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Guest Post: For The Love of Dressing

By Christen Kinard

As far back as I can remember, I have wanted to dress differently.

Wait. I take that back. For a brief period between the ages of ten and thirteen I wanted desperately to disappear. (Didn’t we all?)

But that anomaly aside, I have strived to set myself apart…sartorially speaking. As a child, I wanted nothing to do with a garment if it wasn’t pink and/or sparkly. My preference being “and,” of course. I wore heels in high school when everyone else wore sneakers. In college, I went through a monochromatic phase wherein I had a closetful of literal head-to-toe outfits in the exact same shade of red. I’m glad to say that phase has passed.

What hasn’t passed is my love of dressing. Not just of clothes. Anyone can love beautifully made clothes. Hell, one can even love poorly made clothes. My passion is dressing. The process by which I translate how I feel and who I want to be on any given day. And it does change. Frequently, in fact. A creative process of self-discovery and self-expression. Cheesy? Perhaps. But nonetheless true.

It is difficult, however, to truly set oneself apart when you purchase the same Gap dress, Banana Republic heels, and Nine West shoes as every other woman your age. You know you’re stuck in a rut when your colleague excitedly exclaims that she has that same cardigan and the same espadrilles!

Just out of college and new to the area, my shopping excursions were limited to malls and department stores. While I always found clothing to buy, I rarely found clothing to love. Since then, I have discovered the abundance of locally owned boutiques in this area.

I began swapping out my cotton cardigans for brocade tuxedo jackets. Pointed kitten heels and ballet flats for patent flatforms and asymmetrical booties. The little black dress for the not-so-little black dress. Granted, my style was bound to change as I aged. And of course, my closet is peppered with the occasional Nordstrom find. I’m pretty sure I even have a few Forever21 leftovers. But the heart of my wardrobe…the part that really says “me”…comes from these small businesses with carefully curated selections and invested owners. The same small businesses that helped me regain my vision, my inspiration, and my love of dressing. (So much so that I made it my career too.)

While the bulk of my shopping is done in the two-mile radius in which I live (also known as Old Town Alexandria), I have found a wealth of worthy boutiques everywhere from Middleburg to St. Michaels. We all get stuck in fashion ruts, and they can be difficult to climb out of. But consider paying a visit to the shop around the corner, even if parking is a little more difficult than at the mall. Your wardrobe will thank you.

Christen, also known as @LaRueNeuve, is the brains behind Alexandria Stylebook, a website which promotes local design, beauty and fashion. And as of April 1, she will be joining The Shoe Hive, a locally-owned shoes and accessories boutique, as manager and buyer.

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Guest Post at Already Pretty

I love Sally McGraw and her blog Already Pretty. She has an amazing sense of style, and gives wonderful advice that works for most any woman. If I lived closer to the Twin Cities, I would totally have her as my favorite shopping partner!

Sally asked me to do a guest post on her blog about pregnancy chic and I was happy to oblige, and honored to be considered. You can check out my post here!

Guest Post at Already Pretty

I love Sally McGraw and her blog Already Pretty. She has an amazing sense of style, and gives wonderful advice that works for most any woman. If I lived closer to the Twin Cities, I would totally have her as my favorite shopping partner!

Sally asked me to do a guest post on her blog about pregnancy chic and I was happy to oblige, and honored to be considered. You can check out my post here!

Guest Post: Music for a Neverending Winter

By This Is Our Jam

As it becomes later in March, we’re just SO over winter at this point — and we can only imagine that as a victim of black ice, Allie agrees with us! Doesn’t the universe know that it just needs to warm up and stay spring-like — and that a St. Patrick’s Day snow storm is just not okay?

In honor of Allie’s broken wrist, we’ve come up with a playlist to say “screw you!” to winter. Take a listen, and join us in our anti-snow dances. We’ll even take some of the DC area pollen in exchange for permanently warmer weather. And you know that’s desperation.

This Is Our Jam is the (mostly) musical brainchild of three friends who, once upon a time, changed their GChat statuses a lot. Krista, Kristen, and Stacey love to share music, YouTube gems, and other assorted thoughts with the world. Whether new music we’ve just discovered at a DC concert or old throwbacks from childhood, we have a lot of jams that we think the world should hear. We don’t define ourselves as a critical music blog (we leave all the detailed critiques and musical theory to musicality experts), but rather we aim to be an entertaining source for both finding new music and re-discovering songs and artists that may have gotten buried in your iTunes library.  Follow This Is Our Jam for tunes, assorted thoughts, and so much more online, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

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Guest Post: Drugstore Makeup Faves

By Lexa Lemieux

The past several months I have drastically revamped my makeup routine. I had been doing the same things for years. Unfortunately, the same old was not working for my changing face. At 33-years-old, I know I am far from old (my nose stud tends to agree!), but with the appearance of fine lines and some duller skin, I knew something needed to change.

Allie was one of the first bloggers that I ever got “hooked” on years ago and I am so happy to call her a friend. Of course, being my friend, she has had to hear about my revitalized makeup obsession. When she asked for a guest post, I knew exactly what I was going to write.

Money doesn’t grow on trees and bourbon doesn’t pay for itself, so I have really come to love drugstore cosmetics. They have changed so much over the past ten years and they are just as good as their high end cousins. I hope my obsession can keep a few extra bills in your pocket.

Primer: Rimmel Fix and Perfect Pro Primer keeps the slip sliding at bay and costs a fraction of the price of high end brands…and even some of its drugstore counterparts. Just make sure to grab the “Pro” version in Rimmel’s offering. It makes a difference. Trust me.

Eye Shadow Primer: I need to go with Rimmel again here. Their Exaggerate Undercover Shadow Primer gets the job done. All smooth, no slippage.

Foundation: Revlon ColorStay has true staying power and does not oxidize. No one wants the dreaded orange face hours after applying what looked like the perfect base.

Under Eye Concealer: Maybelline’s Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circles Concealer and Treatment is the best drugstore under eye concealer out there. With minimal creasing in fine lines and a brightening effect, I like it more than most of my high end options.

Concealer: Cover Girl & Olay Concealer Balm is great for breakouts, redness around the nose and other skin imperfections. Creamy without being sticky, it is suited for the job.

Setting Powder: Coty Airspun Loose Face Powder will likely kick your nostalgia into high gear, but the stuff has been around forever for a reason. I adore it. For best effect, I find applying it with a velour puff is a better option.

Brows: I prefer filling in lightly with a shadow instead of a pencil; Wet ‘n Wild (a really underrated brand that is not the junk of your teen years) is a good choice here. Just grab a matte shade that is a few shades lighter than your brow shade if you are a brunette or a few shades darker if you are fair haired. I then set my brows with Maybelline Great Lash Clear Mascara.

