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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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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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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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.

Talbots Spring 2015 Collection: A Second Glance

The other day I was talking to a coworker about how some brands have really dropped in quality and where we go for wardrobe staples. She’s younger than I, stylish with a classic nod but a great use of color and accessories (and a leopard fan like me). She admitted than not only does she shop a lot at Talbots, but the pants she was wearing, a trim well-fitting ankle length pant in navy, were from the store. She reminded me that right now Talbots is having 25% off everything (sale ends March 8th) so I went and took a second look at their spring selection. Talbots sent me their spring lookbook back in January but nothing really wowed me enough to share here on the blog (unlike their fall collection which knocked my socks off). A second look made me realize it wasn’t that I didn’t love the collection, I just didn’t love how the pieces were styled together. Seeing the line in the stores and online separated makes me realize how great their spring line is. My favorites:

talbots spring 2015 stripes

Seeing Stripes

I always love a good striped top or dress; it’s a classic pattern that looks so crisp and fresh. The Talbots Striped Envelope-Shoulders Shift is a perfect dress to transition from now to spring. The interlock knit can pair now with tights, boots, and an infinity scarf for cozy style; come spring pair with chunky-heel sandals for Casual Friday or wear on the weekend with tennis shoes. The gold zipper detail make it look luxe. The ivory/indigo combo is a classic, but I actually think the green/indigo combo would get more wear. Imagine it paired with yellow, turquoise, orange, or hot pink!

The Colorblock & Stripes Dress is a more casual style that would look great with a denim jacket and brown boots or canvas sneakers. I’d wear it with a chambray shirt tied around the waist for interest and to highlight the smallest part of my torso.

I noticed the Pima Cotton Boatneck Tee when researching for my recent capsule wardrobe post and it has still caught my eye. I like that it’s a bright blue instead of the classic navy or black stripe; it would look great paired with white jeans or shorts, but also with khaki, green, and navy. The neckline is begging to showcase a fabulous necklace!

The Blocked Stripes Tee is a fun alternative to the classic Breton tee. With three buttons down the back and the switch in stripe color, this knit top makes a statement all by itself and is a great upgrade to stretched out and faded tees and jersey tops from last year and would look great with a navy blazer and white or denim jeans.

talbots spring 2015 peach ivory blush

Pastel Power

It’s funny, I’m not a big pastels gal… until I see them paired with black and/and white. We’re so used to black and white with jewel tones and primaries so the unexpected combination really looks fresh and modern. Peach is not a color I usually wear, but Talbots’ use of that color, blush, and coral with crisp white and bold black is something I would confidently wear.

The Shadow Box Pleated Skirt alone is… fine. On their site it’s styled with a black short-sleeved sweater that is nice, but nothing to write home about. I saw it and imagined it with their denim shirt or a black and white striped top and a shoe in an unexpected color like the  ‘Camilla’ in Murano Glass. Then I saw the combination above in the PDF supplement to their lookbook and was thinking with a switch of shoes I’d rock it in a heartbeat. Oh the power of a crisp white shirt!

I love pale ivory and white suiting, it’s so elegant and timeless. I’m also a fan of a longer jacket, as evidenced by this post and this post. I completely bypassed this look at first glance because of the styling; while I like it with the pale peach, I think the choice of scarf, bag, and shoes makes it look matronly. Switch out the shoes for a pointed flat in nude patent, the bag for one with more structure, and get rid of the scarf to let the graphic shape of the jacket shine. For those who aren’t feeling the pastels, imagine switching out the top for dove gray, navy, black, or even tan. The jacket would look great over a dress or paired with pants of a different color; the trousers are a length and cut that would look amazing with everything from a simple knit or twinset to a tunic or untucked blouse.

talbots spring 2015 black and white

Black and White and Fab All Over

Talbots’ Long Colorblocked Sweater Jacket is calling my name! So simple, so chic, so versatile. But again, the styling had me miss its beauty first go-round. The round-neck top underneath and the choice of short statement necklace kills the pretty neckline; paired with a lower V- or round-neck or even a collared cotton shirt would better showcase this detail. I’d like to see this paired with a black skirt or an ivory dress which I think would give a modern feel. However, I think this sweater would look equally as nice with a pair of jeans and a black and ivory or red/papaya and ivory striped tee.

