However, they can quickly become expensive if you aren’t quick to manage your memberships. Unless you tell them otherwise by the 5th, these sites will charge your card each month, whether or not you purchase anything.

The cancellation process for these different sites vary – for StyleMint you need to call them during business hours, for JewelMint you can send them an email. I sent an email today and within a couple of hours, they replied saying it had been done. I was pleased to find it so simple, no attempt at wooing me back with discount codes, just a cancellation notice and request to rate the customer service experience.

I have not tried ShoeMint because I am a hard-to-fit person. I know certain brands fit me best, and prefer to have the ability to try the shoe on in the store.


Have you joined any of these Mint sites? What are your experiences with the product or the service?

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My Head is Too Big to be Hipster: A Warby Parker Review

Once I got new glasses, I wanted more. A pair of red frames to channel my inner Sally Jesse Raphael, a funky blue or green pair to jazz up all-black ensembles, a funky shape to show personality at the office. I had heard a lot of great things about Warby Parker and decided to try a pair of frames from them.

Me in my new glasses – Lafont’s Issy & La collection, the frame is called “Gloss”

Warby Parker Eyewear’s mission is to offer reasonably-priced fashionable frames. On top of that, for every pair of Warby Parkers sold, a new pair is given to someone in need. Warby Parker is also proud to be a carbon-neutral company.

Warby Parker has a try-on program where you can pick five frames and try them on at home. They will ship the glasses to you for free and offer free return postage; I decided to take advantage of this program and see if I could find a new pair of signature prescription frames.

The Warby Parker site is very easy to navigate; click on your gender and then whether you desire optical or sunglass frames. From there you can choose material, color, frame shape, and width. From experience, I know my face is pretty wide, so I stuck to the medium and wide styles of frames. Since I already have a pair of tortoiseshell frames, I stuck to more unusual colors.

The glasses arrived quickly in a sturdy shipping box, and then a lovely navy linen box. Each pair of glasses was in its own compartment, wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name. Each pair of Warby Parker frames has the brand and style name inside on the temple. I found the quality to be stellar, especially for the price. These frames rival the more expensive designer styles I tried at my nearby glasses shop. The return process is simple – peel off the self-adhesive UPS label and drop it in a nearby UPS drop box. I couldn’t be more impressed with Warby Parker and their process… except that my face is too big for them.

Maybe I should have tried men’s frames, but I felt that almost every pair I tried (except for the Bensen, and they just weren’t a style I was looking for) was just a hair too small for my face. I often have this issue not just with glasses, but sunglasses as well. In fact, when I got my new glasses, they were the only ones I liked after trying on about 20 pairs – each other pair seemed just a bit too small for my face shape, even some of the men’s frames I tried.

So if you have a normal to small-sized noggin, I encourage you to try Warby Parker. The Warby Parker at-home program is completely free so you have nothing to risk; if you find a pair you like you can feel good that not only will you look great, but your purchase will also be doing good. As for me, I will have to look elsewhere, my head is just too big to be hipster.

Note: Warby Parker has no idea I am doing this review and I was not compensated in any way for it.  I just decided to try the brand and share my experience with you!

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Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?
 
Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?
 
I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?
 
Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

I am not sure why the world thinks women over a size 12 don’t hold professional jobs. They must think that with the poor selection of career wear for plus-sized women. While quality suits and stylish business casual clothing does exist, it’s hard to find. Below I feature some brands who realize that just because you wear a larger size doesn’t mean you wish to sacrifice style, quality, or professionalism.

If you’re plus sized, I’m sure you already know about Lane Bryant, Avenue, Ashley Stewart, One Stop Plus/Woman Within/Roamans/Jessica London, and other retailers who specialize in plus size fashion. Below are some suggestions on brands I know who aren’t the typical shops, and who provide quality, well-crafted and stylish career wear in plus sizes

Nordstrom
I know, I know, Nordstrom again? Thing is, they offer a great selection of quality brands and style for plus sizes. MICHAEL Michael Kors, Rachel Palley, Calvin Klein, Karen Kane, Eileen Fisher, Tahari Woman, Vince Camuto, Kenneth Cole… all these brands and more are offered in plus sizes at Nordstrom stores and online.

Unlike many other department stores who think a woman in a size 22 dress wants a muumuu or a flowing polyester pantsuit, Nordstrom buyers find brands and pieces that are in the same vein of style as the rest of the store. Great colors, fun silhouettes, lots of options. Nordstrom has free shipping and free returns, will perform alterations onsite, and have personal shoppers that can help you secure a professional wardrobe for your job.

Macy’s
Macy’s is another department store who offers a fantastic selection of brands and styles for plus sizes. Alfani, Calvin Klein, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Jones New York, and then their in-house brand INC International Concepts are great resources for great plus size office wear. Like Nordstrom, Macy’s provides a good amount of real estate in most of their stores for plus-sized fashion.

Macy’s always has promotions for discounts and shipping deals. Macy’s has a great return and exchange policy, where you can return by mail or at any nearby store.

Talbots
Talbots Woman comes in sizes 12-24 regular and 12-22 petite. Each season they offer several styles of suit separates so you can mix and match for the perfect career look. Talbots also specializes in business casual looks, with tailored trousers, well-crafted skirts, polished knits and sweaters and even shoes and accessories.

While many retailers hide their plus size department in a dusty corner or keep it only online, Talbots often has separate stores just for their Woman line, or else it gets plenty of real estate in their mixed-size store. Talbots is phenomenal with customer service, seeking out sizes at other locations, taking returns in-store, and giving you honest feedback and offering suggestions at the fitting room. When I was a size 18, Talbots was my go-to store, where I knew I would find quality, style, and a supportive staff.

Jones New York
While Jones New York is a department store staple, they also have their own online boutique that has a large selection of career wear in extended sizes. Since you have to return by mail (they offer a pre-paid shipping label), it’s good to try out JNY in a store to know how it fits, and then go online to find a larger selection.

Kiyonna
Kiyonna knows how to dress a woman. They make well-made pieces that are stylish and flattering to a plus-sized figure. No muumuus and garish prints here, Kiyonna offers beautiful dresses, and also a beautiful selection of separates. While their bottoms are very basic, they are well-made and classic. Some of their tops can run on the sexy side, but many are great pieces for business casual environments or fabulous shells under suits. Their return policy is pretty standard but I hear their sizing is quite consistent so once you know how you fit in Kiyonna you won’t have to make as many returns and exchanges.

Ann Taylor
If you enter an Ann Taylor store, you may think they don’t care about anyone over a size 12. However online they go up to size 18 and XXL on the majority of their pieces. I also find Ann Taylor runs a bit large and many of my readers have agreed that their size 18 can often fit a size 20 woman.

Ann Taylor regularly has promotions for free shipping and percentages off select items – it’s smart to sign up for their emails or follow them on Facebook or Twitter so you stay updated. Their online selection can sell out pretty quickly when they have such sales, so shop early. While Ann Taylor doesn’t offer free returns, they do accept returns even of larger sizes in any store. And if you have to do a return, check out their sale rack where I have regularly seen larger sizes from other women who have made returns.

Lands’ End
Lands’ End may not be the retailer you would think for career wear, but they do have a pretty great selection of workwear staples. While their summer selection is more geared towards shorts and dresses, they always have a good selection of blazers and coordinating bottoms and come the cooler months have an even greater selection of suiting and work-appropriate pieces.

Lands’ End often has promotions for discounts and free shipping so sign up for their emails to get the latest news. Lands’ End also accepts returns at Sears stores which makes shopping with them even more convenient.

Eddie Bauer
Like Lands’ End, Eddie Bauer mainly focuses on casual weekend fashion. However, like Lands’ End they have a few stand-out pieces each season for career wear. Eddie Bauer often focuses on easy-care pieces, and you’re likely to find wrinkle-free suiting, no-iron button-front shirts, and machine washable trousers and dresses. Eddie Bauer offers free exchanges and accepts returns by mail (they will provide a pre-paid shipping label or you can send by your own method) or in store.

Overstock
I’m quick to head to Overstock to find a toaster oven or an area rug, but I have now learned to go to this site for fashion. Popular brands like Tahari, Kasper, Calvin Klein, and Ann Klein are featured by Overstock, and at nicer prices than at the department store. While some of the styles offered on Overstock are a bit strange, you can also find some gems – often pieces being sold right now at your nearby Belk or Macy’s. Overstock has customer reviews, ridiculously cheap shipping, and a reasonable return policy.

TJ Maxx
While most of my local discount big box retailers will have some plus size fashion, it’s usually a small section, messy, and full of strange pieces I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Not so for TJ Maxx, who usually carries higher-end brands than similar stores, and they usually have a larger and better organized plus size department.


Where do you find stylish and well-made plus size career wear? I’d love to know your suggestions!

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Saturday

In the morning, I ran to get my hair cut and colored in the nearby town, and then run a few errands. Olive ribbed tank from J. Crew, white ribbed tank from Old Navy, Joe’s Jeans in “Provacateur,” brown stacked flops from J. Crew, silver hoops from The Icing, silver cuff.

