Search Results for: label/How to Wear Fashion Trends

The Bandana is Back!

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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How to Wear Wardrobe Classics with This Fall’s Trends

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

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Leather Jacket

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

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

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

Cap Toe Shoes

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

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

Wine-colored Lips

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

Colored Skinny Jeans

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

 

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How to Wear the Sheer Fashion Trend

Everywhere you look, chiffon is taking center stage. From see-through tee shirts to maxi skirts with short slips, the sheer trend is hot for summer. One of the most popular variations of this trend is the sheer blouse; it can be an easy way to incorporate this trend into your daily wardrobe. However, without proper planning a sheer blouse could prove to be a wardrobe mistake.

Here are some tips on how to wear a sheer blouse this summer and make it appropriate for day or for play.

Vintage-inspired Blouse

Lace trim, puffed sleeves, pussy bow at the throat – these are blouses that evoke an earlier time. The silhouette is perfect for pairing with a pencil skirt for the office or with jeans and heels for happy hour. How you wear it determines whether it ends up looking appropriate for either situation.

For Day: If the blouse is a solid color, a camisole in the same color will offer modesty and intensify the hue. If it is a print, a nude camisole or one in a lighter color in the print will offer coverage without sacrificing the pattern in the fabric.

To keep things professional, choose a bra that either matches your skin or else the color of the camisole so that it doesn’t show. A camisole in a silky fabric will keep the blouse from sticking to it or bunching. Even though the blouse covers your décolleté, be sure the camisole provides proper coverage – no extreme cleavage, cropped styles, or backs lower than your bra strap. While your blouse may be sheer, it isn’t invisible and your skin will show. On the other hand, a wide-strapped or tank-style layer can ruin the line of the blouse – choose a camisole with straps no wider than a bra or slip to maintain the vintage vibe.

For Play: A solid black bra with full coverage is a sexy way to wear such a blouse – it’s also a cheeky way to play up the prim, vintage silhouette. If you have one, you could also wear a solid bustier. A black or nude camisole is a good option for those who desire more coverage. As with the day option, a slim strap and silky fabric will provide the best effect.

Sheer Tee Shirt

A tee shirt in chiffon, gauze, or a very weathered jersey is a fun addition to the wardrobe. It’s a creative alternative to a classic shell under a work blazer, and is more sexy and stylish than a traditional knit jersey. Here’s how to make such a garment look chic.

For Day: If you work in a creative or casual office, a classic tank top is a great base layer for such a shirt. Choosing a tank in the same color is a safe bet, but this is a great opportunity to try a variation of colorblocking with a tank in a contrast shade or a shade slightly lighter or darker than the tee. The transparency of the tee will create a fun third color for the torso. If you wear the tee untucked, you can either wear the tank untucked for a continuation of the color, or tuck in the tank for a different effect over the color of your skirt or trousers. If you’re wearing under a suit, both the tank or camisole and the tee should be tucked in for a more classic effect.

For Play: As seen in the image above, a bandeau or tube top in the same color will give the necessary modesty without sacrificing the style of the sheer top. The graphic line of a tube or bandeau will complement the sporty cut of a tee shirt and keep it fun and feminine. If the top is off the shoulder, you could also choose a tank top in most any color for a “Flashdance” feel.

Sheer Tunic

Maybe it’s a lacy babydoll dress or a gauzy peasant blouse, possibly it’s a menswear-inspired shirt or an oversized tank – the sheer tunic is a hot look this summer. In a creative office, such a piece could be worn with skinny pants or leggings and for evening or weekend it would look fresh with distressed denim shorts or a pair of denim stovepipes.

For Day: Wearing a tank or camisole in the same color will make an otherwise sultry piece look day-friendly. A gray lace peplum top with gray tank and narrow black trousers could work in many corporate settings if the tank has good coverage and is of a refined fabric (not a ribbed cotton tank, something smooth and possibly with a bit of poly or Lycra to give a silky finish). You could also match the base layer to your skirt or pants, such as a teal sheer tunic with a navy shell and navy trousers. If the piece is printed, stick to the tips for a vintage-inspired blouse and go with a base layer that doesn’t compete with the pattern. Even with these tips, sheer tunics can often be inappropriate for the office – one doesn’t want to look like a fortune teller, a hippie, or a club kid in the workplace. If you aren’t sure, keep the piece for play.

For Play: With such a piece, all things are go. A boho-inspired peasant top would look best with a delicate or feminine base layer (solid bra, skinny-strap camisole, lacy spaghetti-strap tank). Vintage-inspired and modern pieces look great with most anything – this is the time when pattern and color mixing can really work. Consider wearing a floral-print tunic over a leopard-print cami, a sheer red top over a blue tank and green mini skirt, a black lace tunic over a paisley-print tube dress. If you wish to play up the silhouette or fabric of the tunic, consider a bra or camisole free of details and in the same color, black, or a color close to your skin.

Do you like the sheer trend? What is your favorite way to wear such a wardrobe piece?

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How to Rock a Crop Top

How to Style a Crop Top

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

Pair with a High-waisted Bottom

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

Wear Over a Dress

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

Layer over a Longer Top

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

Get Matchy Matchy

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

Play with Volume

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

 

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

 

How to Look Current: Fashion Trends to Keep or Retire for 2014

We’ve had a few crazy seasons of fashion, where color, statements, and whimsy were embraced. And I think that’s great, it gave women a true opportunity to have fun with fashion, to embrace something new and step out of the box that we were in for quite a long while. But when a trend is good, it often ends up becoming too popular and ends up losing all the charm that made it popular in the first place.

I don’t believe in chasing every fashion trend, and I believe that if something really fits with your personal style you can wear it even after it has left the retail stores. Look at a street style blog (or Advanced Style my favorite site for style inspiration) and you’ll see many a fashionista sporting last year’s hemline, heel height, color, or It Bag with amazing style. But if you haven’t yet defined your personal style, it’s good to be aware of trends, and to know when to let go of passing trends to stay current. Wearing trends past their prime overshadows any progress you have made in defining your personal style. With a new season upon us, I ask you to reexamine the trendy pieces in your wardrobe and decide if you’re wearing them because they help define your personal style or if you’re riding a trend train that has already left the station.

Bubble Necklaces. When there’s a display in Walmart featuring these necklaces in every color of the rainbow for only $5.00, it’s time to let the trend go. Bubble necklaces were great, they added a wonderful pop of color to a neutral outfit and really dressed up a simple knit top or dress. Heck, I wore my red bubble necklace to death (see here and here). But this style of necklace is no longer popular. J. Crew started the bubble necklace trend, and you won’t find anything on their site that even slightly resembles them. Look at celebs and style bloggers and you’ll see they aren’t wearing them any more.

Alternative: If you desire a big pop of color on top, consider a scarf; for spring a gauzy lightweight scarf won’t add too much bulk or heat and can look very on trend. If you desire a longer necklace, consider a chain with a pendant (a horn, crystal, or natural-inspired piece is current but not too trendy). If you like the bold statement, statement necklaces are still popular, but they’re shorter and more about pastels and sparkle than big pieces of primary-colored plastic and enamel.

Shop this look: skirt | scarf | bag

Chevron. Oh gosh, has chevron been popular! From infinity scarves to maxi skirts to area rugs and cell phone covers, I think chevron print will always be synonymous with the beginning of the ‘10s. Chevrons remain popular for those with a preppy personal style but for others the print may look quite dated.

