Search Results for: label/commuter shoes

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!

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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.

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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: 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.

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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.

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Weekend Sale Shopping

Sales, sales, everywhere is sales… yes I am changing the lyrics to this song (which is a cover of this original) but there’s some insanely good sales going on this weekend that I just HAD to share with you.

Old Navy – 25% Off

At Old Navy, get 25% off your entire purchase with the code TREAT. Code is valid until the end of the 18th. A few restrictions: not valid on Everyday Steals, Hot Deals, Clearance (anything ending in $0.97 or $0.99) or Today Only Deals.  I think this top is an office attire staple and I love the variety of colors available; this chunky turtleneck would look great with skinny jeans or ponte pants for the weekend; I love the leather-look pockets on this dress (and love that it comes in regular, tall, and petite!).

Banana Republic – Up to $50 off Full Priced Items

Up to $50 off full price dresses, jackets, sweaters, and more. Note this doesn’t include their Monogram collection or leather jackets. No code necessary, deal through October 18.  I love their Gemma Wrap Dress and this print is something that would look great all seasons of the year; this lace pullover is fantastic – wear over a white shirt for the office and a camisole for a night out!  Other favorites on promotion:

Ann Taylor – 50% Off Tops, Shoes and Accessories

I know, right? 50% off? Get thee shopping, pronto with code STYLE50, this deal ends October 20th.  I think this bird print shirt is amazing, this faux leather pocket cape looks even better in person, and their buttoned-up boiled wool cape is so awesome, I wish I could justify the purchase (for the record, I’ve tried it on, it fits great, I am a Large Petite).

LOFT – 40% Off Tops and Sweaters

No specific date that this is to end and no code needed. Do note it’s not valid on Lou & Grey merchandise, but it IS valid on in-store purchases as well as online.  It does feel that LOFT is constantly having deals, but they’re also constantly getting in new merchandise that doesn’t seem to last long online.  So if you see it and love it, get it while you can!  I’m loving this belted cardigan, and think this variation on the chambray shirt would look modern and fresh with jeans or a midi skirt.  Some other pieces I like that are on promotion:

Lands’ End – 25 to 30% Off

Lands’ End is my go-to for quality yet reasonably priced winter weather gear. They have two promotions going on right now. Get 30% off select “fall essentials” (not sure exactly what that is but seems like a lot) with code LEAF, PIN 9223 through October 20th. But you can also get 25% off all full-priced merchandise with code MAPLE and PIN 1610 through October 21st. I love my packable down vest so much, I’m seriously considering this packable down jacket from Lands’ End and can’t decide between the polka dots or basic black. I’ve also had this Sport Knit skirt in black in my shopping cart for a while and may pull the trigger now that it’s 30% off.  These and a few other pieces I’m admiring:

Madewell – 30% Off Sale Merchandise

Madewell continues to impress, and a 30% off sale prices makes it easy to buy some fab fall and winter fashion. Use code PICKMEUP, which is valid through October 20th.  I love the classic look of their Otis boot, the unique color and slouchy coolness of their Firelight Pullover, and the perfect color and shape of their Berliner Satchel.

J. Crew – 30% Off Sweaters and Outerwear

Code SHOPFALL will give you 30% off at J. Crew through the 19th of October.  Their Majesty Peacoat truly is perfection and a classic piece that will be chic for years to come; their Jackie Cardigan is always a popular piece and nice to get on sale; and I am loving the pale lavender shade and the cool size zips of this lambswool sweater.

J. Crew Factory – 40-50% off Outerwear and an Additional 30% Off Clearance Merchandise

One of my favorite stores for great style at great prices; 30% off clearance makes it even nicer! Use code YAY30 through the October 19th to save.  As for the deal on outwear and cold-weather accessories, no code is needed.  Some of my favorites like this camo tee (imagine it with something dressy like a sequined or lace pencil skirt or under a denim jacket), this adorable flared leather skirt in black or brown, and this pleated maxi which I own and adore.  As for outerwear, I love the color and details of this coat, find this long hooded belted puffer to be something any city commuter would love, and think the price is nice on these leather tech gloves.

Any sales I missed?  Share them in the comments!

