Search Results for: label/commuter fashion

Winter Weather and Commuting: Style Tips

Wind, rain, snow, and sleet can wreak havoc on a morning commute… and your commuting style. When it comes to dressing for inclement weather I learn so much from my fellow DC office workers and commuters. Some is what not to wear, but more often than not it’s tips and tricks on how to stay protected, comfortable and stylish when the weather outside is frightful. This week is cold, rainy, a bit windy and down-right gross in DC; here’s some things I’ve learned on my walks to work:

Go Monochrome. Walking up the escalator from the Metro, I was behind a woman in all shades of blue and green. Teal tweed wool coat that almost hit her knees, dark jeans tucked into seafoam wellies, indigo leather tote, and a navy umbrella. The monochromatic look made each separate look so cohesive, so purposeful, and like a true ensemble. I am not a fan of wellies  (how often does one deal with water over the ankle when walking to the office anyway? And I am not asking those of you in Seattle and similar climates or those in rural areas…)but with her look… it worked. I could imagine flats or booties in that indigo tote ready to be slipped on once she reached her desk.

The other day, I saw a woman in a black belted wool coat, a raspberry chunky infinity scarf, plum knit beanie, and deep purple wellies. None of the colors were the same, but the consistent color story made the ensemble cohesive and downright stylish. If each piece was a different color the chunky knits and shiny boots would have looked childish; the consistent color gave it polish and professionalism.

Have Neutral Commuting Shoes. I was walking behind three women chatting with one another. They were varying sizes, ages, and personal styles but all had one thing in common – black tights or pants and black flats. I could tell that these were their commuter shoes – they didn’t quite match their outfits, they looked well worn, and pretty comfortable. However, by them being the same color as their legs the shoes weren’t on display and didn’t take away from their outfits. I turned the corner and saw two women waiting for the light to change – one had gray tights and red flats, the other had black pants and yellow patent flats. While their shoes were in better condition than the women in black, their shoes looked just as out of place as a pair of white sneakers. While it’s tempting to add “fun” to a pair of shoes you only wear on your commute, it can really detract from your personal style.

Own a Tiny Umbrella. While many companies claim that they sell travel umbrellas, what it essentially means is a non-Mary Poppins style that has a collapsible shaft. However, some brands sell really small umbrellas that are reliable, but take almost no space in your purse or laptop bag. While you want a durable umbrella that can survive strong gusts, having this little bitty umbrella tucked at the bottom of the bag is a lifesaver for unexpected showers or if you accidentally leave your big umbrella on the train.

Have a Spare Pair of Gloves. Same reason as the umbrella. Especially handy when the bus is late, you have to carry large things home, or you need to hold the rail on the train and you don’t want to catch the flu. While I have gloves in my two work coats, I have lost a glove on the commute, have changed coats last minute, and have many times wished I had a pair tucked in the bottom of my purse or laptop bag.  Since I got another pair for Christmas, I have remedied this situation.

Wear a Hat. While you may be more likely to get Hat Head, a hood flies off in the wind, and the weather will already destroy your hairstyle. Having a hat, be it a cloche, beanie, fedora or otherwise will keep your ears warm, your hair in place, and your body far warmer than a bare head. If you loosely tuck your hair in your hat, you’ll be less likely to get dents in your ‘do.

Wedges Rock. While they give a bit of lift, they are far kinder on the foot when standing, walking, and even dashing across the street to make a light. I see many women who seem to have wedge commuter shoes – they don’t have to worry about cuffing their trousers but have more comfort than heels. Wedges have come back en vogue, be they on pump-like professional shoes or a pair of trainers or TOMS.

Own a Water-resistant Winter Coat. When there’s frigid temperatures, there’s often precipitation, and it’s not always fluffy white flakes. A wet wool coat can be a drag; if you purchase a quilted, waxed, or water-resistant fabric coat, you will be far more comfortable on those days that are both cold and wet. Choosing a style with a unique detail (read this post for great examples) will prevent you from looking as though you just came from the slopes.

Have Matching Bags. I regularly see this woman on the train who has a gray leather purse and gray leather tote. The combination is so lovely and she doesn’t look as hunkered down with multiple bags. Today walking to work, I saw a woman with a red leather purse and a red and navy print microfiber tote for her yoga mat and likely workout clothes. If you need to carry more than one bag, having the two bags match or coordinate really does add polish and cohesion to your ensemble. I wrote about work totes here, but this is something I hadn’t before considered and will be thinking about the next time I am purchasing a tote or everyday purse.

You Never Know Who You Will Bump Into. So you’re wearing a power suit and have a pair of sensible pumps tucked into your bag, yet on your commute you’re wearing a knit cap with earflaps and cat ears, have a hot pink sparkly faux fur snood, and sequined boot liners under your polka-dot wellies. And then you bump into your CEO at Starbucks. Sort of defeats the purpose of your power suit. If your job is a career, work doesn’t end when you walk out of that office door, and if you work in a city you are very likely to bump into a colleague on the train or street corner. Consider this when shopping for accessories and outerwear and have them match the professional style you show in the workplace.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

The Commuter Curse

One of the greatest things about my new job is taking public transportation. I know you must think I am crazy to say that, but I love the People Watching (a sport that deserve to be capitalized), and I love the interaction. For years I have lived in my car, alone on my rush hour commute and then alone in my office or cubicle for the majority of the day. Often I would spend a day never speaking to a soul outside of a hello when passing a coworker in the hallway. Now I get to read, listen to music, and be surrounded by my fellow humans. It’s pretty great… until I am assaulted by the hideous fashion of the Woman Commuter.

I too am a female commuter, and I understand why so many fellow women end up getting the Commuter Curse. It is so easy, so comfortable, and you think no one will notice.

Well ladies, though we may pretend that the sweaty mouth-breather may not be pressed up against us on the subway, we are not invisible. Think about your next commuter – try as you may to hide behind your New York Times Bestseller and iPod, you are aware of those around you. If you are aware of them, they are aware of you.

The Commuter Curse is when women (I hardly ever see a man succumb to this curse) begin to let certain elements of style slide. They feel that no one will notice, or justify it based upon cost or comfort. As someone who walks about a mile each day from her car in the commuter lot, through the Washington DC subway system to her place of employment, I too look for that which makes that trek the most comfortable and easy. The thing is, you are able to be a comfortable and organized commuter and not get The Commuter Curse.

Some steps to be cured of The Commuter Curse:

1. Don’t ever think swag is appropriate fashion. This means fleeces embroidered with your company logo, or microfiber messenger bags with silkscreened designs. It seems the higher up the corporate ladder (or the longer you work for a government agency) the more conferences and workshops you attend. With every workshop there seems to be at least one item with a logo on it: a travel mug, a tote bag, a polo shirt. These are great things to wear and use for your company retreat, to wear for your next conference or even to carry your groceries in, but they are not appropriate fashion.

2. If you must have commuter shoes, treat them with respect. I am starting to have knee problems, and realize it is due to me walking down so many stairs in subway stations while wearing heels. My commute home has me walk down five separate escalators, most that are out of service. I am looking into a pair of flat shoes I can tuck in my bag and put on just for my trip home.

This doesn’t mean I will be strutting around the Nation’s Capital in white Reebok Classics with black hose. Modern technology has given us many styles of footwear that are just as comfortable and supportive as a pair of tennies but look far more stylish. Every day I see women in gorgeous coats over stylish suits and outfits and then clunky sneakers ruining the whole look.

Nor will I be wearing a pair of old, scuffed and run-down flats that have been in my closet for a decade. These types of shoes are even more prevalent than the foot marshmallows. Yes, they have been molded to fit your foot perfectly after all these years, but they look disgusting and totally ruin your entire look. This also includes newer yet cheap flats that have lost their shape, been permanently stained or torn. They may be cute little yellow suede ballet flats, but they have a grease stain down the side, the sole is peeling from the shoe and you have walked on the back so much they have morphed from flats to slides.

I never understand it; many of us walk blocks and blocks passing hundreds of people in such monstrosities, and then get to the office, put on our nice shoes and then hide behind a desk all day, the only person seeing the fancy footwear is the receptionist or the one coworker in the kitchen when you went to grab your morning cup of coffee.

3. Don’t wear your bed linens to work. Yes, it can get quite cold, and it is silly to wear a cute jacket and chance frostbite or illness. However, this does not mean you need to walk around town in a down comforter with sleeves. Don’t get me wrong, I have a black quilted knee-length coat that I wear on blustery days; I am talking about the really puffy coats, the ones that fall to your ankles with a huge hood, fur trim and no shape. I am talking about the thick fleece and wool coats that look like bathrobes.

Again, modern invention have brought us wonderful materials such as Thinsulate, Gore-Tex, and Windstopper that are thin yet keep you warm and dry.

Keep in mind that your coat will be worn more than almost any other item in your wardrobe. It is worth the time and money to find the right style that will flatter and properly fit your figure, compliment your clothing collection and still keep you toasty.

4. Have your pants hemmed to match your shoes. I understand that a commuter shoe is flat and an office shoe may have a heel, however it is never acceptable to peg or cuff your work trousers to keep them from dragging on the street or spend the day in highwaters. If you feel a flat commuter shoe is a necessity, you may have to suck it up like I have and adjust your office heel height. Every day I see beautiful, well-dressed women in pants that are dragging, cuffed awkwardly or above the ankle bones. No point in spending good money on trousers if they make you look like Pee-Wee Herman.

4. Know you are never invisible. Often we women feel we are invisible when we have a less-than-perfect body, average wardrobe or what we deem as ordinary features. We think no one will notice if we go a day without brushing our hair or have our pants too short. We’re not important, right?

Wrong. You are never invisible, and you are important. Think about yourself when heading to work; don’t you notice those around you? Do you ever start daydreaming, and wonder about that person on the seat across from you? What is she reading, what does she do for a profession to warrant her attire? If you do it about another, be sure it is being done in regards to you.

