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Distraction

Kimono Jacket: Tildon | Tee: Old Navy | Jeans: c/o Liverpool Jeans Company | Shoes: Miss Sixty (similar) | Navy bracelets: c/o lifetherapy | Silver cuff, necklaces: random mix I’ve had forever | Earrings: Nordstrom (similar) | Bag: Banana Republic via eBay (similar) | Cute child: Mah Bellay

Part of me thought about having the blog silent today out of respect for the tragedy that happened at the Boston Marathon yesterday. But then this morning as I was getting overwhelmed by more news on Twitter, I went to my Feedly app to distract myself with lovely blogs by talented writers and stylish women and men. And I realized, we all have different ways to cope with a situation, and sometimes we just need a distraction. Maybe it’s a reality TV show on Bravo, possibly a pedicure and latte, or maybe it’s visiting blogs on a lunch hour and distancing yourself from the news for just a little bit.

When I bought this tunic/jacket/thingie I felt very Stevie Nicks in it, but when I saw pictures of when I wore it this past weekend, I felt a bit more old school Carney Wilson. However, it’s so darn fun to wear, Karl told me I look sexy in it, and it’s free and breezy and flowing and dramatic when I move. This top is actually one big rectangle with a slit down the middle and four holes to thread the belt. It’s really getting my sewing juices flowing, thinking I could make something similar. I’m also thinking I may try this with a leather belt for a different look. The belt holes are a bit high so the belt can ride up to right below my bust (as you see in these pictures), so by making it myself I can have the belt at my natural waist for less riding. However I don’t have the skill to recreate the cool beading!

Oh these shoes… when I got on my ankle bootie kick, I set up an eBay alert to let me know when Miss Sixty Jaiden boots in my size were up for bid. I broke the heel on my first pair, found my second pair on Gilt (thank you Fi for the head’s up!), but they got beat up pretty quickly with winter wear. I found my third pair for a song on eBay and set up an alert to let me know if another pair in my size went up for bid. Day after I set up the alert, these came up for an insanely low price, brand new. I thought they would be great for spring. Nope, they looked atrocious, like horse’s hooves or bandaged feed. So they sat in a box waiting for me to get around to putting them back on eBay. This weekend I decided to try them with this outfit since black shoes looked too severe… and I kind of liked it. And they’re just as comfortable as the black ones (though a slightly different heel and shape). So comfortable, when I went to my cousin’s this weekend, I ended up taking a pretty long walk in them and didn’t have unhappy feet. Talk about shopping your closet!

And the key necklace?  I don’t know why I didn’t think about it before, but it’s the key to the cedar chest in our bedroom.  This weekend I thought… hey that would make a pretty badass necklace and I’d always know where to find it!

I remember when I was little, we went to a yard sale and I found this hot pink and white acrylic ribbed turtleneck sweater and I felt in love HARD. If I recall correctly, my mom tried to dissuade me from getting it but I felt I needed it in my life and I can remember wearing it a lot. In my child brain, I felt it was so beautiful and cool, but likely it was itchy and stained or ill-fitting. My friend Jazz gave me a box of her daughter’s clothing that she outgrew and in that box I found this sweater and just by looking at it I bet it was to her daughter what that pink and white sweater was to me. A couple of the crystal buttons are missing and it’s more worn looking than anything else in the box, obviously loved. I just opened the box last week, realizing Emerson is finally the size for the clothes, and didn’t put out this sweater since it’s getting warmer. Yesterday during her supposed nap, Emerson rooted through her closet and found this sweater and put it in her drawer because she found it, “magical.” And though it will likely be warm today, she wanted to wear it, and I have a feeling it will be worn quite a lot in the coming months, even during blistering hot days. And like my mom, I won’t have much control over the situation, and like my mom I will realize it doesn’t really matter what she wears as long as she is happy.

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What I Wore: Weekend Denim

jagjeans1 shoebuy naturalizer jagjeans2
Jeans: Erin Cuffed Ankle Jean c/o Jag Jeans | Shirt: Banana Republic | Shoes Naturalizer ‘Dania’ c/o Shoebuy | Bag: Vintage Coach via eBay (similar) | Bracelets: Lifetherapy, had forever (similar) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ba

I’ve been really feeling dark denim this spring, paired with more denim, with white, with unexpected items like a leather pencil skirt or brightly-printed midi.  I found this denim shirt on mega clearance at Banana Republic and love that it’s richly colored but as soft as a well-worn stonewashed version.  Jag Jeans sent me these cuffed skinny ankles and I am IN LOVE.  They are made from their Freedom Knit Denim, which looks like traditional jeans, but the inside looks more like loop terry and the denim stretches and moves with you for comfort and shape all day.  This is the third time I wore these without washing, which is a testament to the bounceback-ability of this stretchy denim.  They’re perfect for dashing about weekends running errands, which is what I did in this look.

Shoebuy is one of my favorite destinations for shoes; their selection is insane and their prices regularly beat those of department stores and mega-retailers.  I actually ordered these very Naturalizer sandals from another company and then found them for much less and with a larger size selection on Shoebuy.  Right now they’re having a great promo where you can get $20 off an order of $100, plus free shipping and returns with the code MAY100.  Along with Naturalizer, they have many other popular brands and great on-trend styles for the season!

Shoebuy.com Free Shipping on all orders! Shop Jag Jeans now!

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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Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?
 
Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?
 
I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?
 
Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Friday

As you can see from the picture, it’s sunny out again. Still warm, no need for a coat!

Sort of ran late today. Woke up at 5:30 for yoga, did the quick shower, the contacts, the brushing and flossing of the teeth and application of a bit of Suave Professionals Healthy Curls mousse. Then the yoga instructor called to say she was sick and cancelling. I decided to get back into bed, snuggle with the hubby and enjoy an extra hour of snoozing.

The alarm went off, I hit snooze…. must have hit it five times. Hair had completely dried and was a frizz-ball. Company potluck today and i didn’t make anything. Suddenly in a tizzy. I curled what I could on my head, used some Biosilk to tame other pieces, ended up curling almost the whole head to make it look less Bon Jovi circa 1988 and more now. I thought it turned out okay, but these pictures make it look a bit like Leif Garrett back in the day and still frizzy. It is still frizzy – I ran to the grocery to get some pasta salad from the deli for the potluck, came back to the office and my hair is a ball of fuzz. I resorted to rubbing some hand cream (Philosophy’s Lemonade) on my hands and then over my hair ( I feel like a Sunsilk ad!). And WOAH does my forehead look big! i need a haircut STAT!

Outfit is tissue-weight merino v-neck from J. Crew in Black Cherry, white ribbed tank also from J. Crew, Curvy Bootcut jeans from Gap, teal suede wedges from Seychelles, silver dangle earrings, cuff and then my pocket watch necklace from Ann Taylor Loft.

Makeup is L’Oreal True Match foundation in C3 and concealer in C1-3, Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint, Nars blush in Orgasm, Sally Hansen Diamond Lipgloss in Champagne Toast, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral, L’Oreal Voluminous mascara in Black.

Oooh and a coworker who usually works at the client site was in the office today and noticed I lost weight! The first comment outside this blog! He said I looked as though I lost 20 lbs! Not quite, but THANKS!!!!

Saturday

In the morning, I ran to get my hair cut and colored in the nearby town, and then run a few errands. Olive ribbed tank from J. Crew, white ribbed tank from Old Navy, Joe’s Jeans in “Provacateur,” brown stacked flops from J. Crew, silver hoops from The Icing, silver cuff.

Hair was brushed out but on the second day; blew the bangs straight.

Makeup was Body Shop bronzing powder in Light as face color, Max Factor Lash Perfection mascara on curled lashes, Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow.

Kathleen did her magic – all I told her is that I wanted to go darker and that I wanted heavier bangs. I trust her, and was not disappointed. Choppy layers that can work straight, wavy or curly, fun sideswept bangs, and a very rich multi-tonal color of dark brown that looks closer to what I was born with.

Got home and had to dash to get dressed. Friday night I had a friend over so I didn’t have time to play dress-up and figure out my theater outfit. Thank you soooo much to everyone who wrote in suggestions, you guys are awesome and have good ideas! For the one who suggested my Old Navy dress… I completely forgot about it. I had set to wear my black cashmere tank from Banana Republic and my orange-red shantung full skirt also from Banana (seen here), but when I saw how spiffy and sleek my husband looked (flat front gray tropical wool trousers from J. Crew, white tailored shirt from some brand sold at Mens Wearhouse, black blazer from… J. crew? Not sure…, black slip-on sleek shoes from Ecco) I decided my outfit may look a bit like a costume. I tried a few different skirts, but settled on the black matte jersey dress from Old Navy, my red stone necklace, my leopard peep-toe heels from BCBgirls,silver hoops from The Icing, and silver cuff natch. :-)

Didn’t have to do my hair since it was done by Kathleen my talented stylist. She used the Pureology line on me, and swears by it for protecting color. I bought the shampoo and conditioner and once I can wash my hair (was told to go as long as humanely possible without washing) I will be using it and let you k now how it is.

Same makeup as earlier, just a re-touch of the bronzing powder, a bit of Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint on my cheekbones, a medium line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line, a quick swipe of Maybelline Great Lash waterproof mascara in black over existing mascara, Body Shop Lip and Cheek Tint with Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow over it.

We took the Metro and it was not even a block to the little restaurant (I don’t know if there are even 20 tables in the place). The menu seemed different from the one online and the only entrees that were vegetarian were spaghetti with tomato sauce (yawn) and a risotto with corn and truffle shavings. My husband and I chose the risotto, we shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio (not sure the label, our friend chose the wine) and had a nice, yet not inspiring or overwhelmingly unique meal. We then walked not even three blacks to the Kennedy Center where my friend and I sidestepped grates in our heels (she too wore a black sheath and heels) while the men tromped over everything and got there in time to marvel at the acre-sized curtains in the lobby and get a cocktail in the Terrace Bar prior to the performance.

The performance was great! As I said, I had never seen The Phantom of the Opera other than the movie. Back story – 1992, for Christmas I got my first boom box with a CD player in it, and with it two CDs – Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. For several months until I got my high school arsenal of REM, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I listened solely to these two soundtracks. Come 2007, I am silently singing along to this performance and even a tear came down my cheek at finally seeing live what I had in my head 15 years ago. I think also seeing Shakespeare in Love the night prior made the theater experience that more intense.

Our friends live in Virginia and parked at the theater; it was a gorgeous night and declined their offer to drive us to the Metro and decided to hoof it. All in all a lovely evening!

Ask Allie: How to Make Wardrobe Classics Look Trendy

I spend my days in a pretty casual office, where even the managers wear jeans and t-shirts, so my minuscule capsule wardrobe has remained something I use only for date night and visits to relatives. My company is sending me to the corporate HQ and I need to dress professionally.

I am blonde and my wardrobe staples are khaki. I love the idea of the fitted white oxford shirt and nice heels with my khaki staples. Problem is, when I have these clothes on I look professional, confident, put-together… and about 20 years older!! How can I wear the classics and still look like an up-and-coming star-employee of an edgy internet start-up company?

I think your question is one that many small wardrobe folks battle with. A wardrobe full of hard-working classics that mix and match with ease, but can feel a bit dowdy or boring, especially when dealing with creative types. However, there are many trendy and stylish people who have a similar wardrobe.  When you analyze the wardrobes of style icons you will see they too have a closet of classics, and they are usually in a neutral shade.  Here’s a few examples of current-day style icons who wear very classic looks, and what they do to look current and fashionable.

Gwyneth Paltrow – Fit

On the red carpet, Gwyneth Paltrow often wears very edgy and modern gowns. However off the red carpet, Paltrow is known for her very clean and classic wardrobe. She’s not one to wear a lot of color, accessories, or embellishments and doesn’t jump on every trend bandwagon. The way she makes her very basic wardrobe look modern and hip is by having a very keen eye for fit. Paltrow regularly wears slim pants, structured jackets with strong shoulders, and slim sheath dresses. Everything has been tailored to perfection to best flatter her lean frame. The slim silhouettes and perfectly hemmed trousers and skirts make classics look quite chic and very modern.

Rachel Bilson – Accessories

Rachel Bilson’s look is young and fresh, but her personal style is surprisingly classic and simple. Over and over, she wears the same sort of silhouettes – styles that work now and would also work a couple years from now. Bilson keeps her personal style on-trend and covetable by adding accessories to the mix. She is known for bold booties with everything from skinny jeans to floaty frocks, looping colorful chunky scarves and pashminas at her throat come winter, and carrying a statement bag – be it a clutch or an oversized hobo. If you remove her jackets, bags, and shoes you will see her core wardrobe is quite timeless and simple. The addition of accessories adds edginess and a youthful vibe.

Michelle Obama – Color

Michelle Obama will occasionally add current trends and edgy designers to her wardrobe, but in general her personal style is quite classic. What makes her stand out in a crowd and be seen as a style icon is her great use of color. The First Lady’s closet must look like a rainbow, for she hardly wears neutrals or pastels. Her silhouettes are usually classic – most often you will see her in ladylike full and pencil skirts paired with fitted blazers or cardigans or a classic sheath dress. However she doesn’t shy away from any color – from school bus yellow to fire engine red, FLOTUS has worn it and worn it well. For you, you can make it a signature color or colors to go with your khaki-based wardrobe staples.

Kate Moss – Defined Personal Style

Kate Moss is known as a fashionista, but when you break down her wardrobe, it’s quite simple. Moss has a uniform of a tiny dress or skinny jeans and trousers paired with a blazer. What makes it style icon-worthy is how her personal style is so clearly defined. Kate Moss loves rock and roll and it’s clear by who she marries, what social events she attends, and how she dresses. Her classic ivory pantsuit will have very square padded shoulders and be paired by platform high heels; a typical date night ensemble of little dress and blazer is made edgy with snakeskin print and satin lapels. Even for red carpet events, Moss chooses either short and sparkly, or long and flowing with a ’70s vibe.  She keeps the color palette simple, the silhouettes classic with a rocker vibe, and shows her personal style with tiny touches that all add up to big fashion.

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Ask Allie – Wide Calf Boots for Petite Women?

Hey Allie,

I have been liking the equestrian boot with tucked in jeans look, but I don’t know if I can pull it off. All equestrian boots I see online look really tall and I’m only 5’2”, and let’s say the not so slim side. I was hoping you could recommend something that may work for me. Do they make equestrian liked boots that aren’t super tall?

Thanks,
Elvira

Hi Elvira:

As a fellow petite woman, I understand your issue. I remember a few years ago, found a fantastic pair of tall black boots that actually fit my calves, but had to stop wearing them because they dug into the back of my knees, causing major welts and sores. If the lower half of my legs were only an inch shorter, I would have been able to wear them. I have seen this happen far too many times – if I can find a boot that fits the width of my legs, it doesn’t fit the length.

However, there are some great options out there.

First thing, measure your leg. Most boots describe how tall and wide the shaft is. Then you can immediately cross off certain styles or brands for being too tall or narrow in the calf. You will find not all brands or styles are the same, and some styles do run a bit shorter. Usually a shaft height of 14” or so works best for petite women. Sometimes that which is called “mid calf” will be the right height for your leg.

