Search Results for: label/career wear

Ask Allie: Starch-Free Corporate Capsule Wardrobe

Hi Alison – I love your blog and visit daily! Your capsule wardrobes are what really drew me in. The ability to mix-and-match separates to create versatile outfits is such a plus, and something I’d like to ask about. You see, I’m considering starting my own business, and will need professional attire. But, I hate suits and suiting material. Starchy button down shirts make me squirm. My wardrobe is built around denim and jersey knits, and I can do business casual with these pieces. But I feel like I need to break down and buy a pantsuit to do “official business,” go to interviews and be taken seriously. Any advice? Thanks for your consideration!

I hear you on this. While I don’t mind a well-fitting blazer, I go gaga for career wear that has stretch and flexibility. Good thing suiting and professional attire has come a long way and there’s a great variety of textiles that offer give, stretch, and comfort.

capsule wardrobe professional wear to work

shop this capsule: black pants | gray pants | pink blazer | black blazer | bow blouse | silk tee | printed tee | gray dress | black skirt | black pumps | gray pumps | necklace | watch

This is a spring capsule wardrobe for a professional environment that doesn’t have a single starched or stiff garment. I chose a simple palette of black, gray, and pink but this could easily be replicated with jewel tones, neutrals, or any other color mix. Black is a popular suiting color, but it can be seen as too severe, especially if you are starting your own business. Gray is a great color alternative that also tones down black without losing the professional edge. Pale pink softens the look for spring, adds a feminine touch, isn’t too memorable, and isn’t too bubble gum or girly.

The black pants, black blazer, and black skirt are all made of ponte knit. Ponte de Roma knit is a very tightly woven heavyweight knit that is as stretchy as yoga pants but gives a professional look. The pink blazer is also in ponte knit. Many companies now offer suiting in this fabric, both lined and unlined, to create a suiting collection with comfort.

The gray pants and dress are both made of a suiting fabric with Lycra, which moves with you while still looking professional. Not only that, the percentage of Lycra helps resist wrinkles. Such material is available year-round from retailers of all pricepoints and is a fabric that is office-appropriate all four seasons.

Work blouses don’t have to be starched cotton to look professional, yet when you’re choosing softer fabrics like ponte for your suiting it’s important to be thoughtful with your top’s fabric. Silk and silk knits are a great choice because their luxe feel and subtle lustre add elegance and formality to any ensemble. Many silk blouses are made with a hint of Lycra, providing a better fit, more opacity, and more comfort. Choosing one with a detail like a bow neckline, pleats, or ruffles adds interest to a suit without losing professionalism. Silk and silk jersey tees are a great alternative to button-front blouses and shirts and look great under jackets. For less formal business meetings, they can be worn on their own tucked into a pencil skirt or pair of trousers. No need to stick to just solids; a print, especially in silk can look elegant, professional, and add a touch of personality to your workwear.

If you’re not wearing such attire every day, there’s no need to buy a ton of accessories to coordinate. I have two different shoes featured but honestly you could get away with this entire capsule wardrobe with a single pair of black pumps. A necklace finishes a look; I chose one that incorporates the colors but isn’t too trendy so it can be a signature piece, worn on a daily basis. A watch is a great way to mix fashion with function; it adds a bit of shine and it looks far nicer to check the time in this manner than whipping out your SmartPhone.

Ask Allie: Career Wear on a Budget

I am a young professional without a “mentor” or any experience in the professional world other than the two years at my current job. I am getting a new boss in January and she is beautiful, powerful, and extremely sharp. I am the girl with the hot pink iPhone case, the ubiquitous plastic venti coffee cup, wearing Teva sandals with my work outfits, trying to pass black jeans as “dress pants,” and still wearing the same bangle bracelets that I had in high school. I desperately need an upgrade in… everything… but I’m broke.

Are there any suggestions that you can make about taking my college student wardrobe and upping my game while still being able to feed my family?

You are not alone. It’s hard to be new and rise the corporate ladder without going into debt. You come into the workforce already with student loans and then have to shell out a lot just to look as though you want the job you fought hard to get. Jobs are hard to get, so you want to show that you care and have the drive but you don’t have the money to build a professional wardrobe from scratch. A few tips:

Thrift It. I know from your email that you’re already hitting Goodwill, but it can be frustrating to weed though racks and racks of faded knit tees in hopes of finding one decent pencil skirt or blazer. Make it a weekly date – find out when they stock the floors and visit that day. Befriend the folks working there – it may just get you a new friend, or it may get you friends who will see pieces and hold them for you or give you a heads up when they are stocking the floor.

While there, consider going up a size or two. A thrifted pair of pants can easily be altered by the nearby dry cleaner, and the price for both is still going to be cheaper than a new pair of pants on the sale rack.

Join Freecycle. My local Freecycle often has people giving away large bags of clothing in a certain size. People who have lost or gained weight, passed away, retired. While a good portion of the bag’s contents may be wrong for you, you could end up with a real gem in the process. And that which doesn’t work, re-Freecycle or donate. Once you have established yourself on your local Freecycle as a person who gives as well as takes (great way to clean out the house of old toys, knick knacks, and that dusty treadmill in your basement), you can request certain things. I did this once and was amazed with the generous people who replied with items or suggestions on how to get what I needed for less or free.

Find Local Swaps and Consignments. Twice a year, my community has a swap where people bring old baby clothing and equipment and trade for that which they need. It has grown to where this swap often has adult clothing. Local fashion blogging communities will often host or know of swaps where for a small price or a bag of clothes to donate, you can attend and pick up some amazing scores. Consignment sales are another place to find thrift-store priced clothing but a more carefully curated collection. At such events, you can also network with other frugal shoppers.

Nothing in your community? Set one up! It can be anything from a happy hour at your home with a few friends and neighbors, or you can set something up at a local community center.

A sample capsule wardrobe of simple pieces: how you can create over 20 different business casual outfits from just eight pieces of clothing.  Every outfit works with black pumps or flats.

Buy Simple. Simple blue oxford, gray pencil skirt, black blazer, plum cardigan, black pants… pieces like these can be mixed and matched a hundred ways to create completely different ensembles. Don’t buy difficult silhouettes that only go with one piece – create a bit of a uniform with few silhouettes so they are more versatile and less memorable.

Prints and bold colors are memorable; stick to neutrals and soft hues until you can afford a larger wardrobe.

Make a Priority List. What holes are in your wardrobe? Focus on those first. Don’t worry that this season is about oxblood or that a pair of leopard shoes would update your look. Get those basics you need to not be naked or in inappropriate fashion at the office. While I usually encourage buying accessories to switch up basics, at this point I’d say save your money. It’s better to go without any accessories at all than to try to make do with cheap pieces or spend your budget on a bracelet.

Unless you find one for an incredible price and it’s gorgeous, focus more on separates than dresses. Separates can mix and match for more outfits, and can better be tailored to fit (or made to look tailored with belts, Stitch Witchery, and strategically placed safety pins).

When you buy, stop and think what in your wardrobe can it work with. If you can’t imagine three outfits, don’t buy it. Even if it’s only $3 or only $5, that’s $3 or $5 you could save for the right wardrobe addition.

Know No One is Keeping Track. It’s okay to wear the same black pants two or three times in a week as long as they are clean. It’s okay to wear the same shoes every day until you can afford more. You can even carry off the same shirt multiple times in one week – one day on its own tucked in to a skirt, another day untucked under a sweater with pants. As long as the pieces are clean, in good condition, and properly pressed no one is going to care. The effect is far more important than the individual pieces.

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Ask Allie: Two Weeks in Europe, What to Pack?

Allie I found you on Pinterest through your list of what to wear to Paris. I’m going to England and Europe for two weeks and need help knowing what to pack. No offense, can my capsule have some actual color and no leopard? I love bright colors and want to fit everything in one suitcase. Can you help me?

what to wear to europe spring capsule wardrobe

When I travel I usually stick to primarily neutrals (okay to be honest, it’s primarily black) with a couple pops of color because I find it hides stains, is more versatile, and dresses up and down with ease. However, I do know I often rely too heavily on black so for this wardrobe is a base to showcase the colors and keep everything cohesive. Last year I made a capsule wardrobe of what to wear to England in the spring, but this capsule is for warmer weather and with brighter colors. I’ll admit I made this capsule a month ago but it got lost in my files and I hope isn’t too late for your travel. You didn’t specify what parts of Europe and England you’ll be visiting or what sort of activities you will be partaking in, so I made some assumptions and geared this towards sight-seeing, but also visiting nice restaurants and possibly staying with friends and family.

A jacket is a must when traveling; while I often feature trenches in capsules because of their classic elegance, an anorak can also work if it’s a longer length and has clean lines. Look for something water resistant which will also resist wind; a hood is a lifesaver and also provides warmth. Packable versions can handle being shoved into the bottom of a tote when seeing museums and will take up less space in your suitcase. This is an item where it’s a great idea to choose a favorite color; while it may not dress up as easily, it’s far more enjoyable to wear a cheery hue than khaki or black on a gloomy day!

Dresses and skirts are a great idea for travel; they take up less space, can dress up easily, and are quite comfortable and wrinkle-resistant if you choose fabrics carefully. Matte jersey, modal, silk jersey, and ponte are all fabrics that give and stretch to continue to look great after being shoved in a suitcase and then worn for several hours. Solids are less memorable and easier to mix and match. While the tee shirt dress and skirt are black, consider them base pieces to feature colorful tops and accessories. I love wrap dresses, which are figure flattering and usually made of matte jersey, a very travel-friendly fabric.

I recommend always bringing a pair of trousers as well as jeans. While jeans have become more commonplace across the globe, a pair of pants are an easy way to make your knits look more dressed up. Choosing a pair of pants in a ponte knit means they won’t stretch out or wrinkle with wear, and are easy to spot clean. A pair of leggings don’t take up a lot of room and are a godsend under dresses and skirts if the temps drop, are great to have for any athletic activities, and make for comfy loungewear. As for jeans, a hint of lycra stretch will be more comfortable for long bus rides or days on your feet.

With tops, go for pieces with a bit of Lycra which will resist wrinkles. A striped tee is quite versatile, can be tucked into a skirt, worn under a jacket with jeans, or left untucked with leggings. A flowing tank or shell in silk or a synthetic with a hint of shine can look casual with jeans or dress up nicely with the trousers or skirt. Knits with interesting necklines (scoop, surplice, etc.) immediately look more dressy than a standard tee and are also more flattering. A few tanks tucked in your bag are great for changing the look of a wrap dress, slipping under other tops for warmth, wearing under jackets and sweaters, or on their own if there’s a heat wave. As for cardigans and toppers, I recommend going with lighter knits which fit better in your bag and can more easily tuck into a tote if it gets warm. Merino wool is a great choice for warmth without bulk, plus it repels odors and water.

Accessories are a great way to switch up the look of a capsule wardrobe. A pashmina is a travel must – wear looped around your neck for the flight and have it as a blanket for the plane. Wear to change up your outfits, as a shawl when it’s chilly, or to cover shoulders when entering a house of worship. Scarves are a great accessory to purchase while on your trip – they don’t take up much space in your suitcase and each time you wear you will remember your vacation. A couple bold necklaces will dress up simple knits. A watch is stylish as well as handy. Bring along a slim belt in a contrast color to switch up the silhouettes of dresses, cardigans, and untucked tops. A pair of classic wayfarers are chic sunglasses that will go with everything in your suitcase. A tote and a small crossbody in black leather are all you need – use the tote as your carry-on or fold into your suitcase. The tote can be for sightseeing, lounging by the pool, and shopping. The small crossbody carries essentials close to your body to prevent pickpockets, but can also dress up for the evening. Tights and an umbrella don’t take up much room but can be very useful is the weather isn’t on your side.

