Search Results for: label/denim

Capsule Wardrobe: Transitioning from Summer to Fall with a Denim Jacket

I’m a born again denim jacket fan. After too many years sporting them almost daily in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I couldn’t fathom wearing one again in the new millennium. However, in recent years the denim jacket has again become a popular and versatile wardrobe staple and I broke down and purchased one (this one from J. Crew Factory). Now I can’t imagine my wardrobe without one.

In a recent post’s comments, reader Mim asked if I could make a capsule to show the versatility of a denim jacket. Below is a sample capsule wardrobe incorporating a denim jacket, showing how it can help transition your summer wardrobe to early fall. While the weather may still be warm enough to bare legs (and a couple toes), you’ll likely desire a couple toppers and a way to temper summer vibes from breezy skirts and floral maxis. This capsule wardrobe is for a business casual office, or for the weekend.

Capsule Wardrobe: Transitioning from Summer to Fall with help from a denim jacket. Via Wardrobe Oxygen

Shop Similar: Denim Jacket | Blazer | Tee Shirt | Striped Top | Black Shell | Pencil Skirt | White Jeans | Midi Skirt | Sheath Dress | Maxi Dress | Ankle Strap Shoes | Block Heel Shoes | Wrap Belt | Pendant Necklace

Feel free to change out pieces to better fit your personality. A dark rinse denim jacket, the blazer can be a different color or replaced with a leather moto, the gray tee with a band tee or one with your favorite superhero or book quote. Stripes are extremely versatile and mix well with other prints, but could be switched out with a different print or a solid. The floral pencil skirt can be replaced with a solid, leopard print, a-line, or a fit and flare shape. The jeans can be switched out for a different color, fit, or even a twill or sateen ankle or cropped pant. A printed wide-leg pant is also a great alternative.  The gray pleated midi can be a cotton print, changed to a maxi, or switched out for culottes or another pair of ankle pants. The dresses are examples showing how different silhouettes and lengths can work; you can switch out for a tee shirt dress, fit and flare, and most any length from above the knee to ankle. Don’t be afraid to consider a jumpsuit, I wore one with a denim jacket in this outfit post.  As for the shoes, I chose two heels that are relatively walkable; the black and leopard one was chosen for the ankle strap (a popular trend right now) and how the print adds interest to solids and also plays nice with other prints. I own shoes similar to the camel ones and love how they work great with pants and skirts of every length; the color elongates the leg and works well with cool and warm colors. I have a version of the camel belt and find it extremely versatile.

Shop Denim Jackets and Blazers to Create this Look:

Don’t be afraid to mix high with low; we’re used to that meaning designer with discount mart fashion, but it also means pairing denim with chiffon, your favorite band tee with a satin pencil skirt, a bit of sparkle with a bit of distress. The gray yoga tee will look chic with the chiffon midi skirt; you can tuck it in or knot it at the waist. Pair with the camel shoes or even your favorite flat sandals or slip-on sneakers and if it gets chilly, add the denim jacket. The gray tee also works with the printed pencil skirt; switch out the denim jacket for the blazer and the camel shoes for the ankle strap kitten heels for work in a creative office environment.

Shop Graphic Tees to Create this Look:

Denim jackets can replace blazers in casual and creative office environments; wear with the black ponte sheath dress and add the camel belt and heels to make it look more purposeful and cohesive. The black crepe shell and gray chiffon midi skirt would look at home in most business casual environments but may look a bit too summery come September; add the denim jacket, switch out sandals for the camel block heels and add the belt to make the look seasonally appropriate without being too wintry. Pattern mixing is still on trend and a lot of fun; style the Breton tee with the printed pencil skirt and ankle strap heels; add the denim jacket to tone down the prints and give a downtown vibe.

Shop Skirts with Plenty of Personality :

Double denim (wearing more than one piece of denim in an outfit) is no longer a fashion faux pas; if it still makes you uneasy, styling a denim jacket with white or colored denim gives the most contrast. While a graphic tee and white jeans may seem too ordinary, the addition of a pendant necklace and denim jacket creates a complete look. The best bet for pairing denim on denim is to work with contrast; it’s near impossible to match denim pieces so you’ll be better off with rinse denim and distressed, colored with whitewash, white with vintage. The addition of a print (stripes are always a safe bet) makes the look cohesive and steers clear of “Texas Tuxedo” territory.

Shop Dresses to Style with Denim Jackets:

If a denim jacket seems too heavy to wear with your favorite summer maxi dresses, consider holding down the dress with a wide belt and chunky shoes. Again, the camel belt and heels are a great choice. A wide belt is fantastic to cover any belt loops, built-in fabric belts, or waist details to give your maxi a completely different effect and look more appropriate for the later months of summer and early part of fall.

A denim jacket can not only help transition summer looks to fall, it can also pull together a wardrobe and create a cohesive look from boho, rock and roll, prep, classic, and romantic. Denim jackets look great with everything from leopard and leather to florals and silk faille. Do you have a denim jacket in your wardrobe? What is your favorite way of wearing it?

The Old Denim Jacket

I usually do not buy overly trendy items. Didn’t get Uggs, no ponchos, no CK Jeans tees, or Bebe rhinestoned jeans. Nary a Louis Vuitton or faux LV purse in my closet. However when the puffed sleeve look was in a few years ago, I bought a jacket. It was just too cute.

About a year ago, I realized it seemed dated to wear the jacket any longer. It was obviously a past trend. However this season’s Romanian and Czarian inspired jackets lets the puffed sleeve a a few more days in the sun without looking passe. As that it is almost time for the holidays and my thoughts are places other than in my wardrobe, I am pulling from the back of the closet for some oldies yet goodies to get me by until Christmas.

Denim jacket with epaulets and puffed sleeves from The Limited. Bought in…. I am guessing Winter 2002 based on which Limited I bought it in/what mall I was working in. Under it is my red-orange silk knit scoop neck shell from Banana Republic bought this past summer. Black trousers from Ann Taylor in a suiting fabric. Black pointy boots from Enzo. Silver hoops and cuff.

On face is Bare Escentuals as usual, only bronzer (Almay) for blush. Taupe shadow from the Bosy Shop on lids, a bit of the brown Maybelline brow powder in the crease and around lash line for shadow. Black mascara. That Origins bronze lip balm on lips.

Hair is being very cooperative, though it may not look it in the second picture. My stylist once told me I over wash my hair. I should only wash it a max of every other day. I am the type with dry ends and oily scalp so that sounded just disgusting to me. He told me to rinse my hair on the non-shampoo day and use conditioner only – the conditioner would get rid of the bad oils and keep the good ones.

Since I got highlights I have been using Halo shampoo and conditioner. My stylist recommended it and it was on sale.  I find the conditioner to be very thin and milky, yet very hydrating. Washing with just it this morning left my hair bouncy, soft and quite manageable. I used my new VO5 mousse, my Sexy Straight Hair Power Straight, and my cheapo Conair dryer with a cheapo Conair round boarhair brush to get it straight, but full of body with some cute piecey effects. Yay!

What I Wore: Weekend Denim

jagjeans1 shoebuy naturalizer jagjeans2
Jeans: Erin Cuffed Ankle Jean c/o Jag Jeans | Shirt: Banana Republic | Shoes Naturalizer ‘Dania’ c/o Shoebuy | Bag: Vintage Coach via eBay (similar) | Bracelets: Lifetherapy, had forever (similar) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ba

I’ve been really feeling dark denim this spring, paired with more denim, with white, with unexpected items like a leather pencil skirt or brightly-printed midi.  I found this denim shirt on mega clearance at Banana Republic and love that it’s richly colored but as soft as a well-worn stonewashed version.  Jag Jeans sent me these cuffed skinny ankles and I am IN LOVE.  They are made from their Freedom Knit Denim, which looks like traditional jeans, but the inside looks more like loop terry and the denim stretches and moves with you for comfort and shape all day.  This is the third time I wore these without washing, which is a testament to the bounceback-ability of this stretchy denim.  They’re perfect for dashing about weekends running errands, which is what I did in this look.

Shoebuy is one of my favorite destinations for shoes; their selection is insane and their prices regularly beat those of department stores and mega-retailers.  I actually ordered these very Naturalizer sandals from another company and then found them for much less and with a larger size selection on Shoebuy.  Right now they’re having a great promo where you can get $20 off an order of $100, plus free shipping and returns with the code MAY100.  Along with Naturalizer, they have many other popular brands and great on-trend styles for the season! Free Shipping on all orders! Shop Jag Jeans now!

Ask Allie: Denim Jacket Alternatives

I have a question for you regarding denim jean jackets. I have a sleeveless dress that I would like to pair it with a denim jean jacket on top. As far as fit, do I buy a one that cannot be buttoned? Or do I size up and get the bigger size? I am petite on the top, bigger on the bottom.

