Search Results for: label/bra care

This is Not a Bra

This is not a bra.
 
This isn’t a bra either.
 
This may be labeled as a bra, but it doesn’t act like one.
 
This may be considered a bra, but it’s a bra for very specific athletic activities, and ONLY for those specific activities.


What’s the point of this post?

Whether you are an AA or an FFF, unless you are 12 years old, you need a proper bra. Breast tissue, unless supported by silicone or saline, doesn’t sit up on its own. When you are younger, it will have some bounce and your skin will have enough strength to hold the breasts up a bit. However with time, babies, weight loss and gain, your breasts will sag a bit. To keep the skin and tissue in great shape, and to flatter whatever figure you have, it is imperative to wear a proper bra. And the above examples are not proper bras.

A bra that fits and flatters, lifts and separates will do wonders for your figure, the fit of your clothing, your opinion of your body. A supportive, well-fitting bra can make you look ten pounds slimmer, three inches taller, five year younger. It can also reduce back pain, improve your posture, and help you when struggling in the fitting room for clothing to flatter.

Many women who like more relaxed and casual attire feel that wearing a sports bra or tank with shelf bra will “do.” That their clothing is loose enough for one to not notice. My dear, we notice. Women with small breasts often feel that a bra is pointless; they go without or wear little lacy triangle bras just for a bit of modesty in a breeze. No matter your size, such underpinnings do not give shape to your breasts, and do not flatter.

If you are feeling a little less than pleased with your figure or your wardrobe, before you run out to the mall or your local Jenny Craig location, consider a bra fitting with a professional. There are many boutiques in metropolitan areas that specialize in bra fittings; major department stores such as Lord and Taylor and Nordstrom also have bra fitters on site. Do not feel obligated to purchase a bra after the fitting; only buy that which you need and at a price you can afford.

One doesn’t need a dozen bras, just a handful so you can let them breathe between wearings. One in black, at least one in a color as close to your skin color as possible, one that is adjustable/strapless/appropriate to formal and special attire. The rest is icing on the cake, so instead of purchasing many cheap bras, buy few and buy looking for quality. Baby your bras – hand wash (or if you must, wash on the gentle cycle in the machine in a lingerie bag), line dry.

Who cares what you’re wearing on the outside if you’re not flattering and highlighting your body? Take some time and care with your underpinnings and you will be amazed how much better your entire wardrobe will look and fit!

A Proper Bra Fitting – My Experience

I believe a woman should be fitted for a bra every year. Our bodies are constantly changing with age, weight loss and gain, changes to our exercise routine, childbirth and nursing and so much more. Getting properly fitted for a bra does not mean heading to your local Victoria’s Secret to have a teenager who works 4 hours a week try to figure out your size and get you to buy a bra at that store, even if your size isn’t in stock. Getting properly fitted doesn’t mean trying to measure yourself at home and cross your fingers that your online purchase fits.

What it means is going to an expert who can measure you, and then offer you a few styles and brands to try so you can find not only your band and cup size, but the specific type of bra that gives you the best shape, support, and style.

I have been putting off being fitted for far too long; the last time I was fitted was a little over a year before I got pregnant. Since then, I lost weight, carried a child, nursed it for over two years, gained weight, and lost it again. My breasts were sitting like deflated water balloons in my molded-cup bras, they were obviously the wrong size and on top of that, stretched out and in need of replacement.

My community parenting group scheduled a bra-fitting party at A La Mode in Annapolis, Maryland and I jumped at the chance to go. I had been meaning to be fitted but kept putting it off… too busy, not enough money, too lazy. The event was yesterday and it was amazing.

A La Mode Intimates in Annapolis 
Click for a larger version (and to see my mom being rung up at the counter!)

I had heard of A La Mode before, but never visited. They have a new location at the Annapolis Towne Center and it is gorgeous. Bright and airy, yet romantic. The sales area is broken into little rooms which made shopping more fun, and you felt less on display when fingering a lovely charmeuse camisole or reading about nursing bras. Through curtains is their lounge. They set up a lovely little spread for us of brie with crackers and grapes, wine and ice water. They had a couple chairs, a couch and coffee table that were surrounded by gigantic fitting rooms with large mirrors and flattering lighting.

Rebecca assisted me; she whipped out her tape measure and in about three seconds flat had measured me over my shirt. From that she brought me a bra to try. I didn’t look at the brand, I didn’t look at the size, I just tried it on. And I was amazed. My breasts looked smaller, firmer, younger. I had a waistline! Then I looked at the tag…

When I was last fitted, they said I was a 38D. When I got pregnant, my breasts grew and I made the decision to go to 38DD. After Emerson was born, I seemed to be at 38DD and stuck with the same bras. As I have lost weight and stopped nursing, my breasts shrunk. I bought a 38D but kept falling out of the top, and it irritated me under my arms. I went back to my 38DD bras which looked crazy, but at least were reliable.

This bra was a 36F
F as in Frank
F?!?! 

How could that be? I have these deflated, smaller breasts! An F?? But this bra was a perfect fit, it almost felt as though I wasn’t wearing a bra, it was so comfortable. Rebecca informed me that different countries have different bra sizing methods. The US goes from D to DD and then skips E for F, but Europe skips DD and goes straight to E. In the UK they use both single and double letters. This means that a bra from Wacoal, a bra from Elomi, and a bra from Chantelle may fit the same but have different cup letters on the label.

Rebecca checked the bra on me, informed me that the straps shouldn’t really be doing the support (which I do, tightening my straps in an attempt to lift), the bra itself will do the work. She showed me how the band should sit low on my back, not up near my shoulder blades – this prevents your skin from pouring over the bra, and also helps with support. She asked me my bra needs (something that is invisible under thin knits, something that won’t show when I wear a scoop neck, and something that gives me a great shape) and came back with a couple more bras to try. I am a fan of the molded cup and she brought me some of those, as well as a couple other types I may not have considered. I got plenty of time to try on by myself, I didn’t feel as though a salesperson was breathing down my neck, yet if I just said, “Rebecca?” she was right there to bring a different size or color.

 Me in my original bra

 
Me in the bra I purchased

I had two bras that I loved, but unfortunately they didn’t have either in a skin color.

The Winners:
Fantasie Moulded Smoothing T-shirt Bra. Very basic, but gives amazing shape. No lace, no frills, no nothing so it’s invisible under knits. Incredibly comfortable, with incredible lift. I fit a 36DD.

Fantasie Ava. Another simple t-shirt bra, but with a bit of lace detail and pretty straps. Again, I fit best in a 36DD.

I don’t need two black bras right now, so I chose the one with the thinner, less-decorative straps (makes more sense for summer with sleeveless tops). A La Mode will let me know when the bras are back in stock in skin colors.

I went to be rung up… and remembered I needed a strapless bra. Since Rebecca had helped me try on a good dozen different bras, it was easy for her to guess which styles and brands would work best for me. She handed me a skin-colored strapless and I tried it on. Did you know that there are strapless bras out there that are comfortable? I put on my shirt and came out into the lounge to show the other women in my group. “THIS IS A STRAPLESS BRA!” I exclaimed, and they all ooohed and aaahed because really my bust looked almost as good in this strapless as the Fantasie bras above. On top of that, this strapless has straps that can be attached, so you can make it a one-shoulder, criss-cross back, halter or standard bra.

I tried on another strapless, but it didn’t compare to this one in regard to fit and comfort.

THIS is a strapless bra!

The Winner:
Simone Perele Velia Strapless Plunge in Praline. I wanted a strapless that wouldn’t peek out of a sweetheart or surplice neckline and this one did the trick. I tried it last night with my new Gap maxi dress I was going to return because it can’t be worn with any bras I own. Now the dress looks adorable and I am still uber comfortable!

Now this strapless is more than I have EVER paid for a bra… but to have a strapless that is invisible under thin knits, hides under plunging necklines and is so comfortable that I am wearing it all day today as a standard bra… sounds like a worthy investment to me! Also with researching online, I found that A La Mode’s prices are competitive with what I found at department stores and online boutiques (I paid the same price for this bra as it is listed on the Simone Perele site Bare Necessities, Neiman Marcus, and HerRoom).

The benefit of going to a bra boutique or lingerie department of a higher-end department store is you will find an educated bra specialist, and a large variety of brands and sizes. When you visit your nearby Victoria’s Secret, all you have to choose from is Vickie’s bras. Your breasts are just like every other part of your body – unique. What may be Holy Grail jeans to one woman may be terribly unflattering on you; the same holds true with bras.

Bras aren’t cheap. As Rebecca said yesterday at the bra fitting, “You get what you pay for.” Before Bonnaroo, I was desperate for a bra and went to Target and got one from their Gillian and O’Malley line. It itches, it makes my breasts look a bit square in shape, and come the end of the day I can’t WAIT to get it off. I have purchased bras at Frederick’s of Hollywood that lifted my breasts practically to my neck, but I found them horribly uncomfortable after a couple hours, and they would fall apart after a few months (even with proper laundry care). A bra that properly fits, supports, and is comfortable will completely change your figure, your posture, the way your clothes fit. This morning, I wanted to wear a light-colored top and put on my old nude bra. It was… fine. I then tried the new strapless and I looked as though I had lost ten pounds and was five years younger. Seriously, this is the difference between and okay bra and a great bra.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself fitted, and get yourself some quality bras. You won’t regret it!

Note: I was not compensated in any way for this post; A La Mode did not contact me or know I was going to write this post.

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A Bra Fitting with Soma Intimates and a Giveaway

Soma contacted me and asked if I’d like to come to their boutique at the Westfield Montgomery Mall and get a bra fitting and try their Enhancing Shape Bra. I heard about this bra through InStyle, who considers it to be the solution for “ski slope” (the gap at the top of bra cups). I’ve always been a busty woman, but after years of breastfeeding, age, gravity, weight loss and gain, I’ve lost some of my breast volume and was interested in a bra that would address this issue and improve the allover shape of my bust.

Soma Intimates Bra Fitting

In 27 sizes from cups A-DDD there’s a Soma Enhancing Shape Bra for many women; the padded comfort straps and cushioned hook and eye closure ensures the bra is comfortable all day, while the smooth style makes it invisible under fitted knits. In eight solids and four prints this bra is anything but boring.

