Search Results for: label/Wardrobe Mistake

Ask Allie: Casual Capsule Wardrobe for Post-college Orientation

I’m starting an internship and I’m really excited about it! But first, I have a 10 day orientation in North Carolina. The internship directors told us to dress “casual” but to me (as a very recent college grad) that’s whatever t-shirt is clean and shorts that have seen better days. I want to pack everything in my carry-on and I’m assuming I’ll need clothes to wear for nights out! I really need help figuring out what to pack!

For such an event, if they say casual, then you can stick to casual. Some clean-front chino shorts, denim in good condition, and casual knit dresses with sandals or even sneakers will be fine. However, I know you will need nicer clothes also for your internship so why not buy pieces that do double duty – work casual now and more polished once you’re at the office? This capsule wardrobe is for a warm climate, a casual environment but with a touch of polish. I usually stick to brights or black-based collections so I switched this one up with navy as a base and accents of soft neutrals and pastels.  Add casual tee shirts to the mix to keep from looking too dressy for your orientation.

casual capsule wardrobe warm weather after college or casual workplace

Shop The Look: short | skirt | bag | sandals | sneakers | bracelet | necklace | ankle pants | boyfriend jeans | striped knit top | sleeveless top | drapey top | drapey tee | wrap dress | tee shirt dress | cardigan

Shoes really set the tone for an outfit. The dresses seen here are both made out of jersey knit; pair them with heels and they could work for the office or a summer outdoor wedding. But paired with flat sandals in a neutral color or even a pair of sneakers (TOMS, slip-on canvas shoes, or any type of tennis shoe that is on trend right now) it’s perfect for a casual orientation or weekend out with friends. The same holds true for cotton ankle pants, a denim skirt, or tops in dressier fabrics.

Denim is expected for a casual setting, but don’t get too casual with a bunch of rips and tears. I chose boyfriend jeans which are more comfortable than fitted jeans and give a casual vibe. They’d work great with a simple tee, but can be polished up when you half-tuck a silky or drapey top with them, or style with a crisp Breton tee. A denim skirt is great because you can dress up with a cardigan and the sandals, or pair with sneakers and even a logoed or band tee for casual cool.  Considering your workplace once your internship starts, you may be able to wear the denim skirt with pumps, tall boots, blouses and blazers.

Solid cotton chino pieces with clean lines are a great way to look casual and polished. A pair of shorts with a bit longer of a hem (these are 7”) are still stylish but more appropriate for an environment where you will be interacting with supervisors. Ankle or cropped pants are more casual than long pants and look adorable with sandals or low-profile sneakers, but once you’re in the office can be dressed up with a pair of pumps or pointed toe flats. Don’t be afraid to embrace color for these pieces; color can often be more versatile than khaki or black and will dress up simple knit tees and tanks you can buy cheap at big box retailers.

When it comes to tops, it’s okay to wear simple solid or striped tees, but consider buying pieces with an interesting detail that can dress up for a night out, or transition into your career wardrobe. A sleeveless top in a silky fabric will look great untucked with the shorts or half-tucked into boyfriend jeans, but come the fall you can style tucked in to trousers or a pencil skirt. A blouse with built-in drape adds interest without being too revealing for your situation. Pair with any bottom in this capsule wardrobe and come fall style with ankle pants and pumps or work trousers and low heels.  A lightweight cardigan is a great piece; it can get cold in air conditioned places and is small enough to tuck into a bag. Once you’re working in an office, this will become a wardrobe staple you’ll pair with pants, skirts, and dresses.

Keep jewelry to a minimum, the more shine the more dressy an outfit can look. However, if you buy accessories consider buying fewer pieces but ones that are a bit better quality. I have a necklace from Kendra Scott and a bracelet from Gorjana; both brands offer costume (not real metal) jewelry, but it’s better quality that will hold up nicely and bring your outfits up a level. A long necklace can make a knit tee look polished and adds weight to loose tops and dresses to show your figure without being revealing. A simple bracelet in silver or gold is often all the shine a look needs; I have this bracelet and it has survived several months of being stuck in doll houses, junk drawers, and purse pockets. A watch is a great alternative and has function as well as style. Even though they’re costume jewelry, treat them well (don’t get them wet, store in a jewelry box or even a Ziploc bag) so they can provide you with many seasons of stylish wear.

Shop the Capsule Wardrobe:

What Every MAN Needs in HIS Wardrobe

Reader Valerie asked me to discuss what every MAN needs in his wardrobe. Like women, men are bombarded with tons of overly trendy, unflattering and plain bad options in fashion. Men get stuck in ruts too, and don’t find the time or importance for worrying about what they wear.

My husband is 6’5”, has a 36” inseam, but is slim (34” waist). For years he has stuck to one or two pairs of Levi’s jeans (he liked the baggy style from his high school days because he believed it covered up his slim build and “no-butt” shape), cargo shorts even in Summer, and plenty of tee shirts with band and surfing logos on them. When he dressed up he had a navy blazer bought at a Today’s Man Going Out of Business Sale and one pair of tan dress pants. He’d wear the same tie to weddings that he wore to his high school graduation over a decade earlier.

A few months ago he was promoted to a manager position in his company. This required him to wear collared shirts, ties, jackets and nice shoes on an almost daily basis (the off days he could downgrade to a polo and khakis). He finally realized that he was a 30-something professional dressing as a teenage skater boy. He needed a new wardrobe, but didn’t want to break the bank. What’s the point of a raise if it’s all spent on a new wardrobe?

We did our homework – men’s magazines, looking at websites of classically stylish men’s clothing websites, observing what subtly stylish celebrities wore.

1. Crisp white cotton shirt They do sell shirts that are not see-through; invest in one. This is crisp cotton, not an oxford. Take this shirt to the cleaners to keep it’s fresh look unless you want to spend forever sprinkling, ironing and starching. To have it the most versatile style, forego any detail on pockets, a button-down collar or any other trimmings. Unless he is a cufflink-type of guy, go with traditional buttoning of the cuffs. Where to wear: with suits for interviews and more dressy of events (weddings, theater, etc.), with khakis for a more casual affair, with jeans and a blazer for parties and social occasions.

2. Comfortable bootcut jeans in a semi-dark color – Confused? So were we when looking for new jeans for my husband. What works with a tucked in shirt or a casual sweatshirt? What looks modern without being overly trendy? The best color is darker than stonewashed. A traditional bootcut ends up being too tight on thicker men, and look awkward on tall slim men. Gap carries a style called “standard fit” that I have seen look great on tall men, short men, stocky men and slight men. It has the stylish cut, but the room in the thighs and rear so that they don’t look too cowboy or too hipster.

3. A black merino v-neck sweater A lightweight black merino sweater can look refined, elegant and even dressy. With a collared shirt and suiting trousers a man is ready for a party or dinner out. With a white tee and jeans or khakis, one is ready for a trip to mall or a business-casual office. The lightweight merino dresses up nicely and doesn’t get lumpy over collared shirts.

4. Flat front tropical weight wool trousers in gray – Black can be too severe, tan will look dated and cheap if not the right quality, brown and navy aren’t terribly versatile. Gray works all four seasons and compliments most other colors in a wardrobe. With a collared shirt, a blazer, a matching suit jacket, a sweater or even a polo, these pants will get much wear. Pleated pants may seem like a safe bet, but they add bulk to heavier men and look odd on slender figures. Pleats are passé, your best bet is to choose a flat front or no more than one or two pleats.

Your pants should make a bit of a bend where the ankle meets the foot. Many men wear their pants either too long or too short. If pants are too long, it doesn’t cost too much to get them hemmed at the local dry cleaner’s. As for cuffs, they are optional for all but the very short – short men should stay away from cuffs because they cut the leg and make one look even shorter.

5. A black suiting blazer Paired with matching trousers, a black suiting blazer creates an elegant ensemble for a formal event. With the gray wool trousers it’s perfect for a business meeting. With jeans and a collared shirt, it’s hip at a club or party. Keep it simple – no fancy fabrics, colorful or glitzy buttons, trendy details. The more subtle, the more stylish and the more versatile.

A three-button single-breasted jacket is a classic and flattering style for all shapes. A rule of thumb with buttons I saw once on What Not to Wear – Sometimes, Always, Never. Sometimes you can have the top button buttoned when standing, always button the middle button (your choice), and the bottom button should never be buttoned, no matter what.

6. A gray suit – Now you can cheat and have a blazer in the same fabric as the tropical weight wool trousers, or have a separate suit. Like the black blazer, keep it very simple and subtle. This suit should be able to be worn to a wedding or an interview. If there is a pattern, pinstripes or detail it will be memorable, and it won’t be timeless. Again, the jacket should be single breasted with two or three buttons.

7. Three solid colored polo shirts – Little boys and college kids wear striped polos. Adults wear solid colors. Look around you at the men who wear stripes, and those who wear solids. Who look to be in better shape and better dressed? You’ll see the more elegant and trim looking men are in solids.

As for colors, that is up to you. However I recommend one in gray, navy or black. This is a simple neutral that is flattering and classic and a bit dressier than other colors. As for the others, pick colors you enjoy. My husband has a sage green that looks great with khaki, navy and gray, and a dark plum that is an unexpected neutral that looks great with olive, khaki, gray and black. Wear with khakis or tropical weight wool trousers for business casual jobs, with cargo shorts for a summer cookout, with jeans on the weekend.

8. Flat front chinos in a khaki color (AKA khakis) – Please stop buying pleated khakis. They do not look good on anyone, and they make men look unfashionable. As for the khaki color – this is the most versatile and flattering. Lighter colors (often called stone) are not as popular and do not look appropriate past Labor Day. Darker and more yellow colors (British tan, taupe, sand) are memorable and often look more casual. As with the gray trousers, have them to the length where they make a bend (or “break”) where the ankle hits the foot.

Khakis look great with everything. Pair with a black blazer and white shirt for dinner, with a polo for work or a day on the links, with a collared shirt or sweaters for casual affairs. These pants will be so versatile, I recommend you buying two pairs. They are so neutral, no one will realize they are two of the same pants. You do not want these too stiff, or too tight. J.Crew offers a style called “relaxed fit” that is very flattering on many shapes and sizes of men. The chino fabric is lightweight enough that it doesn’t crease or bunch, but is refined enough for work, dates and social occasions.

9. A pair of sandals – I do not mean Birkenstocks and I do not mean those woven hurrache-style shoes. A simple sandal or thong in brown leather will be worn almost daily come summer. With shorts and tees, with jeans and a polo. There is nothing more attractive than a man in a crisp white shirt, well-fitting khaki chinos and a stylish pair of leather sandals in the summertime. Sandals will replace your Tevas and flops for casual affairs, sneakers with your shorts and jeans in the warmer months.

10. Longer shorts in olive or khaki – Get rid of the pleated shorts that are 4” above your knee, the faded navy and black chino shorts that you have owned since college, the beat up and threadbare stone-colored cutoffs. These shorts are a clean line without being too stiff, longer without looking sloppy. The ones shown have a 9″ inseam. The shorts should land close to or at the knee, but not below.

11. A casual sweater with a crew neckline – Keep it simple. No stripes, argyles, or overt details. A cableknit in navy, a Shetland in charcoal, a ribbed commando-style (featured) in a dark green. It should cover the wrists even when arms are extended, cover the waistband of pants even when stretching, and be a trim fit – not slim, but not overly baggy. Think refined, classic, simple. The color should be one you enjoy and you find flattering, without being too strong. Navy instead of royal, olive or forest instead of bright green, russet instead of red. This will be the most versatile with all your bottoms. These colors go with khaki, with gray, with denim. A crew neckline will look nice with a collared shirt or on it’s own.

12. Black leather slip-on dress loafers – The best buy I have ever made for my husband. Being a slip-on style, they can transition from dress to casual with ease; a laced-up oxford can often seem too prim. These shoes look great with an oxford shirt and khakis for Thanksgiving dinner at the grandparent’s house. With his suit for work, or for a wedding. With the merino v-neck and trousers for a party at a friend’s house. These shoes go with every pant in my husband’s wardrobe except jeans, and fit every occasion where pants other than jeans are appropriate. On top of that, they are comfortable!

13. A pair of Euro sneakers or rugged leather oxford shoes – These are what you wear when you can’t wear the black loafers. Euro sneakers are leather, subtle in color and sleek in design. They are a dressier version of traditional tennies. If Euro sneakers are not your thing, consider a pair of sturdy oxfords – my husband has a pair of brown lace-ups from Merrell that have contrast stitching, sturdy laces and a chunky sole. My good friend has stayed tried and true to his black Dr. Martens for the past two decades. Like Euro sneakers, these shoes can fill in where the black loafer cannot – with jeans and to dress down khakis.

14. A wool winter coat – The parka is great for cold days, and the fleece is an easy layer for weekends. However for work, for evening, and for special occasions you need something not made of Gortex. A wool coat in black, charcoal or dark navy will get years of wear. Consider a traditional peacoat style – it works well with jeans and tee shirts or with suits. A single breasted style will make a thicker man look leaner and a shorter man look taller. As with the rest of these wardrobe basics, keep it simple. Buttons should be the same tone as the coat, collars and shoulders should not have adornments. A simple lining is good for moderate climates, consider a Thinsulate lining for those residing in the more northern of states.

15. Black leather dress belt – you need something to keep up those khakis and tropical weight wool trousers. A dress best is not like your casual belts – the leather is stiff and glossy. The buckle is polished and minimal. The whole style is slim, sleek and refined. The rugged brown leather belts with the hammered steel buckle is fine for the weekends, but should never be paired with suits or nice trousers. Your belt should always match the color of your shoes – as that I have only recommended black dress shoes, you will only need a black dress belt.

Additional Items You May Need:

  1. A bathing suit in a simple pattern or solid that hits near the knees, without going below the knee
  2. A French blue dress button-down shirt
  3. Ties – stripes for work, solids for formal affairs, patterns for festive occasions. You should own at least two.
  4. Casual button down shirts – for work with khakis, for play with jeans. Look for wrinkle-resistant styles so they can be easily washed and dried. Subtle stripes, solids in colors you enjoy and fit your personality, muted plaids. These shirts should be tucked in, one button unbuttoned without an undershirt, two buttons unbuttoned with a tee shirt underneath.

What to Remove from Your Wardrobe:

  1. Any jeans with bleached out areas, sandblasted, or stonewashed
  2. Any classic fit, overly baggy or tapered jeans
  3. Short sleeved dress shirts – these look goofy on everyone. If you’re hot, roll your sleeves
  4. Plaid flannel shirts as work shirts – just because you tuck it in does not mean it is work or socially appropriate. Flannels are for casual affairs: camping, cold nights and weekends in the yard (my husband asked me to include Pearl Jam concerts)
  5. Tee shirts with witty logos/cartoon characters/lewd jokes – these are corny, crass and tacky. Silly shirts are for college kids, not adult professionals.
  6. White socks unless you are performing an athletic activity.
  7. Sports jerseys unless you are attending a sporting event, participating in a sporting event, or going to a sport-themed party. Rappers can carry off a sports jersey for a red carpet event; until you have the bankroll of a rapper, you cannot dress like one. You will look childish or goofy.
  8. Sweatpants with elastic at the ankle. Any sweatpants or athletic bottoms should be reserved to the gym and your home when you don’t have guests. However, traditional elastic sweatpants are horribly unflattering and tacky.
  9. That brown leather bomber jacket you have had since college. It was hip in the 90’s, it is NOT hip today.
  10. Athletic sneakers with shorts. Invest in some leather or athletic-inspired sandals. Sneakers with shorts look ridiculous and immature. Traditional sneakers are only for athletic events.
  11. Denim shorts. NO buts about it, there is NEVER a good time to wear denim shorts.
  12. Cliff Huxtable sweaters. Get rid of the jewel tones, the funky patterns and textures. Solids are safe and flattering. The crazy patterned sweaters look dated.
  13. Mock turtlenecks. Whoever invented these should be shot. The only version of turtleneck you should be wearing would be on the ski slopes or part of a chunky sweater. There is never an appropriate place for knit mock turtlenecks

What Every Man Needs in His Wardrobe – Updated for 2010

A few years ago, I wrote the post, “What Every MAN Needs in his Wardrobe.” Since then, I seem to get comments and emails about it every month, and it has been mentioned in many articles on sites all over the Web.