As for width, there are many chic riding boots out there with elastic gussets. Elastic will help your leg feel comfortable in a tall boot and make it easier to slip on. The Riding Chelesa boot from Frye has a 15” tall shaft that may work for your height (most riding boots are 16”) and elastic gussets that are kind to a wider calf while still looking stylish.

Also if you find the boots of your dreams but they are a tad snug, you can get them stretched. Cobblers can add up to an additional two inches in a boot shaft without sacrificing style or quality. This process ranges in price depending on what part of the country you are in, but I have never heard of it costing more than $50 (usually closer to $20).

I have forever been a fan of Zappos – they have such an extensive selection, free shipping and returns and amazing customer service. I never hesitate to call them for additional information on an item I find on their site. Zappos carries great brands known for wider calves like Fitzwell and Ros Hommerson, and had plenty of equestrian-inspired boots. Today when searching “Wide Calf Boot” I found over 103 styles.

DUO Boots is a UK-based company that specializes in wide-calf boots. You can search their site by calf and shoe size, and then read very detailed descriptions and customer reviews on different styles. I have the Bern which is a similar style to the Frye Harness boot, which comes mid-calf. Just by looking at the images on this site, you can see that some styles are taller, others are shorter. They carry very classic styles that will be on trend for years to come. If you are unsure, DUO’s customer service is quite amazing, they respond to emails with speed and much detail and can help you find a style that will fit your body and personal style. The only downside of DUO is that they are a UK-based company which means shipping and returns are QUITE the bear.

Wide Widths is a fantastic site, one I have shopped from for ages. Their site is nicely organized by heel heights as well as style of boot. When looking at riding boots, I found many elegant styles with a 14” tall shaft. As that WideWidths.com is a US-based company, there aren’t as crazy of shipping costs. I have deal with their customer service by phone as well as by email and find them incredibly informative, helpful, and understanding with returns.

Hope this helps!


Readers, where is your place to go for wide calf petite boots?

Review – DUO Boots

In my last post about DUO boots, I discussed my previous experiences with this company that offers wide calf boots in sizes up to 50 centimeters in diameter. I mentioned how DUO Boots chatted with me via email offering their suggestions on the best boots to fit my need (a low-heel tall black boot with classic styling that could work over skinny jeans as well as with dresses and skirts), and my body (petite, wide calves as well as large shins and ankles). DUO suggested the Catalonia, a classic riding-style boot that is known for being generous in the ankle. With DUO Boot’s free international shipping I decided to get myself a pair.

The Duo Catalonia Boot

The boots were backordered, but DUO let me know that before I even placed my order. They kept me posted via email on their status and arrived two days before I expected them. I had them delivered to my office so I would ensure a person would be there to sign for them (DUO is based out of the UK and you need a signature for delivery).

I got them… and they didn’t fit. While I ordered a size 39 UK/8US (same size as my Bern boots and most of the shoes in my closet), my feet were positively swimming in them. I also went down a few centimeters from my Bern boots because I knew they stretched, and well I went down too far – could hardly zip the left boot. I emailed DUO asking what I could do – the last time I had to exchange with them I had to pay $40, deal with customs at the post office, and it wasn’t worth the hassle.

Well DUO has updated their return policy – they sent me a link to fill out a return. My card was charged $20, I repackaged the boots in the heavy shipping bag they came in, and DHL came to my office and did the rest. While the $20 return fee sucks, it’s not that dramatic compared to so many other US-based online retailers in return for international shipping, front-door service, and stellar customer service.

And in less than two weeks my new boots arrived. This time, they fit great. The only thing was the boots did a weird pirate-sort of thing at the top (see above). This happens because my calf is so much wider than my knee, and I am on the short side. I had noticed this in the original pair, and before exchanging researched to see if a cobbler could actually taper the boot to not bow out so much. They could, and so I took my new Catalonia boots to my cobbler.

My cobbler refused to taper the boot shaft, saying it would ruin the boot. “Legs don’t curve that way.” The thing is, my legs curve that way. So I went to another cobbler who didn’t bat an eye at my request, asked me to put on the boots, even suggested I put them over my jeans to ensure there’s room for that, got on his knees and measured. The Catalonia has a back seam so the alteration is virtually invisible.  Two weeks and $45 later I had boots that curved with me (see above). Was so impressed with the price and ease, I am taking an old pair of “pirate boots” in to be cleaned up and tapered.

And now the review of the actual boots:
The DUO Catalonia is a pretty classic-styled riding boot with a low heel, rounted toe, and pull tabs at the top of the shaft. I don’t believe my pictures do the leather justice for it is very soft and supple – the boots look expensive. There isn’t a single bit of blatant hardware on them which I love – the zippers and pulls are black, the elastic gussets are black, the wood heel is stained black.

DUO rarely shows a photo the inner view of their boots, because that is where they hide the zipper and gussets. Like my Duo Bern boots, the Catalonia has a sturdy metal zipper and two horizontal gussets 6.5” long; these gussets will stretch with the leg so you don’t always have a bit gap of elastic showing (see above).

The foot itself runs HUGE – I am a 7.5 wide or 8 medium and I was swimming in an 8. Even with a size smaller, my foot still has a lot of room and I can comfortably wear really thick socks. The ankle area will slouch on many – this is not a stiff leather boot and it is roomy in the ankle – this is not a boot for someone who wants a sleek, fitted style. The boot is unlined, but the leather inside is soft and brushed. DUO boots aren’t known for their cushy insole, but I just buy a pair from Target to make them more wearable all day.

The boot is tall – if I was a half inch shorter they would probably dig into the back of my knee when walking or sitting. Do keep this in mind if you are petite (I am 5’3” and find most petite pants to be a hair short if not in complete flats).

I have worn these boots a LOT in the past week – almost every day. They are very comfortable, and look great slipped over jeans and leggings. I also wore them with my gray White House Black Market dress and it looked cute; you can also see here when I wore them with a pencil skirt. The leather has stretched slightly – just enough that they have molded to my leg and foot. They cost me $250, a price I find extremely reasonable for such quality, style, and fit.

DUO Boots is known around the blogosphere for making wide calf boots, but they make boots of any size – if you have very narrow calves this is also a great place to shop. Before dropping dough, I recommend you contact them by email – they reply usually within 48 hours and can give you specific advice on boots to ensure you get a style that will fit you best. And for those in the US who were turned off by the old shipping and return policy – consider giving DUO another try, you’ll be pretty pleased with the change.

Note: I did not receive any compensation from DUO for this post; DUO didn’t know I was writing this nor do I even think they knew I was a blogger when I placed my order.

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Ask Allie: Fashion Advice for a Petite SAHM

Dear Allie,
I am currently rocking the awful “mom” look aka yoga pants and huge t-shirts and I am so over it! Could you direct me to a few classic pieces to start my wardrobe? I am a stay at home mom with two under two, so I need a practical look. I live in Ohio where the weather is always changing. I am very petite (5’ and less than 100 lbs). I also have trouble finding comfortable shoes that look stylish and fit my size 5 feet. Any advice?
– Megan

Dear Megan,
I am so glad you realize that one can be an active mom while maintaining style. I recently wrote an article on Savings.com about new mom fashion, but will offer some basics that should get you on track without looking like a mom, or like a college student:

Dark Straight Jeans
A dark straight jean is classic, can be worn any season of the year, looks more polished than lighter washes, and doesn’t need a fancy label to look chic. Having a straight leg means this jean should work with most any length or style of top in your wardrobe – simple tanks and tees, longer tunics, blazers and cardigans, blouses tucked in or left untucked. Add a bit of spandex so that you won’t be showing your undergarments or cutting into your stomach when crawling on the floor after your little one.

The Lee Slender Secret 5-pocket Jean is a classic style that is great for women who may have a bit of that baby pooch still left. Oprah recently rated them as a top jean, and reviews state that these jeans in petite are not needing of hemming for those who are 5’ tall. $29.99

 


Levi’s 512 jean is a straight, classic style that is made for a woman’s shape. Their Perfectly Slimming 512 Jean has the Lycra to keep your body looking smooth, and giving you the flexibility you need to keep up with your children. Again, this jean is rated great for the really petite woman – they run short so you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg on alterations. $40.00

A Versatile Trench
When the weather is chilly one day, hot the next, and rainy the third it’s hard to be prepared. A simple trench or mac in a water-resistant fabric that is lined will keep you looking stylish yet comfortable on those in-between days.

The Sunshower Coat from Lands End is a favorite – it’s a classic style, breathable, and wrinkle-resistant. Lands End is known for their quality and service so you know you will get a great piece that will give you years of wear. Khaki is a safe bet, but a more memorable color like their Wine Grape will look great with neutrals, make your skin glow, and will give you a sunnier outlook on the day, even if the sky is cloudy. $99.50

Macy’s Style&Co brand offers great style for a reasonable price. This double-breasted trench has a shorter length that won’t dwarf your petite frame, and the soft sage color will look great with neutrals, but be a fresh change from beige and black outerwear. $79.00

Solid-colored Seasonally-appropriate Tops
Toss the oversized tees and stiff striped button-downs. It’s easy to be comfortable, get dressed in an instant yet look great if you have an arsenal of flattering, well-fitting knits in your size and colors you adore. Wash on the gentle cycle, line dry and these pieces can give you years of great wear. Look for pieces with 5% spandex or more – they will be more likely to keep their shape, not need to be ironed, and maintain their color longer than 100% cotton tops. For winter, I love merino wool because it acts like a knit in keeping its shape and flattering the figure, and can also be washed on the gentle cycle.

Ann Taylor LOFT is a fave of many petite women thanks to their extensive collection, reasonable prices, and truly petite sizing. Their Petite Twisted Boatneck Tee is a fashionable version of the comfy tee shirt. The neckline adds drama to a casual day look, and would fantastic under a cardigan or casual twill blazer. Great colors like Balsam Green and Ocean Depths will complement dark denim, khaki, white, gray, and black. $19.50

I love Nordstrom’s Caslon line – great wardrobe basics of great quality. The petite Caslon Ballet Neck Tee is a feminine and flattering twist on a simple knit top – the ¾ sleeves make it wearable almost year-round and a scoop neck is lovely on most every woman’s figure. $24.00

A Casual Blazer
A great way to jazz up simple tees and jeans is with a casual blazer. If it’s unlined and has a bit of stretch, it’s as comfortable as a hoodie but with far more polish.

 


Ann Taylor LOFT’s Petite Urban Twill Blazer is a great choice. The grosgrain trim gives it a unique, higher-end look, and in navy it would go with most any color tank or tee in your closet. $69.99

The striped blazer from Banana Republic would look amazing with neutral tanks, tees, and bottoms. It would also look quite chic with a pop of color underneath – try candy pink, blood orange, or apple green. The standup collar elongates the frame, making you look taller. $149.99

A Trendy Knit
Right now, striped tees are a hot look – this is a great way to add some variety and current fashion to your wardrobe without looking passé in a season. Striped tees look great with a simple denim or twill skirt, under a blazer, with shorts, capris, jeans, and even dressed up with a fuller skirt or with trousers. Add a bit of contrast with a turquoise or coral necklace, or a cardigan in a color like leaf green, tangerine, or yellow.

This black and cream striped boatneck from Lauren by Ralph Lauren isn’t your ordinary tee shirt – the silver buttons and boatneck make it a refined piece that would look great with jeans, and also with a white twill skirt for spring outings. $59.50

 


I own the Striped Sailor Tee from Ann Taylor and adore it – the scoopneck is flattering, the knit heavy and durable, the epaulets give a bit more style and panache. It comes in three colors. $38.00

A Not-so Little Black Dress
I have a black wrap dress from Old Navy that I bought years ago on clearance. I wear it with leggings and flats around the house, with heels for a wedding or funeral, with tall boots to work. It’s so versatile, and the matte jersey is a fabric that stretches, gives, washes easily, and looks timeless and seasonless.

The Petite Gemma Wrap dress from Banana Republic is a great choice – ¾ sleeves work year round, and a true wrap style means you can cinch the waist for a more custom fit. $98.00

 


Merona for Target has really come a long way in the past year – the quality has improved immensely, and the style is quite on-trend yet classic. The Merona Petite Faux Wrap Knit Dress is a great choice – the empire waist hides any post-baby pooch, and makes it dress up or down with ease. $20.98

Shoes
It often impossible to find size 5 footwear in stores, however the selection is pretty impressive online. Sites like Nordstrom and Zappos have a great selection of smaller sizes that are still stylish and comfortable. I recommend investing in:

  • A sandal with a low wedge heel (more comfortable than heels, able to wear with shorts or with a dress).  The “Amber” wedge-heel sandals from Munro is a great summer choice – uber comfortable, thin elegant straps, will look great with skirts and dresses of all lengths, as well as shorts, trousers, and cropped pants. Munro is known for comfort and quality – these shoes should be wearable even for a day of sightseeing or a trip to Disney World. $179.95
  • A pair of ankle boots you can slip on with jeans and a sweater (low heel, brown or black depending on your wardrobe – more versatile than flats as that they can dress up and also be waterproofed for rainy days).  The “Wisteria” by Merrell has a wedge heel which is comfortable when standing or walking for a long period of time, but can still be paired with casual trousers. They get great reviews for comfort. $140.00
  • A pair of tall riding boots (wear with dresses, over jeans and you will be amazed how they will transform wardrobe basics into something stylish – waterproof them for more versatility).  These riding boots from La Canadiene are so classic – waterproof Italian leather, moisture-wicking lining, memory foam insole, low heel, elegant styling. These are boots you buy now and will still be wearing a decade from now. $256.00
  • A pair of simple black leather pumps for those times when you do need to dress up (they work with pants, dresses, and even with your dark jeans for a Date Night or drinks with your girl friends).  The Nuncio pump from Nine West is a classic pump that will look elegant year-round and years from now. 2.5” heel, elongated toe, and available in narrow and wide widths. $69.95

For additional petite inspiration, check out:

Gwynnie Bee in 2013: Behind the Scenes

Gwynnie Bee is like Netflix for fashion sizes 10 and up. For a monthly fee, you can borrow clothing as often as you wish. Be it work blazers or cocktail dresses, leather jackets or sequined tank tops, Gwynnie Bee has you covered with fabulous, fun, and well-crafted fashion from some of the hottest plus size brands. I have been working with Gwynnie Bee for half a year now, and I just love it more and more. Their selection of clothing has improved, shipping has sped up, and their customer service hasn’t been sacrificed in any manner with their growth. Last week I had the fabulous opportunity to chat with Christine Hunsicker, CEO of Gwynnie Bee, to chat about how the business came to be and it’s direction for 2013.

How Gwynnie Bee Started
Christine grew up in rural Pennsylvania where there were, “more cows than people.” Her aunt lived across the road and was a seamstress by trade. Every Monday, Christine would receive a box of clothes from her aunt that would dress her for a week. Crazy prints, fun silhouettes, and everything fit perfectly no matter her size. Christine and her cousin would swap garments for variety and when they tired of the clothes, they would consign them and use the funds to purchase more fabric. This childhood gave Christine the ability to experiment with fashion without having to commit. Things changed when Christine wanted to wear the same popular trends as her classmates. She recalled when she went to the mall to get her first pair of denim shorts and soon realized she was at the higher end of the size spectrum. She tried on a pair and felt that something was wrong with her since they didn’t fit her figure. That realization hit hard and she had a massive breakdown in the fitting room Fast forward to college and her 20s, where Christine wore a uniform of jeans, tee shirts, and boring black staples because fashion just didn’t feel fun anymore.

A couple years ago, Christine sold her start-up business and was looking to do a new project – something big, long-lasting and would be of service to people and make a major impact in their daily lives. She thought about the stress and frustration of shopping, and how she knew of friends and family who dealt with the same issue and from that decided to start Gwynnie Bee.

Gwynnie Bee’s business culture is all about giving the customer and amazing experience and provide stellar service. Hunsicker believes that if you treat your customer well and with respect, it makes a huge difference on how people view the business. While on the phone with Christine, I mentioned my sister is a member and she immediately knew not just her name but clothes she had borrowed from Gwynnie Bee and feedback she had provided. She also knew of a friend I mentioned who also is a member of Gwynnie Bee. This was not prepared, our phone conversation was only scheduled about an hour ahead of time. It’s just proof of how this company truly sees each member as an individual person.

Gwynnie Bee in 2013 – What to Expect
Christine mentioned how drastically different the collection is now from how it was a year ago and she says that’s completely because of member feedback. Gwynnie Bee carries more statement pieces, more pieces that are a celebration and make fashion fun. Thanks to member feedback (which they constantly encourage – even brutal honest criticism), the Gwynnie Bee collection has more statement pieces, more colorful, fun, and flattering pieces. They hope to offer styles that women may not necessarily buy or even consider in a store but find they like when they try it on. The collection will continue to improve in 2013, and you can expect to see more indie designers, the introduction of jeans and pants, accessories, and a true wardrobe feel.

The site will also be getting some upgrades this year, and one feature I am most excited about is prioritization. I have had many of you readers tell me you find it frustrating that you can’t put your “closet” items in priority order. Gwynnie Bee heard your feedback, has a prioritization pilot program in place, and will be building this feature into the site this year. They will also be trying to make the site more informative with more editorial, suggestions on how to style pieces from the collection, and guest blog posts.

Shipping will be even faster this year as Gwynnie Bee moves to distribution warehouses. This change will shave an entire day off your garment deliveries!

The reason these improvements are happening is because of member feedback. Be it on the little cards you mail back with your garments, your reviews on the sites, comments on Facebook and Twitter or emails directly to the team, Gwynnie Bee acts on every bit of feedback they receive. Gwynnie Bee strives on having a public and wide open business, accepting the good and the bad feedback. They encourage all of you to let them know what you like and what you find could be improved so you can help make the company better for your fellow women.

I’ve received some Gwynnie Bee new releases over the past couple of weeks and see a drastic difference from the more traditional cuts and colors from when I started with them at the end of the summer. Hot brands like ASOS, Michael Kors, DKNY, and Eloquii. Leather, galaxy prints, sequins, peplums, and all the other hot trends along with workday classics and elegant party frocks. More customer reviews with each piece so you can get a better feel as to whether it’s a good choice for you. And more selection, be it styles or sizes. It’s exciting to see a company grow and improve before your very eyes, and I am proud to be a spokesperson for them.

Awesome Gwynnie Bee Promotion!
If you haven’t yet checked out Gwynnie Bee, now is the time!  Gwynnie Bee is currently offering a promotion where you can get a 30-day free trial of their program.  You won’t be charged unless you continue with the service and you can cancel online at anytime.  Well Gwynnie Bee is also offering all Wardrobe Oxygen readers a free one-garment upgrade on their new subscription!  Just be sure to use the link in this post and mention Wardrobe Oxygen to receive it.  Offer is valid for those choosing the one, two, or three garment plan.  This deal won’t last forever, it expires Sunday, January 27th, 2013 at midnight. Existing members, let your friends know about the 30-day trial (using your name) and you earn a free month!

Note: I do receive a commission on each new Gwynnie Bee membership if my or my blog name is mentioned at sign-up. However, all thoughts in this and any Gwynnie Bee posts are mine and they have no editorial control. I wanted to know more about Christine and the company and asked to do this phone interview; I am not being compensated for publishing this post. I just think Gwynnie Bee is rad.

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How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

The best accessory I acquired in the past decade was getting out of credit card debt.

My Experience:
When I worked in retail, I found it far too easy to shop. I was spending at least 45, usually closer to 65 hours a week at a mall. Lunch hours were spent strolling through other shops, sipping on an overpriced coffee drink, or treating myself to a very nice lunch at a nearby restaurant. As a personal shopper and visual merchandiser, I felt I had to be a perfect example of style and current fashion and made sure to have the latest shoes, makeup, accessories and always a perfect professional manicure, pedicure, haircut and highlights. When our shop was thisclose to making the day’s sales goal, they could always count on me to purchase something from the new line to get us over the hump.

When I left working at Express, they gave me my associate purchase logs. In one year, after my employee discounts, I had purchased $7,000.00 worth of their clothing. When I maxed out my Express card, I opened a Structure card and used that (hey it was the late ‘90s/early ‘00s when Structure still existed). When I maxed that out, I found out that I could use my Limited or Victoria’s Secret cards and shop at Express. I won’t even go into details about the major credit cards I used for salon treatments, binges at Sephora or Nordstrom, and many a steak salad at the Nordstrom Café.

As women, we are constantly attacked by media telling us to spend, spend, spend. The dress that will get you the guy. The moisturizer that will make you look ten years younger. The bag you must have this season. The five or ten or hundred items every woman must have in her wardrobe. And then of course, the purchases you need so that you can be as lovely as Anne or Mila or Kate. Magazines like Lucky are completely geared towards assisting women on shopping, while glossies such as Vogue and W bring couture to Middle America, encouraging everyone to feel that they too need a fancy label on their dress to be special.

As you know, I love fashion. I love clothing. I find it to be a great way to express your personality, your individuality, your passions. Fashion can also help you feel more confident and more beautiful. But no garment is worth falling into debt. A woman cannot be strong if her finances are crumbling around her.

So how do you achieve personal style while sticking to your budget?

When I got to the point where I was fearing every telephone call, thinking it was a debt collector, I knew I had to make a major change – FAST. For me, it was changing careers. I had to get away from that which was causing the debt – easy access to current fashion. However I still had mountains of debt and wasn’t willing to sacrifice style along the way.

This was when I started understanding wardrobe staples. Pieces slowly collected that could multitask and make a woman ready for any event in her life. I looked at women I knew as stylish and really examined their wardrobes. They didn’t own a lot of clothes, they seemed to wear the same things over and over. And those clothes they wore were perfect. They were well tailored, high quality, flattering. Few prints, few trendy details. Classics like cashmere turtlenecks, crisp dark jeans, white tailored shirts, simple sheath dresses, elegant black leather pumps, simple pencil skirts. They would add their own look to these staples with accessories like scarves, bold jewelry, and belts.

I thought back to the exchange students we hosted when I was in high school – how they could survive weeks in another country with just a small suitcase of clothing. Even with their small wardrobes, they were ready for any event in the US. Their wardrobes were of simple pieces that mixed and matched with one another – pieces of similar fabrics, colors, and silhouettes so they made a true collection.

I looked in my own closet – spangled knit tops to wear out to clubs that still had tags on them, a dozen cocktail dresses, four pairs of leather pants (and one pair bright red!), three pairs of tall black boots, over 20 pairs of jeans. Who the heck needs 20 pairs of jeans?

I obviously had plenty of clothes at that time, and really tried to make do with what I had. My new job required me to wear all black, so when I didn’t have the right item in my wardrobe, I stalked sale racks until I could find what worked at the lowest price. I often bought in bulk – who cares if you’re wearing the same black pants every day as long as they are clean and fit well?

Over time, I got a grip on my finances, but realized yet another new profession and a changing figure required me to shop again. I decided to keep those stylish women and my exchange students in mind. I looked through my closet with fresh eyes and decided to purge. Gone were all the spangled club tops, the evening gowns, and any clothes that didn’t fit and flatter my current frame.

However for purchasing, I needed to figure out a budget so I wouldn’t get back into a financial mess. Before I went shopping, I took a month or two to look at where my money went, and what were my priorities. Thanks to my sister who is the Excel Spreadsheet Queen, I started tracking where all my money went – that pack of gum, that latte, that issue of Marie Claire. I didn’t just note how much I spent on groceries, but what exactly I purchased. I saw that a lot of my money went to food – dining out, alcohol, and purchasing items at the grocery store that I don’t really need (hello another lip gloss) or that I can’t afford (artisanal cheeses, sushi, out of season produce). I decided to adjust my current spending before shopping to see what I could cut and still lead what I felt to be a joyful and comfortable life.

Only then, could I figure out my fashion budget. Some months, I spent that money. Other months, I saved it up so I could get something really special. I stuck to my list of essentials, and decided I would only buy fun items when I got a work bonus, birthday cash, special events. This way, I not only stayed on budget but I was even more careful with my money and those special items not only were nice to buy, but had special meaning behind them.

Each woman’s budget will be different, but it is important to first pay yourself before you do any shopping. Pay off your debt, save and invest your money. Prepare for the unexpected. Yes, a great pair of shoes can make your day, help you land a job or perfect your wardrobe but shoes won’t pay the rent if you get laid off. Shoes won’t buy you a new car when yours dies on the side of the highway. Shoes won’t give you independence and freedom.

If your budget is small, that’s actually a good thing. Small wardrobe funding requires one to do homework to find the best quality for the price, to really get to know one’s body and lifestyle and only purchase that which makes sense. Keep your wardrobe small, hard-working, classic, elegant.

Tips to Stay on Budget:

  • Have a Life Budget. No point in having a clothing budget if you are blowing your paycheck already on other items. That being said, have priorities. Clothing is probably higher on my priority list than the list of many other women. Each woman is different – some budget for world travel, some budget for books, some budget for art supplies, some budget for home renovations. It’s important to first be true to you – prioritize and then figure out where fashion fits.
  • Make a List, Check it Twice. If you have an actual written list that you carry with you, you’re less likely to get off track when you hit the mall.
  • Do Your Homework. You need a black suit? Go to the mall, try on brands, and then go home. Research online for coupons, deals, maybe the same item on eBay or in a thrift or vintage store. Never accept full price unless it is absolute perfection, absolutely necessary, and still fits your budget.
  • Stay Away from Shopping Triggers. For me, it’s malls. I only visit a major shopping mall once or twice a year because I can get lost in there and leave hundreds poorer. Maybe for you it’s Target (can always justify another tee or a $19.99 sundress but it adds up), possibly an adorable boutique in your neighborhood or maybe it’s Net-a-Porter. Whatever it is, accept your trigger and control your visits. Schedule them according to seasons – maybe only allow one visit each season, or maybe once a month.
  • Cancel the Magazine Subscriptions. I am a magazine-aholic, but I know that when I read them, I end up shopping more. Magazines do a great job of making items look amazing, and seem necessary. The most recent Vogue made me spend an hour of my life looking for a certain Brahmin bag – something I don’t need, can’t afford, but loved upon first sight. I did stop before purchasing, but if I hadn’t received that magazine, I would have never known about that orange bag and would have still lived a happy and stylish life. For some, it may be fashion blogs instead of magazines – even if it’s my blog that encourages you to shop, unsubscribe and just visit maybe once a month or every other week.
  • Play “Which Would You Rather.” Sally McGraw of Already Pretty often hosts a “sudden death” question on her Facebook page – which would you rather do – wear only white for a year, or wear your high school colors for a year, and only your school colors. It’s a good exercise for shopping – which would you rather have – that It Bag, or a sushi and sake date night with your mate once a month for a year? Which would you rather own – the perfect pair of black leather pumps, or six pairs of sandals from Payless? Which is more important, your morning Starbucks, or a pair of riding boots? Break down the price of the item and compare it to other items in your life.
  • Get Creative. No one knows you’re wearing the same black pants every day if you switch it up. One day, wear with a tucked-in blouse, the next day with a blazer and shell. Another day wear a cardigan over them and belt the cardigan to change the silhouette. Use your small wardrobe as a brain teaser – who needs Sudoku when you can take the dozen or so quality pieces in your wardrobe and make dozens of outfits from them.

A woman should get fitted for a new bra every year. She should have the perfect LBD in her wardrobe to be ready for unexpected social events. And she should be able to sleep well at night, knowing full well what is going on with her finances. The best accessory I acquired was getting out of debt – the best accessory any woman can wear is self-confidence, and confidence comes from being true to one’s self, feeling strong, and being financially solvent.



Be sure to check out the first of my How to Shop Series: An Introduction

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Review: Petite and Tall at Old Navy!

Old Navy
When you are a woman of less than average size, there is nothing more frustrating than companies who swear they carry extended sizes but they just don’t fit.

As a petite woman, I hate when companies sell “short” lengths in trousers in jeans. The inseam usually is the right length, but nothing else about the pant is actually petite. Petite women are not the size of 5’7” women but with shorter legs; usually we have shorter torsos, a shorter space between belly button and crotch, our hips and thighs are thereby proportionally spaced on our body. A “short” pant usually gapes at the waist, goes past our belly buttons, bunches at the crotch and hips and just has a poor fit.

I have many tall friends who complain that “long” lengths are often not long enough, and if they are they are usually too short in the rise and too slim in the hip area. Again, a tall woman is usually not just an average sized woman with longer legs…

For tall and short women, other garments are also an issue. Jackets are the worst – not only are sleeve lengths wrong, so are the widths of shoulders and where the jacket is supposed to nip in at the waist. Petite women often look as though they are playing dress-up in their mother’s closets and tall women always look stuffed and uncomfortable in shrunken pieces. Dresses bunch at the waist on petite women, and often are an indecent length for tall ladies.

Well one of my favorite budget-friendly retailers has seen the light… and the fact that not all women have the same size torsos. Old Navy has come to the rescue with their new Petite and Tall lines for Women sizes 0-20!

The new lines have many pieces from their standard size line, just cut to fit a tall or petite woman. I had to check it out for myself.

Old Navy ponteSince I am pregnant, I knew I wouldn’t be able to accurately test out the petite cuts of dresses and shirts. However I knew with a belly band I would be able to see how a pair of trousers fit. I decided to test the line with their Stretch Ponte Mid-Rise Wide-Leg Trouser (see left). Ponte knit is one of my very favorite fabrics – easy care, can dress up while feeling as comfy as a pair of yoga pants, keeps its shape. I own a jacket of black ponte fabric and was thinking this could make a nice casual suit. Also a true test of a proper petite fit are how the pockets lie on the frame – these pants have side slash pockets and I wanted to see if they would gap, if they would be at a place that would be comfortable to actually use, and if they were fashioned well to lie flat.

