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Guest Post – Committed to Consciousness – The Case for Ethical Fashion

One of the topics requested in the reader survey is tips for purchasing ethical fashion.  I’m still learning, so I reached out to my friend KC Sledd, a DC fashionista with a conscience to write a post on the subject.  I look forward to your comments on this post; also share if you have any specific questions or topics regarding ethical fashion you would like addressed in a future post.

committed to consciousness: the case for ethical fashion by KC Sledd for the blog Wardrobe OxygenIt’s not easy to be an informed consumer. In fact, it can be downright disheartening, particularly when it comes to something you love.

For example: Fashion. I lovingly sketched clothing designs in the margins in my notebooks as a child, I cried when I first touched Chanel, and my mother bought be a Marc Jacobs handbag for my 18th birthday because she knew it would complete me (it did).

I typically subscribed to the cost-per-wear principle, and frequently eschewed Forever 21 for after-Christmas sales at Saks; however, I still indulged in inexpensive impulse buys pulling at my wallet from J. Crew, H&M, Ann Taylor, and more. How could I turn down the siren call of $5 t-shirts or handfuls of wear-once sundresses for that weekend trip? Behind the giddy high of scoring a bargain, a tiny voice scratched at me, wondering how these clothes could be so cheap.

In April 2013, I found out.

Bangladesh has approximately 5,000 garment factories that employ more than 4.5 million people—80 percent of them are women. Many of these women come from rural villages and have little education, and earn around $37 a month.

On April 24, 2013, an eight-story garment factory called Rana Plaza collapsed on the outskirts of Dhaka, killing at least 400 people and injuring many more. It is the worst disaster in the history of the garment industry. Workers at this factory produced clothes for brands such as Primark, a British retailer, and Joe Fresh from Canada. Authorities warned that the building was unsafe, and factory owners responded by threatening to fire people who did not carry on working as usual. Almost 3,000 people, most of them female garment workers, are believed to have been in the complex when it suddenly came down.

I am a feminist and a shopper, social change in stilettos. My personal convictions, I realized, were at odds with the clothes on my back. As an advocate for women, I couldn’t support an industry that threatened them. And I certainly couldn’t feel good knowing that what I was wearing, stylish as it may be, came out of hurting someone else.

From then on, I committed to doing my best to support brands I could feel confident and positive about wearing. It’s not always easy, and I haven’t always succeeded, but that’s why I believe in conscious consumerism. If we can add a layer of knowledge, of understanding, of empathy, to our shopping we can be more confident feeling good and looking good in our clothes. And that truly is something to love.

Where can you turn when you’re looking to invest in your own ethically styled look? Here are a few of my favorite spots:

  • Zady: The leader in conscious consumerism, Zady exclusively retails “slow fashion” for men, women, and the home. Zady also recently launched its own in-house label of American-made, ethically sourced closet essentials.
  • Everlane: Best source for classic trousers and tops perfect for work AND made transparently in factories around the world. I live in their Ryan tees and button down shirts, and both my husband and mother have gotten Everlane cashmere sweaters for Christmas.
  • The Reformation: L.A.-based retailer known for super sexy dresses. They use deadstock, or vintage, fabric for beautiful gowns or grab-and-go weekend minis.
  • H&M: Including H&M might be controversial, but I believe in their commitment to the environment and ethical production as a company. The Conscious Collection reuses fabric and renewable materials. Bonus tip: Recycle any fabric (read: old clothes, socks, and dirty dishtowels) at your local H&M and they’ll give you a discount for your next purchase.
  • Verdalina: A Richmond, Virginia boutique with an expertly curated collection of eco-fashion goods.

KC Sledd - Guest post on Wardrobe Oxygen Committed to Consciousness - the Case for Ethical FashionKC Sledd is a mostly healthy blend of Peggy Olson, Olivia Pope, and Pepper Ann. She thinks about communications for a living and believes that every pair of black ankle boots is a special snowflake. She and her husband live in Washington, DC with their two cats. You can follow her on Twitter at @kcesledd.

Winter Style Tips: Warm Fashion for Cold Weather

Many of you have written to me lately on how to handle very cold temperatures while maintaining your personal style. While it’s frigid right now by DC standards, I don’t deal with such cold temps on a regular basis and would never consider myself to be an expert on cold weather fashion. I know many of you live in far colder parts of the country and world than I and would love you to weigh in on what you swear by to stay warm and fashionable. Below are the winter style tips I use to stay warm when it’s super cold:

cold weather fashion how to stay stylish and warm tips

Have a Base Layer

Keeping your core warm will ensure you stay comfortable when the temps drop. Thin layers close to the body will do a remarkably good job without adding too much bulk to your outfit.

  • Fleece and wool tights are my jam; I’ll wear a regular pair of tights under for extra wind and cold protection, and have even worn them under jeans and work trousers.
  • The same holds true for fleece and wool leggings. Check athletic departments and brands for great ones; while some may have reflective strips others will be solid black which will fit perfectly into your work or weekend wardrobe.
  • Wool socks keep your feet warm and dry and also help prevent foot odor. The chunky cable or marled versions are back in style and look cute peeking out of ankle booties or tall socks so they add style with warmth.
  • A silk or heat-keeping fitted tank or cami is a must-have in winter. Brands like Lands’ End carry these in a broad range of sizes and colors so you can find one to fit and become invisible under your clothing.

Wear Smart Accessories

When it comes to accessorizing in the winter, choose pieces that have fashion as well as function. It’s possible for your styling accents to keep you toasty in the winter.