Hair was brushed out but on the second day; blew the bangs straight.

Makeup was Body Shop bronzing powder in Light as face color, Max Factor Lash Perfection mascara on curled lashes, Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow.

Kathleen did her magic – all I told her is that I wanted to go darker and that I wanted heavier bangs. I trust her, and was not disappointed. Choppy layers that can work straight, wavy or curly, fun sideswept bangs, and a very rich multi-tonal color of dark brown that looks closer to what I was born with.

Got home and had to dash to get dressed. Friday night I had a friend over so I didn’t have time to play dress-up and figure out my theater outfit. Thank you soooo much to everyone who wrote in suggestions, you guys are awesome and have good ideas! For the one who suggested my Old Navy dress… I completely forgot about it. I had set to wear my black cashmere tank from Banana Republic and my orange-red shantung full skirt also from Banana (seen here), but when I saw how spiffy and sleek my husband looked (flat front gray tropical wool trousers from J. Crew, white tailored shirt from some brand sold at Mens Wearhouse, black blazer from… J. crew? Not sure…, black slip-on sleek shoes from Ecco) I decided my outfit may look a bit like a costume. I tried a few different skirts, but settled on the black matte jersey dress from Old Navy, my red stone necklace, my leopard peep-toe heels from BCBgirls,silver hoops from The Icing, and silver cuff natch. :-)

Didn’t have to do my hair since it was done by Kathleen my talented stylist. She used the Pureology line on me, and swears by it for protecting color. I bought the shampoo and conditioner and once I can wash my hair (was told to go as long as humanely possible without washing) I will be using it and let you k now how it is.

Same makeup as earlier, just a re-touch of the bronzing powder, a bit of Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint on my cheekbones, a medium line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line, a quick swipe of Maybelline Great Lash waterproof mascara in black over existing mascara, Body Shop Lip and Cheek Tint with Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow over it.

We took the Metro and it was not even a block to the little restaurant (I don’t know if there are even 20 tables in the place). The menu seemed different from the one online and the only entrees that were vegetarian were spaghetti with tomato sauce (yawn) and a risotto with corn and truffle shavings. My husband and I chose the risotto, we shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio (not sure the label, our friend chose the wine) and had a nice, yet not inspiring or overwhelmingly unique meal. We then walked not even three blacks to the Kennedy Center where my friend and I sidestepped grates in our heels (she too wore a black sheath and heels) while the men tromped over everything and got there in time to marvel at the acre-sized curtains in the lobby and get a cocktail in the Terrace Bar prior to the performance.

The performance was great! As I said, I had never seen The Phantom of the Opera other than the movie. Back story – 1992, for Christmas I got my first boom box with a CD player in it, and with it two CDs – Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. For several months until I got my high school arsenal of REM, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I listened solely to these two soundtracks. Come 2007, I am silently singing along to this performance and even a tear came down my cheek at finally seeing live what I had in my head 15 years ago. I think also seeing Shakespeare in Love the night prior made the theater experience that more intense.

Our friends live in Virginia and parked at the theater; it was a gorgeous night and declined their offer to drive us to the Metro and decided to hoof it. All in all a lovely evening!

Tuesday’s Tip – Making the Clearance Rack Your Friend

When I go into a store, the first place I look is the clearance or sale rack. I don’t want to be tempted by full priced items when a good equivalent is available at half the price in the back of the store. Even when planning my wedding I first scored sample sales and discount bridal shops before even looking at a single full-priced gown. It is better to buy quality instead of quantity, but just because it’s on a sale rack does not mean it’s poor quality or lacking style or fashion.


Take Your Time
Clearance racks are a mess. Why waste good salespeople hours in cleaning up the back of the store when the real money making is in the front displays of new product? Because of this, do not limit your search to the section designated with your size. Take the time to flip through all the racks. You may find a size 10 amongst the size 2s or a great size Small blouse hidden amongst size 14 blazers. Grab everything that even remotely appeals to you, and a few things you would not usually consider. The best way to spend money on trendy pieces and unusual finds is to pay for them at a discount – less buyer’s remorse.


Sizes Can Be Deceiving
Sometimes items are on sale racks because they are missized. I have tried on size 6 jackets that are too big for me and size 14s that are skin tight. Don’t just look at the label – pull the item from the rack and see if it may possibly fit. Often the missized items are at a super reduced price because they are being looked over.


Consider a Tailor
I decided to write this post because of my clearance rack prize of yesterday. Sueded cotton trench, hip cut, gorgeous color, originally $179 on sale for $29.99. No obvious flaws but the coat was too large for me – I am petite and it is not. It is an XL and a generous cut, I am not. I bought the awesome bargain after trying it on and seeing that the shoulders were fitting decently, though the sleeves were past my fingers, the waist was too big and the length too long. I took it to my local dry cleaner and for $35 she is shortening the arms and hem and nipping in the waist. So for $65 I got a $179 jacket that is perfect for the upcoming fall.


Sleeves that are too long, hems dragging on the ground, gaping waists and baggy jackets can all be easily fixed by a neighborhood tailor or dry cleaner. They can also replace missing buttons, broken zippers and some torn seams. If the price is right, often the tailoring still keeps the garment at a discounted price. I have bought suiting pants 75% off just because the zipper is broken, a suede blazer at 80% off because the lining had pulled away from the jacket body.


Do not invest in garments that are stained (salespeople usually try to remove the stains with a cleaning fluid, if it’s still stained it probably won’t come out in the wash or at the cleaners), torn (resewing a seam may make the item fit differently), irregular (remember quality is key – no one should be wearing a sweater with two different sleeve lengths) overly large (tailor costs will be insane and the true look of the garment will be lost) or too small (don’t buy for the body you hope to have, buy for the current you. Also tailors can’t make things larger – there’s usually not enough fabric at the seams and if they attempt the fit of the garment will be compromised).


If You Don’t Love It…
Don’t buy it. Would you buy it if it were full price? If the answer is a quick “no” leave the item in the fitting room. Just because an item is cheap does not mean you can scrimp on cut, style or fit. A 50% markdown does not justify a gaping armhole, an unflattering color or even a staple that you really have enough of already. The world sees you and your outfit, not the reduced price. They don’t know if what you bought cost $200 or $20, they just know it doesn’t look good, doesn’t flatter your body or your personality. Every dollar in your wallet is precious, don’t waste it on crap. If you can’t imagine the item with at least two other things in your closet, it’s not worth your time or money.

Recent Product Reviews

So I have tried a bunch of new stuff over the past month and have been a lazy bum and not posted my reviews! Well here you go!

So for my birthday I bought the Jonathan Product Shower Filter. I did a pretty extensive review on Wardrobe Oxygen and you guys have seen how my hair has been faring on this site. I do love it; wish I researched further to find a cheaper version, but all in all I am a happy camper. For those of you who are on MySpace, befriend Aquasana and get 20% off all purchases through them.

I also recently tried out foundation, bronzer and lip gloss from Afterglow Mineral Cosmetics. Again, did a pretty extensive review on Wardrobe Oxygen so stop by to check it out. All in all, pretty pleased. Doesn’t hold a candle to my philosophy The Supernatural powder foundation, but I think it gives Bare Escentuals a run for their money and I love the ethics of the company too!

Revlon ColorStay Under Eye Concealer – So I was in Annapolis at a friend’s house for a Superbowl party and I forgot she has three utterly gorgeous and fluffy cats… cats I want to steal and take home they are so darling but cats I am horrifically allergic to. Another attendee was also allergic so three of us headed to the local Rite Aid to grab some Benadryl. While there I decided to grab a new concealer as that the L’Oreal True Match in W1-3 is too light and the next color is too dark. I picked this one because… well because it was at the front of the aisle and the color looked pretty good and I have not been disappointed with anything from the ColorStay line.

Score for the NY Giants as well as for me that evening! This stuff is pretty fabulous! The consistency is a liquid, but a bit more tacky than the L’Oreal True Match. This is a great feature because it blends well, but really does stay in place. It is impossible to blend to the point of disappearing, which often happens with liquid concealers. The color has a warm base, but not so warm that it looks yellow on my skin. It also works to cover redness as well as the dark circles from fluffy pretty kitty-cats, other allergies and late nights. It really is ColorStay – the product lasts far longer than most concealers I have used – I think it’s lasting power and quality is better than MAC, Clinique or Trish McEvoy (department store concealers I have used in the recent past). Oh, and not a single issue with breakouts or clogged pores since using!

Only negatives? Well the color is named Light Medium, but it’s more like a light shade of Medium… a hair darker than expected. Worked for me because I think I am paler than I really am, but be very careful when purchasing this product so that it isn’t too dark on you. Second negative is the packaging. It’s one of those click for product tubes, which often annoys me because you waste product. On top of that, it is a sponge applicator and the sponge is NOT soft. I tried the sponge on my face and I felt as though I was rubbing my skin with a Brillo pad. I now click to get the amount I need, rub it onto my finger and then onto the skin. Sort of ruins the aspect of the sponge applicator and seems not as sanitary as a soft sponge or brush applicator.