What I Wore: Real Red

Dress: Belle c/o Dobbin Clothing | Bag: “Erin” Satchel c/o Fossil | Tights: Nordstrom | Boots: Ros Hommerson  | Bracelets: had forever, Nordstrom (similar) | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Coat: Via Spiga

Fossil was kind enough to send me this bag and I immediately fell in love with the color. It’s not cherry, it’s not tomato, it’s not ruby or oxblood or any other fancy terms. It’s as clear and true of a red as a crayon. I checked the bag’s label and it’s called Real Red. I like that, no crazy made-up name, just what is exactly is. This bag is pretty phenomenal, and perfect for a commuter like me. Two side zipper pockets to hold things like farecards and lip balm, and inside there is a zipper pocket on one side, and the other side five different pockets to hold anything from a Smartphone or your keys to business cards and a pack of gum. And in this bag I have my wallet, Kindle (did you enter my Kindle giveaway?), makeup bag, myAgenda, sunglasses, gloves, journal, and two reusable containers to hold my lunch. Impressive! The crossbody strap is adjustable to become a shoulderbag, or it can be removed. I know this bag is going to be used quite a lot this season!

I never understand why street style models and bloggers wear their coats on their shoulders like a cape.  How can they move their arms?  Why not just put on the coat?  Then I realized on cold days I do this very thing – I wear the coat like a cape from the house and over my shoulders until Karl gets ready to take pictures.  This way my outfit doesn’t get as rumpled and I’m less likely to mess up my hair.  Karl got this picture of me in the coat at the beginning of the shoot and it showcases the coat I bought last winter on a whim and still adore a year later (and it’s still available at Nordstrom and now on sale!).

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My Recent Purchases (and some fab weekend sales)

I’m trying to be extremely careful with what I purchase this fall; this year has taught me I can live on less and there’s some pretty spectacular items already in my closet. But I do see some holes, and I’m trying to purchase higher quality and more timeless pieces to fit those wardrobe gaps. Some of the things I have purchased recently, and if applicable, the deals going on at those stores:

Ann Taylor Cashmere Poncho
If you follow me on Facebook (and you should, lots of conversations going on there and different content), you know I recently purchased this cashmere poncho from Ann Taylor. I got the Dark Sky (a rich navy) in L/XL and I love it so much I wish it was already cold enough to wear it. The neckline is big so you can have it off the shoulder, boatneck, or ruched as seen on the model. It’s elegant to wear to work with a crisp white shirt and gray trousers, or on the weekend with a long-sleeved striped tee, jeans, and tall boots. While it’s not cheap, it’s a piece that won’t go out of style and will work no matter my size or personal style.

Ann Taylor this weekend is offering 50% off full price dresses and skirts, an additional 40% off sale items, and buy one get one 50% off select camis and tanks (no coupon needed).

LOFT Snow Leopard Print Car Coat

From LOFT I purchased their Snow Leopard Print Car Coat; it arrived Friday evening and it’s amazing.  The texture is fuzzy, like felted wool and faux fur blended together and tightly woven so it will provide warmth the cooler days of fall and less blustery days of winter.  I bought a Large Petite and it fits perfectly, nips in at the back right where it should, shoulders at the right place, sleeves right length, can comfortably button over a lightweight sweatshirt but also looks smart unbuttoned.  It looks smart with trousers and jeans, but I also thought it worked with a dress.  The pictures make it look just cream, gray, and black but there’s a hint of blue in the print that makes me love it even more.

LOFT is having 40% off all merchandise with the code FALLSTYLE but don’t delay because this fab deal ends September 13.

gap real straight jeans

I love the Real Straight jeans from Gap; my legs are too thick to carry off skinny jeans and most boyfriend jeans are too narrow.  The Gap Real Straight jeans work well with my curves, having enough room for my booty, no gaping at the waist, no suffocated calves or thighs, and a fuller leg opening to balance my large ankles.  The 32 Short fits me best; the length works with sneakers and low heels but I’ll also roll the hem (see in this Instagram photo) to give a boyfriend jean effect.  I bought the medium wash, but also snagged the destructed (seen on Instagram) which was on sale.

Gap is having 30% off everything with the code HAPPY and if you have GAPCASH right now it is being redeemed.  I just bought two plaid shirts (this one and this one) and a henley (I know, I know, totally channeling my ’90s self this fall) and thanks to GAPCASH and rewards from my Banana Republic Visa I only paid $20 for all three!

Isabella Fiore Galiana HoboI didn’t NEED another black leather bag (I have this one from Rough & Tumble that I love), but with MYHABIT’s Labor Day sale and some MYHABIT credits burning a hole in my virtual wallet, I got this bag from Isabella Fiore for only $42.  And OMIGOD it’s gorgeous!  The leather is thick but it slouches perfectly.  It smells divine, the print is pretty cool, and while it’s super big (like fit my lunch and laptop and commuter shoes in it along with all my purse stuff big), it doesn’t look ridiculous with my 5’3″ frame.  And strangers stop me to ask about it.  It’s hard to use any other bag in my closet now that this baby has entered my life.

