Search Results for: label/VC Signature

Wednesday: Gold Accents

Sweater: Banana Republic (similar) | Shirt: CAbi (similar) | Skirt: CAbi (similar) | Tights: DKNY | Shoes: VC Signature | Necklace: eBay

Omigoodness it is COLD today! Saturday we were running around sans coats and today it’s in the 20s. Crazy DC weather! I was actually in the mood to wear some color, but the weather made me seek out warm layers and that ended up being more black. I love this skirt because it’s a sweater so it’s warm, but it’s a tad big and rides up. I didn’t realize until after these pictures how much it had ridden up, swear that here in the office it’s down near my knees. And don’t worry folks, my heavy Lands’ End parka, hat, scarf, and gloves were waiting for me in my warm car to my left.

I never had a chance to mention it, but Monday I had the opportunity to attend the Inauguration. My sister was able to get tickets for the Orange section (standing but on the Capitol grounds). While it was an exhausting day, it was awesome to be there for the swearing in, surrounded by fellow happy supporters. I have plenty of pictures on my Instagram, and while that very day I said I wouldn’t deal with the craziness again, as my friend Insana wrote on Facebook, if a woman ended up president, I would be back!  Just next time I would bring foot warmers to slip in my boots.  I was toasty warm everywhere except my sad little toes.

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What I Wore: Festive

Dress: c/o Gwynnie Bee | Belt: c/o gift card from Nordstrom Rack (similar) | Tights: DKNY | Shoes: VC Signature (similar) | Bracelet: J. Crew (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon Matte in Real Red

One great thing about holidays is the permission to wear something that would otherwise be seen as cheesy. This dress came from Gwynnie Bee with a tasteful black skinny belt with gold buckle. Such a combination looked adorable, and I figured I could wear to work with a black cardigan. But for Christmas Eve at my sister’s house, I decided to up the holiday cheese factor and switched out the belt for something that made me look a bit more like a present!  Speaking of presents, if you’re a size 10 or larger, a Gwynnie Bee subscription is a great present for yourself – a whole new wardrobe for the price of a single dress!

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Tuesday: Old and New

Top: Ann Taylor | Skirt: Ann Taylor (similar) | Tights: Nordstrom | Shoes: VC Signature | Necklace: Stella and Dot c/o Kristin Biggs (similar) | Coat: Betsey Johnson

I don’t believe in purchasing an item to wear for just one season. Even if you consign or sell, it’s still a loss of money and it makes it more difficult to hone your personal style. I purchased this skirt from Ann Taylor last fall and love how I can give it a fresh look with Fall 2012 trends of a peplum and cap-toe shoes. Mix a little new with the older pieces in your closet and they get a whole new life!

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Tuesday: Luxe Leopard

Dress: MICHAEL Michael Kors
Necklace: Lillith” c/o Kristin Biggs, Stella and Dot
Tights: Nordstrom
Bracelet: Nordstrom
Shoes: VC Signature “Priscilla”
Lipstick: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Romance

Some days it’s fun to luxe it up. Silky dress, gold-capped shoes, statement necklace and red lipstick as the cherry on top! It doesn’t hurt that after work I am headed to a DC Wine Week event – Red, Burgundy & Plum. A Night of Fashion & Wine at Lost Society. Tickets are still available if you’re available to attend – open wine bar, yummy food, fashion, and fun!

Okay, these shoes are a complete and total splurge. This was my treat to me after surviving the past couple of months. Crazy work, photo shoots almost every weekend, the blog has been busy, the kid has been awesome but intense, stuff with the house and family and… well I used some of my photography income and bought crazy fabulous shoes. Since they are from Vince Camuto, they are well-crafted and relatively comfortable for the height.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday: Black and Blue

Top: Ann Taylor | Skirt: Lands’ End via Gwynnie Bee | Tights: Nordstrom | Shoes: VC Signature | Necklace: c/o Lydell NYC | Bracelet: Nordstrom

I received this skirt via Gwynnie Bee a couple months ago and though I returned it, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It fit great, it was sparkly but subtle enough for work, and I could imagine styling it almost year-round. Many of you have mentioned that this is something you found issue with Gwynnie Bee – having to return that which you love. Well Gwynnie Bee listened to you members and now lets you purchase pieces you want to keep! If you’d like to buy a piece that you receive from Gwynnie Bee, simply email them and they’ll get back to you with the price and facilitate the purchase!

Have you been considering Gwynnie Bee? Now is the time – To celebrate Gwynnie Bee’s 1 year anniversary, they are offering new members receive an extra 1 month 1 garment upgrade + 30 day free trial (valid until March 7, 2013). If you are already a member, refer your friends with your personal referral link to earn free months of Gwynnie Bee.  You can try out their service for 30 days completely risk-free. This offer applies to the one, two and three garment plans. You won’t be charged unless you continue with the service, and you may cancel online at anytime. Simply request an invite here and mention Wardrobe Oxygen to take advantage of this free trial offer!

Note: I do receive a commission on each person who mentions me or my blog upon signing up for Gwynnie Bee. However I have chosen to partner with this company because I honestly believe in their mission, love the concept, and am continually impressed by their dedication to their members. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about the company and I will be sure to provide completely honest feedback.

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Ask Allie: Styling Navy and Oxblood Kitten Heels

I purchased these shoes at the Old Town Boutique District Warehouse Sale. While I can figure out how to wear them for work, I was wondering if you could provide me with some suggestions on how to style them in a more casual manner.

Cute shoes! I have some VC Signature shoes and find them quite comfortable and well-crafted. These shoes may seem hard to style with two very specific colors, but you can use them as an accent to not be too matchy-matchy yet still cohesive.