Alternative: To achieve the clean look of chevron stripes, consider classic straight stripes. This season I’ve seen a lot of mixing stripes, be it different colors, or a mini stripe mixed with a larger bolder one. If you’re looking for a scarf to jazz up wardrobe staples, consider a fun floral, or a mixed-print scarf. But don’t be afraid to leave the crispness of chevron and try something a bit softer, more unexpected, or subtle. You may find the transition to be a refreshing change!

Sock Buns and Topknots and Barbie Hair. This season is letting hair be hair, with all its bendy, unruly, wacky glory. The slicked back, very crisp looks are over, and we should all celebrate. It has been a few years of hard hair to achieve without a lot of hot tools and many have resorted to falls and extensions to make it work. Retire the fake hair and keratin treatments and allow your hair to show its true self. Let it be long, cut it into a pixie, or consider the lob – a long bob that is long enough for a quick ponytail but not so long it takes an hour to perfect.  A good way to see the change in hair trends is to look at Taylor Swift; Google pictures of her in 2013 and see thick straight bangs and long hair.  This year she has allowed a bend, texture, and even cut off some of that length.

Alternative: If you wish to put up your hair, allow it to be relaxed and a bit messy. Consider putting it half up and allow it to be disheveled a la Brigitte Bardot. Let it be down, and embrace your Bad Hair Day. I type this with what I have decided to call Diane von Furstenberg Hair; my hair is frizzy, it parts in the middle and likes to feather away from my face. This spring I am going to allow it to do it more instead of forcing it into submission with bangs and perfectly crafted waves or curls.

Shop this look: bucket bag | earrings | shoes

Neon. Don’t get me wrong, neon is still a fashion statement in 2014. However, we just went through a period where everyone was wearing big neon yellow statement necklaces, hot pink patent platform pumps, Breton tees done in acid green and fluorescent yellow, and lot of clear and Lucite neon accessories. It was a popular way to dress up a little black dress or make denim and chambray really pop. The thing is every time neon shows up, it comes on too strong and ruins the moment for everyone. Keep the neon tank, the skinny belt, the cashmere sweater but instead pair them with gray, khaki, and olive for an unexpected and more luxe look.

Alternative: Consider not needing that pop of color. Omigod, did I just WRITE THAT? Yes, it is possible to have your outfit look cohesive without a bright belt or necklace or shoe or bag or lip or jacket. After seasons of BRIGHT and BOLD and POP it’s a breath of fresh air to have an ensemble that isn’t carefully crafted and held together with accessories.  If you do desire color, consider a pastel or an icy pale version of the fluorescent brights; they seem subtle but can add much impact to your look!

Shop this look: blue dress | yellow dress

Peplum. I remember peplums from the ‘80s and swore I wouldn’t revisit the trend… and then I bought a peplum top and a peplum dress. I found the trend to be very wearable and an easy way to update the wardrobe. While I don’t think you have to burn every peplum in your closet, I don’t recommend purchasing any more of them and retiring the Judy Jetson-esque stiff extreme peplums you may own.

Alternative: Draping. An asymmetrical hem or draping and rouching can add that level of interest and architecture that made peplums so popular and at the same time flatters curves and camouflages areas you wish to not be on display.

Arm Parties. You all KNOW I love my bracelets. With large breasts and a metal allergy that makes earrings uncomfortable, my wrist is a way to play with jewelry and add color or shine to an outfit. But even I, the bracelet junkie, am paring down. This doesn’t mean get rid of all your bracelets, but wear fewer at a time. I used to wear my gold Citizen watch with a bangle, a chain bracelet, a stretch bracelet, and a bead one; now I pair it with only one or two pieces.

Alternative: Quality, not quantity. Stop buying the cheap flash, and save your pennies for a piece that really speaks to your personal style and makes a statement without yelling. As to what it is, it doesn’t really matter this year; you can wear any color of metal, any textile, any shape as long as it works with the rest of your wardrobe and isn’t paired with 20 other ones.

What trends are are you glad to see retiring this spring?  Which trends will you continue to embrace because they fit your personal style?

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Summer Fashion: How to Wear the Hottest Denim Washes

Denim is always in style, but the wash of your denim can go in and out of fashion. This summer, many washes or finishes of denim that have been considered dated have come back en vogue. With such a large variety of denim washes available at your favorite retailer, it can be confusing how to wear them with the rest of your closet. Different washes look better with different colors and silhouettes, here’s a primer of the most popular denim washes and what they nicely pair with.

Rinse, Resin, or Dark Denim:

This is a deep indigo denim, free of any fading, whiskering, or distressing. It can vary from dark navy to a blue-black shade, and is often a stiffer fabric. This is a classic wash, and quite versatile. A dark rinse denim is a great choice for Casual Friday as it looks far more polished than other washes, and the stiffer denim gives a more refined silhouette. I love dark denim with everything from pastels and neons to crisp brights and neutrals. Dark denim can also be paired with a variety of fabrics, from your favorite well-worn tee to silk and lace.

Raw Denim:

Raw denim hasn’t been treated, washed, or altered in any manner. It is crisp, rigid, but will eventually customize to your body. The color will be similar to rinse denim, so you can pair it with most anything. To keep the color rich, only wash when necessary, turn inside-out, and line dry.

Trouser Denim:

This is a lighter-weight denim, or cotton dyed to look like denim. Sometimes it is in a traditional jeans silhouette, often it is cut with a wider leg to more resemble classic trousers. Denim trousers can come in a variety of colors and finishes (they often are found with a subtle shine or sparkle finish to them), a deep indigo or black hue is the most classic and is more likely to work with your office dress code. Wear with a blazer and knit tank for a casual alternative to a suit, pair with a Breton-striped tee for a sailor-inspired classic ensemble, or with a silky camisole for a night on the town.

Stonewashed or Enzyme Wash Denim:

This is a wash that was very popular in the ‘90s but is now often associated with “mom jeans.” Stonewashed denim is more blue than indigo, and has subtle fading from being washed with pumice stones or enzymes. I don’t recommend stonewashed denim unless you are a True Fashionista, but if you already have it in your wardrobe and love it, pair with very modern or trendy silhouettes to make it look purposeful. Wear stonewashed skinny jeans with a white boyfriend blazer and tan ankle booties, stonewashed boyfriend jeans with a striped off the shoulder slouchy tee and red ballet flats, stonewashed sailor-cut jeans with a black boatneck and platforms.

Faded Denim:

Faded denim is back in fashion, but it’s still a very tricky wash to wear without looking like “mom jeans.” I suggest you wear it only if you have a very modern silhouette to the jean or are a True Fashionista. To keep this wash looking current this summer, pair with pastels and an “arm party” of bracelets.

Acid Washed Denim:

This wash of denim has made a return, along with everything else from the ‘80s. This wash looks best with ‘80s-inspired colors – neons, bright pastels, or solid black for a “mall punk” effect. Though acid-washed denim has returned, that doesn’t mean you can whip out your oversized denim jacket from high school. This wash is best worn either tongue-in-cheek (high-waisted cutoff shorts with a retro tee), or very narrow and modern (skinny jeans with booties or a canvas shoe like Chucks or TOMS).

Dirty or Sulfur Wash Denim:

This is a denim that has a slight brown, yellow, or green cast to it. It can be subtle or quite definite. This is a color of denim that isn’t as versatile – paired with the wrong color and it can look very dated or mismatched. In fact, sulfur denim on a fellow commuter inspired this post! Pair with black to showcase the color, or with neon or a pastel where the tinge will make the top really pop.

