Search Results for: label/Little Bits of Luxury

Little Bits of Luxury: Manicures

My bridesmaids bullied me into a manicure for my wedding day. I went to the salon just for an updo, but left with Essie Ballet Slippers on my nails. I felt for the manicurist because she was trying to make dry, rough, gnawed nails and cuticles look Wedding Day worthy.

That was the last manicure I had for almost a decade.

I was a chronic nail biter. Worse than that, I was a cuticle biter, the type that kept going until it bled and went in for more. In high school, I got pinworms and the doctor said it was likely from nailbiting. In college, I got an infection that left a permanent dent in my thumbnail. I even chewed on my wedding day to the point of bleeding, and it got on my wedding dress. When I was a trainer and visual merchandiser, my supervisor strongly suggested I get acrylic tips to have a more professional appearance during my presentations. I would wiggle my teeth between my nail and the acrylic and crack them off, sometimes even in my sleep. I gave up and just accepted that I was a nail biter.

Last summer, I was driving to work and was at a stop light and turned to look at the car next to me. In the driver’s seat was a really hot guy in a nice suit… and he was going to town on his nails. He was oblivious to his act, watching for the light to turn green, and looked as though he hadn’t eaten in days and his fingers were breakfast. It was disgusting to watch and I realized that while I looked at him with disgust I was doing the same exact thing.

No more justifying it, no more pretending, this HAD to stop. Not only did it look gross to watch and leave me with disgusting hands, it just wasn’t healthy. No more.

So I went home and researched the best ways to stop biting nails. I had tried the foul-tasting ointments and had chewed through it to the skin. I tried Band-Aids, using an emery board on rough parts so they wouldn’t taunt me, and I already shared my “success” with acrylic tips. But I learned about N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) which has been proven to help people who are chronic nail biters. After a chat with my doctor, I started taking 1,000mg two times a day; a month after starting NAC I got a manicure.

Oh man, I’ve become one of those people who shares her manicure on Instagram!

Since September, I have been getting almost bi-weekly manicures. I am back to acrylic because it makes the nails too thick to get to the cuticles, but I have them make them as short as possible. I started with neutral shades that didn’t draw attention but gained confidence, donning a sparkly candy apple red for Christmas oxblood for fall, and currently a pale gray with a hint of shimmer.  Though gel polish is controversial, I have had more success with it because it is nearly impossible to chip and looks great for two weeks straight.  As soon as I get a chip, I start futzing with it.

Recently, I ran out of NAC and I went longer than two weeks between fills and I started chewing again. I completely pulled the polish off all but four fingers, chipped off edges of the nails, and gnawed my cuticles raw.  It taught me that this is something I will have to battle the rest of my life, and that this isn’t really a luxury but a necessity.

I keep a bottle of Solar Oil in my car and rub it into my cuticles when I get the urge to gnaw at a stop light, I have Sally Hansen VitaSurge Cuticle Gel and Weleda Skin Food on my desk at work, and Glysomed on my nightstand. The more hydrated my hands, the less I wish to chew.

Unlike a pedicure where you can play with your phone, sip a latte and read an old issue of Cosmo, getting acrylic fills and gel polish (can’t chew it off, lasts until next appointment so no chips) means spending an hour with a stranger practically in your face and your hands in her control.  It has taught me to unplug, to develop all those thoughts in my head, and be silent for a while.  My current nail salon doesn’t have a TV so I don’t get lost in Wendy Williams or a cooking show, I just get lost in my mind.

I recommend checking out a site like Yelp for salon reviews.  I started off with the nail salon walking distance from my home, but I didn’t think they did that careful of a job.  I went to Yelp and tried another salon, and they did a far better job, but the two women who I liked were usually booked and the technician I kept getting was sloppy.  I am now going to a salon near a college campus and they do a very careful job and have a clean, friendly shop. 

Manicures are an extra expense, so I have had to make some changes to fit them into the budget.  I no longer buy Starbucks (unless it’s my weekly date with Emerson, and then I get a cheap drink and no snack), I bring my lunch more often, I buy far fewer beauty products, and I box dye my hair between salon visits.  In fact, manicures have caused me to reassess a lot of my spending, and is a good example of how reducing small purchases helps me get what I really want or need.  And while I like the look of my new pretty non-mangled nails, I also know I have broken a lifelong bad habit.  

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Little Bits of Luxury: Books

I love libraries, we as a family visit our local library regularly and do what we can to support it. But there’s something so lovely about owning a book. To not feel guilty about breaking the spine or dog-earing a page, to take a favorite from the shelf, find an old plane ticket or receipt in there from the last time you read it, to see the book take on more memories and love and wear with each reading. Sorry Mrs. Arnold, but I stole my high school copy of The Handmaid’s Tale, it was such a powerful 11th grade reading assignment. In it I highlighted and took notes when I read it in your class, when I read it again for a college course, and the dozens of times I have read it since. I have loaned it to so many different people, and some of them have left their mark by forgetting their receipt or concert ticket bookmark. It makes it not just a story, but a scrapbook of sorts.

But books cost money, and they take up a lot of space. While we did put an addition on our home when Emerson joined our family, our house is still far smaller than most standard townhomes and space is a hot commodity.

Space: If you want to organize your bookcases by color or arrange them creatively to have a good amount of negative space and ways to showcase art and knick knacks, I commend you. However, in the Gary household, we constantly rearrange our bookcases (three tall ones in the living room, a chest-high one in the dining room, and a few shelves in the office) to fit more books. Our neighborhood does a book drive every summer, and sells the books they receive at the Labor Day Festival to fundraise for the elementary school. Each summer I go through our bookcases and see what books don’t HAVE to be part of our family. We inherited books from Karl’s dad when he passed away and as the years go by, we realize that some don’t have sentimental value or are a topic we care for. We’ve also pared down the college books, the airport paperbacks, the books that made us realize for the 4th time that we didn’t belong in a book club. We’re now considering adding bookcases to the bedroom, imaging that extra space will give us the room to organize our collection better and possibly have room for mementoes between the books.

Money: New books cost money. Every year for Christmas and my birthday I ask for books. Not novels, but those fancy coffee table, art, or fashion books that I would never buy myself. I’ve done this for years, from Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams in high school to now where I prefer Tom Ford to a new sweater. But when I want something that isn’t under the Christmas tree:

  • Amazon Used: You can find books for a penny on Amazon. Granted, if they’re that cheap you have to pay $3.99 shipping, but $4 is still cheaper than retail, and you’re keeping a beloved book out of the landfill. I have bought pretty much every level of condition, Acceptable means you will likely have a bit of damage, some highlighting, maybe stickers from a university book store on the spine, but the way I look at it I would likely provide such wear anyway, and I’m quite handy with the packing tape. More often than not, the books come in near-mint condition and one couldn’t tell if they were bought new or used.
  • Library Book Sales: When books have newer editions, aren’t as hot (what library in 2014 needs 50 copies of a John Grisham novel?), or have a bit of damage, many libraries sell them either at a special event or maybe in a room in their basement. You can find wonderful books for pennies, and your money goes towards supporting your library. Win win!
  • Thrift Stores: Recently I found Diane von Furstenberg’s Book of Beauty at a thrift store. I have found gorgeous art books still in their shrink wrap, the very version of a beloved book from high school, and the best autobiographies and memoirs I didn’t even know were written. 
  • Kindle: Well a Kindle completely goes against the beginning of this post writing about my love of tangible books, but sometimes you just want to read something that you don’t care to own or reread in the future. Sometimes you need the convenience of something small and handheld. You don’t need an actual Kindle to enjoy e-books, the Kindle app is free and is available for Droid and Apple devices. And if you do a bit of searching, you can find so many books for free or nearly free. I use my Kindle to read books I don’t want people to see me reading on the Metro (hello all three 50 Shades of Grey books) or know I won’t read again (I could again say 50 Shades, but I’d also include chick lit and romance novels) or books that are more of a reference and I’d want to reference easily (books on blogging, what I do at work, etc.). There’s a few Facebook and Twitter accounts you can follow that will notify you of free books, I cheat and have friends whose taste I trust and wait for them to share on social media when they find a bargain Kindle book. I don’t feel so bad getting lost in Passions of Lust when it’s free, and I can save my money for books that I will read again and again and again and will smile down at me from their shelf, remembering the memories we’ve shared over the years.

