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Ask Allie: How to Style a Kilt

I have a knee-length red plaid woolen kilt I picked up on a college trip to Scotland almost 20 years ago. I trek it out once a season or so, usually around the holidays, but I like it and am trying to think of ways to get more wear out of it beyond the expected “Going to the Nutcracker” kind of look. Any ideas?

Yes, that skirt deserves to come out more than once a year! However I do understand the issue with looking too holiday, as though you’re wearing a costume, or trying to be Mid Life Crisis Britney. The best way to wear accomplish this is to style it as though it is not a kilt. Steer clear of traditional pairings and add something unexpected and it will look fresh and modern.

how to style a kilt women

Gray will tone down the red and keep it from feeling Christmas-y. While a cashmere crewneck and white button-front is pretty classic, pairing the look with modern black leather ankle boots keeps it current. Hair and makeup can really make this look; keep both relaxed and a bit disheveled. Beachy waves and a bit of kohl will go a long way and look far more modern than polished hair and red lips.

how to style a kilt scottish woman

Add a bit of a tough edge to your classic kilt with leather. A black leather jacket and biker boots will be a modern contrast. Unlike the above look, style such an ensemble with very polished hair and face to keep it from looking like a costume; smooth hair with red lips and gently flushed cheeks will look fresh.

how to style a scottish kilt women

A bit of purposeful rumpling will take a look from prep overload to modern cool. A gray tweed blazer with a tailored fit is a great pairing for your kilt; roll the sleeves and maybe pop the collar to keep it from feeling like a uniform. A classic Breton tee is a pattern that will mix nicely with the plaid and also keep it from feeling too much like a uniform. A pair of tall boots with a solid heel will finish the look and keep you warm.

Ask Allie: How to Style Cowboy Boots

I have a cowgirl ball to attend soon. I live in Texas and think I may need to add cowboy boots to my wardrobe. However my style is more classic and ladylike (think Talbots, Ann Taylor) and have a hard time doing “cowboy”. Can you recommend something for this cowgirl ball plus how to add cowboy boots to my wardrobe going forward?

Up north, a ball usually means black tie. However I’ve noticed further south ball can mean a multitude of things. Thanks to your information, I was able to confirm that the type of ball you’re attending is more casual than you’d expect. Think sundresses, jeans with cute tops, denim shirts with skirts. It would be completely acceptable to choose a dress like this one from Talbots, this one from Boden, or this one from Ann Taylor or something already residing in your closet.  If you wish to have it look more “cowgirl” consider topping it with a denim jacket, but honestly from the looks of the pictures while some will go all-out with cowgirl regalia, most seem to wear clothing you could find at your favorite mall retailer, just paired with boots.

When you’re new to an area it can be pretty intimidating to attend such events; thanks to social media it’s easy to search for photos or articles about previous years of the event or similar functions. Even if you don’t have a Twitter account, if the event you are attending has a hashtag, enter it into the search function at the top of and all the tweets using that hashtag will show up. Some of them may include photos showing what attendees wore. If there isn’t a specific hashtag, enter the name of the event and likely tweets will show up. Instagram isn’t as easy to search if you don’t have an account; visit and put in the hashtag (or try making the event’s name into a hashtag like #XYZcowgirlball) and you should find relevant photos. I admit I do this quite often; it’s a great way to get a feel not just for the attire but the feel of the function and you can be prepared.

As for cowboy boots, it’s actually not that difficult to incorporate them into a classic wardrobe. I’d recommend your first pair to be a single color, simple in design, and the leather color that best matches your current wardrobe (black or brown). There’s no need to go out and buy a whole wardrobe of chambray, eyelet, and bandana prints to wear such pieces. Go slow, and incorporate them at first in the same manner you would a tall pair of boots. Here’s some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

How to style cowboy boots

Here, I took a classic look of narrow jeans and a crisp white shirt which would often be styled with riding boots, and switched them out for cowboy boots. The white shirt could be topped with a blazer or cardigan and easily replaced with a simple knit top. The point is to show you can easily pair cowboy boots with your regular casual or business casual attire. There’s no need to change your normal accessories because you changed your boots; go ahead and wear your pearls, your sparkly statement necklaces, your delicate chains. The same holds true for your bag; wear a style and shape that fits your personality first.

how to style cowboy boots

A cowboy boot looks great with a skirt with some volume, but that doesn’t mean you need to look like a square dancer. Fit and flare, pleats, gathers, and a-lines nicely balance the weight of a cowboy boot. Like me, you likely already own pieces like this in your wardrobe and paired them before with sandals or nude pumps. A switch to cowboy boots won’t look unusual; if you feel the cowboy boots are too rugged for your look up the femininity quota with a pastel bag and floral necklace. As an FYI, this look is an easy one to dress up for an event; switch out the skirt for a full length version, change the shirt into a crisp white one (or keep the denim if appropriate to the occasion) and have a super sparkly necklace and you’re evening-ready.

how to style cowboy boots

A boot also looks great with a looser shift dress. If you choose it in a drapey fabric like silk or rayon it won’t look too boxy. Even add a longer or heavier necklace to hold down the dress and reduce volume on top. Again, no need to buy a whole new wardrobe of bags and necklaces to accommodate your boots.

how to style cowboy boots

I must say this look was inspired by a woman I saw several years ago in the city. She had a similar outfit but in all greys with some well-worn brown cowboy boots when one would usually wear riding boots. The look was so chic and looked so right. A midi skirt is a great pairing for cowboy boots; the soft gathering gives a bit of volume to balance the footwear without overwhelming the frame. Keeping all the colors similar helps the boots blend into the look. A necklace with a natural element to it helps the boots look purposeful.

Do you wear cowboy boots? What are your recommendations for styling them?

How to Look Rich

Dress sharply and they’ll remember the outfit; dress impeccably and they’ll remember the woman.
– Coco Chanel

The other day I was sitting on the subway across from an attractive woman. She was wearing a yellow sheath dress in a heavy textured/boucle weave – something I could see on a stylish professional woman like Michelle Obama. In her lap were two pristine Louis Vuitton bags – one purse and one tote. She was wearing a gold watch that looked expensive, a few gold rings, bracelets and a pair of gold hoops. On her feet were black patent leather Tory Burch flats (a popular commuter shoe in Washington DC).

Her outfit probably cost in the thousands… yet she looked cheap. Why?

It’s all in the details.

Her hair was not fresh – she had obvious roots and raggedy edges. She pulled it into a messy low ponytail with a cheap Goody elastic (you know the ones with the gold threads through them?). Her shoes were scuffed and looked as though the backs sometimes were stepped down on and they had their share of being stuffed into an overfull tote. Her nails were manicured, but a flat salmon pink color that neither flattered her skintone nor the current trends. Her blush was too red, her eyeliner too pronounced. Her dress was a twinge too tight – puckered slightly at the bust, caught the bottom curve of her bum. All these details combined with the first paragraph details took expensive and lovely pieces and made it all into a very ordinary and cheap looking ensemble.

So what can a woman do to look as though she is worth a million… whether she is or not?

I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.
– Coco Chanel

Who cares who made your purse if your skin or hair is a mess? The best investment is the body you have – no matter your dress, you will be wearing your hair, your face and your skin. Great skin doesn’t have to come from $200 bottles of potions and monthly spa treatments. Cut back on the sodas and spirits and add more water to your diet. Be sure to wash off your makeup before you go to bed. Don’t overwash your skin – your skin should never be tight after cleansing. Visit a dermatologist if you have skin concerns. Take the time that you use to peruse celebrity gossip Web sites and read up on cosmetic ingredients – irritation, acne and redness can often be due to an allergic reaction in a product you use.

As for your body, keep it exfoliated, keep it hydrated inside and out, and love it no matter its shape. It is far easier to love the body you have if the skin is soft and happy. Again, see a dermatologist and read up on ingredients to be sure you are purchasing the right products.

Hair is the accessory you wear every single day – to work, to play, for formal events and trips to the market. Why is it that we will spend hundreds on jewelry, a pair of boots or a bag but will sacrifice our Crowning Glory to Great Clips and whatever box of Dark Golden Brown that was on sale at CVS? If your budget cannot afford professional color treatments, research brands that are gentle and natural looking. Invest in a highly-recommended conditioner. Take vacations from the heating tools so you aren’t fried. Reconsider that champagne blonde/cherry red/blue-black hue – a softer shade may be much more flattering, require less maintenance and look more rich.

If it’s a bad hair day – no need to hide under a hat (or Goody elastic). There are ways to work the tresses without screaming to the world that you had no time for a shampoo or roots touch-up. Dry shampoos are back en vogue and can be found at many specialty retailers and online beauty boutiques. Colored ones not only are less obvious on darker shades, but they also help hide roots. Thanks to Gossip Girl, even those over 21 can sport headbands and look chic. A skinny plastic one with teeth in black, blonde or tortoise can hold back too-short bangs and make a bit of slick look purposeful. A low ponytail right at the nape always looks chic – if you take a piece of your own hair from the bottom of the ponytail, you can wrap it around the elastic and secure it with one Bobby pin and make Goody look glam. Finally, make time for your hair – get off the computer, get away from the TV, wake up 15 minutes earlier. It is amazing how much more sunny your outlook is on life when you feel confident about your appearance.

Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.
– Coco Chanel

Shoes make the man… and the woman. Shoes should be appropriate to the outfit first, then worry about quality, and brand name should be last on the list. The woman on the subway would have looked far more chic if she was wearing tan leather sandals. They could have been flat or with a slight chunky heel or wedge and been just as comfortable as the Tory Burch flats, but have coordinated with the outfit far better. We live in a society right now that is very caught up in brand names; often those brand name items don’t serve us much of a purpose. Flats are great with a flowy dress, a pair of capris, your favorite jeans. But if you have curves and are wearing a straight-fitting dress, flats will make you look as though you were cut off at the ankle bone.

Once you have your shoe collection, no matter the pricepoint you should take care of them. Get them reheeled and resoled at a local cobbler. Keep them in a place where they won’t get dusty or tripped over. Store them properly when out of season. I had a pair of black boots I bought at Payless five years ago and I just had to retire them a year ago. They had a chic narrow heel, an elongated toe, the pleather was soft and looked like a more expensive patent. They were less than $20 but looked perfect with certain trousers for nights out on the town. I babied them as much as I did my designer pumps, and in turn they gave me many years of great use (and compliments!).

