Search Results for: label/Greenbelt Maryland

What I Wore: Cause for Celebration

myhabit silk maxi dress myhabit silk wrap maxi dress

Dress: Melissa Masse via MYHABIT (no longer available, more from the brand) | Shoes: SoftSpots (similar) | Bracelet: Had Forever (similar)

What do you wear to an outdoor wedding taking place during a public music festival when it’s hot as the dickens, so humid the air feels like pea soup, and there’s a strong chance for thunderstorms?  Oh let me add I am the wife of the photographer so while I am a guest and enjoying the event with Emerson at a moment’s notice I may be crawling under tables or running across the town square to assist Karl?

I chose this stretch silk maxi, a recent MYHABIT purchase.  With my referral credit (if you click on the links for MYHABIT in this post and sign up I get a $20 credit and then you can do the same with your friends) I was able to get this for around $40.  The dress has a built-in snap to keep the neckline modest, a self-belt, and pockets. With the heat and humidity, too much jewelry would be annoying so I stuck with my trusty sterling cuff.  Makeup was simple, relying on liquid liner, waterproof mascara, and Revlon’s Lacquer Balm in Vivacious for a pop of color to match the dress print.  Since I knew I’d get sweaty as soon as I walked out the front door of my house, as mentioned in my Friday Favorite post, I pinned back one side with a clip and sprayed with Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray and tried to not touch it.

The dress was perfect, it didn’t cling, it looked festive, didn’t show sweat stains, dried quickly, and the pockets made it so I could go without a purse (I totally was in Mom Mode though and safety pinned my pocket containing wallet-like things shut).  This was a total impulse purchase but I know it will get a ton of wear this summer!

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As for the wedding, it was magical.  The couple are talented musicians who host this music festival every spring.  Having their ceremony during it made so much sense, and it was awesome as a long-time resident of Greenbelt to see friends say I do in front of the historic Mother and Child statue. It was the first wedding in Roosevelt Center!  They sang during the ceremony and our friend Amethyst (featured in my True Fashionista series) was the officiant.  Their reception was in the New Deal Cafe, a restaurant and music venue in the town square, but they also had The New Deal cater a buffet meal for the entire community!  Tents were set up and neighbors brought baked goods and bands performed way into the evening as the entire town of Greenbelt celebrated their union.  Such a special day!

Ask Allie – Trench Coats, Shoe Repair, and Leopard Skirts

Allie,
I love trenches and have two, but I only wear them when it’s raining. My question is, is it okay to wear them as a coat when it’s overcast? And is it okay to wear them as a coat, period?
Thanks,
Katty

Hi Katty,
By all means, YES! Trenches are the perfect coat for when it’s raining – you look chic yet stay dry. However trenches are quite stylish even on days when the sun comes to visit. I wear my trench on any day where it’s not cold enough for a wool coat, but not warm enough to go sans outerwear. A trench is a wonderful spring and fall piece of outerwear, looks elegant with pants or skirts, and can be worn even if there isn’t a single cloud in the sky. Wear your trench with pride, no matter the weather!

***

Dear Allie,
I have a brown, cream and black leopard print skirt, what would be a good color choice for a top to pair it with other than basic black?
Sincerely,
Simone

Dear Simone,
Ooh, sounds like a pretty versatile skirt! Dark red, mustard, pumpkin, forest green, teal, or you could even get wild with hot pink or magenta. Leopard ends up being a pretty neutral piece, though I find it to be most elegant with darker jewel tones. If you do want to go standard with a color in the skirt, you can jazz it up with red heels, a hot pink belt over the sweater, a kelly green bag. It’s a great base piece to really play with color.

***

Dear Allie,
I think I live or work near you – where can I find a really good cobbler in the DC area? Who do you use?
Thanks,
Carole

Hi Simone,
I go to a ridiculous hole in the wall of a place in Greenbelt (near College Park, Maryland) called Arto’s Shoe Repair. I have been going here for eons. I find they do quality work, are honest with their abilities, and have reasonable prices.

Arto’s is in a dying shopping mall, all the shoe orders are on display in bags over the employees’ heads, and the place looks as though it could use a thorough cleaning. However for $11 I can get my shoes reheeled, they will glue down any snagged leather on the heels and smooth it until it almost disappears, will polish them to a shine and do any other minor repairs I didn’t ask for but are needed (glue down lining or glue together fraying strap, etc.). I took them a pair of boots I wanted cut down an inch and that required one replacement zipper. They admitted that the boots wouldn’t look that great cut down, and told me it wasn’t worth the time or money to do such a change to the shoe. However with the new zipper, they not only said they could do it, they had a cheaper price and said they could use the old zipper pull on the new zipper for a cohesive look.

Cobblers and shoe repair places are a company where you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – ask your neighbors, visit Yelp, Consumers’ CHECKBOOK and get true reviews, don’t base your decision on a fancy storefront or modern Web site.

Once you find a place that sounds good, test them out with a simple reheeling.  Do they do careful work?  Did they go the extra mile by polishing your shoes and catching any other minor repairs that needed to be fixed?  If they pass the test, then consider a more complicated repair.

Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

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 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!

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to mywardrobetoday@gmail.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)
Twitter (twitter.com/chickdowntown)
YouTube (chickdowntownTV.com or youtube.com/chickdowntowntv)

Good luck!

Today’s History Lesson – Old Navy and Me

SuperGap was the pioneer outlet store – a cheaper version of the famous Gap brand, it sold lower-priced versions of their wardrobe staples and irregular and damaged pieces from the classic Gap stores. Growing up in middle-class America, our first stop for back to school shopping was at the nearby SuperGap, getting “name brand” clothing for a reasonable price. If it weren’t for SuperGap, my 6th grade and on wardrobe would consist of poorly-thought out fashions from Bradlees’ located just a mile down Greenbelt Road.

The nearby strip mall had a SuperGap. As soon as I turned 16, I turned in an employment application there, in hopes to get a job there and a discount on high school must-haves – jeans, hoodies, rugby shirts and ragg socks. I was never called for an interview but my friend Wendy, who had previous experience at Sears did get a job there.

SuperGap eventually changed to Gap Warehouse and carried less factory-store items and more irregulars and returns from the traditional Gap locations in the fancier malls. Hours were spent after school, pouring through rounders and racks for jeans and sweatshirts that fit and didn’t have obvious garment flaws.

A few years later (1993, the same year I graduated from high school), SuperGap shut down, but opened up at the end of the same strip mall, with the new name – Denim Supply Company, a brand name under the new Gap Warehouse subsidiary of Gap. Wendy by now was an Assistant Manager and I was able to get the lowdown on the change. Supposedly Gap was doing an experiment in a select few markets – this lower-end Gap that had their own brand, own label, own line of clothing. Not a Factory Store, a separate entity added to the Gap brand.

From a 1993 article in the New York Times:

In an internal memo, the company said the “Gap Warehouse collection was created specifically to improve the productivity of 48 of our current Gap stores ‘which have been an undervalued asset in our company,’ says Mickey Drexler, president of Gap Inc.”

Analysts said the new merchandising strategy was a good way for Gap to compete with other purveyors of basic merchandise without eroding the image of its Gap brand.

For more than a year, Gap stores have marked down prices of their basic merchandise to compete with the department stores and discounters that have begun selling their own versions of Gap staples: T-shirts and blue jeans.

[The Gap is] confronted with the question of whether they’re doing basics or whether they’re doing fashion,” said Heidi R. Steinberg, a retail analyst at Lehman Brothers. “If they stick with basics at Gap, then they’re competing with Wal-Mart and Target, where you can buy Fruit of the Loom all-cotton T-shirts for half the price they are at the Gap.”

“Gap Warehouse clothing will be priced lower than Gap brand clothes because the company is using manufacturing techniques and fabrics that are less expensive. Athletic Department sweats, for example, are 59 percent polyester and 41 percent cotton, while Gap sweats are 100 percent cotton. T-shirts are double-stitched instead of triple-stitched, and there is less detail over all, analysts said.

The company, based in San Francisco, said the new line was not likely to cannibalize the sales of Gap brand clothing because it would appeal to a different type of customer. Robert F. Buchanan, a retail analyst for Alex. Brown & Sons, said mass merchants like Wal-Mart and Kmart were gaining a bigger share of the market for basic clothes, and their customers were different from those who have shopped at the Gap.

“The Gap already has two types of customers: those who shop its store at full price, and those who are looking for sale items,” he said. “There’s a third customer who hasn’t shopped there, and that’s where a lot of the basics business is going.”

