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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.

Ask Allie: Warm Winter Commuter Coats

I lived in Florida all my life, but am moving to DC for a new job and need to get a winter coat. I will be taking the bus for work and want a coat that looks professional but can survive public transportation and DC weather. Suggestions?

I need a new coat. I have the Squall from Lands’ End and have had a version of this coat for over a decade but want to get something more fashionable for work and stuff. I want it to be water repellant and I want it to have a hood and cover my [behind] when I sit on a bench. Where should I look?

I don’t wear wool but want a coat that looks nice, where can I find one that is stylish but also warm?

DC is a strange place, where it can be 70 degrees in November and 30 degrees in April. It is also quite wet in this area, many days that are cold are also with sleet, rain, or snow. In previous posts I have stated that a wool coat is more versatile and chic than one of a synthetic material, but I’ll admit it’s far more comfortable to deal with public transportation, walking, and commuting in general when you are both warm and dry and not worrying about your dry cleaning bill. Here’s some suggestions for winter coats that will keep your warm yet stylish all winter long.


I have a coat from Lands’ End that is very similar in style and made me a synthetic coat convert. The belt on this coat gives you a feminine shape and prevents the Michelin Man look, the faux fur trim on the hood adds a luxe feel, the longer length will keep your rear warm on cold metal benches at bus stops, and the large variety of colors and sizes means there’s a right one for each person. I like buying pieces like coats from Lands’ End because I feel confident that if a zipper breaks or there is some defect, I can easily return or replace it.


Quilting doesn’t have to add bulk and destroy your figure; strategic quikting and padding can actually accentuate your curves and emphasize a feminine shape. This coat from Betsey Johnson gets rave reviews even from those in Alaska for it being warm, but the shape, stitching, and belt give it a modern, fashionable, and flattering fit.


Wool doesn’t mean cold, on the contrary. If you live in a more mild climate like DC, you can get away with a wool coat for your winter. If the coat is long like this one from DKNY, you’re able to keep your legs cozy as you walk to the office or sit waiting for the train. While this coat doesn’t have a hood, it has a high collar to protect your neck and would look tres chic with anything from a cloche to a knit beanie.

Again, strategic quilting to the rescue! The varied sizes of quilting give this coat shape without sacrificing warmth. While black is a safe choice, the Prussian Blue adds a level of fashion and fun to a traditional long parka.  This coat is not only warm, but also water resistant – perfect for the woman who walks or takes public transportation to work!


Fit and flare with single breasted buttons makes this coat slimming, the traffic-stopping collar makes it stylish and extra warm. The cashmere blend will look equally at home with jeans and boots as with cocktail dresses and heels.

Tips for Purchasing a Stylish Warm Coat:

  • Look for a single statement-making detail. Fur-trimmed hood or collar, military-inspired metal buttons, belt, unique color or texture – such details will take a parka from play to professional. Keep such details to a minimum – only one statement needs to be made or it will go from chic to cheap.
  • Flatter the figure. Strategic quilting, a belt, single breasted, curved hem… such details can make the difference and have a coat be warm and chic.
  • Choose sophisticated colors. Some colors like yellow, orange, barn red, and baby blue scream ski slope or shoveling snow. Black, olive, navy, ivory, gray, dark plum, and teal give a more elegant feel to a parka.
  • Read the ingredients. Who cares what a coat looks like if it doesn’t keep you warm? Read the details – many outerwear retailers will state what temperature such a coat was made for. Wool, cashmere, down, Thinsulate – these are all materials that will keep you more warm than most synthetic blends. If you live in a wet climate be sure to find a coat that is also water-resistant or waterproof. If you choose the right textiles you can often achieve equal warmth to a bulkier coat of cheaper materials.

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Review – Lands End Outerwear

I recently had the opportunity to check out one of Lands End’s new outerwear. As a major fan of their outerwear line (I already own two coats from them) I was excited for the opportunity.

Review – Lands End Outerwear

Almost a decade ago, I asked for the Lands End Squall Parka for Christmas. Always one to have a wool winter coat, I realized I was in desperate need of something a bit more water-repellent, wind-repellent, and durable. Be it scraping ice off my windshield, shoveling the front walk, going for a long walk on a sunny but blustery winter day, I knew the Squall Parka was a good bet.

Wearing my Squall Parka in 2005 while snuggling with my dog Ruckus

I chose a rusty orange color, which I thought was fun and modern. I forgot that a little South Park character wears a parka in the same color. Every time I wore it, someone called me Kenny. But I didn’t care – that coat was fantastic. It kept me warm, but I had flexibility, breathability, and I loved that I could throw it in the washer and dryer. I still have my Squall Parka, and choose it when I take the dogs for a wintry walk, or want to play with Emerson in the snow.

When I started working in DC three years ago, I realized I needed a good commuting coat. Something that could cover my rear when I sat on cold stone park benches, kept my legs warm, yet was able to be shoved in a bag if the day got too warm. My first day of work was a cold November Tuesday, and I stood on a street corner next to a woman in a dark olive quilted coat that came to her lower thigh. The quilting was brilliant and changed at the torso to whittle the waist. Stand collar kept her neck warm, and it look fantastic paired with an ivory scarf and knit cap. I asked her where she got her coat, she said Lands End.

