Search Results for: label/business casual

Ask Allie: Denim-based Office Capsule Wardrobe

I really like the capsule wardrobe posts that you have been doing. Would you consider doing one for a jeans work environment? Our company recently switched policies to allow casual dress everyday, as long as the jeans are dressier.

My last three places of employment have allowed jeans as long as they were dressed up. This post I wrote about work-appropriate denim is a great start in figuring out which jeans are considered business casual, and which are best left for weekends and evenings. For a denim-based capsule wardrobe, I recommend at least three different silhouettes and washes. For this capsule, I chose a dark wash of a traditional cut (straight, bootcut, etc.), a denim trouser which is a bit more refined and usually has a wider leg, and then a novelty piece. Depending on your personal style, it could be a subtle brocade print, corduroy, velour, or even a dark color like oxblood, black, or olive green. With all your work jeans, narrow and slim is acceptable with longer tops but skin tight is never appropriate.

Twenty Possible Combinations:

The best way to make jeans versatile is to have a variety of footwear. Narrow jeans look drastically different with flats than they do tucked into tall boots. Since you wrote in your email that you recently had a baby, I chose shoes that are more comfortable – a low-heeled boot, flat with arch support (I actually own these very flats from Ecco and find them extremely comfortable and cute), a wedge which is easier to wear than a standard heel.

Accessories can really transform an outfit – a tunic sweater is slouchy cool alone, streamlined when cinched with a wide belt. Thinking of my own wardrobe, I added a patterned skinny belt and a statement-making wide belt because I find these two types of belts to be the most versatile and best at transforming wardrobe staples. Scarves give denim a chic vibe – a patterned silk scarf with anything from a tank and cardigan to a striped tee makes a look instantly sophisticated, a lightweight pashmina adds interest and is a makeshift shawl in drafty offices.

Also since you said you recently had a baby, I chose fabrics and silhouettes that have stretch, are comfortable, and can look polished without being super fitted and structured. These pieces will also work if you lose any weight in the next couple of months – you can tuck in, belt, and adjust as your body changes. I stuck with solid colors because they are more versatile and less memorable. I used a lot of neutrals with pops of extreme brights, which always look so great next to denim.

When wearing jeans, it’s more important to think about what is on top. While one could carry off a simple knit top with pants or a skirt, with jeans such a top could easily veer into cleaning-out-the-garage territory. Soft-structured jackets, sweater coats, and cardigans help make jeans look polished as well as making more narrow silhouettes office-appropriate. All of these pieces would easily work with pants and skirts as well if there are days where you need to dress up for a visit from corporate or clients.

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Ask Allie: Machine Washable Business Casual Capsule Wardrobe

I’m 42 and just went back to working in an office after years being a SAHM and then a WAHM. The office is business casual and with three boys at home and a crazy schedule I’d like everything machine washable. I am petite and carry my weight in my hips and rear. I also have foot problems and need to wear comfort brands of shoes (Sofft thanks to your recommendation, Softspots, Naturalizer). I look best in blues and purples. Is it possible to look hip and professional or am I stuck in golf shirts and pleated khakis?

Do you have any suggestions for machine washable clothes that can be worn at a business casual office setting? I’m a pear shaped 40-year-old with small kids at home. I usually wear blacks and browns and creams and fall colors and flat shoes and have a tendency to end up looking either very frumpy or too “hiking casual” a la L.L. Bean catalog.

Oh my dears, please do not fall into the deep dark dank hole of pique golf shirt and wrinkle-free chinos. As for L.L. Bean, I adore the brand, but “hiking casual” is not the effect you likely wish to give off at the office. There are other options that are machine washable, kind to your feet, and will better flatter your figure and your personal style!

capsule wardrobe business casual machine washable

This is a very simple capsule wardrobe for a business casual office and all the pieces are machine washable. I know each of you provided the colors that you prefer to wear; please know that while this collection is brights with primarily black, it can be changed to other tones and I will break those down later in the details. However, I chose this color story to show the two of you the power of going outside your color comfort zone. Choosing a wardrobe of neutrals or sticking to just one or two shades you were told are flattering is safe and easy, but I’ve found that this is often what causes women to quickly tire of their wardrobe and also quickly get into a rut. You’re coming to me for advice, and my advice is to get a bit out of your comfort zone to reassess your personal style. You’re going to have to do a bit of self-analysis to prevent spending a ton and floundering each morning in front of your closet. The capsule wardrobes I provide are guides, not gospel. The work needs to come from you. Buy slow, feel out each piece, each new trend or shade. I’m one who was always told that she was a Winter yet I feel most alive when wearing orange. I can recall in 2000 despising skirts and proclaiming that I would even wear pants for my wedding; 15 years later more than half my wardrobe is skirts and dresses. I’m not saying throw out your entire closet; on the contrary. Just recall why you emailed me, and don’t be afraid to dip your toe into new-to-you trends, colors, silhouettes, and combinations. The results may surprise (and flatter!) you!

This capsule wardrobe for a business casual environment is classic, crisp, and quite versatile. Black and charcoal gray bottoms may seem heavy come the warmer months, but remember you are in an office environment with air conditioning. These colors are versatile, transition well from season to season, you have to worry less about matching shoes and belts, and best of all black and heathered gray and charcoal hide stains. For this capsule, I chose a skirt that skims over the hips and hits right around the knee, providing a flattering length that works well with flat shoes. Even if you’re not comfortable with skirts, one of this length is so easy; pair with a refined knit you already own and BAM! An office outfit. To keep it machine washable, look for matte jersey (has a nubby crepe texture but is stretchy) or ponte knit (heavier than jersey, has the same finish on the front and back of the fabric unlike terry or sweatshirt material, very tight weave). Even if the item says dry clean only, these fabrics can be washed on cold on the gentle cycle and hung to dry without a ton of wrinkles and no shrinkage. The pants featured are also in the ponte knit fabric – ponte has become quite a popular fabric because it’s heavy enough to give a smooth line on the body, is budget-friendly, and as comfortable as yoga pants yet appropriate for the office. One ponte piece often matches another so you can buy pants at one store, a skirt at another, a jacket at another and pull together a suiting collection. As for the pants, they are more traditional of suiting fabric, but unlined (linings often get wonky when machine washed) and of a washable material. I was envisioning my LOFT pants; I have them in every color available and they have been in the wash dozens of time (cold, gentle cycle, line dry) and still look like new.

If you cannot stand black and heathered gray, consider taupe, other shades of gray, cool olive, cream, and heathered brown. True brown is hard to find the right color – too warm and it can quickly look dated. Khaki, even if made of silk can still look like a pair of chinos if you’re not comfortable yet with your personal style. There’s something terribly chic about pairing warm neutral tops with crisp black bottoms, so don’t feel that adopting black pants means you need to build a wardrobe of cool tones or brights.

Even if you’re not used to dresses, you can’t deny how darn EASY they are. When you’re a busy mom, you can’t beat one-piece outfits! Again, I chose ponte and matte jersey because they are refined enough for the office but machine washable. The blue ponte dress is one of those cuts that flatters so many figures; elbow-length sleeves work almost every season of the year, the fit and flare cut flatters your figure, and the knee length is modest without being frumpy. The matte jersey dress has a wrap cut which creates an hourglass shape; the ruched waist whittles you even more and brings the eyes up. This concept could be with a skirt length anywhere from just above the kneecap to the bottom of your calf muscle; the sleeves could be anything from cap sleeves to flutter to long sleeves. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a dress like this in multiples – different cuts, different prints, different lengths. With a switch of accessories such a dress could be worn on the beach boardwalk for a stroll or donned to attend a evening dressy affair.