What Every Man Needs in his Wardrobe

Men’s fashion is so difficult because it is so simple. A man can’t feign style with trendy colors, bold accessories, or an It Bag. A man has a harder time making a Tarjay purchase cut it in the corporate world. Men’s retailers don’t help the situation – with women’s retailers we can tell that Mom Jeans are passé because they can only be found at cheaper Big Box retailers; men can find all sorts of Fashion Don’ts at the nicest brands and shops.

However just as with women, if a man has a very simple base wardrobe of staples, he can get away with adding some trendy or fun pieces to the mix without looking like a fashion victim. Purchasing quality, classic pieces means one’s wardrobe can stand the test of time and be far more versatile.

Re-reading my list of wardrobe staples for men from back in 2006, very little has changed. The good thing about men’s fashion is that it isn’t as quickly changing as that for women. Jeans you buy in 2007 will most likely be stylish in 2011, and silhouettes don’t change as drastically as those for women. However some trends have happened that aren’t TOO trendy, and can adjust the staples for any man. So let’s revisit that list.

Here’s a recap of the original list from 2006:
1. White dress shirt
2. Bootcut jeans
3. Black merino v-neck sweater
4. Flat front gray trousers
5. Black blazer
6. Gray suit
7. Solid-colored polo shirts
8. Flat front chinos/khakis
9. Sandals
10. Longer chino shorts
11. Casual crew neck sweater
12. Black slip on loafers
13. Euro sneakers
14. Wool coat
15. Black dress belt

1. Crisp White Cotton Shirt. This is a given. Every man needs at least one of these, as that they are so versatile and look best when very white, very crisp. Over the past couple of years, trimmer cuts have taken center stage. If you are a lean gentleman, do not let your white shirt balloon around you – this look will completely kill any style. European brands like French Connection offer narrower cuts, American retail favorites like Banana Republic and Gap also offer dress and casual shirts in fitted silhouettes.

If you are tall, look for brands that cater to tall men. My husband is a big fan of the Banana Republic line for Big & Tall men – the quality is good, and the cuts really do fit far better than standard brands. If you are shorter, you will always be better off heading straight to a shop like Brooks Brothers or a department store to get the right length of arms along with right size of neck.

Image courtesy gap.com

2. Comfortable Bootcut Jeans in a Semi-dark Color. This is one of the items that has changed the most drastically since the original post. Jeans are a wardrobe staple for most any person on this planet and retailers know this. Styles in denim change faster than with any other type of garment.

The mentioned relaxed bootcut jean is still a decent choice – it’s not too trendy, yet not dated. However since then other cuts and washes have become classics.

A very dark crisp jean, often called “rinse” in color or described as “rigid”, “selvedge”, or “raw” denim has become a classic for men as well as women. This is not a dark wash, but a deep, even dark indigo where the denim looks untouched. Often the inside seams are stitched in red, and the denim is far heavier-weight and stiff than most jeans in the store. In a slim, straight or slight boot cut, this look can be a great staple for most men. Adding the slight bootcut or a more relaxed cut is a good choice for very tall and lean men, as well as for shorter or heavier men. You want to balance out your shape, so you don’t look top heavy. A great classic choice for this type of jean is the Levi’s 501.

The vintage jean is a jean that is supposed to look as though it has been weathered through use. This jean doesn’t have the pronounced whiskering I mentioned in the original post, but all-over wear. We’re not talking shredded jeans a la the Glam Rock days, but something that looks as though a farmhand took a pair of raw denim and wore them for an entire season out in the fields. This look can be a bit looser and more relaxed than the dark denim, but it is still not baggy or loose. Again, a straight or slight boot cut will be your best choice.

Jeans now can be cuffed, but you are treading into trendy territory with this choice. If you don’t feel confident in knowing how to cuff your jeans in a fashionable manner and only plan to cuff to achieve the proper length, I encourage you to instead buy the right length or head to a tailor to have them properly hemmed (ask them to keep the original hem or at least hem style so it doesn’t look as though Mommy did it for you). If you know your length, many online retailers offer extended lengths and waist sizes online so you can get the right fit from the get-go.

3. A Black Merino V-neck Sweater. Yeppers, this is still stylish. Just be sure it fits you, and isn’t overly baggy. The only thing that has changed in the past few years is that cuts are now more trim. If you have some meat on your bones, don’t try to hide it with an oversized sweater, but don’t go too skinny. A straight fit in your regular size will actually make you look more slim than something that is baggy.

In the original post, someone commented that cashmere is a better choice. Cashmere is always in style, but it requires a bit more upkeep. If your budget and lifestyle can handle cashmere, by all means choose it. However most men I know are better off with a sweater that can handle being thrown in a hamper or sent to the cleaners to be cared for. Cashmere is best cared for with hand washing and being laid flat to dry. If you don’t have the life for that sort of care, it’s okay. Merino wool is a wonderful alternative and holds its shape great, wear after wear.

Image courtesy jcrew.com

4. Flat Front Tropical Weight Wool Trousers in Gray. Another classic. My only suggestion is that if you are deciding between cuffs and no cuffs, go without the cuffs. Cuffs are being seen less and less and are becoming something that is trendy – let those pants be stylish for many years to come and choose to go without cuffs, or any other trendy embellishment.

The narrow pant has become very stylish in the past couple of years. If you are reading this for clothing advice, I recommend you do NOT go for the narrow pant. The narrow pant is a hard look to pull off and can only be worn with certain shoes, certain tops, and on certain shapes of men. Keep it simple, keep it classic, stick to a flat front, standard leg, standard length.

Image courtesy nordstrom.com

5. A Black Suiting Blazer with Three Buttons. Classic. Simple. Just keep with current trends and keep it well-fitted. Get it properly tailored to fit your body – it will make you look more muscular, more fit, more trim if you have a well-fitting jacket.  As for figuring out fit, I love these tips from a Suitable Wardrobe and this link for sizing from SuitUPP – every man should bookmark them, print them out and take with you to the tailor when you get your jackets fitted (for no jacket fits properly off the rack – sorry to tell you guys, but it’s worth it to get them tailored.

When I originally wrote this, I chose black over navy for the same reason I choose black as the base color for my list of women’s wardrobe staples – it’s easier. You can’t get the wrong shade of black, and with black you always know what color shoes to wear. Navy is a wonderful choice for a blazer – it is classic and elegant, but the problem is navy can look more like blue if the wrong shade, navy will show the fabric better so if you don’t have high quality fibers it will be obvious, and often people pair navy with colors that don’t compliment well (hello black trousers). If you can find a dark navy of quality fibers, it is a worthy replacement of black. But if you’re unsure, stick with black for it’s safe and in this day and age, considered as versatile as navy.

6. A Gray Suit. Yep, this is still a classic. Far more versatile than any other color available, and more likely to look elegant in five years. Make sure it is tailored to fit you properly, and it should work for most any event that life throws in your direction.

 Image courtesy bananarepublic.com

7. Three Solid-colored Polo Shirts. There are more hip, more trendy, more fashionable choices than polo shirts, but nothing that is as timeless, budget-friendly, and versatile. My only update is again about fit – keep it trim (not tight) and be sure the length is correct. I constantly see men who have polo shirts that barely cover their belts, and other men who wear ones that hang to their knees. The current look is no longer baggy, so even if you are short and stocky, you should be able to find a polo shirt that doesn’t look like a dress. Tall men, almost every online retailer offers long lengths – you can easily get a few polos on sale at J. Crew or Gap and replace your belly-baring tops.

Keep your polo shirts looking better for longer and don’t wash them with your jeans, towels, or any athletic wear with grommets or Velcro. My husband washes his with other knits and they don’t fade or stretch out as quickly.

8. Flat-front Chinos in a Khaki Color. Still a classic. If you wear khakis for work, keep one pair that is only for social events. Often I see men at weddings and happy hours with stained or snagged chinos, and it’s obvious they are the same ones they wear on the job.

Again I have to mention length. It’s better to get them too long and have them hemmed than go too short. Any drycleaner can hem your pants and get them back to you in a couple of days. J. Crew and Lands End are two of many retailers that sell unusual lengths online. J. Crew even offers a raw hem so you can have them hemmed by your own tailor for the perfect length.

9. A Pair of Sandals. Magazines and Web sites will talk about all sorts of other summer shoes, but if you are a Fashion Freshman, I don’t suggest many other trendy alternatives that are out there.  I recommend checking out Zappos, a site with a HUGE selection of shoes. When I recently searched for men’s leather sandals, they had 545 options. It is possible to find a pair of thong or slide sandals that look manly, will be comfortable, and be a great choice with shorts or jeans.

10. Longer Shorts in Olive or Khaki. I am not saying your shorts should hang past your knee. You’re looking for that happy medium that is between the thigh and the knee. The baggy look is out guys, so pass on the pleats, the millions of cargo pockets and any pair that can’t stay on your hips without a belt. A heavier-weight chino will keep a crisp, sophisticated look.

I mentioned cargo shorts as a good alternative, but since that original post cargo shorts have started going out of style. I really think every man need a clean, crisp pair (or three) of cargo-free chino shorts. It’s far more modern, flattering, and stylish.

11. A Casual Sweater with a Crew Neckline. There are a lot of thin cotton sweaters out there that end up clinging to your tee shirt, stretching out in the wash, blousing out weird at the hem. It’s better to have fewer sweaters in your closet and know that the ones you have fit well, launder well, and will keep their shape and color. If you buy quality, this sweater can still be one you love to wear a decade from now.

If you have this crew sweater, you can definitely branch out with necklines. More v-necks, a shawl collar, etc. Start with crew, a crew is a wardrobe staple and a good first choice to build your proper wardrobe.

12. Black Leather Slip-on Dress Loafers. These are so versatile, you may even want a second pair. Seriously.

And with the new dark, crisp looks in denim, these loafers can now be worn with that type of denim and look stylish.

13. A Pair of Euro Sneakers or Rugged Leather Oxford Shoes. This is probably the only item on this list that has really changed over the years and isn’t still considered a perfect wardrobe choice. Really, that’s to be expected – a shoe like this is more of a novelty piece and will change with the times and trends. You’re looking for a casual shoe – something more socially acceptable than an athletic sneaker, but not as dressy as the black loafer. .

A popular choice for this type of shoe is the Converse All Stars “Chucks” sneakers. In black, with a low rise, these are a wonderful choice to add to your wardrobe. My husband’s friend has a pair of loafers, but they are a dark brown with a more rugged sole that look great with his chinos and jeans. I love the look of engineer boots or chukkas – a great choice with this season’s trim dark jeans.

Pick a style that works with your personal style. Into the music scene? Consider some Doc Martens. A bit preppy? How about some Sperry Topsiders? Like sports? Instead of a pair of old Nikes, consider some Adidas “Shell Tops” (just be sure they stay in immaculate condition). Desert boots are a good choice if you have more of a beachy or boho sense of style.

Image courtesy omiru.com

14. A Wool Winter Coat. Still a classic, and still a wardrobe essential.

15. Black Leather Dress Belt. If you own #12, you need #15.

Additional Items You Should Have in your Wardrobe:
1. Oxfords shirts in blue and white. These shirts are different from the dress shirt. They are more casual, have a heavier textured weave, button-down collars, and aren’t meant to be worn with a suit. Go for a trim cut, and you can wear them tucked in with jeans and pants, or even untucked with chinos or shorts. If you have a sense of flair, feel free to stray from the basic blue and white – real men DO wear pink, and other hues are hot and surprisingly versatile. This sort of shirt also looks great under a sweater come winter. For summer, here’s a great link that tells you how to roll up your cuffs.

2. Other casual button-down shirts. Right now, the button-down shirt is hot, as long as it’s the right fabric and fit. Shirts shouldn’t be blousy, and they shouldn’t have texture or shine. The vintage look is hot for casual wear. Plaids have come back in style, and we’re talking cotton, and not grunge-era flannel. Stripes are great too.

Before I stated that short-sleeved dress shirts are goofy. I still believe that. However, since the original post, fashion has made great strides with the short-sleeved casual shirt. For lean men, the semi-fitted button down in plaid is a nice look; for stocky men the more casual beachy short-sleeved shirt in chambray or a lightweight cotton looks great untucked with shorts or chinos.

3. A light blue or French blue dress shirt. Same rules apply as for the white dress shirt.

4. Ties. Just as stated before, solid for more formal events, stripes for work, patterns and more casual fabrics for festive occasions. Please get your ties cleaned occasionally, and especially after any event that includes cigars and/or large consumption of alcohol. Nothing worse than a stained or rumpled tie. And for some wonderful tutorials, here is a fabulous site that shows you with diagrams as well as videos on how to tie a tie with the four most popular knots (I recommend four in hand for pretty much any affair, Half Windsor for the more formal affairs).

5. Dress socks. Your black SmartWool socks are NOT a choice when wearing a suit. You should own at least two pairs of socks that are meant to be worn with suits. As a rule, have your socks match your pant, not your shoe.

6. A leather wallet. Get rid of your Velcro-closure one from Billabong, and get rid of the one you have had since you high school graduation. A man’s wallet is like a woman’s purse – it should be well cared for, not overstuffed, and match your sense of style. Regularly remove receipts, business cards and other things that will make it be the size of a Dagwood sandwich.

7. Bathing trunks. Keep it simple – simple print or a solid. Trim but not tight, length similar to the abovementioned shorts.

8. An umbrella. This is not some swag you got from your last work conference. Get a travel one that will fit in your laptop bag, and can withstand fierce winds. My husband and I have a couple from Lands End that are classic, sturdy, reliable. Black is a safe bet, or you can add some color to your look with a muted plaid or solid color.  Any woman will tell you that she would find it terribly gallant for a man to pull out an umbrella to protect her during an unexpected rainshower…

9. Sunglasses. It’s time to retire the Oakleys (or keep them for sporting events and the most casual of situations). Variations of the classic Aviator or the Wayfarer are popular now, but I recommend you visit a high-end department store or sunglass boutique in the mall to try various styles to find what fits your face as well as your lifestyle.

10. White tee shirts. You should own a couple crisp, well-made white tee shirts to wear under things. Those Hanes ads with Michael Jordan are right – the cheap tees that buckle at the neck look terrible. Be sure to wash your white tees with other whites, use some oxygen cleaner or line dry to keep them white.

11.  Casual belt.  If your casual shoes are black, look for a more casual black belt.  If they are brown, look for brown.  My husband always has luck finding casual belts on clearance at Banana Republic that are well-made, timeless, and budget-friendly.

Since the original post about what every man needs in his wardrobe, I have added several Web sites and blogs to my Blogroll that specialize in Men’s Style.  Unlike me, their expertise is in men’s fashion, and I trust them for advice and input on new trends.  Do check them out.

What Every Man Needs in his Wardrobe: My Two Cents by Terry

what every man needs in his wardrobe

Many of you have asked for an update to my post, “What Every MAN Needs in his Wardrobe.” And I have been saying to myself that it’s about time I updated it.  Since the last update in 2010 (original in 2006), men’s fashion has changed pretty drastically, from casual footwear to the cut and wash of denim.  I began the process, but then decided it would be more authentic and accurate if written from the perspective of a man interested and aware of style.

When deciding who would be best for the job I immediately thought of Terry S., the man behind Terry’s Two Cents. Terry’s has real-life attainable personal style, he knows how to dress for the workplace and the everyday in a current manner without being too trendy or too out there. As a husband, father, and a job in higher education, Terry understands the sartorial needs of many men. Let’s see what Terry thinks of my 2010 list (click to read the details and the whys to each piece) and how he would adjust it for 2015:

what every man needs in his closet

The lovely Alison has graciously asked me for my “two cents” on updating her 2010 post of what every man needs in his wardrobe. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. Here is her original list, and my thoughts on whether I agree or disagree with it, as well as any changes I’d like to make.

1. Crisp White Cotton Shirt

ABSOLUTELY. Every single man should have at LEAST one of these in his wardrobe. Narrow and more tailored cuts are preferred.

2. Comfortable Jeans in a Semi-dark Color

I agree with having a dark wash jean, but I’d even say that also owning a pair of light wash jeans are great as well. Jeans are extremely versatile, and can be used to be casual, or even dressy. Some people may not like bootcut, so I always recommend going with what is comfortable to you. Slim, or even straight legs are great. Stay away from going too baggy.

3. A Black Merino V-neck Sweater

Yes. I’d even go to add a red and/or a blue one to this. Most men are a little hesitant to experiment with color, and a sweater is a great way to try it out. It can also give your look a little something extra when going with a color.

4. Flat Front Tropical Weight Wool Trousers in Grey

Agreed. I would go with a medium weight so that they could be worn year-round without worrying about being too hot or too cold. Flat front is definitely more modern than pleated, and grey is pretty versatile.

5. A Black Suiting Blazer with Three Buttons

A great blazer is ALWAYS a good choice to have in the wardrobe. Personally, I prefer two buttons instead of three, as it tends to look better on just about all body shapes and sizes.

6. A Grey Suit

Yes. A charcoal grey suit should be a great first (or even only) suit for men. It has a little bit more versatility than a black suit, and should be every bit as timeless and classic.

7. Three Solid-colored Polo Shirts

I’d even go further to say four: black, white, and two colors you like to wear. Usually something like red and blue are safest, but this is another great way to experiment with colors.

8. Flat-front Chinos in a Khaki Color

Absolutely. While the grey trousers are great for more dressy looks, khaki ones are great for more casual looks, and still look dressier than wearing jeans.

9. A Pair of Sandals

Definitely, especially for the summer months. What’s better than rocking a beach-inspired dressy look of your white button up shirt, sleeves rolled up partially, khaki chinos, and a good pair of leather sandals?

10. Longer Shorts in Olive or Khaki

Longer shorts are definitely great. I like to wear shorts that either to right to the knee, or an inch or so above the knee. Any shorter might make them look like they’re too small, and longer cargo-type shorts aren’t really that stylish nowadays. Definitely in khaki. I’d also lean more toward a grey pair over an olive pair.

11. A Casual Sweater with a Crew Neckline

Sometimes. To me, crew necklines for sweaters tend to be more limiting. If pairing them with a collared shirt, you will only be able to see the collar, so forget wearing a tie with it. If having to choose, I’d go with a v-neck sweater first.

12. Black Leather Slip-on Dress Loafers

Yes, yes, YES. Great way to even instantly dress up a fairly casual look, and also great to showcase some crazy socks (like I like to wear).

13. A Pair of Euro Sneakers or Rugged Leather Oxford Shoes

Yes. I personally prefer these type of sneakers over athletic ones, because you can dress them up and still look put-together.

14. A Wool Winter Coat

Absolutely. I’m a personal fan of either a peacoat or a car coat. Both are classic and timeless.

15. Black Leather Dress Belt

Agreed. I would even go further to add a brown leather dress belt as well. Or, even better, a reversible belt. Kill two birds with one stone.

What would I add to the list?

16. Trenchcoat

These are about as timeless as one can get. Super stylish, and they NEVER go out of style. It might be tempting to go for one in color, but I would recommend sticking with the traditional khaki color. If you can find one with a removable liner inside for the colder months, that’s even better.

 

Terry's Two CentsTerry is a husband, father, Apple techie, stylist, geek, gamer, Starbucks drinker, people watcher, fashionisto.

Read more about his two cents on life and style at his blog, Twitter, and Instagram.

Ask Allie: Plus Size Wardrobe Staples

Dear Allie, I found your wardrobe staples post many years ago and it changed my life. I cut my closet in half but finally had the right clothes for everything. Since then, I have had two children and some health issues and I’m now a size 22. I gave up on fashion the past five years but my New Year resolution is to get back in shape and in style. Thing is I go to the mall and I can’t find anything on your list, everything is so ugly and old looking and cheap in plus sizes. Help!

My first suggestion to you is to get the heck out of the mall. While more and more brick and mortar shops are offering plus size fashion, most neighborhood malls have pretty slim pickings. Shipments are done by a buyer, one who just looks at generic demographics and statistics for the store, mall, and zip code and makes general decisions on whether to feature more plus size or less, more suiting or more weekend wear, more formal dresses or cotton sundresses. While you could drive around town to find plus size fashion Mecca, you could also head to your computer.

I hardly ever enter a mall anymore because I find them frustrating, messy, and overwhelming. When I do visit, I plan out my trip and head first to my go-to stores where I know the clothes fit my body and my personal style. Then if I still have some energy left, I’ll investigate other retailers. However, I find far more luck sticking to online retailers. Better selection of styles as well as sizes, easier to find discounts, and I can try on pieces in my bedroom with flattering lighting and proper shoes and undergarments.

I did a little searching online and was able to quickly find all the wardrobe staples I suggest in plus sizes. These days many retailers offer free or near-free shipping and returns; I did a review of my favorite plus-size retailers here. Keep in mind that this time of year is awesome for deals, but awful for selection. We’re entering inventory season, and every retailer tries to have as little merchandise as possible for inventory to make the process easier. If you’re looking for bargains you’re likely in luck, but if you’re striking out in sizes, wait until mid-March when spring collections will be stocked in the stores.

In the collage above, I left out the wool coat and accessories from the staples list because I find them relatively easy to find and likely you have the accessories already in your collection. Here’s a list of some of my go-to retailers for specific plus size fashion:

I also recommend you check out some plus size blogs and forums. I personally am not part of any boards or forums so I suggest you lurk some and find a good fit. While there are so many blogs out there who showcase their fabulous plus size personal style, here are few plus size-specific blogs I find to be quite helpful in reviewing lines and offering fashion suggestions. I also recommend reading their blogrolls and comments for additional blogs and online resources:

I’m so happy that you are using this year to care for yourself. Everyone deserves to feel fabulous and you’re gorgeous no matter your dress size. Dressing to flatter your current figure and personal style makes you feel confident and helps showcase your beautiful self. Don’t let the malls get you down, head online and you may find just what you were looking for!

Readers, I look forward to your comments on this subject, as I am not an expert.  Where do you find plus size wardrobe staples?  Who are your favorite plus size bloggers?  What online resources do you recommend?  

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Ask Allie: An Active Casual Capsule Wardrobe for a Woman Over 60

I am about to retire and would love to have advice about a capsule wardrobe to fit my new situation. I am a young 62 and pear shaped. I’m planning to focus on travel, enjoying grandchildren, blues festivals, yoga and walking. I like classic styles and love blues and greens.

Congratulations! That sounds like an amazing way to spend this new point in your life. And I love that you’re considering a capsule wardrobe so you can focus on life instead of what to wear each day. Purchasing carefully, slowly, and while considering all you currently own can get you to the point of having a small quality wardrobe of hard-working pieces that have you ready for whatever comes your way.

capsule wardrobe casual active over 60

For this casual capsule wardrobe I didn’t focus on yoga and walking as I figure you have gear for those activities; however I did try to create a collection that will move with you, be comfortable for long spans of time outdoors taking the grandchildren sightseeing or to the park, or sitting on a blanket in the grass enjoying live music.

As a pear-shaped woman, it can be hard to find bottoms that fit and flatter. For skirts, those with an a-line, a flare from the waist, or that are softly gathered will flatter your figure. A skirt at or below the knee not only balances your frame but provides modesty when chasing after little ones or sitting on the ground. While many women avoid shorts, they’re so practical and so many lengths and styles are now available making it so any woman can find a cut that she likes. For a pear shape, a straight short that hits right at the top of the knee is best. Here I offered a stretchy denim style with a cuff, and a stretch twill Bermuda that can dress up or down nicely. A “boyfriend” jean is great for pear shapes because they’re more relaxed in the hip and thigh area and the cuff makes them have just the right amount of taper and color contrast to not shorten the leg like traditional cropped pants. Many women choose dark bottoms to minimize their hips and rear, but a pair of opaque white jeans can be quite chic and flattering (and it also makes primary and jewel tones look so luxe). It’s not ridiculous to pay to have jeans tailored (if you purchase them from Nordstrom they will tailor them on-site); go up a size for a comfortable fit in the hips and thighs and have the waist and hem adjusted for a custom fit. A straight jean is on trend yet will still be stylish next year; such a cut also balances hips nicely.

For tops, I kept things simple but incorporated elements to balance your curves. Boatnecks, cap sleeves, and gathered necklines add interest and also balance the bottom half of your figure. Choosing tops that highlight the slimmest part of your torso are also great; look for empire waists, built-in belts (or add one at the waist or at the ribs over an untucked top), and details like ruching and knots that define. Notice I kept prints to a minimum and those prints quite classic – prints can look dated very quickly. Sticking to solids and classic simple prints will keep your wardrobe from looking passé or frumpy. Breton stripes are a classic and look chic on women of all ages; while florals can be seen as mumsy this simple white and blue print in a stretch silk or synthetic will look quite modern, especially when paired unexpectedly with boyfriend jeans or shorts.  A graphic print in your favorite color can easily be switched out for the floral.

With dresses, I incorporated the same concepts from the skirts and tops.  Fit and flare styles, cap sleeves, details to emphasize the waist, and skirts that hit at the knee or lower.  Do know that models are often taller than average; a dress that looks thigh-high on a website may be knee-length on you.  Consider the measurements offered as well as the photo (and customer reviews, if available) before judging a dress or skirt.

While a shoe with a bit of a heel will balance a pear figure, I believe in function over fashion and a flat shoe will do you better with your new lifestyle. Choosing shoes that match your bottoms or are low contrast to your legs will be the best choice; a metallic flat is a great way to dress up casual pieces but they’re also a great way to get away without wearing heels to a wedding or other social event.


Accessories are what take a capsule wardrobe from ordinary to extraordinary. Statement necklaces are a great way to draw attention to your face, add personality and also a youthful touch to your outfit. A silk scarf can look matronly, but in a bold print it adds personality and class to simple knits.

As for bags, choosing a crossbody means you have your hands free to hold on to your grandchildren, take a photo, or grab a pair of drinks for you and another at that next blues festival.  I can’t stress the importance of accessories enough, especially with a pared-down wardrobe of staples.  Accessories show your personality, show that you are young at heart, and that you are aware of current trends and care about style.  Don’t be afraid of a sparkly necklace, a metallic slip-on sneaker, or a statement watch or bag from a popular brand.

A pair of black plastic sunglasses are a classic; I recommend purchasing a classic yet popular brand and a style that is pretty classic to show you are aware of the trends but wearing them in the way that is best for you.  While I featured the classic Ray-Ban Wayfarer in the collage, other styles are equally chic; I chose a few that caught my eye and have them in the widget above.  With sunglasses and bags, I recommend buying the best quality and brand you can afford.  These are accessories you likely will wear every day; quality will last and also elevate your basic wardrobe staples.

Summer Lingerie Must-Haves

When summer arrives, I don’t just switch out my sweaters and long-sleeved shirts for tanks and shorts, but I also switch out my lingerie drawer. Sweat, heat, and lightweight fabrics just NEED different underpinnings. My lingerie drawer must-haves for when the temperature rises:

Summer lingerie essentials

Tee Shirt Bras

Slub knits, linen and linen blends, and cotton voile are brilliant in the heat and humidity, but are prone to transparency. Tee shirt bras are a must with such fabrics as they are slightly padded, molded in shape, and free of adornments to virtually disappear while providing modesty. I always have a couple in a color close to my skintone for white and light shades, and a black one to wear under dark colors. My personal favorite is the Fantasie 4510 Smoothing Balcony T-Shirt Bra.

Nude Slip

Warmer weather is far more comfortable with lighter weight fabrics, but these fabrics (even in darker colors) can be quite transparent, especially on a bright sunny day. Having a nude slip can prevent embarrassing exposure, and if you choose wisely it won’t add too much weight or heat. I love this slip from Calvin Klein, which skims the body without adding bulk under slim dresses and doesn’t cling even in high humidity. Free of adornments, it won’t ruin the look or line of your summer frocks. Adjustable straps and plenty of stretch make the slip comfortable and well-fitting.

A little tip: For years, my favorite summer slip was the cotton lining of a dress I thrifted but didn’t like. It came with a beige cotton slip only stitched in at the shoulders, so it was easy to snip it out. It was breathable, the right length, and virtually invisible under my dresses and cost about $4.

Another tip: Check eBay for traditional slips. I find gently used, vintage, and never worn half and full slips of all colors and styles for pennies on the dollar.

Nude Thongs

I know some of you despise thongs, but I find nothing better to prevent visible panty lines (VPL) with white or lightweight pants. The Godiva Thong from Hanky Panky is a new favorite; the nude color is a perfect match for my skin and the fabric seems to mold to my body, preventing shifting, wedgies, or cutting into my waist without feeling grody on a sweltering summer day.

Black Briefs

If I’m not wearing a pair of bike shorts or slip shorts under my sundress, you can bet I’m wearing a pair of black briefs. Also my undies of choice with denim shorts. My favorite is Hanro, they really are worth the hype and the money. They hold up great and last eons longer than cheaper versions from Target meaning it’s a better value in the long run, also they fit like a dream.  Another favorite is Knock Out! Panties, which have a moisture-wicking cotton gusset to keep you dry and comfy even if the rest of you is a sweaty mess.

Nude Briefs

Same deal, for white and light colored shorts and sundresses.  I forgot to mention Hanky Panky’s Retro Vikini Briefs, some of the most comfortable undies I have worn, and pretty lace that doesn’t dig or chafe even on the hottest summer day.

Black Bike Shorts

Bike shorts are brilliant under dresses and skirts for preventing chub rub and offering modesty. I recently reviewed Jockey’s Skimmies Slipshorts which are great for this, but you can also use most any bike shorts. Check out the comments on this post for a ton of great options.

A little tip: Pettipants are a pretty alternative and easily found at online lingerie shops. I have found many on eBay; there are sellers who offer overstock and sellers who make brand new product.

Bra with Pretty Straps

I don’t think it’s stylish to purposely show your underpinnings, but summer clothes often cause bra straps to show no matter how careful you are. I’m not talking about wearing a straight bra with a racerback tank (PLEASE don’t do this, wear a racerback bra or buy one of these gadgets), but traditional tanks and camisoles sometimes slip and you get a peek. Instead of showcasing your nude tee shirt bra, having a bra in a pretty color and with attractive straps can make it less awful. This spring and summer I picked up this bra, but love the leopard straps on this one.

Strapless Bra

Comfortable and supportive strapless bras DO exist, check out my post on a bra fitting to see proof! Since realizing this, my summer wardrobe has grown exponentially. I recommend getting one similar to a tee shirt bra – very simple, smooth, one that will disappear under your clothing. As for color, it depends on your wardrobe. I choose one in nude (the Fantasie 4530) since I wear more light colors in the summer, but if your wardrobe is mostly dark colors a black one would be wiser.

What are your warm-weather lingerie must-haves?

About Wardrobe Oxygen

My job required me to several times a month to see different clients across the country.  I had a suitcase always at the ready with doubles of my makeup and toiletries, and switched up my couple of suits with different colored blouses.  I felt I had my my system down pat until one fateful trip to see a client in Alabama:

“Bless your heart, you’re wearing that lovely ivory pantsuit again!”

This client had a passion for fashion, and I was sad/stupid/clueless enough (for that is what “bless your heart” means in this context in the South!) to wear the same suit for two consecutive visits.  I decided then and there to journal what I was wearing.  I would never make that mistake again!

