Search Results for: label/bags and purses

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?
Thanks,
Tonya

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?
Marcy

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?
Thanks!
Karla

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
  • Handbags.com – quite a large selection of work-appropriate laptop bags
  • Overstock.com – 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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What I Wore: Monet

gwynnie bee spruce sage dress review hobo bag red leather clutch

outfit blog size 14 mom over 30 wardrobe oxygen

Dress: Spruce & Sage c/o Gwynnie Bee | Shoes: Nine West “Flax” | Bracelet: Nordstrom | Bag: Hobo Bags (similar) | Cast Cover: c/o CastCoverZ! | Lipstick: NARS Red Square

Emerson said this dress looked like rose petals underwater. I said it reminded me of a Monet, she quickly agreed which freaked me out because we haven’t really taught her that much about artists. A Monet fan in a past life? Besides the dress being a pretty print, it’s pretty comfortable too. It’s fully lined, but the lining is a bit stretchy and not as hot as a traditional acetate one. While this would look cute with a skinny belt or shoes in one of the great colors of the print, I decided to keep it simple with nude pumps and a fun little bracelet.  And this bag was a Hobo Sample Sale purchase that has given me years of happiness; it has a chain strap making it uber versatile and an unexpected classic.

This dress is a perfect example of why I love Gwynnie Bee; it’s a pretty dress that I kept for more than one wear, but it’s the type of dress I would purchase and then grow tired of before the season is through.  With Gwynnie Bee I can keep and wear as long as I wish and the return for a new dress to love!

What I Wore: Air Flow

wardrobe oxygen what I Wore Gap Real Straight Jeans Karen Kane Messh Top Nine West Pumps wardrobe oxygen what I Wore Rough Tumble bag Ray Ban Aviators Nine West Flax wardrobe oxygen what I wore Gap Real Straight Jeans Karen Kane Top Rough Tumble Bag

Mesh top: c/o Karen by Karen Kane (similar) | Tank: c/o J.Jill | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Nine West (similar) | Bag: Rough & Tumble | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban | Bracelet: Had forever (similar) | Lipstick: MaryKay ‘Mystic Plum’

If you follow me on Instagram you know I wore this look to work Friday. Karen Kane was sweet enough to send me this awesome mesh sweatshirt this spring but then the whole cast situation made it impossible to wear. Once the cast came off this was one of the first long-sleeved tops I made sure to wear.  The jeans are the ones from Gap I mentioned in this post; after some weird years I find Gap to again be a destination for quality but reasonably priced denim.

And this bag I continue to adore; no need to buy a trendy brand name to enjoy high quality and style.  I found Rough & Tumble on Etsy and am thrilled to see they are growing, now with an e-commerce site.  A woman-owned business with everything made here in the USA?  Yes please!

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Fab Bags For Spring Under $100

The best way to update your wardrobe each season is with accessories. It’s an easy and lower-cost way to incorporate current fashion trends, and it’s more likely for that accessory to be wearable past the trend (or when the trend returns) than a garment. Right now is a great time to buy accessories for many are on sale to make room for new merchandise. But that doesn’t mean the sale merchandise is outdated. Knowing current trends or your personal style (which transcends fashion trends) can help you score some great deals for less. Below I share some fantastic bags I’ve seen online, and all are under $100!

Blush is the hot color this spring and looks great on more skintones and with more personal styles than you would think. I love it with denim and chambray, paired with white or cream, but it’s also gorgeous as an accent with black or even a jewel tone like ruby or teal. A blush clutch is a great choice for spring weddings, giving a fresh look to your LBD; a blush wristlet will hold all your essentials and look adorable with boyfriend jeans or a floral dress; blush is on trend yet looks professional enough to pair with a business suit.

You all know I love a touch of hippie chic in a wardrobe, and it’s the perfect way to infuse spring into your wardrobe. Be they paired with a band tee and cutoffs, a sundress and slip-on sneakers, or even boyfriend jeans and a lightweight blazer, boho-inspired bags are more versatile than you think for the everyday as well as for a concert, wine festival, or picnic in the park.

Black and white are classics that work year-round; paired it is a fashion trend that won’t quickly look dated. It’s also a trend that is office appropriate. A structured tote or large bag can carry your purse essentials as well as lunch, a laptop, or commuter shoes. Classic ladylike shoulder bags are back in vogue and look smart with business suits and work dresses; a cross body that’s structured with metal details looks crisp enough for the workplace. When it comes to basic black and white, any colors pair nicely.

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Ask Allie: Durable Commuter Bags

I have been finding it a challenge to find a work tote/satchel that can handle all of my work items (iPad, shoes, book, and occasionally lunch) without having the handles break. I am preparing to take my latest two off to the great purse surgeon for some love and repair and am wondering if you can recommend a great tote/satchel for work that can carry all of the above and handle the weight of it all? I’d like to stick to a price tag of no greater than $200.

Some things I think are worth the price – well-crafted tall leather boots, a winter coat, and a work tote. It’s very hard to find a decent tote that can handle wear and tear without looking like crap. Honestly, few bags can carry all that on a regular basis and survive nicely unless you purchase a heavy-duty tote. While I recommend a black tote for business, for your commute a bag like the L.L. Bean Boat and Tote or Lands’ End Canvas Tote is a brilliant choice since it will hold up with a lot of weight, wear, and tear and won’t be worn outside of the commute. The version with elongated straps will fit over your shoulder even if you have on a heavy winter coat, and they have options with open or zip tops and storage compartments. Choosing a darker color will be better for public transportation and city life as these totes can’t be thrown in the washer and do best when spot cleaned.

I often carry multiple bags instead of stuffing my work totes to preserve their condition and shape, but it’s still great to have a bag that doesn’t look sloppy and can carry both your Kindle and your bottle of water without bursting at the seams. My two favorite work totes were both purchased on sale and would have been over $200 otherwise.

However, price doesn’t equal a good work tote – you want to look for heavy straps that are sewn into the body of the bag (even better if they wrap around the body of the bag), metal feet to protect the bottom of the bag, and a bit of structure so it keeps it shape over years and random contents. The two bags I have are leather with leather straps, fully lined, and one has a center dividing compartment which keeps the shape and structure of the bag, even when seated on a table or the floor. While a crossbody can seem convenient, I find that if you plan on stuffing a bag, a crossbody can be hard to carry, dig into your shoulder, and put far too much wear on the straps.

