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Not Fashion Related: Blogging 101

Do you love blogging your personal style but don’t know how to get your blog off the ground?


Do you find blogging fun but know nothing about coding, Photohop, and the technical aspects of blogging?
Are you a brand new blogger and unsure how to make your blog look the ways other blogs look?

You can join different blogging communities, read blogging sites and newsletters, join Twitter chats on the subject, read books on SEO, but some things are very very simple to get your blog to the next level and they are primarily cosmetic. I don’t know a lot of coding, I don’t play a lot with optimizing search engines, but I have learned with time basic changes that will not only help you get readers, but help you keep those readers. I know many of you have your own blogs and have been inspired lately to start blogs.  I may not comment, but I do visit when I have time and I am so impressed with so many of your blogs and wanted to offer some easy “Blogger 101″ tips to help you get your blogs more recognition.  This topic isn’t interesting to everyone, so I’m going to have a jump so the rest of you can keep scrolling to regular content.

Simplify Your Template
Get rid of the printed backgrounds, the Blogger fonts that are all pixilated, the headers that are three feet long, the centered text, and the 50,000 widgets in the sidebar. These days, a clean, white background with black or dark gray text is best. Don’t believe me? Check out all the “big” fashion and style bloggers, they all have clean, simple templates that are primarily white.

  • Font. If you’re on Blogger, they have a bunch of fun fonts for headers and body text, but they are extremely hard to read. Choose something from the first category of fonts (classics like Georgia, Arial, Verdana) versus the Web Fonts which have more personality, but look very messy on most browsers and monitors. I use Verdana in 13pt. font for my body text, in a dark gray (#444444).
  • Links. If you want people to click on your links to other pages or affiliates, make them visible and relatively appealing. I bold most of my links, because I have chosen a color with lower contrast to my regular text color. I used to have lighter links, but had individuals with vision issues tell me that there wasn’t enough contrast for them to see clearly. If you don’t want to manually bold each link, find a color that is obvious without being annoying (hello neon green, yellow, day-glo orange).
  • Headers. Instead of the header that your blogging platform will make for you, consider making your own header. This terrified me for years until I started using online photo-editing software. Check out this post I wrote about PicMonkey, a free tool that can help you create graphics like headers. This is what I use for my header as well as all the graphic buttons in my sidebar.
  • Get Rid of the Widgets. When you’re a new blogger you may feel that you have to fill up your sidebar, but it’s really not necessary. Have some navigation tools (archives, links to certain topics), and have ways to follow you (I’m not a fan of Google Friend Connect because it’s a big advertisement of how many people follow you, but am a mega fan of having a “subscribe by email” link as well as a link to popular subscription tools like RSS and Bloglovin). Also have simple links, not widgets to follow you on social media – your blog is advertising you, not Facebook.

    Again, consider PicMonkey or another tool to create graphic buttons to organize specific topics – outfits, recipes, beauty reviews, red carpet recaps. Create an “about” where you have a picture and a bit about yourself (again create this, don’t use the Blogger widget).

  • Learn Basic HTML. I was an English Lit major in college, and used a computer maybe twice while there, yet know enough about computers to work in Web Communications. How? Google. In 2003 I was trying to plan a wedding while working crazy retail hours and over 60 of those hours in a week. I needed to figure out how to get everything done at 2am or 11pm, so I learned how to surf the Internet, how to use Word and Excel to organize everything. I found The Knot, became obsessed, and through it created a bio which taught me simple HTML that I use to this day with my blog.

    I encourage you to use Blogger to make links and upload photos, and then switch to the HTML tab of your new post and see the code. Copy it, paste it into Word so you can examine it more carefully. Consider creating a hidden second blog where you can play with code and fonts and templates without affecting your current blog. This is also a great way to upload photos to be able to use on your blog (I have a blog just for uploading images).

    Here’s some very simple HTML coding to refine your posts and create your own sidebar widgets (click to see larger):

Make It Easy for Readers to View and Participate

  • Do you have an RSS button? Can they easily follow you on Bloglovin? By email?
  • Do you have your email address available? Readers like to contact you directly (as do advertisers and people who want to give you freebies!). I also created a Google Doc as a comment form and embedded it in a page so people can leave me feedback without having to email me directly.
  • Have social media buttons or make your own so it’s easy to also follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. If you don’t have these channels, no worries, but if you do be sure to promote so readers can get to know you better!
  • Blogger makes it easy to have a footer or signature on each post. Go to Settings, then Posts and Comments where you will find a field to add content to every post. I have some to have people follow, and I just write my post above it.
  • How is your commenting system? Blogger and WordPress have built-in commenting systems that aren’t very user friendly. It’s better to filter spam than have a captcha, which is especially hard to deal with on mobile devices. If you’re on Blogger and install Disqus for comments, turn off the mobile version for your site because the two don’t play nicely. Consider a commenting tool that lets people know when you reply to their comments so they will come back and take part in the discussion.
  • Again, have a simple, clear, easy to read template. Some people may be reading on an iPhone, some may be on a netbook, some on a monitor from 1990. You don’t know, so keep it simple, keep it clean, keep it easy to read.
  • Check Different Browsers. Your blog may look amazing in Internet Explorer, but be completely wonky on Firefox or an iPad. Every so often, open your blog in different browsers and make sure it’s lovely for all. 
  • Preview Your Posts.  Before you publish, see how it looks in a browser.  Do your photos spill into the sidebar?  Are things crooked?  Do you need more space between segments of content?

Improve Your Photos

  • Consistent Width. One of my favorite features of PicMonkey is being able to easily resize all my pictures to the same width. You’ll notice in the past year or so, be the pictures horizontal or vertical, they are all 600px wide. This is kinder to your reader’s eyes.
  • Consistent Size. A larger size makes it easier for people to see detail in what you are wearing. I chose 600px (which is far larger than Blogger’s XL option) after polling my readers and they telling me they wanted bigger. If your outfit photo only takes up a quarter of the screen and you’re an outfit blogger, you’re going to lose readers. People are there for the outfit, the inspiration.
  • Consistent Quality. Try to get clear pictures (pictures taken outside will give better light and more natural coloring), switch up your poses so it’s not a scrolling wall of hand on your hip and ankles crossed, and believe in quality instead of quantity – better to have one good picture than one good and four blurry/unflattering/dark/strange. Honestly, you can have the best style in the world but if your pictures are small and dark people will not stick around.
  • Get Rid of the Bling. No one wants the weird finishes, the rounded edges, the fake frames around your photos. Unless you have a very specific aesthetic to your blog (which you likely do not yet have if you’re still reading this post), these photo finishes are just muddling your message. Use something to color correct your photos, maybe a bit of text to state the brands or whatever (if that’s your thing), but otherwise keep it simple and clean.
  • Use a Collage Tool. We know when you use Paint or PowerPoint to make your collages, it’s clear as day and is the electronic version of a craft project with cut up magazines and glue sticks. A while ago, I made a PDF for blogging friends on how to make customized collages, you can find it here.
  • Give Credit Where Credit’s Due. If you use another blogger’s image, link back to that specific page in a caption below the image. If you want to use an image you found on Pinterest, find the original source and link to that instead. Don’t use images from news sources without permission – I know from experience that it can get you into trouble and cost you a pretty penny. I often use Polyvore for my images and link back to the set’s page so readers can see where I got my images.

    Sites like http://www.tineye.com/ help photographers find where their images are being used without permission; http://jarred.github.com/src-img can also help you find who is the owner of an image you wish to use.

Don’t Get Caught Up in Blogging
I originally had a list of additional blogging resources, but I chose to delete them not because they aren’t beneficial, but they can take you down a blogging rabbit hole. It’s so easy to get so caught up with creating traffic and getting an audience that you forget the real reason why you started blogging.

Simple cosmetic changes to your blog are the equivalent to painting your front door, putting a planter on the stoop and adding a wreath. It’s still the same home and the same great people live in it, but sprucing up your entryway encourages people to come in, and makes people feel that you care about your home as well as those who are coming to visit.

However, just like a home, it’s not about where you got your couch or what you put on your coffee table, but the people and the love felt when you visit them. YOU are the blog, not the SEO or the header or the platform. Create a clean and welcoming platform to let your content sing, you never know your blog may change the face of blogging or be the next big thing!

Note: Most of this advice is geared towards those of you on Blogger.  I see many new blogs are on this platform; I too am on Blogger so it is what I know best (and I obviously don’t think you have to be on WordPress to be successful, nor does Altantic-Pacific or Keiko Lynn or many other big bloggers still on this platform).  If you know of great tutorials specific to other platforms, please leave them in the comments to benefit your fellow bloggers!

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Not Fashion Related – Halloween

While Emerson did Trick or Treat last year, she was too young to fully understand it. This year… she got it. She was so excited for the whole event – wearing a costume, going from door to door, saying, “Trick or Treat!” and being able to be outside when it’s dark out.

Emerson as Tinkerbell at the birthday party
Emerson and our good friends’ son E

Emerson had a costume birthday party to attend a couple weeks ago, she went as Tinkerbell – my sister made her a fabulous green tutu, we put her in white tights, a green top, and green wings. The wings got pretty beat up at that toddler fete, but I figured would be fine for Halloween as well.

Yesterday I got off work and saw as I was driving home that kids were already out in full force. I ran inside, grabbed Emerson who was wearing a black long-sleeved tee and black leggings and just put the tutu on over that. It was cold out, so I put her in a white faux fur coat that her Aunt Debbie gave her as a Christmas gift last year. Wings on top of that. Plastic pumpkin basket and a “magic wand” and we were ready to go out!

As that we were in a rush, I only captured pictures of Trick or Treating via my phone…

 Emerson and her best friend Captain America

Digging in to her first-ever Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

We didn’t go to a lot of houses – about six in our court, three in the court across the street.  We were going to visit a third court but it required us walking past our own home, and Emerson decided she wanted to Trick or Treat Daddy, who was home passing out candy!

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Not Fashion Related – The Hunger Games

One feature of my job I adore is the community library. It’s in the 9th floor kitchen (which is conveniently located across from my office). Two bookcases chock full of the most random assortment of books. People donate books they no longer want, we employees grab one to peruse while our Lean Cuisine is heating up in the microwave, or borrow to make a Metro commute more pleasant. I am known for reading whatever is put in front of me – chick lit, an autobiography of a person I never heard of before, historical fiction, classics, whatever. This community library is perfect for me, because I just grab and go and treat it like Christmas Day – don’t know what’s in the package, usually pleased, sometimes wish I had the gift receipt.

I can’t really say I have a favorite genre of literature… but I can pretty much say that Sci Fi wouldn’t ever be it. While I love me some Doctor Who and Fringe, other than Margaret Atwood (who is brilliant and everyone should read The Handmaid’s Tale) I don’t like Science Fiction.

Now I can say other than Margaret Atwood…


…and the Hunger Games trilogy.

If it weren’t for the office library, I would have NEVER picked up The Hunger Games. Not my scene. I rarely read the “must-read” books, and when I do I am usually disappointed (hello The Help). Everyone kept raving about these books, so I was even less interested. And then I was on Facebook and saw a picture my sorority sister Kelly posted from her trip to London – she was at an outdoor café, with a glass of white wine and The Hunger Games on her table. It looked so… blissful. And I dig Kelly… so I decided to dig into The Hunger Games (and then Catching Fire, and then Mockingjay).

I mention Margaret Atwood above, and I thought of her and her books quite often while reading Suzanne Collins’ trilogy. Katniss Everdeen is the protagonist, a 17-year old girl who lives in a future version of North America where each year, “The Capitol” chooses a boy and girl from twelve “districts” to fight to the death on live television (and yes, Katniss ends up being one of those who is part of these Hunger Games). The idea of Hunger Games isn’t so far-fetched when you consider the current direction of television trends. Such a topic reminded me of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale in how it took a current social issue and envisioned how it might escalate in the future. Like Atwood’s books, I found Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy to be feminist in nature, though for a different reason. In Collins’ books, while the protagonist is a female, she isn’t defined by her gender, isn’t stereotyped by her gender, isn’t coddled because of her gender, doesn’t have to fight to prove herself despite her gender. Katniss Everdeen is just a kick-ass human. I read these books constantly thinking, “I would encourage my daughter to read this series.”