I’ve also bought some things that went immediately back.  Some wide leg pants from Nordstrom that made me look pregnant and 5″ shorter than my 5’3″ self, the LOFT camo sweater I mentioned in my last sale post (super gorgeous but not needed and not really my style in real life), and an incredibly disappointing cape (but returning it meant I could get the leopard car coat), but I’m really loving the fall trends in general. What have you purchased for fall?

Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?
 
Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?
 
I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?
 
Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Saturday

In the morning, I ran to get my hair cut and colored in the nearby town, and then run a few errands. Olive ribbed tank from J. Crew, white ribbed tank from Old Navy, Joe’s Jeans in “Provacateur,” brown stacked flops from J. Crew, silver hoops from The Icing, silver cuff.

Hair was brushed out but on the second day; blew the bangs straight.

Makeup was Body Shop bronzing powder in Light as face color, Max Factor Lash Perfection mascara on curled lashes, Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow.

Kathleen did her magic – all I told her is that I wanted to go darker and that I wanted heavier bangs. I trust her, and was not disappointed. Choppy layers that can work straight, wavy or curly, fun sideswept bangs, and a very rich multi-tonal color of dark brown that looks closer to what I was born with.

Got home and had to dash to get dressed. Friday night I had a friend over so I didn’t have time to play dress-up and figure out my theater outfit. Thank you soooo much to everyone who wrote in suggestions, you guys are awesome and have good ideas! For the one who suggested my Old Navy dress… I completely forgot about it. I had set to wear my black cashmere tank from Banana Republic and my orange-red shantung full skirt also from Banana (seen here), but when I saw how spiffy and sleek my husband looked (flat front gray tropical wool trousers from J. Crew, white tailored shirt from some brand sold at Mens Wearhouse, black blazer from… J. crew? Not sure…, black slip-on sleek shoes from Ecco) I decided my outfit may look a bit like a costume. I tried a few different skirts, but settled on the black matte jersey dress from Old Navy, my red stone necklace, my leopard peep-toe heels from BCBgirls,silver hoops from The Icing, and silver cuff natch. :-)

Didn’t have to do my hair since it was done by Kathleen my talented stylist. She used the Pureology line on me, and swears by it for protecting color. I bought the shampoo and conditioner and once I can wash my hair (was told to go as long as humanely possible without washing) I will be using it and let you k now how it is.

Same makeup as earlier, just a re-touch of the bronzing powder, a bit of Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint on my cheekbones, a medium line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line, a quick swipe of Maybelline Great Lash waterproof mascara in black over existing mascara, Body Shop Lip and Cheek Tint with Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow over it.

We took the Metro and it was not even a block to the little restaurant (I don’t know if there are even 20 tables in the place). The menu seemed different from the one online and the only entrees that were vegetarian were spaghetti with tomato sauce (yawn) and a risotto with corn and truffle shavings. My husband and I chose the risotto, we shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio (not sure the label, our friend chose the wine) and had a nice, yet not inspiring or overwhelmingly unique meal. We then walked not even three blacks to the Kennedy Center where my friend and I sidestepped grates in our heels (she too wore a black sheath and heels) while the men tromped over everything and got there in time to marvel at the acre-sized curtains in the lobby and get a cocktail in the Terrace Bar prior to the performance.

The performance was great! As I said, I had never seen The Phantom of the Opera other than the movie. Back story – 1992, for Christmas I got my first boom box with a CD player in it, and with it two CDs – Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. For several months until I got my high school arsenal of REM, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I listened solely to these two soundtracks. Come 2007, I am silently singing along to this performance and even a tear came down my cheek at finally seeing live what I had in my head 15 years ago. I think also seeing Shakespeare in Love the night prior made the theater experience that more intense.

Our friends live in Virginia and parked at the theater; it was a gorgeous night and declined their offer to drive us to the Metro and decided to hoof it. All in all a lovely evening!

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?

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Wednesday – Black and White and Red All Over

Sweater – Banana Republic (similar)
Shirt – c/o CAbi
Pants – Ann Taylor (similar)
ShoesMichael Kors “Flex”
Silver cuff (similar)
LipstickNARS “Heatwave”

Last week it felt like summer, this week it has returned to typical DC March weather – windy and chilly.  Glad I kept my sweaters in the closet!

Today I will be walking from my office to Georgetown to meet my sister for her follow-up MRI (proving she is tumor free!) so I wanted to wear comfortable shoes – these pumps are perfect for this – work-appropriate yet can handle a 20 minute walk in the city.

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How to Look Rich

Dress sharply and they’ll remember the outfit; dress impeccably and they’ll remember the woman.
– Coco Chanel

The other day I was sitting on the subway across from an attractive woman. She was wearing a yellow sheath dress in a heavy textured/boucle weave – something I could see on a stylish professional woman like Michelle Obama. In her lap were two pristine Louis Vuitton bags – one purse and one tote. She was wearing a gold watch that looked expensive, a few gold rings, bracelets and a pair of gold hoops. On her feet were black patent leather Tory Burch flats (a popular commuter shoe in Washington DC).

