Search Results for: label/denim

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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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!

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
ShoesTarget
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!

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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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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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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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:
Weddings:
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.

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

SuperGap 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 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:

Sarah Conley from StyleIT reviews the Plus Sized holiday line (cashmere anyone?) on the site Coutorture.

I know I Googled to find out after seeing it the first time… didn’t like Old Navy’s sweater commercial, but fell in love with the song. It’s “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson (saw an interview with Ingrid on VH1 and no, she didn’t get any free sweaters for having her song in the ad).


Bronwyn from Mommy and Maven reviews the pieces from Old Navy that she encountered on her latest jaunt to the store.


Anyone recognize the cute brunette in this Old Navy commercial? It’s Vanessa Hudgens in her pre-High School Musical days.


Want to know what thought process goes behind Old Navy’s packaging? The DieLine interviews Jason Rosenberg, Senior Packaging Designer for Old Navy about the new packaging he created for the men’s and boy’s divisions.

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!

Why Would Someone Pay $150 for a White Tee Shirt?

expensive tee shirt designer worth the price

When some things become popular I really wonder what trendsetters were smoking. This is especially true when commonplace things have a fancy name slapped on them and they’re suddenly worth $500. I’m not going to spend my hard-earned money to advertise YOUR brand, especially if I can find similar at Target for a bundle less. This is how I have felt about tee shirts for a long while. Somehow, that which was purchased from Hanes or Fruit of the Loom is now worth $150 just because some hot designer decided to add it to his collection. No thank you.

When I was in college, my favorite v-neck (when you’re short and busty, v-necks are a godsend) came in a two-pack from Kmart and did just fine. When they got grubby, I’d bleach them, and replace them when they started to yellow. They were a classic, and looked great with my grunge, then preppy/minimalist aesthetic. After college, I was a visual merchandiser for Express and fell hard for their “Metro” v-neck tees. Does anyone else remember these beauties? I had them in a rainbow of colors, but a half dozen in white (the ones from the Mariana Islands were a bit thinner but still opaque and had a better fit over my curves. Yeah, I was that much of a fan of these tees). For my early ‘30s I bounced around budget-friendly retailers and nicer brands found at Marshalls and TJ Maxx. Most of these tees would last a season at most. When I switched to a desk job, I found white tees at my corporate attire stores; Ann Taylor was often where I’d find tees of high quality, though not always the best fit.

And here I am, a couple months from 40 and I’m realizing I have spent a boatload of money on white tee shirts that have never satisfied. Too thin, too tight, too boxy, too stretchy, not stretchy enough, just plain wrong. Hrm, maybe there is something to that $150 “perfect” tee shirt. If it truly IS perfect, it could end up saving me money in the long run. I’m no longer a sloppy young kid who will destroy my tee shirt at a bar crawl or tailgate, I’ll keep the cheap tees for weekends but would like an awesome white tee for concerts, to wear under jackets, to pair with a sequined pencil or taffeta ball skirt. You know, that casually cool tee that looks perfectly worn and slouches in just that right way.

The Tees I Tried:

So I did my own white tee shirt science experiment, trying on and ordering over a dozen different shirts ranging in price to see if I could find my Tee Shirt Holy Grail and if a fancy brand and crazy pricetag does make for a better shirt. I originally planned to share each tee and rate it, but I learned from this process that a simple tee shirt is a very personal purchase. Like a pair of jeans or a tee shirt bra, what is Holy Grail for one is incredibly awful for the other. But what I did learn:

  • Price Does NOT Equal Quality. I was horrified by the quality of some of the pricier tee shirts. J Brand and James Perse both surprised me by the mediocre quality and construction for the price, especially after reading rave reviews from some of my favorite bloggers. An Old Navy Vintage V-neck, if you removed the tag, could be mistaken for many of the $60 – $90 tees I tried, showing that you don’t need a fancy label to get a good tee shirt.However, more expensive tee shirts more often than not had features that made them worth the money, and provide a better fit. Some had back seams, which really improved fit for my curvy figure. Some had no seams, which gave a more refined look and trimmer fit. A big place I noticed the difference was in sleeve length and width; more expensive tees had attention to detail and better fit in this area. Shoulders fit and didn’t just round into sleeves, necklines were made with care, not too wide or low but still a flattering and modern cut. A lot of them had cotton blends that made them drape better or have a different finish (for example this tee from A.L.C. was blended with cashmere, which helps explain the higher price).
  • Don’t Assume You Know Your Size. I wear a 12/14 and I have a large chest. Many of the brands known for expensive/fancy tees I knew didn’t sell clothing in my size, so I assumed their Large would be equivalent to an 8/10. For example, rag & bone’s Large is supposedly a 10/12 yet I found is almost too big for me (the Medium fit but too tight for my comfort). What is slouchy loose on a tall willowy model may be the perfectly not too fitted tee for a shorter curvy woman.
  • Just Because It’s a Tee Doesn’t Mean You Can Abuse It. Whether it’s from Target or T by Alexander Wang, if it’s a Holy Grail tee for you, treat it like fine silk. These aren’t your father’s Fruit of the Looms, they’re a thinner cotton, often a blend, cut specifically to glide over a woman’s curves or slouch in just the right way. Throw them in a machine and let them tumble dry and no matter the cost you may end up with a misshapen dish rag. I recommend washing in a lingerie bag and letting air dry. If like me you don’t have room for a drying rack, do NOT line dry your tee. It will grow and likely end up with bumps in the shoulders. I take two pant hangers and fold it over both of them so it balances the weight and doesn’t end up with bends. Once dry, it can handle a couple minutes in the dryer to soften and get rid of any wrinkles.
  • Tee Shirt Bras Exist for a Reason. The current trend of tees is thin and broken-in, which can make a tee a bit transparent. A nude-to-you tee shirt bra (my favorite one), free of lace and decoration can become virtually invisible even under slub knits.
  • Know Your Tee’s Purpose. There’s tees to wear to the gym, tees to wear gardening or cleaning out the garage, tees to wear to your friend’s house with leggings and an oversized flannel shirt to watch movies. But then there’s tees that can replace a going out top for a night at a bar, tees you wear under a blazer for Sunday brunch or a casual office place, and tees you wear to dress down a more glamorous piece like a sequined jacket or my previously mentioned taffeta ball skirt. Know WHY you need such a tee shirt in your wardrobe before you shop so you get the right fit, neckline, and opacity.
  • No One Needs a $150 Shirt. Seriously, if you’re perfectly happy with the tees your currently own, don’t go trying on designer tee shirts. Your life will be perfectly lovely and stylish without having one in your wardrobe.  One thing I did learn from reading the reviews on tee shirts during this process is how people shop for all the wrong reasons.  Just because you own the tee shirt that your favorite actress or blogger owns doesn’t mean you will look the same in it, or carry it off with the same panache.  Just because a certain brand is in your wardrobe doesn’t mean you’re fashionable.  It’s okay to be inspired by another person, but you will never be fashionable if you’re purchasing to imitate another or to impress with pricepoint or brand.  Style comes from knowing yourself and dressing the part, if you feel a tee shirt over a certain pricepoint is utterly ridiculous no matter the fit, that’s knowing your personal style.  Stick to that, be true to yourself, and your style will shine.
  • As for me, I ended up buying two white tee shirts:

  • rag & bone “Classic V” (size Large) $80.00 – This isn’t tight, but it’s not sloppy or boxy. It’s sheer, but you can’t see my nude tee shirt bra (or belly button or the mole on my back) through it. It’s longer, which makes it easy to tuck in, but it seems to gather/slouch on my hips far better than any other long tee I’ve tried. The V is the perfect length for me (I was looking for a going out tee, not something that would be worn to work). The shoulders and sleeves fit perfectly, and the back seam gives the whole shirt a better drape and fit.
  • Free People Shredded Muscle Tee  (size Large, but I was tempted to size down to Medium and would if it was a darker color) $58.00 – This is a novelty tee for me, I mean who really NEEDS a shirt riddled with holes? I bought it at the end of August and loved it untucked with distressed denim shorts and my silver Birkenstocks for weekends, but now that it has gotten colder I’ve paired with slim jeans and booties for a night out with the girls, and also wore under a blazer for brunch and loved how the distressed tee contrasted with a traditional jacket. This is boxy, but the neck fits nicely (no need to stretch it out like I have to with so many crewnecks yet doesn’t fall off the shoulder), you can’t see my bra when I raise my arms, and it’s thin without being Saran wrap.
  • And now I’d love to hear from you, how much have you paid for a tee shirt? And if you’ve found your Holy Grail tee, please share in the comments along with your general body type. Your Holy Grail very well may be the tee another reader has been looking for all her life!

    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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    How to Not Hate Fashion (AKA On Being a Fashion Connoisseur )

    I love wine, but I don’t know a lot about it. I once subscribed to Food and Wine magazine to educate myself better, but got overwhelmed. I go to the store, look for a bottle between $9 – $15, and often decide based upon the look of the label.

    I love coffee, but I don’t know a lot about it. My husband will ask me whether I like today’s coffee better than yesterday’s as it is a different brand or roast… and I can’t tell the difference. Sometimes I like coffee black, sometimes I don’t, but I don’t really think about why that must be. I am not a brand snob- I like Starbucks because they have fun drink ideas and yes, I am a sucker for their bright green straws. When it comes to coffee, I just know I like coffee – I like it hot for breakfast, I like it iced on a warm sunny day, and I love Frappucinnos and coffee-flavored ice cream.

    When I go to IKEA with my sister, she will comment on how a chair is inspired by Jonathan Adler, or a table is a copy of Saarien. I just see a shiny white table or a pretty chair. I buy home décor based upon what appeals to me, having no clue what is currently hot, trendy, or a bad copy of a famous designer.

    What’s the point of a fashion blogger rambling about furniture and beverages? The point is that I am not a connoisseur but I still allow myself to enjoy these things. No one judges me because I don’t know the difference between coffee from Jamaica or beans from Costa Rica, that I know how many points my Riesling received from Wine Spectator, or what designer inspired my Target shower curtain. No one judges me, and I enjoy myself.

    And all this can be true about fashion. The thing is, you can treat fashion the way you may treat coffee, or wine, or furniture. Enjoy what you enjoy, don’t let all the facts and figures ruin your good time. Go slow, and relish in each pleasurable moment.

    I often meet people who tell me they find fashion is stupid. During our conversation, I find that they don’t necessarily find it stupid, but instead they don’t understand it, or its relevance in their life. We often find that which we do not know or understand to be “stupid” or “pointless.” Think about it, have you ever found your husband’s passion for football or your best friend’s love of electronica to be strange? It’s not that it is stupid, it’s just foreign to you.

    Unless you are a nudist, fashion is a form of art we all have to embrace in some manner. I always feel that if you have to do something, you might as well find pleasure in it. You don’t need to be a connoisseur to have fun with fashion.

    How to Not Hate Fashion:
    - Buy colors you love. I am always surprised when I meet people who have colorful lives and personalities yet dress in drab neutrals. With discussion, I find they buy nondescript clothing to hide the fact that they fear fashion. 2012 is a wonderful year for color lovers, where you can find everything from dresses to denim in almost any color in the Crayola box. No need to leave the silhouettes and garment styles you find safe and comfortable, but if you love green why not buy a piece in that hue?

    - Create a uniform. When I visit the closets of people who don’t like fashion, they usually have two to three times more clothing in their closet than I. Stop with all the mindless shopping and purchase garments that are tried and true. Heck, buy multiples. There is nothing wrong with having three pairs of the same black pants, and the same sweater in four different colors. I may seem to wear a different thing every day, but if you look closely I stick to a uniform of similar silhouettes that I know work for my body and lifestyle.

    - Embrace accessories. If you feel most comfortable in simple pieces, show who you are with accessories. Scarves, necklaces, bangle bracelets, brooches, headbands, belts… simple low-cost pieces that can revolutionize your wardrobe.

    - Consider shopping online. I used to hate my body. I would stand in a fitting room in a too-tight skirt and see-through blouse, my pale large legs and black trouser socks, glistening with sweat and tears from another horrific mall session. Each time I went shopping, I felt as though I was too fat, too soft, too short, too unusual for fashion. Then I had a baby and no time to actually go to a mall or boutique and had to rely on the Internet. This simple change improved my feeling about my body and the clothes that go on it every day.

    Now I can try clothes on with natural light, with a mirror I trust. I can take off the trouser socks and put on a pair of pumps. I can see if a blouse fits better with a different bra, a dress with a pair of Spanx. I can really know if that belt will work with the dress I already own. Now online shopping can be daunting, but once you find brands and retailers you know like your body, it makes it easier; also more and more companies are offering free shipping and easy/free/in-store returns.

    - Act as though fashion is a restaurant. If you despise liver yet it’s on the menu, you don’t reject the entire restaurant, you just choose a different entrée. If you find an entrée that looks appealing, but would prefer vegetables instead of the rice you ask the waiter for a switch and enjoy your custom meal. If you’re a vegetarian, you pick entrees that are animal-free, asking the waiter for suggestions and clarification. While society claims that you should drink red wine with beef but you’re craving a glass of Chardonnay with your filet mignon, get the Chardonnay and drink it with joy.

    You don’t have to wear what everyone else wears. Heck, you really don’t need my wardrobe staples if you know yourself and your personal wardrobe needs. However, like a restaurant, you may not even know your favorite entrée until you try something new. Start small, an appetizer as you will. Step outside your comfort zone with a different retailer, different color, different silhouette. If you don’t like it, move on. Don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame fashion as a whole. You can’t blame a whole restaurant because you personally don’t like their risotto.

    - Treat personal style the way you would a ‘Couch to 5k.’ No one expects you to be an expert fashionistas in a day… or even a year. The only way to find your personal style and have your exterior match your interior is with small steps. Slowly, gently venture out of your comfort zone and find out what looks and feels right.

    ***

    No one expects you to be a fashion connoisseur unless you have chosen fashion to be your profession and life. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t become comfortable with some aspects of it. Honing your personal style helps people understand the true you, helps you feel and look like a cohesive person, and can make life easier and more enjoyable. Go slow, use care, and remember that half the fun of reaching your destination is the journey to get there!

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    The Return of the Pant

    Thank you, Fashion Gods, for shining down on us so brightly this season. After seasons and seasons, years and years of jeans being the wardrobe staple, pants have come back as a wardrobe must-have. Slim fit, wide leg, men’s style, cropped, long, even Bermuda shorts are all over the runways, in the magazines and on the racks at the local mall. I couldn’t be happier, and you should be too.

    But why, you ask. Jeans are great – they are comfortable, they are easy and with the way fashion has been of late, they can go from Wal-Mart to work to an upscale night club all with the change of shoes and bag. Well, that is true if you have a model’s body and a celebrity’s budget. But for the rest of America, the jeans look has not been pretty.

    Jeans are NOT comfortable. How can a stiff, stitched double layer of heavy cotton punched with metal buttons and closures feel good on your belly while you sit? How many gyrations, squats and shakes do you do every morning to get your jeans over your thighs, hips and rear? Those who do not partake in The Denim Dance – do you have a full-length mirror and a hand mirror? Take a look at your rear view – how saggy is the denim below the pockets? Are the pockets even located on your bum any more? Jeans that look hip and fashionable are rarely comfortable, and those that are comfortable are far from flattering.