These striped pants are not yet available on the Talbots site. Styled with a white tank, v-neck tunic, and oblong scarf the outfit looks like a costume someone would have worn a couple decades ago on a cruise ship. But take those pants and pair them with a black shell and blazer, a sleeveless black silk tank and bold silver statement necklace, a jade green cashmere tee and gold bracelets, a blush pink wrap sweater and a pearl necklace, a crisp white shirt and statement shoes in a bold color or print… the pants are suddenly awesome. I’d rock the heck out of them now with a black cashmere turtleneck and ankle boots.

talbots spring 2015 florals

Groundbreaking Florals for Spring

Can’t help it, every time I think of florals I remember that quote from The Devil Wears Prada! And while floral dresses for spring aren’t anything new, they are always lovely and quite versatile. From baby showers to Easter parades, to brunch with your in-laws, a floral frock is a great piece to have in your wardrobe. I’m not much into flowers but I have to admit Talbots’ florals this season have a bit of edge and style to them to keep them from looking Minnie Pearl.

The Gladiola-Print Sateen Dress was styled in the lookbook with gold heels, a pale blush clutch, a sparkly gold and crystal statement necklace and an updo that was just too much of everything. I found this photo on Talbots’ Pinterest board and it made me realize how lovely this dress truly is. Personally, I’d forego a necklace and have a simpler bracelet to let the dress truly shine. While the coral-colored shoes do match, again I’d let the dress steal the show and pair it with nude or black patent heels; maybe highlight the coral with your lipstick or flushed cheeks. Sometimes, less is more.

I normally wouldn’t like the Sunflower Lace Sheath. I didn’t love it on the site, but when I was able to find a high-res photo and examine it more closely, I saw the details which make this a very pretty and flattering dress. The hem and sleeves are scalloped, not hemmed. The neckline isn’t a high jewel, but has a lower scoop that elongates the neck. The lace is truly lacey and not eyelet, giving a delicate and more timeless feel. I think the Misty Sage may be a hard color for many to wear (though could be a great option for a Mother of the Bride who is looking for such a color), the blue and pink are quite pretty and could work with nude or soft metallic shoes and a bit of jewelry to add a personal touch.

This blue floral dress is utterly amazing. At time of posting it is not yet available on the Talbots website, but as soon as it is I will be trying it. The flowers are at the perfect place to create an hourglass shape, the neckline is a flattering depth, and this is a dress that could be worn to work with a cardigan and pumps or a weekend affair with a change to dressier shoes and a little sparkle on the wrist. I bet it would also look great with a skinny black patent belt.

talbots spring 2015 dresses

The Not-so Little Not-black Dress

After a long winter, it’s refreshing to be able to bare the legs (or almost bare them with very sheer hose) and don a cheery spring color. Talbots has some spectacular dresses that flatter and are in colors that scream spring.

The Wrap Bodice Dress is ah-may-zing. I noticed it first when researching for that capsule wardrobe post, but I think I need it in my life. I love how it whittles the waist without being tight, and how it is so versatile. I’m usually a navy or black dress gal, but this Delphinium Blue is making me smile; I’d likely wear it with my nude pointy-heel pumps and some gold at the wrist but this dress could easily carry a statement necklace, printed scarf, or shoe in a bold hue.

The Crepe Fit and Flare Dress is that perfect versatile dress. Wear with a skinny belt and flats to the office, then switch out for a sparkly necklace and heels for an after-work event. The picture above is in the Geranium color which is pretty, but may not be as versatile; the dress also comes in cobalt and black.

