Search Results for: label/Dress Empire

Ask Allie: Career Wear on a Budget

I am a young professional without a “mentor” or any experience in the professional world other than the two years at my current job. I am getting a new boss in January and she is beautiful, powerful, and extremely sharp. I am the girl with the hot pink iPhone case, the ubiquitous plastic venti coffee cup, wearing Teva sandals with my work outfits, trying to pass black jeans as “dress pants,” and still wearing the same bangle bracelets that I had in high school. I desperately need an upgrade in… everything… but I’m broke.

Are there any suggestions that you can make about taking my college student wardrobe and upping my game while still being able to feed my family?

You are not alone. It’s hard to be new and rise the corporate ladder without going into debt. You come into the workforce already with student loans and then have to shell out a lot just to look as though you want the job you fought hard to get. Jobs are hard to get, so you want to show that you care and have the drive but you don’t have the money to build a professional wardrobe from scratch. A few tips:

Thrift It. I know from your email that you’re already hitting Goodwill, but it can be frustrating to weed though racks and racks of faded knit tees in hopes of finding one decent pencil skirt or blazer. Make it a weekly date – find out when they stock the floors and visit that day. Befriend the folks working there – it may just get you a new friend, or it may get you friends who will see pieces and hold them for you or give you a heads up when they are stocking the floor.

While there, consider going up a size or two. A thrifted pair of pants can easily be altered by the nearby dry cleaner, and the price for both is still going to be cheaper than a new pair of pants on the sale rack.

Join Freecycle. My local Freecycle often has people giving away large bags of clothing in a certain size. People who have lost or gained weight, passed away, retired. While a good portion of the bag’s contents may be wrong for you, you could end up with a real gem in the process. And that which doesn’t work, re-Freecycle or donate. Once you have established yourself on your local Freecycle as a person who gives as well as takes (great way to clean out the house of old toys, knick knacks, and that dusty treadmill in your basement), you can request certain things. I did this once and was amazed with the generous people who replied with items or suggestions on how to get what I needed for less or free.

Find Local Swaps and Consignments. Twice a year, my community has a swap where people bring old baby clothing and equipment and trade for that which they need. It has grown to where this swap often has adult clothing. Local fashion blogging communities will often host or know of swaps where for a small price or a bag of clothes to donate, you can attend and pick up some amazing scores. Consignment sales are another place to find thrift-store priced clothing but a more carefully curated collection. At such events, you can also network with other frugal shoppers.

Nothing in your community? Set one up! It can be anything from a happy hour at your home with a few friends and neighbors, or you can set something up at a local community center.

A sample capsule wardrobe of simple pieces: how you can create over 20 different business casual outfits from just eight pieces of clothing.  Every outfit works with black pumps or flats.

Buy Simple. Simple blue oxford, gray pencil skirt, black blazer, plum cardigan, black pants… pieces like these can be mixed and matched a hundred ways to create completely different ensembles. Don’t buy difficult silhouettes that only go with one piece – create a bit of a uniform with few silhouettes so they are more versatile and less memorable.

Prints and bold colors are memorable; stick to neutrals and soft hues until you can afford a larger wardrobe.

Make a Priority List. What holes are in your wardrobe? Focus on those first. Don’t worry that this season is about oxblood or that a pair of leopard shoes would update your look. Get those basics you need to not be naked or in inappropriate fashion at the office. While I usually encourage buying accessories to switch up basics, at this point I’d say save your money. It’s better to go without any accessories at all than to try to make do with cheap pieces or spend your budget on a bracelet.

Unless you find one for an incredible price and it’s gorgeous, focus more on separates than dresses. Separates can mix and match for more outfits, and can better be tailored to fit (or made to look tailored with belts, Stitch Witchery, and strategically placed safety pins).

When you buy, stop and think what in your wardrobe can it work with. If you can’t imagine three outfits, don’t buy it. Even if it’s only $3 or only $5, that’s $3 or $5 you could save for the right wardrobe addition.

Know No One is Keeping Track. It’s okay to wear the same black pants two or three times in a week as long as they are clean. It’s okay to wear the same shoes every day until you can afford more. You can even carry off the same shirt multiple times in one week – one day on its own tucked in to a skirt, another day untucked under a sweater with pants. As long as the pieces are clean, in good condition, and properly pressed no one is going to care. The effect is far more important than the individual pieces.

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Ask Allie: Boho Chic with a Bust

I would love to add a more boho vibe to my closet but I’m feeling so stumped where to shop- especially given that I’m carrying some additional weight & am big busted naturally. I admire Free People but I’m at serious risk of dislocating joints trying to get in and out of their sizes and I’ve got lingerie more modest than some of their stuff. 😉 Do you have some suggestions on where to shop and/or other bloggers to follow?

how to achieve boho chic with a bust and curves

Oh how I can relate! Especially once the weather warms, my inner Steve Nicks wants to come out and play in floaty layers and vintage-inspired prints. Thing is, many of the popular brands that carry on-trend boho-inspired fashion don’t carry larger sizes and often are not modest enough for everyday wear (let alone cover a supportive bra).

Continue your Admiration and Use it as Inspiration

I too love Free People, and occasionally I do find pieces that fit, but mainly I use the brand as inspiration. I see how they combine prints, note the length of the skirt, the length of the vest, how they’re showing a cold shoulder or a certain type of fabric and look elsewhere to get that same effect. The key to successful boho is to keep it current. Free People really gets this right, knowing to combine a full peasant skirt with a top that is lean, to have sexiness from a bit of back or shoulder instead of full-on cleavage, to have everything a bit slouchy versus baggy or droopy, to always have some modern touch that lets you know this isn’t from the Salvation Army and it is not 1969.

I’m not the biggest Pinterest fan because it can quickly become a timesuck of no-bake cookie recipes and how to make things you don’t need from pallets or popsicle sticks but it is really good for its original purpose – to create inspiration boards. By seeing everything in one place it’s easier to see the details that make boho successful and those details you can bring into your own wardrobe.

One note when pinning – before you pin, ask WHY the picture resonates with you. Is it the beautiful lighting through the model’s hair, or is it the drape of her dress? We can often get caught up in the beauty of a picture and when you’re pinning to build your own wardrobe, such photos may not help in the long run. Such pictures evoke a feeling and create a mood, but in the long run, especially if you don’t look like that model or live a life like the picture, those pictures may make you feel such style is even further from your grasp. I often make my inspiration boards private so they can be less “pretty” but more functional for my life and my wardrobe.

Go for Accent Pieces

boho accessories

Band of Gypsies Kimono, Kendra Scott Necklace, Steve Madden Bag, Capelli of New York Kimono

The boho vibe is all about the details. A simple black dress can go from preppy to punk, classic to crunchy with a quick change of accessories. A fringed kimono, chunky turquoise rings, leather gladiator sandals, wrist of silver bangles, a suede fringed bag… pieces like this can take simpler garments and make them boho chic in an instant.

Accent garments can often be purchased from retailers who may not normally fit your figure or your budget and give the right vibe to your existing wardrobe. Last summer I had a fringed kimono jacket from MINKPINK and wore it often with denim cutoff shorts, Birkenstocks, a white ribbed tank and a bunch of bracelets. The shorts were from Target, the tank J. Jill, but the kimono made the whole thing looks boho and pulled together.

Shop Spring and Summer

Right now is festival season, and every retailer jumps on the bandwagon offering their most hippified pieces, usually styled with a fringe bag and some beaded bracelets. Seriously, your favorite retailer for corporate suits or formalwear come May will be showing crocheted vests, turquoise rings, and peasant skirts. Take advantage of the trend and stock up on boho chic while it’s hot.

Go Outside your Retail Comfort Zone

soft surroundings

Soft Surroundings Country Weekend Sweater, La Paz Dress, Boho Beach Dress, Terrific Tencel Duster

I’m going to tell you a little secret about where I find my boho clothes – Soft Surroundings. Their target market may be older than you and seem to all have lanais to relax on but that doesn’t mean they don’t have some really beautiful (and well made) boho pieces. Use your inspiration as a guide and look past the caftans and shark bite tunics and see what may be just as lovely as Free People. I have a few skirts from Soft Surroundings that I’ll pair with a cut-up band tee or fitted ribbed tank to give them a modern boho vibe. See the pieces as separates instead of ensembles and use your inspiration for styling tips.

eileen fisher

Eileen Fisher Short Sleeve V-neck Maxi, Silk Jumpsuit, Chain Print Sleeveless Jumpsuit, Ikat Square Neck Crop Shell

Eileen Fisher is another brand you may not connect to boho, but pieces on their own can be quite chic and fun. Be sure to check out their collection The Fisher Project, which has some really unique silhouettes and modern ideas.  Again, take all preconceived notions out of your head and shop not seeing the model or the styling of the photo but the actual garment.


Modcloth Rooftop Balcony Jumpsuit, Ink Positively Dress, My Antique Fair Lady Dress, Raise the Barbados Dress

Modcloth is known for adorkable cutesy frocks, but they also have a pretty big boho selection. Much is cheap and not everything comes in a decent range of sizes, but if you’re a careful shopper and willing to scroll, you can find some fab pieces at fab prices.


ASOS Gypsy Midi Dress, Fringe Dress, Halterneck Crochet Maxi, First & I Paisley Dress

ASOS is one of my favorite summer fashion destinations. While they have their in-house line, they also carry other brands for a real variety of styles, prices, and sizes. They do trends well, and there’s plenty of boho styles to choose from, many in plus, petite, and tall sizes.

boho style with a bust

Sun & Shadow Handkerchief Hem Dress, City Chic ‘Festival Border’ Dress, NIC + ZOE Fringe Cardigan, Hinge Lace Trim Maxi Dress

Department stores are a surprisingly great place for boho chic. While a brand may not be known for boho, they may have a piece or two that give the vibe you desire. I’ve found Tart, Karen Kane, MICHAEL Michael Kors, Topshop, and Sanctuary all have great boho pieces within their collections that come in a broader range of sizes and can accommodate a larger bust and a bra.

