Some days you just want to dress like a diva. Karen Kane sent me this jacket a couple months ago and while I have worn it on weekends with jeans and a colorful scarf, I have yet to wear it to work. This morning I tried belting it, and really liked the result – gives it a completely different effect!
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Last night we were supposed to get a lot of snow, so much my husband cancelled his yoga class for fear of having students drive home in such a mess. Not a single flake and today isn’t even that cold. However, I planned this ensemble this weekend when trying to pull together cold weather ensembles that still have polish. While I could take off the biker jacket, I think it works with the ensemble even indoors, and I love the scarf peeking out of the collar!
Saturday night, Karl and I had the pleasure of seeing Houndmouth and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at Rams Head Live! in Baltimore. I love Grace, think this was my 6th or 7th time seeing her perform, and it was awesome to see Houndmouth live after months of just hearing their EP. I think this band is really going to go places and I will look back and say I saw them when! BTW, kudos to Grace Potter and the Nocturnals for ending their show Saturday night with a cover of Seven Nation Army, and I heard they opened their show in Baltimore last night with that song. Talk about a professional, to cater to Ravens Town!
I love me some ponte knit. I think that’s pretty clear from reading even one post of this blog. I wrote about needing a new photographer’s assistant dress and was hoping for a black cotton shirtdress with pockets. I never found one that was right, and bought this dress on a whim from Nordstrom last October. When I was still sans dress and we had a destination wedding to shoot in November, I took this one and it was perfection. It doesn’t have any pockets, but the heavy ponte hid sweat, didn’t crease and stretch out after 12 hours of wear and running around, and was utterly comfortable. I ended up wearing a *GASP* fanny pack with this dress for the shoot and it was even better than having loaded-down pockets because I could more easily squat and kneel to get the right shot or to fix the bride’s dress. Since then, I wore this same outfit with different shoes but haven’t featured it on the blog. I love how this outfit is stretchy and comfortable yet looks refined. I swear, I could live in ponte knit every day of the week.
Dress sharply and they’ll remember the outfit; dress impeccably and they’ll remember the woman.
– Coco Chanel
The other day I was sitting on the subway across from an attractive woman. She was wearing a yellow sheath dress in a heavy textured/boucle weave – something I could see on a stylish professional woman like Michelle Obama. In her lap were two pristine Louis Vuitton bags – one purse and one tote. She was wearing a gold watch that looked expensive, a few gold rings, bracelets and a pair of gold hoops. On her feet were black patent leather Tory Burch flats (a popular commuter shoe in Washington DC).
Her outfit probably cost in the thousands… yet she looked cheap. Why?
It’s all in the details.
Her hair was not fresh – she had obvious roots and raggedy edges. She pulled it into a messy low ponytail with a cheap Goody elastic (you know the ones with the gold threads through them?). Her shoes were scuffed and looked as though the backs sometimes were stepped down on and they had their share of being stuffed into an overfull tote. Her nails were manicured, but a flat salmon pink color that neither flattered her skintone nor the current trends. Her blush was too red, her eyeliner too pronounced. Her dress was a twinge too tight – puckered slightly at the bust, caught the bottom curve of her bum. All these details combined with the first paragraph details took expensive and lovely pieces and made it all into a very ordinary and cheap looking ensemble.
So what can a woman do to look as though she is worth a million… whether she is or not?
I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.
– Coco Chanel
Who cares who made your purse if your skin or hair is a mess? The best investment is the body you have – no matter your dress, you will be wearing your hair, your face and your skin. Great skin doesn’t have to come from $200 bottles of potions and monthly spa treatments. Cut back on the sodas and spirits and add more water to your diet. Be sure to wash off your makeup before you go to bed. Don’t overwash your skin – your skin should never be tight after cleansing. Visit a dermatologist if you have skin concerns. Take the time that you use to peruse celebrity gossip Web sites and read up on cosmetic ingredients – irritation, acne and redness can often be due to an allergic reaction in a product you use.
As for your body, keep it exfoliated, keep it hydrated inside and out, and love it no matter its shape. It is far easier to love the body you have if the skin is soft and happy. Again, see a dermatologist and read up on ingredients to be sure you are purchasing the right products.
Hair is the accessory you wear every single day – to work, to play, for formal events and trips to the market. Why is it that we will spend hundreds on jewelry, a pair of boots or a bag but will sacrifice our Crowning Glory to Great Clips and whatever box of Dark Golden Brown that was on sale at CVS? If your budget cannot afford professional color treatments, research brands that are gentle and natural looking. Invest in a highly-recommended conditioner. Take vacations from the heating tools so you aren’t fried. Reconsider that champagne blonde/cherry red/blue-black hue – a softer shade may be much more flattering, require less maintenance and look more rich.
If it’s a bad hair day – no need to hide under a hat (or Goody elastic). There are ways to work the tresses without screaming to the world that you had no time for a shampoo or roots touch-up. Dry shampoos are back en vogue and can be found at many specialty retailers and online beauty boutiques. Colored ones not only are less obvious on darker shades, but they also help hide roots. Thanks to Gossip Girl, even those over 21 can sport headbands and look chic. A skinny plastic one with teeth in black, blonde or tortoise can hold back too-short bangs and make a bit of slick look purposeful. A low ponytail right at the nape always looks chic – if you take a piece of your own hair from the bottom of the ponytail, you can wrap it around the elastic and secure it with one Bobby pin and make Goody look glam. Finally, make time for your hair – get off the computer, get away from the TV, wake up 15 minutes earlier. It is amazing how much more sunny your outlook is on life when you feel confident about your appearance.
Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.
– Coco Chanel
Shoes make the man… and the woman. Shoes should be appropriate to the outfit first, then worry about quality, and brand name should be last on the list. The woman on the subway would have looked far more chic if she was wearing tan leather sandals. They could have been flat or with a slight chunky heel or wedge and been just as comfortable as the Tory Burch flats, but have coordinated with the outfit far better. We live in a society right now that is very caught up in brand names; often those brand name items don’t serve us much of a purpose. Flats are great with a flowy dress, a pair of capris, your favorite jeans. But if you have curves and are wearing a straight-fitting dress, flats will make you look as though you were cut off at the ankle bone.
Once you have your shoe collection, no matter the pricepoint you should take care of them. Get them reheeled and resoled at a local cobbler. Keep them in a place where they won’t get dusty or tripped over. Store them properly when out of season. I had a pair of black boots I bought at Payless five years ago and I just had to retire them a year ago. They had a chic narrow heel, an elongated toe, the pleather was soft and looked like a more expensive patent. They were less than $20 but looked perfect with certain trousers for nights out on the town. I babied them as much as I did my designer pumps, and in turn they gave me many years of great use (and compliments!).
I love luxury. And luxury lies not in richness and ornateness but in the absence of vulgarity. Vulgarity is the ugliest word in our language. I stay in the game to fight it.
– Coco Chanel
If cheap, go neutral. Yellow, green, and pink are hot colors this season, but if the item is of cheap quality it will look it far faster than the same piece in black, tan, beige or gray. Those black boots from Payless that I owned also came in racy red and navy. One may think that the red would be fun with black trousers or neutrals, but the red LOOKED as though they were $14.99 pleather boots from Payless, while the black just looked like boots. I have found many a great dress at Target, but the ones that survive to the next season are those in very neutral colors. Colors can easily fade, can easily look dated, and better show shoddy workmanship or lower-end fabric.
Fashion passes, style remains.
– Coco Chanel
Minimize the trends. The rich are stylish; those who WANT to be rich are trendy. Steer clear from obvious logos, extreme trends and anything that is worn by Paris, Lauren, Lindsay or Britney. You don’t want the look of the moment – the rich and stylish never adhere to extreme trends (and if they DO adopt a trend, they do it small or in a neutral hue). Buy a cardigan in the hot color of the season, switch up your lip product, consider a statement necklace or cool bracelet in the popular metal of the moment. There are ways to update your look without making yourself look like a fashion victim.
In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.
– Coco Chanel
In turn, those who always have the latest look get lost in the shuffle. Your expensive Tory Burch flats are yet another pair hopping onto the subway or into a cab. That monogram Coach purse is so popular, every lower-end designer is making a knockoff of it. Let’s not even get into Ugg boots… point is – trends are not stylish, and they do not make you look wealthy or successful.
Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.
– Coco Chanel
Accept your size, and your budget. Sample sale items that are a size too small, hot designer shoes on sale that are an inch taller than you feel comfortable wearing, oversized sweaters because you haven’t come to terms with your new shape (and gosh that sweater is cashmere!)… these are not items that make you look stylish or rich.
When accessorizing, always take off the last thing you put on.
– Coco Chanel
One less ring, one less chain, that cardigan around your shoulders, that anklet. The rich and stylish keep it simple. The woman on the subway would have been far more elegant if she had worn only that expensive watch, and not the five gold bracelets on the other wrist.
Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.
– Coco Chanel
There is nothing more appealing than a vibrant woman. Are you sitting down reading this? Well pretend you have a string coming from the top of your head that is lifting you gently from the ground. Sit up – you are a phenomenal woman. Good posture improves the fit of your clothing, how you are perceived by others, and how you end up feeling. Every time you look at your reflection – find that one part of you that is unique and you love. Get off the computer and get into your community. Ask a neighbor or coworker for a book suggestion and try an author or genre you have never before experienced. Take five minutes every evening to think about your day – it may be in meditation, in prayer, with a journal or just as you doze off. Think about the positive things, how you impacted those around you, and how this world is different because of your interaction with it. Who cares what or who you are wearing if you aren’t an interesting, involved and positive woman!
Fingers crossed the cast comes off tomorrow. Once that happens, after taking the longest shower and scrubbing my body from head to toe, I’ll resume outfit photos. But in the mean time I’ve been sharing my (almost) daily outfits on Instagram and I had to share here because there’s been some fun new things.
I’ve become pretty good with this cast, I’m now flexible enough to get on non-stretch tops and dresses and zip and button jeans. The other day I even buckled my sandals all by myself and I can now unhook my bra without turning it around to the front of my body! This opened up my wardrobe even more, and has made getting dressed a bit more fun. What I have been wearing:
Top row: Karen Kane Contrast Lace Dress which is lightweight for summer but a style that can be worn later in the year; Felicity and Coco high-low hem knit dress with an old belt from Hobo Bags; Flor faux wrap dress via Gwynnie Bee
Middle row: Dobbin Clothing Jackie dress in navy with leopard pumps from Ivanka Trump; this weekend I cut off the longer layers of my hair (and am tempted to cut off more!); typical weekend look – black tank from Caslon, these denim shorts, silver Birks and my Rough & Tumble bag
I look forward to sharing here on the blog soon, and thank you for your patience and support. And if you want to send any strong bone/cast-free vibes my way I’ll happily take them!
One of you can win a Tolani scarf that has been seen on the likes of Jessica Alba (pictured), Sienna Miller, Vanessa Minnillo (pictured), Halle Berry and Mary-Kate Olsen.
