Search Results for: label/Fashion and Age

Age is But a Number

Age is but a number.

Really people, it is. It’s not a euphemism that allows adults to wear Care Bear shirts and skip across the parking lot to Starbucks, but it isn’t a steadfast bar where you have to adjust your life to fit it.

I spent my lunch in Borders, pouring over fashion magazines while enjoying an iced coffee. Bazaar (which ya’ll know is one of my very favorite fashion magazines) had an article about Diane von Furstenberg (who is one of my very favorite designers).

Diane von Furstenberg is 60, beautiful, sexy and confident. She shows skin, wears her hair long, attends interviews with a face free of makeup and wears garments many would say should be reserved for her younger clients.

All of this, yet the woman exudes amazing style, confidence and class. Why? She isn’t adhering to a number, but to her self. She knows what works and what doesn’t by having a good relationship with her body and her mind. She doesn’t feel that since she hit a certain age bracket she now needs to dress in Chanel suits and sensible heels. Look at the pictures above – that is not “typical” attire for a woman in her 60s yet on von Furstenberg, it is perfect and stylish.

My friend is 29 and used to be a manager of a Talbots store. She was always amazed at the type of people who bought the different styles of clothing the company carried. It was as though once a woman hit 40, she felt as though she must own a pair of cropped capris with embroidered palm trees all over them. Pink polo shirts, quirky capris and uber-comfortable conservative slides and sandals seemed to be the expected uniform of that age, especially if she had children. She would suggest alternatives that seemed to fit the person’s figure and personality better – soft knits, shirtdresses, stronger colors but they usually refused, saying they were too old for anything but the standard conservative prep uniform.

Now for some, this look is cute and appropriate. However for most, it is stupid and well… corny. It’s the same with the over-50 set who feels she is now expected to dress completely in the Chico’s Travelers collection. The closet is full of slinky black pieces that drape all over, pulled together with an artistic and bold necklace or hip belt. Again, fabulous look on some, but totally wrong on many.

When my mom was growing up, she remembered very specific styles that every female HAD to have in her closet. A charcoal piped blazer, a circle skirt, a pencil skirt, a tucked in white blouse. All pieces that looked horrific on her petite curvy frame. Luckily, style is not so rigid anymore, and one can truly walk a mall (or surf the Internet) and find pieces that fit one’s personal style AND figure.

Age-appropriate dressing usually has to do with how much skin you are exposing. The thing is, a 55-year old woman who is a marathon runner and yoga enthusiast can better carry off a little silk sundress and strappy heels than a 21-year old woman who has a few more curves. A curvy woman in her 20s often has firmer arms and décolletage than a woman in her 40s, and then can more easily carry off a strapless top with a plunging neckline. So it’s not as much about how much skin you are showing, but what type of skin you are showing.

In my 20s, I was less concerned with my torso showing and often wore tops that hit right at the waistband. However I was less comfortable with my upper body and chose short sleeves over straps and wore higher necklines so not to expose any cleavage. I wore looser pants feeling that my bum was too round, and never wore skirts for thinking my legs were too thick. Now in my 30s, I wear lower necklines to elongate my body and accentuate my curves; I love skirts and dresses because they show off my feminine shape and find that slimmer fitting jeans make me look smaller and taller. It’s not about changing my wardrobe because I hit a new decade in my life, but changing my wardrobe according to my relationship with my current body, my lifestyle, my career.

There are some style I am drawn to but choose not to wear because of my lifestyle and profession more than my age (gosh if I was independently wealthy I think I may get a Mohawk and re-pierce my nose) but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be worn by anyone. I have a former coworker who is in her 40s. She loves working out and has a great toned body, a short spiky black hairdo, wears a lot of eyeliner, sports a few tattoos and looks amazing in jeans and a ribbed tank. Because of her personality and her lifestyle (musician and makeup artist) it doesn’t look foolish, it doesn’t look as though she is attempting to be younger, she seems comfortable in her skin and expressing her personality. I have an old college friend who is the opposite. She is 30 years old, wears very conservative and subtle attire. She looks at home in knee-length tweed skirts, cashmere turtlenecks, conservative suits and clothes often associated with a teacher or librarian. She is never without her pearls or her classic style of Coach purse and always looks confident, feminine and chic. She works in a conservative field and even in college when we attended frat parties, she arrived in crisp khakis, a button-down shirt and loafers. No one mocked her because this is what made her… well her!

One can be in beautiful clothing yet still not be considered well dressed. One can dress appropriately for her age group, but still look inappropriate. The only way to truly achieve style is to know yourself. A good way is by answering the questions below, then reading them aloud. You may be surprised by your answers…

  • Who is your favorite artist?
  • Why?
  • Who is your favorite musician?
  • Why?
  • Looking at all the colors in a box of Crayola crayons, what color are you drawn to?
  • Why?
  • What wardrobe item from your past do you remember most fondly?
  • Why?
  • What female celebrity’s style do you admire most?
  • Why?
  • Where would you go for a dream vacation?
  • Why?
  • What color did you want to paint your childhood bedroom?
  • Your first residence when you moved out on your own?
  • What is your favorite movie or play?
  • Why?
  • If you had a free weekend, what would you do with it?
  • When you are in a meeting or seminar, do you ever doodle or write during the lecture?
  • If so, what?
  • What is your favorite holiday?
  • Why?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What are the five most important things in your life (things being actual things, people, beliefs, anything)?
  • What item in your current wardrobe makes you feel:
  • Beautiful?
  • Fun?
  • Powerful?
  • Feminine?
  • Boring?
  • Uncomfortable?

You and your best friend could answer these questions and both have completely different answers. Your favorite shopping buddy, the one you always borrow clothes from will most likely have different answers from you. This is why though you may have similar frames and similar tastes, a dress will look great on her but not quite right on you. This is why a dress can seem slutty on one woman, and seem chic on another, even though they are the same age and size.

Take your answers and make them into a paragraph, a short story about you and only you. This is who you are, not who you are trying to portray, who you attempt to be at work, what your social groups expect from you.

Think about a woman you know who you think has great style. Why? Is it just because she accessorizes well, or is it what she accessorizes with? Is it the clothing, or the combination of clothing and her shape and personality? Often times, we are attracted to those who have style that is flattering to their figure, but also their personality. We admire the woman at church who always seems so feminine and pulled together. She wears soft colors and fabrics that match her sweet and gentle demeanor. We admire our hairdresser who wears combat boots, a vintage dress and a blue streak in her hair, yet walks down the street as though she is Grace Kelly. We notice the corporate powerhouse at the intersection on her Blackberry. Her perfect blonde highlights, the expertly tailored gray pantsuit accented by amazing snakeskin heels. Her whole demeanor exudes confidence and strength. Imagine what they would write in their short story, and think how your appearance is assisting you with your story.

Yes, one should respect social norms – don’t attend a wedding in a strapless bright red leather mini dress, don’t attend a cocktail party in cargo shorts, don’t go to a client meeting in flip flops and yoga pants. Also respect your personal beliefs – if you feel that as a woman you should and should not wear certain things, then by of course adhere to that – this is what makes up your personal story. But outside of that, respecting your figure, your lifestyle, your personality… those are the rules to having great style. Just ask Diane von Furstenberg!

Ask Allie: SAHM Capsule Wardrobe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Age, Size, and a Limited Wardrobe

The other day I was driving to work and thinking about Project 333. I was wearing my awesome fun printed maxi skirt, and sad that I couldn’t logically include it in a hypothetical 33 garments for three months because it’s not very versatile.

If I were thin and young, it could be versatile.

If I were 22 and a size 6, I could hike that maxi skirt up over my breasts, cinch it with a belt and wear it to a party. I could tie a chambray or white shirt over it for a summery look to wear to brunch with my girl friends. Heck, I could even pair it in that manner with a blazer or cardigan and sport it at the office.

But I am 38, and I am a very soft and curvy size 12, and I can’t carry those looks off and be seen as professional or polished, two things that matter to me in my lifestyle.

Lately, I have shared many capsule wardrobes on the blog. I do find thinking in a capsule mindset helps one to buy with thought and intention, to purchase quality instead of quantity, and have a hard working wardrobe that fits and flatters one’s body and lifestyle. But capsules aren’t always realistic for all women.