Liquid Eye Liner: I have been wearing black eyeliner since I was 13 years old. (Sorry, Mom.) Hands down, my most beloved brand at the drugstore is the L’Oreal Lineur Intense Felt Tip Liner in Black Mica. I was a Lancome disciple for years, but honestly? This may be better. The pen doesn’t try out as fast and the flow of the liquid is incredibly smooth.

Eyeliner Pencil: The NYX Retractable Eye Liner in Black doesn’t smudge, glides easily on the water line and doesn’t rub off on your lids. I am sold.

Mascara: The Maybelline Great Lash Lots of Lashes in Black is a new obsession. The key here is the get the “Lots of Lashes” version of this iconic product; the funky wand really helps volumize.

Eye Shadow: I have to admit that this is one area where I really find it pays to spend a little extra cash. I love to layer color and want highly blendable pigment. That being said, the Almay Intense I-Color Bold Nudes Kit is very, very good. Also, you don’t need to follow the suggestions of what one to use depending on your eye color like it is gospel. That is just a smart marketing gimmick.

Blush: Milani Baked Blush in Luminoso is ah-ma-zing. And…shhh…it is a perfect dupe for NARS Orgasm that may be a little better. It has a touch less shimmer so it is easier to avoid disco ball face.

Bronzer: The NYC Smooth Skin Bronzing Face Powder in Sunny is impossibly cheap and I was a real skeptic. I kept hearing over and over again that it was the way to go, though. Alas, this is the way to go. Warming, not orangey. Just a great product.

Highlight: I like to hit the apples of my cheeks and the bridge of my nose with a quick highlight for a glow; it tricks people into thinking I am not ready to drop over from exhaustion. I am a huge fan of the Revlon Highlighting Palette in Rose Glow.

Lipstick: I tend to do a more dramatic eye, so I go fairly understated and sheer on lipstick. I love the Rimmel by Kate Lasting Finish Matte Lipstick in 113 (a lightish nude color) a perfect shade.

Lipgloss: NYX. NYX. NYX. I am such a NYX lip gloss junkie. The NYX Mega Shine Lip Gloss in Beige (it is a pink color, which makes no sense) is a holy grail item for me.

Lexa Lemieux is a leather wearing, make up loving feminist living in Washington, DC. Her apartment and her life are equally messy but things are never boring. And yes, she did just say what you were thinking. You can find her on twitter, instagram and her neglected, but still loved by her, blog.

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Guest Post – The DC Goodwill Fashionista

I am a huge fan of thrifting – it’s a great way to shop on a budget, and I have found some ridiculous fashion scores at thrift stores.  

My favorite thrift store chain is Goodwill – they do an amazing job at organizing their locations, the money goes to such a great cause, and we lucky DC-area folks have the DC Goodwill Fashionista – a blog that brings high style to thrifting, and offers many amazing promotions and events to support the cause and show how fashion is available at your local Goodwill. 

I asked the DCGF if she would be willing to share some of her “tricks of the trade” for a successful thrifting experience:

Even after all these years, I find myself decoding the great mysteries of the Goodwill experience to the uninitiated. Case in point, two days ago a friend of mine mentioned that she’d seen something about Goodwill posted on a social networking site. And how totally awesome it was that I wrote a fashion blog for them. And how they have a great mission. She practically leaped at the chance to say all of this to me, but then concluded that she personally never shopped there. Wait – huh?

Actually, this happens all the time. People love the work that Goodwill does in their community. They love to donate their gently used goods. And they love an opportunity to be a part of the fashion scene by reading the blog or joining the Facebook page. But when it comes to actual shopping in the stores…that’s a different matter entirely.

It’s not that my friend – and others like her – are afraid of resale items, or don’t live close to our stores. It’s that mostly they feel overwhelmed. Like my friend told me, “I think it would be fun to go in a Goodwill store, but I wouldn’t know where to start!” Aha! She feels overwhelmed by the selection and doesn’t know where to start. It’s a common problem for newbies. Ha.

I’ve given out some of this advice before, but it bears repeating. Hitting up a Goodwill or thrift store or garage sale, or really any place that merchandise isn’t arranged into rows of identical items in a variety of colors and sizes, can be a scary thought. That’s why I tell people these three tips to keep in their back pocket – literally, if needed! – in order to have a great experience when they shop second-hand for the first time:

1. Determine ahead of time which department(s) you want to visit. Although it’s fun to scour the whole store for that next treasure, take it easy on your first few trips. Identify ahead of time what you might want to purchase – say, a frying pan or a black dress – to help you zero in on that area. Our stores are easily labeled by departments to make it easy to find what you want. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for and you still feel like you want to browse for something else, go right ahead!

2. Be flexible in your expectations. If you go in saying that you only want to purchase a floor-length red sequin gown in a size 6 Petite, well, you might come out disappointed. Because we rely on donations to supply our stores, you never know what might be on the racks from day to day. Which means that particular dress might not be on the rack, but similar styles or colors or sizes are often available. On the flip side, there might be a dress so fabulous that you haven’t even imagined it yet!

3. Learn the best days of the week to shop. If you want the best selection of the freshest merchandise at your local Goodwill, chances are you’ll find it on Tuesday mornings. Why then? Well let me put it this way: the weekends are high-volume times for donations, but it takes a day or so to process all of them. Ergo, Tuesday mornings are the best! If you shopped the week before, but didn’t find what you were seeking, check back in on Tuesday for all of the new goods we’ve put on the floor.

I hope those tips encourage you to take your first trek to a Goodwill. And if you’re a seasoned shopper like me, it’s still always good to keep in mind the best times to shop, and to remind yourself that you never know what’s waiting on the racks and aisles! It’s an exciting adventure for me every time I step into one of our stores, and I hope these tips will help YOU to have many great experiences like that, too!

And for those savvy thrifters in the DC area, Goodwill is having a Sweetheart of a sale:

On Valentine’s Day, all donated goods (basically everything in the store) will be 50% off at the new Goodwill Retail Store located in Falls Church, VA (2936 Annandale Rd Falls Church, VA 22042).  How awesome is that?  Happy thrifting!!

Guest Post – Accessories for Fall/Winter

Hello all! I’m DWJ from The Art of Accessories and I’m so excited to be able to do a guest post for Wardrobe Oxygen and Allie! I thought we’d talk about a great accessories wardrobe because accessories really can be just what you need to inject new life into your closet without buying more clothes. Now a complete accessories wardrobe…that can be HUGE! So I thought I’d just narrow it down to what my favorite things to accessorize with for fall/winter are right now.

DWJ rocking black and colored tights

Black Tights: Black tights can instantly add more polish to ANYTHING in your closet. I’m serious. When in doubt, I pull on a pair of black tights with my skirt and black heels and I feel more chic. It’s also a great way to help stretch those summery dresses into fall. Add tights and a great cardigan and you’ve got layers to keep you warm and cozy when it’s chilly. My favorite are by Hue, they’re super dark and last for a few winters!