Yes, these books deal with a violent topic (and a topic that is so relevant with the current direction of television trends), but there is no gratuitous violence (these are considered Young Adult novels). I was impressed with Collins’ ability to so clearly describe settings and situations without being gory. That she could develop relationships without resorting to sex or mindgames. And again, there were no stereotypical male or female characters in this book; some people were strong, some people were sensitive, some people were vain, some people were flirtatious, but all were people first.

I don’t really want to go into further detail about these books – just Google “The Hunger Games” and you will find plenty of reviews, opinions, summaries (and even a trailer for the movie which is coming out in March of 2012). I just wanted to share this series with you, and encourage you, even if you’re not a Sci Fi fan like me to consider reading them. And if you have a teenager, consider letting her/him read them as well and show him/her that women can be strong and still emotional, sensitive and also successful, and first and foremost a human being. For the definition of a feminist is, the radical notion that women are human beings.”

Kelly I haven’t yet had the chance to thank you for taking that picture in London – I don’t know if you even read my blog but you ROCK!

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Not Fashion Related: Preparing for a Natural Disaster

Maybe it’s years of prepping for Bonnaroo, living with a mother who was always prepared for anything, my husband’s eight years in the Navy, or dealing with a few previous blizzards and hurricanes, but Karl and I have a pretty clear plan for events like Sandy. To some it may seem extreme, and we’re lucky that all of this preparation was extreme for how the storm ended up hitting our area. However I’d rather be the crazy lady in town over-preparing and having plenty to share than be the one begging my neighbors for assistance.  Here’s a list of what we did to prepare for Sandy:

  • Used bungee cords to secure deck furniture and such, the rest went in the toolshed or inside the house
  • Bungeed the lid on our trashcan and bungeed it to the house
  • Filled both bathtubs with water (not to drink, but to flush toilets)
  • Filled two 5-gallon containers with filtered water, replaced the filter on our fridge pitcher and refilled and refilled all our individual Camelbaks and sippy cups
  • Filled gallon Ziploc bags with water and used them to fill any negative space in the freezer
  • Washed the five-day cooler and had it at the ready. This summer we filled it with ice, but this time figured we’d just transfer the frozen bags from the freezer and go from there
  • Cleaned out the gutters
  • Filled the gas tanks of the cars
  • Washed all our laundry
  • Purchased and premade plenty of non-perishables and non-refrigerated food that we would still consume on a normal day (cans of beans and tuna, granola bars, fruit snacks, brown rice, that sort of thing). Also made sure we had plenty of dog food
  • Fresh propane tank for the grill and a bag of charcoal for the tailgating mini grill in the car where it would be sure to stay dry
  • Ate the leftovers in the fridge so we wouldn’t have to toss them if the power went out. A frittata is a fab way to get rid of your eggs, those leftover carmelized onions, single piece of fish, few kidney beans, dregs of a jar of salsa and the little nugget of cheese in a Ziploc baggie. Also the frittata tastes great cold the second day!
  • Packed a bugout bag just in case the house was damaged (personal items we would take in an emergency, a few favorite clothes and toys and books for Emerson, phone chargers, crank-powered flashlight, extra car keys, fresh socks, contacts stuff, etc.). We focused more on Emerson, knowing that her favorite pajamas or Fluffy Bunny would make being in a shelter or friend’s house far more comfortable.
  • Made sure the alarm clock, headlamps, lantern, and portable radio had fresh batteries, and knew where extra batteries were located; charged everything that was chargeable.
  • Packed up Karl’s cameras in the pantry (most secure place in the house) in a waterproof bag
  • Brought down the sleeping bags from the attic and stowed with our various disaster-preparedness equipment (see below).
  • As the night progressed, packed a second bag in case we were asked to evacuate which had more clothes, personal care, etc. in it. Just an LL Bean backpack, nothing gigantic.
  • Dressed ready to be wearing clothes for 24 hours. Comfortable yet not disgusting, boots that could handle rain and mud. All my favorite jewelry that I would want if I had to leave my house suddenly. Had at the ready a raincoat with hood and fleece with hood and a pair of gloves
  • Packed my pockets. ID, insurance and AAA cards, money (cash and plastic and HSA card), one of my husband’s business cards, set of keys, and a pocket knife. My husband is a knife guy and I have found so many times when one is so useful; do remember it’s only useful if you know how to easily open, close and use. I also put in there two hair elastics and four of those clamp barrettes because nothing is more annoying than hair in your face at 3am in the rain during a power failure. Been there, done that, wished I had a barrette.
  • Took a nap. They said the worst would likely be at night, and it’s a lot easier to deal with unexpected crap when you’re fresh.
  • Didn’t drink a lot. Sounds fun to have a hurricane party, but it sucks to deal with a hole in your roof with a buzz or a hangover or when all dehydrated and sluggish. One drink, two glasses of water before your next one so you can have fun but still be at the ready.
  • Ate power foods. Not fun dealing with an emergency when you’re loaded up on chips and dip and pizza. Monday night I ate a bean and sweet potato burger with bed of field greens, avocado, tomato, a bit of mayo and siracha on top
  • Reminded Emerson about our emergency location. We have a place in our house where we meet if things are bad. When the storm was crazy this summer I went and grabbed Emerson from bed and held her there while she slept through it all, but now that she’s getting older she needs to know where it is. A good place for such a spot is the center of your house where it is the sturdiest and easiest to get to no matter where you are in the house. It’s good to also have an outside meeting place as well in case of fire or other situation where you need to get out ASAP. It doesn’t have to be a scary thing to your kids, just a fact of life like holding hands and looking both ways when crossing the street.

While at it…

  • It’s important for your children to know their full name, address, and a contact phone number. We regularly ask Emerson her last name, what our first names are, phone number, her house address so if she gets separated from us she can be reunited with us more quickly.
  • For insurance purposes, take pictures of your yard, your home before the storm so you can more quickly process paperwork in case of damage.
  • Check with your neighbors to see if they need any help, especially those who are elderly or have health issues. My community really rallies together during storms, we each have our own strength we bring to the table. If you don’t have such a relationship with your neighbors this is a perfect time to get it started!

Some things we have bought over the years that have proved invaluable for such situations, Bonnaroo, camping and more:

  • Battery-operated lantern. Big enough to light an entire room, can hang from the ceiling, can deal being in the elements, uses “normal” batteries we already have in storage
  • Solar-powered charger. This one also works on batteries and has an emergency light
  • Solar- and crank-powered radio. This one also will charge small appliances and has an emergency light
  • Portable power station. My husband found this one at Home Depot after the derecho.
  • Headlamps. We keep one on each side of our beds so if the power goes out while sleeping (or we are woken in the middle of the night to a disaster) we can act quickly
  • Crank-powered flashlight.  Works even if you forgot to charge or replace the batteries
  • Good boots. My husband has Bogs, I have my DUO boots which have been prepped with waterproofing spray; I also have my own pair of Bogs. Wear those boots until you go to bed and keep them next to your bed when you go to sleep. When the tree came in our house last year it was excellent to have my boots ready so I didn’t walk in broken glass.
  • Reusable poncho. My sister got me mine and I have used it so many times. Can throw over even a bathrobe if needed, can throw over your backpack or bag if you need to head out, can fit on any size body, can be used as a tarp in a pinch, and doesn’t stick to itself like those cheapy disposable ones. Mine stuffs in a bag which has strings so you can sling over a shoulder 
  • Proper coat for the elements. I have a Lands’ End Squall Parka which will work with snow, rain, and anything cold without restricting movement or making me sweat. I also have a long raincoat with hood for warmer-weather hurricanes. While a poncho is great, if you have to work to move a tree, shovel out a car, or any other manual labor it’s nice to have a jacket that stays in place and still keeps you dry and relatively comfortable.

I know many of you are in areas of the world that deal with natural disasters on a more regular basis. What do you do and have to prepare for them?

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Not Fashion Related: Creating a Bug Out Bag

So the world didn’t end on December 21st. I never thought it would, but all the hype did get me thinking about the future. While I do think my family and I have a good plan for hurricanes and natural disasters, we never had prepared Bug Out Bags (also known as Go Bags). A Bug Out Bag is a bag you have prepped that will take care of you if you have to leave your house without notice and get by sans creature comforts for three days or so. This could be for a zombie apocalypse, alien takeover, Mayan apocalypse… just kidding, it’s for situations you don’t even want to imagine but could happen. Even FEMA suggests that everyone have a bag at the ready to get out of Dodge just in case. So this past month, I created Bug Out Bags for my family.

If you Google Bug Out Bag or Go Bag you will find a kazillion ideas on what is necessary in such a bag; each person’s needs are different and your needs will vary based upon your climate, family, health, and personal needs. In fact, Googling such a topic may freak you out a bit – there’s some major doomsday preppers out there and their “necessities” may be scary and/or overwhelming. I see a Bug Out Bag as less something to protect me on the Oregon Trail or from an alien takeover and more something to keep me and my family safe and healthy during a disaster until we have a safe and healthy place to rest.

I honestly don’t see what the harm is in preparing for a disaster in this way. I’d rather be safe than sorry, especially now that I have a human life for which I am responsible. We have stored our Bug Out Bags where we keep our emergency supplies (which is also where we meet in the house in case of an emergency). Nothing in the bags will expire any time soon nor is needed on a daily basis. Here is an example of what I have in our bags.

Adult Bug Out Bag: While online lists will encourage you to buy a Molle or Alice military backpack, you can honestly use any bag you have around the house. Again, something is better than nothing, and it doesn’t make sense to go into debt for something you hopefully will never need to use.  My bag is a backpack I already owned but never use. You don’t want it so heavy you can’t run or walk long distances in it, and something that will be comfortable when worn for long periods of time. Chest and waist straps will help with comfort and support.  Some things you may want in your bag:

  • Change of clothes (something easy to get on and off, warm if you’re in a cold climate, and something that can dry quickly or handle the elements)
  • Poncho (if you get a sturdy reusable one it can double as a tarp or a makeshift tent)
  • Flashlight (a crank one is great so you don’t have to reply on batteries)
  • Water (at least three liters)
  • Food (Clif bars, bags of tuna, Datrex bars, something that won’t spoil but has lots of energy)
  • Toilet paper
  • N95 Respirator face masks (sounds scary, I know, but I even would have liked these during the dusty years at Bonnaroo)
  • A sleeping bag (get one for backpackers since it will be light and take up less space)
  • Mylar blankets
  • Immodium AD, some pain reliever, and any meds you or your children are on
  • Bandanna
  • Purification tablets for water
  • Swiss Army Knife and/or multitool
  • I have some paracord, heavy-duty diaper pins, duct tape, dental floss, needles and a pair of cuticle scissors to be able to mend and jimmy-rig things if need be
  • Fire starter/waterproof matches
  • First aid kit
  • Waterproof note pad and pen
  • A metal cup or small container (like from a Boy Scout mess kit) to carry food and water and heat if necessary
  • Toothpaste and brush, some sort of soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s because it can be used for body, hair, and even clothes and dishes), feminine care needs, pack of personal wipes, hand santitizer or sanitizing wipes
  • Can opener (these are tiny, cheap, and get the job done)
  • Compass
  • A couple trash bags and Ziploc bags
  • Weather radio (even better if it’s solar or crank-powered so you don’t have to worry about batteries)
  • Phone charger (in case you get to somewhere with electricity; I also have this solar charger but I don’t always keep it in my bag)
  • Emergency whistle

Child Bug Out Bag: If your child is old enough to wear a backpack, he should have his own bag. You want to keep it light and comfortable, and be less about survival and more about a feeling of normalcy in an emergency situation. Emerson has this bag from Deuter, which will also make for a great backpack for school, camping, or everyday. I taught her it is an emergency camping bag; I had her try it on, snapped the chest strap and we ran around the main floor of the house playing chase to see if she could wear it and move quickly yet comfortably. I also had her try the whistle and told her the whistle is when she gets separated from us when camping. She now knows that if we need to go emergency camping, she is to wear this bag, but didn’t get freaked out about the whole process.  Some things good for a kid’s bug out bag:

  • Change of clothes
  • Diapers or pull-ups (if applicable) or toilet paper
  • A small favorite toy or two
  • A paperback book
  • Crayons and coloring book
  • Emergency whistle
  • Small flashlight
  • Water
  • Poncho
  • Food (unlike we adults who understand the importance over flavor, it’s good to have some snacks your kid would like – granola bars, fruit leather, candy that won’t melt, honey sticks, crackers, etc.  If younger, have formula/baby food.)
  • Laminated card with parents’ names, address and phone numbers as well as a couple other contact folks who are further away (relative in neighboring state, family friend in town an hour away)
  • Face mask
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste, little pack of moist wipes/personal cleansing cloths
  • If your child is big enough to carry it, you can add a child’s backpacking sleeping bag


Office Bug In Bag: What if you’re at work in the city when something happens? Do you have what you need to be able to get back home to safety? I know my office is about 17 miles from home and I know two walking routes to get there. I have a bag with these things at the ready in case I need to hoof it out of the city:

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Compass/map
  • Knife/multitool
  • Poncho
  • Face mask
  • Mylar blanket (while it can keep you warm, it’s reflective and can also be used as a beacon)
  • Water
  • Food
  • Headlamp
  • First aid kit
  • Personal care (hand sanitizer, toilet paper, etc.)
  • Bandanna

There are likely things that are missing and things I would never use if such a situation would occur, but I can sleep a bit better at night knowing that my family is a bit prepared if the worst were to happen.  Many of these things you can find at your local CVS or grocery store or may already be hanging around your home. Many of these things I found on Amazon for ridiculously low prices. I know most Bug Out Bag lists online have far more on them than my list, but I am working with my budget, my ability to carry a bag, and I guess a little bit of hope.  It’s better to have some than none, so create as much of a bag as you can with the funds and supplies you currently have.

