Search Results for: label/closet makeover

The FoMO Closet

When I used to regularly perform closet makeovers, the most common issue I saw was women stockpiling clothing. They’d find a sweater they liked, and would purchase two in black, three in other colors, and often have a few still with tags on stored carefully for the time when the ones in rotation needed to be retired. They’d have ten pairs of jeans, all the same cut from the same designer. The entire closet would be the same exact silhouette of jacket, just in different prints and fabrics. Most of the time, such closets were often full of garments with tags still on and dust on the shoulders.

While buying in multiples can be quite sensible, a lot of times such stockpiling and over-buying is a waste of money and a killer of personal style. Women often do this because they find themselves hard to fit and shopping a stressful and unpleasant experience. By purchasing multiples, they feel they can shop less often and have a wardrobe full of pieces that fit and flatter. They fear that if they return to the mall they won’t have such success, so they stock it up.

FoMO, or Fear of Missing Out is a hot phrase these days, and usually used for people who seem to have a Smartphone surgically attached to their hand. But it can also be used for many clothing shoppers. Fear that your favorite company will discontinue that cut of jeans, that your signature lipstick color will be retired, that you will no longer be able to find that certain style of sweater that you love so much. Such fear, that you hoard pieces, even if they aren’t in your favorite color or quite the right fit, just because anything similar may end up no longer in existence.

Wikipedia’s Definition of FoMO

The thing is… fashion is fluid. What seems to be a “classic” in 1993 isn’t in 2003 or 2013. Not only that, your body is also fluid. No matter how many hours you put in at the gym, age and life experiences will change your figure. Finally… YOU are always changing. With life events, education, experience and exposure to new things your brain and personality and soul will change. When you force yourself into a very specific wardrobe and stockpile pieces, you’re actually making fashion more complicated and frustrating.

When I started this blog, almost my whole wardrobe was from Ann Taylor, J. Crew, and Banana Republic. I bought v-neck merino sweaters and wide-leg lined trousers with tab waistbands by the truckload because I felt they were classic, versatile, and flattering. Eight years later, I don’t own either type of garment because they just aren’t right. While such pieces can still fit and flatter, they seem too old, too dowdy for my current self. If I had stayed the same size, I likely would have stuck with those pieces instead of spending money on more and therefore missed out on truly honing my personal style.

Carolina Herrera is known for her crisp white shirts, but the details change to stay current and flattering.

Now I know many of you will bring up style icons who have uniforms – Carolina Herrera and her white shirts, Michael Kors and his black blazers with jeans and a crew tee shirt. The thing is that even these individuals with signature uniforms change it up with the years. The cut is slightly different, the wash on the denim may change or even the length to adjust the break. Classic pieces change ever so slightly from season to season – a turtleneck may be a bit taller or looser, a cuff may be more pronounced, a pencil skirt a tad more tapered, a heel width more narrow or the shape more curved.

Shopping is scary, no matter your age or figure. But insulating yourself with a bulging wardrobe of dated “classics” and not-quite-right-but-better-than-nothings isn’t any better of an existence. It’s more stylish to wear the same great outfit every day for a year than have months worth of ensembles that aren’t quite right and don’t give the right message.

I’m not saying purge your entire wardrobe, but realize you may have a FoMO closet. Take a serious look at your wardrobe – do you really need all of it? Does all of it fit and flatter the current you? What small steps and simple garments can take your current closet and make it feel fresh and stylish? Try on what you own, and stand in front of a full-length mirror with good lighting and be honest with yourself and your shopping habits. You may realize that some things are discontinued because they honestly aren’t that flattering or appropriate any more.

You can’t know who you are or what you want if you’re hidden under a FoMO wardrobe. Be it a closet full of tweed blazers and knee-length skirts or sequined cocktail dresses and leather leggings, shopping in such a manner will not help your style, your sanity, or your soul. It’s scary to let go, but you can’t fly if you never leave the nest.

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Fall Fashion Additions to the Closet

When fall arrives in the stores I get excited. I want ALL THE BOOTS! ALL THE SWEATERS! ALL THE LEATHER JACKETS! But I wait. Fall doesn’t hit immediately in DC, it’s not unusual to be sweating in your Halloween costume and going coatless to your aunt’s house for Thanksgiving. However we do get cold spells from early September into December and some years it gets colder far faster than others (by the looks of the holly bushes in my neighborhood, this is going to be a very chilly winter).

So I’ve waited through the Labor Day sales, the back to school sales, and now that it’s October I feel I can properly assess what I currently have to wear, what holes in my wardrobe I need to fill, and what current trends I still love even after the launch of that gosh darn Pumpkin Spice Latte. And so below, is what I am craving for fall 2014:

fall fashion trends I like

Lace Overlay Skirt

This is one of those items that’s hot this fall but can easily be worn for years to come. Fall 2014 I want to pair such a skirt with plaid flannels and band tees, but it can be worn with a lovely cashmere or merino sweater and pumps for work or a networking event, or get glammed up with a silk blouse or velvet jacket and heels for a holiday party. I would like one in black that doesn’t have any current trend details like exposed zippers or a metallic finish, though I’ve got my eye on this navy one from Vince Camuto and considering I’m seriously enjoying navy with black it may be my choice this season.

Fisherman Sweater

This season they seem to just be called cable knit sweaters, but to me they are fisherman or Hemingway sweaters and I want to own one again. In high school I found one from Banana Republic at TJ Maxx and wore it to death. I even wore it through college until one time I couldn’t find it. Considering how terrible I was to clothing (can’t believe my old roommate Jenn still speaks to me after the time I splattered hot wax all over a top she let me borrow for an Adams Morgan bar crawl), losing a sweater was par for the course. Years later, I found the sweater hidden in my sister’s file cabinet, stained with Jungle Juice (tsk tsk little sister!). A bit of Clorox 2 and I wore that sweater again until it literally fell apart.

Okay, TL;DR point is I want another one. I just ordered this one and this one from Lands’ End because I want a true classic fit and style that will transcend this year’s trend. I’ll be wearing it with jeans, but I also can imagine it with a flippy black skirt and tights, paired with a denim skirt like I showed in this post, and I’d love with some skinny cords and boots.

Ripped Black Jeans

We all know by now that I regularly let my inner Lita Ford out to play in the closet, and Lita is loving the return of distressed denim. However I know this is a trend I won’t wear often and may not wear after this year, so instead of spending boo coo bucks on ripped black jeans, I’m going to self-distress last year’s Old Navy Rockstar Skinny Jeans that have already gotten faded and beat up with wear. I’ll be wearing with sweater coats and booties for weekends.

Engineer Boots

I had a pair of engineer boots in the late ‘90s and loved them but they were cheap fake leather and eventually fell apart. With my wide calves, I can’t just go to any store and snag a pair so I’ve been searching on and off for almost a decade. This year the style of boot is more popular than ever, meaning more opportunities to find a pair that fits. I’ve been considering the Naturalizer Baldala, the DUO Morton, and the Frye Veronica Shortie; I’ll keep you posted if any work out and would love to hear if you have any other suggestions!

Pleated Leather Skirt

Glad to see this trend happening this year because I already own the skirt! I splurged on a pleated black leather skirt from Halogen a couple years ago and have already worn it twice this fall (you can see it one time here). Halogen has a similar skirt this year in regular and petite; if you do order know leather stretches so if it’s a tad snug when you buy, wear it around the house for a bit because it will grow (even though it’s lined) to fit your figure. How cute would this skirt look with a fisherman sweater?

Chunky Gold Watch

I have a chunky silver watch that Fossil sent me and while it’s very pretty, I never wear it. My silver cuff is my go-to when wearing silver, and it’s too big to be paired with a watch. However, all my gold bracelets are small. I have the Citizen Ciena and it’s a beautiful classic watch, but lately I’ve desired something more chunky. I like the Slim Runway from Michael Kors because the tortoiseshell keeps it from being too much gold, it’s a bit unusual, and very different looking from my Citizen.

Buffalo Plaid Shirt

In 6th grade, my friends and I all had different colored Buffalo plaid flannels; I remember we all had bandanas the same color as our shirts and tied them around one knee and felt terribly cool as we sauntered around the playground. While I won’t be wearing a bandana around my knee any time soon, I wouldn’t mind sauntering around this fall in Buffalo plaid. I already have this shirt from Gap and have worn it over a tee or tank with jeans and shorts and tucked in with my leather pleated skirt. I love the juxtaposition of plaid flannel with something more elegant like lace or leather, and the boldness of Buffalo plaid. Don’t be shocked if before the season is through I’ve purchased another flannel in a different color (such as this one from J. Crew).

Wool Fedora

This summer I wore my J. Crew Factory Panama hat quite frequently and I see a black wool fedora to be the fall and winter equivalent. I like wearing hats in winter and know this will get much use for the walk to work as well as weekends when I just don’t feel like doing my hair. I love the colored wool fedoras (the burgundy ones are gorgeous), but black is more me and more likely to be worn more than one year. Considering this one from Catarzi and lusting for this one from rag & bone.

Fringe Bag

Lita’s here and she needs a new bag for her next metal concert. I’ve always loved leather fringe, but feel it can look very costumey. You can’t imagine (or maybe you can since you read this blog) how many times I have ALMOST bought a black fringy hobo bag. One of the things I like best about my Isabella Fiore bag is the fringy tassels hanging off the side. But this season I’ve seen a lot of small fringe bags, clutches and small crossbodies that won’t overpower me with Lita-ness, but let a little bit of her shine. I’ve been looking at this one from Rebecca Minkoff and this one from Steve Madden.

Wrap Coat

The bathrobe-inspired coats this year are totally making me drool. I’ve always loved this style of coat and am thrilled they are back in vogue. While I’m usually a black or color gal, the idea of one of these coats in a neutral like cream, tan, or gray makes me swoon. This is the kind of coat that works with jeans, work attire, and can glam up with a dress for a night at the theater or a holiday party. I’m really loving this wrap coat from Lauren Ralph Lauren in cream, and this cashmere wrap coat from Trina Turk is drool-worthy (I love the light gray).  And while not really the same style, this wrap coat/cape hybrid from Ann Taylor is really calling to me…

So now that the fall and winter trends are out and about, which ones are you considering for your wardrobe?

Updating The Closet for Spring with Boden

I’m all for a wardrobe of workhorses; pieces that fit, flatter, are versatile and relatively timeless. However, I also find it important to update your closet each season with a couple new trends, fun colors or prints to add your personal style and keep your closet from being boring. Boden is one of my favorite places to go for pieces that infuse fun into a wardrobe without causing one to look like a fashion victim. Great colors, cheery prints, some of the best striped tops (and y’all know I love me some striped tops), but made with such quality and attention to detail that their fun pieces end up being wardrobe workhorses too.

One piece I have loved from Boden for a long time is their Ravello Top, a blouse that’s a classic yet makes a statement. A machine washable silk blend makes it a piece that can dress up and down with ease; traditional enough to be a blouse under your interview suit but can also dress down with jeans or get festive with a full midi skirt and heels. While the solids are great, I was immediately drawn to the Blue/Red Paintbox Floral print and knew it would be a great closet addition for spring. Thanks to Boden’s phenomenal phone customer service, I went with a size 12 and think it fits quite nicely.

This print is bold enough to hold its own with dark denim; I added leopard haircalf flats and a simple black leather clutch for a great outfit to grab cocktails with my girls or to go to game night at a friend’s house.

The top is perfect for the warming temps; while it looks great under a blazer or cardigan it looks professional on its own. For this look I paired it with white linen pants and used a hot pink skinny belt to switch up the blouse’s silhouette.

Expect to see a few more pieces from Boden on the blog this season; I think the line fits my curves nicely as well as my personal style and I found a lot of pieces that will nicely update my wardrobe this season but likely be favorites for many seasons to come!

This post was sponsored by Boden through their partnership with POPSUGAR. While I was compensated by POPSUGAR to write a post about Boden, all opinions are my own.

