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Marching Forward…

How is it already March??? The beginning of 2015 went by in a flash, but the beginning of the year always does for our family. Birthday after birthday, Valentine’s Day and Girl Scouts and hey… one year since my arm first broke. We didn’t celebrate this milestone (arm, you’ve come a long way baby), but every time we have a crazy or difficult day Karl and I say to each other, “Well we’re doing so much better than we were a year ago this day.” It helps put things in perspective, and remind us of how blessed we are.

Friday night I went to yoga for the first time in a long while. Before Emerson, I used to go to Karl’s classes three times a week and Karl and I would start our mornings with a few sun salutations. After Emerson it was impossible to attend since someone had to stay home with baby and I woke before K, so our family sessions were few and far between. A little over a year ago, my mom started coming over Friday nights to put Em to bed so I could go to yoga. My mom has been going to Karl’s yoga class twice weekly since he started teaching and she knows the benefits from flexibility to a chance to let the mind be still. With the broken arm and the lack of flexibility after the casts and braces came off, it was near impossible to get through a class. And then winter hit, family illnesses and heating issues in the building where Karl teaches. Needless to say, Friday night’s class was a long time coming. It was exciting to be able to do every form, to put weight on my right hand and arm without pain or fear, and to get away from a computer and decompress.

With the weather, I’ve dropped my morning walking. A bit gun shy from the ice last winter, I’m pretty nervous outside in this weather and don’t feel confident enough to walk around, especially in the dark of the early morning. I try to do some yoga in the morning but I’ve gotten really out of habit. This month I am getting back into the swing of things, giving my body the movement it needs and deserves.

The holidays was also terrible for my food intake. I went off the Whole30 rails, enjoying desserts, pasta, Girl Scout cookies, and plenty of cocktails and I feel sluggish and… well old. It made me realize how light and comfortable I felt when on a primarily Whole30 diet so I’ve gone back. I’m still enjoying a glass of wine from time to time, but again cutting out the grains, the sugar, and the dairy. Karl’s completely on board and makes Whole30-friendly dinners and we’ve agreed to again have the kitchen stocked with Whole30 foods to make breakfasts and lunches easy. I find it’s not temptation of the non-compliant foods; except for things like Samoas and potato chips I don’t crave the cheese, bread, or sweets that are in the house. I find I falter when it’s too difficult to figure out what to eat. Having ground beef, avocados, olives, pre-cut veggies, lots of fruit available makes it easier to stay on track.

I’ve been pretty stressed in general, but it hasn’t been bad things. I don’t know what I was smoking when I agreed to be a co-leader for Emerson’s Daisy Girl Scouts troop, it’s not like I needed anything additional on my plate, but I love it. I co-lead with two amazing fellow moms in my community and I love how we’re very different people bringing different skills and talents to the troop, and how well we work together. Right now it’s all about the cookies (as an FYI to those who don’t know, Girl Scouts doesn’t give troops any funding, the money for their troops to run and their activities to take place – even buying patches and badges comes from either dues or fundraising/selling cookies). Since we’re a brand new troop and have girls of different economic levels, we’re trying to make it with just fundraising profits and not dues. This weekend we had our Investiture Ceremony and the girls got their pins; they were so excited and we are thrilled to see how much they have learned and grown since we started just a few short months ago. Booth sales run through this month, but we’re starting to focus on the girls earning their Daisy Petals. I’m looking forward to our spring activities!

Work has been a bit crazy. My department transitioned to a new company, and so far it has been pretty great. They’re a friendly, collaborative group and have really made us feel welcome and part of the team. We’ve had a lot of moving around for the companies: most of our DC office moved to a new location this January, a different location’s staff is moving into our office in those empty desks this week, and come this summer my department will be moving to the new company’s location. It’s the time of year for annual reviews so I’ve been spending a lot of time after work hours writing evaluations. It’s also a time of the year for proposals and rebids, so we’ve also been busy with budgets. With the change to a new company, my staff changed so we’ve had to adjust with fewer folks and learning how to ask for help from our new coworkers. But there’s a positive feel in the air, we’re doing some fun new things with new clients, we’re getting energy from our new creative coworkers, and I think it’s going to be a great year for my department.

And the blog… well after ten years I think it’s time for some renovations! I hate it when my favorite blogs change so much I don’t recognize them and don’t know how to navigate them. As I do a bit of a facelift to Wardrobe Oxygen in the next couple of months, I’m keeping that in mind. I’d like to hear from you so I can be sure this site is still easy for you to read and access. The content isn’t changing, it’s more of a site makeover. What do you like, what do you hate, what does another blog have that you find really useful. I’ll consider all feedback, there’s no point in updating this site if it makes it less enjoyable for you to read and access!

I’m starting a monthly newsletter, which you likely noticed by the pop-up on the screen (mobile users don’t see it because I think pop-ups are a PITA on my phone and I didn’t want to do that to you). This newsletter will provide content not on the blog or social media – reviews of what I have recently read, listened to, or seen; upcoming events I’ll be attending or you may wish to attend; promotions and sales just for newsletter subscribers; I’ll also be answering reader questions and discussing personal style and current trends. Do sign up (here is the link), the first newsletter will go out this week and they’ll be a first week of the month occurrence. And as I request for the site update, I appreciate any feedback to make these newsletters better for you!

Fashion has been minimal with this weather. Lots of layers, wool, cashmere, and fleece. I said I was going to return these boots in this post… but I didn’t. The soles are awesome for the slush and ice, and I can step on what I think is firm icy snow and fall into a deep puddle of slush and stay dry. They’re not the most flattering but they’re pretty badass in how they handle winter. I wear with leggings or jeggings, and have worn under work trousers for my commute.  I can’t wait for warmer, dryer weather so I can get excited about fashion again!

So how are you doing?  Surviving the winter?  Anything new or exciting happening in your neck of the world?

The Girl on the Train, Blogging, and the Whole Story

the girl on the train paula hawkins

I heard about The Girl on the Train on NPR; I caught the last bit of an interview with the author Paula Hawkins and was interested. I had finished the second book in the Outlander series and was looking for a change of pace before I delved into the third. I listened to The Girl on the Train via Audible on my commute to and from work and ended up not just with a change of pace from Dragonfly in Amber, but a new perspective on blogging, social media, and its audience.

The Girl on the Train is a thriller, very reminiscent of Gone Girl, but it’s also a great example of how looks can be deceiving and what happens when people become invested in the lives of strangers. Rachel Watson is a lonely, lost woman; she’s recently divorced and her life is a mess. She takes the train every day, and every day she passes the same row of houses next to the tracks. One is her old house, still inhabited by her ex and now accompanied by his new wife and baby; but the one that interests Rachel is a few doors down. A couple lives there, a couple that she sees as perfect. She doesn’t know them, but she imagines their lives between glimpses of them sipping wine or coffee on their patio or rooftop terrace. In her head she imagines their relationship, their professions, their hobbies; she even creates names for them – Jason and Jess. When tragedy strikes, Rachel ends up being involved in the life of this couple and realizes they aren’t the people in her morning commute fantasies.

Unlike bloggers and social media celebs, Jason and Jess don’t realize they have an audience. But like bloggers, what Rachel the audience sees is only a snippet of their life and she is making the decision to fill in the blanks.

While listening to this book, I couldn’t help but think about how bloggers and Internet personalities are analyzed, criticized, and sometimes idolized. I see on Twitter, on message boards, and on fan/hate blogs how people like Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train make the decision to fill in the blanks. That somehow, if one looked hard enough at the photos chosen by a blogger for their blog or how a paragraph is phrased they can determine if someone is having an affair, miserable at their job, upset that she can’t conceive, a terrible friend, a neglectful parent. Or the opposite, that by examining one’s Instagram account enough one can determine if someone’s husband really loves her, she’s such a nice and giving person, or she’s a really good mother.