Wardrobe Oxygen Soma IntimatesSoma Intimates Enhancing Shape Bra

Visiting Soma Intimates was a pleasure; though it was a busy Sunday afternoon, the boutique was well staffed so each of us customers received quality assistance and an unrushed experience in the fitting room. I was partnered with Karien, who took me to a spacious fitting room to determine my bra size. She had me remove my shirt but I kept on my bra as she used a tape measure to size me. Karien then went out to the sales floor and brought back bras in the size she determined and one a cup smaller since the Enhancing Shape Bra does occasionally run big for some. We found that a 38D fit me best, and as you can see from my fitting room selfie above, the bra was pretty much invisible under Soma’s Smoothing Seamless Cami. The bra did give a look of fullness to my bustline without making it look bigger (and without the dreaded “quad boob”), and the bra is super comfortable. No digging in the back, I can’t feel any of the hardware, and I wore the bra all day and there wasn’t any discomfort under the arms or in the shoulders. I was tempted to get the Light Nude which was very close to my skintone and would make for a perfect tee shirt bra, but sweater weather is here and I decided to indulge in the black and white Indulgent Lace pattern which is so beautiful and can be worn under thicker fall and winter clothing without showing. It’s fun to have pretty bras that are also useful!

Soma Intimates Westfield Montgomery Mall Maryland

Karien (pictured above, I had to get a photo with her after such a pleasant bra shopping experience!) was so knowledgeable about bras in general, proper fitting, and of course knew the Soma collection inside and out. I loved how all the employees I interacted with were so friendly and professional, knowledgeable but not pushy. They told me about their Get Gorgeous Parties where you and at least three of your friends can schedule an event at your local Soma boutique to get fitted, all of you receive 15% off your purchases (or you can choose to donate that 15% to your favorite charity), and you receive a free bra for hosting. I also signed up for Love Soma Rewards, a free program where you earn points towards cash rewards, birthday gifts, exclusive offers, and free shipping when you shop online. After my experience at Soma, I know I’ll end up a regular customer!

Giveaway

If Soma sounds great to you, then today’s your lucky day! One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will receive a $60 gift certificate to Soma to use on their own Enhancing Shape Bra or any other merchandise from the brand. To enter, leave a comment letting me know what color of the Enhancing Shape Bra you’d choose if you won. Giveaway ends November 2, 2014 at 11:59pm ET. Winner will be chosen by random and must have a valid email address (in comment, signed in as guest in Disqus, or in Disqus profile). Winner will be contacted by email; if winner does not reply to notification email within 48 hours a new winner will be chosen. Winner may use gift certificate online or in Soma Intimates boutiques.

To learn more about Soma, click here to find your local boutique, click here to get their catalog, or visit them on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest. And if you live in the Maryland/DC area, I highly recommend you visit the Soma Intimates location at Westfield Montgomery Mall!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Soma via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Soma. The opinions and text are all mine.

Ask Allie: Creating a Bra Wardrobe

 

Allie, I hope this isn’t too personal but you have large breasts and they always look great no matter what you wear. Can you let me know more about your bra collection? What styles work best for you?

I breastfed my son for three years and my breasts are now saggy. I know you breastfed Emerson, but your breasts look perky even in fitted tops, what bra do you wear?

What kind of bra do you wear with all these spaghetti strap dresses?

I can’t stress this enough – get a professional bra fitting. Sure, there’s instructions online on how to do it yourself, and chain stores like Victoria’s Secret claim to be bra experts, but you will get a better and more honest fitting, especially if you are large busted or have special needs, if you go to a bra boutique or lingerie section of a high-end department store. Who cares what brand you’re wearing or what trends you’re sporting if your foundation isn’t its best?

Seriously, I don’t believe in scrimping on bras. Go ahead, get cheap jeans, cheap tops, cheap dresses. But things that you wear every day and determine the look and fit of everything else deserve the money, time, and effort. If need be, get fitted and don’t buy anything but note the brands, style number, and size and look for it cheaper online, but the same size but a different brand won’t necessarily fit the same or give you the same shape and lift. And while I am preaching, just because it looks online that you and I have similar figures, I still stress you should get fitted and find the right style for YOU. Some bodies are built for Bali, others look wonderful in Wacoal.

That being said, here’s my bra wardrobe:

Molded Tee Shirt Bras – Two Nude, One Black
I have two in nude because I mainly wear nude in the summer, and you shouldn’t wear the same bra two days in a row, and often one is hanging from the shower curtain rod drying while the other is on my body. These are my everyday bras, worn under blouses, sweaters, tee shirts. They are free of bows, jacquard, lace, or any adornment that would show through a lightweight white tee. The straps are plain as well so if one peeks out of a neckline it’s not as obvious. I strive to have the nude be my nude color, but find the less I allow sun to tan my skin, the harder it is to find a good match.

I do not own a white bra because I don’t see the point – it positively glows under white shirts, and is dreadful under a black knit. My skin isn’t white, so there’s always going to be a contrast. Black under dark colors, nude under the rest.

I choose a molded cup because I think it gives my breasts a nice lifted, youthful shape. I also find the extra support awesome when it’s that time of the month and my breasts are 50 pounds each. Also, less issue with headlights, which can be darn sexy and a natural occurrence but not the best for the office.

What I Own: Fantasie Moulded Smoothing Tee Shirt Bra and the Fantastie Esme

Molded Strapless Bra – One Nude
The type of bra I get has removeable straps, so it can be strapless, but can also be halter, crisscross, one shoulder. Again, I like molded because of the shape, and I think it makes a strapless bra more natural looking and more comfortable.

And yes, large-busted women can find strapless bras that stay up, hold breasts up, and don’t hurt after an hour of wearing. This is when I again stress getting yourself fitted, I have spent hundreds on disappointing strapless bras and with one try I found my Holy Grail strapless at a bra boutique.

I don’t wear strapless bras often enough to find a need for more than one, I choose nude because it’s the most versatile.

What I Own: Simone Perele Velia Strapless Plunge

Sports Bra
I’m not one to workout on a regular basis – I’ll wear a normal bra for yoga and walking, but sometimes you need a bra that can handle high impact and sweat. I choose black because it usually DOES end up being seen, and I think it looks less bra-like in black.

What I Own: Freya Active Underwire

Bras That May be Seen
I have two bras that I call “fun bras.” One is red with violet lace overlay and lacy violet straps, one is a molded cup, but a berry color with lace detail and prettier and slimmer straps. Both have matching panties, and a couple other pairs of underpinnings that coordinate nicely. Both I got on clearance because I can wait on these.

These are worn when I want to feel a bit more sassy, and are also worn when I wear pieces that sort of work with an exposed bra strap. I don’t usually promote visible lingerie, but sometimes when you’re walking to the farmer’s market on a hot July day, you wear a breezy hot pink cotton voile camisole with denim shorts, and a berry bra strap, aviators, and a straw hat just seems to work.

What I Own: Josie Etoile Underwire and Wacoal Embrace Lace Tee Shirt Bra

And that’s it. Six bras, and I must admit some of them seem to collect dust from time to time. I replace the nude bras every 6-8 months because they get grody, the others every year or when they start to get misshapen, lose elasticity, or my size changes.

Bra Tips:

  • Be gentle with your bras. Hand wash if possible. If you’re like me you’d end up with crusty stinky bras before you have time for hand washing, so put in a lingerie bag and wash on the gentle cycle and hang them off a hanger on your bathroom shower curtain rod until they’re fully dry.
  • Don’t turn one cup inside-out to be able to fold your bra in half – let them lie flat in your drawer so one boob doesn’t get misshapen.
  • Your bra should be comfortable on the middle hook, then you can go to the tightest hook when it gets a bit stretched out and then when that’s stretched out it’s time to get a new bra.
  • Your straps should not be what is holding up your bra. If your back strap is up over your shoulder blades or you have mega dents in your shoulders from your bra, you need a different size.
  • Quad boob is not sexy. If your breasts are being dented by the top of your bra cup, you’re wearing the wrong size or the wrong style.
  • Not every woman can wear a demi or balconette, not every woman can wear a molded cup, not everyone looks best in unlined. Just because your best friend’s boobs look great in a certain bra doesn’t mean yours will. Your breasts are like you – unique and wonderful and deserving of custom style.
  • Quality, not quantity. You don’t need 50 bras, honestly you only need two… maybe a few more if you do sports or wear strapless dresses. Buy quality, get professionally fitted, care for them and enjoy better fitting clothes, people saying you’ve lost weight, and less back and shoulder pain!

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My Bra Had a Baby!

As you know, I am on the search for new lingerie.  My bras are too large and my underwear is too old and un-pretty.  Well after being measured, it seems that I am still the same band size (though am close to going down) and down one cup size.  So I checked out Nordstrom’s sale department online to see what I could find in my new size.

These are the two bras I received.  THEY ARE THE SAME SIZE.  Same band, same cup.  One is Natori, one is DKNY

Seriously, doesn’t it look like Mama Bra & Baby Bra?

Seriously DKNY, WTH?  The Natori fit great and I am actually wearing it today and wore it Saturday.  It made my brown dress fit better because my bust wasn’t so… busty.  I couldn’t feel it on, and it hides under knits.  Total win.

The DKNY, I put it on just for giggles.  You know how a too-small bra may give you quad boobs from overfill?  Well this bra, I had overfill in my armpits, on top and even under the wires!  Talk about a major FAIL!  A funny fail, but a fail nonetheless.

Backless Bra for Busty Gals?

backless bra Maidenform

Maidenform has launched the first-ever completely backless bra. The Breakthrough™ Backless Bra, a one-of-a-kind design, allows women of all bust sizes, and especially large-busted women, the chance to take advantage of this season’s sexy backless fashions. As a woman with a bust on the larger size, I wonder if this bra really could support and allow me to wear outfits with lower backs.

From the Maidenform Press Release:
Backless fashions are all the rage this spring! From special occasion to ready-to-wear, designers are including sexy backless styles in all of their spring collections. But who can really wear these fashions? Most women today are in desperate need of bra support! The first ever Breakthrough™ Backless bra by Maidenform® is here in time to offer women all the support they need this spring.

Thanks to the ABC’s hit reality series “American Inventor”™ — from “American Idol” producers FremantleMedia North America, Simon Cowell’s Syco Television and Peter Jones TV Ltd. – our fashion worries will soon be over. Originally created by runner-up contestant Elaine Cato, the new Maidenform Breakthrough™ Backless Bra is the first product ever to be brought to mass market. This new foundation features a completely backless construction with silicone wire channeling that prevents slippage. Now women don’t have to shy away from the latest backless fashion trends and can feel sexy, feminine and supported – all at once!

A born entrepreneur and single mother of two, Elaine Cato was not afraid to put her invention to the test. Like the producers and judges on “American Inventor,” Maidenform immediately saw the undeniable promise of her creation, working diligently with her to bring the design to fruition and later to mass market. Today, the Breakthrough™ Backless Bra, armed with Elaine’s concept, has created an undergarment aimed to perfectly round-out every innerwear wardrobe.

backless bra MaidenformThe Breakthrough™ Backless Bra features light-weight microfiber fabric that is soft to the touch, with seamless molded foam cups that deliver smooth shaping under clothes. Combined with a two-way stretch technology, the bra provides a maneuverable fit with excellent flexibility. Designed with the full-figured female in mind, the bra allows women with even large busts to flaunt their sexy backs like never before!

“During the warmer seasons, women crave those backless styles,” says Norah Alberto, Maidenform’s Senior Style Director. “To help these women bare their back for spring we are launching the new Breakthrough™ Backless Bra which delivers the perfect complement to everyone’s bra closet and is the answer to so many women’s style dilemmas.”

At a suggested retail price of $32 (though currently only $25 if you pre-order on the Maidenform Web site!) and sizes ranging from 34B to 38DD, I plan to try it out and I will be sure to come back here and let you guys know what I think!

My Experience with the Backless Bra by Maidenform

As you know, I mentioned the Maidenform Breakthrough Backless Bra a couple of posts ago. I received a press release from Maidenform and was excited to try this. As a woman with large breasts, many fashions are impossible for me to wear because my bra would be showing. The concept of a backless bra geared toward busty gals seemed to be too good to be true.

It is.

The bra arrived this weekend. It is a molded cup bra and as soon as I saw the wide yet shallow cups, I had a feeling it wouldn’t work for my breasts. Molded cups don’t work for all shapes of large breasts, especially if those breasts are natural and have some age; many molded-cup bras are made to cover, but not support and lift. Second concern was the straps – all elastic, and very narrow. Now narrow straps are great for sleeveless and tank styles of tops, but those of us with large busts know they usually don’t provide enough support. Being of all elastic also means they will usually provide less support and quickly stretch out.

The bra looks like a classic bra in front, but the straps attach under the arms where the bottom/side of the cups are located, instead of on a back band. No rubber or adhesive to keep the bra in place, no weird gizmos, just a little bit of useless silicone on the underwide portion. The bra goes on like a backwards vest, over each arm.

On me, the bra sat away from my body because of the size of my bust. When I tried to lift and place my breasts in each cup, they just slid down so they were hanging below the underwires. I moved my arm to readjust the cups and the strap slid down my arm. Went to slide up the strap and my breast fell out of the cup. I bent over and the entire bra pulled away from my body. Stood up and I now had breasts under the bra, and straps hanging down my arms. Oh gosh, imagine if I actually left my bedroom in this contraption! I suppose this backless bra would work if you were very very thin with sharp protruding shoulders and shoulder blades and had very very small breasts. Anyone else… don’t even waste your time or money.

This morning I received an email from Maidenform asking me to complete a survey regarding my experience with the bra and I was very honest and very detailed with my response. I hope everyone that tried this bra does the same.

Ask Allie – Bra Tanks for Large Busts

Reader April came to me with a question I have been asked many times:

Just out of curiosity, have you ever found a shelf bra tank top for larger busted women? I like to wear them to bed, so I want something soft with a bit of support. But I can’t find tops with enough “shelf” to cover my larger bust and wide straps like a traditional tank. Is it hopeless?

No April, it’s not completely hopeless, though it is a really tough struggle to find that which is comfortable, attractive and actually does as it claims.

I had a hard time finding classic wide-strapped tanks with built-in bras. When I asked those in the lingerie “know,” I was told it is because wide straps do not support properly. A wider strap does not have the thickness or the proper structure/weight dispersion to offer large-bust shape support. Spaghetti straps, as with bra straps dig in when the bust is not properly supported. If there is no support, all weight is placed on the straps. If the tank, camisole or bra has proper support built in, a thinner strap will not be uncomfortable.

To assist all women who want to comfortably and elegantly (meaning not fall out of one) wear a tank or camisole with shelf bra, here are a few that readers or I have tried, or get great ratings for support, comfort and style:

Bravissimo Strappy Top With Built-In Bra: Bravissimo is an awesome company in the UK, made specifically for women with large busts. Not only do they have a great line of bras, but they carry clothing (including button-down shirts and dresses) made for women who may be large busted yet not plus sized.

This tank is a simple basic that could work around the house with yoga pants, with a little cotton skirt for a beachside barbecue, or even under a suit for work.

Bravissimo’s line is not cheap, but I have never heard anything but the most wonderful reviews for their quality and customer service.

Glamourmom’s Built-in Bra Glamourtank: Glamourmom has been known for a while for a company that sells stylish and well-fitting nursing tanks. Due to popular demand, they have now come out with a non-nursing tank with some of the great features from their classic tank.

The tank has a soft cup bra and an elastic shelf to provide more support and shape than a classic shelf bra, adjustable straps, and even mesh pockets if you desire more enhancement (hello chicken cutlets) or help (hello nursing pads or pads to cover “highbeams.”

Glamourmom is offering 10% off if you purchase two or more tops and they always have a money back guarantee.

Soft Surroundings’ Cotton Underwire Cami: Underwire can often be seen as painful, but reviewers have told me this tank is really comfortable while giving a decent amount of support, shape and coverage.

Adjustable straps mean you won’t be hanging to your belly button or pouring out of the neckline. The built-in underwire bra goes completely around the torso, offering good and even support and a smooth line.

As with regular bras, this garment should not be tossed in the wash and dryer with other casual knits. Best to wash in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle or hand wash, and let air dry. This will help it keep its shape and elasticity.

All American Comfort ™ Bra Tank from Woman Within: Hailed as a great lounge tank by those with larger busts, this bra comes in fun colors, a broad range of sizes and is a really great price.

Some say quality is equal to it’s $14.99 price tag, but for a casual lounge tank, you usually will find the same quality at your local Big Box retailer.

The top is made for the larger busted woman, so it provides far more coverage than a classic bra tank. Many use it as a cami under lower-cut tops to provide cleavage coverage.

Valmont Lace Trim Bra Camisole from JMS: Pretty, supportive, colorful, great range of sizes. I have friends who own literally a dozen of these tanks and consider purchasing more because they are so comfortable and supportive.

The tank runs snug in the torso, so it’s most popular as a base layer, under a jacket, or for those with a true hourglass frame.

Ask Allie: All About Bras

The bras that I recently purchased came with care instructions, stating that I should hand wash them in a delicate detergent specially formulated for bras and fine lingerie. Any thoughts on what I should use? Also, it states that I should avoid wearing a bra more than twice between washings, and to not wear a bra for two consecutive days. How true do you find these statements to be?

What detergent do you use to wash delicates and bras? I hear Woolite is the worst, but then I hear Woolite is the best.

I was my bras in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle of my machine, cold water, and hang to dry. Hook all hooks to prevent any snagging, and make sure the washer isn’t overloaded.

For detergent, I use Biokleen, which is what I use for all laundry, be it Emerson’s pajamas, my husband’s workout gear, or my lingerie. Gentle, versatile, reasonably priced, and good for the planet. Woolite has petroleum-based ingredients which can eventually break down synthetic fibers; you’re better off using something like baby shampoo than Woolite. You can get a bottle of baby shampoo at the dollar store and use to wash lingerie, any hand washables (I use to wash my pashminas) and even your makeup brushes.

As for how often you wear bras, giving them a day of rest keeps the elastic in good shape. Overwearing a bra can make it lose its shape, have straps stretch out too soon, and break down the fibers.

How many bras does a woman need? How many different types of bras do you have and do you think you are missing any styles for a versatile collection?

I have molded tee-shirt bras that I wear almost every day – two in beige, one in black. I also have the same bras but not molded – one beige, one black and these are for weekends. I have a beige strapless bra that has hooks to connect clear or beige straps (good for one-shoulder or racerback tops). I have three “fun” bras that are also molded cup, but are in pretty colors and have thinner and prettier straps – these I wear when I want to feel sexy, or when I am wearing a thin-strap top in the summertime. Finally I own one sports bra. I don’t feel as though I need any bras, in fact the non-molded ones hardly ever get any wear (they were bought on accident anyway – I knew the online price was too good to be true!).

How often do you wear a bra before you wash it? When is it time to get rid of a bra?

I do lingerie wash each weekend, and there’s at least one bra in there. I guess I wear a bra for a week (2-4 wears) before being laundered.

As for when it’s time to retire a bra, you can tell even though you don’t want to. The cups aren’t shaped the same, the straps keeps falling down and you need to tighten them, you’re on the tightest hook but still feel as though you need more support. I don’t find that bras really do their job after a year of regular wear. This summer I replaced my bras purchased last summer and put the new next to the old and could truly tell the difference – the old bra had a thinner band, longer straps, the cups had become more… horizontal in shape, the inside of the cups had pilled fabric. A new bra will change your posture, your figure, will make you look thinner, taller, and have your clothes fit better. If you’re questioning it, I bet it’s time for a replacement. While you’re there, get yourself fitted again, women’s shapes change regularly and you may need a different size to better accommodate your current figure.

The closest bra boutique is three hours from me, what do you do when you live somewhere where your only bra store choices are Victoria’s Secret and Walmart? I’m a big girl, and I know Victoria’s Secret won’t carry my size.

A coworker told me about True&Co, which is a site that will virtually fit you for a bra, you pick out a few styles you think you would like and their bra fitting experts will choose some and send you a box. You then have a week to try the bras, send back what you don’t like and keep what you do. It’s like Warby Parker for underpinnings and it perfect for those of you who live far away from high-end department stores and lingerie boutiques. In fact, I have yet to try True&Co and would love to hear from those of you who have tried this company!

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Ask Allie – All About Bras

As a large busted woman, I understand the difficulty in finding bras that lift, fit, flatter and properly support. I know many of you readers have the same issues and many have contacted me recently regarding bras. Here are some of the questions I have received and my answers; please offer your own suggestions in the Comments – we women should share the great brands and stores that we have experienced!

I need a good sports bra! I have a large chest and can’t find a bra that will adequately support high impact activity (running, aerobics, doing jumping’ jacks or jump rope). I have one sports bra now, but it still gives “the girls” too much bounce. Other bras I have are sized medium and they only work because I compress my boobs like an Ace bandage and it is quite uncomfortable. I want to run again but can’t do it with my current bra situation. I’d love to hear your suggestions to save me from wasting my money on several bras that won’t work!

I have always had success finding great bras at Title Nine. This company is completely geared towards female athletes and they have one of the most extensive selections of sports bras. They separate their bras by barbells – those with three or more barbells offer the most support and compression and are geared toward high-impact activities and large breasts. The product descriptions are wonderful – not canned text from the company but true opinions on how the bras work, what shapes and activities they are best for, and what they do for your figure. On top of that, Title Nine has an amazing return policy so you don’t end spending your money on that which doesn’t work.

X-chrom is a company that specializes in sports bras, plus size bras, surgical bras, and activewear and do a great job in offering details, reviews and organization by construction, activity, and even for surgical procedure. The company also does online custom bra fittings. The owner works hard to offer a ton of selection, information and support for female athletes. I love this quote I got from the X-chrom site: “This is a very personal garment. We aren’t all 34Bs. We don’t all love underwires. Some of us insist on no-bounce control; some of us do not care.“ Isn’t that true! Right now X-chrom is offering free shipping on all purchases so be sure to check them out!

I am a plus-sized (16-18) girl who is 27 weeks pregnant. Can you tell me about nursing bras and tanks? Which have worked best for you?

I was utterly stunned by the lack of supportive nursing bras and tanks for plus size and large-busted women. It doesn’t make much sense since postpartum women have larger breasts than usual and they are quite sensitive. On top of that, the entire body is still larger (nope, that body does not bounce back right after the baby is born!). Nothing makes a body look better than a properly supported bustline and when you are feeling less than beautiful in the postpartum days, having a physical lift can really provide a mental lift too!

bravado nursing tankMost nursing tanks are similar in structure to classic bra tanks and camisoles – a basic knit shelf bra, just now with a couple clasps and cut-outs. For women who are C cups and larger, these usually do not provide enough support, shape or coverage. Also most companies do not offer nursing tanks in plus sizes. I did find great success with Bravado nursing tanks. They offer extended sizes and the torso is long enough and comfortable enough for curves as well as postpartum bellies. I chose to order a cup size larger that what I actually wear to ensure I had plenty of coverage. This tank is not as supportive as a classic bra, but it does a pretty great job for hanging around the house, sleeping and wearing under cardigans and button-down shirts. I found a great selection of sizes and colors as Nest Mom, Diapers.com always has coupons in the free baby magazines and they do fast free shipping, and you can often find great prices and color selection (and Free Super Saver Shipping) at Amazon.

For nursing bras, Anita, Anita, Anita! Anita is a brand of nursing bras that I have found beat all the rest in regard to support, comfort, durability and appeal. Most nursing bras look like a combo between your cheapo padded training bra from middle school and a sports bra. Hideous and cheap. Anita bras… well they look like regular bras. They also do a wonderful job of making large breasts look beautiful while still making it easy to unhook with one hand and discreetly nurse. I found mine at Nordstrom, and found this the easy route because I knew I could send The Husband to the mall with any that didn’t fit correctly. However if you know your size, you can find them cheaper at places like Fresh Pair and Mom’s Milk Boutique.

I never found a sleep bra that worked for my figure; I chose to get a classic Bravado cotton nursing bra and use that. Nest Mom will tie dye Bravado bras for you – this effect made me look even more like a field hockey player, but it was far more fun to look at than pale pink or dingy white. I also would wear a Bravado nursing tank to sleep. After a few months, your child and you will have gotten the hang of nursing and you will be able to quickly feed your little one even when wearing a traditional tank or camisole.

If you plan on nursing, be prepared with some nursing pads. I started with disposables, but switched to washable to save money and reduce waste. I tried many popular brands (Lansinoh, Medela), but found the best absorbency, comfort and the ones that disappeared under my clothing the best were by an Etsy shop called ArtsyFartsyFooFoo. I ordered two pairs in nude, one pair in black so they totally became invisible under my bras. These could hold hours worth of leaks and only got softer and more absorbent with each washing.

However I highly recommend to NOT stock up until after you have given birth. Web sites will tell you to order a cup or two larger, but you really can’t predict the shape and needs of your breasts until a week or so postpartum. I spent my first week in one Bravado classic nursing tank and a bunch of old knit dresses from the summer that had surplice necklines.

I have large breasts – where can one find sexy bras that support and don’t cost an arm and a leg?

I am one who feels that bras are worth the money. Your bustline completely affects how your clothing lies, how your figure is shaped, how old/young you look. If you properly care for your lingerie, they will give you months and months of happiness.

That being said, time and again I return to Frederick’s of Hollywood. They have a decent selection of Full Figure bras and most are under $30. Their Smooth Sensation bra is one I have worn for over a decade (and I just purchased one in my current size to wear with a bridesmaid dress for an upcoming wedding). Shaped to work well with low-cut tops, in a bevy of pretty colors and plenty of lift and support (I remove the extra cookies to have the support without extra padding). These bras usually only last a couple months before falling apart, but every time I wear them I feel like a pin up queen!

We are similar sizes; what is your favorite tee shirt bra?
The Chantelle “Senso” Underwire bra. It is molded (usually what I HATE), It is very stiff in the band when you first wear it (not too comfy), but within two wearings, it is the BEST bra and gives me fantastic shape. On top of that, the straps are adjustable so you can have them cross in the back or just be connected closer together if you are wearing racer back or cutout styles. No crazy stitching, no lace, no bows, no flowers, completely invisible under the thinnest white tee shirt. I am wearing one today, and I have been replacing my one tattered nude colored one every six months (about the life on these if you wear them several times a week and launder by hand).

What I Wore: Summer Breeze

Eileen Fisher orange dress with turquoise bead necklace on Alison Gary of Wardrobe Oxygen Maxwell Scott handbag review via Wardrobe Oxygen Wardrobe Oxygen outfit post featuring Eileen Fisher, Born Shoes, and Maxwell Scott handbag What I Wore Orange Eileen Fisher Linen Knit dress with yellow sandals from Born via Wardrobe Oxygen Dress: Eileen Fisher (plus version, similar with sleeves) | Sandals: Born ‘Myndy’ (similar, similar) | Bag: c/o Maxwell Scott Bags | Necklace: c/o Allison Dayton Jewelry (similar, similar) | Bracelets: cuff had forever (similar), c/o Lifetherapy, c/o Pura Vida Bracelets | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

It’s hot, it’s humid, and the last thing I want to do is wear something fitted or structured. The color of this dress from Eileen Fisher appealed to me, but the breezy fabric and loose style is brilliant for sticky thick DC summer days.  This necklace is one of the first gifted pieces of fashion I received as a blogger and still one of my favorite pieces; I love the contrast of the turquoise against the orange and I love non-metal necklace when it’s so hot out.

Maxwell Scott Bags reached out and asked if I’d like to experience a piece from their line.  I must admit I hadn’t heard of the line before their email but now I am a fan.  Maxwell Scott isn’t trying to create the next “It Bag;” all their pieces are designed to be classic, timeless, and improve with time.  Handcrafted from the finest materials sourced in Italy, Maxwell Scott bags have a 25 year warranty.  I chose the MedollaM Medium Saddlebag in brown, a bag I know I would have loved as a college kid, find chic now, and know will love for years.

UPDATE: Maxwell Scott has been kind enough to offer Wardrobe Oxygen readers 10% off their purchase. Sign up for Maxwell Scott’s newsletter (link in the middle of their homepage); then click this link and automatically get 10% deducted in the shopping basket.  Valid until the end of August 2015.

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What I Wore: True Representation

alison gary of wardrobe oxygen personal style over 40 rebecca minkoff mini mac leopard calfhair via wardrobe oxygen Alison Gary of Wardrobe Oxygen 40 year old working mom fashion blog alison gary of Wardrobe Oxygen over 40 fashion advice Jacket: Vince Camuto (similar, similar) | Tee: Etsy | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Nine West ‘Flax’ | Bag: Rebecca Minkoff (similar, similar) | Earrings: Etsy | Watch: c/o Larsson & Jennings | Bracelets: c/o Pura Vida Bracelets (right now get 20% Off With Code JULY20), c/o Lifetherapy (though July get 40% off your entire order with code FF40) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

Hey do you recognize me? I wore this Thursday night at the BlogHer conference. The hotel room had an awkward full-length mirror inside the closet, but it seemed okay at 3:30 when I put it on; by 10pm after three glasses of wine I took a selfie in the hallway mirror while waiting for the hotel I felt it was a good representation of me. Last week, Alexandria Stylebook featured me in a post about trends we have felt good in since our school days. For me it’s band tee shirts, but in the past decade it also includes also blazers, either dark rinse or distressed straight leg jeans, pointed toe pumps, silver accessories, and a touch of leopard or cheetah print. I wore this the first night of BlogHer because I felt it was a good representation of not just my style but my self. I know others don’t always remember outfits the way I do but if they do I want it to be a clear representation of Alison.

The older I get the fewer clothes I want. Don’t get me wrong, I could do some damage if I had the funds, but there would be fewer silhouettes in the closet, fewer personalities. I wrote this piece a few years ago and while those women still reside in my wardrobe, the lines separating them are fading and I want to send a clearer message with my clothing choices. And this feels pretty me.

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What My Brain Has Been Absorbing – May/June 2013

I find when I am uber stressed and frantic about the tiniest thing in life, it’s often when I am not making time for extra-curricular activities. I don’t mean dodge ball or drinking, but books and music and movies and other media. Ways to shut down the hyper chatter in the brain and fill that space with a different story that makes you think, analyze, calm the eff down. Here’s some of the things my brain has been absorbing the past month…

The Shouting Matches – Grownass Man
In the winter, I want deep music. Things I can listen to in the chair in my bedroom while I sip a hot beverage and look at the stark naked trees outside the window. Come summer, I want some fun tunes that sound great turned up to 11 on a turntable or my car stereo. If there’s some deep philosophical message in the lyrics, awesome, but it’s more about feeling happy and free and badass in my aviators with all the windows rolled down.

The Shouting Matches does that. It is a perfect album for 5:15 when stuck in one of DC’s many traffic circles. You’re not embarrassed to have it blaring out of your window, your hand is hanging out of the car patting the door in rhythm, or when you actually can go over 15 miles an hour you may have your hand wind surfing to the beat. With that, I hate to tell you who is the lead singer of this band.

Do you ever love a band without knowing its history, then look them up online and they’re now ruined for you? Kinda happened to me with The Hold Steady, happened to K with Eels, and I feared if I let K know that Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame was the singer of The Shouting Matches, he wouldn’t adore the album any more. But you know what? It kinda added to the album. We’re not big Bon Iver fans (though I must say I love this Tumblr), but knowing that someone so passionate about the art of music was behind this feel-good album ended up making us feel good. Anyway, it’s on Spotify, check it out but be sure all four windows in your car are rolled down before pressing Play.