Earlier this year in my now-discontinued Lands End Down Commuter Coat

Again, I headed to Lands End where I got their now-discontinued reversible Commuter coat (most similar current coat is the Women’s Lightweight Down Coat). It came in olive and a couple other colors, but I chose black because I knew it was more appropriate to my personal style and wardrobe. The coat had one side that was smooth, another that was quilted. Lightweight, but warm since it was made of down. Water resistant. Pockets that zipped up (on both sides too!), and easily washed and dried in the machine. I loved this coat, and still do. It’s the perfect commuter coat for a mid-Atlantic state like Maryland where the winters are cold but not frigid, and there is often a chance of precipitation that is more likely to be rain than snow. I wore this coat almost every day until I got pregnant, and even wore it often then, though left open with a pashmina covering the belly. I was happy to know that this coat was still a classic style that would treat me and my wardrobe well this winter.

Lands End sent me their Luxe Down Coat, and I have to say I was a bit nervous. A furry collar and a belt on a quilted coat? I was sure to look like the Michelin Man. I loved the ivory and gray colors, but thought it would be a bit too marshmallow for my petite and curvy frame. Since I already had a black coat from Lands End, I decided to choose Spice Brown. I don’t normally wear brown, but thought the brown would look nice with my hair (and the coat’s furry collar).

I loved that I could choose this coat in petite. I am not always a petite in clothing, but with coats, I often find the sleeves too long and the shoulders drooping. With past experience with Lands End, I knew that my size 12/14 body would be best with a Petite Large.

My sizing guess was accurate – the Luxe Down Coat fits beautifully, even with a thick sweater. It is much warmer than my other Lands End down coat – so much so that I couldn’t really wear it until recently. The belt is long, but that is so you can tie it instead of buckle it. The fur is removable, as is the entire hood. The coat has deep pockets so your gloves won’t fall out, and knit wrist cuffs to block the wind and snow.

The brown is a nice shade – deep and chocolatey. The faux fur trim is nice quality and doesn’t shed. I found the belted quilted style to be relatively figure-flattering, even being a thick coat. As with my other down coat, this coat is shaped at the waist, not a straight up and down silhouette. I think the belt really keeps me from looking like the Michelin Man, and it does a good job of preventing the wind from flying up the hem of the coat. This coat is pretty much the same length as my other Lands End down coat, which is a great length for pants as well as skirts. I have worn the jacket open and have either removed the belt or loosened it in back to take up some of the slack and not have the ends drag.

Sometimes you don’t know what you will love until you try it on. If Lands End hadn’t sent me this coat, I would have never considered a quilted belted winter coat. And now I am a huge fan.

Note: Lands End did provide me with this coat, however all opinions are my own and not biased by my monetary compensation.

Review – Lands End Canvas

I used to be a big fan of classic yet on-trend retailers like Banana Republic and J. Crew. Every time a catalog arrived in my mailbox or a new display was in a store window, I could find at least five things I felt I needed that very instant, and knew if I bought they would be of great quality and be stylish pieces in my wardrobe for years to come.

This has changed in the past couple of years – both Banana and  J. Crew have become more expensive, and their pieces are more unique and on-trend, making them harder to be wardrobe classics. I have also found staples like ribbed tanks and tees to not be of the same quality that I found in the past. However the main reason I don’t wear J. Crew or Banana Republic much anymore is because it doesn’t fit. Over the years my waistline has expanded, but at the same time these retailers’ sizing has changed. Many pieces that I like don’t come in larger sizes, and 12s and 14s I bought from there five years ago are inches larger than current items from their line in the same size.

When I heard that Lands End had their new Canvas line, I had mixed emotions. I love Lands End because their quality is stellar and their fit is comfortable, even generous. I know that when I order a size Large sweater, that sweater will fit my size 12-16 body. I also love how I can wash my Lands End clothes dozens of times and they will hold up, maintain their shape and color. What makes Canvas different? Will it be sized more like Juniors, is it the “J. Crew of Lands End” in style but also sizing and quality?

My first experience with Lands End Canvas was back in June. I ordered some traditional Lands End pieces, but also a square cotton voile scarf from the Canvas line. Everything was shipped together, but in a box with Canvas marketing. Inside I found a handwritten than you note from Canvas for Lands End. What amazing customer service!

Since I have lost a couple pounds recently, I felt courageous enough to try the clothing from the Canvas line. What I ordered:
- The Fit and Flare Dress in Size 14. I know other bloggers who have ordered and adored this dress. I am a pretty standard 14 in dresses, occasionally needing petite, but my bust needs that size. 

- Their Poplin Skirt in Navy – sizes 12 and 14. I vary between these sizes with most retailers and wanted to see how they compared

- Striped Sailor Tee in Heather Gray/True Navy. I ordered a size Large, hoping it wouldn’t be skin tight. I actually was envisioning it with the navy poplin skirt

- Heritage Oxford Shirt in Bayshore Blue, size 14. Again, with my bust I decided to go with the 14, hoping it would be fitted but not skin-tight.

I of course hit up Ebates before going shopping – this got me 3% cash back on my order. I ordered during the weekend that Lands End had Friends and Family (25% off) but that did not work on Canvas items. However using the code still got me free shipping.  I recommend you check the Internet before finishing your order to see if there are any coupons out there (and of course use Ebates!).

As with any other purchase I have made with Lands End, it was very easy. Their site is easy to navigate, their shopping cart well laid out, the process simple. My purchase was on my front step in about a week. The whole purchasing and shipping process is exactly the same as with Lands End – easy, efficient, reliable, professional.

