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What I Wore: Secret Band Tee

Jacket: Buffalo David Bitton (similar) | Tee: eBay | Scarf: c/o Nepali by TDM Design | Skirt: Halogen (similar) | Tights: Spanx | Shoes: Nine West “Lottie” | Bag: Rebecca Minkoff (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Smitten

Though I wrote a piece on how to incorporate band tee shirts in office attire, I myself hardly do it because I just don’t think they’re professional enough for my office and field of work. But when I saw this tank top on a woman at a show, I felt this may be a more subtle way to rock the band tee shirt. And if you’re worried that a generic tee shirt like this is copyright infringement, I found this article which clears things up and gives some history to the album cover art.  As for the tank, the hem is just serged so it rolls so I folded it under and will likely sew it that way to stay in place.

While I’m not a fan of the frigid temps this week in the DC area, it is nice to be able to wear this scarf again.  It is by far one of my favorites and surprisingly versatile.  It was originally part of my outfit, but with the wind, I felt I needed something to keep my neck warm.  I liked the pattern mixing and decided to keep it not just as a commuting accessory, but a piece of the look even when indoors!

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Blogger Burn-out: How to Get Reinspired for the New Year

The fabulous Kat at Ginger, Adorned recently asked on Twitter what fellow bloggers do to get through burnout. It reminded me that I had started a post on this very subject a few months ago but never did anything with it. Kat inspired me to finish my thoughts, and made me realize that my experience may help those of you who have a blog, site, or similar project.

I’ve been blogging for over seven years, and have experienced writer’s block and burnout more times than I can count. I have almost shuttered Wardrobe Oxygen a couple times, and if you go through my archives can see many times where I just went MIA because I had nothing to offer. Over the years I have gotten better at finding ways to quickly get out of a blogging rut, below are the ways I fight blogging burn-out and writer’s block.

Write for Yourself. When I am in a rut, I open up Word or a journal and just write. Maybe it’s a list of what I’d love in my dream wardrobe, possibly it’s documenting a dream I remember, a rant about a situation at work or in the blogosphere, maybe it’s some random rambling fiction that I make up as I go. Just putting the fingers on the keyboard or the pen to the paper is the important part – making the words. Then I save it to my desktop or close the journal and move on. A day or so later, I re-read what I wrote and often learn a lot from it. Sometimes it turns into a blog post, often it gives me a fresh view of how my mind works and recharges the writing part of my brain. Sometimes it’s just nice to write just for yourself; it’s freeing. You can be wild and creative and sloppy and silly and not even make sense like running down a hill screaming and laughing. We all need a bit of wild and silly and sloppy in our life from time to time.

Check Your Stats. Can’t think of a topic for a post? Hit up your blog stats and see what keywords are bringing people to your site, and what are the posts with the highest traffic. The keywords are great for a new topic, the popular posts give you an opportunity to revisit that topic and add detail or update for the new year. Not only this, seeing how your reader’s mind works helps you know what to deliver to keep them as readers.

Create a Series. Maybe it’s a Friday link-up, possibly it’s a monthly feature on a brand or fellow blogger. Having a series means at least one day a week or month you have guaranteed content. Keep it simple and keep a uniform template to these posts so your readers get that it’s a series and they will look forward to it. Often the content of the series will inspire you in other ways in regard to blog content.

Be Real. While it’s lovely to look at gorgeous photos of gorgeous outfits and collages of drool-worthy goodies, it’s also nice to know about the person behind the blog. Have writer’s block? Why not let your readers know and ask them what they would like to see or read on your site. Why not write a post about your life instead of your wardrobe – it brings depth to why you wear what you wear or why you feature the fashion and style you do on your blog. A great example of this is Alison at The Average Girl’s Guide – she has a “Vent Sesh” series where she steps away from style and vents about something in her life. This provides a great human element to her site, and also engages her readers to also vent and realize they aren’t alone in their personal frustrations.

Do a Review. You don’t have to just review what brands send you in the mail. An honest review that you’re not paid for can be quite refreshing these days in a blogosphere. Maybe your top five beauty products, your experience at a new mall in town, or even a concert or restaurant you recently attended. Even if you always write about fashion or beauty, the occasional review of a book, CD, concert, restaurant, or exhibit can be refreshing and help your readers understand how your mind works.

Poll Your Readers. Facebook pages and Twitter accounts are a great way to promote your blog, but they are also a great way to connect with your readers on a more intimate and honest level. Use your social media channels to ask your readers what they want more of. Maybe use Formspring or Survey Monkey to get anonymous feedback or what they like, dislike, and want more of. Accept that you may get negative feedback, but negative feedback can push you to improve your blog and toughen your skin. Such feedback can really help you step back and assess yourself, your blog, and its future as well as inspire you to write.  I did an anonymous survey when I changed the direction of this blog a few years ago and the feedback was invaluable; some a bit painful, some brought happy tears, all of it inspiring.

Step Away from Social Media. I sometimes take a Twitter break so that I can be a better blogger. Spending a lot of time with fellow bloggers can get you competitive, make you doubt your direction or ability, and get you frustrated. By taking a vacation from social media (as well as your blogroll) you can get back to the person you were when you started the blog. Returning to writing for passion instead of fame can quickly bring back your blogging mojo and the best way I have found is to distance myself for a short bit from my peers.

Start, Stop, and Save. I must have a couple dozen half-written posts on my computer. I start, I lose track, I save and close it. Sometimes I come back in a week when I have inspiration, sometimes it’s even a year. Heck, this post started six months ago, I was re-inspired by Kat, went back to it, closed it and came back a couple days later. You don’t have to write everything in one sitting, sometimes the best inspiration comes after letting an idea marinate for a bit.

Talk About It. I remember a few months after having Emerson I was burned out. Fried to a crisp. I had no desire to blog any more, no time, nothing. I had a baby blog, my personal style blog, my fashion advice blog and I just wanted to delete all of them and run screaming from my laptop. At the time I was part of a monthly women’s circle and that month we met at my house. We were drinking wine and chatting about life and I shared my frustrations with them. One suggested I pare down, concentrate on just one, maybe merge them together. I couldn’t believe I had never thought of that, and within a month I had merged the two fashion blogs and dropped being a proper baby blogger. Gosh, it was so freeing, and it brought back my enthusiasm for the craft. I also have a group of amazing fellow bloggers I consider friends; they (especially my dear friend Alison) are there for Gchat, an email, a drink after work to vent about blogging, to discuss the technical aspects, and to reinspire. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns or frustrations, your loved ones or a fellow blogger may know just the thing to get you back on track!

And now I ask you, what do you do to stop writer’s block or get over blogger burn out?

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On Blogging Vacations

I’ve had an Instagram account for two years and I just broke 1,000 last month. The only way I did that was by writing a post about my Instagram account. I have mentioned it before in posts, shared pictures on my Facebook page, occasionally share to Twitter, and there was even an icon (or two!) always in my sidebar. I hate when bloggers recap their Instagram on their blogs, come on people, we already SAW those photos! But now I know why – for each post they likely get a few handfuls of new followers, those who haven’t been reading since the beginning, those who missed that last Instagram recap post, those who read in a reader or by email and don’t see the icons in the sidebar.  The new fans.

Once I broke 1,000, the followers have continued to roll in. There’s a tipping point of sorts with blogging social media. Once you break 1,000 followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram you’re legit. If that many people already follow this blogger, they must be relatively decent. There’s another at 2,000 and the speed in getting more followers after that goal number doubles. When you hit 5,000 you can easily get 100 new followers in a day. You need followers to get followers.

Many of you have told me over the year to take a break from blogging. That if it isn’t fun anymore, I should have a blog vacation. However, I really enjoy blogging. While my day job is great and I work with wonderful people, it’s not my dream job or in a field in which I am passionate. Blogging is my way to do something I positively, absolutely adore. I love writing, I love helping fellow women, I love the community, love learning new technology… and I love fashion. When I have a bad day at work, coming home and opening up Word on my laptop is more soothing than a glass of wine.

One cannot take a break from blogging and still keep up. Blogging is constantly changing and becoming all the more competitive. To stay relevant, one must regularly provide quality content. One must maintain social media channels and be active on them. One must constantly improve, be it quality of photos, of content, methods of communication, usability of site. There’s 50 zillion blogs out there, one needs something to stand out.