When you feel you aren’t important enough to be noticed, it is as though you have a neon sign blinking above your head saying “LOW SELF ESTEEM!” I am not saying one should dedicate her whole life to looking good to impress others, but give your body the same respect you hopefully give your home or your office. You should be clean, tidy, and look as though you like yourself. You have this body whether you like it or not, make the best of it. As you would jazz up an apartment with new drapes and artwork to make it look less like a sterile white box, so should you decorate yourself. You are noticed, every day whether you realize it or not. Give the right first impression, the one that properly represents the true you!

Ask Allie: SAHM Capsule Wardrobe

Dear Allie, any suggestions for a stay at home mom’s capsule wardrobe? I left the workforce two years ago when my second child was born and I have a terrible wardrobe of cocktail dresses and stained sweatpants and never seem to have the right thing to wear anywhere. While most days are spent in comfortable knits playing with the kids or working around the house, I’d like a wardrobe that could get me back out of the house and not look a mess. Clothes for volunteering at the school and church, wearing to book club or an unexpected night out with my husband or the girls or just basic clothes that won’t make me look like a mess when running errands. Clothes have to be comfortable, be washable, and be versatile since I don’t have an income any more. Any suggestions?

This sample capsule wardrobe will have you ready for everything from your husband’s work party to book club to the market to the playground. Stretch denim, ponte black knit separates, and colorful knits keep you looking polished even when you’re spending the day on the floor with your little ones. Choosing solids makes the pieces less memorable and more versatile; fabrics like ponte and merino wool look luxe but are machine washable on the gentle cycle and hold their shape through washings and wears.

Twenty Possible Ensembles (though you can make many many more):

  1. Black leggings, striped tee, cardigan, boots
  2. Black leggings, black turtleneck, boots
  3. Black leggings, chambray shirt, boots
  4. Black leggings, gray tee, pashmina, boots
  5. Jeans, striped tee, pashmina, boots
  6. Jeans, turtleneck, flats
  7. Jeans, gray tee, pink cardigan, statement necklace, flats
  8. Jeans, purple sweater, boots
  9. Jeans, chambray shirt, statement necklace, boots
  10. Black pants, black turtleneck, pumps
  11. Black pants, purple sweater, flats
  12. Black pants, gray tee, statement necklace, pumps
  13. Dress, boots
  14. Dress, leggings, flats
  15. Dress, pumps
  16. Skirt, scoop tee, flats
  17. Skirt, striped tee, cardigan, pumps
  18. Skirt, purple sweater, boots
  19. Skirt, turtleneck, flats
  20. Skirt, chambray shirt, flats

Black ponte leggings are thicker than jersey knit, making them look more polished, are more opaque and better hide any lumps and bumps. With a boyfriend cardigan and tall boots, comfy leggings and a tee can look downright chic. The same holds true for dark narrow jeans with stretch – the added Lycra keeps the jeans in shape when you’re active and keeps them comfortable. A dark wash will look more sophisticated and stay stylish longer than a trendy wash. A pair of trousers in black ponte dress up easily but have the stretch and machine washability that makes them practical; pair with everything from a tee shirt to a silk blouse for a put-together look. For ponte, even if it says dry clean only, it can be washed on the gentle cycle and hung to dry.

A black ponte dress in a simple silhouette can be worn with leggings and flats for a weekday casual look, with tall boots for Date Night, or with pumps for a social engagement. Dress up with a statement necklace, dress down with a pashmina. A gathered or pleated skirt in cotton blend (100% cotton may need ironing, a bit of poly will keep the wrinkles at bay) or a heavy knit like ponte gives you the fabric you need to be able to get on your knees to retrieve your child’s toy from under the table but still looks polished. A skirt can make simple flats and an old v-neck tee shirt look chic and purposeful and a lightweight sweater sophisticated.

A mix of different necklines keeps your wardrobe from looking like a uniform and makes layering a breeze. A black turtleneck sweater is insta-chic when paired with everything from trousers to jeans to a fuller skirt.  Merino wool is a great alternative to blends or cashmere as it doesn’t pill and can be washed on the gentle cycle of your machine.  A striped knit is an unexpected neutral which looks great on its own or with a sweater or shirt layered over it. Stripes also do a great job of hiding spots that are visible even on dark colored solid knits.  Chambray is also an unexpected neutral which can add interest under the dress, alone with jeans, or tucked into a skirt.  Unlike a white shirt, chambray looks okay a bit wrinkled, gets better with time and wear, and easily hides stains.

A big slouchy leather bag in a statement color can hold everything from your Kindle and bottle of water to a bag of Goldfish crackers and change of clothes for your child.  No need to be matchy-matchy with your bag, choose one that you like the color and shape and it can become an accent to the rest of the hues in your wardrobe.  Steer clear of metallics, suede, crinkle glazes or patent – all show wear and stains much faster than regular leather or a microfiber. Owning a sleek purse and pair of comfortable pumps in classic black leather will make dressing up your staples simple and they’re easy to polish up for special events. No need for a ton of different shoes – tall boots are surprisingly versatile and quickly add polish to simple knits and jeans. A pair of flats in a print like leopard are often times more versatile than a solid. Simple black pumps are there when you need to dress up.  If you’d like another pair of shoes, some ankle boots with a low heel or slight wedge would look great with all the pants and if they have a Western or engineer look, can also work with casual skirts and dresses.

Update: I created some sample capsule wardrobes for the summer months, you can check it out here!

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

What Every Man Needs in His Wardrobe – Updated for 2010

A few years ago, I wrote the post, “What Every MAN Needs in his Wardrobe.” Since then, I seem to get comments and emails about it every month, and it has been mentioned in many articles on sites all over the Web.

Men’s fashion is so difficult because it is so simple. A man can’t feign style with trendy colors, bold accessories, or an It Bag. A man has a harder time making a Tarjay purchase cut it in the corporate world. Men’s retailers don’t help the situation – with women’s retailers we can tell that Mom Jeans are passé because they can only be found at cheaper Big Box retailers; men can find all sorts of Fashion Don’ts at the nicest brands and shops.

However just as with women, if a man has a very simple base wardrobe of staples, he can get away with adding some trendy or fun pieces to the mix without looking like a fashion victim. Purchasing quality, classic pieces means one’s wardrobe can stand the test of time and be far more versatile.

Re-reading my list of wardrobe staples for men from back in 2006, very little has changed. The good thing about men’s fashion is that it isn’t as quickly changing as that for women. Jeans you buy in 2007 will most likely be stylish in 2011, and silhouettes don’t change as drastically as those for women. However some trends have happened that aren’t TOO trendy, and can adjust the staples for any man. So let’s revisit that list.

Here’s a recap of the original list from 2006:
1. White dress shirt
2. Bootcut jeans
3. Black merino v-neck sweater
4. Flat front gray trousers
5. Black blazer
6. Gray suit
7. Solid-colored polo shirts
8. Flat front chinos/khakis
9. Sandals
10. Longer chino shorts
11. Casual crew neck sweater
12. Black slip on loafers
13. Euro sneakers
14. Wool coat
15. Black dress belt

1. Crisp White Cotton Shirt. This is a given. Every man needs at least one of these, as that they are so versatile and look best when very white, very crisp. Over the past couple of years, trimmer cuts have taken center stage. If you are a lean gentleman, do not let your white shirt balloon around you – this look will completely kill any style. European brands like French Connection offer narrower cuts, American retail favorites like Banana Republic and Gap also offer dress and casual shirts in fitted silhouettes.

If you are tall, look for brands that cater to tall men. My husband is a big fan of the Banana Republic line for Big & Tall men – the quality is good, and the cuts really do fit far better than standard brands. If you are shorter, you will always be better off heading straight to a shop like Brooks Brothers or a department store to get the right length of arms along with right size of neck.

Image courtesy gap.com

2. Comfortable Bootcut Jeans in a Semi-dark Color. This is one of the items that has changed the most drastically since the original post. Jeans are a wardrobe staple for most any person on this planet and retailers know this. Styles in denim change faster than with any other type of garment.

The mentioned relaxed bootcut jean is still a decent choice – it’s not too trendy, yet not dated. However since then other cuts and washes have become classics.

A very dark crisp jean, often called “rinse” in color or described as “rigid”, “selvedge”, or “raw” denim has become a classic for men as well as women. This is not a dark wash, but a deep, even dark indigo where the denim looks untouched. Often the inside seams are stitched in red, and the denim is far heavier-weight and stiff than most jeans in the store. In a slim, straight or slight boot cut, this look can be a great staple for most men. Adding the slight bootcut or a more relaxed cut is a good choice for very tall and lean men, as well as for shorter or heavier men. You want to balance out your shape, so you don’t look top heavy. A great classic choice for this type of jean is the Levi’s 501.

The vintage jean is a jean that is supposed to look as though it has been weathered through use. This jean doesn’t have the pronounced whiskering I mentioned in the original post, but all-over wear. We’re not talking shredded jeans a la the Glam Rock days, but something that looks as though a farmhand took a pair of raw denim and wore them for an entire season out in the fields. This look can be a bit looser and more relaxed than the dark denim, but it is still not baggy or loose. Again, a straight or slight boot cut will be your best choice.

Jeans now can be cuffed, but you are treading into trendy territory with this choice. If you don’t feel confident in knowing how to cuff your jeans in a fashionable manner and only plan to cuff to achieve the proper length, I encourage you to instead buy the right length or head to a tailor to have them properly hemmed (ask them to keep the original hem or at least hem style so it doesn’t look as though Mommy did it for you). If you know your length, many online retailers offer extended lengths and waist sizes online so you can get the right fit from the get-go.

3. A Black Merino V-neck Sweater. Yeppers, this is still stylish. Just be sure it fits you, and isn’t overly baggy. The only thing that has changed in the past few years is that cuts are now more trim. If you have some meat on your bones, don’t try to hide it with an oversized sweater, but don’t go too skinny. A straight fit in your regular size will actually make you look more slim than something that is baggy.

In the original post, someone commented that cashmere is a better choice. Cashmere is always in style, but it requires a bit more upkeep. If your budget and lifestyle can handle cashmere, by all means choose it. However most men I know are better off with a sweater that can handle being thrown in a hamper or sent to the cleaners to be cared for. Cashmere is best cared for with hand washing and being laid flat to dry. If you don’t have the life for that sort of care, it’s okay. Merino wool is a wonderful alternative and holds its shape great, wear after wear.