All in all… good buy for the price, worked in a pinch, best color and coverage I have experienced in a long time but not exactly Nirvana. Would consider repurchasing if I don’t find a better alternative.

MD Skincare Alpha Beta Daily Face Peel – Well I only got two days of this product to try out, so I can’t be sure of the end result. However after two days I saw a marked difference in my skin so it seems to be worth the buy.

The product is a two-step process: one moist towelette is used to rub the peel all over your face. You smooth all over your face until the towelette is no longer damp. It doesn’t burn, but you can feel some sort of action taking place (tingling, tightening). After this, you use a second towelette and follow the same steps. This towelette seems to have a calming/neutralizing formula on it.

From the website:
What it is formulated to do:
Formulated to improve skin firmness, tone, and texture, Alpha Beta diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, boosts skin density and vitality, and reduces pore size and breakouts, as it gently restores radiance to the skin, with a blend of alpha and beta hydroxy acids. Delivers cumulative benefits and optimal results with daily use.

After two days of this, I saw less fine lines around my eye area, and my skin looked clearer and more radiant. I can only imagine what 30 days would do. This line is NOT cheap, but I think 30 days of this would end up making your skin look as it would after a really good spa facial. By doing it every day, I think it could end up being more beneficial than a one-stop facial, or at least continue the results of the spa visit. I didn’t find it to be too caustic, my skin never burned and there was minimal redness (could easily leave the house minutes after use). The sample I got was in foil packets; I am happy to see for the environment’s sake that these pads are not always individually wrapped but instead in one tub (reminiscent of the Almay makeup remover pads I used as a teen).

Ivory Lavender Moisturizing Body Wash – So I used to sell The Body Shop at Home and no longer do. There goes my deal on body washes and such! After I ran out of my stockpile of Satsuma shower gel, I got a bit desperate. My local grocer is a small co-op that doesn’t have an entire beauty aisle like the chains, so my selection was some overly-smelly products from Dial and this beaut.

I am not one who loves the smell of lavender outside of an eye pillow or day spa, but when I smelled it in the store, it smelled very subtle and not at all like a grandma or herb shop. And really, the price was under $5 and I was down to washing with *gasp* bar soap!

So… I really like this stuff. The scent is so nominal, it could be mistaken for unscented (except the smell is enough to make it not have that weird chemical “unscented” scent). It isn’t “pure” or very natural (ingredient list: Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Sulfate, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Lauryl Alcohol, Fragrance/Parfum, Decyl Glucoside, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, DMDM Hydantoin, Lauryl Glucoside, Tetrasodium EDTA, PEG-14M, Citric Acid, Green 3, Red 33, Green 5.), but very few shower gels these days are. A little goes a long way – great bubbles that puff up nicely in the bath poof or even as a makeshift bubble bath. Doesn’t dry out my skin, doesn’t make the hives happen, doesn’t leave any film or the tight feel some products do to my winter bod. And really… this big bottle is only $5!

I should have a few more next week… lots of samples and goodies from the holidays!

Tuesday Tip: The Skin You’re In

Often women change their skincare routine with the weather. It is true that the heated air in buildings in the winter cause our skin to be dryer, as does the cold winds that slap our skin as we scurry from car to office. Summer usually comes with humidity, offering constant moisture to our skin. Even with these changes, it isn’t always necessary to be so drastic in changing your regimen.

Sweat does not equal moisture. We often switch to stronger cleansers and moisturizers geared toward oily skin to keep moisture at bay and prevent our makeup from slipping. Often women go without moisturizer all together, finding it the culprit for shiny summer skin.

Everyone needs a moisturizer, be your skin an oil slick or the Sahara. Moisturizer is a protective barrier for your skin to fight against the elements, also known as free radicals. Free radicals come from environmental pollutants, the sun, makeup, most anything that touches your face. Moisturizers with antioxidants (Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Kinetin, White Tea, etc.) will create a shield to prevent free radicals from attacking your face, reducing elasticity, fine texture and health.

Another reason moisturizer is needed is that when the skin feels over-dry, it fights back by producing oil. The body creates oil as a natural protectant. The more detergent-like cleansers, alcohol-based toners and harsh exfoliants you use on your skin to fight oil and acne, the more your skin will produce oil. Try a week using a vary lightweight gel or oil-free moisturizer and see how much happier your skin will be.

In summer we still need moisture and to protect our skin. If you have very dry skin in the winter, it is pretty likely that come summer your skin is not oily, just sweaty. Try switching your moisturizer for a lighter consistency, but don’t change anything else for a week. Often times all that is needed is a small change to have your skin adjust to the changing seasons. Also consider a makeup primer (I have used and loved ones by Smashbox and Paula Dorf – both available at Sephora). Primers will help your makeup adhere to the skin in the most humid and steamy of days, without yanking precious moisture from your skin.

And finally, EVERYONE needs sunscreen. No matter your skin color, your age, how well you tan. You can get sun damage in the short trip from your house to your car. A minimum of SPF 15 is required for all faces to keep them healthy, elastic and glowing. If you are fair, consider a moisturizer with a higher SPF and look into foundations and powders with sunscreen (Bare Minerals cosmetics have a natural SPF of 20,Almay carries SPF 15 foundations, Guerlain has a foundation with SPF 30). The SPF in your foundation will not replace your moisturizer, but provide an added barrier against the environment.

Here’s a test to show how skin is affected by free radicals. Cut an apple in half. Leave one side bare, on the other side put a coating of your favorite antioxidant-rich facial moisturizer. Let it sit for 30 minutes. You’ll see that the moisturized side stayed the same color and texture, while the uncovered side turned brown and mushy. Think about your day – walking the dog, gardening, walking from the parking lot to the grocery store or your office building, the recycled air in your office or on a plane… so many opportunities to wreak havoc on your skin. Our hands and our faces show our age first because those are the two parts of the body that are exposed to the elements on the most regular basis. Women who regularly moisturize their face and wear sunscreen look younger than their non-protecting peers.

Obviously tanning isn’t good for your skin. If you must have that “healthy” glow, consider some of the new self-tanners on the market. Jergens has one that is a gradual tan – less likely to get streaks and orange palms and builds up to a great tan. In small doses Mystic Tan and the other spray tans can offer a natural looking glow and color to your face and body. And if you must be a sun worshipper, toss the baby oil and grab some SPF 15 sunblock – you will still get color while out on the beach, you just won’t be basting like a Thanksgiving turkey. Reapply often – a tan may look great, but nothing looks better than healthy skin. Sun damage may cause loss of elasticity and moisture to the face, it can also exasperbate stretch marks, increase the number of freckles and moles on the skin, increase wrinkling, cause loss of elasticity to other body parts too (who wants to encourage sagging breasts?) and make you look older than your years. For suggestions on great products with sunscreen in them, check out this link provided by the Skin Cancer Foundation: http://www.skincancer.org/aboutus/documents/SealList.pdf

When you consider what makes you beautiful, consider if that beauty trick or regimen will help you stay beautiful ten years down the line. Proper care of your skin will help you feel great, look your best and keep yourself healthy. Trust your skin – if it’s dry in winter, it can still be thirsty in summer, even if it causing your makeup to dribble off your chin. Even if you seem to have great healthy skin now, invest in a daily sunscreen to keep that skin looking healthy. You only get one body, treat it well. It will outlast your favorite books or handbag and even your dearest friend. Give it the respect and pampering that it deserves.

Seasonless Black Trousers

A pair of black trousers in a seasonless fabric is a necessity to any woman’s wardrobe. What deems a fabric “seasonless?” This means the pants are not wool, they are not cotton. They are most likely a blend of fabrics, usually a good portion synthetic. Ann Taylor has a seasonless fabric they call Triacetate. Express’ seasonless fabric is called Microtwill. J.Crew (and many other brands) calls their version Gabardine. All different fabrics, all seasonless. Maintains it’s shape, often has a bit of stretch, has a slight texture or sheen (great for dressing up and dressing down!), and sort of blends into the background. Not only should these tousers be seasonless, they should be eventless (if that is a word). You want trousers that can go from work to a happy hour to a cocktail party to an interview, to a night club. What cut achieves this? A bootcut leg, not tight, but not Palazzo pants (those pants that look like a skirt on each leg). A tab waist if often a good choice. You never need to worry about a belt, it lies flat under fitted, untucked shirts, yet looks smart with a tucked in oxford. Due to a tab-wait trouser having a wider waistband, it is less likely to cut into the torso, creating a spare tire above the waistline. Very flattering on women with hips, bellies, rears, or straight shapes.

These trousers should not have front pockets. I do not care what your body shape is, front pockets ruin a smooth line and make trousers look more casual and less versatile. These pockets often bow out, wrinkle under the tousers, and look messy. They can make Kate Moss look like Kathy Bates. Back pockets are okay, as long as they are small besom pockets, and not patch pockets (again, detroy the versatility and make the trouser more dated and casual).

