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The Best of 2014, Swag Edition

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

PicMonkey Collage

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

DUO ‘Santana’ Boots

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

Adora Bags Leather Tote

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

Karen Kane Jersey Pants

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

SOREL Joan of Artic Wedge Boot

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

Dobbin Clothing Sophie Silk Crepe de Chine Blouse in Leopard Print

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

Talbots Leopard Coat

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

Dagne Dover

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

CastCoverz!

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

Boden Ravello Silk Top

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

Reebok Skyscape Sneakers

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

 

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

Ask Allie: Plus Size Tall Retailers

It is becoming easier to find stylish clothes in tall sizes and in plus sizes but hard to find garments that are both. Don’t the manufacturers realize a person can be both tall and fat? I find the perfect office trousers in a plus size but then they aren’t long enough. Or I find the perfect office trousers that are long enough but they aren’t big enough. Over a certain waist size, it is impossible to get a 34″ inseam.

The reason is supply and demand. While it seems simple to just have the same pieces with a couple more inches at the hem, a retailer needs to invest in stock in that size. If they don’t have a proven customer, they can see extra lengths and sizes as a financial risk. The reason plus size fashion has improved lately is because plus sized women have begun to speak up, and LOUD. Opinion pieces in reputable publications, more and more plus size bloggers, and social media have given plus sized fashionistas the platform to let the retailers know they DESERVE style and if it exists, will purchase it.

It’s time for those who need not just plus size, but petite and tall lengths to speak up! The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and it’s clear that not all plus sized women are comfortable with a 32” inseam. Let your voices be heard, and make change happen in the apparel industry!

plus size tall long clothing retailers for women

Luckily some retailers understand that many plus sized women are also tall, and have added long lengths to their collections. A few retailers who offer plus sized tall or plus sized long lengths:

Lands’ End

Lands’ End realizes that a tall woman doesn’t just need a longer inseam for her jeans, but more length everywhere. Offering everything from sweaters to swimsuits, Lands’ End has a pretty varied plus size tall collection. Lands’ End often has great promotions, I recommend signing up for their emails to get the scoop when they take place. Lands’ End also has a generous return policy making online shopping a breeze.

Eloquii

Eloquii just released long and short lengths in their popular Kady Fit ankle pant.  Ankle pants are so hard for tall women to find, and this one comes in a 31″ length.  I hope this is just the beginning of lengths being offered at this stylish fashion resource for plus sized women!

Talbots

Talbots is one of the few retailers who offers both Womens Plus Tall and Womens Plus Petite pieces. Their plus size tall selection is only pants, but each season they offer at least a dozen styles up to a 24W with a 35” inseam. Talbots is another retailer who has amazing sales and great emails to notify you of them and you can return and exchange online purchases in their storefronts.

Long Tall Sally

Long Tall Sally specializes in clothing and accessories for tall women. They offer up to a 38” inseam, size 20, and even up to size 15 shoe. Long Tall Sally is not just a great resource for clothing, but also activewear, providing athletic gear and swimwear for those with long legs and torsos.  While shipping isn’t cheap with Long Tall Sally, they do now have Click & Collect in their shops.

Torrid

Torrid is known for trendy, youthful fashion in plus sizes, but they also have great wardrobe staples. Their tall collection (34” inseam) has trendy denim as well as classic styles of jeans, work trousers, and ponte pants; their extra tall selection (36” inseam) is limited but still provides some great styles of denim.

NYDJ

NYDJ offers a 35” inseam on many of their popular styles up to size 16. While you can find classic denim looks in long lengths, they also have trendy looks like coated denim and faux leather leggings. NYDJ runs big and stretchy; I recommend purchasing a size smaller than you’re accustomed to.  NYDJ also has free shipping and returns, making them a great online shopping resource.

Lane Bryant

While their selection of plus size tall bottoms are limited, there’s some good office staples in there and Lane Bryant always has some prints and variation from basic black pants and the occasional trendy piece.

Old Navy

Old Navy has tall and long lengths; their long inseam is 34” and their tall inseam 36”. Not only that, they are another retailer to realize tall women need more than black pants and offer tops, activewear, and shorts in tall sizes.

Alloy

Alloy has quite an extensive tall collection and go up to a size 25 and 3XL. Alloy is a great resource for on-trend plus size tall pieces like jumpsuits, waterfall cardigans, maxi skirts, and dresses which are often unavailable in longer lengths.

Long Elegant Legs

Founded by a tall woman, Long Elegant Legs has a great selection of everything from jeans and pants to activewear and sleepwear. They have styles up to a 39” inseam and offer up to size 24 making this a great resource for plus size tall women.

Have you found plus size tall clothing at any other retailers? Do share in the comments!

CAbi Clothing – An Honest Review

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

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

Carol Anderson at Work

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

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

The “Blogger” Collection

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

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

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

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

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

The Phoebe Coat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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Ask Allie: Cheap Work Clothing

I am 22 and find myself coming into work every day looking a hot-mess. Unacceptable. I’ll admit I’ve stopped trying to put things together at this point. I am in serious need of advice as to a “starter wardrobe”. I’m working with an extremely tight budget where $50 is too much for a blazer.

I’m getting back into the work world after spending four years at home with my sons and my closet is pretty much jeans and T-shirts. Any suggestions for building a work wardrobe from nothing and with practically no funds?