Garment-dyed Denim:

When jeans are dyed after being sewn together, you get a saturated color free of the white threads typical in denim. Most colored denim is garment-dyed, but there are also jeans out there in indigo shades that go through this process. Such jeans can either look quite refined and can pass as business casual trousers, or look quite cheap. I only wear garment-dyed denim in non-traditional denim colors because I find navy jeans to look strange on me. However if you do like them, I recommend you keep the rest of your colors classic – navy and white stripes, white, cream, or pair with chambray to give it a more modern edge (yes, the Texas Tuxedo is back en vogue!).

Sandblasted Denim:

These are the jeans that are blue on the sides, but may be almost white on the front and back. They truly look as though they were sandblasted while on your body. Baggy sandblasted denim had its heyday, and right now sandblasted can look very dated unless you are a True Fashionista. If you adore your sandblasted denim, consider a DIY project and made them look vintage (see below) with some shredding and fraying.

Vintage or Aged Denim:

This is a trend from my past that I am thrilled has made a return. Whether they come right off the shelf or are bought in your neighborhood thrift store, vintage-looking or truly vintage denim is worn, weathered, and occasionally has rips or frayed spots and edges. Cuff for a “boyfriend” look and pair with a blazer and band tee shirt for a modern weekend look. Wear with a crisp white shirt and some killer heels for a fabulous happy hour ensemble. Go boho with a simple ribbed tank, colorful beads, and leather sandals. As long as the jeans have a flattering cut (nothing hanging off the rear, too short, dragging on the ground, too tight, has holes in the bum), vintage jeans can be quite versatile.

Some great denim tips and DIYs from around the Internet:

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Fashion Trends – Back to the Future

The ‘80s and ‘90s are alive this spring, and for my fellow women who lived through this decade, you may feel as though you’re having a flashback. What’s next, mall bangs and charm necklaces? Fear not, while trends that were hot then are back now, they have returned in a very wearable manner. Here’s some tips on how to wear some of these blast-from-the-past fashion trends without repeating history.

Neon
The last time I wore neon, I was in elementary school and thought I would DIE if I didn’t own a pair of Jams. So when this trend returned, I swore I wouldn’t hop on it. And then I saw how very wearable this trend can be.

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With neon, a little goes a very long way. Use it as an accent for the neutrals already in your closet – a chartreuse skinny belt over a gray sheath dress, an electric orange blouse with tan trousers, a shocking pink statement necklace peeking out of the collar of a crisp white shirt.

Even if you dive head-first into the neon waters, keep this retro trend modern by tempering it with neutrals – white, cream, tan, gray and even olive keep these electrified hues looking fresh and even appropriate for the office.

Pastel Denim
I can still remember the issue of Teen Magazine that featured pastel denim – pages of young girls in sherbet-colored skinny jeans with matching oversized jackets and puffy hi-top sneakers. I begged my mother mercilessly until she caved and got me a pair of powder-pink jeans and a matching Henley.

Pastel denim has returned, but in a far more refined and sophisticated manner. Instead of wearing one color from head to toe (or a pastel Texas Tuxedo), it is a wonderful alternative to chinos, cropped pants, and winter’s brighter-colored jeggings. Pair with a white blazer and tan heeled sandals for a modern alternative to the Casual Friday look; freshen up a striped tee or simple knit tank for weekends.

Florals
The ‘90s was a big time for big flowers, be they cabbage roses on a Laura Ashley frock or vintage prints on a grunge babydoll dress. Such floral prints are back, bigger and bolder than ever.

While the floral prints of the ‘90s were feminine, vintage-inspired, and quaint, the floral prints of 2012 are bold and brazen. Oversized prints, bold colors, and clashing of florals are the hot look this season. Look for floral prints in crisp silhouettes – cropped trousers and structured blazers take center stage. A floral cropped pant is surprisingly versatile – wear with a blazer and pumps for the office, with a slouchy tank and platform sandals for the weekend, with a contrasting floral blouse or jacket and heels for a night out on the town.

What is your favorite trend for Spring 2012? What blast-from-the-past trend are you planning on adopting this season?

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Blogger Fashion Trends

Fashion blogs are wonderful resources for fashion inspiration. Real women wearing real clothing from off the rack. It’s far easier to replicate a look worn by your favorite blogger than to imitate the fashion of Sienna Miller or the latest spread in your issue of Vogue.

However, not all blogger fashion is flattering on everyone, and just as with shoots for your favorite glossy magazine – that which is in a photograph may not translate well into real life. As with fashion magazines, one must use fashion blogs for inspiration, but not gospel.

Recently, I have seen a few fashion trends that have been widely accepted by fashion bloggers. They are fun and a great way to mix up the wardrobe, but don’t always translate well into the real world.

Layering
Bloggers will pair tall boots with knee socks and tights, a skirt, an oxford, a sweater, a blazer, a scarf, and a belt. Maybe the fashion blogger will cuff the blazer so the sleeves of the sweater and shirt are highlighted, the scarf looped around their throat with the collar of the oxford peeking out at their chin. The layers look amazing, the combination of textures and colors are inspiring and fresh.

You’re motivated, and head to your closet. You pull out that button-down shirt that gaps at the bust, knowing it won’t be a problem under your merino v-neck. You grab your navy twill blazer that always looks a bit frumpy when worn with a simple shell, your denim skirt, those argyle tights you haven’t been brave enough to wear, your Frye Harness boots and a pair of gray cashmere knee socks. Put it all on, and top with a red skinny belt and that amazing scarf you got last Christmas from your Aunt.

You look like a combination between a homeless woman and Ralphie’s brother Randy from A Christmas Story.

It’s okay, it’s not just you. Many women can’t carry off layers and look as lovely as Kendi Everyday or Sarah from Wearing it On My Sleeves. I can’t. I have large breasts and full upper arms and a short neck. I too would look like Randy from A Christmas Story if I wore more than two layers. It’s okay – it doesn’t make us flawed and it doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from their personal style.

If you can’t carry off multiple layers, you can still find inspiration from the look of layering. I love wearing a pashmina or scarf at my neck – this will give the look of layering without the bulk on my torso. An embroidered scarf with a smooth sweater, a silk patterened scarf tucked into the neckline of a crisp oxford – you are still getting that combination of patterns, textures, and color but you’re working with your own personal figure.

If you are petite and/or curvy, you may find that layers shorten your figure. To elongate your legs but still want the layers for warmth, consider having your layers all in the same color. If you have black tights and black boots, your legs will look longer and slimmer than if you have multiple colors. I have wide calves and know that the tights with socks with boots look is NOT good on me. To stay warm I still wear all three, but just have the socks short enough that they are hidden by the shaft of my boot.

Colored Tights
Visit the We Love Colors Friends blog and you will see tons of gorgeous fashion bloggers showing off their personal style incorporating candy-colored tights. Fashion bloggers are famous for taking a very simple, muted outfit and adding pop to it with legwear in ruby, garnet, emerald, or amethyst. What a great way to jazz up your old LBD and a pair of black shoes? You follow suit and buy yourself some tights in mustard, teal, and magenta.


Tania of What Would a Nerd Wear or Rebecca from The Clothes Horse ROCK the colored tights look. However I have many a time seen a woman on the street who has colored tights on, and it just looks bizarre. The other day, a woman was next to me, waiting for the light to change so she could cross the street. She had on a black wool coat, a brown plaid pleated skirt, bright pumpkin-colored opaque tights and brown T-strap pumps. Sounds cute? Well in real life, those orange tights looked a bit strange and cartoon-like and totally took away from the adorable shoes (and possibly the rest of the outfit hidden under her coat).

