Search Results for: label/Style Books

I Hate Style Books

I hate style books.

I have dozens at home, and almost every time I purchase one I want to kick myself. Yes, there are a few out there that offer some worthy and unique advice, but the majority are utter crap and cruel.

Cruel?

I said this to a friend today and she thought I was being harsh. Well let’s take a portion from a new book, Nina Garcia’s The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own.

Bootie Call (a chapter discussing the merits of ankle booties)
• When wearing with pants, keep the colors the same. Black pants tucked into black booties will elongate the leg and make you feel fabulous.
• When wearing with miniskirts, try them with Black Opaque Tights (#10) to keep your line going and going and going. Unless you have fabulous legs, illusion is our master craft.
• Make sure the bootie does not cut off straight at the ankle like a traditional bootie – these boots are made to be worn under pants and will chop off the leg and make it look stumpy.
• It is a great alternative to the pump – always consider it if the pump seems too safe.
• The bootie is a classic way to mix the masculine with the feminine, so don’t be afraid to flaunt a little femininity when you have this more masculine shoe on. One must mix it to risk it…

Okay, this sounds pretty fun and helpful. I agree, combining a black pant or tights with a black shoe hides flaws and makes the leg look long. But let’s take this apart…

In general, the woman who purchases and reads this book is one who feels as though she does not possess a sense of style, thinks she is not fashionable and is looking for advice.

Black pants tucked into black booties… well what type of black pants? Can one wear her black twill chinos? Black polyester pants that she wears to the nightclub? Black suiting trousers? And can any ankle bootie work? The previous page mentions Louboutin and Prada as bootie designers… not really brands that most women can afford (or even find at her local mall). So are we looking for a pull-on style? One that laces up? Chunky heel? Wedge heel? Stiletto heel? Flat boot? Suede or leather or microfiber? How about contrast stitching or trim?

A miniskirt with black tights and black booties. A miniskirt? Well she does mention in another part of the book that a miniskirt may be too short, but black opaque tights makes a very short skirt fashionably short. So this look of mini skirt, black tights and booties will work for the office? And since this works with miniskirts, that means it can look good with my denim skirt? How about my purple floral rayon skirt that shrunk a bit in the wash but is still cute?

Okay, so now we hear we don’t want a bootie that cuts straight across and the illustration shows one that dips down in front, is black with a stiletto heel and a red collar of sorts around the ankle (see illustration above, taken directly from her book). Is this the style of boot we should be looking for? This is the boot we should wear with black tights and denim miniskirts or with our black chinos?

Hitting up the most widely accessible retailers for American women (Payless, Target, Wal Mart, Zappos and Macy’s), the only boots I could find under $100 that seemed to slightly fit the description Nina Garcia gave (black, ankle bootie, not a straight cut, black) were these pleated suede numbers from Abaete for Payless (left), and the “Darcy” bootie by Alfani (Found at Macy’s) (the boot on the right).

So next, Nina tells us that this boot can replace classic black pumps. So pretty much, one can get the Darcy bootie (which has a two-tone look JUST like the bootie that Nina suggests) and be able to wear it with black pants tucked in them, pair it with black tights and a denim mini skirt, or wear them to a wedding this weekend with a black crepe sheath dress and pearls! Awesome!

Please know I am saying this with pure sarcasm, and that I don’t think either boot pictured would work for what Nina is suggesting.

On top of all this bootie confusion, what if the woman is 4’11”? Or maybe she is 6’2”? What if she is a size 16? Has a size 12 foot? What if she is 21? Or what if she is 71?

How is this “wardrobe staple” advice?

I’ll admit it, I have seen some women look utterly fabulous with black pants tucked into boots like these. Thing is, the woman usually works in a creative field, has legs a mile long, wears a single-digit clothing size, and knows that the pants need to be very skinny and the boot a little bit of slouch/definition to actually look cool and appropriate. The same holds for the bootie with a mini – she already knows that this will look best with a solid colored dress or skirt of either a substantial fabric or a special fabric (leather, sequins). She also knows how short is short, and what would be appropriate for her workplace. Finally, she would rock the heck out of those boots with an LBD, but she knows the look is for the wedding of her artist cousin’s Big Day in Chicago, not the one of her college roommate who lives in the next town and is a private-school teacher.

However, women read these books, try their darnedest to emulate the stylish author with what they have available – a far smaller budget, limited shopping locations, a far more traditional social calendar, a more conservative or casual work environment, and a body that is usually not built thanks to home-delivered Zone diets, a nutritionist, yoga instructor and personal trainer. The reader gathers that which she can afford or replicate on the list, feeling that if she at least has a few Hanes tee shirts or an H&M trench she will be that much closer to style success.

However style doesn’t come with what you collect, or what list you follow. Yes, even I have a list but I know it won’t necessarily work for all women and I know it doesn’t create instant style. My list is created for those who do not know exactly where to start – my hope is it is a canvas, a survival kit so all women have a base wardrobe. Style does not come from aviator sunglasses or diamond studs, style does not come from imitating another. Style comes from getting to know and understand yourself, your life, your body, your mind. Having a base wardrobe helps free up the mind to get creative and personal; it takes guesswork out of every day. It forces you to think… what will make this simple sweater and pants combination more ME?

I adore Nina Garcia – I find her style to be unique yet full of class, I love her brutal honesty and view on Project Runway, and always gobble up her articles in Elle. However Nina Garcia’s books (and the books by many celebrities and celebrity stylists) are more so Chick Lit than reference; they are a peek into a fabulous world of a fashion editor or actress who jet-sets, works in a field where daring fashion is expected, and has drinks with celebutantes. To read Garcia’s list of one hundred items that create style is to peek into her closet and her life, not to help one find her own sense of style.

The problem is America is full of women who are confused. Dove tells us to love our bodies yet stores predominately sell clothing for a different shaped person. We are told to manage our money, yet are told that we can’t be chic without an It Bag. We are celebrated for being intelligent, and trashed for not donning the latest fashions. Magazines, television shows, even the news informs us of what is hot, what is a must-have without considering finances or lifestyle. We are bombarded with products to make us look younger, be thinner, pretend to be richer, attempt to imitate the latest hot celebrity. All these so-called “style” books just add to the frustration and confusion, and it’s just plain cruel. It’s taking advantage of these confused women, stealing away their precious pennies in hopes of finding Fashion Nirvana between the pages.

I know that most women I encounter are just trying to figure out how to get through the day looking presentable and appropriate, not what to wear to a black tie gala or a trip to Ibiza. And most women I encounter can’t or wouldn’t wear half of the things suggested on must-have lists or as style savers.

Point is, enjoy the books as you would a great piece of Chick Lit, or even a coffee table art book. See the beauty, get lost inn the fantasy, and even use it for a bit of inspiration. But know that most of these style books are not gospel, and are normally not written for the average woman.

Some style books that I have found to actually be helpful:

The Pocket Stylist: Behind-the-Scenes Expertise from a Fashion Pro on Creating Your Own Look – This book from Kendall Farr breaks things down for different shapes of bodies, and different weights. She offers timeless tips on how to shop, maintain clothing and build style. It is easy to read, easy to reference, and easy to connect to your actual life. This is one of the few books I have purchased that has not caused me to roll my eyes every chapter.

Simple Isn’t Easy: How to Find Your Personal Style and Look Fantastic Every Day! – Olivia Goldsmith (RIP) and Amy Fine Collins know the fashion world, the society world, and the real world. These teensy book may lack helpful photographs and illustrations, but jams in TONS of really helpful, realistic and fabulous advice on creating style and a working wardrobe. I bought this book in college and it still works with today’s trends. It also has been a wonderful reference for me as well as my mother – different generations, different lifestyles, different personal styles.

Color Me Beautiful – I know this is terribly Old School (gosh some of you younger readers may not even know about this book), but Carole Jackson’s classic really has helped so many women get a grasp on color. I have never been one to stick to my seasonal palette (I am a Winter but gosh do I love me some orange!!!), but it helped narrow down things, and realize it’s not me that looks terrible, it’s the seafoam green sweater that is causing it. One can wear an expensive dress and look like death warmed over, or a cheap dress and look like a million bucks purely based upon the colors on her face, in her hair and on her body. The book I have linked is the original from the ‘80s – do take the makeup and shoulder pad advice with a grain of salt. However do not be afraid to tear out the color sheets and take them to the mall, your hairdresser, and to your best friend’s house.

Ask Allie: How to Style a Kilt

I have a knee-length red plaid woolen kilt I picked up on a college trip to Scotland almost 20 years ago. I trek it out once a season or so, usually around the holidays, but I like it and am trying to think of ways to get more wear out of it beyond the expected “Going to the Nutcracker” kind of look. Any ideas?

Yes, that skirt deserves to come out more than once a year! However I do understand the issue with looking too holiday, as though you’re wearing a costume, or trying to be Mid Life Crisis Britney. The best way to wear accomplish this is to style it as though it is not a kilt. Steer clear of traditional pairings and add something unexpected and it will look fresh and modern.

how to style a kilt women

Gray will tone down the red and keep it from feeling Christmas-y. While a cashmere crewneck and white button-front is pretty classic, pairing the look with modern black leather ankle boots keeps it current. Hair and makeup can really make this look; keep both relaxed and a bit disheveled. Beachy waves and a bit of kohl will go a long way and look far more modern than polished hair and red lips.

how to style a kilt scottish woman

Add a bit of a tough edge to your classic kilt with leather. A black leather jacket and biker boots will be a modern contrast. Unlike the above look, style such an ensemble with very polished hair and face to keep it from looking like a costume; smooth hair with red lips and gently flushed cheeks will look fresh.

how to style a scottish kilt women

A bit of purposeful rumpling will take a look from prep overload to modern cool. A gray tweed blazer with a tailored fit is a great pairing for your kilt; roll the sleeves and maybe pop the collar to keep it from feeling like a uniform. A classic Breton tee is a pattern that will mix nicely with the plaid and also keep it from feeling too much like a uniform. A pair of tall boots with a solid heel will finish the look and keep you warm.

