Search Results for: label/outfit commentary

Outfit Commentary: Elizabeth

Reader Elizabeth contacted me last month on Facebook, asking if I would do personal outfit and wardrobe critiques/commentary. She sent me a picture of her outfit, asking what I would do to it to change it up some. She said she had a lot of go to outfits that she felt were missing something and was looking for low-cost suggestions on how to jazz up more ordinary outfits.

Elizabeth’s outfit is J. Crew’s Arrow Sweater Jacket in Heather Gray, J. Crew’s Vintage Cotton Amour Tank in Dark Pewter, and Calvin Klein “Pencil” Jeans in Black. Her shoes are B.P. for Nordstrom’s “Bow Heels” which are no longer available, but are a black peeptoe with a 3” heel.

I love the look of mixing a cozy sweater with a top with some glam to it. It’s a great way to add some sparkle to a work-appropriate look. Also, by wearing jeans in a deep saturated black, they look more appropriate for the office and give a nice long slim line to the body. The heel height continues the long line, and makes this outfit great for drinks with the girls after work.

The top gets its sparkle and glam from ruffles – some from the knit of the tank, some from mesh; these ruffles are decorated with metallic dark gray beading. It is the type of decoration that can work well with additional sparkle from other accessories. Hematite (or faux/dark gray metallic) and smoke crystal jewelry would compliment it beautifully without bling overkill – some earrings with a little dangle, a thin chain with a small pendant that hits below the ribcage, or even one of those rope-style necklaces that you wrap around your throat like a scarf, letting the tassels hang below (I found one of these a few years ago at The Limited for an amazing clearance price). Though the top is a scoop neck leaving a lot of skin at the collar, I wouldn’t do a short necklace because it would ruin the long line of the outfit and actually would compete more with the ruffled detail. The only type of short necklace that would work is a very delicate one with a small charm or solitaire, the chain almost invisible, the necklace just adding a bit of sparkle.

You can find hematite and smoke crystal jewelry for amazingly low prices right now as that many stores consider it “winter” accessories – check out places like TJ Maxx, but also discount fashion shops like H&M and Forever 21 (and The Limited – looking online I like their Colorblock Chain Necklace, Rondell Pendant Cluster Necklace, and Black and Hematite Chain Necklace) – I often find amazing scores on jewelry at these retailers.


I don’t know how you feel about makeup, and I know this picture was taken at work, but I feel cosmetics can really make an outfit cohesive. Your fabulous glasses bring color up to your face, but for them to not steal the spotlight, it could look great to add some more color to your lips. Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey is my go-top lipstick when I wear gray – it’s a sheer wash of color that can be darkened by more application. The shade is like a berry stain, but the lipstick has a nice natural looking shine. A lower-cost alternative is Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer in Fig. Again, apply one layer for a light color, add more layers for a darker color without feeling cakey or false. I also love using Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey on my cheeks for a natural and subtle flush.

I love these items you have purchased (gosh I want all of them in my wardrobe!). They make a cute outfit together, but could also work individually:

I see the tank with a black blazer and dark jeans for a night out on the town, it could even be tucked in and worn with a suit for a corporate affair. Layer it with a darker gray or black tissue-weight tank underneath so you have a higher neckline and wear just them with those jeans, a pair of big silver hoops, and pointy-toed heeled booties. Come summer, that top can look quite seasonally appropriate with white jeans. I also think it would look great with a longer, slim v-neck boyfriend color – black or gray are a given, but you could really switch it up with mustard, chartreuse, or a deep berry shade.

That sweater just looks so cozy, yet luxe. I would love to see it with even more sparkle – a sequined tank in ivory and jeans or even some tweed trousers would be lovely. It could be used like a blazer and be worn over simple structured dresses, or a crewneck and pencil skirt. Try a different silhouette by buttoning just the top two buttons so it nips in at your smallest point and flares out for a feminine silhouette. I would also love it with a thin, long oblong scarf looped at your throat – it wouldn’t add bulk but would keep with the cozy theme and make a great relaxed weekend or Casual Friday look.

And those jeans, fantastic. Great color and length makes them so versatile! They could be tucked into boots, worn with flats, with ankle booties, and as you have shown, can totally rock with a pair of heels!

Want me to do an outfit commentary for you?  Email me your photo and details!

Instead of an Outfit…

I don’t try to discuss politics on this blog. I have very strong views, but I keep them to my Twitter account or in real life conversations. However I saw this gif this week regarding The Motion Picture Association of America and had to share:




No matter your political views, there’s some serious issues going on right now regarding women – their health, their rights, their position in this society. This quote from Ryan Gosling is a few years old but still quite pertinent, and it’s a lot easier to digest when a good-looking man is stating it. While this quote from Gosling is in regards to an issue with the MPAA, it also is an example of the current direction of  American society in regards to women.  And while I am on this topic, if you haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale… do it.  Do it now, and if you can try to finish it up before election day and come back and let me know what you think.

Okay, finished with politics, carry on.

I finished the Beth Ditto memoir, as did my husband. Super quick read, but that doesn’t mean it’s full of fluff. Felt more like a conversation you have with a relatively new friend over several glasses of wine in an almost-empty bar while on a vacation or business trip. That kind of conversation that goes down as easy as that third glass of Malbec, but during it you open all sorts of closets full of skeletons and learn why each other are the way they are and your friendship and respect for each other deepens. I loved Beth Ditto and Gossip before reading the book and now love and understand them even more. 

