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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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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!

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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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.

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!

Fashion By Decade

Ask Allie: Interview Attire to Cover a Tattoo

I’m graduating college in the next couple months, and I realized I don’t have any work appropriate clothes! My field of study was Graphic Design, so the creative arts is where I’m headed for sure….only problem is, I’m not sure if my new employers are all gung-ho about me having a tattoo on my arm. What would be a few outfits that would be decent for career hunting in the creative field, that would hide my forearm tattoo? I don’t want to look like a stuffy person with just suit jackets galore.

How exciting, what a crazy time for you! I wish you the best in your last semester and much luck on the job hunting process! I’m glad you are considering this; while tattoos have become quite common in all sorts of fields, there are still many who don’t fully understand or appreciate them. A first interview is time to dress to sell your skills, not your sense of personal style.

As soon as I read your submission, I thought wrap dresses! From Target to the creator of this style of dress, Diane von Furstenberg, a wrap dress is chic and office appropriate. Be it a bracelet-length sleeve that covers the tattoo but lets the wrists show, or a long sleeve, such a dress would be great for a creative interview and works all year round. An alternative is the shirtdress; if not too casual of a silhouette (keep the chambray and shirttails for once you have the job and look for something more tailored and polished) it can look sophisticated and stylish for your interview.

An alternative dress is the sheath or shift dress. A sheath has a more fitted silhouette, a shift can vary from a bit of tailoring to being more sack-like. If choosing a shift, I’d stick with one with a bit of tailoring for a cleaner and more professional feel. Either style of dress with bracelet or long sleeves is elegant and on trend. It can be left simple, or personalized with a great necklace or scarf.

Not all jackets are stuffy and suit-like. One of the best ways to relax a blazer is to break it from its matching skirt or pants. A white or ivory jacket with black pants can look modern and hip, a black jacket over a printed dress loses its boardroom feel.

But don’t feel you have to stick to classic suiting blazers. A cropped swing jacket, trench-inspired jacket, or a moto jacket can be a fantastic alternative, especially when interviewing in the creative arts field. I once interviewed a woman for my non-creative arts company who wore a gray knit moto jacket over a black sheath dress. Paired with tall black boots and a modern silver necklace, the look was stylish, unique, but still appropriate at my more conservative office.

 
For details on the specific pieces seen in the graphics, visit my Polyvore account.

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Ask Allie: Interview Outfit Advice

I am interviewing for my medical residency postgraduate training position and had a fashion query. I got these really flattering black pants from Ann Taylor but wasn’t really comfortable with the short length of the blazer for they didn’t cover my bum; would a boyfriend blazer work or would it be too casual?

A true “boyfriend” blazer is oversized. The name comes from some outdated idea that women are smaller than their obviously male partners and if we put on their clothes, we’d find them oversized and slouchy. A “boyfriend” blazer often has rolled sleeves, shoulder pads, and a squarer shape, along with being longer (often hitting low hips to below the rear). A true “boyfriend” blazer wouldn’t be the best choice for your interview as it would be too casual.

However, you provided a link to two blazers that while they are called “boyfriend” by the company, they actually are not. These jackets are tailored with seaming to nip in at the waist, proper buttons, and look to hit mid-hip. If in a more refined fabric (classic suiting, gabardine, wool, triacetate, etc.) such a style would be quite appropriate for your interview.

Since the piece comes from a different retailer, instead of trying to have both in the same color, consider purposeful contrast. This way it won’t look mismatched. Since your trousers are black, consider a jacket in taupe, tweed, dark plum, even ivory or cream. If you choose a lighter color jacket, be sure it is well-fitting and consider a dark-colored or black blouse underneath to make the look more professional and cohesive.

I just bought a great black pantsuit but have no idea what to wear underneath. What looks more sophisticated for an interview, a button-front shirt, a silky tee, or a knit shell? Do I have to tuck it in?

All three are great choices, dependent on the actual piece, your body, and the interview. Button-front shirts can give a crisp, professional look if you have the figure. I don’t recommend them for interviews if you are busty or have a soft belly as they can be unflattering and gape when you sit. However if you have the personality or figure for such a shirt, it’s a classic choice; I recommend tucking it in for a professional look.

Silk tees, blouses, and knit shells are all great choices for interviews. This doesn’t mean a refined tee shirt, an old sleeveless sweater with fuzz balls on it, or a red satin blouse. Something that is in crisp, pristine condition, a professional silhouette (no cleavage or skin tight), and a flattering color.

Speaking of color… color is a GOOD thing! What you wear under your suit is a good way to show your personality. Be it a frilly ivory blouse, a pink cashmere tee, crisp gray button-front, or a dark red silk knit tank, it’s a simple way to add some of you to your interview look.


My boyfriend bought me [statement necklace from J. Crew] and I love it. Can I wear it with a gray pantsuit and pink shell for a job interview?