I love luxury. And luxury lies not in richness and ornateness but in the absence of vulgarity. Vulgarity is the ugliest word in our language. I stay in the game to fight it.
– Coco Chanel

If cheap, go neutral. Yellow, green, and pink are hot colors this season, but if the item is of cheap quality it will look it far faster than the same piece in black, tan, beige or gray. Those black boots from Payless that I owned also came in racy red and navy. One may think that the red would be fun with black trousers or neutrals, but the red LOOKED as though they were $14.99 pleather boots from Payless, while the black just looked like boots. I have found many a great dress at Target, but the ones that survive to the next season are those in very neutral colors. Colors can easily fade, can easily look dated, and better show shoddy workmanship or lower-end fabric.

Fashion passes, style remains.
– Coco Chanel

Minimize the trends. The rich are stylish; those who WANT to be rich are trendy. Steer clear from obvious logos, extreme trends and anything that is worn by Paris, Lauren, Lindsay or Britney. You don’t want the look of the moment – the rich and stylish never adhere to extreme trends (and if they DO adopt a trend, they do it small or in a neutral hue). Buy a cardigan in the hot color of the season, switch up your lip product, consider a statement necklace or cool bracelet in the popular metal of the moment. There are ways to update your look without making yourself look like a fashion victim.

In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.
– Coco Chanel

In turn, those who always have the latest look get lost in the shuffle. Your expensive Tory Burch flats are yet another pair hopping onto the subway or into a cab. That monogram Coach purse is so popular, every lower-end designer is making a knockoff of it. Let’s not even get into Ugg boots… point is – trends are not stylish, and they do not make you look wealthy or successful.

Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.
– Coco Chanel

Accept your size, and your budget. Sample sale items that are a size too small, hot designer shoes on sale that are an inch taller than you feel comfortable wearing, oversized sweaters because you haven’t come to terms with your new shape (and gosh that sweater is cashmere!)… these are not items that make you look stylish or rich.

When accessorizing, always take off the last thing you put on.
– Coco Chanel

One less ring, one less chain, that cardigan around your shoulders, that anklet. The rich and stylish keep it simple. The woman on the subway would have been far more elegant if she had worn only that expensive watch, and not the five gold bracelets on the other wrist.

Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.
– Coco Chanel

There is nothing more appealing than a vibrant woman. Are you sitting down reading this? Well pretend you have a string coming from the top of your head that is lifting you gently from the ground. Sit up – you are a phenomenal woman. Good posture improves the fit of your clothing, how you are perceived by others, and how you end up feeling. Every time you look at your reflection – find that one part of you that is unique and you love. Get off the computer and get into your community. Ask a neighbor or coworker for a book suggestion and try an author or genre you have never before experienced. Take five minutes every evening to think about your day – it may be in meditation, in prayer, with a journal or just as you doze off. Think about the positive things, how you impacted those around you, and how this world is different because of your interaction with it. Who cares what or who you are wearing if you aren’t an interesting, involved and positive woman!

How to Wear White Pants and Jeans without Being a Stain Magnet

Wardrobe Oxygen: How to Wear White Pants and Jeans and not be a Stain Magnet

I love white pants, and own several pairs of white jeans. Each time I wear them someone asks me how I do it without looking like a slob. It’s a good question, I am the Queen of Klutz. I’m known to trip on my own shadow, and can never drink a cup of coffee without spilling at least a dribble on my shirt. Yet I can not only wear white pants and jeans, but wear them a second time without bleaching them to death in between. My tips for white pants and jeans success:

Carry Stain Remover

My go-to is a Tide-to-Go pen. Small enough to fit into a pencil loop in a work tote or slip next to my lipsticks in my makeup bag, I have one in my office pencil cup, one in my purse, one in my kitchen junk drawer, and usually a couple other ones floating around in various bags and drawers around the house. Use it liberally and if it doesn’t all go away, wait an hour and reapply.

Wash Hands Often

I drink a lot of water when at work. Each time I refill my bottle I wash my hands. Each time I visit the restroom I wash my hands. When I put my lunch in the microwave I wash my hands. After eating I wash my hands. After highlighting invoices or budgets I wash my hands. Most stains come from unconsciously rubbing hands on legs when stressed, sweaty, or smoothing your clothes.

Use a Cloth Napkin

Paper napkins are a joke unless you’re wiping away a tab of guac from the corner of your mouth. When you pack your lunch for work throw in a cloth napkin or a hand towel. Keep one in your bag and drop it on your lap when dining at a paper napkin establishment. A cloth napkin will absorb most spills while paper will not only float off your lap but let a drip soak right through. Which is more awkward, being the person with a cloth napkin at Chipotle, or being the person with a salsa stain on her thigh?  Not only will you be protecting your pants, you’ll be protecting the earth!

Steer Clear of Newspapers

I love grabbing the free daily paper and enjoying it on the subway ride to work, but any time I’m wearing white I’ll end up wearing the newsprint. Even if you’re careful, it will get on your hands which may touch your trousers. Stick to your novel or be even safer with an e-reader on white jeans days.

Spot Clean When Possible

Too much laundering and too much bleach will destroy your white jeans or pants before the season is over. Spot clean any issues as soon as you are home, use enough water to rinse away any cleaning products, and let air dry. I swear by this homemade stain removal concoction of Dawn and hydrogen peroxide; I use it on everything from white linen or denim to ivory tropical wool and silk blends.

Consider The Rest of your Ensemble

Other fabrics can transfer onto white. The biggest culprits are rinse-colored denim, suede and nubuck handbags and boots, and unlined leather. While double denim is hot right now, it’s not the best choice to pair your dark denim jacket with your white jeans. A piece that is weathered, stonewashed, vintage, or lined will be a safer bet.

Buy Machine Washable

If you’re worried about spots, do not even consider white clothing that requires special care. If you spot treat (the spot remover I mentioned I also use as a pretreater), there’s no need for hot water and bleach for white garments. I usually do a hot water/bleach wash at the beginning of each season but otherwise stick to pretreating, cold water and line drying of my white pants and jeans. Even I won’t dare to get away with dry clean only white pants!

Do What You Always Do

Do you wear khaki? Gray? Beige?  Lighter colored denim? How do you get away without looking like a mess in those? Stains happen, it’s a fact of life. Last week I wore white jeans to the office and when I took them off that evening I noticed that I had splattered foundation on one thigh that morning. I walked around for ten hours with tan dots all over my right leg and NO ONE NOTICED.  White pants and jeans can seem terrifying, but are quite versatile, stylish, and wearable even if you’re a stain magnet.  White is no longer reserved for the months between Memorial and Labor Days, so now’s the time to get brave and consider a pair of white jeans for your wardrobe!

How Does One Get the Polished Look?

This, or different variations of this question show up in my keywords on my blog’s stat counter every day. It seems that most women are searching for the Holy Grail of style instead of working on those spreadsheets or proposals at work!

Looking polished… well some women are born with that skill. They are able to wear a simple tee shirt, jeans and flats and look like Audrey Hepburn. Their hair never frizzes, their lipstick never gets on their teeth, they have perfect yet natural posture, and possess effortless confidence and style.

I am not one of those people. I always spill my Starbucks latte on my sleeve while walking into work. Friends are always picking a piece of lint out of my hair or a crumb off my sweater. I wear more bruises and scratches than articles of clothing and due to my shape can quickly look dumpy or dowdy in a simple tee shirt or sweater.

The first step toward achieving a polished look is to destroy that mental picture of Grace Kelly, Jackie Onassis, Cate Blanchett and Audrey Hepburn. If you are asking how to look polished, I can bet you weren’t one of those born with their frame, their personality, their “polished” look. To attempt to force yourself into an ideal will never be successful, look authentic, or be enjoyable.

For a week, keep a style journal. Note what you wore (and what condition it was in), how you styled your face and hair and what events took place during the day. Notice how people look at you, respond to you, what comments or compliments you receive (not just on your outfit, but on your work, your talent in another aspect of your life, your health or weight). Also note how you felt when you looked in the mirror before leaving that day, and how you felt when you returned in the evening.

If you leave your house in something that you don’t love and does not love you, you will not look polished, composed or comfortable. Maybe it’s a dress that is a smidge too tight, a blouse that requires a few carefully hidden safety pins to keep your bra from public view, a sweater made from a fabric that itches and of a color you don’t really like but seems popular this season. I always say style comes from quality and not quantity; donate or re-gift those items that make you uncomfortable and save up for worthy replacements.

How does the garment wear throughout the day? Does that chic pencil skirt end up resembling your venetian blinds by noon? Are you constantly adjusting the neckline of your blouse so all your feminine bits are not on display? Did the sleeves of your sweater stretch out so much from pushing them up on your forearms that now they are saggy bells around your fingertips? Again, these items do not deserve a place in your closet. Who cares how sassy you feel at 8am if you feel like a recycled grocery bag by happy hour.

But what pieces make you walk tall and feel good? Maybe it’s that matte jersey wrap dress you found for $10 on a clearance rack at Macy’s, or a cashmere turtleneck in robin’s egg blue that you bought with your holiday bonus. Possibly it’s a frilly feminine confection that makes you feel as though you have been transported from a different time period, or a black suit that has been tailored to fit your shape like a glove. When I say “good,” I don’t mean comfortable. I don’t mean an item that reminds you of your mom because she knit it for you back in college, or because it’s of cozy fleece and hides your lumps. Women often mistake feeling good for feeling safe. Again and again we see on What Not to Wear and How Do I Look? women who cry over a pair of threadbare flannel pajama pants or a college sweatshirt with a paint splatter across the stomach. These are not clothes that make you feel beautiful, strong, confident, sexy, creative, unique, daring or feminine. These are clothes that attempt to recreate the womb or your bed. Whether we like it or not, we have to get out of bed and we have to face the world. Best to armor ourselves with the type of garments that make us feel strong and true, not passive and unimportant.

So you have gutted your closet of the ugly, the uncomfortable, the meek, the shape-shifters. What do you bring to your wardrobe to make you polished?