Update your bag every few months switching out things that expire, cold weather necessities (gloves, hat, hand warmers) for warm weather ones (sunscreen, bug spray, sun hat), etc. This way you also remember what is in the bag and what you may want to add/remove as your life changes. Remind your family about where to meet in case of an emergency, and the importance of leaving these bags alone so they are always at the ready. It may seem a bit obsessive, but a little preparation now could save you if, in the words of preppers, the SHTF in the future.

UPDATE: I can’t believe I forgot to mention a pet bug-out bag!  We have food, water, and collapsible bowls for Cindy plus a leash; don’t forget that your pets too need sustenance in an emergency!  Thank you all for the reminder!

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Talbots Spring 2015 Collection: A Second Glance

The other day I was talking to a coworker about how some brands have really dropped in quality and where we go for wardrobe staples. She’s younger than I, stylish with a classic nod but a great use of color and accessories (and a leopard fan like me). She admitted than not only does she shop a lot at Talbots, but the pants she was wearing, a trim well-fitting ankle length pant in navy, were from the store. She reminded me that right now Talbots is having 25% off everything (sale ends March 8th) so I went and took a second look at their spring selection. Talbots sent me their spring lookbook back in January but nothing really wowed me enough to share here on the blog (unlike their fall collection which knocked my socks off). A second look made me realize it wasn’t that I didn’t love the collection, I just didn’t love how the pieces were styled together. Seeing the line in the stores and online separated makes me realize how great their spring line is. My favorites:

talbots spring 2015 stripes

Seeing Stripes

I always love a good striped top or dress; it’s a classic pattern that looks so crisp and fresh. The Talbots Striped Envelope-Shoulders Shift is a perfect dress to transition from now to spring. The interlock knit can pair now with tights, boots, and an infinity scarf for cozy style; come spring pair with chunky-heel sandals for Casual Friday or wear on the weekend with tennis shoes. The gold zipper detail make it look luxe. The ivory/indigo combo is a classic, but I actually think the green/indigo combo would get more wear. Imagine it paired with yellow, turquoise, orange, or hot pink!

The Colorblock & Stripes Dress is a more casual style that would look great with a denim jacket and brown boots or canvas sneakers. I’d wear it with a chambray shirt tied around the waist for interest and to highlight the smallest part of my torso.

I noticed the Pima Cotton Boatneck Tee when researching for my recent capsule wardrobe post and it has still caught my eye. I like that it’s a bright blue instead of the classic navy or black stripe; it would look great paired with white jeans or shorts, but also with khaki, green, and navy. The neckline is begging to showcase a fabulous necklace!

The Blocked Stripes Tee is a fun alternative to the classic Breton tee. With three buttons down the back and the switch in stripe color, this knit top makes a statement all by itself and is a great upgrade to stretched out and faded tees and jersey tops from last year and would look great with a navy blazer and white or denim jeans.

talbots spring 2015 peach ivory blush

Pastel Power

It’s funny, I’m not a big pastels gal… until I see them paired with black and/and white. We’re so used to black and white with jewel tones and primaries so the unexpected combination really looks fresh and modern. Peach is not a color I usually wear, but Talbots’ use of that color, blush, and coral with crisp white and bold black is something I would confidently wear.

The Shadow Box Pleated Skirt alone is… fine. On their site it’s styled with a black short-sleeved sweater that is nice, but nothing to write home about. I saw it and imagined it with their denim shirt or a black and white striped top and a shoe in an unexpected color like the  ‘Camilla’ in Murano Glass. Then I saw the combination above in the PDF supplement to their lookbook and was thinking with a switch of shoes I’d rock it in a heartbeat. Oh the power of a crisp white shirt!

I love pale ivory and white suiting, it’s so elegant and timeless. I’m also a fan of a longer jacket, as evidenced by this post and this post. I completely bypassed this look at first glance because of the styling; while I like it with the pale peach, I think the choice of scarf, bag, and shoes makes it look matronly. Switch out the shoes for a pointed flat in nude patent, the bag for one with more structure, and get rid of the scarf to let the graphic shape of the jacket shine. For those who aren’t feeling the pastels, imagine switching out the top for dove gray, navy, black, or even tan. The jacket would look great over a dress or paired with pants of a different color; the trousers are a length and cut that would look amazing with everything from a simple knit or twinset to a tunic or untucked blouse.

talbots spring 2015 black and white

Black and White and Fab All Over

Talbots’ Long Colorblocked Sweater Jacket is calling my name! So simple, so chic, so versatile. But again, the styling had me miss its beauty first go-round. The round-neck top underneath and the choice of short statement necklace kills the pretty neckline; paired with a lower V- or round-neck or even a collared cotton shirt would better showcase this detail. I’d like to see this paired with a black skirt or an ivory dress which I think would give a modern feel. However, I think this sweater would look equally as nice with a pair of jeans and a black and ivory or red/papaya and ivory striped tee.

These striped pants are not yet available on the Talbots site. Styled with a white tank, v-neck tunic, and oblong scarf the outfit looks like a costume someone would have worn a couple decades ago on a cruise ship. But take those pants and pair them with a black shell and blazer, a sleeveless black silk tank and bold silver statement necklace, a jade green cashmere tee and gold bracelets, a blush pink wrap sweater and a pearl necklace, a crisp white shirt and statement shoes in a bold color or print… the pants are suddenly awesome. I’d rock the heck out of them now with a black cashmere turtleneck and ankle boots.

talbots spring 2015 florals

Groundbreaking Florals for Spring

Can’t help it, every time I think of florals I remember that quote from The Devil Wears Prada! And while floral dresses for spring aren’t anything new, they are always lovely and quite versatile. From baby showers to Easter parades, to brunch with your in-laws, a floral frock is a great piece to have in your wardrobe. I’m not much into flowers but I have to admit Talbots’ florals this season have a bit of edge and style to them to keep them from looking Minnie Pearl.

The Gladiola-Print Sateen Dress was styled in the lookbook with gold heels, a pale blush clutch, a sparkly gold and crystal statement necklace and an updo that was just too much of everything. I found this photo on Talbots’ Pinterest board and it made me realize how lovely this dress truly is. Personally, I’d forego a necklace and have a simpler bracelet to let the dress truly shine. While the coral-colored shoes do match, again I’d let the dress steal the show and pair it with nude or black patent heels; maybe highlight the coral with your lipstick or flushed cheeks. Sometimes, less is more.

I normally wouldn’t like the Sunflower Lace Sheath. I didn’t love it on the site, but when I was able to find a high-res photo and examine it more closely, I saw the details which make this a very pretty and flattering dress. The hem and sleeves are scalloped, not hemmed. The neckline isn’t a high jewel, but has a lower scoop that elongates the neck. The lace is truly lacey and not eyelet, giving a delicate and more timeless feel. I think the Misty Sage may be a hard color for many to wear (though could be a great option for a Mother of the Bride who is looking for such a color), the blue and pink are quite pretty and could work with nude or soft metallic shoes and a bit of jewelry to add a personal touch.

This blue floral dress is utterly amazing. At time of posting it is not yet available on the Talbots website, but as soon as it is I will be trying it. The flowers are at the perfect place to create an hourglass shape, the neckline is a flattering depth, and this is a dress that could be worn to work with a cardigan and pumps or a weekend affair with a change to dressier shoes and a little sparkle on the wrist. I bet it would also look great with a skinny black patent belt.

talbots spring 2015 dresses

The Not-so Little Not-black Dress

After a long winter, it’s refreshing to be able to bare the legs (or almost bare them with very sheer hose) and don a cheery spring color. Talbots has some spectacular dresses that flatter and are in colors that scream spring.

The Wrap Bodice Dress is ah-may-zing. I noticed it first when researching for that capsule wardrobe post, but I think I need it in my life. I love how it whittles the waist without being tight, and how it is so versatile. I’m usually a navy or black dress gal, but this Delphinium Blue is making me smile; I’d likely wear it with my nude pointy-heel pumps and some gold at the wrist but this dress could easily carry a statement necklace, printed scarf, or shoe in a bold hue.

The Crepe Fit and Flare Dress is that perfect versatile dress. Wear with a skinny belt and flats to the office, then switch out for a sparkly necklace and heels for an after-work event. The picture above is in the Geranium color which is pretty, but may not be as versatile; the dress also comes in cobalt and black.

Hello pockets! I love the classic feminine shape of the Cotton Sateen Fit-and-Flare Dress. This could be worn to work with a cardigan, to brunch with flats, or could be dressed up with soft metallic heels and a clutch. Don’t be afraid to switch out the self-belt for one in a contrast color, print, or even use an oblong scarf. While black is a safe bet, the other tropical colors in this material could be quite versatile and a breath of fresh spring air. This dress is classic enough that it would become a staple in your wardrobe for many years to come.

I saw the Ponte Fit and Flare Dress online and thought it was a bit frumptastic. Then I saw the picture above and it seemed to better show the shape of the dress. Also, on this model the dress doesn’t seem to end at a bad point on the leg. A classic shape with pockets (!!!) and a fabric that can be worn year-round, this is a great wardrobe staple. Wear now with a cardigan, tights, and boots; come spring pair with chunky-heel sandals, pointed-toe slingbacks, or pumps and the accessory of your choice.

***

Talbots’ fashions are available in regular, petite, women, and women petite sizes. As a reminder, Talbots has 25% off their entire collection through March 8th. No code needed, it will be automatically deducted in your shopping cart. If you shop in-store, Talbots has partnered with Dress for Success and are accepting donations of gently-worn office-appropriate clothing. Your clothing donation will be used to benefit women who aspire to transition into the workforce and pursue economic independence.  What a wonderful way to help fellow women while updating your closet!

Ask Allie: SAHM Capsule Wardrobe

Dear Allie, any suggestions for a stay at home mom’s capsule wardrobe? I left the workforce two years ago when my second child was born and I have a terrible wardrobe of cocktail dresses and stained sweatpants and never seem to have the right thing to wear anywhere. While most days are spent in comfortable knits playing with the kids or working around the house, I’d like a wardrobe that could get me back out of the house and not look a mess. Clothes for volunteering at the school and church, wearing to book club or an unexpected night out with my husband or the girls or just basic clothes that won’t make me look like a mess when running errands. Clothes have to be comfortable, be washable, and be versatile since I don’t have an income any more. Any suggestions?

This sample capsule wardrobe will have you ready for everything from your husband’s work party to book club to the market to the playground. Stretch denim, ponte black knit separates, and colorful knits keep you looking polished even when you’re spending the day on the floor with your little ones. Choosing solids makes the pieces less memorable and more versatile; fabrics like ponte and merino wool look luxe but are machine washable on the gentle cycle and hold their shape through washings and wears.