  • I’m such a fan of pashminas. In wool, cashmere, or a blend these scarves are toasty without being bulky, stylish, and versatile. I will cross a pashmina across my body in front before putting on my coat; it will fill the neck area but also add an additional layer of warmth to my core. Once at my destination I’ll loop it around my throat for a pop of color to my outfit. Pashminas are also great when it’s not freezing; they can act as a shawl with a dress and I take them on travel to be my plane blanket as well as to ward off strong A/C on planes and at conferences.
  • A cashmere beanie is in style right now, so it’s easy to find a color and weight that appeals to you. I have a black cashmere beanie that I’ll put on in the morning and not take off until I go to bed. I style my hair around it, intensify my lip color and it’s a chic look that also keeps me warm. Adding a hat when it’s cold can really do much for increasing comfort; in fact I am writing this while wearing my cashmere beanie and am quite comfortable even though it’s around 60 degrees inside.
  • Gloves are a must-have and my favorite are cashmere-lined leather gloves. They are super warm, wind repellent, keep you dry when scraping off your windshield and look quite chic. Right now is the perfect time of year to stock up on leather gloves as they are on sale everywhere after the holidays. I always have a pair of classic black but when I can find fun colors like purple or green on clearance I snatch them up so add a pop of color or fun to black outerwear.

You Need Proper Footwear

When it comes to inclement weather, function always trumps fashion. A pair of warm boots that provide traction on slick sidewalks is a must-have for cold weather. Come winter, I keep a pair of black pumps at the office and wear boots on my commute. When out and about, slim jeans and pants look great peeking out of tall fur-trimmed winter boots for ski lodge style. Tall leather boots (especially if they are waterproof) are wonderful for when it’s cold but there’s no snow or ice; the leather is a wind breaker and an extra layer of warmth. I’ll wear tall leather boots with a dress or skirt, fleece tights and wool knee-high socks and be toasty while still maintaining my personal style.  FYI all the boots featured in the carousel below are waterproof and ready for all sorts of frightful weather!

Choose Outfits with Layers, Length, and Warm Fabrics

If you plan on getting away with a long-sleeved tee and a pair of jeans you’re going to be shivering all day.

  • Layer: I’m a fan of sweater coats, puffer vests, and ponchos come winter because these are easy layers to slip on and off depending on how high the heat is cranking inside. Under, I’ll wear a long-sleeved tee or fitted merino or cashmere sweater and a silk tank under that so when I slip off the topper I am still pulled together and warm. Chunky knits are popular this fall and easy to layer over a silk or knit tee. I’m also known to slip fleece tights or silk longjohns under dress pants or jeans come winter and no one is the wiser except my warm self!
  • Length: Winter isn’t the time for mini skirts and crop tops. I pull out the midi skirts and wear with fleece tights and tall boots, longer tunic sweaters over slim pants or sweater dresses over fleece or wool leggings and tights, and thigh-skimming sweater coats keep my rear and upper legs warm.
  • Warm Fabrics: Wool pants are truly warmer than synthetics; look for a pair with lining to stay itchy-free and add some wind repellant. As mentioned a thousand times already, fleece and wool tights and leggings are a smart choice with dresses and skirts. Leather is wind repellant and warm; I wear a lot of leather skirts come winter for fashion with function. This year sweater and sweatshirt dresses are on trend and look great with tall boots and leggings or thick tights.

Longer Coats that Repel Wind

Many years ago I wrote that women don’t need puffer coats and can be just as warm and more stylish with a wool coat with Thinsulate lining. And now that I commute in a city, ride public transportation in the snow, and walk longer distances I agree with many of you who thought my advice bunk. Buy a coat that keeps you warm. When it comes to frigid temperatures, first look for something that will keep you as warm and dry as possible, then look for stylish touches. A quilted or puffer coat with a longer length is brilliant because it’s wind and water repellant, will keep your bum warm when sitting at the bus stop, prevents gusts from slipping up inside the coat, and is often machine washable. I like styles that at least cover the rear and have a belt which keeps you from looking like the Michelin man. While I wear a hat almost always, a hood is an additionally nice feature when you’re waiting for the train or it begins to drizzle. Buy from a company that is known for outerwear and get one that is made for the climate you experience. Companies like Patagonia, Lands’ End and LL Bean often give temperature ratings for their outerwear helping you make the best coat decision for your lifestyle.

And now I pass it back to you, what are your tips for staying toasty when the temperature drops? What are the best items in your wardrobe for winter weather? What brands or items do you recommend to those who are trying to stay stylish in the cold? Thanks!


Ask Allie: Personal Style with a Health Condition

I have multiple health conditions which make dressing nicely difficult. The two hardest are that 1. I can’t wear pants (or tights!) of any type and 2. I can only wear a few “comfort” shoes. Mainly Algeria Palomas. I can get by with some cute Merrell flats or Uggs for a very short time, if I’m not going to be on my feet much. That’s literally it for footwear. I am also a true plus size – size 20, and have trouble fastening very small buttons. So I tend to default to this skirt (because I freeze a LOT, my skirts are almost all this long), a tee or sweater, and my Palomas or Uggs depending on snow or not. Oh, and a cane. I desperately want to look more stylish but have no idea HOW with my limitations!

Style doesn’t come from being able to wear a certain silhouette, brand, or garment. Style comes from creating a look that works with your lifestyle and your personality. When I read your email I thought of my friend Amethyst who I featured in my True Fashionista series. She has foot issues and prefers long skirts and comfortable, flowing fabrics but she has a very defined personal style and aesthetic. Her style may not be for you, but she shows how you can create style no matter your personal situation.