Her outfit probably cost in the thousands… yet she looked cheap. Why?

It’s all in the details.

Her hair was not fresh – she had obvious roots and raggedy edges. She pulled it into a messy low ponytail with a cheap Goody elastic (you know the ones with the gold threads through them?). Her shoes were scuffed and looked as though the backs sometimes were stepped down on and they had their share of being stuffed into an overfull tote. Her nails were manicured, but a flat salmon pink color that neither flattered her skintone nor the current trends. Her blush was too red, her eyeliner too pronounced. Her dress was a twinge too tight – puckered slightly at the bust, caught the bottom curve of her bum. All these details combined with the first paragraph details took expensive and lovely pieces and made it all into a very ordinary and cheap looking ensemble.

So what can a woman do to look as though she is worth a million… whether she is or not?

I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.
– Coco Chanel

Who cares who made your purse if your skin or hair is a mess? The best investment is the body you have – no matter your dress, you will be wearing your hair, your face and your skin. Great skin doesn’t have to come from $200 bottles of potions and monthly spa treatments. Cut back on the sodas and spirits and add more water to your diet. Be sure to wash off your makeup before you go to bed. Don’t overwash your skin – your skin should never be tight after cleansing. Visit a dermatologist if you have skin concerns. Take the time that you use to peruse celebrity gossip Web sites and read up on cosmetic ingredients – irritation, acne and redness can often be due to an allergic reaction in a product you use.

As for your body, keep it exfoliated, keep it hydrated inside and out, and love it no matter its shape. It is far easier to love the body you have if the skin is soft and happy. Again, see a dermatologist and read up on ingredients to be sure you are purchasing the right products.

Hair is the accessory you wear every single day – to work, to play, for formal events and trips to the market. Why is it that we will spend hundreds on jewelry, a pair of boots or a bag but will sacrifice our Crowning Glory to Great Clips and whatever box of Dark Golden Brown that was on sale at CVS? If your budget cannot afford professional color treatments, research brands that are gentle and natural looking. Invest in a highly-recommended conditioner. Take vacations from the heating tools so you aren’t fried. Reconsider that champagne blonde/cherry red/blue-black hue – a softer shade may be much more flattering, require less maintenance and look more rich.

If it’s a bad hair day – no need to hide under a hat (or Goody elastic). There are ways to work the tresses without screaming to the world that you had no time for a shampoo or roots touch-up. Dry shampoos are back en vogue and can be found at many specialty retailers and online beauty boutiques. Colored ones not only are less obvious on darker shades, but they also help hide roots. Thanks to Gossip Girl, even those over 21 can sport headbands and look chic. A skinny plastic one with teeth in black, blonde or tortoise can hold back too-short bangs and make a bit of slick look purposeful. A low ponytail right at the nape always looks chic – if you take a piece of your own hair from the bottom of the ponytail, you can wrap it around the elastic and secure it with one Bobby pin and make Goody look glam. Finally, make time for your hair – get off the computer, get away from the TV, wake up 15 minutes earlier. It is amazing how much more sunny your outlook is on life when you feel confident about your appearance.

Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.
– Coco Chanel

Shoes make the man… and the woman. Shoes should be appropriate to the outfit first, then worry about quality, and brand name should be last on the list. The woman on the subway would have looked far more chic if she was wearing tan leather sandals. They could have been flat or with a slight chunky heel or wedge and been just as comfortable as the Tory Burch flats, but have coordinated with the outfit far better. We live in a society right now that is very caught up in brand names; often those brand name items don’t serve us much of a purpose. Flats are great with a flowy dress, a pair of capris, your favorite jeans. But if you have curves and are wearing a straight-fitting dress, flats will make you look as though you were cut off at the ankle bone.

Once you have your shoe collection, no matter the pricepoint you should take care of them. Get them reheeled and resoled at a local cobbler. Keep them in a place where they won’t get dusty or tripped over. Store them properly when out of season. I had a pair of black boots I bought at Payless five years ago and I just had to retire them a year ago. They had a chic narrow heel, an elongated toe, the pleather was soft and looked like a more expensive patent. They were less than $20 but looked perfect with certain trousers for nights out on the town. I babied them as much as I did my designer pumps, and in turn they gave me many years of great use (and compliments!).