Ask Allie: How to Style Cowboy Boots

I have a cowgirl ball to attend soon. I live in Texas and think I may need to add cowboy boots to my wardrobe. However my style is more classic and ladylike (think Talbots, Ann Taylor) and have a hard time doing “cowboy”. Can you recommend something for this cowgirl ball plus how to add cowboy boots to my wardrobe going forward?

Up north, a ball usually means black tie. However I’ve noticed further south ball can mean a multitude of things. Thanks to your information, I was able to confirm that the type of ball you’re attending is more casual than you’d expect. Think sundresses, jeans with cute tops, denim shirts with skirts. It would be completely acceptable to choose a dress like this one from Talbots, this one from Boden, or this one from Ann Taylor or something already residing in your closet.  If you wish to have it look more “cowgirl” consider topping it with a denim jacket, but honestly from the looks of the pictures while some will go all-out with cowgirl regalia, most seem to wear clothing you could find at your favorite mall retailer, just paired with boots.

When you’re new to an area it can be pretty intimidating to attend such events; thanks to social media it’s easy to search for photos or articles about previous years of the event or similar functions. Even if you don’t have a Twitter account, if the event you are attending has a hashtag, enter it into the search function at the top of twitter.com and all the tweets using that hashtag will show up. Some of them may include photos showing what attendees wore. If there isn’t a specific hashtag, enter the name of the event and likely tweets will show up. Instagram isn’t as easy to search if you don’t have an account; visit http://websta.me/search and put in the hashtag (or try making the event’s name into a hashtag like #XYZcowgirlball) and you should find relevant photos. I admit I do this quite often; it’s a great way to get a feel not just for the attire but the feel of the function and you can be prepared.

As for cowboy boots, it’s actually not that difficult to incorporate them into a classic wardrobe. I’d recommend your first pair to be a single color, simple in design, and the leather color that best matches your current wardrobe (black or brown). There’s no need to go out and buy a whole wardrobe of chambray, eyelet, and bandana prints to wear such pieces. Go slow, and incorporate them at first in the same manner you would a tall pair of boots. Here’s some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

How to style cowboy boots

Here, I took a classic look of narrow jeans and a crisp white shirt which would often be styled with riding boots, and switched them out for cowboy boots. The white shirt could be topped with a blazer or cardigan and easily replaced with a simple knit top. The point is to show you can easily pair cowboy boots with your regular casual or business casual attire. There’s no need to change your normal accessories because you changed your boots; go ahead and wear your pearls, your sparkly statement necklaces, your delicate chains. The same holds true for your bag; wear a style and shape that fits your personality first.

how to style cowboy boots

A cowboy boot looks great with a skirt with some volume, but that doesn’t mean you need to look like a square dancer. Fit and flare, pleats, gathers, and a-lines nicely balance the weight of a cowboy boot. Like me, you likely already own pieces like this in your wardrobe and paired them before with sandals or nude pumps. A switch to cowboy boots won’t look unusual; if you feel the cowboy boots are too rugged for your look up the femininity quota with a pastel bag and floral necklace. As an FYI, this look is an easy one to dress up for an event; switch out the skirt for a full length version, change the shirt into a crisp white one (or keep the denim if appropriate to the occasion) and have a super sparkly necklace and you’re evening-ready.

how to style cowboy boots

A boot also looks great with a looser shift dress. If you choose it in a drapey fabric like silk or rayon it won’t look too boxy. Even add a longer or heavier necklace to hold down the dress and reduce volume on top. Again, no need to buy a whole new wardrobe of bags and necklaces to accommodate your boots.

how to style cowboy boots

I must say this look was inspired by a woman I saw several years ago in the city. She had a similar outfit but in all greys with some well-worn brown cowboy boots when one would usually wear riding boots. The look was so chic and looked so right. A midi skirt is a great pairing for cowboy boots; the soft gathering gives a bit of volume to balance the footwear without overwhelming the frame. Keeping all the colors similar helps the boots blend into the look. A necklace with a natural element to it helps the boots look purposeful.

Do you wear cowboy boots? What are your recommendations for styling them?

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.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Stacy London and the Westfield Style Tour Come to Maryland

It’s official, I have drank the Stacy London Kool-Aid, and I have to say it’s pretty delicious.

I have been a fan of TLC’s show, What Not to Wear for many years. Unlike many makeover shows, What Not to Wear keeps it real, helping real women with real lives learn how to dress their bodies. Stacy London and Clinton Kelly focus on flattering the figure a woman has, instead of worrying about the latest trends. London doesn’t mince words on the show, though she provides real-life advice on how to dress one’s body as well as one’s lifestyle.

Along with offering advice on What Not to Wear, London and Cindy McLaughlin co-created Style for Hire, an online agency that matches women with trained stylists in their area. Style for Hire began in the DC area and is now available nationwide for consultations, closet audits, personal shopping sessions, and more.

This past weekend (as well as this coming weekend), Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Maryland is hosting the Westfield Style Tour. The Westfield Style Tour offers free beauty makeovers, free professional fashion consultations with Style for Hire stylists.  They created a pop-up in Center Court with mannequins showcasing spring fashions, racks of clothing and shoes from mall shops for five-minute fashion consultations, and stylists and makeup artists to provide on-the-spot makeovers.  This past weekend, they also offered an opportunity to meet and get your photo taken with London, who is also the Creative Director for Westfield Style.  

London and her Style for Hire stylists focus on geometry – the shape of your body and the shape of garments, coming up with the perfect flattering equation. They work with you to help shopping be enjoyable, and successful. They begin with a five-minute consultation, will take their clients to the mall to learn how to shop for their bodies, and help them find easy basics from which to grow their wardrobe. Seeing and hearing Stacy London discuss Style for Hire was awesome – I had heard of the program (and know a few talented folks who are part of it), but after hearing her passionately preach the benefits, I knew it was a program worth the money to consider.

I always wonder how a slim woman from the fashion industry like London came to be a woman who really “gets” the issues many find with dressing their bodies. From London’s Wikipedia page I found this quote from her:

“I have been every size in my life. I’ve been smaller than a zero, up through a size 16. I’ve had lots of issues with body image and weight my whole life and it really took a great deal of work to recognize that at all those weights, no matter how I felt, I could still find a dress that made me feel sexy and powerful.”

I was lucky to have an opportunity to interview Stacy London before the Westfield Style Tour, and asked her many of the questions that you readers regularly come to me to answer. Why not get a second opinion from an expert?

And this is where the Kool-Aid was gulped happily. Stacy was so gracious and personable, yet just as intense as you would expect. She looked me in the eye the entire time, and you could feel the passion she has for the subject of style for all women. I wanted to head to a bar with her, buy her a glass of wine, and blather on about hemlines and wrap dresses until last call. I wanted to share my experiences of being so many different sizes, that I too channeled Robert Smith in my high school sartorial choices, and where she got her amazing peeptoe booties.

And now onto your burning questions!

How to Dress a Postpartum Body – Stacy London suggests creating a waist where there isn’t one. While an empire waist can hide a soft tummy, creating one just above the belly and lower than an empire waist is more flattering and will look less like maternity clothes. She, like I, believes in the power of a wrap dress, and recommended that a woman NOT hide under fabric – the more you’re wearing, the bigger you look.

How to Dress when Losing Weight – London says it takes time to lose the weight, and you have to put a similar investment and effort into your wardrobe. It’s important to keep up your wardrobe with your body changes, and purchasing transition pieces are worth the investment.

Best Mall Shops for Women who are Petite and Curvy – London recommends Ann Taylor, LOFT, Banana Republic, and NY & Company for petite women who have curves or aren’t a size 2. She believes these brands have pant silhouettes and styles that flatter curvy frames, even if those curves are on a woman below 5’5” She also feels that J. Crew “does everything right.”

Best Mall Shop for Tall Women – Stacy London says NY & Company has a very generous seam allowance in their pants, so if their pant lengths aren’t long enough it’s easy to have a tailor or seamstress let out the pants to the perfect length.

If you are in the DC area, I encourage you to check out the Westfield Style Tour at Montgomery Mall. For those in other parts of the US, check with your local Westfield mall to see if Stacy London and her team of Style for Hire stylists will be visiting. And if you’re looking for some personalized help on how to shop and dress your figure, check out Style for Hire. Like me, you may find yourself guzzling the Stacy London Kool-Aid and loving it!

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

My Favorite Simple Style Tips

Over the years I have learned a few things from trial and error, many from fellow bloggers, and a heck of a lot from you readers. A few style-based lessons I have learned that have improved my life that I thought may also help you:

Apply Dry Shampoo Before Bedtime. Colored dry shampoo can drip and gets on my hands if I forget and scratch my head and “invisible” dry shampoo makes my brown hair look ashy. One of you readers suggested I try applying dry shampoo before bedtime and let it work its way into my roots while I sleep. Brilliant! I prefer Klorane Dry Shampoo because it has a soft mist and subtle smell, but this also works with cheaper brands like Salon Grafix and Suave. I apply, I don’t really rub in so I go to bed looking as though I have gray roots. However when I wake… awesomeness. Enough time for it to really work in, not leave an ashy look, it’s not as sticky/dry feeling and gives that dry/full look I desire.