A few years later, it seems this experiment worked for Denim Supply Company/Gap Warehouse as that this location (and all others across the county) shut down and a few months later, right next to the old SuperGap location (which was now an H&R Block) they opened an Old Navy, which exists to this day.

Old Navy fit the feeling of the time – the grunge era, where it was cool to not spend money on clothing; where fashion came from thrift stores and not from higher-priced specialty and department stores.

Named after a bar the Gap CEO visited in Paris; Old Navy Clothing Co. was the new member of the Gap company (though the original name was going to be Elevator, Monorail or Forklift, to evoke the industrial bare-bones concept of the store). Unlike lower-priced peers like Sears and Kmart, Old Navy combined cost-affordable apparel with great ambiance – loud popular music, quirky ad campaigns and colorful store décor within a warehouse-inspired core. Old Navys were put in lower-rent strip malls (like my nearby Greenway Center) instead of higher-cost malls to help keep prices low and target the appropriate customer – the customer who also shops Wal-Mart, Kmart and Toys R Us. They also did it by taking the staples of Father Gap, but recreated them with cheaper materials, stitching and fabrication (a CNN Money article from 1996 quotes an Old Navy customer as noting that denim shirts from Old Navy are only washed once before selling, versus Gap shirts being washed three times. This difference ensured consistent color in Gap shirts, but a far lower cost to create the Old Navy version).

Years later, we forget when Gap Warehouse ended and Old Navy began. Old Navy, like Target and Starbucks has become a standard in the culture, language and lifestyle of Americans. What was a random experiment by The Gap in attempt to revive slumping sales has become a necessity in the wardrobe of all income levels and ages of our society. I mean, who these days doesn’t own at least a tee shirt or pair of lounge pants from Old Navy?

In honor of my favorite discount fashion Mecca, here are a few links about Old Navy that may interest you:

Sarah Conley from StyleIT reviews the Plus Sized holiday line (cashmere anyone?) on the site Coutorture.

I know I Googled to find out after seeing it the first time… didn’t like Old Navy’s sweater commercial, but fell in love with the song. It’s “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson (saw an interview with Ingrid on VH1 and no, she didn’t get any free sweaters for having her song in the ad).


Bronwyn from Mommy and Maven reviews the pieces from Old Navy that she encountered on her latest jaunt to the store.


Anyone recognize the cute brunette in this Old Navy commercial? It’s Vanessa Hudgens in her pre-High School Musical days.


Want to know what thought process goes behind Old Navy’s packaging? The DieLine interviews Jason Rosenberg, Senior Packaging Designer for Old Navy about the new packaging he created for the men’s and boy’s divisions.

Friday

Attire:
Old Navy maternity: Dark patch pocket jeans (roll waist)
Banana Republic Outlet – Black ponte jacket
eBay (forgot brand) – White maternity tee, pinned in back so a bit of shape
Renaissance Festival – Silver necklace
Silver hoops and cuff
Sudini – Black leather booties

Hair:
Next day,large sections in curling iron

Beauty:
Laura Mercier – Flawless Face Kit in Sand
Nars – Blush in Orgasm
Pop Beauty – Shadow palette for brown eyes – khaki on lid
Maybelline – UltraLiner in black
Cover Girl – LashBlast mascara in Rich Black
Benefit – Her Glossiness in Next Question Please

So glad it is Friday! The past two days have been kinda tough. I feel that I have gained 20 pounds in two days, it’s hard to put on pants, hard to put on shoes (have to use my pant leg to pull my foot up on my opposite knee), torture when I drop something and have to get down to pick it up. I have to get up to use the bathroom a couple times a night and it’s difficult to get out of the bed. I feel like a Weeble Wobble. That plus getting hot so easily, it makes the commute to work pretty tough, and mental clarity and creativity at work a struggle. Glad to have the weekend where I can rest up and prepare for next week!

Tomorrow we plan on visiting the Maryland Renaissance Festival with a group of friends. Other than that, no real plans which is EXACTLY what I need! I hope to do some laundry, packing of stuff for the remodel (today they arrived with ladders so I think they are going to soon put up the new exterior walls) and lots of napping! :) Hope you guys have wonderful weekends!

Current Sales and Giveaways – Shop and Save!

I don’t usually write about sales since I have many international readers, but there are some REALLY good deals going on right now (and a cool giveaway too!):

LOFT and Ann Taylor: 40% Friends and Family
40% off your entire purchase (including sale) in stores and online for both LOFT and Ann Taylor – use code FRIENDS at checkout. Starts today and continues through November 13, 2011

Lands End: 25% off Outerwear and Free Shipping
Ends TODAY (November 9, 2011) To get the discount online, use code SHIPOUTERWEAR and PIN 2198

Lands End and Lands End Canvas: 25% Friends and Family and Free Shipping
25% off site-wide, including Lands End Canvas, and free shipping, no minimum. Code: FAMILY SAVE and PIN: 1142. Runs from November 10 – 15, 2011.

Talbots: 50% off Jackets and Outerwear and Free Shipping No Minimum
This promotion ends TODAY – works on all full-price jackets and outerwear, including vests.  Use code COLD.

Hobo International: Win a Lomo Bag and an iPad!
“Like” Hobo International on Facebook and enter their giveaway. When it asks how you heard about the giveaway, say you learned about it from Wardrobe Oxygen! Contest ends December 9, 2011

Hobo International: Sample Sale
Live in the Annapolis, Maryland area? Hobo International is having a sample sale at their Annapolis headquarters November 19th and 20th 10:00am – 6:00pm I went last year and got some amazing deals on beautiful leather bags, wallets, and belts (see here). Get there early, a line starts to get in! Hobo International is located at 9025 Junction Drive, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701

Nordstrom: Half-Yearly Sale
They seem to be adding new things almost daily, so check often. Nordstrom now has free shipping and free returns, which makes it easy for those of you not near a store to take advantage of the deals!


Do you know of any other great deals taking place now? Please share with others in the comments below!

Note: By mentioning me as the referral with the Hobo International contest I too may win the bag and iPad; by mentioning the Lands End Friends & Family I may be able to win a $25 gift card. I doubt I will get either because I didn’t race to share this info, but wanted to keep you on the up-and-up!

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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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Honing your Personal Style through Closet Organization

Last weekend I was asked to speak at IKEA for their BYOF event. They asked me to speak about honing one’s personal style through closet organization. Some of you fabulous people came to the event (and even drove long distances, which humbles me so), and some of you were unable to attend but wanted to know what I discussed. Earlier this week I shared some of the discussion during the seminar’s Q&A, but below is the script I made myself for the seminar (though I practiced a lot and tried to ad-lib as much as possible).

Think about it, we start every day in our closet. Our experience in front of that bar of hangers really sets the tone for the rest of the day. What I hope to do today is give you tips and tricks to make that first part of your day less stressful, more positive, and inspiring.

I am proof that when it comes to closets, size doesn’t matter. A little over a decade ago, I moved into the historic part of Greenbelt. If any of you have been in one of their row homes, you know they can be charming but boy are they small! My bedroom closet was smaller than the coat closet in my old bachelorette apartment, and as for a coat closet well there wasn’t one. It was a great learning experience on how to work with little space, and to choose wisely as to what deserved to be in that minimal amount of real estate.

75% of the stuff in our closets we don’t even wear. When I have performed closet cleanouts for clients in the past, I found that three quarters of the clothing in their closet is there for sentimental reasons. A dress worn on a first date, the suit you wore to the interview for your current job, the lucky sweatshirt you wore through every finals week of college. Today I’m not going to tell you to toss your sartorial memories, but I am going to ask you to make your closet more functional.

The only way you can truly know what you have in your closet is to take everything out and start fresh. As your best friend to watch the kids for a couple of hours, turn on Pandora radio, pour a glass of wine, and lock yourself in your bedroom. Take everything out of the closet and once it’s empty, give it a quick cleaning with a damp cloth. Now you’re going to go through each individual garment and put it into one of four piles. Keep, Purge, Fix, and Store.

Keep means you have tried it on that day, it fits, it flatters, it’s useful to your life and style and is in perfect condition. No missing buttons, no need for ironing, ready to be worn.

Purge means it’s time for the piece to leave your home completely. It’s too small, too big, too dated, too damaged, or just plain wrong. Often we keep pieces that we bought and then had buyer’s remorse. The garment is just plain wrong, but you feel guilty because you spent good money on it. Your money is not coming back by letting that dress collect dust in your closet, it’s time to let it go and move on. We’ve all been there. When I say purge, that doesn’t mean throw everything in a bag and set it out on the curb for trash day. The majority of clothes in your closets can be useful to others.

For things like that dress you bought and never wore, consider eBay or a consignment shop so you can get back a bit of what you spent on it. For gently worn pieces, consider setting up a swap with friends where you can trade clothing for free. For everything else, you can donate for a nice tax deduction, or even consider Freecycle. In my house, we cut up old stained tee shirts into squares and use them as dusting cloths.

So we have kept that which is still fabulous and purged that which is not. With what is leftover, they go into two other piles – Fix, and Store.

Fix is the pile of items that could be great if they just had a quick little repair or makeover. Maybe it’s a wrinkled oxford, a pair of pants with a dropped hem, or a jacket missing a button. I keep a box at the bottom of my closet where I store all the clothes that need to be fixed. When I have a spare moment, I sew on buttons, iron, or pack up pieces to take to the dry cleaner or tailor. Having this box keeps you from justifying wearing a stained shirt or a stapled hem.

The final pile is Store. Here’s your sentimental clothing, as well as anything that is in fantastic condition but just not right. Maybe it’s a skirt that’s a flattering yet not of the moment length, or a great interview suit though you are now a stay at home parent. Pieces that fit, are made well, flatter, and just aren’t right at the moment, though they may be in a couple of years. This pile, store carefully, but store them where they are out of sight and out of temptation. Even when at the back of the closet, it’s far too easy to grab these items during a moment of weakness and sacrifice your style. (Here I started speaking of the merits of breathable canvas storage versus plastic.)

So now, you have a closet just full of great pieces that fit your current body and your current lifestyle. It may look a bit empty, but that’s not a bad thing. A closet that can breathe makes for easier dressing each morning. You wouldn’t think it, but it’s easier to get dressed each day when you have fewer options. However you’re probably realizing you have a few holes in your wardrobe. Make a shopping list of what you feel you need to pull the current closet together, make it cohesive. Maybe it’s a black pencil skirt, or a replacement dress for weddings and funerals. Think about your life, your current life, and what you do and where you go in a typical month. What else do you need to dress appropriately for each occasion? Write the pieces down, and carry them in your wallet or purse. This way, each time you hit the mall, you can stay on track and only buy what you need instead of what looks great or is being pushed by the salesperson.

It’s important to stick to a budget – you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your quality of life to be able to dress well each day. A good rule of thumb is 5% of your income towards what you wear. Now this may be more or less based upon your lifestyle and it may be more while you’re filling in holes in your wardrobe. From this, figure out a monthly budget and stick to it. Sometimes you may not use it all, but that’s good because you can save it for other months where you may spend more, say for a new winter coat or a pair of designer jeans that make you look five pounds and five years younger. I recommend tracking your budget on the same sheet or notebook as your shopping list, so it’s there staring you in the face each time you consider buying clothes. My motto at Wardrobe Oxygen is style comes from choosing quality, not quantity.

So now you have a pared-down closet of clothes that work as hard as you do. Now it’s time to take care of them. In this day and age of Pinterest and reality shows about celebrities, it’s easy to get wrapped up in having a pretty closet. The thing is, you want a functional closet, a closet that makes your life more enjoyable, that makes getting dressed each day easy and enjoyable. Here’s a few suggestions.

I recommend having all the same hangers. Not only does this make for an attractive closet, but it prevents you from losing clothes. I once bought a new black cardigan thinking I lost mine, but months later I found it on a dry cleaner’s wire hanger hidden between two black dresses. With all the same hangers, you can easily see everything in your closet. Speaking of wire hangers… I may sound like Mommy Dearest but get rid of them. They stretch out knits and can even leave rust stains on clothing. Dry cleaners are happy to take them back and many areas will recycle them.

So your clothes are hung up on consistent hangers, it’s now time to organize them. I highly recommend zoning your closet. Have all jackets together, all dresses together, all shirts together. This way it’s easy to see what you have and make ensembles. For categories you don’t wear often, such as cocktail dresses, have that zone in the farthest back part of the closet.

For making the most out of the space you have, I like closet organizers. I have one of those hanging fabric shelf gadgets where one can store purses, gym clothes, and even jeans. Also they have bars that hang from closet bars so you can double hang and maximize your closet real estate. (I really ad-libbed here because IKEA gave me a wardrobe and storage containers that they sell as my props).

With shoes, people have differing views on this, but I again recommend consistency. Choose one manner of storage and stick to it to prevent losing shoes and spending more than you need. Shoes can be an investment, so choose storage that is kind to your shoes – I keep my shoes in their original boxes and label them, but some like clear boxes, some like shoe racks, and IKEA has these cool gadgets where you can store your shoes on posts. Whatever seems best for you and protects your shoes. (At this point I started rambling about how a tree fell through my closet and that’s why I use boxes for storage.) As for boots, they sell fancy boot trees, but I just roll up old magazines and tuck them in the shafts to keep them from folding over and creasing.

I never get rid of accessories unless they are damaged. Accessories take up so little space, it’s worth it to keep them and reassess them every couple of seasons. A belt that seems dated this spring may be completely on trend in a year. I store jewelry in plastic baggies to keep them from tarnishing, loosely coil belts into an old shoe box, and for purses I stuff them with paper and then tuck them in an old pillowcase to keep them from getting dusty.

I recommend doing a closet reassessment like this twice a year, once at the end of the summer or back to school time, and once around this time of year as the weather is getting warmer. Not only can you again clean out all which isn’t doing you any style favors, but you can pack up out of season clothes and make a fresh shopping list of what you need for the upcoming season. Keeping up with your closet keeps you in a style frame of mind. You shop for clothing more carefully, you think more about how your clothes work with your body and your lifestyle, and you are better able to hone your personal style.

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Plus Sized Work Attire Options

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

Nordstrom
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
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
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
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.

Ann Taylor
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
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.

Eddie Bauer
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.

Overstock
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.

TJ Maxx
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!

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Saturday

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!

Tuesday’s Tip – Making the Clearance Rack Your Friend

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.

Review – Hobo International Sample Sale

It’s great living in the DC area – access to amazing FREE museums, living within an hour of three major airports, one of the best concert venues in the country (I love you 9:30 Club!), all the convenience and options of a major city, yet close proximity to the ocean, the bay, wineries, and farmland.

However as a blogger, I sometimes feel left out when I get all these emails from PR folks telling me about great sample sales taking place in New York, London, and Los Angeles. What about DC? Where’s OUR sample sales?

Well Hobo International is based out of Annapolis, Maryland and I found out they had a sample sale this past weekend. Score! I adore Hobo bags – they are stylish without being trendy, well made, and fit my personal sense of style. I follow Hobo on Twitter and the week prior to their sample sale they had a Twitter contest where a few followers could win 50% off their entire purchase at the sale. And moi? Winner winner chicken dinner!

Annapolis isn’t too far from where I live – I actually passed my “bachelorette pad” on the way (lived in Annapolis prior to moving in with my husband). My mom, Emerson, and I arrived about 20 minutes prior to them opening the doors for the sale and there was a good dozen of folks ahead of me. These were serious shoppers – women in sneakers, sans purses and handbags, ready to shop. I probably would have been better off without a toddler in tow, but I didn’t have anyone to watch her and Emerson is pretty chill in chaotic situations and don’t mind crowds.

The sale was well managed – many Hobo International staff on hand to pass out shopping baskets, answer questions – one even offered to watch Emerson so I could shop! Instead, my mom and I took turns – one would watch Emerson while the other would do a mad dash around the sale, toss things in the basket. We would switch, and then while watching Emerson, could look through what we picked up, decide if it was purchase-worthy and put back that which we decided against keeping.

After about 30 minutes (time flies when you’re running around like a mad woman, surrounded by leather goods and other mad women!) we were DONE. Emerson had been fantastic but was starting to whine and I didn’t want to torture her any longer. We had collected a nice haul and felt accomplished so my mom took E to the car and I headed to the register.

And now on to the most important thing – my haul:

Emerson likes the pretty pink belt

– The Libby in Pumpkin
– The Penelope in Maroon
– The Bartola in Stone
– The Sadie wallet in hot pink patent
– The Valentina clutch in cobalt patent
– A belt that perfectly matches the Penelope (same leather and same hardware)
– A skinny hot pink patent belt (not on site)
– A skinny mint green leather belt (not on site)

My mom got a handbag, a belt, a wallet, and a little business-card holder/keyring combo thingie. Our purchases combined came to just over $200! How utterly insane is that? Seriously folks, if you live in the Annapolis area, this sale IS worth attending. Some items were previous seasons, but you can see three bags I got (and possibly my mom’s – can’t recall the style) are current colors and styles on sale on the Hobo International site.