I love luxury. And luxury lies not in richness and ornateness but in the absence of vulgarity. Vulgarity is the ugliest word in our language. I stay in the game to fight it.
– Coco Chanel

If cheap, go neutral. Yellow, green, and pink are hot colors this season, but if the item is of cheap quality it will look it far faster than the same piece in black, tan, beige or gray. Those black boots from Payless that I owned also came in racy red and navy. One may think that the red would be fun with black trousers or neutrals, but the red LOOKED as though they were $14.99 pleather boots from Payless, while the black just looked like boots. I have found many a great dress at Target, but the ones that survive to the next season are those in very neutral colors. Colors can easily fade, can easily look dated, and better show shoddy workmanship or lower-end fabric.

Fashion passes, style remains.
– Coco Chanel

Minimize the trends. The rich are stylish; those who WANT to be rich are trendy. Steer clear from obvious logos, extreme trends and anything that is worn by Paris, Lauren, Lindsay or Britney. You don’t want the look of the moment – the rich and stylish never adhere to extreme trends (and if they DO adopt a trend, they do it small or in a neutral hue). Buy a cardigan in the hot color of the season, switch up your lip product, consider a statement necklace or cool bracelet in the popular metal of the moment. There are ways to update your look without making yourself look like a fashion victim.

In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.
– Coco Chanel

In turn, those who always have the latest look get lost in the shuffle. Your expensive Tory Burch flats are yet another pair hopping onto the subway or into a cab. That monogram Coach purse is so popular, every lower-end designer is making a knockoff of it. Let’s not even get into Ugg boots… point is – trends are not stylish, and they do not make you look wealthy or successful.

Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.
– Coco Chanel

Accept your size, and your budget. Sample sale items that are a size too small, hot designer shoes on sale that are an inch taller than you feel comfortable wearing, oversized sweaters because you haven’t come to terms with your new shape (and gosh that sweater is cashmere!)… these are not items that make you look stylish or rich.

When accessorizing, always take off the last thing you put on.
– Coco Chanel

One less ring, one less chain, that cardigan around your shoulders, that anklet. The rich and stylish keep it simple. The woman on the subway would have been far more elegant if she had worn only that expensive watch, and not the five gold bracelets on the other wrist.

Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.
– Coco Chanel

There is nothing more appealing than a vibrant woman. Are you sitting down reading this? Well pretend you have a string coming from the top of your head that is lifting you gently from the ground. Sit up – you are a phenomenal woman. Good posture improves the fit of your clothing, how you are perceived by others, and how you end up feeling. Every time you look at your reflection – find that one part of you that is unique and you love. Get off the computer and get into your community. Ask a neighbor or coworker for a book suggestion and try an author or genre you have never before experienced. Take five minutes every evening to think about your day – it may be in meditation, in prayer, with a journal or just as you doze off. Think about the positive things, how you impacted those around you, and how this world is different because of your interaction with it. Who cares what or who you are wearing if you aren’t an interesting, involved and positive woman!



Outlet Mall Shopping

Yesterday I visited a major outlet mall in my area. Over a mile of stores – some with great bargains, some with great piles of crap. There have been many stories about discount stores – how some of the product is not on sale, the clothes are made specifically for the outlet and are not the same quality that the brand name usually delivers, etc. After all that, you find designer duds for less, when is it worthwhile to spend, when should a bargain be passed by?


Fit
If it doesn’t fit well for $300, still doesn’t fit well for $150 and even for $65, don’t buy it. Just because it’s a great bargain does not make the fit any better. Shoes that are too tight or too big, jackets that pull at the back, pants that would be lovely if you just lost 15 lbs., no matter the bargain these items should just stay on the rack.

If the jacket’s sleeves are too long, the skirt’s hem at an awkward length, the shoulders a bit too big, these things can be altered easily by a tailor. You must be in love with the piece and find multiple places and ways to wear it to justify the tailor expense. I found a cream silk linen suit at a discount store – the suit fit perfectly except for a broken zipper and too long of sleeves and legs. I bought the suit for $65, regularly $350, and for $40 had the zipper and hems all modified. I have worn the suit to work, to religious events and as separates for three years. That purchase was worth the added tailoring expense.


Style
Often times the items at the discount store are there because they are leftover from last season. When it comes to classic pieces like suits, dresses and knits, this is not a problem. A blue merino v-neck is lovely almost every year, and more lovely when 50% off. The problem comes with the trendy p[pieces.


If Lindsay, Mischa, Nicole or Chloe was wearing it last spring, it’s a good chance that piece is passé now. Pass on the embellished jeans, the metallic leather bags, the rainbow-hued sunglasses and most other accessories. Just because it’s on sale does not mean it is a good buy. When it comes to scouring outlets, your best deals are the ones that will last through more than one season. Sweaters, suits, outerwear, cocktail dresses, leather goods and most shoes are great bargains if you find quality and value in the same item.


Name Brands
Just because you found a pair of Manolo Blahniks for $100 at the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet does not mean they need to be purchased. Do they fit your current style? Are they comfortable? Are they current or classic?