Boho Bloggers with Curves

As for blogs, I’d love to hear from you readers. I know many of you love the boho trend, and I bet you know many bloggers who rock this trend.  Who is your favorite?

Shop the Post:

Summer Sartorial Rules for Corporate America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For some suggestions on appropriate office attire, please visit:

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What I Wore: The Not-so Little Black Dress [Sponsored]

christopher and banks 4Dress: c/o Christopher & Banks | Hat: J. Crew Factory (similar) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban | Bracelets: c/o RocksBox, Coin Collection, c/o Lifetherapy | Bag: c/o Adora Bags | Shoes: Softspots (similar)

christopher and banks 1Dress: c/o Christopher & Banks | Necklace: MYHABIT | Bag: Brahmin (similar) | Shoes: Nine West | Watch: Citizen

christopher and banks 6Dress: c/o Christopher & Banks | Necklace: c/o Rocksbox | Bag: c/o Handbag Heaven | Bracelets: had forever (similar), Coin Collection, c/o Lifetherapy, c/o LiveTheLook, Shoes: Bella Vita c/o Shoebuy

I feel a not-so little black dress is a must in most wardrobes.  Christopher & Banks reached out and asked if I’d like to feature something from their current collection and as soon as I saw this dress I knew it was the perfect choice.  Ponte knit is one of the most figure flattering and versatile fabrics; it’s a tightly woven knit that doesn’t wrinkle, stretches, and smooths curves.  It’s great for travel, works for every season, and can dress up and down with ease. The Sleeveless Fit & Flare Ponte Dress from Christopher & Banks has a flattering shape and classic silhouette.  It would be great to wear for a day at the wineries; pair with flat sandals and a straw hat for comfort and style.  For work, pair the dress with a statement necklace and pumps for summer office style; add a ponte blazer or cardigan in a favorite color for warmth and additional corporate coverage.  The Sleeveless Fit & Flare Ponte Dress is the type of thing I’d wear to work when I have plans after; a switch to a lightweight crossbody bag and shoes with a chunky comfortable heel for dinner and a show.

The Sleeveless Fit & Flare Ponte Dress from Christopher & Banks comes in Missy and Womens sizes 4 to 24W and is under $75. It’s a perfect wardrobe staple for summer and seasons to come.

Dress to Impress

Why do you wear what you wear each day? 
Where did those items in your closet come from? 
Why did you choose them?

We all have choices on what we want to wear, how we wish to be perceived, how we want to look. The last thing I wish to do on Wardrobe Oxygen is force everyone into cookie cutouts of one another. Personal style is a very important thing – a way for you to express yourself, explain yourself, be yourself, and love yourself. My personal style will not be the same as yours, and that is a good thing.

In this society, we have to wear clothing, and whether you like it or not, you are judged by your appearance. It is your decision on what you wish that perception to be, and who you wish to impress.

Impress the VIP – YOU!
Who cares what anyone else thinks; top priority is your own opinion. I offer fashion advice in hopes that each woman reading will fall in love with their reflection. The only way you can do that is by recognizing how gorgeous you are, and dressing to celebrate your individual beauty. That may be by wearing a sari or sequins, tencel or a tiara, a caftan or cargo shorts.

Today I was driving home from running errands and I saw a woman of a certain age walking down the street. She had on cropped white linen trousers, tan nubuck slide-style athletic sandals, and the most gorgeous salmon pink slub-knit Henley tunic that made her pale skin and silver hair glow. As I got closer, I realized it was one of my neighbors, who is usually seen in shades of gray, tan, and cadet blue. The pieces she was wearing were perfect for her lifestyle – lightweight, breathable, great for walking and working at home. However the change from muddy drab colors to such crisp flattering hues made such a major change to her overall look and how she is perceived. She looked younger, happier, healthier. I stopped to tell her how much I liked her in that color and she admitted it is one of her favorite shades but rarely wears it because she fears it shows dirt. Then she said, “I just realized I am 86, why miss out on pink at this age? I like pink, I am going to wear pink, stains be damned.”

Stains be damned; society be damned. Wear what makes you feel great. Wear your favorite color, your favorite fabric, your favorite silhouette. Wear it with pride and confidence. This is not the same as wearing your yoga pants because they are so comfy or your ugly Quacker Factory sweater because your Nana bought it for you and she passed on and it reminds you of her. Wearing what you want is making a conscious decision to choose items that flatter your body, your life, and your soul. Picking a wardrobe with as much passion and thought as you would for the paint color of your bedroom, the make and model of your new car, the anniversary dinner you are cooking for your mate. Your money is precious, your time is precious, your body is precious. Use care and thought with each purchase. Perfect clothes can come from Walmart or a thrift store; they can be hand-made, consigned, swapped; they can also come from tony boutiques and chi chi department stores. Perfect clothes come in all sizes, all styles, all price points.

You shouldn’t eat crap just because it’s cheap and convenient; doing so can cause health issues, obesity, and boredom. The same holds true for clothing. You don’t need 10 pairs of jeans 15 tee shirts, a dozen pair of shoes. Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit your body, your life, or your personality. Then just shop slowly, with care, with passion. Shop to love your reflection. Once you have a wardrobe that you love and loves you in return, only then can you even consider the opinions of others.

Impress your Boss
Look around your office and you will see that different categories of employees seem to have their own dress code. The interns, the IT folks, the head honchos. I will always remember what a previous boss (and a very successful and stylish one at that) told me, “Dress not for the job you have, but for the job you desire.”

So your neighbors in the cubicle farm get away with wearing wrinkled khakis and faded tees to work; that doesn’t mean you should if you wish to grow with your company. Any day you leave your house, you could have a date with destiny. There is no more likely place for that to happen than in the workplace. You never know who may come to visit, when you may meet a future employer in line at Subway, who you may sit next to on the subway.

Are you good at your job? Then show it by dressing for the job you SHOULD have. Love your job? Show your company respect by dressing above the dress code – you may be the next one chosen to represent the company in a meeting, interview, or office tour! Do you hate your job? All the more reason to dress for respect – show that you are putting your all in to the position while surfing for a better 9-5. And as previously mentioned, you never know who you will bump into – may be a person offering you your dream job and it would be dreadful for destiny to make a date with you and you’re in ill-fitting chinos.

Dress to Impress Your Mate

Impress your Mate
I don’t believe in dressing to attract a mate. To dress in a way that can be seen as sexy, provocative, flirtatious usually means donning clothing that makes you feel exposed, awkward, and not yourself. Mom was right – be yourself for there are people who will love you for you.

However, studies have been proven that some fashion trends just don’t attract a mate as well as others (hello Man Repeller!). This doesn’t mean you have to stop wearing that which you love, you just need to decide if you are giving off the first impression you really want.

I recently read a magazine article where a woman who has worn flame-red hair and lips for years tried a stint as a brunette and one as a blonde. She found that she was far more approachable with brown hair and more subtle of makeup, and was seen as intimidating in the blonde hair and too wacky/wild with the red. She realized that the first impression she was giving with the red hair was not true to her self, and decided to go brunette for the long run.

Often personal style can become a costume. When you love a certain look, it’s easy to get passionate and even obsessed with it. You go from having the occasional vintage dress to looking like a perpetual kitchy chick; from liking the look of matte red lips to being “Jane with the Red Lipstick”; from wearing the occasional ironic tee shirt to being “Sally with the Goofy Tees”. Wouldn’t it be great to be known as YOU? This isn’t saying that you should lose your interests to attract a mate – on the contrary. It’s just that you should let your clothes overshadow your personality. You want to be known for your wicked sense of humor, your ability to learn foreign languages so quickly, your mad skills in the kitchen, your infectious laugh, how you can quote every single John Hughes film line by line.

Find a good, honest friend and ask their opinion. Look at yourself and your closet and see if you are hiding yourself behind your clothes. A mate is looking for love, not a fun closet. Sometimes you need a good friend or honest stranger to tell you that which you cannot see for yourself.

When you feel great about how you look, others can tell. Just having confidence makes you so much more attractive to others. A dazzling smile can lure people in far better than a short skirt or low-cut blouse.

Impress your Friends
Your friends love you for you, but it’s a heck of a lot more fun to hang with you when you feel good about yourself. When you dress appropriately for the situation, and for your body, you can focus on the situation and the time with your friends.

Dress to show respect to your friends. When they invite you to a barbecue, don’t wear a silk dress that won’t let you sweat, sit at an old picnic table, and munch on a hot dog. When you attend their baby shower, wear nice slacks or a dress to show respect for them and their event. If you accept a hiking and rafting trip, make sure you and your friends have fun by wearing the proper footwear, sunscreen, and clothes that keep your comfortable.

When you dress inappropriately for a situation, you are uncomfortable, and the hostess usually ends up uncomfortable. When you have to sit on the sidelines while everyone else joins in on a game of touch football, you wear street clothes to a pool party, or your sprain an ankle wearing delicate shoes on a camping trip, you’re not just ruining your good time but the good time of others who have to care for you.

Certain types of events will always come up in your life; prepare for them. Live near the ocean? Take the time to find flattering swimsuits, coverups and shoes to enjoy beach living. Live in the city? It’s possible to find stylish shoes that will also let you comfortably walk several blocks or dash after the train. Have a relaxed group of friends? You may not need that one-shouldered sequined cocktail dress, but it may make more sense to use that money for some great-fitting jeans and beautifully-made cardigans.

MIrror MIrror on the Wall

Impress the Mirror
A true test of your wardrobe is the unexpected reflection in a shop window or store mirror. Are you a wrinkled, rumpled mess? Do you like what you see? How do you look in prints? In white shirts? In maxi skirts? It’s easy to suck in your gut and twist your torso to look great in your bedroom mirror, but true style lasts more than five minutes. When you get home, before you change your clothes check out your reflection in the mirror. How did you fare through the day? Are those linen pants that looked so crisp at 8am now look like a garbage bag? Is your bra properly supporting your breasts and flattering your figure? Is that dress really the right length, or should you take it to the tailor to lop off an inch?

When you love yourself, and love how you look, you feel good and that feeling is expressed to others. Dress to love your body, your personality, your soul. When you are true to yourself and show the world how gorgeous you are… people will notice. And they will be impressed.

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Dress for Respect

Clothing may cover the body, it m ay express one’s personality, but the main reason we have skirts and pants, jeans and gowns is for respect.


Why do we wear a suit for an interview, black for a funeral, a dress for a wedding, conservative clothing in a house of worship? We do it out of respect. We SHOULD do it out of respect. Respect for religion, culture, loved ones and human kind in general. This is the difference between now and a few decades ago. Clothing was not as much of a problem for women because there were rules and expectations for attire. Less options, and more of an understanding that clothing was for respect.

And now we have casual Fridays and jeans at Broadway shows. Fur coats on teens and socialites in torn denim. There are no rules when it comes to fashion, and I see that as a shame.

A woman of style, a TRUE woman of style understands fashion etiquette and no matter what her peers may do, she adheres to them. A woman of style respects herself, and respects the world around her. She doesn’t litter, she doesn’t cut people off on the highway, and she would never upstage a bride or belittle a cultural tradition.

Weddings are times of celebration. A couple has decided to proclaim to their family, friends, loved ones, the world and possibly their religion that they wish to unite in love. The couple will decide how they want their day to be celebrated, and through subtle clues (or a call to the family or wedding party member) you will know how to dress. A few common clues for respectful attire:

  1. After 5:00 PM. The rule is that if the ceremony starts after 5:00, the attire is semi-formal to formal. A safe bet is a dress around knee length, sleeveless, in a classic fabric like crepe, silk or chiffon. These days most colors, even black are acceptable to be worn. As a sign of respect, bright red and white should not be chosen (dark reds like burgundy are totally acceptable). Your dress should be flattering to your figure, but not too sexy or revealing. This is the bride’s day. No one should look better or more… eye-catching than she. Be she wear a classic white gown or a bright red mini, this does not give you the right to dress in a matching way. Like the flowers and the linens, you are an accessory on the wedding day, you make the day better, you don’t MAKE the day.
  2. Traditional invitations. Ivory paper, black script, several enveloped, professional calligraphy for your address. These clues also help you to assume the event is more formal, and also more classic. Leave your hot pink snakeskin stilettos and your orange marabou bomber jacket at home. This event probably will be held at a country club or historic site. Show respect to those who are paying for your filet mignon and champagne toast – be appropriate. Dress in a manner mentioned above.
  3. A theme wedding. Your cousin is marrying at the beach and wants everyone in tropical attire. You hate themes, but you love your cousin. Do not show up in a black pantsuit. This is not respecting the event or the couple. If you do not own a single piece of clothing in a Hawaiian print, consider a cheerful color of dress and maybe a flower behind your ear.
  4. The ceremony is in a house of worship. Do your research. How religious is the couple? Is a head covering expected? How do they feel about women in pants? Again, this is not your day. If your friend is an orthodox Jew, do not wear a halter top and cigarette pants. It is possible to be true to your self, and be respectful to the situation.
  5. The casual wedding. So the ceremony is at the courthouse and the reception is a backyard barbecue? That doesn’t mean it’s okay to wear a sweatshirt and jeans. Clothing shows your feelings about a situation. Wear flat shoes so you don’t sink into the grass. In place of jeans consider capris or nice pants or a casual dress. It is possible to be comfortable, casual and still respectful of the couple and their union.

You may be an administrative assistant, a paper pusher, or a CEO. No matter your position, and no matter your feelings about the job or the company, you should always dress to show respect to the firm and the role. Business casual does not mean faded ill-fitting sweaters, jeans and sneakers. A casual environment does not mean you can waltz around in tanks and flip flops and belly tees advertising beer companies. This look gives off the impression that you don’t care about your job, or yourself. I am not saying that you should wear a suit every day, but think carefully about the image you are portraying in your work environment.

  1. Business casual. Read my post about it. Business casual is not a license for slovenliness. It is the ability to still look polished, respectful while being comfortable.
  2. Casual Fridays. A bit more casual than traditional business casual, this again is not a license for dressing like a bum. This look does not include college sweatshirts, beat-up comfy jeans, sneakers, or tee shirts with pictures or logos on them. Hair should be styled and face should be clean and as made up as you do on a regular day.
  3. Client meetings. Research your client. Are they a creative computer company or a conservative government agency? Dress the part. If you are unsure, it is always to dress more conservatively. For first meetings, it is safe to wear a suit. Feel free to show your sense of style in the color of your shirt or the style of your jewelry. Again, if you are unsure be safe and wear closed-toe shoes. IF your client is more liberal or creative, consider peep-toe or fun shoes, and creative colors in the suit. For more casual meetings, still dress better than you usually do in the office. Tailored shirts, knee-length skirts, dresses and lined trousers give a look that says you care for and respect your client.
  4. Holiday parties. The liquor is flowing and the dance floor is packed with cubicle mates. This does not mean you can act as you do on a night out with the girls. Your dress should be festive but not provocative. Keep the cleavage and the clinginess to a minimum, your hair and makeup tasteful, and your alcohol consumption to a reasonable level (I have a three-drink maximum at these events so I don’t wake up the next day with regrets and the worry of having a job come Monday).
  5. Job interviews. Now is the time to polish those shoes, dry clean your best suit, tweeze those brows and press your shirt. You should look your absolute best. Better conservative than not. If it is a creative company, you may add flashes of color in a nice jacket, a scarf or blouse. If you are unsure, it is best to stay with a neutral subtle color for the suit (navy, black, gray, dark brown or dark green) and a complimentary but not shocking color for your shirt. Shoes should be closed toed, makeup and hair should be subtle and classic. Nails should be trimmed, clean and nude or a light color. Make sure your bag is in good condition – borrow one if you have to. This meeting is all about your first impression.

Baby and Bridal Showers
It’s your best friend, your neighbor, your sister. The two of you are thick as thieves and spend many nights hanging out in sweats, eating popcorn and watching reruns of Sex and the City. That doesn’t mean you should dress the same for her party. Be the event at a restaurant, a hall or her living room, this is a celebration of a momentous occasion in your friend’s life and should be honored as such. Switch the shorts for capris, sweatshirts for twinsets, sneaks for shoes and jeans for trousers. No need to wear a dress and hose, but look clean, look festive and look respectful. A good rule of thumb is wear only that you would wear to a nice restaurant or a business casual work environment.

Houses of Worship
I grew up attending a very laid-back and liberal church. Members of the congregation would show up in jeans and sweats, girls in Sunday School with me would often arrive in the flannel pajama pants they wore to bed the night before. My mother ensured that we were always dressed nicely to show respect to the minister who worked so hard on his sermon, to the choir who practiced all week for their performance, to the congregation who cares about us and to the religion as a whole. We wore sweaters and pants in the winter, casual skirts and capris with polos and shells in the summer. On religious holidays, we always wore dresses, my father wore a suit and when we were little, my mom would curl our hair. Dressing in this manner made the weekly family tradition of church and then lunch a special occasion, and a tradition to be respected.

My father was one religion, my mother another, they converted to a third for a happy medium. I grew up attending religious services and special events for a multitude of religious, and levels of worship. Some synagogues I had to cover my head, elbows and shoulders and only wear skirts. Some churches I could wear a spaghetti strap tank and sandals. I always asked first what was acceptable so that I dressed in a manner that respected the attendees of that house of worship. More than any other event in your life, attending a house of worship is not about you and creating a lasting impression. Like anywhere else in life, it is a fashion show where people will judge what you wear, but it not the place to make a flashy statement in dress, hair, makeup or amount of skin exposed.

Dates and Evenings Out

  1. Dinner at a nice restaurant. So you saw a celebrity come out of Nobu in jeans and a Jack Daniel’s Whiskey tee shirt. That does not mean it is acceptable. Most restaurants have websites where they either mention the dress code or show photographs of guests dining there. Show respect to the establishment and show respect to yourself and dress appropriately. If you are unsure where you are going, you can’t go wrong in black trousers, black closed toed shoes and a merino sweater or tailored shirt and pearls. This simple outfit will work at Applebee’s or a five-star establishment in the city. As with most situations, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
  2. First date. So you don’t know the date well, and you don’t know where you are going. You want to make a great first impression, you want to look good and you want your date to ask you out again. This does not mean pull out the pleather mini and thigh-high boots. Your date may find you attractive in that look, but may not be thinking you want more than a good time. You can look feminine and alluring without showing every part of your body. A skirt that hits above the knees with a sweater and pumps can look sexy while having class. A pair of black pants with a dressy top and heels is nice if you believe you may be going to a nice restaurant and dancing afterwards. For a casual meeting, consider nice jeans (clean, darker, no holes, covers the rear, not too tight) with a camisole and cute jacket or blazer. For summer you can’t go wrong with a sundress or chino skirt and fitted top with sandals.
  3. Night out with the girls. Yes you plan on having a good time, and you ladies may be out on the prowl for dates, but that does not mean you need to dress like you belong in a Red Light district. You can look sexy and flirtatious without exposing all of your skin. Wear a drapey halter top with black tailored trousers. Skinny jeans can be balanced out with a kimono-style or a blouson-sleeved silk top. A low-cut top looks stylish, not sleazy if not skin tight everywhere else and with full-length pants. A short skirt is sassy with tall boots and tights. As with any other situation, dress in a manner that shows that you respect yourself. Looking sleazy, messy or tacky gives off the impression that you don’t think too much of yourself. If you are giving off that manner, what type of partner are you going to attract?

Planes are not an enjoyable place to be, especially for an extended period of time. I am the first to say dress and pack for the occasion. By all means, dress comfortably. Comfort does not equal sloppiness.

  1. Pack the essentials. You have dry skin? TSA now allows containers 4 ounces and less in carry-on luggage, as long as in a Ziploc baggy. Take your tinted lip balm, your moisturizer, your contact lens rewetting drops. Pack a brush or comb – plane hair can cause static and frizziness. Consider an elastic to pull your hair in a low ponytail if you get bedhead from sleeping in your seat.
  2. Carry your creature comforts. I never travel without a pashmina. I wrap it around my neck like a scarf, then once on the plane I use it for a blanket or roll it up for a neck or lower-back bolster. My friend has an inflatable neck pillow. Deflated it is small enough to fit in her purse, but it reduced neck strain on long flights, leaving her looking rested and refreshed after the most turbulent red-eye.
  3. Dress for comfort, and your destination. It may be balmy in Los Angeles, but it’s 27 degrees in Indiana. Have layers so you feel great no matter where you land and no matter the climate on the plane. Have comfortable layers with stretch. I always wear either my stretchy denim trousers or a great pair of heavy black Ponte de Roma knit bootcut trousers when I fly. Both have waistbands with give and do not wrinkle, even if I sit for six hours straight. On top, I wear a shell in a soft knit and a sweater or jacket over it. If it is hot, I can remove a layer but still look polished and together. As for shoes, wear ones that slip on and off easily. This is nice for long flights to maintain good circulation, and it will prove far simpler when going through airport security checkpoints.
  4. Look better than you feel. How are you going to be upgraded to First Class, treated with respect by a flight attendant, or assisted by airport staff if you look as though you just crawled out of a garbage can? It may be a long flight, an early departure time, or the end of a horrific trip. That does not give you the right to go without brushing your hair, washing your face or donning appropriate clothing. Bedtime attire is not acceptable for planes, and flights do not give you a license to wear gaudy neon-colored velour track suits. You will feel better and be treated better if you dress with respect – polished knits, comfortable sweaters and real shoes (that means no rubber flops, Crocs or bunny slippers!).

Ask Allie: Very Casual Office Attire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Life, Replotted: Dressing the Part

chelsea henderson for wardrobe oxygen

I used to have a closet full of dresses. Expensive dresses. I justified the investment (doesn’t that sound better than splurge?) because not only were they appropriate professionally, but one dress required little thought in the morning, whereas a two-piece suit also required a blouse option, and three wardrobe components were two too many for me to coordinate when also getting my young kids ready for school. Yeah, that’s what I told myself every time I handed over my credit card. “I need this dress. It will make my life easier.”

To complement all those dresses, I had a closet full of pumps. I’m ashamed now to admit how many pairs of shoes I once owned. I freely handed over the plastic for these too, all in the name of looking the part. Speaking of looking the part, I never went to work in lower than a three-inch heel, unless of course it was casual Friday, and I could get away with riding boots and skinny jeans.

Sigh. Skinny jeans. I didn’t wear any other style of denim.

“Oh, check out Chelsea’s shoes today,” co-workers would gush as I walked by their offices. “Chelsea can get away with wearing jeans to work. She just wears them differently.” The compliments fueled me to try even harder, and a vicious circle of vanity and debt was created.

My Life in Shoes

Then I left the face-numbing job in a stressful industry to pursue the crafts that fulfill me. I no longer wake up at the crack of dawn to figure out what dress-shoe combination to put on for the day. And since it really isn’t comfortable to sit at my home office desk in skinny jeans, I’ve traded those in too. In fact, I’ve cycled out of my closet most of the wardrobe I once spent so much time and money in cultivating.

“I used to be so intimidated by how you dressed,” my best friend admitted to me over drinks one night. It saddened and shocked me, but also got me questioning: why I was as obsessed with my clothes as I used to be?

The truth is, my clothes provided body armor. If I looked confident, I’d be confident, or convincingly act the part. I could walk into a meeting in the U.S. Capitol and be taken seriously. Not that I ever wasn’t. The crazy thing about insecurity is it’s often unwarranted. But I wasn’t fulfilled in my profession, so I compensated with budget busting clothing purchases and used my miserable job to justify the expense.

These days, I don’t need designer dresses and sky-high heels to bolster me. I’m just as happy to put on yoga pants and a sweater, a look I often take from desk to mat to casual dinner with my best friend. It’s nice to know I don’t intimidate her anymore. And likewise, I’m no longer scared of my credit card bill. Living authentically is not always easy. People question my choices, and the old attachments can still present temptation (oh, Frye boots). But a nourished soul grounds me more than any outfit ever did.

chelsea hendersonChelsea Henderson is an aspiring novelist and recovering Capitol Hill staffer. When she isn’t sneaking time to finish writing her second book, she advocates on behalf of clean energy and environmental policy, reads, practices yoga, and single parents her perpetually hungry pre-teen boys. She also periodically contributes to her lifestyle blog, the Chelsea Chronicles and is intermittently good at Twitter.

Ask Allie: Dressing for your Belly

I’m not fat per se , but I’ve gained back all the weight that I lost in the first few months after giving birth. My stomach has gotten enormous, like 6th month pregnancy enormous and I hate it. I can’t find anything to wear that doesn’t make it even more obvious at least to me. I tend to wear jeans + t-shirt like top 99% time. Skirts are supposed to be flattering on me but I couldn’t find anything I like + know what to pair with + can handle my daily commute of 1.5 hours in the bus , each direction. Shoes wise -same rut. I got wide feet and wide calves and am yet to find boots I can wear.

I have a belly. When I used to go to the gym daily and was a size 4, I still had a belly. Before I had a child, I had enough of a belly that more than one person asked when I was due. And now, after having a child and gaining/losing weight and not making much time for crunches I have a very soft midsection that Emerson finds to be the best pillow in the world. She likes it far more than I do, to me it looks as though I have one big monoboob below my actual breasts. But it’s a belly that created a human being, it’s natural, it’s me, and so I have learned to dress it and come to terms with it.

You can dress a tummy without drawing attention it, or hiding it in layers of fabric that will make you look like a big blob. Luckily, such pieces that flatter a figure with a belly also have stretch which hold up nicely through a commute or long day, and often are available at retailers of different pricepoints.

Wrap Dresses
Be they a true wrap or faux, such a dress gives the illusion of an hourglass figure and have a double layer right at the tummy, which disguises the shape and gives it a bit of added control. Choose a style that comes to your knees to flatter your figure and be more work-appropriate. If the neckline is too low, consider a camisole or strategically-placed safety pin.

Matte jersey doesn’t wrinkle, it doesn’t stretch out, and you can throw it in the washing machine and hang it up from your shower curtain rod and it’s dry and ready to wear the next day. This fabric is stretchy polyester, but has a matte crepey feel that is more refined, not clingy, and dresses up and down with ease. I have found such dresses at Old Navy, Target, ASOS, and they are often at thrift stores (I know I have donated quite a few from my days as a merchandiser at Express).

Other fabrics I like for such a style of dress are chiffon overlay with a polyester lining (also doesn’t wrinkle easily, but can be more delicate when it comes to laundry) and ponte (a very heavyweight and tightly-woven knit that is more refined than jersey and less likely to show lumps and bumps and can be laundered like matte jersey).

How to Wear in Winter: With opaque tights (I love the Spanx Tight End Tights for extreme durability, a control top that doesn’t cut you in half, and matte opacity) and boots or shoes of most any heel height. Keep the tights and shoe the same color to lengthen the leg, black is a safe bet with most any color, even brown and navy.

Vintage-inspired Dresses
The vintage trend isn’t going away any time soon, and women with bellies are rejoicing. Be it Modcloth, eShakti, or true vintage, these dresses have a slightly higher waistband which hits at the smallest part of your torso, giving you more of an hourglass shape and allowing the skirt to hide your tummy.

With such dresses, fit is paramount. Go up a size if necessary and have it tailored, but don’t let it pull at the shoulders or bust, cinch the upper arms, or ride up in the torso. A too-small fit will only make your figure look larger.

With many of these dresses, they have a percentage of polyester which will resist wrinkles. A print also can disguise creases that may take place on your commute (or keep a bottle of Downy Wrinkle Releaser in your desk for a douse once you arrive).

How to Wear in Winter: Opaque tights yet again, make such dresses perfect for the colder weather. Again, black is a safe bet with most any color or print, keep the vintage vibe going with a T-strap or Mary Jane shoe with a thicker heel.

Wrap and Surplice Necklines
It’s amazing that a neckline can change the look of a midsection, but it really does work. A wrap or surplice (faux wrap) neckline elongates the neck, enhances the bust, and draws attention to the smallest part of your torso (bottom of your rib cage). Like a wrap dress, you end up with a double layer at the torso which disguises the tummy. Surplice tops may not have that double layer, but they often have gathered side seams which provide strategic ruching at that part of the torso.

After I had Emerson, I lived in faux wrap, wrap, and surplice tops. Sure, they were great for nursing, but they also made my figure look amazing. I’d wear a wrap sweater with a black cami and black pants for a cohesive outfit; a necklace would draw the eye up and add interest. I had a half-dozen outfits of this style and looked great without a lot of effort.

Fit and Flare Styles
When trying to draw attention away from a body part, the worst thing to do is make the fabric on that body part too loose. A baggy top over a small belly will make it look Second Trimester. A fit and flare style will skim over the slim part of your figure, flare out right where your curves are, and work with, not against your figure.

Blazers often achieve this fit and flare look for you, if they fit well. Roll up the sleeves a couple times to let your slender wrists show, wear a top underneath with a v- or scoop-neck, and the line of the open jacket will disguise the tummy and allow for that fit and flare shape. Jackets of ponte and unlined stretch fabrics will give that shape nicely without adding bulk.

Wide Calf Boots
I have very wide feet, short toes, and ginormouse calves as well as thick shins and ankles. And yet, I own several pairs of tall boots. Get out of the mall and get online to find wide-calf boots that fit your feet and your legs. Check out these posts regarding wide calf boots:

Ponte Knit Pieces
Ponte de Roma, otherwise known as ponte, is one of the greatest fabrics on the planet. It’s stretchy like jersey, but heavy enough to hide lumps and bumps. It’s a very tight refined weave that looks appropriate for work or social events, but is as comfortable as yoga pants. It is a pretty uniform fabric, so often a pair of pants from one brand will work with a jacket from another. With a fabric so heavy and tightly woven (no stretching out or bagging), it flatters soft curves and even gives them a bit of support.

I own ponte pants (fitted to slip into boots or wear with flats, fuller to wear with heels), ponte jackets (blazer style and longer trendy cuts), ponte dresses (all styles worn year round), ponte skirts (pencil, drop waist, fit and flare… you name it), ponte tops (drape-neck tanks, wrap-style tops, boatneck shells and more). I love how I can put two ponte pieces together for relaxed yet polished look appropriate for work or Sunday brunch. I love how I can usually machine wash the pieces to save time and money. And I love how the fabric works with my belly.

The goal with ponte is to find pieces that do not cut at the widest part of your belly. Drop waists, tops that end between the waistband and high hip, or shapeless styles that can tent out making the abdomen look even larger. But with styles that work with your curves, you can have a stretchy yet polished collection of garments that will survive a long commute and a busy day.

Build a ponte collection that can mix and match with itself and other fabrics for multi-season versatility. 

Powerful Accessories
The person who notices your belly the most is yourself. I bet the majority of the people you see each day don’t even notice its size. That being said, accessories do a great job of drawing the eye to another part of the body:

  • Statement Necklaces will draw the eye up to your face. Right now such necklaces are very popular, so it’s easy to find them in any style or pricepoint. Wear inside the collar of your shirt or over a round neck for a dramatic disguiser.
  • Heels are a great way to elongate the legs, make the tummy appear to be smaller with extra height, and also draw the eye away from the middle of your figure. I believe in commuter shoes – wear one style en route, and change once you get to your desk.
  • Wide belts worn above your natural waist can create an hourglass shape and provide subtle gathering over your midsection. You’ll see in my outfit post archives that I own several wide belts and wear them at this location over dresses, cardigans, blazers, and more.

Proper Underpinnings
Control garments that cut you in half, hipsters that slide under the belly by lunchtime, bikinis that cut lines into hips… such pieces won’t make your tummy area look any better. For control garments, I like the ones that either strap to or around your bra or else come right up to the bra line. This type of garment won’t cut or emphasize your belly and give a smooth continuous line. For regular underwear, I like Hanky Panky’s Retro Thong which has a higher waist so it doesn’t cut or slide under the belly. A brief is better than a bikini for the same reason; some styles may look like granny panties but some brands make them high enough to stay put while looking darn feminine or sexy. Consider the same things when purchasing tights – Spanx makes tights that have a higher waist which prevents your tummy from being cut in half; DKNY does a good job of making an opaque durable tight with a control top that doesn’t give gas pains, fall down, or cut you in half.

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Ask Allie: An Active Casual Capsule Wardrobe for a Woman Over 60

I am about to retire and would love to have advice about a capsule wardrobe to fit my new situation. I am a young 62 and pear shaped. I’m planning to focus on travel, enjoying grandchildren, blues festivals, yoga and walking. I like classic styles and love blues and greens.

Congratulations! That sounds like an amazing way to spend this new point in your life. And I love that you’re considering a capsule wardrobe so you can focus on life instead of what to wear each day. Purchasing carefully, slowly, and while considering all you currently own can get you to the point of having a small quality wardrobe of hard-working pieces that have you ready for whatever comes your way.

capsule wardrobe casual active over 60

For this casual capsule wardrobe I didn’t focus on yoga and walking as I figure you have gear for those activities; however I did try to create a collection that will move with you, be comfortable for long spans of time outdoors taking the grandchildren sightseeing or to the park, or sitting on a blanket in the grass enjoying live music.

As a pear-shaped woman, it can be hard to find bottoms that fit and flatter. For skirts, those with an a-line, a flare from the waist, or that are softly gathered will flatter your figure. A skirt at or below the knee not only balances your frame but provides modesty when chasing after little ones or sitting on the ground. While many women avoid shorts, they’re so practical and so many lengths and styles are now available making it so any woman can find a cut that she likes. For a pear shape, a straight short that hits right at the top of the knee is best. Here I offered a stretchy denim style with a cuff, and a stretch twill Bermuda that can dress up or down nicely. A “boyfriend” jean is great for pear shapes because they’re more relaxed in the hip and thigh area and the cuff makes them have just the right amount of taper and color contrast to not shorten the leg like traditional cropped pants. Many women choose dark bottoms to minimize their hips and rear, but a pair of opaque white jeans can be quite chic and flattering (and it also makes primary and jewel tones look so luxe). It’s not ridiculous to pay to have jeans tailored (if you purchase them from Nordstrom they will tailor them on-site); go up a size for a comfortable fit in the hips and thighs and have the waist and hem adjusted for a custom fit. A straight jean is on trend yet will still be stylish next year; such a cut also balances hips nicely.

For tops, I kept things simple but incorporated elements to balance your curves. Boatnecks, cap sleeves, and gathered necklines add interest and also balance the bottom half of your figure. Choosing tops that highlight the slimmest part of your torso are also great; look for empire waists, built-in belts (or add one at the waist or at the ribs over an untucked top), and details like ruching and knots that define. Notice I kept prints to a minimum and those prints quite classic – prints can look dated very quickly. Sticking to solids and classic simple prints will keep your wardrobe from looking passé or frumpy. Breton stripes are a classic and look chic on women of all ages; while florals can be seen as mumsy this simple white and blue print in a stretch silk or synthetic will look quite modern, especially when paired unexpectedly with boyfriend jeans or shorts.  A graphic print in your favorite color can easily be switched out for the floral.

With dresses, I incorporated the same concepts from the skirts and tops.  Fit and flare styles, cap sleeves, details to emphasize the waist, and skirts that hit at the knee or lower.  Do know that models are often taller than average; a dress that looks thigh-high on a website may be knee-length on you.  Consider the measurements offered as well as the photo (and customer reviews, if available) before judging a dress or skirt.

While a shoe with a bit of a heel will balance a pear figure, I believe in function over fashion and a flat shoe will do you better with your new lifestyle. Choosing shoes that match your bottoms or are low contrast to your legs will be the best choice; a metallic flat is a great way to dress up casual pieces but they’re also a great way to get away without wearing heels to a wedding or other social event.

Accessories are what take a capsule wardrobe from ordinary to extraordinary. Statement necklaces are a great way to draw attention to your face, add personality and also a youthful touch to your outfit. A silk scarf can look matronly, but in a bold print it adds personality and class to simple knits.

As for bags, choosing a crossbody means you have your hands free to hold on to your grandchildren, take a photo, or grab a pair of drinks for you and another at that next blues festival.  I can’t stress the importance of accessories enough, especially with a pared-down wardrobe of staples.  Accessories show your personality, show that you are young at heart, and that you are aware of current trends and care about style.  Don’t be afraid of a sparkly necklace, a metallic slip-on sneaker, or a statement watch or bag from a popular brand.

A pair of black plastic sunglasses are a classic; I recommend purchasing a classic yet popular brand and a style that is pretty classic to show you are aware of the trends but wearing them in the way that is best for you.  While I featured the classic Ray-Ban Wayfarer in the collage, other styles are equally chic; I chose a few that caught my eye and have them in the widget above.  With sunglasses and bags, I recommend buying the best quality and brand you can afford.  These are accessories you likely will wear every day; quality will last and also elevate your basic wardrobe staples.

The Perfect Summer Dress?

For me, every summer is spent in dresses. Breezy one-piece dressing is my jam, I wear bike shorts underneath for modesty and to prevent chub rub, throw on some sandals, maybe a necklace if I’m feeling fancy, and head out to the farmer’s market, to run errands, a cookout or most anything on my schedule. For work, I’ll top with a cardigan to adhere to dress code and battle the arctic breeze from the A/C.

But it’s hard to find such dresses. They’re too short, the neckline plunges too much, and more often than not they can’t be worn with a standard bra. So when I find one that fits the bill I get excited… and I of COURSE have to share it with you!

Old Navy Cross Front Dress

Meet my new summer dress, the Old Navy Cross-Front Dress. What makes it great:

  • Solids and prints available, and they are wearable classic colors and prints!
  • Knee-length and maxi length versions available
  • Regular, petite, and tall lengths (I bought the exact dress pictured above in Large Petite)
  • Straps that cover a standard bra in front, and in back
  • Front not too low (I did pin it closed, some may prefer a camisole)
  • Plenty of room for my bust
  • Machine washable (I did gentle cycle in a lingerie bag and hung to dry)
  • Faux wrap waistband so it won’t loosen
  • Lots of coverage in the wrap for modesty even on a windy day
  • Less than $40.00
  • Makes my curvy figure look great!

Have you tried this dress? What do you think? Have you found any perfect summer dresses, if so share with us in the comments!

Updates to the Little Black Dress

Hi Allie:
I live in a climate that is warm year-round and black is just too strong of a color for this town. Are there any other colors that are as versatile as black for a little black dress, or any of the other staples in your list?

Dear Allie,
I love the idea of having a LBD – such a versatile garment. Trouble is I really am too bony to wear sleeveless, too modest to show cleavage and black looks so aging on me. I noticed that most dark colours don’t suit so well any more (I’m almost 59). Any suggestions for equally versatile colours/looks?

First of all, black doesn’t mean a funeral, and having one or two black pieces is not going to make your entire wardrobe dark and dreary. However I do understand if you just do not like black in your wardrobe and do not feel comfortable with so many pieces in that color.

Colors like dove gray, taupe, navy and cadet blue are often just as versatile as black when it comes to a LBD. They can dress up or down and be appropriate for most any occasion or season. If you are a person who isn’t comfortable in black, it’s a good idea to find one of these colors as your new basic and try to find matching or complimenting pieces in that shade. I suggest a black dress, black pants, black suit, black pumps in my staples list… this can be changed to all gray or all taupe quite easily and still be as versatile. The key is to have it be your base color – don’t purchase a gray dress, navy pants and a brown suit. What happens when you don’t have a basic palette is that everything seems mismosh and it is really difficult to mix and match, maintain a small yet quality wardrobe, and pack for travel.

Companies like Chico’s, Ann Taylor, J. Crew and Travelsmith often offer collections of pieces all in one color story and fabric. If they carry a non-black color that you like – stock up! You can easily find pants, suits, dresses and wardrobe staples all in one color that will work just as well as black but be more flattering to fair skin or tropical climates.

If you choose to make your base color taupe, navy or brown, know it will be harder to replace pieces in your collection and find appropriate accessories. Baby your clothes, buy duplicates if you worry about pieces wearing out, and be very very careful with purchasing shoes and belts. Brown does not look as dressy as black. You will be fine with pieces like casual boots, day bags and city boots, but for items such as classic pumps you may want to switch it up with a brown croco embossed pair (a fave of Jackie O), a more skin-baring style of pump (slingback, deep cut sides, etc.) or a color that is close to your skin tone for a leg-lengthening and more elegant look.

As for styles that cover the arms and decollete better, there are many options.

A style that is quite elegant and seasonless is the short sleeved or 3/4 sleeved dress with a boatneck. This style would offer a feminine silhouette while covering your cleavage and arms. This example from J. Crew shows how such a style can look elegant on s slender frame, yet still be quite conservative. Wool gabardine is a very versatile fabric, and this dress is available in petites, and some staple-worthy non-black colors like beechwood, navy and dark slate.

This crepe jersey dress from Talbots may not come in neutral colors other than black, but it has a sleeve, a higher neckline and a feminine style that will work from day to night and year-round. 

Many stores will carry similar silhouettes in a bevy of colors and it shouldn’t be too hard to find a color that works with your lifestyle and coloring!

The Not-So-Little Black Dress

The Little Black Dress, a term used so frequently it has its own acronym (LBD). Every celebrity stylist states a woman should have at least one in her closet. Who knows when you may be invited to the White House, to a gallery opening, the Oscars?

Let’s get real, most of us do not have lives that revolve around cocktail parties and gala events. To add to that, most of us do not have the bodies or lifestyles that warrant that little of a black dress.

However I agree with the celeb stylists – it IS good to have a simple black dress in the closet – but more for the events that REAL LIFE throws your way. A wedding, a company holiday party, a Bar Mitzvah, cruise to the Bahamas, PTA silent auction, an evening church event, your son’s college graduation, a night where the kids are at grandma’s and your husband wants to take you out on the town.

Most of the events arrive suddenly on our radar, and the last thing we want to do is head out to the mall and search for an ensemble that “will do.” And, no matter how hard you try to kid yourself, these are not usually affairs where chinos and a button-down will look good (and a knit top with bedazzlement does not make a tee a formal garment). The easiest thing to do is already have that not-so LBD on hand. If made with the right fabric and silhouette, it can work from day to evening, from summer to winter. Here’s a few gems I have seen around the Internet…

The Plus-Sized LBD
Even if you aren’t a perfect size 6, you still can look utterly feminine and stylish in a simple black dress. Black is slimming, it doesn’t look dated quickly, and cheaper brands can look far more expensive and elegant when in this color. If the dress fits and flatters, no one will be looking at your arms or tummy – they will be checking out the whole glamorous package!

It’s better to go up a size and pay for alterations, than be tugging at your bum or bustline all evening. When shopping for a dress, wear the undergarments you plan to wear oce you own the dress – this will ensure a better and more realistic fit.

The Lola Ruched Dress from Kiyonna is a winner. The fabric is a poly-lycra blend which make care easy (gentle cycle and line or flat dry) and wrinkles non-existent.

The gathered waistband whittles the middle, and the sleeves make it comfortable for those who don’t love their upper arms but still want a feminine and modern silhouette.

Check out the reviews on the site to hear real women’s experiences with this awesome dress!

The Nina Dress from b&lu is a classic style that works on almost every shape of woman.

This is the same poly/spandex blend as the first dress; this means it will work every season and dress up or down with ease.

The full skirt will be fin on the dance floor, and the crossover neckline/gathered waistband will flatter your figure.

The Wearever Knotted Wrap Dress from J. Jill is a simple yet elegant style that is available in Misses, Petite, and Women’s sizes up to 4X.

The crossover neckline elongates the neck and torso, and the slightly a-line skirt skims over hips giving an elegant feminine shape.

Pair these dresses with leather pumps or flats and nude legs for day, strappy silk or crepe heels in black, metallic or a fun accent color for night. Your personality can shine through with accessories – pearls, metal chains and hoops, colorful baubles – almost anything goes with these sorts of dresses. Keep it simple and daytime appropriate with simpler pieces and bring out the bling for evening. A simple shawl or pashmina can provide warmth for evening; a cardigan in cashmere or a silk knit will work during the day.

The Petite LBD
A dress is a garment that really needs to fit the body well – if you are petite or short-waisted, you will rarely find a non-petite sized dress that fits well, or can be worn nicely without many expensive alterations. Often the petite selection of dresses in the mall is scarse, and pretty boring. However the Internet has a larger selection and can usually provide every style of woman with a dress that fits her petite frame as well as her sense of style.

The Matte Jersey Party Dress from Talbots is as classic as one can get for an LBD. The ruched crossover bodice is slimming and flattering and adds just the right amount of detail and interest.

The fabric is easy care (can spot clean at a moment’s notice) and will travel well (nothing better than an LBD for a vacation!).

Such a silhoutte will not be going out of style any time soon – this is a great dress to have on hand for whatever life throws your way!

The Petite Silk Tricotine Cecelia Dress from J. Crew is so elegant in its simplicity. The cap sleeves and crossover bodice is flattering and works for day or evening. The dress hits right at the knees so it works with most any shape of woman.

This fabric is a bit more formal, but can still work beautifully for day with simple, minimal accessories and sandals or flats.

Though the dress is of silk and dry clean only, it is a classic fabric that will withstand time and trends for many many seasons.

The Louben Sheath Dress from Nordstrom is LBD perfection. Such a simple dress can be worn to work, or to a cocktail party with ease. Fully lined and of the versatile Triacetate fabric, this dress will last for years and work for most any occasion, any time of year.

As with any other LBD, formality is gained by accessories – strappy heels or D’orsay pumps in silk will make any of these dresses after five worthy; switch out your day handbag with a clutch purse to dress up the look. Nude legs work for day or night, but very sheer black hose can add a dramatic look to an evening ensemble.

The Seasonless LBDThe Tropical Wool Bateau Neck Dress from Ann Taylor is a surprisingly versatile dress. In tropical wool, it works all year long. With the patent belt, it’s great for work or even a day wedding. Switch the belt to a beaded or pave belted number, and it would work for many evening affairs.

Purchase the matching wool jacket and you have the perfect 9-5 ensemble – go from boardroom to dinner with such a classic combination.

Available in Misses and Petite up to Size 16.

The Donna Ricco Crepe Sheath Dress from Nordstrom is a perfect style for the woman who isn’t terribly comfortable with her arms, but wishes to show off her feminine shape.

The crepe is made from polyester which means it will have stretch and work with a woman’s figure. It also means it is a frabric that will travel well, wash easily, resist wrinkles and transtion with ease from day to evening.

This style could be made to be more conservative with a black matte jersey camisole tucked underneath, or leave as-is for an evening affair.

The Calvin Klein Jewelneck Dress from Lord and Taylor has the same classic styling as the Louben sheath, and the same versatile and forgiving Triacetate fabric.

Pair with pearls and pumps for work, switch to a bit more glitz and some strappy heels for evening.

You may also wish to visit:The Power of Accessories
Expensive Doesn’t Always Equal Appropriate
The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe
How Does One Get the Polished Look?

My Red Dress?

Okay, so I love my red Maggy London dress from Nordstrom and I know ya’ll do too. It’s good for work, a night out, a wedding, most anything dependent on shoe and accessory choice. I walk into Subway and teens compliment me, head to the mall and Ladies Who Lunch ask me what designer made it. Loverly!

And so last night while flipping channels at 6:30 PM trying to find ANYTHING decent I came across TMZ and there on the screen was Britney Spears in a similar version of my dress, heading into court. What a good choice Brit, it’s fun yet conservative… oh and the sunglasses sort of look like my sister’s from Ann Taylor Loft that she left in my bag last weekend (that I have been wearing and feeling very glam celeb). So Brit is cleaning up her act. Very nice. Good job.

Then the angle changed and I see that she chose to unbutton a few of the center buttons. Okay…. not how I have thought about wearing my dress (nor ever plan to) but I am not a pop star, and my breasts don’t sit up in that manner any more.

Then come to find out this dress hardly covers (and per the news didn’t cover) her lady bits. Oh my!

And with black calf-length boots and a white leather purse? This is SO not something I would even possibly wear ever ever in my entire life. this is NOT my red dress!

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming. I rarely write about celebs because there are far enough blogs that do such, but it humored me, especially when my husband looked up from his dinner to say, “hey Beeb, isn’t that Britney Spears in your red dress?” Eh, notsomuch.

Pictures thanks to Splash News

Dressing for the Holidays

I have never understood the desire to look like a total fool on a holiday. Tunic sweaters with appliqué bunnies for Easter, American flag shorts, socks and scrunchies for Independence Day, light-up pumpkin earrings for Halloween, tacky theme ties for Christmas, green everything under the sun for St. Patrick’s Day.

Why America, why? Do you see other countries sporting Quacker Factory sweaters, battery operated jewelry or unnatural hair and lipstick shades for their holidays? Do they decorate their person as much as their tree? I think not.

It is possible to look festive, have fun and not portray yourself as missing a few chromosomes.

For Work:
Do Wear:

Holiday colors. Nothing wrong with a green sweater on St. Patty’s Day or a red dress to your holiday party. Today on St. Patrick’s Day I am wearing a bright green refined tee under a denim blazer with chinos, with a green beaded bracelet. I look festive, but I still look appropriate for work. For men, a subtle holiday tie is appropriate if you have children – if you are young or single, these ties look pitiful and corny.

Do NOT Wear:

Theme clothing – sweaters with crocheted Easter eggs, “Kiss me, I’m Irish” tee shirts (or any other message or logo-ed tee shirt), overly casual clothing just because it fits the holiday, holiday themed makeup (emerald green eyeliner, sparkles, holiday colored lipstick) or visible theme socks (if your socks can be seen while standing or walking, your pants are too short. If your socks are neon orange or red or candy pink – wear them with boots or at home, not the workplace).

I understand that when one goes out to celebrate a holiday, the outfit may get to be more… festive. Festive is great, as long as it does not ruin your reputation or image.

For Play:
Do Wear:
Again, holiday colors. Orange top in place of a Halloween costume (for those of you who don’t like to dress up), a cute green chino skirt with a top for St. Patty’s Day, a sparkly red shell at Christmas. This is where theme and logo-ed tee shirts fit into the wardrobe – they look great with chinos or jeans as long as they fit well and are clean. This is where costumes can be appropriate – leprechauns, elves, Mrs. or Santa Claus, Halloween costumes that are flattering, well constructed and tasteful.

Do NOT Wear:

Holiday color from head to toe – just because it’s St. Patrick’s Day does not mean you should wear olive cargo pants, an apple green tee shirt and a forest green vest with green sneakers. If you wouldn’t be caught dead in it on a non-holiday day, then don’t wear it on the holiday. Don’t wear ill-fitting or old/stained/dated clothing just because it is holiday-appropriate. Again, if you would not wear it on a non-holiday day… Do not wear costumes that are not age-appropriate. Yes you may have great gams for a 50 year old women, that does not give you license to dress as a French maid (and Madonna, I saw your Purim costume, I am including you in this!). Think about the crowd you will be in when planning your costume – a crowded bar is not the best place for wings, balloon “grapes” or other large pieces on a costume. If it’s cold, plan to have an appropriate cover or tights so you don’t freeze or hide your costume under a coat. On the other hand, do not wear heavy wigs, longs capes and tons of makeup if you will be in a hot or humid location – your hard work will be ruined in just a few sweaty minutes. Do not wear a garment or outfit that makes you look foolish – why wear green lipstick or a giant foam hat or a belly shirt or antenna when you normally wouldn’t – remember when there’s holidays, there are cameras. Your outfit will be forever immortalized, and often you don’t have the time to strike that small tummy/small hips pose before the flash goes off.

So after all these don’ts, how does one know what to buy? What are safe bets?

For Work:

  • Sweater, blouse, twinset or shoes in a holiday color
  • Sheer red lipstick for Valentine’s Day or Christmas
  • If you are of the appropriate elegant age, a brooch (not plastic chicken pin ) can be lovely on the label of your suit
  • Costumes only come out when you know it’s a popular act of your coworkers – then make sure they are tasteful.

For Play:

  • A dress or one piece of clothing in a holiday color
  • A costume that is well fitting, tasteful and age appropriate – if unsure, leave your costumes to Halloween.
  • Mardi Gras beads are a safe way to make your outfit more festive – they are always being passed out, and now at every holiday
  • Festive makeup – red lipstick, green eyeliner, smoky eyes. Just don’t do all of them at once.
  • Fun tee shirts – bring out the “kiss me I’m Irish” and silly references to mistletoe – these are appropriate at bars, casual parties and festivals.

Dressing For The Occasion

This weekend I attended a wedding. Weddings are difficult days to dress for. What time is the wedding? Where is it located? What religion is the couple? What is your role (or the role of your date) in this wedding? What colors are unacceptable?

What Time is The Wedding?
Etiquette states that you do not dress in formal attire until after 5pm. This means if the wedding begins before this time, one does not wear strapless, sequins, floor length or stylized updos.

The wedding I went to this weekend had a ceremony that started at 3pm with the reception at 5pm. To dress appropriate for both portions, I wore a cocktail dress with a wrap to cover up and show respect at the church. Come reception time, the wrap was left on my chair.

Safe bets for this mix are nice suits (with a skirt, or pants with dressy heels), or a sheath dress in a dark color like black, plum, burgundy.

For day weddings, attire is more varied. The basic sheath or suit is appropriate, but floral dresses, chiffon or lacy tops with skirts or dressy pants, separates (silk twinset and skirt) are appropriate.

Where is the Wedding Located?
You will dress differently if the wedding is on a beach or in a mansion. The invitation often alludes to the type of reception. For a beach wedding, wear layers as that it may be chilly. Slip dresses, dressy full trousers with a chiffon layered shell, pieces that catch the breeze, are dressy yet comfortable. Wear shoes that are easy to slip off.

For a garden wedding, again layers are in order. Forego the spike heels for a flatter shoe that won’t sink into the soft grass. Floral dresses, simple sheaths and softer fabrics help set the tone. Similar attire for a home wedding.

For a wedding at a hotel or an historical site, the dress is usually more formal. This is when the sequins can come out after 5pm.

What Religion Is The Couple?
This matters even more if the ceremony is held in a house of worship. It is a good idea to bring a wrap or cardigan to cover your shoulders out of respect. If more traditional or conservative, try to have a skirt cover your knees. Some religions frown upon women wearing pants – if you are unsure be safe and wear a skirt. Out of respect, forego plunging necklines, form fitting pieces and anything too “loud” (hot pink satin anyone?).

I’m A Reader/Guest Book Attendant/Wife of the Best Man
You will be more on display, whether you like it or not. The photographer will capture your image at least three times that day, and depending on your relation to the couple, may be in some of the group posed photographs that may end up on holiday cards and fireplace mantles across the globe.

Try to compliment the color of the wedding. If the wedding is pale celadon and ivory, do not wear bright purple. Compliment it with a muted shade like gray, tan, soft blue, soft pink, or even black (most often than not the men will be in black tuxes so you will blend). Attempting to blend or coordinate shows respect to the event and the bride’s hard planning.

As a date of an important part of the wedding, similar rules apply. Try to blend, not distract. Black and subtle colors are best. Let your date take the limelight.

What Colors Are Acceptable?
It used to be that one could not wear red for it is disrespectful. One could not wear black because it is the color of mourning. One could not wear white or ivory for fear of upstaging the bride.

Red is acceptable, though it’s not always in best taste to wear fire engine or scarlet to a wedding. Though impossible to upstage a bride, you may be drawing too much attention to yourself, when he day is about the couple and the wedding party and family. Preferred shades are garnet, bordeaux, dark ruby.

As for black, it is acceptable at any occasion. These days even brides have been known to wear the color. Black is a safe bet for a wedding, and you should always have a simple black sheath in your wardrobe for events just like this. Accessories take a black sheath from work to a day wedding to an evening wedding to a funeral with ease.

The only color that hasn’t seemed to change with the times is white. A dress can have a white background with a colorful pattern or floral, pants can be ivory or winter white with a color shell, but a solid white or ivory dress or suit is disrespectful. That is, unless the wedding has a color these and you are asked to wear all white or all ivory.

What Can Be Worn to Any Wedding?
Some dresses can go from morning wedding on the beach to black tie affair at a swanky hotel. Party of 10 or party of 1,000. Conservative family or flower children.

Colorful dresses made of silk, flattering yet not gaping neckline, feminine yet conservative hem. This color can go from day to night with the right accessories, and can be paired with a cardigan or wrap for a more conservative look.

The classic black sheath. Conservative neckline, body skimming yet not body hugging silhouette. Simple, elegant. Again, can be dressed up and down with the correct accessories.

The dressy suit. Dependent on the color or level of glitz, it may not be as appropriate for day, but if you find a brocade in a beige, taupe, silver/gray or a soft color, it will often work for both day and night dependent on the shoes (strappier for night, and of a dressy fabric) and hair (updo for night to add glamour).

The chiffon layered slip dress. Enough layers to look classy, not trashy. A matching cardigan or wrap for chill and for the church. A calf length that will look beachy with mules or snazzy with strappy satin heels.

The surplice neck dress. Surplice means wrap. These are the style of dresses that lend to having a v-neck because they wrap at the bust. Be it an actual wrap dress like the jade green confection, or a surplice style like the black georgette version, this neckline add drama without sluttiness. A little skin at the neck looks dressy and festive. Add fun sleeves, and you will be a knockout.

If you purchase wisely, you can have a dress that will work for a multitude of events in a multitude of seasons and levels of dressiness. Dress to flatter your body, not to fit a mold. Dress to feel attractive, not like a piece of furniture. Dress to impress, but not overwhelm. Shop with enough time to not get desperate and just buy any old thing that will cover some skin. Think of this event and potential future events where the dress can be worn. Consider a good dress as an investment.

Ask Allie: Plus Size Wrap Dresses

You’re always saying how flattering and versatile stretchy wrap dresses are. But as a plus sized woman I can’t find any. Well I have found a couple but they’re cheap and the neck is so big my bra shows. Can you help me find one?

Oh pish posh, there’s plenty of retailers who offer plus size wrap dresses! The thing is, when you’re a less popular size, be it tall, short, plus, very slim… well very something, you’ll have to look beyond your neighborhood strip mall to find clothing that fits and flatters. But these days, online shopping is a breeze. So many retailers offer free shipping and reasonably-priced or returns, it’s easy to create your perfect wardrobe from the comfort of your bedroom. Wrap dresses don’t have to be a true wrap; often a faux wrap will give a better fit (and more modesty on a windy day) but offer the same figure-flattering shape and versatility.  You don’t have to take all advice literally; pick and choose to find what works best with you.  Here’s some great plus size wrap dresses to update your wardrobe for spring and summer and many that will work for the majority of the year:

plus size wrap dress

Printed Plus Size Wrap Dresses

I’m not a huge prints fan, but I do like them when it comes to the occasional blouse and the occasional dress. I have a couple printed wrap dresses and find them to be the perfect go-to for work, a day wedding, a date night, and everything in between. A print camouflages lumps and bumps, and makes a statement on its own without having to think too much about accessories. A maxi wrap dress is a great piece to have in your wardrobe – it dresses up easily and is such a fun yet comfortable choice for a party or evening out.

  1. Adrianna Papell Ruched Sleeve Faux Wrap Dress
  2. IGIGI Dominique Dress
  3. Fuzzi Tulle Faux Wrap Dress
  4. Kiyonna Essential Wrap Dress (available in four prints)
  5. MYNT 1792 Jersey Wrap Maxi Dress (available in solid and print)
  6. Tiana B. for HSN Printed Faux Wrap Dress
  7. BESPOKEfit Asymmetric Mock Wrap Dress
  8. IGIGI Lindsey Dress
  9. Kiyonna Flirty Flounce Dress (available in two prints)

plus size maxi dresses

Solid Plus Size Wrap Dresses

A wrap dress in a solid color is a wardrobe workhorse. Pair with pumps for the office, switch to a sparkly necklace and statement heels for a night out, change to slingbacks and pearls for a wedding. Matte jersey and silk jersey are great choices because the fabric can dress up and down with ease. Choose one with anything from an elbow-length to bracelet-length sleeve and get wear three seasons out of the year.

  1. ASOS CURVE Wrap Dress With Bow Front In Longer Length (available in two colors)
  2. ASOS Curve Obi Wrap Dress in Longer Length
  3. Kiyonna Maritime Maxi Dress (available in three colors)
  4. Kiyonna Wrapped in Romance Dress (available in three colors)
  5. Adrianna Papell 4/4 Sleeve Wrap Dress
  6. Avenue Classic Hi Lo Wrap Dress
  7. Kiyonna Winona Hi-Low Wrap Dress (available in two colors) – I’ve borrowed this one from Gwynnie Bee and think it’s a great fit
  8. Wendy Williams for HSN Fashion Wrap Dress (available in one print and four solid colors)
  9. Pink Clove Kimono Sleeve Dress (available in two colors)

Shop More Plus Size Wrap Dresses:

Ask Allie: How to Dress for a Wedding Without a Dress Code

I have a wedding to go, and ever since the wedding where I dressed fancier than the bride (I wore a simple velvet sheath!) I have a horror of wearing the wrong thing. The wedding is at 4, with cocktails, dinner, and reception to follow, all at the same venue, an “event center.” Essentially a ballroom. I did email the bride and she just said “We don’t really have a dress code. Not black tie but not sweats and a t-shirt. Well, there’s a LOT in between there. Jersey maxidress? Sparkly mini? My feet are likely to be swollen so I’m leaning toward something I can wear flat sandals with, but other than that I’m kind of at a loss what to wear.

Event planners and brides to be… please understand that a dress code isn’t snooty or pretentious, it’s a helpful guide for loved ones who want to ensure your event is great. A specified dress code will reduce stress on your guests and ensure you don’t end up with anyone in black tie or sweats and a tee shirt!

That being said, this is the type of event where I pull out my black crepe sheath dress. Sleeveless, simple neckline, skims the figure, hits the knees; it’s simple and easy to dress up or down. For a wedding that starts at 4pm you can accessorize a dress in a multitude of ways to make it look festive yet appropriate for a crowd in khakis or a dancefloor full of sequins.  Of course, the dress does not have to be black, but it’s a color you often already have in your closet.

You mentioned the desire to wear flat sandals, and for a wedding at an event center I’d keep flat sandals to a midi to maxi length dress or skirt. While traditional jersey maxi dresses would likely be too casual for a wedding at this hour, one in matte jersey or with a chiffon overlay would be perfect and just as easy to fit in with a more casual or more dressy crowd.  Again, black is not the only color; a bright or pastel hue would be quite festive and appropriate for an August wedding.

Both types of dresses are extremely versatile. A lined sheath in crepe, triacetate, silk, or a blend can be worn to work, dressed up for a cocktail party with strappy heels and sparkly jewelry, or made more casual with nude pumps and wood accessories (see my post on how to style a black sheath four ways). A matte jersey or chiffon maxi dress can also lead multiple lives; I wore a black matte jersey maxi as the matron of honor at a relatively formal wedding, then wore to a garden wedding with gold flat sandals and even wore to a bridal shower with brown sandals and wood and leather jewelry. Not only that, these fabrics are seasonless making a dress purchased in the summer wearable for holiday parties on your event calendar!

Ask Allie: Dress Styling Assistance

I would appreciate some styling help with a few dresses I bought. Will you help me style them the way you do on your blog? That is you will talk about a garment you purchased. You will say what you will pair with it at work, for an evening out, for a more casual look.

While this reader purchased all her dresses from Lands’ End (two which are featured below), I am going to feature a few dresses that can easily be found at your local mall or online, come in a variety of sizes, and are classic silhouettes and fabrics that will make them a wardrobe staple for years to come.  My hope is that these collections will help you get outside the box with your styling, and see that one can have an extremely varied wardrobe, even if it is small and primarily wardrobe staples.

This dress comes in basic black as well as three jewel tones. This is a fabulous dress for most any woman’s wardrobe as it is of a seasonless fabric that doesn’t cling, and can dress up and down with ease. It’s a great wardrobe basic that can transition from office to happy hour, but also to a social engagement or weekend trip to the mall.

My first combination is an example for the office – simple black pumps, a statement necklace, and a handbag in a complementary shade.  No longer does your bag have to match your shoes or even something else in your wardrobe – the deep teal color is a great pair with purple, and picks up the cool tones in the necklace.

The second is a look for the weekend, sight-seeing, or a more casual office environment – the dress drapes in a feminine way which is a nice contrast to the classic riding boots.  Loop a scarf around the throat and throw a slouchy hobo-style bag over your shoulder for casual cool.

This dress would also be great for a daytime wedding – pair with a long chain for some sparkle, a statement heel, and a simple clutch to look glam yet appropriate.

Available in four neutral colors and in a fabric that works almost year-round, this is a dress that is a great addition to most any wardrobe.  The gathered detail and sleeves add style without making it too memorable, the length is elegant yet modest enough for conservative offices and houses of worship.

The first look would be lovely for the office or an elegant brunch date.  The necklace hangs low enough that it doesn’t compete with the neckline, the nude shoes let the necklace take center stage while making your legs look miles long.  The bag pulls the pieces into a true ensemble and the fringe details add a touch of whimsy.

The second look shows how you can add edge to even the most conservative garments.  A skinny leopard-print belt creates an hourglass look, and the tough cuff bracelet and booties give a rocker vibe.  Even though the accessories are pretty tough, the look is still feminine, elegant, and professional.

The final look would work at the office, or even for lunch with your girl friends.  The intense colors complement the navy shade and infuse your personality.  A soft cardigan and wedge shoes make the ensemble quite comfortable, the bag is large enough to hold everything you need while still looking fashionable.

 Another classic silhouette and versatile fabric from Lands’ End.  Ponte is one of my favorite fabrics because it’s as comfy as sweats, yet refined.  The fabric has a great drape and can dress up and down with ease.  This dress too comes in a variety of jewel tones as well as basic black.

The first look would be lovely for work, a networking event, or even a day wedding.  I have this necklace from Stella and Dot and know it makes quite a statement.  Simple peep toe heels and a snakeskin clutch keep the look elegant, simple, yet stylish.

Transform this dress into a great weekend ensemble with a quick change of accessories.  The studded bracelet and gold zipper details on the bag add tough-gal chic to the simple dress, the leopard-print flats are comfortable yet completely on trend.

For a look that would be great for the office as well as a day of errands, pops of color in suede and cashmere do the trick.  The subtle animal print in the pashmina adds depth to the dress, the cheery red kitten heels and yellow bag are fun yet completely classic.

Many shy away from brightly colored dresses because they find them to be too memorable.  I find some colors like red and pink to be an unexpected neutral that can really dress up and down easily and look so dramatically different with a switch of accessories.  This dress is a very simple silhouette that is quite comfortable and will look great in the fall with boots or come spring with sandals.

The first look would be perfect for Date Night or in a creative office environment.  The pashmina hides some of the dress detail to give it a more mdoern, clean look.  The wedge boots are tough yet sleek, the oversized bag balances out the floaty fabric of the dress.

The second look would be perfect for a casual brunch, running errands, or going to class.  The light-colored accessories really make the pink color pop without looking too dressy for daytime.

The final look would be perfect for a dinner and drinks – the long pendant modernizes the simple dress, the funky booties and clutch give the look a trendy and eclectic vibe.


These collections are merely suggestions – while creating the Polyvore sets I wanted to make dozens more outfits.  Once you start thinking outside the box you will find that classic pieces like these dresses are quite versatile and give you the ability to get very creative with your styling.  If you purchase quality pieces in classic silhouettes, you don’t have to purchase as much each season to stay current.  A quick change of accessories can completely transform your entire closet!

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