A shoe with this heel height is comfortable enough to wear on weekends. Paired with a simple navy turtleneck sweater and dark crisp jeans, these shoes make wardrobe staples downright chic and polished and perfect for anything from brunch with a friend to hitting the mall. A striped knit is one of my favorite pieces for weekends as it looks more purposeful and polished than a solid; add a silk scarf at the throat and you have a comfortable and easy ensemble that is chic enough for casual dining or drinks at the local bar.

Kitten heels work with skirts and pants of most any length and width, and can look appropriate with a proper suit, or more casual ensembles. For these two looks, I was thinking Casual Friday or a weekend event like a bridal shower or luncheon. Oxblood is a hot color this season and easy to find at most retailers. An oxblood pleated skirt will be great now and through the spring, paired with a chambray shirt and some fun bracelets, this would be a great look for museum hopping and lunch. A kitten heel also looks great with a wider leg – I paired these shoes with a denim trouser and crisp white shirt for a classic ensemble. The shirt could be left untucked or tucked (consider adding an unexpected additional print such as a leopard haircalf belt) for a simple and easy yet sophisticated look for a more casual office or weekend event. If needed, add a navy cardigan for warmth.

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Wednesday: Oh Pantone

Dress: Lands’ End c/o Gwynnie Bee | Necklace: eBay | Tights: Nordstrom | Shoes: VC Signature

Yes, it’s Lands’ End. Lands’ End! Ponte knit, pockets, and this year’s hottest color according to Pantone. It’s really icky out today (though quite warm) so the pictures look a tad washed out – this dress is a true bright emerald green. I played a lot with this dress this weekend, thought it also looked cute with a crisp white shirt underneath, a scarf tucked into the neckline, and a skinny pink belt in the middle of the wide waistband. Again, three cheers to Gwynnie Bee for making us members take a second look at brands. While I know Lands’ End has great craftmanship and great style, this dress is surely on trend and I wouldn’t be surprised if the tag instead said J. Crew or Boden.

FYI, Gwynnie Bee is having a deal where you can try out their service for 30 days – completely risk-free. This offer applies to the one, two and three garment plans. You won’t be charged unless you continue with the service and you can cancel online at anytime. They believe so strongly that you will like their program that they’ll let you test drive it! Be sure to mention Wardrobe Oxygen when you sign up!

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Thursday: The Little Things

Blazer: Limited (similar) | Skirt: eBay | Necklaces: eBay | Bracelets: Ann Taylor, Lauren Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom | Shoes: VC Signature | Coat: Thrifted (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon Matte “In the Red”

It’s the little things that make a day great. Wearing a grown-up tutu to work, finding that tube of matte red lipstick that has gone missing for a month (living with a toddler makes lost and found a daily activity), having an awesome husband who woke up early to make me coffee. Life is stressful and busy and crazy… but life is pretty wonderful. I know I seemed pretty melancholy in my last post but I am happy. In fact, lately I have been happier than I have been in a long time. Sometimes bad stuff is a benefit because it better showcases all the blessings currently in your life.

UPDATE: Many have asked for details about this tutu (I also have in cream).  It says it is one size fits most, but I’ll admit it’s tight on me, a 12/14.  I would say it fits like a 10, but it is an elastic waist.  It’s not terribly well crafted – you get what you pay for.  I wear a proper slip under these tutus because the lining is pretty much sheer. This is a good piece to alter to your needs – you could easily snip the waistband open and add an inch or two of elastic and have it fit to a 14.  I have seen other bloggers add additional layers, using this as a base tutu.  Maybe if you’re good with sewing you would want to add a proper lining (though you can often find a perfectly good slip at a thrift store or eBay for less than $5).

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Thursday: Bold Gold

Dress: c/o Gwynnie Bee
Necklaces: eBay
Tights: DKNY
Shoes: VC Signature
Bracelets: Lauren Ralph Lauren
Coat: Via Spiga

My latest Gwynnie Bee box arrived last night and I couldn’t be more excited. I have a dinner date with some fellow fabulous DC bloggers tonight and had no clue what I was going to wear. Gwynnie Bee to the rescue with this comfortable, lightweight, WASHABLE dress! I love dresses like this which are perfect year-round. In summer it would be adorable with flat sandals, in winter with tights and even with a blazer for the office! I decided to dress up the silk-like fabric with bold gold accents.

My Picks on Gwynnie Bee
As I have mentioned before, Gwynnie Bee is like Netflix for fashion from sizes 10 and up – keep an item as long as you like, return for new pieces as often as desired, free shipping and returns. I have been using it since September (all Gwynnie Bee outfits can be seen here) and am so impressed with the quality of the brands they work with, the speed of shipments, and the care the whole company has for their customers.   

Gwynnie Bee is now showcasing my favorite pieces from their collection on their site, my own little curated collection!  All pieces in my collection are ones I like and recommend.  Almost all I have worn, and any that I have worn will also have reviews on the Gwynnie Bee site.  This collection will continue to be updated with my picks.  Unfortunately you can’t see my collection unless you are subscribed to Gwynnie Bee – heck, all the more reason to try them out!

Note: I do receive a commission on all who sign up for Gwynnie Bee and stay with them past the 30-day trial.  However, I write about them so much because I truly believe in this company and what they offer to plus size and cusp-sized women.  Anything I write I write from my heart with full honesty.

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Ask Allie: Finding The Perfect Pump

Hi Allie, I’m looking for a comfortable matte black pump. Something with a heel that isn’t TOO high or TOO low (but just right, like Goldilocks, LOL). I might be in my 50s, but I don’t want a shoe that makes me look older, nor can I wear 3″ heels. Any suggestions?

Ah shoe shopping – can be so much fun or can be so frustrating!  Since I am a busy working mom, I do the majority of my shopping online, and that includes shoes.  While answering your question, I will also give you a peek into how I find shoes online:

I love shopping Nordstrom online for shoes – not only do they have free shipping and free returns and no time limit for those returns, they also have a search-friendly site and a boatload of customer reviews. On Nordstrom.com, I went to Women, Women’s Shoes, then chose Pumps, and then chose less than a 3” heel. From there, I could narrow to just black and found:


I have this shoe in a higher heel and find them wearable all day. They are comfortable, classic, and not at all frumpy. Not only that, you get all this for less than $100!

Reviews say they run a hair large, but are cushioned and comfortable. The wide heel will keep you feeling stable, but the touch of gold keeps these pumps from looking frumpy or boring.

In a similar sleek silhouette as the “Flex,” this is a pump that will stay stylish for many seasons to come. Reviews say it runs a hair narrow, but one said she was able to wear them straight out of the box without a single blister!

Next stop was ShopStyle, where I clicked on Shoes, then Pumps, then narrowed by color, and then narrowed it to shoes under $250. You can also narrow by size, price, and if the shoes are on sale. While ShopStyle can be utterly overwhelming (without size I had 426 pages of black pumps), it covers more than one retailer online. In just the first 20 pages I found:

Naturalizer shoes are known for comfort, and these pumps have a N5 Comfort system footbed, which provides cushioning, support, and shock absorption with each step. Since these are available via Zappos, you have their free shipping and return policy, and over 20 detailed reviews from customers that can help you decide if these are a worthy purchase.


I have a couple pairs of shoes from Fitzwell and find them to be well made and very comfortable. Their heel is strategically placed to be the most supportive and to balance the foot. These shoes are on Amazon and sold by size, so if this isn’t your size, search the site for another listing. $89, eligible for Prime shipping and free returns!

Unfortunately since it’s via Loehman’s there’s not a lot of information on this shoe, just a great price of $69.99. However I did a bit of Googling and found that people find Tahari shoes to be very comfortable, yet occasionally run a hair long or narrow.

Finally I went to Zappos. While Zappos is known for their extensive selection, I often have a hard time weeding out decent shoes from all the crap or designer pieces. Usually they are my second or third destination, once I got a lay of the footwear land at other sites. Zappos is however, a place I regularly search for reviews of shoes – if I find the shoes I like at one retailer but don’t have enough information on them, I will check Zappos, and if Zappos has a competitive price, I will likely purchase from there. Here, I clicked on shoes, then heels, then pumps, black, and all styles under 3” heel that are under $200. You could further narrow the selection by size, width, fabric, and even occasion. Even with all my details, I still had 244 shoes to choose from. A couple nice ones:

This shoe gets mixed reviews, some saying the toebox is too short or stiff, but others finding the shoe to be perfection. The slight platform makes them look modern and also offsets the heel height, the shoe has an Adidas adiPRENE® heel and Adidas adiPRENE®+ forefoot cushioning which absorbs shock and enhances natural motion. All this for $110.

I have a pair of the Cole Haan Air series shoes, and find them to be stylish, well made, quality materials, and far more comfortable than standard shoes of a similar style. Cole Haan’s Air series has concealed NIKE AIR® technology which makes the shoe more comfortable for long days. One reviewer states they were transformed into Audrey Hepburn upon wearing these shoes – sounds pretty stylish to me!

Always nice to find a shoe that is available in a variety of widths! Vignotti shoes are trendy silhouettes rooted in classic, timeless designs. Cushioned footbed for additional comfort, and positive reviews from readers make these a good shoe to consider.

Finally, if I know a brand or style fits, I will search for the lowest price while still having a great return/exchange policy.  I will go directly to sites like 6pm.com who have great customer service and prices that can’t be beat.  I’ll also check eBay, and even have a few alerts set up for certain styles that I know I want.  Finally, I will Google a shoe brand and name or style number and see what pops up – sometimes they will be cheap at a site like Endless, Amazon, or Overstock, and sometimes I will even find bloggers who are selling the exact shoe I want in a “Shop My Closet” site.  Point is, don’t stick to one style of search, it is possible to find fabulous shoes that fit and flatter not only your body but also your wallet!

Note: Though shoes may be seen in patent, all styles shown are available in classic and versatile matte black leather.  I just had a hard time finding decent-sized pics for all!

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Redemption

Though I realized I am wearing a dark orange-red two days in a row…. hey call it my signature color!

Dark gray suiting trousers from Ann Taylor. The ones I wore last Friday. Not loving them as I was, they are still too long and fit a bit like men’s trousers..

With it is an orange-red silk knit scoop tank from Banana Republic. BR calles it “Chinese Red.” I have a vintage necklace, overlapping discs of an orange-red stone with black and tan flecks in it. About 20″ long, a smidge higher than the scoop neck. A good match.

With this, a black tailored suit jacket, also from Ann Taylor. Black pointy toed pumps. Same copper/bronze Origins lip balm as yesterday, eyes with a more coppery shadow and did the black liquid eyeliner look.

hair is very piecey and funky today, sideswept bangs. Lots of texture with the smooth bangs – I like the constrast. I feel sassy.

Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Ask Allie: What Flat Shoes Look Good with Socks?

I need flat, stylish shoes that I can wear with socks on chilly fall and winter days. I love the way that ballet flats look but obviously socks don’t work with them. I have low, black, ankle boots with a kitten heel, but need to mix it up with some other work-appropriate shoes (meaning, no boots that you’d wear jeans tucked into). I’ve looked at some driving mocs but haven’t found any that are cute/stylish and age-appropriate (34). Help!

Socks
First things first, the type of sock you wear makes a major difference. Men are used to this, and have dressier socks to wear for work, and more casual socks for weekends. For a sock to work with flats, you want something that is sleek, fits snugly to the ankle, doesn’t slouch down, has a refined finish. Trouser socks are a safe bet – they’re made to be slim and professional looking. While some may seem like glorified knee-high pantyhose, others look great and add a bit of warmth. I am a big fan of the Spanx Perfectoe Trouser Socks – they are moisture wicking and double layered which adds some padding to the tootsies and extra warmth come winter. They also don’t leave red rings on my calves after a work day. DKNY also makes some nice microfiber trouser socks which are more opaque, keep their shape better, and launder better than most other brands I have tried. Both brands come in standard dark neutrals that will work with most trouser and shoe colors.

I also have much success with knee socks, which come up past the widest point of your calf, ensuring they don’t slide down. Also the extra height prevents a visible line in thin or more fitted trousers, and you get a couple more inches of warmth.

You don’t have to stick to boring black, gray, and brown socks. Again, take a cue from your male colleagues and have some fun with your footwear. Since only a sliver is seen, it’s a great way to add a pop of color or do some pattern mixing without being too extreme. A gray and black pattern is a subtle look; a classic pattern like leopard, polka dots, argyle, or houndstooth is chic; a solid bright like candy pink or aqua can brighten a gray winter day.

Shoes
Okay, we’ve covered socks… now on to shoes! I agree with you, I don’t think ballet flats work with socks. The look is awkward. However, there’s a lot of styles this fall that do work really well with socks:

Be a modern-day Katharine Hepburn with a pair of smoking slippers.
Left, from top to bottom: jcp | Cole Haan | J. Crew | VC Signature | Dorothy Perkins | Franco Sarto

The Smoking Slipper
With the higher vamp and the loafer-esque silhouette, a smoking slipper works quite well with hosiery. I’d stick to a dark color that matches the shoe or trousers since the shoe has a very unique silhouette and most smoking slippers come in a print or unusual material. Pair with menswear style trousers and a crisp white shirt or fitted sweater and channel Katharine Hepburn.

 She may be wearing loafers, but you can achieve Audrey’s sleek look with this season’s oxfords.

The Oxford or Brogue
The oxford or brogue shoe isn’t going away any time soon, and that’s good news for those of us wanting flats that pair with socks. While some styles of oxfords can seem heavy and manly, there’s also many sleek and feminine styles out there. While an oxford looks great with most any cut of trouser, it’s fresh and feminine with a slim and slightly cropped pant (the better to showcase your legwear, my dear!). Pair narrow black pants and black socks with a printed or textured oxford and be a modern-day Audrey Hepburn.

Driving mocs look great with the feminine version of menswear, take a cue from Olivia Palermo’s look.
Left, from top to bottom: Cole Haan | Cole Haan | Geox | Cole Haan | C. Wonder | VANELi

The Driving Moc or Loafer
You mentioned this style and I agree it’s perfect with socks, but it is hard to find a more youthful version. It comes down to color – most mocs look the same, but if you choose a fun hue, it automatically looks younger and more hip. Don’t be afraid of a lighter color for winter – a bone, pale gray, or winter white moc can be quite modern looking this season. Be inspired by Olivia Palermo’s style and wear them with a feminine version of menswear in soft neutrals.

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Ask Allie: Sexy and Stylish Low Heels

Dear Alison, I don’t feel comfortable in any heel over 2” but I really want a fun shoe wardrobe. It seems that every low heel is frumpy and boring. Where does a shoe lover find sexy and stylish low heels?

Dear fellow shoe lover, sexy, fashionable, and fun shoes do exist without sky-high heels! Here’s some that have been on my radar:

1/5” kitten heel, softly pointed toe, and fabulous fabrics like tan dotted pony hair and pewter glitter make this shoe a fun addition to any wardrobe. I love the interesting textiles, which add interest and depth to any ensemble. The heel is perfect for trousers as well as fuller skirts.

The electric pink color of these suede pumps will bring sunshine to any gray fall or winter day. This color is so intense it makes a perfect accent – pair with neutrals for a fun pop of color, or wear with a solid colored blouse for quick colorblocking. This shade would be fun with all the dark reds that are on trend for the upcoming season.

I believe a leopard-print shoe is an unexpected neutral that pairs great with solids as well as other prints. This pump in leopard-print pony hair is fun, funky, but also quite classic. It would look great with tweed trousers, jeans, or even a traditional skirt suit. If you like this silhouette, the Diema also comes many different solid colors in patent, leather, and suede.

Shiny patent leather and a sweet bow make this shoe fun, the thick heel makes it very wearable for long days on your feet. This style has sass, but is still quite work-appropriate. The bow would look adorable peeking out from under trousers, but would also look great with all styles of skirts and dresses. The camel/black combo is versatile and a twist on the spectator/cap toe trend of the past year, the red is a classic statement-maker that will work with most any wardrobe.

A very flattering and classic style with an almond-shaped toe and slender 2” heel, but unexpected in the leopard patent material which almost looks like tortoiseshell. And incredibly versatile and sophisticated shoe that still knows how to have fun, pair with everything from dark trouser jeans to your power suit.

A classic almond-shaped toe and a 1” wooden heel makes this shoe elegant and stylish, but the variety of colorful snakeskin finishes also makes it fun and memorable. In green, red, and pewter snakeskin, this shoe would look chic with work trousers or on weekends with cords or denim.

I love the lace detail and the sweet peeptoe, but what I adore is the fabulous color combinations that will have strangers asking you where you bought your shoes. The chocolate suede with wine leather is sophisticated, the black/tan patent combo is classic, the tan leather with orange detail is surprisingly versatile and adds a tiny pop of color that will amp up any workday ensemble.

An incredibly classic silhouette is made playful with houndstooth accents. I love the heel which will have people stop you on the street asking where you got your shoes. This shoe would look fantastic with the classic menswear and collegiate chic trends that are hot for the upcoming season; you’ll have instant pattern mixing if paired with tweed or Glen plaid. This shoe also comes in an amazing green combination that could be an unexpected neutral in your existing wardrobe.

Scalloped edge, pointed toe, and the coolest combinations of textiles makes this shoe a must-have. While I love the glossy black with the gray leopard calfhair for myself, the blue suede/gray snakeskin combo is a winner and would look fantastic with everything from soft neutrals to brights to crisp dark denim.

Where do you find fashionable and fun low heels? Any brands or styles I missed?

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How to “Read” Fashion Magazines

Pre-pubescent women below 100 lbs. showing off dresses in the thousands. Ads for Armani, Versace, Missoni, Chanel and any other brand you couldn’t possibly afford (and possibly couldn’t even find for sale in your neck of the woods). Crazy outfits of sheer blouses without camisoles, plaids with polka dots, turquoise false lashes and 6″ platform wedges. How are these magazines supposed to help the typical woman in America? How can Vogue, W, Bazaar and Elle assist you in your journey to the suburban shopping mall?

Some fashion magazines are more helpful than others. Lucky magazine not only tells you what is hip, but where to purchase these hip items. They categorize trends, with a page dedicated to the lace trend, a page dedicated to wedge shoes, a page dedicated to croco bags. While encouraging the shopper to visit New York boutiques, a few chain stores are mentioned. Even if you cannot afford the Prada skirt, you can see the length, fabric and cut and can look for a similar version at Macy’s.

Bazaar is one of my favorite magazines. They show celebrities and socialites in what’s hip for the next season, have all the hot new ads from the most luxurious brands, but also breaks fashion down for the Every Woman. So the trends for Spring are a bit of cowgirl, a bit of nautical and a bit of safari? Bazaar will show how a woman in her 20’s can wear the trends, a woman in her 30’s and all the way up to her 70’s. They also will have a spread informing the reader about the hot new trends. As always, they have a What’s Hot/What’s Not on the very last page.

Every fashion magazine can be beneficial to you, no matter your age, dress size or income. It’s not about going into debt for a Dior bag or even for trying to replicate a Dolce and Gabanna ad with pieces from Target. No, it’s getting concepts.

Look at the ads. Really examine them as you would a painting in a museum. What colors are being worn? What does the shoe look like? What kind of fabric? Is there a specific print that is the theme? Now flip the page and look at the next ad. Is there any similarity? Though each high-end designer has their own signature style, there is often a theme for each season that resonates on the runway and in the ads. Maybe it’s lace trim, maybe it’s wood heels on the shoes. It could be a lot of black – it sure was this winter. Don’t look at these ads and roll your eyes over the age or weight of the models, the astronomical prices and ridiculousness of the garments. See it as art, and then break it down.

Be Realistic. If the magazine says every woman needs the new Fendi purse, don’t buy the Fendi purse if you don’t make enough money to buy a Fendi purse for fun. The purse will be passé in a year. Don’t go on a street corner and buy a faux Fendi purse. It will look fake, and it will look tacky and desperate. Don’t wait two years and buy a cheesy knock-off of what the Fendi purse was shaped like from Wal-Mart. Again tacky and desperate. Instead, break it down. What makes that bag new and hip? Is it the oversized shape? Use of silver hardware? A short handle? Croco leather? White with black trim? Take those details with you when you go shopping. Look for something that is beautiful on it’s own, fits your lifestyle and needs, but may incorporate those details. I for one adored the Balenciaga Motorcycle bags that celebs like Nicole Ritchie and Jessica Simpson were sporting. I couldn’t afford the bag, and didn’t want to look like an idiot with a faux silver or turquoise pleather wanna-be bag on my wrist. Therefore I analyzed the look of the bag. What about it did I like? The hardware. The large size. The short handle. The way the leather looks a bit crackled and a bit glazed. When I went to buy a new purse I found a slouchy oversized purse with lots of hardware and metal detail in a similar leather finish and a color that complimented my wardrobe. Not Balenciaga, couldn’t be mistaken for a Motorcycle bag, but receives many compliments, holds all my stuff and keeps my image current.

Don’t be a Label Whore. I was in an elevator yesterday with a woman. A gorgeous woman with a gorgeous figure. Her beauty was not the first thing I saw. She was wearing a puffy Baby Phat coat with a faux fur trim in a weird olive/taupe color. She had on extremely tight Seven for All Mankind jeans that were too low on the waist and too long on her ankles. She had on a Tiffany bracelet AND a Tiffany necklace. She had on a Coach logo purse – quite large and quite pink. Under her coat was a black fitted tee with “Bebe” in rhinestones across the chest. She had on false eyelashes, very pink glossy lips and barely any other makeup. Her hair was in a formal updo with tendrils around her face, her hair obviously meticulously highlighted, lowlighted and streaked on a regular basis. And then on her feet were those high-heeled Timberland-esque dress boots. Her outfit probably cost a ton of money, but she looked terrible. Her clothes didn’t compliment her figure, or one another. She was a walking fashion victim, a slave to the name brands. By caring so much about the names, she lost sight of what the brands were trying to create – FASHION. I highly doubt you are going to the Academy Awards any time soon. No one is going to stop you walking down the street and say “Who are you wearing?” Even if they do, how cool would you be by saying, “This old thing? I picked it up at Target last season.” Think Sharon Stone when she wore a Gap tee shirt to an awards ceremony. No one wrote her off as cheap or tacky. Instead she was celebrated for that fashion move.

It is understandable to want to buy luxury, to splurge on designer. You work hard, you want to reward yourself. I respect that, and I indulge in that as well. Just when you do, think about the rules you hold for all other aspects of your life:
Does it fit into your life?
Does it flatter?
Will it work for the long haul?
Is it worth it?

If you got that promotion, go ahead and buy a Coach purse, but buy one that will go with your current wardrobe, and will still be beautiful next year. My friend has a Coach bag that she bought herself after getting her degree in 1998. She still carries around that camel colored tote, and still gets compliments all the time. She bought something luxurious, something obviously a brand name, but something that fit her lifestyle, fashion style and something that works in the 90’s as well as the new millennium. A few years ago I found a beautifully tailored black wool coat from Calvin Klein. I put it on and felt like a socialite. I felt elegant, tall and slim. It was at a discount store, but still out of my price range. It was the first item I ever put on layaway. When I made the final payment, I still adored the coat. Now a few years later, I still love the coat, it’s cut, it’s feel. To me, it was worth the money. I wear it and look expensive, but I am not shouting “This is a Calvin Klein coat from 2001!” I am whispering “I am wearing an expensive, well made garment and it is designer.”

Again, look in the magazines. Look at the spreads of celebrities at galas and fundraisers. Are they showing up in head to toe labels? Unless you’re Kimora Lee Simmons or Missy Elliott, the answer probably is no. The women who look polished, elegant, sexy and expensive do not flash their designer labels. They wear what is stylish, flattering and beautiful.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read. When a magazine totes a certain top or moisturizer as great, it’s not always because it’s great. Magazines receive free stuff all the time, and are encouraged in different ways to promote this stuff. These freebies end up in fashion spreads, articles about great new things for the season, or advice columns. Don’t take what one magazine says as gospel. It’s best to have something to compare it with. Don’t worship Vogue if you won’t also pick up In Style. Don’t read Lucky without W. By reading more magazines (even in the line at the grocery or at the pharmacy while waiting for a prescription) you get a more well-rounded view of what is hot, what is trendy, and what is utterly ridiculous.

Make it Age and Shape Appropriate. Anyone over 27 and a size 4 should not be wearing dress shorts. Mischa Barton and Nicole Ritchie and Lindsay Lohan are all wearing short creased shorts to red carpet events. Well good for them. Are you built like Lindsay Lohan? Are you the age of Mischa Barton? If you answered yes to both, God Speed and Good Luck. For the rest of us, STEER AWAY FROM THE SHORTS. Just because it’s hip, doesn’t mean to wear it. We don’t live in the era of cut and dry fashion. My mom speaks of circle skirts, piped charcoal blazers and cigarette pants while growing up. They weren’t flattering on her, but she wore them because EVERYONE wore them. That, and nothing else. Fashion has changed and has become more flexible and forgiving. If this season is all about olive green and you look terrible in olive green, then don’t wear it. If magazines are telling you that leggings are hot this season (which they are) but you are over 25, you’re over 105 lbs. and you wore in an office setting you shouldn’t pick up a pair your next trip to the mall. If the new look is nautical, that doesn’t mean you need to go buy a navy and white striped boat neck shirt to make your torso seem twice it’s size. Instead consider pieces that may be more appropriate. Crisp white trousers with a solid navy sweater. A navy blazer with gold buttons paired with a white shirt and vintage washed jeans. There are different ways to incorporate trends without looking like a fashion victim or worse… unflattering.

Make a List. So you like the polka dots featured in Bazaar. You like the new width of jeans seen in In Style. You love how navy is coming back into vogue on the pages of Vogue. Write these things down, or tear out pages from your glossy magazines and take them with you on your shopping excursions for inspiration. When you get overwhelmed in a sea of fabric at Lord and Taylor’s pull out your list. It will keep you centered and less overwhelmed.
And finally, See Fashion as Art. If you stop looking at fashion as the unobtainable, you’ll despise it. The majority of our country cannot afford a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes, a Prada dress, a Chanel suit. That’s okay. Just look at that Chanel suit or that Prada dress in the magazine’s fashion spread and try to figure out why they chose to display it. Is it the color? The cut? The fabric? What about makes it less insane (because much high fashion is totally insane and unwearable in normal society) and more beautiful? Take that one thing with you as you go shopping this season. If you try to see the beauty and detail in fashion, you will be more likely to buy what makes you look more beautiful when you wear it.

Flat Work Shoes for Fall and Winter

A big request that comes in my mailbag is suggestions for work-appropriate flats. I’m glad to see such requests, because not every flat is created equal. I hate to burst your bubble, but standard issue ballet flats and the patent elastic-backed flats do not give an air of professionalism, no matter the brand name. Not only that, such shoes offer so little support they aren’t very comfortable or healthy for your arches. Luckily, flats have come back en vogue the past few seasons and there’s a wonderful assortment of stylish, chic, and supportive heel-free shoes available that will give you an air of professionalism. A few styles I am loving this fall:


The Oxford
I wrote about the oxford or brogues trend last fall/winter, but this trend is still quite hot. With the second season, there’s more variety and style available. From animal-print calfhair to metallics to more classic wingtips, there’s an oxford shoe that works with most any personal style. A plus to the oxford is it is a style of flat that looks quite chic with hosiery.

Such a shoe looks amazing with trousers, be you channeling Katharine Hepburn with a wide-leg menswear style, or a trim ankle-length cut. I also like oxfords with boyfriend and ankle-length straight jeans. I have seen many women carry off oxfords with fuller skirts of every length from mid-thigh to ankle, but you need to have a very defined personal style and understanding office to carry off that look.

The Smoking Slipper
Another flat trend that has carried over from last year, the smoking slipper, is easy, comfortable, elegant, and work appropriate. Such a shoe looks great with trousers of any leg width, and with all the prints and fabrics available, can add a personal touch to a more traditional suit.

The Loafer
The loafer has returned, and in all styles and heel heights. The flat loafer is a classic and looks excellent with jeans and trousers, as well as pleated skirts and kilts. The collegiate look is trending this fall, and a tassel or penny loafer fits the bill perfectly and comfortably. Like oxfords, this style of flat looks chic with a sock or other form of hosiery.

If your style is more eclectic, consider a loafer with a pointed toe, an unusual fabric or finish, or unexpected hardware. I love the juxtaposition of a tough leather moto jacket, jeans, and then a classic penny loafer.

The Pointed Toe Flat
While a pointed toe may seem like torture for a heel, a pointed toe is more of an accessory on a flat shoe. Without the angle, the toes aren’t shoved into the narrow front, but sit comfortably in the normal-width body of the shoe.

As a petite woman, I love the pointed toe flat because it extends the look of the leg. It looks fantastic peeking out of trousers, as well as being paired with cropped and narrow pants. I also find it more flattering with skirts than rounded-toe ballet flats.


Flat Booties
This season, two popular flat ankle-height boot styles are the Chelsea boot (more of a riding boot style with elastic gussets on the side) and the Beatle boot (very sleek, slim profile with an elongated pointed toe). Both styles are far more professional looking than the chunky bulbous ankle boot styles that are also available in stores this season. Like the oxford and loafer, this form of flat begs to be worn with socks to keep you warm this winter.

Both styles of bootie are extremely versatile and lend to the season’s pant trends. They can peek out of classic or wide-leg trousers, but also look very on trend with narrow, cropped, and pleated styles. Both also look quite modern with skirts, from a pencil to a pleated midi. A black flat bootie with black tights is a wonderful winter base for dresses and skirts.

How to Determine if a Flat is Work Appropriate:

  • Fabric.  Canvas, denim, metallic twill, jelly, rubber, cartoon prints… if you’re looking for flats for Corporate America you should likely steer clear from these fabrics.  Leather, patent, haircalf, matte velvet, suede, croco-embossed, snakeskin… choose a more traditional fabric for a more traditional and professional feel.
  • Details.  While I find the stud trend to be quite fun, it may not be appropriate for the office.  With the return of the flat has come some very wacky details – rhinestone-encrusted toes, plastic heart shoe clips, 1″ long spikes, clear vinyl cutouts… if it’s not appropriate to be worn to work on your torso it likely isn’t the best choice for your feet.  Also look for details that make shoes too casual – lug or gum soles, visible stitching, visible logos, industrial-style lacing.
  • Trim.  The quickest way to make a shoe look casual is the trim around the opening.  A lovely leather flat, and then a polka-dot grosgrain trim.  Sleek patent shoe, and then an elasticized opening.  A work shoe should be more polished, and an easy way to achieve that is having the shoe be consistent from top to sole.
  • Structure.  If one can see the shape of your toes through the shoe, they’re not structured enough for the office.  If your foot is spilling over the sole onto the ground, they’re not structured enough for the office.  If you look as though you don’t have feet under your trouser legs, they’re not structured enough for the office (ballet flats are infamous for such a travesty). 
  • Condition.  Color worn from the toe, sole peeling away from the shoe, scuffed, the back bent up from wearing as slides… your place of work is why you can buy shoes in the first place so show it a bit of respect.  Keep those shoes for the commute to the office and change once you arrive; this way your work shoes last longer and stay looking crisp.

My list is not all-inclusive.  There are many styles that are out there right now, and fashion is so accepting this day and age, you don’t have to stick to just the current hot trends.  The goal is to look polished, structured, and professional, and you can achieve this no matter the height of your heel!

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Plus Sized Work Attire Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Random thoughts on a Tuesday…

I wear Burberry London as my signature fragrance. It is the first time I have had a “signature fragrance,” for most fragrances drive me insane or make me sneeze after a few weeks.

Because of this, a good third of my bureau is decorated with various perfume bottles. I just can’t rid of them because they are pretty.

I forgot to wear my wedding set yesterday… and today. I took them off after the beach because I was feeling stiff and sunburned and swollen from salt and heat and vodka tonics. I must remember to put them back on today.

I never take off my wedding set, not even for a shower or swim in the ocean. I only take them off when we are at a Bailey Banks and Biddle to have them cleaned. I’ve been married three years, I don’t clean them that often any more. It’s about the sentiment, not the shine.

Last night I was at Annapolis Mall with my husband and we walked past Bailey Banks and Biddle and he asked if I wanted to go in and have my ring cleaned. He wasn’t happy to find out I didn’t have it on and had it sitting on my nightstand for 24 hours. He said the dog could eat it. I wouldn’t put it past my dog; he has eaten stranger things in the past.

At Annapolis Mall I found out I am old. I mean, I know I am getting older and this weekend my friends and I cried this statement a few times when we saw ridiculous young peep fashion and actions, but the mall made me feel truly aged. As you know I write about clothing here and on my other blog, but I like to think that I write more about style than fashion. There is a difference between the two, and there is a difference between fashion and trends as well. I looked at what was an attempt at fashion, and what was hot and trendy now and it made my head hurt. Jeans so bedazzled on the pockets, I wonder how people sit. Candy colored hi-top sneaks for men, tops that would hardly cover an areola, multiple layers of knits all cinched up with a faux pleather belt… the styles in the store windows were hideous and I knew I must be old if I was shuddering in front of each wall of plate glass. I felt like a senior citizen. Granted, I am a well-dressed senior citizen that got three compliments from strangers for my choice of shoe and a good looking man my junior looked me up and down in a way that made me feel a bit violated and a bit vindicated.

My husband noted that those who live in Annapolis LOOK as though they live in Annapolis. We were trying to break down the exact look and this was out list on the restaurant napkin:

  • Weathered skin – not just tan, but with freckles, creases and a bit of a leathery texture even on teens
  • Very casual hair – low ponytails and straight bangs on women of a certain age, curly mops on men of all ages, tangled long sun-streaked tresses on younger ladies.
  • Very expensive purses with plenty of hardware, or else Very Bradley satchels
  • Very old bottoms, be it cargo shorts, jeans, a chino skirt. Obviously well made to withstand salt and sand and sun and many trips through the washer.
  • No bright colors past lime, pink or coral. Maybe a wild French blue but never Crayola red or emerald green and gosh forbid if you tried to wear bright orange outside of a life jacket.
  • Very comfortable shoes. Flops, slides, sandals, boat shoes. Usually as weathered but well-made as the owner’s shorts or skirt.
  • Minimal makeup on the women – mascara, a touch of tinted lip balm, sometimes a smudge of eyeliner but that is it.
  • An obvious piece of expensive jewelry. It may be large diamond studs, a strand of real pearls, a right-hand diamond ring, or maybe a Tiffany bracelet for the teens.

I said I felt very Annapolis in my black top, white trousers and turquoise necklace. For once I too had the minimal hair and makeup.

My husband then reminded me that I was wearing the leopard-print stilettos that were complimented three times by strangers. Oh well, still have a bit of DC in me, even if I desire to be more Naptown.

I love great shoes. You can wear the most basic things, and your shoes will always take center stage. It is far easier to get away at work with crazy shoes than crazy makeup or crazy dresses.

I am allergic to blue cheese, but I asked for gorgonzola on my salad last night. How can you have field greens, champagne vinaigrette, pears and walnuts without it?

I hate admitting when I am disappointed to a nice waitress. The kitchen brought out our entrees before our appetizer, didn’t bring bread until our second request and never brought my lemon for my water so I had to steal my husband’s off his iced tea. Oh, and the chips with the spinach artichoke dip were stale as all heck, hence the need for the bread. But she was so darn cute and sweet I couldn’t complain.

I don’t think my husband could either, he felt guilty and left 20% tip.

Today he is sending a letter to Nordstrom to compliment them on our salesperson last night. I bought my husband some of those slip-on dress shoes (not traditional loafers, more sleek) a year or so ago and last week the seam busted out at the sole. We took them back to Nordstrom sans receipt in hopes they could fix them. They could not, so they offered to give us a replacement pair if I could guess the price. The same brand in a slightly different version were $130 so I said $130. He entered $150 into the register so we got a $180 pair of shoes for $30 plus tax. I felt bad because he spent a long time with us to have such a meager sale and like the waitress, for some reason we felt bad for doing what customers do and expecting those in the service industry to do their job, so we are writing a thank you letter.

People should write more thank you letters. Nothing makes a person’s day more than having nice sentiments on paper.

I have all my thank you notes and customer comment cards from my retail days saved in a binder in clear pages. I like to look at it when I feel like a loser.

I also save all the sweet compliments and thank you emails I get from readers in my inbox so I can be reminded of why I write and that I am not invisible in this world.

Speaking of which, someone walked by my cube and complimented me on my perfume. I smiled and said “it’s Burberry London” when asked the brand. “I guess you could say it’s my signature fragrance.”

Then I thought, “oh crap, they can smell my perfume from outside my cube? That’s not a signature, that’s a billboard!”

I promptly licked and rubbed together my wrists in an attempt to wear away some scent. Burberry London may smell nice, but it doesn’t taste nice.

Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe of Neutrals

Allie, I love your capsules but I don’t wear color like you and your series. My signature style is shades of cream, black, gray, tan, and ivory. Could you do a capsule of neutrals?

I am in love with the idea of capsule wardrobes. However I’m terrible at choosing pieces that mix and match in interesting ways. Do you have any tips on choosing versatile pieces and building a small wardrobe that does a lot? And/or do you have any capsule wardrobes WITHOUT skirts?

I work in an office where it’s smart business casual, blouses and jackets and cardigans with pants and skirts and ‘nice’ denim allowed on Fridays. I feel my closet is a big mess of super casual, super dressy, and nothing in between and my coworkers are a stylish bunch. Any advice on how to get my work wardrobe on track?

I don’t wear skirts, but I have a feminine personal style. Any suggestions on a capsule wardrobe that will embrace both my inner Emma Pillsbury and my inner Ellen DeGeneres?

The past couple of months I have been gravitating towards more monochromatic ensembles, focusing more on shape and texture. So when I saw these questions in my comment box, I got excited to have reason to make a more neutral capsule!

For this capsule, I was thinking of a woman who works in an office that doesn’t necessarily expect suits every day, but to be more polished than chinos and a knit top. Embracing the “Emma Pillsbury meets Ellen DeGeneres” vibe, I mixed clean lines and classic separates with pussy bows, peplums, and other feminine touches.

Over 30 Possible Combinations

When many think neutrals, they feel they MUST have certain colors of trousers – black, gray, and camel. Thing is, these are great neutrals, but they aren’t always the most versatile. Over the years, I have seen the value of a pair of ivory or French vanilla trousers. They are amazingly versatile and don’t make you look any larger than gray or camel. Paired with black, it’s crisp and modern, but ivory looks great with colors as well as other neutrals like white, gray, tan, and olive.

A tweed or glen plaid trouser is also extremely versatile and adds a bit of interest to an ensemble made of neutrals. Mixing a more traditional menswear fabric with a pleated silk blouse or feminine leopard sweater always looks polished and chic.

You can keep a wardrobe neutral without making it boring by choosing accessories with polish and a bit of interest. While many fashion magazines will encourage pops of color (and you all know how much I love a pop of color), you can also accessorize neutrals with more neutral. A scarf with a soft print, a snakeskin shoe, a leopard haircalf skinny belt, a unique looking wedge boot – such pieces will take neutral separates and pull them into a cohesive and chic capsule.

The best part of neutrals is that quality separates can be found at most any pricepoint. I have a great black gabardine sheath I found at Target for $30, my favorite ivory trousers were found on the Ann Taylor clearance rack for less than $40. Neutrals are regularly on sale, and can better hide cheaper manufacturing. However, neutrals need to have great fit to keep them from looking dowdy – there’s nothing wrong with taking a $5 clearance rack or thrift store find to the tailor and spend an extra $20 to make it look like a million bucks.

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