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Alison and the Big Closet Cleanout

I have a Thanksgiving weekend tradition where I do a major closet cleanout. Literally my entire closet is emptied, wiped down, and I start from scratch. There’s things I’m wearing all the time which go back in, but anything that hasn’t been worn in a few months gets tried on, analyzed, and thrown into a pile – Keep, Store, Repair, or Done. I take the keeps and put them carefully back into the closet – I separate dresses, jackets, pants and skirts, blouses and other tops. Shoes are properly labeled and back in their boxes, purses are hung with out of season and currently not wearing styles stored in old pillowcases and dust bags. I also gut the drawers, wash my makeup brushes and re-analyze my makeup stash, and if time, organize my jewelry armoire. The “Done” clothes, I photograph the pieces in great condition and list on eBay or create a Shop My Closet blog or add to a community swap event; the rest I donate.

This year it didn’t happen.

Emerson will be five next month (when the heck did THAT happen?) and the idea of holing myself up in my bedroom for five hours straight for two days is crazy. She’d either want to jump on the bed and change the music to Katy Perry and build a blanket fort, or else try on all my stuff and play queen and princess. But really… I don’t see her as much as I would like and if I have two days away from work I want to spend it with her, not my clothes.

So I washed my makeup brushes and edited my makeup stash, I bought a new closet organizer and a few more huggable-style hangers, and that’s it. I have clothes all over the floor of my closet, my storage box in there still has oxfords from the summer that need to be ironed along with all the shoes I leave around the house that go there until I put them in their boxes, the belts that fall off the belt rack, and a few pairs of Karl’s shoes and likely a doll or stuffed animal.

Life happens, and life is more important than your wardrobe.

Clothing can be a suit of armor to help you feel strong in a difficult situation. Clothing can help express who you are inside. Clothing is a way to show respect at a religious, celebratory, or serious situation. Clothing can be fun, clothing can be art, but clothing should not cause you stress or take away from living your life. Though I write about fashion on a daily basis, please know that I believe, and I hope you believe that living your life trumps dressing for it. My goal with this blog is to make fashion less frustrating, overwhelming, and exclusionary. I hope Wardrobe Oxygen helps you find your personal style, simplifies fashion for you, and shows you that no matter your age, lifestyle, figure, or budget you can enjoy fashion and you deserve to look fabulous.

So I kick sweaters to the side to get to more sweaters that likely should be replaced with new sweaters without pulls and pills… but right now what is important is spending quality time with my family, taking a breath to actually enjoy the holiday season, get our tree this weekend and take Emerson to see The Nutcracker. As long as I’m not going to the office naked, it will all be fine. And if you are in a similar boat as I… you too will be fine. The closet can wait, the memories cannot.

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The Multiple Personality Closet

The ever-inspiring Une femme d’un certain age wrote a post on her blog about the two personalities in her closet. I think this is something many women deal with and find to be a fault as they seek out their personal style. The thing is, we women are complex creatures. We are not robots, we do not feel the same every day, look the same every day, or want the same things every day. While it is important to find your personal style, it is also important to realize that your style should support all aspects of your personality, and to do that rarely can you have one “personality” in your closet.

Une Femme has a very defined personal style – she knows herself, her life, her tastes and yet she admits, “There are two women sharing space in my closet. Both are actually me, which used to cause no end of consternation as I stumbled and bumped along toward that milepost known as Signature Style™. But I’m learning to make peace with this split style personality, and find balance and harmony between the two. Les deux femmes have arrived at a mutual understanding, and even step out together on a regular basis.”

I too have multiple personalities in my closet, and I find that with the beginning of each season those personalities become more defined, change rank, and sometimes move out to make room for a new tenant. However over the past decade, there are a few women who have kept residence in the penthouse suites of my wardrobe:

Rock-n-Roll Mama
This lady loves the color black, bold silver hardware, lots of leather, and tee shirts with the necks cut out. She’s heavy handed with the kohl liner and loves a shoe that can double as a weapon. She doesn’t feel that one can wear too many accessories and an exposed bra strap from time to time can be kinda sexy. She’ll mix a girly skirt with an old tank top and a leather jacket and finds her hair often looks best the morning after a late night out on the town.

Hippie Chick
This is the girl who attends music festivals and loves spinning to feel her skirts float around her ankles. She loves tie dye, batik prints, and patchwork. She finds cool accessories at festivals, craft shows, and on trips around the world – nothing is better than a garment or accessory with a story. She wears white cotton voile tunics with cutoff denim shorts, maxi dresses with flat sandals, an arm full of bangles, a cross body bag decorated with embroidery and/or fringe, and loves her hair best when it air dried and decided to do what makes it happy.

Madame Manager
This woman feels power with her pointed-toe pumps, pencil skirts, and silk blouses. She finds strength in classic pieces with a bold touch. She’ll wear jeans, but they will be paired with a blazer and heels. While she loves strong colors, she balances them with classic silhouettes and steers clear of prints (unless they are of the leopard variety). On weekends she likes Breton stripes, merino crew and boatneck sweaters in dark neutrals, dark crisp jeans, and heels. She loves a statement accessory, be it a bag in a bold color or a large sterling silver cuff. She feels best with sleek hair with lots of shine and control.

All three like the power and versatility of black and dark denim, how accessories can transform wardrobe staples into an intriguing ensemble, aviator sunglasses, and a fun shoe. All three have an aversion to pastels, feminine floral prints, and anything that binds or constricts the body. All three find her breasts to be one of her best assets and prefers hair that is long.

Thank you to Une Femme for this exercise, I found by defining the personalities in my closet, it made it clearer what my personal style is, and what pieces do not belong in my closet. This season, I plan on reminding myself of my three personalities to stay on track and not be swayed by trends. Now I ask you readers, do you find multiple personalities in your closet? Have you taken the time to define them, and have you found benefit in such and exercise? Who are the women in your wardrobe?

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Fashion Fantasy Closet Update

An update to this post about my fantasy fashion closet:

Wow, you all are AMAZING! Thanks to helpful comments, emails, and messages on my comment form I have already found some fabulous options for those pieces I desire in my closet… and some pieces I already own!

Sequined Peplum Top
I am still on this hunt for this. Will find one but its sleeveless, another and it doesn’t come in my size, another and the peplum seems to start up at my ribcage and make it look like a maternity top. Figuring I will have more luck as the season progresses and people start planning for holiday parties.

Olive Anorak-Style Jacket
So many of you suggested Kohl’s and I stopped by my local location and yes, this is the place to go for such a jacket. Unfortunately none of them were quite right for me – either a detail in the wrong place to emphasize the negative, or a strange fit on some part of me. However, just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you – Kohl’s is a great source for such fashion with variety, decent style, and great prices! I will continue to look, and use reader Laurel’s suggestion of checking thrift stores, though the more I think about it, the less I think this type of jacket works with my winter wardrobe and maybe it’s fate telling me to hold off until spring.

Black Wedge Booties
Still searching!

Black Photography Dress
I ordered this dress from Lands’ End but can’t tell if it has pockets. If so, I am willing to alter it, change the color of the buttons to make it my new photography dress. If not, thanks to reader Bridget’s suggestion I may again try eShakti. I didn’t have the best experience with them, but if I use true measurements this time I may have success.

Black Photography Pants Ensemble
No luck so far on separates, but I did get this sweater from Ann Taylor which looks cute with my skinny black ponte pants and tall boots or with a regular-fit pant and flat shoes. Plenty of room for memory cards, a couple AA batteries and business cards!

Black Photography Shoes
Reader KP suggested this bootie from Franco Sarto, and I will have to try it to see how it works with my thicker ankles. But it’s a good idea to wear with pants. Reader Kiki Bee suggested the “Air Talia Lace” from Cole Haan, which could also be good but is sold out (though I may check my nearby Nordstrom Rack).  However, with her suggestion I found these Cole Haan wedges. I have two pairs of Cole Haan Air Talia shoes – high-heeled booties which are pretty comfy for such height and style, and sandals which I often wear for photography shoots in the summer.

White Cotton Shirt
Reader Sarah suggested Ann Taylor and a tailor; I have had success with Ann Taylor before with their silk shirts but haven’t bought any cotton ones. Will have to check out this season. Reader Nobodyssister suggested the Coldwater Creek No Iron collection. My last experience with Coldwater Creek was lackluster but I am willing to try again, especially with a positive review from a fellow busty lady! Reader KP reminded me of Eddie Bauer’s great shirts – I had one back when I worked retail and loved it – will have to go check them out again!

Pleated Leather Skirt
Reader Dawn informed me about Make Your Own Jeans.com, a site where you can… make your own jeans! Choose your style, your fabric, give them your measurements and you can get a custom pair of jeans at a reasonable price. While they carry jeans, they also have other custom pieces… such as pleated leather skirts! And for only $110! I haven’t tried out the site yet, but this gets me very excited!

Black Taffeta Party Skirt
I got this one off eBay (the circular style). I must admit I was nervous dropping the cash, but two of you said you bought one of these skirts and was pleased. While the “taffeta” is more like the acetate that one uses to line a skirt, it is quite perfect in style and looks more expensive once properly steamed and pressed. Since I was unfamiliar with the brand, I sized up with a 14 and it fits comfortably. Smooth waistband, not too full, hits below the knee and has pockets!

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So thank you THANK YOU for all of your suggestions! I’m getting there and with your help think I will be able to fill the holes currently in my closet!

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My Fantasy Fashion Closet

I hate it when I want clothes and can’t find them in stores.

Each season, I make a list of what I’d like to add to my wardrobe to make it complete and up-to-date with trends. While most of what I own is simple or weird enough to not be passé after a year, combining them with of-the-moment trends gives them a new life. Along with a few trendy pieces, I often need to replace wardrobe staples that no longer fit or wore out with use. Usually I only find a fraction of these pieces for my mind doesn’t seem to be on the same wavelength as mass retailers. These are the items I would love to have for this season but have yet to find.

Sequined Peplum Top
I tried one on yesterday at Nordstrom Rack; it was from Alive + Olivia, was gold, but it was wrong. Not a true peplum, weird boxy shoulders that made me look like a linebacker, and unflattering neckline. That was the closest I have found.

I’d like it to have a round neckline – not a scoop, not a crew, just something that doesn’t make me have a log neck. Short puffed sleeves to balance out my thick arms and shoulders. A peplum that is obviously one, but doesn’t stick out like a shelf. I’d love it in peacock, teal… some sort of dark green with a blue in it. Could wear it with boyfriend jeans and stilettos, with black pants and pointed-toe pumps, or with a pencil skirt.

Olive Anorak-Style Jacket
Cotton, lightweight, looks good with the sleeves rolled up. I have one that has a belt, but there’s too many epaulets and straps and stuff. I want one with the bungee cord in the waist to cinch it. Something I can pair with my brown Karen Kane sequined skirt, a striped tee and booties for a hodgepodge that looks really good in my mind.

Black Wedge Booties
I know, there’s a kazillion black wedge booties on the market. Thing is, they all look wrong. I want ones that are loose at the top so they don’t look as though I replaced my feet with hooves – something that has space between shoe and ankle. I don’t want them super platform, or with a strange cut-out wedge. I don’t want them suede, or textured leather, or patent. Something very simple that I could wear with tights and a shift dress.

Black Photography Dress
My black shirtdress has become my photographer’s assistant uniform. It has deep pockets to hold batteries and memory cards, is full enough to let me get on the ground easily, is cotton which is comfortable and breathable at hot weddings and venues. I wear with a wide elastic belt and low shoes and I look cute, professional, appropriate. Well this dress has been laundered far too many times and I think only has one or two wearings left.

I ordered this dress from MICHAEL Michael Kors and while on paper it’s near perfect, on me it looks like a cheap flight attendant uniform. It’s very hard to find black dresses with pockets that actually can hold more than your hand and a lip gloss!

Black Photography Pants Ensemble
I know most photographers wear random black easy-care pants, flat comfortable shoes, and a faded black tee shirt or sweater. I just don’t feel good in that, I don’t feel myself. I’d love to find some Ponte separates – pants with a wider leg that have front and back pockets, a matching top that maybe has patch pockets on the front. Very clean lines, not too tight, plenty of stretch and places to store things. Oh, and if it could be machine washable!

Black Photography Shoes
Something closed toe with a slight wedge heel, comfortable, squishy, simple. Leather so I can polish them up when they get scuffed and they can handle some moisture.  Nothing dowdy, I’d like to also wear these shoes with jeans on weekends if I need to walk or stand for long periods of time. No flats, no separate heels that can sink in wet grass, no Mary Jane, but something that would also work with dresses.