Image courtesy jcrew.com

4. Flat Front Tropical Weight Wool Trousers in Gray. Another classic. My only suggestion is that if you are deciding between cuffs and no cuffs, go without the cuffs. Cuffs are being seen less and less and are becoming something that is trendy – let those pants be stylish for many years to come and choose to go without cuffs, or any other trendy embellishment.

The narrow pant has become very stylish in the past couple of years. If you are reading this for clothing advice, I recommend you do NOT go for the narrow pant. The narrow pant is a hard look to pull off and can only be worn with certain shoes, certain tops, and on certain shapes of men. Keep it simple, keep it classic, stick to a flat front, standard leg, standard length.

Image courtesy nordstrom.com

5. A Black Suiting Blazer with Three Buttons. Classic. Simple. Just keep with current trends and keep it well-fitted. Get it properly tailored to fit your body – it will make you look more muscular, more fit, more trim if you have a well-fitting jacket.  As for figuring out fit, I love these tips from a Suitable Wardrobe and this link for sizing from SuitUPP – every man should bookmark them, print them out and take with you to the tailor when you get your jackets fitted (for no jacket fits properly off the rack – sorry to tell you guys, but it’s worth it to get them tailored.

When I originally wrote this, I chose black over navy for the same reason I choose black as the base color for my list of women’s wardrobe staples – it’s easier. You can’t get the wrong shade of black, and with black you always know what color shoes to wear. Navy is a wonderful choice for a blazer – it is classic and elegant, but the problem is navy can look more like blue if the wrong shade, navy will show the fabric better so if you don’t have high quality fibers it will be obvious, and often people pair navy with colors that don’t compliment well (hello black trousers). If you can find a dark navy of quality fibers, it is a worthy replacement of black. But if you’re unsure, stick with black for it’s safe and in this day and age, considered as versatile as navy.

6. A Gray Suit. Yep, this is still a classic. Far more versatile than any other color available, and more likely to look elegant in five years. Make sure it is tailored to fit you properly, and it should work for most any event that life throws in your direction.

 Image courtesy bananarepublic.com

7. Three Solid-colored Polo Shirts. There are more hip, more trendy, more fashionable choices than polo shirts, but nothing that is as timeless, budget-friendly, and versatile. My only update is again about fit – keep it trim (not tight) and be sure the length is correct. I constantly see men who have polo shirts that barely cover their belts, and other men who wear ones that hang to their knees. The current look is no longer baggy, so even if you are short and stocky, you should be able to find a polo shirt that doesn’t look like a dress. Tall men, almost every online retailer offers long lengths – you can easily get a few polos on sale at J. Crew or Gap and replace your belly-baring tops.

Keep your polo shirts looking better for longer and don’t wash them with your jeans, towels, or any athletic wear with grommets or Velcro. My husband washes his with other knits and they don’t fade or stretch out as quickly.

8. Flat-front Chinos in a Khaki Color. Still a classic. If you wear khakis for work, keep one pair that is only for social events. Often I see men at weddings and happy hours with stained or snagged chinos, and it’s obvious they are the same ones they wear on the job.

Again I have to mention length. It’s better to get them too long and have them hemmed than go too short. Any drycleaner can hem your pants and get them back to you in a couple of days. J. Crew and Lands End are two of many retailers that sell unusual lengths online. J. Crew even offers a raw hem so you can have them hemmed by your own tailor for the perfect length.

9. A Pair of Sandals. Magazines and Web sites will talk about all sorts of other summer shoes, but if you are a Fashion Freshman, I don’t suggest many other trendy alternatives that are out there.  I recommend checking out Zappos, a site with a HUGE selection of shoes. When I recently searched for men’s leather sandals, they had 545 options. It is possible to find a pair of thong or slide sandals that look manly, will be comfortable, and be a great choice with shorts or jeans.

10. Longer Shorts in Olive or Khaki. I am not saying your shorts should hang past your knee. You’re looking for that happy medium that is between the thigh and the knee. The baggy look is out guys, so pass on the pleats, the millions of cargo pockets and any pair that can’t stay on your hips without a belt. A heavier-weight chino will keep a crisp, sophisticated look.

I mentioned cargo shorts as a good alternative, but since that original post cargo shorts have started going out of style. I really think every man need a clean, crisp pair (or three) of cargo-free chino shorts. It’s far more modern, flattering, and stylish.

11. A Casual Sweater with a Crew Neckline. There are a lot of thin cotton sweaters out there that end up clinging to your tee shirt, stretching out in the wash, blousing out weird at the hem. It’s better to have fewer sweaters in your closet and know that the ones you have fit well, launder well, and will keep their shape and color. If you buy quality, this sweater can still be one you love to wear a decade from now.

If you have this crew sweater, you can definitely branch out with necklines. More v-necks, a shawl collar, etc. Start with crew, a crew is a wardrobe staple and a good first choice to build your proper wardrobe.

12. Black Leather Slip-on Dress Loafers. These are so versatile, you may even want a second pair. Seriously.

And with the new dark, crisp looks in denim, these loafers can now be worn with that type of denim and look stylish.

13. A Pair of Euro Sneakers or Rugged Leather Oxford Shoes. This is probably the only item on this list that has really changed over the years and isn’t still considered a perfect wardrobe choice. Really, that’s to be expected – a shoe like this is more of a novelty piece and will change with the times and trends. You’re looking for a casual shoe – something more socially acceptable than an athletic sneaker, but not as dressy as the black loafer. .

A popular choice for this type of shoe is the Converse All Stars “Chucks” sneakers. In black, with a low rise, these are a wonderful choice to add to your wardrobe. My husband’s friend has a pair of loafers, but they are a dark brown with a more rugged sole that look great with his chinos and jeans. I love the look of engineer boots or chukkas – a great choice with this season’s trim dark jeans.

Pick a style that works with your personal style. Into the music scene? Consider some Doc Martens. A bit preppy? How about some Sperry Topsiders? Like sports? Instead of a pair of old Nikes, consider some Adidas “Shell Tops” (just be sure they stay in immaculate condition). Desert boots are a good choice if you have more of a beachy or boho sense of style.

Image courtesy omiru.com

14. A Wool Winter Coat. Still a classic, and still a wardrobe essential.

15. Black Leather Dress Belt. If you own #12, you need #15.

Additional Items You Should Have in your Wardrobe:
1. Oxfords shirts in blue and white. These shirts are different from the dress shirt. They are more casual, have a heavier textured weave, button-down collars, and aren’t meant to be worn with a suit. Go for a trim cut, and you can wear them tucked in with jeans and pants, or even untucked with chinos or shorts. If you have a sense of flair, feel free to stray from the basic blue and white – real men DO wear pink, and other hues are hot and surprisingly versatile. This sort of shirt also looks great under a sweater come winter. For summer, here’s a great link that tells you how to roll up your cuffs.

2. Other casual button-down shirts. Right now, the button-down shirt is hot, as long as it’s the right fabric and fit. Shirts shouldn’t be blousy, and they shouldn’t have texture or shine. The vintage look is hot for casual wear. Plaids have come back in style, and we’re talking cotton, and not grunge-era flannel. Stripes are great too.

Before I stated that short-sleeved dress shirts are goofy. I still believe that. However, since the original post, fashion has made great strides with the short-sleeved casual shirt. For lean men, the semi-fitted button down in plaid is a nice look; for stocky men the more casual beachy short-sleeved shirt in chambray or a lightweight cotton looks great untucked with shorts or chinos.

3. A light blue or French blue dress shirt. Same rules apply as for the white dress shirt.

4. Ties. Just as stated before, solid for more formal events, stripes for work, patterns and more casual fabrics for festive occasions. Please get your ties cleaned occasionally, and especially after any event that includes cigars and/or large consumption of alcohol. Nothing worse than a stained or rumpled tie. And for some wonderful tutorials, here is a fabulous site that shows you with diagrams as well as videos on how to tie a tie with the four most popular knots (I recommend four in hand for pretty much any affair, Half Windsor for the more formal affairs).

5. Dress socks. Your black SmartWool socks are NOT a choice when wearing a suit. You should own at least two pairs of socks that are meant to be worn with suits. As a rule, have your socks match your pant, not your shoe.

6. A leather wallet. Get rid of your Velcro-closure one from Billabong, and get rid of the one you have had since you high school graduation. A man’s wallet is like a woman’s purse – it should be well cared for, not overstuffed, and match your sense of style. Regularly remove receipts, business cards and other things that will make it be the size of a Dagwood sandwich.

7. Bathing trunks. Keep it simple – simple print or a solid. Trim but not tight, length similar to the abovementioned shorts.

8. An umbrella. This is not some swag you got from your last work conference. Get a travel one that will fit in your laptop bag, and can withstand fierce winds. My husband and I have a couple from Lands End that are classic, sturdy, reliable. Black is a safe bet, or you can add some color to your look with a muted plaid or solid color.  Any woman will tell you that she would find it terribly gallant for a man to pull out an umbrella to protect her during an unexpected rainshower…

9. Sunglasses. It’s time to retire the Oakleys (or keep them for sporting events and the most casual of situations). Variations of the classic Aviator or the Wayfarer are popular now, but I recommend you visit a high-end department store or sunglass boutique in the mall to try various styles to find what fits your face as well as your lifestyle.

10. White tee shirts. You should own a couple crisp, well-made white tee shirts to wear under things. Those Hanes ads with Michael Jordan are right – the cheap tees that buckle at the neck look terrible. Be sure to wash your white tees with other whites, use some oxygen cleaner or line dry to keep them white.

11.  Casual belt.  If your casual shoes are black, look for a more casual black belt.  If they are brown, look for brown.  My husband always has luck finding casual belts on clearance at Banana Republic that are well-made, timeless, and budget-friendly.

Since the original post about what every man needs in his wardrobe, I have added several Web sites and blogs to my Blogroll that specialize in Men’s Style.  Unlike me, their expertise is in men’s fashion, and I trust them for advice and input on new trends.  Do check them out.