Examples of good trousers:

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Yes, I said these trousers should be black, but I chose a lighter color so you could see the detail. The bootcut leg adds a modern look to the pant, elongates and slims the leg. This is an example of a tab waist. See how it is a wider waistband, less likely to cut into the middle. The lack of pleats, seaming and pockets in the front minimizes a belly and gives a smooth line. The strong crease down the front elongates the leg and gives a long, lean look. See how you could see these pants with an oxford and matching blazer with pumps for work, a beaded camisole and pointy toed heels for a night club, a cotton v-neck sweater sweater and some boots for a jaunt to the mall. These pants are from Ann Taylor, and are a cotton/rayon/spandex blend (rayon gives it the seasonless fabric, strech gives it the smooth fit wear after wear).

Here is a great example from Lane Bryant:

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These pants are a seasonless nylon/rayon/spandex blend. They are cut just below the waist (reduces the look of tummy bulge), have a bootcut leg, and smooth lower torso. These pants would look great with strappy heels, a beaded shell and matching jacket for a cocktail party, or a merino turtleneck and some crocodile pointy boots for lunch with the girls. At the time of writing this, these trousers are on sale for $20, regularly $45. You really can find stylish classic pieces for a steal at your local mall. I cannot stress this point enough.

The point is that with the right black trousers, you can dress for almost any event. I have black trousers I purchased five years ago, and still wear weekly. They do not have to cost a lot, most of the trousers I buy on sale and get for less than $50.00. Do keep in mind that though a bargain is always great, black trousers is one thing you do not want to look cheap. They will be worn more than most anything else in your wardrobe, so don’t settle for a chintzy fabric with a cheap sheen, a pair that wrinkles easily, isn’t lined, isn’t the right length, the right cut, the right anything. I do believe in buying in bulk. If you find the trousers of your dreams, you may wish to invest in a second pair in black, and possibly a third pair in another versatile color (gray, brown, tan, white). Consider this especially if you buy the matching suit jacket. I purchased a pair of amazing trousers and the matching jacket at Ann Taylor four years ago. I often wore the trousers without the jacket. One day my dog jumped up to greet me as I returned home from work, his claw got caught in the fabric and ended up snagging and tearing the thigh of these coveted trousers. Ann Taylor no longer makes pieces in this same fabric, so I have a lovely well-fitting jacket and no trousers to match. Since then, I always buy two pairs of pants for every suit jacket, allowing one pair for every day wear, and one pair to preserve to wear with the jacket or for special occasions.

As for care of these pants. I will let you know ahead of time that often these pants say “Dry Clean Only.” I DESPISE spending money on dry cleaning. I end up taking my clothes to the cleaners and forget to pick them up for two weeks. Most of the knits and sweaters I purchase I ignore this “Dry Clean Only” label and wash in Woolite on the gentle cycle of my machine and hang to dry. I have tried this with trousers, and rarely have had good luck. They end up wrinkled, losing that nice front crease and long line. They look cheaper, they often get tighter, the legs shorter (often leaving the lining the same length, which is NOT a good look!), the threads weaken, leaving the potential for an embarrassment the next time you sit down. I have a stain remover I actually purchased in the lingerie department of a department store. I spot treat with that or a Shout! Wipe (always have 5 or 6 in my purse – available at your grocery store in the detergent aisle) and then take them to the local discount dry cleaners. Every so often, they get a better cleaning at the higher end dry cleaners. This may seem like a pain, especially if you have children, a busy schedule, a tight budget. I must tell you this is an investment. If you take care of your clothes correctly, they will take care of you in return, looking gorgeous and lasting for years. Though it may be more appealing to buy all clothing that can take a tumble in the washer and dryer, you lose that polished look, that classic look, the look that shows you care what you look like and others should as well. If you can’t go beyond Tumble Dry Low, you will have a hard time following the closet rules of this book.

Recent Beauty Buys: Creating a Natural “No Makeup” Look

Come summer, I feel like an idiot rocking shimmery shadows, high-pigment lips and airbrushed skin. Warm weather is a time when freckles and a flush is apropos, but as I age I find it less possible to achieve a natural “no makeup makeup” look with just a little dab of concealer and tinted lip balm. Though I am fastidious with sunscreen and moisturizer, my previous bad habits (hello, my name is Alison and I am an ex-tanaholic) have still left their calling card all over my face and I need a bit of help to look fresh.

This summer I dabbled in a few products to look fresh, polished but not too polished. Products that didn’t try to make me look ten year younger, but possibly would make my skin look less damaged from sun and fun. Some were a waste of money, some were pretty darn decent.


Miracle Skin Transformer SPF 20 Face
If Helena Christensen says some skincare product is the shizz and it doesn’t have a Le Mer pricetag, I’m willing to try it. This product is a primer, moisturizer, sunscreen, and color all in one but it’s not like any BB Cream I have tried. The formula is thicker, dryer, and the coverage can be increased with additional layers without looking greasy or heavy.  It actually survives a day with humidity, sweat, and my greasy T-zone.

This won’t give you flawless skin, but I like it better than a BB or CC Cream for coverage, natural non-shiny finish, and longevity. It’s a great weekend product, and I like it with concealer and then flushed cheeks and bold lips.

Note: I ordered Medium and find it to be a good choice for my skintone.

Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circles “Neutralizer”
I reviewed this before and raved about it, but a few of your comments said the packaging is crap. I am on my third tube of this concealer and I have to agree. My second tube was only half used when it completely broke while I was in New York. I couldn’t get it to spin, I couldn’t eek out any more product. Sadly, I purchased two tubes at the same time so I still had one unopened to use.

I’m using that last tube, and it drives me batty. The packaging cracked, so you will click for more product and nothing happens. If you press down and spin it will click, but it cracks the packaging even more making me feel I only have a few more wears before it too is completely broken. Great formula, good coverage, but packaging so crappy it’s not worth it to purchase.

Revlon Illuminance Creme Shadow – Not Just Nudes
I’m not skilled with the makeups. All I know is from a couple years as a trainer for The Body Shop, and two amazing makeup artists (one Chanel, one Trish McEvoy) who took the time to teach me carefully while I sat at their counter (and thereby spent half a paycheck). Cream shadows and blushes are things I have tried and failed at. Too complicated, too easy to go wrong, harder to blend, easier to crease. But when I was researching the best shadows for aging lids, I saw so many artists recommend creams.

My 38-year old lids are much better with cream shadows than my 28-year old lids, and my 38-year old lids love this quad from Revlon. Some have a tiny hint of shimmer – not enough to look like a disco ball but enough to look dewy. The others are sparkle-free, but the cream formula keeps it from looking dowdy. I can pat this on almost-nude skin, but it also looks polished for the work day. I odn’t find it creases, though it does fade after a few hours.

Revlon Photoready Cream Blush in Coral Reef
As I mentioned, cream blush is another product I found too complicated but with age I am understanding the benefit. Powders look more obvious now that I have drier skin, larger pores, and fine lines. I already caught myself often adding a bit of flush with lipsticks and tinted lip balms, I felt an actual cream blush may be a better formulation.

When I was in NYC for the Foxcroft shoot, I learned a lot from the makeup artists. One thing I saw was that you could use extremely bold colors for a soft natural look. She used a very bright blush on me, but with a light hand so it looked natural. Coral Reef looked to be a similar color, and is that not-too-cool of a shade that I find flattering (I usually wear NARS Orgasm blush).

First application… I looked feverish. Second application… very clown-like. Third time’s the charm. I applied it by tapping my fingers gently in the pot, then tapping gently on the apples of my cheeks, and then softly blending. I can then add more for a bolder look. This makes for a far more natural flush, and one that looks good on bare or almost-bare skin. I apply it under any powder or wear on its own – it is far better than lipsticks and tinted balms because there isn’t any smeary greasy feel and it holds well all day long.

Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette
I know, I know, you all have had this shadow set for 50,000 years and where have I been? Well I’ve been perfectly content with Revlon Colorstay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis… until Revlon went and discontinued it. I have bought every other neutral quad from Revlon and I find them too gray, too yellow, too pale, too dark. So I decided to get what is considered the best.

And it’s the best I have tried. The colors are perfect for creating a polished “nude” eye, amping up with a bit of contour, or a subtle daytime-friendly smoky eye. There’s a matte black shadow in the kit that could make your smoky eye dramatic enough for evening, but I have only used it so far as a liner. But yeah, I like every color in the palette and wish I bought this sooner.

nanoblur
Sarah of StyleIt mentioned she saw this cult fave in Duane Reade so I went looking for it and found it at Drugstore.com. Loved across the pond for its ability to airbrush skin without color, I wanted to try it and see if it would hide pores and fine lines without looking made up.

The instructions say nanoblur can be worn on bare skin or over foundation. On bare skin it works… okay. The consistency is a bit like toothpaste or wood filler and you need to pat, not rub. Rub, and you get weird white sticky ick on your skin that you need to rub like crazy to make it go away. But dabbing a teensy bit at a time and you can really blur out wrinkles and pores on bare skin, and cover with a bit of powder for a natural look.