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
I am guessing more of you have heard of Vampire Weekend than The Shouting Matches, and there’s 50 kazillion more reviews of this album online that are better written than any drivel I can compose, so I’ll keep it short. I’ve always liked Vampire Weekend. I’m sad I hardly saw more than one song when they were at Bonnaroo in 2008, and I think this album is their very best. The band has matured with time, while keeping their signature sound. And this is another album that is great to listen to in the car with the windows down, your left hand surfing the air, your hair getting stuck in your lip gloss and you don’t care, you’re singing so loud.

Dawes – Stories Don’t End
I didn’t like Dawes. I didn’t get them. But they’re playing Forecastle so I added their album as a Spotify playlist. And I tried listening to it, and I just wasn’t feeling. I had already heard this ten years ago at a bar in Dewey Beach, 20 years ago at an Ocean City bar, and 25 years ago when riding in my older friend’s beat up Mustang convertible. Doesn’t mean it’s bad, just mean that it’s not for me.

Well Karl heard them and fell madly, passionately in love. Out came this guy I didn’t know, and I have known him since 1993. How did I not know he was a closet Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen fan? How did I not know that CCR was as much the soundtrack of his childhood as Zeppelin, The Beastie Boys and Run DMC? Well Dawes helped me understand my husband a bit better, and with that I decided to understand the appeal of Dawes.

I will never be the president of the Dawes Fan Club, but I get the appeal, and it is good summer music. I look forward to their performance at Forecastle, and am hoping it’s nice weather with a slight breeze, the sky getting golden, a cold beer in my hand, the river in the background when it happens. Because Dawes begs for a beachy, Outer Banks-esque situation to truly appreciate their tunes.

It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll – Jo Wood
I’m listening to NPR on the way to work and Garrison Keillor comes on and I have to change the channel. No disrespect to his fans, but his voice gives me the willies. I changed to DC 101 and Elliot Segal was interviewing Jo Wood, the woman who was with the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood for 30 years. She was cute and bubbly and reminded me a bit of Sharon Osbourne and I figured her story had to be pretty good to be married into that band for so long and survive. So I got the book.

I liked the beginning of the book, when Wood tells of her early years as a model in London. I even gave her a pass when she left her first child from her first marriage with her parents to travel the world and party like a rock star. And then… I felt her to be the sad aged version of Band Aids.

Throughout the book I felt such pity for her. She worked so hard to be The Cool Girl that she had no self. I just found her life, even the early years, depressing. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll can be awesome, but there’s a point where it gets a bit tedious and desperate. I read these thoughts of 50-something woman and I felt as though I was reading the memoir of a proud yet naive 22-year old. Maybe I’m extra Judgy McJudgerson because I am a mother and cannot IMAGINE doing the things she did when making a choice to create human beings (and yes even though many of her pregnancies were “oops” I find that she made that choice to be “oops” about pregnancy), but I didn’t find this book fun or awesome and I didn’t find her to be some brave heroine at the end.

Maybe it’s her style of writing, but I found her craving the desire to be seen as cool and sexy more important than anything else.  I was disgusted by how she’d laugh off John Belushi masturbating while talking to her on the phone and other situations where she was made into a mindless sex symbol and she enjoyed it.  How any ridiculous or dangerous situation was okay if it was full of laughs.  How proud she was when famous people would think she was cool, or how she hobnobbed with trendy celebrities.  At the end of the book, Wood writes, “…if you’re constantly treated like a cosseted child, you can sometimes start to behave like one, too,” and I agree, but I think Wood acted like a cosseted child even before her lifestyle encouraged it.

If you like to read about the rock and roll world, read Keith Richards’ Life; now that’s an awesome book about the Stones lifestyle. It’s long as heck and full of things I would never ever do, but it was good, and well-written. I even learned life lessons from it.  This book felt like a way for Jo Wood to cling to the limelight just a teeny bit longer.

The Great Gatsby (Movie and Book)
I see a movie in the theaters maybe once a year. Since I see them so rarely, I am quite picky. I saw Les Misérables at Christmas, and on Mother’s Day I went to see The Great Gatsby with my mom and sister.

I liked it. I hoped I would love it passionately as I do Moulin Rouge, but it didn’t get a fire in me like that film. However, it did make me respect Leonardo DiCaprio as an actor. He was spectacular. I also found the music to be far more subtle than with Moulin Rouge, but quite the supporting act that really pulled the film together and gave it a modern edge. If you didn’t see it in the theaters, it’s worth a rental once it’s on DVD but it won’t be in my Top Ten favorite movies, or even Top 50.

After seeing the movie, I wished to revisit the book. I have read it several times, but the last time was during or soon after college. When looking for the soundtrack on Spotify, I came across the audiobook of the novel and proceeded to download it so I could listen to it data-free on my work commute. It did make me realize that the film stayed quite true to the novel, but it also made me realize that the book is so great because of what your mind does with it. Most books are this way… it’s hard to have someone else’s imagination paint the picture for you, and The Great Gatsby has such descriptive writing to paint such a clear picture in your own mind. So if you haven’t read the book lately, go to your library or that dusty shelf in your living room and pick it up. Or if you’re a Spotify addict like me, search the title and find the audiobook. The movie can’t hold a candle to your own mind.

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The Mall and the SAHM

This week, I ran to the mall at lunch for some retail therapy. I recently bought a pair of black trousers that had such a perfect fit, fabric and cut that I returned to get them in two other colors. While strolling the mall sipping my iced coffee, I realized that the majority of the mall was occupied by mothers with their children. Women with slings holding sleeping infants, women with strollers holding up to three kids at a time at varying ages. Women and children hand in hand at the food court, on benches, in stores. As varying were the ages of their children were the appearances of these mothers.

This mall is in a community where every economic level of person lives. On one side of the mall are million-dollar townhomes in a gated community, the other side are rent-controlled apartments. A mile up the street are McMansions and in the other direction, cozy blocks of split-level and rancher-style brick homes built in the 50s. I used to work at this mall, and saw people from all walks of life enter my store. This day of retail therapy and my years of retail management remind me that money does not equal style.

My mom often tells me about my childhood. We were not well off and she had to save up to buy clothes for herself and us kiddies. Weekends were spent at yard sales for clothes, furniture and even Christmas presents come winter. Though my mom had a limited budget, she always looked great. She learned to sew to be able to dress for less and flatter her petite frame. She scoured sale racks and when something worked, she would buy multiples in varying colors to make things simple. Since she was a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM), she needed clothes that didn’t wrinkle, could handle multiple washings and were so easy to pair with one another, she could dress in the dark. Pictures of her during this time shows her in jeweled toned knit tops, black knit trousers, black shoes and a silver pendant necklace almost every day. Not too exciting, the sleeve and pant length seemed to change with the seasons, but the premise was the same. Considering it was the 70s and 80s, my mom had a shoulder-length perm that flattered her face but was low-maintenance. You couldn’t look at her and know her income level or that I had vomited on that shirt two days prior. She was a parent of two rambunctious children, a volunteer in our schools, the editor of the church newsletter, active in the community and always overextended. Though her life may have been frazzled, her appearance was not.

It really is possible to look good and be a SAHM. And this is possible without spending much more time every day. It’s all about mindful shopping. I know I have written about this before, but this is something that is important to all women, no matter our lifestyle or responsibilities.

As I walked down the mall, I had two women in front of me pushing strollers. They were friends, chatting with each other as they window-shopped. They were both in their 30s, both of average size, both with straight blonde hair and I believe even had the same strollers. That was where the similarities ended. One was in baggy over-washed black cotton capris that ended at the widest part of her calf. She paired this with a pink, black and white horizontally striped polo shirt that hit right at her waistband and with it a pair of black flip flops. Her hair was half up in a claw clip, though most was slipping out and fanning out around her head. She looked dumpy, disheveled and her clothes looked cheap. Her friend was also in black capris, but they were of a very heavy knit and fit her frame quite well. Paired with it was a turquoise boatneck ¾ sleeve top that hit at mid-hip. On her feet were black ballet flats and her hair was held back with a black elastic headband. Her outfit was just as low-fuss and easy care, yet she looked slimmer and more polished. Both wardrobes can go in the washer and dryer. Both outfits were comfortable and easy. The difference was that the woman in the turquoise seemed more mindful of what she was purchasing.

1. Don’t buy 100% cotton unless you love to iron. It wrinkles, and even an extra 10 minutes in the dryer won’t get those wrinkles out. Also, cotton is known to fade after many washings. Cotton clothes soon look rumpled, old and worn. You don’t have the time and money to replace them, so don’t buy them in the first place.

2. If your tummy is not your best feature, then don’t showcase it. Tops that hit right at your midsection draw attention to that area. Tucked-in tops emphasize the lower abdomen, and tops that are too tight do not flatter anyone. Look for tops that hit around mid-hip. This length is slimming to the torso without making the legs look short. No need for baggy tops – they often add bulk instead of hiding it. Look for something that either skims the body or sits pretty darn close. This will show you have the figure of a woman, not a sack of potatoes.

3. Flip flops are for the beach, not the mall. I say this often on here, but flops are bad for your feet. Your arches sink, you pull muscles between your toes and they do more harm than good. They are great when hopping in the car to drop the kid off somewhere, tooling around the garden, the pool or the shore but that’s about it. To preserve your feet for your future and not look sloppy, invest in some real shoes. Ballet flats are a great alternative and can be found for less than $20 at retailers like Target. A leather sandal in tan will go with 90% of your wardrobe and be more structured and attractive than a flip flop. This change affects your personal style as well as your personal health.

4. With skirts, dresses, shorts and capris, have them end at a slim part of the leg. Your thigh and your calf are the widest parts and when clothing ends there, it gives the appearance that your entire leg is that size. Do your figure a favor and if the garment is perfect except for the length, take them to the tailor. For about $5 they can hem it to a better place.

5. Consider solids. Stripes and patterns may add variety and you may think they hide stains, but they often look cheap and quickly look dated. A solid polo in French blue can look crisp with a pair of khaki Bermudas; a striped one can make you look bigger and often looks cheaper. The best way to make your bargain piece look more expensive is to buy it in a solid color, free of garment-dyed finishes, contrast stitching or elaborate details. Go for simple and you’ll go for gold.

6. Read the label. If it says Dry Clean Only, don’t buy it unless you have time and money for such a service. If it tells you to dry flat, it’s telling you not to buy it. You don’t have the time for this, and if you don’t follow the instructions you will probably ruin the shape or finish of the garment.