As soon as I got home, I switched all my purse essentials over to the Penelope – here you can see how much this bag holds – a full-size book (which I will be reviewing soon), my “Diane” wallet from Hobo, sunglasses, camera, SmartPhone, engagement calendar, cosmetics bag and more!

Keep tabs on Hobo International via Facebook or Twitter and you will know when their next sale will take place!

P.S. I met a blog reader at the sale!  So hectic, no chance to really talk.  However it was great to meet you! :)



Note: Everything written in this post is my own opinion – I did not receive compensation to write about Hobo International, and was not asked by them to write. I attended this sale purely as a customer and paid for everything I received at the sale.

Tuesday

Attire:
Old Navy: Matte jersey wrap dress
Callisto: Tan heeled sandals
Diamond Nexus Labs: Solitaire necklace
Silver hoops and cuff

Hair:
Day 3
Bedhead tamed with curling iron
Flipped head upside down, shot hair with Matrix Sleek.Look hairspray and left wild

Beauty:
Laura Mercier: Flawless Face Kit in Sand
Maybelline: Brow powder in Dark Brown, Shadow quad in Mocha Motion
Body Shop: Eye color in Soft Black
Cover Girl: LashBlast mascara in Rich Black
Bare Escentuals: Buxom lip gloss in Dolly
Nars: Blush in Orgasm

Last night I had another wave of domesticity and made zucchini bread and muffins (see below). The zucchini is still so plentiful in Maryland (and so cheap at the farmer’s market!) that I just had to grab a few to make some treats!

This recipe is based off one I found on All Recipes, but totally eye-judged and modified to fit what was in my kitchen. I am not a huge baker because I just am not good with precision. Breads like this are as baker-like as I get!

Zucchini Bread
2 average-sized zucchinis, grated (dollar store grater that I have had for over a decade – used the finer grating. This made a little over 2 cups)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (didn’t measure, just guessed, could have been a touch more)
1 teaspoon nutmeg (again totally guesstimated)
3 eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup white sugar (slightly more, thought had at least a cup on hand but ran out)
2 tablespoons honey (again totally guessed, I squeezed it right in the bowl when I realized I was out of white sugar and my brown was old and solid as a brick)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract (again I eyeballed this)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • Grease and flour whatever pants/tins you are using (I used one 8×4 loaf pan and one six-muffin metal tin)
  • Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, nutmeg and cinnamon into a bowl.
  • Gently fold in walnuts and chocolate chips (putting them in the flour mixture kept them from sinking to the bottom while baking)
  • Beat eggs, applesauce, vanilla, sugar and honey together.
  • Add sifted ingredients to creamy mixture (I did this opposite due to sizes of bowls being used and there was no issue)
  • Stir in zucchini, pour into pans
  • Now, recipe says to bake 40-60 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out clean. I have an unusually small stove so I have to be super careful with times. Ii ended up taking my muffins 12 minutes and my loaf 24 minutes to be properly baked.
  • Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes, remove bread and then let completely cool.

This original recipe can be completely modified. As you can tell, I switched out oil for applesauce and ended up with great results. The original recipe asks for 2 1/4 cups of sugar which seems like way too much. I had already planned on dropping it to 2 cups, half brown and half white but due to my snafu, honey came in and did just as well. I think 2 whole cups may have been TOO sweet, but then I did have chocolate chips.

You can do without the nuts, without the chocolate, instead use pine nuts, coconut, a can of drained crushed pineapple, raisins, you name it. I have read how people have used blackstrap molasses or agave nectar for sweetener. Some people have done half zucchini and half banana, some have used yellow squash, I have heard people add pumpkin pie filling instead of oil/applesauce… you can really be creative!

Tonight I am using my last two zucchinis and making six more muffins and another loaf – this time with the pineapple and coconut. Yummolicious!

A Proper Bra Fitting – My Experience

I believe a woman should be fitted for a bra every year. Our bodies are constantly changing with age, weight loss and gain, changes to our exercise routine, childbirth and nursing and so much more. Getting properly fitted for a bra does not mean heading to your local Victoria’s Secret to have a teenager who works 4 hours a week try to figure out your size and get you to buy a bra at that store, even if your size isn’t in stock. Getting properly fitted doesn’t mean trying to measure yourself at home and cross your fingers that your online purchase fits.

What it means is going to an expert who can measure you, and then offer you a few styles and brands to try so you can find not only your band and cup size, but the specific type of bra that gives you the best shape, support, and style.

I have been putting off being fitted for far too long; the last time I was fitted was a little over a year before I got pregnant. Since then, I lost weight, carried a child, nursed it for over two years, gained weight, and lost it again. My breasts were sitting like deflated water balloons in my molded-cup bras, they were obviously the wrong size and on top of that, stretched out and in need of replacement.

My community parenting group scheduled a bra-fitting party at A La Mode in Annapolis, Maryland and I jumped at the chance to go. I had been meaning to be fitted but kept putting it off… too busy, not enough money, too lazy. The event was yesterday and it was amazing.

A La Mode Intimates in Annapolis 
Click for a larger version (and to see my mom being rung up at the counter!)

I had heard of A La Mode before, but never visited. They have a new location at the Annapolis Towne Center and it is gorgeous. Bright and airy, yet romantic. The sales area is broken into little rooms which made shopping more fun, and you felt less on display when fingering a lovely charmeuse camisole or reading about nursing bras. Through curtains is their lounge. They set up a lovely little spread for us of brie with crackers and grapes, wine and ice water. They had a couple chairs, a couch and coffee table that were surrounded by gigantic fitting rooms with large mirrors and flattering lighting.

Rebecca assisted me; she whipped out her tape measure and in about three seconds flat had measured me over my shirt. From that she brought me a bra to try. I didn’t look at the brand, I didn’t look at the size, I just tried it on. And I was amazed. My breasts looked smaller, firmer, younger. I had a waistline! Then I looked at the tag…

When I was last fitted, they said I was a 38D. When I got pregnant, my breasts grew and I made the decision to go to 38DD. After Emerson was born, I seemed to be at 38DD and stuck with the same bras. As I have lost weight and stopped nursing, my breasts shrunk. I bought a 38D but kept falling out of the top, and it irritated me under my arms. I went back to my 38DD bras which looked crazy, but at least were reliable.

This bra was a 36F
F as in Frank
F?!?! 

How could that be? I have these deflated, smaller breasts! An F?? But this bra was a perfect fit, it almost felt as though I wasn’t wearing a bra, it was so comfortable. Rebecca informed me that different countries have different bra sizing methods. The US goes from D to DD and then skips E for F, but Europe skips DD and goes straight to E. In the UK they use both single and double letters. This means that a bra from Wacoal, a bra from Elomi, and a bra from Chantelle may fit the same but have different cup letters on the label.

Rebecca checked the bra on me, informed me that the straps shouldn’t really be doing the support (which I do, tightening my straps in an attempt to lift), the bra itself will do the work. She showed me how the band should sit low on my back, not up near my shoulder blades – this prevents your skin from pouring over the bra, and also helps with support. She asked me my bra needs (something that is invisible under thin knits, something that won’t show when I wear a scoop neck, and something that gives me a great shape) and came back with a couple more bras to try. I am a fan of the molded cup and she brought me some of those, as well as a couple other types I may not have considered. I got plenty of time to try on by myself, I didn’t feel as though a salesperson was breathing down my neck, yet if I just said, “Rebecca?” she was right there to bring a different size or color.

 Me in my original bra

 
Me in the bra I purchased

I had two bras that I loved, but unfortunately they didn’t have either in a skin color.

The Winners:
Fantasie Moulded Smoothing T-shirt Bra. Very basic, but gives amazing shape. No lace, no frills, no nothing so it’s invisible under knits. Incredibly comfortable, with incredible lift. I fit a 36DD.

Fantasie Ava. Another simple t-shirt bra, but with a bit of lace detail and pretty straps. Again, I fit best in a 36DD.

I don’t need two black bras right now, so I chose the one with the thinner, less-decorative straps (makes more sense for summer with sleeveless tops). A La Mode will let me know when the bras are back in stock in skin colors.

I went to be rung up… and remembered I needed a strapless bra. Since Rebecca had helped me try on a good dozen different bras, it was easy for her to guess which styles and brands would work best for me. She handed me a skin-colored strapless and I tried it on. Did you know that there are strapless bras out there that are comfortable? I put on my shirt and came out into the lounge to show the other women in my group. “THIS IS A STRAPLESS BRA!” I exclaimed, and they all ooohed and aaahed because really my bust looked almost as good in this strapless as the Fantasie bras above. On top of that, this strapless has straps that can be attached, so you can make it a one-shoulder, criss-cross back, halter or standard bra.