Twenty Possible Ensembles (though you can make many many more):

  1. Black leggings, striped tee, cardigan, boots
  2. Black leggings, black turtleneck, boots
  3. Black leggings, chambray shirt, boots
  4. Black leggings, gray tee, pashmina, boots
  5. Jeans, striped tee, pashmina, boots
  6. Jeans, turtleneck, flats
  7. Jeans, gray tee, pink cardigan, statement necklace, flats
  8. Jeans, purple sweater, boots
  9. Jeans, chambray shirt, statement necklace, boots
  10. Black pants, black turtleneck, pumps
  11. Black pants, purple sweater, flats
  12. Black pants, gray tee, statement necklace, pumps
  13. Dress, boots
  14. Dress, leggings, flats
  15. Dress, pumps
  16. Skirt, scoop tee, flats
  17. Skirt, striped tee, cardigan, pumps
  18. Skirt, purple sweater, boots
  19. Skirt, turtleneck, flats
  20. Skirt, chambray shirt, flats

Black ponte leggings are thicker than jersey knit, making them look more polished, are more opaque and better hide any lumps and bumps. With a boyfriend cardigan and tall boots, comfy leggings and a tee can look downright chic. The same holds true for dark narrow jeans with stretch – the added Lycra keeps the jeans in shape when you’re active and keeps them comfortable. A dark wash will look more sophisticated and stay stylish longer than a trendy wash. A pair of trousers in black ponte dress up easily but have the stretch and machine washability that makes them practical; pair with everything from a tee shirt to a silk blouse for a put-together look. For ponte, even if it says dry clean only, it can be washed on the gentle cycle and hung to dry.

A black ponte dress in a simple silhouette can be worn with leggings and flats for a weekday casual look, with tall boots for Date Night, or with pumps for a social engagement. Dress up with a statement necklace, dress down with a pashmina. A gathered or pleated skirt in cotton blend (100% cotton may need ironing, a bit of poly will keep the wrinkles at bay) or a heavy knit like ponte gives you the fabric you need to be able to get on your knees to retrieve your child’s toy from under the table but still looks polished. A skirt can make simple flats and an old v-neck tee shirt look chic and purposeful and a lightweight sweater sophisticated.

A mix of different necklines keeps your wardrobe from looking like a uniform and makes layering a breeze. A black turtleneck sweater is insta-chic when paired with everything from trousers to jeans to a fuller skirt.  Merino wool is a great alternative to blends or cashmere as it doesn’t pill and can be washed on the gentle cycle of your machine.  A striped knit is an unexpected neutral which looks great on its own or with a sweater or shirt layered over it. Stripes also do a great job of hiding spots that are visible even on dark colored solid knits.  Chambray is also an unexpected neutral which can add interest under the dress, alone with jeans, or tucked into a skirt.  Unlike a white shirt, chambray looks okay a bit wrinkled, gets better with time and wear, and easily hides stains.

A big slouchy leather bag in a statement color can hold everything from your Kindle and bottle of water to a bag of Goldfish crackers and change of clothes for your child.  No need to be matchy-matchy with your bag, choose one that you like the color and shape and it can become an accent to the rest of the hues in your wardrobe.  Steer clear of metallics, suede, crinkle glazes or patent – all show wear and stains much faster than regular leather or a microfiber. Owning a sleek purse and pair of comfortable pumps in classic black leather will make dressing up your staples simple and they’re easy to polish up for special events. No need for a ton of different shoes – tall boots are surprisingly versatile and quickly add polish to simple knits and jeans. A pair of flats in a print like leopard are often times more versatile than a solid. Simple black pumps are there when you need to dress up.  If you’d like another pair of shoes, some ankle boots with a low heel or slight wedge would look great with all the pants and if they have a Western or engineer look, can also work with casual skirts and dresses.

Update: I created some sample capsule wardrobes for the summer months, you can check it out here!

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In Wardrobe-related News…

I bought new shoes.



I didn’t really NEED these shoes. I have ankle booties that I can wear with skirts, and I have a pair of city boots I can wear with jeans and trousers. However the ankle booties are peeptoe, and the city boots… well I just don’t like them. I bought them out of desperation.

When you are overweight, you don’t carry that fat just in your belly – it goes everywhere, including your feet. After having Emerson I had an extremely difficult time finding any shoes that would fit. Before getting pregnant, I was already wearing brands that tended to size wide, or purchasing wide widths whenever available. After she was born, my feet were almost as wide as they were long. I became a huge fan of brands like Sofft, David Tate and Fitzwell for offering extra-wide width shoes with style.

A year after Emerson’s birth, my feet had narrowed slightly – enough to make many of these lovely wide shoes I bought almost unwearable. I decided to purchase a new pair of city boots to replaced the very worn, now too big (and slightly dowdy) David Tates I owned. I tried a couple of my old favorite brands – Franco Sarto, Nine West, Enzo Angiolini, Impo, found them all to be too tight on my still-puffy tootsies. After reading online, I checked out Fitzwell and found a pair of booties that had a slender kitten heel, extended toe box, and weren’t that cute on top, but knew that portion would be hidden by my pant leg. They fit, they were incredibly comfortable, and they got the job done.

I learned during my adult life to buy lower- to mid-priced shoes because my wide yet short feet would quickly stretch them out, and anyway I had some stinky feet that would make even the most-babied shoes unwearable after a season or two. I didn’t think this would ever change. Then I had a baby and joined Weight Watchers. Childbirth changed my chemical makeup and I was happy to find out it made my feet far less stinky. I could switch out insoles, wear natural-fiber socks and have shoes stay nice forever. And with Weight Watchers, I am seeing the padding disappear from my chin, my belly… and my feet. My slimmer tootsies started swimming in my Fitzwell boots – I started compensating by wearing thick socks and subconsciously purchased less pants because I didn’t like my only winter pants-appropriate footwear.

One day I was doing some virtual window shopping at Nordstrom.com and saw a pair of Cole Haan booties on sale. They had the Nike technology that people rave about. This bootie looked really classic and versatile – so versatile I thought they could be worn with pants AND skirts. Unlike the ankle booties I already owned, they had a closed toe and no memorable details. They had a more… modern and stylish silhouette than my Fitzwell city boots (and a higher heel, which I liked). I would have NEVER considered Cole Haan pre-pregnancy because I couldn’t see spending so much on a pair of shoes that would be grody within a year. But they were on sale for less than $150, and I am a new Allie, with new feet…

They arrived on Monday and I didn’t even open the box until Tuesday. I just NEW they wouldn’t fit. Tuesday night, after putting Emerson to sleep I went and tried on the shoes. Oh my, the leather is pretty, the heel is the perfect width and height, and they FIT! Omigoodness, they FIT! Not only do they fit, they are comfortable. Not as insanely perfectly comfortable as my Miss Sixty booties, but darn-patootin’ close! It feels GOOD to be wearing well-made shoes that fit, flatter, and could easily be in my wardrobe for years.

So technically, I didn’t need another pair of shoes in my wardrobe. However I think these shoes are good for my soul, as well as my soles!

How to be a Stylish Woman in her Thirties

Years ago I wrote a piece on the Closet Cleanout for women over 30, and then an update on that post. Many complained that it was too extreme, dated, ridiculous, judgmental, whatever. Since writing that piece, style has changed a lot. To make this more timeless, I decided to focus less on the specifics and more on my eternal beliefs for being a stylish woman over 30:

1. Pack Away the Crazy Statement Necklaces. I know they’re fun, they’re cheap, they’re an easy way to add a pop of color to a simple knit. Thing is, they’re over, dunzo, passé and by wearing them you sacrifice your style.

The great thing with accessories, is that you can jump on a new trend bandwagon without breaking the bank. However, if you decide to go down the trendy accessory highway, you need to know when to get off. Pearls never go out of style, you can wear diamond (or CZ) studs every day of the year, but a lot of larger flashier pieces of jewelry go with the trends. If a Dannijo or J. Crew piece is being recreated in Claire’s or Charlotte Russe it’s time to let the trend go.  If you love big, flashy, and bold jewelry I can relate – shop craft festivals, Etsy, and shop on your travels to acquire a collection that is as unique as you and far more timeless.

2. Better No Boots than Cheap Boots. Seriously ladies, I know boots are expensive and I know how hard it is to find a pair when you have wide calves or narrow calves or wide feet or need orthotics or are very petite or very tall. I get it. And I get when you have that feeling of euphoria when a pair actually fits everywhere, you want to strut up and down the street and style every piece of clothing in your wardrobe around them.

The thing is, when the boots are cheap pleather or trying desperately to look like a designer version or is trying to distract the eye from shoddy construction with a pound of buckles and baubles… it doesn’t matter how well they fit. They look cheap and tacky, and they will ruin your style.

I have hard to fit legs, I understand the issues and the desire to have boots.  But if you can’t afford quality and style and fit in one pair… it’s better to go without any pairs. Save your money, you don’t need a closet of boots if you can find one pair that does it all.

3. Find a Tailor. You’re not an undergrad anymore, and it is not acceptable to have your blazer sleeves swallow your hands or have your trousers drag in puddles. For simple alterations like a pant hem, your nearby dry cleaner can usually do the job quite nicely and for a nice price. However, when it comes to tailoring suiting, preventing waist gap on trousers, or nipping in a dress I strongly suggest you visit Yelp or a nearby suiting or bridal boutique and get advice on a local reputable tailor or seamstress.

4. Invest in Your Edges. When you’re 30, you can still carry off a top from Forever 21, a pair of cheap jeans, a wacky thrift-store score. However, you are no longer a teenager or poor college student, and you need to take care of the edge details: hair, hands, bag, shoes.

When I was in college, I could go a year without a haircut. I’d often trim off split ends with a pair of cuticle scissors and had been known to sport a crazy cut or new color that I did in my bathroom at 3am. I could carry off crooked bangs or a botched dye job with some fun makeup, a couple barrettes, and confidence. The thing is, when you’re over 30, such things don’t look edgy, they look sloppy.

Take care of your hair; this doesn’t mean you need a $200+ salon visit every month, but get a proper cut, quality color (if applicable), and keep it maintained. If you keep slicking back your hair into a bun or ponytail it may be life telling you it’s time to hack it off and choose a lower-maintenance style. You can still be edgy and wacky and different, but do it with a bit of polish and more care.

5. Take care of your Hands. This is something I put off until the end of my 30s and I wish I hadn’t. If you’re a nail and cuticle biter like me, consider regular manicures, taking NAC (with your doctor’s approval), or even hypnosis to break the habit. If you work a lot with your hands, keep your nails short and your polish long-wearing or else naturally colored or buffed so chips aren’t as much of a factor. Moisturize regularly; hands show age and weather-related stress faster than any part of the body.

6. Purchase a Quality Bag. In my 20s I had a different purse for every day of the month. I’d buy one to go with a certain dress or pair of shoes, caring more about the fun than quality. The older you are, the cheaper that cheap bag will look. I don’t expect you to buy a Birkin, or even a bag with a designer name, but look for quality over trendiness or color.

Faux leather looks the fakest when on a bag; with all the stitching and angles the material catches the light and has more chance for stretching and tearing. If you don’t wish to carry a leather bag, consider a bag of a higher quality fabric or a durable material like microfiber. Avoid wacky glazes and finishes, too much bling, or obvious logos; even if you can afford the real deal logos always cheapen a look and they look dated far faster than plainer styles.

Once you have your bag, care for it. Use cuticle scissors to trim fraying straps, invest in a leather conditioner, stuff with paper and store in an old pillowcase when not in use, don’t overstuff it and when you get home, don’t hang it full from its straps (weakens the straps and alters the shape of the bag). Cobblers can perform repairs on handbags and even replace handles, zippers and re-dye exteriors.

7. Care for your Shoes. Be they from Prada or Payless, care for your shoes. Let a day go between wearings so they can air out and retain their shape. Get them reheeled and resoled when necessary. Polish to keep a nice shine. Consider commuter shoes to keep your best footwear protected from city streets. Don’t shop for trends but your actual lifestyle and needs, purchasing the best quality your wallet can justify. It’s better to have one great pair of well-maintained black pumps than a rainbow’s worth of heels.