As always, the order arrived from Old Navy promptly, well packaged without extra paper and stuffing. The pants were a medium weight of ponte fabric, unlined, acetate pocket linings, simple invisible seaming. Closure of a zipper, hidden button and two hooks for the waistband (which I love because it gives a very smooth flush finish under trim knit tops).

On, the pants really do fit like a true petite! The rise was shorter than regular trousers, hit just below the belly button, laid smooth over the bum and crotch. The length was perfect for my 5’3” frame with a kitten heel. And the pockets? Even with my belly bump they were smooth. They arrived basted shut (front and back pockets) which helped the pant come shipped smooth and then wear smooth.

The pants are machine washable; I washed them on the gentle cycle and had them hang to dry. This is how I clean my other ponte garments; it helps maintain good texture of the knit and the rich black color. After washing, the pants looked exactly the same. They didn’t pill, didn’t fade, didn’t stretch out. I compared them to a $65 pair of ponte pants from a different company and they looked to be of equal quality fabric, and equal construction.

Oh my goodness, budget-friendly petite clothing that is truly fit for a petite woman? Old Navy has produced Fashion Nirvana!

Old Navy’s Tall line is made specifically for women over 5’10”. There is an extra half-inch in the shoulders, longer sleeves, longer length in tops, lower waist position for tops and dresses, a nice longer rise, a full 36” inseam, and proper shaping to fit a woman’s figure.

Old Navy’s Petite line is specifically for women under 5’4”. The garments have narrowed shoulders and higher arm openings (yay for properly covered bras!). Sleeves are shorter, hips and waist are more narrow than the classic, fit, pieces have a shorter rise and there’s a lovely 29.5” inseam for truly petite ladies.

The Old Navy Petite and Tall lines are available exclusively online.

You can see the ponte pants on me at my other blog, My Wardrobe Today. Do know they don’t fit as usual due to being 26 weeks pregnant. :)

Labor Day Super Sales

I don’t believe in shopping just to shop, but if you have holes in your closet or need to update for the colder months, there’s some AWESOME sales going down this Labor Day weekend!

LOFT

This morning I hit up LOFT and got this camo sweater, this striped sweater, and these pants for about $145. 50% off everything, no code needed. Deal ends 9/1/14 so don’t delay!

ANN TAYLOR

50% off select full priced items and 50% off all sale prices. Not too shabby, and a great way to score a nice suit or a holiday season frock for a nice price. But the best deal I see on the 50% off full price is the shoes – great time for some classic shoes for work and social affairs at killer prices – Eryn Kitten Heel or Favian Pump for $64 and the Leiah flats for only $39.

TALBOTS

Oh, this sale is dangerous, you know how much I’m loving Talbots lately! They’re having 25% off all full-priced items and have taken extra discounts on sale so they’re up to 80% off. I am dying over this bucket bag and think this denim shirt dress is utterly adorable for work and weekends.  I’ve gotten many good shoe deals from Talbots and they have some awesome ones right now; these wedges are great for late summer/early fall and prep for next year, and these metallic peep toe flats are too cute.  Shop while there’s still decent selection.

ELOQUII

Eloquii is having their friends and family event right now which means 40% off your entire order and free shipping for any order over $100.  Use promo code FRIEND. I used their Studio Midi and if I were 2″ taller I would have kept it, it’s so well made and GORGEOUS in person, and this perforated faux leather midi is drool-worthy and would look so cute with a band tee or glammed up with a cashmere sweater.

J.CREW

40% off Final Sale items (and some at 50% off) with the promo code WEEKEND. Final Sale can be scary, but if you know the items or the brand, it’s a good time to get some sweet deals. I usually use this kind of sale to stock up on tees, tanks, and snag some fun accessories (like this gorgeous classic link bracelet).

J.CREW FACTORY

J. Crew Factory is also having a major sale, where the majority of the site is 40 – 60% off. This means classic cashmere cardigans under $100, this ponte dress that I own and love is under $60 (under $50 if you dig navy as much as I do), and this killer leather skirt that will look cool now and years from now is only $159.50.

NORDSTROM

Nordstrom is having their clearance sale with up to 40% off, and there’s some real awesome and current items part of it. My Tasha necklace is now only $34.80, this tweed jacket is a steal under $80 that can be worn to the most conservative offices of dressed down for the weekend with jeans, and I have this jacket in ivory and think this price is insane. Click here to see everything that’s on clearance.

GAP

Online, you can get 20% off your purchase with the promo code HAPPY, but sale ends 8/30/14 so take advantage while you can. Do note this deal doesn’t work on jeans, leather and suede items, shoes, and a few other things. Though the deal didn’t work on sale, the prices on these Sexy Boyfriend jeans and True Straights with the raw edge were too good so I snagged them anyway.

BANANA REPUBLIC

40% off EVERYTHING! And gosh, is Banana Republic’s new collection awesome (I see your touch Marissa Webb and I am loving it!). Totally digging this sweater moto, and this shirt dress would work now with sandals or come fall with tall boots or tights.  Use promo code BRLABOR, sale ends 9/1/14.

OLD NAVY

Oh Old Navy, I have such a love/hate relationship with you! This summer I found some great scores (like this dress), so I’m feeling hopeful about their fall collection and right now the entire store is up to 50% off.  May have to snag this awesome leopard pencil skirt and this dress is the perfect thing to wear on weekends with boots or a pair of Shorelines.

DOROTHY PERKINS

Dorothy Perkins’ sale department has been reduced even more where items are up to 70% off. Spend $50 and get free shipping with promo code DSHIP50.  I’m digging this striped crop top, think it would look so cute with the full midi skirts that are everywhere this season, and this $15 dress is such a score and perfect for everything from work to a weekend bridal shower or day wedding.

GYMBOREE

For you parents of little ones, Gymboree is having 40% off everything. I know, right? Get back to school shopping pronto!

NEW YORK & COMPANY

Pants, jeans, and jumpsuits are buy one, get one free at New York & Company. Rest of the store (except clearance) is 50% off. They’re also offering free shipping on any order over $50.  How cute is this dress from their Eva Mendes Collection?  And OMG regarding this jumpsuit – gorgeous and nice to see a stretchy one you can easily get on and off!

MYHABIT

Y’all know I love me some MYHABIT, well they’re having and end of season sale where they’re clearing out and items are up to 80% off. Sale ends 7pm EST 9/1/14.

Have you seen any other great deals happening this weekend? Do share in the comments!

Fight for Your Right to be Fashionable!

Two conversations this weekend led me to the same conclusion – most clothing made for women over a size 14 is CRAP. Why do plus-size designers believe that anyone who wears their clothes are the size of a typical size 8, just stretched in every direction? Not all size 18 women are 6’ tall with shoulders like a linebacker. Not every size 20 woman has size F breasts, and just because someone wears a larger size in jeans does not mean she also has a higher rise. The average size of an American woman’s dress may be growing, but that does not mean the height of an American woman is growing at the same speed. More often than not, that plus sized shopper has the same bone structure as her size 8 counterpart, just more curves and padding over those bones.

And another thing, why is it that the only choices for a plus sized woman is to look like a tramp, a dowager or blob? No matter our size, we should be able to easily express ourselves – our sophisticated, creative, feminine, chic self.

Walking through the mall, a woman over a size 12 has minimal options. Good old Lane Bryant may have some great pieces, but they are stuffed on overcrowded racks and rounders with utterly hideous polyester confections, gaudy prints and muumuu-like frocks. Avenue and Ashley Stewart rarely have the quality and current style of say, Bebe or Ann Taylor and I don’t even want to mention the majority of crap on the racks of Fashion Bug and Deb. Hit J. Jill, Coldwater Creek and Eileen Fisher, and if you are under 40 (or over 40) you may feel as though everything is wrong wrong wrong for your lifestyle and personality. The local department store may have a Women’s section, but it’s often small, limited and usually the worst maintained section of the whole store.

Why do we allow this? Why are we accepting this crap for our beautiful bodies? Just because we aren’t a size 6 doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve style, quality and proper service. We are professionals, fashionistas, women with just as much money (and money equals power) as our slimmer counterparts.

As I said in my Target article, vote with your pocketbooks! Write letters and emails and fill out comment cards at shops. Tell retailers when they get it right, and when they get it deathly wrong. If a company sees something sells, they will make more of the same. If it doesn’t sell, they will discontinue it. If you feel that the basic tees and tanks in a retailer are of sub par quality, let them know. If you feel that the sizing is all off (hello Lane Bryant and your new jeans sizing!) SAY SOMETHING! Get on message boards, write to plus-size magazines and forums.

The problem is that many plus-sized designers are not plus-sized, and are often not women. They don’t understand how weight is distributed, that we don’t want to hide under a swath of paisley chiffon, don’t always want to wear high-waist jeans and ponchos, that we may actually find our body beautiful and ourselves worthy of great style. They make great shoes in larger sizes, they make fabulous jeans in long lengths, women with curves deserve and should demand the same luxury.

Retailers see the success of Lane Bryant and make carbon copies of it, hoping to jump on the plus-sized fashion bandwagon. If Lane Bryant does it for you – style and figure-wise then I am happy for you. However if you are like most women I know who are in double-digit dress sizes, you wish there was more Torrid and IGIGI and Marina Rinaldi in the world, and less of this discount crap that is unflattering and unworthy our hard-earned cash.

As I always say, do not settle. You are better off with the same black pants worn over and over for now, than to buy crap and encourage these designers to purchase more crap. No matter your dress size, you should be a discerning shopper, hitting the fitting rooms and the internet to find the right fit, the right quality, the right style, the right price. High-end department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Nieman Marcus are getting progressively more diverse departments for sizes over 14 and the lower-end market is being saturated with plus-size crapola shops. What about the middle? We need more mall shops that are the same caliber as J. Crew, as Banana Republic, as The Limited.

Let your opinion be heard. Women often stay mute for seeming bitchy, pushy or rude. We feel we maybe don’t deserve it because of our shape. I say NONSENSE, every person on this planet is special and beautiful. Beauty is in all shapes and colors and maybe it’s the crap we are forced to purchase that makes us feel less than utterly gorgeous.

So to my sisters who are in the double digits, I will share with you a few beauts I have found online… to show you what you deserve for your fabulous body. If you want to see more of this… then you know what you need to do… (and tell them you want to see plus size women model those fashions too!)

Charcoal Shirt Dress from IGIGI – Shirt dresses are a stylish way to be dressed for work OR play. I love this one because it nips in the waist and has all the current details seen on other brands.

Purple Wrap Dress from IGIGI – Purple is a hot season for fall, and IGIGI seems to know how to make a wrap dress that works on many shapes without showing off too much in front.

Hot Orange Dress from IGIGI – Don’t hide behind drab colors; this dress will light up a room and your face!

White Tailored Shirt from Nexx – The tie detail and the French cuffs are elegant, not cheesy.

Denim Trousers from Kiyonna – I swear by my denim trousers – they work for business casual, dress up a simple top to make it work for a night out on the town, and the dark color is current and flattering.

Embossed Leather Jacket by Berek – How fun and daring is this jacket? with a white tank and jeans, or even with a shell and trousers for a night out or to work!

Mandeville Canyon Jeans from Paige Premium Denim – Paige cuts all their jeans for a real woman’s shape, and the quality is awesome. Plus, it’s always fun to sport some sassy designer jeans!

Freestyle Revolution Skinny Jeans in Smoke – the skinny jeans are still hot this fall, and this smoke color is fun and will look great with the fall’s brights as well as the darker colors of the season.

Giraffe Print Dress from Kiyonna – Utterly gorgeous and elegant, and a cut to flatter, not fight against your curves.

Dana Buchman Silk Charmeuse Wrap Top – Gorgeous color, gorgeous fabric – wear with denim trousers for a night out, with crepe trousers or a skirt for a party, and even with suiting pieces for work.

Royal Blue Jersey Cocktail dress by Tadashi – Gorgeous color, elegant draping, and perfect for all your seasonal holiday parties!

Age is But a Number

Age is but a number.

Really people, it is. It’s not a euphemism that allows adults to wear Care Bear shirts and skip across the parking lot to Starbucks, but it isn’t a steadfast bar where you have to adjust your life to fit it.

I spent my lunch in Borders, pouring over fashion magazines while enjoying an iced coffee. Bazaar (which ya’ll know is one of my very favorite fashion magazines) had an article about Diane von Furstenberg (who is one of my very favorite designers).

Diane von Furstenberg is 60, beautiful, sexy and confident. She shows skin, wears her hair long, attends interviews with a face free of makeup and wears garments many would say should be reserved for her younger clients.

All of this, yet the woman exudes amazing style, confidence and class. Why? She isn’t adhering to a number, but to her self. She knows what works and what doesn’t by having a good relationship with her body and her mind. She doesn’t feel that since she hit a certain age bracket she now needs to dress in Chanel suits and sensible heels. Look at the pictures above – that is not “typical” attire for a woman in her 60s yet on von Furstenberg, it is perfect and stylish.

My friend is 29 and used to be a manager of a Talbots store. She was always amazed at the type of people who bought the different styles of clothing the company carried. It was as though once a woman hit 40, she felt as though she must own a pair of cropped capris with embroidered palm trees all over them. Pink polo shirts, quirky capris and uber-comfortable conservative slides and sandals seemed to be the expected uniform of that age, especially if she had children. She would suggest alternatives that seemed to fit the person’s figure and personality better – soft knits, shirtdresses, stronger colors but they usually refused, saying they were too old for anything but the standard conservative prep uniform.

Now for some, this look is cute and appropriate. However for most, it is stupid and well… corny. It’s the same with the over-50 set who feels she is now expected to dress completely in the Chico’s Travelers collection. The closet is full of slinky black pieces that drape all over, pulled together with an artistic and bold necklace or hip belt. Again, fabulous look on some, but totally wrong on many.

When my mom was growing up, she remembered very specific styles that every female HAD to have in her closet. A charcoal piped blazer, a circle skirt, a pencil skirt, a tucked in white blouse. All pieces that looked horrific on her petite curvy frame. Luckily, style is not so rigid anymore, and one can truly walk a mall (or surf the Internet) and find pieces that fit one’s personal style AND figure.

Age-appropriate dressing usually has to do with how much skin you are exposing. The thing is, a 55-year old woman who is a marathon runner and yoga enthusiast can better carry off a little silk sundress and strappy heels than a 21-year old woman who has a few more curves. A curvy woman in her 20s often has firmer arms and décolletage than a woman in her 40s, and then can more easily carry off a strapless top with a plunging neckline. So it’s not as much about how much skin you are showing, but what type of skin you are showing.

In my 20s, I was less concerned with my torso showing and often wore tops that hit right at the waistband. However I was less comfortable with my upper body and chose short sleeves over straps and wore higher necklines so not to expose any cleavage. I wore looser pants feeling that my bum was too round, and never wore skirts for thinking my legs were too thick. Now in my 30s, I wear lower necklines to elongate my body and accentuate my curves; I love skirts and dresses because they show off my feminine shape and find that slimmer fitting jeans make me look smaller and taller. It’s not about changing my wardrobe because I hit a new decade in my life, but changing my wardrobe according to my relationship with my current body, my lifestyle, my career.

There are some style I am drawn to but choose not to wear because of my lifestyle and profession more than my age (gosh if I was independently wealthy I think I may get a Mohawk and re-pierce my nose) but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be worn by anyone. I have a former coworker who is in her 40s. She loves working out and has a great toned body, a short spiky black hairdo, wears a lot of eyeliner, sports a few tattoos and looks amazing in jeans and a ribbed tank. Because of her personality and her lifestyle (musician and makeup artist) it doesn’t look foolish, it doesn’t look as though she is attempting to be younger, she seems comfortable in her skin and expressing her personality. I have an old college friend who is the opposite. She is 30 years old, wears very conservative and subtle attire. She looks at home in knee-length tweed skirts, cashmere turtlenecks, conservative suits and clothes often associated with a teacher or librarian. She is never without her pearls or her classic style of Coach purse and always looks confident, feminine and chic. She works in a conservative field and even in college when we attended frat parties, she arrived in crisp khakis, a button-down shirt and loafers. No one mocked her because this is what made her… well her!

One can be in beautiful clothing yet still not be considered well dressed. One can dress appropriately for her age group, but still look inappropriate. The only way to truly achieve style is to know yourself. A good way is by answering the questions below, then reading them aloud. You may be surprised by your answers…

  • Who is your favorite artist?
  • Why?
  • Who is your favorite musician?
  • Why?
  • Looking at all the colors in a box of Crayola crayons, what color are you drawn to?
  • Why?
  • What wardrobe item from your past do you remember most fondly?
  • Why?
  • What female celebrity’s style do you admire most?
  • Why?
  • Where would you go for a dream vacation?
  • Why?
  • What color did you want to paint your childhood bedroom?
  • Your first residence when you moved out on your own?
  • What is your favorite movie or play?
  • Why?
  • If you had a free weekend, what would you do with it?
  • When you are in a meeting or seminar, do you ever doodle or write during the lecture?
  • If so, what?
  • What is your favorite holiday?
  • Why?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What are the five most important things in your life (things being actual things, people, beliefs, anything)?
  • What item in your current wardrobe makes you feel:
  • Beautiful?
  • Fun?
  • Powerful?
  • Feminine?
  • Boring?
  • Uncomfortable?

You and your best friend could answer these questions and both have completely different answers. Your favorite shopping buddy, the one you always borrow clothes from will most likely have different answers from you. This is why though you may have similar frames and similar tastes, a dress will look great on her but not quite right on you. This is why a dress can seem slutty on one woman, and seem chic on another, even though they are the same age and size.

Take your answers and make them into a paragraph, a short story about you and only you. This is who you are, not who you are trying to portray, who you attempt to be at work, what your social groups expect from you.

Think about a woman you know who you think has great style. Why? Is it just because she accessorizes well, or is it what she accessorizes with? Is it the clothing, or the combination of clothing and her shape and personality? Often times, we are attracted to those who have style that is flattering to their figure, but also their personality. We admire the woman at church who always seems so feminine and pulled together. She wears soft colors and fabrics that match her sweet and gentle demeanor. We admire our hairdresser who wears combat boots, a vintage dress and a blue streak in her hair, yet walks down the street as though she is Grace Kelly. We notice the corporate powerhouse at the intersection on her Blackberry. Her perfect blonde highlights, the expertly tailored gray pantsuit accented by amazing snakeskin heels. Her whole demeanor exudes confidence and strength. Imagine what they would write in their short story, and think how your appearance is assisting you with your story.

Yes, one should respect social norms – don’t attend a wedding in a strapless bright red leather mini dress, don’t attend a cocktail party in cargo shorts, don’t go to a client meeting in flip flops and yoga pants. Also respect your personal beliefs – if you feel that as a woman you should and should not wear certain things, then by of course adhere to that – this is what makes up your personal story. But outside of that, respecting your figure, your lifestyle, your personality… those are the rules to having great style. Just ask Diane von Furstenberg!

The Mall and the SAHM

This week, I ran to the mall at lunch for some retail therapy. I recently bought a pair of black trousers that had such a perfect fit, fabric and cut that I returned to get them in two other colors. While strolling the mall sipping my iced coffee, I realized that the majority of the mall was occupied by mothers with their children. Women with slings holding sleeping infants, women with strollers holding up to three kids at a time at varying ages. Women and children hand in hand at the food court, on benches, in stores. As varying were the ages of their children were the appearances of these mothers.

This mall is in a community where every economic level of person lives. On one side of the mall are million-dollar townhomes in a gated community, the other side are rent-controlled apartments. A mile up the street are McMansions and in the other direction, cozy blocks of split-level and rancher-style brick homes built in the 50s. I used to work at this mall, and saw people from all walks of life enter my store. This day of retail therapy and my years of retail management remind me that money does not equal style.

My mom often tells me about my childhood. We were not well off and she had to save up to buy clothes for herself and us kiddies. Weekends were spent at yard sales for clothes, furniture and even Christmas presents come winter. Though my mom had a limited budget, she always looked great. She learned to sew to be able to dress for less and flatter her petite frame. She scoured sale racks and when something worked, she would buy multiples in varying colors to make things simple. Since she was a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM), she needed clothes that didn’t wrinkle, could handle multiple washings and were so easy to pair with one another, she could dress in the dark. Pictures of her during this time shows her in jeweled toned knit tops, black knit trousers, black shoes and a silver pendant necklace almost every day. Not too exciting, the sleeve and pant length seemed to change with the seasons, but the premise was the same. Considering it was the 70s and 80s, my mom had a shoulder-length perm that flattered her face but was low-maintenance. You couldn’t look at her and know her income level or that I had vomited on that shirt two days prior. She was a parent of two rambunctious children, a volunteer in our schools, the editor of the church newsletter, active in the community and always overextended. Though her life may have been frazzled, her appearance was not.

It really is possible to look good and be a SAHM. And this is possible without spending much more time every day. It’s all about mindful shopping. I know I have written about this before, but this is something that is important to all women, no matter our lifestyle or responsibilities.

As I walked down the mall, I had two women in front of me pushing strollers. They were friends, chatting with each other as they window-shopped. They were both in their 30s, both of average size, both with straight blonde hair and I believe even had the same strollers. That was where the similarities ended. One was in baggy over-washed black cotton capris that ended at the widest part of her calf. She paired this with a pink, black and white horizontally striped polo shirt that hit right at her waistband and with it a pair of black flip flops. Her hair was half up in a claw clip, though most was slipping out and fanning out around her head. She looked dumpy, disheveled and her clothes looked cheap. Her friend was also in black capris, but they were of a very heavy knit and fit her frame quite well. Paired with it was a turquoise boatneck ¾ sleeve top that hit at mid-hip. On her feet were black ballet flats and her hair was held back with a black elastic headband. Her outfit was just as low-fuss and easy care, yet she looked slimmer and more polished. Both wardrobes can go in the washer and dryer. Both outfits were comfortable and easy. The difference was that the woman in the turquoise seemed more mindful of what she was purchasing.

1. Don’t buy 100% cotton unless you love to iron. It wrinkles, and even an extra 10 minutes in the dryer won’t get those wrinkles out. Also, cotton is known to fade after many washings. Cotton clothes soon look rumpled, old and worn. You don’t have the time and money to replace them, so don’t buy them in the first place.

2. If your tummy is not your best feature, then don’t showcase it. Tops that hit right at your midsection draw attention to that area. Tucked-in tops emphasize the lower abdomen, and tops that are too tight do not flatter anyone. Look for tops that hit around mid-hip. This length is slimming to the torso without making the legs look short. No need for baggy tops – they often add bulk instead of hiding it. Look for something that either skims the body or sits pretty darn close. This will show you have the figure of a woman, not a sack of potatoes.

3. Flip flops are for the beach, not the mall. I say this often on here, but flops are bad for your feet. Your arches sink, you pull muscles between your toes and they do more harm than good. They are great when hopping in the car to drop the kid off somewhere, tooling around the garden, the pool or the shore but that’s about it. To preserve your feet for your future and not look sloppy, invest in some real shoes. Ballet flats are a great alternative and can be found for less than $20 at retailers like Target. A leather sandal in tan will go with 90% of your wardrobe and be more structured and attractive than a flip flop. This change affects your personal style as well as your personal health.

4. With skirts, dresses, shorts and capris, have them end at a slim part of the leg. Your thigh and your calf are the widest parts and when clothing ends there, it gives the appearance that your entire leg is that size. Do your figure a favor and if the garment is perfect except for the length, take them to the tailor. For about $5 they can hem it to a better place.

5. Consider solids. Stripes and patterns may add variety and you may think they hide stains, but they often look cheap and quickly look dated. A solid polo in French blue can look crisp with a pair of khaki Bermudas; a striped one can make you look bigger and often looks cheaper. The best way to make your bargain piece look more expensive is to buy it in a solid color, free of garment-dyed finishes, contrast stitching or elaborate details. Go for simple and you’ll go for gold.

6. Read the label. If it says Dry Clean Only, don’t buy it unless you have time and money for such a service. If it tells you to dry flat, it’s telling you not to buy it. You don’t have the time for this, and if you don’t follow the instructions you will probably ruin the shape or finish of the garment.

7. If it’s great, buy two. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I went and bought two more pairs of pants that I already owned and loved. They were the right length, color, fabric and fit. No one is taking a tally of how many styles of garments you own, all people notice is if you look nice. You found a great wrap top that flatters and fits and is easy care and perfection? Get it in black, pink and teal. Found a wrap dress that can hit the dryer as well as the dance floor? Get it in solid black and also in the red print. This is also true for shoes – get them in the neutral you wear most often (black or brown) and then get them in one other color (tan or a contrast shade like red pr green). If they are awesome, they are worth it.

8. Adjust your hair to your life. If you don’t have time to blow out your hair every morning, then get a cut that allows you to wash and wear. If you have bad hair days, you are human. Work with it with flattering accessories. Claw clips seem like a quick fix but look sloppy more often than not. Headbands are hip right now – great time to stock up. Also nothing is wrong with a low ponytail; side parts are flattering on rounder faces and a little hairspray on your brush or comb will help battle flyaways.

9. Buy a new bra. Whether or not you breastfed, your breasts will not be the same as they were pre-baby even if your waistline is. With any weight changes, your breasts change as well. Nothing makes you look firmer and fitter than a supportive bra. Also nothing makes you feel more like a woman than to have a gorgeous red satin and lace number under your standard tee shirt.

10. Keep the active wear for the gym. Knit shorts, baggy tee shirts from a vacation destination, matching hoodies and pants are not appropriate for “the real world.” It is just as easy to buy a feminine cut of tee shirt than to buy an oversized one.

11. Don’t shy from a skirt or dress. If it hits around the knees, you can still crawl on the floor and run around without trouble. A skirt is always more polished, and a great tee-shirt style dress is easier to put on in the morning than a whole outfit. The one pictured is less than $40 by Jones New York, I found it at Nordstrom.

12. Show your personality.You are more than a mom, you are an amazing and vital woman.Wear your favorite colors, buy a leopard print shoe or a bold necklace.Small touches take your standard day wear from uniform to amazing with little work.

 

 

Some companies I recommend to find beautiful, comfortable and durable garments:

      • Lands End – I love this place. I buy knits from there that never shrink, fade or pill. They have petite, tall and plus sizes and offer fit guides to ensure you get the right size. I recommend you use this guide for many of their pieces run big. Best part? Their prices are very reasonable!
      • Chico’s – Fabulous colors, fun accessories and lots of fabrics that resist wrinkles and fading. Do note their sizing is a bit different from most companies and they do not carry plus sizes. As with Lands End, they often run a tad big.
      • J. Crew – J. Crew is the Mecca for pretty solid colored tops. Flattering cuts of polos and tees, high-quality cashmere, cotton and wool sweaters, and all with flattering yet not risqué necklines and cuts. J. Crew often runs small, especially in their bottoms but the quality is good, the cut is usually flattering and their return policy is fabulous. The price may be a bit higher than you’re used to, but the quality usually makes it worth the investment (I am still wearing J. Crew skirts and sweaters from a decade ago).
      • I.N.C. by Macy’s – You may find this a strange choice but if you regularly visit this section you would understand. They carry petites and plus sizes, they always have the most gorgeous colors and a large selection of pants, shorts and capris for the season. I.N.C. does a fabulous job of taking what is on the runway and making is realistic and wearable for every woman. They carry prints, but also a plethora of solids every season in some high-quality knits and other washable fabrics.
      • Boden – Feminine cuts, pretty colors, and great basics for any wardrobe. Do note this is a UK site so their sizes run differently than the us (they have a handy fit guide on the site). They don’t have many extended sizes, though some trousers are offered in long lengths. This company has mastered simple elegance with their basic style.

 

How to “Read” Fashion Magazines

Pre-pubescent women below 100 lbs. showing off dresses in the thousands. Ads for Armani, Versace, Missoni, Chanel and any other brand you couldn’t possibly afford (and possibly couldn’t even find for sale in your neck of the woods). Crazy outfits of sheer blouses without camisoles, plaids with polka dots, turquoise false lashes and 6″ platform wedges. How are these magazines supposed to help the typical woman in America? How can Vogue, W, Bazaar and Elle assist you in your journey to the suburban shopping mall?

Some fashion magazines are more helpful than others. Lucky magazine not only tells you what is hip, but where to purchase these hip items. They categorize trends, with a page dedicated to the lace trend, a page dedicated to wedge shoes, a page dedicated to croco bags. While encouraging the shopper to visit New York boutiques, a few chain stores are mentioned. Even if you cannot afford the Prada skirt, you can see the length, fabric and cut and can look for a similar version at Macy’s.

Bazaar is one of my favorite magazines. They show celebrities and socialites in what’s hip for the next season, have all the hot new ads from the most luxurious brands, but also breaks fashion down for the Every Woman. So the trends for Spring are a bit of cowgirl, a bit of nautical and a bit of safari? Bazaar will show how a woman in her 20’s can wear the trends, a woman in her 30’s and all the way up to her 70’s. They also will have a spread informing the reader about the hot new trends. As always, they have a What’s Hot/What’s Not on the very last page.

Every fashion magazine can be beneficial to you, no matter your age, dress size or income. It’s not about going into debt for a Dior bag or even for trying to replicate a Dolce and Gabanna ad with pieces from Target. No, it’s getting concepts.

Look at the ads. Really examine them as you would a painting in a museum. What colors are being worn? What does the shoe look like? What kind of fabric? Is there a specific print that is the theme? Now flip the page and look at the next ad. Is there any similarity? Though each high-end designer has their own signature style, there is often a theme for each season that resonates on the runway and in the ads. Maybe it’s lace trim, maybe it’s wood heels on the shoes. It could be a lot of black – it sure was this winter. Don’t look at these ads and roll your eyes over the age or weight of the models, the astronomical prices and ridiculousness of the garments. See it as art, and then break it down.

Be Realistic. If the magazine says every woman needs the new Fendi purse, don’t buy the Fendi purse if you don’t make enough money to buy a Fendi purse for fun. The purse will be passé in a year. Don’t go on a street corner and buy a faux Fendi purse. It will look fake, and it will look tacky and desperate. Don’t wait two years and buy a cheesy knock-off of what the Fendi purse was shaped like from Wal-Mart. Again tacky and desperate. Instead, break it down. What makes that bag new and hip? Is it the oversized shape? Use of silver hardware? A short handle? Croco leather? White with black trim? Take those details with you when you go shopping. Look for something that is beautiful on it’s own, fits your lifestyle and needs, but may incorporate those details. I for one adored the Balenciaga Motorcycle bags that celebs like Nicole Ritchie and Jessica Simpson were sporting. I couldn’t afford the bag, and didn’t want to look like an idiot with a faux silver or turquoise pleather wanna-be bag on my wrist. Therefore I analyzed the look of the bag. What about it did I like? The hardware. The large size. The short handle. The way the leather looks a bit crackled and a bit glazed. When I went to buy a new purse I found a slouchy oversized purse with lots of hardware and metal detail in a similar leather finish and a color that complimented my wardrobe. Not Balenciaga, couldn’t be mistaken for a Motorcycle bag, but receives many compliments, holds all my stuff and keeps my image current.

Don’t be a Label Whore. I was in an elevator yesterday with a woman. A gorgeous woman with a gorgeous figure. Her beauty was not the first thing I saw. She was wearing a puffy Baby Phat coat with a faux fur trim in a weird olive/taupe color. She had on extremely tight Seven for All Mankind jeans that were too low on the waist and too long on her ankles. She had on a Tiffany bracelet AND a Tiffany necklace. She had on a Coach logo purse – quite large and quite pink. Under her coat was a black fitted tee with “Bebe” in rhinestones across the chest. She had on false eyelashes, very pink glossy lips and barely any other makeup. Her hair was in a formal updo with tendrils around her face, her hair obviously meticulously highlighted, lowlighted and streaked on a regular basis. And then on her feet were those high-heeled Timberland-esque dress boots. Her outfit probably cost a ton of money, but she looked terrible. Her clothes didn’t compliment her figure, or one another. She was a walking fashion victim, a slave to the name brands. By caring so much about the names, she lost sight of what the brands were trying to create – FASHION. I highly doubt you are going to the Academy Awards any time soon. No one is going to stop you walking down the street and say “Who are you wearing?” Even if they do, how cool would you be by saying, “This old thing? I picked it up at Target last season.” Think Sharon Stone when she wore a Gap tee shirt to an awards ceremony. No one wrote her off as cheap or tacky. Instead she was celebrated for that fashion move.

It is understandable to want to buy luxury, to splurge on designer. You work hard, you want to reward yourself. I respect that, and I indulge in that as well. Just when you do, think about the rules you hold for all other aspects of your life:
Does it fit into your life?
Does it flatter?
Will it work for the long haul?
Is it worth it?

If you got that promotion, go ahead and buy a Coach purse, but buy one that will go with your current wardrobe, and will still be beautiful next year. My friend has a Coach bag that she bought herself after getting her degree in 1998. She still carries around that camel colored tote, and still gets compliments all the time. She bought something luxurious, something obviously a brand name, but something that fit her lifestyle, fashion style and something that works in the 90’s as well as the new millennium. A few years ago I found a beautifully tailored black wool coat from Calvin Klein. I put it on and felt like a socialite. I felt elegant, tall and slim. It was at a discount store, but still out of my price range. It was the first item I ever put on layaway. When I made the final payment, I still adored the coat. Now a few years later, I still love the coat, it’s cut, it’s feel. To me, it was worth the money. I wear it and look expensive, but I am not shouting “This is a Calvin Klein coat from 2001!” I am whispering “I am wearing an expensive, well made garment and it is designer.”

Again, look in the magazines. Look at the spreads of celebrities at galas and fundraisers. Are they showing up in head to toe labels? Unless you’re Kimora Lee Simmons or Missy Elliott, the answer probably is no. The women who look polished, elegant, sexy and expensive do not flash their designer labels. They wear what is stylish, flattering and beautiful.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read. When a magazine totes a certain top or moisturizer as great, it’s not always because it’s great. Magazines receive free stuff all the time, and are encouraged in different ways to promote this stuff. These freebies end up in fashion spreads, articles about great new things for the season, or advice columns. Don’t take what one magazine says as gospel. It’s best to have something to compare it with. Don’t worship Vogue if you won’t also pick up In Style. Don’t read Lucky without W. By reading more magazines (even in the line at the grocery or at the pharmacy while waiting for a prescription) you get a more well-rounded view of what is hot, what is trendy, and what is utterly ridiculous.

Make it Age and Shape Appropriate. Anyone over 27 and a size 4 should not be wearing dress shorts. Mischa Barton and Nicole Ritchie and Lindsay Lohan are all wearing short creased shorts to red carpet events. Well good for them. Are you built like Lindsay Lohan? Are you the age of Mischa Barton? If you answered yes to both, God Speed and Good Luck. For the rest of us, STEER AWAY FROM THE SHORTS. Just because it’s hip, doesn’t mean to wear it. We don’t live in the era of cut and dry fashion. My mom speaks of circle skirts, piped charcoal blazers and cigarette pants while growing up. They weren’t flattering on her, but she wore them because EVERYONE wore them. That, and nothing else. Fashion has changed and has become more flexible and forgiving. If this season is all about olive green and you look terrible in olive green, then don’t wear it. If magazines are telling you that leggings are hot this season (which they are) but you are over 25, you’re over 105 lbs. and you wore in an office setting you shouldn’t pick up a pair your next trip to the mall. If the new look is nautical, that doesn’t mean you need to go buy a navy and white striped boat neck shirt to make your torso seem twice it’s size. Instead consider pieces that may be more appropriate. Crisp white trousers with a solid navy sweater. A navy blazer with gold buttons paired with a white shirt and vintage washed jeans. There are different ways to incorporate trends without looking like a fashion victim or worse… unflattering.

Make a List. So you like the polka dots featured in Bazaar. You like the new width of jeans seen in In Style. You love how navy is coming back into vogue on the pages of Vogue. Write these things down, or tear out pages from your glossy magazines and take them with you on your shopping excursions for inspiration. When you get overwhelmed in a sea of fabric at Lord and Taylor’s pull out your list. It will keep you centered and less overwhelmed.
And finally, See Fashion as Art. If you stop looking at fashion as the unobtainable, you’ll despise it. The majority of our country cannot afford a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes, a Prada dress, a Chanel suit. That’s okay. Just look at that Chanel suit or that Prada dress in the magazine’s fashion spread and try to figure out why they chose to display it. Is it the color? The cut? The fabric? What about makes it less insane (because much high fashion is totally insane and unwearable in normal society) and more beautiful? Take that one thing with you as you go shopping this season. If you try to see the beauty and detail in fashion, you will be more likely to buy what makes you look more beautiful when you wear it.

Tuesday Tip – Add Class To Your Wardrobe and Not Spend a Dime

  1. Remove all Logos. Would you ever see Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn, or even Ashley Olsen or Gwyneth Paltrow in a tee shirt with rhinestone appliquéd “Bebe” on her chest? I think not. The first problem with logoed shirts (be it says “sexy thing,” “American Eagle” or “Proud to be an American”) is they are busy. One is reading your chest, not your personality. Second, why are you paying to buy a shirt to advertise for a company? It’s not free advertising for them, it’s with guaranteed profit. Third, it’s tacky. Yes, some celebrities walk around in head to toe visible designer brands. However the style mavens, the fashionistas do not. Your clothing should accentuate you, not speak for itself. So you like a certain brand, or cannot afford it but for the logo tee. Wearing a designer logo tee will not make you look rich; if anything it makes it look as though you can afford nothing but the tee shirt. And as for your pride in your country/your corporation/your vacation spot? Well that’s just dandy. Again, state it yourself, you don’t need your shirt to state if for you. Fly a flag outside your home, carry around your business cards and frame a picture of you in the Outer Banks at your desk. Just don’t have it emblazoned on your breasts. As for those shirts with witty sayings? Keep them for the gym, the bachelorette party and around the house. A woman of style says what she feels, she does not wear it. Just removing logoed and message clothing from your daily ensembles, you will add much class, taste and a more expensive look to your existing wardrobe.
  2. Change your hair accessories. It’s hot out and you want your hair off your neck. It is possible to achieve this without resorting to a tacky hair accessory. Get rid of anything that is not hair colored or black. That means the rhinestone encrusted, the teal to match your teal sweater, the white, the gold and the animal pattern. Just because they are in the aisle at CVS does not mean they are fashionable. Secondly, pare down what you own. If you find yourself reaching for the scrunchie, “ouchless” elastic or butterfly clip on a daily basis, you need a haircut my dear, not an accessory. Hair accessories should be left to children, the gym, the garden and the salon white other sections are being blown straight. A few accessories are acceptable for everyday use. These are nondescript headbands (tortoise, elastic, accordion), nondescript barrettes (a clamp-style can hold up loose ends, brush back bangs and not take the focus off your entire look. Bobby pins are a must for updos and bangs that are not the right length – keep them hair colored) and maybe a hair-colored or black narrow elastic in your bag for hair emergencies. I cannot stress it enough – if you are wearing your hair in a clip or elastic more than two days a week, you need to consider your current haircut. And by all means, do not try to wear your hair accessories as fashion accessories – no claw clips attached to purse straps, no scrunchies or elastics on your wrist, no barrettes or bobby pins clamped to the hem of your top. This ruins the look of any outfit.
  3. Untuck the shirt. Say what? You were raised that a proper lady tucks in her blouse. It is the epitome of decorum and modesty to properly tuck a blouse, correct? Not always. In this day and age, many tops are not created to be tucked in. Also many of our figures are not flattered with a tucked-in shirt. If you have a bit of a belly, an untucked tailored shirt, polo or sweater can do wonders to camouflages that area without looking messy. A tailored, proper length shirt (no longer than your hips) will look more modern if untucked – if button downs have a scooped hem, they look great untucked; those with a straight hem are made to be tucked in.
  4. Iron your clothes. Seems like a given, but unfortunately we often do not have the time or full-length mirrors to really see what we look like to others. Creased pants will not sort themselves out in the commute to work, and wrinkled blouses from the dryer have a totally different look than shirts that got a bit rumpled through the average day. If you purchase cotton clothing, expect to iron. If you do not have time for ironing, take the pieces to the cleaners. Shirts usually are cleaned and pressed for less than $2.00. A properly pressed garment will add tons of class, style and an expensive look to your outfit.
  5. Protect the midsection. Again, let’s use the example of Jackie O. Do you think she would have ever visited the mall with her navel exposed? Be you a few pounds overweight and your clothes fitting a bit snugly, or be it you have the most amazing toned six-pack, there is never a reason for an adult to show her belly anywhere but at the beach or pool. If your shirt is riding up, this means it is at least one size too small. If you bend over and more than ¼” of your underwear is showing, your pants do not fit properly and need to be donated or tailored. If you ensure that your midsection is properly covered (even when you sit, yank your bag on your shoulder or raise your arm) you will look thinner and far more elegant.
  6. Don’t be a slave to fashion. Just because leggings have appeared on the runway after a 20-year hiatus does not mean you need to dash out and purchase a pair. Fashion is not black and white as it was of decades past. This means pick and choose what appeals to you and is flattering each season, and stick to your classics to pull the look together. If you are too short-waisted for thick belts, then by all means do not purchase them. I personally have thicker legs and do not plan on purchasing any of the stovepipe jeans or leggings that are in every magazine this season. This doesn’t mean I will be seen as unfashionable, it just means I am dressing for my figure, not for a fashion magazine.
  7. Accept your size. Also accept that your size in one store may be different from another. You will be the same shape be you wear a size 8 dress or a 10. If you are so self-conscious you can cut the tags out a la Mariah Carey. A size smaller in a blouse will actually make you look larger. On the other side of the coin, clothing that is too big for your body will make you look misshapen, sloppy and also bigger than you truly are. If you have trouble due to curves, purchase the larger size and take your garment to a tailor (many dry cleaners do tailoring) and have it adjusted to your shape.
  8. Check your bag. Is your bag overstuffed? Fraying? Covered with pen marks? If so, you are like many women in America. If you cannot afford a replacement bag, clean the one you currently have, snip any frayed areas with nail scissors and always keep it zipped up and only to 70% capacity at most. This will make your bag look far more polished than when you have a planner, sippy cup, wad of Kleenex and an apple popping out of the main compartment. Bag too small to stay at only 70% capacity? Gut it, lay everything out on your bed or dining table and really evaluate every item – is it a necessity? Is it easily found/accessible in your bag 9do you need smaller cosmetic bags to organize)? If everything is a necessity, it is time to either purchase a larger bag or a second bag for school/work papers/your laptop/toys and snacks for the rugrats.
  9. Chin up. The best way to exude class and style is to have good posture. Chin up, neck elongated, chest out, shoulders back and down. Think about your walk; glide, don’t clop. A graceful walk will make even ratty sweatpants look elegant.

The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe

I made this list a few years ago, and this list still applies to today’s trends. If you buy the correct pieces, you will have to purchase fewer pieces and you will have more options each morning as you decide what to wear. A rule to a wardrobe – QUALITY NOT QUANTITY!!! Repeat this mantra as you ponder over buying those pink pleather pants or that faux fur handbag. Will you like in in two months, let alone two years? Does it go with anything else in your wardrobe? Is it flattering? Comfortable? Versatile? Well made?

1. Black Tailored Pantsuit in Seasonless Fabric
Boy I use the term “seasonless fabric” a lot. This is triacetate, gabardine, crepe, something with a bit of polyester in it. Note that I wrote a BIT. This shouldn’t look like scuba wear, a bathing suit or a rain jacket. No more than 5% stretch. Look at the fabric of men’s suits. It’s a fabric that is smooth, doesn’t wrinkle easily, looks good in winter and in summer. You want an equivalent.

This is a suit that is right for work, or even for a cocktail party. I am a huge fan of the Triacetate line from Ann Taylor. It’s seasonless, classic, travels easily, and due to being synthetic, is slightly stain resistant. J. Crew has a few great lines of suits as well – it’s a good idea to buy from a reputable brand that is known for suiting so you can replace or add to this suit over the seasons. My Triacetate suit from Ann Taylor is now a skirt, two different cuts of trousers and two different cuts of jackets – all found on sale, different seasons but all the same color and fabric.

2. Black Seasonless Trousers
See above for the type of fabric. These really should be a separate pair from your suit because they will get more wear. These are pants for work, for dinner, for nights out.

Express carries a Microfiber pant called the Editor Pant. It is a stretchy crepe-textured fabric that wears well. Stretchy but not shiny, can dress up or down. They often sell coordinating suit jackets. These are a great choice for women up to size 10 or 12, as that they come in lengths and you can wash them in Woolite and hang them to dry.