The Tolani scarf is courtesy of chickdowntown.com, an awesome site that sells hip women’s designer clothing from the likes of Black Halo, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Vera Wang Lavender Label.
I am so excited, because you KNOW I love scarves, and these beauts from Tolani are fabulous!
How to enter:
Send an email to email@example.com with the word “TOLANI” in the subject.
In the body of the email, please provide your name and mailing address (I promise these addresses will only go to me – except for the winner, and will be deleted once the contest is over). Winner will be chosen by random.
Contest ends Friday, March 20th, 2009 at midnight ET. Winner will be contacted by email. Scarf will be mailed out from chickdowntown.com. Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.
Get to know chickdowntown.com:
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
YouTube (chickdowntownTV.com or youtube.com/chickdowntowntv)
Once I got new glasses, I wanted more. A pair of red frames to channel my inner Sally Jesse Raphael, a funky blue or green pair to jazz up all-black ensembles, a funky shape to show personality at the office. I had heard a lot of great things about Warby Parker and decided to try a pair of frames from them.
Warby Parker Eyewear’s mission is to offer reasonably-priced fashionable frames. On top of that, for every pair of Warby Parkers sold, a new pair is given to someone in need. Warby Parker is also proud to be a carbon-neutral company.
Warby Parker has a try-on program where you can pick five frames and try them on at home. They will ship the glasses to you for free and offer free return postage; I decided to take advantage of this program and see if I could find a new pair of signature prescription frames.
The Warby Parker site is very easy to navigate; click on your gender and then whether you desire optical or sunglass frames. From there you can choose material, color, frame shape, and width. From experience, I know my face is pretty wide, so I stuck to the medium and wide styles of frames. Since I already have a pair of tortoiseshell frames, I stuck to more unusual colors.
The glasses arrived quickly in a sturdy shipping box, and then a lovely navy linen box. Each pair of glasses was in its own compartment, wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name. Each pair of Warby Parker frames has the brand and style name inside on the temple. I found the quality to be stellar, especially for the price. These frames rival the more expensive designer styles I tried at my nearby glasses shop. The return process is simple – peel off the self-adhesive UPS label and drop it in a nearby UPS drop box. I couldn’t be more impressed with Warby Parker and their process… except that my face is too big for them.
Maybe I should have tried men’s frames, but I felt that almost every pair I tried (except for the Bensen, and they just weren’t a style I was looking for) was just a hair too small for my face. I often have this issue not just with glasses, but sunglasses as well. In fact, when I got my new glasses, they were the only ones I liked after trying on about 20 pairs – each other pair seemed just a bit too small for my face shape, even some of the men’s frames I tried.
So if you have a normal to small-sized noggin, I encourage you to try Warby Parker. The Warby Parker at-home program is completely free so you have nothing to risk; if you find a pair you like you can feel good that not only will you look great, but your purchase will also be doing good. As for me, I will have to look elsewhere, my head is just too big to be hipster.
Note: Warby Parker has no idea I am doing this review and I was not compensated in any way for it. I just decided to try the brand and share my experience with you!
Last week I featured the new Gap Skimmer Jean and how incredibly versatile and adorable it is. Many of you were interested in trying the Skimmer for yourself, well now’s your chance! From February 21 – 27, 2013, try the New Skimmer and get $20 off! When you try the New Skimmer at any Gap store, you’ll get an automatic $20 off any regular-priced pair. What a fab promotion, I’m thinking I may have to grab a pair of their camo-print skimmers for spring!
How to Enter:
Accessories can transform the most basic wardrobe staples and make pieces a cohesive outfit. I just received this necklace from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design and while it is BEGGING to be styled with an LBD for the holidays or worn with a beautiful silk blouse, I thought it could really make a statement with a simple white shirt and dark jeans. I haven’t carried my Brahmin bag in a while, and I thought the bright blue really made the emerald necklace pop!
If you like this necklace and the other beautiful pieces I have featured from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design, well today’s your lucky day! One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $100 store credit to Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design!
Ruth Barzel makes all her unique pieces in the United States and is a local-yokel to me. Not only that, she’s an awesome human being! While I love the Emerald Quartz Nugget Statement Necklace I’m wearing here, I also love wearing her Blue Quartz Pendant Necklace and wear her Mixed Metal Chain Bracelet on a weekly basis. Ruth has offered all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off her entire store, just use code OXYGEN20. This discount will be in effect until the end of November, 2013.
How to Enter:
Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. This contest is open to both US and international readers. Contest ends November 30, 2013 at midnight ET.
Dear Allie:I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!
I am not sure why the world thinks women over a size 12 don’t hold professional jobs. They must think that with the poor selection of career wear for plus-sized women. While quality suits and stylish business casual clothing does exist, it’s hard to find. Below I feature some brands who realize that just because you wear a larger size doesn’t mean you wish to sacrifice style, quality, or professionalism.
If you’re plus sized, I’m sure you already know about Lane Bryant, Avenue, Ashley Stewart, One Stop Plus/Woman Within/Roamans/Jessica London, and other retailers who specialize in plus size fashion. Below are some suggestions on brands I know who aren’t the typical shops, and who provide quality, well-crafted and stylish career wear in plus sizes
I know, I know, Nordstrom again? Thing is, they offer a great selection of quality brands and style for plus sizes. MICHAEL Michael Kors, Rachel Palley, Calvin Klein, Karen Kane, Eileen Fisher, Tahari Woman, Vince Camuto, Kenneth Cole… all these brands and more are offered in plus sizes at Nordstrom stores and online.