The thing is you don’t know why someone chooses to share what they do. Maybe all the pictures turned out terrible except the one where she’s looking down at the ground. Maybe she always wears sunglasses because even after all these years she’s still awkward in front of the camera and the oversized shades hide her deer in the headlights gaze. Maybe she doesn’t share her husband on Instagram because he’s uncomfortable being photographed.  Maybe the post was written in a rush before the baby woke from his nap and she hit publish before proofing.  And maybe she knows how to play the game and sees from her analytics that she makes more sales when she has that smug smile than when she shows her teeth, or that when she writes something controversial she gets more pageviews, more hate followers, more fame, and more money.

The Girl on the Train is a good reminder that with those we follow on the Internet, and even those we know in real life, we make assumptions and fill in the blanks. And often, our assumptions are dead wrong.

I’m not saying getting invested in a blogger, vlogger, or even reality show star is a bad idea. I love blogs, and I have many favorite bloggers and personalities on social media, some who have become friends in real life and some who feel like a friend though I have never met them and likely never will. This isn’t bad, the Internet is a way to not feel so alone or unusual, to connect and relate to others across the globe. To find kindred spirits and gain inspiration. But it’s important to remember you don’t really know them, you only know what they choose for you to know and through the filter they have picked. It’s entertainment, it’s art, but it’s never the whole story.

The Girl on the Train was a well-written psychological thriller. I don’t want to share much more because it’s definitely the type of novel that is more enjoyable when you have no idea what happens before you start reading. And it’s clear I enjoyed how stereotypical characters were proven to be far more complex than originally thought; something that holds true for everyone you meet in real life, and on the Internet.

What I Wore: Buffalo Girl

Wardrobe Oxygen What I Wore Plaid and Leather Wardrobe Oxygen What I Wore Leather and Plaid Wardrobe Oxygen
Shirt: Gap (on sale!) | Skirt: Halogen (this year’s version) | Shoes: Miss Sixty (similar) | Bracelet: Rebecca Minkoff (similar) | Bag: Isabella Fiore via MYHABIT | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

I could have just called this post “A Few of my Favorite Things!” I’m such a sucker for plaid flannel shirts, it’s the college grunge Eddie Vedder obsessed gal inside still getting her sartorial moment in the sun. This skirt I’ve had for a few years now and love it; I’ll wear it now with bare legs and come winter I’ll wear it with tights as I did here last winter. These shoes… well if you’ve been reading for a while you know I’ve been rocking them (and replacement pairs) since 2010, first seen in this post. The bag is a new purchase I mentioned here and adore, and oversized Ray-Ban aviators have become my signature sunglasses (and Karl’s too, we share pairs!).

Reclaiming my Curly Girl Status with Salon 46

When I was a baby, I had curly hair. As I got older and my hair got longer, I forgot that I had natural ringlets, and instead cursed my frizz. When I was in middle school, I took my waist-length hair to a salon, armed with the latest issue of Teen Magazine that featured Tiffani Amber-Theissen with a long layered style. I left with a dated flippy feathered look thanks to my natural curl and raced home to sob uncontrollably in my room. I soon cut it off into a bob, which stayed curly thanks to a lot of L.A. Looks gel.

I kept a variation of this look through most of high school (barring the time I chopped it all off to look like the lead singer of Roxette), the intensity of my curl dependent on what damage I did to my tresses with box dye and Sun-In. Since then, I have had stylists from time to time coax out the curl, but it never was actual ringlets without using crunchy crispy hair products or a hot tool. My hair is fine, but there’s a good amount of it. It can get weighed down easily, go frizzy easily, part in the middle and feather a la my middle school head quite easily. To get my hair curly took too much time, it was far easier to take a dryer and round brush to it.

The beautiful and serene Salon 46

Salon 46 in Alexandria, Virginia contacted me regarding their one-year anniversary. They were having a party to celebrate, and wanted to know if I would like to get a cut and color and attend their bash. Considering my last sponsored hair experience I was a bit hesitant. However, with some Googling and Yelping, I found Salon 46 received rave reviews and stylists who were expert in dealing with all forms of curly hair. I decided to take a chance and check out a popular salon in NoVA.

The plan was to have my hair done before the party, but my schedule has been so weird with the government shutdown, we couldn’t find a time that worked. Instead, I arrived early the day of the party and had them style my hair. My stylist was Bridgid, who from my online sleuthing I knew to be an expert with curly hair. Bridgid was so nice and down to earth, and as a fellow Curly Girl, she knew how to take my rainy-day Kip Winger frizz and turn it into big sexy curls for the evening fete. While being styled, I got a chance to know some of the other stylists and was thrilled to find them all so friendly, so open, so welcoming. This is not a salon of snobs. The salon itself is gorgeous, decorated in soft mint and coral in a clean and airy yet cozy manner. They offered me a glass of wine while I was styled, and after I made myself comfortable next to their fireplace and rested my feet on an adorable crocheted pouf.

Top row: Getting my hair styled for the party.  Middle: The salon decorated for their anniversary
Bottom row: Mugging for the camera with the bloggers Very Busy Mama and Clarendon Moms; the final cut and color look that I shared on Instagram

The party was a blast, it was fun to meet so many of Salon 46’s loyal customers (all who had magnificent tresses) and get to know the staff better. We dined on yummy appetizers, they filled the hair washing stations with ice and beer, and offered a sangria bar with each one named after a hair color.

The next day, I returned to Salon 46 for my cut and color with Bridgid. We chatted the day prior about what I wanted, and I said I looked forward to re-finding my natural curl. The curls seem to work pretty well in the humid summer months, but when the air gets cold and dry my hair is rough frizz instead of ringlets. I also mentioned how I was thinking of adding some lighter tones to my hair which I thought may be more flattering to my 38-year old pale and dry skin. Other than that, I left it in her capable hands.

Bridgid took her time and clearly explained what she was doing and why, how she was styling it and what products she used. She cut off about an inch, and removed a lot of heaviness to let the curls spring up. She painted on highlights and used a demi color and glaze for even color and shine. She taught me how to twirl segments of damp hair with product, pinching the ends, and working in a zig-zag manner to coax out curl but not end up with a flattening obvious part. She dried my hair with a diffuser, but said the curls would be even better if I gave them time to air dry. When she finished, my head was a mass of springy, glossy curls. Curls I hadn’t seen before without curling irons and far more shiny and natural looking than anything I had before.

I told Bridgid I do like to still do my hair straight or wavy, so she cut to make it work no matter the texture. Since my visit to Salon 46, I have styled my own hair straight once, wavy, once, and curly twice and can do a pretty good job of replicating what she did thanks to her training. It’s fun to have curls in winter, something I don’t think I experienced since I was a baby.

I had an amazing experience at Salon 46, and know you would too. If you live in the DC/NoVA area, check them out online or on Facebook. They have plenty of parking in back and are Metro-accessible.  Tell them Alison from Wardrobe Oxygen sent you, and if you’re a Curly Girl like me, be sure to ask for Bridgid!

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Online Vendor Review – Custom Glam Girl

Internet shopping can be sketchy. You may not receive what you ordered, it may be packed so clumsily that it arrives damaged… if at all. Quality doesn’t always match the photographs and return policies may make it more worth your while to stick with your defective purchase.

Much of this is because it’s very cheap for a company to start up online. No rent to pay, no utilities, no need for stock or employees even. The entire business can take place in a person’s dining room during the commercial breaks of an episode of grey’s Anatomy.

Sometimes… one can be blown away by a small internet company. It may be the quality, the prices, the variety, the service. In the case of Custom Glam Girl, I have to say it’s because of All Of The Above. This is probably why this company has been big enough to be featured in many magazines, TV shows and be sported by many celebrities (none of this I knew when I found the site).

My husband and I are friends with a dear couple; the husband is one of three sons and they all have the last name “Jones.” Growing up the brothers were always lumped together as “The Jones Boys” and when they grew up, they all went and got tattoos in Old English script that say, “Jones Boy” on their forearms. When I found out that our friends were pregnant with a boy, I knew I needed to get them some piece of baby clothing stating this on the front.