7. If it’s great, buy two. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I went and bought two more pairs of pants that I already owned and loved. They were the right length, color, fabric and fit. No one is taking a tally of how many styles of garments you own, all people notice is if you look nice. You found a great wrap top that flatters and fits and is easy care and perfection? Get it in black, pink and teal. Found a wrap dress that can hit the dryer as well as the dance floor? Get it in solid black and also in the red print. This is also true for shoes – get them in the neutral you wear most often (black or brown) and then get them in one other color (tan or a contrast shade like red pr green). If they are awesome, they are worth it.

8. Adjust your hair to your life. If you don’t have time to blow out your hair every morning, then get a cut that allows you to wash and wear. If you have bad hair days, you are human. Work with it with flattering accessories. Claw clips seem like a quick fix but look sloppy more often than not. Headbands are hip right now – great time to stock up. Also nothing is wrong with a low ponytail; side parts are flattering on rounder faces and a little hairspray on your brush or comb will help battle flyaways.

9. Buy a new bra. Whether or not you breastfed, your breasts will not be the same as they were pre-baby even if your waistline is. With any weight changes, your breasts change as well. Nothing makes you look firmer and fitter than a supportive bra. Also nothing makes you feel more like a woman than to have a gorgeous red satin and lace number under your standard tee shirt.

10. Keep the active wear for the gym. Knit shorts, baggy tee shirts from a vacation destination, matching hoodies and pants are not appropriate for “the real world.” It is just as easy to buy a feminine cut of tee shirt than to buy an oversized one.

11. Don’t shy from a skirt or dress. If it hits around the knees, you can still crawl on the floor and run around without trouble. A skirt is always more polished, and a great tee-shirt style dress is easier to put on in the morning than a whole outfit. The one pictured is less than $40 by Jones New York, I found it at Nordstrom.

12. Show your personality.You are more than a mom, you are an amazing and vital woman.Wear your favorite colors, buy a leopard print shoe or a bold necklace.Small touches take your standard day wear from uniform to amazing with little work.

 

 

Some companies I recommend to find beautiful, comfortable and durable garments:

      • Lands End – I love this place. I buy knits from there that never shrink, fade or pill. They have petite, tall and plus sizes and offer fit guides to ensure you get the right size. I recommend you use this guide for many of their pieces run big. Best part? Their prices are very reasonable!
      • Chico’s – Fabulous colors, fun accessories and lots of fabrics that resist wrinkles and fading. Do note their sizing is a bit different from most companies and they do not carry plus sizes. As with Lands End, they often run a tad big.
      • J. Crew – J. Crew is the Mecca for pretty solid colored tops. Flattering cuts of polos and tees, high-quality cashmere, cotton and wool sweaters, and all with flattering yet not risqué necklines and cuts. J. Crew often runs small, especially in their bottoms but the quality is good, the cut is usually flattering and their return policy is fabulous. The price may be a bit higher than you’re used to, but the quality usually makes it worth the investment (I am still wearing J. Crew skirts and sweaters from a decade ago).
      • I.N.C. by Macy’s – You may find this a strange choice but if you regularly visit this section you would understand. They carry petites and plus sizes, they always have the most gorgeous colors and a large selection of pants, shorts and capris for the season. I.N.C. does a fabulous job of taking what is on the runway and making is realistic and wearable for every woman. They carry prints, but also a plethora of solids every season in some high-quality knits and other washable fabrics.
      • Boden – Feminine cuts, pretty colors, and great basics for any wardrobe. Do note this is a UK site so their sizes run differently than the us (they have a handy fit guide on the site). They don’t have many extended sizes, though some trousers are offered in long lengths. This company has mastered simple elegance with their basic style.

 

What I Wore: The Not-so Little Black Dress [Sponsored]

christopher and banks 4Dress: c/o Christopher & Banks | Hat: J. Crew Factory (similar) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban | Bracelets: c/o RocksBox, Coin Collection, c/o Lifetherapy | Bag: c/o Adora Bags | Shoes: Softspots (similar)

christopher and banks 1Dress: c/o Christopher & Banks | Necklace: MYHABIT | Bag: Brahmin (similar) | Shoes: Nine West | Watch: Citizen

christopher and banks 6Dress: c/o Christopher & Banks | Necklace: c/o Rocksbox | Bag: c/o Handbag Heaven | Bracelets: had forever (similar), Coin Collection, c/o Lifetherapy, c/o LiveTheLook, Shoes: Bella Vita c/o Shoebuy

I feel a not-so little black dress is a must in most wardrobes.  Christopher & Banks reached out and asked if I’d like to feature something from their current collection and as soon as I saw this dress I knew it was the perfect choice.  Ponte knit is one of the most figure flattering and versatile fabrics; it’s a tightly woven knit that doesn’t wrinkle, stretches, and smooths curves.  It’s great for travel, works for every season, and can dress up and down with ease. The Sleeveless Fit & Flare Ponte Dress from Christopher & Banks has a flattering shape and classic silhouette.  It would be great to wear for a day at the wineries; pair with flat sandals and a straw hat for comfort and style.  For work, pair the dress with a statement necklace and pumps for summer office style; add a ponte blazer or cardigan in a favorite color for warmth and additional corporate coverage.  The Sleeveless Fit & Flare Ponte Dress is the type of thing I’d wear to work when I have plans after; a switch to a lightweight crossbody bag and shoes with a chunky comfortable heel for dinner and a show.

The Sleeveless Fit & Flare Ponte Dress from Christopher & Banks comes in Missy and Womens sizes 4 to 24W and is under $75. It’s a perfect wardrobe staple for summer and seasons to come.

Plus Sized Work Attire Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Brand Love – Not Your Daughter’s Jeans

My stomach has always been my soft spot – even when I was younger, slimmer, and more athletic my lower belly protruded and was mushy. I remember working for Express, wearing their Metro collection – a knit hoodie, v-neck tee, and matching maxi skirt (hey, it was the late ‘90s!) and a customer pulled me aside and told me about a control garment sale taking place down the hall at Lord & Taylor. I was mortified, and resolved to do anything possible to get a six-pack. Even when doing crunches through the commercial breaks of Friends and Beverly Hills 90210 I had a soft tummy. Eventually I got over it and accepted it as a part of my body – a soft, mushy, protruding part of my body that I flattered with wrap dresses, wide waistbands on trousers, and untucked knits.

After having a baby, my lower tummy became even more pronounced. Even when I was able to fit into my pre-pregnancy pants, they looked terrible with my saggy belly. I resigned to the fact that I would live the remainder of my life in dresses… until I tried a pair of Not Your Daughter Jeans.

I hate control garments – they make me look like a stuffed sausage, aren’t comfortable, and often cause gas pains. I’d rather be curvy than uncomfortable. So when I heard that Not Your Daughter’s Jeans had a control aspect to them, they totally turned me off. But a reader raved about them, so I decided to try them. No pain, no constriction, yet the jeans held in my “mama pooch” and made me look more streamlined. The brand states that they will make you look a size smaller – I don’t know if it does that, but each time I wore them in the year after my pregnancy, people told me I looked great and asked if I lost weight.

Emerson is three years old and I still rely on Not Your Daughter’s Jeans for my denim. I have a couple other brands in my wardrobe, but I only wear them with tops that cover my lower belly. With NYDJ, I can wear shorter tops and fitted knits without feeling self-conscious.

Other than the hidden and yoga pant-comfortable control aspect of NYDJ denim, I like that the jeans don’t LOOK like control denim. No logos or visible labels, every cut seems to have an option with non-embellished pockets (I don’t like decorated denim), on-trend washes and silhouettes, and the denim is cut for women with curves. Straight jeans in other brands look like stovepipes on me and skinnies don’t fit over my calves – with NYDJ straight looks straight and skinny is skinny without cutting circulation off to my feet. I can get classic fits like a dark wash of Barbara or Marilyn, or get trendy with a skinny like Sheri or hot pink cropped Alishas.

Many of you readers have told me that you find NYDJ to be too expensive – and yes, they aren’t cheap. However, they are quality jeans. If I wash on the gentle cycle and line dry, my NYDJ jeans will remain in great shape with the same saturated color for years. I recently sold a pair of two-year old NYDJ on eBay for $35 and they were worn and washed several dozen times, yet were in great enough condition to garner positive feedback from the buyer. NYDJ is also available at great prices at Nordstrom Rack, Amazon, and NYDJ outlet stores (for you local yokels, there’s one at Arundel Mills Mall). But really, I often talk about quality, not quantity and I feel NYDJ fits the bill – you can get away with one pair of their $125 jeans to cover weekends and nights out with friends equally well, and not find them to be dated in a year’s time.

And nope, NYDJ didn’t ask me to write this post. I am writing this because I noticed on laundry day how many pairs I own, and how often I happily wear them. I believe a woman should love and accept her current body, she shouldn’t go through pain or humiliation to achieve society’s ideal for a woman’s figure. However, if you can find something that makes you feel more confident and flatters this lovely body you own, I say go for it!

Update: Many of you had questions so I figured I’d answer them here for all to read:

  • These jeans are a high rise; that helps keep the tummy completely smooth and there’s no muffin top.  However they don’t taper like “Mom Jeans” giving you a weird shape, and the pockets are still at the appropriate place on the bum.  The novelty styles seem to have a lower rise than the traditional jeans
  • I haven’t had any problem with the color fading or running with the novelty jeans.  I planned to wash the red on its own, but my husband threw them in with the rest of the denim and they turned out great.  The pink still looks bright after several washes.
  • The jeans run a hair large, especially if you want them to suck in the tummy.  If you are deciding between two sizes, go a size down.  I have NYDJs in 12 and 10, but the 10s suck in the tummy better but aren’t indecent/too tight/uncomfortable.
  • NYDJ has the control in the tummy area, not in the hips or rear.  However, they are made for a woman’s curves so those of you who find jeans are not flattering to your hips or bum may like them because of the lightweight stretchy denim, shape, and style.  I cannot personally vouch for this as I am as apple as apple can be.
  • I am 5’3″ and I have NYDJs in regular and petite lengths.  Each style seems to have a different inseam.  The straight legs I like in regular because they look best with heels, however I have a pair of petite straight legs I wear with flat shoes.  The bootcuts run longer and I find the petite is too short for my heels, so I have the regulars shortened by my dry cleaner.  Check the descriptions, even their crops come in different inseams in regular lengths.  I recommend trying them on in a store to really understand the unique fit of NYDJs – they aren’t like regular jeans for weight, shape, or length and the style that I like best may not be the best bet for your specific figure.