The bags I suggest below have not been seen in person and I cannot vouch for their quality and appropriateness; their style and fabrication lead me to believe they would be good choices and are all around $200:

Love the canvas boat bags but yearn for something more polished? Lands’ End has you covered with this brown leather tote with brass feet and organizing interior pockets. Reviews are positive and show owners use it for everything from hauling books back to the library to packing for a trip. Supple leather, classic design, smart styling and less than $200!

No frills, but who needs them when you’re trying to cart your work essentials via mass transit? Plenty of pockets, full grain leather, and a variety of subtle shades make this a great commuting tote. The reviews are positive and seems many use this to lug around heavy 17” laptops with no issue. A classic style and less than $90 makes this bag a great option.

The best thing about this tote are the straps that continue through the body of the bag – this will keep your straps in one piece far longer. Generously sized, and fun yet work-friendly fabrics and colors. Currently on sale for less than $140 and free shipping.

I have a Brahmin and can attest to the fact that they are sturdy, well-made bags. My tote has a thin crossbody strap but easily supports a bag full of heavy things like leftovers and bottled water. Though the straps aren’t sewn deep into the body of the bag, they are wider at the bottom and secured all the way around for a strong foundation. Metal feet, interior organizing pockets, and a variety of conservative and fun colors make this a great work bag. While it is a bit over $200, it’s a classic style that should give you years of wear and is polished enough to use for corporate meetings and conferences and work travel. In fact, if you’re interested in splurging, the larger ‘Melbourne Large Anytime’ tote has a padded compartment inside just for your iPad.

I feel inauthentic recommending a brand I wore strapped above my fanny in the ‘80s, but LeSportsac is known for high-quality, sturdy, and lightweight bags that last forever. The Travel Tote is famous for being the perfect tote you didn’t know you needed. Lightweight, durable, expandable, and not covered with overly visible logos or prints, this is a LeSportsac that can fit with most any personal style and will comfortably carry everything from your gym clothes to your netbook with ease. Less than $100, and many say they are still happily using the same LeSportsace Travel Tote that they purchased over a decade prior.

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What’s In My Bag?

This weekend when I was taking pictures of my haul from the Hobo International sample sale, I figured I should take some pictures of what is inside my own purse!

The bag of the day was my leather hobo from Sabina:

This is what I carry on a regular day – the only thing missing is my engagement calendar. Yes, I am living in 2011 and still carry a paper calendar (with small address book in the back of it)! Calendar missing because my husband was borrowing it to make sure he and I were on same page for the next few weekends.

  • I learned from my sister to keep everything in pouches for easy switching of bags and organization of tiny items.The aqua pouch (a freebie from an Estee Lauder gift with purchase) is for cosmetics, the leopard faux fur (bought at Arden B in the late ’90s) is for my “emergency kit.”  
  • The sunglass case carries my silver aviators from Ray-Ban – classic, lightweight, my regular go-to shades.  
  • The black box with the teardrop on it are my business cards – I got them from MOO and the box has little dividers so in there I can store my mini cards, my full-size cards, and my “real job” cards.  I also have a place to store cards I collect from networking events.
  • I always carry two memory cards – when my husband takes my picture in the morning I hand him one, he takes the pics, gives it back to me and I edit photos on my lunch hour at work.
  • Eclipse gum – it was on sale at the grocery store and I have a dozen of these packets everywhere.  I like that they can’t fall out of the case and get all grody on the bottom of my bag.
  • Two retractable pens so they don’t ink up the inside of my bag
  • SmarTrip card – a given if you live in the DC area.
  • A notepad to capture ideas, SKU numbers so I can go online and find it cheaper, and random ideas.  I have had this same notepad for years and love going through it and remembering different moments in the past.
  • My wallet – you can see the inside of it at this post.
  • Keys – I used to have a bigger keyring, complete with a flash drive but recently simplified.  House, car, office.  The rest are stored at home.
  • Camera and phone.  A given.
  • Not seen – my snack.  I usually carry a 100-calorie pack of almonds or a Weight Watchers bar in my bag to I don’t succumb to a high-fat treat in a moment of weakness, but had yet to replace from eating the last one a couple days prior.

The contents of the leopard pouch – hair thingies when I can’t take it any longer, a Tide-to-Go pen because I am always spilling on myself, contacts rewetting drops, Bliss Spa lotion (this has a smell that doesn’t make me want to gag), a lighter (I don’t smoke but back from my wedding coordinator days I carry one because there always seems to be a situation where one can be useful), BodyGlide (for days when my shoes or thighs are rubbing), Sephora comb (the BEST! My sister got this for me one year for Christmas and it doesn’t cause static like other plastic combs.), face wipes (they also take off makeup, and have even taken stains off clothes in a pinch), crayons (have toddler, will entertain).  I usually have a few quarters in here as well in case of an unexpected parking meter.

My cosmetics pouch, which is in need of replacement – Urban Decay De-Slick (for oil slicks without too much makeup), Philosophy The Supernatural in Beige (for long days as a makeup refresher – goes over other makeup without looking cakey), Colgate Wisps (I keep a toothbrush and paste in my office, but when out and can’t brush I always have a couple of these in my bag), Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm in Rose (works as a blush in a pinch), two Smashbox lip glosses (one bright pinkish red – Tease, one shimmery sheer pink – Radiant), black Avon eye pencil, DiorShow black mascara, Tarte Indellible Wink in black (black shadow on one side, liquid liner on the other).  With this kit, I can redo my face before an after-work event, freshen up my face mid-day, or easily take a day look and glam it up for evening.

***

Not too exciting.  I keep my purse pretty simple and organized, even more so now that I have a child.  With Emerson I often also carry a wetbag with some cloth wipes and a diaper in case of emergencies, a sippy cup, a couple toys, maybe a pair of mittens.  It’s far easier to keep her stuff separate from mine by having all my stuff compartmentalized. On a work day, I may also add a book, a small travel umbrella, and my travel mug after consuming my coffee (I put a page from the newspaper in it to keep it from leaking and then can compost or recycle the paper at the end of the day)

How do you keep your bag organized?  If you have a post about the contents of your bag, be sure to link to it in the comments!

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Vendor Review – MetStyle Bags

MetStyle is a very cool company concept, offering professional bags for women that are feminine and stylish while still giving the owner the respect she deserves in the business room. This is a hard task for any company, to have all the features necessary for your laptop, writing supplies and lipgloss without being boring and bulky like the carry-all that came with your computer, but not frou-frou and frivolous. In this day and age we all need to carry around our gadgets; we should ahve the ability to do it with style and class.