While I regularly mention statement shoes and how a certain silhouette, heel height, or color can complete a look, I don’t believe a woman HAS to have a certain shoe to be stylish. As I wrote in this post, “pretend your feet and shoes don’t exist and dress in a way that gives you joy. This way, people won’t focus on your shoes and if one does, it’s clear they are worn for health reasons and not because you lack personal style.” A couple ways to create personal style:

Focus on Accessories

Many style icons are known for keeping their outfits simple, and showing their style through the details. Choosing a wardrobe of simple basics, and then incorporating great accessories is a way to make your specific sartorial needs create personal style.

fern mallisWhen considering this concept I thought of Fern Mallis, the creator of New York Fashion Week and for a decade, Executive Director of CDFA. Her actual wardrobe is pretty simple and sticks to the same shapes and silhouettes, but her personality comes with her choice of accessories and her signature glasses.

Style Tips with a Health Condition - achieving personal style when health issues require certain fashion and footwear
Shop the Looks: Red Sweater | Denim Skirt | Necklace | Red Shoes | Black Turtleneck | Black Skirt | Silver Skinny Scarf | Silver Cuff | Black Shoes | Gold Sweater | Denim Skirt | Chain Necklace | Bangle Bracelets | Sparkly Shoes

With these three looks I kept the wardrobe simple – sweaters and knits with long skirts but they create a stylish impact thanks to the use of accessories. I think the Algeria Palomas are great shoes because they do come in so many different colors, textures, and patterns so you can incorporate your personality into shoes that are good to your feet. Why not make them part of your signature style? Each look has a different pair of statement Palomas and I used them to create the color story and choose accessories to finish the look. As you see, you’re not stuck to one style or concept because of your shoes. Whether they’re pointed toe stilettos or comfort shoes, they can still make a fabulous statement and define your style. This is a great way to try different styles and find what feels you.

Create a Signature

Once you know what style/s fit your soul, you can create a signature style. A funky haircut, a wardrobe of amazing scarves, cool necklaces you buy from local artisans, a wrist of bangles, eye-catching glasses… all of these are examples.

lynn dellWhen considering this concept I thought of the late Lynn Dell, who was a boutique owner and seen on the blog and in the documentary Advanced Style. Dell had a very signature style, but it was created with her amazing choice in accessories. Hats, scarves, jewelry, and on-point lipstick gave an effect of glamour and sophistication while still remaining comfortable in soft knits and relatively sensible shoes.

Have Fun with Fabrics

Awesome prints and textiles aren’t just for the slim and trim. Whether you’re wrapped in black jersey or a floral jacquard, you will have the same body. If you’re comfortable with it, have fun with amazing textiles that are still easy to wear, warm, and work with your health situation.

suzy menkesWhen considering this concept I thought of journalist and fashion critic Suzy Menkes. Well respected in the fashion arena, Menkes is regularly seen in jackets, scarves and tops in beautiful prints, luxe fabrics with sheen, and embroidery, styled with simple dark colored knit separates (and her signature hairstyle!) . She exudes personal style without needing to adopt the runway trends she reviews.

All three of these style icons may not be your shape, your age, or your style.  They are just examples of women who have not sacrificed comfort or health to achieve style.  Your style may be more youthful, less colorful, more simplistic, more elaborate… it’s not about recreating or replicating but gleaning inspiration.

Personal Style is For Everyone

Personal style isn’t just for the thin, the rich, the young, the healthy, the mainstream. It may not be as easy but it is possible for all of us. One woman’s style is not the same as another. We are all snowflakes, whether it is our body type, our lifestyle, our specific needs, or what makes our soul sing. Whether we have a studio apartment or a palatial estate, we figure out how to make that house our home. Your body is your home, and it deserves to be styled in a way that celebrates its beauty while keeping it comfortable and safe. I hope this post can get your creative juices flowing. I wish you much success and joy as you embark on your style journey!

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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True Fashionista: Audi

Many readers contact me telling me that because of their job, they can’t dress to match their personal style. Many also tell me that once they hit 30, they don’t feel that they can show their personal style at work because it won’t be seen as professional or serious. When I get such emails, I often send these women a link to Audi’s blog, and that is a big reason (other than thinking she’s utterly fabulous and stylish) why I asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

Audi from the blog Fashion for Nerds is a scientist. She’s over 40. She isn’t one to fit in with the crowd. She loves to travel, loves living in San Francisco, and makes hats in her spare time. She has tattoos, and I am terribly jealous that she has been to Burning Man. She is able to have all this and be professional at work AND true to her personal style. She’s proof that you can be stylish and smart; a professional and a sartorial badass.

I have been reading Audi’s blog for many years and one thing that I love about her style is that while it is unique, it is never a costume. Audi can wear knee-high lace up boots, a harness, a scarf decorated with skulls and it looks polished and sophisticated. She understands not only herself, but her environment and knows how to merge the two.

A big part of why Audi’s style works so well is because she wears it with confidence. I often think of street style blogs – what the subjects may wear may not conventionally make sense, but their posture, their stance, and their visible confidence is the finishing touch that makes the look perfection. Audi carries herself with pride and confidence and it makes her fashions even the more fabulous.

Audi is the queen of the carefully edited closet. While she never shows the same exact outfit twice, you see the same pieces being used over and over, each time getting a new look. Pairing a biker vest with skinny cargos one day and a maxi skirt the other, you hardly realize it’s the same piece. Audi carefully purchases, be it a Helmut Lang dress, a Botiker bag, or an H&M top. And whether it’s ASOS or Alexander McQueen, those pieces get much wear over the years, having new lives as her personal style evolves.

I was so thrilled Audi was willing to be a True Fashionista for Wardrobe Oxygen; here are her responses to the same five questions I ask to each woman in this series.

