Search Results for: label/Speaking Engagement

Speak Up!

I wrote about contacting retailers regarding poor selection for plus sizes before, well my sister recently did just such and received a response!

She and I were doing our favorite lunchtime activity – internet window shopping from our respective work desks and emailing one another potential buys. She noticed a very cute Macintosh-style of rain coat at Lands End that she liked. As with many retailers, the item came in fewer (and less boring) colors for extended sizes. She decided to write them a letter. Lands End has really done a good job over the years of offering extended sizes for a large portion of their collection, and maybe a letter would open their eyes to the fact that they do not always offer the most colorful or trendy pieces in enough sizes.

Dear Lands End,
I love that you offer so many styles in plus sizes, especially coats. However, I am dismayed that the brighter colors usually only come in regular and petite sizes. For example, your microfiber rain coat. Just because I am plus sized does not mean I wouldn’t love a bright green coat for dreary, rainy days. Blue, black and sand just aren’t going to cheer me up.

I have also noticed this with your winter coats – the full color options are not there for plus sizes, leaving me to think that you have decided that after a certain size, a woman should not wear certain colors.

I know that Lands’ End is not really sizist and would love to be able to wear all of the wonderful colors you offer.

Thanks!

Less than four hours later, my sister received a response from Lands End.

Greetings from Lands End,

Thank you so much for your customer comments on womens plus sizing at Lands End.

I know that our merchants for womens petite, plus, and tall sizing love to get our customers feedback on what you like and don’t like about our products and offerings. It is how we keep improving!

I will certainly pass this comment along to those merchants for their review. I know that we are working hard on providing great products to all women of all sizes so your information is greatly appreciated!

Thank you again and please let us know if we may be of further assistance,

Sincerely,
Doris C.
Specialty Shoppers
www.landsend.com

As my sister said, this may just be the stock email they send to anyone who asks about plus sizes, or it may be a personal email written by a woman who receives emails like this all the time. Either way, this company is receiving emails about extended sizes, reading them and responding. They obviously care about the customer and if they receive enough emails, they may actually extend their sizes on more clothing.

If Lands End is listening, your favorite retailer may be as well. Stop being silent and accepting the meager options for your size, be it petite, tall or plus. It takes little time to send an email to Customer Service. Be sure your email is clear, pleasant and free of typos so that you will be taken seriously. But speak up to those who receive a portion of your hard-earned money. Let them know you are not satisfied and demand better!

Eat Your Veggies – Finding Personal Style

This Monday, my article at Savings.com was about fashion for new moms. So many women I know have the hardest time figuring out how to dress this new and ever-changing body so I offered some quick tips that helped me that first year or so. I received a comment saying women should be reminded to have fun when getting dressed. I agreed and said she made a good point, and later realized I didn’t agree.

When it comes to finding your personal style, I really believe it’s like eating a meal:

You can’t have your dessert until you finish your vegetables.

Vegetables are your standard uniform pieces in your wardrobe – workhorses that will give you miles of wear and versatility. Classic pieces in my list – a simple dress, well-fitting trousers, a couple solid-colored tops, classic shoes. Your suit of armor so you can be dressed for a speaking engagement, play date, wedding, job interview, romantic weekend to the Napa Valley.

Pieces that do the work for you so you can live your life and be you.

Once you have acquired these workhorses, THEN you can have your dessert of fun, creative, and personal pieces. These basics will get you out of whatever rut you were in before – mismatched pieces, purchasing disposable fashion, not knowing your body and how to shop for it, etc. Having the wardrobe of staples – even if they are “boring” will give you the space to really get to know yourself and find your personal style. Instead of fretting over what is the trendy look for jeans or how you can get yourself to wear whatever some magazine has deemed the “It” shoe of the season, you can calmly peruse online and in-person boutiques, catalogs, magazines looking for those items that really grab you and your soul. Ignore what the celebs are wearing – what stirs YOU?

Slowly purchase these pieces – a scarf in the hot color of the season that also makes your complexion glow, a fabulous pair of leopard-print kitten heels after a work bonus, an amazing red leather blazer on your trip to Italy. Go slow, go with your heart. Enjoy your dessert – consume it with tiny bites, savoring every morsel. You have finished your veggies, it’s now time for crème brûlée!

How to Be a Stylish Tourist

When it’s Spring Break, it’s time for the tourists to swarm upon our Nation’s Capital. Though the Metro is pretty quiet during the morning commute, once it’s 9:30 out comes the families, the sight-seers, the day trippers. It can be annoying as a local yokel (hey folks, stand on the right side of the escalator, walk on the left), but in general I love that people love this city and choose to spend their holiday visiting it and taking in its history and beauty.

I see tourists on an almost daily basis, and I have been a tourist myself. I have seen bad tourist fashion, but I have also seen great tourist fashion. It really is possible to be comfortable and chic on your next sightseeing adventure.

This morning I passed the Mayflower Hotel on my way to the office. I wedged myself through throngs of tourists – kids in matching tye-dye DC tee shirts, dads with fanny packs and Tommy Bahama polo shirts, girl friends on the town in coordinating twinsets with cropped pants and flip flops. In that crowd I noticed a couple. They were obviously tourists ready to start a day of sight-seeing, maybe waiting to get on a double-decker tour bus or take a taxi to The Mall. The couple looked to be in their mid-50s, average in height and weight, but what struck me was their perfect tourist fashion.

The gentleman was wearing a dark brown leather jacket that hit right at the hips, a very classic style. Underneath he had a checked shirt, dark jeans and dark brown shoes that were very simple, subtle, but had a sturdy rubber sole that I can image would be quite comfy for a day on his feet. A camera bag on his shoulder, aviator sunglasses on top of his head.