I suggest you don’t. While the necklace is gorgeous and on trend… it’s a bit too trendy for an interview. While I do encourage you to wear jewelry and add a bit of yourself to your interview outfit, a necklace that makes such a bold statement may speak louder than you and your resume. Who you are and what you can offer to the company is the priority during an interview; you don’t want to look as though you care more about what you wear than what you say. Consider a smaller, or less flamboyant necklace to add a bit of interest, but not take the spotlight.

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Ask Allie: Boho Chic at the Workplace

I love the boho style, but I’m a 35-year-old teacher and want to implement this in my work-wear. I already do a lot of maxi skirts and loose cardigans (I have even managed to dress up my tie-dye skirts that I wore to music festivals this summer!). Any other suggestions?

As a fellow festie and boho style lover, I totally get the vibe you’re trying to get. And I respect that you’re wishing to make your boho style be appropriate for your career. Boho fashion gets a bad rap for being unprofessional, but I feel with careful styling it can work in a school setting without having you look like a leftover hippie.  A few tips:

Example outfits to show how you can balance boho style with a workplace look.  
  • With the first ensemble, a drapey chiffon tank and broomstick skirt are tempered with a structured knit blazer.  Granny boots and a fringy infinity scarf keep the look boho without being extreme.  
  • The second look provides an example on how to make printed maxi dresses work for the office; a wrap sweater in one of the brighter colors will tone down the print.  Gold jewelry and a pashmina at the throat draw attention away from the dress and pull together the office-friendly boho ensemble.  
  • The third ensemble is likely something you already wear; choosing a monochromatic look makes the outfit feel more professional and polished.  ‘
  • The final ensemble is another example of how to incorporate a boho skirt and also temper a print with solids.

Be Subtle with Color. A maxi skirt, flowing cardigan, and tunic can look Mrs. Frizzle if you’re not careful with color choice. Very bright colors can look cartoonish, while all black can appear goth. Soft neutrals (gray, taupe, ivory, navy, olive) are safe bets and give a boho vibe while making drapey fabrics seem lighter. A monochromatic look (all shades of blue, all shades of teal) is a tasteful way to incorporate bolder hues.

Condition Matters. When you wear a boho look, it’s imperative that each piece is in excellent condition. With drapey fabrics and asymmetrical hemlines, it’s already easy to look sloppy; any frayed edge or worn spot will be even more obvious with such a personal style. Keep the weathered skirts for the festivals, and only wear the best condition pieces to work.

Balance with Accessories. A boho look is more acceptable in the workplace if you accessorize with care. Keep the Birkenstoks and weathered cowboy boots at home, and invest in well-structured leather flats, booties, and tall boots. A pair of gray suede tall boots will make your personal style more Stevie Nicks than wookie; ankle booties are a hot trend this season and they look fantastic with skirts of every length as well as tucked under looser pants. Stick to neutrals that complement your wardrobe – brown, gray, black, tan. Be sure they are polished and reheeled when necessary to maintain a refined look.

Along those lines, be careful with accessories. Along with the Birks, leave your jingly bracelets and fringy scarves at home if you’re wearing maxi skirts and loose cardigans. Balance the drape with a more solid cuff bracelet or necklace, consider modern-feeling leather and metal hip belts in place of a chain, smaller earrings with a more modern feel, bold pendants in place of beaded loops. If you wish to wear the craftier accessories, pair them with simpler and more classic clothing.

Balance Drape with Structure. I love blazers and jackets because they can make most things look polished. Balance a drapey maxi dress with a fitted leather blazer, full pants and a flowing tank with a blazer (roll the sleeves for a more relaxed look), a broomstick skirt with a belted soft blazer. I have a black blazer from The Limited that I purchased almost a decade ago and wear almost weekly because it has structure yet curved edges so it looks right with maxi skirt and softer lines.

Minimize Prints. If you choose to wear a printed dress or skirt, be sure to balance it with solids so your style doesn’t scream flower child. Pashminas and infinity scarves are a great way to stick to your boho roots while tempering patterns.

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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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How to Wear Wardrobe Classics with This Fall’s Trends

I really promote having a closet of wardrobe classics here at Wardrobe Oxygen, but I think it’s also important to add zest to your sartorial staples with seasonal trends that catch your fancy. This fall, there are so many trends that are extremely wearable and can really add interest to your wardrobe classics. Here’s a few of this season’s trends that I think will update all the basics in your closet!

 

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Leather Jacket

Leather is hot hot hot this fall, and I couldn’t be happier. I have already added two leather skirts to my wardrobe this season, and am looking for a leather jacket and possibly a leather top. While all leather is en vogue right now, a leather jacket is a piece that will not update your wardrobe for the season, but can easily become a wardrobe classic for many seasons to come.

