Search Results for: label/clothing storage

Ask Allie: Plus Size Tall Retailers

It is becoming easier to find stylish clothes in tall sizes and in plus sizes but hard to find garments that are both. Don’t the manufacturers realize a person can be both tall and fat? I find the perfect office trousers in a plus size but then they aren’t long enough. Or I find the perfect office trousers that are long enough but they aren’t big enough. Over a certain waist size, it is impossible to get a 34″ inseam.

The reason is supply and demand. While it seems simple to just have the same pieces with a couple more inches at the hem, a retailer needs to invest in stock in that size. If they don’t have a proven customer, they can see extra lengths and sizes as a financial risk. The reason plus size fashion has improved lately is because plus sized women have begun to speak up, and LOUD. Opinion pieces in reputable publications, more and more plus size bloggers, and social media have given plus sized fashionistas the platform to let the retailers know they DESERVE style and if it exists, will purchase it.

It’s time for those who need not just plus size, but petite and tall lengths to speak up! The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and it’s clear that not all plus sized women are comfortable with a 32” inseam. Let your voices be heard, and make change happen in the apparel industry!

plus size tall long clothing retailers for women

Luckily some retailers understand that many plus sized women are also tall, and have added long lengths to their collections. A few retailers who offer plus sized tall or plus sized long lengths:

Lands’ End

Lands’ End realizes that a tall woman doesn’t just need a longer inseam for her jeans, but more length everywhere. Offering everything from sweaters to swimsuits, Lands’ End has a pretty varied plus size tall collection. Lands’ End often has great promotions, I recommend signing up for their emails to get the scoop when they take place. Lands’ End also has a generous return policy making online shopping a breeze.

Eloquii

Eloquii just released long and short lengths in their popular Kady Fit ankle pant.  Ankle pants are so hard for tall women to find, and this one comes in a 31″ length.  I hope this is just the beginning of lengths being offered at this stylish fashion resource for plus sized women!

Talbots

Talbots is one of the few retailers who offers both Womens Plus Tall and Womens Plus Petite pieces. Their plus size tall selection is only pants, but each season they offer at least a dozen styles up to a 24W with a 35” inseam. Talbots is another retailer who has amazing sales and great emails to notify you of them and you can return and exchange online purchases in their storefronts.

Long Tall Sally

Long Tall Sally specializes in clothing and accessories for tall women. They offer up to a 38” inseam, size 20, and even up to size 15 shoe. Long Tall Sally is not just a great resource for clothing, but also activewear, providing athletic gear and swimwear for those with long legs and torsos.  While shipping isn’t cheap with Long Tall Sally, they do now have Click & Collect in their shops.

Torrid

Torrid is known for trendy, youthful fashion in plus sizes, but they also have great wardrobe staples. Their tall collection (34” inseam) has trendy denim as well as classic styles of jeans, work trousers, and ponte pants; their extra tall selection (36” inseam) is limited but still provides some great styles of denim.

NYDJ

NYDJ offers a 35” inseam on many of their popular styles up to size 16. While you can find classic denim looks in long lengths, they also have trendy looks like coated denim and faux leather leggings. NYDJ runs big and stretchy; I recommend purchasing a size smaller than you’re accustomed to.  NYDJ also has free shipping and returns, making them a great online shopping resource.

Lane Bryant

While their selection of plus size tall bottoms are limited, there’s some good office staples in there and Lane Bryant always has some prints and variation from basic black pants and the occasional trendy piece.

Old Navy

Old Navy has tall and long lengths; their long inseam is 34” and their tall inseam 36”. Not only that, they are another retailer to realize tall women need more than black pants and offer tops, activewear, and shorts in tall sizes.

Alloy

Alloy has quite an extensive tall collection and go up to a size 25 and 3XL. Alloy is a great resource for on-trend plus size tall pieces like jumpsuits, waterfall cardigans, maxi skirts, and dresses which are often unavailable in longer lengths.

Long Elegant Legs

Founded by a tall woman, Long Elegant Legs has a great selection of everything from jeans and pants to activewear and sleepwear. They have styles up to a 39” inseam and offer up to size 24 making this a great resource for plus size tall women.

Have you found plus size tall clothing at any other retailers? Do share in the comments!

CAbi Clothing – An Honest Review

My friend Lisa has recently become a CAbi Consultant and offered me the chance to come to her house and check out the Spring 2011 line. For those who haven’t heard of CAbi, it stands for Carol Anderson By Invitation. It is a line of sportswear that is only sold by independent consultants (think Pampered Chef for fashion).

I jumped at this chance; for years I have had readers and fellow bloggers rave about CAbi clothing – the great fit, great quality, the ability to mix and match. Many of you readers have suggested CAbi clothing to me saying it fits with my style and beliefs that clothes should be stylish, but also versatile. I didn’t attend a CAbi party; instead Lisa had me over and gave me full rein to try on anything I wished and get a real feel for the collection.

Carol Anderson at Work

Carol Anderson has been a fashion designer for over 28 years, with her first sale to Nordstrom in 1977. Anderson eventually left the traditional retail industry and decided to cut out the middle-man and sell her fashion directly to her consumers.

CAbi – Carol Anderson by Invitation prides itself on great quality and even more amazing service. By attending an at-home event, you get the experience of a personal shopper – great attention, a salesperson highly educated on the line and how it works for different women, a collection of clothes that work together.

The “Blogger” Collection

CAbi changes up their line each season, but does seem to stick to silhouettes and fabrics that are best-sellers. They create mini-collections within each season – pieces that can work alone, but also coordinate with one another with ease. This spring they had nine collections, all named after professions (Art Teacher, Apprentice, Shop Keep, Photojournalist, Musician, Designer, Domestic CEO and even Blogger). The clothing comes in sizes XS-XL or 0-16 and from what I found, many pieces are stretchy and most seem to run large.

Lisa had a large portion of the collection available to try on, I must have been running from the bathroom to the dining room for two hours straight, doing mini-fashion shows for her and my sister. I was impressed with the quality – the attention to detail, the consistency in sizing and fit.

What I Liked:
CAbi does a great job of interpreting the trends without making pieces seem passé in a season. No one will look like a fashion victim in CAbi clothing, and no woman will look unstylish or outdated. I really feared finding a collection that would be full of stretchy polyester flowing separates and overly-embellished jackets; instead I found a great line of pieces that could work for a woman who usually shops at The Limited and Ann Taylor LOFT, or a woman who usually shops at Chico’s or J. Jill.

The collection isn’t specific to one age of customer – I tried on pieces that I liked, but also knew my mother would like and wear beautifully. I also tried on pieces that flattered my figure, but also flattered my friend Lisa’s slim athletic frame. I really felt as though these pieces were made thinking of a variety of women’s bodies, not a fit model.

The pieces really were versatile – knits that could be paired with jeans or dressy trousers, tunics that also looked great tucked in, and unexpected combinations like gathered knit tops under cardigans that didn’t leave a lumpy mess. Everything was color-coordinated – not just within mini collections, but within the entire line. You could easily take a top from the Designer line and have it coordinate with pants from the Blogger line. There were also pieces that could really dress up nicely – a knit jacket and skirt from the Apprentice line could easily be corporate chic with a simple shell, be a more sophisticated look with a silky cami, the pieces as separates would look great for stylish yet comfortable weekend wear. The Hook Back tunic from the Shop Keep collection would be adorable with skinny jeans for a concert, could be worn as a dress on a shorter woman, and Lisa told me she knew a woman who purchased it to be a beach coverup. It also would have a completely different silhouette with a belt or topped with a shrunken jacket.

The Phoebe Coat

The line is crisp, the prints aren’t overly-fussy, the details make sense. I was in love with many of their jackets – the Gabrielle Cardigan is Chanel-esque with its quilted knit, ruffle trim, and black stone accents; the Daisy Jacket looked far more expensive than its pricetag and could look professional with a pencil skirt, but also be a great downtown look with jeans and a tank. I almost purchased the Phoebe Coat, which is a collarless tweed jacket with a frayed edge also had a Chanel vibe and would look great with the CAbi Transition Trouser, as well as denim or over a simple sheath dress.

