Search Results for: label/nail biting

What I’m Loving – Zoya Nail Polish

I am not one to wear polish on my fingernails. I chew and pick (though working very hard to stop this habit), and I just don’t want to draw attention to my hands. However I do like a nicely pedicured food, especially come spring and summer.

Since having Emerson I have neither the time nor money for regular salon visits – I think my last professional pedicure was over a year ago. Having to go DIY, I have started buying things like nail polish, and really checking out quality, brand ethics, and ingredients.

Through this, I have found and fallen in love with Zoya polishes. Zoya polishes are vegan friendly, free of toluene, formaldehyde, Dibutyl Phthalate, and camphor. All this, and over 300 colors to choose from!

If you “Like” Zoya on Facebook, you will be the first to know about many of their promotions. A couple months ago, they had a great promotion where you could pick any three colors and get them for just the price of shipping ($6.95). I got a Isla (classic dark red with some shimmer), Ibiza (a dark sparkly navy), and Kelly, which is not green but a gorgeous shade of creamy cool-toned gray.

Kelly is my new favorite. I want to paint my bedroom in this gray, own clothes in this gray, and I love wearing it on my toes.

Zoya polishes are a bit thinner than your classic polish, but that doesn’t affect it’s quality. I find I need at least two coats for a nice finish, but find Zoya doesn’t chip as fast as some other polishes, and it keeps its shine and look for weeks. In fact, I have been doing the Lazy Woman’s/Busy Mom’s pedicure for the past couple of weeks where all I do is layer some more polish over what I already had to fill in the space from growing nails and chips from trimming the length. The coverage is even, it’s not lumpy, doesn’t chip and looks… well, polished!

I like purchasing products that are made ethically, and with less chemicals. I love it when such products are also of excellent quality. I find my Zoya polishes rival OPI, Essie and all my other old favorites.

Have you tried Zoya? What do you think of it?

Little Bits of Luxury: Manicures

My bridesmaids bullied me into a manicure for my wedding day. I went to the salon just for an updo, but left with Essie Ballet Slippers on my nails. I felt for the manicurist because she was trying to make dry, rough, gnawed nails and cuticles look Wedding Day worthy.

That was the last manicure I had for almost a decade.

I was a chronic nail biter. Worse than that, I was a cuticle biter, the type that kept going until it bled and went in for more. In high school, I got pinworms and the doctor said it was likely from nailbiting. In college, I got an infection that left a permanent dent in my thumbnail. I even chewed on my wedding day to the point of bleeding, and it got on my wedding dress. When I was a trainer and visual merchandiser, my supervisor strongly suggested I get acrylic tips to have a more professional appearance during my presentations. I would wiggle my teeth between my nail and the acrylic and crack them off, sometimes even in my sleep. I gave up and just accepted that I was a nail biter.

Last summer, I was driving to work and was at a stop light and turned to look at the car next to me. In the driver’s seat was a really hot guy in a nice suit… and he was going to town on his nails. He was oblivious to his act, watching for the light to turn green, and looked as though he hadn’t eaten in days and his fingers were breakfast. It was disgusting to watch and I realized that while I looked at him with disgust I was doing the same exact thing.

No more justifying it, no more pretending, this HAD to stop. Not only did it look gross to watch and leave me with disgusting hands, it just wasn’t healthy. No more.

So I went home and researched the best ways to stop biting nails. I had tried the foul-tasting ointments and had chewed through it to the skin. I tried Band-Aids, using an emery board on rough parts so they wouldn’t taunt me, and I already shared my “success” with acrylic tips. But I learned about N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) which has been proven to help people who are chronic nail biters. After a chat with my doctor, I started taking 1,000mg two times a day; a month after starting NAC I got a manicure.

Oh man, I’ve become one of those people who shares her manicure on Instagram!

Since September, I have been getting almost bi-weekly manicures. I am back to acrylic because it makes the nails too thick to get to the cuticles, but I have them make them as short as possible. I started with neutral shades that didn’t draw attention but gained confidence, donning a sparkly candy apple red for Christmas oxblood for fall, and currently a pale gray with a hint of shimmer.  Though gel polish is controversial, I have had more success with it because it is nearly impossible to chip and looks great for two weeks straight.  As soon as I get a chip, I start futzing with it.

Recently, I ran out of NAC and I went longer than two weeks between fills and I started chewing again. I completely pulled the polish off all but four fingers, chipped off edges of the nails, and gnawed my cuticles raw.  It taught me that this is something I will have to battle the rest of my life, and that this isn’t really a luxury but a necessity.

I keep a bottle of Solar Oil in my car and rub it into my cuticles when I get the urge to gnaw at a stop light, I have Sally Hansen VitaSurge Cuticle Gel and Weleda Skin Food on my desk at work, and Glysomed on my nightstand. The more hydrated my hands, the less I wish to chew.

Unlike a pedicure where you can play with your phone, sip a latte and read an old issue of Cosmo, getting acrylic fills and gel polish (can’t chew it off, lasts until next appointment so no chips) means spending an hour with a stranger practically in your face and your hands in her control.  It has taught me to unplug, to develop all those thoughts in my head, and be silent for a while.  My current nail salon doesn’t have a TV so I don’t get lost in Wendy Williams or a cooking show, I just get lost in my mind.

I recommend checking out a site like Yelp for salon reviews.  I started off with the nail salon walking distance from my home, but I didn’t think they did that careful of a job.  I went to Yelp and tried another salon, and they did a far better job, but the two women who I liked were usually booked and the technician I kept getting was sloppy.  I am now going to a salon near a college campus and they do a very careful job and have a clean, friendly shop. 

Manicures are an extra expense, so I have had to make some changes to fit them into the budget.  I no longer buy Starbucks (unless it’s my weekly date with Emerson, and then I get a cheap drink and no snack), I bring my lunch more often, I buy far fewer beauty products, and I box dye my hair between salon visits.  In fact, manicures have caused me to reassess a lot of my spending, and is a good example of how reducing small purchases helps me get what I really want or need.  And while I like the look of my new pretty non-mangled nails, I also know I have broken a lifelong bad habit.  

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What I Wore: It’s Myne

myne heidi dress hobo bags clutch zippers myne heidi dress review

Dress: Myne | Bag: Hobo Bags (similar) | Shoes: Nine West | Glasses: Zenni Optical | Bracelet: Had forever (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon ‘Certainly Red’ | Ear Cuffs: Etsy (here and here)

I wrote about this dress in this post. A lot of you wanted to see me in it since I am a very different shape from the model, but it has been too cold to bust out this lightweight silk dress until now. When I bought it I figured I’d style it with peeptoe ankle booties and my wide silver metal plate belt, but once spring arrived I decided I liked it a bit more stripped down. The dress is by the brand Myne, and each time I read the label I say, “It’s MINE!” in the whiny voice I use when I read Emerson her book, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share.  As an FYI, this is a size 10; I originally got a 12 but found it too long for my petite stature.  The 10 fits comfortably but the belt that came with it is too small (no biggie, the belt is kind of ugly and cheap looking).

If you signed up for my monthly Style File newsletter you know that I recently got these glasses. They’re huge, they’re bright, and they’re a lot of fun for a very low price (hello prescription lenses under $30!). I’ve been wearing a lot of red lately – I’ve been doing a red lip almost all winter and have been choosing OPI’s Big Apple Red as my nail polish of choice for almost a year. It made sense if I was going to buy some funky glasses to have them in my current signature shade!

Showing the Love: Isaac Mizrahi Beauty

This month, the month of love, I want to celebrate you. It’s the tenth year of Wardrobe Oxygen, and this blog wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for your love and support. To show my love in return, I’ve partnered with some of my favorite brands to offer you some amazing gifts. These giveaways are not sponsored, I am receiving nothing in return for hosting them, I will not be promoting these giveaways on social media so to increase the chances of you regular readers winning. The brands know this, and have chosen to donate great gifts because they too want to show you the love.

It’s no secret that I adore Isaac Mizrahi and have been a fan for years. I love his use of color and how his looks are feminine but full of fun and energy, and how he designs for real women. Researching for this post I found this quote by Mizrahi, “…One of my goals as a designer has always been to get my customer to look in the mirror the right way. I don’t want her to buy this because it’s a big fantasy, but because she will look in the mirror and think she looks good.” This goes right along with my thoughts on fashion and personal style and what Wardrobe Oxygen is all about, so when I was contacted by his brand I was uber psyched and asked if they would like to host a giveaway this month.

true isaac mizrahi beauty cosmetics

Issac Mizrahi recently teamed up with True Cosmetics to launch TRUE Isaac Mizrahi, a line of skincare and colorful makeup. “I am so happy to be launching a beauty line. I love color, and now I get to share my passion for it in this new and exciting way,” says Mizrahi. Housed in elegant gold packaging, the 144-piece collection is cruelty-free and infused with blends of green and white teas, marine algae, Vitamins A and E. I love that the shades are named after Mizrahi’s favorite Hollywood icons and New York locales.

The shadows in this line are made with a special ceramide complex that help smooth the eyelids so powder never creases, while reducing fine lines and wrinkles. I love the Eyeshadow Trios compact which comes in three color combinations for a bold runway-ready look. The Pure Lipcolor comes in eight creamy, long-lasting shades that will hydrate and protect your lips while delivering bold color. I’m partial to Audrey Red which would bring a much-needed pop of color to a gray winter day yet still look fresh come spring. There’s 20 shades of the Nail Lacquer available, and the formula claims to be water resistant, chip resistant, and fade resistant. While I’m a classic red nail gal, I’m drawn to the dark navy shade of Jean Blue.

If this collection sounds as good to you as it does to me, today is your lucky day. One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win their color choice of the Eyeshadow Trio, Nail Lacquer, and Pure Lipcolor. I think so many pieces from TRUE Isaac Mizrahi sounds fabulous but thought these three pieces would let anyone of any skin tone or type enjoy this prize. Enjoy, and good luck!

Wardrobe Oxygen + TRUE Isaac Mizrahi Beauty Giveaway

Friday Food for Thought: Fast Fashion Fixes

This year it’s creative nail art.
Last year it was braids.
The year before… feathers.

Before the recession, it was anything with logos on it. Canvas Coach bags covered with Cs, Tory Burch flats, limited-edition tee shirts by trendy designers.

Have you heard of The Lipstick Index? This phrase was coined by the chairman of Estée Lauder to explain why their sales went up after 9/11. From the late ‘20s and into the start of the Great Depression, the economy went down the tubes yet cosmetic sales rose.

Time and time again, when the economy is down, women find budget-friendly ways to still feel fashionable and beautiful. And when the economy is good, the masses clamor to get the hottest trend they can at the highest pricepoint they can afford.

I understand this, and I too have bought a trendy accessory or beauty product to make me feel better, feel fashionable. And it works. It’s amazing how a new color of lipstick or some fun nail art can change your look as well as your outlook. However, it’s important to understand that these budget-friendly trends are just that – trends.

We seem to be living in a time where people are sacrificing quality for quantity. Cheap polyester dresses that don’t fit quite right, sky-high platforms that tear heels to shreds, neon accessories that will be passé come October. We’re spending $30 a month on mystery boxes of travel sizes of beauty products or mediocre-quality shirts and accessories. We’ll buy Starbucks every day, but balk at the idea of spending three figures on a pair of shoes or trousers that will be en vogue years from today.

I encourage you to do an experiment – for the next month track all the money you spend on nail polish, fun lipstick colors, self-tanner, Starbucks, super trendy jewelry, and novelty clothing (witty tee shirts, pieces that can only be worn for specific situations, fast food fashion a la Forever 21). Don’t stop your regular routine, just gather up the receipts and a month from now, tally them and see how much you spent.

How much was it? Enough for a cashmere sweater? A pair of perfectly-tailored trousers? Designer jeans that make your rear look amazing? A classic designer bag?  Black pumps that are chic, slightly sexy, and wearable for eight hours straight?

With Weight Watchers I often have an internal debate with food – which is more important, short-term pleasure or long-term satisfaction? The same could be said for fashion. There is nothing wrong with trendy splurges – in fact I recommend them to keep wardrobe staples looking current. However take a good look at your closet, your dressing table, your makeup bag – are all those quick fixes keeping you from achieving quality personal style?

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A Typical Saturday

“Why does a catastrophe always follow you?” my husband asked, as he smoothed my hair and handed me a Kleenex. Yet again, Alison the Great made a hot mess of a situation. I don’t know why I do, and I wish I didn’t.

Yesterday, my husband was hired to photograph a friends’ daughter’s birthday party. We’ve known the family for quite a while, I lifeguarded with the oldest brother back in college and two of the younger brothers became good friends with my husband’s childhood best friend. So for this party, while my husband took pictures, Emerson and I attended as guests. And while I would consider these people my friends, and even those in attendance I don’t know well I find to be incredibly nice and friendly, I do feel a bit shy and awkward around them. I may seem very outgoing on the blog, but I do get a bit of anxiety when I am in unfamiliar situations, and it’s usually because I know I am not outgoing, not polished, and prone to catastrophes.

They had a Slip and Slide in the front yard and Emerson wanted to go in. I didn’t think we’d be going in the pool at this party and didn’t bring suits for us. But how do you say no to a four year old who sees all the other kids running around in the water? Emerson dressed herself for the party which meant she was wearing multiple layers (she can’t just wear a dress, it has to be a dress with a skirt and bike shorts or leggings underneath). I took off her sundress, hiked her skirt up like a tube top and left her bike shorts so she could play with the other kids. I felt resourceful, she had a blast, all was well. Then everyone decided to head into the backyard to go in the pool.

I didn’t have a suit on, so I told Emerson she couldn’t go in the pool. We had a discussion and agreed she could go in but would stay on the steps. I sat on the side with her for a bit, but there were a couple other kids hanging out on the stairs so I stepped back to allow her to socialize. She walked down one step, another, and then slipped and went underwater. It was shallow enough that the pool wouldn’t be over her head but she was freaked and couldn’t get her footing and the lifeguard in me kicked in, I jumped in the pool in my dress and pulled her out. I carried her to a bench to calm her and check on her. Though she was obviously okay by the volume of her crying, in my head I was thinking about this story. I calmed her, she said she wanted to go inside. I said we couldn’t because she and I were both sopping wet. She asked for us to go home, I said we couldn’t but did she want to go take a walk to the front yard where we could dry off in the sunshine and be alone for a moment. She agreed. We went to the front yard where I sat with my skirt around me trying to dry it in the sun, she danced around in the pooled water at the bottom of the Slip and Slide. And that was when I realized I had jumped in the pool with my iPhone in my pocket. I took off the cover and let it sun next to me, but could see the condensation in the camera and under the glass.

After a bit, my dress was no longer sopping so we went into the back, I changed Emerson into her dress and asked the host to use his dryer to dry her skirt, bike shorts, and underwear. Emerson played with a dollhouse, but was obviously not feeling good. Her nose started running again, she sounded all stuffed up, she said water tasted bad and didn’t want to eat. She was getting cranky, and wasn’t playing nice with other kids. She asked if she could go to the potty with me, and in there she said she didn’t have to go potty but wanted to talk with privacy and told me she didn’t feel good and felt sad and wanted to go home right away. Unfortunately we couldn’t leave since Karl was working, but we discussed what would make her feel better. She said she wanted to play with me, and wanted to be in the sunny room (luckily the one with the most toys in it). So I got on the floor in my damp dress and played castle while every other adult had adult conversations drinking adult drinks in adult poses.

Karl checked on me and told the host I had jumped in the pool with my phone so he put my phone in a cup of rice to help it out. I felt like such a goober, lying on the floor of their living room with frizzy hair and a damp wrinkled dress, playing with Emerson and a handful of two-year olds. Emerson had green snot coming out of her nose and the cloth wipe I was using previously was went since it too was in my pocket so I was using a flannel rag I had in my purse which was frayed on the side and faded and I know these people thought me batty for not just using a paper Kleenex or toilet paper.

Emerson was getting testy, sick of playing with these little kids. She started getting bossy and yelling at them. I brought her over to the couch to talk to her. She said she hated it there and wanted to leave. I had decided at the top of the hour we could leave without it seeming as though Karl shirked his duties. 30 more minutes, 30 more minutes. And then the heavens opened and an angel with the name Emilie came down. This little girl came into the play room and picked up a mini Magnadoodle and came over to Emerson and pretending to be a waitress, asked her what she wanted for dinner. She brought Emerson tea and pizza from the play kitchen. Emerson thanked her and it was off to the races. They were playing princess castle and kitchen and running around telling everyone they were best friends and going to have a play date and a sleepover.

I got myself a beer.

I went outside, and tried to talk to adults sitting in adult seats drinking my adult beverage but it had been three hours of a sick miserable child and I was chilled to the bone (hello wet synthetic underwear in air conditioning) and just done and I think the lovely people at the party found me strange and at that point I was too tired to give a fuck. I tried to have a pleasant face and make pleasant conversation, and watched Emerson wipe snot across her cheek and see her hair get stuck in it as she laughed and chased her new friend across the yard. I thought of how we were in the front yard together and she pulled me to look her in the face and she said, “Mommy you protected me.” And I told her I would always protect her. She then apologized for ruining my dress, and I reminded her it was an accident, and she is more important than any dress. And I wondered if jumping in the pool with my phone was on purpose, the whole everything happens for a reason. To be more present, to spend more quality time with this child, and less with dresses. To have her always know that she is more important than any dress, and that I will always be there to protect her.

And then, it was time to go home. Karl had gotten whatever cold Emerson had, I was utterly exhausted, and Emerson was obviously exhausted but on a high from playing with her new friend. She got her goodie bag, thanked the hosts, and took the long car ride home. When Emerson asked if she could have McDonald’s for dinner, though she had eaten cake and drank juice, we didn’t refuse. We all were looking forward to some fries and a clean kitchen.

The entire ride home, and the whole evening my body wanted to cry. It wanted to sob, and I wasn’t sure why. Emerson ended up having a good day, she went to bed happy and told me it was the best day ever. Karl said he got some amazing shots. And me… well it was just a typical day in the world of Alison, where a catastrophe always follows me. Lying in bed, Karl said he was right there when the pool situation went down, I could have just grabbed her from the side and not jumped in. But my instinct was to get in so I could pull her up, not grab and possibly drag her down. He reminded me that the host was right there in the pool, he could have gotten Emerson, she just needed a hand to right herself. But I saw a panicked child, my child, and knew a stranger may not realize how terrified she is of getting her face wet and going completely underwater would freak her out enough that she may not be able to be easily righted. But I am always the one who does something like forgets a swimsuit, tells a dirty joke to a conservative audience, or spends an entire day in a wet dress from jumping in to get her kid in 3’ water. I’m the one with the smeared lipstick who is gnawing on her nails, who has a run in her tights and a coffee stain on her blouse. I’m the one who loses her keys, gets to dinner and realizes she left her check card at home, trips on her hem and falls in the middle of Connecticut Avenue at rush hour.

I am no longer 25 where being a klutz can be passed off as cute. I can’t just say I’m Allie and I’m a catastrophe, ha ha. I’m 38, and I am the mother to a very wonderful person, I don’t want to be the joke in her bestselling memoir. I’m working on quitting the nail biting habit by getting regular manicures and taking NAC. I make more lists so I can be prepared better for situations and not forget events on my schedule. I try to slow down and think before I speak and act. I’m tired of being the catastrophe. It’s not cute, it’s not charming, it’s not funny, and it’s not a way to live a life, especially when I have another life to protect.

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from

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, 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 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 Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (
YouTube ( or

Good luck!

Product Reviews – Clinique

When I was in Middle School, I was invited to the birthday slumber party of a girl who I had become new friends with. I didn’t know her circle of friends but was thrilled to be invited to her party.

As soon as I entered the house I knew I wouldn’t fit in. These girls were wearing full faces of makeup, had clothes I had only seen on the pages of Teen magazine and just looked so… sophisticated. Gosh, they even wore silk nightshirts! We were told we would be doing makeovers on one another and to bring our beauty products. I had a couple Revlon lipsticks my mom had discarded, a tube of Almay One-Coat mascara and a gray Cover Girl eye pencil, these girls has Kaboodles full of products from Clinique and Estee Lauder.

After the initial shock of these “adult” girls, I ended up having a great time with them and a couple I am still friends with to this day. However there was one girl there who was a total jerk and snob. She was very mean to most of us, and decided I would be her target for the whole evening. She teased me about my “baby clothes,” my “tacky makeup,” my “ghetto school” that I attended. I went to the bathroom and her Kaboodle was in there. I opened it up and it was overflowing with fancy cosmetics, perfumes and nail polishes. I grabbed a little green pot of lip gloss and stuck it in my pocket. I knew it was wrong, but I felt as though I was getting back at her in some way for doing that.

I felt so bad about what I did; I never used that lip gloss. I also never threw it away until I was packing up for college five years later. I held on to it, a totem representing how I let jealousy and one person affect who I was as a human being.

And, I never could use Clinique.

A couple years ago, Mr. Allie and I registered at Macy’s for our upcoming wedding. They gave me a goodie bag in thanks. Most of the bag was full of ads and stupid tips on how to register (ladies do NOT put where you are registering in your wedding invitations! Taaaa-cky!) but there were a few samples at the bottom. One was a tiny shimmery white shadow in that well-known green marble case. Clinique. I was almost afraid to open it. It took me over a week to even try it on my face and it ended up being the highlighter shadow I used on my wedding day and it finally got me to realize that Clinique is brand just like the rest, and that I am no longer the little girl at that slumber party.

So after that long spiel, here’s some products I have tried out lately:

Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey – Well I just HAD to try this; people rave about this product as being the “must-have lipstick for all skin tones!” I am such a sucker for beauty products that gain cult-like status. As with many other “must-have” beauty products I ended up a bit disappointed with this product.

Yes, this is a color that could work the fairest or darkest of complexions. In the tube it is a dark plummy black color that looks almost like purple-tinted dried molasses. On the lips it is very sheer dark berry hue – think tinted lip balm level of color. However unlike a tinted balm, the more you apply of this product, the more saturated of color you get. Though it gets darker, it never looks cakey, dark or extreme. You could easily have a swipe or two for day, and add a few more swipes before going out to make the look more appropriate for evening. It maintains its soft, sheer balmy consistency no matter how many times you apply it.

The color is pretty and flattering. The formula is soft and sheer. It lasts about as long as a classic lipstick. That being said, no angels started singing when I put this on my lips. I found the formula to be almost exactly like Body Shop’s Sheer Lip Shine, which even has a slightly similar packaging (and has a slightly lower price). So if you are looking for a sheer plum lipcolor that feels as nice as it looks, this is a good choice. Does it have to be in your cosmetic bag or else you are unchic, uncool and without the very prettiest lips possible? Notsomuch.

Clinique Colour Surge Eyeshadow Duo in Like Mink – This duo came within a palette from the bonus that Macy’s was offering recently. I had read glowing reviews about this color duo and was thrilled to have it in the bonus as that it has been discontinued. One shade is a champagne-tinted sheer off-white and the other is a sparkly bronzey chocolate color.

(wow realized somehow the rest of the review for this product disappeared… here you go…)
The colors are extremely flattering; though they are sparkly they are perfect for day wear.

The light color is very tightly pressed which makes it hard to get product on the brush, or even the stiff sponge applicator that came in the palette. I had to actually scrape the top of the shadow to get pigment. However once I applied the powder, I found it to be very sheer, flattering and a great highlighter that wouldn’t turn silver in sunlight or flash photography.

The darker color is far more metallic and didn’t have the pigment issue – in fact it is almost too soft and I would end up with quite a lot on my brush and face even with a gentle pat to the block of color. Slightly messy, but I could deal as that this color could go from a subtle sparkly tan to a deep bronze-chocolate dependant on how much you applied. Neither creased, faded or got weird through the day, and seemed to last the normal amount of time for a traditional shadow. The darker of the two worked well when wetted; I used a slant brush to apply as liner and it didn’t irritate and lasted through the day. It is unfortunate that this duo has been discontinued: though the formula is strange (maybe that’s why they were in a palette and discontinued), the colors and level of shimmer/sparkle are perfect basics for most women’s cosmetic collections.

Clinique Long Last Soft Shine Lipstick in Beauty – Again, this is an item that came in the bonus from Macy’s.

Beauty is a mauvey browny pink color – one of those colors that Allure magazine would claim would look amazing on every skintone. Reminds me of a slightly darker and glossier version of Nars’ Dolce Vita. It’s one of those shades you can apply without a mirror and know you won’t end up looking like The Joker. On my pale, cool skin it is quite flattering and a great day shade, but it may be too cool or pink for a warm or much darker skintone.

It feels creamy on the lips and does seem to last longer than a traditional lipstick, but isn’t one of those super-long wearing formulas. This is the middle ground I enjoy – my lips feel soft and natural, the color lasts through a cup of coffee, and when it does actually wear away it does it in a natural way so weird spots of color aren’t left in the wrinkles and around the rim of the lips. It doesn’t feather or stain, and my lips don’t get dried out from wearing it. As for the soft shine, it is very soft to the point that it just seems creamy, and not at all shiny or glossy. If you are looking for a glossy lipstick, this isn’t it. However, it is an excellent lipstick to have in your purse for day wear that will compliment most makeup looks and colors of clothing.

Clinique Liquid Face Soap (Mild) – This came with a bonus from Macy’s. Not the type of cleanser I would usually purchase for my sensitive skin. It is a clear, thin gel that has a very mild fragrance. It foams up a lot – something I usually steer clear from due to my skin. It does a great job of removing all makeup and dirt from the skin. It claims it is mild and for dry to combination skin; I found it not as drying as most foaming washes, but still a bit too drying and harsh for dry skin. Also, it tastes terrible! Oh gosh, I don’t mean to eat my face wash, but some residue ended up on my lips and it tasted like the stuff you put on your nails to discourage biting them.

Really, this stuff is… fine. I think there are far better products in your local drug store, and much better products in practically every skin care line on the planet for dry or combination skin. I used it for a week and it caused slight irritation and tightness through the day… I don’t get that with Dove, Olay or Cetaphil. However the small bottle will be great for travel so I’ll toss it in my linen closet to take on my next vacation.

Clinique 7 Day Scrub Cream Rinse-Off Formula – From InStyle’s Best Best Beauty Buys: A perennial favorite of doctors, this ultrafine scrub “won’t irritate skin and washes off cleanly without any residue,” N.Y.C. dermatologist Jules Abadi says. It has just the right amount of granules to provide a gentle but thorough pore cleansing, says L.A. dermatologist Ronald Moy.

This product is a white cream with small grains that feel a bit like sugar. It’s like a gentle version of the Neutrogena Advanced Solutions At-Home Microdermabrasion System. It spreads well, scrubs without scratching or hurting my sensitive skin (even under my nose), and rinses so easily and completely. It is a decent product and my skin doesn’t react to it in a negative manner. My skin is happy to have a slightly coarser exfoliant than what I had been previously using – my skin feels soft and seems to have a glow.

Again… no angels sang when I have used it. It’s nice, it’s good, but to me it’s like Maybelline’s Great Lash Mascara – a Godsend for some, whatever for a few others, and ick for the rest. I recommend you get a sample from your nearby counter before you purchase to see if it’s worth your fundage.

Clinique Acne Solutions Emergency Gel-Lotion – This stuff doesn’t work. It isn’t a good replacement for my Clean & Clear gel that caused my hives. In fact, I wonder if it makes my zits worse. I got a little bump on my jawline and put the product on before I went to bed. Woke up and it was bigger and turning white. Put more on it and kept makeup away. By lunchtime it was poppable. Came home, did some steaming and manipulating and added more of the gel-lotion. By time I was getting ready for bed it had turned into a blackhead that felt deep like a wart and hurt like the dickens. The next morning, I had bumps all over the area, pretty much where I had applied the product. I used tea tree on the bumps and the redness dissipated but it didn’t help with shrinking of the zits. However, they all came to heads and popped on their own without any irritation.

I know many of you suggested tea tree – I know tea tree, my husband is an organic natural guy and I worked for the Body Shop for years. I know that tea tree helps with irritation and redness for me, but it doesn’t help little bumps shrink. Neither Clinique nor tea tree do what the Clean & Clear used to do. Le sigh. Will keep searching…

This Weekend

Saturday after yoga my husband and I hosted our annual Festival of Steel. Sounds crazy, but a ton of fun – we have a pretty big yard that backs up to and is next to woods. We set up a wooden target at the end of the yard and people throw knives and little axes at said target, making teams and wagers over microbrews.

The weather stayed perfect the whole day – cold yet clear. I did my first attempt at a vegetarian chili (no actual recipe, looked at some online for ideas but went the Allie way) and was happy to see the humongous stock pot scraped clean by the end of the evening. We had almost 20 people over and I think everyone had a great time! Here’s a nice shot of the chili before it was devoured, and a picture near the end of the evening with my friend H.

I wore my purple Dream sweater from J. Crew, dark “The Flirt” bootcut jeans from Old Navy, silver hoops and my hiking shoes from L.L. Bean. To stay warm, I wore my aqua pashmina 99% of the time and donned a black L.L. Bean fleece jacket of my husband’s when I was outside.

Makeup was L’Oreal True Match foundation in C3 as concealer, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Nars blush in Orgasm, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis – ivory in inner corners, khaki on lid. Imju Fiberwig mascara, Maybelline UltraLiner in black on top lash line and on lips is Body Shop’s Lip and Cheek Tint with Victoria’s Secret Beauty Rush lip gloss in Strawberry Fizz.

And because you all love to see him, here’s a picture of my baby Ruckus playing with his beloved Jolly Ball. The old boy had a great time running around and being pet by everyone.

As for Sunday, it wasn’t nearly as exciting. Those who had a bit too much to drink crashed out on our sofas; we all went to The Silver Diner for breakfast (they have the best veggie sausage!) and then my husband and his dad met friends for the MLS cup game that was taking place in DC and I ran errands.

Hit up the local Marshall’s and though I was not impressed by the shoe selection (though there were some black patent heeled oxfords from Steven I desired but they only had in 6 and 9) I found some really cute and cheap stuff in the clothing. Expect to see a plum boucle cropped swing jacket, a pumpkin merino scoopneck and a gold pint silk top with fun balloon sleeves that it itching to go on my Miami trip in January (all for less than $50 including tax!). Then went to Target for the sole purpose of getting refill pages for my planner, but they were out. Instead got a cute ivory and black poly-silk dress from Mossimo for $9 that would look amazing with black tall boots, but could also be cute with black heels and a long jet necklace. Then Staples for said planner pages, and then off to the nail salon for a pedicure. I hate to admit this, but this was the first actual pedicure I have gotten since March. Yeppers, I went through the entire sandal season with some Body Shop Pumice Foot Scrub, Peppermint Foot Lotion, and a clear pink polish from Orly. Now the tootsies are a gorgeous color of super dark purple that is almost black. Came home, collected beer bottles and did dishes and then we ordered pizza for dinner and watched some bad TV and went to bed early to compensate for the night before. All in all a good weekend!

Shop My Closet – On Poshmark!

WardrobeOxygen on PoshmarkI’ve been saying for a while that I needed to get off my tuchus and sell all the clothes I don’t currently wear. While I may clean out my closet I do have a dirty secret… I have bins and bags full of clothes in my attic (and there were a couple full contractor bags in my home office). I regularly donate career wear to a charity and have Freecycled and donated all my maternity clothes and clothes that are in “well loved” condition, but the nicer stuff I’ve been holding on to.

No more. All this clothing is doing no one favors being boxed and bagged up in my attic. A couple weekends ago, my best friend came over and for eight hours we dug through three bags. All pieces were photographed, packed up, labeled, and ready to ship. While I have used eBay and a Shop My Closet blog in the past, this time I decided to use Poshmark. My friend Alyson has raved about it for a long time and many of you have told me you use it with great success. It seemed simpler than eBay too.

For the past two weeks I have been using Poshmark and I have become as big of a fan as my friend Alyson! It’s an app-based program; while you can visit Poshmark on your computer, to buy and sell you need to do it on your phone. As a seller, I think this makes the process uber easy – my pictures are already on my phone so I can easily upload them, write a quick description, and even answer questions and negotiate counteroffers. I’ve found the customers to be more… reasonable than on eBay. You’re not usually expected to offer 5,000 measurements for a $6 LOFT tee, people are super friendly and quick to share and comment, and while I have had a couple ridiculous counter offers (no, I will not sell that NWT original retail still in the store $250 item for $15), in general it has been a friendly and painless experience.

Tips for Selling on Poshmark by Wardrobe OxygenA couple of you saw on social media that I was on Poshmark and have joined to buy and sell. If you’re interested, if you use this link and code PMZYS you’ll get $5 off your first order and I too will receive a $5 credit (find me, I am wardrobeoxygen).  There’s no auction or bidding, you can counter-offer and some sellers (myself included) offer  “bundling” where you can purchase multiple pieces from a seller at one time and save on shipping ($4.99/order).  If you’re interested in selling on Poshmark, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Be Honest.  Like other selling sites, Poshmark has a rating system.  Buyers can give you up to five stars for orders.  It’s not worth it to ruin your reputation by trying to pass off replicas, lie about the condition of a garment, or its original price.
  • Provide Details.  Is it an XL but fits more like a L?  How did you style it?  If you recall the original style name or number or even color name, include it.  While Poshmark won’t let you write a novel, you can offer quite a lot of information.  The more details you provide, the more likely the item will sell and the more likely the buyer will get what she expected and leave you a favorable rating.
  • Take Good Photos.  I use my iPhone 6s and take the pictures in natural light near a window.  For Christmas I got this dress form; it’s not high quality (in fact I cracked the base the day my friend and I were on a Poshmark selling spree and it’s now held together with packing tape) but it gives a better idea of how an item will fit than lying a sweater on your bed or floor.  If you have a photo of you wearing the item, include that too.  I also search the internet for stock photos of the item.  A mix of all three is a great way to get an item sold.  Poshmark lets you upload four photos per item with the first photo being your cover photo.  I’ve found the most successful cover photos are those with me wearing the piece.  If you don’t have a photographer taking your picture in items for a blog, a mirror selfie in a well-lit room is still good (and you can cut off your head in the photo if you wish to be anonymous).
  • Stock Up on Free Priority Mailers.  Your post office has Priority Mail Tyvek envelopes and boxes for free; these are perfect for shipping out your orders.  Included in the cut Poshmark takes from your sales (20%, or $2.95 if the item sells for $5 or less) is a shipping label.  When you make a sale, Poshmark emails you this Priority Mail label.  You can order shipping bags and boxes from for free but know it takes up to two weeks to receive your order.  If you have a post office nearby, grab a few to get your sales going.
  • Take Care with your Sales.  I fold nicely, wrap in tissue, tie with a bit of curling ribbon, and carefully slip into the box or bag.  I got a pack of cheap tissue paper; you only need 1-2 pieces per order.  The curling ribbon I purchased when I attended a baby shower where all presents were to be wrapped in blue.  That yet-to-be-born baby is now 5 and as you see in the photo above, there’s still plenty left even though every shower and birthday present since the shower had turquoise ribbon on it.  I bought some rolls of packing tape, and because I’m a dork like that, ordered some cheapy business cards from VistaPrint (this is a referral link that will give you $10 off your first order) that thank the buyer for her order, have my name and my Poshmark address on them.  The overall cost is minimal, but it makes the experience much nicer for the recipient.
  • Raise Your Rates.  Poshmarkers LOVE to counter-offer.  Consider this when making your prices.  It’s worth it to up the price a few dollars to be ready for a counter-offer (if you accept a counter-offer the item sells immediately to that individual).  Also, if you have stagnant items that don’t want to sell, you can then lower the price without too much heartache.  A plus to lowering the rate is anyone who “liked” the piece will end up receiving reduced shipping.
  • Be Quick with Communication.  If someone asks for additional details or makes a counter-offer, be polite and reply within 24 hours.  Since Poshmark is on your phone, it’s easy to quickly type in a response and move on with your day.
  • Follow the Rules.  Don’t accept sales through PayPal or offline.  Don’t try to sell used makeup or clutter Poshmark with items they don’t allow to be sold on their app (home goods, electronics, health and wellness products, used underwear and makeup).  Don’t label something a blouse when in fact it’s one of those belly wrap things that spam social media.  And don’t call something Chanel-esque or like Louis Vuitton – that’s a trademark violation and such names can only be used if the item is legitimately from that brand.
  • Be Part of the Community.  Share other people’s sales (I only share that which I actually like), follow other accounts, leave comments and reply to comments.  Poshmark is very social, and by being part of the community you’ll get a larger audience to see your closet, resulting in faster and more sales!

Are you on Poshmark?  I’d love to hear your experiences and feel free to share your closet in the comments!

My Head is Too Big to be Hipster: A Warby Parker Review

Once I got new glasses, I wanted more. A pair of red frames to channel my inner Sally Jesse Raphael, a funky blue or green pair to jazz up all-black ensembles, a funky shape to show personality at the office. I had heard a lot of great things about Warby Parker and decided to try a pair of frames from them.

Me in my new glasses – Lafont’s Issy & La collection, the frame is called “Gloss”

Warby Parker Eyewear’s mission is to offer reasonably-priced fashionable frames. On top of that, for every pair of Warby Parkers sold, a new pair is given to someone in need. Warby Parker is also proud to be a carbon-neutral company.

Warby Parker has a try-on program where you can pick five frames and try them on at home. They will ship the glasses to you for free and offer free return postage; I decided to take advantage of this program and see if I could find a new pair of signature prescription frames.

The Warby Parker site is very easy to navigate; click on your gender and then whether you desire optical or sunglass frames. From there you can choose material, color, frame shape, and width. From experience, I know my face is pretty wide, so I stuck to the medium and wide styles of frames. Since I already have a pair of tortoiseshell frames, I stuck to more unusual colors.

The glasses arrived quickly in a sturdy shipping box, and then a lovely navy linen box. Each pair of glasses was in its own compartment, wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name. Each pair of Warby Parker frames has the brand and style name inside on the temple. I found the quality to be stellar, especially for the price. These frames rival the more expensive designer styles I tried at my nearby glasses shop. The return process is simple – peel off the self-adhesive UPS label and drop it in a nearby UPS drop box. I couldn’t be more impressed with Warby Parker and their process… except that my face is too big for them.

Maybe I should have tried men’s frames, but I felt that almost every pair I tried (except for the Bensen, and they just weren’t a style I was looking for) was just a hair too small for my face. I often have this issue not just with glasses, but sunglasses as well. In fact, when I got my new glasses, they were the only ones I liked after trying on about 20 pairs – each other pair seemed just a bit too small for my face shape, even some of the men’s frames I tried.

So if you have a normal to small-sized noggin, I encourage you to try Warby Parker. The Warby Parker at-home program is completely free so you have nothing to risk; if you find a pair you like you can feel good that not only will you look great, but your purchase will also be doing good. As for me, I will have to look elsewhere, my head is just too big to be hipster.

Note: Warby Parker has no idea I am doing this review and I was not compensated in any way for it.  I just decided to try the brand and share my experience with you!

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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

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 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 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 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.

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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What’s In My Bag: 15″ Dagne Dover Tote

Dagne Dover 15" Vermilion Tote review - Wardrobe OxygenI’ve been using Dagne Dover totes over a year and love them. Dagne Dover makes some of the smartest bags I have ever experienced; a place for everything and everything in its place. Without looking I can reach in and find my wallet, sunglasses, a pen, and more. Dagne Dover recently sent me their 15″ tote in limited edition vermilion and I’ve been using it daily as my work bag as well as my weekend purse. I wanted to give you a peek into all I can fit in this bag, as well as what you can usually find in any of my purses on a given day.

What Fits in a Dagne Dover 15" Tote - Wardrobe Oxygen What Fits in a Dagne Dover 15" Tote - Wardrobe OxygenThis is my “I need to get some blogging done and it won’t happen with all the chaos in my house” setup  so I can head to a nearby cafe and work a couple hours to get the blog ready for the coming week.  We have my 13.3″ HP x360 laptop (read about it on my blog in this post), my planner, sunglasses, two pouches, business cards, backup battery pack, keys on the included key cord, a note pad, multiple pens, and my wallet.  That round thing in the bag is a detachable waterproof holder for a bottle of water or umbrella; while there is a pocket on the side specifically for sunglasses I use this holder to hold mine as well as my current day lipstick so they’re corralled and easy to find even with one hand and the bag still on my shoulder.

What Fits in a Dagne Dover 15" Tote - Wardrobe OxygenThe shiny pouch (via my friend’s Ipsy subscription) is my cosmetics bag.  As you can see, I have a bit of a lipcolor issue.  Let’s see, there’s NARS Viva gloss, Revlon Romantic balm stain, NARS Pigalle, Revlon Really Red, and Lancome Le Carmin.  Hey, I like to be prepared and able to switch up my look!  I also carry a travel-sized mascara, liquid and pencil liner for touch-ups and to amp up my look if I’m heading out after a day at the office.  The L’Oreal Lumi Cushion foundation is a fave and it does a great job with mid-day touchups.  The Blistex lip balm is for Karl, the drugstore-generic version of Vaseline Rosy Lips is for me.  Drops for my contacts, some spray for my breath, a small comb and barrettes in case my hair stops behaving and I’m ready for a long day.

What Fits in a Dagne Dover 15" Tote - Wardrobe OxygenThe leopard pouch I’ve had since 2000. It’s from Arden B; I loved that store but even back then the only thing in that store that fit my body was their accessories!  I like that it’s furry; having all the items in my bag with a different texture makes it easy to fish in and find exactly what I need, even if I’m in a rush or it’s dark.  This bag holds all my randoms.  A pack of matches (never know when you’ll need a light), nail file, Tide to Go pen, a Leatherman, thumb drive (swag from a blogger event), a USB cord plug, emergency quarters for meters, safety pins, a random button I don’t know what from, emergency tampon, and a little gizmo my sister gave Emerson that turns chopsticks into tweezers (highly recommend).

At-a-Glance planner for blogger organizationI love the MomAgenda MyAgenda except for the fact that it’s 16 months instead of 12.  They end in December yet start in the summer so how can you end up using all of it?  I decided to go cheap and basic with this planner from At-A-Glance.  It’s not Instagram worthy (especially after being washii-ed up by Emerson) but it has the month and week views, pockets in the back, a spiral binding that lays flat, and it fits in most of my purses.  I’ve toyed with covering it with Contact paper or something but honestly… it gets the job done.  Rarely does anyone see it except when I decide to photograph it for the blog!  The pen is Jonathan Adler, I got it on clearance at TJ Maxx because the box was damaged.

Fossil Sydney Wallet review Fossil Sydney Wallet reviewI’ve had my second HOBO ‘Diane’ wallet for many many years and while it’s a perfect wallet (though others must not think so since they discontinued it), having it in black was a bad idea.  I can never find it in my purse!  It was also stretched out and worn with use so I got the ‘Sydney’ wallet from Fossil a few months ago.  This is a pretty great replacement; I like how it’s set up as I prefer to have different pockets for all my cards, one for business receipts and one for personal, and a separate one for bills.  It can be pretty stuffed and still snap shut and it comes in a nice variety of colors.

Dagne Dover 15" Vermilion Tote reviewMany complain that the Dagne Dover totes are heavy; while it’s not light as a feather especially with all this inside, it’s not a problem for me. I carry in my arms and also over my shoulder without issue. I love that the bag never tips over; it’s structured and has feet to keep it upright even if it’s heavier on one side thanks to electronics. It zips close to keep items protected, and the interior and exterior is easy to clean. My blue 15″ tote (seen here) has been on many travels, thrown on the floor and in the trunk of my car, been stuffed to the gills and still looks as fresh as this one. If you’ve been thinking about getting a Dagne Dover, now’s a great time.  They’re offering Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off their purchases with the code WOxygen20.  Code valid until May 16, 2016.

Ask Allie – My Beauty Products

I am not a beauty blog, and I don’t claim to be an expert. However, after mentioning my beauty routine in a previous post, I have received many emails and comments wanting to know more about what beauty products I use. Today’s post will be about my medicine cabinet.

Though we had our house remodeled over two years ago, we still don’t take showers in the new master bathroom. There seems to be some place where it’s leaking, and we need to seal it properly… and just haven’t gotten around to it. So while I use this bathroom for getting ready in the morning and before bed, I actually take showers in the hallway bathroom. So my medicine cabinet only holds the items I use at bed, in the morning, and when doing my hair post-shower:

A. Get My Hair Did

  • L’Oreal EverPure Smooth Frizz-free Serum. I bought this… wow maybe two years ago? I bought it when I ran out of my BioSilk serum, and that I milked a travel-sized bottle for a couple of years. I don’t wear this often because I think it usually makes my hair look greasy, not shiny. However, it’s great when I’m past due for a hair trim – I’ll add it to the ends before letting it dry.
  • Pureology Texture Twist. Sometimes I love this stuff, sometimes I hate it. Lately I have been adding a veeeery tiny bit to damp hair, scrunching and letting it air dry. It’s very sticky, so it keeps curls curly when it’s humid out. I don’t like it for much else because it’s so thick and sticky and makes my hair feel strange.
  • Frederick Fekkai Luscious Curls. This stuff rocks, this is probably my fifth tube of this product. A pea-sized amount, scrunch, let hair dry and you have lovely soft, shiny waves and curls without any stickiness.
  • Jonathan Create Motion. It’s a cream gel, so it has the best of both products. Not too heavy, not too light, not too sticky. I got this as part of a Birchbox-like program that is now defunct, and since I don’t use it every day this tube has lasted me almost two years. It’s worthy of a re-purchase, I like that it gives more hold than Luscious Curls, but does a similar thing. I also like using it before blowing out straight, and it helps hold any heating tool styles.
  • TRESseme Heat Tamer Spray. I don’t use this as often as I should. It gets rave reviews online, and I got it when I was trying to make waves with a flat iron. Many YouTube beauty vloggers swear by this product, I find it sometimes makes my hair too soft.
  • Salon Grafix Spray Powder Shampoo. I have reviewed this before. This is my third bottle, I like it so much.
  • Jonathan Product Silky Dirt. I bought this for me, my husband took it over. He adores this for a soft hair look and he loves the regular Dirt when he wants a mussed look.

In the far right corner is Jonathan Dirt, a replacement brush head for my Clarisonic Mia, and a bottle of bath and Body Works body lotion from a hotel (sometimes use it as a hair styling product). Far left next to the serum is some Sally Hansen hair remover – every 2-3 weeks, does a great job of getting rid of the ‘stache without irritation or redness.

B. Hydrate!

  • Some random tube of a hydrating mask. I don’t know the brand offhand, I don’t know where it came from. I don’t think it accomplishes much but my husband loves masks and uses it.
  • CVS Night Cream. It’s a cheaper version of RoC.
  • Olay Beauty Fluid, SPF 15. I ran out of moisturizer while in Vermont and picked this up when I went into town. It’s light, it has some SPF, it’s fine.
  • Olay Definity Eye Cream. I like this eye cream because it doesn’t leave the skin greasy; it really absorbs quickly so I don’t have to wait before applying makeup.

C. Washing Up

  • Clarisonic Nourishing Face Cleanser. It’s gentle, it’s creamy, it doesn’t strip the skin but I am not in love. Doesn’t take off makeup and is very pricey for not wowing me.
  • Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser. My husband picked this up because he too doesn’t like the Clarisonic cleanser. It tastes terrible, it’s hard to rinse off, but boy does it do a great job at removing makeup. This stuff can even take off waterproof mascara and liquid liner.
  • Clarisonic Mia. I bought it as a birthday present to myself but was never immediately wowed. After a recent article on Un Femme d’un Certain Age I started using it again, either with face wash when I haven’t taken off my makeup, or alone on clean skin. It does make products like the Clarisonic face wash work better, and hopefully it will help my skin texture and clarity.

D. My Eyes! My Eyes!
I wear contacts. Here’s my case, here’s my solution (I ran out so am using my travel size for now).

E. Get My Nails Did
I am not a big nail person, I never wear polish on my hands and often go sans color on my feet. These are the basics – polish remover, clear topcoat to maintain a pedicure, and a lovely sheer pink that will make nails just look healthy and complete without color. I usually keep any colorful polishes in my dressing table.

F. So Random
This tumbler from my kitchen holds all the little random things in one place:

G. Brusha Brusha Brusha

  • My husband uses a Sonicare, I kick it old school with a cheapy toothbrush. I should switch to a Sonicare, but I just ENJOY a regular toothbrush. I have one here, one at work, one in the bathroom downstairs. I brush my teeth 4-5 times a day and replace my brushes regularly.
  • Dental Floss. Yep, I floss. My dentist is very proud of me.
  • NTIs. Nothing sexier than a couple with matching mouthguards to prevent tooth grinding. His and Hers.

H. Holy Grail

  • Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel. This stuff is awesome. I sometimes use this after cleansing to calm my face, I use it in the morning to remove dead skin and leftover moisturizer. If I accidently put on eye cream before my contacts, I use this to remove it so I won’t goop up. I also use it as a body refresher, wipe my décolleté and back of neck to feel fresh when dashing out of the house. My husband also uses it as a toner. It’s gentle, it’s a pleasant scent, and it’s natural. Score.

Next to the witch hazel is one of our three toothpastes. This was from Bonnaroo (travels well, won’t explode in heat – think it’s Colgate but when I went to peel off the safety packaging the whole label peeled off). We also have some tube of Tom’s of Maine that is almost gone, and a new tube of Crest 3D White because my husband believed the hype. It’s new, so I don’t know yet whether it will take our coffee- and wine-loving chompers to pearly white-ness… will keep you posted.

J. Got Sweat?
Does one household really need four different deodorants? Guess so. I switch between Dove formulas for day (find if I stick with one too long it stops working). For night I was using CertainDri but it seemed to stop working so I switched to Dove Clinical. The Dove is almost out, so I’ll go back to CertainDri until the bottle is empty and go back to Dove. The yellow is Arm & Hammer, my husband switches between that and the blue Dove.

And when you turn around from the sink you see the bathroom’s second door. I didn’t want this door. The bathroom is half in the master bedroom, half in our office. The contractor and my husband thought a second door would be useful if we used the office as a guest room, if we tried to sell the house. We never use the door – there’s furniture in front of it in the office and it’s a waste of space in the bathroom that could be used for a proper cabinet. So this is how I use it:


This over-the-door rack was originally purchased for the powder room on the main floor. I envisioned umbrellas in the basket, lightweight jackets and such on the hooks. We don’t have a closet on the main floor, so figured this would be a great alternative (we have a coat rack near the front door that is always overflowing). When I realized this bathroom has no wall space for a proper cabinet, I put this here for a “temporary fix.” Two and a half years later it’s still here. Usually there’s towels hanging there, but I took these pictures on laundry day.

In the top are all the things that don’t fit in the medicine cabinet:

  • Listerine
  • Hairspray (Elnett and Jonathan spray)
  • More contact lenses (the big box of more is in the linen closet in the hallway but I keep one box of each at the ready)
  • Diffuser (came with the dryer)
  • Brushes (two are missing from this photo – one is in the other bathroom, and one has disappeared because Emerson finds brushes to be playthings)

While the hooks hold damp towels, they also hold all my appliances:

  • Remington S9950 Shine Therapy Moisturizing and Conditioning Digital Ceramic Hair Straightener. This one was favored by many beauty vloggers back when I was trying to make waves with a flat iron. I don’t think it gives my hair shine, but it has a thermostat so I can control the heat level and I like how narrow it is – does a good job with making waves as well as straightening bangs without a weird bump at the hairline.
  • Hair Dryer. This one sucks and burns my hand if I use it too long, but I won’t buy a new one because this one gets the job done. When it dies, I will buy a new one.
  • Vidal Sassoon 1 inch Curling Iron for Fine Hair. It has a tight clamp so it holds fine hair in place. Can control the heat level and a cord that never gets all twisted up. Not bad, though if it dies I want to replace it with my sister’s – whenever we travel I use hers (think it’s a Conair) and it’s awesome.
  • Charging cord for my Clarisonic Mia.

Oh and yes, photobomb by Emerson who was using her potty as a cave for her bath toys.

Whew, are you still here? Still reading? I am impressed! So that’s my bathroom in a nutshell. Not a lot of fancy, fun, and glamorous things but things that get the job done. Still need to get a proper day moisturizer and face cleanser, but I’m frugal and wait until the current bottle or tube is completely empty. So keep sending me your recommendations, I am noting all of them and they will help me when I do finally purchase!


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In the morning, I ran to get my hair cut and colored in the nearby town, and then run a few errands. Olive ribbed tank from J. Crew, white ribbed tank from Old Navy, Joe’s Jeans in “Provacateur,” brown stacked flops from J. Crew, silver hoops from The Icing, silver cuff.

Hair was brushed out but on the second day; blew the bangs straight.

Makeup was Body Shop bronzing powder in Light as face color, Max Factor Lash Perfection mascara on curled lashes, Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow.

Kathleen did her magic – all I told her is that I wanted to go darker and that I wanted heavier bangs. I trust her, and was not disappointed. Choppy layers that can work straight, wavy or curly, fun sideswept bangs, and a very rich multi-tonal color of dark brown that looks closer to what I was born with.

Got home and had to dash to get dressed. Friday night I had a friend over so I didn’t have time to play dress-up and figure out my theater outfit. Thank you soooo much to everyone who wrote in suggestions, you guys are awesome and have good ideas! For the one who suggested my Old Navy dress… I completely forgot about it. I had set to wear my black cashmere tank from Banana Republic and my orange-red shantung full skirt also from Banana (seen here), but when I saw how spiffy and sleek my husband looked (flat front gray tropical wool trousers from J. Crew, white tailored shirt from some brand sold at Mens Wearhouse, black blazer from… J. crew? Not sure…, black slip-on sleek shoes from Ecco) I decided my outfit may look a bit like a costume. I tried a few different skirts, but settled on the black matte jersey dress from Old Navy, my red stone necklace, my leopard peep-toe heels from BCBgirls,silver hoops from The Icing, and silver cuff natch. 🙂

Didn’t have to do my hair since it was done by Kathleen my talented stylist. She used the Pureology line on me, and swears by it for protecting color. I bought the shampoo and conditioner and once I can wash my hair (was told to go as long as humanely possible without washing) I will be using it and let you k now how it is.

Same makeup as earlier, just a re-touch of the bronzing powder, a bit of Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint on my cheekbones, a medium line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line, a quick swipe of Maybelline Great Lash waterproof mascara in black over existing mascara, Body Shop Lip and Cheek Tint with Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow over it.

We took the Metro and it was not even a block to the little restaurant (I don’t know if there are even 20 tables in the place). The menu seemed different from the one online and the only entrees that were vegetarian were spaghetti with tomato sauce (yawn) and a risotto with corn and truffle shavings. My husband and I chose the risotto, we shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio (not sure the label, our friend chose the wine) and had a nice, yet not inspiring or overwhelmingly unique meal. We then walked not even three blacks to the Kennedy Center where my friend and I sidestepped grates in our heels (she too wore a black sheath and heels) while the men tromped over everything and got there in time to marvel at the acre-sized curtains in the lobby and get a cocktail in the Terrace Bar prior to the performance.

The performance was great! As I said, I had never seen The Phantom of the Opera other than the movie. Back story – 1992, for Christmas I got my first boom box with a CD player in it, and with it two CDs – Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. For several months until I got my high school arsenal of REM, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I listened solely to these two soundtracks. Come 2007, I am silently singing along to this performance and even a tear came down my cheek at finally seeing live what I had in my head 15 years ago. I think also seeing Shakespeare in Love the night prior made the theater experience that more intense.

Our friends live in Virginia and parked at the theater; it was a gorgeous night and declined their offer to drive us to the Metro and decided to hoof it. All in all a lovely evening!

Tuesday’s Tip – Making the Clearance Rack Your Friend

When I go into a store, the first place I look is the clearance or sale rack. I don’t want to be tempted by full priced items when a good equivalent is available at half the price in the back of the store. Even when planning my wedding I first scored sample sales and discount bridal shops before even looking at a single full-priced gown. It is better to buy quality instead of quantity, but just because it’s on a sale rack does not mean it’s poor quality or lacking style or fashion.

Take Your Time
Clearance racks are a mess. Why waste good salespeople hours in cleaning up the back of the store when the real money making is in the front displays of new product? Because of this, do not limit your search to the section designated with your size. Take the time to flip through all the racks. You may find a size 10 amongst the size 2s or a great size Small blouse hidden amongst size 14 blazers. Grab everything that even remotely appeals to you, and a few things you would not usually consider. The best way to spend money on trendy pieces and unusual finds is to pay for them at a discount – less buyer’s remorse.

Sizes Can Be Deceiving
Sometimes items are on sale racks because they are missized. I have tried on size 6 jackets that are too big for me and size 14s that are skin tight. Don’t just look at the label – pull the item from the rack and see if it may possibly fit. Often the missized items are at a super reduced price because they are being looked over.

Consider a Tailor
I decided to write this post because of my clearance rack prize of yesterday. Sueded cotton trench, hip cut, gorgeous color, originally $179 on sale for $29.99. No obvious flaws but the coat was too large for me – I am petite and it is not. It is an XL and a generous cut, I am not. I bought the awesome bargain after trying it on and seeing that the shoulders were fitting decently, though the sleeves were past my fingers, the waist was too big and the length too long. I took it to my local dry cleaner and for $35 she is shortening the arms and hem and nipping in the waist. So for $65 I got a $179 jacket that is perfect for the upcoming fall.

Sleeves that are too long, hems dragging on the ground, gaping waists and baggy jackets can all be easily fixed by a neighborhood tailor or dry cleaner. They can also replace missing buttons, broken zippers and some torn seams. If the price is right, often the tailoring still keeps the garment at a discounted price. I have bought suiting pants 75% off just because the zipper is broken, a suede blazer at 80% off because the lining had pulled away from the jacket body.

Do not invest in garments that are stained (salespeople usually try to remove the stains with a cleaning fluid, if it’s still stained it probably won’t come out in the wash or at the cleaners), torn (resewing a seam may make the item fit differently), irregular (remember quality is key – no one should be wearing a sweater with two different sleeve lengths) overly large (tailor costs will be insane and the true look of the garment will be lost) or too small (don’t buy for the body you hope to have, buy for the current you. Also tailors can’t make things larger – there’s usually not enough fabric at the seams and if they attempt the fit of the garment will be compromised).

If You Don’t Love It…
Don’t buy it. Would you buy it if it were full price? If the answer is a quick “no” leave the item in the fitting room. Just because an item is cheap does not mean you can scrimp on cut, style or fit. A 50% markdown does not justify a gaping armhole, an unflattering color or even a staple that you really have enough of already. The world sees you and your outfit, not the reduced price. They don’t know if what you bought cost $200 or $20, they just know it doesn’t look good, doesn’t flatter your body or your personality. Every dollar in your wallet is precious, don’t waste it on crap. If you can’t imagine the item with at least two other things in your closet, it’s not worth your time or money.

Best Beauty Buys of 2013

I bought a lot of beauty products this year. Maybe it’s getting closer to 40 or maybe it’s changing my makeup to change my personal style, but I did a lot of experimenting, watching more YouTube tutorials, and subscribing to more beauty blogs. Through it all I lost some money, but I found some real winners. Some of these have been mentioned before on the blog, some have better reviews now than they did last time I reviewed them, some were never before mentioned which is crazy since I love them so much…

Revlon Revlon ColorStay Whipped Foundation in Natural Beige
So good. So good I’m buying a second jar this week.  It’s rich and creamy but doesn’t slip off your face by lunch or even by 5pm. It blends really nicely, doesn’t enhance my fine lines and pores, stays all day and gives a natural finish. You don’t have to head to the department store to find quality makeup, and this foundation proves it.

So my friend Lexa emails me and tells me this is a “gamechanger” so I order one the very same day. And I get it and I feel meh for a week or so, then for some reason it kicks in and I understand the gamechanger status. It doesn’t rub everything away or rub product into your pores (which your fingers can do), it doesn’t leave a weird finish on your skin (which I find with brushes), it doesn’t soak up as much product as a traditional makeup wedge, and its shape makes it easy to gently blend around your eyes and nostrils. Also if you do any contouring, it does a good job of blending without muddying it or rubbing it all away. It’s not cheap, it takes a while to get the hang of it, but I gotta agree with Lexa, it is a gamechanger.

BareMinerals Tinted Touch-up Veil
Yes, I am still obsessed.  I have a compact in my dressing table, one in my purse, and one in my desk. I don’t use it as much in the winter, but in spring and summer I swore by this compact. I used as powder to set my face before leaving the house, at noon to powder a shiny nose, and at the end of the day to refresh my look for an after-work event. It doesn’t cake, doesn’t look false, doesn’t make the dry parts of my face look more dry, and doesn’t make me itch like other mineral-based products.

NARS Light Reflecting Pressed Setting Powder
Sometimes I have a lot of fun with my makeup and the time to play with it. Primer, multiple concealers and contouring products, foundation, highlighter, blush… and even with proper blending I can look pretty made up. But then I take a fluffy powder brush, swipe it over this compact and cover my whole face and everything suddenly looks toned down, cohesive, natural, finished, polished, and pretty. It doesn’t dull any shine or dewy-ness, it doesn’t cake or get weird in lines and pores, it just airbrushes everything and makes my skin look pretty and it lasts for a couple hours before needing a touchup.

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
I reviewed this before and received many suggestions on cheaper alternatives. And I tried a bunch of them and sorry… they don’t compare. Other oil cleansers left makeup on my face, irritated my eyes, wouldn’t rinse off, came in a bottle that made a mess. DHC really sticks to makeup and dirt and oil and removes it from the face. It rinses off nicely, not leaving goopy eyes or greasy cheeks. A little goes a long way, and when I use it I have fewer bumps and a nicer complexion overall. While it seems to be best when removed with Avene, it still works great with regular water.

Reusable Cotton Rounds
Still using the same ones I bought a year ago and work even better after several washings. I keep them in an oversized mason jar on the back of my toilet, and keep a mesh lingerie bag hanging in the bathroom with the towels to hold the used rounds. When I’m down to just a few, I zip up the bag and throw it in the laundry with other linens. I don’t use them for nail polish remover, but use for makeup remover, toner, removing face oil, and anything else that will wash off without staining.

Still the only dry shampoo I like. Blends into my dark hair, doesn’t leave it gummy or overly fragranced. It works best if I put it in before bed and let it rub into the scalp while sleeping, but I can still put it in my hair in the morning (if straight/brushable style) and a few swipes of a brush will blend it nicely.

Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette
Wrote about it before, but so good it needed to be in my Best Of list!  I use W.O.S. for the top part of my lid, Naked 2 on the lid. I will create a subtle smoky eye for day by adding Faint in the crease and along the lash line, a more intense smoky eye with Crave and a bit of Venus in the inner corners of the eyes, or wet a slant brush and use Faint or Crave like a liner. The shadows are the perfect color and last all day.

Two Faced Better than False Lashes
Good enough to mention twice!  It’s messy, it needs eye makeup remover to get it all off at the end of the day, but by golly does this product give me amazing lashes! Once you get the hang of it you can get full-on drag queen lashes, light fringy long lashes, or just a bit of oomph on the outer corners. I don’t recommend putting it on your lower lashes, I don’t recommend going to sleep wearing it, and you want a good eye makeup remover so you don’t have to rub to get it off, but it really does give you fab long lush lashes without falsies.

Kevyn Aucoin Lash Curler
I don’t even miss my Shu Eumura any more, this lash curler is fantastic. Can’t go on and on because it’s only a lash curler (and I already wrote about it), but it gives a natural curve, doesn’t pinch, doesn’t stretch out after a week of use.

ARCONA The Solution
I got a sample from and liked it so much I bought it… and I still love it. At night after cleaning, I put on eye cream and then choose some treatment before my night cream. Sometimes it’s retinol, sometimes it’s a sample I received, but every other night it’s The Solution. Two pumps and rub into the face and it keeps away little bumps, makes my skin glow, and I think helps keep my skin looking healthy and happy.

So what were your best beauty buys from 2013? I’d love to hear as many of the products I buy are from your recommendations. And stay tuned, I asked a few of my friends to share their favorite beauty products from 2013 and will be sharing them next week!

FYI I noticed that is having 20% off all BareMinerals products today, and if you first go through Ebates, you’ll get 4% cash back from (you also get 4% cash back from Ebates for Sephora, there’s no point to NOT use Ebates when shopping online!)

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Tuesday Tip – Add Class To Your Wardrobe and Not Spend a Dime

  1. Remove all Logos. Would you ever see Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn, or even Ashley Olsen or Gwyneth Paltrow in a tee shirt with rhinestone appliquéd “Bebe” on her chest? I think not. The first problem with logoed shirts (be it says “sexy thing,” “American Eagle” or “Proud to be an American”) is they are busy. One is reading your chest, not your personality. Second, why are you paying to buy a shirt to advertise for a company? It’s not free advertising for them, it’s with guaranteed profit. Third, it’s tacky. Yes, some celebrities walk around in head to toe visible designer brands. However the style mavens, the fashionistas do not. Your clothing should accentuate you, not speak for itself. So you like a certain brand, or cannot afford it but for the logo tee. Wearing a designer logo tee will not make you look rich; if anything it makes it look as though you can afford nothing but the tee shirt. And as for your pride in your country/your corporation/your vacation spot? Well that’s just dandy. Again, state it yourself, you don’t need your shirt to state if for you. Fly a flag outside your home, carry around your business cards and frame a picture of you in the Outer Banks at your desk. Just don’t have it emblazoned on your breasts. As for those shirts with witty sayings? Keep them for the gym, the bachelorette party and around the house. A woman of style says what she feels, she does not wear it. Just removing logoed and message clothing from your daily ensembles, you will add much class, taste and a more expensive look to your existing wardrobe.
  2. Change your hair accessories. It’s hot out and you want your hair off your neck. It is possible to achieve this without resorting to a tacky hair accessory. Get rid of anything that is not hair colored or black. That means the rhinestone encrusted, the teal to match your teal sweater, the white, the gold and the animal pattern. Just because they are in the aisle at CVS does not mean they are fashionable. Secondly, pare down what you own. If you find yourself reaching for the scrunchie, “ouchless” elastic or butterfly clip on a daily basis, you need a haircut my dear, not an accessory. Hair accessories should be left to children, the gym, the garden and the salon white other sections are being blown straight. A few accessories are acceptable for everyday use. These are nondescript headbands (tortoise, elastic, accordion), nondescript barrettes (a clamp-style can hold up loose ends, brush back bangs and not take the focus off your entire look. Bobby pins are a must for updos and bangs that are not the right length – keep them hair colored) and maybe a hair-colored or black narrow elastic in your bag for hair emergencies. I cannot stress it enough – if you are wearing your hair in a clip or elastic more than two days a week, you need to consider your current haircut. And by all means, do not try to wear your hair accessories as fashion accessories – no claw clips attached to purse straps, no scrunchies or elastics on your wrist, no barrettes or bobby pins clamped to the hem of your top. This ruins the look of any outfit.
  3. Untuck the shirt. Say what? You were raised that a proper lady tucks in her blouse. It is the epitome of decorum and modesty to properly tuck a blouse, correct? Not always. In this day and age, many tops are not created to be tucked in. Also many of our figures are not flattered with a tucked-in shirt. If you have a bit of a belly, an untucked tailored shirt, polo or sweater can do wonders to camouflages that area without looking messy. A tailored, proper length shirt (no longer than your hips) will look more modern if untucked – if button downs have a scooped hem, they look great untucked; those with a straight hem are made to be tucked in.
  4. Iron your clothes. Seems like a given, but unfortunately we often do not have the time or full-length mirrors to really see what we look like to others. Creased pants will not sort themselves out in the commute to work, and wrinkled blouses from the dryer have a totally different look than shirts that got a bit rumpled through the average day. If you purchase cotton clothing, expect to iron. If you do not have time for ironing, take the pieces to the cleaners. Shirts usually are cleaned and pressed for less than $2.00. A properly pressed garment will add tons of class, style and an expensive look to your outfit.
  5. Protect the midsection. Again, let’s use the example of Jackie O. Do you think she would have ever visited the mall with her navel exposed? Be you a few pounds overweight and your clothes fitting a bit snugly, or be it you have the most amazing toned six-pack, there is never a reason for an adult to show her belly anywhere but at the beach or pool. If your shirt is riding up, this means it is at least one size too small. If you bend over and more than ¼” of your underwear is showing, your pants do not fit properly and need to be donated or tailored. If you ensure that your midsection is properly covered (even when you sit, yank your bag on your shoulder or raise your arm) you will look thinner and far more elegant.
  6. Don’t be a slave to fashion. Just because leggings have appeared on the runway after a 20-year hiatus does not mean you need to dash out and purchase a pair. Fashion is not black and white as it was of decades past. This means pick and choose what appeals to you and is flattering each season, and stick to your classics to pull the look together. If you are too short-waisted for thick belts, then by all means do not purchase them. I personally have thicker legs and do not plan on purchasing any of the stovepipe jeans or leggings that are in every magazine this season. This doesn’t mean I will be seen as unfashionable, it just means I am dressing for my figure, not for a fashion magazine.
  7. Accept your size. Also accept that your size in one store may be different from another. You will be the same shape be you wear a size 8 dress or a 10. If you are so self-conscious you can cut the tags out a la Mariah Carey. A size smaller in a blouse will actually make you look larger. On the other side of the coin, clothing that is too big for your body will make you look misshapen, sloppy and also bigger than you truly are. If you have trouble due to curves, purchase the larger size and take your garment to a tailor (many dry cleaners do tailoring) and have it adjusted to your shape.
  8. Check your bag. Is your bag overstuffed? Fraying? Covered with pen marks? If so, you are like many women in America. If you cannot afford a replacement bag, clean the one you currently have, snip any frayed areas with nail scissors and always keep it zipped up and only to 70% capacity at most. This will make your bag look far more polished than when you have a planner, sippy cup, wad of Kleenex and an apple popping out of the main compartment. Bag too small to stay at only 70% capacity? Gut it, lay everything out on your bed or dining table and really evaluate every item – is it a necessity? Is it easily found/accessible in your bag 9do you need smaller cosmetic bags to organize)? If everything is a necessity, it is time to either purchase a larger bag or a second bag for school/work papers/your laptop/toys and snacks for the rugrats.
  9. Chin up. The best way to exude class and style is to have good posture. Chin up, neck elongated, chest out, shoulders back and down. Think about your walk; glide, don’t clop. A graceful walk will make even ratty sweatpants look elegant.

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!

Seasonless Black Trousers

A pair of black trousers in a seasonless fabric is a necessity to any woman’s wardrobe. What deems a fabric “seasonless?” This means the pants are not wool, they are not cotton. They are most likely a blend of fabrics, usually a good portion synthetic. Ann Taylor has a seasonless fabric they call Triacetate. Express’ seasonless fabric is called Microtwill. J.Crew (and many other brands) calls their version Gabardine. All different fabrics, all seasonless. Maintains it’s shape, often has a bit of stretch, has a slight texture or sheen (great for dressing up and dressing down!), and sort of blends into the background. Not only should these tousers be seasonless, they should be eventless (if that is a word). You want trousers that can go from work to a happy hour to a cocktail party to an interview, to a night club. What cut achieves this? A bootcut leg, not tight, but not Palazzo pants (those pants that look like a skirt on each leg). A tab waist if often a good choice. You never need to worry about a belt, it lies flat under fitted, untucked shirts, yet looks smart with a tucked in oxford. Due to a tab-wait trouser having a wider waistband, it is less likely to cut into the torso, creating a spare tire above the waistline. Very flattering on women with hips, bellies, rears, or straight shapes.

These trousers should not have front pockets. I do not care what your body shape is, front pockets ruin a smooth line and make trousers look more casual and less versatile. These pockets often bow out, wrinkle under the tousers, and look messy. They can make Kate Moss look like Kathy Bates. Back pockets are okay, as long as they are small besom pockets, and not patch pockets (again, detroy the versatility and make the trouser more dated and casual).

Examples of good trousers:

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Yes, I said these trousers should be black, but I chose a lighter color so you could see the detail. The bootcut leg adds a modern look to the pant, elongates and slims the leg. This is an example of a tab waist. See how it is a wider waistband, less likely to cut into the middle. The lack of pleats, seaming and pockets in the front minimizes a belly and gives a smooth line. The strong crease down the front elongates the leg and gives a long, lean look. See how you could see these pants with an oxford and matching blazer with pumps for work, a beaded camisole and pointy toed heels for a night club, a cotton v-neck sweater sweater and some boots for a jaunt to the mall. These pants are from Ann Taylor, and are a cotton/rayon/spandex blend (rayon gives it the seasonless fabric, strech gives it the smooth fit wear after wear).

Here is a great example from Lane Bryant:

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These pants are a seasonless nylon/rayon/spandex blend. They are cut just below the waist (reduces the look of tummy bulge), have a bootcut leg, and smooth lower torso. These pants would look great with strappy heels, a beaded shell and matching jacket for a cocktail party, or a merino turtleneck and some crocodile pointy boots for lunch with the girls. At the time of writing this, these trousers are on sale for $20, regularly $45. You really can find stylish classic pieces for a steal at your local mall. I cannot stress this point enough.

The point is that with the right black trousers, you can dress for almost any event. I have black trousers I purchased five years ago, and still wear weekly. They do not have to cost a lot, most of the trousers I buy on sale and get for less than $50.00. Do keep in mind that though a bargain is always great, black trousers is one thing you do not want to look cheap. They will be worn more than most anything else in your wardrobe, so don’t settle for a chintzy fabric with a cheap sheen, a pair that wrinkles easily, isn’t lined, isn’t the right length, the right cut, the right anything. I do believe in buying in bulk. If you find the trousers of your dreams, you may wish to invest in a second pair in black, and possibly a third pair in another versatile color (gray, brown, tan, white). Consider this especially if you buy the matching suit jacket. I purchased a pair of amazing trousers and the matching jacket at Ann Taylor four years ago. I often wore the trousers without the jacket. One day my dog jumped up to greet me as I returned home from work, his claw got caught in the fabric and ended up snagging and tearing the thigh of these coveted trousers. Ann Taylor no longer makes pieces in this same fabric, so I have a lovely well-fitting jacket and no trousers to match. Since then, I always buy two pairs of pants for every suit jacket, allowing one pair for every day wear, and one pair to preserve to wear with the jacket or for special occasions.

As for care of these pants. I will let you know ahead of time that often these pants say “Dry Clean Only.” I DESPISE spending money on dry cleaning. I end up taking my clothes to the cleaners and forget to pick them up for two weeks. Most of the knits and sweaters I purchase I ignore this “Dry Clean Only” label and wash in Woolite on the gentle cycle of my machine and hang to dry. I have tried this with trousers, and rarely have had good luck. They end up wrinkled, losing that nice front crease and long line. They look cheaper, they often get tighter, the legs shorter (often leaving the lining the same length, which is NOT a good look!), the threads weaken, leaving the potential for an embarrassment the next time you sit down. I have a stain remover I actually purchased in the lingerie department of a department store. I spot treat with that or a Shout! Wipe (always have 5 or 6 in my purse – available at your grocery store in the detergent aisle) and then take them to the local discount dry cleaners. Every so often, they get a better cleaning at the higher end dry cleaners. This may seem like a pain, especially if you have children, a busy schedule, a tight budget. I must tell you this is an investment. If you take care of your clothes correctly, they will take care of you in return, looking gorgeous and lasting for years. Though it may be more appealing to buy all clothing that can take a tumble in the washer and dryer, you lose that polished look, that classic look, the look that shows you care what you look like and others should as well. If you can’t go beyond Tumble Dry Low, you will have a hard time following the closet rules of this book.