We have all seen the label whores – those women with a Coach purse, Jimmy Choo shoes that JLo wore last year, Baby Phat jeans, a Bebe tee with the rhinestone logo, Chanel sunglasses and a Pucci scarf in her hair. These items weren’t bought for the quality or the style. They were bought because a stranger could spot the brand a mile away. She looks trashy, obvious and victimized by fashion. None of these are appealing. Labels do not suddenly make you well dressed or well liked.


If you can find a Furla bag for 40% off and it suits your style as well as lifestyle – then go for it. If you are buying a bag purely because it’s Prada and you don’t like the style, size or fabric… well you have become a label whore.

Don’t buy that jacket just because it’s designer. Pretend that it is an unknown label – do you still like it? Do you still find it attractive and necessary? If not, put it back on the rack. That goes for ill-fitting designer duds, last season’s “It Bag,” obvious logo advertising (if it’s that obvious, it will be that obvious from last season – not worth your time or money) and damaged designer goods.


Damaged Goods
Many discount retailers sell the irregulars from a label. Some irregulars can barely be seen by the naked eye – may be an incorrect dye lot or the wrong buttons sewn on a jacket. Some may work in your favor – pants cut too short or sleeves that are too long or too narrow. Often times these stores received the garments that were damaged in production, transit or through many jaunts to the fitting room. Broken zippers, missing buttons, fabric snags are all defects that can easily be repaired or covered up if the price and style is right. However there are other defects that are not worth the purchase, no matter how low the price. Runs in nylon, stains, button holes at the wrong height, linings that do not align with the trouser, two pieces stitched together from two different dye lots. Even if it is Versace, it will look like Gallo Clothing on you if it is this defective.


Buying in Bulk
I used to be a huge fan of buying in bulk – find a tee shirt you love, buy it in eight colors and three of white and black. Flattering trousers? Buy one in every color. I then found that my wardrobe was like one big uniform… one big boring uniform. Mixing basics with fun pieces offers versatility, ease but individual style.


At outlet malls, buying in bulk is a good idea. Yesterday I was at the Banana Republic outlet and found high quality stretchy tees in tons of colors – $9.99 each. I bought one in black, one in white, one in gray and one in red. These shirts can be worn with jeans on weekends, with a little skirt for happy hour with the girls or under a suit for work. I found a great pair of wool trousers at Off Fifth, bought them in brown, gray and black. They were so standard and fit so amazingly well (and were only $39.99 each) that it was worthwhile to buy every color I liked. I knew with my work and lifestyle I would find regular use for such trousers. Another time I found a pair of really cute studded pointy heels from NYLA. They were 75% off and tres cute. I decided to buy them in hot pink, ivory and black, thinking that if they fit well, they would get much use. I was imagining sparkly tops and designer jeans with the ivory, a sexy power suit with the black, and envisioned an outfit a la Carrie Bradshaw for the pink. I took them all home, have worn the pink ones multiple times, and have barely touched the other two. I don’t wear designer jeans with sparkly tops on a regular basis, and don’t own a single chic black power suit. Those two shoes have barely seen the light of day. Consider your current lifestyle when considering to buy in bulk – items that look too familiar may not be worn and too many of the same thing may make them all too boring to regularly wear. Also, if you don’t wear red patent stilettos now, you probably won’t after purchasing a pair.


In conclusion, don’t buy just because of a label, or just because of an amazing price. Less money for an item is still money, and money should be spent carefully. Be willing to take the time to find quality purchases, not pick up every shiny bauble that sort of resembles what Gwen or Jessica wore last Spring. Fashion is not about the specific item, but the allover look. A Louis Vuitton bag or a pair of Chanel sunglasses will not make you a fashionista, the pairing with appropriate and complimentary pieces is what takes you from being a label whore or a fashion victim to fashionista status.

Blogger Confession: Why I Don’t Own Expensive Shoes

I don’t own fancy shoes.
Not until the past couple of years did I even consider a pair of shoes over $75, and you’ll never see me in boots over $250 or other shoes over $125.
Even if I won the lottery, I wouldn’t wear Loubies.

A few other DC bloggers (Rosa Loves, High Fashion for Less, Apolinnas, The You Finder) have a Blogger Confessions series and it inspired me to do the same today.

I confess that I don’t own expensive shoes and probably will never own expensive shoes for these reasons:

1. My feet smell. My feet have always stunk. I tried cotton socks, shoe liners, deodorizers, natural products to no avail. My mother said her feet smelled until she had children and I hoped and prayed that the same would happen to me. It did… until I stopped nursing. Gosh knows why, but the feet started kicking again a few weeks after I weaned Emerson.

I use Footpetals in most of my shoes to not only make them more comfortable, but to absorb sweat. I then can replace them when they get funky, leaving the shoes in relatively decent condition. However they still end up being a bit funky after 1-3 years and have to be removed from the wardrobe.

2. My feet sweat. I can put on a pair of shoes for an hour, sit the entire time, and stand up to squishy, slipping shoes. Again, Footpetals help immensely but this causes many of my shoes to stretch out over time.

3. I walk hard. I try to be a lady, but I walked on my toes all my life, which means I either bounce around, or a clomp around. I have my heel caps replaced several times a season and break at least one heel a year.

4. I am a klutz. I break heels, I break off heel caps, my heel gets caught in a grate or in the crack of a sidewalk. I trip, scuffing off the front of my shoe, or slip out of my shoe, stretching the toebox. Again, I try to be careful and ladylike but fail miserably 75% of the time.

5. I believe shoes should be worn. I am not the type to have commuter shoes, I want to actually wear the shoes I buy. For me, there’s no point in wearing a pair of beater shoes to walk from the Metro to the office, then put on fancy shoes which are hidden behind my desk all day long. The shoes I buy need to be workhorses, ones that look good, feel good, and can survive a morning commute.

6. My accessory tastes change faster than my clothing tastes. Five years ago, I felt the most classic shoe was a peeptoe pump with a slender heel. I had the same BCBGirls “Aria” pump in black snakeskin, brown snakeskin, and leopard suede and felt they were the types of shoes I would wear for eternity. After I had Emerson they no longer fit so I got rid of the stinky black and brown ones and gave the newly replaced leopard ones to my best friend and went on an eBay search for replacements (the style was no longer available at retailers). I found a pair in black patent, won the auction, had them delivered, put them on… and they just looked wrong. Not me. They went back on eBay the very next day.

I can wear a simple black dress for a decade without tiring of it, but a black pump I like to switch up with the trends. I have a pointed toe in my closet and have had a variation of it for years, but right now I am really liking a slight platform and a rounded toe. Next winter I may want a thicker heel, or a different texture to the leather.

7. I prioritize. People often ask how I afford my wardrobe. I don’t go on fancy vacations, I don’t drive a fancy car, I live in a very small home, I bargain shop, I love me some Freecycle and Craigslist (and eBay, obviously!), and I don’t buy expensive shoes. I choose to spend my money on what I care about, and for me, I prefer a wardrobe full of flattering versatile pieces than a wardrobe full of fabulous shoes. While I adore shoes, I get more pleasure from a dress or even a new necklace.

While I love me some Louboutins, think Manolos are pretty major, and celebrate the beauty of a pair of Jimmy Choos, I won’t have any in my closet any time soon.

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What I Wore and a Giveaway – Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design

Shirt: c/o Foxcroft | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Halogen (similar) | Necklace: c/o Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Bag: Brahmin (similar)

Accessories can transform the most basic wardrobe staples and make pieces a cohesive outfit. I just received this necklace from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design and while it is BEGGING to be styled with an LBD for the holidays or worn with a beautiful silk blouse, I thought it could really make a statement with a simple white shirt and dark jeans. I haven’t carried my Brahmin bag in a while, and I thought the bright blue really made the emerald necklace pop!

Giveaway:

If you like this necklace and the other beautiful pieces I have featured from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design, well today’s your lucky day! One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $100 store credit to Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design!

Ruth Barzel makes all her unique pieces in the United States and is a local-yokel to me.  Not only that, she’s an awesome human being!  While I love the Emerald Quartz Nugget Statement Necklace I’m wearing here, I also love wearing her Blue Quartz Pendant Necklace and wear her Mixed Metal Chain Bracelet on a weekly basis. Ruth has offered all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off her entire store, just use code OXYGEN20.  This discount will be in effect until the end of November, 2013.

How to Enter:
Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. This contest is open to both US and international readers. Contest ends November 30, 2013 at midnight ET.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
As a reminder, if you can’t wait for the giveaway to end and want to get yourself some jewelry from Ruth Barzel, use the code OXYGEN20 at checkout for 20% off your order!

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My Wardrobe Today – Tuesday

Black Knit Moto Jacket – Gap (no longer available online but you may find in their stores in black or gray)
Black Ponte Dress with Exposed Back Zipper – LOFT (no longer available online which is a shame because I LOVE LOVE LOVE this dress!)
Belt – Ann Taylor (bought a couple years ago)
Black Patent Mary Janes – Nine West (see below)


Shop your closet, folks. Shop your closet!

I have been spending this week doing a hardcore closet clean-out.  I dumped everything out of my bureau and only put back that which I like.  I made one bag of things to donate, and one bag of things to put on eBay.  Now I am working on my closet.  I took everything out that is too small, too big, too ugly, too worn.  There’s a pile of items to repair, and then I added to my two bags.

I am putting all my shoes in boxes on the shelf, because the floor of the closet it a bit of a No Mans Land. My dogs sometimes like to take a nap in there, my husband uses it as a place to throw things and close the door when people come over, I often find Emerson’s books and toys hidden in corners… anyway it’s a bad place to keep shoes. I opened each box to ensure the shoes inside match the label on the outside… and found these shoes!

Long-time readers may remember them. I saw them at Nordstrom a couple years ago and HAD TO HAVE THEM. They only had them in 7. I ordered them, and they were far too small. I started searching online for these shoes from another retailer and found then for half the price of Nordstrom, but only in an 8. I ordered them anyway… and they were too big. I think I wore them twice, both times bad experiences with rubbing, blisters, and carefully shuffling from Metro to office. After that, I shoved them in the box, stuck them in the back of the closet and figured I would eventually put them on eBay.

Well last night I found them and tried them on… and now they fit! Not only do they fit, they are pretty comfy! I am so excited because on my shopping list I had a pair of patent Mary Janes. Granted, I wanted all black with a pointy toe and a slimmer heel, but these are pretty stellar. I had a stranger stop me on the street and ask me who made my shoes and two coworkers said they are “Fierce.” Hooray!

Tonight I hope to finish the closet and this weekend hope to tackle the attic. After that I will be posting even more stuff on eBay – check it out!

Reader Survey

So tomorrow I am going to the theater (for those of you in DC, we are going to dinner first at Notti Bianche, and then walking to the Kennedy Center) to see Phantom of the Opera. I have seen lots of theater performances, but never Phantom (though I did see the movie but that doesn’t count). We are going with a couple who we have been friends with for many many years but haven’t seen in a bit since they moved to Virginia.

I spoke to my female friend in the couple, she said she would probably wear pants and heels; we both agree jeans are not theater-appropriate, but feel that in the summer getting super dressed up seems inappropriate. She is a petite little thing who carries off the very simple styles of J. Crew and Banana Republic with ease, I can see her in a soft blue tailored shirt with cuffs, crisp black trousers, very cute black kitten heels, a Tiffany bracelet, delicate necklace and a Coach purse. She has red hair and beautiful pale skin. As we all know, simple is not my middle name.

So what should I wear?

I was thinking the olive shift dress with the leopard-print heels, long gold necklace and gold bracelet, but we will be taking the Metro, so will be walking several blocks. Those heels are fabu, but so skinny of a heel they get caught in every sidewalk crack and wouldn’t be good for walking to the restaurant, walkign then to the theater, and then walking to the metro. My husband said we could take cabs, but I think the weather is going to be lovely.

I don’t mind walking in heels, and think any shoes would be fine except the leopard, the black and brown crocos in the same style, and my hot pink pointy pumps. Should I just be a commuter and tuck my black ballet flats in my bag for the longer of the walks? this is what I am currently thinking, to have them if the going gets rough. But I would love to hear what you suggest, since you always ask me for my suggestions! :-)

UPDATE: One should always check the Metro website before stressing. It is one block from the Metro to the restaurant, four blocks from the theater to the Metro come the end of the evening, and our friends are driving so they may give us a ride to the Metro at the end of our double date. but still, I would love to hear your ideas!

What I Wore: It’s Myne

myne heidi dress hobo bags clutch zippers myne heidi dress review

Dress: Myne | Bag: Hobo Bags (similar) | Shoes: Nine West | Glasses: Zenni Optical | Bracelet: Had forever (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon ‘Certainly Red’ | Ear Cuffs: Etsy (here and here)

I wrote about this dress in this post. A lot of you wanted to see me in it since I am a very different shape from the model, but it has been too cold to bust out this lightweight silk dress until now. When I bought it I figured I’d style it with peeptoe ankle booties and my wide silver metal plate belt, but once spring arrived I decided I liked it a bit more stripped down. The dress is by the brand Myne, and each time I read the label I say, “It’s MINE!” in the whiny voice I use when I read Emerson her book, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share.  As an FYI, this is a size 10; I originally got a 12 but found it too long for my petite stature.  The 10 fits comfortably but the belt that came with it is too small (no biggie, the belt is kind of ugly and cheap looking).

If you signed up for my monthly Style File newsletter you know that I recently got these glasses. They’re huge, they’re bright, and they’re a lot of fun for a very low price (hello prescription lenses under $30!). I’ve been wearing a lot of red lately – I’ve been doing a red lip almost all winter and have been choosing OPI’s Big Apple Red as my nail polish of choice for almost a year. It made sense if I was going to buy some funky glasses to have them in my current signature shade!