The woman was the most striking. She had short spiky red hair, fabulous statement glasses, and very simple makeup. She was wearing a black motocross-inspired soft leather jacket with a leopard print oblong chiffon scarf tucked in at the throat. Dark crisp straight-leg jeans free of adornments and black boots that had a molded rubber sole with a very slight wedge – simple, yet obviously comfortable and supportive. A small black leather crossbody bag was worn over the ensemble and a black travel umbrella in her hand.

Today is cold in DC; it was 43 degrees when I left the house this morning. It has been drizzling off and on for the past couple of hours, but there is always a chance in this city that either the clouds will part and we will be blessed with an additional 20 degrees of warmth, or will end up with hail or monsoon-like rainstorm. I was impressed that this couple seemed prepared for whatever the weather could bring them, while doing it in a chic and appropriate manner.

Tourist Fashion

How to Be a Stylish Tourist:

1. Dress like Yourself. I regularly get emails from people asking me what to wear when sight-seeing. Well what do you wear when you spend a day walking around a mall? What do you wear when you take your children to the park for several hours of activity in the sunshine? What would you wear if you were volunteering at an outdoor event in your community?

No need to purchase an entire new wardrobe, you will feel the most comfortable and most confident if you stay true to your personal style.

2. Consult the Almanac. No matter what you wear, you’re not going to be chic or comfortable if you didn’t dress for the weather. Before heading out, look at an extended-day weather forecast, and if you are planning far in advance check the farmer’s almanac for a general idea of how the weather may be. And then prepare for the unexpected.

This couple was especially chic because they had outfits that handled the current weather, and the potential later-day weather. Leather jackets repel the wind while looking chic; the woman was holding an umbrella that is small enough to tuck into the camera bag, but large enough to cover the heads of the two of them if they get caught in a downpour. Their shoes were closed which meaned they wouldn’t end up with wet feet if they accidently stepped in a puddle.

I love crossbody bags because they keep your hands free, they hold your valuables close to your body deterring pickpockets, but they make a great place to rest your jacket. Instead of trying to tie your outerwear around your waist when the temperature rises, you can drape a shorter jacket over a sturdy crossbody bag – this looks less frumpy, and also adds an additional layer of protection to your valuables as you sight-see. This woman’s soft waist-length leather jacket would easily drape over her bag if it got too warm and she wouldn’t have to worry about it dragging on the ground or looking too ridiculous.

If the weather is going to be hot, please dress accordingly. This doesn’t mean booty shorts, worn-down flip flops and a tank top without a bra; what it means is to dress to stay cool and comfortable while having style. Pure cotton dries quickly and can float away from the body, allowing in a cool breeze. A sleeveless or short-sleeved cotton sundress with low-heeled boots, or a sleeveless cotton tunic with crisp Bermuda shorts and flat sandals are chic yet warm-weather appropriate ensembles when being a tourist.

Be ready for the unexpected – if it seems even in the slightest that there may be a drop in the temperature or rain, tuck a pashmina and/or a travel umbrella into your bag. And always, if there is sun bring sunscreen. I can’t tell you how many sunburned tourists I see each day, even when it’s partially cloudy and cold. Put on before leaving for the day and bring a little bottle to reapply when you sweat.

3. Show Some Respect. You will be visiting museums, houses of worship, government buildings. You may stop to dine in a nice restaurant, grab a beer in a local pub or lounge, relax in your hotel lobby. Show respect for these establishments and the fellow patrons by dressing with some modesty and class.

Even though you may be spending the day in the blazing heat, walking miles, that doesn’t mean you have to wear baggy knits or athletic gear. It is possible to be comfortable and chic. Twill Bermudas and pants with a hint of stretch, breezy sundresses (even with short hidden bike shorts underneath to prevent chafing), dark jeans with a Breton-striped knit top, a heavyweight knit dress with riding boots. All of these ensembles can be quite comfortable when being a tourist, but will still be appropriate if you decide to take a step into a café or cathedral.

Speaking of cathedrals, be respectful of the religion of the city or house of worship you visit – pack a cardigan or shawl to cover your shoulders.

And finally, ask before taking flash photography in museums and houses of worship, keep your voice low during conversations, and put your phone on vibrate before heading out for the day. Respect your fellow tourists as well as your tourist spots.

4. Keep it Simple. No need for an ornate ensemble when sight-seeing – the focus should be on the sights, not you. Extra belts and bangles and layers will only become a frustration in six hours. Choose one color story, and pick pieces that are simple, flattering, chic. Choose only one accessory, and one that won’t cause you to constantly adjust your outfit throughout the day. Keep in the mind the woman mentioned at the beginning of this article – I bet under that jacket she was just wearing a simple quality knit top. She still had great style because of the choice of simple pieces, the way they fit her, and she showed her personal style with the addition of the leopard-print scarf.

5. Be Comfortable. You will be walking, you will be standing. It could be sweltering hot outside and frigid in museums. You may be smashed into a crowded subway car or taxi, and may have to make a quick dash across a street or out of the rain. Dress appropriately.