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Little Bits of Luxury: Fragrance

When I was in high school, we stayed with my parent’s friends for a night on the way home from a vacation. I don’t remember much about the trip except the downstairs bathroom in their home. For décor, they had a goldfish bowl on the back of the toilet and it was full of perfume samples. I loved that idea, and as soon as I got home, I made it my mission to have something similar. Over 20 years later, I have filled a vase with perfume samples, and am ready to upgrade to a goldfish bowl.

At first, it was all about the look, but as I received perfume samples with orders (I never begged for them from perfume counters, they just came as gifts with purchases or friends would hand me a couple they didn’t want), I started checking them out. See, I used to be a perfume addict.

It started in elementary school with some fragrance I picked up in F&M that had a purple, orange, and pink ombred glass bottle that likely smelled like cotton candy. We went on a school field trip to the Museum of Natural History and the boy I liked told me I smelled good. Oh, the power of fragrance!

Through my school years, there was Benetton Colours, Sunflowers, Escape, Dune, White Musk, and whatever I could afford at the drugstore. Many gave me headaches but I soldiered on, thinking that fragrance was the finishing touch on my personal style. In college I dabbled with patchouli, but stuck mainly with Opium, which I felt was mature and unique and sophisticated. After college I worked for Express (which is the same company at Bath and Body Works and my discount worked there) and then The Body Shop (home of White Musk), so I spent many years smelling like fruit and flowers.

When I left retail, I swore I would never again smell like a Yankee Candle. I started buying fragrances… a lot of fragrances. Chanel N°5 was a classic so I bought it, but then realized I don’t want to smell like my mom (she’s a die-hard Chanel N°5 fan). I tried other Chanel fragrances, the scent with the actress I love in the commercial, the scent that the musician I love says she wears, the fragrance sold by my favorite cosmetics line, the fragrance in that magazine’s gift guide. I loved the look of all the glass bottles on my dressing table, but I ended up being someone who never wore fragrance because I was spending a lot of money and not ending up with anything I liked for more than a week or two (or else I would hug someone and they’d say, “Is that Gucci Envy?” making me realize I smelled like perfume, not me).

So I did what I should have done a long time ago – I started using those little testers I was collecting. Who cared if a couple of the vials were empty or close to it? This gave me a chance to test drive a fragrance without spending more money. And while I was at it, I decided to get rid of all those perfumes. Did you know people will buy partially used bottles of perfume on eBay?

My first bottle of Burberry London on my dressing table in 2006, and my thinning fragrance collection.

And so, I came upon Burberry London. I didn’t like the bottle (who puts beige fabric on a bottle? It gets so grody looking after a few months!), I didn’t like the brand (I’m not plaid and trench coats, this brand doesn’t speak ALISON!), but it was the first perfume that I didn’t tire of, didn’t give me a headache, and didn’t smell like every other woman in the room. When I wore it, I rarely got comments on my fragrance, only when I hugged people, and no one ever asked what I was wearing but just said I smelled good.

For over past eight years, I have worn Burberry London. I stopped for a while once Emerson was born because I feared it would affect breastfeeding, but now it’s part of what Alison Gary smells like. I spritz it three times in the air and walk under it; when I am going out at night I’ll do a fourth spritz and then another spritz on my wrists. The older I get, the more liberal I am with my fragrance, as it has become part of my signature. And since I have one solitary scent, the cost isn’t as bad. And yes, I have purchased unused and tester versions of Burberry London on eBay for a fraction of the retail price (if you try this, go with sellers with great reviews that detail the quality and authenticity of fragrances, often fragrance companies will sell their overstock or extra testers for a nice price).

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Little Bits of Luxury: Sunglasses

If I tallied up all I spent on sunglasses from Target, street vendors, and clearance sales I could probably buy a few pairs of designer shades. I could never justify spending more than $25 for a pair of sunglasses if they were just going to break or get lost before the summer was through. However, as I got older I learned that caring for items, no matter their pricetag, made them last longer and look better.

Truck stop sunglasses on me, and on the original owner

A few years ago on the way down to a music festival, Karl bought a pair of silver mirrored aviators from a truck stop for $5.99. While he looked great in them, I eventually snagged them for my own. Never before had I found a pair of sunglasses to look so right on me or fit my personal style so well. After years and years of black and tortoise plastic frames, I felt at home in an oversized metal aviator. But as it happens with most cheapy sunglasses, these HG frames started chipping, the mirror finish cracked, and in a couple months of TLC they looked as though they had several years under their belt protecting the eyes of a biker babe.

RB3026 in gold/green, gold/amber, and black/black

Perusing sunglasses at the mall, I came upon the oversized 62mm Ray-Ban aviators, RB3026. Almost the exact same size and shape as the truck stop pair, but far better made. And lighter weight. And more comfortable on the nose and around the ears. Though 35x more expensive. I splurged… and it was one of the best splurges I ever made. I still wear and love those sunglasses, and since then have found two pairs in other finishes via eBay for far less. Karl and I share sunglasses, and we both baby them by keeping them in their case, cleaning them with a chamois, and not letting them bake or freeze in the car. Though I babied the truck stop shades in a similar manner, cheap construction and materials still had them falling apart too soon.

Choosing a classic style means I won’t feel the need to get new sunglasses when trends change; in fact I have made these sunglasses part of my signature look and could see myself wearing them for many years to come. And by needing fewer pairs, I will likely save a bundle in the long run!

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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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Little Bits of Luxury: Leather Gloves

I remember as a child, my mom always had cashmere-lined leather gloves for winter. They fit her… well like a glove! I would try them on and they didn’t fit; though I had smaller hands at the time, the gloves had molded to her slender fingers, the shape of her palm. I felt having gloves like this, ones that winter after winter became more and more of a custom fit was an example of elegance, being a stylish adult.

And now I am an adult, and I own three pairs of cashmere-lined leather gloves. I have a pair of Coach ones I found at TJ Maxx almost a decade ago, a pair from Nordstrom that are “tech” and let me use my smartphone without removing my gloves, and a bright purple pair that my mom bought me for Christmas a few years ago. A few years ago I had the opportunity to check out a new Nordstrom Rack and they provided me with a gift card to enjoy it. One of the things I bought with it was something I wouldn’t normally buy but had always wanted – elbow-length leather gloves (with a knit insert for better fit). I received a vintage broadtail lamb coat from my semi-grandmother and the coat has bracelet-length sleeves and begged for longer leather gloves. I’ve only worn the gloves with the coat once (my life isn’t exciting enough for regular wears of vintage fur) but I felt so glamorous with the combination.

Cashmere-lined leather gloves just SOUND like a luxury, and they can be extremely pricey. But if well cared for, a pair can last you for many many years. And there are ways to find them for far less:

  • Shop off-season. Right now department stores have their winter accessories on sale. This is when you can find leather gloves for half price. Just look at the selection currently available at Nordstrom and Macy’s!
  • Shop discount stores. TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Nordstrom Rack, Overstock… such places are brilliant for accessories like gloves. They always seem to have a good supply and you can find some real gems like unique colors or designer brands for low prices.
  • Quality, not quantity. My mom only owned one pair, and when they got too worn we would get her a new pair for Christmas. There’s no need for 50 pairs in different colors and styles, one pair is enough and can be your signature look and have the time to mold to perfectly fit only your hands. Take your time, find a pair that is the color, the shape, the material that best fits your personality and winter wardrobe. Don’t use them for making snowmen or clearing off your car (I have a cheapy water resistant pair in my glove compartment just for that), but wear them otherwise with gusto, knowing each wear makes them more and more perfect just for you.

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Random Bits…

I picked a winner for the Scarves by Maria contest:

The winner is Teresa, who let me know that “Emerald Isles” was her favorite scarf in Maria’s collection.  Thanks for entering everyone – I will be having another giveaway before the month is over!

I have another article posted at the blog – this one is about my Style Survival Kit.  A little list of must-haves to keep your wonderful wardrobe consistently looking its best.  I’d love to hear your opinions on this list and what you have in your own personal style survival kit!

