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Holiday Gift Guide for the Practical Pal

We all have that friend or relative who doesn’t NEED anything and finds most traditional gifts frivolous. While she may be perfectly happy with a gift card to Target, it’s nice to buy actual gifts for people to unwrap and realize you thought of them. While I have been scouring the web for other posts, I’ve been bookmarking things I find to be so practical yet lovely that most anyone would like it as a gift. All of these are under $100 and have free shipping.

gift guide practical presents holiday

1. Large Personalized Canvas Tote – $34.50

A little secret, this is one of my favorite baby and bridal shower gifts. While many sizes of this tote are available, I find the Large Tote to be the most versatile size. It can be a beach bag, overnight bag, reusable grocery tote, tote all your kid’s toys to grandma’s, tote your dirty clothes to the Laundromat… I love carrying potluck items in it – I wrap the casserole in towels on the bottom and on top I can put a 6-pack, bottle of wine, present for the hostess and it won’t topple over in the trunk on the way there. Personalization is free, making it the gift she didn’t think she needed but will be using regularly for years.

2. Stabilicers Lite Hikers – $29.95

I may be biased from my ice slip last year, but this was an AWESOME gift from my sister. They’re rubber so they stretch over shoes pretty easily, and are easy to slip off once you get to your destination. A great choice for anyone in an icy location, and especially good for those who aren’t as steady on their feet (or fear black ice after a previous fall, jus’ sayin’…). Do know they run a bit small, if unsure go up a size because they still won’t be too big for boots and sturdier shoes.

3. Starbucks Stainless Travel Mug – $19.95

Almost ten years ago, I won a $50 Starbucks card and I bought that year’s version of this mug. And I am still using that mug today. Most travel mugs get weird with time – the lids get stretched out, they leak, the double walled system separates. Not this baby. While it doesn’t look brand new any more, it keeps my coffee hotter longer than any other mug I’ve had, fits in all the cupholders in both of our cars, and it holds a full 16 ounces. This is something that is worth spending a bit extra and your loved one will thank you five years from now when she’s still reaching for it for her daily work commute. Do note, this isn’t one with free shipping (it is on Amazon with free Prime shipping but costs $10 more), but I’ve seen it in several Starbucks locations this year so it’s easy to pick up in person. If you plan to buy more at Starbucks, code AFF10 should give you 10% off your first purchase with them online plus free shipping if you spend at least $65.

4. Refurbished Kindle Paperwhite – $99

I got one free last year as part of a blogger promotion and it made me a Paperwhite convert. My mom bought her boyfriend one last Christmas and he loves it. Long battery life, great for the practical person who doesn’t want to add more stuff to her house, and especially nice for those with poor vision or dexterity. While the newest generation Paperwhites are $119, you can find perfectly good refurbished ones under $100 and Amazon provides a 1-year limited warranty and proper packaging so you can feel good giving refurbished as a quality gift.

5. Portable Power Bank – $49.95

The more we rely on our smartphones, the faster we deplete their batteries. This compact charger that isn’t much bigger than a smartphone adds a boost of power to small appliances just when you need it most.

6. Silk Long Johns and Socks – Starting at $17

Of course you better know the person quite well to give such a gift, but it’s likely one that will be loved and well used by the recipient for many years to come. Since he doesn’t read my blog I’ll let you know I got Karl the Silk Interlock Crew and Pants for a gift this year (thank you Lands’ End for carrying it in Tall!) and I know he’ll go gaga for it while he usually finds most gifts silly. Lands’ End has a great return policy, are known for quality, and have a nice variety and pricepoint making it a good destination for such gifts.

7. Legacybox – Starting at $75

What a cool concept; fill a Legacybox with old films, photos, slides, negatives, tapes and more and send it back with the pre-paid shipping label and they will carefully digitize all your memories. You will get back all your original memories as well as DVDs with your digital copies. At the time of writing this, if you visited the site and provided your email you’d automatically get a 25% off coupon and last week I received a coupon for 40% off and a promise to have Legacybox delivered in time for Christmas.

8. Adult Shearling Insoles – $16

Slip them into a pair of your tall leather or snow boots for warmth and comfort or give new life to an old pair of slippers. Made from natural shearling which wicks moisture and EVA foam which adds cushioning, these would be a welcome treat for anyone’s tootsies this winter.

My Must-Have Shoes for Fall and Winter

In the warmer months I get creative with my shoes. Yellow wedge sandals? Why not? Silver Birkenstocks? An unexpected staple! But come fall and winter, my shoe collection gets far simpler and more utilitarian. This is my current cold weather shoe wardrobe for 2014/2015:

 

must have shoes fall winter

1. Sneakers. Now that I’m walking almost every morning, my sneakers have become some of my favorite shoes. These aren’t the exact ones I have but a similar style and price to my discontinued and nicely discounted New Balances via 6pm. New Balance fits my chubby feet and short toes.

2. Brown Riding Boots. Pictured are the DUO Santanas, the very boots I have (seen here and here). As a petite woman, I love how these boots are a bit shorter, elongating my leg and ending at a comfortable height. As a woman with large calves, shins, and ankles I love how these boots fit comfortably (you order DUO boots by the centimeter so they’re a great choice for narrow, average, or wide calves and the customer reviews help you narrow down the styles best for your specific leg shape). I wear these over skinny jeans or with tights and skirts or dresses.

3. Black Heeled Booties. For many years I have worn the Cole Haan Air Talia bootie (discontinued, very similar and cheaper option) and while I still have and love (in fact just got back from the cobbler for a reheeling), the round toe looked weird with fuller trousers. I just picked up the ‘Coolen’ from Jessica Simpson and love the pointed toe, sleek heel, and the wider top that is more comfortable with my thicker ankles and shins. I wear under jeans and trousers, but also over skinny jeans and with tights and dresses.

4. Statement Heels. Last winter I picked up a pair of silver pumps from Nine West (no longer available, similar concept) and was surprised by how much wear I got with them. They add some fun to dark jeans, jazz up an LBD, and look cool peeking out of black trousers for an evening out. The closed toe is more comfortable on frigid nights but the pointed toe, high heel, and silver color makes them dressy enough for most affairs on my social calendar.

5. Wedges. A wedge is far easier to wear for long periods of time; these are my go-to when I know I’ll be on my feet but still want a bit of lift. The booties I have are the Nine West ‘Lottie’ which are discontinued (and not as tall as the one pictured), but this one from Anne Klein is similar in style. I wear with black tights and dresses, but have also worn under fuller trousers where the wedge isn’t as prominently on display.