I’m the queen of the not-so-little black dress but I don’t think black is a good choice when picking a work dress. Especially in a business casual environment, a black dress can look too severe and serious, especially if you’re wearing it on a more regular basis. This is a chance to show your personality, so embrace olive green, pumpkin, plum, cobalt, or whatever color makes you feel great. While I recommend having at least one dress a solid (more versatile and easy to transform/dress up and down with accessories), the other dress can have a print or texture.

The tops all have something in common – an unexpected something. When building a small yet mighty capsule wardrobe, it’s tempting to buy basics. However, you’ll find those pieces with the little bit of interest will be the most worn and the most versatile. The teal top is in matte jersey and has a drape neckline that is modest enough for the office, yet provides interest, makes the piece dress up more easily, and balances a pear shape. The striped top has bracelet-length sleeves, a heavier weight, and a boatneck to keep it from looking like a basic tee shirt. The orange shell has pleating detail and a shirttail hem. And even the cardigan is a bold contrast color in place of basic black or tan. However, except for the striped top (which is still in very basic colors), everything is a solid. A solid is more versatile, and if in a stand-out color, will be a piece you love for many seasons. Prints can look dated quickly, are prone to looking cheap, and are far too memorable. That teal top can be paired with the cropped pants and flats, tucked into the skirt and styled with a wide belt, belted over the gray pants, or tucked into the gray pants and topped with the cardigan. You may have as much versatility with a printed top, but you (and others) may be more aware of the piece being worn so often and grow tired of it.

Shoes can be flat and comfort brands and still have style and elegance. Both shoes featured are by Sofft, my favorite brand for comfort, extended sizes, and classic style. A black flat is a great choice as it goes with pants and skirts; choose a style with structure and an almond (not round or square) toe so it feels graceful and is more office-appropriate. Leather is the most versatile and easiest to polish up if it gets dirty or scuffed. A soft metallic sandal is far more versatile than a neutral, is as leg-extending as natural or tan, but can also dress up more easily. This sandal has a subtle wedge that will likely prove more comfortable than a true flat shoe. If your office doesn’t allow sandals or the weather is cooler, you can switch this shoe out for a Mary Jane or flat also in a soft metallic; the goal is to have a different feel from the black and something that will look appropriate with pants as well as skirts.

Accessories are what gives a capsule wardrobe personal style. Since you both stated you were pear shaped, I chose accessories that highlight the smallest part of your figure and draw attention up. A wide belt is an awesome accessory to have in your closet; I love elastic ones with a leather (or faux) buckle. Consider wearing a touch above your natural waist where your torso is slimmest – this makes you look long and lean. A skinny belt in a contrast color is extremely useful. Belt an untucked top to give a different effect (I have done it here and here), belt a cardigan to highlight your small waist, or give a different effect to dresses. The color doesn’t matter – it’s better to contrast than match. Just be sure if there’s a metal buckle it’s the color you usually wear for your jewelry. For necklaces, I chose ones with a lot of impact, but available at most any pricepoint. A beaded necklace is fun, whimsical, and gives you much bang for your buck. Not only that, you won’t be too upset if one of your little ones accidentally tugs and breaks it. While you can buy your initial necklaces at the mall or big box retailer, keep an eye out for cool pieces when on your travels – it’s a wonderful way to remember your vacations and add a unique and personal touch to your wardrobe.

How to Keep Your Wardrobe Looking Like New

I wrote this post, looking at a huge mound on my dining room floor of clothes that need to go to the dry cleaners. A week ago, the mound was in the laundry room, and the week before that on the floor of my closet. Maybe today I’ll get around to bagging them and putting them in the trunk of my car and hopefully they’ll get to the cleaners before it’s July. I get you with wanting a machine washable work wardrobe. Dry cleaning is difficult, not as environmentally friendly, and costly. Here’s a few tips to keep you dressed for the office without having to go to the cleaners:

  • Invest in a Lingerie Bag. The problem with washing machines isn’t as much the water as it is the wringing and spinning. I have two lingerie bags and use them often; in one I put bras (with the hooks hooked so they don’t snag on anything else) and underwear, the other I put silk and delicate blouses. Using the gentle cycle on the machine, loading halfway but having the water for a full load, and choosing delicate detergent, I find this is a safe way to wash my work blouses. I then hang them on a plastic hanger off the shower curtain rod in the bathroom until they’re dry. If they’re wrinkled, often being hung in the bathroom during a hot steamy shower will do the trick.
  • Spot Clean. You do not need to wash your clothes after every wear. Usually if you let them air out they’re ready to wear a couple more times. I often spot clean clothing so I don’t have to launder or dry clean the entire piece. I always have a Tide To Go pen in my purse and I also have one in my pencil cup on my office desk. At home, I’ll use a little bit of Ivory Soap to lather a spot and then a clean rag or washcloth to dampen and then blot.
  • Go Liquid. Powder laundry detergents may be a better value, but often leave residue when using cold water and the gentle cycle. I use Biokleen for my gentle washes because it rinses clean and doesn’t leave any coating on my clothing. I find it does a better job than specialty detergents like Woolite.
  • Buy Peroxide and Dawn. This is the best stain remover ever. Seriously. While at it, keep an old toothbrush with the two bottles, it works well getting into the weave of ponte, twill, and cotton.
  • Baby Your Wardrobe. I had a high school boyfriend who as soon as he got home off the bus would change out of his Champion sweatshirts and Guess jeans into older rattier sweats and jeans. I found this so weird, but I gotta say he always looked so crisp at school and was the only person I knew who could keep white sweatshirts looking brand new. Take a lesson from this guy and take off your work clothes as soon as you get home. While ponte and matte jersey may be as comfortable as loungewear, babying it will keep it looking nice much longer. Fold sweaters; when placed on hangers they can stretch and get misshapen. I hang pants upside down, matching up seams and either folding over a bar or clipping to a hanger; this helps keep a crisp leg and a bit of a crease down the front, elongating the leg. Be careful when hanging so nothing gets creased or mushed.

What is Business Casual?

I walk the halls of my office building, observe the gaggle of women smoking in the courtyard, the ladies on the subway and in the line at Chipotle for lunch and I have come to the conclusion:


I think this term was created by a man. A man who can just change from suit pants to chinos, a tie to a polo shirt and look appropriate. Oh how easy it is to be a man – three pairs of pants, five shirts, a pair of brown Rockports and you’re done. Yes there are the more sassy men who don’t wear athletic socks, iron their shirts and own more than one pair of shoes made in the current millennium. But women, we have it tough. What shoes are acceptable? How short is too short? How sleeveless is too sleeveless? What crosses the line into “quick trip to the grocery store attire?”

Early in my career I was told by a supervisor that I admired and desired to emulate that one should “not dress for the position he has but the position he aspires to have.” This caused me to have some idol worship purchasing similar suits, necklaces and even glasses as this supervisor. After getting over my professional crush, I realized that her motto held true. If you dress as a person of respect, you will be given that respect. If you dress as though you just rolled out of bed, no matter your intelligence or qualifications, you will never gain the same amount of respect by your colleagues. No matter how hard we try to believe that looks do not matter, THEY DO. What separates you from your intellectual equals is often the superficial: the firm handshake, the confident air, the better resume paper and the attire you chose.

So you have landed the job and your company says that the attire is Business Casual. How do you dress on that first day in the office? And how do you maintain a professional demeanor without feeling stuffed into suits and pinched into heels?

Better Too Much Than Too Little
It’s better to be safe on your first day and dress a bit nicer. This shows that you respect your new position and company. You don’t want to arrive in a suit and hose, but if you are torn between the chino capris or the lined suiting trousers, go with the latter.