Keep it Simple

You never see a “polished” woman in cabbage roses, brand logos and bedazzled fabrics. The simpler your pieces, the more versatile they are, the more flattering they are, the more timeless they will be. It is tempting to buy the blouse with the kicky embroidery, but more often than not, you will tire of the pattern, the look will be out of fashion in less than three months and people will think, “oh there she is again in that embroidered shirt!” Fun and flashy pieces are added once a simple working wardrobe is created.

All About Fit

Look at the cut of garments – a polished woman is never in a muumuu or a shapeless shift dress. No matter her shape, size or age, a polished woman has accepted her frame and purchases garments that work to her advantage. An oversized sweater does not hide your stomach, if anything it draws attention to it. Whether you like it or not, everyone can tell that you have a tummy, very small breasts, large hips, short legs, back fat or heavy arms. Hiding these things under swaths of fabric tricks the eye of no one but you. Find garments that work with your lines, and if you cannot find well-fitting pieces, have them tailored. A great pair of black trousers can easily survive a decade in your closet if they flatter, fit, are made of quality fabric and are treated well.

And accept your size. I agree, it SUCKS when you are sure you are size X and you go into a store and you need to try on a size Y or even Z to get the zipper closed. This does not mean you are fat or bad or weirdly shaped. This is just proof that the sizing in stores these days is all out of whack. Once you let go of the “oh, I’m a size 6” mentality, you will have a better time shopping. If need be, cut the tags out once you purchase these garments. Heck, I have even removed the tag advertising the brand of a garment if it makes me uncomfortable (no one needs to know if your dress is from H&M, Lane Bryant, Mossimo or Prada). When you wear garments that are too big or too small, you look uncomfortable, and you never look polished.

Get Over the Name

Stylish, polished women hardly ever wear obvious brand names. So many times, a fashionista is stopped after attending a runway show or a gala and is asked who she is wearing and we find out that fabulous frock is from Club Monaco or that perfect-fitting shirt is from Gap. Walk the mall and scan the internet and catalogs looking at cut, style, fabric composition. Crap is sold at all price levels, and so is quality. Wearing an ill-fitting, and un-you dress from Stella McCartney is far worse than wearing a well-fitting simple one from Ann Taylor Loft.

Know Thyself

You got rid of the impossible dream to be Grace Kelly, now get rid of all those lists that say you need X perfect pieces to be well-dressed. I’m talking about that crisp white shirt, that trench coat, that pencil skirt, and the little black dress. Yes, these are great pieces for many women, but not all women. You’re an artist, you’re a weekend warrior, your wedding registry was at R.E.I., you have more curves than Marilyn Monroe, you live hundreds of miles from a city and heck, it never rains where you live.

Go back to your style journal. Did you feel strong in that rust-colored turtleneck with your brown tweed trousers? Did someone ask you if you lost weight, or notice your green eyes while wearing it? How about that turquoise sundress you bought on your trip to Mexico, the one that you were wearing when your husband told you that you looked beautiful and when your son’s teacher was shocked by your actual age, thinking you were a decade younger? More often than not, these pieces feel good to you AND to those around you because they express your personality best.

Personally, I love the look of a crisp white shirt tucked into a pencil skirt with some fabulous slingbacks… on another woman. A tucked-in blouse accentuates my short torso, my tummy and large breasts, most pencil skirts are unforgiving to my solid legs and round bum, and I have thick ankles and not enough definition from them to my heel to keep slingbacks up all day. However, I feel great in short shift dresses in stretchy fabrics and tall boots because they work with my petite frame, de-emphasize my midsection and wide calves, fit my lifestyle, and make me look pulled-together, stylish AND true to my personality. Accepting and embracing your exterior AND interior is the key to achieving personal style, and looking polished.

General Guidelines

These don’t always work for every woman, but a few tips that may help you on your journey to a polished look:

  • Purchase a new purse. More often than not, a woman’s purse is a mess. It’s fraying, overstuffed, stained and tired. Look for a bag that fits your style, but will also be timeless. Try to find something that is stylish instead of trendy, relatively free of logos and shiny decorations so it will span seasons and trends.
  • Get a new haircut. A polished woman does not have her hair in a claw clip or a messy bun 24/7. Get a cut that fits your lifestyle as well as your personality. Only have five minutes in the morning and have wavy fine hair? Don’t try Katie Holmes’ new bob – you won’t have the time to keep it looking good. Talk to your stylist before he shampoos your mane. Let him feel the texture, get to know you as a person before those scissors get anywhere near you. And be realistic – unless you want to spend a lot of time on your hair, you can’t make curly locks pin-straight, you can’t have a head of romantic curls when your locks are fine and straight. Just as you should accept your body, so should you accept your tresses.
  • Stop purchasing prints. A few prints tossed in every so often are great, but polished women are those decked out predominately in solids. A solid blue sweater will look more polished than a striped one, a simple white shirt will get you more miles and compliments than a paisley one, and a black pencil skirt will look far more elegant than a purple tweed one with a satin-trimmed hem.
  • Cut down on the cosmetics. A polished woman many have one facial feature accented, but that is about it. A polished look is clean skin, groomed brows, an elegant and simple look. If your brows are sparse, invest in a brow powder or gel – brows define a face and also your look. Instead of multiple products on the face, consider a great concealer and a highlighting tinted moisturizer to give the look of fresh, healthy skin. Lips are soft, moisturized, and either subtly colored or the focus in a subtle red or wine shade. Glitter, high gloss and shimmer are not in the makeup bags of polished women. As for eyecolor, it should be subtle neutrals to accent the eye, lashes curled and defined, but never thick, heavy or false looking. A blush or bronzer should give only a subtle flush to the skin and not attempt to recreate the look of the sun, cheek implants or a trend seen on the pages of Allure.
  • Take care of your shoes. They say shoes define the man, but they also define the woman. Be they ballet flats, classic pumps or knee-high stiletto boots; your shoes need to be cared for. Get them re-heeled and resoled each year, polish them, store them carefully and immediately treat them for stains, scuff or any other damage. Instead of five pairs of fun and cheap shoes that will last a season, use that money to invest in one pair that will last you a generation. Simple black leather pumps will provide you with miles of wear, a tall boot with a classic heel and toebox will work for decades, and there are many adorable flats out there that can be just as comfy as your ratty trainers. No matter how beautiful the woman, how sassy the outfit and how perfect the hair, a pair of scuffed, cheap and worn down shoes will destroy your image.

Images via The Sartorialist .

How to Style Cropped Pants for Fall and Winter

This spring/summer I bought two pairs of cropped (ankle length) pants. One is a pair of skinny black jeans and the other a pair of burgundy tapered slacks. I’ve worn them with flowy tops and sandals or ballerina flats and now I wonder how to style these pants for fall/winter. The colors and material will work very well for those seasons, but I’m at a loss of how to style them. I’m a size 16 and a bit self-conscious about my hips in skinny/tapered pants but I really like these two and would like to be able to wear them when it gets colder. I’m a university student, so style is casual, but I’m in my 30’s so I want to look a bit more put together.

Ankle pants are tricky, but not impossible to style for fall and winter. I’m glad you brought up the colors and materials of the cropped pants, that is the first step into determining whether they can truly transition into colder weather. Chino is iffy, cotton sateen is too summery, and I’ll wag my finger at anyone who wears seersucker or linen crops come fall (unless you’re in a tropical locale!). But denim, stretch twill, ponte, and other thicker fabrics with a tight weave can transition quite nicely.

how to style cropped pants for fall and winter

Shop Similar Looks: Jeans | Pants | Turtleneck | Striped Sweater | Gray Sweater | Leopard Flats | Burgundy Flats | Black Flats | Tan Flats

The easiest way to transition cropped pants into fall is to do what I call, “Channeling Audrey.” Known for her sleek look with flat shoes, cropped pants, and a turtleneck, using Audrey Hepburn for inspiration is a chic way to make ankle pants look seasonally appropriate when the temps drop. I don’t recommend this look for winter as the effect is ruined when you add hosiery; while your ankles may be bare it is balanced for milder temperatures by the sweater on top. A blousy or slouchy sweater will ruin the effect; to balance your hips consider creating volume on top with a boatneck, turtleneck, or horizontal stripes. As for the flat, one with a pointed toe or teensy wide heel will also provide balance.

A fall work alternative is pairing the cropped pants with closed-toe pumps in a dark color. Style the pants as normal; such a slim fit looks great with a boyfriend blazer or longer cardigan.

how to wear cropped pants into fall and winter

Shop Similar Looks: Jeans | Pants | Boots | Sweater | Blazer | Wrap | Tee | Striped Top | Turtleneck

The best way to make cropped pants work in winter is hide the fact that they’re cropped. Since both styles are skinny, they’ll slide into a pair of tall boots quite nicely. Layers will also add to the wintry feel; a boyfriend blazer, sweater coat, or wrap will hide your hips in a seasonally appropriate fashion and the boots keep your figure from being too top heavy.

If these pants “feel” like summer and you have to work really hard to style them in the colder months, it’s best to store them and not wear again until spring. While it’s tempting to “make it work” with summer pieces to extend your wardrobe, it’s not worth it if it sacrifices your style. A woman’s style is not determined by the size of her wardrobe but how well she knows her style, her body, and the situation at hand.

Guest Post: How to Care for Sweaters and Knitwear

When I went to New York City this summer, I met Miriam Mades from the company AlterKnit New York. As someone who believes in quality over quantity and knowing that leading a great life sometimes means a wardrobe gets damaged, I was thrilled to learn about this company. Like me, they believe in quality, and preserving it. From replacing the torn lining in a suit jacket to reweaving a Missoni sweater so one could never tell there was a snag, Miriam and her team do it all and with extreme care and pride in their work. Many of you reach out to me asking how to care for certain garments; it made sense to get advice from the pros so I asked AlterKnit New York to share their tips on caring for knits.

Expert advice on how to care for and launder sweaters and knitwearAt AlterKnit New York, we take care of clothes every day coast to coast. After working on so many favorite pieces we have a lot of experience with damaged clothing. The most important thing we tell everyone is to CLEAN your clothes. Nothing is full proof but cleaning your clothes and then storing them properly, especially at the end of the season, will give you a good chance that your knits will remain hole free.  You have choices when it comes to cleaning. Wash on delicate in your machine, hand wash in the sink or send them to your dry cleaner. But PLEASE clean them- your clothes will thank you.

Do you wash everything by hand?

No. Somethings are suited for washing exclusively by hand. Others fare well in the machine. Some stuff we only dry clean. For sweaters we like to encourage a mix of hand washing and dry cleaning. But again, as long as you a re cleaning we are happy!

How should we store sweaters?

Please don’t hang them in your closet. The shoulders will start to get out of shape due to the stress points caused by the hanger. Plus the weight of the fiber can also stretch out the body length. Just fold them like you would a t- shirt. If you need to remove any creases you can gently steam them out with the low setting on your iron.

When the seasons change you can store them in a breathable sweater bag with some cedar blocks or sachets for extra good measure. We don’t like suffocating them in a plastic bin because we don’t have proof that this method works plus we can’t stand the smell that the bin leaves on the clothes.

Any other knit wear tips?

Get a fabric shaver. Removing pills will help your garments look new and also deter any proteins from lodging in the fibers—its the proteins that critters like moths and silverfish are attracted to.

You need to be careful with a shaver. Use them on a true flat surface…i.e. yes you should use your ironing board. It might be a pain to drag it out but it will less of a pain then the hole you could make by shaving on an uneven surface.

Finally, when you do a snag, pull or small hole…get it to us before the hole gets bigger. So many times we get huge costly repairs that could have been prevented if the garment had gotten to us sooner.

At the end of the season double check all your knits for holes. If you see any holes sooner rather than later is the best time for repair by a professional. After fixing so many holes, we know that the sweater that gets sent to us in November most likely had the holes in July. We know nobody wants to see feel or touch their cashmere fisherman sweater in the hot summer days but getting a head start of refreshing your wardrobe before the autumn season arrives will be worth it.

A note on fine knits.

We work on very fine gauge knits as well. Fine gauge knits are more delicate and often holes start as a snag or pull…like you would get on a pair of pantyhose. Plus, when its is warm out we tend to take fine gauges with us to places where the temperature will fluctuate. Like a night out at the movies or eating in a restaurant. Its easy to get these caught on jewelry or other accessories. So be extra careful with them. If you get a pull don’t worry we are here for you!

Shop the Post:

After meeting Miriam and learning more about AlterKnit New York, I know this to be a company I would trust with replacing the brittle lining in my dad’s Korean War flight jacket, to repair my grandmother’s baby blanket, or to take an expensive designer knit piece and make it look like new.  AlterKnit New York takes their time, chooses the best method to ensure the piece looks as perfect as possible.  They perform moth hole and snag repair, invisible mending, reweaving, heirloom restoration, restyling of pieces, alterations, and much more.  See examples here.  While they are based in New York, they have customers across the country and will provide you with a pre-addressed shipping label and maintain communication.  I was so impressed with this company, I asked them to write this piece.  I was not compensated for this post.

Mastering the Poncho Trend for Fall

I just got back from a trip to Europe and ponchos were EVERYWHERE! I never really liked the look before, but this time around I’m actually thinking about getting one. Can you recommend a few styles that might work for more than one season? How do I style it other than over skinny jeans? Which styles of ponchos/capes are most flattering for different body types? Or maybe I’m totally bonkers thinking I should wrap myself in a blanket while I’m not sitting on the couch…! Anyways, would be curious to hear your thoughts!

how to style a poncho fashion tipsYou’re not bonkers! I fell in love with ponchos and capes last year (see me wearing one here and a poncho-esque sweater here) and my love affair has continued into 2015. What’s great is the poncho trend has only improved with more variety in cut, fabric, and pattern. I’m going to discuss some of the most popular poncho trends and how to style them and which ones will work best with your figure.

How to Style Solid-piece Knit Ponchos

These are by far the most popular, and most versatile versions of this season’s poncho trend. A solid piece cut in a square or oblong, there’s a hole or slit for your head and the garment drapes over another top. Last year I purchased a navy cashmere poncho in this style and found it perfect for crisp fall days and spring weeks where there was still a bit of a nip in the air. They’re a bit tough to wear under heavier outerwear, but I’ve been known to hike it up at the neck and wear like a pashmina until I get indoors. Such ponchos also make for a great “office cardigan”; that piece you leave at the office and throw on when the A/C is blasting or the heat isn’t strong enough.

While such cuts of ponchos come in a great variety of fabrics, those made of knits that can drape nicely are best. Not matter your body type, a knit poncho will be more flattering if it doesn’t tent out from your shoulders or bust, and if it falls below your waistband.

poncho styling tips for fall by wardrobe oxygenShop Similar Looks:
eggplant poncho | boyfriend jeans | striped tee | watch | black bag | oxfords
striped poncho | ponte pants | turtleneck | pendant | cuff | fringe bag | booties

The most popular of this type of poncho is one in a sweater knit, like my cashmere poncho. These can be of most any fabric and most any weight. I’ve found the heavier the knit, the longer the poncho so it doesn’t add bulk and has a better drape.  A poncho in a cotton knit, merino wool, or cashmere will have nice drape while still adding warmth when layered over other tops.  The left look is a great casual or weekend way to wear a poncho.  While this look would work great with skinny jeans and boots, switch up the silhouette with boyfriend jeans and an ankle bootie.  A solid poncho pairs great with prints; a classic Breton tee peeks out from underneath and leopard print brogues add interest.  A poncho adds weight on the top of the body; if you need a bigger bag look for one with a long shoulder or crossbody strap to better distribute the bulk.  For the right look, this shows how a printed poncho can look quite chic.  With a trim black turtleneck (can be easily switched for a crewneck), ponte pants, and sleek heeled booties, this poncho look could work for the office or dinner.  A gold pendant and cuff add shine while also weighing down the poncho to better show your shape; a bag with texture or a contrast color will add the necessary pop to the clean look.

how to style ponchos for warmer weather
Shop Similar Looks:
gray poncho | gray tank | off-white jeans | crystal pendant | gray crossbody | gray ankle boots
black poncho | black camisole | black jeans | silver hoops | black fringe clutch | black pumps

In the two sample outfits above I’ve style ponchos that could be worn in warmer weather. The left style is a great way to incorporate a funky open work poncho you may have picked up on your travels or crocheted yourself. While I styled it with straight jeans, it could also work with other cuts of jeans (flare, boyfriend, skinny) but would also work great over a jersey maxi skirt or maxi dress that skims the curves and doesn’t have much volume. Such a lightweight poncho can also work with cropped pants of a lightweight fabric like linen. The right poncho is one that is often found at department stores, and quite popular with plus size retailers. This is the type of poncho that can quickly veer into Golden Girls territory. When choosing ponchos of chiffon or with sheer panels, think simple and modern. I specifically went with a monochromatic look which instantly makes it look modern. I added modern touches; glazed or leather jeans or leggings will make the choice of chiffon purposeful without looking Vegas. With so much detail in the outfit, keep the accessories to a minimum; earrings OR a bracelet. A clutch or slim handbag with chain strap will prevent too much volume on the top part of the body. While Dorothy Zbornak was a fabulous character in the ‘80s, she shouldn’t be your style icon in 2015.

How to Style Ruanas

A ruana is like a poncho as that it is made of a single piece of fabric with a hole for the head; the difference is that there is a slit down the front from neck to hem.  They are sometimes marketed as ponchos, blanket ponchos, or even kimonos.  I like ruanas because they’re easier to get on and off, and you can switch up their look by belting them.  Also with the slit in the front, prints are easier to carry off because there’s a break in the pattern.  Longer ruanas (hip length or longer) are less likely to slide off your shoulders or slip back; like ponchos the heavier the weight the longer the ruana should be to get better drape.

how to wear a ruana or poncho for the office by wardrobe oxygenShop Similar Looks:
colorblock ruana | sweater dress | bag | pendant | cuff | tights | over the knee boots
blue ruana | trousers | blouse | bracelet | bag | pumps

While a ruana can be styled just like a poncho and looks great with a knit top and jeans for the weekend, it’s a style that can also work for the office.  The left look is a way you can wear a ruana with a dress; having the dress short will keep the look from being frumpy.  Keep the look modern with over the knee boots with a slim heel and on-trend jewelry.  For the right look, you can see how a ruana can replace a cardigan for a cozy outfit that still looks right for the workplace.  Balance the weight and casual feel of the ruana with a silky blouse and nicely tailored trousers.  A heel and structured bag with polish will add that necessary touch of professionalism.

Ponchos and ruanas are on trend, and I doubt they will be out of style this time next year.  They’re a trend that is available in any size and pricepoint.  Once you own one and start playing in your wardrobe, you’ll see they’re quite versatile and go with much more than skinny jeans.

Shop Ponchos and Ruanas:

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.

Capsule Wardrobe: Transitioning from Summer to Fall with a Denim Jacket

I’m a born again denim jacket fan. After too many years sporting them almost daily in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I couldn’t fathom wearing one again in the new millennium. However, in recent years the denim jacket has again become a popular and versatile wardrobe staple and I broke down and purchased one (this one from J. Crew Factory). Now I can’t imagine my wardrobe without one.

In a recent post’s comments, reader Mim asked if I could make a capsule to show the versatility of a denim jacket. Below is a sample capsule wardrobe incorporating a denim jacket, showing how it can help transition your summer wardrobe to early fall. While the weather may still be warm enough to bare legs (and a couple toes), you’ll likely desire a couple toppers and a way to temper summer vibes from breezy skirts and floral maxis. This capsule wardrobe is for a business casual office, or for the weekend.

Capsule Wardrobe: Transitioning from Summer to Fall with help from a denim jacket. Via Wardrobe Oxygen

Shop Similar: Denim Jacket | Blazer | Tee Shirt | Striped Top | Black Shell | Pencil Skirt | White Jeans | Midi Skirt | Sheath Dress | Maxi Dress | Ankle Strap Shoes | Block Heel Shoes | Wrap Belt | Pendant Necklace

Feel free to change out pieces to better fit your personality. A dark rinse denim jacket, the blazer can be a different color or replaced with a leather moto, the gray tee with a band tee or one with your favorite superhero or book quote. Stripes are extremely versatile and mix well with other prints, but could be switched out with a different print or a solid. The floral pencil skirt can be replaced with a solid, leopard print, a-line, or a fit and flare shape. The jeans can be switched out for a different color, fit, or even a twill or sateen ankle or cropped pant. A printed wide-leg pant is also a great alternative.  The gray pleated midi can be a cotton print, changed to a maxi, or switched out for culottes or another pair of ankle pants. The dresses are examples showing how different silhouettes and lengths can work; you can switch out for a tee shirt dress, fit and flare, and most any length from above the knee to ankle. Don’t be afraid to consider a jumpsuit, I wore one with a denim jacket in this outfit post.  As for the shoes, I chose two heels that are relatively walkable; the black and leopard one was chosen for the ankle strap (a popular trend right now) and how the print adds interest to solids and also plays nice with other prints. I own shoes similar to the camel ones and love how they work great with pants and skirts of every length; the color elongates the leg and works well with cool and warm colors. I have a version of the camel belt and find it extremely versatile.

Shop Denim Jackets and Blazers to Create this Look:

Don’t be afraid to mix high with low; we’re used to that meaning designer with discount mart fashion, but it also means pairing denim with chiffon, your favorite band tee with a satin pencil skirt, a bit of sparkle with a bit of distress. The gray yoga tee will look chic with the chiffon midi skirt; you can tuck it in or knot it at the waist. Pair with the camel shoes or even your favorite flat sandals or slip-on sneakers and if it gets chilly, add the denim jacket. The gray tee also works with the printed pencil skirt; switch out the denim jacket for the blazer and the camel shoes for the ankle strap kitten heels for work in a creative office environment.

Shop Graphic Tees to Create this Look:

Denim jackets can replace blazers in casual and creative office environments; wear with the black ponte sheath dress and add the camel belt and heels to make it look more purposeful and cohesive. The black crepe shell and gray chiffon midi skirt would look at home in most business casual environments but may look a bit too summery come September; add the denim jacket, switch out sandals for the camel block heels and add the belt to make the look seasonally appropriate without being too wintry. Pattern mixing is still on trend and a lot of fun; style the Breton tee with the printed pencil skirt and ankle strap heels; add the denim jacket to tone down the prints and give a downtown vibe.

Shop Skirts with Plenty of Personality :

Double denim (wearing more than one piece of denim in an outfit) is no longer a fashion faux pas; if it still makes you uneasy, styling a denim jacket with white or colored denim gives the most contrast. While a graphic tee and white jeans may seem too ordinary, the addition of a pendant necklace and denim jacket creates a complete look. The best bet for pairing denim on denim is to work with contrast; it’s near impossible to match denim pieces so you’ll be better off with rinse denim and distressed, colored with whitewash, white with vintage. The addition of a print (stripes are always a safe bet) makes the look cohesive and steers clear of “Texas Tuxedo” territory.

Shop Dresses to Style with Denim Jackets:

If a denim jacket seems too heavy to wear with your favorite summer maxi dresses, consider holding down the dress with a wide belt and chunky shoes. Again, the camel belt and heels are a great choice. A wide belt is fantastic to cover any belt loops, built-in fabric belts, or waist details to give your maxi a completely different effect and look more appropriate for the later months of summer and early part of fall.

A denim jacket can not only help transition summer looks to fall, it can also pull together a wardrobe and create a cohesive look from boho, rock and roll, prep, classic, and romantic. Denim jackets look great with everything from leopard and leather to florals and silk faille. Do you have a denim jacket in your wardrobe? What is your favorite way of wearing it?

How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips to Stay on Budget:

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

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

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

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Blogging Behind the Scenes: How I Make Money Blogging

Blogging Behind the Scenes - How I Make Money Blogging by Wardrobe OxygenBlogging is this weird secret society where everyone likes to show how well they hustle and show how successful they’ve become, but rarely admit what extent of success they’ve achieved or how they’re achieving that success. A monetized blog is a business; businesses are audited, often public, and should be ready to open their ledgers to show how they are running an honest business. While I don’t find it proper to talk specifics in regard to money, since you readers are the reason why I make any money off Wardrobe Oxygen, I think you should know how it happens.

I know some of you aren’t interested in the business behind blogging and this will be a long post so I am going to have a jump so it won’t fill the whole front page.

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The Best Stain Removal for Clothing

best homemade stain remover dawn peroxide clothing delicate

One tablespoon of classic Dawn liquid – the blue stuff
One cup of hydrogen peroxide

Dab onto stain with a clean cloth or sponge.

This can remove red wine, blood, yellowed stains from sweat and deodorant, grass, even stains that have been laundered and are old.

On Thanksgiving we tried this with an old off-white muslin tablecloth with a blue, tan and berry colored pattern. A glass of Zinfandel spilled over a large portion of the fabric. After trying all the classic remedies (like cancel red wine with white wine) and having little success, I went onto Google and found a few recipes.

The recipe above got the most traffic and comments online, and was the only one that worked. And boy did it work: without even rinsing the red was COMPLETELY gone, the print was not affected; it didn’t bleach the off-white color. It was as though the wine was never spilled.

I have since used it on heavier duty fabrics with an old clean toothbrush, and have poured it directly on to stains to pretreat before washing. I have used this combination on synthetics, natural fibers, and even dry clean only fabrics like silk! The best, cheapest, and most effective stain remover I have ever used!

How to “Read” Fashion Magazines

Pre-pubescent women below 100 lbs. showing off dresses in the thousands. Ads for Armani, Versace, Missoni, Chanel and any other brand you couldn’t possibly afford (and possibly couldn’t even find for sale in your neck of the woods). Crazy outfits of sheer blouses without camisoles, plaids with polka dots, turquoise false lashes and 6″ platform wedges. How are these magazines supposed to help the typical woman in America? How can Vogue, W, Bazaar and Elle assist you in your journey to the suburban shopping mall?

Some fashion magazines are more helpful than others. Lucky magazine not only tells you what is hip, but where to purchase these hip items. They categorize trends, with a page dedicated to the lace trend, a page dedicated to wedge shoes, a page dedicated to croco bags. While encouraging the shopper to visit New York boutiques, a few chain stores are mentioned. Even if you cannot afford the Prada skirt, you can see the length, fabric and cut and can look for a similar version at Macy’s.

Bazaar is one of my favorite magazines. They show celebrities and socialites in what’s hip for the next season, have all the hot new ads from the most luxurious brands, but also breaks fashion down for the Every Woman. So the trends for Spring are a bit of cowgirl, a bit of nautical and a bit of safari? Bazaar will show how a woman in her 20’s can wear the trends, a woman in her 30’s and all the way up to her 70’s. They also will have a spread informing the reader about the hot new trends. As always, they have a What’s Hot/What’s Not on the very last page.

Every fashion magazine can be beneficial to you, no matter your age, dress size or income. It’s not about going into debt for a Dior bag or even for trying to replicate a Dolce and Gabanna ad with pieces from Target. No, it’s getting concepts.

Look at the ads. Really examine them as you would a painting in a museum. What colors are being worn? What does the shoe look like? What kind of fabric? Is there a specific print that is the theme? Now flip the page and look at the next ad. Is there any similarity? Though each high-end designer has their own signature style, there is often a theme for each season that resonates on the runway and in the ads. Maybe it’s lace trim, maybe it’s wood heels on the shoes. It could be a lot of black – it sure was this winter. Don’t look at these ads and roll your eyes over the age or weight of the models, the astronomical prices and ridiculousness of the garments. See it as art, and then break it down.

Be Realistic. If the magazine says every woman needs the new Fendi purse, don’t buy the Fendi purse if you don’t make enough money to buy a Fendi purse for fun. The purse will be passé in a year. Don’t go on a street corner and buy a faux Fendi purse. It will look fake, and it will look tacky and desperate. Don’t wait two years and buy a cheesy knock-off of what the Fendi purse was shaped like from Wal-Mart. Again tacky and desperate. Instead, break it down. What makes that bag new and hip? Is it the oversized shape? Use of silver hardware? A short handle? Croco leather? White with black trim? Take those details with you when you go shopping. Look for something that is beautiful on it’s own, fits your lifestyle and needs, but may incorporate those details. I for one adored the Balenciaga Motorcycle bags that celebs like Nicole Ritchie and Jessica Simpson were sporting. I couldn’t afford the bag, and didn’t want to look like an idiot with a faux silver or turquoise pleather wanna-be bag on my wrist. Therefore I analyzed the look of the bag. What about it did I like? The hardware. The large size. The short handle. The way the leather looks a bit crackled and a bit glazed. When I went to buy a new purse I found a slouchy oversized purse with lots of hardware and metal detail in a similar leather finish and a color that complimented my wardrobe. Not Balenciaga, couldn’t be mistaken for a Motorcycle bag, but receives many compliments, holds all my stuff and keeps my image current.

Don’t be a Label Whore. I was in an elevator yesterday with a woman. A gorgeous woman with a gorgeous figure. Her beauty was not the first thing I saw. She was wearing a puffy Baby Phat coat with a faux fur trim in a weird olive/taupe color. She had on extremely tight Seven for All Mankind jeans that were too low on the waist and too long on her ankles. She had on a Tiffany bracelet AND a Tiffany necklace. She had on a Coach logo purse – quite large and quite pink. Under her coat was a black fitted tee with “Bebe” in rhinestones across the chest. She had on false eyelashes, very pink glossy lips and barely any other makeup. Her hair was in a formal updo with tendrils around her face, her hair obviously meticulously highlighted, lowlighted and streaked on a regular basis. And then on her feet were those high-heeled Timberland-esque dress boots. Her outfit probably cost a ton of money, but she looked terrible. Her clothes didn’t compliment her figure, or one another. She was a walking fashion victim, a slave to the name brands. By caring so much about the names, she lost sight of what the brands were trying to create – FASHION. I highly doubt you are going to the Academy Awards any time soon. No one is going to stop you walking down the street and say “Who are you wearing?” Even if they do, how cool would you be by saying, “This old thing? I picked it up at Target last season.” Think Sharon Stone when she wore a Gap tee shirt to an awards ceremony. No one wrote her off as cheap or tacky. Instead she was celebrated for that fashion move.

It is understandable to want to buy luxury, to splurge on designer. You work hard, you want to reward yourself. I respect that, and I indulge in that as well. Just when you do, think about the rules you hold for all other aspects of your life:
Does it fit into your life?
Does it flatter?
Will it work for the long haul?
Is it worth it?

If you got that promotion, go ahead and buy a Coach purse, but buy one that will go with your current wardrobe, and will still be beautiful next year. My friend has a Coach bag that she bought herself after getting her degree in 1998. She still carries around that camel colored tote, and still gets compliments all the time. She bought something luxurious, something obviously a brand name, but something that fit her lifestyle, fashion style and something that works in the 90’s as well as the new millennium. A few years ago I found a beautifully tailored black wool coat from Calvin Klein. I put it on and felt like a socialite. I felt elegant, tall and slim. It was at a discount store, but still out of my price range. It was the first item I ever put on layaway. When I made the final payment, I still adored the coat. Now a few years later, I still love the coat, it’s cut, it’s feel. To me, it was worth the money. I wear it and look expensive, but I am not shouting “This is a Calvin Klein coat from 2001!” I am whispering “I am wearing an expensive, well made garment and it is designer.”

Again, look in the magazines. Look at the spreads of celebrities at galas and fundraisers. Are they showing up in head to toe labels? Unless you’re Kimora Lee Simmons or Missy Elliott, the answer probably is no. The women who look polished, elegant, sexy and expensive do not flash their designer labels. They wear what is stylish, flattering and beautiful.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read. When a magazine totes a certain top or moisturizer as great, it’s not always because it’s great. Magazines receive free stuff all the time, and are encouraged in different ways to promote this stuff. These freebies end up in fashion spreads, articles about great new things for the season, or advice columns. Don’t take what one magazine says as gospel. It’s best to have something to compare it with. Don’t worship Vogue if you won’t also pick up In Style. Don’t read Lucky without W. By reading more magazines (even in the line at the grocery or at the pharmacy while waiting for a prescription) you get a more well-rounded view of what is hot, what is trendy, and what is utterly ridiculous.

Make it Age and Shape Appropriate. Anyone over 27 and a size 4 should not be wearing dress shorts. Mischa Barton and Nicole Ritchie and Lindsay Lohan are all wearing short creased shorts to red carpet events. Well good for them. Are you built like Lindsay Lohan? Are you the age of Mischa Barton? If you answered yes to both, God Speed and Good Luck. For the rest of us, STEER AWAY FROM THE SHORTS. Just because it’s hip, doesn’t mean to wear it. We don’t live in the era of cut and dry fashion. My mom speaks of circle skirts, piped charcoal blazers and cigarette pants while growing up. They weren’t flattering on her, but she wore them because EVERYONE wore them. That, and nothing else. Fashion has changed and has become more flexible and forgiving. If this season is all about olive green and you look terrible in olive green, then don’t wear it. If magazines are telling you that leggings are hot this season (which they are) but you are over 25, you’re over 105 lbs. and you wore in an office setting you shouldn’t pick up a pair your next trip to the mall. If the new look is nautical, that doesn’t mean you need to go buy a navy and white striped boat neck shirt to make your torso seem twice it’s size. Instead consider pieces that may be more appropriate. Crisp white trousers with a solid navy sweater. A navy blazer with gold buttons paired with a white shirt and vintage washed jeans. There are different ways to incorporate trends without looking like a fashion victim or worse… unflattering.

Make a List. So you like the polka dots featured in Bazaar. You like the new width of jeans seen in In Style. You love how navy is coming back into vogue on the pages of Vogue. Write these things down, or tear out pages from your glossy magazines and take them with you on your shopping excursions for inspiration. When you get overwhelmed in a sea of fabric at Lord and Taylor’s pull out your list. It will keep you centered and less overwhelmed.
And finally, See Fashion as Art. If you stop looking at fashion as the unobtainable, you’ll despise it. The majority of our country cannot afford a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes, a Prada dress, a Chanel suit. That’s okay. Just look at that Chanel suit or that Prada dress in the magazine’s fashion spread and try to figure out why they chose to display it. Is it the color? The cut? The fabric? What about makes it less insane (because much high fashion is totally insane and unwearable in normal society) and more beautiful? Take that one thing with you as you go shopping this season. If you try to see the beauty and detail in fashion, you will be more likely to buy what makes you look more beautiful when you wear it.

Ask Allie: Where to Sell Used Clothing?

I’m wondering if you have any resources or suggestions for someone who is trying to minimize their closet. I’m moving towards capsule wardrobes and limiting my shopping, so this is leaving me with some very high-quality items (though not necessarily designer) already in my closet that I’d like to sell to get some money back, especially since a few of them have never been worn or worn only once! Over the years I’ve donated bags and bags of clothing, but for these purchases I thought putting a little extra time into it could get me some money back. Tips? Where to start?

selling used clothing online tips how to

This is a post where I’d like to ask you, the readers to share your suggestions. I have my suggestions but even I am wondering if there’s better ways to pare down one’s wardrobe and recoup some of the original cost. Here’s some suggestions:

Selling Clothes on eBay

eBay has been my most successful avenue for selling quality clothing that isn’t necessarily designer or a recent season. I make sure to have multiple photos of the item in natural light without a flash – full front, full back, photo of the tag (proves the brand, proves the size, and also many brand loyalists can recognize a year or season by the style of the label), photo of any details (fly, style of buttons, cuffs, close-up of applique or fabric texture), and a photo of any flaws. When it comes to flaws, be upfront from the get-go; it’s not worth it to sacrifice your rating on eBay. My description has as much detail as possible – the fabric, length of skirt in inches, size and how it fits me with my measurements, and I also offer styling suggestions (I wore it with X, it looks great with opaque tights and tall boots in winter but also with sandals in summer).

When it comes to listing price, don’t assume a bidding war will happen on your piece, especially if it’s a lesser known brand or more than a season or two old. Don’t price it any lower than you’re willing to take; nothing worse than having to go through the process to ship out an item for 99 cents, especially when you know you could have received more in a tax write-off for a charitable donation. eBay often has promotions where you can also offer Buy it Now for free; when that happens I always choose that as well and offer it for a price I hope to get but not an unrealistic one. To get an idea for prices, search eBay for similar items and brands and see what they’re going for. If you see one is sold by an eBay-er with a lot of sales, click on their profile and you can see recent sales and prices likely of similar items to what you’re hoping to sell.

Be firm with what you are willing to do and not to do in your listing. For example, I state no returns or exchanges and shipping only to the United States. However, I do offer other methods of shipping they can request it upon winning the auction

For shipping, I use the eBay calculator and labels; I can print the labels at home, go to and schedule a pickup, and not have to wait in line at the post office. If you wish to ship Priority Mail, you can order shipping containers for free from While it’s tempting to get an item out in the smallest and cheapest packaging possible, don’t scrimp and sacrifice the quality of a piece. I have received leather skirts shoved into tiny boxes that are bent and creased and necklaces broken upon arrival because they were barely wrapped in newspaper and mailed in a standard envelope. You’ll end up losing money if you have to return payment for an item that arrives unwearable, so take the time to pack carefully. I have a box in my closet that’s full of shipping supplies I gather from online purchases. I save plastic shipping bags, tissue paper, bubble wrap, and useful sizes of nice-looking boxes just for eBay sales and in my storage box I also have a Sharpie, packing tape, and a pair of scissors so I have everything I need for an afternoon of shipping. If you wish to do this long-term, I recommend adding a little something extra to the packing – wrap in the same color tissue paper, safety pin a business card to the garment tag, show a little care and it can help your customers actually leave reviews, leave better reviews, and come back to see what else you’re selling.

Selling Clothes on Poshmark

I haven’t used Poshmark… yet. However, I know my friend Alyson at The Average Girl’s Guide uses it often and raves about it all the time so I asked her to share her thoughts on the site:

“I’m obsessed with selling on Poshmark. There are definitely pieces you know will sell fast, and others you need to wait for the right buyer. I personally don’t post anything under about $10 because I find that the time it takes to post (though just 2-3 minutes), plus any back and forth, packaging and dropping off, is not worth the eventual payment. I rather donate. That said, items from J. Crew, Lululemon, Tory Burch, Rebecca Minkoff all do really well, though I’ve sold everything from Gap, Target, Old Navy, TJ Maxx pieces, you name it. Think about posting the right time of year… posting a sweater and boots will probably not sell now unless you mark it really low, where going through your closet for springy pieces you’re no longer into could result in extra spending money.”

“If possible, take photos of yourself wearing the item — it really helps! — and be sure to label everything accurately and thoroughly. Lastly, be mindful of price. It’s just like how they say people who try to sell their homes on their own always have unrealistic selling prices; I’ve seen the same on Poshmark. Remember, you’ve likely worn something or it’s not brand new. If someone can go into J. Crew and buy a similar brand-new item for what you’re selling your used button down (and remember, buyer pays shipping) then you’re too high.”

Selling Clothes on Consignment or to Resale Boutiques

Back when I worked in apparel, before the start of each new season I would take bags and bags of clothing (hello employee discount, dress codes, and the need to wear current pieces) to a shop near where I worked. They would buy on-trend pieces for half the price they’d sell it for on their salesfloor, and a bit more if I was willing to take store credit.  I’ve used stores like this off an on since and know many friends who visit them every season.  I know there’s stores like this all over the country, from Buffalo Exchange to Plato’s Closet.

Appearance matters when trying to sell your clothes at such a store. Dress stylishly, and even if you have enough clothing to put in a lawn and leaf bag, instead choose a nice tote (I used my LL Bean Boat and Tote), or shopping bags from a “cool” retailer (think Anthropologie instead of Old Navy). Make sure the clothes are clean, folded nicely, ironed if necessary, and free of stains and damage.

And seriously, no damage. A tiny bleach dot that never bothered you when you wore it will be too much damage for the store to take. The wearing on the backs of your jean hems is only cool if the rest of the jeans are distressed. All buttons should be in place, tags still in place, linings still attached.

Know the store before you bring in your clothes. There’s no point in bringing in a bag of J. Crew if the store focuses on vintage fashion. Not only that, you’ll know if they already have enough Jackie Cardigans and will likely refuse yours, even if it’s like new.

Where To Sell Gently Worn Quality Clothing?

And now I ask you, what do you suggest to this reader? Have you used Twice, Threadflip, or Tradesy? Had any success with Craigslist or a local listserv? What do you find to be the most successful way for you to sell gently worn clothing?

If you have a storefront on Poshmark, etc. feel free to share it in the comments below, your castoff may be another’s must-have!  Do know any non-fashion related shops or obvious spam links will be deleted.

Ask Allie: Which Jeans with Which Boots?

Can you give me some guidance about which boots to wear with which jeans? There are skinny jeans, straight-leg jeans, mini-boot cuts, boot-cuts, boyfriend jeans, cropped jeans, jeans that people cuff above the boot, jeggings, and everything in between. There are ankle boots, cowboy boots, mid-calf boots, knee-high boots, UGGs, shooties, and fakers (they look like boots from the front but the back is open like a mule/clog). Which jeans do I pair with which boots so that I look proportional and not like a farmer? And when do I tuck the jeans inside the boots, and when do I leave them out?

how to style jeans boots which wear

Boots and jeans should be easy… I mean we’ve been wearing the combination for eons, right? But with all the different leg widths, lengths, and boot styles you may feel as though you need to get an advanced degree in footwear/denim matching!

Skinny Jeans

The skinny jean is a heavier weight than a jegging (legging made out of a lightweight stretchy denim), has all the trimmings of a typical jean (pockets, zippers, belt loops, etc.), but has a very narrow fit. What was originally found to be a cut only models could carry off, skinny jeans are now a commonplace silhouette worn beautifully by women of all shapes and sizes.

The skinny jean is perfect for tall boots, be they over-the-knee heeled boots, flat riding boots, cowboy boots, calf-height harness boots, or a slouchy suede wedge. The skinny jean hugs the leg making it less likely to bag at the knee or wiggle its way out of the boot shaft. The slim silhouette makes the bulk of a boot look more elegant, and works with the chunky and slouchy knits this season.

The skinny jean is also perfect for ankle booties. Be they short harness boots, lace-up combat boots, or ankle-high cowboy boots, a skinny jean tucks into the boot nicely and shows the shape of your calf above the boot’s opening. If you find your jean likes to wiggle out of booties, consider tucking the hem into a pair of socks; they also sell suspenders specifically for this purpose!

If you are going to wear UGGs or similar shearling or thick boots, I think they look the best with skinny jeans. Again, the bulk of the boot is balanced by the slim silhouette of the denim, elongating your legs and keeping you from looking like the Michelin Man.


As mentioned earlier, jeggings are like skinny jeans but with legging details. Usually a lighter weight fabric with more stretch than your typical stretch denim, jeggings often are without front pockets, a proper zipper, and sometimes have an elasticized waist. Since jeggings are such a thin fabric, they look best with tall boots that cover a bit of the body and balance the frame. I’d offer the same advice I did for skinny jeans, but add that you should also consider what you wear on top. Jeggings are best with tunics, longer cardigans, and jackets that hit around the hip to again balance the fabric but also provide some modesty.

Straight Jeans

The straight jean is a classic and flattering to most figures. That being said, it can be one of the hardest to style with boots. Often times too loose to tuck into tall boots, too baggy to slip into ankle booties, you may feel you’re stuck with flats when wearing straight jeans. In fact, a straight jean is a perfect partner for the slim-heeled booties and shooties that have been hot the past two seasons. Sort of a blend between a pump and an ankle boot, shooties have a lower vamp, a slim streamlined silhouette, and slip nicely under a straight leg jean letting the toe and heel peek out.

When it comes to straight jeans, the best boots are those that are meant to go under the jean’s leg. Wedge boots, granny boots, city boots, Chelsea boots, and shooties are often made with simple openings and elastic gussets to make them easy to slip on and off, but not as attractive on display over your jeans. The medium leg opening keeps your jean from dragging on the ground and covering your entire boot and gives a nice break at the front of the shoe.

Bootcut Jeans

No matter the size (hello mini and baby boots), bootcut jeans are named that because they flare out a tiny bit at the bottom to make room for a pair of boots to be worn underneath. With this bit of flare, you can carry off harness and cowboy boots without their shape showing through your jeans. Many women give their tall boots a second life (and give themselves a bit of warmth in the winter) by wearing their slimmer tall boots under bootcut jeans.

You mentioned “fakers”, those boots that are actually mules, and I think they are perfect for bootcut jeans because the extra width makes it less likely that the hem will slip under the heel, and it hides the back of the shoe. For such a shoe, a bit longer of a hem is good because it will better hide the mule back, keep your foot warm, and flatter the bulkier style of the boot.

Bootcut jeans also look great with ankle boots and shooties… if worn UNDER the jeans. Bootcut jeans (no matter how mini the bootcut) have too much volume to tuck them into any style of boot. The extra fabric will be uncomfortable wrapped around your ankle and show bulk. Remember the reason for this silhouette and wear boots under your bootcut jeans.

Cropped and Boyfriend Jeans

This is a cut of denim that is far harder to carry off with boots, and I often recommend the pairing to just True Fashionistas. However there are two popular manners in which to pair shorter jeans with boots…

A slim cropped or capri jean can pretend to be a full-length skinny jean when tucked into tall boots. This is a great way to get extra mileage out of your summer jeans; white and pale colors look seasonally appropriate when half covered with brown or black leather and topped with a wintry knit or jacket. I have been known to do this trick; I recommend wearing knee socks to keep your shins warm in the winter and also to hold down the jeans so they don’t bag at the knees.

Baggier cropped jeans like boyfriend jeans can get a downtown cool vibe when paired with a heeled ankle bootie. I’ve worn my ankle booties with a wooden heel with my boyfriend jeans and like how the extra height and slight platform balance the fullness of boyfriend jeans. A slim, sexy bootie, caged heel, shootie, or a lower vamp with a chunkier heel or wedge is the best choice for boyfriend jeans.

To provide balance, I recommend having a sliver of skin show between the jean and the boot. This elongates the leg, makes the combination more purposeful and on trend.

Cuffed Jeans

I know many people carry off this look, but I find it just as hard to carry off as those who wear tall boots under cropped pants. For every one woman who looks utterly awesome in this combination, there’s 30 women who look as though they got dressed in the dark.  I can’t offer advice that is universal, and recommend that unless you feel confident carrying off this trend, stay away until boot and jean styles have morphed over seasons to make it easier to pair.

Ask Allie: Flat Shoes with Femininity and Polish

I’ve just had my ankle fused which means no more high heels for me EVER. I don’t have to stick to flat flats but a 1 inch heels is about the highest I can go. I’m finding this particularly tough because as a short (5ft 2) round person, I’ve relied on heels to elongate my frame (I love how my legs look in heels!) and finish off outfits my entire life. I feel like I can’t quite get the “polish” I need with the flats that I’m now forced to wear. I almost feel like I need to modulate my wardrobe toward a more masculine style of dress that goes with the oxfords and loafers that are available currently. I really like this on other people, but as someone who is very definitely an hourglass, find difficult to wear myself. If you were in this position, how would you tackle it? I feel so lost just right now!

I love the look of flat shoes like oxfords and loafers. I drool over those who make them look so chic with menswear, or pair them unexpectedly but so well with pleated midi skirts and floaty frocks. When I try to recreate the mix of the masculine shoe with the feminine look, it doesn’t look the same on my short, round frame.  However, that doesn’t mean women shaped like us can’t wear such shoes or any type of flat shoes and not maintain our current personal style.  Below I’ll share how to style different on trend styles of flat shoes in a way that is feminine, has polish, and flatters a curvy figure.

how to style oxfords brogues and loafers with polish and a feminine touchShop the Look:
blazer | pink shell | boyfriend jeans | gold necklace | gold oxfords
silk tee | camel pant | necklace | bracelet | leopard oxfords

When you’re short and curvy, proportion matters a lot. I’ve found a cropped pant or jean cropped or rolled to show the ankle adds that bit of slenderness and femininity to make an oxford or loafer look right on my frame. A crisp flat front trouser or a pair of jeans works with the oxford as it has masculine elements, but the garment isn’t too masculine to fit in with the rest of my wardrobe. On top, I try to incorporate a more feminine or polished look to balance it out. I’m a big fan of silk and metallic tees, which have better drape and more polish than a standard knit. Wear under a blazer to get the polish you desire, or wear on its own, possibly doing a half-tuck to show the figure better, with a statement necklace to amp up the femininity.

stylish loafers brogues and oxfords for fall winter 2016silver tassel loafer | leopard smoking loafer | blue suede loafer | gold snakeskin loafer | blush pink oxfords | pewter tassel loafer |  black glitter oxfords | mirror loafer | leopard tassel loafer | red loafer | leopard oxfords | gold camo loafers

Your choice of loafer or oxford also matters. I recommend getting crazy with them; leopard calfhair, shiny mirror finish, croco-embossed or another finish or in your signature color. Also check the silhouette; some have more streamlined of cuts than others (though I adore them and wore them to death in the ‘90s, Doc Martens aren’t the best for short curvy frames because of the bulk). Leather soles, almond or tapered toes, very low heel, not a lot of hardware, less contrast between shoe and laces or shoe and sole. Details matter, and going sleek, slim, and trendy will reduce the masculine feel and better work with your personal style.

how to style flat shoes for curvy figuresShop the Look:
gray midi skirt | pink cashmere tee | necklace | clutch | silver flats
black dress | tights | necklace | bag | fox flats

With traditional flats, there’s more than ballet styles out there. While a rounded ballet flat can make a short curvy person feel even shorter and squatter, a structured flat with a pointed or almond toe and low vamp can provide leg-lengthening benefits like their heeled counterparts. Not only that, structured flats with elongated toes look more polished and dressy and better pair with skirts, dresses, and trousers.

stylish flats for curvy or plus size women for fall winter 2015 2016plaid flat | leopard calfhair flat | soft gold mirror flat | black and gold flat | burgundy patent flat | pink glitter bow flat | rainbow stripe flat | rose gold flat | cheetah print flat | pink, leopard, and gold flatblack glitter flat | red cross-front flat 

A color close to your leg (tights, trousers, or bare skin) will better elongate the leg and make you feel taller. Again as with the oxfords and loafers, showing a bit of skin at the ankle can add a feminine touch; be sure the trouser or jeans are slim so it doesn’t make you look shorter. And as with the oxfords and loafers, this is a great time to incorporate a fun color, print or finish to put your personality on the look and reduce the frumpy feel. Kate Spade is a perfect example of a brand that is feminine, polished, yet regularly shows their looks with flats.  I’m personally a fan of metallic which immediately add polish to a look and have people notice the shoe more than how the shoe flatters your figure.  Also a metallic better blends with bare legs, elongating your figure.

Boots are also a great option.  From shoeties (lower vamp more like shoes) to ankle boots, this season’s higher shaft boot that hits up on the ankle and low shin, to knee-high and over the knee boots; boots this season are sleek, modern, polished, and very many of them are flat.  Keep the same ideas as with the other types of flat shoes – choose ones that are trim and streamlined, preferably with an almond or longer toebox, have the color match your trousers or tights.  However with boots, polish comes from the quality of the material and an elegant boot is less likely to have adornment.  Steer clear of too much hardware, unique finished, mixes of materials, or funky soles.  Keep it classic, clean, and lean.

how to style flat shoes when youre petite and curvy

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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How to Shop for Clothing and Define Your Personal Style

“Ok Allie, I have a question, how do you shop? I typically only shop when I need an item for work or an event. Wish I had a closet of items I could dress up or down as needed. I feel overwhelmed by the options and am tired of looking at pics online only to not find those items in the stores. Any suggestions? You always seem to be getting new things that are easy to drop into your current wardrobe. I think it’s a skill I’m missing.”

“Allie, I don’t know how to start when it comes to updating my wardrobe. I see something I like on a blogger and buy it but it never looks the same on me. I’m trying to have a smaller closet but I just keep shopping looking for the right thing but never find it. How do you know what to choose when shopping?”

Learning how to shop for myself is an ongoing process and education. Below are the tips I use to stay on track.

How to Shop: Define your personal style without breaking the bank by Wardrobe Oxygen

Know Yourself

You are not me, you are not any blogger or celebrity or person in your neighborhood, no matter how relatable or similar that woman may be. This is a GOOD thing, we women are snowflakes not only when it comes to body shape and size, but coloring, personal style, lifestyle, and temperament. So when you see something great out there you need to say (and sometimes you need to say it out loud), okay it looks great on her but would it look great on me? Does it make sense for me and my current life and wardrobe? This isn’t covering the blogger or model’s head, it’s being completely honest with who you are, knowing and embracing your current self and situation.

Consider your Current Wardrobe

What gets the most wear and why? Do you keep wearing that sundress because it’s comfortable? Because it covers what needs to be covered running after kids yet doesn’t cause you to overheat? Because the color or print makes you happy? Because your partner said you look pretty in it? There is no wrong answer, but delving into the why can help you figure out what NOT to purchase in the future and truly assess your current situation.

Make a List and Check it Twice

Do you regularly get dressed in the morning and wish you had a pair of nude pumps, a navy cardigan, a white blazer that fit well? Do you find situations where you wish you had an LBD on standby or will be attending a destination wedding and need dressy flat sandals? Don’t just think about what you need, jot it down and put it in your wallet or purse. Stick to this list. Remember, you are you now. Don’t shop for the old you, the future you, or the fantasy you. Shopping when not being realistic is the quickest way to waste money and lose any personal style.

Be Prepared

If you only shop when you have an event on the calendar, you will be shopping in desperation having to buy something ANYTHING. And that something will likely only be worn once. Be prepared. Look at your upcoming social and career calendar, look at your past, and factor in what may happen. If you know you have a public speaking engagement once a year for work, be ready with a perfect suit that can look different each time with a switch of shell and accessories. If friends are getting engaged this year, begin looking for wedding, shower, and bachelorette appropriate dresses and outfits. I believe a not-so little black dress is a smart investment because it ensures you’re ready for that unexpected funeral, wedding, cocktail party, luncheon, and can even be the base for many a costume for Halloween or theme nights. I actually have a list I made a decade ago of wardrobe staples that is a good starting point – adjust for your life and style but do factor in what may come down the pike.

Stop Pinning and Pining for Pretty Closets

I find it strange that the most pinned images from my blog are those of big and colorful closets and they are pinned on boards just of big and colorful closets. Don’t try to make your closet pretty, a pretty looking closet usually equals a lost personal style. I know, I’ve been there. The more varied and exciting your wardrobe, the harder it is to get dressed and the more of a need to buy more to make everything work.

Narrow Your Search

I’ve had readers complain that it seems everything I buy is from Gap, Ann Taylor, LOFT, and Nordstrom. I do this for a reason – it makes my life easier. These retailers carry petite and up to 14, they have free shipping promotions, and either have free return shipping or have a location near my home or office where I can drop in and return what doesn’t work. I know some people will Google a type of garment and search for it or go blindly to the biggest mall in the area, but I find doing either sends me down a rabbit hole, leaves me sweaty and overwhelmed, and usually ends up emptying my pockets on things I don’t need. There is nothing wrong with shopping at the same retailers all the time if they fit your figure, your budget, and your lifestyle. Life is short, don’t spend it getting overwhelmed and frustrated at the mall or in front of your computer.

Keep your Closet Clean

We’re all short on time, but taking care with your closet (and drawers and jewelry boxes) will save you time and money in the long run. Carefully hang everything on hangers all facing the same direction. Organize your drawers so everything is visible. A place for everything and everything in its place so you can clearly see what you have, what you need, and what would improve the current wardrobe. When I start feeling the need for new clothes, I step away from the laptop and step into my closet to reorganize. Touching the garments, carefully buttoning and smoothing, organizing by category (I put all dresses together, all tops, all pants, etc.) and removing that which is damaged, doesn’t fit or isn’t appropriate to the season or your life keeps you connected and helps you really know if you need to shop and what you actually need to buy.

Don’t look for Happiness on a Hanger

No dress will transform your life. A well-fitting pair of pants won’t make you look 10 years younger and 20 pounds thinner. You’ll make your ex seethe with jealously more by having a blast on the wedding dance floor than wearing that dress you searched three months for. While it’s important to dress with and for respect for an interview, if a job won’t hire you because your suit is three years old or your pants and blazer don’t perfectly match the company likely won’t be a happy fit in the long run. Clothing should be used to keep yourself from getting arrested for indecent exposure, to represent your emotion or intention. And to express who you already are. Money can’t buy happiness and clothing can’t change you. If you’re looking for a big change, look within before opening your wallet.

How To Dress After Losing Weight (Guest Post)

Yes, that’s right, occasionally we do something right with our lifestyles and lose 15 pounds, two dress sizes and reshape our bodies! This happened to me a few years ago when I quit smoking. Three months after I quit, I started doing aerobics twice a week, went on a semi-diet and lost 15 pounds, gained a waist for the first time in 10 years and have more or less kept it off through a pregnancy and various other life changes. I’ve also cut my hair from super-long to chin length, changed its color and am now over 40, the years when bodies begin to change in other ways and sometimes not for the better….. I’m stronger, healthier and more confident than ever before, and I would say it shows because of the clothes I wear.

Many ladies take large-size dressing down to their smaller size without success. You may see them out and about – clothes that may still fit somewhat around one part of the body but don’t fit well, hang baggily, are dated, may have been expensive when they were first purchased but are still held onto like security blankets. Excuses are made, closets are full of things you don’t want to wear, you stand for several minutes in front of the closet every morning trying to think of something that makes you look like the person y`ou now are. This post is how to emphasize your gains as well as your losses!

Michelle ObamaPick one body part you have worked hard to improve and emphasize it. Got great arms now due to weightlifting? There’s a reason Michelle Obama wears a lot of sleeveless items when being photographed, when most of us look 10 pound heavier! She works hard for those muscles and likes to wear things that emphasize that body part.

I started wearing wrap dresses, higher waists and really anything that defined a waist again. I used to have a lot of quasi-maternity style dresses – my sister and I call them “fitted and then vaaaaaague….” and those went to Goodwill almost immediately. Once I was asked all the time if I was pregnant, now it rarely happens.

Keep a close eye on proportion. One thing I discovered is that although I am petite and a size 10/11, I can look even thinner if the proportion is right. Wide-legged pants call for a sleeker top. Blousey top calls for a pencil-like or straight skirt, or narrower pants.

I will often wear a swing-style cropped suit jacket with a dark straight skirt, and it makes me look a lot taller. Being more fit means you can feel confident about being sleeker.

Great Fitting JeansShop for or tailor basics you need to replace first. One thing I see thinner people do a lot is to keep wearing their old jeans. That stiff fabric makes them look a lot heavier than they really are – it’s time to invest in either getting them tailored to fit you or new pairs. Same thing with suits – if you really really love it and it’s not dated, get it tailored.

Don’t forget the foundation garments. When you lost weight, did The Girls get smaller too? I even had to buy new panties! I didn’t lose so much weight that my shoe size changed, but for some of you this may be something you need to invest in! Lucky you! I do still need the control top tights in the winter, but it’s more so that they stay up rather than that I need the firmness per se. Although that never hurt anyone….

Kate Winslet Tailored DressTailored items make everyone look thinner. When we are heavier we wear a lot more stretch fabrics, and especially if you’ve lost inches, that stretch fabric hangs oddly and is ill-fitting. I had some great pairs of jersey pants and dresses that when I decided to ditch ’em, I replaced them with more tailored items. Not only was it a way to present a more professional image (I wanted to also advance my career with my new look), the additional seaming and pressed creases in the tailored pieces allowed me to make straight lines where I wanted them to be, and to be more polished overall.

So congratulations! You’ve worked hard to drop that weight, and every little bit counts. Whether it’s 10, 20 or 70 pounds, celebrate your accomplishment, your new life and your new body and rock it with the clothes you wear!

KayBug, guest blogger and avid Jazzerciser, cyclist and very occasional power walker/jogger on the dreaded treadmill.

Interested in being a guest blogger on Wardrobe Oxygen? Send me an email with your idea and your qualifications!