I received the Champs Elysees Hand Bag (pictured) in the mail this week and boy am I impressed! Do not let the photograph on the website fool you into thinking this is a utilitarian piece. The dark purple quilting has a slightly iridescent satiny finish that is chic yet professional. The hardware is polished silver, the trim and handles a high-quality faux leather that has the flexibility and sheen of the real thing. I am petite with thicker arms and I found this bag comfortable in my hand or over my shoulder. My Dell D610 fits comfortably (and my husband’s larger 17” Dell just fit if no notepad or accessories were included) with my portable mouse, USB, Blackberry, digital camera, a slim notepad and a few goodies like gum, powder and lipstick. Inside compartments keep everything organized and the slim look doesn’t resemble a purse in any way. I love the dark plum shade – very subtle yet adding a bit of panache to the subdued business suit ensemble. My husband even liked it saying it “looks very Art Deco and classy.”

Prior to this bag, I was using a black microfiber laptop tote from the Michael Graves collection at Target. I found the Dell shoulder bag that my company gave me to bee too heavy, bulky and useless. Not just that, but it was hard to carry around with my petite frame. I purchased the Michael Graves tote because it was a more feminine shape, but professional enough for the toughest client. I found even that seemed to be too bulky for business meetings and travel and desired something smaller. Usually smaller pieces were just a sleeve with a strap with no room for accessories or personal effects, or else they were too girly (my clients would not appreciate a glossy pink croco bag with a tassel). I found appropriate bags online, but they were often way over $100 – not appropriate to my budget.

The bags from MetStyle are a good price for the quality, they achieve style without compromising your level of respect with your colleagues, and they are made to really accomplish all the tasks of a true business bag – hold the laptop, the legal pad, the pen, the computer accessories, the wallet and the lipstick and powder for lunchtime touch-ups. Visit the site and find a retailer near you to check out this great new brand!

What’s In My Bag: Forecastle Edition

This is the second in a series about my experience at the Forecastle Music Festival. I already wrote about what I wore, I will also be writing a festival recap.

For my first Bonnaroo, I purchased the Kelty “Tecate” hydration pack. I wanted something small that would fit pretty much between my shoulder blades, and this did the trick. Problem is, once the bag has a full bladder of water, there’s not much room to hold anything else. Over time, I have switched to attaching a Camelbak reusable bottle to the bag’s strap with a carabineer – this makes it easy to refill, I can take a sip without detaching the bottle, and I have plenty of backpack space for festival necessities.

Since 2007, this bag has attended four Bonnaroos, a trip to Vermont, various hikes around the region, a few smaller local festivals and now Forecastle. My husband says it’s bad luck to wash your hydration backpack; I have only washed it once when a bottle of bug spray exploded in it. It was fun to pull it out of the closet and see it still coated in Tennessee dust from Bonnaroo 2011. The buttons I have gathered from different festivals – I lost two since last Bonnaroo and will have to get some new good ones soon!

This year my husband and I said we were “festing like a boss.” Over time we have learned what is a necessity, and what is superfluous; what will increase our comfort level without leaving us burdened with a heavy bag. Never during the festival did I feel I lacked for anything, and had many people wanting to try out our chairs!

What’s in my Bag:

  • Packable poncho. My sister got this one for me several years ago from Bed Bath and Beyond; it’s fun to have a change from the typical blue, yellow, or clear ponchos and it’s a ripstop fabric that has held up nicely over the years.
  • Alite chair. This thing is totally awesome. It’s the size of a Camelbak reusable bottle and not only fit in my Kelty bag, but also the J. Crew tote I carried the first night. Not too tall to piss off those in the field behind you, but tall enough to keep you out of the mud and dirt; you can also recline in it for a very comfy outdoor concert experience!
  • Sunglass case. I wore my sunglasses until sunset, but didn’t want to get them scratched or lost. Ray Ban makes a nice slimline case that makes it easy to fit in the bag. I also had the cleaning cloth tucked in it.
  • Saline solution. I used to carry moisturizing eye drops, but usually I just need something to wash funk out of my contacts or rehydrate if it has been a long day. I have found that saline solution does it better.
  • Barrettes and elastics. I start the day with hair down, but if it gets too hot, too sweaty, too whatever it’s nice to be prepared. I usually do a messy updo and clip back my bangs, but I always want extras in case I lose or break one, or if a fellow attendee is in need.
  • Safety pins. I even take a couple diaper pins which could secure heavier fabrics or even hang things from my backpack.
  • Pen and Sharpie. Pen to jot things down or share info with new friends, Sharpie in case I meet an artist and want their autograph.
  • Plain lip balm. With SPF.
  • Tinted lip balm. Give the sweaty bare face a hint of color.
  • Philosophy mineral foundation. This is only there in case I get a chance to say, meet a musician and get a photo op, go backstage, end up leaving and going to a place where a sweaty bare face may be a bit much. It can go on sans mirror and look like me, just a bit more polished and it doesn’t itch or drip when I sweat.
  • Gum. One pack of minty, one pack fruity. A day in the heat, drinking a lot of water and the occasional beer can leave a gross feeling and taste in your mouth. Gum is amazing, and you can make a ton of friends by offering gum to those around you!
  • Business cards. To share contact information with new friends.
  • Face sunscreen. Small so it fits in the bag, dry so it will go on the face and stay there. One in our group will carry a can of spray sunscreen for all of us for the day.
  • Comb. My sister got this one for me from Sephora and I adore it.
  • Non-essential wallet stuff. On my person will be my ID, cash, and credit card. However, in my bag I will have things such as my insurance card or fan club membership card and festival schedule.

Not seen: carabineer holding my Camelbak water bottle

And here’s how everything fits in the bag. There’s still room to fit a can of sunscreen, a bandanna, a snack. There’s bungees on the back so I can attach a tee shirt if I buy one, or even strap my empty water bottle back there (I tuck the base in the mesh pocket to keep it from jangling around). Sometimes I take a waterproof blanket or groundcloth instead of a chair; for that I usually bungee it to the outside of the pack. If I know I will be using grody porta-potties I will have a sandwich bag of Clorox wipes and one of toilet paper.  If it’s a more rural festival, I will also pack a headlamp.

Wearing my backpack with Camelbak bottle attached – hands free to dance… or enjoy a beer!

My husband says I look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle with my “shell” on my back, but it’s very comfortable, doesn’t dig into my shoulders, nicely disperses the weight, and I can dance without having to put my stuff on the ground.