I wrote this post recently, and it’s worth a look. You don’t need to spend a ton of money to look professional in the office, you don’t need to own a dozen suits or expensive garments. However, it is important to look for versatile, quality pieces for the office. I can’t stress this enough – it’s more important to have a few well-made and well-fitting versatile pieces than a closet packed with cheap junk. It’s okay to wear the same black pants three times in a week, to wear the same suit for each business meeting, to wear the same pencil skirt twice a week if it fits well, is classic, and versatile.

Quality can be found at TJ Maxx, at Target, at Goodwill. You don’t need to go to a high-end retailer to find quality pieces. Shop slowly, shop carefully, be picky. Again, it’s better to only have one pair of black pants if they fit well and flatter. It’s better to buy a pair of $29.99 clearance pants and get them hemmed to the perfect length via the local dry cleaner than to spend $80 on a pair of pants that don’t fit well.

Shopping Online
I find a ton of great business clothing for less online. Subscribe to sites that notify you of online deals, or follow retailers on social media to know when they are having free shipping or discounts so you can save big. Also consider joining Ebates, which will send you a check a couple times a year just for regular shopping online.

Thrifting
Schedule thrifting into your schedule the way you would doctor’s appointments or book club. You will have the best luck when you go regularly, and know where you are shopping. Never buy smaller than you size, but some pieces a hair too large can be easily tailored with a belt, some Stitch Witchery, or your nearby dry cleaners or tailor. Don’t buy pieces that are damaged just because they are a great deal – for office clothing it’s important to have pieces in great condition. Thrifting is a great way to find blouses to give a new look to wardrobe basics – a black pantsuit looks completely different with a turquoise silk ruffled blouse than with a crisp white button-front shirt than with a shell pink silk sweater tee.

Shopping the Clearance Rack
I worked retail for many a year, and highly respected those savvy shoppers who entered my store and immediately went to the back to the sale rack. Stores you may think are outside your pricerange can have some stellar deals on the clearance rack. I own $19.99 blazers from Ann Taylor, $30 cashmere sweaters from J. Crew, and beautiful lined trousers from Nordstrom for less than $40. Again, follow these brands online to know when they have deals – recently Ann Taylor had a “private sale” for regular customers and offered 40% off sale merchandise. For less than $100 I got a pair of work pants, two shells, a cardigan, a skirt, and a merino wool crewneck… you can’t find that much workwear eat any discount mart for that price!

Quality at a Discount
Some things just make a piece look cheap, no matter the price on the ticket. Shiny synthetics, too many embellishments, visible logos, unlined non-knit jackets, too tight trousers, blatant trends (wide flared legs, super cropped jackets, extreme shoulders, cutouts, etc.) will make an otherwise nice work garment look inappropriate. I have found simple suiting-fabric separates at Target and Old Navy. Fabrics like matte jersey and Ponte knit look great at lower pricepoints and are work-appropriate for separates and dresses. Check out sites like 6pm.com for quality footwear at great low prices; also consider stalking eBay for specific pieces you have seen at retailers for a nice gently-used price.

Capsule Wardrobe
In my last post about a work attire, I focused mainly on the entry-level employee. However, you can look professional at any level with a small wardrobe. This capsule wardrobe is only an example – while you can click the link below it to see the specific pieces I used, do know I was working with pieces that have images available online, not on a model, and on a white ground. I chose pieces that I know can be found a low pricepoints and can look like quality even if they are purchased from a discount retailer; pieces that can look current even if they are purchased from a thrift store.

[via]

As you see, I chose a color story of black, gray, and shades of lilac as the accent hue. I chose black as a base because it’s a color that’s easier to mix and match from various retailers and easier to hide the price of a garment because the stitching and details are less visible. A gray “snow leopard” print adds interest and works with all the colors in the collection. All silhouettes are classic so they will work now and a couple years from now. Lighter-weight sweaters look more professional than chunky knits; warmth can be had with layers. I chose black pumps as the lone shoe since they are so versatile; if you can afford additional work shoes, a flat or a tall boot can be quite versatile and also classic. These pumps can be worn with bare legs (dress code permitting) in warmer months, with trouser socks for the pants, with tights or sheer stockings with the skirts come the colder months.

  1. Black jacket, black pants, ruffle blouse (can switch out pants for either skirt)
  2. Black jacket, black pants, white shirt (can switch out pants for either skirt)
  3. Black jacket, black pants, lavender sweater (can switch out pants for either skirt)
  4. Black jacket, leopard cardigan, black skirt
  5. Leopard cardigan, black pants
  6. Leopard cardigan, either skirt, ruffled blouse
  7. Leopard cardigan, white shirt, pants or either skirt
  8. Lavender sweater, gray skirt, leopard belt
  9. Lavender sweater, ruffled blouse, gray skirt
  10. Lavender sweater, white shirt, pants or either skirt
  11. Lavender sweater, black pants
  12. Black sweater, black pants, leopard belt
  13. Black sweater, white shirt, black skirt
  14. Black sweater, gray skirt, leopard belt
  15. White shirt, gray skirt, leopard belt
  16. White shirt, black pants, lavender sweater around shoulders
  17. Ruffled blouse, gray skirt
  18. Ruffled blouse, black pants

So with less than a dozen pieces, you can create over 20 different ensembles. An extra tank top or silk shell can add a handful more options. As you add to your wardrobe, keep in mind the color story and silhouettes so new pieces will fit effortlessly into your collection and increase the versatility of each piece.

