Search Results for: label/shopping on a budget

How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips to Stay on Budget:

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

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



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

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Plus Sized Work Attire Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Ask Allie: Issues with the SAHM Capsule Wardrobes

I have had many mothers contact me regarding my SAHM capsule posts (winter capsule, summer capsule). Some are appreciative, some find my suggestions ridiculous, and some desire more information and assistance. I’d like to answer most of your questions here:

How Do I Shop with a Nursing Baby?
I went back to work six weeks after Emerson was born. Luckily my job let me transition back to full time at the office, having me work two days at home the first week, three the next, and so on. However, I was still working at least 40 hours a week and Emerson was consuming only breast milk. This meant when I wasn’t at work pumping, I was at home with a baby latched to my chest. I remember I went to Target ONCE in the first three months of Emerson’s life and it was a traumatic experience. I couldn’t even imagine going to the mall to shop for myself, let alone have the time to do so.

Online shopping. I looked at the clothes I already had and said… hrm this 12 doesn’t fit any more, but it’s only a tad too small so I likely am now a 14 in this brand. However, this 12 won’t even slide over my butt so I am guessing I am a 16 in this brand, but probably a petite since the 12s are just the right length with my 2” heels. I then went online and looked for retailers who had friendly return policies and free or near-free shipping.

Lands’ End. Talbots. Nordstrom. These three stores are the reason I survived the first year of Emerson’s life without resorting to Crocs and maternity pants. I stuck to a lot of dresses in stretchy fabrics like ponte because they were more forgiving and comfortable. Wrap styles which let me wear normal clothing but easily slip the bodice to the side for nursing. I found a pair of shoes from Sofft that I liked… and I bought them in three different colors and pretty much only wore those all summer long. I didn’t try to create a fabulous, cohesive and chic wardrobe, I just bought basics that worked. Then as Emerson slept more, started solids, my body started normalizing… then I started to create a new working wardrobe with this new body and new life.

You have so much going on in your life right now, the last thing you should worry about is creating a perfect wardrobe or hone your personal style. Keep what you buy simple – simple colors, simple silhouettes, simple pieces that flatter, work with your needs, and pretty much get the job done. The rest will come in due time.

Your Choices are Too Expensive!
When I make my capsules, I use Polyvore. To keep the collages clean and easy to get inspiration from them, I work with clothing in Polyvore that is not on a model, and is on a white background. Check out the online boutiques of your favorite budget-friendly retailer and you will likely see those garments on a mannequin or model.

Do not take my capsules as gospel, but more as inspiration. I may show a $200 designer sundress, but look at it and realize WHY I used it – it’s cotton, it has a print, it is below the knee, it has straps wide enough to cover a traditional bra, it has a defined waistband. Such a dress can be found at your nearby Goodwill, at a big box retailer, your neighborhood department store, and most any online retailer. Always shop within your means – great style can be achieved at any income level.

You Don’t Feature Plus Sizes!
Again, my capsule wardrobes are made in Polyvore, and I have to work with what is available. Again, I ask you to check out your favorite online plus size retailers and you will see the clothes are usually featured on a model or mannequin. Also, as a woman who is cusp sized, I know that what works on a 5’8” size 20 woman with a large bust and long slim legs won’t necessarily work on a 5’6” size 26 woman with small breast and larger hips. I try to choose pieces that will work on a broad range of sizes and shapes of women, but we females are snowflakes and no two of us are built the same. Please use these capsules as inspiration, not gospel. And subscribe to the blog, I regularly provide shopping suggestions specifically for plus sized women!

I Don’t Have Time to Search for Deals!
Oh my darling, I hear you loud and clear! Since having Emerson, I shop less, and I shop less frugally. I don’t have time to scour the entire Internet for the lowest price on a garment, so I usually just go with the retailer with the best shipping/return policy. Hello Nordstrom, my best friend. Nope, Nordstrom is not the cheapest, but they ship quickly, they have a broad range of prices and sizes, customer reviews, good sales, and free returns.

If you narrow down the stores you shop at, you can become quicker shopping there. I used to find Nordstrom’s site a maze, but now I know how to quickly find what I want, the brands I know that fit, how to shop from lowest to highest price, narrow down by size or color or brand even before surfing.

I also recommend signing up for a site like Ebates which gives you cash back on every online purchase and usually has some of the most popular coupon codes. Once a member, use the search function at the top of the site to type in the name of the store you wish to shop. It will take you to that store’s page on Ebates, where there’s a button to take you directly to the store, as well as any codes. Takes about 20 seconds and you’re in decent shape. It may not be the best price in town, but time is money and as a mom you don’t have a lot of time to waste.

And finally… no need to buy a whole wardrobe all at once.  Buy what you essentially need to get out of the house, and then slowly build up.  Shop when you have the time, the beauty of online shopping is it’s available 24/7.  I have been known to shop at 3am when I can’t get back to sleep after a feeding or nightmare, even on Christmas day when my child is being cared for by family and I can sneak away for an hour with my Smartphone and a glass of wine.  Life first, then shopping.

I Don’t Wear Pants/I Don’t Wear Sleeveless
Again, please don’t use these capsules as gospel, but inspiration.

For the summer capsule, you can easily replace the pants and shorts with some skirts in a variety of colors and lengths. In place of the printed pants, how about a printed cotton lawn skirt that hits between the knees and the calf; instead of white jeans a white linen maxi skirt; in place of the shorts a chino straight skirt that hits around the knees and maybe a denim or chambray fuller wrap skirt that hits at the knees.  All the tops featured can be found in a similar style with sleeves.

For the winter capsule, I’d get a black skirt of ponte or another heavier fabric that is midi length, a dark denim straight or a-line skirt that hits anywhere between the knees and calf, and maybe another ponte midi skirt in charcoal or gray.  The shorter-sleeved tops can easily be found in similar fabrics and silhouettes with a longer sleeve.

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How to Shop for Clothing and Define Your Personal Style

“Ok Allie, I have a question, how do you shop? I typically only shop when I need an item for work or an event. Wish I had a closet of items I could dress up or down as needed. I feel overwhelmed by the options and am tired of looking at pics online only to not find those items in the stores. Any suggestions? You always seem to be getting new things that are easy to drop into your current wardrobe. I think it’s a skill I’m missing.”

“Allie, I don’t know how to start when it comes to updating my wardrobe. I see something I like on a blogger and buy it but it never looks the same on me. I’m trying to have a smaller closet but I just keep shopping looking for the right thing but never find it. How do you know what to choose when shopping?”

Learning how to shop for myself is an ongoing process and education. Below are the tips I use to stay on track.

How to Shop: Define your personal style without breaking the bank by Wardrobe Oxygen

Know Yourself

You are not me, you are not any blogger or celebrity or person in your neighborhood, no matter how relatable or similar that woman may be. This is a GOOD thing, we women are snowflakes not only when it comes to body shape and size, but coloring, personal style, lifestyle, and temperament. So when you see something great out there you need to say (and sometimes you need to say it out loud), okay it looks great on her but would it look great on me? Does it make sense for me and my current life and wardrobe? This isn’t covering the blogger or model’s head, it’s being completely honest with who you are, knowing and embracing your current self and situation.

Consider your Current Wardrobe

What gets the most wear and why? Do you keep wearing that sundress because it’s comfortable? Because it covers what needs to be covered running after kids yet doesn’t cause you to overheat? Because the color or print makes you happy? Because your partner said you look pretty in it? There is no wrong answer, but delving into the why can help you figure out what NOT to purchase in the future and truly assess your current situation.

Make a List and Check it Twice

Do you regularly get dressed in the morning and wish you had a pair of nude pumps, a navy cardigan, a white blazer that fit well? Do you find situations where you wish you had an LBD on standby or will be attending a destination wedding and need dressy flat sandals? Don’t just think about what you need, jot it down and put it in your wallet or purse. Stick to this list. Remember, you are you now. Don’t shop for the old you, the future you, or the fantasy you. Shopping when not being realistic is the quickest way to waste money and lose any personal style.

Be Prepared

If you only shop when you have an event on the calendar, you will be shopping in desperation having to buy something ANYTHING. And that something will likely only be worn once. Be prepared. Look at your upcoming social and career calendar, look at your past, and factor in what may happen. If you know you have a public speaking engagement once a year for work, be ready with a perfect suit that can look different each time with a switch of shell and accessories. If friends are getting engaged this year, begin looking for wedding, shower, and bachelorette appropriate dresses and outfits. I believe a not-so little black dress is a smart investment because it ensures you’re ready for that unexpected funeral, wedding, cocktail party, luncheon, and can even be the base for many a costume for Halloween or theme nights. I actually have a list I made a decade ago of wardrobe staples that is a good starting point – adjust for your life and style but do factor in what may come down the pike.

Stop Pinning and Pining for Pretty Closets

I find it strange that the most pinned images from my blog are those of big and colorful closets and they are pinned on boards just of big and colorful closets. Don’t try to make your closet pretty, a pretty looking closet usually equals a lost personal style. I know, I’ve been there. The more varied and exciting your wardrobe, the harder it is to get dressed and the more of a need to buy more to make everything work.

Narrow Your Search

I’ve had readers complain that it seems everything I buy is from Gap, Ann Taylor, LOFT, and Nordstrom. I do this for a reason – it makes my life easier. These retailers carry petite and up to 14, they have free shipping promotions, and either have free return shipping or have a location near my home or office where I can drop in and return what doesn’t work. I know some people will Google a type of garment and search for it or go blindly to the biggest mall in the area, but I find doing either sends me down a rabbit hole, leaves me sweaty and overwhelmed, and usually ends up emptying my pockets on things I don’t need. There is nothing wrong with shopping at the same retailers all the time if they fit your figure, your budget, and your lifestyle. Life is short, don’t spend it getting overwhelmed and frustrated at the mall or in front of your computer.

Keep your Closet Clean

We’re all short on time, but taking care with your closet (and drawers and jewelry boxes) will save you time and money in the long run. Carefully hang everything on hangers all facing the same direction. Organize your drawers so everything is visible. A place for everything and everything in its place so you can clearly see what you have, what you need, and what would improve the current wardrobe. When I start feeling the need for new clothes, I step away from the laptop and step into my closet to reorganize. Touching the garments, carefully buttoning and smoothing, organizing by category (I put all dresses together, all tops, all pants, etc.) and removing that which is damaged, doesn’t fit or isn’t appropriate to the season or your life keeps you connected and helps you really know if you need to shop and what you actually need to buy.

Don’t look for Happiness on a Hanger

No dress will transform your life. A well-fitting pair of pants won’t make you look 10 years younger and 20 pounds thinner. You’ll make your ex seethe with jealously more by having a blast on the wedding dance floor than wearing that dress you searched three months for. While it’s important to dress with and for respect for an interview, if a job won’t hire you because your suit is three years old or your pants and blazer don’t perfectly match the company likely won’t be a happy fit in the long run. Clothing should be used to keep yourself from getting arrested for indecent exposure, to represent your emotion or intention. And to express who you already are. Money can’t buy happiness and clothing can’t change you. If you’re looking for a big change, look within before opening your wallet.

The Mall and the SAHM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Seasonless Black Trousers

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

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

Examples of good trousers:

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

Here is a great example from Lane Bryant:

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

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

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

Ask Allie: Cheap Work Clothing

I am 22 and find myself coming into work every day looking a hot-mess. Unacceptable. I’ll admit I’ve stopped trying to put things together at this point. I am in serious need of advice as to a “starter wardrobe”. I’m working with an extremely tight budget where $50 is too much for a blazer.