A few suggestions:
- Always bring a layer. Even if it’s 105 degrees outside, most interiors these days are air conditioned, and it may get cooler once the sun goes down
- Stay away from easy-wrinkle clothing. Leave your crisp linen shirts and silk dresses at home. You want to wear fabrics that can handle a long day. Fabrics with a hint of stretch, and lightweight fabrics that look okay with some creasing are good choices.
- Consider a crossbody bag. You can then have your hands free to deal with your phone or map, holding your child’s hand, or an iced coffee. As previously mentioned, it becomes a great tool to drape your jacket or shawl.
- Cut down on the stuff. It’s easy to want to be a Boy Scout when traveling, but seriously consider each item you put in your bag. The more you carry, the heavier your bag, and this is something that will be on your shoulder for several hours. Pare down the makeup kit, clean out the wallet, leave home the iPod and the novel and the engagement calendar and the big ring of keys. Every ounce helps your shoulders, as well as your ability to quickly grab your camera to get the perfect picture.
- Leave the heels at home. I have walked on my toes my entire life and feel more comfortable in a 2” heel than a pair of flats. That being said, even I wouldn’t wear heels as a sightseer. A low chunky heel with lots of arch support or a low wedge is about all you should attempt when being a tourist. Rubber and cork heels give more cushioning than traditional materials.
- Test drive your ensemble. Don’t wear a brand-new outfit; pick classics from your wardrobe that you know can handle a long day. Choose pieces that give, that flex, and that flatter.

And finally, have fun!  The best accessory a woman can wear is a confident smile!

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IKEA, Cats, Love, and Other Randoms

Call me Scrooge, but I just don’t like Valentine’s Day. I love all of you every day of the year, not just February 14th; I don’t need the media to force me into buying flowers and candy and pink lingerie to show love. But I saw this awesomeness on the way to work this morning and I just had to share.  Now THIS is the kind of Valentine’s Day fun I can support!

I KNOW you’re jealous of my photo editing skills!  But come now, how can you resist meatballs, budget-friendly and smart furniture, and my floating head?

What are you doing March 9th? Do you live near College Park, Maryland? Like meatballs, Swedish furniture, and me? Well come to the College Park IKEA for their BYOF Day. Giveaways, food specials, and seminars on how to improve your life, including one by yours truly! I’ll be discussing, “Closet Cleanout and Organization: Refreshing your Wardrobe by Honing your Personal Style” at 1pm. Come and be kind – it’s my first speaking engagement of this sort for the blog (I’ve been waiting for a really great partnership and if you’ve looked at any of my home you know I love IKEA!). But it would be so great to meet some of you, and it looks to be a day of fun for the whole family! Read the PDF about the event here, and click here to register on Facebook!

When you’re a blogger, you get a ton of email pitches. Check out this brand, feature this watch, would you like to do a giveaway of this glow in the dark bedazzled needlepoint bookmark? I try to scan each one I get (though if I can tell from the snippet on Gmail that they call me Dear Blogger or Dear Wardrobe I may delete without opening).  Many are strange products, many are great products but not appropriate to this blog, and few actually excite me. While this jacket isn’t for everyone, when I saw it in the email I was so tickled by it I replied right back on my iPhone when riding on the Metro and had to show it to you.

While I don’t have to plans to purchase this cat bomber jacket from MadeMe any time soon, I totally love it. Imagine with leather leggings and wedge sneakers, with a tulle skirt and Doc Martens, or over a bodycon dress with killer heels. I love how random and tongue in cheek it is, it’s a fun change from overly serious or twee fashion.

Yesterday and today are super early days at work, so no outfit posts, but yesterday I wore this slouchy black maxi dress and I am IN LOVE.  To make it work appropriate I wore a striped tank underneath, but it’s extremely flattering (even my husband said he liked it and I didn’t even ask for his opinion), super ultra cozy and makes me feel cool like Stephanie from Odyssey Home.  I’ll be wearing it on the blog soon, but I swooned so much I had to share now.  As for today… striped tee, sweater coat, skinny jeans and tall boots – my standard early morning work day uniform! 

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Stacy London’s The Truth About Style Book and Tour

Thursday night I had the pleasure of seeing Stacy London speak at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in DC. Her book, The Truth About Style came out this past Tuesday and after seeing the book trailer I knew I had to be at the speaking engagement.


I met Stacy London a few months ago when she was at a local mall promoting the partnership between her company Style for Hire and Westfield Malls. The experience made me a London fan for life – she’s so real, and she truly cares about helping women feel beautiful and comfortable in clothing. Thursday night, I realized that she cares even more so about women feeling beautiful and comfortable in their own skin.

I don’t want to give much away about what she discussed or what the book is about because I truly think this is a style book that you should read. Borrow it from the library, loan it from a friend, sneak into a nook of Barnes and Noble or splurge on a copy – you won’t regret it. I can just say that Thursday night gave me such motivation regarding this blog.

When I started this blog, I wasn’t terribly happy about my body. I had a lot of opinions about fashion and style, a lot of rules, and a lot of snark. Through blogging, I got to know so many readers – you weren’t pageviews but people. I saw that I wasn’t alone in not liking the body I was in, and I saw that my snark wasn’t benefiting anyone. What’s the point of a fashion blog (or book for that matter) that dismisses those who don’t “get” fashion, that pigeonholes all women into one lump who needs a white shirt, tan trench, and a strand of real pearls?

Through blogging and through changes in my life (hello new awesome job and new awesome child) I began loving this body.  It’s not perfect… but then no one has a “perfect” body. I came to terms with it, and decided to work with it. And I also changed my voice on this blog – women don’t need another person telling them what they’re doing wrong, we need voices to give us food for thought and tips on how to feel comfortable, feel ourselves, and recognize our beauty.

 

I still have strong opinions on fashion and style, but now when I write I don’t just think about me and my little patch of Earth, but I try to make it more universal, more accepting. And Thursday night I learned that through her ten years on What Not to Wear, Stacy London has had the same experience. Dealing with real women has made her more sympathetic, sensitive, and understanding to others and also to herself. And her book The Truth About Style is about just that. This book won’t give you a list of ten must-have items in your closet, or tell you how to hide your hips or tummy. It won’t tell you what color to wear if you’re a brunette or redhead, and it won’t inform you of what items should be purged from your closet. But it will help you realize how fellow women have learned to find personal style… and may help you find yours along the way.