White Cotton Shirt
I want this every year but I never find what I am looking for. Wrinkle-resistant (at least not the type to look crumpled after an hour) but not heavy or with a sheen. No boob pockets. Seaming so it doesn’t hang straight from the bustline. A collar that looks good regular or popped. No oxford, no voile, no mixed-media. Simple pearlized buttons. Looks good untucked, tucked in, or tied at the bottom and you can’t see the hooks of my bra through the fabric.

Black Leather Pleated Skirt
I thought I found the perfect leather skirt during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but when it arrived I saw it wasn’t. The leather was far too stiff for the pleating, the drop waist hit at a weird place, and it was tight in weird places but gaping a bit at the waist.

I want a slightly dropped waist so the bulk isn’t right on my tummy, and soft enough leather that the pleats move and don’t get stuck together. Hit above the knee.

Black Taffeta Party Skirt
I want a big black taffeta skirt that hits at the lower calf. Pockets, defined waistband, maybe even a slightly dropped waist like my Banana Republic skirt, though that’s not necessary if it’s not too full. I want to wear it with a heather gray v-neck tee and booties, or with a crisp white shirt and channel Carolina Herrera. I’d even pair with a cashmere or sequined tank and wear to a more formal event.

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Retailers, am I asking too much? I feel that these things I could use in my closet are relatively basic and would look fabulous on multiple shapes of women who have varied lifestyles.

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The Current State of the Closet

Every so often I like to give you a peek into my closet to see what I am working with, how I organize it. A lot has changed since the last time I did a detailed collection post – biggest thing is I have lost weight. Returning to a comfortable size, I am able to find more clothing that fits and flatters, and have begun to have fun with fashion again. While wearing bright colors fits my personality, it does mean a bit larger of a collection to have reasonable pairings and not look as though I am wearing the same ensemble every day.

My current closet:

The left side has skirts and dresses (the far corner has out of season dresses and some pieces that don’t yet fit but shouldn’t be stored in the attic):

The right side holds sweaters, shirts, and jackets:

As you can see in previous posts and the edges of these photos, I store purses and shoes on the shelves above my 2/3 of the closet, I have a canvas organizer to store my smaller bags and scarves, and then two racks to hold my belts.

As for my non-hanging clothing, I store them in three drawers in my bureau:

The first has my knits. I fold the tees in half, then the sleeves across the front. This makes the best use of the size of the drawer and it’s easy to flip through to find the tee I want. These are all “nicer” tees – ones I would wear to work or the weekend. I’d love to store all my sweaters in here, but there’s no room, so cardigans and novelty sweaters are in the closet.

The second holds my jeans and my bulky sweaters.

The bottom drawer is for my bum-around and workout clothes – yoga pants, hoodies, tee shirts, and then my super basic tanks (which do get weekend and work play but usually as a bottom layer).

A breakdown of my wardrobe:

Click to see larger.  Red means it needs to be replaced (too big, not good condition, etc.), gray means it is out of season (in the closet either because I think I may be able to make it work for cold weather or because it’s too delicate to go in the attic).AT-Ann Taylor, CK-Calvin Klein, S/S-Short sleeved, Slv-sleeve, ON-Old Navy, NYDJ-Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, B&W-Black and white

Things I am looking for to complete the collection for spring:

  • White jeans – the Kut from Kloth ones are too big
  • Tan shoes – I don’t want “nude” but not brown; something more like beige or tan, possibly with a wood heel
  • Another pair of pants – Thinking maybe navy, or possibly white if a heavyweight fabric
  • New knits – many of my knits are getting too worn or too big to be work-appropriate
  • Solid-colored dress – I’d love something with a feminine silhouette in a cheery color like magenta, purple, or even orange. Something I could wear to work but also dress up for a wedding or date night
  • Jeans – I am always on the search for jeans that fit and flatter! I only have one pair right now in indigo that fits properly and even they are getting to look a bit worn.

I don’t think I have had a closet this big since back when I worked retail, however everything in this closet are things I do actually wear regularly (except a couple jackets and dresses). It may not be the right collection for all, but it is one of the hardest working collection of clothes I have had in a long time!

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Current State of the Closet

A couple of months ago, a tree came through our closet. Since then, I have had my wardrobe in cardboard boxes around my bedroom, on a rolling rack in hour home office, and I have had a hard time finding anything. The roof was repaired, the skylight replaced with drywall, and I have been able to slowly get everything back in there. As a reminder, this is my last closet post… and here’s the current state of the closet:

I got some of those removeable hooks to hang the most regularly used bags right next to the closet door.  You can see I have a new box on the floor for my clothes that need to be repaired/dry cleaned/ironed.  The box is collapsable yet really sturdy – the Junque Trunk from Scout by Bungalow.  They have a huge variety of prints and sizes for any situation or location.

While everything is not nicely organized, at least everything is back into one place. 

The shoes I wear most often are in this storage shelving, the out of season and special occasion shoes are to the left.

I used to keep all my clutches in one of the drawers of this closet organizer, but having them out of sight made them out of mind.  I now have a few out on this shelf and find I use them more often.

I obviously still need to organize my larger bags – a few of these are still stained and damaged from the hurricane but I have yet to find a place I trust to do the repairs (and find a place that makes the repair cost worth it).  The cognac Junior Drake has white stuff on the other side – it seems baked into the finish and I can’t get it off without taking off the color.  The black J. Crew bag has the same white stuff all over it, and the white Banana Republic bag has gray streaks and a place where the finish scraped off. 

I also need to get a better storage system for my belts.  The large ring holds a lot of belts, but it sucks to have to yank off 10 belts to get to the one you want.  The classic belt/tie holder to the right I thought would work for smaller belts, but it can’t handle belt buckles.  I need to take a trip to The Container Store and find some better storage systems!

Obviously there is much more that needs to be done – proper organization and protection of my collection, I need some more slimline hangers, and need to get the damaged bags repaired.  But it is so wonderful to have everything back in one place, easy to find and easy to access!

Note: The Junque Trunk from Scout by Bungalow was sent to me as a gift from that company, I was able to choose the style and print of box and how I wanted to use it in my life.

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Shop My Closet!

Do you like what I wear?  Well now is your chance to buy some of it.  As I remove weight, I am posting my old, gently used clothing and accessories at Shop My Closet: Wardrobe Oxygen.  Some items aren’t even worn.  I try to give very clear descriptions of all items, links to this blog if I have worn them recently, and reasonable prices.  Shipping is $5.00 (US) for most items, and I will combine purchases for reduced shipping fees.

So check it out – you may find just what your wardrobe was looking for!

What’s In My Closet?

Having this blog, I often get comments that I have a small and boring collection of clothing, or people comment on how much clothing I have and ask where the heck do I keep it all. I think both groups of folks are correct – I have a pretty simple collection of clothing, but I feel as though I have a lot because I shop smart, stay on track, and take care of the quality items that I purchase.

If you go to this post, you can learn about my recent closet clean-out and see pictures of my closet. Though it is considered a walk-in closet, it is pretty small and I share it with my husband. I believe that my bar of clothing is shorter than most individuals have in a regular closet in their homes.

When my husband and I moved into this home ten years ago, we didn’t have this closet. Out house was build in the ‘40s and the bedroom closet seemed to be an afterthought – it was placed over the stairwell so it had a sloping side wall, making half of the hanger bar useless. my husband and I shared about four feet of closet space in our bedroom. We didn’t have a hallway closet, or our guest bedroom’s equally small closet (sloped wall was replaced by built-in deep shelves made from splintered scrap wood – not useable for clothing) was used for outerwear and out-of-season clothing that could not handle being packed into a box in the attic.

Due to such little closet space, I learned to make do with less. In fact, when I moved from my bachelorette pad to our nest, I had to get rid of several lawn and leaf bags full of clothing because I just didn’t have the room. After working so many years in apparel retail, I had amassed quite a collection of clothing and accessories. I went through cocktail dresses with the tags still on them, sparkly tops for a night out that were worn only once, dozens of pairs of jeans in my current size, a size bigger, and several sizes smaller just in case I lost the weight I had been carrying for more than two years.

I thought about my life – I am not one who attends cocktail parties on a regular basis, and I rarely go to flashy nightclubs. I needed clothing for work, and casual attire for the weekend. A handful of fun tops and versatile dresses would get me through any social event. I went through each item, deciding whether it was worthy to be in my closet, should be stored for the future, be donated, or be passed on to a friend. I ended up keeping about 25% of my original wardrobe.

Once I had my core wardrobe, I had to stick to it. No shopping sprees – where would I store my purchases? If I bought something new, it had to be for a good reason. Usually if I bought something new, it meant it was replacing something I already owned. Shoes had the same rules, as that I only had so much space on that single shelf above the hanger bar.

Off-season clothing was stored in plastic tubs in the attic, and I had one tub in the attic that held clothing that I kept for sentimental value – my denim jacket from high school, a sweatshirt with my sorority letters on the front, the Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses I bought for a steal that weren’t my current size but were too nice to donate. Because I kept it to being in just one tub, I had to be picky with what was worthy of sentimental real estate.

I lived with this cramped clothing setup for ten years, and it was the best experience. Not having space made me care more about what I purchased. There wasn’t any dusty corner of a closet for bad purchases to hide, or the room to wade through too-small or dated pieces to find something to wear to work each morning. When I went into stores, I was constantly thinking, “Do I need this? Will it go with what I already own? Is it worthy of my precious closet space?” If I had any hesitation, I wouldn’t purchase.

Now I have a bigger closet – my daughter’s room is the old guest room, but we still have that sloping old bedroom closet which now holds our coats (and camping gear, and boxes of photographs we inherited from my father-in-law, and winter boots, and Christmas gifts I buy in advance, and the vacuum cleaner, and…). Though my new closet has more space, I try to stick to the habits I acquired over the past decade. What is currently in my closet:

Click on image to see it larger
Abbreviations: AT (Ann Taylor), ATL (Ann Taylor LOFT), S/S (short-sleeved), L/S (long-sleeved) NYDJ (Not Your Daughter’s Jeans),  BR (Banana Republic), B&W (black and white), Cardi (cardigan), LE (Lands End), LEC (Lands End Canvas), RL (Ralph Lauren)

As you can see, it’s not as much as you would think. Go ahead, go through the past couple of months of outfits I have worn on here, you will see that it’s the same darn things I am wearing over and over and OVER, just in different ways. The items in gray are out-of-season items that I still have in my closet because I think they could possibly be combined with other items to make them wintry. That which is in red are items I need to replace or remove from the closet – too big, worn out, etc.

As for shoes, I currently have:

Click on image to see it larger

Same rules apply – red means they need to be replaced (old, no longer fit, etc.), gray is out of season (I store all my shoes in my closet at all times – nowhere else to keep them). Pretty small collection, especially when you consider that three of the 11 current shoes are for dressy occasions.

I don’t have a specific clothing budget for each month, or each season. I have a budget for that which isn’t necessary for the family unit – clothes and beauty products for me, clothes for Emerson and my husband, home décor, dinners out, concerts, Starbucks runs, that sort of thing. Some months I find a show at the 9:30 Club more important than a new pair of shoes, sometimes the shoes win. Some months, there is no money for shoes or shows. I go with the flow, and know I have a base wardrobe that will cover any last-minute situation.

I don’t go to malls to shop because there is too much temptation. I will go into stores to try on, but rarely purchase same day. I will mull it over, and then either return to buy or look online to find it cheaper. I do a lot of online window shopping where I will find things that look good, put them in my virtual shopping cart, then close the shop’s site and think about it. If I can come back later and still find it as lovely and versatile and useful, then I may purchase if it fits into my current budget.

I stick to a pretty simple color palette, and purchase mainly solids so they are more timeless and mix and match with ease. Lately I have been on a stripes kick, which is a cheap and easy way to add some variety to the wardrobe. In the past I have had kicks for animal prints, pinstripes, polka-dots, leather, all things green… this is usually the way I add a fresh spin to my wardrobe basics. These little accent pieces can become wardrobe staples or can easily be replaced come the new season without losing too much money on the situation.

I carry with me a list of what I really need – right now it’s pencil skirts in black and denim in my new size, new tall boots in black, and I would like a crisp white shirt that looks great with the sleeves buttoned or rolled up. This way, if I get distracted by some expensive indulgence, I can think, “Do I really need this sequined miniskirt more than a black pencil skirt? Think how much mileage I got out of my current black pencil skirt – wouldn’t it feel good to have another great piece like that in my wardrobe?” It keeps me balanced and always on the hunt for the perfect blend of quality, price, and fit.