I am trying to pare down my wardrobe, buy what I need, quality that will last, styles that will survive more than a season or two, brands with ethics. But sometimes, you just need a crazy printed maxi skirt in your life. To me, the maxi skirt is the equivalent of nail art, vanity plates on a car, more than one pair of glasses. It’s flair (yes I had to link to that clip). It’s what makes me me, it’s what makes me happy.

For some people, joy comes from gardening. For others, they get such a rush from driving down an open road on a motorcycle. My husband gets great pleasure from cooking, especially grilling. And me? I like fashion. I like color and texture and shape. I like the creative and artistic aspect of fashion. I don’t have time to paint and do stained glass, my creative outlets are this blog… and my closet.

This doesn’t mean I will shop willy-nilly buying every cheerfully colored frock that fits this body, but it means that there’s nothing wrong with adjusting to accommodate not just my body, but my soul. I believe in shopping with intention, I don’t believe in going in debt for a wardrobe. I believe in purchasing quality over quantity, but I don’t believe in sacrificing your happiness to do so. I believe in honing one’s personal style to gain confidence, and I believe each person has a different path to get there.


My path is decorated with brightly patterned maxi skirts.

This will not be the last post on Project 333.  As you can tell, it’s giving me so much food for thought and it’s really forcing me to analyze my shopping habits.  Stay tuned…

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Talbots Spring 2015 Collection: A Second Glance

The other day I was talking to a coworker about how some brands have really dropped in quality and where we go for wardrobe staples. She’s younger than I, stylish with a classic nod but a great use of color and accessories (and a leopard fan like me). She admitted than not only does she shop a lot at Talbots, but the pants she was wearing, a trim well-fitting ankle length pant in navy, were from the store. She reminded me that right now Talbots is having 25% off everything (sale ends March 8th) so I went and took a second look at their spring selection. Talbots sent me their spring lookbook back in January but nothing really wowed me enough to share here on the blog (unlike their fall collection which knocked my socks off). A second look made me realize it wasn’t that I didn’t love the collection, I just didn’t love how the pieces were styled together. Seeing the line in the stores and online separated makes me realize how great their spring line is. My favorites:

talbots spring 2015 stripes

Seeing Stripes

I always love a good striped top or dress; it’s a classic pattern that looks so crisp and fresh. The Talbots Striped Envelope-Shoulders Shift is a perfect dress to transition from now to spring. The interlock knit can pair now with tights, boots, and an infinity scarf for cozy style; come spring pair with chunky-heel sandals for Casual Friday or wear on the weekend with tennis shoes. The gold zipper detail make it look luxe. The ivory/indigo combo is a classic, but I actually think the green/indigo combo would get more wear. Imagine it paired with yellow, turquoise, orange, or hot pink!

The Colorblock & Stripes Dress is a more casual style that would look great with a denim jacket and brown boots or canvas sneakers. I’d wear it with a chambray shirt tied around the waist for interest and to highlight the smallest part of my torso.

I noticed the Pima Cotton Boatneck Tee when researching for my recent capsule wardrobe post and it has still caught my eye. I like that it’s a bright blue instead of the classic navy or black stripe; it would look great paired with white jeans or shorts, but also with khaki, green, and navy. The neckline is begging to showcase a fabulous necklace!

The Blocked Stripes Tee is a fun alternative to the classic Breton tee. With three buttons down the back and the switch in stripe color, this knit top makes a statement all by itself and is a great upgrade to stretched out and faded tees and jersey tops from last year and would look great with a navy blazer and white or denim jeans.

talbots spring 2015 peach ivory blush

Pastel Power

It’s funny, I’m not a big pastels gal… until I see them paired with black and/and white. We’re so used to black and white with jewel tones and primaries so the unexpected combination really looks fresh and modern. Peach is not a color I usually wear, but Talbots’ use of that color, blush, and coral with crisp white and bold black is something I would confidently wear.

The Shadow Box Pleated Skirt alone is… fine. On their site it’s styled with a black short-sleeved sweater that is nice, but nothing to write home about. I saw it and imagined it with their denim shirt or a black and white striped top and a shoe in an unexpected color like the  ‘Camilla’ in Murano Glass. Then I saw the combination above in the PDF supplement to their lookbook and was thinking with a switch of shoes I’d rock it in a heartbeat. Oh the power of a crisp white shirt!

I love pale ivory and white suiting, it’s so elegant and timeless. I’m also a fan of a longer jacket, as evidenced by this post and this post. I completely bypassed this look at first glance because of the styling; while I like it with the pale peach, I think the choice of scarf, bag, and shoes makes it look matronly. Switch out the shoes for a pointed flat in nude patent, the bag for one with more structure, and get rid of the scarf to let the graphic shape of the jacket shine. For those who aren’t feeling the pastels, imagine switching out the top for dove gray, navy, black, or even tan. The jacket would look great over a dress or paired with pants of a different color; the trousers are a length and cut that would look amazing with everything from a simple knit or twinset to a tunic or untucked blouse.

talbots spring 2015 black and white

Black and White and Fab All Over

Talbots’ Long Colorblocked Sweater Jacket is calling my name! So simple, so chic, so versatile. But again, the styling had me miss its beauty first go-round. The round-neck top underneath and the choice of short statement necklace kills the pretty neckline; paired with a lower V- or round-neck or even a collared cotton shirt would better showcase this detail. I’d like to see this paired with a black skirt or an ivory dress which I think would give a modern feel. However, I think this sweater would look equally as nice with a pair of jeans and a black and ivory or red/papaya and ivory striped tee.

These striped pants are not yet available on the Talbots site. Styled with a white tank, v-neck tunic, and oblong scarf the outfit looks like a costume someone would have worn a couple decades ago on a cruise ship. But take those pants and pair them with a black shell and blazer, a sleeveless black silk tank and bold silver statement necklace, a jade green cashmere tee and gold bracelets, a blush pink wrap sweater and a pearl necklace, a crisp white shirt and statement shoes in a bold color or print… the pants are suddenly awesome. I’d rock the heck out of them now with a black cashmere turtleneck and ankle boots.

talbots spring 2015 florals

Groundbreaking Florals for Spring

Can’t help it, every time I think of florals I remember that quote from The Devil Wears Prada! And while floral dresses for spring aren’t anything new, they are always lovely and quite versatile. From baby showers to Easter parades, to brunch with your in-laws, a floral frock is a great piece to have in your wardrobe. I’m not much into flowers but I have to admit Talbots’ florals this season have a bit of edge and style to them to keep them from looking Minnie Pearl.

The Gladiola-Print Sateen Dress was styled in the lookbook with gold heels, a pale blush clutch, a sparkly gold and crystal statement necklace and an updo that was just too much of everything. I found this photo on Talbots’ Pinterest board and it made me realize how lovely this dress truly is. Personally, I’d forego a necklace and have a simpler bracelet to let the dress truly shine. While the coral-colored shoes do match, again I’d let the dress steal the show and pair it with nude or black patent heels; maybe highlight the coral with your lipstick or flushed cheeks. Sometimes, less is more.

I normally wouldn’t like the Sunflower Lace Sheath. I didn’t love it on the site, but when I was able to find a high-res photo and examine it more closely, I saw the details which make this a very pretty and flattering dress. The hem and sleeves are scalloped, not hemmed. The neckline isn’t a high jewel, but has a lower scoop that elongates the neck. The lace is truly lacey and not eyelet, giving a delicate and more timeless feel. I think the Misty Sage may be a hard color for many to wear (though could be a great option for a Mother of the Bride who is looking for such a color), the blue and pink are quite pretty and could work with nude or soft metallic shoes and a bit of jewelry to add a personal touch.

This blue floral dress is utterly amazing. At time of posting it is not yet available on the Talbots website, but as soon as it is I will be trying it. The flowers are at the perfect place to create an hourglass shape, the neckline is a flattering depth, and this is a dress that could be worn to work with a cardigan and pumps or a weekend affair with a change to dressier shoes and a little sparkle on the wrist. I bet it would also look great with a skinny black patent belt.

talbots spring 2015 dresses

The Not-so Little Not-black Dress

After a long winter, it’s refreshing to be able to bare the legs (or almost bare them with very sheer hose) and don a cheery spring color. Talbots has some spectacular dresses that flatter and are in colors that scream spring.

