Search Results for: label/Shail K Dresses

A Life, Replotted: Dressing the Part

chelsea henderson for wardrobe oxygen

I used to have a closet full of dresses. Expensive dresses. I justified the investment (doesn’t that sound better than splurge?) because not only were they appropriate professionally, but one dress required little thought in the morning, whereas a two-piece suit also required a blouse option, and three wardrobe components were two too many for me to coordinate when also getting my young kids ready for school. Yeah, that’s what I told myself every time I handed over my credit card. “I need this dress. It will make my life easier.”

To complement all those dresses, I had a closet full of pumps. I’m ashamed now to admit how many pairs of shoes I once owned. I freely handed over the plastic for these too, all in the name of looking the part. Speaking of looking the part, I never went to work in lower than a three-inch heel, unless of course it was casual Friday, and I could get away with riding boots and skinny jeans.

Sigh. Skinny jeans. I didn’t wear any other style of denim.

“Oh, check out Chelsea’s shoes today,” co-workers would gush as I walked by their offices. “Chelsea can get away with wearing jeans to work. She just wears them differently.” The compliments fueled me to try even harder, and a vicious circle of vanity and debt was created.

My Life in Shoes

Then I left the face-numbing job in a stressful industry to pursue the crafts that fulfill me. I no longer wake up at the crack of dawn to figure out what dress-shoe combination to put on for the day. And since it really isn’t comfortable to sit at my home office desk in skinny jeans, I’ve traded those in too. In fact, I’ve cycled out of my closet most of the wardrobe I once spent so much time and money in cultivating.

“I used to be so intimidated by how you dressed,” my best friend admitted to me over drinks one night. It saddened and shocked me, but also got me questioning: why I was as obsessed with my clothes as I used to be?

The truth is, my clothes provided body armor. If I looked confident, I’d be confident, or convincingly act the part. I could walk into a meeting in the U.S. Capitol and be taken seriously. Not that I ever wasn’t. The crazy thing about insecurity is it’s often unwarranted. But I wasn’t fulfilled in my profession, so I compensated with budget busting clothing purchases and used my miserable job to justify the expense.

These days, I don’t need designer dresses and sky-high heels to bolster me. I’m just as happy to put on yoga pants and a sweater, a look I often take from desk to mat to casual dinner with my best friend. It’s nice to know I don’t intimidate her anymore. And likewise, I’m no longer scared of my credit card bill. Living authentically is not always easy. People question my choices, and the old attachments can still present temptation (oh, Frye boots). But a nourished soul grounds me more than any outfit ever did.

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

Ask Allie: Plus Size Wrap Dresses

You’re always saying how flattering and versatile stretchy wrap dresses are. But as a plus sized woman I can’t find any. Well I have found a couple but they’re cheap and the neck is so big my bra shows. Can you help me find one?

Oh pish posh, there’s plenty of retailers who offer plus size wrap dresses! The thing is, when you’re a less popular size, be it tall, short, plus, very slim… well very something, you’ll have to look beyond your neighborhood strip mall to find clothing that fits and flatters. But these days, online shopping is a breeze. So many retailers offer free shipping and reasonably-priced or returns, it’s easy to create your perfect wardrobe from the comfort of your bedroom. Wrap dresses don’t have to be a true wrap; often a faux wrap will give a better fit (and more modesty on a windy day) but offer the same figure-flattering shape and versatility.  You don’t have to take all advice literally; pick and choose to find what works best with you.  Here’s some great plus size wrap dresses to update your wardrobe for spring and summer and many that will work for the majority of the year:

plus size wrap dress

Printed Plus Size Wrap Dresses

I’m not a huge prints fan, but I do like them when it comes to the occasional blouse and the occasional dress. I have a couple printed wrap dresses and find them to be the perfect go-to for work, a day wedding, a date night, and everything in between. A print camouflages lumps and bumps, and makes a statement on its own without having to think too much about accessories. A maxi wrap dress is a great piece to have in your wardrobe – it dresses up easily and is such a fun yet comfortable choice for a party or evening out.

  1. Adrianna Papell Ruched Sleeve Faux Wrap Dress
  2. IGIGI Dominique Dress
  3. Fuzzi Tulle Faux Wrap Dress
  4. Kiyonna Essential Wrap Dress (available in four prints)
  5. MYNT 1792 Jersey Wrap Maxi Dress (available in solid and print)
  6. Tiana B. for HSN Printed Faux Wrap Dress
  7. BESPOKEfit Asymmetric Mock Wrap Dress
  8. IGIGI Lindsey Dress
  9. Kiyonna Flirty Flounce Dress (available in two prints)

plus size maxi dresses

Solid Plus Size Wrap Dresses

A wrap dress in a solid color is a wardrobe workhorse. Pair with pumps for the office, switch to a sparkly necklace and statement heels for a night out, change to slingbacks and pearls for a wedding. Matte jersey and silk jersey are great choices because the fabric can dress up and down with ease. Choose one with anything from an elbow-length to bracelet-length sleeve and get wear three seasons out of the year.