How would you describe your personal style?
It can be all over the map, but the outfits I feel are really “me” are those that could be described as rocker professional, by which I mean that they look polished and tidy, but have plenty of rebellious elements such as skulls or leather, or that show my tattoos.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
As a kid I used fashion as a means of creating a persona that I didn’t really possess; I was quite shy and reserved all though high school, and dressing in a bold way gave me an air of self confidence. By the time I hit my 20’s I had become genuinely confident, but my style only fully developed once I stopped working in the lab and was able to wear nice clothes to work without having to worry about being uncomfortable all day with my lab coat on over my outfit.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
Everywhere, really; other bloggers, people I see on the street, friends, coworkers, window displays, runway shows, magazines. Sometimes it’s just a color combination that I like, sometimes it’s an individual item that strikes a chord, and other times it’s an entire outfit.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Fashion gives us the individual elements: the colors, shapes, patterns, textures, and genres that strike our collective fancy for a particular period of time. Style is how an individual puts those specific elements together.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
I think the most important thing is to have an idea of what you want your wardrobe to say about you. If you want to come off as relaxed and approachable, then think of a few examples of people whose style appears that way to you, be it celebrities or people you know. Then start experimenting, understanding all the while that your style will morph over time as you find the garments that make you look and feel your best. The other thing to remember is that it’s one thing to admire a look on someone else, but it’s quite another to wear it yourself; before you buy a new item, ask yourself if you love it for you or if it’s better being loved from afar.

How to “Read” Fashion Magazines

Pre-pubescent women below 100 lbs. showing off dresses in the thousands. Ads for Armani, Versace, Missoni, Chanel and any other brand you couldn’t possibly afford (and possibly couldn’t even find for sale in your neck of the woods). Crazy outfits of sheer blouses without camisoles, plaids with polka dots, turquoise false lashes and 6″ platform wedges. How are these magazines supposed to help the typical woman in America? How can Vogue, W, Bazaar and Elle assist you in your journey to the suburban shopping mall?

Some fashion magazines are more helpful than others. Lucky magazine not only tells you what is hip, but where to purchase these hip items. They categorize trends, with a page dedicated to the lace trend, a page dedicated to wedge shoes, a page dedicated to croco bags. While encouraging the shopper to visit New York boutiques, a few chain stores are mentioned. Even if you cannot afford the Prada skirt, you can see the length, fabric and cut and can look for a similar version at Macy’s.

Bazaar is one of my favorite magazines. They show celebrities and socialites in what’s hip for the next season, have all the hot new ads from the most luxurious brands, but also breaks fashion down for the Every Woman. So the trends for Spring are a bit of cowgirl, a bit of nautical and a bit of safari? Bazaar will show how a woman in her 20’s can wear the trends, a woman in her 30’s and all the way up to her 70’s. They also will have a spread informing the reader about the hot new trends. As always, they have a What’s Hot/What’s Not on the very last page.

Every fashion magazine can be beneficial to you, no matter your age, dress size or income. It’s not about going into debt for a Dior bag or even for trying to replicate a Dolce and Gabanna ad with pieces from Target. No, it’s getting concepts.

Look at the ads. Really examine them as you would a painting in a museum. What colors are being worn? What does the shoe look like? What kind of fabric? Is there a specific print that is the theme? Now flip the page and look at the next ad. Is there any similarity? Though each high-end designer has their own signature style, there is often a theme for each season that resonates on the runway and in the ads. Maybe it’s lace trim, maybe it’s wood heels on the shoes. It could be a lot of black – it sure was this winter. Don’t look at these ads and roll your eyes over the age or weight of the models, the astronomical prices and ridiculousness of the garments. See it as art, and then break it down.

Be Realistic. If the magazine says every woman needs the new Fendi purse, don’t buy the Fendi purse if you don’t make enough money to buy a Fendi purse for fun. The purse will be passé in a year. Don’t go on a street corner and buy a faux Fendi purse. It will look fake, and it will look tacky and desperate. Don’t wait two years and buy a cheesy knock-off of what the Fendi purse was shaped like from Wal-Mart. Again tacky and desperate. Instead, break it down. What makes that bag new and hip? Is it the oversized shape? Use of silver hardware? A short handle? Croco leather? White with black trim? Take those details with you when you go shopping. Look for something that is beautiful on it’s own, fits your lifestyle and needs, but may incorporate those details. I for one adored the Balenciaga Motorcycle bags that celebs like Nicole Ritchie and Jessica Simpson were sporting. I couldn’t afford the bag, and didn’t want to look like an idiot with a faux silver or turquoise pleather wanna-be bag on my wrist. Therefore I analyzed the look of the bag. What about it did I like? The hardware. The large size. The short handle. The way the leather looks a bit crackled and a bit glazed. When I went to buy a new purse I found a slouchy oversized purse with lots of hardware and metal detail in a similar leather finish and a color that complimented my wardrobe. Not Balenciaga, couldn’t be mistaken for a Motorcycle bag, but receives many compliments, holds all my stuff and keeps my image current.