And yes, with all this time and effort I put into this blog, I like getting paid for it. There’s a part of me that gets mega ragey when I see a shitty blogger who can’t even form a proper sentence win an amazing partnership with an amazing brand. I feel I need to perform not just for you who do read, but for those who may read in the future. Those who may tire of carbon copies with Starbucks cups who don’t proof their copy and don’t reply to comments.  Those who give blogging a bad name and are the reason for all the negative stereotypes.  I want not just to be great for you, but to prove that not every blog is the same.

I’m not thin, I’m not young, and I don’t own a pair of Valentino Rockstuds. I’m not the conventional blogger, so I won’t get the conventional audience and will never make the same money. But I believe that I offer something a bit different, and something that I would want to read. I believe future readers are as important as those who read now; I regularly receive messages from people who just found Wardrobe Oxygen and how they like it or were looking for something like it. So I continue to promote and blog and encourage any other blogger who offers something different and fresh and necessary. And often, I take sponsorships purely because I know I will be the odd one in the roundup – the only one over a size 10, the only one over 30, the only one who isn’t a full-time blogger. I feel it gives not just my blog exposure, but all of the blogs that don’t fit the norm. We have the power to change the face of blogging. All of us. We can’t stop, I won’t stop.

There won’t be a holiday from this blog, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I hope in 2014 to promote more great brands, more great blogs, and give the blogosphere more of what is missing/being ignored. And I hope you bloggers with a message that is more than dollar signs do the same. Don’t get frustrated, don’t compare yourself, be a trailblazer. We need you.

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Blogging and Motherhood

I have to say… motherhood isn’t really affecting my blogging. I know people are thinking that as that I have been pretty sporadic in my posting. But it’s not motherhood, it’s work and priorities.

Work has been busy, to put it mildly. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and I have a wonderful team that I work with and a great supervisor who appreciates a job well done and provides comp time (which almost completely covered that staycation I had the other week). Our clients are demanding, disorganized and drop things on us at the last minute, but are greatly appreciative that my team and I make them look flawless to the public or THEIR clients. So I am very busy, but outside of sometimes (like last night) getting home after E has gone to bed or sometimes (like this morning) leaving before I can do anything but feed E… I feel good.

The house is still coming together. Taking care of a parent’s estate, no matter the size, is not quick or tidy work. This past weekend was full of moving furniture, packing boxes, burying ashes. A positive look on the weekend – we were able to move in most of my husband’s dad’s furniture that we chose to keep. It is exciting to see his beloved books mixed with ours on his bookcases, and to eat at my husband’s childhood dining table (it is also exciting to have Craigslisted my dining set that I bought at IKEA in 1998… good set but good to have it finally gone).

Having three dogs… is three times the work of having one! A year ago if I had to get to work early, I would turn off the alarm, slip into the bathroom, dress in the dark, kiss the husband, shush Ruckus and be gone in 20 minutes. This morning, the alarm goes off and three dogs are dancing around as though they hadn’t been outside in 50 years. 12 sets of doggy nails on bamboo floors woke Emerson, so I fed her back to sleep. I try to shush them, have them go back on their beds but they weren’t having it so as I went down the stairs they all bounded down with me, went outside, and proceeded to bark their heads off (it’s 4:30 am) at a cat on the other side of the fence. So I had to round them up, feed them, give them their appropriate meds… and I ended up leaving a bit late and without breakfast.

There are many fun and exciting things taking place in my personal life. Very good friends have recently married, I will be the Matron of Honor in my best friend’s wedding Labor Day weekend, and officiant for my dear friend’s wedding Halloween weekend. So there are showers and bachelorettes to attend in the near future. Since we have a new house and a new baby, we are hosting an all-family (my family, my husband’s family from both his mother and his father’s sides) cookout this weekend.

With a social calendar like that, you can understand that when I get home, I do not turn on my computer! :)

The only thing blog-related that motherhood DOES affect is my wardrobe. I think I am even more concerned with finding pieces that have many functions. Dresses are great because I can wear them to work, to a bridal shower, to a daytime wedding, to a memorial service, to dinner out with the husband. Dresses also don’t require much thought or preparation. Oh, going to wear the blue print dress? I will then wear the red heels, the black bra, the black Spanx, the silver jewelry. Same thing goes for trousers – much more versatile than jeans. My gray/blue chinos from Gap can be worn to work, to a cookout, to walk the dogs. I have very few tops right now, so pretty much each one goes with one or two different bottoms and that’s about it.

I also need clothing that will allow me to pump at work and nurse when home or out and about. This cuts out a good 70% of current fashion, which streamlines my wardrobe and helps me stay on budget.

The body is constantly changing and morphing. I can feel the weight coming off, but it is making the sagging show much more. I think my double chin is more pronounced now that it isn’t bloated, the belly sags in a strange way, the arms are now a bit saggy and there is still more weight that needs to be lost. I know a lot of this can be cured with exercise and muscle toning, but I am just trying to stay afloat with what is currently on the schedule and haven’t found much time for proper exercise. I just try to walk a lot and do at least three sun salutations each morning to keep me limber. But with this changing body, I find skirts and pants very difficult to fit. Again a plus for dresses!

The only thing I really have seen change is my personal grooming – I could have time for regular pedicures, cut and color and baths where I slough off everything. The thing is… I would rather sit out on my deck having an omelet and a cup of coffee with my husband, my daughter cooing in her seat, the dogs basking in the sun than sit in a salon and get buffed and polished. To me, I find more rest and relaxation in my backyard. But that is a personal thing more than a Motherhood thing.

I have always felt that mothers can still maintain a sense of style, and even with this busy life I still believe it. Maybe one shouldn’t invest in sequins and the most delicate of silks, but it is possible to be professional, to be stylish, to be attractive, to be more than “just presentable.” I think most women have a busy life prior to children – long hours at the job, evenings out with friends and family, weekends dashing about town getting errands finished. A baby does affect your life in so many ways, but I think it’s less about fashion and more about priorities. But as I always say – said pre-Emerson and say now… you aren’t worth a thing to anyone if you do not take care of yourself first.

So I am logging off so I can get back to work. Tomorrow should start at a semi-reasonable time so I hope to capture a picture of what I am wearing. Today I am wearing my gray and yellow cashmere cardigan from Gap with a white ribbed tank, tan sandals from Lands End and my gray/blue chino trousers also from Gap. Silver chains, silver hoops, hair in a low ponytail with sideswept bangs. Tarte’s Blushing Bride, plenty of black mascara and some lip gloss. Good look for leaving the house at 5am. :)

Not Fashion Related: Blogging 101

Do you love blogging your personal style but don’t know how to get your blog off the ground?


Do you find blogging fun but know nothing about coding, Photohop, and the technical aspects of blogging?
Are you a brand new blogger and unsure how to make your blog look the ways other blogs look?

You can join different blogging communities, read blogging sites and newsletters, join Twitter chats on the subject, read books on SEO, but some things are very very simple to get your blog to the next level and they are primarily cosmetic. I don’t know a lot of coding, I don’t play a lot with optimizing search engines, but I have learned with time basic changes that will not only help you get readers, but help you keep those readers. I know many of you have your own blogs and have been inspired lately to start blogs.  I may not comment, but I do visit when I have time and I am so impressed with so many of your blogs and wanted to offer some easy “Blogger 101″ tips to help you get your blogs more recognition.  This topic isn’t interesting to everyone, so I’m going to have a jump so the rest of you can keep scrolling to regular content.

Simplify Your Template
Get rid of the printed backgrounds, the Blogger fonts that are all pixilated, the headers that are three feet long, the centered text, and the 50,000 widgets in the sidebar. These days, a clean, white background with black or dark gray text is best. Don’t believe me? Check out all the “big” fashion and style bloggers, they all have clean, simple templates that are primarily white.

  • Font. If you’re on Blogger, they have a bunch of fun fonts for headers and body text, but they are extremely hard to read. Choose something from the first category of fonts (classics like Georgia, Arial, Verdana) versus the Web Fonts which have more personality, but look very messy on most browsers and monitors. I use Verdana in 13pt. font for my body text, in a dark gray (#444444).
  • Links. If you want people to click on your links to other pages or affiliates, make them visible and relatively appealing. I bold most of my links, because I have chosen a color with lower contrast to my regular text color. I used to have lighter links, but had individuals with vision issues tell me that there wasn’t enough contrast for them to see clearly. If you don’t want to manually bold each link, find a color that is obvious without being annoying (hello neon green, yellow, day-glo orange).
  • Headers. Instead of the header that your blogging platform will make for you, consider making your own header. This terrified me for years until I started using online photo-editing software. Check out this post I wrote about PicMonkey, a free tool that can help you create graphics like headers. This is what I use for my header as well as all the graphic buttons in my sidebar.
  • Get Rid of the Widgets. When you’re a new blogger you may feel that you have to fill up your sidebar, but it’s really not necessary. Have some navigation tools (archives, links to certain topics), and have ways to follow you (I’m not a fan of Google Friend Connect because it’s a big advertisement of how many people follow you, but am a mega fan of having a “subscribe by email” link as well as a link to popular subscription tools like RSS and Bloglovin). Also have simple links, not widgets to follow you on social media – your blog is advertising you, not Facebook.

    Again, consider PicMonkey or another tool to create graphic buttons to organize specific topics – outfits, recipes, beauty reviews, red carpet recaps. Create an “about” where you have a picture and a bit about yourself (again create this, don’t use the Blogger widget).

  • Learn Basic HTML. I was an English Lit major in college, and used a computer maybe twice while there, yet know enough about computers to work in Web Communications. How? Google. In 2003 I was trying to plan a wedding while working crazy retail hours and over 60 of those hours in a week. I needed to figure out how to get everything done at 2am or 11pm, so I learned how to surf the Internet, how to use Word and Excel to organize everything. I found The Knot, became obsessed, and through it created a bio which taught me simple HTML that I use to this day with my blog.

    I encourage you to use Blogger to make links and upload photos, and then switch to the HTML tab of your new post and see the code. Copy it, paste it into Word so you can examine it more carefully. Consider creating a hidden second blog where you can play with code and fonts and templates without affecting your current blog. This is also a great way to upload photos to be able to use on your blog (I have a blog just for uploading images).

    Here’s some very simple HTML coding to refine your posts and create your own sidebar widgets (click to see larger):

Make It Easy for Readers to View and Participate

  • Do you have an RSS button? Can they easily follow you on Bloglovin? By email?
  • Do you have your email address available? Readers like to contact you directly (as do advertisers and people who want to give you freebies!). I also created a Google Doc as a comment form and embedded it in a page so people can leave me feedback without having to email me directly.
  • Have social media buttons or make your own so it’s easy to also follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. If you don’t have these channels, no worries, but if you do be sure to promote so readers can get to know you better!
  • Blogger makes it easy to have a footer or signature on each post. Go to Settings, then Posts and Comments where you will find a field to add content to every post. I have some to have people follow, and I just write my post above it.
  • How is your commenting system? Blogger and WordPress have built-in commenting systems that aren’t very user friendly. It’s better to filter spam than have a captcha, which is especially hard to deal with on mobile devices. If you’re on Blogger and install Disqus for comments, turn off the mobile version for your site because the two don’t play nicely. Consider a commenting tool that lets people know when you reply to their comments so they will come back and take part in the discussion.
  • Again, have a simple, clear, easy to read template. Some people may be reading on an iPhone, some may be on a netbook, some on a monitor from 1990. You don’t know, so keep it simple, keep it clean, keep it easy to read.
  • Check Different Browsers. Your blog may look amazing in Internet Explorer, but be completely wonky on Firefox or an iPad. Every so often, open your blog in different browsers and make sure it’s lovely for all. 
  • Preview Your Posts.  Before you publish, see how it looks in a browser.  Do your photos spill into the sidebar?  Are things crooked?  Do you need more space between segments of content?

Improve Your Photos

  • Consistent Width. One of my favorite features of PicMonkey is being able to easily resize all my pictures to the same width. You’ll notice in the past year or so, be the pictures horizontal or vertical, they are all 600px wide. This is kinder to your reader’s eyes.
  • Consistent Size. A larger size makes it easier for people to see detail in what you are wearing. I chose 600px (which is far larger than Blogger’s XL option) after polling my readers and they telling me they wanted bigger. If your outfit photo only takes up a quarter of the screen and you’re an outfit blogger, you’re going to lose readers. People are there for the outfit, the inspiration.
  • Consistent Quality. Try to get clear pictures (pictures taken outside will give better light and more natural coloring), switch up your poses so it’s not a scrolling wall of hand on your hip and ankles crossed, and believe in quality instead of quantity – better to have one good picture than one good and four blurry/unflattering/dark/strange. Honestly, you can have the best style in the world but if your pictures are small and dark people will not stick around.
  • Get Rid of the Bling. No one wants the weird finishes, the rounded edges, the fake frames around your photos. Unless you have a very specific aesthetic to your blog (which you likely do not yet have if you’re still reading this post), these photo finishes are just muddling your message. Use something to color correct your photos, maybe a bit of text to state the brands or whatever (if that’s your thing), but otherwise keep it simple and clean.
  • Use a Collage Tool. We know when you use Paint or PowerPoint to make your collages, it’s clear as day and is the electronic version of a craft project with cut up magazines and glue sticks. A while ago, I made a PDF for blogging friends on how to make customized collages, you can find it here.
  • Give Credit Where Credit’s Due. If you use another blogger’s image, link back to that specific page in a caption below the image. If you want to use an image you found on Pinterest, find the original source and link to that instead. Don’t use images from news sources without permission – I know from experience that it can get you into trouble and cost you a pretty penny. I often use Polyvore for my images and link back to the set’s page so readers can see where I got my images.

    Sites like http://www.tineye.com/ help photographers find where their images are being used without permission; http://jarred.github.com/src-img can also help you find who is the owner of an image you wish to use.

Don’t Get Caught Up in Blogging
I originally had a list of additional blogging resources, but I chose to delete them not because they aren’t beneficial, but they can take you down a blogging rabbit hole. It’s so easy to get so caught up with creating traffic and getting an audience that you forget the real reason why you started blogging.

Simple cosmetic changes to your blog are the equivalent to painting your front door, putting a planter on the stoop and adding a wreath. It’s still the same home and the same great people live in it, but sprucing up your entryway encourages people to come in, and makes people feel that you care about your home as well as those who are coming to visit.

However, just like a home, it’s not about where you got your couch or what you put on your coffee table, but the people and the love felt when you visit them. YOU are the blog, not the SEO or the header or the platform. Create a clean and welcoming platform to let your content sing, you never know your blog may change the face of blogging or be the next big thing!

Note: Most of this advice is geared towards those of you on Blogger.  I see many new blogs are on this platform; I too am on Blogger so it is what I know best (and I obviously don’t think you have to be on WordPress to be successful, nor does Altantic-Pacific or Keiko Lynn or many other big bloggers still on this platform).  If you know of great tutorials specific to other platforms, please leave them in the comments to benefit your fellow bloggers!

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Blogging Love – Interview!

I was honored to be interviewed by Elle of the new blog Label Ho. Elle’s discusses fashion and her personal style on this site. I love supporting fellow fashion and style bloggers so I jumped at this chance to have us get to know one another better!

You can check out the interview here.

I loved the questions she asked (and if you go back in her archives, you can see her answers to the very same questions!). The name of her blog cracks me up. It reminds me of when I was Editor of my high school yearbook. I had such the fight with the sponsor over the proper spelling of this word. “If you add an ‘e’ it’s suddenly a garden tool!” (Let’s not even get into why this word was in my yearbook – let me just state that my high school was a fabulous one where I learned Japanese and was in International Baccalaureate courses, but it wasn’t in the most chi chi of neighborhoods.)

Since she interviewed me, I decided to ask her a few questions as well. Get to know Elle!

Name: “Elle,” author of Label Ho, a fashion and personal style blog

Why did you start blogging? What could be better than writing and posting about something you love? I thought it would be a fun hobby and a great way to connect with other fashion-minded people.

Favorite item in your closet: An authentic vintage Gucci handbag circa the 70s. I love that its suede and doesn’t have the GG logo plastered all over it. I found the bag at a thrift shop and its in immaculate condition. Best of all, I got it for an excellent price!

Favorite Web site to visit: FabSugar.com. They have pretty comprehensive coverage of what’s going on in the fashion world, delivered in quick, short posts. I also like that they post great outfits that members of their community put together. I’m fascinated with seeing what people put together.

Top five items on your style wish list for this season: I can only think of three since I think I pretty much have most of my key pieces already:

1. Another pair of dark bootleg jeans. I’ve pretty much worn my favorite pair so much (Joe’s Jeans in the Honey fit) that the color’s faded significantly.

2. More dresses. I’ve purchased a few already, but I just can’t get enough. They’re so easy to pull on in summer.

3. A pair of wide-leg jeans. I’ve tried on a ton of different ones, but still haven’t found a flattering fit.

Blogging and Compensation and Selling Your Soul

There was a bit of excitement last night/this morning on teh interwebs regarding a blogger’s post about compensation. I’ll be honest, I never heard of Mini Penny before, and I was impressed with her being willing to call out a brand that time and time again I have heard has screwed over bloggers, and I was impressed that she was willing to speak out about the business of blogging.  Part of her post I agreed with, but part I feel she missed the boat and it could be sending well-intentioned bloggers in the wrong direction, making us look worse as a group.

Some big companies will partner with a couple blogs; they will give them money, free product, maybe buy ad space or sponsored posts and feature them in their campaign. That’s all fine and good. Then they contact other bloggers and instead of offering money, they ask just for those bloggers to promote their campaign or giveaway or new line. Maybe they’ll provide a free pair of glasses or a tee shirt. They sell this opportunity by saying the blogger’s participation in the campaign will provide them exposure, and that exposure is more valuable than money. Some bloggers will decline… and some bloggers will accept it. Some of the bloggers who take part do it thinking they will actually get some great exposure, and some do it because they want to be seen as equals to those who actually got paid to participate.

“Exposure”

I have been in Refinery 29, The Washington Post, Redbook, Racked, StyleCaster and more. I have done campaigns with brands where I got maybe one free tee shirt, sometimes nothing. For that exposure I may have an extra hundred pageviews the first day, possibly 50 the next day, and then one or two pageviews every so often for the next couple of months. I haven’t seen an increase in followers to my blog or social media channels from any of these sorts of “exposure” opportunities. I have never been approached to do a partnership or campaign because I was on those sites.

The best exposure I get is from other bloggers. Recently Grace from Stripes & Sequins included me in her weekly link post, and I have received more pageviews from that than my time on Racked. I still receive hundreds of pageviews a month from when I was mentioned on Get Rich Slowly in 2009 or Lifehacker earlier this year; when Sally at Already Pretty or Angie at YouLookFab or Alyson at The Average Girl’s Guide link to me I not only receive a ton of pageviews, but new followers. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but let you know that connecting with your fellow bloggers will provide more ROI than promoting a brand pro bono. Not only do you get more pageviews and possibly followers, but you create great business relationships and friendships. If you want your blog to grow, support your fellow bloggers, get to know them, promote them, and provide content great and unique enough that they will support and promote you in return.

Trying to Look Cool

A lot of new bloggers try to make it look as though they have some partnership with a brand, especially if more popular bloggers in their niche are promoting that brand. If your favorite big blogger is wearing a certain denim brand, seems to be doing sponsored Instagram posts and tweets, and mentions the brand every other blog post and then that same denim brand comes to you and asks for similar just for exposure… don’t do it thinking you will look as successful as the big blogger. Don’t think that doing this promotion for them for free now will mean they will give you money in the future. That denim brand has the money to pay bloggers, they have just chosen to not pay you. By doing the promotion for free or “exposure” you’re saying you’ll accept nothing this time, and always. And those big bloggers know that you didn’t get paid, you don’t look any cooler or bigger or more successful by pretending you got paid when you didn’t. The brands know, the bigger bloggers know, and it won’t help you get to the top.

When Free is Good:

Editorial

Sometimes, you promote a brand just because you want to. Every magazine and newspaper and publication does this. You don’t get paid, you just think it’s a good fit for your blog, your audience, or maybe you think it will help SEO or you’re building a relationship with a PR person or… well it doesn’t matter why you do it, but you do. And there’s nothing wrong with this, in fact it’s a GOOD thing because it shows you’re authentic. Readers can trust you because not every item shilled on your site is sponsored. You’re a human with a blog, not a robot with a giant pink advertisement.

Real Exposure
Sometimes, a TV show will ask you to come on as an expert, or to represent an organization. Sometimes a website will ask you for a quote, or interview you. This is an awesome opportunity, and an opportunity that is usually done without pay. THIS is true exposure, and good exposure. This is something to add to your resume, a video clip to prove you are just as great on the spot as you are in posed outfit shots, a way to show you have a brain and ideas and are more than the pages of your blog.

Money Money Money

No one likes a person who is just about making money. Even if you are raking in the dough, showing it off or selling your blog space to the highest bidder gets really old really fast. When you care more about the almighty dollar than offering authentic and unique content you’re not going to last. Brands will see through you, and your readers will see through you.

When you start getting opportunities, it’s so tempting to take them. You can cover hosting costs, maybe buy a fab pair of shoes. And then maybe more come in and you can afford a blog redesign and a designer bag. Next thing you know, you may be able to quit your day job and blog full time. That’s exciting and liberating… but remember why you make the money. You make the money thanks to your readers. If you forget them and get too excited about fancy brands paying you and pretty photographs and a closet full of lovely clothes they will eventually forget about you too.

Be it in blogging or reality TV, success comes from being able to stay real as your bank account grows. Not being a carbon copy of another, not forgetting where you came from, and not forgetting who helped you get there. Whether or not you continue your blog in a year, your online presence will always exist. Don’t sell your soul and reputation, it’s not worth it in the long run.

I’d like to thank my dear friend Sarah of Style IT for inspiring this midnight writing frenzy (and she doesn’t even know that she did).  Not only does connecting with bloggers help your blog, but it also helps keep you sane, humble, and informed.  Sarah, thank you for being your awesome, down to earth, educated and very stylish self!

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The Glamorous World of Personal Style Blogging

Several weeks ago, there was an event at a local store. A blogger I like was hosting it, I emailed all my real-life blogger friends (and friends who would not want to slit their throats attending a “blogger event” with bloggers) to round them up. Let’s go to the event, support our friend, get our swag bags, and then go to a nearby bar or restaurant and consume something other than room temperature Korbel and mini cupcakes. Friends agreed, we set the date. The date came… and I had NO DESIRE to go.  I was tired, I was having a bad hair day, I didn’t like my outfit, I just wanted to go home.  And sometimes a blogger event just sounds like a lot of work, especially after a long day at the 9-5.  On top of it, Karl had to prep for a shoot the next day so I couldn’t leave him home alone all night. But these were real friends, and we’d balance the air kissing and Instagramming with gossip and cocktails. I psyched myself up… and then I spilled a cup of coffee all over my dress.

Now, even if you’re not a blogger I think you can understand how awful of a situation that is. I burned my belly, my underwear was soaked, and I had a big brown stain on my light colored dress. This was beyond the capabilities of a Tide-to-Go pen. So I mopped up what I could, hid in my cubicle the remainder of the day, then skipped work half an hour early and raced to Ann Taylor, one of the few stores between me and the Metro with clothes larger than a size 10.

I raced around Ann Taylor in a panic. I had to be at the event in an hour, especially since I needed to leave at a reasonable time to get home to my family. I had a pair of leopard pumps under my desk, so I looked for something that would match them instead of my coffee-soaked sandals. In the fitting room I tried on a dozen different items, all looking awful. Did I mention I was wearing my Comfy-But-Makes-My-Breasts-Look-Wonky bra, the one that is so high cut that it peeks out of a v-neck? Yeah, good leading by example, Ms. Fashion Blogger.

Thanks to a lovely salesperson, I ended up with a dark red ponte dress with a peplum that covered the muffin top from my bad undergarments and a neckline high enough to cover my dreadful bra. I snagged a bracelet that coordinated, tried to make my sweaty so now curling hair calm down and redid my face, though it was still blotchy from stress my lips were all splotchy as though I finished a marathon makeout session. I did yoga breathing to try to cool my core and my mindset, shoved my coffee-drenched original outfit into the bottom of my (thankfully large) purse and headed to the blogger event.

I never was able to cool myself down, it was as though I had actually drank that cup of coffee and five more after it. I was stressed, I felt anxious. Why am I going to a blogger event instead of going home to put my daughter to bed? Why did I just drop almost $200 in Ann Taylor on a dress I don’t even really like? WHY DO I BLOG? WHAT IS MY POINT IN LIFE?? Yes, I started having a blogger crisis in the overheated Metro car.

I got to the event, and it wasn’t bad. Zero calorie pastel-colored drinks in place of Korbel (though still warm), iced cookies in place of cupcakes, A DJ playing pop music through big speakers, bloggers who are just as nice in person as they are on their blogs. Met some new people, tried to relax and enjoy myself and the good company, but it just seemed really warm and crowded and overwhelming. I was still sweating, and for some reason it was focused on my face and scalp.  Dry body, dripping from the neck up and it just wouldn’t stop.

FLASH FLASH FLASH there’s the pro photographer for the event. I’m flushed, I’m sweaty, and my boobs look as though they’re 400 years old and have minds of their own. I know that these photos will be used by the brand and be on a couple different blogs within the week, all linking back to my blog (which is good blogging etiquette but I’d be okay with bad etiquette at this point).  I go into a corner of the store and try to do some damage control, slicking back my hair into a low ponytail and adding more lipstick. I put the bottle of pastel water to my forehead, then back of neck hoping it will cool me. I then guzzle it, thinking maybe that will help. Straighten my wonky boobs and head back into the throng.

My friend Instagrammed a picture with me in it (yep, the one right above).  She adores me, I adore her, and I know she would never share a photo where she felt I looked bad (Yes we bloggers have a unwritten rule that we try to never share an unflattering photo of a fellow blogger we like or respect.  If a blogger shares a really unflattering photo, she likely doesn’t like that blogger, or is new to the blogging scene and is not familiar with the Blogger Code.).  I saw that picture while still at the event (because we were Instagramming like mad because that’s what we bloggers do to show off that we were there, to possibly win a prize, and sometimes because we promised the brand to be nice or to get paid) and knew it must have been a good look for how insane I must have been in real life.  I saw that photo and knew it was time to head home.   My style, my heart, and my mind wasn’t in it, I wanted to be home in air conditioning and comfy pants.  I gave air kisses to those I hardly knew, big sweaty hugs and kisses to those who loved me in spite of it, and headed back to the Metro.
 
On the ride back to the ‘burbs, I munched on an iced cookie in the shape of a corset and drank more lukewarm pastel water, ignoring the Metro rules about no food or drink.  It’s was late, this was going to end up being my dinner.  Luckily I got an air-conditioned car that wasn’t too full, I could have a seat to myself and let my sweat turn into icicles.  I thought about why I subject myself to such torture… and realized those who see such events from the outside probably think they’re pretty glamorous and fun.  And I thought… they CAN be fun, if I had the right mindset.

Maybe I’m jaded because I have been doing this for so long.  Maybe it’s because I have a family at home I really adore and feel I don’t see enough as it is.  Possibly it’s because I still have a full-time not blog related job that I care about.  But I find blogging events to just be more work, even if I am not the one hosting it.  I feel the need to dress a certain way, to look super polished because I know there will be flashbulbs all over the place.  It’s like attending a networking event where you get photographed a hundred times, wearing your highest heels and carrying your smallest or most expensive purse.

At the same time, gosh I have the coolest part-time job on the planet.  I feel blessed to be based out of DC where so many bloggers are really amazing human beings and friends.  That we do have a thriving fashion and social scene, where companies court us and pay to host events that we can go to.  That Instagramming like a fiend is showing our appreciation for them realizing that DC is just as influential of a shopping town as the other big cities in this country.  That some events are pretty darn spectacular (hello Goodwill’s Art of Fashion) and renew my faith in blogging and the community.  That with the growth of the blogging community, I find it even more important to support those I respect and believe to do a good job.  That it IS cool to attend an event and get free food and free nail polish, and to complain about such perks of the job is being a spoiled brat.

I think the life of a personal style blogger is very different from what most choose to share on their blog.  Many bloggers complain that we get criticized for just sitting around, eating macarons, sipping pumpkin spice lattes, and taking pictures of ourselves spinning in skater skirts and gifted ankle booties.  I think people feel that because they don’t know the actual work behind being a blogger.  Bloggers who who are the most successful create a fantasy world of white lacquer, gifted purses, and crisp Autumn days where they skip down cobblestone streets with their adorable puppy or boyfriend.  Brands want relaxed and happy and carefree.  Whether you realize it or not, most of you readers (as we bloggers can tell by our pageviews, subscribers, and affiliate income) also desire this aesthetic. The blogs with the largest bank accounts and the largest following have the most glamorous or enviable looking lives.

I’ve talked about the behind the scenes of blogging before, and I continue to do so because I think it’s important for readers to realize that be it a fantasy or reality, blogging is hard work and much of it isn’t glamorous.  It’s not just sweaty blogger events in place of family time.  It’s doing a photo shoot you are contracted to do even though you’re sick, you had a death in the family, your boyfriend just threatened, “it’s me or the blog.”  It’s working your 9-5 (which is often more like an 8-6:45) and then coming home to 70 emails from PR people and brands and potential advertisers, 20 new comments (half either trying to spam their company or telling you that you suck), three contracts to go over with a fine-toothed comb to be sure you’re not getting screwed or signing your life away, a handful of business calls, collages to create, blog posts to write and schedule, gifted items that take mega skill to figure out how to tastefully incorporate into a post or upcoming outfit, emails from readers asking for advice or to offer feedback or criticism on what you are doing.  Then you check your stats and find another blogger or a message board saying you’re lazy or you lack talent or you’re stupid or your blog sucks.  It’s constantly networking, constantly educating yourself about new technology and updates to Google and WordPress.  It’s being up on the latest social media, the latest brands, the most recent news about technology, fashion, and the blogosphere.  It’s working until 1am and still having a mile-long to-do list and you have to get up in four hours to take care of your family, go to your day job, speak at a conference, hit the gym to maintain your enviable figure, plot out three shoots before the noon sun ruins your light and you have race to meet a brand at their headquarters and then race home for a Skype interview.

Yes, there are crappy bloggers who make dough off of putting together mediocre outfits, Photoshopping them to death, and posting them with a short paragraph laced with grammatical and spelling errors.  The occasional collage to bring affiliate income and a couple tweets sucking up to brands and promoting their same blog post for the fifth time.  But the majority of bloggers I know… our lives aren’t that glamorous whether we lead you to believe it or not.  Blogging is a job, a sweaty, stress-inducing job that often costs us as much or more than what we make from it.  But we do it because we love it, and we hope you love it in return!

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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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Long Time, No Blog!

I’m baaaaaack!!!!

My arm surgery May 22nd went great. The arm had rebroken so my doctor had to put in a new bigger plate, a bone graft, and an implanted bone stimulator that will be removed in a few months. For two weeks I was just in a splint to let the sutures heal and swelling subside, this past Friday I got a cast (and if you follow me on Instagram you know it’s bold and bright and has become my summer signature color!) and Monday I returned to work at 100%.

Writing is slow going with my right hand (and yep I’m right-handed) in a cast, Dragon Software is great for text but not for the formatting and linking needed for posts, so blogging will continue but not on a daily basis… more like 2-3 times a week. I’m much faster on my phone, so be sure to check me out on Facebook and Twitter!

And if you’re visiting the actual site you’ll see it looks a bit different. I meant to have this change take place early spring but… well arms take priority! I’ll write a separate post about it soon, but after NINE YEARS (this month is my blogoversary!) I finally made the jump from Blogger to self hosted on WordPress. There’s still some quirks (you may notice a bunch of comments missing from recent posts, they’ll return soon, if you don’t see a link to comment click on the title of this post and you’ll get to the area), if you find anything weird or frustrating do let me know. But the hope is with this change, once I have both arms at 100% I can make this site easier to navigate, search, and view on different devices. Let me know what you think!

If you’re reading this, thank you so much for sticking around. It has been a crazy year so far, but I can just feel the positivity for the rest of 2014. Would never think a second arm surgery would brighten my outlook, but it gave me a chance to really stop and think about the blessings in my life. And I do feel blessed, and one reason is you. Gosh I love you guys, and I love this blog, and I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things!

Love,
Alison

My Blog, My Choice

No pics today.

My husband took pictures this morning… but I don’t like how they look. Shirt ended up a bit untucked, belt looks better IRL than in a still, and I am a sweaty mess. I guess this is the real Allie, but I don’t feel like sharing it. Every time I have an “off” day (which happens to all mere mortals), it gets plastered on a dozen different forums where people criticize my gut, my cankles, my fivehead saying, “THIS woman is giving fashion advice?” I have been blogging for six years, I am used to criticism, I know it’s a part of being a fashion blogger. However, sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming for anyone, even someone who knows it’s par for the course.

I am the first to say if you choose to put yourself on the internet, you have chosen to have yourself scrutinized. You made this decision to have a public lifestyle, and if you can’t handle the mean comments, the snark, and the criticism, the heat… then get out of the kitchen. But even moi, who has a pretty tough skin, can sometimes want to scream at the computer, “ENOUGH ALREADY!”

I have cellulite and wrinkles and flat hair in this humidity. I have a gut, which existed pre-pregnancy and is even more pronounced now that I have had a child and have no time or desire for a zillion crunches a day. Today my hem is held up with a safety pin because I didn’t have time to tackle it with Stitch Witchery, which holds up most of my hems these days. A good percentage of my wardrobe is being held hostage at the dry cleaner’s because I have spent my clothing allowance for the month and can’t afford to pick them up until August. I have big calves, and big ankles and my knees are lumpy and scarred from far too many disastrous bike rides as a child and drunken escapades as a college student. I enjoyed tanning beds far too much as a young adult and have the wrinkles and age spots to prove it. I have bad posture, soft arms, I chew my cuticles, and I am in need of a root touch-up.

I have never claimed to be perfect, and I have never claimed to be an expert. I write this blog in hopes it can help some women feel better about themselves. To help the fashion clueless gain some insight into how style evolves. To offer suggestions on how to update a current wardrobe to make it more useful, more personal, more effective. To show fellow women that you do not need to be rich or thin or young to be stylish.

I blog for those who want this help, want a virtual friend who will offer suggestions and ideas they may have not thought of before. For gorgeous fashion, there is The Glamourai or Atlantic-Pacific or Sea of Shoes. For beautiful women, there is Keiko Lynn or Fashion Toast or Karla’s Closet. For professional fashion advice, there are amazing books by folks such as Bridgette Raes, Tim Gunn, or Nina Garcia.

For suggestions from an average woman who has been a size 4 and a size 16 and everything in between; who has worked in creative and conservative offices and knows how it can be to have a body and life change from having a child, deal with wide calves and large bust; has been a personal shopper and wardrobe consultant for women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and lifestyles… then read my blog. Feel free to like what I write, or hate it immensely. Tell me when I am wrong, offer suggestions on how to improve my style or my blog content, I encourage and appreciate such feedback. But please, tell it to my face.  In the words of an ’80s psychotherapist, “Help me help you.” 

A blog only shows a small portion of a person. The blog owner chooses that which she wishes to share with the world. I usually am pretty good with sharing myself warts and all, but today I just don’t want to open myself up for more criticism. I made the choice to not share. I have bad days… and I have feelings.  I am after all, human.

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Cool New Blog…

One of the coolest things about blogging is making new friends all over the world. I have been blogging since early 2005 and have made friends that I have met, that I have gotten to know on a personal level, and that have helped me become a better blogger.

One of these friends is Melissa Street, a very talented professional makeup artist. I don’t know who found whom first, but we have communicated via blog comments, email and social networking for quite a while. I have learned so much from her – cosmetic brands to try out, products that have changed my life, etc. And just wait until Emerson is big enough to sport the adorable “Gucci Gucci Goo!” tee shirt Melissa got for her! :)

Anyway, Melissa has a new blog entitled, “In My Professional Opinion” and I adore it. Melissa has over 20 years in the TV and film industry, so has a great idea of what beauty products can really work for special events or every day wear. Her blog isn’t just high-end lines; Melissa will mix drugstore with higher end brands.

I have learned a lot from Melissa Street; I hope you will check out her blog and enjoy it as much as I have! :)

Blog Action Day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

What if every blog wrote about the same topic on the same day? what impact would it have? What change could us bloggers make?

This coming Monday, October 15th join me and over 10,000 bloggers and write about the same topic – the environment. A topic that we’re all talking about, and many of us want to do more to help.

From Blog Action Day:
On October 15th – Blog Action Day, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind.

In its inaugural year, Blog Action Day will be co-ordinating bloggers to tackle the issue of the environment.

What Each Blogger Will Do
Bloggers can participate on Blog Action Day in one of two ways:

1. Publish a post on their blog which relates to an issue of their own choice pertaining to the environment.

For example: A blog about money might write about how to save around the home by using environmentally friendly ideas. Similarly a blog about politics might examine what weight environmental policy holds in the political arena.

Posts do not need to have any specific agenda, they simply need to relate to the larger issue in whatever way suits the blogger and readership. Our aim is not to promote one particular viewpoint, only to push the issue to the table for discussion.

2. Commit to donating their day’s advertising earnings to an environmental charity of their choice. There is a list of “official” Blog Action Day charities on the site, however bloggers are also free to choose an alternate environmental charity to donate to if they wish.

And that’s it.

I really cannot think of a single theme blog who cannot write about the environment and not have it be relevant to their topic and their readers. I know the majority of you who do read this blog write somewhere else – you may have your own blog on fashion and beauty, a personal online journal, maybe a Facebook or MySpace page where you sometimes post your thoughts. I encourage all of you, no matter the size of your readership to participate or at least promote this campaign.

And if you do take part, leave a comment with a link to your blog so we can all share in your ideas and thoughts!

The Old Fashion Blog She Ain’t What She Used to Be: Why Blogs Change

blogging

You’ve been a blog reader for a long while, long before every single girl in America with a Rebecca Minkoff Mini MAC started one. You’ve had favorites who really spoke to you, but lately their blogs are disappointing. What happened to that awesome blog from 2007, 2009, or even 2012 that you loved so much? I’ve been blogging since 2005 and have made friends with many fellow veteran bloggers. We all hear this complaint from old readers that our blogs have changed, they miss the old us. Here’s some of the reasons why our blogs ain’t what they used to be:

Audience Growth

It’s easy to be brutally honest and candid when you’re writing for an audience of 30. But when that audience grows to 3,000 or gosh even 300,000 you start questioning what you choose to share. On top of it, it gets weird when your blog life merges into your real life: work clients mentioning they read your blog, local politicians emailing an “Ask Allie” fashion question, distant relatives “Liking” your blog on Facebook, the mom of your daughter’s friend asking if the birthday party the two of you are at will end up on Instagram.  Suddenly those pageviews become real people who have influence on your day job, your child, your community, you and your family’s future.

It’s not always easy to realize when your favorite blog has grown in popularity. Sure, they may have a few more sponsored posts or followers on social media, but sometimes when the increase in traffic is viral (Google searches, a link on a popular site or feature in a newspaper) that traffic can be hidden to the average blog reader but can cause the blog writer to have a minor freakout when she sees her Google analytics and make her more careful with what is shared.

Personal Growth

When I started my blog I was 29 and thought I knew everything. I had a very definite opinion and voice on this blog, a voice I created envisioning my posts someday becoming a book. As my audience grew, I occasionally did things to be controversial to increase traffic because that bit of growth was so addictive. With time, I’ve gotten to know many of you as people I care about instead of exciting numbers, and my voice and direction for this blog has changed because of it.  I also feel that with age comes wisdom and experiences that have changed who I am, my priorities, and my voice.  A lot can happen in the years you’ve been following a blog: marriage, divorce, children, job change, religion or spiritual change, moving to a new location, weight loss or gain, health issues… all of these changes will affect not just the blog’s content but how content is delivered.  As a blogger grows and experiences things, her voice will change with that personal development.

Life Changes

When I was pregnant I started a baby blog. I thought it would be a great way to journal the journey into motherhood, and maybe I’d publish it into a book that my child could enjoy when she was older. I shared all the vegetable and fruit she was supposed to resemble in my body, a very detailed birth story, problems with breastfeeding, experiences with cloth diapers and baby led weaning. It was all fine and good until she got to the age where she was being potty trained and I realized… this isn’t a sweater, this is a human being that is being raised in the era of the Internet. Do I really want to be sharing her bodily functions with the world? Should I be sharing ANYTHING about her for that matter? She doesn’t really have a say, and I’m here writing posts about her to garner attention and income. I made the blog private, and soon after shut it down completely.

My fashion blog also changed because of Emerson. My personal life no longer belonged just to me. While many readers had become friends, I knew there were a lot out there who were complete strangers, and I knew some readers didn’t like me very much. It felt very wrong to put my family and personal information out there to the universe, not knowing who was reading it and what they were doing with it. It’s a very weird experience being a blogger; the most intimate posts and details are the ones that get the most feedback and “likes.” It’s tempting to share more to get more positive feedback, but there’s this weird point where you wonder if you’re having special family moments for your family or your readers; if you’re infringing on your loved ones’ privacy by sharing that which involves and affects them.  I’ve chatted with many bloggers who also struggle with this balance.

Lack of Comments

The old blog commenter, she ain’t what she used to be either. With RSS readers, mobile phones, and social media, comment areas have become a wasteland of, “Cute shoes, check out my blog!” and spam for Viagra and Louis Vuitton. While my subscribers have quintupled in the past three years, the comments on many of my posts have dwindled down to a trickle. It’s hard to be real when you feel you’re talking to a wall. I’m grateful to you readers who do leave comments, and I’ve built up my Facebook community to have a platform to get real with those who use it to follow me and other blogs.  But because comment fields have become a place for trolls, spammers, and self-promoting bloggers instead of a venue to interact and get to know readers, many bloggers are shutting down comments all together. I never wish to do that, but the longer I blog and the larger my audience the more I understand their choice. And this gets to my next reason…

The Anonymous and the Creepy

I’m not talking about the activist group, I’m talking about the ability for blog readers to be unknown. Anonymous comments, fake email addresses, tools to hide IP addresses and where they clicked from to get to your blog. Having anonymity gives people a feeling of power, and they sometimes abuse it. This isn’t about the anonymous comments or emails that say you’re ugly or fat; I’m talking about those who take it to the next level. Many of us deal with strangers who have threatened our lives, our careers, or our families and some have acted upon it, contacting places of work, blog advertisers, spouses, and neighbors to harm us in some manner.

Some other readers don’t try to be malicious, but they cross the line from loyal and loving reader to downright creepy. There’s a difference between being a fan and being a Stan, and this doesn’t just happen to the more famous bloggers. I know from experience and conversations with my peers that this happens to bloggers of all size and genre of audiences. We don’t talk about it because we don’t want to look ungrateful or as though we have a big head but it still creeps us out.

When you choose to be a blogger, especially one who works to grow her traffic and monetizes her site, you’re choosing to be a public figure. However, when things start getting upsetting and you’re not famous enough for an entourage to filter out and protect you from it (or have the bankroll to justify dealing with it), you can’t help but have it affect what you choose to share on the blog.

Numbers Don’t Lie… or Do They?

We bloggers have a kazillion tools at our disposal to know about our blog traffic. We can see general demographics, location, and we can see which posts are shared the most. If you see that posts about a certain subject perform better (more shares on social media, higher traffic that day, other bloggers linking to it, more sales from your affiliate program, more traffic from search engines), you of course are going to write about that subject more often.

With the reduction in comments and an increase in traffic, stats are what bloggers go by to gauge the temperature of their audience and choose the direction of the blog. If you feel a beauty blog is writing too much about her home décor, it’s likely because her home décor posts are getting the most traffic. Most bloggers try to be authentic, but provide content they believe their audience desires, and we have to use our numbers to figure that out.

ROI

When I started blogging, I’d maybe change my blog’s background or font color but that’s about it for admin work, and that was more for fun. But blogging’s come a long way baby, and to stay relevant you’ve got to keep up with the times. This means templates that are clean, easy to navigate, and mobile-friendly. Images that are high quality but not so big it takes ten minutes to load a page. Ways to connect on social media and by email. Maintaining content not just on the blog but on social media. All of this takes time and some know-how. That know-how takes more time to learn, or a very nice person who will do it for a very nice price. Oh, and that awkwardly long blogspot.com URL has GOT to go, which means hosting fees and all that jazz. There’s gotta be a return on investment to make it worthwhile to successfully blog in this day and age.

As blogs have become more popular and more professional, it takes even more time to make a blog successful financially. Advertisers don’t just pick a blogger who writes about their brand. They look at the numbers, see how influential a blogger is on social media, and yes, how pretty the brand will look on that blogger and her blog. They don’t just contact you and offer a free dress, now there are expectations for number of photos, word count, Pinterest boards, shares on social media, videos and content for their sites and social media. A regularly updated media kit and plenty of contracts and conference calls.  Things that worked great in 2013 are archaic in 2014; advertisers want their brand featured on the latest and greatest and expect more with their partnerships.

And the ways to make money on blogs have changed dramatically. Two years ago, most of my income came from sidebar ads. Took only a couple of minutes to install the code, and it didn’t interfere with my content.  In 2014 though my traffic is much larger than it was in 2012, I make a third of what I did with sidebar ads. Money is now from affiliate links and “native advertising” (sponsored posts and partnerships).  And sponsored posts continue to be more complicated – create a corresponding Pinterest board, lead a Twitter chat, create a DIY tutorial, make a video, have X amount of original photos and a minimum word count of Y.  All of this used to be handled with a couple emails, now brands request phone calls, Skype sessions, proposals, and contracts.  This means we bloggers need to work more hours and change our content just to make the same money we used to.  To keep a blog from being one gigantic ad, you need to work extra hours to fill the space between sponsored content with authentic stuff, which makes that ROI harder to achieve.  Vicious cycle, no? And you wonder why all the “good” blogs shutter.

In Summary…

If you are still reading a blog you read five or more years ago, it’s because that blogger is passionate about blogging. They’re still here because they love it, and because they love you.  In the internet world, if you don’t keep up with the times you might as well be Geocities, Friendster, or LiveJournal. And in the real world, if you’re the same exact person you were five years ago, you need to step away from the computer and live the real life. Blogs are special because they’re (usually) written by humans, not corporations. And humans change and grow, make bad decisions, feel pain and sadness, and learn from mistakes. Our blogs grow with us, and I’m pretty sure my peers would agree that we’re so honored that you have stuck with us through it all.

As for me, I’d love to hear from you. Wardrobe Oxygen is NOT what it was even a year ago, and it will continue to change. But let me know what you love, what you hate, what you miss, and what you wish I’d start including. With Disqus (the tool I use for comments) you can sign in as a guest and use a fake name and email if you wish to be anonymous; I also have a comment form where you can put in a fake email and name if you wish. I also take feedback on Twitter and Facebook. There’s no point in having this site if you don’t enjoy it. I look forward to connecting with you, and I look forward to the future of this blog and your part in it!

Modern Technology and the Anonymous Blog Commenter

I am not terribly tech-savvy when it comes to blogging. I am still on Blogger for my blog, I don’t know much about how to optimize this blog for search engines, I have never used Photoshop. However, I do know that in 2012 it’s pretty hard to truly be anonymous on the Internet.

I don’t delete comments on this blog unless they are hurtful to others – nothing racist, nothing about my family, nothing against a certain group of individuals. Also if you write about something that may embarrass or offend another I will delete it. But go ahead and critique my outfit, say I’ve gained weight, or that you disagree with my post. I have chosen to put myself on the Internet, and with that you have the right to your opinion. And even if you write a comment saying I am stupid, fat, ugly, or annoying I will post it – you have the right to your opinion since I made the choice to put myself out there.

But do realize that you’re not completely anonymous. All these comments above come from the same IP address, and as you see, this same IP address has been leaving non-constructive comments for over a year on my blog. I also like to see that this commenter replies to his or her own comments, acting as though he or she is different individuals. This is just a snippet of what she has left.  And yes, all of these comments have been published on my blog and this person will continue to be published on my blog if she or he decides to leave a comment.

Per Wikipedia, “An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a numerical label assigned to each device (e.g., computer, printer) participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication.” And so dear Ella/Ainsley/Meredith/Andy/Sandy/Lizzie, your computer is letting me know you are all the same person, and you need to get out and find a new hobby.

It’s fine to not like me, I do not expect the whole world to. I don’t blog in hopes of winning some virtual popularity contest.  There’s a lot of things about me that are really annoying – you don’t know the half of them because you don’t have to deal with me in real life or on a daily basis. But to keep coming back to the same blog over and over and over again, thinking up new names and email addresses to leave comments that rarely give food for thought, constructive criticism, or a well-crafted opinion is a pretty lame hobby. Read a book, volunteer in your community, invite a friend for coffee, or if you really do think your style is better than mine… show it with your own blog.  And go ahead, link to it in my comments, I’d love to check it out.