I know many may find this to be excessive; I see many a festival attendee having a great time with just that which is in their pockets or a small crossbody bag. And it’s true, you can have a blast without all these creature comforts. I personally like to have these creature comforts so I can better enjoy the shows and not have to spend unexpected cash on things like disposable ponchos or bottles of water. It works for me, and it helped me have a fantastic time at Forecastle!

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What’s In My Bag? Clutch Edition

Yesterday I carried a clutch to work and a reader emailed me asking,

How can you carry such a small bag to work? My work bag is almost the size of a suitcase to hold all I need, and yesterday there was a chance of rain in DC. I’d love to see what is in your clutch and smaller bags so I can see how I can pare down my own work bag. Thanks Allie!

Yesterday I carried this bag:

And here are the contents:

  • Sunglasses (not in case which I don’t recommend on a regular basis)
  • Comb
  • Keys
  • SolarOil for my cuticles (trying to stop chewing them, and this helps keep them soft and less pick-able)
  • Umbrella
  • Urban Decay De-Slick powder
  • Engagement calendar with address book
  • Two phones (work and personal)
  • Retractable ball-point pen

In the pockets I have:

  • SmarTrip card
  • Check card, emergency credit card, driver’s license, insurance and AAA cards, cash
  • Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Rose (the lip color I wore yesterday)
  • Kohl eye pencil (what I wore yesterday)
  • Tide-to-Go pen
  • One Kleenex 
  • Camera memory card

So while it doesn’t hold all my regular purse contents, it’s everything I need for a day away from home!

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What’s In My Bag? (and what is in yours?)

I shared the contents of my purse a few months ago and since have realized the post took at a very minimalist point of my life. 2012 has been extremely busy, many days where I would be away from the home for 12 hours or more, traveling to three different locations without being able to stop home. Because of that, my purse contents have grown.

Today I am carrying my yellow leather tote from Nordstrom (last seen here). I love this bag because it’s more polished looking than a reusable tote, but can carry just as much. Along with all these contents, I also had a frozen meal and a return to Ann Taylor tucked in here, and could still fit the bag comfortably over my shoulder. I highly recommend Nordstrom brand bags – they are well made, stylish without being trendy, free of logos, and very reasonably priced (I got this one on clearance).

The contents of my bag:

I used to carry crayons for Emerson, but they got really grody over time. Lately she has been so creative, she can make a toy out of the most random things; I can give her a napkin and a pen and she has a blast.  However, you can usually find a small toy or action figure deep in the bottom of most of my purses.  My Metro SmarTrip card is in my jacket pocket, or else it would be in that front pocket with my keys!

So what’s in your purse?  I’d love to see – if you decide to do a blog post or Twitter pic sharing the contents of your bag, come back here and leave a link in the comments!

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Not Fashion Related: Creating a Bug Out Bag

So the world didn’t end on December 21st. I never thought it would, but all the hype did get me thinking about the future. While I do think my family and I have a good plan for hurricanes and natural disasters, we never had prepared Bug Out Bags (also known as Go Bags). A Bug Out Bag is a bag you have prepped that will take care of you if you have to leave your house without notice and get by sans creature comforts for three days or so. This could be for a zombie apocalypse, alien takeover, Mayan apocalypse… just kidding, it’s for situations you don’t even want to imagine but could happen. Even FEMA suggests that everyone have a bag at the ready to get out of Dodge just in case. So this past month, I created Bug Out Bags for my family.

If you Google Bug Out Bag or Go Bag you will find a kazillion ideas on what is necessary in such a bag; each person’s needs are different and your needs will vary based upon your climate, family, health, and personal needs. In fact, Googling such a topic may freak you out a bit – there’s some major doomsday preppers out there and their “necessities” may be scary and/or overwhelming. I see a Bug Out Bag as less something to protect me on the Oregon Trail or from an alien takeover and more something to keep me and my family safe and healthy during a disaster until we have a safe and healthy place to rest.

I honestly don’t see what the harm is in preparing for a disaster in this way. I’d rather be safe than sorry, especially now that I have a human life for which I am responsible. We have stored our Bug Out Bags where we keep our emergency supplies (which is also where we meet in the house in case of an emergency). Nothing in the bags will expire any time soon nor is needed on a daily basis. Here is an example of what I have in our bags.

Adult Bug Out Bag: While online lists will encourage you to buy a Molle or Alice military backpack, you can honestly use any bag you have around the house. Again, something is better than nothing, and it doesn’t make sense to go into debt for something you hopefully will never need to use.  My bag is a backpack I already owned but never use. You don’t want it so heavy you can’t run or walk long distances in it, and something that will be comfortable when worn for long periods of time. Chest and waist straps will help with comfort and support.  Some things you may want in your bag:

  • Change of clothes (something easy to get on and off, warm if you’re in a cold climate, and something that can dry quickly or handle the elements)
  • Poncho (if you get a sturdy reusable one it can double as a tarp or a makeshift tent)
  • Flashlight (a crank one is great so you don’t have to reply on batteries)
  • Water (at least three liters)
  • Food (Clif bars, bags of tuna, Datrex bars, something that won’t spoil but has lots of energy)
  • Toilet paper
  • N95 Respirator face masks (sounds scary, I know, but I even would have liked these during the dusty years at Bonnaroo)
  • A sleeping bag (get one for backpackers since it will be light and take up less space)
  • Mylar blankets
  • Immodium AD, some pain reliever, and any meds you or your children are on
  • Bandanna
  • Purification tablets for water
  • Swiss Army Knife and/or multitool
  • I have some paracord, heavy-duty diaper pins, duct tape, dental floss, needles and a pair of cuticle scissors to be able to mend and jimmy-rig things if need be
  • Fire starter/waterproof matches
  • First aid kit
  • Waterproof note pad and pen
  • A metal cup or small container (like from a Boy Scout mess kit) to carry food and water and heat if necessary
  • Toothpaste and brush, some sort of soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s because it can be used for body, hair, and even clothes and dishes), feminine care needs, pack of personal wipes, hand santitizer or sanitizing wipes
  • Can opener (these are tiny, cheap, and get the job done)
  • Compass
  • A couple trash bags and Ziploc bags
  • Weather radio (even better if it’s solar or crank-powered so you don’t have to worry about batteries)
  • Phone charger (in case you get to somewhere with electricity; I also have this solar charger but I don’t always keep it in my bag)
  • Emergency whistle