A leather jacket is more of an investment piece – while there are many faux versions on the market, most of them look like faux, and they don’t insulate and fight wind as well as leather. Also a real leather jacket will age nicely, getting softer and molding to your figure. If you choose a style that is either pretty simple and streamlined or incredibly unique (signature color, exaggerated details, etc.) this can be a piece you wear for years.

Biker-inspired jackets are back en vogue though they never really left the fashion scene. A blazer is also a great look that is trendy now and will still be stylish next winter. While black is always chic, this is a great season to try an unexpected hue like oxblood or dark green. Pair with everything from knits and jeans on the weekend to using as a blazer to toughen up office-appropriate sheath dresses.

Cap Toe Shoes

I saw this trend start earlier this year and was pretty excited. I love when fashion grabs hold of a trend that is extremely simple to replicate at any pricepoint. The small addition of a cap to a pair of heels or flats take them from ordinary to extraordinary. While this is a popular trend for fall, it’s not necessarily one that will be seen as passé in a couple months’ time. I recently splurged on a pair of suede Mary Janes with a gold cap toe, but I have seen cap toe shoes everywhere from Chanel to Payless. Not only that, you can DIY a pair of cap toe shoes quite easily! I do recommend if these shoes are for the corporate environment to spend a bit more – cheap shoes often look that way, wear more quickly, and you can lose credibility or authority speaking to clients in cheap-looking shoes.

Wear cap toe shoes in place of your traditional flats or heels – a pop of color or shine will add depth to your classic ensemble. I love the look of tone on tone cap toes, it’s a great alternative to a classic leather ballet flat!

Wine-colored Lips

It is amazing how lipstick can completely transform not only one’s face but her entire ensemble. Adding a new color of lipstick to your beauty routine will quickly give a new life to your wardrobe classics. This season lips are the color of wines – deep reds, dark berries, and rich plums. While glosses were hot for the summer, this fall lips are more creamy. Stain balms, creamy or matte lipsticks and lip crayons take center stage; pack up your high-shine glosses and shimmery sticks for spring. Lipsticks can come at most any pricepoint, and I do find that department store brands do usually have longer wear and are better to your lips, but there’s some great drugstore products out there that will let you try this trend for less. I have the Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Romance (deep red) and Crush Begun (dark wine) and love them for their longevity, and of-the-moment stain with a hint of shine look.

Colored Skinny Jeans

This summer brought denim in candy colors, this fall the colored denim trend has continued but with shades more appropriate for the season of falling leaves. Skinny stretchy jeans in Bordeaux, navy, dark green, mustard and brown are being paired with slouchy sweaters and ballet flats, blazers and booties, and knits with tall boots. This is a trend that can easily transform your closet of wardrobe staples without paying an arm and a leg. While colored jeans are available from most any designer at all sorts of pricetags, I am a fan of the Old Navy Rockstar skinny jeans – at less than $30 they can help you update your wardrobe classics for very little money.

 

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Dressing for Your Interview

Job interview… those two words can create all sorts of fear and loathing in people. Having to sell yourself, but not too hard. Make a good impression, try not to have sweaty palms, fidgety hands, spinach in your teeth. And then of course, what on earth are you to wear???

Job interview attire used to be as predictable as a military uniform: a suit, preferably navy. For women, a skirt that came to a conservative length, sheer hose, sensible pumps. Little makeup, simple hair, one small accessory, no perfume. You are to show class, intelligence, sensibility and are of course selling your brain and skills, not your sense of style.

In this day and age, interviews are not so cut and dry. Yes, there are interviews that take place in a conference room where you are surrounded by bigwigs who are trying to stump you while seeing if you are a good fit for their company. Some interviews are still conducted on opposite sides of a large mahogany desk, but many are far different. Sitting in a Starbucks yesterday, I saw three separate interviews taking place. Went into the neighboring Barnes and Noble and saw a fourth. When I worked in retail we often had interviews as auditions – have the potential employee spend an hour on the floor and see how she interacted with clients and worked under pressure. When recruiting management, interviews often took place over a salad at California Pizza Kitchen or a latte at the Nordstrom Espresso Bar. With the variety of job and interview styles, so is there a variety of interview attire.

Just as with a wedding or any other special event, you often get fashion clues by the locale. You wouldn’t wear the same thing to an evening wedding at an historic mansion that you would for a daytime wedding at a strawberry farm, you shouldn’t wear the same thing for an interview at Starbucks for a start-up ad company that you would for an IT job with the government at the CIO’s office.

