Search Results for: label/festive evening attire

Recap: Virgin Mobile FreeFest

Each year I clear my calendar for when Virgin Mobile FreeFest tickets are available. It’s a mad scramble using my SmartPhone, multiple browsers, and Facebook but I usually score at least a pair. And each year, something comes up where I end up not going. This year I didn’t score tickets… but I actually attended!

I kept trying to win tickets, entering contests weekly. It seemed all my friends were going and it would be great to go with them. The thing was we didn’t have babysitting available for the whole day and through the night. So when my sister asked if I wanted to be her date with her extra ticket, Karl said I should go and he’d stay home with Emerson. As it drew closer to FreeFest day, more friends were bailing due to work schedules, family emergencies, and other conflicts. It ended up being me, my sister, and our friend Tiffany who went together.

What I Wore: I wanted to be comfortable for 10 hours straight so I worried more about comfort than style.  I wore my blue-gray Old Navy Vintage V-neck, Karen Kane jeggings, my black DUO riding boots, and in my bag was a cotton plain shirt from Lands’ End Canvas.  When it got super windy I put a bandanna (vintage Vision Street Wear) on my head.  Aviators, silver jewelry, and last minute switched from my crossbody to my festival backpack (smart decision).

My sister wanted to arrive in time to see Allen Stone. While I had heard his name, I couldn’t place him and didn’t care one way or another whether I saw his show. We had a late start but arrived before his set, and was able to get a place down center in the Pavilion for it. And I am so glad we did. Allen Stone looks like a grown up Napoleon Dynamite with his oversized glasses, toothy smile and long blonde curls, but he sounds like a young Chris Robinson (from the Black Crowes). While he did two covers (a great rendition of Tell Me Something Good and a bluesy yet hokey version of Bob Marley’s Is This Love), what really stood out were his original songs. Great voice, great songs, great energy… Allen Stone has a new fan!

Who I Saw: I bumped into Tammy from A Loyal Love, Emily from Capital Style, and we met Jason Holt (the drummer for Allen Stone)

After Allen Stone, we headed for the Festival Stage which was in a field back behind the ordinary Merriweather Post Pavilion grounds and caught the majority of the Portugal. The Man set. I know I have Portugal. The Man on my iPod, but I haven’t really listened to them in a while and was pretty impressed by their set. Enough that I added more of their tunes to one of my Spotify playlists. I got pretty close during their set and after they finished I was right on the rail and planned on staying for The Dismemberment Plan, but my friends were hungry so we went to grab lunch.

Who is that short person behind the guy in the furry red hat?  Oh yeah, that’s me in the audience at Nervo!

It was around 4pm and I really wanted to see Santigold so we headed back to the Festival Stage. We ended up passing through the Dance Forest and Nervo was on stage. There was a perfect path from the grass right into the crowd and without any wiggling I ended up almost on the rail. The show was super fun, though the crowd was young enough to be my children. We didn’t care, we danced and jumped and had a blast. However, I decided to leave so I could get a decent spot for Santigold.

This is where I made a major festie mistake – I left without my friends and without a way of contacting them. In just three hours, I had completely drained my phone battery just trying to get reception. I guess this was also a major festie mistake by Virgin – their festival WiFi was practically nonexistent. I was able to get it once at 1:30 or so, and never again. There was no reception for my AT&T phone, and same for those I met who were on Verizon, Sprint, and T Mobile. Maybe it was a calculated plan by Virgin to get people switch to them as their provider? Anyway, with a dead phone in my back pocket, I hoofed it back to the Festival Stage.

Being alone and a woman over 35 has its advantages at a festival. No one messes with you because you could be their mom and you must be cool to be at a festival, and if solo it’s easier to wiggle into a crowd without pissing anyone off. At Santigold I had tall boys regularly see me behind them, and offer me the space in front of them to see better. Within minutes I was only about 10’ from the rail on the left side of the stage. I hadn’t see Santigold live before and have loved her for a while. She didn’t disappoint and she still has a big fan in me.

The fabulous Alabama Shakes

After Santigold, I decided to head back towards the pavilion since I figured at least my sister would want to see Alabama Shakes and they were already playing. I wandered a bit and decided the best chance to see someone I knew would be to stand at the bottom of the lawn, center, right along the sidewalk. I saw fellow blogger Tammy from A Loyal Love; she let me borrow her phone to text my sister my location, but she didn’t get it or didn’t see me. I decided them to enjoy the show and a bit of people watching. Alabama Shakes rocked it, but I didn’t expect otherwise. I saw them at Rams Head Baltimore a few months prior and I recommend seeing them to anyone – truly awesome.

After Alabama Shakes, I decided to stop looking for my friends and just have fun riding solo. We all were adults and knew where the car was, we had all attended many shows and festivals in the past so I knew each of us would likely see the solo experience (I later learned that Debbie and Tiffany got separated soon after losing me) as a blessing and adventure. I headed back to the Festival Stage to catch part of Nas’ set… but soon left. While Nas sounded great, the crowd totally sucked. A lot of jerks, a lot of drunk kids, a lot of aggression. I decided to just wander. I got a beer, moseyed through the lawn, soaked up the atmosphere. I walked past the pavilion where ZZ Top was ready to perform and thought… there’s no other show I REALLY have to see so maybe I’ll check out the situation to get in the pit for Jack White.

I ended up in line along the right side of the pavilion for Jack White with some hardcore fans and ended up catching ZZ Top’s set. I wouldn’t have normally stayed for ZZ Top but was glad I saw it. Those guys are PROS. Their set was tight, they understood their crowd and played the right songs at the right time. They sounded amazing, and I knew my father in law would have been pleased that I saw the performance. I also met some nice people in line and had the opportunity to use my age to my advantage.

While standing in line, some guys started walking right past us, wiggling between our line and the seats. I asked them where they were going. “Getting in line to see Jack White.” I told them we had been waiting for the past hour and the line ended back behind me. They said, “Whatever lady” and tried to push past me. Maybe it was the beer, but I stood my ground and said, “Do you know who I am?” They looked at me, and the lead guy looked a bit scared and said, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize” and walked away. Thank goodness they didn’t ask who I actually was! But seriously, if you think you’re too old for such events, stop and think how badass you look having confidence and walking through all those teenagers. You’re not old, you’re what they wish they could be in 15-30 years. Wear that with honor!

Jack White did every song I could desire – songs from White Stripes, Raconteurs, the Dead Weather, and his solo album!

So finally they started letting us in to the pit. There were already a bunch of people in the pit (VIP? Fan club?) so we tried to find the best places possible. I ended up being right in center, again about 10’ from the rail. Unfortunately though I was close, I had about eight men over 6’ tall in front of me. I had a woman to my left who was about 5’ tall and a woman slightly in front of me to the right who was about my height. We all craned our necks from left to right and if the wind was just so we could see Jack White between shoulders. The pit was pretty packed – there wasn’t any dancing and I couldn’t even raise both hands over my head, but the crowd was pretty awesome… for the most part.

We all had our spots and were getting settled. The guys realized us shorties were behind them and didn’t sway too much. Jack White and his all-female white-gowned band were killing it, and this guy in a Hillbilly Casino Tennessee jacket starts pushing through the crowd. The guy next to me was very zen about it – he told his friends to let Hillbilly Casino go, don’t ruin your own good time getting angry over one human. I liked his mindset… but then Hillbilly Casino tried to get past the tallest guy in the crowd (me and a new friend called him Michael Phelps because he had a similar build and face shape) and NotMichael put out his hand and stopped him… in front of me.

I wasn’t super stressed, Hillbilly Casino was shorter than most of the guys in the area so it actually improved my view. However, this guy had some serious negative energy. He was staring to the left, not to the stage the entire time. He was so angry he was literally shaking, clenching his fists. You could feel the anger radiating off him. The more time that went by, the angrier he got and he started bouncing from one foot to the other like a boxer before a match. I ended up tapping him on the shoulder telling him the crowd was too tight, it was too late in the show, just sit put and accept his place. I couldn’t deal with this hostility and nervous energy less than a foot from my face. He just looked at me as though I was insane and kept on with whatever mission he was on.

See those tall people to the right in the crowd? Yeah, that’s where I was!

We found out what his mission was when the set ended and he took a swing at NotMichael Phelps. Immediately, I grabbed Hillbilly Casino to pull him back (yeah, he was right in looking at me earlier as though I was insane) and two guys also grabbed him. We pulled him back and I pushed him in the chest and we all told him to leave immediately. Luckily he left; those who still had cell phones working (seriously folks, 90% of the people I met had no juice left because of the poor reception) lit them up and we found NotMichael’s cap which flew off during the punch and we all settled in happier and more relaxed for the encore. Oh and to have Hillbilly Casino gone, the thrill of helping to kick him out, extra space, happy neighbors AND Seven Nation Army? Perfect ending to a phenomenal set!

I really wasn’t pressed to see anything after Jack White. the lawn was empty except for trash, the place was clearing out. However, Skrillex was still playing so I decided to walk that way. It had gotten very cold so I put on my plaid shirt and buttoned it all the way up. I was walking from the lawn down near the barn and stepped over some of those plastic plates that cover cables. It was damp, I was tired, and in slow motion I slipped and landed on my ass. I looked up and there were three little girls half naked in fur boots and Native American headdresses and face paint. “Are you okay ma’am? Do you need help getting up?” I know they were just being nice but to be tired, be 37, just semi-fight some guy twice my size, and be literally on my feet for nine hours was too much. I said I was fine, got up, brushed off my ass and my pride and headed to the Festival Stage.

I got to the bridge to that part of the grounds and could see the craziness before me. The stage was lit up, kids were dancing everywhere, the Ferris wheel was spinning, and I just didn’t want to get into all of that. I leaned against the chain link fence enjoying the bass and people watching. A couple slammed against the fence behind me, making out as though they hadn’t seen each other for a year. It didn’t bother me, I actually thought it was sweet but a minute later another couple slammed against the fence in front of me. I decided that was life telling me the day was over so I headed back to the car. My sister was already there, my friend Tiffany arrived soon after and us three old, tired, yet happy women headed home.

Would I go back to Virgin Mobile FreeFest? Yes, in a heartbeat. Sir Richard Branson knows how to throw a party. I was impressed with the little details – the phone booths where you could get a call to win anything from a beer to a meet and greet with a festival performer. That the schedule was set that the folks who prefer rock (and likely were older) had their last shows near the main exit and they ended a bit before the dance music. This way we could get out of the parking lot before all the teens on acid and Ecstasy. Fun additions like a circus (I didn’t see but Debbie and Tiffany caught). Plenty of staff, be it Merriweather folks or the 9:30 Club staff. It was very well organized and a pretty fabulous lineup for a free festival. I also liked it being post-festival season and not when it’s a kazillion degrees. Yes, the crowd is primarily under the age of 25 and I think the majority of those folks were there for the drugs and hook-ups and not music, it was still a lot of fun and look forward to next year’s fest!

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Festival Fashion from a Festival Lover

Every year around this time, fashion blogs, sites, and magazines offer their opinion on great music festival fashion.

And every year around this time you’ll find me shaking my head and getting ragey.

Their fashion advice SUCKS. Sorry magazines, blogs, and sites that I love… don’t give advice on something you know nothing about. You can’t base festie fashion advice on what Emma Roberts wore to Coachella, or what an Olsen sister wore to Bonnaroo. The thing is, celebrities have VIP areas – places with air conditioning, cushy seating, real bathrooms, places to get a bottle of icy water and have a moment to freshen up. They see shows either from the very front row (without having to shove through thousands of sweaty bodies), or from the side of the stage. They roll around the grounds in golf carts, and have shady places to rest and sip a beer.

Fergie, Paris Hilton, Dita Von Teese, and Emma Roberts all wearing celebrity-specific fashion at Coachella 2012

If you’ve been to a music festival, you know this is not how the majority of people roll… and therefore we regular folks need to dress differently.

Music festivals take place during warmer months – even if it’s April, there’s a good chance that it will be blazing hot. If it’s not blazing hot, there’s a good chance it will be raining. What started off as a lush green pasture in just a couple hours’ time will become a dusty dirt pit or else a mucky mud pit. As for the bathrooms? Well get used to very well-used porta-potties that have been sitting in that blazing heat (and are surrounded by that mucky mud).