Unexpectedly Awesome Tops – Drape Striped Tee, Gypsy Top, Shakespeare Tunic

The fabric and color choices are brilliant. The Draped Stripe Tee from far away looks like a simple Breton-striped top. However upon closer inspection, you find this is an unusual stretchy and almost spongy textured fabric with an unsual neckline. It has the most unusual cut – it looks to have a drape neck but the fabric is actually on their weird bias which creates this wrap look in the front, really whittling the waist and tricking the eye into seeing the wearer’s torso as longer and leaner than it actually is. This top could be a simple sailor tee to wear with jeans, but can also be dressed up, rouched to the waist, pulled down like a tunic, and easily tucked into a skirt or pants without showing bulk. The Gypsy Top from the Domestic CEO line is something I would normally not even take off the rack at a store – girly floral, blousy tunic of a shiny fabric. However once on I saw it was incredibly flattering – though it was blousy it wasn’t overly so, it skimmed where it needed to so not to look maternity, the sleeves flowed without being tent-like, the neckline the perfect level of scoop to be feminine and flattering yet modest. It made me almost a floral blousy-top convert.  The Shakespeare Tunic was another piece that amazed me – it was something I would never ever EVER wear – a bold floral print, colors of brown and orange, sheer layered cardigan-like top.  However Lisa pressed me to try it on and even my sister was amazed at how incredibly flattering it was.  The sleeves made my arms look long and slim, the slightly curved back gave my body an amazing shape and really made my rear look fab.  I could really see myself wearing it with a pair of dark jeans, some big hoops and heeled boots to a concert or date night with my husband.

Real Women in CAbi 
(BTW that dress is actually the Sigourney Skirt)

I was impressed with the catalog I received – at the back it dedicates six whole pages of real-life CAbi consultants wearing the clothes.  It showed how the clothes really can fit and flatter a variety of sizes, ages, and personal styles of women.  In fact all of CAbi’s marketing, branding, website and materials are brilliant – polished, sophisticated, easy to read and navigate, prices and sizing always clear and available.

Many complain that CAbi clothing is expensive. Well it’s not cheap, but I think the prices are equal to higher-end department store brands and retailers like Talbots and Ann Taylor. I feel the quality is equal to these brands as well. This isn’t disposable fashion – Cabi clothes could easily be flattering and stylish a year from now, and many pieces would still be on trend a decade from now.

What I Didn’t Like:
No petite, no tall, no plus sizes. In this day and age I can’t believe that any brand of clothing wouldn’t at least carry their best selling pants in lengths, and at least a couple pieces in larger sizes. The average American woman is a size 14 – this means there are plenty of women in this country who are over a size 16. To really tap into at-home sales, you would think a line would try to cater to women who hate shopping at malls. I can often wear regular length trousers at many retailers, but found every single pair of pants from CAbi to be at LEAST six inches too long for me.

No real basics. I did like their camis, which had brilliant adjustable straps and the perfect amount of Lycra to keep shape, hold you in, be comfortable and not roll up. However I was looking for the straight skirt, simple tees, maybe a collection of heavyweight knit/ponte pieces you could mix and match (skirt, one or two jackets, sheath dress, capris, pants). The closest was the previously mentioned Delicious Blazer and Skirt, which was begging to be joined by some other pieces in that fabulous refined knit.

No dresses (at least this season), and hardly any skirts. Again, untapped opportunity. As a curvy woman, I find skirts to often be more flattering and forgiving than trousers, and a garment that can work for a larger variety of female shapes. On top of that, many women in this country choose to wear skirts instead of pants for modesty and religious reasons. I would think a couple bias-cut shifts and/or simple sheaths in heavyweight fabric with stretch (twill, ponte) would work really well with the current CAbi look and style.

***

My friend Lisa was fresh from the CAbi conference where she was loaded up with product information, tips on how to fit women, and excitement and passion for the brand. With the terrible customer service found in many shops these days, a CAbi party is a breath of fresh air – a consultant who really cares about your needs, knows her product, taking time to help you find the right clothes. She may want you to spend money, but she wants you to be a happy, loyal and repeat customer and knows a hard sell may make a fast buck, but will not make you return the next season. As someone who loves fashion, I would think a CAbi party would be a heck of a lot more fun to attend than other at-home products.  Imagine sipping wine and chatting with your friends while trying on clothes in the comfort of your own home, with a personal shopper at your beck and call?  Brilliant!

CAbi is geared towards the woman who wears many hats – she may be a full-time office worker, but also a 24/7 mom, a community volunteer, an artist, a social butterfly. The clothing is made to be versatile, wearable, flattering. It’s not cheap in price, but it’s also not cheap in quality or style. It’s simple pieces to make a woman’s life more stylish, but not more complicated. If you’re at least 5’5” and under a size 16, it’s worth checking out.  Hopefully in the future, CAbi will extend their line to accommodate those of us who do not fit that specific mold.

Note: All opinions are completely my own.  I was not asked by anyone to do this review, and did not receive any compensation for it.

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Ask Allie: Cheap Work Clothing

I am 22 and find myself coming into work every day looking a hot-mess. Unacceptable. I’ll admit I’ve stopped trying to put things together at this point. I am in serious need of advice as to a “starter wardrobe”. I’m working with an extremely tight budget where $50 is too much for a blazer.

I’m getting back into the work world after spending four years at home with my sons and my closet is pretty much jeans and T-shirts. Any suggestions for building a work wardrobe from nothing and with practically no funds?

I wrote this post recently, and it’s worth a look. You don’t need to spend a ton of money to look professional in the office, you don’t need to own a dozen suits or expensive garments. However, it is important to look for versatile, quality pieces for the office. I can’t stress this enough – it’s more important to have a few well-made and well-fitting versatile pieces than a closet packed with cheap junk. It’s okay to wear the same black pants three times in a week, to wear the same suit for each business meeting, to wear the same pencil skirt twice a week if it fits well, is classic, and versatile.

Quality can be found at TJ Maxx, at Target, at Goodwill. You don’t need to go to a high-end retailer to find quality pieces. Shop slowly, shop carefully, be picky. Again, it’s better to only have one pair of black pants if they fit well and flatter. It’s better to buy a pair of $29.99 clearance pants and get them hemmed to the perfect length via the local dry cleaner than to spend $80 on a pair of pants that don’t fit well.

Shopping Online
I find a ton of great business clothing for less online. Subscribe to sites that notify you of online deals, or follow retailers on social media to know when they are having free shipping or discounts so you can save big. Also consider joining Ebates, which will send you a check a couple times a year just for regular shopping online.

Thrifting
Schedule thrifting into your schedule the way you would doctor’s appointments or book club. You will have the best luck when you go regularly, and know where you are shopping. Never buy smaller than you size, but some pieces a hair too large can be easily tailored with a belt, some Stitch Witchery, or your nearby dry cleaners or tailor. Don’t buy pieces that are damaged just because they are a great deal – for office clothing it’s important to have pieces in great condition. Thrifting is a great way to find blouses to give a new look to wardrobe basics – a black pantsuit looks completely different with a turquoise silk ruffled blouse than with a crisp white button-front shirt than with a shell pink silk sweater tee.

Shopping the Clearance Rack
I worked retail for many a year, and highly respected those savvy shoppers who entered my store and immediately went to the back to the sale rack. Stores you may think are outside your pricerange can have some stellar deals on the clearance rack. I own $19.99 blazers from Ann Taylor, $30 cashmere sweaters from J. Crew, and beautiful lined trousers from Nordstrom for less than $40. Again, follow these brands online to know when they have deals – recently Ann Taylor had a “private sale” for regular customers and offered 40% off sale merchandise. For less than $100 I got a pair of work pants, two shells, a cardigan, a skirt, and a merino wool crewneck… you can’t find that much workwear eat any discount mart for that price!

