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Fashion Undressed: NYFW Trends Redux and Reinvented

alison santighian for wardrobe oxygen

It’s Fashion Week season; New York kicks it off. A week in the Big Apple, and show after show, row after row, model after model. There’s hair, there’s makeup. There are lines wrapped around the corner, eager – but pretending to be bored with it all – faces jostling for a position close enough to the runway to see…and be seen.

There’s a lot of hullabaloo in the media about the hullabaloo. There’s question about what’s more important to the fashion industry, the flashbulbs or the designs. There’s question about the models. There’s question about whether ready-to-wear really is.

As a 41-year-old woman with a full time job and a family, even one who loves Fashion for the art that it is, I sometimes question the runway’s place in reality. The runway’s connection to me may be tentative, but it’s tentative like a beautiful gossamer thread. It’s tentative like a stunning flash of lightning I didn’t quite catch.

Then, those flashes and threads translate to market. Some disappear completely, ending up “runway only.” Other elements become those repeated colors, patterns, shapes, and structures we’ll see copied in store after store the next season.

There were plenty of very wearable designs on the New York runways last week: pretty trousers, elegant dresses, and loads and loads of athletic-inspired looks. Next fall, if retail buyers hold true to runways’ pushes, there are a few trends that have held for a few seasons, and one trend I’m curious to see how it will translate to real life.

The 70s: Keep your bow blouses, boho patterns, and working woman knits. To update them for next fall, though, think about opposites: go monochromatic or use simple contrast – and don’t even think about feathering your hair: sleek, sleek, sleek. Which for me, a mama who never, ever, ever gets to wash and dry her hair properly? Yeah. I’m happy the simple sleek ‘do will be back.

AW15 RTW Trends 70sJason Wu, Anna Sui, Marc Jacobs, images via Style.com

Gym Clothes: Though New York is notoriously casual compared to other fashion weeks, athletic wear (which we welcomed gleefully in the dressy, comfy sweatpant for this past fall) still dominated. Next winter, dig out those turtlenecks and tennis togs. So you don’t look like you’re heading to gym class, though, pick one athletic element in a bold color and temper it with a simple, sleek, and grownup choice like the pencil skirt in the first look here.

AW15 RTW Trends AthleticBand of Outsiders, Lacoste, Katie Gallagher, images via Style.com

Borrowed from the Boys: For the last few seasons, menswear has been all over, and it’s not going away – for good reason. Most of us won’t pull a tie out of the closet each morning, but we will absolutely put on a blazer. Boys wear jackets daily because putting on a tailored jacket ups the ante immediately. It remains to be seen, though, whether retailers will copy the runways with the barely cropped ankle pants or whether they’ll go slouchy. Both are much more doable than it seems at first glance, so maybe we’ll get a choice in the stores.

AW15 RTW Trends MenswearThom Browne, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, images via Style.com

The 2015 Bustle: The most intriguing trend out of New York, though, was the bustle’s reappearance. Last popular in, oh, let’s go for the turn of the 20th century, the bustle’s whole purpose is to add distinct shape to a woman’s hips and rear end. Don’t run screaming yet. Remember the peplum? Not one “regular woman” I know, myself included, thought I could pull it off, and so many of us ended up wearing some version of the “hip flip” I never want to see them again. The bustle, though, has an elegance and curve that could be – depending on how it makes it into stores – at once ghostly and contemporary. It can curl, it can flip. It can ride at the waist or sit just below the hip, flirting openly with structure or hiding shyly in a dress’ drape.

AW15 RTW Trends The BustleMarc Jacobs, Creatures of the Wind, Carolina Herrera, images via Style.com

Time will certainly tell if and how these trends make it into our hands next August (because we all love shopping for colder weather in sweltering heat). There are a slew of steps between the runways and stores. There’s media influence, and there are massive market conventions at which retail buyers will pick the pieces manufacturers will then produce for you and me to take home. In the end, most of us will continue to wear what we have already, and some color or pattern might catch our eye. It might be in a magazine or in a store window, but we’ll find it pretty. And then we’ll remember: we saw it on the runway.

Alison SantighianBy day, Alison Santighian is a contractor for the federal government, using her super powers to serve our country, but by night (after bedtime for her “Beans” now 7 and almost 5), she pines after the “it” factor. Alison and “H” (better known as #besthusbandever) don’t believe badass has an expiration date, so they hit concerts, shows, restaurants, and openings across the globe. Alison also writes for Glass Magazine, adding a business woman’s eye to fashion week reviews and style features. Follow her on Twitter.

How to Rock a Crop Top

How to Style a Crop Top

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

Pair with a High-waisted Bottom

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

Wear Over a Dress

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

Layer over a Longer Top

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

Get Matchy Matchy

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

Play with Volume

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

 

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

 

The Bandana is Back!