Buy Leather a Size Too Small. Leather stretches. Even lined leather stretches. My lined pleated leather skirt I almost returned because I bought a 10 and it was skin tight and I couldn’t fully zip it. So a couple days after work, I came home and changed into it. Made dinner, watched TV, and stretched it out enough to zip. Three nights and the skirt was ready to wear to work. Since then, the skirt has grown even more to where it sort of sits on my hips. Same holds true for leather pants – all my size 10 leather pants (that I shall wear again!) are actually 6 and 8 because they stretch and I broke them in with this method.

Buy Boots a Half Size Too Big. A little more room in the boot means you can wear thick cozy socks without an issue. Come winter, I often wear a pair of knee-high socks and then a pair of thick snuggly anklets over them so I have warm tootsies; the extra space gives my feet plenty of room to wiggle with all the layers.

When Line Drying Pants, Hang Upside Down. Fold the legs seam to seam and hang them in this manner, use those hangers with clips, and the waistband won’t stretch out and you end up with a nice clean crease down each leg.

Store Costume Jewelry in Plastic Bags. Fake gold and silver tarnish easily, and don’t shine back up like the real thing. If you store in Ziploc baggies (or save the plastic bags from purchases and shipments) you can see what you have and also make it look nicer longer. This especially holds true for rhinestones, which can dull over time. So you don’t have a pin-worthy jewelry collection, but at least your collection will last more than one season!

Polish Silver Jewelry with Toothpaste. Works so well, gets the job done fast, and you don’t have to dig around under your kitchen sink for the solution or in your junk drawer for the polishing cloth. Paste, not gel. Rub with your fingers, rinse off, dry with a towel or soft cloth.

Get Out Any Stain with Peroxide and Dawn. Here’s the recipe, and yes, it works like a charm on most any fabric, stains old and new.

Wash Your Makeup Brushes Regularly. When is the last time you washed your makeup brushes? I wash mine once a month with baby shampoo, swirl them on the bottom of the sink to get out the suds, and let dry on their side with the brushes hanging over the edge of the counter or back of toilet so they get good air flow. Try to not get the metal part of the brush (where the bristles are attached) wet, but wash regularly for better pigment, more even application, and fewer breakouts.

Coconut Oil is Awesome. I get allergic reactions to metal from time to time, usually on the back of my neck or on my fingers. This especially happens on my hands, and I’ll end up with raw, red, flaky and burning skin. I have tried cortisone, prescription creams, and the only thing that has really worked is coconut oil. Take off my wedding bands, apply some coconut oil, go to bed and wake up with happy skin. I also use it on my hands and elbows as an intense moisturizer, as well as a hair conditioning treatment. My friend also told me it cleared up her Keratosis Pilaris (those little bumps on the back of upper arms). We use coconut oil in place of butter and most oils at home, so it’s easy to stop in the kitchen and scoop some out for beauty use. Google or Pinterest search coconut oil and you will be amazed by all its health, beauty, pet and home benefits!

Don’t Fold Your Bras. It’s so tempting to fold your bras, especially if they have molded cups, but this stretches them out and changes their shape. Lay them flat in your drawer and they will maintain their shape longer and be less likely to have the wires poke out of the fabric.

Stitch Witchery. It’s the bomb. Tear off a strip, stick it in a fallen hem, can even make it work with your hair iron. Good stuff.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

On Style

While this blog is marketed as a fashion blog, when discussing Wardrobe Oxygen to others I usually explain it’s more of a personal style blog. Wardrobe Oxygen isn’t a place to find the designer look for less, to learn about the must-have trends for the season, or to ogle the closets of celebrities and socialites. Since the beginning, Wardrobe Oxygen attempts to simplify getting dressed for women, provide real-life advice on what to wear, and to help women find their personal style.

Style isn’t having a closet full of beautiful clothing. It’s not about knowing what length to hem your pants when wearing a kitten heel, or having the skill to mix black and navy or stripes with florals. Style is personal. Style is an extension of you.

gore vidal quote style is knowing who you are what you want to say and not giving a damn

Style goes beyond the clothes you put on your body. Style is how you carry yourself, how you interact with the world, and the relationship you have with yourself. Style is trusting your gut, listening to your inner voice, and supporting it even if it bucks the norm.

Style isn’t fitting in, style is finding yourself.

Finding your personal style takes time, and it takes more than a weekend closet cleanout. It’s really getting to know who you are as a person and falling in love with yourself. Embracing your body, befriending your personality, laughing with your sense of humor, and defending your passions. This is harder than it seems, as we have been pressured by the media and our peers to try to achieve some common goal of beauty, of fashion, of life. Scrolling through social media or a copy of Vogue or even More can cause us to question who we are and the choices we make. Style is allowing those questions, but remembering that the answer is completely unique to each of us.

lauren hutton quote fashion is what youre offered four times a year by designers and style is what you choose

Sometimes my columnists and I stray from writing about clothing and beauty and discuss personal issues, but this isn’t straying from the topic of personal style. The two are one and the same. It’s important to understand that clothing isn’t the solution. Knowing, accepting, and loving yourself is the style solution.

Removing the you from your wardrobe is removing the style.

edna woolman chase quote fashion can be bought style one must possess

Whether we like it or not, clothing won’t solve our problems. A pretty dress won’t fix your life, and shopping to change who you are is just throwing money away. Sometimes the most stylish thing you can buy is a session with a therapist, a weekend getaway, or a great book and some bath oils. The stylish folk don’t necessarily have a large closet, a covetable bag, or a perfect face of makeup. They have confidence, they feel at home in their skin, they wear clothing and never let it wear them.

oscar de la renta quote Fashion is about dressing according to what's fashionable

You’re good enough, RIGHT NOW. You’re worthy, and you’re beautiful. Seriously, you are and the one who is holding you back from seeing that is you. A new dress, a haircut, a makeover as a cosmetics counter can help you see yourself better, but it won’t change who you are. You need to do the work, but in the end you’ll have peace of mind as well as personal style.

Guest Post: Which Necklace with Which Neckline?

Guest post by Rosana Vollmerhausen

I gave a talk recently about necklaces and necklines. It’s a typical question we get here at DC Style Factory: Go long? Go choker? Go statement?

The easiest necklaces to wear with just about any neckline is a longer one. The length of the necklace clears any v, scoop, drape or boat neckline. Whether you decide to go longer or shorter, you don’t want your necklace bumping up against your neckline. So either select one that is about an ½ an inch to an inch above your neckline or one that drops under your neckline at least several inches.

Longer necklaces, much like v-neck tops, lengthen your neckline, which in general is more flattering. Chokers shorten your neckline, which sometimes can sometimes be a more challenging style to wear. If you are petite, pay attention to how long the long necklace goes. Right below the bustline is good – grazing your bellybutton is too long.

Here is quick, easy guide for selecting which necklaces go best with which neckline.

V-neck Top

Wear with:

what necklace v-neck top

Smaller drop/pendant necklace that flows into v of the top

what necklace v-neck top

Longer non-pendant necklace that clears the v of the top and flows with the draping.

Pass on: Wearing with a choker, which shortens your neckline and counteracts to the lengthening effect of the v shape.

Scoopneck

Wear with:

what necklace scoop neck top

A statement necklace that mimics the curved shape of the neckline covers expose neck/chest surface area.

Pass on: A choker that will leave too much empty surface area and not cover enough neck/chest area.

Boatneck Top

Wear with:

what necklace boatneck top

what necklace boatneck top

A longer necklace, which draws attention up and down, and balances the high, horizontal neckline.

Pass on: A choker/collar necklace that will bump up against with the neckline.  A statement necklace higher up on the neck that will grab and pull at the horizontal neckline.

Collared Button-down Shirt

Wear with:

what necklace button collared shirt

A statement necklace under the collar for a “brooch” effect.

what necklace button collared shirt

A statement under the shirt with some color peeking out.

Pass on: A long necklace that will compete with the vertical button placket on the shirt.

Crewneck

Wear with:

what necklace crewneck shirt

A longer necklace that lengthens your neckline since the high neckline of the crewneck top shortens it.

what necklace crewneck shirt

A statement necklace that “creates” a new, longer neckline. Select a statement necklace that covers the top of the crewneck.

Pass on: A collar necklace; it just further shortens your neckline.

Strapless

Wear with…

what necklace strapless

A shorter statement necklace that leaves about 1/2 an inch of space between the necklace and the neckline, a longer necklace that clears the neckline, or the two together as pictured!

what necklace strapless

Another fun option is to wear with a collar necklace.

There are a multitude of other necklines and variations on necklines, but just remember, you simply want the necklace you choose to make sense with the neckline of the top. If you are fussing with it too much or it just doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. But selecting the right necklace can really make a difference in adding polish, personality and finish to your look. Happy accessorizing!

DC Style Factory is a personal styling and shopping business based in the Washington, D.C. area. The company creed is that style is for anyone who wants it – regardless of size, age or budget. Clients include high-profile experts in the public eye who need polish for television appearances and stay-at-home moms juggling carpool. Our job is to prepare them to look and feel good for different events in their lives no matter how big or small.

Stylist and owner, Rosana Vollmerhausen, has had more than a decade of fashion retail and styling experience, including owning, running and buying for an award-winning boutique in Washington,D.C. She has styled local fashion events and photo shoots, and has written expert fashion tips for local publications. Her true passion, though, is one-on-one work with clients, building wardrobes that make sense for where they are in their lives. As a wife and mother of three, she is a firm believer that you don’t have to sacrifice personal style because life is busy. If key wardrobe pieces make sense for who and where you are, personal style can be accessible to anyone who wants it.

Learn more about Rosana and DC Style Factory at www.dcstylefactory.com or on the blog at www.dcstylefactory.com/blog.