Do you know what day Saturday is?  It’s National Swap Day!  All over the country, people are heading up clothing swaps.  The premise is simple – show up with what clothes and accessories you no longer want (but are still in fab condition), grab that which you want!  Different clothing swaps have different rules, ticket prices, etc. so check out the National Swap Day site or the hashtag #swapday on Twitter to see what is brewing in your area.  For DC folks, there is one taking place at Nanaclick here to register to attend!  I unfortunately cannot attend on Saturday but would love to hear from any of you who do!  And for anyone who hosts or attends a clothing swap this weekend – email me!  I would love to write a post about this and would really love to include your stories, photos, opinions, and more!

Thursday: The Little Things

Blazer: Limited (similar) | Skirt: eBay | Necklaces: eBay | Bracelets: Ann Taylor, Lauren Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom | Shoes: VC Signature | Coat: Thrifted (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon Matte “In the Red”

It’s the little things that make a day great. Wearing a grown-up tutu to work, finding that tube of matte red lipstick that has gone missing for a month (living with a toddler makes lost and found a daily activity), having an awesome husband who woke up early to make me coffee. Life is stressful and busy and crazy… but life is pretty wonderful. I know I seemed pretty melancholy in my last post but I am happy. In fact, lately I have been happier than I have been in a long time. Sometimes bad stuff is a benefit because it better showcases all the blessings currently in your life.

UPDATE: Many have asked for details about this tutu (I also have in cream).  It says it is one size fits most, but I’ll admit it’s tight on me, a 12/14.  I would say it fits like a 10, but it is an elastic waist.  It’s not terribly well crafted – you get what you pay for.  I wear a proper slip under these tutus because the lining is pretty much sheer. This is a good piece to alter to your needs – you could easily snip the waistband open and add an inch or two of elastic and have it fit to a 14.  I have seen other bloggers add additional layers, using this as a base tutu.  Maybe if you’re good with sewing you would want to add a proper lining (though you can often find a perfectly good slip at a thrift store or eBay for less than $5).

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Thursday: Little Bit of Leopard

Sweater: Gap
Pants: LOFT (similar)
Boots: DUO (similar style from same brand)
Necklaces: Ann Taylor
Silver cuff 
Bag: Sabina (similar)

Yesterday I wore a cardigan, jeans and flats to work and froze. Today I’m not taking any chances. This morning I woke up shivering; by time I left the house it had warmed up a bit but it was still sweater/fleece hoodie weather. It is truly Autumn in this area and I don’t feel ridiculous pulling out my boots before October since my office still has the A/C blasting!

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My Little Housemate

When did this baby…

Become this kid?

I’ve been living with this person for almost three years, and time seems to be speeding up. I blink my eyes and suddenly she’s a kid, not a baby.  She has such definite opinions on what she wants to wear, to eat, how she wants to spend her time, what she wants us to read before bedtime.  She likes to do things like sit upside down or bridged across furniture (like above), she likes to sing at the top of her lungs and make up words and play pranks.  She has an amazing memory – she will meet a person once and three months later recognize them AND remember their name.  She notices when people get haircuts, even change their nail polish color.

Even though I don’t really encourage it, she’s extremely girly – loves to play with my jewelry and makeup brushes, believes a party isn’t a party unless she’s wearing a dress.  This weekend was awesome for her because she got to wear a tutu to a costume party.

Emerson in awe over her best friend Spiderman… I mean Ayden

She used to be very shy, but lately has become more outgoing and sociable.  She will go up to kids and say hi and try to start a conversation.  She will share with new people to encourage a friendship.  At her first swim class she wanted to be left alone and spent most of the session in tears, but now she’s playing with the other kids and having a blast.

She leaves half-empty yogurt tubs and sticky sippy cups all over the house.  She has terrible taste in television.  Her favorite word this day seems to be “NO!”  She has broken at least a dozen of my necklaces and I often find my bracelets under her bed, in her toy kitchen or shoved under the couch cushions.  Even so, she’s a pretty awesome housemate and I feel blessed to have her in my life!

Sorry for lack of outfit post today – early day and a busy one at that.  I will get back to fashion-related posts on tomorrow!

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Updates to the Little Black Dress

Hi Allie:
I live in a climate that is warm year-round and black is just too strong of a color for this town. Are there any other colors that are as versatile as black for a little black dress, or any of the other staples in your list?

Dear Allie,
I love the idea of having a LBD – such a versatile garment. Trouble is I really am too bony to wear sleeveless, too modest to show cleavage and black looks so aging on me. I noticed that most dark colours don’t suit so well any more (I’m almost 59). Any suggestions for equally versatile colours/looks?

First of all, black doesn’t mean a funeral, and having one or two black pieces is not going to make your entire wardrobe dark and dreary. However I do understand if you just do not like black in your wardrobe and do not feel comfortable with so many pieces in that color.

Colors like dove gray, taupe, navy and cadet blue are often just as versatile as black when it comes to a LBD. They can dress up or down and be appropriate for most any occasion or season. If you are a person who isn’t comfortable in black, it’s a good idea to find one of these colors as your new basic and try to find matching or complimenting pieces in that shade. I suggest a black dress, black pants, black suit, black pumps in my staples list… this can be changed to all gray or all taupe quite easily and still be as versatile. The key is to have it be your base color – don’t purchase a gray dress, navy pants and a brown suit. What happens when you don’t have a basic palette is that everything seems mismosh and it is really difficult to mix and match, maintain a small yet quality wardrobe, and pack for travel.

Companies like Chico’s, Ann Taylor, J. Crew and Travelsmith often offer collections of pieces all in one color story and fabric. If they carry a non-black color that you like – stock up! You can easily find pants, suits, dresses and wardrobe staples all in one color that will work just as well as black but be more flattering to fair skin or tropical climates.

If you choose to make your base color taupe, navy or brown, know it will be harder to replace pieces in your collection and find appropriate accessories. Baby your clothes, buy duplicates if you worry about pieces wearing out, and be very very careful with purchasing shoes and belts. Brown does not look as dressy as black. You will be fine with pieces like casual boots, day bags and city boots, but for items such as classic pumps you may want to switch it up with a brown croco embossed pair (a fave of Jackie O), a more skin-baring style of pump (slingback, deep cut sides, etc.) or a color that is close to your skin tone for a leg-lengthening and more elegant look.

As for styles that cover the arms and decollete better, there are many options.

A style that is quite elegant and seasonless is the short sleeved or 3/4 sleeved dress with a boatneck. This style would offer a feminine silhouette while covering your cleavage and arms. This example from J. Crew shows how such a style can look elegant on s slender frame, yet still be quite conservative. Wool gabardine is a very versatile fabric, and this dress is available in petites, and some staple-worthy non-black colors like beechwood, navy and dark slate.

This crepe jersey dress from Talbots may not come in neutral colors other than black, but it has a sleeve, a higher neckline and a feminine style that will work from day to night and year-round. 

Many stores will carry similar silhouettes in a bevy of colors and it shouldn’t be too hard to find a color that works with your lifestyle and coloring!

The Not-So-Little Black Dress

The Little Black Dress, a term used so frequently it has its own acronym (LBD). Every celebrity stylist states a woman should have at least one in her closet. Who knows when you may be invited to the White House, to a gallery opening, the Oscars?

Let’s get real, most of us do not have lives that revolve around cocktail parties and gala events. To add to that, most of us do not have the bodies or lifestyles that warrant that little of a black dress.

However I agree with the celeb stylists – it IS good to have a simple black dress in the closet – but more for the events that REAL LIFE throws your way. A wedding, a company holiday party, a Bar Mitzvah, cruise to the Bahamas, PTA silent auction, an evening church event, your son’s college graduation, a night where the kids are at grandma’s and your husband wants to take you out on the town.

Most of the events arrive suddenly on our radar, and the last thing we want to do is head out to the mall and search for an ensemble that “will do.” And, no matter how hard you try to kid yourself, these are not usually affairs where chinos and a button-down will look good (and a knit top with bedazzlement does not make a tee a formal garment). The easiest thing to do is already have that not-so LBD on hand. If made with the right fabric and silhouette, it can work from day to evening, from summer to winter. Here’s a few gems I have seen around the Internet…

The Plus-Sized LBD
Even if you aren’t a perfect size 6, you still can look utterly feminine and stylish in a simple black dress. Black is slimming, it doesn’t look dated quickly, and cheaper brands can look far more expensive and elegant when in this color. If the dress fits and flatters, no one will be looking at your arms or tummy – they will be checking out the whole glamorous package!

