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Ask Allie – What to Wear to a Music Festival?

Hi Allie, I know you recently went to the Bonnaroo Music Festival in the US. I am going to the Oxegen Festival. I was wondering what you suggest I wear to it?

Dear Allie,
Are you going to Bonnaroo again this year? I am going too! What do you suggest I pack?
Dear Allie:
My boyfriend got us tickets to Outside Lands (it’s a fest in CA). What sort of clothes should I wear to such an event? I haven’t been to a fest of this size before. Thank you so much!
Image courtesy of the NY Daily News

Ah, the music festival. A life-changing event for anyone, no matter how large of a music fan. Music festivals are all-day or multi-day events full of music, art, food, and sights you may never seen before. I have been to a few one-day festivals and have now attended the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee for three years. Bonnaroo is four days, and I have done general admission, which is camping sans electricity or proper bathrooms (hello porta-potties!)and a lot of walking in extreme heat. As a slightly high-maintenance woman, I feared my first music festival, but found that with the right wardrobe and supplies, anyone can be comfortable AND stylish at such an event.

Surviving the Heat
Most music festivals are during the hottest months of the year. This is great for those in school – no need to skip classes to see your favorite artist. However it’s pretty tough to spend 12+ hours in high heat for multiple days. It is important to dress and pack correctly so that you protect your skin, your energy, and your health during a festival.

I highly recommend wearing 100% cotton (not jersey) dresses. Pure cotton will float away from your body with the slightest breeze and will dry quickly when wet from sweat or a Super Soaker. In the summer, it’s not hard to find adorable cotton sundresses at most any retailer. For this year’s Bonnaroo I scored several sundresses for under $20 each at Ross, and also saw plenty of dresses that would be perfect at Old Navy and Target. Don’t take your designer duds – no matter what you do, clothes can get dirty. Not only is there the potential for mud (even if it’s dry, there can and will be mud), there will be messy carnival food, large crowds of people bumping into you and possibly spilling their food/drink, and folks trying to get into the spirit with water guns, glitter, glo-sticks and other various things that can be tossed into a crowd. If you do find a great score at a discount place, be sure to secure the straps. A friend and I both had a strap break on a sundress while at the festival this year (and be at the ready with a mini sewing kit and some safety pins just in case of any wardrobe emergency).

No matter your size, many women experience that which we lovingly call, “chub rub”. Many women have curvy thighs, and when walking long distances and sweating, you can get a rash on the inside of your legs. I have found the best thing to combat this is a pair of bike shorts under my sundress. In 2007, I bought two pairs of moisture-wicking black bike shorts from Kmart for $9.99 each and have used them ever since. They do a great job of preventing chafing, and also offer modesty so I can easily sit cross-legged on the ground during a show. I know many women who prefer using BodyGlide (or use it along with the shorts). BodyGlide can be applied like a stick deodorant and will help prevent chafing, even if you sweat.

When there is heat, there usually is sun. A music festival is not the place to work on your tan. You won’t realize how much sun you have gotten until you end up with a nasty burn that evening. I have found that even when I wear SPF 30 sunscreen, I will come home from a festival with plenty of color. This year I used SPF 30 on my body and 55 on my face, and carried both with me all day for easy reapplication. Aerosol sunscreen is a great choice for such an event because you can reach your back, you don’t have to run it in with grubby hands, and that type of container is less likely to leak in your bag. I also take a stick or tube of higher SPF sunscreen with me to the shows to apply to the face and any sun-sensitive places (shoulders, back of neck, tops of feet) on a regular basis. It’s also wise to get a lipbalm with SPF – your lips will get dry from the heat, and they are quite susceptible to sunburn.

Image courtesy of the Nashville Beauty Blog – the Blogger at Bonnaroo 2009

With so many cute hats in fashion right now, it’s silly to not wear one to a music festival. A basic straw cowboy hat is always stylish at such an event, and will do a good job of keeping your neck and nose protected. Fedoras and porkpie hats are trendy now – they aren’t really good at protecting you from the sun, but will offer protection to your scalp. The best choice is a floppy hat with a large brim – I have a crushable straw one that I have had for over a decade. I can roll it up and stick it in my bag when I am indoors or it gets dark, and easily pull it out for when it’s sunny. I have found great sun hats at Title 9, Athleta, Lands End and Macy’s. I also recommend checking out Etsy – you can find some really unique and cute sunhats there – check out these adorable numbers from Bonniesknitting!

Another great item to pack for sun protection is a bandana (or two!). A bandanna can be tied around your neck to protect it from the sun, it can be tied over your head like a kerchief to protect the scalp and tip-top of your forehead, and it can be dunked in cold water and used to cool you off in a jiffy. I tie a bandanna to the zipper of my bag to have at the ready – it’s also great to mop sweat off your brow. If you don’t like the look of bandannas, any cotton scarf will do. This year I took a candy-colored cotton voile scarf from Lands End’s Canvas line and it worked just as well (and laundered just as well) as a classic bandanna.

You MUST stay hydrated! Don’t expect a water bottle or two from a vendor to suffice. It’s easy to get dehydrated and not even notice. Next thing you are feeling dizzy or worse. Even though they are not chic, I carry a backpack that has a hydration pack inside it. I have one from Kelty that I bought several years ago – it is very small and fits right between my shoulder blades, but has room to hold 50 ounces of water along with my essentials. If you can’t imagine carrying a Camelbak-type bag, I recommend having a large aluminum or Nalgene-type bottle that you can hook to your bag and can be filled quite often from water stations. If you have to carry your bottle in your hand the entire time, it very well may be discarded for being a nuisance. I don’t want to be all TMI, but if you haven’t had to hit a porta-potty in a bit, it’s a good chance that you aren’t drinking enough. And know for every alcoholic beverage you consume, that much more water you need to consume to stay properly hydrated.

Be smart – find shade between shows, be it under a tree, from the shadow of a tent, or even if you decide to head back to your tent or hotel for a quick break. You really need to pace yourself – prioritize the performances you wish to see, so if you’re feeling a bit woozy, tired, or overheated you can take a break. Beer gardens, movie tents and vendor tents are great places to duck in and get some shade. In 2007 I almost passed out from the heat, and this year a person I knew died from the heat at a music festival. I would hate this to happen to any of you, so please stay cool, stay hydrated, and pace yourself.

Surviving the Lack of Plumbing
Porta-Potties
Be you attending a one-day fest or a multi-day camping adventure, you will likely be dealing with porta-potties. No one enjoys them, but they are a fact of life. Here’s a few things that can make your bathroom experience quick and less painful:

  • Don’t expect each porta-potty to have toilet paper. Bring your own. I see many people who enter porta-potties with a whole roll of T.P. I personally don’t like that option because then there is something you need to hold while in there. I will fill a sandwich baggie with pre-torn piles of toilet paper. Then before I enter a porta-potty I will tuck the little pile of TP into my bra strap or pocket. Nothing to have to hold, and I am prepared in case the porta-potty isn’t well equipped.
  • Not only will portable toilets be sans toilet paper, they will also be disgusting. I carry a second sandwich baggie with Clorox wipes. I take one in with me (tucked in the other bra strap or pocket) and wipe down the seat before attempting to do anything in there. I am a petite woman, and there is no way I can properly hover over a porta-potty and not make a mess. It is far easier to clean the seat than try to not touch it. Also, it is a “pay it forward” sort of act for the woman in line after you who may not have thought to bring sanitizing wipes!
  • If you can, head to the porta-potties with a friend. Then she can hold both of your bags while you are in there, and then you can reciprocate the favor. If you don’t have this option, it’s great to have a cross-body bag or backpack that you can put on the front of your person and keep from touching any surfaces.
  • Bring hand sanitizer! I prefer sanitizing wipes to the liquid in this case, so I can use it to scrub off stuff instead of rubbing it in. I wait until I am out and out of way of the line before attempting to use this. Some porta-potties come with sanitizer, but you can’t rely on that.
  • If you will be at a multi-day event, I recommend a third sandwich baggie with personal cleansing wipes in it. In case your carnival food doesn’t sit well with you, or just if you want to do a wipe down to feel refreshed and less sweaty. Be sure to mark the bags so you know which baggie is Clorox and which is Cottonelle!
  • If you are going to be at a festival at night, it’s a good idea to clip a headlamp or LED light to your bag so you can see what you are doing. Some porta-potties are perfectly set up near outdoor lighting, but many times, especially in camp sites, they will be located in a dark corner of the grounds. My husband picked up a cheap LED head lamp for me (small light on an elastic band) from some Big Box retailer – I never stick it on my head, but I have slung it around my neck when walking in dark locations, have held it in my hand to light my path, and have switched it to the red light and attached to my backpack so my friends can find and follow me in a crowd.

Porta-potties are another reason why dresses are a great option for attire. To have to wiggle off sweaty jeans or shorts in a rush can be awkward, difficult, and can give you more opportunity to accidently bump into a surface in there. Also jeans and pants can drag on the floor. Every woman I know agrees that dresses and skirts are FAR more porta-potty friendly, especially in the heat!

Bathing
If you are staying in general camping, running water may not exist, or if in the case of the Bonnaroo Music Festival, it may be ice-cold well water running from spigots in a metal trailer. It’s pretty much a given that you won’t be spic n’ span at a fest, but you can still be comfortable and relatively stink-free.

If you have running water (troughs, spigots, etc.):

  • My sister thought of the brilliant idea of bringing a child’s play bucket – the type one uses at the beach. In it, put your soap, shampoo, washcloth, etc. Then you can place it on the floor or hang it off a hook or fence and have all your necessities at arm’s reach and not getting gross. Sometimes the floors at these water stations can have several inches of water, so your regular shower caddy with open sides won’t always be a good bet.
  • You can’t get fully naked (unless you are very daring), so I have found it best to wear a bikini or a bra-tank or bikini top with a skirt or pareo when you go bathing. Be sure to wear shoes with good grip because it can get slick and muddy at the water stations.
  • Though I am a stickler for high-quality shampoo and conditioner for my highlighted hair, at a fest I go with a travel-sized bottle of 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner. It’s easier.
  • For cleaning the body, I take a bar of Ivory soap. I can then use it to clean my whole body and even clean clothes if need be. My husband prefers a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap because he will even use it as his shampoo. Either way you look at it, a multi-tasking product makes the most sense. I find a washcloth to be easier than a shower poof or just my hands – easier to scrub grubby feet and to get sticky sunscreen off shoulders.
  • I also pack one of those small, lightweight microfiber hair towels. It’s usually too hot to bother with drying my body, and these towels dry fast, will sop up moisture from your hair without having to rub, and can make a really great turban or tuck into your bag or bucket when finished.
  • If you know the water station will have spigots with threads on them (like a spigot off your house), it’s a great idea to take an old hose, cut a couple feet off the female end and take it to have a DIY shower. One can often find old hoses for offer on Freecycle. Home improvement stores also carry short hoses specifically for washing machines that have finished ends – this is a nice alternative and also means you can attach a nozzle to control water flow.

If you have shower stations (shower trailers, pay showers):

  • Don’t expect the luxury of even the cheapest motel – these showers are small and cheap. At Bonnaroo they have pay showers sponsored by Garnier Fructis. For $7 you get a teeny plastic stall (think RV bathroom – we’re talking a space not wider than your shoulders) and a very thin shower curtain that has been torn and trashed by previous users. The floor of your shower stall is littered with leftover packets of sample shampoos and balls of hair. These stalls will be lined up along the wall of the trailer, there rarely are mirrors or a changing area.
  • Wear shoes in the shower. Not only can you scrub them clean, but you keep your tootsies safe from fungus and other grodiness.
  • The bucket again can come in handy, it can be placed on the floor, a shelf, even over the shower head if you are tall enough.
  • Bring a bigger towel, and hang it over the shower curtain for some modesty.
  • Wear something that is super easy to get off and back on when you are damp. Again this is where a cotton sundress comes in handy.

Other ways of staying clean:

  • Outdoor stores sell personal cleansing cloths that are thicker and larger in size than ones you can find at Target. However either type is wonderful to wipe down with after a sweaty, sticky day.
  • Outdoor stores also have what’s called solar showers. Pretty much these are bags you can fill with water and hang from a tree, a hook, or even buy a tent created just for a solar shower. Just be sure that it’s not set up in a way that the runoff will spill into a neighbor’s campsite.

Surviving a Day Away from your Home/Hotel/Campsite
The way to have a successful day at a festival is to be fully prepared. Yes you want to look stylish, but there’s no point in looking cute if you have blisters, sunburn, and no camera to take a picture of your fine self.

As previously mentioned, my day bag of choice is a very small backpack with a hydration bladder in it. What I fill it with:

  • My three baggies for the porta potties
  • Two hair elastics
  • A few safety pins of varying size
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunglasses with case and little cloth to clean them
  • Camera, in a plastic bag (protect from condensation from the hydration bladder, and also if it rains, someone spills a beer on my bag, etc.)
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Face sunscreen with high SPF
  • Body sunscreen (aerosol) with high sunscreen (or if a friend has a bigger bag and I know I will be with them the whole time, they can carry it)
  • Cell phone with the numbers of every darn person I know at the festival PLUS the number for the nearby tow truck or taxi company (usually comes with your tickets)
  • Booklet/map provided with the festival
  • Cash in small bills (never more than $40 unless I know I will be buying a souvenir)
  • Sharpie (you never know when you may bump into a celebrity and want their autograph!)
  • Business cards (I have ones from VistaPrint which are cheap, have my name, my cell, my email, my Website. Great to trade with new friends you make, and can always make notes on the back with your Sharpie)
  • A snack (Clif bars, granola bars, cheese and crackers packet, baggie of granola – something that will give you long-running energy and will hold up to the heat. Lines may be long at vendors, you may run out of money, you never know and it’s nice to have a snack just in case)
  • Bandanna or cotton scarf, tied to the exterior

I highly recommend you get a bag you don’t mind wearing for long periods of time and you can wear while dancing. Cross-body bags can be great if they are small, but can but a pain if they keep banging into your thigh while rocking out at your favorite show. A regular purse will not be comfortable on your shoulder for long periods of time. Look for a sleek and smaller cross-body bag or a backpack. Fill it with everything before you go to see how it feels on your body and try walking around and dancing. You don’t want to put your bag on the ground for fear of mud and thieves.

What I leave back at camp, locked safely in my car:

  • iPod
  • Wallet
  • Rest of money
  • Chargers for cell and camera
  • Anything else of value

Festivals are a great place to meet very friendly, like-minded people, but they also attract jerks and thieves. Protect yourself by not carrying everything in your bag, having a bag you don’t mind carrying at all times, and putting all your valuables into your car out of sight. If you drove a car there, keep a key to your car safety pinned into your bag or clothes, and leave the rest of the keyring in the car. Also hide a second car key at camp or give it to a friend in case your bag is stolen.

Treat Your Tootsies Well
Finally, one of the most important things for a good long day at a festival is proper footwear. This is not the time to try out your cute new gladiator sandals or to wear your $1 Old Navy flip flops. You want a pair of shoes that will treat your tootsies well for hours upon hours on end of standing on hard ground and asphalt, cushion you over walking on rocky terrain, can handle a sloshed beer or a mudpuddle, and have traction.

When I say traction, I don’t just mean on the bottom of the shoe. This is why flip flops are not the best option. Have you ever tried to run in a pair of soaking wet flip flops? It’s a recipe for disaster and a sprained ankle. I have been to festivals where it has rained; even a 20-minute sunshower can create ridiculous mud which will literally suck flip flops right off your feet.

A great choice are athletic sandals like Tevas, Merrells, or Chacos. These will stay on no matter the conditions and won’t leave you with a blisterful pair of feet. Many people like lightweight canvas shoes like Chuck Taylors or TOMS; I have a special place in my heart for Sanuks – a company with a good heart that makes super comfy “Vans”-like shoes with a sole as cushy as your favorite flops.

 Photo courtesy of The Girl’s Girl

I have worn my brown leather DUO boots (the Bern) to many a concert and festival – they are shearling lined (keeps me cool) and I have added a waterproofing spray to the exterior. They have a low heel, good traction, an additional cushioning insert and let me tromp through most anything feeling secure. I despise despise DESPISE Crocs, but I have to say they are the perfect festival shoe – they cushion your feet, let them breathe so they don’t get sweaty and stinky, will stay on in even the muckiest of mud, and can easily be rinsed off at the end of the day. They also give a bit of protection to the foot if a beer bottle is dropped on you or you have to enter an especially soggy porta-potty or water station.

Whatever your footwear, be sure they are broken in prior to heading to the festival. Nothing will cramp your good time more than painful, chafed, blisted, cramped toes.

So, What Should I Pack?
If you are staying onsite or at a hotel nearby, I recommend two outfits for each day. If it’s hot or rainy, you will want to change into dry clothes. And when I mean a separate change of clothes, I include underwear in this. Pack two pairs of underwear for each day (if your clothes are sweaty, so will be your undergarments), and bring a bra that you can switch into while the other is hanging up to dry.

Picture courtesy of BallerinaGrape

On top of this, I recommend some clothes to keep you warm when the sun goes down. I don’t recommend jeans (see above re: porta potties, also jeans suck to put on when you are achy or sunburned). If you are wearing a dress, pairing it with a pair of full-length leggings or some floaty linen pants is a great idea. I often just change into a maxi dress or a completely different outfit with a long skirt. Also if you bring a hoodie, it’s usually enough and then you can tie it around your waist or on your bag when you warm up from dancing.

Pack more than one pair of shoes. Even if you have broken in your shoes, they can very well give you some pain after wearing them for 12+ hours at a time. It’s healthy to switch your shoes each day anyhow. I also like to pack a simple pair of basic flip flops for when at camp or for the drive there and back.

Bring two pairs of sunglasses – you never know if you may lose a pair and it would suck to go without.

Pack a survival kit. Safety pins, a small sewing kit, extra hair elastics and Bobby pins or clamp barrettes, Shout wipes or a Tide to Go pen, Immodium AD and Pepto Bismol, pain reliever of your choice, something with electrolytes (Propel, Gatorade, I really like u hydration tablets, which aren’t full of all the fake stuff and sugar of many other electrolyte tabs and they taste really great), if you are within a week or so of your period pack some feminine hygiene products just in case, an extra pair of contacts or glasses, first-aid basics (band-aids, something to clean a wound), extra car key, insurance and AAA card, a hidden $50 that you won’t spend at the festival in case you need a jump, tow, taxi, etc.

Pack some clothes that are fun. When the sun goes down, the party gets crazy at music festivals. Bring your face glitter, your neon pink lip gloss, your angel wings or tutu. You may not feel brave enough to don them, but festivals have a way of bringing out the party girl in most any woman!

But I’m not a Dirty Hippie/Hipster/I’m a Music Newbie!

 Photo courtesy of Music Festival Junkies

If you Google photos of people who have attended music festivals, you may think that all of them are young and cool, or else decked out in tie-dye and hemp. Neither is true, festivals are great because they attract every type of person. I have returned to Bonnaroo so many times because it is a festival that offers pretty much every genre of music.

No need to buy a whole new wardrobe of peasant skirts and rope sandals, or fedoras and Ray Bans. I buy sundresses for music festivals because they are comfortable, and they can also be worn again on summer weekend days. When doing your summer shopping, instead of buying clothes just for this event, see if you can find things that will do double-duty. Instead of buying a dry clean only frock, look for one that can be washed in the machine. Instead of polyester, look for cotton. In place of safe black, consider a cheery print.

Keep in mind that a festival is a laid-back environment. No need for a ton of accessories, coordinated pieces, perfectly polished ensembles. Simple is better, you will get sweaty, you will get dusty and you will want to dance. I leave at home my wedding set and the only jewelry I bring is a turquoise necklace my husband brought back from his yoga teacher training in Mexico, and a pair of silver hoops.

If you are the type of woman who can’t leave your home without at least five pieces of makeup, you may want to adjust your routine for this event. Makeup doesn’t hold up too well in 100-degree heat, and you won’t have regular access to a mirror for touch-ups. That doesn’t mean you need a bare face. At Bonnaroo I wear waterproof mascara, bronzing powder dusted on my cheeks, and Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm. I carry Urban Decay’s De-Slick to combat shine. If you have a bad zit, it’s fine to try to touch it up with some concealer and pressed powder, but a fully “done” face will only leave you with a mess and a smear.

And if you are not familiar with most of the artists, well all the better! Some of my favorite bands in 2010 are ones I never heard of three years ago. They became faves because I saw them perform at a music festival. Festivals are great places to learn about new music, and find your personal music style without being biased by corporate radio, TV, or friends. At a festival, every artist will have an audience of raving fans, so there isn’t any bias, you can’t choose wrong. Go ahead and see a performance or two by yourself – you will make instant friends with the other excited people in the audience!

What to leave at home:
Heels, tight miniskirts, tight jeans, hairspray, flat iron, anything that is dry clean only or delicate or can’t handle getting wet, expensive jewelry, designer anything, your favorite purse, anything that won’t be comfortable enough to dance in or sit in on the ground.

Also leave at home any snark, eye-rolling or criticism. Seriously, you will see EVERY type of person at a festival. Many people travel from fest to fest because they are huge fans of music, but also because festivals are a place where they can feel accepted. That woman in the chain mail bikini and Indian headdress may actually be upper management at a stuffy corporation during the week, the “dirty hippie” may be her college’s fashionista come fall semester. Relish in the fact that you are able to go somewhere where you can be totally relaxed, not stressed over hemlines or heel heights. Be comfortable, feel attractive in your own way, and wear the best accessory out there – a big happy smile.

And be sure to come back and share your experiences at your next fest!

Ask Allie: How to Dress for a Wedding Without a Dress Code

I have a wedding to go, and ever since the wedding where I dressed fancier than the bride (I wore a simple velvet sheath!) I have a horror of wearing the wrong thing. The wedding is at 4, with cocktails, dinner, and reception to follow, all at the same venue, an “event center.” Essentially a ballroom. I did email the bride and she just said “We don’t really have a dress code. Not black tie but not sweats and a t-shirt. Well, there’s a LOT in between there. Jersey maxidress? Sparkly mini? My feet are likely to be swollen so I’m leaning toward something I can wear flat sandals with, but other than that I’m kind of at a loss what to wear.

Event planners and brides to be… please understand that a dress code isn’t snooty or pretentious, it’s a helpful guide for loved ones who want to ensure your event is great. A specified dress code will reduce stress on your guests and ensure you don’t end up with anyone in black tie or sweats and a tee shirt!

That being said, this is the type of event where I pull out my black crepe sheath dress. Sleeveless, simple neckline, skims the figure, hits the knees; it’s simple and easy to dress up or down. For a wedding that starts at 4pm you can accessorize a dress in a multitude of ways to make it look festive yet appropriate for a crowd in khakis or a dancefloor full of sequins.  Of course, the dress does not have to be black, but it’s a color you often already have in your closet.

You mentioned the desire to wear flat sandals, and for a wedding at an event center I’d keep flat sandals to a midi to maxi length dress or skirt. While traditional jersey maxi dresses would likely be too casual for a wedding at this hour, one in matte jersey or with a chiffon overlay would be perfect and just as easy to fit in with a more casual or more dressy crowd.  Again, black is not the only color; a bright or pastel hue would be quite festive and appropriate for an August wedding.

Both types of dresses are extremely versatile. A lined sheath in crepe, triacetate, silk, or a blend can be worn to work, dressed up for a cocktail party with strappy heels and sparkly jewelry, or made more casual with nude pumps and wood accessories (see my post on how to style a black sheath four ways). A matte jersey or chiffon maxi dress can also lead multiple lives; I wore a black matte jersey maxi as the matron of honor at a relatively formal wedding, then wore to a garden wedding with gold flat sandals and even wore to a bridal shower with brown sandals and wood and leather jewelry. Not only that, these fabrics are seasonless making a dress purchased in the summer wearable for holiday parties on your event calendar!

Ask Allie: What to Wear to a Summer Funeral

I know it’s a somber topic, but I live in a hot climate and I have a relative who is ill and in hospice. I realized today that I have no idea what is okay for a funeral in a VERY hot climate.

what to wear to a hot summer wedding

The most important thing to factor when dressing for a funeral, is dressing out of respect. First, consider the religion of the service, then dress in a way that shows you understand the formality of the situation and that you know you are not the subject of attention. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t wear it to church or to an office where it’s Business Attire (not Business Casual), it’s not appropriate for a funeral.

These days, a sleeveless dress and bare legs is appropriate at most American funerals, especially when it’s a very hot climate. Consider a lightweight cardigan if there’s a service inside the house of worship and a hat to protect yourself from the sun at the grave site. If your shoulders are bared, your neckline should be very modest, the fit not too tight, and the hemline at the knee.

In your email, you mentioned a maxi dress and while it wouldn’t be inappropriate to wear a long skirt, many maxi dress styles these days are lightweight jersey and have low necklines. If you have one that is of a dressier fabric (cotton sateen, crepe jersey, linen, silk blend) and doesn’t show off your décolleté, it can work. Again, if you wouldn’t wear it to church or to work, I’d consider something else.

Pants are acceptable for less religious funerals, and can be far more comfortable in the heat. Linen trousers (not drawstring slouchy pants) with a silk or crepe shell is perfectly acceptable.

As for color, black is not necessary these days; as long as the color doesn’t scream “look at me!” it’s acceptable. Muted colors like navy, olive, plum, mauve, gray, taupe, and brown are acceptable. If you wear a print, it should be very subtle (watercolor prints, tone on tone). Again consider the religion before choosing the color; some only wear black, some wear white, and some encourage bright jewel tones.

As for fabric, as long as it’s not too casual (denim) or too formal (satin), it’s okay in such heat. Linen and cotton is acceptable if it’s in more formal of cuts and ironed before wearing.

Accessories set the tone for your outfit; keep the sparkly necklaces and statement shoes at home. A simple pair of leather shoes in a neutral, a delicate chain necklace or a strand of pearls, a leather bag free of adornments that complements the color of your outfit. If there is a grave site service, choose a wedge or flat shoe so your heels don’t sink into the grass. Though you may be seeing many people from your past, it’s not a high school reunion and not a time to show off your sartorial skills.

Finally, what you wear is not as important as your attendance. Few will even notice what you’re wearing; as long as you don’t dress to receive attention you will be just fine. My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time.