As for shoes, if you keep them all around the same height they will work with skirts as well as all the pants and jeans in your capsule wardrobe. While sneakers seem like a smart choice for a lot of walking, you can find just as much support and comfort from brands like Sofft, Naturalizer, and Clarks yet a style that will be more elegant and more able to dress up. Depending on the time of year you attend, a pair of tall boots can be a great choice; protect with a waterproofing spray before you go and they will be great for inclement weather.

two weeks Europe what to pack what to wear

Ask Allie: How to Dress for a Wedding Without a Dress Code

I have a wedding to go, and ever since the wedding where I dressed fancier than the bride (I wore a simple velvet sheath!) I have a horror of wearing the wrong thing. The wedding is at 4, with cocktails, dinner, and reception to follow, all at the same venue, an “event center.” Essentially a ballroom. I did email the bride and she just said “We don’t really have a dress code. Not black tie but not sweats and a t-shirt. Well, there’s a LOT in between there. Jersey maxidress? Sparkly mini? My feet are likely to be swollen so I’m leaning toward something I can wear flat sandals with, but other than that I’m kind of at a loss what to wear.

Event planners and brides to be… please understand that a dress code isn’t snooty or pretentious, it’s a helpful guide for loved ones who want to ensure your event is great. A specified dress code will reduce stress on your guests and ensure you don’t end up with anyone in black tie or sweats and a tee shirt!

That being said, this is the type of event where I pull out my black crepe sheath dress. Sleeveless, simple neckline, skims the figure, hits the knees; it’s simple and easy to dress up or down. For a wedding that starts at 4pm you can accessorize a dress in a multitude of ways to make it look festive yet appropriate for a crowd in khakis or a dancefloor full of sequins.  Of course, the dress does not have to be black, but it’s a color you often already have in your closet.

You mentioned the desire to wear flat sandals, and for a wedding at an event center I’d keep flat sandals to a midi to maxi length dress or skirt. While traditional jersey maxi dresses would likely be too casual for a wedding at this hour, one in matte jersey or with a chiffon overlay would be perfect and just as easy to fit in with a more casual or more dressy crowd.  Again, black is not the only color; a bright or pastel hue would be quite festive and appropriate for an August wedding.

Both types of dresses are extremely versatile. A lined sheath in crepe, triacetate, silk, or a blend can be worn to work, dressed up for a cocktail party with strappy heels and sparkly jewelry, or made more casual with nude pumps and wood accessories (see my post on how to style a black sheath four ways). A matte jersey or chiffon maxi dress can also lead multiple lives; I wore a black matte jersey maxi as the matron of honor at a relatively formal wedding, then wore to a garden wedding with gold flat sandals and even wore to a bridal shower with brown sandals and wood and leather jewelry. Not only that, these fabrics are seasonless making a dress purchased in the summer wearable for holiday parties on your event calendar!

Ask Allie: What to Wear to a Summer Funeral

I know it’s a somber topic, but I live in a hot climate and I have a relative who is ill and in hospice. I realized today that I have no idea what is okay for a funeral in a VERY hot climate.

what to wear to a hot summer wedding

The most important thing to factor when dressing for a funeral, is dressing out of respect. First, consider the religion of the service, then dress in a way that shows you understand the formality of the situation and that you know you are not the subject of attention. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t wear it to church or to an office where it’s Business Attire (not Business Casual), it’s not appropriate for a funeral.

These days, a sleeveless dress and bare legs is appropriate at most American funerals, especially when it’s a very hot climate. Consider a lightweight cardigan if there’s a service inside the house of worship and a hat to protect yourself from the sun at the grave site. If your shoulders are bared, your neckline should be very modest, the fit not too tight, and the hemline at the knee.

In your email, you mentioned a maxi dress and while it wouldn’t be inappropriate to wear a long skirt, many maxi dress styles these days are lightweight jersey and have low necklines. If you have one that is of a dressier fabric (cotton sateen, crepe jersey, linen, silk blend) and doesn’t show off your décolleté, it can work. Again, if you wouldn’t wear it to church or to work, I’d consider something else.

Pants are acceptable for less religious funerals, and can be far more comfortable in the heat. Linen trousers (not drawstring slouchy pants) with a silk or crepe shell is perfectly acceptable.

As for color, black is not necessary these days; as long as the color doesn’t scream “look at me!” it’s acceptable. Muted colors like navy, olive, plum, mauve, gray, taupe, and brown are acceptable. If you wear a print, it should be very subtle (watercolor prints, tone on tone). Again consider the religion before choosing the color; some only wear black, some wear white, and some encourage bright jewel tones.

As for fabric, as long as it’s not too casual (denim) or too formal (satin), it’s okay in such heat. Linen and cotton is acceptable if it’s in more formal of cuts and ironed before wearing.

Accessories set the tone for your outfit; keep the sparkly necklaces and statement shoes at home. A simple pair of leather shoes in a neutral, a delicate chain necklace or a strand of pearls, a leather bag free of adornments that complements the color of your outfit. If there is a grave site service, choose a wedge or flat shoe so your heels don’t sink into the grass. Though you may be seeing many people from your past, it’s not a high school reunion and not a time to show off your sartorial skills.

Finally, what you wear is not as important as your attendance. Few will even notice what you’re wearing; as long as you don’t dress to receive attention you will be just fine. My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time.

Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for Cruise and Resort Evenings

I LOVE your wardrobe capsules. They are always amazing. I would love to see a simple mix and match capsule for evening. Specifically, I just returned from a 10-day cruise of the Caribbean. It was amazing, with one glitch. The evening dress code was smart casual; and on a cruise ship this is more dressy than I expected (I’m from California, where jeans are cocktail attire!). I was woefully underdressed with dowdy shoes. I usually travel with black and white clothing, but a color capsule would be awesome too!

While I haven’t been on a cruise for a few years, I have experienced the issue of “smart casual” and formal nights on cruise ships, and understand how hard it is to dress appropriately for the situation. Not only are you dealing with limited luggage space, but you have folks from all over the globe dressing in all sorts of different manners. I found it’s best to pack simple garments and statement-making accessories.

Three years ago, I was asked to be in my friend’s wedding and she let me pick any black dress I desired as my Matron of Honor gown. I got a black matte jersey maxi dress from Calvin Klein that had twisted straps that were thin but thick enough to cover my bra, a faux wrap skirt, and a self-tie belt. I wore that dress for the wedding with black heeled sandals and a statement necklace. A few months later I attended a destination wedding in Charleston, South Carolina and wore that same dress with flat gold sandals, gold dangly earrings, and an armful of gold bangles. I also wore that dress with beaded earrings and a weathered brown leather belt and brown leather thongs. My point is that such a dress is surprisingly versatile. Choosing a silky jersey (Rachel Pally dresses fit the bill, are a classic style and come in a broad range of sizes) or matte jersey (Calvin Klein continues to have great options season after season) maxi dress means you can dress it up or down with ease and it will travel well (few wrinkles, any you get can come out easily if in the room with a hot shower).

Here I took a simple black maxi dress and showed how a switch of accessories can completely transform it. I know you mentioned comfort shoes in a different part of your Ask Allie request, so I chose shoes that aren’t sky-high. The wedge can easily be lower or even flat – another perk of maxi dresses is that they look great with flat shoes and said shoes aren’t the focal point of the ensemble.

A black maxi dress is a great choice if you have a formal night, but many cruises and resorts just require “smart casual” or “festive” attire. This capsule wardrobe helps you pack light but with many options:

  1. Maxi skirt with sequined tank and black sandals
  2. Maxi skirt with orange top and gold sandals
  3. Maxi skirt with a simple neutral tank or tee in your luggage, gold belt and gold sandals
  4. Black jersey pants with sequined top and black sandals
  5. Black jersey pants with orange top and black sandals
  6. Black jersey pants with sheer top and black sandals
  7. White jeans with any of the three tops and gold sandals (add the hoops, bracelet, and belt for discothèque drama)
  8. Black jersey tee shirt dress with black sandals
  9. Black dress with gold belt and gold sandals
  10. Black skirt with any of the tops and either sandals

This can be dressed up with a different choice of shoe (a heel is always seen as more formal), switching the pants to a tuxedo or shantung cigarette pant, the skirt to something sparkly, the dress to something more form-fitting or dramatic in silhouette. However, I used this based upon my own experiences on cruises and at resorts, where some nights you will find folks in full-length gowns, the other nights in club attire or sundresses. Solid colors and fabrics like matte jersey and stretch silk look elegant while being travel-friendly and versatile. These pieces can also be worn during the day – the orange top would be adorable with olive chino shorts, either of the skirts with a simple tank top, the dress could even be a beach coverup.

Choosing a single concept for accessories lightens your luggage load – I chose gold jewelry because it’s easier to find decent-looking costume pieces and instantly adds glamour. I really believe in a long necklace of chain or sparkly beads like jet – it really changes the silhouette of any ensemble and can make the simplest dress look chic. The addition of a belt, be it a scarf cummerbund, a leather obi, or a gold chain can quickly change the shape of a dress, add definition to a monochromatic ensemble, or dress up a simple tank and maxi skirt. Using color sparingly and thoughtfully will give extra miles to neutral pieces – the skirt could easily be switched to a neutral or a bold hue, the orange top could be a print or another dressy fabric, all the black pieces could be gray or ivory. This just gives an example of how very simple pieces can create an elegant and festive evening wardrobe for a vacation.



 

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Summer Sartorial Rules for Corporate America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For some suggestions on appropriate office attire, please visit:

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The Bandana is Back!

Some trends come on the scene that make me wonder what designers and street style icons were smoking or ingesting when they decided on them. And recently, a lot of trends were impossible to recreate on a budget. I’m loving how so many trends this spring and summer are honestly achievable on any budget; it’s less about the logo and more about the look.

Top Row, Left to Right: Rosy Cheeks | Man Repeller | The Not Vanilla | ELLE España via Le Fashion
Bottom Row, Left to Right: Louis Vuitton via GQ | Stockholm Street Style | Vanessa Jackman | The Blab

And one of those trends is the bandana. That white-pattered cotton scarf you can pick up at the dollar store or take from your college Halloween costume is now an on-trend accessory. I’ve always loved the classic bandana print and prefer a cotton scarf to a silk one, so I am thrilled about this trend. But how do you wear a bandana without looking like an extra from a John Wayne movie?

  • Create a Contradiction. A bandana with a chambray shirt is cliché, a bandana with a leather moto jacket or a silk blouse or a crisp blazer is unexpected.
  • Keep it Crisp and Classic. For now, keep your pink and purple bandanas in the drawer and stick to classics like navy, red, and black. These should also not be the weathered, worn, and torn bandanas you use to mop sweat when gardening or to hold back your hair on a camping trip. The classic color and the crisp finish makes the bandana purposeful and not a leftover from cleaning out the garage.
  • Simplicity is Key. Leandra Medine’s all-white outfit with the bandana tucked into the collar of her shirt is a fabulous example of how to wear a bandana this spring. Minimal color, no competing prints, use the bandana as you would a silk Hermes scarf and let it take center stage.
  • Get Creative. A bandana doesn’t have to be worn knotted in back and draped in front. Check out The Not Vanilla’s post and how she wore it knotted around her throat, and even as a purse and wrist accessory. I recently rolled a bandana , wrapped it twice around my neck and had it peek out of a white button-front shirt; I think it’s fun to spice up a monochromatic look with a bandana tied to a single belt loop at the front of a pair of trousers; don’t be afraid to use a bandana as a headband, kerchief, headwrap, or tied around your ponytail.