Child Bug Out Bag: If your child is old enough to wear a backpack, he should have his own bag. You want to keep it light and comfortable, and be less about survival and more about a feeling of normalcy in an emergency situation. Emerson has this bag from Deuter, which will also make for a great backpack for school, camping, or everyday. I taught her it is an emergency camping bag; I had her try it on, snapped the chest strap and we ran around the main floor of the house playing chase to see if she could wear it and move quickly yet comfortably. I also had her try the whistle and told her the whistle is when she gets separated from us when camping. She now knows that if we need to go emergency camping, she is to wear this bag, but didn’t get freaked out about the whole process.  Some things good for a kid’s bug out bag:

  • Change of clothes
  • Diapers or pull-ups (if applicable) or toilet paper
  • A small favorite toy or two
  • A paperback book
  • Crayons and coloring book
  • Emergency whistle
  • Small flashlight
  • Water
  • Poncho
  • Food (unlike we adults who understand the importance over flavor, it’s good to have some snacks your kid would like – granola bars, fruit leather, candy that won’t melt, honey sticks, crackers, etc.  If younger, have formula/baby food.)
  • Laminated card with parents’ names, address and phone numbers as well as a couple other contact folks who are further away (relative in neighboring state, family friend in town an hour away)
  • Face mask
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste, little pack of moist wipes/personal cleansing cloths
  • If your child is big enough to carry it, you can add a child’s backpacking sleeping bag


Office Bug In Bag: What if you’re at work in the city when something happens? Do you have what you need to be able to get back home to safety? I know my office is about 17 miles from home and I know two walking routes to get there. I have a bag with these things at the ready in case I need to hoof it out of the city:

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Compass/map
  • Knife/multitool
  • Poncho
  • Face mask
  • Mylar blanket (while it can keep you warm, it’s reflective and can also be used as a beacon)
  • Water
  • Food
  • Headlamp
  • First aid kit
  • Personal care (hand sanitizer, toilet paper, etc.)
  • Bandanna

There are likely things that are missing and things I would never use if such a situation would occur, but I can sleep a bit better at night knowing that my family is a bit prepared if the worst were to happen.  Many of these things you can find at your local CVS or grocery store or may already be hanging around your home. Many of these things I found on Amazon for ridiculously low prices. I know most Bug Out Bag lists online have far more on them than my list, but I am working with my budget, my ability to carry a bag, and I guess a little bit of hope.  It’s better to have some than none, so create as much of a bag as you can with the funds and supplies you currently have.

Update your bag every few months switching out things that expire, cold weather necessities (gloves, hat, hand warmers) for warm weather ones (sunscreen, bug spray, sun hat), etc. This way you also remember what is in the bag and what you may want to add/remove as your life changes. Remind your family about where to meet in case of an emergency, and the importance of leaving these bags alone so they are always at the ready. It may seem a bit obsessive, but a little preparation now could save you if, in the words of preppers, the SHTF in the future.

UPDATE: I can’t believe I forgot to mention a pet bug-out bag!  We have food, water, and collapsible bowls for Cindy plus a leash; don’t forget that your pets too need sustenance in an emergency!  Thank you all for the reminder!

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Ask Allie: How to Clean a White or Light Leather Bag

I just splurged for a gorgeous cream and beige leather bag. But now I’m wondering, how do I best care for it? I’m almost afraid to take it outside for fear that it would get dirty. Is there a way to treat it so that it lasts longer? And what if I do get a spot on it? Are there any products that I should avoid using on leather?

I have a gorgeous off-white leather bag from Banana Republic, got it for an insanely low price on eBay. A year later I was embarrassed to carry it because it was so dingy and stained, mainly from propping a newspaper on it during my Metro work commute, but also denim dye transfer and a few splashes of coffee. I researched ways to clean it, and if I can offer any advice from my experience, try spot test cleaning the bag now in an inconspicuous spot to see how it reacts so you’re prepared when dirt happens. Below are processes I tried that didn’t ruin the finish of my leather bag:

  • Dish soap diluted in water, gently applied with a soft cloth and quickly blotted dry. This is a good method for occasional cleaning to prevent set-in stains since it’s gentle, easy, and you likely own all you need to do it. Err on the side of too little soap, and the cloth should be slightly damp, not soaking.
  • Spray hair spray and wipe off with a cloth – the hairspray often grabs the stain but not the dye; be sure to wipe off while it’s still damp
  • White Wizard Stain Remover – this stuff is amazing and good to have on hand for all sorts of stains in the closet and around the home
  • Ink stains can come out with a bit of plain white toothpaste and a soft toothbrush (I have a child’s toothbrush just for this); be gentle and try to scrub only the spot because it could affect the finish
  • Equal parts Cream of Tartar and lemon juice (fresh lemon juice seems to be gentler and doesn’t smear as much as bottled) gently rubbed into the stain, left for 10 minutes. Use a rag damp with diluted soap to remove and buff dry with a soft cloth
  • Chamberlain’s Leather Milk – This stuff is gentle and conditions as well as cleans. It’s another great product to have on hand, I’ve used it on our couches, vintage leather coats, boots, and more.

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Blogger Favorite Beauty Buys of 2013: Mixed Bag Edition!

At the end of each year, I share what I found to be the best beauty buys from the past 12 months. Some are new products, some are just new to me. Many of you tell me you find the posts incredibly helpful, and I must say I also find them helpful when I read them on other blogs. This year, I decided to ask my favorite bloggers to share their single favorite beauty product from 2013 and I must say their choices have made my shopping list a mile long! I was honored to have so many bloggers share their faves, I have broken it down into six editions; this one is the lovely women who couldn’t narrow it down to one item.  Be it for the lips, eyes, face, or even fragrance, here’s their top picks:

“I’m a bit of a whore for concealer and my favorite this year by far is Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer. It’s super pigmented and stays put so it’s great for undereye circles. Like Marianne (see below), I’m fickle when it comes to makeup but I’ve rebought Maybelline The Colossal Mascara several times this year and it’s definitely become a staple. It’s black-black, holds curl and it’s cheap! Finally, Clinique Almost Lipstick in Chic Honey is my favorite lip product of 2013. This color is a bit of an update on the classic Black Honey, but still sheer and easy to apply in the car without a mirror when you’re running late to work. (Um, not that I do this. Much.)”

“For skin, Kiehl’s Midnight Midnight Recovery Concentrate. It’s not cheap, but a little bit goes a very long way, and a small bottle lasts forever. It smells amazing, and my finicky skin feels like the proverbial baby’s bottom in the morning.