    Denim does have it’s perks – it hides stains, it’s heavy so it hides cellulite and other body sins, it doesn’t wrinkle and goes with most colors. However, walk through your local mall or sports arena – you will see that most women just do not look good in their jeans. They are the wrong color, wrong length, wrong cut, wrong fit, wrong brand. Unlike a pair of black trousers, you cannot get away with cheap jeans looking expensive. We are fully aware that those jeans are not designer, even with the gaudy Bedazzling on your rear. Like a designer purse, the money is in the details. You cannot find those details in a pair of LEI’s, Mudds or Arizona jeans, try as you might.

    SO keep your jeans for weekends and return to the trouser for other aspects of your life – your body will thank you.

    Pants are elegant. This season they are shown in a multitude of styles, so there truly is a cut for every body type. The lighter weight fabric and lining glides over the body like an expensive silk slip. Rolls and bumps become feminine curves in trousers. Legs are lengthened, bellies are minimized, and your old twinset is revitalized.

    The most universally flattering style is a flat front, straight leg. The pants should skim, not hug your curves. A tab waist is very comfortable and minimizes a belly. I recommend staying away from slash front pockets – they bow out on most feminine shapes and ruin the line of the pants. For back pockets, coin or flap ones are good at hiding the rear, lack of pockets makes a rear look more shapely. Stay away from patch pockets – they cheapen the look of the pants.

    Think Katherine Hepburn, Rita Hayworth. Would you ever see these women schlepping around in jeans? Pants made them elegant, feminine yet strong. Pants defined their look and people covet that look decades later. A well fitting pair of pants will make everything in your wardrobe look upscale. A pair of white pants with a fitted tee in a jewel tone and some strappy heels looks appropriate for lunch. Take that same tee with jeans, and you look dressed to wash your car. A white shirt with jeans can often look hokey, but a white shirt with black trousers and a necklace looks elegant, crisp and classic. Your cozy black turtleneck with jeans is homey and basic; your cozy black turtleneck with cream cuffed trousers is chic and perfect for work.

    Switching from jeans to pants will suddenly make you look five pounds slimmer. Denim may hide a multitude of sins, but it also adds a thick layer to what you already carry on your frame. Rears look larger under patch pockets, wasitlines look thicker, hipps look wider. In a pair of men’s style trousers with a lining, suddenly dumpy looks zaftig, bumpy looks feminine, and curves are apprecieated for their feminine beauty. Like jeans, you are still able to cover up all that you wish to hide from the light of day, but unlike jeans, you are able to celebrate the rest of you.

    The Pants to Buy for This Season (and for the rest of your life):

    White Trousers - Just below the belly button, flat front, minimal back pocket, preferably no front pockets. A clean line, straight, possibly wider at the bottom. Preferably no cuff – it will make the trousers more classic. These pants should be lined and of a heavy fabric – cotton, twill, sateen. Look for a fabric with a hint of lycra – this will prevent wrinkles. You want a crisp look – a crease down the front of the leg will elongate. Put your hand in the pants and hold them up to the light – if you can see your hand, put the pants back on the rack. You should not be able to see your underwear, the seams of the lining, anything but crisp, clean white. The length should be long – they should all but cover the heel of your average height of shoe. Once you find these perfect pants, buy a second pair if possible. Somehow the days you wear white pants your kids will do finger-painting in daycare. Also, follow the washing instructions to the letter – sometimes bleach yellows fabrics and dry cleaning can make it gray.

    What to wear them with: Blazer and shells or twinsets for work, fitted tees for weekends, optic-print or jewel toned halters and tanks for play. Peep-toes, heeled sandals, wedges, thongs and even retro sneakers look great with white trousers. White lets you be creative with your footwear – pair a black button-down shirt with white pants and coral snakeskin pumps or gold strappy wedges.

    Chinos – Not your everyday Dockers, these chinos are hip, flattering and can go from work to picnic. Same as the white trousers, you want a slightly lower rise, a straight or fuller leg, minimal pockets. The best colors are traditional khaki or stone. Anything darker or lighter will not transfer from year to year as easily. Again, the length should be long – almost skimming the ground in flat shoes, and covering most of the heel in higher footwear.

    What to wear them with: Chinos are the Skipper if white trousers are Barbie. They look great with a shell and blazer too, but the blazer would be of a more casual fabric like twill or denim. Instead of silk halters, pair chinos with a tube or tank top in jersey or cotton. Chinos are the more spunky and casual relative to your white lined trousers. They will take up many of the roles that your jeans had, but will look far more flattering and chic.

    Neutral Cropped Pants - These are not the skin-tight pedal pushers of a few seasons ago, nor are these the pleated baggy capris in the J. Jill catalog. The cropped pant this season is straight, crisp, not tight but not baggy. There are many styles in the store, but unless you have a perfect figure, I recommend investing in a pair with tab front or jeans-style closure, only coin pockets in the front, any pockets in the back, hit at calf-length, skim the hips and then fall straight down. A sturdy fabric like chino or stretch twill will get you the most mileage. Black is a great color that will dress up or down, but olive green is a popular neutral this season that really makes bright colors pop (and gives you more versatility in what color shoes to wear).

    What to wear them with: Again, they can be dressed up for work with a blazer, twinset or a button-down shirt. They can be made casual with a tank or tee in a bright color. For play, pair the pants with a baby-doll style strapless top or a classic halter in jersey, or get bold with a beaded chiffon camisole. Cropped pants look great with anything from ballet flats to leather thongs to the stacked wood sandals this season to gladiator sandals. Keep it clean, crisp and classic to make the cropped pants look less Soccer mom and more Fashion Plate.

    Black Pants – This should be a year-round staple. You want a seasonless fabric like gabardine, crepe or triacetate. The pants should be lined so they fall gracefully from your curves. No pleats, slash pockets or adornments – these pants need to be basic, elegant and timeless. Like the white pants, you want these to be long – they should all but cover the heel of your average height of shoe.

    What to wear them with: Gosh darned everything in your wardrobe! A crisp white oxford, a candy colored blazer with a shell, a twinset, a silk knit tee in your favorite color, a black and white optic-print tank, a matching blazer for a classic suit, any sweater or knit. As for shoes, you can go from classic black pumps to snakeskin mules to strappy gold heels. Like white pants, these trousers will showcase your footwear, but unlike white trousers, you can let your outfit shine with a pair of classic black shoes to blend in with the bottom half.

    Some Trouser Don’ts
    Even though you love your white pants, that does not mean you should go out and buy a pair of white shoes. White shoes are to be left to nurses and the very skilled and trained fashionistas. If you are like most of America, step away from the white leather sandals and head toward an unexpected neutral like silver or bronze.

    Don’t treat your trousers the way you treated your jeans. If the label says to dry clean, I recommend that you do. They may go through a spin in the washer with Woolite just fine the first time, but too many cleanings like this will disintegrate the seams and lining, remove the crisp creases and make the entire pant misshapen. I have also washed a pair of pants and ended up with the pant shorter than the lining – not a stylish look. With quick and cheap dry cleaners on almost every street corner, leave the cleaning to the pros (though you can spot clean with Shout Wipes and Dryel).

    As with any garment, make sure the top compliments the bottom. Don’t wear a baggy top with full pants unless it’s Halloween and you are dressing up as the Michelin man. On the other side of the coin, do not pair slim pants with a fitted top – it is not stylish to look like a tramp.

    Make sure you have the right length. One should not see your ankle bone unless the pants are purposely cropped. You should not be stepping on your pants either. That may have worked for jeans, but pants are made to look clean and crisp. If they are too long, take them to the cleaners or a tailor – they can hem them for a very reasonable price. Also look at the websites I have posted on the side – there are companies that specialize in petite, long AND fashionable clothing.

    Don’t wear pleats, don’t wear faded clothing, don’t wear hems held up with safety pins or staples, don’t wear winter fabric in the spring (wool, tweed, velvet). Don’t have VPL (visible panty line – invest in some seamless, skin- colored undergarments). Don’t be afraid to go up a size for a good fit – unlike jeans, pants do not always “grow” throughout the day, and the seams are more delicate. If you are squeexing yourself into a 10 for vanity’s sake, try the 12 and just cut out the tag when you get home. As tailors can easily hem a pair of pants that are too long, they can take in a waistband that is too wide. Buy pants to fit your largest part and the rest can be let in. If you invest in good fabric, good cut and if necessary, good tailoring you will have trousers that you can wear year after year and always look smart and chic.

    Ask Allie: Fashion Advice for a Petite SAHM

    Dear Allie,
    I am currently rocking the awful “mom” look aka yoga pants and huge t-shirts and I am so over it! Could you direct me to a few classic pieces to start my wardrobe? I am a stay at home mom with two under two, so I need a practical look. I live in Ohio where the weather is always changing. I am very petite (5’ and less than 100 lbs). I also have trouble finding comfortable shoes that look stylish and fit my size 5 feet. Any advice?
    - Megan

    Dear Megan,
    I am so glad you realize that one can be an active mom while maintaining style. I recently wrote an article on Savings.com about new mom fashion, but will offer some basics that should get you on track without looking like a mom, or like a college student:

    Dark Straight Jeans
    A dark straight jean is classic, can be worn any season of the year, looks more polished than lighter washes, and doesn’t need a fancy label to look chic. Having a straight leg means this jean should work with most any length or style of top in your wardrobe – simple tanks and tees, longer tunics, blazers and cardigans, blouses tucked in or left untucked. Add a bit of spandex so that you won’t be showing your undergarments or cutting into your stomach when crawling on the floor after your little one.

    The Lee Slender Secret 5-pocket Jean is a classic style that is great for women who may have a bit of that baby pooch still left. Oprah recently rated them as a top jean, and reviews state that these jeans in petite are not needing of hemming for those who are 5’ tall. $29.99



    Levi’s 512 jean is a straight, classic style that is made for a woman’s shape. Their Perfectly Slimming 512 Jean has the Lycra to keep your body looking smooth, and giving you the flexibility you need to keep up with your children. Again, this jean is rated great for the really petite woman – they run short so you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg on alterations. $40.00

    A Versatile Trench
    When the weather is chilly one day, hot the next, and rainy the third it’s hard to be prepared. A simple trench or mac in a water-resistant fabric that is lined will keep you looking stylish yet comfortable on those in-between days.

    The Sunshower Coat from Lands End is a favorite – it’s a classic style, breathable, and wrinkle-resistant. Lands End is known for their quality and service so you know you will get a great piece that will give you years of wear. Khaki is a safe bet, but a more memorable color like their Wine Grape will look great with neutrals, make your skin glow, and will give you a sunnier outlook on the day, even if the sky is cloudy. $99.50

    Macy’s Style&Co brand offers great style for a reasonable price. This double-breasted trench has a shorter length that won’t dwarf your petite frame, and the soft sage color will look great with neutrals, but be a fresh change from beige and black outerwear. $79.00

    Solid-colored Seasonally-appropriate Tops
    Toss the oversized tees and stiff striped button-downs. It’s easy to be comfortable, get dressed in an instant yet look great if you have an arsenal of flattering, well-fitting knits in your size and colors you adore. Wash on the gentle cycle, line dry and these pieces can give you years of great wear. Look for pieces with 5% spandex or more – they will be more likely to keep their shape, not need to be ironed, and maintain their color longer than 100% cotton tops. For winter, I love merino wool because it acts like a knit in keeping its shape and flattering the figure, and can also be washed on the gentle cycle.

    Ann Taylor LOFT is a fave of many petite women thanks to their extensive collection, reasonable prices, and truly petite sizing. Their Petite Twisted Boatneck Tee is a fashionable version of the comfy tee shirt. The neckline adds drama to a casual day look, and would fantastic under a cardigan or casual twill blazer. Great colors like Balsam Green and Ocean Depths will complement dark denim, khaki, white, gray, and black. $19.50

    I love Nordstrom’s Caslon line – great wardrobe basics of great quality. The petite Caslon Ballet Neck Tee is a feminine and flattering twist on a simple knit top – the ¾ sleeves make it wearable almost year-round and a scoop neck is lovely on most every woman’s figure. $24.00

    A Casual Blazer
    A great way to jazz up simple tees and jeans is with a casual blazer. If it’s unlined and has a bit of stretch, it’s as comfortable as a hoodie but with far more polish.