Unlike many other department stores who think a woman in a size 22 dress wants a muumuu or a flowing polyester pantsuit, Nordstrom buyers find brands and pieces that are in the same vein of style as the rest of the store. Great colors, fun silhouettes, lots of options. Nordstrom has free shipping and free returns, will perform alterations onsite, and have personal shoppers that can help you secure a professional wardrobe for your job.
Macy’s is another department store who offers a fantastic selection of brands and styles for plus sizes. Alfani, Calvin Klein, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Jones New York, and then their in-house brand INC International Concepts are great resources for great plus size office wear. Like Nordstrom, Macy’s provides a good amount of real estate in most of their stores for plus-sized fashion.
Macy’s always has promotions for discounts and shipping deals. Macy’s has a great return and exchange policy, where you can return by mail or at any nearby store.
Talbots Woman comes in sizes 12-24 regular and 12-22 petite. Each season they offer several styles of suit separates so you can mix and match for the perfect career look. Talbots also specializes in business casual looks, with tailored trousers, well-crafted skirts, polished knits and sweaters and even shoes and accessories.
While many retailers hide their plus size department in a dusty corner or keep it only online, Talbots often has separate stores just for their Woman line, or else it gets plenty of real estate in their mixed-size store. Talbots is phenomenal with customer service, seeking out sizes at other locations, taking returns in-store, and giving you honest feedback and offering suggestions at the fitting room. When I was a size 18, Talbots was my go-to store, where I knew I would find quality, style, and a supportive staff.
Jones New York
While Jones New York is a department store staple, they also have their own online boutique that has a large selection of career wear in extended sizes. Since you have to return by mail (they offer a pre-paid shipping label), it’s good to try out JNY in a store to know how it fits, and then go online to find a larger selection.
Kiyonna knows how to dress a woman. They make well-made pieces that are stylish and flattering to a plus-sized figure. No muumuus and garish prints here, Kiyonna offers beautiful dresses, and also a beautiful selection of separates. While their bottoms are very basic, they are well-made and classic. Some of their tops can run on the sexy side, but many are great pieces for business casual environments or fabulous shells under suits. Their return policy is pretty standard but I hear their sizing is quite consistent so once you know how you fit in Kiyonna you won’t have to make as many returns and exchanges.
If you enter an Ann Taylor store, you may think they don’t care about anyone over a size 12. However online they go up to size 18 and XXL on the majority of their pieces. I also find Ann Taylor runs a bit large and many of my readers have agreed that their size 18 can often fit a size 20 woman.
Ann Taylor regularly has promotions for free shipping and percentages off select items – it’s smart to sign up for their emails or follow them on Facebook or Twitter so you stay updated. Their online selection can sell out pretty quickly when they have such sales, so shop early. While Ann Taylor doesn’t offer free returns, they do accept returns even of larger sizes in any store. And if you have to do a return, check out their sale rack where I have regularly seen larger sizes from other women who have made returns.
Lands’ End may not be the retailer you would think for career wear, but they do have a pretty great selection of workwear staples. While their summer selection is more geared towards shorts and dresses, they always have a good selection of blazers and coordinating bottoms and come the cooler months have an even greater selection of suiting and work-appropriate pieces.
Lands’ End often has promotions for discounts and free shipping so sign up for their emails to get the latest news. Lands’ End also accepts returns at Sears stores which makes shopping with them even more convenient.
Like Lands’ End, Eddie Bauer mainly focuses on casual weekend fashion. However, like Lands’ End they have a few stand-out pieces each season for career wear. Eddie Bauer often focuses on easy-care pieces, and you’re likely to find wrinkle-free suiting, no-iron button-front shirts, and machine washable trousers and dresses. Eddie Bauer offers free exchanges and accepts returns by mail (they will provide a pre-paid shipping label or you can send by your own method) or in store.
I’m quick to head to Overstock to find a toaster oven or an area rug, but I have now learned to go to this site for fashion. Popular brands like Tahari, Kasper, Calvin Klein, and Ann Klein are featured by Overstock, and at nicer prices than at the department store. While some of the styles offered on Overstock are a bit strange, you can also find some gems – often pieces being sold right now at your nearby Belk or Macy’s. Overstock has customer reviews, ridiculously cheap shipping, and a reasonable return policy.
While most of my local discount big box retailers will have some plus size fashion, it’s usually a small section, messy, and full of strange pieces I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Not so for TJ Maxx, who usually carries higher-end brands than similar stores, and they usually have a larger and better organized plus size department.
Where do you find stylish and well-made plus size career wear? I’d love to know your suggestions!
In the morning, I ran to get my hair cut and colored in the nearby town, and then run a few errands. Olive ribbed tank from J. Crew, white ribbed tank from Old Navy, Joe’s Jeans in “Provacateur,” brown stacked flops from J. Crew, silver hoops from The Icing, silver cuff.
Hair was brushed out but on the second day; blew the bangs straight.
Makeup was Body Shop bronzing powder in Light as face color, Max Factor Lash Perfection mascara on curled lashes, Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow.
Kathleen did her magic – all I told her is that I wanted to go darker and that I wanted heavier bangs. I trust her, and was not disappointed. Choppy layers that can work straight, wavy or curly, fun sideswept bangs, and a very rich multi-tonal color of dark brown that looks closer to what I was born with.