While fashion experts will suggest white crocheted sundresses, rompers, and wedges, here’s some advice on what to wear to a music festival when you are not on the A List.

1. Flat Shoes. Be they flip flops, leather sandals, or boots… a music festival is NOT a place to wear a heel, a wedge, or even a flatform. You will be walking a lot, and on bumpy, dirty, and possibly muddy terrain. You will be standing a lot, and you won’t have an opportunity to switch out your footwear.

For a single-day festival, a flat sandal that has already been broken in is a great choice. Many like flip flops, but I have seen mucky mud suck flops right off people’s feet. Having a few straps to hold your shoe in place is the best bet. This is a time where TOMS, Vans, Chucks, desert boots, and other lightweight lace-up shoes are a great choice.

For multiple-day festivals, choose comfort over style. A shoe with cushioning, arch support, and protection from mud as well as dry scratchy grasses is perfect. Again, a desert boot or lightweight sneaker is stylish yet comfy; I wear my DUO “Bern” boots to fests and add new inserts for extra cushioning.

Whatever you do, don’t wear your favorite shoes. They may get muddy, may have beer (or something worse) splash on them, and will be pretty beat up come the end of the festival. Choose shoes that can handle a beating (or at least a tumble in the washing machine).

2. Sunhat. So you have a base tan. Maybe you’re a lifeguard and are in the sun all the time. Even if you slathered on the SPF 55, the sun can be brutal at a music festival. To accommodate the crowds, the venue is usually pretty free of trees and shady spots and you will spend the majority of your time uncovered. Keep your head cool and your skin safe with a hat.

While some just like a fedora or baseball cap to look cute and have a bit of shade on the skull, a music festival is a perfect place to look chic in a large-brimmed floppy sunhat. This is a venue where such a hat will be admired, so don’t be afraid to go bright, quirky, or big. Not only will you have people coming up to you complimenting you on your accessory, you will be sun-smart and be better able to enjoy the festival.

3. A Comfortable Bag. You won’t have a place to stash your stuff while standing in line for the porta-potty or rocking out to your favorite band, so you need a bag that is comfortable when worn for long periods of time, and also can hold a lot. While I have been known to sacrifice style and wear a Camelbak, you can also consider a crossbody, which will leave your hands free to take pictures, drink a beer, and put your hands up with the crowd. Test such a bag before going – pile in a bunch of stuff (a jacket, full bottle of water, camera, sunscreen) and see if it digs into your shoulder or inhibits your ability to walk and dance before taking it to the music festival.  As with everything else, be sure your bag is one you don’t mind getting dirty or damaged.

4. Porta-Potty Friendly Fashion. I don’t know WHY every fashion outlet encourages rompers at music festivals. Who wants to strip down naked in a porta-potty? Those locks don’t always work, and you’ll have drunken people with bursting bladders trying anything to find a free john. My friends and I have often accidentally walked in on someone who forgot to lock the porta-potty or had one with a busted lock, imagine how awful it would be to have that happen to you while your entire outfit is at your knees.

Along with this, keep in mind that porta-potty floors are pretty disgusting and there is rarely a shelf or hook available. You need a bag that you don’t need hands to hold, and clothes that won’t drag when you are doing your business. This means overalls, maxi dresses, white and light colored dresses, fitted jeans and pants, and long fringe are poor choices unless you don’t mind wearing the floor muck for the rest of the festival.

Celebrity fest fashion that is actually wearable – Busy Phillips, Vanessa Hudgens, Kelly Osbourne, Kate Bosworth
 

What I Do Suggest:

  • Cotton Sundresses. They’re cute, they’re breezy, and they can look adorable with comfy shoes like TOMS and boots.
  • Denim Cutoffs. This is something fashion experts suggest and I can agree on. As long as they aren’t skin tight and cover your rear, they are durable enough to withstand a music festival, and may even look better after the experience!
  • Bikinis. If you have the figure, a music festival is a place to flaunt it. A bikini top makes a cute pairing with denim cutoffs or even a gauzy peasant skirt and swimwear means you can hop in a fountain or water activity, hose down after a muddy mosh pit, and you can cover and support your bust without additional layers.
  • Cheap Sunglasses. Leave your Chanels at home and head to your local Target (or even gas station) for a pair of oversized aviators or big plastic shades. Your sunglasses can get lost, broken, scratched, stolen, or dulled from dusty winds, it’s not worth it to take the designer shades. Also, this is an environment where a pair of neon yellow faux Wayfarers can actually look cool.


For more music festival fashion advice, check out my post, “What to Wear to a Music Festival.”

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

What I Wore: Festive

Dress: c/o Gwynnie Bee | Belt: c/o gift card from Nordstrom Rack (similar) | Tights: DKNY | Shoes: VC Signature (similar) | Bracelet: J. Crew (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon Matte in Real Red

One great thing about holidays is the permission to wear something that would otherwise be seen as cheesy. This dress came from Gwynnie Bee with a tasteful black skinny belt with gold buckle. Such a combination looked adorable, and I figured I could wear to work with a black cardigan. But for Christmas Eve at my sister’s house, I decided to up the holiday cheese factor and switched out the belt for something that made me look a bit more like a present!  Speaking of presents, if you’re a size 10 or larger, a Gwynnie Bee subscription is a great present for yourself – a whole new wardrobe for the price of a single dress!

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Saturday Evening and Sunday

Saturday evening went shopping, then went out to dinner to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Only had a few minutes to change and dash out the door.

Teal knit dress from Proenza Schouler for Target (think ’06 collection?), brown suede boots from Silhouettes (review available here), avocado green pashmina from Nordstrom (’07), silver cuff and hoops. Wore my long brown suede coat from Express.

Hair not touched from earlier today.

Makeup – added philosophy The Supernatural in Beige over whole face, touch of Nars blush in Orgasm, Revlon ColorStay sheer lipcolor in Sheer Plum.

Sunday we ran errands the first half of the day. Orange shawl-collar merino sweater from Banana Republic (’07), dark “The Flirt” bootcut jeans from Old Navy, black city boots from Impo, diamond solitaire studs and necklace from Diamond Nexus Labs, diamond and sapphire tennis bracelet from Diamond Nexus Labs. To stay warm, wore my long brown suede coat from Express and my green pashmina.

Hair was washed and conditioned, a bit of Jonathan Silky Dirt applied while damp. Dried with a paddle brush, a round brush to smooth the front.

Makeup was L’Oreal True Match concealer in W1-3, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Cargo Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife, Cover Girl Lash Blast in black and Revlon Shiny Sheers lipcolor in Sheer Cocoa Glaze.

Out and About: The Shindig Festival in Baltimore

Last weekend, Karl, my sister, and our two friends headed to Baltimore, Maryland for the 2014 Shindig Festival. It was the weekend before Karl’s birthday (the big 4-0 yo!), and the festival was featuring some pretty great bands that he and I both love: Clutch, Jane’s Addiction, Gogol Bordello, Fishbone, and more.

Since it was Karl’s birthday, we splurged for VIP tickets (regular were $35, VIP $70) and I say if you can swing it, VIP is the way to go. There were two VIP areas with shade, seats, trailer bathrooms in place of porta-potties, separate food and drink vendors, and all the bottled water you’d like was included. The VIP areas had space to the side of each stage where you could get a decent view without being in the crowd; there were also observation decks for each stage just for VIP. The ticket also came with a merchandise packet of one of those backpack/string things, a mix CD and a Shindig tee shirt.

PicMonkey Collage

Karl resting his foot in VIP, wearing his “steel toe boot” c/o CastCoverz! and me in my “OOTD.”  Wore a white tee from rag & bone with my old battered and better with time self-distressed Target shorts, my “festival boots” (the DUO boots I bought in 2007 and wear to every music festival and most concerts), and I tied my Gap plaid flannel around my waist to put on when it got colder after dark.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here, though I’ve shared on Instagram and Twitter, but Karl got a stress fracture in his foot a few weeks ago and has been rocking a boot and had to stop teaching yoga for a while. While the boot helps, he really should keep off his foot as much as possible and I was worried about this festival. However, with VIP (not just the seating and close locations, but closer parking and a shorter line to get in), he was able to rest his foot between must-see sets.

We arrived 1pm and got a lay of the land. The fest was pretty dead at that time, but I wanted to see Charm City Devils. We got there in time to catch a bit of Bad Seed Rising; gotta love young talent and this band rocks it. And Charm City Devils was just as great as I thought; I’d like to see them again in a dark club where the music would be more appropriate. We then went to VIP to get drinks and a snack but returned to see Larry and his Flask. I never heard of this band before but LOVED them! What a fun group, I would totally see them again if they toured the DC area!

1601098_971111502915388_1286494621890906546_n

The crowd at Fishbone, that yellow dot is Karl (being the shortie I am and in front of K you can’t see me)

fishbone

A picture I took of Fishbone lead singer Angelo Moore crowd surfing during the Fishbone show; we then met Angelo during the festival and Karl got a photo with him.

One of the must-sees of the day was Fishbone. When Karl was stationed in Mayport, he saw Fishbone live and it was one of his most memorable shows. Though few of the original members remain, Fishbone’s performance was tight and terribly entertaining. The crowd was also amazing. We were in deep, just a couple people from the pit and the energy was infectious. The pit was one of the most… is courteous a weird word to use? Well it was a courteous pit, where people were aware of one another, having a blast instead of getting angry. I think it helped it was earlier in the day, fewer drunks. There was this one woman on the edge of the pit and she was totally my hero. With my arm and Karl’s leg we had to stay a safe distance away but she was raging for me and it was an awesome sight to see. She probably found me crazy but I had to give her a hug after the show, she proved that you don’t have to be young or male to enjoy a hard rock show.

10632567_973306682695870_2068799122792050946_n

Lzzy Hale of Halestorm, photo via the Shindig Facebook page

This woman was one of many badasses at this festival. The woman power was fierce at Shindig, from female rockers in Bad Seed Rising and Halestorm, to the amazing staff and attendees. I saw a woman wearing a baby in an Ergo rocking the heck out of denim cutoffs, fishnets, and Doc Martens. I stopped a gorgeous woman with white pigtails, a gauzy white dress and combat boots to compliment her on her look, and was in awe by the personal style of so many female rock fans of every age, size, and style. Saturday was such a great reminder to not let the age on your driver’s license dictate your wardrobe, your taste in music, or how you choose to spend your free time.

So back to the festival! We wandered a lot during the day, caught Lucero (who was great), Halestorm (who was phenomenal), J Roddy Walson and the X (they were fine, I know their music and it’s good but it’s not my jam), and returned back to the Babe Stage for Clutch.

10712985_753086571421875_3227002979785718202_n

Photo credit: Cassandra Mullinix of Bucket of Rock Blog

Clutch was another awesome crowd, we saw faces we recognized from previous Clutch shows, one guy even recognized me from the Clutch show at Forecastle! We befriended a couple from North Beach and again were near the pit so we totally vibed off that energy. The crowd was a bit older for Clutch, and since it was later in the day we encountered a few drunk and disorderly people, but we as a fan group took care of one another and quickly got rid of those causing a disturbance. Clutch was awesome as always; I’m sad their 9:30 December show is New Years Eve because I always look forward to it every year but am not going to spend NYE with a bunch of drunk men in a mosh pit and then attempt to drive home.

10665664_973862642640274_6750555659465899925_n

Photo Credit: Cassandra Mullinix of Bucket of Rock Blog, via the Shindig Facebook page

Anyway, back to the fest. We didn’t dig deep into any crowd after Clutch. It had gotten dark but not cold, the moon was shining and we really enjoyed just walking through the fest seeing the scene. We headed over to the Bird Stage to catch Gogol Bordello but missed the beginning and the crowd was super packed so we stayed on the edge. Karl’s foot was starting to ache and while we really wanted to see Jane’s Addiction, we saw them a couple years ago with NIN and didn’t think it was worth possibly hurting Karl’s foot further. So we headed out after Gogol Bordello and went to a nice dinner with our friends. I heard Jane’s Addiction was amazing, but with so many shows under our belts and how busy our lives are, having a leisurely and delicious meal with some of our best friends was the perfect way to end a very fun day.

We usually hit a big music festival every summer, but with my arm and Emerson starting kindergarten that didn’t happen. Going to Shindig got our music festival fix, but it also makes me super excited for the next show on our calendar!

Weekend Attire

Saturday Barbecue
Creased denim trousers from Ann Taylor. White ribbed Favorite Tank from J. Crew with a light aquamarine cashmere tank from The Gap layered over it. Turquoise chunky necklace from Target on my neck, silver cuff bracelet on my wrist. On feet are tan think heels from Target’s last summer collection.

Hair is beachy/curly. Hair is slightly damp, Marc Anthony Strictly Curls gel applied to it, dried with diffuser. Hair covered with layer of Marc Anthony Strictly Curls Humidity Spray, and occasional pieces are curled around a medium-barreled iron. Then a fine coating of Bio Silk is put on the hair for shine and ant-frizz.

Makeup is i.d. Bare Escentuals foundation and concealer, a touch of Nars Orgasm blush. Eyes have a touch of Clinique Snow in the inner corners, a touch of Body Shop’s Fawn Pearl in the crease, lashes curled and mucho MAC X mascara applied, and then a fine line of black Ultra Liner by Maybelline on the lop lash line. On the lips is a teeny coral lipgloss from Target that my mom put in my Christmas Stocking.

Sunday Jaunt to the Mall
Brown merino ¾ sleeve v-neck sweater from The Gap, same creased denim trousers. Same turquoise necklace and same tan leather sandals. Same hair too – second day curls restored with a bit of misted water and a few hits with the curling iron. Wow, déjà vu – the makeup is exactly the same too!

Oh, and of course, have to share what I purchased:
Navy twill blazer from Talbots – on sale for $44 and darn cute and hip looking! I was roaming looking for a dress and pants for my mom and came updon this cutie in the sale rack. Can’t wait to pair it with some cropped pants, a little tank and some wedge espadrilles!

White tonally striped suit from Tahari – it was on sale for $180 and it is magnificent. The pants fit like a dream (I heart Tahari suits) and would look great for work with a little sweater and heels. The jacket fits perfectly and would be so stylin’ with a pair of black trousers and a brightly colored shell. I also liked it with my denim trousers. Together with some rocking black heels and a shell, well I look like a celebrity. No fricking clue where I plan on wearing this white suit, but I adored it and so I bought it.

Dark coral crinkly gauze baby-doll tunic from Nordstrom. Crocheted lace on edges, and a great oclor with my skin tone.

Pale blue/aqua ribbed tank from Nordstrom.

Black stretch v-neck sweater from Banana Republic – I already have it in emerald green, and I am without a lightweight black sweater for Spring!

Putty colored cropped trousers from Banana Republic – sort of a chino fabric with a sateen finish. Flat front, and on sale! Amazing to find cropped trousers that are flattering on my petite/big calved frame. These are not even a petite cut!

Of course with all this, I didn’t find what I am needing/desiring for spring:
- Flat front wide leg stone colored chinos
- The olive rip-stop cotton drawstring skirt from J. Crew
- The bronze and straw wedge espadrilles from J. Crew
- A pair of dark cuffed cropped jeans (found almost perfect ones at The Gap but too low-slung)
- A dress that is not as low cut as my LBD but just as versatile
- A colorful jacket (olive, white, dark red, maybe coral) that would look cute with jeans
- A leather hip-sling belt that doesn’t look too trendy or too dorky (found an almost perfect one in Eddie Bauer of all places, but couldn’t stomach $50 right now for just a belt)

I have two dresses arriving in the mail from Nordstrom, hopefully one will be the spring/less low-cut version of my beloved LBD!

Ask Allie: Styling Black Cropped Pants for Evening

Hi Allie, I have a dinner to attend & was wondering if you might be able to suggest something to wear with black straight (not skinny) ankle trousers similar to these. I’ll be wearing a pair of dressy heeled black pumps with them, but could use some up-to-date ideas for a blouse/jacket or sweater, something I could hopefully wear again! Thank you so much!

Cute pants! I am a big fan of the straight but not skinny crops – they flatter the figure better and are more likely to be stylish next year. I also like a bit shorter of a crop – it doesn’t cut off the leg like many cropped pants; pairing with dressy pumps will elongate the leg even more. Here’s a couple ideas to dress up these pants for a dinner event. For each ensemble I used the same Tory Burch ‘Beverly’ cropped pants and sleek heels.

[via]

Sophisticated Sparkle
I’ll admit I have a similar outfit in my closet that I plan to wear in the near future. When you asked about cropped pants I immediately thought of this combination. A classic and crisp white shirt is perfect for evening when worn under a sparkly jacket. I chose the soft gold because it’s not too extreme to have you look like a disco ball, but still jazzes up the separates to be perfect for a dinner function. This could also work with a traditional blazer or a cardigan that is sequined, beaded, or otherwise bedazzled. Keep the sparkle a more subtle shade – pewter, ivory, blush, rose gold, brass – this way you won’t steal the spotlight, just be enhanced by its glow. Such a jacket can later be paired with an LBD or even with a simple white tank and boyfriend jeans for a night out on the town.

With such a flashy jacket, you need accessories to make it look purposeful, but a less blingy choice is best. I own this very necklace from Stella and Dot and love how it makes a statement without taking center stage.

[via]

Feminine Tuxedo
A simple way to glam up cropped black pants is to make them part of a tuxedo. A tuxedo jacket is a surprisingly versatile wardrobe addition that can coordinate with everything from distressed denim to frothy cocktail frocks. A satin lapel will make the different fabrics of the jacket and trousers seem more purposeful and clearly state that this blazer is for the evening, not the office. While most any color or neutral (even more black) would be fine for a shell, I chose an unexpected dark green for interest, and because it can really showcase more unusual accessories.

[via]

Silky and Saturated Color
Once it’s after 5pm, it’s time to bring out the luxe fabrics. This tunic is made of silk, which will pick up candlelight and glow in most evening settings. I added to the sparkle with a bold pendant and drop earrings. A clutch in a textile matching the shoes pulls the blacks together, and the hint of gold on the bag keeps the shine continuous. Feel free to continue the color play with a strong lip or smoky eye in purple or berry hues. This type of blouse can easily be worn after this event – pair with skinny dark jeans and boots or flats for a weekend ensemble or pair with trousers for the office.

[via]

Not Your Basic Black
A cropped pant works quite well with a top that nips in at the waist but flows below. Be it a peplum, or a more classic style like the tunic pictured, it’s a great way to hide the tummy but still look elegant. All black is also a sophisticated way to dress up separates. I chose a top in a silky fabric to increase the evening look, and added bold gold jewelry to keep it from looking boring. A show-stopping clutch completes the look, making an all-black ensemble anything but basic. Such a blouse can be worn year-round with everything from pencil skirts to a pantsuit for the office.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Legit Music Festival Fashion Advice

Oh April, the time of year where every fashion blog and website claims to be an expert on what to wear and take to a music festival yet fails miserably. As soon as I see a romper or designer picnic blanket recommended I know that author has never attended a music festival, nor likely an outdoor concert.

Now I don’t claim to be some sort of expert and hey, you may be double-jointed and find wearing a romper and peeing in a steaming hot porta-potty easy, but here’s my tips for attending a music festival:

1. Read the FAQ. Before you start packing, see what you’re allowed to pack and what the festival organizers suggest. Many do not allow umbrellas, even the small travel type. Quite a few do not allow detachable lens cameras, glo-sticks, or chairs of any height . The festival planners will be able to let you know if there’s access to drinking water, shade, lockers, charging stations, and more.

2. Expect a lot of Sun. Even if the festival is in a grove of trees, expect to be doused with a ton of sun. Bring a floppy hat, large sunglasses, a bandanna you can dip in water to cool off or tie around your neck to protect it, wear sunscreen and bring more. I like the spray sunscreen because it doesn’t have to be rubbed in and you can spray as you walk to the next stage performance. The higher the better – I can wear SPF 50 for an entire festie weekend and still go home with a tan. Seriously, nothing ruins a festival experience faster than a raging sunburn.

The sun not only can exhaust you, but it can also quickly exhaust your electronics. Keep your phone out of the sun and bring a charger for a long hot festie day will sap your battery. Don’t expect to find an outlet; plan ahead with a pre-charged battery backup or bring a solar charger. Do note that many festivals have poor cell reception, so have a Plan B if your original idea for organizing with friends involve texts.

3. Prepare to Walk. You can easily walk a half mile from your campsite to see a performance, and walk five miles in just a couple hours around the festival grounds. Not only that, the ground will be bumpy, can have sharp grass or rocks, very well will be muddy or dusty. Wear shoes that are comfortable for long spans of time. I wear old boots with new insoles, but a pair of desert boots, sneakers with arch support, athletic sandals or a canvas slip-on with a good insole will also do well. Bring a second pair of shoes in case your first pair gets wet or ruined, and bring socks (you may find them dorky looking but may be glad to have them Day 2 after Day 1 gave you blisters or sunburn).

4. Pack to Dance. And to walk, and drink beer or water, to chat, to eat an arepa while racing across the grounds to catch up with your friends, to use a porta potty. Use a bag that can handle all that without cramping your style. Fanny packs are back and great for day fests or places that don’t need a lot of equipment to be comfortable for long spans of time. For longer festivals far from camp, consider a small backpack or a crossbody that doesn’t dig into your shoulders when completely full.

5. Leave Designer at Home. A stranger may accidently step on your Karen Walker sunnies and your Design Within Reach throw blanket may get lost in a muddy mosh pit. A festival is a place where people dance and mosh and run and do it all while on little sleep and often lots of alcohol or drugs. Protect your much-loved items and leave them home; a festival is a perfect place for a chic DIY tie-dye bedsheet and truck stop sunglasses.

6. Stay Hydrated. Bring a water container – be it a Camelbak backpack with bladder or a reusable bottle, make sure whatever you have can hold at LEAST 22 ounces and you refill it often. Dehydration can happen quickly when you’re in the sun, heat, drinking, and dancing. Protect yourself, and keep the fun times going with regular water replenishment.

7. Prepare for Porta Potties. No rompers, no overalls, no jumpsuits unless you don’t mind stripping naked in a hot overflowing porta potty with a broken lock. Sundresses are awesome; slip a pair of bike shorts underneath to prevent chafing and to provide modesty when sitting on the ground. I like looser beat up denim shorts that look better with the dirt of the day and don’t stick to sweaty skin.

Along with that, tuck some toilet paper and maybe some Clorox wipes in your bag so if you encounter a grody or unstocked porta potty, you’re set.  I put a little of each in Ziploc baggies; if my friend is holding my bag while I go in, I just grab a bit of each and tuck in my bra strap so my hands are free.

8. Have fun! The fashion mags and sites will lead you to believe that a visit to Coachella or Bonnaroo is the sartorial moment of the year. Yes, some may treat it as such, but the rest of us dress to enjoy the real purpose of the festival – the music. Go ahead and wear fun jewelry or a boho-inspired tunic or a cut up band tee shirt, but dress in a way that doesn’t require you to check your reflection every hour, lets you run and dance and lie in the grass and sit in the dirt. I promise you, the majority of the people at the festival won’t care what you’re wearing, they’ll care more about how you’re feeling and enjoying the event!

For more about music festivals, feel free to visit my previous posts:

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Office Attire Essentials

Whether you work in finance or fashion, physics or a philanthropy, there are some basic needs for a corporate wardrobe. Maybe you will speak at a conference, possibly you will be interviewing for a new position, possibly you are traveling on business. Below are the top six things I have learned over the years in different fields, to be the items necessary for a completely polished, professional wardrobe. These items are the pieces I see women most often NOT own and by not owning it usually diminishes their professional appearance.

1. A Suit. Seriously, you should own a suit. While a crisp shirt and trousers or a simple dress will work for most work events, there is always that situation where you wished you had a suit. Possibly you’re being interviewed on TV, or maybe you’re speaking at a conference. Maybe you’re chosen to give clients a tour of the facility, or you’re having your headshot taken for the company website. Murphy’s Law, if you don’t own a suit a situation will arise where one is necessary.