Colored and Textured Tights: I’m kind of in love with We Love Colors tights. They have a rainbow of colored tights to go with every mood and any outfit in my closet. Stuck in a rut with black dresses and skirt? Add a pop of royal blue with your tights. Love this season’s dark romantic floral print dresses? Add a dusty pink or burgundy tight to give your outfit an extra touch of romance. Textured tights help give a monochromatic outfit a bit more interest and colorful fishnets can give your date night outfit a bit more WOW factor.

A Fabulous Hat: I do not believe in being cold and if I don’t have a hat on I’m guaranteed to be shivering whenever I’m outside. Since the weather is getting chillier and your mother always said cover your head when it’s cold, I find a great hat is a must. Find one that you love and rock it! My personal favorite is the fedora. I actually bought a men’s fedora when I was in NYC and I think it is the coolest hat I’ve ever owned. I also keep a few stretchy tam style hats to throw in my purse and have on hand at all times. Plus, they’re great when you’re having a bad hair day.

Scarves: I’m all about scarves for adding a dose of color or glamour to an outfit. I go from camouflage to giraffe print throughout the winter because it perks up my winter coat and brightens up my day. I love a circle scarf, because then you don’t have to worry about it coming unraveled or getting caught on something. It instantly looks chic when you pull it on.

Image courtesy of La Mimi

Gloves: Every since I saw Confessions of a Shopaholic I’ve been obsessed with finding the perfect colorful leather glove. My favorite color is green, so ideally that’s what I want but I’d say go for a great contrasting color to your winter coat so the gloves really do stand out. I recently picked up a great hot pink leather pair at Marshalls for $16! You can’t beat a great deal on leather gloves.

A Great Winter Coat: Depending on your climate, you can spend a lot of time wearing your winter coat, so why not make it a good one? I try to not just stick with basic black or grey and go for a vibrant green, pink or yellow. Why? Because it makes me smile when I’m on a train filled with black coats and I’m wearing apple green. Winter can already be drab and dreary; don’t let your outerwear bring you down too.

Read more from DWJ at her blog, The Art of Accessories or follow her on Twitter (@theaofa).  
Thanks again DWJ for the guest post, and for reminding me to pull out my purple leather gloves – they really do make the season brighter and more stylish! :-)

Guest Post: Which Necklace with Which Neckline?

Guest post by Rosana Vollmerhausen

I gave a talk recently about necklaces and necklines. It’s a typical question we get here at DC Style Factory: Go long? Go choker? Go statement?

The easiest necklaces to wear with just about any neckline is a longer one. The length of the necklace clears any v, scoop, drape or boat neckline. Whether you decide to go longer or shorter, you don’t want your necklace bumping up against your neckline. So either select one that is about an ½ an inch to an inch above your neckline or one that drops under your neckline at least several inches.

Longer necklaces, much like v-neck tops, lengthen your neckline, which in general is more flattering. Chokers shorten your neckline, which sometimes can sometimes be a more challenging style to wear. If you are petite, pay attention to how long the long necklace goes. Right below the bustline is good – grazing your bellybutton is too long.

Here is quick, easy guide for selecting which necklaces go best with which neckline.

V-neck Top

Wear with:

what necklace v-neck top

Smaller drop/pendant necklace that flows into v of the top

what necklace v-neck top

Longer non-pendant necklace that clears the v of the top and flows with the draping.

Pass on: Wearing with a choker, which shortens your neckline and counteracts to the lengthening effect of the v shape.


Wear with:

what necklace scoop neck top

A statement necklace that mimics the curved shape of the neckline covers expose neck/chest surface area.

Pass on: A choker that will leave too much empty surface area and not cover enough neck/chest area.

Boatneck Top

Wear with:

what necklace boatneck top

what necklace boatneck top

A longer necklace, which draws attention up and down, and balances the high, horizontal neckline.

Pass on: A choker/collar necklace that will bump up against with the neckline.  A statement necklace higher up on the neck that will grab and pull at the horizontal neckline.

Collared Button-down Shirt

Wear with:

what necklace button collared shirt

A statement necklace under the collar for a “brooch” effect.

what necklace button collared shirt

A statement under the shirt with some color peeking out.

Pass on: A long necklace that will compete with the vertical button placket on the shirt.


Wear with:

what necklace crewneck shirt

A longer necklace that lengthens your neckline since the high neckline of the crewneck top shortens it.

what necklace crewneck shirt

A statement necklace that “creates” a new, longer neckline. Select a statement necklace that covers the top of the crewneck.

Pass on: A collar necklace; it just further shortens your neckline.


Wear with…

what necklace strapless

A shorter statement necklace that leaves about 1/2 an inch of space between the necklace and the neckline, a longer necklace that clears the neckline, or the two together as pictured!

what necklace strapless

Another fun option is to wear with a collar necklace.

There are a multitude of other necklines and variations on necklines, but just remember, you simply want the necklace you choose to make sense with the neckline of the top. If you are fussing with it too much or it just doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. But selecting the right necklace can really make a difference in adding polish, personality and finish to your look. Happy accessorizing!

DC Style Factory is a personal styling and shopping business based in the Washington, D.C. area. The company creed is that style is for anyone who wants it – regardless of size, age or budget. Clients include high-profile experts in the public eye who need polish for television appearances and stay-at-home moms juggling carpool. Our job is to prepare them to look and feel good for different events in their lives no matter how big or small.

Stylist and owner, Rosana Vollmerhausen, has had more than a decade of fashion retail and styling experience, including owning, running and buying for an award-winning boutique in Washington,D.C. She has styled local fashion events and photo shoots, and has written expert fashion tips for local publications. Her true passion, though, is one-on-one work with clients, building wardrobes that make sense for where they are in their lives. As a wife and mother of three, she is a firm believer that you don’t have to sacrifice personal style because life is busy. If key wardrobe pieces make sense for who and where you are, personal style can be accessible to anyone who wants it.

Learn more about Rosana and DC Style Factory at or on the blog at

Guest Post: Covered Style, Fashion in the Middle East

By Kim Kash

I live in Saudi Arabia, where Muslim women cover their hair (and sometimes their whole face except for their eyes) and wear loose-fitting, long garments.  I’m an American living on a very large, international compound where women do not have to cover. So I am hardly an expert on Saudi women’s fashion. However, I’ve been here for several years and spent plenty of time outside the compound covered up in what I call my “Invisibility Cloak.” Here, then, are my observations about Saudi women’s fashions.