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

Top Row, Left to Right: Rosy Cheeks | Man Repeller | The Not Vanilla | ELLE España via Le Fashion
Bottom Row, Left to Right: Louis Vuitton via GQ | Stockholm Street Style | Vanessa Jackman | The Blab

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

  • Create a Contradiction. A bandana with a chambray shirt is cliché, a bandana with a leather moto jacket or a silk blouse or a crisp blazer is unexpected.
  • Keep it Crisp and Classic. For now, keep your pink and purple bandanas in the drawer and stick to classics like navy, red, and black. These should also not be the weathered, worn, and torn bandanas you use to mop sweat when gardening or to hold back your hair on a camping trip. The classic color and the crisp finish makes the bandana purposeful and not a leftover from cleaning out the garage.
  • Simplicity is Key. Leandra Medine’s all-white outfit with the bandana tucked into the collar of her shirt is a fabulous example of how to wear a bandana this spring. Minimal color, no competing prints, use the bandana as you would a silk Hermes scarf and let it take center stage.
  • Get Creative. A bandana doesn’t have to be worn knotted in back and draped in front. Check out The Not Vanilla’s post and how she wore it knotted around her throat, and even as a purse and wrist accessory. I recently rolled a bandana , wrapped it twice around my neck and had it peek out of a white button-front shirt; I think it’s fun to spice up a monochromatic look with a bandana tied to a single belt loop at the front of a pair of trousers; don’t be afraid to use a bandana as a headband, kerchief, headwrap, or tied around your ponytail.

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

  • When You Have Short Hair. If you’re draping the bandana in front and the “ears” are peeking out making you feel as though you’re wearing a bib, consider a bit of fashion tape to hold them down. I keep all those tiny safety pins that hold garment hang tags and find them great for a situation like this (I pin the “ears” to the underside so they don’t ruin the line of the scarf).
  • When the Bandana is Too Stiff. A brand new bandana can be as stiff as a piece of paper, and often have hard creases in it. Before trying anything, wash it and throw it in the dryer, preferably with bulky items that would make it bounce around a lot. This often does the trick. If it’s still too stiff for you, an overnight soak in fabric softener or vinegar will soften cotton without fading the fabric. Rinse and tumble dry.
  • When You Want a Bigger Bandana. I desired this very thing to have more variety (and to double-look around my big neck). On eBay I found “Texas Size” bandanas which are 27” (most are 22”). If you search for 27” bandana, you’ll find that many online stores like Amazon offer them, which will give you the length you desire.

Fashion Trends – Back to the Future

The ‘80s and ‘90s are alive this spring, and for my fellow women who lived through this decade, you may feel as though you’re having a flashback. What’s next, mall bangs and charm necklaces? Fear not, while trends that were hot then are back now, they have returned in a very wearable manner. Here’s some tips on how to wear some of these blast-from-the-past fashion trends without repeating history.

Neon
The last time I wore neon, I was in elementary school and thought I would DIE if I didn’t own a pair of Jams. So when this trend returned, I swore I wouldn’t hop on it. And then I saw how very wearable this trend can be.

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With neon, a little goes a very long way. Use it as an accent for the neutrals already in your closet – a chartreuse skinny belt over a gray sheath dress, an electric orange blouse with tan trousers, a shocking pink statement necklace peeking out of the collar of a crisp white shirt.

Even if you dive head-first into the neon waters, keep this retro trend modern by tempering it with neutrals – white, cream, tan, gray and even olive keep these electrified hues looking fresh and even appropriate for the office.

Pastel Denim
I can still remember the issue of Teen Magazine that featured pastel denim – pages of young girls in sherbet-colored skinny jeans with matching oversized jackets and puffy hi-top sneakers. I begged my mother mercilessly until she caved and got me a pair of powder-pink jeans and a matching Henley.

Pastel denim has returned, but in a far more refined and sophisticated manner. Instead of wearing one color from head to toe (or a pastel Texas Tuxedo), it is a wonderful alternative to chinos, cropped pants, and winter’s brighter-colored jeggings. Pair with a white blazer and tan heeled sandals for a modern alternative to the Casual Friday look; freshen up a striped tee or simple knit tank for weekends.

Florals
The ‘90s was a big time for big flowers, be they cabbage roses on a Laura Ashley frock or vintage prints on a grunge babydoll dress. Such floral prints are back, bigger and bolder than ever.

While the floral prints of the ‘90s were feminine, vintage-inspired, and quaint, the floral prints of 2012 are bold and brazen. Oversized prints, bold colors, and clashing of florals are the hot look this season. Look for floral prints in crisp silhouettes – cropped trousers and structured blazers take center stage. A floral cropped pant is surprisingly versatile – wear with a blazer and pumps for the office, with a slouchy tank and platform sandals for the weekend, with a contrasting floral blouse or jacket and heels for a night out on the town.

What is your favorite trend for Spring 2012? What blast-from-the-past trend are you planning on adopting this season?

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Blogger Fashion Trends

Fashion blogs are wonderful resources for fashion inspiration. Real women wearing real clothing from off the rack. It’s far easier to replicate a look worn by your favorite blogger than to imitate the fashion of Sienna Miller or the latest spread in your issue of Vogue.

However, not all blogger fashion is flattering on everyone, and just as with shoots for your favorite glossy magazine – that which is in a photograph may not translate well into real life. As with fashion magazines, one must use fashion blogs for inspiration, but not gospel.

Recently, I have seen a few fashion trends that have been widely accepted by fashion bloggers. They are fun and a great way to mix up the wardrobe, but don’t always translate well into the real world.

Layering
Bloggers will pair tall boots with knee socks and tights, a skirt, an oxford, a sweater, a blazer, a scarf, and a belt. Maybe the fashion blogger will cuff the blazer so the sleeves of the sweater and shirt are highlighted, the scarf looped around their throat with the collar of the oxford peeking out at their chin. The layers look amazing, the combination of textures and colors are inspiring and fresh.