 

At the event with friends and fellow bloggers Nancye, Heidi, Alison, Chelsea, and Dana

And if Stacy London’s book tour is coming to a city near you, I encourage you to get a ticket to attend. She is funny, she is raw, she is honest, and she is inspiring. And she may just renew your faith in fashion, style, and yourself.

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Weight Watchers Update

The big smile on my face isn’t because I am engaged (still happily married), but because MY ENGAGEMENT RING FITS AGAIN!

Seriously, this is the best Mother’s Day present EVER! At least once a week I try on my wedding set, hoping that it will fit. Each time, no luck, can’t even get it over the last knuckle. Then Sunday morning I tried it… and it slipped right on! The wedding band doesn’t fit yet (it was always a bit smaller than the engagement ring), but that’s okay. Baby steps!

This week I removed 0.2 pound. Nothing spectacular, but it’s better than a gain. I was more active, I was tracking more than the previous week, making smarter decisions. I’m okay with this small amount because it is still progress and I didn’t feel deprived this week or as though I was on a diet.

And even though it is only two tenths of a pound, it was exactly what I needed to get back into wearing a ring that I haven’t been able to fit since the first trimester of my pregnancy!

Fellow Weight Watchers folks, how was your week?  What successes did you have, what learning experiences did you encounter on your journey?

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Review – Hobo International Sample Sale

It’s great living in the DC area – access to amazing FREE museums, living within an hour of three major airports, one of the best concert venues in the country (I love you 9:30 Club!), all the convenience and options of a major city, yet close proximity to the ocean, the bay, wineries, and farmland.

However as a blogger, I sometimes feel left out when I get all these emails from PR folks telling me about great sample sales taking place in New York, London, and Los Angeles. What about DC? Where’s OUR sample sales?

Well Hobo International is based out of Annapolis, Maryland and I found out they had a sample sale this past weekend. Score! I adore Hobo bags – they are stylish without being trendy, well made, and fit my personal sense of style. I follow Hobo on Twitter and the week prior to their sample sale they had a Twitter contest where a few followers could win 50% off their entire purchase at the sale. And moi? Winner winner chicken dinner!

Annapolis isn’t too far from where I live – I actually passed my “bachelorette pad” on the way (lived in Annapolis prior to moving in with my husband). My mom, Emerson, and I arrived about 20 minutes prior to them opening the doors for the sale and there was a good dozen of folks ahead of me. These were serious shoppers – women in sneakers, sans purses and handbags, ready to shop. I probably would have been better off without a toddler in tow, but I didn’t have anyone to watch her and Emerson is pretty chill in chaotic situations and don’t mind crowds.

The sale was well managed – many Hobo International staff on hand to pass out shopping baskets, answer questions – one even offered to watch Emerson so I could shop! Instead, my mom and I took turns – one would watch Emerson while the other would do a mad dash around the sale, toss things in the basket. We would switch, and then while watching Emerson, could look through what we picked up, decide if it was purchase-worthy and put back that which we decided against keeping.

After about 30 minutes (time flies when you’re running around like a mad woman, surrounded by leather goods and other mad women!) we were DONE. Emerson had been fantastic but was starting to whine and I didn’t want to torture her any longer. We had collected a nice haul and felt accomplished so my mom took E to the car and I headed to the register.

And now on to the most important thing – my haul:

Emerson likes the pretty pink belt

- The Libby in Pumpkin
- The Penelope in Maroon
- The Bartola in Stone
- The Sadie wallet in hot pink patent
- The Valentina clutch in cobalt patent
- A belt that perfectly matches the Penelope (same leather and same hardware)
- A skinny hot pink patent belt (not on site)
- A skinny mint green leather belt (not on site)

My mom got a handbag, a belt, a wallet, and a little business-card holder/keyring combo thingie. Our purchases combined came to just over $200! How utterly insane is that? Seriously folks, if you live in the Annapolis area, this sale IS worth attending. Some items were previous seasons, but you can see three bags I got (and possibly my mom’s – can’t recall the style) are current colors and styles on sale on the Hobo International site.

As soon as I got home, I switched all my purse essentials over to the Penelope – here you can see how much this bag holds – a full-size book (which I will be reviewing soon), my “Diane” wallet from Hobo, sunglasses, camera, SmartPhone, engagement calendar, cosmetics bag and more!

Keep tabs on Hobo International via Facebook or Twitter and you will know when their next sale will take place!

P.S. I met a blog reader at the sale!  So hectic, no chance to really talk.  However it was great to meet you! :)



Note: Everything written in this post is my own opinion – I did not receive compensation to write about Hobo International, and was not asked by them to write. I attended this sale purely as a customer and paid for everything I received at the sale.

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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Basic Black and White

Blouse: Jones New York c/o Gwynnie Bee | Jeans: NYDJ | Shoes: Cole Haan | Necklace: Cameron Pendant c/o Kristin Biggs, Stella and Dot | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Bracelets: c/o Lifetherapy, Nordstrom, had forever | Glasses: c/o Coastal.com

This top is perfect for this weather – billowy and breezy for the commute, but enough coverage that I don’t freeze to death in the office. This is totally the kind of top I buy, wear once or twice, and tire of the print because it’s too memorable. Love that with Gwynnie Bee I can wear it once or twice, and then return it for something new without buyer’s remorse. Interested in trying Gwynnie Bee?  Use this link, tell them Wardrobe Oxygen sent you and get a 30 day free trial of the program.