6. Leopard Pumps. I have more than one pair of leopard pumps, but the ones featured are the Nine West ‘Ugogirl’ which are my newest leopard purchase and my current fave. A leopard shoe is extremely versatile and adds interest to an outfit of neutrals (which I often wear in the winter; hello black with more black and maybe a splash of denim). I like that these have a chunkier heel giving me more support, but a pointed toe which elongates my short frame.

7. Stylish Waterproof Boots. SOREL sent me these boots in September (review here) and they’re a great option for folks like me who have all her pants hemmed for heels. These can tuck under trousers or be laced up over skinny jeans and the grippy sole makes me feel more secure on slick DC sidewalks.

8. Casual Winter Boots. I picked these Treton boots up last winter on clearance at 6pm and they’re one of the best winter purchases I have made. Lined with shearling, the boots are super cozy and comfy. The wide opening makes them easy to slip on over thick socks and when still half-asleep letting Cindy out in the morning. I keep these at the backdoor to go to the compost and let out Cindy; slip leggings inside them and my track or snow pants over them for snow shoveling or sledding, and often slip them over skinny jeans to walk Cindy or a quick run to the grocery store or Starbucks. Previously I had a pair of duck boots (RIP), and even earlier (and likely somewhere in my attic or at the bottom of my office closet) I wore Tims.  Winter happens and function trumps fashion when it comes to weather.

9. Classic Black Pumps. I wear these almost year-round with skirts, dresses, and trousers. Come the coldest months I switch out to booties, but these still hold a place in my closet for the occasional client meeting or day wedding.  My personal favorites are MICHAEL Michael Kors ‘Flex’ and Nine West ‘Flax’.

10. Tall Black Boots I actually have two pairs; a black flat riding boot I bought two years ago from DUO Boots (very similar, same retailer), and a sleeker heeled boot with an almond toe that I got at Wide Widths almost a decade ago (same style, same retailer).  I wear riding boots over jeggings, leggings, skinny jeans several days a week come winter.  I use a protective spray on them so they keep me dry and salt doesn’t eat away the finish.  Tall boots are warmer than trousers alone; I usually add warmth with a pair of knee-high wool or cashmere socks (and sometimes a sock liner for extra tootsie insulation).  Heeled boots are worn with tights to make dresses bearable past Thanksgiving.

11. Slippers with a Rubber Sole. My shearling mocs from Lands’ End are what I put on as soon as I get home from work, have at the side of my bed when I go to sleep, and the first thing I put on when I wake. I like having a rubber sole so I can step out to the recycling bin or mailbox but also to not slip and slide on our hardwood floors and stairs. To keep down utility bills, I wear a cap and these slippers all winter long when indoors and these are uber comfortable.

What are your must-have shoes for fall and winter?

Reviewing a Classic – L.L. Bean Summer Boatneck Pullover

The other week I was watching American Idol with my sister and mentioned I wanted Randy Jackson’s shirt. “Why is it so hard to find a crisp white cotton sweater with navy or black stripes? I want the classic French sailor look, stripes starting at the arms and chest.” She told me L.L. Bean carried what I wanted.

I know, I know, I have a lot of striped knit shirts already. The thing is, none of them were classics, and I wanted a classic. Something that would be stylish now, and a couple years from now.  I envisioned such a top with jeans on weekends, tucked into my yellow pencil skirt for work, or with hot pink ankle jeans come spring. Something heavier weight than my basic cotton tees, something with heft, that could stand on its own and not look like some run-of-the-mill tee shirt.

And this shirt from L.L. Bean seemed to be it. Boatneck, bright navy stripes on a crisp white ground, stripes starting at the right place, spaced just so. The price of $39.95 was also appealing, as I saw similar tops from trendier brands starting at $75.00 and going up to $150.00.

As always, L.L. Bean shipped quickly, and the item in the bag looked just like the item on the web. Nice heavy cotton knit – not a sweater, but not your typical tee. Well crafted, stripes lining up and the right length of sleeves. The only problem is that this shirt is cut like an L.L. Bean shirt.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with L.L. Bean, but their line isn’t known for being slim, trim, and trendy. This top has a very straight cut… and looks best untucked.

Thank you Talbots for the use of your fitting room for this picture

At first I considered returning it, it looked lumpy and dumpy tucked into my yellow pencil skirt, boxy with my red cropped pants.  The stripes start right at my largest part and make me look like a linebacker.  Then last weekend I threw it on in haste with a pair of jeans and my riding boots… and liked the effect. I wore it to the mall, the perfect experiment for the quality of a knit item.  At a mall a shirt is yanked off  in a fitting room, tossed into a pile on a bench, yanked back on in haste to head to the register or next shop.  This shirt held up beautifully, maintaining its shape.  I threw it in the wash with other knits, tumble dry medium and it came out looking exactly as it did from the shipping package.

Today I am wearing the Summer Boatneck Pullover again, and still loving it.  It’s not shaped for modern styles, it’s not really that sassy tucked in, but it’s a wardrobe classic at a reasonable price with famous L.L. Bean quality.  And I still think it will look pretty sweet with hot pink ankle jeans come spring!

Fit: I purchased a Medium Regular, knowing that L.L. Bean’s knits run large and don’t shrink in the wash.  If it came in Petite, I think that would have been a better choice for me and more versatile/tuckable.  This top is available in regular and women’s sizes, and along with this classic navy on white choice, it also comes in navy with white stripes, or light blue or pink with white stripes.

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We’ll Have to Agree to Disagree

I love me some Tim Gunn. He’s handsome, suave, intelligent and a man in the industry who still believes that style is more important than current trends. I have been a Project Runway fanatic for every season, but after reading several reviews wasn’t too eager to see his new show – Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style. I heard he was boring, stiff, and his advice had been heard 50,000 times before. I missed the first episode, choosing instead to have a lovely dinner date with my husband.

My mom saw it, saved it on her TiVo and has watched it several times since. She found it brilliant – brilliant enough to inspire her to dig through her closet and collect six bags for donation, calling me each day with her progress. This is something I have been begging her to do for years so I decided to mark my calendar to see the second episode of this show this week. If Tim Gunn can get my mom to finally donate those black velvet elastic-waist pants that my mom kept “just in case” then he was my hero.

After last night’s episode, I must agree with the newspaper and internet reviews – I am not impressed. Yes, JeAnne’s hair and makeup was amazing and they found a few pieces to add to her wardrobe that were far more flattering. But really, I learned nothing new and I actually disagreed with much that was stated.