Last week when I shared my outfit featuring a bandana, I received a few styling questions from you folk:

  • When You Have Short Hair. If you’re draping the bandana in front and the “ears” are peeking out making you feel as though you’re wearing a bib, consider a bit of fashion tape to hold them down. I keep all those tiny safety pins that hold garment hang tags and find them great for a situation like this (I pin the “ears” to the underside so they don’t ruin the line of the scarf).
  • When the Bandana is Too Stiff. A brand new bandana can be as stiff as a piece of paper, and often have hard creases in it. Before trying anything, wash it and throw it in the dryer, preferably with bulky items that would make it bounce around a lot. This often does the trick. If it’s still too stiff for you, an overnight soak in fabric softener or vinegar will soften cotton without fading the fabric. Rinse and tumble dry.
  • When You Want a Bigger Bandana. I desired this very thing to have more variety (and to double-look around my big neck). On eBay I found “Texas Size” bandanas which are 27” (most are 22”). If you search for 27” bandana, you’ll find that many online stores like Amazon offer them, which will give you the length you desire.

Ask Allie: Dressing for your Belly

I’m not fat per se , but I’ve gained back all the weight that I lost in the first few months after giving birth. My stomach has gotten enormous, like 6th month pregnancy enormous and I hate it. I can’t find anything to wear that doesn’t make it even more obvious at least to me. I tend to wear jeans + t-shirt like top 99% time. Skirts are supposed to be flattering on me but I couldn’t find anything I like + know what to pair with + can handle my daily commute of 1.5 hours in the bus , each direction. Shoes wise -same rut. I got wide feet and wide calves and am yet to find boots I can wear.

I have a belly. When I used to go to the gym daily and was a size 4, I still had a belly. Before I had a child, I had enough of a belly that more than one person asked when I was due. And now, after having a child and gaining/losing weight and not making much time for crunches I have a very soft midsection that Emerson finds to be the best pillow in the world. She likes it far more than I do, to me it looks as though I have one big monoboob below my actual breasts. But it’s a belly that created a human being, it’s natural, it’s me, and so I have learned to dress it and come to terms with it.

You can dress a tummy without drawing attention it, or hiding it in layers of fabric that will make you look like a big blob. Luckily, such pieces that flatter a figure with a belly also have stretch which hold up nicely through a commute or long day, and often are available at retailers of different pricepoints.

Wrap Dresses
Be they a true wrap or faux, such a dress gives the illusion of an hourglass figure and have a double layer right at the tummy, which disguises the shape and gives it a bit of added control. Choose a style that comes to your knees to flatter your figure and be more work-appropriate. If the neckline is too low, consider a camisole or strategically-placed safety pin.

Matte jersey doesn’t wrinkle, it doesn’t stretch out, and you can throw it in the washing machine and hang it up from your shower curtain rod and it’s dry and ready to wear the next day. This fabric is stretchy polyester, but has a matte crepey feel that is more refined, not clingy, and dresses up and down with ease. I have found such dresses at Old Navy, Target, ASOS, and they are often at thrift stores (I know I have donated quite a few from my days as a merchandiser at Express).

Other fabrics I like for such a style of dress are chiffon overlay with a polyester lining (also doesn’t wrinkle easily, but can be more delicate when it comes to laundry) and ponte (a very heavyweight and tightly-woven knit that is more refined than jersey and less likely to show lumps and bumps and can be laundered like matte jersey).

How to Wear in Winter: With opaque tights (I love the Spanx Tight End Tights for extreme durability, a control top that doesn’t cut you in half, and matte opacity) and boots or shoes of most any heel height. Keep the tights and shoe the same color to lengthen the leg, black is a safe bet with most any color, even brown and navy.

Vintage-inspired Dresses
The vintage trend isn’t going away any time soon, and women with bellies are rejoicing. Be it Modcloth, eShakti, or true vintage, these dresses have a slightly higher waistband which hits at the smallest part of your torso, giving you more of an hourglass shape and allowing the skirt to hide your tummy.

With such dresses, fit is paramount. Go up a size if necessary and have it tailored, but don’t let it pull at the shoulders or bust, cinch the upper arms, or ride up in the torso. A too-small fit will only make your figure look larger.

With many of these dresses, they have a percentage of polyester which will resist wrinkles. A print also can disguise creases that may take place on your commute (or keep a bottle of Downy Wrinkle Releaser in your desk for a douse once you arrive).

How to Wear in Winter: Opaque tights yet again, make such dresses perfect for the colder weather. Again, black is a safe bet with most any color or print, keep the vintage vibe going with a T-strap or Mary Jane shoe with a thicker heel.

Wrap and Surplice Necklines
It’s amazing that a neckline can change the look of a midsection, but it really does work. A wrap or surplice (faux wrap) neckline elongates the neck, enhances the bust, and draws attention to the smallest part of your torso (bottom of your rib cage). Like a wrap dress, you end up with a double layer at the torso which disguises the tummy. Surplice tops may not have that double layer, but they often have gathered side seams which provide strategic ruching at that part of the torso.

After I had Emerson, I lived in faux wrap, wrap, and surplice tops. Sure, they were great for nursing, but they also made my figure look amazing. I’d wear a wrap sweater with a black cami and black pants for a cohesive outfit; a necklace would draw the eye up and add interest. I had a half-dozen outfits of this style and looked great without a lot of effort.

Fit and Flare Styles
When trying to draw attention away from a body part, the worst thing to do is make the fabric on that body part too loose. A baggy top over a small belly will make it look Second Trimester. A fit and flare style will skim over the slim part of your figure, flare out right where your curves are, and work with, not against your figure.

Blazers often achieve this fit and flare look for you, if they fit well. Roll up the sleeves a couple times to let your slender wrists show, wear a top underneath with a v- or scoop-neck, and the line of the open jacket will disguise the tummy and allow for that fit and flare shape. Jackets of ponte and unlined stretch fabrics will give that shape nicely without adding bulk.

Wide Calf Boots
I have very wide feet, short toes, and ginormouse calves as well as thick shins and ankles. And yet, I own several pairs of tall boots. Get out of the mall and get online to find wide-calf boots that fit your feet and your legs. Check out these posts regarding wide calf boots:

Ponte Knit Pieces
Ponte de Roma, otherwise known as ponte, is one of the greatest fabrics on the planet. It’s stretchy like jersey, but heavy enough to hide lumps and bumps. It’s a very tight refined weave that looks appropriate for work or social events, but is as comfortable as yoga pants. It is a pretty uniform fabric, so often a pair of pants from one brand will work with a jacket from another. With a fabric so heavy and tightly woven (no stretching out or bagging), it flatters soft curves and even gives them a bit of support.

I own ponte pants (fitted to slip into boots or wear with flats, fuller to wear with heels), ponte jackets (blazer style and longer trendy cuts), ponte dresses (all styles worn year round), ponte skirts (pencil, drop waist, fit and flare… you name it), ponte tops (drape-neck tanks, wrap-style tops, boatneck shells and more). I love how I can put two ponte pieces together for relaxed yet polished look appropriate for work or Sunday brunch. I love how I can usually machine wash the pieces to save time and money. And I love how the fabric works with my belly.

The goal with ponte is to find pieces that do not cut at the widest part of your belly. Drop waists, tops that end between the waistband and high hip, or shapeless styles that can tent out making the abdomen look even larger. But with styles that work with your curves, you can have a stretchy yet polished collection of garments that will survive a long commute and a busy day.

Build a ponte collection that can mix and match with itself and other fabrics for multi-season versatility. 

Powerful Accessories
The person who notices your belly the most is yourself. I bet the majority of the people you see each day don’t even notice its size. That being said, accessories do a great job of drawing the eye to another part of the body:

  • Statement Necklaces will draw the eye up to your face. Right now such necklaces are very popular, so it’s easy to find them in any style or pricepoint. Wear inside the collar of your shirt or over a round neck for a dramatic disguiser.
  • Heels are a great way to elongate the legs, make the tummy appear to be smaller with extra height, and also draw the eye away from the middle of your figure. I believe in commuter shoes – wear one style en route, and change once you get to your desk.
  • Wide belts worn above your natural waist can create an hourglass shape and provide subtle gathering over your midsection. You’ll see in my outfit post archives that I own several wide belts and wear them at this location over dresses, cardigans, blazers, and more.

Proper Underpinnings
Control garments that cut you in half, hipsters that slide under the belly by lunchtime, bikinis that cut lines into hips… such pieces won’t make your tummy area look any better. For control garments, I like the ones that either strap to or around your bra or else come right up to the bra line. This type of garment won’t cut or emphasize your belly and give a smooth continuous line. For regular underwear, I like Hanky Panky’s Retro Thong which has a higher waist so it doesn’t cut or slide under the belly. A brief is better than a bikini for the same reason; some styles may look like granny panties but some brands make them high enough to stay put while looking darn feminine or sexy. Consider the same things when purchasing tights – Spanx makes tights that have a higher waist which prevents your tummy from being cut in half; DKNY does a good job of making an opaque durable tight with a control top that doesn’t give gas pains, fall down, or cut you in half.

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Ask Allie: Plus Size Wedding Guest Dresses

All my friends are getting married, I have six weddings already that I know I am or will be invited to and I know more are coming. I’m single and haven’t had a boyfriend in two years and on top of that I’m a size 20 while all my friends are tiny. I don’t want to go to these weddings and get stuck at the single people table and be the sad lonely fat girl but I know I need to go. Any advice on what to wear to boost my confidence?

It doesn’t matter what you wear to these weddings, if you feel you are a lonely fat girl and sit at that singles table looking sad you will look like a sad lonely fat girl. The best way to get through these weddings and life in general is to have a blast. When you live life completely it shows; it alters your face, your posture, your energy. So put on your favorite lipstick, slip on some heels (and a pair of ballet slippers tucked into your purse for the end of the night), and rock your fabulous self in a dress that is as full of life and joy and you and the event you are attending.

My personal recommendation is to steer clear of black unless it is a defining factor in your personal style. While black is versatile and acceptable at most American weddings these days, it can have one think you’re uncomfortable in your skin or depressed. Many choose black because they feel it looks slimming but it’s not going to make you look drastically different and can give the wrong impression. On the other hand, don’t wear anything too crazy flamboyant; the day isn’t about you and you can still look fun and vivacious without too much bling or cleavage. A bit of shape is far more flattering to the figure than a loose tent and shows you know style and you know your body. And I can’t stress this enough – don’t be afraid to spend money on this dress. If you choose wisely and it’s not the same exact crowd at every event, you can wear it several times over the wedding season and also bring it out for holiday parties. The harsh truth is those of us who are larger or softer need to take more care with our purchases. Buy quality pieces, invest in tailoring for a custom fit. We’re not built like mannequins and cheap fabric, unlined garments, and poor fit can make us look bigger and sloppy. If between sizes, go up a size and then hit your local bridal boutique to find someone to tailor it to a custom fit. A few dresses that have caught my eye and I would think perfect for weddings:

plus size wedding guest dresses

  1. Calvin Klein Ruffle Front Sheath Dress: The chartreuse color is phenomenal; if you think you’re too fair to wear such a color look up pictures of pale fashionistas like Nicole Kidman who have rocked this hue. Pair with hot pink or tomato red lips and nude heels, with a statement shoe in another bold color and lots of lashes, or go glam with metallic heels and sparkly earrings. The fabric is the type that can dress up and down with ease and work all seasons of the year.
  2. ASOS CURVE Premium Placed Nautical Mesh Insert Dress: I love the bold pattern of this dress, the flippy skirt, and the fresh color combination that would be so nice at an outdoor wedding. Let the dress make the statement with nude shoes and simple accessories, or pump up the look with a bold pout and shoes. No need to stick to a nautical choice of red; orange, pink, Kelly green, and yellow would all look fantastic with this frock.
  3. Carmen Marc Valvo Floral Jacquard Cocktail Dress: This is an elegant dress that will make a statement without shouting. Keep it simple with nude or soft metallic heels, make it more formal with a rhinestone belt, or add a pop of color with D’orsay heels or a skinny belt in a signature shade (hot pink would be awesome). This dress is also available via Rent the Runway.
  4. Adrianna Papell Gardenia Dress: Tailored without being tight, a pleated skirt that is begging you to be twirled on the dancefloor, and a bunch of customer reviews stating this dress is perfect for a wedding makes this dress a winner. Wear as-is with nude or soft metallic shoes or add a bit of shine with a sparkly or metallic skinny belt.
  5. MYNT 1792 Sequin Stretch Asymmetrical Drape Dress: Don’t let the description fool you, these tiny sequins give more of a look of liquid metal than Studio 54. The silver is surprisingly versatile and can be dressed up and down with a change of makeup, hair, and accessories. In the winter wear with a black clutch and shoes; come spring choose a nude shoe to lengthen the leg and let the dress steal the spotlight.
  6. Little Mistress Floral Placement Skater Dress: This sweet dress is feminine, flirty, and figure flattering. Perfect for a spring wedding, you can also pair with a cardigan and wear to the office. Don’t be afraid to switch out the belt for one that better fits your personal style or to dress up and down the frock.
  7. Marina Rinaldi Plissé-Panel Dress: I know, more chartreuse! But it’s a seriously versatile color. Wear this dress with the included gray ribbon, switch out for a metallic or sparkly belt, or choose a belt or sash in a bold contrast color like cobalt, orange, or hot pink. The cut of this dress is also very flexible if you’re like me and may gain or lose weight throughout the year.
  8. ASOS CURVE Hitchcock Pencil Dress: Va-va-va-voom! This dress will surely make a statement, and the color makes sure you won’t blend in with all the other frocks on the dancefloor. Adjustable straps give a better fit, and the dark green works year round. Wear in the warmer months with nude or soft metallic, but bring the dress back out this winter and pair with black or sparkle for holiday fetes.

If you are unable to spend for a dress, consider renting.

  • You all know I am a fan of Gwynnie Bee – they are like Netflix for fashion. For a monthly fee you can rent everything from jeans to blazers to sweaters to dresses for work or play. The customer reviews help you decide which piece will work best for your figure and personal style, and you can send back a piece quickly in the pre-labeled shipping bag and get a new one from Gwynnie Bee in a jiffy.
  • Another option is Rent the Runway who now offers plus sizes. This is an especially great option if you’re attending a more formal wedding and don’t want to drop hundreds on a gown you’ll likely never wear again. However, Rent the Runway has dresses appropriate for weddings of all formality and the rental price is that of a cheaper dress that may not make as great of a statement. With stylist notes and plenty of customer reviews with photos, you can get a good feel of what dress would be perfect for your occasion.

What to Wear for Family Portraits

We’re planning a family reunion to surprise my grandma for her 80th birthday. The big event planned is a professional family photo. We have agreed on jewel tones and solid blacks or grey, but I am not quite sure what photographs well, is stylish and won’t have me cringing 20 years from now. I am a size 14, busty and my style tends to trend a bit rocker chic. The color of the items is less important, but what do you think I should lean towards in regards to shape, material and style?

what to wear for a family portrait

You lucked out with the color scheme! Not only is this easy to find at any pricepoint, size, and personal style, but it’s also going to look less dated in a decade or two.

Some colors just don’t photograph well, and one of those is red. Luckily, there’s a ton of other jewel tones available that are far more flattering. I recommend going with a true jewel tone instead of a primary – emerald or teal in place of Kelly green, berry or violet instead of purple, garnet or merlot over red. The color should be one that you like, as your relatives will likely be wearing all different shades.

I’d recommend a knit top in a saturated color – ponte knit, merino wool, silk knit, and silk jersey all hold color really nicely, drape well over curves, and will look better in a photo than a traditional jersey knit. When it comes to the top, neckline makes all the difference. The photographer will likely have some of you standing, others sitting, so the body will end up blending into a sea of jewel tones and black. Choosing an interesting neckline will flatter your face, elongate your neck, and possibly slim the look of your figure. Scoop, surplice (faux wrap), and v-necklines are usually the most flattering, but depending on your personal style you may prefer a square or boatneck.

For the bottom, I recommend black over gray. I bet most of your relatives will also wear black, so you will blend in. Not only that, choosing black pants or black skirt and opaque tights with black shoes makes current trends for hemlines, shoes, and cuts not as obvious when admiring the photo in the future. Keep accessories to a minimum for that is what dates a look the most. Maybe a small necklace or a small pair of earrings, but no statement pieces. A photograph like this is about your family, not your personal style. However, if you have a favorite piece of jewelry that was a gift from your grandma or a family heirloom, it would be a lovely touch to wear it for the shoot.

As for hair and makeup, no matter how classic you try to make it, it will still look dated in 25 years. I love watching historical dramas from the ‘70s and ‘80s and how they thought feathered hair or rust-colored streaks under the cheekbones looked historically accurate. Just be yourself, but the most polished version of yourself. This post on how to prepare for a professional headshot offers suggestions on how to do your hair and makeup for any photo shoot.

Finally, SMILE! Your grandma and your family for years to come will far more enjoy a genuine grin than a sophisticated pout or wan smile. They’ve seen your teeth, your gums, your cheekbones, your chin at Thanksgiving and your cousin’s wedding, this is not the time to be self-conscious or do weird faces in an attempt to look younger, thinner, or different. This is your family, they deserve the real and happy you. For there is nothing more attractive than a genuinely happy person!

How to Wear Radiant Orchid

Every year Pantone comes out with a color of the year and the whole fashion world gets all riled up. Sometimes it’s a color that’s fun and flattering and easy to incorporate, sometimes it’s a big WTF and everyone rants on their blogs and Twitter about how the color SUCKS and they will BOYCOTT it and Pantone is CLUELESS and…

…here’s the thing. No one is putting a gun to your head and telling you to listen to Pantone. If you went through 2013 without a single bit of Emerald in your wardrobe, you’re not alone. Style comes from knowing yourself and expressing it, not from jumping on every trend bandwagon. And if you look like death warmed over in a pinky-purple sort of hue, then please PLEASE do not buy any Radiant Orchid. While I do own some pieces in this color (such as this sleeveless ponte dress from Dobbin Clothing), I doubt I will run out and buy a bunch more in this shade. It’s just not me. Emerald however, though it is passé by Pantone standards, will still be one of my favorite colors and will always have a place in my heart and closet.

Was my title something catchy that would increase pageviews and get me some SEO from Google searches? Eh maybe, though the title was written after the first two paragraphs of this post and I still didn’t have a decent title. And really, I wrote this post because… the way to wear Radiant Orchid is to wear it ONLY IF YOU LIKE IT. If you don’t like it, if it doesn’t flatter you, you don’t need to pair a scarf in its color with a mustard sweater (though I believe that combination would be gaw-geous), or wear it in a skirt with a navy blouse (another pretty pairing), or as a shell under an espresso brown pantsuit (fab), or as shoes with a pumpkin wool dress (how amazing would that pairing be?). Just don’t wear it, don’t buy it, and you can still (I PROMISE) be an incredibly chic and current and stylish human being.

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What to Wear to Paris

packing paris what to wear capsule wardrobe carryon

Oooh la la I am tres jealous of the many of you readers who write to me asking for Paris packing advice! I can’t wait until I can return, it would be so nice to share the experience this time with Emerson. Until then I shall live vicariously through you… and my collages.

While I understand having nerves dressing for the City of Light, the way to look the most like a tourist is to try too hard. Parisians are known for their effortless style, and they don’t require huge wardrobes to be chic. It is possible to be comfortable, pack relatively light, dress for the ever-changing weather, and still be stylish. Here’s some tips:

what to wear to paris capsule wardrobe europe Sample Capsule Wardrobe:


Prepare for the Elements. Nothing ruins a trip faster than being too hot, too cold, and in the case of what often happens in Paris, too wet. Check the five-day forecast before you go. Bring layers, an umbrella, a trench that repels water as well as wind (the ones with removable linings are brilliant). A pashmina can be a wrap for a dress come evening, and during the day can tuck into the collar of your coat to ward off chill. Have shoes that can handle puddles and slush.

Focus on Shoes. You can be comfortable without wearing sneakers. I highly recommend anyone who is traveling to invest in a quality pair of supportive shoes that are versatile. A slip-on or Mary Jane style of shoe with arch support and a good sole will work with pants, shorts, skirts, and casual dresses year-round. Keep in mind that Paris has many cobblestone streets, so thin soles and thin heels can be uncomfortable.

I love wearing tall boots for travel – I waterproof them and wear them on the plane to save suitcase space and find they are comfortable for long days on my feet, especially if they end up soggy. A riding boot in brown or black looks smart pulled over dark wash jeans, with knee-length skirts of all styles, and makes cozy airplane fashion of heavyweight leggings and a knit tunic downright chic.


Keep it Simple. While Paris is known for fashion, its street style is not as extreme and wild as you will find in New York. More subtle colors, classic silhouettes, solid shades are a smart way to look chic and not stick out like a sore thumb. Black is always a safe bet because it can dress up and down with ease, hides stains, is less memorable and is eternally chic. Jeans are acceptable, but keep them a dark wash, a slimmer style, and free of overly trendy details and embellishments. Keep logos and prints to a minimum – not only is this more stylish but it’s far easier to re-wear pieces that are less memorable.

Unlike America where we have become famous for “more is more,” less is more in Paris. One accessory is plenty, be it a statement necklace, scarf, or cuff bracelet. Same with your beauty routine – a full face hides your natural beauty, choose lush lashes or red lips or flushed cheeks, not all. Don’t worry about the perfect blowout; a few bends, a low ponytail or a messy updo is chic and shows you’re not trying too hard.


If in Doubt, Overdress. I believe in this rule no matter where you are, but it’s especially good advice in Europe, where they dress more formally than we in America. Leather shoes in place of sneakers, trousers instead of jeans, sweaters in place of tee shirts. Dresses aren’t ridiculous for sight seeing, a simple boatneck tee-shirt inspired dress with anything from short to bracelet length sleeves is comfortable, travel-friendly, and chic. If chilly, pair with tights and boots, a pashmina and a trench or moto jacket. When warm, wear with ankle boots or flats. Wrap dresses are another versatile piece, pair with boots for day and pumps for evening.

And come evening, unless you know your audience and your personal style, leave the jeans and tee shirts in your hotel room. Even if it’s dinner in a simple café, a pair of trousers and a sweater or twinset is a better choice. No need to be decked out in silk and velvet, just have a bit more polish and care to your outfit. A scarf is a quick way to make anything look more polished, be it a printed silk square knotted at the throat or a cotton voile oblong piece looped around the throat.

Pack Smart Accessories. As I mentioned, a pashmina can multitask; a necklace with a ribbon closure can adjust length depending on your outfit; boots and flats can work with dresses as well as ankle-length trousers. A silk scarf can be tied to your purse for flair, around your neck for color, or even kerchief style on a windy day. A bag with a handle as well as a crossbody strap is on trend and great when you want your hands to drink a coffee or capture a photograph.


Keep a Simple Color Palette. There’s nothing wrong with dressing in all neutrals when on travel, it’s easier to rewear pieces, stains are less obvious, and pieces mix and match with ease. While I am one who loves hot pink and red and emerald green, when I travel my wardrobe is primarily black, gray, white, denim, and navy with only touches of color. A black boatneck knit tee dress is great for day with riding boots, but can work for evening with black pumps. A silk jersey shell with jeans and ballet flats is lovely for museum hopping; switch the denim for a black matte jersey maxi skirt and you’re prepared for your evening activities.