Got home and had to dash to get dressed. Friday night I had a friend over so I didn’t have time to play dress-up and figure out my theater outfit. Thank you soooo much to everyone who wrote in suggestions, you guys are awesome and have good ideas! For the one who suggested my Old Navy dress… I completely forgot about it. I had set to wear my black cashmere tank from Banana Republic and my orange-red shantung full skirt also from Banana (seen here), but when I saw how spiffy and sleek my husband looked (flat front gray tropical wool trousers from J. Crew, white tailored shirt from some brand sold at Mens Wearhouse, black blazer from… J. crew? Not sure…, black slip-on sleek shoes from Ecco) I decided my outfit may look a bit like a costume. I tried a few different skirts, but settled on the black matte jersey dress from Old Navy, my red stone necklace, my leopard peep-toe heels from BCBgirls,silver hoops from The Icing, and silver cuff natch.
Didn’t have to do my hair since it was done by Kathleen my talented stylist. She used the Pureology line on me, and swears by it for protecting color. I bought the shampoo and conditioner and once I can wash my hair (was told to go as long as humanely possible without washing) I will be using it and let you k now how it is.
Same makeup as earlier, just a re-touch of the bronzing powder, a bit of Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint on my cheekbones, a medium line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line, a quick swipe of Maybelline Great Lash waterproof mascara in black over existing mascara, Body Shop Lip and Cheek Tint with Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow over it.
We took the Metro and it was not even a block to the little restaurant (I don’t know if there are even 20 tables in the place). The menu seemed different from the one online and the only entrees that were vegetarian were spaghetti with tomato sauce (yawn) and a risotto with corn and truffle shavings. My husband and I chose the risotto, we shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio (not sure the label, our friend chose the wine) and had a nice, yet not inspiring or overwhelmingly unique meal. We then walked not even three blacks to the Kennedy Center where my friend and I sidestepped grates in our heels (she too wore a black sheath and heels) while the men tromped over everything and got there in time to marvel at the acre-sized curtains in the lobby and get a cocktail in the Terrace Bar prior to the performance.
The performance was great! As I said, I had never seen The Phantom of the Opera other than the movie. Back story – 1992, for Christmas I got my first boom box with a CD player in it, and with it two CDs – Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. For several months until I got my high school arsenal of REM, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I listened solely to these two soundtracks. Come 2007, I am silently singing along to this performance and even a tear came down my cheek at finally seeing live what I had in my head 15 years ago. I think also seeing Shakespeare in Love the night prior made the theater experience that more intense.
Our friends live in Virginia and parked at the theater; it was a gorgeous night and declined their offer to drive us to the Metro and decided to hoof it. All in all a lovely evening!
When I go into a store, the first place I look is the clearance or sale rack. I don’t want to be tempted by full priced items when a good equivalent is available at half the price in the back of the store. Even when planning my wedding I first scored sample sales and discount bridal shops before even looking at a single full-priced gown. It is better to buy quality instead of quantity, but just because it’s on a sale rack does not mean it’s poor quality or lacking style or fashion.
Take Your Time
Clearance racks are a mess. Why waste good salespeople hours in cleaning up the back of the store when the real money making is in the front displays of new product? Because of this, do not limit your search to the section designated with your size. Take the time to flip through all the racks. You may find a size 10 amongst the size 2s or a great size Small blouse hidden amongst size 14 blazers. Grab everything that even remotely appeals to you, and a few things you would not usually consider. The best way to spend money on trendy pieces and unusual finds is to pay for them at a discount – less buyer’s remorse.
Sizes Can Be Deceiving
Sometimes items are on sale racks because they are missized. I have tried on size 6 jackets that are too big for me and size 14s that are skin tight. Don’t just look at the label – pull the item from the rack and see if it may possibly fit. Often the missized items are at a super reduced price because they are being looked over.
Consider a Tailor
I decided to write this post because of my clearance rack prize of yesterday. Sueded cotton trench, hip cut, gorgeous color, originally $179 on sale for $29.99. No obvious flaws but the coat was too large for me – I am petite and it is not. It is an XL and a generous cut, I am not. I bought the awesome bargain after trying it on and seeing that the shoulders were fitting decently, though the sleeves were past my fingers, the waist was too big and the length too long. I took it to my local dry cleaner and for $35 she is shortening the arms and hem and nipping in the waist. So for $65 I got a $179 jacket that is perfect for the upcoming fall.
Sleeves that are too long, hems dragging on the ground, gaping waists and baggy jackets can all be easily fixed by a neighborhood tailor or dry cleaner. They can also replace missing buttons, broken zippers and some torn seams. If the price is right, often the tailoring still keeps the garment at a discounted price. I have bought suiting pants 75% off just because the zipper is broken, a suede blazer at 80% off because the lining had pulled away from the jacket body.
Do not invest in garments that are stained (salespeople usually try to remove the stains with a cleaning fluid, if it’s still stained it probably won’t come out in the wash or at the cleaners), torn (resewing a seam may make the item fit differently), irregular (remember quality is key – no one should be wearing a sweater with two different sleeve lengths) overly large (tailor costs will be insane and the true look of the garment will be lost) or too small (don’t buy for the body you hope to have, buy for the current you. Also tailors can’t make things larger – there’s usually not enough fabric at the seams and if they attempt the fit of the garment will be compromised).
If You Don’t Love It…
Don’t buy it. Would you buy it if it were full price? If the answer is a quick “no” leave the item in the fitting room. Just because an item is cheap does not mean you can scrimp on cut, style or fit. A 50% markdown does not justify a gaping armhole, an unflattering color or even a staple that you really have enough of already. The world sees you and your outfit, not the reduced price. They don’t know if what you bought cost $200 or $20, they just know it doesn’t look good, doesn’t flatter your body or your personality. Every dollar in your wallet is precious, don’t waste it on crap. If you can’t imagine the item with at least two other things in your closet, it’s not worth your time or money.