Hello pockets! I love the classic feminine shape of the Cotton Sateen Fit-and-Flare Dress. This could be worn to work with a cardigan, to brunch with flats, or could be dressed up with soft metallic heels and a clutch. Don’t be afraid to switch out the self-belt for one in a contrast color, print, or even use an oblong scarf. While black is a safe bet, the other tropical colors in this material could be quite versatile and a breath of fresh spring air. This dress is classic enough that it would become a staple in your wardrobe for many years to come.

I saw the Ponte Fit and Flare Dress online and thought it was a bit frumptastic. Then I saw the picture above and it seemed to better show the shape of the dress. Also, on this model the dress doesn’t seem to end at a bad point on the leg. A classic shape with pockets (!!!) and a fabric that can be worn year-round, this is a great wardrobe staple. Wear now with a cardigan, tights, and boots; come spring pair with chunky-heel sandals, pointed-toe slingbacks, or pumps and the accessory of your choice.

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Talbots’ fashions are available in regular, petite, women, and women petite sizes. As a reminder, Talbots has 25% off their entire collection through March 8th. No code needed, it will be automatically deducted in your shopping cart. If you shop in-store, Talbots has partnered with Dress for Success and are accepting donations of gently-worn office-appropriate clothing. Your clothing donation will be used to benefit women who aspire to transition into the workforce and pursue economic independence.  What a wonderful way to help fellow women while updating your closet!

Nordstrom and NIC+ZOE for Spring [sponsored]

I think you all know by now my love for Nordstrom. The selection of brands, the variety of sizes (and pricepoints!), the free shipping and returns, and the world-famous customer service can’t be beat. Nordstrom asked me to check out their NIC+ZOE collection and share with you my favorites. This wasn’t hard, as I have NIC+ZOE already residing in my closet and have featured pieces from the brand in previous capsule wardrobe and advice posts. Spring is right around the corner, and NIC+ZOE has some fantastic pieces in regular, petite, and plus sizes to update your wardrobe for the next season.

NIC and ZOE dresses

In last week’s capsule post I discussed the benefits of a dress that highlights the waist. While I recommended such a dress for a pear shape, it actually works on most figures by creating an hourglass and highlighting the smallest part of the torso. NIC+ZOE have a bunch of great dresses this spring that do just that:

  • The ‘Pebble Pieced’ Knit Swirl Dress not only has a figure-flattering fit and flare shape, but black lines that elongate the frame and highlight the waistline. I like that the print is fun, but not something that will look dated in a year, and the fabric can transition between seasons. Customer reviews say the fabric doesn’t cling and the dress is comfortable. With pockets and a knee-grazing hem, this is a dress that could be worn to the office, but also paired with heels and a bold lip for a wedding or Date Night. Available in Regular and Plus sizes.
  • I love dresses that gather or knot at the waistline; this is such a flattering detail and not one that detracts from the dress’ print or any accessories paired with it. In fact, my wedding dress had this figure-flattering feature! NIC+ZOE has a few dresses with this detail. The ‘Spring Rain’ Faux Wrap Sheath Dress is one you need to see in person (or magnified on the site) to appreciate its beauty. With the gathered side, stretch lining, and subtle blue, black, and white print, this is a dress that will flatter your figure and your lifestyle. Pair with a black blazer for the office, wear with nude pumps and a sparkly necklace to a day wedding, or wear with tan sandals and a straw bag for a summer brunch. Available in regular and petite sizes. The ‘Utopia Twist’ Jersey Dress has the same waist feature, but bracelet-length sleeves and an awesome cobalt, black, white, and gray graphic print. Just as versatile, this dress could also work now with black tights and booties. Available in plus sizes.
  • I referenced the Belted Surplice Bodice Pleat Dress in my latest capsule wardrobe post and love it so much I have it sitting in my Nordstrom virtual shopping cart, considering buying it for myself. The blue color is phenomenal, the wrap neckline elongates the frame and since the fabric has stretch will work with a larger bust without showing too much, the belt highlights the smallest part of the torso (and can easily be switched out for a different color or metallic), and the pieced pleating creates an hourglass shape. This is the kind of dress that will be worn like crazy all spring and summer. With the fabric, it’s brilliant for taking on travel as it won’t wrinkle and can dress up and down easily with a switch of accessories. Regular and petite sizes.

