Search Results for: label/Greenbelt Maryland

Stacy London and the Westfield Style Tour Come to Maryland

It’s official, I have drank the Stacy London Kool-Aid, and I have to say it’s pretty delicious.

I have been a fan of TLC’s show, What Not to Wear for many years. Unlike many makeover shows, What Not to Wear keeps it real, helping real women with real lives learn how to dress their bodies. Stacy London and Clinton Kelly focus on flattering the figure a woman has, instead of worrying about the latest trends. London doesn’t mince words on the show, though she provides real-life advice on how to dress one’s body as well as one’s lifestyle.

Along with offering advice on What Not to Wear, London and Cindy McLaughlin co-created Style for Hire, an online agency that matches women with trained stylists in their area. Style for Hire began in the DC area and is now available nationwide for consultations, closet audits, personal shopping sessions, and more.

This past weekend (as well as this coming weekend), Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Maryland is hosting the Westfield Style Tour. The Westfield Style Tour offers free beauty makeovers, free professional fashion consultations with Style for Hire stylists.  They created a pop-up in Center Court with mannequins showcasing spring fashions, racks of clothing and shoes from mall shops for five-minute fashion consultations, and stylists and makeup artists to provide on-the-spot makeovers.  This past weekend, they also offered an opportunity to meet and get your photo taken with London, who is also the Creative Director for Westfield Style.  

London and her Style for Hire stylists focus on geometry – the shape of your body and the shape of garments, coming up with the perfect flattering equation. They work with you to help shopping be enjoyable, and successful. They begin with a five-minute consultation, will take their clients to the mall to learn how to shop for their bodies, and help them find easy basics from which to grow their wardrobe. Seeing and hearing Stacy London discuss Style for Hire was awesome – I had heard of the program (and know a few talented folks who are part of it), but after hearing her passionately preach the benefits, I knew it was a program worth the money to consider.

I always wonder how a slim woman from the fashion industry like London came to be a woman who really “gets” the issues many find with dressing their bodies. From London’s Wikipedia page I found this quote from her:

“I have been every size in my life. I’ve been smaller than a zero, up through a size 16. I’ve had lots of issues with body image and weight my whole life and it really took a great deal of work to recognize that at all those weights, no matter how I felt, I could still find a dress that made me feel sexy and powerful.”

I was lucky to have an opportunity to interview Stacy London before the Westfield Style Tour, and asked her many of the questions that you readers regularly come to me to answer. Why not get a second opinion from an expert?

And this is where the Kool-Aid was gulped happily. Stacy was so gracious and personable, yet just as intense as you would expect. She looked me in the eye the entire time, and you could feel the passion she has for the subject of style for all women. I wanted to head to a bar with her, buy her a glass of wine, and blather on about hemlines and wrap dresses until last call. I wanted to share my experiences of being so many different sizes, that I too channeled Robert Smith in my high school sartorial choices, and where she got her amazing peeptoe booties.

And now onto your burning questions!

How to Dress a Postpartum Body – Stacy London suggests creating a waist where there isn’t one. While an empire waist can hide a soft tummy, creating one just above the belly and lower than an empire waist is more flattering and will look less like maternity clothes. She, like I, believes in the power of a wrap dress, and recommended that a woman NOT hide under fabric – the more you’re wearing, the bigger you look.

How to Dress when Losing Weight – London says it takes time to lose the weight, and you have to put a similar investment and effort into your wardrobe. It’s important to keep up your wardrobe with your body changes, and purchasing transition pieces are worth the investment.

Best Mall Shops for Women who are Petite and Curvy – London recommends Ann Taylor, LOFT, Banana Republic, and NY & Company for petite women who have curves or aren’t a size 2. She believes these brands have pant silhouettes and styles that flatter curvy frames, even if those curves are on a woman below 5’5” She also feels that J. Crew “does everything right.”

Best Mall Shop for Tall Women – Stacy London says NY & Company has a very generous seam allowance in their pants, so if their pant lengths aren’t long enough it’s easy to have a tailor or seamstress let out the pants to the perfect length.

If you are in the DC area, I encourage you to check out the Westfield Style Tour at Montgomery Mall. For those in other parts of the US, check with your local Westfield mall to see if Stacy London and her team of Style for Hire stylists will be visiting. And if you’re looking for some personalized help on how to shop and dress your figure, check out Style for Hire. Like me, you may find yourself guzzling the Stacy London Kool-Aid and loving it!

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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.

Go Big or Go Home

Shirt: Gap | Skirt: Etsy | Shoes: Miss Sixty via eBay (similar) | Bag: Banana Republic via eBay (similar)

I was on the hunt for a maxi wrap dress, and decided to check out Etsy. I didn’t find one I liked, but I found this skirt and I just couldn’t resist. At first, I thought my life didn’t NEED a big skirt like this, but I indulged and this is the third time I have worn it. I like it on weekends with an Old Navy vintage tee (white and charcoal) knotted at the waist, and think this summer will be cute with a tank, and maybe a different print scarf tied at the waist like a cummerbund. It has one pocket, the only think I don’t adore about this skirt is that there aren’t two. But reasonable price, looks just as it did online, didn’t have to wait too long for shipping. I definitely favorited this seller and may look to have her make that elusive wrap maxi dress for me this summer!