It’s better to go up a size and pay for alterations, than be tugging at your bum or bustline all evening. When shopping for a dress, wear the undergarments you plan to wear oce you own the dress – this will ensure a better and more realistic fit.

The Lola Ruched Dress from Kiyonna is a winner. The fabric is a poly-lycra blend which make care easy (gentle cycle and line or flat dry) and wrinkles non-existent.

The gathered waistband whittles the middle, and the sleeves make it comfortable for those who don’t love their upper arms but still want a feminine and modern silhouette.

Check out the reviews on the site to hear real women’s experiences with this awesome dress!

The Nina Dress from b&lu is a classic style that works on almost every shape of woman.

This is the same poly/spandex blend as the first dress; this means it will work every season and dress up or down with ease.

The full skirt will be fin on the dance floor, and the crossover neckline/gathered waistband will flatter your figure.

The Wearever Knotted Wrap Dress from J. Jill is a simple yet elegant style that is available in Misses, Petite, and Women’s sizes up to 4X.

The crossover neckline elongates the neck and torso, and the slightly a-line skirt skims over hips giving an elegant feminine shape.

Pair these dresses with leather pumps or flats and nude legs for day, strappy silk or crepe heels in black, metallic or a fun accent color for night. Your personality can shine through with accessories – pearls, metal chains and hoops, colorful baubles – almost anything goes with these sorts of dresses. Keep it simple and daytime appropriate with simpler pieces and bring out the bling for evening. A simple shawl or pashmina can provide warmth for evening; a cardigan in cashmere or a silk knit will work during the day.

The Petite LBD
A dress is a garment that really needs to fit the body well – if you are petite or short-waisted, you will rarely find a non-petite sized dress that fits well, or can be worn nicely without many expensive alterations. Often the petite selection of dresses in the mall is scarse, and pretty boring. However the Internet has a larger selection and can usually provide every style of woman with a dress that fits her petite frame as well as her sense of style.

The Matte Jersey Party Dress from Talbots is as classic as one can get for an LBD. The ruched crossover bodice is slimming and flattering and adds just the right amount of detail and interest.

The fabric is easy care (can spot clean at a moment’s notice) and will travel well (nothing better than an LBD for a vacation!).

Such a silhoutte will not be going out of style any time soon – this is a great dress to have on hand for whatever life throws your way!

The Petite Silk Tricotine Cecelia Dress from J. Crew is so elegant in its simplicity. The cap sleeves and crossover bodice is flattering and works for day or evening. The dress hits right at the knees so it works with most any shape of woman.

This fabric is a bit more formal, but can still work beautifully for day with simple, minimal accessories and sandals or flats.

Though the dress is of silk and dry clean only, it is a classic fabric that will withstand time and trends for many many seasons.

The Louben Sheath Dress from Nordstrom is LBD perfection. Such a simple dress can be worn to work, or to a cocktail party with ease. Fully lined and of the versatile Triacetate fabric, this dress will last for years and work for most any occasion, any time of year.

As with any other LBD, formality is gained by accessories – strappy heels or D’orsay pumps in silk will make any of these dresses after five worthy; switch out your day handbag with a clutch purse to dress up the look. Nude legs work for day or night, but very sheer black hose can add a dramatic look to an evening ensemble.

The Seasonless LBDThe Tropical Wool Bateau Neck Dress from Ann Taylor is a surprisingly versatile dress. In tropical wool, it works all year long. With the patent belt, it’s great for work or even a day wedding. Switch the belt to a beaded or pave belted number, and it would work for many evening affairs.

Purchase the matching wool jacket and you have the perfect 9-5 ensemble – go from boardroom to dinner with such a classic combination.

Available in Misses and Petite up to Size 16.

The Donna Ricco Crepe Sheath Dress from Nordstrom is a perfect style for the woman who isn’t terribly comfortable with her arms, but wishes to show off her feminine shape.

The crepe is made from polyester which means it will have stretch and work with a woman’s figure. It also means it is a frabric that will travel well, wash easily, resist wrinkles and transtion with ease from day to evening.

This style could be made to be more conservative with a black matte jersey camisole tucked underneath, or leave as-is for an evening affair.

The Calvin Klein Jewelneck Dress from Lord and Taylor has the same classic styling as the Louben sheath, and the same versatile and forgiving Triacetate fabric.

Pair with pearls and pumps for work, switch to a bit more glitz and some strappy heels for evening.

You may also wish to visit:The Power of Accessories
Expensive Doesn’t Always Equal Appropriate
The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe
How Does One Get the Polished Look?

What I Wore: Not So Little Black Dress

karen kane wrap dress love cortnie bag review size 12 14 fashion blog petite mom

Dress: c/o Karen Kane | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Bracelet: Nordstrom | Bag: Love,Cortnie | Shoes: Nine West ‘Flax’

I adore Karen Kane for comfy, flattering pieces with a bit of sex appeal. Karen Kane was kind enough to send me this dress a long while ago (talking no cast on my arm part of the year), and I have worn it so many times, though this is it’s first appearance on the blog. It’s jersey, so it dresses up and down with ease. Here I wear it for Date Night with pumps and a clutch, but I’ve also worn it on the weekend with my silver Birkenstocks and a pair of aviator sunglasses. The draping is in all the right places, and the fabric never wrinkles, making it great for travel or long days.

As for the clutch, isn’t it awesome? It’s by Maryland blogger and bag designer Cortnie Elizabeth. I’ve been wanting one of her bags for a long while and finally pulled the trigger when I saw this unexpected leopard print (and we all know I love leopard!).

Wardrobe Staple: The Not So Little Black Dress

I believe in the power of the not so little black dress. While the LBD is famous, the NSLBD is one that can get far more wear and is far more versatile. From the boardroom to the ballroom, a black dress in a versatile fabric and cut can work for most anything life throws your way, and is a smart wardrobe staple for any woman.

Dobbin Clothing recently sent me their Simone Dress and as soon as I put it on I realized what a perfect NSLBD it is. The stretch wool fabric has a subtle sheen and a refined finish that looks elegant and classic. The asymmetrical neckline provides allure and interest without being so unique people would think, “Oh there she is in that black dress again.” The seaming and waistband flatter curves and also add interest without stealing the spotlight.

Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Bracelet: Ann Taylor (similar) | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Bag: c/o Fossil | Shoes: Ivanka Trump

For this look I styled the Dobbin Clothing Simone Dress for work. The dress is classic, and doesn’t require a bunch of accessories to look polished. I added a wrist of bracelets and a watch for a bit of shine and my own personality, but otherwise let the dress do the talking. This dress looks great on its own; the interesting neckline would also look quite lovely under a blazer.

Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Tights: Spanx | Boots: Ros Hommerson | Bag: Rebecca Minkoff (similar) | Scarf: c/o Nepali by TDM | Watch: c/o Fossil | Bracelet: c/o Lulu Avenue

The Simone Dress would also be perfect for an afternoon with friends, having lunch and going shopping. The stretch wool resists wrinkles so it would hold up through a long day or business travel.  The length is perfect for boots as well as pumps; I added a scarf for color and to show how you can hide the neckline of the dress and give it a different life. Using accessories like scarves are great when on travel to make a small wardrobe look larger and more varied.

Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Bracelets: Ann Taylor (similar) | Bag: Aldo (similar) | Earrings: vintage (similar) | Shoes: Nine West

I did say boardroom to ballroom, didn’t I? This dress is elegant enough to dress up perfectly for a gala. Adding sparkly accessories, the Simone Dress becomes black tie. I also can’t resist an opportunity to pull out the wedding jewelry; the tiara made me feel very Holly Golightly and doesn’t look too insane paired with such an elegant dress.

With a dress like this from Dobbin Clothing, you can get a great dress now for the holidays, but know you can wear it later too. Pair with a cardigan or blazer this winter, with nude peeptoes and pearls for a spring wedding, with tan sandals and a wood necklace for a summer Date Night.