NIC and ZOE pants

Why is it so hard to find a decent pair of black pants? Based on the reviews at Nordstrom, it seems NIC+ZOE is a good choice for this closet staple and other wardrobe basics.

  • ‘The Wonderstretch’ Straight Leg Pants are another NIC+ZOE piece that is in my Nordstrom shopping cart. I am all about a work-appropriate pant that pulls on. Nice and stretchy, resistant to wrinkles, available in regular and petite sizes, and glowing online reviews makes this a great buy. They’re also available in navy, and a slim leg version.
  • You have to be pretty confident to describe a piece in your collection as perfect; NIC+ZOE’s ‘The Perfect’ collection does seem to be pretty fantastic wardrobe staples. An online reviewer says ‘The Perfect’ Ankle Pant (regular and petite sizes in seven different colors) has a nice heft keeping it opaque even in lighter colors and put together well with nice detailing. In the same fabrication but with a side zip and clean waistband, ‘The Perfect’ Pant also gets stellar reviews. Available in four colors and petite sizes 0-16. Finally, NIC+ZOE has ‘The Perfect’ Ponte Pant, which is a very slim pull-on style with front seams to elongate the leg. More like a heavyweight legging, this would be a great option to wear with longer sweaters and tunics. Pair now with tall or ankle booties, and come spring style with pointed-toe slingbacks or pumps. Like the other ‘Perfect’ pants, the online reviews are glowing. Regular and petite sizes available.

NIC and ZOE spring 2015

NIC+ZOE is great for other wardrobe staples too – they have a great selection of skirts, jackets, cardigans, and blouses in regular, petite, and plus sizes. The pants are just an example of what the brand offers. But what I like is their “something extra” sort of pieces; a sweater with an unexpected detail, the unique draping of a blouse, the print of a tunic or cropped pant that doesn’t reduce its versatility but adds fun and personality to these wardrobe staples. The ruffles and flattering seaming of this top that gets rave reviews and is perfect on its own or slipped under a blazer or cardigan. The amazing print on this top that makes a jaw-dropping ensemble even when paired with a simple black skirt or pair of trousers. The “business in the front/party in the back” feature of this blouse that is made for a desk-to-drinks sort of day (or perfect to pack for versatility on vacation). How combining this top with this skirt (tucked in or left out as seen above) would create the look of a dress (such a great option for people who are different sizes on top and bottom), but also work so nicely separated in different outfits. And the way that this cardigan can be styled four ways to look amazing with everything from a tank and boyfriend jeans to being slipped over a maxi dress this spring. Peruse the widget above for some more great pieces.

This post is sponsored by Nordstrom, but I hope you can tell by my excitement that I enjoyed sharing this line with you and all opinions are my own!

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

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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How to Wear Wardrobe Classics with This Fall’s Trends

I really promote having a closet of wardrobe classics here at Wardrobe Oxygen, but I think it’s also important to add zest to your sartorial staples with seasonal trends that catch your fancy. This fall, there are so many trends that are extremely wearable and can really add interest to your wardrobe classics. Here’s a few of this season’s trends that I think will update all the basics in your closet!

 

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Leather Jacket

Leather is hot hot hot this fall, and I couldn’t be happier. I have already added two leather skirts to my wardrobe this season, and am looking for a leather jacket and possibly a leather top. While all leather is en vogue right now, a leather jacket is a piece that will not update your wardrobe for the season, but can easily become a wardrobe classic for many seasons to come.

A leather jacket is more of an investment piece – while there are many faux versions on the market, most of them look like faux, and they don’t insulate and fight wind as well as leather. Also a real leather jacket will age nicely, getting softer and molding to your figure. If you choose a style that is either pretty simple and streamlined or incredibly unique (signature color, exaggerated details, etc.) this can be a piece you wear for years.