Suggestions for Outfits:

  • Tailored button-down shirt and lined trousers with boots, mules or pumps. The shirt should meet in the middle. Do a sit-down check to ensure it doesn’t gape open. If it does, put a safety pin inside where it cannot be seen, but keeps the clothing secure. Pants should not be tight. If they hug the top of the bum, that’s not bad. If they hug the sides and bottom, they are best kept for nights out with the girls. As for shoes, be safe and wear a closed-toe pair. Ensure they are not scuffed, torn or run-down.
  • Sweater or twinset with lined trousers or skirt. Keep the color a bit more subtle – not always the best to start your career in a lime green silk scoop neck. You will be forever remembered by your sweater, not your attributes. As with the above outfit suggestion, try to keep the clothes tailored but not tight. Again, consider a closed-toe shoe. Your skirt should come just above the knee or longer. Miniskirts are not work appropriate, no matter how casual the atmosphere. It is perfectly acceptable to consider that Business Casual equals No Stockings. If you prefer them, it’s is totally fine, but not required.
  • More causal pants (denim trousers, chinos or stretch twill) with a shell and blazer. Again, the clothes should skim, not cling to the body. The shell can have a v or scoop neck, but should not show a lot of cleavage. Again, stay conservative with closed-toe shoes. A pair of kitten heel mules are great for the warmer months – they look adorable with jeans, capris and skirts and don’t require hosiery.

I’m Established, Now What?
So you have felt out the environment, you have seen people wear khakis, cropped pants, sleeveless tops and open-toed shoes without a blink of an eye. How do you know what in your closet is appropriate and what should be left for the weekend?

No-Nos No Matter the Office Culture:

  • Spaghetti straps (unless under a jacket/cardigan and the cover is NEVER removed)
  • Mini skirts
  • Torn denim
  • Foam flip flops (there are many leather versions that are just as comfy but more professional)
  • Tight clothing
  • Low-cut tops (if one can see more than ½” of a cleavage line, the top is too low. Consider changing or donning a camisole under the top)
  • Backless tops
  • Pants and skirts that cling to your rear (we all have heard our share about office romances, but office one night stands are totally distasteful)
  • Panty Lines (if they can be seen, it’s usually because your clothes are too tight)
  • Clothing made of terry, fleece or sweatshirt material
  • Casual tee shirts (especially with funny slogans)
  • Yoga pants, hoodies, athletic tunics, leggings (this is an office, not a gym)
  • Gym sneakers (some offices accept trendy tennis like Pumas, but Nikes and New Balances are never appropriate)
  • Low rise and short tops. It is a safe bet to keep your torso under wraps. Even when you bend over or sit, your entire back (and backside) should be under wraps. When you stretch to get a book off a shelf, your tummy should be completely covered.

Keep in mind that a client, a member of upper management or even a potential recruiter could see you, no matter the day or time. The one day you come to work in yoga pants and flops will be the day that there is an unexpected visit from the corporate office. And if your office mates are wearing the above, consider how they are seen by the rest of the team. Are they respected as much as the woman in the crisp blazer and suiting trousers?

How to Stay Comfy and Professional:
Stretch. Stretch is key. For blazers, consider ones that are unlined and have at least 5% Lycra. They will stretch with you and keep their shape throughout the day. Same with pants – consider ones with a bit of stretch, they will feel far more comfy and look better after eight hours sitting in a chair. As for tops, a button-down with stretch will move with you, reducing gapping at the bust and creases on the back and elbows. Knit tops are great and comfy on those days where you don’t feel that hot. Sweaters in merino wool, cotton/lycra blend and cashmere blends wear well, maintain their shape and color after multiple washings and look professional. With shirts, consider a tailored shape. Your boyfriend’s wool rollneck from J. Crew that hits to your knees is NOT work appropriate, nor is that cotton sweater you have had since high school that is faded, covered with fuzz balls and 2” too short on the sleeves.

Jeans and Work
My job allows jeans on all days. Those of us in middle management keep them for Fridays, and keep them clean. Those who wear jeans are usually those in the types of positions where they do a lot of carrying of items or the type that hole up in their cubicle 12 hours a day.

When the jeans do make it to work, keep them on the darker side. The lighter the jean, the more casual it looks. Refrain from holes, frayed hems or very low rises. Jeans can look professional with a nice blazer and shell, a tailored shirt or a twinset. Jeans with Lycra often look more refined.

Basics for a Business Casual Wardrobe:

  • Twinsets in cotton, cashmere or merino wool blends (a cardigan and sleeveless higher necked or short sleeved any neckline shell are the most versatile – you can remove the top layer without looking indecent).
  • Denim trousers – a safe and sophisticated alternative to jeans. When you hang them or get them dry cleaned, have them pressed to create a front crease – this will distinguish them from their dungaree relatives.
  • Lined trousers with 5% Lycra – buy them in black, charcoal or brown and a lighter color (camel, ivory, khaki). These should be a weight heavy enough to give a good drape, but light enough that can transition from season to season effortlessly.
  • Heavier weight tailored cropped trousers – I find black to be the most professional looking. In warmer months with knits and oxfords with slides or mules, in cooler months with a blazer or turtleneck and ballet flats for a beatnik vibe.
  • Stretchy unlined blazers – I have a khaki twill and a denim one. I wear these every week with jeans, skirts, cropped pants, trousers and even dresses.
  • V-neck and crewneck sweaters in lightweight fabrics such as cotton, merino and silk/cashmere. Consider your favorite colors, nothing is nicer than a cheerful color on a dreary Monday.
  • A black pantsuit – always cleaned and pressed for those last-minute client lunches or corporate visits. the pieces can be worn separately for variety and a less severe look, but should always be cleaned at the same time to maintain a consistent color and wear level.
  • Black ankle boots – can be worn year round and look great with jeans, pants and suits. Also weekend appropriate!
  • Cotton button-down shirts with at least 5% Lycra – nothing looks smarter than a crisp shirt and a pair of pressed flat-front trousers. These look nice with skirts and cropped pants too. Solids are less memorable than prints and stripes and are easier to wear week after week without feeling like a rerun.
  • Sleeveless shells with a conservative neckline – if skin is showing on the arms, it shouldn’t show on the collarbone. Sleeveless shells can be worn under cardigans or jackets in the colder months, and be worn alone without looking risqué come summer.
  • Two or three interesting necklaces – I know your boyfriend bought you that thin gold chain with the diamond studded heart pendant and you love it so much, but really it gets lost in the outfit. A couple chunky necklaces will add pizzazz and personality to your basic outfit. Target has a wonderful accessory department where you can get some fun beads or pendants at a low price. Chico’s also has some really terrific and unique pieces.
  • Black pumps – it doesn’t matter the heel height, get what is comfortable but looks polished. These can be worn with dresses, skirts, pants, suits and even long enough jeans. Consider insoles so they are comfy for a longer period of time.

What I Wore: Business Casual

Jacket: Vince Camuto (similar) | Tee: c/o Six Twenty | Jeans: NYDJ | Shoes: Nine West “Flax” | Necklace: c/o Stella and Dot | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Bracelet: Nordstrom (similar)

September 22nd is National Business Women’s Day and as a women-owned business, Six Twenty wants to celebrate with a campaign around female entrepreneurs and business women they admire. I was chosen by them as a female business owner and entrepreneur to showcase Six Twenty’s collection and celebrate this day.

