Search Results for: label/Work Totes

Summer Sartorial Rules for Corporate America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For some suggestions on appropriate office attire, please visit:

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Ask Allie: Purses, Bags, and Totes

Dear Allie,
I don’t go out a lot, but each time I do I wish I had something other than my big day purse to take with me. What would be a good choice of bag that I can have for when I get invited to a bachelorette party or a wedding or my husband’s office Christmas party?

To have a bag that works for all those situations and to span seasons (and years) you will need to either go very simple, or choose something really unique.

As soon as I read your email, I thought of my patchwork clutch from Novica. It’s a mix of cotton and leather and it contains most every color in the rainbow. The bag is so unique and eye-catching it can dress up and down pretty easily – I have paired it with a LBD, and as you see in this post, wore it with a chambray shirt and wool skirt. A clutch is a smart choice because it’s a more timeless silhouette – bag shapes and sizes come and go but clutches have maintained popularity over the past decade and will continue to be popular and stylish.

Nicole Ritchie shows how a snakeskin bag can work with all sorts of colors and styles

Something out of snakeskin or leather (real or a quality faux) is a classic choice and will hold up over the years; however don’t rule out an unexpected finish. A twill or canvas bag with beading or feather detail can often be just as versatile. If there is a variety of colors, a print, or a statement color, you can have it work with most anything (even if the color of your dress is not in the bag).

If you would like something more classic, you can’t go wrong with a soft black leather clutch. Classic size (around a foot to 18” in length and slim) and silhouette (pouch or envelope). The leather should be soft, buttery, no funky glazes, no flashy details. This is the type of bag you can wear today and 20 years from today. You may have to pay more to find such a bag (or search vintage boutiques), but it will be a wardrobe staple for a lifetime.

Hi Allie–
I was advised by my physical therapist to consider wearing a cross-body bag, rather than a bag with a shoulder strap (to help with my neck/shoulder problems). However, I’m busty and feel uncomfortable with the ‘boobage issue’ created with a cross body strap. Any thoughts on how best to work with a cross-body bag?

Like you, I shied away from cross-body bags for years because of my large bust. They always seemed to accentuate them, falling right between the breasts, often pushing them to the side. However, once I became a city commuter, I realized how very necessary they can be. Now I have several cross-body bags in my collection. A few tips:

Be picky about the strap. My Brahmin handbag can be carried in my hand, worn as a shoulder bag, or the strap lengthened to become a cross-body. More often than not, it is worn across my body when I go to work so I can have hands free to hold onto a support bar on the Metro, read the paper, or hold a cup of coffee. The reason this bag works so well is because it is very narrow (about a half an inch), yet extremely sturdy (no chance of it breaking or cutting into my neck). The combination of narrow yet thick/sturdy helps with comfort… and it also helps with the ‘boobage’ issue by being too stiff to really slide between and under the breasts.

For smaller cross-body bags (I like to use these when going to concerts and festivals), I go the opposite route with a very lightweight strap. By being so lightweight of a bag and strap, it doesn’t fall between the breasts causing separation.

Reese Witherspoon in a Crossbody Bag

For a large heavy bag (daypacker, to carry your laptop), there are bags made with an usually wide strap which ends up working more like a sash across your body.

Adjust the strap. Sometimes one inch can make all the difference with a crossbody destroying the line of your figure. Look for an adjustable-strap bag so you can play in front of the mirror to find the perfect length for your body. For me, I find a longer strap (bag hitting lower on the hip) works better with my bust if the bag is heavy and large; I will do a shorter strap for smaller crossbodies.

Minimize. A big problem with current handbags is the size – the larger a bag, the heavier it will be, and the more room to hold everything except the kitchen sink. The heavier the bag, the more likely it will divide your body.

Look for the absolute smallest bag you can handle – if you need a bag to carry your laptop or iPad, find a slimline style to minimize bulk. If you don’t need a bag to carry your electronics, shrink the size all together. Seriously look over your bag contents – do you really need 5 lipsticks, 2 paperback novels, and that travel umbrella even though there isn’t rain on the horizon for weeks? I find it’s easier to organize and pare down when I keep my bag contents in smaller bags – one for cosmetics, one for purse essentials such as safety pins and gum, my wallet, and then my phone etc. When it is already compartmentalized it’s harder to justify a random addition.

Hi, Allie!
I have recently started a new job in the finance industry at a more “corporate” location as opposed to “business casual.” With my new position my manager wants me to bring my work laptop home with me each day. I have been carrying both my purse and small laptop bag each day, along with a water bottle, and if I pack my lunch a lunch bag. I’m looking into consolidating it all into just one bag. Do you think it would be better to get a laptop/tote bag with a padded section for the laptop and carry all my necessities in it, or should I get a basic work tote that would be large enough for all my stuff and buy sleeve to protect my laptop? Do you have any suggestions for a work bag that would accommodate carrying a laptop daily?

I guess it depends on you and your lifestyle. I personally have a laptop bag that I use for everything when I need to carry my laptop. My work laptop is pretty large and integral to me being productive at work, so I have chosen to have a bag that best supports and protects it. It’s not glamorous – it’s black microfiber and clunky, but it keeps my bag safe and looks professional for onsite client meetings.

If I had a smaller standard-size work laptop, I would consider a sleeve, but the problem is that a sleeve can slide around in a non-structured bag, making it feel heavy and clunky and possibly stretching out your purse. I have carried my netbook in a sleeve in my structured leather J. Crew tote – the netbook and sleeve fit perfectly in the large center zipper compartment leaving plenty of space for my personal purse contents. I can then slip out the netbook and carry a lighter bag to after-work events or a lunch meeting.

As for your lunch… it may be hard to find a bag that can carry that and everything else. My laptop bag is the size of a piece of carryon luggage and I still can’t seem to fit more than a Lean Cuisine in there, and if I do I don’t have room for a water bottle. With all the padding to protect your laptop, it becomes hard to carry everything in one without dragging around a bag the size of a small child. It may less cumbersome to just carry your lunch separately.