When I worked for Express in the late ‘90s and beginning of the naughts, those of us in management and visual merchandising were strongly encouraged to wear at least three pieces of Express apparel. This meant a top, skirt or pants, and some sort of jacket. I didn’t have the income for lots of suiting, so I bought denim jackets. A few years ago when clearing out my attic, I found six different Express denim jackets in different washes, cuts, and a few with embellishments. I tried them on, and they looked utterly ridiculous on my softer, larger, post-baby body. Last fall, I ordered a denim jacket from Old Navy that received rave reviews from fellow curvy fashion bloggers. I kept trying it on, but after a week I took it back to the store. I have large soft upper arms, broad shoulders, a DDD chest, and petite. Put all of that under a denim jacket and I look like a linebacker. Size down and while it fits better across the back, it’s quite obvious I wouldn’t be able to button it.

I don’t believe in buying jackets you can’t button. If there’s a zipper or snaps, or buttons, I want it to be able to be closed. One water-retaining period and next thing you know you’re wearing a denim shrug, and that looks good on no one.

You could get a jacket altered. You could roll up the sleeves and buy larger and make the oversized look purposeful, or you could find an alternative to the denim jacket. I don’t believe in spending precious time forcing a trend to work, so I am a big fan of alternatives. Here’s some great alternatives to a classic denim jacket:

Pictured: Zara, Gap, H&M, Topshop, ASOS

The Denim Biker Jacket
Yes, they DO exist and they are extremely popular for fall.  Available in most any pricepoint and size, biker-inspired jackets are great for those with curves because they have an angled cut that works nicely with a wider lower half.  Biker jackets aren’t expected to be zipped up, but be sure to choose a style that actually could close if you so desire.  Biker jackets are sometimes also described as moto jackets, and are stylish when worn shrunken, to fit, or even oversized.

Don’t worry about a “Texas Tuxedo,” denim on denim is now a stylish look.  So you don’t look as though you’re donning a leisure suit, pair with a different color of denim.  Such a jacket can look great with a maxi dress or skirt, as well as skinny jeans or even a babydoll or fit and flare dress.  I love mixing the toughness of a biker jacket with something softer like florals, lace, or chiffon.

The Leather (or Faux!) Biker Jacket
Not as good for the warmer months, but quite chic this fall and winter (and I believe to be a perennial classic), the leather biker jacket is as versatile and flattering as the denim version.  Keep in mind, many “true” biker jackets are a very stiff and heavyweight leather and may not be as figure-flattering.  You’ll either have to take the time to mold it to your figure, or you may wish to consider a style made of lambskin, faux leather, or a softer and thinner material which will nicely form to your figure.  No need to stick to basic black; sometimes colors can be just as or more versatile. 

As with handbags and shoes, choose a color that is your signature and will flatter colors currently in your wardrobe.

The Utility Jacket
Utility jackets are also known as army jackets, safari jackets, and sometimes even anoraks.  They are cotton or twill, in a neutral shade, often have military- and safari-inspired touches like cargo pockets and epaulets, and often nip in at the waist or have a drawstring for a custom fit.  I have a utility jacket and wear it with everything from jeans and tees to over a flirty sundress.

For your shape, consider a shorter style of utility jacket that will end between waist and hip.  You’ll likely have a better fit, and it won’t add volume to your lower half.  A lighter-weight fabric will also reduce bulk, and be more wearable year-round.  Come the colder months, consider layering the utility jacket with a fleece, puffer, or denim vest for on-trend warmth.

The Peplum Jacket
The peplum trend isn’t going away any time soon.  While it may seem a bit overdone for tops, it’s surprisingly fresh looking when on a jacket.  Not only that, the peplum is quite figure flattering, highlighting a waist and showcasing curves.  I have a leather peplum jacket that I love because it looks so great with dresses and highlights my shape.

Be it cotton or leather, a peplum jacket can work great over a maxi, but also work on weekends with jeans and sneakers or be dressed up for the office.  With such a detail, fit is important.  Consider going up a size or checking out the petites department to ensure the flare hits at the right place and the back doesn’t buckle.  It’s far easier to change the sleeve length than deal with a too small or too long back.

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Friday – Pink Denim and Leopard Heels

Blazer – Limited (similar)
Tank – Caslon (similar)
Jeans NYDJ
Silver pendant (similar)
Silver cuff (similar)
Bag – HOBO (similar)

Some popular trends I won’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Either they aren’t my personal style or I know they will be a flash in the pan. I started off not liking the colored denim trend – I did it back in the ’80s and don’t think I should repeat it. However as the trend has developed, I think it has become more wearable, not as much an alternative to regular denim but an alternative to chinos and casual trousers. I first went with brick red, but then seeing these pink beauts I had to add them to my wardrobe!

So what are your weekend plans?  Right now I don’t have any which makes me so happy.  I just want to be able to relax, get some things done around the house and chill with my family.  Maybe see friends on Sunday but love the fact that there are no major responsibilities!

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Ask Allie: How to Style a Denim Skirt for Fall

I bought this denim skirt and this summer I wore it with a T and TOMS but I don’t really know how to wear it now that it’s getting cold without looking like a school teacher. Advice?

Denim skirts are one of those items that seem like a perfect wardrobe staple, but once you have it you realize it’s quite hard to style without looking dated or costumey. A few tips on how to style a denim skirt like this and have it look modern, fresh, and not at all like a school teacher.

This is not the denim skirt you may have worn in the early ‘00s. Back then, I had several denim skirts: distressed, dark and narrow, a-line and short, and everything in between. I went two ways, Lita Ford (would wear with engineer boots and a band tee or tank), or Faux Professional (with a blazer or ribbed turtleneck and knee-high heeled boots… and sometimes fishnets). This go-round with denim skirts, neither is really the trend. The goal, as it has been with fashion for a few seasons, is a bit of a juxtaposition. Hard with soft, dressy with dressed down. This should be in mind when styling your denim skirt.

How to wear double denim denim skirt shirt

This first look has become the hottest way to rock a denim skirt, thanks to Rihanna. Seen this summer wearing double denim with a leather baseball cap and pumps, this is a great way to make a denim skirt look modern and fresh. To make the look better for the cooling temps and to balance the distressed denim, I paired the look with tough black leather ankle booties and a leather wrap bracelet.  Throw a leather moto jacket over it when the temps drop even more.

what to wear denim skirt fall winter

A true juxtaposition is pairing beat up denim with luxurious silk. Balance the roughness of the skirt with a blouse with feminine details. Ruffles, puffed sleeves, or a pussy bow is the perfect pairing; elegant croco pumps and a leopard clutch continue the juxtaposition, making the styling obviously purposeful.

how to style denim skirt fall winter

This final look is the cool weather version of what you’ve been wearing all summer. Switch out the tee for a chunky cableknit sweater or a chic sweatshirt and the TOMS for sturdy boots for a cooler weather casual look that’s high on style and current trends.

Instead of treating a denim skirt like your jeans or denim shirt, consider it an embellished or creative fabric piece. Instead of having the top be the feature, keep the colors neutral so the skirt can take the spotlight.  By changing your outlook on the classic denim skirt, you’ll find so many new ways to style it in a modern way!

Summer Fashion: How to Wear the Hottest Denim Washes

Denim is always in style, but the wash of your denim can go in and out of fashion. This summer, many washes or finishes of denim that have been considered dated have come back en vogue. With such a large variety of denim washes available at your favorite retailer, it can be confusing how to wear them with the rest of your closet. Different washes look better with different colors and silhouettes, here’s a primer of the most popular denim washes and what they nicely pair with.

Rinse, Resin, or Dark Denim:

This is a deep indigo denim, free of any fading, whiskering, or distressing. It can vary from dark navy to a blue-black shade, and is often a stiffer fabric. This is a classic wash, and quite versatile. A dark rinse denim is a great choice for Casual Friday as it looks far more polished than other washes, and the stiffer denim gives a more refined silhouette. I love dark denim with everything from pastels and neons to crisp brights and neutrals. Dark denim can also be paired with a variety of fabrics, from your favorite well-worn tee to silk and lace.

Raw Denim:

Raw denim hasn’t been treated, washed, or altered in any manner. It is crisp, rigid, but will eventually customize to your body. The color will be similar to rinse denim, so you can pair it with most anything. To keep the color rich, only wash when necessary, turn inside-out, and line dry.

Trouser Denim:

This is a lighter-weight denim, or cotton dyed to look like denim. Sometimes it is in a traditional jeans silhouette, often it is cut with a wider leg to more resemble classic trousers. Denim trousers can come in a variety of colors and finishes (they often are found with a subtle shine or sparkle finish to them), a deep indigo or black hue is the most classic and is more likely to work with your office dress code. Wear with a blazer and knit tank for a casual alternative to a suit, pair with a Breton-striped tee for a sailor-inspired classic ensemble, or with a silky camisole for a night on the town.

Stonewashed or Enzyme Wash Denim:

This is a wash that was very popular in the ‘90s but is now often associated with “mom jeans.” Stonewashed denim is more blue than indigo, and has subtle fading from being washed with pumice stones or enzymes. I don’t recommend stonewashed denim unless you are a True Fashionista, but if you already have it in your wardrobe and love it, pair with very modern or trendy silhouettes to make it look purposeful. Wear stonewashed skinny jeans with a white boyfriend blazer and tan ankle booties, stonewashed boyfriend jeans with a striped off the shoulder slouchy tee and red ballet flats, stonewashed sailor-cut jeans with a black boatneck and platforms.