First, a note: I’m talking here about women’s fashions when they are in public. In the U.S., women dress with the most care when they are going to be out and about. At home, likely as not, you’ll find us in sweatpants. In Saudi Arabia, women wear the cute stuff when they’re spending private time with family and friends, and cover it all up in public. The shopping malls are full of fun, young, sexy fashions—but you’ll never see a Saudi woman wearing any of that out on the street or even in offices or restaurants. So what I’m discussing here is the fashion that you see here on the street.

In much of the Muslim world, women are free to use lavish color and pattern to create their own signature look. However, in Saudi Arabia, women wear black abayas (think of a graduation gown or a choir robe). They cover their hair with a black hijab, which is the drape that goes over the head and under the chin so that the face is tightly framed. Some also wear a niqab, which veils the face and leaves just a small slit for the eyes.

One might think these women give up on making any kind of fashion statement. On the contrary; many Saudi women create their own distinctive style despite the monochromatic color scheme. Many do it with beautiful abayas, trimmed with Swarovski elements, beaded sleeves, sequins, and other very formal decoration. In Saudi Arabia, it is perfectly normal for a woman to wear an abaya with sparkly trim to the grocery store or the shopping mall. The sweep and drama of the long black cloak is very formal, and many women make good use of this.

In keeping with this formal look, many women wear very dressy, high-heeled shoes as their everyday footwear. (The shoes are also usually also in black). Alternatively, teenagers and younger women often choose surf and skate-inspired shoes to wear with jeans under their abayas. Interestingly, I haven’t often seen girls wearing overtly masculine-looking sneakers, such as Vans that are clearly styled for boys. Usually they are sporty but also bright and girly.

Statement-making designer handbags are the fashion accessory in Saudi Arabia, along with watches that cost as much as a compact car. At Moda Mall, the ultra-high-end shopping mall just over the causeway in Bahrain, shoppers with discerning taste and deep pockets can shop at Burberry, Breitling, Cartier, Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, Fendi, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Tiffany, Valentino, Van Cleef and Arpels, and Versace, to name only the most easily recognizable labels. As in the U.S. right now, many women carry very large purses with prominent designer labels.

Big, blingy, and black are the watch-words for savvy Middle Eastern sunglasses shoppers. A pair of oversized movie-star sunglasses really does look glamorous on a woman whose hair is swathed in a dramatic black scarf.

Under those sunglasses, a stylish Saudi woman’s face is often heavily and artfully made up. Few western women could pull off smoldering, dark eye makeup and false eyelashes in the office. Here a heavily made-up daytime look doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. So to speak. Nails are also often carefully and dramatically manicured.

There is a very distinctive, exotic scent that many have come to associate with the Middle East. Traditional perfume shops here sell “oud,” a scent derived from the Southeast Asian agarwood tree. Oud can be worn as a perfume (there are blends for men and for women) or burned in a special oud burner. Western perfumes are also popular here, and many women (men too) apply it liberally every day. Expensive designer perfumes, of course, are also popular. Then again, half an aisle at my local supermarket is given over to cheapie perfumes and colognes. Scent is so popular with young Saudi men that if they stopped selling Axe here, Unilever might go into a freefall.

Kim Kash is the author of Ocean City Lowdown: A Jamie August Novel (2013). She also wrote the bestselling Ocean City: A Guide to Maryland’s Seaside Resort (2009), and is currently writing the next installment in the Jamie August series. Kim divides her time between Maryland and the Middle East, working as a freelance writer for American and Middle Eastern clients. For fun, she cooks, travels, practices yoga, and climbs.

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Guest Post: Redefining Personal Style through Friendship

By Erin Twitty Johnson

I spent a couple of years, in retail management, specializing in resale. There is a lot of freedom in your wardrobe when you work in resale. A lot. I stretched out into it. I met all that freedom right at the edge of crazy, and it felt like home.

And then.

I decided to take a job as a usability analyst. For the first time in a long time, I had to dress like a professional. And it was terrifying. I had become accustomed to dressing with no rules. I had to find a way to navigate my personal style in a direction that was work appropriate, but still felt true. Still felt like me. I have always felt I say a lot with my clothes, and I don’t like the idea of not saying what I mean.

I had no idea where to begin. I struggled to get dressed every day. I felt lost in my own closet. My husband encouraged me to move towards basics, but I hate basics, they have always seemed so boring. So I started nowhere. I made do with what I had, supplemented with a couple of blazers from Zara. And I thought about it. For a few months.

I started by simply taking a look around at my girlfriends and co-workers. What were they wearing? What did I like? Dislike? Who was consistently dressed in a way I found appealing? I narrowed the list down to three friends who always looked amazing, and chose to focus on them.

Jessi, Stevie and Vicki. Paying close attention to Stevie’s style was nothing new, to be honest. I have always paid close attention to what Stevie is wearing and copied as much of what she was doing as I could. I never even bothered to hide it. She just knows what she’s doing. She’s a rock and roll bohemian princess. She is amazing. She has evolved in our time together to become a much classier, high fashion version of the girl she was when we met. Her style would be the anchor. To bring the old into the new.

Jessi and Vicki though. They were something else. I started to watch what they were wearing. And something started to show up as a pattern. They were wearing basics. A lot of them. I liked what they were wearing, and on them, basics seemed wonderful. They served as building blocks, holding together outfits with amazing jackets, or show off shoes. And they were never boring.

But I had no idea how to translate what they were doing into my own closet. My husband and I went shopping several times, he pointed out basics and suggested things to try on. And I hated all of it. It was so defeating. I knew what I wanted but I didn’t want it.

And then we went to Zara. And something clicked. I found tees in shades of grey and black and they drape on them was so pretty I didn’t mind. And a blazer in dark grey jersey. I had found the thing that separates bad basics from good. Fit. I found great fitting tees at Zara and Everlane and stocked up.

My new go-to look consists of a black or white t-shirt, black ankle pants or dark wash denim, and a blazer or long cardigan. It sounds boring, I know, but the truth is that it just highlights all of my great shoes, jackets and jewelry. I can wear as many accessories as I want, and not look overdone. And it’s so easy and quick to get dressed in the AM now! I feel like myself again. And I owe it all to a few girlfriends and the joy of good basics.

Erin used to blog (and you may recognize her from my True Fashionista series), but now she takes selfies in the bathroom at work.  Follow her on Instagram!

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Guest Post: Dress Like You Mean It

By Alison Santighian

When we don’t feel well,…OK…when I don’t feel well, I want to hide. I want to bury my head under the covers, close my eyes, and not see a thing. I don’t want to lay eyes on anyone, let alone myself. Whether I’m under the weather physically, or whether I’m under a cloud of some kind, or even when I’m just plain old exhausted from life’s demands, well, I want to play ostrich.

