Search Results for: label/Her Fashion Box

Ask Allie: From the Comment Box

I must admit, life has been pretty hectic lately and your comments and emails have been piling up. Here’s a post to address some of the questions I have received. If I haven’t gotten back to you yet, hang tight!

I have professional head shots being done at work soon. What should I wear?! (I’m 31 and work in a ‘typical’ office setting. Our normal attire is business casual).

A solid color that is not white, black, or red. A neckline that is flattering but a top that is also flattering to your shoulders. A v-neck sweater may be nice for some, but if you have curves you may find a more structured jacket with a scoop neck top, or a collared shirt may elongate the neck and draw attention from your bust and shoulders.

I’ve received my first piece of Stella & Dot jewelry; I want to create a small display of my fashion jewelry – like seen on Pinterest – but I read on the little note enclosed with my necklace that I should keep it in its own little baggie. How do you store your jewelry?

I have a jewelry armoire with velvet-lined drawers, but my favorite costume pieces (Stella and Dot as well as my other pricier higher-quality pieces) I store in the armoire in plastic baggies. Air will cause costume jewelry to tarnish. While those pretty displays on Pinterest will look nice, they aren’t very kind to your accessories in the long run.

I am a plus size knitter and have been looking at patterns for beautiful shawls and am currently working on a semicircular lace shawl. But, I have no idea how to incorporate a shawl into my wardrobe. Can you provide some suggestions?

That sounds so pretty! I’d say make it your signature style for a shawl can look great with most anything. I’m imagining it as some wear scarves or pashminas – just wear over your knit tops and pants or dresses. Keep other accessories to a minimum – maybe bracelets but low on necklaces and earrings so the shawl becomes the focal point. Also consider wearing it over your coat as an accent!

I was wondering if you might have some tips on nursing tops. My daughter is two months old and I’m starting to get out of the house more, which means breastfeeding in places other than my bedroom. It’s not great to hike up my shirt in public, not least because it’s cold! Everyone suggests button-down shirts, but the ones I already have won’t close over my newly-larger chest and I don’t want to have to buy a whole bunch more.

I nursed for two and a half years and hardly owned a single nursing top and never wore a button-front shirt. I swore by wrap styles, be they surplice neckline tops, wrap tops, or wrap dresses. Matte jersey or another stretchy fabric is best so you can just slide that one part of the bodice over and keep the rest of yourself covered. I had a few camisoles I cut short (and a few Second Base camis) that I would wear when I needed more cleavage coverage – I would slide the part of the top to the side, pull up the cami, and still be covered, warm, and it was easy to rearrange everything back in place. By steering clear of traditional nursing tops, you’ll be likely to wear the piece after your finish breastfeeding, and be able to find such pieces at great sale prices at most any retailer!

I’m going to a country concert in Texas. I bought these gorgeous brown cowboy boots; they are between a tan and a dark brown. I also have a gorgeous curve hugging gray dress with a black sash that would be perfect for the venue. Can I pair the two together with even though there is a black belt and brown boots? Or should I just go ahead and put a brown belt on to go with the boots?

I say yes, there’s no need to have the brown belt. While it used to be passé to mix brown and black, now it’s the norm and seen on many a celebrity. By the dress being gray and not a strong color like a primary or white it makes the brown boots even better of a pairing. Not only that, cowboy boots are a neutral (at least I think so). They are like a cowboy hat – they can be paired with most anything and look good.

I’m 25 years old and 5’8” tall with very long, slim legs (I always need to order my pants in talls). I also do not have much in the hips. However, I am a little thicker in the middle (about size 14ish). Finding pants that fit is awful. If they fit in the waist, they are baggy and ridiculous looking in the thighs and hips. If they fit in the legs, they are disgustingly tight. I like my pants to hit a little higher (no butt cracks allowed!), but not creeping into mom/grandma territory. Do you happen to have any suggestions on where I could find some pants (primarily denim, and chinos) that might work?

Try Jag Jeans. They sell up to a 34” inseam on sites like Zappos and I have found that they have a good inseam, a straight torso, and reasonable leg openings. A slimmer style like their narrow bootcut may be better for your legs. Jag Jeans are already more reasonably-priced, but they often go on sale at Amazon, Nordstrom, and Zappos so you can get some pretty fab deals on them. Do note they run a bit big, so if you’re between sizes you may want to size down.

Also consider Junior’s brands of jeans. While you may first think that they all will have incredibly low waists, not all do (and the trend for higher waists is happening FINALLY!). A junior fit will have less allowance in the hips and thighs and usually has a slimmer leg opening. Alloy has an amazing selection of jean styles and washes and have inseams up to 37”.

From readers, I have heard good things about Victoria’s Secret and Old Navy for tall jeans that aren’t also curvy. Old Navy has a more extensive selection of inseams online though you can still return anything that doesn’t work quite right in their stores.

Can an A-line skirt/dress + boots be considered a classic (winter) look? The older I get, the less I want to fuss with wardrobe choices and my ideal wardrobe would be a highly versatile minimal capsule, but I do not want to look hopelessly passé or “not having a clue”.

That actually sounds quite classic and chic. There are some silhouettes and combinations that stand the test of time, and an a-line skirt with tall boots is one of them. With a turtleneck sweater, a striped boatneck and scarf, a fitted blazer and shell… I love that classic look and think it looks great now and will look great years from now. The only thing to watch is skirt lengths and minor details over the years – it is possible to maintain this look for years, but stay tuned so your skirt isn’t a dowdy length, you have too many details that can go out of fashion (pleats, patch pockets, double slits, etc.), or you’re wearing too many colors or fabrics that were hot once and may not be now (various shades of green, red, camel, brown – true neutrals and jewel tones are less likely to go out of fashion).

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Ask Allie: SAHM Capsule Wardrobe

Dear Allie, any suggestions for a stay at home mom’s capsule wardrobe? I left the workforce two years ago when my second child was born and I have a terrible wardrobe of cocktail dresses and stained sweatpants and never seem to have the right thing to wear anywhere. While most days are spent in comfortable knits playing with the kids or working around the house, I’d like a wardrobe that could get me back out of the house and not look a mess. Clothes for volunteering at the school and church, wearing to book club or an unexpected night out with my husband or the girls or just basic clothes that won’t make me look like a mess when running errands. Clothes have to be comfortable, be washable, and be versatile since I don’t have an income any more. Any suggestions?

This sample capsule wardrobe will have you ready for everything from your husband’s work party to book club to the market to the playground. Stretch denim, ponte black knit separates, and colorful knits keep you looking polished even when you’re spending the day on the floor with your little ones. Choosing solids makes the pieces less memorable and more versatile; fabrics like ponte and merino wool look luxe but are machine washable on the gentle cycle and hold their shape through washings and wears.

Twenty Possible Ensembles (though you can make many many more):

  1. Black leggings, striped tee, cardigan, boots
  2. Black leggings, black turtleneck, boots
  3. Black leggings, chambray shirt, boots
  4. Black leggings, gray tee, pashmina, boots
  5. Jeans, striped tee, pashmina, boots
  6. Jeans, turtleneck, flats
  7. Jeans, gray tee, pink cardigan, statement necklace, flats
  8. Jeans, purple sweater, boots
  9. Jeans, chambray shirt, statement necklace, boots
  10. Black pants, black turtleneck, pumps
  11. Black pants, purple sweater, flats
  12. Black pants, gray tee, statement necklace, pumps
  13. Dress, boots
  14. Dress, leggings, flats
  15. Dress, pumps
  16. Skirt, scoop tee, flats
  17. Skirt, striped tee, cardigan, pumps
  18. Skirt, purple sweater, boots
  19. Skirt, turtleneck, flats
  20. Skirt, chambray shirt, flats

Black ponte leggings are thicker than jersey knit, making them look more polished, are more opaque and better hide any lumps and bumps. With a boyfriend cardigan and tall boots, comfy leggings and a tee can look downright chic. The same holds true for dark narrow jeans with stretch – the added Lycra keeps the jeans in shape when you’re active and keeps them comfortable. A dark wash will look more sophisticated and stay stylish longer than a trendy wash. A pair of trousers in black ponte dress up easily but have the stretch and machine washability that makes them practical; pair with everything from a tee shirt to a silk blouse for a put-together look. For ponte, even if it says dry clean only, it can be washed on the gentle cycle and hung to dry.

A black ponte dress in a simple silhouette can be worn with leggings and flats for a weekday casual look, with tall boots for Date Night, or with pumps for a social engagement. Dress up with a statement necklace, dress down with a pashmina. A gathered or pleated skirt in cotton blend (100% cotton may need ironing, a bit of poly will keep the wrinkles at bay) or a heavy knit like ponte gives you the fabric you need to be able to get on your knees to retrieve your child’s toy from under the table but still looks polished. A skirt can make simple flats and an old v-neck tee shirt look chic and purposeful and a lightweight sweater sophisticated.

A mix of different necklines keeps your wardrobe from looking like a uniform and makes layering a breeze. A black turtleneck sweater is insta-chic when paired with everything from trousers to jeans to a fuller skirt.  Merino wool is a great alternative to blends or cashmere as it doesn’t pill and can be washed on the gentle cycle of your machine.  A striped knit is an unexpected neutral which looks great on its own or with a sweater or shirt layered over it. Stripes also do a great job of hiding spots that are visible even on dark colored solid knits.  Chambray is also an unexpected neutral which can add interest under the dress, alone with jeans, or tucked into a skirt.  Unlike a white shirt, chambray looks okay a bit wrinkled, gets better with time and wear, and easily hides stains.

A big slouchy leather bag in a statement color can hold everything from your Kindle and bottle of water to a bag of Goldfish crackers and change of clothes for your child.  No need to be matchy-matchy with your bag, choose one that you like the color and shape and it can become an accent to the rest of the hues in your wardrobe.  Steer clear of metallics, suede, crinkle glazes or patent – all show wear and stains much faster than regular leather or a microfiber. Owning a sleek purse and pair of comfortable pumps in classic black leather will make dressing up your staples simple and they’re easy to polish up for special events. No need for a ton of different shoes – tall boots are surprisingly versatile and quickly add polish to simple knits and jeans. A pair of flats in a print like leopard are often times more versatile than a solid. Simple black pumps are there when you need to dress up.  If you’d like another pair of shoes, some ankle boots with a low heel or slight wedge would look great with all the pants and if they have a Western or engineer look, can also work with casual skirts and dresses.

Update: I created some sample capsule wardrobes for the summer months, you can check it out here!

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What Every Man Needs in His Wardrobe – Updated for 2010

A few years ago, I wrote the post, “What Every MAN Needs in his Wardrobe.” Since then, I seem to get comments and emails about it every month, and it has been mentioned in many articles on sites all over the Web.

Men’s fashion is so difficult because it is so simple. A man can’t feign style with trendy colors, bold accessories, or an It Bag. A man has a harder time making a Tarjay purchase cut it in the corporate world. Men’s retailers don’t help the situation – with women’s retailers we can tell that Mom Jeans are passé because they can only be found at cheaper Big Box retailers; men can find all sorts of Fashion Don’ts at the nicest brands and shops.

However just as with women, if a man has a very simple base wardrobe of staples, he can get away with adding some trendy or fun pieces to the mix without looking like a fashion victim. Purchasing quality, classic pieces means one’s wardrobe can stand the test of time and be far more versatile.

Re-reading my list of wardrobe staples for men from back in 2006, very little has changed. The good thing about men’s fashion is that it isn’t as quickly changing as that for women. Jeans you buy in 2007 will most likely be stylish in 2011, and silhouettes don’t change as drastically as those for women. However some trends have happened that aren’t TOO trendy, and can adjust the staples for any man. So let’s revisit that list.

Here’s a recap of the original list from 2006:
1. White dress shirt
2. Bootcut jeans
3. Black merino v-neck sweater
4. Flat front gray trousers
5. Black blazer
6. Gray suit
7. Solid-colored polo shirts
8. Flat front chinos/khakis
9. Sandals
10. Longer chino shorts
11. Casual crew neck sweater
12. Black slip on loafers
13. Euro sneakers
14. Wool coat
15. Black dress belt

1. Crisp White Cotton Shirt. This is a given. Every man needs at least one of these, as that they are so versatile and look best when very white, very crisp. Over the past couple of years, trimmer cuts have taken center stage. If you are a lean gentleman, do not let your white shirt balloon around you – this look will completely kill any style. European brands like French Connection offer narrower cuts, American retail favorites like Banana Republic and Gap also offer dress and casual shirts in fitted silhouettes.

If you are tall, look for brands that cater to tall men. My husband is a big fan of the Banana Republic line for Big & Tall men – the quality is good, and the cuts really do fit far better than standard brands. If you are shorter, you will always be better off heading straight to a shop like Brooks Brothers or a department store to get the right length of arms along with right size of neck.

Image courtesy gap.com

2. Comfortable Bootcut Jeans in a Semi-dark Color. This is one of the items that has changed the most drastically since the original post. Jeans are a wardrobe staple for most any person on this planet and retailers know this. Styles in denim change faster than with any other type of garment.

The mentioned relaxed bootcut jean is still a decent choice – it’s not too trendy, yet not dated. However since then other cuts and washes have become classics.

A very dark crisp jean, often called “rinse” in color or described as “rigid”, “selvedge”, or “raw” denim has become a classic for men as well as women. This is not a dark wash, but a deep, even dark indigo where the denim looks untouched. Often the inside seams are stitched in red, and the denim is far heavier-weight and stiff than most jeans in the store. In a slim, straight or slight boot cut, this look can be a great staple for most men. Adding the slight bootcut or a more relaxed cut is a good choice for very tall and lean men, as well as for shorter or heavier men. You want to balance out your shape, so you don’t look top heavy. A great classic choice for this type of jean is the Levi’s 501.

The vintage jean is a jean that is supposed to look as though it has been weathered through use. This jean doesn’t have the pronounced whiskering I mentioned in the original post, but all-over wear. We’re not talking shredded jeans a la the Glam Rock days, but something that looks as though a farmhand took a pair of raw denim and wore them for an entire season out in the fields. This look can be a bit looser and more relaxed than the dark denim, but it is still not baggy or loose. Again, a straight or slight boot cut will be your best choice.