  1. ASOS CURVE Wrap Dress With Bow Front In Longer Length (available in two colors)
  2. ASOS Curve Obi Wrap Dress in Longer Length
  3. Kiyonna Maritime Maxi Dress (available in three colors)
  4. Kiyonna Wrapped in Romance Dress (available in three colors)
  5. Adrianna Papell 4/4 Sleeve Wrap Dress
  6. Avenue Classic Hi Lo Wrap Dress
  7. Kiyonna Winona Hi-Low Wrap Dress (available in two colors) – I’ve borrowed this one from Gwynnie Bee and think it’s a great fit
  8. Wendy Williams for HSN Fashion Wrap Dress (available in one print and four solid colors)
  9. Pink Clove Kimono Sleeve Dress (available in two colors)

Shop More Plus Size Wrap Dresses:

Maxi Dresses Are Not Made For Speedwalking

 It happens to everyone, even runway models who are paid to walk…

I walk fast.  If you are married to a person who is over a foot taller than you, you learn how to walk quickly.

At work, I am often on Webinars and conference calls and online trainings where I have to type, “BRB!” into a chat and dash to the bathroom once I have another person who can take over my role.   Because of this, I can pee faster than any man.  Get it done, get back to work.

Today I had to get to work super early, like it’s dark out and the husband and dogs and baby are still asleep early.  Get dressed in the dark early.  Feel around in the closet… hey that’s my Merona maxi dress.  One-step dressing.  Done.  I put on the maxi dress, feel through the drawers in my jewelery armoire and find my two silver bead long necklaces from H&M and my silver cuff and I am dressed. 

I haven’t worn the maxi dress to work before because I really don’t think it’s work-appropriate.  Somehow if the dress was knee-length I think it would be nice for work with a pair of heeled sandals and maybe a cardigan.  But a maxi dress… it seems to festive and tropical.  Today, I was tired, didn’t feel like wearing Spanx and knew my trusty black pants were in the hamper so I decided to go with the maxi dress.

About 20 minutes ago, I totally ate some office carpet when dashing to the bathroom.  Awesome.  Glad that the office near my maxi-crash was empty so I did not have an audience.

Not only are maxi dresses not work appropriate, they are also a workplace safety risk.  I think this was fate reminding me to adhere to my personal style laws at all times.  Break them, and receive punishment!

Green with Envy: Superstitions and Chic Dresses

I love that green has become a popular color in fashion, for a long time designers didn’t use much green because of superstitions regarding it.  Some say the superstition came from Carl Scheele, a Swedish chemist who experimented with arsenic to create a shade of green (known as Scheele’s Green) for wallpaper and fabric.  While the chemist knew arsenic was toxic, he figured it was harmless when used for something that wasn’t to be ingested.  However, when the fabric got damp, it would give off a poisonous gas that caused many to become ill and some die.  Others connect it to the French actor and playwright Molière who died on stage wearing a green costume. There have even been superstitions with the color green in relation to auto racing, that wearing green to a funeral will mean that person will soon have to wear black to a funeral of a loved one, and even in China there’s the superstition that when a man wears a green hat his wife is cheating on him.

I obviously don’t believe any of these superstitions and wear green quite often (most recently on the blog I wore this bright green silk blouse from Dobbin Clothing). When finding links for yesterday’s post, I came across a ton of utterly gorgeous dresses. They weren’t appropriate for the post but I just HAD to share. It’s a great color in summer and looks fantastic with white and tan accessories, gold and silver jewelry, and pops of colors like yellow, turquoise, pink, and cobalt. Come fall, the color transitions well and can be made cool-weather appropriate with a denim or black leather jacket and ankle boots. And we all know how fun it is to have a festive green dress for December holiday parties! So here’s some of the pretties I found on my search; if you hover over the images you can find out the price; many green dresses are on sale right now but perfect for the entire year!

Ask Allie – Nursing and Wearing Dresses

I’ve been loving both of your fashion blogs for years and years, but especially since getting pregnant with my now 13 month old. I am still nursing her, and don’t plan to stop for a while yet, but I’m finding I really miss wearing dresses! I notice that you wear a lot of dresses, but are still nursing at least some, so I was wondering on your thoughts about nursing-friendly dress-wearing.

Thanks a bundle!!

Hi Kati:
Emerson is now 19 months old (woah, how did that happen? I feel that I just got pregnant yesterday!) and am still nursing at least twice a day (before work if she is awake, once I get home and at bedtime). For the first year of her life, I not only nursed on demand, but also pumped at work so I pretty much needed an entire wardrobe that allowed me to whip out my boobs 24/7. I have found that dresses are actually some of the best wardrobe staples for a nursing mom.

Before even thinking about getting pregnant, I was a huge fan of wrap dresses. Wrap dresses whittle the waist, flatter the figure, and are simple dressing. A basic black matte jersey wrap dress can be paired with flip flops and a strand of turquoise for a beach barbecue, paired with pumps and pearls for a respectable office look, or jazzed up with strappy heels and sparkly earrings for a festive evening affair. Matte jersey is a fabric that is seasonless, doesn’t cling, doesn’t fade, doesn’t wrinkle, and washes easily (I put my wrap dresses on the gentle cycle in the washing machine and then line dry).

Not only that, but matte jersey doesn’t stretch out. This makes it fabulous for nursing. I will safety-pin the neckline closed, then remove the pin and move one side of the wrap over to expose just enough for nursing. It ends up being more discreet than many nursing tops, yet is still chic and flattering. I also have wrap dresses in jersey and since they can more easily stretch out, I often pair with a nursing tank or Second Base underneath so I maintain some modesty if Emerson ends up tugging at the fabric.

Surplice necklines are great for nursing. Just as with a wrap top, you can move one side of the dress under the armpit for discreet and easy nursing. You will see that almost every dress I own is either wrap or surplice neckline. They are great for nursing, and also flatter my figure (hide the tummy and flatter the breasts).