    Ann Taylor LOFT’s Petite Urban Twill Blazer is a great choice. The grosgrain trim gives it a unique, higher-end look, and in navy it would go with most any color tank or tee in your closet. $69.99

    The striped blazer from Banana Republic would look amazing with neutral tanks, tees, and bottoms. It would also look quite chic with a pop of color underneath – try candy pink, blood orange, or apple green. The standup collar elongates the frame, making you look taller. $149.99

    A Trendy Knit
    Right now, striped tees are a hot look – this is a great way to add some variety and current fashion to your wardrobe without looking passé in a season. Striped tees look great with a simple denim or twill skirt, under a blazer, with shorts, capris, jeans, and even dressed up with a fuller skirt or with trousers. Add a bit of contrast with a turquoise or coral necklace, or a cardigan in a color like leaf green, tangerine, or yellow.

    This black and cream striped boatneck from Lauren by Ralph Lauren isn’t your ordinary tee shirt – the silver buttons and boatneck make it a refined piece that would look great with jeans, and also with a white twill skirt for spring outings. $59.50



    I own the Striped Sailor Tee from Ann Taylor and adore it – the scoopneck is flattering, the knit heavy and durable, the epaulets give a bit more style and panache. It comes in three colors. $38.00

    A Not-so Little Black Dress
    I have a black wrap dress from Old Navy that I bought years ago on clearance. I wear it with leggings and flats around the house, with heels for a wedding or funeral, with tall boots to work. It’s so versatile, and the matte jersey is a fabric that stretches, gives, washes easily, and looks timeless and seasonless.

    The Petite Gemma Wrap dress from Banana Republic is a great choice – ¾ sleeves work year round, and a true wrap style means you can cinch the waist for a more custom fit. $98.00



    Merona for Target has really come a long way in the past year – the quality has improved immensely, and the style is quite on-trend yet classic. The Merona Petite Faux Wrap Knit Dress is a great choice – the empire waist hides any post-baby pooch, and makes it dress up or down with ease. $20.98

    Shoes
    It often impossible to find size 5 footwear in stores, however the selection is pretty impressive online. Sites like Nordstrom and Zappos have a great selection of smaller sizes that are still stylish and comfortable. I recommend investing in:

    • A sandal with a low wedge heel (more comfortable than heels, able to wear with shorts or with a dress).  The “Amber” wedge-heel sandals from Munro is a great summer choice – uber comfortable, thin elegant straps, will look great with skirts and dresses of all lengths, as well as shorts, trousers, and cropped pants. Munro is known for comfort and quality – these shoes should be wearable even for a day of sightseeing or a trip to Disney World. $179.95
    • A pair of ankle boots you can slip on with jeans and a sweater (low heel, brown or black depending on your wardrobe – more versatile than flats as that they can dress up and also be waterproofed for rainy days).  The “Wisteria” by Merrell has a wedge heel which is comfortable when standing or walking for a long period of time, but can still be paired with casual trousers. They get great reviews for comfort. $140.00
    • A pair of tall riding boots (wear with dresses, over jeans and you will be amazed how they will transform wardrobe basics into something stylish – waterproof them for more versatility).  These riding boots from La Canadiene are so classic – waterproof Italian leather, moisture-wicking lining, memory foam insole, low heel, elegant styling. These are boots you buy now and will still be wearing a decade from now. $256.00
    • A pair of simple black leather pumps for those times when you do need to dress up (they work with pants, dresses, and even with your dark jeans for a Date Night or drinks with your girl friends).  The Nuncio pump from Nine West is a classic pump that will look elegant year-round and years from now. 2.5” heel, elongated toe, and available in narrow and wide widths. $69.95

    For additional petite inspiration, check out: