Search Results for: label/How To Shop

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 twitter.com 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 http://websta.me/search 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?

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.

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!



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.

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 USPS.com 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 USPS.com. 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.

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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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.

Jeggings

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.

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 “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.

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 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!

Ask Allie: An Active Casual Capsule Wardrobe for a Woman Over 60

I am about to retire and would love to have advice about a capsule wardrobe to fit my new situation. I am a young 62 and pear shaped. I’m planning to focus on travel, enjoying grandchildren, blues festivals, yoga and walking. I like classic styles and love blues and greens.

Congratulations! That sounds like an amazing way to spend this new point in your life. And I love that you’re considering a capsule wardrobe so you can focus on life instead of what to wear each day. Purchasing carefully, slowly, and while considering all you currently own can get you to the point of having a small quality wardrobe of hard-working pieces that have you ready for whatever comes your way.

capsule wardrobe casual active over 60

For this casual capsule wardrobe I didn’t focus on yoga and walking as I figure you have gear for those activities; however I did try to create a collection that will move with you, be comfortable for long spans of time outdoors taking the grandchildren sightseeing or to the park, or sitting on a blanket in the grass enjoying live music.

As a pear-shaped woman, it can be hard to find bottoms that fit and flatter. For skirts, those with an a-line, a flare from the waist, or that are softly gathered will flatter your figure. A skirt at or below the knee not only balances your frame but provides modesty when chasing after little ones or sitting on the ground. While many women avoid shorts, they’re so practical and so many lengths and styles are now available making it so any woman can find a cut that she likes. For a pear shape, a straight short that hits right at the top of the knee is best. Here I offered a stretchy denim style with a cuff, and a stretch twill Bermuda that can dress up or down nicely. A “boyfriend” jean is great for pear shapes because they’re more relaxed in the hip and thigh area and the cuff makes them have just the right amount of taper and color contrast to not shorten the leg like traditional cropped pants. Many women choose dark bottoms to minimize their hips and rear, but a pair of opaque white jeans can be quite chic and flattering (and it also makes primary and jewel tones look so luxe). It’s not ridiculous to pay to have jeans tailored (if you purchase them from Nordstrom they will tailor them on-site); go up a size for a comfortable fit in the hips and thighs and have the waist and hem adjusted for a custom fit. A straight jean is on trend yet will still be stylish next year; such a cut also balances hips nicely.

For tops, I kept things simple but incorporated elements to balance your curves. Boatnecks, cap sleeves, and gathered necklines add interest and also balance the bottom half of your figure. Choosing tops that highlight the slimmest part of your torso are also great; look for empire waists, built-in belts (or add one at the waist or at the ribs over an untucked top), and details like ruching and knots that define. Notice I kept prints to a minimum and those prints quite classic – prints can look dated very quickly. Sticking to solids and classic simple prints will keep your wardrobe from looking passé or frumpy. Breton stripes are a classic and look chic on women of all ages; while florals can be seen as mumsy this simple white and blue print in a stretch silk or synthetic will look quite modern, especially when paired unexpectedly with boyfriend jeans or shorts.  A graphic print in your favorite color can easily be switched out for the floral.

With dresses, I incorporated the same concepts from the skirts and tops.  Fit and flare styles, cap sleeves, details to emphasize the waist, and skirts that hit at the knee or lower.  Do know that models are often taller than average; a dress that looks thigh-high on a website may be knee-length on you.  Consider the measurements offered as well as the photo (and customer reviews, if available) before judging a dress or skirt.

While a shoe with a bit of a heel will balance a pear figure, I believe in function over fashion and a flat shoe will do you better with your new lifestyle. Choosing shoes that match your bottoms or are low contrast to your legs will be the best choice; a metallic flat is a great way to dress up casual pieces but they’re also a great way to get away without wearing heels to a wedding or other social event.


Accessories are what take a capsule wardrobe from ordinary to extraordinary. Statement necklaces are a great way to draw attention to your face, add personality and also a youthful touch to your outfit. A silk scarf can look matronly, but in a bold print it adds personality and class to simple knits.

As for bags, choosing a crossbody means you have your hands free to hold on to your grandchildren, take a photo, or grab a pair of drinks for you and another at that next blues festival.  I can’t stress the importance of accessories enough, especially with a pared-down wardrobe of staples.  Accessories show your personality, show that you are young at heart, and that you are aware of current trends and care about style.  Don’t be afraid of a sparkly necklace, a metallic slip-on sneaker, or a statement watch or bag from a popular brand.

A pair of black plastic sunglasses are a classic; I recommend purchasing a classic yet popular brand and a style that is pretty classic to show you are aware of the trends but wearing them in the way that is best for you.  While I featured the classic Ray-Ban Wayfarer in the collage, other styles are equally chic; I chose a few that caught my eye and have them in the widget above.  With sunglasses and bags, I recommend buying the best quality and brand you can afford.  These are accessories you likely will wear every day; quality will last and also elevate your basic wardrobe staples.

How You Doin’?

Hey folks, long time no chat! I gotta say, blogging isn’t easy with a cast. While I have gotten the hang of typing with both hands (I’m glad Dragon exists comma but by time I have a sentence written out comma I have lost track of what I was trying to say period next line), it’s not as quick, editing photos is near impossible, and creating links literally cramped up my hand when using my laptop trackpad.

I miss writing, be it for the blog, or in my journals. This weekend watching Sunday Morning, they had a piece about the benefits of doodling. I Alison Gary, am a mega doodler. Doodling helps me clear my mind, focus on a presentation, craft a blog post, think of blog posts, and remember facts from a lecture or in a book. I realize the inability to doodle may be contributing to my lack of focus and mild ditziness that is driving me bonkers. I have half-written posts all over the place, in my Notes on my phone, my laptop, my work computer, on a flash drive… but when I go back to them I can’t remember what I was trying to say or else I don’t have the same opinion or voice. The lingerie post I shared Monday? Yeah, I started that post in May.

Friday, I went to the orthopedist knowing there was a chance my cast would come off. My previous appointment was just with the PA since my doctor was out of town and the PA told me the 20th the cast may be removed, and if not, July 7th. I was called back to the examination rooms and a tech told me he was going to help me “be free from prison.” He led me to the cast room and cut off my cast; I couldn’t stop smiling, even through the X-rays. My face hurt, I was so happy. They had a new computer system and a few glitches caused the schedule to be off, they let me know I may have to wait a bit to see the doctor. I sat in the examination room with my naked arm, so excited that I Instagrammed a photo of it, giving the thumbs up. The doctor came in and let me know that though the healing is going well, due to the damage the broken plate caused in my arm and the severity of the situation, I needed to go back into another long arm cast for 4-6 more weeks. Oh well, freedom was awesome while I had it! And really, this is worth it to have a functioning arm for the rest of my life. I again went with a pink cast, though I have a few CastCoverz! Armz! to switch up my look!

emerson kelis 930

This time is so different from the last time. No pain, and no fear. I’m living life as much as I can. Last weekend Emerson had her dance recital and I went to see Kelis at 9:30 with my friend Nicole.  This weekend I took Emerson to a birthday party at Pump It Up, and even picked crabs at a neighborhood cookout (not a drop of Old Bay on the cast!)! Karl and I have a Date Night this Wednesday and a couple more concerts on the docket later this summer and the annual Girls Weekend at Rehoboth come August. Sleeping is hard, little of my wardrobe works with the cast; and my hair is a ridiculous mess; but I’m healing correctly and all of this will be a blip in the grand scheme of life.

Speaking of which, after ten weeks so far of cast living I have learned some amazing hacks to be semi-independent and functioning:

  • Put a silicone or rubber mat on the floor, a peanut butter or mayo jar on it, and grip the jar with bare feet; now you can open the jar with your non-dominant hand.
  • Take one of those rubber bands that comes around broccoli or asparagus; clamp down a hand-crank can opener, put the band around the handles and you can use your cast hand to hold it upright and crank with the left hand and successfully open a can!
  • Though I’ve tried all the gadgets out there to protect a cast while showering, none seem to work with a soft fleshy short arm. Reader Amy told me to try Glad Press’n Seal and it is amazing. While I still can’t take a traditional shower or go swimming, this product sticks to the cast, the cloth part of the cast, and even my arm making the whole thing resistant to splashes while I take a bath or fake shower (use a shower head on a hose). I still need someone to wrap my arm for me (Karl is a saint), but it’s far easier than a trash bag and electrical tape!
  • Flossing picks.  A broken arm isn’t an excuse to shirk your dental responsibility!
  • I now wear a wide knit headband when I wash my face and put on makeup. I think many people wear some sort of headband or clip to hold back their hair, but it never seemed necessary to me until now where I am constantly getting foundation or facewash in my hair. The wide stretchy band is nice because it covers from the forehead back, not a single bit of hair is exposed, and I can throw it in the wash with my reusable cotton rounds.  And to put on one-handed… well it does involve teeth…
  • My left hand is getting far more work than ever before, and having acrylic nails has helped greatly. My hand is more like a tool, and I’m not breaking or splitting nails. A coat of gel polish keeps me chip free for weeks.
  • Kindle.  Even the phone app will do.  Impossible to hold a book and flip pages and keep your place without muttering a few swear words; a Kindle will maintain your sanity.
  • Surf spray makes unbrushed untamed frizzy hair look more purposeful.  Spray hair products are a must, don’t try to be a hero and use a mousse or cream, you’ll only end up with a gooey mass at the very back of your head that you can’t fully reach when bathing.
  • If you end up wearing a cast you MUST get a CastCooler. It attaches to the hose on your vacuum and the suction pulls cool drying air into your cast. Great if you do get your cast wet, great when it gets all sweaty from being in plastic while bathing or swimming, and just great when it’s been a hot summer day and you wish you could scratch that darn itch.
  • They now have contacts that you can leave in for 30 days and nights. I got a box before my May surgery, and with my allergy eyes I can’t go longer than two weeks with them in, but it’s two sweet weeks of not having to wear glasses sliding down my nose and getting filthy from being pushed up by my awkward left hand. Another situation where I can praise Saint Karl, who pries my eyes open so I can put in the contacts (and I use these tweezers to get the contacts out).

outfit photos

Life may be awkward, but it’s pretty darn wonderful. Emerson is growing like a weed (how can she already be starting kindergarten this fall????), the garden is flourishing (already enjoying spinach and lettuce, the tomato and pepper plants grow a foot every day), Karl is swell (we celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary earlier this month!), and I feel pretty darn blessed. I have some phenomenal fashion from brands like Kika, Dobbin Clothing, love,cortnie, Sanuk, and Karen Kane I can’t wait to feature in outfit posts (until then follow me on Instagram for near-daily outfit photos) and look forward to arm freedom and truly getting back to all aspects of this blog. Thanks for being on this journey with me!

How I Stay Organized

A couple years ago I attended a blog event; I had to meet fellow bloggers at a boutique and take a party bus to the venue. Typical Alison, I am either early or late so I was early. Super early. Early enough to leisurely window shop all the boutiques up and down the street. I went into a stationery store and flipped through wedding invites and thank you cards and then saw a display of agenda books. These weren’t trying to be Moleskine, they weren’t trying to be a Franklin Covey from 1997, they were well made and of the coolest fabrics. Leopard, glitter, snakeskin… the momAgenda.

Sometimes products have the worst names (I’m looking at you NYDJ), but make the best product. Even though I am a mom, I don’t want anything advertised just for moms. I’m not trying to schedule soccer practice and Girl Scouts, I just want something that will fit in my purse, let me see a month at a glance, and some room for addresses and birthdays to keep me organized.  Good thing momAgenda that your products are better than your name!  My momAgenda of choice is the myAgenda Mini (which only says myAgenda on it, nothing mom-related on the cover!).

The myAgenda Mini isn’t small, it’s a little less thick and a little bigger than a paperback novel, but I find I can even slip it into my Rebecca Minkoff Mini M.A.C along with a small cosmetics pouch and overloaded wallet. But the features make it so much better than one of those cheapy engagement calendars you can pick up at Hallmark or the grocery store.

  • Month at a Glance. This is why I prefer paper to electronic. I like to see my entire month, so I don’t overbook every weekend or realize that I’m scheduling something the Sunday before a crazy week at work. I carried an engagement calendar for this very reason, but the day boxes were so small I couldn’t clearly write work, blog, and personal events as well as birthdays and anniversaries. The myAgenda Mini is big enough that I can easily write all the events, appointments, birthdays, and BUY GRANDMA A BIRTHDAY CARD messages I need.
  • Week at a Glance. I’ll be honest, when I first bought this planner, I found this section pointless. And now it’s my favorite portion because I use it FOR BLOGGING! The month at a glance is for work and personal and if there’s any blog events I am attending in person, but the week at a glance is for the blogging business. I write down which posts are scheduled to go live, which brands I am promoting so I can keep track, when I have phone calls, when I received product, when giveaways and sponsored posts are to go live, when to send out invoices or reminder emails, when I should get paid from different projects, when ads are set to expire. It’s utterly brilliant and works far better than any electronic method I previously had.
  • Years at a Glance. Yes, I would like to see what day of the week May 12, 2013 was, and what day of the week it will be in 2015 and it’s nice to have the calendar right there for quick reference.
  • Sturdy.  While it’s flexible, it’s a hard cover with a quality binding.  They still look nice at the end of the year!
  • Two Bookmarks. One ribbon for the month, one for the week. Brilliant!
  • Addresses. I know, in this day and age such things are EVERYWHERE but I’m old school and I like having my Christmas card list on me at all times. I also like that if I go to a hair salon and the stylist says she’s from Vermont I can whip out my myAgenda Mini and let her know where Karl’s cousin lives in that state; I can quickly look up the names of my second cousin’s kids or quickly GPS a friend’s addy. Oh, and this portion is removable so you can transfer it to next year’s book.
  • Holidays. I know you can find this online, but it always seems I need to know what day is Father’s Day when I am in a car or at a relative’s house or at a restaurant and it’s far easier to whip this baby out. It also is great for planning my blog editorial calendar.
  • Accessories. Self-sticking pockets? I love pockets in my skirts and I adore them in my planners. They fill up with business cards and menus, receipts and photos. I keep them in there, as a bit of a scrapbook from the year.  They have other accessories available, but the one I “need” is the pockets!
  • Listmania. Built-in areas for lists of wines, books, movies, parties, fashion, and more. It makes this paper planner more like a journal, and something interesting to look back at 10 years from now. 
  • August One Year to December the Next. I know this is a “mom” feature to keep track of a normal year and school year, but it’s really helpful for those who are in school themselves, those who have jobs that have a calendar that doesn’t start in January, and it’s nice to have a 17 months there for you to review instead of the standard 12.  I start filling up next year’s planner before this one is through, which makes the leap into January less painful.
  • Pretty. After many years of fake leather and ugly plastic, it’s nice to have something trendy, elegant, fashionable, or fun in my purse. Last year I had a gray snakeskin cover which wasn’t too crazy to pull out at a work meeting, but felt stylish. This year I really wanted their leopard cover but bought too late; instead I have a soft shimmery gold fabric that is probably a better choice as it’s subtle, tasteful, yet still fun and fashionable.  They have solids, prints, textures, and pretty much a cover that fits any personal style.

The momAgenda products can be bought at stationery stores, at their site, and other retailers like Organize.com and The Container Store.  Most recently I bought mine from momAgenda directly because I put it off until the end of December and couldn’t find any I liked in local stores.  Check online for discount codes for momAgenda if you shop there directly, I found one on RetailMeNot, and once I ordered I now get regular emails from them about sales and discount codes. And of course if you do buy from somewhere like Organize.com or The Container Store, first go to Ebates for discount codes and cash back!

I may be old fashioned, but I still love paper. I love to journal in actual notebooks, I love writing lists and thank you notes and leave post-it reminders in place of texts. And yes, I love paper calendars. I have a shelf in my office where old planners and agenda books are stacked against one another and it makes me happy to look at them, snapshots of that year and who I was at that time. And the MyAgenda Mini fulfills this need and fits my current life. Yeah, this totally ended up sounding like an infomercial; wasn’t planning on it, but it’s just that perfect of a product for me!


What do you use to keep yourself organized? If you are a blogger or have a similar business, what do you use to keep it tidy and properly scheduled?

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How I Shop

I worked in retail for a decade. I was a personal shopper, retail manager, apparel visual merchandiser, salesperson racing from fitting room to denim wall to register. Because of this, I enter a mall maybe twice a year, and always at off-peak times.

I also don’t shop in malls because I find them frustrating, overwhelming, and demoralizing.

Near my office, there is an Ann Taylor, a Gap, a Nordstrom Rack, and a few other shops. Near my home on my way to the bank or Emerson’s dance class there’s a Marshall’s, a Ross, an Old Navy, a Target, and a couple smaller shops. I will occasionally shop these retailers if I have time or they are near my necessary errand locations, but otherwise I shop online.


I shop online because the selection is better.
I shop online because I have flattering lighting.
I shop online because I trust my own mirror.
I shop online because I am then never pushed to buy something by someone who doesn’t know or care about me.
I shop online so I can be sure the item works with my shoes/bra/purse.
I shop online because they have my size.
I shop online so I can take the time to sit in something, see it from behind, make sure it works with my body and movement.
I shop online so I have time.
I shop online so I don’t become a sweaty frustrated mess who wants to drink all the wine at California Pizza Kitchen and enjoy all that wine with spinach artichoke dip.
I shop online so I get what I want in a manner I deserve.

I don’t shop in person, and that includes thrift stores, because I just don’t have the time. I work over 40 hours a week and commute almost 10 hours more. I blog, I help my husband with his business, I have a child and family and friends. When I have free time I don’t want to spend it shopping, I want to spend it living. I spent too much of my past using shopping as a source of entertainment and all it gave me was a lot of debt and crowded closets. When I do go to stores I so often see bored kids in carts, whining to leave. I have limited time with Emerson, I’d rather spend it doing something we both can enjoy.

Where I mainly shop:

  • Nordstrom. They have petites and larger sizes and great reviews from fellow customers to help me choose the right size or to not buy an item. They have free shipping and free returns. Nordstrom also has surprisingly awesome prices – their sales are fabulous, and brands like Halogen and Caslon give you current trends for reasonable prices.
  • Ann Taylor. The brand fits me. Sometimes I love their stuff, sometimes I hate their stuff, but I find the quality and sizing to be relatively consistent and their style to fit my lifestyle. Oh, and they too have great sales and take returns in-store.
  • Talbots. Consistent sizing and quality, great wardrobe staples, great customer service. I swear by Talbots skirts, very flattering and classic.
  • Zappos. Extensive selection, free shipping and returns.
  • 6pm. If you know what you like, check here and you may find it cheaper. Free shipping.
  • Amazon. Same with 6pm, it’s a good place to find very specific items at a great price.
  • Gap. I like them for basics – tee shirts, summer dresses, the occasional pair of jeans. Their sizing and quality is inconsistent so I don’t shop there as much as I used to. But they have a broad range of sizes, and I can do returns in store.
  • eBay. I buy a large percentage of my wardrobe from eBay because it’s saving stuff from landfills, saving me money, and giving me variety. I like to look for last-season’s items on there (I’m the crazy person who remembers the names of different dresses and jackets).

How I shop:

  • I always go to Ebates first. I have written about Ebates before, but it’s a no-strings, no-spam way to get true cash back (not points, not gift cards) on where you shop. Big fan.
  • I always make a list and try to stick to it. Very little virtual window shopping, which can be bad for the wallet.
  • I often sort items from lowest to highest price so I see the more budget-friendly options before falling for one that is more expensive.
  • If the site doesn’t have reviews, I Google the name of the item and “review” to see if I can find them elsewhere. Many blogs do product reviews these days which are super helpful when determining brand or size.
  • I don’t usually veer from brands I know unless there’s a lot of reviews letting me know about quality and fit.
  • I don’t like shopping places where the clothes aren’t on human beings. While some models are smaller than mannequins and clothes are often clipped and pinned to fit, a human model gives me a better feel of drape and fit than a mannequin or having it on a white background.
  • If an online retailers has a PITA return policy, I won’t shop there unless I know before I buy that I will not want to return (specific size and style of shoe, an accessory, etc.).
  • If I want a very specific item and the site doesn’t have my size, I will Google to see if I can find it elsewhere.
  • If I want a specific item (say a Western shirt) I will search my favorite haunts, then I will Google the item with “2013” to see what blog reviews or sites have something with that description. This saves me time and often brings to light new and interesting retailers.
  • I never check out before searching for a promo code. RetailMeNot is my favorite place. I also subscribe to emails from my favorite retailers to get promo codes.
  • I don’t rack up debt, but I do have Nordstrom and Banana Republic (which also works for Gap, Old Navy, and Athleta) credit cards and put my purchases on them. I pay them off right away, but I acquire points on purchases which earn me store credit.
  • I have a box at home where I keep all receipts and packing slips. As soon as I buy something, the receipt goes there in case I need to do a return or exchange. Also helpful if I want to replace something via eBay, I know the name and SKU.
  • I also have a box of shipping materials. In there goes all the shipping bags that deliver product, as well as any tissue paper or bubble wrap used to protect accessories. This way I have free materials for returns as well as old items I sell on eBay.

I have become a bit of an online shopping pro. I know how to find what I want with minimal time, and how to get the best price (or cash back). I know my body, I know what brands usually flatter, so it reduces my number of returns. Online shopping is like any other activity, you become more skilled with time. I have found this to be a good skill to hone because it saves me time, saves me money, and saves my confidence.

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How to Shop: eBay

For a long time, I was terrified of eBay. I didn’t understand it, and felt that I could easily be scammed by sellers who were passing off fakes as authentic, taking my money and not sending me items, pretty much getting screwed by the whole process.

A few years ago, I fell madly in love with the Sandhurst hobo bag from Banana Republic. I went into the store often to drool over it. I would stand in front of a mirror, hold it in my hand, sling over my shoulder, and admire my reflection. However, I just couldn’t afford the price. A friend suggested I look for it on eBay. I did, found a seller who had the exact style and color I desired and was able to get the bag brand new in its dust cover for 30% off the retail price.

After that I was hooked on eBay for brand-name accessories. If I loved a certain necklace from J. Crew or bag from Rebecca Minkoff, I would get the style number and name, the color, the measurements, and then head to eBay. Often times I could find it, and for far cheaper than retail.

I don’t claim to be an eBay expert, but many of you have asked about how I go about shopping on the site. Here’s some of my tips and tricks for navigating eBay:

Accessories on eBay


Shopping for Accessories on eBay

When You Know Exactly What You Want
So you want the Essex bag from Kate Spade? Before you buy retail, head to eBay. There are lots of reasons why people are selling items on eBay. Maybe they got it as a gift or won it in a contest, possibly they are thinning out their collection, maybe it’s a store sample, and yes maybe it’s hot or a fake.

The search function on eBay is pretty robust. I usually start by typing in the brand and style name into the search function (you can often find this info on Google if you don’t already know it). If that doesn’t give me the results I desire, I will make the search broader and just enter the brand name, and then the type of item (handbag, jewelry, sunglasses, etc.). Often times sellers do not know the style name or number, so by adding that to your search you may end up with zero results.

I then search through the selections and in a separate browser tab/window, open any that fit my criteria. I then look at each different auction. Are they really the same item and color? What is the condition of each? Who has the better options and price for shipping? What are their return policies?

I look at the seller – I care less about how many thousands of sales they have had, and more on the quality of their feedback. I go and read the feedback; I am especially interested in negative and neutral feedback. Recently I purchased a blouse from a seller who claimed the item was New Without Tags, never worn, pristine condition. When I received it, it was missing a button. I left neutral feedback, as that the blouse was as described except for the fact that a very important button (cannot be replaced) was missing and this was not in the description. The seller contacted me, angry about the neutral feedback and asked for me to return the blouse and remove my feedback. I again looked at her feedback and saw that in the past six months she had two other neutral feedbacks from folks stating their items were not quite as described. I chose to leave that feedback to warn future customers; I wonder how many either didn’t notice their purchase’s flaw or accepted the seller’s offer to return the item and remove the feedback.

Once I find the item and seller that I like, I stop and think, what is the maximum amount I would pay for this item? I then write it down so it is more concrete. I bid, and I NEVER go over that number. eBay will let you know when you are close to being outbid and when you have been outbid, and it’s so tempting to add a couple more dollars just to stay in the game. DON’T. I have a friend who admitted she spent $50 more on an item on eBay than it cost in the store just because she got caught up in the thrill of the auction. I feel that if you are bidding within 30% of the actual retail price for something on eBay it’s usually not worth it. Wait until you get a store coupon so you have the customer service to go with the item in case there is an issue/need for repairs or a return.

Nine times out of ten what you are bidding for on eBay you don’t need in the first place, so if it’s not in your price range, let it go. Seriously, let it go.

Once you get your item, carefully open the shipping package and inspect it from head to toe. Does it match the photos and description of the item? Were you extravagantly overcharged for the shipping? If you are happy, leave quick and detailed feedback about the shipping, the price, the quality, the communication of the seller. If you find an issue, let the seller know; she may offer a quick solution. If you’re wildly unhappy, don’t keep it to yourself – let the seller know and let the world know with your feedback. Feedback isn’t just for the seller, it’s for future customers, future yous who want to buy and know they are getting their money’s worth.

When You Don’t Know What You Want
You can search more general terms like “Stella and Dot ring” or “Ann Taylor” and then use the eBay-offered categories to break down to jewelry or shoes or bags. From there you can usually break it down even further by color, size, and specific type of item. I usually don’t, and let my mouse do the walking through dozens of pages of auctions while I eat my lunch or wait for a friend to arrive. If you don’t know what you want, it’s good to really take a tour because you may be pleasantly surprised with what you find. A search for peacock-feather earrings ended up finding me a great dress for Bonnaroo; a search for a charm bracelet got me my Anthropologie crystal bracelet.

As with others, investigate your seller, and write down a final price. Be sure to check shipping prices – sometimes they are so high (or coming from overseas) that it’s not worth it to wait for it to arrive, or you might as well buy it retail.

Clothing on eBay


Shopping for Clothing on eBay

I hardly ever go outside my brand comfort zone on eBay. I shop brands whose fit I know is consistent. It is either something I have already tried on in a store, or a designer with whom I am very familiar (hello Ann Taylor). Keep in mind, even your go-to brand (hello Ann Taylor!) changes its sizing over the years – you may be an 8 at that brand, but if the item is five years old you may find an 8 to be a bit snug.

The only time I will go outside my complete comfort zone is with vintage clothing, and then I have to have very detailed clothing measurements in the description. If you have questions, ask them! Ask the seller for a photo of the back view of the dress, ask if the skirt is lined or what type of slit it has in the back. Ask if it’s more of a midnight navy or a dark blue, and ask for the fabric content. If you are unsure of the year, ask to see a photo of the label (most retailers slightly change the logo or look of their label every couple of years – you can often Google to find a timeline of the brand’s logo). It sucks to receive an item that isn’t want you believed it to be and go back and realize the seller didn’t misrepresent, you just filled in the blanks without asking.

I prefer a seller who has multiple pictures of an item, and of the actual item, not a JPEG lifted off of Google Images. This way I really know I am getting what I desire.

eBay Shopping Support

PayPal: If you don’t already have a PayPal account, you will need one to shop on eBay. I prefer PayPal to credit cards for online shopping because I have less chance for identity theft. PayPal is very user secure and friendly, and you can easily set it up to your checking account (or multiple bank accounts) so when you have a $0 PayPal balance, it will just withdraw right from your bank.

PayPal can be used at so many other sites online (hello Etsy, drugstore.com,Lands End Canvas and Zappos and more!) that it makes sense to have an account with them.


eSnipe: I haven’t used eSnipe in a while, but loved it back when I was looking for my Sandhurst bag. My hairdresser told me about it, and it has helped me score some great prices on eBay auctions. Instead of having to constantly stalk your auction to ensure you have the highest price, eSnipe will do it for you. Tell them your maximum price that you are willing to pay and in the last couple of seconds of an auction eSnipe will bid on your behalf, helping you win the auction, and not go above your budget.  FYI, eSnipe is now only free for a trial period, and then has a slight cost.

Ebates: I have a love affair with Ebates.  Sign up for free, visit Ebates before heading to most online shops and get cash back on your purchase.  They have popular online retailers like Sephora, Nordstrom, Target, Ann Taylor and Old Navy, but Ebates also gives you 1-4% cash back on all purchases on eBay! 

Ebates gives you an actual check once a quarter, no points to redeem, no gift cards, actual cash.  No spam, no strings, just 30 seconds for money back.  Be sure to sign up and visit Ebates each time before you head to eBay!

Some eBay Acronyms to Know:

  • NWT – New with Tags. This means the tags should be ATTACHED unless otherwise stated in the description
  • NWOT – New without tags. This means new condition, an item could be found at a store like this. No perfume, no dog hair, no creases from wear.
  • NWOB – New without box. (everytime I see this acronym I think NKOTB)
  • NRFB – Never removed from the box
  • EUC – Excellent used condition. Means like-new, though not as perfect as NWOT.
  • MNT – Mint condition (again doesn’t mean new, but is closer to NWOT)
  • VGC – Very good condition.  This means the item was worn, but is still in wearable condition (no stains, holes, etc.)
  • GUC or GU – Good used condition. This description has many shades of gray and it’s important to know details, see detailed photos and ask questions to fill in the blanks.
  • NBW – Never been worn
  • TTS – True to size
  • S/S or SS – Short-sleeved
  • L/S or LS – Long-sleeved
  • FB – Feeback
  • DBL – Double
  • FP – Fixed price
  • GBP – Great British Pounds
  • ITF – Impossible to find (often used in title for limited-edition pieces)
  • VHTF – Very hard to find (ditto, often in auction titles)

eBay Etiquette
Leave feedback. No matter what you purchased, or how many times you shopped from the same seller, leave feedback for every individual purchase you make. Many people make their living off of eBay auctions, and your feedback supports their livelihood. Feedback also helps your fellow shoppers, letting them know who to trust, and who to avoid.

Pay promptly. If you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t be bidding in the first place. When I win an auction, I pay within 24 hours. I have sold on eBay and it’s frustrating to have to chase down a customer to beg for your money. Not paying promptly is like being rude to your waiter – he will care less about pleasing you and you may get spit in your soup… or a delayed shipment.

Pay. Again, if you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t be bidding. Winning an auction and then never paying won’t just give you negative feedback, but will also screw over the seller. There is a lot of steps a seller has to take to prove that you didn’t keep up your end of the bargain, to get back their selling fee, and finally be able to re-list the item. A good month could go by and that’s possibly the rent or grocery bill for that seller.

If something unexpected happens where you just can’t pay… contact the seller. Let them know as soon as possible. Don’t hide and ignore the invoices you will receive. Bad things happen to good people, we have all been there. Don’t leave your seller high and dry.

Accept the seller’s terms. As a previous eBay seller, nothing is more frustrating than having a person from Belgium try to bid on an item when I clearly stated I only ship to the US. I have had sellers try to pay via money order when I write that I only accept PayPal, ask me to ship FedEx when I use USPS, request I take the item off auction and just sell it at a reduced price to them. Read the description, all the fine print. It doesn’t hurt to ask if it’s a small change (offer to pay additional for expedited shipping or delivery to Canada from the US), but remember these are people, not major corporations. They don’t have the time, resources, money or desire to be your personal valet.

Have you had success shopping on eBay?  What are your tips and tricks for navigating the site and getting great fashion deals?

Please visit my other “How to Shop” posts:

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How to Shop: Inspiration

How do I find inspiration? How do I know what to buy each season and how I know it will flatter not only my figure but my personality?

Fashion is a form of art, just like painting and sculpture and music. When you look at it as a form of art, it’s easier to see what you like and don’t like. Instead of looking at what is hot for the season, just look. So Pantone has decided that honeysuckle (a bright pink) is THE color for 2011, that doesn’t mean you need to wear it to be stylish. Feel silly in maxi skirts and dresses? Don’t wear them!

We live in a great time for fashion – a time where one can find her personal style. There isn’t one single denim wash or leg opening that everyone wears, there isn’t just one silhouette of dress that is fashionable this season. Though certain silhouettes, fabrics, and colors are deemed by fashion authorities to be “hot” or “not” each season, it doesn’t mean the rest are unwearable. It really is possible to find that which flatters you and your personality.

Where I Get Inspiration

Fashion Blogs
As a blogger, I love following fellow fashion bloggers. I find them just as inspirational as the issues of Vogue and Bazaar that arrive in my mailbox every month. With fashion bloggers, you are able to see how clothing works on non-model bodies, how creative women can make couture street fashion, creative ways to mix high-end with Target or thrifted pieces, and unique ways to style pieces to flatter curves, a petite frame, a conservative work environment. Some of my favorite blogs for fashion inspiration:

Atlantic-Pacific – When you want to see how to do a trend right, visit this blog. She is able to pair polka-dots with leopard print and make it look chic, not desperate. I love her mix of clean lines and strong colors with her armful of random bracelets and watch, her bold use of lipstick, her ability to make Hunter willies look downright chic.

Stylish White Female – Rarely do I find a fashion blog whose personal style I could actually see myself wearing. Terra from Stylish White Female is one of those bloggers. Like Atlantic-Pacific, she has a very clear voice – bright clear colors, lots of solids, great use of accessories. Ensembles that are unique yet very wearable for real life. For expecting women, Terra is currently pregnant and total proof that you can be a fabulous and fashionable woman, no matter the trimester.

Extra Petite, Petite Early Morning Style, and 9 to 5 Chic – Three wonderful blogs if you are working in Corporate America but don’t want to look like a cubicle drone. I hate to lump these stylish women together, because they are very unique women. However, they are favorites to visit because they are able to make classic pieces look elegant, unique, and always appropriate. I know that I can always find an excellent Ann Taylor review from Extra Petite, and one for LOFT from Petite Early Morning Style; and I know from all three they will give inspiration on how to make the mass-produced look unique and personal.

Artfully Awear – Have you ever created an outfit inspired by a Matisse or Rothko? Artfully Aware states on her blog, “Plainness in clothing is the enemy of art.” Each post shows her fabulous eclectic style, and then the painting that inspired her ensemble. I doubt I would ever wear what she wears (or be able to pull it off), but I love her sense of color, her joy for life and her passion for art.

Fashion for Nerds and Style Odyssey Stephanie at Style Odyssey and Audi at Fashion for Nerds are so clearly aware of their personal style, it’s impressive. They don’t dress for society, they don’t dress for others, they dress to express themselves and please themselves. By doing this, they have a very clear message and always look so utterly chic. Both women have personal styles drastically different from mine, but through their blogs I find inspiration on how to simplify, and try unusual combinations while staying true to myself.

FutureLint and Work With What You’ve Got – I suck at thrifting. I head to a local shop and get overwhelmed by the racks of randomness. Christine at FutureLint is my hero – she is able to take an almost completely thrifted wardrobe and make it work for her job, for parties, for dates. Erin at Work With What You’ve Got and I seem to have been separated at 9th grade – she makes me wish I didn’t do a major purge of my clothes when I went off to college for she is able to make Doc Martens and Smiths tee shirts look absolutely cool, modern, and fresh. I really like both of these women for their unique senses of style and great voices – it’s awesome to read a blog for years and still want to meet them IRL.

I love so many fashion blogs, but when thinking offhand of my faves without looking at my Google Reader or Blogroll, these were the few that came to mind. My faves often change with the seasons, and with my life. Blogs I adored before Emerson may seem inappropriate now, blogs I followed when I worked in a different field may not be as inspiring now that I have my new job. It’s important to notice when your tastes change and think as to WHY that is happening. It’s impossible to stay stagnant in fashion – you as a human being change and adapt to your environment, your wardrobe should also adapt.

Fashion Magazines


Fashion Magazines
I know in a previous post I said one should get rid of the fashion magazines to save money. However, if you have a grip on your finances, fashion magazines still are an amazing way to be inspired by current fashion. We may have Style.com and Fashionista, but paper magazines will always be one of my favorite sources for fashion inspiration. I can tuck one in my purse and read it on the Metro ride to work, I have them in my bathroom so I can read them while straightening my hair, I have them on my bedside table so I can flip through before bed or on a lazy Sunday morning.

I flip through magazines not really looking at details, but looking at colors and silhouettes. Bazaar had a page of blue and white printed pieces – Ikat and batik and tie dye and even toile. I loved how the trend looked, envisioned a dress or lightweight cotton top in such a print with my current wardrobe – with my gold flat sandals from Lands End, with white jeans or denim cutoffs. I thought about how I could make it work for the office setting.

With fashion magazines, I treat them like a coffee table book for an artist. I don’t take it literally, I look at the clothing as art. Instead of examining who the designer is, I examine the drape the silhouette, the choices of color and fabric. I can’t afford designer, and I don’t want to try to get the same look for less. However I do know that if a designer shows a certain type of fabric or color on the runway, within a year that choice will be available at chain stores for a price I can afford.

Television
I find a lot of inspiration on television. Of course, you can get fashion advice from shows like What Not to Wear and How Do I Look, but inspiration can be found on non-fashion shows. My mom often gets fashion and hair ideas from watching Days of Our Lives, I decided to finally get bangs after watching an episode of Fringe, and I always get makeup and fashion ideas from Gossip Girl and reruns of Sex in the City. Shows like How I Met Your Mother and Modern Family show you very simple wearable weekend style for regular folks – yes the character may be wearing a simple cardigan and jeans, but it can often be inspiring to see the choice of footwear, how a belt is placed, the unusual color pairing.

What’s great is that often when you see a piece of clothing worn by your favorite host or actress, it’s pretty easy to find out online where to buy a version for yourself. As with fashion magazines, it’s less about knowing WHO created the piece, but HOW the piece is worn, how it hangs, the choice of fabric and color and accessory.

Online Stores
I love Nordstrom.com. I love to just look at ‘What’s New Now” and see the models wearing the fashion. Somehow, Nordstrom’s images of items seem more relatable than the same dress on a different model at Saks or Macy’s. I see what sort of shoe they decided to pair with a dress, how they styled a bag for a display or on a model.

Some retailers may have gorgeous clothes, but I hate shopping their sites because I find them boring and uninspiring. I may love Ann Taylor’s clothes but I hate their site – it’s gloomy and the photos are uninspiring, far too simplistic for my tastes. I was a visual merchandiser in a past life, and I like to see very subtle styling that not only enhances a garment, but encourages the customer to purchase additional pieces to recreate the same look.

I look for base inspiration – models that look to have eaten a sandwich in the past week and got at least six hours of sleep last night. White, light, or natural backdrops that either highlight or add interest to the subject. Good lighting. Good styling – the piece fits the model properly, doesn’t hang off her bony shoulders, looks as though it could be worn with traditional underpinnings.

Then I look for ideas – colors, draping, fabric choices. If I like a dress from a designer, say Milly (who I am loving the past couple of seasons), I will Google Milly and check out other pieces from the line, and how it is styled on the Milly site versus Nordstrom versus Neiman Marcus. I use online stores the way I do fashion bloggers – lets see how different bloggers style the Tucker for Target dress; let’s see how different retailers style Milly’s ‘Caroline Maxi’ dress.

The Street
I don’t live or work in the most fashion-forward part of the globe, but that’s actually a good thing. I can find inspiration on the street not just with what I may want to wear, but what I should not wear. I see fellow petite curvy women in cropped pants and ballet flats and see it as a constant reminder of what I should never wear. I see a pale blonde look washed out in blood orange but think I bet I have the coloring to be able to wear it and should try it. I see a woman wear a silky cocktail dress with colored tights and find it an odd pairing, but do get inspired with trying to merge more “After 5” pieces into my work wardrobe.

Life
I am always drawn to bright green, whether it’s the logo for a Healthy Choice frozen entrée, the color of the chain-link fence around my neighbor’s yard, or the straw in my morning Starbucks. Whether or not green is popular, it is a color I seek out for my wardrobe.

The other day I was looking at a painting that my cousin Amy painted for me and my husband as a wedding gift – she was inspired by Gaugin and there is this beautiful blood orange color in the picture. I started thinking how a deep red-orange color is so beautiful, and how it can look great with other colors. In my head I imagined it with white, with denim, with hot pink, with purple, and with my beloved Starbucks Green. I started thinking about my current wardrobe and what piece in blood orange would work with my current collection. A scoop tee or tank and/or a pencil skirt seemed the most logical – a way to add the pop of color without changing the concept of my closet.

Love the look of the pale yellow honeysuckle against its green leaves? Try that color combination on your body. Drawn to street graffiti that combines orange, purple, and cobalt? Why not incorporate that trio into your next ensemble. Love the liquid-look of your grandmother’s favorite vase? Consider a Grecian-inspired dress for your wardrobe. Fashion is not black and white, and inspiration can come from anywhere.

What I Do With My Inspiration

I am not rich, I cannot purchase each item that tickles my fancy. I have to figure out what to do with my inspiration – what do I need, what do I want, and what to think of my ideas.

I always use my current wardrobe as a launchpad – what do I have now that works? What do I need to make it work even better? I like this current trend, but can it play nice with what I already own? How much work does it take to make it work with my wardrobe/how many additional items do I need to make it a cohesive part of my collection?

How to Shop: Inspiration

I love having my inspiration notebook. This is a tiny little hardcover reporter’s notebook that I bought at the grocery store several years ago. If a stranger opened this notebook, they wouldn’t understand the scribbled randomness inside. I write down song names, recipes from the back of a package, Website URLs, lists of clothing that I am seeking to complete my wardrobe, notes of beauty products and books to research and albums to download. This notebook reminds me of my inspiration, and keeps me on track. If I am out and see a woman with a great dress or bag, I will describe it, sometimes ask her who made it and jot down the info in my notebook. Later, I can go online and search for the item and see if I still like it when it’s not on her body. Then I will think about my current collection and lifestyle and see if that item would fit. If so, I then look for the item at a price I can afford – usually it’s a similar piece and not the original (hate to say it, but I have expensive tastes and not the wallet to support them). If I can’t find it, I remember it for future inspiration.

I often make lists on the same little netbook I am using to write this article. If I had unlimited funds and access to any clothes I wanted, what would I get? I rarely write down specific brands or designers, more so actual garments. A blood orange pencil skirt, fully lined, fabric slighty textured, back zip. A purple silk blouse – sleeveless or very short sleeves, ruffles or detail on the front and around the scoop neckline. A white blazer of stretch twill. Dark rigid straight-cut jeans free of adornments. A canvas wide belt with brown leather (preferably croco or snakeskin) buckle. Chambray shirt with feminine details – puffed sleeves, ruffles, or bow neckline. A long statement necklace of silver and turquoise. Black scoop or boatneck dress with flared midi-length skirt. Tan peeptoe heels.

