Search Results for: label/how to care for your clothing

Ask Allie: How to Style a Kilt

I have a knee-length red plaid woolen kilt I picked up on a college trip to Scotland almost 20 years ago. I trek it out once a season or so, usually around the holidays, but I like it and am trying to think of ways to get more wear out of it beyond the expected “Going to the Nutcracker” kind of look. Any ideas?

Yes, that skirt deserves to come out more than once a year! However I do understand the issue with looking too holiday, as though you’re wearing a costume, or trying to be Mid Life Crisis Britney. The best way to wear accomplish this is to style it as though it is not a kilt. Steer clear of traditional pairings and add something unexpected and it will look fresh and modern.

how to style a kilt women

Gray will tone down the red and keep it from feeling Christmas-y. While a cashmere crewneck and white button-front is pretty classic, pairing the look with modern black leather ankle boots keeps it current. Hair and makeup can really make this look; keep both relaxed and a bit disheveled. Beachy waves and a bit of kohl will go a long way and look far more modern than polished hair and red lips.

how to style a kilt scottish woman

Add a bit of a tough edge to your classic kilt with leather. A black leather jacket and biker boots will be a modern contrast. Unlike the above look, style such an ensemble with very polished hair and face to keep it from looking like a costume; smooth hair with red lips and gently flushed cheeks will look fresh.

how to style a scottish kilt women

A bit of purposeful rumpling will take a look from prep overload to modern cool. A gray tweed blazer with a tailored fit is a great pairing for your kilt; roll the sleeves and maybe pop the collar to keep it from feeling like a uniform. A classic Breton tee is a pattern that will mix nicely with the plaid and also keep it from feeling too much like a uniform. A pair of tall boots with a solid heel will finish the look and keep you warm.

The Bandana is Back!

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

Bottom Row, Left to Right: Louis Vuitton via GQ | Stockholm Street Style | Vanessa Jackman | The Blab

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

    • Create a Contradiction. A bandana with a chambray shirt is cliché, a bandana with a leather moto jacket or a silk blouse or a crisp blazer is unexpected.

 

  • Keep it Crisp and Classic. For now, keep your pink and purple bandanas in the drawer and stick to classics like navy, red, and black. These should also not be the weathered, worn, and torn bandanas you use to mop sweat when gardening or to hold back your hair on a camping trip. The classic color and the crisp finish makes the bandana purposeful and not a leftover from cleaning out the garage.

 

 

  • Simplicity is Key. Leandra Medine’s all-white outfit with the bandana tucked into the collar of her shirt is a fabulous example of how to wear a bandana this spring. Minimal color, no competing prints, use the bandana as you would a silk Hermes scarf and let it take center stage.

 

 

  • Get Creative. A bandana doesn’t have to be worn knotted in back and draped in front. Check out The Not Vanilla’s post and how she wore it knotted around her throat, and even as a purse and wrist accessory. I recently rolled a bandana , wrapped it twice around my neck and had it peek out of a white button-front shirt; I think it’s fun to spice up a monochromatic look with a bandana tied to a single belt loop at the front of a pair of trousers; don’t be afraid to use a bandana as a headband, kerchief, headwrap, or tied around your ponytail.

 

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

    • When You Have Short Hair. If you’re draping the bandana in front and the “ears” are peeking out making you feel as though you’re wearing a bib, consider a bit of fashion tape to hold them down. I keep all those tiny safety pins that hold garment hang tags and find them great for a situation like this (I pin the “ears” to the underside so they don’t ruin the line of the scarf).

 

  • When the Bandana is Too Stiff. A brand new bandana can be as stiff as a piece of paper, and often have hard creases in it. Before trying anything, wash it and throw it in the dryer, preferably with bulky items that would make it bounce around a lot. This often does the trick. If it’s still too stiff for you, an overnight soak in fabric softener or vinegar will soften cotton without fading the fabric. Rinse and tumble dry.

 

 

  • When You Want a Bigger Bandana. I desired this very thing to have more variety (and to double-look around my big neck). On eBay I found “Texas Size” bandanas which are 27” (most are 22”). If you search for 27” bandana, you’ll find that many online stores like Amazon offer them, which will give you the length you desire.

 

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Ask Allie: Plus Size Tall Retailers

It is becoming easier to find stylish clothes in tall sizes and in plus sizes but hard to find garments that are both. Don’t the manufacturers realize a person can be both tall and fat? I find the perfect office trousers in a plus size but then they aren’t long enough. Or I find the perfect office trousers that are long enough but they aren’t big enough. Over a certain waist size, it is impossible to get a 34″ inseam.

The reason is supply and demand. While it seems simple to just have the same pieces with a couple more inches at the hem, a retailer needs to invest in stock in that size. If they don’t have a proven customer, they can see extra lengths and sizes as a financial risk. The reason plus size fashion has improved lately is because plus sized women have begun to speak up, and LOUD. Opinion pieces in reputable publications, more and more plus size bloggers, and social media have given plus sized fashionistas the platform to let the retailers know they DESERVE style and if it exists, will purchase it.

It’s time for those who need not just plus size, but petite and tall lengths to speak up! The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and it’s clear that not all plus sized women are comfortable with a 32” inseam. Let your voices be heard, and make change happen in the apparel industry!

plus size tall long clothing retailers for women

Luckily some retailers understand that many plus sized women are also tall, and have added long lengths to their collections. A few retailers who offer plus sized tall or plus sized long lengths:

Lands’ End

Lands’ End realizes that a tall woman doesn’t just need a longer inseam for her jeans, but more length everywhere. Offering everything from sweaters to swimsuits, Lands’ End has a pretty varied plus size tall collection. Lands’ End often has great promotions, I recommend signing up for their emails to get the scoop when they take place. Lands’ End also has a generous return policy making online shopping a breeze.

Eloquii

Eloquii just released long and short lengths in their popular Kady Fit ankle pant.  Ankle pants are so hard for tall women to find, and this one comes in a 31″ length.  I hope this is just the beginning of lengths being offered at this stylish fashion resource for plus sized women!

Talbots

Talbots is one of the few retailers who offers both Womens Plus Tall and Womens Plus Petite pieces. Their plus size tall selection is only pants, but each season they offer at least a dozen styles up to a 24W with a 35” inseam. Talbots is another retailer who has amazing sales and great emails to notify you of them and you can return and exchange online purchases in their storefronts.

Long Tall Sally

Long Tall Sally specializes in clothing and accessories for tall women. They offer up to a 38” inseam, size 20, and even up to size 15 shoe. Long Tall Sally is not just a great resource for clothing, but also activewear, providing athletic gear and swimwear for those with long legs and torsos.  While shipping isn’t cheap with Long Tall Sally, they do now have Click & Collect in their shops.

Torrid

Torrid is known for trendy, youthful fashion in plus sizes, but they also have great wardrobe staples. Their tall collection (34” inseam) has trendy denim as well as classic styles of jeans, work trousers, and ponte pants; their extra tall selection (36” inseam) is limited but still provides some great styles of denim.

NYDJ

NYDJ offers a 35” inseam on many of their popular styles up to size 16. While you can find classic denim looks in long lengths, they also have trendy looks like coated denim and faux leather leggings. NYDJ runs big and stretchy; I recommend purchasing a size smaller than you’re accustomed to.  NYDJ also has free shipping and returns, making them a great online shopping resource.

Lane Bryant

While their selection of plus size tall bottoms are limited, there’s some good office staples in there and Lane Bryant always has some prints and variation from basic black pants and the occasional trendy piece.

Old Navy

Old Navy has tall and long lengths; their long inseam is 34” and their tall inseam 36”. Not only that, they are another retailer to realize tall women need more than black pants and offer tops, activewear, and shorts in tall sizes.

Alloy

Alloy has quite an extensive tall collection and go up to a size 25 and 3XL. Alloy is a great resource for on-trend plus size tall pieces like jumpsuits, waterfall cardigans, maxi skirts, and dresses which are often unavailable in longer lengths.

Long Elegant Legs

Founded by a tall woman, Long Elegant Legs has a great selection of everything from jeans and pants to activewear and sleepwear. They have styles up to a 39” inseam and offer up to size 24 making this a great resource for plus size tall women.

Have you found plus size tall clothing at any other retailers? Do share in the comments!

Ask Allie: How to Clean Suede, Sweat Stains, and Care for Fabrics

What is the best way to clean suede shoes? I have a pair of teal suede wedges that I adore but that are looking a little rough. The teal is very bright and I don’t want it to fade. Any suggestions?

1. Get thee a suede-cleaning kit! Suede cleaning kits can be found at most big-box retailers (and I found this one on Amazon). Kits will have the basic tools you need to clean and protect your suede footwear. The two most important parts of these kits are the suede brush and the suede eraser.

A suede brush is not a typical brush – some have various types of bristles, some only come with one type of bristle. However all have fine metal bristles that will help remove stains and maintain the nap of the suede. Brush in one direction to pull up dirt and restore the look of your suede.

A suede eraser is not your typical pencil eraser – it will crumble while being used, but those crumbles will grab all the dirt and debris lurking in your suede’s nap.

2. Fight water with water. If your suede is stained from water, take a spray bottle of plain water and spray evenly over the entire shoe. Blot dry with a cloth, stuff the shoe with paper to maintain the shape, and let air dry. Your shoes will end up a slightly darker color, but will no longer have the water spot.

3. Rough it up. Suede shoes often end up with shiny spots from wear. A suede brush can help rough up the nap, but sometimes you need a bit more help – use a fine grade of sandpaper and it should help make your shoes look even.


4. Erase it away. Small spots can often be removed with a classic red eraser. If your suede is a light color, consider a white art gum eraser. Again, brush the suede afterwards to restore the nap.

5. DIY at your own risk. Looking online I found all sorts of DIY methods for cleaning suede. Many people claim to find shaving cream as good of a suede cleaner as the kits sold at mass retailers and shoe repair shops. If you decide to go this route, test in an inconspicuous location on the shoe before proceeding.

Many people find a new nail brush to be a quick fix when you do not have a proper suede brush. As with a suede brush, only brush in one direction to prevent shine.

I’d love if you could do a post on caring for fabrics. How do you handle armpit stains on white shirts? What about pilling on synthetic fabrics or cashmere? How do you know when a garment has reached the end of its useful life?

Sweat Stains
It’s funny, I don’t really own that many white shirts any more so I haven’t dealt with this in a long time. I can remember soaking shirts in a slurry of Oxiclean and hot water for days before washing with bleach. Usually I would just donate the shirt and move on.

However these days I wish to have my clothes last a long time, and don’t want to fill landfills with my pit stains. I have done some research lately and here’s some suggestions I have found:

1. Relieve the pain. Dissolve two standard aspirin in one cup of hot water. Apply to the stains and let soak. Then wash as usual.

When researching this, I found an alternative to this recipe which requires three aspirin tablets, one tablespoon of Cream of Tartar, and a cup of warm water. Scrub into fabric with a toothbrush, let sit for a half an hour (or even overnight) and then launder as usual.