You’re motivated, and head to your closet. You pull out that button-down shirt that gaps at the bust, knowing it won’t be a problem under your merino v-neck. You grab your navy twill blazer that always looks a bit frumpy when worn with a simple shell, your denim skirt, those argyle tights you haven’t been brave enough to wear, your Frye Harness boots and a pair of gray cashmere knee socks. Put it all on, and top with a red skinny belt and that amazing scarf you got last Christmas from your Aunt.

You look like a combination between a homeless woman and Ralphie’s brother Randy from A Christmas Story.

It’s okay, it’s not just you. Many women can’t carry off layers and look as lovely as Kendi Everyday or Sarah from Wearing it On My Sleeves. I can’t. I have large breasts and full upper arms and a short neck. I too would look like Randy from A Christmas Story if I wore more than two layers. It’s okay – it doesn’t make us flawed and it doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from their personal style.

If you can’t carry off multiple layers, you can still find inspiration from the look of layering. I love wearing a pashmina or scarf at my neck – this will give the look of layering without the bulk on my torso. An embroidered scarf with a smooth sweater, a silk patterened scarf tucked into the neckline of a crisp oxford – you are still getting that combination of patterns, textures, and color but you’re working with your own personal figure.

If you are petite and/or curvy, you may find that layers shorten your figure. To elongate your legs but still want the layers for warmth, consider having your layers all in the same color. If you have black tights and black boots, your legs will look longer and slimmer than if you have multiple colors. I have wide calves and know that the tights with socks with boots look is NOT good on me. To stay warm I still wear all three, but just have the socks short enough that they are hidden by the shaft of my boot.

Colored Tights
Visit the We Love Colors Friends blog and you will see tons of gorgeous fashion bloggers showing off their personal style incorporating candy-colored tights. Fashion bloggers are famous for taking a very simple, muted outfit and adding pop to it with legwear in ruby, garnet, emerald, or amethyst. What a great way to jazz up your old LBD and a pair of black shoes? You follow suit and buy yourself some tights in mustard, teal, and magenta.


Tania of What Would a Nerd Wear or Rebecca from The Clothes Horse ROCK the colored tights look. However I have many a time seen a woman on the street who has colored tights on, and it just looks bizarre. The other day, a woman was next to me, waiting for the light to change so she could cross the street. She had on a black wool coat, a brown plaid pleated skirt, bright pumpkin-colored opaque tights and brown T-strap pumps. Sounds cute? Well in real life, those orange tights looked a bit strange and cartoon-like and totally took away from the adorable shoes (and possibly the rest of the outfit hidden under her coat).

This doesn’t mean colored tights don’t translate well into the everyday – it just means you need to assess your entire look. When you look at yourself in a full-length mirror, what do you see first? If your tights are screaming for all the attention and you don’t notice your lovely face, your amazing dress, your fabulous shoes… maybe the tights aren’t the best choice. Accessories are created to accentuate and improve your look, not steal the show. A colored tight can really make pieces a true ensemble, you just need to take into consideration your personality and your wardrobe – it will help you realize if fire engine red is perfect, or if you would look better with a dark maroon.

Unexpected Pairings


Keiko Lynn or Terra at Stylish White Female are amazing examples of beautiful women with a true knack for pairing the unexpected. Lace tights with a plaid skirt? Check. Floaty cocktail dress with biker boots? Check. These fearless fashion females know their way around their wardrobes, their figures, and their personal style and can mix and match like nobody’s business.

This doesn’t mean that in everyone else’s wardrobe anything goes. I often see fashion bloggers try to replicate these looks and instead of looking modern, they look as though they got dressed in the dark. Mixing textures, fabrics, and genres is an art, and it takes time and practice to perfect it. The best way to incorporate this concept into your personal style is to start small.

A great way to start with this concept is to layer a tough jacket over a sweet dress. A biker jacket with feminine lines is a great piece to get this effect – it can be paired with a simple tank and jeans, but also will look quite nice with a sundress with a full skirt or a frilly frock. See how it looks, and really assess how you feel in this combination. If it feels more like a costume than an ensemble, that’s okay. But if you feel good in it – take it to the next level. Try a pair of biker or cowboy boots with a classic sheath, or for your next night out on the town switch out the black top and dark jeans for a silk camisole and a leather jacket, or even a corporate blazer with a frilly shell. With time and experience you will soon be rocking multiple fabrics, textures and genres like a pro!

Belting Everything


Sydney at The Daybook is the Queen of the Belt. She is able to make any outfit look cohesive with a bit of nipping and cinching at the waist. She makes belts seem effortless and a necessary accessory to pull together an outfit. Audi at Fashion for Nerds is another Queen of the Belts, but she rocks belts in a completely different, but incredibly awesome and stylish manner.

Yesterday when I was getting dressed, I thought of Sydney, Audi and the other fashion bloggers who rock the belts with unexpected outfits. I tried a vintage brown leather belt over my gray merino and denim pencil skirt – I thought it would tie in my boots and show off my shape.