Biker-inspired jackets are back en vogue though they never really left the fashion scene. A blazer is also a great look that is trendy now and will still be stylish next winter. While black is always chic, this is a great season to try an unexpected hue like oxblood or dark green. Pair with everything from knits and jeans on the weekend to using as a blazer to toughen up office-appropriate sheath dresses.

Cap Toe Shoes

I saw this trend start earlier this year and was pretty excited. I love when fashion grabs hold of a trend that is extremely simple to replicate at any pricepoint. The small addition of a cap to a pair of heels or flats take them from ordinary to extraordinary. While this is a popular trend for fall, it’s not necessarily one that will be seen as passé in a couple months’ time. I recently splurged on a pair of suede Mary Janes with a gold cap toe, but I have seen cap toe shoes everywhere from Chanel to Payless. Not only that, you can DIY a pair of cap toe shoes quite easily! I do recommend if these shoes are for the corporate environment to spend a bit more – cheap shoes often look that way, wear more quickly, and you can lose credibility or authority speaking to clients in cheap-looking shoes.

Wear cap toe shoes in place of your traditional flats or heels – a pop of color or shine will add depth to your classic ensemble. I love the look of tone on tone cap toes, it’s a great alternative to a classic leather ballet flat!

Wine-colored Lips

It is amazing how lipstick can completely transform not only one’s face but her entire ensemble. Adding a new color of lipstick to your beauty routine will quickly give a new life to your wardrobe classics. This season lips are the color of wines – deep reds, dark berries, and rich plums. While glosses were hot for the summer, this fall lips are more creamy. Stain balms, creamy or matte lipsticks and lip crayons take center stage; pack up your high-shine glosses and shimmery sticks for spring. Lipsticks can come at most any pricepoint, and I do find that department store brands do usually have longer wear and are better to your lips, but there’s some great drugstore products out there that will let you try this trend for less. I have the Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Romance (deep red) and Crush Begun (dark wine) and love them for their longevity, and of-the-moment stain with a hint of shine look.

Colored Skinny Jeans

This summer brought denim in candy colors, this fall the colored denim trend has continued but with shades more appropriate for the season of falling leaves. Skinny stretchy jeans in Bordeaux, navy, dark green, mustard and brown are being paired with slouchy sweaters and ballet flats, blazers and booties, and knits with tall boots. This is a trend that can easily transform your closet of wardrobe staples without paying an arm and a leg. While colored jeans are available from most any designer at all sorts of pricetags, I am a fan of the Old Navy Rockstar skinny jeans – at less than $30 they can help you update your wardrobe classics for very little money.

 

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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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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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Spring Trend Forecast by Nordstrom [Sponsored]

Nordstrom asked me to take a look at their spring collections and share some of my favorite trends with you. I’m not one for following trends blindly; while I do believe it’s good to be aware of current trends and think one should incorporate a few seasonal looks into a wardrobe of style I don’t think you should add them willy-nilly. I think many of us can think back to purchases we made when caught up in the excitement of a new season or look that we later came to regret. For this post I chose pieces that look fresh and modern now, but will still be chic a year from now.

trouve spring 2015 nordstrom

1. The High-waist Pencil Skirt. This season, waistlines have inched up, which can seem awkward after so many seasons of low rises, but you will soon realize is an awesome trend. Better highlighting the smallest part of your torso and preventing muffin top, a high-waisted pencil can make any woman feel like Marilyn. A graphic floral like this one camouflages bumps and can be paired with everything from a chambray shirt or graphic tee to a crisp white shirt or tailored blazer. Being a stripes fan, I’d totally try it with a Breton tee!

2. The Wide Leg Trouser. Come now, when has Katharine Hepburn NOT been chic? Gain inspiration from her signature look this spring with a pair of wide-leg trousers. For slim or tall figures, pair with driving mocs and a slouchy silk blouse; for those who are petite or have more curves consider a pair of pointed-toe wedges or pumps to elongate the leg and a more tailored top to better show your shape. These pants would look great with a striped boat or scoop neck knit top and a skinny belt in a pop of brilliant color.