Faded Denim:

Faded denim is back in fashion, but it’s still a very tricky wash to wear without looking like “mom jeans.” I suggest you wear it only if you have a very modern silhouette to the jean or are a True Fashionista. To keep this wash looking current this summer, pair with pastels and an “arm party” of bracelets.

Acid Washed Denim:

This wash of denim has made a return, along with everything else from the ‘80s. This wash looks best with ‘80s-inspired colors – neons, bright pastels, or solid black for a “mall punk” effect. Though acid-washed denim has returned, that doesn’t mean you can whip out your oversized denim jacket from high school. This wash is best worn either tongue-in-cheek (high-waisted cutoff shorts with a retro tee), or very narrow and modern (skinny jeans with booties or a canvas shoe like Chucks or TOMS).

Dirty or Sulfur Wash Denim:

This is a denim that has a slight brown, yellow, or green cast to it. It can be subtle or quite definite. This is a color of denim that isn’t as versatile – paired with the wrong color and it can look very dated or mismatched. In fact, sulfur denim on a fellow commuter inspired this post! Pair with black to showcase the color, or with neon or a pastel where the tinge will make the top really pop.

Garment-dyed Denim:

When jeans are dyed after being sewn together, you get a saturated color free of the white threads typical in denim. Most colored denim is garment-dyed, but there are also jeans out there in indigo shades that go through this process. Such jeans can either look quite refined and can pass as business casual trousers, or look quite cheap. I only wear garment-dyed denim in non-traditional denim colors because I find navy jeans to look strange on me. However if you do like them, I recommend you keep the rest of your colors classic – navy and white stripes, white, cream, or pair with chambray to give it a more modern edge (yes, the Texas Tuxedo is back en vogue!).

Sandblasted Denim:

These are the jeans that are blue on the sides, but may be almost white on the front and back. They truly look as though they were sandblasted while on your body. Baggy sandblasted denim had its heyday, and right now sandblasted can look very dated unless you are a True Fashionista. If you adore your sandblasted denim, consider a DIY project and made them look vintage (see below) with some shredding and fraying.

Vintage or Aged Denim:

This is a trend from my past that I am thrilled has made a return. Whether they come right off the shelf or are bought in your neighborhood thrift store, vintage-looking or truly vintage denim is worn, weathered, and occasionally has rips or frayed spots and edges. Cuff for a “boyfriend” look and pair with a blazer and band tee shirt for a modern weekend look. Wear with a crisp white shirt and some killer heels for a fabulous happy hour ensemble. Go boho with a simple ribbed tank, colorful beads, and leather sandals. As long as the jeans have a flattering cut (nothing hanging off the rear, too short, dragging on the ground, too tight, has holes in the bum), vintage jeans can be quite versatile.

Some great denim tips and DIYs from around the Internet:

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Ask Allie: Denim-based Office Capsule Wardrobe

I really like the capsule wardrobe posts that you have been doing. Would you consider doing one for a jeans work environment? Our company recently switched policies to allow casual dress everyday, as long as the jeans are dressier.

My last three places of employment have allowed jeans as long as they were dressed up. This post I wrote about work-appropriate denim is a great start in figuring out which jeans are considered business casual, and which are best left for weekends and evenings. For a denim-based capsule wardrobe, I recommend at least three different silhouettes and washes. For this capsule, I chose a dark wash of a traditional cut (straight, bootcut, etc.), a denim trouser which is a bit more refined and usually has a wider leg, and then a novelty piece. Depending on your personal style, it could be a subtle brocade print, corduroy, velour, or even a dark color like oxblood, black, or olive green. With all your work jeans, narrow and slim is acceptable with longer tops but skin tight is never appropriate.

Twenty Possible Combinations:

The best way to make jeans versatile is to have a variety of footwear. Narrow jeans look drastically different with flats than they do tucked into tall boots. Since you wrote in your email that you recently had a baby, I chose shoes that are more comfortable – a low-heeled boot, flat with arch support (I actually own these very flats from Ecco and find them extremely comfortable and cute), a wedge which is easier to wear than a standard heel.

Accessories can really transform an outfit – a tunic sweater is slouchy cool alone, streamlined when cinched with a wide belt. Thinking of my own wardrobe, I added a patterned skinny belt and a statement-making wide belt because I find these two types of belts to be the most versatile and best at transforming wardrobe staples. Scarves give denim a chic vibe – a patterned silk scarf with anything from a tank and cardigan to a striped tee makes a look instantly sophisticated, a lightweight pashmina adds interest and is a makeshift shawl in drafty offices.

Also since you said you recently had a baby, I chose fabrics and silhouettes that have stretch, are comfortable, and can look polished without being super fitted and structured. These pieces will also work if you lose any weight in the next couple of months – you can tuck in, belt, and adjust as your body changes. I stuck with solid colors because they are more versatile and less memorable. I used a lot of neutrals with pops of extreme brights, which always look so great next to denim.

When wearing jeans, it’s more important to think about what is on top. While one could carry off a simple knit top with pants or a skirt, with jeans such a top could easily veer into cleaning-out-the-garage territory. Soft-structured jackets, sweater coats, and cardigans help make jeans look polished as well as making more narrow silhouettes office-appropriate. All of these pieces would easily work with pants and skirts as well if there are days where you need to dress up for a visit from corporate or clients.

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Ask Allie: Denim and Chambray Shirts for Large Busts

Do you have any suggestions for a denim shirt for a busty woman? Any tips on wearing them in the workplace? I’ve been looking for a great denim or chambray shirt but everything seems to be either be really tent-like or has flap pockets right over the bust or is sold out Help!

Unfortunately, you are looking at the wrong time of year. When it’s the end of the year/beginning of a new year stock in stores is at an all-time low. They will stock up on things that are giftable or else to be worn to a holiday event, and then after the holidays stores have their annual inventory, which is easiest when there’s as little stock as possible. Come March, spring stock will be arriving and you’ll find a broader selection of denim and chambray shirts as well as most anything else.

As a busty woman, I find chambray to be far more forgiving than denim. It’s a lighter-weight fabric so it will drape below the bust instead of sticking out like a tent. Also if you size up for your chest, the lighter fabric looks slouchy-cool if it drapes open at the neck, falls off the shoulders, gathers at the waist. If you find a chambray shirt that fits everywhere but the waist, consider having it altered for a more custom fit. Alterations don’t have to be left to bridal gowns and expensive suits; if such changes can make a Target shirt look designer it’s worth it.

As a busty woman, it’s even more important to have clothes fit well and look tailored in the workplace. A woman with a lean athletic frame can wear an untucked shirt with skinny pants and look tomboy chic, a curvy woman could wear the same look and appear to be dressed to clean out the attic.

How to Style Denim and Chambray for the Office:

  • Black and Blue. Pairing chambray with crisp black defines the unique fabric and makes it look more work appropriate. Under a black blazer with slim trousers, tucked into a black pencil skirt, tied at the waist and paired with wide-leg black trousers… chambray and black is a smart work combination.
  • Nautical Touch. When chambray is paired with crisp white, it gives an elegant nautical vibe. Wear with white jeans for Casual Friday, under a white blazer with cropped pants and tan flats for spring, tucked into a full white midi skirt. Feel free to incorporate anchor prints, stripes, and navy to continue the vibe. As with black, the crisp white balances the casual vibe of chambray and makes it work appropriate.
  • Leopard is a Neutral. One of my favorite combinations is leopard and denim or chambray. A leopard pencil skirt looks fresh with black pumps and a chambray shirt; pair a chambray shirt and black blazer with leopard cropped pants for a fun take on office attire.
  • Balance with Luxe. If you work in a creative office, this works even better. Chambray shirt under a dark red velvet blazer, tied over a heavy sateen midi skirt, tucked into a sequined pencil skirt or brocade skinny pants. The chambray keeps the evening fabrics from looking too fancy for the office and the fancy fabrics show that chambray isn’t just for the auto body shop.

Shopping Tips:

  • The Fewer Embellishments, the Better.  No epaulets, no flap pockets on the bust, no studs or weird ombre coloring or sparkly buttons or… well you catch my drift.  Embellishments, especially on the chest and shoulders only emphasize the size of your chest.  Not only that, such details age a garment quickly.
  • Size Up.  As previously mentioned, it’s better to alter a too-large shirt than squeeze into one that’s a hair too small.  A softer fabric makes an oversized top less obvious, and makes drape look purposeful in a “boyfriend” style.
  • Protect the Placket.  Be it strategically placed hidden safety pins or fashion tape, don’t rely on the buttons on your shirt to get the job done.  I always have one or two safety pins on the inside of my shirt to hold the placket closed between buttons; this also prevents buttons from working themselves open during wear.
  • Look for Lycra.  A bit of stretch is a blessing for the busty.  Not only does it resist wrinkles, but it will resist creasing and crinkling over the bust, under the arms, and any other curves.
  • Consider Brands that Consider Plus-sized Women.  While you may not need a plus sized shirt, a brand like Talbots or Lands’ End that makes clothing in extended sizes will have mroe thought about a woman’s curves.  I have had much luck with both retailers regarding button-front shirts.