Ask Allie: Durable Commuter Bags

I have been finding it a challenge to find a work tote/satchel that can handle all of my work items (iPad, shoes, book, and occasionally lunch) without having the handles break. I am preparing to take my latest two off to the great purse surgeon for some love and repair and am wondering if you can recommend a great tote/satchel for work that can carry all of the above and handle the weight of it all? I’d like to stick to a price tag of no greater than $200.

Some things I think are worth the price – well-crafted tall leather boots, a winter coat, and a work tote. It’s very hard to find a decent tote that can handle wear and tear without looking like crap. Honestly, few bags can carry all that on a regular basis and survive nicely unless you purchase a heavy-duty tote. While I recommend a black tote for business, for your commute a bag like the L.L. Bean Boat and Tote or Lands’ End Canvas Tote is a brilliant choice since it will hold up with a lot of weight, wear, and tear and won’t be worn outside of the commute. The version with elongated straps will fit over your shoulder even if you have on a heavy winter coat, and they have options with open or zip tops and storage compartments. Choosing a darker color will be better for public transportation and city life as these totes can’t be thrown in the washer and do best when spot cleaned.

I often carry multiple bags instead of stuffing my work totes to preserve their condition and shape, but it’s still great to have a bag that doesn’t look sloppy and can carry both your Kindle and your bottle of water without bursting at the seams. My two favorite work totes were both purchased on sale and would have been over $200 otherwise.

However, price doesn’t equal a good work tote – you want to look for heavy straps that are sewn into the body of the bag (even better if they wrap around the body of the bag), metal feet to protect the bottom of the bag, and a bit of structure so it keeps it shape over years and random contents. The two bags I have are leather with leather straps, fully lined, and one has a center dividing compartment which keeps the shape and structure of the bag, even when seated on a table or the floor. While a crossbody can seem convenient, I find that if you plan on stuffing a bag, a crossbody can be hard to carry, dig into your shoulder, and put far too much wear on the straps.

The bags I suggest below have not been seen in person and I cannot vouch for their quality and appropriateness; their style and fabrication lead me to believe they would be good choices and are all around $200:

Love the canvas boat bags but yearn for something more polished? Lands’ End has you covered with this brown leather tote with brass feet and organizing interior pockets. Reviews are positive and show owners use it for everything from hauling books back to the library to packing for a trip. Supple leather, classic design, smart styling and less than $200!

No frills, but who needs them when you’re trying to cart your work essentials via mass transit? Plenty of pockets, full grain leather, and a variety of subtle shades make this a great commuting tote. The reviews are positive and seems many use this to lug around heavy 17” laptops with no issue. A classic style and less than $90 makes this bag a great option.

The best thing about this tote are the straps that continue through the body of the bag – this will keep your straps in one piece far longer. Generously sized, and fun yet work-friendly fabrics and colors. Currently on sale for less than $140 and free shipping.

I have a Brahmin and can attest to the fact that they are sturdy, well-made bags. My tote has a thin crossbody strap but easily supports a bag full of heavy things like leftovers and bottled water. Though the straps aren’t sewn deep into the body of the bag, they are wider at the bottom and secured all the way around for a strong foundation. Metal feet, interior organizing pockets, and a variety of conservative and fun colors make this a great work bag. While it is a bit over $200, it’s a classic style that should give you years of wear and is polished enough to use for corporate meetings and conferences and work travel. In fact, if you’re interested in splurging, the larger ‘Melbourne Large Anytime’ tote has a padded compartment inside just for your iPad.

I feel inauthentic recommending a brand I wore strapped above my fanny in the ‘80s, but LeSportsac is known for high-quality, sturdy, and lightweight bags that last forever. The Travel Tote is famous for being the perfect tote you didn’t know you needed. Lightweight, durable, expandable, and not covered with overly visible logos or prints, this is a LeSportsac that can fit with most any personal style and will comfortably carry everything from your gym clothes to your netbook with ease. Less than $100, and many say they are still happily using the same LeSportsace Travel Tote that they purchased over a decade prior.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Ask Allie: Commuter Shoes for Summer

I have to wear comfortable shoes during my daily commute, as I walk 20+ minutes each way. Okay looking shoes/boots are easy enough to find for the cold winter months but I’m at a loss for summer. Flip flops aren’t an option as I have high arches and can’t stand feeling of something between toes. Gym shoes are too dorky. Any ideas?

I am so glad to find a fellow woman who won’t wear flip flops on her commute. Not only do they not provide arch support and can be deadly on slick sidewalks (and feel weird between the toes), but they are just plain tacky looking with your corporate attire. Keep the flip flops to the backyard barbecues and beaches!

I also am anti-the beaten-down ballet flats; this morning when walking to get coffee, I overheard two women discussing their commuting shoes. A woman said she loved ballet flats from Gap, but admitted she was on her fifth pair in two years because they got, “Super gross, super fast.” I’m glad that she would replace them once they got “gross,” but think it would make more sense to invest in a higher-quality shoe that could survive more than a couple months. There are great quality summer shoes out there with comfort and arch support, here’s a few that have been on my radar:

I like that this pair of Ecco shoes isn’t your typical ballet flat which is free of structure and support. This shoe has a proper sole and a tiny bit of a heel to put your foot in a more comfortable position. Leopard is an unexpected neutral that will go with almost everything in your closet. This shoe also comes in solid colors.

I have a pair of Cole Haan shoes with Nike Air Technology and can attest to the fact that they are really comfortable, wearable for long spans of time, and great for walking. These adorable bow flats from Cole Haan have miles of style and great reviews for comfort when walking. While black is a safe bet, I am partial to the red for a fun pop of color on your commute.

A driving moc or loafer is always a classic choice, and looks fresh with everything from menswear-inspired trousers to flippy sundresses. I love the orange color, which screams summer and would also look smart come the weekend with twill shorts or cropped pants.

When I was pregnant, I had a flat from Naturalizer very similar to these. They were utterly amazing – so supportive, comfortable, and fit right out of the box. These may not be the most chic of flats, but your feet will be happy by time you finish your walk and the color is subtle enough to not destroy the look of your ensemble.

I own these sandals and adore them. They are so comfortable, they have become my sightseeing shoe and even wear them when attending concerts when I know I will be standing the whole time. While they have an ankle strap, once you wear them twice you don’t need to unfasten to get on and off, which makes it easy for commuting. I also like the covered toe, which will keep your feet clean and your pedicure intact when walking down city streets.

Very similar to the Ventura, but with a different heel or sole. I love that this shoe comes in widths so you can ensure a comfortable fit from the get-go.

Great selection of colors, great reviews on comfort and the ability to walk for miles in them. I like the adjustable straps for a custom fit, and love that they are under $100.

Do you have a favorite commuting or walking shoe?  Please share in the comments!

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

How to be a Stylish Woman in her Thirties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

The Bandana is Back!

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

Bottom Row, Left to Right: Louis Vuitton via GQ | Stockholm Street Style | Vanessa Jackman | The Blab

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

    • Create a Contradiction. A bandana with a chambray shirt is cliché, a bandana with a leather moto jacket or a silk blouse or a crisp blazer is unexpected.

 

  • Keep it Crisp and Classic. For now, keep your pink and purple bandanas in the drawer and stick to classics like navy, red, and black. These should also not be the weathered, worn, and torn bandanas you use to mop sweat when gardening or to hold back your hair on a camping trip. The classic color and the crisp finish makes the bandana purposeful and not a leftover from cleaning out the garage.

 

 

  • Simplicity is Key. Leandra Medine’s all-white outfit with the bandana tucked into the collar of her shirt is a fabulous example of how to wear a bandana this spring. Minimal color, no competing prints, use the bandana as you would a silk Hermes scarf and let it take center stage.

 

 

  • Get Creative. A bandana doesn’t have to be worn knotted in back and draped in front. Check out The Not Vanilla’s post and how she wore it knotted around her throat, and even as a purse and wrist accessory. I recently rolled a bandana , wrapped it twice around my neck and had it peek out of a white button-front shirt; I think it’s fun to spice up a monochromatic look with a bandana tied to a single belt loop at the front of a pair of trousers; don’t be afraid to use a bandana as a headband, kerchief, headwrap, or tied around your ponytail.

 

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

    • When You Have Short Hair. If you’re draping the bandana in front and the “ears” are peeking out making you feel as though you’re wearing a bib, consider a bit of fashion tape to hold them down. I keep all those tiny safety pins that hold garment hang tags and find them great for a situation like this (I pin the “ears” to the underside so they don’t ruin the line of the scarf).

 

  • When the Bandana is Too Stiff. A brand new bandana can be as stiff as a piece of paper, and often have hard creases in it. Before trying anything, wash it and throw it in the dryer, preferably with bulky items that would make it bounce around a lot. This often does the trick. If it’s still too stiff for you, an overnight soak in fabric softener or vinegar will soften cotton without fading the fabric. Rinse and tumble dry.

 

 

  • When You Want a Bigger Bandana. I desired this very thing to have more variety (and to double-look around my big neck). On eBay I found “Texas Size” bandanas which are 27” (most are 22”). If you search for 27” bandana, you’ll find that many online stores like Amazon offer them, which will give you the length you desire.

 

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Ask Allie: Very Casual Office Attire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Ask Allie: Warm Winter Commuter Coats

I lived in Florida all my life, but am moving to DC for a new job and need to get a winter coat. I will be taking the bus for work and want a coat that looks professional but can survive public transportation and DC weather. Suggestions?

I need a new coat. I have the Squall from Lands’ End and have had a version of this coat for over a decade but want to get something more fashionable for work and stuff. I want it to be water repellant and I want it to have a hood and cover my [behind] when I sit on a bench. Where should I look?

I don’t wear wool but want a coat that looks nice, where can I find one that is stylish but also warm?