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How to be a Stylish Woman in her Thirties

Years ago I wrote a piece on the Closet Cleanout for women over 30, and then an update on that post. Many complained that it was too extreme, dated, ridiculous, judgmental, whatever. Since writing that piece, style has changed a lot. To make this more timeless, I decided to focus less on the specifics and more on my eternal beliefs for being a stylish woman over 30:

1. Pack Away the Crazy Statement Necklaces. I know they’re fun, they’re cheap, they’re an easy way to add a pop of color to a simple knit. Thing is, they’re over, dunzo, passé and by wearing them you sacrifice your style.

The great thing with accessories, is that you can jump on a new trend bandwagon without breaking the bank. However, if you decide to go down the trendy accessory highway, you need to know when to get off. Pearls never go out of style, you can wear diamond (or CZ) studs every day of the year, but a lot of larger flashier pieces of jewelry go with the trends. If a Dannijo or J. Crew piece is being recreated in Claire’s or Charlotte Russe it’s time to let the trend go.  If you love big, flashy, and bold jewelry I can relate – shop craft festivals, Etsy, and shop on your travels to acquire a collection that is as unique as you and far more timeless.

2. Better No Boots than Cheap Boots. Seriously ladies, I know boots are expensive and I know how hard it is to find a pair when you have wide calves or narrow calves or wide feet or need orthotics or are very petite or very tall. I get it. And I get when you have that feeling of euphoria when a pair actually fits everywhere, you want to strut up and down the street and style every piece of clothing in your wardrobe around them.

The thing is, when the boots are cheap pleather or trying desperately to look like a designer version or is trying to distract the eye from shoddy construction with a pound of buckles and baubles… it doesn’t matter how well they fit. They look cheap and tacky, and they will ruin your style.

I have hard to fit legs, I understand the issues and the desire to have boots.  But if you can’t afford quality and style and fit in one pair… it’s better to go without any pairs. Save your money, you don’t need a closet of boots if you can find one pair that does it all.

3. Find a Tailor. You’re not an undergrad anymore, and it is not acceptable to have your blazer sleeves swallow your hands or have your trousers drag in puddles. For simple alterations like a pant hem, your nearby dry cleaner can usually do the job quite nicely and for a nice price. However, when it comes to tailoring suiting, preventing waist gap on trousers, or nipping in a dress I strongly suggest you visit Yelp or a nearby suiting or bridal boutique and get advice on a local reputable tailor or seamstress.

4. Invest in Your Edges. When you’re 30, you can still carry off a top from Forever 21, a pair of cheap jeans, a wacky thrift-store score. However, you are no longer a teenager or poor college student, and you need to take care of the edge details: hair, hands, bag, shoes.

When I was in college, I could go a year without a haircut. I’d often trim off split ends with a pair of cuticle scissors and had been known to sport a crazy cut or new color that I did in my bathroom at 3am. I could carry off crooked bangs or a botched dye job with some fun makeup, a couple barrettes, and confidence. The thing is, when you’re over 30, such things don’t look edgy, they look sloppy.

Take care of your hair; this doesn’t mean you need a $200+ salon visit every month, but get a proper cut, quality color (if applicable), and keep it maintained. If you keep slicking back your hair into a bun or ponytail it may be life telling you it’s time to hack it off and choose a lower-maintenance style. You can still be edgy and wacky and different, but do it with a bit of polish and more care.

5. Take care of your Hands. This is something I put off until the end of my 30s and I wish I hadn’t. If you’re a nail and cuticle biter like me, consider regular manicures, taking NAC (with your doctor’s approval), or even hypnosis to break the habit. If you work a lot with your hands, keep your nails short and your polish long-wearing or else naturally colored or buffed so chips aren’t as much of a factor. Moisturize regularly; hands show age and weather-related stress faster than any part of the body.

6. Purchase a Quality Bag. In my 20s I had a different purse for every day of the month. I’d buy one to go with a certain dress or pair of shoes, caring more about the fun than quality. The older you are, the cheaper that cheap bag will look. I don’t expect you to buy a Birkin, or even a bag with a designer name, but look for quality over trendiness or color.

Faux leather looks the fakest when on a bag; with all the stitching and angles the material catches the light and has more chance for stretching and tearing. If you don’t wish to carry a leather bag, consider a bag of a higher quality fabric or a durable material like microfiber. Avoid wacky glazes and finishes, too much bling, or obvious logos; even if you can afford the real deal logos always cheapen a look and they look dated far faster than plainer styles.

Once you have your bag, care for it. Use cuticle scissors to trim fraying straps, invest in a leather conditioner, stuff with paper and store in an old pillowcase when not in use, don’t overstuff it and when you get home, don’t hang it full from its straps (weakens the straps and alters the shape of the bag). Cobblers can perform repairs on handbags and even replace handles, zippers and re-dye exteriors.

7. Care for your Shoes. Be they from Prada or Payless, care for your shoes. Let a day go between wearings so they can air out and retain their shape. Get them reheeled and resoled when necessary. Polish to keep a nice shine. Consider commuter shoes to keep your best footwear protected from city streets. Don’t shop for trends but your actual lifestyle and needs, purchasing the best quality your wallet can justify. It’s better to have one great pair of well-maintained black pumps than a rainbow’s worth of heels.

8. Find a Cobbler. Speaking of shoes, a cobbler can be your best friend, right after your tailor. A cobbler can stretch too-tight shoes, add an elastic gusset in tall boots, reheel and resole years-old shoes to make them look brand new, and much much more. You’re old enough to start buying quality, and that means having a team who can protect your investment. it’s far easier to stomach a high price for a pair of boots when you know that for about $25 each fall you can have them looking brand new and prepared for the weather.

You’re old enough to care for your shoes, and you should. Unless you can afford to toss your footwear after each season (and if you can why the heck are you reading my blog?), it’s worth your time and money to baby them a bit. Let a professional help you extend the life and style of your footwear.

9. Get Professionally Fitted for a Bra. A professional bra fitting doesn’t mean the teenager working at Victoria’s Secret. Go to a higher-end department store’s lingerie department or a bra boutique and get sized. Invest in bras that better the bust you have; no matter your size a proper bra can enlarge, reduce, lift, separate, and make all your clothes fit better. Get measured once a year; your body changes with age, exercise, weight, and life experiences.

While we’re discussing bras, care for them properly. If you must machine wash them, do it on the gentle cycle in a lingerie bag. Always line dry, bras should never go in the dryer. Replace when they get stretched out, and be sure to own more than one so you can let them rest between wears (extends the life of the bras).

10. Wash your Face. Wash your face every evening. Seriously, it’s worth it. If you’re too tired or drunk or whatever to accomplish this, put a packet of facial cleansing cloths on your nightstand so you can swipe with your eyes already closed. You’re at the age where things like clean and moisturized skin now can drastically affect how your face looks in a decade. Along with this…

11. Moisturize. Moisturize your face. Moisturize your body. Apply hand cream on a regular basis. Use conditioner. Baby your body; as I mentioned above you’re at the age where what you do now may not seem important but it will affect how you look in ten years. Your 40-something self will thank you.

12. Wear Sunscreen. I spent my college years in a tanning bed, and my post-college summers baking on the shores of Dewey Beach. I was tan and felt I looked healthy and hot with a glow to my skin. And then at 29 I acquired my first age spot. A decade later, I have wrinkles and stretch marks in unfortunate locations and dark spots on my face, chest, and legs. I feel extremely lucky that I haven’t gotten melanoma from my bad habits.

It doesn’t matter your skin color, your ethnicity, or if it’s cloudy… wear sunscreen. Not only will it help prevent skin cancer, it will keep your skin looking younger, softer, and healthier far far longer. Learn from my mistakes.

Do you have any advice for women who have reached their Thirties?

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Jumpsuits that Fit, Flatter, and Let You Pee

I’m a jumpsuit fan. I’ve been rocking this jumpsuit from Karen Kane for a couple years, and now that every retailer has jumped on the jumpsuit train, I’ve been adding to my wardrobe with some great one-piece outfits that look great for the office, a night out, or even running errands on the weekend. Every time I feature a jumpsuit on the blog or Instagram I always have at least one person say they never thought a soft curvy person or a petite person could carry off a jumpsuit. And I always have at least one person comment on the issue with jumpsuits and needing to use the restroom.

Shopping Guide: Jumpsuits that fit, flatter and let you pee by Wardrobe Oxygen

Ladies, you can wear a jumpsuit no matter your shape or size. And ladies, there ARE jumpsuits out there that let you pee without ten minutes of procedure and a friend to assist.

A couple months ago, HauteLook had DVF on clearance. I love Diane von Furstenberg the woman and I also love Diane von Furstenberg the fashion so I was excited to possibly score some more DVF for my wardrobe at a reasonable price. I was even more excited to see some DVF jumpsuits featured and available in a size 14. I frantically clicked BUY before it sold out and a couple days later a black and white printed DVF jumpsuit was at my front door. I raced upstairs and tore open the bag. Ten minutes later I was crying, sweating, had several pulled muscles and was swearing a woman who I consider a hero. I bet a lot of you are laughing, nodding your heads, recalling similar experiences when trying to take off jumpsuits. But not all jumpsuits are created equal, and from my experience the fit, comfort, and pee-ability of a jumpsuit has nothing to do with the name on the label or the price on the tag. A few tips to find a great jumpsuit:

Seek Stretch: Jersey and Lycra-infused Jumpsuits

My Karen Kane jumpsuit is a nubby-crepe textured stretch that is low on shine and can look dressy quite easily. The bodice is a wrap or surplice style so the neckline can stretch a lot for quick removal when changing or using the restroom. There’s a built-in camisole for modesty but it’s only on the front of the jumpsuit, making the bodice still loose enough to easily slip on and off.

I have this jumpsuit from Loveappeala and I adore it. I wore it to work with a wide belt and caged sandals with a slight heel, but many weekends you’ll see me wearing it with a pair of Converse Shorelines or my Birkenstocks. It has a couple pleats on the bottom to keep it loose and comfortable and again, it has an easy wrap-style bodice.

Shop Printed Jumpsuits:

From my experience, if you’re between sizes, size up. Jumpsuits often run short in the torso and are prone to cling on the bum; stretchy jumpsuits don’t have to have a slim fit so sizing up can add comfort and better drape on your lower half. My local dry cleaner was able to shorten my Karen Kane jumpsuit for only $10 and I have had tailors and dry cleaners adjust the length of straps and even take in seams on jersey pieces for just a few dollars.