You are looking for a pant with a slightly lowered rise, a straight to slight bootcut leg that is not too tight in the thigh. A classic fit. These are trousers that go with a fun top for a night out, with a twinset for work, with a cute jacket and tank for dinner, with a sweater for a jaunt to the mall. Sometimes it’s nice to give the jeans a vacation and dress up a smidge. You’ll find that the right black trousers will be more comfortable and as easy care as your favorite denim.

3. Jeans and I Don’t Mean ANY Sort of Jeans
I mean a pair of FLATTERING jeans. Jeans can be stylish, comfortable and flattering. It may take several attempts, but when you find the right jeans, both you and your butt will know. A lower rise is more flattering to the belly. Having the waistband start just below the belly button will flatten the tummy and lengthen the torso. This will also make the jeans bind less when you sit. The leg should be slim, but not tight. A slight bootcut leg opening is the most universally flattering. It lengthens the leg, looks great with sneakers or boots or heeled sandals, and it’s look won’t be going out of style for several years. The color should be a bit darker than stonewashed. Having the fading on the thighs often makes the leg look slimmer. A slightly vintage look is always flattering, and will be less likely to show wear as you wash and wear these jeans month after month. Darker means slimmer, and more stylish. Toss your faded jeans, your high waisted jeans, your tapered jeans.

Great and flattering jeans can be found anywhere from high-end denim boutiques to your local Old Navy. When you go to try on, plan to spend a good hour or so in the fitting room. Befriend a salesperson – I know they often can be annoying but they usually know their product. Tell them, “I am a size 8, but sometimes buy a 10 for my hips. I hate my hips, I usually buy a regular length, but sometimes they’re short on me…” and things like that. The more information, the better. Stores really push denim at Back to School time. They often have the biggest supply, largest selection, and most knowledgeable employees. I know stores like Express and Levi’s have “Denim Experts” who they hire at Back to School time to spew out denim information and find the right fit for everyone. I have had a lot of luck with Gap with having a good variety and tags to explain which jeans work for which figures. Same with Nordstrom and Old Navy.

4. Jeans Again – But These Have a Totally Different Purpose.
These are dressy jeans. Jeans are not just for everyday, jeans have become haute couture. Not all of us can afford a pair of $250 denim, but we can acquire a pair that is a bit more refined, a bit nicer, reserved for special occasions.

These jeans can have a similar cut to the above mentioned jeans, but you want to be more specific with the type and color of denim. Again, you want them darker than stonewashed. You want them to look a bit more… crisp. The hem not so frayed. Maybe even with a crease in the front. Many like jeans with appliqué and sequins on them, but I find those to be too trendy – they won’t be wearable in two years. A lot of denim is called “premium denim,” “ringspun denim” or “Japanese denim.” These mean a higher quality denim resulting in a more refined look. These are jeans that you baby. You wash inside out and dry inside out. Some don’t even dry, they let hang dry and then iron. Consider them dress pants. These jeans are for nicer nights out, going out with friends to a club, when you want to look a bit more dressy or sassy.

Another option is denim trousers. These are very popular now, and can be found in many stores. They are usually lighter in weight, sometimes have a cuff and/or a front crease. These are nice enough for business casual, yet look very sassy with a silk camisole to a club. If you go this route, do not get patch or flap pockets on the rear – this draws negative attention to that area and look dated. Slash front pockets are usually a poor choice for anyone with hips or a tummy. Look for coin pockets or go pocketless and reduce the bulk.

These jeans may seem silly, but trust me – once they are in your wardrobe you will find uses for them. I convinced my 60+ year-old mother to buy a pair, she wore them to a concert, to a church dinner and on a first date with a guy she met online. She even wears them to the mall when she wants to look sassy.



5. Black Heeled Boots
These can be knee high or ankle height. The point is to find a well-constructed, well-fashioned pair that look great with jeans, with trousers, for work or for play. Knee high is a great option because they can be hidden under pant legs, worn over jeans for an equestrian look, or paired with skirts or dresses. For those who do not find knee high boots comfortable, an ankle height is perfectly fine. You want a pair that covers your ankle when you cross your legs.

Heel should be at least an inch and a half tall. If you find heels uncomfortable, look for a heel of rubber, and look for a thicker heel. Heels may be hard to get used to at first, but they make you walk straighter, they make your clothes hang better, your butt looks better, your calves more toned.

The heel should be black as well. Many boots have the heel covered with leather, but this is prone to being scuffed and torn. If you can find black rubber or black stained wood, all the better. Otherwise, take your boots to a cobbler at the beginning of each season to have the heels cleaned up. The toe should not be overly round or pointy. You want a shoe that is comfortable, but stylish. A more squared toe or almond toe has been stylish for years, and there is plenty of room for all your tootsies. Steer clear of platforms – they occasionally have their day in the sun, but normal leather or synthetic soles persevere. Stay away from adornments. The more decoration, the more likely the boots will seem dated next fall. I have a pair of black boots I got from Nine West in 1999. They are 3 inch heels (I like ’em high), classic toe, ankle height with elastic gussets on the inner side of the boot. Each year I have them re-heeled and resoled. Each year I receive compliments on these years-old boots I got on clearance for $35.99. What a bargain! These boots have been worn to bars, parties, work, interviews, the mall, the grocery store, the zoo. They slide on easily, sit right at the front door in case I need to jet out at any time.

Why not brown? “Fashionable” browns change from year to year. One year it’s distressed, next year it’s glazed. It’s a reddish brown, then a chocolate, then more of a tan. It clashes with the belt, the purse, the coat. I realized recently that I own own one pair of brown shoes, and they are alligator pumps. I have not owned a pair of brown boots since college, and I am no worse off from it. You will see that black leather is more readily accessible, easier to match, blends with more of your wardrobe and is less likely to show age.  You can read more about my opinions of black and brown in this post.

6. Black Leather Pumps
These shoes should be able to take you from the boardroom to the ballroom. Leather, basic soft leather is the most versatile, and the easiest to maintain season to season. A simple pump with an almond to pointy toebox and at least an inch and a half of heel will be stylish for years to come. Like the boots, forgo adornments; they only age a shoe, and make it more memorable and less versatile.

It’s okay to go with comfort over trends with these pumps. Just don’t forgo heel height. Think feminine, think classic. Think “What Would Jackie Wear?” Jackie Onassis wouldn’t wear 4″ stilettos in patent leather, but she wouldn’t wear dowdy black microfiber elastic shoes with a clunky heel.

I take my black leather pumps to a cobbler every year to reheel and resole if needed. Every couple of months I sit down with all my black shoes and give them a shine with polish and a brush – just like my dad used to. When these pumps are not worn, I stuff newspaper in them and put them in a box in my closet to maintain them. These pumps have been worn to every job interview, every night at the theater, every funeral, client proposal presentation, Christening, or Bat Mitzvah.

7. Not So Little Black Dress
This is not a “hot date” dress, a “sexy siren” dress, yet not an “old fuddy duddy” dress. This is a classic, simple cut that would be appropriate for any season, in an easy-care, versatile fabric. One would look for a dress in crepe, silk, triacetate, matte jersey, gabardine or something similar in weight.

This dress is your “in a pinch” dress. With pearls you are ready for a day wedding. With a cardigan, it’s perfect for a christening or funeral. Add jet beads and dangly earrings and you are dressed for your company holiday party. A white oxford underneath some styles, and the dress becomes a sassy jumper appropriate for the workplace.

The dress should not be tight, but skim your curves. The most flattering length (and most versatile) is either right above the knee or right below it. A kick pleat in the back adds panache and the ability to walk effortlessly. If the dress is lined, it will be less likely to bunch, crease, or cling.

The neckline should be classic, yet flattering. A conservative v-neck or scoop, a slightly draped neckline, jewel neck or boat neck are all winners. The armholes should fit well that they don’t cut into the skin, yet do not show your bra even when boogieing on the dance floor. Sleeveless styles are the most versatile for day to night and winter to summer, but three-quarter sleeves are a good second choice if you are uncomfortable with your arms (or desire more coverage). I however do believe that fabric over arms adds girth and you notice the flesh more than others. Sleeveless is often more slimming than sleeves, and sleeveless is more flattering to larger arms than cap sleeves.

The best dress is one with little adornment. Your pizazz comes from the accessories. This is a dress that fits well, but is so basic you can wear it to event after event without people noticing. Simple, flattering cut, seasonless fabric, conservative yet not school marm-like hemline. This dress will last you for years and years of special occasions.

8. Silver Hoop Earrings
Gold is lovely and colors can be a lot of fun, but silver is a budget-friendly bit of flash for your wardrobe. Sterling silver can be found at the mall kiosk, your favorite boutique or the department store at a very reasonable price. With a bit of rubbing with a polishing cloth, these can look gorgeous for years. You may love gold, but most women cannot afford larger real gold hoops, and goldtone soon becomes green, copper or brown with wear and tear. These staples are about longevity and quality.

These hoops should be larger than a quarter, and if you ears can handle it, larger than a silver dollar. This may be a change from your norm, but these are not necessarily earrings to wear every day. Nothing jazzes up a simple outfit better than a visible pair of hoops. They add shine and sparkle, make a simple top and pants into a “look,” and dress up everything in your wardrobe. Wear with your simple black dress for your company’s holiday party, your merino v-neck and skirt for a date, with a simple tank and jeans for a night out with the girls.

These hoops should be slim, well constructed with a clasp that will hold tight through dancing and a whole evening out. If they are slim, they won’t be as weighty and be more wearable for long periods of time. Once you have these in your wardrobe, you will see how often you will end up wearing them to add flash to all your basics in your closet.

9. Black or Gray Merino V-neck Sweater
Merino wool is amazing – it’s lightweight enough to wear the majority of the year, it can be washed on the gentle cycle of the machine and hung dry without needing to reshape, it has a refined finish that is dressier than many other knits, it doesn’t pill or fade easily and it looks expensive even after multiple washings. What’s nice about this fabric is that it has give and it glides over curves without clinging or adding bulk.

This is a basic go-to sweater. Pair with jeans and boots for most any casual affair, with your seasonless pants for work or dinner, with a skirt, even with capris and cropped trousers in the spring and fall months. Having a basic like black or gray is a must – this is a color that will not go out of style. I have a merino v-neck in charcoal from J. Crew that I purchased in college and still wear a decade later. The merino v-neck will replace your sweatshirts, faded knit pullovers and bulky cotton sweaters; it is just as comfortable but far more refined.

A v-neck elongates the neck, makes one look slimmer, adds interest without being too trendy or flashy. The v-neck should be elegant – low enough to elongate the neck, but not so low that you are showing major cleavage. It should be wearable at work without raising eyebrows. As for fit, it should be a feminine cut without being too tight, and the length should end around mid-hip so you do not show off your tummy when raising your arm, but do not overwhelm your figure in a tunic of fabric.

Why not cashmere? Cashmere is an elegant choice, but cashmere requires more maintenance to launder and is often outside the pricepoint for many individuals.  Cashmere blends are known to pill and lose their shape over time; merino is known to keep its color and shape after years of wear and washing.

10. Trendy Skirt
This list is mainly of basics that one can wear from year to year. This description may seem as though it does not fit. On the contrary, it is possible to have a trendy skirt that spans the time of style.

Have a hankering for animal prints? Consider a leopard-print pencil skirt. Are you a crafty lady? Consider a twill a-line style with crewel work or felt embellishments and embroidery. Bit of a rocker? How about a dark denim slim skirt with stretch that comes to the knees. Love the classics? Consider your traditional straight skirt in one of your favorite colors or an unexpected textured fabric.

This skirt will jazz up your simple merino v-neck or tee shirt, it will add pizazz to your simple button-downs, sweaters and jackets. A fun skirt can add necessary humor, personality and even formality to a very basic wardrobe. Consider fabrics that have some give (about 5% Lycra), so they don’t wrinkle throughout the day, move with you and don’t get baggy with wear. A heavier fabric will hide the lumps and bumps and work better from season to season. If the fabric is more delicate, it should have a lining to keep the shape. Your lifestyle will determine what fabric is best. If you work in a conservative office environment, a straight skirt in a seasonless fabric would be a good choice. If you have a more casual lifestyle, a twill or denim may be a great choice.

A warning about twills, cottons and denims – they can easily look bummy or casual. This is a refined skirt that can dress up or down. A twill should have a slight sheen to its finish and have clean lines (no cargo pockets, drawstrings or flap pockets). Denim can be dressy if it has Lycra, a dark finish and fray-free edges. Cotton can easily wrinkle – consider an a-line or fuller style if you love this fabric and again stay away from adornments that make an item seem less like a skirt and more like active wear or fatigues.

11. Trendy Jacket/Blazer
Nothing pulls basics together and makes an outfit better than a jacket. A simple ribbed tank and jeans is appropriate for lunch with friends when topped with a blazer. Your basic black pants and a simple tee is work-appropriate when matched with a jacket. When it’s fun, funky, and “trendy,” it takes basics to the next level and adds your personality to your wardrobe.

I had a denim blazer that I wore to death. I wore it out on the town with a black cami and pants, a gold necklace and heels. I then wore it on Monday to work with a silk shell and suiting trousers. For a bridal shower, it was worn with white twill pants and a light aqua ribbed tank. In winter it was worn with a corduroy skirt and tights, in summer it was paired with white jeans and a lightweight shell.

For you it may be a stretch twill military-inspired jacket in your favorite shade of red, a washed velvet blazer in an unusual pumpkin hue, a collarless zip-up jacket in crackled black leather, a belted safari jacket in olive green cotton sateen. The point is that it can be appropriate for work or for play, it complements the majority of items in your wardrobe, and is a color and style that makes you happy. Sometimes the oddities in your closet get more wear than the simple pieces – this is a wardrobe piece where it’s okay to go outside the box and show a little flair. For a jacket to be versatile, it actually needs to be out of the ordinary.

Make sure this jacket fits well – even if you are tall if you have a short waist you may want to look at petites. Consider a tailor for a true custom fit. Unlined jackets are more forgiving to curvy shapes, adding less bulk and adding a bit of give. The jacket should button or zip comfortably across your body and not bind in any place. When you go to try it on, try it with a shell the weight you plan on wearing with it in the future.

12. Slim V-neck Sweater in a Signature Color
Don’t think you have a signature color? Look around you. What color is the wallpaper on your computer and phone? when you order Post-it notes, what color do you choose? What color are the towels in your bathroom, the undies you are wearing, your puppy’s collar, your beach towel? You’ll see that you are drawn to a certain color or range of colors. For me it is shades of bright pink and orange. My mom is always drawn to bright cobalt blue, and my good friend always seems to buy thinks in a pale shade of lemon yellow. this is the time to buy something that makes you smile every time you take it out of the closet or your dresser drawer. Don’t worry about what colors are en vogue, worry about what is right for you.

Since colors do go in and out of style, consider stores you normally don’t shop at for options. This is a simple garment (should follow the same rules as the merino v-neck in regard to fit), so you may have luck at the unexpected store or online boutique.