I’m not calling out just this one individual, but all of you who “hate read” blogs. I’ll admit, I do occasionally check out a train wreck online, and yes, I occasionally visit GOMI. There’s some crap out there on teh interwebs, and talented people who snark on that crap. But the mean-spirited comments that lack constructive feedback are so lame. If you think I have fat legs, you’re not the only one – I fully agree. Telling me they are fat doesn’t change things, but telling me what you think I should wear instead could make a difference. I have often changed my wardrobe or purchased new things based upon reader comments and feedback.  Go ahead and snark, and go ahead and snark on me. But do it with style and intelligence. If you can’t manage that and don’t understand how the Internet works, I recommend you get yourself a new hobby.

Love,
Alison

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The Writing’s on the Wall… of my Blog… (Meme)

So I was visiting my friend Nicole’s blog (won’t link because she likes her job – and not for them to read her blog) and she did a meme that involves handwriting.

Interest piqued!

I used to get failing grades in handwriting when in elementary school.  I hold writing utensils in a weird way, where I have two to three fingers on top of the pen, versus the standard one finger (I say this is a good thing since Princess Diana and Michael Jackson both supposedly held writing utensils in the same manner).  This caused my handwriting to slant in 50 different directions.  I would come home with that mushy wide-rule paper with big red slashes through it, showing my crooked illegible cursive.

I decided to embrace my handwriting, make it an art form, love it for what it was.  I love my handwriting, and I LOVE to write.  I write in journals not to pen my thoughts, but for the relaxing meditative results of pen to paper.  I prefer old-school college-rule spiral notebooks (the more subjects the better) and a black pen with a medium tip that just glides across the paper.  Seriously, I dig my Bic.

So the meme is – write the answers to these questions on a piece of paper:

  1. What’s your name/your blogger name?
  2. What’s your blog’s name/URL?
  3. Write “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” (original meme forgot the word brown)
  4. Favorite quote?
  5. Your Favorite song?
  6. Your favorite band/singers?
  7. Anything else you want to say?
  8. Tag three to five other people.

As you see above (if you can read my handwriting), I am tagging everyone who wants to participate.  I would love to see your handwriting!  Blogging is a great way to connect with fab people from across the globe, but we rarely get to know regular in person things about our blogging friends – what we sound like, how we laugh, what our handwriting looks like.  Gosh in this day and age, how many of us still write on a daily basis?

I want to know you better!  If you do this meme, come back here and let me know so I can get to know you better!

And if you would like to know more about what your handwriting says about you, check out these links:
http://www.personalityquiz.net/innertraits/handwriting.htm
http://www.3smartcubes.com/pages/tests/handwriting_analysis/handwriting_analysis_instructions.asp
http://handwriting.feedbucket.com/

Why I Blog my Daily Outfits

I don’t take pictures of myself because I think I am beautiful, or young, or a fashion maven. I don’t think I am perfect. I take pictures of myself because I am not perfect. I share my daily outfits because there aren’t enough examples out there of women who are not a model size, or model height, or have a model face who embrace fashion. I take these pictures to show you don’t have to be any of these things to have personal style, to have fun with fashion, and feel beautiful. All women deserve to realize how fabulous they are, and clothing is a great way for women to express themselves and flatter their body. I hope with each outfit post I motivate a fellow woman to try color, to embrace fashion, and find her own personal style.

If you think I post my pictures because I am a narcissist, you’re dead wrong and obviously not reading the text that accompanies the photos on this blog. And if you think I’m in love with myself… well you’re correct and I am damn proud of that fact. If you stop hating on other people, you may have the time to get to know yourself a bit better and realize you’re worth loving as well!

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FFB Blog Event: Dressing Like a Feminist

This week’s topic for Feminist Fashion Bloggers is, “How do you express your feminism in the way you dress?”

I found this question difficult to answer. I don’t think about any message I wish to portray when I get dressed every morning. But then I thought, I do think about you, my blog readers when I get dressed. I want to show that you don’t have to be a size 4, 22 years old, or 5’9” to look stylish and feel beautiful.

The average American woman is 5’3”, she wears a size 14. Yep, that’s me. I have brown hair, brown eyes, beige skin. I am neither fat nor thin, not remarkably tall or short. I am typical.

I use this blog to celebrate my typical exterior, and show how an “average” woman doesn’t have to look average. I use this blog to help other women find their personal style. My personal style won’t be the same as any other woman’s, but maybe it can inspire another to get outside her box, embrace her figure and her personality through her dress.

Clothing is a wonderful way to express yourself – a walking billboard of your passions, your thoughts, your beliefs. For some women, clothing is a way to show their religion or cultural heritage; for other women, clothing is a way to express their passion for music or a certain era of time environmental concerns. Clothing has a way of making the wearer feel powerful, feel graceful, feel confident, feel unique. Clothing can be a suit of armor – having a wardrobe of workhorses/wardrobe staples means you are ready for whatever life throws your way; you can spend less time in front of the closet and more time living.

Clothing is something that we all have to wear to participate in everyday society; we should use it as a tool to properly express and showcase ourselves. As a feminist, I choose clothing that makes ME feel good, makes ME happy, flatters my figure, but also my soul.

I have never dressed in a manner to attract a mate. I fully believe that a mate is attracted to a person who is beautiful to them in every sense. At work, I wear what makes me feel confident, not what seems to be the office uniform. I respect etiquette and cultural expectations because I respect my company, my family, and the hosts of events I attend; I don’t dress to please others.

I dress to show how much I love this amazing body. I honor it with garments that flatter and feel good. I share my spirit and my artistic side by wearing colors that please me, combinations that may not necessarily go with the runway trends but go with my heart. I wear jewelry and clothing that belonged to (or were made by) family members because it makes me feel good to honor them and thank them for such gifts that were passed down to me.

When I get dressed each morning, I think about this blog. I don’t care if someone likes or hates my outfit. Instead, I think about how I may inspire another woman to realize that she can be smart AND stylish, a wonderful mom AND a person who follows her passions, a strong person and a fashionable one. You don’t have to sacrifice style for substance.

Click here to see the other posts by fellow Feminist Fashion Bloggers.

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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!

Style with Substance: Karen Kane

One of the best parts of blogging is getting to know brands on a different level. Not just a label in a boutique or department store, you learn the story behind the name, their purpose, their history, and sometimes, they become friends.

I heard of Karen Kane before I started blogging, it was a brand I’d see at the mall, just like all the other garments wearing some woman’s name. The alliteration was catchy, I figured it was made up to represent the ideal customer for the brand. But thanks to my blog I got to know that Karen Kane is a real woman who cares for and designs for fellow real women.

karen kane history

A little Karen Kane history, learn more at this link

Karen Kane has been a California Girl since she was 9 years old, attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in LA, and after graduation got a job as a pattern maker for a sportswear company. In 1979 Karen and her husband Lonnie begin the clothing brand Karen Kane out of their garage. After just one year the company reaches $1 million in sales. In 1986, their son Michael was born. To combine work and personal life, they brought Michael to work with them every day. Michael is now the Director of Marketing and the super nice person I work with when partnering with the brand (he even “likes” my Facebook page!). Karen and Lonnie still run the business. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to work with a company that sees me as a person, not just a blog, and who understands how Wardrobe Oxygen’s readers are different from another blog with different interests and needs.

karen kane blog love

My favorite Karen Kane outfits that have been featured on Wardrobe Oxygen

Before many other brands, in 1999 Karen Kane launched a Women’s division after hearing requests from their customers. And as of 2013, over 95% of Karen Kane’s collection is manufactured right here in the United States. The clothes are high quality, comfortable, true California style with a touch of femininity and sex appeal. Many of my wardrobe favorites, such as this dress, these pants, this dress, and this jumpsuit (sorry for the bad photo, I’ll have to do an outfit post in it soon, they still have it in stock!) are from Karen Kane.

This season I’m admiring the Studded Wrap Dress, Safari Jacket, Gold Sequin Front Dress, and can’t wait for this spring when Karen Kane will be offering jewelry and hats! I know I will be adding more Karen Kane to my closet this season and for many seasons to come.

I had a Small Business Saturday series before my surgery, but since then have realized how I love many brands who aren’t small but still have heart. I’m changing this series to Style with Substance and will be featuring brands who offer great fashion with great ethics or goals.