Owned by Angeli Tarsadia Reddy who started the company with the mission to create the highest quality clothing at ridiculously good prices, Six Twenty’s mission is to refine the process and pricing behind the amazing basics we all wear to death. By existing solely online, Six Twenty eliminates the traditional retail markup and brings you their own designer quality essentials from the factory straight to your doorstep. Six Twenty let me choose one of their Classix designs, and I decided to try their black scoop tee. As a woman with curves, I find such a shirt extremely hard to fit and flatter.

I was a bit nervous since the shirts only go up to size L, but they reassured me that it would fit and flatter. And both it does, seriously this shirt is AMAZING. While it looks like a regular tee shirt, the fabric is really lovely – a dense knit that is silky yet matte, stretchy yet doesn’t cling. No stretching across my bust, no sleeves riding up into my armpits, no clinging to my torso, yet it doesn’t look frumpy or square. The shirt has a back vertical seam which I think helps achieve the fabulous fit. The length is also great – I can wear untucked without it hanging to my knees or showing my belly when I raise my hands yet can comfortably tuck in as well. It’s awesome when a chance meeting like this helps me find a new favorite brand!

I chose to style this tee in a business casual look – crisp dark jeans, ivory blazer, classic jewelry and a pop of interest with the shoes. This look would be great on Friday or for a more casual networking event or meal on a business trip.

Stay tuned on my Twitter and Facebook channels, where I will be sharing more about this awesome promotion and the other amazing women part of this campaign!

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What I Wore: Bandana Badass

Tee: Leith | Jacket: ASOS (similar) | Bandana: Vision Street Wear (similar) | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Vince Camuto

The bandana is back this season, and it gives me an opportunity to pull out some oldies but goodies like this one from Vision Street Wear. It’s always fun to take something old from the wardrobe and give it a new life with new trends.

Though my cast is off, my arm is still healing and my hand isn’t strong enough to perform many daily tasks.  Clothing is still best when it’s a bit loose, but I’m liking jackets because they cover the still healing scar and provide some protection.  Adding the jacket and the bandana make me feel less like an invalid and more like a badass!

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Ask Allie: Business Casual with Steel Toe Boots

I recently accepted a position at a manufacturing plant. I’ll be in an office, where the dress code is business casual. I was told that I’ll need steel toe shoes while on the manufacturing floor, but a site-wide steel toe shoe mandate will be policy soon. Do you have any advice for keeping it feminine above the ankle while sporting steel toes below?

While there’s a decent selection of steel toe boots online, the style is not varied, or too feminine. However, gone are the days where your only options were black Doc Martens and tan Red Wings. Now retailers like Ariat, Reebok, Sketchers, Justin, Caterpillar, and yes Dr. Marten have styles that can blend pretty well into business casual attire.

business casual steel toe boot justin women
Shop Similar: dress | boots | sweater | necklace | pants | striped top | skirt | yellow dress | bead necklace

Just as with a traditional office setting wardrobe, decide on the color palette before purchasing shoes. Steel toe boots and shoes mainly come in brown or black, so your first pair should match the majority of your existing wardrobe. While lace up construction-style boots are the norm, a cowboy boot with a steel toe may be a good first purchase since it has a slimmer toebox and profile to work with trousers, but also look adorable pulled over jeggings and paired with more casual dresses and skirts. Justin is famous for cowboy boots and has a good selection of steel toe styles with style; I’m partial to the Stampede which has a very slim profile and a classic cowboy look that will be cool even after the work day is through. For these looks I worked with the distressed brown leather, choosing soft colors, natural fabrics and accessories, and fuller bottoms to balance the heavier shoe.

business casual steel toe boot doc marten
Shop similar: sweater | gold necklace | pants | scarf | cream sweater | trousers | tunic | leggings | dress | necklace | boots

Dr. Martens are back en vogue, and not only does this mean your work boots are considered “cool,” but it means there’s a greater selection for you to choose from. I love their Wellington Boot, which is a pull-on style that can slip under trousers, or be worn over tights or skinny jeans. With this collection, I used the boot as an accent color, pairing with neutrals for a more traditional business casual look.

business casual steel toe boot lehigh
Shop similar: dress | boots | tunic | scarf | leggings | top | skirt | blazer | trousers

When it comes to lace-up steel toe boots, they don’t all look like hiking or construction boots. If you prefer a black shoe, this boot from Lehigh is taller than most, giving a grunge rocker vibe that would look great with black tights or leggings and appear as a standard shoe under trousers. For this look, I was channeling the ‘90s by mixing feminine dresses and skirts with the masculine boot, but also a bit of grunge with the black tunic and leggings with a drapey scarf. Your workplace expects sturdy shoes, so don’t be afraid to pair a well-polished boot with a suit for business meetings.

As a rule, skinny pants that can tuck in or wider legs that flow easily over the boot are best; for skirts and dresses have some volume (looser shift style or a fuller skirt) to balance the look. Play up the industrial feel of the boots and take advantage of the return of grunge and ‘90s trends when Doc Martens played a pivotal role.

The important thing to remember is everyone will be wearing such footwear; no one will be able to pair it seamlessly every single time and your colleagues will end up not even noticing your shoes because they’re part of a uniform, just like a lab coat or hard hat. Don’t worry about making them disappear or look like regular footwear, they’re a smart and important part of your industry and something that should be worn with pride!

Ask Allie: Band Tees and Business Casual

I work in a corporate office as a call center representative. My office has a business casual dress code, but we took the last two months off and were just casual. I was very excited about this, because I can wear t-shirts – specifically band t-shirts. Alas, casual months is coming to an end. Is there a way to incorporate band t-shirts in a business casual setting?

Guessing by what you shared with me, your office may have a business casual dress code, but they are pretty relaxed in regard to how that code can be translated and do allow such tops. For many offices, a band tee shirt, no matter how awesome looking, is not appropriate. I have worked in offices that specifically state no crew tee shirts, and others where they ask us to use discretion.

At my current office, while I do push the sartorial boundaries on occasion, I have only worn band tee shirts a couple times (seen here and here). My position requires the occasional client meeting, I am in management, and there’s always clients visiting the office so I choose to not wear such shirts.

When trying to incorporate a tee shirt into a business casual outfit, it’s important to choose one that has a more refined silhouette (a classic tee that fits well or one of the modern tees with a trendy fitted or slouchy silhouette) and is in good condition (no faded black or holes). It’s also important to think about what is on the shirt – the workplace is not where you should wear words or images portraying or referencing sex, drugs, alcohol, obscenities, offensive language, or violence. It’s also important that the shirt isn’t the focal point. You are at work, not a concert. Consider a band tee shirt in the same way you would a camisole – it will pull a look together and add pizazz, but it won’t be the star of the show. Here’s a few ways to incorporate a band tee shirt into a creative business casual office environment:

Shop Similar Pieces: Jacket | Skirt | Tee | Booties | Necklace

Crisp Black: With a monochromatic ensemble, it’s easier to incorporate an untraditional piece. With this look, I chose a blazer with white piping so it would pick up the print of the tee and make it look purposeful and more a print than a logo. A simple black pencil skirt keeps the look professional. Black leather booties continue the rocker vibe while still being office-friendly, a sparkly statement necklace pulls together the look and keeps it from being too severe.

Shop Similar Pieces: Blazer | Jeans | Tee | Bracelet | Shoes

Fab Friday: Fridays are usually more casual than the rest of the week, and a great time to try out a band tee shirt in your casual or creative workplace. The key is to keep the rest of the look polished. Paired with crisp dark jeans in a slim but not tight silhouette, the tee shirt doesn’t look as bummy. Topped with a tux-inspired blazer with strong lines, the tee shirt is an accent and not the focal point. Pointed-toe flats and a feminine bracelet keep the look from looking too rock-n-roll and is a fun contrast to the band you are featuring.