The Ten Items Every Woman Needs in Her Closet:
Basic black dress, Trench coat, Classic dress pants, Skirt, Blazer, Classic white shirt, Day dress, Cashmere sweater, Jeans, A comfortable alternative to a sweatsuit

“Hey babe, don’t you have a list just like this?” my husband asked. Well, kinda. Lots of people who write about fashion and style have their list of must-haves. Many of the things on my list are on Tim’s and many stylists around the globe. But Tim had a few I disagree with. I think the reason I do NOT include these items is because I am not a tall, thin woman in the city and I do not know a ton of tall, thin city women. I know very tall women who have a devil of a time finding the right length of jeans to wear to the grocery store; petite women with large busts who search endlessly for a suit that will fit their small shoulders and still fit over their midsection; women who couldn’t afford a trainer to assist in getting back their pre-baby figure but still want to find chic attire for work; women who have curvy figures and want to find casual clothes that don’t make them look like marshmallows.

These women do not need a trench coat. Rarely does a woman under 5’4”, with a D-cup bra or wear over a size 12 look good in a trench. Stiff fabric, double-breasted buttons and a self-belt are not forgiving attributes. If you are surrounded by socialites and supermodels, you may not realize how utterly unflattering this garment could be.

These women do not all need white shirts either. Yes, a white shirt can be classic, crisp and elegant. It can also be an utter mess. It requires maintenance to keep it crisp and brilliant, it needs to fit well in the shoulders, the arms, the bust. Without a custom fit, white shirts often look cheap or dumpy on the majority of women’s shapes. To accommodate the bust, many women end up purchasing a size larger and end up with buckling at the lower back, dragging over the hands, gaping at the neck and hitting at an unflattering length on the hip. Tucked in, it balloons out adding girth to the torso. To fit elsewhere, many women end up with too-tight white shirts, buttons bulging and underpinnings ending up showing through. Wrap shirts are flattering, but often gape at the neckline on larger frames. Wrinkle-free styles are often tailored more to fit business men than chic ladies. And there are so many styles out there with weird adornments like epaulets, breast pockets, quirky embroidery, zippers and lace that it confuses one as to what is stylish and what is not, what is flattering and what is not. White shirts get stained, creased, wrinkled and can look old quickly. Add children or an active lifestyle to the mix and your white shirt will have just as long of a shelf life as that pair of ultra-sheer pantyhose.

These women do not all need cashmere sweaters. A well-made, non-itchy sweater in a lightweight knit – yes. Cashmere? Well I have lived a couple decades without owning a cashmere sweater and I do just fine. Asking many of my friends and family – from high-powered attorneys to stay at home moms… none of them own cashmere and all of them have great style. A great quality knit that is heavy enough to be warm but light enough to skim the body and flatter is a wonderful thing and I do agree a necessity in a wardrobe. However that can be cotton, silk, hemp, merino… or possibly cashmere. Cashmere requires maintenance and special care. We don’t all have the time, space or budget to accommodate this. That’s why I own a ton of merino – throw in the wash on the gentle cycle, hang it up in a doorway to dry and it’s as good as new.

The rest of the pieces (blazer, skirt, dress pants, black dress, day dress, jeans, sweatsuit alternative) are simple enough that they could be interpreted to fit any woman’s lifestyle or body shape.

The biggest problem I have with many “style experts” is that they haven’t worked with enough women outside the industry. They don’t understand that the majority of females are not 5’7”, not a size 6, not penciling cocktail parties and gallery openings on their calendars.

JeAnne’s transformation was good. I loved the smoky eye, the glossy lips, the sassy haircut and color. Removing the severity of her look helped her lose five years and fifteen pounds. But really, a few things they put her in were NOT flattering. The white shirt with the seaming was tight and cheap. The halter dresses at Carmen Marc Valvo were gorgeous but made her arms and shoulders look even heavier than they were and did nothing to support her bust. Halter neck styles can be flattering and elongate a neckline, but they also add girth to arms, remove any shoulder definition, and make bra-wearing difficult causing the bustline to sag. The v-neck dance dress (the second black dress she tried at the salon) was sweet, elegant and most of all flattering yet she ultimately was left in the halter that had her back skin hang out, her arms be on display and then horrors of horrors, they did the WORST THING for dear JeAnne… they put a sheer wrap over her arms.

Ladies, I DESPISE this look.

What woman is comfortable constantly hiking up her piece of black chiffon to cover her triceps? A woman should feel comfortable in her attire, especially at a formal one where she already feels on display. To take a woman and make her put a piece of gauze over her arms to hide the girth is putting her in a mini-prison where she hunches over her seat at the table trying to hide her figure, or if she does dare to head to the dance floor, is restricted to slow dances and subtle swaying to keep the fabric in place. The useless wrap is the equivalent to shackles for any curvaceous woman. Hiding one’s arms in shame, holding her prisoner in her clothing. The bridesmaid who is already larger than her size-4 counterparts is punished into wearing an additional swath of hot pink satin across her shoulders. It doesn’t make her look smaller, just more obvious and more awkward. If JeAnne was put in the v-neck dance dress, people would be admiring her creamy decollate and her small waist, and not even notice her arms. At a mirror she herself would see her eye go to her reflection’s collarbone, her waist or her face in the dress and therefore walk taller and have more confidence and fun at an event.

I’ll watch again because I love Tim Gunn and I loved how he ensured she was outfitted with proper underpinnings (#1 in my book), didn’t trash her entire closet and dressed her for her actual lifestyle and personality. Maybe with experience, they too will learn to understand the myriad of women’s shapes and lifestyles and this show will be more useful to its viewers.

This Weekend

Saturday after yoga my husband and I hosted our annual Festival of Steel. Sounds crazy, but a ton of fun – we have a pretty big yard that backs up to and is next to woods. We set up a wooden target at the end of the yard and people throw knives and little axes at said target, making teams and wagers over microbrews.

The weather stayed perfect the whole day – cold yet clear. I did my first attempt at a vegetarian chili (no actual recipe, looked at some online for ideas but went the Allie way) and was happy to see the humongous stock pot scraped clean by the end of the evening. We had almost 20 people over and I think everyone had a great time! Here’s a nice shot of the chili before it was devoured, and a picture near the end of the evening with my friend H.

I wore my purple Dream sweater from J. Crew, dark “The Flirt” bootcut jeans from Old Navy, silver hoops and my hiking shoes from L.L. Bean. To stay warm, I wore my aqua pashmina 99% of the time and donned a black L.L. Bean fleece jacket of my husband’s when I was outside.

Makeup was L’Oreal True Match foundation in C3 as concealer, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Nars blush in Orgasm, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis – ivory in inner corners, khaki on lid. Imju Fiberwig mascara, Maybelline UltraLiner in black on top lash line and on lips is Body Shop’s Lip and Cheek Tint with Victoria’s Secret Beauty Rush lip gloss in Strawberry Fizz.

And because you all love to see him, here’s a picture of my baby Ruckus playing with his beloved Jolly Ball. The old boy had a great time running around and being pet by everyone.