A few basics, no matter the type of interview…

Shoes:
Unless you are applying for a very creative field, shoes should be sensible – no spiky heels, straps, funky wedges or adornments. Unless you know the culture of this company, I suggest being safe and wearing a closed-toe shoe. I mention a classic pair of black leather pumps in my staples – these are the perfect shoe to wear on most any interview with any style of dress. If you are not a pumps person, a heeled loafer, a sleek boot with at least a kitten heel, or a closed-toe t-strap heel can look stylish and sophisticated. I would shy away from wearing flats with your suit – this is a time where you want to look confident and have great posture. Heels, even a slight one can provide that bit of lift that will add to your overall appeal.

Bag:
As for your bag, your best bet is a sleek and simple tote – large enough to hold your resume, planner, cell and lipstick for a touchup, but nothing so bulky that you look as though you plan on staying for the weekend. I have a black leather tote I bought on sale at J. Crew over five years ago – the straps are stiff and work well over the shoulder or held in the hand. It is an open-top style with a zippered center dividing compartment. It looks professional enough to double as a briefcase, but stylish enough to work as a regular purse and compliment my attire. Make sure your bag as well as your shoes are polished and in the best of shape – people do judge one on her shoes and bag. If you don’t have this sort of bag, consider borrowing one from a friend for the day. If you require a laptop for your interview, try to attend the interview with just your laptop bag (tuck your necessities in the side pockets and leave your purse at home or in the car) so you give off an efficient and low-maintenance vibe.

Hair:
Keep it simple, and keep it fitting with your personality. If you are a long layered lady, there’s no need to pull it into a severe bun. I have been the one to interview ISDs and Sr. Project Managers for the military and government agencies, and the one to hire a makeup artist or personal shopper. In every field, it is good to see you have a bit of personality and a human touch. Stay away from accessories like clips and headbands and bows, if you want to hold your hair back do so with a hair-colored elastic or very subtle barrette. Keep it soft – no severe slicked back styles, fancy bangs, super-gelled curls. You want to be attractive, but not look as though you’re trying to attract attention.

Cosmetics:
A bit of makeup finishes a polished look. If you are not one to usually wear makeup, consider a touch of concealer and a tinted lip balm just to look finished. If you are a cosmetic-holic like moi, tone it down a bit for the big day. Stay away from shimmers, sheens and metallics. Eye shadows should be subtle, and neutral shades like taupe and khaki. Blush should look like a natural flush and no more, mascara should darken and lengthen but not be obvious, and lips should be a natural hue – a pinky brown works on most every skintone and in a subtle gloss or dewy lipstick will be pretty yet professional.

As for perfume, I do agree it can be distracting and unprofessional. If you feel naked without your fragrance, consider a light body spray or only half the application of your usual fragrance. Nothing is worse than a stuffy conference room with the smell of dry-erase markers, coffee, carpet cleaner and Chanel no. 5. When I have had been interviewed or interviewed others, I have switched out my signature Burberry London for Bath and Body Works’ Breathe Energy body spray, applied only to my collarbone and upper arms. This gives enough so that there is a fresh, attractive scent but cannot be smelled unless in very close proximity to me.

Your hands will be on display, shaken multiple times, at rest on the desk or table and often times will be in motion as you speak. Keep them cared for – moisturize a few hours beforehand so they are soft but not greasy. Give yourself a mini-manicure but keep your polish colors very subtle. A soft pink is always a safe bet – your natural color, only prettier. The Americanized version of the French Manicure (stark white tips, pink or tan opaque nail) is not sophisticated. I have often wondered about a woman’s true personality when I see the long thick acrylic tips with the chalk-white tips and have heard supervisors snark on interviewees who have had such nails. It is considered the equivalent of a dark orange Mystic Tan, an anklet or frosted hair in many circles. Consider what impression you are giving the next time you go for your bi-weekly fill in and polish touchup. Sometimes natural is better.

Accessories:

Remember that what you are selling at an interview is you, not your outfit. Accessories should be kept to a minimum, having at most one piece that is strong. A necklace that compliments the colors of your outfit, a brooch, a solitary bangle, an elegant watch. For the interview, consider leaving at home your jingly charm bracelet, your multiple small necklaces you have received as gifts, your many rings, your toe rings, anklets and any timepieces that are very trendy or athletic-inspired.

What to Bring:
Bring your planner or Blackberry so you can schedule a possible second interview (or even your start date!) on the spot. Have a nice looking pen (no chewed ends or logos from your local Curves or Realtor) to use, and have a notepad either in the planner or separate to take notes and jot down dates and numbers. Bring a copy of your resume – the resume they may have received via Monster or another job search website will be covered with ads and weird graphics and it is always nice to receive a fresh copy (on nice resume paper) to review during the meeting. I place mine in a blank envelope to keep it protected. Bring your cell or Blackberry, but put it on vibrate or turn it off during the interview. Have powder and lipstick for a quick touchup in the car or lobby before entering the establishment. If you are asked to bring a portfolio, ensure it is in top-notch condition, current and professional. References aren’t asked for as often as they were in the past, but it’s good to have a second envelope ready with references if you are asked to submit them.