DC is a strange place, where it can be 70 degrees in November and 30 degrees in April. It is also quite wet in this area, many days that are cold are also with sleet, rain, or snow. In previous posts I have stated that a wool coat is more versatile and chic than one of a synthetic material, but I’ll admit it’s far more comfortable to deal with public transportation, walking, and commuting in general when you are both warm and dry and not worrying about your dry cleaning bill. Here’s some suggestions for winter coats that will keep your warm yet stylish all winter long.

 

I have a coat from Lands’ End that is very similar in style and made me a synthetic coat convert. The belt on this coat gives you a feminine shape and prevents the Michelin Man look, the faux fur trim on the hood adds a luxe feel, the longer length will keep your rear warm on cold metal benches at bus stops, and the large variety of colors and sizes means there’s a right one for each person. I like buying pieces like coats from Lands’ End because I feel confident that if a zipper breaks or there is some defect, I can easily return or replace it.

 

Quilting doesn’t have to add bulk and destroy your figure; strategic quikting and padding can actually accentuate your curves and emphasize a feminine shape. This coat from Betsey Johnson gets rave reviews even from those in Alaska for it being warm, but the shape, stitching, and belt give it a modern, fashionable, and flattering fit.

 

Wool doesn’t mean cold, on the contrary. If you live in a more mild climate like DC, you can get away with a wool coat for your winter. If the coat is long like this one from DKNY, you’re able to keep your legs cozy as you walk to the office or sit waiting for the train. While this coat doesn’t have a hood, it has a high collar to protect your neck and would look tres chic with anything from a cloche to a knit beanie.

Again, strategic quilting to the rescue! The varied sizes of quilting give this coat shape without sacrificing warmth. While black is a safe choice, the Prussian Blue adds a level of fashion and fun to a traditional long parka.  This coat is not only warm, but also water resistant – perfect for the woman who walks or takes public transportation to work!

 

Fit and flare with single breasted buttons makes this coat slimming, the traffic-stopping collar makes it stylish and extra warm. The cashmere blend will look equally at home with jeans and boots as with cocktail dresses and heels.

Tips for Purchasing a Stylish Warm Coat:

  • Look for a single statement-making detail. Fur-trimmed hood or collar, military-inspired metal buttons, belt, unique color or texture – such details will take a parka from play to professional. Keep such details to a minimum – only one statement needs to be made or it will go from chic to cheap.
  • Flatter the figure. Strategic quilting, a belt, single breasted, curved hem… such details can make the difference and have a coat be warm and chic.
  • Choose sophisticated colors. Some colors like yellow, orange, barn red, and baby blue scream ski slope or shoveling snow. Black, olive, navy, ivory, gray, dark plum, and teal give a more elegant feel to a parka.
  • Read the ingredients. Who cares what a coat looks like if it doesn’t keep you warm? Read the details – many outerwear retailers will state what temperature such a coat was made for. Wool, cashmere, down, Thinsulate – these are all materials that will keep you more warm than most synthetic blends. If you live in a wet climate be sure to find a coat that is also water-resistant or waterproof. If you choose the right textiles you can often achieve equal warmth to a bulkier coat of cheaper materials.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for Business Travel

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

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

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

Over 30 outfits with only 14 garments (details):

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

How to Rock a Crop Top

How to Style a Crop Top

The crop top is back. I know, I know, I hear your moaning through the Internet. I wore crop tops in high school when I was channeling Kelly Kapowski, when this trend showed up on runways I KNEW it was one I would not revisit. However, brilliant style bloggers across the globe have been proving that anyone can carry off a crop top this summer, and here’s some tips on how to rock the crop without looking like a Fly Girl:

Pair with a High-waisted Bottom

When a crop top is partnered with a skirt or pant that starts above the belly button, a crop top can be downright flattering. The smallest part on a woman’s body is usually at the bottom or right below the rib cage; a crop top and high-waisted bottom highlight this area, and your sliver of skin flatters in the same manner a wide belt does. Having the visible skin so high prevents muffin top, and showing your belly button or post-baby stretch marks. While this pairing can work with most any type of top and bottom, the combination of a fitted top and fuller skirt or pants is both figure flattering and on trend (and with a fitted top there’s no chance you’ll flash your bra). Great examples of this trend can be seen on Jay Miranda and Girl With Curves.

Wear Over a Dress

Gosh, why didn’t I think of this? I’ll admit, seeing this outfit on The Classy Cubicle was when I started realizing crop tops can look modern and be age-appropriate. Treat a boxy crop top like a cropped jacket and pair with a simple sheath to update your workweek wardrobe staples or to freshen up your Date Night LBD. Also on Refinery 29, they featured an editor wearing a striped tank dress with a different striped crop top over it and the combination was fun and very wearable.

Layer over a Longer Top

You’ll see retailers have already thought of this combination, styling mannequins in this manner and also selling shirts that create this effect. I love this top from Vince Camuto; it looks like two tops, achieves the crop top look, but has enough coverage to wear at more casual workplaces or weekends when you don’t want to flash a ton of skin.

Get Matchy Matchy

When the top and bottom are the same color and/or fabric, the flash of your midsection isn’t as obvious and doesn’t feel so risqué. Mindy Kaling wore a jacquard crop top and skirt to an event and it worked because it was a matched set, the skirt was high, and the sliver of skin showcased the slimmest part of her figure.

Play with Volume

Not every crop top is fitted, and a bit of volume can make this shorter silhouette far more wearable.  The Tiny Closet shows how a floaty crop top can be quite flattering; while the post linked has her wearing it with higher-waist pants, she wears this top often with all sorts of bottoms. The August Diaries pairs a boxy crop with a high-low hemline with a skirt that is fitted on top, creating a balanced silhouette. I love this eyelet crop top with matching full maxi; both pieces in the same color gives a feel of a dress, the cropped top flattering the figure in the same manner as a belt. Adding volume is a great way to balance your frame and keep cool as the temps rise.

 

What do you think about the return of the crop top? Are you willing to try this trend?

 

Ask Allie: Plus Size Wardrobe Staples

Dear Allie, I found your wardrobe staples post many years ago and it changed my life. I cut my closet in half but finally had the right clothes for everything. Since then, I have had two children and some health issues and I’m now a size 22. I gave up on fashion the past five years but my New Year resolution is to get back in shape and in style. Thing is I go to the mall and I can’t find anything on your list, everything is so ugly and old looking and cheap in plus sizes. Help!

My first suggestion to you is to get the heck out of the mall. While more and more brick and mortar shops are offering plus size fashion, most neighborhood malls have pretty slim pickings. Shipments are done by a buyer, one who just looks at generic demographics and statistics for the store, mall, and zip code and makes general decisions on whether to feature more plus size or less, more suiting or more weekend wear, more formal dresses or cotton sundresses. While you could drive around town to find plus size fashion Mecca, you could also head to your computer.

I hardly ever enter a mall anymore because I find them frustrating, messy, and overwhelming. When I do visit, I plan out my trip and head first to my go-to stores where I know the clothes fit my body and my personal style. Then if I still have some energy left, I’ll investigate other retailers. However, I find far more luck sticking to online retailers. Better selection of styles as well as sizes, easier to find discounts, and I can try on pieces in my bedroom with flattering lighting and proper shoes and undergarments.

I did a little searching online and was able to quickly find all the wardrobe staples I suggest in plus sizes. These days many retailers offer free or near-free shipping and returns; I did a review of my favorite plus-size retailers here. Keep in mind that this time of year is awesome for deals, but awful for selection. We’re entering inventory season, and every retailer tries to have as little merchandise as possible for inventory to make the process easier. If you’re looking for bargains you’re likely in luck, but if you’re striking out in sizes, wait until mid-March when spring collections will be stocked in the stores.

In the collage above, I left out the wool coat and accessories from the staples list because I find them relatively easy to find and likely you have the accessories already in your collection. Here’s a list of some of my go-to retailers for specific plus size fashion:

I also recommend you check out some plus size blogs and forums. I personally am not part of any boards or forums so I suggest you lurk some and find a good fit. While there are so many blogs out there who showcase their fabulous plus size personal style, here are few plus size-specific blogs I find to be quite helpful in reviewing lines and offering fashion suggestions. I also recommend reading their blogrolls and comments for additional blogs and online resources:

I’m so happy that you are using this year to care for yourself. Everyone deserves to feel fabulous and you’re gorgeous no matter your dress size. Dressing to flatter your current figure and personal style makes you feel confident and helps showcase your beautiful self. Don’t let the malls get you down, head online and you may find just what you were looking for!

Readers, I look forward to your comments on this subject, as I am not an expert.  Where do you find plus size wardrobe staples?  Who are your favorite plus size bloggers?  What online resources do you recommend?  

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Ask Allie: Collars and Crews

The ever lovely Natalie emailed me and asked,

“Allie, when I try to wear a crew neck over a collared shirt, I look dumpy. How do you look so un-dumpy? What am I doing wrong?”

My email response:

My secret is… the only two buttons buttoned are the second one (the very top one makes me dumpy) and the bottom one (so the untucked shirttails look straight). The rest is gaping open underneath. I did this the first time with this shirt because it’s now too small, but was amazed at how it improved the look of a shirt under a crew, and now do it all the time with all my shirts whether they fit or not!

So there you have it!  I find this helps since I am so top heavy – somehow the buttoned-up shirt emphasizes all my roundness, but when I let it gape open, my figure shows a bit better.  Of course this works far better with a thick sweater that won’t show the buttons and gaping fabric, but if it’s a thinner crew, I will not button the last button, let the shirt sort of go to the sides of my body and tuck it in so it’s out of the way and more invisible.  Sort of like a dickey with sleeves!

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Summer Sartorial Rules for Corporate America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For some suggestions on appropriate office attire, please visit:

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Postpartum Fashion

There are women who get their pre-pregnancy body back in six weeks. Others who get it back in six months. There are women who realize their shape will never be the same, but still come to terms with their new figure quickly – nine months in, nine months out and back in some fab jeans and heels.

And then there are the rest of us. And I think the rest of us are the majority. The silent majority.

Emerson is almost two years old, and I still freak out sometimes when catching my nude reflection in the full length mirror in my bedroom. Who IS this woman?