This doesn’t mean colored tights don’t translate well into the everyday – it just means you need to assess your entire look. When you look at yourself in a full-length mirror, what do you see first? If your tights are screaming for all the attention and you don’t notice your lovely face, your amazing dress, your fabulous shoes… maybe the tights aren’t the best choice. Accessories are created to accentuate and improve your look, not steal the show. A colored tight can really make pieces a true ensemble, you just need to take into consideration your personality and your wardrobe – it will help you realize if fire engine red is perfect, or if you would look better with a dark maroon.

Unexpected Pairings


Keiko Lynn or Terra at Stylish White Female are amazing examples of beautiful women with a true knack for pairing the unexpected. Lace tights with a plaid skirt? Check. Floaty cocktail dress with biker boots? Check. These fearless fashion females know their way around their wardrobes, their figures, and their personal style and can mix and match like nobody’s business.

This doesn’t mean that in everyone else’s wardrobe anything goes. I often see fashion bloggers try to replicate these looks and instead of looking modern, they look as though they got dressed in the dark. Mixing textures, fabrics, and genres is an art, and it takes time and practice to perfect it. The best way to incorporate this concept into your personal style is to start small.

A great way to start with this concept is to layer a tough jacket over a sweet dress. A biker jacket with feminine lines is a great piece to get this effect – it can be paired with a simple tank and jeans, but also will look quite nice with a sundress with a full skirt or a frilly frock. See how it looks, and really assess how you feel in this combination. If it feels more like a costume than an ensemble, that’s okay. But if you feel good in it – take it to the next level. Try a pair of biker or cowboy boots with a classic sheath, or for your next night out on the town switch out the black top and dark jeans for a silk camisole and a leather jacket, or even a corporate blazer with a frilly shell. With time and experience you will soon be rocking multiple fabrics, textures and genres like a pro!

Belting Everything


Sydney at The Daybook is the Queen of the Belt. She is able to make any outfit look cohesive with a bit of nipping and cinching at the waist. She makes belts seem effortless and a necessary accessory to pull together an outfit. Audi at Fashion for Nerds is another Queen of the Belts, but she rocks belts in a completely different, but incredibly awesome and stylish manner.

Yesterday when I was getting dressed, I thought of Sydney, Audi and the other fashion bloggers who rock the belts with unexpected outfits. I tried a vintage brown leather belt over my gray merino and denim pencil skirt – I thought it would tie in my boots and show off my shape.

I looked as though someone belted a pillow. It was all wrong. The sweater pleated and bunched, bloused out and made me look thicker and shorter than I already am. I decided it was the belt and tried a wider belt, a more narrow belt, a woven belt. All were wrong, wrong wrong. I went sans belt and was a better and more stylish woman because of it.

This doesn’t mean I (or you!) can’t switch up a look with a belt. You just need to know your belting limitations. Try belts in different widths and materials, and also try them at different locations on your torso (I am partial to a wide elastic belt right below the bust – hits at my smallest part and makes my legs look long). A certain belt may look amazing with one outfit, and ghastly with another. Play around with accessories… and if you aren’t one that looks beautiful when belted – it’s okay. Not every woman looks good in every trend. Rock those you can rock, and leave the belts to fashion bloggers like Audi and Sydney.

Shorts in Winter

Oh the winter short – it has been available for the past couple of years. Tweed, wool, distressed denim and this year leather, paired with tights or patterned stockings it can be utterly chic. Claire from Faboo and Le Blog de Betty are two fashion bloggers I think of when I think of winter shorts. Both of them make the look so lovely and effortless.

Last week I was shopping and came upon a woman in winter shorts. She was petite – short, slim, adorable. She was wearing a cream ribbed turtleneck sweater, brown tweed cuffed shorts, brown textured tights and brown ankle booties. She looked as though someone ate the legs of her trousers.

Like mixing textures and genres, it is a fine art to master the winter short. It’s all about proportions – the right length and fullness for your figure, the right pieces with it, the right location. One misstep and you look as though your upper half is in Minnesota and your bottom half in Miami.

As with any other trend, start small and conservative. A black wool short with black tights and black sleek booties will give a nice cohesive line and the focus won’t be on your shorts, but your ensemble. Again, wear this look and see how you feel. Do you feel ridiculous, or do you feel fierce? from here you can develop your winter short skills with colors and other fabrics (I personally love the leather look!).

What is your favorite trend that you learned from a fashion blogger?  Have you been able to incorporate it into your personal style?

Spring has Sprung in my Closet

Spring has sprung here in DC! Hooray for bare legs, packing up the hats and mittens, and being able to expose elbows and toes! With each change of season, there’s usually a change of wardrobe. I’ve found that closet organization has been good physical therapy for me; the pinching of clips to hang skirts, holding the weight of a full hanger, folding scarves and jeans. With my arm, this process has been extremely slow, but that time is great for really thinking about what is in my closet, what I really need, and what I really need to remove from my collection.

The trends this spring and summer are so refreshing; after seasons of bright and bold, fitted and funky there’s a move to subtleness, quality, detail, and drape. I saw it on the runways, I see it in the stores, and I feel it in my heart. I started gravitating toward simpler pieces and colors in 2013, but desire it even more in 2014, especially after my broken arm. After six weeks predominately in loungewear, I crave dressing, but simple, easy, yet elegant dressing. Here’s a peek into my Spring/Summer mindset:

For clothing, it’s not terribly different from the past, but now it feels more cohesive. I’m liking (1) midi-length skirts, but somehow they look more right on me when part of a dress. I have pretty much this same dress; last summer’s LOFT collection, and know it will get a ton more wear this year. (2) White feels really right this year, even before Memorial Day. I’ve been wearing white jeans, boyfriend jeans, and pants quite a lot already (if you’re new to white outside of summer, start simple by pairing it with black). Each season I end up having a signature color without even thinking about it and based upon my closet, this season it’s (3) orange-red.  I type this while wearing a linen sweatshirt of this color, and desire a shift dress like the one pictured.  I’m really digging classic trousers this spring, paired with everything, from blouses to sweaters to tee shirts; I’m on the hunt for the perfect pair in (4) navy.  I’m loving how there’s a trend towards draping and purposeful slouchiness this season and have been gobbling up things that are (5) off the shoulder; I’d pair a top like this with slim white jeans.  I also like the trend of purposeful draping, a top like this (6) can be worn with jeans for a night out, or slipped under a suit for the workweek.  I’m always happy when weathered, worn, and distressed denim (7) are on trend; they please my inner Lita Ford and love the contrast with more classic pieces.  And it wouldn’t be my wardrobe if it doesn’t have a few striped shirts (8) in it!

For accessories, I’m craving fewer pieces, fewer necklaces, and again am drawn to orange-red accents.  Thinking about my faves, I saw they are sort of lumped into three categories:

  • Vacation Inspired: I love white Panama hats and fedoras, I know they’ve been in style for a while and may be less trendy but I think they’re quite classic and these days I’m doing all I can to protect myself from the sun.  I love them with jeans and striped tees, I love them with sundresses, and I love that they hide bad hair days!  I’m also loving my new Converse Shorelines, which make Chucks finally comfortable for me.  With the elasticized back and lower profile, they’re comfy and easy to slip on and off.  Aviators are always my favorite, as are scarves.  Now that bandanas are back in style, I’ve been pulling out my collection of them and square scarves and using them to jazz up simple knits.
  • Bold Silver:  This is nothing new, silver is my signature metal and I’ve been wearing my big sterling cuff for 17 years.  Now I’ve added a pair of silver Birkenstocks to my wardrobe, increasing my silver.  I love mixing shiny silver with a more relaxed material; the bracelets from Lifetherapy are a fave of mine.  I have several of them and love looping one of their wrap bracelets (especially in this season’s signature color of orange!) over the cuff to switch it up. 
  • Classic Gold: When my arm was in a cast, I relied on a watch since pulling out my phone was more difficult.  I’ve come to really like the convenience and style, and adore my Citizen Ciena Eco-Drive.  I recently got this cuff from Rebecca Minkoff which is smaller than what I’ve been known to wear and I like it.  Again, been wearing a lot of square scarves, be they around my throat, tied in my hair, or hanging off my purse.  I got a pair of Nine West “Flax” pumps in Natural and they’re a great nude pump, a comfortable height and go with almost my entire wardrobe.