Now to the important part… the clothes! I wish I didn’t wait to try Canvas by Lands End, I was so utterly impressed!

Fit: The fit is pretty true to size, some pieces being a tad generous.

The Fit and Flare Dress I could almost carry off in a size 12, the waist and skirt were a tad big and long. The white knit top part is thick and opaque, the skirt is a nice weight of cotton sateen that has a bit of stiffness (and the dress has pockets!). I decided to not keep the dress because the waistline hits at a weird place on me – not empire, not standard. It hits at a place on my body that looks a bit like maternity wear. It wasn’t as bad when I added a belt, but it still was too much volume at that part of my torso. However if I were thinner and could wear a smaller size with my same height/frame I think the dress would be adorable.

The Heritage Oxford Shirt is perfect in a size 14. It is exactly what I wanted – looks like a classic oxford, but shaped for a woman. And that woman is me. It nipped in a bit at the waist but didn’t pull at the bust, and I didn’t find the arms to be too tight. It is the standard light blue, buttons at the collar as well as down the front. Rolling the sleeves three times made it the perfect length for a casual look. I have paired it with jeans for hanging around the house, and tucked it into a dark denim pencil skirt for a look that would be nice for work, and was great for a baby shower I attended this weekend. I rarely purchase button-down shirts because they never seem to fit well, this is a lovely exception. I am seriously thinking of getting another one in pink.

The Poplin Skirt fit as I hoped it would – the 12 was a tad snug but wearable, the 14 more comfortable, especially if I was to tuck in a top. I would find this fit to be similar to Gap in that regard. The poplin is light and airy, but with enough layers to have total modesty, even if standing in front of a light. The skirt is well made and utterly adorable… if I had a different figure. The skirt is full, and totally inappropriate for my body type. Too bad, because it’s super duper cute!

The Striped Sailor Tee is the other item I am keeping. I was shocked to find that the tee runs very large – I could probably fit into a medium with no problem. Because of it’s loose fit and longer length (mid-hip), it isn’t the fitted tee I imagined to be tucked into a poplin skirt. But then, I am not really one to wear a tee tucked into a poplin skirt! I have worn it with narrow jeans and really like the look. The knit is very thick yet soft and when thrown in the washer and dryer, it came out looking exactly the same and there was zero shrinkage.

Final verdict? Lands End Canvas is fabulous! It’s like Lands End’s slightly younger, hipper little sister. The pieces are classics with a trendy twist. I think I have found my new favorite place for trendy wardrobe classics!

Note: This review is not sponsored by Lands End. I was not contacted by them, I chose to do this review on my own free will, and was not compensated in any manner.

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?

Lands End Canvas – My Recent Purchases

With my recent weight loss I am finding that most of my spring clothes do not fit. I have been slowly buying staples, hoping I don’t have to spend much but find pieces that will work with the warmer weather, but also be versatile and classic. As you know, I had a meh experience with Ann Taylor LOFT. I recently tried another brand I found success with in the past – Lands’ End Canvas.

Last year I ordered a pleated skirt from Canvas and found it to be well-made but not a flattering style. That skirt had a drop waist, this one has a softly gathered skirt that flares straight from the waist. With that change, I figured it was worth checking out. I got the Persimmon Stripe, imagining it with a chambray shirt, a crisp white shirt, a scoop tee in navy or even a dark green, a brown leather belt and wedge sandals.

This skirt is exactly what I thought it would be. It is fully lined, two layers of soft cotton voile that float but don’t stick out in an unattractive manner. The color is true on your computer. I ordered a 12 and it fit perfectly, even a bit generous. The length was also perfect – came right to the top of my knee. You know how much I love pockets, well this skirt has pockets but they are practically invisible when not in use, not adding bulk to the silhouette. It is so refreshing to order an item that is exactly like what you see online.

However, I am not keeping this skirt. Though it is utterly adorable and well-made, it’s not a silhouette that flatters my body. Though I like the look head-on, I think the additional fullness isn’t too flattering to my rear or mama pooch. It’s not the skirt’s fault, it’s just a bad personal choice.

I purchased the Lands End Canvas Heritage Oxford almost a year ago and still adore it (wearing it today while writing this!). It’s one of the few button-down shirts I have found in a long time that fits my body right off the hanger. It’s a shrunken fit that isn’t too tight, can dress down with jeans or be tucked into a pencil skirt for a great work look. A few months ago I ordered a different button-down from Canvas and didn’t feel the love – it just seemed to be cut strangely. Well this spring I decided I needed a white shirt in my wardrobe and since this shirt was on sale, I figured I’d give this shirt a chance.

It isn’t what I expected. The shirt is very thin, very soft cotton. It has a safari feel to it with the pockets and semi-sheer fabric. Though the fabric is pretty sheer, you can’t see a skin-colored tee shirt bra underneath, and it doesn’t cling to the skin so it’s still quite modest and wearable sans camisole. I ordered a size Large, it fits great – no gap at the bust, no pulling at the shoulders, but it nips in a little bit at the waist for a feminine silhouette.

It’s a very relaxed style; this weekend I rolled the sleeves, unbuttoned three buttons and wore it untucked with vintage jeans. I can also see it being tucked in to a pencil skirt of dark stretch denim or olive canvas, giving an old-school Banana Republic sort of vibe.

I was imagining wearing it with the Pleated Pattern Skirt when I ordered it; it is not the right fabric or silhouette, but it doesn’t really matter since I’m not keeping the skirt!