Don’t be a Label Whore. I was in an elevator yesterday with a woman. A gorgeous woman with a gorgeous figure. Her beauty was not the first thing I saw. She was wearing a puffy Baby Phat coat with a faux fur trim in a weird olive/taupe color. She had on extremely tight Seven for All Mankind jeans that were too low on the waist and too long on her ankles. She had on a Tiffany bracelet AND a Tiffany necklace. She had on a Coach logo purse – quite large and quite pink. Under her coat was a black fitted tee with “Bebe” in rhinestones across the chest. She had on false eyelashes, very pink glossy lips and barely any other makeup. Her hair was in a formal updo with tendrils around her face, her hair obviously meticulously highlighted, lowlighted and streaked on a regular basis. And then on her feet were those high-heeled Timberland-esque dress boots. Her outfit probably cost a ton of money, but she looked terrible. Her clothes didn’t compliment her figure, or one another. She was a walking fashion victim, a slave to the name brands. By caring so much about the names, she lost sight of what the brands were trying to create – FASHION. I highly doubt you are going to the Academy Awards any time soon. No one is going to stop you walking down the street and say “Who are you wearing?” Even if they do, how cool would you be by saying, “This old thing? I picked it up at Target last season.” Think Sharon Stone when she wore a Gap tee shirt to an awards ceremony. No one wrote her off as cheap or tacky. Instead she was celebrated for that fashion move.

It is understandable to want to buy luxury, to splurge on designer. You work hard, you want to reward yourself. I respect that, and I indulge in that as well. Just when you do, think about the rules you hold for all other aspects of your life:
Does it fit into your life?
Does it flatter?
Will it work for the long haul?
Is it worth it?

If you got that promotion, go ahead and buy a Coach purse, but buy one that will go with your current wardrobe, and will still be beautiful next year. My friend has a Coach bag that she bought herself after getting her degree in 1998. She still carries around that camel colored tote, and still gets compliments all the time. She bought something luxurious, something obviously a brand name, but something that fit her lifestyle, fashion style and something that works in the 90’s as well as the new millennium. A few years ago I found a beautifully tailored black wool coat from Calvin Klein. I put it on and felt like a socialite. I felt elegant, tall and slim. It was at a discount store, but still out of my price range. It was the first item I ever put on layaway. When I made the final payment, I still adored the coat. Now a few years later, I still love the coat, it’s cut, it’s feel. To me, it was worth the money. I wear it and look expensive, but I am not shouting “This is a Calvin Klein coat from 2001!” I am whispering “I am wearing an expensive, well made garment and it is designer.”

Again, look in the magazines. Look at the spreads of celebrities at galas and fundraisers. Are they showing up in head to toe labels? Unless you’re Kimora Lee Simmons or Missy Elliott, the answer probably is no. The women who look polished, elegant, sexy and expensive do not flash their designer labels. They wear what is stylish, flattering and beautiful.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read. When a magazine totes a certain top or moisturizer as great, it’s not always because it’s great. Magazines receive free stuff all the time, and are encouraged in different ways to promote this stuff. These freebies end up in fashion spreads, articles about great new things for the season, or advice columns. Don’t take what one magazine says as gospel. It’s best to have something to compare it with. Don’t worship Vogue if you won’t also pick up In Style. Don’t read Lucky without W. By reading more magazines (even in the line at the grocery or at the pharmacy while waiting for a prescription) you get a more well-rounded view of what is hot, what is trendy, and what is utterly ridiculous.

Make it Age and Shape Appropriate. Anyone over 27 and a size 4 should not be wearing dress shorts. Mischa Barton and Nicole Ritchie and Lindsay Lohan are all wearing short creased shorts to red carpet events. Well good for them. Are you built like Lindsay Lohan? Are you the age of Mischa Barton? If you answered yes to both, God Speed and Good Luck. For the rest of us, STEER AWAY FROM THE SHORTS. Just because it’s hip, doesn’t mean to wear it. We don’t live in the era of cut and dry fashion. My mom speaks of circle skirts, piped charcoal blazers and cigarette pants while growing up. They weren’t flattering on her, but she wore them because EVERYONE wore them. That, and nothing else. Fashion has changed and has become more flexible and forgiving. If this season is all about olive green and you look terrible in olive green, then don’t wear it. If magazines are telling you that leggings are hot this season (which they are) but you are over 25, you’re over 105 lbs. and you wore in an office setting you shouldn’t pick up a pair your next trip to the mall. If the new look is nautical, that doesn’t mean you need to go buy a navy and white striped boat neck shirt to make your torso seem twice it’s size. Instead consider pieces that may be more appropriate. Crisp white trousers with a solid navy sweater. A navy blazer with gold buttons paired with a white shirt and vintage washed jeans. There are different ways to incorporate trends without looking like a fashion victim or worse… unflattering.

Make a List. So you like the polka dots featured in Bazaar. You like the new width of jeans seen in In Style. You love how navy is coming back into vogue on the pages of Vogue. Write these things down, or tear out pages from your glossy magazines and take them with you on your shopping excursions for inspiration. When you get overwhelmed in a sea of fabric at Lord and Taylor’s pull out your list. It will keep you centered and less overwhelmed.
And finally, See Fashion as Art. If you stop looking at fashion as the unobtainable, you’ll despise it. The majority of our country cannot afford a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes, a Prada dress, a Chanel suit. That’s okay. Just look at that Chanel suit or that Prada dress in the magazine’s fashion spread and try to figure out why they chose to display it. Is it the color? The cut? The fabric? What about makes it less insane (because much high fashion is totally insane and unwearable in normal society) and more beautiful? Take that one thing with you as you go shopping this season. If you try to see the beauty and detail in fashion, you will be more likely to buy what makes you look more beautiful when you wear it.

True Fashionista: Pearl

We “old school” bloggers stick together. We remember when the fashion blogosphere was much smaller, less commercial, and just about sharing personal style and connecting with like-minded folks across the globe.  While we may lose touch a bit from time to time, there’s always a place in our hearts for one another.   Pearl Westwood is one of those “old school” bloggers who I have followed over the years. While she has always had killer style, it has been so much fun to see her hone it over the time on her blog, Fashion Pearls of Wisdom.