The Wrap Bodice Dress is ah-may-zing. I noticed it first when researching for that capsule wardrobe post, but I think I need it in my life. I love how it whittles the waist without being tight, and how it is so versatile. I’m usually a navy or black dress gal, but this Delphinium Blue is making me smile; I’d likely wear it with my nude pointy-heel pumps and some gold at the wrist but this dress could easily carry a statement necklace, printed scarf, or shoe in a bold hue.

The Crepe Fit and Flare Dress is that perfect versatile dress. Wear with a skinny belt and flats to the office, then switch out for a sparkly necklace and heels for an after-work event. The picture above is in the Geranium color which is pretty, but may not be as versatile; the dress also comes in cobalt and black.

Hello pockets! I love the classic feminine shape of the Cotton Sateen Fit-and-Flare Dress. This could be worn to work with a cardigan, to brunch with flats, or could be dressed up with soft metallic heels and a clutch. Don’t be afraid to switch out the self-belt for one in a contrast color, print, or even use an oblong scarf. While black is a safe bet, the other tropical colors in this material could be quite versatile and a breath of fresh spring air. This dress is classic enough that it would become a staple in your wardrobe for many years to come.

I saw the Ponte Fit and Flare Dress online and thought it was a bit frumptastic. Then I saw the picture above and it seemed to better show the shape of the dress. Also, on this model the dress doesn’t seem to end at a bad point on the leg. A classic shape with pockets (!!!) and a fabric that can be worn year-round, this is a great wardrobe staple. Wear now with a cardigan, tights, and boots; come spring pair with chunky-heel sandals, pointed-toe slingbacks, or pumps and the accessory of your choice.

***

Talbots’ fashions are available in regular, petite, women, and women petite sizes. As a reminder, Talbots has 25% off their entire collection through March 8th. No code needed, it will be automatically deducted in your shopping cart. If you shop in-store, Talbots has partnered with Dress for Success and are accepting donations of gently-worn office-appropriate clothing. Your clothing donation will be used to benefit women who aspire to transition into the workforce and pursue economic independence.  What a wonderful way to help fellow women while updating your closet!

Fashion By Decade

Ask Allie: Interview Attire to Cover a Tattoo

I’m graduating college in the next couple months, and I realized I don’t have any work appropriate clothes! My field of study was Graphic Design, so the creative arts is where I’m headed for sure….only problem is, I’m not sure if my new employers are all gung-ho about me having a tattoo on my arm. What would be a few outfits that would be decent for career hunting in the creative field, that would hide my forearm tattoo? I don’t want to look like a stuffy person with just suit jackets galore.

How exciting, what a crazy time for you! I wish you the best in your last semester and much luck on the job hunting process! I’m glad you are considering this; while tattoos have become quite common in all sorts of fields, there are still many who don’t fully understand or appreciate them. A first interview is time to dress to sell your skills, not your sense of personal style.

As soon as I read your submission, I thought wrap dresses! From Target to the creator of this style of dress, Diane von Furstenberg, a wrap dress is chic and office appropriate. Be it a bracelet-length sleeve that covers the tattoo but lets the wrists show, or a long sleeve, such a dress would be great for a creative interview and works all year round. An alternative is the shirtdress; if not too casual of a silhouette (keep the chambray and shirttails for once you have the job and look for something more tailored and polished) it can look sophisticated and stylish for your interview.

An alternative dress is the sheath or shift dress. A sheath has a more fitted silhouette, a shift can vary from a bit of tailoring to being more sack-like. If choosing a shift, I’d stick with one with a bit of tailoring for a cleaner and more professional feel. Either style of dress with bracelet or long sleeves is elegant and on trend. It can be left simple, or personalized with a great necklace or scarf.

Not all jackets are stuffy and suit-like. One of the best ways to relax a blazer is to break it from its matching skirt or pants. A white or ivory jacket with black pants can look modern and hip, a black jacket over a printed dress loses its boardroom feel.

But don’t feel you have to stick to classic suiting blazers. A cropped swing jacket, trench-inspired jacket, or a moto jacket can be a fantastic alternative, especially when interviewing in the creative arts field. I once interviewed a woman for my non-creative arts company who wore a gray knit moto jacket over a black sheath dress. Paired with tall black boots and a modern silver necklace, the look was stylish, unique, but still appropriate at my more conservative office.

 
For details on the specific pieces seen in the graphics, visit my Polyvore account.

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Ask Allie: Interview Outfit Advice

I am interviewing for my medical residency postgraduate training position and had a fashion query. I got these really flattering black pants from Ann Taylor but wasn’t really comfortable with the short length of the blazer for they didn’t cover my bum; would a boyfriend blazer work or would it be too casual?

A true “boyfriend” blazer is oversized. The name comes from some outdated idea that women are smaller than their obviously male partners and if we put on their clothes, we’d find them oversized and slouchy. A “boyfriend” blazer often has rolled sleeves, shoulder pads, and a squarer shape, along with being longer (often hitting low hips to below the rear). A true “boyfriend” blazer wouldn’t be the best choice for your interview as it would be too casual.

However, you provided a link to two blazers that while they are called “boyfriend” by the company, they actually are not. These jackets are tailored with seaming to nip in at the waist, proper buttons, and look to hit mid-hip. If in a more refined fabric (classic suiting, gabardine, wool, triacetate, etc.) such a style would be quite appropriate for your interview.

Since the piece comes from a different retailer, instead of trying to have both in the same color, consider purposeful contrast. This way it won’t look mismatched. Since your trousers are black, consider a jacket in taupe, tweed, dark plum, even ivory or cream. If you choose a lighter color jacket, be sure it is well-fitting and consider a dark-colored or black blouse underneath to make the look more professional and cohesive.

I just bought a great black pantsuit but have no idea what to wear underneath. What looks more sophisticated for an interview, a button-front shirt, a silky tee, or a knit shell? Do I have to tuck it in?

All three are great choices, dependent on the actual piece, your body, and the interview. Button-front shirts can give a crisp, professional look if you have the figure. I don’t recommend them for interviews if you are busty or have a soft belly as they can be unflattering and gape when you sit. However if you have the personality or figure for such a shirt, it’s a classic choice; I recommend tucking it in for a professional look.

Silk tees, blouses, and knit shells are all great choices for interviews. This doesn’t mean a refined tee shirt, an old sleeveless sweater with fuzz balls on it, or a red satin blouse. Something that is in crisp, pristine condition, a professional silhouette (no cleavage or skin tight), and a flattering color.

Speaking of color… color is a GOOD thing! What you wear under your suit is a good way to show your personality. Be it a frilly ivory blouse, a pink cashmere tee, crisp gray button-front, or a dark red silk knit tank, it’s a simple way to add some of you to your interview look.


My boyfriend bought me [statement necklace from J. Crew] and I love it. Can I wear it with a gray pantsuit and pink shell for a job interview?

I suggest you don’t. While the necklace is gorgeous and on trend… it’s a bit too trendy for an interview. While I do encourage you to wear jewelry and add a bit of yourself to your interview outfit, a necklace that makes such a bold statement may speak louder than you and your resume. Who you are and what you can offer to the company is the priority during an interview; you don’t want to look as though you care more about what you wear than what you say. Consider a smaller, or less flamboyant necklace to add a bit of interest, but not take the spotlight.

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Ask Allie: Boho Chic at the Workplace

I love the boho style, but I’m a 35-year-old teacher and want to implement this in my work-wear. I already do a lot of maxi skirts and loose cardigans (I have even managed to dress up my tie-dye skirts that I wore to music festivals this summer!). Any other suggestions?

As a fellow festie and boho style lover, I totally get the vibe you’re trying to get. And I respect that you’re wishing to make your boho style be appropriate for your career. Boho fashion gets a bad rap for being unprofessional, but I feel with careful styling it can work in a school setting without having you look like a leftover hippie.  A few tips:

Example outfits to show how you can balance boho style with a workplace look.  
  • With the first ensemble, a drapey chiffon tank and broomstick skirt are tempered with a structured knit blazer.  Granny boots and a fringy infinity scarf keep the look boho without being extreme.  
  • The second look provides an example on how to make printed maxi dresses work for the office; a wrap sweater in one of the brighter colors will tone down the print.  Gold jewelry and a pashmina at the throat draw attention away from the dress and pull together the office-friendly boho ensemble.  
  • The third ensemble is likely something you already wear; choosing a monochromatic look makes the outfit feel more professional and polished.  ‘
  • The final ensemble is another example of how to incorporate a boho skirt and also temper a print with solids.

Be Subtle with Color. A maxi skirt, flowing cardigan, and tunic can look Mrs. Frizzle if you’re not careful with color choice. Very bright colors can look cartoonish, while all black can appear goth. Soft neutrals (gray, taupe, ivory, navy, olive) are safe bets and give a boho vibe while making drapey fabrics seem lighter. A monochromatic look (all shades of blue, all shades of teal) is a tasteful way to incorporate bolder hues.

Condition Matters. When you wear a boho look, it’s imperative that each piece is in excellent condition. With drapey fabrics and asymmetrical hemlines, it’s already easy to look sloppy; any frayed edge or worn spot will be even more obvious with such a personal style. Keep the weathered skirts for the festivals, and only wear the best condition pieces to work.

Balance with Accessories. A boho look is more acceptable in the workplace if you accessorize with care. Keep the Birkenstoks and weathered cowboy boots at home, and invest in well-structured leather flats, booties, and tall boots. A pair of gray suede tall boots will make your personal style more Stevie Nicks than wookie; ankle booties are a hot trend this season and they look fantastic with skirts of every length as well as tucked under looser pants. Stick to neutrals that complement your wardrobe – brown, gray, black, tan. Be sure they are polished and reheeled when necessary to maintain a refined look.

Along those lines, be careful with accessories. Along with the Birks, leave your jingly bracelets and fringy scarves at home if you’re wearing maxi skirts and loose cardigans. Balance the drape with a more solid cuff bracelet or necklace, consider modern-feeling leather and metal hip belts in place of a chain, smaller earrings with a more modern feel, bold pendants in place of beaded loops. If you wish to wear the craftier accessories, pair them with simpler and more classic clothing.

Balance Drape with Structure. I love blazers and jackets because they can make most things look polished. Balance a drapey maxi dress with a fitted leather blazer, full pants and a flowing tank with a blazer (roll the sleeves for a more relaxed look), a broomstick skirt with a belted soft blazer. I have a black blazer from The Limited that I purchased almost a decade ago and wear almost weekly because it has structure yet curved edges so it looks right with maxi skirt and softer lines.

Minimize Prints. If you choose to wear a printed dress or skirt, be sure to balance it with solids so your style doesn’t scream flower child. Pashminas and infinity scarves are a great way to stick to your boho roots while tempering patterns.

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Winter Weather and Commuting: Style Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Wear Wardrobe Classics with This Fall’s Trends

I really promote having a closet of wardrobe classics here at Wardrobe Oxygen, but I think it’s also important to add zest to your sartorial staples with seasonal trends that catch your fancy. This fall, there are so many trends that are extremely wearable and can really add interest to your wardrobe classics. Here’s a few of this season’s trends that I think will update all the basics in your closet!

 

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Leather Jacket

Leather is hot hot hot this fall, and I couldn’t be happier. I have already added two leather skirts to my wardrobe this season, and am looking for a leather jacket and possibly a leather top. While all leather is en vogue right now, a leather jacket is a piece that will not update your wardrobe for the season, but can easily become a wardrobe classic for many seasons to come.

A leather jacket is more of an investment piece – while there are many faux versions on the market, most of them look like faux, and they don’t insulate and fight wind as well as leather. Also a real leather jacket will age nicely, getting softer and molding to your figure. If you choose a style that is either pretty simple and streamlined or incredibly unique (signature color, exaggerated details, etc.) this can be a piece you wear for years.

Biker-inspired jackets are back en vogue though they never really left the fashion scene. A blazer is also a great look that is trendy now and will still be stylish next winter. While black is always chic, this is a great season to try an unexpected hue like oxblood or dark green. Pair with everything from knits and jeans on the weekend to using as a blazer to toughen up office-appropriate sheath dresses.

Cap Toe Shoes

I saw this trend start earlier this year and was pretty excited. I love when fashion grabs hold of a trend that is extremely simple to replicate at any pricepoint. The small addition of a cap to a pair of heels or flats take them from ordinary to extraordinary. While this is a popular trend for fall, it’s not necessarily one that will be seen as passé in a couple months’ time. I recently splurged on a pair of suede Mary Janes with a gold cap toe, but I have seen cap toe shoes everywhere from Chanel to Payless. Not only that, you can DIY a pair of cap toe shoes quite easily! I do recommend if these shoes are for the corporate environment to spend a bit more – cheap shoes often look that way, wear more quickly, and you can lose credibility or authority speaking to clients in cheap-looking shoes.

Wear cap toe shoes in place of your traditional flats or heels – a pop of color or shine will add depth to your classic ensemble. I love the look of tone on tone cap toes, it’s a great alternative to a classic leather ballet flat!

Wine-colored Lips

It is amazing how lipstick can completely transform not only one’s face but her entire ensemble. Adding a new color of lipstick to your beauty routine will quickly give a new life to your wardrobe classics. This season lips are the color of wines – deep reds, dark berries, and rich plums. While glosses were hot for the summer, this fall lips are more creamy. Stain balms, creamy or matte lipsticks and lip crayons take center stage; pack up your high-shine glosses and shimmery sticks for spring. Lipsticks can come at most any pricepoint, and I do find that department store brands do usually have longer wear and are better to your lips, but there’s some great drugstore products out there that will let you try this trend for less. I have the Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Romance (deep red) and Crush Begun (dark wine) and love them for their longevity, and of-the-moment stain with a hint of shine look.

Colored Skinny Jeans

This summer brought denim in candy colors, this fall the colored denim trend has continued but with shades more appropriate for the season of falling leaves. Skinny stretchy jeans in Bordeaux, navy, dark green, mustard and brown are being paired with slouchy sweaters and ballet flats, blazers and booties, and knits with tall boots. This is a trend that can easily transform your closet of wardrobe staples without paying an arm and a leg. While colored jeans are available from most any designer at all sorts of pricetags, I am a fan of the Old Navy Rockstar skinny jeans – at less than $30 they can help you update your wardrobe classics for very little money.

 

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Dressing for Your Interview

Job interview… those two words can create all sorts of fear and loathing in people. Having to sell yourself, but not too hard. Make a good impression, try not to have sweaty palms, fidgety hands, spinach in your teeth. And then of course, what on earth are you to wear???

Job interview attire used to be as predictable as a military uniform: a suit, preferably navy. For women, a skirt that came to a conservative length, sheer hose, sensible pumps. Little makeup, simple hair, one small accessory, no perfume. You are to show class, intelligence, sensibility and are of course selling your brain and skills, not your sense of style.

In this day and age, interviews are not so cut and dry. Yes, there are interviews that take place in a conference room where you are surrounded by bigwigs who are trying to stump you while seeing if you are a good fit for their company. Some interviews are still conducted on opposite sides of a large mahogany desk, but many are far different. Sitting in a Starbucks yesterday, I saw three separate interviews taking place. Went into the neighboring Barnes and Noble and saw a fourth. When I worked in retail we often had interviews as auditions – have the potential employee spend an hour on the floor and see how she interacted with clients and worked under pressure. When recruiting management, interviews often took place over a salad at California Pizza Kitchen or a latte at the Nordstrom Espresso Bar. With the variety of job and interview styles, so is there a variety of interview attire.

Just as with a wedding or any other special event, you often get fashion clues by the locale. You wouldn’t wear the same thing to an evening wedding at an historic mansion that you would for a daytime wedding at a strawberry farm, you shouldn’t wear the same thing for an interview at Starbucks for a start-up ad company that you would for an IT job with the government at the CIO’s office.

A few basics, no matter the type of interview…

Shoes:
Unless you are applying for a very creative field, shoes should be sensible – no spiky heels, straps, funky wedges or adornments. Unless you know the culture of this company, I suggest being safe and wearing a closed-toe shoe. I mention a classic pair of black leather pumps in my staples – these are the perfect shoe to wear on most any interview with any style of dress. If you are not a pumps person, a heeled loafer, a sleek boot with at least a kitten heel, or a closed-toe t-strap heel can look stylish and sophisticated. I would shy away from wearing flats with your suit – this is a time where you want to look confident and have great posture. Heels, even a slight one can provide that bit of lift that will add to your overall appeal.

Bag:
As for your bag, your best bet is a sleek and simple tote – large enough to hold your resume, planner, cell and lipstick for a touchup, but nothing so bulky that you look as though you plan on staying for the weekend. I have a black leather tote I bought on sale at J. Crew over five years ago – the straps are stiff and work well over the shoulder or held in the hand. It is an open-top style with a zippered center dividing compartment. It looks professional enough to double as a briefcase, but stylish enough to work as a regular purse and compliment my attire. Make sure your bag as well as your shoes are polished and in the best of shape – people do judge one on her shoes and bag. If you don’t have this sort of bag, consider borrowing one from a friend for the day. If you require a laptop for your interview, try to attend the interview with just your laptop bag (tuck your necessities in the side pockets and leave your purse at home or in the car) so you give off an efficient and low-maintenance vibe.

Hair:
Keep it simple, and keep it fitting with your personality. If you are a long layered lady, there’s no need to pull it into a severe bun. I have been the one to interview ISDs and Sr. Project Managers for the military and government agencies, and the one to hire a makeup artist or personal shopper. In every field, it is good to see you have a bit of personality and a human touch. Stay away from accessories like clips and headbands and bows, if you want to hold your hair back do so with a hair-colored elastic or very subtle barrette. Keep it soft – no severe slicked back styles, fancy bangs, super-gelled curls. You want to be attractive, but not look as though you’re trying to attract attention.

Cosmetics:
A bit of makeup finishes a polished look. If you are not one to usually wear makeup, consider a touch of concealer and a tinted lip balm just to look finished. If you are a cosmetic-holic like moi, tone it down a bit for the big day. Stay away from shimmers, sheens and metallics. Eye shadows should be subtle, and neutral shades like taupe and khaki. Blush should look like a natural flush and no more, mascara should darken and lengthen but not be obvious, and lips should be a natural hue – a pinky brown works on most every skintone and in a subtle gloss or dewy lipstick will be pretty yet professional.

As for perfume, I do agree it can be distracting and unprofessional. If you feel naked without your fragrance, consider a light body spray or only half the application of your usual fragrance. Nothing is worse than a stuffy conference room with the smell of dry-erase markers, coffee, carpet cleaner and Chanel no. 5. When I have had been interviewed or interviewed others, I have switched out my signature Burberry London for Bath and Body Works’ Breathe Energy body spray, applied only to my collarbone and upper arms. This gives enough so that there is a fresh, attractive scent but cannot be smelled unless in very close proximity to me.

Your hands will be on display, shaken multiple times, at rest on the desk or table and often times will be in motion as you speak. Keep them cared for – moisturize a few hours beforehand so they are soft but not greasy. Give yourself a mini-manicure but keep your polish colors very subtle. A soft pink is always a safe bet – your natural color, only prettier. The Americanized version of the French Manicure (stark white tips, pink or tan opaque nail) is not sophisticated. I have often wondered about a woman’s true personality when I see the long thick acrylic tips with the chalk-white tips and have heard supervisors snark on interviewees who have had such nails. It is considered the equivalent of a dark orange Mystic Tan, an anklet or frosted hair in many circles. Consider what impression you are giving the next time you go for your bi-weekly fill in and polish touchup. Sometimes natural is better.

Accessories:

Remember that what you are selling at an interview is you, not your outfit. Accessories should be kept to a minimum, having at most one piece that is strong. A necklace that compliments the colors of your outfit, a brooch, a solitary bangle, an elegant watch. For the interview, consider leaving at home your jingly charm bracelet, your multiple small necklaces you have received as gifts, your many rings, your toe rings, anklets and any timepieces that are very trendy or athletic-inspired.

What to Bring:
Bring your planner or Blackberry so you can schedule a possible second interview (or even your start date!) on the spot. Have a nice looking pen (no chewed ends or logos from your local Curves or Realtor) to use, and have a notepad either in the planner or separate to take notes and jot down dates and numbers. Bring a copy of your resume – the resume they may have received via Monster or another job search website will be covered with ads and weird graphics and it is always nice to receive a fresh copy (on nice resume paper) to review during the meeting. I place mine in a blank envelope to keep it protected. Bring your cell or Blackberry, but put it on vibrate or turn it off during the interview. Have powder and lipstick for a quick touchup in the car or lobby before entering the establishment. If you are asked to bring a portfolio, ensure it is in top-notch condition, current and professional. References aren’t asked for as often as they were in the past, but it’s good to have a second envelope ready with references if you are asked to submit them.

A few ideas for a few different fields and interview styles…

Interview at the Corporate Office:
This is the time for the true “interview suit”. Unlike the past where only certain suits were apropos, there is more leniency in what colors and styles are acceptable.

A skirt seemed to be standard and proper, but now women are able to express power in trousers as well. Do not feel that you need to wear a skirt; however if you prefer a skirt hose is a necessity. A sheer pair is a good choice year-round. Black hose can seem either tartish or dowdy – they are not as basic as they were a few years ago. If you wear black hose, I recommend that they are very sheer, with a gray or black suit and gray shoes. As for tights, they often look a bit too trendy or childish and think should be reserved for once you have the job and can dress more casually.

As for suit colors, a neutral like gray, black, navy, dark brown are always good. If your coloring allows it, a taupe or camel can be quite lovely as well. If you are interviewing for a creative job (arts, advertising, marketing, entertainment) you can often be a bit bolder with colors – an ivory suit with black accessories will be well remembered, colors like olive and red can look professional while still showing your personality. Keep the suits solid and simple – no funky contrasting-color lapels, decorative embellishments or couture details. Think Tahari, Ann Taylor, Theory, Jones New York. It can come from somewhere else, but it should have that classic, simple yet elegant style.

The shell or shirt under the suit is a great place to show your personality. Don’t stick with basic white or ivory, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of color, even in the most conservative of companies. I remember when I interviewed for a very serious government contractor, the woman who interviewed me wore a black suit with very faint pinstripes in white and teal. She wore under the suit a beautiful teal silk knit tee and a necklace of glass beads in the same teal shade. She looked very serious, professional, yet had a sense of style. I used to have a very dark olive suit that almost looked gray and would spice it up with a salmon-pink sleeveless tailored shirt underneath. A navy suit can still look serious when you replace the white shirt with one in a pale lilac or French blue.

Casual Interview or Interview at Coffee Shop or Café:
Are you meeting here because it is a virtual office, or because the interviewer wanted a convenient and casual environment?

If it is the former, I would suggest you dress a bit more professionally (suit) to show that you can be trusted to meet with clients and give the correct image of the company. These days many more companies are having their employees telecommute 100% with the corporate office hundreds of miles away. You want to show that you are professional, sophisticated and can sell the company perfectly.

Often interviewers decide to have a more casual environment to see a potential employee’s “true colors”. The concept of chatting over coffee sounds far more appealing and will often let one’s guard down to be more candid with her responses. For this type of interview, you still should maintain a level of professionalism, but can take it down a slight notch. A tailored shirtdress with closed-toe pumps, tailored oxford with suiting trousers and heels, a blazer with a shell and trousers; these would all be fine alternatives. Think of the level between true business casual and business attire. No need for the pinstripe suit and attaché, but leave your jeans, chinos and kicky sandals at home. Also consider solids and very subtle patterns (pinstripes, tweeds, subtle plaids) so you are not lost in the design.

As for accessories, you can kick them up a notch… but a very small notch. Maybe a beaded necklace that hits your collarbone, an artsy brooch on your lapel, a silver and turquoise ring you bought on your last trip to Santa Fe. Only one accessory should be strong, and it shouldn’t be so strong that it is the focal point of your whole look. With an interview, the focal point should be you and your face.