Sort of a short review, but I am trying to be frugal with my purchases. However with the return of the skirt (which is now on sale but wasn’t when I ordered it), I may be able to check out the Chambray Officer Shirt so I can get my chambray fit for the season!

Have you ordered from Lands End Canvas? What do you think of their line?

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What I Wore: Bandana Badass

Tee: Leith | Jacket: ASOS (similar) | Bandana: Vision Street Wear (similar) | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Vince Camuto

The bandana is back this season, and it gives me an opportunity to pull out some oldies but goodies like this one from Vision Street Wear. It’s always fun to take something old from the wardrobe and give it a new life with new trends.

Though my cast is off, my arm is still healing and my hand isn’t strong enough to perform many daily tasks.  Clothing is still best when it’s a bit loose, but I’m liking jackets because they cover the still healing scar and provide some protection.  Adding the jacket and the bandana make me feel less like an invalid and more like a badass!

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Lands’ End Spring 2012 – What I’m Loving

Many catalogs arrive in my mailbox, and many of them go straight into the recycling bin without flipping a page. However, when the Lands’ End catalog arrives, it always gets a view. For years I have trusted Lands’ End to provide quality, classic pieces at reasonable pricepoints. They have petite and women sizes, great colors, and phenomenal customer service. And each spring, I dog-ear at least a dozen pages. These are my dog-ear-worthy pieces from their recent catalog:

I may be a curvy, soft woman over 30, but that doesn’t mean I want a dowdy swimsuit. I like to wear something that flatters the figure, lets me play in the surf or pool with my daughter, but also make me look stylish… and yes a bit sexy. This suit does it all.

Detachable straps so you can have a sexy strapless suit, add the straps traditionally for a classic look, or cross the straps in back for a more secure suit for bodysurfing or playing with the kids. Soft cups and hook closure in back supports the bust and keeps the suit from sliding down. Shirring, gold hardware detail, and distracting yet on-trend print flatters the figure. Available in sizes 2-18, from past experience I have found Lands’ End suits to run a hair big so go down a size from what you wear in a dress.

About a decade ago, I took a black Lands’ End Beach Living tankini on a vacation to Jamaica. I wore it tubing, under clothes when zip lining, wore it in a waterfall, on the beach, in the pool. Came home, the suit accidently went with all the other vacation laundry into the washer on hot, and a long trip in the dryer. The suit came out looking exactly as it did when it arrived in my mailbox two weeks prior. A few years later, that same suit went with me on our honeymoon to Costa Rica where again it dealt with sand, salt, chlorine, and extreme activities. And still through the years and wear, the suit looked like new. So I know if I want another hard-working suit, I can rely on Lands’ End.

Their Beach Living series is always a great combination of different styles of bottoms, tops, and one-pieces in fun and classic colors and prints; this season had me gasp with their choices. You know I love orange and pink, well both colors are available this year in solids and some fun prints like Riveria Rose Floral and Watermelon Sorbet Dot. The V-neck One Piece reminds of the Lands’ End Canvas halter one-piece I own and adore; the twist and v-neck tankini tops look so stylish yet supportive, and I love the variety of bottoms so I can have something that covers the tummy but still has a stylish leg-lengthening leg opening. Don’t be surprised to see me in the Riveria Rose Floral or Watermelon Sorbet this summer!

I have a 15-year old Lands’ End tee that I can still wear in social situations for it has not pilled, faded, or stretched out with wear and washings. When I want quality tees in flattering silhouettes and fun colors, I know I can rely on Lands’ End; this season they have come out with some pretty cool silhouettes.

The Narrow V-neck has an extremely flattering neckline that is more polished than your standard v-neck; the Smocked Split-neck Shell is a feminine alternative to a tank with details that would make it even appropriate as a shell under a blazer; the Draped Scoopneck is a touch more refined and feminine than a standard scoopneck, and has the slightly longer sleeves that are so flattering. White the Flowered Soft V-neck isn’t my personal style, I think it’s pretty and a quality alternative to similar tees sold at other brands for a better price and better selection of colors.

I adore striped tees – they are a budget-friendly way to add a trend to your wardrobe, and look more polished than standard solid-colored knits. I own the Lands’ End Sailor Tee and love the quality, heavy weight, and classic lines. I have the Ivory/True Navy combo, but now desire the True Navy/Ivory combo to pair with pink cropped jeans, a floral full skirt, or a yellow pencil skirt.

The Striped Boatneck Top is such a flattering silhouette – the Washed Chambray Stripe would be lovely under a navy blazer with white jeans, or even with a bright mango or pink twill skirt. I am really digging their new Short Sleeve Drapeneck – the Ivory/Mushroom Stripe is a subtle print that would look amazing tucked into a printed pleated skirt, with cropped jeans and a blazer, or just with a pair of city shorts and wedge sandals for a casual weekend.

On Twitter, someone mentioned how light colored denim can be so unflattering, and said my suggestion of NYDJ for quality heavyweight denim was out of her pricerange. Lands’ End also offers quality denim for a much nicer price. These white cropped jeans are stylish, trendy, and less than $50. Available in regular and petite sizes 2-18, I have found their denim to run a bit big and go a size down from what I wear at retailers such as Gap and Ann Taylor.

Yesterday I was reading in Bazaar about how feminine shirtdresses are back in style – full skirts, feminine prints, lady-like touches. An hour later, I see this shirtdress in the Lands’ End catalog. Available in chambray and madras, this dress would look so chic with some espadrille wedges and a wide leather or jute belt.

Cotton/linen blend to stay cool on the most humid summer day, smocked back for a good fit. I love the mid-calf length which looks great with flip flops or proper shoes, for a trip to the farmers market or to an evening poolside soirée. While I wish it was available in more colors, I can see myself wearing it in white with a black leather belt, black heeled sandals and a big silver cuff.

While they may remind you of TOMS, these simple canvas shoe is a classic style that has been around far longer than that brand. What makes these shoes special is the memory foam sockliner and shock-absorbing EVA outsole. The Navy Seersucker would be an adorable choice to pair with most any color in your wardrobe – white jeans and a red tee, green cotton sundress, yellow cropped jeans and a white tank, hot pink floral frock.

I own this, I love this, and my set looks practically brand new, even after five years of machine washing, tumble drying, and heavy wear. Each year, Lands’ End makes these classic pieces even better, and this spring’s color choices make me consider purchasing another set – Phipps Orange is adorable and would look amazing with crisp white pants, similar watercolor brights like candy pink and leaf green, or even denim and chambray.

I don’t wear flats, I think they make my short and fat feet look even more short and fat. However, come summer I do a lot more walking and don’t want to go everywhere in heels. Last weekend I met with friends and one was wearing a peeptoe flat that was so flattering and classic, it made me consider a similar shoe for the warmer months. I think these flats are adorable in the Chambray Fabric, and would extremely versatile and comfortable.

Have you received the recent Lands’ End catalog? Any pieces you like, any you don’t?

Note: I was not paid by Lands’ End for this post, they do not know I am writing it. I chose to write it because I know you readers look for quality, budget-friendly brands that cater to a variety of sizes and shapes of women, and I feel Lands’ End fits the bill.

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End of Week

my wardrobe todaymy wardrobe today So I never got to Target to get a new mirror. I know the quality of these full-length shots suck… hopefully I can remedy the situation this week.

This is me on Wednesday. Blue print matte jersey wrap dress from Ann Taylor, red patent leather t-strap sandals from Sofft.

On Thursday, I wore my cobalt and gold print jersey top from Nordstrom with black ponte trousers from Old Navy.

Friday I wore Essential jeans, white ribbed tank and my gray and yellow striped cashmere blend cardigan – all from Gap.

Friday was me and my husband’s Five Year anniversary. He sent me a dozen roses to work which was so sweet and nice after such long stressful weeks. I actually got off work early and we headed to our favorite sushi restaurant for their Happy Hour. We picked up Emerson from my mom’s and headed home. My husband bought a bottle of port because he read that is what you are supposed to drink for five years. We each had a glass with some awesome super dark chocolate and watched Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. Emerson got sleepy so we put her to bed, had ourselves a lovely bubble bath in our newish bathroom, another glass of port and talked for hours. Then early to bed. I think it was the most romantic and lovely anniversary we have had since getting married. Who says you can’t have romance with a kid? :)

Great Deal – Lands Ends

Lands End almost never goes on sale. There are never promos for a percentage off if you spend a certain amount, there aren’t outlet stores in every strip mall across the country, they usually carry simple basics at standard, reasonable prices season after season.

Well they are having a sale.

Why am I telling you this? Lands End is boring polos and chinos, right?

Well of course they carry safe standards, but they have some amazing staples that could honestly fit in the wardrobe of every woman, no matter their personal style. They have some of the best prices on good quality cashmere. On top of it, the prices are great and the quality is amazing. They also carry Petite, Tall and Plus sizes. If you aren’t satisfied, their return policy is liberal and simple. If you are looking for some deals on summer clothes, I encourage you to check out their website or latest catalog. Some of my favorites:

Washable Linen Walking Shorts and 2-Button Jacket:

A real shorts suit that is work appropriate! Both pieces would also look lovely on their own, and it doesn’t hurt that this is linen that can be laundered! Be careful, the shorts have slash front pockets so if you carry a tummy, you may want to either pass or have the pockets sewn shut once you receive them to maintain a clean line.

White Eyelet Bikini:
How utterly adorable and retro is this? At the price of Target, but the quality found at a higher-end department store. Owning Lands End bathing suits, I can attest to the fact that they fit well, they don’t stretch out, fade easily, wear well (have had one for five years of rough beach and pool usage). White is a surprisingly flattering bathing suit color, even on us fair-skinned maidens and this style is sexy without being too revealing.

Denim Jacket:
I love the feminine shape and all the details. This is the type of jacket you can throw over a ribbed tank or tee with a pair of pants and look pulled together. The chest pockets are high enough and small enough that they won’t add bulk to your breasts, and the dark color works in all seasons. Um, and the price? Gorgeous! A great jacket to have in the office, at the front door, at the ready for a slight breeze or an outfit pick-me-up.

Mesh Eyelet Classic Non-padded Underwire Bra and Panties:
How pretty is this? I never knew that Lands End carried such delicate and feminine undergarments! If the quality of these are anywhere as good as that of their clothing, this $19.99 bra is a STEAL!

Montauk Floral Stand-up Collar Caftan:
Why cover up in an old tee shirt when you can have such a glorious print for such a glorious price? This is long enough to be well covered and appropriate in boardwalk cafes and shops, yet the lightweight cotton poplin won’t stick to your damp skin. We often choose simple black and navy suits, this is a wonderful compliment to such a suit. I can see it with a big white tote, large black plastic sunglasses and flops, the wearer walking along the shore looking quite elegant and fun.

Washable Linen Bias Dress:
A beautiful and simple dress that is perfect for almost every summer occasion. Dress up with heels and pearls for a wedding, with sandals and a wooden bangle for a shower or church. Fine Irish linen and the white is fully lined… this is the type of dress that can be in your wardrobe for years to come.

Candy Paisley V-Neck Tank Swimsuit:

Why stick with boring black? With a suit this flattering and in such a variety of sizes (Long Torso, D-Cup, Sizes 6-18), and SPF 50 fabric to boot, why wouldn’t you try it? Wrap/surplice styles are flattering on almost every shape, and the leg openings are conservative enough to feel comfortable, but not dowdy. The straps do not look adjustable, but look easy enough to trim and resew at the back.

Long Sleeve Solid No Iron EasyStretch Shirt:

$29.99 for a classic piece that truly is no-iron. I had one of these when I had a job that required me to wear a white button-down shirt. Throw it in the wash, toss it in the dryer, shove it in a suitcase, a quick blast of the hair dryer will remove any wrinkles and you look crisp all day. I do feel the shirt runs a bit roomier than my personal preference so if you are between sizes, I encourage you to go a size down. But this is true for most of Lands End garments.

3/4 Sleeve Pattern Poplin Pintuck Tunic Shirt:

With white Bermuda shorts or wider-cut linen capris, with white bootcut jeans, with linen or poplin trousers… this shirt is easy, breezy, the pattern is crisp and elegant… this is an easy item to throw on with white and maybe silver hoops for an evening get together at a friend’s house, or dress up with linen pants and a few skinny silver bangle bracelets for a day at work. I usually shy away from prints – they are hard to wear and often make you look larger. However in the summer, rules can often be broken and it jsut seems right. As long as the bottom is very simple and clean, it can be a lovely look on most people.

Back to the Land of the Living

Brown merino v-neck from The Gap, brown and cream and pink tweed trousers from Ann Taylor (that have the most adorable pink lining!), brown snakeskin pumps. Silve cuff and hoops. No flash or flair, just clothes to cover myself. I am not quite 100% back to normal, but I needed to go put out fires at the office.

On the face is i.d. Bare Escentuals foundation and concealer, the Body Shop Shimmer cube – light on the lid, the second darkest in the crease. Black mascara. A touch of Nars Orgam on the cheeks, and the toffee colored gloss from Sally Hansen. Enough makeup to not make me look like death warmed over.

I hope to be much more sassy come tomorrow!

#ShareAMeal and Help End Child Hunger

This past month I co-led the first meeting of our town’s new Girl Scout Daisies troop. While I may be busy with the blog and work, I feel it’s important to dedicate time to my daughter and other girls in our town and help them become caring, responsible members of the community. I remember my years as a Girl Scout – while it was a ton of fun, it also opened my eyes to all the different lives that girls my age lived. It’s never too early to educate children on show kids how they can help others and make a positive impact on their community and this world as a whole.

1 in 5 kids in america don't know where their next meal is coming from

Sixteen million children in the United States don’t get enough food. That’s enough children to fill 18,000 school buses and 223 football stadiums – and often you’d never be able to tell it by looking at them. These children could be in your town and maybe even in your neighborhood. Hunger can take its toll on everything, from their immune system, oral health and academic and social development. I don’t think it’s too early to educate Emerson and her fellow Daisies on the fact that she has classmates, neighbors, and even fellow Daisies who may sometimes go to bed hungry. And it’s not too early to teach them how they can help.

37 US states reported more than 20 percent children in food insecure households

When SheKnows and Uniliver informed me of Project Sunlight, I asked to be part of their campaign so I could share it on my blog. Launched in November of 2013, Project Sunlight is an initiative from Unilever that is focused on encouraging people to create a brighter future for children – by taking small steps to live sustainably, use less and share even more. Unilever Project Sunlight believes a future is possible where every child has a healthy and happy childhood and it was natural for this mission to extend to another important cause – child hunger in America. Unilever Project Sunlight believes that even the smallest act – whether it’s sharing a meal, donating time or money, or volunteering – can make a difference when multiplied over time and help build a brighter future for children.

22 million children in the US rely on food stamps as their primary resource to acquire food

Unilever has partnered with Feeding America, which serves more than 12 million children every year. By teaming up with organizations like this, Unilever is better able to help in the effort to improve the health and well-being of families and children in need across the country. With the help of Feeding America’s vast network of 200 food banks nationwide, Unilever has been able to contribute nearly 30 million meals to families and children over the past five years.

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Mahatma Gandhi was quoted with saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and it’s a great way to see your value in this life. You CAN make a difference, your decision to be that change WILL create the change in the world. And when it comes to childhood hunger, you CAN be a positive change for this world, and quite easily. For some ideas on how to help, I encourage you to click this link to view or download an incredibly useful toolkit from Unilevel Project Sunlight that provides a ton of ways to be involved in a manner that fits your life, your budget, your comfort level. From facts on child hunger to links to #ShareAMeal, this PDF can help you turn the tables on child hunger. We will be using this resource as a family and as a troop to be the change we wish to see in the world and do our part to end child hunger. And I’d love you to make the comments of this post an additional resource – share ways you have helped end hunger in your community, your experiences with food insecurity, ways people can make the change they wish to see in this world regarding child hunger.

About SheKnows’ Hatch, the Hatch Hunger Project and Unilever Project Sunlight:
SheKnows’ Hatch teamed with Unilever Project Sunlight to help families build awareness and take action around child hunger in America. The facts are startling: 16 million kids living in the United States don’t know where their next meal is coming from. That equates to one in every five children – enough to fill 18,000 school buses and 223 football stadiums. On average, those who live in food-insecure households have only $36.50 to spend on groceries every week. That means that 80 percent of children may not understand the everyday struggle their peers – many of whom could be their own friends or neighbors – confront when there’s not enough food on the table. The Hatch Hunger and Project Sunlight video and workshop aims to create empathy by showing kids what it means to shop for healthy, filling meals for an entire week on a thrifty budget. It teaches important math and teamwork skills. Finally, it is about action, empowering kids to have a positive impact on their community to Share A Meal with a family in need and donating food and canned goods to local food banks.

Friday: End of Season

Top: Ann Taylor (similar)
Jeans: c/o Lisa Holt, CAbi (similar)
Shoes: Vince Camuto
Bracelets: cuff (similar), UTAC
Hoops: Nordstrom (similar)
Bag: HOBO (similar)
Lipstick: NARS Heat Wave

Labor Day has come and gone, my white jeans have been packed away (I’m old school and will wear ivory and winter white but not true white pants this late in the year), and I feel that these neon yellow cropped jeans are ready to also be packed up. Don’t get me wrong, I think that neon can continue into the fall, but to have a summery fabric AND silhouette in one piece… well I just think wearing them after this week is trying too hard to hold on to the past. I won’t be wearing scarves and tall boots, snuggling up to my Pumpkin Spice Latte quite yet, but I think it’s time for transitional clothing. Whether I like it or not and whether or not it’s hot out, it’s September and fall is coming.

Any great plans for the weekend? We have another photo shoot tomorrow, and Sunday I am excited to have breakfast with my best friend. Life has been so incredibly hectic lately, I feel as though I haven’t seen her in eons and friendships cannot thrive over email and texts. She recently left the law practice she worked at to go on her own and I am so excited for and proud of her for it… can’t wait to toast her over some coffee and diner food! Then after that, K and I are going to see The Jesus and Mary Chain at 9:30… I wish I still had my Doc Martens from high school for that show!

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End of Week Recap

You guys know I adore Ann Taylor LOFT clothing, well they now know it too! Check me out on LOFT’s Facebook page and be sure to check out the other fabulous bloggers they have featured (and if you leave a comment it would be very lovely…). There will be more photos in the future of me and other bloggers, so check back in a couple of weeks!

While we’re discussing LOFT, they currently have 30% off everything in their stores and online (use code GOFORIT)! I found the selection of sizes online to be a bit lacking, but ordered some jeans and a sweater and am crossing my fingers that I have style success. My last order with them was about 70% success, and 30% in a bag ready to be returned this weekend, however I have had more success with them this season than I have had in years. Good job LOFT in having more consistent sizing and achieving on-trend fashion with a usually budget-friendly pricetag.

And while we are discussing sales, Lands End Canvas is currently having an additional 20% off all their sale merchandise and free shipping on orders over $50! Use Promotion Code CANVASPLUS20 and PIN 2050.

My cousin Samara is in college, studying Fashion Design. She is tres stylish, and also tres talented! She just started a brand of adorable wrap charm bracelets called Ribbonwood by Samara. Check out her Facebook page for more pictures of the beauties and to find out how to score yourself one. I can totally see this as a staple in my summer wardrobe with sundresses and sandals!

I thought I had been journaling my daily outfit a long time, but this blogger has me beat! Seven years and counting, though I don’t think there is a book deal yet… enjoy!

It has been an interest week for Internet news – if you follow me on Twitter you know my opinion on Marie Claire’s choice to run that blog post by Maura Kelly, what I think of sides like Weardrobe and Chictopia, and the baby who died due to Farmville. I really feel that every blogger in the world has written enough on the subject (some because they really have strong feelings, others in a sad attempt for hits and SEO) that I don’t need to.

Weight Watchers has been a bit of a bust the past two weeks – work has been utterly insane (that morning I decided to shower and lay out my clothes the night before and instead woke at 4:15 but it was still painful when that alarm went off), and I have missed two weeks of meetings because of late days in the office. I don’t own a scale (and never will – I find a scale causes me to obsess over a number and not health). I have made a promise to myself to get back on track and go to my meeting next week no matter what.

It’s Halloween weekend, what are your plans? Have a great costume set up? We plan on taking Emerson Trick or Treating Sunday, and Saturday night we’re going to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show (and yes, we had this planned far in advance of this week’s Glee episode)! I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

End of Last Week

Sorry I have been missing from here. Life has been pretty hectic to put it mildly. Work is sooo busy, living with three dogs is not the same as living with one, there have been non-work activities taking place… etc.

So anyway, here’s outfits from Thursday and Friday last week…


Talbots – Orange and brown print matte jersey dress
Sofft – Brown suede Mary Janes
J. Crew – Gold necklace
Ralph Lauren – Gold bangles
Ann Taylor – Gold hoops

Hair & Makeup:
(no pic of hair and makeup)
Hair washed and conditioned night before
Matrix Curl.Life Contouring Milk
Air dry overnight
Next morning, large sections in curling iron

Typical makeup with the Revlon ColorStay shadow quad (made it a daytime version of smoky eye), Benefit lipstick in Bouquet Dive, Cargo Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife and my Cover Girl LashBlast mascara.


Banana Republic – Black cashmere puff sleeve sweater, black jersey cami underneath
Old Navy – Black ponte trousers
Ann Taylor – Black stretchy belt with patent leather buckle
David Tate – Black leather city boots
Silver hoops and cuff

Next day, cleaned up a bit with curling iron in sections and finger-combed

L’Oreal – True Match foundation in C3
Stila – Illuminated Tinted Moisturizer (the two mixed togther), Lip Glaze in Fruit Cake
Nars – Blush in Orgasm
Pop Beauty – Shadow palette for Brown Eyes

True Fashionista: Year-end Recap

What started as a concept just for the month of September has become one of my favorite features on Wardrobe Oxygen. The True Fashionista series takes place every Friday and features a woman I know through the Internet or in real life who inspires me with her personal style.

While I have many more True Fashionistas scheduled to post, I didn’t want any of these fabulous women’s stories get lost in the holiday shuffle. Instead, I thought this would be a great time to revisit the amazing women who have shared their personal style and thoughts on fashion and style with us. Click on their image to revisit their profile:

I learn so much from you fellow readers – do let me know what bloggers inspire you, who you find to be unique, a True Fashionista. You never know, I very well may feature them in the near future!

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When Have Steve Maddens Become High-End?

Steve Madden, Nine West, and Bakers. These brands helped me achieve “Trendy Status” through college, and assisted in building what I believed to be an “adult” shoe wardrobe right out of school. I knew I could go to these stores and find variations of what was on the runway, made a bit younger-looking, and a heck of a lot cheaper. I remember working at a mall in Maryland that had a Nine West downstairs from my store. I was a visual merchandiser, I had to travel with a supervisor to stores in the region. I needed to look good. The manager of Nine West gave me 10% off and I bought three pairs of shoes – a great pair of tall black boots, some leopard print pony-hair platforms and gold strappy heels. The total came to a hair above $125 for all three and I thought I was going to have a coronary for spending so much on shoes all at once. Now this was 1999, but prices have not skyrocketed that much.

My 30th birthday. My sister planned a night out in the city for me and my closest friends. I went shopping and got a pair of fabulous designer jeans, a cool sparkly top, and went to Nine West to find some amazing snakeskin pumps that I wear to this day. The shoes were probably $65 at most. I had spent so much on the rest of the outfit, I knew I had to be frugal with the shoes so I walked right past the Nordstrom shoe department and headed to my local mall’s Nine West (which is right down the hall from Bakers).

Today, September 2006. I am looking at Nordstrom online for a pair of round-toed black pumps to match my full skirts and black opaque tights. And I see THESE. Yes, they are fun, yes the upper and lining are both suede/leather but STILL! $150 for a pair of shoes from Steve Madden? Steven may be their high end line (I find pairs from this brand way under $50 at Off Broadway and DSW), but I believe $150 for a pair of shoes from a designer who brought me my stacked rubber-soled platform sandals of college with the giant buckles and white stitching, and the winter version of loafers with a 3” rubber platform sole to tromp through dirty snow on campus… well it just seems wrong. Very wrong. Call me a shoe snob, but I will save $150 for a pair of high-quality shoes from a high-quality designer.

Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?

Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?

I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?

Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Current Sales and Giveaways – Shop and Save!

I don’t usually write about sales since I have many international readers, but there are some REALLY good deals going on right now (and a cool giveaway too!):

LOFT and Ann Taylor: 40% Friends and Family
40% off your entire purchase (including sale) in stores and online for both LOFT and Ann Taylor – use code FRIENDS at checkout. Starts today and continues through November 13, 2011

Lands End: 25% off Outerwear and Free Shipping
Ends TODAY (November 9, 2011) To get the discount online, use code SHIPOUTERWEAR and PIN 2198

Lands End and Lands End Canvas: 25% Friends and Family and Free Shipping
25% off site-wide, including Lands End Canvas, and free shipping, no minimum. Code: FAMILY SAVE and PIN: 1142. Runs from November 10 – 15, 2011.

Talbots: 50% off Jackets and Outerwear and Free Shipping No Minimum
This promotion ends TODAY – works on all full-price jackets and outerwear, including vests.  Use code COLD.

Hobo International: Win a Lomo Bag and an iPad!
“Like” Hobo International on Facebook and enter their giveaway. When it asks how you heard about the giveaway, say you learned about it from Wardrobe Oxygen! Contest ends December 9, 2011

Hobo International: Sample Sale
Live in the Annapolis, Maryland area? Hobo International is having a sample sale at their Annapolis headquarters November 19th and 20th 10:00am – 6:00pm I went last year and got some amazing deals on beautiful leather bags, wallets, and belts (see here). Get there early, a line starts to get in! Hobo International is located at 9025 Junction Drive, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701

Nordstrom: Half-Yearly Sale
They seem to be adding new things almost daily, so check often. Nordstrom now has free shipping and free returns, which makes it easy for those of you not near a store to take advantage of the deals!

Do you know of any other great deals taking place now? Please share with others in the comments below!

Note: By mentioning me as the referral with the Hobo International contest I too may win the bag and iPad; by mentioning the Lands End Friends & Family I may be able to win a $25 gift card. I doubt I will get either because I didn’t race to share this info, but wanted to keep you on the up-and-up!

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