Pearl really knows herself, and how to use clothing to express it. Her look shows that she is an individual, celebrates it, yet has a passion for fashion. Pearl epitomizes what I think of as British fashion – edgy, eclectic, yet relaxed.  The Brits see the fun in fashion, yet take it quite seriously.  It is no surprise that Pearl’s favorite fashion designer is Vivienne Westwood.

Pearl’s blog Fashion Pearls of Wisdom doesn’t just feature her personal style and recent purchases, but breaks down the latest looks and runway shows, analyzing the concept, thought, and designer. Pearl understands and respects the talent and history behind fashion.  She will often feature a designer I had never heard of but instantly love and respect thanks to her analysis.  I love how she will drop a fact about an obscure brand or a designer’s collection from a decade ago as easily as many speak of reality TV or current events.  Sharing of such information isn’t for Pearl to show off her immense fashion knowledge, but because she loves and lives fashion.

While Pearl is quite aware of what is current in fashion, she stays true to her personal aesthetic, and only takes on the trends that adhere to her personal style.  I think what I admire most about Pearl’s style is how consistent it is.  Consistent isn’t a bad thing – one look at Pearl’s blog and you can see that her style is anything but boring.  But she knows herself, what she likes, and what she wishes to say with fashion and is always true to herself.

Enough of me raving about Pearl, here’s her side of the story.  As with every other True Fashionista, I have asked her to answer the same five questions:

How would you describe your personal style?
‘Like Vivienne Westwood vomited all over me’ is how one friend likes to describe me ha ha good job we share a wicked sense of humour! I hold my hands up and have to admit Vivienne Westwood features heavily in my wardrobe, I just love everything about her designs. I don’t think there is any other designer who pushes the boundaries quite liker her and the fact that many of her pieces come with political messages, such as to save the rainforests, they have have meaning as well as style. Mixed in with that are other carefully chosen designer pieces and a stack of vintage. I don’t really care where my clothes come from, it’s not about the label, but about how they look. I would rather have one thing that I am totally obsessed with and wear everyday than a bag full of things I wasn’t all that fussed about. My key items are jackets particularly vintage sequin ones, ankle socks and crazy heels.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
You know I’m not really sure, it has always been something I was interested in. My mum says I get it from my maternal grandmother, who I sadly never met and since my mum is totally glam herself I would say it runs in the family. I think my mum really helped by encouraging me to experiment with fashion as a child, when I was a kid she would braid multi-coloured ribbons into my hair so I could look like 80’s pop star Boy George!

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
I gobble up everything and anything fashion, from runway shows, glossy magazines and hundreds of blogs it is my job to know about all the latest trends and I love to learn so I can’t deny this has influence on me. But what I really find inspiring is vintage shopping, just getting to examine beautiful and unique things sets my imagination off. I also really like to see what other people are wearing, I find it fascinating how two people can wear the same thing in such a different way. I admire people who dress for themselves regardless of current trends such as Dame Vivienne Westwood and the late Anna Piaggi. I try to take all this on board to feed my own imagination but most of all the one thing that inspires me are the clothes themselves. Nothing can beat that feeling of finding a item which you just fall for head over heels, be it for it’s beauty or unusual construction, the pieces that you put on and want to twirl around in, fashion should be fun above all else.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Ah the ago old question! I think anyone can go out and buy fashion but it takes style to be able to wear it well. That said everone has their own opinions on what defines the two. Personally I love fashion, I love a new trend and I love getting dressed up. Perhaps it is more to do with your attitude, you could wear a bin-bag and be stylish so long as you had the confidence. I am reminded of a story about Vivienne Westwood, when she had gotten caught out in the rain whilst riding her bicycle to a meeting. Ever the DIY advocate Vivienne had fashioned herself a hat out of one of her store carrier bags to save her hair getting a soaking. Pulling up under the window to park her bike, those she was meeting laughed and ridiculed her, even taking a photography and publishing it in a mocking way. So Vivienne went and embroidered that very photo inside her couture clothing, the eccentric lady with a plastic bag on her head grinning at you as you handed over thousands of pounds to her. I think we can safely say it was Vivienne to get the last laugh. Have faith in yourself and take your own opinion, it is you who has to wear the clothes at the end of the day.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Enjoy it! I actually started my blog because I wanted to record the style journey I was on. Having had an interest in fashion for many years it wasn’t until I finished my undergrad degree at uni and I guess started to grow up that I really found myself conscious of fashion again. I was on a personal journey as I had to decide on my career and also a journey of self discovery as I finally lost the weight I had been wanting to shift for the past couple of years. Suddenly fashion became something I was able to play around with instead of just having to wear whatever I could find to fit. I realise now that most of my problems with fashion had been in my own head, it was more to do with confidence than dress size. So now I would advise everyone to stop worrying about what anyone else thinks, stop worrying about all the ‘style rules’, pick and choose what tips you like and get out there and start having fun. If you want to wear bright pink and orange do it! If you want to go into a designer boutique do it, don’t be intimidated. Have no fear!

Tuesday Tip – For the Fashion Fearful

Many of you may be reading this for entertainment. You are stylish, you are hip to trends. You know what looks good on you and what is positively ghastly. You wear your shape with pride and class. You don’t need assistance, you’re just cruising by.
Others, you care, but you don’t know where to start. You have been wearing the same pieces for over a decade, even though your shape, lifestyle and tastes have changed. Clothing has been something you use to not get arrested for indecent exposure, not something you care about. Now for whatever reason, you have started to care. And this terrifies you. Where to start?
First things first, fashion does not have to be scary. Let’s scratch the word FASHION. It evokes 3-inch thick Vogue magazines, stiletto heels, clothes you cannot sit in and designers one’s name cannot pronounce (or ever be able to afford). I like the word STYLE. Style does not disappear when a hemline goes out of the limelight. It does not waver from season to season. It does not offer free advertising for brand names and it spans generations and waistlines. Style is available for all, no matter your shape, your age or your budget.
I am going to ask you to do a very terrifying thing. Purchase a full-length mirror if you do not already own one. They are available for less then $20 from Big Box retailers like Kmart and Target. This can be most anywhere – the back of the bathroom door usually hidden by your robe, on the inside of your closet door, in your hallway closet in the foyer I even have one in my office/gym/spare room (which explains the Bowflex in every picture on my other blog). Place it anywhere you want and what works with your home. Now USE IT. So many women do not own a full-length mirror. This must explain why so many women walk around in too-short trousers, clunky shoes with trim pants, and panty lines visible a mile away. Each day before you leave your home, LOOK AT YOURSELF. Do you like what you see? Now you can’t remove the hips, the wrinkles, the breasts or the nose with a flash of a wand, but that is not what you are looking at. Are you “wrapping the package” in a flattering way? It doesn’t matter what you like and dislike about your figure or your face; you do not have immediate control over that. What you do have control over is how it is covered.

Do those trousers dig into your midsection causing the dreaded “muffin top?” Is that skirt hitting in the middle of the widest part of your calf, causing your legs to look shorter and thicker than they really are? How does that turtleneck REALLY look with your round face? Is that skirt really work appropriate or more dance club appropriate? Does that baggy sweater cover your bumps or accentuate them?

Once you have become comfortable with said full-length mirror (at least two weeks of daily views) you will see your wardrobe will change slightly. The pleated pants will be worn less, and possibly donated to a charity. The beloved dress that is “a little tight but not bad” may take a place farther back in the closet until you again reach goal weight. And those tunic sweaters that you feel hide all your sins? You will see that they really don’t achieve much at all. This is a good thing. A GOOD wardrobe is based on quality, not quantity. So you only like two pairs of trousers in your closet now. Who said you can’t wear the same pants twice in a week? Unless they are lime green with fuchsia polka-dots, I highly doubt anyone will notice. What they will notice is the stained, threadbare too short chinos that you are sporting in the sensible trousers’ place. If you don’t like something on you, you should not hang on to it. You will not miss it after a short period, and if you keep it, you may actually wear it again. Even if you end up with only three bottoms and four tops, you will survive. Slowly you can add to this collection with pieces you love and that love your body.
Now how does one go about buying new clothes? Malls are scary places, sensory overload of sights, smells and sounds. Online shopping is a game of Russian roulette and can be quite costly with returning those items that are not right. Boutiques are quaint but often costly and have a minimal amount of sizes and selection.
As I have mentioned before, I find malls to be the best for the new to wardrobe building. Clothing is something you wear every day and effects every aspect of your life. You would take a half day for a doctor’s appointment, why not schedule a wardrobe doctor appointment. Malls are lovely before the lunch rush. The stores are pretty empty and the salespeople are bored. Bored salespeople equal helpful salespeople and less frantic of salespeople. They will take their time with you, bringing you other sizes to the fitting room and giving you advice and opinions. Managers usually work on Monday early shifts and they usually have the most experience and the best sales skills. If you cannot take off a morning to shop, consider early on a Saturday or later on a Sunday.
Go to the mall with a list. A pair of black trousers, a new pair of brown boots, a couple of business casual tops. Then stick to that. If you need work clothes, do not even walk by the yoga pants, the jeans or the hoodies. They may be safe, but they are not necessary right now.
Consider solids. Solids may seem drab and boring, but they are the most versatile. A solid top will most likely match your solid bottom, and it’s less memorable, meaning you can wear it more often without anyone noticing. You see when your neighbor wears that floral skirt again, but when she wears a blue dress, you only notice the color, not the date of when it was worn. Find your personality through scarves, jewelry, shoes and handbags. No clue what colors go with what? Here is some assistance. This is not all-inclusive, but a simple list to help with those crazy colors shown in stores this season:
Color Bottom
Color Top
Complimenting Accessories (shoes, belts, bags)
Most any color except a medium brown or browns and navys that are almost the same shade as the black
Black is a safe bet. You can go with a contrast color (anything but brown, tan and navy) as long as the top is also black or a dark basic color (red shoes with a khaki sweater and black skirt)
Ivory, brown, tan, red, pink, lighter shades of blue, dark orange/rust/terracotta
Again, safe to go with the same color and only use a contrast if the top and bottom are both neutral (ivory sweater, brown pants and green pumps)
Brown, pink, black, ivory, plum, dark greens, navy, French blue, red, dark purples
If you have camel already, great! If not, consider the top. If it is a warm color (red, ivory, plum) brown is a nice compliment. If it is cool (black, purples, French blue) consider black. Navy is a shade that can go either way, though I think darker shades look better with black and lighter shades with brown.
French or baby blue, pinks, white, camel, ivory, dark red, lighter shades of green
Again, if you have navy shoes that closely match the bottom, wear them. I personally find navy bottoms hard to match and just never wear them. If you like navy, consider the rules above. Darker navys with black and lighter with dark brown or camel.
White (no matter what the fashion mags say, should only be worn from June through August unless you are a true expert fashionista)
Most any color except beige, ivory or a very pale shade of a color.
I do not believe white shoes should be bought by anyone except nurses, brides and true expert fashionistas. Since these white skirts and pants are being worn in the summer ONLY, consider a neutral like a tan shoe. If you are wearing a bright colored top (colbalt blue, hot pink, red) consider black shoes instead.
Black, brown, medium to dark greens, pinks and blues, red, navy, tan, purples and oranges
If it is a warm shade (orange, brown, tan) consider brown. If cool (black, blue, green) consider black. No one needs to own a pair of ivory shoes.
When you are shopping, consider your lifestyle. If you are reading this, you are probably not the type to have 40 pairs of shoes. Try to build your wardrobe around one shoe color. If you are fair haired, you may feel better in browns. If you are a brunette, you may be like me and prefer black. I only own one brown pair of shoes and no navy; I shop and think, “would this go with black shoes?” If it won’t go with a pair of shoes already in my closet I will not even try it on. It is far too expensive and complicated to buy a pair of pants and then have to search for matching shoes, belt, top and accessories to match it. If you like black shoes, consider only buying bottoms in black, ivory and tan or camel. If you prefer brown, consider only brown, khaki and camel. Personally, I find navy too difficult to match and blend into a wardrobe. If you cannot think of at least two things and one pair of shoes in your closet that an item will match, don’t buy it. It will cause you too much strife.
As for WHAT to buy, check out the sidebar. I have some suggestions as to what basic items every woman could use in her wardrobe. Also consider your lifestyle. If you are a stay-at-home mom, you may not need a pantsuit as much as quickly as a woman who meets with clients at work on a daily basis (though trust me, once you have a new wardrobe and a new look on life, almost all women will find needs for all the items on the list!).