Making this list, freeing myself of what is on trend, what is hot by what designer, and what I can afford gives me a good look into my true personal style. The list above shows bright solid colors, crisp lines with a touch of femininity, classics with a hint of current trends. When I see an item that doesn’t fit with the rest (cue, “One of these things is not like the other”) I stop to ask WHY is it there. Am I swayed by a fashion blogger or celebrity? Is it my alter ego trying to step out (I have a hidden rock star, hippie, and prep inside me)? Is it something that my alter ego would love but I can make work with my classic, clean collection? Am I in a rut? Before I shop, I analyze.

Finding Your Own Inspiration

Fashion is art – there is great art, there is awful art. With art, you can see the progression of the artist – the difference between his art school sketches and his oversized oils from his ‘40s, and the pastels from his ‘70s. How an artist changes his style based upon finances, lifestyle, environmental influences. Don’t be limited by what “they” tell you is en vogue, what “they” tell you is a must-have for every wardrobe. Not everyone likes the same home décor or art or even food; why should we women all like the same designers or trends? Embrace your opinions and tastes. Write them down, look at them, analyze them, embrace them.

A stylish woman is one who is confident in her skin, her wardrobe. If you choose pieces not true to your self, you will always feel awkward. One reason I hate makeover shows is that the subject doesn’t have the time or the power to cultivate a collection – she is swiftly stripped of everything familiar and left in a foreign closet. Personal style doesn’t happen overnight – it is something you learn like any other skill. Take time, listen to yourself, get to know yourself. Start small with an accessory or a simple dress that can be worn for many different situations. Begin with a blank, yet properly primed canvas with wardrobe staples and then grow from there.

My inspiration will not be yours, and that is a good thing. Use fashion to help express the amazing and unique person that you are!

Please check out the previous posts from my How To Shop Series:
How to Shop: An Introduction
How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

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How to Have Style

I would like to thank Polly from my French Chic group for bringing my attention to this article from PsychologyToday.com. I think this is an amazing article that really defines style and how it is different from fashion and not a superficial, stupid characteristic to possess. Many times I feel I have to apologize for having a blog about style, thinking people find me to be materialistic and silly to care so much about such a subject. But style is not stupid, materialistic, or silly and Hara Estroff Marano defines style quite perfectly in this article. Enjoy!

How to Have Style
Unlike fashion, a sense of style comes from within.
By: Hara Estroff Marano

It’s clear to me from the many people I talk to that there is a great misunderstanding about style. Style is not a price. It is not an age. It is not a size. And it can be learned.

Style is one part self-knowledge and one part self-confidence. In other words, it’s an attitude. It is a life-affirming expression of your character and spirit, a conviction that you are worth knowing, worth looking at and can present yourself well. It is knowing your strengths and weaknesses so that you can accentuate your strengths, not hide real or imagined shortcomings. Feeling good about yourself is a sine qua non of looking good.

There is one more element of style, and that is clothes, but style should never be confused with fashion. Fashion is synonymous with clothes, but style is merely expressed through clothes. Fashion is IN the clothes. Style is IN the wearer.

Style is nothing if not a celebration of individuality, of individual variability. It glorifies the fact that we are all different. It exposes as preposterous the notion that there is an ideal body, an ideal woman—that there is only one perfect way to look, that any one way is perfect for all
women. Style always delights because it is a revelation that the possibilities for originality are limitless.

Style rejects ideals. It goes its own way. In fact, style is nothing if not a triumph of the fresh and unusual.

Style is democratic. It assumes that every woman has the potential to create an identity that’s unique, and to express it through how she carries herself, how she grooms herself, what she puts on.

Yet style is aristocratic. It sets apart those who have it from those whose dress is merely functional, utilitarian. It announces to the world that the wearer has a sense of herself and has assumed command of herself.

Style is intelligent, because it requires self-knowledge. Style hugs the self closely, even though it never represents the whole self at one time. The self is too complex to be represented by any one way of dressing.

Style is optimistic. It is optimism made visible. Style presumes that you are a person of interest, that the world is a place of interest, that life is worth making the effort for.

There is no style without taking risk, without exploring new sides of the self, without saving what works and discarding the errors. Style, then, is a springboard for personal growth.

There are those who criticize style for its trendiness and materialistic consumption. But they are confusing style with fashion. Fashion is preoccupied with change merely for change’s sake, to stoke consumer purchases.

Style is in fact a way of avoiding the clutter of stuff. It is a way of sorting through the crowded marketplaces, a way of selecting, making choices influenced not so much by pressures such as advertising but by internal considerations. This kind of style no more requires change from season to season that does your character. But neither is it completely static. Ideally it should evolve over time, as character does.

Style is really self-knowledge applied selectively—selectivity is its essence—to the material world.

Psyched
for Success, 20 November 2003
Last Reviewed 29 Mar 2006
Article ID: 3123

How To Create Capsule Wardrobes

A few of you have asked how I get the inspiration for my capsule wardrobes.  I think how I figure out these capsule wardrobes may also help you create simpler wardrobes for yourself and benefit you when packing for a trip. Below I share how I come to creating these capsule wardrobes (while sharing some of the most popular ones I have made), and how you can use this to help in building your own capsule wardrobes.

 

Imagine the Person

I don’t imagine myself, but I create an imaginary woman. I usually envision her around 5’6”, size 8-10. Not one who has to deal with petite or tall lengths or the trouble that cusp and plus size women do with finding quality options. As for age, that usually has to do with the reader question; if it’s not a factor I play with her age, imagining her 30, then 48, then 35 to see if the pieces are versatile across the general age of my readership.

When creating a capsule for you, imagine how another would see you.  In my head, I am taller and slimmer and smaller busted than I am in real life.  When planning for myself, I describe myself as someone else would describe me.  It not only helps me put my figure into perspective, but also my lifestyle and personal style.  If this is hard to do, ask a close friend to describe you.  Significant others often provide the most accurate descriptions of us, but I don’t recommend asking them because it can hit a bit too close to home and what they find to be adorable you may find to be a flaw.  Save the relationship, ask your bestie!

 

Imagine the Week

Be it a trip to Paris or the first few days at a new job, I work with dressing for a week. Most of us hate wearing the same look in one week, but don’t feel as weird wearing the same combination on Tuesday of Week 1 and then Friday of Week 2. Within that week, I think of what may take place – a networking event after business hours, a board meeting, drinks with a client, you make friends at a museum and they invite you to their party that evening.

I think about my own experiences. With my recent capsule wardrobe for Paris, I thought of my own trip to Paris and the items I wish I had packed. I remembered my longer trip to Italy and how varied my days and nights were and the pieces that got the most mileage (and how many were the same piece I wore the most when visiting Paris a year later). With work wardrobes, I remember changing from retail to a desk job and how I had to overhaul my whole closet. I think of my last job where I traveled on business on a regular basis and would have to pack for a hole in the wall barbecue joint, a fancy five-star restaurant, three client meetings and a bowling networking event in one carry-on.

Be it a family cruise or a business trip, you likely have a general idea of how each day will be laid out.  Prepare for the unexpected, but be realistic and know you likely won’t be invited to the White House or take part in a triathlon.  Do a bit of research online and see what the hot spots are in your destination, how people dress in your field, what excursions are available at your resort.

 

Start With the Star

So you’re going on a business trip, what’s the most important event of the trip? Usually it’s the first client meeting, so I start with that. For a trip, it’s usually an outfit to go sightseeing that first day. I try to make that be something my imaginary woman would already have in her wardrobe. Simple black pantsuit, pair of jeans and a lightweight jacket, LBD, that sort of thing.

Then I think of ways of incorporating that star into other situations. Can the jacket be worn with jeans or over a dress? Can the LBD be dressed down with flats and a cardigan? Considering she can wear the pants at least twice over a week, what could she wear with them that travels well and could pair with something else?

Never buy a whole new wardrobe for a trip.  Always start with pieces you already own, know, and love.  Save the money for the excursions and events.  Heck, the main purpose of a capsule wardrobe is to buy less and choose quality versatile items over quantity!

 

Stick to a Color Story

Along with that imaginary woman, I think about who she is. What is her favorite color, does she work in government or graphic design? Does she have short spiky black hair, or long blonde waves? Does she prefer shoulder pads or chiffon ruffles? That helps me narrow down what colors I use, and I try to stick to very few that mix and match with ease.

Look in your closet, you likely already have a color theme.  Work with what you have, and build from there.

 

Consider the Shoes

You’ll see I often have the same black pumps in every collage – the MICHAEL Michael Kors “Flex” Mid-Heel Pump. Why? Because I own them and I know they are comfortable, reasonably priced, and a heel height where my pants I wear with flats don’t look wonky with them. Seriously, I wear my Tahari Hazel pants with my flats (which do have a sole and a mini heel, they’re not ballet flats) and with these shoes and neither looks awkward. I also choose pant legs that look okay a bit shorter with that heel (not so full, more of a tailored look).

Not only in that regard, I look for shoes that are versatile in that they look good with pants and skirts, can be worn to a business meeting and a cocktail party, can be worn for hours walking on cobblestone streets but also be smart with a business outfit. I try to never have more than three pairs of shoes because shoes add the most weight and take the most space in a suitcase, and be the most expensive part of a wardrobe.

When shopping for new shoes, consider the wardrobe you already have.  If they don’t work with at least three different pieces (and I don’t mean three pencil skirts or three pairs of skinny jeans), they don’t deserve to be in your capsule.  It’s better to keep your shoes neutral and add interest with other accessories.

 

If it Doesn’t Hit Ten, Do it Again

I then make imaginary outfits from the pieces. I keep thinking about the imaginary woman and her itinerary or lifestyle. Who needs club outfits when you’re a new mom? Who needs tall leather boots when you’re vacationing in Key West? If I can’t break ten REAL outfits (no turning a top backwards and wearing a bulky dress under a sweater to pretend it’s a skirt and making a scarf into a blouse), I keep working. Sometimes it’s just removing one piece, sometimes I save it and come back the next day and start from scratch.

Never buy anything if it doesn’t go with at least two to four other pieces.  If you can’t sit in that fitting room and envision it working with a bunch of pieces in your closet, leave it at the store.  The point of a capsule is to have versatility.  If you shop thoughtfully, slowly, and carefully you will find that you can have fewer garments and build even more ensembles!

How to Save Face

We all can’t afford a tub of La Mer, but we can all do very simple free (or almost free) steps to better our skin. There is no point in putting paint on a dirty canvas; the first step in looking beautiful, stylish and polished is to have beautiful and happy skin. Here are some simple tips that every woman can do to achieve that. Happy Leap Day to all!

1. Drink Water. I know, I know we all hear this but it really really REALLY makes a huge difference. I try to drink 60 ounces of plain water a day and when I do it, my skin is so happy and fresh looking. My husband bought me a Nalgene in my favorite color and I have it on my desk. Each morning I fill it up and I compete with myself to have it finished before lunch. I then go and refill it and try to finish it before I leave at the end of the day. Weekends I give myself a break, but because I force the water during the week, I crave it on weekends and catch myself drinking almost as much on Saturdays and Sundays.

Add flavor if you like, but to really kick the soda habit, I have found plain water does the trick best. Start off small… maybe one small bottle a day and take it like medicine. After a month make it two bottles and by three months you should be able to consume at least 32 ounces a day. Buy a bottle that makes you smile when you see it and play with temperatures to see what is easiest to gulp down. But after even a week you will see a pronounced change in your skin texture and even color.

2. Wash Your Face Before You Go To Bed. I know this seems obvious, but we busy women often forget to do this, thinking we’ll just hose off everything the next morning in the shower. However skin repairs itself when you sleep so nodding off with the grime of the day (plus all your makeup) can really be more detrimental than every day with a full face of cosmetics. I mentioned it before, but studies say each time you go to bed with your face unwashed you age it ten days.

Make the task as simple as possible with a face wash that rinses clean and all your tools nearby. I know in my wild and crazy days I used to keep a pack of those cleansing cloths on my nightstand so even after an evening of partying heartily, I could wipe off everything while almost passed out under my comforter.

You wouldn’t (hopefully!) go to bed without brushing your teeth, the same should hold true for your face. Again, even one week of this habit will give you fresher skin, smaller pores and fewer breakouts.

3. Use a Night Cream. Now this could be the same moisturizer you use each morning, but it’s important to moisturize your face after cleansing it. Again, the skin repairs itself while you sleep, so by prepping it with proper nutrients, you’ll get better results. If you have oily skin, consider an oil-free moisturizer or gel geared toward your skin type that will baby it without causing it to produce more oil.

Again, if this is something that you forget, make it as easy and convenient as possible. I keep my night cream on my nightstand where I am more likely to remember it than tucked in the medicine cabinet. This also gives me the time to massage it in well and ensure I get my neck hydrated as well.

4. Don’t Let Your Shower Hit Your Face. The pressure and heat of the water can cause broken capillaries, redness, and damage delicate tissue near the eyes. If you have rosaeca, this can exacerbate the problem. Often just stopping this habit will reduce most redness.

5. You Don’t Have to Wash Your Face In the Morning.
Your face shouldn’t be getting dirty while you sleep, the more often you wash your face, the more you will dry it out, causing it to look dull or force it to protect itself with increased oil production. A splash of tepid water or swipe of a cotton ball doused with an alcohol-free toner may be all that is necessary to prep for a new day.

6. Wear Sunscreen. This should be a given in this day and age, but I still meet women who say they don’t wear sunscreen for a multitude of reasons. They feel it is too greasy, they don’t burn, it’s winter, it’s too heavy, it makes their foundation slip…

There is no valid reason for not wearing sunscreen. Modern technology has made formulas far less heavy and greasy, and every person regardless of skin color or type can be affected by sun damage. Yes there is the chance for melanoma, but the sun can also reduce elasticity, wrinkles and create spots. Studies have shown that skin looks older not because of wrinkles, but discoloration. The best way to prevent age spots (AND wrinkling!) is to slap on that sunscreen.

Soften and cleanse your skin with natural French soaps from L’Occitane