2. Let it bake. As a cloth diapering mom, I have found the ultimate best stain remover on this planet – the sun. It seems too easy to work, but leaving items stained by human protein or waste can get back to being snowy white with some hours soaking up the rays. Dampen the item and place in direct sunlight (a windowsill can work, though not as quickly). This may not work in one sitting, but a couple days of re-wetting and line drying in the sun can work wonders on sweat stains.

3. Don’t bleach. Bleach seems like a good idea, but chlorine reacts with the proteins in sweat, and can cause the stains to become even darker. Better to use an oxygen cleaner or hydrogen peroxide.

4. Try an enzyme fighter. I always have a bottle of Bac-out in my laundry room. It smells delicious (like lime lollypops), it’s gentle to the earth, and it’s a workhorse. I found out about it from cloth diapering, but I use it for all sorts of stains. Works especially well on protein stains. I will saturate the spot, rub it or brush it with a toothbrush if the fabric can handle it, let it soak overnight and then launder as usual.


Pilling Sweaters
I have a sweater stone, and a sweater shaver and love both of them.

A sweater stone can make quite a mess, but you never are searching for AA batteries five minutes before you have to leave for work. It does a great job on large areas – I will take my stone to any thrifted sweaters that are looking old and sad.

Green tip: Don’t toss your sweater lint into the trash – if you compost, stick it in your compost pile; if not leave it out on a deck or balcony and a bird will happily take it to fluff his nest!

A sweater shaver is better for more precise pill-removal and for small spots. Be careful, a snag can not only jam the motor of a sweater shaver, but the shaver could nip the thread causing a hole or run in your knits.

Pilling Polyester
I hate when this happens, and I have yet to find a good solution. Both the sweater shaver and sweater stone can cause even more damage to synthetic materials like polyester. Usually I see pilling of such fabrics as a time for the item to be retired.

If it’s a small location, you can try using a standard razor for the body (choose a blade sans moisturizing strip). Do in a well-lit area and pad the fabric underneath so you only shave off the pill and not nick the fabric.

The best way to prevent pills on synthetics is to baby them. Launder them inside-out, launder only with like fabrics, use liquid detergent and line dry.

When It’s Time to End the Relationship
Sometimes, no matter how you baby a garment, it’s just time to let go. I find it’s time when it just LOOKS old – the color is faded, it’s covered with pills, the fabric is thin in places, the stains won’t go no matter what you do. I find with white shirts it’s time to make them rags when they are just too soft to keep their shape, even when ironing with starch.

Green tip: Don’t toss those ratty tee shirts, oxfords, and knit dresses. Make them into cleaning cloths! No need to hem the edges, just cut into squares that are best for your needs (I like a 12” square or so). Knits are great for dusting, flannel is a wonderful choice for wiping PB&J hands of toddlers (or washing your face), soft well-worn cotton ends up being lint-free and can make for a good rag when cleaning glass.

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Squeezing Lemons

self care when life gives you lemons

I believe in the power of positive thinking. When I feel down, I take a moment to force myself to smile (studies show that just by smiling your mood improves) and think about good things. The awesome weather we’re having, last night snuggling with Karl watching Sherlock on his phone, Emerson telling me I am her best friend, hearing my unemployed friend found a great job, that sort of thing. And it usually works. I stop focusing on the craptastic and fill my brain with the fantastic and next thing I know, I’m singing along with the radio and looking forward to the rest of the day.

But sometimes, that down won’t go up with a fake smile and a thought of puppies. And while I am positive on this blog, you bet your Jockey Skimmies I have had a lot of down days in the past few months. I’m damn good at making lemonade out of life’s lemons, but sometimes I need to kick myself in the pants to get to squeezing the hell out of those lemons.

Many write about self care, and I often discuss how you can’t properly care for others unless you first care for yourself, but it’s all a bunch of gentle incense burning meditating post-it notes of YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL! bullshit when you’re in thick. I’ve tried meditation apps and videos, self-help books, morning walks but my head is spinning and what’s spinning in there isn’t puppies and blue skies.

When I was younger, I could cure this brain tornado with something drastic. A tattoo, a piercing, a new hair color, white water rafting, a new job, a trip somewhere new. But with 40 right around the corner, a family and a mortgage I can’t just up and run to Costa Rica or quit my job. But that doesn’t mean I can’t DO SOMETHING. And that SOMETHING is self care.

I’m a vain, superficial person. Come on, we all know it, I run a FASHUN BLOG for God’s sake. And when I think I look good, I feel better. For years I maxed out credit cards in an attempt to feel better about myself and it gave a temporary fix, but left me more miserable. But personal beautification IS a gateway to self care; it forces you to realize the bod you’re in, take time to focus on it, improve it, and thereby think better of it and yourself.

When the doctor confirmed that yep, the arm was re-broken and yep, I’d need to go through surgery again, I was devastated. Pull over my car to the side of the road and scream and cry until I was ill devastated. Get home, see my mom (who was watching Em so I could go to the doctor) and begin sobbing again in my Mommy’s arms devastated. Tearing up right now thinking about that day devastated. I gave myself that weekend to be a mega Boo Boo Kitty. I slept a lot, I cried a lot… and yes I drank a lot. I didn’t shower, I never put on a bra, and I listened to a lot of sad music from my angsty high school days. Come Monday, I put on a brave face for my last three days at the office and got shit done. I thought about puppies and forced many smiles while I wrapped up loose ends at the office though my personal loose ends began fraying.  That Thursday lying in the surgery center waiting for my turn I gave up trying to be brave and mature and cried some more, curled up in the fetal position (as fetal as possible with a nerve block).

But after I got out of surgery? I decided I wasn’t going to be the miserable sack on the couch I was last time. I was going to DO SOMETHING, and I made a decision that if DOING SOMETHING didn’t help, I would SEE SOMEBODY. And I told my husband this, making it concrete, holding myself accountable.

Each day of my short term  disability, I brushed my teeth, washed my face, put on a bra. Each day I drank at least eight glasses of water (we’d make a pitcher of Belly Water  – delicious and beneficial). Each day I ate a proper breakfast. Very simple things, things I knew I could commit to, even in a Percocet haze. And once I had those down pat, I added to the list. I would go outside for at least 15 minutes to get fresh air. I resumed dry brushing each morning, something I used to do a decade ago but somehow forgot about (this is a great e-book to teach you a gentle way to incorporate this habit, written by someone who had been in a very dark place). I started walking each morning, first day just to the entrance of my court and back, next day to the end of the block and back, and up to 30 minutes with no distance or intensity goals. Very very simple things, not adding one until I had gotten to a comfortable place with the previous.

After two weeks, I went back to the doctor feeling incredibly rested and positive. I chose a hot pink cast, and that night I swiped on some hot pink lipstick to match (Revlon’s LacquerBalm in Vivacious) and went to a party with friends. The next night, I accompanied Karl to a local café where he was hired to photograph the band. Though it was a place where I could wear shorts and a tee shirt, I put on a fancy dress, did up my hair, and again wore the hot pink lipstick. Fuck this cast, it’s not going to get me down. I am amazing, and I am going to continue to be amazing.

But with a cast came real life. Back to work, back to the DC commute, back to bills and car repairs, problems with the blog switching to WordPress (um hello losing all my Feedly subscribers and 75% of my comments), job stresses, home stresses, and all that stuff that on a normal day I can handle no problem, but with a hot encased arm that’s giving me a bit of claustrophobia and making daily tasks all the more complicated, well that darkness started returning.

But I’m fighting it, dammit, and with each act of self care, I squeeze those lemons a bit harder and add more sugar to that lemonade.  Some lemon-squeezing acts I’m performing:

  • Dry Brushing. Seriously, it’s amazing what a $10 brush can do for the mood and the body. I can’t do yoga or exercise much, but in three minutes each morning and evening, I have seen my legs more toned, my skin glow, and I get a charge that keeps my pumped enough in the morning that I can sometimes go without coffee or at least wait until I get to work.
  • Walking. I promise myself I don’t have to do more than 30 minutes, I don’t have to do a certain distance, and I can even take a route that is completely flat. but I have to do it. In my bathroom are my shorts, bra, and tee shirt. I fumble in the dark for socks and underwear, go in the bathroom, dry brush and brush my teeth, get dressed, and go downstairs to drink a big glass of water, put on my shoes and go out the door. No checking email, no letting out the dog, no turning on lights. I started doing this in silence but found I was more motivated with music. Now I’m mixing it up by listening to audiobooks.
  • Beauty Treat. When I feel fat and none of my wardrobe works with my cast and I see some comment on the web saying something not nice I want to go to Nordstrom or ASOS and drop some money. But a new dress or bag won’t fix things, it will only spend money I don’t have (twice-broken arms are NOT cheap). My replacement is CVS. I let myself go in there and buy ONE THING. Maybe it’s a new hair product, maybe a lip gloss or body scrub. Just one thing, and I pay cash so I can’t go bonkers. And then I go home and give myself a half hour to play with that new thing alone.
  • Hair Maintenance. Last week, my sister came over and dyed my hair for me. Two weeks prior I shared an Instagram photo boasting about my great hair, but since then split ends had grown and my hair had faded to a sad light brown and grays were all over the place. I can hardly style my hair as it is with the cast, and the dreary head of fried locks made me feel old and lame. Oh the power of a box of Natural Instincts and a good friend, I now feel like I can conquer the world.
  • Sleep When Tired. I try to be Super Woman. I get up early to blog and look nice for work, I work a minimum of eight hours with an hour commute each way, I come home and spend quality time with my daughter, and once I put her to bed, spend quality time with my husband. Weekends, I cram in errands, chores around the house, community events, birthday parties and dance class, time with loved ones and the occasional Date Night or Girl Friend Brunch. And next thing I know, I’m cranky and sick miserable; so tired my stomach hurts and my head is pounding. Who wants to hang out with a bitch? I promote quality instead of quntity on the blog, I need to do it with my life. So if I’m tired at 9pm, I go to sleep even if my only QT with Karl was a kiss when I walked in the door from work and he was walking out to teach. If just thinking about my weekend makes me hyperventilate, I cancel. I’m okay with saying no, my true friends will still love me even if I haven’t shared a cocktail with them in months, and I know my child will grow to be a fabulous human being even if she hasn’t been to the children’s museum or zoo in over a year.
  • Music. I have a Spotify membership and I make damn good use of it. I have playlists for walking, for driving, for bathing, for doing my hair. I learn about new artists from Bust or Rolling Stone and add their albums and listen to them straight through three times before passing judgment. I sing in the car, I sing while weeding, and I air guitar, drum, and wail while walking in the morning. Karl and I discuss music, we watch ACL or Palladia together (and often with Emerson) and Date Night, more often than not, includes a concert. Music keeps me current and keeps me curious. It gives me words for my pain and my joy, and it helps me realize all the feelings I am feeling aren’t felt by me alone. And it gets me up off the couch!
  • Get Gussied Up for No Reason. Last week I was battling a summer cold, bad hair, and a bad outlook on life. It was tempting to throw on my office equivalent of pajamas (knit or ponte pants and a jersey top), but instead I got up a bit earlier and did myself up as though I had somewhere special to go. I curled my hair (which with a cast is a feat of flexibility), did my whole face (more than one color of eye shadow and concealer!), put on a dress and heels. This with freshly dyed hair, new lipstick, new tunes to listen to on the way to work, and a big-ass fake smile helped make smiles later that day genuine.