A few ideas for a few different fields and interview styles…

Interview at the Corporate Office:
This is the time for the true “interview suit”. Unlike the past where only certain suits were apropos, there is more leniency in what colors and styles are acceptable.

A skirt seemed to be standard and proper, but now women are able to express power in trousers as well. Do not feel that you need to wear a skirt; however if you prefer a skirt hose is a necessity. A sheer pair is a good choice year-round. Black hose can seem either tartish or dowdy – they are not as basic as they were a few years ago. If you wear black hose, I recommend that they are very sheer, with a gray or black suit and gray shoes. As for tights, they often look a bit too trendy or childish and think should be reserved for once you have the job and can dress more casually.

As for suit colors, a neutral like gray, black, navy, dark brown are always good. If your coloring allows it, a taupe or camel can be quite lovely as well. If you are interviewing for a creative job (arts, advertising, marketing, entertainment) you can often be a bit bolder with colors – an ivory suit with black accessories will be well remembered, colors like olive and red can look professional while still showing your personality. Keep the suits solid and simple – no funky contrasting-color lapels, decorative embellishments or couture details. Think Tahari, Ann Taylor, Theory, Jones New York. It can come from somewhere else, but it should have that classic, simple yet elegant style.

The shell or shirt under the suit is a great place to show your personality. Don’t stick with basic white or ivory, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of color, even in the most conservative of companies. I remember when I interviewed for a very serious government contractor, the woman who interviewed me wore a black suit with very faint pinstripes in white and teal. She wore under the suit a beautiful teal silk knit tee and a necklace of glass beads in the same teal shade. She looked very serious, professional, yet had a sense of style. I used to have a very dark olive suit that almost looked gray and would spice it up with a salmon-pink sleeveless tailored shirt underneath. A navy suit can still look serious when you replace the white shirt with one in a pale lilac or French blue.

Casual Interview or Interview at Coffee Shop or Café:
Are you meeting here because it is a virtual office, or because the interviewer wanted a convenient and casual environment?

If it is the former, I would suggest you dress a bit more professionally (suit) to show that you can be trusted to meet with clients and give the correct image of the company. These days many more companies are having their employees telecommute 100% with the corporate office hundreds of miles away. You want to show that you are professional, sophisticated and can sell the company perfectly.

Often interviewers decide to have a more casual environment to see a potential employee’s “true colors”. The concept of chatting over coffee sounds far more appealing and will often let one’s guard down to be more candid with her responses. For this type of interview, you still should maintain a level of professionalism, but can take it down a slight notch. A tailored shirtdress with closed-toe pumps, tailored oxford with suiting trousers and heels, a blazer with a shell and trousers; these would all be fine alternatives. Think of the level between true business casual and business attire. No need for the pinstripe suit and attaché, but leave your jeans, chinos and kicky sandals at home. Also consider solids and very subtle patterns (pinstripes, tweeds, subtle plaids) so you are not lost in the design.

As for accessories, you can kick them up a notch… but a very small notch. Maybe a beaded necklace that hits your collarbone, an artsy brooch on your lapel, a silver and turquoise ring you bought on your last trip to Santa Fe. Only one accessory should be strong, and it shouldn’t be so strong that it is the focal point of your whole look. With an interview, the focal point should be you and your face.

Interview at Fine Dining Establishment:
Be it lunch or dinner, some interviews will take place at an elegant restaurant. For day, I think it is safe to say the same attire for a corporate office interview will be appropriate; for an evening meal consider a more elegant version of your suit. Take your black suit and pair it with a solid-colored shell in maybe silk, or with a more dressy neckline (u-neck, surplice, etc.). Accessories should be simple but have a bit more glitz – a strand of pearls, diamond studs, a simple amber pendant on a delicate gold chain. Other than that, you should still exude professionalism before panache – don’t go overboard with shine, sparkle or strappy heels. Makeup should still stay subtle – this is a dinner, not a cocktail party.

Interview with a Creative Company:
Yes you want to look innovative and hip and current, but you also want to look reliable and driven and professional. You are able to marry the two in the workplace, not it is time to marry the two in your wardrobe. Cargos and witty tee-shirts may be commonplace in the office once you’re hired, but isn’t what you should wear to sell yourself.

Instead of the classic suit, consider a more adventurous jacket with classic trousers – a white jacket with black piping and a funky button closure, maybe a wide belt over the jacket, pairing a great skirt with a wrap top instead of a traditional blazer. Even if it’s creative, I suggest keeping at least one thing traditional – have a funky top with classic skirt or pants, a simple top with an animal-print pencil skirt. Then you are safe if the interviewer is a tad more conservative.

