Search Results for: label/Lydell NYC

Tuesday: Perfect Ponte

Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Necklace: c/o Lydell NYC | Shoes: Boutique 9 

I can’t believe this is the first time I have worn this fabulous dress on the blog. I have shared it on Instagram and worn it several times, but just not on here. I even wore it to speak on a panel of journalists because it looks so great, so sophisticated, and still so comfortable. Well this dress totally deserves a moment in the sun, even though it was photographed on a drizzly day. The dress is the “Belle” from Dobbin Clothing, and it’s one piece from their amazing collection of well-crafted wardrobe workhorses. Dobbin Clothing specializes in clothing that works as hard as you do – flattering fits, primarily washable clothing, and designer quality. This dress is from ponte knit and has seaming that makes my body look phenomenal. This is a size 12 and it fits great. Right now this dress is on sale, Dobbin Clothing offers free shipping both ways, and right now if you use the code FIRSTTIMEVISITOR you get 20% off your entire order! Oh, did I mention that Dobbin Clothing is made in the USA right in New York’s Garment District?

With such a great dress, I kept things pretty simple. This is a favorite necklace of mine that hasn’t gotten much play lately; I decided to amp it up with bold lips and high heels but keep everything else simple. Oh yeah, and a lovely addition of rain beads on my hair and dress!  Rain drops keep falling on my head… during photo shoots!

I love when a great company also makes a great product, and that’s what I experience with Dobbin Clothing. I know this sounds like a hard sell, do know they sent me the dress without any expectations. All that I wrote here is because I honestly feel it and didn’t get paid to state it, I just really dig this dress and the company.

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Friday: Classic Ending

Shirt: c/o Foxcroft
Skirt: The Limited (similar)
Shoes: Ivanka Trump
Necklace: c/o Lydell NYC
Bracelet: Nordstrom
Bag: Hobo (similar)

This ensemble is a classic ending to this week. I didn’t post a ton of outfits since I worked early shifts and was sick, but I pretty much wore a black skirt every day. I didn’t realize this until I was taking my OOTD picture for Instagram; each day was a bit funky of an ensemble and today’s was pretty classic hence the title of the post!

This morning was a bit crazy; I won’t go into details out of respect for my kid, but I ended up late for work, you can see my hair curled up in places from running and perspiration, Emerson felt frustration and then extreme pride, and she will be rewarded for her milestone with a much-desired princess dress. I think fellow parents may realize what momentous occasion took place and us parents are hella relieved!

Foxcroft found out about my need for a classic white shirt and sent me this one.  It’s pretty darn awesome – wrinkle-free, quite opaque, classic styling.  I forgot that Foxcroft is sized nicely for busty gals and ordered a 14 instead of 12 so it’s a bit roomy, but all the better to knot it at the waist!  If you do order from Foxcroft, do know that they size for women’s curves – no need to go up a size or two to prevent gaping at the bustline.

And how pretty is this necklace from Lydell NYC?  It was hard to pry it away from Emerson, she loved all the “precious jewels” in it.  I love that the necklace has a lot of length – many statement necklaces are only 16-18″ in length; this necklace is 18″ or 19″ in length but then has a few inches of extra chain if you want to wear it longer.  Great for versatility and for women like me with thick necks; expect to see this necklace on me a lot in the next couple of months!

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Thursday: Pleats and Peplum

Top: Ann Taylor
Skirt: Nordstrom (similar)
Shoes: Miss Sixty (similar)
Bracelet and Necklace: c/o Lydell NYC

The whole family has been sick the past couple of days – I left work early on Tuesday and yesterday my husband and I spent almost the whole day sleeping and drinking tea to recover (my mom watches Emerson on Wednesdays). I don’t feel 100% but knew I had to get back to work; I decided to wear a fun outfit to psych myself into getting out of my pajamas. I just received this gorgeous bracelet and necklace set from Lydell NYC yesterday and felt it would be best showcased with an all-black ensemble.

This skirt is something I bought during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale but when I got it, it just felt wrong. Due to being sick and stressed out lately, I have lost some weight and now the skirt fits much better – one more item crossed off the fantasy closet wish list! Can’t wait to wear it this fall and winter with chunky sweaters and tights.