I looked as though someone belted a pillow. It was all wrong. The sweater pleated and bunched, bloused out and made me look thicker and shorter than I already am. I decided it was the belt and tried a wider belt, a more narrow belt, a woven belt. All were wrong, wrong wrong. I went sans belt and was a better and more stylish woman because of it.

This doesn’t mean I (or you!) can’t switch up a look with a belt. You just need to know your belting limitations. Try belts in different widths and materials, and also try them at different locations on your torso (I am partial to a wide elastic belt right below the bust – hits at my smallest part and makes my legs look long). A certain belt may look amazing with one outfit, and ghastly with another. Play around with accessories… and if you aren’t one that looks beautiful when belted – it’s okay. Not every woman looks good in every trend. Rock those you can rock, and leave the belts to fashion bloggers like Audi and Sydney.

Shorts in Winter

Oh the winter short – it has been available for the past couple of years. Tweed, wool, distressed denim and this year leather, paired with tights or patterned stockings it can be utterly chic. Claire from Faboo and Le Blog de Betty are two fashion bloggers I think of when I think of winter shorts. Both of them make the look so lovely and effortless.

Last week I was shopping and came upon a woman in winter shorts. She was petite – short, slim, adorable. She was wearing a cream ribbed turtleneck sweater, brown tweed cuffed shorts, brown textured tights and brown ankle booties. She looked as though someone ate the legs of her trousers.

Like mixing textures and genres, it is a fine art to master the winter short. It’s all about proportions – the right length and fullness for your figure, the right pieces with it, the right location. One misstep and you look as though your upper half is in Minnesota and your bottom half in Miami.

As with any other trend, start small and conservative. A black wool short with black tights and black sleek booties will give a nice cohesive line and the focus won’t be on your shorts, but your ensemble. Again, wear this look and see how you feel. Do you feel ridiculous, or do you feel fierce? from here you can develop your winter short skills with colors and other fabrics (I personally love the leather look!).

What is your favorite trend that you learned from a fashion blogger?  Have you been able to incorporate it into your personal style?

How to Look Current: Fashion Trends to Keep or Retire for 2014

We’ve had a few crazy seasons of fashion, where color, statements, and whimsy were embraced. And I think that’s great, it gave women a true opportunity to have fun with fashion, to embrace something new and step out of the box that we were in for quite a long while. But when a trend is good, it often ends up becoming too popular and ends up losing all the charm that made it popular in the first place.

I don’t believe in chasing every fashion trend, and I believe that if something really fits with your personal style you can wear it even after it has left the retail stores. Look at a street style blog (or Advanced Style my favorite site for style inspiration) and you’ll see many a fashionista sporting last year’s hemline, heel height, color, or It Bag with amazing style. But if you haven’t yet defined your personal style, it’s good to be aware of trends, and to know when to let go of passing trends to stay current. Wearing trends past their prime overshadows any progress you have made in defining your personal style. With a new season upon us, I ask you to reexamine the trendy pieces in your wardrobe and decide if you’re wearing them because they help define your personal style or if you’re riding a trend train that has already left the station.

Bubble Necklaces. When there’s a display in Walmart featuring these necklaces in every color of the rainbow for only $5.00, it’s time to let the trend go. Bubble necklaces were great, they added a wonderful pop of color to a neutral outfit and really dressed up a simple knit top or dress. Heck, I wore my red bubble necklace to death (see here and here). But this style of necklace is no longer popular. J. Crew started the bubble necklace trend, and you won’t find anything on their site that even slightly resembles them. Look at celebs and style bloggers and you’ll see they aren’t wearing them any more.

Alternative: If you desire a big pop of color on top, consider a scarf; for spring a gauzy lightweight scarf won’t add too much bulk or heat and can look very on trend. If you desire a longer necklace, consider a chain with a pendant (a horn, crystal, or natural-inspired piece is current but not too trendy). If you like the bold statement, statement necklaces are still popular, but they’re shorter and more about pastels and sparkle than big pieces of primary-colored plastic and enamel.

Shop this look: skirt | scarf | bag

Chevron. Oh gosh, has chevron been popular! From infinity scarves to maxi skirts to area rugs and cell phone covers, I think chevron print will always be synonymous with the beginning of the ‘10s. Chevrons remain popular for those with a preppy personal style but for others the print may look quite dated.

Alternative: To achieve the clean look of chevron stripes, consider classic straight stripes. This season I’ve seen a lot of mixing stripes, be it different colors, or a mini stripe mixed with a larger bolder one. If you’re looking for a scarf to jazz up wardrobe staples, consider a fun floral, or a mixed-print scarf. But don’t be afraid to leave the crispness of chevron and try something a bit softer, more unexpected, or subtle. You may find the transition to be a refreshing change!

Sock Buns and Topknots and Barbie Hair. This season is letting hair be hair, with all its bendy, unruly, wacky glory. The slicked back, very crisp looks are over, and we should all celebrate. It has been a few years of hard hair to achieve without a lot of hot tools and many have resorted to falls and extensions to make it work. Retire the fake hair and keratin treatments and allow your hair to show its true self. Let it be long, cut it into a pixie, or consider the lob – a long bob that is long enough for a quick ponytail but not so long it takes an hour to perfect.  A good way to see the change in hair trends is to look at Taylor Swift; Google pictures of her in 2013 and see thick straight bangs and long hair.  This year she has allowed a bend, texture, and even cut off some of that length.