I just got these glasses Friday evening but have already fallen in love. When I got new glasses back in December, I wanted something classic, stylish without being trendy, something appropriate for work as well as every day. My Issy and La “Gloss” frames are perfect for that, but now I want more frames, and fun frames. I love the bold look of these, and it’s exciting to find frames that are big enough for my ginormous noggin. I did get these frames for free (review here), but I would totally order from Coastal.com again. Great prices, good service, and shipping is lightening fast. In fact, if you go to this link (not an affiliate link, not getting paid to share, just me being jazzed about sharing this with you) and pick any of these frames and add your prescription and use the code FIRSTPAIRFREE you get… well your first pair free! You do have to pay for shipping (which is around $9.00), but what an awesome steal of a deal. It’s always good to always have a spare pair or a fun pair that gets you out of your comfort zone.

Speaking of great deals, I have been wearing my Lifetherapy bracelets quite a lot and get so many compliments on them.  They have offered Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off on ALL Lifetherapy products (body care as well as jewelery).  Use code WARDROBEOXYGEN at checkout; this code is valid until 7/1/2013.

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Designer Fashion for Less!

I love discount stores. Nothing is better than scanning racks of junk to come across a designer piece in your size at a fabulous price. Some of my favorite wardrobe pieces have come from places such as TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, and I love them even more because I paid an insanely lovely price for them. When I hit my favorite stores in the mall, I usually hit the back of the store first because that is where most retailers hide their sale racks. I once got a cashmere sweater from Banana Republic for under $10… that’s a story I will probably end up telling my grandkids.

The thing is, just because it’s a great price and a great brand doesn’t mean it’s a great purchase. We get so caught up in the thrill of the hunt, often what we drag back to camp isn’t worth our time, effort or hard-earned cash.

1. Quality.
I was speaking to a friend this weekend, she loves The Limited because they make a style of jeans that fits her perfectly the “Cassidy”), as though they are custom-made. One day she walked into her local Limited and there in the sale department were three rolling racks FULL of Cassidy jeans, and at almost 50% off the regular prices. She was so ecstatic, she considered just grabbing a pair in each wash in her size and race to the register, but something made her try them on. She got in the fitting room, went to try on her beloved jeans and THEY DIDN’T FIT! The legs were so narrow, she could hardly pull them up, and the waist gapped in the back. Where was her custom fit? She tried on a different color and found the same issue. Asked a salesperson, she admitted that The Limited considered changing the cut of the Cassidy jeans but they didn’t sell well, so they are now on the sale racks. My friend left empty-handed.

Point is, often that which is on the sale rack is not as high quality as what is in the rest of the store. Maybe it was returned and has a run in the knit, maybe the zipper is defective, maybe it’s an irregular cut. Don’t buy just because you love the label and the price tag, sale items need to be looked over with a fine-toothed comb. Sit in the pants, raise your arms in the sweater, examine the seams. Sometimes you have hit the jackpot, sometimes you don’t find Jack. No matter how sweet the price, save your money for items that DESERVE it.

2. Style. It’s a designer name, your favorite celebs sport this label on a daily basis and you are finding a dress at a price you can afford at your local C-Mart. You can’t believe your luck! But wait… just because it’s a popular designer means it’s stylish. Remember clear vinyl totes? Team Aniston tees? High-heeled hiking boots? All trends that have happened in the last couple of years, but trends that should not be worn by ANYONE now. You will NOT look hip, stylish, rich, sophisticated, famous or sexy in any way of you are wearing something based upon the brand name and not how it looks on you (or how it looks in society). Often items are at discount places because they have been accumulating dust on the sale racks of the finer boutiques for a year or two. Just because it’s designer does not mean it’s fashionable. A good rule of thumb is if you found it at Target, would you buy it? If it’s ugly for Target, it’s ugly for Dolce and Gabanna.

3. Fit. So it’s a size small, you’ll diet. Right? WRONG. If you didn’t lose those last five pounds to be Maid of Honor at your best friend’s wedding, you surely won’t for that Chloe dress. A steal is still a rip-off if it sits in your closet for all of its days. And even though it’s a $700 dress on sale for $250 and a 30% coupon on top of it, doesn’t mean it’s going to look good bunching up at the waist and encasing your arms like sausages. You will not look chic, you will look like a girl in a too-small dress. Again with quality, check to see if the item is cut correctly for fit: are the sleeves the same length? Does it nip at the waist or at the hip? I have often found precious items on sale racks to find that the lining of the dress or jacket does not fit the same as the garment, having the lining suffocate my arm or bunch around my hips. Never leave without trying something on; brand clothing is mass-made by machines. Machines cut large stacks of fabric into patterns, machines will sew seams, machines cannot see when the fabric has slipped an eighth of an inch on the conveyor belt and is altering the entire cut, fit and hang of the future garment.

4. Need. It’s gorgeous, it fits like a glove and the price makes you faint. But really, do you need a plum taffeta ball gown with a six-foot train? If you do not plan on being invited to the Oscars in the next few months, do not purchase the dress. This goes for ANOTHER black v-neck sweater, the cocktail dress that would possibly be perfect if you are invited to a New Year’s Black Tie affair (though you have not ever attended one yet), the bikini that would be perfect if you just had the halter tailored, the power suit when you have been a yoga instructor for a decade, the stiletto heels when you are a flats person, and the amazing dress that would require a special bra and control garment to be allowed to leave the house without being arrested. If you don’t need it, if you can’t see it with three other items in your wardrobe and at least two events in life, don’t even take it to the fitting room. Your life won’t change to fit the contents of your closet.

5. Too Good to Be True. If you visit my other blog, you will see that I love Ann Taylor. Their clothes fit me beautifully, and the style works with my career and my social life. A friend emailed me about their current promotion – Buy One Sweater, get the Second 50% Off. Yay! I had also received this via email from my beloved Ann Taylor along with a coupon for free shipping. I race to the website and scan the sweaters.

There is nothing on that site that would work for my wardrobe now. I either don’t like it, or don’t need it. I know that certain styles do not go with my body shape, and certain colors either do not go with my skintone or do not go with my sense of style. I leave the website not adding a thing to my virtual shopping bag.