Dobbin Clothing on Wardrobe Oxygen
Top row:  1 | 2 | 3 | 4       Bottom row: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I’ve been a fan of Dobbin Clothing for over a year; while there’s posts above with me wearing Dobbin Clothing, I also wear this line on a regular basis off the blog. Sophisticated silhouettes, wardrobe staples that dress up and down with ease, high quality fabrics and construction, and made in the USA. While my other Dobbin dresses are made from ponte knit (and you know how much I love ponte), the Simone in wool is just as comfortable and figure flattering and I am impressed by the cotton used for their trousers. Dresses I got from Dobbin a year ago and have washed a dozen times still look brand new. Not just that, Jess and Catherine are awesome people who care about their product, and their customers.

Dobbin Clothing is offering 30% off their entire shop until Midnight tonight with the code THANKS30. They’d like to thank us for being customers, and I’d like to thank them for great clothes and this great discount!

While this post was sponsored by Dobbin Clothing, they left the text, images, what item/s I featured, and even the topic completely up to me.  I chose to feature this dress because I really do believe in it, and I chose to partner with Dobbin Clothing because I really do believe in them.

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Ask Allie: Styling a Not-so Little Black Dress

I am trying to pare down my wardrobe and have it higher functioning and recently found a black crepe lined dress at a thrift store that fits me like a glove. It has a round neck, short sleeves, darts and seams that make it fit really nicely but not trashy and it comes to my knees. Thing is, I have no clue how to make it look cool and look like me. I like color and modern lines and am known for my unique jewelry and want to make this dress work for everything from work to a wedding to a work party. Suggestions?

That sounds like quite the thrifting gem! A versatile fabric that dresses up and down with ease and a silhouette that can work year-round. I am guessing this is a silhouette you’re not familiar with, which is causing the frustration. No worries, here’s some suggestions to get your creative fashion juices flowing!

Such a dress can seem quite ordinary on its own, but a simple and classic silhouette is easy to accessorize to put your personal style spin on it. With such clean lines, it’s the perfect backdrop for great accessories. For the first ensemble, I accentuated the waist with a wide black leather belt. Having the belt the same color as the dress prevents it from cutting the figure in two, but adds interest and an edgy vibe. a funky scarf looped at the throat and some sleek pumps completes a look that would work at the office and even for a daytime wedding.

The second ensemble shows how a seemingly conservative dress can have a rocker vibe if properly accessorized. Have your dress work from desk to dinner with a quick change of accessories – a statement necklace, unique clutch, and studded booties transform this classic frock into a rocker’s dream.

This style of dress is perfect for the office, even if you’re known for having the more funky or creative personal style. A jacket with a crisp, modern silhouette will give a whole different shape to the dress. Add modern silver accessories and a funky shoe to put your spin on boardroom attire.

Black is the perfect backdrop for colorful accessories. A leather obi belt in pumpkin orange will add a fun pop to the sheath and tie in unique bangles you may have picked up from your travels. To keep from looking too matchy-matchy, a pair of tan snakeskin pumps complete the ensemble.

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My VERY LONG Review of Bonnaroo… and a Little News!

Bonnaroo – this would be our second year going. For those who don’t know what Bonnaroo is, it is a four-day music festival on a 700+ acre field in Manchester, Tennessee. As for the type of music, well that is extremely varied. Rock, electronica, bluegrass, blues, soul, hip hop, rap, indie, heavy metal, jam bands, and even famous comedians. Over 100 artists are at Bonnaroo but a few names you may know that were in attendance this year were Pearl Jam, Metallica, Kanye West, O.A.R., Death Cab for Cutie, Vampire Weekend, Cat Power, Lupe Fiasco, Jack Johnson, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, and Chris Rock.

Bonnaroo is 11 hours from my home in the Nations Capital – each year we drive down to Bristol, TN and stay overnight and then head out the next morning for the festival grounds. This gives us a last chance for a hot shower and a cool room to rest for when we do the Roo, we do it in General Camping. This means tents, no electricity, porta potties and the only water available is freezing well water from water stations (a fancy term for troughs with spigots in a trailer). Last year four of us went and with much research and help from message boards like Inforoo, we were prepared with a decent camp setup and all the necessities to survive the heat and long days of music and activity. This year our party grew to be seven folks with an even more awesome camp setup and plan of action to get the most out of the fest.

I was ready for the heat, the possible dust or rain, the long days, the lack of sleep, the need to stay hydrated, to stay up until sunrise to catch the best shows, the ability to be comfy without a hot shower or a shave for almost a week. I just wasn’t prepared to go at it pregnant.

Yes pregnant. I am three months With Child. Knocked Up. Preggo. There’s a bun in my oven.

This was not an accident – my husband and I decided to start trying this past Christmas. However with his medical history (think Lance Armstrong) and my almost two decades on birth control, I didn’t think it would be so… swift. We were trying but not trying. Not charting, temping and “baby we better have sex NOW!” sort of stuff, but just not using protection and being a happy married couple. We thought it would be a couple more months… heck even a couple more years before we got pregnant. I joked with a few about how I could be pregnant at Bonnaroo but didn’t really think it would actually happen.

I was 11 weeks along – long enough to have the morning sickness subside, my need to pee not be every 15 minutes and me start to have a twinge of energy again. For that I am eternally thankful. If Bonnaroo were two weeks earlier, I may have spent the entire time crying or sleeping in the fetal position in my tent.

So with this information… here’s my review of Bonnaroo 2008!

As I mentioned, seven of us went together. It was me and my husband, his best friend and my sister (the four from the 2007 group) and then two close girl friends and one of these girls’ boyfriend. They were all Roo Newbies, but music fans who had been well prepped by us regarding what they would experience when once on the farm. We considered shoving into two cars to save on gas, but decided to take three so we would end up with a larger campsite (you park directly behind your car) and not want to strangle one another before we hit Virginia.

Traffic in DC was a beast on Wednesday morning; it took over an hour and a half to get from my house in the DC suburbs to my sister’s apartment in DC to Route 66. We ended up not getting on the highway until around 10:30 am. Two cars headed to my sister’s place, the other started their commute from near Baltimore at 10:30 and still caught up with us in time for lunch. We stopped at a little pizza joint in BFE, Virginia where I had an awesome mushroom calzone, refueled the cars and got back on the road. We arrived at the Bristol La Quinta around 5pm.

Our friend’s dad lives only about 20 minutes from Bristol so we met him and his wife for dinner at Chili’s. Did you know there is literally only ONE vegetarian entrée on the entire freaking Chili’s menu? WTF! I was so not in the mood for a black bean burger that evening so I got super Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally on our waiter and made a custom meal. I didn’t feel too bad when he then admitted he used to go to Bonnaroo too, but stopped “when all the crappy commercial MTV bands started taking over.” I hate jam band snobs – there were still TONS of original Roo artists there (Umphrey’s McGee, Widespread Panic, Disco Biscuits, Yonder Mountain String Band, Phil Lesh, etc.) so those snobs drive me batty.

After dinner, we hit the Wal-Mart for some necessities. Got some awesome battery-operated fans for $5 that were lifesavers at Bonnaroo, some Clorox wipes to prep the porta potty seats, eye drops for my allergy-prone and contacts-wearing eyes, and my husband got a water gun and a Frisbee. After, my friend and his girlfriend went to his parent’s house for the night and five of us went back to La Quinta. Four drank beer, one drank water and we all played Roo-themed Pictionary and wrote goofy raps (sounds lame but we were giggling for hours).

We headed out a bit later than expected the next day, but with some advice from our friend’s parents (construction in Knoxville, use Route 55 to get into the festival) we made great time and ended up in a very short line (less than an hour from highway to campsite) and funnily enough only about 100 yards from our camp location the previous year (Pod 6/Camp Dr. Rumack for those who went). Not a bad spot – like a 10 minute walk to Centeroo where all the events took place and less than a block from porta-potties and right near a main road so it was easy to find camp in the middle of the night.

Camp setup was pretty painless with seven people. Unfortunately it was near 5pm which is when I seem to get my Morning Sickness. I was really dragging, but trying to be helpful. Drank lots of very cold water, had some protein and plugged through. Soon we had our phat pad set up – two EZ up shelters, four tents (one for me and my husband, one for my friend and her man, one for our guy friend and one for the two gals), tarps over all to block from heat and pounding rain, a mini kitchen made from a grill and folding table, a bunch of tailgate chairs, Christmas lights around the shade shelters and even a shower/toilet tent!

We all cooled off with some beers (me with some Vitamin Water) and headed to Centeroo. One friend had a couple he knew who were also there and they suggested we start the evening with seeing Grand Ole Party. Never heard of this band before, but knew I would like them once I found out the lead singer was a woman AND the drummer! They totally rocked and put on a good show. After we took a quick walk through Centeroo to get our bearings and headed to see a few more shows (Grupo Fantasmo, Back Door Slam, The Sword). I would have LOVED to stay up to see Vampire Weekend and Dark Star Orchestra but the kumquat (that’s what size the books say the baby was at the time of Bonnaroo) wasn’t having it so back to camp I went. I was knocked out by midnight.

Day Two – Friday. Started the day with a makeshift shower at the Water Station. This entailed me tossing on a pair of cargo shorts holding a hair towel, bar of soap, shampoo and a razor. Got in line with all the other campers with my own spigot of well water and washed my hair, shaved my pits and washed what was accessible. This year I had no fear and stripped off my shirt to just a solid hot pink cotton Victoria’s Secret bra so I could really feel clean. For the rest of the body, I went back to the tent and made do with Tea Tree cleansing wipes from The Body Shop and some Target brand personal cleansing wipes. I must admit I did add some girliness to the day – brought my Matrix Contouring Milk to add to my air-dried hair and Cover Girl LashBlast waterproof mascara (BTW like it just as much as the non-waterproof version). Packed the Camelbak with Life Water, regular water, granola bars and fruit for snacks after slathering on tons of SPF 30 and donning a sloppy straw hat.

We started the day by attending a brunch for members of the message board Inforoo. May sound dorky, but it was totally awesome to meet so many people I had corresponded with for the past two years. We didn’t stay long because only half our group were members of the board and felt a bit left out. We also wanted to catch some music! We began the day’s music with Steel Train which I liked okay but found it more to be background music to my conversations with friends and People Watching. We then caught the end of Drive By Truckers’ set, which was pretty fantastic. We then headed to the Which Stage (second largest stage) to see Umphrey’s McGee. My husband saw them at Caribbean Holidaze this past December and we have a good friend that is a pretty rabid fan of theirs, but I had yet to experience them live. While half our group went near the stage to see the band, I stayed with a few friends near the back of the crowd under a tree to get shade and to relax. Still loved them and had an awesome experience. We stayed put for Les Claypool, who was on next. Another great performance.

After Les, I had great expectations. I wanted to see Swell Season, Rilo Kiley, M.I.A., Willie Nelson and Chris Rock. However Kumquat was exhausted so I headed back to camp for a late afternoon nap. I ended up sleeping until 9pm. Most of our group had left to go see Metallica; my friend Shelly and I chilled out, changed clothes, repacked and headed later into Centeroo to get good seats for My Morning Jacket.

My Morning Jacket is the reason we even went to Bonnaroo in the first place. My husband wanted to get his best friend a DVD for his birthday that showcased an amazing guitarist he didn’t know too much about (his friend is a guitar player). After doing some Googling he decided to get My Morning Jacket’s Okonokos DVD. We watched it together and I was addicted. I started researching MMJ and found they were regular performers at Bonnaroo. Though they weren’t performing in 2007, it still sounded like a cool festival so we decided to go. So this year they were performing and it would be my first time seeing them live and I was very excited.

We got a good spot (to the left of the beer stand for anyone who attended) and chilled out listening to Metallica’s set (not sad that I missed it) over the trees and enjoying the cool temperatures. Then it started to rain. Just a bit of drizzle, not too terrible. After Metallica, my sister, husband and my friend’s boyfriend caught up with us and it really began to rain. No worries, we were all prepared with ponchos and trash bags!

MMJ didn’t disappoint. It was so good, the vibe of the crowd and being with my favorite people and yes, even the rain made such a magical moment that I teared up. Definitely the highlight of the weekend. However the rain started getting to be very strong and my friends wanted to head out to see the Superjam (rumors were flying that Ton Waits was going to show up) so I regretfully left MMJ and headed with them to a different stage. We stopped at a tent selling hot tea and coffee to warm ourselves up. The barista told me my herbal tea was very hot, but I didn’t realize HOW hot it was. It was so hot, the cup collapsed on itself and spilled all over my left hand. I burned myself so bad the skin today is all leathery and wrinkled on my ring and middle fingers and I can’t get my wedding set back on. That, plus the rain, leaving MMJ, being tired and pregnant… I started to cry. No romantic tearing up, big heaving sobs. Friends got me ice for my hand and we all agreed it was a gross wet and very late night (around 2am) so we headed back to camp.

I was till a bit sad about how the night ended, but as I snuggled in next to the love of my life I heard MMJ perform “One Big Holiday” as clear as day and I smiled and knew things happen for a reason.

The next day, it was still raining. We trudged through off and on showers to get ready that morning. I can’t recall whether I took a shower or not – think that day due to the rain and mud I just washed with wipes in my tent. I decided to wear my Duo boots since I waterproofed them prior to Bonnaroo. I had brought Crocs as my main footwear because they are perfect for such a festival, but didn’t want nasty Roo mud seeping in through the air holes. As with the previous day, clothing of choice was a lightweight cotton sundress (Saturday was Old Navy, Friday was Target).

We started the day with an acoustic set by The Two Gallants at the Sonic Stage. Not bad, but I was distracted and spent a lot of time taking pictures of the crowd. We walked by and caught a few songs by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and then headed to the What Stage (largest stage) to see Ozomatli. I knew NOTHING about this band, but heard great things from friends on message boards. I again was not disappointed – had an amazing time and danced my booty off. It was a true Bonnaroo moment – fun music, good weather (rain had disappeared), good friends, thousands of friendly people dancing with me. We stayed for their entire set and then headed to the Which Stage for Gogol Bordello – another band I heard was amazing live. Maybe I was worn out from Kumquat or Ozomatli, but I wasn’t enthralled with Gogol Bordello. I pretty much chilled out (brought a Crazy Creek stadium seat which was phenomenal for field seating at these shows and easy to bungee to my Camelbak) with a frozen lemonade and People Watched. I then headed back to the big stage to see the legendary B.B. King. I stayed long enough to hear “The Thrill is Gone” and then found my friends at the That Tent where Zappa Plays Zappa was ready to perform.

Was never a fan of Frank Zappa, though I respected his talent. However I heard it was a must-see show and had a mini crush on Dweezil when I was a kid (I can still recall an interview with him on Nickelodeon where he said he hated making left turns while driving). They started and they sounded great, but I knew it was just the wrong scene for me. It was hot and dusty under the tent, a few guys near me smelled of BO and weed, a chick in front of me was smoking a cigarette, Kumquat was getting restless and Morning Sickness was starting (surprise, surprise it was a little after 5pm). I left my friends, wandered a bit and then decided to head back to camp to have a semi-healthy meal (as good as you can do with a 5-day cooler) and a quick power nap.

That power nap ended up being a doozy for I didn’t wake up until almost 10pm, completely missing the Jack Johnson set. Oh, no worries, I figured Jack would be kind of chill and I really was needing high-energy music to keep my own energy going through these long days. I changed into some long linen pants, a tank and a hooded long-sleeved tee and found my friends who were at the What Stage waiting for Pearl Jam.

Yes, Pearl Jam! One of my favorite bands and by far the most favorite band of my husband. Eddie and team have never disappointed us, and I was super excited to see them here were they would be more likely to play rarities and really jam out. Again, my expectations were exceeded. The show went over schedule, they played really rare songs, they jammed out, got personal with the crowd and sounded phenomenal. My Morning jacket made me tear up? Well my husband’s were shining during this set. Totally fabulous.

We then packed up and headed across Centeroo to see Lupe Fiasco at The Other Tent. We got a spot to the right of the tent. Standing, my husband and friend could see the stage pretty well. I was tired so I pulled out the Crazy Creek and had a seat. Lupe was pretty amazing and had the entire crowd wrapped around his finger. I was trying to get in a nap but couldn’t because the beat was infectious and the crowd so pumped.

We then headed BACK to the What Stage to see Kanye West. This was another must-see for me because I wanted to see what Kanye would pull out. There was much controversy about him even being at Bonnaroo – was he the right “feel” for the festival? Why did he get switched from a day spot on a smaller stage to a late night spot on the biggest stage? Would he be a primadonna? Would he live up to the hype? Rumor had it that he would performing the act from his Glow in the Dark tour which would have been pretty awesome to see.

We got a spot almost where we were for Pearl Jam – to the left side of the stage and a third from it. Good view, and good access to beer and porta-potties. I think we were settled by 2:30am and Kanye was supposed to start at 2:45am. I was pretty pumped, as were some of my friends. Others were starting to get sleepy. They were playing popular hip-hop tunes over the speakers until the show started and I was singing Rob Base and Beastie Boys with my girl friends. I was really shocked that no one in the audience knew all the words to Paul Revere. Is it because were are old? Because we grew up near DC? I feel that Beastie Boys’ Paul Revere is a rap classic, one that all ages would know all the words to. Anyway, us old ladies sand all the words and shook our booties!

3:00 and no Kanye. We get a message on the big screen that the show is delayed until 3:15. At 3:15 another notice of delay until 3:30. At 3:30 we get the message “Kanye West up Next!” There were a BUNCH of angry hippies by this point. People were booing, throwing things at the stage and many were chanting, “Fuck Kanye! Fuck Kanye!” I had pulled out my Crazy Creek again and got some shut-eye. I wasn’t going to miss this show, no matter how late it started. People started leaving and at 4am three of my friends gave up and headed back to camp. We persevered. The show FINALLY started at 4:29am. About 20 minutes into it, my husband and sister left because they were falling asleep standing up but somehow my one girl friend and I had a renewed sense of energy and stayed and even pushed forward so we were pretty near the front of the stage.

If you Google this show, you will get many mixed reviews, most negative. Most people were angry from the get-go for the show being almost two hours late. His show was also 30 minutes shorter than scheduled. It was NOT the Glow in the Dark tour performance, but one I had also heard about where he acts out having his space ship crash on an unknown planet.

Personally, I loved the performance, the cheesy parts and all. I knew many of his songs casually but found myself singing along to all of them. I wondered if the delay was purposeful when he began singing “Good Morning” right when the sun was rising, but honestly I didn’t care. I was pregnant, sober and up with the sun dancing my heart out to Kanye West with a good friend and a thousand new friends around me. I was damn proud of myself for sticking through. Kanye sung his heart out and I found him to be a powerful and talented rapper and singer (though his acting skills are SEVERELY lacking). The screens really added to the performance and I loved the lights, the video, the dancing, the whole effect. My friend and I were super pumped and glad to have had the experience.

The show ended around 5:30am and we trudged through Centeroo to head back to our camp. We were so physically and mentally exhausted we could hardly speak. However we were both so psyched by what we just shared.

Surprisingly, my body woke me up around 7:30am. Well maybe not so considering I rarely sleep past that point even on a weekend. Got up and got a burrito of egg and cheese from a nearby vendor. Sunday’s music started a bit later, so it gave me time to have a makeshift shower, even take another nap before heading back for our final day of music. It may sound disgusting, but I put on my same boots (new socks) and the same dress as the day before. I know, ME of all people! However I was going to be gross no matter what I did and the dress was so perfect – it was airy, not lined, super comfortable and my dress I had for Sunday had a lining that I KNEW would stick to my legs. Not only that, my breasts had grown a lot since I bought it and it just didn’t fit the way it was supposed to on top.

We started back to Centeroo around 2:30pm to catch Robert Randolph. He was phenomenal, and others thought so too. He was at the That Tent which is not a huge stage and the crowd spilled out from the tent to the side grounds, over an access road and into a common area. The sun was blazing and there was no heat and after about four songs I had to cry Uncle and move on. I think they put him on a smaller stage because he was with The Revival and not The Family Band, but honestly, he could have filled the What Stage just as well as Ozomatli the day prior.

I headed to the What Stage to catch Yonder Mountain String Band. The sun was insane, I was reapplying sunscreen every 30 minutes and kept wet bandannas on my neck and head. Guys were dancing around with misters and spray bottles which felt like droplets of heaven. I finished a two liter of water and had to go get more. My husband and I sat with our backs to the stage for a while so that the sun wasn’t beating on our faces. The rest of our friends met up with us just in time for the band to start.

Another Bonnaroo hit with Yonder Mountain String Band. Not my typical choice in music (bluegrass) but they were incredible talented, personable and the audience was energized. We were along the gravel access road on the left side of the stage and the road was full of dancing people – hippies, wookies, preps, rockers, ladies with hula hoops, tons of bouncing dreadlocks. It was an awesome sight and you couldn’t help but dance as well. My friend commented, “now I see why Black people say that White people can’t dance” and it cracked me up. It was true, the majority of the people had NO rhythm and seemed more to be doing a jig than traditional dancing, but they were so happy and full of life, it was beautiful! (picture depicts the feelings the next day by many festival attendees)

 We left and headed to get some sustenance and caught a few songs by Solomon Burke. Pretty talented man. We then went to catch O.A.R. It was 5pm and yet again, Kumquat was getting restless so I was feeling anxious, hot, sick and miserable. They were cleaning nearby porta-potties at this time and the smell almost knocked me over. There was no sun anywhere so we just tried to find a spot where we could hear the band and not smell sewage. My sister tells me she got a weird call from my mom on her cell. My mom was dog sitting and when she stopped by my house that morning, there was an alarm going off in my home. It wasn’t the smoke detector or a house alarm and she didn’t know what to do. By time we got the message and called her back, she had called my father-in-law who was also on vacation but called a neighbor of ours who is a handyman. He came over and helped my mom. Come to find out our water heater overheated and a bit overflowed onto the floor, where we have a moisture detection alarm. They cleaned up the bit of water, turned off the alarm and turned off the water heater’s circuit breaker and all was fine by time I called but to have that on top of Morning Sickness and heat and exhaustion… well I wasn’t as patient and nice to my mom as I should have been. I had to walk from my group of friends to hear her and when I returned I couldn’t find my camera. I totally went ballistic screaming that some wookie stole my brand new camera and then my friend found it under his backpack. I knew at that point I needed a major break from it all. The heat, the noise, the ridiculous crowds (65K in attendance), the music, the everything. It wasn’t bad being pregnant at Bonnaroo, but I did have a much shorter fuse than I usually would.

We headed for some food and some shade and I chilled out by myself regrouping. When I finally cooled down, my husband and I decided to go see Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, but find a spot in the shade away from the crowds. Eventually my friend and sister joined us. I lay down and relaxed and sort of vegged out. Honestly, I don’t remember much of that performance except that Alison Krauss’ voice can soar like an angel, and I heard Plant wail a la Led Zeppelin and it sent chills down my spine and made me glad I toughed it out.

After a bit, my sister and friend went to check on other shows. My husband and I decided to roam Centeroo alone, checking out various smaller tents and vendors. It was nice for when you go with a group of seven to a festival attended by 65,000 there’s little couple time available. We held hands and walked slow and it was a nice finale to the day.

At 8:00pm the whole crowd reconvened at the karaoke tent to see our karaoke-obsessed friend perform. This was not any old karaoke tent – this tent offered you to perform with a LIVE BAND. When we showed up it was a hard rock band all decked out in lycra and crimped hair and bandannas. It was fabulous, and T totally rocked the house with her awesome rendition of Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer. The karaoke tent shut down soon after her performance; a few went to see other shows, my husband and some went back to camp, my sister and I decided to get a trip on the Ferris Wheel. It had just gotten dark and we were able to see all of the camping and festival grounds lit up. It was a nice way to end the fest.

After the ride, my sister headed to see Widespread Panic. I was planning on seeing them but really felt it would be pushing myself too far. I instead kissed her goodbye and walked back to camp alone. I got myself a last Bonnaroo treat – an ice cream cone for the journey and took a long leisurely route so I could People Watch, Camp Watch, and see all the cars already leaving Bonnaroo.

I got back to camp and two friends were up drinking beer. I attempted to stay up and chat with them but soon started falling asleep in my tailgate chair. Said goodnight and was in bed by 10pm. I was so tired; I slept through all the fireworks and craziness of the last night of Bonnaroo. My husband did as well – we remarked that we had a surprisingly restful night of sleep!

The next morning my husband and I were up by 6am and we immediately started packing. I believe we were on the road by 8:30am. We stopped around 10am for breakfast at Cracker Barrel, made two pit stops and were home by 10pm.

All in all it was a wonderful and actually quite a restful experience. Four days without Internet, TV, newspapers, bills, work, and life drama was exactly what the doctor (and the kumquat) ordered. Finding nutritious vegetarian food was really not a problem – I brought plenty of snacks and there were many food vendors that offered healthy veggie-filled vegetarian and vegan meals. I really enjoyed being sober for the whole time because I didn’t miss a thing and never woke with a hangover or regrets. It was fun to have this crazy experience this summer, knowing next summer I will be caring for the new member of my family!

A Life, Replotted: Finding the Edge

chelsea henderson for wardrobe oxygen

“I’m not bound by time” I used to say in my 20s when asked why I didn’t wear a watch. Now in my 40s, I still don’t wear a timepiece, but to say I’m not connected to the unavoidable ticking of the clock is far from the truth.

I time nearly everything I do. Obviously, I have to keep meticulous time of the yoga classes I teach. They run for 45, 60, 75 or 90 minutes, and before class starts, I assign a “trigger song” on my playlist, a song to signal it’s time to wind my students down. For my consulting firm, I bill clients to the quarter of an hour and detail how long I worked on what project. I maintain a timesheet app for one of my projects; there is little I find more depressing than getting an email from the app asking if I forgot to turn off the timer when the answer is no. I may have the luxury of working from home, but part of what I’m adjusting to is I’m on all the time.

In yoga teacher training they taught us to seek the balance between effort and ease. That is to say, if your practice doesn’t feel like work, push a little harder. But if you find yourself struggling, take it down a notch. In yoga I embrace this lesson, but in the rest of my life I have trouble with the stepping back part of the equation. It all came to a head last week when I taught eleven yoga classes, billed 45 client hours and had the kids for all but two days. It took a minor breakdown to get it; in order to strike a balance, I have to know where my edge is. And once I recognize where the edge is, I have to respect the boundaries to keep myself off its ledge.

So as I write, this column is 36 hours late, I haven’t practiced yoga yet today and my laundry basket overflows. But I spent time in the garden, had a rained out barbeque with dear friends and watched Star Wars: A New Hope with my younger son. To maintain the point between effort and ease, I decided to not check email. My professional life abounds, but it’s just one part of who I am. And for other aspects of my life, I have to save time on and off the clock.

chelsea hendersonChelsea Henderson is an aspiring novelist and recovering Capitol Hill staffer. When she isn’t sneaking time to finish writing her second book, she advocates on behalf of clean energy and environmental policy, reads, practices yoga, and single parents her perpetually hungry pre-teen boys. She also periodically contributes to her lifestyle blog, the Chelsea Chronicles and is intermittently good at Twitter.


I bought this dress as a final sale from Banana Republic.  I think it cost me something like $20.  I bought it while pregnant, thinking it would be the right size postpartum.  I got it… and realized it was too big.  It’s an XL, even though I may be XL in some places, I obviously am not for this dress.  I think next time I may wear it with a belt.  If that doesn’t look good, I will have to donate this to a taller, larger-boned friend.

But the dress is the most gorgeous shade of ultraviolet and a super soft merino.  And what a lovely floppy neck!  It’s rainy and ucky out, and I feel just as cozy in this as I did this morning padding around in my pink leopard-print pajama pants!  With it are my black leather boots from Ros Hamerson, silver chain from Ralph Lauren, silver hoops and cuff.
I don’t know if this happens to any other woman.  You put on your lipstick, and then you put it in your purse for touchups later in the day.  Then the next day you’re rushing to get ready and you realize that because you have been putting your lip product in your bag all week, you now have no lipsticks or glosses in your makeup case!  Well this happened to me this morning, so you see a chalky pink pencil that I put on to help my Laura Mercier Pink Champagne adhere longer.  Pink Champagne was applied in the car once I parked at the Metro, before hopping on the train. 
As for the rest of my makeup, it’s Estee Lauder Doublewear Light foundation, Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage concealer, Nars blush in Orgasm, Pop beauty shadow palette for brown eyes – the celadon on lids, the black in crease and along lash lines.  A bit of Avon Luxury liner in black, and Tarte’s Lights, Camera, Lashes! mascara in black.
I have tried a ton of new products lately and have been quite the slacker on reviews.  However I do have to mention one product I have recently used that I adore.  For the past month I have been using the Olay Professional Pro-X Anti-Aging Starter Kit.  This kit has a night cream, eye cream and SPF 30 day moisturizer. 

I have been using it almost every night (yes, I must admit I sometimes pass out before taking off my makeup) and every morning and have seen a big change in my skin.  Compare my skin above to my skin here, a month prior.  You can see that the wrinkles in my forehead and around my eyes are less pronounced, my age spot on my cheek is a bit fainter, and even the little bumps I always have on my chin are clearning up.  I bet the change will be more obvious in another month.  I am known to have reactions to harsh chemicals and salycitic acid, but I haven’t had a single reaction to this line and the eye cream doesn’t irritate my allergy-prone, contacts-wearing eyes.

The kit isn’t cheap, but it has been a month and I still have 1/3 of the day and eye creams and probably half of the night cream. This kit is worthy of repurchase in the full-size containers.

Unlock the Perfect Cup this Holiday with TASSIMO™: Review and Giveaway

Looking at how often I write and tweet about coffee, you’d think I was a coffee connoisseur. Notsomuch. When I hit my local coffee shop I ask for it plain and big because all the –inos overwhelm me. At home, Karl is the master of the coffee domain. I have no idea how to use the French press so I rely on him to fuel my caffeine fix. Lately I have been working more early mornings and I have to stop by the local coffee shop or fast food drive-through to get my cup of Joe because I just can’t figure out how to make a decent cup of coffee. You know what would be a perfect holiday gift for me? A super simple single-serve coffee maker that would make a great cup of coffee every time.

Enter TASSIMO™, who was awesome enough to send me the TASSIMO™ T55 Single Cup Brewing System JUST at the perfect time. I was working a lot of long days and hated spending so much on take-out coffee or watching Karl make me a cup still bleary-eyed in dawn’s early light. No needing to wait until the holidays to become a coffee-making expert!

Place the T DISC upside down so that the INTELLIBREW™ technology can read the barcode. Snap the lid shut, press Start and in minutes you’ll be enjoying a perfect cup!

The TASSIMO™ Brewer is super easy to use too. Add water to the reservoir in back, insert your TASSIMO™ T DISC in the top, and press start. The built-in technology INTELLIBREW™ scans the barcode on each T DISC to identify precise brewing instructions with the exact temperature, water, and time duration, so each and every drink is perfect every time. This Home Brewing System isn’t just for a cup of joe–the TASSIMO™ can also make cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolate, tea, and more. One of my favorite features is how quickly it heats water; for little energy you can have a piping-hot cup of water for soup or tea in seconds.

TASSIMO™ sent me a few T DISCS to get started, and it’s fun to make hot chocolate, cappuccinos, caramel latte macchiatos, or espressos by myself and know it will be delicious. With well-known brands like Twinings, Gevalia, and Maxwell House partnering with TASSIMO™ for their T DISCS you know the quality and the flavor is great. I love that there are great limited edition flavors like Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Peppermint Mocha for the holidays!

Now I’m a pro at making fancy coffee house drinks from my kitchen counter!

If you’d like to unlock a perfect cup with TASSIMO™ this holiday season, they are offering some great deals on their site. With Cyber Monday code TACYMON3 you can get 20% off T DISCS; you also get 20% off Brewers and with each Brewer purchase, you will receive two free packages of T DISCS (valid in the US only on Cannot be combined with other offers . Limit one coupon redemption per customer. 20% T DISC discount limited to 6 T DISC packages. 20% Brewer discount limited to two Brewers. Offer only valid on 12/2/2013 until 11:59PM PST).

If you miss the Cyber Monday Deal, brewers and T DISCS are also available at Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon.

Thank you for entering, the giveaway is now closed and winners have been notified.

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Giveaway: Gap Skimmer Jeans – Save and Win!

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

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

How to Enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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