Alternative: If you wish to put up your hair, allow it to be relaxed and a bit messy. Consider putting it half up and allow it to be disheveled a la Brigitte Bardot. Let it be down, and embrace your Bad Hair Day. I type this with what I have decided to call Diane von Furstenberg Hair; my hair is frizzy, it parts in the middle and likes to feather away from my face. This spring I am going to allow it to do it more instead of forcing it into submission with bangs and perfectly crafted waves or curls.

Shop this look: bucket bag | earrings | shoes

Neon. Don’t get me wrong, neon is still a fashion statement in 2014. However, we just went through a period where everyone was wearing big neon yellow statement necklaces, hot pink patent platform pumps, Breton tees done in acid green and fluorescent yellow, and lot of clear and Lucite neon accessories. It was a popular way to dress up a little black dress or make denim and chambray really pop. The thing is every time neon shows up, it comes on too strong and ruins the moment for everyone. Keep the neon tank, the skinny belt, the cashmere sweater but instead pair them with gray, khaki, and olive for an unexpected and more luxe look.

Alternative: Consider not needing that pop of color. Omigod, did I just WRITE THAT? Yes, it is possible to have your outfit look cohesive without a bright belt or necklace or shoe or bag or lip or jacket. After seasons of BRIGHT and BOLD and POP it’s a breath of fresh air to have an ensemble that isn’t carefully crafted and held together with accessories.  If you do desire color, consider a pastel or an icy pale version of the fluorescent brights; they seem subtle but can add much impact to your look!

Shop this look: blue dress | yellow dress

Peplum. I remember peplums from the ‘80s and swore I wouldn’t revisit the trend… and then I bought a peplum top and a peplum dress. I found the trend to be very wearable and an easy way to update the wardrobe. While I don’t think you have to burn every peplum in your closet, I don’t recommend purchasing any more of them and retiring the Judy Jetson-esque stiff extreme peplums you may own.

Alternative: Draping. An asymmetrical hem or draping and rouching can add that level of interest and architecture that made peplums so popular and at the same time flatters curves and camouflages areas you wish to not be on display.

Arm Parties. You all KNOW I love my bracelets. With large breasts and a metal allergy that makes earrings uncomfortable, my wrist is a way to play with jewelry and add color or shine to an outfit. But even I, the bracelet junkie, am paring down. This doesn’t mean get rid of all your bracelets, but wear fewer at a time. I used to wear my gold Citizen watch with a bangle, a chain bracelet, a stretch bracelet, and a bead one; now I pair it with only one or two pieces.

Alternative: Quality, not quantity. Stop buying the cheap flash, and save your pennies for a piece that really speaks to your personal style and makes a statement without yelling. As to what it is, it doesn’t really matter this year; you can wear any color of metal, any textile, any shape as long as it works with the rest of your wardrobe and isn’t paired with 20 other ones.

What trends are are you glad to see retiring this spring?  Which trends will you continue to embrace because they fit your personal style?

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Fall 2012 Fashion Trends: What I’m Loving

It may be 100 degrees outside, but in my heart I’m already craving fall fashion. The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale just ended, and now we’re all getting September issues of fashion magazines in our mailboxes. There are many trends that are hot for the upcoming cooler months – some that are truly wearable for all women, some that are best left to the True Fashionistas and the models on the runways. Here are the trends I can’t wait to embrace once the temperature drops!

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Winter White
Last fall designers took the summer colorblocking trend up a notch with monoblocking. Runways had models sporting one-color outfits from head to toe, or varying intensities of the same hue. This trend has returned for fall, but in one specific color – white. If you are old school like me, you may cringe at the idea of wearing white after Labor Day. However, the runways aren’t showing crisp white in summer fabrics, but varying tones of white in obviously winter fabrics. Suiting, fur, wool, and chunky cable knits were seen in everything from the palest shade of silver to French vanilla.

I have always loved the look of a monochromatic neutral ensemble – it just screams confidence and class. However, no matter the color of my hair or foundation I look positively wretched in khaki, tan, or taupe. This is one reason why I am so excited for this fall trend – I can carry off a winter white cashmere crewneck and wool menswear trousers with a few strands of pearls, or a pearl white fisherman sweater with matching skinny trousers. Luckily, designers such as Proenza Schouler and Alexander Wang paired their white ensembles with black shoes – no need to buy special footwear to properly wear this monochromatic trend!

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Collegiate Chic
Chunky cableknit sweaters, tartans, and tweed are always popular for back-to-school fashion, but this look is also hot this year for the couture lovers. From Michael Kors to Marc Jacobs, plaids, Fair Isle sweaters, tweed blazers and elbow patches are chic, polished, and quite wearable.

While I haven’t worn a plaid kilt since my school days, I’m tempted to scoop one up for fall and wear with a chunky knit sweater, heavyweight tights, and lace-up booties. To keep this trend from looking too twee or like a costume, toughen it up with midi-height lace-up boots, leather jackets, and very sleek modern hair.

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Leather
From sleeveless shells to pleated skirts, leather is a huge trend this fall. The leather leggings of last year are still en vogue, as are the leather pencil skirts and biker jackets. However, leather is now being incorporated to unexpected wardrobe pieces – coat sleeves, sheath dresses, tee shirts and more. While colors like cognac and ivory are quite chic, the hottest trend is basic black. Pair your black leather pencil skirt with a black merino turtleneck, black tights and booties for a look that is both classic and modern. I splurged on a black leather pleated skirt for the upcoming season and plan on adding at least one more black leather piece to my wardrobe.