For color, Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Romantic. Your recommendation, obvi, and one of my finds ever. So much impact for so little money – and key for this lazy makeup girl – so little effort. A few swipes (so easy to apply, it’s mirrorless), plus a pat or two of powder, and I go from exhausted mama to grownup.”

- Alison, DC Celine

- Angelica, Clarendon Moms

“My favorite beauty buy is Parachute coconut oil. I am obsessed with what it does for my hair and skin. I have always heard about all the benefits of coconut oil but like everything I assumed it was just a lot of hoopla. I have naturally dry hair and skin (probably because I dont drink enough water) and this has been a life saver.

I also am in love with Pink Sugar Eau de Toilette. I was at the movies a few months ago and this lady sat next to me and I immediately was drawn to the way she smelled. So much so that I just had to ask what she was wearing. She told me about this perfume and I immediately got on the internet and was ordering it. It definitely has a super sweet scent but everyone remarks positively on it.”

- Jennifer, Comme Coco

“I’m a pretty fickle pickle when it comes to beauty products, constantly moving from one favorite to the next, but for 2013 a few products stand out. First of all, my Clarisonic Mia has been a game changer. I almost feel like I wasn’t getting my face completely clean before I started using it. On the makeup front, I switched to a full coverage foundation (Smashbox Studio Skin 15 Hour Wear Foundation) and whoa. It looks natural, stays on ALL day, and I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to tinted moisturizers! Lastly, this year I splurged on the Urban Decay Naked2 Palette and I use it almost every day. I love that I can go from natural to dramatic all in one product, and the colors are rich and lasting.”

“My Favorite Beauty Buy: Kiehl’s Mint Lip Balm. This lip balm is the best remedy for chapped lips and it also smells divine. I wear it all the time. I also use a tiny bit before applying lipstick especially during the winter months.

Lola’s Favorite 2013 Beauty Buy was Kiehl’s Cuddly-Coat Grooming Shampoo. After a luxurious 5-minute bath with this shampoo, Lola feels beautiful and her coat is incredibly soft and shiny.”

- Rosa (and Lola!), Rosa Loves DC

I always say I learn the most from you, readers.  Some of my Holy Grail beauty products are ones you recommended in the comments.  So let me and everyone else know, what were your best skincare buys in 2013?

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Review – Hobo International Sample Sale

It’s great living in the DC area – access to amazing FREE museums, living within an hour of three major airports, one of the best concert venues in the country (I love you 9:30 Club!), all the convenience and options of a major city, yet close proximity to the ocean, the bay, wineries, and farmland.

However as a blogger, I sometimes feel left out when I get all these emails from PR folks telling me about great sample sales taking place in New York, London, and Los Angeles. What about DC? Where’s OUR sample sales?

Well Hobo International is based out of Annapolis, Maryland and I found out they had a sample sale this past weekend. Score! I adore Hobo bags – they are stylish without being trendy, well made, and fit my personal sense of style. I follow Hobo on Twitter and the week prior to their sample sale they had a Twitter contest where a few followers could win 50% off their entire purchase at the sale. And moi? Winner winner chicken dinner!

Annapolis isn’t too far from where I live – I actually passed my “bachelorette pad” on the way (lived in Annapolis prior to moving in with my husband). My mom, Emerson, and I arrived about 20 minutes prior to them opening the doors for the sale and there was a good dozen of folks ahead of me. These were serious shoppers – women in sneakers, sans purses and handbags, ready to shop. I probably would have been better off without a toddler in tow, but I didn’t have anyone to watch her and Emerson is pretty chill in chaotic situations and don’t mind crowds.

The sale was well managed – many Hobo International staff on hand to pass out shopping baskets, answer questions – one even offered to watch Emerson so I could shop! Instead, my mom and I took turns – one would watch Emerson while the other would do a mad dash around the sale, toss things in the basket. We would switch, and then while watching Emerson, could look through what we picked up, decide if it was purchase-worthy and put back that which we decided against keeping.

After about 30 minutes (time flies when you’re running around like a mad woman, surrounded by leather goods and other mad women!) we were DONE. Emerson had been fantastic but was starting to whine and I didn’t want to torture her any longer. We had collected a nice haul and felt accomplished so my mom took E to the car and I headed to the register.

And now on to the most important thing – my haul:

Emerson likes the pretty pink belt

- The Libby in Pumpkin
- The Penelope in Maroon
- The Bartola in Stone
- The Sadie wallet in hot pink patent
- The Valentina clutch in cobalt patent
- A belt that perfectly matches the Penelope (same leather and same hardware)
- A skinny hot pink patent belt (not on site)
- A skinny mint green leather belt (not on site)

My mom got a handbag, a belt, a wallet, and a little business-card holder/keyring combo thingie. Our purchases combined came to just over $200! How utterly insane is that? Seriously folks, if you live in the Annapolis area, this sale IS worth attending. Some items were previous seasons, but you can see three bags I got (and possibly my mom’s – can’t recall the style) are current colors and styles on sale on the Hobo International site.

As soon as I got home, I switched all my purse essentials over to the Penelope – here you can see how much this bag holds – a full-size book (which I will be reviewing soon), my “Diane” wallet from Hobo, sunglasses, camera, SmartPhone, engagement calendar, cosmetics bag and more!

Keep tabs on Hobo International via Facebook or Twitter and you will know when their next sale will take place!

P.S. I met a blog reader at the sale!  So hectic, no chance to really talk.  However it was great to meet you! :)



Note: Everything written in this post is my own opinion – I did not receive compensation to write about Hobo International, and was not asked by them to write. I attended this sale purely as a customer and paid for everything I received at the sale.

Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Practicing What I Preach

In my previous life, I was a retail gal. I worked my way up from a part-time manager in training while I was in college, to being a personal shopper, store manager and eventually a visual merchandiser. Having a past in apparel retail will affect you for the rest of your life – for some, it’s the desire to color-coordinate their closets. For others, they will catch themselves sizing rounders while shopping at The Gap. I know one of my friends who still folds her jeans in the same exact manner as she did when working at Express and snagged a sweater folding board to fold her knits at home into perfect rectangles.

For me, other than the desire to size every store in my local mall, it is to finger space all the hangers in my closet. When I worked at Express in the late ‘90s, this was something that you did to the entire store after closing. All garments facing the same direction, hanging properly on the hangers. Everything sized from smallest to largest, and then you would take one hanger hook between each finger and slide everything to the right of the bar. All hangers would end up a finger’s width apart from each other. This would leave a very tidy look in the store, and nasty black marks on the bottoms of your digits.

After leaving retail, I was pretty big about keeping my closet as organized as my old stores. Matching hangers (black plastic ones I got from work that do great with monkey-hanging), everything separated by style (all dresses together, all pants together, etc.), everything color coordinated, and everything finger spaced. Having a tidy and attractive closet calmed me, and made getting dressed all the more easy and enjoyable. I could open those accordion doors and immediately be able to put together an outfit, or know what piece I should buy that season to make my wardrobe more cohesive.

Then I had a baby.

Suddenly I had no clue what size I was, and had no time to really care for my hair, let alone my closet. I had everything from size 10 to 18 hanging in there – winter clothes in July, sundresses in January. Piles of shoes on the floor collecting dust – either too high for my postpartum body or too small with my now size-8 feet. My husband tried to help and any clothes that came out of the dryer he hung up. This meant I had to dig through yoga pants and hoodies to find something appropriate to don for work. Let’s add to this mess the fact that the closet was a fun hideout for my dogs (and once she started walking, my daughter). Amid the dusty shoes and dirty laundry on the floor, one could always find giant puffs of blonde dog fur, a chewed up stuffed animal, or a Sandra Boynton book.

As Emerson gets closer to the age of two, I get closer to being Alison again. Baby steps towards reclaiming myself, finding balance in this new world. This week, my goal was to reclaim the closet.

I started with my bureau. As that many items in the closet should actually be there, I wanted to start with a clean slate. Out went the beat up nursing tanks, the oversized yoga pants, what the heck is a maternity tee still doing in there? Out went the white pants, the stained tee shirts, the icky yellowed and grayed ribbed tanks. While at it, gone were the stretched out postpartum granny panties and all the nursing bras that didn’t lift and support and act like a regular bra to my bust. I made two piles – what to donate, and what to turn into rags.


Green Tip – Take your old tee shirts, cut off the sleeves and hems and cuffs and you will end up with two nice-sized rectangles perfect for dusting and quick clean-ups! Have a basket under your kitchen sink or in your linen closet, toss in the wash when dirty and you will be amazed at how easy it is to go paper-towel free! you can also do this with old yoga pants and other knits – just cut to size and the edges will roll on themselves, keeping them from fraying.

I then tackled the closet. I removed all the items that should be in a drawer (pajamas, casual knits, jeans, bras that were line drying in the bathroom and moved to the closet by my husband). When I put them away, I put them away with purpose. A drawer for lingerie, a drawer for nicer knits (tanks and shells and tees that I will wear out in public), a drawer for jeans and casual bottoms, a drawer for workout wear and lounge wear (and the one or two bummy tees I kept for when I paint a room or work in the garden).

I then went through what was leftover. I had a box for what was out of season and needed to go into the attic, a bag for that which needed to be donated, a bag of what I thought I could sell on eBay, and then I added some more to the rag pile.

Wow, I just whittled my closet by more than half! Instead of feeling sad that I had a smaller wardrobe, I felt liberated. I looked at what was left and felt so… creative! Hey, wouldn’t that top look really cute under that sweater? What if I wore that dress as a tunic with skinny jeans and boots? Oh the options!

Before continuing, I decided to clean. I took a rag and water with a drop of Dr. Bronner’s and wiped down the metal bars and the shelves.

Finally I took everything and hung it up properly a la Retail Alison. All facing the right way on the hangers, gripper hangers for the slippery pieces, using garment loops to keep items from falling off hangers. I even hung my skirts so they were flush with one side of the pant hanger. I organized by style, with the most worn pieces at the center of the closet. And finally, I finger-spaced the garments. I knew I wouldn’t maintain it, but it was a nice way to finish that portion of this project.

I stood back… and felt such serenity. There was my wardrobe, my options, my suit of armor. Looking at it all nicely organized made me realize I had a pretty good collection and didn’t want for much. Having my clothes so tidy made me want to keep them tidy – not just when in the hanger, but caring for them properly when wearing and laundering so they would stay looking pretty and tidy.

I haven’t finished my closet project – the floor is still littered with cardboard books and summer flip flops and old dusty boots. The bags need to be stored properly (great use for old pillowcases). But I did weed out the shoes and they are now in the properly-labeled box. My hanging organizer is organized, though not yet weeded. I hope to have this project complete before this coming Monday, but wanted to share photos with you now. It’s proof that style doesn’t come with quantity, but with having a useful wardrobe of staples. Stick to one color story and style for more versatility and the ability to mix and match with little thought. Keep it simple, use accessories to show personality and change up wardrobe basics. Respect and love your clothes and they will be more likely to love you in return!

My side of the closet – what I have accomplished so far.  The boxes hold all the shoes I own – boots and flip flops are stored on the floor of the closet.  Bags have yet to be sorted and properly stored in cloth bags. And nope, the hangers are no longer finger-spaced!

My wardrobe collection.  You can see I pretty much stick to a base of black and gray with the occasional pop of color.  This season I am really loving striped shirts and have added a few to my wardrobe – very classic, touch of French chic, and a cheap way to add a current trend to my collection of basics.
I know with this collection I have something to wear to work every day of the week, something to wear to a holiday party, a cocktail party, a wedding, a funeral, or most any event that life throws my way!

My accessory collection.  I purchased this hanging organizer almost 20 years ago.  First shelf are seasonal accessories like scarves and mittens, plus my baseball caps that I only wear to baseball games (two for the Orioles, two for the Nationals).  Second shelf are dressy or small purses I use most often.  Third shelf are pashminas and scarves I use most often.  First drawer holds more pashminas and shawls that I don’t wear as often.  Second drawer holds my scarf collection, and the bottom drawer holds the rest of my clutches and dress purses.  My husband and I house our belts together on the two contraptions to the right.  More belts are stored in a box on the shelf with my shoe boxes – those belts are novelty pieces that I rarely wear.

The reason I love this closet – the skylight!  Natural light, hardly ever the need to turn on the electric light (except at night like this photo), and a beautiful scene to help me every morning as I contemplate what to wear!