Ask Allie: Career Wear on a Budget

I am a young professional without a “mentor” or any experience in the professional world other than the two years at my current job. I am getting a new boss in January and she is beautiful, powerful, and extremely sharp. I am the girl with the hot pink iPhone case, the ubiquitous plastic venti coffee cup, wearing Teva sandals with my work outfits, trying to pass black jeans as “dress pants,” and still wearing the same bangle bracelets that I had in high school. I desperately need an upgrade in… everything… but I’m broke.

Are there any suggestions that you can make about taking my college student wardrobe and upping my game while still being able to feed my family?

You are not alone. It’s hard to be new and rise the corporate ladder without going into debt. You come into the workforce already with student loans and then have to shell out a lot just to look as though you want the job you fought hard to get. Jobs are hard to get, so you want to show that you care and have the drive but you don’t have the money to build a professional wardrobe from scratch. A few tips:

Thrift It. I know from your email that you’re already hitting Goodwill, but it can be frustrating to weed though racks and racks of faded knit tees in hopes of finding one decent pencil skirt or blazer. Make it a weekly date – find out when they stock the floors and visit that day. Befriend the folks working there – it may just get you a new friend, or it may get you friends who will see pieces and hold them for you or give you a heads up when they are stocking the floor.

While there, consider going up a size or two. A thrifted pair of pants can easily be altered by the nearby dry cleaner, and the price for both is still going to be cheaper than a new pair of pants on the sale rack.

Join Freecycle. My local Freecycle often has people giving away large bags of clothing in a certain size. People who have lost or gained weight, passed away, retired. While a good portion of the bag’s contents may be wrong for you, you could end up with a real gem in the process. And that which doesn’t work, re-Freecycle or donate. Once you have established yourself on your local Freecycle as a person who gives as well as takes (great way to clean out the house of old toys, knick knacks, and that dusty treadmill in your basement), you can request certain things. I did this once and was amazed with the generous people who replied with items or suggestions on how to get what I needed for less or free.

Find Local Swaps and Consignments. Twice a year, my community has a swap where people bring old baby clothing and equipment and trade for that which they need. It has grown to where this swap often has adult clothing. Local fashion blogging communities will often host or know of swaps where for a small price or a bag of clothes to donate, you can attend and pick up some amazing scores. Consignment sales are another place to find thrift-store priced clothing but a more carefully curated collection. At such events, you can also network with other frugal shoppers.

Nothing in your community? Set one up! It can be anything from a happy hour at your home with a few friends and neighbors, or you can set something up at a local community center.

A sample capsule wardrobe of simple pieces: how you can create over 20 different business casual outfits from just eight pieces of clothing.  Every outfit works with black pumps or flats.

Buy Simple. Simple blue oxford, gray pencil skirt, black blazer, plum cardigan, black pants… pieces like these can be mixed and matched a hundred ways to create completely different ensembles. Don’t buy difficult silhouettes that only go with one piece – create a bit of a uniform with few silhouettes so they are more versatile and less memorable.

Prints and bold colors are memorable; stick to neutrals and soft hues until you can afford a larger wardrobe.

Make a Priority List. What holes are in your wardrobe? Focus on those first. Don’t worry that this season is about oxblood or that a pair of leopard shoes would update your look. Get those basics you need to not be naked or in inappropriate fashion at the office. While I usually encourage buying accessories to switch up basics, at this point I’d say save your money. It’s better to go without any accessories at all than to try to make do with cheap pieces or spend your budget on a bracelet.

Unless you find one for an incredible price and it’s gorgeous, focus more on separates than dresses. Separates can mix and match for more outfits, and can better be tailored to fit (or made to look tailored with belts, Stitch Witchery, and strategically placed safety pins).

When you buy, stop and think what in your wardrobe can it work with. If you can’t imagine three outfits, don’t buy it. Even if it’s only $3 or only $5, that’s $3 or $5 you could save for the right wardrobe addition.

Know No One is Keeping Track. It’s okay to wear the same black pants two or three times in a week as long as they are clean. It’s okay to wear the same shoes every day until you can afford more. You can even carry off the same shirt multiple times in one week – one day on its own tucked in to a skirt, another day untucked under a sweater with pants. As long as the pieces are clean, in good condition, and properly pressed no one is going to care. The effect is far more important than the individual pieces.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Fashion Undressed: Executive Style

alison santighian for wardrobe oxygen

I never consider my age in my wardrobe. I sit squarely in the “if you love it, work it” camp. For heaven’s sake, I own and wear a peach crop top with a crocheted elephant. Heck, I never consider my age in anything. I have to pause when I’m in conversation and make a Seinfeld or Friends reference, and I get a blank stare, and then realize the person across from me isn’t old enough to have watched those shows religiously. My age just isn’t part of how I choose to dress, whether for weekends or for work. I’ve been fortunate to work in roles that, while certainly not in the “creative-wear-what-you-feel” realm, and are even in the conservative camp (my last company was an accounting firm), I can push the envelope. I have no issue being the one in the lava colored “powerpants.” Ever.

I thought carefully when I picked out the clothes I wore last Friday, and the ones I put on this Friday. I thought twice when I tried on a dress I ordered so I’d have an easy, professional go-to in my closet, and it was just a bit shorter than I like to wear in the office. I checked the mirror again when I put on a dress that should be a reliable knock-’em-dead standby, but it hugged my body with at least five pounds more force than it did a year ago.

unnamed

I considered a lot when I went to buy a few new pieces for my closet because I have a new role in my career. Because I love clothing and fashion, choosing them should have been a small joy. Clicking through the spring sales should have been a celebration of my professional accomplishments. Normally, it all would be.

Over the last month my clothing choices felt weightier. Though I’ve been in similar positions for the better part of 10 years, this new one is unabashedly, formally executive. That label seems to have effected me sartorially, and I’m off kilter. As I get dressed each day, I’ve noticed I shy away from things I used to wear easily: a sheer top I’d wear with a camisole and balance with conservative trousers, a dress I bought (and love) that’s about half an inch shorter than I’d like, or stepping into higher heels with a skirt for fear the hoochy factor would go too high.

That last one, especially? It blew my mind.

I have absolutely no issue with using what I’ve got at my disposal. I’m a tall, well-proportioned, and fit woman with an unusual haircolor and strong, shapely legs. I know my appearance can be powerful. If I have a major meeting or presentation, I turn to my snakeskin and vibrantly colored sheath dresses. I put on my Stuart Weitzman pumps. I add rhinestones to my ears and wrists. I put nothing on to distract, mind you, but I know what works.

So why am I hesitant, all of a sudden, to use the tools and armor on which I’ve relied for years, and, quite frankly, push women around me (of course you can pull off the print mixing and the unusual heels or the blouse with the progressive cut, go for it!) – all because of a formal role shift? I’ve been mulling over the phenomenon probably way more than it warrants. It’s stuck in my craw, so I’m going to wonder out loud.

Putting this out into cyberspace is scary. I’ve known many of my colleagues for years, but some don’t know me at all. That fear aside, I suspect there are other women out there wondering and thinking the same things, so here we go.

So far, the most significant reason I can find for my hesitancy is that I don’t quite believe that I’m an executive, and part of a team making decisions for the strategic direction of a company.

There. I said it. I can’t imagine I’m not the only woman to share this insecurity out loud. Sure, maybe there are men out there with doubts; those doubts show up differently for them, I’d think. For me, it’s showing up most clearly in my clothing choices. I’m hesitant to wear the strong things I wore not 2 months ago because I don’t trust my own abilities.

Daily, I remind myself to not couch my opinions with conditional phrases. Daily, I bite my own tongue to cut off the modifiers to hedge my statements and proposals, both virtually and literally, so I do say I mean. Daily, I push forward in areas new to me, just beyond my comfortable expertise, and hope that no one sees through me. Daily, I stop and think twice before I ask a question, for fear someone will interpret that question to mean that I don’t know my job.

As an accomplished 41 year old, it seems incongruous to me that I feel this tentative. I feel silly worrying about my clothes. I’m ashamed that I don’t believe outright in my abilities and capabilities. If they even notice it, those around me don’t see my clothing other than as acceptable. Rather they see me as able, capable, and strong.

I wish I could say writing this, getting it off my chest, is helping me work through it. I hope it will. At the moment, though, I’m still feeling tentative and wary. So I’ll just bundle it up and use it. I’ll coach myself through those timid moments. I’ll put on my Big Girl Panties, hike them up high, and march forward. I’ll remind myself that I can use clothing as armor, as strength, and if I need it, it’s there. But more than any of it, and pardon the Stuart Smalley moment, but I’m strong, I’m able, and I kick ass. And gosh darn it, people know that.

I put clothes on daily, and I love the challenges I’m conquering in my role. Each moment holds some confidence and a dash of fear. I’ve decided that’s the way I want it right now. I don’t have the answer as to how to feel as strong and capable as others see me and as I know I am, nor do I know what any of this means for my closet, if anything. I’m going to keep thinking and writing about it over on my site under the tag “Executive Style.” If you’d like to join the conversation, I’d love to have you.

Alison SantighianBy day, Alison Santighian is a contractor for the federal government, using her super powers to serve our country, but by night (after bedtime for her “Beans” now 7 and almost 5), she pines after the “it” factor. Alison and “H” (better known as #besthusbandever) don’t believe badass has an expiration date, so they hit concerts, shows, restaurants, and openings across the globe. Alison also writes for Glass Magazine, adding a business woman’s eye to fashion week reviews and style features. Follow her on Twitter.

How Does One Get the Polished Look?

This, or different variations of this question show up in my keywords on my blog’s stat counter every day. It seems that most women are searching for the Holy Grail of style instead of working on those spreadsheets or proposals at work!

herlook2
Looking polished… well some women are born with that skill. They are able to wear a simple tee shirt, jeans and flats and look like Audrey Hepburn. Their hair never frizzes, their lipstick never gets on their teeth, they have perfect yet natural posture, and possess effortless confidence and style.

I am not one of those people. I always spill my Starbucks latte on my sleeve while walking into work. Friends are always picking a piece of lint out of my hair or a crumb off my sweater. I wear more bruises and scratches than articles of clothing and due to my shape can quickly look dumpy or dowdy in a simple tee shirt or sweater.

The first step toward achieving a polished look is to destroy that mental picture of Grace Kelly, Jackie Onassis, Cate Blanchett and Audrey Hepburn. If you are asking how to look polished, I can bet you weren’t one of those born with their frame, their personality, their “polished” look. To attempt to force yourself into an ideal will never be successful, look authentic, or be enjoyable.

MadCottonDress
For a week, keep a style journal. Note what you wore (and what condition it was in), how you styled your face and hair and what events took place during the day. Notice how people look at you, respond to you, what comments or compliments you receive (not just on your outfit, but on your work, your talent in another aspect of your life, your health or weight). Also note how you felt when you looked in the mirror before leaving that day, and how you felt when you returned in the evening.

If you leave your house in something that you don’t love and does not love you, you will not look polished, composed or comfortable. Maybe it’s a dress that is a smidge too tight, a blouse that requires a few carefully hidden safety pins to keep your bra from public view, a sweater made from a fabric that itches and of a color you don’t really like but seems popular this season. I always say style comes from quality and not quantity; donate or re-gift those items that make you uncomfortable and save up for worthy replacements.

How does the garment wear throughout the day? Does that chic pencil skirt end up resembling your venetian blinds by noon? Are you constantly adjusting the neckline of your blouse so all your feminine bits are not on display? Did the sleeves of your sweater stretch out so much from pushing them up on your forearms that now they are saggy bells around your fingertips? Again, these items do not deserve a place in your closet. Who cares how sassy you feel at 8am if you feel like a recycled grocery bag by happy hour.

InstantClassic
But what pieces make you walk tall and feel good? Maybe it’s that matte jersey wrap dress you found for $10 on a clearance rack at Macy’s, or a cashmere turtleneck in robin’s egg blue that you bought with your holiday bonus. Possibly it’s a frilly feminine confection that makes you feel as though you have been transported from a different time period, or a black suit that has been tailored to fit your shape like a glove. When I say “good,” I don’t mean comfortable. I don’t mean an item that reminds you of your mom because she knit it for you back in college, or because it’s of cozy fleece and hides your lumps. Women often mistake feeling good for feeling safe. Again and again we see on What Not to Wear and How Do I Look? women who cry over a pair of threadbare flannel pajama pants or a college sweatshirt with a paint splatter across the stomach. These are not clothes that make you feel beautiful, strong, confident, sexy, creative, unique, daring or feminine. These are clothes that attempt to recreate the womb or your bed. Whether we like it or not, we have to get out of bed and we have to face the world. Best to armor ourselves with the type of garments that make us feel strong and true, not passive and unimportant.

BlkCoatMonday
So you have gutted your closet of the ugly, the uncomfortable, the meek, the shape-shifters. What do you bring to your wardrobe to make you polished?

Keep it Simple

You never see a “polished” woman in cabbage roses, brand logos and bedazzled fabrics. The simpler your pieces, the more versatile they are, the more flattering they are, the more timeless they will be. It is tempting to buy the blouse with the kicky embroidery, but more often than not, you will tire of the pattern, the look will be out of fashion in less than three months and people will think, “oh there she is again in that embroidered shirt!” Fun and flashy pieces are added once a simple working wardrobe is created.

All About Fit

Look at the cut of garments – a polished woman is never in a muumuu or a shapeless shift dress. No matter her shape, size or age, a polished woman has accepted her frame and purchases garments that work to her advantage. An oversized sweater does not hide your stomach, if anything it draws attention to it. Whether you like it or not, everyone can tell that you have a tummy, very small breasts, large hips, short legs, back fat or heavy arms. Hiding these things under swaths of fabric tricks the eye of no one but you. Find garments that work with your lines, and if you cannot find well-fitting pieces, have them tailored. A great pair of black trousers can easily survive a decade in your closet if they flatter, fit, are made of quality fabric and are treated well.

Madison-Lady
And accept your size. I agree, it SUCKS when you are sure you are size X and you go into a store and you need to try on a size Y or even Z to get the zipper closed. This does not mean you are fat or bad or weirdly shaped. This is just proof that the sizing in stores these days is all out of whack. Once you let go of the “oh, I’m a size 6” mentality, you will have a better time shopping. If need be, cut the tags out once you purchase these garments. Heck, I have even removed the tag advertising the brand of a garment if it makes me uncomfortable (no one needs to know if your dress is from H&M, Lane Bryant, Mossimo or Prada). When you wear garments that are too big or too small, you look uncomfortable, and you never look polished.

Get Over the Name

Stylish, polished women hardly ever wear obvious brand names. So many times, a fashionista is stopped after attending a runway show or a gala and is asked who she is wearing and we find out that fabulous frock is from Club Monaco or that perfect-fitting shirt is from Gap. Walk the mall and scan the internet and catalogs looking at cut, style, fabric composition. Crap is sold at all price levels, and so is quality. Wearing an ill-fitting, and un-you dress from Stella McCartney is far worse than wearing a well-fitting simple one from Ann Taylor Loft.

Know Thyself

You got rid of the impossible dream to be Grace Kelly, now get rid of all those lists that say you need X perfect pieces to be well-dressed. I’m talking about that crisp white shirt, that trench coat, that pencil skirt, and the little black dress. Yes, these are great pieces for many women, but not all women. You’re an artist, you’re a weekend warrior, your wedding registry was at R.E.I., you have more curves than Marilyn Monroe, you live hundreds of miles from a city and heck, it never rains where you live.

Phila1det
Go back to your style journal. Did you feel strong in that rust-colored turtleneck with your brown tweed trousers? Did someone ask you if you lost weight, or notice your green eyes while wearing it? How about that turquoise sundress you bought on your trip to Mexico, the one that you were wearing when your husband told you that you looked beautiful and when your son’s teacher was shocked by your actual age, thinking you were a decade younger? More often than not, these pieces feel good to you AND to those around you because they express your personality best.

Miamiblkdress
Personally, I love the look of a crisp white shirt tucked into a pencil skirt with some fabulous slingbacks… on another woman. A tucked-in blouse accentuates my short torso, my tummy and large breasts, most pencil skirts are unforgiving to my solid legs and round bum, and I have thick ankles and not enough definition from them to my heel to keep slingbacks up all day. However, I feel great in short shift dresses in stretchy fabrics and tall boots because they work with my petite frame, de-emphasize my midsection and wide calves, fit my lifestyle, and make me look pulled-together, stylish AND true to my personality. Accepting and embracing your exterior AND interior is the key to achieving personal style, and looking polished.

General Guidelines

These don’t always work for every woman, but a few tips that may help you on your journey to a polished look:

  • Purchase a new purse. More often than not, a woman’s purse is a mess. It’s fraying, overstuffed, stained and tired. Look for a bag that fits your style, but will also be timeless. Try to find something that is stylish instead of trendy, relatively free of logos and shiny decorations so it will span seasons and trends.
  • Get a new haircut. A polished woman does not have her hair in a claw clip or a messy bun 24/7. Get a cut that fits your lifestyle as well as your personality. Only have five minutes in the morning and have wavy fine hair? Don’t try Katie Holmes’ new bob – you won’t have the time to keep it looking good. Talk to your stylist before he shampoos your mane. Let him feel the texture, get to know you as a person before those scissors get anywhere near you. And be realistic – unless you want to spend a lot of time on your hair, you can’t make curly locks pin-straight, you can’t have a head of romantic curls when your locks are fine and straight. Just as you should accept your body, so should you accept your tresses.
  • Stop purchasing prints. A few prints tossed in every so often are great, but polished women are those decked out predominately in solids. A solid blue sweater will look more polished than a striped one, a simple white shirt will get you more miles and compliments than a paisley one, and a black pencil skirt will look far more elegant than a purple tweed one with a satin-trimmed hem.
  • Cut down on the cosmetics. A polished woman many have one facial feature accented, but that is about it. A polished look is clean skin, groomed brows, an elegant and simple look. If your brows are sparse, invest in a brow powder or gel – brows define a face and also your look. Instead of multiple products on the face, consider a great concealer and a highlighting tinted moisturizer to give the look of fresh, healthy skin. Lips are soft, moisturized, and either subtly colored or the focus in a subtle red or wine shade. Glitter, high gloss and shimmer are not in the makeup bags of polished women. As for eyecolor, it should be subtle neutrals to accent the eye, lashes curled and defined, but never thick, heavy or false looking. A blush or bronzer should give only a subtle flush to the skin and not attempt to recreate the look of the sun, cheek implants or a trend seen on the pages of Allure.
  • Take care of your shoes. They say shoes define the man, but they also define the woman. Be they ballet flats, classic pumps or knee-high stiletto boots; your shoes need to be cared for. Get them re-heeled and resoled each year, polish them, store them carefully and immediately treat them for stains, scuff or any other damage. Instead of five pairs of fun and cheap shoes that will last a season, use that money to invest in one pair that will last you a generation. Simple black leather pumps will provide you with miles of wear, a tall boot with a classic heel and toebox will work for decades, and there are many adorable flats out there that can be just as comfy as your ratty trainers. No matter how beautiful the woman, how sassy the outfit and how perfect the hair, a pair of scuffed, cheap and worn down shoes will destroy your image.


Images via The Sartorialist .