Recap: Virgin Mobile FreeFest

Each year I clear my calendar for when Virgin Mobile FreeFest tickets are available. It’s a mad scramble using my SmartPhone, multiple browsers, and Facebook but I usually score at least a pair. And each year, something comes up where I end up not going. This year I didn’t score tickets… but I actually attended!

I kept trying to win tickets, entering contests weekly. It seemed all my friends were going and it would be great to go with them. The thing was we didn’t have babysitting available for the whole day and through the night. So when my sister asked if I wanted to be her date with her extra ticket, Karl said I should go and he’d stay home with Emerson. As it drew closer to FreeFest day, more friends were bailing due to work schedules, family emergencies, and other conflicts. It ended up being me, my sister, and our friend Tiffany who went together.

What I Wore: I wanted to be comfortable for 10 hours straight so I worried more about comfort than style.  I wore my blue-gray Old Navy Vintage V-neck, Karen Kane jeggings, my black DUO riding boots, and in my bag was a cotton plain shirt from Lands’ End Canvas.  When it got super windy I put a bandanna (vintage Vision Street Wear) on my head.  Aviators, silver jewelry, and last minute switched from my crossbody to my festival backpack (smart decision).

My sister wanted to arrive in time to see Allen Stone. While I had heard his name, I couldn’t place him and didn’t care one way or another whether I saw his show. We had a late start but arrived before his set, and was able to get a place down center in the Pavilion for it. And I am so glad we did. Allen Stone looks like a grown up Napoleon Dynamite with his oversized glasses, toothy smile and long blonde curls, but he sounds like a young Chris Robinson (from the Black Crowes). While he did two covers (a great rendition of Tell Me Something Good and a bluesy yet hokey version of Bob Marley’s Is This Love), what really stood out were his original songs. Great voice, great songs, great energy… Allen Stone has a new fan!

Who I Saw: I bumped into Tammy from A Loyal Love, Emily from Capital Style, and we met Jason Holt (the drummer for Allen Stone)

After Allen Stone, we headed for the Festival Stage which was in a field back behind the ordinary Merriweather Post Pavilion grounds and caught the majority of the Portugal. The Man set. I know I have Portugal. The Man on my iPod, but I haven’t really listened to them in a while and was pretty impressed by their set. Enough that I added more of their tunes to one of my Spotify playlists. I got pretty close during their set and after they finished I was right on the rail and planned on staying for The Dismemberment Plan, but my friends were hungry so we went to grab lunch.

Who is that short person behind the guy in the furry red hat?  Oh yeah, that’s me in the audience at Nervo!

It was around 4pm and I really wanted to see Santigold so we headed back to the Festival Stage. We ended up passing through the Dance Forest and Nervo was on stage. There was a perfect path from the grass right into the crowd and without any wiggling I ended up almost on the rail. The show was super fun, though the crowd was young enough to be my children. We didn’t care, we danced and jumped and had a blast. However, I decided to leave so I could get a decent spot for Santigold.

This is where I made a major festie mistake – I left without my friends and without a way of contacting them. In just three hours, I had completely drained my phone battery just trying to get reception. I guess this was also a major festie mistake by Virgin – their festival WiFi was practically nonexistent. I was able to get it once at 1:30 or so, and never again. There was no reception for my AT&T phone, and same for those I met who were on Verizon, Sprint, and T Mobile. Maybe it was a calculated plan by Virgin to get people switch to them as their provider? Anyway, with a dead phone in my back pocket, I hoofed it back to the Festival Stage.

Being alone and a woman over 35 has its advantages at a festival. No one messes with you because you could be their mom and you must be cool to be at a festival, and if solo it’s easier to wiggle into a crowd without pissing anyone off. At Santigold I had tall boys regularly see me behind them, and offer me the space in front of them to see better. Within minutes I was only about 10’ from the rail on the left side of the stage. I hadn’t see Santigold live before and have loved her for a while. She didn’t disappoint and she still has a big fan in me.

The fabulous Alabama Shakes

After Santigold, I decided to head back towards the pavilion since I figured at least my sister would want to see Alabama Shakes and they were already playing. I wandered a bit and decided the best chance to see someone I knew would be to stand at the bottom of the lawn, center, right along the sidewalk. I saw fellow blogger Tammy from A Loyal Love; she let me borrow her phone to text my sister my location, but she didn’t get it or didn’t see me. I decided them to enjoy the show and a bit of people watching. Alabama Shakes rocked it, but I didn’t expect otherwise. I saw them at Rams Head Baltimore a few months prior and I recommend seeing them to anyone – truly awesome.

After Alabama Shakes, I decided to stop looking for my friends and just have fun riding solo. We all were adults and knew where the car was, we had all attended many shows and festivals in the past so I knew each of us would likely see the solo experience (I later learned that Debbie and Tiffany got separated soon after losing me) as a blessing and adventure. I headed back to the Festival Stage to catch part of Nas’ set… but soon left. While Nas sounded great, the crowd totally sucked. A lot of jerks, a lot of drunk kids, a lot of aggression. I decided to just wander. I got a beer, moseyed through the lawn, soaked up the atmosphere. I walked past the pavilion where ZZ Top was ready to perform and thought… there’s no other show I REALLY have to see so maybe I’ll check out the situation to get in the pit for Jack White.

I ended up in line along the right side of the pavilion for Jack White with some hardcore fans and ended up catching ZZ Top’s set. I wouldn’t have normally stayed for ZZ Top but was glad I saw it. Those guys are PROS. Their set was tight, they understood their crowd and played the right songs at the right time. They sounded amazing, and I knew my father in law would have been pleased that I saw the performance. I also met some nice people in line and had the opportunity to use my age to my advantage.

While standing in line, some guys started walking right past us, wiggling between our line and the seats. I asked them where they were going. “Getting in line to see Jack White.” I told them we had been waiting for the past hour and the line ended back behind me. They said, “Whatever lady” and tried to push past me. Maybe it was the beer, but I stood my ground and said, “Do you know who I am?” They looked at me, and the lead guy looked a bit scared and said, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize” and walked away. Thank goodness they didn’t ask who I actually was! But seriously, if you think you’re too old for such events, stop and think how badass you look having confidence and walking through all those teenagers. You’re not old, you’re what they wish they could be in 15-30 years. Wear that with honor!

Jack White did every song I could desire – songs from White Stripes, Raconteurs, the Dead Weather, and his solo album!

So finally they started letting us in to the pit. There were already a bunch of people in the pit (VIP? Fan club?) so we tried to find the best places possible. I ended up being right in center, again about 10’ from the rail. Unfortunately though I was close, I had about eight men over 6’ tall in front of me. I had a woman to my left who was about 5’ tall and a woman slightly in front of me to the right who was about my height. We all craned our necks from left to right and if the wind was just so we could see Jack White between shoulders. The pit was pretty packed – there wasn’t any dancing and I couldn’t even raise both hands over my head, but the crowd was pretty awesome… for the most part.

We all had our spots and were getting settled. The guys realized us shorties were behind them and didn’t sway too much. Jack White and his all-female white-gowned band were killing it, and this guy in a Hillbilly Casino Tennessee jacket starts pushing through the crowd. The guy next to me was very zen about it – he told his friends to let Hillbilly Casino go, don’t ruin your own good time getting angry over one human. I liked his mindset… but then Hillbilly Casino tried to get past the tallest guy in the crowd (me and a new friend called him Michael Phelps because he had a similar build and face shape) and NotMichael put out his hand and stopped him… in front of me.

I wasn’t super stressed, Hillbilly Casino was shorter than most of the guys in the area so it actually improved my view. However, this guy had some serious negative energy. He was staring to the left, not to the stage the entire time. He was so angry he was literally shaking, clenching his fists. You could feel the anger radiating off him. The more time that went by, the angrier he got and he started bouncing from one foot to the other like a boxer before a match. I ended up tapping him on the shoulder telling him the crowd was too tight, it was too late in the show, just sit put and accept his place. I couldn’t deal with this hostility and nervous energy less than a foot from my face. He just looked at me as though I was insane and kept on with whatever mission he was on.

See those tall people to the right in the crowd? Yeah, that’s where I was!

We found out what his mission was when the set ended and he took a swing at NotMichael Phelps. Immediately, I grabbed Hillbilly Casino to pull him back (yeah, he was right in looking at me earlier as though I was insane) and two guys also grabbed him. We pulled him back and I pushed him in the chest and we all told him to leave immediately. Luckily he left; those who still had cell phones working (seriously folks, 90% of the people I met had no juice left because of the poor reception) lit them up and we found NotMichael’s cap which flew off during the punch and we all settled in happier and more relaxed for the encore. Oh and to have Hillbilly Casino gone, the thrill of helping to kick him out, extra space, happy neighbors AND Seven Nation Army? Perfect ending to a phenomenal set!

I really wasn’t pressed to see anything after Jack White. the lawn was empty except for trash, the place was clearing out. However, Skrillex was still playing so I decided to walk that way. It had gotten very cold so I put on my plaid shirt and buttoned it all the way up. I was walking from the lawn down near the barn and stepped over some of those plastic plates that cover cables. It was damp, I was tired, and in slow motion I slipped and landed on my ass. I looked up and there were three little girls half naked in fur boots and Native American headdresses and face paint. “Are you okay ma’am? Do you need help getting up?” I know they were just being nice but to be tired, be 37, just semi-fight some guy twice my size, and be literally on my feet for nine hours was too much. I said I was fine, got up, brushed off my ass and my pride and headed to the Festival Stage.

I got to the bridge to that part of the grounds and could see the craziness before me. The stage was lit up, kids were dancing everywhere, the Ferris wheel was spinning, and I just didn’t want to get into all of that. I leaned against the chain link fence enjoying the bass and people watching. A couple slammed against the fence behind me, making out as though they hadn’t seen each other for a year. It didn’t bother me, I actually thought it was sweet but a minute later another couple slammed against the fence in front of me. I decided that was life telling me the day was over so I headed back to the car. My sister was already there, my friend Tiffany arrived soon after and us three old, tired, yet happy women headed home.

Would I go back to Virgin Mobile FreeFest? Yes, in a heartbeat. Sir Richard Branson knows how to throw a party. I was impressed with the little details – the phone booths where you could get a call to win anything from a beer to a meet and greet with a festival performer. That the schedule was set that the folks who prefer rock (and likely were older) had their last shows near the main exit and they ended a bit before the dance music. This way we could get out of the parking lot before all the teens on acid and Ecstasy. Fun additions like a circus (I didn’t see but Debbie and Tiffany caught). Plenty of staff, be it Merriweather folks or the 9:30 Club staff. It was very well organized and a pretty fabulous lineup for a free festival. I also liked it being post-festival season and not when it’s a kazillion degrees. Yes, the crowd is primarily under the age of 25 and I think the majority of those folks were there for the drugs and hook-ups and not music, it was still a lot of fun and look forward to next year’s fest!

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Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for Cruise and Resort Evenings

I LOVE your wardrobe capsules. They are always amazing. I would love to see a simple mix and match capsule for evening. Specifically, I just returned from a 10-day cruise of the Caribbean. It was amazing, with one glitch. The evening dress code was smart casual; and on a cruise ship this is more dressy than I expected (I’m from California, where jeans are cocktail attire!). I was woefully underdressed with dowdy shoes. I usually travel with black and white clothing, but a color capsule would be awesome too!

While I haven’t been on a cruise for a few years, I have experienced the issue of “smart casual” and formal nights on cruise ships, and understand how hard it is to dress appropriately for the situation. Not only are you dealing with limited luggage space, but you have folks from all over the globe dressing in all sorts of different manners. I found it’s best to pack simple garments and statement-making accessories.

Three years ago, I was asked to be in my friend’s wedding and she let me pick any black dress I desired as my Matron of Honor gown. I got a black matte jersey maxi dress from Calvin Klein that had twisted straps that were thin but thick enough to cover my bra, a faux wrap skirt, and a self-tie belt. I wore that dress for the wedding with black heeled sandals and a statement necklace. A few months later I attended a destination wedding in Charleston, South Carolina and wore that same dress with flat gold sandals, gold dangly earrings, and an armful of gold bangles. I also wore that dress with beaded earrings and a weathered brown leather belt and brown leather thongs. My point is that such a dress is surprisingly versatile. Choosing a silky jersey (Rachel Pally dresses fit the bill, are a classic style and come in a broad range of sizes) or matte jersey (Calvin Klein continues to have great options season after season) maxi dress means you can dress it up or down with ease and it will travel well (few wrinkles, any you get can come out easily if in the room with a hot shower).

Here I took a simple black maxi dress and showed how a switch of accessories can completely transform it. I know you mentioned comfort shoes in a different part of your Ask Allie request, so I chose shoes that aren’t sky-high. The wedge can easily be lower or even flat – another perk of maxi dresses is that they look great with flat shoes and said shoes aren’t the focal point of the ensemble.

A black maxi dress is a great choice if you have a formal night, but many cruises and resorts just require “smart casual” or “festive” attire. This capsule wardrobe helps you pack light but with many options:

  1. Maxi skirt with sequined tank and black sandals
  2. Maxi skirt with orange top and gold sandals
  3. Maxi skirt with a simple neutral tank or tee in your luggage, gold belt and gold sandals
  4. Black jersey pants with sequined top and black sandals
  5. Black jersey pants with orange top and black sandals
  6. Black jersey pants with sheer top and black sandals
  7. White jeans with any of the three tops and gold sandals (add the hoops, bracelet, and belt for discothèque drama)
  8. Black jersey tee shirt dress with black sandals
  9. Black dress with gold belt and gold sandals
  10. Black skirt with any of the tops and either sandals

This can be dressed up with a different choice of shoe (a heel is always seen as more formal), switching the pants to a tuxedo or shantung cigarette pant, the skirt to something sparkly, the dress to something more form-fitting or dramatic in silhouette. However, I used this based upon my own experiences on cruises and at resorts, where some nights you will find folks in full-length gowns, the other nights in club attire or sundresses. Solid colors and fabrics like matte jersey and stretch silk look elegant while being travel-friendly and versatile. These pieces can also be worn during the day – the orange top would be adorable with olive chino shorts, either of the skirts with a simple tank top, the dress could even be a beach coverup.

Choosing a single concept for accessories lightens your luggage load – I chose gold jewelry because it’s easier to find decent-looking costume pieces and instantly adds glamour. I really believe in a long necklace of chain or sparkly beads like jet – it really changes the silhouette of any ensemble and can make the simplest dress look chic. The addition of a belt, be it a scarf cummerbund, a leather obi, or a gold chain can quickly change the shape of a dress, add definition to a monochromatic ensemble, or dress up a simple tank and maxi skirt. Using color sparingly and thoughtfully will give extra miles to neutral pieces – the skirt could easily be switched to a neutral or a bold hue, the orange top could be a print or another dressy fabric, all the black pieces could be gray or ivory. This just gives an example of how very simple pieces can create an elegant and festive evening wardrobe for a vacation.



 

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Legit Music Festival Fashion Advice

Oh April, the time of year where every fashion blog and website claims to be an expert on what to wear and take to a music festival yet fails miserably. As soon as I see a romper or designer picnic blanket recommended I know that author has never attended a music festival, nor likely an outdoor concert.

Now I don’t claim to be some sort of expert and hey, you may be double-jointed and find wearing a romper and peeing in a steaming hot porta-potty easy, but here’s my tips for attending a music festival:

1. Read the FAQ. Before you start packing, see what you’re allowed to pack and what the festival organizers suggest. Many do not allow umbrellas, even the small travel type. Quite a few do not allow detachable lens cameras, glo-sticks, or chairs of any height . The festival planners will be able to let you know if there’s access to drinking water, shade, lockers, charging stations, and more.

2. Expect a lot of Sun. Even if the festival is in a grove of trees, expect to be doused with a ton of sun. Bring a floppy hat, large sunglasses, a bandanna you can dip in water to cool off or tie around your neck to protect it, wear sunscreen and bring more. I like the spray sunscreen because it doesn’t have to be rubbed in and you can spray as you walk to the next stage performance. The higher the better – I can wear SPF 50 for an entire festie weekend and still go home with a tan. Seriously, nothing ruins a festival experience faster than a raging sunburn.

The sun not only can exhaust you, but it can also quickly exhaust your electronics. Keep your phone out of the sun and bring a charger for a long hot festie day will sap your battery. Don’t expect to find an outlet; plan ahead with a pre-charged battery backup or bring a solar charger. Do note that many festivals have poor cell reception, so have a Plan B if your original idea for organizing with friends involve texts.

3. Prepare to Walk. You can easily walk a half mile from your campsite to see a performance, and walk five miles in just a couple hours around the festival grounds. Not only that, the ground will be bumpy, can have sharp grass or rocks, very well will be muddy or dusty. Wear shoes that are comfortable for long spans of time. I wear old boots with new insoles, but a pair of desert boots, sneakers with arch support, athletic sandals or a canvas slip-on with a good insole will also do well. Bring a second pair of shoes in case your first pair gets wet or ruined, and bring socks (you may find them dorky looking but may be glad to have them Day 2 after Day 1 gave you blisters or sunburn).

4. Pack to Dance. And to walk, and drink beer or water, to chat, to eat an arepa while racing across the grounds to catch up with your friends, to use a porta potty. Use a bag that can handle all that without cramping your style. Fanny packs are back and great for day fests or places that don’t need a lot of equipment to be comfortable for long spans of time. For longer festivals far from camp, consider a small backpack or a crossbody that doesn’t dig into your shoulders when completely full.

5. Leave Designer at Home. A stranger may accidently step on your Karen Walker sunnies and your Design Within Reach throw blanket may get lost in a muddy mosh pit. A festival is a place where people dance and mosh and run and do it all while on little sleep and often lots of alcohol or drugs. Protect your much-loved items and leave them home; a festival is a perfect place for a chic DIY tie-dye bedsheet and truck stop sunglasses.

6. Stay Hydrated. Bring a water container – be it a Camelbak backpack with bladder or a reusable bottle, make sure whatever you have can hold at LEAST 22 ounces and you refill it often. Dehydration can happen quickly when you’re in the sun, heat, drinking, and dancing. Protect yourself, and keep the fun times going with regular water replenishment.

7. Prepare for Porta Potties. No rompers, no overalls, no jumpsuits unless you don’t mind stripping naked in a hot overflowing porta potty with a broken lock. Sundresses are awesome; slip a pair of bike shorts underneath to prevent chafing and to provide modesty when sitting on the ground. I like looser beat up denim shorts that look better with the dirt of the day and don’t stick to sweaty skin.

Along with that, tuck some toilet paper and maybe some Clorox wipes in your bag so if you encounter a grody or unstocked porta potty, you’re set.  I put a little of each in Ziploc baggies; if my friend is holding my bag while I go in, I just grab a bit of each and tuck in my bra strap so my hands are free.

8. Have fun! The fashion mags and sites will lead you to believe that a visit to Coachella or Bonnaroo is the sartorial moment of the year. Yes, some may treat it as such, but the rest of us dress to enjoy the real purpose of the festival – the music. Go ahead and wear fun jewelry or a boho-inspired tunic or a cut up band tee shirt, but dress in a way that doesn’t require you to check your reflection every hour, lets you run and dance and lie in the grass and sit in the dirt. I promise you, the majority of the people at the festival won’t care what you’re wearing, they’ll care more about how you’re feeling and enjoying the event!

For more about music festivals, feel free to visit my previous posts:

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Ask Allie: Music Festival Fashion with Boots

I can’t imagine wearing boots to a music festival! I saw your post on Inforoo saying you wear them but it seems so hot I plan to wear some TOMS what’s the benefit of boots?

I know you’ve been to music festivals before, what do you recommend for shoes?

I’ve been to Bonnaroo several times, attended the Virgin FreeFest and Forecastle and have worn a variety of shoes. Sandals, flip flops, Chucks, even Crocs (I know, I know!). However for the past couple of years my go-to shoes for music festivals are boots. Yes, even in the dreadful heat of summer in Tennessee, I wear boots.

Why Boots Rock for Music Festivals:

  • They are Sun Protection. You can’t imagine how many people get the tops of their feet burned at fests. It’s the part you forget, the part that gets dirty and the sunscreen rubs off, the part (other than the top of your head) that gets the most sun as you walk from stage to stage.
  • They are Injury Prevention. I know someone who had the scary spiky grass of Bonnaroo pierce her flip flop and spike the bottom of her foot. I’ve had many a person step on my feet as they are wiggling to get closer to a stage, and my sister hobbled through one Bonnaroo because an unfolded E-Z Up tent fell on her foot. Mosh pits, hot cups of coffee, setting up camp accidents… boots keep your feet protected so you can enjoy the festival.
  • They are Cooler Than You Think. I wear a pair of DUO Boots I bought eons ago, they’re calf-height, very low heel, leather but have a shearling lining. They keep my legs warm in winter and surprisingly cool in summer. I wear with cotton or wool socks to add cushioning and breathability.
  • They Support Your Feet. TOMS are cute and may be comfy when walking around town, but they don’t have arch support or cushioning that can be quite nice after 12 hours of standing and walking on hard ground, rocky terrain, and concrete. Trust me. A boot can also be made even more comfy with insoles; I buy a new pair of insoles made for work boots prior to each music festival.
  • They Can Take a Beating. I spray my boots with waterproofing spray before I go and don’t even blink when I have to tromp through mud, dust, or worse. Most boots look better with some wear; when I get home I clean them, give them a good polishing, take out the insoles and have them ready for weekends and casual affairs.

Be they a pair of tall boots with a babydoll dress, lace-up granny boots with a peasant skirt, some Docs with denim cutoffs, or Western-inspired booties with a boho-inspired dress, a low-heeled boot can offer comfort, protection, and miles of style at a music festival. Don’t sacrifice your comfort for fashion when there’s alternatives that can give you the best of both worlds!

Do note that the sample ensembles feature some important things for festivals – sunhats with decent sized brims (no fedoras or beanies), large sunglasses, and bags that can be worn while you dance and rock out.  Your accessories are just as important as your shoes to ensure you have a fabulous time this summer at the music festival/s of your choice.

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What to Wear for Family Portraits

We’re planning a family reunion to surprise my grandma for her 80th birthday. The big event planned is a professional family photo. We have agreed on jewel tones and solid blacks or grey, but I am not quite sure what photographs well, is stylish and won’t have me cringing 20 years from now. I am a size 14, busty and my style tends to trend a bit rocker chic. The color of the items is less important, but what do you think I should lean towards in regards to shape, material and style?

what to wear for a family portrait

You lucked out with the color scheme! Not only is this easy to find at any pricepoint, size, and personal style, but it’s also going to look less dated in a decade or two.

Some colors just don’t photograph well, and one of those is red. Luckily, there’s a ton of other jewel tones available that are far more flattering. I recommend going with a true jewel tone instead of a primary – emerald or teal in place of Kelly green, berry or violet instead of purple, garnet or merlot over red. The color should be one that you like, as your relatives will likely be wearing all different shades.

I’d recommend a knit top in a saturated color – ponte knit, merino wool, silk knit, and silk jersey all hold color really nicely, drape well over curves, and will look better in a photo than a traditional jersey knit. When it comes to the top, neckline makes all the difference. The photographer will likely have some of you standing, others sitting, so the body will end up blending into a sea of jewel tones and black. Choosing an interesting neckline will flatter your face, elongate your neck, and possibly slim the look of your figure. Scoop, surplice (faux wrap), and v-necklines are usually the most flattering, but depending on your personal style you may prefer a square or boatneck.

For the bottom, I recommend black over gray. I bet most of your relatives will also wear black, so you will blend in. Not only that, choosing black pants or black skirt and opaque tights with black shoes makes current trends for hemlines, shoes, and cuts not as obvious when admiring the photo in the future. Keep accessories to a minimum for that is what dates a look the most. Maybe a small necklace or a small pair of earrings, but no statement pieces. A photograph like this is about your family, not your personal style. However, if you have a favorite piece of jewelry that was a gift from your grandma or a family heirloom, it would be a lovely touch to wear it for the shoot.

As for hair and makeup, no matter how classic you try to make it, it will still look dated in 25 years. I love watching historical dramas from the ‘70s and ‘80s and how they thought feathered hair or rust-colored streaks under the cheekbones looked historically accurate. Just be yourself, but the most polished version of yourself. This post on how to prepare for a professional headshot offers suggestions on how to do your hair and makeup for any photo shoot.

Finally, SMILE! Your grandma and your family for years to come will far more enjoy a genuine grin than a sophisticated pout or wan smile. They’ve seen your teeth, your gums, your cheekbones, your chin at Thanksgiving and your cousin’s wedding, this is not the time to be self-conscious or do weird faces in an attempt to look younger, thinner, or different. This is your family, they deserve the real and happy you. For there is nothing more attractive than a genuinely happy person!

Forecastle Festival 2012 – What I Wore

This is the first in a series about my experience at the Forecastle Music Festival. Additional posts will be about what I carried in my bag, and the festival itself.

This weekend I attended the Forecastle Music Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. The festival was over three days, we were staying in a hotel less than a half mile from the festival grounds and there was a good chance of rain. We miraculously were upgraded free to VIP which gave us access to air-conditioned bathroom trailers but we fully expected to be using porta-potties all weekend. The music was a mix, but mostly alternative, singer-songwriter, rock, and electronica. Music was taking place from around 2-3pm until midnight. Unlike our trips to Bonnaroo, the hotel was close enough to do an outfit change if it got cold at night or we got rained on.  Everything I took I fit in the largest size of Lands’ End tote bag.

Friday:
We entered the festival grounds around 5:30pm. I wore a white ribbed tank with a crocheted sweater over it (from Ann Taylor last year – seen here) and a pair of denim shorts from Target that I distressed myself. I don’t usually wear denim shorts this long and loose, but knew they would be good for walking, if I got sweaty, etc. On my feet I wore my Softspots Tatianna sandals. Since I knew we wouldn’t be there terribly long, I took my J. Crew suede tote (seen here).

Saturday:
The day started a bit earlier for us because we had tickets to see My Morning Jacket’s soundcheck. I wore a tee shirt with Keith Richards on it that I had cut up a while ago to give a more feminine cut. With it I wore a pair of denim cutoffs I have had for eons – they originally were gauchos and I cut them when gauchos were past their prime. Again the Softspots sandals, though this time I switched to my Kelty backpack. I knew I would be standing in line in the sun so I added a straw fedora I picked up at Target. The night before my shoulders hurt from the crossbody, and this bag has attended all Bonnaroos and similar events with me and is always comfortable.

After the soundcheck, we went back to the hotel to grab lunch. We went to a casual café in the hotel, so I just changed into a long-sleeved tee and some flip flops.

When we went back to the festival, I changed tee shirts since the morning one was sweaty and gross. I wore a bandanna around my neck to have for mopping sweat or protecting my head/neck from the sun, and changed into my DUO “Bern” boots since it had rained earlier in the day and I worried about mud. I wore Ray Ban aviators and carried my Kelty backpack.

When the festival ended for the night, we were hungry so we went back to the room to change and get food at the hotel’s sandwich shop. I wore a pair of old beat-up Gap Long and Lean jeans, a gray Vintage v-neck from Old Navy, and my Lolly Clothing scarf (seen here) with flip flops.

Sunday:
We started the day by checking out more of Louisville and grabbing brunch. I wore a brown Gap maxi dress, this necklace, and my Softspots sandals; I carried a tan leather tiny crossbody bag from HOBO.

When heading back to the festival, I dressed down, ready for sweat, dirt, and the possible beer splashed in my direction. I wore another tee shirt (seen here), and the same shorts from Friday evening. Since I didn’t experience much mud on Saturday, I went back to my Softspots sandals which are more supportive and comfortable when walking and standing.

On the ride down I wore the Gap jeans with a tee shirt and my sandals, on the ride home I wore white jeans, my blue-gray Vintage Old Navy v-neck, and my flip flops.

What Else I Packed:

  • Workout clothes. The hotel had a gym and I wanted sneakers in case we wanted to take an early-morning hike or walk.
  • Poncho (will detail this in future What’s in My Bag post)

What I Packed that I Didn’t Use:

  • Dresses. While I love cotton dresses at Bonnaroo, they just seemed too fancy and complicated for Forecastle. While there were many women in skirts and sundresses, I felt most comfortable in a pair of denim cutoffs so I could sit on the ground and not worry about strapless bras or bike shorts.
  • Long-sleeved shirts. I brought my orange plaid cotton voile button-front and my chambray shirt, thinking I could toss them on when the sun went down, but they weren’t necessary.
  • Nicer outfits. I knew there would be after parties at various bars and clubs in Downtown Louisville and brought clothes for them. However, we were pretty done after each day and headed back to the hotel.
  • Hair dryer. Hotel had one, but I never had a need to use it anyway – I let my hair air dry, and only used my curling iron for when we went to brunch.
  • Canvas cross-body. I bought this for Bonnaroo, but for Forecastle I always wanted a bag big enough to carry things like water and a chair.
  • Second pair of sunglasses. Good to have just in case, luckily that situation never happened.

All in all I felt really prepared and comfortable at Forecastle.  In fact my husband and I mentioned that we felt like professionals – never lacking for anything, not over-burdened but always had what we needed, quite comfortable and had a blast!

Details on the actual festival to come!

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What to Wear to Paris

Oooh la la I am tres jealous of the many of you readers who write to me asking for Paris packing advice! I can’t wait until I can return, it would be so nice to share the experience this time with Emerson. Until then I shall live vicariously through you… and my collages.

While I understand having nerves dressing for the City of Light, the way to look the most like a tourist is to try too hard. Parisians are known for their effortless style, and they don’t require huge wardrobes to be chic. It is possible to be comfortable, pack relatively light, dress for the ever-changing weather, and still be stylish. Here’s some tips:

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Sample Capsule Wardrobe:

Prepare for the Elements. Nothing ruins a trip faster than being too hot, too cold, and in the case of what often happens in Paris, too wet. Check the five-day forecast before you go. Bring layers, an umbrella, a trench that repels water as well as wind (the ones with removable linings are brilliant). A pashmina can be a wrap for a dress come evening, and during the day can tuck into the collar of your coat to ward off chill. Have shoes that can handle puddles and slush.

Focus on Shoes. You can be comfortable without wearing sneakers. I highly recommend anyone who is traveling to invest in a quality pair of supportive shoes that are versatile. A slip-on or Mary Jane style of shoe with arch support and a good sole will work with pants, shorts, skirts, and casual dresses year-round. Keep in mind that Paris has many cobblestone streets, so thin soles and thin heels can be uncomfortable.

I love wearing tall boots for travel – I waterproof them and wear them on the plane to save suitcase space and find they are comfortable for long days on my feet, especially if they end up soggy. A riding boot in brown or black looks smart pulled over dark wash jeans, with knee-length skirts of all styles, and makes cozy airplane fashion of heavyweight leggings and a knit tunic downright chic.

Keep it Simple. While Paris is known for fashion, its street style is not as extreme and wild as you will find in New York. More subtle colors, classic silhouettes, solid shades are a smart way to look chic and not stick out like a sore thumb. Black is always a safe bet because it can dress up and down with ease, hides stains, is less memorable and is eternally chic. Jeans are acceptable, but keep them a dark wash, a slimmer style, and free of overly trendy details and embellishments. Keep logos and prints to a minimum – not only is this more stylish but it’s far easier to re-wear pieces that are less memorable.

Unlike America where we have become famous for “more is more,” less is more in Paris. One accessory is plenty, be it a statement necklace, scarf, or cuff bracelet. Same with your beauty routine – a full face hides your natural beauty, choose lush lashes or red lips or flushed cheeks, not all. Don’t worry about the perfect blowout; a few bends, a low ponytail or a messy updo is chic and shows you’re not trying too hard.

If in Doubt, Overdress. I believe in this rule no matter where you are, but it’s especially good advice in Europe, where they dress more formally than we in America. Leather shoes in place of sneakers, trousers instead of jeans, sweaters in place of tee shirts. Dresses aren’t ridiculous for sight seeing, a simple boatneck tee-shirt inspired dress with anything from short to bracelet length sleeves is comfortable, travel-friendly, and chic. If chilly, pair with tights and boots, a pashmina and a trench or moto jacket. When warm, wear with ankle boots or flats. Wrap dresses are another versatile piece, pair with boots for day and pumps for evening.

And come evening, unless you know your audience and your personal style, leave the jeans and tee shirts in your hotel room. Even if it’s dinner in a simple café, a pair of trousers and a sweater or twinset is a better choice. No need to be decked out in silk and velvet, just have a bit more polish and care to your outfit. A scarf is a quick way to make anything look more polished, be it a printed silk square knotted at the throat or a cotton voile oblong piece looped around the throat.

Pack Smart Accessories. As I mentioned, a pashmina can multitask; a necklace with a ribbon closure can adjust length depending on your outfit; boots and flats can work with dresses as well as ankle-length trousers. A silk scarf can be tied to your purse for flair, around your neck for color, or even kerchief style on a windy day. A bag with a handle as well as a crossbody strap is on trend and great when you want your hands to drink a coffee or capture a photograph.

Keep a Simple Color Palette. There’s nothing wrong with dressing in all neutrals when on travel, it’s easier to rewear pieces, stains are less obvious, and pieces mix and match with ease. While I am one who loves hot pink and red and emerald green, when I travel my wardrobe is primarily black, gray, white, denim, and navy with only touches of color. A black boatneck knit tee dress is great for day with riding boots, but can work for evening with black pumps. A silk jersey shell with jeans and ballet flats is lovely for museum hopping; switch the denim for a black matte jersey maxi skirt and you’re prepared for your evening activities.

It’s okay to wear the same more than once, honestly it is! Take Tide to Go pens, a bar of Ivory soap, and spot clean your clothing. One thing nice is that travel-friendly fabrics like matte jersey are also quick drying – spot clean, hang up, and it will be ready to be re-worn the next day. The French usually have smaller closets than we and do this on a regular basis, to re-wear is smart and chic!

I always believe that the simpler the wardrobe, the more time you have to enjoy your trip.  Pack smart, and use your energy to see the sights and soak in the culture!





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What to Wear on an Alaskan Cruise

Via your emails, comments and contact form submissions, it seems as though many of you are planning cruises to Alaska in the next year and are wondering what to pack. I have written about what to pack for a cruise before, but that assumes that you are headed to a warm tropical locale. While the same fashion can be worn for formal nights on a cruise or when spending time on the ship, the main thing to factor is excursions.

Unlike a tropical cruise where excursions include zip lines, kayaks, and private beaches; an Alaskan cruise will have excursions that will require you to be prepared for the elements. The weather can be very different depending on where you are and what you are doing, so it is best to dress in layers. My husband and I took a cruise through the fjords in Norway and at some points I was freezing and other times I was frantically shedding layers to be comfortable in the warm sun. From what I have read and from what friends have told me, it seems that it can be quite similar to Alaska, where it can be downright frigid near the glaciers and in the middle of summer can be anywhere between 40 to 70 degrees during the day. Some ports like Juneau are more rainy than others, and Alaska can also be pretty windy (as can the ship deck).

Your main clothing can be pretty typical – a pair of jeans or pants, a long-sleeved tee or lightweight sweater and possibly a base layer (camisole or undershirt). However, what you put over all this is what’s important. A fleece jacket is great because it is warm, water and wind resistant. A hood will make it all the more versatile and can be your lightweight jacket for the entire trip. While most cruises provide ponchos, having a proper raincoat can be a very good thing – much warmer and more durable. I have a packable hooded raincoat from Calvin Klein (not mine, but a similar version) that I adore because it’s waterproof, windproof, long enough to cover the rear when sitting, cinches at the waist to ward off chill and flatter the figure, but is loose enough to comfortably layer over a sweater or fleece. Since it’s packable, it can handle being stuffed in a bag when the weather warms. Speaking of stuffing in a bag, having a packable tote or backpack is great for excursions so you have somewhere to stuff your coat when you get warm or store your souvenirs.

Hats are an instant way to be warm and protected and they don’t take a lot of room. A fleece beanie takes up no space and can protect your ears and scalp from wind and rain; a crushable bucket hat can not only keep you and your camera dry when taking photos in drizzle, but it can also double as a sun hat. A pair of lightweight gloves also take up little space in your suitcase and will be nice to have if you visit the ice fields. There will be sun, even if it’s hidden behind clouds so be sure to apply sunscreen and bring sunglasses. Alaska is known for its mosquitoes, so be sure to pack a bottle of bug repellant.

Shoes can make or break your adventure, so be sure whatever pair you take is properly broken in before your journey. While they may be adorable, this is not the time for Hunter boots. A hiking shoe or boot that is lightweight will make for easy walking and fewer blisters; one made with Gor-Tex will also be waterproof. If you plan on doing a lot of activities, you may want a second pair of walking or hiking shoes. This is a good time to invest in proper hiking socks – they are shaped, padded, and from high-tech materials (or good old merino wool) to keep your toes dry and warm all day.

Not every part of an excursion will have you fighting the elements; use your raincoat or fleece with an umbrella tucked in your bag for shopping and sightseeing. This is also a great time to have that packable bag to hold your coat or new purchases.

As for the rest of your clothing, bring your bathing suit – even though it’s chilly on land, the ship is often warm enough to take a dip in the pool or hot tub. Instead of a gauzy pareo, a thicker terry cover up may be a wiser choice for poolside. For daytime, pants and shorts with lightweight sweaters and knit tops will be good – layers will also be good on deck (as well as a pair of binoculars!). For evening, standard cruise attire applies. A handful of LBDs, cocktail dresses, or sparkly tops with dressy pants or skirt will get you through dinners and drinks at a bar. Finally, don’t forget the workout gear! Cruise ships have wonderful gyms and a workout can help with the longer days and different time zone!

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What to Wear to a Concert

To some, music is a religious experience. While many houses of worship these days encourage a “come as you are” dress code, I don’t recommend doing so either for church or a concert. While I doubt neither a god nor a rock god would question your devotion based upon your attire, what you choose to wear is a sign of respect. This is not just respect for the artist, but for the venue, the staff, and the audience around you.

Saturday night, I went to the newly renovated historic Howard Theater in Washington DC to see Chuck Berry perform. The theater is gorgeous and elegant, a fine dining establishment as well as concert venue. Waiters in crisp black shirts and trousers served us delicious fare and signature cocktails at our table where we were just a dozen feet or so from the stage where a living legend would perform. For such an event, I felt it appropriate to dress as I would for an evening at a nice restaurant. My sister and I wore dresses that would have been appropriate at work or a party, my mother wore cobalt blue cropped trousers with a black drapey cardigan and bold silver jewelry.

I knew considering the venue and the entertainment for the evening, fashion would run the gamut from jeans to sequins. Figuring the artist would appeal mainly to those from his generation, I assumed that the crowd would be dressed nicely (trousers, refined jeans with a fun or fancy jacket, more casual of dresses) and with respect. Unfortunately, I was very wrong. A large percentage of the crowd was in worn jeans, faded band tee shirts and dirty sneakers. While a concert is a place to show your music devotion, to do so at the Howard Theater in a torn black Johnny Cash tee shirt washed so often it has turned a weird shade of gray-green is not how to do it.

The thing is, such attire can be appropriate to certain concerts and live music venues. Below I try to break down the different types of concert venues and when it makes sense to wear your beloved well-worn Johnny Cash tee, and when it should be left at the bottom of your dresser drawer.


The Coffee Shop
One of my favorite places for live music is a small café or coffee shop. While patrons sip their cappuccinos and discuss politics, a lesser-known (for now) artist or small band perform an acoustic set. It’s a great way to try out different genres of music, support local artists, and often experience a musician before they get their big break. At such a place, casual attire is expected and encouraged. Wear your favorite band on your shirt (or the artist on the stage), rock your well-worn denim, and choose attire that makes you feel like yourself. At such a place, most anything goes so you can go with jeans or you can wear a dress and heels. However, do remember you are more likely to be able to meet and chat with the musician – don’t wear your tattered tee and sweatpants; choose clothing in good condition to show your respect for the artist (and to be ready in case of a photo op!).


The Dive Bar
Another fabulous place to see an artist perform – the crowd is enthusiastic, the beer is cheap, and folks are more interested in the band than what you are wearing. You will most likely be standing most of the night, so choose your footwear accordingly. A bar is a bit more social than a coffee shop, so your attire can be more festive – trade the cozy sweater for a fitted tee, and wear your most flattering jeans but feel free to be more relaxed in your attire. Dress for a night out of fun and feel free to don the sequined tank, the smoky eye, or the wristful of bangles.


The Concert in the Park
Maybe it’s an amphitheater in town, possibly it’s a day festival in the park, or it could be the Louisiana Swamp Romp at Wolf Trap – such an event is relatively small in scale and relaxed in nature. Folks bring their kids, their picnic blankets, lie back in the grass and enjoy the wonderful combination of music and nature. You’ll often be sitting on the ground, so this is not the place for the Herve Leger bandage dress or stiletto heels. However, there’s no need to don sweats. Celebrate the wonderful weather and wonderful venue with cropped pants, shorts, or a fuller skirt or dress that will make it easy to sit and kneel without exposure. I don’t recommend jeans as they are usually too rigid for comfortable ground-sitting, but also don’t recommend delicate fabrics or pieces that wrinkle easily. Twill, crisp cotton, sturdy knits, and gauzy fabrics are your best bet for an outdoor event of this style. Wear flats or wedges so you can easily walk in soft grass or on gravel, and be sure to bring a waterproof groundcloth in case you end up sitting in a slightly muddy area.


The General Admission Club
As you know from my blog, I love the 9:30 Club in DC. I have been going since I was a teen and they were at their old location, and enjoy the energy of a GA crowd. The attire for such a venue is pretty similar to that of a bar – comfortable shoes for standing, and fun yet semi-casual attire. While jeans and band tee shirts are a common uniform at such a venue, it is also acceptable to wear dresses and the sort of attire appropriate for a night out on the town. Some venues like this are more trendy than others, I recommend checking out their website before attending to see if it’s a place for tee shirts, or one for more stylish garb.  I often wear dresses and boots to have comfort as well as style appropriate for any location. Keep in mind that there won’t be a place for you to store your purse – carry a crossbody or bag you can comfortably keep at your side yet still lets you dance the night away. I usually pare down my purse contents to just the essentials (lipstick, maybe powder, ID, credit card, ticket, phone with built-in camera) so I can have a small bag or even just store everything in my jean pockets.


The Theater or Historic Venue
Maybe you’re seeing The Jacksons Unity Tour at the Lyric Opera House, Blue Oyster Cult at the Howard Theater, or Ryan Adams at the Strathmore. These are venues that not only showcase musical artists, but also award galas, ballets, and special events. The décor at such a venue is elegant and refined, they occasionally have dining with waiter service or posh lounge areas to enjoy before the event or at intermission.

While you may be able to see the same artist the next night at a seedy GA club, that doesn’t mean you should wear the same attire. You should dress more for the venue than the artist. Such venues have dedicated staff and committees working hard to keep them looking great, and often go to great lengths for fundraising to cover renovations and upgrades. To attend an event in a place with chandeliers wearing a pair of filthy Reeboks is utterly inappropriate. No need to don a ballgown, but a pair of proper shoes, crisp jeans with a fun top, or a dress or pair of elegant trousers is fitting. However, if the event has a theme (it’s at Christmas, New Year’s Eve, the anniversary of the venue, being filmed for a live concert video), it would be appropriate to dress in a more formal manner.


The Arena
Maybe it’s Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland, possibly it’s where your local sports team plays. This is a large venue made to host big concerts from well-known acts, usually with big flashy sets. Such a venue is usually stadium seating with tickets assigned to each seat. For such an event, you can wear the same thing as you would to a GA club – jeans or dresses with shoes that let you stand up and dance for two hours straight. Though you will have a seat to place your coat, I still recommend a crossbody bag or at least putting your valuables on your person. The one thing to consider at such a venue is stairs – you will be climbing up and down stairs to visit the concession stand or bathroom, and will be sitting often at a strong incline (may not be the best for very high heels or very short skirts).

Such a venue is also the place for the True Fan. Here’s where Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters can get decked out in sequins and spangle, Marilyn Manson’s audience can wear crazy contacts and black lipstick, Further fans will be in tie-dye Grateful Dead tees from years ago, and you will see a gaggle of Katy Perry preteen fans in matching tee shirts and glittery UGG boots. Dressing the part of the True Fan is an accepted and fun experience.

Many venues like this also have a field for general admission seating – if you have tickets for this portion of the arena, refer to the dress code for a concert in the park.


The Music Festival
I recently wrote about this sort of venue here. Pretty much, dress first for the weather and conditions, and then dress for your personal style and passion for the music.

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What to Wear for a Hospital Vigil

This morning I stood in front of my closet, feeling like a superficial, self-absorbed jerk. I was trying to figure out what to wear, and in a few hours my sister was going to have brain surgery. How could I be even THINKING about fashion at a time like this?

Then I remembered all the other times I have spent all day (and all night and sometimes the next day) in a hospital waiting room, anxious for an update on a loved one. Times when my poor sartorial choices distracted me from the situation at hand. Shivering in too lightweight of a sweater, sweltering in a wool turtleneck, gas pains from too tight jeans, aching feet in heels, constantly adjusting a wrinkled-beyond-belief button-front shirt. Remembering that no matter how somber or stressful the situation, taking a moment to think before you dress can make you far more comfortable, as well as helpful to others.

I decided on my black and ivory striped long-sleeve LOFT tee, a red cashmere pashmina looped around my throat (Christmas gift from my sister), my black MICHAEL Michael Kors thigh-length sweater coat, my NYDJ jeans tucked into my new black riding boots from DUO. I made my hair straight, knowing that when it’s that way it holds up better after napping, or if I can’t leave in the next day or so to take a shower.

I chose red, because it is a power color, and a cheery color. I chose a larger pair of jeans for the added comfort level (and possible bloating from salty snack bar meals and caffeinated sodas to keep me awake long hours). Boots which are as comfortable as sneakers, but make me feel more confident and look more pulled together. Every piece with spandex so I won’t be a rumpled mess by time my sister is in Recovery.

Clothing is armor, a way to feel strong and confident in uncomfortable or strange situations. Caring about yourself doesn’t mean you are a selfish person, but a prepared individual. By taking those few moments in front of the closet for myself, it made me far more ready to care for my sister and family the rest of the day. A half hour of self-care results in hours of care for others without a single thought about how I may look, how I may feel.

This is not a subject I like to be an expert in, but over the past couple of decades I have become quite the pro at waiting at hospitals for loved ones. I have learned that proper preparation in regard to my fashion has ensured I am helpful, quick to respond, comfortable, and not a burden. I feel comfortable seeing friends and family who come to visit, having consultations with doctors, and staying for long periods of time away from home. Here’s my tips for how to have a comfortable experience as a hospital visitor:

Wear Layers. Hospitals are either freezing cold or suffocatingly hot. It doesn’t matter if it’s January or July, it’s smart to wear layers. Start with a lightweight knit layer – a refined tee shirt that looks smart when worn by itself. Over that, I recommend a stretchy jacket or cardigan – something that can be balled up into a makeshift pillow or stuffed into a toe bag but can then be put on without looking like a crumpled paper bag. Finally, I am a huge fan of pashminas – a large scarf that can be looped around the throat for a pop of color or warmth, can be wrapped around the shoulders as a shawl, or can be a makeshift blanket.

Wear Stretch. Not only will stretch keep your clothes from looking crumpled over the hours, but it will also keep your comfortable after hours of sitting in an uncomfortable waiting room chair. Ponte de Roma trousers are as comfy as yoga pants but more refined and polished; a pair of dark denim with 3-5% Lycra will look great but also hold up throughout the day or night.

Pieces like button-front shirts and structured jackets will prove uncomfortable and awkward in a waiting room setting. Weirdly shaped chairs that force you to slouch, constantly taking off and putting on layers for fluctuating temperatures, and the random catnap sitting up will leave you with your bra peeking through buttonholes, strong creases in cotton, and you looking as bedraggled as you feel. While the idea of a crisp white shirt may make you feel strong at 8am, you will regret it by noon.

Wear Color. Red and pink me feel happy, feminine, confident so I wear them when I feel sad or stressed. If you are to be strong or cheerful, it’s far easier to do it when wearing a strong or cheerful color. While I don’t expect you to dress like a box of crayons, adding at least a pop of color to your ensemble will show you have a positive outlook on the situation.

Wear Your Heart. When my father was in the hospital just before he passed away, I went to visit him wearing my favorite sweater of his. It is a cobalt and magenta marled turtleneck that looked cool on him in the ‘70s and looked pretty cool on me with vintage jeans in the ‘90s. My dad was in and out of consciousness as I went into his room, I caught him at a lucid moment. He looked at me, winked and said, “Nice sweater, kid.”

Did your grandmother give you her strand of wedding pearls? Does your mother like you best in blue? Did your husband buy you an amber bracelet in Bermuda? If you even think of that accessory, color or garment when planning the day see that as life giving you a sartorial suggestion. Not only will it make you feel closer to that person during a difficult time, it will bring a smile to your loved one’s face when they get a chance to see you in Recovery.

Wear Comfortable Shoes. You will be standing a lot, sitting a lot, and depending on the size of the hospital campus you may be walking a lot. A sturdy shoe with a low heel and a roomy toebox will stay comfortable as your feet swell during the day or if you have to wear your shoes for an extended amount of time.

What to Bring:

  • A Reusable Water Bottle. Fill up your bottle with water at home for you may not have access to anything other than $5 8 oz. bottles and the public bathroom sink once you get to the hospital. Staying hydrated will keep you from feeling sluggish and will help with circulation during long hours of sitting or pacing.
  • Snacks. Some hospitals have wonderful snack bars and restaurants, others notsomuch. Even if you have access to food, it may not be the quality desire or the price you want to pay. Today I brought two FiberOne granola bars, two apples, a bag of microwave popcorn, and a bag of baby carrots for me and my mom, my mom also brought her own bag of snacks. Most hospitals will have at least coffee and a microwave available, but you cannot rely on filtered water or refrigeration. Find that comfortable balance between yummy comfort food and healthy choices – if you lean too far in either direction you may end up feeling miserable.
  • Entertainment. Today I brought my laptop, a journal, the latest issue of Bazaar, and a novel. It’s good to have variety because you may be too distracted to be able to focus on your book, or find the Internet overwhelming. I really encourage all to have a way to write down their feelings – when you are in a position where you need to be strong but don’t feel that way, writing or typing your feeling can help alleviate the stress and keep you strong for loved ones. It’s also a good way to journal the situation if you have a bad or wonderful hospital situation or want to let the patient know what happened while they were in surgery.
  • Basic Toiletries. Even successful procedures can go longer than expected; having basic beauty products on hand can make your stay more comfortable. Toothpaste and toothbrush, eye rewetting drops for contacts (I also encourage a case and travel-sized bottle of solution and backup glasses in case of an overnight vigil), and I really love Body Shop’s Vitamin E Face Mist for rehydrating skin after a trying day or to help reset makeup if you had a bit of a cryfest. 

    I also bring makeup for a touch-up after a snooze or some tears – in my bag is a travel pack of facial cleansing wipes, a tube of mascara, Philosophy’s The Supernatural mineral foundation (foundation and powder in one and a spill-proof container), and Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Rose (can double as blush). 

    If you take medications, bring them. You don’t want to have to rush home for your pills at a time like this.

  • Phone Charger. Nothing is worse than having your phone die when you need it. All day I have been using my phone to keep friends and family posted on my sister’s progress and when I’m not texting or emailing, I have it plugged into a USB charger cord connected to my laptop. A wall charger is the best choice – every waiting room has an outlet or two available even if it doesn’t have WiFi.
  • Calendar. Whether it’s on your phone, or your paper agenda book, have your calendar ready to help the patient schedule post-op appointments or plan out family get-togethers in the upcoming days.
  • Cash. Dollars to pay for parking, quarters for meters and vending machines – hospitals are known for not being credit card-friendly. Instead of having to search all over for an ATM with an insane user fee, be prepared with at least $30 a day ($10 or more in $1 bills and at least $2 in quarters).

***

I hope you never have to use this information, but if you do please know that caring for yourself and your personal style at such a time is not selfish. If you care for yourself, you can do a far better job at caring for others. Take the time to nurture and prepare yourself so you can dedicate yourself to the health of your loved one.

Note: Thank you to all who have shared this post with those who need this information.  My thoughts go out to you and I wish you strength during this difficult time.  My sister made it out of surgery great, they got all of the tumor and she is recovering nicely.  I wish the same to your loved ones.  Much love to all of you!

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What to Wear on Weekends?

Saturday my family and I went to an open house for the neighborhood nursery school. This is an amazing school – great teacher to child ratio, walking distance from the house, co-op, encourages parent involvement. The open house began at 10:00 but we didn’t arrive until after 12:00 because my husband teaches yoga Saturday mornings. While he was at his class, I got dressed for the event. We were walking to the open house, so I had to wear something that worked with my walking-friendly DUO boots. Too cold for a dress, and anyway it’s too difficult to crawl on the floor with a toddler in a shift. I decided on tucking a dark pair of jeans into the tan boots. Now for the top – I didn’t want to look too glam – they may think I am a distant mother who can’t handle a sticky finger handprint. I also didn’t want to wear a long pendant necklace that could hit Emerson or another kiddo if I bent down to help them with a toy. However I didn’t want to not look like myself, and I am not a woman who regularly leaves her home in hoodies or tee shirts. I ended up wearing a black and white Breton-stripe tee shirt with a short black coral necklace, and my Lands End black quilted coat.

My husband came home and asked me how long it took for me to put together a look of jeans, a tee shirt, and my go-to boots. Um, about 30 minutes, and during those 30 minutes I tried on five different striped shirts.

It may seem ridiculous to worry so much about what I wear to such a small and informal event, but people are judged on first impressions no matter the situation, no matter the time. You could make a late-night dash to CVS for cough syrup for your little one and bump into your college sweetheart. You could be in line at Starbucks and meet someone who could offer you your dream job. While pumping gas, you may see your favorite celebrity at a different pump and have the opportunity to meet him and snap a photo. Who hasn’t bumped into a neighbor when shopping at the grocery store or picking up takeout at the nearby pizza parlor?

While deciding on a striped tee, I was glad that I had a pared-down wardrobe. No stained, oversized, or embarrassing items in the collection. If it’s not wearable, it’s repaired or removed. No “skinny jeans” taking up real estate in my drawer, no “bummy” clothes to wear lounging around the house. Just options.

I used to have a drawer full of “lounge” clothes. Faded yoga pants, old tee shirts, hoodies, fleece pullovers. These were clothes I would change into after work or slip on Sunday mornings. They were comfy, warm, cozy, and it didn’t matter if they got splattered with bacon grease or baby spitup. The thing is, when you have a collection of such clothing, it becomes very difficult to separate them from your gym attire, and your street attire. It’s easy to justify wearing old sweatpants and your husband’s windbreaker to the grocery store when it is readily available. If you start your weekend day in loungewear and then have to run to the bank or to take your child to a play date, it’s too easy, and takes less time to leave your attire as-is for such an errand.

I still have a drawer of “lounge” clothes, but they are all clothes that are in good condition. Two pairs of dark black yoga pants, and a few scoop-neck tees that nip in at the waist and are in bright jewel tones. Two hoodies – one dark black, one in a gorgeous shade of berry – both in great condition. A pair of padded bike shorts and two moisture-wicking tops for when I go for a ride with my husband. A couple band tee shirts – most with the neck cut out to have a more flattering silhouette. One sweatshirt – a navy crewneck from college. One pair of vintage jeans that are a length that works with sneakers and flat shoes. One pair of olive chino shorts.

That’s it. From this collection I have something to wear to the gym or a yoga class, something to wear when painting a piece of furniture on the back deck, something to wear when working in the garden or on the car.

On weekends I wear a pair of jeans with Lycra so I can crawl under furniture to dust, chase after Emerson and still look pulled together. On top I wear a tank or tee with a layer on top – a cardigan, soft jacket, sweater. The bottom layer keeps the top layer from having to be laundered after every wear; the top layer is of a flattering yet machine-washable fabric and usually of a solid color. Many times, the same sweaters and tops I wear to work with trousers and pencil skirts are worn on the weekend with jeans. Come summer, I spend most weekends in cotton sundresses – I find gems for less than $15 at shops like Ross and Marshall’s.

As previously mentioned, I don’t wear sneakers unless I am going to the gym. I have a pair of tall flat boots (the DUO boots) that can be worn under bootcut jeans or pulled over narrow denim. I add a waterproofing spray twice a year so they can survive spring showers and winter slush. In the garden and when doing dirty projects like spraypainting or getting in the attic, I must admit I wear a pair of Crocs. Come summer, I love leather sandals – each year Lands End and Lands End Canvas sell a flat leather sandal that looks great with shorts, skirts, and pants and is as comfortable as a pair of Old Navy flip flops.

When you have too many options, you have too much opportunity for error.

I encourage you to take an evening this week (or an hour or two of your weekend) and go through your comfortable garb. Do you really need eight pairs of sweatpants? How about those smelly Chucks you have owned since college? All those tee shirts from college – consider having them made into a quilt and head to Target or another discount retailer for some new tee shirts in feminine silhouettes and flattering colors. Base the size of your collection on the amount of activities you do where you can’t afford to ruin your street clothes. It’s appealing to save specific ensembles just for painting your home or washing the dog, but I bet the apparel for these events can be consolidated into one or two outfits.

As you would do with your regular wardrobe, make three piles – keep, donate, repair. Rarely can loungewear be repaired, but sometimes you can stitch up a loose seam in a pair of yoga pants or re-thread the drawstring on a hoodie. If the item is in condition where you wouldn’t want to be caught dead in it, it shouldn’t take up real estate in your wardrobe.

Often you will complete this purge and realize you don’t have enough of what you really need – well-fitting yoga pants when you have old terry sweatpants, moisture-wicking tops when you only have ratty tees, a rain-resistant pullover when all you have are old jersey sweatshirts. Make a list, carry it with you, and slowly buy quality pieces that fit, flatter, and can handle a beating.

Life is an amazing adventure, and takes place whether or not you are up for the ride. Being dressed well for the journey makes it all the more enjoyable. When you have a well-stocked wardrobe, you can spend your life living, not dreading the chance to bump into your ex.

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What to Wear to a Conference

At some time in your life you will attend a conference. It may be for your church, your blog, your job. These days it seems that everyone is sponsoring one, and everyone is attending.

So with all these conferences on your agenda, what the heck are you supposed to wear?

Yesterday I attended an industry conference and was surrounded by folks who drool over iPads and Droids instead of Manolos and Marc Jacobs. However I have attended conferences for blogging, for fashion, for charities, for previous industries, for my church. Even though the topics are different, the fashion is generally the same.

A conference is a place to learn about new trends, new technology, and brainstorm as a group. However conferences are most popular because they are a place to network. Think of a conference as a laid-back job interview – you never know, the person sitting next to you during one presentation could be your new boss if you play your cards right, or could be the person to take your current job from good to great. Considering this, it is important to put your best-dressed foot forward.

Image Courtesy Hole in the Donut Travels  

Basic Conference Fashion Rules:

  • Cleavage is not cool. Unless you are attending a conference of Hooters employees, it’s not cool to show off a bunch of cleavage. This doesn’t mean wearing a turtleneck in August, however a camisole with your wrap dress or v-neck sweater would be a good idea.
  • Have your clothes fit. A conference, like a job interview, is a place where a person can spend a lot of time looking at you. While you stand sipping your coffee or sit at a table in a ballroom taking notes, having clothes that fit will make you look more confident and more successful. It is better to have a cheap jacket button without gaping and have the sleeves at the right length, than swim in a designer jacket that is the wrong size or shape. Along with this, a conference is not the place for safety pins, Stitch Witchery or other makeshift manners of hemming and altering of garments. If you don’t have the time to take the piece to a tailor, don’t wear it.
  • Polish your shoes. Again, it’s not as much the cost of the shoe as it is the condition. A pair of black pumps from Marshalls can do just fine with a bit of polish and shine. Scuffed shoes, worn down heels, peeling soles don’t put forth a confident and professional appearance.
  • Don’t wear anything that can’t handle being worn for long periods of time, and be worn for that period of time while sitting. A conference is not the place to wear linen (unless it’s a conference at a tropical resort). So many times I see women in cotton sheaths or slim fitting trousers who stand up after a lecture and covered in a sea of wrinkles and creases. Also be sure what you wear is comfortable – there is nothing worse than spending hours at an event with a waistband digging into your belly or a shirt pulling at your shoulders each time you lean forward. Give your clothes a practice run – try wearing them while sitting, while writing or typing. See how the outfit holds up – does your bra peek through the buttons of your shirt when you lean forward? Does the zipper scratch your neck? Find out these things before you arrive onsite.
  • Bring layers! Ballrooms and hotel conference rooms are known for having the A/C on max – prepare by bringing a jacket, cardigan or even pashmina that can be wrapped around your shoulders when chilly, or tucked into your bag when it gets warm.
  • Have a bag for swag. Most conferences offer some sort of swag, be it logoed pens, tee shirts, or treats from the sponsors. Instead of being the goof walking around with a plastic bag stuffed to the gills, prepare with a bag big enough to hold your essentials plus what you acquire at the event (if you are attending an event where you know there will be lots of swag prepare with a packable tote in your primary bag).
  • Pack your bag properly. Don’t show up at a conference empty-handed. I like to bring my own note pad, several pens (one will always die on me), a fully-charged phone (and charger if you plan on Tweeting or using it to surf the Web), a camera (you never know who you will meet or what you will see that will inspire future work), basic purse essentials (check out my purse essentials for ideas). If you have a laptop, netbook or iPad, this is the place to bring it. Blogging, work-related, tech, and many personal topic conferences encourage their attendees to Tweet, blog, and Facebook post about the event in real-time.
  • Bring business cards. If you are attending a work-related event, bring your work cards. However even if you are attending a conference for personal reasons, it’s such a good idea to have business cards to pass out to new contacts and friends. VistaPrint offers free business cards (only pay for shipping – and get 50% off everything else if you first go to Ebates) – get some with your name, cell number, email address, and any relevant social networking addresses (blog, Twitter, personal Web site, etc.). These business cards will show their worth in a short time – you will find that you not only dole them out at conferences, but will pass them to people in line at the grocery store, at your son’s playgroup, at a bridal shower. My mom just ordered new personal business cards – they have an image in the background that she likes, and they have her email address and telephone number. She passes these out at all those situations where you’re ready to tear off a piece of paper and write down your digits, a Web site, a recipe, etc.

Image courtesy IUAP 

Job-related Conference
Don’t be afraid to ask about the dress code – I actually found out the dress code for yesterday’s conference by watching the Twitter feed for the event. Another woman had the guts to ask, and I was happy to also receive the answer. Conference veterans often have their uniforms for such events and don’t even think twice. Men also have it pretty easy – a suit, or at least a nice shirt with trousers works for most any event. We as women have a harder time; don’t be afraid to email the event organizers and ask – it’s better than wearing a power suit in a room full of jeans (or jeans in a room full of suits).

Speaking of which, it’s always better to dress up than dress down. Yes, there were a few folks in jeans at yesterday’s conference, but at least 70% of the crowd was in business attire and the rest were in non-denim versions of business casual. I am not one who feels comfortable or myself in a suit; I chose to wear a sheath dress with a ponte knit jacket on top – it was comfortable and still business attire.

If you can’t find out the dress code, it’s best to dress in what you would usually wear to work (as long as your workplace expects clothes other than jeans and sweats). A nice tailored shirt or sweater with crisp trousers or skirt is a nice non-suit – pair with tall boots or pumps for a classic look that isn’t boring or dowdy. As women we can also wear dresses, which is a great way to look professional while still showing personality and flattering the figure.

As mentioned, I recommend wearing a closed-toe shoe for the same reason I encourage women to hide their cleavage – you don’t know who will be there, and who may be offended. Keep hemlines hovering around the knee, feel free to wear tailored but not tight clothes, and in most circles, better to be safe than sorry and cover those tootsies.

When it comes to personal style, I am all for letting it show a bit. Wear your favorite color, switch out the black pumps for one with a leopard print or a platform in a rich-colored suede. Instead of a suit, consider a cashmere wrap sweater or a leather motocross-inspired jacket with a simple pencil skirt.  Prints are a way to stand out in the crowd without drawing the wrong attention. Yesterday I couldn’t help but notice a woman in a tan and brown giraffe-print wrap dress – the dress fit her well, wasn’t too showy, but was beautiful sight in a sea of grays and blacks.

Also consider your accessories – keep them professional, but don’t be afraid to show a bit of your personal style. I overheard conversations between colleages speaking of another conference attendee. I heard people being described as, “the woman with the purple glasses,” or “the woman with the orange scarf.” If you want to network and make an impression, consider an accessory to have you stand out in the crowd. This doesn’t mean bring your Mac in a Hello Kitty laptop sleeve or wear a pair of lime green leather pants, but it’s a great idea to choose a red croco-embossed tote, a beautiful enamel pin on your lapel, a fabulous scarf at your throat. Be memorable without being outlandish.

Image Courtesy Flickriver

Creative Job-related Conference
There are creative jobs, and then there are all other jobs. When you work in a creative field, dress codes are far more relaxed.

Here, you could carry off lime green leather trousers or a Hello Kitty laptop sleeve. It’s important to show what type of creative force you are – whether you are great at design, photography, social media, fashion, or art. However keep in mind that the day is not about you, but about the speakers and topics. Think about how celebs and fashionistas dress when attending Fashion Week – they dress to impress, but never to outshine the fashion on the runways. Respect the event, but stay true to yourself.