Maybe you take in your reflection, and you realize that this new body is still beautiful – possibly more so. You take pride in your strength, your ability to create life. Those breasts are now more than a way to attract a date – they are a way to feed your child. Your stretch marks and sagging skin are battle scars, reminders of the amazing triumphant act you did.

And then you enter a mall, or get a package in the mail from your favorite online retailer. You try on the garments, and begin (or increase) self-loathing. Nothing fits, everything is ugly, YOU are ugly.

You’re not ugly, you’re not deformed, it’s just that today’s fashion isn’t geared towards the constantly changing body of the postpartum woman.

Instead of beating yourself up in the fitting room, take this opportunity in life to really build a uniform, a suit of armor. You’re not the person you were pre-pregnancy, inside or out. Accept that, and build a very simple uniform that will get you through this time until you become good friends with the New You – the woman with a child, with a changed lifestyle, new priorities, and new hips.

Examples of what I wore after having my child – lots of wrap dresses and accessories to draw attention from my body and keep my uniform looking different each day

The first year of Emerson’s life was incredibly difficult for my ego, my confidence, my blogger self. It was hard enough adjusting to being a new mother, I had to re-learn my skills at my full-time job, and still felt that I had to be some sort of style expert here. The way I got through was by making my wardrobe so incredibly simplistic that it really became a uniform. When I found a silhouette, fabric, or brand that worked, I purchased multiples. I didn’t try to put my very round peg into a square pair of trousers, I found pieces that were soft, comfortable, wearable, yet had polish.

These items aren’t easy to find, but they ARE out there. Some suggestions:
- Ponte knit trousers. I found some at Old Navy – they had a standard style with pockets and zip fly, but the fabric was so stretchy, it worked with my body. The ponte knit was thicker than your standard yoga pant, so not only did it make the trousers work-appropriate, they also did a far better job of hiding the lumps and bumps.
- Wrap dresses. I found a jersey wrap dress in Talbots that had a full skirt and blouson sleeves and bought it in every color I could find. I had matte jersey wrap dresses from Talbots, Old Navy, Max Studio, Ann Taylor, and Maggy London. When jeans and pants failed me, dresses made me look polished, feminine, curvy, yet were comfortable. I paired with tights and a wide-heeled Mary Jane in winter, and sandals in summer. The wrap styling whittles and hides the waist, flatters the bust (and is great for nursing moms) and the skirt conceals the lower belly, rear and thighs nicely.
- Lightweight drapey cardigans. Right now these are so en vogue, it’s easy to find them in your favorite color and a wallet-friendly pricepoint. To hide the belly, pull together at the center and wear a skinny belt over it. The belt does NOT have to be tight, but a leather or sturdy belt will give a bit of definition not found by a self-belt. Buy one in a fantastic color, have a contrast color belt, and this will make your simple nursing tank and knit pants or leggings look chic.
- Tall boots. Again, this is something that is very fashionable now so it’s easy to find them at most any retailer. Tall boots will make leggings or jeggings look chic, and will dress up the most simple pieces. Get a low heel so they are comfortable. If you fear buying boots now because you believe your legs will slim down, know that a cobbler can easily narrow the boot shaft when you do get to your goal size.
- Color! It’s so easy to try to hide in black and gray, but this is the best way to look even more uncomfortable in this constantly changing body. Cobalt blue, royal purple, rich berry, deep teal, cherry red… whatever the color when you wear it people will notice it first, not your figure. Not only that, when you look in the mirror and see that great shade of candy pink or pumpkin, you will feel happier (and your skin will glow more!)
- Great bras. Many nursing bras are created for convenience, not for good support and definition. Take the time to find a couple that can multi-task. I found Anita bras (which I found at Nordstrom) to be supportive, pretty, and still easy to use when nursing. If you aren’t nursing, you still need to be fitted for your new size. Even if you know your size will change, invest in two bras for this time being. When your breasts are supported, separated, and happy, you will look slimmer and stand taller.
- Control garments. I am not talking high-powered girdles, but I know I felt a little bit more… me with a bit of spandex under my attire. My Spanx Higher Power shorts were great because I didn’t feel constricted, but had a smoother line under all my clothes. I was surprisingly more comfortable in a light control garment than without because it seemed to put my body back in place those couple of weeks after childbirth where everything seems to be loose and weird inside your body.

Keep your wardrobe simple and small so that when you wake each day, you aren’t overwhelmed by options. Two pairs of pants, two pairs of jeans, three dresses, two cardigans, three sweaters or tops, one pair of shoes that work with pants and jeans, another pair that works with dresses, a pair of boots that works with all. Who CARES if you wear the same pants twice in one week, or you end up wearing the same black wrap dress every Tuesday? You have better things to think about right now. Focus on quality so these clothes can handle multiple washings and wears. Looks for items that can be laundered at home, carry a Tide to Go pen with you at all times, and utilize accessories like pashminas, oblong scarves, multiple necklaces (I am a fan of pearls – a couple strands in different sizes can give instant glamour) and fun earrings to take attention from your body and simple pieces and add glam and style to your uniform.

Don’t try to adopt the newest trends, don’t try to be the fiercest mama in town. Keep it simple, keep it quality, keep it comfortable, yet keep it well-fitting and having some style. These pieces will be your suit of armor – your way of meeting up with old friends and not feeling like a schlep, to attend that first board meeting after maternity leave, to feel more you when leaving the house.

Stop comparing your speed in weight loss and body firming to the celebrities (or even the other women in your Mommy and Me group). Each woman is different. And even the woman who fit back into her Hudson jeans a month after childbirth may be pinching and grimacing in the mirror each morning. This is a process. Take this time as a forced spiritual journey to finding yourself. Instead of an ashram in India or a spa in Arizona, you are finding your center on the subway, at the grocery store, in your office.

This period of life does not have to be spent in sweats, nor does it have to be spent with a muffin top and a bad sense of self. Be kind to yourself, keep things simple, and work on you and your family. Through this process, you will come out to be a stronger, deeper, more wonderful woman. Clothing shouldn’t make you feel bad about yourself, clothing shouldn’t stress you out. Clothing should be the armor to get through this period. And there is no proper length of this period – only you know what is best and when you are ready to start properly outfitting your New You.

Crimes of Fashion

Bad things happen to good clothing. Often times it is not the garment that commits the crime, the woman who puts it on her body. The thing is, we women just can’t admit the truth about ourselves.

We have large breasts.

Grass is always greener, huh? Those with small breasts wish for larger, and those with larger breasts know it’s not always a great thing. It’s hard to look conservative, fit into tailored cotton shirts, or wear a bathing suit and maintain eye contact with a man. Backs ache, bras are matronly, and forget wearing those spaghetti strapped little tanks and dresses…

Seriously, forget wearing them. Unless your breasts are very young and pert or surgically enhanced, or you have found the miracle strapless bra that actually lifts and separates and doesn’t dig into your armpit after two hours of wear (and if you have email me!) these delicate little tops are not going to look good. Wearing clear straps, an unsupportive bra with skinny straps that almost hide, a strapless bra that flatters as much as a sports bra or attempting to get by with the little shelf bra that is in the garment is not going to benefit your figure or your sense of style. Same goes for attempting to wear such a top with a tank or tee shirt underneath – this look is great for tweens who shouldn’t be baring skin, but not for mature adult women.

This also goes for tops that have built-in cups and underwire (bustier-inspired tops), cut-out, halter and low-cut tops that make any sort of bra impossible, and those handkerchief-style backless tops (again no bra is possible and there is zero support in front). Drooping, jiggling, smooshed and wayward breasts are never sexy, and never ever stylish.

We have curvy arms.
Nope, we don’t all have twigs for arms – most of us (especially if we have large breasts) have larger and softer arms. Those of us who work out often have larger arms too due to strong biceps and triceps. Neither of these types of arms are bad – they are beautiful! However we seem to always want to torture them.

When you wear a sleeve that suffocates or cuts into your upper arm, it not only feels uncomfortable – it looks uncomfortable. Go and open a door and you flex your bicep causing even more pain and fashion awkwardness. A sleeve that is stretching at the seams, cutting your arm in half, or wrinkles due to being so tight is not stylish, and it is noticeable. That garment flaw alone can ruin the entire look of your outfit and make your arms look bigger than they actually are.

Large arms are not a bad thing – we women often focus on them when the rest of the world doesn’t even notice. Arms are usually made in balance with the rest of the body and they are made to assist us in daily functions. Arms usually look smaller when exposed or draped in flattering fabrics, then when hidden. Just as with your stomach – large arms look larger under baggy or too tight garments, but are not even noticeable in well-fitting pieces.

What to do? Don’t shell out hard-earned money on clothing that doesn’t fit on all parts of your body. Juniors fashions often run smaller in the arms so consider looking in the Misses department. Garments with lycra or from knit will be more comfortable and forgiving. Accept that some styles are not made for your frame. We all can’t wear stovepipe jeans, mini skirts, deep-plunging necklines, backless dresses… and we all can’t wear little capped puff sleeves on cotton dresses. This isn’t a bad thing – no trend is a must-have or death look. I personally have large arms – had them at 100 pounds and at 200 pounds and never lack for garments to fit in stores. I just usually shy from stiff fabrics and sleeves that hit in the center of the upper arm.

We’re Tall.
I know it’s hard to find proper trousers when you’re tall. Selection is limited, often what a company calls “long” is lucky to be 32” in inseam. While the 5’6” women of the world can wear all sorts of fabrics and patterns, tall women are often stuck with plain denim and drab colors of simple-styled trousers.

Well you will look a heck of a lot better in a simple pair of black trousers that hit at the right place than a cool pattern of trousers that hits somewhere near your ankle bone. Tall boots and ballet flats do not disguise a trouser from being too short. Your best bet is to do your homework – join tall women message board, Google for boutiques that specialize in long lengths and keep it simple. Find creativity in accessories and other garments; for style comes with fit, not with trend.

We’re Short.

Petite clothes are hard to find, especially when you aren’t petite everywhere else. It doesn’t hurt to cuff some items, and if you’re moving, no one notices that your sleeves hit your second knuckle and your shoulders are sliding off… right?