All dresses I have worn that are very nursing friendly. 

I also find sundresses with smocked bodices and straps, and dresses with elasticized necklines pull down pretty easily for quick and discreet nursing. I have a maxi dress with a smocked elasticized top that is one of my favorite weekend dresses because it hides a nursing bra, is breezy, and stretches back into place after nursing.

Nursing slip dress from Glamourmom

There are a couple decent nursing dresses out there that don’t exactly LOOK like nursing dresses. If I were more comfy with my postpartum tummy, I would be picking up a couple of these cute tank dresses from Glamourmom. The On the Go Dress by Motherwear is a very classic dress that doesn’t scream “Nursing Dress!”

When I was on maternity leave and pretty much nursing around the clock, I lived in nightgowns and maxi dresses with surplice necklines. They were made of jersey, washed easily, were comfy, and could slide over easily. Added a drapey cardigan and I was ready for when visitors appeared on my doorstep. I loved my nursing tanks from Anita because they looked like real bras, had a deep neckline so they didn’t show in lower-cut dresses, yet were very easy to hook and unhook with one hand.

When I headed back to work, I wore almost exclusively wrap and surplice-neckline dresses because they were comfy on my still-swollen postpartum body. My old pants no longer fit, I did not want to invest in new pants, and the last thing I wanted to do was wear those darn black maternity pants that I wore almost daily in my last trimester. Dresses made me feel pretty and polished, even when I working on two hours of sleep.

As my body started returning and Emerson started sleeping more, I could function a bit better in the closet. I started wearing pants and making outfits. However dresses have always been my go-to when I am short on sleep or creativity, as that they are one-piece dressing and nursing friendly.

Once I stopped pumping is when I started buying shift and other styles of dresses that aren’t nursing friendly. However I hardly ever wear them on weekends and take them off once I get home from work.

So get out there, and get yourself some dresses! You’ll be amazed how much easier nursing can be, and how much better you will feel when you look in the mirror!

Ask Allie: Plus Size Wedding Guest Dresses

All my friends are getting married, I have six weddings already that I know I am or will be invited to and I know more are coming. I’m single and haven’t had a boyfriend in two years and on top of that I’m a size 20 while all my friends are tiny. I don’t want to go to these weddings and get stuck at the single people table and be the sad lonely fat girl but I know I need to go. Any advice on what to wear to boost my confidence?

It doesn’t matter what you wear to these weddings, if you feel you are a lonely fat girl and sit at that singles table looking sad you will look like a sad lonely fat girl. The best way to get through these weddings and life in general is to have a blast. When you live life completely it shows; it alters your face, your posture, your energy. So put on your favorite lipstick, slip on some heels (and a pair of ballet slippers tucked into your purse for the end of the night), and rock your fabulous self in a dress that is as full of life and joy and you and the event you are attending.

My personal recommendation is to steer clear of black unless it is a defining factor in your personal style. While black is versatile and acceptable at most American weddings these days, it can have one think you’re uncomfortable in your skin or depressed. Many choose black because they feel it looks slimming but it’s not going to make you look drastically different and can give the wrong impression. On the other hand, don’t wear anything too crazy flamboyant; the day isn’t about you and you can still look fun and vivacious without too much bling or cleavage. A bit of shape is far more flattering to the figure than a loose tent and shows you know style and you know your body. And I can’t stress this enough – don’t be afraid to spend money on this dress. If you choose wisely and it’s not the same exact crowd at every event, you can wear it several times over the wedding season and also bring it out for holiday parties. The harsh truth is those of us who are larger or softer need to take more care with our purchases. Buy quality pieces, invest in tailoring for a custom fit. We’re not built like mannequins and cheap fabric, unlined garments, and poor fit can make us look bigger and sloppy. If between sizes, go up a size and then hit your local bridal boutique to find someone to tailor it to a custom fit. A few dresses that have caught my eye and I would think perfect for weddings:

plus size wedding guest dresses

  1. Calvin Klein Ruffle Front Sheath Dress: The chartreuse color is phenomenal; if you think you’re too fair to wear such a color look up pictures of pale fashionistas like Nicole Kidman who have rocked this hue. Pair with hot pink or tomato red lips and nude heels, with a statement shoe in another bold color and lots of lashes, or go glam with metallic heels and sparkly earrings. The fabric is the type that can dress up and down with ease and work all seasons of the year.
  2. ASOS CURVE Premium Placed Nautical Mesh Insert Dress: I love the bold pattern of this dress, the flippy skirt, and the fresh color combination that would be so nice at an outdoor wedding. Let the dress make the statement with nude shoes and simple accessories, or pump up the look with a bold pout and shoes. No need to stick to a nautical choice of red; orange, pink, Kelly green, and yellow would all look fantastic with this frock.
  3. Carmen Marc Valvo Floral Jacquard Cocktail Dress: This is an elegant dress that will make a statement without shouting. Keep it simple with nude or soft metallic heels, make it more formal with a rhinestone belt, or add a pop of color with D’orsay heels or a skinny belt in a signature shade (hot pink would be awesome). This dress is also available via Rent the Runway.
  4. Adrianna Papell Gardenia Dress: Tailored without being tight, a pleated skirt that is begging you to be twirled on the dancefloor, and a bunch of customer reviews stating this dress is perfect for a wedding makes this dress a winner. Wear as-is with nude or soft metallic shoes or add a bit of shine with a sparkly or metallic skinny belt.
  5. MYNT 1792 Sequin Stretch Asymmetrical Drape Dress: Don’t let the description fool you, these tiny sequins give more of a look of liquid metal than Studio 54. The silver is surprisingly versatile and can be dressed up and down with a change of makeup, hair, and accessories. In the winter wear with a black clutch and shoes; come spring choose a nude shoe to lengthen the leg and let the dress steal the spotlight.
  6. Little Mistress Floral Placement Skater Dress: This sweet dress is feminine, flirty, and figure flattering. Perfect for a spring wedding, you can also pair with a cardigan and wear to the office. Don’t be afraid to switch out the belt for one that better fits your personal style or to dress up and down the frock.
  7. Marina Rinaldi Plissé-Panel Dress: I know, more chartreuse! But it’s a seriously versatile color. Wear this dress with the included gray ribbon, switch out for a metallic or sparkly belt, or choose a belt or sash in a bold contrast color like cobalt, orange, or hot pink. The cut of this dress is also very flexible if you’re like me and may gain or lose weight throughout the year.
  8. ASOS CURVE Hitchcock Pencil Dress: Va-va-va-voom! This dress will surely make a statement, and the color makes sure you won’t blend in with all the other frocks on the dancefloor. Adjustable straps give a better fit, and the dark green works year round. Wear in the warmer months with nude or soft metallic, but bring the dress back out this winter and pair with black or sparkle for holiday fetes.