When You Can’t Afford a Suit
It’s better to not have a suit than a cobbled-together mess. A blazer is expensive, and without stalking clearance racks, eBay, and your nearby thrift store you very well won’t be able to find a decent one under $50. So don’t buy one. You can look professional in a simple cardigan, blouse, and pants; a shift dress and pumps or flats, a button-front shirt and trousers. A matte jersey wrap dress, gabardine sheath or Ponte knit shift with a strand of pearls and simple black pumps can look just as sophisticated and professional while being far more easy to find at a low pricepoint. Don’t make it work, only own that which deserves to be in your closet.

So maybe now it’s a Forever 21 cardigan, Target pants, and a thrifted oxford as your work uniform – there’s nothing wrong with that. Take good care of them, launder them carefully, treat them like couture and they will be good to you in return. As you move up the corporate ladder you may replace these pieces with higher-end pieces once they wear out… or you may be pleased to find that quality doesn’t have to equal a higher price!

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Gwynnie Bee: Clothing Without Commitment

Do you ever see a company and think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” A company that has such a brilliant idea that is unique, inspiring, and helpful? I thought all that when Gwynnie Bee contacted me to let me know about their program. I was so excited about the concept I had to be a part and share it with you readers.

Three years ago after I had Emerson, I was hovering between a size 16 and 18.  While I embraced my new body and celebrated the hard work and pain it went through to deliver Emerson, it was really hard to dress it. I was unfamiliar with its new size and shape, and didn’t want to spend a lot of money knowing it would keep changing shape and size over the next year. Since then, I have been off and on Weight Watchers and have been everything from a 12 to a 16. If I had purchased a whole new wardrobe for each size I was during this time, I would be bankrupt. I know I am not alone in this – many women I know change sizes over a span of a few years – pregnancy, injury, business travel, diet and exercise… heck even your monthly cycle can have you wearing a 14 one week and a 16 the next.

I believe in having a wardrobe of staples – pieces that mix and match and get you through all of life’s events. However, every woman needs a few “fun” pieces to show her personal style. These pieces are hard to buy – you’re not sure of your personal style, you’re not comfortable at your current size, you don’t have retailers near you who offer quality pieces in your size, you don’t want to invest in pieces that aren’t traditional workhorses.

A peek of some of Gwynnie Bee’s offerings

What do you do when you want to feel beautiful today – not when you fit into half your closet? How do you “test drive” certain brands and styles when you live hours from a decent mall? Where can one find stylish and flattering clothing for women over a size 10? Where can you shop when you’re on the cusp between standard and plus sizing? What to do when you want to spice up your wardrobe without spending a bundle? The answer to all of these is Gwynnie Bee.

Gwynnie Bee’s motto is “Clothing Without Commitment.” It’s like Netflix for fashion sizes 10-24. You sign up for a subscription service and pick out clothing from Gwynnie Bee’s collection for your virtual closet. Gwynnie Bee will quickly ship pieces to you – when you return one (postage already paid, shipping materials provided), they’ll send another your way. You have a constantly updated wardrobe of quality brands who specialize in fitting and flattering plus size women (and “on the cusp” folks like me!).

Not just fun tops and dresses, Gwynnie Bee also offers pieces like blazers to update your work wardrobe.

No longer do you have to feel tied to your size – you can pick clothing from any size at Gwynnie Bee and place them in your virtual closet. They are already working with quality brands like IGIGI, Talbots, Michael Kors, Evans, J. Jill, Sejour, Kiyonna, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, DKNY, and more. Gwynnie Bee’s stock is updated around every three weeks, so you always have a fresh selection to choose from.

Gwynnie Bee gave me a free trial membership to try out their program. Last week I went through their selection and added a few pieces to my virtual closet; Friday my first package arrived with one IGIGI dress, a top from Talbots, and a tunic from Soft Surroundings. There was the cutest little message when I opened it, every piece was wrapped carefully in tissue. Each piece had two hang tags – one with laundering instructions, another with the piece’s name and a feedback form (Gwynnie Bee really cares about user feedback – what you write helps determine which brands they work with and what styles to offer in the future). In the box were also several shipping bags and return address labels and simple instructions on how to send pieces back.

Each piece looks like new – if they had been worn before I surely can’t tell. You can keep each piece as long as you want – if it doesn’t look right send it back and you’ll have a new garment in less than a week. Gwynnie Bee takes care of laundering – you can wash when you have it to re-wear, but no need to clean to send back.

Gwynnie Bee often shows the same garment on two women of differing sizes and shapes so you can get a better idea of how the piece will look on you.

Gwynnie Bee hopes they can help women discover new brands and styles with less commitment. Plus size fashion options are limited and often hard to access if you’re not in a metropolitan area – Gwynnie Bee makes great brands easy to access and fashion fun!

A peek of my virtual closet – what I have at home and will be featuring on the blog soon, and what will be arriving.

Yes, I have a free trial membership, and yes I will get a commission if any of you sign up and mention me, but after experiencing Gwynnie Bee, I would recommend it even if I didn’t have these perks. The average American woman is a size 12, yet it is so hard to find fun, flattering, and well-made clothing when you are that size or larger. Gwynnie Bee knows that you likely have the black pants, the simple cardigan, the wardrobe staples. They are offering those pieces women don’t have the nerve to buy but are willing to try. I opened up my first box and thought how wonderful Gwynnie Bee would be for the woman planning a European vacation, attending her high school reunion, or packing for her honeymoon. That woman who is in the same place I was three years ago – wanting to dress her changing body well but can’t afford to invest in a whole new wardrobe. I feel for my friends and coworkers who have been hearing me babble non-stop since last week about Gwynnie Bee – how brilliant the program is, and how glad I am it is on the scene.

Want to know more? Visit their Facebook page or their site. Also feel free to ask any questions in the comments – I will answer them completely honestly. I don’t promote on this blog that which I don’t love and believe in, and I believe in Gwynnie Bee.

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Giveaway – Scarf from Lolly Clothing

I recently had the opportunity to check out Lolly Clothing‘s line of scarves, and was very impressed by the style, quality, and feel of them. I’ve worn my Lolly silk pashmina several times and was thrilled when Lolly offered to give one Wardrobe Oxygen reader one of their scarves.  

This giveaway is now closed.

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Ask Allie: Before and After Maternity Clothing

Happy news, my husband and I found out we are expecting an addition to our family at the end of this year! I am in the end of my first trimester and I am experiencing major bloating and even a bit of a belly. I don’t look pregnant, I just look fat. To top it off, we haven’t yet told our loved ones or either of our bosses. What can I wear where I can look chic and not like a whale? Also with the heat, my morning sickness and fatigue, can you suggest easy-care looks that make me look polished even though I just puked up my breakfast half an hour earlier?

Well first things first, congratulations! How very exciting for you and your husband!
Best choice, and that which is available in most any store? Dresses! Shifts, trapezes, empire waists, baby-dolls, maxis… all these dresses are very in style and not clingy to the tummy area. A dress is a great wardrobe item for any woman, pregnant or not. It’s easy to slip on, in the right fabric it’s easy to launder, and it’s comfortable on the most humid and hot of summer days. Pair with some flat leather thongs, open-toe wedges or gladiator sandals and bold jewelry and you will look chic while hiding the boat and beginnings of a baby bump. Linen and cotton are great for shift styles because they breathe, have some structure so they don’t cling, and can usually be tossed in the gentle cycle, hung up and wearable the next day as-is or with a quick swipe of the iron. Jerseys and gauzy cottons are good for the baby-doll styles because they are more floaty and won’t stick straight out from your growing breasts. Pairing with a long necklace, more voluminous styles will be weighed down so you don’t look like a whale, but still hide the belly.
Keep it simple and monochromatic. If you are wearing a navy blouse and navy capris, your tummy will be less obvious than if you choose khaki pants. Wearing a monochromatic outfit is an easy way to look polished – don’t always stick to safe black, an outfit in all shades of brown, khaki, gray or even greens can be just as slimming but far more cheery.
Don’t drown yourself in fabric. Your bloating and belly is far more noticeable to you than it will be to others. Most will just think you have packed on a couple of pounds – something they won’t dwell on and very soon you will be able to explain! Baggy clothing usually makes us look bigger than we actually are. If you wish to have a little extra fabric at the tummy to hide the belly, loo9k for an open neckline, cap sleeves, a shorter skirt to counteract the fullness of fabric. Rouched and gathered fabrics at a hip or the side of the waist does great things to hide a bit of a tummy – wrap and faux wrap dresses and tops will whittle the waistline and distract one from the actual tummy.
Finally, take care of yourself! Spend extra time on your hair (maybe go get a cut that’s easier to style), wear flat or more comfortable shoes, get yourself a supportive bra for those growing breasts, invest in an extra-moisturizing body wash and gentle body exfoliant and understand you are creating a wonderful thing in that expanding, bloated body – don’t be so hard on yourself.

How is it possible to wear cute clothes while your body is changing shape without looking pregnant? Since the last thing a new mom wants to do is look pregnant! I have been living in nursing tanks from Target, yoga pants and jeans… my ass has vanished, but I have a muffin top that could take out the state of Delaware – I am the epitome of an apple shape right now. Oh and I need tops/dresses that allow for easy boob access. This is an equation that I have not been able to figure out the answer to- help me!

Congratulations, what an exciting time for you and your family! As that I know this reader outside of this blog, I know her style is very classic and preppy. I have them tailored my answers to that, though I think these would work for most any personal style and can be adjusted with color, accessories and necklines.
First things first, your body may not be the way it looked pre-pregnancy, but you probably don’t look as pregnant or mushy/weird as you believe to be. :) However there are many parts that are not the way they used to be, and with the nursing deal, your clothing choices will definitely be different! I know you weren’t an apple shape before hand, but as a current and life-long apple I can offer a few suggestions:
Nursing tanks are fab for this time of year, try dressing them up with a cotton skirt with a drop waist or a-line shape. Amazing how a printed skirt in cheery colors can take a boring tank and make it look like an outfit. I know necklaces and earrings may get grabbed and pulled, so a chunky wooden or plastic bangle or a few metal ones will add a feminine and fun touch to the look.
Wrap dresses are awesome, I cannot stress this enough. The wrap style will whittle any waist and the top is easy to slide to the side for nursing. In matte jersey, you don’t have to worry about wrinkles, throw it in the machine, let it hang dry and it will be ready the next day to wear. Matte jersey is also wonderful because it can be dressed up or down – with flops or sandals it’s a quick outfir for running errands or visiting family, with heels it’s a great look for church, work or a day wedding. Also great about these is that if you lose the tummy, the dresses are still cute and flattering – knit wrap styles usually work a size up or down from what you purchase.
I am a huge fan of drawstring linen pants. Just as comfy and washable as the yoga pants, but seem more chic. Victoria’s Secret has them super cheap – like $30 each and they come in lengths. The white is completely transparent, but the flax color works with nude undies, the black and brown are pretty versatile, and with some gladiator sandals, gold bangles and a scarf headband you can rock safari chic while feeling as though you are in your PJ’s.
Wrap tops are also great. You can usually find knits or matte jersey in a faux wrap or true wrap style. I have also been seeing quite a few pretty (and on sale!) wrap-style tops specifically for nursing in popular maternity clothing destinations. These tops look just as pretty as a classic wrap top, but are made to work well for the task at hand!
With your old wardrobe, pants and skirts that don’t quite fit can be made due for now with a belly band, or one of those extenders they sell at maternity shops.
Floaty tops are an easy thing to run to, but they often make you look heavier than you are and make people wonder if you are still expecting. If you wear a peasant or babydoll style of top, it should be in chiffon or a very lightweight fabric so it doesn’t tent out. Pair it with slim white or dark jeans to show your whole body isn’t that size. Don’t pair them with shorts, even slim bermudas because they really create an ice cream cone shape.
Steer clear of busy prints on top. People are drawn to them because they are fun and they think work as an optical illusion, but they often work against your curves. Keep the prints to the capris, the skirts, the Bermudas and solid knits on top and you will look more put together, and also slimmer.
As an apple, have your tops hit at your hip bones, not higher (emphasizes the tummy) or lower (makes you look heavier). Knit is your friend, not skin tight, but with a shape that skims your curves, a top this length will de-emphasize the midsection. Also look for creative necklines – v-necks, u-necks, halters, polos with buttons that hit lower than traditional length, wrap or surplice necklines all elongate and draw attention away from the belly.
Treat yourself to some fab shoes – nothing jazzes up an outfit of staples better than a cheery color of ballet flats, some gold sandals, something with a print or a quirky bow. It’s a great way to get the Carolyn back into your wardrobe without spending a ton, and having to ditch it when your body starts changing again. Somehow an old tank and knit pants looks polished with great shoes, a piece of jewelry and some lipstick or a scarf.
Finally, become friends with your tailor. Some of your pieces that you already own can have a few modifications to make them more flattering to your current figure. Far cheaper to shop within your own closet!

Reader Question – Storing Out of Season Clothing


cashmere sweaterReader Joyce Asked:
I invested in a few nice wool, silk and cashmere pieces over the fall and winter, and now that it’s almost time to put them away, I am worried about keeping them in good condition until it’s time to wear them again. Any suggestions on storing these garments during the warmer months?


Hey Joyce:
Perfect timing! I know here in the Nation’s Capital it was warm enough the past two days to go without a coat so it’s time in many parts of the world to start storing away the heavy winter garments and pull out the cotton and linen pieces! I’d be happy to share my steps for storing out-of-season garments:

1. Clean Everything Before Storing. Even if it doesn’t have a stain, you will want each garment cleaned to remove any perspiration or invisible stains. Body odor and perfumes attract bugs, and invisible stains can set over the months and become quite obvious come the fall when the garments are pulled out to wear again. When cleaning, avoid the use of starch or fabric softener as that these too attract moths and other pests.

garment bag clothing storage2. The Right Place for Everything. Sweaters and knits do best by being folded instead of being hung. A few months on a hanger can cause your beautiful cashmeres to be misshapen. If they are folded and stored in a cedar chest (I have one that has been passed down the family) or a plastic box (use acid-free tissue or even old pillowcases to protect garments inside the box), they will keep their natural shape. Be sure to not pack too tightly so the items can breathe; if packed too tight they may crease or even begin growing mildew.

Dresses and blouses are usually best on hangers. Use sturdy plastic or wooden hangers, and make use of every hanging loop inside the garment to ensure it stays on the hanger and also hangs the right way so it doesn’t get misshapen. To keep them protected, store hanging items in a fabric garment bag (I found some great canvas ones at Marshall’s for a fabulous price – they have rod hooks of their own and a bar inside and a zipper for easy access to the contents of the bag). As with the items in a box, don’t cram garments together – letting them breathe will keep them in the best condition. An inch between each hanger is a good guide.

Coats should be stored in the same fashion, but the heavier the garment, the sturdier your hanger should be. A few months on a thin plastic hanger can cause what my husband calls “tumors” on the shoulders of your favorite garments. Invest in proper wide coat hangers and your clothes will be ready-to-wear when the cooler weather returns.

Never use paper bags or cardboard to store your clothes – buggies adore cardboard and paper and will eat straight through to your silks.

3. Treat Your Clothes Like Your Spices. This means keep them in a cool, dry place. Attics seem like the best place, but they can often be way over 100 degrees even on the most pleasant June day. Basements can often be damp, so use a plastic box and try to store on a shelf above the floor and consider a dehumidifier. Before storing in a closet, give it a damp dusting, a vacuuming and a chance to settle and dry out before adding your clothes. This will help get rid of any bug eggs that may be hiding in corners.

winter clothing storage4. Moth Balls are Passé. Your grandmother may have used moth balls, but they aren’t the best choice in this day and age. Yes they stink to high heaven, but the chemicals can also be damaging to delicate fabrics and decoration. To keep pests at bay, consider cedar blocks, or even sachets made from natural rosemary and/or lavender. However these aren’t guaranteed ways to be moth-free, so ensure you always store in a clean area.

Hope this helps! There’s no point in purchasing quality garments if you don’t treat them well enough to last a long time. Most materials can be found at shops like The Container Store, or even your local Target or discount Big Box retailer.

coutorture fashion style couture

Tuesday: Perfect Ponte

Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Necklace: c/o Lydell NYC | Shoes: Boutique 9 

I can’t believe this is the first time I have worn this fabulous dress on the blog. I have shared it on Instagram and worn it several times, but just not on here. I even wore it to speak on a panel of journalists because it looks so great, so sophisticated, and still so comfortable. Well this dress totally deserves a moment in the sun, even though it was photographed on a drizzly day. The dress is the “Belle” from Dobbin Clothing, and it’s one piece from their amazing collection of well-crafted wardrobe workhorses. Dobbin Clothing specializes in clothing that works as hard as you do – flattering fits, primarily washable clothing, and designer quality. This dress is from ponte knit and has seaming that makes my body look phenomenal. This is a size 12 and it fits great. Right now this dress is on sale, Dobbin Clothing offers free shipping both ways, and right now if you use the code FIRSTTIMEVISITOR you get 20% off your entire order! Oh, did I mention that Dobbin Clothing is made in the USA right in New York’s Garment District?

With such a great dress, I kept things pretty simple. This is a favorite necklace of mine that hasn’t gotten much play lately; I decided to amp it up with bold lips and high heels but keep everything else simple. Oh yeah, and a lovely addition of rain beads on my hair and dress!  Rain drops keep falling on my head… during photo shoots!

I love when a great company also makes a great product, and that’s what I experience with Dobbin Clothing. I know this sounds like a hard sell, do know they sent me the dress without any expectations. All that I wrote here is because I honestly feel it and didn’t get paid to state it, I just really dig this dress and the company.

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Go Ahead Put Your Red Dress On

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

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

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

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

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

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What I Wore: Spring Green

I am such a fan of green and this blouse from Dobbin Clothing is the perfect Kelly green for spring.  This is a tunic length blouse, so it also looks adorable untucked with some slim pants.  With wearable heels (seriously these shoes are uber comfortable all day) and a hat to sheild myself from the sun, I’m ready for outside brunch with my girl friends!

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What I Wore: Thank You Berry Much

Dress: “Eva” c/o Dobbin Clothing | Shoes: Vince Camuto (similar) | Necklace: Rings from Etsy, chain c/o Stella and Dot | Lipstick: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Smitten

How gorgeous is this color?  As soon as I saw it on Dobbin Clothing I was in love.  Seriously, check out their new Fall line, great colors, silhouettes, and separates.  Dobbin Clothing isn’t just fab ponte dresses, they have a great-fitting line of pants (stay tuned, I’ll be sharing a pair), and lovely blouses (one I wore this weekend and featured it on Instagram).  As for this dress, it’s perfect for this time of year with pumps, and come colder weather I will be pairing with tights and booties.

UPDATE: The fine folks at Dobbin Clothing are offering Wardrobe Oxygen readers 25% off their order!  Use code wardox25 at checkout.  Code cannot be combined with any other offers or discounts taking place.  Happy (made in the USA) shopping!

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What I Wore: Real Red

Dress: Belle c/o Dobbin Clothing | Bag: “Erin” Satchel c/o Fossil | Tights: Nordstrom | Boots: Ros Hommerson  | Bracelets: had forever, Nordstrom (similar) | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Coat: Via Spiga

Fossil was kind enough to send me this bag and I immediately fell in love with the color. It’s not cherry, it’s not tomato, it’s not ruby or oxblood or any other fancy terms. It’s as clear and true of a red as a crayon. I checked the bag’s label and it’s called Real Red. I like that, no crazy made-up name, just what is exactly is. This bag is pretty phenomenal, and perfect for a commuter like me. Two side zipper pockets to hold things like farecards and lip balm, and inside there is a zipper pocket on one side, and the other side five different pockets to hold anything from a Smartphone or your keys to business cards and a pack of gum. And in this bag I have my wallet, Kindle (did you enter my Kindle giveaway?), makeup bag, myAgenda, sunglasses, gloves, journal, and two reusable containers to hold my lunch. Impressive! The crossbody strap is adjustable to become a shoulderbag, or it can be removed. I know this bag is going to be used quite a lot this season!

I never understand why street style models and bloggers wear their coats on their shoulders like a cape.  How can they move their arms?  Why not just put on the coat?  Then I realized on cold days I do this very thing – I wear the coat like a cape from the house and over my shoulders until Karl gets ready to take pictures.  This way my outfit doesn’t get as rumpled and I’m less likely to mess up my hair.  Karl got this picture of me in the coat at the beginning of the shoot and it showcases the coat I bought last winter on a whim and still adore a year later (and it’s still available at Nordstrom and now on sale!).

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Wardrobe Staple: The Not So Little Black Dress

I believe in the power of the not so little black dress. While the LBD is famous, the NSLBD is one that can get far more wear and is far more versatile. From the boardroom to the ballroom, a black dress in a versatile fabric and cut can work for most anything life throws your way, and is a smart wardrobe staple for any woman.

Dobbin Clothing recently sent me their Simone Dress and as soon as I put it on I realized what a perfect NSLBD it is. The stretch wool fabric has a subtle sheen and a refined finish that looks elegant and classic. The asymmetrical neckline provides allure and interest without being so unique people would think, “Oh there she is in that black dress again.” The seaming and waistband flatter curves and also add interest without stealing the spotlight.

Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Bracelet: Ann Taylor (similar) | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Bag: c/o Fossil | Shoes: Ivanka Trump

For this look I styled the Dobbin Clothing Simone Dress for work. The dress is classic, and doesn’t require a bunch of accessories to look polished. I added a wrist of bracelets and a watch for a bit of shine and my own personality, but otherwise let the dress do the talking. This dress looks great on its own; the interesting neckline would also look quite lovely under a blazer.

Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Tights: Spanx | Boots: Ros Hommerson | Bag: Rebecca Minkoff (similar) | Scarf: c/o Nepali by TDM | Watch: c/o Fossil | Bracelet: c/o Lulu Avenue

The Simone Dress would also be perfect for an afternoon with friends, having lunch and going shopping. The stretch wool resists wrinkles so it would hold up through a long day or business travel.  The length is perfect for boots as well as pumps; I added a scarf for color and to show how you can hide the neckline of the dress and give it a different life. Using accessories like scarves are great when on travel to make a small wardrobe look larger and more varied.

Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Bracelets: Ann Taylor (similar) | Bag: Aldo (similar) | Earrings: vintage (similar) | Shoes: Nine West

I did say boardroom to ballroom, didn’t I? This dress is elegant enough to dress up perfectly for a gala. Adding sparkly accessories, the Simone Dress becomes black tie. I also can’t resist an opportunity to pull out the wedding jewelry; the tiara made me feel very Holly Golightly and doesn’t look too insane paired with such an elegant dress.

With a dress like this from Dobbin Clothing, you can get a great dress now for the holidays, but know you can wear it later too. Pair with a cardigan or blazer this winter, with nude peeptoes and pearls for a spring wedding, with tan sandals and a wood necklace for a summer Date Night.

Dobbin Clothing on Wardrobe Oxygen
Top row:  1 | 2 | 3 | 4       Bottom row: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I’ve been a fan of Dobbin Clothing for over a year; while there’s posts above with me wearing Dobbin Clothing, I also wear this line on a regular basis off the blog. Sophisticated silhouettes, wardrobe staples that dress up and down with ease, high quality fabrics and construction, and made in the USA. While my other Dobbin dresses are made from ponte knit (and you know how much I love ponte), the Simone in wool is just as comfortable and figure flattering and I am impressed by the cotton used for their trousers. Dresses I got from Dobbin a year ago and have washed a dozen times still look brand new. Not just that, Jess and Catherine are awesome people who care about their product, and their customers.

Dobbin Clothing is offering 30% off their entire shop until Midnight tonight with the code THANKS30. They’d like to thank us for being customers, and I’d like to thank them for great clothes and this great discount!


While this post was sponsored by Dobbin Clothing, they left the text, images, what item/s I featured, and even the topic completely up to me.  I chose to feature this dress because I really do believe in it, and I chose to partner with Dobbin Clothing because I really do believe in them.

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What I Wore: Summer Sheath

Wardrobe Oxygen What I Wore Navy Dobbin Clothing Dress Wardrobe Oxygen What I Wore Talbots Purse Snakeskin wardrobe oxygen what I wore Dobbin Clothing
Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Necklace: Tasha | Shoes: c/o Sole Society | Bracelet: Nordstrom | Watch: Citizen | Bag: Talbots | Cast Cover: c/o CastCoverz!

I’ve been wearing the heck out of this dress this year, but I realize this is the first time it’s on the blog (though you can see me wearing it on the Dobbin Clothing blog!). When it’s hot out, there’s nothing better than one-piece dressing to keep your cool! I love how the skirt of this dress is pleated so it sticks away from the body to be even more comfortable in the heat and humidity. While I’ve paired this dress with almost every pair of shoes in my wardrobe, today I kept it simple with same color heels so the accessories could shine. I bought this bag on clearance at Talbots and adore it as a shoulder bag or crossbody, and my peacock-print cast cover is by far my favorite!

Lifesaving Lilac

Dress: “Sabrina” Sheath c/o Dobbin Clothing | Shoes: Joan & David (similar) | Jacket: ASOS | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Large Bracelet: J. Crew (similar)

You all know I adore my Dobbin Clothing dress; I was excited to see their new Spring collection – fun new colors and silhouettes. Jessica at Dobbin Clothing was kind enough to send me the Sabrina Sheath in this perfectly springy shade of purple. It was just the ticket – I had a majorly stressful day at work yesterday and a long evening at a blog event (if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you know what it was, the rest of you a post will be coming soon!). So to be able to have one-piece dressing this morning was so very needed, and it’s nice to have it so easy yet look quite professional and be comfortable in high quality ponte knit. I thought it was going to be chilly and added the jacket, but it’s actually colder in the office than outdoors!

This week is a bit of a killer for me at work, and this weekend is going to be busy. This past weekend I had some serious writing mojo and have a couple posts in the queue for the rest of this week and next. I’m trying to blog less often, but work smart not hard on what I do write. While I seem to be putting out just as much content, it’s not stressing me out as much and feels more authentic… more old school Allie. The wardrobe change, the blog change, the season change… it’s a lot of change but it all feels very good!

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

What I Wore: Smart Slacks

Blazer: Vince Camuto (similar) | Top: Ann Taylor (similar) | Belt: Ann Taylor (similar) | Pants: Cameron” c/o Dobbin Clothing | Shoes: MICHAEL Michael Kors “Flex” | Bracelet: Nordstrom (similar) | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo

One of the biggest questions I receive from readers is what to do with waist gap. It seems that few retailers cater to a woman with a pear shape, round rear, or just a small waist in comparison to her hips. I often looked at Emerson’s toddler jeans with the elastic adjusters and wished they made pants like that for us adult women. Well, they DO! And not only that, the pants are well crafted, made in the USA, and from Dobbin Clothing!

Dobbin said I just HAD to try their Cameron pant. I already had black pants in my wardrobe so didn’t see the need, but they felt I would really like them. When I pulled them out of the box and saw the elastic adjusters in the waistband I cheered. In a heavyweight Italian stretch cotton (that does NOT get all linty), these pants keep their shape and are thick enough to hide VPL and other lumps and bumps. The waistband is free of belt loops so it stays smooth under fitted tops; there’s no front pockets to gape and add bulk, and the rise is a bit higher to hold everything in and prevent muffin top. I find the pants run large, these are a size 10 and they are quite comfortable; at 5’3″ I didn’t have to hem these to wear with heels, and think they’d be a very chic ankle length for taller women. And yes, inside are elastic strips and buttons to create a custom fit at the waist. You were right Dobbin, even though I had black pants I NEEDED these in my wardrobe!

It’s funny how I bought this silky tee from Ann Taylor eons ago on a whim and was ready to return it and lost the receipt.  Good thing, since I seem to wear it all the time, year round!   This belt I bought on clearance and don’t know if it has ever been on the blog, even though I have owned it for… two years now?  The Ann Taylor clearance racks can be quite the goldmine!

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What I Wore: Professional Plum

Wardrobe Oxygen What I Wore Dobbin Clothing Dress Wardrobe Oxygen What I Wore J. Crew Black Leather Structured Tote Wardrobe Oxygen What I Wore Dobbin Clothing Ponte Knit Dress
Dress: Carmen‘ c/o Dobbin Clothing | Bag: J. Crew (similar) | Shoes: Ivanka Trump (same brand, similar style) | Watch: Citizen | Bracelets: Nordstrom, Rebecca Minkoff (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon Matte in Wine Not

I purchased this black tote in 2001. I made a career change and after my first day at the new job, I went to J. Crew.  I had been eyeing this tote for months, and saw one left in the sale department for the discounted, yet still crazy high to me price of $199.  I felt I deserved it, it would be an example of my new professional life, and I swore it would be a classic. As with most pieces deemed classic it didn’t feel quite as classic after a couple of years. In 2001, it was fine for carrying files and a notebook for business meetings, but once laptops became a necessity, this bag seemed too small for work and too uptight for most anything else. But as laptops shrank and tablets commonplace, this bag has come back into rotation. It was damaged when a tree came through our roof, but my cobbler was able to restore it to a wearable condition. Glad that my classic has become a classic once more!

Shop Black Totes for Work:

What I Wore: Jewel Tones

Dress: Eva Dress c/o Dobbin Clothing | Tights: DKNY | Boots: Ros Hommerson | Bag: Erin Satchel c/o Fossil | Jacket: Halogen (similar) | Cuff: Had forever (similar)

This outfit features two items I received free from blogging, but two things I utterly adore and wear regularly with much joy. I love Dobbin Clothing – their ethics, their style, their quality, and service. This dress has gotten a lot of wear this year, and I wear it often with tights and boots now that it has gotten so cold. I wore it once with this jacket and loved the color combination and decided to repeat it for the blog.

And this bag… oh how I love this bag. it’s the Erin Satchel from Fossil and it’s my new favorite. While I often wear it with the long strap to make it a crossbody, I sometimes remove the long strap and carry it like a doctor’s bag. The shorter straps are still long enough to tuck it into the crook of my elbow and it’s easier in the season of heavy coats with hoods and laptop bags and too much going on around the neck. But this bag is really well made, holds everything, has really intelligent pockets and always brings me compliments. I like bags that look luxe but aren’t covered with logos; Fossil keeps branding subtle and lets the style shine.

I think this would have looked better with wavy/curly hair but it’s a lot faster to do my hair straight in the morning.  A good clue to what type of morning I have had is how curly my hair is.  If it’s curly and looks great, I had a good night’s sleep, thought ahead to shower the night prior, had time for breakfast and am feeling fine.  When it’s like this, I am running late but at least had time for a shower.  When it’s in a messy updo… watch out because mama hasn’t had her coffee and probably forgot her phone at home!

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