Search Results for: label/How to Wear Fashion Trends

Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?
Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?
I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?
Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

I am not sure why the world thinks women over a size 12 don’t hold professional jobs. They must think that with the poor selection of career wear for plus-sized women. While quality suits and stylish business casual clothing does exist, it’s hard to find. Below I feature some brands who realize that just because you wear a larger size doesn’t mean you wish to sacrifice style, quality, or professionalism.

If you’re plus sized, I’m sure you already know about Lane Bryant, Avenue, Ashley Stewart, One Stop Plus/Woman Within/Roamans/Jessica London, and other retailers who specialize in plus size fashion. Below are some suggestions on brands I know who aren’t the typical shops, and who provide quality, well-crafted and stylish career wear in plus sizes

I know, I know, Nordstrom again? Thing is, they offer a great selection of quality brands and style for plus sizes. MICHAEL Michael Kors, Rachel Palley, Calvin Klein, Karen Kane, Eileen Fisher, Tahari Woman, Vince Camuto, Kenneth Cole… all these brands and more are offered in plus sizes at Nordstrom stores and online.

Unlike many other department stores who think a woman in a size 22 dress wants a muumuu or a flowing polyester pantsuit, Nordstrom buyers find brands and pieces that are in the same vein of style as the rest of the store. Great colors, fun silhouettes, lots of options. Nordstrom has free shipping and free returns, will perform alterations onsite, and have personal shoppers that can help you secure a professional wardrobe for your job.

Macy’s is another department store who offers a fantastic selection of brands and styles for plus sizes. Alfani, Calvin Klein, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Jones New York, and then their in-house brand INC International Concepts are great resources for great plus size office wear. Like Nordstrom, Macy’s provides a good amount of real estate in most of their stores for plus-sized fashion.

Macy’s always has promotions for discounts and shipping deals. Macy’s has a great return and exchange policy, where you can return by mail or at any nearby store.

Talbots Woman comes in sizes 12-24 regular and 12-22 petite. Each season they offer several styles of suit separates so you can mix and match for the perfect career look. Talbots also specializes in business casual looks, with tailored trousers, well-crafted skirts, polished knits and sweaters and even shoes and accessories.

While many retailers hide their plus size department in a dusty corner or keep it only online, Talbots often has separate stores just for their Woman line, or else it gets plenty of real estate in their mixed-size store. Talbots is phenomenal with customer service, seeking out sizes at other locations, taking returns in-store, and giving you honest feedback and offering suggestions at the fitting room. When I was a size 18, Talbots was my go-to store, where I knew I would find quality, style, and a supportive staff.

Jones New York
While Jones New York is a department store staple, they also have their own online boutique that has a large selection of career wear in extended sizes. Since you have to return by mail (they offer a pre-paid shipping label), it’s good to try out JNY in a store to know how it fits, and then go online to find a larger selection.

Kiyonna knows how to dress a woman. They make well-made pieces that are stylish and flattering to a plus-sized figure. No muumuus and garish prints here, Kiyonna offers beautiful dresses, and also a beautiful selection of separates. While their bottoms are very basic, they are well-made and classic. Some of their tops can run on the sexy side, but many are great pieces for business casual environments or fabulous shells under suits. Their return policy is pretty standard but I hear their sizing is quite consistent so once you know how you fit in Kiyonna you won’t have to make as many returns and exchanges.

Ann Taylor
If you enter an Ann Taylor store, you may think they don’t care about anyone over a size 12. However online they go up to size 18 and XXL on the majority of their pieces. I also find Ann Taylor runs a bit large and many of my readers have agreed that their size 18 can often fit a size 20 woman.

Ann Taylor regularly has promotions for free shipping and percentages off select items – it’s smart to sign up for their emails or follow them on Facebook or Twitter so you stay updated. Their online selection can sell out pretty quickly when they have such sales, so shop early. While Ann Taylor doesn’t offer free returns, they do accept returns even of larger sizes in any store. And if you have to do a return, check out their sale rack where I have regularly seen larger sizes from other women who have made returns.

Lands’ End
Lands’ End may not be the retailer you would think for career wear, but they do have a pretty great selection of workwear staples. While their summer selection is more geared towards shorts and dresses, they always have a good selection of blazers and coordinating bottoms and come the cooler months have an even greater selection of suiting and work-appropriate pieces.

Lands’ End often has promotions for discounts and free shipping so sign up for their emails to get the latest news. Lands’ End also accepts returns at Sears stores which makes shopping with them even more convenient.

Eddie Bauer
Like Lands’ End, Eddie Bauer mainly focuses on casual weekend fashion. However, like Lands’ End they have a few stand-out pieces each season for career wear. Eddie Bauer often focuses on easy-care pieces, and you’re likely to find wrinkle-free suiting, no-iron button-front shirts, and machine washable trousers and dresses. Eddie Bauer offers free exchanges and accepts returns by mail (they will provide a pre-paid shipping label or you can send by your own method) or in store.

I’m quick to head to Overstock to find a toaster oven or an area rug, but I have now learned to go to this site for fashion. Popular brands like Tahari, Kasper, Calvin Klein, and Ann Klein are featured by Overstock, and at nicer prices than at the department store. While some of the styles offered on Overstock are a bit strange, you can also find some gems – often pieces being sold right now at your nearby Belk or Macy’s. Overstock has customer reviews, ridiculously cheap shipping, and a reasonable return policy.

TJ Maxx
While most of my local discount big box retailers will have some plus size fashion, it’s usually a small section, messy, and full of strange pieces I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Not so for TJ Maxx, who usually carries higher-end brands than similar stores, and they usually have a larger and better organized plus size department.

Where do you find stylish and well-made plus size career wear? I’d love to know your suggestions!

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True Fashionista: Sheree

I must admit, I visit many blogs where it seems that women are not wearing fashion, but fashion is wearing them. They have a passion for the art, but they don’t know when to say no, or when a trend is just not appropriate for their personality, lifestyle, figure, or soul. So when I come across a blog where a real woman really knows herself and how to wear current trends well, I am addicted. And that is how I have been with Sheree’s blog, It’s Not That Deep. Sheree knows herself and her personal style; she knows how to stay true to herself while incorporating the hottest trends, and for that I find Sheree to be a True Fashionista.

Sheree incorporates thrifted pieces with designer with mall-friendly brands like H&M and Vince Camuto, brand new fashion splurges with pieces she has owned for a decade. I love the badass-ness of not just her ensembles but the attitude that comes through her photos.  I also love how she incorporates color – there’s no Rainbow Brite ensembles but carefully chosen pops that add edge, whimsy, and femininity.

Sheree knows fashion, loves fashion, and proves that you can be stylish and be a wonderful parent. Sheree may have a killer wardrobe and killer body, but she’s also a wife and mother to two adorable kiddos.  I love her inspiration posts – you can really see how her mind is working and often the outfit posts that follow incorporate the trends that inspired her. 

Sheree’s personal style is so clear and defined, I find it inspiring.  Looking at her blog is like looking at attainable style of a fashion editor.  Clean, crisp, modern but with a personal touch that makes it unique.  I can see images of fashion insiders like Kate Lanphear, Eva Fontanelli, or Giovanna Battaglia but know I couldn’t afford (or likely fit) a single thing on their bodies; Sheree makes such specific style achievable for the every woman. 

As with every other True Fashionista, I asked Sheree to answer the same five questions:

How would you describe your personal style?
I would describe my personal style as feminine with an urban edge.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I have been into fashion for as long as I can remember. When I was younger my bedroom walls were covered with pics of Kate Moss, I live an hour from Manhattan and I would always insist that my dad take me to the city to go shopping even as a teenager. I always insisted I have unique, modern pieces..even as a teen. It continued into my 20’s. I was a womanswear buyer in Manhattan before going back to school to get my Masters in Social Work,

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
My inspiration definitely comes from street style looks. I just search StreetStyle in Tumblr and get loads of inspiration. Designer wise I am obsessed with Phillip Lim and just seeing his runway collection inspires me to try different looks even if I can’t afford all of his pieces. I also love Christine Centenera, the Editor of Vogue Australia.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Fashion is fashion plain and simple. Your style is what distinguishes you from everyone else. To develop your own personal style is something that you evolve into over time. I also usually find that people with a true sense of style transcends into their home and other areas of their life. It’s about really knowing who you are as a person and being able to get that across.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
I think that developing your own personal style takes time. I used to constantly buy things, bring them home and ask “what was I thinking?” I rarely do this anymore because I know my style. I think that you have to pay attention to what looks you like via Pinterest, other blogs, etc and dissect what attracts you to them. Take that and add in what you feel comfortable in and what feels like you and there you go. I think it takes trial and error and trying things on and figuring out why this feel like me or why it doesn’t. I can appreciate really put together looks (ie, Atlantic Pacific) but it’s not my style, I have a more edgy casual street vibe. So it’s not necessarily just what you like but what is “you”. That’s why I said earlier it’s about knowing who you are. My blog is called “It’s Not That Deep” but I guess sometimes it can be 😉


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

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Learning from You: Changes to Wardrobe Oxygen thanks to Reader Survey Feedback

wardrobe oxygen reader survey resultsLast month I started an anonymous reader survey and the feedback has been AH-MAY-ZING! You all have been so great, sharing ideas, telling me what you like, what you don’t like, and what you’d love to see. Each time Survey Monkey has emailed me letting me know I have new responses I get excited. I’m going to keep the survey open in case anyone wants to add feedback at any time, but wanted to share what I have gathered thus far and how I’m going to use it to improve Wardrobe Oxygen. Heads up, this is a pretty lengthy post so I am truncating it on the blog for those who don’t care much and want to get back to the fashion!

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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.