And I just HAD to share this picture of my little superstar.  While I looked a bit ridiculous in the photo cracking up at her posing, she totally killed it.  Sashay Shaunte, Emerson!

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Thursday: Black and Blue

Top: Ann Taylor | Skirt: Lands’ End via Gwynnie Bee | Tights: Nordstrom | Shoes: VC Signature | Necklace: c/o Lydell NYC | Bracelet: Nordstrom

I received this skirt via Gwynnie Bee a couple months ago and though I returned it, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It fit great, it was sparkly but subtle enough for work, and I could imagine styling it almost year-round. Many of you have mentioned that this is something you found issue with Gwynnie Bee – having to return that which you love. Well Gwynnie Bee listened to you members and now lets you purchase pieces you want to keep! If you’d like to buy a piece that you receive from Gwynnie Bee, simply email them and they’ll get back to you with the price and facilitate the purchase!

Have you been considering Gwynnie Bee? Now is the time – To celebrate Gwynnie Bee’s 1 year anniversary, they are offering new members receive an extra 1 month 1 garment upgrade + 30 day free trial (valid until March 7, 2013). If you are already a member, refer your friends with your personal referral link to earn free months of Gwynnie Bee.  You can try out their service for 30 days completely risk-free. This offer applies to the one, two and three garment plans. You won’t be charged unless you continue with the service, and you may cancel online at anytime. Simply request an invite here and mention Wardrobe Oxygen to take advantage of this free trial offer!

Note: I do receive a commission on each person who mentions me or my blog upon signing up for Gwynnie Bee. However I have chosen to partner with this company because I honestly believe in their mission, love the concept, and am continually impressed by their dedication to their members. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about the company and I will be sure to provide completely honest feedback.

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The Return of Foxcroft Style Stars (and a Giveaway!)

Last year I had the opportunity to head to NYC and style a photoshoot for Foxcroft Collection. I’ve been a fan of their no-iron shirts for a while (and love that they come in Plus and Petite), and it was fun to support them with this project. And it wasn’t any old project either. To celebrate their 25th anniversary, Foxcroft invited teachers from NYC’s P.S. 159 Bayside to model their silver anniversary collection and be Foxcroft Style Stars.

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For the second year, Foxcroft is celebrating the hard work and dedication of New York’s public school teachers with Foxcroft Style Stars 2014. Twenty women from P.S. 31 in Brooklyn, a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, received the star treatment.  L’Appartement Prive Salon hosted the teachers for the day of pampering: hair consultations and styling by celebrity hairstylist Laurent Dufourg, and a custom wardrobe from Foxcroft.

foxcroft style stars

Janet Zukowski, who has taught at P.S. 31 for over 30 years, said the day was “magical.” Zukowski continued, “We felt appreciated and were treated royally. I think it was a once in a lifetime kind of event.”  Laurent Dufourg, who has worked with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Sophia Loren, and Tina Fey enjoyed styling the teachers, stating, “Working with these ladies is extremely rewarding because they leave the salon feeling like a million dollars. I love it. It is very satisfying.”

Foxcroft Collection will reveal the 2014 Style Stars as the center of their back-to-school digital campaign, launching this month. The campaign will showcase the ladies dressed in the brand’s latest looks for fall, which will be highlighted on the Foxcroft Collection homepage. You can shop their looks at this link and get 20% off the pieces (valid until 8/20/14)!

Giveaway

You can have a bit of the Foxcroft Style Star experience for yourself! Please visit Foxcroft Collection and in the comments below let me know your favorite blouse. One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win the blouse in the style and size of her choice!

Giveaway ends August 31, 2014. Giveaway is open to residents of the USA only, and winner will be chosen at random. You must have a valid email address in your Disqus profile/signed in with a valid email address or else include it in your comment to be eligible. No need to provide size, if you are the winner we will contact you for details.  If winner doesn’t reply to winning email within 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen.  Good luck!

Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

My 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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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!

Tuesday’s Tip – Making the Clearance Rack Your Friend

When I go into a store, the first place I look is the clearance or sale rack. I don’t want to be tempted by full priced items when a good equivalent is available at half the price in the back of the store. Even when planning my wedding I first scored sample sales and discount bridal shops before even looking at a single full-priced gown. It is better to buy quality instead of quantity, but just because it’s on a sale rack does not mean it’s poor quality or lacking style or fashion.