As for fabric, merino is always a great choice, but other fabrics can also work. A silk blend is nice for work and pairs well with skirts. A lighter weight cotton sweater, if treated well, can be a great choice. If your budget can handle it, consider cashmere for a long-term wardrobe investment. As with everything else on this list, look for quality – well made, well constructed, color-fast. This sweater will brighten the most gloomy days if you chose the right color. It can be worn with skirts, jeans, work pants, capris. With the right accessories it can work for a luncheon, work, the mall, the weekend, a cookout and even a cocktail party. Since it’s your signature color, you probably won’t ever tire of the color, making it a wardrobe mainstay.

13. Signature Accessory
Like the sweater, this is an item that makes you smile just looking at it. When others see it on you, they get a peek into your life and of your personality. For me, it is a wide silver cuff bracelet that I have worn almost daily for the past decade. I bought it after a job interview in a field that I always wanted to delve into. I bought this bracelet as a congratulations present to myself for having the guts to go out on a limb. I ended up getting that job, and consider this cuff to be a bit of a good luck charm for me. The bracelet fits my style – it’s bold, clean lines, modern with a hint of flash.

For you it may be a strand of pearls you inherited from your grandmother, a necklace of colorful clay beads you bought on a trip to Mexico, an amber ring that was given to you by your first boyfriend, a charm bracelet holding coins from all the countries you have visited. Maybe it’s a necklace you found in a local boutique and fell in love with because of the use of metal and glass or an Hermes scarf you bought with your first bonus check. Whatever it is, it should go with a good 70% of your wardrobe. On the days you feel a bit uninspired, putting that accessory on makes you fell more alive, more polished and more yourself. It should work with any other accessories you wear on a regular basis (wedding set, watch, earrings) without competing against it.

A signature piece has some heft to it – it is noticed by others and helps define your personal style. This is not a delicate gold chain with a small heart, it’s not the Tiffany bracelet that every other woman in America owns, and it is not your wedding set. This is something that you add to the picture, something that takes your staples and makes them a wardrobe.

14. A Sparkly/Evening Shell or Top
A night out on the town, a cocktail party, a company event, a date with your significant other… often these things come up unexpected and you scan through your knits and wovens trying to find the right thing to wear without any luck. Often you dash to the mall last minute and buy a dress you’ll never wear again or a cheap polyester top that “will do” for the event.

A great evening top will get miles and years of wear. Under your basic black suit, you are ready for a company event or cocktail party. With a simple black or ivory skirt, you’re dressed for a wedding. Pair it with black pants or dark jeans, you have a great outfit for a night of dancing.

I bought a top from Nordstrom a couple of years ago – it is blush-colored chiffon with flutter sleeves, a graceful v-neck and is covered in blush-colored sequins and tiny beads. The color is subtle, but the embellishment gives it pizazz. I have worn it to countless occasions with ivory trousers and pearls, with my black suit, with jeans and strappy heels. It’s not tight, so it works even when I am not feeling svelte.

Currently I have a dark red silk top – it is sleeveless, v-neck and an empire waist accentuated by a band decorated with a rosette in the same fabric. I have worn it with black pants, a black suit, with ivory pants, a black skirt and even jeans with great success. the silk captures the light and look formal, the color is flattering and looks festive, the rosette gives it interest.

Unlike your signature color, this should be a color that you like, but is versatile. Gray/silver, soft gold, blush, ivory, dark red, teal, bronze are all good choices because they are not exclusive to a time of year, they work well with a variety of neutral colors, and they are attractive without being so memorable that they cannot be worn again. If you choose to go with a lighter basic such as gray, ivory, blush or taupe, ensure it has beading or embellishments to make it look dressy and elegant. Brighter and darker colors can get away with being just of a more formal fabric.

You may not like your arms, but sleeveless is far more formal than sleeves (and far more classic). Often having sleeves accentuates the size of our arms, bare skin often recedes. If you do feel the need for sleeves for modesty or personal preference, consider flutter sleeves (loose short sleeves with a slit through them so they flutter from the shoulder), cap sleeves, or a more loose style (kimono or bat-wing). having the drape of fabric adds to the elegance, femininity and formality of the garment. On the other side of the coin, baring too much is never elegant and restricts the amount of places a top like this can be worn. Bustiers, tight tops, and low-cut tanks may be fun for a night out, but do not have their place at many other events. Tanks and camisoles are fine, as long as you can still wear foundation garments without them being seen, and you wouldn’t be embarrassed to see your in-laws, your minister or your boss in such a getup.

15. The Perfect Tee – or Two
This tee is not from Fruit of the Loom, it is not unisex, and it is most likely not 100% cotton. These are tees that are refined, feminine and flattering.

These shirts should hit mid-hip and like the sweaters previously mentioned, skim over your curves. It should not cling, it should not be see-through and it should be comfortable when you raise your arms, sit, and move around. As for a neckline, it depends on your personal preference, but do know that a standard crew-neck is not flattering on most people. A scoop or v-neck will elongate the neck and give a more feminine and flattering look.

If you can only get one, I suggest your signature color. I don’t recommend white because it isn’t a flattering color on most complexions, it gets stained easily, and can look old quickly. Same with black – nothing is worse than a faded black tee. However, if you do plan on buying a few, I recommend one white, one black, and two in happy colors, making sure to baby the heck out of them.

No pockets, no contrast stitching, no stripes or patterns or logos on these shirts. You are looking for true, clear saturated color free of adornments. Any detail, even that of a popular brand’s logo, will make the shirt less versatile, and eventually out of style. If you look at True Fashionistas, they are never wearing obvious logos or patterns. Clean, simple lines and solid colors are the foundation of a stylish and classic wardrobe.

When shirts have Lycra in them (and these should to ensure a good fit and a nice finish), they shouldn’t be thrown in the dryer. Heat destroys Lycra and your shirt will soon end up faded, misshapen, and thin. Treat them as you would your merino v-necks and you will have to replace them less often.

These shirts are your summer version of the merino and signature v-neck sweaters. They pair with most anything, and with an accessory prove to be a nice comfortable outfit. If they are of high quality, they can be work-appropriate under a jacket or cardigan.

16. Well-fitting Wool Winter Coat
Keep your parka for your ski trips and snowball fights in your backyard. You need a coat that will work for every other occasion in your life. We don’t all have the money or the room to house a closet-full of coats, so it’s best to invest in one coat that will work for every occasion that takes place in the colder months.

If you buy a single breasted lined coat that hits mid-thigh to just below the knee, you will be set. This length will work with skirt, jeans and trousers. the longer length is more elegant (and warmer!). A single breasted style is classic and far more flattering on curvy and petite figures. Look for simple styles – no epaulets, embellishments, decorative pockets. There should never be pockets at the chest (makes the style more casual and is not flattering to curvy shapes), the buttons should be the same color as the coat. the collar should be very simple – traditional or shawl style, also free of adornments.

As for color, you have options. Black is always a wise choice as that it can dress up or down, doesn’t show dirt, and is timeless. Ivory is a beautiful option – it also dresses up and down, is a fresh change from all the black in the winter, and can look quite elegant. Other colors can work depending on your sense of style – my personal preferences are camel, a very dark brown (works with black), dark red, robin’s egg blue, teal, and dark berry. these colors can be a great alternative, but if not of good quality can easily look cheap and dated.

To add a bit of personality to this basic, use accessories. I wear a bright turquoise pashmina looped as a scarf with my basic black wool coat. My best friend has a tangerine cashmere scarf and hat that she wears with her chocolate brown coat. Camel can look great with an unexpected bright like candy pink or apple green.

This is a worthy investment – a great wool coat can last you for decades, so take your time in choosing your piece. Look at discount places like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s – I found my Calvin Klein wool knee-length coat there for less than $60 in the mid-1990’s and it still looks stylish today.

17. Great Fitting Bras
There are bras for romantic evenings, bras that have pretty straps to wear with tanks. Bras that match your panties, bras to wear to the gym. This bra is not any of those. This is a bra that makes your bustline look fantastic. It may not be the sexiest bra, but when worn under a slim sweater, it makes you look taller, younger and slimmer.

No matter your size, underwire gives you the best all over support and shape. Straps should not be overly stretchy, or they will wear out and start to have your breasts sag. The bra should fit best when secured on the middle set of hooks. The cup should cover your breast entirely and not allow “quad-boob.” If you haven’t been fitted for a bra before, or ever you should run, not walk to your closest lingerie boutique or high-end department store. These places are usually better than Victoria’s Secret or the frantic messy lower end department store lingerie department – the employees are better trained and know not just how the measure, but what styles would fit your figure best.

If you can afford only one of these bras, get one as close to your skin tone as possible. The bra then can be worn under white, light colors, and even black without show-through. If you wish to pick up a second, I recommend black for dark colored tops (in case of showing at armholes or with flash photography).  Be sure to get fitted each year – your bust will change with age, weight gain and loss, and pregnancy.

18. Panty Line-free Underwear
Nothing ruins an outfit more than the wrong foundation. You now have the right bras, you also need the right underwear. Baggy, wrinkled or binding underwear DOES show, even through jeans, and can ruin your figure as well as your outfit.

Thongs are not the only style of underwear that provides a smooth line. Microfiber fabrics have seamless edges that are virtually invisible under even the thinnest dresses. Boyshorts are a comfortable style that has the hems below the bum, removing the chance of seams cutting into your back view.

As with bras, you may be wearing the wrong size of underwear. We gain and lose weight over the years and our shape changes drastically with exercise, children, and life changes. Consider trying on underwear before you purchase, either trying on over your thinnest undies you own or using one of the disposable panties that are found in most lingerie and swimwear stores. Underwear should not bind or dig into the skin. It should not give you the quad look to your bum. It also should not bag, and should be cut so that it will never show over the waistband of your pants.

A few facts to consider with underwear:

  • White is not invisible under white pants. In fact, it is often more obvious than a color. If you are wearing white pants or a skirt, invest in underwear that is as close to your skin tone as possible. Only this will provide a clean look.
  • If it is fraying, is stretched out or losing its elasticity, it has no place in your wardrobe. I may sound like your mother, but think about how much time and money you have invested in your wardrobe to end up at a hospital in your ragged and stained underwear. You deserve to look and feel great from head to toe; even if they are the cheap three-pack at Target, you need new underwear.
  • If you are wearing a dress, wear appropriate underwear. Us curvy women often do best with a boyshort or brief under a dress so that fabric doesn’t get caught in our rear curves. A high rise will make sure the tummy is not cut in half, and always consider that a draft could make you like Marilyn Monroe for a moment, so think before you dress.

19. A Pashmina or Wrap
Think this doesn’t fit your lifestyle or personality? Think again. In the right color and weight, this item may get more wear than your favorite pair of jeans. With sundresses to ward off an evening breeze, with cocktail dresses year-round it’s a great coverup. I usually use my pashmina as a scarf with my coat in winter, then have it to drape over my shoulders if it gets chilly inside. A pashmina around the neck adds intrigue to a simple sweater and jeans set and can be looped or knotted in a multitude of ways. When on a plane, I always take my pashmina – it’s small enough to toss in my carry-on bag, wards off chill and is far more cozy than the standard-issue airplane blankets. Once at my destination, it works for nights out, cold conference rooms, a light coverup when sightseeing and adds warmth and coziness when in your hotel bed. Make sure the fabric feels good against your skin, is lightweight enough to loop around your neck, and is in a color that you love (you’ll find a color is more versatile than basic white or ivory).

20. Clutch Purse
A clutch purse will add instant chic and formality to your outfit. Switch your day purse for one of these, and your suit is now cocktail-party worthy. Your simple black sheath is fine for day, but with a clutch it is evening attire. Black is a safe bet for a clutch, but this is a great chance to show your personality. A beautiful printed silk, a quirky beaded design, sequined Pucci-inspired pattern, vintage brocade… you’ll find an interesting fabric or print will get more mileage and be more versatile than a basic piece, and doesn’t then have to coordinate with your shoes.

Make sure the bag is big enough to hold your essentials – for some this is only your phone, your ID and a lipstick. For others, it may be reading glasses, a notepad, tissues, medication. Remember for a social affair, essentials are all you need – get a bag to fit your entire wallet, cosmetics bag and day planner and you are no longer able to be a social butterfly. Ensure the bag closes with everything in it without looking as though it strains at the seams. Treat it well, store it properly and you will have this bag for years to come.

21. Daily Purse
Most of women have a purse we carry every day, but how often do we really think about it? Your daily purse gets more exposure than anything else in your wardrobe and it’s often the least cared-for item. It gets the most wear, the most time, works harder than anything else you wear, so it should be purchased with care, maintained and replaced when past its prime.

I find that leather bags seems to wear better over time, but there are some great microfiber fabrics out there that are sturdy and easy to clean. If you are not one to change your bag with the seasons, go for a seasonless fabric like leather or microfiber. Black or brown is a safe bet, but like your winter coat sometimes a color can be a more versatile choice. Red, camel, purple, green are all great colors that will go with your gray suit as well as your favorite Levi’s.

Your bag should never be more than 70% full – more so and you will ruin the line and condition of the bag. Once a week or so, you should go through you bag and remove all the superfluous things that get caught in there – ATM receipts, gum wrappers, the 20 pens and 15 lip glosses that collect through a week, lint-covered tissues… you get the idea. Your daily bag should have what you need on a daily basis and no more. It’s great to have a purse survival kit, but you don’t need to keep all the contents of your kitchen’s junk drawer.

22. Sexy Shoes That Can be Worn for at Least Five Hours
I promise you, they really do exist! These shoes are sassier than your traditional leather pumps. Maybe a strappy heel in a matte gold, possibly a peeptoe heel in black satin. These shoes will take your basic black dress from day to evening, make your work suit suddenly cocktail party-appropriate, and even jazz up jeans and a sparkly top for a night out on the town.

Don’t get too creative with this selection – you want them to work from season to season. I have a pair of strappy heels that are in a Pucci-inspired pattern. The straps are very slim, the heel is slim and about 2″. The shoe is free of rhinestones, fancy bows or baubles and have gotten compliments every time I have worn them over the past five years.

Be careful with ankle straps – they often make your leg look shorter and thicker. A peep-toe or slingback style adds drama and formality to a usually conservative style. yet maintains support through the evening.

Unlike the other shoes, these shoes may be more versatile if not in traditional black. For strappy heels, a matte metallic can be quite beautiful with a multitude of colors. A contrast color like purple, red, or teal or even an animal print can often complement more pieces in your closet than a neutral.

23. Sunglasses
Every woman needs at least one pair of great sunglasses, and great sunglasses does not equal expensive sunglasses. I have some great metal aviators that are classic and chic that were found for less then $10 at a mall kiosk, and some Jackie O-inspired black plastic frames for a song from my local Target.

Sunglasses protect your eyes from glare and from sun damage. A large pair is good because they will also protect the skin around your eyes from the elements. Sunglasses are far more chic than squinting, and they pull an outfit together. Somehow that bit of mystery does really add to one’s appeal! I have written more about finding flattering sunglasses here.

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