Quick reminder – You can save on most online purchases with a few extra clicks.  I just had a conversation with a friend about this.  I do most of my shopping online because it’s easy and quick. I always go to Ebates first to get cash back. Ebates often has coupon codes listed for different online retailers, but I also Google Retailmenot [name of store]” and if that doesn’t work “Promo code [name of store] [current month and year]” to find the most up-to-date deals on the Web. By doing this the other day, I saved $50 on a pair of shoes. Too bad they didn’t fit, but that’s why I primarily shop at places with free shipping and returns!

Has anyone done hypnosis to stop chewing your nails and/or cuticles? This is the worst habit I have and while it wasn’t cute as a kid, it’s downright grody as an adult. The more stressed I am and the less sleep I get, the more I do it and right now my hands are pretty dreadful. I have tried the gross-tasting polishes, tried regular manicures, tried regular moisturizing to no avail and really feel I need to kick the habit before I turn 40.

Yesterday was the first time when Emerson cried as I left for work. She has always been so… adult about me leaving each day. “It’s okay Mommy, grownups come back.” (Thanks Daniel Tiger for that PSA.) Yesterday was a different thing where she begged me to not leave her and she ran to me when I came home as though she hadn’t seen me in a year. It was hard driving to work yesterday, and I was kind of glad this morning I had to leave before she woke.

Last night Karl made us DLTs for dinner. What are DLTs you ask? Oat nut bread, mayonnaise (want to be 100% vegan, go ahead with the Nayonaise), field greens, sliced tomato, cracked black pepper, and toasted dulse. The dulse toasted gets a crunch similar to bacon and the taste… well it tasted like a sushi BLT. I was thinking of making a wrap with Boston lettuce, cucumber slices, smoked salmon, a bit of cream cheese and dulse for lunch later this week. My husband now wants to throw dulse in everything but it’s such a strong and specific flavor, I think it needs to be used thoughtfully so we don’t end up wanting to hurl each time we see it. Karl is famous for falling in love with an ingredient and using it to death – most recently with coconut oil. I went from loving Body Shop Coconut Body Butter and anything with coconut to feeling a tad queasy when I smell it on warm skin or in a warm dish. I really don’t want that to happen with dulse (though gotta say, reheating pizza in a pan with a touch of coconut oil is Ah-May-Zing!).

K has three photoshoots in the next week and then next weekend we’re heading to Key West to shoot a wedding (and have a mini vaca sans-bebe). I was looking forward to a quiet month after the insanity of late-summer wedding season, but we really only had a week or so to catch our breaths. I almost wrote, “Good thing we don’t have any more shoots on the books after this” but then realized after Key West it’s holiday season which means backdrops and lights in our dining room and weekends at the lake and other picturesque locales. We’ll sleep when we’re dead, at least we’re doing things we love!

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Instead of an Outfit…

Today I’m wearing a pretty cute outfit – a gorgeous jade green drapey jersey top courtesy of Gwynnie Bee (one of their new arrivals), with these jeans from Jag which are utterly brilliant, and my leopard flats. I didn’t take pictures because I decided to use that time to have breakfast with my family. I adore this blog, but am finding it’s taking more and more time and am trying to look for ways to better schedule my time without losing quality (either in life or in blog content).

Speaking of which, I will be having theme days on the blog so you’ll sort of know what to expect. Don’t worry, I won’t be having Wishing for Designer Bags Monday or Instagram Friday, but I will continue to do an Ask Allie every Wednesday that is about pairing and styling clothing, and will continue to have the True Fashionista series each Friday. I’m also toying with having Saturday posts that are more like this – random ramblings and updates that can’t fill an entire blog post on their own. Outfit and advice posts will obviously continue, but I am not going to kill myself to churn them out on a daily basis. Likely they will still be daily, but I am taking off some of the pressure I have placed on myself as of recent.

I finished Stacy London’s book this week and I can’t stress enough how awesome it is. While I feel it’s a bit goofy to have her constantly use trendy phrases like amazeballs, the content is spot-on and really gets to the heart of the matter why many women are in a sartorial rut, fear or hate fashion, and believe style is only possible for the rich and thin. Even if you know your personal style, this book is a great read.

I forgot to mention on here, but I also finished Caitlin Moran’s book, How to Be a Woman. I know she got some justified flack this past weekend on Twitter, but I still think she’s pretty inspiring and her book is a good read. I think if it was 100 pages shorter it would have had more impact, but I think it’s a great memoir about her life and her view on feminism. If you think feminism is passé or a bad word, consider checking this book out and you may change your opinion. I’d call it Feminism Light, which isn’t a bad thing – it actually makes it digestible and clear to those who hear the word and think only of these characters from Portlandia:


I love fashion and beauty, I find it charming when a man holds a door for me, I admire and respect mothers who choose to stay home to raise their children, and I spent much of my pregnancy barefoot in the kitchen (the cold ceramic tile did wonders for PUPPPS), but I am a feminist. And I am betting if you are reading this blog, there’s a feminist inside you too!

I desperately need to get to the salon. I miss my stylist Kathleen desperately, and I am also doing bad things to my hair like dying it at 4am with a box of Natural Instincts that I found in the back of the linen closet and trimming bangs with cuticle scissors. Such antics were fine at 25 but not so cute at 37.

I’m really excited for this Tuesday. My friend Maria, who is also a blogger and PR person is working with DC Wine Week to host Red, Burgundy, and Plum: A Night of Fashion and Wine at Lost Society DC. Open wine bar, yummy food, fashion, and some of the most fabulous people in the city – I can’t wait! I’d love it if you came as well, and considering who is hosting this event I KNOW it’s going to be fabulous!

This weekend is our dear friends’ son’s birthday party and Emerson can NOT wait. Since their son’s birthday is so close to Halloween they make the event a costume party. While she said she wanted to be a “princess witch… or a princess pirate” for Halloween (figure both include a black tutu and a crown and the rest is her imagination and choice between “Yo Ho Ho!” or her crazy “diabolical laugh”) I couldn’t pass up the great deal on a bee costume from Old Navy. On sale and then I had a coupon for an additional 30% off so it ended up being about $10. Emerson is Princess Bumble Bee today and I bet tomorrow as well, and can’t wait to be in full bee regalia Saturday.

So I have dropped Weight Watchers. I never go, and lately my husband has been on a cooking kick, flying through the amazing recipes in this book. We haven’t gone full vegetarian again, but we’re going meatless during the week and cutting down on eggs and dairy. Our goal is to make animal products a treat instead of something we gobble without thought. We’re both finding that our vegan meals are far more filling – we eat half of what we regularly consume and are left sated – no growing tummies, no sluggishness, just not hungry any more. The gym at my new office building opens up next week so I hope to stop by there a couple times a week. I honestly don’t care if I remain this size for the rest of my life, I just want to be healthy and strong and have a good quality of life for as long as possible. I can tell when I have gained and my body just doesn’t perform as well, but I also realize that getting smaller requires a major life change and I am accepting that I just don’t have the time or desire right now for that. Virgin FreeFest reminded me of how strong I was – while I was worn out the day after, I was proud at how I kept going the whole day without being fatigued, in pain, or needing to rest. I love that I can go on a hike for two or more hours with my husband and keep up without pain or stress, and I love that when I am eating healthy real food I sleep better and my skin looks and feels amazing. For me, that means more than the size of my jeans.

A proper post will happen tomorrow, but for today you get my random ramblings. I’d love to hear from you – what book should I read next (just ordered the Beth Ditto memoir, but I usually read two books at a time)? TV season has returned, what show should I add to my DVR? What fun things have you been up to?

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More Outfits!

I hear you loud and clear, you desire more outfit posts. And I so want to provide them to you, but it’s hard to do when I have to be at work early, and now with winter coming it’s still dark when I leave for work at a normal hour. While I will still provide at least one outfit post a week, do know there’s almost daily outfit pictures on my Instagram account. Be it a weekend wedding, the most Casual Friday on earth, or a standard workday, I will post my outfit there. Along with outfit pictures, I share more of my daily life – where I go, what I do, and a lot about Emerson.  It’s also a fun way to know more about you and connect in a different manner.  I hope to see you there!

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Ask Allie: Interview Outfit Advice

I am interviewing for my medical residency postgraduate training position and had a fashion query. I got these really flattering black pants from Ann Taylor but wasn’t really comfortable with the short length of the blazer for they didn’t cover my bum; would a boyfriend blazer work or would it be too casual?

A true “boyfriend” blazer is oversized. The name comes from some outdated idea that women are smaller than their obviously male partners and if we put on their clothes, we’d find them oversized and slouchy. A “boyfriend” blazer often has rolled sleeves, shoulder pads, and a squarer shape, along with being longer (often hitting low hips to below the rear). A true “boyfriend” blazer wouldn’t be the best choice for your interview as it would be too casual.

However, you provided a link to two blazers that while they are called “boyfriend” by the company, they actually are not. These jackets are tailored with seaming to nip in at the waist, proper buttons, and look to hit mid-hip. If in a more refined fabric (classic suiting, gabardine, wool, triacetate, etc.) such a style would be quite appropriate for your interview.

Since the piece comes from a different retailer, instead of trying to have both in the same color, consider purposeful contrast. This way it won’t look mismatched. Since your trousers are black, consider a jacket in taupe, tweed, dark plum, even ivory or cream. If you choose a lighter color jacket, be sure it is well-fitting and consider a dark-colored or black blouse underneath to make the look more professional and cohesive.

I just bought a great black pantsuit but have no idea what to wear underneath. What looks more sophisticated for an interview, a button-front shirt, a silky tee, or a knit shell? Do I have to tuck it in?

All three are great choices, dependent on the actual piece, your body, and the interview. Button-front shirts can give a crisp, professional look if you have the figure. I don’t recommend them for interviews if you are busty or have a soft belly as they can be unflattering and gape when you sit. However if you have the personality or figure for such a shirt, it’s a classic choice; I recommend tucking it in for a professional look.

Silk tees, blouses, and knit shells are all great choices for interviews. This doesn’t mean a refined tee shirt, an old sleeveless sweater with fuzz balls on it, or a red satin blouse. Something that is in crisp, pristine condition, a professional silhouette (no cleavage or skin tight), and a flattering color.

Speaking of color… color is a GOOD thing! What you wear under your suit is a good way to show your personality. Be it a frilly ivory blouse, a pink cashmere tee, crisp gray button-front, or a dark red silk knit tank, it’s a simple way to add some of you to your interview look.


My boyfriend bought me [statement necklace from J. Crew] and I love it. Can I wear it with a gray pantsuit and pink shell for a job interview?

I suggest you don’t. While the necklace is gorgeous and on trend… it’s a bit too trendy for an interview. While I do encourage you to wear jewelry and add a bit of yourself to your interview outfit, a necklace that makes such a bold statement may speak louder than you and your resume. Who you are and what you can offer to the company is the priority during an interview; you don’t want to look as though you care more about what you wear than what you say. Consider a smaller, or less flamboyant necklace to add a bit of interest, but not take the spotlight.

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Best of 2013: Outfits Edition

In 2013 I did fewer outfit posts, but they were more true to my personal style than the year prior. In trying to simplify blogging, I decided to dress for life instead of the blog, and take outfit posts when the stars aligned. It was a year of many early days at the office, and many weeks where I was pretty proud just to be wearing my clothes rightside-out. But the plus to all this is that there were outfits I documented that I recall fondly, and have as much a mark on my memory as a great night out with friends or a mind-blowing concert.


Outfit 1, 2, 3, 4

The New Style

I said I was going to simplify my wardrobe’s color story with shades of black, gray, and blue. Many of you were concerned by this, but few of you noticed I really did trim down the amount of color in my wardrobe. While I would occasionally rock a colorful frock from Gwynnie Bee or a statement piece in a bold hue, I purchased almost no new brightly-colored pieces in 2013, focusing on the simpler color palette and choosing quality and interesting details.  Be it a plaid flannel or a boho maxi dress, I bought far more blue than in the past, and was pleased by the results. 

Outfit 1, 2, 3, 4

Blue Jean Baby

There was a staffing change at my company, and denim became a tad more acceptable on Monday through Thursday. I took full advantage of this and looked for ways to incorporate jeans into a work-friendly look. After many years of finding no jeans to fit, I had luck with Gap’s Real Straight, which I purchased in dark rinse (ankle and heel lengths), and distressed. My Gap Sexy Boyfriend Jeans had another year of being well-worn, as did my NYDJ Hayden and Marilyn jeans, which slipped into tall boots quite nicely.

 Outfit 1, 2, 3, 4

Fashion can be Fun!

Though I simplified my color palette and tried to purchase fewer pieces, I still had a ton of fun with fashion. The leopard MICHAEL Michael Kors dress was one of my best purchases from the end of 2012; I wore it to work, to blogging events, even out to dinner for my birthday. When I saw these harem pants at a street festival booth, I HAD to have them and wore them quite a lot through the summer and early fall. The crazy dress from Gwynnie Bee was a show-stopper and a reminder of why I love their subscription service. The maxi skirt was one of many purchases I made this year at Etsy, trying to support smaller businesses and show you don’t have to hit the mall for fabulous style.

I look forward to 2014 in regard to my personal style. The blog has really helped me to see what I wear with fresh eyes, and help me balance my personality, lifestyle, figure, and age. I’m buying with more care, after a couple of years purchasing fun things that made me feel good, reminded me of my life before becoming a mom. But I’ve grown into my new life and love it, and want to dress it appropriately and with joy. And I’m glad you’re here with me for the journey!

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My Year in Outfits

It’s funny, sometimes the outfits I put together that I love the most are the ones that receive the fewest comments. And of course, the outfits I don’t really feel are often the ones that you all adore. I went through all my outfits from 2012 (all 154 of them!) and these are my very favorites – favorite separates, favorite accessories, favorite memories from wearing the ensembles.

It has been a pleasure sharing my personal style, my ideas on fashion, and my life with all of you the past seven years and I look forward to more years of fashion fun! Happy holidays, and may you have a 2013 full of health and happiness!

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Randoms Outfits from the Past Week

Work has been hectic, life outside has been hectic, and I haven’t been good about getting daily outfit posts up here. Here’s some peeks into what I have been wearing lately:

I can’t recall what day this was… think it was the end of last week? It was an early morning and a very long day, so not much done with the hair… and I think this was with jeans but can’t even remember any more!  Lands End Canvas tee (seen here), new scarf I got from Nordstrom Rack (seen here).

This past weekend I went to a baby shower for a friend… and they had a belly dancer! Totally cool – way better than “guess the melted candy bar” (gag me with a spoon)!  They passed out little Shakira hip scarves for us to wear and we got lessons from the dancer!  Ann Taylor sweater (seen here), Old Navy jeggings (seen here), Miss Sixty booties.

Yesterday was a super crazy work day, but I got a chance to dash to Ann Taylor at lunch to see if I could find this jacket in my size (no luck) and also meet up with Jill from Presenza. Presenza makes really cute tops for women with large busts and I am going to be doing a promotional event with them. Jill wanted to size me, and I got to check out many of these great tops in person – what great fabric! Will keep you posted on this!  J. Crew tee (seen here), Ann Taylor skirt (seen here), my trusty XXL H&M scarf (seen here), Sofft sandals. (And thanks Jill for snapping this pic outside Ann Taylor!).

Today’s outfit post is on its way – a new Ann Taylor top with a skirt that I thought I lost with the hurricane but was able to fix (a little Dawn original dishwashing liquid, a little hand sewing, an iron and we’re almost as good as new!).

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Why I Blog my Daily Outfits

I don’t take pictures of myself because I think I am beautiful, or young, or a fashion maven. I don’t think I am perfect. I take pictures of myself because I am not perfect. I share my daily outfits because there aren’t enough examples out there of women who are not a model size, or model height, or have a model face who embrace fashion. I take these pictures to show you don’t have to be any of these things to have personal style, to have fun with fashion, and feel beautiful. All women deserve to realize how fabulous they are, and clothing is a great way for women to express themselves and flatter their body. I hope with each outfit post I motivate a fellow woman to try color, to embrace fashion, and find her own personal style.

If you think I post my pictures because I am a narcissist, you’re dead wrong and obviously not reading the text that accompanies the photos on this blog. And if you think I’m in love with myself… well you’re correct and I am damn proud of that fact. If you stop hating on other people, you may have the time to get to know yourself a bit better and realize you’re worth loving as well!

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Saturday

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.

Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

True Fashionista: Vivi

It’s not easy to shop when you’re not built like a mannequin. A couple hours in a shopping mall can really destroy a woman’s self-esteem and cause her to hate all fashion. I have mad respect for those who see the fun challenge in fashion, have that desire to prove that everyone can and deserves to look and feel amazing in clothes. I try to prove that myself, but I get a lot of my motivation from my fellow bloggers. One blogger I constantly find positive, creative, and inspiring is the effervescent Vivi from the blog Heart, Print & Style and this is why I asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

If Vivi looks familiar to you, it’s because I previously featured her and her great style. Vivi has amazing thrifting skills, and is able to find the most unique, chic, and flattering pieces in our local second-hand shops. And yes, I wrote we, because Vivi lives in the same town I do. We met at a CapFABB event and have been buddies ever since. Vivi has been trying to get me to go thrifting with her and a quick glance at her blog will show it would be in my best interest to do so. Now that I am paring down on blogging,I may have a chance this spring to experience Vivi’s expert thrifting first-hand!

What’s so great about Vivi, other than her knowing herself, her figure, and her life so well and expressing it through her fashion choices, is how nice she is. In the blogosphere, there’s a lot of frenemies, faux buddies, and out-for-herselfers; in DC I have found quite the opposite and Vivi is one of the very sweetest I have met. She believe in the blogging community, supports her peers, and enjoys the entire social portion of blogging. Oh, and her tweets make me giggle out loud on a regular basis and I also enjoy following her on Instagram and Facebook.

Through her fashion, the commentary on her blog, and her in-person self, Vivi expresses happiness, individuality, and style. I’m honored to call her a friend, and honored that she was willing to share some of her thoughts on fashion and style. I asked Vivi the same five questions I ask each True Fashionista; here are her answers:

How would you describe your personal style?
Simple and subtle. It may not be the loudest style nor the trendiest (and I don’t mark myself as a trendy person) but there is just something there, y’know?

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
Early on. Growing up, I was really into drawing and creating outfits. Imaginative. Visual. Still am, really. Anywho, my brother and sister would be playing outside and calling me to play with them. And I’m like, nope. I’d rather be reading or drawing/creating outfits. I remember back when I was, like, 10 years old knowing that a sweetheart neckline looked great on me. I blame hitting puberty early.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
Blogs, blogs and more blogs. With a bit of InStyle and People Style Watch mixed in. Folks on the street aka people watching. Also, at times, music videos and TV shows.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Fashion is what you see on scripted TV shows, movies, and/or magazines. Style is what you take from the fashion you see and making it your own. And there are some (truly lucky) folks out there that do not even pay attention to what the fashion industry says and yet still have a great sense of style. You either have it or you don’t.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Just know what works best for you. Now, there’s nothing wrong with trying something new or following the latest trends. Just know that if you do not feel comfortable with what you’re wearing, it shows. If you look like you’re trying way too hard with an outfit, it shows. Also, I’m a huge lover of accessories. Sometimes, accessories say more about your style than the actual clothing. So start from there and work your look around the accessories.

***

The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments you never know she may end up being featured!

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What I Wore and a Giveaway – Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design

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

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

Giveaway:

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday


Black cashmere tank from Banana Republic, black ponte jacket from Banana Republic Outlet, Chinese red shantung skirt from Banana Republic (definite theme here!), leopard peeptoe heels from BCBGirls, gold necklace from Express, gold bangles from Ralph Lauren.

Hair was washed and conditioned, dried with my Croc wet-to-dry iron. No products.’

Makeup is L’Oreal True Match concealer in W1-3, Benefit’s That Gal, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Nars blush in Orgasm, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis – ivory over whole lid. Lashes curled, two coats Cover Girl Lash Blast and one of Imju Fiberwig. Maybelline Ultraliner in black on top lash line and on lips is some Revlon Shiny Sheers in a sheer red that I left at home by accident so do not have to read the label.

I am not really sure what is going on with the layout of my posts; I have not done anything different so it must be that Blogger is being stupid again.

This outfit is inspired by Catie’s contest at Cuffington. This outfit makes me fabulous inside… though notsomuch when I walk past my reflection in a window. I adore this skirt, it is so much fun and the color is awesome. The cashmere tank is really thick and I have had it for years and got it for like $10 on the clearance rack. Jacket has given me many miles and I love its versatility and the shoes… oh I love these shoes so much I have two pairs of them! All that is missing is my silver cuff, this great green ring I bought at a Ren Fest and my wedding tiara and I would be wearing almost all my favorite things! :) Too bad this skirt isn’t the most flattering (the one my husband says makes me look like Mimi from Drew Carey) or I would wear it every week! :)

Outlet Mall Shopping

Yesterday I visited a major outlet mall in my area. Over a mile of stores – some with great bargains, some with great piles of crap. There have been many stories about discount stores – how some of the product is not on sale, the clothes are made specifically for the outlet and are not the same quality that the brand name usually delivers, etc. After all that, you find designer duds for less, when is it worthwhile to spend, when should a bargain be passed by?


Fit
If it doesn’t fit well for $300, still doesn’t fit well for $150 and even for $65, don’t buy it. Just because it’s a great bargain does not make the fit any better. Shoes that are too tight or too big, jackets that pull at the back, pants that would be lovely if you just lost 15 lbs., no matter the bargain these items should just stay on the rack.

If the jacket’s sleeves are too long, the skirt’s hem at an awkward length, the shoulders a bit too big, these things can be altered easily by a tailor. You must be in love with the piece and find multiple places and ways to wear it to justify the tailor expense. I found a cream silk linen suit at a discount store – the suit fit perfectly except for a broken zipper and too long of sleeves and legs. I bought the suit for $65, regularly $350, and for $40 had the zipper and hems all modified. I have worn the suit to work, to religious events and as separates for three years. That purchase was worth the added tailoring expense.


Style
Often times the items at the discount store are there because they are leftover from last season. When it comes to classic pieces like suits, dresses and knits, this is not a problem. A blue merino v-neck is lovely almost every year, and more lovely when 50% off. The problem comes with the trendy p[pieces.


If Lindsay, Mischa, Nicole or Chloe was wearing it last spring, it’s a good chance that piece is passé now. Pass on the embellished jeans, the metallic leather bags, the rainbow-hued sunglasses and most other accessories. Just because it’s on sale does not mean it is a good buy. When it comes to scouring outlets, your best deals are the ones that will last through more than one season. Sweaters, suits, outerwear, cocktail dresses, leather goods and most shoes are great bargains if you find quality and value in the same item.


Name Brands
Just because you found a pair of Manolo Blahniks for $100 at the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet does not mean they need to be purchased. Do they fit your current style? Are they comfortable? Are they current or classic?

We have all seen the label whores – those women with a Coach purse, Jimmy Choo shoes that JLo wore last year, Baby Phat jeans, a Bebe tee with the rhinestone logo, Chanel sunglasses and a Pucci scarf in her hair. These items weren’t bought for the quality or the style. They were bought because a stranger could spot the brand a mile away. She looks trashy, obvious and victimized by fashion. None of these are appealing. Labels do not suddenly make you well dressed or well liked.


If you can find a Furla bag for 40% off and it suits your style as well as lifestyle – then go for it. If you are buying a bag purely because it’s Prada and you don’t like the style, size or fabric… well you have become a label whore.

Don’t buy that jacket just because it’s designer. Pretend that it is an unknown label – do you still like it? Do you still find it attractive and necessary? If not, put it back on the rack. That goes for ill-fitting designer duds, last season’s “It Bag,” obvious logo advertising (if it’s that obvious, it will be that obvious from last season – not worth your time or money) and damaged designer goods.


Damaged Goods
Many discount retailers sell the irregulars from a label. Some irregulars can barely be seen by the naked eye – may be an incorrect dye lot or the wrong buttons sewn on a jacket. Some may work in your favor – pants cut too short or sleeves that are too long or too narrow. Often times these stores received the garments that were damaged in production, transit or through many jaunts to the fitting room. Broken zippers, missing buttons, fabric snags are all defects that can easily be repaired or covered up if the price and style is right. However there are other defects that are not worth the purchase, no matter how low the price. Runs in nylon, stains, button holes at the wrong height, linings that do not align with the trouser, two pieces stitched together from two different dye lots. Even if it is Versace, it will look like Gallo Clothing on you if it is this defective.


Buying in Bulk
I used to be a huge fan of buying in bulk – find a tee shirt you love, buy it in eight colors and three of white and black. Flattering trousers? Buy one in every color. I then found that my wardrobe was like one big uniform… one big boring uniform. Mixing basics with fun pieces offers versatility, ease but individual style.


At outlet malls, buying in bulk is a good idea. Yesterday I was at the Banana Republic outlet and found high quality stretchy tees in tons of colors – $9.99 each. I bought one in black, one in white, one in gray and one in red. These shirts can be worn with jeans on weekends, with a little skirt for happy hour with the girls or under a suit for work. I found a great pair of wool trousers at Off Fifth, bought them in brown, gray and black. They were so standard and fit so amazingly well (and were only $39.99 each) that it was worthwhile to buy every color I liked. I knew with my work and lifestyle I would find regular use for such trousers. Another time I found a pair of really cute studded pointy heels from NYLA. They were 75% off and tres cute. I decided to buy them in hot pink, ivory and black, thinking that if they fit well, they would get much use. I was imagining sparkly tops and designer jeans with the ivory, a sexy power suit with the black, and envisioned an outfit a la Carrie Bradshaw for the pink. I took them all home, have worn the pink ones multiple times, and have barely touched the other two. I don’t wear designer jeans with sparkly tops on a regular basis, and don’t own a single chic black power suit. Those two shoes have barely seen the light of day. Consider your current lifestyle when considering to buy in bulk – items that look too familiar may not be worn and too many of the same thing may make them all too boring to regularly wear. Also, if you don’t wear red patent stilettos now, you probably won’t after purchasing a pair.


In conclusion, don’t buy just because of a label, or just because of an amazing price. Less money for an item is still money, and money should be spent carefully. Be willing to take the time to find quality purchases, not pick up every shiny bauble that sort of resembles what Gwen or Jessica wore last Spring. Fashion is not about the specific item, but the allover look. A Louis Vuitton bag or a pair of Chanel sunglasses will not make you a fashionista, the pairing with appropriate and complimentary pieces is what takes you from being a label whore or a fashion victim to fashionista status.

What I Wore: Real Red

Dress: Belle c/o Dobbin Clothing | Bag: “Erin” Satchel c/o Fossil | Tights: Nordstrom | Boots: Ros Hommerson  | Bracelets: had forever, Nordstrom (similar) | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Coat: Via Spiga

Fossil was kind enough to send me this bag and I immediately fell in love with the color. It’s not cherry, it’s not tomato, it’s not ruby or oxblood or any other fancy terms. It’s as clear and true of a red as a crayon. I checked the bag’s label and it’s called Real Red. I like that, no crazy made-up name, just what is exactly is. This bag is pretty phenomenal, and perfect for a commuter like me. Two side zipper pockets to hold things like farecards and lip balm, and inside there is a zipper pocket on one side, and the other side five different pockets to hold anything from a Smartphone or your keys to business cards and a pack of gum. And in this bag I have my wallet, Kindle (did you enter my Kindle giveaway?), makeup bag, myAgenda, sunglasses, gloves, journal, and two reusable containers to hold my lunch. Impressive! The crossbody strap is adjustable to become a shoulderbag, or it can be removed. I know this bag is going to be used quite a lot this season!

I never understand why street style models and bloggers wear their coats on their shoulders like a cape.  How can they move their arms?  Why not just put on the coat?  Then I realized on cold days I do this very thing – I wear the coat like a cape from the house and over my shoulders until Karl gets ready to take pictures.  This way my outfit doesn’t get as rumpled and I’m less likely to mess up my hair.  Karl got this picture of me in the coat at the beginning of the shoot and it showcases the coat I bought last winter on a whim and still adore a year later (and it’s still available at Nordstrom and now on sale!).

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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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Go Ahead Put Your Red Dress On

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

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

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

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

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

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The Mall and the SAHM

This week, I ran to the mall at lunch for some retail therapy. I recently bought a pair of black trousers that had such a perfect fit, fabric and cut that I returned to get them in two other colors. While strolling the mall sipping my iced coffee, I realized that the majority of the mall was occupied by mothers with their children. Women with slings holding sleeping infants, women with strollers holding up to three kids at a time at varying ages. Women and children hand in hand at the food court, on benches, in stores. As varying were the ages of their children were the appearances of these mothers.

This mall is in a community where every economic level of person lives. On one side of the mall are million-dollar townhomes in a gated community, the other side are rent-controlled apartments. A mile up the street are McMansions and in the other direction, cozy blocks of split-level and rancher-style brick homes built in the 50s. I used to work at this mall, and saw people from all walks of life enter my store. This day of retail therapy and my years of retail management remind me that money does not equal style.

My mom often tells me about my childhood. We were not well off and she had to save up to buy clothes for herself and us kiddies. Weekends were spent at yard sales for clothes, furniture and even Christmas presents come winter. Though my mom had a limited budget, she always looked great. She learned to sew to be able to dress for less and flatter her petite frame. She scoured sale racks and when something worked, she would buy multiples in varying colors to make things simple. Since she was a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM), she needed clothes that didn’t wrinkle, could handle multiple washings and were so easy to pair with one another, she could dress in the dark. Pictures of her during this time shows her in jeweled toned knit tops, black knit trousers, black shoes and a silver pendant necklace almost every day. Not too exciting, the sleeve and pant length seemed to change with the seasons, but the premise was the same. Considering it was the 70s and 80s, my mom had a shoulder-length perm that flattered her face but was low-maintenance. You couldn’t look at her and know her income level or that I had vomited on that shirt two days prior. She was a parent of two rambunctious children, a volunteer in our schools, the editor of the church newsletter, active in the community and always overextended. Though her life may have been frazzled, her appearance was not.

It really is possible to look good and be a SAHM. And this is possible without spending much more time every day. It’s all about mindful shopping. I know I have written about this before, but this is something that is important to all women, no matter our lifestyle or responsibilities.

As I walked down the mall, I had two women in front of me pushing strollers. They were friends, chatting with each other as they window-shopped. They were both in their 30s, both of average size, both with straight blonde hair and I believe even had the same strollers. That was where the similarities ended. One was in baggy over-washed black cotton capris that ended at the widest part of her calf. She paired this with a pink, black and white horizontally striped polo shirt that hit right at her waistband and with it a pair of black flip flops. Her hair was half up in a claw clip, though most was slipping out and fanning out around her head. She looked dumpy, disheveled and her clothes looked cheap. Her friend was also in black capris, but they were of a very heavy knit and fit her frame quite well. Paired with it was a turquoise boatneck ¾ sleeve top that hit at mid-hip. On her feet were black ballet flats and her hair was held back with a black elastic headband. Her outfit was just as low-fuss and easy care, yet she looked slimmer and more polished. Both wardrobes can go in the washer and dryer. Both outfits were comfortable and easy. The difference was that the woman in the turquoise seemed more mindful of what she was purchasing.

1. Don’t buy 100% cotton unless you love to iron. It wrinkles, and even an extra 10 minutes in the dryer won’t get those wrinkles out. Also, cotton is known to fade after many washings. Cotton clothes soon look rumpled, old and worn. You don’t have the time and money to replace them, so don’t buy them in the first place.

2. If your tummy is not your best feature, then don’t showcase it. Tops that hit right at your midsection draw attention to that area. Tucked-in tops emphasize the lower abdomen, and tops that are too tight do not flatter anyone. Look for tops that hit around mid-hip. This length is slimming to the torso without making the legs look short. No need for baggy tops – they often add bulk instead of hiding it. Look for something that either skims the body or sits pretty darn close. This will show you have the figure of a woman, not a sack of potatoes.

3. Flip flops are for the beach, not the mall. I say this often on here, but flops are bad for your feet. Your arches sink, you pull muscles between your toes and they do more harm than good. They are great when hopping in the car to drop the kid off somewhere, tooling around the garden, the pool or the shore but that’s about it. To preserve your feet for your future and not look sloppy, invest in some real shoes. Ballet flats are a great alternative and can be found for less than $20 at retailers like Target. A leather sandal in tan will go with 90% of your wardrobe and be more structured and attractive than a flip flop. This change affects your personal style as well as your personal health.

4. With skirts, dresses, shorts and capris, have them end at a slim part of the leg. Your thigh and your calf are the widest parts and when clothing ends there, it gives the appearance that your entire leg is that size. Do your figure a favor and if the garment is perfect except for the length, take them to the tailor. For about $5 they can hem it to a better place.

5. Consider solids. Stripes and patterns may add variety and you may think they hide stains, but they often look cheap and quickly look dated. A solid polo in French blue can look crisp with a pair of khaki Bermudas; a striped one can make you look bigger and often looks cheaper. The best way to make your bargain piece look more expensive is to buy it in a solid color, free of garment-dyed finishes, contrast stitching or elaborate details. Go for simple and you’ll go for gold.

6. Read the label. If it says Dry Clean Only, don’t buy it unless you have time and money for such a service. If it tells you to dry flat, it’s telling you not to buy it. You don’t have the time for this, and if you don’t follow the instructions you will probably ruin the shape or finish of the garment.

7. If it’s great, buy two. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I went and bought two more pairs of pants that I already owned and loved. They were the right length, color, fabric and fit. No one is taking a tally of how many styles of garments you own, all people notice is if you look nice. You found a great wrap top that flatters and fits and is easy care and perfection? Get it in black, pink and teal. Found a wrap dress that can hit the dryer as well as the dance floor? Get it in solid black and also in the red print. This is also true for shoes – get them in the neutral you wear most often (black or brown) and then get them in one other color (tan or a contrast shade like red pr green). If they are awesome, they are worth it.

8. Adjust your hair to your life. If you don’t have time to blow out your hair every morning, then get a cut that allows you to wash and wear. If you have bad hair days, you are human. Work with it with flattering accessories. Claw clips seem like a quick fix but look sloppy more often than not. Headbands are hip right now – great time to stock up. Also nothing is wrong with a low ponytail; side parts are flattering on rounder faces and a little hairspray on your brush or comb will help battle flyaways.

9. Buy a new bra. Whether or not you breastfed, your breasts will not be the same as they were pre-baby even if your waistline is. With any weight changes, your breasts change as well. Nothing makes you look firmer and fitter than a supportive bra. Also nothing makes you feel more like a woman than to have a gorgeous red satin and lace number under your standard tee shirt.

10. Keep the active wear for the gym. Knit shorts, baggy tee shirts from a vacation destination, matching hoodies and pants are not appropriate for “the real world.” It is just as easy to buy a feminine cut of tee shirt than to buy an oversized one.

11. Don’t shy from a skirt or dress. If it hits around the knees, you can still crawl on the floor and run around without trouble. A skirt is always more polished, and a great tee-shirt style dress is easier to put on in the morning than a whole outfit. The one pictured is less than $40 by Jones New York, I found it at Nordstrom.

12. Show your personality. You are more than a mom, you are an amazing and vital woman. Wear your favorite colors, buy a leopard print shoe or a bold necklace. Small touches take your standard day wear from uniform to amazing with little work.

    Some companies I recommend to find beautiful, comfortable and durable garments:

    • Lands End – I love this place. I buy knits from there that never shrink, fade or pill. They have petite, tall and plus sizes and offer fit guides to ensure you get the right size. I recommend you use this guide for many of their pieces run big. Best part? Their prices are very reasonable!
    • Chico’s – Fabulous colors, fun accessories and lots of fabrics that resist wrinkles and fading. Do note their sizing is a bit different from most companies and they do not carry plus sizes. As with Lands End, they often run a tad big.
    • J. Crew – J. Crew is the Mecca for pretty solid colored tops. Flattering cuts of polos and tees, high-quality cashmere, cotton and wool sweaters, and all with flattering yet not risqué necklines and cuts. J. Crew often runs small, especially in their bottoms but the quality is good, the cut is usually flattering and their return policy is fabulous. The price may be a bit higher than you’re used to, but the quality usually makes it worth the investment (I am still wearing J. Crew skirts and sweaters from a decade ago).
    • I.N.C. by Macy’s – You may find this a strange choice but if you regularly visit this section you would understand. They carry petites and plus sizes, they always have the most gorgeous colors and a large selection of pants, shorts and capris for the season. I.N.C. does a fabulous job of taking what is on the runway and making is realistic and wearable for every woman. They carry prints, but also a plethora of solids every season in some high-quality knits and other washable fabrics.
    • Boden – Feminine cuts, pretty colors, and great basics for any wardrobe. Do note this is a UK site so their sizes run differently than the us (they have a handy fit guide on the site). They don’t have many extended sizes, though some trousers are offered in long lengths. This company has mastered simple elegance with their basic style.