8. Find a Cobbler. Speaking of shoes, a cobbler can be your best friend, right after your tailor. A cobbler can stretch too-tight shoes, add an elastic gusset in tall boots, reheel and resole years-old shoes to make them look brand new, and much much more. You’re old enough to start buying quality, and that means having a team who can protect your investment. it’s far easier to stomach a high price for a pair of boots when you know that for about $25 each fall you can have them looking brand new and prepared for the weather.

You’re old enough to care for your shoes, and you should. Unless you can afford to toss your footwear after each season (and if you can why the heck are you reading my blog?), it’s worth your time and money to baby them a bit. Let a professional help you extend the life and style of your footwear.

9. Get Professionally Fitted for a Bra. A professional bra fitting doesn’t mean the teenager working at Victoria’s Secret. Go to a higher-end department store’s lingerie department or a bra boutique and get sized. Invest in bras that better the bust you have; no matter your size a proper bra can enlarge, reduce, lift, separate, and make all your clothes fit better. Get measured once a year; your body changes with age, exercise, weight, and life experiences.

While we’re discussing bras, care for them properly. If you must machine wash them, do it on the gentle cycle in a lingerie bag. Always line dry, bras should never go in the dryer. Replace when they get stretched out, and be sure to own more than one so you can let them rest between wears (extends the life of the bras).

10. Wash your Face. Wash your face every evening. Seriously, it’s worth it. If you’re too tired or drunk or whatever to accomplish this, put a packet of facial cleansing cloths on your nightstand so you can swipe with your eyes already closed. You’re at the age where things like clean and moisturized skin now can drastically affect how your face looks in a decade. Along with this…

11. Moisturize. Moisturize your face. Moisturize your body. Apply hand cream on a regular basis. Use conditioner. Baby your body; as I mentioned above you’re at the age where what you do now may not seem important but it will affect how you look in ten years. Your 40-something self will thank you.

12. Wear Sunscreen. I spent my college years in a tanning bed, and my post-college summers baking on the shores of Dewey Beach. I was tan and felt I looked healthy and hot with a glow to my skin. And then at 29 I acquired my first age spot. A decade later, I have wrinkles and stretch marks in unfortunate locations and dark spots on my face, chest, and legs. I feel extremely lucky that I haven’t gotten melanoma from my bad habits.

It doesn’t matter your skin color, your ethnicity, or if it’s cloudy… wear sunscreen. Not only will it help prevent skin cancer, it will keep your skin looking younger, softer, and healthier far far longer. Learn from my mistakes.

Do you have any advice for women who have reached their Thirties?

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Winter Weather and Commuting: Style Tips

Wind, rain, snow, and sleet can wreak havoc on a morning commute… and your commuting style. When it comes to dressing for inclement weather I learn so much from my fellow DC office workers and commuters. Some is what not to wear, but more often than not it’s tips and tricks on how to stay protected, comfortable and stylish when the weather outside is frightful. This week is cold, rainy, a bit windy and down-right gross in DC; here’s some things I’ve learned on my walks to work:

Go Monochrome. Walking up the escalator from the Metro, I was behind a woman in all shades of blue and green. Teal tweed wool coat that almost hit her knees, dark jeans tucked into seafoam wellies, indigo leather tote, and a navy umbrella. The monochromatic look made each separate look so cohesive, so purposeful, and like a true ensemble. I am not a fan of wellies  (how often does one deal with water over the ankle when walking to the office anyway? And I am not asking those of you in Seattle and similar climates or those in rural areas…)but with her look… it worked. I could imagine flats or booties in that indigo tote ready to be slipped on once she reached her desk.

The other day, I saw a woman in a black belted wool coat, a raspberry chunky infinity scarf, plum knit beanie, and deep purple wellies. None of the colors were the same, but the consistent color story made the ensemble cohesive and downright stylish. If each piece was a different color the chunky knits and shiny boots would have looked childish; the consistent color gave it polish and professionalism.

Have Neutral Commuting Shoes. I was walking behind three women chatting with one another. They were varying sizes, ages, and personal styles but all had one thing in common – black tights or pants and black flats. I could tell that these were their commuter shoes – they didn’t quite match their outfits, they looked well worn, and pretty comfortable. However, by them being the same color as their legs the shoes weren’t on display and didn’t take away from their outfits. I turned the corner and saw two women waiting for the light to change – one had gray tights and red flats, the other had black pants and yellow patent flats. While their shoes were in better condition than the women in black, their shoes looked just as out of place as a pair of white sneakers. While it’s tempting to add “fun” to a pair of shoes you only wear on your commute, it can really detract from your personal style.

Own a Tiny Umbrella. While many companies claim that they sell travel umbrellas, what it essentially means is a non-Mary Poppins style that has a collapsible shaft. However, some brands sell really small umbrellas that are reliable, but take almost no space in your purse or laptop bag. While you want a durable umbrella that can survive strong gusts, having this little bitty umbrella tucked at the bottom of the bag is a lifesaver for unexpected showers or if you accidentally leave your big umbrella on the train.

Have a Spare Pair of Gloves. Same reason as the umbrella. Especially handy when the bus is late, you have to carry large things home, or you need to hold the rail on the train and you don’t want to catch the flu. While I have gloves in my two work coats, I have lost a glove on the commute, have changed coats last minute, and have many times wished I had a pair tucked in the bottom of my purse or laptop bag.  Since I got another pair for Christmas, I have remedied this situation.

Wear a Hat. While you may be more likely to get Hat Head, a hood flies off in the wind, and the weather will already destroy your hairstyle. Having a hat, be it a cloche, beanie, fedora or otherwise will keep your ears warm, your hair in place, and your body far warmer than a bare head. If you loosely tuck your hair in your hat, you’ll be less likely to get dents in your ‘do.

Wedges Rock. While they give a bit of lift, they are far kinder on the foot when standing, walking, and even dashing across the street to make a light. I see many women who seem to have wedge commuter shoes – they don’t have to worry about cuffing their trousers but have more comfort than heels. Wedges have come back en vogue, be they on pump-like professional shoes or a pair of trainers or TOMS.

Own a Water-resistant Winter Coat. When there’s frigid temperatures, there’s often precipitation, and it’s not always fluffy white flakes. A wet wool coat can be a drag; if you purchase a quilted, waxed, or water-resistant fabric coat, you will be far more comfortable on those days that are both cold and wet. Choosing a style with a unique detail (read this post for great examples) will prevent you from looking as though you just came from the slopes.

Have Matching Bags. I regularly see this woman on the train who has a gray leather purse and gray leather tote. The combination is so lovely and she doesn’t look as hunkered down with multiple bags. Today walking to work, I saw a woman with a red leather purse and a red and navy print microfiber tote for her yoga mat and likely workout clothes. If you need to carry more than one bag, having the two bags match or coordinate really does add polish and cohesion to your ensemble. I wrote about work totes here, but this is something I hadn’t before considered and will be thinking about the next time I am purchasing a tote or everyday purse.

You Never Know Who You Will Bump Into. So you’re wearing a power suit and have a pair of sensible pumps tucked into your bag, yet on your commute you’re wearing a knit cap with earflaps and cat ears, have a hot pink sparkly faux fur snood, and sequined boot liners under your polka-dot wellies. And then you bump into your CEO at Starbucks. Sort of defeats the purpose of your power suit. If your job is a career, work doesn’t end when you walk out of that office door, and if you work in a city you are very likely to bump into a colleague on the train or street corner. Consider this when shopping for accessories and outerwear and have them match the professional style you show in the workplace.

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Not Wardrobe Related – Support a Great Idea!

As many of you know, I am a fan of live music. I have attended the Bonnaroo Music Festival three times already, and by attending and being a part of an online community of folks who attend this festival I have met some really amazing folks.

One was Matt Sloan. Matt was a giving, welcoming person. Matt passed away this past June. At the time of his passing, Matt was working to rebuild homes in New Orleans that had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Matt believed that making New Orleans whole again would require restoring homes and also the environment. It was his vision to establish a nonprofit dedicated to replanting trees and native landscaping that would positively impact the well-being of every returning resident.

After his passing, Matt’s family created Matt’s Trees, a fund to continue his dream. Matt’s Trees is in the process of becoming a nonprofit organization (“Matt’s Trees—Replanting New Orleans”) with the goal of planting trees and other indigenous landscaping for renovated homes in the New Orleans area that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.


Why Am I Telling You This?
Matt’s Trees’ Pepsi Refresh grant application for $50,000 has been accepted and is now up for online voting. Click here, or in my right sidebar for a link to the Pepsi Refresh site. Everyone is allowed to vote three times a day from December 1st through December 31st; once on the Pepsi Refresh site, once via the Facebook application, and once via text (to vote for Matt’s Trees via your cell phone, text 104659 to Pepsi at 73774).

What a wonderful project, and what a wonderful way to honor a person that brought so much happiness to so many people. I thank you in advance for your votes.

Ask Allie: Very Casual Office Attire

I was wondering if you could do a capsule collection for the casual workplace. My workplace is so casual that I have coworkers who walk around in cargo shorts and flip-flops all summer, pretty much everyone wears jeans always, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a coworker or two in actual pajamas. I like dresses and skirts, I love jewelry, but lately I’ve been defaulting to a uniform of jeans/sneakers/artsy tee/cardigan. I’d like to get out of that rut but still fit in.

I work in a very casual place people wear yoga pants and flip flops to work. I like to dress nicely but don’t want to stand out or look snooty any advice?

I work for myself but in a collaborative office setting; the dress code is casual but everyone is very visually inspired and aware of fashion. I’m a jeans and tee shirt sort of girl, any ideas on what I can wear to be comfortable, be me, but not be a clueless slob?

I once worked in a very casual office environment, and understand your issue. While on the surface a very relaxed dress code can seem like a treat, but when you really break it down it can be even more difficult and confusing than a conservative corporate environment. Even if you CAN wear yoga pants and dollar store flip flops, that doesn’t mean you should. You want to fit in, but also show your dedication to the company, be ready for the chance meeting with a customer, and also lead by example. This can be done without a single blazer or blouse!

With this sample capsule wardrobe, I took casual basics and stepped them up a slight notch so they look a bit more polished, but just as comfortable. With jeans, I chose a dark wash that looks more polished and is usually more versatile than distressed. A pair of jeans or twill pants in a neutral like olive adds variety to a wardrobe without being too memorable for versatility. For knits, break out of the basic tee-shirt rut by incorporating classic prints, unique fabrics like linen and silk, and interesting draping. Layers keep you comfortable in an overly air conditioned office and add mileage to your wardrobe basics. A denim shirt looks great on its own, tied over a dress, or worn open with a tank and skinny jeans. An open cardigan can be worn as-is or can be transformed with a wide belt. A short-sleeved sweater in a loose weave is comfortable in an office in the summer, but also layers nicely over longer-sleeved knits and shirts when the temperature drops. Tee-shirt dresses are easy one-piece dressing that can dress up with a scarf and wedges or get uber casual with sandals and a ponytail. A gathered knee-length skirt in a lightweight cotton dresses up simple tees and tanks without sacrificing comfort.

Accessories are a way to add personality and jazz up simple knits and denim. For this collection of soft neutrals, I added a wood necklace and a floral printed gauze scarf; neither are too glitzy or shiny for a casual office. As for shoes, a pair of ankle boots with a flat heel look great with dresses, skirts, and pants; a pair of leather sandals are smart with dresses but also pair nicely with denim for a bit of a boho look. As previously mentioned, a wide belt (smart to have in the same color/material as your shoes) can transform not just an open cardigan, but dresses and tunics.

Stick to casual fabrics – linen, cotton, jersey, denim, chambray. This will keep the casual vibe even if it’s a more formal silhouette. While staying in these fabrics, choose saturated colors. Faded, distressed, and weathered fabrics are hot this summer but can easily look messy and too casual for an office.

And finally, flip flops should be kept for the pool and yoga pants for yoga. These days there are so many comfortable shoes and pants available, there’s no need to wear workout clothes to the office. Consider stretch denim, jersey, and ponte knit for pants and a pair of espadrilles or flat sandals in place of the flops.

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Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for Business Travel

I loved your SAHM capsule – any chance of you doing something similar for the Road Warrior? I have worked with the concept but still am missing a few pieces that I can’t for the life of me figure out what they are.