I’m getting back into the work world after spending four years at home with my sons and my closet is pretty much jeans and T-shirts. Any suggestions for building a work wardrobe from nothing and with practically no funds?

I wrote this post recently, and it’s worth a look. You don’t need to spend a ton of money to look professional in the office, you don’t need to own a dozen suits or expensive garments. However, it is important to look for versatile, quality pieces for the office. I can’t stress this enough – it’s more important to have a few well-made and well-fitting versatile pieces than a closet packed with cheap junk. It’s okay to wear the same black pants three times in a week, to wear the same suit for each business meeting, to wear the same pencil skirt twice a week if it fits well, is classic, and versatile.

Quality can be found at TJ Maxx, at Target, at Goodwill. You don’t need to go to a high-end retailer to find quality pieces. Shop slowly, shop carefully, be picky. Again, it’s better to only have one pair of black pants if they fit well and flatter. It’s better to buy a pair of $29.99 clearance pants and get them hemmed to the perfect length via the local dry cleaner than to spend $80 on a pair of pants that don’t fit well.

Shopping Online
I find a ton of great business clothing for less online. Subscribe to sites that notify you of online deals, or follow retailers on social media to know when they are having free shipping or discounts so you can save big. Also consider joining Ebates, which will send you a check a couple times a year just for regular shopping online.

Thrifting
Schedule thrifting into your schedule the way you would doctor’s appointments or book club. You will have the best luck when you go regularly, and know where you are shopping. Never buy smaller than you size, but some pieces a hair too large can be easily tailored with a belt, some Stitch Witchery, or your nearby dry cleaners or tailor. Don’t buy pieces that are damaged just because they are a great deal – for office clothing it’s important to have pieces in great condition. Thrifting is a great way to find blouses to give a new look to wardrobe basics – a black pantsuit looks completely different with a turquoise silk ruffled blouse than with a crisp white button-front shirt than with a shell pink silk sweater tee.

Shopping the Clearance Rack
I worked retail for many a year, and highly respected those savvy shoppers who entered my store and immediately went to the back to the sale rack. Stores you may think are outside your pricerange can have some stellar deals on the clearance rack. I own $19.99 blazers from Ann Taylor, $30 cashmere sweaters from J. Crew, and beautiful lined trousers from Nordstrom for less than $40. Again, follow these brands online to know when they have deals – recently Ann Taylor had a “private sale” for regular customers and offered 40% off sale merchandise. For less than $100 I got a pair of work pants, two shells, a cardigan, a skirt, and a merino wool crewneck… you can’t find that much workwear eat any discount mart for that price!

Quality at a Discount
Some things just make a piece look cheap, no matter the price on the ticket. Shiny synthetics, too many embellishments, visible logos, unlined non-knit jackets, too tight trousers, blatant trends (wide flared legs, super cropped jackets, extreme shoulders, cutouts, etc.) will make an otherwise nice work garment look inappropriate. I have found simple suiting-fabric separates at Target and Old Navy. Fabrics like matte jersey and Ponte knit look great at lower pricepoints and are work-appropriate for separates and dresses. Check out sites like 6pm.com for quality footwear at great low prices; also consider stalking eBay for specific pieces you have seen at retailers for a nice gently-used price.

Capsule Wardrobe
In my last post about a work attire, I focused mainly on the entry-level employee. However, you can look professional at any level with a small wardrobe. This capsule wardrobe is only an example – while you can click the link below it to see the specific pieces I used, do know I was working with pieces that have images available online, not on a model, and on a white ground. I chose pieces that I know can be found a low pricepoints and can look like quality even if they are purchased from a discount retailer; pieces that can look current even if they are purchased from a thrift store.

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As you see, I chose a color story of black, gray, and shades of lilac as the accent hue. I chose black as a base because it’s a color that’s easier to mix and match from various retailers and easier to hide the price of a garment because the stitching and details are less visible. A gray “snow leopard” print adds interest and works with all the colors in the collection. All silhouettes are classic so they will work now and a couple years from now. Lighter-weight sweaters look more professional than chunky knits; warmth can be had with layers. I chose black pumps as the lone shoe since they are so versatile; if you can afford additional work shoes, a flat or a tall boot can be quite versatile and also classic. These pumps can be worn with bare legs (dress code permitting) in warmer months, with trouser socks for the pants, with tights or sheer stockings with the skirts come the colder months.

  1. Black jacket, black pants, ruffle blouse (can switch out pants for either skirt)
  2. Black jacket, black pants, white shirt (can switch out pants for either skirt)
  3. Black jacket, black pants, lavender sweater (can switch out pants for either skirt)
  4. Black jacket, leopard cardigan, black skirt
  5. Leopard cardigan, black pants
  6. Leopard cardigan, either skirt, ruffled blouse
  7. Leopard cardigan, white shirt, pants or either skirt
  8. Lavender sweater, gray skirt, leopard belt
  9. Lavender sweater, ruffled blouse, gray skirt
  10. Lavender sweater, white shirt, pants or either skirt
  11. Lavender sweater, black pants
  12. Black sweater, black pants, leopard belt
  13. Black sweater, white shirt, black skirt
  14. Black sweater, gray skirt, leopard belt
  15. White shirt, gray skirt, leopard belt
  16. White shirt, black pants, lavender sweater around shoulders
  17. Ruffled blouse, gray skirt
  18. Ruffled blouse, black pants

So with less than a dozen pieces, you can create over 20 different ensembles. An extra tank top or silk shell can add a handful more options. As you add to your wardrobe, keep in mind the color story and silhouettes so new pieces will fit effortlessly into your collection and increase the versatility of each piece.

When You Can’t Afford a Suit
It’s better to not have a suit than a cobbled-together mess. A blazer is expensive, and without stalking clearance racks, eBay, and your nearby thrift store you very well won’t be able to find a decent one under $50. So don’t buy one. You can look professional in a simple cardigan, blouse, and pants; a shift dress and pumps or flats, a button-front shirt and trousers. A matte jersey wrap dress, gabardine sheath or Ponte knit shift with a strand of pearls and simple black pumps can look just as sophisticated and professional while being far more easy to find at a low pricepoint. Don’t make it work, only own that which deserves to be in your closet.

So maybe now it’s a Forever 21 cardigan, Target pants, and a thrifted oxford as your work uniform – there’s nothing wrong with that. Take good care of them, launder them carefully, treat them like couture and they will be good to you in return. As you move up the corporate ladder you may replace these pieces with higher-end pieces once they wear out… or you may be pleased to find that quality doesn’t have to equal a higher price!

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My Holy Grail Beauty Products

Many moons ago, I was a regular on Makeup Alley. There, members would often talk about their HG, or Holy Grail products. That mascara that dreams were made of, the moisturizer that truly did transform, the hair product that finally made tresses manageable. Many moons ago, I spent a ton of money at Sephora, CVS, and Nordstrom looking for my own personal HGs but rarely gave any product the time needed to truly get to know it. As I have aged, I’ve stopped with the manic shopping for perfection. Lack of time, lack of funds, and lack of thinking such items will be so life-changing. But with that, I’ve used products until I “hit pan” or emptied the tube, I’ve repurchased items if they have served me well, and given products time to really prove if they’re good for me. I’ve also learned that Holy Grail doesn’t mean a product that will change my life, but products that fit me, my lifestyle, my budget, and my personal style.

The other day as I was doing my face, I realized I do have plenty of Holy Grail beauty products. I have a pretty set skincare routine and makeup face, one that gets the job done, feels good, looks good. My HG beauty products:

My Holy Grail Skincare Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Beauty Products for Skincare

  • DHC Deep Cleansing Oil – This stuff isn’t cheap, but I have yet to find a cheaper alternative that works quite as well. Garnier is fine, but when I splurge and buy DHC (or get a sample from the BlogHer conference, thank you Rakuten!) I realize there is no comparison. This product gets my skin clean, takes off all makeup (even that kohl that seems to reappear five minutes after cleansing and then again in the morning), leaves my skin feeling softer than before cleansing, never causes breakouts, and when I use it, the next morning my skin looks phenomenal – hydrated, plump, soft, even, dare I say younger? I’ve used off and on for five years and have wasted so much money trying to find a cheaper alternative.
  • CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser – I keep this in the shower as cleansing oil doesn’t work well in such a situation. This also does a great job of removing everything from my face without stripping it, though I sometimes need to do a second wash if I wore any primers or setting sprays. I like using this with my Clarisonic. It’s cheap, it doesn’t dry me out, no breakouts, not too harsh but effective. However, if I only use this and don’t switch every so often my skin does start to dry a bit. The best combination is me using DHC most nights and a wash with CeraVe and my Clarisonic in the shower 2-3 times a week.
  • Clarisonic Mia – I’ve gone through periods where I don’t use this, and times when I’ve used it daily. Over time I have found that my skin benefits from using it, but not too often. I like it best in the shower; I’ll do a quick wash with CeraVe especially if I’ve used primers and setting sprays, then do a second cleansing with CeraVe and the Clarisonic. It makes my pores appear to be smaller, makes my skin glow (and true glow, not scratched irritated red), and really gives me a deep clean. I buy replacement brush heads on eBay from well-rated sellers and always make sure to have an extra one in the linen closet for replacement.
  • L’Oreal Youth Code Serum Intense – I’ve now purchased this product six times, I love it that much. I have tried other serums, and they don’t compare – too greasy, ineffective, irritating. I still don’t know exactly what Youth Code does to improve my skin, but when I use it, my skin is happy. It’s a very light serum that absorbs quickly and plays nice with moisturizers. It makes my skin glow a bit, pores seem reduced, skin feels hydrated but never greasy. I use it morning and night under my moisturizer.
  • Thayer’s Rose Witch Hazel – I’ve used this for over a decade and nothing else compares. I don’t wash my face in the morning, I just wipe it with this witch hazel. It smells nice, it leaves my skin feeling clean yet soft, and the price is very nice. Also feels good on a sweaty gross day; I’ll wipe down my neck, cleavage, behind my ears and feel refreshed.
  • Reusable Cotton Rounds – I am still using the same set I featured in this post, and they only get softer and more absorbent with washings. I store the rounds in an oversized mason jar (so hipster… well actually it fits nicely in my medicine cabinet), and I have a mesh bag hanging off the bathroom door and put the used rounds in there. Zip it up when I’m down to just a few clean rounds and throw in the next load of laundry. Wash and dry in the bag, and shove back in the mason jar. I use these for anything that needs a cotton round or ball except polish remover. Better for the environment, and better for your wallet!

