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Scrimp or Splurge – What’s Your Number?

scrimp or splurge

Tuesday’s post about white tee shirts got me thinking. I believe we all have a number, that price we won’t cross for certain items for our closet. I often read interviews with style icons and they’ll say how they scrimp for X but splurge for Y, and often I feel the complete opposite about those items. That our numbers are personal based upon our age, our figure, our lifestyle, our budget. They are as unique as our personal styles.

While I wouldn’t have spent over $30 for a tee shirt two years ago (maybe $45 if striped or embellished), I now obviously will drop $80 for a plain white v-neck to stop the hunt and finally be satisfied. I couldn’t imagine spending more than $75 on a pair of jeans (but owned over a dozen pairs), but now don’t even blink at a $100 pricetag; though I now only own a handful of pairs.

On the other hand, some things I won’t pay as much for now that I used to. I can recall putting designer wool and leather coats on layaway because I considered them a worthy investment; now I buy my coats on clearance in the spring and don’t care the label inside as long as I like how it looks on me. Most of my makeup bag contents are from CVS, and I’ve learned some natural budget-friendly products like witch hazel, coconut oil, and jojoba oil do just as well as the high-end skincare lines.

The part missing from the tee shirt conversation was lifestyle and budget. What are the white tee shirts worn for, and how much can you spend on clothing in general? For some people $150 is a drop in the bucket, for others it’s the food budget for a month. For some, a white tee shirt is a piece of fashion as important as an It Bag or designer jeans while others just see it as what they slip on under their sweaters or wear on weekends with shorts.

So I ask you, what are your numbers? What’s the max you’d pay for a pair of jeans? A winter coat? A pair of tall boots? A handbag?  A dress to wear to a wedding or gala event? Where do you scrimp and where do you splurge? I know there’s such a variety of people who read this blog, this conversation would be interesting to highlight your unique lives and personal styles, but also help me know what to share on Wardrobe Oxygen in the future!

Why Would Someone Pay $150 for a White Tee Shirt?

expensive tee shirt designer worth the price

When some things become popular I really wonder what trendsetters were smoking. This is especially true when commonplace things have a fancy name slapped on them and they’re suddenly worth $500. I’m not going to spend my hard-earned money to advertise YOUR brand, especially if I can find similar at Target for a bundle less. This is how I have felt about tee shirts for a long while. Somehow, that which was purchased from Hanes or Fruit of the Loom is now worth $150 just because some hot designer decided to add it to his collection. No thank you.

When I was in college, my favorite v-neck (when you’re short and busty, v-necks are a godsend) came in a two-pack from Kmart and did just fine. When they got grubby, I’d bleach them, and replace them when they started to yellow. They were a classic, and looked great with my grunge, then preppy/minimalist aesthetic. After college, I was a visual merchandiser for Express and fell hard for their “Metro” v-neck tees. Does anyone else remember these beauties? I had them in a rainbow of colors, but a half dozen in white (the ones from the Mariana Islands were a bit thinner but still opaque and had a better fit over my curves. Yeah, I was that much of a fan of these tees). For my early ‘30s I bounced around budget-friendly retailers and nicer brands found at Marshalls and TJ Maxx. Most of these tees would last a season at most. When I switched to a desk job, I found white tees at my corporate attire stores; Ann Taylor was often where I’d find tees of high quality, though not always the best fit.

And here I am, a couple months from 40 and I’m realizing I have spent a boatload of money on white tee shirts that have never satisfied. Too thin, too tight, too boxy, too stretchy, not stretchy enough, just plain wrong. Hrm, maybe there is something to that $150 “perfect” tee shirt. If it truly IS perfect, it could end up saving me money in the long run. I’m no longer a sloppy young kid who will destroy my tee shirt at a bar crawl or tailgate, I’ll keep the cheap tees for weekends but would like an awesome white tee for concerts, to wear under jackets, to pair with a sequined pencil or taffeta ball skirt. You know, that casually cool tee that looks perfectly worn and slouches in just that right way.

The Tees I Tried:

So I did my own white tee shirt science experiment, trying on and ordering over a dozen different shirts ranging in price to see if I could find my Tee Shirt Holy Grail and if a fancy brand and crazy pricetag does make for a better shirt. I originally planned to share each tee and rate it, but I learned from this process that a simple tee shirt is a very personal purchase. Like a pair of jeans or a tee shirt bra, what is Holy Grail for one is incredibly awful for the other. But what I did learn:

  • Price Does NOT Equal Quality. I was horrified by the quality of some of the pricier tee shirts. J Brand and James Perse both surprised me by the mediocre quality and construction for the price, especially after reading rave reviews from some of my favorite bloggers. An Old Navy Vintage V-neck, if you removed the tag, could be mistaken for many of the $60 – $90 tees I tried, showing that you don’t need a fancy label to get a good tee shirt.However, more expensive tee shirts more often than not had features that made them worth the money, and provide a better fit. Some had back seams, which really improved fit for my curvy figure. Some had no seams, which gave a more refined look and trimmer fit. A big place I noticed the difference was in sleeve length and width; more expensive tees had attention to detail and better fit in this area. Shoulders fit and didn’t just round into sleeves, necklines were made with care, not too wide or low but still a flattering and modern cut. A lot of them had cotton blends that made them drape better or have a different finish (for example this tee from A.L.C. was blended with cashmere, which helps explain the higher price).
  • Don’t Assume You Know Your Size. I wear a 12/14 and I have a large chest. Many of the brands known for expensive/fancy tees I knew didn’t sell clothing in my size, so I assumed their Large would be equivalent to an 8/10. For example, rag & bone’s Large is supposedly a 10/12 yet I found is almost too big for me (the Medium fit but too tight for my comfort). What is slouchy loose on a tall willowy model may be the perfectly not too fitted tee for a shorter curvy woman.
  • Just Because It’s a Tee Doesn’t Mean You Can Abuse It. Whether it’s from Target or T by Alexander Wang, if it’s a Holy Grail tee for you, treat it like fine silk. These aren’t your father’s Fruit of the Looms, they’re a thinner cotton, often a blend, cut specifically to glide over a woman’s curves or slouch in just the right way. Throw them in a machine and let them tumble dry and no matter the cost you may end up with a misshapen dish rag. I recommend washing in a lingerie bag and letting air dry. If like me you don’t have room for a drying rack, do NOT line dry your tee. It will grow and likely end up with bumps in the shoulders. I take two pant hangers and fold it over both of them so it balances the weight and doesn’t end up with bends. Once dry, it can handle a couple minutes in the dryer to soften and get rid of any wrinkles.
  • Tee Shirt Bras Exist for a Reason. The current trend of tees is thin and broken-in, which can make a tee a bit transparent. A nude-to-you tee shirt bra (my favorite one), free of lace and decoration can become virtually invisible even under slub knits.
  • Know Your Tee’s Purpose. There’s tees to wear to the gym, tees to wear gardening or cleaning out the garage, tees to wear to your friend’s house with leggings and an oversized flannel shirt to watch movies. But then there’s tees that can replace a going out top for a night at a bar, tees you wear under a blazer for Sunday brunch or a casual office place, and tees you wear to dress down a more glamorous piece like a sequined jacket or my previously mentioned taffeta ball skirt. Know WHY you need such a tee shirt in your wardrobe before you shop so you get the right fit, neckline, and opacity.
  • No One Needs a $150 Shirt. Seriously, if you’re perfectly happy with the tees your currently own, don’t go trying on designer tee shirts. Your life will be perfectly lovely and stylish without having one in your wardrobe.  One thing I did learn from reading the reviews on tee shirts during this process is how people shop for all the wrong reasons.  Just because you own the tee shirt that your favorite actress or blogger owns doesn’t mean you will look the same in it, or carry it off with the same panache.  Just because a certain brand is in your wardrobe doesn’t mean you’re fashionable.  It’s okay to be inspired by another person, but you will never be fashionable if you’re purchasing to imitate another or to impress with pricepoint or brand.  Style comes from knowing yourself and dressing the part, if you feel a tee shirt over a certain pricepoint is utterly ridiculous no matter the fit, that’s knowing your personal style.  Stick to that, be true to yourself, and your style will shine.
  • As for me, I ended up buying two white tee shirts:

  • rag & bone “Classic V” (size Large) $80.00 – This isn’t tight, but it’s not sloppy or boxy. It’s sheer, but you can’t see my nude tee shirt bra (or belly button or the mole on my back) through it. It’s longer, which makes it easy to tuck in, but it seems to gather/slouch on my hips far better than any other long tee I’ve tried. The V is the perfect length for me (I was looking for a going out tee, not something that would be worn to work). The shoulders and sleeves fit perfectly, and the back seam gives the whole shirt a better drape and fit.
  • Free People Shredded Muscle Tee  (size Large, but I was tempted to size down to Medium and would if it was a darker color) $58.00 – This is a novelty tee for me, I mean who really NEEDS a shirt riddled with holes? I bought it at the end of August and loved it untucked with distressed denim shorts and my silver Birkenstocks for weekends, but now that it has gotten colder I’ve paired with slim jeans and booties for a night out with the girls, and also wore under a blazer for brunch and loved how the distressed tee contrasted with a traditional jacket. This is boxy, but the neck fits nicely (no need to stretch it out like I have to with so many crewnecks yet doesn’t fall off the shoulder), you can’t see my bra when I raise my arms, and it’s thin without being Saran wrap.
  • And now I’d love to hear from you, how much have you paid for a tee shirt? And if you’ve found your Holy Grail tee, please share in the comments along with your general body type. Your Holy Grail very well may be the tee another reader has been looking for all her life!