If you are unable to spend for a dress, consider renting.

  • You all know I am a fan of Gwynnie Bee – they are like Netflix for fashion. For a monthly fee you can rent everything from jeans to blazers to sweaters to dresses for work or play. The customer reviews help you decide which piece will work best for your figure and personal style, and you can send back a piece quickly in the pre-labeled shipping bag and get a new one from Gwynnie Bee in a jiffy.
  • Another option is Rent the Runway who now offers plus sizes. This is an especially great option if you’re attending a more formal wedding and don’t want to drop hundreds on a gown you’ll likely never wear again. However, Rent the Runway has dresses appropriate for weddings of all formality and the rental price is that of a cheaper dress that may not make as great of a statement. With stylist notes and plenty of customer reviews with photos, you can get a good feel of what dress would be perfect for your occasion.

Ask Allie: How to Style Leggings and Dresses with Maturity

I’m 41 and a curvy girl. I’m also 5’4″ on a good day. I’m proud of my curves. I like the look of shorter dresses with leggings underneath. How do I wear them without looking “too young” or too short/frumpy?

Oh how I love the look of a willowy woman in a tunic or shirt dress, black leggings and ballet flats; such a chic yet simple look for running to the grocery store, slipping on something for a latte after yoga class, meeting friends for breakfast on a Sunday morning. And every few months I try this with a dress that accidentally went in the dryer and my Ecco flats and realize, I am not willowy and such a combination makes me look as though someone cut me off right below my calf muscle or if I was headed to Twin Day at my daughter’s kindergarten class.

That’s not to say us curvy shorter women can’t rock dresses with leggings, we just need to be more aware of proportion. Here’s some ways to wear leggings and short dresses when you’re curvy:

Leggings with Sophisticated Silhouettes and/or Prints

The quickest way to look too young is to wear something that a child could carry off. Leggings with a babydoll or empire waist dress, an oversized sack, or something in calico or a very girly print can give the wrong vibe. Consider graphic prints and classic stripes instead florals or polka dots, mature details like military accents, belts, or showing a bit of skin with an off the shoulder silhouette. By choosing an obviously adult print or silhouette, the leggings look less like something for the playground.

Leggings with a Monochrome Ensemble

Leggings look more purposeful and create a figure-lengthening look when the same color or color story as the rest of the ensemble. Choosing more adult colors like navy, olive, black, gray, brown, and cream separates you from the kids at the playground. When the dress and the leggings are the same color, the look is cohesive and also looks far more adult and sophisticated. Use accessories to add interest and personality.

Leggings with Boots

Whether they are ankle boots or up to the knee, slipping a pair of boots over leggings adds volume, balancing the figure and reducing the frump factor. This past winter I regularly wore my navy sweatshirt dress with black leggings and tall boots and it looked far more adult and flattering than wearing the same look with flats. Boots also toughen up a look to keep it from looking too twee or childlike.

Tuesday, AKA Why I Love Dresses

Dresses rock for many reasons:

One-stop Dressing. No need to worry about your top matching your bottom, if your heel height goes with your hemline, and if you need a belt. Throw on a dress and you are good to go.

Comfort. Depending on the style, it’s easier to sit on one foot in your office chair, relax in the car on the commute home, and get around in general. This season’s a-line and babydoll styles make dresses the perfect go-to when feeling bloated or all around icky.

You Can Wear Comfy Undies. Again, this season’s styles make it easy to wear a great pair that covers everything, sucks in if need be, or offers non-restrictive ease and comfort. I have on my Victoria’s Secret cotton briefs in a very fun stripe under my work-appropriate crepe jersey dress. Usually these panties with thick seams and edging are relegated to rigid denim and loungewear and the Hanky Pankies work the 9-5.

Boys Don’t Have the Option. Unless a gentleman works in a very liberal environment, is at a music festival or Scottish, he is rarely able to sport a dress or skirt in public. Hey, something women can do that men can’t? Take advantage and sport those frocks!

Working What You Got. Great curves? Matte jersey, various fabrics with stretch and wrap styles showcase them. Great legs? Go for a shorter style with some great tights. Nice arms? Wear a heavier coat outside and sport a wool tweed shift. Dresses don’t work against a woman’s shape but with it.