Years ago, when I felt like that, and when life still called for me to show my unwilling face in public, I would rifle through my drawers and find my most comfortable and often baggiest, least flattering sweat suit-like garb. (My most frequent use of such clothing? Exam days in college. I mean, who would want to dress for success after an all-nighter?)

Yup, I was hiding. Ostriches, I’ve got you covered.

Then, way back in 1994, I spent a year abroad, studying at a German university. I was in full-on ostrich mode, having just lost my beloved grandmother, never mind being unseen in a place that didn’t care about fashion (yes, the Germans really can be that bad). To top it off, the university where I was claimed an especially anti-establishment bent, which meant anyone who tried to wear anything other than black and huge scarves was cast as “The Man.”
I was in ostrich heaven, wearing the most unflattering garments known to man. My boyfriend at the time, who didn’t even care for style particularly, told me I was frumpy. Or at least that my clothes were. I didn’t care (really, I swear I didn’t). I was wearing what I wanted to wear.

Then we broke up.

Needless to say, I went into full on ostrich mode, truly not caring what I looked like. Comfort and ease were the name of the game. I couldn’t even tell you, at this point, what any of those clothes were.

Then I met an Italian. From Rome.

One day, maybe I’ll tell the interwebs the rest of the story, but we’ll just focus on one thing here. L, in his Roman wisdom and his Italian eye, asked me one day why I was wearing what I was, and why I didn’t dress up a bit. Somehow, from L (vice from the previous Englishman), it was simply a logical question. I can even see where we were standing in my teeny little student’s “efficiency.” He proceeded to look through my clothes and find something for me to wear for dinner.

He picked out the best that I had: a blush cotton crewneck J. Crew sweater and a pair of most likely ill-fitting khakis. The ensemble probably washed me out to no end, and certainly didn’t flatter my 21 year old body with its beloved but boxy shape, but it was better than sweatpants.

From that day on until the day I left Germany, I dressed. I even dressed to travel home on the plane. Again, I had very little that was even remotely stylish, but it was what I had. When I got back to university in the States, too, I found myself dressing. No longer did I pull an all nighter, then go straight to class in my PJs. No longer did I hide, but rather, I dressed. I pulled myself together. I showered. I brushed my hair, and occasionally even put on makeup (I still default to makeupless, though).

When I needed to steel myself, whether because I was ill or because I’d procrastinated a paper, I pulled myself together. I found that I felt stronger, better, and more capable of taking on whatever lay ahead because I bothered.

Two decades, a husband, and two “beans” later, I still subscribe to what L taught me: instead of hiding, I put myself forward in the best way possible. Now, when I’m fighting a cold, I default to reliable, but polished, ensembles. I have a navy bracelet sleeve sweater that always makes me stand taller. I have a pair of mid-height patent blush pumps that go with everything and pull me together. I have a three-step makeup routine I can do in my office parking lot (translucent powder, sheer red lips, and mascara). I might not feel at my best, but because I feel presentable – and usually look acceptable to everyone but me – I can take on the world.

About Alison Santighian:

With my first DC Celine blog post in December 2005, it turns out I’m one of the pioneers of the DC fashion blogging scene. With writing and fashion being my love, and not my day job, I’m a mistress at balancing work and play. My husband and I don’t believe badass has an expiration date, so we hit concerts, shows, restaurants, and openings as often as we can. All of those, and two “Beans,” now 6.5 and 4, keep me running, but they don’t burn calories. In 2012, I decided to get healthy and strong, and started telling my “healthy me” story out loud on the interwebs, and it turns out people wanted to hear it. In 2013, Weight Watchers honored me with a short feature, “Losing in DC.” 2 years after starting to get control of my health, my relationships with food show up in my Instagram feed as much as fashion and my Beans do.

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How To Dress After Losing Weight (Guest Post)

Yes, that’s right, occasionally we do something right with our lifestyles and lose 15 pounds, two dress sizes and reshape our bodies! This happened to me a few years ago when I quit smoking. Three months after I quit, I started doing aerobics twice a week, went on a semi-diet and lost 15 pounds, gained a waist for the first time in 10 years and have more or less kept it off through a pregnancy and various other life changes. I’ve also cut my hair from super-long to chin length, changed its color and am now over 40, the years when bodies begin to change in other ways and sometimes not for the better….. I’m stronger, healthier and more confident than ever before, and I would say it shows because of the clothes I wear.

Many ladies take large-size dressing down to their smaller size without success. You may see them out and about – clothes that may still fit somewhat around one part of the body but don’t fit well, hang baggily, are dated, may have been expensive when they were first purchased but are still held onto like security blankets. Excuses are made, closets are full of things you don’t want to wear, you stand for several minutes in front of the closet every morning trying to think of something that makes you look like the person y`ou now are. This post is how to emphasize your gains as well as your losses!

Michelle ObamaPick one body part you have worked hard to improve and emphasize it. Got great arms now due to weightlifting? There’s a reason Michelle Obama wears a lot of sleeveless items when being photographed, when most of us look 10 pound heavier! She works hard for those muscles and likes to wear things that emphasize that body part.

I started wearing wrap dresses, higher waists and really anything that defined a waist again. I used to have a lot of quasi-maternity style dresses – my sister and I call them “fitted and then vaaaaaague….” and those went to Goodwill almost immediately. Once I was asked all the time if I was pregnant, now it rarely happens.

Keep a close eye on proportion. One thing I discovered is that although I am petite and a size 10/11, I can look even thinner if the proportion is right. Wide-legged pants call for a sleeker top. Blousey top calls for a pencil-like or straight skirt, or narrower pants.

I will often wear a swing-style cropped suit jacket with a dark straight skirt, and it makes me look a lot taller. Being more fit means you can feel confident about being sleeker.

Great Fitting JeansShop for or tailor basics you need to replace first. One thing I see thinner people do a lot is to keep wearing their old jeans. That stiff fabric makes them look a lot heavier than they really are – it’s time to invest in either getting them tailored to fit you or new pairs. Same thing with suits – if you really really love it and it’s not dated, get it tailored.

Don’t forget the foundation garments. When you lost weight, did The Girls get smaller too? I even had to buy new panties! I didn’t lose so much weight that my shoe size changed, but for some of you this may be something you need to invest in! Lucky you! I do still need the control top tights in the winter, but it’s more so that they stay up rather than that I need the firmness per se. Although that never hurt anyone….

Kate Winslet Tailored DressTailored items make everyone look thinner. When we are heavier we wear a lot more stretch fabrics, and especially if you’ve lost inches, that stretch fabric hangs oddly and is ill-fitting. I had some great pairs of jersey pants and dresses that when I decided to ditch ‘em, I replaced them with more tailored items. Not only was it a way to present a more professional image (I wanted to also advance my career with my new look), the additional seaming and pressed creases in the tailored pieces allowed me to make straight lines where I wanted them to be, and to be more polished overall.