This is not to say that this sale is full of junky sweaters, it’s just that the sale offered nothing for me personally. Just because a sweater is on sale, does not mean I will buy something I do not absolutely love. This goes for eBay purchases as well; often we get sucked in by the great price, the great brand but KNOW it’s not what we really want or need or even like. Don’t buy three pairs of jeans just because of you buy three they will each be 15% off. This only makes sense if you REALLY NEED three pairs of jeans today. Just because a store has a sign in the window that says 40% off The Entire Store does not mean you have to enter – if you have gone in before and found the clothes not your style or size, why are the items going to be better for you now that they are on sale?

You are at the grocery and there is day-old meat. Sometimes there is a perfect steak there, the only thing wrong is it has yesterday’s date. It’s beautifully marbeled, fresh and juicy. Next to it is another steak; it’s brown on the edges, thin and smells a bit strange. Do you buy both just because they are an amazing price and you need to make dinner tonight? No, you buy only the GOOD steak. I mean, it is a great price, it will be eaten, you know it’s still fresh. It’s a good buy. The next time you are drawn to the sale rack, think about the day-old steaks. Then think about those sweaters. Are they fresh enough for consumption?

Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?

Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?

I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?

Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday’s Tip – Making the Clearance Rack Your Friend

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

My Wardrobe Today – Monday and this Weekend

Black and white tee (sleeves rolled up) - Gap (no longer available – Fall/Winter 2010)
Orange-red shantung skirt - Banana Republic (no longer available, several years old – seen in 2006 here)
Black patent peeptoe heels – Nine West “Masquerader” (no longer available – similar)
Gold banglesRalph Lauren
Gold tassel bracelet – J. Crew (no longer available)
Gold hoops

This weekend I finally got a chance to go up in my attic and see what of my old clothes fit now that I have lost weight. Going up there, I was totally thinking about this skirt. I LOVED this skirt – the color is one of my favorites – an orangey red. When I saw celebs wearing orange-red lips this spring I immediately started itching to wear anything this color and remembered I had this beauty waiting for a smaller me.

Speaking of attic clothes, I spent a large chunk of Saturday trying on my collection up in the attic – so many gorgeous clothes in great condition. Unfortunately though many fit me again, many don’t fit this new shape I have after having a baby. Pants and dresses too long, armholes now hit in a weird place, and somehow I seem to be longer waisted than before? This means I have a ton of stuff to add to Shop My Closet. Stay tuned, there will be many new pieces being posted this week – one may be just the thing that was missing in your closet!

Speaking of this weekend, here’s a little peek into what I did (other than get dusty and gross in a very warm attic):

Saturday morning, my husband’s yoga class was earlier than usual because the space was needed later in the day for an event.  He, me, Emerson and my mom went to the nearby diner for breakfast after class.  I just wore what I was wearing around the house:

Brown and white teeAnn Taylor
Taupe chunky cardigan – Ann Taylor (no longer available)
Cutoff shorts – Gap (they used to be a pair of gauchos that I wore back in like ’06, I know there’s photos of me back in the archives wearing them like this one from ’06)
BootsDUO Boots “Bern”
Sippy Cup - Playtex ;)

Here’s my two favorite folks hanging outside the diner.

On the way to breakfast we passed a yard sale and they had an adorable retro-looking tricycle there.  We thought it would be great for Emerson who is wanting to pedal on her own like the big kids in the neighborhood.  We decided if it was still there when we got back from breakfast, it was meant to be.  It was still there!  The price was $25, but I got them down to $20 (pretty exciting since it seems online that this bike is around $99).

Emerson is still a bit small for it, but she LOVES it.  Our house is down a path from the court itself, so it’s hard for her to ride it near the house.  So we have decided for now until she’s mastered pedaling to have it be an indoor bike.  Our main floor we call a bowling alley because it’s a straight shot from the front door through the dining room to the living room.  So we have been pushing her/she has been pedaling from the living room to the front door, through the kitchen, back through the dining room and back to the living room.  She has really enjoyed checking out the workings of the bike – the chain, etc.  The bike is in near-perfect condition and so sturdy. 

Friday night and Sunday night were both nights where we hosted  friends for dinner and casual conversation.  The weather was so nice we grilled both times.  Saturday night was my husband’s turn to go out so he went to a local cafe for some beers and live music while I stayed home with Emerson and caught the White House Corespondents Dinner on CSPAN.  I know, wild and crazy life I lead!

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Friday – Tangerine Tango

Back-zipper teeAnn Taylor
Skirt – c/o CAbi
Booties - Miss Sixty (similar)
JacketASOS
Bag - Sabina (similar)
Necklace - eBay (similar)

I was on the hunt for a red or orange statement necklace for spring – something that would jazz up a simple striped tee and jeans or white pants. I regularly head to eBay and Etsy for such things, not caring if a necklace is currently popular or the brand… just the style and price. Searching eBay, I found this necklace for $24 and free shipping. I thought it was cute, the seller had a good feedback score, I bought it. It arrived… and I realized it’s a fake version of a J. Crew necklace. This necklace even has a gold disc at the clasp that says J. Crew, but based upon real J. Crew necklaces I own, I know this is a fake. I should have known better, and don’t know why I didn’t stop to connect the dots. Pretty clear I have been a slacker with my blog and catalog reading with this mistake.

What are your weekend plans? Tomorrow we have two parties to attend – the first birthday for the son of dear friends, and then an engagement party. So far Sunday is open but I know that will most likely change before the day is through!

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Ask Allie – Long Necklaces

Hi Allie –

I love both your wardrobe blogs — thank you so much for putting the time in to do them! Do you have a recommendation for where I might look for a long chain-type necklace that will come down past the bust, almost to the waist? I don’t wear much jewelry at all, so I don’t have a set of go-to stores or websites to look for something like this.

Amy

Hi Amy:

I love long necklaces because they elongate the torso, make the neck look longer and thinner, and don’t draw as much attention to the bust. Thing is, one can see all the celebs rocking long necklaces, but when we look in stores, we can only find 16″ or 18” necklaces, 20” if we are lucky.

Image courtesy of Rose Blossom Cottage

Best bet, before you even go shopping is to measure what length will work on you. What seems right in a picture or on a jewelry card may end up being far too long or short for your frame. Also know that most necklaces come in standard lengths – I often look for necklaces that have a chain at the clasp that will allow a necklace to be lengthened an extra inch or two – that often makes the difference on a necklace dangling from my bustline or looking lovely with my outfit. The image above gives a general idea of how popular necklace lengths will hang on a standard female frame, this site and this site also give great information on different necklace lengths.

As for where to buy them, well I personally have the best luck in the least expected places. For years, my go-to store for long necklaces was Express – I could find fashionable chains and other costume jewelry at reasonable prices. Most recently, I have become a fan of the Norstrom half-yearly sale (though really they always have sale, especially online). At Nordstrom’s sales, I have always been able to find long chains from quality brands for the price that one can find at Claire’s Boutique. Speaking of Claire’s – I shouldn’t knock the store because I have found some very simple chains there that have given me years of use. I have also found some fabulous long necklaces – chains and tiny silver beads at H&M – their accessory selection changes almost weekly so it’s best to check in from time to time to see if they have anything that fits the bill. Finally, I often go to eBay when I need just a standard chain for a pendant or charm. I sometimes wear my wedding band on a chain, and being the mom of a jewelry-loving toddler, the chain has had to be replaced. I will search 30” silver box chain on eBay and find a ton of retailers offering such an item, usually with free shipping and prices that beat the shopping mall. If you know what length and what material you desire, eBay can be a great resource for finding long chains.

Readers, do you have any favorite necklace retailers?

Seasonless Black Trousers

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

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

Examples of good trousers:

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

Here is a great example from Lane Bryant:

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

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

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

Honing your Personal Style through Closet Organization

Last weekend I was asked to speak at IKEA for their BYOF event. They asked me to speak about honing one’s personal style through closet organization. Some of you fabulous people came to the event (and even drove long distances, which humbles me so), and some of you were unable to attend but wanted to know what I discussed. Earlier this week I shared some of the discussion during the seminar’s Q&A, but below is the script I made myself for the seminar (though I practiced a lot and tried to ad-lib as much as possible).

Think about it, we start every day in our closet. Our experience in front of that bar of hangers really sets the tone for the rest of the day. What I hope to do today is give you tips and tricks to make that first part of your day less stressful, more positive, and inspiring.

I am proof that when it comes to closets, size doesn’t matter. A little over a decade ago, I moved into the historic part of Greenbelt. If any of you have been in one of their row homes, you know they can be charming but boy are they small! My bedroom closet was smaller than the coat closet in my old bachelorette apartment, and as for a coat closet well there wasn’t one. It was a great learning experience on how to work with little space, and to choose wisely as to what deserved to be in that minimal amount of real estate.

75% of the stuff in our closets we don’t even wear. When I have performed closet cleanouts for clients in the past, I found that three quarters of the clothing in their closet is there for sentimental reasons. A dress worn on a first date, the suit you wore to the interview for your current job, the lucky sweatshirt you wore through every finals week of college. Today I’m not going to tell you to toss your sartorial memories, but I am going to ask you to make your closet more functional.

The only way you can truly know what you have in your closet is to take everything out and start fresh. As your best friend to watch the kids for a couple of hours, turn on Pandora radio, pour a glass of wine, and lock yourself in your bedroom. Take everything out of the closet and once it’s empty, give it a quick cleaning with a damp cloth. Now you’re going to go through each individual garment and put it into one of four piles. Keep, Purge, Fix, and Store.

Keep means you have tried it on that day, it fits, it flatters, it’s useful to your life and style and is in perfect condition. No missing buttons, no need for ironing, ready to be worn.

Purge means it’s time for the piece to leave your home completely. It’s too small, too big, too dated, too damaged, or just plain wrong. Often we keep pieces that we bought and then had buyer’s remorse. The garment is just plain wrong, but you feel guilty because you spent good money on it. Your money is not coming back by letting that dress collect dust in your closet, it’s time to let it go and move on. We’ve all been there. When I say purge, that doesn’t mean throw everything in a bag and set it out on the curb for trash day. The majority of clothes in your closets can be useful to others.

For things like that dress you bought and never wore, consider eBay or a consignment shop so you can get back a bit of what you spent on it. For gently worn pieces, consider setting up a swap with friends where you can trade clothing for free. For everything else, you can donate for a nice tax deduction, or even consider Freecycle. In my house, we cut up old stained tee shirts into squares and use them as dusting cloths.

So we have kept that which is still fabulous and purged that which is not. With what is leftover, they go into two other piles – Fix, and Store.

Fix is the pile of items that could be great if they just had a quick little repair or makeover. Maybe it’s a wrinkled oxford, a pair of pants with a dropped hem, or a jacket missing a button. I keep a box at the bottom of my closet where I store all the clothes that need to be fixed. When I have a spare moment, I sew on buttons, iron, or pack up pieces to take to the dry cleaner or tailor. Having this box keeps you from justifying wearing a stained shirt or a stapled hem.