My makeup has also been influenced by my time with a cast; it’s hard to have precision with your non-dominant hand. While I spent much of the winter with bold lips and liquid liner, lately I’m more into a subtle smoky eye, bronzer over blush, and glossy lips in a more natural hue. Miracle Skin Transformer has become my go-to while dealing with a broken arm since it’s so easy and so many beauty products in one.  I’m a mascara junkie and I love Too Faced’s Better Than False Lashes enough to buy a second time. It’s not a product to use when you’re short on time, but they do make my lashes look lusher than any other brand.  I got the Urban Decay lipliner in Naked as a freebie with a Beauty.com order and I use it almost daily with a natural colored gloss (adoring NARS Viva).  And then the original Naked palette from Urban Decay is still a fave for a no-makeup makeup look, a soft smoky eye, or to even replace liner.


Has spring sprung in your closet?  What are you loving this season in regard to trends or new to you classics?

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Ask Allie: How to Style a Kilt

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

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

how to style a kilt women

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

how to style a kilt scottish woman

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

how to style a scottish kilt women

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

How to Wear Radiant Orchid

Every year Pantone comes out with a color of the year and the whole fashion world gets all riled up. Sometimes it’s a color that’s fun and flattering and easy to incorporate, sometimes it’s a big WTF and everyone rants on their blogs and Twitter about how the color SUCKS and they will BOYCOTT it and Pantone is CLUELESS and…

…here’s the thing. No one is putting a gun to your head and telling you to listen to Pantone. If you went through 2013 without a single bit of Emerald in your wardrobe, you’re not alone. Style comes from knowing yourself and expressing it, not from jumping on every trend bandwagon. And if you look like death warmed over in a pinky-purple sort of hue, then please PLEASE do not buy any Radiant Orchid. While I do own some pieces in this color (such as this sleeveless ponte dress from Dobbin Clothing), I doubt I will run out and buy a bunch more in this shade. It’s just not me. Emerald however, though it is passé by Pantone standards, will still be one of my favorite colors and will always have a place in my heart and closet.

Was my title something catchy that would increase pageviews and get me some SEO from Google searches? Eh maybe, though the title was written after the first two paragraphs of this post and I still didn’t have a decent title. And really, I wrote this post because… the way to wear Radiant Orchid is to wear it ONLY IF YOU LIKE IT. If you don’t like it, if it doesn’t flatter you, you don’t need to pair a scarf in its color with a mustard sweater (though I believe that combination would be gaw-geous), or wear it in a skirt with a navy blouse (another pretty pairing), or as a shell under an espresso brown pantsuit (fab), or as shoes with a pumpkin wool dress (how amazing would that pairing be?). Just don’t wear it, don’t buy it, and you can still (I PROMISE) be an incredibly chic and current and stylish human being.

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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.

Trends I Will Never Wear – It’s Not You, It’s Me

I often find myself in a bit of a quandary when you readers ask me for my fashion advice. The thing is, I don’t always like the same things as the masses. What I find to be stylish may be downright fugly to some, and what you may find to be chic may make me shriek.

I try to be diplomatic, but there are just some trends I can’t get behind. They may be hot in your part of the planet, or you are a woman who can really rock the look – if so by all means wear it with pride. However I don’t think any time soon you will see me promoting these trends:

Fashion Trends I Won't Wear - I


Tory Burch flats. They are flats with a big shiny gold logo on the top. I don’t care how popular they are, I don’t understand paying such money to promote a brand. Tory should be paying YOU to wear those shoes.

Coach logo-fabric bags. See above.

Denim cutoffs with tights. I lived the early ‘90s already, I just can’t do it again.

Flatforms. I hate to say this because I said I hated peeptoe booties and now I own a pair. But I just don’t think I can support flatforms… or that they can support me. I am a klutz, these are begging to land me in the ER.

Fashion Trends I Won't Wear - II


Vera Bradley. I agree, the prints can often be quite gorgeous, but when I see quilted fabric I think of… quilts. They will always look like bags you use to carry toiletries in your suitcase (or your knitting) to me.

Sublimation prints. I don’t understand how this trend began. Did a designer accidently have their shirts wrinkled before being screenprinted and try to play it off as though it was on purpose? Was it someone everyone follows like Karl or Marc or… Tory? Otherwise I can’t understand the appeal of wearing a shirt that looks as though it was a mistake.

Visible bra straps (as well as visible underwear and complete bras). I don’t care if it’s part of the look or came down so-and-sos runway this past season, it always looks undone to me. My mom raised me to always have my underpinnings hidden, I just can’t let go of that fashion rule.

Embellished denim. You won’t find me in jeans with embroidery, Swarvoski crystals, silkscreening, cut-outs, or creative washes. These are trends that are just that – trends. I feel that purchasing a pair of blinged-out denim is a waste of money because in two months the trend will be over and it will be a whole new pocket/wash/detail that is “hot.”

Fashion Trends I Won't Wear - III


Sleeveless trench coats. I know many stylish women who have rocked these this spring and summer, but I will never be one of them. I wear coats when I want to stay warm or dry. This is also why I have never owned a fleece or puffer vest.

Maxi dresses at the office. I see fashion bloggers rock this look all the time but I just wonder what sort of workplace they have. I know DC is a bit more conservative than other cities, but I always find it weird when I see a woman on the street in a maxi dress, flat sandals, and then a cardigan to attempt to make their beachside-barbecue getup look more professional.

What trends will you never follow, no matter how popular they become?

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Ask Allie: How to Wear Peplums

Dear Allie, can you give some pointers on how to style a peplum top? I see girls in my office wearing them and they’re super cute, but with skinny black pants, I (and, to be honest, some of my coworkers), end up looking like I’m wearing a skirt that’s too short with black leggings.

How do I balance wanting to show off my shape with not wanting something so full that I end up looking 3 sizes larger than I am? Thanks in advance!

Peplums, we all thought they would be a flash in the pan but from the look of things they’re here to stay, at least through the spring and summer. Here’s some tips on how to wear a peplum top so you don’t look as though you’re wearing a micromini with tights.

A pencil skirt is slim enough to show the shape of the peplum, but not as skinny as skinny pants so you have some shape. A work-appropriate pencil skirt is actually more of a straight skirt, ending right around your knee. Having the exposed leg below will actually make you look more covered and the peplum more appropriate.

Who says you can only pair a peplum with a skinny pant or skirt? Many a blogger (Atlantic-Pacific, me, Delusions of Grandeur, even Olivia Palermo) have successfully paired a peplum with a fuller skirt and found it to be quite an adorable silhouette. The key is to have the peplum out of a softer fabric (jersey, ponte, silk, sweater knit), so it works more like a ruffle than a shelf.