As for Sunday, it wasn’t nearly as exciting. Those who had a bit too much to drink crashed out on our sofas; we all went to The Silver Diner for breakfast (they have the best veggie sausage!) and then my husband and his dad met friends for the MLS cup game that was taking place in DC and I ran errands.

Hit up the local Marshall’s and though I was not impressed by the shoe selection (though there were some black patent heeled oxfords from Steven I desired but they only had in 6 and 9) I found some really cute and cheap stuff in the clothing. Expect to see a plum boucle cropped swing jacket, a pumpkin merino scoopneck and a gold pint silk top with fun balloon sleeves that it itching to go on my Miami trip in January (all for less than $50 including tax!). Then went to Target for the sole purpose of getting refill pages for my planner, but they were out. Instead got a cute ivory and black poly-silk dress from Mossimo for $9 that would look amazing with black tall boots, but could also be cute with black heels and a long jet necklace. Then Staples for said planner pages, and then off to the nail salon for a pedicure. I hate to admit this, but this was the first actual pedicure I have gotten since March. Yeppers, I went through the entire sandal season with some Body Shop Pumice Foot Scrub, Peppermint Foot Lotion, and a clear pink polish from Orly. Now the tootsies are a gorgeous color of super dark purple that is almost black. Came home, collected beer bottles and did dishes and then we ordered pizza for dinner and watched some bad TV and went to bed early to compensate for the night before. All in all a good weekend!

This Weekend

Morning yoga on Saturday. Walked to class, it was lovely in the morning, but got pretty cold and rainy later in the day. Cadet blue tee from Mossimo, black yoga pants from ProSpirit, hibiscus hoodie from Gap, hiking shoes from L.L. Bean. Hair is second day, just blown straight while dry where there was behead. No makeup. Had a good yoga session, then had tea with my mom at a nearby cafe and walked home.

I had to go to the accountant to sign my taxes once I got home, so I switched to Express bootcut jeans and a bit of L’Oreal True Match foundation in C3 and Cover Girl Lash Exact mascara in black and Revlon ColorGlide Sheer in Sheer Burgundy so didn’t look as naked. Not super sassy, but I was out for a very short time then headed home to complete tasks around the home and then have Netflix Night with the hubby (saw Half Nelson, was very good. Sad and upsetting and awful, but terribly good acting).

Sunday started with brunch and then errand running with a friend. Very rainy day. Black ribbed tank from Caslon, black and gray striped stretch v-neck sweater from Banana Republic, dark cotton denim patch-pocket jeans from Gap Outlet, black city boots from Impo, silver hoops and cuff bracelet.

Hair was washed, conditioned, Suave Professionals Healthy Curls mousse applied while damp and allowed to air dry 50%. Then dried with diffuser and curling iron to the unruly parts. It was a super rainy day and was humid even in the house and the hair was crazy.

Makeup was L’Oreal True Match foundation in C3, concealer in W4-5, Nars blush in Orgasm, eyes has the Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis – ivory in inner corners and along brow bone, olive on lid and along lash lines. Lashes curled and Cover Girl Lash Exact mascara in black applied. On lips is Lancome Juicy Tubes in Exposure.

That night, went to a General Admission concert in the city. I pretty much got home from errand running and had 20 minutes to get ready. Took off the sweater and put on the hoodie from the previous say (wasn’t sure if I would get hot, had no time for creativity, and knew it was a low-key event), switched to my Curvy Bootcut jeans because the previous ones were sopping wet from being out in the rain. Applied a tad bit more olive shadow, a fine line of Maybelline’s Ultra Liner in black to the top lash line, and Revlon’s Super Lustrous Lipgloss in Pink Afterglow. I think the pictures my hubby takes are so funny because you can see how he is a foot taller than I; I look like a midget in his shots!

Saturday


Tibetan Buddhist Meditation seminar at the Smithsonian with my mom and husband. Wanted to be comfortable, would be sitting and meditating for six hours.

Black heavy knit wide-leg yoga pants from Champion; more like ponte than a regular knit. Black scoopneck shortsleeved tee from American Apparel, charcoal v-neck shetland sweater from L.L. Bean, gray New Balance trainers. Over it an orange crinkle silk scarf from Banana Republic and a red suede car coat from Target.

Same with previous day, washed hair night before, air dried, curled some pieces in the AM and applied Jonathan Dirt.

Makeup minimal; L’Oreal True Match foundation, Chanel pressed powder, Nars Orgasm blush, L’Oreal Voluminous mascara in black, Body Shop Born Lippy balm in Passionfruit.

Monday

These pictures are at the end of the day. It was a rough day. I am still sick, and I had to fly out to visit a client in another state. Worked six hours, then flew, then finally got to my hotel. Had a fever. Didn’t want to look pretty. Didn’t care. JUST. WANTED. SLEEP.

Gray CBGB tee shirt covered by charcoal shetland v-neck sweater from L.L. Bean that originally belonged to my father. Straight bootcut jeans from Gap that are a bit too big. Black boots from Enzo, silver medium hoops and cuff, turquoise pashmina as scarf/airplane blanket. Hair was finger combed, but not touched otherwise. No makeup. My face hurts, my scalp hurts and I just need to sleep and heal.

DC Sip and Swap

Image via So Much to Smile About
 
Last Thursday I attended the DC Sip and Swap, hosted by the lovely Amy & Melissa of The Swapaholics and Swap.com. For those who didn’t attend, you purchase a ticket (between $10 – $20 depending on when and where you got it), bring a bag full of gently used clothing, shoes and accessories and then get to grab all the donated items that work for you.  Anything leftover was donated to Goodwill.

Image via The Feast

Have you ever seen footage of Filene’s Running of the Brides? This was like that, but with less stripping of clothes in the center of the room and more black clothing.

I brought an XL LL Bean Boat and Tote overflowing with lots of great pieces – clothes from my now-defunct Shop My Closet as well as a few other pieces that no longer fit or no longer fit my personal style. While the Sip and Swap team organized all the donations, we attendees got to enjoy downtown Clarendon. Then we came back for the official beginning of the swap.

Images via Fasshonaburu, DC Goodwill Fashionista

I was excited to meet many bloggers I have respected and read for a while, such as District of Chic, Megan Nielsen, Fasshonaburu, Cardigans & Couture, whippedSTYLE, and La Rue Neuve. I also got to catch up with DC blogger buddies like Heart Print and Style, So Much to Smile About, and MartaFacts. We sipped wine, chatted, caught up… and didn’t realize that there were some rabid swappers in attendance.


I love this video from Quarter Life, which shows what the swap was like when they opened the doors. Since I was wearing a blue maxi dress, it’s pretty easy to see me in the video (I am in the center left, and it takes me a while to come in because I wasn’t expecting Running of the Brides). There were rolling racks along the sides of the large room, tables separating jeans from blouses from skirts from trousers. The stage at the back of the room held jewelry, scarves, shoes, and other accessories.