Jeans now can be cuffed, but you are treading into trendy territory with this choice. If you don’t feel confident in knowing how to cuff your jeans in a fashionable manner and only plan to cuff to achieve the proper length, I encourage you to instead buy the right length or head to a tailor to have them properly hemmed (ask them to keep the original hem or at least hem style so it doesn’t look as though Mommy did it for you). If you know your length, many online retailers offer extended lengths and waist sizes online so you can get the right fit from the get-go.

3. A Black Merino V-neck Sweater. Yeppers, this is still stylish. Just be sure it fits you, and isn’t overly baggy. The only thing that has changed in the past few years is that cuts are now more trim. If you have some meat on your bones, don’t try to hide it with an oversized sweater, but don’t go too skinny. A straight fit in your regular size will actually make you look more slim than something that is baggy.

In the original post, someone commented that cashmere is a better choice. Cashmere is always in style, but it requires a bit more upkeep. If your budget and lifestyle can handle cashmere, by all means choose it. However most men I know are better off with a sweater that can handle being thrown in a hamper or sent to the cleaners to be cared for. Cashmere is best cared for with hand washing and being laid flat to dry. If you don’t have the life for that sort of care, it’s okay. Merino wool is a wonderful alternative and holds its shape great, wear after wear.

Image courtesy jcrew.com

4. Flat Front Tropical Weight Wool Trousers in Gray. Another classic. My only suggestion is that if you are deciding between cuffs and no cuffs, go without the cuffs. Cuffs are being seen less and less and are becoming something that is trendy – let those pants be stylish for many years to come and choose to go without cuffs, or any other trendy embellishment.

The narrow pant has become very stylish in the past couple of years. If you are reading this for clothing advice, I recommend you do NOT go for the narrow pant. The narrow pant is a hard look to pull off and can only be worn with certain shoes, certain tops, and on certain shapes of men. Keep it simple, keep it classic, stick to a flat front, standard leg, standard length.

Image courtesy nordstrom.com

5. A Black Suiting Blazer with Three Buttons. Classic. Simple. Just keep with current trends and keep it well-fitted. Get it properly tailored to fit your body – it will make you look more muscular, more fit, more trim if you have a well-fitting jacket.  As for figuring out fit, I love these tips from a Suitable Wardrobe and this link for sizing from SuitUPP – every man should bookmark them, print them out and take with you to the tailor when you get your jackets fitted (for no jacket fits properly off the rack – sorry to tell you guys, but it’s worth it to get them tailored.

When I originally wrote this, I chose black over navy for the same reason I choose black as the base color for my list of women’s wardrobe staples – it’s easier. You can’t get the wrong shade of black, and with black you always know what color shoes to wear. Navy is a wonderful choice for a blazer – it is classic and elegant, but the problem is navy can look more like blue if the wrong shade, navy will show the fabric better so if you don’t have high quality fibers it will be obvious, and often people pair navy with colors that don’t compliment well (hello black trousers). If you can find a dark navy of quality fibers, it is a worthy replacement of black. But if you’re unsure, stick with black for it’s safe and in this day and age, considered as versatile as navy.

6. A Gray Suit. Yep, this is still a classic. Far more versatile than any other color available, and more likely to look elegant in five years. Make sure it is tailored to fit you properly, and it should work for most any event that life throws in your direction.

 Image courtesy bananarepublic.com

7. Three Solid-colored Polo Shirts. There are more hip, more trendy, more fashionable choices than polo shirts, but nothing that is as timeless, budget-friendly, and versatile. My only update is again about fit – keep it trim (not tight) and be sure the length is correct. I constantly see men who have polo shirts that barely cover their belts, and other men who wear ones that hang to their knees. The current look is no longer baggy, so even if you are short and stocky, you should be able to find a polo shirt that doesn’t look like a dress. Tall men, almost every online retailer offers long lengths – you can easily get a few polos on sale at J. Crew or Gap and replace your belly-baring tops.

Keep your polo shirts looking better for longer and don’t wash them with your jeans, towels, or any athletic wear with grommets or Velcro. My husband washes his with other knits and they don’t fade or stretch out as quickly.

8. Flat-front Chinos in a Khaki Color. Still a classic. If you wear khakis for work, keep one pair that is only for social events. Often I see men at weddings and happy hours with stained or snagged chinos, and it’s obvious they are the same ones they wear on the job.

Again I have to mention length. It’s better to get them too long and have them hemmed than go too short. Any drycleaner can hem your pants and get them back to you in a couple of days. J. Crew and Lands End are two of many retailers that sell unusual lengths online. J. Crew even offers a raw hem so you can have them hemmed by your own tailor for the perfect length.

9. A Pair of Sandals. Magazines and Web sites will talk about all sorts of other summer shoes, but if you are a Fashion Freshman, I don’t suggest many other trendy alternatives that are out there.  I recommend checking out Zappos, a site with a HUGE selection of shoes. When I recently searched for men’s leather sandals, they had 545 options. It is possible to find a pair of thong or slide sandals that look manly, will be comfortable, and be a great choice with shorts or jeans.

10. Longer Shorts in Olive or Khaki. I am not saying your shorts should hang past your knee. You’re looking for that happy medium that is between the thigh and the knee. The baggy look is out guys, so pass on the pleats, the millions of cargo pockets and any pair that can’t stay on your hips without a belt. A heavier-weight chino will keep a crisp, sophisticated look.

I mentioned cargo shorts as a good alternative, but since that original post cargo shorts have started going out of style. I really think every man need a clean, crisp pair (or three) of cargo-free chino shorts. It’s far more modern, flattering, and stylish.

11. A Casual Sweater with a Crew Neckline. There are a lot of thin cotton sweaters out there that end up clinging to your tee shirt, stretching out in the wash, blousing out weird at the hem. It’s better to have fewer sweaters in your closet and know that the ones you have fit well, launder well, and will keep their shape and color. If you buy quality, this sweater can still be one you love to wear a decade from now.

If you have this crew sweater, you can definitely branch out with necklines. More v-necks, a shawl collar, etc. Start with crew, a crew is a wardrobe staple and a good first choice to build your proper wardrobe.

12. Black Leather Slip-on Dress Loafers. These are so versatile, you may even want a second pair. Seriously.

And with the new dark, crisp looks in denim, these loafers can now be worn with that type of denim and look stylish.

13. A Pair of Euro Sneakers or Rugged Leather Oxford Shoes. This is probably the only item on this list that has really changed over the years and isn’t still considered a perfect wardrobe choice. Really, that’s to be expected – a shoe like this is more of a novelty piece and will change with the times and trends. You’re looking for a casual shoe – something more socially acceptable than an athletic sneaker, but not as dressy as the black loafer. .

A popular choice for this type of shoe is the Converse All Stars “Chucks” sneakers. In black, with a low rise, these are a wonderful choice to add to your wardrobe. My husband’s friend has a pair of loafers, but they are a dark brown with a more rugged sole that look great with his chinos and jeans. I love the look of engineer boots or chukkas – a great choice with this season’s trim dark jeans.

Pick a style that works with your personal style. Into the music scene? Consider some Doc Martens. A bit preppy? How about some Sperry Topsiders? Like sports? Instead of a pair of old Nikes, consider some Adidas “Shell Tops” (just be sure they stay in immaculate condition). Desert boots are a good choice if you have more of a beachy or boho sense of style.

Image courtesy omiru.com

14. A Wool Winter Coat. Still a classic, and still a wardrobe essential.

15. Black Leather Dress Belt. If you own #12, you need #15.

Additional Items You Should Have in your Wardrobe:
1. Oxfords shirts in blue and white. These shirts are different from the dress shirt. They are more casual, have a heavier textured weave, button-down collars, and aren’t meant to be worn with a suit. Go for a trim cut, and you can wear them tucked in with jeans and pants, or even untucked with chinos or shorts. If you have a sense of flair, feel free to stray from the basic blue and white – real men DO wear pink, and other hues are hot and surprisingly versatile. This sort of shirt also looks great under a sweater come winter. For summer, here’s a great link that tells you how to roll up your cuffs.

2. Other casual button-down shirts. Right now, the button-down shirt is hot, as long as it’s the right fabric and fit. Shirts shouldn’t be blousy, and they shouldn’t have texture or shine. The vintage look is hot for casual wear. Plaids have come back in style, and we’re talking cotton, and not grunge-era flannel. Stripes are great too.

Before I stated that short-sleeved dress shirts are goofy. I still believe that. However, since the original post, fashion has made great strides with the short-sleeved casual shirt. For lean men, the semi-fitted button down in plaid is a nice look; for stocky men the more casual beachy short-sleeved shirt in chambray or a lightweight cotton looks great untucked with shorts or chinos.

3. A light blue or French blue dress shirt. Same rules apply as for the white dress shirt.

4. Ties. Just as stated before, solid for more formal events, stripes for work, patterns and more casual fabrics for festive occasions. Please get your ties cleaned occasionally, and especially after any event that includes cigars and/or large consumption of alcohol. Nothing worse than a stained or rumpled tie. And for some wonderful tutorials, here is a fabulous site that shows you with diagrams as well as videos on how to tie a tie with the four most popular knots (I recommend four in hand for pretty much any affair, Half Windsor for the more formal affairs).

5. Dress socks. Your black SmartWool socks are NOT a choice when wearing a suit. You should own at least two pairs of socks that are meant to be worn with suits. As a rule, have your socks match your pant, not your shoe.

6. A leather wallet. Get rid of your Velcro-closure one from Billabong, and get rid of the one you have had since you high school graduation. A man’s wallet is like a woman’s purse – it should be well cared for, not overstuffed, and match your sense of style. Regularly remove receipts, business cards and other things that will make it be the size of a Dagwood sandwich.

7. Bathing trunks. Keep it simple – simple print or a solid. Trim but not tight, length similar to the abovementioned shorts.

8. An umbrella. This is not some swag you got from your last work conference. Get a travel one that will fit in your laptop bag, and can withstand fierce winds. My husband and I have a couple from Lands End that are classic, sturdy, reliable. Black is a safe bet, or you can add some color to your look with a muted plaid or solid color.  Any woman will tell you that she would find it terribly gallant for a man to pull out an umbrella to protect her during an unexpected rainshower…

9. Sunglasses. It’s time to retire the Oakleys (or keep them for sporting events and the most casual of situations). Variations of the classic Aviator or the Wayfarer are popular now, but I recommend you visit a high-end department store or sunglass boutique in the mall to try various styles to find what fits your face as well as your lifestyle.

10. White tee shirts. You should own a couple crisp, well-made white tee shirts to wear under things. Those Hanes ads with Michael Jordan are right – the cheap tees that buckle at the neck look terrible. Be sure to wash your white tees with other whites, use some oxygen cleaner or line dry to keep them white.

11.  Casual belt.  If your casual shoes are black, look for a more casual black belt.  If they are brown, look for brown.  My husband always has luck finding casual belts on clearance at Banana Republic that are well-made, timeless, and budget-friendly.

Since the original post about what every man needs in his wardrobe, I have added several Web sites and blogs to my Blogroll that specialize in Men’s Style.  Unlike me, their expertise is in men’s fashion, and I trust them for advice and input on new trends.  Do check them out.

How to be a Stylish Woman in her Thirties

Years ago I wrote a piece on the Closet Cleanout for women over 30, and then an update on that post. Many complained that it was too extreme, dated, ridiculous, judgmental, whatever. Since writing that piece, style has changed a lot. To make this more timeless, I decided to focus less on the specifics and more on my eternal beliefs for being a stylish woman over 30:

1. Pack Away the Crazy Statement Necklaces. I know they’re fun, they’re cheap, they’re an easy way to add a pop of color to a simple knit. Thing is, they’re over, dunzo, passé and by wearing them you sacrifice your style.

The great thing with accessories, is that you can jump on a new trend bandwagon without breaking the bank. However, if you decide to go down the trendy accessory highway, you need to know when to get off. Pearls never go out of style, you can wear diamond (or CZ) studs every day of the year, but a lot of larger flashier pieces of jewelry go with the trends. If a Dannijo or J. Crew piece is being recreated in Claire’s or Charlotte Russe it’s time to let the trend go.  If you love big, flashy, and bold jewelry I can relate – shop craft festivals, Etsy, and shop on your travels to acquire a collection that is as unique as you and far more timeless.

2. Better No Boots than Cheap Boots. Seriously ladies, I know boots are expensive and I know how hard it is to find a pair when you have wide calves or narrow calves or wide feet or need orthotics or are very petite or very tall. I get it. And I get when you have that feeling of euphoria when a pair actually fits everywhere, you want to strut up and down the street and style every piece of clothing in your wardrobe around them.

The thing is, when the boots are cheap pleather or trying desperately to look like a designer version or is trying to distract the eye from shoddy construction with a pound of buckles and baubles… it doesn’t matter how well they fit. They look cheap and tacky, and they will ruin your style.

I have hard to fit legs, I understand the issues and the desire to have boots.  But if you can’t afford quality and style and fit in one pair… it’s better to go without any pairs. Save your money, you don’t need a closet of boots if you can find one pair that does it all.

3. Find a Tailor. You’re not an undergrad anymore, and it is not acceptable to have your blazer sleeves swallow your hands or have your trousers drag in puddles. For simple alterations like a pant hem, your nearby dry cleaner can usually do the job quite nicely and for a nice price. However, when it comes to tailoring suiting, preventing waist gap on trousers, or nipping in a dress I strongly suggest you visit Yelp or a nearby suiting or bridal boutique and get advice on a local reputable tailor or seamstress.

4. Invest in Your Edges. When you’re 30, you can still carry off a top from Forever 21, a pair of cheap jeans, a wacky thrift-store score. However, you are no longer a teenager or poor college student, and you need to take care of the edge details: hair, hands, bag, shoes.

When I was in college, I could go a year without a haircut. I’d often trim off split ends with a pair of cuticle scissors and had been known to sport a crazy cut or new color that I did in my bathroom at 3am. I could carry off crooked bangs or a botched dye job with some fun makeup, a couple barrettes, and confidence. The thing is, when you’re over 30, such things don’t look edgy, they look sloppy.

Take care of your hair; this doesn’t mean you need a $200+ salon visit every month, but get a proper cut, quality color (if applicable), and keep it maintained. If you keep slicking back your hair into a bun or ponytail it may be life telling you it’s time to hack it off and choose a lower-maintenance style. You can still be edgy and wacky and different, but do it with a bit of polish and more care.