So congratulations! You’ve worked hard to drop that weight, and every little bit counts. Whether it’s 10, 20 or 70 pounds, celebrate your accomplishment, your new life and your new body and rock it with the clothes you wear!

- KayBug, guest blogger and avid Jazzerciser, cyclist and very occasional power walker/jogger on the dreaded treadmill.

Interested in being a guest blogger on Wardrobe Oxygen? Send me an email with your idea and your qualifications!

Guest Post: Four Ways to Look Better in Photos Instantly

Guest post by Insana Collins

As a portrait photographer, it’s my job to make sure that the people I photograph look their very best. This means that every photo session becomes a mini lesson in taking better photos, and I encourage my customers to remember them for every photo they take in the future. Here are four ways that you can be better prepared for your next photo session.

1. Relax

Some people start off with the, “Do I look alright?” face, with body language to match. Sure, I’m over exaggerating by shrugging my shoulders in the photo below, but the point is: the camera can see how nervous you are about getting your picture taken. But if you relax as if you’re just talking to an old friend, your photos will look that much better. So how do you relax? Draw in a deep breath, and as you slowly let it out, your shoulders will drop. And bonus: your face will appear less tense.


2. Smile

Sounds obvious, right? Well, for starters, this is a tip mostly for men. Let us see those pearly whites! Check me out below: I’m in exactly the same good mood in both photos, but in the first image, you’d never be able to tell. I look like someone ate my sandwich. In the second image, I look like I got it back.


3. Turtle

Every person I’ve ever photographed is now familiar with this term and they remember exactly what to do in subsequent shoots when I holler, “Turtle!!” All it means is to push your face forward, like a turtle might. It increases the space between your jaw and your neck, which reduces chin fat and makes everyone on the planet appear thinner. Some people have naturally awesome jawlines (ie. models) but for the rest of us, we must remember to turtle. Push your face forward, then move your chin down, just a tad.


4. Angle your Body

This tip is for anyone who wants to look thinner in photos. When your photo is taken, your first instinct is to stand square towards the camera. But if you angle your body at 45 degrees, and turn your face back towards the camera, your waistline will appear thinner. Check out the images below. It may be subtle, but depending on the outfit, the lighting, patterns in your clothes, etc., it can make all the difference.


Guess what? Posting these tips has already got me thinking about Four More Ways to Look Better in Photos, so stayed tuned! If these tips have truly helped you look better in your photos, comment below, or send an email to

Insana Collins is an award-winning photographer and has been working as a photographer and writer in the DC area since 1999. She studied journalism at the University of Maryland at College Park and her specialties include portraits, weddings and events, and commercial photography. Clients include radio and TV personalities, realtors, business owners, musicians, newlywed couples, moms, dads, and children. She also mentors amateur photographers and teaches photography skills to local Boy Scouts.

Learn more about Insana Collins and see more of her work at or on the blog at

Guest Post: Spring Essentials That Won’t Break the Bank

By Rosana Vollmerhausen

A question I often get from clients interviewing me is if I shop only at Saks and Nieman’s. The answer is… no and no. As a personal stylist/shopper, my clients are real people with jobs, families, busy lives and real-world budgets. Living and working in the DC area, even those clients that can afford to splurge, still want the most bang for their buck.

They recognize that how you present yourself to the world does matter — whether it is in business or off-duty. They know that looking and feeling good often go hand-in-hand. But they also know that it’s got to make sense in terms of time and money.

Even if I am shopping at a higher price point, there are still some wardrobe pieces I don’t advocate spending a fortune on (white t-shirt – I will never, ever spend more than $30 on a white t-shirt). And sometimes, your budget that season is just that — budget.

This spring, I am finding a myriad of affordable, well-made and on-trend options that will update and add “spring” to any wardrobe. Here are my picks for this season’s must-haves that won’t leave your budget in ruins.

The full midi skirt – Midi skirts are one of those trends that has been kind whispering from the fashion side stage for several seasons now. The frump factor was just too high for it to really break into the mainstream. It’s finally time though. Time to give the midi a day in court. To mitigate any potential frump, stick with pointy-toe, low-contrast shoe (metallic, nude, animal print) to elongate your leg line. Then prepare to enjoy a fun, feminine, alternative to a-line or pencil skirts.

My pick is this Asos skirt in a rich, forest green — the color of the season. Pair with a lighter mint green top, a fun scarf or necklace and some neutral pumps.

The dressy track pant – An oxymoron you ask? How in the world can a track pant be dressy? Pants are getting more relaxed this season (wide leg!) so prepare to give your skinnies a little rest.

The pastel pink of the Wayf pair at Nordstrom (on sale for $28) with a white tee, that new white blazer from Loft (see below) and snakeskin pumps makes for the perfect spring evening out.

Slip on sneaker – Oh joy! The wedge sneaker’s position on the shoe-trend throne has been usurped. In its place…the much more comfortable and sensible and, in my opinion, aesthetically pleasing, slip-on. You’ll see many designer (priced) versions, but can’t beat original Vans.

Can’t wait to wear with dark rolled jeans, a bateau-stripe tee for days out and about with my three kids.

The white jacket – I have been a broken record for years when it comes to the white blazer. Sometimes the white blazer jacket can feel too dressy. And then if it’s a denim style…too casual. This LOFT option (now 40% off $98!) has a nubby texture that feels more relaxed, but the tailored body and mandarin collar keeps it dressy enough for work.

Shift blouse – We all know what a shift dress is. The shift blouse is the same silhouette but made into a top: boxy fit, t-shirt style. With the relaxed athletic-style trouser, a pencil skirt, the fuller midi skirt, boyfriend jeans…the options are endless.  Find at Madewell and Modcloth.

The floral pump – It doesn’t take much more than a great pair of colorful pumps to add polish to a pair of jeans or punch up a neutral day dress. I recently fell in love with a pair Manolo Blahnik floral pumps, but not the price tag. These Ivanka Trump pumps make the same statement. And, while the heel height will be gentler on your feet, the price tag will be kinder to your wallet.

Flower in Spring clothing always felt too…precious. But with boyfriend jeans and an oversize white boyfriend blazer? Perfect mix of masculine/feminine elements.

The red bag – I often get the question: How can I easily look pulled together? The simplest way to add polish to your look, no matter the season, is to add a red bag. Jeans and tee? Red bag. White blazer, buttondown and cropped khakis? Red bag. Black shift dress and pumps? Red bag. I think you get the idea.

This Zara mini messenger bag gets the job done. For day, use as a crossbody. For dressier events, tuck the strap and use as a clutch. Insta-chic.

Voila! Now you are ready for spring…and have enough left over to tuck away for that summer vacation.