There is an historic Art Deco theater in my community that holds a lot of good memories for people in our community. I remember seeing movies there when I was younger, and we love being able to walk down to see an indie hit or an Oscar contender.  The Greenbelt Theatre is up to receive a $100,000 grant from Partners in Preservation and we’re in our last week of voting. We keep teetering between 4th and 5th place; I doubt we’ll be win (we’re up against the National Cathedral), but there’s funding for runner ups. I’d really appreciate it if you’d take a moment to vote for the Greenbelt Theatre. The login process is pretty simple, anyone across the globe can vote, and you can vote every day. I thank you in advance!

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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.

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.

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!

Review – Last Call Studio by Neiman Marcus

Thursday I had the opportunity to check out the new Last Call Studio by Neiman Marcus which is in Rockville, Maryland. Last Call Studio opened on Friday, but they gave local fashion bloggers the opportunity to check out the store a day early. It was so cool to meet so many other fabulous fashionistas in the DC area while learning about Last Call Studio.

Lilipad and Lilith Fair – Empowering and Entertaining Women (Review and Giveaway)

As you know I recently attended the Lilith Fair at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland.  Well I told you I would have more details about my experience and now I can share them!

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:

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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:

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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.

True Fashionista: Amethyst

Karl and I moved to Historic Old Greenbelt in 1999. When we bought this house, I swore it would be temporary. While the price was right, I didn’t like the idea of moving back to where I grew up (only a couple miles from my childhood home). Three years max, and we’d get a bigger house in a “cooler” community. When we moved in, our house was just a place to change our clothes and rest our heads. I worked retail, Karl worked night shifts as a UPS engineer.  We could go a week without seeing one another, so we surely didn’t see much of our town or its inhabitants.

However, each time I went to the farmers market, walked through a town festival, or headed to the town center to buy groceries or visit the dry cleaner I always seemed to see this same woman named Amethyst. She seemed to glow from within, and I felt drawn to her. She dressed to the beat of her own drum, and made it look completely commonplace to go shopping in flowing silk skirts and elf shoes. This was at a time when I was far less accepting and would happily snark on anyone who didn’t fit the sartorial norm yet I was constantly impressed by Amethyst’s clear personal style. She knew herself, loved herself, and expressed this through her clothing choices.

It is now 2012 and I am honored to call that woman in the flowing silk skirts my friend. By knowing Amethyst, I have become more comfortable and accepting of who I am right here and now, and she has helped me to see the beauty in this town, a town I now am proud to live in and raise my daughter.  Amethyst’s personal style is quite different from my own, but I am inspired by her to truly wear my heart on my sleeve and choose clothing more carefully and wear what accurately represents me and my personality.

I was at work late this week thinking Amethyst; what can I say about this woman, how can I explain why I consider her a True Fashionista, an inspiration to me not only in dress but in attitude? How can I represent her in the way she deserves?  It is as though she knew and updated her Facebook status with this quote:

“The urge to transform one’s appearance, to dance outdoors, to mock the powerful and embrace perfect strangers is not easy to suppress . . . The capacity for collective joy is encoded into us almost as deeply as the capacity for the erotic love of one human for another. We can live without it, as most of us do, but only at the risk of succumbing to the solitary nightmare of depression.

“Why not reclaim our distinctively human heritage as creatures who generate their own ecstatic pleasures out of music, color, feasting, and dance . . . There is no ‘point’ to it — no religious overtones, ideological message, or money to be made — just the chance, which we need much more of on this crowded planet, to acknowledge the miracle of our simultaneous existence with some sort of celebration.”

- Barbara Ehrenreich in her book “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy”

I must admit I was nervous asking Amethyst to be part of my True Fashionista series. I don’t even know if she knew I had a blog, and I worried she would find the whole thing weird or superficial. I should have known better – she loved the idea and was excited to be a part of it. Since she doesn’t have a blog, she agreed to have my husband take some pictures of her in one of her favorite places – Roosevelt Center in our happy community of Old Greenbelt.

As with all other True Fashionistas, I asked Amethyst the same five questions; here are her answers:

How would you describe your personal style?
I would probably describe it as funky bohemian.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I would say it stems from a desire for wearable self-expression. A individual may express oneself through a variety of mediums: music, painting, writing, poetry, photography, dance…..and dress! This is just as valid a medium as sketching a sunset or composing a sonata. It is art – a very personal and self-expressive art. Wearing clothes is something that we do anyway every single day, so why not take an extra moment and put together an outfit that has flair and tells the world who you are? It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money. 

I find 90% of my clothes from thrift stores. Thrift store shopping encourages recycling, saves on the pocketbook, and there is an indescribable pleasure of finding something that you really like. It’s as if the Universe has aligned and has laid before you the perfect ensemble that reflects and honors who you are. To me this is much more fulfilling than going to a shopping mall where the clothes are cookie-cutter and mass produced.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
I find sartorial inspiration from differing cultures around the world and through festivals and celebrations of all kind. Why wait for a special occasion to put on that shimmering hot pink kaftan that you picked up last month at the thrift store? Life is short – don’t hold back on fabulous!

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Fashion tends to be dictated by others. Style is your own. Fashion is something that is followed. Style is innate. Fashion is merely clothes. Style is YOU.

“Fashion condemns us to many follies; the greatest is to make ourselves its slave.” ~Napoleon Bonaparte

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn.” ~Gore Vidal

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her own personal style?
I would advise trusting yourself and delving into what you truly like and what reflects you as an individual. Fear not what others may think. It is an extremely liberating feeling to express yourself without thought as to how others may judge you. See yourself as a canvas and clothes as wearable art – the beauty of texture, the vibrancy of color and the fit of fabric combine to cradle your body and says to the world, “This is who I am!”. 

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The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday for the next few weeks. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments!

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