5. Take care of your Hands. This is something I put off until the end of my 30s and I wish I hadn’t. If you’re a nail and cuticle biter like me, consider regular manicures, taking NAC (with your doctor’s approval), or even hypnosis to break the habit. If you work a lot with your hands, keep your nails short and your polish long-wearing or else naturally colored or buffed so chips aren’t as much of a factor. Moisturize regularly; hands show age and weather-related stress faster than any part of the body.

6. Purchase a Quality Bag. In my 20s I had a different purse for every day of the month. I’d buy one to go with a certain dress or pair of shoes, caring more about the fun than quality. The older you are, the cheaper that cheap bag will look. I don’t expect you to buy a Birkin, or even a bag with a designer name, but look for quality over trendiness or color.

Faux leather looks the fakest when on a bag; with all the stitching and angles the material catches the light and has more chance for stretching and tearing. If you don’t wish to carry a leather bag, consider a bag of a higher quality fabric or a durable material like microfiber. Avoid wacky glazes and finishes, too much bling, or obvious logos; even if you can afford the real deal logos always cheapen a look and they look dated far faster than plainer styles.

Once you have your bag, care for it. Use cuticle scissors to trim fraying straps, invest in a leather conditioner, stuff with paper and store in an old pillowcase when not in use, don’t overstuff it and when you get home, don’t hang it full from its straps (weakens the straps and alters the shape of the bag). Cobblers can perform repairs on handbags and even replace handles, zippers and re-dye exteriors.

7. Care for your Shoes. Be they from Prada or Payless, care for your shoes. Let a day go between wearings so they can air out and retain their shape. Get them reheeled and resoled when necessary. Polish to keep a nice shine. Consider commuter shoes to keep your best footwear protected from city streets. Don’t shop for trends but your actual lifestyle and needs, purchasing the best quality your wallet can justify. It’s better to have one great pair of well-maintained black pumps than a rainbow’s worth of heels.

8. Find a Cobbler. Speaking of shoes, a cobbler can be your best friend, right after your tailor. A cobbler can stretch too-tight shoes, add an elastic gusset in tall boots, reheel and resole years-old shoes to make them look brand new, and much much more. You’re old enough to start buying quality, and that means having a team who can protect your investment. it’s far easier to stomach a high price for a pair of boots when you know that for about $25 each fall you can have them looking brand new and prepared for the weather.

You’re old enough to care for your shoes, and you should. Unless you can afford to toss your footwear after each season (and if you can why the heck are you reading my blog?), it’s worth your time and money to baby them a bit. Let a professional help you extend the life and style of your footwear.

9. Get Professionally Fitted for a Bra. A professional bra fitting doesn’t mean the teenager working at Victoria’s Secret. Go to a higher-end department store’s lingerie department or a bra boutique and get sized. Invest in bras that better the bust you have; no matter your size a proper bra can enlarge, reduce, lift, separate, and make all your clothes fit better. Get measured once a year; your body changes with age, exercise, weight, and life experiences.

While we’re discussing bras, care for them properly. If you must machine wash them, do it on the gentle cycle in a lingerie bag. Always line dry, bras should never go in the dryer. Replace when they get stretched out, and be sure to own more than one so you can let them rest between wears (extends the life of the bras).

10. Wash your Face. Wash your face every evening. Seriously, it’s worth it. If you’re too tired or drunk or whatever to accomplish this, put a packet of facial cleansing cloths on your nightstand so you can swipe with your eyes already closed. You’re at the age where things like clean and moisturized skin now can drastically affect how your face looks in a decade. Along with this…

11. Moisturize. Moisturize your face. Moisturize your body. Apply hand cream on a regular basis. Use conditioner. Baby your body; as I mentioned above you’re at the age where what you do now may not seem important but it will affect how you look in ten years. Your 40-something self will thank you.

12. Wear Sunscreen. I spent my college years in a tanning bed, and my post-college summers baking on the shores of Dewey Beach. I was tan and felt I looked healthy and hot with a glow to my skin. And then at 29 I acquired my first age spot. A decade later, I have wrinkles and stretch marks in unfortunate locations and dark spots on my face, chest, and legs. I feel extremely lucky that I haven’t gotten melanoma from my bad habits.

It doesn’t matter your skin color, your ethnicity, or if it’s cloudy… wear sunscreen. Not only will it help prevent skin cancer, it will keep your skin looking younger, softer, and healthier far far longer. Learn from my mistakes.

Do you have any advice for women who have reached their Thirties?

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She Takes After Her Mom…

She understands that a woman can be a feminist…

And still love beauty and fashion!
Feminist tee shirt available at CafePress

What NO WOMAN Needs in Her Wardrobe

I do not care if you are a size 2 or a size 22, some fashion is just WRONG WRONG WRONG. It may look lovely on the Marc Jacobs runway, but in reality – just pass Go. You will find that same article of clothing on the clearance rack in three weeks.

In general, if something is super hot haute, it’s not worth your money. Those of us reading (and writing!) this blog are not billionares, we need pieces that can last more than one wear, that can blend with our current wardrobe, that do make us look like fashion victims.

It’s Fall 2005. The magazines and fashion shows have brought us gorgeous colors, luxe fabrics and adorable shoes. They have also brought us several no-nos. I have accumulated a few “trendy” and “classic” fashion don’ts.

1. Leggings.
Micha Barton and Sienna Miller may be wearing them under dresses and denim cutoffs, but that doesn’t mean they translate to every day wear in suburbia. Honestly, look at these girls. Do they really look better in those leggings than say, a bias cut crepe cocktail dress or even a pair of low-rise jeans? Leggings look worse alone. They may be comfy, they may be easy, but they are far from flattering. They hug to your not so pretty curves and make you look like an ice cream cone. The only thing they are making look slim are your ankles. Skinny ankles makes any middle look larger. Tight fabric on a rear makes one’s backview bigger. Leggings are a no-no. Even at the gym – go with yoga pants. You’ll be more comfortable and look better too.

2. Classic Fit Jeans.
These are the jeans that start at your belly button or a smidge above. Relatively slim fit, though sometimes a bit more relaxed in the hip/thigh/seat area. Finishing to a slim fit right at the top of the shoe. Back in the late 80’s, early 90’s these jeans often had a zipper at the ankle to ensure the slim fit on the leg. In the mid-90’s these jeans often came with slits on the ankle. Runways may show higher waistbands or slimmer legs, but these jeans will never be fashionable or flattering. Jeans at the belly button or higher may make the waist look small, but will make the area between there and your crotch look – inflated. Normal women usually carry a bit of padding in that area already – why wear jeans that draw attention to that? As for the slim leg – see my comment on leggings. Skinny legs make what is perched on those legs seem larger. No one wants to make their butt, thighs, hips AND belly look bigger!

3. Tunic Sweaters.
But they go so well with leggings! If you think this, please return to #1. One may think that tunic sweaters cover a multitude of sins. They are cozy. They cover the ass. They’re comfortable. Yes to all of them, but you can find comfort and ass coverage other ways. Sweaters are bulky. They hit the breasts and head straight down. They bunch up on the butt. They make everything look bigger and more… vague. Is that a firm bust or a sack of potatoes under that tent? Who knows with all that yarn. Tunics make a person look shorter. They make the top part look unusually large and stocky. Often said tunics come with turtlenecks which make you look as though you have a shrunken head and huge body. No, they are not acceptable with leggings, with jeans, with a mini skirt (though that lookw as hot in the 80’s) or with anything else. Find comfort in a sweater that does not go past your hips and does not dwarf you in fabric. By having less fabric, you look smaller.

4. Athletic Style Clothing for Non-Athletic Events. this is not attire for the mall, for the movies, for the grocery store. Why is it that women feel the need to wrap their body in noisy plastic material that can double as a Halloween costume of the Michelin man? I think these pieces are popular for the same reason tunic sweaters are popular. They are big, they are comfortable, they cover. Yes they cover, like a tarp covers up a pile of firewood. It’s about as attractive as well. Not to be mean, but it seems that the heavier we women (and men!) are, the more we migrate toward athletic wear. it doesn’t make much sense, and it looks ridiculous. Anyway,. who wants to make swish swish sounds as they walk anyway? If you want comfort, try a knit zip-up hoodie with yoga pants. You can still have comfort, but you wills till have your figure and your self respect.

5. Dressing Like a Child.
This seems to happen first to new moms. I understand you want to bond with your child, but that does not mean you have to dress like him. Yes, you like Mickey Mouse or the Tazmanian Devil. That does not mean it has to be appliqued on your back. I like Barbies, I have a collection, yet I do not own a single piece of clothing with Barbie on it. Why? Because I am an adult. I can show my whimsy and fun through my actions, not though poorly fitting clothing with silkscreening. If you are old enough to have sex with your Significant Other and produce a child, you are too old to dress like a preschooler.

6. Fake Designer Duds From Last Season. But you don’t read the fashion mags, you have no clue what is hip and what is passe. Then why are yousporting those pink shearling boots, a white pleather purse with rainbow logos and a fake lock hanging from the zipper, a newsboy cap in an itchy tweed, a terrycloth smoked top tube dress/tunic over torn jeans? If you can’t stay current, if you don’t have an unending wardrobe budget, don’t try to fool others with knock-offs. They rarely ever look legit, and usually by time the knock-off hits the stores, the fashionistas have discarded the original. A hint – if they are selling a version in Wal Mart or Payless Shoes, it’s probably passe. The way to show money is to use it wisely. Watch TV and the Internet. Read magazines. If the hot color of the season is purple, buy something purple, but something that if worn next season doesn’t scream “LAST YEAR!!!” The hot thing is turquoise jewelry? Buy a necklace, not a purse, belt, cowboy boots and tiara of turquoise. If it seems extreme and is in a discount store, it’s usually because it has had it’s fifteen minutes of fame and needs to be retired. If it’s in every single department store in every department and on every shopper, it means it will be at Goodwill in a year. So take your ponchos, faux Ugg boots, “I’ve Got The Golden Ticket” tee shirts, sunglasses with the rhinestone heart on the lens, anything Dukes of Hazzard, green pleather shoes/belt/purse/headband combo and donate or discard. You will look much more trendy without these “fashion victim” pieces.

A tip is if you are uncomfortable with fashion and fads, go basic. Pants in solid neutrals like black, khaki, camel, gray and brown. Tops in basic styles and solid colors you like looking at on a regular basis. Coats and blazers should be simple, clean lines. I have a wool coat I bought in 1998 and still wear and get compliments on. I have sweaters I wear that I bought in college. The reason I can achieve this is because I bought basics. I didn’t fall to the trends of shoulder pads, applique, tassels or bows.

Shoes need to be updated regularly – rarely does a pair of boots from 1995 look current now. Same with purses. Unless you go high-end and baby them, these two pieces will show wear and show their fashion season after a year or two. Every year you should reassess your shoe and bag collection. What needs to go to the cobbler? What needs to be tossed? You can wear cheaper clothes if your shoes and bag look smart. Get them reheeled, keep them polished. Watch the trends for heel and toe boxes. If you can’t afford every trend, go with clean, simple lines. 1-2″ heel, not chunky, not skinny. A toe box that is neither terribly round or pointy. Forego the platforms, the embellishments, the funky fabrics. Leather for day, crepe for night and you’ll be safe for a few seasons.

The Bandana is Back!

Some trends come on the scene that make me wonder what designers and street style icons were smoking or ingesting when they decided on them. And recently, a lot of trends were impossible to recreate on a budget. I’m loving how so many trends this spring and summer are honestly achievable on any budget; it’s less about the logo and more about the look.

Bottom Row, Left to Right: Louis Vuitton via GQ | Stockholm Street Style | Vanessa Jackman | The Blab

And one of those trends is the bandana. That white-pattered cotton scarf you can pick up at the dollar store or take from your college Halloween costume is now an on-trend accessory. I’ve always loved the classic bandana print and prefer a cotton scarf to a silk one, so I am thrilled about this trend. But how do you wear a bandana without looking like an extra from a John Wayne movie?

    • Create a Contradiction. A bandana with a chambray shirt is cliché, a bandana with a leather moto jacket or a silk blouse or a crisp blazer is unexpected.

 

  • Keep it Crisp and Classic. For now, keep your pink and purple bandanas in the drawer and stick to classics like navy, red, and black. These should also not be the weathered, worn, and torn bandanas you use to mop sweat when gardening or to hold back your hair on a camping trip. The classic color and the crisp finish makes the bandana purposeful and not a leftover from cleaning out the garage.

 

 

  • Simplicity is Key. Leandra Medine’s all-white outfit with the bandana tucked into the collar of her shirt is a fabulous example of how to wear a bandana this spring. Minimal color, no competing prints, use the bandana as you would a silk Hermes scarf and let it take center stage.

 

 

  • Get Creative. A bandana doesn’t have to be worn knotted in back and draped in front. Check out The Not Vanilla’s post and how she wore it knotted around her throat, and even as a purse and wrist accessory. I recently rolled a bandana , wrapped it twice around my neck and had it peek out of a white button-front shirt; I think it’s fun to spice up a monochromatic look with a bandana tied to a single belt loop at the front of a pair of trousers; don’t be afraid to use a bandana as a headband, kerchief, headwrap, or tied around your ponytail.

 

Last week when I shared my outfit featuring a bandana, I received a few styling questions from you folk:

    • When You Have Short Hair. If you’re draping the bandana in front and the “ears” are peeking out making you feel as though you’re wearing a bib, consider a bit of fashion tape to hold them down. I keep all those tiny safety pins that hold garment hang tags and find them great for a situation like this (I pin the “ears” to the underside so they don’t ruin the line of the scarf).

 

  • When the Bandana is Too Stiff. A brand new bandana can be as stiff as a piece of paper, and often have hard creases in it. Before trying anything, wash it and throw it in the dryer, preferably with bulky items that would make it bounce around a lot. This often does the trick. If it’s still too stiff for you, an overnight soak in fabric softener or vinegar will soften cotton without fading the fabric. Rinse and tumble dry.

 

 

  • When You Want a Bigger Bandana. I desired this very thing to have more variety (and to double-look around my big neck). On eBay I found “Texas Size” bandanas which are 27” (most are 22”). If you search for 27” bandana, you’ll find that many online stores like Amazon offer them, which will give you the length you desire.