Interview at Fine Dining Establishment:
Be it lunch or dinner, some interviews will take place at an elegant restaurant. For day, I think it is safe to say the same attire for a corporate office interview will be appropriate; for an evening meal consider a more elegant version of your suit. Take your black suit and pair it with a solid-colored shell in maybe silk, or with a more dressy neckline (u-neck, surplice, etc.). Accessories should be simple but have a bit more glitz – a strand of pearls, diamond studs, a simple amber pendant on a delicate gold chain. Other than that, you should still exude professionalism before panache – don’t go overboard with shine, sparkle or strappy heels. Makeup should still stay subtle – this is a dinner, not a cocktail party.

Interview with a Creative Company:
Yes you want to look innovative and hip and current, but you also want to look reliable and driven and professional. You are able to marry the two in the workplace, not it is time to marry the two in your wardrobe. Cargos and witty tee-shirts may be commonplace in the office once you’re hired, but isn’t what you should wear to sell yourself.

Instead of the classic suit, consider a more adventurous jacket with classic trousers – a white jacket with black piping and a funky button closure, maybe a wide belt over the jacket, pairing a great skirt with a wrap top instead of a traditional blazer. Even if it’s creative, I suggest keeping at least one thing traditional – have a funky top with classic skirt or pants, a simple top with an animal-print pencil skirt. Then you are safe if the interviewer is a tad more conservative.

Creative does NOT mean sexy. Sexy never fits into the workplace unless you work at Agent Provocateur or Hooters. Keep cleavage to a minimum, trousers and skirts at a comfortable non-tight level, hemlines near the knee and absolutely no strappy tops (personally, I think sleeveless is inappropriate as well).

But feel free to wear the bracelet you made, your signature necklace, carry your metallic blue leather motorcycle bag… just don’t be artsy overkill so that you are a creative mess. Keep it simple.

A Few Non-Fashion Tips:

1. Firm handshake, eye contact, don’t fidget.

2. Always have a question or two ready because they ALWAYS ask, “do you have any questions?” A good stand-by is, “why do you like working for this company?” I know I liked being asked that because I can sell a different level of the corporation and I can read the interviewee, when her eyes light up, when she seems bored by what I am telling her.

3. You probably will be Googled. I highly recommend on a monthly basis to Google yourself and see if anything pops up that would embarrass you. If your Facebook/Friendster/MySpace pages are searchable by your name, consider making them private and the profile picture very innocent. Along these lines, I know my company loves it when they find a person on LinkedIn. It confirms that what you have on your resume is accurate, and being networked with current and past employees makes it seem that you are liked and respected in the workplace.

4. Don’t tell too much about yourself. The interviewer may be very personable and friendly and you may find out you have the same alma mater, grew up in neighboring towns and both did a semester abroad in Spain, but that does not mean you should tell about your partying ways in Madrid, how you despised your Econ teacher or what church you attended in your childhood. Feel free to tell them you are married, that you have children but don’t go into detail. Sounds terrible, but even a mother and wife when deciding between two people of equal caliber would choose the person who has a more flexible schedule and time to dedicate to the company. Unless asked, do not tell them if you are in school, never tell them your ethnicity or religion or political affiliation.

5. It’s not always the best idea to put your sorority on your resume. Now if in conversation you find that your interviewer was in ABC and you are in ABC, then by all means let her know. However, unless this is your first job out of college and while in school you were the chapter president while maintaining a 3.8 and being in a few academic organizations, it doesn’t have to be part of the interview. Those who didn’t partake in a Greek organization in college will often see those who did as more like the cast of Animal House than a respectable woman who worked hard in classes and in bettering her chapter. If you know your audience is one who would respect the philanthropy and dedication of being in a Greek organization, by all means include it. As a member of a sorority, I know that we aren’t all ditzy drinkers; my sorority experience made me the hard-working, multi-tasking personable employee I am today. If you do include it, also include all the community service, volunteerism and leadership roles you have taken so it helps explain why you feel it an important part of your experience.

6. When asked what you do outside of work (and this is a very popular question) be ready with intelligent and interesting responses. Shopping, hanging out with friends, spending time with your children and “I don’t know, I work so much!” are not good responses. If you scrapbook, then you dabble in various arts and crafts. If you blog, tell them you love to write and read. If you love to putter around your yard, nothing sounds more virtuous than weekend gardening. If you are active in your church or temple community, don’t talk about the church itself but what you do (work at a soup kitchen, mentor inner city children, fund raise for a local women’s shelter). If you have nothing to say… maybe you need to do something about it. Do you volunteer in your community? Even one night a month attending city hall meetings or supporting the Neighborhood Watch shows you can multi-task, you’re interesting and you’re eager to make a difference in this world and possibly in their corporation.

Interviews on Casual Friday

So today I am conducting three interviews – for an intern for me, a Jr. Coordinator for me, and a Programmer for my department.

It’s casual Friday, and I don’t feel like dressing up. I do want to look a bit polished for the interviews.

Hair is straightened, sideswept bangs. Did a very subtle smoky eye with a pale dusty mauve on the lids and a darker plum color around the lash line. Decided to wear my glasses instead of contacts – they are purple, a cool style from Gucci.

On the body is a pair of vintage Levi’s that are perfectly worn, perfectly weathered, and perfectly slim without being hoochie. With it I am wearing a white wifebeater from Old Navy and an ice-green stretch twill blazer from Nordstrom. Silver hoops, silver cuff, and a modern abstract silver pin on my lapel made by my Great-Aunt. Shoes are tan thong heels – my staple all summer long.

not an exciting outfit, but a way to look summery, casual and still polished enough for interviews on Casual Friday!

Nordstrom and NIC+ZOE for Spring [sponsored]

I think you all know by now my love for Nordstrom. The selection of brands, the variety of sizes (and pricepoints!), the free shipping and returns, and the world-famous customer service can’t be beat. Nordstrom asked me to check out their NIC+ZOE collection and share with you my favorites. This wasn’t hard, as I have NIC+ZOE already residing in my closet and have featured pieces from the brand in previous capsule wardrobe and advice posts. Spring is right around the corner, and NIC+ZOE has some fantastic pieces in regular, petite, and plus sizes to update your wardrobe for the next season.

NIC and ZOE dresses

In last week’s capsule post I discussed the benefits of a dress that highlights the waist. While I recommended such a dress for a pear shape, it actually works on most figures by creating an hourglass and highlighting the smallest part of the torso. NIC+ZOE have a bunch of great dresses this spring that do just that:

  • The ‘Pebble Pieced’ Knit Swirl Dress not only has a figure-flattering fit and flare shape, but black lines that elongate the frame and highlight the waistline. I like that the print is fun, but not something that will look dated in a year, and the fabric can transition between seasons. Customer reviews say the fabric doesn’t cling and the dress is comfortable. With pockets and a knee-grazing hem, this is a dress that could be worn to the office, but also paired with heels and a bold lip for a wedding or Date Night. Available in Regular and Plus sizes.
  • I love dresses that gather or knot at the waistline; this is such a flattering detail and not one that detracts from the dress’ print or any accessories paired with it. In fact, my wedding dress had this figure-flattering feature! NIC+ZOE has a few dresses with this detail. The ‘Spring Rain’ Faux Wrap Sheath Dress is one you need to see in person (or magnified on the site) to appreciate its beauty. With the gathered side, stretch lining, and subtle blue, black, and white print, this is a dress that will flatter your figure and your lifestyle. Pair with a black blazer for the office, wear with nude pumps and a sparkly necklace to a day wedding, or wear with tan sandals and a straw bag for a summer brunch. Available in regular and petite sizes. The ‘Utopia Twist’ Jersey Dress has the same waist feature, but bracelet-length sleeves and an awesome cobalt, black, white, and gray graphic print. Just as versatile, this dress could also work now with black tights and booties. Available in plus sizes.
  • I referenced the Belted Surplice Bodice Pleat Dress in my latest capsule wardrobe post and love it so much I have it sitting in my Nordstrom virtual shopping cart, considering buying it for myself. The blue color is phenomenal, the wrap neckline elongates the frame and since the fabric has stretch will work with a larger bust without showing too much, the belt highlights the smallest part of the torso (and can easily be switched out for a different color or metallic), and the pieced pleating creates an hourglass shape. This is the kind of dress that will be worn like crazy all spring and summer. With the fabric, it’s brilliant for taking on travel as it won’t wrinkle and can dress up and down easily with a switch of accessories. Regular and petite sizes.

NIC and ZOE pants

Why is it so hard to find a decent pair of black pants? Based on the reviews at Nordstrom, it seems NIC+ZOE is a good choice for this closet staple and other wardrobe basics.

  • ‘The Wonderstretch’ Straight Leg Pants are another NIC+ZOE piece that is in my Nordstrom shopping cart. I am all about a work-appropriate pant that pulls on. Nice and stretchy, resistant to wrinkles, available in regular and petite sizes, and glowing online reviews makes this a great buy. They’re also available in navy, and a slim leg version.
  • You have to be pretty confident to describe a piece in your collection as perfect; NIC+ZOE’s ‘The Perfect’ collection does seem to be pretty fantastic wardrobe staples. An online reviewer says ‘The Perfect’ Ankle Pant (regular and petite sizes in seven different colors) has a nice heft keeping it opaque even in lighter colors and put together well with nice detailing. In the same fabrication but with a side zip and clean waistband, ‘The Perfect’ Pant also gets stellar reviews. Available in four colors and petite sizes 0-16. Finally, NIC+ZOE has ‘The Perfect’ Ponte Pant, which is a very slim pull-on style with front seams to elongate the leg. More like a heavyweight legging, this would be a great option to wear with longer sweaters and tunics. Pair now with tall or ankle booties, and come spring style with pointed-toe slingbacks or pumps. Like the other ‘Perfect’ pants, the online reviews are glowing. Regular and petite sizes available.

NIC and ZOE spring 2015

NIC+ZOE is great for other wardrobe staples too – they have a great selection of skirts, jackets, cardigans, and blouses in regular, petite, and plus sizes. The pants are just an example of what the brand offers. But what I like is their “something extra” sort of pieces; a sweater with an unexpected detail, the unique draping of a blouse, the print of a tunic or cropped pant that doesn’t reduce its versatility but adds fun and personality to these wardrobe staples. The ruffles and flattering seaming of this top that gets rave reviews and is perfect on its own or slipped under a blazer or cardigan. The amazing print on this top that makes a jaw-dropping ensemble even when paired with a simple black skirt or pair of trousers. The “business in the front/party in the back” feature of this blouse that is made for a desk-to-drinks sort of day (or perfect to pack for versatility on vacation). How combining this top with this skirt (tucked in or left out as seen above) would create the look of a dress (such a great option for people who are different sizes on top and bottom), but also work so nicely separated in different outfits. And the way that this cardigan can be styled four ways to look amazing with everything from a tank and boyfriend jeans to being slipped over a maxi dress this spring. Peruse the widget above for some more great pieces.

This post is sponsored by Nordstrom, but I hope you can tell by my excitement that I enjoyed sharing this line with you and all opinions are my own!

Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for a Fluctuating Figure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ask Allie: Very Casual Office Attire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ask Allie: Age-Appropriate Office Wear

I’m about start a job as summer associate in a law firm, and I’m young (24) and plus sized. I don’t really know where or how to find work clothes that are flattering, don’t age me in an unwanted way, and yet appropriate for the work place. I own two suits; both make me look dowdy and age me. I don’t want to look too young obviously, but dowdy is never a good look either. I also don’t need to wear a suit all the time, so perhaps that might be a solution, but for times when I do need to wear a suit, I don’t have any good options. Do you have any advice?

Two women, same age and figure can purchase the same black pantsuit from Ann Taylor. On one, it looks smart and chic; on the other it looks dowdy and dated. What can you do to make a suit more youthful, stylish, and contemporary?

Get it Tailored
You can’t imagine how much a good tailoring can do to a suit. Just having the sleeves and legs the right length will make you look thinner, more stylish, and also more professional. Having a piece fit at the shoulders, nip in at the right place at the small of your back, and not gape at the waist or pull at the hips is an amazing and powerful piece in your wardrobe. Tailoring will also make a cheaper suit look more expensive. Tailoring of a suit isn’t cheap, but a quality suit should last you many years and a custom fit is worth the investment. If you’re between sizes, go up a size and have a tailor or seamstress fit it perfectly for you.

Be Choosy with your Shoes
While a sensible flat with a rounded toe will be comfortable and appropriate, it will up the frumpy factor in a heartbeat. Shoes are a way to remain professional but show your style and make a suit more age-appropriate. I personally like pointed-toe low pumps because they elongate my frame, look cute peeking out of trousers, also work with skirts, and look trendy yet also classic. While a black or tan pump is versatile, consider pushing the boundaries as far as your dress code will allow – snakeskin and croco embossed leather, leopard print, a pop of color, an interesting detail or embellishment.

In the office, it’s better to have fewer pairs of shoes that are quality and well cared for, than many cheap and overly trendy styles. Once you know a brand and style that fits well, check sites like 6pm.com or eBay for more in a different color or fabric. Take your shoes regularly to the cobbler to replace missing heel caps, resole each season, and to stretch snagged leather on heels. Polish your shoes – it’s quite easy and something you can do while watching TV one evening.

Incorporate Color
A colored blouse or shell can transform a simple pantsuit. Emerald green silk blouse, shell pink cashmere tee, coral cotton button-front, mint chiffon ruffled top. To look more youthful, consider blouses and shells in hot-now shades – yellow, mint, emerald, anything on the Pantone Color Report for the season. Some colors can age – dark red, deep teal, forest green – if not in a contemporary silhouette. Lighter and brighter will add fun yet still remain appropriate.

Accessorize
As with colors, certain accessories can age a young woman. In general, steer clear of classic pearls and scarves. However, trendy necklace styles and a skinny belt in a fun color or print can add a youthful touch to your work wear. Look at sites like Stella & Dot, BaubleBar, and JewelMint for jewelry trends, and J. Crew for ideas on how to incorporate accessories into careerwear.

Break Up Your Suits
Pair your black blazer with your ivory trousers, your pinstriped jacket with a solid-colored pencil skirt.  This way you still look as though you mean business, but the look isn’t quite as stuffy.

What to Wear When Not Wearing a Suit:

  • Shirtdresses – From crisp cotton to silk, such styles look great at the office with a simple pair of pumps. Make sure the hemline is close to the knee, the buttons don’t gape or pull at the bust, and steer clear of very casual fabrics like seersucker and chambray.
  • Wrap dresses – Created by Diane von Furstenburg just for the career woman, the wrap dress is figure-flattering, professional, and available at most any pricepoint. I am fond of matte jersey, which is a seasonless fabric, doesn’t cling, and can dress up and down with ease. With most figures, a strategically placed safety pin or a camisole in a more refined fabric will make the neckline more appropriate for the office.
  • Twinsets – One of the best inventions for offices, where it can be sweltering hot outside and freezing in an air-conditioned workplace. Having the shell and sweater of the same color and fabric is dressier and looks more luxe. Pair with pencil or gathered skirts, or with cropped or traditional trousers. The shell can be worn under a suit, the cardigan over dresses. Buy the highest quality you can, baby it (lingerie bags, drying flat, spot cleaning instead of laundering regularly) to keep it from getting faded, stretched, or pilled.  Add interest with a cluster of brooches or put a skinny belt over the shell (and under the cardigan).

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Ask Allie – Age, Weight, and Wearing Sleeveless Tops

As we women age (almost 60), and our arms aren’t as firm, should we avoid sleeveless altogether?
-Celeste
I am a size 20 and have read that I shouldn’t wear sleeveless or strapless dresses because I am plussize. Is this true? It’s hard to find cute clothes with sleeves that don’t make me look like my grandma, I am 22. What do you think?

– Jessica

I get this question often. I feel that no, you should not shy away from sleeveless pieces if you feel good in them. Often what you hide you end up emphasizing. Also, that which you find to be a glaring issue is not as obvious to others.

Women over 60 who look fabulous in sleeveless tops:
Diane von Furstenberg, Sally Field, Susan Sarandon, Gloria Steinem

Plus size women who look gorgeous in sleeveless dresses:
Beth Ditto, Queen Latifah, Nikki Blonsky, Mo’Nique


A few tips:

  • Stay clear from cap sleeves. Cap sleeves usually hit at a very unflattering place on soft arms. It hides the curve of the shoulder and ends right at a large part of the arm. 
  • Watch cut-out or racerback sleeveless tops. A true sleeveless top can be quite flattering, but more sccoped-out or tank styles can make a soft arm look larger. A scooped-out armhole shows the under-arm skin, back skin, and any softness in the shoulder, which can just emphasize the look of extra skin.
  • If you do a short sleeve, consider one that hits the middle to bottom of the upper arm. Like a cap sleeve, a short sleeve can cut your arm at a very unflattering point, making it look wider and softer.
  • Color makes a difference. Wear colors that flatter your skintone, which will make your arms look healthier, and actually slimmer and more firm. A good example is white – while white is a popular basic, it is a pretty difficult color for many to carry off, and it can make an arm look more pale, more wrinkled, less toned. If you want to wear a color like white, consider it as a bottom layer or wear with a sleeve.
  • Distract the eye. A scarf or necklace with your top will draw the eye from your arms to your accessory. 
  • Reduce the prints. While prints can often trick the eye in a good way (such as hiding curves), it isn’t that kind to the skin that is exposed. Prints can emphasize pale or crepey skin, and highlight your arms (or any exposed appendage).
  • Balance the outfit. An exposed arm is more on display if it’s paired with a tight dress and a short skirt. Using structured pieces on the bottom (straight leg jeans, crisp twill cropped pants), and cleaner lines for the top (not a lot of ruffles or chiffon or clinging knits), the figure as a whole is balanced. If you are more one to wear flowing fabrics, you can still achieve balance with a skirt that hits at the knees or longer, and by wearing heavier knits like stretch wool and Ponte de Roma.
  • Consider your accessories. If you are exposing your arm, you can trick the eye into thinking the arm is smaller and more firm by your choice of accessories. Small, delicate pieces can make an arm look larger, while bigger, structured pieces can make one look smaller. A large bag, a scarf looped around the neck, a chunky bangle bracelet – these pieces can really help balance out the body when wearing sleeveless garments.

I often use my mother as a style example, and I have to again for this situation. My mother is in her ‘60s and regularly wears sleeveless pieces and looks amazing. While she regularly practices yoga and is very active and fit, gravity and time of course has affected her skin. When she wears sleeveless tops, she wears bright jewel tones, accents her outfit with a statement necklace, and balances the lack of sleeves with a crisp structured pair of pants or shorts and a larger bag. She always looks smart, polished, and confident when wearing sleeveless pieces.

Don’t let your body restrict you from wearing what you love, and what is practical. When it’s hot, it’s hard to restrict yourself to sleeves. Come shopping for a formal affair, it’s very difficult to find fashions that are not sleeveless (or not dowdy). Try different silhouettes and mix it up with different accessories and I think you will be pleased with the result!

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How to be a Stylish Woman in her Thirties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dress Your Age, Not Your Shoe Size

I hate too many rules with fashion – it takes the fun out of it. I don’t think a certain age requires one to have a certain length of hair or skirt, and heck I think diamonds are too pretty to only wear in evening and when older. However, I think some fashion guidelines are created to help us from looking like fools.

Last week I was crossing the street in Washington D.C. and in front of me was a woman in a full-length mink coat and a shoulder-length sandy-colored bob. She was wearing black pants, black heels, had a very large black handbag and was walking with purpose. From the back, I assumed she was a successful and powerful woman in her late 40s to early 50s. At the intersection she went left when I went right and I was able to see the front of her and was utterly shocked to see this woman was in fact younger than I – probably early to mid 20s with a fresh face and a baby pink cashmere turtleneck.

This weekend I visited Miami, the land of flamboyant dress. I saw so many women of all ages strutting their stuff – be it money, creativity, fashion sense, love of a Bedazzler. What made many of these women great was that they wore their confidence as loudly as they did their gem-encrusted lounge suits. It isn’t my personal desire to wear lamé tunics and appliquéd jeans, but I respect these women’s desires – their style is appropriate for their environment and lifestyle and most had colors that flattered, cuts that fit and accessories to tell a little about the woman inside.

However I did also see quite a travesty while on my vacation – women dressing as children. My sister and I saw a woman at the Bal Harbour Shops in a pink spandex tube top riddled with beading and sequins, a white cotton ruffled micro-mini skirt, pink metallic wedges to match her pink metallic lips, and extensions that put Paris and Brit to shame. It was the look of a Bratz doll and was being worn by a woman in her 40s. Nothing wrong with a passion for pink and all things girly, but on this woman it looked like a costume… and it looked ridiculous. Later we saw a woman with her children who had a teased ponytail on top of her head, sequin-embellished cropped jeans, metallic heels with satin bows on them and pink glitter all over her eyes and lips. Her daughters were dressed similarly – too cute on a four-year old, but a bit desperate on the 30-something mom.

No one is saying you have to toss your Levis for wool gabardine once you hit 40, or that only “ladies of a certain age” can wear jewels, it is just being true to yourself. A four-year old dresses with what is shiny and fun, not needing to find clothing as a uniform, a social norm or communication device. The older we are, the more our clothing multi-tasks and is an extension of our personality and lifestyle. Our wardrobe needs to be as multi-faceted as our personality. Just as I recently made mention of animal-shaped hats and cartoon tees, wearing clothing obviously too old or young for you confuses those who meet you, not understanding your true nature and often pre-judging you. Dressing too adult can make you seem boring, old-fashioned, unstylish, uptight. Dressing too young can make you look unintelligent, superficial, promiscuous, annoying. It is possible to seem youthful and creative without raiding your daughter’s closet, and to look classic and conservative without dressing like your mother.

How to Add Youth to a Conservative Wardrobe:
Play With Color. Instead of donning neutrals and black, add some cheer to the mix. Pastels are feminine and subtle and great compliments to gray, camel and brown. Muted jewel tones like berry, teal and plum add class to a simple look and flatter most any skintone.

Walk the Mall. We often get comfortable with the brands we shop at; maybe we choose Boutique B because they have conservative hemlines and classic lines. The thing is you can often find items that fit your sense of style in unexpected shops. A classic pencil skirt could be found at Old Navy, a great suit in J. Crew, a lovely trench in Bebe. Be honest with the salesperson about your style and needs so you don’t waste either of your time.

Simple and Fresh. Keeping your hair and makeup simple, clean and fresh will help show your youthful side. Over-polished hair styles and matte makeup ages anyone.

How to Make a Whimsical Wardrobe Age-Appropriate:
Respect Hemlines. A skirt that is too short is flattering on no-one. Keep your hemlines just above your knee and you will flatter your legs and still look youthful. Keep this in mind also for shorts.

Leave Some to the Imagination. Short skirt, tight belly-baring top AND a low neckline? This is too much on anyone, no matter her age or figure. Choose one body part you wish to highlight, be is your fabulous décolleté, great gams, or a strong back. As for belly-baring tops, outside of a gym or beach they usually look contrived and desperate. We can tell you have a six-pack by your silhouette, it doesn’t have to be on display.

Chanel Fashion Wardrobe StyleChannel Chanel. Coco Chanel once said, “Before leaving the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” No one would ever find Chanel to be boring or fitting a mold. If you have on bracelets, large earrings, several necklaces, sunglasses, six chunky rings, a hip belt, a scarf and a headband… you look like a fashion victim, not an artist. You can still show your sense of whimsy or creativity with less embellishment. A strong necklace can be far more telling than a ring on every finger, a great bangle made by an artist or picked up on vacation holds far more interest than a mess of necklaces from any old mall store. You will receive more compliments and inquiries into your look or accessory if it gracefully holds the spotlight and doesn’t fight for it.

Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for Business Travel

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

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

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

Over 30 outfits with only 14 garments (details):

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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