Over foundation… I just can’t get it to work. It balls up, it’s visible, it feels gross, it won’t pat in and the rubbing makes the same mess as on bare skin. Maybe it needs a special applicator or technique, I’m not patient enough to figure it out.

Boots No7 Photo Fix Wrinkle Filler & Primer
I was scraping the last bit of primer out of my Smashbox tube and was wondering if there was a product on the market just as good but not as pricey. This primer from Boots received a lot of good reviews and I have enjoyed other products from the line so I decided to give it a try.

I hate to say this now because it’s only a month, but I think I like Boots’ primer better than Smashbox. It dries faster, it seems to blur the skin and improve its look even without foundation, and it doesn’t feel heavy. Not too shabby!

Mary Kay TimeWise Body™ Targeted-Action® Toning Lotion
The fabulous Rebecca Pruett reached out to me asking if I’d like to try a product from Mary Kay. Showing more skin in the warmer weather, I am noticing the loss of elasticity in my aging skin. I asked to try TimeWise Body™ Targeted-Action® Toning Lotion… and wow I really like it. I still apply Neutrogena Body Oil after my shower, but when my skin has dried I apply this as well, focusing on my arms and legs. Karl really likes the scent and he doesn’t like most fragranced lotions. I like that it absorbs quickly and I think does help firm up the skin a bit.  I think places like my knees look better after using this for a few weeks.  I like this enough that when it runs out I will be getting more.  It’s not sticky, the scent isn’t so strong it competes with my perfume, but you can smell it’s rose/citrus/clean scent if up close (and it doesn’t smell grody or overwhelming when your body heats up).  Not really no-makeup makeup look, but it does make my skin look better and feel more comfortable shedding layers this season.

Cover Girl LashBlast Clump Crusher
You know me, I am always on the hunt for the perfect mascara. While DiorShow is almost Holy Grail, the price is just not possible for me. After reading multiple rave reviews I decided to try Clump Crusher… and I am a fan.

This is a really great mascara for the no-makeup makeup look because it really does crush clumps, giving you long, thick, lush lashes that don’t look sticky. It’s easy to layer for more impact, it survives sweat and the occasional tear-inducing viral video at lunchtime yet washes off easily with my evening cleanser.

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Ask Allie: Fashion Advice for a Petite SAHM

Dear Allie,
I am currently rocking the awful “mom” look aka yoga pants and huge t-shirts and I am so over it! Could you direct me to a few classic pieces to start my wardrobe? I am a stay at home mom with two under two, so I need a practical look. I live in Ohio where the weather is always changing. I am very petite (5’ and less than 100 lbs). I also have trouble finding comfortable shoes that look stylish and fit my size 5 feet. Any advice?
– Megan

Dear Megan,
I am so glad you realize that one can be an active mom while maintaining style. I recently wrote an article on Savings.com about new mom fashion, but will offer some basics that should get you on track without looking like a mom, or like a college student:

Dark Straight Jeans
A dark straight jean is classic, can be worn any season of the year, looks more polished than lighter washes, and doesn’t need a fancy label to look chic. Having a straight leg means this jean should work with most any length or style of top in your wardrobe – simple tanks and tees, longer tunics, blazers and cardigans, blouses tucked in or left untucked. Add a bit of spandex so that you won’t be showing your undergarments or cutting into your stomach when crawling on the floor after your little one.

The Lee Slender Secret 5-pocket Jean is a classic style that is great for women who may have a bit of that baby pooch still left. Oprah recently rated them as a top jean, and reviews state that these jeans in petite are not needing of hemming for those who are 5’ tall. $29.99

 


Levi’s 512 jean is a straight, classic style that is made for a woman’s shape. Their Perfectly Slimming 512 Jean has the Lycra to keep your body looking smooth, and giving you the flexibility you need to keep up with your children. Again, this jean is rated great for the really petite woman – they run short so you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg on alterations. $40.00

A Versatile Trench
When the weather is chilly one day, hot the next, and rainy the third it’s hard to be prepared. A simple trench or mac in a water-resistant fabric that is lined will keep you looking stylish yet comfortable on those in-between days.

The Sunshower Coat from Lands End is a favorite – it’s a classic style, breathable, and wrinkle-resistant. Lands End is known for their quality and service so you know you will get a great piece that will give you years of wear. Khaki is a safe bet, but a more memorable color like their Wine Grape will look great with neutrals, make your skin glow, and will give you a sunnier outlook on the day, even if the sky is cloudy. $99.50

Macy’s Style&Co brand offers great style for a reasonable price. This double-breasted trench has a shorter length that won’t dwarf your petite frame, and the soft sage color will look great with neutrals, but be a fresh change from beige and black outerwear. $79.00

Solid-colored Seasonally-appropriate Tops
Toss the oversized tees and stiff striped button-downs. It’s easy to be comfortable, get dressed in an instant yet look great if you have an arsenal of flattering, well-fitting knits in your size and colors you adore. Wash on the gentle cycle, line dry and these pieces can give you years of great wear. Look for pieces with 5% spandex or more – they will be more likely to keep their shape, not need to be ironed, and maintain their color longer than 100% cotton tops. For winter, I love merino wool because it acts like a knit in keeping its shape and flattering the figure, and can also be washed on the gentle cycle.

Ann Taylor LOFT is a fave of many petite women thanks to their extensive collection, reasonable prices, and truly petite sizing. Their Petite Twisted Boatneck Tee is a fashionable version of the comfy tee shirt. The neckline adds drama to a casual day look, and would fantastic under a cardigan or casual twill blazer. Great colors like Balsam Green and Ocean Depths will complement dark denim, khaki, white, gray, and black. $19.50

I love Nordstrom’s Caslon line – great wardrobe basics of great quality. The petite Caslon Ballet Neck Tee is a feminine and flattering twist on a simple knit top – the ¾ sleeves make it wearable almost year-round and a scoop neck is lovely on most every woman’s figure. $24.00

A Casual Blazer
A great way to jazz up simple tees and jeans is with a casual blazer. If it’s unlined and has a bit of stretch, it’s as comfortable as a hoodie but with far more polish.

 


Ann Taylor LOFT’s Petite Urban Twill Blazer is a great choice. The grosgrain trim gives it a unique, higher-end look, and in navy it would go with most any color tank or tee in your closet. $69.99

The striped blazer from Banana Republic would look amazing with neutral tanks, tees, and bottoms. It would also look quite chic with a pop of color underneath – try candy pink, blood orange, or apple green. The standup collar elongates the frame, making you look taller. $149.99

A Trendy Knit
Right now, striped tees are a hot look – this is a great way to add some variety and current fashion to your wardrobe without looking passé in a season. Striped tees look great with a simple denim or twill skirt, under a blazer, with shorts, capris, jeans, and even dressed up with a fuller skirt or with trousers. Add a bit of contrast with a turquoise or coral necklace, or a cardigan in a color like leaf green, tangerine, or yellow.

This black and cream striped boatneck from Lauren by Ralph Lauren isn’t your ordinary tee shirt – the silver buttons and boatneck make it a refined piece that would look great with jeans, and also with a white twill skirt for spring outings. $59.50

 


I own the Striped Sailor Tee from Ann Taylor and adore it – the scoopneck is flattering, the knit heavy and durable, the epaulets give a bit more style and panache. It comes in three colors. $38.00

A Not-so Little Black Dress
I have a black wrap dress from Old Navy that I bought years ago on clearance. I wear it with leggings and flats around the house, with heels for a wedding or funeral, with tall boots to work. It’s so versatile, and the matte jersey is a fabric that stretches, gives, washes easily, and looks timeless and seasonless.

The Petite Gemma Wrap dress from Banana Republic is a great choice – ¾ sleeves work year round, and a true wrap style means you can cinch the waist for a more custom fit. $98.00

 


Merona for Target has really come a long way in the past year – the quality has improved immensely, and the style is quite on-trend yet classic. The Merona Petite Faux Wrap Knit Dress is a great choice – the empire waist hides any post-baby pooch, and makes it dress up or down with ease. $20.98

Shoes
It often impossible to find size 5 footwear in stores, however the selection is pretty impressive online. Sites like Nordstrom and Zappos have a great selection of smaller sizes that are still stylish and comfortable. I recommend investing in:

  • A sandal with a low wedge heel (more comfortable than heels, able to wear with shorts or with a dress).  The “Amber” wedge-heel sandals from Munro is a great summer choice – uber comfortable, thin elegant straps, will look great with skirts and dresses of all lengths, as well as shorts, trousers, and cropped pants. Munro is known for comfort and quality – these shoes should be wearable even for a day of sightseeing or a trip to Disney World. $179.95
  • A pair of ankle boots you can slip on with jeans and a sweater (low heel, brown or black depending on your wardrobe – more versatile than flats as that they can dress up and also be waterproofed for rainy days).  The “Wisteria” by Merrell has a wedge heel which is comfortable when standing or walking for a long period of time, but can still be paired with casual trousers. They get great reviews for comfort. $140.00
  • A pair of tall riding boots (wear with dresses, over jeans and you will be amazed how they will transform wardrobe basics into something stylish – waterproof them for more versatility).  These riding boots from La Canadiene are so classic – waterproof Italian leather, moisture-wicking lining, memory foam insole, low heel, elegant styling. These are boots you buy now and will still be wearing a decade from now. $256.00
  • A pair of simple black leather pumps for those times when you do need to dress up (they work with pants, dresses, and even with your dark jeans for a Date Night or drinks with your girl friends).  The Nuncio pump from Nine West is a classic pump that will look elegant year-round and years from now. 2.5” heel, elongated toe, and available in narrow and wide widths. $69.95

For additional petite inspiration, check out:

How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

The best accessory I acquired in the past decade was getting out of credit card debt.