Updating Your Wardrobe for Spring 2008

I love the 80s; some of the most fun in music and even in fashion. I am one who does not flush with embarrassment when I see a picture of me decked out in mall bangs, puffy socks and shoulder pads. I thought at the time, the look was fun and colorful; fashion took risks. You could wear Versace, or you could wear vintage (though back then it was usually just a Joe Shmoe thrift store find) and still look totally tubular.

That doesn’t mean I like the resurgence of metallics, shoulder pads, boyfriend blazers, leggings and skinny jeans in weird washes. It was fun… 20 years ago. Not it makes the most chic of women look like a fashion victim.

So how can you get the new look for spring without looking like a leftover valley girl or a fashion victim? Here are some of the trends for spring that can work with most any wardrobe and survive more than one season of style:

Watercolor Brights
These aren’t quite the Crayola hues of the winter; they are a cherry spring version. Instead of orange, try tangerine. In place of emerald, a leaf or Kelly green offers pop without overkill. Instead of red, try hibiscus (has a pink undertone) or Chinese red (has an orange undertone). Yellow will also be a big color for spring – keep it bright and clear. These hues aren’t muddy, they aren’t neon, they aren’t muted. They have the pop of 2007’s primaries, but a feminine and sunny twist to them.

How to Wear Them: With almost anything! They are being shown paired with pale gray, black, denim, white and optic prints. Jazz up your boring suit with a silk knit tank in tangerine, consider a green handbag for the season (quite an unexpected neutral), or a pair of yellow flats to brighten up jeans or a black and white print skirt. I love the look of a basic khaki or tan with a bright crocus purple or a strong pink for the warmer months and am glad this is a combo easily achieved with this trend.

The Dress
Hooray, dresses are still quite en vogue for this spring! Almost every figure can find a dress that flatters, and nothing says spring more than a feminine frock and a pair of sweet flats or kitten heels. As for style, most anything goes. The day dress is still popular, with styles varying from the figure-flattering wrap in soft silks and jerseys to more structured s-line, sheath or polo-inspired styles ending right above the knee. After five, look for a return to femininity with frills, lace, sheer floaty fabrics, goddess-inspired cuts and a second year of the maxi dress going strong.

How to Wear Them: The day dresses can easily be worn now with tall boots and come warmer months with shoes that fit the style. If it is a structured style, a flat or pump will be a great choice. For the evening dresses, a feminine shoes with delicate styling and some skin (your peeptoes are still stylish) are the way to go. The skinny belt is still a strong look; try one in a metallic or black patent leather over your simple shifts to add a feminine flair. For solid-colored dresses consider a statement necklace or a scarf as your sole accessory – both are available in almost every price range at your favorite boutique right now.

The winter was a lot of solid colors, fashion has rebelled with a spring full of all sorts of prints. Love animal prints? You’ll be happy to know that there seems to be zebra prints in many stores already. Scarf prints and Pucci-inspired patterns are all over the place, and colorblocking is a very strong trend.

It is also the return of the floral print, and stronger than it has been in many years. Designers are mixing different patterns of florals, adding them to shoes, dresses, skirts and even the linings of coats and purses. These are not Little House on the Prairie calico buds; the look varies from luscious and full cabbage roses and flowers picked from a Victorian garden to modern-art inspired graphic patterns.

How to Wear Them: Like all honesty, this look isn’t for everyone. Printed cardigans and boxy short jackets add style to a simple tank and jeans; a skirt can add fun or femininity to wardrobe staples, and I love the a-line shifts where everything else is simple – minimal accessories, simple shoes, fresh face. Colorblocked styles can be quite flattering to the figure, but keep in mind that the light colors in a pattern will jump out so make sure they are not located where your least favorite body part is. If you wear a pattern, everything else should be solid and simple. The stronger the pattern, the less jewelry and cosmetics you should wear.

Yellow and orange dresses by Banana Republic; red and white print dress by Diane von Furestenberg via Nordstrom; skirt and jacket/shorts outfit by J. Crew; blouse by Kenneth Cole Reaction via Nordstrom

Ask Allie: How to Make Wardrobe Classics Look Trendy

I spend my days in a pretty casual office, where even the managers wear jeans and t-shirts, so my minuscule capsule wardrobe has remained something I use only for date night and visits to relatives. My company is sending me to the corporate HQ and I need to dress professionally.

I am blonde and my wardrobe staples are khaki. I love the idea of the fitted white oxford shirt and nice heels with my khaki staples. Problem is, when I have these clothes on I look professional, confident, put-together… and about 20 years older!! How can I wear the classics and still look like an up-and-coming star-employee of an edgy internet start-up company?

I think your question is one that many small wardrobe folks battle with. A wardrobe full of hard-working classics that mix and match with ease, but can feel a bit dowdy or boring, especially when dealing with creative types. However, there are many trendy and stylish people who have a similar wardrobe.  When you analyze the wardrobes of style icons you will see they too have a closet of classics, and they are usually in a neutral shade.  Here’s a few examples of current-day style icons who wear very classic looks, and what they do to look current and fashionable.

Gwyneth Paltrow – Fit

On the red carpet, Gwyneth Paltrow often wears very edgy and modern gowns. However off the red carpet, Paltrow is known for her very clean and classic wardrobe. She’s not one to wear a lot of color, accessories, or embellishments and doesn’t jump on every trend bandwagon. The way she makes her very basic wardrobe look modern and hip is by having a very keen eye for fit. Paltrow regularly wears slim pants, structured jackets with strong shoulders, and slim sheath dresses. Everything has been tailored to perfection to best flatter her lean frame. The slim silhouettes and perfectly hemmed trousers and skirts make classics look quite chic and very modern.

Rachel Bilson – Accessories

Rachel Bilson’s look is young and fresh, but her personal style is surprisingly classic and simple. Over and over, she wears the same sort of silhouettes – styles that work now and would also work a couple years from now. Bilson keeps her personal style on-trend and covetable by adding accessories to the mix. She is known for bold booties with everything from skinny jeans to floaty frocks, looping colorful chunky scarves and pashminas at her throat come winter, and carrying a statement bag – be it a clutch or an oversized hobo. If you remove her jackets, bags, and shoes you will see her core wardrobe is quite timeless and simple. The addition of accessories adds edginess and a youthful vibe.

Michelle Obama – Color

Michelle Obama will occasionally add current trends and edgy designers to her wardrobe, but in general her personal style is quite classic. What makes her stand out in a crowd and be seen as a style icon is her great use of color. The First Lady’s closet must look like a rainbow, for she hardly wears neutrals or pastels. Her silhouettes are usually classic – most often you will see her in ladylike full and pencil skirts paired with fitted blazers or cardigans or a classic sheath dress. However she doesn’t shy away from any color – from school bus yellow to fire engine red, FLOTUS has worn it and worn it well. For you, you can make it a signature color or colors to go with your khaki-based wardrobe staples.

Kate Moss – Defined Personal Style

Kate Moss is known as a fashionista, but when you break down her wardrobe, it’s quite simple. Moss has a uniform of a tiny dress or skinny jeans and trousers paired with a blazer. What makes it style icon-worthy is how her personal style is so clearly defined. Kate Moss loves rock and roll and it’s clear by who she marries, what social events she attends, and how she dresses. Her classic ivory pantsuit will have very square padded shoulders and be paired by platform high heels; a typical date night ensemble of little dress and blazer is made edgy with snakeskin print and satin lapels. Even for red carpet events, Moss chooses either short and sparkly, or long and flowing with a ’70s vibe.  She keeps the color palette simple, the silhouettes classic with a rocker vibe, and shows her personal style with tiny touches that all add up to big fashion.

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Review and Giveaway: LiveTheLook

Here at Wardrobe Oxygen, I write about personal style instead of fashion trends. I believe in dressing for who you are, not what is on the runways. Usually, this goes against many of the fun promotions, shopping programs, and sample boxes that are popular right now. So when Live The Look contacted me and told me how their site lets you shop by your personal style, I was very intrigued.

When you visit Live The Look, you’re asked to complete a questionnaire. What wardrobe staples you’re looking to style, what style aesthetics you gravitate towards, what size you wear. From this information, Live The Look creates a collection of items that should appeal to you. But don’t worry, you’re still able to easily shop from any of the style aesthetics. As for what Live The Look offers, it’s also different from similar sites. Live The Look carefully curates collections of artisanal, unique, and quality accessories and separates, most made in the United States. Necklaces that will ask people where you got them, sunglasses that stand out from the crowd, novelty tee shirts that are mini works of art, pieces made by indie artists, and unique yet very wearable clothing.

As someone who is on the cusp of plus size clothing, I was disheartened to see the sizing stopped at XL/12, but was pleased by the extensive amount of accessories available. Live The Look offered me a credit to take their program out for a spin, and I chose to use it for The Destroyed Denim T-shirt (which I envisioned with my leather pleated skirt now, and with white jeans come spring), and the Flourish Sterling Silver Initial Necklace (I’ve always wanted one, and I loved that it came in silver and was a fancy yet readable letter). I loved that each product page gave a story about the brand, showing how LiveTheLook isn’t offering cheap mass-produced pieces, but quality crafted artisanal pieces from indie designers. I also loved how most of the designers and artists were based in the USA, made their products in America, and some even donated a portion of their profits to charity.