 

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Winter Weather and Commuting: Style Tips

Wind, rain, snow, and sleet can wreak havoc on a morning commute… and your commuting style. When it comes to dressing for inclement weather I learn so much from my fellow DC office workers and commuters. Some is what not to wear, but more often than not it’s tips and tricks on how to stay protected, comfortable and stylish when the weather outside is frightful. This week is cold, rainy, a bit windy and down-right gross in DC; here’s some things I’ve learned on my walks to work:

Go Monochrome. Walking up the escalator from the Metro, I was behind a woman in all shades of blue and green. Teal tweed wool coat that almost hit her knees, dark jeans tucked into seafoam wellies, indigo leather tote, and a navy umbrella. The monochromatic look made each separate look so cohesive, so purposeful, and like a true ensemble. I am not a fan of wellies  (how often does one deal with water over the ankle when walking to the office anyway? And I am not asking those of you in Seattle and similar climates or those in rural areas…)but with her look… it worked. I could imagine flats or booties in that indigo tote ready to be slipped on once she reached her desk.

The other day, I saw a woman in a black belted wool coat, a raspberry chunky infinity scarf, plum knit beanie, and deep purple wellies. None of the colors were the same, but the consistent color story made the ensemble cohesive and downright stylish. If each piece was a different color the chunky knits and shiny boots would have looked childish; the consistent color gave it polish and professionalism.

Have Neutral Commuting Shoes. I was walking behind three women chatting with one another. They were varying sizes, ages, and personal styles but all had one thing in common – black tights or pants and black flats. I could tell that these were their commuter shoes – they didn’t quite match their outfits, they looked well worn, and pretty comfortable. However, by them being the same color as their legs the shoes weren’t on display and didn’t take away from their outfits. I turned the corner and saw two women waiting for the light to change – one had gray tights and red flats, the other had black pants and yellow patent flats. While their shoes were in better condition than the women in black, their shoes looked just as out of place as a pair of white sneakers. While it’s tempting to add “fun” to a pair of shoes you only wear on your commute, it can really detract from your personal style.

Own a Tiny Umbrella. While many companies claim that they sell travel umbrellas, what it essentially means is a non-Mary Poppins style that has a collapsible shaft. However, some brands sell really small umbrellas that are reliable, but take almost no space in your purse or laptop bag. While you want a durable umbrella that can survive strong gusts, having this little bitty umbrella tucked at the bottom of the bag is a lifesaver for unexpected showers or if you accidentally leave your big umbrella on the train.

Have a Spare Pair of Gloves. Same reason as the umbrella. Especially handy when the bus is late, you have to carry large things home, or you need to hold the rail on the train and you don’t want to catch the flu. While I have gloves in my two work coats, I have lost a glove on the commute, have changed coats last minute, and have many times wished I had a pair tucked in the bottom of my purse or laptop bag.  Since I got another pair for Christmas, I have remedied this situation.

Wear a Hat. While you may be more likely to get Hat Head, a hood flies off in the wind, and the weather will already destroy your hairstyle. Having a hat, be it a cloche, beanie, fedora or otherwise will keep your ears warm, your hair in place, and your body far warmer than a bare head. If you loosely tuck your hair in your hat, you’ll be less likely to get dents in your ‘do.

Wedges Rock. While they give a bit of lift, they are far kinder on the foot when standing, walking, and even dashing across the street to make a light. I see many women who seem to have wedge commuter shoes – they don’t have to worry about cuffing their trousers but have more comfort than heels. Wedges have come back en vogue, be they on pump-like professional shoes or a pair of trainers or TOMS.

Own a Water-resistant Winter Coat. When there’s frigid temperatures, there’s often precipitation, and it’s not always fluffy white flakes. A wet wool coat can be a drag; if you purchase a quilted, waxed, or water-resistant fabric coat, you will be far more comfortable on those days that are both cold and wet. Choosing a style with a unique detail (read this post for great examples) will prevent you from looking as though you just came from the slopes.

Have Matching Bags. I regularly see this woman on the train who has a gray leather purse and gray leather tote. The combination is so lovely and she doesn’t look as hunkered down with multiple bags. Today walking to work, I saw a woman with a red leather purse and a red and navy print microfiber tote for her yoga mat and likely workout clothes. If you need to carry more than one bag, having the two bags match or coordinate really does add polish and cohesion to your ensemble. I wrote about work totes here, but this is something I hadn’t before considered and will be thinking about the next time I am purchasing a tote or everyday purse.

You Never Know Who You Will Bump Into. So you’re wearing a power suit and have a pair of sensible pumps tucked into your bag, yet on your commute you’re wearing a knit cap with earflaps and cat ears, have a hot pink sparkly faux fur snood, and sequined boot liners under your polka-dot wellies. And then you bump into your CEO at Starbucks. Sort of defeats the purpose of your power suit. If your job is a career, work doesn’t end when you walk out of that office door, and if you work in a city you are very likely to bump into a colleague on the train or street corner. Consider this when shopping for accessories and outerwear and have them match the professional style you show in the workplace.

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UPDATED: Closet Clean-out – The Woman in Her 30s

One thing with having a blog for this long is that some of my “classic” fashion advice stops being classic. While one may try to buy pieces that will work for decades, few pieces really accomplish just that – shoulders slightly change, the taper on a skirt will increase or decrease over a decade, and items that seemed to be utterly passé return as “fashion staples.” So every so often, I revisit some of my old posts and update them for the new decade.

I have seen a lot of forums and sites complain about my post “Closet Clean-out – The Woman in Her 30s.” They find it too limiting, and out of date. I did write it three years ago, so let’s take another look at that list, and how it fits for women in 2011:

You aren’t 25 any more and you feel it in almost every aspect of your life. Do you feel it in your wardrobe?

No matter how young you can pass for or how many hours you spend in the gym, when you are over 30 you look ridiculous trying to dress like a 25-year old. Now this doesn’t mean once that birthday hits you have to chuck all your indie labels and head to Ann Taylor; it just means you need to add a bit of polish, refinement and respect to your look. You’ll be surprised – a proper closet clean-out in your early ‘30s will improve your reputation at work, your chances at finding a mate, and will actually make you look younger and more confident.

The Standard Closet Clean-out for a Woman in her 30s – Updated for the New Decade

What to Toss:

1. Half your rubber flip-flop collection. Oh this one gets a lot of flack. Am I really asking you to toss ALL OF YOUR BELOVED FLIP FLOPS??? Nope, read it again – I wrote HALF of your rubber flip flops, and note I say RUBBER. There is a difference between a leather flip flop and a cheapy pair from Old Navy, there is a difference between the silver thongs that look so great with your maxi dress, and your smelly pair of Havaianas that have seen far better days.

Keep your Reefs and your Rainbows, but thin out the collection. No need for a pair to match every top in your wardrobe for flip flops are not real footwear.  The more pairs you own, the more likely they will creep into everyday fashion.  Keep a pair that matches your bathing suit, a pair for running out into the yard, a standard black or brown pair in great condition for casual events.

Flip flops are for the beach, the pool, the neighbor’s cookout. They are not street shoes. They are terrible for your foot health, they are dangerous on an escalator, and they look tacky when trying to pretend to be true footwear. Instead, look for flat sandals or leather thongs which are just as easy and comfy, but far more stylish.

2. Ironic tee shirts. Again, another item that gets folks up in arms. So you keep your Hello Kitty tee shirt just for trips to the gym, or your Star Wars shirt just for trips to the grocery store and Home Depot. Don’t you see people when you go to these places? Anytime you leave your home, you have a chance with destiny. Dress for it. Don’t let people make assumptions about you.

Ironic tees are perfect for events like Comic-Con or a music festival; an event where like-minded people get together. These are places where such a tee shirt will be appreciated. When an adult woman heads out into public wearing a tee shirt with Tigger on the front, she will not be taken seriously, no matter how intelligent or composed she is.

3. Any top made out of denim. I type this the same day I ironed my relatively new chambray shirt. Who would have thought that in three years denim shirts would have made such a big comeback? Obviously not me.

So denim is back in, but that doesn’t mean every woman should hold on to her Express denim jacket from 2001 or her L.L. Bean chambray shirt from college. The silhouettes are washes are slightly different this time around, and style is in those tiny details. Unless you are the queen of vintage and can rock Brenda Walsh’s wardrobe in a new and funky way, keep your denim shirt shopping to a minimum. As a 36-year old woman, I chose to purchase only one denim-ish shirt this season, and went with a version from Target so I didn’t make a big investment. Denim went out of favor just a few years ago… and I have a good feeling it will be passé again in a couple years more.

4. Miniskirts (and skorts… and shorts). So shorts are back as well. Leather shorts on starlets, silk shorts on fashionistas, and candy-colored chino ones on anyone who loves J. Crew. Shorts are great when it’s hot out, and they are easy fashion for casual weekends.

The thing is, no matter how much you hit the gym, your 30-something gams won’t be as fab as your 20-something ones. Gravity, desk jobs, spending too many hours on your feet… these take a toll on a woman’s legs and thighs. So wear the shorts and even wear the shorter skirts, but be realistic. Make sure you can sit and pick up something from the ground without flashing the world, do the fingertip test (one should never wear a skirt that is shorter than her longest fingertip when arms to her side), and if unsure, choose the longer version for more versatility (mini skirts and shorts are not professional looking nor appropriate for weddings and religious events).

One item I would add to this list that I would not have in ’08 are the distressed denim mini skirts. While this was a fun look a couple years ago with a fitted tee and beaded necklace, this look now is dated and a bit Rock of Love. Instead choose denim cutoffs in a flattering length or a dark denim refined skirt, free of tears and bleach spots.

And as for skorts? Leave them to the tennis players.

5. Cheap bras. Read my recent post on getting a professional bra fitting. Look at my before and after photos. Read the comments from fellow readers. A quality bra that fits can totally transform not only your look, but your posture and health. You’re an adult, and you deserve quality underpinnings that support and flatter this beautiful adult body.

6. Laura Ashley Dresses. Another item that has gained popularity thanks to the vintage fashion darlings. I know some women (the blogger La Petite Marmoset comes to mind) who looks utterly adorable in a Laura Ashley dress. She knows how to rock it with some big chunky sandals, a hat, and a crazy accessory. She inherently knows how to make it work for her, make it look modern.

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t have the innate creative fashion sense of these vintage fashion bloggers. That’s okay, neither do I. And for that, we must steer clear of the polyester rayon challis calf-length dresses covered in calico prints.

7. Cheap polyester skirts. I still see these skirts being sold in some department stores like Kohl’s and PC Penney and it makes my stomach turn. A polyester tube of fabric covered with a tube of polyester mesh is not a flattering look on ANYONE. For a similar and more stylish look, consider a pencil skirt. I have found some great pencil skirts at all price points of stretchy Ponte de Roma, stretch denim, lined wool crepe, sturdy chino, lined silk and more.

8. Club Tops. Club tops are slowly disappearing from retailers (unless you shop at Frederick’s of Hollywood) but what is in their place are the teeny tiny camis that can’t be worn with a stitch of underpinnings. Be they spandex tubes or flimsy silky camisoles with lingerie straps, they can be seen as sexy… or desperate.

In my original post I mention both camis and tube tops as good alternatives, which can be seen as a conflict with the paragraph above. The difference is that I mention pieces that are flowing, blouson, silk. You don’t need to show off the indentation of your belly button to be sexy. Elegance and confidence are far more sexy attributes to show off.

9. Cheap suiting. Cheap suiting still exists, I see it in every discount retailer and on the Victoria’s Secret website. Unless you work at a very high-powered corporation or on The Hill, you probably don’t need to wear a suit to work every single day. Invest in one or two simple, basic suits in colors like black and gray so they can mix and match and work year-round. For other days, consider separates – trousers that don’t cling to your rear, skirts that hit around the knee, blouses and dresses that aren’t too tight.

If you do need to wear a suit every day, again choose quality and subtle colors so you can get away with wearing each piece more often. Break up the monotony with blouses and shells and subtle accessories.

And per my original post, shop career-friendly retailers in their sale departments for reasonable prices, and if you are torn between a cheap suit and a crisp shirt and skirt or trousers… go with the latter. Fit trumps uniform for interviews, business meetings, and corporate events. You will lose credibility faster in an ill-fitting polyester suit than in a blouse and trousers that fit and flatter.

What else I would add to this list:

  • Cheap pleather bags. This isn’t saying you can’t use vegan bags, but look for bags that are well-made. No more patent-leather designer knockoffs from Target, vinyl blinged-out purses from Payless, and NEVER pay for a fake designer bag (read this if you’re still considering fakes, & do a little Googling to see the true cost of purchasing fakes). If you can’t afford a designer bag, you’re not alone. Choose bags with fewer details – less metal, fewer studs, fewer trends. Go to the classics – even a small L.L. Bean Boat and Tote can be a chic summer handbag. Buy vintage – it’s en vogue and a stylish way to recycle and reuse while staying on budget.
  • Belly rings. Unless you are one who rocks piercings and body modification, little rhinestone belly rings are past their prime.
  • Silly Bandz/Cause Bracelets. My daughter wears Silly Bandz, and she is two. As for cause bracelets, my husband is a cancer survivor, but my Livestrong bracelet has been tucked very far in the back of my jewelry box for almost a decade. You can show your support for a cause without wearing rubber around your wrist.

Do not think that once you have your 30th birthday you have to dress in all gray with skirts past your knees. On the contrary. The point of this list isn’t to make you a Stepford Thirty-something, but to help you be realistic with your wardrobe. Show your personality with color and prints, use your post-college paycheck for some fabulous pumps or a well-made handbag. Notice what you are drawn to, and work on creating a signature look. Every woman’s personal style is different, instead of hiding behind your dated and inappropriate closet pieces, embrace this new stage of your life and find that look that is unequivocally, completely you.

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Closet Clean-out – The Woman in Her 30s

There are certain points in a woman’s life when it’s time for a major closet clean-out. Just before college, after finishing school, when drastically changing careers…

And when you hit your 30s.

Why am I concentrating on your 30s and not other age? Well the 30s are a crazy time – it’s a time when you usually have established yourself in your career, you often times have found a life partner, possibly have started having children. Usually your residence has become a home – a place you care about and where you have put down some roots.

You aren’t 25 any more and you feel it in almost every aspect of your life. Do you feel it in your wardrobe?

No matter how young you can pass for or how many hours you spend in the gym, when you are over 30 you look ridiculous trying to dress like a 25-year old. Now this doesn’t mean once that birthday hits you have to chuck all your indie labels and head to Ann Taylor; it just means you need to add a bit of polish, refinement and respect to your look. You’ll be surprised – a proper closet clean-out in your early 30s will improve your reputation at work, your chances at finding a mate, and will actually make you look younger and more confident.