    Ask Allie: Durable Commuter Bags

    I have been finding it a challenge to find a work tote/satchel that can handle all of my work items (iPad, shoes, book, and occasionally lunch) without having the handles break. I am preparing to take my latest two off to the great purse surgeon for some love and repair and am wondering if you can recommend a great tote/satchel for work that can carry all of the above and handle the weight of it all? I’d like to stick to a price tag of no greater than $200.

    Some things I think are worth the price – well-crafted tall leather boots, a winter coat, and a work tote. It’s very hard to find a decent tote that can handle wear and tear without looking like crap. Honestly, few bags can carry all that on a regular basis and survive nicely unless you purchase a heavy-duty tote. While I recommend a black tote for business, for your commute a bag like the L.L. Bean Boat and Tote or Lands’ End Canvas Tote is a brilliant choice since it will hold up with a lot of weight, wear, and tear and won’t be worn outside of the commute. The version with elongated straps will fit over your shoulder even if you have on a heavy winter coat, and they have options with open or zip tops and storage compartments. Choosing a darker color will be better for public transportation and city life as these totes can’t be thrown in the washer and do best when spot cleaned.

    I often carry multiple bags instead of stuffing my work totes to preserve their condition and shape, but it’s still great to have a bag that doesn’t look sloppy and can carry both your Kindle and your bottle of water without bursting at the seams. My two favorite work totes were both purchased on sale and would have been over $200 otherwise.

    However, price doesn’t equal a good work tote – you want to look for heavy straps that are sewn into the body of the bag (even better if they wrap around the body of the bag), metal feet to protect the bottom of the bag, and a bit of structure so it keeps it shape over years and random contents. The two bags I have are leather with leather straps, fully lined, and one has a center dividing compartment which keeps the shape and structure of the bag, even when seated on a table or the floor. While a crossbody can seem convenient, I find that if you plan on stuffing a bag, a crossbody can be hard to carry, dig into your shoulder, and put far too much wear on the straps.

    The bags I suggest below have not been seen in person and I cannot vouch for their quality and appropriateness; their style and fabrication lead me to believe they would be good choices and are all around $200:

    Love the canvas boat bags but yearn for something more polished? Lands’ End has you covered with this brown leather tote with brass feet and organizing interior pockets. Reviews are positive and show owners use it for everything from hauling books back to the library to packing for a trip. Supple leather, classic design, smart styling and less than $200!

    No frills, but who needs them when you’re trying to cart your work essentials via mass transit? Plenty of pockets, full grain leather, and a variety of subtle shades make this a great commuting tote. The reviews are positive and seems many use this to lug around heavy 17” laptops with no issue. A classic style and less than $90 makes this bag a great option.

    The best thing about this tote are the straps that continue through the body of the bag – this will keep your straps in one piece far longer. Generously sized, and fun yet work-friendly fabrics and colors. Currently on sale for less than $140 and free shipping.

    I have a Brahmin and can attest to the fact that they are sturdy, well-made bags. My tote has a thin crossbody strap but easily supports a bag full of heavy things like leftovers and bottled water. Though the straps aren’t sewn deep into the body of the bag, they are wider at the bottom and secured all the way around for a strong foundation. Metal feet, interior organizing pockets, and a variety of conservative and fun colors make this a great work bag. While it is a bit over $200, it’s a classic style that should give you years of wear and is polished enough to use for corporate meetings and conferences and work travel. In fact, if you’re interested in splurging, the larger ‘Melbourne Large Anytime’ tote has a padded compartment inside just for your iPad.

    I feel inauthentic recommending a brand I wore strapped above my fanny in the ‘80s, but LeSportsac is known for high-quality, sturdy, and lightweight bags that last forever. The Travel Tote is famous for being the perfect tote you didn’t know you needed. Lightweight, durable, expandable, and not covered with overly visible logos or prints, this is a LeSportsac that can fit with most any personal style and will comfortably carry everything from your gym clothes to your netbook with ease. Less than $100, and many say they are still happily using the same LeSportsace Travel Tote that they purchased over a decade prior.

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    Style with Substance: Karen Kane

    One of the best parts of blogging is getting to know brands on a different level. Not just a label in a boutique or department store, you learn the story behind the name, their purpose, their history, and sometimes, they become friends.

    I heard of Karen Kane before I started blogging, it was a brand I’d see at the mall, just like all the other garments wearing some woman’s name. The alliteration was catchy, I figured it was made up to represent the ideal customer for the brand. But thanks to my blog I got to know that Karen Kane is a real woman who cares for and designs for fellow real women.

    karen kane history

    A little Karen Kane history, learn more at this link

    Karen Kane has been a California Girl since she was 9 years old, attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in LA, and after graduation got a job as a pattern maker for a sportswear company. In 1979 Karen and her husband Lonnie begin the clothing brand Karen Kane out of their garage. After just one year the company reaches $1 million in sales. In 1986, their son Michael was born. To combine work and personal life, they brought Michael to work with them every day. Michael is now the Director of Marketing and the super nice person I work with when partnering with the brand (he even “likes” my Facebook page!). Karen and Lonnie still run the business. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to work with a company that sees me as a person, not just a blog, and who understands how Wardrobe Oxygen’s readers are different from another blog with different interests and needs.

    karen kane blog love

    My favorite Karen Kane outfits that have been featured on Wardrobe Oxygen

    Before many other brands, in 1999 Karen Kane launched a Women’s division after hearing requests from their customers. And as of 2013, over 95% of Karen Kane’s collection is manufactured right here in the United States. The clothes are high quality, comfortable, true California style with a touch of femininity and sex appeal. Many of my wardrobe favorites, such as this dress, these pants, this dress, and this jumpsuit (sorry for the bad photo, I’ll have to do an outfit post in it soon, they still have it in stock!) are from Karen Kane.

    This season I’m admiring the Studded Wrap Dress, Safari Jacket, Gold Sequin Front Dress, and can’t wait for this spring when Karen Kane will be offering jewelry and hats! I know I will be adding more Karen Kane to my closet this season and for many seasons to come.

    I had a Small Business Saturday series before my surgery, but since then have realized how I love many brands who aren’t small but still have heart. I’m changing this series to Style with Substance and will be featuring brands who offer great fashion with great ethics or goals.

    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!

    A Brow Beating: Reclaiming My Eyebrows

    Above, you can see my brows in their natural glory, never before waxed or plucked or powdered. I never did anything with my brows, they seemed fine to me.  Cut to Junior year of college when I went to visit my Sophomore-year roommate at her new apartment. She was always so stylish and well groomed and as soon as I walked in the door she exclaimed, “Those brows have GOT to go!” For an hour, we sat facing one another on the living room floor next to the sliding glass door for natural light as she tweezed by brows into oblivion. It was 1995, the era of the pencil-thin brows and she made me look modern and quite groomed. I’ll admit, I sobbed when I got home and saw 90% of my brows were gone, but within a week I felt tres chic and kept my brows waxed into crisp perfection for many years after.

    And now it’s 2014 and everyone wants thick brows a la Cara Delevingne. For those who have only been waxing, threading, or tweezing for a couple years you likely have an easy time getting back to a more natural look. But for those of us who have been removing brow hair for decades may find it’s hard to change our brow style with the trends. Though I am only 39, I find the grow-out phase for my brows slow-going, and I will likely never regain the thick rectangles of brows seen in the photos above.