Creative does NOT mean sexy. Sexy never fits into the workplace unless you work at Agent Provocateur or Hooters. Keep cleavage to a minimum, trousers and skirts at a comfortable non-tight level, hemlines near the knee and absolutely no strappy tops (personally, I think sleeveless is inappropriate as well).

But feel free to wear the bracelet you made, your signature necklace, carry your metallic blue leather motorcycle bag… just don’t be artsy overkill so that you are a creative mess. Keep it simple.

A Few Non-Fashion Tips:

1. Firm handshake, eye contact, don’t fidget.

2. Always have a question or two ready because they ALWAYS ask, “do you have any questions?” A good stand-by is, “why do you like working for this company?” I know I liked being asked that because I can sell a different level of the corporation and I can read the interviewee, when her eyes light up, when she seems bored by what I am telling her.

3. You probably will be Googled. I highly recommend on a monthly basis to Google yourself and see if anything pops up that would embarrass you. If your Facebook/Friendster/MySpace pages are searchable by your name, consider making them private and the profile picture very innocent. Along these lines, I know my company loves it when they find a person on LinkedIn. It confirms that what you have on your resume is accurate, and being networked with current and past employees makes it seem that you are liked and respected in the workplace.

4. Don’t tell too much about yourself. The interviewer may be very personable and friendly and you may find out you have the same alma mater, grew up in neighboring towns and both did a semester abroad in Spain, but that does not mean you should tell about your partying ways in Madrid, how you despised your Econ teacher or what church you attended in your childhood. Feel free to tell them you are married, that you have children but don’t go into detail. Sounds terrible, but even a mother and wife when deciding between two people of equal caliber would choose the person who has a more flexible schedule and time to dedicate to the company. Unless asked, do not tell them if you are in school, never tell them your ethnicity or religion or political affiliation.

5. It’s not always the best idea to put your sorority on your resume. Now if in conversation you find that your interviewer was in ABC and you are in ABC, then by all means let her know. However, unless this is your first job out of college and while in school you were the chapter president while maintaining a 3.8 and being in a few academic organizations, it doesn’t have to be part of the interview. Those who didn’t partake in a Greek organization in college will often see those who did as more like the cast of Animal House than a respectable woman who worked hard in classes and in bettering her chapter. If you know your audience is one who would respect the philanthropy and dedication of being in a Greek organization, by all means include it. As a member of a sorority, I know that we aren’t all ditzy drinkers; my sorority experience made me the hard-working, multi-tasking personable employee I am today. If you do include it, also include all the community service, volunteerism and leadership roles you have taken so it helps explain why you feel it an important part of your experience.

6. When asked what you do outside of work (and this is a very popular question) be ready with intelligent and interesting responses. Shopping, hanging out with friends, spending time with your children and “I don’t know, I work so much!” are not good responses. If you scrapbook, then you dabble in various arts and crafts. If you blog, tell them you love to write and read. If you love to putter around your yard, nothing sounds more virtuous than weekend gardening. If you are active in your church or temple community, don’t talk about the church itself but what you do (work at a soup kitchen, mentor inner city children, fund raise for a local women’s shelter). If you have nothing to say… maybe you need to do something about it. Do you volunteer in your community? Even one night a month attending city hall meetings or supporting the Neighborhood Watch shows you can multi-task, you’re interesting and you’re eager to make a difference in this world and possibly in their corporation.

Interviews on Casual Friday

So today I am conducting three interviews – for an intern for me, a Jr. Coordinator for me, and a Programmer for my department.

It’s casual Friday, and I don’t feel like dressing up. I do want to look a bit polished for the interviews.

Hair is straightened, sideswept bangs. Did a very subtle smoky eye with a pale dusty mauve on the lids and a darker plum color around the lash line. Decided to wear my glasses instead of contacts – they are purple, a cool style from Gucci.

On the body is a pair of vintage Levi’s that are perfectly worn, perfectly weathered, and perfectly slim without being hoochie. With it I am wearing a white wifebeater from Old Navy and an ice-green stretch twill blazer from Nordstrom. Silver hoops, silver cuff, and a modern abstract silver pin on my lapel made by my Great-Aunt. Shoes are tan thong heels – my staple all summer long.

not an exciting outfit, but a way to look summery, casual and still polished enough for interviews on Casual Friday!

Nordstrom and NIC+ZOE for Spring [sponsored]

I think you all know by now my love for Nordstrom. The selection of brands, the variety of sizes (and pricepoints!), the free shipping and returns, and the world-famous customer service can’t be beat. Nordstrom asked me to check out their NIC+ZOE collection and share with you my favorites. This wasn’t hard, as I have NIC+ZOE already residing in my closet and have featured pieces from the brand in previous capsule wardrobe and advice posts. Spring is right around the corner, and NIC+ZOE has some fantastic pieces in regular, petite, and plus sizes to update your wardrobe for the next season.