The standard Closet Clean-out for a Woman in her 30s.
What to Toss:

1. Half your rubber flip-flop collection. If you read this blog regularly, you know I am not a huge fan of flip flops. They aren’t safe, they aren’t healthy, and they ruin the look (and sound!) of most outfits. However, if you read my other blog you know I own a couple pairs and wear them regularly.

Whether I like it or not, flip flops are convenient. Easy to slip on, cheap, comfortable for short errands and puttering around the house, pool, and beach. The perfect barbecue footwear.

However, they are not proper footwear, and shouldn’t be worn as such. Flip flops are not worn by stylish women outside of the above mentioned locations. This means no flops for work, no flip flops for the mall, no flops for dates, no flops in place of proper footwear. Flip flops are the shoes of adolescents and when they are worn by a woman, they look tacky and out of place.

No need to toss every pair, just half your collection. Keep the black or brown ones that are in fabulous condition and are made with structure (well-made straps, thicker sole, etc.), and go ahead and keep a pair in the same color as your swimsuit. It’s also okay to keep a pair with your college mascot or those classic Adidas “shower shoes” for exactly that – showers at the gym and situations where it’s not the best idea to be completely barefoot. However toss any pair that has beading, sequins, clear straps, printed soles, or obvious logos. Any of the cheap flops from Old Navy or the drugstore that are barely padded, the ones you bought to wear under your gown on your wedding day, the ones that were only $2.99 at Express five years ago, the ones that are practically worn through and you have worn since your lifeguarding days in college… they all need to go. Smelly, worn flip flops are not the way to keep a memory. Dig up a picture of you and your friends at the beach when you wore those flops and frame it in honor of the flip flop retirement. Your feet, your sense of style and eventually you will thank me for this advice.

2. Ironic tee shirts. Fake vintage soda pop ads, Hello Kitty, Care Bears, plays on words, glittery phrases telling the world how sexy, spoiled or fun you are… they all should go in the donation bag STAT. I don’t care if you only wear these around the house or to the gym – I KNOW you have other shirts that can fulfill this duty and do not have messages on them. If not, get thee to Target and buy two or three. They are less than $10, have feminine shapes, fun colors and will survive many washings.

A stylish woman doesn’t have to tell the world what type of person she is, or what brand she is wearing. A stylish woman also doesn’t proclaim her hobbies or fetishes on her bosom. A woman who wears these sorts of shirts in public looks desperate and like a fashion victim. Don’t fall prey to trends – from now on purchase tees and casual wear that are free of logos, embellishment or silkscreening. They won’t age as quickly, and won’t be as likely to age you.

3. Any top made out of denim. This means denim bustiers, chambray shirts, denim shells, vests, cropped little jackets, and all those other pieces that you have been holding on to since the mid ‘90s because someone made you think that denim was classic. This also includes any tops that are partially made of denim (denim collar, denim patches, band, etc.).

Denim is not classic. Yes, the traditional denim jacket comes in and out of style, but each time it is slightly different and a bit harder to pull off when you’re not 21. Unless your lifestyle warrants a sturdy denim jacket or you are considered by many to be a True Fashionista, it’s best to get rid of the denim jackets as well. Nothing ruins the line of a sweet dress, or the style of a simple outfit faster than a denim jacket (especially in a dated wash or silhouette). Getting rid of this excess denim will make your look far more polished, stylish and flattering.

4. Miniskirts (and skorts… and shorts). Okay okay, skorts are a brilliant invention. Looks like a skirt, but has shorts underneath to keep you properly covered (and they also prevent chafing). However, skorts always look like skorts, and skorts always look too much like what little children wear. Skorts have not been in fashion for many years, no matter what QVC or that mail-order catalog tells you. Donate them all.

As for short shorts… they haven’t been in style for years, they aren’t flattering on any normally shaped woman and are uncomfortable to boot. Chino, denim, seersucker, jersey… no short should end right below your bum unless you are under the age of 14.

The same holds true for miniskirts. You may have the greatest legs this side of the Atlantic, but that doesn’t mean you are flattering yourself in a thigh-skimming skirt. Super short skirts look desperate, dated and wrong on the majority of women on this planet. That being said, a short skirt is different from a mini. A skirt that is an inch above the top of your knee is short – a skirt that is an inch below your bum is mini. Rock your great gams in a short skirt every day of the year, they can be quite flattering and sexy (and elongate the leg); however get rid of the minis – they are not doing anything for you.

Note: The combination of short skirt and high heel is never stylish. Nothing taller than a 3” heel with a skirt above the knee, and consider a boot or wedge to balance out all that exposed leg. A basic pump with a short skirt is very ZZ Top and not a polished look for anyone.

5. Cheap bras. No matter your size, a cheap bra is not a flattering bra. It’s time to get rid of any bras you bought at a non-lingerie or department store (hello H&M), the mesh or stretchy lace ones that provide zero support or shape, the ones that are falling apart, the one you bought because it matched those panties that have since been tossed but the bra is so comfortable and it doesn’t matter because you only wear it on weekends… you know you own some of these bras and they aren’t doing you any favors.

You’re an adult now, and it’s time to invest in adult lingerie. Go to a specialty or high end department store and get fitted. This does NOT mean Victoria’s Secret – you are looking for a well-trained professional who specializes in lingerie. After being fitted, you can choose to shop at that store, or go elsewhere that is more in line with your income. Invest in a few skin-colored smooth bras that disappear under knits and light colored clothing, a great bra for styles you often wear (plunging necklines, halter tops, racerbacks, low backs, strapless), and one or two in black or skin color that lift, separate and shape you into a feminine beauty. Once you have these bras, treat them with care. Hand wash them with a product made for such delicate fabric, and have them air dry. If you don’t have the time for hand washing, wash on the gentle cycle of your machine in a lingerie bag. If you baby these bras, they will last far longer, maintain their shape and elasticity and baby you back.

Once you have a proper base bra collection, you can then slowly add to it with lacy, racy and frilly confections. Even those these pieces are less versatile, they should be purchased considering how they shape you and how they are fashioned. Spending money on quality lingerie will save you money in the long run, and nothing makes you look thinner or more youthful than a properly lifted bust line!

6. Laura Ashley Dresses. Church dresses, Laura Ingalls Wilder dresses, granny dresses, prairie dresses… I have asked many fashion experts for the proper term of these sorts of dresses and no one can come up one. This may because they have been out of fashion for so very long of a time!

These are the dresses that are often made of rayon or challis, bias cut or with an empire waist and hang from mid-calf to ankle length. In the early ‘90s they were often spaghetti strap and worn alone as a sundress or paired with a baby tee. Usually these dresses are seen with tank-style straps or cap sleeves. They are sometimes solid on color, but usually in floral print (hence the “Laura Ashley” term).

No matter your sense of style, these dresses are no longer stylish. As with denim tops, these are not classic pieces and look dated and frumpy on any woman of any age. Yes, the bias-cut dress may be flattering to your hourglass frame, and yes that floral print may remind you of your childhood bedroom. That doesn’t mean it is the attire of a stylish or polished woman.

It is possible to have a conservative wardrobe without succumbing to the Laura Ashley dress. It is also possible to show off your feminine style without having these dresses in your wardrobe. Consider separates, sheath dresses, and dresses with a more retro style (belted with a full skirt). They can be just as conservative, just as feminine and just as flattering without looking as though you are an extra from Little House on the Prairie.

7. Cheap polyester skirts. During my many years of retail management, personal shopping and visual merchandising I worked for the clothing company Express. Express was the go-to store for many college and post-college aged women in the late ‘90s because they offered affordable variations of runway styles, trendy suiting, and wearable date and clubwear. One of their most popular items was the mesh-overlay skirt. Many other retailers carried this same garment and it was seen on almost every American woman at some point during the late ‘90s to early ‘00s. This skirt was straight, often with an elastic waist and usually fell just above to the middle of the knee. The lining was a stretchy lycra or a thin polyester acetate, the top layer was a mesh usually in a graphic print, often embellished with rhinestones or embroidery. These skirts were paired with bra tanks and flip flops in summer, with ribbed turtlenecks and tall boots in winter. They were fabulous because they were cheap, trendy, machine washable and versatile.

I remember I had a taupe acrylic v-neck stretchy sweater (the “Jet Sweater” from Express) that I paired with one of these sheer skirts – it had a red under layer and a black, ivory and taupe abstract leaf-print top layer. I wore this ensemble to work, to bridal showers, on dates, to church. I found it to be elegant yet hip, trendy while classic. When the skirt no longer fit, I packed this set in a steamer truck in case I got back down to this size. I opened this steamer trunk two years ago and this “elegant ensemble” now looked cheap and sad.

That’s what these skirts look like to the rest of the world. They are not flattering (they show every curve and bump), they usually hit at a weird place on the leg, the fabric goes with little other than the poly tops and acrylic sweaters that were sold during the same era, and they look very dated and cheap.

Invest in one or two pencil or a-line skirts that hit at the slimmest part of your leg. Get one in black, gray or brown and another in a fun color or print. If you choose a sturdy fabric with a bit of stretch, the skirt will work in almost every season and be resistant to wrinkles. You will find it will easily take the spot where these cheap skirts used to reside and you will look thinner, more elegant and more modern.

8. Club Tops. You know what a club top is – it’s that little beaded, sequined or shiny synthetic wonder you picked up for $12.99 at some store you usually wouldn’t shop at. One of those stores in the mall with too loud of music, overcrowded jumbled racks organized by price point, fitting rooms that don’t have doors or mirrors (and smell a bit like Fritos), and the rest of the customers are under the age of 17. You were probably shopping with a bunch of friends and went in for giggles and was overwhelmed by the incredibly low prices or the fantastic bling (and neckline) of the top. It’s stretch satin, polyester mesh, Lycra. It has rhinestones, sequins, beading, lace cut-outs or maybe all four. It is near impossible to wear with a bra or the couple of days before your period. It’s a top that you don’t mind having a bit of beer spilled on it, possibly your “Get Lucky” top.

Well a stylish woman doesn’t own tops like this and doesn’t really need them to get what she wants out of an evening. One can be utterly sexy without looking trashy or cheap. Consider a silk camisole in a flattering rich color that is low on embellishments, but high on style. Tube tops have come back in style – a blouson one in silk or silk jersey shows skin while showing elegance. A chiffon or silk wrap blouse shows off your waistline and your décolleté while still showing your sense of style. You will find if you purchase more elegant of evening tops you will require fewer in your closet. Switch up the look with accessories – gold hoops and bangles one night, diamond studs another. Surprisingly, higher quality evening attire will save you money in the long run.

9. Cheap suiting. This includes unlined jackets, jackets that have such a sheen they catch the light, tight trousers that show VPL, overly trendy lapels and leg widths, short tight suit skirts, short skirts with long jackets (go ahead and sing it with me), and anything that has embroidery, fur trim, decals, or sequins attached to it.

You most likely aren’t applying to work at Amanda Woodward’s agency, so there really isn’t a place to wear this sort of “career wear.” Working for those few years for Express I sold and purchased much of this attire (also got quite a lot from other retailers such as Arden B and Bebe). Melrose Place and then Sex and the City were the hot shows to watch and take fashion cues from. Suiting got very creative, and very sexy. It was easy to care for since it wasn’t lined, stretchy so it showed off my curves, and mixed and matched with much of my bar and club attire. It was great to have when working retail for I gave the appearance of being a professional and yet still a fashionista.

Problem is that sort of suiting doesn’t work in most parts of the retail world. Unless you work in fashion, retail, beauty or a very creative firm, cheap and sexy suiting is a no-go. As for cheap suiting – it’s better to show up in a sweater and trousers than an ill-fitting and cheaply fashioned blazer. Cheap suiting gives off the same impression as the cheap club tops – you are desperate and you are not the cream of the crop.

I highly encourage every woman to invest in a classic black pantsuit if she ever has the reason to dress up outside of the home. You never know when you will be asked to speak in front of the PTA, go on a job interview, attend the funeral of a loved one, represent your company at a trade show or convention. The pants work alone with blouses and sweaters in your collection, the jacket should be a classic enough style to work for many seasons without looking dated (keep the buttons black and the pockets covered and to a minimum). Many stores that specialize in career wear have great end of season sales and often maintain the same fabric though many years so you can build up a budget-friendly collection of mix and match career wear.

If you are going on an interview or starting a new job tomorrow and all you have is that boxy brown unlined blazer with the gold pinstripes and double-breasted buttons… unless the dress code specifies a full suit you may be better off in a crisp white tailored shirt, a dark skirt or pair of trousers, simple leather pumps and a strand of pearls. A polished woman wishes to always give the best impression and sometimes it is better to be appropriately underdressed and than inappropriately dressed.

You may also wish to visit:
The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe
Dressing for Your Interview
What if I Hate Shopping?
Black Doesn’t Make You Look Slimmer, it Only Makes You Look Boring

Ask Allie: Very Casual Office Attire

I was wondering if you could do a capsule collection for the casual workplace. My workplace is so casual that I have coworkers who walk around in cargo shorts and flip-flops all summer, pretty much everyone wears jeans always, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a coworker or two in actual pajamas. I like dresses and skirts, I love jewelry, but lately I’ve been defaulting to a uniform of jeans/sneakers/artsy tee/cardigan. I’d like to get out of that rut but still fit in.

I work in a very casual place people wear yoga pants and flip flops to work. I like to dress nicely but don’t want to stand out or look snooty any advice?

I work for myself but in a collaborative office setting; the dress code is casual but everyone is very visually inspired and aware of fashion. I’m a jeans and tee shirt sort of girl, any ideas on what I can wear to be comfortable, be me, but not be a clueless slob?

I once worked in a very casual office environment, and understand your issue. While on the surface a very relaxed dress code can seem like a treat, but when you really break it down it can be even more difficult and confusing than a conservative corporate environment. Even if you CAN wear yoga pants and dollar store flip flops, that doesn’t mean you should. You want to fit in, but also show your dedication to the company, be ready for the chance meeting with a customer, and also lead by example. This can be done without a single blazer or blouse!