Below are brands I recommend for large-busted women. They don’t all have chambray, but as I mentioned above new stock arrives in early spring and some of these brands may start to stock chambray.

  • Campbell & Kate. If you want high quality, custom fit shirts, this is the company to consider. While the prices aren’t cheap, neither is the service, the quality, the fabric, or the fit. These are shirts that will look powerful in the boardroom, sexy on the first date, elegant with a taffeta skirt for an evening affair. Seriously, these are shirts worth the investment if you want a great fit now and for years to come.
  • InStyle Essentials. The brilliant folks at Rebecca and Drew partnered with InStyle for a line of shirts sized by bra, not by dress size. I have their classic white shirt and it’s a good price for a good shirt. If unsure, go up one size for a tad more room, especially if you have a soft midsection.
  • Pepperberry. Pepperberry is part of the UK company Bravissimo, which is known for large bust lingerie.  Pepperberry offers clothing that is made for women with large busts, but they do ship all across the globe. I have never tried them personally, but have had many a reader recommend this brand.
  • Carissa Rose. Based out of Texas, Carissa Rose offers clothing for busty women. Focusing on classic styles, you are likely to find a dress or shirt that is office appropriate.

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Friday: Denim Day!

Sweater: Ann Taylor (similar) | Shirt: CAbi (similar) | Jeans: c/o Liverpool Jeans Company | 
Boots: DUO (similar) | Silver cuff

It’s FRIDAY!! I know I only worked three days this week, but it was so hard getting back into the grind. It’s nice to have a little break to recoup and get properly back into the swing of things. However, this weekend is Emerson’s 4th birthday party and I have done diddly other than send out invites and make a grocery list. Tonight we’ll be taking down the tree, tomorrow cleaning like mad people and trying to whip up some decor or theme, and Sunday we’ll be overloaded with family and toddler friends. Last year we invited three of Emerson’s friends to her party, this year we asked her who she wanted there. It’s fun to have her at an age where she has favorite friends and knows them and is excited to “be a hostess” to them!

Since it was an early day, no fancy husband photos, just a MySpace-esque shot in the office bathroom. However I couldn’t pass up on an outfit post because I have fallen madly in love with Liverpool Jeans. Last week I wore their Sadie Straight Jeans, these are their Abby Skinny Jeans. I must admit when I opened the package and saw they sent me skinny jeans my heart fell. I usually can’t pull skinny jeans up over my calves, they are so wide. If I can shimmy them on, they looked painted on and highlight all the aspects of my legs that I don’t want highlighted. I was really surprised that they fit, aren’t cutting off circulation to my feet, feel great on, and don’t stretch out so much during the day that I can slide them off without unbuttoning (hello Old Navy). Liverpool Jeans slim and lift like other popular brands, but with a lower pricepoint and cute details like Beatles lyrics printed on the inside. I love that they hold their shape during the day – no exposed undies or baggy knees by lunchtime. Over the holiday break I pretty much lived in my two pairs of Liverpools. Liverpool Jeans are currently available at Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Amazon, as well as 1600+ specialty boutiques across the country; also if you ‘like’ Liverpool on Facebook you can get your own pair of jeans by entering to win their weekly giveaway. They’re pretty active on Twitter and Pinterest too!

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

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


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

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

Denim Dresses

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

denim dress trends for spring

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

Denim Jumpsuits

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

denim jumpsuit trends for spring

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

Denim Tops

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

denim top shirt fashion trend for summer

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

Denim Skirts

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

denim skirt fashion trends summer

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

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Ode to My Ann Taylor Denim Trousers

When my pants get too big, I do a happy dance.
Finally! I have eaten less, I have eaten better, I have exercised more, it is paying off!

When my pants get too big, I boast to my husband.
Look baby, Look how much room is in the waist! The thighs! I’m whittling away!

When my pants get too big, I want to try on my whole wardrobe.
This is off to Goodwill, this to be donated to my friend, this is ready for the trash! Woo-hoo! What fun!

When my pants get too big I get sad.
These are my favorite pants, my beloved pants. My pants that make me look tall and leggy pants.
Now they look a bit dumpy, a bit frumpy.
Shall I get them tailored?
Wait ten more pounds?
Replace them with a newer smaller-sized model?

I dash to the computer for some online window shopping. Ann Taylor, Nordstrom, J. Crew, Banana Republic, Gap, Anthropologie, Macy’s, even Saks. I know what places fit me well, both my shape (even smaller) and my personality.
No luck. Nothing that perfect.
Will these even tailor well?
Will I ever fall in love with a pair of pants again like I loved these pants?

Maybe I’ll have one of those cookies that the lady in Accounting baked.
What the hell.
Maybe it will make my pants fit better.

Expensive Doesn’t Always Equal Appropriate

I know you readers have my mantra memorized – Quality, not Quantity. Quality can come at any price range, and appropriateness can too. Often times we confuse a high pricetag with formality. Just because a frock is designer (or at a designer price) it does not mean it’s always the best choice for an event.

A couple of years ago I was invited to a black tie wedding at an historical mansion. The bride wore a white veil and train that rivaled Princess Diana’s and the ballroom was filled to the gills with gold Chivari chairs and white roses. This was an event where the classic LBD was verging on too casual, even when paired with the family jewels and elegant heels. The bride only had one attendant, her sister. She gave her permission to pick any dress she desired in any color.

The maid of honor chose to wear a gown by a very hot fashion designer, worn by all the It Girls of Hollywood. The gown was brown and rust-colored silk jersey with a plunging halter neck and back, many straps wrapped around the body and a floor-skimming hem. Gorgeous dress, but far more appropriate for a summer fete in the Hamptons, than a December black tie gala. The dress would have been fab with a few wooden bangles and gold gladiator sandals, but the woman tried to formalize the dress with silk heels and diamonds.

It was expensive, it was gorgeous, it was totally inappropriate for the affair.

My friend works at a very cool ad agency in the city, where many of the women dress for work as though they are going to New York Fashion Week. One is sure to see the latest designer bags, heels and jeans at the water cooler. My friend was in the elevator with one of these well-dressed ladies and complimented her on her new Chloe dress. “Thank you, I wanted to look good for our first meeting with [big government agency who was new client].”

The dress was fabulous, but short, sleeveless and with a low back. Again, great for a Hamptons weekend affair, but not the right look for meeting with a new client who is most likely on the conservative side (I have worked with the government for years and have yet to meet an agency who fully appreciates a dress from Chloe).

I have seen spindly Manolos at beach weddings, strapless silk sundresses at family cookouts at the local park, designer fur vests at general admission all ages concerts, even Balenciaga purses at Bonnaroo – a 4-day music festival on a dusty farm in Tennessee where attendees camp without electricity or proper plumbing.

The point is, when shopping for a specific event, unless it IS New York Fashion Week, price and brand shouldn’t be a factor. Above all else, a look should be appropriate for the location, the audience, the type of affair. Style doesn’t come from a label, so when shopping ignore the trends, ignore the brands, ignore the fact that so-and-so was photographed wearing it to an awards ceremony. Focus on how it fits you, and your life and you will always be in style!

A few tips:
Steer away from bright red or white unless there is a theme specified on the invitation. If the event is after 5pm it is more formal (silk in place of cotton, clutch in place of handbag, crystals and pearls in place of metal and plastic jewelry and absolutely no denim). If the invite states the affair is Black Tie Optional, it doesn’t hurt to contact a member of the couple’s family or bridal party to confirm the level of formality. If all else fails, an elegant black dress of an evening fabric that is knee length or longer, silk heels, a clutch and a sparkly piece of jewelry will always work. For additional tips, visit my post about wedding attire.

Interviews/Client Meetings:
Err on the side of being conservative. For suggestions, visit my post about interview attire.

Can a Size 14 Woman Wear Everlane?

the quest for larger sized ethical fashion - a review of everlane by a size 14 woman - Wardrobe OxygenI’m trying to buy not just for the here and now, but the future. I know I am not alone in thinking this may be a temporary size for my body, but I am over holding off on personal style and quality clothing because of it. Let’s be real, the last time I was under a size 12 Emerson was only a glimmer in my eye. If I do by chance end up that size again, I’d want some new clothes and would pay to have my closet favorites tailored to fit.

I’ve been hearing about Everlane for a long while. The brand even reached out to me a couple years ago offering to gift me some product from their line. At the time I was recovering from my broken arm and was a very solid 14, in some items a 16. I was trying to heal my body and my spirit from the injury, the last thing I needed was some too-tight clothing to come in the mail and make me feel even more like crap. So I accepted their Twill Weekender (it’s a fabulous bag, well crafted, stylish, perfect size for a 2-3 day getaway, see it in this post) and they sent Karl a The Card Case (very nice and he used for a bit but didn’t find the style to suit his daily needs).