Wrong. Cuffing, stapling, Stitch Witchery-ing, and letting things hang and drag is never flattering. As with tall women, it’s better to have less that fits correctly than look as though you are shrinking before our very eyes. If you find a pair of pants that fits well – buy a couple of pairs and care for them. For items that almost work, spend a few extra bucks and go to your local dry cleaner or tailor to have the sleeves and legs shortened to an appropriate length.

We Don’t Want to Admit the Season.
A pair of tall boots with capris does not make a summer trouser a winter one. I have NO CLUE who thought of this trend, but that person should be arrested for a major crime of fashion. Tall boots with cuffed or tucked in jeans – cute. Tall boots with tweed or wool gauchos – a bit dated but it at least makes sense. Tall boots with stretch twill, crepe, cotton or sateen trousers – please NO!

This also goes for summer fabrics (eyelet, seersucker, cotton, linen, cotton voile, etc.) being paired with opaque hose and cardigans in an attempt to make them wintry, wool and wintry fabrics with lightweight tops and sandals in spring, and floaty babydoll tops paired over dark turtlenecks.

Style doesn’t come with how big your wardrobe is, but by what is in it. It’s okay to pack up those summer linens or wintry woolens come the end of that season. Even if you only own three pairs of pants – it’s better to have three pairs that fit your body and the weather, than trying to extend a wardrobe that just isn’t created to be extended.

Many fabrics do work quite well in many seasons – matte jersey, crepe, some silks, suiting fabrics, ponte knit. If you are looking to extend your wardrobe consider these fabrics in solid colors that don’t focus on a certain time of year (hello pumpkin orange or lemon yellow). Black, ivory, brown, navy, khaki, true red and cobalt blue are some shades that do work year-round. Stick to neutrals or clear and true colors and these fabrics can do multi-seasonal duty!

We’re Obsessed with Matching.
Beautiful pink cashmere sweater, chic pink houndstooth tweed pencil skirt, gorgeous pink pearl necklace and bracelet, elegant pink crocodile pumps, and what a darling pink crocodile clutch. Individually, all of these items are wonderful and can be quite stylish. Paired together, and you look like Socialite Barbie.

I often see this happen most with animal prints and bright colors (lime, orange, pink). Leopard headband, shoes, belt, collar and cuffs, purse. Lime capris, jacket, flats, tote bag, sunglasses and (gasp!) scrunchie. Patriotic embellished tee, red striped skimmers, blue shorts with white piping, star-shaped earrings and bracelet. Blue gingham capris, halter top, blue sandals, blue hoops and bracelet, blue gingham sun visor and blue eye shadow. Get my drift? Home shopping channels and many mail-order catalogs may lead you to believe that highly-coordinated outfits will bring you style; friends may comment, “what a well-matched outfit!” You may be known for your signature style of animal print/candy pink/frog patterned clothing but that doesn’t mean this look is polished or stylish.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up your passion. Leopard print can still be your calling card, but it will make more impact in smaller doses. Leopard-print heels are a neutral that will coordinate with anything from jeans to cocktail dresses; a leopard clutch will add interest to your LBD, switch out self belts in your dresses with a leopard one to add variety to your look. If you always think pink, you can work it in the same manner – play it up in accessories, shells under suits, and small wardrobe accents. Small accents create big (and more expensive looking) style. You will be amazed how the compliments will change from the coordination to your actual look, and how much faster people will “get” that you are wearing a signature style, not just on the matchy-matchy boatride!

We’re Not 21 Anymore.
I definitely do not subscribe to the rule that once you hit 30 you have to start shopping in Talbot’s, but I do believe that different ages should wear different things.

Just as a 21 year old looks ridiculous in a Chanel suit, so does a 41 year old in a tattered denim mini. Your life is not the same as it was ten years ago, your wardrobe should adjust with your life. If you have a conservative job, you purchase suits and tailored blouses. If you suddenly switched careers and started working at a laid-back creative firm, you would probably donate the suits and switch to jeans and trendy tops. Adjusting to your environment and your lifestyle makes sense – it helps define who you are to the world and keep you comfortable and true to yourself. Running around town in clothes from Forever 21 and Delia’s is not being true to yourself. You can still be sexy, funny, ironic, girly, quirky and artsy in pieces that fit your entire life – not just the one you used to have.

Neither Do We Have One Foot in the Nursing Home.
No one says that just because you have children of a certain age, or you’re retired, or you’re a grandmother than you have to putter around the house in appliquéd tees, polyester pantsuits and frumpy frocks. Style and personality can be achieved at all ages while still maintaining class.

Get outside your box and check out some of the fabulous women over 40 who are on television shows. Check out magazines like More that focus on style for women over 40, and glossies like InStyle and Bazaar that offer tips on how to take today’s trends and make them wearable by women of every age. Google women like Barbara Walters, Helen Mirren, Diane von Furstenberg, Oprah Winfrey and check out images of them out on the town. It is possible to be appropriate, comfortable and fabulous no matter your age.

We Don’t Consider Fabric.
It’s a blue top and blue skirt, but the top made of cotton and the skirt is made of rouched silk. You’re wearing a chunky black wool sweater, casual jeans and black stretch satin stiletto booties. Black patent crocodile pumps with a conservative tan pantsuit. A gray silk cocktail dress with a navy leather handbag that has gold buckles and an adjustable shoulder strap. White and pink cotton sundress with white patent leather sandals with clear heels.

The colors all may work, but the fabrics clash. This often happens when one tries too hard to match, or to copy a trend in a magazine. Think about clothing the way you would about home décor, or seasoning on food. Curry, sage, vanilla and cumin are all wonderful herbs, but they don’t all taste good when mixed together. A baroque-inspired couch doesn’t look as beautiful as it could when paired with a slipcovered denim chair and a mission oak coffee table.

Stop trying so hard, and go with the organic flow. Fabrics that feel similar often work best together. Smooth with smooth, texture with texture, heavy with heavy, etc. If this still confuses you, purchase simpler fabrics. Stick with smooth leather or microfiber shoes, knit and twill clothing, simpler silhouettes, less embellishment. Know coordination doesn’t come from color as much as from fabric and silhouette.

You may also wish to visit:
The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe
How Does One Get the Polished Look?
A New Look on Fashion
How to Have Style

Fashion is Stupid

I am often attacked for my belief that style is a necessity for all people. I am told that people don’t have time, don’t have money, and feel that trying so hard to look good makes one appear superficial, materialistic, shallow and not a true reflection of their intelligent/feminist/scientific/minimalist self. Here’s the down and dirty.

You are judged by what you look like. Accept it.

Whether people realize it or not, they make assumptions about you by your appearance. This affects how you are treated at work, in a store, by your peers, your neighbors, a waiter, a doctor, a minister.

You may say you don’t care, that if a person gets to know the real you, that appearance is no longer an issue.

False.

I had a coworker, a brilliant and hardworking woman. She worked in a different office from me, but we were on many projects together and got to know one another via phone calls and emails. She was a higher position than I, and she soon became a bit of a mentor to me, and then a friend. She admitted to me after many months that she was looking for a new job because she felt as though she wasn’t respected within the department. I agreed that she seemed to lack the respect, and I couldn’t understand why. She was poised, professional yet warm. As a mentor, she gave constructive criticism, challenging tasks and plenty of feedback. In her role, she was quick, detailed and talented. Clients wrote letters about her great performance with a project, however upper management spoke of her as though she was an idiot and a bit lazy. I never understood why until nine months after we first started working together, I met her in person. She was slim and tall, though seemed uncomfortable in her skin. She hunched over and let her long straight brown hair hang over the majority of her face. When she laughed she covered her mouth as though out of embarrassment. Her hair never seemed to be brushed, she never wore makeup and her clothes looked as though she inherited them from her grandmother – they were all too large, too short for her long legs, and seemed to be from the 1980s (shoulder pads, peplum jackets, weird large floral boxy jackets with matching long broomstick skirts, etc…). Though she was in her mid-30s one would guess that she was closer to 50.

She soon left the company and got a job where she telecommutes. When she left I overheard management discussing it, thinking it was no great loss, “not like we could put her in front of a business meeting!” I thought it was a shame, some of the best work and brightest ideas just left the company. But they were right… how could you put a person who seemed so ill at ease in front of clients trying to sell our company, and make them believe that we are the best decision?

When I was in high school, I was the previous millennium’s equivalent to goth. I had black hair, shaved off part of it, lived in a motorcycle jacket, Doc Marten boots and torn stockings. When I walked in the mall, mothers would hug their purses closer to their sides. I was once asked to leave a store even though I had done nothing but walk in and flip through a rack of clothing. As the statistician for my school’s soccer team, I once had a busload of players from another school taunt me and one player spit on me calling me a “psycho.” Funny thing was I was an honor roll student, president of many clubs at my school, attended church and had a very healthy and close relationship with my parents. I was considered a “goody goody” by my friends, not partaking in drugs, drinking, smoking or mature relationships with my boyfriends. However I had black hair and lots of eyeliner so those who did not know me considered me to be a derelict of society.

In college I was a blonde for a couple of semesters and saw how differently I was treated. People were more willing to come up to me and ask directions or speak to me, I had a more relaxed rapport with teachers, and people thought I seemed “happier” during that period of time. Funny thing was that I was actually having the most miserable year of my college career, but no one took me seriously when I complained. I guess I didn’t “look” unhappy enough to school counselors or friends.