Being a Lady. Now I am all about comfort, being able to cross my legs and sit on the floor and climb a ladder (or a tree). However, there is something about a dress that has you stand a bit taller, walk a bit more gracefully, sit properly. People open doors for you, pull out seats for you and often shower you with more compliments than when wearing trousers. If we have this ability to get attention and respect by the switch of our wardrobe, why not use it once in a while? Again, it’s a special something that only us women own!

This morning, I got busy doing everything but getting ready for work and suddenly realized I had three minutes – THREE MINUTES to get ready. Hair was washed the night before and was a scary frizzy mess, but a few large sections around a curling iron (and used to smooth bangs) and some Jonathan Silky Dirt made it look reasonable and not at all Mad Scientist. Then I threw on my red crepe jersey dress from Maggy London, the first black shoes from my closet (BCBGirls croco peeptoe heels), a few gold bangles from Ralph Lauren for a bit of polish and quickly slapped on makeup (philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Nars blush in Orgasm, khaki shadow from the Revon ColorStay shadow quad called Neutral Khakis, DiorShow mascara, Maybelline UltraLiner liquid liner on top lash line and Revlon LipGlide in Rum Radiance).

Not as easy to look so polished in such a short time with a pair of pants!

Ask Allie: What to Wear Under Fitted Knit Dresses

I have been following your blog for awhile now and bought many things from your recommendation; the latest one is a dress from Dobbin. However, I need the correct undergarments. I put on the Jockey shorts (also your recommendation) but the seams show. I have tried Spanx and they are a bit too constricting. Any advice as to what I can wear under dresses so I can incorporate them into my wardrobe?

fitted dress underwear control garment

As I write my response to you I’m wearing a wrap dress I bought from Old Navy that needs just the right light control garment to smooth my figure, gently hold me in without gas pain and without visible seams. Like you, I find I need underpinnings like this in my arsenal to wear under my Dobbin ponte dresses, my Karen Kane jersey dresses, and other frocks that need that special something. Here’s my favorite light control garments that I wear under fitted and knit dresses:

DKNY Under Bust Bodysuit

This is what I’m currently wearing with my dress. I have three of these babies – one in nude for light colored dresses, one in black for dark colored dresses, and one in the most gorgeous fuchsia because it was on clearance and I couldn’t resist. While this suit has seams, they are in logical places that match up with seams of most dresses. The rear has a wide lace band so there’s no VPL, and I LOVE that it can be comfortably worn with any bra from my lingerie drawer. The straps are adjustable, which is a perk for my short-torsoed self, and it’s actually PRETTY.

The crotch has a hook and eye opening that I find utterly ridiculous to try to maneuver, especially when in a public restroom trying to handle heels, strangers’ germs, and a fitted dress hiked up around my waist. I don’t unhook it with each visit to the lavatory but instead just slide the whole garment to the side, hold in place as I take care of business. But really that’s the only negative aspect of this garment.

This is not a Spanx-like control garment. In fact, it doesn’t do a lot of gut sucking. What it does do is smooth the figure. No indentation of a belly button, no segmentation from the waistband of panties or tights, no VPL. My body is the same size, but it appears to be firmer and smoother under clothing.

DKNY ‘Lace Curves’ Shaping Brief

I’ve written about this garment before because I’ve been a fan for many years. This is pretty much the same thing as the bodysuit, but it ends at the waist. Same lace back, same smoothing but not gut-sucking capabilities, and same ability to not look like Bridget Jones scary pants. Seriously, pair with a pretty bra in the same color and you feel retro bombshell.

Unlike the bodysuit, the shaping brief does have a waistband, and depending on your figure and softness, it may show. I find this piece best for skirts or dresses with a defined waistband. Also know they do stretch out with time; pairs I’ve had for a year still look great but slowly get bigger even with careful laundering. I buy a new one when Nordstrom has them on sale (not on clearance now but have been part of their Anniversary sale), and have found them at a nice price on Bare Necessities.

Spanx Tight End High Waist Tights

I’ll tell you a little secret; one of the perks of durable tights is that you can go commando under them. They’re opaque enough for it, and they can handle being laundered so often. This really reduces the segmentation and lines that can happen under garments.  I wear these tights on their own quite often because they suck in a bit but not nearly as much as the brand’s actual control garments, and the waist is high enough that it doesn’t cut me in the middle. If you’re someone who doubles up hosiery for extra opacity, control, or warmth; this is a great pair as they don’t shift and they can handle it without stretching out. And as I mentioned at the beginning, they’re super durable and can handle being machine washed on gentle in a lingerie bag (or even a run in your stockinged feet across concrete to catch a dog chasing down the mailman).

DKNY High-Waist Control Top Tights

I also like these tights from DKNY, and for all the same reasons mentioned for Spanx. These do run a bit tighter in the elastic top, but I actually like that because it gives an even smoother line from ribcage down. DKNY’s tights come in Plus Petite which is a nice feature that I wish more brands would embrace. But these tights are durable enough that this fall I’m wearing a pair I purchased in 2012.

So now I ask you readers, what do you find works best under fitted knit dresses?