Quality at a Discount
Some things just make a piece look cheap, no matter the price on the ticket. Shiny synthetics, too many embellishments, visible logos, unlined non-knit jackets, too tight trousers, blatant trends (wide flared legs, super cropped jackets, extreme shoulders, cutouts, etc.) will make an otherwise nice work garment look inappropriate. I have found simple suiting-fabric separates at Target and Old Navy. Fabrics like matte jersey and Ponte knit look great at lower pricepoints and are work-appropriate for separates and dresses. Check out sites like 6pm.com for quality footwear at great low prices; also consider stalking eBay for specific pieces you have seen at retailers for a nice gently-used price.

Capsule Wardrobe
In my last post about a work attire, I focused mainly on the entry-level employee. However, you can look professional at any level with a small wardrobe. This capsule wardrobe is only an example – while you can click the link below it to see the specific pieces I used, do know I was working with pieces that have images available online, not on a model, and on a white ground. I chose pieces that I know can be found a low pricepoints and can look like quality even if they are purchased from a discount retailer; pieces that can look current even if they are purchased from a thrift store.

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As you see, I chose a color story of black, gray, and shades of lilac as the accent hue. I chose black as a base because it’s a color that’s easier to mix and match from various retailers and easier to hide the price of a garment because the stitching and details are less visible. A gray “snow leopard” print adds interest and works with all the colors in the collection. All silhouettes are classic so they will work now and a couple years from now. Lighter-weight sweaters look more professional than chunky knits; warmth can be had with layers. I chose black pumps as the lone shoe since they are so versatile; if you can afford additional work shoes, a flat or a tall boot can be quite versatile and also classic. These pumps can be worn with bare legs (dress code permitting) in warmer months, with trouser socks for the pants, with tights or sheer stockings with the skirts come the colder months.

  1. Black jacket, black pants, ruffle blouse (can switch out pants for either skirt)
  2. Black jacket, black pants, white shirt (can switch out pants for either skirt)
  3. Black jacket, black pants, lavender sweater (can switch out pants for either skirt)
  4. Black jacket, leopard cardigan, black skirt
  5. Leopard cardigan, black pants
  6. Leopard cardigan, either skirt, ruffled blouse
  7. Leopard cardigan, white shirt, pants or either skirt
  8. Lavender sweater, gray skirt, leopard belt
  9. Lavender sweater, ruffled blouse, gray skirt
  10. Lavender sweater, white shirt, pants or either skirt
  11. Lavender sweater, black pants
  12. Black sweater, black pants, leopard belt
  13. Black sweater, white shirt, black skirt
  14. Black sweater, gray skirt, leopard belt
  15. White shirt, gray skirt, leopard belt
  16. White shirt, black pants, lavender sweater around shoulders
  17. Ruffled blouse, gray skirt
  18. Ruffled blouse, black pants

So with less than a dozen pieces, you can create over 20 different ensembles. An extra tank top or silk shell can add a handful more options. As you add to your wardrobe, keep in mind the color story and silhouettes so new pieces will fit effortlessly into your collection and increase the versatility of each piece.

When You Can’t Afford a Suit
It’s better to not have a suit than a cobbled-together mess. A blazer is expensive, and without stalking clearance racks, eBay, and your nearby thrift store you very well won’t be able to find a decent one under $50. So don’t buy one. You can look professional in a simple cardigan, blouse, and pants; a shift dress and pumps or flats, a button-front shirt and trousers. A matte jersey wrap dress, gabardine sheath or Ponte knit shift with a strand of pearls and simple black pumps can look just as sophisticated and professional while being far more easy to find at a low pricepoint. Don’t make it work, only own that which deserves to be in your closet.

So maybe now it’s a Forever 21 cardigan, Target pants, and a thrifted oxford as your work uniform – there’s nothing wrong with that. Take good care of them, launder them carefully, treat them like couture and they will be good to you in return. As you move up the corporate ladder you may replace these pieces with higher-end pieces once they wear out… or you may be pleased to find that quality doesn’t have to equal a higher price!

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Gwynnie Bee: Clothing Without Commitment

Do you ever see a company and think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” A company that has such a brilliant idea that is unique, inspiring, and helpful? I thought all that when Gwynnie Bee contacted me to let me know about their program. I was so excited about the concept I had to be a part and share it with you readers.

Three years ago after I had Emerson, I was hovering between a size 16 and 18.  While I embraced my new body and celebrated the hard work and pain it went through to deliver Emerson, it was really hard to dress it. I was unfamiliar with its new size and shape, and didn’t want to spend a lot of money knowing it would keep changing shape and size over the next year. Since then, I have been off and on Weight Watchers and have been everything from a 12 to a 16. If I had purchased a whole new wardrobe for each size I was during this time, I would be bankrupt. I know I am not alone in this – many women I know change sizes over a span of a few years – pregnancy, injury, business travel, diet and exercise… heck even your monthly cycle can have you wearing a 14 one week and a 16 the next.

I believe in having a wardrobe of staples – pieces that mix and match and get you through all of life’s events. However, every woman needs a few “fun” pieces to show her personal style. These pieces are hard to buy – you’re not sure of your personal style, you’re not comfortable at your current size, you don’t have retailers near you who offer quality pieces in your size, you don’t want to invest in pieces that aren’t traditional workhorses.

A peek of some of Gwynnie Bee’s offerings

What do you do when you want to feel beautiful today – not when you fit into half your closet? How do you “test drive” certain brands and styles when you live hours from a decent mall? Where can one find stylish and flattering clothing for women over a size 10? Where can you shop when you’re on the cusp between standard and plus sizing? What to do when you want to spice up your wardrobe without spending a bundle? The answer to all of these is Gwynnie Bee.

Gwynnie Bee’s motto is “Clothing Without Commitment.” It’s like Netflix for fashion sizes 10-24. You sign up for a subscription service and pick out clothing from Gwynnie Bee’s collection for your virtual closet. Gwynnie Bee will quickly ship pieces to you – when you return one (postage already paid, shipping materials provided), they’ll send another your way. You have a constantly updated wardrobe of quality brands who specialize in fitting and flattering plus size women (and “on the cusp” folks like me!).

Not just fun tops and dresses, Gwynnie Bee also offers pieces like blazers to update your work wardrobe.

No longer do you have to feel tied to your size – you can pick clothing from any size at Gwynnie Bee and place them in your virtual closet. They are already working with quality brands like IGIGI, Talbots, Michael Kors, Evans, J. Jill, Sejour, Kiyonna, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, DKNY, and more. Gwynnie Bee’s stock is updated around every three weeks, so you always have a fresh selection to choose from.

Gwynnie Bee gave me a free trial membership to try out their program. Last week I went through their selection and added a few pieces to my virtual closet; Friday my first package arrived with one IGIGI dress, a top from Talbots, and a tunic from Soft Surroundings. There was the cutest little message when I opened it, every piece was wrapped carefully in tissue. Each piece had two hang tags – one with laundering instructions, another with the piece’s name and a feedback form (Gwynnie Bee really cares about user feedback – what you write helps determine which brands they work with and what styles to offer in the future). In the box were also several shipping bags and return address labels and simple instructions on how to send pieces back.

Each piece looks like new – if they had been worn before I surely can’t tell. You can keep each piece as long as you want – if it doesn’t look right send it back and you’ll have a new garment in less than a week. Gwynnie Bee takes care of laundering – you can wash when you have it to re-wear, but no need to clean to send back.

Gwynnie Bee often shows the same garment on two women of differing sizes and shapes so you can get a better idea of how the piece will look on you.

Gwynnie Bee hopes they can help women discover new brands and styles with less commitment. Plus size fashion options are limited and often hard to access if you’re not in a metropolitan area – Gwynnie Bee makes great brands easy to access and fashion fun!

A peek of my virtual closet – what I have at home and will be featuring on the blog soon, and what will be arriving.

Yes, I have a free trial membership, and yes I will get a commission if any of you sign up and mention me, but after experiencing Gwynnie Bee, I would recommend it even if I didn’t have these perks. The average American woman is a size 12, yet it is so hard to find fun, flattering, and well-made clothing when you are that size or larger. Gwynnie Bee knows that you likely have the black pants, the simple cardigan, the wardrobe staples. They are offering those pieces women don’t have the nerve to buy but are willing to try. I opened up my first box and thought how wonderful Gwynnie Bee would be for the woman planning a European vacation, attending her high school reunion, or packing for her honeymoon. That woman who is in the same place I was three years ago – wanting to dress her changing body well but can’t afford to invest in a whole new wardrobe. I feel for my friends and coworkers who have been hearing me babble non-stop since last week about Gwynnie Bee – how brilliant the program is, and how glad I am it is on the scene.

Want to know more? Visit their Facebook page or their site. Also feel free to ask any questions in the comments – I will answer them completely honestly. I don’t promote on this blog that which I don’t love and believe in, and I believe in Gwynnie Bee.

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Giveaway – Scarf from Lolly Clothing

I recently had the opportunity to check out Lolly Clothing‘s line of scarves, and was very impressed by the style, quality, and feel of them. I’ve worn my Lolly silk pashmina several times and was thrilled when Lolly offered to give one Wardrobe Oxygen reader one of their scarves.  

This giveaway is now closed.

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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!

New Clothes for Sale!

I know I have been neglectful over at Dilly’s Closet… well this weekend I got into the attic and pulled out some really great stuff (great for another, not for me!).

I spent a good portion of Saturday in the attic. I pulled down all of the bags of clothing (8 XXL Ziploc bags and about 4 garbage bags) and cleaning out my drawers and closets. After everything, I had two XXL bags of clothes to put back up in the attic (out of season and almost fitting or belonging to the hubby) , five of those giant bags in my car to take to donate, and then several to post ehre for you guys.

There is more to post, but a gal’s gotta make a living so I hope to post the rest later today or msot likely on tomorrow. Enjoy!

Ask Allie: Before and After Maternity Clothing

Happy news, my husband and I found out we are expecting an addition to our family at the end of this year! I am in the end of my first trimester and I am experiencing major bloating and even a bit of a belly. I don’t look pregnant, I just look fat. To top it off, we haven’t yet told our loved ones or either of our bosses. What can I wear where I can look chic and not like a whale? Also with the heat, my morning sickness and fatigue, can you suggest easy-care looks that make me look polished even though I just puked up my breakfast half an hour earlier?

Well first things first, congratulations! How very exciting for you and your husband!
Best choice, and that which is available in most any store? Dresses! Shifts, trapezes, empire waists, baby-dolls, maxis… all these dresses are very in style and not clingy to the tummy area. A dress is a great wardrobe item for any woman, pregnant or not. It’s easy to slip on, in the right fabric it’s easy to launder, and it’s comfortable on the most humid and hot of summer days. Pair with some flat leather thongs, open-toe wedges or gladiator sandals and bold jewelry and you will look chic while hiding the boat and beginnings of a baby bump. Linen and cotton are great for shift styles because they breathe, have some structure so they don’t cling, and can usually be tossed in the gentle cycle, hung up and wearable the next day as-is or with a quick swipe of the iron. Jerseys and gauzy cottons are good for the baby-doll styles because they are more floaty and won’t stick straight out from your growing breasts. Pairing with a long necklace, more voluminous styles will be weighed down so you don’t look like a whale, but still hide the belly.
Keep it simple and monochromatic. If you are wearing a navy blouse and navy capris, your tummy will be less obvious than if you choose khaki pants. Wearing a monochromatic outfit is an easy way to look polished – don’t always stick to safe black, an outfit in all shades of brown, khaki, gray or even greens can be just as slimming but far more cheery.
Don’t drown yourself in fabric. Your bloating and belly is far more noticeable to you than it will be to others. Most will just think you have packed on a couple of pounds – something they won’t dwell on and very soon you will be able to explain! Baggy clothing usually makes us look bigger than we actually are. If you wish to have a little extra fabric at the tummy to hide the belly, loo9k for an open neckline, cap sleeves, a shorter skirt to counteract the fullness of fabric. Rouched and gathered fabrics at a hip or the side of the waist does great things to hide a bit of a tummy – wrap and faux wrap dresses and tops will whittle the waistline and distract one from the actual tummy.
Finally, take care of yourself! Spend extra time on your hair (maybe go get a cut that’s easier to style), wear flat or more comfortable shoes, get yourself a supportive bra for those growing breasts, invest in an extra-moisturizing body wash and gentle body exfoliant and understand you are creating a wonderful thing in that expanding, bloated body – don’t be so hard on yourself.

How is it possible to wear cute clothes while your body is changing shape without looking pregnant? Since the last thing a new mom wants to do is look pregnant! I have been living in nursing tanks from Target, yoga pants and jeans… my ass has vanished, but I have a muffin top that could take out the state of Delaware – I am the epitome of an apple shape right now. Oh and I need tops/dresses that allow for easy boob access. This is an equation that I have not been able to figure out the answer to- help me!

Congratulations, what an exciting time for you and your family! As that I know this reader outside of this blog, I know her style is very classic and preppy. I have them tailored my answers to that, though I think these would work for most any personal style and can be adjusted with color, accessories and necklines.
First things first, your body may not be the way it looked pre-pregnancy, but you probably don’t look as pregnant or mushy/weird as you believe to be. :) However there are many parts that are not the way they used to be, and with the nursing deal, your clothing choices will definitely be different! I know you weren’t an apple shape before hand, but as a current and life-long apple I can offer a few suggestions:
Nursing tanks are fab for this time of year, try dressing them up with a cotton skirt with a drop waist or a-line shape. Amazing how a printed skirt in cheery colors can take a boring tank and make it look like an outfit. I know necklaces and earrings may get grabbed and pulled, so a chunky wooden or plastic bangle or a few metal ones will add a feminine and fun touch to the look.
Wrap dresses are awesome, I cannot stress this enough. The wrap style will whittle any waist and the top is easy to slide to the side for nursing. In matte jersey, you don’t have to worry about wrinkles, throw it in the machine, let it hang dry and it will be ready the next day to wear. Matte jersey is also wonderful because it can be dressed up or down – with flops or sandals it’s a quick outfir for running errands or visiting family, with heels it’s a great look for church, work or a day wedding. Also great about these is that if you lose the tummy, the dresses are still cute and flattering – knit wrap styles usually work a size up or down from what you purchase.
I am a huge fan of drawstring linen pants. Just as comfy and washable as the yoga pants, but seem more chic. Victoria’s Secret has them super cheap – like $30 each and they come in lengths. The white is completely transparent, but the flax color works with nude undies, the black and brown are pretty versatile, and with some gladiator sandals, gold bangles and a scarf headband you can rock safari chic while feeling as though you are in your PJ’s.
Wrap tops are also great. You can usually find knits or matte jersey in a faux wrap or true wrap style. I have also been seeing quite a few pretty (and on sale!) wrap-style tops specifically for nursing in popular maternity clothing destinations. These tops look just as pretty as a classic wrap top, but are made to work well for the task at hand!
With your old wardrobe, pants and skirts that don’t quite fit can be made due for now with a belly band, or one of those extenders they sell at maternity shops.
Floaty tops are an easy thing to run to, but they often make you look heavier than you are and make people wonder if you are still expecting. If you wear a peasant or babydoll style of top, it should be in chiffon or a very lightweight fabric so it doesn’t tent out. Pair it with slim white or dark jeans to show your whole body isn’t that size. Don’t pair them with shorts, even slim bermudas because they really create an ice cream cone shape.
Steer clear of busy prints on top. People are drawn to them because they are fun and they think work as an optical illusion, but they often work against your curves. Keep the prints to the capris, the skirts, the Bermudas and solid knits on top and you will look more put together, and also slimmer.
As an apple, have your tops hit at your hip bones, not higher (emphasizes the tummy) or lower (makes you look heavier). Knit is your friend, not skin tight, but with a shape that skims your curves, a top this length will de-emphasize the midsection. Also look for creative necklines – v-necks, u-necks, halters, polos with buttons that hit lower than traditional length, wrap or surplice necklines all elongate and draw attention away from the belly.
Treat yourself to some fab shoes – nothing jazzes up an outfit of staples better than a cheery color of ballet flats, some gold sandals, something with a print or a quirky bow. It’s a great way to get the Carolyn back into your wardrobe without spending a ton, and having to ditch it when your body starts changing again. Somehow an old tank and knit pants looks polished with great shoes, a piece of jewelry and some lipstick or a scarf.
Finally, become friends with your tailor. Some of your pieces that you already own can have a few modifications to make them more flattering to your current figure. Far cheaper to shop within your own closet!

Reader Question – Storing Out of Season Clothing


cashmere sweaterReader Joyce Asked:
I invested in a few nice wool, silk and cashmere pieces over the fall and winter, and now that it’s almost time to put them away, I am worried about keeping them in good condition until it’s time to wear them again. Any suggestions on storing these garments during the warmer months?


Hey Joyce:
Perfect timing! I know here in the Nation’s Capital it was warm enough the past two days to go without a coat so it’s time in many parts of the world to start storing away the heavy winter garments and pull out the cotton and linen pieces! I’d be happy to share my steps for storing out-of-season garments:

1. Clean Everything Before Storing. Even if it doesn’t have a stain, you will want each garment cleaned to remove any perspiration or invisible stains. Body odor and perfumes attract bugs, and invisible stains can set over the months and become quite obvious come the fall when the garments are pulled out to wear again. When cleaning, avoid the use of starch or fabric softener as that these too attract moths and other pests.

garment bag clothing storage2. The Right Place for Everything. Sweaters and knits do best by being folded instead of being hung. A few months on a hanger can cause your beautiful cashmeres to be misshapen. If they are folded and stored in a cedar chest (I have one that has been passed down the family) or a plastic box (use acid-free tissue or even old pillowcases to protect garments inside the box), they will keep their natural shape. Be sure to not pack too tightly so the items can breathe; if packed too tight they may crease or even begin growing mildew.

Dresses and blouses are usually best on hangers. Use sturdy plastic or wooden hangers, and make use of every hanging loop inside the garment to ensure it stays on the hanger and also hangs the right way so it doesn’t get misshapen. To keep them protected, store hanging items in a fabric garment bag (I found some great canvas ones at Marshall’s for a fabulous price – they have rod hooks of their own and a bar inside and a zipper for easy access to the contents of the bag). As with the items in a box, don’t cram garments together – letting them breathe will keep them in the best condition. An inch between each hanger is a good guide.

Coats should be stored in the same fashion, but the heavier the garment, the sturdier your hanger should be. A few months on a thin plastic hanger can cause what my husband calls “tumors” on the shoulders of your favorite garments. Invest in proper wide coat hangers and your clothes will be ready-to-wear when the cooler weather returns.

Never use paper bags or cardboard to store your clothes – buggies adore cardboard and paper and will eat straight through to your silks.

3. Treat Your Clothes Like Your Spices. This means keep them in a cool, dry place. Attics seem like the best place, but they can often be way over 100 degrees even on the most pleasant June day. Basements can often be damp, so use a plastic box and try to store on a shelf above the floor and consider a dehumidifier. Before storing in a closet, give it a damp dusting, a vacuuming and a chance to settle and dry out before adding your clothes. This will help get rid of any bug eggs that may be hiding in corners.

winter clothing storage4. Moth Balls are Passé. Your grandmother may have used moth balls, but they aren’t the best choice in this day and age. Yes they stink to high heaven, but the chemicals can also be damaging to delicate fabrics and decoration. To keep pests at bay, consider cedar blocks, or even sachets made from natural rosemary and/or lavender. However these aren’t guaranteed ways to be moth-free, so ensure you always store in a clean area.

Hope this helps! There’s no point in purchasing quality garments if you don’t treat them well enough to last a long time. Most materials can be found at shops like The Container Store, or even your local Target or discount Big Box retailer.

coutorture fashion style couture

Ask Allie: Fit Two Weeks of Clothes in Carry-on Luggage

My family is traveling for two weeks this summer – we will be visiting some theme parks but also going to the beach, some historic sites, and will have a mix of casual and nicer restaurants. My sons are beyond the diaper stage but definitely still kids who need a mom who is not hanging out in an evening gown and 4 inch heels. Trying to figure out what to pack for a balance of nice and practical, good for a lot of walking and activities but still attractive — including for the full flying days in each direction. We do plan to do laundry on the trip a few times. In a perfect world I’d also have my running gear along for some workouts, but trying to do all this with a suitcase that will still fit in the overhead bin! Impossible?

One good thing is you are traveling to a warm location during a warm time of year. No need for a winter coat or boots or bulky sweaters which can fill up a suitcase quite quickly. For this capsule wardrobe I chose pieces that are easily washed – matte jersey (great for washing, hanging up overnight and having ready next day), ponte, and cotton fabrics. I also chose items that don’t really require ironing; the only exception is the pants, which are standard chino. These could be switched for white jeans if you feel they are dressy enough for the occasions you expect, or linen pants which are expected to be wrinkled and take up less space in your bag.

I kept shoes to a minimum, they take the most space. While I am not a big fan of rubber flip flops, if they are in a metallic color, they can pass as shoes in tourist locations and be a nice change after walking all day. With all shoes, make sure they are slip resistant – theme parks and historic sites often means puddles; if you have to chase after a kid or a taxi, it’s best in shoes with grip. Instead of heeled sandals or pumps, some flat metallic leather sandals take up far less space and weigh much less.

On the Plane: I’d likely wear a pair of walking sandals (something that doesn’t look like sneakers but you can wear all day; I have some from Softspots and Cole Haan that fit the bill) on the plane because they are the second bulkiest but more refined and easier to slip off at security than sneakers. Same with clothes – wear your heaviest piece on the plane (possibly the black pants, any of the tops, pashmina and the chambray shirt as a jacket/layering piece).

Sight Seeing: The nylon crossbody is lightweight so it won’t be a strain when filled with water bottles, cameras, and souvenirs. Have walking sandals that are already broken in to prevent blisters and hot spots. Consider longer shorts to reduce chafing or shorts riding up when doing a lot of walking.

  1. Orange tee, khaki shorts
  2. Orange tee, denim shorts
  3. Striped tee, denim shorts
  4. Striped tee, khaki shorts
  5. Denim shirt, khaki shorts
  6. Printed tank, khaki shorts
  7. Printed tank, denim shorts
  8. Navy cami, khaki shorts
  9. Navy cami, denim shorts
  10. Black dress, walking sandals (more for museums than amusement parks)
  11. Another outfit can be any of these tops with the white pants/jeans – of course that would be for more relaxed events that are primarily indoors. You could also wear any of the shoes with these pants

The Beach: Consider a cover-up that can double as clothing so it has more use. Many cover-ups these days look just like dresses or can be a tunic worn with Bermudas or pants. Choose a suit that can survive a jetski, parasailing, and other water activities.  A “crushable” hat means you can shove it in your purse or carry-on and not worry.  If you plan to do a lot of beach and water activities, consider bringing a second suit.

  1. Suit with denim shirt and denim shorts
  2. Suit with paisley cover-up

Casual Events: An addition of gold accessories and sandals can make many of the day outfits look appropriate for a restaurant. The denim shirt can work as a jacket if it gets chilly.

  1. Purple dress, walking sandals
  2. Black dress, walking sandals
  3. Black top, white pants, walking sandals
  4. Striped top, white or black pants, gold sandals
  5. Printed tank belted over black pants, gold sandals
  6. Printed tank tucked into white pants, any of the shoes
  7. Denim shirt tied or tucked into white pants, gold sandals
  8. Navy camisole with white pants, gold sandals
  9. Paisley beach cover-up, white pants, gold sandals


Dressier Events: Use the clutch purse for instant formality, the pashmina as a wrap. If the gold sandals have a leather bottom and are slim and elegant, they can be dressy enough for many occasions

  1. Purple dress, gold sandals
  2. Black dress, gold sandals
  3. Black drapey top, black pants, gold sandals
  4. If you think you’ll have more formal occasions, consider a chiffon-overlay maxi dress which can handle being balled up in a suitcase – hang it in the bathroom during one hot shower and it will be wrinkle-free.


Some tips:

  • A bar of Ivory Soap is good for cleaning your body, but also cleaning laundry. I use it often to spot clean a piece I don’t want to fully wash. Also it’s not a liquid so you don’t have to worry about TSA.
  • Buy your sunscreen once you’re there. You can always find a drug store outside a theme park that has reasonable prices – more room in your bag and more space in your TSA-allowed plastic baggie.
  • Choose a flexible carry-on bag. Many suitcases are made to protect when checked, and you lose a lot of space on padding and structure. A soft duffel is a good choice because it flexes and can be squished under a seat or into a smaller part of the overhead container.
  • Pack with your heaviest items on the bottom. Not only does this help with creasing, but it builds a foundation so your items are more likely to stay in place through the flight.
  • Don’t pack to maximum capacity. You very well will come home with purchases and souvenirs, make sure you have space for them on the flight back.
  • This is a time when I don’t necessarily recommend all the stuff on my travel checklist. If you can pare down and just use your phone or tablet as your e-reader and music and notepad, all the better.
  • Don’t pack your entire lingerie drawer. Choose pieces that can work with the same kind of bra and don’t need fancy foundation garments. Underwear takes up little space, but Spanx and strapless bras can make or break your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t make your second bag your purse. I specifically used a nylon crossbody because I have one and know it can crumple down to nothing when empty. Use a bag that’s to the maximum standards of your airline as your personal bag to get the most of your space. A backpack is a great choice because it’s easy to slip out electronics for the TSA screening and then you have it for sight-seeing.
  • See what toiletries and amenities are available at your hotel. Do you really need your regular body wash or lotion? Can you get away for two weeks with the single-blade razor the hotel offers for free? Can you survive with the crappy hotel hair dryer? For me, I choose to wear my hair more wavy/beachy on vacation so I don’t have to pack my fancy dryer, flat iron, and 50 different products. Elastics, barrettes, and even cute cotton scarves take up far less space than hot tools.
  • Don’t bring a beach towel. Either use the hotel towel, or buy a cheapy one at that drug store on the way from the hotel and leave it there.
  • If it doesn’t fit, try a different method of packing.  Some like to roll, some like mesh cubes, some swear by Space Bags.  Don’t wait until the night before to pack, do a dress rehearsal so be sure it all comfortably fits in the bag you’re taking.

What other packing tips do you suggest?

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From GetRichSlowly.org: How To Stop Buying Clothes You Never Wear

This week, Get Rich Slowly featured an article by staff writer April Dykman entitled, “How to Stop Buying Clothes You Never Wear.”  This article takes ideas from  fashion designers, writers and bloggers and creates a how-to for all people, regardless of age, lifestyle and gender.  I think this article is a great resource for any person who is looking to clean up her wardrobe or wishes to start shopping smart.  I also think this article is great because Dykman linked to Wardrobe Oxygen! :)  I am honored to be part of a great article which is on a wonderful Web site!

Go check out Get Rich Slowly, and April Dykman’s article!

Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

jessica alba tolani scarfTo celebrate me coming back to work and to blogging, I have a great contest for you readers!

One of you can win a Tolani scarf that has been seen on the likes of Jessica Alba (pictured), Sienna Miller, Vanessa Minnillo (pictured), Halle Berry and Mary-Kate Olsen.

The Tolani scarf is courtesy of chickdowntown.com, an awesome site that sells hip women’s designer clothing from the likes of Black Halo, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Vera Wang Lavender Label.

I am so excited, because you KNOW I love scarves, and these beauts from Tolani are fabulous!

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to mywardrobetoday@gmail.com with the word “TOLANI” in the subject.
In the body of the email, please provide your name and mailing address (I promise these addresses will only go to me – except for the winner, and will be deleted once the contest is over). Winner will be chosen by random.

Contest ends Friday, March 20th, 2009 at midnight ET. Winner will be contacted by email. Scarf will be mailed out from chickdowntown.com. Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know chickdowntown.com:
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (twitter.com/chickdowntown)
YouTube (chickdowntownTV.com or youtube.com/chickdowntowntv)

Good luck!

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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Ask Allie: When Your Wardrobe Classics Become Passe

Allie,
I’m just curious, I notice that in your previous postings, you had on Ann Taylor pieces that were on sale some time ago and yet I don’t see you wearing them in current times. What do you do with those styles that no longer seem to fit the current trend? I ask because I have several older style sweaters, skirts, etc. that no longer work and they end up just sitting in my closet gathering dust.
Thanks.
Sonia

Hi Sonia:
When a piece is no longer seen in my outfit posts it’s for one of many reasons:

  • It no longer fits
  • It wore out it’s welcome (faded, permanently stained, stretched out, damaged)
  • I sold it

Here’s some tips on what to do when items in your closet are no longer the wardrobe essentials they used to be:

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It’s in Great Shape but No Longer Fits
If it’s due to weight loss and you adore the garment, consider visiting a tailor or seamstress. A couple nips and tucks can make a piece one or two sizes too large fit like a custom garment. Do know when you get into more complex garments (lined, jackets, etc.) the price for alterations increases – it’s important before you get an alteration that it’s really worth that additional cost. Often, I find it to be a better value to search sale racks off-season for a replacement jacket than deal with complicated alterations.

If you don’t feel it will fit right after alterations, or don’t feel it is worth the cost, consider selling the garment. I have had much success selling on eBay – they make it very simple, and you can search for similar items on the site to know how to price in a competitive manner.

It’s No Longer in Great Condition
The best way to not encounter this is to baby your clothing. Don’t wash after every wear – layer over camisoles or tanks to prevent body oils from damaging the fabric, spot clean as needed, and only wash when truly dirty. Even if the label says you can throw it in the dryer, line dry to preserve color and weave. Invest in a garment rack to let pieces dry flat to prevent stretching.

If you have done all you can and a piece is still past its prime, consider donating the piece. One woman’s trash is another’s treasure – some may find your faded black pants the perfect piece for a costumer, or are crafty with the RIT dye and sewing machine.

I do read of many who revive black clothing with a dye wash in the machine; I have yet to do this due to lack of time and knowing that if I can destroy a bathroom with a bottle of Clairol even with gloves and old towels, I would probably kill my laundry room with RIT. However if you aren’t a klutz like me and your pieces are cotton, a box or bottle of fabric dye isn’t too costly to experiment.

It’s No Longer In Style (or Your Style)
Sell it. Swap it. Donate it. Whatever you do, get it out of your closet! Holding onto garments that you don’t wear only makes dressing each morning more difficult. Remove anything from your closet that doesn’t fit, isn’t in wearable condition, or you no longer like on yourself.

I like selling my old clothing because it gives me money towards proper wardrobe replacements. As I mentioned earlier, I usually sell on eBay. I have a box in my closet of shipping bags and tissue paper from online orders I have placed so I don’t have to spend money on such items. eBay and USPS.com are great tools to figure out shipping costs so you can plan accordingly with each bid. Feel free to limit who can bid (I don’t allow international shipping), and how the bid works (I don’t allow returns). It’s better to over explain than under explain – along with the size, offer the length, the waist in inches, the year you purchased it, the fabric content, an item in everyday life that is similar to the color (“while the photos show the piece as bright pink, in real life the dress is more the color of a ripe raspberry.”). The more information you provide, the more likely people will bid, receive what they expected, and provide you with positive feedback.

eBay isn’t the only way to sell your clothing – vintage and consignment shops are popping up all over and are a great place to take quality items in excellent condition. What may seem dated to you may seem ironic or hip to another. Many of these places will offer you 50% of what price they plan to sell the garment; some offer more money in the form of store credit.