Start off slow. A pair of pants to replace the ones that accidentally got washed and now don’t hang right. A new sweater to replace the baggy tunic you have sported for a decade. A dress for that upcoming wedding that will also be appropriate for your company holiday party AND your niece’s christening. A pair of simple black pumps that will go with your work pants AND that dress for the upcoming wedding. Go slow. No one is keeping a tally of how many pieces of clothing you own. Scour sale racks. Once you are comfortable with your size and what styles flatter you, venture to the online vendors and boutiques for variety (and often for better prices). Note the designers that fit you well and be loyal to them. Also be loyal to the shops that fit you and treat you well when you visit. Good salespeople will take down your information and notify you of sales and special events in their shops. This can save you money and time when adding to your wardrobe. Try to stay away from malls at holidays and on Saturday afternoons until you feel very strong and comfortable with shopping – these times will make you want to crawl back into your home and cover yourself with fleece.

And finally, believe in yourself. Wearing flattering, well made and fitting clothing is something you DESERVE. You work hard, you care about others, you are an important person on this planet. You deserve to feel good, to look good, and to present yourself to others as the wonderful person you are.

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!

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!



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…

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.

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.

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.

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.


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!

Best Outerwear for Large Busts

Hi Allie. I’m still breastfeeding and eventhough I can fit my old jeans my chest is still huge. I can’t fit my old puffer coat, where should I look for a coat that fits a large chest?

I was large busted before I breastfed Emerson and am even larger now so I feel your pain. Some brands just don’t have the room in the bust for comfort, let alone a cableknit sweater. I’ve learned over the years some ways to find coats that fit the bust without making me look like the Michelin Man.

Shopping Tips: Where to Purchase Outerwear for Large Busts

Don’t Shop Juniors

Juniors and Misses clothing is cut differently, and you see it the most in the bust area. Rarely will you find a roomy enough winter coat from American Eagle, Rampage, Topshop, or Xhiliration. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what brands are Misses and which are Juniors at department and discount retailers. When a number size, Juniors are odd numbers while Misses are even. Even so it can be tough; if it’s too tight know it’s not you, it’s likely the brand.

Read the Reviews

These days, most online retailers accommodate customer reviews. Some even let you filter them by age or body type to narrow down to reviews that relate to you. It’s worth a few minutes of scrolling through pages of reviews to get a good idea of what a coat is like before pulling the virtual shopping cart trigger.

best coats for large bustsCoats Highly Rated for a Flattering Fit:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Look for Contouring

I adore my Bernardo puffer vest not just because it’s warm yet not too thick and has a ton of pockets, but because the quilting contours the vest to my shape. Strategic stitching creates an hourglass shape which not only flatters my figure, but gives room in the bust. Elastic nips in the small of my back. Even the Lands’ End parka I own, which is a bit stiff and bulky but perfect for snow activities, has elastic gussets and internal drawstrings to nip in the waist flatter the figure while still accommodating the bust.

outerwear winter coats for large chestsMy Picks for Bernardo Outerwear:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Contouring and strategic stitching will tailor a piece to your curves and prevent you from looking like a marshmallow. I liked my Bernardo packable down vest so much, this fall I purchased their packable down coat which has the same figure-flattering and accommodating details.

Shop Brands with Extended Sizes

If a brand stops at 10 or 12, I hate to say it but it’s likely, even if you are a smaller size, that their brand won’t fit your bust. I’ve found with outerwear, choosing brands that are comfortable with petite, plus, or tall factor in a larger variety of figures, and often have more selection to find a piece that fits your specific body type.

winter coats for large busts

My Picks from Lands’ End:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

I’m a big fan of Lands’ End for outerwear. They have a broad range of sizes, and plenty of styles to fit most any figure. They often feature contouring or strategic stitching, and plenty of customer reviews to help you choose the right coat. I own three coats from Lands’ End and all of them fit my large bust without being too big in the waist or shoulders. Not only that, two of them are over a decade old and still look like new. Lands’ End’s return policy is fantastic so if you have a defect or receive it and change your mind, you don’t have to stress.

Where have you had shopping success when it comes to outerwear for large busts? Share your tips and brands in the comments!

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!

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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