It’s okay to wear the same more than once, honestly it is! Take Tide to Go pens, a bar of Ivory soap, and spot clean your clothing. One thing nice is that travel-friendly fabrics like matte jersey are also quick drying – spot clean, hang up, and it will be ready to be re-worn the next day. The French usually have smaller closets than we and do this on a regular basis, to re-wear is smart and chic!

I always believe that the simpler the wardrobe, the more time you have to enjoy your trip.  Pack smart, and use your energy to see the sights and soak in the culture!

What to Wear on an Alaskan Cruise

Via your emails, comments and contact form submissions, it seems as though many of you are planning cruises to Alaska in the next year and are wondering what to pack. I have written about what to pack for a cruise before, but that assumes that you are headed to a warm tropical locale. While the same fashion can be worn for formal nights on a cruise or when spending time on the ship, the main thing to factor is excursions.

Unlike a tropical cruise where excursions include zip lines, kayaks, and private beaches; an Alaskan cruise will have excursions that will require you to be prepared for the elements. The weather can be very different depending on where you are and what you are doing, so it is best to dress in layers. My husband and I took a cruise through the fjords in Norway and at some points I was freezing and other times I was frantically shedding layers to be comfortable in the warm sun. From what I have read and from what friends have told me, it seems that it can be quite similar to Alaska, where it can be downright frigid near the glaciers and in the middle of summer can be anywhere between 40 to 70 degrees during the day. Some ports like Juneau are more rainy than others, and Alaska can also be pretty windy (as can the ship deck).

What to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise

Your main clothing can be pretty typical – a pair of jeans or pants, a long-sleeved tee or lightweight sweater and possibly a base layer (camisole or undershirt). However, what you put over all this is what’s important. A fleece jacket is great because it is warm, water and wind resistant. A hood will make it all the more versatile and can be your lightweight jacket for the entire trip. While most cruises provide ponchos, having a proper raincoat can be a very good thing – much warmer and more durable. I have a packable hooded raincoat from Calvin Klein (not mine, but a similar version) that I adore because it’s waterproof, windproof, long enough to cover the rear when sitting, cinches at the waist to ward off chill and flatter the figure, but is loose enough to comfortably layer over a sweater or fleece. Since it’s packable, it can handle being stuffed in a bag when the weather warms. Speaking of stuffing in a bag, having a packable tote or backpack is great for excursions so you have somewhere to stuff your coat when you get warm or store your souvenirs.

Hats are an instant way to be warm and protected and they don’t take a lot of room. A fleece beanie takes up no space and can protect your ears and scalp from wind and rain; a crushable bucket hat can not only keep you and your camera dry when taking photos in drizzle, but it can also double as a sun hat. A pair of lightweight gloves also take up little space in your suitcase and will be nice to have if you visit the ice fields. There will be sun, even if it’s hidden behind clouds so be sure to apply sunscreen and bring sunglasses. Alaska is known for its mosquitoes, so be sure to pack a bottle of bug repellant.

Shoes can make or break your adventure, so be sure whatever pair you take is properly broken in before your journey. While they may be adorable, this is not the time for Hunter boots. A hiking shoe or boot that is lightweight will make for easy walking and fewer blisters; one made with Gor-Tex will also be waterproof. If you plan on doing a lot of activities, you may want a second pair of walking or hiking shoes. This is a good time to invest in proper hiking socks – they are shaped, padded, and from high-tech materials (or good old merino wool) to keep your toes dry and warm all day.

Not every part of an excursion will have you fighting the elements; use your raincoat or fleece with an umbrella tucked in your bag for shopping and sightseeing. This is also a great time to have that packable bag to hold your coat or new purchases.

As for the rest of your clothing, bring your bathing suit – even though it’s chilly on land, the ship is often warm enough to take a dip in the pool or hot tub. Instead of a gauzy pareo, a thicker terry cover up may be a wiser choice for poolside. For daytime, pants and shorts with lightweight sweaters and knit tops will be good – layers will also be good on deck (as well as a pair of binoculars!). For evening, standard cruise attire applies. A handful of LBDs, cocktail dresses, or sparkly tops with dressy pants or skirt will get you through dinners and drinks at a bar. Finally, don’t forget the workout gear! Cruise ships have wonderful gyms and a workout can help with the longer days and different time zone!

 

What to Wear to a Concert

To some, music is a religious experience. While many houses of worship these days encourage a “come as you are” dress code, I don’t recommend doing so either for church or a concert. While I doubt neither a god nor a rock god would question your devotion based upon your attire, what you choose to wear is a sign of respect. This is not just respect for the artist, but for the venue, the staff, and the audience around you.

Saturday night, I went to the newly renovated historic Howard Theater in Washington DC to see Chuck Berry perform. The theater is gorgeous and elegant, a fine dining establishment as well as concert venue. Waiters in crisp black shirts and trousers served us delicious fare and signature cocktails at our table where we were just a dozen feet or so from the stage where a living legend would perform. For such an event, I felt it appropriate to dress as I would for an evening at a nice restaurant. My sister and I wore dresses that would have been appropriate at work or a party, my mother wore cobalt blue cropped trousers with a black drapey cardigan and bold silver jewelry.

I knew considering the venue and the entertainment for the evening, fashion would run the gamut from jeans to sequins. Figuring the artist would appeal mainly to those from his generation, I assumed that the crowd would be dressed nicely (trousers, refined jeans with a fun or fancy jacket, more casual of dresses) and with respect. Unfortunately, I was very wrong. A large percentage of the crowd was in worn jeans, faded band tee shirts and dirty sneakers. While a concert is a place to show your music devotion, to do so at the Howard Theater in a torn black Johnny Cash tee shirt washed so often it has turned a weird shade of gray-green is not how to do it.

The thing is, such attire can be appropriate to certain concerts and live music venues. Below I try to break down the different types of concert venues and when it makes sense to wear your beloved well-worn Johnny Cash tee, and when it should be left at the bottom of your dresser drawer.


The Coffee Shop
One of my favorite places for live music is a small café or coffee shop. While patrons sip their cappuccinos and discuss politics, a lesser-known (for now) artist or small band perform an acoustic set. It’s a great way to try out different genres of music, support local artists, and often experience a musician before they get their big break. At such a place, casual attire is expected and encouraged. Wear your favorite band on your shirt (or the artist on the stage), rock your well-worn denim, and choose attire that makes you feel like yourself. At such a place, most anything goes so you can go with jeans or you can wear a dress and heels. However, do remember you are more likely to be able to meet and chat with the musician – don’t wear your tattered tee and sweatpants; choose clothing in good condition to show your respect for the artist (and to be ready in case of a photo op!).


The Dive Bar
Another fabulous place to see an artist perform – the crowd is enthusiastic, the beer is cheap, and folks are more interested in the band than what you are wearing. You will most likely be standing most of the night, so choose your footwear accordingly. A bar is a bit more social than a coffee shop, so your attire can be more festive – trade the cozy sweater for a fitted tee, and wear your most flattering jeans but feel free to be more relaxed in your attire. Dress for a night out of fun and feel free to don the sequined tank, the smoky eye, or the wristful of bangles.


The Concert in the Park
Maybe it’s an amphitheater in town, possibly it’s a day festival in the park, or it could be the Louisiana Swamp Romp at Wolf Trap – such an event is relatively small in scale and relaxed in nature. Folks bring their kids, their picnic blankets, lie back in the grass and enjoy the wonderful combination of music and nature. You’ll often be sitting on the ground, so this is not the place for the Herve Leger bandage dress or stiletto heels. However, there’s no need to don sweats. Celebrate the wonderful weather and wonderful venue with cropped pants, shorts, or a fuller skirt or dress that will make it easy to sit and kneel without exposure. I don’t recommend jeans as they are usually too rigid for comfortable ground-sitting, but also don’t recommend delicate fabrics or pieces that wrinkle easily. Twill, crisp cotton, sturdy knits, and gauzy fabrics are your best bet for an outdoor event of this style. Wear flats or wedges so you can easily walk in soft grass or on gravel, and be sure to bring a waterproof groundcloth in case you end up sitting in a slightly muddy area.


The General Admission Club
As you know from my blog, I love the 9:30 Club in DC. I have been going since I was a teen and they were at their old location, and enjoy the energy of a GA crowd. The attire for such a venue is pretty similar to that of a bar – comfortable shoes for standing, and fun yet semi-casual attire. While jeans and band tee shirts are a common uniform at such a venue, it is also acceptable to wear dresses and the sort of attire appropriate for a night out on the town. Some venues like this are more trendy than others, I recommend checking out their website before attending to see if it’s a place for tee shirts, or one for more stylish garb.  I often wear dresses and boots to have comfort as well as style appropriate for any location. Keep in mind that there won’t be a place for you to store your purse – carry a crossbody or bag you can comfortably keep at your side yet still lets you dance the night away. I usually pare down my purse contents to just the essentials (lipstick, maybe powder, ID, credit card, ticket, phone with built-in camera) so I can have a small bag or even just store everything in my jean pockets.


The Theater or Historic Venue
Maybe you’re seeing The Jacksons Unity Tour at the Lyric Opera House, Blue Oyster Cult at the Howard Theater, or Ryan Adams at the Strathmore. These are venues that not only showcase musical artists, but also award galas, ballets, and special events. The décor at such a venue is elegant and refined, they occasionally have dining with waiter service or posh lounge areas to enjoy before the event or at intermission.

While you may be able to see the same artist the next night at a seedy GA club, that doesn’t mean you should wear the same attire. You should dress more for the venue than the artist. Such venues have dedicated staff and committees working hard to keep them looking great, and often go to great lengths for fundraising to cover renovations and upgrades. To attend an event in a place with chandeliers wearing a pair of filthy Reeboks is utterly inappropriate. No need to don a ballgown, but a pair of proper shoes, crisp jeans with a fun top, or a dress or pair of elegant trousers is fitting. However, if the event has a theme (it’s at Christmas, New Year’s Eve, the anniversary of the venue, being filmed for a live concert video), it would be appropriate to dress in a more formal manner.


The Arena
Maybe it’s Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland, possibly it’s where your local sports team plays. This is a large venue made to host big concerts from well-known acts, usually with big flashy sets. Such a venue is usually stadium seating with tickets assigned to each seat. For such an event, you can wear the same thing as you would to a GA club – jeans or dresses with shoes that let you stand up and dance for two hours straight. Though you will have a seat to place your coat, I still recommend a crossbody bag or at least putting your valuables on your person. The one thing to consider at such a venue is stairs – you will be climbing up and down stairs to visit the concession stand or bathroom, and will be sitting often at a strong incline (may not be the best for very high heels or very short skirts).

Such a venue is also the place for the True Fan. Here’s where Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters can get decked out in sequins and spangle, Marilyn Manson’s audience can wear crazy contacts and black lipstick, Further fans will be in tie-dye Grateful Dead tees from years ago, and you will see a gaggle of Katy Perry preteen fans in matching tee shirts and glittery UGG boots. Dressing the part of the True Fan is an accepted and fun experience.

Many venues like this also have a field for general admission seating – if you have tickets for this portion of the arena, refer to the dress code for a concert in the park.


The Music Festival
I recently wrote about this sort of venue here. Pretty much, dress first for the weather and conditions, and then dress for your personal style and passion for the music.

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What to Wear for a Hospital Vigil

This morning I stood in front of my closet, feeling like a superficial, self-absorbed jerk. I was trying to figure out what to wear, and in a few hours my sister was going to have brain surgery. How could I be even THINKING about fashion at a time like this?

Then I remembered all the other times I have spent all day (and all night and sometimes the next day) in a hospital waiting room, anxious for an update on a loved one. Times when my poor sartorial choices distracted me from the situation at hand. Shivering in too lightweight of a sweater, sweltering in a wool turtleneck, gas pains from too tight jeans, aching feet in heels, constantly adjusting a wrinkled-beyond-belief button-front shirt. Remembering that no matter how somber or stressful the situation, taking a moment to think before you dress can make you far more comfortable, as well as helpful to others.

I decided on my black and ivory striped long-sleeve LOFT tee, a red cashmere pashmina looped around my throat (Christmas gift from my sister), my black MICHAEL Michael Kors thigh-length sweater coat, my NYDJ jeans tucked into my new black riding boots from DUO. I made my hair straight, knowing that when it’s that way it holds up better after napping, or if I can’t leave in the next day or so to take a shower.

I chose red, because it is a power color, and a cheery color. I chose a larger pair of jeans for the added comfort level (and possible bloating from salty snack bar meals and caffeinated sodas to keep me awake long hours). Boots which are as comfortable as sneakers, but make me feel more confident and look more pulled together. Every piece with spandex so I won’t be a rumpled mess by time my sister is in Recovery.

Clothing is armor, a way to feel strong and confident in uncomfortable or strange situations. Caring about yourself doesn’t mean you are a selfish person, but a prepared individual. By taking those few moments in front of the closet for myself, it made me far more ready to care for my sister and family the rest of the day. A half hour of self-care results in hours of care for others without a single thought about how I may look, how I may feel.

This is not a subject I like to be an expert in, but over the past couple of decades I have become quite the pro at waiting at hospitals for loved ones. I have learned that proper preparation in regard to my fashion has ensured I am helpful, quick to respond, comfortable, and not a burden. I feel comfortable seeing friends and family who come to visit, having consultations with doctors, and staying for long periods of time away from home. Here’s my tips for how to have a comfortable experience as a hospital visitor:

Wear Layers. Hospitals are either freezing cold or suffocatingly hot. It doesn’t matter if it’s January or July, it’s smart to wear layers. Start with a lightweight knit layer – a refined tee shirt that looks smart when worn by itself. Over that, I recommend a stretchy jacket or cardigan – something that can be balled up into a makeshift pillow or stuffed into a toe bag but can then be put on without looking like a crumpled paper bag. Finally, I am a huge fan of pashminas – a large scarf that can be looped around the throat for a pop of color or warmth, can be wrapped around the shoulders as a shawl, or can be a makeshift blanket.

Wear Stretch. Not only will stretch keep your clothes from looking crumpled over the hours, but it will also keep your comfortable after hours of sitting in an uncomfortable waiting room chair. Ponte de Roma trousers are as comfy as yoga pants but more refined and polished; a pair of dark denim with 3-5% Lycra will look great but also hold up throughout the day or night.

Pieces like button-front shirts and structured jackets will prove uncomfortable and awkward in a waiting room setting. Weirdly shaped chairs that force you to slouch, constantly taking off and putting on layers for fluctuating temperatures, and the random catnap sitting up will leave you with your bra peeking through buttonholes, strong creases in cotton, and you looking as bedraggled as you feel. While the idea of a crisp white shirt may make you feel strong at 8am, you will regret it by noon.

Wear Color. Red and pink me feel happy, feminine, confident so I wear them when I feel sad or stressed. If you are to be strong or cheerful, it’s far easier to do it when wearing a strong or cheerful color. While I don’t expect you to dress like a box of crayons, adding at least a pop of color to your ensemble will show you have a positive outlook on the situation.

Wear Your Heart. When my father was in the hospital just before he passed away, I went to visit him wearing my favorite sweater of his. It is a cobalt and magenta marled turtleneck that looked cool on him in the ‘70s and looked pretty cool on me with vintage jeans in the ‘90s. My dad was in and out of consciousness as I went into his room, I caught him at a lucid moment. He looked at me, winked and said, “Nice sweater, kid.”

Did your grandmother give you her strand of wedding pearls? Does your mother like you best in blue? Did your husband buy you an amber bracelet in Bermuda? If you even think of that accessory, color or garment when planning the day see that as life giving you a sartorial suggestion. Not only will it make you feel closer to that person during a difficult time, it will bring a smile to your loved one’s face when they get a chance to see you in Recovery.

Wear Comfortable Shoes. You will be standing a lot, sitting a lot, and depending on the size of the hospital campus you may be walking a lot. A sturdy shoe with a low heel and a roomy toebox will stay comfortable as your feet swell during the day or if you have to wear your shoes for an extended amount of time.

What to Bring:

  • A Reusable Water Bottle. Fill up your bottle with water at home for you may not have access to anything other than $5 8 oz. bottles and the public bathroom sink once you get to the hospital. Staying hydrated will keep you from feeling sluggish and will help with circulation during long hours of sitting or pacing.
  • Snacks. Some hospitals have wonderful snack bars and restaurants, others notsomuch. Even if you have access to food, it may not be the quality desire or the price you want to pay. Today I brought two FiberOne granola bars, two apples, a bag of microwave popcorn, and a bag of baby carrots for me and my mom, my mom also brought her own bag of snacks. Most hospitals will have at least coffee and a microwave available, but you cannot rely on filtered water or refrigeration. Find that comfortable balance between yummy comfort food and healthy choices – if you lean too far in either direction you may end up feeling miserable.
  • Entertainment. Today I brought my laptop, a journal, the latest issue of Bazaar, and a novel. It’s good to have variety because you may be too distracted to be able to focus on your book, or find the Internet overwhelming. I really encourage all to have a way to write down their feelings – when you are in a position where you need to be strong but don’t feel that way, writing or typing your feeling can help alleviate the stress and keep you strong for loved ones. It’s also a good way to journal the situation if you have a bad or wonderful hospital situation or want to let the patient know what happened while they were in surgery.
  • Basic Toiletries. Even successful procedures can go longer than expected; having basic beauty products on hand can make your stay more comfortable. Toothpaste and toothbrush, eye rewetting drops for contacts (I also encourage a case and travel-sized bottle of solution and backup glasses in case of an overnight vigil), and I really love Body Shop’s Vitamin E Face Mist for rehydrating skin after a trying day or to help reset makeup if you had a bit of a cryfest. 

    I also bring makeup for a touch-up after a snooze or some tears – in my bag is a travel pack of facial cleansing wipes, a tube of mascara, Philosophy’s The Supernatural mineral foundation (foundation and powder in one and a spill-proof container), and Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Rose (can double as blush). 

    If you take medications, bring them. You don’t want to have to rush home for your pills at a time like this.

  • Phone Charger. Nothing is worse than having your phone die when you need it. All day I have been using my phone to keep friends and family posted on my sister’s progress and when I’m not texting or emailing, I have it plugged into a USB charger cord connected to my laptop. A wall charger is the best choice – every waiting room has an outlet or two available even if it doesn’t have WiFi.
  • Calendar. Whether it’s on your phone, or your paper agenda book, have your calendar ready to help the patient schedule post-op appointments or plan out family get-togethers in the upcoming days.
  • Cash. Dollars to pay for parking, quarters for meters and vending machines – hospitals are known for not being credit card-friendly. Instead of having to search all over for an ATM with an insane user fee, be prepared with at least $30 a day ($10 or more in $1 bills and at least $2 in quarters).

***

I hope you never have to use this information, but if you do please know that caring for yourself and your personal style at such a time is not selfish. If you care for yourself, you can do a far better job at caring for others. Take the time to nurture and prepare yourself so you can dedicate yourself to the health of your loved one.

Note: Thank you to all who have shared this post with those who need this information.  My thoughts go out to you and I wish you strength during this difficult time.  My sister made it out of surgery great, they got all of the tumor and she is recovering nicely.  I wish the same to your loved ones.  Much love to all of you!

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What to Wear on Weekends?

Saturday my family and I went to an open house for the neighborhood nursery school. This is an amazing school – great teacher to child ratio, walking distance from the house, co-op, encourages parent involvement. The open house began at 10:00 but we didn’t arrive until after 12:00 because my husband teaches yoga Saturday mornings. While he was at his class, I got dressed for the event. We were walking to the open house, so I had to wear something that worked with my walking-friendly DUO boots. Too cold for a dress, and anyway it’s too difficult to crawl on the floor with a toddler in a shift. I decided on tucking a dark pair of jeans into the tan boots. Now for the top – I didn’t want to look too glam – they may think I am a distant mother who can’t handle a sticky finger handprint. I also didn’t want to wear a long pendant necklace that could hit Emerson or another kiddo if I bent down to help them with a toy. However I didn’t want to not look like myself, and I am not a woman who regularly leaves her home in hoodies or tee shirts. I ended up wearing a black and white Breton-stripe tee shirt with a short black coral necklace, and my Lands End black quilted coat.

My husband came home and asked me how long it took for me to put together a look of jeans, a tee shirt, and my go-to boots. Um, about 30 minutes, and during those 30 minutes I tried on five different striped shirts.

It may seem ridiculous to worry so much about what I wear to such a small and informal event, but people are judged on first impressions no matter the situation, no matter the time. You could make a late-night dash to CVS for cough syrup for your little one and bump into your college sweetheart. You could be in line at Starbucks and meet someone who could offer you your dream job. While pumping gas, you may see your favorite celebrity at a different pump and have the opportunity to meet him and snap a photo. Who hasn’t bumped into a neighbor when shopping at the grocery store or picking up takeout at the nearby pizza parlor?

While deciding on a striped tee, I was glad that I had a pared-down wardrobe. No stained, oversized, or embarrassing items in the collection. If it’s not wearable, it’s repaired or removed. No “skinny jeans” taking up real estate in my drawer, no “bummy” clothes to wear lounging around the house. Just options.

I used to have a drawer full of “lounge” clothes. Faded yoga pants, old tee shirts, hoodies, fleece pullovers. These were clothes I would change into after work or slip on Sunday mornings. They were comfy, warm, cozy, and it didn’t matter if they got splattered with bacon grease or baby spitup. The thing is, when you have a collection of such clothing, it becomes very difficult to separate them from your gym attire, and your street attire. It’s easy to justify wearing old sweatpants and your husband’s windbreaker to the grocery store when it is readily available. If you start your weekend day in loungewear and then have to run to the bank or to take your child to a play date, it’s too easy, and takes less time to leave your attire as-is for such an errand.

I still have a drawer of “lounge” clothes, but they are all clothes that are in good condition. Two pairs of dark black yoga pants, and a few scoop-neck tees that nip in at the waist and are in bright jewel tones. Two hoodies – one dark black, one in a gorgeous shade of berry – both in great condition. A pair of padded bike shorts and two moisture-wicking tops for when I go for a ride with my husband. A couple band tee shirts – most with the neck cut out to have a more flattering silhouette. One sweatshirt – a navy crewneck from college. One pair of vintage jeans that are a length that works with sneakers and flat shoes. One pair of olive chino shorts.

That’s it. From this collection I have something to wear to the gym or a yoga class, something to wear when painting a piece of furniture on the back deck, something to wear when working in the garden or on the car.

On weekends I wear a pair of jeans with Lycra so I can crawl under furniture to dust, chase after Emerson and still look pulled together. On top I wear a tank or tee with a layer on top – a cardigan, soft jacket, sweater. The bottom layer keeps the top layer from having to be laundered after every wear; the top layer is of a flattering yet machine-washable fabric and usually of a solid color. Many times, the same sweaters and tops I wear to work with trousers and pencil skirts are worn on the weekend with jeans. Come summer, I spend most weekends in cotton sundresses – I find gems for less than $15 at shops like Ross and Marshall’s.

As previously mentioned, I don’t wear sneakers unless I am going to the gym. I have a pair of tall flat boots (the DUO boots) that can be worn under bootcut jeans or pulled over narrow denim. I add a waterproofing spray twice a year so they can survive spring showers and winter slush. In the garden and when doing dirty projects like spraypainting or getting in the attic, I must admit I wear a pair of Crocs. Come summer, I love leather sandals – each year Lands End and Lands End Canvas sell a flat leather sandal that looks great with shorts, skirts, and pants and is as comfortable as a pair of Old Navy flip flops.

When you have too many options, you have too much opportunity for error.

I encourage you to take an evening this week (or an hour or two of your weekend) and go through your comfortable garb. Do you really need eight pairs of sweatpants? How about those smelly Chucks you have owned since college? All those tee shirts from college – consider having them made into a quilt and head to Target or another discount retailer for some new tee shirts in feminine silhouettes and flattering colors. Base the size of your collection on the amount of activities you do where you can’t afford to ruin your street clothes. It’s appealing to save specific ensembles just for painting your home or washing the dog, but I bet the apparel for these events can be consolidated into one or two outfits.

As you would do with your regular wardrobe, make three piles – keep, donate, repair. Rarely can loungewear be repaired, but sometimes you can stitch up a loose seam in a pair of yoga pants or re-thread the drawstring on a hoodie. If the item is in condition where you wouldn’t want to be caught dead in it, it shouldn’t take up real estate in your wardrobe.

Often you will complete this purge and realize you don’t have enough of what you really need – well-fitting yoga pants when you have old terry sweatpants, moisture-wicking tops when you only have ratty tees, a rain-resistant pullover when all you have are old jersey sweatshirts. Make a list, carry it with you, and slowly buy quality pieces that fit, flatter, and can handle a beating.

Life is an amazing adventure, and takes place whether or not you are up for the ride. Being dressed well for the journey makes it all the more enjoyable. When you have a well-stocked wardrobe, you can spend your life living, not dreading the chance to bump into your ex.

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What to Wear to a Conference

At some time in your life you will attend a conference. It may be for your church, your blog, your job. These days it seems that everyone is sponsoring one, and everyone is attending.

So with all these conferences on your agenda, what the heck are you supposed to wear?

Yesterday I attended an industry conference and was surrounded by folks who drool over iPads and Droids instead of Manolos and Marc Jacobs. However I have attended conferences for blogging, for fashion, for charities, for previous industries, for my church. Even though the topics are different, the fashion is generally the same.

A conference is a place to learn about new trends, new technology, and brainstorm as a group. However conferences are most popular because they are a place to network. Think of a conference as a laid-back job interview – you never know, the person sitting next to you during one presentation could be your new boss if you play your cards right, or could be the person to take your current job from good to great. Considering this, it is important to put your best-dressed foot forward.

Image Courtesy Hole in the Donut Travels  

Basic Conference Fashion Rules:

  • Cleavage is not cool. Unless you are attending a conference of Hooters employees, it’s not cool to show off a bunch of cleavage. This doesn’t mean wearing a turtleneck in August, however a camisole with your wrap dress or v-neck sweater would be a good idea.
  • Have your clothes fit. A conference, like a job interview, is a place where a person can spend a lot of time looking at you. While you stand sipping your coffee or sit at a table in a ballroom taking notes, having clothes that fit will make you look more confident and more successful. It is better to have a cheap jacket button without gaping and have the sleeves at the right length, than swim in a designer jacket that is the wrong size or shape. Along with this, a conference is not the place for safety pins, Stitch Witchery or other makeshift manners of hemming and altering of garments. If you don’t have the time to take the piece to a tailor, don’t wear it.
  • Polish your shoes. Again, it’s not as much the cost of the shoe as it is the condition. A pair of black pumps from Marshalls can do just fine with a bit of polish and shine. Scuffed shoes, worn down heels, peeling soles don’t put forth a confident and professional appearance.
  • Don’t wear anything that can’t handle being worn for long periods of time, and be worn for that period of time while sitting. A conference is not the place to wear linen (unless it’s a conference at a tropical resort). So many times I see women in cotton sheaths or slim fitting trousers who stand up after a lecture and covered in a sea of wrinkles and creases. Also be sure what you wear is comfortable – there is nothing worse than spending hours at an event with a waistband digging into your belly or a shirt pulling at your shoulders each time you lean forward. Give your clothes a practice run – try wearing them while sitting, while writing or typing. See how the outfit holds up – does your bra peek through the buttons of your shirt when you lean forward? Does the zipper scratch your neck? Find out these things before you arrive onsite.
  • Bring layers! Ballrooms and hotel conference rooms are known for having the A/C on max – prepare by bringing a jacket, cardigan or even pashmina that can be wrapped around your shoulders when chilly, or tucked into your bag when it gets warm.
  • Have a bag for swag. Most conferences offer some sort of swag, be it logoed pens, tee shirts, or treats from the sponsors. Instead of being the goof walking around with a plastic bag stuffed to the gills, prepare with a bag big enough to hold your essentials plus what you acquire at the event (if you are attending an event where you know there will be lots of swag prepare with a packable tote in your primary bag).
  • Pack your bag properly. Don’t show up at a conference empty-handed. I like to bring my own note pad, several pens (one will always die on me), a fully-charged phone (and charger if you plan on Tweeting or using it to surf the Web), a camera (you never know who you will meet or what you will see that will inspire future work), basic purse essentials (check out my purse essentials for ideas). If you have a laptop, netbook or iPad, this is the place to bring it. Blogging, work-related, tech, and many personal topic conferences encourage their attendees to Tweet, blog, and Facebook post about the event in real-time.
  • Bring business cards. If you are attending a work-related event, bring your work cards. However even if you are attending a conference for personal reasons, it’s such a good idea to have business cards to pass out to new contacts and friends. VistaPrint offers free business cards (only pay for shipping – and get 50% off everything else if you first go to Ebates) – get some with your name, cell number, email address, and any relevant social networking addresses (blog, Twitter, personal Web site, etc.). These business cards will show their worth in a short time – you will find that you not only dole them out at conferences, but will pass them to people in line at the grocery store, at your son’s playgroup, at a bridal shower. My mom just ordered new personal business cards – they have an image in the background that she likes, and they have her email address and telephone number. She passes these out at all those situations where you’re ready to tear off a piece of paper and write down your digits, a Web site, a recipe, etc.

Image courtesy IUAP 

Job-related Conference
Don’t be afraid to ask about the dress code – I actually found out the dress code for yesterday’s conference by watching the Twitter feed for the event. Another woman had the guts to ask, and I was happy to also receive the answer. Conference veterans often have their uniforms for such events and don’t even think twice. Men also have it pretty easy – a suit, or at least a nice shirt with trousers works for most any event. We as women have a harder time; don’t be afraid to email the event organizers and ask – it’s better than wearing a power suit in a room full of jeans (or jeans in a room full of suits).

Speaking of which, it’s always better to dress up than dress down. Yes, there were a few folks in jeans at yesterday’s conference, but at least 70% of the crowd was in business attire and the rest were in non-denim versions of business casual. I am not one who feels comfortable or myself in a suit; I chose to wear a sheath dress with a ponte knit jacket on top – it was comfortable and still business attire.

If you can’t find out the dress code, it’s best to dress in what you would usually wear to work (as long as your workplace expects clothes other than jeans and sweats). A nice tailored shirt or sweater with crisp trousers or skirt is a nice non-suit – pair with tall boots or pumps for a classic look that isn’t boring or dowdy. As women we can also wear dresses, which is a great way to look professional while still showing personality and flattering the figure.

As mentioned, I recommend wearing a closed-toe shoe for the same reason I encourage women to hide their cleavage – you don’t know who will be there, and who may be offended. Keep hemlines hovering around the knee, feel free to wear tailored but not tight clothes, and in most circles, better to be safe than sorry and cover those tootsies.

When it comes to personal style, I am all for letting it show a bit. Wear your favorite color, switch out the black pumps for one with a leopard print or a platform in a rich-colored suede. Instead of a suit, consider a cashmere wrap sweater or a leather motocross-inspired jacket with a simple pencil skirt.  Prints are a way to stand out in the crowd without drawing the wrong attention. Yesterday I couldn’t help but notice a woman in a tan and brown giraffe-print wrap dress – the dress fit her well, wasn’t too showy, but was beautiful sight in a sea of grays and blacks.

Also consider your accessories – keep them professional, but don’t be afraid to show a bit of your personal style. I overheard conversations between colleages speaking of another conference attendee. I heard people being described as, “the woman with the purple glasses,” or “the woman with the orange scarf.” If you want to network and make an impression, consider an accessory to have you stand out in the crowd. This doesn’t mean bring your Mac in a Hello Kitty laptop sleeve or wear a pair of lime green leather pants, but it’s a great idea to choose a red croco-embossed tote, a beautiful enamel pin on your lapel, a fabulous scarf at your throat. Be memorable without being outlandish.

Image Courtesy Flickriver

Creative Job-related Conference
There are creative jobs, and then there are all other jobs. When you work in a creative field, dress codes are far more relaxed.

Here, you could carry off lime green leather trousers or a Hello Kitty laptop sleeve. It’s important to show what type of creative force you are – whether you are great at design, photography, social media, fashion, or art. However keep in mind that the day is not about you, but about the speakers and topics. Think about how celebs and fashionistas dress when attending Fashion Week – they dress to impress, but never to outshine the fashion on the runways. Respect the event, but stay true to yourself.

Image courtesy Venus Vision

Personal Conference
Maybe you are a direct seller or sorority member attending your national conference. Possibly you are attending an event for fellow scrapbookers or bloggers. You could be attending an event supporting your church or political party. Personal topic conferences are becoming more and more popular; even if they don’t relate to your place of employment it is still important to dress to impress.

Consider a personal conference like a creative conference. Dress to show your personality, as well as the tone of the event. Again, don’t fear contacting the event coordinators to find out the dress code, and be sure to wear something that is comfortable for hours of sitting, standing, and sometimes trekking around a major city.

Personal conferences are often more casual – think casual Friday. I don’t believe in showing up to an event in ratty jeans, tennies and a sweatshirt, but do think that dark, stylish jeans are usually appropriate when matched with more polished pieces. Think jeans with tall boots over them, or jeans with a boyfriend blazer or Chanel-inspired cardigan and silk camisole. Dresses are always a great conference choice because they are flattering and comfortable. Pair with tall boots or wedges for a stylish walking-friendly look.

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The Multi-day Conference
Many conferences are more than just one day, and usually have events that take place before and after work hours. Be sure to go over the agenda and see what sort of events are taking place – is there a happy hour at a restaurant? Visit the restaurant’s Web site to see if it’s a place for jeans and Buffalo wings, or cocktail dresses and martinis. Also plan for events you don’t think you will attend – you never know who you will meet and befriend – they may encourage you to go horseback riding or to a nightclub when from the safety of your home you wouldn’t ever expect to do such things. It’s always a safe bet to pack and outfit that would work for an outdoor/athletic excursion and a LBD or sparkly top to have just in case you head to a more festive evening event.

Longer conferences are more likely to offer a dress code up front, and it’s usually a more relaxed attire than one-day events. Conference coordinators know that people are coming by plane and don’t expect you to pack three days worth of power suits. This is a time when dresses are great – they can pack into nothing, steam out usually by hanging in the bathroom while you take a hot shower, and are versatile.

Shoes usually take up the most space in a suitcase, so plan out your wardrobe where you can get away with the fewest pairs. I like pumps because they can be paired with skirts, dresses, pants and even some jeans. Also be sure to pack a pair of walking-friendly shoes – longer conferences often have tourist-friendly events like museum-hopping or a shopping tour.

Think of a multi-day conference as you would a trip overseas – pack versatile, multi-use pieces like black sheath dresses, dark jeans and black pumps, pack clothes that can withstand being stuffed in a suitcase or being sat in for hours on end, shoes that can be worn and walked in for an entire day, and layers to feel comfortable no matter the temperature. As with any event, be sure to show your personal style with fabulous accessories, your favorite colors, and your favorite signature piece, be it a paisley scarf, a pumpkin-colored velvet blazer, a print matte jersey wrap dress or vintage-inspired T-strap heels.

No matter the topic or length, a conference is a place to not only learn, but to network. Be respectful to the other attendees and the event, but always stay true to your personal style!

Gotta Wear the New Shoes!

The new blue merino v-neck from J. Crew. I have a piece of blown Murano glass I got in Italy. It’s a little smaller than a hockey puck, and much thinner. I hand it from an 18″ white gold chain. It’s almost the same color as my new suede wedges.

I have a light gray suiting fabic skirt from Banana Republic. Decided to wear that. No hose – hose is for interviews and little children. Plenty of Botter Butter to look moisturized.

Hair yesterday was washed and allowed to air dry. Today I took the straightening iron to it, and used a huge barrel curling iron to lip the ends a bit, curve in the bangs and feather out the sides a smidge. A bit of molding paste flicked in for cool definition.

Been really into the black liquid liner look, so sporting that today as well.

Digging on Denim: My Favorite Summer Fashion Trend and How to Wear It

Fashion magazines always show trends before they hit the stores. I can recall freezing in my house; the heat was on but the cold was so intense outside I was still shivering though in a ski cap, wool socks in wool slippers, and swathed in fleece. I flipped through a magazine, can’t recall which glossy now, but I can recall what the pages held. Shiny, almost waxed denim in a very blue hue. Yellow stitching, and lots of it from side seams to topstitching on self-belts and collars. Waists up to the ribcage, butterfly collars, and culottes.

Barf.

Maybe it’s because I was born in the ‘70s, owned Jordache and Gloria Vanderbilt in the ‘80s, switched to Guess? Ankle-zips and oversized CK Jeans in the ‘90s but I can’t imagine wearing denim that looked like what my mother wore in Instamatic photos from my infancy. It looked like a costume, so unwearable, a trend I had no desire revisiting.

But with all fashion trends, once it has trickled down to the mall it has become more wearable. And the current denim trend? I am all over it. While there is plenty that looks very dated (excuse me, VINTAGE), and a lot that looks like a 1980’s kindergarten teacher, I’m still finding many denim pieces that are flattering, wearable, and have style that will look on trend this spring and summer and still look chic a year from now. My favorites:

Denim Dresses

I wore a calf-length denim dress for the first day of school 8th grade. It was subtly acid washed, snaps down the front, and those loops to hold up the cuffed sleeves. I paired it with a wide leather belt and ankle boots. Looking back, I could wear that very outfit today and look fashionable. While I don’t plan to revisit acid washed denim, I do love the look of denim dresses. Style with pumps and a polished leather belt for the office, slip on some sandals and a turquoise necklace for the weekend.

denim dress trends for spring

  1. This chambray shift from Old Navy is light and breezy, perfect for humid summer days. The embroidery keeps it from being ordinary; pair with tan leather thongs and a fedora for a street festival, heeled sandals and a couple silver bangles for dinner, or wear as your beach coverup.
  2. With detachable wide straps, this charming stretch denim dress from Ann Taylor will prove quite versatile. Imagine paired with brightly-colored heels and a bold lip, styled with tan sandals and turquoise jewelry, or worn with a crisp white blazer to the office.
  3. Many denim shirtdresses are stiff, this one from LOFT is soft making it comfortable and more figure flattering. Wear it as is, or switch out the self belt with another in your closet. Come fall pair with ankle boots and leggings.
  4. This fit and flare dress from Adriana Papell proves that denim can work for dressier occasions. Style with nude pumps for the office, or tan sandals for brunch or a baby shower.
  5. I wasn’t feeling this dress from Boden until I watched the video on their site; now I understood the positive reviews! Soft drapey fabric makes this comfortable and figure flattering and not too twee. I love how they styled it with ankle boots to balance the volume of the skirt; also consider pairing this with skate shoes, espadrilles, or a wedge sandal to prevent looking too top-heavy.
  6. A bit of quilting and tassels on the drawstring waist make this simple chambray dress from LOFT a stunner. Breezy fabric keeps you cool on the muggiest of days.
  7. How adorable is this halter dress from City Chic? This would be perfect for everything from a date to a garden wedding. The strap is detachable giving you two looks with one dress.
  8. This drawstring-waist Tencel dress from Halogen is effortless summer dressing. Leave as-is, cover the drawstring with a wide belt, and come winter pair with a turtleneck and opaque tights. Available in regular and plus sizes.

Denim Jumpsuits

A decade ago I saw a photo of a woman online in denim coveralls. They were perfectly rolled at the arms and legs, the collar popped, and she styled it with the craziest platform ankle boots. I printed out that photo as inspiration and searched high and low on eBay, in thrift stores, and boutiques for something similar. Now it’s 2015 and you can find denim coveralls, jumpsuits, overalls, and rompers in every wash, rinse, and style imaginable.

denim jumpsuit trends for spring

  1. This chambray jumpsuit from LOFT is soft without being droopy, the legs can be left long or cuffed for a casual feel. Add a belt and heels to dress up the look, unbutton the placket to show a hint of a camisole.
  2. This jumpsuit from Daisy Street reminds me a bit of those coveralls I coveted a decade ago. Imagine it paired with a wide leather obi belt, or unbuttoned to show several different strands of pearls. You’ll be surprised at how versatile a jumpsuit can be.
  3. Be a modern-day Rosie the Riveter in this belted jumpsuit from eShakti.  This could be carried off in a more casual or creative office environment, paired with peeptoe ankle boots or heeled sandals.
  4. Adjustable straps, a slouchy fit, and elasticized waist makes this chambray jumpsuit from Splendid casual cool for summer.  Dress it up with a belt, heels, and hoops or go relaxed with slip-on sneakers and a messy topknot.
  5. These traditional coveralls from Jenni will transition nicely into fall and winter.  For summer keep the look light by rolling the sleeves and pairing with tan heeled sandals or booties.
  6. Many rompers are too cutesy to be worn by many over the age of 25; this one from Free People is loose with a drop waist making it more wearable and classic.

Denim Tops

It’s likely you have a denim or chambray shirt somewhere in your closet. A few years ago you may have paired it with a floral pleated skirt, a sequined mini, or something flippy and made of lace. This season, consider pairing it with more denim for a fresh look on the old standby. Ignore the old rules about denim on denim or having to contrast washes; in 2015 anything goes. And speaking of anything, denim now comes in all shapes and silhouettes for tops: shells, bustiers, tunics, halter tops, wraps, and more. The key is to steer clear from anything too Southwest or Country – denim this season is either crisp and chic or edgy and inspired by street style.

denim top shirt fashion trend for summer

  1. The Weekday soft denim tee shirt from ASOS is amazing; soft finish, v-neck, and a crisp style that would be the perfect contrast to white flared jeans or a funky print pair of shorts.
  2. I love the pindot print on this denim shirt from Talbots; it adds a feminine touch and would make for cute pattern mixing with a floral skirt or paisley ankle pants.
  3. This flirty little swing tank from Anthropologie would look amazing with high-waisted white denim or a funky printed high-waist pencil skirt.  I’d also love it with wide-leg dark denim and some brown leather stacked sandals.
  4. The hemp/cotton blend of this two-layer top from Eileen Fisher will keep you cool in the heat while still looking polished. Wear under a blazer for the office, or pair with white linen pants or boyfriend jeans for the weekend.
  5. This chambray sleeveless popover from Lucky Brand looks basic from the front, but has an unexpected cutout in back that will give you some air conditioning while still covering your bra as well as most of your torso.  Wear untucked with Bermuda shorts or tucked into a printed midi skirt.
  6. Gap’s 1969 Tencel denim tee shirt is a classic piece that will look great this summer of denim and for years to come.  Wear untucked with linen pants or white jeans, tucked into a black pencil skirt, or under a boyfriend blazer with skinny jeans or shorts.
  7. I owned a denim shell very similar to this one from Michael Stars back in college and wish I never got rid of it.  I used to pair it with everything from khaki shorts to nice black pants and heels, such a wash also looks spectacular paired with graphic prints and bold colors.
  8. I adore this drapey chambray top from Banana Republic; the shape is so unique yet so wearable.  Imagine with pants in white, black or even a bright color like red or orange; lots of silver jewelry and metallic sandals.  Or wear an obi-inspired belt over it and style with a pencil skirt for the office.

Denim Skirts

If you have a denim pencil skirt from a few seasons ago, pull that baby out and wear it this year with pride. However, not every denim skirt from your past may pass muster. As mentioned with the tops, edgy or elegant denim is hot, cowgirl vibes are not. Consider a sleek pencil or wiggle skirt, a high waist, a bit of distressing, a deep dark rinse or an ultra-faded hue.

denim skirt fashion trends summer

  1. This is the type of denim skirt that could be worn to the office.  The edge-stitched skirt from Ann Taylor gives a crisp, elegant effect and would lok great paired with Breton stripes, a crisp white shirt, or even balance a silk blouse.
  2. The combination of high waist and long length on this distressed white denim skirt from ASOS makes it look very modern and fresh.  I’d pair with this Breton stripes, a band tee, or even a shunken blazer over a cami.
  3. I tried this denim skirt from Old Navy in a different wash and while I didn’t like the color I loved the fit. This is a darker color from what I ordered, but it also comes in white and a very light blue.  This is a classic denim skirt with stretch that would end up almost as versatile as your favorite pair of jeans.
  4. A reader mentioned in the comments on a different post on how flattering and fabulous this denim skirt from Lands’ End is. She chose white, which I think is a brilliant choice for this spring and summer – it pairs great with pastels, neutrals, bold hues, and also beautifully complements denims of any wash or rinse.
  5. I have this drawstring-waist skirt from Adrianna Papell; while it runs big (seriously big, go down a size), it’s perfect for summer. Breezy, airy, and pockets! You can see here I paired it with a striped top and pumps, but this summer I’ll likely wear with a ribbed tank and sandals.
  6. This flippy denim skirt from City Chic is utterly adorable, and a great way to dress up casual summer tanks and even band tees.  I’d also love it come fall with a black turtleneck or crisp white shirt and ankle boots.
  7. This hemp/cotton blend skirt from Eileen Fisher screams summer.  Knee length, with a structured waist but plenty of breeze-catching fullness in its a-line style and the wonderful addition of pockets, this is a skirt you’ll be wearing all season long, dressed up for Casual Friday or paired with flip flops and a linen tee for the weekend.
  8. I love the look of a dark rinse denim skirt; a bit below the knee and with stretch for a slim fit such a skirt can dress up for casual or creative office environments or be relaxed enough for a backyard barbecue.  Pair this rinse denim skirt from Style&co with a white blazer and colorful heels, a band tee and ankle boots, a sleeveless shell and flat sandals, or a simple white v-neck and Chucks.
  9. You can’t go wrong with an original. The Levi’s Icon Skirt is truly that; with a raw hem and classic pockets and back patch, this skirt, no matter what color you choose, will be one that will be chic for years to come.  Wear now with a slouchy linen v-neck, Breton tee, or a floaty cotton cami; come winter pair with a cashmere sweater, tights, and boots.

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