Leather also went the complete opposite direction this season, with brightly colored leather with a glossy finish. Wet-look and patent leather was seen in yellow, burgundy, and indigo as skirts, trenches, and boots.

Keep in mind that leather stretches – it’s wise to go down a size or buy a piece a tad snug so that it will end up fitting like a glove after a wearing. If you wear a base layer under your leather, it won’t need to be cleaned that often. Spot clean leather when necessary and have it professionally cleaned at the end of the season to protect it from body oils and sweat damage.

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Dark Red
Be it burgundy, merlot, or oxblood – dark red is the new neutral. Designers like DKNY, Alexander Wang, and Nina Ricci showed this color in jersey, fur, leather, and chiffon.  Consider a wool winter coat in this luxurious color, or maybe a chiffon or silk blouse to pair with trousers for the office and dark narrow jeans for evening.

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The Luxe Life
This coming fall and winter, luxe fabrics and embellishments are big, and not just for evening.

Fur has come back en vogue the past few years – last fall and winter it was all about the shaggy fur vest or a faux fur chubby. This fall and winter it has a far more elegant role in fashion – fur collars on coats and suit jackets, stoles over skirt suits and gowns, and full coats with everything from jeans to sequins. Dsquared had a black red carpet-worthy gown with a fur peplum that was utterly divine; I could see myself incorporating a tweed jacket with a fur collar into my wardrobe this season.

Feathers have also made a big comeback, decorating the hems of gowns and layering into a luxe mini. Pair with a blazer or simple cashmere turtleneck from looking too extreme.

Brocade and embellished fabrics have also made a big comeback. Runways featured brocade suits, dresses, and pants paired with fur and chiffon; designers like Balmain and Lanvin featured heavily beaded and jewel-encrusted dresses and separates. Like the feather trend, this ornate trend is best for street wear when balanced with a simple separate – brocade cigarette pants with a crisp white shirt or cashmere crewneck can easily transition from day to night with a quick change of bag, shoes, and lipstick.


What fall and winter fashion trends do you plan on incorporating into your wardrobe?

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Ask Allie: SAHM Capsule Wardrobe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to be a Stylish Woman in her Thirties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Winter Weather and Commuting: Style Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday – Tons of Trends

Jacket - Caslon (similar)
TankCaslon
JeansCAbi Cropped Bree Jean, c/o Lisa Holt, CAbi Consultant
Shoes – Franco Sarto (similar)
BraceletsNordstrom, c/o Soft Surroundings
Hoops – Claire’s Boutique (similar)
Bag – Sabina (similar)

I was looking for a way to tame neon yellow jeans for the office, and by doing so I realize I ended up wearing a ton of hot trends! I’ve got the pop of neon, a touch of animal print, the gold “arm party,” a safari inspiration, and Revlon Lip Butter (Fig Jam). Even though I may be head-to-toe trends, I think it all balances out to an outfit that is fun yet Casual Friday-appropriate for a relaxed office. And speaking of office, I am SO GLAD to be back in it today. Working from home without my laptop and equipment was terribly stressful and I am happy to be surrounded by all my monitors and wires and gadgets!

Any weekend plans? I am going to hit up the HOBO Sample Sale on Sunday, but otherwise the weekend is pretty open. Looking forward to seeing what the weekend brings!

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Ask Allie: Very Casual Office Attire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for Business Travel

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

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

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

Over 30 outfits with only 14 garments (details):

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What I Wore: Fall Trends

Jacket: Mynt 1792 c/o Gwynnie Bee | Tee: Ann Taylor (similar) | Jeans: c/o Liverpool | Boots: DUO (similar) | Necklace: Etsy 

Now THIS is why a subscription to Gwynnie Bee rocks!  I saw Nicolette Mason feature this jacket in her Marie Claire “Big Girl in a Skinny World” column but saw the pricetag and just couldn’t do it.  Then Gwynnie Bee carried this jacket and I raced to put it in my closet.  I’ll admit it’s a bit big for me, but would make a perfect fall coat over sweaters and heavier knits; the X fits like a 16/18 and the jacket is really well crafted.  While I dressed it down with a striped tee and jeans, this is the kind of jacket that would transform a simple black dress to an after-work look or could replace a blazer in a more relaxed or creative office environment!

Interested in trying Gwynnie BeeClick this link and get a 30-day trial for free!  You have nothing to lose, and just style to gain!

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Ask Allie: Collars and Crews

The ever lovely Natalie emailed me and asked,

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

My email response:

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

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

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Summer Sartorial Rules for Corporate America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For some suggestions on appropriate office attire, please visit:

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Winter Style Tips: Warm Fashion for Cold Weather

Many of you have written to me lately on how to handle very cold temperatures while maintaining your personal style. While it’s frigid right now by DC standards, I don’t deal with such cold temps on a regular basis and would never consider myself to be an expert on cold weather fashion. I know many of you live in far colder parts of the country and world than I and would love you to weigh in on what you swear by to stay warm and fashionable. Below are the winter style tips I use to stay warm when it’s super cold:

cold weather fashion how to stay stylish and warm tips

Have a Base Layer

Keeping your core warm will ensure you stay comfortable when the temps drop. Thin layers close to the body will do a remarkably good job without adding too much bulk to your outfit.