I got a new job in November that will have me traveling quite a bit this spring. I will visit client sites, and will be away from home for up to three weeks at a time. I haven’t had to travel for work before more than a couple days or a conference and have no clue how to do this. My coworker is a man and he says he keeps his suitcase always packed and ready to go, how does a woman make three weeks of professional clothing fit in one carry on suitcase? HELP!

In my past career lives, I did travel for business. While I was never away for more than a week, I often saw the same clients multiple times in a month, and often only had a week between trips before I was again on the road. It may seem daunting to look professional and pack smart, but it is possible. These days professional attire is found with Lycra, spandex, and fabric blends that make it comfortable and travel-friendly. Matte jersey, stretch wool, ponte knit, crepe, and gabardine can be your friend when you are a road warrior. I made a sample capsule wardrobe based upon my experiences with business travel. Only the suit in this capsule is high-maintenance fabric; pack wrapped in dry cleaning bags to prevent wrinkles, hang up as soon as you arrive and it should be okay for the big presentation. The rest are work-appropriate separates that all have some sort of stretch to keep them looking great right off the plane or train or out of the suitcase.

Over 30 outfits with only 14 garments (details):

 

Lots of ponte separates. I’m a ponte addict, I can’t deny it. Heavyweight knit that works year-round, doesn’t wrinkle, and can be machine washed. Pretty spectacular. On top of that, it looks refined enough for the workplace. In this capsule I have black ponte pants, an ivory ponte blazer, black ponte dress, black ponte top, and gray ponte skirt. Since they are the same fabric, they mix and match with ease and the combinations looks more like ensembles. Ponte is also great when you have to fly or take the train and immediately head to a business meeting – you won’t be full of wrinkles and will be comfortable sitting for long spans of time.

Strategic pops of color. While it seems smart to pack an entire suitcase of neutrals, that can look pretty boring pretty quickly. Choosing suit shells and soft jackets or cardigans in colors will stretch your neutral capsule further. Mix two for a bold look, or just have one piece to give a neutral you already wore a new life. The choice of color is dependant on your personal style and profession. For more conservative fields, consider softer or more traditional hues; if you’re in a creative field you can amp up the color and even add more to the capsule.

Stick to solids. While prints can break up a wardrobe monotony, they are also so incredibly memorable that you can’t easily wear the same print twice with a client. If you are in a more casual or creative field, you can consider a print like leopard for some accessories, but having solids for your Road Warrior wardrobe means you can likely wear the same garment twice in a week without a client being the wiser.

Choose pieces that can dress up and down. While you may be meeting with clients and needing a professional wardrobe, not every moment of your day is suit-worthy. Maybe you’re meeting colleagues for happy hour, or your client is taking you to a baseball game. Be ready without having to stuff a suitcase with a casual wardrobe. A striped tee with a flattering neckline and fabric can be dressed up under a suit jacket, or paired with jeans and flats for a barbecue or sporting event. Pair the jeans with the cardigan for a casual meal, or with the ivory blazer (maybe tuck a band tee shirt or simple tank into your suitcase) or just a sweater shell with pashmina or statement necklace for drinks at a neighborhood bar.

As for dressing up, a ponte or crepe dress can work for the office or for a cocktail party. The black dress I featured could work with a blazer or cardigan by day and with red lips and mascara will make it perfect for an evening affair. Use the pashmina as an evening wrap.

Pack smart accessories. While I am all for having a large accessory collection for changing the look of wardrobe staples, when you’re a Road Warrior you need to keep your wardrobe to a minimum and keep it super easy. A statement necklace that isn’t too sparkly or too arts and crafty can jazz up a classic suit, or dress up a work dress to look cocktail appropriate. A pashmina can be your travel blanket on the plane, add interest to a simple dress or ensemble, be your evening wrap for a cocktail party, and ward off chill in overly air-conditioned office buildings. If you know you will be there longer, consider wearing tall boots on the trip for they will give a completely different look to skirts, dresses, jeans and narrow pants. Finally, choose a structured and polished bag to be your purse, your carryon bag, as well as your work tote. Find one that can hold both your laptop as well as a bottle of water and copy of InStyle for the flight.

Pack repair and care supplies. Stitch Witchery, a small sewing kit, bar of Ivory soap or a small bottle of laundry detergent, Shout Wipes or Tide-to-Go pen, safety pins, a black Sharpie (covers snags in tights and fabric, tears in leather, etc.), lint remover. When I used to travel on business, I had my toiletries kit already packed and ready to go with mini versions of all my beauty products, and I also had an emergency outfit kit in a small bag with these essentials. Both stayed in my suitcase when I was home, only removed to replace that which ran out. This way, I never forgot them and was already ready for any situation (or any stain). Most hotels have a shine cloth for shoes and an iron to get out wrinkles and fuse Stitch Witchery.

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How to Rock a Crop Top

How to Style a Crop Top

The crop top is back. I know, I know, I hear your moaning through the Internet. I wore crop tops in high school when I was channeling Kelly Kapowski, when this trend showed up on runways I KNEW it was one I would not revisit. However, brilliant style bloggers across the globe have been proving that anyone can carry off a crop top this summer, and here’s some tips on how to rock the crop without looking like a Fly Girl:

Pair with a High-waisted Bottom

When a crop top is partnered with a skirt or pant that starts above the belly button, a crop top can be downright flattering. The smallest part on a woman’s body is usually at the bottom or right below the rib cage; a crop top and high-waisted bottom highlight this area, and your sliver of skin flatters in the same manner a wide belt does. Having the visible skin so high prevents muffin top, and showing your belly button or post-baby stretch marks. While this pairing can work with most any type of top and bottom, the combination of a fitted top and fuller skirt or pants is both figure flattering and on trend (and with a fitted top there’s no chance you’ll flash your bra). Great examples of this trend can be seen on Jay Miranda and Girl With Curves.

Wear Over a Dress

Gosh, why didn’t I think of this? I’ll admit, seeing this outfit on The Classy Cubicle was when I started realizing crop tops can look modern and be age-appropriate. Treat a boxy crop top like a cropped jacket and pair with a simple sheath to update your workweek wardrobe staples or to freshen up your Date Night LBD. Also on Refinery 29, they featured an editor wearing a striped tank dress with a different striped crop top over it and the combination was fun and very wearable.

Layer over a Longer Top

You’ll see retailers have already thought of this combination, styling mannequins in this manner and also selling shirts that create this effect. I love this top from Vince Camuto; it looks like two tops, achieves the crop top look, but has enough coverage to wear at more casual workplaces or weekends when you don’t want to flash a ton of skin.

Get Matchy Matchy

When the top and bottom are the same color and/or fabric, the flash of your midsection isn’t as obvious and doesn’t feel so risqué. Mindy Kaling wore a jacquard crop top and skirt to an event and it worked because it was a matched set, the skirt was high, and the sliver of skin showcased the slimmest part of her figure.

Play with Volume

Not every crop top is fitted, and a bit of volume can make this shorter silhouette far more wearable.  The Tiny Closet shows how a floaty crop top can be quite flattering; while the post linked has her wearing it with higher-waist pants, she wears this top often with all sorts of bottoms. The August Diaries pairs a boxy crop with a high-low hemline with a skirt that is fitted on top, creating a balanced silhouette. I love this eyelet crop top with matching full maxi; both pieces in the same color gives a feel of a dress, the cropped top flattering the figure in the same manner as a belt. Adding volume is a great way to balance your frame and keep cool as the temps rise.

 

What do you think about the return of the crop top? Are you willing to try this trend?

 

The Bandana is Back!

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

Top Row, Left to Right: Rosy Cheeks | Man Repeller | The Not Vanilla | ELLE España via Le Fashion
Bottom Row, Left to Right: Louis Vuitton via GQ | Stockholm Street Style | Vanessa Jackman | The Blab

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

  • Create a Contradiction. A bandana with a chambray shirt is cliché, a bandana with a leather moto jacket or a silk blouse or a crisp blazer is unexpected.
  • Keep it Crisp and Classic. For now, keep your pink and purple bandanas in the drawer and stick to classics like navy, red, and black. These should also not be the weathered, worn, and torn bandanas you use to mop sweat when gardening or to hold back your hair on a camping trip. The classic color and the crisp finish makes the bandana purposeful and not a leftover from cleaning out the garage.
  • Simplicity is Key. Leandra Medine’s all-white outfit with the bandana tucked into the collar of her shirt is a fabulous example of how to wear a bandana this spring. Minimal color, no competing prints, use the bandana as you would a silk Hermes scarf and let it take center stage.
  • Get Creative. A bandana doesn’t have to be worn knotted in back and draped in front. Check out The Not Vanilla’s post and how she wore it knotted around her throat, and even as a purse and wrist accessory. I recently rolled a bandana , wrapped it twice around my neck and had it peek out of a white button-front shirt; I think it’s fun to spice up a monochromatic look with a bandana tied to a single belt loop at the front of a pair of trousers; don’t be afraid to use a bandana as a headband, kerchief, headwrap, or tied around your ponytail.

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

  • When You Have Short Hair. If you’re draping the bandana in front and the “ears” are peeking out making you feel as though you’re wearing a bib, consider a bit of fashion tape to hold them down. I keep all those tiny safety pins that hold garment hang tags and find them great for a situation like this (I pin the “ears” to the underside so they don’t ruin the line of the scarf).
  • When the Bandana is Too Stiff. A brand new bandana can be as stiff as a piece of paper, and often have hard creases in it. Before trying anything, wash it and throw it in the dryer, preferably with bulky items that would make it bounce around a lot. This often does the trick. If it’s still too stiff for you, an overnight soak in fabric softener or vinegar will soften cotton without fading the fabric. Rinse and tumble dry.
  • When You Want a Bigger Bandana. I desired this very thing to have more variety (and to double-look around my big neck). On eBay I found “Texas Size” bandanas which are 27” (most are 22”). If you search for 27” bandana, you’ll find that many online stores like Amazon offer them, which will give you the length you desire.

Ask Allie: Collars and Crews

The ever lovely Natalie emailed me and asked,

“Allie, when I try to wear a crew neck over a collared shirt, I look dumpy. How do you look so un-dumpy? What am I doing wrong?”

My email response:

My secret is… the only two buttons buttoned are the second one (the very top one makes me dumpy) and the bottom one (so the untucked shirttails look straight). The rest is gaping open underneath. I did this the first time with this shirt because it’s now too small, but was amazed at how it improved the look of a shirt under a crew, and now do it all the time with all my shirts whether they fit or not!

So there you have it!  I find this helps since I am so top heavy – somehow the buttoned-up shirt emphasizes all my roundness, but when I let it gape open, my figure shows a bit better.  Of course this works far better with a thick sweater that won’t show the buttons and gaping fabric, but if it’s a thinner crew, I will not button the last button, let the shirt sort of go to the sides of my body and tuck it in so it’s out of the way and more invisible.  Sort of like a dickey with sleeves!

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Summer Sartorial Rules for Corporate America

These days it can be confusing when trying to dress for the office. With retailers showing “secretary” dresses that hardly cover one’s behind, painted-on pants paired with blazers, and cleavage-baring blouses with suits, you wonder what actually is acceptable these days. Add to this a sweltering hot summer, and one could easily stray in the wrong sartorial direction. From one corporate employee to another, here’s some rules on summer office fashion that apply to you whether you’re a cubicle dweller or reside in the corner office.

Even if they’re metallic or beaded, they’re still flip flops. And if they’re flip flops, they don’t belong in the office. Period.

A cardigan doesn’t make a strapless dress work-appropriate. Seriously ladies, we can still tell it is strapless. This also goes for low-cut dresses, spaghetti straps, and every other dress more appropriate for happy hour on the terrace than the boardroom.

If I couldn’t wear spaghetti straps when working at the mall, you can’t wear them to the office. When I worked in apparel, even at trendy companies like Express, we had a dress code. That dress code restricted many things like sneakers, but it also restricted revealing attire such as spaghetti straps. If I couldn’t be a 21-year old in Express with spaghetti straps, you sure as heck shouldn’t be an adult with them at work. It’s just not professional.

Even if your bra strap is the same color as your tank, it doesn’t make it invisible. A peach racerback tank with peach bra straps is still a shirt exposing bra straps. A navy x-back sundress with a navy traditional bra is still a dress exposing your lingerie. I commend your attempt, but it’s still not appropriate for the office.

Hemlines shouldn’t rise with the temperature. Your skirt should be near your knee, not near your rear. If you can’t bend down to pick up your pen or sit on a standard chair without fear of flashing, your skirt is too short.

A hoodie is not an appropriate layer for offices that blast the A/C. Even if it’s cashmere, if it zips up the front, has two pockets and a hood, it’s not professional looking. Switch to a cardigan, pashmina, or soft jacket.

White is almost always transparent. I personally think thin white cotton and twill and light-colored linen should not be worn to the office, but if you do, wear with skin-colored seamless undergarments. No lace, no bows, no stripes, and not even sheer (the better to see the cotton crotch and waistband, my dear). If it’s a dress, wear a slip, if in doubt, don’t wear it to work.

Cleavage isn’t appropriate, no matter the season. Somehow, those who understand office attire let everything literally hang out come summer. Low-cut tanks, deep Vs on wrap dresses, strapless tops under cardigans… and none of it is appropriate for the office. If you wouldn’t show your décolleté in December, you also shouldn’t in July.

Dress code still applies. If it’s business casual, that means nice pants and skirts with refined tops or a simple dress. It does not mean chino Bermudas, seersucker sundresses with flip flops, logoed tee shirts with capris, tropical printed maxis with beaded sandals, or super-short cotton skirts with ribbed tanks. This is your office, not a tiki bar. You can beat the heat without dressing for Margaritaville.

Dress for respect. Again, this is your place of work. This is how you pay your rent, buy groceries and gas, and where you should be striving to move up the corporate ladder. Dress the part, no matter how hot it is outside.

For some suggestions on appropriate office attire, please visit:

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Winter Style Tips: Warm Fashion for Cold Weather

Many of you have written to me lately on how to handle very cold temperatures while maintaining your personal style. While it’s frigid right now by DC standards, I don’t deal with such cold temps on a regular basis and would never consider myself to be an expert on cold weather fashion. I know many of you live in far colder parts of the country and world than I and would love you to weigh in on what you swear by to stay warm and fashionable. Below are the winter style tips I use to stay warm when it’s super cold:

cold weather fashion how to stay stylish and warm tips

Have a Base Layer

Keeping your core warm will ensure you stay comfortable when the temps drop. Thin layers close to the body will do a remarkably good job without adding too much bulk to your outfit.

  • Fleece and wool tights are my jam; I’ll wear a regular pair of tights under for extra wind and cold protection, and have even worn them under jeans and work trousers.
  • The same holds true for fleece and wool leggings. Check athletic departments and brands for great ones; while some may have reflective strips others will be solid black which will fit perfectly into your work or weekend wardrobe.
  • Wool socks keep your feet warm and dry and also help prevent foot odor. The chunky cable or marled versions are back in style and look cute peeking out of ankle booties or tall socks so they add style with warmth.
  • A silk or heat-keeping fitted tank or cami is a must-have in winter. Brands like Lands’ End carry these in a broad range of sizes and colors so you can find one to fit and become invisible under your clothing.

Wear Smart Accessories

When it comes to accessorizing in the winter, choose pieces that have fashion as well as function. It’s possible for your styling accents to keep you toasty in the winter.

  • I’m such a fan of pashminas. In wool, cashmere, or a blend these scarves are toasty without being bulky, stylish, and versatile. I will cross a pashmina across my body in front before putting on my coat; it will fill the neck area but also add an additional layer of warmth to my core. Once at my destination I’ll loop it around my throat for a pop of color to my outfit. Pashminas are also great when it’s not freezing; they can act as a shawl with a dress and I take them on travel to be my plane blanket as well as to ward off strong A/C on planes and at conferences.
  • A cashmere beanie is in style right now, so it’s easy to find a color and weight that appeals to you. I have a black cashmere beanie that I’ll put on in the morning and not take off until I go to bed. I style my hair around it, intensify my lip color and it’s a chic look that also keeps me warm. Adding a hat when it’s cold can really do much for increasing comfort; in fact I am writing this while wearing my cashmere beanie and am quite comfortable even though it’s around 60 degrees inside.
  • Gloves are a must-have and my favorite are cashmere-lined leather gloves. They are super warm, wind repellent, keep you dry when scraping off your windshield and look quite chic. Right now is the perfect time of year to stock up on leather gloves as they are on sale everywhere after the holidays. I always have a pair of classic black but when I can find fun colors like purple or green on clearance I snatch them up so add a pop of color or fun to black outerwear.

You Need Proper Footwear

When it comes to inclement weather, function always trumps fashion. A pair of warm boots that provide traction on slick sidewalks is a must-have for cold weather. Come winter, I keep a pair of black pumps at the office and wear boots on my commute. When out and about, slim jeans and pants look great peeking out of tall fur-trimmed winter boots for ski lodge style. Tall leather boots (especially if they are waterproof) are wonderful for when it’s cold but there’s no snow or ice; the leather is a wind breaker and an extra layer of warmth. I’ll wear tall leather boots with a dress or skirt, fleece tights and wool knee-high socks and be toasty while still maintaining my personal style.  FYI all the boots featured in the carousel below are waterproof and ready for all sorts of frightful weather!

Choose Outfits with Layers, Length, and Warm Fabrics

If you plan on getting away with a long-sleeved tee and a pair of jeans you’re going to be shivering all day.

  • Layer: I’m a fan of sweater coats, puffer vests, and ponchos come winter because these are easy layers to slip on and off depending on how high the heat is cranking inside. Under, I’ll wear a long-sleeved tee or fitted merino or cashmere sweater and a silk tank under that so when I slip off the topper I am still pulled together and warm. Chunky knits are popular this fall and easy to layer over a silk or knit tee. I’m also known to slip fleece tights or silk longjohns under dress pants or jeans come winter and no one is the wiser except my warm self!
  • Length: Winter isn’t the time for mini skirts and crop tops. I pull out the midi skirts and wear with fleece tights and tall boots, longer tunic sweaters over slim pants or sweater dresses over fleece or wool leggings and tights, and thigh-skimming sweater coats keep my rear and upper legs warm.
  • Warm Fabrics: Wool pants are truly warmer than synthetics; look for a pair with lining to stay itchy-free and add some wind repellant. As mentioned a thousand times already, fleece and wool tights and leggings are a smart choice with dresses and skirts. Leather is wind repellant and warm; I wear a lot of leather skirts come winter for fashion with function. This year sweater and sweatshirt dresses are on trend and look great with tall boots and leggings or thick tights.

Longer Coats that Repel Wind

Many years ago I wrote that women don’t need puffer coats and can be just as warm and more stylish with a wool coat with Thinsulate lining. And now that I commute in a city, ride public transportation in the snow, and walk longer distances I agree with many of you who thought my advice bunk. Buy a coat that keeps you warm. When it comes to frigid temperatures, first look for something that will keep you as warm and dry as possible, then look for stylish touches. A quilted or puffer coat with a longer length is brilliant because it’s wind and water repellant, will keep your bum warm when sitting at the bus stop, prevents gusts from slipping up inside the coat, and is often machine washable. I like styles that at least cover the rear and have a belt which keeps you from looking like the Michelin man. While I wear a hat almost always, a hood is an additionally nice feature when you’re waiting for the train or it begins to drizzle. Buy from a company that is known for outerwear and get one that is made for the climate you experience. Companies like Patagonia, Lands’ End and LL Bean often give temperature ratings for their outerwear helping you make the best coat decision for your lifestyle.

And now I pass it back to you, what are your tips for staying toasty when the temperature drops? What are the best items in your wardrobe for winter weather? What brands or items do you recommend to those who are trying to stay stylish in the cold? Thanks!

 

Postpartum Fashion

postpartum fashion shopping tips advicel

There are women who get their pre-pregnancy body back in six weeks. Others who get it back in six months. There are women who realize their shape will never be the same, but still come to terms with their new figure quickly – nine months in, nine months out and back in some fab jeans and heels.

And then there are the rest of us. And I think the rest of us are the majority. The silent majority.

Emerson is almost two years old, and I still freak out sometimes when catching my nude reflection in the full length mirror in my bedroom. Who IS this woman?

Maybe you take in your reflection, and you realize that this new body is still beautiful – possibly more so. You take pride in your strength, your ability to create life. Those breasts are now more than a way to attract a date – they are a way to feed your child. Your stretch marks and sagging skin are battle scars, reminders of the amazing triumphant act you did.

And then you enter a mall, or get a package in the mail from your favorite online retailer. You try on the garments, and begin (or increase) self-loathing. Nothing fits, everything is ugly, YOU are ugly.

You’re not ugly, you’re not deformed, it’s just that today’s fashion isn’t geared towards the constantly changing body of the postpartum woman.

Instead of beating yourself up in the fitting room, take this opportunity in life to really build a uniform, a suit of armor. You’re not the person you were pre-pregnancy, inside or out. Accept that, and build a very simple uniform that will get you through this time until you become good friends with the New You – the woman with a child, with a changed lifestyle, new priorities, and new hips.

The first year of Emerson’s life was incredibly difficult for my ego, my confidence, my blogger self. It was hard enough adjusting to being a new mother, I had to re-learn my skills at my full-time job, and still felt that I had to be some sort of style expert here. The way I got through was by making my wardrobe so incredibly simplistic that it really became a uniform. When I found a silhouette, fabric, or brand that worked, I purchased multiples. I didn’t try to put my very round peg into a square pair of trousers, I found pieces that were soft, comfortable, wearable, yet had polish.

These items aren’t easy to find, but they ARE out there. Some suggestions:

  • Ponte knit trousers. I found some at Old Navy – they had a standard style with pockets and zip fly, but the fabric was so stretchy, it worked with my body. Ponte knit is thicker than your standard yoga pant, so not only did it make the trousers work-appropriate, they also did a far better job of hiding the lumps and bumps.  I have also found great ponte pants from NYDJ, LOFT, and even at Target.
  • Wrap dresses. I found a jersey wrap dress in Talbots that had a full skirt and blouson sleeves and bought it in every color I could find. I had matte jersey wrap dresses from Talbots, Old Navy, Max Studio, Ann Taylor, and Maggy London. When jeans and pants failed me, dresses made me look polished, feminine, curvy, yet were comfortable. I paired with tights and a wide-heeled Mary Jane in winter, and sandals in summer. The wrap styling whittles and hides the waist, flatters the bust (and is great for nursing moms) and the skirt conceals the lower belly, rear and thighs nicely.
  • Lightweight drapey cardigans. Right now these are so en vogue, it’s easy to find them in your favorite color and a wallet-friendly pricepoint. To hide the belly, pull together at the center and wear a proper belt over it. The belt does NOT have to be tight, but a leather or wide stretchy belt will give a bit of definition not found by a self-belt. Buy one in a fantastic color, have a contrast color belt, and this will make your simple nursing tank and knit pants or leggings look chic.
  • Tall boots. Again, this is something that is very fashionable now so it’s easy to find them at most any retailer. Tall boots will make leggings or jeggings look chic, and will dress up the most simple pieces. Get a low heel so they are comfortable. If you fear buying boots now because you believe your legs will slim down, know that a cobbler can easily narrow the boot shaft when you do get to your goal size.
  • Color! It’s so easy to try to hide in black and gray, but this is the best way to look even more uncomfortable in this constantly changing body. Cobalt blue, royal purple, rich berry, deep teal, cherry red… whatever the color when you wear it people will notice it first, not your figure. Not only that, when you look in the mirror and see that great shade of candy pink or pumpkin, you will feel happier (and your skin will glow more!)
  • Great bras. Many nursing bras are created for convenience, not for good support and definition. Take the time to find a couple that can multi-task. I found Anita bras (which I found at Nordstrom) to be supportive, pretty, and still easy to use when nursing. If you aren’t nursing, you still need to be fitted for your new size. Even if you know your size will change, invest in two bras for this time being. When your breasts are supported, separated, and happy, you will look slimmer and stand taller.
  • Control garments. I am not talking high-powered girdles, but I know I felt a little bit more… me with a bit of spandex under my attire. My Spanx Higher Power shorts were great because I didn’t feel constricted, but had a smoother line under all my clothes. I was surprisingly more comfortable in a light control garment than without because it seemed to put my body back in place those couple of weeks after childbirth where everything seems to be loose and weird inside your body.

Keep your wardrobe simple and small so that when you wake each day, you aren’t overwhelmed by options. Two pairs of pants, two pairs of jeans, three dresses, two cardigans, three sweaters or tops, one pair of shoes that work with pants and jeans, another pair that works with dresses, a pair of boots that works with all. Who CARES if you wear the same pants twice in one week, or you end up wearing the same black wrap dress every Tuesday? You have better things to think about right now. Focus on quality so these clothes can handle multiple washings and wears. Looks for items that can be laundered at home, carry a Tide to Go pen with you at all times, and utilize accessories like pashminas, oblong scarves, multiple necklaces (I am a fan of pearls – a couple strands in different sizes can give instant glamour) and fun earrings to take attention from your body and simple pieces and add glam and style to your uniform.

Don’t try to adopt the newest trends, don’t try to be the fiercest mama in town. Keep it simple, keep it quality, keep it comfortable, yet keep it well-fitting and having some style. These pieces will be your suit of armor – your way of meeting up with old friends and not feeling like a schlep, to attend that first board meeting after maternity leave, to feel more you when leaving the house.

Stop comparing your speed in weight loss and body firming to the celebrities (or even the other women in your Mommy and Me group). Each woman is different. And even the woman who fit back into her rag&bone jeans a month after childbirth may be pinching and grimacing in the mirror each morning. This is a process. Take this time as a forced spiritual journey to finding yourself. Instead of an ashram in India or a spa in Arizona, you are finding your center on the subway, at the grocery store, in your office.

This period of life does not have to be spent in sweats, nor does it have to be spent with a muffin top and a bad sense of self. Be kind to yourself, keep things simple, and work on you and your family. Through this process, you will come out to be a stronger, deeper, more wonderful woman. Clothing shouldn’t make you feel bad about yourself, clothing shouldn’t stress you out. Clothing should be the armor to get through this period. And there is no proper length of this period – only you know what is best and when you are ready to start properly outfitting your New You.

 

Crimes of Fashion

Bad things happen to good clothing. Often times it is not the garment that commits the crime, the woman who puts it on her body. The thing is, we women just can’t admit the truth about ourselves.

We have large breasts.

Grass is always greener, huh? Those with small breasts wish for larger, and those with larger breasts know it’s not always a great thing. It’s hard to look conservative, fit into tailored cotton shirts, or wear a bathing suit and maintain eye contact with a man. Backs ache, bras are matronly, and forget wearing those spaghetti strapped little tanks and dresses…

Seriously, forget wearing them. Unless your breasts are very young and pert or surgically enhanced, or you have found the miracle strapless bra that actually lifts and separates and doesn’t dig into your armpit after two hours of wear (and if you have email me!) these delicate little tops are not going to look good. Wearing clear straps, an unsupportive bra with skinny straps that almost hide, a strapless bra that flatters as much as a sports bra or attempting to get by with the little shelf bra that is in the garment is not going to benefit your figure or your sense of style. Same goes for attempting to wear such a top with a tank or tee shirt underneath – this look is great for tweens who shouldn’t be baring skin, but not for mature adult women.

This also goes for tops that have built-in cups and underwire (bustier-inspired tops), cut-out, halter and low-cut tops that make any sort of bra impossible, and those handkerchief-style backless tops (again no bra is possible and there is zero support in front). Drooping, jiggling, smooshed and wayward breasts are never sexy, and never ever stylish.

We have curvy arms.
Nope, we don’t all have twigs for arms – most of us (especially if we have large breasts) have larger and softer arms. Those of us who work out often have larger arms too due to strong biceps and triceps. Neither of these types of arms are bad – they are beautiful! However we seem to always want to torture them.

When you wear a sleeve that suffocates or cuts into your upper arm, it not only feels uncomfortable – it looks uncomfortable. Go and open a door and you flex your bicep causing even more pain and fashion awkwardness. A sleeve that is stretching at the seams, cutting your arm in half, or wrinkles due to being so tight is not stylish, and it is noticeable. That garment flaw alone can ruin the entire look of your outfit and make your arms look bigger than they actually are.

Large arms are not a bad thing – we women often focus on them when the rest of the world doesn’t even notice. Arms are usually made in balance with the rest of the body and they are made to assist us in daily functions. Arms usually look smaller when exposed or draped in flattering fabrics, then when hidden. Just as with your stomach – large arms look larger under baggy or too tight garments, but are not even noticeable in well-fitting pieces.

What to do? Don’t shell out hard-earned money on clothing that doesn’t fit on all parts of your body. Juniors fashions often run smaller in the arms so consider looking in the Misses department. Garments with lycra or from knit will be more comfortable and forgiving. Accept that some styles are not made for your frame. We all can’t wear stovepipe jeans, mini skirts, deep-plunging necklines, backless dresses… and we all can’t wear little capped puff sleeves on cotton dresses. This isn’t a bad thing – no trend is a must-have or death look. I personally have large arms – had them at 100 pounds and at 200 pounds and never lack for garments to fit in stores. I just usually shy from stiff fabrics and sleeves that hit in the center of the upper arm.

We’re Tall.
I know it’s hard to find proper trousers when you’re tall. Selection is limited, often what a company calls “long” is lucky to be 32” in inseam. While the 5’6” women of the world can wear all sorts of fabrics and patterns, tall women are often stuck with plain denim and drab colors of simple-styled trousers.

Well you will look a heck of a lot better in a simple pair of black trousers that hit at the right place than a cool pattern of trousers that hits somewhere near your ankle bone. Tall boots and ballet flats do not disguise a trouser from being too short. Your best bet is to do your homework – join tall women message board, Google for boutiques that specialize in long lengths and keep it simple. Find creativity in accessories and other garments; for style comes with fit, not with trend.

We’re Short.

Petite clothes are hard to find, especially when you aren’t petite everywhere else. It doesn’t hurt to cuff some items, and if you’re moving, no one notices that your sleeves hit your second knuckle and your shoulders are sliding off… right?

Wrong. Cuffing, stapling, Stitch Witchery-ing, and letting things hang and drag is never flattering. As with tall women, it’s better to have less that fits correctly than look as though you are shrinking before our very eyes. If you find a pair of pants that fits well – buy a couple of pairs and care for them. For items that almost work, spend a few extra bucks and go to your local dry cleaner or tailor to have the sleeves and legs shortened to an appropriate length.

We Don’t Want to Admit the Season.
A pair of tall boots with capris does not make a summer trouser a winter one. I have NO CLUE who thought of this trend, but that person should be arrested for a major crime of fashion. Tall boots with cuffed or tucked in jeans – cute. Tall boots with tweed or wool gauchos – a bit dated but it at least makes sense. Tall boots with stretch twill, crepe, cotton or sateen trousers – please NO!

This also goes for summer fabrics (eyelet, seersucker, cotton, linen, cotton voile, etc.) being paired with opaque hose and cardigans in an attempt to make them wintry, wool and wintry fabrics with lightweight tops and sandals in spring, and floaty babydoll tops paired over dark turtlenecks.

Style doesn’t come with how big your wardrobe is, but by what is in it. It’s okay to pack up those summer linens or wintry woolens come the end of that season. Even if you only own three pairs of pants – it’s better to have three pairs that fit your body and the weather, than trying to extend a wardrobe that just isn’t created to be extended.

Many fabrics do work quite well in many seasons – matte jersey, crepe, some silks, suiting fabrics, ponte knit. If you are looking to extend your wardrobe consider these fabrics in solid colors that don’t focus on a certain time of year (hello pumpkin orange or lemon yellow). Black, ivory, brown, navy, khaki, true red and cobalt blue are some shades that do work year-round. Stick to neutrals or clear and true colors and these fabrics can do multi-seasonal duty!

We’re Obsessed with Matching.
Beautiful pink cashmere sweater, chic pink houndstooth tweed pencil skirt, gorgeous pink pearl necklace and bracelet, elegant pink crocodile pumps, and what a darling pink crocodile clutch. Individually, all of these items are wonderful and can be quite stylish. Paired together, and you look like Socialite Barbie.

I often see this happen most with animal prints and bright colors (lime, orange, pink). Leopard headband, shoes, belt, collar and cuffs, purse. Lime capris, jacket, flats, tote bag, sunglasses and (gasp!) scrunchie. Patriotic embellished tee, red striped skimmers, blue shorts with white piping, star-shaped earrings and bracelet. Blue gingham capris, halter top, blue sandals, blue hoops and bracelet, blue gingham sun visor and blue eye shadow. Get my drift? Home shopping channels and many mail-order catalogs may lead you to believe that highly-coordinated outfits will bring you style; friends may comment, “what a well-matched outfit!” You may be known for your signature style of animal print/candy pink/frog patterned clothing but that doesn’t mean this look is polished or stylish.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up your passion. Leopard print can still be your calling card, but it will make more impact in smaller doses. Leopard-print heels are a neutral that will coordinate with anything from jeans to cocktail dresses; a leopard clutch will add interest to your LBD, switch out self belts in your dresses with a leopard one to add variety to your look. If you always think pink, you can work it in the same manner – play it up in accessories, shells under suits, and small wardrobe accents. Small accents create big (and more expensive looking) style. You will be amazed how the compliments will change from the coordination to your actual look, and how much faster people will “get” that you are wearing a signature style, not just on the matchy-matchy boatride!

We’re Not 21 Anymore.
I definitely do not subscribe to the rule that once you hit 30 you have to start shopping in Talbot’s, but I do believe that different ages should wear different things.

Just as a 21 year old looks ridiculous in a Chanel suit, so does a 41 year old in a tattered denim mini. Your life is not the same as it was ten years ago, your wardrobe should adjust with your life. If you have a conservative job, you purchase suits and tailored blouses. If you suddenly switched careers and started working at a laid-back creative firm, you would probably donate the suits and switch to jeans and trendy tops. Adjusting to your environment and your lifestyle makes sense – it helps define who you are to the world and keep you comfortable and true to yourself. Running around town in clothes from Forever 21 and Delia’s is not being true to yourself. You can still be sexy, funny, ironic, girly, quirky and artsy in pieces that fit your entire life – not just the one you used to have.

Neither Do We Have One Foot in the Nursing Home.
No one says that just because you have children of a certain age, or you’re retired, or you’re a grandmother than you have to putter around the house in appliquéd tees, polyester pantsuits and frumpy frocks. Style and personality can be achieved at all ages while still maintaining class.

Get outside your box and check out some of the fabulous women over 40 who are on television shows. Check out magazines like More that focus on style for women over 40, and glossies like InStyle and Bazaar that offer tips on how to take today’s trends and make them wearable by women of every age. Google women like Barbara Walters, Helen Mirren, Diane von Furstenberg, Oprah Winfrey and check out images of them out on the town. It is possible to be appropriate, comfortable and fabulous no matter your age.

We Don’t Consider Fabric.
It’s a blue top and blue skirt, but the top made of cotton and the skirt is made of rouched silk. You’re wearing a chunky black wool sweater, casual jeans and black stretch satin stiletto booties. Black patent crocodile pumps with a conservative tan pantsuit. A gray silk cocktail dress with a navy leather handbag that has gold buckles and an adjustable shoulder strap. White and pink cotton sundress with white patent leather sandals with clear heels.

The colors all may work, but the fabrics clash. This often happens when one tries too hard to match, or to copy a trend in a magazine. Think about clothing the way you would about home décor, or seasoning on food. Curry, sage, vanilla and cumin are all wonderful herbs, but they don’t all taste good when mixed together. A baroque-inspired couch doesn’t look as beautiful as it could when paired with a slipcovered denim chair and a mission oak coffee table.

Stop trying so hard, and go with the organic flow. Fabrics that feel similar often work best together. Smooth with smooth, texture with texture, heavy with heavy, etc. If this still confuses you, purchase simpler fabrics. Stick with smooth leather or microfiber shoes, knit and twill clothing, simpler silhouettes, less embellishment. Know coordination doesn’t come from color as much as from fabric and silhouette.

You may also wish to visit:
The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe
How Does One Get the Polished Look?
A New Look on Fashion
How to Have Style