NIC and ZOE dresses

In last week’s capsule post I discussed the benefits of a dress that highlights the waist. While I recommended such a dress for a pear shape, it actually works on most figures by creating an hourglass and highlighting the smallest part of the torso. NIC+ZOE have a bunch of great dresses this spring that do just that:

  • The ‘Pebble Pieced’ Knit Swirl Dress not only has a figure-flattering fit and flare shape, but black lines that elongate the frame and highlight the waistline. I like that the print is fun, but not something that will look dated in a year, and the fabric can transition between seasons. Customer reviews say the fabric doesn’t cling and the dress is comfortable. With pockets and a knee-grazing hem, this is a dress that could be worn to the office, but also paired with heels and a bold lip for a wedding or Date Night. Available in Regular and Plus sizes.
  • I love dresses that gather or knot at the waistline; this is such a flattering detail and not one that detracts from the dress’ print or any accessories paired with it. In fact, my wedding dress had this figure-flattering feature! NIC+ZOE has a few dresses with this detail. The ‘Spring Rain’ Faux Wrap Sheath Dress is one you need to see in person (or magnified on the site) to appreciate its beauty. With the gathered side, stretch lining, and subtle blue, black, and white print, this is a dress that will flatter your figure and your lifestyle. Pair with a black blazer for the office, wear with nude pumps and a sparkly necklace to a day wedding, or wear with tan sandals and a straw bag for a summer brunch. Available in regular and petite sizes. The ‘Utopia Twist’ Jersey Dress has the same waist feature, but bracelet-length sleeves and an awesome cobalt, black, white, and gray graphic print. Just as versatile, this dress could also work now with black tights and booties. Available in plus sizes.
  • I referenced the Belted Surplice Bodice Pleat Dress in my latest capsule wardrobe post and love it so much I have it sitting in my Nordstrom virtual shopping cart, considering buying it for myself. The blue color is phenomenal, the wrap neckline elongates the frame and since the fabric has stretch will work with a larger bust without showing too much, the belt highlights the smallest part of the torso (and can easily be switched out for a different color or metallic), and the pieced pleating creates an hourglass shape. This is the kind of dress that will be worn like crazy all spring and summer. With the fabric, it’s brilliant for taking on travel as it won’t wrinkle and can dress up and down easily with a switch of accessories. Regular and petite sizes.

NIC and ZOE pants

Why is it so hard to find a decent pair of black pants? Based on the reviews at Nordstrom, it seems NIC+ZOE is a good choice for this closet staple and other wardrobe basics.

  • ‘The Wonderstretch’ Straight Leg Pants are another NIC+ZOE piece that is in my Nordstrom shopping cart. I am all about a work-appropriate pant that pulls on. Nice and stretchy, resistant to wrinkles, available in regular and petite sizes, and glowing online reviews makes this a great buy. They’re also available in navy, and a slim leg version.
  • You have to be pretty confident to describe a piece in your collection as perfect; NIC+ZOE’s ‘The Perfect’ collection does seem to be pretty fantastic wardrobe staples. An online reviewer says ‘The Perfect’ Ankle Pant (regular and petite sizes in seven different colors) has a nice heft keeping it opaque even in lighter colors and put together well with nice detailing. In the same fabrication but with a side zip and clean waistband, ‘The Perfect’ Pant also gets stellar reviews. Available in four colors and petite sizes 0-16. Finally, NIC+ZOE has ‘The Perfect’ Ponte Pant, which is a very slim pull-on style with front seams to elongate the leg. More like a heavyweight legging, this would be a great option to wear with longer sweaters and tunics. Pair now with tall or ankle booties, and come spring style with pointed-toe slingbacks or pumps. Like the other ‘Perfect’ pants, the online reviews are glowing. Regular and petite sizes available.

NIC and ZOE spring 2015

NIC+ZOE is great for other wardrobe staples too – they have a great selection of skirts, jackets, cardigans, and blouses in regular, petite, and plus sizes. The pants are just an example of what the brand offers. But what I like is their “something extra” sort of pieces; a sweater with an unexpected detail, the unique draping of a blouse, the print of a tunic or cropped pant that doesn’t reduce its versatility but adds fun and personality to these wardrobe staples. The ruffles and flattering seaming of this top that gets rave reviews and is perfect on its own or slipped under a blazer or cardigan. The amazing print on this top that makes a jaw-dropping ensemble even when paired with a simple black skirt or pair of trousers. The “business in the front/party in the back” feature of this blouse that is made for a desk-to-drinks sort of day (or perfect to pack for versatility on vacation). How combining this top with this skirt (tucked in or left out as seen above) would create the look of a dress (such a great option for people who are different sizes on top and bottom), but also work so nicely separated in different outfits. And the way that this cardigan can be styled four ways to look amazing with everything from a tank and boyfriend jeans to being slipped over a maxi dress this spring. Peruse the widget above for some more great pieces.