  • Fleece and wool tights are my jam; I’ll wear a regular pair of tights under for extra wind and cold protection, and have even worn them under jeans and work trousers.
  • The same holds true for fleece and wool leggings. Check athletic departments and brands for great ones; while some may have reflective strips others will be solid black which will fit perfectly into your work or weekend wardrobe.
  • Wool socks keep your feet warm and dry and also help prevent foot odor. The chunky cable or marled versions are back in style and look cute peeking out of ankle booties or tall socks so they add style with warmth.
  • A silk or heat-keeping fitted tank or cami is a must-have in winter. Brands like Lands’ End carry these in a broad range of sizes and colors so you can find one to fit and become invisible under your clothing.

Wear Smart Accessories

When it comes to accessorizing in the winter, choose pieces that have fashion as well as function. It’s possible for your styling accents to keep you toasty in the winter.

  • I’m such a fan of pashminas. In wool, cashmere, or a blend these scarves are toasty without being bulky, stylish, and versatile. I will cross a pashmina across my body in front before putting on my coat; it will fill the neck area but also add an additional layer of warmth to my core. Once at my destination I’ll loop it around my throat for a pop of color to my outfit. Pashminas are also great when it’s not freezing; they can act as a shawl with a dress and I take them on travel to be my plane blanket as well as to ward off strong A/C on planes and at conferences.
  • A cashmere beanie is in style right now, so it’s easy to find a color and weight that appeals to you. I have a black cashmere beanie that I’ll put on in the morning and not take off until I go to bed. I style my hair around it, intensify my lip color and it’s a chic look that also keeps me warm. Adding a hat when it’s cold can really do much for increasing comfort; in fact I am writing this while wearing my cashmere beanie and am quite comfortable even though it’s around 60 degrees inside.
  • Gloves are a must-have and my favorite are cashmere-lined leather gloves. They are super warm, wind repellent, keep you dry when scraping off your windshield and look quite chic. Right now is the perfect time of year to stock up on leather gloves as they are on sale everywhere after the holidays. I always have a pair of classic black but when I can find fun colors like purple or green on clearance I snatch them up so add a pop of color or fun to black outerwear.

You Need Proper Footwear

When it comes to inclement weather, function always trumps fashion. A pair of warm boots that provide traction on slick sidewalks is a must-have for cold weather. Come winter, I keep a pair of black pumps at the office and wear boots on my commute. When out and about, slim jeans and pants look great peeking out of tall fur-trimmed winter boots for ski lodge style. Tall leather boots (especially if they are waterproof) are wonderful for when it’s cold but there’s no snow or ice; the leather is a wind breaker and an extra layer of warmth. I’ll wear tall leather boots with a dress or skirt, fleece tights and wool knee-high socks and be toasty while still maintaining my personal style.  FYI all the boots featured in the carousel below are waterproof and ready for all sorts of frightful weather!

Choose Outfits with Layers, Length, and Warm Fabrics

If you plan on getting away with a long-sleeved tee and a pair of jeans you’re going to be shivering all day.

  • Layer: I’m a fan of sweater coats, puffer vests, and ponchos come winter because these are easy layers to slip on and off depending on how high the heat is cranking inside. Under, I’ll wear a long-sleeved tee or fitted merino or cashmere sweater and a silk tank under that so when I slip off the topper I am still pulled together and warm. Chunky knits are popular this fall and easy to layer over a silk or knit tee. I’m also known to slip fleece tights or silk longjohns under dress pants or jeans come winter and no one is the wiser except my warm self!
  • Length: Winter isn’t the time for mini skirts and crop tops. I pull out the midi skirts and wear with fleece tights and tall boots, longer tunic sweaters over slim pants or sweater dresses over fleece or wool leggings and tights, and thigh-skimming sweater coats keep my rear and upper legs warm.
  • Warm Fabrics: Wool pants are truly warmer than synthetics; look for a pair with lining to stay itchy-free and add some wind repellant. As mentioned a thousand times already, fleece and wool tights and leggings are a smart choice with dresses and skirts. Leather is wind repellant and warm; I wear a lot of leather skirts come winter for fashion with function. This year sweater and sweatshirt dresses are on trend and look great with tall boots and leggings or thick tights.

Longer Coats that Repel Wind

Many years ago I wrote that women don’t need puffer coats and can be just as warm and more stylish with a wool coat with Thinsulate lining. And now that I commute in a city, ride public transportation in the snow, and walk longer distances I agree with many of you who thought my advice bunk. Buy a coat that keeps you warm. When it comes to frigid temperatures, first look for something that will keep you as warm and dry as possible, then look for stylish touches. A quilted or puffer coat with a longer length is brilliant because it’s wind and water repellant, will keep your bum warm when sitting at the bus stop, prevents gusts from slipping up inside the coat, and is often machine washable. I like styles that at least cover the rear and have a belt which keeps you from looking like the Michelin man. While I wear a hat almost always, a hood is an additionally nice feature when you’re waiting for the train or it begins to drizzle. Buy from a company that is known for outerwear and get one that is made for the climate you experience. Companies like Patagonia, Lands’ End and LL Bean often give temperature ratings for their outerwear helping you make the best coat decision for your lifestyle.