Shop Similar Pieces: Shrug | Skirt | Tee | Necklace | Shoes

Feminine Flair: Another trick to incorporating an nontraditional workplace piece is to pair it with contrasting garments. A rock tee shirt is casual, tough, and a bit masculine. By pairing it with a full midi skirt, kitten heels, and a pearl necklace, the tee shirt is upgraded and seems more appropriate for the office. A shrug will tone down the tee shirt without covering up the print. The neutral color palette is purposeful – printed shoes or a brighter skirt would veer into Cyndi Lauper territory, subtle shades keep the look elegant and more professional.

Finally, I cannot stress it enough.  If you are unsure whether a band tee shirt is appropriate at your office, it likely isn’t.  It is never worth it to sacrifice your position and credibility for a fashion moment.  Unless you work in a creative, laid-back, or eclectic work environment, it may be best to save such shirts and these types of ensembles for weekends and after office hours.

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Ask Allie: Two Weeks, One Carry On, Business Casual

I was just today offered a position for a job (yay!) that requires two weeks of training out of state. So the question is: How to pack a capsule of two weeks worth of “business casual” clothing (plus p.j.’s, work out gear and perhaps one business outfit) in a CARRY ON (thinking Tom Bihn Aeronaut) for a plus/cusp sized individual?

First things first, I had never heard of the Tom Bihn Aeronaut so I went to their site and fell in love. What a well-thought out bag!  It’s nice to know the specifications of your bag to better imagine packing it with two weeks worth of clothing.

Sample Outfits:

  1. Gray dress, yellow cardigan, silk scarf, black tights, black booties
  2. Gray dress, black blazer, black tights and pumps, gold jewelry
  3. Gray dress, orange cardigan, leopard belt, black tights and either shoes
  4. Jeans, striped tee, black blazer, booties
  5. Jeans, drapey top, pumps
  6. Jeans, white tee, yellow cardigan, leopard belt, booties, gold jewelry
  7. Jeans, peplum top, leopard belt, pumps
  8. Jeans, striped tee, pashmina, booties
  9. Jeans, lavender shell, black blazer, silk scarf, pumps
  10. Black pants, black blazer, lavender shell, pumps
  11. Black pants, striped tee, yellow cardigan, booties
  12. Black pants, peplum top, gold jewelry, pumps
  13. Gray pants, white tee, black blazer, silk scarf, ankle boots
  14. Gray pants, drapey top, pumps, gold jewelry
  15. Gray pants, striped top, yellow cardigan, black booties
  16. Gray pants, white tee, orange cardigan and necklace, leopard belt, either shoes
  17. Black skirt, peplum top, leopard belt, black tights and pumps
  18. Black skirt, striped tee, yellow cardigan, black tights and booties
  19. Black skirt, white tee, orange cardigan, pashmina, black tights and booties
  20. Black skirt, lavender shell, black blazer, black tights and pumps

This wardrobe is primarily knits, which roll nicely in luggage to prevent wrinkles, can spot clean in a hotel sink for another wear, will be comfortable on a long flight or train ride, yet are business casual appropriate. The pants, blazer, skirt, and peplum top are ponte knit so they mix and match with ease, are comfortable, but can be pulled together for a business-appropriate ensemble. Adding a couple prints will break up the look so it’s not too boring.

Accessories are key to take simple separates to the next level. A pashmina is great for the trip there, but looks chic looped around the throat with a dress or business casual ensemble. A square silk scarf takes up no space in a bag and can dress up knits in an instant. No need to take your entire jewelry collection, two necklaces (one that makes a statement, one that adds shine and sophistication) and one bold bracelet can achieve plenty. As for shoes, try to have them all at the same height so you can have them work with all the pants you packed. I recommend a classic pair of black leather pumps in a walkable height and an ankle boot that looks good with tights as well as under pants (Chelsea boots are on trend this year and fit the bill nicely).

If you’re going to be gone for two weeks straight, you need to consider that there may be after-training activities. Colleagues inviting you to dinner, a weekend brunch, happy hour. If you have room, you may want to pack a second pair of jeans or a dressier dress (matte jersey travels really well and can look cocktail party-appropriate with pumps and gold accessories). While you’ll likely want a larger structured bag or tote for training to hold your laptop, manuals, and such (and is a great purse for the flight), a small bag will be good for after hours. If you choose one that has a detachable strap, it can become a dressier clutch in a pinch.

When you travel, wear your bulkiest pieces. Use the tote as your purse, wear the booties, the blazer, maybe even the jeans. Loop the pashmina around your throat to have as a blanket for a nap on the plane. Hotels have laundry services, so don’t be afraid to wear part of your capsule on the trip there to save space in your bag.

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Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for Business Travel

I loved your SAHM capsule – any chance of you doing something similar for the Road Warrior? I have worked with the concept but still am missing a few pieces that I can’t for the life of me figure out what they are.

I got a new job in November that will have me traveling quite a bit this spring. I will visit client sites, and will be away from home for up to three weeks at a time. I haven’t had to travel for work before more than a couple days or a conference and have no clue how to do this. My coworker is a man and he says he keeps his suitcase always packed and ready to go, how does a woman make three weeks of professional clothing fit in one carry on suitcase? HELP!

In my past career lives, I did travel for business. While I was never away for more than a week, I often saw the same clients multiple times in a month, and often only had a week between trips before I was again on the road. It may seem daunting to look professional and pack smart, but it is possible. These days professional attire is found with Lycra, spandex, and fabric blends that make it comfortable and travel-friendly. Matte jersey, stretch wool, ponte knit, crepe, and gabardine can be your friend when you are a road warrior. I made a sample capsule wardrobe based upon my experiences with business travel. Only the suit in this capsule is high-maintenance fabric; pack wrapped in dry cleaning bags to prevent wrinkles, hang up as soon as you arrive and it should be okay for the big presentation. The rest are work-appropriate separates that all have some sort of stretch to keep them looking great right off the plane or train or out of the suitcase.

Over 30 outfits with only 14 garments (details):


Lots of ponte separates. I’m a ponte addict, I can’t deny it. Heavyweight knit that works year-round, doesn’t wrinkle, and can be machine washed. Pretty spectacular. On top of that, it looks refined enough for the workplace. In this capsule I have black ponte pants, an ivory ponte blazer, black ponte dress, black ponte top, and gray ponte skirt. Since they are the same fabric, they mix and match with ease and the combinations looks more like ensembles. Ponte is also great when you have to fly or take the train and immediately head to a business meeting – you won’t be full of wrinkles and will be comfortable sitting for long spans of time.

Strategic pops of color. While it seems smart to pack an entire suitcase of neutrals, that can look pretty boring pretty quickly. Choosing suit shells and soft jackets or cardigans in colors will stretch your neutral capsule further. Mix two for a bold look, or just have one piece to give a neutral you already wore a new life. The choice of color is dependant on your personal style and profession. For more conservative fields, consider softer or more traditional hues; if you’re in a creative field you can amp up the color and even add more to the capsule.

Stick to solids. While prints can break up a wardrobe monotony, they are also so incredibly memorable that you can’t easily wear the same print twice with a client. If you are in a more casual or creative field, you can consider a print like leopard for some accessories, but having solids for your Road Warrior wardrobe means you can likely wear the same garment twice in a week without a client being the wiser.