While trolling the internet, I found Custom Glam Girl. Unlike many of the other baby sites, this one didn’t just carry cutesy blue and pink frilly pieces with hearts. They had more rocker looking ideas, and that was more appropriate for this couple and their son-to-be. Though their site was extensive (and their site easy to navigate), I didn’t see exactly what I was looking for. I called their toll-free number and was immediately connected to a really peppy and friendly agent. I told her what I was looking for, Told her the style of font, the wording and how I wanted it placed on the onesie. She was patient with me and quite helpful and friendly. I placed the order late on April 6th, the agent told me that it would be about 1-2 weeks for processing and shipping. I feared I was cutting it very close for the shower on the 23rd, but kept my fingers crossed.

I had nothing to fear, the onesie came in on the 13th. It wasn’t cheap knit, it was well made, thick, and the screen-printing was solid and not likely to peel or fade after a couple of washings (check out the picture that I took after it arrived). Not only did it arrive in a heavy plastic shipping bag, it came with a legible packing slip AND a free gift! I received for free a silvertone necklace with a heart with wings and matching earrings.

This item arrived the same day that I got a package from American Apparel. Unlike Custom Glam Girl, American Apparel is a global company with stores as well as their internet shop. The items from American Apparel came thrown into a bag, the bag covered with writing via a Sharpie, the packing slip crumpled the bag looked as though it was sealed in the dark (all crooked and stuck upon itself and smooshed). The fabric of the onesie from Custom Glam Girl was better quality than the tees I got from American Apparel.

The onesie cost $19.95, which I felt was reasonable for the quality (higher quality than the one I got from Snapfish), and shipping was a standard $5.95. This company sells most anything you could get personalized, from tees and hoodies to engraveable flasks in a rainbow assortment of colors. I have bookmarked this site for future reference and think it’s a great place to get a fun and creative gift for someone!

Ask Allie: Raising a Daughter When You’re Not a Girly Girl

I recently found out that I am going to have a baby girl. I was never a tomboy, but I was also never girly… pink makes me gag, and there was no lace on my wedding dress! I nearly never wear make-up and wash and wear my hair. Just based on my own personal taste, my daughter will not be wearing girly stuff by my own choice.
But what if she is girly? How do I help her, from as early as possible, walk the fine line between feminine, modest (that’s super important to me), and positive about her body image? Do you think I need to be focusing on something like that as early as … gulp .. birth? If so, what can I do to help her?

I am a pretty girly girl. I like pink, love makeup, and while there was no lace on my wedding dress there were Swarvoski crystals and a little tiara in my hair. However, when I found that I was having a girl I was just as freaked out as you. For while I may be pretty “girly”, I didn’t want to have my daughter feel that she too had to be that way. I wanted to create an environment where she could be anyone she wanted to be, wear what she liked, and feel confident without having to fit into society’s silly expectations of what a girl should be like.

We painted her room a pale yellow, a color that would work for a boy or a girl. The majority of the clothes and even cloth diapers we bought were in gender neutral shades. We bought books and toys and equipment that would be appropriate to any baby regardless of gender. Heck, we even gave her a gender-neutral first name. As a baby, it was easy. I didn’t put bows on her head, I didn’t put her in frilly dresses, didn’t pierce her ears. But as she got older, it got a bit tougher for try as I might, Emerson became a girly girl.

However, it’s not the same girly that I am. She likes her hair short because she hates to brush it or wear elastics or barrettes in it, but she loves putting on crowns, hats, and headbands. She loves princesses and fairies even though I don’t encourage such books or movies. But like me, she has a passion for accessories, and is very definite about what she wears. She’s very confident, very sure of herself. She sings off-key at the top of her lungs, dances into corners of tables, and trips over her two feet on a daily basis, always laughing it off. She’s very affectionate, blowing kisses and hugging friends and acquaintances while I am more reserved and shy. She’s a neat freak – can’t stand sticky fingers or toys on her bedroom floor, while I have been a slob all my life. While she may be girly, she has a personality and interests completely different from mine.

My husband is the stay at home parent, and he is surely not girly. He keeps his hair short and washes it with a bar of soap, lives in cargo shorts and band tee shirts, and is most comfortable out in nature on a bike or hiking in the woods. He doesn’t know what a color wheel is, hates the color pink, and before Emerson didn’t know a single name of a Disney princess. And like me, he finds her to be a completely different person with completely different interests from him.

Your child, whether she loves pink or hates it, will be her own unique person with her own unique interests. While she may learn from you, she will also figure out things on her own, be it from who she was before she came into this world, or through experiences in society. While you may have some influence on her interests, she will still be completely herself. And through her growth and development as an individual, you will find yourself learning from her – it is amazing how wise a toddler can be, and what you can learn about yourself by looking into your baby’s eyes.

While I let Emerson fly her sartorial flag and have made her tutus and crowns, I still want her to be a child, not a young woman. I don’t let her wear clothing with logos or messages, don’t let her wear makeup, and teach her that her body is something to be treasured and belongs to her. She is not a diva, she is not a princess, she is a toddler. I am a feminist and want to raise my daughter believing that she deserves to be treated as a human being, and shouldn’t have to act a certain way or not be able to do certain things because of her gender. While I buy her dresses and skirts, I believe I do it in a way that lets her be a little kid, and as she gets older will teach her that she can hone her personal style and embrace her femininity while remaining modest. My mother raised my sister and me to wear what we wanted and believe what we wished, we still understood modesty and dressing to respect the wonderful body we had been given – I hope I am doing the same with Emerson.  I never speak badly about my body around her, never discuss weight or the appearance of others. We as parents tell her that who she is and what she does is what makes her and other people beautiful and at least at this point, she believes it, and believes in herself.

Do what feels right to you as a parent, and it will be what is best for your daughter. Give her the space to find herself yet educate her on what you know, and whether she’s fascinated by astronomy, insects, swimming, drawing, frogs or fairy princesses, she will let you know and guide you in the process.

And the biggest surprise to me as a parent? A lot of this is already inside you and doesn’t appear until you have a little soul to care for and raise. I have said before that when I gave birth to Emerson I also delivered “Service Pack B” to figure out how to deal with a baby. Before Emerson, I feared babies, never changed a diaper and only held one or two (usually after being teased by a friend who was a mother). When pregnant, I feared I would never figure it out, but hours after she was born I was changing her diaper like a pro and holding her in a way that I knew was secure and comforting. As caring for an infant came pretty naturally to me and my husband, so did understanding her as an individual. And I know that “Service Pack B” will come to you as well and you will be a fantastic mother. Worrying about this now shows that you truly care about your child being her own person, and that in my opinion is one of the most important aspects of being a great parent.

Note: I know this is a pretty personal subject and not necessarily fashion related, but it is one that has been asked by my readers more than once. For that reason I decided to make this a post and not just a personal reply.  I do not claim to be the best parent in the world and one should not consider my word gospel – it’s just my experience as a parent, and I hope it can help other parents out there.

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How to Look Rich

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!

Les Misérables: My Worlds Collide

When I realized:

Was also:
The 16-year old in my heart swooned.

Yesterday was a wonderful Christmas.  We hosted for the first time; Karl made some sort of breakfast casserole, had fresh fruit and my mom made her awesome coffee cake.  Emerson had so much fun and loved what Santa brought.  For lunch, Karl made potato leek soup.  We all then took naps, and then I went to see Les Misérables with my mom and sister.

Les Misérables received mediocre reviews and I can understand why (I read a review where they found the cinematography “pretentious” and I totally got that), but the teenager in me was in heaven. When I got my first CD player for Christmas in 12th grade, the first two CDs I got were the soundtracks for Cats and Les Miz. I have seen it performed several times and know all the songs by heart. I felt the casting was pretty fabulous (oh Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter made me so happy, even Anne Hathaway was wonderful) and as soon as I saw Enjolras on the big screen my inner teenager practically fainted in her seat. While I am a big Gossip Girl fan, the character of Trip didn’t do much for me. However, Aaron Tveit as Enjolras was perfection. I haven’t been to a movie in the theater in far too long… to have my return be for Les Misérables was perfection.

Who would have thought that Trip Van der Bilt would be the leader of a revolution?