Take Your Time
Clearance racks are a mess. Why waste good salespeople hours in cleaning up the back of the store when the real money making is in the front displays of new product? Because of this, do not limit your search to the section designated with your size. Take the time to flip through all the racks. You may find a size 10 amongst the size 2s or a great size Small blouse hidden amongst size 14 blazers. Grab everything that even remotely appeals to you, and a few things you would not usually consider. The best way to spend money on trendy pieces and unusual finds is to pay for them at a discount – less buyer’s remorse.


Sizes Can Be Deceiving
Sometimes items are on sale racks because they are missized. I have tried on size 6 jackets that are too big for me and size 14s that are skin tight. Don’t just look at the label – pull the item from the rack and see if it may possibly fit. Often the missized items are at a super reduced price because they are being looked over.


Consider a Tailor
I decided to write this post because of my clearance rack prize of yesterday. Sueded cotton trench, hip cut, gorgeous color, originally $179 on sale for $29.99. No obvious flaws but the coat was too large for me – I am petite and it is not. It is an XL and a generous cut, I am not. I bought the awesome bargain after trying it on and seeing that the shoulders were fitting decently, though the sleeves were past my fingers, the waist was too big and the length too long. I took it to my local dry cleaner and for $35 she is shortening the arms and hem and nipping in the waist. So for $65 I got a $179 jacket that is perfect for the upcoming fall.


Sleeves that are too long, hems dragging on the ground, gaping waists and baggy jackets can all be easily fixed by a neighborhood tailor or dry cleaner. They can also replace missing buttons, broken zippers and some torn seams. If the price is right, often the tailoring still keeps the garment at a discounted price. I have bought suiting pants 75% off just because the zipper is broken, a suede blazer at 80% off because the lining had pulled away from the jacket body.


Do not invest in garments that are stained (salespeople usually try to remove the stains with a cleaning fluid, if it’s still stained it probably won’t come out in the wash or at the cleaners), torn (resewing a seam may make the item fit differently), irregular (remember quality is key – no one should be wearing a sweater with two different sleeve lengths) overly large (tailor costs will be insane and the true look of the garment will be lost) or too small (don’t buy for the body you hope to have, buy for the current you. Also tailors can’t make things larger – there’s usually not enough fabric at the seams and if they attempt the fit of the garment will be compromised).


If You Don’t Love It…
Don’t buy it. Would you buy it if it were full price? If the answer is a quick “no” leave the item in the fitting room. Just because an item is cheap does not mean you can scrimp on cut, style or fit. A 50% markdown does not justify a gaping armhole, an unflattering color or even a staple that you really have enough of already. The world sees you and your outfit, not the reduced price. They don’t know if what you bought cost $200 or $20, they just know it doesn’t look good, doesn’t flatter your body or your personality. Every dollar in your wallet is precious, don’t waste it on crap. If you can’t imagine the item with at least two other things in your closet, it’s not worth your time or money.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seasonless Black Trousers

A pair of black trousers in a seasonless fabric is a necessity to any woman’s wardrobe. What deems a fabric “seasonless?” This means the pants are not wool, they are not cotton. They are most likely a blend of fabrics, usually a good portion synthetic. Ann Taylor has a seasonless fabric they call Triacetate. Express’ seasonless fabric is called Microtwill. J.Crew (and many other brands) calls their version Gabardine. All different fabrics, all seasonless. Maintains it’s shape, often has a bit of stretch, has a slight texture or sheen (great for dressing up and dressing down!), and sort of blends into the background. Not only should these tousers be seasonless, they should be eventless (if that is a word). You want trousers that can go from work to a happy hour to a cocktail party to an interview, to a night club. What cut achieves this? A bootcut leg, not tight, but not Palazzo pants (those pants that look like a skirt on each leg). A tab waist if often a good choice. You never need to worry about a belt, it lies flat under fitted, untucked shirts, yet looks smart with a tucked in oxford. Due to a tab-wait trouser having a wider waistband, it is less likely to cut into the torso, creating a spare tire above the waistline. Very flattering on women with hips, bellies, rears, or straight shapes.