My pieces came quickly, shipped directly from the designers. The necklace came first, and it reminded me of an Etsy purchase, packed in a cute little gift box and tied with a red ribbon. I’ve worn the necklace by Juan Pablo Arango Cano almost daily since receiving it, you can see it on my Instagram and in this outfit post. The tee shirt from The Squad came a couple days later, and to be honest, I was half expecting me to hate it and not know how to write this post. Oh I was so wrong, this tee shirt is UH-MAY-ZING (see here on my Instagram account). How they can make a tee shirt heavy yet silky and drapey is beyond me. And it doesn’t look like acid washed denim, but is a dark gray-blue color that is perfectly distressed and perfectly drapey and makes me understand why some tee shirts cost so much. Not only that, it even came with a little evil eye pendant as an added gift. Again, it was packed in a small business-like way with tissue paper and personal touches like a notecard.

You can learn more about Live The Look by visiting their site (go ahead and sign up with an account, you won’t have to enter a credit card or anything, but take a tour around), visiting them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Fancy, or visit their blog.

Like what you read? Well one lucky Wardrobe Oxygen reader will receive a $150 credit to Live The Look!

One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $150 credit to  This giveaway is open only to residents of the United States. You must be 18 years old or older to enter. Giveaway runs from January 20, 2014 to February 2, 2014 at 11:59pm ET.

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Fashion Undressed: NYFW Trends Redux and Reinvented

alison santighian for wardrobe oxygen

It’s Fashion Week season; New York kicks it off. A week in the Big Apple, and show after show, row after row, model after model. There’s hair, there’s makeup. There are lines wrapped around the corner, eager – but pretending to be bored with it all – faces jostling for a position close enough to the runway to see…and be seen.

There’s a lot of hullabaloo in the media about the hullabaloo. There’s question about what’s more important to the fashion industry, the flashbulbs or the designs. There’s question about the models. There’s question about whether ready-to-wear really is.

As a 41-year-old woman with a full time job and a family, even one who loves Fashion for the art that it is, I sometimes question the runway’s place in reality. The runway’s connection to me may be tentative, but it’s tentative like a beautiful gossamer thread. It’s tentative like a stunning flash of lightning I didn’t quite catch.

Then, those flashes and threads translate to market. Some disappear completely, ending up “runway only.” Other elements become those repeated colors, patterns, shapes, and structures we’ll see copied in store after store the next season.

There were plenty of very wearable designs on the New York runways last week: pretty trousers, elegant dresses, and loads and loads of athletic-inspired looks. Next fall, if retail buyers hold true to runways’ pushes, there are a few trends that have held for a few seasons, and one trend I’m curious to see how it will translate to real life.

The 70s: Keep your bow blouses, boho patterns, and working woman knits. To update them for next fall, though, think about opposites: go monochromatic or use simple contrast – and don’t even think about feathering your hair: sleek, sleek, sleek. Which for me, a mama who never, ever, ever gets to wash and dry her hair properly? Yeah. I’m happy the simple sleek ‘do will be back.

AW15 RTW Trends 70sJason Wu, Anna Sui, Marc Jacobs, images via

Gym Clothes: Though New York is notoriously casual compared to other fashion weeks, athletic wear (which we welcomed gleefully in the dressy, comfy sweatpant for this past fall) still dominated. Next winter, dig out those turtlenecks and tennis togs. So you don’t look like you’re heading to gym class, though, pick one athletic element in a bold color and temper it with a simple, sleek, and grownup choice like the pencil skirt in the first look here.

AW15 RTW Trends AthleticBand of Outsiders, Lacoste, Katie Gallagher, images via

Borrowed from the Boys: For the last few seasons, menswear has been all over, and it’s not going away – for good reason. Most of us won’t pull a tie out of the closet each morning, but we will absolutely put on a blazer. Boys wear jackets daily because putting on a tailored jacket ups the ante immediately. It remains to be seen, though, whether retailers will copy the runways with the barely cropped ankle pants or whether they’ll go slouchy. Both are much more doable than it seems at first glance, so maybe we’ll get a choice in the stores.

AW15 RTW Trends MenswearThom Browne, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, images via

The 2015 Bustle: The most intriguing trend out of New York, though, was the bustle’s reappearance. Last popular in, oh, let’s go for the turn of the 20th century, the bustle’s whole purpose is to add distinct shape to a woman’s hips and rear end. Don’t run screaming yet. Remember the peplum? Not one “regular woman” I know, myself included, thought I could pull it off, and so many of us ended up wearing some version of the “hip flip” I never want to see them again. The bustle, though, has an elegance and curve that could be – depending on how it makes it into stores – at once ghostly and contemporary. It can curl, it can flip. It can ride at the waist or sit just below the hip, flirting openly with structure or hiding shyly in a dress’ drape.

AW15 RTW Trends The BustleMarc Jacobs, Creatures of the Wind, Carolina Herrera, images via

Time will certainly tell if and how these trends make it into our hands next August (because we all love shopping for colder weather in sweltering heat). There are a slew of steps between the runways and stores. There’s media influence, and there are massive market conventions at which retail buyers will pick the pieces manufacturers will then produce for you and me to take home. In the end, most of us will continue to wear what we have already, and some color or pattern might catch our eye. It might be in a magazine or in a store window, but we’ll find it pretty. And then we’ll remember: we saw it on the runway.

Alison SantighianBy day, Alison Santighian is a contractor for the federal government, using her super powers to serve our country, but by night (after bedtime for her “Beans” now 7 and almost 5), she pines after the “it” factor. Alison and “H” (better known as #besthusbandever) don’t believe badass has an expiration date, so they hit concerts, shows, restaurants, and openings across the globe. Alison also writes for Glass Magazine, adding a business woman’s eye to fashion week reviews and style features. Follow her on Twitter.

True Fashionista: Sheila

I hate the idea of changing your style or love of fashion because you’ve hit some age milestone. It’s utterly ridiculous, we don’t lose our personalities at certain ages, why should our style disappear? As I get closer and closer to 40, I’ve been more and more inspired by women in the blogosphere who have amazing, inspiring personal style and show that age is but a number. One of those women is Sheila from the blog Ephemera, and that is why I asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

I’ve actually been a fan of Sheila for many years; I can’t recall how I found her blog but it has been on my reader a while and I continue to be inspired and excited by her outfits. Sheila rocks color, print, unique cuts and silhouettes. She is a thrifting queen and creates the most unusual pairings. Her personal life is infused into her outfits – a bit of steampunk, accessories with sentimental value, garments she has swapped with other bloggers. And speaking of which, Sheila is one who truly loves the community created with style blogging – she has made many friends, has met many of them, and even trades clothing with them.

Sheila is proof that you don’t need to spend a million bucks to look like a million bucks. She thrifts and cosigns, she keeps things for years and brings them back into rotation when they fit current trends or her current personal style. She isn’t hesitant to get rid of something that isn’t a wise choice (and I love how she asks the opinions of her readers), and is always adding new secondhand scores to update the wardrobe.

Sheila’s blog Ephemera makes me feel as though I’m hanging out in her bedroom with a glass of wine, watching her try on clothes in her closet. She shares multiple views of the clothing (as you can see from my collages I adore her reclining on the stairs pose), her reasoning behind the garments and ensembles, and a peek into her life and where she wore the outfits.

Sheila’s style is creative, unique, yet extremely wearable. She is proof that one can still have fun with fashion (and life!) and look polished when over 40. She’s fun, inspiring, intelligent, and has amazing personal style. As with every True Fashionista, I asked Sheila to answer the same five questions; her answers:

How would you describe your personal style?
Um…crazy lady chic? Classic with a twist? Eclectic? Eccentric? All those kind ways to say, “Sheila’s a little “out there” with her clothes.” I love colour, pattern, texture, shine – even better if it’s all in one item! I’m a bit of a crow that way. I don’t like to look like everyone else; I want to stand out, especially the older I get (I’m 45). I refuse to disappear into drabness in my middle age – I have more confidence now about my body and myself in general than I did 10/15/20+ years ago, and I make a statement with how I feel by how I wear my clothes. I’m a supporter of Patti’sVisible Mondays” at Not Dead Yet Style, because it’s helping women feel better about themselves, no matter what age they are!

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I grew up surrounded by creativity – my mom is an artist, so I learned about colour very early in my life. I don’t remember ever not wanting to wear bright colours. My grandmother also dyed her hair bright red (I’m a blonde right now, but I’ve been a box-dye redhead for a good portion of my life) and wore bold jewelry, which was also inspiring. When I was 14, I met my great-aunt Ann – she must have been in her 60s, but she was wearing a flowered mini-skirt, hot pink heels, and a fitted top. Her black hair was scraped back and she had pink lipstick and bold make-up. I remember thinking, “I want to be her when I grow up!”

In my teens and experimenting with fashion, my mom gave me some excellent advice that I’ve never forgotten: “Never wear the same thing twice. Always keep them guessing.” She didn’t want me to get locked into a look/stereotyped and encouraged me to try on different personas through clothing. I looted clothing from her, from my dad, and shopped vintage and loved playing with people’s perception of who I was.

I struggled with my weight and my self-esteem in my twenties and thirties. It wasn’t until I lost 50 lbs 6-7 years ago that I finally felt like I was getting my life under control. I work hard to maintain my weight, and I am proud of my shape. I want to show it off!

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
Oh, gosh, everywhere! Afraid to mix colours? Look at nature for inspiration: irises for blue and yellow, cherry trees in bloom for pink and burgundy and brown. I love seeing what other people wear, both in the blogoverse and in real life. I always notice what people are wearing, especially if they’ve put some thought into it and are pushing the creative envelope. I like to look at fashion magazines to see what’s coming, and then I either shop my closet (I have a large closet and a big wardrobe!) or keep an eye out for it in thrift stores and consignment stores.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
I think fashion is inspiration and style is perspiration – you have to work at style! You can be a slave to fashion and end up looking good, even great, but constantly chasing the next new thing – fashion is ever-changing, fleeting and ephemeral (which is where I got the name for my blog, by the way). Style is taking what you like and what suits your personality and body type and creating an expression of yourself. When I really feel like “me” in an outfit, I know that I’ve hit my personal style just right. Style is always experimenting and trying something new, even if it fails – you’ll never grow if you don’t at least try! Style also changes, sometimes due to time and aging, or a change in circumstance (my job allows me to be fairly creative in my sartorial choices), or just through one’s own personal growth, but it has a timeless quality that never looks stale or dated like trendy fashions eventually do.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Don’t be afraid to try something different; don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Embrace who you are – right now! – and wear what you love, and to hell with what other people think! Be yourself and enjoy your clothes!