But as I pare down my wardrobe and choose more quality of pieces, I would prefer these pieces to be made ethically. Again, I came back to Everlane. Everlane offers women’s clothing up to a size L; there is no size chart on the site, you are encouraged to email the company directly to ask questions about fit. I found this off-putting. Again I don’t believe I am alone in wanting to have a website provide everything I need and not have to wait to make a purchase. A size chart is a pretty standard option on sites, especially if your sizing is by letter instead of by number. But many blogs I follow say much of their collection runs big, so I decided to try a few items. I found most size L items were out of stock, these were the three that I ordered that not only came in a L but also were in colors or silhouettes I would actually wear on a regular basis. The results were not too pretty…

The Silk Camisole – Black, size Large

Everlane Silk Camisole Review - Wardrobe OxygenA spaghetti strap camisole in silk is such a great piece to have in your wardrobe. Wear in the summer untucked with a slim pair of jeans or ankle pants for a night out. Slip under a suit jacket. Wear under a dressy pantsuit for a cocktail party. Pair with a denim jacket and leather leggings. The options are endless. This one looked all loose and drapey on the model; I knew it wouldn’t end up that drapey on me but figured there’d be enough room in the cut of the cami to fit my boobs and not show the shape of my belly button.

Everlane Silk Camisole Size L on Size 14 Woman - Wardrobe OxygenWhile my breasts do fit in the Everlane Silk Camisole, I think if I tried to shimmy on the dance floor or if it was the week before my period I’d be busting some seams. As it is, I had puckering between the breasts and on the back. With the straps at the adjustment it came with (3” adjusted on each strap), the tank was digging into my armpits. I lowered the straps (something I never do considering I am 5’3” and short waisted I usually shorten straps) and as you can see from the photo, it still sat high and weird.

Everlane The Silk Camisole Review on Size 14 Woman - Wardrobe OxygenWhile the tank isn’t so tight on the torso that you can see the indentation of my belly button, it’s clear this wasn’t cut for anyone with a butt. It was skin tight from the natural waist down, and with each step the back flipped up and started shimmying towards my jean’s waistband.

The tank is a good quality of silk that isn’t thin or cheap looking. The top part where a small bust would be is double-layered which is nice if you’re able to go braless. I believe a large would comfortably fit a size 8 woman with slight curves. This size 14 woman required a second person to get her out of the tank without breaking it. FAIL.

The Silk Tank – Slate, size Large

Everlane The Silk Tank Review - Wardrobe OxygenI ordered this tank because like the silk camisole, such an item is a wardrobe workhorse.  Imagine untucked with white linen pants and a long silver necklace.  Tucked in under a leather jacket with jeans and boots, or under a suit with heels.  The color is the type that can look tough or feminine and work with most everything already in my closet.

Everlane Order Haul Review - Wardrobe OxygenI can’t properly review this because I didn’t receive this. Though my packing slip confirms I ordered this, instead I received The Silk Round Collar shirt in a raisin color and size XS.

Wrong item delivered from EverlaneI didn’t notice the XS on the label and decided to try it on anyway. Yeah, I couldn’t even fit my arm in the sleeve. Must say I felt much better about life when I saw the actual size on the label! I know stores make mistakes from time to time, but one like this, especially from a brand that doesn’t have free returns and mailing labels with their orders, is really annoying. FAIL

The Linen V-Neck – Charcoal, size Large

Everlane The Linen V-Neck Review - Wardrobe OxygenMy beloved Old Navy vintage v-necks are starting to fall apart. Not a bad run for cheap shirts, but Old Navy no longer carries these exact shirts and I am now desiring a style that’s a bit looser. I have linen t-shirts from J. Crew and Boden and love the slub finish and how they don’t stick in the heat and humidity. I have a metallic navy from J. Crew and a white from Boden but have been desiring a grey or charcoal option.

Everlane The Linen V-Neck Review - Wardrobe OxygenOn the plus side, this shirt actually fits. The sleeves aren’t skin tight, I don’t get ribbing between my breasts from it being too snug in the bust, and it’s a great length for tucking in or leaving out. I also like the color, a dark charcoal with little nubby flecks of white.

Everlane Linen V Neck Review on Size 14 Woman - Wardrobe OxygenAnd now the negatives. This is a very rough and itchy shirt. I only wore it long enough to take these photos, but I feel if I wore it outside in the heat it would be as maddening as wearing wool in the summertime. And while it isn’t tight, you can see it’s not made for curves – see the gathering above the bust? That’s because this shirt is made straight and there’s no allowance for a bust of any size. And while the sleeves aren’t too short, they ended right at the widest part of my bust making me look even larger. FAIL

To sum up, Everlane is not a brand made for a size 14 woman. I doubt much would work for a size 12 unless that woman was tall (distributing the size), and with slight curves. It is really unfortunate that Everlane doesn’t provide for larger women considering the average American female is essentially my height and close to my clothing size.

There’s been plenty of discussion in the past year about why there’s isn’t better options for larger sizes. Brands say it’s expensive to have more fit models and patterns, companies say that larger sizes aren’t bought as often as smaller. Many think it elitism and designers don’t want to see their clothes on larger-sized women. I know from over ten years of writing Wardrobe Oxygen and knowing a good portion of my audience is a size 10 or larger that there is a desire for ethically made quality clothing in larger sizes. I see what links you click on, and what you purchase and know women in double digit sizes are willing to spend money for well made, well-fitting clothing. Every week I receive emails and comments asking me to review ethical clothing companies and feature more ethical fashion. But as a size 14 woman who isn’t drawn to the minimalistic style, there’s little out there for me to even try. Over and over sites recommend companies like Everlane for basics that are made with ethics and quality, but when the average American woman can’t fit into their clothes, it makes such a wardrobe quite elitist.
I dropped $200 on this order and if the items fit, I would have kept them all and been a regular Everlane shopper, spending a few hundred each season and then wearing the items on the blog, recommending them to the over 150,000 followers of this blog. But because they don’t and after all these years of being in business they have not increased their size range, I can only say that Everlane is a fail.

As ethical brands come on the market and provide fashion to women a size 10 and over, I will try to review them. But know not every double-digit sized woman wants to be a pin up, likes drop crotches and asymmetrical tunics, or a wardrobe in the shades of oatmeal, olive, and bark. If you know of any ethical brands that cater to larger women and offer great style, share them in the comments. You never know, that may be the next brand I review!

Being Cool

My family and friends I have had since childhood call me Allie, but I have introduced myself as Alison since high school when I decided to become cool.

Looking back, I was a pretty cool kid. I won art contests and made up lyrics to songs with my friends. In middle school I was very creative with fashion, wearing sweaters as skirts and using my bedroom curtain as a cummerbund. I would draw on my jeans and denim jacket, and had classmates who commissioned me to do similar on their clothes. However, I never felt cool. I always felt as though I was on the fringe – I wasn’t rich enough, thin enough, blonde enough, good enough.

I had three high schools to choose from – the neighborhood school, the science and tech school where I was accepted, and a magnet school for humanities. I chose the magnet school, not just because I preferred foreign languages and reading to math, but because I felt I could start new. I only knew a handful of people attending the magnet school, while the majority of my classmates went on to the tech or neighborhood schools.

Before 9th grade started, my mom took me on a shopping spree at The Limited so I would have “cool” clothes. I got a “cool” haircut, which in 1989 was a wavy bob with puffy bangs. Though I was of average size, I dieted so I was a “cool” size. On the first day of school I wore my beloved Guess? jeans with an oversized striped rayon shirt and matching oversized vest. My bangs were high, my lips were shiny and pink, I was dressed in a way where I felt I would be perceived as cool.

I was not cool.

Cool isn’t created by what you wear, but by who you are and how you interact with others. In middle school, I was blinded by Forenza sweaters and Benetton rugby shirts, parents in shiny new sedans and birthday parties at houses with great rooms and breakfast nooks. At this small high school that bussed in kids from all over the county, kids who were deemed cool were confident, whether they wore maypops or Reeboks. They weren’t easily intimidated, and never seemed ashamed of who they were, what they wore, where they came from.

I never fully “got” this notion, still thinking that my appearance would determine my lot in life. I went through many style phases over my years in high school, college, and beyond. I was constantly changing my costume hoping to find my niche, hoping to be accepted, hoping to be cool.

I wasn’t able to understand the role of style until I became a personal shopper for other women. I got to know them as people, and saw their shopping habits. I could see them buying items that I knew would collect dust in the back of their closet, refuse to purchase garments for being too “bold” or “crazy,” though they fit their personality and lifestyle better than what they had at the register. I saw women like me, who were trying to make themselves something they were not, hiding behind a designer label or a popular fashion trend. While I did my best to help them find their personal style, mine began to emerge.

I think our society encourages people to find happiness through consumption. A great pair of shoes will make you feel fabulous, these are the five must-have items in a closet to be fashionable, celebs use this face cream – buy it and you too will look younger than the age on your driver’s license. But happiness… and coolness don’t come from what you buy, but what you already possess.

You already possess personal style, you just need to find it. As a recent commenter said on this blog, try trends and “see what sticks.” Write down what you enjoy – colors, foods, artists, TV shows, books. Remember your passions from childhood, think about what you would do with your days if you didn’t have to work or go to school or manage your home. See the running themes in these lists, the connections. This is a map to your personal style. This map will have to be rewritten from time to time; as a street map has to change with the addition of new highways, so will your personal style with the addition of new experiences and outlooks.