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Random Ramblings

Yesterday was No Judgment Day, where we mothers should stop judging one another and support each other. I was honored that Redbook asked me to write a piece for No Judgment Day, and you should be seeing more pieces from me on Redbook’s site in the future.  I encourage you to read some of the other posts on Mamarama, Redbook’s Mom Blog Council.

Yesterday I spoke at The PR News Media Relations Next Practices Forum. They had a panel of journalists and bloggers share what they wanted to receive from PR folks and those in PR were able to ask us questions. I must admit I was a bit nervous – this was the first time I did public speaking as a blogger that wasn’t about fashion and I was on a panel with some pretty impressive folks. But I think it went extremely well; I not only was able to share my experiences with getting pitches but I learned from my fellow panelists and those PR folks in the audience.  And of course we need to talk about fashion!  I wore this dress from Dobbin with this pendant, and these shoes from Boutique 9 (which are gorgeous but too high for wearing all day, just a little FYI.  Will keep for nights out or days where I sit more at work).

I am down to m last pair of contacts and decided to get an eye exam and a new pair of glasses.  Picking them up today, and the contacts won’t be ready for later so you may see a few outfit posts of me in google googles!  I haven’t gotten a new pair of glasses since 2004 (seriously!) so it will be good to give my eyes a rest from contacts… and I think I’ll be having too much fun with this and getting another pair of frames or two in the next year!

I have really enjoyed being without a TV for the past week or so.  We bought our TV a few years after we moved here and it has been very good to us but the fan died the day before Thanksgiving.  Since then, we have entertained ourselves with the computer or iPhone and even Emerson has gotten used to it.  Makes me wish I didn’t buy a TV on Black Friday (it will be delivered this coming week).  I didn’t even miss Gossip Girl that much, and got much more reading and sleep as a result!

Off to take Emerson to ballet and run a few errands.  If all goes well we may get our tree this weekend!  What are your weekend plans?

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from

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

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

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

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

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to 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 Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (
YouTube ( or

Good luck!

Your Challenge This Week

Your challenge – until Memorial Day (we’re talking only 12 days, 10 if you exclude today and the 26th) be good to yourself and your fellow woman. What do I mean?

1. Accept that you are a woman, not a moving mannequin. Of COURSE you will have some softness, bumps and lumps in various places. Moaning over them, cursing them and tugging at them doesn’t make them disappear and just ruins your mood, which affect your appearance. Every time you are ready to scowl at your reflection, stop in your tracks and find something you are happy about. Fabulous pedicure? Feminine ankles? Stop-in-your-tracks lashes? Maybe you are starting to see results from your new gym membership, or are always told you have the most infectious smile. Those who have high self esteem are seen as being more attractive to others – for a week allow yourself to accept and heck… even LOVE yourself and see how reactions will change!

2. Go a week without the rags. Can you do it, a week without TMZ, Perez, InTouch and OK!? A week without guessing who’s cellulite is being pictured on the front of the Inquirer, and what It Girl was caught sans makeup (or panties) the day before. Why do we find such entertainment in finding fellow women not look their best? It doesn’t help our appearance, or our soul. You may find a week without the gossip sites and rags may actually make you feel better about yourself.

3. Before you judge, try to place yourself in her shoes. “Omigod, did you see what SHE WAS WEARING?” “That woman should NOT be wearing that with HER figure.” “What a fat-ass, her skin is disgusting, wow she looks so old for her age!” How many times have you caught yourself whispering something similar to your friend (or whispering it to yourself)? Often times, those we judge we judge unfairly. Possibly that woman has a medical condition, is pregnant, just gave birth, is going through a nasty divorce, is cramming for The Bar, had a death in the family, had her house burn down and is wearing donated clothes… gosh the reasons could be endless and extreme. Thing is, we are so harsh on our fellow woman without stopping to wonder WHY, or to offer assistance. Have an acquaintance who can’t style her way out of a paper bag? Instead of gossiping about her tapered chinos over mojitos with your friends, offer a makeover day with a shopping trip (or a shop in her closet day). See a stranger at the fitting room admiring her reflection while you know that dress does nothing for her hips? Instead of sneering or giggling, why not gently offer her your opinion and an alternative choice?

No woman WANTS to look unflattering, she usually doesn’t have a clue how to change her style or get out from under her personal woes. Try to get into her shoes and think, if you were she, what would you like to hear or what would you need at that moment? You never know when karma will come back and assist you during a time of need.

One week of being considerate and compassionate to your fellow woman, and to your self. Amazing how one week can totally change your outlook on life and alter your priorities. Start the summer off great by detoxing your mindset. I challenge all of you to try this and come back and let me know how it went!


Black cashmere tank from Banana Republic, black ponte jacket from Banana Republic Outlet, Chinese red shantung skirt from Banana Republic (definite theme here!), leopard peeptoe heels from BCBGirls, gold necklace from Express, gold bangles from Ralph Lauren.

Hair was washed and conditioned, dried with my Croc wet-to-dry iron. No products.’

Makeup is L’Oreal True Match concealer in W1-3, Benefit’s That Gal, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Nars blush in Orgasm, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis – ivory over whole lid. Lashes curled, two coats Cover Girl Lash Blast and one of Imju Fiberwig. Maybelline Ultraliner in black on top lash line and on lips is some Revlon Shiny Sheers in a sheer red that I left at home by accident so do not have to read the label.

I am not really sure what is going on with the layout of my posts; I have not done anything different so it must be that Blogger is being stupid again.

This outfit is inspired by Catie’s contest at Cuffington. This outfit makes me fabulous inside… though notsomuch when I walk past my reflection in a window. I adore this skirt, it is so much fun and the color is awesome. The cashmere tank is really thick and I have had it for years and got it for like $10 on the clearance rack. Jacket has given me many miles and I love its versatility and the shoes… oh I love these shoes so much I have two pairs of them! All that is missing is my silver cuff, this great green ring I bought at a Ren Fest and my wedding tiara and I would be wearing almost all my favorite things! :) Too bad this skirt isn’t the most flattering (the one my husband says makes me look like Mimi from Drew Carey) or I would wear it every week! :)

Ask Allie: Fashion Advice for a Petite SAHM

Dear Allie,
I am currently rocking the awful “mom” look aka yoga pants and huge t-shirts and I am so over it! Could you direct me to a few classic pieces to start my wardrobe? I am a stay at home mom with two under two, so I need a practical look. I live in Ohio where the weather is always changing. I am very petite (5’ and less than 100 lbs). I also have trouble finding comfortable shoes that look stylish and fit my size 5 feet. Any advice?
– Megan

Dear Megan,
I am so glad you realize that one can be an active mom while maintaining style. I recently wrote an article on about new mom fashion, but will offer some basics that should get you on track without looking like a mom, or like a college student:

Dark Straight Jeans
A dark straight jean is classic, can be worn any season of the year, looks more polished than lighter washes, and doesn’t need a fancy label to look chic. Having a straight leg means this jean should work with most any length or style of top in your wardrobe – simple tanks and tees, longer tunics, blazers and cardigans, blouses tucked in or left untucked. Add a bit of spandex so that you won’t be showing your undergarments or cutting into your stomach when crawling on the floor after your little one.

The Lee Slender Secret 5-pocket Jean is a classic style that is great for women who may have a bit of that baby pooch still left. Oprah recently rated them as a top jean, and reviews state that these jeans in petite are not needing of hemming for those who are 5’ tall. $29.99


Levi’s 512 jean is a straight, classic style that is made for a woman’s shape. Their Perfectly Slimming 512 Jean has the Lycra to keep your body looking smooth, and giving you the flexibility you need to keep up with your children. Again, this jean is rated great for the really petite woman – they run short so you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg on alterations. $40.00

A Versatile Trench
When the weather is chilly one day, hot the next, and rainy the third it’s hard to be prepared. A simple trench or mac in a water-resistant fabric that is lined will keep you looking stylish yet comfortable on those in-between days.

The Sunshower Coat from Lands End is a favorite – it’s a classic style, breathable, and wrinkle-resistant. Lands End is known for their quality and service so you know you will get a great piece that will give you years of wear. Khaki is a safe bet, but a more memorable color like their Wine Grape will look great with neutrals, make your skin glow, and will give you a sunnier outlook on the day, even if the sky is cloudy. $99.50

Macy’s Style&Co brand offers great style for a reasonable price. This double-breasted trench has a shorter length that won’t dwarf your petite frame, and the soft sage color will look great with neutrals, but be a fresh change from beige and black outerwear. $79.00

Solid-colored Seasonally-appropriate Tops
Toss the oversized tees and stiff striped button-downs. It’s easy to be comfortable, get dressed in an instant yet look great if you have an arsenal of flattering, well-fitting knits in your size and colors you adore. Wash on the gentle cycle, line dry and these pieces can give you years of great wear. Look for pieces with 5% spandex or more – they will be more likely to keep their shape, not need to be ironed, and maintain their color longer than 100% cotton tops. For winter, I love merino wool because it acts like a knit in keeping its shape and flattering the figure, and can also be washed on the gentle cycle.

Ann Taylor LOFT is a fave of many petite women thanks to their extensive collection, reasonable prices, and truly petite sizing. Their Petite Twisted Boatneck Tee is a fashionable version of the comfy tee shirt. The neckline adds drama to a casual day look, and would fantastic under a cardigan or casual twill blazer. Great colors like Balsam Green and Ocean Depths will complement dark denim, khaki, white, gray, and black. $19.50

I love Nordstrom’s Caslon line – great wardrobe basics of great quality. The petite Caslon Ballet Neck Tee is a feminine and flattering twist on a simple knit top – the ¾ sleeves make it wearable almost year-round and a scoop neck is lovely on most every woman’s figure. $24.00

A Casual Blazer
A great way to jazz up simple tees and jeans is with a casual blazer. If it’s unlined and has a bit of stretch, it’s as comfortable as a hoodie but with far more polish.


Ann Taylor LOFT’s Petite Urban Twill Blazer is a great choice. The grosgrain trim gives it a unique, higher-end look, and in navy it would go with most any color tank or tee in your closet. $69.99

The striped blazer from Banana Republic would look amazing with neutral tanks, tees, and bottoms. It would also look quite chic with a pop of color underneath – try candy pink, blood orange, or apple green. The standup collar elongates the frame, making you look taller. $149.99

A Trendy Knit
Right now, striped tees are a hot look – this is a great way to add some variety and current fashion to your wardrobe without looking passé in a season. Striped tees look great with a simple denim or twill skirt, under a blazer, with shorts, capris, jeans, and even dressed up with a fuller skirt or with trousers. Add a bit of contrast with a turquoise or coral necklace, or a cardigan in a color like leaf green, tangerine, or yellow.

This black and cream striped boatneck from Lauren by Ralph Lauren isn’t your ordinary tee shirt – the silver buttons and boatneck make it a refined piece that would look great with jeans, and also with a white twill skirt for spring outings. $59.50


I own the Striped Sailor Tee from Ann Taylor and adore it – the scoopneck is flattering, the knit heavy and durable, the epaulets give a bit more style and panache. It comes in three colors. $38.00

A Not-so Little Black Dress
I have a black wrap dress from Old Navy that I bought years ago on clearance. I wear it with leggings and flats around the house, with heels for a wedding or funeral, with tall boots to work. It’s so versatile, and the matte jersey is a fabric that stretches, gives, washes easily, and looks timeless and seasonless.

The Petite Gemma Wrap dress from Banana Republic is a great choice – ¾ sleeves work year round, and a true wrap style means you can cinch the waist for a more custom fit. $98.00


Merona for Target has really come a long way in the past year – the quality has improved immensely, and the style is quite on-trend yet classic. The Merona Petite Faux Wrap Knit Dress is a great choice – the empire waist hides any post-baby pooch, and makes it dress up or down with ease. $20.98

It often impossible to find size 5 footwear in stores, however the selection is pretty impressive online. Sites like Nordstrom and Zappos have a great selection of smaller sizes that are still stylish and comfortable. I recommend investing in:

  • A sandal with a low wedge heel (more comfortable than heels, able to wear with shorts or with a dress).  The “Amber” wedge-heel sandals from Munro is a great summer choice – uber comfortable, thin elegant straps, will look great with skirts and dresses of all lengths, as well as shorts, trousers, and cropped pants. Munro is known for comfort and quality – these shoes should be wearable even for a day of sightseeing or a trip to Disney World. $179.95
  • A pair of ankle boots you can slip on with jeans and a sweater (low heel, brown or black depending on your wardrobe – more versatile than flats as that they can dress up and also be waterproofed for rainy days).  The “Wisteria” by Merrell has a wedge heel which is comfortable when standing or walking for a long period of time, but can still be paired with casual trousers. They get great reviews for comfort. $140.00
  • A pair of tall riding boots (wear with dresses, over jeans and you will be amazed how they will transform wardrobe basics into something stylish – waterproof them for more versatility).  These riding boots from La Canadiene are so classic – waterproof Italian leather, moisture-wicking lining, memory foam insole, low heel, elegant styling. These are boots you buy now and will still be wearing a decade from now. $256.00
  • A pair of simple black leather pumps for those times when you do need to dress up (they work with pants, dresses, and even with your dark jeans for a Date Night or drinks with your girl friends).  The Nuncio pump from Nine West is a classic pump that will look elegant year-round and years from now. 2.5” heel, elongated toe, and available in narrow and wide widths. $69.95

For additional petite inspiration, check out:

My Weekend in Photos

This weekend was pretty fun and event-packed! Saturday after my husband got back from teaching yoga, the three of us walked to the nearby elementary school for their Spring Fair.

I remember such fairs from my childhood – tossing ping pong balls into bowls to win goldfish, buying a new book from the Scholastic stand, getting my face painted. Saturday was supposed to be rainy so they moved their fair into the multipurpose room, but didn’t lose any of the fun. Emerson had a BLAST! She had a butterfly painted on her cheek, searched for hidden treasure in a sand pit, made a mask, got her nails painted, and yes… got two books from Scholastic (shocker, one was a Fancy Nancy!).

After her nap, we took Emerson to my mom’s house for the evening so my husband and I could have a date night. We really like Band of Skulls and they were playing at the 9:30 Club.

 I didn’t get a picture of my outfit at home, but captured a MySpace-esque shot in the bathroom of the bar. This is a new dress from NY & Company (Solid Keyhole-Back Knit Dress – not sure why it’s called knit because the fabric isn’t very stretchy)– it has a pretty fun keyhole in the back, and curved shirttails and sleeve hems.  Not uber-fabulous quality, but a simple style in a fabric that can work most months of the year.

The opening band was We Are Augustines, who I didn’t know before the night.  They were a fun band to see, felt like a local band who just made it big and they were super excited to be playing at the 9:30 Club.  Very heart-felt group of guys who really enjoyed performing for us.

I saw Band of Skulls at Bonnaroo this past summer, but it was at my least favorite tent and I couldn’t really see, just stood in mud in a sweaty crowd.  However, they sounded great so when they came to DC I knew I wanted to see them and wanted to be sure to get up front to actually see the performance.  We got there early enough to find a great spot on the floor surrounded by true fans.  Band of Skulls was phenomenal – one of the best live shows I have seen in a long while.  If you haven’t heard of Band of Skulls, you may be surprised that you know a few of their songs, thanks to them being featured in a Ford commercial, The Hangover movie trailer, and episodes of shows like True Blood and Gossip Girl.  My husband and I can listen straight through Baby Darling Doll Face Honey over and over, and are starting to really dig their latest album, Sweet Sour.  They are pretty classic rock, a bit of rockabilly and great harmonizing of their voices, I encourage you to check them out!

Sunday I planned on being very productive around the house, but when my sister asked if I wanted to go see The Hunger Games with her, I jumped at the chance.  As you know, I loved the series of books, so I was excited to see how they adapted it for the movie.  We were excited to find out my best friend and her husband had the same idea and were able to meet up with them at the theater.  I didn’t think the movie was the best film of all time, but I found it enjoyable, true enough to the book, and my friend who hadn’t read the books said he still found the movie to be enjoyable.

We continued the movie theme that day – after Emerson’s nap we let her see Tangled and she loved it.  Girl loves anything to do with fairies or princesses and Tangled kept her attention the entire time, lying on the floor eating popcorn.  We have yet to take her to the theater to see a movie, but after last night, I think we’ll have to do it soon – she would LOVE the experience!

How was your weekend?  What did you do?

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My Head is Too Big to be Hipster: A Warby Parker Review

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.

Me in my new glasses – Lafont’s Issy & La collection, the frame is called “Gloss”

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!

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The Staples for Every Woman’s Wardrobe – Updated for the Next Decade

I originally wrote my staples for a woman’s wardrobe almost a decade ago, and finally put it on a blog almost five years ago. I have been a size 4 and a size 16 and no matter my job or lifestyle, these staples were always essentials in my wardrobe. Knowing many women over the years – be they clients of mine when I was a stylist, friends or family – these simple items worked on virtually all of them, regardless of their age, their figure or their lifestyle.

Fashion experts will toss around catchphrases like “wardrobe classic,” “fashion essential” or “investment piece” all the time, but it rarely holds true. A white shirt may seem classic, but if you are one of the lucky few women who looks good in white and a button-up, you will find that either the cut of the collar will look dated or the cotton will yellow before a decade is through. Pencil skirts have been in style for decades but the actual silhouette of the skirt does change from season to season.

It also is hard to find a garment that not only stays stylish from year to year, but also flatters your ever changing figure. Just as you need to be refit for bras every year because your bustline changes, as does the rest of your body. You may have remained a perfect Size 6 since your senior year of high school, but with age, life events and activity, different parts of you will spread, will sag or will become more firm.

We may feel that we purchase classics, but five years later these simple pieces just may not seem as useful or flattering as they once did. I always suggest that people reassess their wardrobe each season – replace that which has not held up, donate that which is no longer flattering and fill any “holes” in your closet (need another pair of black pants, want to get a cardigan to update a dress, etc.).

Well it is time to reassess my original list of wardrobe essentials. As we head towards a new decade, what is still relevant and what needs to be updated for the times?

Here’s a recap of the list from 2005:

  1. Black Tailored Pantsuit in Seasonless Fabric
  2. Black Seasonless Trousers
  3. Jeans
  4. Dressy Jeans
  5. Black Heeled Boots
  6. Black Leather Pumps
  7. Not so Little Black Dress
  8. Silver Hoop Earrings
  9. Black or Grey Merino V-neck Sweater
  10. Trendy Skirt
  11. Trendy Jacket/Blazer
  12. Slim V-neck Sweater in Signature Color
  13. Signature Accessory
  14. Sparkly Evening Shell or Top
  15. The Perfect Tee – or Two
  16. Well-fitting Wool Winter Coat
  17. Great Fitting Bras
  18. Panty Line-free Underwear
  19. Pashmina or Wrap
  20. Clutch Purse
  21. Daily Purse
  22. Sexy Shoes that Can Be Worn for at Least Five Hours
  23. Sunglasses

So, what is still a classic? What could be revamped for the new decade? What is totally passé?

1. Black Tailored Pantsuit in Seasonless Fabric. When I wrote this list, I found a black pantsuit essential, and had one in my closet at all times since my junior year of college. I may have worked retail, creative, corporate but always found a use for a black suit. I would pair it with a sparkly top for a cocktail party, was so relieved to know it was ready in my closet for an unexpected interview or client meeting. If I was visiting a house of worship or a daytime event, I knew the black suit would usually work with a silk blouse or fine knit shell. I would use the suit as separates.

I currently do not have a black suit in my wardrobe. I have been at my current job for two years and have only had ONE occasion where a suit could be useful, and I was able to wear a dress and closed-toed shoes and looked completely appropriate. When I speak to many women my age, they say that they do not own a suit. Many find suits to be stuffy, to be uncomfortable, to evoke images of lawyers and politicians.

The thing is… now that I do not own a suit, I find so many times when it would be useful and a perfect choice. That work situation – yes I looked appropriate in a black wrap dress and pumps, but a suit would have made me look more like a manager and less like a subordinate. The room was cold and it was a hot summer day – a suit would have been great – throw the suit over my arm as I walked to the conference, slip on the jacket when I feel the chill of the A/C. As for other situations, a black suit would have been great for my friends’ daytime wedding. They married outside in a garden and had the reception at an elegant restaurant. If I wore a sleeveless or short-sleeved blouse, I would have been comfortable at the outdoor portion, but nicely covered for the indoor reception. I had my daughter with me and placed her in a baby carrier. Wearing a baby with a dress isn’t the best look – the carrier hikes up the skirt, yanks open the neckline and armholes and a dress is never the best attire when crawling after an active baby. A suit would have given me just as much polish with more coverage and moveability. I will be speaking in front of an audience in November, and it’s not work related. I really could wear anything I desire, but a suit gives one the air of authority and competence and provides a bit of personal armor for a time when I will most likely be nervous. And the Le Smoking is not going out of fashion any time soon – a black suit with a silk camisole is always chic and always a great choice for that holiday gala, evening wedding or fancy date.

A black suit does not have to be dowdy, and I really discourage you from purchasing one that has too conservative, masculine or boxy of a shape. Single breasted, notch collar, a seasonless fabric with nice drape, a silhouette that skims your curves, a pant leg that can work with loafers or kitten heels. This will ensure such a suit can move from day to evening yet still look polished, classic, elegant.

2. Black Seasonless Trousers. I don’t think this needs to be explained. Many people are anti-black in a wardrobe and I respect that; however when you are new to building a wardrobe, black is a great neutral that can dress up, dress down, work with most any color, match shoes with ease and hide a multitude of sins (figure flaws or that dribble of salad dressing at lunch).

I must admit I haven’t shopped in an Express in years, but I do know such pants can be found in most every shop in your local mall. I recently acquired a great pair from New York and Company for a song, and have a pair I bought at Ann Taylor a few seasons ago that are still in heavy rotation in my wardrobe.

As for silhouette – no need to stick with bootcut, though this is still a cut that is flattering to those with curves and those who are petite. Straight cuts are also a great choice – you are looking for a flat front, a waistband that becomes invisible under knits, a leg opening that works with boots or with heels. The skinny trouser is currently all the rage and it is quite cute with the right top and figure, but it is not a wardrobe staple. You need a simple pair of black pants that will work for work, for play, for romance, for business and everything in between. A flat, straight or slightly bootcut trouser will be your best bet.

3 and 4. Jeans, Jeans, Jeans. When this was written, jeans were a top priority in any fashionable woman’s wardrobe and they would pay out the nose for them. No one blinked an eye when gossip rags would state that an It Girl paid upwards of $500 for a pair of dungarees. Brands like True Religion, Seven (now found at stores like Lane Bryant and Express), Paper Denim and Cloth and Hogan were brands as familiar as Marc Jacobs and Chloe. It was important to have a certain look to your jeans, no matter your budget.

Luckily the tides have changed and it is no longer expected to own jeans that cost as much as a month’s rent. Those It Girls are now often seen in classic Levi’s or distressed pairs from a vintage store. This doesn’t mean everyone should run out and purchase a pair of stovepipes or boyfriend jeans, but it means that there are more options out there than tacky, over-embellished knockoffs of chi chi brands.

The style is the same – keep them dark, keep them crisp, keep them free of adornment. The jeans-buying process can be more stressful and exhausting than the purchase of anything in your wardrobe. But if you keep at it and find denim nirvana, it is totally worth it. Great jeans can make you look taller, slimmer, firmer and more stylish.

5 and 6. Black Leather Shoes. Oh gosh, the emails I receive about shoes! How dare I encourage women to purchase heels, how dare I mention an animal-based product, why only black and why not brown?

First to all of you – I am not telling people how to dress. This site, and these posts are advice for those who desire it. I believe women should dress in a manner that makes them feel good and in clothes that garner them the respect and admiration that they deserve. If you feel that your current wardrobe achieves that, kudos to you. You may stop reading. For the rest…

Heels change a woman’s posture – it pulls back her shoulders, lifts her bottom, tightens her calves. It changes her walk and makes her look taller and leaner. Society sees heels as the female equivalent of a suit and tie – a wardrobe addition that may not necessarily be comfortable but adds a level of formality to attire. And a low heel is actually more comfortable and healthy for the foot than a flat.

Black is chosen because this wardrobe list is based off of black. Black can go from day to night and from season to season more easily than any other color of footwear. Black isn’t as hard to match with other blacks as say brown or tan. And leather is chosen because leather can be polished, repaired, dressed up or down. Leather lasts longer because it can breathe and can be maintained. If you are vegan or don’t believe in leather, there are great alternatives in faux leather and microfiber. However these alternatives are less likely to last in your wardrobe (they crack, stain, stretch out and stink) and they often aren’t as versatile.

The cut is the same – very classic, not overly pointy, tall, round, chunky, etc. Keep it simple and it will stay stylish for far longer.

7. The Black Dress. I have written about this piece many times. I believe it still holds true. I understand some religions frown on wearing black for weddings and other occasions – before you wear black to a religious event, do ask the host or someone familiar with the family’s culture what is appropriate. However many events (including most church weddings) will find a black dress to be completely appropriate and not at all somber. Tone is made with how you wear black, not the color itself.

8. Silver Hoop Earrings. Again, many criticize this choice, but it is a simple way for the accessories-shy person to branch out and jazz up an outfit. If you have feelings that another earring choice is more stylish/cool/flattering/appropriate, you probably don’t need this list.

9. Black or Gray Merino V-neck Sweater. Okay, it doesn’t HAVE to be a v-neck. There are some lovely round necks out there. The thing is, some round necks are too wide, too deep, too high. Square necks are not flattering on many figures, and crewnecks are not doing favors to any woman with a short neck, thick neck, large chest, broad shoulders or soft arms. V-necks are always available, v-necks don’t really go out of style, v-necks layer nicely with button-downs, shells or camisoles, and v-necks flatter the female figure.

10. Trendy Skirt
11. Trendy Jacket 
12. Sweater in Signature Color
13. Signature Accessory. Ah, another piece I no longer have in my wardrobe. Well, let me be truthful – there are about six lovely skirts in my closet but none of them fit my postpartum body. I have yet to purchase a new skirt because I can’t find a silhouette that will change with this ever-changing body, fit my personal sense of style and flatter. And yet, I have survived the past nine months of existence.

Same holds true for the trendy jacket. I am still nursing, and because of it I still have nursing-sized breasts. Jackets that fit my bust do not usually fit my waist and shoulders. I could tailor, but since my body is constantly changing that which fits like a glove one month will be utterly wrong the next. So I have held off.

Some suggestions I made aren’t necessarily stylish any more – I have since donated that denim blazer and even though you may love animal prints, a leopard-spotted pencil skirt may be downright tacky on some people.

So does that mean one does not NEED a trendy skirt or jacket? In this case, I say yes… but only under the condition that you have an alternative. Woman cannot live on wardrobe basics alone. If you swim in a sea of black pants and solid v-neck tops in neutral tones, you are losing your identity. Items like trendy skirts, statement necklaces and funky blazers bring YOU into your wardrobe. If you are using this list to build from scratch, then I say these items are a must-have. For help with finding your personal style check out these posts:

14. Evening Top. Those who say they don’t need a top like this are often those who are dressed inappropriately for an event. I see you women – you in the oxford and chinos at a wedding, in a cotton sundress at your company’s holiday party at the hotel ballroom, in a dowdy suit at your nephew’s Bar Mitzvah. You are the women who frantically run to the mall three hours before your blind date and grab the first printed sequin-embellished polyester knit top you find on the racks.

So, you may only wear this top once a year at most. You don’t date, you don’t go to nightclubs or bars with your girl friends, you don’t have a social calendar full of cocktail parties and gala events. That’s okay and totally normal. But occasionally… I bet this top would be a better choice than what you pull from your closet.

That dark red silk top I mention in the original post? Yep, I am still wearing it. Last May I was the officiant at a dear friend’s wedding. For the ceremony I wore my black pantsuit and under I wore this cranberry silk top. After the recessional, I removed the jacket and added some darker lipgloss and was ready to hit the dance floor with the other guests. Earlier that year, I was invited to the theater with a group of friends. I wasn’t sure how formal everyone else was going to dress – in DC people will wear full-length gowns or jeans to the theater. I decided to wear this red silk blouse with wide legged black drapey trousers, black jet bead necklace and some strappy silk heels. This outfit was perfect for dinner before, was comfortable when seated in the theater, and worked when we decided to grab some cocktails at a bar after the show. I have worn the top to holiday parties at hotels and studio apartments, on dates with my husband at chain restaurants and romantic little bistros. You will be surprised how many times a sparkly top can fit into your current life.

15. The Perfect Tee. I think this is a given for all women, regardless of lifestyle. Donate all those faded, stretched-out, oversized, undersized tees and grab a couple that really look good and make you feel good.

One thing that has changed a bit – styles have become more refined over the past couple of years. In 2005 a stylish woman could easily wear a fitted tee or tank with a summer skirt and sandals and look polished. These days, you need a bit more effort. These tees are not replacements for merino sweaters in that they are as professional or formal. They are still great wardrobe staples to wear on weekends, under jackets, with casual skirts and jeans and trousers, they just have taken a backseat to more refined fabrics in regard to current style.

16. Well-fitting Wool Winter Coat. So you live in Florida, or Thailand, or Guam. You really don’t need a wool coat. If so, please disregard. However if you live somewhere that requires a coat, it’s a wise choice to invest in a well-fitting wool one. Add Thinsulate lining, a pashmina at your throat, gloves and a hat and you can brave even the coldest climates when dashing from car to destination.

For those in the Northwest and colder parts of the globe – keep your puffers. I don’t want anyone to catch hypothermia. This coat is a coat for the days when a puffer isn’t required, and when you do need to look more polished (evening affair, job interview, etc.).

17. Great Fitting Bras and 18. Panty Line-free Underwear. I would think this is a given but as I walk the streets of this great country, I see that it is not. Please ladies, do yourself a favor and get a professional to fit you for bras, and check out your back view in a full-length mirror. Who care what you spend on the rest of your wardrobe if you ruin the line and look with your undergarments.

19. Pashmina. If you don’t have one, go get one. They always have them at a great price at discount marts like Filene’s Basement and TJ Maxx. You will find so many uses for it. Right now I have one at work for chilly days, and I wear my other ones all the time when there’s a slight breeze, in place of winter scarves and as a shawl with my dresses.

20. Clutch Purse. Your regular daily handbag is NOT appropriate with a cocktail dress, even if it is of black leather. Just as with the sparkly top, if you purchase quality and a classic style, you won’t need more than one and it will be okay if you only use it once a year.

Just this past weekend I went out for my friend’s bachelorette party. We went to dinner and then bar hopping. I wore a black top, black pants, black heels and then to add to the look, a printed clutch. The clutch transformed these wardrobe basics. I had worn this same ensemble to work and to a more casual group gathering. What brought this to Festive Evening status were the accessories, and the clutch was the cherry on top.

21. Daily Purse. Your purse and your hair are the two accessories you wear pretty much every day. Spend money wisely – keep these items well cared for, maintained, current and ensure they are flattering to you and your lifestyle. I know a purse is a given – it’s not so much having a purse but what purse you have.

22. Sexy Shoes. I don’t think this wardrobe staple has become passé or will any time soon.

And yes, I am still rocking those Pucci-printed heels I mentioned in the original post. In fact I loaned them to a friend and she also received tons of compliments on them.

23. Sunglasses. Also a classic. Trends come and go, so if you want to be the height of fashion with your sunglasses, I don’t recommend spending an arm and a leg. Classic styles like aviators and large black plastic frames can be found at any pricepoint.

As you see, this list hasn’t really dated all that much. The examples may look at bit 2005 come 2012, but the concepts will most likely hold true. Get your inspiration from catalogs and shop windows; subscribe to one fashion magazine so you are still hip to the current trends in accessories, colors and silhouettes. And always, be true to yourself. One who copies is never stylish. This list is a platform, a place to start on your journey to personal style. As you become more confident with yourself and your wardrobe choices, you may see that a few of these staples are pushed to the back of your closet. That’s okay, not every woman or her life is the same. But I hope this list can get you on track and help you gain confidence and along the way, you find your personal style.

The Return of an Old Friend

I guess everything does come back in style if you wait long enough.

Anyone remember Generra? Hot brand of the 1980s most famous for creating the much loved Hypercolor shirts. I remember Generra well; my family was too poor for name brands and I found a yellow canvas pullover with lots of grommets and drawstrings and New Wave embellishments at a yard sale for 75 cents. Though yellow has never been my color and the top was at least two sizes too big, I wore that thing every week because I owned a popular label.

Generra, Outback Red, Benneton, Esprit, Guess?, Forenza… brands that were as much a necessity to a young girl in the 80s as a Liz Claiborne purse and matching wallet. How is it that brands like these that were such a hot commodity ended up being fodder for discount superstores and cheesy mail order fashion catalogs? Who decides when a brand is hot, or when it is not?

Many of these oldies yet goodies have tried to make a comeback. Heck it works for hair bands, why not for the clothes that complimented the Aqua Net? Gloria Vanderbilt and Jordache had their fifteen minutes of fame a couple of seasons ago. We saw the return of jelly shoes, clear vinyl bags, high waists, neon colors, even mullets.

But Generra? They aren’t having just fifteen minutes of campy fame. They are back, and they are far better than ever. Every hot boutique online and in town has a few of their pieces, there is even an in-store Generra boutique at Henri Bendel. This isn’t a flash in the pan, Generra has slowing been taking over the past couple of years, being seen on the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Alexandra and Theodora Richards and also having their moment at New York Fashion Week 2007.

I like it when brands make a comeback. I may not purchase Lacoste, Burberry, Generra or Le Tigre, but I admire their tenacity and impressive marketing skills. I find Generra’s new line to be a bit too utilitarian for my tastes, both in cut and color; but am excited to see an old friend back up on the runway. Now I just need to dig through my mom’s attic to see if I can find that yellow canvas pullover with the grommets…

The Self-deprecating Comment

There is nothing more unattractive than a woman who says she is unattractive.

A woman usually claims she (or that which she is wearing or that which she said or made) is unappealing because, A. she is begging for attention and compliments (“oh no it’s true, you ARE utterly fabulous!”), but is usually because, B. she doesn’t trust and love herself enough. Either way, it’s not charming, it’s not stylish, and it’s not attractive.

Accepting a compliment will not make you look like a snob or self-absorbed. When someone says they like your blouse, thinks you look thin or feels that a certain color is flattering with your skintone just say thank you.

And smile.

And really mean it.

Be thankful that a person in your world took time from their day to notice you and let you know that they are pleased with what they noticed. Be gracious. No need to go on about how the blouse should have been donated years ago, that you are in desperate need of a root touch-up, that you are so bloated from binging on French fries the night before or that your dress clings to your hips. When you shoot down a compliment with a self-deprecating comment it is as though you are refusing a gift. It is okay to accept that gift, the person wasn’t forced to give it to you, offer your thanks and carry it with you for the day. You deserve it.

Many women think that compliments aren’t truthful. Yes, mean-spirited backhanded compliments make for great comedy in chick flicks, but they aren’t doled out that often in real life. People just don’t have the time and the wit to think them up and give them at the opportune time. So maybe Linda your coworker is telling you that your hair down is flattering because she thinks that your usual ponytail is too severe for your soft features. It’s still a compliment, and she didn’t have to take the time to say anything in the first place.

When you tuck a self-deprecating comment into casual conversation, it only causes your audience to scrutinize you. You mention how you have crooked teeth, and now your audience will concentrate on nothing but your teeth. You joke about how you are “pleasantly plump,” and now your audience has forgotten what you are saying and is focusing on your midsection.

Women often think it’s better to laugh at themselves before another will laugh at them. Again ladies, we do not live in an episode of Gossip Girl. The world is not out to snark about you behind your back. When you make self-deprecating comments, you are screaming to the world that you are self-conscious, lack confidence and love for yourself. Not attractive characteristics.

Be confident, don’t be a snob.
Be strong, but don’t be a bitch.
Be demure, but be definite.
Care about what you look like and others assume you are hiding behind clothes.
Don’t what you look like and others assume you lack self confidence.

Wow, it’s tough being a woman, isn’t it?

Stop trying to BE smart or funny or witty or cerebral or stylish or classic or fun or artsy or creative or quirky. Just be. When you stop trying to be SOMETHING and just listen to yourself, observe your world and roll with the waves, you find that there is less need for the armor of self-deprecating comments.

With the next compliment you receive, respond with a heartfelt thank you and a smile. And nothing else. Don’t explain, don’t apologize, don’t add detail. Just look the person in the eye and thank them for the gift. See how that person reacts and how you feel. Wear that gift of a compliment like a scarf all day. Let it show in your posture, your demeanor.

The next time you trip over your words (or over your feet), don’t tell the world that you are a klutz, an idiot, a mess. Just pull yourself together and more forward. In your mind you may be replaying the situation over and over, but don’t cause the rest of the world to hit instant replay and dwell on your mistake.

And if you want a compliment or a suggestion, stop fishing for one with a self-deprecating comment. Find a good friend and ask that person what they think. How do you really look in that dress? Why do I have a hard time looking good in photographs? Do you think I look better in green or red? Only then will you know if the response is honest, or stated to make you feel better. Trust the feedback from those who care about you, and use it to develop and gain confidence and poise.

And remember, you ARE a fantastic human being! You have wonderful exterior and interior traits that make you unique and charming and loveable. Surround yourself with people and things that make you feel and look good and you will need less self-deprecating comments.


This weekend was pretty busy – Sunday I hosted a bridal shower for my best friend. I hope to have pictures from that event a little later in the week. I wore the same dress that I wore on Thursday, same shoes too. :)

Anyway, on to today…
my wardrobe todayAttire:
Old Navy – Two white ribbed tanks layered for opacity, black ponte trousers
Halogen – Teal knit jacket
Ralph Lauren – Silver necklace
Sofft – Black patent T-strap sandals
Silver hoops, cuff and chain with wedding band

Next day, brushed out

Estée Lauder – Double-Wear Light Foundation in Intensity 2.0
Nars – Blush in Orgasm
Pop Beauty – Shadow palette for Brown Eyes – the taupe and celadon blended
Cover Girl – LashBlast mascara in Rich Black
Maybelline – UltraLiner in Black
L’Oreal – Color Juice Stick in Berry Spritzer

It is tres hot and humid in the DC area, but my office is very chilly. Only way i can get away with layers like this! :)

Monday and Tuesday

No pictures on Monday because I haven’t put up the new mirror, and I drove myself to work early in the AM.

I wore my black jersey sleeveless wrap top with the ruffle trim from Ann Taylor and my ivory tropical wool trousers from Talbots. Freshwater pearl necklace that my sister gave me as a gift and black kitten heel sandals from Banana Republic. Hair curly.

Here is Tuesday:

Ann Taylor – Black matte jersey wrap dress
Expres – Red print silk scarf
Sofft – Red patent leather T-straps (I just splurged to get them in black, they are so comfy and cute)

Next day
Blown out semi-straight

Estee Lauder – Nutritious Vita-Mineral Makeup in Intensity 2.0
Nars – Blush in Orgasm
Revlon – ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis, ColorStay lipcolor in Rich Raisin
Maybelline – UltraLiner in Black
Cover Girl – lashBlast mascara in Rich Black