I have a dear friend. She is a gorgeous woman inside and out. She oozes confidence and femininity and is incredibly intelligent. One place she does have problems is in everyday society. We meet for drinks and she tells me how for the fourth time that month someone has literally slammed a door in her face because he didn’t see her behind him. She goes from job to job, having much success in the interview but after a few months somehow ends up taking up the responsibility of the intern, the receptionist and the admin while those with less education and time with the corporation move up in the ranks. She goes to the bar and ends up standing there far longer than anyone else, never getting the attention of the bartender. She has found that in the love department, she has had the most success in online dating where a relationship via IM and email is established prior to meeting one another. Once they meet, the man is usually positively smitten. I thought about all of this while I sat across from this beautiful woman with insanely green eyes and long lashes, who has the cutest laugh and the most graceful movements. Then I thought about how she dresses herself. On that night at the bar, she was wearing a moss-green short sleeved cotton shirt, black trousers and black shoes. The shirt was fuzzy from far too many washings and looked garment-dyed probably from use and not from design. It looked to be 100% cotton and it looked as though she tried to get out the wrinkles with a run through the dryer. Her attempt was not successful as that the shirt looked like she pulled it off the floor of her bedroom. Her trousers were leftover from her 20 pound larger frame three years ago and bagged everywhere they shouldn’t. They dragged on the ground from the extra inches and the hem was torn and muddy. Her shoes were big chunky black loafers; a pair I had myself in the mid-90s that looked like clown shoes on her petite frame. Her hair was a blunt cut to the jaw, parted in the middle and tucked behind the ears. No jewelry, no makeup, no adornment whatsoever. I knew her as a fiery brilliant woman, but those on the street (and in her office and behind the bar) probably find her to blend into the woodwork, seem mousy and unsure of herself.

We discussed fashion and she told me that no offense to me, but fashion depletes brain cells. One hardly ever sees a person with a PhD and a pair of Jimmy Choos. My response is that looking good does NOT have to equate with current fashion. It is possible for every person n the planet to look good, look appropriate and look the part of their culture/personality/lifestyle. That your insides have to be reflected on your outside to truly have personal style. I thought back to my years of black hair and torn clothes and wouldn’t have changed a thing – though I may not have fit into a crowd, I fit into my life and my personality. When I went to church I traded my monkey boots for loafers and my plaid miniskirts for a more conservative sweater with trousers. I thought about her, and wondered how that green wrinkled top expressed what kind of person she was. Her wearing that top was just as conflicting as her wearing my leather biker jacket from high school, or a cabbage-rose adorned dress from Laura Ashley.

  • There is nothing wrong with having a uniform. The staples (see the sidebar) are tools to help it be effortless to look nice. I know many women who have just a handful of items in their closet all of the same color story yet they always look pulled together. I know moms who are always rumpled, and those who always look crisp. I notice how some of my mother’s friends look a decade older than the others, and some who look a decade younger based just on hair and clothing.
  • Like my good friend, I am not a “crisp” person. If I wear white, I will spill coffee on it. If I wear cotton, it will get wrinkled. My hair falls flat, I sweat, I eat off my lipstick. To battle this, I hardly ever buy things that need to be ironed. I rarely wear white, and I buy a lot of knits. I always carry a Tide to Go pen with me, and I have learned to wear my hair in a way that works with my afternoon-limp hair, not fight against it. Why spend money on things that contradict who you are and make you uncomfortable?
  • My friend’s favorite color is purple, yet I don’t think she owns a single purple thing in her wardrobe. She lives in neutrals, yet is a primary color personality. It is possible to be simple, classic and comfortable in a blue top as much as it is to be so in a tan one. Wear what you like, and it usually looks far better than what you think is easy, safe or comfortable.
  • If you love to travel, then show it with jewelry you pick up on your travels. Are you an artist? How will anyone know in your drab, neutral frocks? Be an extension of your works with the colors and patterns that you wear. Want people to believe you are smart and serious? Then wear smart and serious with clean lines, simple pieces and strong yet minimal accessories. Love the outdoors? You can be stylish and still wear clothes that let you hike and climb at a moment’s notice. Hate consumerism? You can show your beliefs and look good with great items from Goodwill or your sewing machine.
  • Be mindful of what you buy. Before you ever spend a dollar on a piece of furniture, an item in your grocery cart, or a piece of clothing take a minute to stop and think. Visualize this thing in your life – imagine it on your body, your plate or your home. Does it bring you joy? Does it make you better? Does it work with your life or against it? You have to buy pants, you have to buy shoes. Why not buy that which works for you as well as with you? Life can be tough, taking a few moments to think before you spend can make the road a bit easier and more pleasurable to travel. And you never know, that moment of mindfulness may get you a promotion, a date or a faster drink at the bar!

The Fashion Expert

In the day and age of the internet, anyone can claim themselves to be an expert. Yesterday visiting a friend’s blog where she was discussing her plight in finding the appropriate spring wardrobe essentials I saw a comment from another blogger, “if you need any shopping advice, come to my blog, I am a shopping expert!”

A shopping expert, how does one become a shopping expert? Do you get a B.A. in Retail Consumerism, and then your SEC (Shopping Expert Certificate) after logging 1,600 hours of experience and finishing a grueling exam? Who checks these credentials? Does being a person with an unhealthy shopping habit make one a shopping expert? Sounds like a lot of bunk to me.

Then call me a shopping expert. I have been a shopaholic since the days of drooling over the new Barbie fashions at Toys R Us. I used to hide the latest JC Penney catalog under my bed, circling all the frocks I dreamed my parents would buy me. My high school days were spent more in the mall than in the classroom and let’s not even get into my decade working in the retail industry where I was for a while a… PERSONAL SHOPPER! Wow, can I put some fancy letters after my name in my email signature? Should I order myself some business cards? Update my resume?

But then think about yourself. You may be here because you desire fashion or style advice. You are looking for assistance. Think how you are a help, an expert in some other category. Maybe it’s accounting, maybe it’s cooking, maybe it’s French, maybe it’s parenting, maybe it’s pottery. You might be a fabulous singer, have a knack for remembering movie quotes or are the one all your friends come to when they need an ear or a shoulder to lean on. How did you learn these traits? Yes some is just born talent, but much is experience. You tried it, saw you either liked it or excelled at it and continued. You failed on occasion, but you also succeeded quite often. You are now relatively confident in your abilities and heck… you could start a blog and consider yourself and expert.

If you could do that with the flute, graphic design, baking or knitting, why can’t you with your personal style? Blogs like mine should not be considered gospel, nor should any other website or self-help book you read. As with a college degree, this is all research toward your own style certification. Your body is your science lab where you run experiments on blush shades and skirt lengths. As in a regular experiment, you have a hypothesis and a conclusion. You can only learn from experimenting.

The way I thought of the basics is through trial and error. I have been fat, I have been thin, I have been everything in between. I have been paid to dress people, and I have done it for my mom and friends. Through experiments with clothing on their bodies and mine I have come to the conclusion that these basics should work on almost every female body. As for your personal sense of style, you can read all the books, magazines and blogs you desire but no one can tell you this. Only you can come to the conclusion of what is right for you.

I was watching an old episode of Beverly Hills 90210 on cable the other day. It was from the first season when Kelly and Donna were shown as very wealthy and a stark contrast to Brenda from the Midwest. Kelly and Donna were in primary colors, layers, funky cuts and fabrics. No brand names were in sight and if we researched the designers of these duds, we may possibly find out that they were crafted by the costume designer for the show and not Gucci or Versace. I was thinking about great moments in award show fashion and I remember the time that Sharon Stone wore her husband’s white dress shirt to the 1998 Oscars and was on everyone’s Best Dressed List. Would that happen in this era of the Designer? Everything now is about the brand; it seems as though it is more acceptable to wear ugly designer pieces than attractive no-name garments. So much bad yet expensive fashion is now on the streets, it must be hard for women to know what is style and what is correct.

Again, only you can decide. I have personally decided that I don’t care about labels; I buy only what I find attractive. It’s like buying a Monet just because it’s a Monet, yet you hate Impressionistic art. There are some people out there who do that because they would love to have it on their wall to impress their friends and look cultured and rich. And then there are those who buy art because it is beautiful and inspiring. It may be a famous artist, it may be an unknown but it is clear that it is a true work of art. Guests may look at the painting and wonder if it is a famous artist, but they will be more interested in the composition, the use of light and texture, the way the painting highlights the glossy wood floors and the beautiful couch.

No one can tell you what type of paintings to like, no one can tell you what type of food to enjoy, no one can tell you what type of music to dance to. And no one can tell you what your personal style should be.

This is not to say stop reading this blog, or any blog for that matter. Just do your homework, read for research only, and take your findings back to the lab and come to your own discovery. For only then have you achieved true personal style and the status of Expert.

A few steps to gain personal style:

  1. Clean out your closet of anything you don’t like, doesn’t fit, you never wear because it makes your physically or emotionally uncomfortable, anything stained or torn.
  2. Grab all those catalogs that come to your door, and then grab a note-pad that would fit in your purse. Some are for brands you like, some you toss before even flipping a page. Scan through all of them and note what catches your eye and what makes you gag. Are you drawn to Victorian-inspired attire and hate anything Country? Note these things, as well as smaller things like colors, skirt lengths, hair styles, shoe heel heights.
  3. Buy some basic staples that will get you through the week but will grow with your wardrobe as you find this personal style. Make sure they are good quality so they will last multiple seasons and washings. Better to have one great pair of black pants than four pairs of not-quite-right ones.
  4. Step up your skincare regimen. Maybe now you’re lucky to wash your face before bed; for you make a promise to yourself that no matter how late, you will wash and moisturize your face for bed. Maybe you are doing this already; then promise yourself a weekly treatment of steam, a mask or a scrub. Already have the at-home spa? Consider a professional facial, they are worth the money if done by a skilled esthetician. Who care about clothes if your skin isn’t in good shape? You will also see that the better you treat your body and face, the more you care about what you dress it with.
  5. Be aware of what you like in other aspects of your life. Do you prefer sushi or lasagna? Wine or iced tea? Rap or Jazz? Crime novels or autobiographies? Grey’s Anatomy or Law and Order? Shabby Chic or Le Corbusier? Make a list in this little note pad of what inspires you, appeals to you and makes you YOU. You will see some themes… these should translate to your personal style.


As any good researcher knows, it takes time and it takes multiple trials to ensure accurate results. Enjoy this period of discovery!

Fashion Funk

I apologize to all you loyal readers for being negligent in my fashion dutues – life outside of fashion has been quite hectic, and these posts are not quick and easy writes. I do promise to have another post prior to the end of the month, so hang tight my darlings!