I started this blog with a pseudonym; I called myself Dilly after a nursery rhyme my parents used to sing to me as a baby. As I gained confidence with blogging, I decided to use my real name. Though I am still known as Alison in everyday life, I chose Allie for my blog persona. While I chose it because it sounded similar to Dilly, I also chose it because it was my name before I lost my self on that journey to attain coolness. It’s normal to lose your way once in a while, but coolness comes from realizing that and finding your way back.

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Dressing for the Holidays

I have never understood the desire to look like a total fool on a holiday. Tunic sweaters with appliqué bunnies for Easter, American flag shorts, socks and scrunchies for Independence Day, light-up pumpkin earrings for Halloween, tacky theme ties for Christmas, green everything under the sun for St. Patrick’s Day.

Why America, why? Do you see other countries sporting Quacker Factory sweaters, battery operated jewelry or unnatural hair and lipstick shades for their holidays? Do they decorate their person as much as their tree? I think not.

It is possible to look festive, have fun and not portray yourself as missing a few chromosomes.

For Work:
Do Wear:

Holiday colors. Nothing wrong with a green sweater on St. Patty’s Day or a red dress to your holiday party. Today on St. Patrick’s Day I am wearing a bright green refined tee under a denim blazer with chinos, with a green beaded bracelet. I look festive, but I still look appropriate for work. For men, a subtle holiday tie is appropriate if you have children – if you are young or single, these ties look pitiful and corny.

Do NOT Wear:

Theme clothing – sweaters with crocheted Easter eggs, “Kiss me, I’m Irish” tee shirts (or any other message or logo-ed tee shirt), overly casual clothing just because it fits the holiday, holiday themed makeup (emerald green eyeliner, sparkles, holiday colored lipstick) or visible theme socks (if your socks can be seen while standing or walking, your pants are too short. If your socks are neon orange or red or candy pink – wear them with boots or at home, not the workplace).

I understand that when one goes out to celebrate a holiday, the outfit may get to be more… festive. Festive is great, as long as it does not ruin your reputation or image.

For Play:
Do Wear:
Again, holiday colors. Orange top in place of a Halloween costume (for those of you who don’t like to dress up), a cute green chino skirt with a top for St. Patty’s Day, a sparkly red shell at Christmas. This is where theme and logo-ed tee shirts fit into the wardrobe – they look great with chinos or jeans as long as they fit well and are clean. This is where costumes can be appropriate – leprechauns, elves, Mrs. or Santa Claus, Halloween costumes that are flattering, well constructed and tasteful.

Do NOT Wear:

Holiday color from head to toe – just because it’s St. Patrick’s Day does not mean you should wear olive cargo pants, an apple green tee shirt and a forest green vest with green sneakers. If you wouldn’t be caught dead in it on a non-holiday day, then don’t wear it on the holiday. Don’t wear ill-fitting or old/stained/dated clothing just because it is holiday-appropriate. Again, if you would not wear it on a non-holiday day… Do not wear costumes that are not age-appropriate. Yes you may have great gams for a 50 year old women, that does not give you license to dress as a French maid (and Madonna, I saw your Purim costume, I am including you in this!). Think about the crowd you will be in when planning your costume – a crowded bar is not the best place for wings, balloon “grapes” or other large pieces on a costume. If it’s cold, plan to have an appropriate cover or tights so you don’t freeze or hide your costume under a coat. On the other hand, do not wear heavy wigs, longs capes and tons of makeup if you will be in a hot or humid location – your hard work will be ruined in just a few sweaty minutes. Do not wear a garment or outfit that makes you look foolish – why wear green lipstick or a giant foam hat or a belly shirt or antenna when you normally wouldn’t – remember when there’s holidays, there are cameras. Your outfit will be forever immortalized, and often you don’t have the time to strike that small tummy/small hips pose before the flash goes off.

So after all these don’ts, how does one know what to buy? What are safe bets?

For Work:

  • Sweater, blouse, twinset or shoes in a holiday color
  • Sheer red lipstick for Valentine’s Day or Christmas
  • If you are of the appropriate elegant age, a brooch (not plastic chicken pin ) can be lovely on the label of your suit
  • Costumes only come out when you know it’s a popular act of your coworkers – then make sure they are tasteful.

For Play:

  • A dress or one piece of clothing in a holiday color
  • A costume that is well fitting, tasteful and age appropriate – if unsure, leave your costumes to Halloween.
  • Mardi Gras beads are a safe way to make your outfit more festive – they are always being passed out, and now at every holiday
  • Festive makeup – red lipstick, green eyeliner, smoky eyes. Just don’t do all of them at once.
  • Fun tee shirts – bring out the “kiss me I’m Irish” and silly references to mistletoe – these are appropriate at bars, casual parties and festivals.

Tuesday and Shopping Update

Sorry for pics before my hair was dry.  Running a bit late today, and with this humidity, my hair was still a bit damp even by time I got to the office!

 Now it’s all full and beachy waves and goes far better with the dress.

Dress: LOFT, picked up during their Friends & Family event last week
Belt: Vintage
Shoes: Sofft
Bracelet: Twisted Silver

I actually bought quite a lot of stuff from Ann Taylor & Ann Taylor LOFT for their Friends & Family event.  And all is going back except this dress (which I honestly think will look better next week when I’m not all PMS-y bloated).

What I got from LOFT:
Petite Abstract Waves Woven Dress – This is the dress I am wearing.  I have to say if I didn’t have the F&F discount and a store credit, this dress wouldn’t be worth it.  It’s polyester, and that weird textured crepe polyester that from far away may look like silk but once you touch it you know it’s synthetic something.  Super super simple pattern, no fancy details.  The waist is elasticized and covered with a black grosgrain ribbon which on its own looks very much as though something is missing.  The dress has side pockets which is what made me consider returning this dress – the pockets make the sides stick out a bit weird, and make it look as though it’s junk in my trunk and not extra fabric.  I may use Stitch Witchery to close them up.

However I kept this dress because it’s lightweight, it’s summery, I know it will look better if I lose weight or bloat, and my husband told me I look hot in it. 🙂

Petite Flutter Silk Dress – I saw this in several magazines and thought it looked gorgeous.  Also thought it could be a nice red wardrobe replacement for my “secretary dress.” 

First, the dress doesn’t flutter.  It’s packed so those ruffles lie completely flat.  Smooshed flat, and the ruffles have raw edges so it just looks as though the dress is inside-out.  I tried hanging the dress in the bathroom while I took a shower, thinking the steam may help flutter up the ruffles but no, they still looked awful.  Oh, and the dress is see-through, like could see the lace on my skin-colored bra.  And petite?  I actually had to double-check the label and packing slip because this “petite” dress hot me mid-calf.  FAIL.

Pleated Collar Shell – This doesn’t seem to be still in stock, and may be because it was on sale.  Anyway, it is a lightweight cotton voile (like my lovely JNY top), looked to have a deep notch v-neck with a multi-ruffled stand collar.  The color was called Poppy Red, which looked more like hibiscus or watermelon to me.

This was NOT petite but it fit like it.  Raised my hands and you could see my belly.  It fit nicely over the bust, but was tight over the midsection (when does THAT happen?).  The collar didn’t stand as well as I would like because the fabric was so soft.  And the neckline didn’t fall open so it looked like a high-necked shell with a deflated clown collar.  Another FAIL.

What I got from Ann Taylor:
Denim Pencil Skirt – At the time of my order, they didn’t have 14 petite in stock.  And after the skin-tight scary denim skirt I recently got from Gap, I was thinking maybe I should stick with 16.  No 16 petite.  So I ordered 16.

Yep, I am a 14 petite.  This skirt is far too big.  Even though I was swimming in this skirt, and even when I pulled it up to my ribcage it still hit below my knees, I knew it was a good choice.  So good I am going to exchange it.  The denim is heavy enough to not be clingy, but not so heavy that it looks stiff.  It has fantastic seaming that enhance a curvy figure, a tiny kickpleat, a gorgeous dark hue that looks like real denim, but is totally work appropriate.  I hate that my local Ann Taylor doesn’t offer petites over 12 in their shop, so I have to order online.  But I really think the 14 petite will be a great fit and just what I have been looking for.  WIN.

Petite Cotton/Silk Blouse – No longer online but it was on mondo sale at the time of Friends & Family.  Anyway, it is a gorgeous bright pink, is a non-stretchy cotton/silk blend shell with size zipper at the bottom side.  The scoopneck is trimmed with small stiff ruffles.  Fully lined.

If I wore suits on a regular basis, I would keep this top.  The neckline is super flattering, the color and fabric gorgeous, it fit well, slightly loose in the body but no bra showing under the arms and more of a conservative fit perfect for Corporate America.  However alone, it looked like a suiting shell.  It is seamed, very tailored, and I couldn’t make it look fun with trousers, skirts, or jeans.  Not a FAIL, but not an Allie WIN.