    Therefore, I am working with what I have, and looking for products to enhance, groom, darken, and give the look of a fuller brow without looking painted-on crazypants. What I have tried, and what I have liked?

    Maybelline Great Lash Mascara (clear) and Brow Powder
    In the past I swore by dark brown Maybelline brow powder; I can’t tell you the name because the lid is missing, the back label has faded away, and when on travel it’s wrapped in foil to prevent coating everything with brown dust. I’d apply it with a Trish McEvoy brow brush, which was stiff enough to give a natural look but soft enough to not have brow powder all over my face. Once applied, I’d hold the color and brows in place with Maybelline Great Lash Mascara in clear. I did this combination for over a decade; it filled in light spots, it made my brows look a bit longer on the outer edges, and it held up well enough. However, it wasn’t enough to get the very sculpted and thick brows that are hot this season and anyway I was ready to buy a new product and toss the ratty old powder compact!

    Anastasia Beauty Express
    This seemed like perfection – powder for color, wax to groom, a brush to do it all, stencils to help me have a crisp modern shape and even a shadow to enhance my brow bone! The Petite Arch stencil seemed like the best fit and even used it to know which stray hairs to tweeze but keep the fullness. I used this kit for a couple weeks. I asked friends what they thought of my brows and they said they looked fine, but I kept looking at myself in the mirror and feeling like a Muppet. So I asked the most honest person I know, Karl. He said he was glad I asked because he thought my brows looked fake and angry. I tried the other stencil shapes, I tried the product sans stencil, but without the stencils the powder wasn’t any different from my old Maybelline method. So I moved on.  But do know, this is a pretty spectacular product and a nice price; check it out somewhere like Sephora where you can try out the stencils before purchasing.

    Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Brow Mousse
    I read about it on one blog, found a beauty vlogger use it on YouTube, read online reviews and thought this may be just what I was looking for. It’s a creamy waxy product, sort of like a pot of liner, and it comes with its own spooly groomer/brush combo. No stencils, no fancy tips on creating perfect brows. I use the brush that comes with it, pat it into the pot and then start in the middle of my brow to draw the outer edge towards my hair. I then go to the inner half near my nose and do a combo of smooth line and feathering to add thickness and a natural look. The product sets after a couple of minutes and doesn’t budge all day, even if you wipe sweat off your brow or get caught in a rainstorm or anything else. I also find the color (I chose Medium Brown) to look quite natural.


    What do you feel about the latest brow trend? What product/s are you using to groom and shape your brows?

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    The Bandana is Back!

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

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

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

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

     

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

     

     

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

     

     

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

     

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

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

     

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

     

     

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

     

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    The Return of an Old Friend

    I guess everything does come back in style if you wait long enough.

    Anyone remember Generra? Hot brand of the 1980s most famous for creating the much loved Hypercolor shirts. I remember Generra well; my family was too poor for name brands and I found a yellow canvas pullover with lots of grommets and drawstrings and New Wave embellishments at a yard sale for 75 cents. Though yellow has never been my color and the top was at least two sizes too big, I wore that thing every week because I owned a popular label.

    Generra, Outback Red, Benneton, Esprit, Guess?, Forenza… brands that were as much a necessity to a young girl in the 80s as a Liz Claiborne purse and matching wallet. How is it that brands like these that were such a hot commodity ended up being fodder for discount superstores and cheesy mail order fashion catalogs? Who decides when a brand is hot, or when it is not?

    Many of these oldies yet goodies have tried to make a comeback. Heck it works for hair bands, why not for the clothes that complimented the Aqua Net? Gloria Vanderbilt and Jordache had their fifteen minutes of fame a couple of seasons ago. We saw the return of jelly shoes, clear vinyl bags, high waists, neon colors, even mullets.

    But Generra? They aren’t having just fifteen minutes of campy fame. They are back, and they are far better than ever. Every hot boutique online and in town has a few of their pieces, there is even an in-store Generra boutique at Henri Bendel. This isn’t a flash in the pan, Generra has slowing been taking over the past couple of years, being seen on the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Alexandra and Theodora Richards and also having their moment at New York Fashion Week 2007.

    I like it when brands make a comeback. I may not purchase Lacoste, Burberry, Generra or Le Tigre, but I admire their tenacity and impressive marketing skills. I find Generra’s new line to be a bit too utilitarian for my tastes, both in cut and color; but am excited to see an old friend back up on the runway. Now I just need to dig through my mom’s attic to see if I can find that yellow canvas pullover with the grommets…

    Little Bits of Luxury: The Series

    With age comes wisdom. It’s taken a while, but I have learned to truly buy quality instead of quantity. I unsubscribed from most retail emails so I am not wooed by 50% off (if I didn’t need it at full price, I don’t need it now), I rarely enter a mall because I know myself and I will leave at least $100 poorer with bags full of things I don’t need and will likely collect dust. When I visit a store like Target or TJ Maxx I have a written shopping list that will be a visible reminder to stay on track. And in the past year, when I have added to my closet I have looked for what I can remove – to store for the future, to donate, to sell, to admit defeat and cut up into rags.

    And the things I purchase are better quality too. Now I am no Martha Stewart, so for me quality is likely Nine West, Etsy, L’Oreal. But I have learned it’s not about the name on the label, but how the piece works with my life and performs in the long run. Be it bras, BB cream, baking dishes, or boots I research, save, and buy the best within my budget. This also goes for luxury items (and items that are luxurious just to me). I have never admitted being a minimalist, and with age I have learned that some luxury items just make life better (and are far kinder to the body than cupcakes and nachos). I’ve also learned that luxury can come at all pricepoints, and some of the best indulgences are quite kind to my wallet.

    I’ve found that series on this blog are some of my most popular posts on Wardrobe Oxygen. And so my newest series will feature little luxuries I indulge in, and how I budget for them, and why they are worth it. I hope you enjoy!





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    What I Wore: Real Red

    Dress: Belle c/o Dobbin Clothing | Bag: “Erin” Satchel c/o Fossil | Tights: Nordstrom | Boots: Ros Hommerson  | Bracelets: had forever, Nordstrom (similar) | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Coat: Via Spiga

    Fossil was kind enough to send me this bag and I immediately fell in love with the color. It’s not cherry, it’s not tomato, it’s not ruby or oxblood or any other fancy terms. It’s as clear and true of a red as a crayon. I checked the bag’s label and it’s called Real Red. I like that, no crazy made-up name, just what is exactly is. This bag is pretty phenomenal, and perfect for a commuter like me. Two side zipper pockets to hold things like farecards and lip balm, and inside there is a zipper pocket on one side, and the other side five different pockets to hold anything from a Smartphone or your keys to business cards and a pack of gum. And in this bag I have my wallet, Kindle (did you enter my Kindle giveaway?), makeup bag, myAgenda, sunglasses, gloves, journal, and two reusable containers to hold my lunch. Impressive! The crossbody strap is adjustable to become a shoulderbag, or it can be removed. I know this bag is going to be used quite a lot this season!

    I never understand why street style models and bloggers wear their coats on their shoulders like a cape.  How can they move their arms?  Why not just put on the coat?  Then I realized on cold days I do this very thing – I wear the coat like a cape from the house and over my shoulders until Karl gets ready to take pictures.  This way my outfit doesn’t get as rumpled and I’m less likely to mess up my hair.  Karl got this picture of me in the coat at the beginning of the shoot and it showcases the coat I bought last winter on a whim and still adore a year later (and it’s still available at Nordstrom and now on sale!).

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    What I Wore: Issa for Banana Republic

    I’m not a fan of designer collaborations. I don’t understand clamoring for a cheaper version of a designer piece. I don’t want a glued-together pleather bag or ill-fitting polyester blouse no matter what name is on the label. However, once the Issa Collection came out for Banana Republic I was intrigued. Banana Republic already has good quality and fits me relatively well, and the pieces in the collection were things I would buy no matter the designer. I liked the kimono dresses, and felt this print was one I would wear now and five years from now, in spring and in winter. For those considering this dress, I chose a 14, and yes, they do run short (it’s veering on not work appropriate and I am 5’3″). However it’s made extremely well, a heavy matte jersey that feels good and is a style that I think would work if I gained or lost weight. And you know me, I waited until it was on sale, Banana Republic was having a big sale, and I had reward dollars!

    And how great is this bracelet? Wearing gold jewelery? No problem! Silver? No problem! Everything goes with this piece from Ruth Barzel, and I love that it’s rock and roll while still being elegant. I’ve been wearing this bracelet a ton lately (check my Instagram for proof), I like it mixed with other bracelets, but with such a bold dress, I felt it looked best all by itself.

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    Learning from Jennifer Aniston: Sticking to and Defining Your Personal Style

    Jennifer Aniston in Dior at the UK premiere of the movie, We’re The Millers.

    I think many of us saw Jennifer Aniston earlier this month in this Dior frock, and I think many of us thought the same thing – pretty woman, pretty dress, but the combination just seemed wrong somehow. I couldn’t completely figure out why until I was watching Fashion Police this weekend, Joan Rivers said the dress was too young for Aniston… and she’s partially right.

    Jennifer Aniston has a smokin’ bod. Drool-worthy hair. Skin and a face that is in great condition, firm, elastic, practically ageless. She could rock a itty bitty bikini, she can slay a bodycon dress that hardly covers her rear end… but a full fit and flare style with flowers just felt too young.

    However, the other thing is that Aniston for years has created a defined personal style of clean lines, solid neutrals; a relaxed and beachy yet polished aesthetic. For her to show up in something feminine, floral, and a bit frilly was confusing to her fans and contradictory to the personal style she worked so hard to perfect.

    As I get older, I realize it’s important to constantly refine your personal style. With age, life experiences, and body changes it’s important to consider your wardrobe and be sure it truly matches the current you. It may be a change of color story, a different hem length, the addition of bolder accessories (or more subtle jewelry). I reassess each season – I pack up the previous season, pull out my current wardrobe for the weather and try everything on and see if it not only fits my body, but also fits my personality.

    Previous movie premiere and event outfits worn by Jennifer Aniston

    I’d understand if Jennifer Aniston was bored with her standard uniform and wanted to switch it up. In fact, Aniston has mentioned in recent interviews that she feels the need to get out of her style rut. Maybe she’s also realizing that with time it’s important to refine your personal style. However, this Dior dress was such a departure from her regular style that it made people question not just her personal style but her personal life. Having a clear personal style helps others understand you, when you veer drastically from it, it can make others wonder if you know yourself or are comfortable with yourself.

    I’m one who tires quickly of a uniform. After weeks of tailored clothing I yearn for something slouchy, I swear I will pare down my color story and then NEED to wear all the colors of the rainbow at once. I wouldn’t expect anyone ever to sacrifice fun, spontaneity, and creativity for personal style. But a slow, thoughtful transition makes more sense.

    Previous red carpet looks worn by Jennifer Aniston

    I think about makeover shows like What Not to Wear and How Do I Look. Have you ever seen the episodes where they check in with previous guests? More often than not, the guest has gone back at least partially to their original personal style. It’s not that they didn’t feel fabulous in their new clothes, but it’s that it’s too quick and drastic of a change to immediately adopt.

    I don’t believe that a certain trend is only for a certain age group. Heck, I often use Jennifer Aniston as an example of someone who dresses for herself, not her driver’s license. A 44-year old woman can wear whatever she damn well pleases, be it knee-length neutrals or a puffy floral skater skirt. It’s only an issue when the woman doesn’t know herself, doesn’t dress for herself. Now maybe Jennifer Aniston has secretly been a cabbage rose fan all this time and has hidden it under neutrals, gold, and well-fitting jeans… but interviews with her state otherwise.

    “I pretty much have my uniform. A boyfriend jean, a wedge, a tank top. At night, I change the tank top to black and add some chains. Even on the red carpet, it has to be comfortable. I usually try to get some form of a T-shirt that looks like a gown. Like a longer tank top. A tank top, but with glitter on it.”
                                    – Jennifer Aniston, Glamour, September 2013

    I can remember being the type of woman who swore against skirts and imagined getting married in a sexy Le Smoking and a bustier and now I own just a handful of trousers. A couple years ago my closet resembled a bag of Skittles and now it’s more black and gray with pops of color. My style has had hits… and it has had misses, but through it all I realized that each time I veer too drastically and quickly from my personal style it has never gone well. That time, testing, and thought is the best way to find personal style, be it new or an update.

    What to learn from Jennifer Aniston? That even if you can wear it and like it, it may not be the best choice. That who you are is far more important than what you wear. That your personal style does matter, and it helps the world understand who you are. Clothing can be armor, clothing can be fantasy, clothing can be a mood booster, an aphrodisiac, a way to show respect… but clothing is also your calling card and your elevator speech. Represent yourself well, and represent yourself as properly as possible.

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    Recent Beauty Buys: Creating a Natural “No Makeup” Look

    Come summer, I feel like an idiot rocking shimmery shadows, high-pigment lips and airbrushed skin. Warm weather is a time when freckles and a flush is apropos, but as I age I find it less possible to achieve a natural “no makeup makeup” look with just a little dab of concealer and tinted lip balm. Though I am fastidious with sunscreen and moisturizer, my previous bad habits (hello, my name is Alison and I am an ex-tanaholic) have still left their calling card all over my face and I need a bit of help to look fresh.

    This summer I dabbled in a few products to look fresh, polished but not too polished. Products that didn’t try to make me look ten year younger, but possibly would make my skin look less damaged from sun and fun. Some were a waste of money, some were pretty darn decent.


    Miracle Skin Transformer SPF 20 Face
    If Helena Christensen says some skincare product is the shizz and it doesn’t have a Le Mer pricetag, I’m willing to try it. This product is a primer, moisturizer, sunscreen, and color all in one but it’s not like any BB Cream I have tried. The formula is thicker, dryer, and the coverage can be increased with additional layers without looking greasy or heavy.  It actually survives a day with humidity, sweat, and my greasy T-zone.

    This won’t give you flawless skin, but I like it better than a BB or CC Cream for coverage, natural non-shiny finish, and longevity. It’s a great weekend product, and I like it with concealer and then flushed cheeks and bold lips.

    Note: I ordered Medium and find it to be a good choice for my skintone.

    Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circles “Neutralizer”
    I reviewed this before and raved about it, but a few of your comments said the packaging is crap. I am on my third tube of this concealer and I have to agree. My second tube was only half used when it completely broke while I was in New York. I couldn’t get it to spin, I couldn’t eek out any more product. Sadly, I purchased two tubes at the same time so I still had one unopened to use.

    I’m using that last tube, and it drives me batty. The packaging cracked, so you will click for more product and nothing happens. If you press down and spin it will click, but it cracks the packaging even more making me feel I only have a few more wears before it too is completely broken. Great formula, good coverage, but packaging so crappy it’s not worth it to purchase.

    Revlon Illuminance Creme Shadow – Not Just Nudes
    I’m not skilled with the makeups. All I know is from a couple years as a trainer for The Body Shop, and two amazing makeup artists (one Chanel, one Trish McEvoy) who took the time to teach me carefully while I sat at their counter (and thereby spent half a paycheck). Cream shadows and blushes are things I have tried and failed at. Too complicated, too easy to go wrong, harder to blend, easier to crease. But when I was researching the best shadows for aging lids, I saw so many artists recommend creams.

    My 38-year old lids are much better with cream shadows than my 28-year old lids, and my 38-year old lids love this quad from Revlon. Some have a tiny hint of shimmer – not enough to look like a disco ball but enough to look dewy. The others are sparkle-free, but the cream formula keeps it from looking dowdy. I can pat this on almost-nude skin, but it also looks polished for the work day. I odn’t find it creases, though it does fade after a few hours.

    Revlon Photoready Cream Blush in Coral Reef
    As I mentioned, cream blush is another product I found too complicated but with age I am understanding the benefit. Powders look more obvious now that I have drier skin, larger pores, and fine lines. I already caught myself often adding a bit of flush with lipsticks and tinted lip balms, I felt an actual cream blush may be a better formulation.

    When I was in NYC for the Foxcroft shoot, I learned a lot from the makeup artists. One thing I saw was that you could use extremely bold colors for a soft natural look. She used a very bright blush on me, but with a light hand so it looked natural. Coral Reef looked to be a similar color, and is that not-too-cool of a shade that I find flattering (I usually wear NARS Orgasm blush).

    First application… I looked feverish. Second application… very clown-like. Third time’s the charm. I applied it by tapping my fingers gently in the pot, then tapping gently on the apples of my cheeks, and then softly blending. I can then add more for a bolder look. This makes for a far more natural flush, and one that looks good on bare or almost-bare skin. I apply it under any powder or wear on its own – it is far better than lipsticks and tinted balms because there isn’t any smeary greasy feel and it holds well all day long.

    Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette
    I know, I know, you all have had this shadow set for 50,000 years and where have I been? Well I’ve been perfectly content with Revlon Colorstay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis… until Revlon went and discontinued it. I have bought every other neutral quad from Revlon and I find them too gray, too yellow, too pale, too dark. So I decided to get what is considered the best.

    And it’s the best I have tried. The colors are perfect for creating a polished “nude” eye, amping up with a bit of contour, or a subtle daytime-friendly smoky eye. There’s a matte black shadow in the kit that could make your smoky eye dramatic enough for evening, but I have only used it so far as a liner. But yeah, I like every color in the palette and wish I bought this sooner.

    nanoblur
    Sarah of StyleIt mentioned she saw this cult fave in Duane Reade so I went looking for it and found it at Drugstore.com. Loved across the pond for its ability to airbrush skin without color, I wanted to try it and see if it would hide pores and fine lines without looking made up.

    The instructions say nanoblur can be worn on bare skin or over foundation. On bare skin it works… okay. The consistency is a bit like toothpaste or wood filler and you need to pat, not rub. Rub, and you get weird white sticky ick on your skin that you need to rub like crazy to make it go away. But dabbing a teensy bit at a time and you can really blur out wrinkles and pores on bare skin, and cover with a bit of powder for a natural look.

    Over foundation… I just can’t get it to work. It balls up, it’s visible, it feels gross, it won’t pat in and the rubbing makes the same mess as on bare skin. Maybe it needs a special applicator or technique, I’m not patient enough to figure it out.

    Boots No7 Photo Fix Wrinkle Filler & Primer
    I was scraping the last bit of primer out of my Smashbox tube and was wondering if there was a product on the market just as good but not as pricey. This primer from Boots received a lot of good reviews and I have enjoyed other products from the line so I decided to give it a try.

    I hate to say this now because it’s only a month, but I think I like Boots’ primer better than Smashbox. It dries faster, it seems to blur the skin and improve its look even without foundation, and it doesn’t feel heavy. Not too shabby!

    Mary Kay TimeWise Body™ Targeted-Action® Toning Lotion
    The fabulous Rebecca Pruett reached out to me asking if I’d like to try a product from Mary Kay. Showing more skin in the warmer weather, I am noticing the loss of elasticity in my aging skin. I asked to try TimeWise Body™ Targeted-Action® Toning Lotion… and wow I really like it. I still apply Neutrogena Body Oil after my shower, but when my skin has dried I apply this as well, focusing on my arms and legs. Karl really likes the scent and he doesn’t like most fragranced lotions. I like that it absorbs quickly and I think does help firm up the skin a bit.  I think places like my knees look better after using this for a few weeks.  I like this enough that when it runs out I will be getting more.  It’s not sticky, the scent isn’t so strong it competes with my perfume, but you can smell it’s rose/citrus/clean scent if up close (and it doesn’t smell grody or overwhelming when your body heats up).  Not really no-makeup makeup look, but it does make my skin look better and feel more comfortable shedding layers this season.

    Cover Girl LashBlast Clump Crusher
    You know me, I am always on the hunt for the perfect mascara. While DiorShow is almost Holy Grail, the price is just not possible for me. After reading multiple rave reviews I decided to try Clump Crusher… and I am a fan.

    This is a really great mascara for the no-makeup makeup look because it really does crush clumps, giving you long, thick, lush lashes that don’t look sticky. It’s easy to layer for more impact, it survives sweat and the occasional tear-inducing viral video at lunchtime yet washes off easily with my evening cleanser.

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    Sites that Inspire Me

    I love me some personal style blogs, but there’s two blogs that regularly inspire me, get me thinking, and have me pondering my style more than others:

    The Coveteur
    I love this site so much, I subscribe by email so the newsletter and updates come to me right away (most sites I view via a reader – currently Feedly). The Coveteur features celebrities, models, musicians, and those in the fashion industry. More often than not, they visit the individual’s home, do a bit of an interview, and take a bunch of pictures of their fashion and accessories with their home as the backdrop.

    While I doubt I could ever afford an arsenal of Chanel bags or floor to ceiling shelves of Manolos, I find these features inspiring because these are individuals who have true personal style, who dress for themselves and not for others. They mix high end with thrifted pieces and hand me downs, they adore their Chucks as much as their Jimmy Choos, and you get small peeks into their book collection or how they organize their closet. And while these individuals usually have enough money to have closets overflowing with garments, they show how they have favorites, pieces they are loyal to and wear past their hot season, styles they buy in bulk, colors and silhouettes they continue to gravitate towards.

    There’s plenty of eye candy and quite a lot of shoe porn, but there’s the underlying message that style comes from who you are, not how much you own. Defining your style, buying with care and thought, choosing quality over quantity, and letting your heart and soul shine through with your fashion choices.

    While some features I find to be a disappointment (Kelly Osbourne I hope you let them return and feature your actual home with more of your wardrobe), others give me more respect for the individual and his or her personal style. The Coveteur doesn’t just feature the young and fabulous, they have such a variety of subjects – corporate bigwigs, style icons, restaurateurs, DJs, models, writers, reality show stars, rappers, editors, celebrity stylists, artists, bloggers, costume designers, jewelry designers and more.

    Into The Gloss
    How does Courtney Love keep her skin looking so amazing considering her lifestyle the past couple of decades? What is in Anna Sui’s medicine cabinet? How did Laura Mercier transition from makeup artist to creating her own successful beauty line? How does one become a highly-coveted perfumer like Francis Kurkdjian? Into the Gloss interviews beauty insiders and beauty fanatics to find out what makes them tick, and what makes their skin look so fabulous.

    From peeks into the daily life of a fragrance designer or beauty mogul, to the skincare routines of super models and actresses, Into The Gloss gives an in-depth view of cosmetics, how they are used, how they inspire, and how they create a lifestyle for so many. While many of the products mentioned are completely out of my pricerange, like The Coveteur it is interesting and inspiring to see beautiful people find beauty routines that they love and trust. To see the mix of Le Mer with Neutrogena with natural ingredients with techniques passed down for generations.

    While fashion is fun, and personal style helps define you, your body is something you wear every day and deserves care, pampering, and protection. Into The Gloss reminds me that a solid skincare and beauty routine trumps any pair of shoes in one’s closet.


    Do you have any sites or blogs that regularly inspire you? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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    My Wardrobe Today – Wednesday

    Cardigan - Ann Taylor (similar)
    Blouse - White House | Black Market (similar)
    Pants - LOFT (similar)
    Belt – Ann Taylor (similar)
    BootsCole Haan “Air Talia”

    You know those days where you wish you could go to work in your pajamas? Yeah, today is one of those days. Thanks goodness for ponte, which is work-appropriate yet as cozy as yoga pants. And this cardigan was an impulse purchase from the clearance rack last year that has totally been worth the money. I wore it this weekend with a white tank and a cobalt crinkled gauze oblong scarf with jeans, and have worn it to work several other times.

    I have been dealing with a cold off an on for about a week – it has been tough to shake because it seems each time I get well, Emerson gets sniffly. This morning, my husband woke up coughing and sneezing so it looks as though it will make another cycle through the Gary household. Le sigh.

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    How to Be Stylish on a Budget

    The most popular question I receive is how to be stylish and look great when you don’t have a lot of money. I don’t believe that money equals style. Think of style like a college education. Jane gets a full scholarship to State U, Sara’s parents fund her entire four years at the same college, and Amy works full-time and takes classes when her schedule and budget permits. All three get degrees, all three have to work equally hard in the classes to get that degree, they just fund it in different ways. Your style can happen no matter your income level, it just may take a bit more time or a bit more effort and creativity.

    Here’s some of my tried and true tips to be stylish and look great, no matter your budget.

    Don’t Buy a Fake
    If you can’t afford a real Birkin, don’t buy a fake one. That means don’t buy those faux designer bags that are sold on street corners in the city, and don’t buy bags from lower-end designers that are trying desperately to look like another. No monogrammed fabric, no padlocks, no trends replicated right off the runway.

    This also goes for shoes and accessories. If you can’t afford the original, don’t buy a cheap copy. You are an original, make sure your style is as well. The only place where I think it’s okay to wear fake is when it comes to fur. Fake fur can be done well and can be darn fun, but don’t try to fool anyone with a floor-length faux mink!

    Follow the Trends
    No need to subscribe to every magazine under the sun and watch livestream of New York Fashion Week, but be aware of designer fashion. Know what the hot designers are featuring each season so you can stay one step ahead in translating it. Not only will this help you avoid fakes, it will help you understand how to style unique pieces and mix prints and colors in a modern manner.

    Most fashion magazines do a web-based recap after each Fashion Week showing what trends were hot and what designers showed those trends. In these slideshows of 30 – 300 images, you’ll see the underlying themes of the upcoming season, be it a certain print, heel height, fabric, skirt silhouette, or lipstick color. This is also a great time to use Pinterest – follow Pinners who are knowledgeable about fashion and see what they pin the week after Fashion Week. See what appeals to you, and what is feasible to add to your wardrobe considering your lifestyle and budget.

    Shop for Need not for Want
    Shopping feels good. The ego is boosted when you put on a new dress. The idea of something new takes the stress off a first date or a job interview. I get it, I know, and I do it often. The thing is, when you shop, even if it’s for $5 clearance earrings, you’re taking away money that could be used for something better. Consider the Return on Investment (ROI) on each thing you buy, even if it’s 99 cents. Don’t buy just to buy, don’t buy to feel better. Buy to fill wardrobe holes and to look better today and a year from today.

    Focus on Fit
    One reason big box clothing is cheaper than designer is because more are made at once. The piles of fabric are higher when they are cut for the pattern, which can cause pieces to be different sizes. This is why sometimes a jacket has one sleeve a bit tighter or one pant leg a hair longer. Also, vanity sizing is more common in lower-cost stores.

    Because of these two things, it’s imperative to try things on before you buy. Same dress and a 10 may fit but a 14 may be too small. Ignore the size on the label and if in doubt, buy a bit too big. It’s easier to style something a bit big than make a too-small piece look polished, and many simple alterations can be done at a reasonable price by your local dry cleaner.

    And with everything, when you have the money, hit the tailor.  A tailor can make a clearance rack find look like a custom piece!

    Choose Solids
    This is my most controversial tip, but I stand behind it. A solid black dress will look more expensive than a floral. A solid blue top will be more classic than a plaid. Prints can look dated quickly. Prints can fade if not done well. Lower-priced garments often try to replicate runway prints and we already went over wearing fakes. Also, lower-priced prints aren’t as likely to be matched up, making the cheaper fabrication far more obvious.

    Don’t Buy Any Old Fabric
    I don’t buy 100% cotton shirts from lower-priced retailers because the cotton is often rough and more likely to wrinkle just if you look at it. I don’t purchase cashmere or cashmere blends from discount shops because the gauge is usually so low it’s transparent or else balls up and pills within an hour of wearing. Don’t just assume all fabrics are made the same; some are just better when purchased from reputable and higher-end brands. That being said, jersey knits, matte jersey, merino wool, ponte knit, chambray, polyester and blends are usually just fine at a lower price point.

    Shop outside your Comfort Zone
    You know where I do find budget-friendly cotton shirts? Lands’ End. Their prices are reasonable, their quality is stellar, and you can do returns at Sears. Lately I have received quite a few fab dresses from Gwynnie Bee and have been surprised to see they are from Coldwater Creek, a shop I previously considered to be “mom clothes.” My point is that there’s more out there than you may assume. Use blogs and Pinterest to learn about new retailers, Google them to see their ratings, and if they have a good return policy or a store nearby give them a try. You never know, the one item you have desperately needed may be for sale there and at a very nice price!

    Baby your Purchases
    Polish your shoes and get them reheeled and resoled when needed. Follow the laundry instructions. Hang up after wearing, don’t throw on the floor. Spot clean instead of laundering after every wear. Iron and steam to have pieces look like new after being worn or washed. Mend fallen hems, keep a jar of spare buttons so you can easily find and replace when necessary. It doesn’t matter if it cost $10 or $100, if you care for it, it will look better and last longer.

    Quality not Quantity
    You don’t need a completely different outfit for every day of the month. You don’t need 10 pairs of $1 Old Navy flip flops, a dozen pairs of jeans, or even three purses. Style comes from choosing wardrobe additions thoughtfully. Not only that, if you didn’t buy 10 pairs of $30 jeans, you could afford a pair of $100 jeans and have them professionally tailored to the right length and to prevent gaping at the waist.

    When it comes to quality, it can honestly be found at any pricepoint. One of the most versatile dresses in my wardrobe was $39.99 at Target; I bought it four years ago and still get compliments each time I wear it. My favorite denim shorts are Mossimo and I self-distressed (using this video as a guide) to make them look old and cool and expensive. Thrift stores are always a goldmine, but so are your neighborhood big box retailers.

    For more tips, check out:

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    True Fashionista: Cammila

    There are some bloggers that I just get attached to. A combination of their personal style, their blog voice, the peeks into their life… they become not just fashion inspiration but virtual buddies. That is how I would describe Cammila from the blog Dressed Up Like a Lady. I used to follow her blog, somehow lost her, found her again, and have loved catching up via her blog and Instagram. Over the years, Cammila’s personal style has evolved, but still with the same underlying themes. She knows her body, she knows her style, she has a unique perspective, and that is why I consider her a True Fashionista.

    Cammila’s style on Dressed Up Like a Lady makes me think of how my style could have gone if I had a different college experience. In high school I was partial to what I would call feminine androgyny with parts of may head shaved, mixing masculine with feminine, grungy rock star with current girly trends. In Cammila’s style I see how that look could have evolved with time and current trends.

    Cammilla’s inspiration is pretty clear in her ensembles as well as her poses. She and her husband MC are writers, they’re in a band together, Cammila is a major movie geek (one of my favorite recent posts about cinematic style) and all of this is seen though her choice of clothing and styling of her wardrobe. Heck, it was even clear in their fabulous wedding which took place this past summer. I love when she breaks down her style inspiration with images of retro advertisements or music videos; that added detail really helps one understand her sartorial message.

    Cammila’s lean dancer’s figure is the complete opposite of mine, yet I am regularly inspired by her combinations and often think to her ensembles when creating weekend and social ensembles. Cammilla has the effortless ability to mix hippie with rock star, vintage with modern, casual with fancy; she regularly inspires me to also think outside the box . Also, as the temps are below freezing in many parts of the country, it’s great to see bloggers like Cammila show their cold-weather style and how they honestly dress each day.

    Cammila makes fashion fun and is proof that you can have a clear and defined personal style without breaking the bank. I asked her to answer the same five questions I ask of every True Fashionista, here are her answers:

    How would you describe your personal style?
    A sexy, androgynous, 11 ft. tall badass rock star, locked in a borderline-uncomfortable embrace with a tasteful, feminine sophisticate.

    Where did you get your passion for fashion?
    I love stuff. The charisma of good stuff — books, movies, history, music, etc. — always seems to be the character behind it, whether it’s fictional Holden Caufield charming you with his biting, depresso snark, or real life front man Freddie Mercury channeling a great rock song through his giant voice. When I dig an album or a photo or whatever, I want to eat it up, I want to be it. That delighted desire to dress up in a costume that somehow abstractly (or sometimes literally) manifests the part of me that screams “OH YEAH!” when I see or read or hear something awesome is probably what motivates me the most.

    Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
    Vintage magazines from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. The the women in those pictorials convey so much swagger, confidence, and unapologetic sexiness. It’s partly because the effortless clothes from these eras seem to slide right through the page and into your head. But it’s also the overall attitude at play in the way these spreads are photographed, and the models chosen to appear in them.

    You can’t deny that while Jerry Hall is no doubt a size zero beanpole, her body isn’t pubescent or emaciated, it’s athletic! As lean as it is, her body is muscular. And her poses, as well as the way she connects her gaze with the camera, are steady, present, and knowing, never vapid, blank, or coquettish. You see this again and again in the women on these pages from the 70’s-90’s, from Gia Carangi to Kelly LeBrock to Cindy Crawford, from the Glamazon fashion editorials of Vogue, to the teeny-bop advertisements of Seventeen, to the Patrick Nagel pin-up illustrations of Playboy.

    MC and I have a nice vintage mag collection, but blogs like Sighs and Whispers and Get Some Vintage-a-Peel offer tons and tons of scans as well.

    What is the difference between fashion and style?
    Well, etymologically, the word “fashion” comes from the Latin factionem, “group of people acting together,” whereas the word “style” comes from the Latin stilus, “manner of expression.” Word origins don’t always stick, but I think in this case, they do. “Fashion” implies trend, or groupthink, whereas “style” implies personality, or expression.

    Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
    It’s not so different from developing your writing or musical style. It seems daunting from the outside — how much of this is about my unique, personal style, and how much is about objective knowledge? How do I “train my eye?” How do I know if I’m getting better when there’s no accounting for taste? But if you just watch and experiment and keep at it, you’ll discover that what seems impossible in theory is actually not that hard in application. You’ll figure it out.

    ***

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

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    Recent Beauty Buys

    I like to do some beauty splurges on my birthday – a good way to start the new year off on the right step. A lot of my purchases I make based off you – reviews on your blogs (I may not always comment but I do lurk!), your comments here, Tweets about new purchases. I trust you more than an ad in a magazine or a sponsored post, and I like to share my reviews for the same reason. And so, my recent beauty buys:

    DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
    A couple years ago, I decided to try the Oil Cleansing Method after hearing rave reviews. I found it time consuming, complicated, messy, and then my little bottle of castor oil slipped out of my hands and smashed in my sink and I saw that as a sign to just give it up. But a friend kept raving about DHC’s oil cleanser saying it was a revolutionary experience and not complicated, I decided to give it a try.

    Big fan. Two pumps on dry hands and then massaged onto my dry face. I can really feel it sucking gunk out of my pores and it dissolves all makeup, even waterproof mascara. It also rinses quite easily by splashing water on your face, or using a cotton pad/washcloth (or used with another product, see next review). Since switching to this cleanser, my fave seems softer, less dry (I deal with dry and irritated patches under my nose and between my brows in the winter), and more plump/hydrated. Also a little goes a long way – I have been using for almost two months straight and have only used half an inch of product in the bottle.

    Avene Thermal Spring Water
    Karl said I was insane for buying “fancy water,” but when reader April recommended it, I couldn’t resist. See, April has never steered me wrong when it comes to beauty products. So yeah, it’s water put into an aerosol can for a pretty penny with a bunch of hefty claims… and well, it’s pretty awesome.

    When I started using the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, I was wiping it off with Avene Thermal Spring Water and cotton pads. That combo was perfection – my skin felt AMAZING, it was so soft and happy. I did it for two weeks, and was amazed with the change. Then I started worrying about the cost of Avene – I can’t justify a bottle every month of fancy water, so I switched to regular water. And that worked… though not a nicely. For a week, I used tap water instead and after two days got a zit. After four days, I started getting redness and sensitivity under my nose. While the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is pretty awesome, it is even more awesome with Avene Thermal Spring Water. I can’t afford to use it every evening, but I am using it every third day to keep my skin happy through the winter season.

    So is it an overpriced bottle of fancy water? Technically yes, but it is also a pretty magical product. Really great for those with sensitive skin or live somewhere with hard water. It seems to hydrate and soothe skin unlike regular water. And the bottle is well designed, giving a fine controlled mist.

    Kevyn Aucoin Lash Curler
    One I switched from my old Revlon curler right after college to Shu Eumura I never looked back. Shu Eumura gave a more natural curl, didn’t pinch, and was worth every penny. However, they don’t sell Shu Eumura curlers in the US any more. I looked around for a worthy alternative and saw Kevyn Aucoin’s received positive reviews. And after using, they are well deserved. It’s not as curved as Shu Eumura, and I actually like that. I never pinch with it, can get an even more natural curl than with Shu Eumura, and it feels better in my hand. Fan.

    Tarte emphasEYES Inner Rim Brightener
    I have been dealing with insomnia for a couple months off and on, and it has gotten so my eyes look tired and haggard. Wearing glasses draws more attention to my eyes, and any bags or darkness from lack of sleep. Reader Claudia said she swore by this pencil and I should try it as well.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to try this stuff – I used white liner back in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s to try to make eyes look more open and it just looked as though I lined my eyes with chalk, this being a peach color I figured would look more natural.

    And it does. Used with a light hand, emphasEYES Inner Rim Brightener can open your eyes and make you look less tired. It’s pretty natural looking and stays on for a couple of hours. Thing is, the product is VERY creamy, so it moves and slides. If you try to put it in the inner corners of your eyes it may creep onto the skin and make you look like you have eye boogies. It fades after a couple of hours and if you recently switched to contacts for astigmatism you may find that it smears all over your contacts after wearing about 45 minutes so you’re yanking your contacts out at a stop light and digging in your purse for your glasses. Completely hypothetical, just an example, not like I have done this on an early morning while driving down Rhode Island Avenue or anything…

    Point is, I really like this product but will only be wearing it when I wear glasses!

    L’Oreal Infallible Le Rouge Lipcolor in Coral
    I wanted orange lips like Jessica Alba and took a chance with this. I wanted a long-wearing formula that wouldn’t leave me looking as though I had nude lips and orange liner. This did the job. The color lasted for about three hours before needing to be reapplied, and as it faded it did so evenly, leaving a nice coral-colored stain. When I reapplied, it didn’t feel cakey or gross. And the color is a pretty red-orange that stands out, but doesn’t look crazy. It’s a bit more orange and a bit lighter than NARS Heat Wave, and will be a super fun lipstick for spring and summer.

    CoverGirl Lip Perfection Jumbo Gloss Balm in Rose Twist
    I trust The GlossarieLara has mastered being a successful blogger and providing helpful honest beauty reviews. She mentioned she’s been wearing this product so I figured I’d give it a try. I like the Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stains and was happy to try an alternative in a more neutral shade.

    While I will always love and trust The Glossarie, I don’t like this product. It has a more powdery feel than Revlon’s similar crayon, and the color is far too matte, gray, and pale for me. Lara and I do have different coloring and I didn’t take that into consideration, but I’ll just have to admit I’m a Revlon fan when it comes to the drugstore brands of chubby gloss crayons!

    L’Oreal Voluminous Power Volume 24h Mascara, Black Smoke
    Lara didn’t steer me wrong when it came to mascara! I ran out of Mary Kay, I had a tester size of Bare Escentuals that wasn’t impressing me, and I couldn’t justify the cost of another bottle of DiorShow. I then saw Lara’s review of L’Oreal Voluminous Power Volume on The Glossarie and decided to try it out.

    It’s not DiorShow, but it’s the best drugstore mascara I have used in a long while. It’s a matte black finish that I like because it doesn’t look as spidery. It holds curl, it elongates, it makes the lashes really soft and thick and glamorous looking without appearing false. The brush is the type I like that reminds me of a fat fuzzy caterpillar. The only issue I have had is it occasionally flakes a bit into my contacts, but not so much I have to stop using it. I like it enough that I would buy it again.


    Have you had any great new beauty buys?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments and may take your suggestion and buy it in the future!

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    My Head is Too Big to be Hipster: A Warby Parker Review

    Once I got new glasses, I wanted more. A pair of red frames to channel my inner Sally Jesse Raphael, a funky blue or green pair to jazz up all-black ensembles, a funky shape to show personality at the office. I had heard a lot of great things about Warby Parker and decided to try a pair of frames from them.

    Me in my new glasses – Lafont’s Issy & La collection, the frame is called “Gloss”

    Warby Parker Eyewear’s mission is to offer reasonably-priced fashionable frames. On top of that, for every pair of Warby Parkers sold, a new pair is given to someone in need. Warby Parker is also proud to be a carbon-neutral company.

    Warby Parker has a try-on program where you can pick five frames and try them on at home. They will ship the glasses to you for free and offer free return postage; I decided to take advantage of this program and see if I could find a new pair of signature prescription frames.

    The Warby Parker site is very easy to navigate; click on your gender and then whether you desire optical or sunglass frames. From there you can choose material, color, frame shape, and width. From experience, I know my face is pretty wide, so I stuck to the medium and wide styles of frames. Since I already have a pair of tortoiseshell frames, I stuck to more unusual colors.

    The glasses arrived quickly in a sturdy shipping box, and then a lovely navy linen box. Each pair of glasses was in its own compartment, wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name. Each pair of Warby Parker frames has the brand and style name inside on the temple. I found the quality to be stellar, especially for the price. These frames rival the more expensive designer styles I tried at my nearby glasses shop. The return process is simple – peel off the self-adhesive UPS label and drop it in a nearby UPS drop box. I couldn’t be more impressed with Warby Parker and their process… except that my face is too big for them.

    Maybe I should have tried men’s frames, but I felt that almost every pair I tried (except for the Bensen, and they just weren’t a style I was looking for) was just a hair too small for my face. I often have this issue not just with glasses, but sunglasses as well. In fact, when I got my new glasses, they were the only ones I liked after trying on about 20 pairs – each other pair seemed just a bit too small for my face shape, even some of the men’s frames I tried.

    So if you have a normal to small-sized noggin, I encourage you to try Warby Parker. The Warby Parker at-home program is completely free so you have nothing to risk; if you find a pair you like you can feel good that not only will you look great, but your purchase will also be doing good. As for me, I will have to look elsewhere, my head is just too big to be hipster.

    Note: Warby Parker has no idea I am doing this review and I was not compensated in any way for it.  I just decided to try the brand and share my experience with you!

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    Honing your Personal Style through Closet Organization

    Last weekend I was asked to speak at IKEA for their BYOF event. They asked me to speak about honing one’s personal style through closet organization. Some of you fabulous people came to the event (and even drove long distances, which humbles me so), and some of you were unable to attend but wanted to know what I discussed. Earlier this week I shared some of the discussion during the seminar’s Q&A, but below is the script I made myself for the seminar (though I practiced a lot and tried to ad-lib as much as possible).

    Think about it, we start every day in our closet. Our experience in front of that bar of hangers really sets the tone for the rest of the day. What I hope to do today is give you tips and tricks to make that first part of your day less stressful, more positive, and inspiring.

    I am proof that when it comes to closets, size doesn’t matter. A little over a decade ago, I moved into the historic part of Greenbelt. If any of you have been in one of their row homes, you know they can be charming but boy are they small! My bedroom closet was smaller than the coat closet in my old bachelorette apartment, and as for a coat closet well there wasn’t one. It was a great learning experience on how to work with little space, and to choose wisely as to what deserved to be in that minimal amount of real estate.

    75% of the stuff in our closets we don’t even wear. When I have performed closet cleanouts for clients in the past, I found that three quarters of the clothing in their closet is there for sentimental reasons. A dress worn on a first date, the suit you wore to the interview for your current job, the lucky sweatshirt you wore through every finals week of college. Today I’m not going to tell you to toss your sartorial memories, but I am going to ask you to make your closet more functional.

    The only way you can truly know what you have in your closet is to take everything out and start fresh. As your best friend to watch the kids for a couple of hours, turn on Pandora radio, pour a glass of wine, and lock yourself in your bedroom. Take everything out of the closet and once it’s empty, give it a quick cleaning with a damp cloth. Now you’re going to go through each individual garment and put it into one of four piles. Keep, Purge, Fix, and Store.

    Keep means you have tried it on that day, it fits, it flatters, it’s useful to your life and style and is in perfect condition. No missing buttons, no need for ironing, ready to be worn.

    Purge means it’s time for the piece to leave your home completely. It’s too small, too big, too dated, too damaged, or just plain wrong. Often we keep pieces that we bought and then had buyer’s remorse. The garment is just plain wrong, but you feel guilty because you spent good money on it. Your money is not coming back by letting that dress collect dust in your closet, it’s time to let it go and move on. We’ve all been there. When I say purge, that doesn’t mean throw everything in a bag and set it out on the curb for trash day. The majority of clothes in your closets can be useful to others.

    For things like that dress you bought and never wore, consider eBay or a consignment shop so you can get back a bit of what you spent on it. For gently worn pieces, consider setting up a swap with friends where you can trade clothing for free. For everything else, you can donate for a nice tax deduction, or even consider Freecycle. In my house, we cut up old stained tee shirts into squares and use them as dusting cloths.

    So we have kept that which is still fabulous and purged that which is not. With what is leftover, they go into two other piles – Fix, and Store.

    Fix is the pile of items that could be great if they just had a quick little repair or makeover. Maybe it’s a wrinkled oxford, a pair of pants with a dropped hem, or a jacket missing a button. I keep a box at the bottom of my closet where I store all the clothes that need to be fixed. When I have a spare moment, I sew on buttons, iron, or pack up pieces to take to the dry cleaner or tailor. Having this box keeps you from justifying wearing a stained shirt or a stapled hem.

    The final pile is Store. Here’s your sentimental clothing, as well as anything that is in fantastic condition but just not right. Maybe it’s a skirt that’s a flattering yet not of the moment length, or a great interview suit though you are now a stay at home parent. Pieces that fit, are made well, flatter, and just aren’t right at the moment, though they may be in a couple of years. This pile, store carefully, but store them where they are out of sight and out of temptation. Even when at the back of the closet, it’s far too easy to grab these items during a moment of weakness and sacrifice your style. (Here I started speaking of the merits of breathable canvas storage versus plastic.)

    So now, you have a closet just full of great pieces that fit your current body and your current lifestyle. It may look a bit empty, but that’s not a bad thing. A closet that can breathe makes for easier dressing each morning. You wouldn’t think it, but it’s easier to get dressed each day when you have fewer options. However you’re probably realizing you have a few holes in your wardrobe. Make a shopping list of what you feel you need to pull the current closet together, make it cohesive. Maybe it’s a black pencil skirt, or a replacement dress for weddings and funerals. Think about your life, your current life, and what you do and where you go in a typical month. What else do you need to dress appropriately for each occasion? Write the pieces down, and carry them in your wallet or purse. This way, each time you hit the mall, you can stay on track and only buy what you need instead of what looks great or is being pushed by the salesperson.

    It’s important to stick to a budget – you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your quality of life to be able to dress well each day. A good rule of thumb is 5% of your income towards what you wear. Now this may be more or less based upon your lifestyle and it may be more while you’re filling in holes in your wardrobe. From this, figure out a monthly budget and stick to it. Sometimes you may not use it all, but that’s good because you can save it for other months where you may spend more, say for a new winter coat or a pair of designer jeans that make you look five pounds and five years younger. I recommend tracking your budget on the same sheet or notebook as your shopping list, so it’s there staring you in the face each time you consider buying clothes. My motto at Wardrobe Oxygen is style comes from choosing quality, not quantity.

    So now you have a pared-down closet of clothes that work as hard as you do. Now it’s time to take care of them. In this day and age of Pinterest and reality shows about celebrities, it’s easy to get wrapped up in having a pretty closet. The thing is, you want a functional closet, a closet that makes your life more enjoyable, that makes getting dressed each day easy and enjoyable. Here’s a few suggestions.

    I recommend having all the same hangers. Not only does this make for an attractive closet, but it prevents you from losing clothes. I once bought a new black cardigan thinking I lost mine, but months later I found it on a dry cleaner’s wire hanger hidden between two black dresses. With all the same hangers, you can easily see everything in your closet. Speaking of wire hangers… I may sound like Mommy Dearest but get rid of them. They stretch out knits and can even leave rust stains on clothing. Dry cleaners are happy to take them back and many areas will recycle them.

    So your clothes are hung up on consistent hangers, it’s now time to organize them. I highly recommend zoning your closet. Have all jackets together, all dresses together, all shirts together. This way it’s easy to see what you have and make ensembles. For categories you don’t wear often, such as cocktail dresses, have that zone in the farthest back part of the closet.

    For making the most out of the space you have, I like closet organizers. I have one of those hanging fabric shelf gadgets where one can store purses, gym clothes, and even jeans. Also they have bars that hang from closet bars so you can double hang and maximize your closet real estate. (I really ad-libbed here because IKEA gave me a wardrobe and storage containers that they sell as my props).

    With shoes, people have differing views on this, but I again recommend consistency. Choose one manner of storage and stick to it to prevent losing shoes and spending more than you need. Shoes can be an investment, so choose storage that is kind to your shoes – I keep my shoes in their original boxes and label them, but some like clear boxes, some like shoe racks, and IKEA has these cool gadgets where you can store your shoes on posts. Whatever seems best for you and protects your shoes. (At this point I started rambling about how a tree fell through my closet and that’s why I use boxes for storage.) As for boots, they sell fancy boot trees, but I just roll up old magazines and tuck them in the shafts to keep them from folding over and creasing.

    I never get rid of accessories unless they are damaged. Accessories take up so little space, it’s worth it to keep them and reassess them every couple of seasons. A belt that seems dated this spring may be completely on trend in a year. I store jewelry in plastic baggies to keep them from tarnishing, loosely coil belts into an old shoe box, and for purses I stuff them with paper and then tuck them in an old pillowcase to keep them from getting dusty.

    I recommend doing a closet reassessment like this twice a year, once at the end of the summer or back to school time, and once around this time of year as the weather is getting warmer. Not only can you again clean out all which isn’t doing you any style favors, but you can pack up out of season clothes and make a fresh shopping list of what you need for the upcoming season. Keeping up with your closet keeps you in a style frame of mind. You shop for clothing more carefully, you think more about how your clothes work with your body and your lifestyle, and you are better able to hone your personal style.

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