Choose pieces that can dress up and down. While you may be meeting with clients and needing a professional wardrobe, not every moment of your day is suit-worthy. Maybe you’re meeting colleagues for happy hour, or your client is taking you to a baseball game. Be ready without having to stuff a suitcase with a casual wardrobe. A striped tee with a flattering neckline and fabric can be dressed up under a suit jacket, or paired with jeans and flats for a barbecue or sporting event. Pair the jeans with the cardigan for a casual meal, or with the ivory blazer (maybe tuck a band tee shirt or simple tank into your suitcase) or just a sweater shell with pashmina or statement necklace for drinks at a neighborhood bar.

As for dressing up, a ponte or crepe dress can work for the office or for a cocktail party. The black dress I featured could work with a blazer or cardigan by day and with red lips and mascara will make it perfect for an evening affair. Use the pashmina as an evening wrap.

Pack smart accessories. While I am all for having a large accessory collection for changing the look of wardrobe staples, when you’re a Road Warrior you need to keep your wardrobe to a minimum and keep it super easy. A statement necklace that isn’t too sparkly or too arts and crafty can jazz up a classic suit, or dress up a work dress to look cocktail appropriate. A pashmina can be your travel blanket on the plane, add interest to a simple dress or ensemble, be your evening wrap for a cocktail party, and ward off chill in overly air-conditioned office buildings. If you know you will be there longer, consider wearing tall boots on the trip for they will give a completely different look to skirts, dresses, jeans and narrow pants. Finally, choose a structured and polished bag to be your purse, your carryon bag, as well as your work tote. Find one that can hold both your laptop as well as a bottle of water and copy of InStyle for the flight.

Pack repair and care supplies. Stitch Witchery, a small sewing kit, bar of Ivory soap or a small bottle of laundry detergent, Shout Wipes or Tide-to-Go pen, safety pins, a black Sharpie (covers snags in tights and fabric, tears in leather, etc.), lint remover. When I used to travel on business, I had my toiletries kit already packed and ready to go with mini versions of all my beauty products, and I also had an emergency outfit kit in a small bag with these essentials. Both stayed in my suitcase when I was home, only removed to replace that which ran out. This way, I never forgot them and was already ready for any situation (or any stain). Most hotels have a shine cloth for shoes and an iron to get out wrinkles and fuse Stitch Witchery.

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Business Blue

Blouse: Ann Taylor | Pants: Tahari | Shoes: MICHAEL Michael Kors “Flex” | Necklace: Etsy | Watch: Citizen | Bracelets: Had forever, Nordstrom, JewelMint | Bag: Brahmin (similar)

Some days I just want to look a bit more corporate, be it for a client meeting or just to steel myself for a difficult project. While this blouse looks very office-worthy, it has a nice shirttail hem so it will look nice untucked with white jeans, or even belted with a skinny belt. I also like it with its sleeves rolled for a more casual effect. While I liked the slouchiness of a Regular, I went with a Petite Large to have the neckline more office-friendly and the sleeves a proper length.  And gosh, how can I resist an outfit that encourages use of my Brahmin??

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Small Business Saturday – The Shine Collection

After spending time as a stay at home mom, Dianne Brickman began The Shine Collection. With years of marketing and management experience working in New York City for such iconic brands as Barneys New York, Nike and DKNY Coats, Dianne decided to take her skills and create her own line of clothing and accessories that merge style with heart.

Inspired by the unique, hand blocked fabrics made in India, Dianne launched The Shine Collection in the summer of 2013. Dianne is a self-described “tunic girl;” she ordered a few from a catalog and wore them to the pool. After receiving compliments from women aged 16-68, she saw a market for such garments. She originally sourced the fabrics locally (she’s a Maryland gal like me!), but then found the perfect hand blocked fabrics in India. She works directly with the manufacturer to ensure the exact fit and quality Dianne desired. The Shine Collection offers handmade tunics for women and girls as well as lightweight cotton scarves perfect for spring and summer.

The Shine Collection tunics have a relaxed fit making them great swimsuit coverups, worn as a short dress on vacation, or paired with white jeans for a warm summer night. When I contacted Dianne asking if I could feature The Shine Collection on my blog, Dianne was sweet enough to send me and Emerson coordinating tunics. The fabric of the tunics is soft and doesn’t tent out like many other cotton tunics I have tried, the craftsmanship is excellent and the colors rich. Stay tuned for another post featuring us in them!

The Shine Collection feels a strong commitment to giving back to the community and currently donates to local schools and Childrens National Medical Center. You can find The Shine Collection at Dianne’s online store, but she will also be at the URBNmarket Bethesda May 18th, makes house calls, offers trunk shows at her own home, and the collection is featured in the latest issue of Bethesda Magazine.

To learn more about The Shine Collection visit their site or find them on Facebook!

The Small Business Saturday series on Wardrobe Oxygen features US-based independent brands and artists that focus on style with substance and soul. Stay tuned to learn about more great small businesses, and if you know a business that deserves to be featured please share it in the comments!

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Very Busy…

Sorry I have been gone so long… it’s near impossible to blog and care for a newborn. She doesn’t sleep through the night, she eats a lot and only I can provide that (though my husband the SuperDad wishes he could lactate so he could bond with her on all levels), and when we do have quiet time, it’s about sleeping or just chilling out. But I will be going back to work in… sigh…four weeks and can resume daily lunchtime posts at that time.

But Emerson is doing great – she went to her two-week pediatrician appointment today; she had gained an inch and a pound at her one-week appointment and today we found out she gained an additional 13 ounces. Doc says she’s healthy as an ox and looking great. She is gaining strength and personality every day!

No pics of me with her because… well I seem to always be the photographer! Also with the renovation, the full length mirror has been removed from the back of Emerson’s nursery door and is currently propped against a wall in my bedroom closet so it’s hard to take pictures of my fashion. I am still in maternity clothing (natch) but shrinking by the day. Last week I put on the Old Navy jeans (the last pair of maternity jeans I fit into when expecting) and they were so tight I was miserable when sitting in the car and took them off as soon as I got home. Today I put them on and they slid on easily and actually were sliding down because I didn’t hav enough belly to hold them up. But to go to the pediatrician (and an exciting visit to CVS) I wore the black Motherhood turtleneck sweater, those jeans, my Chucks (feet are still very swollen), silver hoops and cuff. My bangs were straightened, the rest of the hair was wavy. L’Oreal True Match foundation in C3, Bare Escentuals Buxom Lip Gloss in Dolly, and Cover Girl LashBlast mascara in Rich Black.

When at home, I usually try to clean up and look nice – no PJ’s all day. Yesterday I did bum and felt like crap. At least brushing the hair, putting on the one minute makeup and comfy street clothes makes a world of difference. I am still loving those ponte pants from Old Navy because they are as comfy as sweats. The faux wrap tees from Old Navy were flattering maternity tops and are awesome nursing tops. I also got this cardigan in black and it’s great over tees and tanks for warmth, bit of style but still nursing ease.

As for nursing bras, I have two that are great and very different. The Bravado “Body Silk” nursing bra is pretty decent for a no-wire option. The bra has removable molded foam cups to add shape and support. The bra looks a bit like a skinny strapped sports bra, so if it peeks out of a top’s neckline it isn’t bad. I take the cups out and it’s a good sleep bra; with the cups it’s great for going out (and the cups help hide any nursing pads).

I also have the Anita International ‘5041’ Nursing Bra which is pretty fabulous for an underwire bra. It fits great, is comfortable, gives good shape, is easy to open and close with one hand, and looks like a normal bra. I have it in nude and am tempted to get a second one in black.

Desperate need of a hair cut and color, but figure that will happen closer to when I have to go back to work (sigh). I also need a pedi – may go next week as my birthday treat (since the place is down the street I think I can fit it in between feedings and have Daddy watch over E).