My Holy Grail Makeup Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Makeup Beauty Products

  • Revlon ColorStay Makeup – I’ve used both formulas of this product; since turning 40 I switched to the Normal/Dry version (my color is Fresh Beige) and I find it has as much staying power as the oil-free version. The color looks natural on me, it blends well, doesn’t cause breakouts or get weird around my eyes and you can’t beat the price! Best of all… it lasts. It lasts through crying, through humid DC days, through dancing and sweating at a concert, and I can put it on at 6am before heading to the office and still have a set face at 7pm for an after-work event.
  • Revlon ColorBurst Balm Stain in Romantic – This stuff is amazing, and many of you have purchased it after I reviewed it and agree. It’s that perfect soft red that looks good on most every one. It’s not a lipstick, not a balm, not a stain but a combo of them all that can be applied without a mirror, be layered without being sticky or gross, and it has a bit of a menthol feel to soothe dry lips. I feel like Snow White when I wear it.  I have Romantic in my purse, Romantic in my desk, and Romantic in my dressing table at all times.
  • NARS Blush in Orgasm – I’ve been using this blush for over a decade. It has a bit of shimmer, but it’s subtle and only gives my skin a bit of a dewy finish. The coral color looks natural, but isn’t too orange to clash with cool-toned lipcolors and outfits. I have a couple other blushes in my makeup drawer for different looks but I always come back to Orgasm.
  • Maybelline Stiletto Liner in Brownish Black – I have contacts, allergies, and rub my eyes often. Pencil liners always end up a mess on me, and as I have gotten older I’ve found glossy black liquid liner looks too harsh.  I went through a ton of liquid liners from department stores, Sephora, and yes Makeup Alley-highly rated liners and none really wowed me.  I tried Line Stiletto by chance and became a loyal user for many years. It’s a felt tip that is flexible enough adjust the width of the line and get in that tiny area next to the lash line. It holds up through rubbing and sweating and tears and all that jazz, you can reapply over it later in the day if you want a darker or thicker line, yet it washes away easily at the end of the day. I keep one in my purse and one in my dressing table; I replace every three months.
  • e.l.f. Makeup Mist and Set – This is by far the best makeup setting spray I have tried. A combination of this and the Revlon ColorStay and my face can last for 24 hours even in high heat and humidity. Unlike other setting sprays and primers, I never get breakouts or clogged pores from this spray. And it doesn’t hurt that a bottle is under $5.00!

My Holy Grail Haircare Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Haircare Beauty Products

  • Rusk Thick – While I have a lot of hair, it’s relatively thin. A few spritzes of Rusk Thick before blowdrying gives me lift and body without it feeling as though I added anything to my hair. I keep trying different products and they’re always… fine. But Thick gets the job done without making my hair feel gross or look gross on Day 2. I’m on my third bottle in the past few years and I’ve learned to not waste my money on other products and stick with what works.
  • Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray – I raved about it in this post and I still adore it. I like messy rocker hair, and it helps me get that. I sometimes like full loose curls and it helps me get that. And when I am on Day 2 or 3 and want it to look purposeful and not greasy or limp, it helps me get that too.
  • Clairol Natural Instincts in 20 Hazelnut – While my stylist can give me the best color with depth, dimension and multi colors that look more natural and shiny, I’ll use Natural Instincts Hazelnut between sessions to cover gray and when my haircolor fades. It’s a bit darker than my natural brown, but I like that. I also like that this is a cool brown, not auburn or golden. It’s not the best on grays, but it’s a good in-between sessions color that isn’t completely permanent and doesn’t dry out or fry my hair.

My Holy Grail Body Care and Fragrance Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Body Care Fragrance Beauty Products

  • Neutrogena Body Oil – I love the smell, I love how it makes my skin look dewey and silky, and I love the ritual of applying it in a steamy bathroom post-shower. I tire of fragrances quickly, but not Neutrogena Body Oil. When I was pregnant it was one of the few scents that didn’t bother me; Karl would use it as a massage oil when my back bothered me and when I feel stressed I’ll take a bath and add some to the water for the aromatherapy as well as the moisturizing properties. Heads up, don’t waste your money on drugstore versions; they don’t smell the same. At ALLLLLLL.
  • Body Shop Coconut Body Butter – This stuff takes scaly alligator winter skin and makes it soft, silky, and happy. It’s great on sunburned, irritated, or sensitive skin; slather your feet in it before bed and put on socks and wake up with lovely tootsies. I’ve been using it since I worked for the company as a trainer 15 years ago.  I buy the jumbo tubs now and one lasts me almost a year.
  • Burberry London Eau de Parfum – I always wanted a signature fragrance, it seemed so feminine and elegant and stylish. This is not the fragrance I would have thought would be “the one” but for almost a decade it continues to be a scent I love and never tire of.  I wrote more about Burberry London EDP in this post.
  • OPI Nail Color in Big Apple Red – When summer comes I like to switch up and do the occasional fun color (right now wearing OPI’s Stop for Red), but Big Apple Red for two years has been my signature color. I don’t tire of it, it’s the perfect red that’s not too flashy, too mature, doesn’t look bad on my pale skin, and it’s a color that stops strangers on the street to compliment and ask the brand and name.
  • CertainDri – I’m a sweaty gal, and have tried dozens of natural, clinical, men’s, women’s, unisex, fancy, basic, and all kinds of deodorants but they all miss the boat (and usually leave me smelling like B.O. plus chemicals or B.O. plus baby powder or lavender).  CertainDri continues to be the one product that leaves me smelling just like skin.  If you used in the past and found it drippy and irritating, the formula has been updated and improved.  I swipe it on at night and then in the morning use a regular deodorant (usually Dove because it’s gentle, relatively effective, and the smell doesn’t make me want to hurl).

Now it’s your turn to share. Do you have any Holy Grail beauty products? Your favorite may be the one thing we’re missing in our lives, let us know what you love in the comments!


How to “Read” Fashion Magazines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday Tip – For the Fashion Fearful

Many of you may be reading this for entertainment. You are stylish, you are hip to trends. You know what looks good on you and what is positively ghastly. You wear your shape with pride and class. You don’t need assistance, you’re just cruising by.
Others, you care, but you don’t know where to start. You have been wearing the same pieces for over a decade, even though your shape, lifestyle and tastes have changed. Clothing has been something you use to not get arrested for indecent exposure, not something you care about. Now for whatever reason, you have started to care. And this terrifies you. Where to start?
First things first, fashion does not have to be scary. Let’s scratch the word FASHION. It evokes 3-inch thick Vogue magazines, stiletto heels, clothes you cannot sit in and designers one’s name cannot pronounce (or ever be able to afford). I like the word STYLE. Style does not disappear when a hemline goes out of the limelight. It does not waver from season to season. It does not offer free advertising for brand names and it spans generations and waistlines. Style is available for all, no matter your shape, your age or your budget.
I am going to ask you to do a very terrifying thing. Purchase a full-length mirror if you do not already own one. They are available for less then $20 from Big Box retailers like Kmart and Target. This can be most anywhere – the back of the bathroom door usually hidden by your robe, on the inside of your closet door, in your hallway closet in the foyer I even have one in my office/gym/spare room (which explains the Bowflex in every picture on my other blog). Place it anywhere you want and what works with your home. Now USE IT. So many women do not own a full-length mirror. This must explain why so many women walk around in too-short trousers, clunky shoes with trim pants, and panty lines visible a mile away. Each day before you leave your home, LOOK AT YOURSELF. Do you like what you see? Now you can’t remove the hips, the wrinkles, the breasts or the nose with a flash of a wand, but that is not what you are looking at. Are you “wrapping the package” in a flattering way? It doesn’t matter what you like and dislike about your figure or your face; you do not have immediate control over that. What you do have control over is how it is covered.

Do those trousers dig into your midsection causing the dreaded “muffin top?” Is that skirt hitting in the middle of the widest part of your calf, causing your legs to look shorter and thicker than they really are? How does that turtleneck REALLY look with your round face? Is that skirt really work appropriate or more dance club appropriate? Does that baggy sweater cover your bumps or accentuate them?

Once you have become comfortable with said full-length mirror (at least two weeks of daily views) you will see your wardrobe will change slightly. The pleated pants will be worn less, and possibly donated to a charity. The beloved dress that is “a little tight but not bad” may take a place farther back in the closet until you again reach goal weight. And those tunic sweaters that you feel hide all your sins? You will see that they really don’t achieve much at all. This is a good thing. A GOOD wardrobe is based on quality, not quantity. So you only like two pairs of trousers in your closet now. Who said you can’t wear the same pants twice in a week? Unless they are lime green with fuchsia polka-dots, I highly doubt anyone will notice. What they will notice is the stained, threadbare too short chinos that you are sporting in the sensible trousers’ place. If you don’t like something on you, you should not hang on to it. You will not miss it after a short period, and if you keep it, you may actually wear it again. Even if you end up with only three bottoms and four tops, you will survive. Slowly you can add to this collection with pieces you love and that love your body.
Now how does one go about buying new clothes? Malls are scary places, sensory overload of sights, smells and sounds. Online shopping is a game of Russian roulette and can be quite costly with returning those items that are not right. Boutiques are quaint but often costly and have a minimal amount of sizes and selection.
As I have mentioned before, I find malls to be the best for the new to wardrobe building. Clothing is something you wear every day and effects every aspect of your life. You would take a half day for a doctor’s appointment, why not schedule a wardrobe doctor appointment. Malls are lovely before the lunch rush. The stores are pretty empty and the salespeople are bored. Bored salespeople equal helpful salespeople and less frantic of salespeople. They will take their time with you, bringing you other sizes to the fitting room and giving you advice and opinions. Managers usually work on Monday early shifts and they usually have the most experience and the best sales skills. If you cannot take off a morning to shop, consider early on a Saturday or later on a Sunday.
Go to the mall with a list. A pair of black trousers, a new pair of brown boots, a couple of business casual tops. Then stick to that. If you need work clothes, do not even walk by the yoga pants, the jeans or the hoodies. They may be safe, but they are not necessary right now.
Consider solids. Solids may seem drab and boring, but they are the most versatile. A solid top will most likely match your solid bottom, and it’s less memorable, meaning you can wear it more often without anyone noticing. You see when your neighbor wears that floral skirt again, but when she wears a blue dress, you only notice the color, not the date of when it was worn. Find your personality through scarves, jewelry, shoes and handbags. No clue what colors go with what? Here is some assistance. This is not all-inclusive, but a simple list to help with those crazy colors shown in stores this season:
Color Bottom
Color Top
Complimenting Accessories (shoes, belts, bags)
Black
Most any color except a medium brown or browns and navys that are almost the same shade as the black
Black is a safe bet. You can go with a contrast color (anything but brown, tan and navy) as long as the top is also black or a dark basic color (red shoes with a khaki sweater and black skirt)
Brown
Ivory, brown, tan, red, pink, lighter shades of blue, dark orange/rust/terracotta
Again, safe to go with the same color and only use a contrast if the top and bottom are both neutral (ivory sweater, brown pants and green pumps)
Camel
Brown, pink, black, ivory, plum, dark greens, navy, French blue, red, dark purples
If you have camel already, great! If not, consider the top. If it is a warm color (red, ivory, plum) brown is a nice compliment. If it is cool (black, purples, French blue) consider black. Navy is a shade that can go either way, though I think darker shades look better with black and lighter shades with brown.
Navy
French or baby blue, pinks, white, camel, ivory, dark red, lighter shades of green
Again, if you have navy shoes that closely match the bottom, wear them. I personally find navy bottoms hard to match and just never wear them. If you like navy, consider the rules above. Darker navys with black and lighter with dark brown or camel.
White (no matter what the fashion mags say, should only be worn from June through August unless you are a true expert fashionista)
Most any color except beige, ivory or a very pale shade of a color.
I do not believe white shoes should be bought by anyone except nurses, brides and true expert fashionistas. Since these white skirts and pants are being worn in the summer ONLY, consider a neutral like a tan shoe. If you are wearing a bright colored top (colbalt blue, hot pink, red) consider black shoes instead.
Ivory
Black, brown, medium to dark greens, pinks and blues, red, navy, tan, purples and oranges
If it is a warm shade (orange, brown, tan) consider brown. If cool (black, blue, green) consider black. No one needs to own a pair of ivory shoes.
When you are shopping, consider your lifestyle. If you are reading this, you are probably not the type to have 40 pairs of shoes. Try to build your wardrobe around one shoe color. If you are fair haired, you may feel better in browns. If you are a brunette, you may be like me and prefer black. I only own one brown pair of shoes and no navy; I shop and think, “would this go with black shoes?” If it won’t go with a pair of shoes already in my closet I will not even try it on. It is far too expensive and complicated to buy a pair of pants and then have to search for matching shoes, belt, top and accessories to match it. If you like black shoes, consider only buying bottoms in black, ivory and tan or camel. If you prefer brown, consider only brown, khaki and camel. Personally, I find navy too difficult to match and blend into a wardrobe. If you cannot think of at least two things and one pair of shoes in your closet that an item will match, don’t buy it. It will cause you too much strife.
As for WHAT to buy, check out the sidebar. I have some suggestions as to what basic items every woman could use in her wardrobe. Also consider your lifestyle. If you are a stay-at-home mom, you may not need a pantsuit as much as quickly as a woman who meets with clients at work on a daily basis (though trust me, once you have a new wardrobe and a new look on life, almost all women will find needs for all the items on the list!).