I have the Tahari “Hazel” pants and adore them because they are slim in the rear and on the thighs, but then gracefully flare out above the knee. This way they aren’t too bulky at the top, but still keep me from looking like a lollypop. I wore these pants with a peplum before and liked the look. A pant of a softer fabric (gabardine, silk, lighter-weight suiting fabrics) will drape nicely and not add too much bulk at your midsection. Consider a belt at the seam of the peplum top for additional definition.

Denim, even when skinny, never looks as skinny as regular trousers. A heavyweight pair of jeans in a classic shape (straight, mini bootcut) or a lightweight pair in a fuller silhouette (sailor, trouser) balances a peplum top quite nicely.

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Ask Allie: How to Wear Eyelet

Hi Allie, I have an a-line eyelet skirt that my cousin gave me. It’s very pretty but I don’t know how to wear it without looking like Annie Oakley. Any suggestions?

Thanks,
Rebecca

Dear Allie,
I know you recently wrote about how to wear white before Memorial Day, but I just don’t know how to wear it at all, even in the summer. I have this gorgeous white eyelet dress that I fit into again, it’s sleeveless and knee-length with a belt. White shoes look weird, black shoes look harsh. Any suggestions? Should I switch out the belt or wear something underneath?

-Carolina

Oh eyelet, how pretty yet difficult you can be. Carolina and Rebecca, do know you are not alone in trying to figure out how to wear this fabric without looking like a preschooler or as Rebecca said, Annie Oakley. Personally, I steer clear of eyelet for this very reason; just thinking of the fabric reminds me of Easter dresses my mom would sew for me and my sister.

With the return of chambray, friendship bracelets, calico prints, and all things from the late ‘80s or an episode of the original Beverly Hills 90210, we’re also seeing a return of eyelet. Both of you women have items in your closet that would probably be highly coveted in a trendy vintage boutique. There are ways to wear it without looking like a child, a pioneer, or a Saved By the Bell reject.

How to Wear Eyelet:

Tough but Sweet. Diamonds and denim, leather and lace. There’s a reason why these combinations are so popular. Pairing a girly fabric with a tough one balances the two out. Take that eyelet dress and pair it with a wide leather belt with lots of metal hardware and some beat up engineer boots. Wear that eyelet skirt with a leather biker jacket to balance it out.

Go vintage. Is the piece a vintage silhouette? Then play up the cute factor. Wear the eyelet skirt with a wide belt and a blouse with puffed sleeves or a bow at the neck. Wear the dress with a ponytail tied with an oblong scarf and carry a frame clutch bag. Without adding too many touches, you can make your eyelet piece look purposefully retro without verging on costumey.

Go neutral. Wear your eyelet dress with some tan sandals and a tan woven belt and very simple jewelry. The eyelet skirt with a pale yellow tank and tan flat sandals, a slim gold bangle bracelet. Accentuate the fabric, show off the detail, let it steal the show and let everything else fade into the background. Think breezy, light, summery.

What Not to Do:

  • Pair with denim. This is a quick way to look like an extra from Little House on the Prairie if you are unsure of what you are doing.
  • Wear with white shoes. I don’t really believe in white shoes unless you are a nurse or a bride; a pair of tan or beige shoes are far more versatile, on-trend, and will make your legs look miles long.
  • Pretend it’s not eyelet. So many times I see women try to play off eyelet clothing as just plain cotton. They pair it with crisp button-down shirts in primary colors, knit tops with surplice necklines, fitted sweaters in candy-colored hues. Eyelet is a unique fabric, and should be treated as such. When you try to ignore the fact that it is textured and often a floral print, and a distant cousin of lace you’re setting yourself up for sartorial disaster. Embrace the eyelet, or leave it on the hanger.

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Fall 2012 Fashion Trends: What I’m Loving

It may be 100 degrees outside, but in my heart I’m already craving fall fashion. The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale just ended, and now we’re all getting September issues of fashion magazines in our mailboxes. There are many trends that are hot for the upcoming cooler months – some that are truly wearable for all women, some that are best left to the True Fashionistas and the models on the runways. Here are the trends I can’t wait to embrace once the temperature drops!

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Winter White
Last fall designers took the summer colorblocking trend up a notch with monoblocking. Runways had models sporting one-color outfits from head to toe, or varying intensities of the same hue. This trend has returned for fall, but in one specific color – white. If you are old school like me, you may cringe at the idea of wearing white after Labor Day. However, the runways aren’t showing crisp white in summer fabrics, but varying tones of white in obviously winter fabrics. Suiting, fur, wool, and chunky cable knits were seen in everything from the palest shade of silver to French vanilla.

I have always loved the look of a monochromatic neutral ensemble – it just screams confidence and class. However, no matter the color of my hair or foundation I look positively wretched in khaki, tan, or taupe. This is one reason why I am so excited for this fall trend – I can carry off a winter white cashmere crewneck and wool menswear trousers with a few strands of pearls, or a pearl white fisherman sweater with matching skinny trousers. Luckily, designers such as Proenza Schouler and Alexander Wang paired their white ensembles with black shoes – no need to buy special footwear to properly wear this monochromatic trend!

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Collegiate Chic
Chunky cableknit sweaters, tartans, and tweed are always popular for back-to-school fashion, but this look is also hot this year for the couture lovers. From Michael Kors to Marc Jacobs, plaids, Fair Isle sweaters, tweed blazers and elbow patches are chic, polished, and quite wearable.

While I haven’t worn a plaid kilt since my school days, I’m tempted to scoop one up for fall and wear with a chunky knit sweater, heavyweight tights, and lace-up booties. To keep this trend from looking too twee or like a costume, toughen it up with midi-height lace-up boots, leather jackets, and very sleek modern hair.

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Leather
From sleeveless shells to pleated skirts, leather is a huge trend this fall. The leather leggings of last year are still en vogue, as are the leather pencil skirts and biker jackets. However, leather is now being incorporated to unexpected wardrobe pieces – coat sleeves, sheath dresses, tee shirts and more. While colors like cognac and ivory are quite chic, the hottest trend is basic black. Pair your black leather pencil skirt with a black merino turtleneck, black tights and booties for a look that is both classic and modern. I splurged on a black leather pleated skirt for the upcoming season and plan on adding at least one more black leather piece to my wardrobe.

Leather also went the complete opposite direction this season, with brightly colored leather with a glossy finish. Wet-look and patent leather was seen in yellow, burgundy, and indigo as skirts, trenches, and boots.

Keep in mind that leather stretches – it’s wise to go down a size or buy a piece a tad snug so that it will end up fitting like a glove after a wearing. If you wear a base layer under your leather, it won’t need to be cleaned that often. Spot clean leather when necessary and have it professionally cleaned at the end of the season to protect it from body oils and sweat damage.

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Dark Red
Be it burgundy, merlot, or oxblood – dark red is the new neutral. Designers like DKNY, Alexander Wang, and Nina Ricci showed this color in jersey, fur, leather, and chiffon.  Consider a wool winter coat in this luxurious color, or maybe a chiffon or silk blouse to pair with trousers for the office and dark narrow jeans for evening.

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The Luxe Life
This coming fall and winter, luxe fabrics and embellishments are big, and not just for evening.

Fur has come back en vogue the past few years – last fall and winter it was all about the shaggy fur vest or a faux fur chubby. This fall and winter it has a far more elegant role in fashion – fur collars on coats and suit jackets, stoles over skirt suits and gowns, and full coats with everything from jeans to sequins. Dsquared had a black red carpet-worthy gown with a fur peplum that was utterly divine; I could see myself incorporating a tweed jacket with a fur collar into my wardrobe this season.

Feathers have also made a big comeback, decorating the hems of gowns and layering into a luxe mini. Pair with a blazer or simple cashmere turtleneck from looking too extreme.