The final pile is Store. Here’s your sentimental clothing, as well as anything that is in fantastic condition but just not right. Maybe it’s a skirt that’s a flattering yet not of the moment length, or a great interview suit though you are now a stay at home parent. Pieces that fit, are made well, flatter, and just aren’t right at the moment, though they may be in a couple of years. This pile, store carefully, but store them where they are out of sight and out of temptation. Even when at the back of the closet, it’s far too easy to grab these items during a moment of weakness and sacrifice your style. (Here I started speaking of the merits of breathable canvas storage versus plastic.)

So now, you have a closet just full of great pieces that fit your current body and your current lifestyle. It may look a bit empty, but that’s not a bad thing. A closet that can breathe makes for easier dressing each morning. You wouldn’t think it, but it’s easier to get dressed each day when you have fewer options. However you’re probably realizing you have a few holes in your wardrobe. Make a shopping list of what you feel you need to pull the current closet together, make it cohesive. Maybe it’s a black pencil skirt, or a replacement dress for weddings and funerals. Think about your life, your current life, and what you do and where you go in a typical month. What else do you need to dress appropriately for each occasion? Write the pieces down, and carry them in your wallet or purse. This way, each time you hit the mall, you can stay on track and only buy what you need instead of what looks great or is being pushed by the salesperson.

It’s important to stick to a budget – you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your quality of life to be able to dress well each day. A good rule of thumb is 5% of your income towards what you wear. Now this may be more or less based upon your lifestyle and it may be more while you’re filling in holes in your wardrobe. From this, figure out a monthly budget and stick to it. Sometimes you may not use it all, but that’s good because you can save it for other months where you may spend more, say for a new winter coat or a pair of designer jeans that make you look five pounds and five years younger. I recommend tracking your budget on the same sheet or notebook as your shopping list, so it’s there staring you in the face each time you consider buying clothes. My motto at Wardrobe Oxygen is style comes from choosing quality, not quantity.

So now you have a pared-down closet of clothes that work as hard as you do. Now it’s time to take care of them. In this day and age of Pinterest and reality shows about celebrities, it’s easy to get wrapped up in having a pretty closet. The thing is, you want a functional closet, a closet that makes your life more enjoyable, that makes getting dressed each day easy and enjoyable. Here’s a few suggestions.

I recommend having all the same hangers. Not only does this make for an attractive closet, but it prevents you from losing clothes. I once bought a new black cardigan thinking I lost mine, but months later I found it on a dry cleaner’s wire hanger hidden between two black dresses. With all the same hangers, you can easily see everything in your closet. Speaking of wire hangers… I may sound like Mommy Dearest but get rid of them. They stretch out knits and can even leave rust stains on clothing. Dry cleaners are happy to take them back and many areas will recycle them.

So your clothes are hung up on consistent hangers, it’s now time to organize them. I highly recommend zoning your closet. Have all jackets together, all dresses together, all shirts together. This way it’s easy to see what you have and make ensembles. For categories you don’t wear often, such as cocktail dresses, have that zone in the farthest back part of the closet.

For making the most out of the space you have, I like closet organizers. I have one of those hanging fabric shelf gadgets where one can store purses, gym clothes, and even jeans. Also they have bars that hang from closet bars so you can double hang and maximize your closet real estate. (I really ad-libbed here because IKEA gave me a wardrobe and storage containers that they sell as my props).

With shoes, people have differing views on this, but I again recommend consistency. Choose one manner of storage and stick to it to prevent losing shoes and spending more than you need. Shoes can be an investment, so choose storage that is kind to your shoes – I keep my shoes in their original boxes and label them, but some like clear boxes, some like shoe racks, and IKEA has these cool gadgets where you can store your shoes on posts. Whatever seems best for you and protects your shoes. (At this point I started rambling about how a tree fell through my closet and that’s why I use boxes for storage.) As for boots, they sell fancy boot trees, but I just roll up old magazines and tuck them in the shafts to keep them from folding over and creasing.

I never get rid of accessories unless they are damaged. Accessories take up so little space, it’s worth it to keep them and reassess them every couple of seasons. A belt that seems dated this spring may be completely on trend in a year. I store jewelry in plastic baggies to keep them from tarnishing, loosely coil belts into an old shoe box, and for purses I stuff them with paper and then tuck them in an old pillowcase to keep them from getting dusty.

I recommend doing a closet reassessment like this twice a year, once at the end of the summer or back to school time, and once around this time of year as the weather is getting warmer. Not only can you again clean out all which isn’t doing you any style favors, but you can pack up out of season clothes and make a fresh shopping list of what you need for the upcoming season. Keeping up with your closet keeps you in a style frame of mind. You shop for clothing more carefully, you think more about how your clothes work with your body and your lifestyle, and you are better able to hone your personal style.

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What’s In My Bag? Clutch Edition

Yesterday I carried a clutch to work and a reader emailed me asking,

How can you carry such a small bag to work? My work bag is almost the size of a suitcase to hold all I need, and yesterday there was a chance of rain in DC. I’d love to see what is in your clutch and smaller bags so I can see how I can pare down my own work bag. Thanks Allie!

Yesterday I carried this bag:

And here are the contents:

  • Sunglasses (not in case which I don’t recommend on a regular basis)
  • Comb
  • Keys
  • SolarOil for my cuticles (trying to stop chewing them, and this helps keep them soft and less pick-able)
  • Umbrella
  • Urban Decay De-Slick powder
  • Engagement calendar with address book
  • Two phones (work and personal)
  • Retractable ball-point pen

In the pockets I have:

  • SmarTrip card
  • Check card, emergency credit card, driver’s license, insurance and AAA cards, cash
  • Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Rose (the lip color I wore yesterday)
  • Kohl eye pencil (what I wore yesterday)
  • Tide-to-Go pen
  • One Kleenex 
  • Camera memory card

So while it doesn’t hold all my regular purse contents, it’s everything I need for a day away from home!

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