With this sample capsule wardrobe, I took casual basics and stepped them up a slight notch so they look a bit more polished, but just as comfortable. With jeans, I chose a dark wash that looks more polished and is usually more versatile than distressed. A pair of jeans or twill pants in a neutral like olive adds variety to a wardrobe without being too memorable for versatility. For knits, break out of the basic tee-shirt rut by incorporating classic prints, unique fabrics like linen and silk, and interesting draping. Layers keep you comfortable in an overly air conditioned office and add mileage to your wardrobe basics. A denim shirt looks great on its own, tied over a dress, or worn open with a tank and skinny jeans. An open cardigan can be worn as-is or can be transformed with a wide belt. A short-sleeved sweater in a loose weave is comfortable in an office in the summer, but also layers nicely over longer-sleeved knits and shirts when the temperature drops. Tee-shirt dresses are easy one-piece dressing that can dress up with a scarf and wedges or get uber casual with sandals and a ponytail. A gathered knee-length skirt in a lightweight cotton dresses up simple tees and tanks without sacrificing comfort.

Accessories are a way to add personality and jazz up simple knits and denim. For this collection of soft neutrals, I added a wood necklace and a floral printed gauze scarf; neither are too glitzy or shiny for a casual office. As for shoes, a pair of ankle boots with a flat heel look great with dresses, skirts, and pants; a pair of leather sandals are smart with dresses but also pair nicely with denim for a bit of a boho look. As previously mentioned, a wide belt (smart to have in the same color/material as your shoes) can transform not just an open cardigan, but dresses and tunics.

Stick to casual fabrics – linen, cotton, jersey, denim, chambray. This will keep the casual vibe even if it’s a more formal silhouette. While staying in these fabrics, choose saturated colors. Faded, distressed, and weathered fabrics are hot this summer but can easily look messy and too casual for an office.

And finally, flip flops should be kept for the pool and yoga pants for yoga. These days there are so many comfortable shoes and pants available, there’s no need to wear workout clothes to the office. Consider stretch denim, jersey, and ponte knit for pants and a pair of espadrilles or flat sandals in place of the flops.

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Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for Business Travel

I loved your SAHM capsule – any chance of you doing something similar for the Road Warrior? I have worked with the concept but still am missing a few pieces that I can’t for the life of me figure out what they are.

I got a new job in November that will have me traveling quite a bit this spring. I will visit client sites, and will be away from home for up to three weeks at a time. I haven’t had to travel for work before more than a couple days or a conference and have no clue how to do this. My coworker is a man and he says he keeps his suitcase always packed and ready to go, how does a woman make three weeks of professional clothing fit in one carry on suitcase? HELP!

In my past career lives, I did travel for business. While I was never away for more than a week, I often saw the same clients multiple times in a month, and often only had a week between trips before I was again on the road. It may seem daunting to look professional and pack smart, but it is possible. These days professional attire is found with Lycra, spandex, and fabric blends that make it comfortable and travel-friendly. Matte jersey, stretch wool, ponte knit, crepe, and gabardine can be your friend when you are a road warrior. I made a sample capsule wardrobe based upon my experiences with business travel. Only the suit in this capsule is high-maintenance fabric; pack wrapped in dry cleaning bags to prevent wrinkles, hang up as soon as you arrive and it should be okay for the big presentation. The rest are work-appropriate separates that all have some sort of stretch to keep them looking great right off the plane or train or out of the suitcase.

Over 30 outfits with only 14 garments (details):

 

Lots of ponte separates. I’m a ponte addict, I can’t deny it. Heavyweight knit that works year-round, doesn’t wrinkle, and can be machine washed. Pretty spectacular. On top of that, it looks refined enough for the workplace. In this capsule I have black ponte pants, an ivory ponte blazer, black ponte dress, black ponte top, and gray ponte skirt. Since they are the same fabric, they mix and match with ease and the combinations looks more like ensembles. Ponte is also great when you have to fly or take the train and immediately head to a business meeting – you won’t be full of wrinkles and will be comfortable sitting for long spans of time.

Strategic pops of color. While it seems smart to pack an entire suitcase of neutrals, that can look pretty boring pretty quickly. Choosing suit shells and soft jackets or cardigans in colors will stretch your neutral capsule further. Mix two for a bold look, or just have one piece to give a neutral you already wore a new life. The choice of color is dependant on your personal style and profession. For more conservative fields, consider softer or more traditional hues; if you’re in a creative field you can amp up the color and even add more to the capsule.

Stick to solids. While prints can break up a wardrobe monotony, they are also so incredibly memorable that you can’t easily wear the same print twice with a client. If you are in a more casual or creative field, you can consider a print like leopard for some accessories, but having solids for your Road Warrior wardrobe means you can likely wear the same garment twice in a week without a client being the wiser.

Choose pieces that can dress up and down. While you may be meeting with clients and needing a professional wardrobe, not every moment of your day is suit-worthy. Maybe you’re meeting colleagues for happy hour, or your client is taking you to a baseball game. Be ready without having to stuff a suitcase with a casual wardrobe. A striped tee with a flattering neckline and fabric can be dressed up under a suit jacket, or paired with jeans and flats for a barbecue or sporting event. Pair the jeans with the cardigan for a casual meal, or with the ivory blazer (maybe tuck a band tee shirt or simple tank into your suitcase) or just a sweater shell with pashmina or statement necklace for drinks at a neighborhood bar.

As for dressing up, a ponte or crepe dress can work for the office or for a cocktail party. The black dress I featured could work with a blazer or cardigan by day and with red lips and mascara will make it perfect for an evening affair. Use the pashmina as an evening wrap.

Pack smart accessories. While I am all for having a large accessory collection for changing the look of wardrobe staples, when you’re a Road Warrior you need to keep your wardrobe to a minimum and keep it super easy. A statement necklace that isn’t too sparkly or too arts and crafty can jazz up a classic suit, or dress up a work dress to look cocktail appropriate. A pashmina can be your travel blanket on the plane, add interest to a simple dress or ensemble, be your evening wrap for a cocktail party, and ward off chill in overly air-conditioned office buildings. If you know you will be there longer, consider wearing tall boots on the trip for they will give a completely different look to skirts, dresses, jeans and narrow pants. Finally, choose a structured and polished bag to be your purse, your carryon bag, as well as your work tote. Find one that can hold both your laptop as well as a bottle of water and copy of InStyle for the flight.

Pack repair and care supplies. Stitch Witchery, a small sewing kit, bar of Ivory soap or a small bottle of laundry detergent, Shout Wipes or Tide-to-Go pen, safety pins, a black Sharpie (covers snags in tights and fabric, tears in leather, etc.), lint remover. When I used to travel on business, I had my toiletries kit already packed and ready to go with mini versions of all my beauty products, and I also had an emergency outfit kit in a small bag with these essentials. Both stayed in my suitcase when I was home, only removed to replace that which ran out. This way, I never forgot them and was already ready for any situation (or any stain). Most hotels have a shine cloth for shoes and an iron to get out wrinkles and fuse Stitch Witchery.

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BlogHer Life Well Lived – Finding Inspiration

BlogHer asked me to answer their Life Well Lived Looking Your Best question,

“What are your favorite resources for inspiration on style, fashion, beauty and living life well?”

 

Books

I love reading books because they force me to create images in my head. While a novel may state that the protagonist is a brunette or wearing a navy dress, the rest of the description is truly up to me. I envision each character – how they dress, they walk, they talk and I think about why I chose that trait. It’s a great exercise to see style beyond what is on the television, and also to see how I look at style. From this, I often get inspiration for my own wardrobe.

Along with novels, I also love style books. This past weekend I finally got around to reading Ari Seth Cohen’s book Advanced Style and it was so inspiring. These fabulous women with fabulous personal style, making their own rules and looking gorgeous while doing so. The book has very little text, but each quote gave me such food for thought.

Magazines

If you read this blog regularly, you know I love Real Simple. They show wearable fashion at reasonable price points, and each issue ends up adding some new item to the shopping list for Target, Sephora, or Drugstore.com. Through Real Simple I have learned about life-changing night creams, skin-clearing gentle face washes, and lip glosses that make me actually like lip glosses. I also learn ways to simplify my life and daily routines, giving me time to actually life my life and not be a machine.

While I love Real Simple for showing great pieces that are buyable now, I do love falling into the fantasy that is in high-end fashion magazine spreads. I could look at a Vogue spread for an hour, creating characters, imagining situations, and also trying to see into the stylist’s head as to why she put things together in the way she did. Letting my mind wander on a spread gives me a lot of inspiration for my own wardrobe – creative pairings and unexpected additions.

The Street

Yesterday I passed a woman on the street in lavender skinny jeans, a white v-neck tee, and a gray tweed blazer. The look was so simple, but so fresh and crisp it made me want a pair of lavender jeans in my life. Washington DC isn’t necessarily known for its fashion, but every day I see women who push sartorial boundaries, or who take class and style up a notch.

For every woman in an ill-fitting polyester suit and pair of worn-down TOMS there is one in a perfectly tailored vintage blazer or one-of a kind frock. I also see women who give me ideas for my beauty routine – natural waves, fresh dewy skin, or a shock of color on the lips, eyes or even in the hair. These women give me inspiration, and regularly help me shop within my own closet for completely new ensembles.

We want to know, what are YOUR favorite resources for inspiration on style, fashion, beauty and living life well?  Visit BlogHer and let us know in the comments!  Also be sure to enter the Life Well Lived sweepstakes, where you could win an iPod Touch!

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How to Rock a Crop Top

How to Style a Crop Top

The crop top is back. I know, I know, I hear your moaning through the Internet. I wore crop tops in high school when I was channeling Kelly Kapowski, when this trend showed up on runways I KNEW it was one I would not revisit. However, brilliant style bloggers across the globe have been proving that anyone can carry off a crop top this summer, and here’s some tips on how to rock the crop without looking like a Fly Girl:

Pair with a High-waisted Bottom

When a crop top is partnered with a skirt or pant that starts above the belly button, a crop top can be downright flattering. The smallest part on a woman’s body is usually at the bottom or right below the rib cage; a crop top and high-waisted bottom highlight this area, and your sliver of skin flatters in the same manner a wide belt does. Having the visible skin so high prevents muffin top, and showing your belly button or post-baby stretch marks. While this pairing can work with most any type of top and bottom, the combination of a fitted top and fuller skirt or pants is both figure flattering and on trend (and with a fitted top there’s no chance you’ll flash your bra). Great examples of this trend can be seen on Jay Miranda and Girl With Curves.

Wear Over a Dress

Gosh, why didn’t I think of this? I’ll admit, seeing this outfit on The Classy Cubicle was when I started realizing crop tops can look modern and be age-appropriate. Treat a boxy crop top like a cropped jacket and pair with a simple sheath to update your workweek wardrobe staples or to freshen up your Date Night LBD. Also on Refinery 29, they featured an editor wearing a striped tank dress with a different striped crop top over it and the combination was fun and very wearable.

Layer over a Longer Top

You’ll see retailers have already thought of this combination, styling mannequins in this manner and also selling shirts that create this effect. I love this top from Vince Camuto; it looks like two tops, achieves the crop top look, but has enough coverage to wear at more casual workplaces or weekends when you don’t want to flash a ton of skin.

Get Matchy Matchy

When the top and bottom are the same color and/or fabric, the flash of your midsection isn’t as obvious and doesn’t feel so risqué. Mindy Kaling wore a jacquard crop top and skirt to an event and it worked because it was a matched set, the skirt was high, and the sliver of skin showcased the slimmest part of her figure.

Play with Volume

Not every crop top is fitted, and a bit of volume can make this shorter silhouette far more wearable.  The Tiny Closet shows how a floaty crop top can be quite flattering; while the post linked has her wearing it with higher-waist pants, she wears this top often with all sorts of bottoms. The August Diaries pairs a boxy crop with a high-low hemline with a skirt that is fitted on top, creating a balanced silhouette. I love this eyelet crop top with matching full maxi; both pieces in the same color gives a feel of a dress, the cropped top flattering the figure in the same manner as a belt. Adding volume is a great way to balance your frame and keep cool as the temps rise.

 

What do you think about the return of the crop top? Are you willing to try this trend?

 

Ask Allie: Plus Size Wardrobe Staples

Dear Allie, I found your wardrobe staples post many years ago and it changed my life. I cut my closet in half but finally had the right clothes for everything. Since then, I have had two children and some health issues and I’m now a size 22. I gave up on fashion the past five years but my New Year resolution is to get back in shape and in style. Thing is I go to the mall and I can’t find anything on your list, everything is so ugly and old looking and cheap in plus sizes. Help!

My first suggestion to you is to get the heck out of the mall. While more and more brick and mortar shops are offering plus size fashion, most neighborhood malls have pretty slim pickings. Shipments are done by a buyer, one who just looks at generic demographics and statistics for the store, mall, and zip code and makes general decisions on whether to feature more plus size or less, more suiting or more weekend wear, more formal dresses or cotton sundresses. While you could drive around town to find plus size fashion Mecca, you could also head to your computer.

I hardly ever enter a mall anymore because I find them frustrating, messy, and overwhelming. When I do visit, I plan out my trip and head first to my go-to stores where I know the clothes fit my body and my personal style. Then if I still have some energy left, I’ll investigate other retailers. However, I find far more luck sticking to online retailers. Better selection of styles as well as sizes, easier to find discounts, and I can try on pieces in my bedroom with flattering lighting and proper shoes and undergarments.

I did a little searching online and was able to quickly find all the wardrobe staples I suggest in plus sizes. These days many retailers offer free or near-free shipping and returns; I did a review of my favorite plus-size retailers here. Keep in mind that this time of year is awesome for deals, but awful for selection. We’re entering inventory season, and every retailer tries to have as little merchandise as possible for inventory to make the process easier. If you’re looking for bargains you’re likely in luck, but if you’re striking out in sizes, wait until mid-March when spring collections will be stocked in the stores.

In the collage above, I left out the wool coat and accessories from the staples list because I find them relatively easy to find and likely you have the accessories already in your collection. Here’s a list of some of my go-to retailers for specific plus size fashion:

I also recommend you check out some plus size blogs and forums. I personally am not part of any boards or forums so I suggest you lurk some and find a good fit. While there are so many blogs out there who showcase their fabulous plus size personal style, here are few plus size-specific blogs I find to be quite helpful in reviewing lines and offering fashion suggestions. I also recommend reading their blogrolls and comments for additional blogs and online resources:

I’m so happy that you are using this year to care for yourself. Everyone deserves to feel fabulous and you’re gorgeous no matter your dress size. Dressing to flatter your current figure and personal style makes you feel confident and helps showcase your beautiful self. Don’t let the malls get you down, head online and you may find just what you were looking for!