And now I pass it back to you, what are your tips for staying toasty when the temperature drops? What are the best items in your wardrobe for winter weather? What brands or items do you recommend to those who are trying to stay stylish in the cold? Thanks!

 

How to Wear Wardrobe Classics with This Fall’s Trends

I really promote having a closet of wardrobe classics here at Wardrobe Oxygen, but I think it’s also important to add zest to your sartorial staples with seasonal trends that catch your fancy. This fall, there are so many trends that are extremely wearable and can really add interest to your wardrobe classics. Here’s a few of this season’s trends that I think will update all the basics in your closet!

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Leather Jacket

Leather is hot hot hot this fall, and I couldn’t be happier. I have already added two leather skirts to my wardrobe this season, and am looking for a leather jacket and possibly a leather top. While all leather is en vogue right now, a leather jacket is a piece that will not update your wardrobe for the season, but can easily become a wardrobe classic for many seasons to come.

A leather jacket is more of an investment piece – while there are many faux versions on the market, most of them look like faux, and they don’t insulate and fight wind as well as leather. Also a real leather jacket will age nicely, getting softer and molding to your figure. If you choose a style that is either pretty simple and streamlined or incredibly unique (signature color, exaggerated details, etc.) this can be a piece you wear for years.

Biker-inspired jackets are back en vogue though they never really left the fashion scene. A blazer is also a great look that is trendy now and will still be stylish next winter. While black is always chic, this is a great season to try an unexpected hue like oxblood or dark green. Pair with everything from knits and jeans on the weekend to using as a blazer to toughen up office-appropriate sheath dresses.

Cap Toe Shoes

I saw this trend start earlier this year and was pretty excited. I love when fashion grabs hold of a trend that is extremely simple to replicate at any pricepoint. The small addition of a cap to a pair of heels or flats take them from ordinary to extraordinary. While this is a popular trend for fall, it’s not necessarily one that will be seen as passé in a couple months’ time. I recently splurged on a pair of suede Mary Janes with a gold cap toe, but I have seen cap toe shoes everywhere from Chanel to Payless. Not only that, you can DIY a pair of cap toe shoes quite easily! I do recommend if these shoes are for the corporate environment to spend a bit more – cheap shoes often look that way, wear more quickly, and you can lose credibility or authority speaking to clients in cheap-looking shoes.

Wear cap toe shoes in place of your traditional flats or heels – a pop of color or shine will add depth to your classic ensemble. I love the look of tone on tone cap toes, it’s a great alternative to a classic leather ballet flat!

Wine-colored Lips

It is amazing how lipstick can completely transform not only one’s face but her entire ensemble. Adding a new color of lipstick to your beauty routine will quickly give a new life to your wardrobe classics. This season lips are the color of wines – deep reds, dark berries, and rich plums. While glosses were hot for the summer, this fall lips are more creamy. Stain balms, creamy or matte lipsticks and lip crayons take center stage; pack up your high-shine glosses and shimmery sticks for spring. Lipsticks can come at most any pricepoint, and I do find that department store brands do usually have longer wear and are better to your lips, but there’s some great drugstore products out there that will let you try this trend for less. I have the Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Romance (deep red) and Crush Begun (dark wine) and love them for their longevity, and of-the-moment stain with a hint of shine look.

Colored Skinny Jeans

This summer brought denim in candy colors, this fall the colored denim trend has continued but with shades more appropriate for the season of falling leaves. Skinny stretchy jeans in Bordeaux, navy, dark green, mustard and brown are being paired with slouchy sweaters and ballet flats, blazers and booties, and knits with tall boots. This is a trend that can easily transform your closet of wardrobe staples without paying an arm and a leg. While colored jeans are available from most any designer at all sorts of pricetags, I am a fan of the Old Navy Rockstar skinny jeans – at less than $30 they can help you update your wardrobe classics for very little money.

 

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Thursday – Spring Trends Play Nice Together

Neon Blazer - Vince Camuto
Breton Stripe Tee – Armour lux (gift from reader – similar)
Jeans – Kut from Kloth (similar)
Leopard Haircalf Pumps – Nine West (similar)
Bracelet - JewelMint
Bag - Brahmin (similar)

When my husband saw my outfit this morning he said, “Boy you decided to wear every single hot trend together! Where’s the floral pants?” Well floral pants don’t play as nice with other trends or else I would have tried!  I am having a ton of fun playing with pattern and trend mixing this season; I can’t recall a recent season that has had so many wearable and wallet-friendly styles!

Tonight is a night of fashion in Washington DC! DC fashion bloggers Spicy Candy DC are having their South Moon Under Look Book and Release Party, and ReadysetDC is having their Fashion:District event in Georgetown (I went last year and it was awesome). Unfortunately, I am unable to attend either because I have a meeting, but it’s a meeting for an exciting opportunity that I will be sharing with you readers in the near future. If you DC fashionistas attend either Fashion:District or the Spicy Candy DC/South Moon Under event, be sure to come back and give me a recap (and if you blog about it, come back and leave a link in the comments so I can live vicariously through your experience!).

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Postpartum Fashion

postpartum fashion shopping tips advicel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These items aren’t easy to find, but they ARE out there. Some suggestions:

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

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

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

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

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