I tried on another strapless, but it didn’t compare to this one in regard to fit and comfort.

THIS is a strapless bra!

The Winner:
Simone Perele Velia Strapless Plunge in Praline. I wanted a strapless that wouldn’t peek out of a sweetheart or surplice neckline and this one did the trick. I tried it last night with my new Gap maxi dress I was going to return because it can’t be worn with any bras I own. Now the dress looks adorable and I am still uber comfortable!

Now this strapless is more than I have EVER paid for a bra… but to have a strapless that is invisible under thin knits, hides under plunging necklines and is so comfortable that I am wearing it all day today as a standard bra… sounds like a worthy investment to me! Also with researching online, I found that A La Mode’s prices are competitive with what I found at department stores and online boutiques (I paid the same price for this bra as it is listed on the Simone Perele site Bare Necessities, Neiman Marcus, and HerRoom).

The benefit of going to a bra boutique or lingerie department of a higher-end department store is you will find an educated bra specialist, and a large variety of brands and sizes. When you visit your nearby Victoria’s Secret, all you have to choose from is Vickie’s bras. Your breasts are just like every other part of your body – unique. What may be Holy Grail jeans to one woman may be terribly unflattering on you; the same holds true with bras.

Bras aren’t cheap. As Rebecca said yesterday at the bra fitting, “You get what you pay for.” Before Bonnaroo, I was desperate for a bra and went to Target and got one from their Gillian and O’Malley line. It itches, it makes my breasts look a bit square in shape, and come the end of the day I can’t WAIT to get it off. I have purchased bras at Frederick’s of Hollywood that lifted my breasts practically to my neck, but I found them horribly uncomfortable after a couple hours, and they would fall apart after a few months (even with proper laundry care). A bra that properly fits, supports, and is comfortable will completely change your figure, your posture, the way your clothes fit. This morning, I wanted to wear a light-colored top and put on my old nude bra. It was… fine. I then tried the new strapless and I looked as though I had lost ten pounds and was five years younger. Seriously, this is the difference between and okay bra and a great bra.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself fitted, and get yourself some quality bras. You won’t regret it!

Note: I was not compensated in any way for this post; A La Mode did not contact me or know I was going to write this post.

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Seasonless Black Trousers

A pair of black trousers in a seasonless fabric is a necessity to any woman’s wardrobe. What deems a fabric “seasonless?” This means the pants are not wool, they are not cotton. They are most likely a blend of fabrics, usually a good portion synthetic. Ann Taylor has a seasonless fabric they call Triacetate. Express’ seasonless fabric is called Microtwill. J.Crew (and many other brands) calls their version Gabardine. All different fabrics, all seasonless. Maintains it’s shape, often has a bit of stretch, has a slight texture or sheen (great for dressing up and dressing down!), and sort of blends into the background. Not only should these tousers be seasonless, they should be eventless (if that is a word). You want trousers that can go from work to a happy hour to a cocktail party to an interview, to a night club. What cut achieves this? A bootcut leg, not tight, but not Palazzo pants (those pants that look like a skirt on each leg). A tab waist if often a good choice. You never need to worry about a belt, it lies flat under fitted, untucked shirts, yet looks smart with a tucked in oxford. Due to a tab-wait trouser having a wider waistband, it is less likely to cut into the torso, creating a spare tire above the waistline. Very flattering on women with hips, bellies, rears, or straight shapes.

These trousers should not have front pockets. I do not care what your body shape is, front pockets ruin a smooth line and make trousers look more casual and less versatile. These pockets often bow out, wrinkle under the tousers, and look messy. They can make Kate Moss look like Kathy Bates. Back pockets are okay, as long as they are small besom pockets, and not patch pockets (again, detroy the versatility and make the trouser more dated and casual).

Examples of good trousers:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Yes, I said these trousers should be black, but I chose a lighter color so you could see the detail. The bootcut leg adds a modern look to the pant, elongates and slims the leg. This is an example of a tab waist. See how it is a wider waistband, less likely to cut into the middle. The lack of pleats, seaming and pockets in the front minimizes a belly and gives a smooth line. The strong crease down the front elongates the leg and gives a long, lean look. See how you could see these pants with an oxford and matching blazer with pumps for work, a beaded camisole and pointy toed heels for a night club, a cotton v-neck sweater sweater and some boots for a jaunt to the mall. These pants are from Ann Taylor, and are a cotton/rayon/spandex blend (rayon gives it the seasonless fabric, strech gives it the smooth fit wear after wear).

Here is a great example from Lane Bryant:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
These pants are a seasonless nylon/rayon/spandex blend. They are cut just below the waist (reduces the look of tummy bulge), have a bootcut leg, and smooth lower torso. These pants would look great with strappy heels, a beaded shell and matching jacket for a cocktail party, or a merino turtleneck and some crocodile pointy boots for lunch with the girls. At the time of writing this, these trousers are on sale for $20, regularly $45. You really can find stylish classic pieces for a steal at your local mall. I cannot stress this point enough.

The point is that with the right black trousers, you can dress for almost any event. I have black trousers I purchased five years ago, and still wear weekly. They do not have to cost a lot, most of the trousers I buy on sale and get for less than $50.00. Do keep in mind that though a bargain is always great, black trousers is one thing you do not want to look cheap. They will be worn more than most anything else in your wardrobe, so don’t settle for a chintzy fabric with a cheap sheen, a pair that wrinkles easily, isn’t lined, isn’t the right length, the right cut, the right anything. I do believe in buying in bulk. If you find the trousers of your dreams, you may wish to invest in a second pair in black, and possibly a third pair in another versatile color (gray, brown, tan, white). Consider this especially if you buy the matching suit jacket. I purchased a pair of amazing trousers and the matching jacket at Ann Taylor four years ago. I often wore the trousers without the jacket. One day my dog jumped up to greet me as I returned home from work, his claw got caught in the fabric and ended up snagging and tearing the thigh of these coveted trousers. Ann Taylor no longer makes pieces in this same fabric, so I have a lovely well-fitting jacket and no trousers to match. Since then, I always buy two pairs of pants for every suit jacket, allowing one pair for every day wear, and one pair to preserve to wear with the jacket or for special occasions.

As for care of these pants. I will let you know ahead of time that often these pants say “Dry Clean Only.” I DESPISE spending money on dry cleaning. I end up taking my clothes to the cleaners and forget to pick them up for two weeks. Most of the knits and sweaters I purchase I ignore this “Dry Clean Only” label and wash in Woolite on the gentle cycle of my machine and hang to dry. I have tried this with trousers, and rarely have had good luck. They end up wrinkled, losing that nice front crease and long line. They look cheaper, they often get tighter, the legs shorter (often leaving the lining the same length, which is NOT a good look!), the threads weaken, leaving the potential for an embarrassment the next time you sit down. I have a stain remover I actually purchased in the lingerie department of a department store. I spot treat with that or a Shout! Wipe (always have 5 or 6 in my purse – available at your grocery store in the detergent aisle) and then take them to the local discount dry cleaners. Every so often, they get a better cleaning at the higher end dry cleaners. This may seem like a pain, especially if you have children, a busy schedule, a tight budget. I must tell you this is an investment. If you take care of your clothes correctly, they will take care of you in return, looking gorgeous and lasting for years. Though it may be more appealing to buy all clothing that can take a tumble in the washer and dryer, you lose that polished look, that classic look, the look that shows you care what you look like and others should as well. If you can’t go beyond Tumble Dry Low, you will have a hard time following the closet rules of this book.

A Bra Fitting with Soma Intimates and a Giveaway

Soma contacted me and asked if I’d like to come to their boutique at the Westfield Montgomery Mall and get a bra fitting and try their Enhancing Shape Bra. I heard about this bra through InStyle, who considers it to be the solution for “ski slope” (the gap at the top of bra cups). I’ve always been a busty woman, but after years of breastfeeding, age, gravity, weight loss and gain, I’ve lost some of my breast volume and was interested in a bra that would address this issue and improve the allover shape of my bust.

Soma Intimates Bra Fitting

In 27 sizes from cups A-DDD there’s a Soma Enhancing Shape Bra for many women; the padded comfort straps and cushioned hook and eye closure ensures the bra is comfortable all day, while the smooth style makes it invisible under fitted knits. In eight solids and four prints this bra is anything but boring.

Wardrobe Oxygen Soma IntimatesSoma Intimates Enhancing Shape Bra

Visiting Soma Intimates was a pleasure; though it was a busy Sunday afternoon, the boutique was well staffed so each of us customers received quality assistance and an unrushed experience in the fitting room. I was partnered with Karien, who took me to a spacious fitting room to determine my bra size. She had me remove my shirt but I kept on my bra as she used a tape measure to size me. Karien then went out to the sales floor and brought back bras in the size she determined and one a cup smaller since the Enhancing Shape Bra does occasionally run big for some. We found that a 38D fit me best, and as you can see from my fitting room selfie above, the bra was pretty much invisible under Soma’s Smoothing Seamless Cami. The bra did give a look of fullness to my bustline without making it look bigger (and without the dreaded “quad boob”), and the bra is super comfortable. No digging in the back, I can’t feel any of the hardware, and I wore the bra all day and there wasn’t any discomfort under the arms or in the shoulders. I was tempted to get the Light Nude which was very close to my skintone and would make for a perfect tee shirt bra, but sweater weather is here and I decided to indulge in the black and white Indulgent Lace pattern which is so beautiful and can be worn under thicker fall and winter clothing without showing. It’s fun to have pretty bras that are also useful!

Soma Intimates Westfield Montgomery Mall Maryland

Karien (pictured above, I had to get a photo with her after such a pleasant bra shopping experience!) was so knowledgeable about bras in general, proper fitting, and of course knew the Soma collection inside and out. I loved how all the employees I interacted with were so friendly and professional, knowledgeable but not pushy. They told me about their Get Gorgeous Parties where you and at least three of your friends can schedule an event at your local Soma boutique to get fitted, all of you receive 15% off your purchases (or you can choose to donate that 15% to your favorite charity), and you receive a free bra for hosting. I also signed up for Love Soma Rewards, a free program where you earn points towards cash rewards, birthday gifts, exclusive offers, and free shipping when you shop online. After my experience at Soma, I know I’ll end up a regular customer!

Giveaway

If Soma sounds great to you, then today’s your lucky day! One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will receive a $60 gift certificate to Soma to use on their own Enhancing Shape Bra or any other merchandise from the brand. To enter, leave a comment letting me know what color of the Enhancing Shape Bra you’d choose if you won. Giveaway ends November 2, 2014 at 11:59pm ET. Winner will be chosen by random and must have a valid email address (in comment, signed in as guest in Disqus, or in Disqus profile). Winner will be contacted by email; if winner does not reply to notification email within 48 hours a new winner will be chosen. Winner may use gift certificate online or in Soma Intimates boutiques.

To learn more about Soma, click here to find your local boutique, click here to get their catalog, or visit them on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest. And if you live in the Maryland/DC area, I highly recommend you visit the Soma Intimates location at Westfield Montgomery Mall!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Soma via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Soma. The opinions and text are all mine.

Week Recap

I have been loving the library at work. We have a couple tall bookcases in the kitchen on my floor of the office – coworkers drop off books they no longer want, take what looks interesting, bring it back when finished. Sometimes I know who dropped the books (like a coworker I think is fab came in last week with a big shopping bag and I couldn’t wait to see her haul), some I wonder (hrm, who loves Debbie Macomber so much that there’s freaking 20 of her books there? ), and sometimes there’s a clue (plane flight ticket stub from the Deputy Director, receipt from a bookstore near one of the other offices, etc.). I think this collection is extra-special to me because I know a coworker read it, and I work with an amazing group of intelligent, curious, open-minded, well-traveled and well-read folks.

I recently finished, I Was Told There’s Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. Crosely often writes for the NYT, and this book is a collection of essays about her life. Think Sedaris, but instead it’s a Vegetarian Jewish recent college grad. Some of her pieces I found to be terrible cliché, others were well written, funny, and made me want to write more. Not a must-read at all, but I found it inspiration to get back to my journal writing and it was excellent Metro Commute reading (can stop when transferring trains or when at destination without feeling major pains of regret and longing).

Right now I am reading Mister Posterior and the Genius Child by Emily Jenkins. This story takes place from the point of view of an eight-year-old girl in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The more I read, the more I am interested in knowing how this story ends. I am on page 261, it ends on page 295 so I will be finished with the book before I finish my evening commute. I think the reason I like the book so well is that it really does feel like the voice of a child that age. I could see myself thinking and doing the same things at that age. The child isn’t horribly abused, burdened, wide beyond her years like children who are the voice in many novels. It’s hard to review for I am at a point where I really have no clue how this book will end. I have enjoyed the ride so far…

This weekend my husband and I saw the movie Buddy. It’s a Norwegian film with subtitles, and is currently available through the Sundance Channel on Comcast OnDemand. The protagonist Kristoffer (played by the uber cute Nicolai Cleve Broch – seriously Google Images him) is utterly charming, and we found this movie to be a great date movie that both hub and wife enjoyed.

Saturday night we went to my sister’s for dinner. She steamed clams, had sautéed some green (tasted and looked a bit like bok choy to me – oh the adventures of farmers market shopping!), crusty bread, wine, and these adorable macaroni and cheese cupcakes. We returned the favor last night when my husband slow cooked a roast from the farmer’s market on the grill and paired it with biscuits and peas. I am so happy that she lives so close that we can have family dinners like this on a regular basis.

Sunday I volunteered at my community’s baby and kid swap. What the event is, bring your old baby and kid stuff (clothes, shoes, toys, books, nursing equipment, maternity clothes, etc.) and take what you need. Whatever is left over at the end of the event is donated to charity. We have this event a couple times a year and I always volunteer because I think it is such a wonderful act. This time, we had a couple tables set up at the community farmers market. A lot of people who didn’t donate came by and were shocked we were giving away things for free. A couple families were so excited, one woman with four children was tearing up and wanted to give a donation. I said her contribution was having me lug less stuff to a thrift store at the end of the day. I could see the clothes her kids were wearing seemed very worn and the older kids had pants and coats that were too short.

I brought a lot of clothes and shoes that Emerson had outgrown and weren’t of sentimental value and not in any condition that I could sell on eBay (currently selling some of her like-new shoes on there to make fundage for new pairs). Lots of very nice stuff, all in good condition. In turn, I got some fantastic stuff for E – a pair of lavender snowpants, a couple cute dress/legging combos and some tops in 2T and 3T, two like-new fleece sleepers in 2T (she is currently wearing 18-24), a pair of gently worn Stride Rite Mary Janes, a rashguard shirt for this summer, a Vimse Imse swim diaper, and two wooden puzzle toys. My portion post-swap I gave to my neighbor who works at a DC public school – she says parents come and can’t even afford diapers for their babies or shoes for their school-aged children. She was thrilled for the three lawn & leaf bags of leftovers, and I was thrilled to know they were going to people who will appreciate them.

I won tickets to see Jonsi in concert at the 9:30 Club on Tuesday night. If anyone is interested, there are still tickets available for that night. I think it will be a fun show!

Tomorrow I am also meeting with a woman who is doing a project about fashion blogging, sponsored by Microsoft Research. Kinda cool, I am looking forward to it and reading the results once she is finished. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Thursday I have the opportunity to check out the new Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio in Rockville, Maryland. They are having a press event that morning and the Grand Opening is the next day. I will be sure to come back and report all about it!

I can’t believe we’re already neck-deep into November. I don’t even want to THINK about Christmas until I have had my fill of Thanksgiving turkey (yeah, decided, well told my mom I wouldn’t go back to vegetarian or pescatarian until after the holidays) but it’s hard not to. I have already gotten email requests from my mom for my Christmas list, and everyone wants to know what Emerson needs. We’ve decided to get Emerson a play kitchen because she is really loving her little pots and pans and pretends to drink tea all the time. I have decided to get the Kidkraft Retro kitchen because it’s not too gaudy and will fit in the corner of our dining room where we can see her from the living room or the kitchen. My mom has already bought her some new pots and pans and I have been scoping out fake food kits that don’t include stuff like hamburgers and bacon.

I have already requested off the time between Christmas and New Years but don’t think we’ll have the money to go anywhere. However after this very busy and chaotic year, it will be nice to have a Staycation with my lovely family. And if it snows, well Emerson is now prepared with her new-ish lavender snow pants!

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 Savings.com 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

Shoes
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:

How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

The best accessory I acquired in the past decade was getting out of credit card debt.

My Experience:
When I worked in retail, I found it far too easy to shop. I was spending at least 45, usually closer to 65 hours a week at a mall. Lunch hours were spent strolling through other shops, sipping on an overpriced coffee drink, or treating myself to a very nice lunch at a nearby restaurant. As a personal shopper and visual merchandiser, I felt I had to be a perfect example of style and current fashion and made sure to have the latest shoes, makeup, accessories and always a perfect professional manicure, pedicure, haircut and highlights. When our shop was thisclose to making the day’s sales goal, they could always count on me to purchase something from the new line to get us over the hump.