These trousers should not have front pockets. I do not care what your body shape is, front pockets ruin a smooth line and make trousers look more casual and less versatile. These pockets often bow out, wrinkle under the tousers, and look messy. They can make Kate Moss look like Kathy Bates. Back pockets are okay, as long as they are small besom pockets, and not patch pockets (again, detroy the versatility and make the trouser more dated and casual).

Examples of good trousers:

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Yes, I said these trousers should be black, but I chose a lighter color so you could see the detail. The bootcut leg adds a modern look to the pant, elongates and slims the leg. This is an example of a tab waist. See how it is a wider waistband, less likely to cut into the middle. The lack of pleats, seaming and pockets in the front minimizes a belly and gives a smooth line. The strong crease down the front elongates the leg and gives a long, lean look. See how you could see these pants with an oxford and matching blazer with pumps for work, a beaded camisole and pointy toed heels for a night club, a cotton v-neck sweater sweater and some boots for a jaunt to the mall. These pants are from Ann Taylor, and are a cotton/rayon/spandex blend (rayon gives it the seasonless fabric, strech gives it the smooth fit wear after wear).

Here is a great example from Lane Bryant:

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These pants are a seasonless nylon/rayon/spandex blend. They are cut just below the waist (reduces the look of tummy bulge), have a bootcut leg, and smooth lower torso. These pants would look great with strappy heels, a beaded shell and matching jacket for a cocktail party, or a merino turtleneck and some crocodile pointy boots for lunch with the girls. At the time of writing this, these trousers are on sale for $20, regularly $45. You really can find stylish classic pieces for a steal at your local mall. I cannot stress this point enough.

The point is that with the right black trousers, you can dress for almost any event. I have black trousers I purchased five years ago, and still wear weekly. They do not have to cost a lot, most of the trousers I buy on sale and get for less than $50.00. Do keep in mind that though a bargain is always great, black trousers is one thing you do not want to look cheap. They will be worn more than most anything else in your wardrobe, so don’t settle for a chintzy fabric with a cheap sheen, a pair that wrinkles easily, isn’t lined, isn’t the right length, the right cut, the right anything. I do believe in buying in bulk. If you find the trousers of your dreams, you may wish to invest in a second pair in black, and possibly a third pair in another versatile color (gray, brown, tan, white). Consider this especially if you buy the matching suit jacket. I purchased a pair of amazing trousers and the matching jacket at Ann Taylor four years ago. I often wore the trousers without the jacket. One day my dog jumped up to greet me as I returned home from work, his claw got caught in the fabric and ended up snagging and tearing the thigh of these coveted trousers. Ann Taylor no longer makes pieces in this same fabric, so I have a lovely well-fitting jacket and no trousers to match. Since then, I always buy two pairs of pants for every suit jacket, allowing one pair for every day wear, and one pair to preserve to wear with the jacket or for special occasions.

As for care of these pants. I will let you know ahead of time that often these pants say “Dry Clean Only.” I DESPISE spending money on dry cleaning. I end up taking my clothes to the cleaners and forget to pick them up for two weeks. Most of the knits and sweaters I purchase I ignore this “Dry Clean Only” label and wash in Woolite on the gentle cycle of my machine and hang to dry. I have tried this with trousers, and rarely have had good luck. They end up wrinkled, losing that nice front crease and long line. They look cheaper, they often get tighter, the legs shorter (often leaving the lining the same length, which is NOT a good look!), the threads weaken, leaving the potential for an embarrassment the next time you sit down. I have a stain remover I actually purchased in the lingerie department of a department store. I spot treat with that or a Shout! Wipe (always have 5 or 6 in my purse – available at your grocery store in the detergent aisle) and then take them to the local discount dry cleaners. Every so often, they get a better cleaning at the higher end dry cleaners. This may seem like a pain, especially if you have children, a busy schedule, a tight budget. I must tell you this is an investment. If you take care of your clothes correctly, they will take care of you in return, looking gorgeous and lasting for years. Though it may be more appealing to buy all clothing that can take a tumble in the washer and dryer, you lose that polished look, that classic look, the look that shows you care what you look like and others should as well. If you can’t go beyond Tumble Dry Low, you will have a hard time following the closet rules of this book.