Coralized Micro CZ Pendant Necklace – The one I got is no longer online, but it’s sorta similar to this.  The one I got has a longer, thinner chain and is solid gold with little CZ dots, no mother of pearl in the center.  I think it’s a cute pendant, like the old brushed gold look, and can totally see it this fall with simple dresses and come winter it will be fab with a merino turtleneck and a pair of dark slim jeans.  the chain is adjustable, which is always a big plus with me.  I always have major success with Ann Taylor jewelry!

Today’s History Lesson – Old Navy and Me

History of Gap Old Navy SuperGapSuperGap was the pioneer outlet store – a cheaper version of the famous Gap brand, it sold lower-priced versions of their wardrobe staples and irregular and damaged pieces from the classic Gap stores. Growing up in middle-class America, our first stop for back to school shopping was at the nearby SuperGap, getting “name brand” clothing for a reasonable price. If it weren’t for SuperGap, my 6th grade and on wardrobe would consist of poorly-thought out fashions from Bradlees’ located just a mile down Greenbelt Road.

The nearby strip mall had a SuperGap. As soon as I turned 16, I turned in an employment application there, in hopes to get a job there and a discount on high school must-haves – jeans, hoodies, rugby shirts and ragg socks. I was never called for an interview but my friend Wendy, who had previous experience at Sears did get a job there.

SuperGap eventually changed to Gap Warehouse and carried less factory-store items and more irregulars and returns from the traditional Gap locations in the fancier malls. Hours were spent after school, pouring through rounders and racks for jeans and sweatshirts that fit and didn’t have obvious garment flaws.

A few years later (1993, the same year I graduated from high school), SuperGap shut down, but opened up at the end of the same strip mall, with the new name – Denim Supply Company, a brand name under the new Gap Warehouse subsidiary of Gap. Wendy by now was an Assistant Manager and I was able to get the lowdown on the change. Supposedly Gap was doing an experiment in a select few markets – this lower-end Gap that had their own brand, own label, own line of clothing. Not a Factory Store, a separate entity added to the Gap brand.

From a 1993 article in the New York Times:

In an internal memo, the company said the “Gap Warehouse collection was created specifically to improve the productivity of 48 of our current Gap stores ‘which have been an undervalued asset in our company,’ says Mickey Drexler, president of Gap Inc.”

Analysts said the new merchandising strategy was a good way for Gap to compete with other purveyors of basic merchandise without eroding the image of its Gap brand.

For more than a year, Gap stores have marked down prices of their basic merchandise to compete with the department stores and discounters that have begun selling their own versions of Gap staples: T-shirts and blue jeans.

[The Gap is] confronted with the question of whether they’re doing basics or whether they’re doing fashion,” said Heidi R. Steinberg, a retail analyst at Lehman Brothers. “If they stick with basics at Gap, then they’re competing with Wal-Mart and Target, where you can buy Fruit of the Loom all-cotton T-shirts for half the price they are at the Gap.”

“Gap Warehouse clothing will be priced lower than Gap brand clothes because the company is using manufacturing techniques and fabrics that are less expensive. Athletic Department sweats, for example, are 59 percent polyester and 41 percent cotton, while Gap sweats are 100 percent cotton. T-shirts are double-stitched instead of triple-stitched, and there is less detail over all, analysts said.

The company, based in San Francisco, said the new line was not likely to cannibalize the sales of Gap brand clothing because it would appeal to a different type of customer. Robert F. Buchanan, a retail analyst for Alex. Brown & Sons, said mass merchants like Wal-Mart and Kmart were gaining a bigger share of the market for basic clothes, and their customers were different from those who have shopped at the Gap.

“The Gap already has two types of customers: those who shop its store at full price, and those who are looking for sale items,” he said. “There’s a third customer who hasn’t shopped there, and that’s where a lot of the basics business is going.”

A few years later, it seems this experiment worked for Denim Supply Company/Gap Warehouse as that this location (and all others across the county) shut down and a few months later, right next to the old SuperGap location (which was now an H&R Block) they opened an Old Navy, which exists to this day.

old navy storefrontOld Navy fit the feeling of the time – the grunge era, where it was cool to not spend money on clothing; where fashion came from thrift stores and not from higher-priced specialty and department stores.

Named after a bar the Gap CEO visited in Paris; Old Navy Clothing Co. was the new member of the Gap company (though the original name was going to be Elevator, Monorail or Forklift, to evoke the industrial bare-bones concept of the store). Unlike lower-priced peers like Sears and Kmart, Old Navy combined cost-affordable apparel with great ambiance – loud popular music, quirky ad campaigns and colorful store décor within a warehouse-inspired core. Old Navys were put in lower-rent strip malls (like my nearby Greenway Center) instead of higher-cost malls to help keep prices low and target the appropriate customer – the customer who also shops Wal-Mart, Kmart and Toys R Us. They also did it by taking the staples of Father Gap, but recreated them with cheaper materials, stitching and fabrication (a CNN Money article from 1996 quotes an Old Navy customer as noting that denim shirts from Old Navy are only washed once before selling, versus Gap shirts being washed three times. This difference ensured consistent color in Gap shirts, but a far lower cost to create the Old Navy version).

Years later, we forget when Gap Warehouse ended and Old Navy began. Old Navy, like Target and Starbucks has become a standard in the culture, language and lifestyle of Americans. What was a random experiment by The Gap in attempt to revive slumping sales has become a necessity in the wardrobe of all income levels and ages of our society. I mean, who these days doesn’t own at least a tee shirt or pair of lounge pants from Old Navy?

In honor of my favorite discount fashion Mecca, here are a few links about Old Navy that may interest you:

Woman Cannot Live on Ribbed Tanks Alone…

I went shopping this weekend with my sister, and a bit by myself. I was not nearly as successful as I had hoped to be….

Mall #1:

  • Black ribbed tank, Caslon (Nordstrom – got one last year and it has held up amazingly well)
  • Gray ribbed tank, Caslon (Nordstrom)
  • Pair of black Hanky Panky thongs (Nordstrom – love these, they are sexy and comfortable and durable!)
  • Coral surplice-front sleeveless top, Banana Republic (I think I will return it; my sister loved it on me, I like the color but I don’t LOVE me in it… hanging in the closet right now with the receipt safety-pinned to the label)
  • Other Attempts:
    • I did try on some of the new BCBG collection and was impressed with the cut, though they still do not cater to a large bust (tried on a Pucci-inspired dress in black, white and turquoise and the synthetic fabric went sheer over my bust due to the straining of the fabric).
    • I tried the David Khan jeans because they had them in Petite at Nordstrom and I do like them very much, but I didn’t want to lie down with them and then marry them and possibly bear children with them. I need to feel this for jeans that are over $150. I could date them for a long while, but I didn’t feel the PASSION… I shall keep looking!
    • A floral baby-doll top at Torrid. Oh gosh, please remind me to NEVER try on anything with elastic at the armholes! So bad on me!

Old Navy:

  • Coral ribbed tank
  • White ribbed tank
  • Camouflage-print Bermuda shorts (in a size 10! Love that vanity sizing at old Navy!)
  • Other Attempts:
    • The sundresses in the ads that are under $30 but now on sale for $24? Yeah, buy them only if you have short legs, small boobs and a wide torso. The dresses were too short for my 5’3” frame, no room made for breasts, and you could see the underwire, connector between the underwire and most of the cup of my bra in the Large and the XL wouldn’t stay on my shoulders, it was so wide in shape.
    • The linen Bermudas are super cute, but run super small. So small, I just couldn’t fathom going up 1-2 sizes for a comfortable and flattering fit.
    • Sorry, Old Navy tanks are just not as nice as the Caslon ones. Their color selection right now SUCKS, but I am a sucker for coral and my J. Crew white ribbed tank should be burned.
    • There are a TON of dresses in Old Navy right now, made to fit a taller person with smaller breasts. There is a sleeveless v-neck fine jersey one that comes in black, brown, coral and leaf green. It is a gorgeous dress that could work for work, play, a beach cover-up or even a wedding. If you are over 5’5” I encourage you to check it out; I believe it’s under $30. There are knit ones with adjustable spaghetti straps that are also quite lovely (I almost bought the gray one but decided it was too revealing in the bust area).
    • Dark denim cuffed jeans – They fit, they were dark with the selvage… they hit at the WORST place on my leg… right at the top of my very wide calf. These jeans made me look as though I had gained 30 pounds all below the belt. So bad.