Before you decide you need to consider:

  • The size of your laptop – is it standard (meaning it’s easy to find a sleeve and easy for it and the sleeve to fit in a standard-size bag)
  • How often you need to carry your bag sans laptop (lunch or client meetings, after-work events where you can slip your laptop in the trunk of your car, etc.)
  • How much walking will you be doing – would it be more practical to get a rolling laptop bag? I know my laptop with it’s cord and extra-large battery is ridiculously heavy and I have considered getting a rolling bag to transport it and all my other essentials. With such a bag, also carrying your lunch wouldn’t be an issue.

A few laptop bags I have seen that are stylish while being professional:

The MobilEdge Milano Tote

MobilEdge Milano Tote – This bag holds a lot without looking bulky or as though it was purchased at REI. Online reviews state the faux croco finish looks quite nice and expensive in person. The strap is long enough to fit over your shoulder even while wearing a winter coat. While the version I link to fits a 17” laptop, there are other retailers (like this one) who have the same bag for a 15” laptop. This is regularly rated as a top choice for professional women (if you like it, Google it to find the best price as it is available on a variety of online shops).

McKlein “Deerfield” Laptop Tote – A very sleek modern look, Italian leather, and a variety of amazing colors makes this 17” laptop bag a winner. Special compartments for business cards and pens, while still having room for essentials such as a wallet, cosmetic bag, and bottle of water. The dark red would be quite elegant with classic gray and black suiting, while the choice of other colors could be a fun choice for more creative offices.

Piel Multi-Pocket Laptop Tote – This one even has a side pocket specifically for a water bottle! This bag gets rave reviews from business travelers which means it would have all the space and organization for one who wants to use this in place of a separate purse. Available in classic brown, black and cognac as well as a few subtle shades that would also work in most professional settings.

Royce Leather Cosmopolitan Computer Brief – Very simple style, tons of pockets for all your essentials, and a size to fit most standard-size laptops. While black is a safe bet, I really like the red to add a conservative pop of color to a corporate wardrobe.

While there are thousands of different types of bags out there, I chose ones that were pretty conservative in silhouette and made to be primarily a laptop bag. If you find that a sleeve or a rolling bag is more appropriate for your needs, do check out these sites that have a great variety of bags:

  • eBags – a fave of mine because of the extensive customer reviews
  • Kolobags – amazing variety of fashionable bags designed for laptops and other technology
  • McKlein USA – laptop bags specifically designed for women
  • – quite a large selection of work-appropriate laptop bags
  • – I have a laptop bag from there that I got at 75% less than a similar (and same brand) bag at Macy’s. If you know what you want, this site is worth a gander.

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Back to Work!

The husband took the pictures, so forgive me for looking so cheesy! The First picture makes me look like Tammy Faye with a Dolly Parton wig – I swear I don’t really look like that today!

Ivory faintly ribbed blazer from Ann Taylor. Black sweater tank from Ann Taylor Loft. Denim trousers from Ann Taylor (see a theme?). Pearls from the Limited. Black leather thng heels from Mossimo for Target.

As for makeup, L’Oreal True Match foundation in C3, The Body Shop stick concealer in 03, a touch of Chanel pressed powder around the eyes to set, and Physician’s Formula Magical Mosaics bronzer on the face for color. On lips is Sally Hansen’s Diamond Lipgloss in a bright sheer pink. A bit of Clinique Snow shadow in the inner corners of the eyes, a line of black Ultra Liner by maybelline on the top lids and two coats of L’Oreal Voluminous mascara in balck on lashes curled thanks to Shu Eumura.

As for hair, it was rinsed with Suave/Redken wannabe conditioner, complimenting curling mousse added to damp hair, dried with a diffuser and a bit of a curling iron on the unruly sections. Ready to go back to work after a week off!

Late to Work

Said the dog was sick, but that was the equivalent to saying the dog ate my homework. I was late, and my dog was feeling fit as a fiddle. Oh well. I am always on time. I won’t feel guilt.

Electric blue cap sleeved square neck tape yarn sweater from a no-name brand and bought for less than $10 at Marshall’s. Denim blazer from Ann Taylor. Black trousers from Ann Taylor. Black pumps from B.P./Nordstrom. Silver and black leather necklace from Chico’s, silver cuff and silver hoops.

Makeup is i.d. Bare Escentuals foundation and concealer. Nars Orgasm on the cheeks. Pale pink gloss from Sally Hansen. Pale taupe/pewter shadow from the Body Shop. Think line of black liquid liner from Maybelline. Black mascara – MAC’s Zoom Lash.

Work, then Stones!

My friend got tickets to see the Rolling Stones. If I leave work 15 minutes early, we will get to the concert on time.

This leaves me about 3 minutes to get ready. Attire for a concert – a little different than that for work.

Screw jeans on Fridays. I am wearing them today with a pair of pointy black heeled boots from Nine West. On top I am wearing a plum v-neck sweater shell and a pink stretch courdoroy slightly shrunken style blazer and a pink brooch. Hair is straight, makeup is a bit more intense, but not frightening.

Plan of Action come 4:55 PM: Switch to strapless bra, black off the shoulder dolman sleeve sweater. Big black and silver chandelier earrings I got at the beach. A bit of bacc combing and hairspray will make hair fun. Brought gray shadow and mascara to oomph up eyes, and a reapplication of gloss and I am ready to rock!

never saw the Stones in concert before… should be a good time!

Working Lunch

So I want to look nice. Nothing too conservative or severe due to the attendees, but still professional.

Orange-red silk knit tank from Banana Republic. Orange-red stone necklace from a boutique at the beach. Denim blazer from Ann Taylor. Black textured trousers from Ann Taylor Loft. Black pumps from B.P./Nordstrom.

Hair was dried in a hurry with a paddle bruch, then a round brush on the edges. I was running so late this morning! Some BioSilk on the ends so they don’t look grossly raggedy.