Brocade and embellished fabrics have also made a big comeback. Runways featured brocade suits, dresses, and pants paired with fur and chiffon; designers like Balmain and Lanvin featured heavily beaded and jewel-encrusted dresses and separates. Like the feather trend, this ornate trend is best for street wear when balanced with a simple separate – brocade cigarette pants with a crisp white shirt or cashmere crewneck can easily transition from day to night with a quick change of bag, shoes, and lipstick.


What fall and winter fashion trends do you plan on incorporating into your wardrobe?

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How to Not Hate Fashion (AKA On Being a Fashion Connoisseur )

I love wine, but I don’t know a lot about it. I once subscribed to Food and Wine magazine to educate myself better, but got overwhelmed. I go to the store, look for a bottle between $9 – $15, and often decide based upon the look of the label.

I love coffee, but I don’t know a lot about it. My husband will ask me whether I like today’s coffee better than yesterday’s as it is a different brand or roast… and I can’t tell the difference. Sometimes I like coffee black, sometimes I don’t, but I don’t really think about why that must be. I am not a brand snob- I like Starbucks because they have fun drink ideas and yes, I am a sucker for their bright green straws. When it comes to coffee, I just know I like coffee – I like it hot for breakfast, I like it iced on a warm sunny day, and I love Frappucinnos and coffee-flavored ice cream.

When I go to IKEA with my sister, she will comment on how a chair is inspired by Jonathan Adler, or a table is a copy of Saarien. I just see a shiny white table or a pretty chair. I buy home décor based upon what appeals to me, having no clue what is currently hot, trendy, or a bad copy of a famous designer.

What’s the point of a fashion blogger rambling about furniture and beverages? The point is that I am not a connoisseur but I still allow myself to enjoy these things. No one judges me because I don’t know the difference between coffee from Jamaica or beans from Costa Rica, that I know how many points my Riesling received from Wine Spectator, or what designer inspired my Target shower curtain. No one judges me, and I enjoy myself.

And all this can be true about fashion. The thing is, you can treat fashion the way you may treat coffee, or wine, or furniture. Enjoy what you enjoy, don’t let all the facts and figures ruin your good time. Go slow, and relish in each pleasurable moment.

I often meet people who tell me they find fashion is stupid. During our conversation, I find that they don’t necessarily find it stupid, but instead they don’t understand it, or its relevance in their life. We often find that which we do not know or understand to be “stupid” or “pointless.” Think about it, have you ever found your husband’s passion for football or your best friend’s love of electronica to be strange? It’s not that it is stupid, it’s just foreign to you.

Unless you are a nudist, fashion is a form of art we all have to embrace in some manner. I always feel that if you have to do something, you might as well find pleasure in it. You don’t need to be a connoisseur to have fun with fashion.

How to Not Hate Fashion:
- Buy colors you love. I am always surprised when I meet people who have colorful lives and personalities yet dress in drab neutrals. With discussion, I find they buy nondescript clothing to hide the fact that they fear fashion. 2012 is a wonderful year for color lovers, where you can find everything from dresses to denim in almost any color in the Crayola box. No need to leave the silhouettes and garment styles you find safe and comfortable, but if you love green why not buy a piece in that hue?

- Create a uniform. When I visit the closets of people who don’t like fashion, they usually have two to three times more clothing in their closet than I. Stop with all the mindless shopping and purchase garments that are tried and true. Heck, buy multiples. There is nothing wrong with having three pairs of the same black pants, and the same sweater in four different colors. I may seem to wear a different thing every day, but if you look closely I stick to a uniform of similar silhouettes that I know work for my body and lifestyle.

- Embrace accessories. If you feel most comfortable in simple pieces, show who you are with accessories. Scarves, necklaces, bangle bracelets, brooches, headbands, belts… simple low-cost pieces that can revolutionize your wardrobe.

- Consider shopping online. I used to hate my body. I would stand in a fitting room in a too-tight skirt and see-through blouse, my pale large legs and black trouser socks, glistening with sweat and tears from another horrific mall session. Each time I went shopping, I felt as though I was too fat, too soft, too short, too unusual for fashion. Then I had a baby and no time to actually go to a mall or boutique and had to rely on the Internet. This simple change improved my feeling about my body and the clothes that go on it every day.

Now I can try clothes on with natural light, with a mirror I trust. I can take off the trouser socks and put on a pair of pumps. I can see if a blouse fits better with a different bra, a dress with a pair of Spanx. I can really know if that belt will work with the dress I already own. Now online shopping can be daunting, but once you find brands and retailers you know like your body, it makes it easier; also more and more companies are offering free shipping and easy/free/in-store returns.

- Act as though fashion is a restaurant. If you despise liver yet it’s on the menu, you don’t reject the entire restaurant, you just choose a different entrée. If you find an entrée that looks appealing, but would prefer vegetables instead of the rice you ask the waiter for a switch and enjoy your custom meal. If you’re a vegetarian, you pick entrees that are animal-free, asking the waiter for suggestions and clarification. While society claims that you should drink red wine with beef but you’re craving a glass of Chardonnay with your filet mignon, get the Chardonnay and drink it with joy.

You don’t have to wear what everyone else wears. Heck, you really don’t need my wardrobe staples if you know yourself and your personal wardrobe needs. However, like a restaurant, you may not even know your favorite entrée until you try something new. Start small, an appetizer as you will. Step outside your comfort zone with a different retailer, different color, different silhouette. If you don’t like it, move on. Don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame fashion as a whole. You can’t blame a whole restaurant because you personally don’t like their risotto.

- Treat personal style the way you would a ‘Couch to 5k.’ No one expects you to be an expert fashionistas in a day… or even a year. The only way to find your personal style and have your exterior match your interior is with small steps. Slowly, gently venture out of your comfort zone and find out what looks and feels right.

***

No one expects you to be a fashion connoisseur unless you have chosen fashion to be your profession and life. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t become comfortable with some aspects of it. Honing your personal style helps people understand the true you, helps you feel and look like a cohesive person, and can make life easier and more enjoyable. Go slow, use care, and remember that half the fun of reaching your destination is the journey to get there!

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Ask Allie: How to Dress for a Wedding Without a Dress Code

I have a wedding to go, and ever since the wedding where I dressed fancier than the bride (I wore a simple velvet sheath!) I have a horror of wearing the wrong thing. The wedding is at 4, with cocktails, dinner, and reception to follow, all at the same venue, an “event center.” Essentially a ballroom. I did email the bride and she just said “We don’t really have a dress code. Not black tie but not sweats and a t-shirt. Well, there’s a LOT in between there. Jersey maxidress? Sparkly mini? My feet are likely to be swollen so I’m leaning toward something I can wear flat sandals with, but other than that I’m kind of at a loss what to wear.

Event planners and brides to be… please understand that a dress code isn’t snooty or pretentious, it’s a helpful guide for loved ones who want to ensure your event is great. A specified dress code will reduce stress on your guests and ensure you don’t end up with anyone in black tie or sweats and a tee shirt!

That being said, this is the type of event where I pull out my black crepe sheath dress. Sleeveless, simple neckline, skims the figure, hits the knees; it’s simple and easy to dress up or down. For a wedding that starts at 4pm you can accessorize a dress in a multitude of ways to make it look festive yet appropriate for a crowd in khakis or a dancefloor full of sequins.  Of course, the dress does not have to be black, but it’s a color you often already have in your closet.