Image courtesy Venus Vision

Personal Conference
Maybe you are a direct seller or sorority member attending your national conference. Possibly you are attending an event for fellow scrapbookers or bloggers. You could be attending an event supporting your church or political party. Personal topic conferences are becoming more and more popular; even if they don’t relate to your place of employment it is still important to dress to impress.

Consider a personal conference like a creative conference. Dress to show your personality, as well as the tone of the event. Again, don’t fear contacting the event coordinators to find out the dress code, and be sure to wear something that is comfortable for hours of sitting, standing, and sometimes trekking around a major city.

Personal conferences are often more casual – think casual Friday. I don’t believe in showing up to an event in ratty jeans, tennies and a sweatshirt, but do think that dark, stylish jeans are usually appropriate when matched with more polished pieces. Think jeans with tall boots over them, or jeans with a boyfriend blazer or Chanel-inspired cardigan and silk camisole. Dresses are always a great conference choice because they are flattering and comfortable. Pair with tall boots or wedges for a stylish walking-friendly look.

Image Courtesy socialmedia.biz  

The Multi-day Conference
Many conferences are more than just one day, and usually have events that take place before and after work hours. Be sure to go over the agenda and see what sort of events are taking place – is there a happy hour at a restaurant? Visit the restaurant’s Web site to see if it’s a place for jeans and Buffalo wings, or cocktail dresses and martinis. Also plan for events you don’t think you will attend – you never know who you will meet and befriend – they may encourage you to go horseback riding or to a nightclub when from the safety of your home you wouldn’t ever expect to do such things. It’s always a safe bet to pack and outfit that would work for an outdoor/athletic excursion and a LBD or sparkly top to have just in case you head to a more festive evening event.

Longer conferences are more likely to offer a dress code up front, and it’s usually a more relaxed attire than one-day events. Conference coordinators know that people are coming by plane and don’t expect you to pack three days worth of power suits. This is a time when dresses are great – they can pack into nothing, steam out usually by hanging in the bathroom while you take a hot shower, and are versatile.

Shoes usually take up the most space in a suitcase, so plan out your wardrobe where you can get away with the fewest pairs. I like pumps because they can be paired with skirts, dresses, pants and even some jeans. Also be sure to pack a pair of walking-friendly shoes – longer conferences often have tourist-friendly events like museum-hopping or a shopping tour.

Think of a multi-day conference as you would a trip overseas – pack versatile, multi-use pieces like black sheath dresses, dark jeans and black pumps, pack clothes that can withstand being stuffed in a suitcase or being sat in for hours on end, shoes that can be worn and walked in for an entire day, and layers to feel comfortable no matter the temperature. As with any event, be sure to show your personal style with fabulous accessories, your favorite colors, and your favorite signature piece, be it a paisley scarf, a pumpkin-colored velvet blazer, a print matte jersey wrap dress or vintage-inspired T-strap heels.

No matter the topic or length, a conference is a place to not only learn, but to network. Be respectful to the other attendees and the event, but always stay true to your personal style!

Giveaway: Gap Skimmer Jeans – Save and Win!

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

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

How to Enter:

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Ask Allie: What to Wear to India

I am headed on a 2-week trip to India. I want to be comfortable sightseeing and spending lots of time on trains and planes, but still stylish. Any ideas for a capsule wardrobe for keeping cool, covered up, and stylish?

I am glad you are asking this. While many first think of the temperature when traveling to other countries, the first thing you should be considering is the culture of that area and dressing in a manner to respect it. While women in the more cosmopolitan and touristy parts of India like Goa will be seen in jeans, sleeveless tops and even bikinis, a more conservative look is the best choice to have a versatile wardrobe for every stop on your trip to India.

We often think conservative in regard to length, but when packing for India, it also means fit. Clothing should cover at least the shoulders and knees and not have low necklines, but pieces should also be loose so the curves of your figure are not on display (loose clothing is also more comfortable in the heat). Consider the type of fabric and avoid those that may be transparent in the sun or cling when you sweat or walk. Cotton or cotton/silk blends are the best for opacity and comfort in the heat.

Wearing Indian fashion (appropriately) won’t make you look like a poseur, it will instead make it more likely that you won’t stand out or offend. But if you’re hesitant, this is something you can decide once you arrive on the ground and have had a chance to assess your personal comfort level. You can find ready to wear kurtis (tunics), kurtas (longer tunics that are around knee length), selwar kameez (kurti or kurta with pants and a shawl) in India at prices lower than here in the US. If you’re not an off the rack size consider finding a local tailor – pieces can usually be made in a day or two for a very low price. A Western alternative would be a dress that hits below the knee with leggings, a loose blouse with cropped or full length pants, a loose tee with a calf to ankle length skirt. In more rural areas, your bare legs will stand out more, so consider packing a pair of lightweight pants or leggings to slip under dresses to be more modest.

When it comes to color, anything goes. My capsule is mainly neutrals because they’re less likely to show dust and dirt, mix and match, and are comfortable in the heat. However don’t be afraid to pack an entire wardrobe of brights, pastels, or jewel tones.

Sample outfits from the capsule wardrobe featured above, click to see larger.

I focused on pants since they offer more modesty than a skirt. Don’t be afraid to pair a dress with a pair of pants; this is similar to a selwar kameez and will be conservative and comfortable. The black skirt is below knee, the navy skirt full length. Either can be worn casually or dressed up. For day, pair with an untucked top and sandals, for evening tuck in, add the gold belt and accessories. The olive dress can also be easily dressed up with the addition of gold accessories.

Speaking of accessories, it’s important to pack a few not just for style but for comfort in India. A scarf or dupatta will be your best friend on this trip. It can be worn over your head when entering Sikh temples, as a wrap when you’re wearing a short sleeve top or if you get a chill, and can protect you from the sun. Another great accessory to have is dark sunglasses; direct eye contact may present the wrong impression and a pair of shades will let you see all the sights comfortably.

Finally, focus on the experience, not your appearance. As long as you dress sensibly for the culture and climate, it doesn’t honestly matter what you wear. A stylish world traveler enjoys new experiences, delves into unknown cuisine and cultures, and lives her life fully, no matter her attire!

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What I Wore: Spring Green

I am such a fan of green and this blouse from Dobbin Clothing is the perfect Kelly green for spring.  This is a tunic length blouse, so it also looks adorable untucked with some slim pants.  With wearable heels (seriously these shoes are uber comfortable all day) and a hat to sheild myself from the sun, I’m ready for outside brunch with my girl friends!

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What to Wear to a Spring or Summer Wedding

The colder months are easy for most any affair – whip out your little black dress and heels and you’re good to go. However once the weather gets warmer, an LBD can sometimes seem too harsh or somber, especially for happy events like weddings.

That being said, with the extensive array of dress styles and cuts available, it can be hard to know what is appropriate for a wedding, and what is not. While different cultures and religions have specific beliefs on colors and how much skin to show (I always recommend contacting a member of the wedding party of extended family if you are unsure about the couple’s traditions and sartorial expectations), below are some ideas that can be worn to most weddings and be seen as stylish yet appropriate.

The Daytime Wedding
I used to advise women that for a daytime wedding, wear what you would wear to your house of worship for services. That doesn’t seem to be appropriate anymore as many houses of worship are making their dress codes more casual to make the experience more welcoming to all folks. Even I grew up attending church services in jeans and sneakers. So I recommend wearing a dress, suit, or pantsuit that is festive yet has a conservative touch. Skirts that end around the knee, no plunging necklines, steer clear of backless or cutouts. Fitted is fine, skin-tight is not. Consider fabric – sequins and satin are better for evening and more formal of affairs. This is a happy occasion so go ahead and wear cheery colors and prints.

This green dress is from Muse Apparel; I own it and think it’s even more lovely in person. The jade color is cheery without being overwhelming, the ponte fabric has a slight sheen making it more dressy, and the fun flower appliqué of plastic and gems catches the light without having you resemble a disco ball. Pair with nude heels for an elegant yet fun look. The tan floral dress is from Eliza J, a brand that I find flattering and budget-friendly. While the main color is subdued, the coral bow at the waist and the flirty high-low hem makes the dress festive and fun. Pair with some strappy heels and a great bracelet to finish the look.
Daytime weddings is when you can carry off a bold print – this poppy print dress from Bespoke is cheeky without being too extreme; make it more subtle with nude pumps or amp up the fun with some retro-inspired heels. A daytime wedding is a great time to try a trend, be it a Pantone-approved color of the year, lace, or peplum. This dress from Donna Morgan incorporates all three trends into one chic yet festive frock. With a demure hem length and full back, the dress doesn’t veer into Fashion Victimville; keep it subtle with neutral shoes or add an extra punch with pumps in a contrast color.

The Evening Wedding
Evening weddings can be tricky – are you dressed up enough? Too much? A safe bet is to dress in cocktail attire – a daytime wedding sort dress but made of a dressier fabric like lace, silk, or beading. While a little black dress is a perfect choice, feel free to wear a dressy suit or a frock in a cheerful color. Current trends make hemlines anywhere from just above the knee to the ground appropriate, but unless the invitation specifies Black Tie, don’t make your maxi a formal gown, sequined, beaded or otherwise overly dressy.

The blue dress from Kiyonna is a great way to show a little skin while still being tasteful. Pair with nude or metallic dressy heels to amp up the evening look; a sparkly accessory will be perfect for an after-hours affair. The pink gown from Donna Morgan is surprisingly versatile – with flat metallic sandals it could be worn to a destination wedding; with silk heels and a sparkly bracelet it’s perfect for an evening affair and the bright color keeps it from looking too Black Tie. The peach flapper-inspired dress from Simply Be is the type that could be worn for a wedding with nude or metallic shoes, pair with more casual shoes for a night out, or even be worn with a black blazer and tights come winter. With the beading on the dress, keep the rest of your accessories to a minimum and consider a more dramatic eye to add a formal flair. The magenta dress from Kate Spade is a feminine and classic silhouette yet the fabric makes it evening-appropriate. The accessories is what can take this dress from day to evening to even a more formal wedding.

The Destination/Beachside Wedding
Such weddings are usually far more casual because of the sand and wind factor. It’s hard to walk down to the shore in a satin pencil skirt and 3” heels. However, the casual environment doesn’t give one permission to show up in a Hawaiian shirt and cargo shorts. A dress of matte jersey, silk, or a refined cotton or knit is a great choice because it will be flexible and comfortable in the heat. I specifically featured longer dresses for such a wedding because of the tropical breezes during such an event; no one wants to be worrying about doing a Marilyn in the middle of the vows, and a longer dress also provides modesty if you end up sitting on the sand or on blankets in a field. Longer dresses can seem more formal, so look for styles that do not graze the ground, are of more relaxed fabrics, and have a celebratory color or print.

I love this dress from French Connection; while I am not a big fan of strapless for weddings I think this one works because the color and fabric is more demure and the bodice quite structured. This is also a dress you could wear again – pair with tan sandals and tie a Western-inspired denim shirt over it for a party or barbecue back home. The colorblocked chiffon maxi from Calvin Klein is cheery, modern, and easy to personalize. Pair with gold sandals and accessories, or switch out the belt for a brown leather one and have an armful of wood and beaded bangles. Come cooler months, pair with a denim jacket for a cool outfit for a night out on the town. The turquoise dress from Eileen Fisher is simple elegance; Eileen Fisher is expert at draping and bias cuts and this dress is no exception. I’d style in a similar manner with a beaded necklace and flat-bottomed sandals, or it can be glammed up with a bold silver necklace and gladiators. The watercolor-inspired dress from Ivy & Blu for Maggy Boutique is romantic, tropical, and very on trend with the unique hemline. With such a pattern, you can keep accessories to a minimum. If you want to switch up the look, consider replacing the self belt with a metallic one or a skinny patent belt in a color that’s part of the print.

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What I Wore and a Giveaway – Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design

Shirt: c/o Foxcroft | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Halogen (similar) | Necklace: c/o Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Bag: Brahmin (similar)

Accessories can transform the most basic wardrobe staples and make pieces a cohesive outfit. I just received this necklace from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design and while it is BEGGING to be styled with an LBD for the holidays or worn with a beautiful silk blouse, I thought it could really make a statement with a simple white shirt and dark jeans. I haven’t carried my Brahmin bag in a while, and I thought the bright blue really made the emerald necklace pop!

Giveaway:

If you like this necklace and the other beautiful pieces I have featured from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design, well today’s your lucky day! One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $100 store credit to Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design!

Ruth Barzel makes all her unique pieces in the United States and is a local-yokel to me.  Not only that, she’s an awesome human being!  While I love the Emerald Quartz Nugget Statement Necklace I’m wearing here, I also love wearing her Blue Quartz Pendant Necklace and wear her Mixed Metal Chain Bracelet on a weekly basis. Ruth has offered all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off her entire store, just use code OXYGEN20.  This discount will be in effect until the end of November, 2013.

How to Enter:
Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. This contest is open to both US and international readers. Contest ends November 30, 2013 at midnight ET.

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As a reminder, if you can’t wait for the giveaway to end and want to get yourself some jewelry from Ruth Barzel, use the code OXYGEN20 at checkout for 20% off your order!

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