Dressing for the Holiday Party Season

Dress: c/o Dress Empire
Tights: Nordstrom
Booties: Miss Sixty (similar)

Thanks to Dress Empire, I am totally ready for the holidays, no need now to shop for New Years Eve dresses! I took this Shail K dress to Key West with me, thinking it would be fun with some black strappy sandals, but decided to style it for the blog with opaque tights and booties for a more cold-weather holiday look. The dress runs a bit big – I ordered a 14 because usually formalwear runs small, but think a 12 or even a 10 would have been a better fit.  I like that this dress is festive but also quite comfortable – I could enjoy a couple of glasses of egg nog without feeling like a stuffed sausage.  I do need to wear it with a strapless bra as it will shimmy off a shoulder when dancing.  The dress is well made – no itchy threading inside, a nice stretchy elastic drop-waist and well-matched stripes and seams.I think this could also work as a tunic with a pair of leggings. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus Sized Work Attire Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get to know
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (
YouTube ( or

Good luck!


Black scoop necked cotton short-sleeved sweater with empire waist from Old Navy, black twill cuffed walking shorts from Gap Outlet, black leather thong heels from Mossimo, silver hoops from The Icing, silver cuff.

Hair is second day, I tried straightening it with the iron, but then didn’t have time to fiddle much with it so I threw it up in a messy ponytail with a black covered elastic and a few clips. Didn’t capture it in the picture, but the hair leaves a spiky waterfall of sorts at the top of my head.

Makeup is L’Oreal true Match concealer in W4-5, Body Shop bronzing powder in Light on whole face, Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint on cheekbones. Body Shop eye definer pencil in black on rims and outside of both lash lines, and Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on top lash line. Lashes curled, two coats of Max Factor’s Lash Perfection in black. On lips is Body Shop Liquid Lip Color in Sparkling Pink.

Yesssss, I am wearing shorts to work. I hate hate hate shorts, but this season’s variety of Bermuda and walkers are making me change my mind. It doesn’t hurt that these were only $20. When i tried them on, I was wearing my red peep toe pumps from Enzo and I imagined them with a white wrap shirt, looking tres hip. However, I do not own a white wrap shirt, and with knits, the red shoes (and my black peep toes from yesterday) looked a bit wrong (okay, a lot wrong) with the outfit. These shoes were the worst offenders for work. Now I can so see me wearing these with my pink blouson tube top from Victoria’s Secret and a pair of stacked black flops when I go back to the beach next month, but for work I needed to be a little more appropriate and conservative. So far one person complimented me on looking cute (whassup K!) and one person said “you look dressed for warm weather!” and the passive-aggressive coworker who always says something sweet yet snarky said “I never would have thought shorts for work!” to which I happily said “I know, I love current fashion!” and kept walking.

And there is a chick in another department who is wearing white cargo shorts today and wore denim cuffed shorts the other week, so I look far more appropriate. As long as the president doesn’t make a comment like he did with my Pat Benetar look, I am dandy!

Dressing for Your Date With Destiny

I am tired. Dog tired. This week is kicking my tail, and it’s only Wednesday. Today I had to get to work pretty early. I knew I had no meetings today, will pretty much be holed up in my office. I even brought my lunch. I would be on the subway so early, I could end up with an entire car to myself, the streets of DC would be pretty empty. I may only bump into a handful of people by 5pm, and I won’t be able to take outfit photos. With that sort of day, it’s tempting to roll out of bed, throw on something “presentable,” toss my hair in a ponytail and head to work.

Instead, I took a shower, put on an outfit I had worn before and knew was flattering and office-appropriate, did a one-minute makeup application of the basics (concealer, mascara, lip color) and headed out the door.

It’s so easy to justify a slob day. You’re tired, you’re hungover, you’re sick. It’s only a trip to the grocery store, you work in IT and don’t interact with humans, it’s raining, you just don’t FEEL like putting forth effort. I’ve been there. Today after two cups of coffee and looking longingly at a can of Diet Coke… I’m there.

The thing is, you never know where your day will take you. Your seemingly quiet work day may be changed by a visit from the CEO or a last-minute client meeting. Your early Sunday morning trip to the market could be the time you bump into your ex… and his new fiancée. You’re just driving your kid to preschool… and am asked to attend a quick parent/teacher meeting about your child’s behavior. You’re walking to the bank and bump into the person who conducted your job interview the day prior, or the person you really liked and went out on a first date with the past weekend.

You can’t predict your future, so you might as well dress for a date with destiny.

This doesn’t mean I expect you to don a party frock and heels on a rainy Saturday when you’re running to Target for a box of tampons. What it means is shopping for and owning a wardrobe that works, even if you don’t want to. What I have found is by limiting my shlubby clothing collection and simplifying my entire wardrobe it’s EASIER to get dressed when your heart isn’t in it:

– When an item gets stained, torn, misshapen, faded or no longer fits it gets removed from the closet. I have a box on the floor of my closet for pieces that need to be fixed, and a bag near my dressing table where I stuff pieces that need to be donated. It’s so easy to just hold pieces in your closet until you get around to fixing or tossing them… but that makes it all the more easy to put that piece on one day and regretting it later.

– Don’t hang wrinkled pieces in the closet. When they come out of the laundry looking like a crumpled paper bag, they go in that “repair” box and stay there until I get the time to iron it. Again, it’s so easy to justify wearing a crumpled garment – I have done it in the past. I tell myself it will get creased just getting to work or to my destination, or that the humidity will steam it out. Nope, a wrinkled from the dryer item looks very different from a pressed garment that got wrinkled with wear. This process prevents the temptation of “making it work.”

– I have one drawer for lounge/gym/painting a piece of furniture and that’s it. If that drawer starts getting stuffed I know it’s time to pare down. No one needs 20 pairs of sweatpants and 50 free swag tee shirts from every 5K race and conference they have attended. If the shirts have sentimental value, consider framing them or making a quilt (or store them elsewhere and switch out the tees every so often).