Rosana Vollmerhausen is a personal stylist serving hundreds of men and women in the DC area since 2009. Her diverse clientele have included stay-at-home moms, attorneys, lobbyists, diplomats, college graduates entering the professional workplace, business executives and more. She has been featured as a wardrobe and fashion expert in The Washington Post, The Washingtonian, on NPR and more. A working wife and mother of three, she is a firm believer that you don’t have to sacrifice personal style because life is busy. If you have the right wardrobe pieces that make sense for where you are in your life, personal style is accessible to anyone who wants it. You can learn more about her personal shopping and styling services at or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Artist’s Way Post Delayed

I have no internet in my house for some reason, today is Emerson’s birthday party and if don’t have time to call and complain to Comcast or drive to a cafe with wifi to post what I wrote in MS Word. I’m writing this on my phone and it’s tough. I hope to have the post up this evening, if not tomorrow morning :)

Another Coming Clean Post…

I know I haven’t posted a lot. It’s because… I hate my wardrobe.

Yes, Alison Gary, author of Wardrobe Oxygen has a closet full of stupid stuff. No staples, no go-to pieces. A bunch of things that don’t fit, don’t flatter, or don’t work with her lifestyle.

Today I am wearing one of my few go-to work outfits – black pencil skirt, white ribbed tank, green cardigan, scarf tied to make a necklace. But the shoes are my black patent t-straps which don’t go as well as the peeptoe pumps but my feet are still hurting from Bonnaroo and those high heels aren’t going to cut it. And the tank has been worn a lot and is a bit stretched out and meh looking. And my hair is a mess because my husband gave me a head massage last night while watching something on the History Channel about real pirates of the Caribbean and I didn’t have time to shower this morning.

Yesterday I wore my Muse knot-front dress.

The day before I wore my blue print Ann Taylor wrap dress.

Last week was a bunch of dresses too, because that’s what I have a lot of. And that’s what fits. I have even tried to figure out ways to make my Bonnaroo sundresses work-appropriate. No luck.

Yesterday I decided, so what if all I wear are dresses. But if all I am going to wear are dresses, I need to get a few more. I don’t have enough clothes to get through the work week without… well without wearing a stretched out white wifebeater with a pencil skirt. I went to my go-to sites – Ann Taylor, LOFT, Nordstrom, Gap. No inspiration. Dresses I liked were not in my size or price range. So I Googled brands I love – Calvin Klein, Maggy London, London Times, Muse. I also hit the other department stores online – JCP, Macy’s, Dillard’s, Lord & Talor, even Saks. Not much luck. So I thought… what store online has a great return policy if I hate these things, doesn’t cost a lot to ship, and will have 14 and 16 but not plus size?!

Overstock is where I got our living room rug, storage bins for the shelf on Emerson’s changing table, the velvet quilt on our bed. I have never bought clothes there before, but I know they carry great designers. And even better, they have great reviews by customers.

And even better, is partnered with Ebates. And you KNOW I love Ebates. Seriously, I have made over $500 with Ebates just this year alone. Why shop online if you don’t first hit up With Ebates, I would get 4% cash back on my entire purchase at So I went to Ebates, searched, and went to their site.

I ended up getting a pair of yellow espadrille wedges and three dresses. My fingers are crossed, and I will let you know how they work out. I feel good about it based upon reviews and the silhouettes of the dresses.

I have done something else which I know will help my wardrobe situation. I hate to post it, but figure I should because posting it, making it public puts me accountable.

I have signed up for Weight Watchers.

I have been meaning to do this for MONTHS. I did Weight Watchers in the past and had some success. Two readers of this blog that have become virtual friends have had recent great success with Weight Watchers. I was going to start last week but my husband had to sub last-minute for a fellow yoga teacher that evening and with letting him get ready and get Emerson settled and all, I couldn’t get there in time. And I wanted my first meeting to be at the location I plan on going to on a regular basis.

Okay, I just realized that if you sign up for Weight Watchers online through Ebates you get $10.00 cash back.  How cool is that?  LOVE you Ebates!

To encourage me further, I asked my mom if she would like to join me. We did WW together in the past and it was fun to do it together. We would often go to dinner together after, having a nice low-point meal, celebrate losses, discuss plans and menus for the upcoming week.

Today I brought my lunch – brown rice and a fantastic stew-like thing my husband made last night with fresh veggies and beans and lots of spices and no fat. And then I found out we would have lunch at the office – Pizza Hut pizza and salad from Cosi full of gorgonzola and pistachios and sweet dried cranberries. I was thinking… I could keep the brown bag lunch for tomorrow and enjoy my last chance at Pizza Hut lunch today. I went into a conference room to help a member of upper management set up her laptop for a Webmeeting. This is a woman I find very cool and inspiring – we used to take lunchtime yoga together, she recently had a baby, and has been so influential at this company and in her field. Well she opened up her Internet browser and guess what her home page is – Weight Watchers. Yeah, pizza wasn’t going to happen for lunch today after that sign!

Me and my sister at Dave Matthews Band at Bonnaroo – the only picture of me that I liked from the entire trip.

So anyway, I am trying to make some great strides in loving myself. This body is a great one – it is beautiful – it created and nourishes my child, it carried me miles in the Tennessee heat at Bonnaroo, it loves my husband and treats me well. Well I need to respect it, and treat it well in return by clothing it in pieces that flatter it and match my personal style, and by losing excess weight that it is carrying.

Oh, and Sunday I spent an entire hour tweezing my brows and other random facial hair. Something I took for granted two years ago, but now see as decadent as a weekend at a spa. And it feels good to look in the mirror and see groomed brows. I recently got a haircut and color, and plan to have it be a more regular occurrence. I am making baby steps to bring style and self-love into my daily practice. And with it, my full personal style WILL return!

Guest Blogger – My Sister

I often speak of my sister, and occasionally she appears in some of my photos from events. Well yesterday she emailed me about her outfit and I thought… why not have her take pictures of herself and share? Backstory – My sister Debbie is three years younger, she works in advertising in Washington DC and lives in the city in a very cute apartment. Currently living the single life, she has a far more active social calendar than I and is my personal going-out guru for DC and the first person I go to for a style second opinion.

And her full-length mirror used to be mine – it’s from the Express stores – remember when they had a French theme? When they switched to a more modern look we employees got to go home with all the old furnishings. The mirror is in the shape of Venus de Milo. I love it!

From Debbie:

This dress arrived a couple weeks ago, but I’ve been waiting for the perfect day to wear it. Then I was running late this morning and knew that a dress would be a lot faster than separates so I threw it on.

Brown and cream giraffe print wrap dress from Kiyonna. Cream lace trimmed camisole underneath from Ann Taylor Loft, bought several years ago. Tan peep-toe pumps from Steve Madden, bought last spring. Gold link necklace (given to me by Alison – she has two others) doubled around my neck. Bronze leaf bracelet made by my great-aunt.