New Clothes at Allie’s Closet!

Stop by there are some really great pieces; I also am selling some unused beauty products that I had in my possession for more than 50% off the current price at stores and some jewelry!

Available are items from Banana Republic, Benefit, Pureology, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor Loft and more!

If you have any questions, be sure to email me first. My goal is to send things out as soon as possible – usually if you order one day I will mail it out on the next business day!

Visit Allie’s Closet!

The Bowels of my Closet

I forgot about this jacket. I got it at Target in the Spring I believe. It’s a beige canvas, motocross inspired cut, brown stitching. I believe it was about $30.00.

Under it is a brown silk/cashmere shell from the Banana Republic outlet. My funky wood and glass necklace around my neck, no earrings or bracelet. Dirty vintage washed low rise bootcut jeans on from The Gap, and brown snakeskin pumps from Nine West.

The makeup is MAC’s Studio Tech for foundation, MAC stick concealer. A bit of Almay bronzer for blush and powder. Goldie’s Blosson lipgloss on the lips. Shadow is Fawn Pearl (The Body Shop) shadow on the lid, my brown brow powder (Maybelline) in the bcrease and along the lash line. Then of course MAC’s Zoom Lash mascara in black.

Hair is being difficult, yet I keep putting off a hair appointment. I swear, this time I mean it, I am going to call to make an appointment TODAY. This has gone on too long.

Spring has Sprung in my Closet

Spring has sprung here in DC! Hooray for bare legs, packing up the hats and mittens, and being able to expose elbows and toes! With each change of season, there’s usually a change of wardrobe. I’ve found that closet organization has been good physical therapy for me; the pinching of clips to hang skirts, holding the weight of a full hanger, folding scarves and jeans. With my arm, this process has been extremely slow, but that time is great for really thinking about what is in my closet, what I really need, and what I really need to remove from my collection.

The trends this spring and summer are so refreshing; after seasons of bright and bold, fitted and funky there’s a move to subtleness, quality, detail, and drape. I saw it on the runways, I see it in the stores, and I feel it in my heart. I started gravitating toward simpler pieces and colors in 2013, but desire it even more in 2014, especially after my broken arm. After six weeks predominately in loungewear, I crave dressing, but simple, easy, yet elegant dressing. Here’s a peek into my Spring/Summer mindset:

For clothing, it’s not terribly different from the past, but now it feels more cohesive. I’m liking (1) midi-length skirts, but somehow they look more right on me when part of a dress. I have pretty much this same dress; last summer’s LOFT collection, and know it will get a ton more wear this year. (2) White feels really right this year, even before Memorial Day. I’ve been wearing white jeans, boyfriend jeans, and pants quite a lot already (if you’re new to white outside of summer, start simple by pairing it with black). Each season I end up having a signature color without even thinking about it and based upon my closet, this season it’s (3) orange-red.  I type this while wearing a linen sweatshirt of this color, and desire a shift dress like the one pictured.  I’m really digging classic trousers this spring, paired with everything, from blouses to sweaters to tee shirts; I’m on the hunt for the perfect pair in (4) navy.  I’m loving how there’s a trend towards draping and purposeful slouchiness this season and have been gobbling up things that are (5) off the shoulder; I’d pair a top like this with slim white jeans.  I also like the trend of purposeful draping, a top like this (6) can be worn with jeans for a night out, or slipped under a suit for the workweek.  I’m always happy when weathered, worn, and distressed denim (7) are on trend; they please my inner Lita Ford and love the contrast with more classic pieces.  And it wouldn’t be my wardrobe if it doesn’t have a few striped shirts (8) in it!

For accessories, I’m craving fewer pieces, fewer necklaces, and again am drawn to orange-red accents.  Thinking about my faves, I saw they are sort of lumped into three categories:

  • Vacation Inspired: I love white Panama hats and fedoras, I know they’ve been in style for a while and may be less trendy but I think they’re quite classic and these days I’m doing all I can to protect myself from the sun.  I love them with jeans and striped tees, I love them with sundresses, and I love that they hide bad hair days!  I’m also loving my new Converse Shorelines, which make Chucks finally comfortable for me.  With the elasticized back and lower profile, they’re comfy and easy to slip on and off.  Aviators are always my favorite, as are scarves.  Now that bandanas are back in style, I’ve been pulling out my collection of them and square scarves and using them to jazz up simple knits.
  • Bold Silver:  This is nothing new, silver is my signature metal and I’ve been wearing my big sterling cuff for 17 years.  Now I’ve added a pair of silver Birkenstocks to my wardrobe, increasing my silver.  I love mixing shiny silver with a more relaxed material; the bracelets from Lifetherapy are a fave of mine.  I have several of them and love looping one of their wrap bracelets (especially in this season’s signature color of orange!) over the cuff to switch it up. 
  • Classic Gold: When my arm was in a cast, I relied on a watch since pulling out my phone was more difficult.  I’ve come to really like the convenience and style, and adore my Citizen Ciena Eco-Drive.  I recently got this cuff from Rebecca Minkoff which is smaller than what I’ve been known to wear and I like it.  Again, been wearing a lot of square scarves, be they around my throat, tied in my hair, or hanging off my purse.  I got a pair of Nine West “Flax” pumps in Natural and they’re a great nude pump, a comfortable height and go with almost my entire wardrobe.

My makeup has also been influenced by my time with a cast; it’s hard to have precision with your non-dominant hand. While I spent much of the winter with bold lips and liquid liner, lately I’m more into a subtle smoky eye, bronzer over blush, and glossy lips in a more natural hue. Miracle Skin Transformer has become my go-to while dealing with a broken arm since it’s so easy and so many beauty products in one.  I’m a mascara junkie and I love Too Faced’s Better Than False Lashes enough to buy a second time. It’s not a product to use when you’re short on time, but they do make my lashes look lusher than any other brand.  I got the Urban Decay lipliner in Naked as a freebie with a Beauty.com order and I use it almost daily with a natural colored gloss (adoring NARS Viva).  And then the original Naked palette from Urban Decay is still a fave for a no-makeup makeup look, a soft smoky eye, or to even replace liner.


Has spring sprung in your closet?  What are you loving this season in regard to trends or new to you classics?

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Fantasy Fashion Closet for Spring 2013

Last fall, I made a similar list and you all were quite helpful with finding some of the pieces. I also found creating such a post useful in that it helped me define my personal style for the upcoming season. To see all my wants together is very telling and helps me know what direction to go in with purchases, what to bring into my closet that season, and what to keep packed away for next year.

Full Skirt with Pockets. Lightweight cotton, proper waistband, hits just below the knee, full but not too full (like my Talbots skirt). In fact, I thought I found the perfect skirt, from Talbots, via eBay. It was supposedly yellow and the image made it look like a light springy mustard shade that I thought would look fantastic with navy and white striped tees, or a simple white tank and raffia belt. Nope, the color was more like pea soup or baby diaper. Not sure what to do with it, because it is a bit yellow (in that baby diaper sort of way), but not in a way I would want on my body (or anywhere else in my life). I don’t think dying it will give a good result, but I’m holding on until I find some creative way to make it fabulous. And until then, I am looking for a full skirt with pockets.

Crisp White Shirt. Wow, this seems to be on my list every season. Last year Foxcroft was kind enough to send me one, but it’s a bit too big and looks a bit sloppy when not knotted at the waist. I don’t want skin-tight, I just want a feminine fit that still closes properly at the bustline and is not transparent. Oh, and no chest pockets – I have enough going on up there.

Dark Ankle Jeans. I don’t want skinny, I don’t want bootcut, I want dark, saturated real denim with weight, a classic style, that hits at my ankles so I can wear them with flats. Easier said than done with my wide calves and solid thighs. Think I may need to get a pair tailored to work.

White Ankle Jeans. Same fit and weight as the dark denim, but in pure white with white seams and few details.

Maxi Wrap Dress. I have loved the DVF ones for a long time and recently saw this one on Style Pantry and now I crave one. Either black or green, or some fun print that can dress up and down. Do I need this? No, but this is a FANTASY closet!

Western Shirt. I have a chambray shirt that is well-loved, but would like a shirt that is a bit more fitted, and has snaps and Western seaming and details.

Short-sleeved Ponte Dress. I’d like something sort of like this dress I own, but not as deep of a neckline, a skirt that hits just below the knee, and has pockets. ASOS has a similar concept but no pockets and from ordering this ponte skirt from them I can bet right now that this dress will be too long in length and torso. If ASOS has Petite 10, I’d be all over it. As for color… black of course is great but would also love navy, a shade of green, maybe coral. Something I can dress up for work with a scarf and heeled sandals or wear on a weekend with leather thongs.

Beaded Flat Sandals. Many moons ago, I had the most perfect leather and beaded thong sandals. I got them from Victoria’s Secret, but they were from another brand. They fit my wide feet, were comfortable, and looked great peeking out of jeans or with sundresses. I wore them to death… and die they did in a stinky broken threads and missing beads death. A couple weeks ago I went into Ross and found some beaded sandals in an 8W for $12.99; I was wearing boots and socks so I didn’t try them on but bought them. They are… fine. They are faux leather and look like it and wrinkle strangely on top and I would just like a new pair like my old pair from ten years ago to pair with beat up jeans and that Western shirt.

Gauzy White Tunic. Feel the vibe going on here for spring? I want a white gauzy shirt with white embroidery on it, three-quarter sleeves that aren’t too fitted but aren’t batwing. A tad sheer, but not too sheer to wear with a nude tee shirt bra. Something that hits mid-hip, slits on the slides so it doesn’t hug the bum. Something to throw on with denim cutoffs or jeans, or even belt and wear with a maxi skirt.  In fact, I owned this very shirt in college and lost it, it was from Contempo Casuals and far cooler than the store name.

Wedge Sandals. I just ordered these from Sofft and they are too metallic. I’d like either a beige/tan color or a muted metallic that can work with dresses as well as jeans. Flats aren’t comfortable for me for long periods of time, and a slight wedge makes sandals more appropriate for the office. Nothing too high, straps not too skinny to dig into my toes, no slingback (I don’t have enough curve in my ankle to hold up the sling), no ankle strap, no fake laminate on the wedge to pretend it’s wood or cork (though real cork would be warmly welcomed), just a simple wedge sandal for spring.

Whether I buy these things is another story. Often when I actually start dressing for the season, I find some of these items not necessary or inappropriate for my life. However this is the direction I am going in for spring – a bit boho, a bit classic, a lot of solids in clear colors mixed with denim and neutrals and the accessories taking center stage.


What are you feeling for spring?

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What I Wore: From the Back of the Closet

Coat: LOFT via eBay | Tee: Banana Republic (similar) | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Ivanka Trump “Indicon” | Bag: HOBO the Original (similar) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Bracelet: Had Forever (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Lovesick

I don’t have a very large closet, but sometimes things still get hidden, ignored, lost in the back corner. With my changing personal style, I automatically thought this jacket was a bit too girly for my current self. But when someone recently asked about this coat, I decided to pull it out and see if it worked with my current wardrobe. I do adore this coat – the color is my favorite shade of pink, I love the bold buttons, the shorter sleeves. I think the only really girly part of it is the faux collar, but when re-wearing I realize that’s not a defining feature. I think I’ll be wearing this coat again in the future, especially when the weather cools. I think it would look pretty badass with black leather!

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Honing your Personal Style through Closet Organization

Last weekend I was asked to speak at IKEA for their BYOF event. They asked me to speak about honing one’s personal style through closet organization. Some of you fabulous people came to the event (and even drove long distances, which humbles me so), and some of you were unable to attend but wanted to know what I discussed. Earlier this week I shared some of the discussion during the seminar’s Q&A, but below is the script I made myself for the seminar (though I practiced a lot and tried to ad-lib as much as possible).

Think about it, we start every day in our closet. Our experience in front of that bar of hangers really sets the tone for the rest of the day. What I hope to do today is give you tips and tricks to make that first part of your day less stressful, more positive, and inspiring.