The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments you never know she may end up being featured!

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Spend Money to Save Money?

“Sometimes you need to spend money to make money.”

We have heard this when it comes to renovating our homes for a sell, or starting a business. Well this rule holds true for fashion. Sometimes you need to spend money to make (or save) money.

Quality clothing is usually more durable and classically-styled than its cheaper counterparts, resulting in less money on the wardrobe and more for the wallet. However, there is another way that spending money can support your bank account in the long run.

Your New Best Friend – The Tailor
Heels were hip, but now flats are where it’s at. You finally got rid of that baby weight and back into a size eight. You’re 5’1” in a 5’6” world. There are many reasons why the clothing you either own or hope to own isn’t quite right and could use a bit of sewing modification. A good tailor can help you out to take your current wardrobe and make it fit the current trends AND your current figure. Instead of settling for garments that “sorta” work on your petite/curvy/lanky or otherwise non-mannequin frame, take them to a tailor so they can have a custom fit.

The price for tailoring is far less than you’d expect; in Washington DC you can get a pair of jeans shortened and the original hem replaced for an original look from $20 or sleeves of a trench shortened from $7. In Boston, a dress can be altered to fit recent weight loss for as low as $15. When you factor the price of replacing these garments, these rates for alterations can be quite the investment.

Ask neighbors and colleagues for tailor recommendations; websites like Checkbook and CitySearch often have detailed reviews for local businesses that provide alterations and be sure to ask your local boutique bridal or dress shop – they usually have a certain seamstress or tailor they work exclusively with for custom orders.

Once you have found a tailor, start small with a hem of pants or a dress to see if you like their quality, pricing and turnaround. If they do a great job, then you can advance with more complicated alterations. Be sure to come with the foundation garments and shoes you plan to wear with the garment to ensure a perfect fit. There’s no need to replace an entire wardrobe or shop high-priced specialty boutiques for your figure when you have a reliable and reasonably-priced tailor down the street!

The Return of the Cobbler
Asking many friends, it seems they never have used a cobbler and think of the trade as one used back in the day to keep a person’s one pair of shoes from falling apart. A heel breaks, a boot’s sole wears thin and shoes in this millennium head for the local Goodwill or landfill. As with a tailor, it is far cheaper in the long run to repair that which you already own than to replace it.

My friend has a great pair of knee-high boots; she got them for a song in an end-of-season sale a decade ago, yet these boots still look new and garner many compliments. How does she keep them looking so fresh? Each fall she takes these boots to her local cobbler to be reheeled and resoled. When she lost weight, she had the cobbler make the boot shaft narrower, and when she got a job that required her to be on her feet more often, she consulted the cobbler and invested in new insoles and a more flexible sole. These boots have more than paid for themselves over the years, and the small repairs she makes yearly to them is far cheaper than purchasing a new pair.

To find a great cobbler ask around and search the internet for reviews. Also check with your local higher-end department store; they occasionally have a cobbler onsite that will work on items both purchased at the store and not (shoes not bought at the store usually cost more to be repaired but the prices are competitive with other local vendors). Working with one of these cobblers ensures you receive the good of quality department stores demand.

Cobblers can do more than replace the sole of your shoe; they can shorten a heel height, replace zippers and buckles, add a strap, change the shape of the vamp and add girth or narrow the shaft of a boot. In Seattle, a zipper replacement or sole repair is less than $10; in Cleveland a yearly repair, zipper replacement and polishing can be found for as little as $15.

When you visit the cobbler, go at a time when you have time. Be able to explain in detail what you want, put on the shoes if it is a matter of changing heel height or shape of the shoe. And trust the cobbler’s opinion – if he says he cannot do what you ask, do not force him. Get a second opinion at a different shop if you do not believe his response, but forcing a cobbler to do work he is not familiar or comfortable with could cause your shoe to be ruined.

If you are savvy with your original purchases and keep them in style and in shape with alterations and repairs, a well-made quality wardrobe can give you many years of wear and style.

“The Seamstress” by Raphael Soyer; “The cobbler at work” by Daniel Fermor-Smith.

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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Gwynnie Bee in 2013: Behind the Scenes

Gwynnie Bee is like Netflix for fashion sizes 10 and up. For a monthly fee, you can borrow clothing as often as you wish. Be it work blazers or cocktail dresses, leather jackets or sequined tank tops, Gwynnie Bee has you covered with fabulous, fun, and well-crafted fashion from some of the hottest plus size brands. I have been working with Gwynnie Bee for half a year now, and I just love it more and more. Their selection of clothing has improved, shipping has sped up, and their customer service hasn’t been sacrificed in any manner with their growth. Last week I had the fabulous opportunity to chat with Christine Hunsicker, CEO of Gwynnie Bee, to chat about how the business came to be and it’s direction for 2013.

How Gwynnie Bee Started
Christine grew up in rural Pennsylvania where there were, “more cows than people.” Her aunt lived across the road and was a seamstress by trade. Every Monday, Christine would receive a box of clothes from her aunt that would dress her for a week. Crazy prints, fun silhouettes, and everything fit perfectly no matter her size. Christine and her cousin would swap garments for variety and when they tired of the clothes, they would consign them and use the funds to purchase more fabric. This childhood gave Christine the ability to experiment with fashion without having to commit. Things changed when Christine wanted to wear the same popular trends as her classmates. She recalled when she went to the mall to get her first pair of denim shorts and soon realized she was at the higher end of the size spectrum. She tried on a pair and felt that something was wrong with her since they didn’t fit her figure. That realization hit hard and she had a massive breakdown in the fitting room Fast forward to college and her 20s, where Christine wore a uniform of jeans, tee shirts, and boring black staples because fashion just didn’t feel fun anymore.

A couple years ago, Christine sold her start-up business and was looking to do a new project – something big, long-lasting and would be of service to people and make a major impact in their daily lives. She thought about the stress and frustration of shopping, and how she knew of friends and family who dealt with the same issue and from that decided to start Gwynnie Bee.

Gwynnie Bee’s business culture is all about giving the customer and amazing experience and provide stellar service. Hunsicker believes that if you treat your customer well and with respect, it makes a huge difference on how people view the business. While on the phone with Christine, I mentioned my sister is a member and she immediately knew not just her name but clothes she had borrowed from Gwynnie Bee and feedback she had provided. She also knew of a friend I mentioned who also is a member of Gwynnie Bee. This was not prepared, our phone conversation was only scheduled about an hour ahead of time. It’s just proof of how this company truly sees each member as an individual person.

Gwynnie Bee in 2013 – What to Expect
Christine mentioned how drastically different the collection is now from how it was a year ago and she says that’s completely because of member feedback. Gwynnie Bee carries more statement pieces, more pieces that are a celebration and make fashion fun. Thanks to member feedback (which they constantly encourage – even brutal honest criticism), the Gwynnie Bee collection has more statement pieces, more colorful, fun, and flattering pieces. They hope to offer styles that women may not necessarily buy or even consider in a store but find they like when they try it on. The collection will continue to improve in 2013, and you can expect to see more indie designers, the introduction of jeans and pants, accessories, and a true wardrobe feel.

The site will also be getting some upgrades this year, and one feature I am most excited about is prioritization. I have had many of you readers tell me you find it frustrating that you can’t put your “closet” items in priority order. Gwynnie Bee heard your feedback, has a prioritization pilot program in place, and will be building this feature into the site this year. They will also be trying to make the site more informative with more editorial, suggestions on how to style pieces from the collection, and guest blog posts.

Shipping will be even faster this year as Gwynnie Bee moves to distribution warehouses. This change will shave an entire day off your garment deliveries!

The reason these improvements are happening is because of member feedback. Be it on the little cards you mail back with your garments, your reviews on the sites, comments on Facebook and Twitter or emails directly to the team, Gwynnie Bee acts on every bit of feedback they receive. Gwynnie Bee strives on having a public and wide open business, accepting the good and the bad feedback. They encourage all of you to let them know what you like and what you find could be improved so you can help make the company better for your fellow women.

I’ve received some Gwynnie Bee new releases over the past couple of weeks and see a drastic difference from the more traditional cuts and colors from when I started with them at the end of the summer. Hot brands like ASOS, Michael Kors, DKNY, and Eloquii. Leather, galaxy prints, sequins, peplums, and all the other hot trends along with workday classics and elegant party frocks. More customer reviews with each piece so you can get a better feel as to whether it’s a good choice for you. And more selection, be it styles or sizes. It’s exciting to see a company grow and improve before your very eyes, and I am proud to be a spokesperson for them.

Awesome Gwynnie Bee Promotion!
If you haven’t yet checked out Gwynnie Bee, now is the time!  Gwynnie Bee is currently offering a promotion where you can get a 30-day free trial of their program.  You won’t be charged unless you continue with the service and you can cancel online at anytime.  Well Gwynnie Bee is also offering all Wardrobe Oxygen readers a free one-garment upgrade on their new subscription!  Just be sure to use the link in this post and mention Wardrobe Oxygen to receive it.  Offer is valid for those choosing the one, two, or three garment plan.  This deal won’t last forever, it expires Sunday, January 27th, 2013 at midnight. Existing members, let your friends know about the 30-day trial (using your name) and you earn a free month!

Note: I do receive a commission on each new Gwynnie Bee membership if my or my blog name is mentioned at sign-up. However, all thoughts in this and any Gwynnie Bee posts are mine and they have no editorial control. I wanted to know more about Christine and the company and asked to do this phone interview; I am not being compensated for publishing this post. I just think Gwynnie Bee is rad.

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True Fashionista: Beth

There’s a part of me who wants to be preppy. To be that fresh faced, girly, outdoorsy, classic. To be that gal with the breezy highlighted hair, crisp chino shorts, who knows her way around a boat and a horse. As I was growing up, I tried to embrace this trend a few times (college friends can recall my blonde bob/sweater tied around my neck phase), but I realized it just wasn’t my true personal style. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love it, and get very inspired by those who wear this look so naturally. Women like Beth, whose blog s e e r s u c k e r + s a d d l e s shows her effortless classic, preppy, and nautical personal style. Beth continues to inspire me with her clear vision, passion for fashion, and understanding of both fit and personal style and that is why I asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

Every outfit Beth features on s e e r s u c k e r + s a d d l e s is consistent to her classic style, yet exudes fun and nods to current trends. Be it pairing leather leggings with a plaid flannel, a neon satchel with a cargo jacket and distressed denim, or a trendy shoe with otherwise classic pieces, Beth adds edge to a colorful, clean, and sporty wardrobe. Thanks to talented photographer Kristen Tatem, Beth’s blog constantly features clear and inspiring outfit photographs

s e e r s u c k e r + s a d d l e s is a great resource for the woman who doesn’t have the lifestyle for flatforms and fishnets; Beth regularly gives me inspiration for my weekend and Casual Friday ensembles. She mixes sequins with denim, plaid with polka-dots, canvas with silk in a way that makes sense and looks fabulous. Beth is proof that that flats are quite chic and dress up nicely, and how a closet of well-chosen separates can give you far more options and style than a closet overflowing with current trends.

Like me, Beth finds leopard to be a neutral and I am always excited to see how she incorporates it into an ensemble, be it a skinny belt or a pair of brogues. She mixes colors like a pro, never looking like Rainbow Brite. As a working mother of two, she is proof that you can be stylish and still lead a very full life. One of the most interesting things I learned about Beth through this series, is as you’ll see in her answers, she too envisions herself at times with a different personal style!  As with every other True Fashionista, I asked Beth to answer the same five questions; here are her answers:

How would you describe your personal style?
I would say my style is a mixture of classic & girly with a bit of quirk.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I think I was born with this innate passion for fashion. There are pictures of me when I was 3 dressed up in my mother’s clothing, all accessorized from top to bottom, handbags, baubles, heels—you name it! It has truly always been my creative outlet.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
I think I’m just like all of us gals when I say I gather my inspiration from the mags, Pinterest, other bloggers, street style—I’m always looking for it everywhere I am!

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Sometimes I believe fashion to be unattainable for us everyday folk. Say for instance, if you don’t have an endless budget where you can drop a ton of cash at a time and have to be conscious of your spending. Or, if you’re like me, and don’t live in a bustling city with high end boutiques and designers on every other corner…that’s where Style comes into play. It’s about taking a play on the high end fashion and making it your own. Investing in the key pieces like handbags but playing with the of-the-moment pieces that you can find at your Targets, Gaps, J.Crews, etc. Style is defined by YOU!

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
I still struggle with not jumping on every trend bandwagon. I would totally love to do the urban, boho chic thing, but I would look & feel unnatural. Not to mention I’m no longer in my 20s, have two children, and live in the South–basically that aesthetic doesn’t gel with my lifestyle. So there it is, I think the process of finding your personal style is one that is ever evolving, but ultimately comes down to finding what YOU look & feel best in. I also think you need to be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s with color, a print, or a new cut of pant–just TRY it. It will help you get a better sense of what works for you.


The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments you never know she may end up being featured!

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What I’m Craving for Spring

There is still snow on the ground, but I am already looking forward to spring – tossing the parka and gloves for lighter weight, happier clothes.

And this spring, designers are thinking happy thoughts.  There are so many inspiring, cheerful, motivating trends this coming season it’s hard to not smile when thinking of warmer months.  Here are some items that are on my must-have list for spring:

Lands End Boatneck Sailor Tee
I already have one of these shirts – have had it for a couple years and it still looks like new.  This top totally goes with the nautical theme this spring, but in a very classic, flattering way.  The knit is heavy, it has stretch but has an almost twill-like texture.  Mine has been in the washer and dryer dozens upon dozens of time and the only problem I have had is that the neckline sometimes folds over if it gets stuck in the dryer with heavy garments like denim (nothing an iron can’t fix).

I think the reason I love this top from Lands End so much is that is fits the current theme of nautical-inspired fashion, but it’s a timeless classic color combination and silhouette that can still be worn years from now without looking passe.

I have it in large regular and it fits my 12/14 shape in a relaxed/comfortable manner.  It hits high hip on my 5’3″ self, bracelet-length sleeves that just scream spring.  The ivory/true navy is a great classic color combination – the navy is dark and deep, the ivory has a very neutral undertone that works with most skintones.  I love this top so much I am toying with getting another color combination in a smaller size so it’s a more trim fit that would look great with skirts and under jackets.

Starting at $29.50, petite and regular sizes XS – 3X at Lands End.

Boden Sateen Pencil Skirt in Yellow Capri
I never wear yellow, it doesn’t look good with my skintone.  However that doesn’t stop me from loving it.  I always gravitate towards a garment that lets me wear it without it wearing me.

This skirt from Boden does just that, plus it really incorporates the spring trend of citrus colors accented against neutrals.  I can see it with a crisp white shirt and a belt in hot pink or mango, with a navy turtleneck sweater and tan heels, with a blood orange tee shirt and a casual sandals, with a black blazer and pumps for a work meeting.  Extremely versatile, and a piece that is on-trend for Spring 2011, but not passe a year from now.

$78.00, available in sizes 2 – 18, at Boden.

Enzo Angiolini ‘Sully’ Platform Pump in Taupe Suede
There is nothing better in spring than a fabulous pair of skin-tone heels.  It elongates the leg and coordinates with everything in your wardrobe.  This pump, available exclusively from Nordstrom is on-trend with the nude color and platform heel, but classic with its suede exterior and peeptoe.  

I prefer a skin-colored shoe in a textured fabric like suede – it blends into the leg better, and I find that nude-colored leathers can often look cheap or gaudy if the leather is too soft or too shiny.  The reviews are pretty good, and there’s a heck of a lot of style for a lovely under-$100 pricepoint.  Pair with skirts, dresses, or even trousers for an elegant spring look.

$88.95, available in sizes 4.5 – 10, exclusively at Nordstrom.

ISAAC MIZRAHI LIVE! 100% Cotton Ruffle Front Chambray Blouse
I lived through the chambray period – I had chambray and denim shirts in every shape and size, chambray jumpers and shirt dresses and pleated paperbag-wait trousers.  I usually believe that if you live through a trend once, you shouldn’t wear it second time around.  When I started seeing chambray in the stores, I was a bit horrorified – I immediately thought of an acid-washed chambray shirtdress I wore in high school with Sam & Libby granny boots.

However this season, chambray is done in a way that is fresh and modern.  This shirt from Isaac Mizrahi’s line for QVC has so many adorable details – the ruffled placket, the 3/4 sleeves, and I like that it is thin and breezy.  I can see it with a tailored suit for a board meeting, with a crisp pencil skirt in a cheery color, or even tucked into some wide-leg denim trousers.  Once Memorial Day arrives, this shirt would look amazing with some straight-leg white jeans and sandals.

Currently on sale for $33.28, available in sizes XS – 3X, at QVC.

Ann Taylor LOFT Woven Shift Dress
Shift dresses are my go-to each spring and summer.  They are a classic, stylish way to stay cool and look professional at work, yet can easily dress up or down for weekend and evening activities.  I love this dress from LOFT because it is so versatile of a color and a silhouette.

Pair the dress with nude pumps for day, or up the glam a notch for evening with some metallic sandals.  With strappy heels and sparkly jewelry, this dress could look great for an evening wedding, with flat sandals and minimal accessories, the dress would also be great for weekend brunch with the girls.

To get the bright color combos that are so hot for spring, put a hot orange patent belt at the waist. After this trend has ended, this dress will still look fantastic on its own, or with a belt in a different color or fabric.

The slight cowl at the neck and subtle pleating at the waist makes this shift far more flattering and forgiving to curvy figures, and I adore that is comes in tall sizes so my leggy friends won’t be showing too much skin at the workplace!

$79.50, available in regular and tall sizes 0 – 18, at Ann Taylor LOFT.

Amiee Lynn Skinny Patent Belt in Fuschia
You must be living under a rock if you haven’t yet heard that Honeysuckle is the Pantone color of the year.   This is a bright, vibrant pink, and I think a color that makes a great base hue for garments, but also for a pop of color to wardrobe basics.

This belt from Amiee Lynn for QVC comes in a bright fuchsia that fits the Pantone concept for 2011, but is a great price that won’t make you have buyer’s regret for jumping on a trend bandwagon.  Wear this belt over simple sheaths, have it nip in sweaters when paired with wide-leg trousers or pencil skirts, replace the self-belt in your shirt dresses with this cheery number.  Once it’s in your wardrobe you will be amazed at how versatile it is, and how it can make your classic look fresh and new.

$17.50, available in sizes XS/S through 2X/3X at QVC.

Gap Wide Leg Trouser Jeans
After a winter of stovepipes and jeggings, it is so refreshing to see that the wide-leg jean has made a comeback.  This version from Gap has simple lines so you won’t end up looking like a fashion victim if you wear them past spring.  In a dark wash, it elongates the leg and works with more colors and silhouettes already residing in your closet.

With a nautical-striped tee, it would be a great weekend look.  Pair with a navy ribbed turtleneck and a hot pink or orange patent skinny belt for a great Casual Friday look.  They would also be a fresh companion to a lacy blouse (another hot look for spring).  A chunky platform shoe will balance out the wide leg.

Slash pockets can be a bit dicey on curvy women; I have found Gap to make the most flattering pants with this sort of pocket.  However if they gap for you, there are plenty of other brands with similar trousers – in a pinch I have been known to seal up such pockets with a bit of Stitch Witchery.

$69.50, available in petite, tall and regular sizes from 00 to 20 at Gap.

What is on your must-have list for this spring?  What trends do you plan on adding to your current wardrobe?

A Night With Andre Leon Talley

Last night I went to the Corcoran in Washington DC to see Andre Leon Talley give a lecture on his opinions of the Spring 2007 lines and to have a Q&A. For those who have never heard of this man before, Talley is the Editor at Large for Vogue. He has been there since 1983, previously working for Women’s Wear Daily and other fashion powerhouses in New York, and was part of Andy Warhol’s entourage.

Andre looked dapper in a black suit, dove gray shirt with white collar, gray silk tie and white pocket scarf. He wore burgundy socks and black flats with pave “Ben Franklin” buckles that were custom made for him by the designer who originally designed the shoes for Jackie Kennedy and her sister Lee Radziwill. He started the lecture with a slide presentation he created of his favorite collections from the Spring 2007 shows in New York, Paris and Milan. It was fascinating to see the clothing as we see it in Vogue, and then see the models backstage and how real the clothing seemed to be on relaxed women chatting and giggling. Suddenly sequined bikini bottoms with a silk blazer seemed wearable, and not just art on the runway. We also learned some inside stories behind the collections and designers. Vera Wang’s father passed away less than 24 hours before her show. Talley told the story of how she received the call from her father’s caretaker and dashed to his bedside in time to say goodbye, then raced back to New York to conduct her show. Miuccia Prada’s collection may have seemed to be full of unrealistically short dresses that no person on earth could carry off. In fact, a few days before her show the skirts for the collection arrived and she didn’t like them. Instead of sullying her collection with incorrect skirts, she just sent the models down the runway in only the tunic tops. Suddenly the strange collection of ultra-minis and skinny leggy models seemed to work – you focused on the gorgeous jewel tones of the silk tops and how they were cinched with an unexpected rough-hewn leather belt. Knowing the back story made the collection all the more beautiful.

It was also funny to hear Talley speak of Vera Wang as “Vera.” An elegant name for a simply elegant woman, but when her first name is used alone suddenly I imagine a blonde waitress chomping on gum and screaming, “Kiss my grits!” It really humanized Wang. Talley was discussing Wang’s fame, how she originally was an editor and was getting married and couldn’t find an appropriate gown. She designed her own and ended up getting into the business, now having lines of china, crystal, lingerie, and even clothing at Kohl’s. “What next Vera, Vera Wang coffins?” Talley laughed when speaking of a recent conversation with Wang and her new business ventures.

Talley has elegant and sophisticated tastes; the lines he found the best of a “super bad” season were classic standards like Balenciaga, Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Versace. Lots of white, platinum and silver metallic pieces, 1940’s inspiration and great textures. The theme for shoes was as he put it “ugly.” Large clunky sandals with huge platform heels and studs holding the leather to the wood soles. Dancer-inspired flats with lots of elastic straps. Very tall platform wedges with patent leather peep toes. “This Spring it’s all about the ugly shoe. Get yourself an ugly shoe,” Talley told the crowd to gales of laughter.

After the slide presentation, Talley took questions from the audience. I was expecting an audience full of well-dressed fashionistas but was surprised to see quite a variety of attendees. College kids in jeans, older women in artistic home-crafted designs, elegant socialites of the city in all ages, and many women who look as though they are interested in and learning about fashion, heading to the Corcoran after a long day at their government job. Women in couture, women in chain store pieces, women in vintage, women in Target. Talley noted some well-dressed women in the audience and asked them to stand. One was in a black and white heavy tweed shift with a foldover collar. She wore it over a lightweight white ¾ sleeve tee and carried it off with black flats. He loved the texture and the simplicity of the outfit. She admitted that she bought the dress at Antrhopologie. The second woman was in an off-white puff sleeved chiffon dress with a full skirt. The dress was covered with black oval polka-dots. She had a very large Fendi-inspired black patent belt around her waist, black tights and black heeled Mary Jane shoes. She admitted that the dress was vintage and the belt from Target. A cheer came up from the crowd when she mentioned Target and Talley smiled and said, “Oh I love Target, I love Tar-jay, I got there all the time!” Another cheer from the crowd.

Talley skirted away from the tougher questions, and didn’t really admit much about his personal opinions or thoughts. When asked about the movie The Devil Wears Prada, Talley said he never saw the movie nor read the book so he could not discuss it in any manner. He did admit that Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue did attend opening night and found the film “entertaining.” Talley would not discuss the thinness of models in the industry today, stating that he feels that designers should be able to use any model they feel shows off their clothes best. He noted that Prada did use unusually thin and leggy models this season, but designers like Jean Paul Gaultier use models of varying heights, weights and bust sizes. When asked about the show Project Runway, he admitted that he has never seen an episode and that he watches little television other than the news. “The McLaughlin Group is the best show on television, I love the McLaughlin Group!” He also admitted loving Hardball with Chris Matthews.

The conversation changed to fashion, the current trends of American fashion and more specifically, the lack of care and respect in today’s fashion. This is something that bothers me as much as it did the woman in the fur vest in the front row who asked the question. She was most concerned with the fashion of Americans in places like airports. Talley believes that we live “in a spin-cycle world” and need to accept that. He told a story of him and Diane von Furstenburg visiting the Google headquarters and one of the first rooms he saw at the complex was a Laundromat. He found it brilliant that the employees were able to bring their clothing to work to clean and believes that is the way of America. Talley believes that a woman does not need to spend a fortune to look stylish, that one can update her wardrobe just by changing accessories. He said for Spring a woman should invest in some colorful flat shoes, a beaded necklace and a fabulous bag. He disagreed with an audience member who said that style is all about self-confidence. I agree with Talley, some people have oodles of confidence but terrible style. He was most impressed by simple, classic, basic outfits in the audience and during this conversation noted the outfit of a woman in her 40’s in the back row. She was wearing a basic black suit, but an elaborate necklace of varying lengths of jet beads. The accessory made the outfit.

After the Q&A session, the audience adjourned to the hallway where a reception was set up just for us. High-top tables wrapped in orange organza, waiters passing out feta and watermelon skewers, grilled shrimp and chicken . Bars were set up serving sparkling water, club soda, chardonnay and a signature-tini with a ginger/orange flavor and color. DC magazine passed out their latest issue. The crowd was 90% female, everyone checking out one another’s attire and chatting about the lecture. After about 20 minutes Talley came out to the reception, signing autographs and shaking hands. It was a wonderful evening, well put together, and I found Andre Leon Talley to be a funny, passionate and charming man. I am glad I was able to experience it.

Random thoughts on a Tuesday…

I wear Burberry London as my signature fragrance. It is the first time I have had a “signature fragrance,” for most fragrances drive me insane or make me sneeze after a few weeks.

Because of this, a good third of my bureau is decorated with various perfume bottles. I just can’t rid of them because they are pretty.

I forgot to wear my wedding set yesterday… and today. I took them off after the beach because I was feeling stiff and sunburned and swollen from salt and heat and vodka tonics. I must remember to put them back on today.

I never take off my wedding set, not even for a shower or swim in the ocean. I only take them off when we are at a Bailey Banks and Biddle to have them cleaned. I’ve been married three years, I don’t clean them that often any more. It’s about the sentiment, not the shine.

Last night I was at Annapolis Mall with my husband and we walked past Bailey Banks and Biddle and he asked if I wanted to go in and have my ring cleaned. He wasn’t happy to find out I didn’t have it on and had it sitting on my nightstand for 24 hours. He said the dog could eat it. I wouldn’t put it past my dog; he has eaten stranger things in the past.

At Annapolis Mall I found out I am old. I mean, I know I am getting older and this weekend my friends and I cried this statement a few times when we saw ridiculous young peep fashion and actions, but the mall made me feel truly aged. As you know I write about clothing here and on my other blog, but I like to think that I write more about style than fashion. There is a difference between the two, and there is a difference between fashion and trends as well. I looked at what was an attempt at fashion, and what was hot and trendy now and it made my head hurt. Jeans so bedazzled on the pockets, I wonder how people sit. Candy colored hi-top sneaks for men, tops that would hardly cover an areola, multiple layers of knits all cinched up with a faux pleather belt… the styles in the store windows were hideous and I knew I must be old if I was shuddering in front of each wall of plate glass. I felt like a senior citizen. Granted, I am a well-dressed senior citizen that got three compliments from strangers for my choice of shoe and a good looking man my junior looked me up and down in a way that made me feel a bit violated and a bit vindicated.