When I work out or paint, I only wear these clothes. I also change my clothes when I get home from work or an event so I can keep my nice clothes nice. This prevents nice garments from verging into bum around territory, and keeps my lounge clothing drawer streamlined.

– Even the clothes I paint in are flattering. There’s always a need for a Home Depot or Starbucks run when working on a home project. When the yoga pants get stretched out, replace them. Stalk Old Navy sales for replacement pairs – I have never paid more than $15 for a pair and I think their quality is pretty good. When white tees turn yellow or gray, hit them with some sunshine or oxygen bleach or get rid of them. Instead of those swag tees, consider getting some feminine-cut tees in flattering colors – Target and Old Navy are great places to find them for less, and this is one item where I always have success finding when I thrift.

– Buy casual clothes. This is something I didn’t do for quite a long time. It was either sweatpants or silk blouses and I didn’t own any shades of gray. I regretted it. Now I own some shorts, flattering jersey tees and pullovers, comfortable jeans and refined knit pants that can be worn out in public without feeling embarrassment. For summer, I love simple sundresses from H&M and other discount retailers (again another easy thing to find at thrift stores) – they can be thrown in the washer and dryer, worn with a pair of sandals and look like an ensemble while having the comfort and ease of a nightgown.

Can’t really tell it was a rough morning thanks to my uniform and choice of color

– Have a uniform. This doesn’t mean every single day you need to wear the same type of ensemble, but it means you have some go-to pieces that you know will work with little effort. For me, it’s merino v-neck sweaters with a pencil skirt or pair of wrinkle-free trousers – I can get dressed in the dark with this combo and feel attractive and put together. Many a very early and dark morning, I have gotten dressed by feel – here’s my Gap Perfect Trousers, here’s a v-neck sweater. I’ll grab my black ankle booties, a necklace or bracelet and I’m pulled together in five minutes.

– Embrace color. If you feel green, you won’t look as green if you are in a flattering hue instead of a neutral or black. You’ll also feel better when you’re looking at your reflection in a pleasing color. For me, it’s pink – be it bubblegum or berry, a pink color will flatter my skintone and lift my spirits.

How my closet was organized in January – slightly different now but same concept

– Organize your closet. If you open your closet on a rough morning and the first things you see are cocktail dresses and complicated blouses, you’ll get frustrated and seek out your jeans and flip flops.

For me, I find it helpful to have pants and skirts in the center of the closet. To the right are tops, to the left are jackets and cardigans, and then to the left of the jackets are dresses. To the right of the tops are the things I don’t wear on a daily basis – cocktail dresses, interview suits, out of season pieces that won’t survive being boxed in the attic. This way, I can quickly find pieces and get dressed with less stress.

I also find it helpful to have similar hangers throughout the closet. If you have those white plastic tubular hangers, hefty wooden hangers, clear plastic ones that come free with the dress your ordered online and a few of those skinny velvet ones, garments can get lost. For years I have stuck with the plastic hangers you can buy or get free with some retailers – they’re a consistent size, are great for open neck and spaghetti strap pieces, and often “monkey hang” to save space. Lately I have started switching to the slimline velvet hangers, but I am only doing it by category – all my tops first, then all my jackets and cardigans at a separate time when I acquire more. This way I don’t lose my black cardigan because it’s hiding behind my neon yellow linen blazer and black tux jacket.

My early-morning look – simple makeup, messy updo with polished bangs
– Create an emergency beauty routine. If you’re like me, you don’t have easy wash-and-go hair and you look better with some concealer and blush. And if you’re like me, some days you need to leave your bed but the idea of brushing your hair sounds like torture. When you’re feeling bright and bubbly, try out simplified beauty routines so you have them in your back pocket for days where you don’t feel your best or are short on time.

For me, it’s a messy updo with smoothed sideswept bangs – the messier the better because it will hide roots, grease, and bedhead. I let a few tendrils down so it looks purposeful, and use an iron or my dryer and a round brush to just make the bangs look polished. Takes less than a minute and is way better than a slicked-back ponytail with random bumps missed in haste. As for my face, I focus on what is most obvious – for me it’s the dark circles under my eyes and the redness around my nose and lips. A couple pats of concealer will even my skintone, making me automatically look more awake, healthy, and polished. I find mascara really opens my eyes, and I swear by Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Rose for quick color on the lips AND the cheeks (so easy, can apply without a mirror while dashing to your car). I also keep a concealer, travel-sized tube of mascara (they often sell them at the counter of Sephora or come with a gift with purchase) and the Burt’s Bees balm in my purse so if I can’t get the face on before I head out the door, I can at least do it once I arrive at my destination.

What are your tips for looking polished when you don’t feel so fab?