What I Wore: Feeling Blue

Blouse: MICHAEL Michael Kors | Pants: c/o Karen Kane | Shoes: MICHAEL Michael Kors “Flex” | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Rings: Etsy, vintage via Etsy | Bracelets: Bead and Turquoise c/o Lifetherapy, had forever, “Emerson” c/o Stella and Dot, Enamel Bangles c/o RocksBox | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

Maybe it’s the new mani (the nailcolor reminds me of my old Saturn’s paint job), but I have really been digging the color blue this week. These pants are ah-may-zing. I wore them on the train up to NYC the other week and they were so comfy, didn’t wrinkle, and I felt fresh enough to wear them straight to a meeting. While today is quite cool and lovely in DC, this entire outfit has become a go-to for me on sweltering hot days. This top is also ah-may-zing, I was so sad that I didn’t get it in hot pink and white when I saw them on sale at Nordstrom – I ordered the white in Large Petite but it’s just too short.  However when writing this post, I found the top at Lord & Taylor in green and purple and snagged another (Code FIRSTLOOK for an extra % off).  Seriously, great top for summer, figure flattering, but also wonderful under a blazer for cooler weather.  I have worn this top with a pleated chiffon maxi skirt, a pencil skirt, harem pants, and these pants.  The fabric is on the verge of sheer, you’ll want to wear a tee-shirt bra close to your skin color (or black with the black color) to if you do consider getting it but it’s not too sheer (at least in the darker colors) to wear to the office.

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What I Wore: Reality

Dress: Lands’ End c/o Gwynnie Bee | Shoes: Ivanka Trump | Bracelets: c/o Lulu Avenue (Rhodes, Majorca, Granada) | Rings: Etsy | Earrings: c/o RocksBox | Lipstick: Maybelline Color Sensational Vivids in Neon Red

Reality is having your breasts seem to grow a whole cup size the week before your period and having none of your closet fit.
Reality is dressing for the weather.
Reality is being thankful for Gwynnie Bee who brings your wardrobe to your front door, cleaned and ready to go without having to put forth any thought or effort.
Reality is wearing your outfit – sitting to put on makeup, scrunching into the back of the car to belt in your child, hugging your dog, and having it all show on your garments.
Reality is trying to distract with a mega pop of color on the lips.

The family and I have had a busy few weeks.  Going to Kentucky for a music festival (details soon), doing some home redecorating (details soon), attending another music festival in Maryland, a few photo shoots for Karl and me heading to NYC for two days for a fun project with Foxcroft (details soon), lots of projects and busy days at work.  We see the light at the end of the tunnel, we’re glad to have had all the experiences but are ready for some chill time.  In the mean time, I dress for reality!

By the way, Lulu Avenue sent me a few great bracelets, I’ve been wearing the leather one from this post quite often but this is the first time I wore these bangles.  They’re a great choice for those who have large hands or wrists, they’re a bit bigger than the other gold bangles I wear, but as you see they aren’t so big that they look wonky on smaller wrists.

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Pink and Gold

Top: eloquii c/o Gwynnie Bee | Jeans: NYDJ | Shoes: Born “Myndy” | Bracelet: c/o IN PINK | Necklace: Belonged to my mom | Earrings: Argento Vivo

The problem with taking quick pictures before work is there’s no time to check proofs, no full length mirror for adjustments, just shoot, take the memory card, and go. The belt was supposed to be hidden. While this blouse is gorgeous, it’s a bit too long for me. I decided to use a belt to blouse it, and I knew the belt was hidden from view. However after hugging a child and a dog, putting things in my car, dashing back to the house to get my forgotten iPhone, the shirt shifted and the belt was in view and Karl didn’t know it was to be styled in any other manner. Oh well, you can get the idea!

I ordered this top from Gwynnie Bee thinking I could wear it to Forecastle with distressed denim shorts per this post.  It really is a perfect summer blouse – it looks dressy but it’s that crepey fabric that doesn’t cling, and it has an exposed zipper in back that really dresses it up.  While I paired it with white jeans, this would also look lovely with ivory or brown trousers or traditional indigo denim.  I know I wear a lot of dresses from Gwynnie Bee, but as you see they have all sorts of clothing to rent.  Click this link and get a free 30-day trial to check out the program for yourself!

I’ll be heading to NYC this week with Sally from Already Pretty to work on a really cool project for Foxcroft (I’ll be sure to share it here on the blog when it’s ready!) but I’d love to meet some of you if you’re in town. We’ll be at the Pig N’ Whistle on 36th at 8:00pm on Wednesday, July 24th and we’d love to hang with you!

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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:

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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Blogging Love – Interview!

I was honored to be interviewed by Elle of the new blog Label Ho. Elle’s discusses fashion and her personal style on this site. I love supporting fellow fashion and style bloggers so I jumped at this chance to have us get to know one another better!

You can check out the interview here.

I loved the questions she asked (and if you go back in her archives, you can see her answers to the very same questions!). The name of her blog cracks me up. It reminds me of when I was Editor of my high school yearbook. I had such the fight with the sponsor over the proper spelling of this word. “If you add an ‘e’ it’s suddenly a garden tool!” (Let’s not even get into why this word was in my yearbook – let me just state that my high school was a fabulous one where I learned Japanese and was in International Baccalaureate courses, but it wasn’t in the most chi chi of neighborhoods.)

Since she interviewed me, I decided to ask her a few questions as well. Get to know Elle!

Name: “Elle,” author of Label Ho, a fashion and personal style blog

Why did you start blogging? What could be better than writing and posting about something you love? I thought it would be a fun hobby and a great way to connect with other fashion-minded people.

Favorite item in your closet: An authentic vintage Gucci handbag circa the 70s. I love that its suede and doesn’t have the GG logo plastered all over it. I found the bag at a thrift shop and its in immaculate condition. Best of all, I got it for an excellent price!

Favorite Web site to visit: FabSugar.com. They have pretty comprehensive coverage of what’s going on in the fashion world, delivered in quick, short posts. I also like that they post great outfits that members of their community put together. I’m fascinated with seeing what people put together.

Top five items on your style wish list for this season: I can only think of three since I think I pretty much have most of my key pieces already:

1. Another pair of dark bootleg jeans. I’ve pretty much worn my favorite pair so much (Joe’s Jeans in the Honey fit) that the color’s faded significantly.

2. More dresses. I’ve purchased a few already, but I just can’t get enough. They’re so easy to pull on in summer.

3. A pair of wide-leg jeans. I’ve tried on a ton of different ones, but still haven’t found a flattering fit.

Outlet Mall Shopping

Yesterday I visited a major outlet mall in my area. Over a mile of stores – some with great bargains, some with great piles of crap. There have been many stories about discount stores – how some of the product is not on sale, the clothes are made specifically for the outlet and are not the same quality that the brand name usually delivers, etc. After all that, you find designer duds for less, when is it worthwhile to spend, when should a bargain be passed by?


Fit
If it doesn’t fit well for $300, still doesn’t fit well for $150 and even for $65, don’t buy it. Just because it’s a great bargain does not make the fit any better. Shoes that are too tight or too big, jackets that pull at the back, pants that would be lovely if you just lost 15 lbs., no matter the bargain these items should just stay on the rack.

If the jacket’s sleeves are too long, the skirt’s hem at an awkward length, the shoulders a bit too big, these things can be altered easily by a tailor. You must be in love with the piece and find multiple places and ways to wear it to justify the tailor expense. I found a cream silk linen suit at a discount store – the suit fit perfectly except for a broken zipper and too long of sleeves and legs. I bought the suit for $65, regularly $350, and for $40 had the zipper and hems all modified. I have worn the suit to work, to religious events and as separates for three years. That purchase was worth the added tailoring expense.


Style
Often times the items at the discount store are there because they are leftover from last season. When it comes to classic pieces like suits, dresses and knits, this is not a problem. A blue merino v-neck is lovely almost every year, and more lovely when 50% off. The problem comes with the trendy p[pieces.


If Lindsay, Mischa, Nicole or Chloe was wearing it last spring, it’s a good chance that piece is passé now. Pass on the embellished jeans, the metallic leather bags, the rainbow-hued sunglasses and most other accessories. Just because it’s on sale does not mean it is a good buy. When it comes to scouring outlets, your best deals are the ones that will last through more than one season. Sweaters, suits, outerwear, cocktail dresses, leather goods and most shoes are great bargains if you find quality and value in the same item.


Name Brands
Just because you found a pair of Manolo Blahniks for $100 at the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet does not mean they need to be purchased. Do they fit your current style? Are they comfortable? Are they current or classic?

We have all seen the label whores – those women with a Coach purse, Jimmy Choo shoes that JLo wore last year, Baby Phat jeans, a Bebe tee with the rhinestone logo, Chanel sunglasses and a Pucci scarf in her hair. These items weren’t bought for the quality or the style. They were bought because a stranger could spot the brand a mile away. She looks trashy, obvious and victimized by fashion. None of these are appealing. Labels do not suddenly make you well dressed or well liked.


If you can find a Furla bag for 40% off and it suits your style as well as lifestyle – then go for it. If you are buying a bag purely because it’s Prada and you don’t like the style, size or fabric… well you have become a label whore.

Don’t buy that jacket just because it’s designer. Pretend that it is an unknown label – do you still like it? Do you still find it attractive and necessary? If not, put it back on the rack. That goes for ill-fitting designer duds, last season’s “It Bag,” obvious logo advertising (if it’s that obvious, it will be that obvious from last season – not worth your time or money) and damaged designer goods.


Damaged Goods
Many discount retailers sell the irregulars from a label. Some irregulars can barely be seen by the naked eye – may be an incorrect dye lot or the wrong buttons sewn on a jacket. Some may work in your favor – pants cut too short or sleeves that are too long or too narrow. Often times these stores received the garments that were damaged in production, transit or through many jaunts to the fitting room. Broken zippers, missing buttons, fabric snags are all defects that can easily be repaired or covered up if the price and style is right. However there are other defects that are not worth the purchase, no matter how low the price. Runs in nylon, stains, button holes at the wrong height, linings that do not align with the trouser, two pieces stitched together from two different dye lots. Even if it is Versace, it will look like Gallo Clothing on you if it is this defective.


Buying in Bulk
I used to be a huge fan of buying in bulk – find a tee shirt you love, buy it in eight colors and three of white and black. Flattering trousers? Buy one in every color. I then found that my wardrobe was like one big uniform… one big boring uniform. Mixing basics with fun pieces offers versatility, ease but individual style.


At outlet malls, buying in bulk is a good idea. Yesterday I was at the Banana Republic outlet and found high quality stretchy tees in tons of colors – $9.99 each. I bought one in black, one in white, one in gray and one in red. These shirts can be worn with jeans on weekends, with a little skirt for happy hour with the girls or under a suit for work. I found a great pair of wool trousers at Off Fifth, bought them in brown, gray and black. They were so standard and fit so amazingly well (and were only $39.99 each) that it was worthwhile to buy every color I liked. I knew with my work and lifestyle I would find regular use for such trousers. Another time I found a pair of really cute studded pointy heels from NYLA. They were 75% off and tres cute. I decided to buy them in hot pink, ivory and black, thinking that if they fit well, they would get much use. I was imagining sparkly tops and designer jeans with the ivory, a sexy power suit with the black, and envisioned an outfit a la Carrie Bradshaw for the pink. I took them all home, have worn the pink ones multiple times, and have barely touched the other two. I don’t wear designer jeans with sparkly tops on a regular basis, and don’t own a single chic black power suit. Those two shoes have barely seen the light of day. Consider your current lifestyle when considering to buy in bulk – items that look too familiar may not be worn and too many of the same thing may make them all too boring to regularly wear. Also, if you don’t wear red patent stilettos now, you probably won’t after purchasing a pair.


In conclusion, don’t buy just because of a label, or just because of an amazing price. Less money for an item is still money, and money should be spent carefully. Be willing to take the time to find quality purchases, not pick up every shiny bauble that sort of resembles what Gwen or Jessica wore last Spring. Fashion is not about the specific item, but the allover look. A Louis Vuitton bag or a pair of Chanel sunglasses will not make you a fashionista, the pairing with appropriate and complimentary pieces is what takes you from being a label whore or a fashion victim to fashionista status.

Giveaway: Gap Skimmer Jeans – Save and Win!

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

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

How to Enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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