My husband noted that those who live in Annapolis LOOK as though they live in Annapolis. We were trying to break down the exact look and this was out list on the restaurant napkin:

  • Weathered skin – not just tan, but with freckles, creases and a bit of a leathery texture even on teens
  • Very casual hair – low ponytails and straight bangs on women of a certain age, curly mops on men of all ages, tangled long sun-streaked tresses on younger ladies.
  • Very expensive purses with plenty of hardware, or else Very Bradley satchels
  • Very old bottoms, be it cargo shorts, jeans, a chino skirt. Obviously well made to withstand salt and sand and sun and many trips through the washer.
  • No bright colors past lime, pink or coral. Maybe a wild French blue but never Crayola red or emerald green and gosh forbid if you tried to wear bright orange outside of a life jacket.
  • Very comfortable shoes. Flops, slides, sandals, boat shoes. Usually as weathered but well-made as the owner’s shorts or skirt.
  • Minimal makeup on the women – mascara, a touch of tinted lip balm, sometimes a smudge of eyeliner but that is it.
  • An obvious piece of expensive jewelry. It may be large diamond studs, a strand of real pearls, a right-hand diamond ring, or maybe a Tiffany bracelet for the teens.

I said I felt very Annapolis in my black top, white trousers and turquoise necklace. For once I too had the minimal hair and makeup.

My husband then reminded me that I was wearing the leopard-print stilettos that were complimented three times by strangers. Oh well, still have a bit of DC in me, even if I desire to be more Naptown.

I love great shoes. You can wear the most basic things, and your shoes will always take center stage. It is far easier to get away at work with crazy shoes than crazy makeup or crazy dresses.

I am allergic to blue cheese, but I asked for gorgonzola on my salad last night. How can you have field greens, champagne vinaigrette, pears and walnuts without it?

I hate admitting when I am disappointed to a nice waitress. The kitchen brought out our entrees before our appetizer, didn’t bring bread until our second request and never brought my lemon for my water so I had to steal my husband’s off his iced tea. Oh, and the chips with the spinach artichoke dip were stale as all heck, hence the need for the bread. But she was so darn cute and sweet I couldn’t complain.

I don’t think my husband could either, he felt guilty and left 20% tip.

Today he is sending a letter to Nordstrom to compliment them on our salesperson last night. I bought my husband some of those slip-on dress shoes (not traditional loafers, more sleek) a year or so ago and last week the seam busted out at the sole. We took them back to Nordstrom sans receipt in hopes they could fix them. They could not, so they offered to give us a replacement pair if I could guess the price. The same brand in a slightly different version were $130 so I said $130. He entered $150 into the register so we got a $180 pair of shoes for $30 plus tax. I felt bad because he spent a long time with us to have such a meager sale and like the waitress, for some reason we felt bad for doing what customers do and expecting those in the service industry to do their job, so we are writing a thank you letter.

People should write more thank you letters. Nothing makes a person’s day more than having nice sentiments on paper.

I have all my thank you notes and customer comment cards from my retail days saved in a binder in clear pages. I like to look at it when I feel like a loser.

I also save all the sweet compliments and thank you emails I get from readers in my inbox so I can be reminded of why I write and that I am not invisible in this world.

Speaking of which, someone walked by my cube and complimented me on my perfume. I smiled and said “it’s Burberry London” when asked the brand. “I guess you could say it’s my signature fragrance.”

Then I thought, “oh crap, they can smell my perfume from outside my cube? That’s not a signature, that’s a billboard!”

I promptly licked and rubbed together my wrists in an attempt to wear away some scent. Burberry London may smell nice, but it doesn’t taste nice.

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!

Ask Allie: Fashion Advice for a Petite SAHM

Dear Allie,
I am currently rocking the awful “mom” look aka yoga pants and huge t-shirts and I am so over it! Could you direct me to a few classic pieces to start my wardrobe? I am a stay at home mom with two under two, so I need a practical look. I live in Ohio where the weather is always changing. I am very petite (5’ and less than 100 lbs). I also have trouble finding comfortable shoes that look stylish and fit my size 5 feet. Any advice?
– Megan

Dear Megan,
I am so glad you realize that one can be an active mom while maintaining style. I recently wrote an article on about new mom fashion, but will offer some basics that should get you on track without looking like a mom, or like a college student:

Dark Straight Jeans
A dark straight jean is classic, can be worn any season of the year, looks more polished than lighter washes, and doesn’t need a fancy label to look chic. Having a straight leg means this jean should work with most any length or style of top in your wardrobe – simple tanks and tees, longer tunics, blazers and cardigans, blouses tucked in or left untucked. Add a bit of spandex so that you won’t be showing your undergarments or cutting into your stomach when crawling on the floor after your little one.

The Lee Slender Secret 5-pocket Jean is a classic style that is great for women who may have a bit of that baby pooch still left. Oprah recently rated them as a top jean, and reviews state that these jeans in petite are not needing of hemming for those who are 5’ tall. $29.99


Levi’s 512 jean is a straight, classic style that is made for a woman’s shape. Their Perfectly Slimming 512 Jean has the Lycra to keep your body looking smooth, and giving you the flexibility you need to keep up with your children. Again, this jean is rated great for the really petite woman – they run short so you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg on alterations. $40.00

A Versatile Trench
When the weather is chilly one day, hot the next, and rainy the third it’s hard to be prepared. A simple trench or mac in a water-resistant fabric that is lined will keep you looking stylish yet comfortable on those in-between days.

The Sunshower Coat from Lands End is a favorite – it’s a classic style, breathable, and wrinkle-resistant. Lands End is known for their quality and service so you know you will get a great piece that will give you years of wear. Khaki is a safe bet, but a more memorable color like their Wine Grape will look great with neutrals, make your skin glow, and will give you a sunnier outlook on the day, even if the sky is cloudy. $99.50

Macy’s Style&Co brand offers great style for a reasonable price. This double-breasted trench has a shorter length that won’t dwarf your petite frame, and the soft sage color will look great with neutrals, but be a fresh change from beige and black outerwear. $79.00

Solid-colored Seasonally-appropriate Tops
Toss the oversized tees and stiff striped button-downs. It’s easy to be comfortable, get dressed in an instant yet look great if you have an arsenal of flattering, well-fitting knits in your size and colors you adore. Wash on the gentle cycle, line dry and these pieces can give you years of great wear. Look for pieces with 5% spandex or more – they will be more likely to keep their shape, not need to be ironed, and maintain their color longer than 100% cotton tops. For winter, I love merino wool because it acts like a knit in keeping its shape and flattering the figure, and can also be washed on the gentle cycle.

Ann Taylor LOFT is a fave of many petite women thanks to their extensive collection, reasonable prices, and truly petite sizing. Their Petite Twisted Boatneck Tee is a fashionable version of the comfy tee shirt. The neckline adds drama to a casual day look, and would fantastic under a cardigan or casual twill blazer. Great colors like Balsam Green and Ocean Depths will complement dark denim, khaki, white, gray, and black. $19.50

I love Nordstrom’s Caslon line – great wardrobe basics of great quality. The petite Caslon Ballet Neck Tee is a feminine and flattering twist on a simple knit top – the ¾ sleeves make it wearable almost year-round and a scoop neck is lovely on most every woman’s figure. $24.00

A Casual Blazer
A great way to jazz up simple tees and jeans is with a casual blazer. If it’s unlined and has a bit of stretch, it’s as comfortable as a hoodie but with far more polish.


Ann Taylor LOFT’s Petite Urban Twill Blazer is a great choice. The grosgrain trim gives it a unique, higher-end look, and in navy it would go with most any color tank or tee in your closet. $69.99

The striped blazer from Banana Republic would look amazing with neutral tanks, tees, and bottoms. It would also look quite chic with a pop of color underneath – try candy pink, blood orange, or apple green. The standup collar elongates the frame, making you look taller. $149.99

A Trendy Knit
Right now, striped tees are a hot look – this is a great way to add some variety and current fashion to your wardrobe without looking passé in a season. Striped tees look great with a simple denim or twill skirt, under a blazer, with shorts, capris, jeans, and even dressed up with a fuller skirt or with trousers. Add a bit of contrast with a turquoise or coral necklace, or a cardigan in a color like leaf green, tangerine, or yellow.

This black and cream striped boatneck from Lauren by Ralph Lauren isn’t your ordinary tee shirt – the silver buttons and boatneck make it a refined piece that would look great with jeans, and also with a white twill skirt for spring outings. $59.50


I own the Striped Sailor Tee from Ann Taylor and adore it – the scoopneck is flattering, the knit heavy and durable, the epaulets give a bit more style and panache. It comes in three colors. $38.00

A Not-so Little Black Dress
I have a black wrap dress from Old Navy that I bought years ago on clearance. I wear it with leggings and flats around the house, with heels for a wedding or funeral, with tall boots to work. It’s so versatile, and the matte jersey is a fabric that stretches, gives, washes easily, and looks timeless and seasonless.

The Petite Gemma Wrap dress from Banana Republic is a great choice – ¾ sleeves work year round, and a true wrap style means you can cinch the waist for a more custom fit. $98.00


Merona for Target has really come a long way in the past year – the quality has improved immensely, and the style is quite on-trend yet classic. The Merona Petite Faux Wrap Knit Dress is a great choice – the empire waist hides any post-baby pooch, and makes it dress up or down with ease. $20.98

It often impossible to find size 5 footwear in stores, however the selection is pretty impressive online. Sites like Nordstrom and Zappos have a great selection of smaller sizes that are still stylish and comfortable. I recommend investing in:

  • A sandal with a low wedge heel (more comfortable than heels, able to wear with shorts or with a dress).  The “Amber” wedge-heel sandals from Munro is a great summer choice – uber comfortable, thin elegant straps, will look great with skirts and dresses of all lengths, as well as shorts, trousers, and cropped pants. Munro is known for comfort and quality – these shoes should be wearable even for a day of sightseeing or a trip to Disney World. $179.95
  • A pair of ankle boots you can slip on with jeans and a sweater (low heel, brown or black depending on your wardrobe – more versatile than flats as that they can dress up and also be waterproofed for rainy days).  The “Wisteria” by Merrell has a wedge heel which is comfortable when standing or walking for a long period of time, but can still be paired with casual trousers. They get great reviews for comfort. $140.00
  • A pair of tall riding boots (wear with dresses, over jeans and you will be amazed how they will transform wardrobe basics into something stylish – waterproof them for more versatility).  These riding boots from La Canadiene are so classic – waterproof Italian leather, moisture-wicking lining, memory foam insole, low heel, elegant styling. These are boots you buy now and will still be wearing a decade from now. $256.00
  • A pair of simple black leather pumps for those times when you do need to dress up (they work with pants, dresses, and even with your dark jeans for a Date Night or drinks with your girl friends).  The Nuncio pump from Nine West is a classic pump that will look elegant year-round and years from now. 2.5” heel, elongated toe, and available in narrow and wide widths. $69.95

For additional petite inspiration, check out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Toss:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else I would add to this list:

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

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

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Behind the Scenes

I don’t think people realize the behind the scenes of being a fashion or style blogger in 2013. While I don’t know how it is for other bloggers, here’s a peek into may daily life as a part-time fashion blogger.

I wake and grab my phone and head to the bathroom. While I pee, brush my teeth, and straighten my hair, I read emails, reply to comments and mentions on my blog’s social media channels. I need to stop after 30 minutes, because if not this could go on for over an hour. Time zones across the globe mean you can receive 20 emails at 3am asking to buy a text link, improve your SEO, or gift you with a scarf and ten more at 4am trying to spam your comment sections with links for cheap Fendi bags.

I try to figure out an outfit. I have that gifted scarf I need to incorporate before the end of the week, I have to wear that dress for that brand before the month is through but it looks stupid with tights and it’s only going to be 45 degrees that day. I already wore black for my last two outfit posts, if I do it again I’ll be hit with a dozen comments asking me if I’m depressed or gained weight or having marital issues. If I wear more than one c/o item in the outfit, will I be seen as a sell-out even though I really really like those c/o pieces? As I pull something together, I am thinking about what I will write, what the title will be for the post.

I go downstairs and start the outfit post – I write the title, get all the links for the products. I usually use ShopSense for my affiliate links because it’s profitable, easy to use, and they don’t harass me all the time with emails on how to improve my results or added widgets and giveaways and such. However, if ShopSense doesn’t have my link, I have to take some extra time to find that item online. I write a bit of the copy, just to get the ball rolling, tag the post, and do all the blogging back-end stuff.

On days when I don’t have to be at work super early, my husband drives me to the metro to save costs and reduce the number of cars on the road. He brings out his camera, I give him a memory card, pictures are taken in our court or the street nearby. He shoots about 12 pictures. Pose, pose pose, pose, pose, pose. Okay get up close for detail shots. I don’t see any of the pictures, he pulls out the memory card and I slip it in my purse and we drive off. While in the car or when waiting at the Metro for the train I may Instagram my outfit, and will again check emails and mentions on social media. Karl makes a joke about how I’m addicted to my phone, I laugh, guzzle coffee, and keep scrolling because it’s not something I can do once I get to work.

When I take my lunch break, I eat it at my desk so I can work on the blog. I upload the pictures to my desktop, delete the ones with my eyes closed or where I have five chins, and quickly use PicMonkey to adjust the color, clone out Emerson’s handprint on my pants, and resize. Load the pics, finish the copy, and post all within about 15 minutes. My posts are automatically mentioned on Twitter, but I have chosen to manually share on Facebook because I can then add a photo, tag brands or fellow bloggers and make it a bit more personal. I also share on Pinterest – I feel goofy promoting myself but I’ve found over the past year that many people have found my blog because of that.

If I still have some time leftover (I rarely get full lunch hours), I’ll check my Google Doc for comments from my comment form, check out blogs I follow on Feedly, reply to some emails, chat with folks on Twitter. In all honesty, this time is usually taken up with emails, and not emails from readers.

Can I write a guest post where I throw in a bunch of links for my brand but not pay you?
I will offer you $25 to write a sponsored post on your site with 50,000 links about casinos or weightloss products or a brand of clothing that is derogatory towards women.
I’d like to give you $50 to put a bunch of crazy code in your sidebar which looks like an innocent button ad, but will in fact destroy your SEO and improve mine tenfold.
I have a scarf I’d like to send to you (always scarves!!) for free, but you need to feature it within two weeks, share it on every social media channel under the sun, use a special hashtag and link to this specific page. 
Your price is too high for advertising, how about I give you $30 and some SEO tips for a giant ad in your sidebar that will be there for three years? 
Have you had a chance to try out the skincare you didn’t ask to receive in the first place and when can I expect a review on your blog?

Even though Alexa and Quantcast and my Advertise page exist and you sent me your stats in the last email, can you please again give me all the statistics on your blog for the past year, specific stats that you’ll have to dig up on Google Analytics so I can see if your blog is worthy enough for me to send you a bracelet? 
Sorry, we cannot send you a pair of our shoes to review, but here’s a high-res image of it, I’ll be sending the shoes to a blogger who may have a much smaller audience but is younger and thinner but I hope you will still write about us and be sure to mention us on social media!

At the end of the workday, I am often rushing out of the office to get home in just in time for Karl to leave to teach. The days where he doesn’t work, I’d love to leave on time so we can have dinner together as a family, but usually I stick around at work for another hour. I catch up on things without the office bustling with people, but I also get blogging done. All that behind the scenes stuff – updating ads and links, making new Pin-able images for old posts that still get a lot of traffic, creating Polyvore sets for upcoming posts, creating posts and scheduling them for the future. I don’t get time like this often, so when I do I try to bang out at least one or two posts.

As soon as the Metro is aboveground, I’m on my phone checking emails and social media. Again, writing myself an email of tasks to accomplish. I get home, put my phone on the charger and spend time with Emerson. I give her a bath, put her to bed, and usually go right to my laptop where I deal with 50,000 more emails of companies wanting text links, to send me stuff, do giveaways, have me mention their brands or events, or speak on their panel. It’s tempting to delete every single one, but you never know what PR person can give you your next big break. I delete the ones that are obviously sent to 500 bloggers at once, but reply to all that are personal or make an effort.

When I’m home, I try to answer all the emails from readers, but I’m trying to do that more on weekends because I’m finding the personal interactions before bedtime really mess with my sleep patterns. For every compliment, there’s someone telling me I am fat or tacky, my child is ugly or my husband is gay. For every email that asks an honest question about fashion or style, there is one where someone is pouring out their entire story and hoping I can fix their life. For every email thanking me for my advice, there’s someone telling me my advice is wrong, damaging, or offensive. It’s hard; I love how my blog helps women so when I get such feedback it’s hard to not take it personally or change yourself.

I rarely read books anymore that don’t serve a blog purpose. I read fashion and style books, fashion and lifestyle magazines. I need to keep current with trends, style beliefs, up and comers. You all will hit me with some major whoppers of comments and questions and it reminds me that to be a good blogger you need to be well-informed on your subject. Every so often, I throw in a chick lit or crime novel to keep the fashion and style reads from being work.

Saturday mornings, Karl teaches yoga and Emerson and I have an hour or two before her ballet class. We eat breakfast on the couch, she usually playing ABC Mouse on her computer or apps on my phone, me with laptop and a fashion-related show on the TV. Project Runway, Rachel Zoe Project, It’s a Brad Brad World, something on the DVR I saw when going through The Guide. I get a post done, this is usually when I do capsule or more creative posts because I’m fresh, I can see nature outside my window, and I have little cold toes tickling me under the afghan and a warm furry dog on my feet.

Sundays, I usually do administrative work on the blog. Update graphics, coding, my social media channels. I know I do a lot less of this stuff than many bloggers, as I don’t know PhotoShop, don’t know the intricacies of SEO, and hell, I’m still on Blogger because I’m lazy.  I’ll send invoices to advertisers, reply to emails I have been avoiding, and the emails from you readers that deserve a bit more time and thought. I try to stick to viewing my stats on Sundays because it can be quite addictive, depressing, and cause competition.  Sundays is also when I start crafting the True Fashionista posts. I take over a week to finish those, since I pretty much stalk the bloggers online, finding where they have been mentioned, where they get their inspiration, what makes them so interesting. I try to do this while Emerson sleeps and Karl watches his sort of TV (Dual Survival, Vikings, etc.). Sundays are also when I clean up my bedroom – it can get pretty trashed trying to figure out outfits in a rush (and planning ahead just never feels right to me), so I put all the rejects away and do a bit of thinking about what I will wear for the upcoming week.  If things are going well, this is when I take the time to truly visit other blogs.  I find that lately I don’t have enough time for this, and I miss it terribly.

For someone to blog consistently, it has to be a passion.  It’s not just posing in a park with a clutch purse, at least it isn’t any more.  I think of big full-time bloggers who regularly have events to attend, retail headquarters to visit, interviews to conduct and I think they must work more than 50 hours in a week to keep it going and to stay in the black. Being a for-profit blogger can be a very isolating, soul-selling, and exhausting profession, especially when to be successful you have to hide all that under a gleaming white smile and pair of covetable heels.  I can’t imagine how it is for those who have chosen to make their blog their full-time job.  When you start dissing a blogger for being too big, a sell-out, for turning off comments or being distant, realize you don’t know what is actually going on behind the scenes.

This will be the last post about the business of blogging for a while (at least until I get riled up again).  Thanks for letting me vent and share, but I want to get back to the fun stuff – fashion and personal style!  Next week I have a few more beauty reviews and I’ll have some outfit posts as well!  Thanks for sticking through!  

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