I already had a personal blog; I shared what I had for dinner, a weird dream from the previous night, a review of a movie and a few blurry shots from the weekend taken with my Canon Powershot.  In June 2005 I created a second blog titled “My Wardrobe Today.” I posted blurry selfies in my home office’s full length mirror to ensure I wouldn’t hear “bless your heart” ever again.  I ended up shutting down the personal blog and merging that content into My Wardrobe Today.  My next blog came soon after.  I had a decade of visual merchandising, styling, and apparel retail experience under my belt and was still providing fashion advice to friends and colleagues; I had always wanted to write a book and thought I could use a blog to form my thoughts on fashion and flesh out chapters.  That third blog had the very catchy title of, “What Every Woman Needs in Her Wardrobe” and was based upon my list of staples every woman should have in her closet.  With time, my catchy title was replaced by the shorter and more memorable “Wardrobe Oxygen.” After my daughter was born in 2009, I decided to consolidate the two blogs into one to better utilize my time.

Wardrobe Oxygen provides real life fashion advice for women.  I focus on quality, not quantity, and educate how quality can be found at any pricepoint.  Sharing my personal style through outfit posts, I hope to show that fashion can be fun no matter your age, figure, or lifestyle.  I answer reader questions, create sample capsule wardrobes to show how to achieve more style with a smaller closet, and still share a few movie reviews and pictures from my weekend (though they’re not blurry and usually captured with my iPhone).

Over the years, Wardrobe Oxygen has created a community of intelligent style-minded women from across the globe.  Wardrobe Oxygen’s readers are smart, savvy, and come to this site for honest reviews and realistic fashion advice.  This blog has grown and flourished over the past decade, and I too have grown, learning so much from those who read and interact with me and the blog.  Get to know me and Wardrobe Oxygen better by visiting on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

To contact Alison Gary for partnership inquiries or ask a fashion question, fill out this contact form or email Alison.

Wardrobe Oxygen participates in several affiliate advertising programs. This means that if you click and/or make a purchase through certain links on this site or any related social media platforms, a commission may be made. Occasionally a brand will sponsor a post but that partnership or sponsorship will always be clearly explained within the post. I only choose to partner with brands that I respect and believe fit the purpose and audience of Wardrobe Oxygen and all thoughts are my own. Wardrobe Oxygen gathers data from those who visit this site. This information is kept private and never shared with outside parties other than affiliates and sponsors.

My Wardrobe Today – Emerson’s Birthday

I went to visit my sister’s blog and saw this picture.  As that I didn’t get an outfit picture yesterday, I figured I would share this.

Orchid chiffon layer top – Ann Taylor LOFT (last seen here)
JeansNot Your Daughter’s Jeans
Necklace and bracelets – Ann Taylor (no longer available)

Husband and daughter are being spokesmodels for The Gap – I think both of them are wearing complete outfits from Gap (except E’s shoes, which are Stride Rite via eBay – parents, don’t buy shoes full price.  There’s TONS of kiddie shoes on eBay in new or like-new condition for much much less!).

At Emerson’s first birthday, I made a big mistake by wearing a sweater and tank.  Running around after a little person, being the Hostess with the Mostess, refilling the food table… well after 30 minutes I was a sweaty, overheated mess and had to run upstairs to change.  This year I started off smart with a short-sleeved top.  I knew Emerson was wearing pink and gray, so I decided to wear something that wouldn’t contrast with it, and thought a solid color would be best so she would be the focus of any photographs that I ended up in.  I love this top and haven’t found it an easy piece to make winter-appropriate.  The ruffles are cool, but look strange with a jacket or cardigan.  This gave me a chance to rock it again before it gets too big (wishful thinking!!!).

Emerson’s party was pretty fun.  We tried to keep it small – mainly family and only a couple friends who are like family.  That being said since we have so much family in the area, we had over 20 folks and six little ones under the age of five!  FYI, if you have an open floor plan and hardwood floors and five children between two and five years of age… it ends up being a very noisy party!  However it made me happy we did the remodel because there was so much room for adults to chit-chat, and kids to run and play.  My sister has a great post about the food and decor from the party – we did a book theme.  I didn’t decorate a ton, just used some of Emerson’s library and some wooden alphabet blocks for color. 

We had a very simple menu since the party started at 2:00 – cake (made by my sister – it was fabulous!), Rice Krispee treats made with M&Ms, chips & dip, veggies & dip, various fruit, Crock Pot mac & cheese (a Paula Deen recipe adjusted with lower-fat ingredients and no eggs), and little PB&J and ham and cheese sandwiches cut into the shape of hearts.  We also took a big bowl and filled it with ice and then juice boxes – thought it was a fun little spin on a bucked of beers. 😉  We also had a pitcher of lemonade with lemon slices floating in it.  Of course to make a kid’s party doable for the adults, plenty of beer, wine and leftover spirits from New Years!

My Wardrobe Today – Wednesday

A very early morning today – dressed and left in the dark. So I didn’t have pictures, but felt the need to take some as that today I am wearing some purple to support Spirit Day.

What is Spirit Day (taken from GLAAD site):

The idea behind Spirit Day, first created by teenager Brittany McMillan earlier this month, is a simple one, not dissimilar to the idea of “Spirit Week” held in many high schools, and can be summed up in three words: Everyone Rally Together.
Spirit Day honors the teenagers who had taken their own lives in recent weeks. But just as importantly, it’s also a way to show the hundreds of thousands of LGBT youth who face the same pressures and bullying, that there is a vast community of people who support them.
Purple symbolizes ‘spirit’ on the rainbow flag, a symbol for LGBT Pride that was created by Gilbert Baker in 1978. As one of the event’s Facebook pages says: “This event is not a seminar nor is it a rally. There is NO meeting place. All you have to do is wear purple.” Wearing purple on October 20 is a simple way to show the world that you stand by these courageous young people and a simple way to stand UP to the bullies. Remember those lives we’ve tragically lost, and show your solidarity with those who are still fighting.

So I apologize for the randomness of the pictures – hey, at least you get to see a bit of my office where I live for 45+ hours a week! :)

Looking through my wardrobe this morning, I realize I don’t own a lot of purple.  I have a Gap cardigan and matching ribbed tank from last year, but both are a bit too large now.  I decided to wear a simple outfit with a purple accessory.  Originally I planned on wearing the purple cardigan tied around my neck, but instead decided to wear a purple belt.

OxfordLands End Canvas
BeltOld Navy
Denim Pencil Skirt Ann Taylor (no longer available online)
Black Leather PumpsNine West “Madeup”
Silver Cuff

As I mentioned, it was an early day for work so makeup was done in a jiffy by a dim light and hair was a rush.  I washed, conditioned, added my Suave root lifter and Tresseme heat protector and dried with a round brush. 

Makeup is standard:
Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage
Laura MercierBronzer
Revlon Colorstay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis
RevlonSuper Lustrous Lip Gloss in Nude Lustre
DiorShowMascara
TarteIndelible Wink in Plum (liner on top lash line)

My Wardrobe Today – Thursday

Black 3/4 sleeve sheath – Mossimo for Target (no longer available)
Black crocheted tights – c/o Coccolare Boutique
Blue suede heelsJessica Simpson “Evoni”
Silver cuff

I am such a chicken when it comes to hosiery.  I stick to what I know – opaque black tights.  I have a pair of dark gray ones, but I usually last-minute switch them out for black because I think black looks better on me. I like to accentuate the positive, minimize the negative and I know I have very large legs and ankles and feel that creative hosiery accentuates that.  However Coccolare Boutique, DWJ from The Art of Accessories, and Wendy Brandes forced me out of my hosiery box.

Coccolare Boutique contacted me, asking me if I would like to check out some of their luxury Italian hosiery.  I visited their site, saw some gorgeous legwear, but was terrified to try anything other than black tights.  I took a deep breath and decided to try a couple styles, including the Sebille Crochet Sweater Tights.  They arrived and looked more amazing than on the site – so soft, well-made, fit like a dream.  I tried them on with a few things in my wardrobe and everything felt wrong to me.  I felt as though it looked like HELLO LEGS!

Wendy Brandes has been showcasing fashion bloggers who rock the red leg – red tights or trousers.  I was chatting with Wendy and DWJ on Twitter this week about how I love the look of a red leg, but personally don’t think I can rock it.  Last night leaving work, I bumped into DWJ.  She admitted she stopped by Ann Taylor because of my recent posts about my great scores there.  We got to discussing my fear of creative hosiery and she really encouraged me to take the leap.  I hopped on the train, thinking about how I could really get a great look with my newly acquired crocheted tights from Coccolare.

Got home and found these shoes waiting for me.  I had seen them online in red and loved them; I know Jessica Simpson shoes fit me pretty well and are consistent with sizing so I decided to check on eBay and see if I could find the same pair for less.  I couldn’t find red but was excited to find them in this amazingly bright cobalt suede.  They were retailing online for up to $100, I got them for over 60% off, new and in original box (still wrapped up in original tissue and such).  Gotta love eBay (also yesterday got new, still wrapped bottle of Burberry London from an eBay seller at 1/3 the retail price)!

These shoes were BEGGING to be worn ASAP.  I tried them on with yesterday’s tights and liked the look of them with hosiery.  As that I am down to only one pair of black tights, it meant that to wear the new shoes, I would have to wear them with my Sebille Crochet Sweater Tights.  I decided with such an intense shoe and attention-grabbing tights, I had to keep it uber-simple on top.  I swear, I think this is the first time in the 21st Century that I have worn any hosiery that wasn’t opaque and black (or nearly black).  So what do you think of my first foray into creative hosiery?

And if you too would like a pair of luxe Italian hosiery at lovely prices, check out Coccolare Boutique.  If you join their fan club, you can get 20% off your purchase with the code “WARDROBE.”

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Ask Allie: Wardrobe Maintenance

I have a silly question to ask you, how do you deal with ironing your clothes? my closet is full of garments that need ironing but as I have little space in it, every time I iron and put the clothes back in the closet, by the time I want to wear it, they’re all wrinkle again. I hate to iron piece by piece (because I hate to iron in general), I prefer to take one day and iron a few pieces and get over with it. Can you please give me some ideas?

I have a bin at the bottom of my closet (the Junque Trunke from Scout by Bungalow), in there goes anything that needs to be ironed, dry cleaned, repaired. Once a month on a Sunday after I put Emerson down for a nap I try to get these things cared for – I’ll replace the buttons, iron the shirts, bag up the clothes for the cleaners. Sometimes I get lazy with the complicated wrinkled pieces and toss them in the cleaners’ bag as well and let them deal with it (items with pleats and lots of detail). More often than not, I don’t buy things that wrinkle. Seriously, the only things in my wardrobe that get super wrinkled are two oxfords and a shirtdress, and both of them have been at the bottom of that bin for so long they are probably covered in dust. I don’t have time to iron, so I try to steer clear from wrinkly purchases.

I wonder if you might consider doing a post on out-of-season clothes storage. In a couple of your closet posts, you’ve mentioned that you store some clothes in your attic. I’d love to know how you store them and if you have any strategies or products you’d recommend for storing out-of-season clothes.

I have written about it here, here, and here. But really, up in my attic I have a bunch of clear plastic bins that are stacked in columns. I use a Sharpie on the front to label them size 10 clothes, size 8 and smaller clothes, winter tops, winter bottoms… that sort of thing. I also have a bin that holds out of season accessories (gloves, hats, velvet scarves, bathing suits, etc.). When Hurricane Irene decimated my closet I purchased a garment rack and plan to use that to store coats and dresses in the off season. I have a few hanging garment bags that I will use so those garments won’t get dusty, and I’ll use some cedar rings to keep the critters away.

You’ve mentioned before about how you baby your shoes, but can you go into more specifics? How often do you shine, clean, etc. What products do you use for this? What’s your shoe maintenance routine exactly?

Before Emerson, at least once a month I would sit down in front of the TV with a can of black shoe shine and my dad’s old brush and rag and polish all my black shoes (if you don’t have shoe shine products, Kiwi makes some great basic kits). I specifically chose black shoes over brown so it was easy to mindlessly polish them while watching Bravo or a rerun of Sex and the City. I also had a polish that was used to re-black heels and non-leather parts of shoes. Before each season, I would take shoe staples like boots and black pumps to the cobbler in the nearby mall to have them reheeled and if needed, resoled. They would also stretch the leather to cover up any nicks on heels and give them a really good polishing.

Now that my life is frantic, my shoes get polished… almost never. Before a wedding or big event, or if they got something on them. Now I work in the city and my shoes get quite a beating – they can easily go to the cobbler five times a season to be reheeled, and each time they polish them up and fix any nicks on the heels.

I do care about my shoes when they aren’t on my feet. As soon as I get home, I take off my “nice” shoes and put them on the stairs. When I go up, I take them and immediately put them in their proper box on the shelf in my closet. All my “nice” shoes are in boxes, labeled with a clear description. I have a bin on my closet floor that holds Chucks, flip flops, and that sort of thing. My boots are in the corner of my closet, I have old magazines rolled up in them to keep them from falling over and creasing. When it’s summer I store my boots in old pillowcases so they won’t get dusty.

What sort of hangers do you use? I have such a crazy assortment and I know that the metal ones from the dry cleaner are bad for your clothes. Why are they bad and what should I use?

I worked retail for 50 kazillion years (okay, more like a decade) and amassed quite the collection of those standard-issue black plastic hangers. They have removable grippers on the shoulders, divots for straps and dress loops, a hole to “monkey-hang” clothes, and swiveling hooks. Pretty darn near perfect. Thing is, I have been out of retail for a decade and these hangers are starting to fall apart.

I have started switching to velvet “huggable” hangers. The velvet fabric will grip slippery fabrics and wide necklines, and the slimline gives me more space in my closet. You can find them at discount stores like Marshall’s for a good price.

For heavy items, coats, and blazers I don’t wear regularly I choose molded hangers. These will prevent the “wings” that can happen from slimmer hangers, and will maintain the proper shape of the garment.

I prefer hangers with clips for my pants and skirts. I know many fold such garments over a hanger, but I end up losing the garment in my closet because I can’t see it easily. Also, if left there too long you end up with a crease. Also the eternal retail gal in me gets a kick out of seeing all my skirts and pants hanging in line with the edge of the hangers.


Metal hangers get a bad rap thanks to Mommie Dearest, but also because they aren’t meant for long-term storage. They are cost-effective for cleaners, but they can rust, stretch out lightweight fabrics, cause those “wings” and shoulder creases. However, don’t toss them out – many organizations need hangers for their charities, people on Freecycle are always looking for them, many dry cleaners will take them back and reuse them, and they can even be recycled!

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My Wardrobe Today – Thursday

Black sweater coat – MICHAEL Michael Kors
Gray pima tee – Banana Republic (no longer available)
Black trousers – Talbots (bought last year on clearance)
Black city boots – Fitzwell “Andrea”
Silver hoops and cuff

Yep, an early work morning!

So I have been stalking this sweater for a long time.  I saw it on the Nordstrom site, but it was never in my size.  I searched online, and again could never find it in my size.  I would Google, but it looked differently on other sites than it did on Nordstrom so I was confused.  I knew this was the type of sweater coat I desired – tight, heavy weave, not clingy, the cool silver turnlock hardware, a length that would work with pants, jeans, or skirts.

At Nordstrom, this sweater was $180.  Snap.  That’s a pretty hefty price for a sweater, but I thought that if it really was what I thought it could be, it would be my new millennium version of my “Trinity” sweater from The Limited.  I bought that sweater… gosh maybe 2000?  Well I still own it, if I get back to a 10 I will probably continue to rock it, and that sweater was a MAJOR staple in my wardrobe for nearly a decade.  If one can find that perfect of a garment, well $180 seemed like an investment.

Then Nordstrom sent me a $20 rewards certificate (I keep a Nordstrom credit card just for these rewards).  I felt it was a sign, and went back to their site to look for this sweater.  They had it… no Large, but they did have an XL.  I snapped it up and it arrived last night.

The many faces of the MICHAEL Michael Kors Turnlock Sweater

I now see why it looked differently on the Nordstrom site than it did on any other site.  This sweater has a matching cowl.  A tube about a foot in length of the same knit as the ribbed cuffs.  It’s held on to the cardigan by a sole button on the back of the collar, but easily removable. Removed, this sweater coat was exactly what was missing from my closet.  A bit big, but not too large.  But then I get to work, and I see this sweater is really big.  Like a size too big.  I really need a Large in this.  I am glad I didn’t wear perfume today, because I am going to return it or sell it.

So I look online, now that I realize this sweater has a wacky detachable cowl (which is super cute, but I don’t think goes with the silhouette of this sweater).  And guess what?  It’s currently $88.79 at Overstock AND if you go through Ebates you get 5% cash back AND Overstock right now has FREE SHIPPING!

So I ordered it in a Large.  There were six left in Large Black, and a variety of other sizes and this sweater also comes in Gray.  I really like it a lot, think it can be casual with a tee and jeans, but has refined enough of a finish that it could be worn with a sheath dress to a business meeting. And I really like that I found it for more than 50% of the original price!

The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe

I made this list a few years ago, and this list still applies to today’s trends. If you buy the correct pieces, you will have to purchase fewer pieces and you will have more options each morning as you decide what to wear. A rule to a wardrobe – QUALITY NOT QUANTITY!!! Repeat this mantra as you ponder over buying those pink pleather pants or that faux fur handbag. Will you like in in two months, let alone two years? Does it go with anything else in your wardrobe? Is it flattering? Comfortable? Versatile? Well made?

1. Black Tailored Pantsuit in Seasonless Fabric
Boy I use the term “seasonless fabric” a lot. This is triacetate, gabardine, crepe, something with a bit of polyester in it. Note that I wrote a BIT. This shouldn’t look like scuba wear, a bathing suit or a rain jacket. No more than 5% stretch. Look at the fabric of men’s suits. It’s a fabric that is smooth, doesn’t wrinkle easily, looks good in winter and in summer. You want an equivalent.

This is a suit that is right for work, or even for a cocktail party. I am a huge fan of the Triacetate line from Ann Taylor. It’s seasonless, classic, travels easily, and due to being synthetic, is slightly stain resistant. J. Crew has a few great lines of suits as well – it’s a good idea to buy from a reputable brand that is known for suiting so you can replace or add to this suit over the seasons. My Triacetate suit from Ann Taylor is now a skirt, two different cuts of trousers and two different cuts of jackets – all found on sale, different seasons but all the same color and fabric.

2. Black Seasonless Trousers
See above for the type of fabric. These really should be a separate pair from your suit because they will get more wear. These are pants for work, for dinner, for nights out.

Express carries a Microfiber pant called the Editor Pant. It is a stretchy crepe-textured fabric that wears well. Stretchy but not shiny, can dress up or down. They often sell coordinating suit jackets. These are a great choice for women up to size 10 or 12, as that they come in lengths and you can wash them in Woolite and hang them to dry.

You are looking for a pant with a slightly lowered rise, a straight to slight bootcut leg that is not too tight in the thigh. A classic fit. These are trousers that go with a fun top for a night out, with a twinset for work, with a cute jacket and tank for dinner, with a sweater for a jaunt to the mall. Sometimes it’s nice to give the jeans a vacation and dress up a smidge. You’ll find that the right black trousers will be more comfortable and as easy care as your favorite denim.

3. Jeans and I Don’t Mean ANY Sort of Jeans
I mean a pair of FLATTERING jeans. Jeans can be stylish, comfortable and flattering. It may take several attempts, but when you find the right jeans, both you and your butt will know. A lower rise is more flattering to the belly. Having the waistband start just below the belly button will flatten the tummy and lengthen the torso. This will also make the jeans bind less when you sit. The leg should be slim, but not tight. A slight bootcut leg opening is the most universally flattering. It lengthens the leg, looks great with sneakers or boots or heeled sandals, and it’s look won’t be going out of style for several years. The color should be a bit darker than stonewashed. Having the fading on the thighs often makes the leg look slimmer. A slightly vintage look is always flattering, and will be less likely to show wear as you wash and wear these jeans month after month. Darker means slimmer, and more stylish. Toss your faded jeans, your high waisted jeans, your tapered jeans.

Great and flattering jeans can be found anywhere from high-end denim boutiques to your local Old Navy. When you go to try on, plan to spend a good hour or so in the fitting room. Befriend a salesperson – I know they often can be annoying but they usually know their product. Tell them, “I am a size 8, but sometimes buy a 10 for my hips. I hate my hips, I usually buy a regular length, but sometimes they’re short on me…” and things like that. The more information, the better. Stores really push denim at Back to School time. They often have the biggest supply, largest selection, and most knowledgeable employees. I know stores like Express and Levi’s have “Denim Experts” who they hire at Back to School time to spew out denim information and find the right fit for everyone. I have had a lot of luck with Gap with having a good variety and tags to explain which jeans work for which figures. Same with Nordstrom and Old Navy.

4. Jeans Again – But These Have a Totally Different Purpose.
These are dressy jeans. Jeans are not just for everyday, jeans have become haute couture. Not all of us can afford a pair of $250 denim, but we can acquire a pair that is a bit more refined, a bit nicer, reserved for special occasions.

These jeans can have a similar cut to the above mentioned jeans, but you want to be more specific with the type and color of denim. Again, you want them darker than stonewashed. You want them to look a bit more… crisp. The hem not so frayed. Maybe even with a crease in the front. Many like jeans with appliqué and sequins on them, but I find those to be too trendy – they won’t be wearable in two years. A lot of denim is called “premium denim,” “ringspun denim” or “Japanese denim.” These mean a higher quality denim resulting in a more refined look. These are jeans that you baby. You wash inside out and dry inside out. Some don’t even dry, they let hang dry and then iron. Consider them dress pants. These jeans are for nicer nights out, going out with friends to a club, when you want to look a bit more dressy or sassy.

Another option is denim trousers. These are very popular now, and can be found in many stores. They are usually lighter in weight, sometimes have a cuff and/or a front crease. These are nice enough for business casual, yet look very sassy with a silk camisole to a club. If you go this route, do not get patch or flap pockets on the rear – this draws negative attention to that area and look dated. Slash front pockets are usually a poor choice for anyone with hips or a tummy. Look for coin pockets or go pocketless and reduce the bulk.

These jeans may seem silly, but trust me – once they are in your wardrobe you will find uses for them. I convinced my 60+ year-old mother to buy a pair, she wore them to a concert, to a church dinner and on a first date with a guy she met online. She even wears them to the mall when she wants to look sassy.



5. Black Heeled Boots
These can be knee high or ankle height. The point is to find a well-constructed, well-fashioned pair that look great with jeans, with trousers, for work or for play. Knee high is a great option because they can be hidden under pant legs, worn over jeans for an equestrian look, or paired with skirts or dresses. For those who do not find knee high boots comfortable, an ankle height is perfectly fine. You want a pair that covers your ankle when you cross your legs.

Heel should be at least an inch and a half tall. If you find heels uncomfortable, look for a heel of rubber, and look for a thicker heel. Heels may be hard to get used to at first, but they make you walk straighter, they make your clothes hang better, your butt looks better, your calves more toned.

The heel should be black as well. Many boots have the heel covered with leather, but this is prone to being scuffed and torn. If you can find black rubber or black stained wood, all the better. Otherwise, take your boots to a cobbler at the beginning of each season to have the heels cleaned up. The toe should not be overly round or pointy. You want a shoe that is comfortable, but stylish. A more squared toe or almond toe has been stylish for years, and there is plenty of room for all your tootsies. Steer clear of platforms – they occasionally have their day in the sun, but normal leather or synthetic soles persevere. Stay away from adornments. The more decoration, the more likely the boots will seem dated next fall. I have a pair of black boots I got from Nine West in 1999. They are 3 inch heels (I like ’em high), classic toe, ankle height with elastic gussets on the inner side of the boot. Each year I have them re-heeled and resoled. Each year I receive compliments on these years-old boots I got on clearance for $35.99. What a bargain! These boots have been worn to bars, parties, work, interviews, the mall, the grocery store, the zoo. They slide on easily, sit right at the front door in case I need to jet out at any time.

Why not brown? “Fashionable” browns change from year to year. One year it’s distressed, next year it’s glazed. It’s a reddish brown, then a chocolate, then more of a tan. It clashes with the belt, the purse, the coat. I realized recently that I own own one pair of brown shoes, and they are alligator pumps. I have not owned a pair of brown boots since college, and I am no worse off from it. You will see that black leather is more readily accessible, easier to match, blends with more of your wardrobe and is less likely to show age.  You can read more about my opinions of black and brown in this post.

6. Black Leather Pumps
These shoes should be able to take you from the boardroom to the ballroom. Leather, basic soft leather is the most versatile, and the easiest to maintain season to season. A simple pump with an almond to pointy toebox and at least an inch and a half of heel will be stylish for years to come. Like the boots, forgo adornments; they only age a shoe, and make it more memorable and less versatile.

It’s okay to go with comfort over trends with these pumps. Just don’t forgo heel height. Think feminine, think classic. Think “What Would Jackie Wear?” Jackie Onassis wouldn’t wear 4″ stilettos in patent leather, but she wouldn’t wear dowdy black microfiber elastic shoes with a clunky heel.

I take my black leather pumps to a cobbler every year to reheel and resole if needed. Every couple of months I sit down with all my black shoes and give them a shine with polish and a brush – just like my dad used to. When these pumps are not worn, I stuff newspaper in them and put them in a box in my closet to maintain them. These pumps have been worn to every job interview, every night at the theater, every funeral, client proposal presentation, Christening, or Bat Mitzvah.

7. Not So Little Black Dress
This is not a “hot date” dress, a “sexy siren” dress, yet not an “old fuddy duddy” dress. This is a classic, simple cut that would be appropriate for any season, in an easy-care, versatile fabric. One would look for a dress in crepe, silk, triacetate, matte jersey, gabardine or something similar in weight.

This dress is your “in a pinch” dress. With pearls you are ready for a day wedding. With a cardigan, it’s perfect for a christening or funeral. Add jet beads and dangly earrings and you are dressed for your company holiday party. A white oxford underneath some styles, and the dress becomes a sassy jumper appropriate for the workplace.

The dress should not be tight, but skim your curves. The most flattering length (and most versatile) is either right above the knee or right below it. A kick pleat in the back adds panache and the ability to walk effortlessly. If the dress is lined, it will be less likely to bunch, crease, or cling.

The neckline should be classic, yet flattering. A conservative v-neck or scoop, a slightly draped neckline, jewel neck or boat neck are all winners. The armholes should fit well that they don’t cut into the skin, yet do not show your bra even when boogieing on the dance floor. Sleeveless styles are the most versatile for day to night and winter to summer, but three-quarter sleeves are a good second choice if you are uncomfortable with your arms (or desire more coverage). I however do believe that fabric over arms adds girth and you notice the flesh more than others. Sleeveless is often more slimming than sleeves, and sleeveless is more flattering to larger arms than cap sleeves.

The best dress is one with little adornment. Your pizazz comes from the accessories. This is a dress that fits well, but is so basic you can wear it to event after event without people noticing. Simple, flattering cut, seasonless fabric, conservative yet not school marm-like hemline. This dress will last you for years and years of special occasions.

8. Silver Hoop Earrings
Gold is lovely and colors can be a lot of fun, but silver is a budget-friendly bit of flash for your wardrobe. Sterling silver can be found at the mall kiosk, your favorite boutique or the department store at a very reasonable price. With a bit of rubbing with a polishing cloth, these can look gorgeous for years. You may love gold, but most women cannot afford larger real gold hoops, and goldtone soon becomes green, copper or brown with wear and tear. These staples are about longevity and quality.

These hoops should be larger than a quarter, and if you ears can handle it, larger than a silver dollar. This may be a change from your norm, but these are not necessarily earrings to wear every day. Nothing jazzes up a simple outfit better than a visible pair of hoops. They add shine and sparkle, make a simple top and pants into a “look,” and dress up everything in your wardrobe. Wear with your simple black dress for your company’s holiday party, your merino v-neck and skirt for a date, with a simple tank and jeans for a night out with the girls.

These hoops should be slim, well constructed with a clasp that will hold tight through dancing and a whole evening out. If they are slim, they won’t be as weighty and be more wearable for long periods of time. Once you have these in your wardrobe, you will see how often you will end up wearing them to add flash to all your basics in your closet.

9. Black or Gray Merino V-neck Sweater
Merino wool is amazing – it’s lightweight enough to wear the majority of the year, it can be washed on the gentle cycle of the machine and hung dry without needing to reshape, it has a refined finish that is dressier than many other knits, it doesn’t pill or fade easily and it looks expensive even after multiple washings. What’s nice about this fabric is that it has give and it glides over curves without clinging or adding bulk.

This is a basic go-to sweater. Pair with jeans and boots for most any casual affair, with your seasonless pants for work or dinner, with a skirt, even with capris and cropped trousers in the spring and fall months. Having a basic like black or gray is a must – this is a color that will not go out of style. I have a merino v-neck in charcoal from J. Crew that I purchased in college and still wear a decade later. The merino v-neck will replace your sweatshirts, faded knit pullovers and bulky cotton sweaters; it is just as comfortable but far more refined.

A v-neck elongates the neck, makes one look slimmer, adds interest without being too trendy or flashy. The v-neck should be elegant – low enough to elongate the neck, but not so low that you are showing major cleavage. It should be wearable at work without raising eyebrows. As for fit, it should be a feminine cut without being too tight, and the length should end around mid-hip so you do not show off your tummy when raising your arm, but do not overwhelm your figure in a tunic of fabric.

Why not cashmere? Cashmere is an elegant choice, but cashmere requires more maintenance to launder and is often outside the pricepoint for many individuals.  Cashmere blends are known to pill and lose their shape over time; merino is known to keep its color and shape after years of wear and washing.

10. Trendy Skirt
This list is mainly of basics that one can wear from year to year. This description may seem as though it does not fit. On the contrary, it is possible to have a trendy skirt that spans the time of style.

Have a hankering for animal prints? Consider a leopard-print pencil skirt. Are you a crafty lady? Consider a twill a-line style with crewel work or felt embellishments and embroidery. Bit of a rocker? How about a dark denim slim skirt with stretch that comes to the knees. Love the classics? Consider your traditional straight skirt in one of your favorite colors or an unexpected textured fabric.

This skirt will jazz up your simple merino v-neck or tee shirt, it will add pizazz to your simple button-downs, sweaters and jackets. A fun skirt can add necessary humor, personality and even formality to a very basic wardrobe. Consider fabrics that have some give (about 5% Lycra), so they don’t wrinkle throughout the day, move with you and don’t get baggy with wear. A heavier fabric will hide the lumps and bumps and work better from season to season. If the fabric is more delicate, it should have a lining to keep the shape. Your lifestyle will determine what fabric is best. If you work in a conservative office environment, a straight skirt in a seasonless fabric would be a good choice. If you have a more casual lifestyle, a twill or denim may be a great choice.

A warning about twills, cottons and denims – they can easily look bummy or casual. This is a refined skirt that can dress up or down. A twill should have a slight sheen to its finish and have clean lines (no cargo pockets, drawstrings or flap pockets). Denim can be dressy if it has Lycra, a dark finish and fray-free edges. Cotton can easily wrinkle – consider an a-line or fuller style if you love this fabric and again stay away from adornments that make an item seem less like a skirt and more like active wear or fatigues.

11. Trendy Jacket/Blazer
Nothing pulls basics together and makes an outfit better than a jacket. A simple ribbed tank and jeans is appropriate for lunch with friends when topped with a blazer. Your basic black pants and a simple tee is work-appropriate when matched with a jacket. When it’s fun, funky, and “trendy,” it takes basics to the next level and adds your personality to your wardrobe.

I had a denim blazer that I wore to death. I wore it out on the town with a black cami and pants, a gold necklace and heels. I then wore it on Monday to work with a silk shell and suiting trousers. For a bridal shower, it was worn with white twill pants and a light aqua ribbed tank. In winter it was worn with a corduroy skirt and tights, in summer it was paired with white jeans and a lightweight shell.

For you it may be a stretch twill military-inspired jacket in your favorite shade of red, a washed velvet blazer in an unusual pumpkin hue, a collarless zip-up jacket in crackled black leather, a belted safari jacket in olive green cotton sateen. The point is that it can be appropriate for work or for play, it complements the majority of items in your wardrobe, and is a color and style that makes you happy. Sometimes the oddities in your closet get more wear than the simple pieces – this is a wardrobe piece where it’s okay to go outside the box and show a little flair. For a jacket to be versatile, it actually needs to be out of the ordinary.

Make sure this jacket fits well – even if you are tall if you have a short waist you may want to look at petites. Consider a tailor for a true custom fit. Unlined jackets are more forgiving to curvy shapes, adding less bulk and adding a bit of give. The jacket should button or zip comfortably across your body and not bind in any place. When you go to try it on, try it with a shell the weight you plan on wearing with it in the future.

12. Slim V-neck Sweater in a Signature Color
Don’t think you have a signature color? Look around you. What color is the wallpaper on your computer and phone? when you order Post-it notes, what color do you choose? What color are the towels in your bathroom, the undies you are wearing, your puppy’s collar, your beach towel? You’ll see that you are drawn to a certain color or range of colors. For me it is shades of bright pink and orange. My mom is always drawn to bright cobalt blue, and my good friend always seems to buy thinks in a pale shade of lemon yellow. this is the time to buy something that makes you smile every time you take it out of the closet or your dresser drawer. Don’t worry about what colors are en vogue, worry about what is right for you.

Since colors do go in and out of style, consider stores you normally don’t shop at for options. This is a simple garment (should follow the same rules as the merino v-neck in regard to fit), so you may have luck at the unexpected store or online boutique.

As for fabric, merino is always a great choice, but other fabrics can also work. A silk blend is nice for work and pairs well with skirts. A lighter weight cotton sweater, if treated well, can be a great choice. If your budget can handle it, consider cashmere for a long-term wardrobe investment. As with everything else on this list, look for quality – well made, well constructed, color-fast. This sweater will brighten the most gloomy days if you chose the right color. It can be worn with skirts, jeans, work pants, capris. With the right accessories it can work for a luncheon, work, the mall, the weekend, a cookout and even a cocktail party. Since it’s your signature color, you probably won’t ever tire of the color, making it a wardrobe mainstay.

13. Signature Accessory
Like the sweater, this is an item that makes you smile just looking at it. When others see it on you, they get a peek into your life and of your personality. For me, it is a wide silver cuff bracelet that I have worn almost daily for the past decade. I bought it after a job interview in a field that I always wanted to delve into. I bought this bracelet as a congratulations present to myself for having the guts to go out on a limb. I ended up getting that job, and consider this cuff to be a bit of a good luck charm for me. The bracelet fits my style – it’s bold, clean lines, modern with a hint of flash.

For you it may be a strand of pearls you inherited from your grandmother, a necklace of colorful clay beads you bought on a trip to Mexico, an amber ring that was given to you by your first boyfriend, a charm bracelet holding coins from all the countries you have visited. Maybe it’s a necklace you found in a local boutique and fell in love with because of the use of metal and glass or an Hermes scarf you bought with your first bonus check. Whatever it is, it should go with a good 70% of your wardrobe. On the days you feel a bit uninspired, putting that accessory on makes you fell more alive, more polished and more yourself. It should work with any other accessories you wear on a regular basis (wedding set, watch, earrings) without competing against it.

A signature piece has some heft to it – it is noticed by others and helps define your personal style. This is not a delicate gold chain with a small heart, it’s not the Tiffany bracelet that every other woman in America owns, and it is not your wedding set. This is something that you add to the picture, something that takes your staples and makes them a wardrobe.

14. A Sparkly/Evening Shell or Top
A night out on the town, a cocktail party, a company event, a date with your significant other… often these things come up unexpected and you scan through your knits and wovens trying to find the right thing to wear without any luck. Often you dash to the mall last minute and buy a dress you’ll never wear again or a cheap polyester top that “will do” for the event.

A great evening top will get miles and years of wear. Under your basic black suit, you are ready for a company event or cocktail party. With a simple black or ivory skirt, you’re dressed for a wedding. Pair it with black pants or dark jeans, you have a great outfit for a night of dancing.

I bought a top from Nordstrom a couple of years ago – it is blush-colored chiffon with flutter sleeves, a graceful v-neck and is covered in blush-colored sequins and tiny beads. The color is subtle, but the embellishment gives it pizazz. I have worn it to countless occasions with ivory trousers and pearls, with my black suit, with jeans and strappy heels. It’s not tight, so it works even when I am not feeling svelte.

Currently I have a dark red silk top – it is sleeveless, v-neck and an empire waist accentuated by a band decorated with a rosette in the same fabric. I have worn it with black pants, a black suit, with ivory pants, a black skirt and even jeans with great success. the silk captures the light and look formal, the color is flattering and looks festive, the rosette gives it interest.

Unlike your signature color, this should be a color that you like, but is versatile. Gray/silver, soft gold, blush, ivory, dark red, teal, bronze are all good choices because they are not exclusive to a time of year, they work well with a variety of neutral colors, and they are attractive without being so memorable that they cannot be worn again. If you choose to go with a lighter basic such as gray, ivory, blush or taupe, ensure it has beading or embellishments to make it look dressy and elegant. Brighter and darker colors can get away with being just of a more formal fabric.

You may not like your arms, but sleeveless is far more formal than sleeves (and far more classic). Often having sleeves accentuates the size of our arms, bare skin often recedes. If you do feel the need for sleeves for modesty or personal preference, consider flutter sleeves (loose short sleeves with a slit through them so they flutter from the shoulder), cap sleeves, or a more loose style (kimono or bat-wing). having the drape of fabric adds to the elegance, femininity and formality of the garment. On the other side of the coin, baring too much is never elegant and restricts the amount of places a top like this can be worn. Bustiers, tight tops, and low-cut tanks may be fun for a night out, but do not have their place at many other events. Tanks and camisoles are fine, as long as you can still wear foundation garments without them being seen, and you wouldn’t be embarrassed to see your in-laws, your minister or your boss in such a getup.

15. The Perfect Tee – or Two
This tee is not from Fruit of the Loom, it is not unisex, and it is most likely not 100% cotton. These are tees that are refined, feminine and flattering.

These shirts should hit mid-hip and like the sweaters previously mentioned, skim over your curves. It should not cling, it should not be see-through and it should be comfortable when you raise your arms, sit, and move around. As for a neckline, it depends on your personal preference, but do know that a standard crew-neck is not flattering on most people. A scoop or v-neck will elongate the neck and give a more feminine and flattering look.

If you can only get one, I suggest your signature color. I don’t recommend white because it isn’t a flattering color on most complexions, it gets stained easily, and can look old quickly. Same with black – nothing is worse than a faded black tee. However, if you do plan on buying a few, I recommend one white, one black, and two in happy colors, making sure to baby the heck out of them.

No pockets, no contrast stitching, no stripes or patterns or logos on these shirts. You are looking for true, clear saturated color free of adornments. Any detail, even that of a popular brand’s logo, will make the shirt less versatile, and eventually out of style. If you look at True Fashionistas, they are never wearing obvious logos or patterns. Clean, simple lines and solid colors are the foundation of a stylish and classic wardrobe.

When shirts have Lycra in them (and these should to ensure a good fit and a nice finish), they shouldn’t be thrown in the dryer. Heat destroys Lycra and your shirt will soon end up faded, misshapen, and thin. Treat them as you would your merino v-necks and you will have to replace them less often.

These shirts are your summer version of the merino and signature v-neck sweaters. They pair with most anything, and with an accessory prove to be a nice comfortable outfit. If they are of high quality, they can be work-appropriate under a jacket or cardigan.

16. Well-fitting Wool Winter Coat
Keep your parka for your ski trips and snowball fights in your backyard. You need a coat that will work for every other occasion in your life. We don’t all have the money or the room to house a closet-full of coats, so it’s best to invest in one coat that will work for every occasion that takes place in the colder months.

If you buy a single breasted lined coat that hits mid-thigh to just below the knee, you will be set. This length will work with skirt, jeans and trousers. the longer length is more elegant (and warmer!). A single breasted style is classic and far more flattering on curvy and petite figures. Look for simple styles – no epaulets, embellishments, decorative pockets. There should never be pockets at the chest (makes the style more casual and is not flattering to curvy shapes), the buttons should be the same color as the coat. the collar should be very simple – traditional or shawl style, also free of adornments.

As for color, you have options. Black is always a wise choice as that it can dress up or down, doesn’t show dirt, and is timeless. Ivory is a beautiful option – it also dresses up and down, is a fresh change from all the black in the winter, and can look quite elegant. Other colors can work depending on your sense of style – my personal preferences are camel, a very dark brown (works with black), dark red, robin’s egg blue, teal, and dark berry. these colors can be a great alternative, but if not of good quality can easily look cheap and dated.

To add a bit of personality to this basic, use accessories. I wear a bright turquoise pashmina looped as a scarf with my basic black wool coat. My best friend has a tangerine cashmere scarf and hat that she wears with her chocolate brown coat. Camel can look great with an unexpected bright like candy pink or apple green.

This is a worthy investment – a great wool coat can last you for decades, so take your time in choosing your piece. Look at discount places like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s – I found my Calvin Klein wool knee-length coat there for less than $60 in the mid-1990’s and it still looks stylish today.

17. Great Fitting Bras
There are bras for romantic evenings, bras that have pretty straps to wear with tanks. Bras that match your panties, bras to wear to the gym. This bra is not any of those. This is a bra that makes your bustline look fantastic. It may not be the sexiest bra, but when worn under a slim sweater, it makes you look taller, younger and slimmer.

No matter your size, underwire gives you the best all over support and shape. Straps should not be overly stretchy, or they will wear out and start to have your breasts sag. The bra should fit best when secured on the middle set of hooks. The cup should cover your breast entirely and not allow “quad-boob.” If you haven’t been fitted for a bra before, or ever you should run, not walk to your closest lingerie boutique or high-end department store. These places are usually better than Victoria’s Secret or the frantic messy lower end department store lingerie department – the employees are better trained and know not just how the measure, but what styles would fit your figure best.

If you can afford only one of these bras, get one as close to your skin tone as possible. The bra then can be worn under white, light colors, and even black without show-through. If you wish to pick up a second, I recommend black for dark colored tops (in case of showing at armholes or with flash photography).  Be sure to get fitted each year – your bust will change with age, weight gain and loss, and pregnancy.

18. Panty Line-free Underwear
Nothing ruins an outfit more than the wrong foundation. You now have the right bras, you also need the right underwear. Baggy, wrinkled or binding underwear DOES show, even through jeans, and can ruin your figure as well as your outfit.

Thongs are not the only style of underwear that provides a smooth line. Microfiber fabrics have seamless edges that are virtually invisible under even the thinnest dresses. Boyshorts are a comfortable style that has the hems below the bum, removing the chance of seams cutting into your back view.

As with bras, you may be wearing the wrong size of underwear. We gain and lose weight over the years and our shape changes drastically with exercise, children, and life changes. Consider trying on underwear before you purchase, either trying on over your thinnest undies you own or using one of the disposable panties that are found in most lingerie and swimwear stores. Underwear should not bind or dig into the skin. It should not give you the quad look to your bum. It also should not bag, and should be cut so that it will never show over the waistband of your pants.

A few facts to consider with underwear:

  • White is not invisible under white pants. In fact, it is often more obvious than a color. If you are wearing white pants or a skirt, invest in underwear that is as close to your skin tone as possible. Only this will provide a clean look.
  • If it is fraying, is stretched out or losing its elasticity, it has no place in your wardrobe. I may sound like your mother, but think about how much time and money you have invested in your wardrobe to end up at a hospital in your ragged and stained underwear. You deserve to look and feel great from head to toe; even if they are the cheap three-pack at Target, you need new underwear.
  • If you are wearing a dress, wear appropriate underwear. Us curvy women often do best with a boyshort or brief under a dress so that fabric doesn’t get caught in our rear curves. A high rise will make sure the tummy is not cut in half, and always consider that a draft could make you like Marilyn Monroe for a moment, so think before you dress.

19. A Pashmina or Wrap
Think this doesn’t fit your lifestyle or personality? Think again. In the right color and weight, this item may get more wear than your favorite pair of jeans. With sundresses to ward off an evening breeze, with cocktail dresses year-round it’s a great coverup. I usually use my pashmina as a scarf with my coat in winter, then have it to drape over my shoulders if it gets chilly inside. A pashmina around the neck adds intrigue to a simple sweater and jeans set and can be looped or knotted in a multitude of ways. When on a plane, I always take my pashmina – it’s small enough to toss in my carry-on bag, wards off chill and is far more cozy than the standard-issue airplane blankets. Once at my destination, it works for nights out, cold conference rooms, a light coverup when sightseeing and adds warmth and coziness when in your hotel bed. Make sure the fabric feels good against your skin, is lightweight enough to loop around your neck, and is in a color that you love (you’ll find a color is more versatile than basic white or ivory).

20. Clutch Purse
A clutch purse will add instant chic and formality to your outfit. Switch your day purse for one of these, and your suit is now cocktail-party worthy. Your simple black sheath is fine for day, but with a clutch it is evening attire. Black is a safe bet for a clutch, but this is a great chance to show your personality. A beautiful printed silk, a quirky beaded design, sequined Pucci-inspired pattern, vintage brocade… you’ll find an interesting fabric or print will get more mileage and be more versatile than a basic piece, and doesn’t then have to coordinate with your shoes.

Make sure the bag is big enough to hold your essentials – for some this is only your phone, your ID and a lipstick. For others, it may be reading glasses, a notepad, tissues, medication. Remember for a social affair, essentials are all you need – get a bag to fit your entire wallet, cosmetics bag and day planner and you are no longer able to be a social butterfly. Ensure the bag closes with everything in it without looking as though it strains at the seams. Treat it well, store it properly and you will have this bag for years to come.

21. Daily Purse
Most of women have a purse we carry every day, but how often do we really think about it? Your daily purse gets more exposure than anything else in your wardrobe and it’s often the least cared-for item. It gets the most wear, the most time, works harder than anything else you wear, so it should be purchased with care, maintained and replaced when past its prime.

I find that leather bags seems to wear better over time, but there are some great microfiber fabrics out there that are sturdy and easy to clean. If you are not one to change your bag with the seasons, go for a seasonless fabric like leather or microfiber. Black or brown is a safe bet, but like your winter coat sometimes a color can be a more versatile choice. Red, camel, purple, green are all great colors that will go with your gray suit as well as your favorite Levi’s.

Your bag should never be more than 70% full – more so and you will ruin the line and condition of the bag. Once a week or so, you should go through you bag and remove all the superfluous things that get caught in there – ATM receipts, gum wrappers, the 20 pens and 15 lip glosses that collect through a week, lint-covered tissues… you get the idea. Your daily bag should have what you need on a daily basis and no more. It’s great to have a purse survival kit, but you don’t need to keep all the contents of your kitchen’s junk drawer.

22. Sexy Shoes That Can be Worn for at Least Five Hours
I promise you, they really do exist! These shoes are sassier than your traditional leather pumps. Maybe a strappy heel in a matte gold, possibly a peeptoe heel in black satin. These shoes will take your basic black dress from day to evening, make your work suit suddenly cocktail party-appropriate, and even jazz up jeans and a sparkly top for a night out on the town.

Don’t get too creative with this selection – you want them to work from season to season. I have a pair of strappy heels that are in a Pucci-inspired pattern. The straps are very slim, the heel is slim and about 2″. The shoe is free of rhinestones, fancy bows or baubles and have gotten compliments every time I have worn them over the past five years.

Be careful with ankle straps – they often make your leg look shorter and thicker. A peep-toe or slingback style adds drama and formality to a usually conservative style. yet maintains support through the evening.

Unlike the other shoes, these shoes may be more versatile if not in traditional black. For strappy heels, a matte metallic can be quite beautiful with a multitude of colors. A contrast color like purple, red, or teal or even an animal print can often complement more pieces in your closet than a neutral.

23. Sunglasses
Every woman needs at least one pair of great sunglasses, and great sunglasses does not equal expensive sunglasses. I have some great metal aviators that are classic and chic that were found for less then $10 at a mall kiosk, and some Jackie O-inspired black plastic frames for a song from my local Target.

Sunglasses protect your eyes from glare and from sun damage. A large pair is good because they will also protect the skin around your eyes from the elements. Sunglasses are far more chic than squinting, and they pull an outfit together. Somehow that bit of mystery does really add to one’s appeal! I have written more about finding flattering sunglasses here.

Are you new to Wardrobe Oxygen? If so I also recommend you read:

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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Updating Your Wardrobe for Spring 2008

I love the 80s; some of the most fun in music and even in fashion. I am one who does not flush with embarrassment when I see a picture of me decked out in mall bangs, puffy socks and shoulder pads. I thought at the time, the look was fun and colorful; fashion took risks. You could wear Versace, or you could wear vintage (though back then it was usually just a Joe Shmoe thrift store find) and still look totally tubular.

That doesn’t mean I like the resurgence of metallics, shoulder pads, boyfriend blazers, leggings and skinny jeans in weird washes. It was fun… 20 years ago. Not it makes the most chic of women look like a fashion victim.

So how can you get the new look for spring without looking like a leftover valley girl or a fashion victim? Here are some of the trends for spring that can work with most any wardrobe and survive more than one season of style:

Watercolor Brights
These aren’t quite the Crayola hues of the winter; they are a cherry spring version. Instead of orange, try tangerine. In place of emerald, a leaf or Kelly green offers pop without overkill. Instead of red, try hibiscus (has a pink undertone) or Chinese red (has an orange undertone). Yellow will also be a big color for spring – keep it bright and clear. These hues aren’t muddy, they aren’t neon, they aren’t muted. They have the pop of 2007’s primaries, but a feminine and sunny twist to them.

How to Wear Them: With almost anything! They are being shown paired with pale gray, black, denim, white and optic prints. Jazz up your boring suit with a silk knit tank in tangerine, consider a green handbag for the season (quite an unexpected neutral), or a pair of yellow flats to brighten up jeans or a black and white print skirt. I love the look of a basic khaki or tan with a bright crocus purple or a strong pink for the warmer months and am glad this is a combo easily achieved with this trend.

The Dress
Hooray, dresses are still quite en vogue for this spring! Almost every figure can find a dress that flatters, and nothing says spring more than a feminine frock and a pair of sweet flats or kitten heels. As for style, most anything goes. The day dress is still popular, with styles varying from the figure-flattering wrap in soft silks and jerseys to more structured s-line, sheath or polo-inspired styles ending right above the knee. After five, look for a return to femininity with frills, lace, sheer floaty fabrics, goddess-inspired cuts and a second year of the maxi dress going strong.

How to Wear Them: The day dresses can easily be worn now with tall boots and come warmer months with shoes that fit the style. If it is a structured style, a flat or pump will be a great choice. For the evening dresses, a feminine shoes with delicate styling and some skin (your peeptoes are still stylish) are the way to go. The skinny belt is still a strong look; try one in a metallic or black patent leather over your simple shifts to add a feminine flair. For solid-colored dresses consider a statement necklace or a scarf as your sole accessory – both are available in almost every price range at your favorite boutique right now.

Prints
The winter was a lot of solid colors, fashion has rebelled with a spring full of all sorts of prints. Love animal prints? You’ll be happy to know that there seems to be zebra prints in many stores already. Scarf prints and Pucci-inspired patterns are all over the place, and colorblocking is a very strong trend.

It is also the return of the floral print, and stronger than it has been in many years. Designers are mixing different patterns of florals, adding them to shoes, dresses, skirts and even the linings of coats and purses. These are not Little House on the Prairie calico buds; the look varies from luscious and full cabbage roses and flowers picked from a Victorian garden to modern-art inspired graphic patterns.

How to Wear Them: Like all honesty, this look isn’t for everyone. Printed cardigans and boxy short jackets add style to a simple tank and jeans; a skirt can add fun or femininity to wardrobe staples, and I love the a-line shifts where everything else is simple – minimal accessories, simple shoes, fresh face. Colorblocked styles can be quite flattering to the figure, but keep in mind that the light colors in a pattern will jump out so make sure they are not located where your least favorite body part is. If you wear a pattern, everything else should be solid and simple. The stronger the pattern, the less jewelry and cosmetics you should wear.

Yellow and orange dresses by Banana Republic; red and white print dress by Diane von Furestenberg via Nordstrom; skirt and jacket/shorts outfit by J. Crew; blouse by Kenneth Cole Reaction via Nordstrom

LiveTheLook and Wardrobe Oxygen: #LTLStyleMe Twitter Chat

As a blogger, I have gotten to know a few companies in a more intimate way. Partnering with them, chatting with the CEOs and creators, I see the people in the companies, the heart, the effort, and it’s thrilling when I see them grow and achieve success. And LiveTheLook, a company I have partnered with in the past has been growing and changing, and a lot has to do with YOUR feedback! Seriously, your comments on previous posts about LiveTheLook helped LTL co-founder Francesca Helina develop the shopping site into what it is today.

LiveTheLook and Wardrobe Oxygen fashion twitter chat December 7, 2014 at 6pm ET #LTLStyleMe

LiveTheLook is a site that works with your current closet and offers pieces to help you achieve a stylish and cohesive wardrobe. It works very similarly to how I approach a wardrobe – buy classic staples and then use a few current trends and accessories to update and add interest each season. Upon signing up with LiveTheLook, you take a quick style profile test about what wardrobe staples are in your closet and what you consider to be your personal style. LiveTheLook takes this info and tailors its shopping suggestions for you.

While this is the same concept that I mentioned the last time I featured LiveTheLook, the shopping itself has changed. You asked for extended sizing? LiveTheLook now offers up to a size 20 and is currently working on partnerships with more brands that offer awesome style in plus sizes. You wanted more options, LiveTheLook has partnered with more retailers expanding their selection, pricepoints, and as previously mentioned, sizes. Gotta love a company who truly listens to feedback and truly wants to impress their customers! Register at LiveTheLook, take the quick profile quiz and check out the great new changes.

LiveTheLook and Wardrobe Oxygen Twitter Chat on How to Dress for the Holidays 12/7 6pm #LTLStyleMe

LiveTheLook is like a virtual personal shopper, completing your wardrobe. Well this Sunday, that virtual shopper will be ME! Come join me on Twitter this Sunday, December 7 at 6pm ET for a Twitter chat with @LiveTheLookNow and @Wardrobe_Oxygen. Follow the hashtag #LTLStyleMe where we’ll be discussing what to wear for all the holiday events on your social calendar. Want to know what shoes to wear with your cocktail dress? How to jazz up your favorite sweater for Christmas Eve at the inlaws? Tweet your questions with #LTLStyleMe and I’ll provide personal suggestions. If you tweet a photo of the item you need help styling (and are already registered with LiveTheLook), we’ll style you on the spot AND LiveTheLook will send you a free accessory. How awesome is that?

I hope you’ll join me this Sunday at 6pm ET on Twitter, I look forward to connecting with you and helping you look festive and fabulous this holiday season!

Ask Allie: Issues with the SAHM Capsule Wardrobes

I have had many mothers contact me regarding my SAHM capsule posts (winter capsule, summer capsule). Some are appreciative, some find my suggestions ridiculous, and some desire more information and assistance. I’d like to answer most of your questions here:

How Do I Shop with a Nursing Baby?
I went back to work six weeks after Emerson was born. Luckily my job let me transition back to full time at the office, having me work two days at home the first week, three the next, and so on. However, I was still working at least 40 hours a week and Emerson was consuming only breast milk. This meant when I wasn’t at work pumping, I was at home with a baby latched to my chest. I remember I went to Target ONCE in the first three months of Emerson’s life and it was a traumatic experience. I couldn’t even imagine going to the mall to shop for myself, let alone have the time to do so.

Online shopping. I looked at the clothes I already had and said… hrm this 12 doesn’t fit any more, but it’s only a tad too small so I likely am now a 14 in this brand. However, this 12 won’t even slide over my butt so I am guessing I am a 16 in this brand, but probably a petite since the 12s are just the right length with my 2” heels. I then went online and looked for retailers who had friendly return policies and free or near-free shipping.

Lands’ End. Talbots. Nordstrom. These three stores are the reason I survived the first year of Emerson’s life without resorting to Crocs and maternity pants. I stuck to a lot of dresses in stretchy fabrics like ponte because they were more forgiving and comfortable. Wrap styles which let me wear normal clothing but easily slip the bodice to the side for nursing. I found a pair of shoes from Sofft that I liked… and I bought them in three different colors and pretty much only wore those all summer long. I didn’t try to create a fabulous, cohesive and chic wardrobe, I just bought basics that worked. Then as Emerson slept more, started solids, my body started normalizing… then I started to create a new working wardrobe with this new body and new life.

You have so much going on in your life right now, the last thing you should worry about is creating a perfect wardrobe or hone your personal style. Keep what you buy simple – simple colors, simple silhouettes, simple pieces that flatter, work with your needs, and pretty much get the job done. The rest will come in due time.

Your Choices are Too Expensive!
When I make my capsules, I use Polyvore. To keep the collages clean and easy to get inspiration from them, I work with clothing in Polyvore that is not on a model, and is on a white background. Check out the online boutiques of your favorite budget-friendly retailer and you will likely see those garments on a mannequin or model.

Do not take my capsules as gospel, but more as inspiration. I may show a $200 designer sundress, but look at it and realize WHY I used it – it’s cotton, it has a print, it is below the knee, it has straps wide enough to cover a traditional bra, it has a defined waistband. Such a dress can be found at your nearby Goodwill, at a big box retailer, your neighborhood department store, and most any online retailer. Always shop within your means – great style can be achieved at any income level.

You Don’t Feature Plus Sizes!
Again, my capsule wardrobes are made in Polyvore, and I have to work with what is available. Again, I ask you to check out your favorite online plus size retailers and you will see the clothes are usually featured on a model or mannequin. Also, as a woman who is cusp sized, I know that what works on a 5’8” size 20 woman with a large bust and long slim legs won’t necessarily work on a 5’6” size 26 woman with small breast and larger hips. I try to choose pieces that will work on a broad range of sizes and shapes of women, but we females are snowflakes and no two of us are built the same. Please use these capsules as inspiration, not gospel. And subscribe to the blog, I regularly provide shopping suggestions specifically for plus sized women!

I Don’t Have Time to Search for Deals!
Oh my darling, I hear you loud and clear! Since having Emerson, I shop less, and I shop less frugally. I don’t have time to scour the entire Internet for the lowest price on a garment, so I usually just go with the retailer with the best shipping/return policy. Hello Nordstrom, my best friend. Nope, Nordstrom is not the cheapest, but they ship quickly, they have a broad range of prices and sizes, customer reviews, good sales, and free returns.

If you narrow down the stores you shop at, you can become quicker shopping there. I used to find Nordstrom’s site a maze, but now I know how to quickly find what I want, the brands I know that fit, how to shop from lowest to highest price, narrow down by size or color or brand even before surfing.

I also recommend signing up for a site like Ebates which gives you cash back on every online purchase and usually has some of the most popular coupon codes. Once a member, use the search function at the top of the site to type in the name of the store you wish to shop. It will take you to that store’s page on Ebates, where there’s a button to take you directly to the store, as well as any codes. Takes about 20 seconds and you’re in decent shape. It may not be the best price in town, but time is money and as a mom you don’t have a lot of time to waste.

And finally… no need to buy a whole wardrobe all at once.  Buy what you essentially need to get out of the house, and then slowly build up.  Shop when you have the time, the beauty of online shopping is it’s available 24/7.  I have been known to shop at 3am when I can’t get back to sleep after a feeding or nightmare, even on Christmas day when my child is being cared for by family and I can sneak away for an hour with my Smartphone and a glass of wine.  Life first, then shopping.

I Don’t Wear Pants/I Don’t Wear Sleeveless
Again, please don’t use these capsules as gospel, but inspiration.

For the summer capsule, you can easily replace the pants and shorts with some skirts in a variety of colors and lengths. In place of the printed pants, how about a printed cotton lawn skirt that hits between the knees and the calf; instead of white jeans a white linen maxi skirt; in place of the shorts a chino straight skirt that hits around the knees and maybe a denim or chambray fuller wrap skirt that hits at the knees.  All the tops featured can be found in a similar style with sleeves.

For the winter capsule, I’d get a black skirt of ponte or another heavier fabric that is midi length, a dark denim straight or a-line skirt that hits anywhere between the knees and calf, and maybe another ponte midi skirt in charcoal or gray.  The shorter-sleeved tops can easily be found in similar fabrics and silhouettes with a longer sleeve.

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Wardrobe Update

As the weather changes and the body continues to change (and change and change…), so the wardrobe changes.

New additions:
Leaf green fine gauge jewelneck cardigan from Lands End (not exact sweater – one I got is sold out). This color was on sale, which is why I picked it. However, I love this color. It is the color of new grass in spring – not eye-popping apple, not Kelly or emerald, and not olive. Just a fresh color that is an unexpected neutral and looks fantastic with tan, white, cream, navy, brown, denim, and colors like pink and orange. This weekend I wore it with my Seven jeans, brown croco Sofft heeled sandals and a white ribbed tank for brunch and Twilight movie-thon at a friend’s house. Yesterday I wore it with a navy jersey dress and my Duo Bern boots for work.

Denim trousers from Gap. Gosh, this is what, the fourth pair of these pants that I have purchased? I just love these pants. Right now I fit in a 14 regular when wearing a bit of a heel. This is exciting because this time last year I wasn’t even able to look okay in their size 16 trousers and was between petite and regular and feeling frustrated. I love denim trousers – I am allowed to wear them to work (wearing today with my black deep cowl sweater from Ann Taylor and black city boots), and they are more polished and flattering than classic jeans.

More Banana Republic Pima Tanks. They are like $15.99 right now online, and this weekend there was 30% off Gap, Inc. stores. I bought every color they had in my size. Haven’t yet received them, but they should be arriving this week.

More Caslon ribbed tanks. Two white, one gray, and one black – nice and fresh for spring.  Man, this is the best tank I have ever tried – thick, stretchy, the right length, bra doesn’t show in the neckline, doesn’t stretch out, doesn’t fade…

Long strand of turquoise stone beads. I adore turquoise and this strand is long enough to double to hit at chest-level, or triple up and have a short necklace. The beads are lumpy and bumpy and natural looking – I expect to be wearing the heck out of them with sundresses and sandals this summer.

What I Need:
Nursing tanks. I have one I halfway like from Bravado, but it’s starting to look old. I would like one in white, one in black, and one in some color.

A couple solid-colored dresses. I ordered one from Lands End but I ordered petite and it is too short. But thinking black, gray, navy, that sort of thing. Dresses I can wear with flip flops in summer, or be able to dress up enough for work.

Black pumps. The black patent Mary Janes I have I despise – the straps stay closed with Velcro and they pop open while walking. I need some shoe that would work for work, but also if I need to go to a nicer affair (house or worship, daytime wedding, etc.).

At least one funky jersey top. We’re talking dolman sleeves, drapey neck, something interesting to it. Solid color, and a color I adore (blue, purple, berry, pink, aqua…). Something that will work with black pants or jeans. Lightweight enough that I could go dancing and not overheat.

A maxi dress. I don’t care that they are on their way out. I want a jersey or cotton maxi dress I can pair with flip flops or sandals and wear to a friend’s party. Or I can wear it to a music festival or to walk down to the farmer’s market. I bought one over the winter but it was a bit too boobalicious. I never wore it, left the tags on and after a few weeks in my closet I just had to return it. I don’t think I would have worn it anywhere except on a vacation to a tropical locale.

This weekend I plan to go up in the attic and look through what is up there – any clothes that may fit this spring/summer and what MUST be swapped/donated/Freecycled. Speaking of which, thinking of doing the blog again where I sell some of my old clothes that are in great condition. Another blogger who has a similar sense of style to me (J. Crew, Maggy London, Banana Republic, Gap, etc.) contacted me and has a few things in her old size (she has had great success with Weight Watchers) that she would also like to include in the sale. Not trying to make a big profit, just want our good stuff to go to a person who will appreciate it and wear it well (meaning not with sandals and pantyhose). Will keep you posted!

Wardrobe Alternatives

We all have safety nets in our wardrobe. These are items we collect because they are comfy, they are cheap and they often remind us of younger, happier and more fun days (come now, who doesn’t get excited when the weather warms up enough for flip flops?). Problem is, many of these wardrobe safety nets are devoid of any style and often end up destroying the personal style we otherwise may possesses on a given day. How do you keep it easy, breezy, yet maintain your personal style?

The Flip Flop Alternative
Don’t get me wrong, I love flip flops as much as the next gal. This weekend when grabbing a pair so I could play in the yard with my dog, I rifled through eight different pairs to find my beloved Reefs. I have stacked ones for longer pants, crocheted ones that are a tad dressier, aqua ones to match my bathing suit, ones that work well in wet conditions, ones that work with certain sun dresses or beach coverups in my closet. The thing is, flip flops are not real shoes. They don’t look like real shoes, they don’t wear like real shoes (any orthopedist will tell you they are terrible for your feet), they are often dirty, run-down and ruin the line of your silhouette. Flip flops are great for the beach, the pool, the casual cookout in your friend’s backyard or putting around your own; but what does a gal grab when heading to the market, to work and other places where flip flops are just not a chic choice?

The Gladiator Sandal – this style of shoe has been in style for many summers, and with good reason. It’s flat, it’s simple, and it looks chic. In a metallic leather and with a simple and low silhouette, this shoe works with cotton and linen trousers for work, simple dresses and skirts all week long, and can even be paired with a maxi dress for a wedding or social affair. Due to their versatility, look for a pair that is well-made, low on additional adornment (the metallic fabric and a few o-rings to connect the straps is all that is necessary) and comfortable. If you have large ankles, look for styles that don’t have straps that come all the way to the actual ankle; a lower-rise of sandal will be more comfortable and elongate the leg.

Some options:Lands End Casual Flat SandalIsaac Mizrahi for Target Gladiator SandalReport Gladiator Thong Sandal

The Flat – the flat isn’t going anywhere. Each season we seem to acquire more options in flat shoes. A classic ballet flat is a popular choice, but not the best for those with short or heavy legs. A style with a peep-toe, a slight wedge heel (even 1/4″), or a pointed toe will elongate the silhouette. Instead of opting for a safe pair in brown, tan or black, consider a bright color to add pop to your outfits. You will be amazed how a Kelly green, orange, or magenta color will work with the majority of your wardrobe. The shoe is so small and so far away from your summer dresses and shorter pants, colorful flats will be a great unexpected accent.

The Skimmer – skimmers usually have the tread and even sidewalls of tennis shoes, but a low profile. They offer more support than a classic flat, and can come in casual canvas, or even a more polished look of leather and microfiber. Be careful, in a neutral color and style skimmers can often look matronly (if in leather), or cheap (if in canvas or with sneaker-details). However with some knotted fabric detail, a buckle or variation on fabric a skimmer can be a great alternative not just to the flip flop but also the walking shoe.

The Leather Thong – If you must get flip flops, get them of a substantial fabric and with a bit more heft to the style. Every store seems to be selling a jazzed-up version of the flip flop out of leather, and often with hardware. Many leather thongs are just as comfy as your favorite foamies, but are chic enough to pair with trousers or skirts for work.

Some options:Indigo by Clarks Leather ThongAerosoles Winky Toe ThongsFrye’s Dani Thong

The Hoodie Alternative
Many times I see women wearing the cutest little outfits and then cover it with a hooded zip-up sweatshirt. Shrunken to fit, baggy, a color coordinating the outfit, a fun pattern… it is still a hoodie. Hoodies are for rainy Sundays on the couch, to ward off chill after a yoga class, to bundle in on a camping trip, to pair with jeans and sneaks for a day at Home Depot or 8am college classes. A hoodie is not appropriate wear for work, and it is not a go-to coverup for lightweight tops and sun dresses. This weekend I attended a wedding where I saw a girl in the cutest cotton floral sun dress, peeptoe heels, flowing hair… and a navy blue shrunken hoodie with a graphic on the back. Heading to work, I often see women in tailored shirts, pencil skirts and hoodies – it’s an afterthought.

Head out the door, find it’s not as warm as you thought so you grab an extra layer… we all do this. Well here are some hoodie alternatives that may prove to be more versatile and work with, instead of against your style:

The Pashmina – a pashmina is an easy way to ward off chill but maintain your style. Pashminas are great for weddings and more formal events for they compliment dresses and feminine silhouettes and can be tossed over a chair when you want to dance or move around. They are great for travel for they pack up to almost nothing and can be a nice alternative to a scratchy airplane blanket. Nothing makes an outfit seem more chic than tossing a pashmina over your shoulders (especially in your favorite cheery color!).

The Cardigan – cardigans come in various necklines and with a variety of closure methods. The classic crewneck cardigan with buttons is a great choice to throw over a tee, sun dress or tank. A v-neck style is great with collared shirts or even a simple ribbed tank peeking out. Choosing a one-button or style tat ties at the neck adds femininity to the look. There are also many styles that are drapey and even tie in front or wrap around like a pashmina – good choice for chilly offices or road trips. Do stay away from the sweater coats and long belted cardigans – these usually bunch up at the rear and add bulk, not style to your look. If you desire warmth in a longer style, choose a heavier knit or a boiled wool style so it skims along your body.

Some options:Lands End Fine Gauge Cotton CardiganTalbots Woman Textured Cardigan
Ann Taylor One-button Swing Jacket

The Casual Jacket – I have a collarless jacket with bracelet sleeves of Ponte de Roma knit. On a cool day, I toss it over my top or dress to stay warm but still stylish. My mom has a denim jacket that nips in at the waist, zips up and has a flattering dark hue. It’s the perfect spring-season coat that matches her style of bright colors and bold silver jewelry. Having a jacket with a bit of structure will keep your shape as well as your style on cooler days. If the jacket is low on adornments, it will be easily paired with most of your wardrobe. Consider a collarless jacket, a lightweight blazer with stretch, a denim jacket with shape, or a solid-colored heavy knit for something that is just as comfy as your favorite hoodie.

The Crop Pant Alternative
It’s too hot for long pants, and you would rather die than walk around in shorts (I agree, most styles are so unflattering). What’s a woman to do? If you visit stores like J. Jill you would think the only alternative is cropped pants or capris. Those wide-legged pants that hit between the calf and the ankle bone, often made of a wrinkled linen or stiff chino. Well ladies, these pants do not look good on ANYONE. But what is available for a woman who wants something other than Daisy Dukes?

City Shorts – the past couple of seasons have brought shorts to more flattering lengths. City shorts are a tailored, crisp look that can be paired with jackets and blouses for a work-worthy look (check with HR before you attempt this in your office). They hit at the knee, and usually have the same details as your favorite work pants (cuffs, creases, belt loops, even lining). Worn with a blazer and sandals it is a great alternative for a casual work environment (or even a trip to the mall); with a simple sleeveless top it is a nice look for the weekend or running errands.

Some options:Ann Taylor Loft Sateen City Shorts
IGIGI Plus-size Cuffed Shorts
Eddie Bauer Tab-front Denim Shorts

Bermudas – similar to city shorts, Bermudas are usually cut a bit more narrow in the leg and are without the cuff. Sold in almost every fabric imaginable, these are a flattering style for a woman with medium to slim thighs who likes her knees. They can be worn with tanks, tailored shirts and floaty peasant-style tops alike.

Some options:Old Navy Women’s Plus Sateen Bermudas
Gap Clean Bermuda Shorts
Mossimo for Target Bermuda shorts

Culottes – these are not the candy-colored poly-blend divided skirts of the 70s and 80s. Culottes have gotten a hip makeover. Often described as shorts or gauchos, these garments hit anywhere from just at the knee to right above the large part of the calf. In stiffer fabrics (twill, denim), they have a slight a-line to each leg that is as flattering as a skirt of the same cut. Culottes look best with a tailored top so that the excess width doesn’t drown you in fabric or lose your shape. Fabrics with more flow (jersey, ponte, matte jersey) will often have a fuller leg. This fabrication of culottes is a bit trickier to wear; look for tops in similar fabrication for a dressy lounge look and be sure your shoes compliment (flats and delicate sandals are good choices).

You Look Fab wrote an amazing post on this exact subject. She explains the difference between walk shorts and capris and offers some images to show how a shorter or slimmer pant is actually more flattering on a woman’s body.

The Messy/Gelled Ponytail Alternative
For many years I lived with an elastic on my wrist at all times. Work, dates, nights out, the gym, even as a bridesmaid in a wedding… that elastic was there as my safety blanket. I had long layered hair that never wanted to behave. It parted int he middle, feathered, would never be straight, my curls were frizzy and frustrating and most days my hair was piled into a messy topknot by lunch. I recognize you sisters with frustrating hair – you have it gelled into a very tight ponytail because nothing seems to handle the curls. Messy topknots cover grown out layers, roots, and split ends. A butterfly clip holds back those bangs you are growing out as you tend to your computer, your meal preparation or your children. There are just not enough hours in the day as it is, who wants to spend a lot of time with their hair?

The thing is, your hair is one of the first things people see. You wear it more often than any garment in your wardrobe and are judged by it faster than with a muffin top or tapered jeans. Yes, it can be a pain and time consuming, but there are ways to make your hair manageable, attractive, and still fit into your busy schedule.

Haircut/Color – first things first, hair that is not maintained looks like crap. No matter how many products or what accessories you put on it, hair that is overgrown, washed out and grown out looks messy and has people think you don’t care about yourself. If it has been a few months, at least go in for a quick trim. If you are living in a ponytail 24/7… stop and wonder what the point of a long mane is if it is always pinned up. Your life may be easier and your morning routine faster with a shorter ‘do.

If your hair is unmanageable even when straight from the hairdresser… you may need a new hairdresser. Before hitting up every salon in town, do a bit of homework. Google your hair texture and more often than not you will find many message boards, blogs and Web sites dedicated to your hair, full of fellow women with the same plight. You may be able to find resources on products to use, stylists who specialize in your hair, and cuts that work best for your texture. Jen at Mythbuster Beauty often reviews products for curly hair and discusses her specific hair type. She and many of her readers have recently taken on The Curly Hair Challenge, a new spin on how to manage curly hair.

Accessories – butterfly clips are great for holding sections of your hair when blowing it dry, they aren’t great for day (and never good for evening) wear. Snagging your daughter’s colorful baubles to hold back your mane isn’t going to improve your style either. Your best bet are simple, hair-colored accessories. Ouchless elastics in tan, brown and black are great – take a piece of your hair from underneath, wrap it around the elastic and hold in place with a Bobby pin and you have made a boring ponytail quite chic. Slim tortoise-shell and black plastic headbands with teeth are a great way to deal with bangs that are growing out; skinny elastic bands are excellent for the gym and casual looks, and headbands in fun colors and prints will add femininity and style to a simple outfit. Barrettes should be used in moderation – a small one to hold back a section of hair at the top of the head can work on some, but large barettes that hold all your hair or a bedazzled or decked out with bows are dated and should be disposed of immediately.

The Yoga Pant Alternative
It’s that time of the month, your nursing a cold or possibly a hangover. The last thing you want to do is suck yourself into a pair of rigid jeans or lined trousers. However heading out of the house in yoga pants or sweatpants isn’t going to make you feel or lookk much better. Gym wear is NOT streetwear, no matter how many tacky fake-baked women sport it at the local mall. This means velour loungesuits, yoga pants with matching hoodies, terry sweatsuits, bulky hooded sweatshirts supporting your favorite sports team, or athletic shorts. They don’t hide your bumps, they don’t help you blend into the woodwork, and they don’t boost your self-esteem. No matter your budget or figure, there are garments out there that are both flattering and comfortable.

Linen Drawstring Pants – I love my linen drawstring pants! I get them for a great price at places like Victoria’s Secret and Old Navy and wear the heck out of them. Paired with a tank and flops, I can sip my morning coffee on my back deck. With a cotton peasant top, long necklace and sandals, I am dressed for a casual day at work. With a coordinating linen tank and heels, it becomes an elegant look for a dinner date with my husband or a bridal shower. Do recognize that white and light colors are often quite sheer and require skin-colored (NOT WHITE) smooth undergarments. Black tends to fade, so wash them on the gentle cycle and invest in a colorfast clothing wash. Most companies have linen drawstring pants in basics like black, white, brown aand beige and in a laarge range of sizes and lengths. They are the chic equivalent to scrubs or yoga pants, and jsut as comfy.

Some options:Victoria’s Secret Linen Drawstring Pant
Old Navy Wide-Leg Linen Pants
Charter Club Drawstring Waist Linen Pant

Jeans with Lycra – denim may be the fabric of choice for Americans, but thyat doesn’t means its comfortable. Lack of stretch, bunching at the crotch, digging into the tummy, gaping at the waist, and the dreaded muffin top… jeans can be downtright horrible to a woman’s frame and torture to wear. Many companies offer jeans of a lighter-weight denim that have Lycra infused into them which makes them more forgiving to a woman’s curves and also far more comfortable.

Ponte Trousers – ah Ponte De Roma, my favorite fabric. This fabric was in every collection that Express carried when I started working there in 1997 – the District Manager who interviewed me was wearing a belted safari jacket and pencil skirt out of the fabric, and when I started I was encouraged to purchase a pair of the boot-cut, elastic-waist ponte pants in black “because they go with everything.” A couple years later, us employees would giggle when customers would come in the store asking where we kept our ponte pants for they had quickly become passe and the attire of the wanna-be hip grandmother and the mom-to-be. Too bad, as that ponte fabric is a densly-woven heavyweight knit that holds its shape, hides lumps and bumps and works in almost every season.

Well Ponte de Roma has returned and I couldn’t be more thrilled. No elastic-waist boot-cut leggings this go-round, ponte is being used for Jackie-O inspired jackets, shift dresses, suits and trousers. The fabric is refined and appropriate for work, yet is as comfortable as a pair of your favorite yoga pants. Even with a zipper and waistband, ponte fabric has enough give that a structured pair of trousers will not cut or dig into you. If dry cleaned or washed gently and left to line or flat dry, ponte fabric will maintain its shape and color for years.

Some options:Alfani Woman Ponte Pant
Sutton Studio Petite Ponte Pants

Tee Shirt Dress – when all else fails, through on a tee shirt. The tee shirt dress is usually a lightly heavier weight than your favorite top and hits at or slightly above the knee. If it is a straight or slightly a-line style, it will be forgiving even on the most bloated of days. Paired with a scarf or necklace and a sassy pair of sandals, a tee shirt dress will work for most daytime affairs. In a saturated color, people will notice the hue before they notice that it’s made of jersey, and if the quality of cotton is good, it will look totally appropriate at the office as well as at Target or book club.

Some options:Old Navy Cap Sleeve Knit Dress
Banana Republic Long-sleeved Geo Print Dress
C&C California Classic Tee Shirt Dress