Mall #2 on Lunch Break Today:

  • Coconut Body Butter and Body Scrub, the Body Shop (I was out, I had received a gift and didn’t want it so made an exchange).
  • Coral scoop-necked longer tee, Gap (um, yes I already own this same very tee but it was $6.99 and I accidentally put my current one in the dryer making it not as crisp so I felt it was a good purchase).
  • Hibiscus zip-up heavy canvas/fleece hoodie with a distressed look, Gap (I do not own a single hoodie and wish for one for brisk mornings walking the dog, camping trips, bumming around the house. It was $12.99 and a pretty color and a good fit).
  • Black stretch twill trousers, Caslon (Nordstrom – petites section, they are $68, unlined, come in olive and brown and beige and black. They had white in regular length and if I find them in Petite will snag them. They are a perfect length for me even with heels, they hug the butt in a “look at my new thinner butt!” way and not in a “I am a hoochie mama!” way. They are begging to be ironed with a nice crisp crease down the front, and they do not need to be dry cleaned so I am looking forward to them being a new pair of work pants (with a jacket or hip-length top) or weekend pants (with anything… looked cute even with my ribbed tank and necklace in the fitting room!). These pants were not on the Nordstrom website this weekend; they have a very wide waistband with double hook-and-eye and a button.
  • Other Attempts:
    • All of Ann Taylor is navy. This sucks, because I do not own navy pants, nor navy shoes. I refuse to buy navy or brown in large quantities for the need to adjust my shoes and accessory wardrobe to accommodate the colors. Long ago I decided my neutrals would be black, white, stone, cream and gray. For these, I have shoes. I will not go into debt for a beautiful navy printed silk top, and I do not like camel or tan shoes on me.
    • Gap has what looks like dark denim cutoff shorts at around Bermuda length. Oh no, they are culottes. They are not gauchos, they are culottes. They are AWFUL and made me giggle in the fitting room. I would like to see them be flattering on SOMEONE. Not fit, not seem hip, but actually be FLATTERING. I can’t imagine it.

American Apparel Website:

  • The scoop-necked ribbed tees I wore the heck out of last summer, though this summer I invested only in the royal blue and the bright orange.
  • Other Alternatives:
    • Nothing. Everything else on that site is a bit strange or slutty. Almost bought a pair of legwarmers but thought better of it.

J.Crew Website:

  • Bright light green tissue-weight merino boatneck sweater
  • Bright orange/coral v-neck Egyptian Cotton sweater
  • Pair of jeans… will see if they look good.
  • Other Alternatives:
    • Nothing really. Not to impressed so far this season.

Things I am Jonesing For Now That I Have Ventured to a Mall:

  • Pretty much the entire catalog I received from Athleta. I love this catalog! It makes me want to go rock climbing or something.
  • A white wrap shirt with stretch that will fit nicely over my bust (no cami, maybe a small safety pin, a nice clean look).
  • Dark jeans with a real strong crease down the front and some stretch
  • A fabulous pair of peep-toe wedges that make people gasp with jealousy and desire.
  • A crisp green scent of perfume… considering the new Chanel Chance Eau Fraiche as that I have worn Chance in the winter and loved it.
  • A longer top, sorta hippie, sorta sheer, maybe white with embroidery. Tried a close attempt of this idea on at Gap, but it had such a low v-front it would need a cami… not too wearable in humid Eastern Seaboard summers. I want to wear it with jeans and sandals.
  • A new pair of comfy black shoes that can be worn for photography shoots, wedding coordination and not make me look dorky.
  • A new black synthetic cami that hugs the body (not cotton)
  • A big skinny pair of silver hoops
  • Some new yoga pants and maybe a top that isn’t an old fitted tee. This is something I now do 4-6 times a week, I want to treat my dedication with something better than old faded sweats.
  • A crinkled linen dress, preferably with a surplice neck, empire waist, in khaki or black or indigo… something that can be worn with heeled sandals and a necklace for a summer wedding, made work-appropriate, or fine with flops for dinner at the beach.
  • White stretch twill pants with a clean straight leg and a nice crease down the front. Heck, if there is a matching blazer I’ll snag that too!

Amazing how a trip to the mall can totally transform your ideas! I will take your lsit of makeup suggestions this week to a lunch-break Sephora venture!

How to Be Stylish on a Budget

The most popular question I receive is how to be stylish and look great when you don’t have a lot of money. I don’t believe that money equals style. Think of style like a college education. Jane gets a full scholarship to State U, Sara’s parents fund her entire four years at the same college, and Amy works full-time and takes classes when her schedule and budget permits. All three get degrees, all three have to work equally hard in the classes to get that degree, they just fund it in different ways. Your style can happen no matter your income level, it just may take a bit more time or a bit more effort and creativity.

Here’s some of my tried and true tips to be stylish and look great, no matter your budget.

Don’t Buy a Fake
If you can’t afford a real Birkin, don’t buy a fake one. That means don’t buy those faux designer bags that are sold on street corners in the city, and don’t buy bags from lower-end designers that are trying desperately to look like another. No monogrammed fabric, no padlocks, no trends replicated right off the runway.

This also goes for shoes and accessories. If you can’t afford the original, don’t buy a cheap copy. You are an original, make sure your style is as well. The only place where I think it’s okay to wear fake is when it comes to fur. Fake fur can be done well and can be darn fun, but don’t try to fool anyone with a floor-length faux mink!

Follow the Trends
No need to subscribe to every magazine under the sun and watch livestream of New York Fashion Week, but be aware of designer fashion. Know what the hot designers are featuring each season so you can stay one step ahead in translating it. Not only will this help you avoid fakes, it will help you understand how to style unique pieces and mix prints and colors in a modern manner.

Most fashion magazines do a web-based recap after each Fashion Week showing what trends were hot and what designers showed those trends. In these slideshows of 30 – 300 images, you’ll see the underlying themes of the upcoming season, be it a certain print, heel height, fabric, skirt silhouette, or lipstick color. This is also a great time to use Pinterest – follow Pinners who are knowledgeable about fashion and see what they pin the week after Fashion Week. See what appeals to you, and what is feasible to add to your wardrobe considering your lifestyle and budget.

Shop for Need not for Want
Shopping feels good. The ego is boosted when you put on a new dress. The idea of something new takes the stress off a first date or a job interview. I get it, I know, and I do it often. The thing is, when you shop, even if it’s for $5 clearance earrings, you’re taking away money that could be used for something better. Consider the Return on Investment (ROI) on each thing you buy, even if it’s 99 cents. Don’t buy just to buy, don’t buy to feel better. Buy to fill wardrobe holes and to look better today and a year from today.

Focus on Fit
One reason big box clothing is cheaper than designer is because more are made at once. The piles of fabric are higher when they are cut for the pattern, which can cause pieces to be different sizes. This is why sometimes a jacket has one sleeve a bit tighter or one pant leg a hair longer. Also, vanity sizing is more common in lower-cost stores.

Because of these two things, it’s imperative to try things on before you buy. Same dress and a 10 may fit but a 14 may be too small. Ignore the size on the label and if in doubt, buy a bit too big. It’s easier to style something a bit big than make a too-small piece look polished, and many simple alterations can be done at a reasonable price by your local dry cleaner.

And with everything, when you have the money, hit the tailor.  A tailor can make a clearance rack find look like a custom piece!

Choose Solids
This is my most controversial tip, but I stand behind it. A solid black dress will look more expensive than a floral. A solid blue top will be more classic than a plaid. Prints can look dated quickly. Prints can fade if not done well. Lower-priced garments often try to replicate runway prints and we already went over wearing fakes. Also, lower-priced prints aren’t as likely to be matched up, making the cheaper fabrication far more obvious.

Don’t Buy Any Old Fabric
I don’t buy 100% cotton shirts from lower-priced retailers because the cotton is often rough and more likely to wrinkle just if you look at it. I don’t purchase cashmere or cashmere blends from discount shops because the gauge is usually so low it’s transparent or else balls up and pills within an hour of wearing. Don’t just assume all fabrics are made the same; some are just better when purchased from reputable and higher-end brands. That being said, jersey knits, matte jersey, merino wool, ponte knit, chambray, polyester and blends are usually just fine at a lower price point.

Shop outside your Comfort Zone
You know where I do find budget-friendly cotton shirts? Lands’ End. Their prices are reasonable, their quality is stellar, and you can do returns at Sears. Lately I have received quite a few fab dresses from Gwynnie Bee and have been surprised to see they are from Coldwater Creek, a shop I previously considered to be “mom clothes.” My point is that there’s more out there than you may assume. Use blogs and Pinterest to learn about new retailers, Google them to see their ratings, and if they have a good return policy or a store nearby give them a try. You never know, the one item you have desperately needed may be for sale there and at a very nice price!

Baby your Purchases
Polish your shoes and get them reheeled and resoled when needed. Follow the laundry instructions. Hang up after wearing, don’t throw on the floor. Spot clean instead of laundering after every wear. Iron and steam to have pieces look like new after being worn or washed. Mend fallen hems, keep a jar of spare buttons so you can easily find and replace when necessary. It doesn’t matter if it cost $10 or $100, if you care for it, it will look better and last longer.

Quality not Quantity
You don’t need a completely different outfit for every day of the month. You don’t need 10 pairs of $1 Old Navy flip flops, a dozen pairs of jeans, or even three purses. Style comes from choosing wardrobe additions thoughtfully. Not only that, if you didn’t buy 10 pairs of $30 jeans, you could afford a pair of $100 jeans and have them professionally tailored to the right length and to prevent gaping at the waist.

When it comes to quality, it can honestly be found at any pricepoint. One of the most versatile dresses in my wardrobe was $39.99 at Target; I bought it four years ago and still get compliments each time I wear it. My favorite denim shorts are Mossimo and I self-distressed (using this video as a guide) to make them look old and cool and expensive. Thrift stores are always a goldmine, but so are your neighborhood big box retailers.

For more tips, check out:

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