I am proof that when it comes to closets, size doesn’t matter. A little over a decade ago, I moved into the historic part of Greenbelt. If any of you have been in one of their row homes, you know they can be charming but boy are they small! My bedroom closet was smaller than the coat closet in my old bachelorette apartment, and as for a coat closet well there wasn’t one. It was a great learning experience on how to work with little space, and to choose wisely as to what deserved to be in that minimal amount of real estate.

75% of the stuff in our closets we don’t even wear. When I have performed closet cleanouts for clients in the past, I found that three quarters of the clothing in their closet is there for sentimental reasons. A dress worn on a first date, the suit you wore to the interview for your current job, the lucky sweatshirt you wore through every finals week of college. Today I’m not going to tell you to toss your sartorial memories, but I am going to ask you to make your closet more functional.

The only way you can truly know what you have in your closet is to take everything out and start fresh. As your best friend to watch the kids for a couple of hours, turn on Pandora radio, pour a glass of wine, and lock yourself in your bedroom. Take everything out of the closet and once it’s empty, give it a quick cleaning with a damp cloth. Now you’re going to go through each individual garment and put it into one of four piles. Keep, Purge, Fix, and Store.

Keep means you have tried it on that day, it fits, it flatters, it’s useful to your life and style and is in perfect condition. No missing buttons, no need for ironing, ready to be worn.

Purge means it’s time for the piece to leave your home completely. It’s too small, too big, too dated, too damaged, or just plain wrong. Often we keep pieces that we bought and then had buyer’s remorse. The garment is just plain wrong, but you feel guilty because you spent good money on it. Your money is not coming back by letting that dress collect dust in your closet, it’s time to let it go and move on. We’ve all been there. When I say purge, that doesn’t mean throw everything in a bag and set it out on the curb for trash day. The majority of clothes in your closets can be useful to others.

For things like that dress you bought and never wore, consider eBay or a consignment shop so you can get back a bit of what you spent on it. For gently worn pieces, consider setting up a swap with friends where you can trade clothing for free. For everything else, you can donate for a nice tax deduction, or even consider Freecycle. In my house, we cut up old stained tee shirts into squares and use them as dusting cloths.

So we have kept that which is still fabulous and purged that which is not. With what is leftover, they go into two other piles – Fix, and Store.

Fix is the pile of items that could be great if they just had a quick little repair or makeover. Maybe it’s a wrinkled oxford, a pair of pants with a dropped hem, or a jacket missing a button. I keep a box at the bottom of my closet where I store all the clothes that need to be fixed. When I have a spare moment, I sew on buttons, iron, or pack up pieces to take to the dry cleaner or tailor. Having this box keeps you from justifying wearing a stained shirt or a stapled hem.

The final pile is Store. Here’s your sentimental clothing, as well as anything that is in fantastic condition but just not right. Maybe it’s a skirt that’s a flattering yet not of the moment length, or a great interview suit though you are now a stay at home parent. Pieces that fit, are made well, flatter, and just aren’t right at the moment, though they may be in a couple of years. This pile, store carefully, but store them where they are out of sight and out of temptation. Even when at the back of the closet, it’s far too easy to grab these items during a moment of weakness and sacrifice your style. (Here I started speaking of the merits of breathable canvas storage versus plastic.)

So now, you have a closet just full of great pieces that fit your current body and your current lifestyle. It may look a bit empty, but that’s not a bad thing. A closet that can breathe makes for easier dressing each morning. You wouldn’t think it, but it’s easier to get dressed each day when you have fewer options. However you’re probably realizing you have a few holes in your wardrobe. Make a shopping list of what you feel you need to pull the current closet together, make it cohesive. Maybe it’s a black pencil skirt, or a replacement dress for weddings and funerals. Think about your life, your current life, and what you do and where you go in a typical month. What else do you need to dress appropriately for each occasion? Write the pieces down, and carry them in your wallet or purse. This way, each time you hit the mall, you can stay on track and only buy what you need instead of what looks great or is being pushed by the salesperson.

It’s important to stick to a budget – you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your quality of life to be able to dress well each day. A good rule of thumb is 5% of your income towards what you wear. Now this may be more or less based upon your lifestyle and it may be more while you’re filling in holes in your wardrobe. From this, figure out a monthly budget and stick to it. Sometimes you may not use it all, but that’s good because you can save it for other months where you may spend more, say for a new winter coat or a pair of designer jeans that make you look five pounds and five years younger. I recommend tracking your budget on the same sheet or notebook as your shopping list, so it’s there staring you in the face each time you consider buying clothes. My motto at Wardrobe Oxygen is style comes from choosing quality, not quantity.

So now you have a pared-down closet of clothes that work as hard as you do. Now it’s time to take care of them. In this day and age of Pinterest and reality shows about celebrities, it’s easy to get wrapped up in having a pretty closet. The thing is, you want a functional closet, a closet that makes your life more enjoyable, that makes getting dressed each day easy and enjoyable. Here’s a few suggestions.

I recommend having all the same hangers. Not only does this make for an attractive closet, but it prevents you from losing clothes. I once bought a new black cardigan thinking I lost mine, but months later I found it on a dry cleaner’s wire hanger hidden between two black dresses. With all the same hangers, you can easily see everything in your closet. Speaking of wire hangers… I may sound like Mommy Dearest but get rid of them. They stretch out knits and can even leave rust stains on clothing. Dry cleaners are happy to take them back and many areas will recycle them.

So your clothes are hung up on consistent hangers, it’s now time to organize them. I highly recommend zoning your closet. Have all jackets together, all dresses together, all shirts together. This way it’s easy to see what you have and make ensembles. For categories you don’t wear often, such as cocktail dresses, have that zone in the farthest back part of the closet.

For making the most out of the space you have, I like closet organizers. I have one of those hanging fabric shelf gadgets where one can store purses, gym clothes, and even jeans. Also they have bars that hang from closet bars so you can double hang and maximize your closet real estate. (I really ad-libbed here because IKEA gave me a wardrobe and storage containers that they sell as my props).

With shoes, people have differing views on this, but I again recommend consistency. Choose one manner of storage and stick to it to prevent losing shoes and spending more than you need. Shoes can be an investment, so choose storage that is kind to your shoes – I keep my shoes in their original boxes and label them, but some like clear boxes, some like shoe racks, and IKEA has these cool gadgets where you can store your shoes on posts. Whatever seems best for you and protects your shoes. (At this point I started rambling about how a tree fell through my closet and that’s why I use boxes for storage.) As for boots, they sell fancy boot trees, but I just roll up old magazines and tuck them in the shafts to keep them from folding over and creasing.

I never get rid of accessories unless they are damaged. Accessories take up so little space, it’s worth it to keep them and reassess them every couple of seasons. A belt that seems dated this spring may be completely on trend in a year. I store jewelry in plastic baggies to keep them from tarnishing, loosely coil belts into an old shoe box, and for purses I stuff them with paper and then tuck them in an old pillowcase to keep them from getting dusty.

I recommend doing a closet reassessment like this twice a year, once at the end of the summer or back to school time, and once around this time of year as the weather is getting warmer. Not only can you again clean out all which isn’t doing you any style favors, but you can pack up out of season clothes and make a fresh shopping list of what you need for the upcoming season. Keeping up with your closet keeps you in a style frame of mind. You shop for clothing more carefully, you think more about how your clothes work with your body and your lifestyle, and you are better able to hone your personal style.

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UPDATED: Closet Clean-out – The Woman in Her 30s

One thing with having a blog for this long is that some of my “classic” fashion advice stops being classic. While one may try to buy pieces that will work for decades, few pieces really accomplish just that – shoulders slightly change, the taper on a skirt will increase or decrease over a decade, and items that seemed to be utterly passé return as “fashion staples.” So every so often, I revisit some of my old posts and update them for the new decade.

I have seen a lot of forums and sites complain about my post “Closet Clean-out – The Woman in Her 30s.” They find it too limiting, and out of date. I did write it three years ago, so let’s take another look at that list, and how it fits for women in 2011:

You aren’t 25 any more and you feel it in almost every aspect of your life. Do you feel it in your wardrobe?

No matter how young you can pass for or how many hours you spend in the gym, when you are over 30 you look ridiculous trying to dress like a 25-year old. Now this doesn’t mean once that birthday hits you have to chuck all your indie labels and head to Ann Taylor; it just means you need to add a bit of polish, refinement and respect to your look. You’ll be surprised – a proper closet clean-out in your early ‘30s will improve your reputation at work, your chances at finding a mate, and will actually make you look younger and more confident.

The Standard Closet Clean-out for a Woman in her 30s – Updated for the New Decade

What to Toss:

1. Half your rubber flip-flop collection. Oh this one gets a lot of flack. Am I really asking you to toss ALL OF YOUR BELOVED FLIP FLOPS??? Nope, read it again – I wrote HALF of your rubber flip flops, and note I say RUBBER. There is a difference between a leather flip flop and a cheapy pair from Old Navy, there is a difference between the silver thongs that look so great with your maxi dress, and your smelly pair of Havaianas that have seen far better days.

Keep your Reefs and your Rainbows, but thin out the collection. No need for a pair to match every top in your wardrobe for flip flops are not real footwear.  The more pairs you own, the more likely they will creep into everyday fashion.  Keep a pair that matches your bathing suit, a pair for running out into the yard, a standard black or brown pair in great condition for casual events.

Flip flops are for the beach, the pool, the neighbor’s cookout. They are not street shoes. They are terrible for your foot health, they are dangerous on an escalator, and they look tacky when trying to pretend to be true footwear. Instead, look for flat sandals or leather thongs which are just as easy and comfy, but far more stylish.

2. Ironic tee shirts. Again, another item that gets folks up in arms. So you keep your Hello Kitty tee shirt just for trips to the gym, or your Star Wars shirt just for trips to the grocery store and Home Depot. Don’t you see people when you go to these places? Anytime you leave your home, you have a chance with destiny. Dress for it. Don’t let people make assumptions about you.

Ironic tees are perfect for events like Comic-Con or a music festival; an event where like-minded people get together. These are places where such a tee shirt will be appreciated. When an adult woman heads out into public wearing a tee shirt with Tigger on the front, she will not be taken seriously, no matter how intelligent or composed she is.

3. Any top made out of denim. I type this the same day I ironed my relatively new chambray shirt. Who would have thought that in three years denim shirts would have made such a big comeback? Obviously not me.

So denim is back in, but that doesn’t mean every woman should hold on to her Express denim jacket from 2001 or her L.L. Bean chambray shirt from college. The silhouettes are washes are slightly different this time around, and style is in those tiny details. Unless you are the queen of vintage and can rock Brenda Walsh’s wardrobe in a new and funky way, keep your denim shirt shopping to a minimum. As a 36-year old woman, I chose to purchase only one denim-ish shirt this season, and went with a version from Target so I didn’t make a big investment. Denim went out of favor just a few years ago… and I have a good feeling it will be passé again in a couple years more.

4. Miniskirts (and skorts… and shorts). So shorts are back as well. Leather shorts on starlets, silk shorts on fashionistas, and candy-colored chino ones on anyone who loves J. Crew. Shorts are great when it’s hot out, and they are easy fashion for casual weekends.

The thing is, no matter how much you hit the gym, your 30-something gams won’t be as fab as your 20-something ones. Gravity, desk jobs, spending too many hours on your feet… these take a toll on a woman’s legs and thighs. So wear the shorts and even wear the shorter skirts, but be realistic. Make sure you can sit and pick up something from the ground without flashing the world, do the fingertip test (one should never wear a skirt that is shorter than her longest fingertip when arms to her side), and if unsure, choose the longer version for more versatility (mini skirts and shorts are not professional looking nor appropriate for weddings and religious events).

One item I would add to this list that I would not have in ’08 are the distressed denim mini skirts. While this was a fun look a couple years ago with a fitted tee and beaded necklace, this look now is dated and a bit Rock of Love. Instead choose denim cutoffs in a flattering length or a dark denim refined skirt, free of tears and bleach spots.

And as for skorts? Leave them to the tennis players.

5. Cheap bras. Read my recent post on getting a professional bra fitting. Look at my before and after photos. Read the comments from fellow readers. A quality bra that fits can totally transform not only your look, but your posture and health. You’re an adult, and you deserve quality underpinnings that support and flatter this beautiful adult body.

6. Laura Ashley Dresses. Another item that has gained popularity thanks to the vintage fashion darlings. I know some women (the blogger La Petite Marmoset comes to mind) who looks utterly adorable in a Laura Ashley dress. She knows how to rock it with some big chunky sandals, a hat, and a crazy accessory. She inherently knows how to make it work for her, make it look modern.

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t have the innate creative fashion sense of these vintage fashion bloggers. That’s okay, neither do I. And for that, we must steer clear of the polyester rayon challis calf-length dresses covered in calico prints.

7. Cheap polyester skirts. I still see these skirts being sold in some department stores like Kohl’s and PC Penney and it makes my stomach turn. A polyester tube of fabric covered with a tube of polyester mesh is not a flattering look on ANYONE. For a similar and more stylish look, consider a pencil skirt. I have found some great pencil skirts at all price points of stretchy Ponte de Roma, stretch denim, lined wool crepe, sturdy chino, lined silk and more.

8. Club Tops. Club tops are slowly disappearing from retailers (unless you shop at Frederick’s of Hollywood) but what is in their place are the teeny tiny camis that can’t be worn with a stitch of underpinnings. Be they spandex tubes or flimsy silky camisoles with lingerie straps, they can be seen as sexy… or desperate.

In my original post I mention both camis and tube tops as good alternatives, which can be seen as a conflict with the paragraph above. The difference is that I mention pieces that are flowing, blouson, silk. You don’t need to show off the indentation of your belly button to be sexy. Elegance and confidence are far more sexy attributes to show off.

9. Cheap suiting. Cheap suiting still exists, I see it in every discount retailer and on the Victoria’s Secret website. Unless you work at a very high-powered corporation or on The Hill, you probably don’t need to wear a suit to work every single day. Invest in one or two simple, basic suits in colors like black and gray so they can mix and match and work year-round. For other days, consider separates – trousers that don’t cling to your rear, skirts that hit around the knee, blouses and dresses that aren’t too tight.

If you do need to wear a suit every day, again choose quality and subtle colors so you can get away with wearing each piece more often. Break up the monotony with blouses and shells and subtle accessories.

And per my original post, shop career-friendly retailers in their sale departments for reasonable prices, and if you are torn between a cheap suit and a crisp shirt and skirt or trousers… go with the latter. Fit trumps uniform for interviews, business meetings, and corporate events. You will lose credibility faster in an ill-fitting polyester suit than in a blouse and trousers that fit and flatter.

What else I would add to this list:

  • Cheap pleather bags. This isn’t saying you can’t use vegan bags, but look for bags that are well-made. No more patent-leather designer knockoffs from Target, vinyl blinged-out purses from Payless, and NEVER pay for a fake designer bag (read this if you’re still considering fakes, & do a little Googling to see the true cost of purchasing fakes). If you can’t afford a designer bag, you’re not alone. Choose bags with fewer details – less metal, fewer studs, fewer trends. Go to the classics – even a small L.L. Bean Boat and Tote can be a chic summer handbag. Buy vintage – it’s en vogue and a stylish way to recycle and reuse while staying on budget.
  • Belly rings. Unless you are one who rocks piercings and body modification, little rhinestone belly rings are past their prime.
  • Silly Bandz/Cause Bracelets. My daughter wears Silly Bandz, and she is two. As for cause bracelets, my husband is a cancer survivor, but my Livestrong bracelet has been tucked very far in the back of my jewelry box for almost a decade. You can show your support for a cause without wearing rubber around your wrist.

Do not think that once you have your 30th birthday you have to dress in all gray with skirts past your knees. On the contrary. The point of this list isn’t to make you a Stepford Thirty-something, but to help you be realistic with your wardrobe. Show your personality with color and prints, use your post-college paycheck for some fabulous pumps or a well-made handbag. Notice what you are drawn to, and work on creating a signature look. Every woman’s personal style is different, instead of hiding behind your dated and inappropriate closet pieces, embrace this new stage of your life and find that look that is unequivocally, completely you.

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Closet Clean-out – The Woman Over 50

I may not yet be this age, but I am surrounded by coworkers, friends and family that are in this category. I have done many closet cleanouts and wardrobe consultations for women of this age and often times see the same themes in each of their closets, no matter their lifestyle, figure or age.

A woman over 50 has spent the greater part of her life taking care of everyone but herself. She may have worked up the career ladder to corporate success, raised several children, cared for home and spouse, was a leader in her community, and usually a combination of many or all of these things. To do all of this successfully, something often has to give and the first thing a woman is known to give up is herself – her time, her sleep, her budget for fashion and personal care.

This is nothing to criticize – we women are amazing creatures who have the ability to kick butt and take name in the corporate sector while nurturing a family at home and supporting causes close to our hearts. We can multi-task like nobody’s business and work beautifully with what life has given us.

The thing is, we often say it to our friends – we are no good to another if we are not first good to ourselves. Taking care of our exterior does a world of good in feeling good about ourselves and being understood and respected in the world. We can often feel taken advantage of by coworkers, children, significant others and peers; when you are over 50 it is time to reclaim yourself and show the world that you are still a successful and compassionate person, but you are no one’s doormat, you aren’t to be retired to a shelf, you are a phenomenal woman.

The quickest way to do this is by honestly analyzing your closet. Here’s a few things that every woman should toss from her collection:

Short-sleeved Camp Shirts. This seems to be the staple of many women’s wardrobe. In a poly blend, silky challis, actual silk or a cotton blend, these shirts have a boxy shape, a notched collar and are often worn untucked with trousers or tucked into skirts. They usually come in a floral or abstract print though they also do come in solids. They are wonderful because they are breezy on hot days, easy to wash and dry, resistant to wrinkles and seem to dress up a simple pair of shorts or pants.

Ladies, these are the equivalent of a man’s Hawaiian shirt. They are cheap looking, dated and a bit corny. They don’t flatter your figure, and they don’t honestly state to the world your personality and sense of style.

The Poly-blend Elastic Waist PermaPress Trouser. Again, these are popular because they are so easy – comfortable, easy to care for, work almost every season of the year. Black can look dressy in a snap, colors add pizzazz to outfits (usually with the camp shirts that are mentioned above).

I understand comfort and convenience, and I understand that it isn’t easy to shop for a figure that may not look or feel the same as it did 25 years ago. However that does not mean you need to succumb to what my dear friend calls Nursing Home Couture. You are not having someone else dress and bathe you, you have the ability to pull and zip up your own trousers, so you should invest in a few pairs that are easy to care for but look elegant and flattering.

Unlined trousers of cotton blends and synthetics usually can take a run on the gentle cycle of the washing machine with a gentle liquid detergent; drying synthetics is an overnight process from a hanger on your shower curtain rail. A tab-waist trouser will not dig into your midsection and lay smooth over your curves. A straight trouser or one that slightly gets wider as it goes down the leg is the most flattering to the majority of silhouettes. Black is great for dressing up; white is amazing with brights or pastels in the summer (look for lined or a heavier fabric with these to prevent VPL), and you will get more wear and look far more polished in neutrals for trousers – tan, camel, ivory, gray, brown will get you far more miles than baby blue or mauve.

The Man-sized Polo Shirt. They’re on sale at L.L. Bean and never shrink or fade. It was given to you at your company retreat. It’s comfortable/easy to care for/your favorite color/hides all the lumps and bumps/is simple come summer with a pair of shorts.

You are not a man, and you should never dress like a man. The oversized style went out a decade ago and we should be grateful. Oversized shirts actually make us look more lumpy and bumpy, and hide any curves we wish to showcase. A polo collar is not flattering to most, and those blousy-then-banded sleeves make everyone’s arms look like ham hocks.

I could suggest a feminine cut of polo shirt, but I find these styles of tops are not flattering on most women. If you are busty, curvy, or have a very athletic frame these tops usually accentuate the negative and hide the positive. If you have a slight figure with a few feminine curves and like the preppy style, go ahead and purchase some that are nipped in at the waist and cut to flatter your bustline. Stick with solids in cheery colors as that they look more expensive and elegant than stripes and prints. As for the rest of us women, a great replacement is a refined tee. Same great color choices, made of a silky yet sturdy jersey knit, with a flattering neckline and well-fitting sleeves it is just as easy to care for and far more flattering to one’s face and figure. No matter your size, look for one that glides over curves – no more oversized shirts!

Suntan-colored Pantyhose. Let’s add white, taupe, navy and ivory to this list. Not, I am not going to tell you to get rid of all your hose, but to be more particular with what quality and color your purchase.

Skin-colored hose can cover up a multitude of leg issues, offer some tummy control, help skirts glide better and make an outfit look more polished. However a leg that is obviously a different color from the rest of your body doesn’t look polished, it looks cheap. White hose should be left to nurses, and colored hose should be tossed or left to True Fashionistas.

Good hose will not be found at the drugstore – it’s best to head to your local department store where you can test out the colors against your skin, see the denier and feel the quality. You want sheer hose that do not have a lot of shine – are just a hair darker than your legs (should be the color of your face), and seem durable. Black hose are still acceptable for formal and conservative events if paired with black shoes – these should also be of good quality, sheer and not with a lot of shine.

There really isn’t need for any other color of hose – keep your selection minimal and then you can afford the higher-end brands. Care for them by gently washing and storing them and they should survive many wears.

As for knee-highs… they only work with trousers. There shouldn’t be a single skirt in your wardrobe that can handle knee-highs as well as walking and crossing of legs without the band showing. All hose should be above the knee or left to wear with pants.

Overly Matchy Matchy Anything. It’s nice to have your belt match your shoes, or even occasionally have your lipstick match the print in your blouse. What I am speaking of is the overly-matched set. The lime green shirt jacket and matching fabric capris with the same lime green printed tank, same lime green sandals, a headband of the same print as the top, and a lime green bangle to match your lime green hoops. I often see this with animal prints, unusual colors (lime, yellow, orange), and with novelty fabrics (corduroy trousers, jacket, purse and shoes).

Shopping channels and mail-order catalogs will often encourage this matchy-matchy obsession, telling their audience that it makes one look more polished, coordinated, festive. It doesn’t; it looks gaudy and cheap and tacky.

I remember a client showing up in her favorite outfit – a denim dress with leopard print trim, leopard print belt, leopard print pumps, a leopard print clutch with denim trim, and a denim and leopard printed fabric hair scrunchie. She even admitted when she wore this outfit, she donned her favorite leopard print bra and panties set. She said the coordination made her feel as though she was well dressed, strong, organized and powerful. She said she often got many compliments on the ensemble. When I asked her what type of compliments, she thought back and realized they were not about how she looked, but how coordinated and unusual the outfit itself was.

Over-coordination does not make you look better; you are the backdrop and this ensemble ends up taking center stage. One does not see your sparkling eyes, your engaging smile, but instead they are overwhelmed in a wash of candy pink or purple paisley. A matchy-matchy outfit is not an outfit, but a costume. A woman of style uses clothing to accentuate herself, never to hide herself.

You can usually keep most of these items, but pair them with different pieces. My client’s leopard shoes became a staple in her wardrobe and were paired with black, red, brown and rust colored garments. The dress was still worn with a black belt and heels. She did end up getting rid of the scrunchie and clutch because they were purchased more for the coordination factor, not because they were attractive or made of quality.

Toss the scrunchies, the headbands, the sun visors, the socks, the clutches and fabric belts that were not purchased out of use, but because they perfectly matched another part of your wardrobe (and do yourself a favor and do not purchase another scrunchie or fabric visor or headband again – these do not accentuate your sense of style). From now on, accessories purchased should be able to work with at least three ensembles from your current closet (this includes shoes). This may not be seen as “fun,” but fun can be found in quality versatile pieces as well. Animal print and red shoes are surprisingly neutral and versatile, an ornately beaded clutch in many colors will work with almost every cocktail dress in your collection, a colorful hand-painted wooden bangle will brighten up basics in your closet and become a conversation piece, not a costume.

The Silkscreened Tees. Yes, you may be the world’s greatest grandmother, #1 scout leader, a patriot, and you may have gone to Florida, the Bahamas, New York and Mexico this past year. This does not mean you need to exclaim this on your bosom. Many times these are gifts from others and I understand that. However that means you are the type that seems wanting of a silkscreened memento. My mother is over 50, one of my best friends, a world traveler, a ton of fun, and I would never purchase her a silkscreened shirt as a gift. That doesn’t mean I don’t buy her trinkets from trips and gifts for special occasions, it’s just that I know she is the type to far more appreciate a framed photograph, a dish towel (she collects them), a small bottle of her beloved Chanel No. 5. Does this mean she doesn’t own silkscreened tees? No, she has ones from her alma mater, various programs she has been a part of, one advertising the yoga studio she attends… but these are worn for yoga class, when gardening, and they are always in pristine condition.