Makeup is L’Oreal True Match foundation, Chanel powder and concealer. Nars Orgasm (just a little) on the cheeks. Eyes? Well a real hodgepodge as that I was rushing and didn’t have a plan in my head. Some Clinique Snow in the corners/tear ducts. The same brown as my brow powder on the crease and around the lash line. A touch of a shimmery peach/beige over all this. MAC’s X mascara in black. On the lips is just some Cranberry Lip Balm from The Body Shop.

Not my finest fashion or beauty effort, but I look presentable and I was not late for work!

Friday: Work from Home

Sweater: Rafaella c/o Gwynnie Bee
Tank: Caslon (similar)
Brooch: Ann Taylor (similar)
Jeans: Gap
Shoes: Ivanka Trump
Lipstick: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Crush Begun

Friday I worked from home. While it’s tempting to stay in pajamas, I like to wear something appropriate so I can answer the door, say yes to a friend who asks me last-minute to lunch, or step out to run errands. On this day, I knew after work I would be heading out with my husband (and Emerson!) to photograph a friend for an upcoming True Fashionista post.

I decided to wear comfortable clothes that look put together; this ruffle-trim cardigan arrived in my most recent Gwynnie Bee box. This is NOT a color I usually wear but I always love. Good use for Gwynnie Bee – try out a new color! I ended up loving this color so much I bought another sweater in the same shade. This sweater is pretty awesome – it’s free of closures, so you can wear hanging open, belt it, or do as I did and cinch it with a brooch. I bought this pin at Ann Taylor a few years ago and love that brooches have come back en vogue so it can get more play!

This weekend was pretty crazy – we found out our hot water heater was slowly leaking so we had some major cleanup to do (and still do), and Sunday we helped my mom take down her 30-year old steel toolshed. But to make up for the weekend, tonight I am going with my friend to see Gossip at The 9:30 Club! Woot!

As a reminder, if you are interested in trying Gwynnie Bee (read more about it here), they are offering your first two months half-price!  Just mention Wardrobe Oxygen when signing up to get the promotion.  Deal valid until September 30, 2012.

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Personal Style Should Not be Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgot My Camera at Work….

So I wasn’t able to take pictures of me. Sorry!

Black merino turtle/cowl neck from Ann Taylor. Like a full turtle, not as unflattering as a regular turtle, but not as droopy as a cowl.

Ivory sueded cotton trousers from Ann Taylor. Creased flat front, cuffs.

Black pointy high skinny heel boots from Enzo.

Silver hoops

Subtle smoky eyes, a bit of bronzer in place of blush, brownish pink gloss from Sally Hansen.

I like this outfit. I think I may wear it to the casual holiday party I am going to on the 17th. Dinner, drinks, TV sort of event. told to dress casually, but you know me – I don’t own casual. it’s business casual or paint-splattered. Little in between! Better to be over dressed than under dressed!

Friday: Working for the Weekend

Shirt: Lands’ End Canvas
Jeans: Jag (similar)
Bracelets: Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, Lauren Ralph Lauren, c/o Soft Surroundings
Shoes: Halogen (similar)
Sunglasses: Ray-Ban
Bag: Banana Republic (similar)

I really should have had my husband get a shot of my travel mug – it’s for Saturn of Bowie.  My dad got it when he bought his 1994 Saturn, which I inherited when he passed in 1998 and drove into the ground until 2002 or so when I took over the loan on my mom’s ’99 Saturn, which I drove into the ground and replaced this past Easter with my Kia Soul.  The more I have the Kia, the more I like it.  I no longer feel like a hamster in a track suit – it’s great for carrying a ton of stuff, is good on gas (went to SC, KY, and DE with us this summer), and is roomy and comfortable.  And it’s my first non-inherited car!

This week has been busy. So busy, I haven’t done laundry in quite a while. I started trying to pull together fancy-shmancy outfits, thought maybe I’d go all kitchen sink today… but then realized I just want to get through today so I can enjoy the weekend. So I went to closet basics.

Last night I went back to Weight Watchers… for the first time in three months! Ack! We’re doing a wellness challenge at work so I figured it was time to get back on the Weight Watchers bandwagon. I was surprised I only gained 1.6 pounds in the past three months but no gain is a good gain. We’re moving offices soon and I am excited because the new one has a gym in it – a few of my coworkers and I have already decided to make good use of it, coming in early a couple days or using our lunch hours when we don’t have client meetings later in the afternoon.

Tomorrow we’re going to see Band of Horses and My Morning Jacket at Merriweather and I couldn’t be more psyched. Favorite band, and also get to spend time with some of my favorite people! What are your weekend plans?

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Friday – Working for the Weekend

Dress Lands’ End (on sale!)
Scarf – c/o Ann Taylor (similar)
BraceletsJewelMint, c/o Soft Surroundings, Lauren Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom
Necklace – LOFT (similar)
ShoesSofft “Pavia”
Bag – Nordstrom (similar)

The past few weeks at work have been a killer. Early mornings, late days, hardly have time to heat up a Lean Cuisine for lunch. And today? Not a single meeting, no deadlines, no frenzy. I felt that called for a celebratory outfit, something that makes me feel as though the weekend is already here.

I love this dress from Lands’ End – I threw it in the washer and dryer and it came out a bit wrinkled, but in a good “oh this is linen and linen wrinkles” sort of way. Though I must admit I took my hair flat iron to the straps to smooth them out enough to cover the bra!  And I shared the random picture of me talking to Emerson not just because I think she’s a cutie and I love her sense of style (she now picks out her outfits from head to toe), but to show the back view of this dress, which I know I will be wearing weekly all summer long.  And did you see, the dress has pockets! Perfection!

This weekend we have a relative’s 5th birthday and will be having a chill time for my husband on Father’s Day. Do you have any fun weekend plans?

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Flat Work Shoes for Fall and Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Determine if a Flat is Work Appropriate:

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

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

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Ask Allie: Cheap Work Clothing

I am 22 and find myself coming into work every day looking a hot-mess. Unacceptable. I’ll admit I’ve stopped trying to put things together at this point. I am in serious need of advice as to a “starter wardrobe”. I’m working with an extremely tight budget where $50 is too much for a blazer.