Start off slow. A pair of pants to replace the ones that accidentally got washed and now don’t hang right. A new sweater to replace the baggy tunic you have sported for a decade. A dress for that upcoming wedding that will also be appropriate for your company holiday party AND your niece’s christening. A pair of simple black pumps that will go with your work pants AND that dress for the upcoming wedding. Go slow. No one is keeping a tally of how many pieces of clothing you own. Scour sale racks. Once you are comfortable with your size and what styles flatter you, venture to the online vendors and boutiques for variety (and often for better prices). Note the designers that fit you well and be loyal to them. Also be loyal to the shops that fit you and treat you well when you visit. Good salespeople will take down your information and notify you of sales and special events in their shops. This can save you money and time when adding to your wardrobe. Try to stay away from malls at holidays and on Saturday afternoons until you feel very strong and comfortable with shopping – these times will make you want to crawl back into your home and cover yourself with fleece.

And finally, believe in yourself. Wearing flattering, well made and fitting clothing is something you DESERVE. You work hard, you care about others, you are an important person on this planet. You deserve to feel good, to look good, and to present yourself to others as the wonderful person you are.

Saturday – Monday in Miami

Hello all! I am back from Miami. Due to the weather I am not sporting much of a sunkissed glow (it rained, it was cloudy, it was horrifically windy and never over 70 degrees or so) but we had fun.

For those who don’t know, I won this trip from Budget Travel magazine. I have been to Florida many times, but not to Miami. As that the reason I won the contest involved my sister and our vacation traditions I took her as my guest. We also planned it so that this trip fell on her birthday weekend!

Saturday morning, I took the Metro to Regan airport. I took a black pullman to check, and my HARDWARE Handbags and purse for carry-on.

I wore my black merino crewneck, orange crinkled scarf/shawl from Banana Republic, my dark denim skirt from Gap, my tan “bern” boots from Duo, silver cuff. Hair was washed and conditioned but left to air dry except for the bangs. Makeup was simple – L’Oreal True Match concealer in W1-3, Cargo Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife, Revlon Shiny Sheers in Sheer Cocoa Glaze and Cover Girl Lash Blast in Black on curled lashes.

We arrived at the hotel (located in Bal Harbour) around 3pm, got ourselves settled and switched into bathing suits and semi-streetwear to investigate the pool and beach. I wore my aqua halter-neck one-piece from J. Crew, my dark denim skirt and a jade green scoop tee from Gap with black flops from J. Crew. We walked to the beach, but it was so late in the day the highrises were blocking most of the sun. We dipped our feet in the Atlantic, and then spent a bit at the pool deck near the bar just people watching.

We then took a nap to prepare for our evening out. I showered and decided to wear my hair wavy, but the water in Miami was different from at home and I forgot my shampoo and used the hotel one so my hair was very limp. I ended up curling almost the whole thing, doing some backcombing and creative techniques to make it decent.

Gold and olive silk dress with pockets from Banana Republic (but purchased for far less on eBay), black croco peeptoes from BCBGirls, long gold necklace from Express, gold bangles from Ralph Lauren, gold hoops.

Makeup was Smashbox Photo Finish primer, L’Oreal True Match concealer in W1-3, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Cargo Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife, Body Shop eyecolor in Slate over lid and the black shade from the Pop Beauty for Brown Eyes set in crease and along lash lines. Lashes curled, two coats of Cover Girl Lash Blast in black with two coats of Imju Fiberwig over it. Bit of Sephora eye pencil in grey along lash lines. On lips was Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Glossy Rose.

We walked across the street from our hotel to the Bal Harbour Shops where the restaurant was located. We had a nice meal, did a lot of people watching and had a lovely bottle of champagne. After dinner, we caught a cab down to the nightclub which was closer to South Beach. We had VIP seating, which meant we had a seat in the center of the club where there was a section of white vinyl couches. They brought us a bottle of champagne and strawberries and again we had an awesome time people watching, and then dancing a bit. We’re not used to partying until 6am, so we headed out around 2:00.

The next morning it was raining, the wind was INSANE and it was the actual day of my sister’s birthday so we ordered Room Service for breakfast. We sat in front of the balcony overlooking the ocean, ate yummy food (felt very Sex in the City… you ladies know which episode) and watched that TLC reality show about Miss America.

The rain let up and we had some mandatory shopping to do so we got dressed. I didn’t do my hair from the night before because it was acting so strange; I just brushed out any tangles.

As for outfit, my trusty black merino shift from Banana Republic, my tan “Bern” boots from Duo, silver hoops and cuff bracelet.

Makeup was L’Oreal True Match concealer in W1-3, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Cargo Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis – ivory in inner corners, khaki on lid, chocolate in crease and along lash lines. Lashes curled and two coats of Cover Girl Lash Blast in black. On lips was Revlon Shiny Sheers in Sheer Cocoa Glaze.

The mall was ridiculous; honestly I had a hard time spending the gift card. We first went to Tiffany because my sister received a gift she wanted to exchange. She got a gorgeous enamel necklace and I used some of the gift card to cover the difference. We then walked the two flights seeing it more like a museum than an actual shopping mall. Chanel, Versace, Dior, Oscar, Fendi, Hermes, Prada… the gift card could maybe buy me a keychain in these places…

They had a Banana Republic and ya’ll KNOW how much I love that store! I thought wow, for almost $500 I could totally buy everything I hearted in the place, or maybe a new purse! Notsomuch; the store was kinda messy, very few items in my size and a lot of the new clothing looks prettier on the hanger than on my bod. I ended up leaving with a $9 clearance sweater and an $18 black cami. I know, boring.

I decided my best bet was either a sale purse (because these stores had purses around $1,500, not $500) or sunglasses and then spend the rest on cosmetics. I tried on sunglasses in every boutique and all looked stupid. This is probably why in the past five years the only sunglasses I have worn are crappy cheap ones from the kiosk in the mall or Target – sunglasses are usually too big, too small, or too rounded for my large and not round head.

Until Celine.

We went into Celine and I tried on THE SUNGLASSES. Not super flashy with logos, not overly trendy and obviously passe by next summer, not too round, too big, too small, too manly, too girly, too trendy. Just right. To add to it, the salesperson was one of the first who treated us nicely, and not like street urchins. I bought them!

We had shopped until we almost dropped so we headed out to our next destination – massages! My sister’s friends bought her a gift certificate to a day spa near our hotel for her birthday gift and so I asked my mom if my birthday gift could be a gift certificate towards the price of a massage so we could get them at the same time. The spa didn’t look too impressive, but my sister and I agree we received some of the best massages ever.

After our massages, the weather had gotten far colder. We caught a cab back to our hotel and changed for dinner.

Black cami from Banana Republic, black merino crewneck from Banana Republic, dark “The Flirt” bootcut jeans from Old Navy tucked into my tan “Bern” boots from Duo, orange silk crinkle scarf from Banana Republic, hair held back with my new Celine sunglasses. Makeup the same except for touchups, hair the same (and now kinda greasy from the massage).

We walked to Surfside and ate at an adorable sushi place that was full of friendly staff, happy locals and good food at a good price. We shared a variety of sushi and sashima and each had a nice glass of Pinot Noir to warm us up. After, we ran across the street to CVS for bottled water at non-hotel prices and were psyched to see they sold champagne there! We grabbed a bottle of Freixenet and headed back to the hotel.

The wind was INSANE at this point and we often walked backwards so we didn’t get sand in our eyes. Once back, we each settled in our beds (the beds at the hotel were sooo comfy!) with glasses of bubbly and watched Extreme Home Makeover. Glamorous, no? Didn’t matter, we had a great time, gabbed and giggled.

Monday we got up and were both sore from the massages so did a bit of yoga and then got ready for our day. It was still rainy and windy so we couldn’t go to the beach. Anyway, I still had money to spend on the gift card so we had to return to the mall.

I had showered the night before and let my hair air dry. As for makeup, it was exactly the same as the day prior.

For clothing, I wore my olive linen shift from Old Navy, my Duo boots, my orange crinkle scarf, silver cuff and hoops.

Then I went out on the balcony.

Oh

My

Goodness!

The wind was INSANE! I decided to put my Old Navy jeans on under the dress and boots so if my skirt flew up in the wind, I would be covered. This was also a good idea as that this is what I would be wearing on my flight home and it was about 20 degrees back in DC.

I decided to spend the bulk of the rest on a perfume. I have been wearing Burberry London for a very long time and love it, but was ready for a change. I already know what I wanted – Narciso Rodriguez for Her. I had received a sample at Sephora and had been coveting it ever since. We went to Saks and bought it up. We them went to a cafe for late breakfast/early lunch. I decided to sport my new sunglasses perrched on top of my head.

Sitting at the table (it is in a sheltered outdoor part of the mall) I felt something fall on then off my head. I look down and see a piece of metal. Pick it up and it says, “Celine.” It was part of my sunglasses! I grab the pair and realize the plastic part was cracked and the metal fell off and couldn’t be reattached. What the heck!?!? Glad that this happened while still in Miami, we headed back to the store after lunch.

OMG, I am so glad this happened in Miami and not back home. The DRAMA it took to exchange out these darn sunglasses for a replacement pair (and can I say the saleswoman remembered me from the previous day as well?) was horrific and left the worst taste in my and my sister’s mouths. I have worked retail and KNOW that it didn’t have to be so difficult. This plus drama I didn’t even mention the day prior when trying to use the gift card in their store… I won’t go into details, just letting you know I have received better service at Express, at Forever 21, at H&M and even The Gap in the same mall on the same day than I did at Celine and someone at their corporate office will receive my complaint, whether or not it will do any good.

So after what felt more like work than play at Bal Harbour Shops, we walked back to the hotel to have a pre-flight cocktail and then catch a cab to the airport. No time for the drinky-poo which was probably good because we were both grumpy and tired by this point.

We got to the airport, which is one of the most confusing and smelly airports I have visited; checked our luggage and headed to our gate where there weren’t enough seats so we ended up sitting on the floor in a busy thoroughfare. Oh, and it was like 80 degrees and humid in the airport and smelled like manure. This picture sums up our feelings by this point, and also shows off my new sunglasses and my sister’s new Tiffany necklace.

Got home (yay!) to find out they lost my luggage (boo!) but they found it this morning (pending yay; haven’t seen its condition yet… to be delivered to my house and I’ll check it out this evening). Looking forward to the luggage coming back – thinking about it on the Metro home I wasn’t tooo sad because really everything is replaceable or expendable that was in there except my black merino shift from Banana Republic – I do love that thing. And I wanted to wear my new perfume and give my husband the shirt I bought him. Also made getting ready today SUCK because in the suitcase was almost all my makeup, my shoes, my curling iron, both my brushes, my Jonathan Silky Dirt, my best nude bra, my deodorant, my toothbrush… I could go on but you get the idea!

UPDATED: Closet Clean-out – The Woman in Her 30s

One thing with having a blog for this long is that some of my “classic” fashion advice stops being classic. While one may try to buy pieces that will work for decades, few pieces really accomplish just that – shoulders slightly change, the taper on a skirt will increase or decrease over a decade, and items that seemed to be utterly passé return as “fashion staples.” So every so often, I revisit some of my old posts and update them for the new decade.

I have seen a lot of forums and sites complain about my post “Closet Clean-out – The Woman in Her 30s.” They find it too limiting, and out of date. I did write it three years ago, so let’s take another look at that list, and how it fits for women in 2011:

You aren’t 25 any more and you feel it in almost every aspect of your life. Do you feel it in your wardrobe?

No matter how young you can pass for or how many hours you spend in the gym, when you are over 30 you look ridiculous trying to dress like a 25-year old. Now this doesn’t mean once that birthday hits you have to chuck all your indie labels and head to Ann Taylor; it just means you need to add a bit of polish, refinement and respect to your look. You’ll be surprised – a proper closet clean-out in your early ‘30s will improve your reputation at work, your chances at finding a mate, and will actually make you look younger and more confident.

The Standard Closet Clean-out for a Woman in her 30s – Updated for the New Decade

What to Toss:

1. Half your rubber flip-flop collection. Oh this one gets a lot of flack. Am I really asking you to toss ALL OF YOUR BELOVED FLIP FLOPS??? Nope, read it again – I wrote HALF of your rubber flip flops, and note I say RUBBER. There is a difference between a leather flip flop and a cheapy pair from Old Navy, there is a difference between the silver thongs that look so great with your maxi dress, and your smelly pair of Havaianas that have seen far better days.

Keep your Reefs and your Rainbows, but thin out the collection. No need for a pair to match every top in your wardrobe for flip flops are not real footwear.  The more pairs you own, the more likely they will creep into everyday fashion.  Keep a pair that matches your bathing suit, a pair for running out into the yard, a standard black or brown pair in great condition for casual events.

Flip flops are for the beach, the pool, the neighbor’s cookout. They are not street shoes. They are terrible for your foot health, they are dangerous on an escalator, and they look tacky when trying to pretend to be true footwear. Instead, look for flat sandals or leather thongs which are just as easy and comfy, but far more stylish.

2. Ironic tee shirts. Again, another item that gets folks up in arms. So you keep your Hello Kitty tee shirt just for trips to the gym, or your Star Wars shirt just for trips to the grocery store and Home Depot. Don’t you see people when you go to these places? Anytime you leave your home, you have a chance with destiny. Dress for it. Don’t let people make assumptions about you.

Ironic tees are perfect for events like Comic-Con or a music festival; an event where like-minded people get together. These are places where such a tee shirt will be appreciated. When an adult woman heads out into public wearing a tee shirt with Tigger on the front, she will not be taken seriously, no matter how intelligent or composed she is.

3. Any top made out of denim. I type this the same day I ironed my relatively new chambray shirt. Who would have thought that in three years denim shirts would have made such a big comeback? Obviously not me.

So denim is back in, but that doesn’t mean every woman should hold on to her Express denim jacket from 2001 or her L.L. Bean chambray shirt from college. The silhouettes are washes are slightly different this time around, and style is in those tiny details. Unless you are the queen of vintage and can rock Brenda Walsh’s wardrobe in a new and funky way, keep your denim shirt shopping to a minimum. As a 36-year old woman, I chose to purchase only one denim-ish shirt this season, and went with a version from Target so I didn’t make a big investment. Denim went out of favor just a few years ago… and I have a good feeling it will be passé again in a couple years more.

4. Miniskirts (and skorts… and shorts). So shorts are back as well. Leather shorts on starlets, silk shorts on fashionistas, and candy-colored chino ones on anyone who loves J. Crew. Shorts are great when it’s hot out, and they are easy fashion for casual weekends.

The thing is, no matter how much you hit the gym, your 30-something gams won’t be as fab as your 20-something ones. Gravity, desk jobs, spending too many hours on your feet… these take a toll on a woman’s legs and thighs. So wear the shorts and even wear the shorter skirts, but be realistic. Make sure you can sit and pick up something from the ground without flashing the world, do the fingertip test (one should never wear a skirt that is shorter than her longest fingertip when arms to her side), and if unsure, choose the longer version for more versatility (mini skirts and shorts are not professional looking nor appropriate for weddings and religious events).

One item I would add to this list that I would not have in ’08 are the distressed denim mini skirts. While this was a fun look a couple years ago with a fitted tee and beaded necklace, this look now is dated and a bit Rock of Love. Instead choose denim cutoffs in a flattering length or a dark denim refined skirt, free of tears and bleach spots.

And as for skorts? Leave them to the tennis players.

5. Cheap bras. Read my recent post on getting a professional bra fitting. Look at my before and after photos. Read the comments from fellow readers. A quality bra that fits can totally transform not only your look, but your posture and health. You’re an adult, and you deserve quality underpinnings that support and flatter this beautiful adult body.

6. Laura Ashley Dresses. Another item that has gained popularity thanks to the vintage fashion darlings. I know some women (the blogger La Petite Marmoset comes to mind) who looks utterly adorable in a Laura Ashley dress. She knows how to rock it with some big chunky sandals, a hat, and a crazy accessory. She inherently knows how to make it work for her, make it look modern.

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t have the innate creative fashion sense of these vintage fashion bloggers. That’s okay, neither do I. And for that, we must steer clear of the polyester rayon challis calf-length dresses covered in calico prints.

7. Cheap polyester skirts. I still see these skirts being sold in some department stores like Kohl’s and PC Penney and it makes my stomach turn. A polyester tube of fabric covered with a tube of polyester mesh is not a flattering look on ANYONE. For a similar and more stylish look, consider a pencil skirt. I have found some great pencil skirts at all price points of stretchy Ponte de Roma, stretch denim, lined wool crepe, sturdy chino, lined silk and more.

8. Club Tops. Club tops are slowly disappearing from retailers (unless you shop at Frederick’s of Hollywood) but what is in their place are the teeny tiny camis that can’t be worn with a stitch of underpinnings. Be they spandex tubes or flimsy silky camisoles with lingerie straps, they can be seen as sexy… or desperate.

In my original post I mention both camis and tube tops as good alternatives, which can be seen as a conflict with the paragraph above. The difference is that I mention pieces that are flowing, blouson, silk. You don’t need to show off the indentation of your belly button to be sexy. Elegance and confidence are far more sexy attributes to show off.

9. Cheap suiting. Cheap suiting still exists, I see it in every discount retailer and on the Victoria’s Secret website. Unless you work at a very high-powered corporation or on The Hill, you probably don’t need to wear a suit to work every single day. Invest in one or two simple, basic suits in colors like black and gray so they can mix and match and work year-round. For other days, consider separates – trousers that don’t cling to your rear, skirts that hit around the knee, blouses and dresses that aren’t too tight.

If you do need to wear a suit every day, again choose quality and subtle colors so you can get away with wearing each piece more often. Break up the monotony with blouses and shells and subtle accessories.

And per my original post, shop career-friendly retailers in their sale departments for reasonable prices, and if you are torn between a cheap suit and a crisp shirt and skirt or trousers… go with the latter. Fit trumps uniform for interviews, business meetings, and corporate events. You will lose credibility faster in an ill-fitting polyester suit than in a blouse and trousers that fit and flatter.

What else I would add to this list:

  • Cheap pleather bags. This isn’t saying you can’t use vegan bags, but look for bags that are well-made. No more patent-leather designer knockoffs from Target, vinyl blinged-out purses from Payless, and NEVER pay for a fake designer bag (read this if you’re still considering fakes, & do a little Googling to see the true cost of purchasing fakes). If you can’t afford a designer bag, you’re not alone. Choose bags with fewer details – less metal, fewer studs, fewer trends. Go to the classics – even a small L.L. Bean Boat and Tote can be a chic summer handbag. Buy vintage – it’s en vogue and a stylish way to recycle and reuse while staying on budget.
  • Belly rings. Unless you are one who rocks piercings and body modification, little rhinestone belly rings are past their prime.
  • Silly Bandz/Cause Bracelets. My daughter wears Silly Bandz, and she is two. As for cause bracelets, my husband is a cancer survivor, but my Livestrong bracelet has been tucked very far in the back of my jewelry box for almost a decade. You can show your support for a cause without wearing rubber around your wrist.

Do not think that once you have your 30th birthday you have to dress in all gray with skirts past your knees. On the contrary. The point of this list isn’t to make you a Stepford Thirty-something, but to help you be realistic with your wardrobe. Show your personality with color and prints, use your post-college paycheck for some fabulous pumps or a well-made handbag. Notice what you are drawn to, and work on creating a signature look. Every woman’s personal style is different, instead of hiding behind your dated and inappropriate closet pieces, embrace this new stage of your life and find that look that is unequivocally, completely you.

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Closet Clean-out – The Woman Over 50

I may not yet be this age, but I am surrounded by coworkers, friends and family that are in this category. I have done many closet cleanouts and wardrobe consultations for women of this age and often times see the same themes in each of their closets, no matter their lifestyle, figure or age.

A woman over 50 has spent the greater part of her life taking care of everyone but herself. She may have worked up the career ladder to corporate success, raised several children, cared for home and spouse, was a leader in her community, and usually a combination of many or all of these things. To do all of this successfully, something often has to give and the first thing a woman is known to give up is herself – her time, her sleep, her budget for fashion and personal care.

This is nothing to criticize – we women are amazing creatures who have the ability to kick butt and take name in the corporate sector while nurturing a family at home and supporting causes close to our hearts. We can multi-task like nobody’s business and work beautifully with what life has given us.

The thing is, we often say it to our friends – we are no good to another if we are not first good to ourselves. Taking care of our exterior does a world of good in feeling good about ourselves and being understood and respected in the world. We can often feel taken advantage of by coworkers, children, significant others and peers; when you are over 50 it is time to reclaim yourself and show the world that you are still a successful and compassionate person, but you are no one’s doormat, you aren’t to be retired to a shelf, you are a phenomenal woman.

The quickest way to do this is by honestly analyzing your closet. Here’s a few things that every woman should toss from her collection:

Short-sleeved Camp Shirts. This seems to be the staple of many women’s wardrobe. In a poly blend, silky challis, actual silk or a cotton blend, these shirts have a boxy shape, a notched collar and are often worn untucked with trousers or tucked into skirts. They usually come in a floral or abstract print though they also do come in solids. They are wonderful because they are breezy on hot days, easy to wash and dry, resistant to wrinkles and seem to dress up a simple pair of shorts or pants.

Ladies, these are the equivalent of a man’s Hawaiian shirt. They are cheap looking, dated and a bit corny. They don’t flatter your figure, and they don’t honestly state to the world your personality and sense of style.

The Poly-blend Elastic Waist PermaPress Trouser. Again, these are popular because they are so easy – comfortable, easy to care for, work almost every season of the year. Black can look dressy in a snap, colors add pizzazz to outfits (usually with the camp shirts that are mentioned above).

I understand comfort and convenience, and I understand that it isn’t easy to shop for a figure that may not look or feel the same as it did 25 years ago. However that does not mean you need to succumb to what my dear friend calls Nursing Home Couture. You are not having someone else dress and bathe you, you have the ability to pull and zip up your own trousers, so you should invest in a few pairs that are easy to care for but look elegant and flattering.

Unlined trousers of cotton blends and synthetics usually can take a run on the gentle cycle of the washing machine with a gentle liquid detergent; drying synthetics is an overnight process from a hanger on your shower curtain rail. A tab-waist trouser will not dig into your midsection and lay smooth over your curves. A straight trouser or one that slightly gets wider as it goes down the leg is the most flattering to the majority of silhouettes. Black is great for dressing up; white is amazing with brights or pastels in the summer (look for lined or a heavier fabric with these to prevent VPL), and you will get more wear and look far more polished in neutrals for trousers – tan, camel, ivory, gray, brown will get you far more miles than baby blue or mauve.

The Man-sized Polo Shirt. They’re on sale at L.L. Bean and never shrink or fade. It was given to you at your company retreat. It’s comfortable/easy to care for/your favorite color/hides all the lumps and bumps/is simple come summer with a pair of shorts.

You are not a man, and you should never dress like a man. The oversized style went out a decade ago and we should be grateful. Oversized shirts actually make us look more lumpy and bumpy, and hide any curves we wish to showcase. A polo collar is not flattering to most, and those blousy-then-banded sleeves make everyone’s arms look like ham hocks.

I could suggest a feminine cut of polo shirt, but I find these styles of tops are not flattering on most women. If you are busty, curvy, or have a very athletic frame these tops usually accentuate the negative and hide the positive. If you have a slight figure with a few feminine curves and like the preppy style, go ahead and purchase some that are nipped in at the waist and cut to flatter your bustline. Stick with solids in cheery colors as that they look more expensive and elegant than stripes and prints. As for the rest of us women, a great replacement is a refined tee. Same great color choices, made of a silky yet sturdy jersey knit, with a flattering neckline and well-fitting sleeves it is just as easy to care for and far more flattering to one’s face and figure. No matter your size, look for one that glides over curves – no more oversized shirts!

Suntan-colored Pantyhose. Let’s add white, taupe, navy and ivory to this list. Not, I am not going to tell you to get rid of all your hose, but to be more particular with what quality and color your purchase.

Skin-colored hose can cover up a multitude of leg issues, offer some tummy control, help skirts glide better and make an outfit look more polished. However a leg that is obviously a different color from the rest of your body doesn’t look polished, it looks cheap. White hose should be left to nurses, and colored hose should be tossed or left to True Fashionistas.

Good hose will not be found at the drugstore – it’s best to head to your local department store where you can test out the colors against your skin, see the denier and feel the quality. You want sheer hose that do not have a lot of shine – are just a hair darker than your legs (should be the color of your face), and seem durable. Black hose are still acceptable for formal and conservative events if paired with black shoes – these should also be of good quality, sheer and not with a lot of shine.

There really isn’t need for any other color of hose – keep your selection minimal and then you can afford the higher-end brands. Care for them by gently washing and storing them and they should survive many wears.

As for knee-highs… they only work with trousers. There shouldn’t be a single skirt in your wardrobe that can handle knee-highs as well as walking and crossing of legs without the band showing. All hose should be above the knee or left to wear with pants.

Overly Matchy Matchy Anything. It’s nice to have your belt match your shoes, or even occasionally have your lipstick match the print in your blouse. What I am speaking of is the overly-matched set. The lime green shirt jacket and matching fabric capris with the same lime green printed tank, same lime green sandals, a headband of the same print as the top, and a lime green bangle to match your lime green hoops. I often see this with animal prints, unusual colors (lime, yellow, orange), and with novelty fabrics (corduroy trousers, jacket, purse and shoes).

Shopping channels and mail-order catalogs will often encourage this matchy-matchy obsession, telling their audience that it makes one look more polished, coordinated, festive. It doesn’t; it looks gaudy and cheap and tacky.

I remember a client showing up in her favorite outfit – a denim dress with leopard print trim, leopard print belt, leopard print pumps, a leopard print clutch with denim trim, and a denim and leopard printed fabric hair scrunchie. She even admitted when she wore this outfit, she donned her favorite leopard print bra and panties set. She said the coordination made her feel as though she was well dressed, strong, organized and powerful. She said she often got many compliments on the ensemble. When I asked her what type of compliments, she thought back and realized they were not about how she looked, but how coordinated and unusual the outfit itself was.

Over-coordination does not make you look better; you are the backdrop and this ensemble ends up taking center stage. One does not see your sparkling eyes, your engaging smile, but instead they are overwhelmed in a wash of candy pink or purple paisley. A matchy-matchy outfit is not an outfit, but a costume. A woman of style uses clothing to accentuate herself, never to hide herself.

You can usually keep most of these items, but pair them with different pieces. My client’s leopard shoes became a staple in her wardrobe and were paired with black, red, brown and rust colored garments. The dress was still worn with a black belt and heels. She did end up getting rid of the scrunchie and clutch because they were purchased more for the coordination factor, not because they were attractive or made of quality.

Toss the scrunchies, the headbands, the sun visors, the socks, the clutches and fabric belts that were not purchased out of use, but because they perfectly matched another part of your wardrobe (and do yourself a favor and do not purchase another scrunchie or fabric visor or headband again – these do not accentuate your sense of style). From now on, accessories purchased should be able to work with at least three ensembles from your current closet (this includes shoes). This may not be seen as “fun,” but fun can be found in quality versatile pieces as well. Animal print and red shoes are surprisingly neutral and versatile, an ornately beaded clutch in many colors will work with almost every cocktail dress in your collection, a colorful hand-painted wooden bangle will brighten up basics in your closet and become a conversation piece, not a costume.

The Silkscreened Tees. Yes, you may be the world’s greatest grandmother, #1 scout leader, a patriot, and you may have gone to Florida, the Bahamas, New York and Mexico this past year. This does not mean you need to exclaim this on your bosom. Many times these are gifts from others and I understand that. However that means you are the type that seems wanting of a silkscreened memento. My mother is over 50, one of my best friends, a world traveler, a ton of fun, and I would never purchase her a silkscreened shirt as a gift. That doesn’t mean I don’t buy her trinkets from trips and gifts for special occasions, it’s just that I know she is the type to far more appreciate a framed photograph, a dish towel (she collects them), a small bottle of her beloved Chanel No. 5. Does this mean she doesn’t own silkscreened tees? No, she has ones from her alma mater, various programs she has been a part of, one advertising the yoga studio she attends… but these are worn for yoga class, when gardening, and they are always in pristine condition.

See above regarding alternatives to the man’s sized polo for what can replace the silkscreened tee from your daily wardrobe. Pare down your collection, keep the ones in best condition and that hold the most meaning to you and donate the rest. A woman only needs a handful of these for times when she doesn’t want to get her higher-end knits soiled or sweaty.

The Buxton Purse. I don’t like to call out name brands, but felt this one gave the best description. Have you seen the advertisement on television that advertises this leather purse from Buxton? It is made to hold everything including the kitchen sink in various little compartments and has an adjustable strap so you can wear it across your body.

Buxton is a brand that has been around for years and makes good quality items. I have no doubt that this is a well-crafted handbag. However, these purses… these mobile command centers are not as useful as one thinks, and not very stylish.

The larger your purse is, the more you will stuff into it. The more compartments you have, usually the more you lose things, not the more organized you will be. Carrying a purse across your person is not the most flattering look (usually causes you to walk lopsided and cuts right between your breasts) and should be only used when sightseeing and being on vacation.

Anyway, back to the bag. Many women carry a mobile command unit – a bag with a cell phone, calculator, notepad, wallet for money, wallet for credit cards, change purse, checkbook, cosmetic bag with a full day’s look, panty liners, safety pins, a full sewing kit, tissues, snacks, receipts, eight pens, two pencils, a highlighter, a Sharpie, a hairbrush, pain reliever, stain remover, extra pair of glasses, two pairs of sunglasses, hand cream, a bottle of water, a book, a cardigan sweater, mace, three sets of keys and a separate key ring just for savings cards at grocery and specialty stores. Some of you are a Godsend to us, being able to quickly fish out just what a stranger or friend needs at that instant. More women I meet end up spending several minutes fishing through wadded up tissues and sticky cough drops just to find a pen or a ringing cell phone.

A handbag is a worthy investment. One of high quality, durable fabrication and classic style will offer you years and years of use. One that has handles that are comfortable for you (are you a hand-holder, an elbow-crooker or a shoulder-slinger?), a way to quickly retrieve that which is most important (designated spot for keys, cell phone, subway farecard/token) and offers structure so that not everything sinks to the bottom center. Buy a bag that is big enough to hold what you honestly need on a daily basis, but not so big that you can slowly add more to the collection. More than four pockets usually means for women a good two minutes more to have to search for something. This doesn’t mean we are disorganized, it’s just that we have too much stuff and too many options.

I have written before about a purse survival kit, I recommend reviewing it when replacing or reorganizing your purse. Once you have your current purse pared down or in possession of a new bag that fits your needs and your sense of style… take care of it. Don’t sit it on the floor of the public bathroom, use retractable pens so they don’t ink up the interior (or exterior), if it’s light in color be sure to not seat newspapers or rub denim against it, take it to a cobbler to have it repaired as soon as there is a tear or issue so it doesn’t worsen, and clean it out monthly.

Embellishment Overload. This goes hand-in-hand with the overly matchy-matchy ensembles. Tee shirts covered in appliqué and Bedazzlement, jackets with fringe and patches, holiday-themed sweaters, velvet and sparkle for daytime… these are not the garments of polished or stylish women of any age.

Keep the embellishment for scrapbook pages, the Christmas tree, even attire for your precious pooch. Removing the bling will actually make your clothing look more expensive, chic, and will stay stylish far more seasons. Find luxury in purchasing less but higher quality garments – cashmere sweaters, silk blouses, a handful of thin silver bangle bracelets, dangly earrings with a cocktail dress… these can provide as much shine and texture but in a more elegant manner.

Must Haves for Your Closet:
The LBD. Yes, every woman of every age needs a little black dress. Granted, your dress may not be as little as your daughter’s, but it still should be simple, hitting around the knee (just above to just below), could be sleeveless, have cap sleeves or ¾ sleeves – whatever you feel most comfortable in. Neckline can vary again with what is flattering and comfortable for you. Fabric would be crepe, silk, or some sort of blend that gives a very subtle shine, is free of texture (damask), embellishment (beading, chiffon sleeves, velvet or satin trim, etc.) and can be comfortable almost every season of the year. If black is too harsh with your coloring, a very very dark indigo, eggplant, gray or espresso can replace it; however this dress should be simple enough that you can wear it to every event in a year and no one would realize it is the same dress. This dress can work for day or for evening if purchased correctly: with leather pumps or silk heels, with a silk shawl or a wool coat. You’ll find that this dress seems too severe or too dressy for your lifestyle, but you’ll end up wearing it to holiday functions, evening weddings, religious events, and nights out on the town. If it’s well made and well fitting, it doesn’t matter if you wear the dress 20 times a year – style is in the garment, not the amount of garments.

A Proper Bra. I say this in every post – get yourself fitted, and get yourself fitted again every year from now on. The size bra you wore 20, or even five years ago very well may not be the size you wear now. We lose weight, we gain weight, we exercise, we change jobs, and we all experience gravity. Bras that lift and separate and shape take more years off you than the best facial in town, and they also often end or reduce back pain.

Non-VPL Underwear. Comfortable, breathable, yet invisible under pants? It is possible to have all three in a pair of underwear. Take your time, and venture out of the Big Box or Department store to find a pair. Many brands now advertise styles that are supposed to eliminate Visible Panty Lines (VPL); buy one pair and try them on (or wear your thinnest trousers shopping and try these on over your own panties and under said trousers). If they don’t work, don’t give up. And if you have found a company that does offer these sorts of undergarments, please mention them in the comments so fellow women can benefit from your find!

Proper Outerwear. One thing I love about my job is that I now use public transportation and see all sorts of people in all walks of life heading to work or out on errands. One thing I often see are women of a certain age who do not have proper outerwear. When it rains, they are wearing a yellow poncho or getting soaked under an umbrella. Come winter, they are wearing what looks to be their husband’s barn coat, or a puffy full-length parka that looks as though it has seen better days.

A wool coat that comes anywhere between mid-thigh and mid-calf will work with skirts as well as trousers for winter months. If you live in an especially cold climate, invest in a wool coat that has a Thinsulate or other extra lining. For rain and cool fall and spring days, a classic trench or Mac will work (a detachable lining may be a plus if you live in an especially cold climate). Both coats should be simple in style, free of adornments, buttons the same color as the coat, no chest pockets, and preferably no self belt (belts are only flattering on slimmer figures – tying a belt behind you usually is uncomfortable when sitting and can be a pain. If you don’t look good with a nipped/belted waist in a dress, pass on it for a coat). Depending on your personal sense of style, you can go with a classic black, brown or taupe… or switch it up with a Robin’s Egg blue, fire engine red, Kelly green or another color that makes cold and dreary days a bit more cheery. These two styles of coats rarely go out of fashion and can provide you years of wear.

The City Boot. The city boot is a short boot that hits just above your ankle bone. It usually sips up, but occasionally has an elastic gusset so it can be slipped on and off. The city boot is sleek, elegant, classic, and comfortable to, ahem… boot. It works with trousers and jeans from September to May, and can usually replace a third of the shoes you already have in your closet.

Invest in a boot from a company known for comfort and support, and this will be a great travel shoe too. Consider additional insoles for added support and cushioning, and keep them regularly polished. A low heel, a slightly squared toebox and no embellishments (fancy stitching, variety of fabrics, etc.) will make these boots a staple in your wardrobe for years to come.

Flattering Glasses. Do you wear glasses? When is the last time you purchased a new pair? If it has been over five years, get thee to a glasses shop pronto! These days, most insurance companies cover a portion of glasses – if not, there are so many styles out there at reasonable prices.

Other than hair (see below), the other accessory that can age and even disfigure a woman’s face quick are unflattering glasses. With the wrong glasses you can look older, heavier, have larger bags under your eyes, broader of a nose, wider of a face. Very small metal-rimmed glasses were quite the look several years ago but have gone by the wayside for people have realized they only looked flattering on the glasses models – the rest of us put them on and looked like Ben Franklin. Large plastic frames are best kept to hipsters and ‘80s-themed parties.

That being said, there are so many styles and materials for glasses these days, you are sure to find a pair that fits your budget, your face, and your personality. Take a friend or family member with you who has taste you respect. If you also own contacts, it’s a good idea to wear them on this visit so you can properly see your reflection and how you look in the sample glasses. Don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson if they can order a different size or color of frame, or if they have additional similar styles in back or elsewhere in the store. Most glasses boutiques are overwhelming – employees know the store far better and can search around for styles that you may have missed. Also don’t stick to just the women’s section – my most recent pair of glasses are actually men’s but they look far better on my face than any style I could find in the women’s category!

A Hair Plan. Have you been dying but now want to go to gray? Is your hair starting to go salt and pepper? Do you want it to continue, or do you want a way to gently hide it? This is not an at-home project. As hair goes gray, the texture changes. You may find your brown hair is straight, while the gray hairs are curly; blonde hair is fine while the white hairs are coarse. This greatly affects how haircolor, styling products and even haircuts work on you.

If you don’t have a stylist you trust, this is a good time to audition one. Remember – you are the one holding the purse strings. Ask around your community – women who have hair you admire, ask them for the name of their stylist. Read reviews in neighborhood magazines and papers – they often give annual awards to salons and other personal care businesses. Call them up and tell them your mane desires and ask them if you could have a consultation with a stylist best suited for the job. These consultations should be free. Come in wearing your favorite outfit, and style your hair as usual. Be honest with your desires – do you want a wash and wear look? Let the stylist know so you don’t get stuck straightening and moussing for 45 minutes every morning. Tell the stylist your regular beauty routine, your lifestyle, and your goals for your look. Your hair is the accessory you wear every single day – it should be given the utmost care and attention, and a great stylist will respect your desires and offer great suggestions to achieve them.

Please note that all photographs are taken from current online boutique or department store collections; do not think that just because they are selling it in stores right now that the style is current or stylish. Many companies sell that which will make money, not that which follows the trends. Read magazines (Bazaar and InStyle offer current trends changed to flatter a woman over 50, magazines like O and More regularly show models who are over 50, and “real life” looks can be seen far better in a parenting or lifestyle magazine than through a subscription to Vogue), watch television (sitcoms are a great place to see comfortable and easy-care fashion on women), and observe the women around you. If you see a woman with a similar figure in a garment you love, tell her and ask her where she purchased it.

You may also wish to visit:
Age is But a Number
The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe
How Does One Get the Polished Look?
Crimes of Fashion
Dress Your Age, Not Your Shoe Size

Your Maternity Wardrobe – Being Stylish Without Breaking the Bank

You’re pregnant, you have nothing to wear, you can’t fit into your current clothing too well, hate or can’t afford most maternity clothing, and feel as though you will have to hide in your house in a muumuu until the little one makes his or her appearance.

You search the Internet looking for creative ways to make due with what you have, getting confirmation from complete strangers who don’t know you from Adam that it IS okay to wear your husband’s work shirts with yoga pants, that it IS okay to let your current bras give you quad-boob for just a few more weeks, that it IS okay to have your clothes be too tight and feel horrible on that growing stomach.

Well I am never one to tell people to spend money they do not have. There really are ways to stretch your current closet, stretch your wallet and still look pulled together and polished through your pregnancy.

However, not all pregnant women are created equal. You must STOP comparing yourself to your older sister, your husband’s cousin, your coworker, your mom, your best friend. One may have started showing at six weeks, another may not have shown until 26. Your breasts may have gone from B to DD in a month’s time while your neighbor’s only went up a half of a cup size. Your colleague survived an entire pregnancy with only a Bella Band and a maternity LBD while you don’t seem to fit into your old size 8s, or even new 14s. Your friend is only a week ahead of you, yet she has a perfectly mounded baby bump and you look as though you ate two bags of Cheetos.

It’s okay. The biological aspect of your pregnancy won’t be exactly like someone else’s and how your body reacts won’t be either. This doesn’t mean you are deformed, unhealthy, fat, or wrong in any way. It just means you are human, and you are working your body to create another human as fabulous as you!

So stop going to those message boards to see if you’re a freak of nature, stop crying in front of the mirror, and love those new curves and that baby bump, even if it currently looks more like a loaf of challah bread instead of a basketball. Read the next few suggestions – not all will work for all women, but hopefully some will help you find a way to feel good, look good, and still have money left over to furnish that nursery!

1. Empty Your Closet. Your life may be a whirlwind right now, but this is a project that will save you time and money in the end. Take everything out of your closet – those bridesmaid dresses, your power suits, your out of season garments and your current attire. Then honestly assess each item. Those that can NOT fit no matter what but are items to treasure and baby (the suits, the dresses, the wool coats); store in a cloth garment bag or other closet so they are out of vision. Nothing is more depressing than feeling as though you’re fat or deformed and seeing your favorite cocktail dress mocking you from the corner of the closet. It’s okay and completely expected that it won’t fit right now – treat it well, and take it out of sight until after.

Now look at the rest of the collection. Anything else that is in great shape but either doesn’t fit now or won’t fit by time that season rolls around, carefully pack up and put on a high shelf, under the bed, or in an attic. This means the tailored shift dress, the nipped in blazers, the lined slim-fit trousers… anything that is uncomfortable before even pulling up the zipper or buttoning the front. Again, this process is about saving time each morning and saving your sanity.

What is left? Most likely it will look an awful lot like what I had leftover when I did this process – lots of dresses with some percentage of stretch in them (or made in a trapeze/babydoll fashion), a few pairs of jeans, pants, capris and shorts; a handful of knit or slightly unstructured jackets, some sweaters and knit tops. Now you need to try these items on and be honest with what is in the reflection. Is the skirt too short now that it has to accommodate a changing body? Can it REALLY look flattering and appropriate with dark tights or over jeans, or are you trying to fool yourself? The top fits in the belly, but are you exposing too much cleavage to feel comfortable? Can it work with a cami underneath, or will it ruin the silhouette? Does it fit everywhere, but is cutting off the circulation in your arms? As I always say – it’s better to have quality than quantity. Anything you feel you need to justify will just leave you feeling awkward and uncomfortable when you finally wear it. You have enough on your mind – remove all the items that you will have to constantly adjust and fiddle with to keep yourself properly and comfortably covered.

Now, what to do with those pants and skirts that do fit if you could wear them unbuttoned? Keep them in your wardrobe rotation. There are fabulous products out there called belly bands that are made specifically for this. Crafted of stretchy lycra or a similar material, these items can go over your open waistband to keep your bottoms up, and your underwear out of sight. I have one in black and they have extended the life of my work trousers, and even weekend Bermuda shorts. Ingrid and Isabel is famous for their BellaBand, but you can find similar products in maternity stores, on eBay, and if you’re feeling crafty, can whip up a few on a Sunday afternoon. You don’t need 50 – choose one or maybe two (if they are on sale) in colors that will work with your wardrobe. I invested in only one in black since most of my wardrobe is black. They may poke out under tops, so choose one that fits your sense of style as well as your wardrobe palette.

Now consider all those tops and dresses that would be fine if they covered more cleavage. You may want to either invest in a cami or two, or modify a few you already own. The great thing about cleavage-covering camis is that all people see is a little triangle of fabric. No one needs to know that you sliced off the bottom half, sliced it open, cut off the front, etc. Take a pair of scissors to your current black or white camis and make them belly-friendly. Make sure to trim carefully so it doesn’t roll under your clothing or get a run in the fabric. Don’t want to destroy what you love and plan to wear after the baby is born? Get thee to H&M, Target or even Goodwill and get a few super cheap camisoles. Don’t spend dough on maternity ones if all they are doing is keeping your breasts covered; save that money for the baby (or a pedicure!).

Now that you know what you have, and what you need to make it really work, put it back in your closet and drawers in an organized manner. Your body can change from day to day, it is very possible that you will think Monday night you will wear your blue dress but by Tuesday morning it will no longer fit. If you keep your wardrobe tidy, it will make last-minute outfit changes less stressful and time consuming. Hang up still-clean clothes as soon as you take them off, spot clean when possible and make an effort to have these few items at the ready as often as possible.

2. Invest in Transitional Pieces. Get yourself that belly band and a few camis. Don’t put it off, because that just makes your wardrobe all the more frustrating. No time to head to the mall? These items are so simple and standard you can usually score them from an online boutique at an equivalent price. Search on your lunch hour or while pasta water is heating for free shipping, coupons, or sites like eBates that will provide you with cash back on your purchase. Go ahead and put the items in a Shopping Cart and have them ready come payday to purchase.

3. Realistically Assess Your Lifestyle.
The staples for a woman’s wardrobe can sort of go out the window at this point. Your wardrobe doesn’t need to be ready for whatever life throws you, but what you realistically will be encountering over the next couple of months. You don’t need to get a LBD if you know there won’t be any dressy events in your near future. If you are an SAHM, you don’t need tailored trousers and silk blouses. If you are a corporate woman, you may not need more than one pair of jeans and a knit top or two. However, do think about what you DO need. Do you have client meetings? Church? A conservative office? Think about your pre-pregnancy wardrobe and what items got the most wear, and keep that in mind for your pregnancy clothing additions.

4. Borrow from Friends. This hasn’t worked for me because I am short and curvy, and all my friends who have children are not that same combination. However, many women who are pregnant know other women who were and will be happy to give or lend some wardrobe staples. They may not have trousers in the right length, but they may have a few knit tops, or even a belly band they would be willing to offer for a few months.

However when borrowing, use the same discretion you used when digging through your current wardrobe. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you should take it. If it’s not in good shape, if it doesn’t fit properly or isn’t something you would enjoy wearing, it’s okay to say no. Our friends are our friends because they are unique and fabulous in their own way – you don’t have to like everything they like. You love blues and greens and your friend is offering three yellow dresses? Don’t take them just because they are free. You will already be having a hard time adjusting to a rapidly changing body, changing hair and skin; you don’t need to feel weird in a color or style that doesn’t fit your personality. It’s better to have less that you like, than a bunch of things you don’t.

Also if you have friends, who wouldn’t be offended, borrow or get non-maternity clothing from them. Maybe your mom has a few cute tunic tops from Chico’s that you usually wouldn’t wear but now seem like comfortable and fun wardrobe options. A friend who recently lost weight may have kept hold of some of her old clothes that are just a size or two larger than your original size and may now work for you. This is especially great for things like casual knits and outerwear. Again, don’t take what you won’t feel good wearing. You’ll be happier in the same black pants every day, than in garments that make you feel less than pretty, or less than yourself.

5. Hit The Thrift. Visit your local thrift and consignment stores. Yes, you will have to dig through tons of stonewashed denim jumpers and shorts, but occasionally you may strike gold. A friend found a Diane von Furstenberg maternity dress with tags still on it at her local Goodwill for only $8; a petite friend of mine found her entire maternity wardrobe at thrift stores (just as with sales racks, thrift and consignment stores often have the best stuff in the smallest sizes). She spent $40 in total and ended up with enough clothes to properly outfit herself for an office work environment and even a few weddings and holiday parties.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Your first visit may be horrible, but the next trip may be fabulous. Find out when they restock racks, if they receive shipments on a certain day, and even ask friends and family to search shops on your behalf. Give them guidelines (8,10 or medium, no denim, no prints, only the brands X, Y, and Z), but know that with such low prices, if they get you something you don’t love you can always re-gift to another expecting lady or re-donate without losing out.

6. Be Friends with eBay. As I type this, I am wearing a dress I got for $6.90 including shipping. Last night when I got home from work, I changed into one of three tees I got as a bundle for 99 cents plus shipping. eBay can be a pregnant woman’s best friend, or worst enemy.

As with any other eBay purchase, you need to be careful. Shop from reputable shoppers, know the brand they are offering and how it fits, as questions if the listing doesn’t answer everything. Have a price you aren’t willing to cross, and don’t cross it. So many times friends tell me they get so caught up in the thrill of the chase on eBay that they end up paying the same amount (or more!) that they would in a store. Do your homework and know what price this item is currently (or would currently) sell at a store. Shop for specific things, don’t wander aimlessly and remember what you bid on so you don’t suddenly get hit with having to pay for five different won auctions at the same time.

I have spent a total of $18 (including shipping) on eBay since I have gotten pregnant and from it have a pair of Gap jeans, a Liz Lange for Target dress, a casual knit dress, and three pretty tee shirts. You honestly can’t find those sorts of bargains at your local maternity store’s clearance rack.

7. Accept Your Changing Body.
Your breasts are going to get larger. How much and how quickly, that changes for every woman. Not only will they get larger, they will get heavier, more sensitive and often time just plain hurt. To try to stuff these breasts into your old bras is sheer torture and not healthy. Yes, bras can be expensive, but as with clothing you can often score some great bargains. Victoria’s Secret often has their bras on a two-for deal. I got two of their lightly lined cotton bras for 2/$20, online found a coupon for 15% off AND free shipping. $8.50 a bra, and they are smooth enough to go under lightweight knits and are in fun colors that make me smile. No, they aren’t the best made bras, but they will do and they keep my breasts feeling comfortable and shaped properly. Gap Maternity Online also has some good deals on bras – I got a smooth skin-colored tee shirt bra for only $11.99, had a coupon from a previous online purchase and had a promo code for free shipping. Often times you can find better prices online than you can at your local Big Box retailer – it’s worth a quick Google search before you head out to the mall.

As for underwear, if you can still fit into your pre-pregnancy underwear, awesome! I, the queen of thongs has had to retire most of them due to my new figure. Don’t tell anyone, but my cotton boyshorts from Vickie’s are now more comfortable worn backwards, and at 21 weeks I find the best fit and the least VPL from traditional briefs. I am one to encourage women to wear beautiful and feminine lingerie, but there’s nothing beautiful or feminine about pulling wedgies, having dents in your hips, or binding panties on a woman. Look for lightweight fabrics to discourage VPL, and fun colors cost the same amount as white or gray.

The end of the first trimester you may start feeling a bit unsteady on your feet and as you get into your second and third trimesters, you may have a fear of falling. You may have been a high-heel woman but by now, the extra weight, the lack of balance and the swelling tootsies may make that near impossible. I know it’s hard, I am a heel girl myself. However save yourself, your baby, your feet and your back and get a few shoes lower to the ground. If you do feel you can still rock the heels, consider a thick heel or a wedge for more stability and look into attaching non-skid pads to them. I am one who adores my shoe collection, but has started to wear the same 2-3 shoes all the time because they are comfortable and sturdy. Keep those shoes in the closet and use them with your post-baby transitional attire to get yourself back into the style swing of things. For now, be realistic, be comfortable and be safe. If you wear black a lot, a pair of black flats, Mary Janes or booties may be a great choice – look for a versatile style that can work with skirts, jeans and pants. Softer leather and fabrics will be more comfortable as feet swell. Consider a second pair in a color that makes you happy – much maternity clothing is in black and neutral colors – a pair of magenta ballet flats or emerald peep toes will add cheer and personality to your look.

8. Get out of the Maternity Boutique. There is nothing more overwhelming than a maternity boutique, especially if you are early on in your pregnancy and are starting it off with a less-than-perfect figure or budget. They are good places to stop to see many styles, and to also use that little stuffed belly attachment under clothes to ensure they will fit months from now. However if you do decide to shop at a boutique, walk past the front display, and work the store from the back to the front. Hit the sales racks first, and then look at full-priced items. Grab what size you think you are, and then one bigger or smaller (each brand seems to run differently). Take a friend who will give you an honest, yet gentle opinion. Bring a bottle of water to rehydrate. If the store his too crowded, too hot, too messy, the salespeople are too pushy, LEAVE. Return policies on maternity clothing are usually very strict and the last thing you want is buyer’s remorse with raging hormones.

Visit maternity sections of department stores and big box retailers. Shops like JC Penney will have surprisingly reasonably-priced and simple styled pieces year-round. These departments are often more relaxed (no pushy salespeople or jammed racks) so you can take your time to try things on, and usually have a better chance of getting your money back if you get home and change your mind.

Also don’t ignore the online boutiques. Shops like Old Navy have extensive online maternity collections, and most shops that sell maternity provide free return shipping if you change your mind. Gap, Target and Ann Taylor Loft often have amazing sales on their online maternity collections. A bit of Googling will often find you coupons for free delivery or at least a couple bucks off your entire order. I have found great career-wear, dresses and weekend attire most for under $12 each at the above mentioned shops and find the quality to exceed what I find in maternity-specific boutiques. If you sign up for these stores’ emails you will often receive a welcome coupon, and be notified before the public of upcoming sales.

9. Don’t Buy Maternity. When trying to have a budget wedding, experts often suggest a bride choose a bridesmaid dress in white or ivory because it will be a fraction of the cost of an actual bridal gown. The same holds true for maternity clothing.

Now, this suggestion doesn’t work for all shapes of women, but for many of you, searching the clearance racks in a size or two larger can often find you some gems at great prices. Look for items with stretch and that would flatter a bulging baby bump. Many knit pieces like yoga pants, matte jersey and sweaters with lycra will work quite well through many months of your term. If you are petite, you may want to also look at the regular sizes so you have enough length to accommodate the belly, and alterations may have to be made in shoulders or hems by a tailor. However, you can often score some amazing deals that will make these adjustments worth the money.

10. Accept Style, Not Fashion. These are really two different things, and there is no better time than when you are pregnant to accept this. You don’t need the current trend of jeans, designer brands, It shoes, accessories and certain fabrics to look fabulous through your pregnancy. In all honesty, the simpler maternity fashions are far more stylish than the overpriced or the ones attempting to recreate a runway trend. On the other hand, don’t think that just because you’re dressing for two, you have to dress in a manner that is outside your normal look. One can still be simple, chic, funky, artsy, bohemian, a rocker, an artist, a lady, a prep and be pregnant. If you didn’t live in cotton button-downs and capris before the baby, you don’t have to succumb to them now. If you didn’t like black before you were expecting, you aren’t doomed to wear it for the next few months.

Yes, the maternity stores will be chock full of overpriced designer jeans, crazy prints, sexy tops, and more pastel striped cotton tunics than you can shake a stick at. If these are within your sense of style and budget, go for them. However most of us are the type who want simple versatile pieces, coordinating colors, and items that won’t itch, bind or put us into debt.

It’s okay to have just two pairs of pants, one or two dresses and a few tops. So what if you wear the same black pants three times in one week – if they are clean and flatter, it’s totally okay. You are not entering a fashion contest, you are pregnant! Look for simple pieces that are less memorable so they can be re-worn often. Choose fabrics that are easier to care for – that cotton top is adorable, but do you want to have to iron it before each wearing? Same goes for dry cleaning – the more you can clean in your home or laundry room, the more often you can wear the garments, the less clothing you actually need in your wardrobe.

Choose a palette and stick to it. If you keep a wardrobe of browns, creams, reds and purples your collection will go farther. Blacks, grays and jewel tones like purples and greens also work nicely together. Whites and khakis can go with most any neutral or bright. Having a palette of 4-5 colors will make it easier when shopping, easier when making an outfit each day, easier when purchasing shoes and accessories. A simple color palette is also a great way to make cheaper items look more elegant. Stick with mostly solids, few pieces that fit well and wash well, and bring out your personality in accessories.

You may also wish to visit:
Maternity Fashion Review – Liz Lange for Target Tankini
Wardrobe Oxygen and Maternity Fashion
Wardrobe Staples for the Mom-to-Be
Before and After Maternity Clothing