Last week it felt like summer, this week it has returned to typical DC March weather – windy and chilly. Glad I kept my sweaters in the closet!
Today I will be walking from my office to Georgetown to meet my sister for her follow-up MRI (proving she is tumor free!) so I wanted to wear comfortable shoes – these pumps are perfect for this – work-appropriate yet can handle a 20 minute walk in the city.
Same dress as yesterday, same hair, same makeup! the only change is that I am wearing my silver cuff bracelet and a silver and seagreen glass bead necklace from Target. I also tossed my black Naturalizer flats in my bag because I am joining my company’s Walking Club for 20 minute walks at lunch.
Hair is acting a bit different because I used the Dove conditioner for Darkened hair. Makes the hair very soft to the point of unmanageable. It was a free sample, heading to get my hair cut tonight and will probably buy some new shampoo and conditioner if my bank account will allow it…
I hate too many rules with fashion – it takes the fun out of it. I don’t think a certain age requires one to have a certain length of hair or skirt, and heck I think diamonds are too pretty to only wear in evening and when older. However, I think some fashion guidelines are created to help us from looking like fools.
Last week I was crossing the street in Washington D.C. and in front of me was a woman in a full-length mink coat and a shoulder-length sandy-colored bob. She was wearing black pants, black heels, had a very large black handbag and was walking with purpose. From the back, I assumed she was a successful and powerful woman in her late 40s to early 50s. At the intersection she went left when I went right and I was able to see the front of her and was utterly shocked to see this woman was in fact younger than I – probably early to mid 20s with a fresh face and a baby pink cashmere turtleneck.
This weekend I visited Miami, the land of flamboyant dress. I saw so many women of all ages strutting their stuff – be it money, creativity, fashion sense, love of a Bedazzler. What made many of these women great was that they wore their confidence as loudly as they did their gem-encrusted lounge suits. It isn’t my personal desire to wear lamé tunics and appliquéd jeans, but I respect these women’s desires – their style is appropriate for their environment and lifestyle and most had colors that flattered, cuts that fit and accessories to tell a little about the woman inside.
However I did also see quite a travesty while on my vacation – women dressing as children. My sister and I saw a woman at the Bal Harbour Shops in a pink spandex tube top riddled with beading and sequins, a white cotton ruffled micro-mini skirt, pink metallic wedges to match her pink metallic lips, and extensions that put Paris and Brit to shame. It was the look of a Bratz doll and was being worn by a woman in her 40s. Nothing wrong with a passion for pink and all things girly, but on this woman it looked like a costume… and it looked ridiculous. Later we saw a woman with her children who had a teased ponytail on top of her head, sequin-embellished cropped jeans, metallic heels with satin bows on them and pink glitter all over her eyes and lips. Her daughters were dressed similarly – too cute on a four-year old, but a bit desperate on the 30-something mom.
No one is saying you have to toss your Levis for wool gabardine once you hit 40, or that only “ladies of a certain age” can wear jewels, it is just being true to yourself. A four-year old dresses with what is shiny and fun, not needing to find clothing as a uniform, a social norm or communication device. The older we are, the more our clothing multi-tasks and is an extension of our personality and lifestyle. Our wardrobe needs to be as multi-faceted as our personality. Just as I recently made mention of animal-shaped hats and cartoon tees, wearing clothing obviously too old or young for you confuses those who meet you, not understanding your true nature and often pre-judging you. Dressing too adult can make you seem boring, old-fashioned, unstylish, uptight. Dressing too young can make you look unintelligent, superficial, promiscuous, annoying. It is possible to seem youthful and creative without raiding your daughter’s closet, and to look classic and conservative without dressing like your mother.
How to Add Youth to a Conservative Wardrobe:
Play With Color. Instead of donning neutrals and black, add some cheer to the mix. Pastels are feminine and subtle and great compliments to gray, camel and brown. Muted jewel tones like berry, teal and plum add class to a simple look and flatter most any skintone.
Walk the Mall. We often get comfortable with the brands we shop at; maybe we choose Boutique B because they have conservative hemlines and classic lines. The thing is you can often find items that fit your sense of style in unexpected shops. A classic pencil skirt could be found at Old Navy, a great suit in J. Crew, a lovely trench in Bebe. Be honest with the salesperson about your style and needs so you don’t waste either of your time.
Simple and Fresh. Keeping your hair and makeup simple, clean and fresh will help show your youthful side. Over-polished hair styles and matte makeup ages anyone.
How to Make a Whimsical Wardrobe Age-Appropriate:
Respect Hemlines. A skirt that is too short is flattering on no-one. Keep your hemlines just above your knee and you will flatter your legs and still look youthful. Keep this in mind also for shorts.
Leave Some to the Imagination. Short skirt, tight belly-baring top AND a low neckline? This is too much on anyone, no matter her age or figure. Choose one body part you wish to highlight, be is your fabulous décolleté, great gams, or a strong back. As for belly-baring tops, outside of a gym or beach they usually look contrived and desperate. We can tell you have a six-pack by your silhouette, it doesn’t have to be on display.
Channel Chanel. Coco Chanel once said, “Before leaving the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” No one would ever find Chanel to be boring or fitting a mold. If you have on bracelets, large earrings, several necklaces, sunglasses, six chunky rings, a hip belt, a scarf and a headband… you look like a fashion victim, not an artist. You can still show your sense of whimsy or creativity with less embellishment. A strong necklace can be far more telling than a ring on every finger, a great bangle made by an artist or picked up on vacation holds far more interest than a mess of necklaces from any old mall store. You will receive more compliments and inquiries into your look or accessory if it gracefully holds the spotlight and doesn’t fight for it.
Reader (and friend after all these years) Linda made me aware of the blog, Project 333. Project 333 is a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for three months. Linda has been really interested in minimalism, and recently I have been as well. Linda asked me to think about what 33 pieces from my wardrobe I would save from a fire.
As the next three months are spring/summer, I had to get into the warmer weather state of mind. I went through my outfit posts from last summer and thought about what was currently in my wardrobe. I wanted to consider work of course, but also casual weekends and the occasional date night, concert, wedding, or other social occasion. What I came up with:
Trying to use images available in Polyvore, this is only a representation of my actual items (for example the floral dress represents my orange Ikat-print dress). I have linked to the actual pieces when they have been featured on my blog or Instagram (the zebra scarf to the site, the pink dress to an image I found online). However I think this collage gives the right effect.
When thinking what to keep, the most important thing was to have appropriate attire for work. I am lucky to work in a relaxed business casual office, where jeans are acceptable on Fridays and colored denim can make a pass during the week if it’s crisp, saturated color, and dressed up like pants. With this collection, I was able to create 40 different work ensembles for a possible 60 days in the office during a Project 333 period of time. (I know the actual project suggests swapping only three items at the end of the period of time, I am just trying it in this manner for now.)
What this exercise really did was make me realize how woefully inadequate my current wardrobe is. My body has changed, but I have also had a transition in my personal style. With the warming temperatures, I am finding my closet more and more frustrating, the pieces I currently own so mismatched. I’m trying to buy less, and just filling holes, but it feels as though there’s more holes than current wardrobe. This made me realize that instead of filling holes, I maybe need to start from scratch in some ways. Not buy what works, but what is right. Knowing that the whole season will only be 33 pieces (including shoes and accessories – even sunglasses!) is a relief. When you see it’s only 33 pieces, you don’t feel as much as though you’re going to go bankrupt to dress for a season. I looked at this collection above and felt I could really live with these pieces, and only needed a few minor changes to make it perfect.
Will I be taking part in Project 333? No, at least not now. My blog is my part-time career. I have made my outfit posts a way to offer inspiration and creative ideas for fellow women who may have similar figures or lifestyles. I also use the posts as a way to feature brands I like or have just learned about. However, Project 333 really forced me to look at what I buy and why I buy it; it has also transformed how I plan to shop and dress myself this year. You can expect to see a change in future purchases (as well as more items I will likely be selling on eBay – follow me on Facebook for updates when I am having sales).
The horrible tragedy in Bangladesh really got me thinking about what I buy. One can’t just blame H&M or Forever 21 for such situations, bargain basement to high end designer lines ship their manufacturing and/or fabric weaving to other countries where it can be done for far less. We expect to get more for less and to accommodate, retailers sometimes do shifty things to still make a good profit. Be it purchasing used, or purchasing darn near perfection to reduce how often I spend, I’m trying to make a difference. Project333 really forces one to shop with thought, with a plan, with intention. Imagine if we all shopped with intention instead of in desperation, purchasing good enough, using shopping as therapy or entertainment. Imagine our wardrobes, they would be full of quality, well-fitting pieces, signature items, pieces that both flatter and inspire.
This won’t be my only post on this topic, I plan to think about what I wish was in my closet for the 333 Project, and how I plan on taking the lessons learned from this with me as I do shop, and how it will affect my fall/winter wardrobe.
What do you think of Project 333? How does it make it look at your current wardrobe and your shopping habits?
One thing bloggers get flack for is wearing too many c/o (courtesy of) items. How can a reader tell your true personal style or find you inspiring when you have a completely gifted outfit? I guess it depends on the blogger, but over the years I have learned to not accept every free thing that is offered to me. It does water down your personal style, it makes you seem less credible… and between you and me it is a pain to them take these gifted items that aren’t really your style and try to style them in a good way for the blog. I have had mornings when I have cried over not knowing how to make a garment or accessory look decent, and I feel guilty to my readers and to the brand that was kind enough to send it my way.
I don’t feel guilty wearing gifted items. One, it’s a lovely perk for working hard on this blog, but two it’s such a great chance to showcase lesser-known amazing brands. I for one may never have known about Dobbin Clothing if they hadn’t contacted me and sent me a dress. Dobbin Clothing has now become such a fave of mine – high quality garments made with fine fabrics from European mills but created here in the US of A. They pride themselves in making tasteful stylish workhorses for your wardrobe. The women behind Dobbin Clothing are just as lovely as their creations too!
So yeah, there’s a lot of c/o above… but every c/o up there is one you have likely seen before or will likely see many times again because I love the pieces and I find they fit my personal style. Each piece above I would purchase with my own money if I was able. I think with blogs, it’s less about how one gets a garment or accessory and more about how they style it and whether it fits their style and message.
UPDATE: Like this dress? This is the “Nora” by Dobbin Clothing, and they are offering all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off it, in black or red. Use the code WARDOX20 at checkout to get 20% off the Nora Dress in black or red. No expiration date, but this code cannot be used in conjunction with the first-time buyer code.
Two years ago, I tried out eShakti and didn’t have the most perfect of experiences. So when they contacted me last month asking me to try the line again but do a custom fit dress, I was excited. Many of you said the fit of the dress was bad because it was a straight size, so the idea of a custom dress appealed to me. At home, I had my husband measure me and entered it all into the eShakti site. Less than two weeks later, the dress arrived. And yes, the fit is MUCH better. No bra showing under the arms, the waist is at the right place for my petite figure, plenty of room for my bust and no chance of a strap slipping throughout the day. However, I just don’t think the dress is very flattering on me; my husband said I looked like a milkmaid or a beer wench. The fabric is very stiff and the entire dress including the bodice sticks out from my body making the dress look more like a costume. I think such a fabric may work better on a taller person who can better balance the volume. The dress doesn’t seem to be on the site any more, it has a square neckline in front, a v-neckline in back, a size zipper (though I didn’t need it to get it on), and pockets. The black are ribbon stripes sewn onto the navy dress; there is one of these ribbons defining the waist which is sits just above my belly button.
While today is springlike in DC, there’s still a chill in the air. I tried a traditional cardigan and it looked a bit too twee on me; this wrap cardigan not only make the ensemble fit better with my personal style, but also cinched in the dress. I have to say, this dress will be pretty awesome in the hot humid months of summer but I’ll have to do some tinkering with it so it is a bit more flattering. The fit issue could be my fault – maybe the measurements weren’t accurate, and maybe I chose the wrong style dress. Have you used eShakti? What have you thought of the experience?
Looking at how often I write and tweet about coffee, you’d think I was a coffee connoisseur. Notsomuch. When I hit my local coffee shop I ask for it plain and big because all the –inos overwhelm me. At home, Karl is the master of the coffee domain. I have no idea how to use the French press so I rely on him to fuel my caffeine fix. Lately I have been working more early mornings and I have to stop by the local coffee shop or fast food drive-through to get my cup of Joe because I just can’t figure out how to make a decent cup of coffee. You know what would be a perfect holiday gift for me? A super simple single-serve coffee maker that would make a great cup of coffee every time.
Enter TASSIMO™, who was awesome enough to send me the TASSIMO™ T55 Single Cup Brewing System JUST at the perfect time. I was working a lot of long days and hated spending so much on take-out coffee or watching Karl make me a cup still bleary-eyed in dawn’s early light. No needing to wait until the holidays to become a coffee-making expert!
The TASSIMO™ Brewer is super easy to use too. Add water to the reservoir in back, insert your TASSIMO™ T DISC in the top, and press start. The built-in technology INTELLIBREW™ scans the barcode on each T DISC to identify precise brewing instructions with the exact temperature, water, and time duration, so each and every drink is perfect every time. This Home Brewing System isn’t just for a cup of joe–the TASSIMO™ can also make cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolate, tea, and more. One of my favorite features is how quickly it heats water; for little energy you can have a piping-hot cup of water for soup or tea in seconds.
TASSIMO™ sent me a few T DISCS to get started, and it’s fun to make hot chocolate, cappuccinos, caramel latte macchiatos, or espressos by myself and know it will be delicious. With well-known brands like Twinings, Gevalia, and Maxwell House partnering with TASSIMO™ for their T DISCS you know the quality and the flavor is great. I love that there are great limited edition flavors like Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Peppermint Mocha for the holidays!
If you’d like to unlock a perfect cup with TASSIMO™ this holiday season, they are offering some great deals on their site. With Cyber Monday code TACYMON3 you can get 20% off T DISCS; you also get 20% off Brewers and with each Brewer purchase, you will receive two free packages of T DISCS (valid in the US only on TassimoDirect.com. Cannot be combined with other offers . Limit one coupon redemption per customer. 20% T DISC discount limited to 6 T DISC packages. 20% Brewer discount limited to two Brewers. Offer only valid on 12/2/2013 until 11:59PM PST).
If you miss the Cyber Monday Deal, brewers and T DISCS are also available at Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon.
Thank you for entering, the giveaway is now closed and winners have been notified.
Remember when I told you about the amazing white shirts from InStyle Essentials that are sized according to your bust? I’ve worn my classic white shirt dressed up with a taffeta skirt to a gala, and to work with a printed midi skirt. I love how it doesn’t gape at the bust, isn’t hanging off my shoulders, and follows the curves of my body. The TrioFit technology really gives you a great fit and flatters your curves. Finally, reasonably-priced white shirts for us with larger busts! While I have the Classic Button-front there are three other styles to choose from (yep there’s a new tuxedo shirt style that will be shipping next month!) all in crisp classic white cotton with much-needed stretch.
If you’d like to get yourself one of these brilliant shirts, the lovely folks at InStyle Essentials are offering Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off your order! Use code 20WO at checkout to save 20%.
And for those who are feeling lucky… well look what other great thing InStyle Essentials is offering…
One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win their TrioFit Prize Package valued at over $400!
InStyle Essentials TrioFit Prize Package includes:
- TrioPack of InStyle Essentials shirts (three shirts in your size)
- $200 cash prize to accessorize your new shirts into sassy outfits
- A feature on the InStyle Essentials Tumblr
- A one-year subscription to InStyle Magazine
Pretty awesome, no? You get to choose your three styles of shirts and receive all the fixings to be stylish while wearing them! You must enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Participants must visit ShopInStyleEssentials.com and let me know in the comments which is you favorite style of shirt, and how you’d style it. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents age 18 or older. Winner will be selected via random draw and will be notified by email. Winner has 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise an alternate winner will be chosen. Giveaway is open from November 19, 2013 until December 6, 2013 at midnight ET.
20% off promo code is valid from November 18, 2013, 12:01am ET through December 31, 2013, 11:59pm ET. Discount cannot be applied to The TrioPack, previous purchases, the purchase of gift cards and cannot be redeemed for cash or used in combination with any other offer. To redeem enter your valid promo code in the promo code box at checkout. Limit one promo code per order. Terms of offer are subject to change without notice.