I’m getting back into the work world after spending four years at home with my sons and my closet is pretty much jeans and T-shirts. Any suggestions for building a work wardrobe from nothing and with practically no funds?

I wrote this post recently, and it’s worth a look. You don’t need to spend a ton of money to look professional in the office, you don’t need to own a dozen suits or expensive garments. However, it is important to look for versatile, quality pieces for the office. I can’t stress this enough – it’s more important to have a few well-made and well-fitting versatile pieces than a closet packed with cheap junk. It’s okay to wear the same black pants three times in a week, to wear the same suit for each business meeting, to wear the same pencil skirt twice a week if it fits well, is classic, and versatile.

Quality can be found at TJ Maxx, at Target, at Goodwill. You don’t need to go to a high-end retailer to find quality pieces. Shop slowly, shop carefully, be picky. Again, it’s better to only have one pair of black pants if they fit well and flatter. It’s better to buy a pair of $29.99 clearance pants and get them hemmed to the perfect length via the local dry cleaner than to spend $80 on a pair of pants that don’t fit well.

Shopping Online
I find a ton of great business clothing for less online. Subscribe to sites that notify you of online deals, or follow retailers on social media to know when they are having free shipping or discounts so you can save big. Also consider joining Ebates, which will send you a check a couple times a year just for regular shopping online.

Schedule thrifting into your schedule the way you would doctor’s appointments or book club. You will have the best luck when you go regularly, and know where you are shopping. Never buy smaller than you size, but some pieces a hair too large can be easily tailored with a belt, some Stitch Witchery, or your nearby dry cleaners or tailor. Don’t buy pieces that are damaged just because they are a great deal – for office clothing it’s important to have pieces in great condition. Thrifting is a great way to find blouses to give a new look to wardrobe basics – a black pantsuit looks completely different with a turquoise silk ruffled blouse than with a crisp white button-front shirt than with a shell pink silk sweater tee.

Shopping the Clearance Rack
I worked retail for many a year, and highly respected those savvy shoppers who entered my store and immediately went to the back to the sale rack. Stores you may think are outside your pricerange can have some stellar deals on the clearance rack. I own $19.99 blazers from Ann Taylor, $30 cashmere sweaters from J. Crew, and beautiful lined trousers from Nordstrom for less than $40. Again, follow these brands online to know when they have deals – recently Ann Taylor had a “private sale” for regular customers and offered 40% off sale merchandise. For less than $100 I got a pair of work pants, two shells, a cardigan, a skirt, and a merino wool crewneck… you can’t find that much workwear eat any discount mart for that price!

Quality at a Discount
Some things just make a piece look cheap, no matter the price on the ticket. Shiny synthetics, too many embellishments, visible logos, unlined non-knit jackets, too tight trousers, blatant trends (wide flared legs, super cropped jackets, extreme shoulders, cutouts, etc.) will make an otherwise nice work garment look inappropriate. I have found simple suiting-fabric separates at Target and Old Navy. Fabrics like matte jersey and Ponte knit look great at lower pricepoints and are work-appropriate for separates and dresses. Check out sites like for quality footwear at great low prices; also consider stalking eBay for specific pieces you have seen at retailers for a nice gently-used price.

Capsule Wardrobe
In my last post about a work attire, I focused mainly on the entry-level employee. However, you can look professional at any level with a small wardrobe. This capsule wardrobe is only an example – while you can click the link below it to see the specific pieces I used, do know I was working with pieces that have images available online, not on a model, and on a white ground. I chose pieces that I know can be found a low pricepoints and can look like quality even if they are purchased from a discount retailer; pieces that can look current even if they are purchased from a thrift store.


As you see, I chose a color story of black, gray, and shades of lilac as the accent hue. I chose black as a base because it’s a color that’s easier to mix and match from various retailers and easier to hide the price of a garment because the stitching and details are less visible. A gray “snow leopard” print adds interest and works with all the colors in the collection. All silhouettes are classic so they will work now and a couple years from now. Lighter-weight sweaters look more professional than chunky knits; warmth can be had with layers. I chose black pumps as the lone shoe since they are so versatile; if you can afford additional work shoes, a flat or a tall boot can be quite versatile and also classic. These pumps can be worn with bare legs (dress code permitting) in warmer months, with trouser socks for the pants, with tights or sheer stockings with the skirts come the colder months.

  1. Black jacket, black pants, ruffle blouse (can switch out pants for either skirt)
  2. Black jacket, black pants, white shirt (can switch out pants for either skirt)
  3. Black jacket, black pants, lavender sweater (can switch out pants for either skirt)
  4. Black jacket, leopard cardigan, black skirt
  5. Leopard cardigan, black pants
  6. Leopard cardigan, either skirt, ruffled blouse
  7. Leopard cardigan, white shirt, pants or either skirt
  8. Lavender sweater, gray skirt, leopard belt
  9. Lavender sweater, ruffled blouse, gray skirt
  10. Lavender sweater, white shirt, pants or either skirt
  11. Lavender sweater, black pants
  12. Black sweater, black pants, leopard belt
  13. Black sweater, white shirt, black skirt
  14. Black sweater, gray skirt, leopard belt
  15. White shirt, gray skirt, leopard belt
  16. White shirt, black pants, lavender sweater around shoulders
  17. Ruffled blouse, gray skirt
  18. Ruffled blouse, black pants

So with less than a dozen pieces, you can create over 20 different ensembles. An extra tank top or silk shell can add a handful more options. As you add to your wardrobe, keep in mind the color story and silhouettes so new pieces will fit effortlessly into your collection and increase the versatility of each piece.

When You Can’t Afford a Suit
It’s better to not have a suit than a cobbled-together mess. A blazer is expensive, and without stalking clearance racks, eBay, and your nearby thrift store you very well won’t be able to find a decent one under $50. So don’t buy one. You can look professional in a simple cardigan, blouse, and pants; a shift dress and pumps or flats, a button-front shirt and trousers. A matte jersey wrap dress, gabardine sheath or Ponte knit shift with a strand of pearls and simple black pumps can look just as sophisticated and professional while being far more easy to find at a low pricepoint. Don’t make it work, only own that which deserves to be in your closet.

So maybe now it’s a Forever 21 cardigan, Target pants, and a thrifted oxford as your work uniform – there’s nothing wrong with that. Take good care of them, launder them carefully, treat them like couture and they will be good to you in return. As you move up the corporate ladder you may replace these pieces with higher-end pieces once they wear out… or you may be pleased to find that quality doesn’t have to equal a higher price!

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Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?
Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?
I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?
Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On Making it Work (and when to give up)

I said it before, but it bears repeating…

It’s not worth it to “make it work.”

The other day I wore this skirt. While it looked cute in the photos, and even in my full-length mirror, it wasn’t a good choice for me. A tad shorter than I feel comfortable wearing, and a very lightweight fabric meant I spent the entire day with my arms pressed against my thighs trying to prevent a Marilyn moment. It was so bad, that I hobbled from my office to Ann Taylor a block away so I could sneak into their fitting room and change into a dress that had arrived in the mail earlier in the day. The dress I changed into was a maxi and too long, but I felt better carrying my skirt like a wedding dress train as I hopped Metro trains, than chancing a show of my skivvies during a breezy rush hour.

Most of my comments from that post are lost in cyberspace due to a bug with my commenting system, but I had a good dozen comments, and even a few tweets, Facebook comments and emails offering suggestions on how to make the skirt work for me. Wear it with tights. Add a band of fabric to the hem to make it longer and weigh it down. Save it for when I have lost 10 pounds for that will make it longer on my body.

The thing is… I don’t want to make it work. Making it work makes sense when you’re in the 11th hour of a Project Runway challenge. It makes sense if the only skirt in my closet is this one and I have an event to go to in an hour where the dress code is Skirts Only. It makes sense if it was a gift from my husband’s grandmother and she asked to see me in it for her 90th birthday party. There’s no other reason why I should try to make a garment work.

If a garment doesn’t work, it doesn’t deserve real estate in your closet. 

Stop trying to make it work with belts and tights and control garments and half-baked DIY projects. All that effort does is make the same not-quite-right garment not-quite-right, but now decked out with opaque tights, a skinny belt, and a weird band of fabric that sort of ruins the flow of the piece. This isn’t to say that with a bit of sewing skill one could turn trash into treasure. What I’m saying is if a piece isn’t right and you don’t have the creativity, skill, and desire to make it right… get rid of it.

It’s better to have fewer pieces in your closet than a wardrobe of things that require effort to make them passable. This isn’t just that skirt that is a hair too short, it’s also the top that pulls at your shoulders, the dress that can only work with a strapless backless bra (and you don’t own a strapless backless bra), the dress that looked smashing 10 pounds ago but now looks like a potato sack, that other dress that looked great 10 pounds and 10 years ago but now looks like Saran Wrap, the blouse that is a bit too sheer but looks frumpy with a camisole, the pants that are cute except for wrinkling in the first minute of wearing and the fact that they give you camel toe.

Donate them. Sell them. Swap them. I don’t care what you do with them, but I beg of you, get rid of them and stop trying to make them work.

I thank you all for your amazing, caring, and creative suggestions. You women amaze me on a daily basis with your resourcefulness, knowledge, and heart. However, you will not see me in that skirt again. I really could make it work, and for a moment I considered keeping it and wearing it come fall with super opaque tights and a fitted turtleneck. And then I realized that it meant this skirt could ONLY be worn with super opaque tights, and it still would be short enough to cause a Marilyn moment on a breezy day. Enough to make the item too difficult to deserve to be in my closet. I’m not going to make it work, and because I care about you and your personal style, I hope you won’t either.

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Ask Allie: Well-made Ankle Pants for Work

A few months ago I bought a pair of Old Navy Pixie pants in black, and I loved them. Comfy, appropriate enough for where I worked at the time, great for weekends, etc. But I recently changed jobs and my new job has a stricter dress code – Pixie pants just won’t cut it anymore. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for ankle pants that are comfy enough for weekends but look professional enough for a dressier business casual work environment. I’m really working on being a more conscientious shopper, so I don’t mind spending a bit more money on a pair of pants (or two!) I’ll wear multiple times a week.

the best ankle pants for the office

I love me some Old Navy. I own a ton of things from there, but honestly few of their clothes are appropriate for a more dressier professional workplace. Pants are one of those items that while sometimes you score a fab pair at a discount retailer, more often than not you get what you pay for. That’s not to say you need to spend $500 on a pair of trousers, but you want to look for styles that veer more towards suiting than chinos in regard to cut and fabrication. A few I found that would look quite appropriate in your workplace:

Talbots has been a work fashion go-to of mine for a couple years. Their clothing is stylish without being too trendy, classic without being frumpy, and quite office appropriate. When shopping at Talbots you can narrow down just to ankle-length pants. My favorite for the workplace is the Signature Tailored Crepe Ankle Pants.  Not too tight in the leg and a fabric that looks more polished than traditional cotton is the  making them perfect for the workplace. Available in Misses and Petite sizes.  Another great option from Talbots is their Chatham Ankle Pant; available in Misses, Petite, Women and Women Petite sizes and eight different colors, the size-zip gives a clean front and is a great choice for women with curves.

When I worked in Baltimore a lifetime ago, there was a Brooks Brothers near my job. I always thought it was a place for men’s suiting but wandered in one day and ended up leaving with a bag full of adorable fashion for me! Since then I always look to Brooks Brothers for classic yet well-fitting work clothing. Their Lucia Fit trouser is perfect for the office yet has a clean stylish cut. Available in tropical-weight (multi-season) wool and cotton, this is an ankle pant that looks sophisticated and professional.

While J. Crew has started to veer from being a classic fashion destination to a place for the latest trends, it still is a good retailer for work pants. While many are labeled skinny which can be too tight for many workplaces, their Campbell Capri is an adorable pant that is full of style while still being well-made and work appropriate. Each season J. Crew offers this pant in a different variety of fabrics and colors.  Available in Regular, Petite, and tall lengths from 000 to 16.   The Paley Pant from J. Crew is another winner; don’t be afraid of “wool” in the title for spring or summer wear.  A very fine gauge, this will provide you with a high-quality refined trouser appropriate to be made into a suit (the 1035 Single-button jacket is a great choice).  The Paley is also available in the same broad range of sizes.

Vince Camuto makes a nice pant at a nice price, and their Skinny Ankle Pant is no different. While it’s called “skinny” it’s more of a slim fit that would look quite appropriate in Corporate America. Available in classic black and gray in regular and petite lengths (and a size-zip version for a clean line), a big selling point of these trousers for me is that they’re machine washable.

Halogen is a favorite Nordstrom brand of mine; great classic style and great prices for professional workwear.  Their ‘Taylor’ line is one I have in my closet, and the Taylor Skinny Ankle pant is made with the same clean professional lines and dressy work fabric and pairs nicely with the suiting jackets from the collection (my favorite is the Halogen One-Button Suiting Jacket).  Both the pants and the matching jacket are available in regular and petite sizes 0-16.

Shop the Styles Featured in this Post:

What Not to Wear Your First Week of Work

Whether you are starting a new job, changing offices, or beginning an internship on the Hill, it’s important to start your new position on the right foot. While it is important to be yourself, there are some things you just should not wear the first week on the job, no matter where you are working. While the individuals who interviewed you may have seemed creative and open-minded, that doesn’t mean the rest of the office or your clients have the same opinion. Before you start showing off your sartorial chops, it’s important to get a lay of the land, and let your work speak before your clothing. Here’s some things you should hold off on wearing until you fully understand your new office culture:

Satin. Today I saw a freshly-scrubbed young woman walking from Starbucks carefully carrying two drink holders full of lattes. She looked nervous, not just because she was walking quickly with eight hot beverages, but probably because she is a new employee at a nearby firm. While she may impress with getting all the bigwigs’ coffee orders correct, she may lose some points for her dress. Lately, there is a trend of dresses that are made to look like two pieces – what may appear to be a button-down shirt and belted pencil skirt is actually one garment. She was wearing one of these, a black high-waisted pencil skirt with wide patent-leather belt, and a hot pink satin blouse with rhinestone buttons and puffed sleeves. She looked like a cocktail waitress, even with her scuffed faux Tory Burch flats.

If this dress had a cotton or even silk top, it would have been far more acceptable. However, satin catches the light in a manner than no other fabric can replicate – maybe that’s why it is the fabric preferred by dancers, prom attendees, and pageant queens. True Fashionistas may know how to make satin appropriate for the workplace, but the rest of us should leave such a fabric for After Five.

Patterned Hosiery. This is a travesty I see on a regular basis. A woman in a conservative suit and classic shoes decides to jazz up her ensemble with a pair of black lace tights. I understand the thought process behind this – patterned and textured hosiery has come back en vogue and it’s a budget-friendly and dress-code friendly way to add personality, femininity, or trends to your boring work suit. The problem is that such hose creates the same effect as satin – it cheapens the look and stands out in a non-professional manner.

Again, True Fashionistas will know how to make such hosiery work for the office, and there is many the tutorial on how to make textured tights workplace-friendly. However, don’t try this the first week of your job – get a lay of the land, and have the uptight conservative CEO get to understand you and your role before you flash the lacy gams his way.

Denim. I don’t care if your new job’s dress code says denim is fine, it’s not a good idea to wear as the newbie. As an old supervisor told me and I still believe – dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Even if the president of the corporation shows up in jeans and a golf shirt, find business casual outfits that don’t include dungarees. Cropped twill pants, regular trousers with a knit top, a simple cotton dress with cardigan and sandals – these are casual ensembles that won’t have you sticking out like a sore thumb yet show you’re serious about your position.

Short Skirts with Opaque Tights. A pair of super-thick black tights does not make that micro-mini Modcloth frock more work-appropriate. You still end up looking like Zooey Deschanel (who may be adorkable, but doesn’t dress for the corporate world). We’ll still see that curve of your thighs that some may find alluring, but shouldn’t see the light of day in an office. I’m not saying wear the dress sans tights – instead keep the dress in the closet and wear it to the next party or concert on your schedule.

Black Bra with Anything But Black (or a super-dark color). In the light of your bedroom, you may not see your black bra under your red blouse, but once you are under the fluorescent lights of an office, your lingerie is out for all the world to see. Fashionistas may purposely rock the contrast bra, but that doesn’t mean the CFO knows about this trend. Visible lingerie in Corporate America is a no-no; invest in a skin-colored smooth bra that will be invisible even under knits and lighter-weight blouses.

Trendy Makeup Colors. Neons are hot, orange has come back en vogue, and thanks to Jenna Lyons everyone (myself included) is wearing NARS Heatwave on their lips. However, such colors should be kept off your face until you are established at your workplace and understand it’s unique culture. Stick to subtle shades and neutrals – soft pinks, mauves, and browns are best not just for your lips but your entire face. Once they know you and you know them, you will know if it’s okay to wear Tangerine Tango lips or teal lids.

Sexy Shoes. Platform stilettos, caged sandals, sky-high wedges, anything metallic… such shoes will not make the best first impression at standard places of work. Stick to shoes with classically-shaped heels and toeboxes, day-friendly finishes (leather, patent in a subtle color, snakeskin), and standard silhouettes until you get to know the company and its higher-ups better.

Final Tips:

  • As I mentioned before – dress for the job you want, not the job you have
  • Consider not just your direct supervisor, but also the upper management – not only how they dress but how do the people below them that they respect dress.
  • Remember you are a representation of your company. Even if you don’t meet with clients, they may pass you in the hall as they head to a conference room, see you in the restroom, or even share an elevator with you.
  • If you’re unsure, leave it on the hanger. Better to start off a new job in a conservative manner than to shock people with your fashion sense.
  • Fit is more important than style or fashion. A well-fitting 10-year old suit makes a better impression than a too-tight or too-long trendy suit bought last week.

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Ask Allie: Work Appropriate Sandals for Spring

Hi Allie, I’m in desperate need of stocking up on new work-appropriate sandals for summer and am not having luck. Any suggestions? My office is business casual/jeans on Fridays. Typical D.C. area gov’t office. I like my feet to be comfortable but don’t want to look too fuddy-duddy (I’m 31). Stylish and comfortable and work-appropriate?

Hi Meredith:

In the colder months, office workers can feel pretty safe with a pair of pumps, some ankle booties or loafers, and some tall leather boots. However once the weather begins to warm up, women seem to be at a loss as to where to find work-appropriate sandals – especially ones that are also comfy when walking to work or standing all day. I have seen women on the streets of DC wear everything from flip flops and Tevas to satin strappy stilettos with their summer career wear.  Here’s some great styles I have come across lately that will be kind to your feet as well as your personal style:

If you have followed this blog for a while, you know I am a major fan of Sofft for shoes – they really have been able to make stylish shoes that are also extremely comfortable. I wore Sofft throughout my pregnancy – when in my third trimester I found a pair of Sofft Mary Janes to be more comfortable for my swollen tootsies than even my sneakers!

This spring I am loving the look of a very modern, clean heel – sort of the summer version of the ankle bootie. The Sofft Pavia Sandal is an excellent choice to pair with crisp shift dresses, cropped trousers, and modern silhouettes. If you are fair like me, the Eggshell color may be the perfect nude shoe for you – a color close to your skintone will not only go with most any color in your wardrobe, but it will also elongate your leg.

Another great choice by Sofft is their Renata sandal. In Twine, you’ll find this shoe will look great with dresses, skirts, and also with a pair of jeans and a boho-inspired top for a rooftop barbecue. The white looks clean and modern, while the black gives an edgy rocker look. All three colors would really work with this summer’s colors and silhouettes.

Finally, the Sonoria sandal from Sofft is a more feminine summer shoe from this brand. The details are what make this shoe a winner – the wood stacked heel and the looped side straps keep the look fresh and also more expensive. I am partial to the Coral Patent – a hot color for this season and an unexpected neutral that will go with black, white, browns, navys, and all the chambray and denim that is on trend this spring.

And yes, I do like brands other than Sofft! The Carla sandal from MICHAEL Michael Kors is surprisingly comfortable – I know because I tried them on. If my feet weren’t so wide, they would currently be in my wardrobe in Taupe Leather. The height is deceiving – the heel isn’t really so high due to the platform. The bold, modern lines make it a versatile choice for spring with dresses, skirts, and with trousers. The taupe color will blend into many skintones (on me it was darker than my skin but still a great neutral) and become one of the most worn shoes in your wardrobe.

Clarks is known for comfort, and based on reviews at Zappos, their Fiddle Scroll Sandal doesn’t disappoint. I am a fan of wedge heels, which give the height to flatter the leg, but the support to be comfortable on your feet all day. In Beige or Ginger leather, this sandal would be extremely versatile and look great with most everything in your wardrobe. However, don’t ignore their more unusual color options – the Deep Red and Turquoise leather options would be a great pop of color to a more neutral wardrobe.

It’s hard to find a flat sandal that looks professional – they often end up looking like flip flops, don’t support and hold the foot, and can look weathered before we have even reached the 4th of July. The Frye Alessia Artisanal T Strap Sandal is a nice choice – the substantial straps and structured sole give the shoe structure and make them look more professional. I am partial to the Orange or Yellow leather, and think they would look great peeking out of white sailor trousers or paired with this season’s midi and maxi skirts.

Happy Hour After Work, Have to Dress for Both…

Pink lightweight merino v-neck sweater from J.Crew.

Low-slung stone colored chinos from Old Navy with a slight bootcut leg.

Tan thong sandals from Target with a 2″ heel.

Silver medium sized hoops and large silver cuff.

Hair dried straight, but after drinking a few margaritas it started to wave.

Not the significant other. He is a coworker.

She Works Hard for the Money: Blogging and Financial Compensation

I like to be transparent with you here on this blog. I have mentioned before that this blog is for profit – this blog is income for my family to make it possible for one of us to stay home and raise our daughter.  I treat this blog as a job – I may make money, but I put in hard work and strive to create a quality product for you.

Financial compensation has become a sensitive topic in the blogosphere. More and more money is out there for bloggers, and one’s vision can be clouded by dollar signs. My vision has been clouded before, but I’ve learned that there is no dollar amount that is worth losing my self-respect or tainting the voice and brand I have built. I’ve had a few readers comment lately on my monetization, and I’d like to explain it more carefully to you – what I do and why I feel okay doing it.  I know this topic is not interesting to everyone, so though I despise them, I’m going to put in a jump for the rest of this lengthy post.

Giveaways. 99% of the time, my giveaways are through BlogHer. I have been a proud member of BlogHer for several years. I think the organization does great things, and they respect me as a person and my goals for this blog.  I am not blackballed if I refuse campaigns, and they understand if bloggers don’t want to participate in programs or ads because they go against their beliefs or ethics or lifestyle.  Every so often, I receive an email from BlogHer asking if I’d like to be part of a certain campaign. I am told the brand, the general direction for the post, and am asked if I fit a certain demographic. Sometimes I apply, sometimes it’s a wrong fit and I decline.  Sometimes I am approved for a campaign I apply for, sometimes I am not.

These giveaways always involve some sort of review or knowledge of the brand mentioned in the post. I receive the product for free as well as money for writing the post and touting it on social media. I don’t half-ass these reviews, I truly use that product more than one time and I believe give a thorough review. Heck, some of the products I review for giveaways become products I purchase again and again. I write all the content – they do give me some wording from the brand about it’s benefits and ingredients and who they see as their customer, but how I use that is 100% moi. I like working with BlogHer because they pick random numbers for giveaways, they understand not everyone uses social media or wants to blog about a giveaway, they always mail the winners their product, and they work with brands that I like and respect. Oh, and the prizes are good stuff – gift cards and fancy gift baskets and such. I won’t do a giveaway if the prize isn’t something I would like to get myself.

For every giveaway/review I do, there’s three I reject because I don’t think they’re a good fit for the blog or I don’t want to be connected with the brand. As for timing… well sometimes I ask to be part of a program in March but it doesn’t go live until July. this can make for some wonky scheduling (I have to go live the day they choose), and can end up having a month that is way too heavy on the sponsored posts. Luckily it usually ends up that the month after is nice and quiet so hopefully those who come by on a regular basis don’t see me as a perma-sellout.

Sponsored Posts. Other than the BlogHer giveaway posts, I don’t do sponsored posts on this blog. I rarely do a guest post, but when I do it’s from someone I know very well and who knows me and my blog very well and I think provides information or a perspective I cannot provide but will still provide content that resonates with my readers. Sometimes I have done sponsored content on a different URL with a teaser here, but I have gotten burned in the past with how it goes, and am far more careful/less likely to do them these days.

Occasionally I am paid to add a bit of javascript to the top of a post to promote some BlogHer promotion, often a giveaway I am not hosting.  The content of the post is organic and something I had scheduled to share anyway on that day.  I don’t do a ton of these, but just like giveaways they are sometimes scheduled at random times and ends up being right after a giveaway post so it looks as though I’m sponsoring every post.  I apologize for that, I do not have control over when they are scheduled and I usually agree at least a month in advance.

Affiliate Links. When I link to the dress I am wearing, if it’s not a gift from a brand and it’s a mass retailer, it’s likely an affiliate link. I primarily use ShopSense, which has an unknown super secret algorithm on how they pay, but it’s not solely based upon you buying items when you link. I also receive a commission if you sign up for Gwynnie Bee past the intro month and use my custom URL link.  I also use affiliate links when I mention music or books, but then use Amazon. I dabble with SkimLinks and RewardStyle and have used Commission Junction in the past and I may use a different program in the future if they make it easy for me to use, don’t force you readers to buy anything for me to profit, and have the brands that I feature naturally on this blog.

Speaking of which, you’ll never see a What I Crave Wednesday or similar post because I don’t want to encourage you to buy anything you don’t want or need. When I discuss brands and items in non-personal outfit posts, I always write the post first and then do the links – if I can’t find an affiliate link for something I mentioned I just do a straight link instead of changing the content. I also provide the brand of each item I wear so you don’t have to click on a link for more information – you can Google the brand and a description and find it. In fact, when it comes to shoes if I know the style name I will share it so you can click on the link, or choose to Google to find it elsewhere.

Banner Ads (Primarily Found in the Sidebar). I use the sidebar (and occasionally other places on the blog) to sell ads. Some come from ad companies (Google AdSense, BlogHer, Burst Media, Technorati, Lijt, etc.), and some come straight from the brands who work directly with me. With the ad companies, I can’t guarantee what they will show, it’s often determined by your web habits. This is why if you went to look at dresses at Lands’ End and then visit my blog, there’s suddenly an ad right there for the very dress you considered putting in your shopping cart. While I don’t know what will be shown, I do restrict certain products or brands (politics, weight loss, cosmetic surgery, firearms) that I do not wish to support. I also won’t sell adspace to any old company – the longer I blog the more discerning I am with my blog’s real estate and I offer primo space to those companies and brands I like the most.  I promise not to clutter my social media channels or dedicate blog posts to courting sponsors.

Gifted Merchandise/Opportunities. When I started having brands offer to send me free stuff it was so exciting! Sure I’ll take that ugly sweater, go ahead and send me that weird scarf, I’d be happy to try your stinky greasy body lotion, it’s free! The thing is, I would then have to take my time and my blog real estate to review that free item, and it’s not very nice to get a product free and then write a negative review (though long-time readers know I do it from time to time). I now am far more discerning with what merchandise I will accept, and I let them know ahead of time that it will be shared on the blog ONLY if I like it.

Recently a brand I like and wore before they contacted me offered to send me some of their merchandise. I picked out my pieces from a lookbook (AKA teeny little low-res pictures), guessed my size and thanked them. The clothes arrived, they were well-made and cute but they were too small. However, I was able to clearly see the quality and style and the error was on my part, so I incorporated the brand into an advice post instead of looking awful in their very nice clothes.

Sometimes I am gifted an event or opportunity, I always incorporate in the post that they gave it to me. If I don’t mention that a brand was kind enough to send me/let me try/have a membership to something, it’s because I bought it with my own money. Sometimes this may not be clear, so I often write a disclosure stating that my raving is because I am a fan, not because I am paid.

I will note an item of clothing or accessories is gifted with “C/O” which means courtesy of. Even if the piece is three years old, I will still note that it is “C/O.” I have received some comments lately that I wear too much gifted merchandise, but you need to realize I have been blogging for seven years, I choose to feature brands I like, so some of that C/O stuff could be three years old. Also do know for each brand I do choose to feature, there’s three who received a “thanks but no thanks” email. I also find this blog a great platform for lesser-known brands and companies that do good with their product; if it feels I am wearing too much of a certain brand it’s probably because the company as a whole is pretty amazing, has a good message, or supports women who are curvy or plus sized.

Speaking of size… brands often choose to partner with bloggers who are younger or thinner than I even if they have a smaller or less appropriate audience. When a brand contacts me and wants to work with me, a 38 year old soft size 12/14 person, I am impressed. You may have seen that some of my “go to” brands of yesteryear I hardly wear or mention any more, that is because I don’t believe they see us as their desired demographic or my blog as a proper platform. I choose to promote brands that realize that women over 30 and a size 10 love fashion and are willing to open their pocketbooks if a brand will provide and promote quality and style for them.


When I see blogs I love start having more gifted merchandise, events that they are hosting, trips, and ads I am happy for them if they are maintain their voice. Some bloggers are in it just for the money, some are in it just for the platform, and some of us are so honored to be able to receive compensation for what we love and would do for free.

I love blogging, I love connecting with all of you. My goal is to be compensated for this work without compromising the content. If you feel I am selling out, if I am putting money before content… send me an email and let me know. There’s no point in this blog if I am turning off those who have been with me since the get-go, or people who could be new readers and friends.

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