Readers, I look forward to your comments on this subject, as I am not an expert.  Where do you find plus size wardrobe staples?  Who are your favorite plus size bloggers?  What online resources do you recommend?  

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Ask Allie: Collars and Crews

The ever lovely Natalie emailed me and asked,

“Allie, when I try to wear a crew neck over a collared shirt, I look dumpy. How do you look so un-dumpy? What am I doing wrong?”

My email response:

My secret is… the only two buttons buttoned are the second one (the very top one makes me dumpy) and the bottom one (so the untucked shirttails look straight). The rest is gaping open underneath. I did this the first time with this shirt because it’s now too small, but was amazed at how it improved the look of a shirt under a crew, and now do it all the time with all my shirts whether they fit or not!

So there you have it!  I find this helps since I am so top heavy – somehow the buttoned-up shirt emphasizes all my roundness, but when I let it gape open, my figure shows a bit better.  Of course this works far better with a thick sweater that won’t show the buttons and gaping fabric, but if it’s a thinner crew, I will not button the last button, let the shirt sort of go to the sides of my body and tuck it in so it’s out of the way and more invisible.  Sort of like a dickey with sleeves!

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Summer Sartorial Rules for Corporate America

These days it can be confusing when trying to dress for the office. With retailers showing “secretary” dresses that hardly cover one’s behind, painted-on pants paired with blazers, and cleavage-baring blouses with suits, you wonder what actually is acceptable these days. Add to this a sweltering hot summer, and one could easily stray in the wrong sartorial direction. From one corporate employee to another, here’s some rules on summer office fashion that apply to you whether you’re a cubicle dweller or reside in the corner office.

Even if they’re metallic or beaded, they’re still flip flops. And if they’re flip flops, they don’t belong in the office. Period.

A cardigan doesn’t make a strapless dress work-appropriate. Seriously ladies, we can still tell it is strapless. This also goes for low-cut dresses, spaghetti straps, and every other dress more appropriate for happy hour on the terrace than the boardroom.

If I couldn’t wear spaghetti straps when working at the mall, you can’t wear them to the office. When I worked in apparel, even at trendy companies like Express, we had a dress code. That dress code restricted many things like sneakers, but it also restricted revealing attire such as spaghetti straps. If I couldn’t be a 21-year old in Express with spaghetti straps, you sure as heck shouldn’t be an adult with them at work. It’s just not professional.

Even if your bra strap is the same color as your tank, it doesn’t make it invisible. A peach racerback tank with peach bra straps is still a shirt exposing bra straps. A navy x-back sundress with a navy traditional bra is still a dress exposing your lingerie. I commend your attempt, but it’s still not appropriate for the office.

Hemlines shouldn’t rise with the temperature. Your skirt should be near your knee, not near your rear. If you can’t bend down to pick up your pen or sit on a standard chair without fear of flashing, your skirt is too short.

A hoodie is not an appropriate layer for offices that blast the A/C. Even if it’s cashmere, if it zips up the front, has two pockets and a hood, it’s not professional looking. Switch to a cardigan, pashmina, or soft jacket.

White is almost always transparent. I personally think thin white cotton and twill and light-colored linen should not be worn to the office, but if you do, wear with skin-colored seamless undergarments. No lace, no bows, no stripes, and not even sheer (the better to see the cotton crotch and waistband, my dear). If it’s a dress, wear a slip, if in doubt, don’t wear it to work.

Cleavage isn’t appropriate, no matter the season. Somehow, those who understand office attire let everything literally hang out come summer. Low-cut tanks, deep Vs on wrap dresses, strapless tops under cardigans… and none of it is appropriate for the office. If you wouldn’t show your décolleté in December, you also shouldn’t in July.

Dress code still applies. If it’s business casual, that means nice pants and skirts with refined tops or a simple dress. It does not mean chino Bermudas, seersucker sundresses with flip flops, logoed tee shirts with capris, tropical printed maxis with beaded sandals, or super-short cotton skirts with ribbed tanks. This is your office, not a tiki bar. You can beat the heat without dressing for Margaritaville.

Dress for respect. Again, this is your place of work. This is how you pay your rent, buy groceries and gas, and where you should be striving to move up the corporate ladder. Dress the part, no matter how hot it is outside.

For some suggestions on appropriate office attire, please visit:

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Postpartum Fashion

There are women who get their pre-pregnancy body back in six weeks. Others who get it back in six months. There are women who realize their shape will never be the same, but still come to terms with their new figure quickly – nine months in, nine months out and back in some fab jeans and heels.

And then there are the rest of us. And I think the rest of us are the majority. The silent majority.

Emerson is almost two years old, and I still freak out sometimes when catching my nude reflection in the full length mirror in my bedroom. Who IS this woman?

Maybe you take in your reflection, and you realize that this new body is still beautiful – possibly more so. You take pride in your strength, your ability to create life. Those breasts are now more than a way to attract a date – they are a way to feed your child. Your stretch marks and sagging skin are battle scars, reminders of the amazing triumphant act you did.

And then you enter a mall, or get a package in the mail from your favorite online retailer. You try on the garments, and begin (or increase) self-loathing. Nothing fits, everything is ugly, YOU are ugly.

You’re not ugly, you’re not deformed, it’s just that today’s fashion isn’t geared towards the constantly changing body of the postpartum woman.

Instead of beating yourself up in the fitting room, take this opportunity in life to really build a uniform, a suit of armor. You’re not the person you were pre-pregnancy, inside or out. Accept that, and build a very simple uniform that will get you through this time until you become good friends with the New You – the woman with a child, with a changed lifestyle, new priorities, and new hips.

Examples of what I wore after having my child – lots of wrap dresses and accessories to draw attention from my body and keep my uniform looking different each day

The first year of Emerson’s life was incredibly difficult for my ego, my confidence, my blogger self. It was hard enough adjusting to being a new mother, I had to re-learn my skills at my full-time job, and still felt that I had to be some sort of style expert here. The way I got through was by making my wardrobe so incredibly simplistic that it really became a uniform. When I found a silhouette, fabric, or brand that worked, I purchased multiples. I didn’t try to put my very round peg into a square pair of trousers, I found pieces that were soft, comfortable, wearable, yet had polish.

These items aren’t easy to find, but they ARE out there. Some suggestions:
- Ponte knit trousers. I found some at Old Navy – they had a standard style with pockets and zip fly, but the fabric was so stretchy, it worked with my body. The ponte knit was thicker than your standard yoga pant, so not only did it make the trousers work-appropriate, they also did a far better job of hiding the lumps and bumps.
- Wrap dresses. I found a jersey wrap dress in Talbots that had a full skirt and blouson sleeves and bought it in every color I could find. I had matte jersey wrap dresses from Talbots, Old Navy, Max Studio, Ann Taylor, and Maggy London. When jeans and pants failed me, dresses made me look polished, feminine, curvy, yet were comfortable. I paired with tights and a wide-heeled Mary Jane in winter, and sandals in summer. The wrap styling whittles and hides the waist, flatters the bust (and is great for nursing moms) and the skirt conceals the lower belly, rear and thighs nicely.
- Lightweight drapey cardigans. Right now these are so en vogue, it’s easy to find them in your favorite color and a wallet-friendly pricepoint. To hide the belly, pull together at the center and wear a skinny belt over it. The belt does NOT have to be tight, but a leather or sturdy belt will give a bit of definition not found by a self-belt. Buy one in a fantastic color, have a contrast color belt, and this will make your simple nursing tank and knit pants or leggings look chic.
- Tall boots. Again, this is something that is very fashionable now so it’s easy to find them at most any retailer. Tall boots will make leggings or jeggings look chic, and will dress up the most simple pieces. Get a low heel so they are comfortable. If you fear buying boots now because you believe your legs will slim down, know that a cobbler can easily narrow the boot shaft when you do get to your goal size.
- Color! It’s so easy to try to hide in black and gray, but this is the best way to look even more uncomfortable in this constantly changing body. Cobalt blue, royal purple, rich berry, deep teal, cherry red… whatever the color when you wear it people will notice it first, not your figure. Not only that, when you look in the mirror and see that great shade of candy pink or pumpkin, you will feel happier (and your skin will glow more!)
- Great bras. Many nursing bras are created for convenience, not for good support and definition. Take the time to find a couple that can multi-task. I found Anita bras (which I found at Nordstrom) to be supportive, pretty, and still easy to use when nursing. If you aren’t nursing, you still need to be fitted for your new size. Even if you know your size will change, invest in two bras for this time being. When your breasts are supported, separated, and happy, you will look slimmer and stand taller.
- Control garments. I am not talking high-powered girdles, but I know I felt a little bit more… me with a bit of spandex under my attire. My Spanx Higher Power shorts were great because I didn’t feel constricted, but had a smoother line under all my clothes. I was surprisingly more comfortable in a light control garment than without because it seemed to put my body back in place those couple of weeks after childbirth where everything seems to be loose and weird inside your body.

Keep your wardrobe simple and small so that when you wake each day, you aren’t overwhelmed by options. Two pairs of pants, two pairs of jeans, three dresses, two cardigans, three sweaters or tops, one pair of shoes that work with pants and jeans, another pair that works with dresses, a pair of boots that works with all. Who CARES if you wear the same pants twice in one week, or you end up wearing the same black wrap dress every Tuesday? You have better things to think about right now. Focus on quality so these clothes can handle multiple washings and wears. Looks for items that can be laundered at home, carry a Tide to Go pen with you at all times, and utilize accessories like pashminas, oblong scarves, multiple necklaces (I am a fan of pearls – a couple strands in different sizes can give instant glamour) and fun earrings to take attention from your body and simple pieces and add glam and style to your uniform.

Don’t try to adopt the newest trends, don’t try to be the fiercest mama in town. Keep it simple, keep it quality, keep it comfortable, yet keep it well-fitting and having some style. These pieces will be your suit of armor – your way of meeting up with old friends and not feeling like a schlep, to attend that first board meeting after maternity leave, to feel more you when leaving the house.

Stop comparing your speed in weight loss and body firming to the celebrities (or even the other women in your Mommy and Me group). Each woman is different. And even the woman who fit back into her Hudson jeans a month after childbirth may be pinching and grimacing in the mirror each morning. This is a process. Take this time as a forced spiritual journey to finding yourself. Instead of an ashram in India or a spa in Arizona, you are finding your center on the subway, at the grocery store, in your office.

This period of life does not have to be spent in sweats, nor does it have to be spent with a muffin top and a bad sense of self. Be kind to yourself, keep things simple, and work on you and your family. Through this process, you will come out to be a stronger, deeper, more wonderful woman. Clothing shouldn’t make you feel bad about yourself, clothing shouldn’t stress you out. Clothing should be the armor to get through this period. And there is no proper length of this period – only you know what is best and when you are ready to start properly outfitting your New You.

Crimes of Fashion

Bad things happen to good clothing. Often times it is not the garment that commits the crime, the woman who puts it on her body. The thing is, we women just can’t admit the truth about ourselves.

We have large breasts.

Grass is always greener, huh? Those with small breasts wish for larger, and those with larger breasts know it’s not always a great thing. It’s hard to look conservative, fit into tailored cotton shirts, or wear a bathing suit and maintain eye contact with a man. Backs ache, bras are matronly, and forget wearing those spaghetti strapped little tanks and dresses…

Seriously, forget wearing them. Unless your breasts are very young and pert or surgically enhanced, or you have found the miracle strapless bra that actually lifts and separates and doesn’t dig into your armpit after two hours of wear (and if you have email me!) these delicate little tops are not going to look good. Wearing clear straps, an unsupportive bra with skinny straps that almost hide, a strapless bra that flatters as much as a sports bra or attempting to get by with the little shelf bra that is in the garment is not going to benefit your figure or your sense of style. Same goes for attempting to wear such a top with a tank or tee shirt underneath – this look is great for tweens who shouldn’t be baring skin, but not for mature adult women.

This also goes for tops that have built-in cups and underwire (bustier-inspired tops), cut-out, halter and low-cut tops that make any sort of bra impossible, and those handkerchief-style backless tops (again no bra is possible and there is zero support in front). Drooping, jiggling, smooshed and wayward breasts are never sexy, and never ever stylish.

We have curvy arms.
Nope, we don’t all have twigs for arms – most of us (especially if we have large breasts) have larger and softer arms. Those of us who work out often have larger arms too due to strong biceps and triceps. Neither of these types of arms are bad – they are beautiful! However we seem to always want to torture them.

When you wear a sleeve that suffocates or cuts into your upper arm, it not only feels uncomfortable – it looks uncomfortable. Go and open a door and you flex your bicep causing even more pain and fashion awkwardness. A sleeve that is stretching at the seams, cutting your arm in half, or wrinkles due to being so tight is not stylish, and it is noticeable. That garment flaw alone can ruin the entire look of your outfit and make your arms look bigger than they actually are.

Large arms are not a bad thing – we women often focus on them when the rest of the world doesn’t even notice. Arms are usually made in balance with the rest of the body and they are made to assist us in daily functions. Arms usually look smaller when exposed or draped in flattering fabrics, then when hidden. Just as with your stomach – large arms look larger under baggy or too tight garments, but are not even noticeable in well-fitting pieces.

What to do? Don’t shell out hard-earned money on clothing that doesn’t fit on all parts of your body. Juniors fashions often run smaller in the arms so consider looking in the Misses department. Garments with lycra or from knit will be more comfortable and forgiving. Accept that some styles are not made for your frame. We all can’t wear stovepipe jeans, mini skirts, deep-plunging necklines, backless dresses… and we all can’t wear little capped puff sleeves on cotton dresses. This isn’t a bad thing – no trend is a must-have or death look. I personally have large arms – had them at 100 pounds and at 200 pounds and never lack for garments to fit in stores. I just usually shy from stiff fabrics and sleeves that hit in the center of the upper arm.

We’re Tall.
I know it’s hard to find proper trousers when you’re tall. Selection is limited, often what a company calls “long” is lucky to be 32” in inseam. While the 5’6” women of the world can wear all sorts of fabrics and patterns, tall women are often stuck with plain denim and drab colors of simple-styled trousers.

Well you will look a heck of a lot better in a simple pair of black trousers that hit at the right place than a cool pattern of trousers that hits somewhere near your ankle bone. Tall boots and ballet flats do not disguise a trouser from being too short. Your best bet is to do your homework – join tall women message board, Google for boutiques that specialize in long lengths and keep it simple. Find creativity in accessories and other garments; for style comes with fit, not with trend.