When I left working at Express, they gave me my associate purchase logs. In one year, after my employee discounts, I had purchased $7,000.00 worth of their clothing. When I maxed out my Express card, I opened a Structure card and used that (hey it was the late ‘90s/early ‘00s when Structure still existed). When I maxed that out, I found out that I could use my Limited or Victoria’s Secret cards and shop at Express. I won’t even go into details about the major credit cards I used for salon treatments, binges at Sephora or Nordstrom, and many a steak salad at the Nordstrom Café.

As women, we are constantly attacked by media telling us to spend, spend, spend. The dress that will get you the guy. The moisturizer that will make you look ten years younger. The bag you must have this season. The five or ten or hundred items every woman must have in her wardrobe. And then of course, the purchases you need so that you can be as lovely as Anne or Mila or Kate. Magazines like Lucky are completely geared towards assisting women on shopping, while glossies such as Vogue and W bring couture to Middle America, encouraging everyone to feel that they too need a fancy label on their dress to be special.

As you know, I love fashion. I love clothing. I find it to be a great way to express your personality, your individuality, your passions. Fashion can also help you feel more confident and more beautiful. But no garment is worth falling into debt. A woman cannot be strong if her finances are crumbling around her.

So how do you achieve personal style while sticking to your budget?

When I got to the point where I was fearing every telephone call, thinking it was a debt collector, I knew I had to make a major change – FAST. For me, it was changing careers. I had to get away from that which was causing the debt – easy access to current fashion. However I still had mountains of debt and wasn’t willing to sacrifice style along the way.

This was when I started understanding wardrobe staples. Pieces slowly collected that could multitask and make a woman ready for any event in her life. I looked at women I knew as stylish and really examined their wardrobes. They didn’t own a lot of clothes, they seemed to wear the same things over and over. And those clothes they wore were perfect. They were well tailored, high quality, flattering. Few prints, few trendy details. Classics like cashmere turtlenecks, crisp dark jeans, white tailored shirts, simple sheath dresses, elegant black leather pumps, simple pencil skirts. They would add their own look to these staples with accessories like scarves, bold jewelry, and belts.

I thought back to the exchange students we hosted when I was in high school – how they could survive weeks in another country with just a small suitcase of clothing. Even with their small wardrobes, they were ready for any event in the US. Their wardrobes were of simple pieces that mixed and matched with one another – pieces of similar fabrics, colors, and silhouettes so they made a true collection.

I looked in my own closet – spangled knit tops to wear out to clubs that still had tags on them, a dozen cocktail dresses, four pairs of leather pants (and one pair bright red!), three pairs of tall black boots, over 20 pairs of jeans. Who the heck needs 20 pairs of jeans?

I obviously had plenty of clothes at that time, and really tried to make do with what I had. My new job required me to wear all black, so when I didn’t have the right item in my wardrobe, I stalked sale racks until I could find what worked at the lowest price. I often bought in bulk – who cares if you’re wearing the same black pants every day as long as they are clean and fit well?

Over time, I got a grip on my finances, but realized yet another new profession and a changing figure required me to shop again. I decided to keep those stylish women and my exchange students in mind. I looked through my closet with fresh eyes and decided to purge. Gone were all the spangled club tops, the evening gowns, and any clothes that didn’t fit and flatter my current frame.

However for purchasing, I needed to figure out a budget so I wouldn’t get back into a financial mess. Before I went shopping, I took a month or two to look at where my money went, and what were my priorities. Thanks to my sister who is the Excel Spreadsheet Queen, I started tracking where all my money went – that pack of gum, that latte, that issue of Marie Claire. I didn’t just note how much I spent on groceries, but what exactly I purchased. I saw that a lot of my money went to food – dining out, alcohol, and purchasing items at the grocery store that I don’t really need (hello another lip gloss) or that I can’t afford (artisanal cheeses, sushi, out of season produce). I decided to adjust my current spending before shopping to see what I could cut and still lead what I felt to be a joyful and comfortable life.

Only then, could I figure out my fashion budget. Some months, I spent that money. Other months, I saved it up so I could get something really special. I stuck to my list of essentials, and decided I would only buy fun items when I got a work bonus, birthday cash, special events. This way, I not only stayed on budget but I was even more careful with my money and those special items not only were nice to buy, but had special meaning behind them.

Each woman’s budget will be different, but it is important to first pay yourself before you do any shopping. Pay off your debt, save and invest your money. Prepare for the unexpected. Yes, a great pair of shoes can make your day, help you land a job or perfect your wardrobe but shoes won’t pay the rent if you get laid off. Shoes won’t buy you a new car when yours dies on the side of the highway. Shoes won’t give you independence and freedom.

If your budget is small, that’s actually a good thing. Small wardrobe funding requires one to do homework to find the best quality for the price, to really get to know one’s body and lifestyle and only purchase that which makes sense. Keep your wardrobe small, hard-working, classic, elegant.

Tips to Stay on Budget:

  • Have a Life Budget. No point in having a clothing budget if you are blowing your paycheck already on other items. That being said, have priorities. Clothing is probably higher on my priority list than the list of many other women. Each woman is different – some budget for world travel, some budget for books, some budget for art supplies, some budget for home renovations. It’s important to first be true to you – prioritize and then figure out where fashion fits.
  • Make a List, Check it Twice. If you have an actual written list that you carry with you, you’re less likely to get off track when you hit the mall.
  • Do Your Homework. You need a black suit? Go to the mall, try on brands, and then go home. Research online for coupons, deals, maybe the same item on eBay or in a thrift or vintage store. Never accept full price unless it is absolute perfection, absolutely necessary, and still fits your budget.
  • Stay Away from Shopping Triggers. For me, it’s malls. I only visit a major shopping mall once or twice a year because I can get lost in there and leave hundreds poorer. Maybe for you it’s Target (can always justify another tee or a $19.99 sundress but it adds up), possibly an adorable boutique in your neighborhood or maybe it’s Net-a-Porter. Whatever it is, accept your trigger and control your visits. Schedule them according to seasons – maybe only allow one visit each season, or maybe once a month.
  • Cancel the Magazine Subscriptions. I am a magazine-aholic, but I know that when I read them, I end up shopping more. Magazines do a great job of making items look amazing, and seem necessary. The most recent Vogue made me spend an hour of my life looking for a certain Brahmin bag – something I don’t need, can’t afford, but loved upon first sight. I did stop before purchasing, but if I hadn’t received that magazine, I would have never known about that orange bag and would have still lived a happy and stylish life. For some, it may be fashion blogs instead of magazines – even if it’s my blog that encourages you to shop, unsubscribe and just visit maybe once a month or every other week.
  • Play “Which Would You Rather.” Sally McGraw of Already Pretty often hosts a “sudden death” question on her Facebook page – which would you rather do – wear only white for a year, or wear your high school colors for a year, and only your school colors. It’s a good exercise for shopping – which would you rather have – that It Bag, or a sushi and sake date night with your mate once a month for a year? Which would you rather own – the perfect pair of black leather pumps, or six pairs of sandals from Payless? Which is more important, your morning Starbucks, or a pair of riding boots? Break down the price of the item and compare it to other items in your life.
  • Get Creative. No one knows you’re wearing the same black pants every day if you switch it up. One day, wear with a tucked-in blouse, the next day with a blazer and shell. Another day wear a cardigan over them and belt the cardigan to change the silhouette. Use your small wardrobe as a brain teaser – who needs Sudoku when you can take the dozen or so quality pieces in your wardrobe and make dozens of outfits from them.

A woman should get fitted for a new bra every year. She should have the perfect LBD in her wardrobe to be ready for unexpected social events. And she should be able to sleep well at night, knowing full well what is going on with her finances. The best accessory I acquired was getting out of debt – the best accessory any woman can wear is self-confidence, and confidence comes from being true to one’s self, feeling strong, and being financially solvent.



Be sure to check out the first of my How to Shop Series: An Introduction

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The Mall and the SAHM

This week, I ran to the mall at lunch for some retail therapy. I recently bought a pair of black trousers that had such a perfect fit, fabric and cut that I returned to get them in two other colors. While strolling the mall sipping my iced coffee, I realized that the majority of the mall was occupied by mothers with their children. Women with slings holding sleeping infants, women with strollers holding up to three kids at a time at varying ages. Women and children hand in hand at the food court, on benches, in stores. As varying were the ages of their children were the appearances of these mothers.

This mall is in a community where every economic level of person lives. On one side of the mall are million-dollar townhomes in a gated community, the other side are rent-controlled apartments. A mile up the street are McMansions and in the other direction, cozy blocks of split-level and rancher-style brick homes built in the 50s. I used to work at this mall, and saw people from all walks of life enter my store. This day of retail therapy and my years of retail management remind me that money does not equal style.

My mom often tells me about my childhood. We were not well off and she had to save up to buy clothes for herself and us kiddies. Weekends were spent at yard sales for clothes, furniture and even Christmas presents come winter. Though my mom had a limited budget, she always looked great. She learned to sew to be able to dress for less and flatter her petite frame. She scoured sale racks and when something worked, she would buy multiples in varying colors to make things simple. Since she was a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM), she needed clothes that didn’t wrinkle, could handle multiple washings and were so easy to pair with one another, she could dress in the dark. Pictures of her during this time shows her in jeweled toned knit tops, black knit trousers, black shoes and a silver pendant necklace almost every day. Not too exciting, the sleeve and pant length seemed to change with the seasons, but the premise was the same. Considering it was the 70s and 80s, my mom had a shoulder-length perm that flattered her face but was low-maintenance. You couldn’t look at her and know her income level or that I had vomited on that shirt two days prior. She was a parent of two rambunctious children, a volunteer in our schools, the editor of the church newsletter, active in the community and always overextended. Though her life may have been frazzled, her appearance was not.

It really is possible to look good and be a SAHM. And this is possible without spending much more time every day. It’s all about mindful shopping. I know I have written about this before, but this is something that is important to all women, no matter our lifestyle or responsibilities.

As I walked down the mall, I had two women in front of me pushing strollers. They were friends, chatting with each other as they window-shopped. They were both in their 30s, both of average size, both with straight blonde hair and I believe even had the same strollers. That was where the similarities ended. One was in baggy over-washed black cotton capris that ended at the widest part of her calf. She paired this with a pink, black and white horizontally striped polo shirt that hit right at her waistband and with it a pair of black flip flops. Her hair was half up in a claw clip, though most was slipping out and fanning out around her head. She looked dumpy, disheveled and her clothes looked cheap. Her friend was also in black capris, but they were of a very heavy knit and fit her frame quite well. Paired with it was a turquoise boatneck ¾ sleeve top that hit at mid-hip. On her feet were black ballet flats and her hair was held back with a black elastic headband. Her outfit was just as low-fuss and easy care, yet she looked slimmer and more polished. Both wardrobes can go in the washer and dryer. Both outfits were comfortable and easy. The difference was that the woman in the turquoise seemed more mindful of what she was purchasing.

1. Don’t buy 100% cotton unless you love to iron. It wrinkles, and even an extra 10 minutes in the dryer won’t get those wrinkles out. Also, cotton is known to fade after many washings. Cotton clothes soon look rumpled, old and worn. You don’t have the time and money to replace them, so don’t buy them in the first place.

2. If your tummy is not your best feature, then don’t showcase it. Tops that hit right at your midsection draw attention to that area. Tucked-in tops emphasize the lower abdomen, and tops that are too tight do not flatter anyone. Look for tops that hit around mid-hip. This length is slimming to the torso without making the legs look short. No need for baggy tops – they often add bulk instead of hiding it. Look for something that either skims the body or sits pretty darn close. This will show you have the figure of a woman, not a sack of potatoes.

3. Flip flops are for the beach, not the mall. I say this often on here, but flops are bad for your feet. Your arches sink, you pull muscles between your toes and they do more harm than good. They are great when hopping in the car to drop the kid off somewhere, tooling around the garden, the pool or the shore but that’s about it. To preserve your feet for your future and not look sloppy, invest in some real shoes. Ballet flats are a great alternative and can be found for less than $20 at retailers like Target. A leather sandal in tan will go with 90% of your wardrobe and be more structured and attractive than a flip flop. This change affects your personal style as well as your personal health.

4. With skirts, dresses, shorts and capris, have them end at a slim part of the leg. Your thigh and your calf are the widest parts and when clothing ends there, it gives the appearance that your entire leg is that size. Do your figure a favor and if the garment is perfect except for the length, take them to the tailor. For about $5 they can hem it to a better place.

5. Consider solids. Stripes and patterns may add variety and you may think they hide stains, but they often look cheap and quickly look dated. A solid polo in French blue can look crisp with a pair of khaki Bermudas; a striped one can make you look bigger and often looks cheaper. The best way to make your bargain piece look more expensive is to buy it in a solid color, free of garment-dyed finishes, contrast stitching or elaborate details. Go for simple and you’ll go for gold.

6. Read the label. If it says Dry Clean Only, don’t buy it unless you have time and money for such a service. If it tells you to dry flat, it’s telling you not to buy it. You don’t have the time for this, and if you don’t follow the instructions you will probably ruin the shape or finish of the garment.

7. If it’s great, buy two. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I went and bought two more pairs of pants that I already owned and loved. They were the right length, color, fabric and fit. No one is taking a tally of how many styles of garments you own, all people notice is if you look nice. You found a great wrap top that flatters and fits and is easy care and perfection? Get it in black, pink and teal. Found a wrap dress that can hit the dryer as well as the dance floor? Get it in solid black and also in the red print. This is also true for shoes – get them in the neutral you wear most often (black or brown) and then get them in one other color (tan or a contrast shade like red pr green). If they are awesome, they are worth it.

8. Adjust your hair to your life. If you don’t have time to blow out your hair every morning, then get a cut that allows you to wash and wear. If you have bad hair days, you are human. Work with it with flattering accessories. Claw clips seem like a quick fix but look sloppy more often than not. Headbands are hip right now – great time to stock up. Also nothing is wrong with a low ponytail; side parts are flattering on rounder faces and a little hairspray on your brush or comb will help battle flyaways.

9. Buy a new bra. Whether or not you breastfed, your breasts will not be the same as they were pre-baby even if your waistline is. With any weight changes, your breasts change as well. Nothing makes you look firmer and fitter than a supportive bra. Also nothing makes you feel more like a woman than to have a gorgeous red satin and lace number under your standard tee shirt.

10. Keep the active wear for the gym. Knit shorts, baggy tee shirts from a vacation destination, matching hoodies and pants are not appropriate for “the real world.” It is just as easy to buy a feminine cut of tee shirt than to buy an oversized one.

11. Don’t shy from a skirt or dress. If it hits around the knees, you can still crawl on the floor and run around without trouble. A skirt is always more polished, and a great tee-shirt style dress is easier to put on in the morning than a whole outfit. The one pictured is less than $40 by Jones New York, I found it at Nordstrom.

12. Show your personality.You are more than a mom, you are an amazing and vital woman.Wear your favorite colors, buy a leopard print shoe or a bold necklace.Small touches take your standard day wear from uniform to amazing with little work.

 

 

Some companies I recommend to find beautiful, comfortable and durable garments:

      • Lands End – I love this place. I buy knits from there that never shrink, fade or pill. They have petite, tall and plus sizes and offer fit guides to ensure you get the right size. I recommend you use this guide for many of their pieces run big. Best part? Their prices are very reasonable!
      • Chico’s – Fabulous colors, fun accessories and lots of fabrics that resist wrinkles and fading. Do note their sizing is a bit different from most companies and they do not carry plus sizes. As with Lands End, they often run a tad big.
      • J. Crew – J. Crew is the Mecca for pretty solid colored tops. Flattering cuts of polos and tees, high-quality cashmere, cotton and wool sweaters, and all with flattering yet not risqué necklines and cuts. J. Crew often runs small, especially in their bottoms but the quality is good, the cut is usually flattering and their return policy is fabulous. The price may be a bit higher than you’re used to, but the quality usually makes it worth the investment (I am still wearing J. Crew skirts and sweaters from a decade ago).
      • I.N.C. by Macy’s – You may find this a strange choice but if you regularly visit this section you would understand. They carry petites and plus sizes, they always have the most gorgeous colors and a large selection of pants, shorts and capris for the season. I.N.C. does a fabulous job of taking what is on the runway and making is realistic and wearable for every woman. They carry prints, but also a plethora of solids every season in some high-quality knits and other washable fabrics.
      • Boden – Feminine cuts, pretty colors, and great basics for any wardrobe. Do note this is a UK site so their sizes run differently than the us (they have a handy fit guide on the site). They don’t have many extended sizes, though some trousers are offered in long lengths. This company has mastered simple elegance with their basic style.