Fabric makes the difference whether you can wear a stretchy jumpsuit to a wedding, the workplace, or if it’s best left for the bar or a beach barbecue. Matte jersey, crepe jersey, and silk jersey have a more elegant finish, hold dye better providing a richer color, and are less clingy making them better for dressier or more formal situations. If you feel a jumpsuit may be inappropriate for the office, you’re probably correct. Even crepe jersey jumpsuits can be clingy, especially on the rear, and often have silhouettes or details that may be too trendy for an office setting. A wrap-style dress with an added cami can look appropriate at work, but a jumpsuit with the same bodice may be seen as unprofessional. Always steer on the side of conservativeness when considering a work wardrobe.

Shop Plus Size Jumpsuits:

Tee-shirt fabric, jersey, and fabrics that have been smocked (stitched with elastic so it is stretchy) are best left for casual settings. The same holds true for strapless, spaghetti strap, and in my opinion, most sleeveless jumpsuits are best kept for times outside the office (no, adding a cardigan will not make it suddenly look corporate).

Non-Stretch Jumpsuits that are Bathroom-friendly

The reason I had a panic attack and pulled muscles in that DVF jumpsuit was because I needed to be Houdini to be able to take it off and I had just finished a bottle of water. Jumpsuits are stylish, and we women like wearing stylish clothing to social events, and social events usually have beverages. I don’t care how utterly adorable or flattering a jumpsuit is, if you can’t pee without an entourage or double-jointed capabilities you shouldn’t purchase it. That doesn’t mean you have to rule out all non-stretchy jumpsuits. Some can actually be quite wearable and accessible.

Shop Tall Jumpsuits:

I have a sleeveless silk-like jumpsuit with a jewel neck that fits a bit more like coveralls. Loose straight torso with a drawstring waist and wide cropped legs, I’ve worn it to the office with heels and worn it on the weekend with flat sandals. The reason it works is because it has buttons from neck to navel and those buttons are easy to work and that perfect space where you don’t get a flash of my bra when I stretch. I also have a spaghetti strap jumpsuit from Karen Kane that also works because it too has a drawstring waist and the bodice is loose enough to slip over the shoulder.

Shop Casual Jumpsuits:

I’m short, I’m fat, and there’s no way I can wield a back zipper without pulling a muscle. Hell, trying to take on and off a jumpsuit with a side zipper also has its issues, especially when in a public bathroom without a full-length mirror. The only jumpsuits I’ve found that are non-stretchy and have a zipper that can work in a jiffy are spaghetti strap or strapless jumpsuits. These styles require a shorter zipper and can often be twisted a bit when getting the zipper started. Also look for styles with smocked or elasticized panels which help with getting on and off.

Shop Dressy Jumpsuits:

Before dropping coin, drop the jumpsuit. Try a few times – can you honestly slip it on and off in a rush? Could you do it in a cramped bathroom stall at a bar or concert venue or wedding ballroom? Do you need to be careful about tiny hooks and eyes or too-tight button holes? Be realistic, you have no idea how long that bathroom line may be or how you may be feeling that evening. No jumpsuit is cute enough to risk an accident or wardrobe malfunction.

Tips for Buying and Wearing Jumpsuits:

  • Size up. Unless it’s a non-stretchy fitted style, you can usually go up a size without it affecting the line of the piece. This will reduce cling on the bum and give a bit more fabric in the bodice to be able to get on and off with ease. A dry cleaner can adjust hem and strap length for little money.
  • If you’re petite, try the regular version (and if you’re regular consider tall). Again, jumpsuits can run short in the torso, and very short in that space between waistband and crotch. I’ve found regular jumpsuits to often fit me better in the body.
  • Seek stretch. Whether the whole jumpsuit is made of jersey or just a portion, stretch will make it easier to work with and be more forgiving to your figure.
  • Avoid VPL. I have yet to see a jumpsuit that doesn’t at least skim the rear. It’s easy to worry about lifting the bust and whittling the waist and forget about the back view. Seamless undergarments, thongs, and even bike short-style undergarments will give a smooth finish for the jumpsuit (I often wear my Skimmies under jumpsuits).
  • Reference your underwear drawer. Don’t buy a strapless jumpsuit if you don’t have a comfortable and flattering strapless bra (and they do exist). Don’t try to cover up bra straps by wearing a tank or tee under a jumpsuit meant to wear on its own. Same with halters, spaghetti straps, cutouts, open backs, and the rest. That jumpsuit may look hella cute on the hanger, but without the right underpinnings you won’t get the right effect. Don’t try to reinvent your lingerie drawer or redesign your figure, there’s another cute jumpsuit out there that’s perfect for you and your current wardrobe!
  • Consider your shoes.  A wide-leg jumpsuit needs a substantial shoe – a wedge, caged sandal, or platform is a good choice to balance the width.  In turn, a narrow leg or banded leg jumpsuit needs a more delicate shoe.  Just as you do with a dress, factor in footwear.  Don’t think because you have a long leg you can get away with old flats or sandals; a shoe makes the man and the woman!

A Minty Miss – My Experience with StyleMint and JewelMint

If you follow fashion and beauty bloggers, I’m sure you have heard of JewelMint, StyleMint, and ShoeMint. These are celebrity-sponsored sites that offer a monthly “showroom” of pieces based upon your personal style.

You start by filling out a survey of your personal style – are you more Zara or J. Crew? If you’re getting a pedicure would you rather read InStyle or Cosmo? From this, the Mint site decides what from their collection is most appropriate to your taste and creates your custom showroom. The collection is updated each month, so you have new pieces to choose from.

The idea is fabulous – jewelry designed by Kate Bosworth and her stylish friend, shoes picked for you by Rachel Bilson, tees via the Olsen twins (and skincare via Jessica Simpson, though I won’t be discussing BeautyMint site in this article).

All of these sites are subscription sites – once you make your first purchase, your credit card is on file and you will be charged every month. You have the first five days of the month to dash to their site to say “skip this month” or else you will be charged the monthly cost ($29.99 for Style and JewelMint, $79.99 for ShoeMint).

Last year, I won a “gift certificate” to JewelMint. I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to use it, and realized in essence it was just a free credit for the site. I went to the site, and wasn’t too impressed with the options – my skin doesn’t react well to rings not made of silver or platinum, I am not really an earring person, and I don’t like delicate necklaces. However, they had a green pendant on a longer gold chain that looked promising.

My JewelMint necklace

The necklace came quite quickly, and I was impressed with the packaging. A glossy mint green box with magnetic closure, the necklace was carefully displayed on a velvet-covered foam box insert. The packaging was so pretty and luxe, I felt I was getting an item from a high-end designer. Then I opened the box… and was underwhelmed. The necklace was… fine. The quality was average to below average – lightweight, a weird color of gold that looks fake even from several feet away, an odd length of chain. A stylish friend said it looked like a piece from Forever 21 and I had to agree.

My JewelMint bracelet

JewelMint has a referral program – get others to join with your custom URL and you get free credits towards more jewelry. I ended up acquiring four credits in 2011. Each month I would go to JewelMint to use my credits, and leave with nothing. Seriously, I could get free jewelry and couldn’t find a single thing I would actually wear. Last month I saw a gold link bracelet that looked promising and used a credit towards it. Again, the piece arrived very quickly, and in quite luxe packaging. And again the piece is underwhelming. While this bracelet is a better color of gold, it’s still lightweight, simplistic and should cost less than $29.99. I have heard from friends and fellow bloggers that pieces have turned their skin green and have broken in just a couple months’ time.

Even with my less-than-awesome experience with JewelMint, I was curious about StyleMint. I respect Mary Kate and Ashley’s personal style and taste. Also,the blogger A Girl in Boston had the StyleMint “Venice” tee and I liked how it looked on her. I also got an email from StyleMint for a discount on my first purchase so I decided to give the site a go.

Based on the size chart on StyleMint, I got a size 5/XL. With my shoulder, arms, and bust I usually err on the side of too big with tees to get a flattering and work-appropriate fit. While I felt the cut of the “Venice” tee would be cute with jeans on weekends, I was also hoping to wear it sucked into pencil skirts for an office-worthy ensemble.

As with JewelMint, the purchase arrived quickly and was wrapped with care. At first glance, the tee looked pretty nice – a soft lightweight knit that had a luxe, silky finish. Unlike cheapy big box retailer tees, there was care to have the stripes line up at seams. I liked the neckline – a slim hem that would look appropriate with a blazer or for casual wear.

The other night I tried on my tee… and it was huge. HUGE. The sleeves were so long they went past my fingertips, the neckline gaped and displayed a bra strap, and the swing cut made it look like a maternity piece. With all these Mint sites, returns are accepted but it cannot be worn, washed, must be in its original packaging, you need to contact them for a shipping label, and while shipping is free there is a $5.95 restocking fee.

I looked at the label – 100% cotton (though online it says 50% cotton, 50% modal), though it said to wash on gentle and lie flat to dry. I decided to throw it in the washing machine and dryer in hopes it would shrink. It did – not a lot, but enough to make it wearable. I was pleased to see that the color did not fade, and the knit held up nicely through the machines.

Me in the StyleMint “Venice” tee

Yesterday I wore this tee, and I like it… okay. It’s a beautiful color scheme, and a unique silhouette, but I don’t know if it’s really worth it for a tee sight-unseen, especially with the return process. The swing style is a bit too short to be flattering on most – even my sister agreed that a couple more inches would make the style more wearable (able to tuck in), and more flattering. It’s nothing dramatically awesome, and by looking at this month’s options, I don’t really know if any of them are. While the price is reasonable for a designer brand tee shirt, I don’t really consider StyleMint to be a designer brand, just associated with designers/style icons.  I would rank the quality and style to a store like Gap or LOFT.

These Mint sites are great if you have a pretty standard size or personal style and crave something new each month. However, they can quickly become expensive if you aren’t quick to manage your memberships. Unless you tell them otherwise by the 5th, these sites will charge your card each month, whether or not you purchase anything.

The cancellation process for these different sites vary – for StyleMint you need to call them during business hours, for JewelMint you can send them an email. I sent an email today and within a couple of hours, they replied saying it had been done. I was pleased to find it so simple, no attempt at wooing me back with discount codes, just a cancellation notice and request to rate the customer service experience.

I have not tried ShoeMint because I am a hard-to-fit person. I know certain brands fit me best, and prefer to have the ability to try the shoe on in the store.


Have you joined any of these Mint sites? What are your experiences with the product or the service?

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