I also love swaps – be they large events sponsored by an organization, or a small gathering with your friends, it’s a great way to rid yourself of the not-quite-right pieces in your closet and acquire new faves. Swap.com hosts events across the country, I have attended swaps in this area hosted by Goodwill – you can often find out about such events by following these or similar groups on Facebook or Twitter. If you’d like to host your own, this link provides some great tips on ensuring your swap is successful!

If You Think It May Come Back in Style
Keep it… but not in your closet. In my attic, I have several storage bins separated by type of garment. While some hold my out of season clothing, others hold pieces that either don’t fit right now (but hopefully will in the near future), or don’t fit my life right now (but may in the future). In there are things such as a silk crepe cocktail pantsuit, a leopard print faux-fur a-line mini, a taffeta bubble dress covered in pink polka-dots, an orange satin sheath covered in hot pink sequins and fringe, a black tea-length tutu, cadet blue silk palazzo pants, a white safari shirt, an olive cargo pencil skirt. These are all things I won’t be wearing any time soon, but may either want to wear in the future or want to pass down to my daughter. I “shop” these bins each season – when I switch out my clothes for the weather, I revisit these clothes to see if anything from them can be incorporated in my current closet. Just this fall, I was able to take a dark green leopard print faux fur coat out of one of those bins as that sort of look came back en vogue and after a few pounds the coat fits again. If you positively adore it and it was perfection the first go-round, it may be worth it to hold on to it for the future you.

If You Have a Trusty Seamstress (or are handy yourself!)
Restyle a piece! Just writing this, I think of my friend Kathy at La Petite Marmoset who can take the strangest thrift store pieces and rework them into on-trend fashion. A cold shoulder, a mullet hem, a bit of bedazzling… small adjustments can make for major impact.

A seamstress can take a dowdy blazer and make it trim, a Laura Ashley prairie dress and turn it into a flippy sundress, a bulky button-front shirt and make it a dress. Before you give up on your wardrobe fave, consult with an expert on how to give it a second life. And heck, if you don’t like the final result you haven’t lost much since it was already collecting dust in your closet!

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Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?

Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?

I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?

Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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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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Go Ahead Put Your Red Dress On

Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Necklace: Leona Pendant c/o Kristin Biggs, Stella and Dot | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Bracelets: Nordstrom (similar), Nordstrom (similar), had forever | Glasses: Derek Cardigan 7003 c/o Coastal.com | Shoes: Ivanka Trump

One thing bloggers get flack for is wearing too many c/o (courtesy of) items. How can a reader tell your true personal style or find you inspiring when you have a completely gifted outfit? I guess it depends on the blogger, but over the years I have learned to not accept every free thing that is offered to me. It does water down your personal style, it makes you seem less credible… and between you and me it is a pain to them take these gifted items that aren’t really your style and try to style them in a good way for the blog. I have had mornings when I have cried over not knowing how to make a garment or accessory look decent, and I feel guilty to my readers and to the brand that was kind enough to send it my way.

I don’t feel guilty wearing gifted items. One, it’s a lovely perk for working hard on this blog, but two it’s such a great chance to showcase lesser-known amazing brands. I for one may never have known about Dobbin Clothing if they hadn’t contacted me and sent me a dress. Dobbin Clothing has now become such a fave of mine – high quality garments made with fine fabrics from European mills but created here in the US of A.  They pride themselves in making tasteful stylish workhorses for your wardrobe.  The women behind Dobbin Clothing are just as lovely as their creations too!

So yeah, there’s a lot of c/o above… but every c/o up there is one you have likely seen before or will likely see many times again because I love the pieces and I find they fit my personal style. Each piece above I would purchase with my own money if I was able.  I think with blogs, it’s less about how one gets a garment or accessory and more about how they style it and whether it fits their style and message.

UPDATE: Like this dress?  This is the “Nora” by Dobbin Clothing, and they are offering all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off it, in black or red.  Use the code WARDOX20 at checkout to get 20% off the Nora Dress in black or red.  No expiration date, but this code cannot be used in conjunction with the first-time buyer code.

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Tuesday: Perfect Ponte

Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Necklace: c/o Lydell NYC | Shoes: Boutique 9 

I can’t believe this is the first time I have worn this fabulous dress on the blog. I have shared it on Instagram and worn it several times, but just not on here. I even wore it to speak on a panel of journalists because it looks so great, so sophisticated, and still so comfortable. Well this dress totally deserves a moment in the sun, even though it was photographed on a drizzly day. The dress is the “Belle” from Dobbin Clothing, and it’s one piece from their amazing collection of well-crafted wardrobe workhorses. Dobbin Clothing specializes in clothing that works as hard as you do – flattering fits, primarily washable clothing, and designer quality. This dress is from ponte knit and has seaming that makes my body look phenomenal. This is a size 12 and it fits great. Right now this dress is on sale, Dobbin Clothing offers free shipping both ways, and right now if you use the code FIRSTTIMEVISITOR you get 20% off your entire order! Oh, did I mention that Dobbin Clothing is made in the USA right in New York’s Garment District?

With such a great dress, I kept things pretty simple. This is a favorite necklace of mine that hasn’t gotten much play lately; I decided to amp it up with bold lips and high heels but keep everything else simple. Oh yeah, and a lovely addition of rain beads on my hair and dress!  Rain drops keep falling on my head… during photo shoots!

I love when a great company also makes a great product, and that’s what I experience with Dobbin Clothing. I know this sounds like a hard sell, do know they sent me the dress without any expectations. All that I wrote here is because I honestly feel it and didn’t get paid to state it, I just really dig this dress and the company.

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Scrimp or Splurge – What’s Your Number?

scrimp or splurge

Tuesday’s post about white tee shirts got me thinking. I believe we all have a number, that price we won’t cross for certain items for our closet. I often read interviews with style icons and they’ll say how they scrimp for X but splurge for Y, and often I feel the complete opposite about those items. That our numbers are personal based upon our age, our figure, our lifestyle, our budget. They are as unique as our personal styles.

While I wouldn’t have spent over $30 for a tee shirt two years ago (maybe $45 if striped or embellished), I now obviously will drop $80 for a plain white v-neck to stop the hunt and finally be satisfied. I couldn’t imagine spending more than $75 on a pair of jeans (but owned over a dozen pairs), but now don’t even blink at a $100 pricetag; though I now only own a handful of pairs.

On the other hand, some things I won’t pay as much for now that I used to. I can recall putting designer wool and leather coats on layaway because I considered them a worthy investment; now I buy my coats on clearance in the spring and don’t care the label inside as long as I like how it looks on me. Most of my makeup bag contents are from CVS, and I’ve learned some natural budget-friendly products like witch hazel, coconut oil, and jojoba oil do just as well as the high-end skincare lines.

The part missing from the tee shirt conversation was lifestyle and budget. What are the white tee shirts worn for, and how much can you spend on clothing in general? For some people $150 is a drop in the bucket, for others it’s the food budget for a month. For some, a white tee shirt is a piece of fashion as important as an It Bag or designer jeans while others just see it as what they slip on under their sweaters or wear on weekends with shorts.

So I ask you, what are your numbers? What’s the max you’d pay for a pair of jeans? A winter coat? A pair of tall boots? A handbag?  A dress to wear to a wedding or gala event? Where do you scrimp and where do you splurge? I know there’s such a variety of people who read this blog, this conversation would be interesting to highlight your unique lives and personal styles, but also help me know what to share on Wardrobe Oxygen in the future!

How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

The best accessory I acquired in the past decade was getting out of credit card debt.

My Experience:
When I worked in retail, I found it far too easy to shop. I was spending at least 45, usually closer to 65 hours a week at a mall. Lunch hours were spent strolling through other shops, sipping on an overpriced coffee drink, or treating myself to a very nice lunch at a nearby restaurant. As a personal shopper and visual merchandiser, I felt I had to be a perfect example of style and current fashion and made sure to have the latest shoes, makeup, accessories and always a perfect professional manicure, pedicure, haircut and highlights. When our shop was thisclose to making the day’s sales goal, they could always count on me to purchase something from the new line to get us over the hump.

When I left working at Express, they gave me my associate purchase logs. In one year, after my employee discounts, I had purchased $7,000.00 worth of their clothing. When I maxed out my Express card, I opened a Structure card and used that (hey it was the late ‘90s/early ‘00s when Structure still existed). When I maxed that out, I found out that I could use my Limited or Victoria’s Secret cards and shop at Express. I won’t even go into details about the major credit cards I used for salon treatments, binges at Sephora or Nordstrom, and many a steak salad at the Nordstrom Café.

As women, we are constantly attacked by media telling us to spend, spend, spend. The dress that will get you the guy. The moisturizer that will make you look ten years younger. The bag you must have this season. The five or ten or hundred items every woman must have in her wardrobe. And then of course, the purchases you need so that you can be as lovely as Anne or Mila or Kate. Magazines like Lucky are completely geared towards assisting women on shopping, while glossies such as Vogue and W bring couture to Middle America, encouraging everyone to feel that they too need a fancy label on their dress to be special.

As you know, I love fashion. I love clothing. I find it to be a great way to express your personality, your individuality, your passions. Fashion can also help you feel more confident and more beautiful. But no garment is worth falling into debt. A woman cannot be strong if her finances are crumbling around her.

So how do you achieve personal style while sticking to your budget?

When I got to the point where I was fearing every telephone call, thinking it was a debt collector, I knew I had to make a major change – FAST. For me, it was changing careers. I had to get away from that which was causing the debt – easy access to current fashion. However I still had mountains of debt and wasn’t willing to sacrifice style along the way.

This was when I started understanding wardrobe staples. Pieces slowly collected that could multitask and make a woman ready for any event in her life. I looked at women I knew as stylish and really examined their wardrobes. They didn’t own a lot of clothes, they seemed to wear the same things over and over. And those clothes they wore were perfect. They were well tailored, high quality, flattering. Few prints, few trendy details. Classics like cashmere turtlenecks, crisp dark jeans, white tailored shirts, simple sheath dresses, elegant black leather pumps, simple pencil skirts. They would add their own look to these staples with accessories like scarves, bold jewelry, and belts.

I thought back to the exchange students we hosted when I was in high school – how they could survive weeks in another country with just a small suitcase of clothing. Even with their small wardrobes, they were ready for any event in the US. Their wardrobes were of simple pieces that mixed and matched with one another – pieces of similar fabrics, colors, and silhouettes so they made a true collection.

I looked in my own closet – spangled knit tops to wear out to clubs that still had tags on them, a dozen cocktail dresses, four pairs of leather pants (and one pair bright red!), three pairs of tall black boots, over 20 pairs of jeans. Who the heck needs 20 pairs of jeans?

I obviously had plenty of clothes at that time, and really tried to make do with what I had. My new job required me to wear all black, so when I didn’t have the right item in my wardrobe, I stalked sale racks until I could find what worked at the lowest price. I often bought in bulk – who cares if you’re wearing the same black pants every day as long as they are clean and fit well?

Over time, I got a grip on my finances, but realized yet another new profession and a changing figure required me to shop again. I decided to keep those stylish women and my exchange students in mind. I looked through my closet with fresh eyes and decided to purge. Gone were all the spangled club tops, the evening gowns, and any clothes that didn’t fit and flatter my current frame.

However for purchasing, I needed to figure out a budget so I wouldn’t get back into a financial mess. Before I went shopping, I took a month or two to look at where my money went, and what were my priorities. Thanks to my sister who is the Excel Spreadsheet Queen, I started tracking where all my money went – that pack of gum, that latte, that issue of Marie Claire. I didn’t just note how much I spent on groceries, but what exactly I purchased. I saw that a lot of my money went to food – dining out, alcohol, and purchasing items at the grocery store that I don’t really need (hello another lip gloss) or that I can’t afford (artisanal cheeses, sushi, out of season produce). I decided to adjust my current spending before shopping to see what I could cut and still lead what I felt to be a joyful and comfortable life.

Only then, could I figure out my fashion budget. Some months, I spent that money. Other months, I saved it up so I could get something really special. I stuck to my list of essentials, and decided I would only buy fun items when I got a work bonus, birthday cash, special events. This way, I not only stayed on budget but I was even more careful with my money and those special items not only were nice to buy, but had special meaning behind them.

Each woman’s budget will be different, but it is important to first pay yourself before you do any shopping. Pay off your debt, save and invest your money. Prepare for the unexpected. Yes, a great pair of shoes can make your day, help you land a job or perfect your wardrobe but shoes won’t pay the rent if you get laid off. Shoes won’t buy you a new car when yours dies on the side of the highway. Shoes won’t give you independence and freedom.

If your budget is small, that’s actually a good thing. Small wardrobe funding requires one to do homework to find the best quality for the price, to really get to know one’s body and lifestyle and only purchase that which makes sense. Keep your wardrobe small, hard-working, classic, elegant.

Tips to Stay on Budget:

  • Have a Life Budget. No point in having a clothing budget if you are blowing your paycheck already on other items. That being said, have priorities. Clothing is probably higher on my priority list than the list of many other women. Each woman is different – some budget for world travel, some budget for books, some budget for art supplies, some budget for home renovations. It’s important to first be true to you – prioritize and then figure out where fashion fits.
  • Make a List, Check it Twice. If you have an actual written list that you carry with you, you’re less likely to get off track when you hit the mall.
  • Do Your Homework. You need a black suit? Go to the mall, try on brands, and then go home. Research online for coupons, deals, maybe the same item on eBay or in a thrift or vintage store. Never accept full price unless it is absolute perfection, absolutely necessary, and still fits your budget.
  • Stay Away from Shopping Triggers. For me, it’s malls. I only visit a major shopping mall once or twice a year because I can get lost in there and leave hundreds poorer. Maybe for you it’s Target (can always justify another tee or a $19.99 sundress but it adds up), possibly an adorable boutique in your neighborhood or maybe it’s Net-a-Porter. Whatever it is, accept your trigger and control your visits. Schedule them according to seasons – maybe only allow one visit each season, or maybe once a month.
  • Cancel the Magazine Subscriptions. I am a magazine-aholic, but I know that when I read them, I end up shopping more. Magazines do a great job of making items look amazing, and seem necessary. The most recent Vogue made me spend an hour of my life looking for a certain Brahmin bag – something I don’t need, can’t afford, but loved upon first sight. I did stop before purchasing, but if I hadn’t received that magazine, I would have never known about that orange bag and would have still lived a happy and stylish life. For some, it may be fashion blogs instead of magazines – even if it’s my blog that encourages you to shop, unsubscribe and just visit maybe once a month or every other week.
  • Play “Which Would You Rather.” Sally McGraw of Already Pretty often hosts a “sudden death” question on her Facebook page – which would you rather do – wear only white for a year, or wear your high school colors for a year, and only your school colors. It’s a good exercise for shopping – which would you rather have – that It Bag, or a sushi and sake date night with your mate once a month for a year? Which would you rather own – the perfect pair of black leather pumps, or six pairs of sandals from Payless? Which is more important, your morning Starbucks, or a pair of riding boots? Break down the price of the item and compare it to other items in your life.
  • Get Creative. No one knows you’re wearing the same black pants every day if you switch it up. One day, wear with a tucked-in blouse, the next day with a blazer and shell. Another day wear a cardigan over them and belt the cardigan to change the silhouette. Use your small wardrobe as a brain teaser – who needs Sudoku when you can take the dozen or so quality pieces in your wardrobe and make dozens of outfits from them.

A woman should get fitted for a new bra every year. She should have the perfect LBD in her wardrobe to be ready for unexpected social events. And she should be able to sleep well at night, knowing full well what is going on with her finances. The best accessory I acquired was getting out of debt – the best accessory any woman can wear is self-confidence, and confidence comes from being true to one’s self, feeling strong, and being financially solvent.



Be sure to check out the first of my How to Shop Series: An Introduction

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