We’re Short.

Petite clothes are hard to find, especially when you aren’t petite everywhere else. It doesn’t hurt to cuff some items, and if you’re moving, no one notices that your sleeves hit your second knuckle and your shoulders are sliding off… right?

Wrong. Cuffing, stapling, Stitch Witchery-ing, and letting things hang and drag is never flattering. As with tall women, it’s better to have less that fits correctly than look as though you are shrinking before our very eyes. If you find a pair of pants that fits well – buy a couple of pairs and care for them. For items that almost work, spend a few extra bucks and go to your local dry cleaner or tailor to have the sleeves and legs shortened to an appropriate length.

We Don’t Want to Admit the Season.
A pair of tall boots with capris does not make a summer trouser a winter one. I have NO CLUE who thought of this trend, but that person should be arrested for a major crime of fashion. Tall boots with cuffed or tucked in jeans – cute. Tall boots with tweed or wool gauchos – a bit dated but it at least makes sense. Tall boots with stretch twill, crepe, cotton or sateen trousers – please NO!

This also goes for summer fabrics (eyelet, seersucker, cotton, linen, cotton voile, etc.) being paired with opaque hose and cardigans in an attempt to make them wintry, wool and wintry fabrics with lightweight tops and sandals in spring, and floaty babydoll tops paired over dark turtlenecks.

Style doesn’t come with how big your wardrobe is, but by what is in it. It’s okay to pack up those summer linens or wintry woolens come the end of that season. Even if you only own three pairs of pants – it’s better to have three pairs that fit your body and the weather, than trying to extend a wardrobe that just isn’t created to be extended.

Many fabrics do work quite well in many seasons – matte jersey, crepe, some silks, suiting fabrics, ponte knit. If you are looking to extend your wardrobe consider these fabrics in solid colors that don’t focus on a certain time of year (hello pumpkin orange or lemon yellow). Black, ivory, brown, navy, khaki, true red and cobalt blue are some shades that do work year-round. Stick to neutrals or clear and true colors and these fabrics can do multi-seasonal duty!

We’re Obsessed with Matching.
Beautiful pink cashmere sweater, chic pink houndstooth tweed pencil skirt, gorgeous pink pearl necklace and bracelet, elegant pink crocodile pumps, and what a darling pink crocodile clutch. Individually, all of these items are wonderful and can be quite stylish. Paired together, and you look like Socialite Barbie.

I often see this happen most with animal prints and bright colors (lime, orange, pink). Leopard headband, shoes, belt, collar and cuffs, purse. Lime capris, jacket, flats, tote bag, sunglasses and (gasp!) scrunchie. Patriotic embellished tee, red striped skimmers, blue shorts with white piping, star-shaped earrings and bracelet. Blue gingham capris, halter top, blue sandals, blue hoops and bracelet, blue gingham sun visor and blue eye shadow. Get my drift? Home shopping channels and many mail-order catalogs may lead you to believe that highly-coordinated outfits will bring you style; friends may comment, “what a well-matched outfit!” You may be known for your signature style of animal print/candy pink/frog patterned clothing but that doesn’t mean this look is polished or stylish.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up your passion. Leopard print can still be your calling card, but it will make more impact in smaller doses. Leopard-print heels are a neutral that will coordinate with anything from jeans to cocktail dresses; a leopard clutch will add interest to your LBD, switch out self belts in your dresses with a leopard one to add variety to your look. If you always think pink, you can work it in the same manner – play it up in accessories, shells under suits, and small wardrobe accents. Small accents create big (and more expensive looking) style. You will be amazed how the compliments will change from the coordination to your actual look, and how much faster people will “get” that you are wearing a signature style, not just on the matchy-matchy boatride!

We’re Not 21 Anymore.
I definitely do not subscribe to the rule that once you hit 30 you have to start shopping in Talbot’s, but I do believe that different ages should wear different things.

Just as a 21 year old looks ridiculous in a Chanel suit, so does a 41 year old in a tattered denim mini. Your life is not the same as it was ten years ago, your wardrobe should adjust with your life. If you have a conservative job, you purchase suits and tailored blouses. If you suddenly switched careers and started working at a laid-back creative firm, you would probably donate the suits and switch to jeans and trendy tops. Adjusting to your environment and your lifestyle makes sense – it helps define who you are to the world and keep you comfortable and true to yourself. Running around town in clothes from Forever 21 and Delia’s is not being true to yourself. You can still be sexy, funny, ironic, girly, quirky and artsy in pieces that fit your entire life – not just the one you used to have.

Neither Do We Have One Foot in the Nursing Home.
No one says that just because you have children of a certain age, or you’re retired, or you’re a grandmother than you have to putter around the house in appliquéd tees, polyester pantsuits and frumpy frocks. Style and personality can be achieved at all ages while still maintaining class.

Get outside your box and check out some of the fabulous women over 40 who are on television shows. Check out magazines like More that focus on style for women over 40, and glossies like InStyle and Bazaar that offer tips on how to take today’s trends and make them wearable by women of every age. Google women like Barbara Walters, Helen Mirren, Diane von Furstenberg, Oprah Winfrey and check out images of them out on the town. It is possible to be appropriate, comfortable and fabulous no matter your age.

We Don’t Consider Fabric.
It’s a blue top and blue skirt, but the top made of cotton and the skirt is made of rouched silk. You’re wearing a chunky black wool sweater, casual jeans and black stretch satin stiletto booties. Black patent crocodile pumps with a conservative tan pantsuit. A gray silk cocktail dress with a navy leather handbag that has gold buckles and an adjustable shoulder strap. White and pink cotton sundress with white patent leather sandals with clear heels.

The colors all may work, but the fabrics clash. This often happens when one tries too hard to match, or to copy a trend in a magazine. Think about clothing the way you would about home décor, or seasoning on food. Curry, sage, vanilla and cumin are all wonderful herbs, but they don’t all taste good when mixed together. A baroque-inspired couch doesn’t look as beautiful as it could when paired with a slipcovered denim chair and a mission oak coffee table.

Stop trying so hard, and go with the organic flow. Fabrics that feel similar often work best together. Smooth with smooth, texture with texture, heavy with heavy, etc. If this still confuses you, purchase simpler fabrics. Stick with smooth leather or microfiber shoes, knit and twill clothing, simpler silhouettes, less embellishment. Know coordination doesn’t come from color as much as from fabric and silhouette.

You may also wish to visit:
The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe
How Does One Get the Polished Look?
A New Look on Fashion
How to Have Style

Fashion is Stupid

I am often attacked for my belief that style is a necessity for all people. I am told that people don’t have time, don’t have money, and feel that trying so hard to look good makes one appear superficial, materialistic, shallow and not a true reflection of their intelligent/feminist/scientific/minimalist self. Here’s the down and dirty.

You are judged by what you look like. Accept it.

Whether people realize it or not, they make assumptions about you by your appearance. This affects how you are treated at work, in a store, by your peers, your neighbors, a waiter, a doctor, a minister.

You may say you don’t care, that if a person gets to know the real you, that appearance is no longer an issue.

False.

I had a coworker, a brilliant and hardworking woman. She worked in a different office from me, but we were on many projects together and got to know one another via phone calls and emails. She was a higher position than I, and she soon became a bit of a mentor to me, and then a friend. She admitted to me after many months that she was looking for a new job because she felt as though she wasn’t respected within the department. I agreed that she seemed to lack the respect, and I couldn’t understand why. She was poised, professional yet warm. As a mentor, she gave constructive criticism, challenging tasks and plenty of feedback. In her role, she was quick, detailed and talented. Clients wrote letters about her great performance with a project, however upper management spoke of her as though she was an idiot and a bit lazy. I never understood why until nine months after we first started working together, I met her in person. She was slim and tall, though seemed uncomfortable in her skin. She hunched over and let her long straight brown hair hang over the majority of her face. When she laughed she covered her mouth as though out of embarrassment. Her hair never seemed to be brushed, she never wore makeup and her clothes looked as though she inherited them from her grandmother – they were all too large, too short for her long legs, and seemed to be from the 1980s (shoulder pads, peplum jackets, weird large floral boxy jackets with matching long broomstick skirts, etc…). Though she was in her mid-30s one would guess that she was closer to 50.

She soon left the company and got a job where she telecommutes. When she left I overheard management discussing it, thinking it was no great loss, “not like we could put her in front of a business meeting!” I thought it was a shame, some of the best work and brightest ideas just left the company. But they were right… how could you put a person who seemed so ill at ease in front of clients trying to sell our company, and make them believe that we are the best decision?

When I was in high school, I was the previous millennium’s equivalent to goth. I had black hair, shaved off part of it, lived in a motorcycle jacket, Doc Marten boots and torn stockings. When I walked in the mall, mothers would hug their purses closer to their sides. I was once asked to leave a store even though I had done nothing but walk in and flip through a rack of clothing. As the statistician for my school’s soccer team, I once had a busload of players from another school taunt me and one player spit on me calling me a “psycho.” Funny thing was I was an honor roll student, president of many clubs at my school, attended church and had a very healthy and close relationship with my parents. I was considered a “goody goody” by my friends, not partaking in drugs, drinking, smoking or mature relationships with my boyfriends. However I had black hair and lots of eyeliner so those who did not know me considered me to be a derelict of society.

In college I was a blonde for a couple of semesters and saw how differently I was treated. People were more willing to come up to me and ask directions or speak to me, I had a more relaxed rapport with teachers, and people thought I seemed “happier” during that period of time. Funny thing was that I was actually having the most miserable year of my college career, but no one took me seriously when I complained. I guess I didn’t “look” unhappy enough to school counselors or friends.

I have a dear friend. She is a gorgeous woman inside and out. She oozes confidence and femininity and is incredibly intelligent. One place she does have problems is in everyday society. We meet for drinks and she tells me how for the fourth time that month someone has literally slammed a door in her face because he didn’t see her behind him. She goes from job to job, having much success in the interview but after a few months somehow ends up taking up the responsibility of the intern, the receptionist and the admin while those with less education and time with the corporation move up in the ranks. She goes to the bar and ends up standing there far longer than anyone else, never getting the attention of the bartender. She has found that in the love department, she has had the most success in online dating where a relationship via IM and email is established prior to meeting one another. Once they meet, the man is usually positively smitten. I thought about all of this while I sat across from this beautiful woman with insanely green eyes and long lashes, who has the cutest laugh and the most graceful movements. Then I thought about how she dresses herself. On that night at the bar, she was wearing a moss-green short sleeved cotton shirt, black trousers and black shoes. The shirt was fuzzy from far too many washings and looked garment-dyed probably from use and not from design. It looked to be 100% cotton and it looked as though she tried to get out the wrinkles with a run through the dryer. Her attempt was not successful as that the shirt looked like she pulled it off the floor of her bedroom. Her trousers were leftover from her 20 pound larger frame three years ago and bagged everywhere they shouldn’t. They dragged on the ground from the extra inches and the hem was torn and muddy. Her shoes were big chunky black loafers; a pair I had myself in the mid-90s that looked like clown shoes on her petite frame. Her hair was a blunt cut to the jaw, parted in the middle and tucked behind the ears. No jewelry, no makeup, no adornment whatsoever. I knew her as a fiery brilliant woman, but those on the street (and in her office and behind the bar) probably find her to blend into the woodwork, seem mousy and unsure of herself.

We discussed fashion and she told me that no offense to me, but fashion depletes brain cells. One hardly ever sees a person with a PhD and a pair of Jimmy Choos. My response is that looking good does NOT have to equate with current fashion. It is possible for every person n the planet to look good, look appropriate and look the part of their culture/personality/lifestyle. That your insides have to be reflected on your outside to truly have personal style. I thought back to my years of black hair and torn clothes and wouldn’t have changed a thing – though I may not have fit into a crowd, I fit into my life and my personality. When I went to church I traded my monkey boots for loafers and my plaid miniskirts for a more conservative sweater with trousers. I thought about her, and wondered how that green wrinkled top expressed what kind of person she was. Her wearing that top was just as conflicting as her wearing my leather biker jacket from high school, or a cabbage-rose adorned dress from Laura Ashley.

  • There is nothing wrong with having a uniform. The staples (see the sidebar) are tools to help it be effortless to look nice. I know many women who have just a handful of items in their closet all of the same color story yet they always look pulled together. I know moms who are always rumpled, and those who always look crisp. I notice how some of my mother’s friends look a decade older than the others, and some who look a decade younger based just on hair and clothing.
  • Like my good friend, I am not a “crisp” person. If I wear white, I will spill coffee on it. If I wear cotton, it will get wrinkled. My hair falls flat, I sweat, I eat off my lipstick. To battle this, I hardly ever buy things that need to be ironed. I rarely wear white, and I buy a lot of knits. I always carry a Tide to Go pen with me, and I have learned to wear my hair in a way that works with my afternoon-limp hair, not fight against it. Why spend money on things that contradict who you are and make you uncomfortable?
  • My friend’s favorite color is purple, yet I don’t think she owns a single purple thing in her wardrobe. She lives in neutrals, yet is a primary color personality. It is possible to be simple, classic and comfortable in a blue top as much as it is to be so in a tan one. Wear what you like, and it usually looks far better than what you think is easy, safe or comfortable.
  • If you love to travel, then show it with jewelry you pick up on your travels. Are you an artist? How will anyone know in your drab, neutral frocks? Be an extension of your works with the colors and patterns that you wear. Want people to believe you are smart and serious? Then wear smart and serious with clean lines, simple pieces and strong yet minimal accessories. Love the outdoors? You can be stylish and still wear clothes that let you hike and climb at a moment’s notice. Hate consumerism? You can show your beliefs and look good with great items from Goodwill or your sewing machine.
  • Be mindful of what you buy. Before you ever spend a dollar on a piece of furniture, an item in your grocery cart, or a piece of clothing take a minute to stop and think. Visualize this thing in your life – imagine it on your body, your plate or your home. Does it bring you joy? Does it make you better? Does it work with your life or against it? You have to buy pants, you have to buy shoes. Why not buy that which works for you as well as with you? Life can be tough, taking a few moments to think before you spend can make the road a bit easier and more pleasurable to travel. And you never know, that moment of mindfulness may get you a promotion, a date or a faster drink at the bar!