Casual Friday

Lotsa oldies but goodies in today’s ensemble!

The purse is my Banana Republic bag that I bought many years ago.  I recently acquired the same one in black from a reader,  but this brown one is more… casual/boho and I find it works best for my Casual Friday outfits.

The top is from Language Los Angeles – bought it last spring during the Nordstrom sale and I adore it because it’s super thin knit, yet opaque.  Today is surprisingly cool in DC and perfect for such a top.  Jeans are the straight jeans from NYDJ, brown croco heels from Sofft, turquoise bead necklaces from H&M, silver hoops and cuff.  Hair is still damp in this photo and it’s as standard as standard can be with the makeup.

A reader asked me about my silver cuff.  I bought it in 1997.  I was in college, but had to move home because my scholarship ran out.  I was working at a fraternity and sorority merchandise store off campus, but wasn’t making enough.  I stopped in Express for some retail therapy (back then 90% of my wardrobe was from Express) and my favorite salesperson Steph (who I have recently reunited with on Facebook – how crazy!)  asked me how work was.  And I told her.  And she told me to apply for a job.  A week later I was sitting in the Center Court of Laurel Mall with the District Manager of that Express, telling her why I should be their next Assistant Manager-in-Training.  I remember what I wore – a black pinstriped sheath out of suiting fabric, and some super chunky black slides from Steve Madden (it was the ’90s!  This look was hot!).  I felt the interview went well and to celebrate, I went into Hecht’s to buy myself a present.  I saw this silver cuff, it was on sale for $35.  I bought it.

And I got the job.  That was the beginning of my retail life – I ended up with Express for over five years, working my way up from part time assistant in training to full time management to becoming a visual merchandiser for the one of the busiest locations in the region. After that I got the idea for Wardrobe Oxygen and a couple years later started my blogs.

Maybe the silver cuff was my good luck charm which got me the job.  I do know that it was my first piece of jewelery that I didn’t lose or break within a year.  I have had it for 13 years – it has traveled around the globe with me, been worn for some of the biggest events in my life.  I think every baby that has been born into my family or one of my friend’s families has played with it.  It has gotten a bit bent and scratched over the years, but it is lightweight, contoured to my wrist and like a part of me now.  Since having it, my jewelery tastes have adjusted to fit with the cuff – modern, big, full of impact.  I think my wardrobe has also changed to work with it.  May be a which comes first – chicken or egg sort of thing, but over the past 13 years I have seen my wardrobe get much cleaner lines, solid colors, very crisp and often modern.  When I do like details, I see that I go for the hippie/boho sort of look, which also works with the silver cuff.

So that is the story of the silver cuff!

Casual Friday

I am starting to really love Fridays because I can wear jeans.  In the winter I don’t care as much, but come spring, my hippie side comes out and I want to wear floaty tops and beaded necklaces and chunky sandals.

My hair was washed and conditioned, then I added some Pureology Texture Twist, scrunched and let it air dry.  I am not in love with this stuff, but am trying it out to see what it does.  It does give my hair more body than Frederic Fekkai Luscious Curls, but doesn’t give the shine, frizz reduction and prettiness of Luscious Curls.  Also I really need a haircut.

Makeup is Redpoint NOC-Out Cover Up Compact, Laura Mercier bronzer, Tarte’s Lights Camera Lashes, Bare Escentuals’ Buxon Lashliner in Leatherette, Laura Mercier lipstick in Pink Champagne.

My shoes (Sofft, natch):

I am wearing my Seven jeans and a white gauzy top I just got from Old Navy (with a white Caslon tank underneath).  And to encourage everyone to enter the contest

This is the necklace from Allison Dayton Jewelry that I am offering in a contestContest is until next Friday so you should enter!!

This weekend I am getting together with some of my dear friends to hang out and reconnect.  I hope to get in a yoga class one morning, and get in plenty of Emerson time!  I hope you all have a great weekend!

Casual Wednesday

I used to post how I looked every day – work and casual. I got lazy with it, not enough time, etc. Well this is a typical look for me when I work from home. Not gussied up, but I feel as though I am far more productive and comfortable if I wouldn’t be utterly humiliated if I had to answer the door or run outside to do an errand.

Old Navy Maternity – Black tee
Old Navy – Wide leg yoga pants, raspberry hoodie
Crocs – Thanks to my sister who loaned me hers since I grew out of mine

Hair: Washed and conditioned, dried with paddle brush and round brush at ends and bangs

Beauty: Laura Mercier – Tinted moisturizer, Nars – Blush in Orgasm, Cover Girl – LashBlast mascara in Rich Black

Casual Friday

Gap jeans, low rise bootcut. Vintage washed, but enhanced by me. Sanded edges for fraying, and homemade whiskering at zipper.

Orange fine gauge cotton v-neck sweater from J.Crew in an orange-red.

Tan thong sandals with 2″ heel from Target. One single band for a toe ring (never comes off). Sheer nude nails (OPI’s Coney Island Cotton Candy).

Silver large cuff bracelet. Medium-sized silver hoops and intricate silver necklace from Chico’s.

Hair was air dried except for the front causing beachy waves and and a bit of 70’s feathering in front.

Makeup is minimal – well it’s non-existant except for some tinted lip balm from a Origins. I woke up late today.

Small Business Saturday – Lifetherapy

My friend Sarah introduced me to the brand Lifetherapy last year and I have been a fan ever since.  I’m a bracelet junkie with a New Agey heart, so the brand really spoke to me.  Since then, I have added a Lifetherapy necklace to my collection and have enjoyed their body collection.  Lifetherapy is a US-based company run by Lynette Lovelace, a true labor of love for this inspiring woman.

Lynette believes fragrance and color are the most influential ways she can create awareness in others of how the mind works and the power of thought. After experiencing some difficult life experiences, Lynette found fragrance and color to provide a natural healing place and now hopes to share those healing powers with others through Lifetherapy.

Lynette has a strong background in retail. Before starting Lifetherapy, she owned a boutique and bistro in a Chicago suburb for 20 years.  Lynette sees Lifetherapy as an extension of her personality and loves connecting with users and sharing stories about how simple awareness can alter one’s mood and reaction to things.  Lifetherapy does carry bracelets as well as necklaces and body care products that are formulated by mood.

The body care line is different from others in that the five fragrances featured are meant to create the sense to PLAY, ESCAPE, CHILL, VACATION, and FLIRT. Lifetherapy’s MOOD boosting fragrances are alcohol free, paraben free, phthalate free, mineral oil free, petroleum free, not tested on animals and made in the USA.  I’ve tried products from the VACATION, FLIRT, and PLAY collections and find the products high quality. My favorite are the Pulse Point Oil Perfumes which are long lasting and their packaging is perfect for travel.

I have several of Lifetherapy’sPositivity in Color bracelets which bring about awareness of MOOD with the use of 12 different colors, each color representing a different strength, keeping you mindful of the positive. Each accessory is adorned with the brand’s signature turquoise bead for protection and good fortune. Also, all bracelets are handmade in the USA.

My new favorite collection from Lifetherapy is the Zodiac Copper Collection, which has delicate pendant necklaces and wrap bracelets decorated with charms.  There’s a bracelet and necklace for each astrological sign.  Lynette got the idea for the collection from visiting her husband’s place of work where he deals in metal fabrication. One day she noticed small copper scraps on the floor and asked if she could recycle them and turn them into jewelry.  Copper is a great conductor of electricity and is often used by healers to conduct life energy (also known as qi, chi, or prana).  Copper is believed to smooth and amplify the flow of energy within the body and in doing so it also soothes the thoughts, emotions, and energies.  Lynette already used turquoise in her line as it is known for drawing negative vibrations from a person; one of the main compounds of turquoise is copper so it seemed like a perfect pairing and a way to increase the power of turquoise.  I have the Aquarius bracelet and wear it often (see it here on my Instagram profile); the necklace’s chain is a bit short but I have moved the charms to my favorite charm necklace.

Maybe you believe in the power of color, elements and fragrance to heal and improve mood. If you don’t, you can still appreciate the beautiful handcrafted jewelry and delicious body care products and that they are made by a woman who truly believes in her product and who truly cares about her customers.  I started as one of Lynette’s customers but now consider her a friend. If you want to know more about Lifetherapy and Lynette, visit Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

The Small Business Saturday series on Wardrobe Oxygen features US-based independent brands and artists that focus on style with substance and soul. Stay tuned to learn about more great small businesses, and if you know a business that deserves to be featured please share it in the comments!

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Ask Allie: Very Casual Office Attire

I was wondering if you could do a capsule collection for the casual workplace. My workplace is so casual that I have coworkers who walk around in cargo shorts and flip-flops all summer, pretty much everyone wears jeans always, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a coworker or two in actual pajamas. I like dresses and skirts, I love jewelry, but lately I’ve been defaulting to a uniform of jeans/sneakers/artsy tee/cardigan. I’d like to get out of that rut but still fit in.

I work in a very casual place people wear yoga pants and flip flops to work. I like to dress nicely but don’t want to stand out or look snooty any advice?

I work for myself but in a collaborative office setting; the dress code is casual but everyone is very visually inspired and aware of fashion. I’m a jeans and tee shirt sort of girl, any ideas on what I can wear to be comfortable, be me, but not be a clueless slob?

I once worked in a very casual office environment, and understand your issue. While on the surface a very relaxed dress code can seem like a treat, but when you really break it down it can be even more difficult and confusing than a conservative corporate environment. Even if you CAN wear yoga pants and dollar store flip flops, that doesn’t mean you should. You want to fit in, but also show your dedication to the company, be ready for the chance meeting with a customer, and also lead by example. This can be done without a single blazer or blouse!

With this sample capsule wardrobe, I took casual basics and stepped them up a slight notch so they look a bit more polished, but just as comfortable. With jeans, I chose a dark wash that looks more polished and is usually more versatile than distressed. A pair of jeans or twill pants in a neutral like olive adds variety to a wardrobe without being too memorable for versatility. For knits, break out of the basic tee-shirt rut by incorporating classic prints, unique fabrics like linen and silk, and interesting draping. Layers keep you comfortable in an overly air conditioned office and add mileage to your wardrobe basics. A denim shirt looks great on its own, tied over a dress, or worn open with a tank and skinny jeans. An open cardigan can be worn as-is or can be transformed with a wide belt. A short-sleeved sweater in a loose weave is comfortable in an office in the summer, but also layers nicely over longer-sleeved knits and shirts when the temperature drops. Tee-shirt dresses are easy one-piece dressing that can dress up with a scarf and wedges or get uber casual with sandals and a ponytail. A gathered knee-length skirt in a lightweight cotton dresses up simple tees and tanks without sacrificing comfort.

Accessories are a way to add personality and jazz up simple knits and denim. For this collection of soft neutrals, I added a wood necklace and a floral printed gauze scarf; neither are too glitzy or shiny for a casual office. As for shoes, a pair of ankle boots with a flat heel look great with dresses, skirts, and pants; a pair of leather sandals are smart with dresses but also pair nicely with denim for a bit of a boho look. As previously mentioned, a wide belt (smart to have in the same color/material as your shoes) can transform not just an open cardigan, but dresses and tunics.

Stick to casual fabrics – linen, cotton, jersey, denim, chambray. This will keep the casual vibe even if it’s a more formal silhouette. While staying in these fabrics, choose saturated colors. Faded, distressed, and weathered fabrics are hot this summer but can easily look messy and too casual for an office.

And finally, flip flops should be kept for the pool and yoga pants for yoga. These days there are so many comfortable shoes and pants available, there’s no need to wear workout clothes to the office. Consider stretch denim, jersey, and ponte knit for pants and a pair of espadrilles or flat sandals in place of the flops.

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Small Business Saturday

I worked a decade in retail and I know that as much as the last Thursday in November is about eating turkey with loved ones, the Friday after is about getting the best deals on holiday gifts. The malls are packed, the roads clogged, people frantic for a crazy price on a flatscreen or that last pair of clearance booties.

America needs another tradition this weekend, and since 2010 today has been deemed Small Business Saturday. Though Small Business Saturday was created by American Express, it has grown beyond their brand. No matter your form of payment, Small Business Saturday is a day to support those businesses in your backyard, explore local artisans, and shop small. Be it the boutique down the street, your independent grocery store, or visiting Etsy to score a unique holiday gift, I hope you will support Small Business Saturday today and #ShopSmall.

Sometimes you just have to hit the big box retailer or mega-website for your purchases, but often you can find just as good or better of an item at an independent or small retailer. Not only that, but when you shop local, you keep your money in your neighborhood; your money does more than purchase a bracelet or cup of coffee.

Together, let’s make Small Business Saturday become as much a Thanksgiving weekend tradition as pumpkin pie!  

Are you supporting Small Business Saturday?  Share the website or social media channel of your favorite small business in the comments and your favorite small business may become the favorite of another!

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Small Business Sunday: Appalatch

In the past year, I have made a concerted effort to feature more brands with heart. Be they companies who produce their product in the United States, products made with sustainable materials or created via Fair Trade, brands that give back to their communities, or small businesses who want to change the face of retail, I’m honored to provide a platform and introduce them to you readers. As a blogger, I receive many pitches from small and new companies and many of them go right into the Trash. However, some really stand out, and I’d like to introduce them to you. Therefore, I am starting a series called Small Business Sunday, where I’ll be sharing businesses and artisans who aren’t big retailers, but are creating amazing things worth noting. This series won’t be every Sunday, just when I learn about a brand that really is something new, fresh, and inspiring.

This Sunday, I’d like to introduce you to Appalatch. Appalatch is a company that wishes to make custom fit wool sweaters, ethically made in the United States.

Choosing the classic trend-proof crewneck sweater, Appalatch will use a 3D printer to ensure a custom fit for each of their customers. Be you tall, short, busty, athletic… Appalatch will made a classically designed wool sweater for you to enjoy now and many years from now. Not only are these sweaters ethically made, but by being made with quality and classic design they should be a piece that lasts and is worn for many years, becoming an investment not just for your wardrobe but the environment.

Appalatch currently has a KickStarter to raise the funds to finance a 3D printer for these sweaters. Appalatch is already an ethically driven company that offers tees and small accessories, this KickStarter will allow them to expand the brand to offer the custom fit which I think so many people desire in a wardrobe staple or investment piece. I was so impressed and inspired by their story, I kicked in a few dollars for their KickStarter.

I think these sweaters are brilliant. Pair with jeggings and riding boots for the weekend, wear over a crisp button-front shirt with a leather skirt and heels for the office. With a custom fit you don’t have to worry about oversized shoulders, bagginess, tight arms, or the other issues found when purchasing sweaters off the rack. All that, and Applatch’s sweaters will be ethically made in the USA, using the finest wool in America. Manufacturing these sweaters will create virtually zero waste, choosing classic style and quality materials means it won’t be landfill waste in a couple seasons.

If you’d like to learn more about Appalatch please visit their website, their Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts; if you’d like to support them making these custom wool sweaters consider giving to their KickStarter.

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