You mentioned the desire to wear flat sandals, and for a wedding at an event center I’d keep flat sandals to a midi to maxi length dress or skirt. While traditional jersey maxi dresses would likely be too casual for a wedding at this hour, one in matte jersey or with a chiffon overlay would be perfect and just as easy to fit in with a more casual or more dressy crowd.  Again, black is not the only color; a bright or pastel hue would be quite festive and appropriate for an August wedding.

Both types of dresses are extremely versatile. A lined sheath in crepe, triacetate, silk, or a blend can be worn to work, dressed up for a cocktail party with strappy heels and sparkly jewelry, or made more casual with nude pumps and wood accessories (see my post on how to style a black sheath four ways). A matte jersey or chiffon maxi dress can also lead multiple lives; I wore a black matte jersey maxi as the matron of honor at a relatively formal wedding, then wore to a garden wedding with gold flat sandals and even wore to a bridal shower with brown sandals and wood and leather jewelry. Not only that, these fabrics are seasonless making a dress purchased in the summer wearable for holiday parties on your event calendar!

Ask Allie: What to Wear to a Summer Funeral

I know it’s a somber topic, but I live in a hot climate and I have a relative who is ill and in hospice. I realized today that I have no idea what is okay for a funeral in a VERY hot climate.

what to wear to a hot summer wedding

The most important thing to factor when dressing for a funeral, is dressing out of respect. First, consider the religion of the service, then dress in a way that shows you understand the formality of the situation and that you know you are not the subject of attention. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t wear it to church or to an office where it’s Business Attire (not Business Casual), it’s not appropriate for a funeral.

These days, a sleeveless dress and bare legs is appropriate at most American funerals, especially when it’s a very hot climate. Consider a lightweight cardigan if there’s a service inside the house of worship and a hat to protect yourself from the sun at the grave site. If your shoulders are bared, your neckline should be very modest, the fit not too tight, and the hemline at the knee.

In your email, you mentioned a maxi dress and while it wouldn’t be inappropriate to wear a long skirt, many maxi dress styles these days are lightweight jersey and have low necklines. If you have one that is of a dressier fabric (cotton sateen, crepe jersey, linen, silk blend) and doesn’t show off your décolleté, it can work. Again, if you wouldn’t wear it to church or to work, I’d consider something else.

Pants are acceptable for less religious funerals, and can be far more comfortable in the heat. Linen trousers (not drawstring slouchy pants) with a silk or crepe shell is perfectly acceptable.

As for color, black is not necessary these days; as long as the color doesn’t scream “look at me!” it’s acceptable. Muted colors like navy, olive, plum, mauve, gray, taupe, and brown are acceptable. If you wear a print, it should be very subtle (watercolor prints, tone on tone). Again consider the religion before choosing the color; some only wear black, some wear white, and some encourage bright jewel tones.

As for fabric, as long as it’s not too casual (denim) or too formal (satin), it’s okay in such heat. Linen and cotton is acceptable if it’s in more formal of cuts and ironed before wearing.

Accessories set the tone for your outfit; keep the sparkly necklaces and statement shoes at home. A simple pair of leather shoes in a neutral, a delicate chain necklace or a strand of pearls, a leather bag free of adornments that complements the color of your outfit. If there is a grave site service, choose a wedge or flat shoe so your heels don’t sink into the grass. Though you may be seeing many people from your past, it’s not a high school reunion and not a time to show off your sartorial skills.

Finally, what you wear is not as important as your attendance. Few will even notice what you’re wearing; as long as you don’t dress to receive attention you will be just fine. My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time.

Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for Cruise and Resort Evenings

I LOVE your wardrobe capsules. They are always amazing. I would love to see a simple mix and match capsule for evening. Specifically, I just returned from a 10-day cruise of the Caribbean. It was amazing, with one glitch. The evening dress code was smart casual; and on a cruise ship this is more dressy than I expected (I’m from California, where jeans are cocktail attire!). I was woefully underdressed with dowdy shoes. I usually travel with black and white clothing, but a color capsule would be awesome too!

While I haven’t been on a cruise for a few years, I have experienced the issue of “smart casual” and formal nights on cruise ships, and understand how hard it is to dress appropriately for the situation. Not only are you dealing with limited luggage space, but you have folks from all over the globe dressing in all sorts of different manners. I found it’s best to pack simple garments and statement-making accessories.

Three years ago, I was asked to be in my friend’s wedding and she let me pick any black dress I desired as my Matron of Honor gown. I got a black matte jersey maxi dress from Calvin Klein that had twisted straps that were thin but thick enough to cover my bra, a faux wrap skirt, and a self-tie belt. I wore that dress for the wedding with black heeled sandals and a statement necklace. A few months later I attended a destination wedding in Charleston, South Carolina and wore that same dress with flat gold sandals, gold dangly earrings, and an armful of gold bangles. I also wore that dress with beaded earrings and a weathered brown leather belt and brown leather thongs. My point is that such a dress is surprisingly versatile. Choosing a silky jersey (Rachel Pally dresses fit the bill, are a classic style and come in a broad range of sizes) or matte jersey (Calvin Klein continues to have great options season after season) maxi dress means you can dress it up or down with ease and it will travel well (few wrinkles, any you get can come out easily if in the room with a hot shower).

Here I took a simple black maxi dress and showed how a switch of accessories can completely transform it. I know you mentioned comfort shoes in a different part of your Ask Allie request, so I chose shoes that aren’t sky-high. The wedge can easily be lower or even flat – another perk of maxi dresses is that they look great with flat shoes and said shoes aren’t the focal point of the ensemble.

A black maxi dress is a great choice if you have a formal night, but many cruises and resorts just require “smart casual” or “festive” attire. This capsule wardrobe helps you pack light but with many options:

  1. Maxi skirt with sequined tank and black sandals
  2. Maxi skirt with orange top and gold sandals
  3. Maxi skirt with a simple neutral tank or tee in your luggage, gold belt and gold sandals
  4. Black jersey pants with sequined top and black sandals
  5. Black jersey pants with orange top and black sandals
  6. Black jersey pants with sheer top and black sandals
  7. White jeans with any of the three tops and gold sandals (add the hoops, bracelet, and belt for discothèque drama)
  8. Black jersey tee shirt dress with black sandals
  9. Black dress with gold belt and gold sandals
  10. Black skirt with any of the tops and either sandals

This can be dressed up with a different choice of shoe (a heel is always seen as more formal), switching the pants to a tuxedo or shantung cigarette pant, the skirt to something sparkly, the dress to something more form-fitting or dramatic in silhouette. However, I used this based upon my own experiences on cruises and at resorts, where some nights you will find folks in full-length gowns, the other nights in club attire or sundresses. Solid colors and fabrics like matte jersey and stretch silk look elegant while being travel-friendly and versatile. These pieces can also be worn during the day – the orange top would be adorable with olive chino shorts, either of the skirts with a simple tank top, the dress could even be a beach coverup.

Choosing a single concept for accessories lightens your luggage load – I chose gold jewelry because it’s easier to find decent-looking costume pieces and instantly adds glamour. I really believe in a long necklace of chain or sparkly beads like jet – it really changes the silhouette of any ensemble and can make the simplest dress look chic. The addition of a belt, be it a scarf cummerbund, a leather obi, or a gold chain can quickly change the shape of a dress, add definition to a monochromatic ensemble, or dress up a simple tank and maxi skirt. Using color sparingly and thoughtfully will give extra miles to neutral pieces – the skirt could easily be switched to a neutral or a bold hue, the orange top could be a print or another dressy fabric, all the black pieces could be gray or ivory. This just gives an example of how very simple pieces can create an elegant and festive evening wardrobe for a vacation.



 

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