Search Results for: label/prescription frames

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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Basic Black and White

Blouse: Jones New York c/o Gwynnie Bee | Jeans: NYDJ | Shoes: Cole Haan | Necklace: Cameron Pendant c/o Kristin Biggs, Stella and Dot | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Bracelets: c/o Lifetherapy, Nordstrom, had forever | Glasses: c/o Coastal.com

This top is perfect for this weather – billowy and breezy for the commute, but enough coverage that I don’t freeze to death in the office. This is totally the kind of top I buy, wear once or twice, and tire of the print because it’s too memorable. Love that with Gwynnie Bee I can wear it once or twice, and then return it for something new without buyer’s remorse. Interested in trying Gwynnie Bee?  Use this link, tell them Wardrobe Oxygen sent you and get a 30 day free trial of the program.

I just got these glasses Friday evening but have already fallen in love. When I got new glasses back in December, I wanted something classic, stylish without being trendy, something appropriate for work as well as every day. My Issy and La “Gloss” frames are perfect for that, but now I want more frames, and fun frames. I love the bold look of these, and it’s exciting to find frames that are big enough for my ginormous noggin. I did get these frames for free (review here), but I would totally order from Coastal.com again. Great prices, good service, and shipping is lightening fast. In fact, if you go to this link (not an affiliate link, not getting paid to share, just me being jazzed about sharing this with you) and pick any of these frames and add your prescription and use the code FIRSTPAIRFREE you get… well your first pair free! You do have to pay for shipping (which is around $9.00), but what an awesome steal of a deal. It’s always good to always have a spare pair or a fun pair that gets you out of your comfort zone.

Speaking of great deals, I have been wearing my Lifetherapy bracelets quite a lot and get so many compliments on them.  They have offered Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off on ALL Lifetherapy products (body care as well as jewelery).  Use code WARDROBEOXYGEN at checkout; this code is valid until 7/1/2013.

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How to “Read” Fashion Magazines

Pre-pubescent women below 100 lbs. showing off dresses in the thousands. Ads for Armani, Versace, Missoni, Chanel and any other brand you couldn’t possibly afford (and possibly couldn’t even find for sale in your neck of the woods). Crazy outfits of sheer blouses without camisoles, plaids with polka dots, turquoise false lashes and 6″ platform wedges. How are these magazines supposed to help the typical woman in America? How can Vogue, W, Bazaar and Elle assist you in your journey to the suburban shopping mall?

Some fashion magazines are more helpful than others. Lucky magazine not only tells you what is hip, but where to purchase these hip items. They categorize trends, with a page dedicated to the lace trend, a page dedicated to wedge shoes, a page dedicated to croco bags. While encouraging the shopper to visit New York boutiques, a few chain stores are mentioned. Even if you cannot afford the Prada skirt, you can see the length, fabric and cut and can look for a similar version at Macy’s.

Bazaar is one of my favorite magazines. They show celebrities and socialites in what’s hip for the next season, have all the hot new ads from the most luxurious brands, but also breaks fashion down for the Every Woman. So the trends for Spring are a bit of cowgirl, a bit of nautical and a bit of safari? Bazaar will show how a woman in her 20’s can wear the trends, a woman in her 30’s and all the way up to her 70’s. They also will have a spread informing the reader about the hot new trends. As always, they have a What’s Hot/What’s Not on the very last page.

Every fashion magazine can be beneficial to you, no matter your age, dress size or income. It’s not about going into debt for a Dior bag or even for trying to replicate a Dolce and Gabanna ad with pieces from Target. No, it’s getting concepts.

Look at the ads. Really examine them as you would a painting in a museum. What colors are being worn? What does the shoe look like? What kind of fabric? Is there a specific print that is the theme? Now flip the page and look at the next ad. Is there any similarity? Though each high-end designer has their own signature style, there is often a theme for each season that resonates on the runway and in the ads. Maybe it’s lace trim, maybe it’s wood heels on the shoes. It could be a lot of black – it sure was this winter. Don’t look at these ads and roll your eyes over the age or weight of the models, the astronomical prices and ridiculousness of the garments. See it as art, and then break it down.

Be Realistic. If the magazine says every woman needs the new Fendi purse, don’t buy the Fendi purse if you don’t make enough money to buy a Fendi purse for fun. The purse will be passé in a year. Don’t go on a street corner and buy a faux Fendi purse. It will look fake, and it will look tacky and desperate. Don’t wait two years and buy a cheesy knock-off of what the Fendi purse was shaped like from Wal-Mart. Again tacky and desperate. Instead, break it down. What makes that bag new and hip? Is it the oversized shape? Use of silver hardware? A short handle? Croco leather? White with black trim? Take those details with you when you go shopping. Look for something that is beautiful on it’s own, fits your lifestyle and needs, but may incorporate those details. I for one adored the Balenciaga Motorcycle bags that celebs like Nicole Ritchie and Jessica Simpson were sporting. I couldn’t afford the bag, and didn’t want to look like an idiot with a faux silver or turquoise pleather wanna-be bag on my wrist. Therefore I analyzed the look of the bag. What about it did I like? The hardware. The large size. The short handle. The way the leather looks a bit crackled and a bit glazed. When I went to buy a new purse I found a slouchy oversized purse with lots of hardware and metal detail in a similar leather finish and a color that complimented my wardrobe. Not Balenciaga, couldn’t be mistaken for a Motorcycle bag, but receives many compliments, holds all my stuff and keeps my image current.

Don’t be a Label Whore. I was in an elevator yesterday with a woman. A gorgeous woman with a gorgeous figure. Her beauty was not the first thing I saw. She was wearing a puffy Baby Phat coat with a faux fur trim in a weird olive/taupe color. She had on extremely tight Seven for All Mankind jeans that were too low on the waist and too long on her ankles. She had on a Tiffany bracelet AND a Tiffany necklace. She had on a Coach logo purse – quite large and quite pink. Under her coat was a black fitted tee with “Bebe” in rhinestones across the chest. She had on false eyelashes, very pink glossy lips and barely any other makeup. Her hair was in a formal updo with tendrils around her face, her hair obviously meticulously highlighted, lowlighted and streaked on a regular basis. And then on her feet were those high-heeled Timberland-esque dress boots. Her outfit probably cost a ton of money, but she looked terrible. Her clothes didn’t compliment her figure, or one another. She was a walking fashion victim, a slave to the name brands. By caring so much about the names, she lost sight of what the brands were trying to create – FASHION. I highly doubt you are going to the Academy Awards any time soon. No one is going to stop you walking down the street and say “Who are you wearing?” Even if they do, how cool would you be by saying, “This old thing? I picked it up at Target last season.” Think Sharon Stone when she wore a Gap tee shirt to an awards ceremony. No one wrote her off as cheap or tacky. Instead she was celebrated for that fashion move.

It is understandable to want to buy luxury, to splurge on designer. You work hard, you want to reward yourself. I respect that, and I indulge in that as well. Just when you do, think about the rules you hold for all other aspects of your life:
Does it fit into your life?
Does it flatter?
Will it work for the long haul?
Is it worth it?

If you got that promotion, go ahead and buy a Coach purse, but buy one that will go with your current wardrobe, and will still be beautiful next year. My friend has a Coach bag that she bought herself after getting her degree in 1998. She still carries around that camel colored tote, and still gets compliments all the time. She bought something luxurious, something obviously a brand name, but something that fit her lifestyle, fashion style and something that works in the 90’s as well as the new millennium. A few years ago I found a beautifully tailored black wool coat from Calvin Klein. I put it on and felt like a socialite. I felt elegant, tall and slim. It was at a discount store, but still out of my price range. It was the first item I ever put on layaway. When I made the final payment, I still adored the coat. Now a few years later, I still love the coat, it’s cut, it’s feel. To me, it was worth the money. I wear it and look expensive, but I am not shouting “This is a Calvin Klein coat from 2001!” I am whispering “I am wearing an expensive, well made garment and it is designer.”

Again, look in the magazines. Look at the spreads of celebrities at galas and fundraisers. Are they showing up in head to toe labels? Unless you’re Kimora Lee Simmons or Missy Elliott, the answer probably is no. The women who look polished, elegant, sexy and expensive do not flash their designer labels. They wear what is stylish, flattering and beautiful.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read. When a magazine totes a certain top or moisturizer as great, it’s not always because it’s great. Magazines receive free stuff all the time, and are encouraged in different ways to promote this stuff. These freebies end up in fashion spreads, articles about great new things for the season, or advice columns. Don’t take what one magazine says as gospel. It’s best to have something to compare it with. Don’t worship Vogue if you won’t also pick up In Style. Don’t read Lucky without W. By reading more magazines (even in the line at the grocery or at the pharmacy while waiting for a prescription) you get a more well-rounded view of what is hot, what is trendy, and what is utterly ridiculous.

Make it Age and Shape Appropriate. Anyone over 27 and a size 4 should not be wearing dress shorts. Mischa Barton and Nicole Ritchie and Lindsay Lohan are all wearing short creased shorts to red carpet events. Well good for them. Are you built like Lindsay Lohan? Are you the age of Mischa Barton? If you answered yes to both, God Speed and Good Luck. For the rest of us, STEER AWAY FROM THE SHORTS. Just because it’s hip, doesn’t mean to wear it. We don’t live in the era of cut and dry fashion. My mom speaks of circle skirts, piped charcoal blazers and cigarette pants while growing up. They weren’t flattering on her, but she wore them because EVERYONE wore them. That, and nothing else. Fashion has changed and has become more flexible and forgiving. If this season is all about olive green and you look terrible in olive green, then don’t wear it. If magazines are telling you that leggings are hot this season (which they are) but you are over 25, you’re over 105 lbs. and you wore in an office setting you shouldn’t pick up a pair your next trip to the mall. If the new look is nautical, that doesn’t mean you need to go buy a navy and white striped boat neck shirt to make your torso seem twice it’s size. Instead consider pieces that may be more appropriate. Crisp white trousers with a solid navy sweater. A navy blazer with gold buttons paired with a white shirt and vintage washed jeans. There are different ways to incorporate trends without looking like a fashion victim or worse… unflattering.

Make a List. So you like the polka dots featured in Bazaar. You like the new width of jeans seen in In Style. You love how navy is coming back into vogue on the pages of Vogue. Write these things down, or tear out pages from your glossy magazines and take them with you on your shopping excursions for inspiration. When you get overwhelmed in a sea of fabric at Lord and Taylor’s pull out your list. It will keep you centered and less overwhelmed.
And finally, See Fashion as Art. If you stop looking at fashion as the unobtainable, you’ll despise it. The majority of our country cannot afford a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes, a Prada dress, a Chanel suit. That’s okay. Just look at that Chanel suit or that Prada dress in the magazine’s fashion spread and try to figure out why they chose to display it. Is it the color? The cut? The fabric? What about makes it less insane (because much high fashion is totally insane and unwearable in normal society) and more beautiful? Take that one thing with you as you go shopping this season. If you try to see the beauty and detail in fashion, you will be more likely to buy what makes you look more beautiful when you wear it.

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!

Black Doesn’t Make You Look Slimmer, it Only Makes You Look Boring

Yesterday on the Metro, a gorgeous woman in a pumpkin-colored toggle coat, brown trousers pinstriped with pink and brown booties. Gorgeous skin with a glow from pink blush and pink-tinted gloss. Pretty braids with little streaks of dark copper with the brown. I would guess the woman was a size 26. She could stop traffic with her inner glow and sassy look.

In black? She would be another fat woman on the train. Not even that, she wouldn’t be remembered. She would blend in.

The other day in the grocery store, woman who looked as though she just got out of yoga class or the gym. Dark plum yoga pants, gray sneakers with lime green accents, dark red glasses, olive green quilted thigh-length coat, nubby loopy scarf and matching hat knit in shades of olive, pink, purple and navy. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but it made me stop and think about my own black yoga pants (all three pairs) and that I own the very same coat but in black. She didn’t look kooky, but the colors just made her stand out a bit and made one think about her. I actually didn’t notice until I saw her in a different line that she was probably a size or two larger than I; the first thing I noticed was the combination of colors, the way the glasses really made her eyes stand out, and whether she knit that scarf and hat combination herself.

We have all been raised to think that black is slimming. Black makes part of you recede. Black is what overweight people wear because overweight people should be ashamed of their shape and want it to recede into nothingness.

But our bodies aren’t going anywhere, and why punish yourself because you are not what society has decided to be the “right” size? And really, what the heck IS that “right” size? As a 5’3” woman, I remember going to the doctor my freshman year of college and being told my 125 lb. frame was carrying too much weight. I had strong legs and arms, broad shoulders from swimming and a large chest. At that point I was in a size 4. If I was the chart’s goal of 110 for my height, I would be sunken in, unhealthily small.

So you are 5 lbs or 150 lbs over the doctor’s chart for weight… that doesn’t mean you life stops. Don’t go into mourning with a wardrobe full of black. Show your personality, your charm, your creativity. You are so much more than your figure – your body is only the shell that gets your soul from Point A to Point B.

What About the Staples?

Time and time again people mention that my staples list is almost all black. Yes, it is but that isn’t because I feel people should hide in black. The thing is black is a color that doesn’t age, it doesn’t usually clash with black shoes and other accessories, it doesn’t get trendy, and is simple enough to work for a funeral, a wedding, a job interview, a trip to the grocery, an awards ceremony. I don’t expect everything to be black, but it’s a good point to start, then adding signature colors, accessories and personality as you find your fashion “wings.”

Easy Places to Add Color:

Your coat or jacket: If you need to buy one, consider an unexpected hue. Colors are often more versatile than black for coats. Mustard yellow, pumpkin orange, robin’s egg blue, scarlet…

The color of your purse: for day or for evening: a red satin clutch with add color to your black dress and heels, a green leather hobo for day will work with black or brown shoes. You’ll be surprised at how much use a colored purse will get, and how many compliments you will receive for it!

Your bathing suit and coverup: a black bathing suit will NOT make you look 30 pounds lighter, and you will stand taller and look more confident in a color you love and loves you back.

Your next pair of prescription glasses: why stick with silver, gold and black? I have a pair of dark purple plastic frames that add a little bit of fun to my look while still being quite professional. Before this pair, I had dark green tortoise-shell ones that always received compliments but didn’t work against my face and hair.

Your winter hat, scarf and gloves: Switch it up! This is a great way to get your favorite color into your wardrobe on a daily basis.

If you have a brown coat, get a nice contrast color like leaf green or candy pink. Black can work with everything, and a gray coat looks amazing with yellow, turquoise or even bright red. Colors look great with other colors – I often see a woman on my commute home who has a mustard-colored coat and leaf green cashmere scarf and leather gloves. It doesn’t look hokey or juvenile, just fresh and cheerful.


Your shoes:
Flats are available in almost every store in the mall; a pair in yellow, orange, red or green will be so fun peeking out of your jeans, trousers, or paired with a simple dress or skirt.

If you purchase commuting shoes, make them cheerful with a great color for your walk to work! For winter and rain boots, find a color that complements your coat or adds an unexpected pop to the dreary climate! As for heels… nothing adds fun and style to a simple outfit or dress than a pair of heels in a gorgeous hue!


A great belt over your cardigan or dress:
Green and yellow are huge colors this spring; use them to brighten up your simple wardrobe pieces.
A pashmina or cardigan for breezy evenings: a color will actually work with more of your wardrobe than a basic black or ivory.

Your workout clothing: if you want to be subtle, consider loden green, navy, plum, teal, brown.

Your lingerie: Others may not see it but you will feel the energy of your favorite color against your skin!

What If You Love Black?
Heck, I do! I don’t wear black because it’s slimming, but because I like it on me. I like the cool simplicity of the color, the chic way it makes such a statement. I love it with smoky eyes and messy hair, with cat eyes and ruby lips, with my fair skin and dark hair. IF you feel that way, then embrace your color and wear it in well-made, well-fitting, non-faded pieces. Accent it with bold jewelry, color accessories or fabulous cosmetics. Don’t use it as a disguise, but as an extension of your personality!

Purple dress by IGIGI, bathing suit and black dress by Torrid, yellow suede flats by Gap

From Allie’s Mailbag…

A few emails I have received recently and some Google searches that have brought people to this page. I always think if one woman has this question, very well many more of you do too!

What Should be in a Woman’s Wardrobe?
Well this obviously varies dependent on your lifestyle and where you live, but I hope to have a basis here with my staples. I do feel that everything in your closet should feel right on you. This does not equal comfortable. Often comfortable goes the way of stretched out elastic, baggy knits and clothes that are decades past their prime. Well-made clothing often assists you in standing up straighter and feeling more feminine and attractive. Knits can do this too, but sweatpants cannot. Have clothes that fit you, match your personality and don’t make you scratch and itch and adjust all day.

Where Can I Find Extended Calf Boots?
Lots of companies like J. Crew and Naturalizer are offering extended calf, but if you wear heels or play sports these may end up feeling like the regular-calf size. I have found fashion-forward styles in wider widths at Torrid and Silhouettes, though do know most are not actual leather. Wide Widths is an awesome site that takes many of the brands of extended calf boots and puts them in one place. Not only that, they tell you the circumference in inches so before ordering, you can know if they will be the right fit. I have very large calves and found styles that were too large for my sturdy legs! This site has great selection AND great customer service. When I had to return a pair that wasn’t quite right, I called their toll-free number and spoke to a wonderful, knowledgeable woman who helped me with returning the boots and suggested alternative styles without pressuring me to buy. Love this company!

When is the Best Time to go on a Cruise to the Bahamas?

Loved seeing this on my stat counter! I think it’s because I went on one in January and it showed up on Google. I can tell you, January was perfect. The weather was delightful, and it was a nice break from the dreary weather of the East Coast. No hurricanes, no sweltering temperatures… I would definitely do it again at that time of the year. And if you want to know what to wear you can visit my cruise post here, or my post about a beach holiday or traveling.

What is a Good Eyeshadow Primer?

I have been looking for this for years. I read to put your foundation on your lids, don’t put your foundation on your lids. Use concealer, don’t use concealer. I have tried a few products finding them irritating, greasy, drying, ineffective. Then I tried Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion. Amazing stuff, makes me shadow last through boogying on the dance floor, sweating through a Washington DC summer, crying at a wedding and I even went to sleep one night with my makeup still on and woke with perfect eyes. How amazing is that? Worth the money in my opinion.

Where Can I Find Plus Sized Belts?

Belts were hot the past couple of seasons and this trend is not going anywhere any time soon. Belts look great on women with curves – they add definition and a waist and jazz up your basic knits and solids already residing in your closet. For accessories like belts, I adore Torrid – they may seem a bit young or trendy at first glance, but often have basics built for curvy women, not linebackers. Each season they have an extensive collection of belts – solids, prints, hip belts, ones with stretch. Don’t expect high-grade leather, but do expect to find your size and an accessory that will update your wardrobe.

What’s the Must-have Accessory for Fall?
I am the worst person to ask this, for I believe there is no “must-have” item if you are over the age of 18. One could say this is the year of the flat, but if you have thick legs, you would look far more chic with a bit of a heel. Belts are all the rage, but if you carry the majority of your weight in your midsection, a belt may accentuate the negative, not add curves and create a positive. Clutches are hot, but not when you’re trying to carry books, a laptop, snacks for the little ones, a water bottle or other necessities of many women.

One thing that could be a good thing to buy this year if you are in need is a new winter coat. This season is full of great colors, textures, details like puff sleeves, unique collars and beautiful buttons. Many seasons show boring basics, so when a season features great pieces like this year, it’s a good time to invest in the perfect coat. I think wool coats that hit between the hip and knee are the most versatile and elegant – save the parkas and anoraks for the ski slope.

Where Can I Find Stylish Sunglasses at Reasonable Prices?
Now, if you can afford a pair of Chanel shades, then by all means indulge. My mom has Fendi sunglasses because they are prescription and her insurance made them the same price as the generic brands. However if you aren’t this rich or lucky, you can still be chic. I think sometimes the best sunglasses are the ones found in the most random of locations.

This summer I sported traditional silver aviator sunglasses that were picked up at a mall kiosk for less than $10. This spring I had some cute pink metal and lens oversized aviators that were $16.99 and last summer had a great pair found on clearance at Target for $9.40. My friend has sunglasses that people think are designer that she found at White House/Black Market and my sister always grabs a pair of big black plastic frames at end of the year sales in shops like Ann Taylor Loft. Sunglasses do not have to be purchased in a sunglasses shop – these days almost every place in the mall has a few pairs. Try a few on, ask strangers for their honest opinion, and if you are in need go shopping now for all stores are putting their summer items on sale!

Tuesday: Rolling Stone

Blazer: Limited (similar) | Tank: Ann Taylor | Pants: Ann Taylor (similar, though found these recently on the clearance rack) | Shoes: Boutique 9 | Silver cuff and charms on chain

When Karl saw my outfit today he said I looked like a journalist for Rolling Stone. Don’t know if it’s the glasses, the faux leather pants, or what but I’ll take it!

I mentioned yesterday I got new glasses and here they are! They are from Lafont, their Issy & La collection, the style is called “Gloss” and this is the tortoise version (it comes in a few other colors, LOVE the black print ones!). I had a LivingSocial deal for MyEyeDr so that’s where I headed when I decided i just HAD to get my prescription updated. While I haven’t bought glasses since 2004, I have had contacts since then and have had that prescription updated, but the last time was… oh gosh around Emerson’s birth? I can’t even remember. Too long. Anyway, life is so much prettier! The stars last night were amazing, and I could see the moon out the window from my pillow. I also feel taller; I told my coworker that and he said his wife (who is also petite) feels the same way when she got new glasses. My new contacts are ready for pickup today, but I think I’ll be wearing glasses for a bit… I like the change. So much I ordered a five pair at-home try on from Warby Parker… you all know how much I love accessories!

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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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.

Age is But a Number

Age is but a number.

Really people, it is. It’s not a euphemism that allows adults to wear Care Bear shirts and skip across the parking lot to Starbucks, but it isn’t a steadfast bar where you have to adjust your life to fit it.

I spent my lunch in Borders, pouring over fashion magazines while enjoying an iced coffee. Bazaar (which ya’ll know is one of my very favorite fashion magazines) had an article about Diane von Furstenberg (who is one of my very favorite designers).

Diane von Furstenberg is 60, beautiful, sexy and confident. She shows skin, wears her hair long, attends interviews with a face free of makeup and wears garments many would say should be reserved for her younger clients.

All of this, yet the woman exudes amazing style, confidence and class. Why? She isn’t adhering to a number, but to her self. She knows what works and what doesn’t by having a good relationship with her body and her mind. She doesn’t feel that since she hit a certain age bracket she now needs to dress in Chanel suits and sensible heels. Look at the pictures above – that is not “typical” attire for a woman in her 60s yet on von Furstenberg, it is perfect and stylish.

My friend is 29 and used to be a manager of a Talbots store. She was always amazed at the type of people who bought the different styles of clothing the company carried. It was as though once a woman hit 40, she felt as though she must own a pair of cropped capris with embroidered palm trees all over them. Pink polo shirts, quirky capris and uber-comfortable conservative slides and sandals seemed to be the expected uniform of that age, especially if she had children. She would suggest alternatives that seemed to fit the person’s figure and personality better – soft knits, shirtdresses, stronger colors but they usually refused, saying they were too old for anything but the standard conservative prep uniform.

Now for some, this look is cute and appropriate. However for most, it is stupid and well… corny. It’s the same with the over-50 set who feels she is now expected to dress completely in the Chico’s Travelers collection. The closet is full of slinky black pieces that drape all over, pulled together with an artistic and bold necklace or hip belt. Again, fabulous look on some, but totally wrong on many.

When my mom was growing up, she remembered very specific styles that every female HAD to have in her closet. A charcoal piped blazer, a circle skirt, a pencil skirt, a tucked in white blouse. All pieces that looked horrific on her petite curvy frame. Luckily, style is not so rigid anymore, and one can truly walk a mall (or surf the Internet) and find pieces that fit one’s personal style AND figure.

Age-appropriate dressing usually has to do with how much skin you are exposing. The thing is, a 55-year old woman who is a marathon runner and yoga enthusiast can better carry off a little silk sundress and strappy heels than a 21-year old woman who has a few more curves. A curvy woman in her 20s often has firmer arms and décolletage than a woman in her 40s, and then can more easily carry off a strapless top with a plunging neckline. So it’s not as much about how much skin you are showing, but what type of skin you are showing.

In my 20s, I was less concerned with my torso showing and often wore tops that hit right at the waistband. However I was less comfortable with my upper body and chose short sleeves over straps and wore higher necklines so not to expose any cleavage. I wore looser pants feeling that my bum was too round, and never wore skirts for thinking my legs were too thick. Now in my 30s, I wear lower necklines to elongate my body and accentuate my curves; I love skirts and dresses because they show off my feminine shape and find that slimmer fitting jeans make me look smaller and taller. It’s not about changing my wardrobe because I hit a new decade in my life, but changing my wardrobe according to my relationship with my current body, my lifestyle, my career.

There are some style I am drawn to but choose not to wear because of my lifestyle and profession more than my age (gosh if I was independently wealthy I think I may get a Mohawk and re-pierce my nose) but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be worn by anyone. I have a former coworker who is in her 40s. She loves working out and has a great toned body, a short spiky black hairdo, wears a lot of eyeliner, sports a few tattoos and looks amazing in jeans and a ribbed tank. Because of her personality and her lifestyle (musician and makeup artist) it doesn’t look foolish, it doesn’t look as though she is attempting to be younger, she seems comfortable in her skin and expressing her personality. I have an old college friend who is the opposite. She is 30 years old, wears very conservative and subtle attire. She looks at home in knee-length tweed skirts, cashmere turtlenecks, conservative suits and clothes often associated with a teacher or librarian. She is never without her pearls or her classic style of Coach purse and always looks confident, feminine and chic. She works in a conservative field and even in college when we attended frat parties, she arrived in crisp khakis, a button-down shirt and loafers. No one mocked her because this is what made her… well her!

One can be in beautiful clothing yet still not be considered well dressed. One can dress appropriately for her age group, but still look inappropriate. The only way to truly achieve style is to know yourself. A good way is by answering the questions below, then reading them aloud. You may be surprised by your answers…

  • Who is your favorite artist?
  • Why?
  • Who is your favorite musician?
  • Why?
  • Looking at all the colors in a box of Crayola crayons, what color are you drawn to?
  • Why?
  • What wardrobe item from your past do you remember most fondly?
  • Why?
  • What female celebrity’s style do you admire most?
  • Why?
  • Where would you go for a dream vacation?
  • Why?
  • What color did you want to paint your childhood bedroom?
  • Your first residence when you moved out on your own?
  • What is your favorite movie or play?
  • Why?
  • If you had a free weekend, what would you do with it?
  • When you are in a meeting or seminar, do you ever doodle or write during the lecture?
  • If so, what?
  • What is your favorite holiday?
  • Why?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What are the five most important things in your life (things being actual things, people, beliefs, anything)?
  • What item in your current wardrobe makes you feel:
  • Beautiful?
  • Fun?
  • Powerful?
  • Feminine?
  • Boring?
  • Uncomfortable?

You and your best friend could answer these questions and both have completely different answers. Your favorite shopping buddy, the one you always borrow clothes from will most likely have different answers from you. This is why though you may have similar frames and similar tastes, a dress will look great on her but not quite right on you. This is why a dress can seem slutty on one woman, and seem chic on another, even though they are the same age and size.

Take your answers and make them into a paragraph, a short story about you and only you. This is who you are, not who you are trying to portray, who you attempt to be at work, what your social groups expect from you.

Think about a woman you know who you think has great style. Why? Is it just because she accessorizes well, or is it what she accessorizes with? Is it the clothing, or the combination of clothing and her shape and personality? Often times, we are attracted to those who have style that is flattering to their figure, but also their personality. We admire the woman at church who always seems so feminine and pulled together. She wears soft colors and fabrics that match her sweet and gentle demeanor. We admire our hairdresser who wears combat boots, a vintage dress and a blue streak in her hair, yet walks down the street as though she is Grace Kelly. We notice the corporate powerhouse at the intersection on her Blackberry. Her perfect blonde highlights, the expertly tailored gray pantsuit accented by amazing snakeskin heels. Her whole demeanor exudes confidence and strength. Imagine what they would write in their short story, and think how your appearance is assisting you with your story.

Yes, one should respect social norms – don’t attend a wedding in a strapless bright red leather mini dress, don’t attend a cocktail party in cargo shorts, don’t go to a client meeting in flip flops and yoga pants. Also respect your personal beliefs – if you feel that as a woman you should and should not wear certain things, then by of course adhere to that – this is what makes up your personal story. But outside of that, respecting your figure, your lifestyle, your personality… those are the rules to having great style. Just ask Diane von Furstenberg!

Thursday

Brown wood cuffed trousers from Ann Taylor. Blood orange silk knit scoop tank from Banana Republic. Denim blazer from Ann Taylor. Two orange glass chip strands of beads from beachside boutique. Brown snakeskin pumps from Ann Taylor.

Hair is second-day dirty, large barreled curling iron applied in places for piecey/wavy look. No additional product.

Makeup is i.d. Bare Escentuals foundation and concealer. Nars Orgasm blush. Light dusting of Damson shadow from The Body Shop on the lids and under the lash line. lashes curled, lots of MAC X mascara. Thin layer of black Maybelline Ultra Liner liquid liner. Aveda tinted balm in a spicy bronze color on the lips.

Today I am wearing my glasses – dark purple plastic frames from Gucci, a la Lisa Loeb.

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:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
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:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
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.

My Wardrobe Today – Monday

Dress – Muse (last year)
TightsNordstrom
BootiesMiss Sixty
Necklace – Ann Taylor (no longer available)

Nope, that’s not my bra shining through the dress – dress is black ponte with a black lining and underneath is a black bra.  In the 30 seconds I allot each morning for the photo, my mom and I didn’t have time to figure out how to get the flash to NOT bounce off my boobs!

And you can see a bit more of the “art gallery” which is my house.  In a previous post, a reader asked about the painting of fruit at the bottom of my stairs.  It was painted by a very dear friend, and that is a temporary place.  We think we have a better place for it upstairs.  We currently have black frames with white matting in the stairwell, random sizes, styles, and photos.  The plan is to have that extend down the stairs and it will fit  in where that painting currently resides. 

The little piece in the gold frame above the glass curio cabinet was done by my maternal grandfather – he was a painter, and this piece is one of my favorites.  It’s a pastel on velvet and really lovely.  The larger work that is near the bar for the kitchen was done by my father in law’s college roommate – a popular local artist named Harry Richardson.  we have several of his pieces throughout the home.

We have never purchased art for our walls because we have so many pieces that are gifts or inherited.  My maternal grandfather and my husband’s paternal grandfather were/are artists, my cousin, my mom, and my husband’s uncle are all artists, and then my father-in-law’s friend and one of our best friends are painters.  Then add photographs by my husband and his father to the mix… well we have stacks of works in frames in our office waiting for the right place to be hung!  Six months from now, the whole layout could end up being completely different! :)

Inside Our Home – Our Bedroom

Many moons ago I said I would be featuring photos of my home. And then work got busy, my life got busy, and a tree fell through our bedroom. Well finally we got the bedroom back in order, and I captured a few images of it to share with you. This room is still a work in progress – we have more art we want on the walls, are in search of the perfect rug to fit the space, and still need to go through all the boxes under the bed that we inherited when my husband’s dad passed away. Even so, this is my favorite room in the house:

I bought this bed from IKEA in 1998 when I left college; I have been toying with painting it another color but can’t decide what shade.  The dresser on the left is from Hood College – when they replaced their dorm furniture my husband’s grandfather (who was a professor there) grabbed it; when my husband’s parents divorced my father in law got this chest for his new home’s bedroom. It was his bedside table for the almost 20 years he lived alone, when he passed away my husband took it for his nightstand.  My nightstand was my husband’s bureau from his childhood bedroom.  Curtains are from Target – we had this room created and painted while I was on bedrest for pregnancy; I bought the curtains on clearance online hoping they would be a gray that would complement the wallcolor, I couldn’t believe they were an exact match!

The cedar chest has been in my mom’s family for a long time; it stores my husband’s sweaters.  The quilt is from Overstock.  The two paintings on the wall are of my husband and his father, painted by his grandfather in the ’80s.

My nightstand – I always have a bottle of water, a couple of journals to write my random thoughts, and a book (I have been trying to get through Eating Animals for what feels like a lifetime – I won’t replace it from the nightstand until it is finished!).  The picture in the silver frame is one of my favorites of me and my husband – we even used it as the photo on the water bottles we passed out at our wedding!  Under it is a jewelry box that belonged to my husband’s grandmother.  The books next to it are old diaries of mine and Emerson’s baby book – by keeping it near the bed I remember to fill it out every so often.  The photo cube was a gift from an old coworker, the picture showing is of me and my dad at my high school graduation.  My cousin made the stained glass pencil holder, and the teddy bear is “Tina,” my teddy from childhood.  The framed record?  That’s my dad and his first wife on the cover – his friend was the photographer and needed models… some props and a red filter later and two Jews from Brooklyn became gypsies!

My husband’s nightstand – he’s always in the middle of 50 different books.  Right now he’s obsessing over The Devil in the White City, which was recommended by a neighbor.  The reading lamp belonged to his father.  The lampshades are from the Liberty of London for Target collection – I bought them back when the whole room was in shades of blue and gray.  I loved them so much I started decorating around them!

When we inherited many of the contents of my father in law’s house, we got his record collection.  Eight of these are ones from his collection that my husband remembers listening to (and loving) as a kid; the one in the lower left corner is Peter Frampton – my husband saw him in concert a couple years ago and was able to meet him and get his signature on the album.

The duvet and shams are from Marimekko for Crate and Barrel, the print body pillows and red sheets are from Target, the paisley pillowcase is from Lands End – we have the whole set (back from the original color scheme of the bedroom).

My dressing table is the bureau mirror and the desk from my husband’s childhood bedroom.  The bench is from the Shabby Chic collection from Target, the lamp is also from Target (both must be at least a decade old).

My dressing table is my little domain – my perfumes, my makeup (in the drawer organized in boxes), all my brushes in a coffee mug from my sorority days, pictures that mean a lot to me (framed picture of me and my sister as kids and me with my mom on our cruise to Bermuda in ’98, and then a photo of my husband the summer before I met him – reminds me of when we were high school kids).  I also have a vase full of perfume samples – when I was in high school we visited a family friend who had a fishbowl full of them in her hallway bath – I was inspired and have been casually collecting since.  Not sure what to do with them yet, but figure when I have amassed quite the collection I will do something crafty and fabulous!

The top of my husband’s dresser.  The glass bottles and the leather box belonged to my dad, the box still contains some of my dad’s cufflinks, tie tacks, and coins from trips to foreign countries.  The lacquer box was a gift from a friend who was stationed overseas.  The small Buddha statue I made in Sunday school back as a preteen – it has been through quite a lot, you can see it has had its head break off numerous times; I still find it to be good luck.  Tucked in the mirror is my husband’s really dreadful fake ID from high school – I found it while cleaning out his dad’s house and it just cracks me up so much!  The photos to the left are of my husband, and then me and my sister.  The picture in the frame is from our friend’s rehearsal dinner – we found out the next morning that we were pregnant.  It’s the last picture taken of us before we became a family and a great memory of an amazing time in our life.

This bookcase is the top of a hutch we inherited from my father in law – we have the bottom part in the living room as our entertainment center.  I don’t really like it in here, but am not sure where to put it elsewhere in the house.  As you can see, this has really become a catchall of randomness – books too tall for the bookcases in the living room and office, photos yet to be placed in albums (which is pretty much the past three years), CDs that we never listen to but can’t bear to get rid of, cigar boxes filled with odds and ends and change.  The statue my husband got me as a gift when he was in St. Maarten, the cameras we inherited from my father in law who was a photographer.

The frames behind everything on top of the bookcase used to hang in our old bedroom but they look weird in this larger space – the one behind the cameras are pictures of me and my husband in front of the Eiffel Tower in 1999, the one in the center has pictures of me with my mom and sister in Italy, the one on the far left are three pictures of my husband in front of Niagara Falls from our three trips there over the past two decades.

The chair… it is the BEST Freecycle score!  It’s the IKEA EKTORP chair and storage ottoman, we got it with shrinkwrap still on it, as well as two more  slipcovers.  When we went to pick up the chair, my husband commented on the woman’s new composters sitting next to her garage – she said she was going to Freecycle them as well so we took them!  I am forever in debt to the Freecycle Gods for these scores, and regularly give back to the Freecycle community.

A view from the back wall of the room to the entrance to the master bedroom.  The door to the left is the master bathroom, the door to the right is our closet.  You can see my jewelry armoire, above it is a shadow frame of our wedding invitation with flowers from the day – my best friend made it for us.  The two framed images next to the door are sand art that my father in law got when he was on a trip to New Mexico – one was a gift for us, the other was his that we inherited.

The view from the main windows (we have two on the back wall and one to the right of the dressing table).  If you sit in the chair you can see a view of beautiful treetops, from the bed you can see the sun rise through the trees.  The stained glass I made back in college.  The glass horse is one of two bookends from my husband’s childhood home (there is one on each sill).

There is still much work to do on this room – we have a huge painting from my husband’s grandfather that we need to pick up from his house – we plan to put it over the chair.  We have many concert posters we want to frame and hang up as well.  Slowly we are feathering our nest!

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Little Bits of Luxury: Sunglasses

If I tallied up all I spent on sunglasses from Target, street vendors, and clearance sales I could probably buy a few pairs of designer shades. I could never justify spending more than $25 for a pair of sunglasses if they were just going to break or get lost before the summer was through. However, as I got older I learned that caring for items, no matter their pricetag, made them last longer and look better.

Truck stop sunglasses on me, and on the original owner

A few years ago on the way down to a music festival, Karl bought a pair of silver mirrored aviators from a truck stop for $5.99. While he looked great in them, I eventually snagged them for my own. Never before had I found a pair of sunglasses to look so right on me or fit my personal style so well. After years and years of black and tortoise plastic frames, I felt at home in an oversized metal aviator. But as it happens with most cheapy sunglasses, these HG frames started chipping, the mirror finish cracked, and in a couple months of TLC they looked as though they had several years under their belt protecting the eyes of a biker babe.

RB3026 in gold/green, gold/amber, and black/black

Perusing sunglasses at the mall, I came upon the oversized 62mm Ray-Ban aviators, RB3026. Almost the exact same size and shape as the truck stop pair, but far better made. And lighter weight. And more comfortable on the nose and around the ears. Though 35x more expensive. I splurged… and it was one of the best splurges I ever made. I still wear and love those sunglasses, and since then have found two pairs in other finishes via eBay for far less. Karl and I share sunglasses, and we both baby them by keeping them in their case, cleaning them with a chamois, and not letting them bake or freeze in the car. Though I babied the truck stop shades in a similar manner, cheap construction and materials still had them falling apart too soon.

Choosing a classic style means I won’t feel the need to get new sunglasses when trends change; in fact I have made these sunglasses part of my signature look and could see myself wearing them for many years to come. And by needing fewer pairs, I will likely save a bundle in the long run!

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My Wardrobe Today – Friday

Sweater – BCBG c/o Nordstrom Rack
Tee – LOFT
Jeans - NYDJ
Shoes - Miss Sixty “Jaiden”
Bracelets – Mix of eBay and Ann Taylor
Earrings - Claire’s Boutique
Bag – Banana Republic

When was the last time you saw me in glasses? Going through my archives it seems as though it was 2006. And folks, I have had these glasses since at least 2004, if not earlier. Same prescription too.Needless to say, they are scratched, stretched out, keep falling off and are giving me a headache.  But this bug I have had decided to leave my body through my eyes and there’s no way I am going to put contacts in there.  Grody.

I am still sick, but no fever and the brain fog has lifted somewhat.  Figure come Monday I will be 100%.  Hope the weather is as well, for I have a fab new pair of shoes that are begging to be worn!

A BIG thanks goes out to reader Amanda. I had broken the heel on my Miss Sixty heels when I went to the DC Sip & Swap a couple months ago. Went to two different shoe repair places, one said it would cost $85 to repair, another said it wasn’t worth it. While I get many a comment on the blog that I don’t have the legs to wear such booties, I love them. They must look better IRL because I get many compliments when I wear them, and I love how I can run in them, they are so comfortable.

Well a week ago, Amanda hit me up on Twitter and informed me that my beloved Miss Sixty Jaidens were on Gilt for $69! Not only cheaper than what the cobbler quoted me, but cheaper than every pair I had been stalking on eBay (and none of them were my size). I ordered, and they arrived a couple days later. I came home to the box, was so excited, tried them on… and they didn’t fit.

I tried the next morning… they didn’t fit.

I tried them that weekend… they fit but were a tight squeeze. I wore them while watching TV for about 45 minutes. The next night, I wore them for an hour. Last night I put them on and they fit just like my old pair did when I first got them – a bit snug, but in a good way. No pinching, no rubbing. The leather is really soft, so I know with wear they will end up like my old ones!

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Ask Allie: Fashion Advice for a Petite SAHM

Dear Allie,
I am currently rocking the awful “mom” look aka yoga pants and huge t-shirts and I am so over it! Could you direct me to a few classic pieces to start my wardrobe? I am a stay at home mom with two under two, so I need a practical look. I live in Ohio where the weather is always changing. I am very petite (5’ and less than 100 lbs). I also have trouble finding comfortable shoes that look stylish and fit my size 5 feet. Any advice?
- Megan

Dear Megan,
I am so glad you realize that one can be an active mom while maintaining style. I recently wrote an article on Savings.com about new mom fashion, but will offer some basics that should get you on track without looking like a mom, or like a college student:

Dark Straight Jeans
A dark straight jean is classic, can be worn any season of the year, looks more polished than lighter washes, and doesn’t need a fancy label to look chic. Having a straight leg means this jean should work with most any length or style of top in your wardrobe – simple tanks and tees, longer tunics, blazers and cardigans, blouses tucked in or left untucked. Add a bit of spandex so that you won’t be showing your undergarments or cutting into your stomach when crawling on the floor after your little one.

The Lee Slender Secret 5-pocket Jean is a classic style that is great for women who may have a bit of that baby pooch still left. Oprah recently rated them as a top jean, and reviews state that these jeans in petite are not needing of hemming for those who are 5’ tall. $29.99



Levi’s 512 jean is a straight, classic style that is made for a woman’s shape. Their Perfectly Slimming 512 Jean has the Lycra to keep your body looking smooth, and giving you the flexibility you need to keep up with your children. Again, this jean is rated great for the really petite woman – they run short so you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg on alterations. $40.00

A Versatile Trench
When the weather is chilly one day, hot the next, and rainy the third it’s hard to be prepared. A simple trench or mac in a water-resistant fabric that is lined will keep you looking stylish yet comfortable on those in-between days.

The Sunshower Coat from Lands End is a favorite – it’s a classic style, breathable, and wrinkle-resistant. Lands End is known for their quality and service so you know you will get a great piece that will give you years of wear. Khaki is a safe bet, but a more memorable color like their Wine Grape will look great with neutrals, make your skin glow, and will give you a sunnier outlook on the day, even if the sky is cloudy. $99.50

Macy’s Style&Co brand offers great style for a reasonable price. This double-breasted trench has a shorter length that won’t dwarf your petite frame, and the soft sage color will look great with neutrals, but be a fresh change from beige and black outerwear. $79.00

Solid-colored Seasonally-appropriate Tops
Toss the oversized tees and stiff striped button-downs. It’s easy to be comfortable, get dressed in an instant yet look great if you have an arsenal of flattering, well-fitting knits in your size and colors you adore. Wash on the gentle cycle, line dry and these pieces can give you years of great wear. Look for pieces with 5% spandex or more – they will be more likely to keep their shape, not need to be ironed, and maintain their color longer than 100% cotton tops. For winter, I love merino wool because it acts like a knit in keeping its shape and flattering the figure, and can also be washed on the gentle cycle.

Ann Taylor LOFT is a fave of many petite women thanks to their extensive collection, reasonable prices, and truly petite sizing. Their Petite Twisted Boatneck Tee is a fashionable version of the comfy tee shirt. The neckline adds drama to a casual day look, and would fantastic under a cardigan or casual twill blazer. Great colors like Balsam Green and Ocean Depths will complement dark denim, khaki, white, gray, and black. $19.50

I love Nordstrom’s Caslon line – great wardrobe basics of great quality. The petite Caslon Ballet Neck Tee is a feminine and flattering twist on a simple knit top – the ¾ sleeves make it wearable almost year-round and a scoop neck is lovely on most every woman’s figure. $24.00

A Casual Blazer
A great way to jazz up simple tees and jeans is with a casual blazer. If it’s unlined and has a bit of stretch, it’s as comfortable as a hoodie but with far more polish.



Ann Taylor LOFT’s Petite Urban Twill Blazer is a great choice. The grosgrain trim gives it a unique, higher-end look, and in navy it would go with most any color tank or tee in your closet. $69.99

The striped blazer from Banana Republic would look amazing with neutral tanks, tees, and bottoms. It would also look quite chic with a pop of color underneath – try candy pink, blood orange, or apple green. The standup collar elongates the frame, making you look taller. $149.99

A Trendy Knit
Right now, striped tees are a hot look – this is a great way to add some variety and current fashion to your wardrobe without looking passé in a season. Striped tees look great with a simple denim or twill skirt, under a blazer, with shorts, capris, jeans, and even dressed up with a fuller skirt or with trousers. Add a bit of contrast with a turquoise or coral necklace, or a cardigan in a color like leaf green, tangerine, or yellow.

This black and cream striped boatneck from Lauren by Ralph Lauren isn’t your ordinary tee shirt – the silver buttons and boatneck make it a refined piece that would look great with jeans, and also with a white twill skirt for spring outings. $59.50



I own the Striped Sailor Tee from Ann Taylor and adore it – the scoopneck is flattering, the knit heavy and durable, the epaulets give a bit more style and panache. It comes in three colors. $38.00

A Not-so Little Black Dress
I have a black wrap dress from Old Navy that I bought years ago on clearance. I wear it with leggings and flats around the house, with heels for a wedding or funeral, with tall boots to work. It’s so versatile, and the matte jersey is a fabric that stretches, gives, washes easily, and looks timeless and seasonless.

The Petite Gemma Wrap dress from Banana Republic is a great choice – ¾ sleeves work year round, and a true wrap style means you can cinch the waist for a more custom fit. $98.00



Merona for Target has really come a long way in the past year – the quality has improved immensely, and the style is quite on-trend yet classic. The Merona Petite Faux Wrap Knit Dress is a great choice – the empire waist hides any post-baby pooch, and makes it dress up or down with ease. $20.98

Shoes
It often impossible to find size 5 footwear in stores, however the selection is pretty impressive online. Sites like Nordstrom and Zappos have a great selection of smaller sizes that are still stylish and comfortable. I recommend investing in:

  • A sandal with a low wedge heel (more comfortable than heels, able to wear with shorts or with a dress).  The “Amber” wedge-heel sandals from Munro is a great summer choice – uber comfortable, thin elegant straps, will look great with skirts and dresses of all lengths, as well as shorts, trousers, and cropped pants. Munro is known for comfort and quality – these shoes should be wearable even for a day of sightseeing or a trip to Disney World. $179.95
  • A pair of ankle boots you can slip on with jeans and a sweater (low heel, brown or black depending on your wardrobe – more versatile than flats as that they can dress up and also be waterproofed for rainy days).  The “Wisteria” by Merrell has a wedge heel which is comfortable when standing or walking for a long period of time, but can still be paired with casual trousers. They get great reviews for comfort. $140.00
  • A pair of tall riding boots (wear with dresses, over jeans and you will be amazed how they will transform wardrobe basics into something stylish – waterproof them for more versatility).  These riding boots from La Canadiene are so classic – waterproof Italian leather, moisture-wicking lining, memory foam insole, low heel, elegant styling. These are boots you buy now and will still be wearing a decade from now. $256.00
  • A pair of simple black leather pumps for those times when you do need to dress up (they work with pants, dresses, and even with your dark jeans for a Date Night or drinks with your girl friends).  The Nuncio pump from Nine West is a classic pump that will look elegant year-round and years from now. 2.5” heel, elongated toe, and available in narrow and wide widths. $69.95

For additional petite inspiration, check out:

How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

The best accessory I acquired in the past decade was getting out of credit card debt.

My Experience:
When I worked in retail, I found it far too easy to shop. I was spending at least 45, usually closer to 65 hours a week at a mall. Lunch hours were spent strolling through other shops, sipping on an overpriced coffee drink, or treating myself to a very nice lunch at a nearby restaurant. As a personal shopper and visual merchandiser, I felt I had to be a perfect example of style and current fashion and made sure to have the latest shoes, makeup, accessories and always a perfect professional manicure, pedicure, haircut and highlights. When our shop was thisclose to making the day’s sales goal, they could always count on me to purchase something from the new line to get us over the hump.

When I left working at Express, they gave me my associate purchase logs. In one year, after my employee discounts, I had purchased $7,000.00 worth of their clothing. When I maxed out my Express card, I opened a Structure card and used that (hey it was the late ‘90s/early ‘00s when Structure still existed). When I maxed that out, I found out that I could use my Limited or Victoria’s Secret cards and shop at Express. I won’t even go into details about the major credit cards I used for salon treatments, binges at Sephora or Nordstrom, and many a steak salad at the Nordstrom Café.

As women, we are constantly attacked by media telling us to spend, spend, spend. The dress that will get you the guy. The moisturizer that will make you look ten years younger. The bag you must have this season. The five or ten or hundred items every woman must have in her wardrobe. And then of course, the purchases you need so that you can be as lovely as Anne or Mila or Kate. Magazines like Lucky are completely geared towards assisting women on shopping, while glossies such as Vogue and W bring couture to Middle America, encouraging everyone to feel that they too need a fancy label on their dress to be special.

As you know, I love fashion. I love clothing. I find it to be a great way to express your personality, your individuality, your passions. Fashion can also help you feel more confident and more beautiful. But no garment is worth falling into debt. A woman cannot be strong if her finances are crumbling around her.

So how do you achieve personal style while sticking to your budget?

When I got to the point where I was fearing every telephone call, thinking it was a debt collector, I knew I had to make a major change – FAST. For me, it was changing careers. I had to get away from that which was causing the debt – easy access to current fashion. However I still had mountains of debt and wasn’t willing to sacrifice style along the way.

This was when I started understanding wardrobe staples. Pieces slowly collected that could multitask and make a woman ready for any event in her life. I looked at women I knew as stylish and really examined their wardrobes. They didn’t own a lot of clothes, they seemed to wear the same things over and over. And those clothes they wore were perfect. They were well tailored, high quality, flattering. Few prints, few trendy details. Classics like cashmere turtlenecks, crisp dark jeans, white tailored shirts, simple sheath dresses, elegant black leather pumps, simple pencil skirts. They would add their own look to these staples with accessories like scarves, bold jewelry, and belts.

I thought back to the exchange students we hosted when I was in high school – how they could survive weeks in another country with just a small suitcase of clothing. Even with their small wardrobes, they were ready for any event in the US. Their wardrobes were of simple pieces that mixed and matched with one another – pieces of similar fabrics, colors, and silhouettes so they made a true collection.

I looked in my own closet – spangled knit tops to wear out to clubs that still had tags on them, a dozen cocktail dresses, four pairs of leather pants (and one pair bright red!), three pairs of tall black boots, over 20 pairs of jeans. Who the heck needs 20 pairs of jeans?

I obviously had plenty of clothes at that time, and really tried to make do with what I had. My new job required me to wear all black, so when I didn’t have the right item in my wardrobe, I stalked sale racks until I could find what worked at the lowest price. I often bought in bulk – who cares if you’re wearing the same black pants every day as long as they are clean and fit well?

Over time, I got a grip on my finances, but realized yet another new profession and a changing figure required me to shop again. I decided to keep those stylish women and my exchange students in mind. I looked through my closet with fresh eyes and decided to purge. Gone were all the spangled club tops, the evening gowns, and any clothes that didn’t fit and flatter my current frame.

However for purchasing, I needed to figure out a budget so I wouldn’t get back into a financial mess. Before I went shopping, I took a month or two to look at where my money went, and what were my priorities. Thanks to my sister who is the Excel Spreadsheet Queen, I started tracking where all my money went – that pack of gum, that latte, that issue of Marie Claire. I didn’t just note how much I spent on groceries, but what exactly I purchased. I saw that a lot of my money went to food – dining out, alcohol, and purchasing items at the grocery store that I don’t really need (hello another lip gloss) or that I can’t afford (artisanal cheeses, sushi, out of season produce). I decided to adjust my current spending before shopping to see what I could cut and still lead what I felt to be a joyful and comfortable life.

Only then, could I figure out my fashion budget. Some months, I spent that money. Other months, I saved it up so I could get something really special. I stuck to my list of essentials, and decided I would only buy fun items when I got a work bonus, birthday cash, special events. This way, I not only stayed on budget but I was even more careful with my money and those special items not only were nice to buy, but had special meaning behind them.

Each woman’s budget will be different, but it is important to first pay yourself before you do any shopping. Pay off your debt, save and invest your money. Prepare for the unexpected. Yes, a great pair of shoes can make your day, help you land a job or perfect your wardrobe but shoes won’t pay the rent if you get laid off. Shoes won’t buy you a new car when yours dies on the side of the highway. Shoes won’t give you independence and freedom.

If your budget is small, that’s actually a good thing. Small wardrobe funding requires one to do homework to find the best quality for the price, to really get to know one’s body and lifestyle and only purchase that which makes sense. Keep your wardrobe small, hard-working, classic, elegant.

Tips to Stay on Budget:

  • Have a Life Budget. No point in having a clothing budget if you are blowing your paycheck already on other items. That being said, have priorities. Clothing is probably higher on my priority list than the list of many other women. Each woman is different – some budget for world travel, some budget for books, some budget for art supplies, some budget for home renovations. It’s important to first be true to you – prioritize and then figure out where fashion fits.
  • Make a List, Check it Twice. If you have an actual written list that you carry with you, you’re less likely to get off track when you hit the mall.
  • Do Your Homework. You need a black suit? Go to the mall, try on brands, and then go home. Research online for coupons, deals, maybe the same item on eBay or in a thrift or vintage store. Never accept full price unless it is absolute perfection, absolutely necessary, and still fits your budget.
  • Stay Away from Shopping Triggers. For me, it’s malls. I only visit a major shopping mall once or twice a year because I can get lost in there and leave hundreds poorer. Maybe for you it’s Target (can always justify another tee or a $19.99 sundress but it adds up), possibly an adorable boutique in your neighborhood or maybe it’s Net-a-Porter. Whatever it is, accept your trigger and control your visits. Schedule them according to seasons – maybe only allow one visit each season, or maybe once a month.
  • Cancel the Magazine Subscriptions. I am a magazine-aholic, but I know that when I read them, I end up shopping more. Magazines do a great job of making items look amazing, and seem necessary. The most recent Vogue made me spend an hour of my life looking for a certain Brahmin bag – something I don’t need, can’t afford, but loved upon first sight. I did stop before purchasing, but if I hadn’t received that magazine, I would have never known about that orange bag and would have still lived a happy and stylish life. For some, it may be fashion blogs instead of magazines – even if it’s my blog that encourages you to shop, unsubscribe and just visit maybe once a month or every other week.
  • Play “Which Would You Rather.” Sally McGraw of Already Pretty often hosts a “sudden death” question on her Facebook page – which would you rather do – wear only white for a year, or wear your high school colors for a year, and only your school colors. It’s a good exercise for shopping – which would you rather have – that It Bag, or a sushi and sake date night with your mate once a month for a year? Which would you rather own – the perfect pair of black leather pumps, or six pairs of sandals from Payless? Which is more important, your morning Starbucks, or a pair of riding boots? Break down the price of the item and compare it to other items in your life.
  • Get Creative. No one knows you’re wearing the same black pants every day if you switch it up. One day, wear with a tucked-in blouse, the next day with a blazer and shell. Another day wear a cardigan over them and belt the cardigan to change the silhouette. Use your small wardrobe as a brain teaser – who needs Sudoku when you can take the dozen or so quality pieces in your wardrobe and make dozens of outfits from them.

A woman should get fitted for a new bra every year. She should have the perfect LBD in her wardrobe to be ready for unexpected social events. And she should be able to sleep well at night, knowing full well what is going on with her finances. The best accessory I acquired was getting out of debt – the best accessory any woman can wear is self-confidence, and confidence comes from being true to one’s self, feeling strong, and being financially solvent.



Be sure to check out the first of my How to Shop Series: An Introduction

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Special Events and Excursions: The Beach Holiday

Yes, you have built your standard wardrobe that will take you from work to the grocery store to happy hour and maybe a wedding, funeral or baby shower thrown in. Now what do you wear for those other moments?

Beach Trip

I just came back from a girl’s getaway to the shore. I realized by looking at the other women on the sand, in the bars, at the restaurants that many do not know how to pack for the beach or a vacation. I was aware of this on my last jaunt to Costa Rica where I stayed at a resort full of improperly dressed ladies.

The beach is hot. It is often humid. It is not the tidiest of places; sand and salt air wreak havoc on your hair, your skin, your pedicure and many fabrics. Unless you are a celebrity or having a holiday at a very posh resort, this is not the vacation for silks and chiffon. For most of us, a beach weekend is tromping to the sand with umbrella, blanket, chairs, toys for the kids, huge tote and possibly a diaper bag in tow. Dinner is often seafood in a place where tablecloths are replaced by brown paper. Evening events are often at a bar where the floor is made of concrete. Hotels or rental houses usually do not have laundry service.

I recommend easy clothes that allow the body to breathe yet look sassy.

- Skirts.
You cannot go wrong with a skirt. Be it a denim mini, a gathered knee length piece of floral cotton, a calf-length sarong, skirts let you breathe, are gentle to sun and wind burned skin, look festive and pack up nicely. Again, this is not the place to bring out your shantung ballskirt or your chiffon overlay bias cut piece with beading. Even “dressy” affairs in this atmosphere are a bit more relaxed. Go for cotton, linen, lightweight denim or canvas, chino, rayon challis. This weekend I took a denim jean-style short skirt I picked up at Old Navy for a steal. This skirt became a beach coverup, a comfy thing to slide over my slightly burned thighs for brunch and looked sassy with a tank and funky necklace for an evening concert at a club. My friend had a gauzy drop waist gathered skirt that fell just below her knees. She wore it once with a ribbed tank and flops for a daytime brunch, and later with an off the shoulder top and chandelier earrings for a dressier event.

- Tanks. You may hate your arms, you may think your bust is too big or too small. You are uncomfortable in more fitted clothing. Well at the beach, it’s not an issue. Planning for a beach trip I become overly conscious of how pale I am, how much I have gained, how large my belly is, how saggy my breasts are… and once I am there I realize how silly I was to worry. Women are there in all shapes, colors and sizes in various levels of undress. The ones you notice are not those whop have bad bodies, but those who have bad posture and bad fashion sense. That being said, you deserve to be comfortable. Tanks are a wonderful choice. Be it spaghetti strap with the built in bra, a ribbed “wifebeater” style, or something more refined, tanks will take you from sleep to the beach to the nightclub. They go with capris, skirts, jeans and even a towel wrapped around your waist.

And with that notice I did not mention
- Shorts. I think shorts are the most unflattering thing ever created for women over the age of 21. Yes, shorts look positively adorable on a child, or on Jessica Simpson in a music video. However, in real life, adult women never look flattering in shorts. Be you small, tall, with a fabulous figure… shorts are not made for social events. They are made for driving kids to play group, gardening in your yard, working out and playing sports. I know many of you are getting angry reading this. You live in warm climates, the summer gets hot, shorts are comfortable…. Well I want every woman reading this to do an experiment. The next place you are in warm weather I want you to people watch. More specifically, people watch women in shorts. I did this at the beach. Beautiful tanned, lithe bodies around me. Every woman in shorts looked… wrong. Be it one leg hiking up, the shorts causing a mild wedgie, the outfit looking too casual/slutty/grungy for the event, or just that shorts cause bulk in an area that women do not need more bulk. It makes the flattest tummy look a little paunchy. The slimmest thighs a bit heavier. The roundest firmest tush a bit saddlebagged. Short shorts may elongate the leg, but shrink the torso so you look a bit deformed. Longer shorts cut off the body. Tight shorts are restricting, loose shorts add girth. Please, send me a photograph of a woman looking great in shorts in a “normal” situation (no music videos, red carpet walks or Hooters restaurants) and prove me wrong. I would love to be proved wrong, but until then, I highly recommend you keep your shorts for exercise and manual labor, and catch a breeze from a skirt or a pair of capris.

Update: With Bermuda shorts back on the scene, I do feel that these can look quite lovely on ladies with slim, long legs and small hips and thighs. However the best Bermudas are those that are crisp and pressed. This is the antitheses of beach attire so they should be left at home for cookouts, trips to the mall and sightseeing.

And back to what you should bring to the beach….
- Jewelry. I don’t mean diamonds and pearls and feather earrings. I mean something to jazz up an outfit. This last beach trip I brought a strand of chunky wood and tiger eye beads. Wore it with a little tee shirt, previously mentioned denim skirt and flops and looked smashing. I had compliments from both women and men. Without the necklace? I would have faded into the background. Bring that crazy necklace you usually wouldn’t dare to wear. Those hoop earrings that are a bit too big for everyday use. That hip-slung belt you haven’t worn since the last time they were in fashion. Somehow a bit of sun, a cold beer, a gaggle of friends and that lovely salt air will give you the strength and the courage to go a bit more daring. I say go for it! Show some personality to your outfit!

- Flip Flops. Be they the $8 ones from Old Navy, high performance leather ones from Merrell or something in-between, these are a must-have. Not just for trekking over hot sand, flip flops (or thongs, or flops) are the standard footwear. A stacked pair or a beaded pair is totally appropriate for a dinner out. They dry quickly, don’t hold the smell of stale beer and saltwater, and are pretty comfortable for long periods of time on your feet. I do take a pair of nicer heeled sandals on each trip, but usually they don’t leave the suitcase. My favorites are a pair of stacked flops from J.Crew in black. The platform gives them a bit of panache and separates them from the Eckerd Drug peers. They go with everything, are very comfortable between the toes, and hose off at the end of the day.

- A Flattering Bathing Suit (or two!). I don’t care that the fashion is hip-slung bikini bottoms or boy leg shorts or halter tops… the important thing is to have a suit that is flattering and won’t fall off with the next wave. The most flattering suits are usually solid colors. Yes magazines will tell you that strategically placed stripes can fool the eye and prints can make a bust look larger. Honestly, a person can see your body, whether it’s hidden behind hibiscus, a bar code or a swath of black lycra. It is tempting to choose black if you are insecure about your figure. I encourage you to do the opposite. Again, color will not hide anything, it will just act as a mirage from very far away. If you wear a great color, people notice that more than the body around it. Also color looks better on both pale and tanned skin.

There are some very wonderful companies and stores out there to make the bathing suit shopping process less painful. Water Water Everywhere is a year-round swimsuit store in many malls across America that sells separate bottoms and tops for a more expert fit. They also have a multitude of one piece styles. I was able to find a strapless one piece suit for my pre-wedding beach holiday that held up my large breasts, sucked in my tummy a bit and did nice things to my rear. J.Crew sells individual pieces and also carried D cup styles. Lands End has an amazing array of styles, colors and fabrics. My suit from them has held up for three seasons of chlorine, saltwater and even the clothes dryer and still looks brand new. Newport News carries suits in a Long Torso cut – no more ride-ups! Though the department stores may have a huge selection, you rarely get the attention, the flattering lighting or the sizes and cuts you desire. I highly recommend doing your suit shopping in specialty stores or by mail order. It’s much nicer to try on a suit in the comfort of your own home with a mirror you trust.

Get what you like, not necessarily what you feel you have to wear because of your shape or what fashion magazines show. A tip: skirts on suits do not cover up your legs. A short flippy skirt can look quite sassy and retro, but the longer skirts do similar things to what shorts do for a woman – they make you look bigger than you are. You may think you need to wear a skirted suit due to age or size, but I disagree. These types of suits make you look older and heavier than you need to, or really do look.

Look for a lined suit (Less likely to show things you don’t want to when wet. Also holds in a bit like control top hose), a suit that supports the breasts (Underwire is often available in suits. Look for soft cups, strong straps, back straps to assist with this.), a suit in a fun and flattering color (I am partial to red, various blues and aquas and leaf green), and a suit that works with your body type, doesn’t fight it (one should not look naked, like a sausage, saggy or lumpy in your suit).

- A Beach Coverup. You have spent time on finding the perfect suit, do not cover it up with an old college tee shirt of your husband’s. Or, gosh forbid, a dreaded pair of shorts where your wet rear drips through and darkens the back. Beach coverups can make you look elegant, slim, stylish, tall, fun or sexy. Luckily cover ups are quite hip right now and there is a great selection out there. Sarongs are great with a bikini. Caftans and their shorter counterparts look amazing over any style of suit and can often go from beach to bistro with ease. These come in sheer organza, cotton or my favorite – a wrinkled gauzy linen-like fabric. Just a hint of transparency, these coverups can be smashed into a beach bag, have a wet towel placed on top of them and can still come out looking great. I have a berry colored one that was actually a dress I purchased a few years ago and thought was too short.

A beach coverup doesn’t have to have a label in it saying “made for coverup use only.” As I did with a too-short dress, you may have items in your closet that already fir the bill. My friend likes to wear a crisp white oxford of her husband’s. She wears large black sunglasses, that and flops and looks like a movie star. My sister has a terry cloth a-line mini skirt. Probably meant for street wear, the color compliments the trim of her favorite bathing suit and looks quite sassy.

- Sunglasses. Gosh this should be a given, but yes, even fashionistas can forget the essentials. I went to the shore sans shades. My sister, the ever prepared fashionista brought two pairs so my contacts did not have to dry out on the beach.

Sunglasses are worn 80% of the time when you are in a sunny locale. Do not get by with those free plastic wanna-be Ray Bans that pharmaceutical companies used to give out – the ones with the neon earpieces with logos screenprinted on to them. Also, one should not wear broken, scratched, obviously dated or unflattering sunglasses. These will be worn more than your bathing suit. This doesn’t mean they need to be expensive, they just need to be worthy of sitting on your face for long periods of time.

A few tips for successful sunglass purchasing:
1. If you can see your temples on either side of your sunglasses (meaning your face) when looking head-first into a mirror, the sunglasses are too small. Nothing can make you look more out of touch with trends and nothing can make your face look wider and fatter than too-small sunglasses. Too large is safer than too small. You know you have seen those women in the tiny black cat-eye sunglasses and they look as though they have borrowed them from their prepubescent daughter.
2. If you are unsure, go with black or tortoise shell. Usually fair skinned folks look better with amber or tortoise plastic shades and darker complexions with black plastic. Do not always adhere to this. I have a very fair skinned friend with strawberry blonde hair that has a huge pair of black sunglasses that look smashing on her. However, if you are shopping alone and clueless, this is a safe rule to follow.
3. Ask the opinions of others. I know what pants looks good on me, I know what haircut will flatter my face, but I am clueless when it comes to sunglasses. I ask a friend, a salesperson, but find the best suggestions from perfect strangers. Strangers seem to be more honest about accessories than clothing when their opinion is asked. I suppose they don’t have to judge your figure or your personality when it comes to sunglasses. The most favored sunglasses of my past were picked out by complete strangers who happened to walk by as I was trying to peer into those incredibly tiny mirrors on the tops of sunglass racks.
4. Don’t be a slave to fashion. Everyone is wearing rhinestone encrusted frames? Doesn’t mean you need to. Fashion is not as cut and dry as it was several decades ago. You can wear all types of things, styles and trends and not look terribly dated or tacky. If anything, trends change so rapidly in this day and age by purchasing a very trendy pair, you will only be able to wear them for 2 weeks before they are considered passe. Think about those frameless sunglasses with the rhinestone heart in the corner. Those were all the rage 4 years ago. Now? Fashion victim.
5. Look places you wouldn’t usually consider. The grocery store, the kiosk at the mall’s food court. Clothing stores that sell clothes you may not usually fit or be caught dead in. My friend has a pair of sunglasses I drool over. Great shape, great color, stylish without being trendy. Fit her perfectly. She got them at a kiosk at the mall, 2 pairs for $10.00. Look so much cooler than the Gucci shades I bought in a drunken stupor the last time I visited Italy.

There are also things you should not take with you on a beach holiday:
1. Evening or going-out purses. A black satin clutch is perfect for a date, a cocktail party, the theater. It is not perfect for the beach. Throw your necessities in a small tote or canvas bag. I prefer to shove my ID, money, lipgloss and gum in my pockets. My dear friend relies on a small backpack. My sister uses a mini L.L.Bean Boat and Toe bag. Like any other event, consider the situation when you dress.
2. Spike heels. Okay, they may look fab with your outfit, but most often you will be on grass, sand, boardwalk or damp concrete. In college there was a bar called the Rendevous Inn. For short we called it the ‘Vous. Well this place was dirty and always had an inch of stale beer on the floor. We girls all owed a pair of shoes we called ‘Vous Shoes for when we visited this watering hole. These were shoes that could handle being hosed down if need be. These are the best kind of shoes for the beach. Flip flops, wedges, sandals. Nothing with beading, sequins, delicate fabrics, spike heels or complicated lacings. You never know when you will want to take a romantic walk on the beach, when a kid may dump a sand pail of water on your foot, or when a drunken frat boy may spill a Corona on your perfect pedicure.
3. Hosiery. Okay, socks for your sneakers are fine. Knee highs, stockings, trouser socks, tights… all are no nos. The only people who wear hosiery at the beach are the waitresses at Hooters.
4. Anything that looks bad when you sweat or get rained on. I own this gorgeous silk top from Ann Taylor Loft. Got it for a steal off their clearance rack. Fits great, flatters my figure, the color is so great with my skin and hair color. Looks good with jeans, with black pants, with a skirt. Even with these amazing facts, I did not pack it for my trip. Why? I wouldn’t want to sweat in that silk top. I would not look cute with damp ringlets and that top. That top does not belong at a “taco toss” outdoor happy hour with a chance of rain. That top is meant to sip cocktails in a nice club or bar. Or maybe be worn on a date with the hubby.

So along with fabulous silk tops, I will include complicated tops, anything made of lame, or delicate crocheted lace, leather or suede, expensive jewelry (other than those standards you always wear and possibly sleep in), intricate makeup (heavy shadow, dark lipstick, heavy foundation, false eyelashes…), debutante quality dresses (yes this sounds weird but at my last beach trip I saw an adorable woman in a strapless dress with a satin sash at the waist and a full skirt held up by a crinoline), complicated shellacked hair (humidity, wind, sweat and salt air will ruin that look, don’t even try!), or anything else that will require maintenance throughout the day. Enjoy yourself! This is a vacation, right? Let your mind and your wardrobe take a rest!