How to Have Style

I would like to thank Polly from my French Chic group for bringing my attention to this article from PsychologyToday.com. I think this is an amazing article that really defines style and how it is different from fashion and not a superficial, stupid characteristic to possess. Many times I feel I have to apologize for having a blog about style, thinking people find me to be materialistic and silly to care so much about such a subject. But style is not stupid, materialistic, or silly and Hara Estroff Marano defines style quite perfectly in this article. Enjoy!

How to Have Style
Unlike fashion, a sense of style comes from within.
By: Hara Estroff Marano

It’s clear to me from the many people I talk to that there is a great misunderstanding about style. Style is not a price. It is not an age. It is not a size. And it can be learned.

Style is one part self-knowledge and one part self-confidence. In other words, it’s an attitude. It is a life-affirming expression of your character and spirit, a conviction that you are worth knowing, worth looking at and can present yourself well. It is knowing your strengths and weaknesses so that you can accentuate your strengths, not hide real or imagined shortcomings. Feeling good about yourself is a sine qua non of looking good.

There is one more element of style, and that is clothes, but style should never be confused with fashion. Fashion is synonymous with clothes, but style is merely expressed through clothes. Fashion is IN the clothes. Style is IN the wearer.

Style is nothing if not a celebration of individuality, of individual variability. It glorifies the fact that we are all different. It exposes as preposterous the notion that there is an ideal body, an ideal woman—that there is only one perfect way to look, that any one way is perfect for all
women. Style always delights because it is a revelation that the possibilities for originality are limitless.

Style rejects ideals. It goes its own way. In fact, style is nothing if not a triumph of the fresh and unusual.

Style is democratic. It assumes that every woman has the potential to create an identity that’s unique, and to express it through how she carries herself, how she grooms herself, what she puts on.

Yet style is aristocratic. It sets apart those who have it from those whose dress is merely functional, utilitarian. It announces to the world that the wearer has a sense of herself and has assumed command of herself.

Style is intelligent, because it requires self-knowledge. Style hugs the self closely, even though it never represents the whole self at one time. The self is too complex to be represented by any one way of dressing.

Style is optimistic. It is optimism made visible. Style presumes that you are a person of interest, that the world is a place of interest, that life is worth making the effort for.

There is no style without taking risk, without exploring new sides of the self, without saving what works and discarding the errors. Style, then, is a springboard for personal growth.

There are those who criticize style for its trendiness and materialistic consumption. But they are confusing style with fashion. Fashion is preoccupied with change merely for change’s sake, to stoke consumer purchases.

Style is in fact a way of avoiding the clutter of stuff. It is a way of sorting through the crowded marketplaces, a way of selecting, making choices influenced not so much by pressures such as advertising but by internal considerations. This kind of style no more requires change from season to season that does your character. But neither is it completely static. Ideally it should evolve over time, as character does.

Style is really self-knowledge applied selectively—selectivity is its essence—to the material world.

Psyched
for Success, 20 November 2003
Last Reviewed 29 Mar 2006
Article ID: 3123

Capsule Wardrobe: Transitioning from Summer to Fall with a Denim Jacket

I’m a born again denim jacket fan. After too many years sporting them almost daily in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I couldn’t fathom wearing one again in the new millennium. However, in recent years the denim jacket has again become a popular and versatile wardrobe staple and I broke down and purchased one (this one from J. Crew Factory). Now I can’t imagine my wardrobe without one.

In a recent post’s comments, reader Mim asked if I could make a capsule to show the versatility of a denim jacket. Below is a sample capsule wardrobe incorporating a denim jacket, showing how it can help transition your summer wardrobe to early fall. While the weather may still be warm enough to bare legs (and a couple toes), you’ll likely desire a couple toppers and a way to temper summer vibes from breezy skirts and floral maxis. This capsule wardrobe is for a business casual office, or for the weekend.

Capsule Wardrobe: Transitioning from Summer to Fall with help from a denim jacket. Via Wardrobe Oxygen

Shop Similar: Denim Jacket | Blazer | Tee Shirt | Striped Top | Black Shell | Pencil Skirt | White Jeans | Midi Skirt | Sheath Dress | Maxi Dress | Ankle Strap Shoes | Block Heel Shoes | Wrap Belt | Pendant Necklace

Feel free to change out pieces to better fit your personality. A dark rinse denim jacket, the blazer can be a different color or replaced with a leather moto, the gray tee with a band tee or one with your favorite superhero or book quote. Stripes are extremely versatile and mix well with other prints, but could be switched out with a different print or a solid. The floral pencil skirt can be replaced with a solid, leopard print, a-line, or a fit and flare shape. The jeans can be switched out for a different color, fit, or even a twill or sateen ankle or cropped pant. A printed wide-leg pant is also a great alternative.  The gray pleated midi can be a cotton print, changed to a maxi, or switched out for culottes or another pair of ankle pants. The dresses are examples showing how different silhouettes and lengths can work; you can switch out for a tee shirt dress, fit and flare, and most any length from above the knee to ankle. Don’t be afraid to consider a jumpsuit, I wore one with a denim jacket in this outfit post.  As for the shoes, I chose two heels that are relatively walkable; the black and leopard one was chosen for the ankle strap (a popular trend right now) and how the print adds interest to solids and also plays nice with other prints. I own shoes similar to the camel ones and love how they work great with pants and skirts of every length; the color elongates the leg and works well with cool and warm colors. I have a version of the camel belt and find it extremely versatile.

Shop Denim Jackets and Blazers to Create this Look:

Don’t be afraid to mix high with low; we’re used to that meaning designer with discount mart fashion, but it also means pairing denim with chiffon, your favorite band tee with a satin pencil skirt, a bit of sparkle with a bit of distress. The gray yoga tee will look chic with the chiffon midi skirt; you can tuck it in or knot it at the waist. Pair with the camel shoes or even your favorite flat sandals or slip-on sneakers and if it gets chilly, add the denim jacket. The gray tee also works with the printed pencil skirt; switch out the denim jacket for the blazer and the camel shoes for the ankle strap kitten heels for work in a creative office environment.

Shop Graphic Tees to Create this Look:

Denim jackets can replace blazers in casual and creative office environments; wear with the black ponte sheath dress and add the camel belt and heels to make it look more purposeful and cohesive. The black crepe shell and gray chiffon midi skirt would look at home in most business casual environments but may look a bit too summery come September; add the denim jacket, switch out sandals for the camel block heels and add the belt to make the look seasonally appropriate without being too wintry. Pattern mixing is still on trend and a lot of fun; style the Breton tee with the printed pencil skirt and ankle strap heels; add the denim jacket to tone down the prints and give a downtown vibe.

Shop Skirts with Plenty of Personality :

Double denim (wearing more than one piece of denim in an outfit) is no longer a fashion faux pas; if it still makes you uneasy, styling a denim jacket with white or colored denim gives the most contrast. While a graphic tee and white jeans may seem too ordinary, the addition of a pendant necklace and denim jacket creates a complete look. The best bet for pairing denim on denim is to work with contrast; it’s near impossible to match denim pieces so you’ll be better off with rinse denim and distressed, colored with whitewash, white with vintage. The addition of a print (stripes are always a safe bet) makes the look cohesive and steers clear of “Texas Tuxedo” territory.

Shop Dresses to Style with Denim Jackets:

If a denim jacket seems too heavy to wear with your favorite summer maxi dresses, consider holding down the dress with a wide belt and chunky shoes. Again, the camel belt and heels are a great choice. A wide belt is fantastic to cover any belt loops, built-in fabric belts, or waist details to give your maxi a completely different effect and look more appropriate for the later months of summer and early part of fall.

A denim jacket can not only help transition summer looks to fall, it can also pull together a wardrobe and create a cohesive look from boho, rock and roll, prep, classic, and romantic. Denim jackets look great with everything from leopard and leather to florals and silk faille. Do you have a denim jacket in your wardrobe? What is your favorite way of wearing it?

Style with Substance: Karen Kane

One of the best parts of blogging is getting to know brands on a different level. Not just a label in a boutique or department store, you learn the story behind the name, their purpose, their history, and sometimes, they become friends.

I heard of Karen Kane before I started blogging, it was a brand I’d see at the mall, just like all the other garments wearing some woman’s name. The alliteration was catchy, I figured it was made up to represent the ideal customer for the brand. But thanks to my blog I got to know that Karen Kane is a real woman who cares for and designs for fellow real women.

karen kane history

A little Karen Kane history, learn more at this link

Karen Kane has been a California Girl since she was 9 years old, attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in LA, and after graduation got a job as a pattern maker for a sportswear company. In 1979 Karen and her husband Lonnie begin the clothing brand Karen Kane out of their garage. After just one year the company reaches $1 million in sales. In 1986, their son Michael was born. To combine work and personal life, they brought Michael to work with them every day. Michael is now the Director of Marketing and the super nice person I work with when partnering with the brand (he even “likes” my Facebook page!). Karen and Lonnie still run the business. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to work with a company that sees me as a person, not just a blog, and who understands how Wardrobe Oxygen’s readers are different from another blog with different interests and needs.

karen kane blog love

My favorite Karen Kane outfits that have been featured on Wardrobe Oxygen

Before many other brands, in 1999 Karen Kane launched a Women’s division after hearing requests from their customers. And as of 2013, over 95% of Karen Kane’s collection is manufactured right here in the United States. The clothes are high quality, comfortable, true California style with a touch of femininity and sex appeal. Many of my wardrobe favorites, such as this dress, these pants, this dress, and this jumpsuit (sorry for the bad photo, I’ll have to do an outfit post in it soon, they still have it in stock!) are from Karen Kane.

This season I’m admiring the Studded Wrap Dress, Safari Jacket, Gold Sequin Front Dress, and can’t wait for this spring when Karen Kane will be offering jewelry and hats! I know I will be adding more Karen Kane to my closet this season and for many seasons to come.

I had a Small Business Saturday series before my surgery, but since then have realized how I love many brands who aren’t small but still have heart. I’m changing this series to Style with Substance and will be featuring brands who offer great fashion with great ethics or goals.

The Westfield Style Lounge Experience

A month ago, I had the opportunity to learn more about the partnership between Stacy London’s Style for Hire company and Westfield Malls. This weekend, I had a chance to see this partnership in action.

Style for Hire has created a pop-up shop in select Westfield malls (right now Westfield Montgomery in Maryland, Westfield Trumbull in Connecticut, and Westfield Garden State in New Jersey though it will eventually be in more locations) called the Westfield Style Lounge. The shop is stocked with fresh fashions from various retailers within the mall and is staffed by a Style for Hire stylist and an assistant. These certified Style for Hire personal stylists offer free 15-minute style consultations to help you shop for a specific event, update your wardrobe for the season, or just offer a fresh eye to your current personal style. The Style for Hire personal stylists do NOT work on commission, so you know you will receive honest feedback and quality suggestions.

This Saturday I had the pleasure to meet with Lisa Tumbarello, Style for Hire personal stylist at the Westfield Montgomery Style Lounge. She walked me through a typical style consultation, and then answered all the questions I had about Style for Hire and the Westfield Style Lounge.

The Westfield Style Lounge Experience
One can either schedule an appointment for the Style Lounge from the Westfield website (preferred method), or if there is availability, can do a walk-in appointment (right now the Style Lounge is only open on weekends at Westfield Montgomery). The consultation begins with a conversation – what are your style needs, what are your favorite parts of your body and what do you see as trouble points, what is your personal style. I really liked that one’s normal personal style is considered as many stylists and fashion books forget this important detail.

Getting my picture taken for my Westfield Style Lounge personalized style prescription

Checking out the selections in the Style Lounge closet

Once the stylist understands you and your fashion needs, she will pull pieces from the style closet. The closet is updated every few weeks with fresh fashion from across the mall. Style for Hire makes sure that the pieces chosen are in-stock at the mall, are versatile yet fit the current trends of the season. When I visited they had a great variety of retailers including Gap, Banana Republic, Sandwich, Michael Kors, White House Black Market and Clarks. Most of the brands the Westfield Style Lounge features have extended sizes (tall, petite, plus), and the stylists know the mall inside and out so can suggest other retailers who will have similar pieces in your specific size.

The Westfield Style Lounge closet

Lisa explaining pattern mixing and shoes that feature style as well as comfort

While the stylist pulls pieces and creates ensembles on the dress form, she gets to know your tastes and educates you on good silhouettes for your body and how to incorporate trends. Lisa pulled a simple white ponte sheath from Banana Republic, mentioned how the seaming would flatter my figure, and paired it with a coral beaded necklace and pair of purple wedge sandals to show how pops of different colors is on-trend and takes the simple dress to another level. She also showed how to mix patterns in a subtle manner that would be wearable even on weekends to the grocery store.

The Westfield Style Lounge app

Entering my fashion choices into the Westfield Style Lounge app

Sample email from the Westfield Style Lounge

When you find pieces you like, the assistant will note them on an iPad. At the end of the consultation, the pieces you liked will be emailed to you or printed out for you on-site. The printout has your stylist’s name and contact information on top; below you will find photos, retailers, and prices of all the items you liked. You can then head to those stores and show the staff your print-out for easy shopping.

If by chance there is not an appointment after yours, you can easily have access to a free Stacy London-trained and certified personal stylist for up to an hour who can even leave the shop and go shopping with you. However, I couldn’t believe how much we were able to accomplish in just 15 minutes. With the Westfield Style Lounge, personal stylists are no longer for the rich and famous. And if you like your consultation at the Westfield Style Lounge, you can book that Style for Hire personal stylist for an additional session. Your personal stylist’s contact will be on the top of your email and printout; you can go to the Style for Hire site to learn the rates for the stylists, times of availability and services offered.

The Westfield Style Lounge is located on the main floor on the Nordstrom wing (right in front of J. Crew). The Lounge will remain in Westfield Montgomery Mall until the first week of July, and will hopefully return come fall. You can learn more about the Trumbull and Garden State Westfield Style Lounges on their websites, and you may see a Style Lounge coming soon to your nearby Westfield mall!

Style For Hire
Lisa made a fantastic point about the price of a personal stylist – we have all purchased that fashion mistake. Maybe it was a suede fringe jacket, or a pair of flatforms, maybe it was a delicate lace blouse when you’re more of a wash-and-wear woman. One session with a personal stylist is about the same price as one fashion mistake, yet it will provide you with ideas and education to be a better shopper, work with what is already in your closet, or dress for a specific event. Style for Hire also offers Shopping Tourism – you and a group of friends can book a stylist to give you a tour of the best boutiques in a city. What an awesome idea for a bachelorette party! Men, don’t feel left out – the Westfield Style Lounge and Style for Hire assists gentlemen with consultations, personal shopping, and closet audits.

Style for Hire personal stylists rage in price from $65 – $250 based on level of experience. All stylists are trained and certified by Stacy London, so you will receive a well-educated stylist and a consistent experience. On the Style for Hire website you can read the bios of the stylists to find one whose personality best fits you. The site also has reviews from previous customers which helps you find the perfect personal stylist.

Lisa Tumbarello works full-time as a personal stylist for Style for Hire, and travels from the Pennsylvania border to Northern Virginia. She works with any budget, and told me she has even taken clients shopping at thrift stores to show them how to buy a quality wardrobe on a budget. I really enjoyed my time with her – she’s extremely warm, personable, and real; I felt I could be honest with her and receive honest feedback in return. If you feel that you could use a little extra assistance with your personal style or shopping for an upcoming event, consider Style for Hire.

Note: I did receive a gift card from Westfield.  However, the decision to write this post and all ideas expressed within are entirely my own.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Personal Style Should Not be Work

Fashion should not be work. Fashion is a form of art – when art becomes work, it no longer is artistic.

Many women I know both in-person and through this blog seem to work too hard in becoming chic, fashionable or stylish. When style becomes frustrating, tiring, annoying or exasperating, it no longer exists. If a painter becomes so famous that he creates works of art in an assembly-line fashion, those paintings no longer are true art – they no longer hold part of the artist’s soul.

If style doesn’t come to you naturally, you are in the MAJORITY. Just as the majority of the population cannot sing, cannot sculpt, cannot dance well. It is something that you work on, and with passion it may grow to either a talent or something you enjoy behind closed doors. The problem with personal style is that it cannot be kept behind closed doors. Every day you are seen and judged by your wardrobe; and so the pressure for style skill is ever present.

If you stick to very simple basics in your wardrobe, dressing will be far simpler. So stovepipe jeans are in, as are platform sandals with dark hose. This does not mean they should be in your wardrobe. The hot color is yellow but just the thought of wearing that color makes you turn green, then for all means DO NOT WEAR IT. If you feel safest in a wardrobe of black and gray and denim, then until you feel more confident and skilled, there is no reason to venture into blue and red territory. Keep it very simple at first, stick with simple until you feel secure.

When you first ride a bike you have not only training wheels, but often a parent holding on to the back of the seat. The parent lets go, you wobble on the training wheels and then begin to feel steady. The training wheels are removed, but the parent is back to keep you straight. Once you have the hang of it, the parent lets go of the bike, you coast down the sidewalk and suddenly you can ride. Now, once you ride, you won’t be popping wheelies and jumping of 5’ cliffs in the mountains. You get acclimated to concrete and asphalt. You master turns and quick stops. After a long time perfecting your basic pedaling skills, you may move on to rougher terrain, or maybe tricks or long journeys. You will move from the standard bike to maybe a road model, one for trail rides, or one for BMX. Possibly you may find that you really don’t want to go farther than the occasional ride on the street and are perfectly happy with your first bike. You dabble in one style, find that you have a passion for it, and only then do you invest in the proper tools to follow that passion.

We women often try to be Lance Armstrong when we haven’t even taken off the training wheels. We want it all, and we want it now. We’ll buy every self-help book out there, subscribe to a dozen fashion magazines and TiVo What Not to Wear and how Do I Look. We go from a wardrobe of sweats to stilettos and complicated frocks. We feel frustrated and lost and hopeless.

Go back to my staples. These are simple items you can find at the local mall, big box retailer and often even a thrift store. If you are scared of color right now, then replace the colorful tops with muted shades. If you don’t ever wear jewelry, then hold off on the hoop earrings. Get some basic, well-made pieces that fit you properly and make you feel secure when you wear them. You have pieces that you can wear to work, to church, to pick up your son from pay group, to head to the grocery store. You have stepped from covering your body to dressing it. Stay at this point as long as you like, be it a couple months or a couple years. Don’t push it. There are things in life far more important than finding your proper colors or the It bag for the season.

You know you’re ready to take off those training wheels when you start admiring fashion in magazines, on TV and in stores. Like paintings, you can find beauty in a Dali, a Monet and a Warhol. The thing is to see which styles really capture you and tug at your soul. Is it the feminine lacy and sheer blouses in whites and pale shades this spring? Maybe it’s the yellow patent leather clutch in your recent fashion mag. Whatever it is that appeals to you, really think about it and how it connects to your personality. Slowly allow yourself to indulge in a piece of clothing or an accessory that you adore. Maybe it’s a modern silver bangle bracelet or a woven straw purse. Possibly it’s a biker-inspired leather jacket or a floral silk scarf for your throat. Take this one item and infuse it into your wardrobe. Examine your reflection before you leave for your day and in shop windows and restroom mirrors. Do you like what you see? Do you feel comfortable and yourself with this piece? If not, that’s okay. We all impulse shop. Take this as a learning experience and give the piece to a friend or donate it. Don’t hold on to it just because you bought it. Having items in your wardrobe that are wrong is far worse than having a miniscule wardrobe of things that are right.

When you wear this new piece, see what types of reactions you receive. Do people say you look as though you lost weight in that turquoise shade? Did a stranger compliment you on your necklace? Did someone ask you directions (this is a good one, because it often means that you seem to be confident and knowledgeable and approachable)?

You will see that your fashion tastes will most likely be in line with your tastes in movies, music, art and home décor. A person who loves Laura Ashley sheets will often like more feminine and delicate styles. One who loves indie flicks will often like styles that are one of a kind and have a funky, artsy vibe. If your favorite genre of music is rap, you may be drawn to strong lines and bold colors. Just because celebrities and models and fashionistas wear it does not mean you need to wear it too. The reason certain celebrities are celebrated for their style is because they have dressed to fit their personality, not a how-to book or a glossy page from Vogue.

As you begin to understand your personal style, your wardrobe will grow. You will make mistakes, you will get frustrated, you will occasionally feel lost. This happens with all aspects of your personality and life. If you can have a midlife crisis over the state of your life and your direction, so can you about your wardrobe. In college I lived at J. Crew. Lots of sundresses, chinos, polo shirts and cardigans tied around my neck. I was attracted to simple lines and neutral colors. My hair was long and wavy and often in a ponytail. Makeup was some mascara and a swipe of tinted lip balm. After college I got into a creative field and my wardrobe morphed with my tastes in music and books. Suddenly I had a lot of leather in my wardrobe; I counted six pairs of leather jeans and ten black turtlenecks at one time. I straightened my hair and dyed it a very very dark brown. I wore lots of animal prints and had my nails short and often a strange shade like dark green, black or silver. As I got older and got married and comfortable with myself, I saw my tastes change again. I liked natural fabrics with stretch that grazed over my curves and were comfortable. I mixed bright cheery colors with neutrals and began wearing almost only silver jewelry, much that was made by my Great Aunt or picked up on trips around the globe. I preferred a night in with the husband and a nice bottle of wine over an evening of club-hopping in the city. None of these changes were overnight, they were subtle transformations. Keep this in mind – your style will change based on your place in life. Be aware of how you tastes change with food or movies or music; this is often a way to help you know when it’s time to let your wardrobe catch up to your self.

Often we hold onto clothing because it reminds us of our past self. I’ll admit that I have red leather jeans hanging in my guest bedroom closet. They are three sizes smaller than what I wear now, and I look at them and see a very confident, strong me who was skinny, powerful, and a bit frightening. I feel that if I could wear those jeans again, maybe I could still be that person. But then I realize that I wouldn’t want to be that person. Now I am a calm, happy and comfortably confident person who doesn’t need a suit of armor to work a room. We all have that dress, pair of boots or jacket that reminds us of when we may have been thinner, happier or hipper. The thing is, you are not that person any more, and that’s okay. You can’t go back in time, and if you could you probably wouldn’t find the past to be as wonderful as you remember it to be. The only way to be happy now is to live in the now and that peasant skirt or leopard-print trench is holding you back from the person you can be. Celebrate the you are now by tuning into your interests, your passions, your loves and your unique personality. Find objects and garments that show you off. If you tune into who you are on the inside, it becomes easier to figure out how you should look on the outside. Next thing you know, you may be giving Lance Armstrong a run for his money!

Ask Allie: Collars and Crews

The ever lovely Natalie emailed me and asked,

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

My email response:

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

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

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Summer Sartorial Rules for Corporate America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For some suggestions on appropriate office attire, please visit:

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

The Bandana is Back!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Allie: Which Jeans with Which Boots?

Can you give me some guidance about which boots to wear with which jeans? There are skinny jeans, straight-leg jeans, mini-boot cuts, boot-cuts, boyfriend jeans, cropped jeans, jeans that people cuff above the boot, jeggings, and everything in between. There are ankle boots, cowboy boots, mid-calf boots, knee-high boots, UGGs, shooties, and fakers (they look like boots from the front but the back is open like a mule/clog). Which jeans do I pair with which boots so that I look proportional and not like a farmer? And when do I tuck the jeans inside the boots, and when do I leave them out?

how to style jeans boots which wear

Boots and jeans should be easy… I mean we’ve been wearing the combination for eons, right? But with all the different leg widths, lengths, and boot styles you may feel as though you need to get an advanced degree in footwear/denim matching!

Skinny Jeans

The skinny jean is a heavier weight than a jegging (legging made out of a lightweight stretchy denim), has all the trimmings of a typical jean (pockets, zippers, belt loops, etc.), but has a very narrow fit. What was originally found to be a cut only models could carry off, skinny jeans are now a commonplace silhouette worn beautifully by women of all shapes and sizes.

The skinny jean is perfect for tall boots, be they over-the-knee heeled boots, flat riding boots, cowboy boots, calf-height harness boots, or a slouchy suede wedge. The skinny jean hugs the leg making it less likely to bag at the knee or wiggle its way out of the boot shaft. The slim silhouette makes the bulk of a boot look more elegant, and works with the chunky and slouchy knits this season.

The skinny jean is also perfect for ankle booties. Be they short harness boots, lace-up combat boots, or ankle-high cowboy boots, a skinny jean tucks into the boot nicely and shows the shape of your calf above the boot’s opening. If you find your jean likes to wiggle out of booties, consider tucking the hem into a pair of socks; they also sell suspenders specifically for this purpose!

If you are going to wear UGGs or similar shearling or thick boots, I think they look the best with skinny jeans. Again, the bulk of the boot is balanced by the slim silhouette of the denim, elongating your legs and keeping you from looking like the Michelin Man.

Jeggings

As mentioned earlier, jeggings are like skinny jeans but with legging details. Usually a lighter weight fabric with more stretch than your typical stretch denim, jeggings often are without front pockets, a proper zipper, and sometimes have an elasticized waist. Since jeggings are such a thin fabric, they look best with tall boots that cover a bit of the body and balance the frame. I’d offer the same advice I did for skinny jeans, but add that you should also consider what you wear on top. Jeggings are best with tunics, longer cardigans, and jackets that hit around the hip to again balance the fabric but also provide some modesty.

Straight Jeans

The straight jean is a classic and flattering to most figures. That being said, it can be one of the hardest to style with boots. Often times too loose to tuck into tall boots, too baggy to slip into ankle booties, you may feel you’re stuck with flats when wearing straight jeans. In fact, a straight jean is a perfect partner for the slim-heeled booties and shooties that have been hot the past two seasons. Sort of a blend between a pump and an ankle boot, shooties have a lower vamp, a slim streamlined silhouette, and slip nicely under a straight leg jean letting the toe and heel peek out.

When it comes to straight jeans, the best boots are those that are meant to go under the jean’s leg. Wedge boots, granny boots, city boots, Chelsea boots, and shooties are often made with simple openings and elastic gussets to make them easy to slip on and off, but not as attractive on display over your jeans. The medium leg opening keeps your jean from dragging on the ground and covering your entire boot and gives a nice break at the front of the shoe.

Bootcut Jeans

No matter the size (hello mini and baby boots), bootcut jeans are named that because they flare out a tiny bit at the bottom to make room for a pair of boots to be worn underneath. With this bit of flare, you can carry off harness and cowboy boots without their shape showing through your jeans. Many women give their tall boots a second life (and give themselves a bit of warmth in the winter) by wearing their slimmer tall boots under bootcut jeans.

You mentioned “fakers”, those boots that are actually mules, and I think they are perfect for bootcut jeans because the extra width makes it less likely that the hem will slip under the heel, and it hides the back of the shoe. For such a shoe, a bit longer of a hem is good because it will better hide the mule back, keep your foot warm, and flatter the bulkier style of the boot.

Bootcut jeans also look great with ankle boots and shooties… if worn UNDER the jeans. Bootcut jeans (no matter how mini the bootcut) have too much volume to tuck them into any style of boot. The extra fabric will be uncomfortable wrapped around your ankle and show bulk. Remember the reason for this silhouette and wear boots under your bootcut jeans.

Cropped and Boyfriend Jeans

This is a cut of denim that is far harder to carry off with boots, and I often recommend the pairing to just True Fashionistas. However there are two popular manners in which to pair shorter jeans with boots…

A slim cropped or capri jean can pretend to be a full-length skinny jean when tucked into tall boots. This is a great way to get extra mileage out of your summer jeans; white and pale colors look seasonally appropriate when half covered with brown or black leather and topped with a wintry knit or jacket. I have been known to do this trick; I recommend wearing knee socks to keep your shins warm in the winter and also to hold down the jeans so they don’t bag at the knees.

Baggier cropped jeans like boyfriend jeans can get a downtown cool vibe when paired with a heeled ankle bootie. I’ve worn my ankle booties with a wooden heel with my boyfriend jeans and like how the extra height and slight platform balance the fullness of boyfriend jeans. A slim, sexy bootie, caged heel, shootie, or a lower vamp with a chunkier heel or wedge is the best choice for boyfriend jeans.

To provide balance, I recommend having a sliver of skin show between the jean and the boot. This elongates the leg, makes the combination more purposeful and on trend.

Cuffed Jeans

I know many people carry off this look, but I find it just as hard to carry off as those who wear tall boots under cropped pants. For every one woman who looks utterly awesome in this combination, there’s 30 women who look as though they got dressed in the dark.  I can’t offer advice that is universal, and recommend that unless you feel confident carrying off this trend, stay away until boot and jean styles have morphed over seasons to make it easier to pair.