Hair was washed and conditioned with Garnier Fructis Body & Volume, then added John Frieda thermal protection hair serum and some Pantene Texturize moussing foam wax. Blown dry with ionic ceramic dryer and then ran a ceramic straightener over it several times. A couple of hits of John Frieda 100% Shine glossing mist – sprayed from arm’s length – finished it off.

Make-up is philosophy the present for primer, Trish McEvoy Even Skin foundation in 2, Cover Girl Clean pressed powder, L’Oreal True Match blush in C1-2 – baby blossom, Urban Decay shadow primer potion, Benefit Babe Cake eyeliner in black, DiorShow mascara in black, Laura Mercier lip stain in mulberry with Revlon Super Lustrous lip gloss overtop in Cherries in the Glow. Normally I don’t wear this red of lipstick to work, but the dress just seemed to ask for it.

Ask Allie: Plus Size Wedding Guest Dresses

All my friends are getting married, I have six weddings already that I know I am or will be invited to and I know more are coming. I’m single and haven’t had a boyfriend in two years and on top of that I’m a size 20 while all my friends are tiny. I don’t want to go to these weddings and get stuck at the single people table and be the sad lonely fat girl but I know I need to go. Any advice on what to wear to boost my confidence?

It doesn’t matter what you wear to these weddings, if you feel you are a lonely fat girl and sit at that singles table looking sad you will look like a sad lonely fat girl. The best way to get through these weddings and life in general is to have a blast. When you live life completely it shows; it alters your face, your posture, your energy. So put on your favorite lipstick, slip on some heels (and a pair of ballet slippers tucked into your purse for the end of the night), and rock your fabulous self in a dress that is as full of life and joy and you and the event you are attending.

My personal recommendation is to steer clear of black unless it is a defining factor in your personal style. While black is versatile and acceptable at most American weddings these days, it can have one think you’re uncomfortable in your skin or depressed. Many choose black because they feel it looks slimming but it’s not going to make you look drastically different and can give the wrong impression. On the other hand, don’t wear anything too crazy flamboyant; the day isn’t about you and you can still look fun and vivacious without too much bling or cleavage. A bit of shape is far more flattering to the figure than a loose tent and shows you know style and you know your body. And I can’t stress this enough – don’t be afraid to spend money on this dress. If you choose wisely and it’s not the same exact crowd at every event, you can wear it several times over the wedding season and also bring it out for holiday parties. The harsh truth is those of us who are larger or softer need to take more care with our purchases. Buy quality pieces, invest in tailoring for a custom fit. We’re not built like mannequins and cheap fabric, unlined garments, and poor fit can make us look bigger and sloppy. If between sizes, go up a size and then hit your local bridal boutique to find someone to tailor it to a custom fit. A few dresses that have caught my eye and I would think perfect for weddings:

plus size wedding guest dresses

  1. Calvin Klein Ruffle Front Sheath Dress: The chartreuse color is phenomenal; if you think you’re too fair to wear such a color look up pictures of pale fashionistas like Nicole Kidman who have rocked this hue. Pair with hot pink or tomato red lips and nude heels, with a statement shoe in another bold color and lots of lashes, or go glam with metallic heels and sparkly earrings. The fabric is the type that can dress up and down with ease and work all seasons of the year.
  2. ASOS CURVE Premium Placed Nautical Mesh Insert Dress: I love the bold pattern of this dress, the flippy skirt, and the fresh color combination that would be so nice at an outdoor wedding. Let the dress make the statement with nude shoes and simple accessories, or pump up the look with a bold pout and shoes. No need to stick to a nautical choice of red; orange, pink, Kelly green, and yellow would all look fantastic with this frock.
  3. Carmen Marc Valvo Floral Jacquard Cocktail Dress: This is an elegant dress that will make a statement without shouting. Keep it simple with nude or soft metallic heels, make it more formal with a rhinestone belt, or add a pop of color with D’orsay heels or a skinny belt in a signature shade (hot pink would be awesome). This dress is also available via Rent the Runway.
  4. Adrianna Papell Gardenia Dress: Tailored without being tight, a pleated skirt that is begging you to be twirled on the dancefloor, and a bunch of customer reviews stating this dress is perfect for a wedding makes this dress a winner. Wear as-is with nude or soft metallic shoes or add a bit of shine with a sparkly or metallic skinny belt.
  5. MYNT 1792 Sequin Stretch Asymmetrical Drape Dress: Don’t let the description fool you, these tiny sequins give more of a look of liquid metal than Studio 54. The silver is surprisingly versatile and can be dressed up and down with a change of makeup, hair, and accessories. In the winter wear with a black clutch and shoes; come spring choose a nude shoe to lengthen the leg and let the dress steal the spotlight.
  6. Little Mistress Floral Placement Skater Dress: This sweet dress is feminine, flirty, and figure flattering. Perfect for a spring wedding, you can also pair with a cardigan and wear to the office. Don’t be afraid to switch out the belt for one that better fits your personal style or to dress up and down the frock.
  7. Marina Rinaldi Plissé-Panel Dress: I know, more chartreuse! But it’s a seriously versatile color. Wear this dress with the included gray ribbon, switch out for a metallic or sparkly belt, or choose a belt or sash in a bold contrast color like cobalt, orange, or hot pink. The cut of this dress is also very flexible if you’re like me and may gain or lose weight throughout the year.
  8. ASOS CURVE Hitchcock Pencil Dress: Va-va-va-voom! This dress will surely make a statement, and the color makes sure you won’t blend in with all the other frocks on the dancefloor. Adjustable straps give a better fit, and the dark green works year round. Wear in the warmer months with nude or soft metallic, but bring the dress back out this winter and pair with black or sparkle for holiday fetes.

If you are unable to spend for a dress, consider renting.

  • You all know I am a fan of Gwynnie Bee – they are like Netflix for fashion. For a monthly fee you can rent everything from jeans to blazers to sweaters to dresses for work or play. The customer reviews help you decide which piece will work best for your figure and personal style, and you can send back a piece quickly in the pre-labeled shipping bag and get a new one from Gwynnie Bee in a jiffy.
  • Another option is Rent the Runway who now offers plus sizes. This is an especially great option if you’re attending a more formal wedding and don’t want to drop hundreds on a gown you’ll likely never wear again. However, Rent the Runway has dresses appropriate for weddings of all formality and the rental price is that of a cheaper dress that may not make as great of a statement. With stylist notes and plenty of customer reviews with photos, you can get a good feel of what dress would be perfect for your occasion.

My 1,0001st Post!

I just went in to the bacend of Blogger and saw that I have 1,000 posts on this blog! My, how time flies!

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!

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