What I Wore: Slithering Snake

Jacket: Halogen (similar) | Sweatshirt: c/o CAbi | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Fitzwell (similar) | Necklace: c/o Kristin Biggs, Stella and Dot | Bracelets: Nordstrom (similar), had forever | Lipstick: Revlon Matte in Wine Not | Bag: Banana Republic via eBay (similar)

CAbi recently contacted me and asked if I’d like to style a few of their pieces. Yes please! I have been a fan of CAbi for a long while since my dear friend Lisa became a consultant for CAbi and introduced me to the line. The clothes fit so well, it always amazes me that my petite curvy frame can rock the same CAbi pieces as my tall slim friend Lisa. I decided to take this opportunity to try a few things that aren’t typically me and asked to try their Dressed Up Sweatshirt. Gotta say I like it! It’s sheer so I have a black cami underneath, but not super sheer that it looks inappropriate at the office. I love the mixed pattern, and am always a sucker for any animal or snakeskin print. I originally imagined this top with their Fleather Skirt (which I also got and adore and will feature soon), but today I was feeling more relaxed and decided to pair it with dark denim.

I can’t recommend eBay for bags enough.  There’s so many people out there who buy and baby bags and then tire of them after a season or so.  I wanted a plain black leather tote that could pack into a suitcase if need be, but look nice enough for work.  I found this one on eBay; the leather is super soft, it’s unfinished inside which makes it light and easy to pack but the straps are thick and sturdy.  Single pocket inside to hold keys and cell phone, structured bottom, straps that fit over a winter coat and a magnetic closure.  All that for $20 and it even came in a dust bag.  If you know a certain brand or even style number/name search eBay before paying retail and you can save big.

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Expensive Doesn’t Always Equal Appropriate

I know you readers have my mantra memorized – Quality, not Quantity. Quality can come at any price range, and appropriateness can too. Often times we confuse a high pricetag with formality. Just because a frock is designer (or at a designer price) it does not mean it’s always the best choice for an event.

A couple of years ago I was invited to a black tie wedding at an historical mansion. The bride wore a white veil and train that rivaled Princess Diana’s and the ballroom was filled to the gills with gold Chivari chairs and white roses. This was an event where the classic LBD was verging on too casual, even when paired with the family jewels and elegant heels. The bride only had one attendant, her sister. She gave her permission to pick any dress she desired in any color.

The maid of honor chose to wear a gown by a very hot fashion designer, worn by all the It Girls of Hollywood. The gown was brown and rust-colored silk jersey with a plunging halter neck and back, many straps wrapped around the body and a floor-skimming hem. Gorgeous dress, but far more appropriate for a summer fete in the Hamptons, than a December black tie gala. The dress would have been fab with a few wooden bangles and gold gladiator sandals, but the woman tried to formalize the dress with silk heels and diamonds.

It was expensive, it was gorgeous, it was totally inappropriate for the affair.

My friend works at a very cool ad agency in the city, where many of the women dress for work as though they are going to New York Fashion Week. One is sure to see the latest designer bags, heels and jeans at the water cooler. My friend was in the elevator with one of these well-dressed ladies and complimented her on her new Chloe dress. “Thank you, I wanted to look good for our first meeting with [big government agency who was new client].”

The dress was fabulous, but short, sleeveless and with a low back. Again, great for a Hamptons weekend affair, but not the right look for meeting with a new client who is most likely on the conservative side (I have worked with the government for years and have yet to meet an agency who fully appreciates a dress from Chloe).

I have seen spindly Manolos at beach weddings, strapless silk sundresses at family cookouts at the local park, designer fur vests at general admission all ages concerts, even Balenciaga purses at Bonnaroo – a 4-day music festival on a dusty farm in Tennessee where attendees camp without electricity or proper plumbing.

The point is, when shopping for a specific event, unless it IS New York Fashion Week, price and brand shouldn’t be a factor. Above all else, a look should be appropriate for the location, the audience, the type of affair. Style doesn’t come from a label, so when shopping ignore the trends, ignore the brands, ignore the fact that so-and-so was photographed wearing it to an awards ceremony. Focus on how it fits you, and your life and you will always be in style!

A few tips:
Weddings:
Steer away from bright red or white unless there is a theme specified on the invitation. If the event is after 5pm it is more formal (silk in place of cotton, clutch in place of handbag, crystals and pearls in place of metal and plastic jewelry and absolutely no denim). If the invite states the affair is Black Tie Optional, it doesn’t hurt to contact a member of the couple’s family or bridal party to confirm the level of formality. If all else fails, an elegant black dress of an evening fabric that is knee length or longer, silk heels, a clutch and a sparkly piece of jewelry will always work. For additional tips, visit my post about wedding attire.

Interviews/Client Meetings:
Err on the side of being conservative. For suggestions, visit my post about interview attire.

What I Wore: Blame Megan

size 14 petite blog latico red purse stripe dress
Dress: ASOS | Bag: Latico via MYHABIT (similar) |  Bracelet: CC Skye via MYHABIT (similar) | Shoes: Converse ‘Shoreline’

There are many friends in my life that I met through this blog, and one is Megan. Though we live on opposite coasts, we were pregnant at the same time, emailed back and forth over maternity fashion and breastfeeding, and became friends. One day she messages me these $89 Jason Wu shoes on her MYHABIT waitlist that came available. I had heard of MYHABIT but tried to steer clear from such sites because I didn’t NEED anything. But $89 Jason Wu heels had me curious enough to check it out and I became a fan.

I still try to steer clear from MYHABIT and other sites because it’s too easy to get caught up in the excitement of the bargain and buy things you don’t need or even really want, but it’s a fab site to find brands you already like at great prices. I like Latico bags; the leather is high quality, the styles simple and timeless, the price extremely reasonable for the quality, the brand has a cool rock and roll history, and they’re not covered with logos. Last year I wanted a red bag, and found this one on MYHABIT for around $40. This Spring, I realized I had a $20 credit at MYHABIT (refer friends and get credit, FYI my links are referral ones) and got this over $100 bracelet for just $9. So if I have someone to blame for this weekend look, it’s my bloggy friend Megan!

Free Tip – Cut the Purse Strings!

Each week I will be posting a free way that you can update your look or wardrobe – simple and budget friendly steps that are super easy to accomplish. This week’s idea – cutting the purse strings!

purse leatherWith use, leather and leather-like bags often start to fray, especially at the straps. We often miss this detail, with our purses becoming almost a part of our bodies. We throw them over our shoulder and don’t usually give them a second look. Walking to work today, I saw several women (and men with messenger and laptop bags) carrying expensive looking and new styles of bags that looked a big raggedy just because of these wayward threads.
With a pair of embroidery or cuticle scissors, snip all the little strings from the edges of your purse. While you’re at it, grab your laptop bag, your favorite tote and any other handbags in your collection and give them a trim. You won’t need to even touch the fabric, little scissors like this will get close enough to the bag for a clean finish without damaging the material.
A little snip of those purse strings, and your bag will look newer and more polished!