My Experience:
When I worked in retail, I found it far too easy to shop. I was spending at least 45, usually closer to 65 hours a week at a mall. Lunch hours were spent strolling through other shops, sipping on an overpriced coffee drink, or treating myself to a very nice lunch at a nearby restaurant. As a personal shopper and visual merchandiser, I felt I had to be a perfect example of style and current fashion and made sure to have the latest shoes, makeup, accessories and always a perfect professional manicure, pedicure, haircut and highlights. When our shop was thisclose to making the day’s sales goal, they could always count on me to purchase something from the new line to get us over the hump.

When I left working at Express, they gave me my associate purchase logs. In one year, after my employee discounts, I had purchased $7,000.00 worth of their clothing. When I maxed out my Express card, I opened a Structure card and used that (hey it was the late ‘90s/early ‘00s when Structure still existed). When I maxed that out, I found out that I could use my Limited or Victoria’s Secret cards and shop at Express. I won’t even go into details about the major credit cards I used for salon treatments, binges at Sephora or Nordstrom, and many a steak salad at the Nordstrom Café.

As women, we are constantly attacked by media telling us to spend, spend, spend. The dress that will get you the guy. The moisturizer that will make you look ten years younger. The bag you must have this season. The five or ten or hundred items every woman must have in her wardrobe. And then of course, the purchases you need so that you can be as lovely as Anne or Mila or Kate. Magazines like Lucky are completely geared towards assisting women on shopping, while glossies such as Vogue and W bring couture to Middle America, encouraging everyone to feel that they too need a fancy label on their dress to be special.

As you know, I love fashion. I love clothing. I find it to be a great way to express your personality, your individuality, your passions. Fashion can also help you feel more confident and more beautiful. But no garment is worth falling into debt. A woman cannot be strong if her finances are crumbling around her.

So how do you achieve personal style while sticking to your budget?

When I got to the point where I was fearing every telephone call, thinking it was a debt collector, I knew I had to make a major change – FAST. For me, it was changing careers. I had to get away from that which was causing the debt – easy access to current fashion. However I still had mountains of debt and wasn’t willing to sacrifice style along the way.

This was when I started understanding wardrobe staples. Pieces slowly collected that could multitask and make a woman ready for any event in her life. I looked at women I knew as stylish and really examined their wardrobes. They didn’t own a lot of clothes, they seemed to wear the same things over and over. And those clothes they wore were perfect. They were well tailored, high quality, flattering. Few prints, few trendy details. Classics like cashmere turtlenecks, crisp dark jeans, white tailored shirts, simple sheath dresses, elegant black leather pumps, simple pencil skirts. They would add their own look to these staples with accessories like scarves, bold jewelry, and belts.

I thought back to the exchange students we hosted when I was in high school – how they could survive weeks in another country with just a small suitcase of clothing. Even with their small wardrobes, they were ready for any event in the US. Their wardrobes were of simple pieces that mixed and matched with one another – pieces of similar fabrics, colors, and silhouettes so they made a true collection.

I looked in my own closet – spangled knit tops to wear out to clubs that still had tags on them, a dozen cocktail dresses, four pairs of leather pants (and one pair bright red!), three pairs of tall black boots, over 20 pairs of jeans. Who the heck needs 20 pairs of jeans?

I obviously had plenty of clothes at that time, and really tried to make do with what I had. My new job required me to wear all black, so when I didn’t have the right item in my wardrobe, I stalked sale racks until I could find what worked at the lowest price. I often bought in bulk – who cares if you’re wearing the same black pants every day as long as they are clean and fit well?

Over time, I got a grip on my finances, but realized yet another new profession and a changing figure required me to shop again. I decided to keep those stylish women and my exchange students in mind. I looked through my closet with fresh eyes and decided to purge. Gone were all the spangled club tops, the evening gowns, and any clothes that didn’t fit and flatter my current frame.

However for purchasing, I needed to figure out a budget so I wouldn’t get back into a financial mess. Before I went shopping, I took a month or two to look at where my money went, and what were my priorities. Thanks to my sister who is the Excel Spreadsheet Queen, I started tracking where all my money went – that pack of gum, that latte, that issue of Marie Claire. I didn’t just note how much I spent on groceries, but what exactly I purchased. I saw that a lot of my money went to food – dining out, alcohol, and purchasing items at the grocery store that I don’t really need (hello another lip gloss) or that I can’t afford (artisanal cheeses, sushi, out of season produce). I decided to adjust my current spending before shopping to see what I could cut and still lead what I felt to be a joyful and comfortable life.

Only then, could I figure out my fashion budget. Some months, I spent that money. Other months, I saved it up so I could get something really special. I stuck to my list of essentials, and decided I would only buy fun items when I got a work bonus, birthday cash, special events. This way, I not only stayed on budget but I was even more careful with my money and those special items not only were nice to buy, but had special meaning behind them.

Each woman’s budget will be different, but it is important to first pay yourself before you do any shopping. Pay off your debt, save and invest your money. Prepare for the unexpected. Yes, a great pair of shoes can make your day, help you land a job or perfect your wardrobe but shoes won’t pay the rent if you get laid off. Shoes won’t buy you a new car when yours dies on the side of the highway. Shoes won’t give you independence and freedom.

If your budget is small, that’s actually a good thing. Small wardrobe funding requires one to do homework to find the best quality for the price, to really get to know one’s body and lifestyle and only purchase that which makes sense. Keep your wardrobe small, hard-working, classic, elegant.

Tips to Stay on Budget:

  • Have a Life Budget. No point in having a clothing budget if you are blowing your paycheck already on other items. That being said, have priorities. Clothing is probably higher on my priority list than the list of many other women. Each woman is different – some budget for world travel, some budget for books, some budget for art supplies, some budget for home renovations. It’s important to first be true to you – prioritize and then figure out where fashion fits.
  • Make a List, Check it Twice. If you have an actual written list that you carry with you, you’re less likely to get off track when you hit the mall.
  • Do Your Homework. You need a black suit? Go to the mall, try on brands, and then go home. Research online for coupons, deals, maybe the same item on eBay or in a thrift or vintage store. Never accept full price unless it is absolute perfection, absolutely necessary, and still fits your budget.
  • Stay Away from Shopping Triggers. For me, it’s malls. I only visit a major shopping mall once or twice a year because I can get lost in there and leave hundreds poorer. Maybe for you it’s Target (can always justify another tee or a $19.99 sundress but it adds up), possibly an adorable boutique in your neighborhood or maybe it’s Net-a-Porter. Whatever it is, accept your trigger and control your visits. Schedule them according to seasons – maybe only allow one visit each season, or maybe once a month.
  • Cancel the Magazine Subscriptions. I am a magazine-aholic, but I know that when I read them, I end up shopping more. Magazines do a great job of making items look amazing, and seem necessary. The most recent Vogue made me spend an hour of my life looking for a certain Brahmin bag – something I don’t need, can’t afford, but loved upon first sight. I did stop before purchasing, but if I hadn’t received that magazine, I would have never known about that orange bag and would have still lived a happy and stylish life. For some, it may be fashion blogs instead of magazines – even if it’s my blog that encourages you to shop, unsubscribe and just visit maybe once a month or every other week.
  • Play “Which Would You Rather.” Sally McGraw of Already Pretty often hosts a “sudden death” question on her Facebook page – which would you rather do – wear only white for a year, or wear your high school colors for a year, and only your school colors. It’s a good exercise for shopping – which would you rather have – that It Bag, or a sushi and sake date night with your mate once a month for a year? Which would you rather own – the perfect pair of black leather pumps, or six pairs of sandals from Payless? Which is more important, your morning Starbucks, or a pair of riding boots? Break down the price of the item and compare it to other items in your life.
  • Get Creative. No one knows you’re wearing the same black pants every day if you switch it up. One day, wear with a tucked-in blouse, the next day with a blazer and shell. Another day wear a cardigan over them and belt the cardigan to change the silhouette. Use your small wardrobe as a brain teaser – who needs Sudoku when you can take the dozen or so quality pieces in your wardrobe and make dozens of outfits from them.

A woman should get fitted for a new bra every year. She should have the perfect LBD in her wardrobe to be ready for unexpected social events. And she should be able to sleep well at night, knowing full well what is going on with her finances. The best accessory I acquired was getting out of debt – the best accessory any woman can wear is self-confidence, and confidence comes from being true to one’s self, feeling strong, and being financially solvent.



Be sure to check out the first of my How to Shop Series: An Introduction

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Behind the Scenes

I don’t think people realize the behind the scenes of being a fashion or style blogger in 2013. While I don’t know how it is for other bloggers, here’s a peek into may daily life as a part-time fashion blogger.

I wake and grab my phone and head to the bathroom. While I pee, brush my teeth, and straighten my hair, I read emails, reply to comments and mentions on my blog’s social media channels. I need to stop after 30 minutes, because if not this could go on for over an hour. Time zones across the globe mean you can receive 20 emails at 3am asking to buy a text link, improve your SEO, or gift you with a scarf and ten more at 4am trying to spam your comment sections with links for cheap Fendi bags.

I try to figure out an outfit. I have that gifted scarf I need to incorporate before the end of the week, I have to wear that dress for that brand before the month is through but it looks stupid with tights and it’s only going to be 45 degrees that day. I already wore black for my last two outfit posts, if I do it again I’ll be hit with a dozen comments asking me if I’m depressed or gained weight or having marital issues. If I wear more than one c/o item in the outfit, will I be seen as a sell-out even though I really really like those c/o pieces? As I pull something together, I am thinking about what I will write, what the title will be for the post.

I go downstairs and start the outfit post – I write the title, get all the links for the products. I usually use ShopSense for my affiliate links because it’s profitable, easy to use, and they don’t harass me all the time with emails on how to improve my results or added widgets and giveaways and such. However, if ShopSense doesn’t have my link, I have to take some extra time to find that item online. I write a bit of the copy, just to get the ball rolling, tag the post, and do all the blogging back-end stuff.

On days when I don’t have to be at work super early, my husband drives me to the metro to save costs and reduce the number of cars on the road. He brings out his camera, I give him a memory card, pictures are taken in our court or the street nearby. He shoots about 12 pictures. Pose, pose pose, pose, pose, pose. Okay get up close for detail shots. I don’t see any of the pictures, he pulls out the memory card and I slip it in my purse and we drive off. While in the car or when waiting at the Metro for the train I may Instagram my outfit, and will again check emails and mentions on social media. Karl makes a joke about how I’m addicted to my phone, I laugh, guzzle coffee, and keep scrolling because it’s not something I can do once I get to work.

When I take my lunch break, I eat it at my desk so I can work on the blog. I upload the pictures to my desktop, delete the ones with my eyes closed or where I have five chins, and quickly use PicMonkey to adjust the color, clone out Emerson’s handprint on my pants, and resize. Load the pics, finish the copy, and post all within about 15 minutes. My posts are automatically mentioned on Twitter, but I have chosen to manually share on Facebook because I can then add a photo, tag brands or fellow bloggers and make it a bit more personal. I also share on Pinterest – I feel goofy promoting myself but I’ve found over the past year that many people have found my blog because of that.

If I still have some time leftover (I rarely get full lunch hours), I’ll check my Google Doc for comments from my comment form, check out blogs I follow on Feedly, reply to some emails, chat with folks on Twitter. In all honesty, this time is usually taken up with emails, and not emails from readers.

Can I write a guest post where I throw in a bunch of links for my brand but not pay you?
I will offer you $25 to write a sponsored post on your site with 50,000 links about casinos or weightloss products or a brand of clothing that is derogatory towards women.
I’d like to give you $50 to put a bunch of crazy code in your sidebar which looks like an innocent button ad, but will in fact destroy your SEO and improve mine tenfold.
I have a scarf I’d like to send to you (always scarves!!) for free, but you need to feature it within two weeks, share it on every social media channel under the sun, use a special hashtag and link to this specific page. 
Your price is too high for advertising, how about I give you $30 and some SEO tips for a giant ad in your sidebar that will be there for three years? 
Have you had a chance to try out the skincare you didn’t ask to receive in the first place and when can I expect a review on your blog?

Even though Alexa and Quantcast and my Advertise page exist and you sent me your stats in the last email, can you please again give me all the statistics on your blog for the past year, specific stats that you’ll have to dig up on Google Analytics so I can see if your blog is worthy enough for me to send you a bracelet? 
Sorry, we cannot send you a pair of our shoes to review, but here’s a high-res image of it, I’ll be sending the shoes to a blogger who may have a much smaller audience but is younger and thinner but I hope you will still write about us and be sure to mention us on social media!

At the end of the workday, I am often rushing out of the office to get home in just in time for Karl to leave to teach. The days where he doesn’t work, I’d love to leave on time so we can have dinner together as a family, but usually I stick around at work for another hour. I catch up on things without the office bustling with people, but I also get blogging done. All that behind the scenes stuff – updating ads and links, making new Pin-able images for old posts that still get a lot of traffic, creating Polyvore sets for upcoming posts, creating posts and scheduling them for the future. I don’t get time like this often, so when I do I try to bang out at least one or two posts.

As soon as the Metro is aboveground, I’m on my phone checking emails and social media. Again, writing myself an email of tasks to accomplish. I get home, put my phone on the charger and spend time with Emerson. I give her a bath, put her to bed, and usually go right to my laptop where I deal with 50,000 more emails of companies wanting text links, to send me stuff, do giveaways, have me mention their brands or events, or speak on their panel. It’s tempting to delete every single one, but you never know what PR person can give you your next big break. I delete the ones that are obviously sent to 500 bloggers at once, but reply to all that are personal or make an effort.

When I’m home, I try to answer all the emails from readers, but I’m trying to do that more on weekends because I’m finding the personal interactions before bedtime really mess with my sleep patterns. For every compliment, there’s someone telling me I am fat or tacky, my child is ugly or my husband is gay. For every email that asks an honest question about fashion or style, there is one where someone is pouring out their entire story and hoping I can fix their life. For every email thanking me for my advice, there’s someone telling me my advice is wrong, damaging, or offensive. It’s hard; I love how my blog helps women so when I get such feedback it’s hard to not take it personally or change yourself.

I rarely read books anymore that don’t serve a blog purpose. I read fashion and style books, fashion and lifestyle magazines. I need to keep current with trends, style beliefs, up and comers. You all will hit me with some major whoppers of comments and questions and it reminds me that to be a good blogger you need to be well-informed on your subject. Every so often, I throw in a chick lit or crime novel to keep the fashion and style reads from being work.

Saturday mornings, Karl teaches yoga and Emerson and I have an hour or two before her ballet class. We eat breakfast on the couch, she usually playing ABC Mouse on her computer or apps on my phone, me with laptop and a fashion-related show on the TV. Project Runway, Rachel Zoe Project, It’s a Brad Brad World, something on the DVR I saw when going through The Guide. I get a post done, this is usually when I do capsule or more creative posts because I’m fresh, I can see nature outside my window, and I have little cold toes tickling me under the afghan and a warm furry dog on my feet.

Sundays, I usually do administrative work on the blog. Update graphics, coding, my social media channels. I know I do a lot less of this stuff than many bloggers, as I don’t know PhotoShop, don’t know the intricacies of SEO, and hell, I’m still on Blogger because I’m lazy.  I’ll send invoices to advertisers, reply to emails I have been avoiding, and the emails from you readers that deserve a bit more time and thought. I try to stick to viewing my stats on Sundays because it can be quite addictive, depressing, and cause competition.  Sundays is also when I start crafting the True Fashionista posts. I take over a week to finish those, since I pretty much stalk the bloggers online, finding where they have been mentioned, where they get their inspiration, what makes them so interesting. I try to do this while Emerson sleeps and Karl watches his sort of TV (Dual Survival, Vikings, etc.). Sundays are also when I clean up my bedroom – it can get pretty trashed trying to figure out outfits in a rush (and planning ahead just never feels right to me), so I put all the rejects away and do a bit of thinking about what I will wear for the upcoming week.  If things are going well, this is when I take the time to truly visit other blogs.  I find that lately I don’t have enough time for this, and I miss it terribly.

For someone to blog consistently, it has to be a passion.  It’s not just posing in a park with a clutch purse, at least it isn’t any more.  I think of big full-time bloggers who regularly have events to attend, retail headquarters to visit, interviews to conduct and I think they must work more than 50 hours in a week to keep it going and to stay in the black. Being a for-profit blogger can be a very isolating, soul-selling, and exhausting profession, especially when to be successful you have to hide all that under a gleaming white smile and pair of covetable heels.  I can’t imagine how it is for those who have chosen to make their blog their full-time job.  When you start dissing a blogger for being too big, a sell-out, for turning off comments or being distant, realize you don’t know what is actually going on behind the scenes.

This will be the last post about the business of blogging for a while (at least until I get riled up again).  Thanks for letting me vent and share, but I want to get back to the fun stuff – fashion and personal style!  Next week I have a few more beauty reviews and I’ll have some outfit posts as well!  Thanks for sticking through!  

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The Mall and the SAHM

This week, I ran to the mall at lunch for some retail therapy. I recently bought a pair of black trousers that had such a perfect fit, fabric and cut that I returned to get them in two other colors. While strolling the mall sipping my iced coffee, I realized that the majority of the mall was occupied by mothers with their children. Women with slings holding sleeping infants, women with strollers holding up to three kids at a time at varying ages. Women and children hand in hand at the food court, on benches, in stores. As varying were the ages of their children were the appearances of these mothers.

This mall is in a community where every economic level of person lives. On one side of the mall are million-dollar townhomes in a gated community, the other side are rent-controlled apartments. A mile up the street are McMansions and in the other direction, cozy blocks of split-level and rancher-style brick homes built in the 50s. I used to work at this mall, and saw people from all walks of life enter my store. This day of retail therapy and my years of retail management remind me that money does not equal style.

My mom often tells me about my childhood. We were not well off and she had to save up to buy clothes for herself and us kiddies. Weekends were spent at yard sales for clothes, furniture and even Christmas presents come winter. Though my mom had a limited budget, she always looked great. She learned to sew to be able to dress for less and flatter her petite frame. She scoured sale racks and when something worked, she would buy multiples in varying colors to make things simple. Since she was a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM), she needed clothes that didn’t wrinkle, could handle multiple washings and were so easy to pair with one another, she could dress in the dark. Pictures of her during this time shows her in jeweled toned knit tops, black knit trousers, black shoes and a silver pendant necklace almost every day. Not too exciting, the sleeve and pant length seemed to change with the seasons, but the premise was the same. Considering it was the 70s and 80s, my mom had a shoulder-length perm that flattered her face but was low-maintenance. You couldn’t look at her and know her income level or that I had vomited on that shirt two days prior. She was a parent of two rambunctious children, a volunteer in our schools, the editor of the church newsletter, active in the community and always overextended. Though her life may have been frazzled, her appearance was not.

It really is possible to look good and be a SAHM. And this is possible without spending much more time every day. It’s all about mindful shopping. I know I have written about this before, but this is something that is important to all women, no matter our lifestyle or responsibilities.

As I walked down the mall, I had two women in front of me pushing strollers. They were friends, chatting with each other as they window-shopped. They were both in their 30s, both of average size, both with straight blonde hair and I believe even had the same strollers. That was where the similarities ended. One was in baggy over-washed black cotton capris that ended at the widest part of her calf. She paired this with a pink, black and white horizontally striped polo shirt that hit right at her waistband and with it a pair of black flip flops. Her hair was half up in a claw clip, though most was slipping out and fanning out around her head. She looked dumpy, disheveled and her clothes looked cheap. Her friend was also in black capris, but they were of a very heavy knit and fit her frame quite well. Paired with it was a turquoise boatneck ¾ sleeve top that hit at mid-hip. On her feet were black ballet flats and her hair was held back with a black elastic headband. Her outfit was just as low-fuss and easy care, yet she looked slimmer and more polished. Both wardrobes can go in the washer and dryer. Both outfits were comfortable and easy. The difference was that the woman in the turquoise seemed more mindful of what she was purchasing.

1. Don’t buy 100% cotton unless you love to iron. It wrinkles, and even an extra 10 minutes in the dryer won’t get those wrinkles out. Also, cotton is known to fade after many washings. Cotton clothes soon look rumpled, old and worn. You don’t have the time and money to replace them, so don’t buy them in the first place.

2. If your tummy is not your best feature, then don’t showcase it. Tops that hit right at your midsection draw attention to that area. Tucked-in tops emphasize the lower abdomen, and tops that are too tight do not flatter anyone. Look for tops that hit around mid-hip. This length is slimming to the torso without making the legs look short. No need for baggy tops – they often add bulk instead of hiding it. Look for something that either skims the body or sits pretty darn close. This will show you have the figure of a woman, not a sack of potatoes.

3. Flip flops are for the beach, not the mall. I say this often on here, but flops are bad for your feet. Your arches sink, you pull muscles between your toes and they do more harm than good. They are great when hopping in the car to drop the kid off somewhere, tooling around the garden, the pool or the shore but that’s about it. To preserve your feet for your future and not look sloppy, invest in some real shoes. Ballet flats are a great alternative and can be found for less than $20 at retailers like Target. A leather sandal in tan will go with 90% of your wardrobe and be more structured and attractive than a flip flop. This change affects your personal style as well as your personal health.

4. With skirts, dresses, shorts and capris, have them end at a slim part of the leg. Your thigh and your calf are the widest parts and when clothing ends there, it gives the appearance that your entire leg is that size. Do your figure a favor and if the garment is perfect except for the length, take them to the tailor. For about $5 they can hem it to a better place.

5. Consider solids. Stripes and patterns may add variety and you may think they hide stains, but they often look cheap and quickly look dated. A solid polo in French blue can look crisp with a pair of khaki Bermudas; a striped one can make you look bigger and often looks cheaper. The best way to make your bargain piece look more expensive is to buy it in a solid color, free of garment-dyed finishes, contrast stitching or elaborate details. Go for simple and you’ll go for gold.

6. Read the label. If it says Dry Clean Only, don’t buy it unless you have time and money for such a service. If it tells you to dry flat, it’s telling you not to buy it. You don’t have the time for this, and if you don’t follow the instructions you will probably ruin the shape or finish of the garment.

7. If it’s great, buy two. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I went and bought two more pairs of pants that I already owned and loved. They were the right length, color, fabric and fit. No one is taking a tally of how many styles of garments you own, all people notice is if you look nice. You found a great wrap top that flatters and fits and is easy care and perfection? Get it in black, pink and teal. Found a wrap dress that can hit the dryer as well as the dance floor? Get it in solid black and also in the red print. This is also true for shoes – get them in the neutral you wear most often (black or brown) and then get them in one other color (tan or a contrast shade like red pr green). If they are awesome, they are worth it.

8. Adjust your hair to your life. If you don’t have time to blow out your hair every morning, then get a cut that allows you to wash and wear. If you have bad hair days, you are human. Work with it with flattering accessories. Claw clips seem like a quick fix but look sloppy more often than not. Headbands are hip right now – great time to stock up. Also nothing is wrong with a low ponytail; side parts are flattering on rounder faces and a little hairspray on your brush or comb will help battle flyaways.

9. Buy a new bra. Whether or not you breastfed, your breasts will not be the same as they were pre-baby even if your waistline is. With any weight changes, your breasts change as well. Nothing makes you look firmer and fitter than a supportive bra. Also nothing makes you feel more like a woman than to have a gorgeous red satin and lace number under your standard tee shirt.

10. Keep the active wear for the gym. Knit shorts, baggy tee shirts from a vacation destination, matching hoodies and pants are not appropriate for “the real world.” It is just as easy to buy a feminine cut of tee shirt than to buy an oversized one.

11. Don’t shy from a skirt or dress. If it hits around the knees, you can still crawl on the floor and run around without trouble. A skirt is always more polished, and a great tee-shirt style dress is easier to put on in the morning than a whole outfit. The one pictured is less than $40 by Jones New York, I found it at Nordstrom.

12. Show your personality.You are more than a mom, you are an amazing and vital woman.Wear your favorite colors, buy a leopard print shoe or a bold necklace.Small touches take your standard day wear from uniform to amazing with little work.

 

 

Some companies I recommend to find beautiful, comfortable and durable garments:

      • Lands End – I love this place. I buy knits from there that never shrink, fade or pill. They have petite, tall and plus sizes and offer fit guides to ensure you get the right size. I recommend you use this guide for many of their pieces run big. Best part? Their prices are very reasonable!
      • Chico’s – Fabulous colors, fun accessories and lots of fabrics that resist wrinkles and fading. Do note their sizing is a bit different from most companies and they do not carry plus sizes. As with Lands End, they often run a tad big.
      • J. Crew – J. Crew is the Mecca for pretty solid colored tops. Flattering cuts of polos and tees, high-quality cashmere, cotton and wool sweaters, and all with flattering yet not risqué necklines and cuts. J. Crew often runs small, especially in their bottoms but the quality is good, the cut is usually flattering and their return policy is fabulous. The price may be a bit higher than you’re used to, but the quality usually makes it worth the investment (I am still wearing J. Crew skirts and sweaters from a decade ago).
      • I.N.C. by Macy’s – You may find this a strange choice but if you regularly visit this section you would understand. They carry petites and plus sizes, they always have the most gorgeous colors and a large selection of pants, shorts and capris for the season. I.N.C. does a fabulous job of taking what is on the runway and making is realistic and wearable for every woman. They carry prints, but also a plethora of solids every season in some high-quality knits and other washable fabrics.
      • Boden – Feminine cuts, pretty colors, and great basics for any wardrobe. Do note this is a UK site so their sizes run differently than the us (they have a handy fit guide on the site). They don’t have many extended sizes, though some trousers are offered in long lengths. This company has mastered simple elegance with their basic style.