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True Fashionista: Beth

There’s a part of me who wants to be preppy. To be that fresh faced, girly, outdoorsy, classic. To be that gal with the breezy highlighted hair, crisp chino shorts, who knows her way around a boat and a horse. As I was growing up, I tried to embrace this trend a few times (college friends can recall my blonde bob/sweater tied around my neck phase), but I realized it just wasn’t my true personal style. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love it, and get very inspired by those who wear this look so naturally. Women like Beth, whose blog s e e r s u c k e r + s a d d l e s shows her effortless classic, preppy, and nautical personal style. Beth continues to inspire me with her clear vision, passion for fashion, and understanding of both fit and personal style and that is why I asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

Every outfit Beth features on s e e r s u c k e r + s a d d l e s is consistent to her classic style, yet exudes fun and nods to current trends. Be it pairing leather leggings with a plaid flannel, a neon satchel with a cargo jacket and distressed denim, or a trendy shoe with otherwise classic pieces, Beth adds edge to a colorful, clean, and sporty wardrobe. Thanks to talented photographer Kristen Tatem, Beth’s blog constantly features clear and inspiring outfit photographs

s e e r s u c k e r + s a d d l e s is a great resource for the woman who doesn’t have the lifestyle for flatforms and fishnets; Beth regularly gives me inspiration for my weekend and Casual Friday ensembles. She mixes sequins with denim, plaid with polka-dots, canvas with silk in a way that makes sense and looks fabulous. Beth is proof that that flats are quite chic and dress up nicely, and how a closet of well-chosen separates can give you far more options and style than a closet overflowing with current trends.

Like me, Beth finds leopard to be a neutral and I am always excited to see how she incorporates it into an ensemble, be it a skinny belt or a pair of brogues. She mixes colors like a pro, never looking like Rainbow Brite. As a working mother of two, she is proof that you can be stylish and still lead a very full life. One of the most interesting things I learned about Beth through this series, is as you’ll see in her answers, she too envisions herself at times with a different personal style!  As with every other True Fashionista, I asked Beth to answer the same five questions; here are her answers:

How would you describe your personal style?
I would say my style is a mixture of classic & girly with a bit of quirk.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I think I was born with this innate passion for fashion. There are pictures of me when I was 3 dressed up in my mother’s clothing, all accessorized from top to bottom, handbags, baubles, heels—you name it! It has truly always been my creative outlet.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
I think I’m just like all of us gals when I say I gather my inspiration from the mags, Pinterest, other bloggers, street style—I’m always looking for it everywhere I am!

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Sometimes I believe fashion to be unattainable for us everyday folk. Say for instance, if you don’t have an endless budget where you can drop a ton of cash at a time and have to be conscious of your spending. Or, if you’re like me, and don’t live in a bustling city with high end boutiques and designers on every other corner…that’s where Style comes into play. It’s about taking a play on the high end fashion and making it your own. Investing in the key pieces like handbags but playing with the of-the-moment pieces that you can find at your Targets, Gaps, J.Crews, etc. Style is defined by YOU!

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
I still struggle with not jumping on every trend bandwagon. I would totally love to do the urban, boho chic thing, but I would look & feel unnatural. Not to mention I’m no longer in my 20s, have two children, and live in the South–basically that aesthetic doesn’t gel with my lifestyle. So there it is, I think the process of finding your personal style is one that is ever evolving, but ultimately comes down to finding what YOU look & feel best in. I also think you need to be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s with color, a print, or a new cut of pant–just TRY it. It will help you get a better sense of what works for you.


The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments you never know she may end up being featured!

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My Head is Too Big to be Hipster: A Warby Parker Review

Once I got new glasses, I wanted more. A pair of red frames to channel my inner Sally Jesse Raphael, a funky blue or green pair to jazz up all-black ensembles, a funky shape to show personality at the office. I had heard a lot of great things about Warby Parker and decided to try a pair of frames from them.

Me in my new glasses – Lafont’s Issy & La collection, the frame is called “Gloss”

Warby Parker Eyewear’s mission is to offer reasonably-priced fashionable frames. On top of that, for every pair of Warby Parkers sold, a new pair is given to someone in need. Warby Parker is also proud to be a carbon-neutral company.

Warby Parker has a try-on program where you can pick five frames and try them on at home. They will ship the glasses to you for free and offer free return postage; I decided to take advantage of this program and see if I could find a new pair of signature prescription frames.

The Warby Parker site is very easy to navigate; click on your gender and then whether you desire optical or sunglass frames. From there you can choose material, color, frame shape, and width. From experience, I know my face is pretty wide, so I stuck to the medium and wide styles of frames. Since I already have a pair of tortoiseshell frames, I stuck to more unusual colors.

The glasses arrived quickly in a sturdy shipping box, and then a lovely navy linen box. Each pair of glasses was in its own compartment, wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name. Each pair of Warby Parker frames has the brand and style name inside on the temple. I found the quality to be stellar, especially for the price. These frames rival the more expensive designer styles I tried at my nearby glasses shop. The return process is simple – peel off the self-adhesive UPS label and drop it in a nearby UPS drop box. I couldn’t be more impressed with Warby Parker and their process… except that my face is too big for them.

Maybe I should have tried men’s frames, but I felt that almost every pair I tried (except for the Bensen, and they just weren’t a style I was looking for) was just a hair too small for my face. I often have this issue not just with glasses, but sunglasses as well. In fact, when I got my new glasses, they were the only ones I liked after trying on about 20 pairs – each other pair seemed just a bit too small for my face shape, even some of the men’s frames I tried.

So if you have a normal to small-sized noggin, I encourage you to try Warby Parker. The Warby Parker at-home program is completely free so you have nothing to risk; if you find a pair you like you can feel good that not only will you look great, but your purchase will also be doing good. As for me, I will have to look elsewhere, my head is just too big to be hipster.

Note: Warby Parker has no idea I am doing this review and I was not compensated in any way for it.  I just decided to try the brand and share my experience with you!

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Giveaway: Gap Skimmer Jeans – Save and Win!

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

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

How to Enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Ask Allie: Fashion Advice for a Petite SAHM

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

For additional petite inspiration, check out:

How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips to Stay on Budget:

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

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

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

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