3. The Moto Jacket. Another trend that isn’t new and isn’t going anywhere, the moto jacket has gone from outwear to a chic alternative to the blazer. In a bold hue like this one from 1.State, it’s a great way to update a wardrobe of neutrals. Keep it classic with a Breton tee and jeans, go modern by pairing with slouchy black pants and a white silk tank, or wear it over a gray dress or pencil skirt for a gorgeous yet unexpected look for the office.

4. The Boyfriend Blazer.  This is a trend that has been around for a few seasons and continues to have staying power. In crisp white the look is fresh and modern. Style this jacket with jeans and a band tee, pair with ankle pants and a floaty silk shell, or slip over a sheath dress to give the frock a new hip feel.

5. The Ankle Bootie. I already wrote about this spring trend, but it bears repeating. The cutouts on this one by Trouvé make it a hybrid between boot and sandal which extends their wear into the warmer months. Also available in leg-lengthening nude, this shoe can be worn with everything from slouchy pants to boyfriend jeans to skirts and dresses of any length.

6. The Midi Skirt. Last year’s midi skirts were pleated and full, and proved difficult to wear by some figures. This year’s midi has reduced its volume, not just make it more figure flattering but also more acceptable to be worn at the office. White is hot this spring, and a skirt in this color will be extremely versatile. Style with a crisp shirt and wide belt and pumps for the day, a silk tee with a sparkly necklace and heels for evening, or a simple cotton tank and flat sandals for the weekend.

7. The Slouchy Printed Pant.  Slouchy trousers and track pants can be unflattering if you have softness and curves; what I’ve found is choosing them in a print confuses the eye and creates a smooth look. I’d pair these pants with a simple black tank, peeptoe ankle booties and statement –making longer necklace for a casual cool look, or style with a white blazer (like the boyfriend one featured above) and pointed-toe shoes for a look that can work in a more creative office environment.

8. The Statement Shell.  This is one of my favorite trends for spring as it’s so wearable and versatile. Graphic prints, contrast trims, mixed materials, and crossover backs keep these sleeveless tops interesting while still appropriate under a power suit. I love the black trim on this one; pair with a black skirt or pants for an instant chic ensemble, though the black trim would make it look equally as great with white.

Shop the Looks in this Post:

While this post was sponsored by Nordstrom, I chose all the pieces to be featured and all thoughts are my own.

What I Wore: Feeling Blue

Blouse: MICHAEL Michael Kors | Pants: c/o Karen Kane | Shoes: MICHAEL Michael Kors “Flex” | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Rings: Etsy, vintage via Etsy | Bracelets: Bead and Turquoise c/o Lifetherapy, had forever, “Emerson” c/o Stella and Dot, Enamel Bangles c/o RocksBox | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

Maybe it’s the new mani (the nailcolor reminds me of my old Saturn’s paint job), but I have really been digging the color blue this week. These pants are ah-may-zing. I wore them on the train up to NYC the other week and they were so comfy, didn’t wrinkle, and I felt fresh enough to wear them straight to a meeting. While today is quite cool and lovely in DC, this entire outfit has become a go-to for me on sweltering hot days. This top is also ah-may-zing, I was so sad that I didn’t get it in hot pink and white when I saw them on sale at Nordstrom – I ordered the white in Large Petite but it’s just too short.  However when writing this post, I found the top at Lord & Taylor in green and purple and snagged another (Code FIRSTLOOK for an extra % off).  Seriously, great top for summer, figure flattering, but also wonderful under a blazer for cooler weather.  I have worn this top with a pleated chiffon maxi skirt, a pencil skirt, harem pants, and these pants.  The fabric is on the verge of sheer, you’ll want to wear a tee-shirt bra close to your skin color (or black with the black color) to if you do consider getting it but it’s not too sheer (at least in the darker colors) to wear to the office.