This post is sponsored by Nordstrom, but I hope you can tell by my excitement that I enjoyed sharing this line with you and all opinions are my own!

Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for a Fluctuating Figure

I’m going through a divorce and at the same time my only son has left for college [thousands of miles away]. I know I am self-medicating with food and I need to do something about it but in the meantime my clothes don’t fit. I don’t want to spend a lot of money because A. I don’t have it and B. I don’t plan to be this size for long but squeezing myself into too small clothes is doing nothing for my confidence. Any ideas on a capsule that can get me through this rough patch? I’m 48, average height, and right now a size 14 though usually I am an 8.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but a pair of too-tight jeans just make me want to raid the fridge. Having some flattering and well-fitting clothes will not only make you look better but likely feel better. Not only that, having a few garments that fit and are versatile will reduce stress over getting dressed, giving you energy to focus on caring for yourself.

What to wear when you temporarily gain weight: A Capsule wardrobe for the fluctuating figure

There are some fabrics that are more forgiving and budget friendly than others. During this time, ponte knit and matte jersey are your friends. Found everywhere from Target to the fanciest boutique in town, these fabrics have stretch, don’t cling, and can dress up and down with ease. Ponte is so heavy of a fabric it will smooth the figure while giving a nice drape. Matte jersey can dress up beautifully but be washed in the machine and doesn’t wrinkle.

Dresses are also your friend during this time, for they are more likely to adjust to your changing size without sacrificing your style. In this capsule I put two dresses that are extremely versatile and flattering to a softer or curvier figure. A wrap dress in matte jersey whittles the waist, flatters curves, and turns you into a bombshell. I purposefully chose a rich color in place of black so people will notice the color before anything else. This dress can be worn to work, but also can dress up for an after-work event, a wedding, or if you choose to do so, a date. The second dress is of ponte knit so it won’t cling; a fit and flare style highlights the smallest part of your torso and gives you an hourglass shape. A dress like this is just as versatile as the wrap dress but a bit more conservative. For work wear on its own, or pair with a cardigan or blazer; it can be worn with pumps, booties, or flats.

It’s worth it to purchase a simple skirt and classic-cut trousers in your current size, and if necessary tailor for a great fit. I recently purchased these pants from LOFT and found the price very nice for work-ready attire. Not only that, the pants are machine washable, reducing the money and time spent on dry cleaning. These pants from Old Navy are also machine washable and a classic fit.  A skirt in a heavyweight knit like ponte will look appropriate at the office, dress down with flats and a tee for the weekend, and also work with your changing size. This one from Target is a nice price and receives great reviews.  For Casual Friday and the weekends, it’s smart to buy one pair of jeans, a simple dark wash, free of trendy details that fit comfortably.  While my beloved NYDJ ‘Hayden’ jeans are pricey, you can often find them on sale at 6pm, and these jeans by Style&co are a nice alternative.

The best way to save money and feel comfortable is to forego wearing crisp button-front shirts, perfectly tailored wool dresses, and classic suiting and go for items with stretch. A v-neck cardigan with a longer line keeps you warm on crisp autumn days and dresses up a knit to make it office appropriate. As with the wrap dress, choose a cheery color that adds interest to your closet staples. A blazer is often necessary in Corporate America, but is also a great way to dress up denim for drinks with friends or weekend brunch. Choosing a blazer in ponte knit not only coordinates with the other ponte pieces in your wardrobe, but offers stretchy comfort. For this item, choosing a neutral will make the piece look more expensive and be more versatile; pair with fun printed and colored tops and simple dark or denim bottoms.

Finally, take care of the underpinnings. Though it may sound like torture right now, you need to be fitted for a bra. Our busts change with weight loss and gain as well as age; a well-fitting bra can make you look 10 pounds thinner, years younger, and have your entire wardrobe fit better. Speaking of underpinnings, consider purchasing a new pair of very opaque, well-made tights. Black tights with black shoes will elongate your frame and look modern with knit dresses and skirts; invest in a new pair that doesn’t sag or segment. I’m a fan of the Spanx Tight End tights which last me multiple seasons and can handle being machine washed on gentle in a lingerie bag. Little details like well-fitting underpinnings can make all the difference in how you look, but more importantly, how you feel.

I can’t stress this enough – it’s okay to wear the same pants two or three times in a week, to wear the same dress to every wedding, to only own two pairs of shoes. Style comes from quality, not quantity. Buy few items, but choose colors that make you happy and fabrics that are kind to your body. Keep it simple and add personality with accessories already in your wardrobe. Clothing can seem very important, but it’s really only important in that it covers you and lets you get through the day. You have far more important things in life to care about, first and foremost you. Buy what makes you comfortable, feel good, and give you the time to focus on what’s important. Sending you vibes of strength and love.

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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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