See above regarding alternatives to the man’s sized polo for what can replace the silkscreened tee from your daily wardrobe. Pare down your collection, keep the ones in best condition and that hold the most meaning to you and donate the rest. A woman only needs a handful of these for times when she doesn’t want to get her higher-end knits soiled or sweaty.

The Buxton Purse. I don’t like to call out name brands, but felt this one gave the best description. Have you seen the advertisement on television that advertises this leather purse from Buxton? It is made to hold everything including the kitchen sink in various little compartments and has an adjustable strap so you can wear it across your body.

Buxton is a brand that has been around for years and makes good quality items. I have no doubt that this is a well-crafted handbag. However, these purses… these mobile command centers are not as useful as one thinks, and not very stylish.

The larger your purse is, the more you will stuff into it. The more compartments you have, usually the more you lose things, not the more organized you will be. Carrying a purse across your person is not the most flattering look (usually causes you to walk lopsided and cuts right between your breasts) and should be only used when sightseeing and being on vacation.

Anyway, back to the bag. Many women carry a mobile command unit – a bag with a cell phone, calculator, notepad, wallet for money, wallet for credit cards, change purse, checkbook, cosmetic bag with a full day’s look, panty liners, safety pins, a full sewing kit, tissues, snacks, receipts, eight pens, two pencils, a highlighter, a Sharpie, a hairbrush, pain reliever, stain remover, extra pair of glasses, two pairs of sunglasses, hand cream, a bottle of water, a book, a cardigan sweater, mace, three sets of keys and a separate key ring just for savings cards at grocery and specialty stores. Some of you are a Godsend to us, being able to quickly fish out just what a stranger or friend needs at that instant. More women I meet end up spending several minutes fishing through wadded up tissues and sticky cough drops just to find a pen or a ringing cell phone.

A handbag is a worthy investment. One of high quality, durable fabrication and classic style will offer you years and years of use. One that has handles that are comfortable for you (are you a hand-holder, an elbow-crooker or a shoulder-slinger?), a way to quickly retrieve that which is most important (designated spot for keys, cell phone, subway farecard/token) and offers structure so that not everything sinks to the bottom center. Buy a bag that is big enough to hold what you honestly need on a daily basis, but not so big that you can slowly add more to the collection. More than four pockets usually means for women a good two minutes more to have to search for something. This doesn’t mean we are disorganized, it’s just that we have too much stuff and too many options.

I have written before about a purse survival kit, I recommend reviewing it when replacing or reorganizing your purse. Once you have your current purse pared down or in possession of a new bag that fits your needs and your sense of style… take care of it. Don’t sit it on the floor of the public bathroom, use retractable pens so they don’t ink up the interior (or exterior), if it’s light in color be sure to not seat newspapers or rub denim against it, take it to a cobbler to have it repaired as soon as there is a tear or issue so it doesn’t worsen, and clean it out monthly.

Embellishment Overload. This goes hand-in-hand with the overly matchy-matchy ensembles. Tee shirts covered in appliqué and Bedazzlement, jackets with fringe and patches, holiday-themed sweaters, velvet and sparkle for daytime… these are not the garments of polished or stylish women of any age.

Keep the embellishment for scrapbook pages, the Christmas tree, even attire for your precious pooch. Removing the bling will actually make your clothing look more expensive, chic, and will stay stylish far more seasons. Find luxury in purchasing less but higher quality garments – cashmere sweaters, silk blouses, a handful of thin silver bangle bracelets, dangly earrings with a cocktail dress… these can provide as much shine and texture but in a more elegant manner.

Must Haves for Your Closet:
The LBD. Yes, every woman of every age needs a little black dress. Granted, your dress may not be as little as your daughter’s, but it still should be simple, hitting around the knee (just above to just below), could be sleeveless, have cap sleeves or ¾ sleeves – whatever you feel most comfortable in. Neckline can vary again with what is flattering and comfortable for you. Fabric would be crepe, silk, or some sort of blend that gives a very subtle shine, is free of texture (damask), embellishment (beading, chiffon sleeves, velvet or satin trim, etc.) and can be comfortable almost every season of the year. If black is too harsh with your coloring, a very very dark indigo, eggplant, gray or espresso can replace it; however this dress should be simple enough that you can wear it to every event in a year and no one would realize it is the same dress. This dress can work for day or for evening if purchased correctly: with leather pumps or silk heels, with a silk shawl or a wool coat. You’ll find that this dress seems too severe or too dressy for your lifestyle, but you’ll end up wearing it to holiday functions, evening weddings, religious events, and nights out on the town. If it’s well made and well fitting, it doesn’t matter if you wear the dress 20 times a year – style is in the garment, not the amount of garments.

A Proper Bra. I say this in every post – get yourself fitted, and get yourself fitted again every year from now on. The size bra you wore 20, or even five years ago very well may not be the size you wear now. We lose weight, we gain weight, we exercise, we change jobs, and we all experience gravity. Bras that lift and separate and shape take more years off you than the best facial in town, and they also often end or reduce back pain.

Non-VPL Underwear. Comfortable, breathable, yet invisible under pants? It is possible to have all three in a pair of underwear. Take your time, and venture out of the Big Box or Department store to find a pair. Many brands now advertise styles that are supposed to eliminate Visible Panty Lines (VPL); buy one pair and try them on (or wear your thinnest trousers shopping and try these on over your own panties and under said trousers). If they don’t work, don’t give up. And if you have found a company that does offer these sorts of undergarments, please mention them in the comments so fellow women can benefit from your find!

Proper Outerwear. One thing I love about my job is that I now use public transportation and see all sorts of people in all walks of life heading to work or out on errands. One thing I often see are women of a certain age who do not have proper outerwear. When it rains, they are wearing a yellow poncho or getting soaked under an umbrella. Come winter, they are wearing what looks to be their husband’s barn coat, or a puffy full-length parka that looks as though it has seen better days.

A wool coat that comes anywhere between mid-thigh and mid-calf will work with skirts as well as trousers for winter months. If you live in an especially cold climate, invest in a wool coat that has a Thinsulate or other extra lining. For rain and cool fall and spring days, a classic trench or Mac will work (a detachable lining may be a plus if you live in an especially cold climate). Both coats should be simple in style, free of adornments, buttons the same color as the coat, no chest pockets, and preferably no self belt (belts are only flattering on slimmer figures – tying a belt behind you usually is uncomfortable when sitting and can be a pain. If you don’t look good with a nipped/belted waist in a dress, pass on it for a coat). Depending on your personal sense of style, you can go with a classic black, brown or taupe… or switch it up with a Robin’s Egg blue, fire engine red, Kelly green or another color that makes cold and dreary days a bit more cheery. These two styles of coats rarely go out of fashion and can provide you years of wear.

The City Boot. The city boot is a short boot that hits just above your ankle bone. It usually sips up, but occasionally has an elastic gusset so it can be slipped on and off. The city boot is sleek, elegant, classic, and comfortable to, ahem… boot. It works with trousers and jeans from September to May, and can usually replace a third of the shoes you already have in your closet.

Invest in a boot from a company known for comfort and support, and this will be a great travel shoe too. Consider additional insoles for added support and cushioning, and keep them regularly polished. A low heel, a slightly squared toebox and no embellishments (fancy stitching, variety of fabrics, etc.) will make these boots a staple in your wardrobe for years to come.

Flattering Glasses. Do you wear glasses? When is the last time you purchased a new pair? If it has been over five years, get thee to a glasses shop pronto! These days, most insurance companies cover a portion of glasses – if not, there are so many styles out there at reasonable prices.

Other than hair (see below), the other accessory that can age and even disfigure a woman’s face quick are unflattering glasses. With the wrong glasses you can look older, heavier, have larger bags under your eyes, broader of a nose, wider of a face. Very small metal-rimmed glasses were quite the look several years ago but have gone by the wayside for people have realized they only looked flattering on the glasses models – the rest of us put them on and looked like Ben Franklin. Large plastic frames are best kept to hipsters and ‘80s-themed parties.

That being said, there are so many styles and materials for glasses these days, you are sure to find a pair that fits your budget, your face, and your personality. Take a friend or family member with you who has taste you respect. If you also own contacts, it’s a good idea to wear them on this visit so you can properly see your reflection and how you look in the sample glasses. Don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson if they can order a different size or color of frame, or if they have additional similar styles in back or elsewhere in the store. Most glasses boutiques are overwhelming – employees know the store far better and can search around for styles that you may have missed. Also don’t stick to just the women’s section – my most recent pair of glasses are actually men’s but they look far better on my face than any style I could find in the women’s category!

A Hair Plan. Have you been dying but now want to go to gray? Is your hair starting to go salt and pepper? Do you want it to continue, or do you want a way to gently hide it? This is not an at-home project. As hair goes gray, the texture changes. You may find your brown hair is straight, while the gray hairs are curly; blonde hair is fine while the white hairs are coarse. This greatly affects how haircolor, styling products and even haircuts work on you.

If you don’t have a stylist you trust, this is a good time to audition one. Remember – you are the one holding the purse strings. Ask around your community – women who have hair you admire, ask them for the name of their stylist. Read reviews in neighborhood magazines and papers – they often give annual awards to salons and other personal care businesses. Call them up and tell them your mane desires and ask them if you could have a consultation with a stylist best suited for the job. These consultations should be free. Come in wearing your favorite outfit, and style your hair as usual. Be honest with your desires – do you want a wash and wear look? Let the stylist know so you don’t get stuck straightening and moussing for 45 minutes every morning. Tell the stylist your regular beauty routine, your lifestyle, and your goals for your look. Your hair is the accessory you wear every single day – it should be given the utmost care and attention, and a great stylist will respect your desires and offer great suggestions to achieve them.

Please note that all photographs are taken from current online boutique or department store collections; do not think that just because they are selling it in stores right now that the style is current or stylish. Many companies sell that which will make money, not that which follows the trends. Read magazines (Bazaar and InStyle offer current trends changed to flatter a woman over 50, magazines like O and More regularly show models who are over 50, and “real life” looks can be seen far better in a parenting or lifestyle magazine than through a subscription to Vogue), watch television (sitcoms are a great place to see comfortable and easy-care fashion on women), and observe the women around you. If you see a woman with a similar figure in a garment you love, tell her and ask her where she purchased it.

You may also wish to visit:
Age is But a Number
The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe
How Does One Get the Polished Look?
Crimes of Fashion
Dress Your Age, Not Your Shoe Size

Closet Clean-out – The Woman in Her 30s

There are certain points in a woman’s life when it’s time for a major closet clean-out. Just before college, after finishing school, when drastically changing careers…

And when you hit your 30s.

Why am I concentrating on your 30s and not other age? Well the 30s are a crazy time – it’s a time when you usually have established yourself in your career, you often times have found a life partner, possibly have started having children. Usually your residence has become a home – a place you care about and where you have put down some roots.

You aren’t 25 any more and you feel it in almost every aspect of your life. Do you feel it in your wardrobe?

No matter how young you can pass for or how many hours you spend in the gym, when you are over 30 you look ridiculous trying to dress like a 25-year old. Now this doesn’t mean once that birthday hits you have to chuck all your indie labels and head to Ann Taylor; it just means you need to add a bit of polish, refinement and respect to your look. You’ll be surprised – a proper closet clean-out in your early 30s will improve your reputation at work, your chances at finding a mate, and will actually make you look younger and more confident.

The standard Closet Clean-out for a Woman in her 30s.
What to Toss:

1. Half your rubber flip-flop collection. If you read this blog regularly, you know I am not a huge fan of flip flops. They aren’t safe, they aren’t healthy, and they ruin the look (and sound!) of most outfits. However, if you read my other blog you know I own a couple pairs and wear them regularly.

Whether I like it or not, flip flops are convenient. Easy to slip on, cheap, comfortable for short errands and puttering around the house, pool, and beach. The perfect barbecue footwear.

However, they are not proper footwear, and shouldn’t be worn as such. Flip flops are not worn by stylish women outside of the above mentioned locations. This means no flops for work, no flip flops for the mall, no flops for dates, no flops in place of proper footwear. Flip flops are the shoes of adolescents and when they are worn by a woman, they look tacky and out of place.

No need to toss every pair, just half your collection. Keep the black or brown ones that are in fabulous condition and are made with structure (well-made straps, thicker sole, etc.), and go ahead and keep a pair in the same color as your swimsuit. It’s also okay to keep a pair with your college mascot or those classic Adidas “shower shoes” for exactly that – showers at the gym and situations where it’s not the best idea to be completely barefoot. However toss any pair that has beading, sequins, clear straps, printed soles, or obvious logos. Any of the cheap flops from Old Navy or the drugstore that are barely padded, the ones you bought to wear under your gown on your wedding day, the ones that were only $2.99 at Express five years ago, the ones that are practically worn through and you have worn since your lifeguarding days in college… they all need to go. Smelly, worn flip flops are not the way to keep a memory. Dig up a picture of you and your friends at the beach when you wore those flops and frame it in honor of the flip flop retirement. Your feet, your sense of style and eventually you will thank me for this advice.

2. Ironic tee shirts. Fake vintage soda pop ads, Hello Kitty, Care Bears, plays on words, glittery phrases telling the world how sexy, spoiled or fun you are… they all should go in the donation bag STAT. I don’t care if you only wear these around the house or to the gym – I KNOW you have other shirts that can fulfill this duty and do not have messages on them. If not, get thee to Target and buy two or three. They are less than $10, have feminine shapes, fun colors and will survive many washings.

A stylish woman doesn’t have to tell the world what type of person she is, or what brand she is wearing. A stylish woman also doesn’t proclaim her hobbies or fetishes on her bosom. A woman who wears these sorts of shirts in public looks desperate and like a fashion victim. Don’t fall prey to trends – from now on purchase tees and casual wear that are free of logos, embellishment or silkscreening. They won’t age as quickly, and won’t be as likely to age you.

3. Any top made out of denim. This means denim bustiers, chambray shirts, denim shells, vests, cropped little jackets, and all those other pieces that you have been holding on to since the mid ‘90s because someone made you think that denim was classic. This also includes any tops that are partially made of denim (denim collar, denim patches, band, etc.).

Denim is not classic. Yes, the traditional denim jacket comes in and out of style, but each time it is slightly different and a bit harder to pull off when you’re not 21. Unless your lifestyle warrants a sturdy denim jacket or you are considered by many to be a True Fashionista, it’s best to get rid of the denim jackets as well. Nothing ruins the line of a sweet dress, or the style of a simple outfit faster than a denim jacket (especially in a dated wash or silhouette). Getting rid of this excess denim will make your look far more polished, stylish and flattering.

4. Miniskirts (and skorts… and shorts). Okay okay, skorts are a brilliant invention. Looks like a skirt, but has shorts underneath to keep you properly covered (and they also prevent chafing). However, skorts always look like skorts, and skorts always look too much like what little children wear. Skorts have not been in fashion for many years, no matter what QVC or that mail-order catalog tells you. Donate them all.

As for short shorts… they haven’t been in style for years, they aren’t flattering on any normally shaped woman and are uncomfortable to boot. Chino, denim, seersucker, jersey… no short should end right below your bum unless you are under the age of 14.

The same holds true for miniskirts. You may have the greatest legs this side of the Atlantic, but that doesn’t mean you are flattering yourself in a thigh-skimming skirt. Super short skirts look desperate, dated and wrong on the majority of women on this planet. That being said, a short skirt is different from a mini. A skirt that is an inch above the top of your knee is short – a skirt that is an inch below your bum is mini. Rock your great gams in a short skirt every day of the year, they can be quite flattering and sexy (and elongate the leg); however get rid of the minis – they are not doing anything for you.

Note: The combination of short skirt and high heel is never stylish. Nothing taller than a 3” heel with a skirt above the knee, and consider a boot or wedge to balance out all that exposed leg. A basic pump with a short skirt is very ZZ Top and not a polished look for anyone.

5. Cheap bras. No matter your size, a cheap bra is not a flattering bra. It’s time to get rid of any bras you bought at a non-lingerie or department store (hello H&M), the mesh or stretchy lace ones that provide zero support or shape, the ones that are falling apart, the one you bought because it matched those panties that have since been tossed but the bra is so comfortable and it doesn’t matter because you only wear it on weekends… you know you own some of these bras and they aren’t doing you any favors.

You’re an adult now, and it’s time to invest in adult lingerie. Go to a specialty or high end department store and get fitted. This does NOT mean Victoria’s Secret – you are looking for a well-trained professional who specializes in lingerie. After being fitted, you can choose to shop at that store, or go elsewhere that is more in line with your income. Invest in a few skin-colored smooth bras that disappear under knits and light colored clothing, a great bra for styles you often wear (plunging necklines, halter tops, racerbacks, low backs, strapless), and one or two in black or skin color that lift, separate and shape you into a feminine beauty. Once you have these bras, treat them with care. Hand wash them with a product made for such delicate fabric, and have them air dry. If you don’t have the time for hand washing, wash on the gentle cycle of your machine in a lingerie bag. If you baby these bras, they will last far longer, maintain their shape and elasticity and baby you back.

Once you have a proper base bra collection, you can then slowly add to it with lacy, racy and frilly confections. Even those these pieces are less versatile, they should be purchased considering how they shape you and how they are fashioned. Spending money on quality lingerie will save you money in the long run, and nothing makes you look thinner or more youthful than a properly lifted bust line!

6. Laura Ashley Dresses. Church dresses, Laura Ingalls Wilder dresses, granny dresses, prairie dresses… I have asked many fashion experts for the proper term of these sorts of dresses and no one can come up one. This may because they have been out of fashion for so very long of a time!

These are the dresses that are often made of rayon or challis, bias cut or with an empire waist and hang from mid-calf to ankle length. In the early ‘90s they were often spaghetti strap and worn alone as a sundress or paired with a baby tee. Usually these dresses are seen with tank-style straps or cap sleeves. They are sometimes solid on color, but usually in floral print (hence the “Laura Ashley” term).

No matter your sense of style, these dresses are no longer stylish. As with denim tops, these are not classic pieces and look dated and frumpy on any woman of any age. Yes, the bias-cut dress may be flattering to your hourglass frame, and yes that floral print may remind you of your childhood bedroom. That doesn’t mean it is the attire of a stylish or polished woman.

It is possible to have a conservative wardrobe without succumbing to the Laura Ashley dress. It is also possible to show off your feminine style without having these dresses in your wardrobe. Consider separates, sheath dresses, and dresses with a more retro style (belted with a full skirt). They can be just as conservative, just as feminine and just as flattering without looking as though you are an extra from Little House on the Prairie.

7. Cheap polyester skirts. During my many years of retail management, personal shopping and visual merchandising I worked for the clothing company Express. Express was the go-to store for many college and post-college aged women in the late ‘90s because they offered affordable variations of runway styles, trendy suiting, and wearable date and clubwear. One of their most popular items was the mesh-overlay skirt. Many other retailers carried this same garment and it was seen on almost every American woman at some point during the late ‘90s to early ‘00s. This skirt was straight, often with an elastic waist and usually fell just above to the middle of the knee. The lining was a stretchy lycra or a thin polyester acetate, the top layer was a mesh usually in a graphic print, often embellished with rhinestones or embroidery. These skirts were paired with bra tanks and flip flops in summer, with ribbed turtlenecks and tall boots in winter. They were fabulous because they were cheap, trendy, machine washable and versatile.

I remember I had a taupe acrylic v-neck stretchy sweater (the “Jet Sweater” from Express) that I paired with one of these sheer skirts – it had a red under layer and a black, ivory and taupe abstract leaf-print top layer. I wore this ensemble to work, to bridal showers, on dates, to church. I found it to be elegant yet hip, trendy while classic. When the skirt no longer fit, I packed this set in a steamer truck in case I got back down to this size. I opened this steamer trunk two years ago and this “elegant ensemble” now looked cheap and sad.

That’s what these skirts look like to the rest of the world. They are not flattering (they show every curve and bump), they usually hit at a weird place on the leg, the fabric goes with little other than the poly tops and acrylic sweaters that were sold during the same era, and they look very dated and cheap.

Invest in one or two pencil or a-line skirts that hit at the slimmest part of your leg. Get one in black, gray or brown and another in a fun color or print. If you choose a sturdy fabric with a bit of stretch, the skirt will work in almost every season and be resistant to wrinkles. You will find it will easily take the spot where these cheap skirts used to reside and you will look thinner, more elegant and more modern.

8. Club Tops. You know what a club top is – it’s that little beaded, sequined or shiny synthetic wonder you picked up for $12.99 at some store you usually wouldn’t shop at. One of those stores in the mall with too loud of music, overcrowded jumbled racks organized by price point, fitting rooms that don’t have doors or mirrors (and smell a bit like Fritos), and the rest of the customers are under the age of 17. You were probably shopping with a bunch of friends and went in for giggles and was overwhelmed by the incredibly low prices or the fantastic bling (and neckline) of the top. It’s stretch satin, polyester mesh, Lycra. It has rhinestones, sequins, beading, lace cut-outs or maybe all four. It is near impossible to wear with a bra or the couple of days before your period. It’s a top that you don’t mind having a bit of beer spilled on it, possibly your “Get Lucky” top.

Well a stylish woman doesn’t own tops like this and doesn’t really need them to get what she wants out of an evening. One can be utterly sexy without looking trashy or cheap. Consider a silk camisole in a flattering rich color that is low on embellishments, but high on style. Tube tops have come back in style – a blouson one in silk or silk jersey shows skin while showing elegance. A chiffon or silk wrap blouse shows off your waistline and your décolleté while still showing your sense of style. You will find if you purchase more elegant of evening tops you will require fewer in your closet. Switch up the look with accessories – gold hoops and bangles one night, diamond studs another. Surprisingly, higher quality evening attire will save you money in the long run.

9. Cheap suiting. This includes unlined jackets, jackets that have such a sheen they catch the light, tight trousers that show VPL, overly trendy lapels and leg widths, short tight suit skirts, short skirts with long jackets (go ahead and sing it with me), and anything that has embroidery, fur trim, decals, or sequins attached to it.

You most likely aren’t applying to work at Amanda Woodward’s agency, so there really isn’t a place to wear this sort of “career wear.” Working for those few years for Express I sold and purchased much of this attire (also got quite a lot from other retailers such as Arden B and Bebe). Melrose Place and then Sex and the City were the hot shows to watch and take fashion cues from. Suiting got very creative, and very sexy. It was easy to care for since it wasn’t lined, stretchy so it showed off my curves, and mixed and matched with much of my bar and club attire. It was great to have when working retail for I gave the appearance of being a professional and yet still a fashionista.

Problem is that sort of suiting doesn’t work in most parts of the retail world. Unless you work in fashion, retail, beauty or a very creative firm, cheap and sexy suiting is a no-go. As for cheap suiting – it’s better to show up in a sweater and trousers than an ill-fitting and cheaply fashioned blazer. Cheap suiting gives off the same impression as the cheap club tops – you are desperate and you are not the cream of the crop.

I highly encourage every woman to invest in a classic black pantsuit if she ever has the reason to dress up outside of the home. You never know when you will be asked to speak in front of the PTA, go on a job interview, attend the funeral of a loved one, represent your company at a trade show or convention. The pants work alone with blouses and sweaters in your collection, the jacket should be a classic enough style to work for many seasons without looking dated (keep the buttons black and the pockets covered and to a minimum). Many stores that specialize in career wear have great end of season sales and often maintain the same fabric though many years so you can build up a budget-friendly collection of mix and match career wear.

If you are going on an interview or starting a new job tomorrow and all you have is that boxy brown unlined blazer with the gold pinstripes and double-breasted buttons… unless the dress code specifies a full suit you may be better off in a crisp white tailored shirt, a dark skirt or pair of trousers, simple leather pumps and a strand of pearls. A polished woman wishes to always give the best impression and sometimes it is better to be appropriately underdressed and than inappropriately dressed.

You may also wish to visit:
The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe
Dressing for Your Interview
What if I Hate Shopping?
Black Doesn’t Make You Look Slimmer, it Only Makes You Look Boring