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Hiding from the Heat

Tee: Old Navy | Skirt: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Scarf: Nordstrom (similar) | Bracelets: Silver Cuff (similar), Pilar Leather Bracelet c/o Lulu Avenue, Indigo and Turquoise Bracelet c/o Lifetherapy | Necklace: Etsy | Rings: Had forever, Argento Vivo (similar) | Shoes: Miss Sixty (similar)

Yesterday I wore a nice outfit to work. White blazer, striped tee, the most amazing black pants from Karen Kane. I felt sassy and professional yet me. Karl and I went outside to take pictures and by time I got to the sidewalk I was a sweaty grody mess. My hair had gone flat, my face was shiny, my glasses steamed up. I deleted every picture. Today, I didn’t have meetings at work and wanted to dress more comfortably for the weather and my life so I grabbed some easy wardrobe favorites. And I decided to take pictures indoors. Obviously, we’re trying to perfect the lighting. Our living room is well lit with a bay window and two glass doors, but all pictures end up looking wonky. Karl had one of his photography lights still out from a recent shoot so we set it up but didn’t have a lot of time to play before I had to head out the door. We’ll keep working on it so it’s not so extreme, but don’t be surprised if the majority of my outfit posts this summer are in front of Karl’s grandfather!

I haven’t taken this Lifetherapy bracelet off in weeks.  It makes me feel like high school, when I’d wear my early ’90s arm party of friendship and gummy bracelets in the shower, the ocean, the pool, even to a relative’s fancy wedding… and I kinda like that.  In fact, it had me pull out some of my old sterling rings that I still have and still fit.  I’m also doing a bit of a 2013 take on the arm party these days, with more unique pieces instead of trying to have metal from palm to elbow.  Lulu Avenue sent me this leather and chain bracelet which I think fits my personal style quite nicely and I like how the size is adjustable.

Speaking of jewelry, I have not been able to find my silver chain with my charms ANYWHERE.  That’s pretty typical for early ’90s Alison, but not for 2013 Alison.  I thought I was going insane and scoured the house from top to bottom before Forecastle.  Just as I was sitting in a sweaty mess in my bedroom crying, I get an email from RocksBox – they received my last box back and a strange silver necklace with an Egyptian and a Maryland charm was in it.  I have NO IDEA how that happened, but I am thrilled and RocksBox is sending it back with my next box!  For those who haven’t heard of RocksBox, it’s kind of like Gwynnie Bee for jewelry – fill out a questionnaire about your style and each month you get cool designer jewelry delivered to your door.  Return for more next month, keep what you wish to purchase.  Pretty cool concept, and pretty cool people who run it too!

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What I Wore: Leggings Are Not Pants

nordstrom collection cashmere cardigan svelte leggings svelte leggings review

Sweater: Nordstrom Collection | Tee: Old Navy | Leggings: c/o Svelte | Boots: Ros Hommerson | Bag: c/o ADORA | Necklaces: Fortuna Drop Pendants c/o Deb Vaughan Stella & Dot, Sparklepop c/o POPSUGAR Must-Have Box

Leggings are not pants! I’ve said this many times, yet I dare to stand here in the middle of the street in a pair of them? On weekends I’ll admit I wear them with tunics and long sweater coats like this one.  When dashing around town from Girl Scouts to dance class to Target to the dry cleaner’s to the market (and a stop at Starbucks to keep going) I want something comfortable, easy, and machine washable.  These leggings from Svelte are nice; the double-knit ponte maintains opacity even when stretched and the built in tummy tucking panel keeps things smooth.  I’ve washed these leggings multiple times and they maintained their color without a single pill or fuzz ball.  If you’re considering them, I recommend if you’re between sizes go down since the quality material and construction prevents all the issues with most leggings.

Karl calls this sweater my Matrix jacket; it has become one of the most-worn things in my closet with these frigid temps.  The cashmere is super thick and plush and warm and the real leather lined sleeves are are also warm and protect me from the wind and I wrap the waterfall part around me to stay cozy.  Tall boots add a layer of warmth (there’s cashmere knee socks under there) and a level of style to what essentially is luxe loungewear and comfy cozy weekend garb!

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?

 

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.

Top Row, Left to Right: Rosy Cheeks | Man Repeller | The Not Vanilla | ELLE España via Le Fashion
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.