Some darkness can’t be improved with a box of hair dye or a new lipstick. My father battled depression and I am all too aware of its power and need for professional care. But sometimes, we just need to give ourselves a kick in the pants to get out of a funk, to get us back to squeezing those lemons and make a big cold glass of lemonade.  I don’t know, maybe sharing my methods of self care could help you think of some ways to get through a dark patch. You’re a phenomenal person, and you deserve to feel good. Sometimes it sounds like a bunch of hokey mumbo jumbo, but you need to care for yourself  before you can truly care for another. Self care is important, you and those who love you deserve it!

How a Hurricane Can Help Your Wardrobe

We live in a very wooded community and the house backs to woods. Each major storm we hear of a tree falling and damaging someone’s fence, toolshed or even home. We have been lucky thus far – a few branches to clean up but no major damage. Well this weekend Hurricane Irene ravaged the Eastern Seaboard… and our house.

Our new roommate – for more pics visit my Facebook Page

Saturday night, 1am, my husband and I were woken to the whole house shaking and a loud BOOM. My husband had us keep our shoes by the side of the bed in case of broken glass from the hurricane and I was so glad I listened to him. An 80-foot tree from two homes away was uprooted due to the wind and over-saturated ground and fell on our neighbor’s house and ours. The tree destroyed our neighbor’s sunroom, and it broke our skylight, pierced our roof and broke off a different part of our roof. We have a part of our ceiling missing about ten feet from my husband’s side of the bed and it seems some pretty serious structural damage to the house (this damage happened right where the new part of the house connects with the original structure); the majority of the obvious damage happened to our closet.

We are so glad that we and all our neighbors are safe, and so grateful to live in a cooperative community that will take care of the repairs and has a stake in ensuring repairs are well-done and keep the home structurally sound. Knowing all lives are safe and sound (Emerson slept through the whole thing!), I am now able to focus on the superficial damage – the contents of my closet. When I texted my boss to let him know I would be out of the office yesterday because of this situation, he texted back, “How ironic is it that the fashion blogger had her closet decimated by Irene.” I must say at 1:30am, armed with poncho, headlamp and pair of sunglasses to shield my eyes from falling glass as I tried to save my wardrobe, I was actually thinking the same thing.

Yesterday I went through the contents of my closet that I literally threw across the room in haste mid-hurricane, and saw how some things survived the event unscathed, and others were completely destroyed. The fate of my wardrobe was completely based upon how I chose to store the pieces. While a hurricane probably won’t deposit a 70-year old oak tree into your walk-in closet any time soon, how you store your wardrobe contents can determine their longevity and looks. Dust, mildew, critters, water damage, and yes the occasional natural disaster can wreak havoc on fabrics and leather goods. Learn from my experience, and care for your wardrobe. Here’s some things I learned this weekend:

Keep your shoes in boxes. I think many of us have drooled over a closet of Loubies and Manolos all on display, looking like beautiful little works of art on the shelves. While this may make for lovely eye candy, it’s not too practical if you want to preserve your footwear. This weekend, the only shoes that survived were those in shoe boxes, the rest (even in shoe boxes sans lid) got damaged or destroyed.

Water and flying glass won’t happen to everyone, but dust does. If you keep your shoes in boxes, you won’t have to worry about them getting covered in dust between wears. I go old school – I keep my shoes in the cardboard boxes they came in, and take a Sharpie to write a description on the outside. If you want to see your collection, shops like The Container Store sell clear shoe boxes that will preserve your purchases while still making them visible. Many a fashionista has been known to photograph her shoes and stick a photo on the outside of the box for easy reference.

A place for everything, and everything in its place. You know what really got trashed this weekend? All the crap on the floor of my closet. The shoes I kicked off when half-asleep, my dirty clothes that missed the hamper, the belts that fell off my belt hook, the scarf that was hastily shoved in a drawer and was half-sticking out, and all the crappy shoes like flip flops and Chucks that reside in a pile in the corner.

If I took the extra few seconds to put things away carefully, I would still own them. I sound like my mom just typing this, but Mom knows best! I’ll throw another mom-ism there – haste makes waste. My haste made a waste of some very loved wardrobe pieces that cannot be replaced.

Invest in proper hangers. The other things that got destroyed in the hurricane were all the pieces I tried to make work on the wrong type of hanger. Wide-necked dresses on those slippery plastic tube hangers, heavy sweaters on skinny velvet “huggable” hangers, three skirts hanging on for dear life on one clip hanger. All the items that ended up sliding off hangers or were hanging by a thread (or dress loop) were damaged.

Use molded hangers for jackets to help them keep their shape and be able to support the weight. Hangers with rubber or velvet to grip silky fabrics, and ones with cut-outs to hold dress loops or spaghetti straps in place. Taking dry cleaning off the metal hangers so they don’t get creased (or if get wet, stain garments), and having enough hangers for the entire wardrobe. Hangers aren’t expensive, and at many retailers you can even ask for one with your next clothing purchase. Take good care of your pieces, and you will get many more miles of style from them.

Protect lesser-worn pieces. My husband has a gorgeous black suit from Banana Republic; it’s his wedding/Bar Mitzvah/special event suit. While his basic gray suits and blazers are in the front of his side of the closet, he keeps this suit in a canvas garment bag at the very end of the rod. This keeps the suit looking fresh, free of dust… and kept it looking pristine through the hurricane.

I have a few pieces that shouldn’t go in the attic but aren’t worn now (leather pieces that are a size too small, more formal of dresses, pieces with beading or sequins); most are in their own canvas garment bag but some were not… and they didn’t make it through the storm. While weeding through my clothes I saw that these pieces were not just torn and stained from the hurricane, but had pretty sticky dust on the shoulders from everyday exposure.

If you can’t afford canvas storage bags, use an old sheet or pillowcase and slice a hole for the hanger hook. Plastic storage (and dry cleaning bags) don’t let clothing breathe and can cause humidity and fabric decomposition. A heavy breathable fabric is best, but any fabric will help protect your special pieces from dust.

Use those dust bags. Most quality leather bags come with dust bags – a drawstring bag made of cotton, flannel, or canvas. As with shoes on shelves, many women forego these dust bags to be able to view their collections. Because I didn’t have all my bags in dust covers, I ended up losing a classic black leather tote from J. Crew that I purchased when I got my first “real” job. I bought this piece on sale for $199, and have used it for many a business trip, interview, and corporate event. Even though I cared for it with leather cleaner and stuffed it with tissue to keep its shape, it was ruined (may possibly be able to be restored by a leather person but nothing I can do on my own) due to a lack of dust bag.

Just as with your clothing and shoes, if you cover your bags you will protect them from dust, sunlight, and other naturally-occurring factors that hurt leather and fabrics. lately, I have been cinching my dust bags below the handle, so I can see a bit of the bag to recognize them on the shelf. If I had done this with all my bags, then I would have only had minor damage on a minor piece of the purse.

If you don’t have dust bags, old pillowcases will do just fine. I also know many who use plastic storage units for bags, storing one or two in each clear plastic drawer. Whatever is best for you and your space, but be sure to protect those items you found deserving of your hard-earned cash.

Be nice to your dirty laundry. I have a bad habit, when I am tired or short on time, I peel off my dirty clothes and just toss them on the closet floor. Then come laundry day, I collect them, throw them in the hamper, and take them down to the washer. I am so glad I did laundry earlier on Saturday so there were only a few pieces on the closet floor. Everything that was on the floor was destroyed.

Even if you aren’t having Hurricane Irene make a stop in your closet, you still should be kind to your dirty laundry. Just because it has marinara on it doesn’t mean it should be crumpled, stepped on, shoved in with dirty shoes and bags of last season’s fashion. Carefully place clothing in a hamper or laundry basket until Wash Day – protect the fibers and help your clothes look great longer.

It’s only fashion! Seriously, it is only clothing, and clothing can be replaced. Until I had the time yesterday to go through everything, I was living in my casual clothes from my chest of drawers – the same pair of denim cutoffs (two pairs of shorts were in the closet hamper and had to be washed), a few knit tanks and old tee shirts. Since all my shoes except my DUO “Bern” boots were in the closet, I wore this crazy getup with calf-high tan boots. And I survived just fine. I believe in having a functional, stylish wardrobe that fits your personality and life, but I believe that life is more important than what you wear for it.

***

I feel so blessed that we made out as well as we did with the storm. We are all safe, our house is still livable, and we didn’t even lose that much in the storm. I think, if I hadn’t had a system to store all my garments already I would have dealt with far more loss from my closet. Learn from my experience, and take care of your wardrobe!

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How to Update your Wardrobe for Fall 2007

I know I seem a bit late with this, but with 100 degree days here in the Nation’s Capital it is hard to think of sweaters and tights! However as the catalogs and magazines hit my mailbox and I surf the ‘net I see all these GORGEOUS new looks for the upcoming season and I just HAD to post about them. Now there are tons of new looks for fall, I have just listed those that I think can easily work into most people’s wardrobes to make them fresh and new, without being a slave to fashion.

Gray, Gray and More Gray. Gray is THE neutral color for this season and I couldn’t be happier. Softer than black and easier to blend into your wardrobe than brown and camel, gray is the feminine neutral that will make your brights pop, your pastels glow, your other neutrals look very current.

Consider a pair of gray trousers with a wide leg (think Katherine Hepburn), a gray pencil skirt or a 40s inspired jacket with bracelet-length sleeves to jazz up your current office basics. Instead of standard black pants for a night on the town, try some gray slouchy menwear-inspired trousers with your cami or beaded top. As for knits, nothing is more cozy than a kitteny soft gray cashmere crewneck with everything from ivory wool trousers to your favorite jeans.

The New Brights. Red is always a popular accent, but this season try a bright cobalt or a regal purple. These cooler jewel tones are being shown with black accents to really make the colors pop in a modern way, but will also look great with other basics (gray, camel, ivory).

Consider a basic merino sweater in royal, or possibly a bright plum croco-embossed pump to spice up your basic work attire. I have seen a ton of these new hues everywhere from the local department store to J. Crew. If you are a “Winter” a la Color Me Beautiful, then this is your season to stock up on those hues that make you glow. For warmer complexions, consider plums, berries and indigo shades that may be more flattering and still quite current.

For evening, get out of the black routine with frocks in magenta, cherry and bright reddish-purples. These colors look amazing in satin and silk because they really have the hue look saturated and modern. Unlike a few years ago when these shades were combined with lace and other details, this season is more about simple solids – let the color be the star of the show.

Patent Accents. Patent leather is no longer just for summer days; this fabric is a huge accessory must-have for the fall.

A black patent belt around your favorite white shirt, a pair of bottle green patent round-toe pumps with your standard brown suit, this will add some stylish shine to your wardrobe without being too outlandish. I personally bought a pair of black patent pumps as go-to footwear for the next wedding or special occasion and have gotten a surprising amount of use from my red patent croco-embossed peeptoe heels.

A great idea – if your wool winter coat has belt loops for a self-belt, consider switching it out for a patent number this season and give your outerwear new life!

Suiting Up in a Ladylike Fashion. From Katherine Hepburn to Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, suiting is front an center for fall and it’s all shown with a touch of femininity.

Retro 40s feminine shapes are seen in bracelet-sleeved jackets and pencil skirts; wide-legged trousers evoke Kate, and vests with slouchy pants have a 2007 spin on the 70s menswear look. Tweeds, glen plaids and traditional suiting fabrics take center focus; gray is obviously the most popular color this season. The suiting is softer, sweeter, more ladylike no matter which style icon it is emulating. Even the “power” pieces on the runway have softened edges that are not nearly as tough as their 1980s counterparts.

Knitwear Everywhere. If you love knits and sweaters, then this season is the time for you to stock up! Knitwear is everywhere from traditional sweaters to jackets, dresses and coats.

I am loving the fall’s version of a tee shirt dress in merino wool or a more substantial knit. Simple crewneck and v-neck sweaters lend themselves to the menswear trend for trousers, keeping it slim and simple on top to let the bottom half get the limelight. Jackets are softened by being in substantial knits with vintage details. Knits have a feminine touch with waist detail – long sweater coats come with a self-belt or take your favorite crewneck and put a belt over it to accentuate your curves.

Children’s Shoes for Adults. Those black patent leather babies from your childhood have grown up and are a must-have for fall. Seen now with a slim heel, slight platforms, peeptoes, colors along with basic black and other feminine details, these shoes are a stylish replacement to your daily choice of black pumps. Peeking out of a pair of pants, paired with a dress (with or without hose or tights), they are whimsical AND fashionable!

Your old-school oxfords have grown up too. Now with a tall and slim wood heel, possibly with an open toe, in a bevy of colors and fabrics, this style of shoe hasn’t gotten play in almost a decade. Paired with jeans to suits to flirty dresses, they are a smart choice for the cooler months and quite versatile. I love the look of a contrasting color of tights – pair your solid dark dress from last fall with burgundy tights and black oxfords, or spice up a simple black outfit and tights with oxfords in cordovan or dark cherry.

The Return of The Clutch. I have always said a clutch is a must-have in every woman’s wardrobe for evening affairs. If you have had trouble finding The One, you won’t this season. Not only is the clutch great for evening, it is also being shown as a choice for daytime (works so well with those 40s inspired fashions). Leather, satin, or any other fabric; whatever size works well for you.

Pack away those wristlets for now and invest in an elegant clutch (if it has a hidden strap inside, it will be just as convenient at the club or bar).

How to Update Your Look and Not Spend a Fortune

There are a few things you can do that will totally transform and update your daily look and style without breaking the bank. Makeovers are not just for celebrities and reality show stars, and you don’t need a $5,000 budget and society stylists to get the look.

Get Rid of Your Pantyhose
Unless you have a very conservative job, stockings/pantyhose are optional in the workplace and at formal events. I know this may seem blasphemous and totally against what your Mother told you, but pantyhose is dated./ And really, a sheer layer of synthetic fabric is not going to keep you that much warmer or a winter day.

Watch celebrities, anyone from Mischa Barton to Barbara Walters. Are they wearing stockings? The only pantyhose I have seen on Barbara Walters when she has been on The View are fishnets and patterned hose. But nude stockings? Those date you and your outfit.

Get a Haircut
You don’t need to fly to New York to have Sally Hershberger give you the new version of the Meg Ryan shag – a great haircut can be found in your nearby strip mall (or cosmetology school!) for less than $20. This is a great way to get a fresh new look with little cost. Unlike a new sweater, a haircut updates every outfit every day!

If you don’t have bangs, consider getting some angled ones that sweep to the side and easily blend into the rest of your hair. If you have had the same one-layered look for ages, consider some long layers. It doesn’t have to be a total new look, just some modification will make you and your style look new and fresh.

Bring photographs with you to the salon – cuts you like (though be realistic and look for models with similar hair texture) and looks that you don’t. have the stylist talk to you before you go under the sink so s/he can see your hair texture, the way it falls and see if your vision is realistic.

Wax Your Eyebrows
Eyebrows – we try to save money by plucking them ourselves. Then life happens – the kids need us, we’re late to work or we just forget and suddenly we have two (or God forbid – one!) caterpillars above our eyes.

For this first waxing, go somewhere reputable. It can be a local Merle Norman or a day spa. After that, you can maintain with the local nail salon or with your tweezers at home. But every six to eight months, invest in a professional to keep you on track. Well groomed brows will open up your face and remove five years from your appearance.

Wash Your Face at Night
Every time you go to bed without washing your face, you age your skin ten days. You are leaving the makeup, impurities and pollution of the day on your skin to sit, fester and be absorbed. When you wash your face and apply a moisturizer with antioxidants (Vitamin E and Vitamin C are two or many examples) you create a shield to defend against aging and dirt. In the five minutes it takes to wash and moisturize, you can save your skin from years of damage. Not only that, clean skin is radiant skin – people will think you have taken a lover with your new rosy complexion!

Get a New pair of Dress Shoes
We all have that trusty pair of black shoes – be it pumps, strappy heels, slingbacks that are worn to every wedding, funeral and religious occasion. They are comfortable, they are basic, they work. So they may be a bit scuffed, the heel a bit worn down, a strap starting to fray. Maybe the heel is the chunky style popular in the mid-nineties. Maybe the toe is that squared-round look that is comfortable but a bit matronly. No one notices, right?

Wrong. Have you ever worn a new pair of shoes to work or to a party? You could be wearing the same jeans, the same Little Black Dress but everyone will notice the shoes and comment to you on your shoes.

I understand comfort is key – it is possible to find a new pair of shoes that is still comfortable. Take a day to just look for shoes, prepare yourself for a day of it and it won’t be so bad. Also look at stores geared toward comfort – shops like Aerosoles and Easy Spirit have some great styles and hip looks without sacrificing comfort.

As for the basic black – they are great but consider a color. I have a pair of black and silver printed heels that I wear with my black dresses and it’s a fun way to spice up a wardrobe staple. My friend is known for her purple silk slingbacks – she has worn them with black, navy, gray, taupe and prints all with success.

Buy New Foundation
Most women wear the wrong foundation – be it too heavy, too oily, or the wrong shade. These days, the look is not to be a flawless mannequin but to be real. Tinted moisturizers and sheer foundation with concealer on the bad spots is the best look. Surprisingly, sheer foundations will make you look younger, not older. The makeup won’t sink into lines and wrinkles, and you will look less Dynasty and more Sex in the City.

It’s hard to find the right color in the drugstore. For something worn as much as your foundation, it is worth it to invest in a good color and good ingredients. Stop by a drugstore makeup counter, or a store like Ulta or Sephora. There you can try to colors on your skin, walk out into the mall and see how it looks in different lights. Also, you will have salespeople who can suggest products to match your skin type and lifestyle.

Lighter foundation may be hard to get used to, but once you get your first compliment saying how young or awake you look, you will agree it is a worthwhile switch.

Buy a New Purse
Like shoes, a new purse can transform your whole outfit. Often times we stick with a purse for too long for the same reason we hold on to the scuffed black dress shoes – comfort and ease. The purse holds everything you need, it’s convenient, it is basic. Probably in black or some other neutral color, it blends into your outfit and you forget it even exists except when you can’t find it.

A purse is worn more than any other item in your wardrobe. For most women, the same purse is carried every day, no matter what color or style you are wearing. It is proven that accessories make the look and people are judged by their accessories. What does your purse say about you? If your purse isn’t saying things you like to hear, it may be time for a change.

This time, go for a color. Sometimes a red or green is more basic than black. It will never clash with your shoes because it is guaranteed to not match your shoes. It is an accent, like a scarf or a flash of colorful lipstick. This past spring and summer I sported a lime green tumbled-leather shopper and received tons of compliments. I do not own a single lime green thing in my wardrobe, yet this purse always looked right. My mom carries a cherry-red microfiber hobo bag and it looks great with her wardrobe of blacks, blues, purples and grays. She looks younger, hipper and more fun with a splash of color. She also never has to worry that it is clashing with her brown loafers!

Toss the Lipstick
Along with heavy foundation, heavily colored lipstick is dated. It accentuates fine lines and small lips and looks very severe. If you notice the makeup counters and displays in drug stores, the trend is going from lipsticks and liners to sheer lipcolor and glosses.

Glosses can be difficult to get used to and aren’t always the best look for all ages and faces. However a sheer lipcolor is a great option for the lipstick-addicted. It is packaged similar to lipstick, is applied the same way, but instead of a heavy opaque product, you will find the product is more translucent and often more moisturizing. A sheer color will make your lips look plumper and healthier. Buy one close to your favorite lipstick and try it out – after a few days you will see the look is more flattering and more fresh.

With just a few changes to your daily look, it is easy to update your look, be current and be fabulous!

#GivingTuesday and The Health Wagon

giving tuesday

We had a day for giving thanks. We had two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. Today, Tuesday, December 2, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s simple: find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Join and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity. Share on social media how you gave and use the hashtag #Giving Tuesday.

This year, I am supporting The Health Wagon for #GivingTuesday. Earlier this year I saw a piece on 60 Minutes regarding The Health Wagon and have been a supporter ever since. I donate a portion of my revenue from the blog to The Health Wagon and for those who visit Wardrobe Oxygen’s actual site will know I donated ad space to promote the organization.

Nearly one million Virginia residents lack health insurance. Those who work full time at minimum wage make too much to be eligible for Medicaid, but not enough to afford healthcare even via the ACA. On top of that, many parts of Southwest Virginia have little medical access or health resources. The Health Wagon is a nonprofit organization providing mobile health services in Southwest Virginia since 1980. Every dollar donated to The Health Wagon is approximately $100 reaped in health care benefits. In 2013, the Health Wagon assisted more than 11,000 patients obtain access to care valued at over $1 million.

The Health Wagon strives to meet the unique challenges of health care delivery to the medically under-served and indigent in poverty-stricken areas of rural Appalachia. Through the use of this innovative mobile health unit, health care doors are opened to many needy individuals, families, and communities; doors that would have otherwise remained closed. The Health Wagon visits eleven sites in Southwest Virginia’s Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, and Wise counties on a weekly, biweekly, and monthly basis. Accessibility to culturally sensitive primary health care services that emphasize education and prevention is considered the key to improving the health status for populations residing in these rural areas. Services are rendered essentially free of charge; however, donations are encouraged and accepted.

Please consider participating in #GIVINGTUESDAY and donating to The Health Wagon by clicking here or texting WAGON10 to 41444 to donate $10.00, WAGON20 to 41444 to donate $20.00 or WAGON (enter amount) to 41444 to donate any amount.  To donate online visit this link to go to The Health Wagon’s donation page via Network for Good.

I’d love to hear how you are participating in #GivingTuesday, do share your stories in the comments below!

Giveaway: Gap Skimmer Jeans – Save and Win!

Last week I featured the new Gap Skimmer Jean and how incredibly versatile and adorable it is. Many of you were interested in trying the Skimmer for yourself, well now’s your chance! From February 21 – 27, 2013, try the New Skimmer and get $20 off! When you try the New Skimmer at any Gap store, you’ll get an automatic $20 off any regular-priced pair.  What a fab promotion, I’m thinking I may have to grab a pair of their camo-print skimmers for spring!

Want even more encouragement to try these awesome new jeans? One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $50 AmEx gift card that you could use to buy your Gap Skimmers!

How to Enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Go Ahead Put Your Red Dress On

Dress: c/o Dobbin Clothing | Necklace: Leona Pendant c/o Kristin Biggs, Stella and Dot | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Bracelets: Nordstrom (similar), Nordstrom (similar), had forever | Glasses: Derek Cardigan 7003 c/o Coastal.com | Shoes: Ivanka Trump

One thing bloggers get flack for is wearing too many c/o (courtesy of) items. How can a reader tell your true personal style or find you inspiring when you have a completely gifted outfit? I guess it depends on the blogger, but over the years I have learned to not accept every free thing that is offered to me. It does water down your personal style, it makes you seem less credible… and between you and me it is a pain to them take these gifted items that aren’t really your style and try to style them in a good way for the blog. I have had mornings when I have cried over not knowing how to make a garment or accessory look decent, and I feel guilty to my readers and to the brand that was kind enough to send it my way.

I don’t feel guilty wearing gifted items. One, it’s a lovely perk for working hard on this blog, but two it’s such a great chance to showcase lesser-known amazing brands. I for one may never have known about Dobbin Clothing if they hadn’t contacted me and sent me a dress. Dobbin Clothing has now become such a fave of mine – high quality garments made with fine fabrics from European mills but created here in the US of A.  They pride themselves in making tasteful stylish workhorses for your wardrobe.  The women behind Dobbin Clothing are just as lovely as their creations too!

So yeah, there’s a lot of c/o above… but every c/o up there is one you have likely seen before or will likely see many times again because I love the pieces and I find they fit my personal style. Each piece above I would purchase with my own money if I was able.  I think with blogs, it’s less about how one gets a garment or accessory and more about how they style it and whether it fits their style and message.

UPDATE: Like this dress?  This is the “Nora” by Dobbin Clothing, and they are offering all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off it, in black or red.  Use the code WARDOX20 at checkout to get 20% off the Nora Dress in black or red.  No expiration date, but this code cannot be used in conjunction with the first-time buyer code.

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What I Wore and a Giveaway – Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design

Shirt: c/o Foxcroft | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Halogen (similar) | Necklace: c/o Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Bag: Brahmin (similar)

Accessories can transform the most basic wardrobe staples and make pieces a cohesive outfit. I just received this necklace from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design and while it is BEGGING to be styled with an LBD for the holidays or worn with a beautiful silk blouse, I thought it could really make a statement with a simple white shirt and dark jeans. I haven’t carried my Brahmin bag in a while, and I thought the bright blue really made the emerald necklace pop!

Giveaway:

If you like this necklace and the other beautiful pieces I have featured from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design, well today’s your lucky day! One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $100 store credit to Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design!

Ruth Barzel makes all her unique pieces in the United States and is a local-yokel to me.  Not only that, she’s an awesome human being!  While I love the Emerald Quartz Nugget Statement Necklace I’m wearing here, I also love wearing her Blue Quartz Pendant Necklace and wear her Mixed Metal Chain Bracelet on a weekly basis. Ruth has offered all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off her entire store, just use code OXYGEN20.  This discount will be in effect until the end of November, 2013.

How to Enter:
Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. This contest is open to both US and international readers. Contest ends November 30, 2013 at midnight ET.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
As a reminder, if you can’t wait for the giveaway to end and want to get yourself some jewelry from Ruth Barzel, use the code OXYGEN20 at checkout for 20% off your order!

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

jessica alba tolani scarfTo celebrate me coming back to work and to blogging, I have a great contest for you readers!

One of you can win a Tolani scarf that has been seen on the likes of Jessica Alba (pictured), Sienna Miller, Vanessa Minnillo (pictured), Halle Berry and Mary-Kate Olsen.

The Tolani scarf is courtesy of chickdowntown.com, an awesome site that sells hip women’s designer clothing from the likes of Black Halo, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Vera Wang Lavender Label.

I am so excited, because you KNOW I love scarves, and these beauts from Tolani are fabulous!

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to mywardrobetoday@gmail.com with the word “TOLANI” in the subject.
In the body of the email, please provide your name and mailing address (I promise these addresses will only go to me – except for the winner, and will be deleted once the contest is over). Winner will be chosen by random.

Contest ends Friday, March 20th, 2009 at midnight ET. Winner will be contacted by email. Scarf will be mailed out from chickdowntown.com. Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know chickdowntown.com:
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (twitter.com/chickdowntown)
YouTube (chickdowntownTV.com or youtube.com/chickdowntowntv)

Good luck!

Fall 2011 Fashion – How to Update Your Current Wardrobe for the Season

I don’t believe you need to purchase anything to look stylish each season. Fashion has become so all-encompassing, it really is possible to be true to your personal style and look great no matter the trends. However, I have had many of you contact me asking for a post where I break down the fashion trends for Fall 2011 – what I like, and what I don’t. There’s very little I don’t like for Fall 2011, and many trends I find to be easy to incorporate into most anyone’s wardrobe. Below I share some of my favorite general trends for the season, along with a few very specific trends for fall that may be just right for your specific wardrobe!

Animal Magnetism. Animal prints are back, and I couldn’t be happier. I love animal prints, especially cheetah and leopard because they add a touch of elegance, class and still some whimsy to an ensemble. I already own a pair of classic leopard-print haircalf pumps, but if I didn’t I would totally be purchasing a pair this season. I have also embraced this trend by purchasing a skinny cheetah-print belt. Ann Taylor has a cheetah-print silk blouse that I adore, and a faux fur short jacket that is utterly divine. A leopard-print pencil skirt would look amazing with all the jewel tones on trend this fall, and is a piece that will still be stylish after this fall.

If you’re new to animal prints, I recommend choosing an accessory to get started. My pumps work with everything from dark denim jeans to little black dresses. A skinny belt is a great addition to many wardrobes – use it to cinch your dresses and cardigans from last fall to give them a 2011 look; I like wearing them over pencil skirts to add a level of interest and depth to a simple ensemble. Replace the self-belt in your dress or tunic with an animal print belt for a completely different look.

Leopard and cheetah prints incorporate black and brown so they can match most everything in your wardrobe, and really highlight colors like teal, pumpkin, red, merlot, purple, and bright pink. Zebra isn’t as prevalent this fall and can be a bit too graphic for the season’s colors and silhouettes – an ivory/brown variation would look fresh and on trend. For this fall, the best animal print is one with black and brown in it, something that will work equally well with denim and leather as it would with ladylike fabrics and silhouettes.

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Seeing Red. Red is THE color for Fall 2011. Whether it’s the color of a fire engine, or a deep shade of wine, the more red the better. A popular trend this fall is called monoblocking – this spring was about wearing multiple strong solid colors together (colorblocking), but this trend is to wear head-to-toe color. Some do this by different shades in the same color story (magenta with red with berry), and others do it by wearing the same shade throughout (seen above by the blogger Atlantic-Pacific).

If monoblocking is too strong of a look for you, don’t discount red this season. Red is a phenomenal accent color that can give a much-needed pop to neutral-based wardrobes. A red shell under a black jacket, a red belt over your cardigan, a pair of red pumps peeking out under gray trousers. Red also looks great with other colors for a fall version of colorblocking – a red blouse with a purple pencil skirt, red trousers with a teal blouse, a red dress with a mustard belt.

If red fits your personal style, by all means take advantage of this trend this season and stock up. You can’t go wrong with a pair of red trousers or a red skirt to mix with what you already own. If you wish to try red for the first time, you can go small with a belt or pair of heels, or maybe try a blouse or sweater in your favorite shade of red to wear with your current clothes.

Going Mad. If you haven’t seen Mad Men, you’re not alone (I have only seen one episide myself); however you’d have to be living under a rock to not realize how this show has affected style. From home décor to fashion, Mad Men has taken over. For fashion, this means ladylike silhouettes, tweeds, capes, sweater sets, and skirts galore.

If you have an hourglass figure, you’re in sartorial heaven. However if you have a straighter or a softer frame you may find these defined shapes difficult to wear. The thing is you don’t have to wear this trend (or any trend for that matter) to be stylish. You can also use this trend as inspiration and adapt it to fit your figure and lifestyle. Rock the red lipstick, wear a similar silhouette in a softer fabric or embrace the Mad Men-eque fabrics and colors in a different silhouette. Polka dots and lace are ways to bring the vintage vibe to your wardrobe without looking like an extra from the show; just wear these prints on your terms in your own personal way.

Gucci Fall 2011 featured leather, fur, chiffon, & many other fabrics & textures

Talking Texture. This season is about tactile fashion. Faux fur and feathered trim, buttery soft and glazed leathers, velvet and suede, embroidery and beading. Even everyday fabrics are getting the luxe touch with quilting, accent fabrics, and embellishments. I find this to be the most unique trend of fall – after many seasons of focusing on silhouettes and colors, we’re back to how things feel, how fabrics play with one another… and I couldn’t be happier.

This is a trend that like red, is good to stock up on when en vogue. I think this is a trend that is stylish most any year, so when it is mass-produced it makes it easier to build your wardrobe. Adding unique textures and rich fabrics to your wardrobe gives your closet depth and makes your staples more versatile. A black merino v-neck can have one life with jeans, another with tweed trousers, another with a leather pencil skirt, another with a feathered mini skirt. Take your LBD – imagine it with silk D’orsay pumps and a beaded clutch. Now imagine it with tall suede boots and a fitted jacket with faux fur collar. Now envision it with opaque tights, T-strap heels and a long brocade jacket over it. What makes these drastically different looks work with a simple piece is the addition of interesting textures.

Instead of a simple pair of leopard print pumps, look for a version in suede or haircalf. Consider a faux fur “chubby” coat, or even a collar you can attach to your classic black wool winter coat. Amp up your after-five wardrobe with a simple skirt in an unexpected fabric like feathers, metallic brocade, buttery leather, or piled-on paillettes.

I usually don’t delve into specific trends on Wardrobe Oxygen because they don’t work for every person. However, there are some very cool trends for this fall – if these are items or trends that work with your personal style, by all means stock up!

  • Capes. Back and better than ever, capes are coming in all lengths and fabrics and with some beautiful details. Capes are part of that Mad Men-esque trend, but can work for so many different personal styles, for day or night. I love the idea of a tweed cape with suits for the work week and jeans for the weekend. While a cape may seem very prim and proper, in the right fabric (hello leather!) it can be tough and very modern.
  • Leather. This is a trend I have always embraced (have a pair of leather pants and a pencil skirt waiting at the back of my closet for when I am back to that size). While classic styles like pencil and a-line skirts and jackets are available at every retailer, designers have gotten creative with the fabric and have made full skirts, midi-length skirts, and all styles of dresses and toppers. Black is the most popular color of leather this fall, but you can also find pieces in cognac, olive, gray, russet, and many richer colors like purple and forest green.
  • Menswear. The Le Smoking, cigarette pants, tailored trousers a la Katherine Hepburn, elegant suits… this season has some of the most elegant and graceful versions of suiting and trousers. If this is your thing, head to a department store or favorite retailer pronto! Be sure to have these pieces properly tailored – this season is about well-fitting, flattering clothes.
  • Bright Pants. Crayola-red jeans, acid green cropped pants, fuchsia full trousers… this is the season if you like trousers that get noticed. A skinny jean in a bright hue is a great addition to a casual wardrobe – pair with chunky knit sweaters or a blazer and booties. A flowing trouser in an eye-catching color can rev up a work wardrobe – pair with simple blouses and refined knits in subtle colors for simple elegance or get bold with some colorblocking and choose a solid-colored blouse in a similar or complementary hue.
  • Maxi Skirts. A trend that doesn’t fit my personal style, but I admire on others. Maxi skirts make sense in the cooler months – they keep your legs warm while still giving a feminine look. Pair with figure-grazing knits and chunky boots or clogs to balance out the volume; adding a belt can also help balance out all that fabric. Designers have shown maxi skirts in all sorts of colors and fabrics for fall, but be sure to keep the skirt as a true maxi – there are midi lengths currently on trend and if you hover somewhere between the two you will head into Little House on the Prairie territory.

What are your favorite fashion trends for Fall 2011? What will you be adding to your closet this season?

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Loving Yourself, AKA How to Spend Your Summer Vacation

This post is inspired by a woman who is a member of a message board I visit. She was mentioning that she is taking a trip this fall, and was hoping to be a certain size before the trip so she could pack differently. All too often we women hold off on situations, trips, life changes and yes wardrobes until we have the right conditions.

“I can’t justify buying expensive jeans until I get down to a size 8.”

“I told my friends I couldn’t find time to go to the pool with them, but really I don’t want to be seen in a swimsuit until I lose ten more pounds.”

“I didn’t go to my high school reunion, I didn’t want people to see how much I have gained since I graduated, and anyway I am way past due for a highlights touchup.”

“I figure I’ll wait on getting another haircut until my hair grows another 3-4”.”

“I don’t want to go to Paris on vacation at this size and with these clothes… they will laugh at how fat and sloppy American I am.”

“I am too pale to step foot on a beach, I’ll look like an idiot out there with all those bronze bodies.”

Have you ever said anything similar to this, either out loud or in your head? Well you’re not alone. Too often we women sacrifice our enjoyment because we feel we don’t deserve it. We decide to not buy any new clothes until we drop a size, not go out to social situations because we are embarrassed about our figure, our wardrobe, our selves. Do men do this? Not nearly as often as women. They make do with their outfits, lightly joke about their expanding waistlines, and put nothing in front of having a good time.

Stop and think about the last social situation you attended. Were you the heaviest woman there? The most unattractive? The worst dressed? I highly doubt it. Then also think about the women that stood out in a positive way. Was it because they had perfect bodies and faces? Elegant and expensive attire? Perfect hair and skin? Again, highly unlikely. The women who catch your eye are the women who are at home in their skin, have fun yet have class, who enjoy themselves, their life, and the world around them. The woman with the smile that lights up a room, the woman with the tinkling laugh, the woman who can cut a rug out on the dance floor. When you are comfortable in your skin, no one notices how old your dress is, if you are a size 6 or 16, if your shoes are Payless or Manolo Blahnik.

People notice if your clothes are ill fitting, gaudy, in poor shape. They notice when you slouch, fidget, slump in your chair and avoid interacting with others. They notice the scowl, the sneer, the frown. If you look uncomfortable, then people notice your weight, your scar, your roots, your one thing that makes you uncomfortable in the first place. They notice when you repeatedly decline offers to go out, complain about your weight or your diet or your outfit.

Think back to your college or high school days, your current church community or your daily office team. Think about the “popular girl.” Really think about her, not the possibly altered memory you have about her. Is she really the prettiest girl? The thinnest? The best dressed? I remember a girl I went to college with, her name was Charity. All the boys wanted to date her and all the girls wanted to be her. She had long blonde hair and a heart-shaped face and the biggest smile and the most infectious laugh. She was very short, a hair over 5’ and was not slim – probably a size 12 or 14. Her face was cute, but nothing overly striking. However, she was always friendly and welcoming, happy to see people. She wasn’t afraid to don a bathing suit at the pool or fail miserably (while giggling about it) at intramural softball. Thinking about her, I can’t recall how she dressed, just that she never seemed to stick out or look bad. I remember her pulling all of us on to the dance floor when her favorite song was played by the DJ, I remember her screaming at the top of her lungs and hopping up and down in the front row at a concert for her favorite band. I remember her being nervous for a class presentation, admitting her nervousness, but plowing through and finishing with applause from the whole class. And I remember her smiling and thanking the class for their support. She was not the best dressed, the best looking, the most enviable figure. She just was a great person to be around, who seemed to really like herself.

Life is happening, whether you are participating or not. You are not getting any younger, and those situations you pass on because of your appearance just may not happen again. What makes you an amazing personality is not your dress, your figure, your shoes but YOU. Creative, intelligent, bubbly, goofy, quirky, giving, loving, thoughtful, unique you. When you let the world know who you are, your exterior is just that – the packaging, not the present. As with any gift, we want it to be dressed in a beautiful and appropriate way, but like any gift, the paper and bows are admired, but the present itself is what lasts in memory.

Don’t wait until tomorrow, you may not end up having the second chance. Enjoy the last few weeks of summer in well-fitting swimsuits, sleeveless tops and sassy skirts. Take that trip to Paris – you are one person in a crowd and there is sure to be another American who is in the oversized tee and Crocs to receive the snickers in place of you. Go to that reunion knowing that yes you have gained a few pounds, but also a great education, family or life adventures. Get out on the dance floor if you love to dance, and enjoy yourself! Nothing is more chic, stylish or flattering than a woman who is happy in her own skin and life.

The Best of 2014, Swag Edition

I have often written about the difficult parts of blogging, but there’s some pretty sweet parts too. The friends that have been made with fellow bloggers, readers, and even some brands. The ability to get paid for a hobby or passion. And yeah… swag. We bloggers can get a lot of free stuff. Granted, that free stuff isn’t without strings – we get with the expectation that we will share with you folks (with stipulations on number of photos, links, social media touts, first born…). Because of this, I have become pickier with what swag I’ll actually accept. In the past I’ve been stuck trying to be tactful in a mention of a subpar something and I don’t want to have to do that again.

PicMonkey Collage

But not all swag is wack, and through blogging I have learned of some awesome companies and many pieces I have received for free have become some of my favorite pieces in my wardrobe. Since it can be hard to tell in posts which C/Os are truly adored, I’m going to share the best items I have received this year and why.

DUO ‘Santana’ Boots

I did a little squeal of joy when DUO finally contacted me. I’ve been writing about this high quality footwear brand for almost a decade and have purchased two pairs of their custom width calf boots with my own money. So this fall when they asked me to pick a pair of boots to feature on the blog, it wasn’t hard to say yes. I chose the ‘Santana’ boot in brown leather and they have become a weekly wear. In fact, I am wearing them right now as I type this post! The quality of leather is fantastic, and it’s nice to get stylish yet classic boots that fit my very large (44cm) calves and thick shins. These are especially flattering because they’re a bit shorter than knee-high, hitting at a better place on my petite frame. The color and subtle distressing rival Frye boots and I find them to be comfortable enough to walk and stand in them all day. A bit of a backstory – since I tore my left calf muscle last year my calf is even BIGGER than before so when I ordered my normal size in DUO they were too tight. DUO was amazing about the exchange, I spoke to them on the phone, we discussed how it fit to determine the correct replacement size, and they were so super nice and helpful. It’s so great to work with a company that you can feel cares about their customers.

Adora Bags Leather Tote

Guess this one is a bit unfair because it hasn’t yet been featured on the blog (yet!), but it’s darn awesome. I’ve loved the looks of the unfinished edge simple leather totes that have been in style, but couldn’t justify buying once since I already own totes that work as well (even if they don’t look as nice). So when Adora Bags contacted me and offered to send me a tote I was psyched. They come in black, a gorgeous blue, and a rusty orangey natural color; I chose black thinking it would be the most practical and timeless. The leather is insanely delicious – tumbled but soft. The straps sturdy and fit over my shoulder while wearing my parka yet short enough to carry in my hand. The shape isn’t too structured, but not a lumpy sack. It comes with a removable pouch on a strap so it can be an easy-access pocket for essentials, or pulled out to be a clutch. Mine also came with a little empty book/agenda in the same leather which was a lovely touch. This is a true tote, it wouldn’t really make for a great handbag, but it’s a good size for an overnight trip, a carryon bag, or for running errands. It’s handmade in Italy, smells divine, feels luxurious, and makes me carting 250 flyers for the Girl Scouts or returns to Ann Taylor feel a bit more posh. And speaking of customer service, they followed up with me to ensure the bag came in perfect condition and have been so lovely to work with. A super nice company.

Karen Kane Jersey Pants

Before my arm broke, Karen Kane contacted me and asked if I’d like some pieces from their Spring collection. I got a pair of wide-leg drapey pants from them they year prior and wore the heck out of them so when I saw their blue paisley jersey pants I knew I had to have them. I envisioned them with a drapey jersey top in white, lots of silver jewelry, flat sandals and a hint of a tan come Summer, but I ended up wearing them quite a lot while convalescing. They were one of the few bottoms I owned that weren’t pilled and faded yoga pants that I could get on and off with my left hand, were comfortable enough to rest in them, but felt sassy enough in them if a friend came to see how I was doing. Even better, since I lived in them they went in the washer and dryer dozens of times yet are still as rich in color, no pills, no shrinkage, and looked cute enough that when I was healed I did pair them with a drapey top and silver jewelry! Obviously the pants they sent me are no longer available, but these look to be the same pants in a different print. And we all know I love Karen Kane, in fact it was hard to pick one item from them to feature. I love the black drapey jersey dress they sent me and the lace overlay dress from them was not only a fave of mine, but I loaned it to a friend to wear to a wedding! Karen Kane continues to have my heart and a place in my closet.

SOREL Joan of Artic Wedge Boot

In my sponsored post I stated I was a fan of SOREL boots and I have been, but I’ll be honest – they never fit over my calves. So when they asked me to do a sponsored post with their boots I was excited… and terrified. Last year I did a footwear post with a brand and the boots they sent did NOT fit my legs and I had to cobble together a wonky outfit to make it work. But after last winter and my broken arm, I couldn’t pass on a pair of quality boots that are made to handle inclement weather. So I chose this style of boot, figuring it laced up and was softer leather higher up so it could possibly flex over my ankles and shins. I also ordered a half size bigger than usual to give a bit more space. And well, I’m glad I took the risk. In the post I wore the boots folded down because they did look a bit goofy laced up on my legs, but I have been wearing them both ways. I wear them folded down, cuff my jeans, and have rag socks slouched between the two for warmth and a bit of a ‘90s vibe. But I also wear them laced up which may look weird but feels comfortable and wear my pants over them to hide the tops. However when it snowed the other week, I laced them up over a pair of jeggings and had my wool socks peek out over the tops of them and while no one would give me an award for figure flattery, it looked casual cute. The boots are super grippy, super comfortable, waterproof, and warmer than my other boots. They stay at the front door because I wear them so often now that the temps have dropped and I know once it gets icy they may not leave my feet.

Dobbin Clothing Sophie Silk Crepe de Chine Blouse in Leopard Print

We all know I love me some Dobbin Clothing, but I’ve mainly stuck to their dresses. This year I tried their tops and I am a mega fan. While the green silk tunic they sent is lovely, this leopard blouse has become a closet favorite and I wear it almost weekly. I tuck it in and wear it with black or ivory trousers, I wear it untucked with skinny jeans or black ponte skinny pants and boots. It’s a top that works when I’ve gained a bit, but also looks lovely when I’ve lost a bit. It says dry clean only, but I have put it in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle and it has come out quite nicely. I like the gold buttons, the mate crepe finish, and how the leopard is elegant, not cheesy. As with all the other Dobbin Clothing I own, the quality is stellar and it’s a piece that’s stylish now and likely will be stylish for many years to come. And from a blogger standpoint, they are one of my favorite companies to work with!

Talbots Leopard Coat

Talbots sent me their fall look book and it impressed me so much I shared it on the blog with all of you. You all reacted so positively (and I’ll be honest, clicked those affiliate links in the post and bought a lot of Talbots merchandise) that I let Talbots know how successful a post it was. And they asked me what size I wore and sent me this coat in thanks. I wore it in this post, but if you follow me on Instagram you know I wear it quite often. It looks great with jeans, is chic with workwear, and has become one of the coats I wear with dresses for evenings out. I got a 12 Petite and it fits as though it was tailored to my frame; the fuzzy texture gives an almost vintage feel but is a classic piece.

Dagne Dover

I don’t usually reach out to brands, call me a “Rules Girl” but I like to be approached by brands instead of cold pitching (I mentioned this before). But when you guys ask me about a brand unknown to me, I do my homework. And I did my homework with Dagne Dover, reading reviews online and being bold enough to email them. They were awesome, replied in less than a day with a super sweet email and the offer to choose the bag of my choice. We’ve stayed in communication and I look forward to sharing more from the brand in the future. They’re a small brand, but one with heart and one that makes well-made and cleverly designed bags. I’ve had really demoralizing experiences reaching out to brands, but my experience with Dagne Dover has given me confidence to keep doing it with companies that seem like a good fit for this blog.

CastCoverz!

I spent about 25 weeks this year in a cast. If you’ve ever worn a cast, you know how utterly disgusting they can be. While my second doctor replaced them bi-weekly for me, they still got sweaty and dirty and stinky and grubby. My sister told me about CastCoverz! and I bought two long-arm covers to make my broken arm a bit more stylish – I got leopard print (naturally), and a sparkly disco gold one. I featured them in a post , CastCoverz! saw it and offered to send me covers for when I graduated to a short arm cast. That short arm cast came in the middle of the summer when there was no way to keep my cast looking halfway decent after a day or two. The cast covers didn’t make the cast any hotter, but they covered the grubbiness with fun patterns and color while keeping my cast from scratching me and wearing against my knit tops. When Karl broke his foot at the end of the summer, CastCoverz! was sweet enough to send him two boot covers. While their cast covers (and other supplies for those in casts or wearing crutches) are awesome and high quality, what won me over was CastCoverz! customer service and kindness. Everyone I interacted with, from the person on the phone to Annette the owner were so genuinely kind and cared for me be it when I was any old customer, or when I was a blogger promoting their products. Amazing company run by amazing people.

Boden Ravello Silk Top

I had a partnership where I was provided a specific amount of money to spend at Boden and I was PSYCHED. However it was when I had my cast and when I had gained a lot of weight and I worried I wouldn’t be able to find anything to fit properly. But it’s Boden, and Boden is awesome. I had to call them to place my order and chatted with the sweetest person on the phone. We discussed everything from my arm to my bust size to my weight gain and she helped me pick this top (and a basic striped tank because I love stripes and I couldn’t afford at the time to spend more than the store credit). And well, I freaking LOVE THIS TOP. I wear it ALL THE TIME. And every time I wear it someone raves about it. The colors are amazing, the fit is great, and it’s one of those tops that looks cute tucked in or left out, that shows I go in under the chest, and doesn’t make my arms look like hamhocks. The post where I featured it doesn’t do it justice; I had JUST gotten off my cast a day or two prior and was feeling pretty darn awful and was just glad to fulfil an obligation. But if you follow me on Instagram you know how often I’ve worn this top and I likely will wear it to death again this coming spring.

Reebok Skyscape Sneakers

This is another post that took place right after my cast came off and I was in a very dark place emotionally and uncomfortable place physically. But I signed contracts and had to comply. So Karl rolled out his white backdrop, took pauses between my cryfests and makeup reapplications, and we got it done. Another behind the scenes being a blogger – one ad network contacted me the year prior about partnering with “an athletic footwear company” and had me fill out a form to be considered. Then a couple months later, a different ad network contacted me and asked if I’d like to be considered for a campaign with Reebok. Well I said yes to both, and come to find out both were for Reebok Skyscape and set to take place the same week. So the second company who contacted me to confirm my participation, I declined explaining the situation. They’re a great company and understood, and told me to let them know when the shoes arrived so they could mail me a return shipping label. They arrived, I contacted them, two weeks later they finally got back and said don’t worry about it, I could keep them. Well what the heck am I going to do with two pairs of black Reebok Skyscapes with pink soles? At the time, I didn’t know if I’d even wear the pair I wore in the post. And now it’s December and you couldn’t pry BOTH pairs of Skyscapes from my dead cold hands. These things weight nothing and fold easily making them the best commuter shoes. They are uber cushy and cozy, flexible, but have grip on slick sidewalks. One pair I keep at home, one pair is at the office, and these are the sneakers I take with me when I travel because of size and weight and comfort level. I’ll admit I don’t love the pink details; both pairs came with pink and black laces so I switched them to black. Not only that, one pair I took a Sharpie to the pink grommets and exposed sole. I did this so I could wear them with my outfit for Halloween, but it does make them less athletic-shoe looking and have become the ones I slip in my bag (like I did last night) to put on after a long day in heels. They are utterly awesome shoes and while I didn’t get the hype when I wrote my post, I totally get it now.

 

Please don’t think that because I didn’t mention an item or brand here I think it’s bunk. Far from it. I think I’ve gotten better and better over the years in picking the appropriate brands to partner with so I can provide completely honest and positive reviews. I feel truly honored to partner with such amazing companies, and proud that I can introduce them to you. The older I get, the more I experience ageism and sizeism as a blogger when connecting with brands. When I feature a brand, it’s usually after establishing a relationship with them and making sure they understand you all, Wardrobe Oxygen’s audience. While swag is pretty cool, what’s cooler is the relationship I have built with all of you. I want to maintain your trust, I want to continue our honesty, and I want to be able to continue to introduce you to the companies who respect the Wardrobe Oxygen reader and deserve your attention.

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!

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InStyle Essentials TrioFit Discount Code and Giveaway

Remember when I told you about the amazing white shirts from InStyle Essentials that are sized according to your bust? I’ve worn my classic white shirt dressed up with a taffeta skirt to a gala, and to work with a printed midi skirt. I love how it doesn’t gape at the bust, isn’t hanging off my shoulders, and follows the curves of my body. The TrioFit technology really gives you a great fit and flatters your curves.  Finally, reasonably-priced white shirts for us with larger busts!  While I have the Classic Button-front there are three other styles to choose from (yep there’s a new tuxedo shirt style that will be shipping next month!) all in crisp classic white cotton with much-needed stretch.

If you’d like to get yourself one of these brilliant shirts, the lovely folks at InStyle Essentials are offering Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off your orderUse code 20WO at checkout to save 20%.

And for those who are feeling lucky… well look what other great thing InStyle Essentials is offering…

Giveaway
One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win their TrioFit Prize Package valued at over $400!

InStyle Essentials TrioFit Prize Package includes:

Pretty awesome, no? You get to choose your three styles of shirts and receive all the fixings to be stylish while wearing them!  You must enter via the Rafflecopter form below.  Participants must visit ShopInStyleEssentials.com and let me know in the comments which is you favorite style of shirt, and how you’d style it. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents age 18 or older. Winner will be selected via random draw and will be notified by email. Winner has 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise an alternate winner will be chosen.  Giveaway is open from November 19, 2013 until December 6, 2013 at midnight ET.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

20% off promo code is valid from November 18, 2013, 12:01am ET through December 31, 2013, 11:59pm ET. Discount cannot be applied to The TrioPack, previous purchases, the purchase of gift cards and cannot be redeemed for cash or used in combination with any other offer. To redeem enter your valid promo code in the promo code box at checkout. Limit one promo code per order. Terms of offer are subject to change without notice.

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Unlock the Perfect Cup this Holiday with TASSIMO™: Review and Giveaway

Looking at how often I write and tweet about coffee, you’d think I was a coffee connoisseur. Notsomuch. When I hit my local coffee shop I ask for it plain and big because all the –inos overwhelm me. At home, Karl is the master of the coffee domain. I have no idea how to use the French press so I rely on him to fuel my caffeine fix. Lately I have been working more early mornings and I have to stop by the local coffee shop or fast food drive-through to get my cup of Joe because I just can’t figure out how to make a decent cup of coffee. You know what would be a perfect holiday gift for me? A super simple single-serve coffee maker that would make a great cup of coffee every time.

Enter TASSIMO™, who was awesome enough to send me the TASSIMO™ T55 Single Cup Brewing System JUST at the perfect time. I was working a lot of long days and hated spending so much on take-out coffee or watching Karl make me a cup still bleary-eyed in dawn’s early light. No needing to wait until the holidays to become a coffee-making expert!

Place the T DISC upside down so that the INTELLIBREW™ technology can read the barcode. Snap the lid shut, press Start and in minutes you’ll be enjoying a perfect cup!

The TASSIMO™ Brewer is super easy to use too. Add water to the reservoir in back, insert your TASSIMO™ T DISC in the top, and press start. The built-in technology INTELLIBREW™ scans the barcode on each T DISC to identify precise brewing instructions with the exact temperature, water, and time duration, so each and every drink is perfect every time. This Home Brewing System isn’t just for a cup of joe–the TASSIMO™ can also make cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolate, tea, and more. One of my favorite features is how quickly it heats water; for little energy you can have a piping-hot cup of water for soup or tea in seconds.

TASSIMO™ sent me a few T DISCS to get started, and it’s fun to make hot chocolate, cappuccinos, caramel latte macchiatos, or espressos by myself and know it will be delicious. With well-known brands like Twinings, Gevalia, and Maxwell House partnering with TASSIMO™ for their T DISCS you know the quality and the flavor is great. I love that there are great limited edition flavors like Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Peppermint Mocha for the holidays!

Now I’m a pro at making fancy coffee house drinks from my kitchen counter!

If you’d like to unlock a perfect cup with TASSIMO™ this holiday season, they are offering some great deals on their site. With Cyber Monday code TACYMON3 you can get 20% off T DISCS; you also get 20% off Brewers and with each Brewer purchase, you will receive two free packages of T DISCS (valid in the US only on TassimoDirect.com. Cannot be combined with other offers . Limit one coupon redemption per customer. 20% T DISC discount limited to 6 T DISC packages. 20% Brewer discount limited to two Brewers. Offer only valid on 12/2/2013 until 11:59PM PST).

If you miss the Cyber Monday Deal, brewers and T DISCS are also available at Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon.

Giveaway
Thank you for entering, the giveaway is now closed and winners have been notified.

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CAbi Clothing – An Honest Review

My friend Lisa has recently become a CAbi Consultant and offered me the chance to come to her house and check out the Spring 2011 line. For those who haven’t heard of CAbi, it stands for Carol Anderson By Invitation. It is a line of sportswear that is only sold by independent consultants (think Pampered Chef for fashion).

I jumped at this chance; for years I have had readers and fellow bloggers rave about CAbi clothing – the great fit, great quality, the ability to mix and match. Many of you readers have suggested CAbi clothing to me saying it fits with my style and beliefs that clothes should be stylish, but also versatile. I didn’t attend a CAbi party; instead Lisa had me over and gave me full rein to try on anything I wished and get a real feel for the collection.

Carol Anderson at Work

Carol Anderson has been a fashion designer for over 28 years, with her first sale to Nordstrom in 1977. Anderson eventually left the traditional retail industry and decided to cut out the middle-man and sell her fashion directly to her consumers.

CAbi – Carol Anderson by Invitation prides itself on great quality and even more amazing service. By attending an at-home event, you get the experience of a personal shopper – great attention, a salesperson highly educated on the line and how it works for different women, a collection of clothes that work together.

The “Blogger” Collection

CAbi changes up their line each season, but does seem to stick to silhouettes and fabrics that are best-sellers. They create mini-collections within each season – pieces that can work alone, but also coordinate with one another with ease. This spring they had nine collections, all named after professions (Art Teacher, Apprentice, Shop Keep, Photojournalist, Musician, Designer, Domestic CEO and even Blogger). The clothing comes in sizes XS-XL or 0-16 and from what I found, many pieces are stretchy and most seem to run large.

Lisa had a large portion of the collection available to try on, I must have been running from the bathroom to the dining room for two hours straight, doing mini-fashion shows for her and my sister. I was impressed with the quality – the attention to detail, the consistency in sizing and fit.

What I Liked:
CAbi does a great job of interpreting the trends without making pieces seem passé in a season. No one will look like a fashion victim in CAbi clothing, and no woman will look unstylish or outdated. I really feared finding a collection that would be full of stretchy polyester flowing separates and overly-embellished jackets; instead I found a great line of pieces that could work for a woman who usually shops at The Limited and Ann Taylor LOFT, or a woman who usually shops at Chico’s or J. Jill.

The collection isn’t specific to one age of customer – I tried on pieces that I liked, but also knew my mother would like and wear beautifully. I also tried on pieces that flattered my figure, but also flattered my friend Lisa’s slim athletic frame. I really felt as though these pieces were made thinking of a variety of women’s bodies, not a fit model.

The pieces really were versatile – knits that could be paired with jeans or dressy trousers, tunics that also looked great tucked in, and unexpected combinations like gathered knit tops under cardigans that didn’t leave a lumpy mess. Everything was color-coordinated – not just within mini collections, but within the entire line. You could easily take a top from the Designer line and have it coordinate with pants from the Blogger line. There were also pieces that could really dress up nicely – a knit jacket and skirt from the Apprentice line could easily be corporate chic with a simple shell, be a more sophisticated look with a silky cami, the pieces as separates would look great for stylish yet comfortable weekend wear. The Hook Back tunic from the Shop Keep collection would be adorable with skinny jeans for a concert, could be worn as a dress on a shorter woman, and Lisa told me she knew a woman who purchased it to be a beach coverup. It also would have a completely different silhouette with a belt or topped with a shrunken jacket.

The Phoebe Coat

The line is crisp, the prints aren’t overly-fussy, the details make sense. I was in love with many of their jackets – the Gabrielle Cardigan is Chanel-esque with its quilted knit, ruffle trim, and black stone accents; the Daisy Jacket looked far more expensive than its pricetag and could look professional with a pencil skirt, but also be a great downtown look with jeans and a tank. I almost purchased the Phoebe Coat, which is a collarless tweed jacket with a frayed edge also had a Chanel vibe and would look great with the CAbi Transition Trouser, as well as denim or over a simple sheath dress.

Unexpectedly Awesome Tops – Drape Striped Tee, Gypsy Top, Shakespeare Tunic

The fabric and color choices are brilliant. The Draped Stripe Tee from far away looks like a simple Breton-striped top. However upon closer inspection, you find this is an unusual stretchy and almost spongy textured fabric with an unsual neckline. It has the most unusual cut – it looks to have a drape neck but the fabric is actually on their weird bias which creates this wrap look in the front, really whittling the waist and tricking the eye into seeing the wearer’s torso as longer and leaner than it actually is. This top could be a simple sailor tee to wear with jeans, but can also be dressed up, rouched to the waist, pulled down like a tunic, and easily tucked into a skirt or pants without showing bulk. The Gypsy Top from the Domestic CEO line is something I would normally not even take off the rack at a store – girly floral, blousy tunic of a shiny fabric. However once on I saw it was incredibly flattering – though it was blousy it wasn’t overly so, it skimmed where it needed to so not to look maternity, the sleeves flowed without being tent-like, the neckline the perfect level of scoop to be feminine and flattering yet modest. It made me almost a floral blousy-top convert.  The Shakespeare Tunic was another piece that amazed me – it was something I would never ever EVER wear – a bold floral print, colors of brown and orange, sheer layered cardigan-like top.  However Lisa pressed me to try it on and even my sister was amazed at how incredibly flattering it was.  The sleeves made my arms look long and slim, the slightly curved back gave my body an amazing shape and really made my rear look fab.  I could really see myself wearing it with a pair of dark jeans, some big hoops and heeled boots to a concert or date night with my husband.

Real Women in CAbi 
(BTW that dress is actually the Sigourney Skirt)

I was impressed with the catalog I received – at the back it dedicates six whole pages of real-life CAbi consultants wearing the clothes.  It showed how the clothes really can fit and flatter a variety of sizes, ages, and personal styles of women.  In fact all of CAbi’s marketing, branding, website and materials are brilliant – polished, sophisticated, easy to read and navigate, prices and sizing always clear and available.

Many complain that CAbi clothing is expensive. Well it’s not cheap, but I think the prices are equal to higher-end department store brands and retailers like Talbots and Ann Taylor. I feel the quality is equal to these brands as well. This isn’t disposable fashion – Cabi clothes could easily be flattering and stylish a year from now, and many pieces would still be on trend a decade from now.

What I Didn’t Like:
No petite, no tall, no plus sizes. In this day and age I can’t believe that any brand of clothing wouldn’t at least carry their best selling pants in lengths, and at least a couple pieces in larger sizes. The average American woman is a size 14 – this means there are plenty of women in this country who are over a size 16. To really tap into at-home sales, you would think a line would try to cater to women who hate shopping at malls. I can often wear regular length trousers at many retailers, but found every single pair of pants from CAbi to be at LEAST six inches too long for me.

No real basics. I did like their camis, which had brilliant adjustable straps and the perfect amount of Lycra to keep shape, hold you in, be comfortable and not roll up. However I was looking for the straight skirt, simple tees, maybe a collection of heavyweight knit/ponte pieces you could mix and match (skirt, one or two jackets, sheath dress, capris, pants). The closest was the previously mentioned Delicious Blazer and Skirt, which was begging to be joined by some other pieces in that fabulous refined knit.

No dresses (at least this season), and hardly any skirts. Again, untapped opportunity. As a curvy woman, I find skirts to often be more flattering and forgiving than trousers, and a garment that can work for a larger variety of female shapes. On top of that, many women in this country choose to wear skirts instead of pants for modesty and religious reasons. I would think a couple bias-cut shifts and/or simple sheaths in heavyweight fabric with stretch (twill, ponte) would work really well with the current CAbi look and style.

***

My friend Lisa was fresh from the CAbi conference where she was loaded up with product information, tips on how to fit women, and excitement and passion for the brand. With the terrible customer service found in many shops these days, a CAbi party is a breath of fresh air – a consultant who really cares about your needs, knows her product, taking time to help you find the right clothes. She may want you to spend money, but she wants you to be a happy, loyal and repeat customer and knows a hard sell may make a fast buck, but will not make you return the next season. As someone who loves fashion, I would think a CAbi party would be a heck of a lot more fun to attend than other at-home products.  Imagine sipping wine and chatting with your friends while trying on clothes in the comfort of your own home, with a personal shopper at your beck and call?  Brilliant!

CAbi is geared towards the woman who wears many hats – she may be a full-time office worker, but also a 24/7 mom, a community volunteer, an artist, a social butterfly. The clothing is made to be versatile, wearable, flattering. It’s not cheap in price, but it’s also not cheap in quality or style. It’s simple pieces to make a woman’s life more stylish, but not more complicated. If you’re at least 5’5” and under a size 16, it’s worth checking out.  Hopefully in the future, CAbi will extend their line to accommodate those of us who do not fit that specific mold.

Note: All opinions are completely my own.  I was not asked by anyone to do this review, and did not receive any compensation for it.

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