By time I got into the room, it was packed with women who were throwing anything they could reach into their bags. Fabric was flying, a few were stripping down to bike shorts and sports bras to try pieces and throwing back into the crowd the pieces that didn’t work. It was crazy. I headed to the stage, figuring I would have a better chance finding good jewelry than clothing that would fit. I grabbed a mother of pearl bangle bracelet and a strand of pearls, turned around to apologize for bumping into someone, turned back and 90% of the jewelry was gone. I figure someone must have swept it all into a bag. I grabbed some bright purple beads, figuring I could take off the thread and repurpose, or give to Emerson as costume jewelry.

Image via The Feast

The crowd started thinning, I saw women with those giant blue IKEA bags overflowing, women crouched in corners hugging their scores. A woman walked by with two huge totes overflowing and a few items tucked under her arm. I guess I was looking with my mouth agape because she defended herself by saying, “What? I have three kids I need to dress.”

This was the swap in a nutshell. Many women who were there to donate, hope to get one or two good things, and mingle. And then there were those who were out for the kill, leaving no prisoners. I didn’t let it get me down, I went expecting to not find anything, so I ended up being pleasantly surprised. I met some awesome readers of Wardrobe Oxygen (so great to meet you, I love it when readers introduce themselves!), some awesome bloggers, and the fabulous women of The Swapaholics and Goodwill. And really, I didn’t go for the items, I went for the experience. And the experience taught me that I would definitely attend next time… but next time I’ll be sure to put down the wine glass and wear flat shoes!

What I got:

  • A gold beaded frame clutch – when I got home I realized its actually a wallet, but I can fit my cell in it and it will still snap shut and not look ridiculous
  • Navy twill pants from Ann Taylor in like-new condition, wide waistband, flat front, straight legs, very classic
  • Dark denim sailor-inspired jeans from LOFT that will fit like a dream in five pounds
  • A strand of 30” small ivory pearls that look really nice (quality costume)
  • A slim gold bangle with mother of pearl panels
  • The purple necklace (which Emerson sported this weekend)
  • A pair of perfectly faded and distressed Levis 515s that do not fit and probably will never fit so I will be passing on to someone else
  • A black LOFT jersey dress that must have been shrunken in the dryer because it hardly covers my rear (will be re-donated)
  • A black jersey MICHAEL Michael Kors top that looked cute but wasn’t my style – I gave it to my mom who totally rocks it
   
Have you ever been to a swap?  What did you think?

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Friday

I had a completely different outfit on today and had to change; I just didn’t feel right. This morning I spent an extra-long time at the gym, had a hearty yet healthy breakfast and went out in the front yard to play with the dog. It made me feel very… relaxed. More L.L. Bean than Nordstrom. So I quickly changed.

Coral and white striped cotton sweater AND white stretch denim skirt from Ann Taylor Loft, silver hoops and cuff bracelet, beaded thong sandals from Seychelles.

Hair was wahsed and conditioned with Suave Professionals Color Care; this stuff gives my hair really soft soft soft little-kid hair. Then a bit of Sexy Straight balm, then dried with round brush. Teensy bit of BioSilk on the ends to cover up the desperate need for a trim.

Makeup is L’Oreal True Match foundation, Physician’s Formula Magical Mosaics bronzer in light, a bit of Nars Orgasm on the cheeks. On eyes is Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in neutral – ivory on the corners and brow bone, khaki on the lids and a bit of olive on the lower lid (leftover from previous outfit). L’Oreal Voluminous mascara in black and a line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line.

Giveaway: Gap Skimmer Jeans – Save and Win!

Last week I featured the new Gap Skimmer Jean and how incredibly versatile and adorable it is. Many of you were interested in trying the Skimmer for yourself, well now’s your chance! From February 21 – 27, 2013, try the New Skimmer and get $20 off! When you try the New Skimmer at any Gap store, you’ll get an automatic $20 off any regular-priced pair.  What a fab promotion, I’m thinking I may have to grab a pair of their camo-print skimmers for spring!

Want even more encouragement to try these awesome new jeans? One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $50 AmEx gift card that you could use to buy your Gap Skimmers!

How to Enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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LiveTheLook and Wardrobe Oxygen: #LTLStyleMe Twitter Chat

As a blogger, I have gotten to know a few companies in a more intimate way. Partnering with them, chatting with the CEOs and creators, I see the people in the companies, the heart, the effort, and it’s thrilling when I see them grow and achieve success. And LiveTheLook, a company I have partnered with in the past has been growing and changing, and a lot has to do with YOUR feedback! Seriously, your comments on previous posts about LiveTheLook helped LTL co-founder Francesca Helina develop the shopping site into what it is today.

LiveTheLook and Wardrobe Oxygen fashion twitter chat December 7, 2014 at 6pm ET #LTLStyleMe

LiveTheLook is a site that works with your current closet and offers pieces to help you achieve a stylish and cohesive wardrobe. It works very similarly to how I approach a wardrobe – buy classic staples and then use a few current trends and accessories to update and add interest each season. Upon signing up with LiveTheLook, you take a quick style profile test about what wardrobe staples are in your closet and what you consider to be your personal style. LiveTheLook takes this info and tailors its shopping suggestions for you.

While this is the same concept that I mentioned the last time I featured LiveTheLook, the shopping itself has changed. You asked for extended sizing? LiveTheLook now offers up to a size 20 and is currently working on partnerships with more brands that offer awesome style in plus sizes. You wanted more options, LiveTheLook has partnered with more retailers expanding their selection, pricepoints, and as previously mentioned, sizes. Gotta love a company who truly listens to feedback and truly wants to impress their customers! Register at LiveTheLook, take the quick profile quiz and check out the great new changes.

LiveTheLook and Wardrobe Oxygen Twitter Chat on How to Dress for the Holidays 12/7 6pm #LTLStyleMe

LiveTheLook is like a virtual personal shopper, completing your wardrobe. Well this Sunday, that virtual shopper will be ME! Come join me on Twitter this Sunday, December 7 at 6pm ET for a Twitter chat with @LiveTheLookNow and @Wardrobe_Oxygen. Follow the hashtag #LTLStyleMe where we’ll be discussing what to wear for all the holiday events on your social calendar. Want to know what shoes to wear with your cocktail dress? How to jazz up your favorite sweater for Christmas Eve at the inlaws? Tweet your questions with #LTLStyleMe and I’ll provide personal suggestions. If you tweet a photo of the item you need help styling (and are already registered with LiveTheLook), we’ll style you on the spot AND LiveTheLook will send you a free accessory. How awesome is that?

I hope you’ll join me this Sunday at 6pm ET on Twitter, I look forward to connecting with you and helping you look festive and fabulous this holiday season!

Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

jessica alba tolani scarfTo celebrate me coming back to work and to blogging, I have a great contest for you readers!

One of you can win a Tolani scarf that has been seen on the likes of Jessica Alba (pictured), Sienna Miller, Vanessa Minnillo (pictured), Halle Berry and Mary-Kate Olsen.

The Tolani scarf is courtesy of chickdowntown.com, an awesome site that sells hip women’s designer clothing from the likes of Black Halo, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Vera Wang Lavender Label.

I am so excited, because you KNOW I love scarves, and these beauts from Tolani are fabulous!

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to mywardrobetoday@gmail.com with the word “TOLANI” in the subject.
In the body of the email, please provide your name and mailing address (I promise these addresses will only go to me – except for the winner, and will be deleted once the contest is over). Winner will be chosen by random.

Contest ends Friday, March 20th, 2009 at midnight ET. Winner will be contacted by email. Scarf will be mailed out from chickdowntown.com. Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know chickdowntown.com:
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (twitter.com/chickdowntown)
YouTube (chickdowntownTV.com or youtube.com/chickdowntowntv)

Good luck!

My Shoes!

Reader Allyson asked about my shoe collection. She is trying to figure out what she needs versus what she wants. I am probably the worst person to ask about this for I have an affinity for shoes that match nothing in my wardrobe and will probably cause bunions and hammertoes before I am 40. I like them tall, I like them funky, I like the heels to be spindly…

Anyway, looking at the shoes that get a lot of wear in my collection, I see the not-quite-traditional ones get the most use. The classic black shoes are great in a pinch, but I often find an unexpected neutral like a camel, tan, red or a print like leopard (one with black AND brown in it) seems to work with the majority of the wardrobe.

So
here is my collection. You’ll see a few I never wear, and will wonder where some have gone (sold, donated or tossed – recently did some gutting of my closet – hello red patent peeptoes and pilgrim shoes). This is my current collection, all seasons combined:

1. Leopard peeptoe heels from BCBGirls. I actually own two pairs because I adore them so much. One pair is a bit scuffed and smelly; the other ones are reserved for more special of occasions. These are fabric, have a 4” heel and make me feel sexy and powerful. I bought the first pair I think late 2006 and then the second pair on sale in spring of 2007.

2. Brown croco peeptoe heels from BCBGirls. Same exact style as the leopard ones. Bought in spring of 2007

3. Black croco peeptoe heels from BCBGirls. Ditto. If you find a pair of shoes that are comfortable AND fit your style, stock up! I bought them the same day I bought them in brown.

4. Black satin peeptoe heels from Enzo Angiolini. Very similar style to the BCBGirls, but a wider opening at the toe, and evening-appropriate. I got these in summer of 2007 to replace my previous black satin dress heels that broke a heel.

5. Black city boots from Impo. These are actually pleather so they look a bit like patent leather. Side-zip ankle boots with a 1” or shorter kitten heel. I bought these in winter of 2006 to replace my 5-year old city boots that were just DONE.

6. Tan leather calf-height boots from Duo. These are the “Bern” style from their website. Very low heel, comfortable casual style. Got these in the fall of 2007.

7. Brown suede tall boots from Silhouettes. 1” kitten heel, pointed toe, slightly slouched/rouched fabric. I must say a pair in purple are en route to my house via eBay – got them for about $20 on there. Yes, PURPLE! The brown ones I received as a gift this winter.

8. Black low-top “Chucks” Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers. I bought these this fall, got them for my husband as well (yes we are the corny couple with matching shoes).

9. Red pointy-toed pumps from Steven. 2” heel, candy apple red and a sale price I couldn’t resist. Have had for a couple of years now, got them at Off Broadway Shoes.

10. Black heeled oxfords from BCBGirls. Super high heel, pointed toe, classic oxford styling. Can go with skirts or pants. Ordered these in the fall but they were backordered and didn’t receive until winter.

11. Black ballet flats from Target. A total waste of money. They have no cushioning, no support, no study sole and are pleather so they make my feet sweat. I keep these for emergencies, but have no clue what emergency it would be as that I haven’t worn them in months. Bought these in late spring of 2007.

12. Black leather flats from Naturalizer. Very simple style, rounded toe, soft leather, arch support and comfort sole. These were bought for comfort, but are nondescript enough that they work okay for style as well. Bought these in… I think late summer 2006.

13. Black open-work pumps from Steve Madden. I have had these for years (I beleive it was 2001). Classic pump style, but peeptoe and the front is a lattice-work of leather. I call them my Carmen Miranda heels.

14. Hot pink studded pointy-toe pumps from NYLA. Hot pink, dark metal studs and a dangerous heel. These are a bit scuffed in front (and where can you find hot pink shoe polish?) but still a blast to wear and get tons of comments and compliments. I think I got these in… 2004. Yes, I got them while trying to find shoes for my wedding. I couldn’t resist – also from Off Broadway Shoes.

15. Hot pink and orange suede peeptoe wedges from J. Crew. Tall wooden wedge, pink suede with orange trim and tiny bow. Super cute, got end of summer season 2007 so haven’t had the chance to wear a lot.

16. Black leather thong-style heels from Target. 1.5” heel, simple. My go-to shoe all summer long. I buy a replacement pair every other year; these were bought in the summer of 2007.

17. Brown stacked flip flops from J. Crew. Have had them since 2004.

18. Black stacked flip flops from J. Crew. Got at the outlet for a song in 2005.

19. Black “Sandy” flip flops from Reef. Replaced my old pair just this summer.

20. Purple Crocs. Only worn in the yard or to as music festival. I promise! I bought them specifically for Bonnaroo this summer.

21. Aqua flip flops from Old Navy. Thin and cheap, but the same color as my bathing suit! I bought them on clearance in 2006.

22. Black crocheted elastic-strap flops from J. Crew. A slightly dressier version of flops, but hardly ever worn because the elastic stretched out and they don’t stay too well on my feet. I bought these also on clearance back in 2004… they went with me on my honeymoon!

23. Black leather pointy-toed heeled mules from Steve Madden. Horribly uncomfortable and super tall heels, but make suite a dramatic look with pants so I keep them. But I haven’t worn them in years, bought them in 2001.

24. Gray and blue hiking shoes from L.L. Bean. Bought these in 2003.

25. Black and green hybrid shoes from Keen. These have Kevlar lacing, mesh so they can be worn in water, but lots of cushioning and support so they can be worn for long walks. I take them on every vacation. I bought them in 2004 for my honeymoon.

26. Gray and orange sneakers from New Balance. Purely for the gym, the sidewalk, activities. Not the style for street wear. I have had them since the winter of 2005.

27. Black round-toe “Henri” pumps from Jessica Simpson. They got a bit stretched out this spring so I don’t wear as often because they aren’t as comfortable as before. However they are perfect for fuller skirts and more retro of styles. I bought them in… I think spring of 2006.

28. Purple satin strappy heels with rosette. 4” heel, delicate straps and a fabric rose on the strap over the toes. Very fun and quirky; I usually wear them with a non-purple dress. I bought these in 2004.

29. Black and silver strappy heels from Nine West. 4” heels, delicate straps and a rhinestone buckle on the strap over the toes. Have had these for about a decade and adore them. Remarkably comfortable as well. I remember buying them at the Nine West store in White Flint when I managed that Express store so we’re talking… 1998?

30. Purple Birkenstocks. Yep, I have a pair. Haven’t been worn since… I guess the early 90s but I hold on to them because I did adore them so and they ARE comfortable!

31. Beige satin strappy heels. 3” heel tiny bow at foot, very delicate. Considered them as wedding shoes (my dress was ivory) but went with hot pink instead (come on, you must expect that from me by now). Very subtle style that works with any color of dress and are great for summer affairs. Have had since early 2004.

As for where I store my shoes – I have a canvas over the door contraption in my office that holds the majority of the heels. On the floor of the office closet are sturdier shoes like my boots, ballet flats and sneakers. Outside on our deck is a large Rubbermaid box. In there are my slip flops and Crocs. In my bedroom closet I have shoe boxes on the floor that hold my strappy heels/evening shoes so they won’t get dusty. The shoes I wear daily (like my Chucks and city boots) end up next to the front door and when they are out of rotation, they go back into the office.

UPDATE: I added the dates I bought these shoes because I wanted you to know I don’t buy a whole new shoe wardrobe each season. Yes, shoes break and get stinky and stretch out and get scuffed, but many can last season after season if they are a more classic cut (or an really unexpected style that doesn’t follow a specific fad). My pink pointy heels garner just as many compliments now as they did three years ago because they are so unexpected. When I buy my city boots, I usually get a half a decade worth of wear with proper care and maintenance because they are a very simple, streamlined style that works well with pants as well as jeans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Toss:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else I would add to this list:

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

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

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Ask Allie: Stylish yet Warm Winter Coats

Dear Allie:
It’s a lot colder where I live (Minnesota) than where you are in DC and a simple wool peacoat isn’t going to cut it. How can I stay warm in winter without looking like the abominable snowman?
Thanks,
Cara

Alison,
I need a new winter coat, and I want one that will keep me dry during wet slush and freezing rain as well as cold. I want it to have a hood and cover my butt because I walk several blocks to work. And since it’s a work coat, I don’t want it to look like a ski jacket, but be something I can wear to a business lunch without embarrassment. Does such a coat exist?
-Aimee

Why is it that all winter coats make women either freeze or look like The Michelin Man? Any suggestions where I can find one that will keep me warm when it’s below freezing but not make me look [ridiculous]?

My fellow women, I feel your pain. It’s not easy to find a coat that actually keeps you warm and doesn’t wreak havoc on your silhouette or personal style. Not easy… but definitely doable. Here’s a few tips to keep you looking stylish, professional, and frostbite-free:

Eddie Bauer’s Essential Down Duffle Coat is a winter classic – featuring StormRepel™ DWR finish, 550 fill Premium European Goose Down insulation, and a knee length, it will keep you warm even on the most blustery of winter days.  Available in regular, petite, tall, and women’s sizes and two classic colors.

 
Choose a solid color. Yesterday I was on the elevator with a woman I recognized from a different company in our building. Based on her usual attire, I assume she is a high-ranking person within her corporation. While this woman usually looks very polished and put together, this day she looked as though she was heading for the slopes. Over her taupe pantsuit and black snakeskin pumps, she was wearing a plum and beige graphic-print shiny quilted anorak.

Same coat in black, gray, or olive would have been quite appropriate for her personal style and position with the company. The print made the jacket resemble something a toddler wears in the snow and took away from the polish of the rest of her ensemble.

Flatter the figure. Not every warm coat has to make you look like the Michelin Man. In the past couple of years companies have realized that women like to have a figure even when it’s below freezing. Coats that taper at the waist, have belts, or strategically placed quilting will flatter your figure while keeping you toasty. Last year Lands’ End sent me their Luxe Down Parka, a coat that is super warm (rated -40° to -5° Fahrenheit), but has a belt to cinch the waist. I am wearing this coat today – it was below 40 degrees when I left this morning yet I felt no chill as I walked to the Metro and stood for 15 minutes waiting for a train.

The Lands End Luxe Down Parka rates -40 to -5 degrees Fahrenheit, covers the bum, yet flatters the figure.  Available in six colors, as well as petite and plus sizes.

Another way to flatter the figure and stay warm is to choose a longer coat. While I don’t encourage you to purchase one of those full-length parkas that make one look as though she is walking down the street in a sleeping bag, a coat that hits between your mid-hip to your knee will better flatter your figure than one that ends at the waist. Such length of coat will also keep the entirety of your torso warm, and insulate your bum if you have to sit on a cold bench.

Reduce shine. Many parkas these days have a metallic or ultra-shiny finish which is very modern and trendy. The thing is this finish really screams “cold weather sports.” By choosing a quilted winter coat in a matte finish, the coat looks more expensive and professional.

The Chalet Coat from Athleta stands out from the crowd with its oversized shawl  hoodie collar.  Filled with 800-count InsulEight™ down and featuring storm cuffs to keep you warm and cozy on the coldest days.  Available in three colors, regular as well as women’s sizes.

Look for a stylish detail. A faux fur-trimmed hood, a contrast belt, military details – these are all additions that can take a winter coat from being appropriate for bobsledding to being appropriate for boardrooms. Just be sure to not go overboard – one specific detail is plenty, keep the rest of the details in your accessories.

Know your fabrics. A wool coat can be extremely warm if it’s 100% wool and has an insulated lining. Wool blends usually incorporate polyester which doesn’t insulate. Many companies provide details on their site or the coat’s hang tag on what temperatures are appropriate for the coat – wool blends are usually best for temperatures over 40 degrees if without an insulated lining.

 The L.L. Bean Classic Lambswool Polo Coat is 100% wool and lined in Thinsulate so it keeps you warm in temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit.  Available in regular, plus, and women’s sizes and you can choose from five classic colors.

Even quilted coats vary in warmth. Down is usually warmer than any synthetic material, however some synthetics like Lands’ End’s PolarThin insulation are quite warm. A coat with a windproof exterior and fleece interior will be warmer than one without. Don’t assume that the puffier a coat, the warmer it will be.

Don’t rely on just the coat. While recent studies have debunked the myth that half of your body’s heat escapes through your head, heat is still lost by a bare skull. Pair your warm coat with a hat to keep your entire body feeling warm. Along with that, insulated gloves (not those knit stretch gloves from the dollar store), and a scarf to wrap around the exposed part of your neck will do wonders for keeping you warm. This seems like such common sense, but I regularly see women huddled at bus enclosures and on Metro platforms rubbing their hands to stay warm, remaining hatless so not to muss their hair.

If you are a texting machine, companies currently carry “touch” gloves that have a special pad on the index and thumb tips to let you swipe and type with ease. As for the hat head, fedoras and cloches are styles of hats that rest on the head instead of smashing down on your ‘do – while they don’t keep your ears warm they are better than nothing. A slouchy beanie is also a way to wear a hat without reuining your hairstyle – hold it in place with a Bobby pin or two to cover the tip top of your head and leave your mane free.

Those of you who live in colder climates than I, do you have any suggestions on how to remain stylish yet stay warm this winter?

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Monday – Stripes and Citrus

Striped teeL.L. Bean
Pants – LOFT via a swap (similar)
ShoesLillybee “Martina” c/o Simply Soles
Bag – Nordstrom (similar)
Silver cuff (similar)
“Emerson” necklace – c/o Tags-n-Stones

What a busy, long weekend! I was looking forward to some time to chill, but other than a much-needed two-hour nap on Saturday, I really didn’t get much rest. However, I had some pretty exciting things take place – posts on it soon!  But this meant that I chose to sleep in this morning instead of figuring out an outfit.  This is pretty much what I wear on a weekend when puttering around the house, taking Emerson to the playground, maybe going to the grocery store.  I prefer to dress up more for work, but I also prefer to have a few brain cells working at the office, so I chose function over fashion today!

I don’t believe I have worn these shoes yet on the blog, but gosh do I adore them. They have a wooden wedge of that perfect height that elongates the leg but is really wearable all day. I love them with pants and jeans, but they also look so cute with skirts and dresses. The bright citrus orange color of the Lillybee Martina is perfect for spring and summer and is an unexpected neutral for most colors in my wardrobe. I love the look of the braided suede straps and know these shoes will be getting a lot of wear over the next few months!

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Friday – Breton Stripes and Boho Scarves

ShirtArmor*lux (gift from reader – similar)
Skirt - Halogen (think the same skirt, just this year’s version)
Booties – Miss Sixty (similar)
Necklace – LOFT (similar)
Jacket - ASOS
Scarf – c/o Lolly
Bag - Sabina (similar)
SunglassesMarc by Marc Jacobs

Cute kid – Mah Belly!

I feel very Old School Allie in this look, and it really shows how my personal style has developed over the past year. A year ago, my typical outfit would be with a scarf like this; over time I have worn such scarves less often and I realize how much I miss them. They give that boho vibe I love so much to the more classic wardrobe pieces I love for work-appropriateness and style longevity.  I was thrilled when Lolly sent me this scarf – the colors are so perfect for spring and a great accent to many of the hues in my closet.  And if you like it… stay tuned, there may be a chance for you to get one free for yourself!

And again, a big thank you to Karen in France who sent me this fabulous shirt! When I reviewed the L.L. Bean Summer Boatneck Pullover,  she mentioned Armor Lux in the comments.  I realized that this brand isn’t easy to find in the US (ASOS has a few for men, but not for women) and she offered to send me one.  Boy is she right about how perfect these shirts are! Great quality, perfect weight, crisp stripes, flattering neckline… I am a major fan!  Now Armor Lux you need to sell these shirts in the US so more of us can enjoy your brand!

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Sunday – Dots and Stripes

TeeL.L. Bean
Scarf - Ann Taylor (similar)
Jeans - NYDJ
BootsDUO “Bern”
Bag - Banana Republic “Sandhurst Hobo” (similar)
Silver cuff (similar)
SunglassesMarc by Marc Jacobs

Sunday was a day of errands, and a trip to “The King’s Crown” for our “Fancy Nancy.” Emerson is OBSESSED with the Fancy Nancy books – our friend M got her one for her birthday last year but she just got really into it and now has four of them.

Well Emerson got a new pair of sunglasses and decided that she was a movie star and desperately wanted to go to the King’s Crown and eat with her pinkies in the air. Franklin’s is a fun restaurant nearby that I felt was a good King’s Crown equivalent. Went in, the hostess took us to our table and Emerson stood there in her cat eye frames and said, “Excuse me, I am a movie star.” The hostess said, “Aren’t we all sweetie?” which make my husband and I giggle. Emerson ate her grilled cheese with her pinkies up!

Anyway, weekends means easy dressing – this new tee is a weekend staple, and I loved being able to jazz it up with this scarf (last seen here).   This bag is still my utter favorite, even though it’s getting battered and bruised.  I also have it in black, but the tab one is still my baby!

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Friday Favorite: The Body Shop Satsuma Shower Gel

body shop satsuma shower gel

From fall 2001 to the beginning of 20014, I was a trainer for The Body Shop stores. After many years in apparel and merchandising I desired a change. I was making a concerted effort to get out of debt, and it would be easier without temptation around me and the need to be dressed in the latest and greatest (hello all-black dress code!). And it worked, I not only got out of debt, but I learned a lot about skincare and ingredients, how to be profitable and philanthropic at the same time, and finally how to properly apply eye shadow!

When I worked for The Body Shop back in the early oughts, we would burn fragrance oils in an aroma jar at the front entrance. I learned quickly that a blend of Satsuma and Exotic oils would bring in customers from all over the mall, and it would be easy to sell them a jar, bag of candles, those two oils and much more. After two and a half years with the company I couldn’t stand the smell of Exotic but I never tired of Satsuma. After leaving the company I’d still buy the shower gel and glycerin soap bars. It’s a sweet orange scent that doesn’t get weird, isn’t too fruity or pungent, and is a nice pick-me-up in the morning. But with time I forgot about Satsuma and moved on to new brands and different scents.

When my arm broke, I realized simple things like squeezing shower gel onto a pouf or washcloth were nearly impossible. I went on a hunt for spray and pump products that could be used with one hand and came back to The Body Shop. I ordered a bottle of Satsuma shower gel… and I don’t think I’ll go back to any other bath products!

Not only do I love the clementine scent, I love how it doesn’t dry my skin. It doesn’t scent my skin, so no competing with perfume or lotions but it does scent the main floor after a hot bath or shower. Even Karl uses it! A little goes a long way; I bought a 25 oz. bottle in February and just hit the bottom of the label and that includes all the times I indulged in very bubbly baths. While it’s a perfect summer scent, I know I’ll love it in the colder months too. A little bit of sunshine with every shower or bath!