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Quality AND Quantity

This Sunday I went to the mall. As a previous mall employee, I try to steer clear of shopping arenas between Thanksgiving and New Year, however the receipt of a generous mall gift certificate, a change to bitter cold weather (and me a different size from last winter) and an upcoming company holiday party forced me to break my rule.

For those on a budget or with a certain lifestyle/fashion style may only visit certain stores in the mall. Be it a mall in California, Montana, New Jersey or Florida, many women will first visit their “safe stores.” When I worked at express, I was always fascinated by the women on vacation who would make time in their holiday schedule to check out the local Express. Yes, stores carry some different items based on clientele and geography, but the stores are usually 85% the same.

If you have the time, it is good on occasion to visit those stores you don’t usually frequent. Artsy creative spirit? Try visiting a Talbots – you may find something surprising and wonderful. Conservative look? You may find the perfect “something” in a store like Bebe or Cache. Budget is more Wal Mart? It doesn’t hurt to take a lap around Sigrid Olsen or Banana Republic”, see the season’s new styles and peruse the sale racks for a gem.

I went to my local mid-range mall. Anchors are Hecht’s, JC Penney, Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom.

I always start with Nordstrom. Their sale racks are amazing to find high quality clothes at amazing prices. Found a gorgeous pair of Enzo Angiolini boots for $59.90, originally close to $100.00. And they came in wide width for my sausage feet! I had similar boots from Payless that I purchased three years ago that had to be retired. I was worried to find a pointy toe and slim high heel black leather boot may cost me close to $100. For a boot that may last me for another three years, for jeans and business casual and even suits – I find $60 to be a fabulous deal.

I then headed to Ann Taylor. Ann Taylor sells sizes from 2 to 16, most styles in Petites. Ann Taylor usually has a pretty extensive sale rack with many current pieces and a multitude of sizes. I have found that different malls seem to carry different sizes in their sale rack. When I head toward the ritzy part of the city, I seem to find larger sizes left in the sale department. If I head to the suburbs or more remote malls, the sale rack holds more small sizes (something to consider for your big shopping trips).

At Ann Taylor I found a ton of wonderful pieces in their sale section. A black merino cowl neck sweater for $29.99 (not shown on website). A pair of winter white heavy sueded cotton cuffed trousers for $29.99, and a pair of black trousers the same fabric as an Ann Taylor suit jacket in my closet at home for $39.99. I had purchased a Love Cures card, which gave me 15% off any purchase of $100 or more. This brought my purchase of three classic items to about $85.00. The prices were equivalent to stores like Target or Old Navy, but still the pieces had quality, great fit, great style. It really is possible to find quality at low prices.

Since I was with my mom, we then headed to Chicos. This is my mom’s favorite store as that they sell easy-care and artistic clothing that fits her body shape as well as her personality. The clothes are not my type, but I have found some great pieces of jewelry in there. This time while my mom was in the fitting room I found some classic ribbed crew neck sweaters in a silk blend that skimmed the body and came in some wonderful saturated colors. Regularly $49, these sweaters were on sale for $39 and my mom had a discount club card for an additional 5% off. I bought the sweater in basic black and a rosy red, seeing these sweaters go from being a suit shell, to business casual with trousers, to weekend wear with jeans. I had a similar sweater from Express a few years ago that got mangled in the wash. I was thrilled to find a substitute, and even in a similar color in a store I rarely even enter.

I went to the mall reciting my mantra of “Versatile sweaters, work pants, black boots. Versatile sweaters, work pants, black boots”. I saw many fabulous things in many great stores, stores I don’t always frequent, stores I don’t always have success in or feel match my personality. If you have the time during your shopping adventure, be daring and visit a new store. You may be pleasantly surprised! Often it is possible to find quality as well as quantity in your local mall!

Quality, not Quantity

I cannot stress this enough for a wardrobe.

Quality, not Quantity.

Consider fashion icons – Jackie Onassis, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Princess Diana, Diana Vreeland, Coco Chanel, Gwyneth Paltrow

These women have always looked polished, stylish, but not over the top.


These women in 2005 would never wear sweats with words printed on their bums. They would never wear shoes made of plastic, or clothes that were ill fitting, overly trendy or poorly made. Their style didn’t change much from season to season. They understood what flattered their figure, expressed their personality, and stuck to it, making slight modifications each year to not look overly dated.

So you’re not a millionaire. You don’t have a limitless fashion budget. Your clothes come from malls, big box retailers, discount stores. Your priority is not image, but family, work, LIFE.

Buying quality, not quantity fits that budget, and fits that lifestyle. If you shop CORRECTLY, you will spend less, shop less often, and require less “prep time” each morning. Having a wardrobe you like, and you trust (quality allows trust) gives you freedom, as well as personal style.

When I was 23, I got a “real” job, a job where I had to dress professionally every day and interacted with clients. I was at the mall every weekend, leaving with bags full of fun things, yet every Monday I had a mini breakdown at my closet doors, not having a thing to wear. I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t understand it until a few months later when I moved to a new apartment. As I was packing up cocktail dresses, pencil skirts, glittery halter tops (some with tags still in place) I realized the problem. I was shopping, but not for my lifestyle. I was shopping as though I had the life of Paris Hilton, not an entry-level person in suburban corporate America, living paycheck to paycheck and only going to clubs and bars once a week. Once I made that realization, and held on to that realization each time I entered a mall, I found that shopping may not have been as exhilarating, but it was more efficient, and weekdays weren’t as distressing.

I didn’t have the party life I had in college, nor did I have as much spending money. I needed to adjust my shopping to match my lifestyle.

My dear friend had a different situation.

I like fashion, but I can’t afford Gucci, Dolce and Gabanna or Chloe. One day I wandered into Forever 21 and found knockoffs of some of the things I adored on the pages of Vogue. The prices were more my speed. Yes, the fabric was not quite right, the fit was a bit off, but wearing that skirt or that jacket, I felt I was a bit closer to looking like a fashionista. Every few weeks I ran to the mall to get cheap reproductions of popular styles.

I went to a friend’s birthday party. I was dressed in what I thought to be my most trendy outfit. Another friend videotaped the evening. A week later I saw the video and wanted to faint. I was not a fashionista. My pants were too short and too tight. My belt obviously was not made of leather, and it looked stupid with the top. My bra straps were visible all night, and not in a sexy way. I wasn’t a fashion maven, I was a fashion victim. I noticed the other guests looked nice, and I noticed many were wearing pieces I have seen them wear before. It was a huge eye opener, I saw that fashion isn’t what’s new, but what’s stylish. I started buying less, but pieces that fit well, looked nice, were less trendy and more stylish. Suddenly people were telling me I looked as though I lost weight, asked if I had changed my hair, giving me compliments. I realized the compliments of the past were on an article of clothing. The compliments I got now were for me – the total package. It felt really good.

How do you start the road to quality not quantity, and more importantly, how do you do it without breaking the bank?

1. Standards.
What is your lifestyle? Single working woman in the city? Stay a home mom of four? Retired world traveler? Make a list of “events” you attend in your life. This does not mean black tie galas, but day to day activities where you need to get out of bed and face the world. Grocery store. Regular day in the office where most people dress business casual. Business meeting where a more formal business look is needed. Date with the significant other. The occasional wedding/christening/bar mitzvah/funeral/holiday party. Attending your house of worship. Job interview. You get the picture. Drinks with the girls after work.

Stop and consider your wardrobe. Does your current wardrobe fit the lifestyle you have? What are spending a lot on? Are there things in your wardrobe that still have tags on them after a few weeks have passed? How many pieces in your closet have been worn once and then left to collect dust? What events in your life leave you in a clothing panic?

Write down these events. Write down the clothing that gets the most wear, and write down the clothing that gives you the most pleasure when worn (not the pieces that look gorgeous in your closet or possibly on your frame if only you lost 10 lbs.). What correlates with one another? Do any of them match up?

2. The Down and Dirty
I have before written about the standards that are needed in every woman’s wardrobe. This may vary based on climate, age and lifestyle, but is a pretty basic starter wardrobe for most women. Do you have pieces like this in your wardrobe? Basics you can fall back on at a moment’s notice? Pieces like this are the types of things that style icons would have in their wardrobe. Classic pieces that go from casual to dressy, summer to winter, wedding to funeral.

3. After You Have Gotten Down and Dirty
Now that you have a base wardrobe, it’s time to bring your personality into it…. slowly. Looking at the basics in your wardrobe, consider another sweater in a different neckline and color. A necklace that can really jazz up multiple outfits and makes you happy every time you see it. A pair of pants in another color – a neutral like gray, brown or camel. Or possibly something fun yet basic like a dark red, plum or a pinstripe. Your mantra at the mall is Quality, not Quantity. You don’t need 30 sweaters that don’t fit quite right, show your bra and are yucky colors. Instead, invest in three sweaters that fit great, look great, and are built to last. Though those three sweaters will cost more individually, it will be cheaper to buy those three, than keep replacing the cheaper ones as they pill, fade, stretch out, or get shoved to the bottom of the drawer for not being quite right.

4. What Am I Looking For?
You can find quality at a boutique, you can find quality at Target. It’s all about looking for the signs of quality, style and durability.

Think “if Jackie O was on a budget, what would she purchase?” Keep this in your head as you scour the racks. Visualize your style icon, her trademark pieces, what she did to become a style icon and not a fashion victim.

Pills and Fuzz – do the pants have pills or fuzzies on them when on the hanger? Then leave them on the hanger. They will be a fuzz magnet, no matter how often you wash them or what fabric softeners you use. History has shown the pants and jackets that collect fuzz seem to fade the quickest as well.

Buttons and Zippers – Are the buttons the right size? This means, if you sit down, do they slide out of the button holes? Are they hard to button and unbutton? If you answer yes to either, put the piece back. This will look sloppy once worn out of the store, and will either make the button fall off or you get frustrated with the piece. As for zippers, slide it up and down many times. Think about how you will be wearing it – will you be handling that zipper with gloves and a bag of groceries in one hand, or will you be yanking it down several times a day int he restroom? Is it sewn in correctly so it won’t get jammed, won’t break, won’t slide down with wear. Give it a test-run in the fitting room.

Pockets – You shouldn’t be able to see the lining of pockets through your clothes, be it a suit jacket, skirt or pair of pants. If this is the case, leave it onthe rack. That is a sign of cheap fabric, poor construction and a bad cut. Pockets also shouldn’t bow out. If you have curves below the waist, it’s best to usually pass on slash pockets as that they will gape open, causing you too look wider than you are. Flap pockets on the bum are rarely flattering, get bent when sitting, and usually are an add-on cheaper brands use to make their clothes look more… gosh knows what, maybe fancier? I usually steer clear of flap pockets on the bum. As for faux pockets, mini pockets that can’t hold anything larger than a quarter, or any other weird form of pocket that cheaper designers place on their clothing – STAY AWAY. These are signs of cheap manufacturing, quick trends that will die soon, and frustration (you’ll constantly try to put your hand in that faux pocket, I just know it!).

Fabric – If you can’t afford cashmere, that’s okay. The only thing I won that is cashmere is a pashmina I got as a gift. However, because you can’t afford it doesn’t mean you can wear a poor knockoff. Silk/cashmere blends usually pill and thin. Pleather makes you sweat and doesn’t stretch. Faux fur is far more PC, but any fur is overly trendy, overly controversial, and would not be part of a new millennium fashion icon’s wardrobe. Your undergarments should not show through the clothing. This is never an attractive or stylish look. The fabric should not make you itch. If you push up sleeves, it shouldn’t case the arm band to get permanently stretched out. Sit in the clothes, dance in the clothes. See how the fabric stretches with you, moves with you. Rub it against a different piece of clothing. Does the color transfer? Does have the decoration fall off? Does it shed on everything on on this planet? If so, leave it in the fitting room.

Cut – Are they perfect pants except…. Is the top exactly what you need if it only….? Almosts and Not Quites do not have room in any woman’s wardrobe. These items either gets one wear (if that) and then retreat to the back of the closet, or get plenty of wear but look dreadful every time they don your body. The world will not end if you don’t have a pair of black pants NOW NOW NOW. It’s better to go without than to go halfway. Jackets should be able to button across your torso. Pants should be able to be sat in, legs crossed without straining. A belly button should never show through an article of clothing. Pant legs should be long enough to hide your ankle bones and be no more than an inch from the bottom of your heel. Long sleeves should cover your wrist bone. Shoulders should be appropriate, not an inch from your actual shoulder (oversized shoulders make you look heavier and shorter). Try sitting. How does the piece lie? Can the world see your bra? Your panties? When you stand, do you have weird creases at the crotch that won’t disappear? Does it take two minutes just to put the outfit back in place? Do you need to buy a new bra, new camisole, new tummy cincher and a pair of silicone breasts to make the dress fit correctly? If you say yes (or yes but….) to any of these things, leave the article of clothing at the store.

Style – A sign of cheap clothing is over embellishments. I mentioned the use of flap pockets. Cheap clothing often tries to mask faulty manufacturing with brooches, bedazzling, contrast stitching, applique and other adornments. These adornments may be fun and quirky, but I suggest you stick to simpler pieces that will go from year to year, and get your fun and funky adornments through accessories that can be retired when the trend passes. Overly embellished garments make impact – these are pieces that can only be worn a few times a season or people will soon be saying “…look she’s wearing that pink sweater with the leopard collar and cuffs AGAIN.” Having pieces that are that limiting in your wardrobe are not what you need – they will be a waste of money if you are on a budget.

Color – This season it’s purple, next season it may be green. Whatever the fashion magazines dictate, buy what you enjoy. Neutrals aren’t always the best choice. Neutrals fade into the background and you lose your personality. Pick colors that make you happy, make you feel powerful, make you feel beautiful. Black can be versatile, and khaki doesn’t show stains, but you will feel better about yourself and present a better image to others if you wear color. Look for saturated fabrics, ones that will hold their color after washings. The thread in the stitching should perfectly match the fabric. Again, rub it against another garment, check for color transfer (this often happens under the arms when the fabric gets warm and humid). Consider the color, will it compliment the rest of your wardrobe, or will you have to buy eight more articles of clothing to match it? Only buy clothing that brings you happiness. You wouldn’t hang artwork in your home that made you feel depressed, why decorate your body with depressing art?

Accessories – These don’t have to be made of platinum, gold and emeralds, but should be able to withstand multiple wearings, a bang against a table or a kid playing with it. I have found great accessories at Target, at Claire’s Boutique, at discount stores like TJ Maxx, Burlington Coat Factory and Marhshall’s.
These should be pieces that compliment an outfit, not compete with it. Signature pieces, like Jackie O’s pillbox hat, Grace Kelly’s scarf, Coco Chanel’s red lipstick. Pieces that help make you… well you! For me it’s a bold silver cuff that is my signature piece. I compliment it and my wardrobe with Silver hoops, chunky silver rings. Artsy pieces that I feel help reflect my creative side. I have mentioned before what accessories belong in every woman’s wardrobe. Now you need to think quality, taste, elegance, style.

Shoes should be comfortable. They should have classic lines. Leather lasts longer than pleather, can be shined up to look beautiful again, stretches to mold your feet perfectly, and is more versatile. Heels should be wide enough at the base of the shoe to properly support your foot and not cause pain. Toe cleavage (when you can see the spaces between your toes out of the top of a pump or shoe) is an extreme no-no. It is cheaper to buy a pair of quality pumps and get them resoled and reheeled each year than to buy a new cheaper pair each year. Invest in shoe shine tools – you can find them at your grocery store. One hour, every few months will give years to your footwear. Invest in classic pieces. Hot pink suede booties may be adorable, but will you still adore them and wear them weekly after three months? If in doubt, purchase black leather or brown croco. Both fabrics and colors will wear nicely over the years. My mother still wear a pair of black ankle boots she purchased in 1968. The soles have been replaced, the heels reheeled. New inserts have been purchased but the leather is still supple and rich and she is still complimented when she wears them. That is quite an investment, and a fabulous example of how quality can save you money.

When you go shopping, take pictures for assistance. Tear out pages from magazines. Take a headshot of your fashion icon. Take a photograph of you in an outfit you regret as motivation. Make a list of what you believe you need, and don’t let a salesperson or friend tell you otherwise. Consider purchases of clothing as you would consider a purchase of an appliance or a car. Do your homework, don’t buy the first pair of black pants you see. Take them for a test drive in the fitting room or around the store. Do price comparison, fabric comparison, and don’t settle. You deserve the best, and you can find it, no matter what your budget may be.

Quality versus Quantity – Tights

When it comes to winter, a few pair of tights in the lingerie drawer are a must. However it’s so frustrating when those tights bag, sag, or run after just one wearing. I know I have run to the nearest big box retailer or discount mart for a pair of black tights when my current pair are unwearable, just to have that new pair be just as disappointing and unappealing.

A couple years ago I stopped the cycle of bad tights and decided to invest in higher-quality legwear. I figured buying several pairs each season (and then disposing of those same pairs after just a handful of wears), if I could find a more expensive pair that were higher quality, it would save me time and effort.

Everyone raves about Wolford tights, and I believe the hype, but my body shape (they only fit up to 176 pounds) and wallet (styles range from $50 – $70 for standard opaque tights) couldn’t afford to try them at the time. However after some online investigation, I found that Spanx tights also got great reviews for fit, opacity, and durability.

Years later, I am still wearing my Spanx tights. I have three pairs of them, and they are all amazing. They hold their shape all day, are truly opaque, and extremely durable. I can walk without shoes on the uneven hardwood floors of my 1948 home and not worry about a snag. I can throw them in the washing machine and then hang them up to dry and be ready the next day. They don’t roll down mid-day, don’t sag at the ankles, and they have sizes to fit short and curvy women like myself.

The other day I was chatting with two coworkers about tights, and one mentioned she was wearing Spanx tights (the ones that are reversible – brown on one side, black on the other). She started raving about their fit and durability and I chimed in. Soon the third coworker was convinced it was time to try a new brand of hosiery and get out of the routine of buying tights that only last one or two wearings.

For lighter-weight tights, I have been a longtime fan of Nordstrom’s basic opaque control top tights.  They are a great price – if you buy three pairs at once it’s only $8/pair.  Not as durable or opaque as Spanx, but a great standard denier that works great for fall and with tall boots.  I have pairs I bought three years ago and they still fit and look great.

My mantra is quality over quantity, but I believe that quality can be found at most any price point. However if you are finding that your low-cost good-enough item is only good-enough, it may not be worth your time and money. Do a little homework, for a bit more money, you may find a replacement that isn’t that much more expensive and makes your life, and your style far more wonderful!

Ask Allie: Plus Size Wardrobe Staples

Dear Allie, I found your wardrobe staples post many years ago and it changed my life. I cut my closet in half but finally had the right clothes for everything. Since then, I have had two children and some health issues and I’m now a size 22. I gave up on fashion the past five years but my New Year resolution is to get back in shape and in style. Thing is I go to the mall and I can’t find anything on your list, everything is so ugly and old looking and cheap in plus sizes. Help!

My first suggestion to you is to get the heck out of the mall. While more and more brick and mortar shops are offering plus size fashion, most neighborhood malls have pretty slim pickings. Shipments are done by a buyer, one who just looks at generic demographics and statistics for the store, mall, and zip code and makes general decisions on whether to feature more plus size or less, more suiting or more weekend wear, more formal dresses or cotton sundresses. While you could drive around town to find plus size fashion Mecca, you could also head to your computer.

I hardly ever enter a mall anymore because I find them frustrating, messy, and overwhelming. When I do visit, I plan out my trip and head first to my go-to stores where I know the clothes fit my body and my personal style. Then if I still have some energy left, I’ll investigate other retailers. However, I find far more luck sticking to online retailers. Better selection of styles as well as sizes, easier to find discounts, and I can try on pieces in my bedroom with flattering lighting and proper shoes and undergarments.

I did a little searching online and was able to quickly find all the wardrobe staples I suggest in plus sizes. These days many retailers offer free or near-free shipping and returns; I did a review of my favorite plus-size retailers here. Keep in mind that this time of year is awesome for deals, but awful for selection. We’re entering inventory season, and every retailer tries to have as little merchandise as possible for inventory to make the process easier. If you’re looking for bargains you’re likely in luck, but if you’re striking out in sizes, wait until mid-March when spring collections will be stocked in the stores.

In the collage above, I left out the wool coat and accessories from the staples list because I find them relatively easy to find and likely you have the accessories already in your collection. Here’s a list of some of my go-to retailers for specific plus size fashion:

I also recommend you check out some plus size blogs and forums. I personally am not part of any boards or forums so I suggest you lurk some and find a good fit. While there are so many blogs out there who showcase their fabulous plus size personal style, here are few plus size-specific blogs I find to be quite helpful in reviewing lines and offering fashion suggestions. I also recommend reading their blogrolls and comments for additional blogs and online resources:

I’m so happy that you are using this year to care for yourself. Everyone deserves to feel fabulous and you’re gorgeous no matter your dress size. Dressing to flatter your current figure and personal style makes you feel confident and helps showcase your beautiful self. Don’t let the malls get you down, head online and you may find just what you were looking for!

Readers, I look forward to your comments on this subject, as I am not an expert.  Where do you find plus size wardrobe staples?  Who are your favorite plus size bloggers?  What online resources do you recommend?  

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Quality vs Quantity – My Current Makeup Faves

This morning as I was “putting on my face” I realized that my beauty routine has drastically changed over the past couple of years. While I still find it important to look good every day, I have found ways to streamline the process so I have more time for my family. As with my closet, I find it is easier to do my makeup each morning if I have fewer options. Just three years ago, I had a drawer and train case busting open with pots, potions, lotions, and creams. Now, I can fit the majority of my cosmetic collection into one makeup bag. I also find that before I used to hop from brand to brand; now I keep re-purchasing products that get the job done – work well, are reliable, versatile, quality.

It’s important to look for quality instead of quantity in regard to fashion, but I agree it also holds true for cosmetics. And like clothing, quality can be found at any pricepoint. Below are the products I use on a daily or at least weekly basis, help me create my daily face, and not have to worry about it for the rest of the day.

I reviewed this before here and here, but now I am on my third tube of this product. It’s a great pricepoint, it blends perfectly into my skin while still covering skin irregularities, it doesn’t make me break out, and it doesn’t melt away by lunchtime. I can wear a light layer over just-moisturized skin for more of a tinted moisturizer look, I can also apply a heavier application to really cover up and give a flawless face. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s reliable.

This is my HG of concealer (reviewed here and here). I first tried it with Laura Mercier’s Flawless Face Kit (review of kit here) and became a convert. Secret Camouflage kept my pregnancy under wraps the first trimester by hiding my pallor and dark circles. It made me look like Super Mom the first year of Emerson’s life by covering the ashen complexion and bags under my eyes from lack of sleep and stress. And now, it keeps me looking more even, yet not overdone.

If I apply with a brush, it hides most anything without caking; applied with a warm ring finger, it blends effortlessly to provide daily medium coverage. It doesn’t fade or melt through the day, and the choice of two colors lets me create a perfect tone for dark circles, redness, zits, or the weird little stretch marks on either side of my mouth. It also lasts forever; I have been using this for almost four years and am only on my third compact (and the first one was a mini size).

I got this as a sample from Sephora in 2008 (review here) and haven’t yet needed to buy an actual full-size of it. I only use a very tiny bit – shake it into my palm, swirl a large domed brush and buff onto the face. It will give a more finished look to my face, take away shine, set my concealer and foundation. Doesn’t get cakey, doesn’t settle into pores, just makes my face look natural yet matte.

This stays in my purse for touch-ups throughout the day. Like the MUFE powder, it doesn’t add a layer of stuff to my skin, just gives a natural matte finish. The compact is utterly gorgeous so I don’t mind whipping it out of my bag. It also lasts forever; I broke my old one a year ago and my current one isn’t even anywhere close to showing metal.

It’s the bomb. It layers great – can have a subtle flush for casual days, a stronger color for certain outfits. A touch of shimmer that doesn’t really show, just makes the skin look dewy. It also lasts forever – I have been using this blush exclusively for six years and just got my third compact of it earlier this year. I have written about it before here and here; I still believe it is the perfect blush for me.

Reader April got me addicted to this product, and addicted I am (you can read my past review here). I wear a light touch on my cheek bones, inner corners of my eyes, brown bone, and bow of my lip. It makes my skin look young and plum and dewy. A little goes a VERY long way – I only tap my finger once on the compact to get enough for a cheek. It’s super shimmery in the compact, but on the skin (especially under foundation), it’s very natural and subtle highlighting. April, can’t thank you enough!

I have raved about this shadow before, and I have to again. It’s perfect. A matte ivory for highlighting, a shimmery golden khaki that is a perfect neutral, a gorgeous olive that makes for a fun colorful smoky eye, and a deep dark chocolate that is perfect for contouring; I have also used it with this brush or wet with a liner brush to be eye liner. All that, and the color lasts all day. The only thing I find fault with this product is that the khaki color crumbles when you get to the pan – the rest of the colors hold up but I usually have the khaki fall out before the other colors have been fully used.

I have been using the same compact of this color for six years. The cover has disappeared, there’s a bunch of holes in the product where I have hit the pan, but I bet I’ll be using it for at least a year longer. I use it with the Trish McEvoy brow brush, which is not too stiff, not too soft, and gives a natural fill to my brows.

I use this as my brow groomer. I always used Body Shop because I worked for them and got it cheap. Once I left that company, I looked for the cheapest clear mascara on the market and that day it was Maybelline. I am about ready for a replacement tube, but have been using this one since I was at my last job (four years I guess). I never use it on my lashes; mascaras and liquid liners should be replaced after a couple months but I figure this is just like gel for my brows and it’s not so bad.

This is my favorite liquid liner, hands down. While I have Indelible Wink from Tarte and like it, I love Maybelline. The little brush gives me a perfect line, makes for an easy side swoop, and it stays on ALL DAY. No flaking, no smearing, no fading. This is a hardcore product, but it’s reliable and for me, very easy to use. Need to replace this every two months or it starts to thicken and is hard to use.

I ask for this as a Christmas present and will treat myself to a tube if I get a bonus at work. It’s expensive, it doesn’t last long, but gosh it’s perfection (mentioned here). Thick, lush, long lashes. No flaking, no smearing. Gorgeous. It’s just so pricey. I keep trying to find a drugstore or cheaper equivalent but have yet to find it.

I wrote about this here. It’s still a favorite. While I love it alone for pretty flushed lips, I have been using it with my longwear red lipsticks to keep them soft and slightly shiny between applications. Smells good, looks good, feels good. I have tried other colors but don’t like them nearly as much as Rose.

I currently own three different colors but have tried about a dozen of them over the years. Great price, great shaped bottle, perfect applicator, nice feeling gloss that stays on… as long as any standard gloss. I can’t justify spending more on a fancier brand of gloss – Revlon has the right formula, and a great selection of colors.

What are your tried-and-true beauty products? What is out there that I am missing?

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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.

A Night at Rogue 24 with Maynard James Keenan

Last year Karl and I didn’t attend a music festival. The arm put a cramp into our capabilities and also our finances. This year, we decided again to not attend a music festival. While we love them, they can be pretty intense and we usually feel we need a vacation after our vacation. We both had broken limbs and crazy drama last summer; this summer we want to relax with our music. We have a couple concerts on the books this summer, but when I received an email from Rogue 24 earlier this month I knew we HAD to attend.


Tool is one of Karl’s favorite bands, and because he has listened to their albums so much over the 20+ years we have been together, I too have come to appreciate the music and respect Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer of Tool (as well as A Perfect Circle and Puscifer). Along with music, Keenan owns Caduceus Cellars, a group of vineyards in Arizona and New Mexico. To be able to attend such an event at a highly-rated restaurant with such an artist was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.


After work, Karl met me at the Mount Vernon Square Metro and we walked to Blagden Alley, where there’s a hidden cluster of bars, restaurants, a coffee shop and a few other businesses. We got there early and found Chef RJ Cooper outside; he recommended we head over to Lost & Found for a quick drink. When we came back, the alley was filling with others who were there for the dinner. It was a fascinating group of folks – there were the wine enthusiasts, the foodies, and those who were there as fans of Keenan. A Donald Trump lookalike was leaning against the wall next to a woman in calf-high Doc Martens and dyed black hair, a woman in an St. John dress and diamond ring the size of a gumball in line behind a gentleman wearing a faded Tool tee shirt under a blazer with worn jeans and Chucks. I loved it, such an example of how food, wine, and music can bring all sorts of people together.

rogue24 chef rogue24 2

The restaurant is small, I don’t think even 50 chairs. The tables surround the kitchen, the stage for the evening’s performance.  We were placed at a table near the back of the restaurant that we shared with two other couples.  The couple next to us were there for the food and wine; they were big foodies who had been to Rogue 24 before and have even flown across the globe to visit highly-rated restaurants.  And the table next to us held four guests… and Maynard James Keenan.  As Karl said, he was as close to James that night as he was me!

rogue24 6 rogue24 4

This was not an event where Karl wanted to whip out his camera at every moment, but he did bring his “pocket camera” and captured a few images.  If you follow me on Instagram you know I too caught a few pictures with my phone; once the wine started flowing people were more liberal  their phones, taking pictures of each course.

rogue24 courses

And the food was phenomenal; we ate things we had never eaten before and combinations that blew us away.  The evening started with a buffet of canapes (little macarons made of sour cream puffs with caviar, and freeze-fried cabbage with a hemp butter and mustard cream) and a tequila and wine cocktail that was light and refreshing.  Each of the seven courses was served with a different wine from Caduceus Cellars, perfectly paired.  My favorite ended up being the most expensive course Rogue 24 has ever served – goose liver agnolotti with Sicilian pistachios, buffalo brown butter and balsamic vinegar aged for 100 years served with Caduceus Cellars ’13 Chupacabra red. Dessert was again a buffet, with little bite-sized treats and a coffee station.

rogue24 3 rogue24 5

The charming and knowledgeable staff of Caduceus Cellars and Rouge 24 were eager to share information about the food and the wine. I think people can find such events intimidating, but everyone was so friendly and warm. It was surreal to be joking with a James Beard Award winning chef and making eye contact with a rockstar you have admired for so long.

rogu24 7

It’s crazy, I don’t even know how I got on the mailing list for this event; if I hadn’t received the email I likely wouldn’t have known about it.  I am so glad were were able to go and share such an experience.  I feel this is a #ThisIs40 moment; the evening was not cheap, it would have been easy to pass it up saying we can’t afford it.  But it was far cheaper than a weekend at Bonnaroo and it was an equally memorable and unique experience.  This is an event we would have likely passed up a decade ago, but now see the value on so many levels.  As I preach with clothing I also preach with life – it’s better to have quality than quantity and Wednesday evening at Rogue 24 was definitely quality.

Friday Food for Thought: Fast Fashion Fixes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Little Bits of Luxury: The Series

With age comes wisdom. It’s taken a while, but I have learned to truly buy quality instead of quantity. I unsubscribed from most retail emails so I am not wooed by 50% off (if I didn’t need it at full price, I don’t need it now), I rarely enter a mall because I know myself and I will leave at least $100 poorer with bags full of things I don’t need and will likely collect dust. When I visit a store like Target or TJ Maxx I have a written shopping list that will be a visible reminder to stay on track. And in the past year, when I have added to my closet I have looked for what I can remove – to store for the future, to donate, to sell, to admit defeat and cut up into rags.

And the things I purchase are better quality too. Now I am no Martha Stewart, so for me quality is likely Nine West, Etsy, L’Oreal. But I have learned it’s not about the name on the label, but how the piece works with my life and performs in the long run. Be it bras, BB cream, baking dishes, or boots I research, save, and buy the best within my budget. This also goes for luxury items (and items that are luxurious just to me). I have never admitted being a minimalist, and with age I have learned that some luxury items just make life better (and are far kinder to the body than cupcakes and nachos). I’ve also learned that luxury can come at all pricepoints, and some of the best indulgences are quite kind to my wallet.

I’ve found that series on this blog are some of my most popular posts on Wardrobe Oxygen. And so my newest series will feature little luxuries I indulge in, and how I budget for them, and why they are worth it. I hope you enjoy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?
Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?
I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?
Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

I am not sure why the world thinks women over a size 12 don’t hold professional jobs. They must think that with the poor selection of career wear for plus-sized women. While quality suits and stylish business casual clothing does exist, it’s hard to find. Below I feature some brands who realize that just because you wear a larger size doesn’t mean you wish to sacrifice style, quality, or professionalism.

If you’re plus sized, I’m sure you already know about Lane Bryant, Avenue, Ashley Stewart, One Stop Plus/Woman Within/Roamans/Jessica London, and other retailers who specialize in plus size fashion. Below are some suggestions on brands I know who aren’t the typical shops, and who provide quality, well-crafted and stylish career wear in plus sizes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Go Ahead Put Your Red Dress On

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday & Wednesday

No pictures from yesterday – I got to work at 6:45 am so taking pictures was when it was too dark to see in that room (have to work on it), and the rest of the family was asleep and didn’t want to disturb in any way. However I decided to wear my black matte jersey wrap dress from Old Navy with a gold chain from J. Crew and my gold twig bangles form Ann Taylor and my black suede Mary Janes from Sofft. Hair was straight, makeup was basic. It was totally appropriate.

After work I stopped by the Talbots near my job because everything in there is 20% off, they have petites that go up over size 12. I ended up getting two dresses, one with a surplice neckline, one a wrap style, both together came to less than $140 which I felt was pretty good. Both are a 14 petite. I couldn’t find a pair of pants that fit this weird body except some like yoga pants, and well… if I am going to go with pants like that I might as well stick with the ponte maternity ones I have been sporting. But I gave my husband a fashion show and he thought both dresses flattered my figure and were fun prints (you will see in upcoming posts).

I am still struggling with shoes. Before Emerson, I was a 7.5 medium. I could buy certain brands like Nine West, BCBGirls, Enzo Angiolini and Jessica Simpson and know that they would fit in that size. After her… I am not sure. These two pairs of Mary Janes from Sofft are 8.5W and they are a tiny bit big, but in a “wow they don’t hurt at the end of the day” sort of way, and don’t rub at the heels. My city boots are an 8W and feel good. My Duo Boots still fit, but in a different way from before/do feel almost half a size small since I usually buy boots big. I can get my foot into some of my 7.5M shoes but that’s about it – no walking or even standing.

So I decide to order a pair of classic black patent pumps from Circa Joan & David. I order 8W and 8.5W, since I have free shipping and returns. The 8W is ginormous on me in width and length. So big, I think even a 7M may be good. What the heck? I ordered an 8W in a boot from Sudini and I can’t even get it on, it’s so tight. These are two brands I have worn before so I am very confused. I have an event this weekend where I need to dress up, and figured one of my new dresses and some basic black pumps would be perfect. I ended up ordering like 5 pairs of shoes from Nordstrom because they are doing free shipping on shoes and they do super fast delivery. I will not have time to hit a mall until Sunday at the earliest, and honestly I hate malls. Fingers crossed one of these pairs works!

Oh, and yesterday in the fitting room at Talbots I look at my ankles and they look all bruised. Nope, it’s just that I had my ankles crossed at the conference I attended and the black of the shoes rubbed off all over my skin. Awesome.

Today I am working from home and I am glad because I need a chance to go through my clothes and figure out what to do for the time being. A Bella Band is not an option because of my height. If I wore one, it would show with all tops I wear. Also I don’t wear baggy tops because they hide my waist, and an zipped pants covered by a Bella Band would show lumpy under tops. And these breast feeding boobs make it impossible to wear anything but stretchy knits.

Sorry to vent on here, but fashion isn’t always easy. However I would rather wear the same thing three days in a row than go out of the house looking like a shlub. I feel far more confident and myself in repetitive wardrobe than in something that I know makes me look less than what I can possibly be! As I always say, it’s about quality, not quantity! :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Product Review – Sephora the Smokey Eye Kit

I believe in purchasing quality instead of quantity when it comes to beauty products as well as clothing. Almost a decade ago, I received a major promotion that would require me to travel for my job teaching people about my company’s line of clothing, how to pair it with other pieces and how to merchandise it in the store. This required me to be very polished and I thought a makeover was in order. I visited the Trish McEvoy counter and left with a whole new palette of colors, and an arsenal of wonderful, high-quality brushes to accomplish most any look. I really feel that with the right tools, you can achieve wonders and often those wonders can be accomplished with a lower-end product. I use my Trish McEvoy brushes to this day, often with drugstore brands of eyeshadows, bronzers and lipcolors.

Thanks to Coutorture, I recently received Sephora’s Smokey Eye Kit – a cute metallic wallet holding Sephora’s idea of the tools necessary to achieve the proper smokey eye.

Like me, they saw the necessary tools to be brushes, not shadows. The kit contains four brushes, a brow and lash groomer, a tube of Sephora Brand Volume Mascara and a how-to card. I was interested in trying this – makeup styles come and go but a few trends (matte red lips with simple eyes and a smokey eye with lighter lips) seem to endure.

The case is well made, beautiful gray metallic leatherette with a black nylon interior that is made to not just be pretty, but to properly protect the brushes and make the kit easy for travel. The case does not have extra compartments, so it really is meant to only hold this ensemble. The left flap had a clear pocket to hold the how-to card.

The brushes are quite nice – larger than most kits have (almost “regular” size), nice weight in the hands, easy to hold and maneuver, and soft bristles. I have a Sephora Brand bronzer brush that I love; these seem to be of the same material and quality. Each brush has it’s name (small dome, all over shadow, etc.) so it is easy to know which tool .to use to achieve your desired look.

This morning I decided to try out the kit and follow the how-to to the letter to see how it actually works. Is this Smokey Eye Kit worth the $42 price tag? The appearance says yes yes yes, but will the experience match?

The kit says first step is to use the Allover Color brush to apply a shimmery light shade from brow to lash line, concentrating on the brow bone area. It also suggests the Sephora Brand champagne shade.

I do not have that shadow, instead I used my Pop Beauty shadow set for Brown Eyes – the sparkly beige shade. The shadow picked up pigment nicely without scratching up the shadow, application was good – these are not natural hairs in the brushes so the application wasn’t as perfect as say with sable/squirrel; but a very excellent job for a synthetic.

Next, I was to use a darker shade (again a Sephora Brand shadow – charcoal, was suggested) and apply with the Wide Crease brush from lash line up to crease. I chose to mix the dark brown and soft black of the Pop Beauty kit for my own version of a warm charcoal. This brush I wasn’t as happy with. The shadow didn’t seem to “grab” onto the brush and even with a very gentle hand, dark shadow flicked off the brush and everywhere – in my eye, on my temple, under my eyes. I knew it was not the shadow as that I had used it several times before with my Trish brushes. The size also was a bit awkward for my personal lid shape, and it was hard to maneuver from lash up, instead of from side to side. This ended up with me brushing away shadow and re-applying powder so I didn’t look as though I had been in a fight.

Next step was a tad confusing – the kit instructs to use the Detail Brush with a dark color and line both top and bottom of the eye AND to use the Sephora Brand black pencil (not included). It does inform you to make the line heavier on the outside part of the eye, but doesn’t explain HOW to apply the line and WHY to use powder and pencil. It also doesn’t explain how thick said line should be for either the top or bottom lash line. I tried applying my black shadow with the liner brush and it went on well, though faint. Again, this is an issue with synthetic brushes and powder. By moistening the brush (not mentioned in the kit but I know from past experience) I was able to get a stronger line of color along both lash lines. As for pencil, I used my Black Eye Definer from Body Shop, and just ran it along the lower lash line, for fear of ruining the line I made with the powder already. For a makeup newbie, I found this step of the directions confusing and if in the wrong hands, leaving a very 1980s raccoon-eye look instead of a smokey finish.

The next step was to take the Small Dome Brush and smudge the line you made, from lash up toward crease. This worked, and I really liked this brush – the angle was well done, the bristles were packed enough to give some oomph without ruining the finish. I have always done this step with my finger – this gave a far more refined finish and helped blend all the layers of color nicely.

The steps then instruct one to curl lashes (with the Sephora Brand lash curler, natch) and apply the Sephora Brand Volume Mascara (included). I instead used my Shu Eumura curler, and tried out their mascara. It’s not bad… not really volumizing (especially in comparison to my believed DiorShow mascara) but it applied well. It has a brush that has four mini combs to apply the product – I found it went on relatively well – few clumps but it was a bit sticky/gooey. It dried well, but to add a second layer of product, I definitely needed the Dual Sided Brow Brush/Comb (included) to separate my lashes.

Final opinion? This kit is an amazing value for someone who does not have the tools to achieve this look. For $42, you are getting decent quality of synthetic brushes, a decent mascara for day wear, and a great carrying case. This is a wonderful shadow brush starter kit for someone who is considering starting a brush collection or has none. The All Over Color brush is one you would probably use every day, and the Detail Brush is a very good tool to make your eye shadows double as a liner. By using other references for shadow application (check the net, some beauty blogs, and my favorite resource are the books by the late Kevyn Aucoin) you will be able to have steps that may be clearer and more appropriate to your lid shape and personal style.

And if you are considering investing in this, right now Sephora is having their Friends and Family promotion. Use code FF2007 at checkout (until November 21, not applicable in Canada) and you will receive 20% off your entire order!

Have a smokey eye day!

(all photos can be clicked to enlarge. I apologize for the quality – hard to photograph yourself with your eyes closed on a mediocre camera!)

Expensive Doesn’t Always Equal Appropriate

I know you readers have my mantra memorized – Quality, not Quantity. Quality can come at any price range, and appropriateness can too. Often times we confuse a high pricetag with formality. Just because a frock is designer (or at a designer price) it does not mean it’s always the best choice for an event.

A couple of years ago I was invited to a black tie wedding at an historical mansion. The bride wore a white veil and train that rivaled Princess Diana’s and the ballroom was filled to the gills with gold Chivari chairs and white roses. This was an event where the classic LBD was verging on too casual, even when paired with the family jewels and elegant heels. The bride only had one attendant, her sister. She gave her permission to pick any dress she desired in any color.

The maid of honor chose to wear a gown by a very hot fashion designer, worn by all the It Girls of Hollywood. The gown was brown and rust-colored silk jersey with a plunging halter neck and back, many straps wrapped around the body and a floor-skimming hem. Gorgeous dress, but far more appropriate for a summer fete in the Hamptons, than a December black tie gala. The dress would have been fab with a few wooden bangles and gold gladiator sandals, but the woman tried to formalize the dress with silk heels and diamonds.

It was expensive, it was gorgeous, it was totally inappropriate for the affair.

My friend works at a very cool ad agency in the city, where many of the women dress for work as though they are going to New York Fashion Week. One is sure to see the latest designer bags, heels and jeans at the water cooler. My friend was in the elevator with one of these well-dressed ladies and complimented her on her new Chloe dress. “Thank you, I wanted to look good for our first meeting with [big government agency who was new client].”

The dress was fabulous, but short, sleeveless and with a low back. Again, great for a Hamptons weekend affair, but not the right look for meeting with a new client who is most likely on the conservative side (I have worked with the government for years and have yet to meet an agency who fully appreciates a dress from Chloe).

I have seen spindly Manolos at beach weddings, strapless silk sundresses at family cookouts at the local park, designer fur vests at general admission all ages concerts, even Balenciaga purses at Bonnaroo – a 4-day music festival on a dusty farm in Tennessee where attendees camp without electricity or proper plumbing.

The point is, when shopping for a specific event, unless it IS New York Fashion Week, price and brand shouldn’t be a factor. Above all else, a look should be appropriate for the location, the audience, the type of affair. Style doesn’t come from a label, so when shopping ignore the trends, ignore the brands, ignore the fact that so-and-so was photographed wearing it to an awards ceremony. Focus on how it fits you, and your life and you will always be in style!

A few tips:
Steer away from bright red or white unless there is a theme specified on the invitation. If the event is after 5pm it is more formal (silk in place of cotton, clutch in place of handbag, crystals and pearls in place of metal and plastic jewelry and absolutely no denim). If the invite states the affair is Black Tie Optional, it doesn’t hurt to contact a member of the couple’s family or bridal party to confirm the level of formality. If all else fails, an elegant black dress of an evening fabric that is knee length or longer, silk heels, a clutch and a sparkly piece of jewelry will always work. For additional tips, visit my post about wedding attire.

Interviews/Client Meetings:
Err on the side of being conservative. For suggestions, visit my post about interview attire.

What I Wore: Blame Megan

size 14 petite blog latico red purse stripe dress
Dress: ASOS | Bag: Latico via MYHABIT (similar) |  Bracelet: CC Skye via MYHABIT (similar) | Shoes: Converse ‘Shoreline’

There are many friends in my life that I met through this blog, and one is Megan. Though we live on opposite coasts, we were pregnant at the same time, emailed back and forth over maternity fashion and breastfeeding, and became friends. One day she messages me these $89 Jason Wu shoes on her MYHABIT waitlist that came available. I had heard of MYHABIT but tried to steer clear from such sites because I didn’t NEED anything. But $89 Jason Wu heels had me curious enough to check it out and I became a fan.

I still try to steer clear from MYHABIT and other sites because it’s too easy to get caught up in the excitement of the bargain and buy things you don’t need or even really want, but it’s a fab site to find brands you already like at great prices. I like Latico bags; the leather is high quality, the styles simple and timeless, the price extremely reasonable for the quality, the brand has a cool rock and roll history, and they’re not covered with logos. Last year I wanted a red bag, and found this one on MYHABIT for around $40. This Spring, I realized I had a $20 credit at MYHABIT (refer friends and get credit, FYI my links are referral ones) and got this over $100 bracelet for just $9. So if I have someone to blame for this weekend look, it’s my bloggy friend Megan!

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 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

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 Look Current: Fashion Trends to Keep or Retire for 2014

We’ve had a few crazy seasons of fashion, where color, statements, and whimsy were embraced. And I think that’s great, it gave women a true opportunity to have fun with fashion, to embrace something new and step out of the box that we were in for quite a long while. But when a trend is good, it often ends up becoming too popular and ends up losing all the charm that made it popular in the first place.

I don’t believe in chasing every fashion trend, and I believe that if something really fits with your personal style you can wear it even after it has left the retail stores. Look at a street style blog (or Advanced Style my favorite site for style inspiration) and you’ll see many a fashionista sporting last year’s hemline, heel height, color, or It Bag with amazing style. But if you haven’t yet defined your personal style, it’s good to be aware of trends, and to know when to let go of passing trends to stay current. Wearing trends past their prime overshadows any progress you have made in defining your personal style. With a new season upon us, I ask you to reexamine the trendy pieces in your wardrobe and decide if you’re wearing them because they help define your personal style or if you’re riding a trend train that has already left the station.

Bubble Necklaces. When there’s a display in Walmart featuring these necklaces in every color of the rainbow for only $5.00, it’s time to let the trend go. Bubble necklaces were great, they added a wonderful pop of color to a neutral outfit and really dressed up a simple knit top or dress. Heck, I wore my red bubble necklace to death (see here and here). But this style of necklace is no longer popular. J. Crew started the bubble necklace trend, and you won’t find anything on their site that even slightly resembles them. Look at celebs and style bloggers and you’ll see they aren’t wearing them any more.

Alternative: If you desire a big pop of color on top, consider a scarf; for spring a gauzy lightweight scarf won’t add too much bulk or heat and can look very on trend. If you desire a longer necklace, consider a chain with a pendant (a horn, crystal, or natural-inspired piece is current but not too trendy). If you like the bold statement, statement necklaces are still popular, but they’re shorter and more about pastels and sparkle than big pieces of primary-colored plastic and enamel.

Shop this look: skirt | scarf | bag

Chevron. Oh gosh, has chevron been popular! From infinity scarves to maxi skirts to area rugs and cell phone covers, I think chevron print will always be synonymous with the beginning of the ‘10s. Chevrons remain popular for those with a preppy personal style but for others the print may look quite dated.

Alternative: To achieve the clean look of chevron stripes, consider classic straight stripes. This season I’ve seen a lot of mixing stripes, be it different colors, or a mini stripe mixed with a larger bolder one. If you’re looking for a scarf to jazz up wardrobe staples, consider a fun floral, or a mixed-print scarf. But don’t be afraid to leave the crispness of chevron and try something a bit softer, more unexpected, or subtle. You may find the transition to be a refreshing change!

Sock Buns and Topknots and Barbie Hair. This season is letting hair be hair, with all its bendy, unruly, wacky glory. The slicked back, very crisp looks are over, and we should all celebrate. It has been a few years of hard hair to achieve without a lot of hot tools and many have resorted to falls and extensions to make it work. Retire the fake hair and keratin treatments and allow your hair to show its true self. Let it be long, cut it into a pixie, or consider the lob – a long bob that is long enough for a quick ponytail but not so long it takes an hour to perfect.  A good way to see the change in hair trends is to look at Taylor Swift; Google pictures of her in 2013 and see thick straight bangs and long hair.  This year she has allowed a bend, texture, and even cut off some of that length.

Alternative: If you wish to put up your hair, allow it to be relaxed and a bit messy. Consider putting it half up and allow it to be disheveled a la Brigitte Bardot. Let it be down, and embrace your Bad Hair Day. I type this with what I have decided to call Diane von Furstenberg Hair; my hair is frizzy, it parts in the middle and likes to feather away from my face. This spring I am going to allow it to do it more instead of forcing it into submission with bangs and perfectly crafted waves or curls.

Shop this look: bucket bag | earrings | shoes

Neon. Don’t get me wrong, neon is still a fashion statement in 2014. However, we just went through a period where everyone was wearing big neon yellow statement necklaces, hot pink patent platform pumps, Breton tees done in acid green and fluorescent yellow, and lot of clear and Lucite neon accessories. It was a popular way to dress up a little black dress or make denim and chambray really pop. The thing is every time neon shows up, it comes on too strong and ruins the moment for everyone. Keep the neon tank, the skinny belt, the cashmere sweater but instead pair them with gray, khaki, and olive for an unexpected and more luxe look.

Alternative: Consider not needing that pop of color. Omigod, did I just WRITE THAT? Yes, it is possible to have your outfit look cohesive without a bright belt or necklace or shoe or bag or lip or jacket. After seasons of BRIGHT and BOLD and POP it’s a breath of fresh air to have an ensemble that isn’t carefully crafted and held together with accessories.  If you do desire color, consider a pastel or an icy pale version of the fluorescent brights; they seem subtle but can add much impact to your look!

Shop this look: blue dress | yellow dress

Peplum. I remember peplums from the ‘80s and swore I wouldn’t revisit the trend… and then I bought a peplum top and a peplum dress. I found the trend to be very wearable and an easy way to update the wardrobe. While I don’t think you have to burn every peplum in your closet, I don’t recommend purchasing any more of them and retiring the Judy Jetson-esque stiff extreme peplums you may own.

Alternative: Draping. An asymmetrical hem or draping and rouching can add that level of interest and architecture that made peplums so popular and at the same time flatters curves and camouflages areas you wish to not be on display.

Arm Parties. You all KNOW I love my bracelets. With large breasts and a metal allergy that makes earrings uncomfortable, my wrist is a way to play with jewelry and add color or shine to an outfit. But even I, the bracelet junkie, am paring down. This doesn’t mean get rid of all your bracelets, but wear fewer at a time. I used to wear my gold Citizen watch with a bangle, a chain bracelet, a stretch bracelet, and a bead one; now I pair it with only one or two pieces.

Alternative: Quality, not quantity. Stop buying the cheap flash, and save your pennies for a piece that really speaks to your personal style and makes a statement without yelling. As to what it is, it doesn’t really matter this year; you can wear any color of metal, any textile, any shape as long as it works with the rest of your wardrobe and isn’t paired with 20 other ones.

What trends are are you glad to see retiring this spring?  Which trends will you continue to embrace because they fit your personal style?

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