Skirt suits are no longer a necessity, and they leave you wondering about appropriate footwear, if hosiery is necessary, and the proper length or need for a slip. I deal with conservative government clients and find none of them blink at a woman in a pantsuit. If you choose black, it’s extremely versatile, slimming, seasonless, and less likely to look dated in a couple of years. Buy quality – a cheap suit looks cheap from a mile away. No need for designer, you can find sale suiting quite easily at chain retailers like Ann Taylor, Lord & Taylor, and J. Crew.

2. A Simple Leather Tote Bag. This item is the inspiration for this post. The other morning I was walking past the Mayflower Hotel and I saw a woman leading a group of individuals, most likely from the hotel to a place for breakfast. It was all men in gray and navy suits looking confused, and this woman, on a cell phone, looking extremely competent and in control. Sleek bob, a black skirt suit with cobalt blouse, expensive black pumps… and a canvas and lemon yellow patent leather tote bag with a stain on it.

In 2001 when I changed jobs, I treated myself to a black leather tote from J. Crew. It was on sale for $99 and I questioned the idea behind spending so much for something I didn’t necessarily need. In the past decade, I have used this tote on numerous occasions – for interviews, to carry my laptop to business meetings and conferences, as my carry-on for day flights to client sites. It’s sleek, structured, free of logos and embellishments, and some of the best money I have spent.

It’s better to buy a lesser-known brand free of a logo than a big fancy It Bag with logoed fabric or a big brass plaque on the front. Visible logos are never professional, and interest in certain designers change from year to year. Have it structured so it can hold your laptop in a sleeve, keep your resume from getting creased, and sit on its own on a table or the floor. Have at least once zippered compartment for small essentials and keep it clean and conditioned so it looks great now and five years from now.

3. Black Pumps. No more than a 3” heel, slightly pointed or almond toe, no visible decorations, no platforms or peeptoes or wedge heels. Smooth leather, no fancy finishes. Have them comfortable, classic, sleek. Polish them regularly and take them to the cobbler each season to be reheeled, resoled, and to have nicks on the heels covered. Wear with everything from cocktail dresses to trousers with twinsets. Buy wisely, and be willing to spend more than $50. If you care for them, these shoes will last you for many years of stylish professional wear.

4. Black Commuter Flats. there’s nothing worse than seeing a professional woman in a fabulously-tailored power suit, dashing across K Street in a pair of dirty TOMS or puffy sneakers. Not only that, there will be times when you will need to leave your office and walk to another location, give a tour of the campus, hoof it from one end of an airport to the other to catch your connecting flight. Be prepared with comfortable, broken-in but not beaten-down commuter shoes that have a closed toe and can be tucked in your tote and slipped on in a second. As with the pumps, polish them often and keep them looking clean and fresh.

5. A Simple Phone Cover/iPad Case/Laptop Skin. So you’ve been given a big break at work, the woman upstairs has asked you to lead the presentation. You head to the boardroom in your sleek black suit and power pumps, set your black structured tote on the table and whip out your hot pink laptop with band stickers all over it. Or maybe you attend a conference and end up at a table with some power players in your field, you go to tweet the event on your iPhone with a Swarvoski crystal-encrusted cover. The point is, having a fun or fancy cover for your technology destroys any credibility.

I love my iPhone and I take it everywhere. I love me some leopard print and was tempted to get a cover of that print. But then I realized that while I use my iPhone to Instagram my outfits and friends at events, I also use it to handle business for my day job. So I use a matte black cover from Incipio that protects, doesn’t slide off tables, and is subtle and professional.

Go ahead and have the Hello Kitty iPad case, but have a simple one on standby for those times when it’s important to look polished and professional.

6. A Nice Pen. It doesn’t have to be a Montblanc, but it looks impressive to whip out a nice-quality pen when you have to jot something down or loan one to a colleague. Luckily my company has really nice hematite ones with the logo etched into the side; at my old job I had a Cross which I carried in my work tote. You wouldn’t believe how many times people commented on the pen in a positive way.

***

The rest? It can vary from profession to profession. Some offices are more conservative, some more laid-back. Needs depend on your industry, your location on this planet, and your position with the company. However these six simple things can take your good work look and make it great. Having such pieces in your wardrobe already means less stress and scrambling when you get that opportunity to lead, impress, or represent your company.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Ask Allie: How to Dress Fun, Festive, yet Professional

I am a 42 year-old who has recently gone back to school.  I have been invited to a girl’s night out on a cruise ship. A majority of the women that are invited work for the school, with one being the Dean. I know that it is completely a social event, but I want to make a good impression. I am a plus-size woman with a full chest and am only 5’4″. It is a fun, dress casual event. What would you suggest that I wear? I would love something with a fun beachy or nautical feel, but I do not want to look like Thurston Howell (If you are even old enough to know who I am talking about. LOL!).

LOL I totally know who Thurston Howell is, and I will not suggest a navy blazer and ascot! But I think it is wise of you to consider not only the situation but the attendees and wanting to have fun but also make a good impression.

A great and easy way to get a nautical feel is with white pants or jeans. Somehow this change from indigo to white gives a more polished look, but also a sea-worthy vibe. I have the NYDJ “Marilyn” straight leg jeans in white and love how crisp, opaque, and polished they are. The NYDJ “Barbara” is a subtle bootcut that won’t look dated, but can balance out a top-heavy figure. Both come in plus size, but not petite; if you purchase them at Nordstrom they will do alterations for free; if you purchase them elsewhere white jeans are an easy alteration even at your local dry cleaner because there’s no need to keep the original hem. I used white jeans as the basis for three different outfits that give a but of a nautical feel, are fun and festive, yet aren’t going to be inappropriate when schmoozing the Dean.

A quick way to get a nautical effect is mixing white with navy. This tunic from Old Navy has a preppy/nautical vibe with the print, and I love the concept of a primarily white top with white jeans for a very crisp summery feel. Paired with gold sandals and chains, it will be very yacht-esque while still fun. A swipe of hot pink lipstick will make this more Girls Night Out than Thurston Howell III.

No better way to get the nautical feel than with a striped top! Instead of a traditional Breton tee, a peplum tank is feminine, fun, and better for a party. An accent color will keep it from looking too uniform. While yellow and red are traditional accent colors for navy or black and white, I decided to switch it up with bright orange. I thought the necklace was fun since it has a rope/nautical feel. To keep it from looking too daytime or preppy, let your hair be in loose beachy waves and add a second coat of black mascara.

You can get a real beachy vibe just by your choice of colors. This drapey top has all the colors of the surf with a fun pop of lime. I continued the color with lime wedges which are surprisingly versatile and can look great with this, as well as denim, neutrals, black and white, and even bold colors like pink and turquoise. A bold statement accessory like a large gold cuff makes the outfit fun, add a lip gloss in an unexpected color like hot pink or red-orange to amp up the party feel.

You don’t have to wear stripes or boats to get a nautical vibe. Since you will be on a cruise ship, I really got into the yacht feel with this ensemble, and it’s a bit dressier than the rest (you will know better if it’s too glam for this event). Black and white is classic and chic, adding tan and gold accents makes it luxe. Switch out the belt of this top with something that makes more of a statement and add some sexy shoes. Gold hoops and black liquid liner will make this glamorous while still appropriate.

***

You’ll see the outfits I chose are pieces that can be worn again, but also can be worn be you 22 or 42.  I don’t think your age necessarily has to change your style if the pieces are relatively classic.  Don’t be afraid to wear statement necklaces, trendy details like peplums, origami structured pieces, or a funky shoe – accessories are a great way to modernize a wardrobe of staples and show that you are aware of trends without being too trendy.  Accessories are also a great way to make your day or work clothing suddenly look perfect for a girl’s night out.

Do check if there are any specific dress codes before choosing your outfit. Most party/cruise boats can handle heels and all types of shoes, but some may ask you to wear flats and shoes with certain types of soles. It may be a bit chilly, consider bringing a pashmina to wrap around you once the sun goes down. As for a purse, switching from a handbag to a clutch always makes an outfit look more dressy and festive; a simple tan leather bag would look great with all three outfits and be a good buy for future events as well.

Note: Some links are not to the exact item.  I tried to find the exact pieces, but when I couldn’t I chose very very similar alternatives that provide the same effect.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Casual Holiday Attire…

Since I have been a few places over holiday where there were cameras, so I figured I would share what pictures I have…

Christmas Eve we had a lovely dinner at my sister’s house (blue cowlneck merino and black pencil skirt both from Ann Taylor sale rack, tall black boots).  I don’t have a picture of me, but I do of Emerson in her lovely red holiday dress:

As you can see she was QUITE the life of the party! :)

Here I am with Emerson on Christmas Day.  Christmas Day is pretty casual for my family.  We go to my mom’s house for breakfast and to open presents, and then have a late lunch/dinner with friends.  I am wearing a pair of Seven jeans I picked up at Filene’s Basement for $39, a black pima cotton tank from Banana Republic, and a chunky beige cardigan from Ann Taylor (pricey but got an email for 40% off one item and I decided to use it on the cardigan).  I believe I was wearing my black city boots.  As you can see Emerson is more casul – this is the Santa’s Elf outfit – green and white striped long-sleeved tee, red pants (both from Old Navy) and a “Baby’s First Christmas” bib that was from a friend.

The Sunday after Christmas we celebrated the holiday with my husband’s family.  We were to get together the Sunday prior, but there was quite the snowstorm in the DC area and no one wanted to go out in that mess.  No picture of me (wore my Seven jeans, my burgundy dolman-sleeved sweater tunic from Ann Taylor Loft and some hammered brass jewelry) but here is Emerson playing with her new presents:

The dress and tights were a gift from her Aunt Debbie.  Baltic amber teething necklace (totally swear by it – kiddo has acquired four teeth in the past month and not a bit of fussing!) from PBi.

Yesterday we went to my cousin’s house to see her recent renovation and to celebrate the holidays.  This isn’t a great picture, but it shows me and my outfit:

This is a new sweater from Banana Republic – teal merino shawl-neck and only $27.99 (they had a kazillion of them at Columbia Mall on New Year’s Day – red, green, black, two-tone…)!  With it I wore my New York & Company trousers, a black pima tank from Banana Republic and my black city boots.  Silver and blue and green stone cuff and matching earrings from Anne Koplik Jewlery
Emerson is again rocking the red pants from Old Navy (their sales on kids’ clothes are SO good and then they have 30% off promotions and free shipping… 99% of her wardrobe is Gap and Old Navy) and a sweater also from Old Navy that she received as a Christmas gift. 
Emerson is not yet walking but is darn close – lots of cruising, pulling herself up, standing.  It is really hard to find soft-soled shoes for her at this size – they all seem too small or too large (too bad because she got some cute Robeez for Christmas!).  These are the same Mary Janes she wore the Sunday after Christmas (Gap) because they are the only ones that properly fit her.  When she’s home we let her pad around in grippy-bottom socks or footie sleepers but since we were going out we wanted additional warmth and protection.  She’s just like Dorothy rocking her ruby slippers…
So what did I get for Christmas?  I got some gorgeous purple cashmere-lined leather gloves from Nordstrom, a pair of fleece slippers from Lands End, some yummy body wash and my husband, sister and I bought ourselves gifts – we are returning to Bonnaroo this summer together!
My husband I decided to spend New Years at home as a family.  They often say you should spend New Years Eve doing what you would like to do the rest of the year – well we would like nothing better than have a quiet, lovely time together in our house with our baby.
Emerson will be a year old this Friday and we are having a party for her Sunday – nothing huge, just family and our very closest friends.  We have asked for no gifts.  Family and friends were so generous this Christmas, and we jsut bought new “Big Girl” car seats for my husband’s and my mom’s car.  So really… nothing is needed and wanted except love and fun for her big day!
I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season.  I am back to work tomorrow after having off since before Christmas so it will be hard to be away from Emerson and my husband all day (hope she remembers how to drink from a bottle!).  However I am looking forward to a new year at work – we have a larger team, some great contracts we are working on and a lot of opportunity for growth and development!

Ask Allie: Music Festival Fashion with Boots

I can’t imagine wearing boots to a music festival! I saw your post on Inforoo saying you wear them but it seems so hot I plan to wear some TOMS what’s the benefit of boots?

I know you’ve been to music festivals before, what do you recommend for shoes?

I’ve been to Bonnaroo several times, attended the Virgin FreeFest and Forecastle and have worn a variety of shoes. Sandals, flip flops, Chucks, even Crocs (I know, I know!). However for the past couple of years my go-to shoes for music festivals are boots. Yes, even in the dreadful heat of summer in Tennessee, I wear boots.

Why Boots Rock for Music Festivals:

  • They are Sun Protection. You can’t imagine how many people get the tops of their feet burned at fests. It’s the part you forget, the part that gets dirty and the sunscreen rubs off, the part (other than the top of your head) that gets the most sun as you walk from stage to stage.
  • They are Injury Prevention. I know someone who had the scary spiky grass of Bonnaroo pierce her flip flop and spike the bottom of her foot. I’ve had many a person step on my feet as they are wiggling to get closer to a stage, and my sister hobbled through one Bonnaroo because an unfolded E-Z Up tent fell on her foot. Mosh pits, hot cups of coffee, setting up camp accidents… boots keep your feet protected so you can enjoy the festival.
  • They are Cooler Than You Think. I wear a pair of DUO Boots I bought eons ago, they’re calf-height, very low heel, leather but have a shearling lining. They keep my legs warm in winter and surprisingly cool in summer. I wear with cotton or wool socks to add cushioning and breathability.
  • They Support Your Feet. TOMS are cute and may be comfy when walking around town, but they don’t have arch support or cushioning that can be quite nice after 12 hours of standing and walking on hard ground, rocky terrain, and concrete. Trust me. A boot can also be made even more comfy with insoles; I buy a new pair of insoles made for work boots prior to each music festival.
  • They Can Take a Beating. I spray my boots with waterproofing spray before I go and don’t even blink when I have to tromp through mud, dust, or worse. Most boots look better with some wear; when I get home I clean them, give them a good polishing, take out the insoles and have them ready for weekends and casual affairs.

Be they a pair of tall boots with a babydoll dress, lace-up granny boots with a peasant skirt, some Docs with denim cutoffs, or Western-inspired booties with a boho-inspired dress, a low-heeled boot can offer comfort, protection, and miles of style at a music festival. Don’t sacrifice your comfort for fashion when there’s alternatives that can give you the best of both worlds!

Do note that the sample ensembles feature some important things for festivals – sunhats with decent sized brims (no fedoras or beanies), large sunglasses, and bags that can be worn while you dance and rock out.  Your accessories are just as important as your shoes to ensure you have a fabulous time this summer at the music festival/s of your choice.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Forecastle Festival 2012 – What I Wore

This is the first in a series about my experience at the Forecastle Music Festival. Additional posts will be about what I carried in my bag, and the festival itself.

This weekend I attended the Forecastle Music Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. The festival was over three days, we were staying in a hotel less than a half mile from the festival grounds and there was a good chance of rain. We miraculously were upgraded free to VIP which gave us access to air-conditioned bathroom trailers but we fully expected to be using porta-potties all weekend. The music was a mix, but mostly alternative, singer-songwriter, rock, and electronica. Music was taking place from around 2-3pm until midnight. Unlike our trips to Bonnaroo, the hotel was close enough to do an outfit change if it got cold at night or we got rained on.  Everything I took I fit in the largest size of Lands’ End tote bag.

Friday:
We entered the festival grounds around 5:30pm. I wore a white ribbed tank with a crocheted sweater over it (from Ann Taylor last year – seen here) and a pair of denim shorts from Target that I distressed myself. I don’t usually wear denim shorts this long and loose, but knew they would be good for walking, if I got sweaty, etc. On my feet I wore my Softspots Tatianna sandals. Since I knew we wouldn’t be there terribly long, I took my J. Crew suede tote (seen here).

Saturday:
The day started a bit earlier for us because we had tickets to see My Morning Jacket’s soundcheck. I wore a tee shirt with Keith Richards on it that I had cut up a while ago to give a more feminine cut. With it I wore a pair of denim cutoffs I have had for eons – they originally were gauchos and I cut them when gauchos were past their prime. Again the Softspots sandals, though this time I switched to my Kelty backpack. I knew I would be standing in line in the sun so I added a straw fedora I picked up at Target. The night before my shoulders hurt from the crossbody, and this bag has attended all Bonnaroos and similar events with me and is always comfortable.

After the soundcheck, we went back to the hotel to grab lunch. We went to a casual café in the hotel, so I just changed into a long-sleeved tee and some flip flops.

When we went back to the festival, I changed tee shirts since the morning one was sweaty and gross. I wore a bandanna around my neck to have for mopping sweat or protecting my head/neck from the sun, and changed into my DUO “Bern” boots since it had rained earlier in the day and I worried about mud. I wore Ray Ban aviators and carried my Kelty backpack.

When the festival ended for the night, we were hungry so we went back to the room to change and get food at the hotel’s sandwich shop. I wore a pair of old beat-up Gap Long and Lean jeans, a gray Vintage v-neck from Old Navy, and my Lolly Clothing scarf (seen here) with flip flops.

Sunday:
We started the day by checking out more of Louisville and grabbing brunch. I wore a brown Gap maxi dress, this necklace, and my Softspots sandals; I carried a tan leather tiny crossbody bag from HOBO.

When heading back to the festival, I dressed down, ready for sweat, dirt, and the possible beer splashed in my direction. I wore another tee shirt (seen here), and the same shorts from Friday evening. Since I didn’t experience much mud on Saturday, I went back to my Softspots sandals which are more supportive and comfortable when walking and standing.

On the ride down I wore the Gap jeans with a tee shirt and my sandals, on the ride home I wore white jeans, my blue-gray Vintage Old Navy v-neck, and my flip flops.

What Else I Packed:

  • Workout clothes. The hotel had a gym and I wanted sneakers in case we wanted to take an early-morning hike or walk.
  • Poncho (will detail this in future What’s in My Bag post)

What I Packed that I Didn’t Use:

  • Dresses. While I love cotton dresses at Bonnaroo, they just seemed too fancy and complicated for Forecastle. While there were many women in skirts and sundresses, I felt most comfortable in a pair of denim cutoffs so I could sit on the ground and not worry about strapless bras or bike shorts.
  • Long-sleeved shirts. I brought my orange plaid cotton voile button-front and my chambray shirt, thinking I could toss them on when the sun went down, but they weren’t necessary.
  • Nicer outfits. I knew there would be after parties at various bars and clubs in Downtown Louisville and brought clothes for them. However, we were pretty done after each day and headed back to the hotel.
  • Hair dryer. Hotel had one, but I never had a need to use it anyway – I let my hair air dry, and only used my curling iron for when we went to brunch.
  • Canvas cross-body. I bought this for Bonnaroo, but for Forecastle I always wanted a bag big enough to carry things like water and a chair.
  • Second pair of sunglasses. Good to have just in case, luckily that situation never happened.

All in all I felt really prepared and comfortable at Forecastle.  In fact my husband and I mentioned that we felt like professionals – never lacking for anything, not over-burdened but always had what we needed, quite comfortable and had a blast!

Details on the actual festival to come!

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Ask Allie – What to Wear to a Music Festival?

Hi Allie, I know you recently went to the Bonnaroo Music Festival in the US. I am going to the Oxegen Festival. I was wondering what you suggest I wear to it?

Dear Allie,
Are you going to Bonnaroo again this year? I am going too! What do you suggest I pack?
Dear Allie:
My boyfriend got us tickets to Outside Lands (it’s a fest in CA). What sort of clothes should I wear to such an event? I haven’t been to a fest of this size before. Thank you so much!
Image courtesy of the NY Daily News

Ah, the music festival. A life-changing event for anyone, no matter how large of a music fan. Music festivals are all-day or multi-day events full of music, art, food, and sights you may never seen before. I have been to a few one-day festivals and have now attended the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee for three years. Bonnaroo is four days, and I have done general admission, which is camping sans electricity or proper bathrooms (hello porta-potties!)and a lot of walking in extreme heat. As a slightly high-maintenance woman, I feared my first music festival, but found that with the right wardrobe and supplies, anyone can be comfortable AND stylish at such an event.

Surviving the Heat
Most music festivals are during the hottest months of the year. This is great for those in school – no need to skip classes to see your favorite artist. However it’s pretty tough to spend 12+ hours in high heat for multiple days. It is important to dress and pack correctly so that you protect your skin, your energy, and your health during a festival.

I highly recommend wearing 100% cotton (not jersey) dresses. Pure cotton will float away from your body with the slightest breeze and will dry quickly when wet from sweat or a Super Soaker. In the summer, it’s not hard to find adorable cotton sundresses at most any retailer. For this year’s Bonnaroo I scored several sundresses for under $20 each at Ross, and also saw plenty of dresses that would be perfect at Old Navy and Target. Don’t take your designer duds – no matter what you do, clothes can get dirty. Not only is there the potential for mud (even if it’s dry, there can and will be mud), there will be messy carnival food, large crowds of people bumping into you and possibly spilling their food/drink, and folks trying to get into the spirit with water guns, glitter, glo-sticks and other various things that can be tossed into a crowd. If you do find a great score at a discount place, be sure to secure the straps. A friend and I both had a strap break on a sundress while at the festival this year (and be at the ready with a mini sewing kit and some safety pins just in case of any wardrobe emergency).

No matter your size, many women experience that which we lovingly call, “chub rub”. Many women have curvy thighs, and when walking long distances and sweating, you can get a rash on the inside of your legs. I have found the best thing to combat this is a pair of bike shorts under my sundress. In 2007, I bought two pairs of moisture-wicking black bike shorts from Kmart for $9.99 each and have used them ever since. They do a great job of preventing chafing, and also offer modesty so I can easily sit cross-legged on the ground during a show. I know many women who prefer using BodyGlide (or use it along with the shorts). BodyGlide can be applied like a stick deodorant and will help prevent chafing, even if you sweat.

When there is heat, there usually is sun. A music festival is not the place to work on your tan. You won’t realize how much sun you have gotten until you end up with a nasty burn that evening. I have found that even when I wear SPF 30 sunscreen, I will come home from a festival with plenty of color. This year I used SPF 30 on my body and 55 on my face, and carried both with me all day for easy reapplication. Aerosol sunscreen is a great choice for such an event because you can reach your back, you don’t have to run it in with grubby hands, and that type of container is less likely to leak in your bag. I also take a stick or tube of higher SPF sunscreen with me to the shows to apply to the face and any sun-sensitive places (shoulders, back of neck, tops of feet) on a regular basis. It’s also wise to get a lipbalm with SPF – your lips will get dry from the heat, and they are quite susceptible to sunburn.

Image courtesy of the Nashville Beauty Blog – the Blogger at Bonnaroo 2009

With so many cute hats in fashion right now, it’s silly to not wear one to a music festival. A basic straw cowboy hat is always stylish at such an event, and will do a good job of keeping your neck and nose protected. Fedoras and porkpie hats are trendy now – they aren’t really good at protecting you from the sun, but will offer protection to your scalp. The best choice is a floppy hat with a large brim – I have a crushable straw one that I have had for over a decade. I can roll it up and stick it in my bag when I am indoors or it gets dark, and easily pull it out for when it’s sunny. I have found great sun hats at Title 9, Athleta, Lands End and Macy’s. I also recommend checking out Etsy – you can find some really unique and cute sunhats there – check out these adorable numbers from Bonniesknitting!

Another great item to pack for sun protection is a bandana (or two!). A bandanna can be tied around your neck to protect it from the sun, it can be tied over your head like a kerchief to protect the scalp and tip-top of your forehead, and it can be dunked in cold water and used to cool you off in a jiffy. I tie a bandanna to the zipper of my bag to have at the ready – it’s also great to mop sweat off your brow. If you don’t like the look of bandannas, any cotton scarf will do. This year I took a candy-colored cotton voile scarf from Lands End’s Canvas line and it worked just as well (and laundered just as well) as a classic bandanna.

You MUST stay hydrated! Don’t expect a water bottle or two from a vendor to suffice. It’s easy to get dehydrated and not even notice. Next thing you are feeling dizzy or worse. Even though they are not chic, I carry a backpack that has a hydration pack inside it. I have one from Kelty that I bought several years ago – it is very small and fits right between my shoulder blades, but has room to hold 50 ounces of water along with my essentials. If you can’t imagine carrying a Camelbak-type bag, I recommend having a large aluminum or Nalgene-type bottle that you can hook to your bag and can be filled quite often from water stations. If you have to carry your bottle in your hand the entire time, it very well may be discarded for being a nuisance. I don’t want to be all TMI, but if you haven’t had to hit a porta-potty in a bit, it’s a good chance that you aren’t drinking enough. And know for every alcoholic beverage you consume, that much more water you need to consume to stay properly hydrated.

Be smart – find shade between shows, be it under a tree, from the shadow of a tent, or even if you decide to head back to your tent or hotel for a quick break. You really need to pace yourself – prioritize the performances you wish to see, so if you’re feeling a bit woozy, tired, or overheated you can take a break. Beer gardens, movie tents and vendor tents are great places to duck in and get some shade. In 2007 I almost passed out from the heat, and this year a person I knew died from the heat at a music festival. I would hate this to happen to any of you, so please stay cool, stay hydrated, and pace yourself.

Surviving the Lack of Plumbing
Porta-Potties
Be you attending a one-day fest or a multi-day camping adventure, you will likely be dealing with porta-potties. No one enjoys them, but they are a fact of life. Here’s a few things that can make your bathroom experience quick and less painful:

  • Don’t expect each porta-potty to have toilet paper. Bring your own. I see many people who enter porta-potties with a whole roll of T.P. I personally don’t like that option because then there is something you need to hold while in there. I will fill a sandwich baggie with pre-torn piles of toilet paper. Then before I enter a porta-potty I will tuck the little pile of TP into my bra strap or pocket. Nothing to have to hold, and I am prepared in case the porta-potty isn’t well equipped.
  • Not only will portable toilets be sans toilet paper, they will also be disgusting. I carry a second sandwich baggie with Clorox wipes. I take one in with me (tucked in the other bra strap or pocket) and wipe down the seat before attempting to do anything in there. I am a petite woman, and there is no way I can properly hover over a porta-potty and not make a mess. It is far easier to clean the seat than try to not touch it. Also, it is a “pay it forward” sort of act for the woman in line after you who may not have thought to bring sanitizing wipes!
  • If you can, head to the porta-potties with a friend. Then she can hold both of your bags while you are in there, and then you can reciprocate the favor. If you don’t have this option, it’s great to have a cross-body bag or backpack that you can put on the front of your person and keep from touching any surfaces.
  • Bring hand sanitizer! I prefer sanitizing wipes to the liquid in this case, so I can use it to scrub off stuff instead of rubbing it in. I wait until I am out and out of way of the line before attempting to use this. Some porta-potties come with sanitizer, but you can’t rely on that.
  • If you will be at a multi-day event, I recommend a third sandwich baggie with personal cleansing wipes in it. In case your carnival food doesn’t sit well with you, or just if you want to do a wipe down to feel refreshed and less sweaty. Be sure to mark the bags so you know which baggie is Clorox and which is Cottonelle!
  • If you are going to be at a festival at night, it’s a good idea to clip a headlamp or LED light to your bag so you can see what you are doing. Some porta-potties are perfectly set up near outdoor lighting, but many times, especially in camp sites, they will be located in a dark corner of the grounds. My husband picked up a cheap LED head lamp for me (small light on an elastic band) from some Big Box retailer – I never stick it on my head, but I have slung it around my neck when walking in dark locations, have held it in my hand to light my path, and have switched it to the red light and attached to my backpack so my friends can find and follow me in a crowd.

Porta-potties are another reason why dresses are a great option for attire. To have to wiggle off sweaty jeans or shorts in a rush can be awkward, difficult, and can give you more opportunity to accidently bump into a surface in there. Also jeans and pants can drag on the floor. Every woman I know agrees that dresses and skirts are FAR more porta-potty friendly, especially in the heat!

Bathing
If you are staying in general camping, running water may not exist, or if in the case of the Bonnaroo Music Festival, it may be ice-cold well water running from spigots in a metal trailer. It’s pretty much a given that you won’t be spic n’ span at a fest, but you can still be comfortable and relatively stink-free.

If you have running water (troughs, spigots, etc.):

  • My sister thought of the brilliant idea of bringing a child’s play bucket – the type one uses at the beach. In it, put your soap, shampoo, washcloth, etc. Then you can place it on the floor or hang it off a hook or fence and have all your necessities at arm’s reach and not getting gross. Sometimes the floors at these water stations can have several inches of water, so your regular shower caddy with open sides won’t always be a good bet.
  • You can’t get fully naked (unless you are very daring), so I have found it best to wear a bikini or a bra-tank or bikini top with a skirt or pareo when you go bathing. Be sure to wear shoes with good grip because it can get slick and muddy at the water stations.
  • Though I am a stickler for high-quality shampoo and conditioner for my highlighted hair, at a fest I go with a travel-sized bottle of 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner. It’s easier.
  • For cleaning the body, I take a bar of Ivory soap. I can then use it to clean my whole body and even clean clothes if need be. My husband prefers a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap because he will even use it as his shampoo. Either way you look at it, a multi-tasking product makes the most sense. I find a washcloth to be easier than a shower poof or just my hands – easier to scrub grubby feet and to get sticky sunscreen off shoulders.
  • I also pack one of those small, lightweight microfiber hair towels. It’s usually too hot to bother with drying my body, and these towels dry fast, will sop up moisture from your hair without having to rub, and can make a really great turban or tuck into your bag or bucket when finished.
  • If you know the water station will have spigots with threads on them (like a spigot off your house), it’s a great idea to take an old hose, cut a couple feet off the female end and take it to have a DIY shower. One can often find old hoses for offer on Freecycle. Home improvement stores also carry short hoses specifically for washing machines that have finished ends – this is a nice alternative and also means you can attach a nozzle to control water flow.

If you have shower stations (shower trailers, pay showers):

  • Don’t expect the luxury of even the cheapest motel – these showers are small and cheap. At Bonnaroo they have pay showers sponsored by Garnier Fructis. For $7 you get a teeny plastic stall (think RV bathroom – we’re talking a space not wider than your shoulders) and a very thin shower curtain that has been torn and trashed by previous users. The floor of your shower stall is littered with leftover packets of sample shampoos and balls of hair. These stalls will be lined up along the wall of the trailer, there rarely are mirrors or a changing area.
  • Wear shoes in the shower. Not only can you scrub them clean, but you keep your tootsies safe from fungus and other grodiness.
  • The bucket again can come in handy, it can be placed on the floor, a shelf, even over the shower head if you are tall enough.
  • Bring a bigger towel, and hang it over the shower curtain for some modesty.
  • Wear something that is super easy to get off and back on when you are damp. Again this is where a cotton sundress comes in handy.

Other ways of staying clean:

  • Outdoor stores sell personal cleansing cloths that are thicker and larger in size than ones you can find at Target. However either type is wonderful to wipe down with after a sweaty, sticky day.
  • Outdoor stores also have what’s called solar showers. Pretty much these are bags you can fill with water and hang from a tree, a hook, or even buy a tent created just for a solar shower. Just be sure that it’s not set up in a way that the runoff will spill into a neighbor’s campsite.

Surviving a Day Away from your Home/Hotel/Campsite
The way to have a successful day at a festival is to be fully prepared. Yes you want to look stylish, but there’s no point in looking cute if you have blisters, sunburn, and no camera to take a picture of your fine self.

As previously mentioned, my day bag of choice is a very small backpack with a hydration bladder in it. What I fill it with:

  • My three baggies for the porta potties
  • Two hair elastics
  • A few safety pins of varying size
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunglasses with case and little cloth to clean them
  • Camera, in a plastic bag (protect from condensation from the hydration bladder, and also if it rains, someone spills a beer on my bag, etc.)
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Face sunscreen with high SPF
  • Body sunscreen (aerosol) with high sunscreen (or if a friend has a bigger bag and I know I will be with them the whole time, they can carry it)
  • Cell phone with the numbers of every darn person I know at the festival PLUS the number for the nearby tow truck or taxi company (usually comes with your tickets)
  • Booklet/map provided with the festival
  • Cash in small bills (never more than $40 unless I know I will be buying a souvenir)
  • Sharpie (you never know when you may bump into a celebrity and want their autograph!)
  • Business cards (I have ones from VistaPrint which are cheap, have my name, my cell, my email, my Website. Great to trade with new friends you make, and can always make notes on the back with your Sharpie)
  • A snack (Clif bars, granola bars, cheese and crackers packet, baggie of granola – something that will give you long-running energy and will hold up to the heat. Lines may be long at vendors, you may run out of money, you never know and it’s nice to have a snack just in case)
  • Bandanna or cotton scarf, tied to the exterior

I highly recommend you get a bag you don’t mind wearing for long periods of time and you can wear while dancing. Cross-body bags can be great if they are small, but can but a pain if they keep banging into your thigh while rocking out at your favorite show. A regular purse will not be comfortable on your shoulder for long periods of time. Look for a sleek and smaller cross-body bag or a backpack. Fill it with everything before you go to see how it feels on your body and try walking around and dancing. You don’t want to put your bag on the ground for fear of mud and thieves.

What I leave back at camp, locked safely in my car:

  • iPod
  • Wallet
  • Rest of money
  • Chargers for cell and camera
  • Anything else of value

Festivals are a great place to meet very friendly, like-minded people, but they also attract jerks and thieves. Protect yourself by not carrying everything in your bag, having a bag you don’t mind carrying at all times, and putting all your valuables into your car out of sight. If you drove a car there, keep a key to your car safety pinned into your bag or clothes, and leave the rest of the keyring in the car. Also hide a second car key at camp or give it to a friend in case your bag is stolen.

Treat Your Tootsies Well
Finally, one of the most important things for a good long day at a festival is proper footwear. This is not the time to try out your cute new gladiator sandals or to wear your $1 Old Navy flip flops. You want a pair of shoes that will treat your tootsies well for hours upon hours on end of standing on hard ground and asphalt, cushion you over walking on rocky terrain, can handle a sloshed beer or a mudpuddle, and have traction.

When I say traction, I don’t just mean on the bottom of the shoe. This is why flip flops are not the best option. Have you ever tried to run in a pair of soaking wet flip flops? It’s a recipe for disaster and a sprained ankle. I have been to festivals where it has rained; even a 20-minute sunshower can create ridiculous mud which will literally suck flip flops right off your feet.

A great choice are athletic sandals like Tevas, Merrells, or Chacos. These will stay on no matter the conditions and won’t leave you with a blisterful pair of feet. Many people like lightweight canvas shoes like Chuck Taylors or TOMS; I have a special place in my heart for Sanuks – a company with a good heart that makes super comfy “Vans”-like shoes with a sole as cushy as your favorite flops.

 Photo courtesy of The Girl’s Girl

I have worn my brown leather DUO boots (the Bern) to many a concert and festival – they are shearling lined (keeps me cool) and I have added a waterproofing spray to the exterior. They have a low heel, good traction, an additional cushioning insert and let me tromp through most anything feeling secure. I despise despise DESPISE Crocs, but I have to say they are the perfect festival shoe – they cushion your feet, let them breathe so they don’t get sweaty and stinky, will stay on in even the muckiest of mud, and can easily be rinsed off at the end of the day. They also give a bit of protection to the foot if a beer bottle is dropped on you or you have to enter an especially soggy porta-potty or water station.

Whatever your footwear, be sure they are broken in prior to heading to the festival. Nothing will cramp your good time more than painful, chafed, blisted, cramped toes.

So, What Should I Pack?
If you are staying onsite or at a hotel nearby, I recommend two outfits for each day. If it’s hot or rainy, you will want to change into dry clothes. And when I mean a separate change of clothes, I include underwear in this. Pack two pairs of underwear for each day (if your clothes are sweaty, so will be your undergarments), and bring a bra that you can switch into while the other is hanging up to dry.

Picture courtesy of BallerinaGrape

On top of this, I recommend some clothes to keep you warm when the sun goes down. I don’t recommend jeans (see above re: porta potties, also jeans suck to put on when you are achy or sunburned). If you are wearing a dress, pairing it with a pair of full-length leggings or some floaty linen pants is a great idea. I often just change into a maxi dress or a completely different outfit with a long skirt. Also if you bring a hoodie, it’s usually enough and then you can tie it around your waist or on your bag when you warm up from dancing.

Pack more than one pair of shoes. Even if you have broken in your shoes, they can very well give you some pain after wearing them for 12+ hours at a time. It’s healthy to switch your shoes each day anyhow. I also like to pack a simple pair of basic flip flops for when at camp or for the drive there and back.

Bring two pairs of sunglasses – you never know if you may lose a pair and it would suck to go without.

Pack a survival kit. Safety pins, a small sewing kit, extra hair elastics and Bobby pins or clamp barrettes, Shout wipes or a Tide to Go pen, Immodium AD and Pepto Bismol, pain reliever of your choice, something with electrolytes (Propel, Gatorade, I really like u hydration tablets, which aren’t full of all the fake stuff and sugar of many other electrolyte tabs and they taste really great), if you are within a week or so of your period pack some feminine hygiene products just in case, an extra pair of contacts or glasses, first-aid basics (band-aids, something to clean a wound), extra car key, insurance and AAA card, a hidden $50 that you won’t spend at the festival in case you need a jump, tow, taxi, etc.

Pack some clothes that are fun. When the sun goes down, the party gets crazy at music festivals. Bring your face glitter, your neon pink lip gloss, your angel wings or tutu. You may not feel brave enough to don them, but festivals have a way of bringing out the party girl in most any woman!

But I’m not a Dirty Hippie/Hipster/I’m a Music Newbie!

 Photo courtesy of Music Festival Junkies

If you Google photos of people who have attended music festivals, you may think that all of them are young and cool, or else decked out in tie-dye and hemp. Neither is true, festivals are great because they attract every type of person. I have returned to Bonnaroo so many times because it is a festival that offers pretty much every genre of music.

No need to buy a whole new wardrobe of peasant skirts and rope sandals, or fedoras and Ray Bans. I buy sundresses for music festivals because they are comfortable, and they can also be worn again on summer weekend days. When doing your summer shopping, instead of buying clothes just for this event, see if you can find things that will do double-duty. Instead of buying a dry clean only frock, look for one that can be washed in the machine. Instead of polyester, look for cotton. In place of safe black, consider a cheery print.

Keep in mind that a festival is a laid-back environment. No need for a ton of accessories, coordinated pieces, perfectly polished ensembles. Simple is better, you will get sweaty, you will get dusty and you will want to dance. I leave at home my wedding set and the only jewelry I bring is a turquoise necklace my husband brought back from his yoga teacher training in Mexico, and a pair of silver hoops.

If you are the type of woman who can’t leave your home without at least five pieces of makeup, you may want to adjust your routine for this event. Makeup doesn’t hold up too well in 100-degree heat, and you won’t have regular access to a mirror for touch-ups. That doesn’t mean you need a bare face. At Bonnaroo I wear waterproof mascara, bronzing powder dusted on my cheeks, and Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm. I carry Urban Decay’s De-Slick to combat shine. If you have a bad zit, it’s fine to try to touch it up with some concealer and pressed powder, but a fully “done” face will only leave you with a mess and a smear.

And if you are not familiar with most of the artists, well all the better! Some of my favorite bands in 2010 are ones I never heard of three years ago. They became faves because I saw them perform at a music festival. Festivals are great places to learn about new music, and find your personal music style without being biased by corporate radio, TV, or friends. At a festival, every artist will have an audience of raving fans, so there isn’t any bias, you can’t choose wrong. Go ahead and see a performance or two by yourself – you will make instant friends with the other excited people in the audience!

What to leave at home:
Heels, tight miniskirts, tight jeans, hairspray, flat iron, anything that is dry clean only or delicate or can’t handle getting wet, expensive jewelry, designer anything, your favorite purse, anything that won’t be comfortable enough to dance in or sit in on the ground.

Also leave at home any snark, eye-rolling or criticism. Seriously, you will see EVERY type of person at a festival. Many people travel from fest to fest because they are huge fans of music, but also because festivals are a place where they can feel accepted. That woman in the chain mail bikini and Indian headdress may actually be upper management at a stuffy corporation during the week, the “dirty hippie” may be her college’s fashionista come fall semester. Relish in the fact that you are able to go somewhere where you can be totally relaxed, not stressed over hemlines or heel heights. Be comfortable, feel attractive in your own way, and wear the best accessory out there – a big happy smile.

And be sure to come back and share your experiences at your next fest!

Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?

Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?

I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?

Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

–>

Ask Allie: Summer Office Attire

Do you already have an article on work clothes for suffocating summers? Am already dreading summer in the South.

I wrote about office-appropriate sandals here, and casual polished summer clothes here, but I have never addressed how to dress in a professional manner come summer. Not only is the heat difficult, but you also have to deal with frigid overly air-conditioned offices. Here’s what I do to beat the heat while still looking appropriate at the office:

Click image for item details

 
Dresses
Seems so simple… because it is! No need to tuck in a shirt, no lined trousers, and a silhouette that doesn’t cling to the majority of your body. A dress can let you go sans sleeves on your trip to the office, then easily cover up (if necessary due to dress code or air conditioning) with a cardigan you had tucked in your bag.

Not all dresses are created equal – some can be of heavy synthetic fabric lined with more synthetic fabric, and others can end up looking like a crumpled paper bag by noon. Even others would be perfect at a backyard barbeque, but are completely inappropriate in the workplace.


Cotton Dresses. Cotton is a natural choice – it’s breathable, it doesn’t cling, and will catch a refreshing breeze on a hot summer day. However, cotton can be sheer, can wrinkle and can easily look casual. A stiffer cotton – sateen, twill, cotton with a hint of Lycra, or a high quality version will hold up better throughout the day. When it comes to cotton, I usually look for a non-fitted silhouette – a swing or a-line style, or one with a seamed bodice and fuller skirt will hold up better in the heat and humidity and won’t stick to your legs. A lining can also help with cotton looking fresh, but it will make the dress hotter. A fuller style will offset the lack of breeze to keep you cool.

Shift Dresses. Be they short sleeved or sleeveless, a shift dress is a great summer piece. While it is usually tailored to a female shape, it is looser and straighter of a cut than a sheath. A shift dress in cotton, gabardine, Ponte de Roma (ponte), or even tropical weight wool can look professional, stylish, and help you beat the heat by letting there be air between you and your clothing.

Matte Jersey Dresses. Oh matte jersey, how I love you! Matte jersey won’t cling even if you’re drenched in sweat, it doesn’t show sweat, is thick enough to not need a lining, and it dries quickly. While it is a synthetic, it doesn’t seem to be as suffocating as a traditional poly/lycra blend. A matte jersey wrap dress can look quite sophisticated even on the hottest of summer days – I had a ¾ sleeve one for years that I would wear all four seasons – it was a faux wrap that wouldn’t flip up on windy days, was black so it worked with black pumps or boots in winter or nude sandals come summer, and literally no one could see me sweat.

Be wary of jersey knit dresses – they can cling to your body, leaving little to the imagination by time you hike it in the heat from parking lot or bus stop to the office. Even if you think you look professional in your home, a bit of heat and humidity can make a simple jersey dress quite scandalous.

Maxi dresses are hard to make work in many office environments – I have only done it a handful of times and each time I felt a bit too casual or flamboyant. Such dresses are best kept to those who work in a creative field.

Just because you pair a sundress with a cardigan or put a tank top or tee shirt underneath, it doesn’t mean it’s work appropriate. This means tissue-weight flippy floral cotton styles from Forever 21 and Old Navy, dresses with spaghetti or halter straps, strapless frocks, bodycon dresses, or anything that would look best with sand between your toes and a Pina Colada in your hand.

Pants
Pants are a given no matter the time of year or occasion, however many office-appropriate pants are downright torture on a hot summer day. Lining plus pockets plus heavy fabrics can mean feeling like a suffocated soggy mess by time you reach your office. There are some styles that will look professional yet still help you beat the heat.

Cropped Pants. These aren’t the cropped pants of a few years ago – this season’s cropped pants are stylish, sleek, and office appropriate. Crisp fabrics, straight lines, chic with pumps or delicate sandals, cropped pants can replace your heavy suiting trousers once the temperature rises. I have these cropped pants from Halogen that are a cotton twill that hold their shape through sitting and humidity, and come in rich colors that will give your wardrobe staples have a new life. They aren’t lined, which helps with the heat, but they still look crisp and professional. Wear pants like these with a sleeveless top and slingback peeptoes, slip on a cardigan or blazer once you enter the office.

Wide-legged Pants. An office-appropriate version of a maxi skirt, the full-legged pant has made a return to the stores, and just in time for summer.

A sailor-inspired trouser in stretch cotton twill or refined denim looks great with a boatneck sweater and statement necklace; pair with a short-sleeved blazer or a twinset for a classic look.

Fluid wide-leg, or palazzo pants have returned but this time they are sleek and more sophisticated. The leg is tailored so you don’t look like a clown, and they can easily be paired with a sleeveless silky blouse and skinny belt for a professional ensemble. While white or ivory may seem like a natural choice, such colors usually need lining and can show sweat stains. A darker color will let you breathe with just one layer; prints have also returned and a subtle Ikat or textured print can look corporate with a simple blouse or shell.

Skirts
Skirts are like dresses – not every skirt will be comfortable or appropriate for the office come summertime. While I love pencil skirts in the colder months, I find such a silhouette suffocating come spring and summer. It’s also uncomfortable to have a blouse tucked into a lined skirt in the heat – three layers across your midsection can get creased, sweaty, and icky pretty fast.

Come summer, I like my skirts how I like my pants – either crisp cotton, or fluid. This season has a bunch of micro-pleated skirts – be they chiffon or jersey, such a style can look professional while still feeling breezy. Pair such a skirt with a lightweight short-sleeved sweater or cotton blazer for a work-appropriate ensemble. A-line skirts are great come summer – they don’t cling to the skin and can handle a slightly heavier fabric without feeling too hot. A crisp cotton or twill a-line skirt looks office-ready with a cotton voile blouse or a lightweight sweater set.

Blouses
I don’t know why everyone wears knit tees in the summer – they cling in the heat and can make you feel pretty uncomfortable. The best bet is to choose fabrics that will float away from the body without adding bulk to your frame. A blouse in tissue-weight cotton, lightweight linen, silk, or chiffon will let your body breathe while still looking professional. Such fabrics can be transparent – instead of adding layers, consider getting an underwire camisole in black, navy, or nude to wear under such blouses. Also if you choose a darker color or a print, your underpinnings are less likely to show. Many find silk to be difficult in summer because it shows sweat – tissue-weight cotton or voile is a good alternative that can still float and breathe.

I am not much of a fan of the classic sleeveless cotton button-front shirt. Rarely do shirts of this style look good on a woman’s figure – they are too stiff in the body or else cling to the frame, they rarely flatter the arm, and the neckline usually seems too severe without sleeves. There are always exceptions, but a standard sleeveless button-front shirt can quickly look like Dowdy Soccer Mom or Parks and Planning Department Employee if not the right fabric, cut, and color.

An alternative to a blouse is the shell. A shell is like a half-shift, with a similar silhouette but ending between your waistband and mid-hip. While most any sleeveless top in a store may be called a shell, such a piece is usually of a straighter cut so that you have air between you and your garment. This year, I am seeing more shells in crisp cotton or linen – just to or just past the waistband, they look great with gathered skirts, wide-leg trousers, and crisp cropped trousers. Add a scarf or bold necklace to pull the look together.

Peasant tops are a popular choice come summer since they float away from the body and are of lightweight fabrics; problem is they rarely look professional. Even out of silk, such blouses have smocking, laces, and often have embroidery or beading which can make it look costume-y in the workplace. Keep such blouses for the weekend, or at least Casual Friday.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Ask Allie: Wedding Guest Attire

Hi Allie! I just bought this dress for an upcoming wedding reception (cocktail attire for women, black-tie welcomed for men). I would love to hear any ideas you have on how to accessorize it in order to glam it up. Thanks for any feedback! -Saundra

Dress via Ann Taylor

What a lovely dress, I love that icy lavender color! This is a great dress for such an event and very easy to glam up. A couple ideas:

- Silver Sparkle. Delicate silver strappy heels, delicate chandelier earrings of silver or white gold and diamonds (or CZs), a coordinating bracelet, be it a thin pave bangle or a chain of silver with crystals. Add a bit of subtle shimmer to your face with a highlighter on the brow bone, inner corners of the eyes, cheek bones, and the bow of your lips.

- Golden Glam. Some nude heels in a dressy fabric like silk – could be a strappy sandal, a D’Orsay heel or a platform peeptoe with a blingy shoe clip. Choose one accessory to make the statement – a large crystal-encrusted bangle or cuff, or a sparkly statement necklace; just have the metal be gold. Hair in a soft updo and a bit of shimmery golden tan hues used for the face.

- To-die-for Tonal. If you can find a great necklace with crystals or stones in the same pale lavender color, it can really glitz up this simple dress. Keep everything else very simple – nude dressy heels, simple hair, pretty makeup. If you really want another accessory, have it be your purse which could be a clutch in a metallic gray snakeskin or a subtle print that picks up the color of the dress.

This dress is of a formal fabric; if you have formal shoes and up the ante a bit with your makeup (darker lashes, bit of shimmer, etc.) you already are appropriate. Take a cue from celebs when they walk the runway – usually the dress makes the statement and the accessories only highlight. They usually only have one statement accessory, whether it’s a jeweled cuff or a pair of fantastic chandelier earrings.

Though it’s tempting, don’t try to match the color of the dress with your makeup – this lavender is so beautiful and so icy you can go with a bronze/gold subtle shimmer concept, a classic face with liquid liner, a simple fresh face with stronger lip.

Don’t be afraid to use a bag that doesn’t “go” – this is a look that can add some real personality to your look. I have a pale yellow snakeskin clutch that I use quite often even though I don’t own anything that color in my wardrobe. I find it is an unexpected pop of color that works so well, and the pale color makes it more dressy and versatile than typical black. A clutch in a texture (beading, embroidery) or print (snakeskin, a Pucci-inspired silk) can be far more versatile and stylish than a “basic” bag in black, silver, or gold.

Hi Allie:
I’ve been invited to two weddings this summer. Neither wedding is formal, but I would like to look nice. Do you have any suggestions for what would look appropriate, but fun?

I love being invited to casual weddings because it’s a great chance to wear fun fashion that doesn’t seem to have a proper place anywhere else in Real Life. As soon as I read your question I thought of maxi dresses.

Maxi dress via Mossimo for Target

Last summer I had a cotton maxi dress from Target that was a bright coral and white print. Being cotton, it was comfortable and also very versatile. I wore it to many an event with flat sandals and a long strand of turquoise beads; I even would wear it sans jewelry with a pair of flip flops for hanging out with friends. A plus to maxi dresses is that you keep your legs protected from the sun and from mosquitoes, and it’s easier to sit on the ground and not be exposed.

A maxi dress in a gauzy or cotton fabric would be festive choice for these weddings. To not try to overshadow the bride, keep accessories very simple and pair with flat sandals. Wearing your hair down and casual will make it feel more beachy and less bridesmaid.

Dear Allie,


I am a bridesmaid in a wedding this summer – it’s a destination wedding on the beach. We are allowed to wear anything we want as long as it’s black. Do you have any ideas on what would travel well, be comfortable in the heat, and would work with shoes that won’t sink into the sand? Thanks so much! – Dana

When I read your question I thought of what I wore to my friend’s wedding in November ’09. It was a spaghetti strap black maxi dress from Calvin Klein, and I paired it with big gold earrings, a pile of gold bangle bracelets, and wore flat gold sandals and my hair loose at my shoulders. When I put together the outfit, I thought about how great it would be for a tropical vacation.

Maxi dress via Ann Taylor LOFT

A maxi dress is a great choice for a beach wedding because you don’t have to worry about the breeze taking your skirt for a ride, and it makes it easier to sit in the sand or a low chair without feeling exposed. With a long skirt, you also don’t have to worry about a tall shoe to balance out the dress.

Matte jersey is a fabulous fabric for travel as that it doesn’t wrinkle, packs up small, and is easy to spot clean with a Tide to Go pen (or a little Ivory soap and then an overnight air dry). Matte jersey is also figure flattering – it has stretch but doesn’t cling to curves. It can be found at most any pricepoint and retailer – I have matte jersey dresses from Old Navy and Target, and found my black maxi dress at Macy’s on sale for less than $100.

If you pair with dressier sandals and jewelry, a dress of this fabric can easily go from casual to formal. However, keep the location in mind and don’t try to get too stuffy with heavy statement necklaces, formal updos, or lots of makeup. Embrace the beach and consider beaded chandelier earrings, stacks of bangles, or longer pendant necklaces and let the shore breeze have its way with your hair!

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook

Ask Allie: Budget Friendly Interview Attire

I have decided to get a new job and find a healthier work environment. Thing is I don’t own a suit and I can’t spend more than $150 on interview clothes. Any suggestions on where to get a suit?

While you may luck out on the clearance rack of Ann Taylor or Banana Republic (and it can happen, I have a great matching blazer, pencil skirt and trousers from AT that cost under $200 thanks to coupons and clearance), you can’t guarantee that you’ll have success in time for your first interview. Some may recommend thrifting or consignment, but for an interview you need to put your best foot forward and again you can’t guarantee finding the right size and style in pristine quality in time.

I conduct interviews quite regularly at my job, for positions of all levels, and I have to say not wearing a suit is preferable to some cobbled together attempt at a jacket and trousers or skirt. It’s also preferable to wearing an obviously cheap suit. I’ve interviewed individuals with hems obviously stapled to the correct length, women in shiny tight Girls Night Out pants with a gabardine blazer, casual twill blazers with suiting trousers, tight thin knit skirts with a too-big power blazer clearly borrowed from Mom, and the cheap shiny hot pink pantsuit with beaded lapels and rhinestone buttons. Though these individuals strived to create a professional appearance, they focused too much on the need to create a suit than the need to create a polished, professional appearance.

So what do you do when you have limited time and funds but want to put your best foot forward for job interviews? Here’s some suggestions on how to create a professional look with few resources:

You Have Great Trousers (or a Great Skirt) but No Matching Suit Jacket

Great trousers means they fit – they don’t bag, they don’t hug your rear and thighs, they are the appropriate length (no ankle bone showing, no dragging on the ground). They are of a professional fabric (not shiny, not cotton twill, not stretchy), and likely lined to provide better drape and fit. These trousers are in a classic color – black, gray, brown, taupe, navy, possibly a dark muted green or wine.

A great skirt is a straight or pencil skirt that fits well, doesn’t ride up, doesn’t hug the rear, doesn’t wrinkle during a car or bus ride, hits the knees, and lets you walk a comfortable confident stride. It should be of a professional fabric and lined, free of embellishment and trendy details.

budget friendly interview outfit pants skirt
Pair with:

A crisp white shirt, necklace, and pumps. Purchase a wrinkle-resistant shirt that’s opaque and fits properly (no bulging buttons, not oversized, correct sleeve length), wear tucked into the trousers, and add a classic necklace that adds some shine. A pair of leather pumps in the same color as the trousers or skirt with an almond or pointed toe will look elegant, professional, and be a useful purchase after the interview.

A suiting blazer of the same fabric but different color and a blouse the same color as one or the other. Take your trousers shopping, or note the fabric composition on the tag and look for a jacket that is the same or extremely similar. However, don’t try to match grays or blacks because 99% of the time it won’t work and you’ll look sloppy. To get the most mileage of this jacket, choose one free of patterns and details, one that is a classic cut (no double breasted buttons, no cropped or perma-rolled sleeves, no creative collars), and in another neutral (black, gray, navy, taupe, ivory, cream).

By having your blouse (and with a mix like this I encourage a blouse, not a crisp shirt or a knit shell) either the same color as the jacket or the bottom, it creates cohesiveness and a purposeful look. Add interest with a necklace, belt (if applicable), and a confident smile.

If You Have a Great Jacket but No Trousers or Skirt

A great jacket means it fits GREAT, and to fit great it likely has been to the tailor. Sleeves the right length, shoulders in the right place, able to button without straining, not too tight but not oversized. The jacket is of a professional fabric (no twill, knit, denim, or anything with a shine), lined, and a classic cut. In this situation, a color is acceptable but it shouldn’t be too bold of a hue (bright yellow, lime green, orange, hot pink), or have trendy details (statement buttons, creative lapels, cut-outs, colorblocking or a print).

what to wear to an interview no suit
Pair with:

A suiting skirt or trousers and a blouse of the same color. Take the same advice above, and create a polished and cohesive look with a neutral blouse and trousers and a classic pair of pumps.

A professional tailored dress. This is not your pink floral rayon fit and flare frock, it’s not your striped ponte tee shirt dress, and it is never anything with spaghetti straps, cutouts (even if hidden under the jacket), or anything that is above the knee. Best choice is a sheath dress with a classic neckline (V, not too low scoop, crew or jewel neck), lined, and a fabric that coordinates with the jacket. Second choice is a dress that has a defined waist (self belt or banded waistband) and hits mid-knee to top of calf in a coordinating fabric. It’s important for this dress to have a tailored fit; a blazer over a loose dress will look sloppy and encourage creases.

Coordinating fabric means both of the same composition (see above), or fabrics that flatter one another (silk with crepe, wool with tweed, that sort of thing). If you’re not sure about coordinating fabrics I say to NOT go with this direction. It can be confusing, and too easy to go the wrong way.

If You Have Nothing and Need to Start From Scratch

Buy a Dress. Seriously, forgo the suit and get a professional dress in a solid color or subdued pattern. Pair with leather pumps in a neutral, wear a simple necklace, have polished hair and makeup and a nice bag and you will look far more competent and serious than in a hodgepodge of so-called professional attire.

No sheer portions or cutouts, no cleavage, no twee prints, trendy details, or overly vintage silhouettes. A sleeve is a very good idea, and the length should hit the knees. The style should skim the figure (more professional than a shift or sack dress), and be of a substantial fabric and/or lined. A few options under $150:

Do you have any suggestions for this reader?

Ask Allie: Very Casual Office Attire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Ask Allie: Interview Attire to Cover a Tattoo

I’m graduating college in the next couple months, and I realized I don’t have any work appropriate clothes! My field of study was Graphic Design, so the creative arts is where I’m headed for sure….only problem is, I’m not sure if my new employers are all gung-ho about me having a tattoo on my arm. What would be a few outfits that would be decent for career hunting in the creative field, that would hide my forearm tattoo? I don’t want to look like a stuffy person with just suit jackets galore.

How exciting, what a crazy time for you! I wish you the best in your last semester and much luck on the job hunting process! I’m glad you are considering this; while tattoos have become quite common in all sorts of fields, there are still many who don’t fully understand or appreciate them. A first interview is time to dress to sell your skills, not your sense of personal style.

As soon as I read your submission, I thought wrap dresses! From Target to the creator of this style of dress, Diane von Furstenberg, a wrap dress is chic and office appropriate. Be it a bracelet-length sleeve that covers the tattoo but lets the wrists show, or a long sleeve, such a dress would be great for a creative interview and works all year round. An alternative is the shirtdress; if not too casual of a silhouette (keep the chambray and shirttails for once you have the job and look for something more tailored and polished) it can look sophisticated and stylish for your interview.

An alternative dress is the sheath or shift dress. A sheath has a more fitted silhouette, a shift can vary from a bit of tailoring to being more sack-like. If choosing a shift, I’d stick with one with a bit of tailoring for a cleaner and more professional feel. Either style of dress with bracelet or long sleeves is elegant and on trend. It can be left simple, or personalized with a great necklace or scarf.

Not all jackets are stuffy and suit-like. One of the best ways to relax a blazer is to break it from its matching skirt or pants. A white or ivory jacket with black pants can look modern and hip, a black jacket over a printed dress loses its boardroom feel.

But don’t feel you have to stick to classic suiting blazers. A cropped swing jacket, trench-inspired jacket, or a moto jacket can be a fantastic alternative, especially when interviewing in the creative arts field. I once interviewed a woman for my non-creative arts company who wore a gray knit moto jacket over a black sheath dress. Paired with tall black boots and a modern silver necklace, the look was stylish, unique, but still appropriate at my more conservative office.


For details on the specific pieces seen in the graphics, visit my Polyvore account.

Follow Me | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram