Search Results for: label/shopping tips

My Savvy Shopping Tips…

I am often asked how I can afford all I purchase, and how I am able to maintain a
wardrobe without giung into debt. Well here’s a few of the things I do when shopping (most of my shopping is done online).

1. Credit card debt won’t help you… but credit cards occasionally will. I have made a concerted effort the past couple of years to get out of credit card debt. If there isn’t cash in my checking account, there isn’t a garment that will be purchased. Credit cards are too easy, you can say, “oh I’ll pay it off with my next paycheck,” but then you forget and interest starts racking up. To avoid temptation, I have gotten rid of most of my credit cards.

Most, but not all.

Some credit cards are beneficial, if you take care of the accounts. Often, a store card has a lot of perks for the user; if you shop at that company regularly it may be in your best interest to have a credit card with them. For example, I have a Banana Republic credit card. Banana Republic offers its Luxe cardholders (I have had the card for over a decade so I am Luxe) free shipping at Banana Republic, Gap, and Old Navy online. Many promotional emails are sent only to cardholders, and I receive coupons in the mail almost monthly. When I make a purchase on my Banana Republic card, I immediately head to my checking account’s online banking and write a check for the exact amount I spent. No interest is accrued, yet I still rack up points towards savings rewards with the company. This concept also works for major credit cards that help you rack up miles or points.

2. Google it. There are two ways that Google can save you money. First, before you enter your shopping cart at an online retailer, Google the retailer’s name and something like, “promotional code,” “discount,” or “coupon.” Usually within your first three clicks you will find out whether there are any available discounts for that retailer. Nine times out of ten, this five-minute Internet search saves me shipping costs, and sometimes gets me free gifts with purchase or even 25% off my entire order.

Google also helps when trying to find the lowest price. Say you fell in love with a pair of Franco Sartos at Nordstrom. You tried them on, they fit great and look even better. Before dropping dough on these shoes, get the style name and head to your computer. Googling the brand and style name of the shoe will help you find the lowest-price retailer, or at least a company that offers free shipping and returns or No Final Sale (always great if what you believe to be comfy shoes end up tearing your heel in half by lunchtime).

3. Shop through another site. I personally am loving Ebates, where in just one month I have made over $10 cash for normal online shopping. Ebates is a free service that works with hundreds of online retailers – get to your favorite company through the Ebates Web site and you will get back a percentage of your purchase in cash.

There are many other sites that do this; one of my best friends uses Upromise for this to help pay off her student loans, and many love Points.com to collect points toward flights and hotel stays.

4. Check eBay. I never purchase a new bag at full price. Purse owners are often fickle, getting a new one and tiring of it a month later. By checking eBay for the brand and style name or number of a bag I am coveting, I can always find a few sellers offering new or gently used versions of the bag at major discounts. This spring I bought a bag I was drooling over at Banana Republic for 50% off on eBay. Bag came in mint condition, just sans price tag. Two years ago, I purchased a different bag through eBay and got it 60% off the current retail price, with the tags still attached and the dust cover.

I also do this with style names and brands I know. Maggy London, Banana Republic and Gap dresses look great on me; I search eBay by brand name and then size and can often find last year’s styles in mint condition (often with tags still attached) or this year’s style new or gently used for a great price. If you know what you want and shop with a reliable seller, it makes sense to first check eBay.

5. Make a list and check it twice. You go to a Web site to purchase jeans and 30 minutes later, your total is for over $1200 and not a speck of denim is in your shopping cart. Cresting a list of what you need each season will help you stay on track, benefit your budget, and make dressing easier each day. Who need another printed top when you don’t have the proper trousers or skirt to pair with it? Do you homework – read magazines, visit blogs, watch RV and get a sense of what is in style this season and what appeals to you. Then narrow down that list to what will flatter your frame and work with your lifestyle. Make a list and put it in your wallet or purse so it is with you every time you shop. Tell yourself you won’t buy anything else until you acquire these essentials. Items like new bras, jeans, swimwear and the perfect black pants are hard to find, and the search can be utter torture. It’s very tempting to give up and buy a great purse or little frock. Problem is come Monday you will be crying in front of your closet because you have nothing to wear. So stick to your list and you’ll save and be more stylish!

Ask Allie: Collars and Crews

The ever lovely Natalie emailed me and asked,

“Allie, when I try to wear a crew neck over a collared shirt, I look dumpy. How do you look so un-dumpy? What am I doing wrong?”

My email response:

My secret is… the only two buttons buttoned are the second one (the very top one makes me dumpy) and the bottom one (so the untucked shirttails look straight). The rest is gaping open underneath. I did this the first time with this shirt because it’s now too small, but was amazed at how it improved the look of a shirt under a crew, and now do it all the time with all my shirts whether they fit or not!

So there you have it!  I find this helps since I am so top heavy – somehow the buttoned-up shirt emphasizes all my roundness, but when I let it gape open, my figure shows a bit better.  Of course this works far better with a thick sweater that won’t show the buttons and gaping fabric, but if it’s a thinner crew, I will not button the last button, let the shirt sort of go to the sides of my body and tuck it in so it’s out of the way and more invisible.  Sort of like a dickey with sleeves!

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Winter Weather and Commuting: Style Tips

Wind, rain, snow, and sleet can wreak havoc on a morning commute… and your commuting style. When it comes to dressing for inclement weather I learn so much from my fellow DC office workers and commuters. Some is what not to wear, but more often than not it’s tips and tricks on how to stay protected, comfortable and stylish when the weather outside is frightful. This week is cold, rainy, a bit windy and down-right gross in DC; here’s some things I’ve learned on my walks to work:

Go Monochrome. Walking up the escalator from the Metro, I was behind a woman in all shades of blue and green. Teal tweed wool coat that almost hit her knees, dark jeans tucked into seafoam wellies, indigo leather tote, and a navy umbrella. The monochromatic look made each separate look so cohesive, so purposeful, and like a true ensemble. I am not a fan of wellies  (how often does one deal with water over the ankle when walking to the office anyway? And I am not asking those of you in Seattle and similar climates or those in rural areas…)but with her look… it worked. I could imagine flats or booties in that indigo tote ready to be slipped on once she reached her desk.

The other day, I saw a woman in a black belted wool coat, a raspberry chunky infinity scarf, plum knit beanie, and deep purple wellies. None of the colors were the same, but the consistent color story made the ensemble cohesive and downright stylish. If each piece was a different color the chunky knits and shiny boots would have looked childish; the consistent color gave it polish and professionalism.

Have Neutral Commuting Shoes. I was walking behind three women chatting with one another. They were varying sizes, ages, and personal styles but all had one thing in common – black tights or pants and black flats. I could tell that these were their commuter shoes – they didn’t quite match their outfits, they looked well worn, and pretty comfortable. However, by them being the same color as their legs the shoes weren’t on display and didn’t take away from their outfits. I turned the corner and saw two women waiting for the light to change – one had gray tights and red flats, the other had black pants and yellow patent flats. While their shoes were in better condition than the women in black, their shoes looked just as out of place as a pair of white sneakers. While it’s tempting to add “fun” to a pair of shoes you only wear on your commute, it can really detract from your personal style.

Own a Tiny Umbrella. While many companies claim that they sell travel umbrellas, what it essentially means is a non-Mary Poppins style that has a collapsible shaft. However, some brands sell really small umbrellas that are reliable, but take almost no space in your purse or laptop bag. While you want a durable umbrella that can survive strong gusts, having this little bitty umbrella tucked at the bottom of the bag is a lifesaver for unexpected showers or if you accidentally leave your big umbrella on the train.

Have a Spare Pair of Gloves. Same reason as the umbrella. Especially handy when the bus is late, you have to carry large things home, or you need to hold the rail on the train and you don’t want to catch the flu. While I have gloves in my two work coats, I have lost a glove on the commute, have changed coats last minute, and have many times wished I had a pair tucked in the bottom of my purse or laptop bag.  Since I got another pair for Christmas, I have remedied this situation.

Wear a Hat. While you may be more likely to get Hat Head, a hood flies off in the wind, and the weather will already destroy your hairstyle. Having a hat, be it a cloche, beanie, fedora or otherwise will keep your ears warm, your hair in place, and your body far warmer than a bare head. If you loosely tuck your hair in your hat, you’ll be less likely to get dents in your ‘do.

Wedges Rock. While they give a bit of lift, they are far kinder on the foot when standing, walking, and even dashing across the street to make a light. I see many women who seem to have wedge commuter shoes – they don’t have to worry about cuffing their trousers but have more comfort than heels. Wedges have come back en vogue, be they on pump-like professional shoes or a pair of trainers or TOMS.

Own a Water-resistant Winter Coat. When there’s frigid temperatures, there’s often precipitation, and it’s not always fluffy white flakes. A wet wool coat can be a drag; if you purchase a quilted, waxed, or water-resistant fabric coat, you will be far more comfortable on those days that are both cold and wet. Choosing a style with a unique detail (read this post for great examples) will prevent you from looking as though you just came from the slopes.

Have Matching Bags. I regularly see this woman on the train who has a gray leather purse and gray leather tote. The combination is so lovely and she doesn’t look as hunkered down with multiple bags. Today walking to work, I saw a woman with a red leather purse and a red and navy print microfiber tote for her yoga mat and likely workout clothes. If you need to carry more than one bag, having the two bags match or coordinate really does add polish and cohesion to your ensemble. I wrote about work totes here, but this is something I hadn’t before considered and will be thinking about the next time I am purchasing a tote or everyday purse.

You Never Know Who You Will Bump Into. So you’re wearing a power suit and have a pair of sensible pumps tucked into your bag, yet on your commute you’re wearing a knit cap with earflaps and cat ears, have a hot pink sparkly faux fur snood, and sequined boot liners under your polka-dot wellies. And then you bump into your CEO at Starbucks. Sort of defeats the purpose of your power suit. If your job is a career, work doesn’t end when you walk out of that office door, and if you work in a city you are very likely to bump into a colleague on the train or street corner. Consider this when shopping for accessories and outerwear and have them match the professional style you show in the workplace.

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My Favorite Simple Style Tips

Over the years I have learned a few things from trial and error, many from fellow bloggers, and a heck of a lot from you readers. A few style-based lessons I have learned that have improved my life that I thought may also help you:

Apply Dry Shampoo Before Bedtime. Colored dry shampoo can drip and gets on my hands if I forget and scratch my head and “invisible” dry shampoo makes my brown hair look ashy. One of you readers suggested I try applying dry shampoo before bedtime and let it work its way into my roots while I sleep. Brilliant! I prefer Klorane Dry Shampoo because it has a soft mist and subtle smell, but this also works with cheaper brands like Salon Grafix and Suave. I apply, I don’t really rub in so I go to bed looking as though I have gray roots. However when I wake… awesomeness. Enough time for it to really work in, not leave an ashy look, it’s not as sticky/dry feeling and gives that dry/full look I desire.

Buy Leather a Size Too Small. Leather stretches. Even lined leather stretches. My lined pleated leather skirt I almost returned because I bought a 10 and it was skin tight and I couldn’t fully zip it. So a couple days after work, I came home and changed into it. Made dinner, watched TV, and stretched it out enough to zip. Three nights and the skirt was ready to wear to work. Since then, the skirt has grown even more to where it sort of sits on my hips. Same holds true for leather pants – all my size 10 leather pants (that I shall wear again!) are actually 6 and 8 because they stretch and I broke them in with this method.

Buy Boots a Half Size Too Big. A little more room in the boot means you can wear thick cozy socks without an issue. Come winter, I often wear a pair of knee-high socks and then a pair of thick snuggly anklets over them so I have warm tootsies; the extra space gives my feet plenty of room to wiggle with all the layers.

When Line Drying Pants, Hang Upside Down. Fold the legs seam to seam and hang them in this manner, use those hangers with clips, and the waistband won’t stretch out and you end up with a nice clean crease down each leg.

Store Costume Jewelry in Plastic Bags. Fake gold and silver tarnish easily, and don’t shine back up like the real thing. If you store in Ziploc baggies (or save the plastic bags from purchases and shipments) you can see what you have and also make it look nicer longer. This especially holds true for rhinestones, which can dull over time. So you don’t have a pin-worthy jewelry collection, but at least your collection will last more than one season!

Polish Silver Jewelry with Toothpaste. Works so well, gets the job done fast, and you don’t have to dig around under your kitchen sink for the solution or in your junk drawer for the polishing cloth. Paste, not gel. Rub with your fingers, rinse off, dry with a towel or soft cloth.

Get Out Any Stain with Peroxide and Dawn. Here’s the recipe, and yes, it works like a charm on most any fabric, stains old and new.

Wash Your Makeup Brushes Regularly. When is the last time you washed your makeup brushes? I wash mine once a month with baby shampoo, swirl them on the bottom of the sink to get out the suds, and let dry on their side with the brushes hanging over the edge of the counter or back of toilet so they get good air flow. Try to not get the metal part of the brush (where the bristles are attached) wet, but wash regularly for better pigment, more even application, and fewer breakouts.

Coconut Oil is Awesome. I get allergic reactions to metal from time to time, usually on the back of my neck or on my fingers. This especially happens on my hands, and I’ll end up with raw, red, flaky and burning skin. I have tried cortisone, prescription creams, and the only thing that has really worked is coconut oil. Take off my wedding bands, apply some coconut oil, go to bed and wake up with happy skin. I also use it on my hands and elbows as an intense moisturizer, as well as a hair conditioning treatment. My friend also told me it cleared up her Keratosis Pilaris (those little bumps on the back of upper arms). We use coconut oil in place of butter and most oils at home, so it’s easy to stop in the kitchen and scoop some out for beauty use. Google or Pinterest search coconut oil and you will be amazed by all its health, beauty, pet and home benefits!

Don’t Fold Your Bras. It’s so tempting to fold your bras, especially if they have molded cups, but this stretches them out and changes their shape. Lay them flat in your drawer and they will maintain their shape longer and be less likely to have the wires poke out of the fabric.

Stitch Witchery. It’s the bomb. Tear off a strip, stick it in a fallen hem, can even make it work with your hair iron. Good stuff.

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Blogger Burn-out: How to Get Reinspired for the New Year

The fabulous Kat at Ginger, Adorned recently asked on Twitter what fellow bloggers do to get through burnout. It reminded me that I had started a post on this very subject a few months ago but never did anything with it. Kat inspired me to finish my thoughts, and made me realize that my experience may help those of you who have a blog, site, or similar project.

I’ve been blogging for over seven years, and have experienced writer’s block and burnout more times than I can count. I have almost shuttered Wardrobe Oxygen a couple times, and if you go through my archives can see many times where I just went MIA because I had nothing to offer. Over the years I have gotten better at finding ways to quickly get out of a blogging rut, below are the ways I fight blogging burn-out and writer’s block.

Write for Yourself. When I am in a rut, I open up Word or a journal and just write. Maybe it’s a list of what I’d love in my dream wardrobe, possibly it’s documenting a dream I remember, a rant about a situation at work or in the blogosphere, maybe it’s some random rambling fiction that I make up as I go. Just putting the fingers on the keyboard or the pen to the paper is the important part – making the words. Then I save it to my desktop or close the journal and move on. A day or so later, I re-read what I wrote and often learn a lot from it. Sometimes it turns into a blog post, often it gives me a fresh view of how my mind works and recharges the writing part of my brain. Sometimes it’s just nice to write just for yourself; it’s freeing. You can be wild and creative and sloppy and silly and not even make sense like running down a hill screaming and laughing. We all need a bit of wild and silly and sloppy in our life from time to time.

Check Your Stats. Can’t think of a topic for a post? Hit up your blog stats and see what keywords are bringing people to your site, and what are the posts with the highest traffic. The keywords are great for a new topic, the popular posts give you an opportunity to revisit that topic and add detail or update for the new year. Not only this, seeing how your reader’s mind works helps you know what to deliver to keep them as readers.

Create a Series. Maybe it’s a Friday link-up, possibly it’s a monthly feature on a brand or fellow blogger. Having a series means at least one day a week or month you have guaranteed content. Keep it simple and keep a uniform template to these posts so your readers get that it’s a series and they will look forward to it. Often the content of the series will inspire you in other ways in regard to blog content.

Be Real. While it’s lovely to look at gorgeous photos of gorgeous outfits and collages of drool-worthy goodies, it’s also nice to know about the person behind the blog. Have writer’s block? Why not let your readers know and ask them what they would like to see or read on your site. Why not write a post about your life instead of your wardrobe – it brings depth to why you wear what you wear or why you feature the fashion and style you do on your blog. A great example of this is Alison at The Average Girl’s Guide – she has a “Vent Sesh” series where she steps away from style and vents about something in her life. This provides a great human element to her site, and also engages her readers to also vent and realize they aren’t alone in their personal frustrations.

Do a Review. You don’t have to just review what brands send you in the mail. An honest review that you’re not paid for can be quite refreshing these days in a blogosphere. Maybe your top five beauty products, your experience at a new mall in town, or even a concert or restaurant you recently attended. Even if you always write about fashion or beauty, the occasional review of a book, CD, concert, restaurant, or exhibit can be refreshing and help your readers understand how your mind works.

Poll Your Readers. Facebook pages and Twitter accounts are a great way to promote your blog, but they are also a great way to connect with your readers on a more intimate and honest level. Use your social media channels to ask your readers what they want more of. Maybe use Formspring or Survey Monkey to get anonymous feedback or what they like, dislike, and want more of. Accept that you may get negative feedback, but negative feedback can push you to improve your blog and toughen your skin. Such feedback can really help you step back and assess yourself, your blog, and its future as well as inspire you to write.  I did an anonymous survey when I changed the direction of this blog a few years ago and the feedback was invaluable; some a bit painful, some brought happy tears, all of it inspiring.

Step Away from Social Media. I sometimes take a Twitter break so that I can be a better blogger. Spending a lot of time with fellow bloggers can get you competitive, make you doubt your direction or ability, and get you frustrated. By taking a vacation from social media (as well as your blogroll) you can get back to the person you were when you started the blog. Returning to writing for passion instead of fame can quickly bring back your blogging mojo and the best way I have found is to distance myself for a short bit from my peers.

Start, Stop, and Save. I must have a couple dozen half-written posts on my computer. I start, I lose track, I save and close it. Sometimes I come back in a week when I have inspiration, sometimes it’s even a year. Heck, this post started six months ago, I was re-inspired by Kat, went back to it, closed it and came back a couple days later. You don’t have to write everything in one sitting, sometimes the best inspiration comes after letting an idea marinate for a bit.

Talk About It. I remember a few months after having Emerson I was burned out. Fried to a crisp. I had no desire to blog any more, no time, nothing. I had a baby blog, my personal style blog, my fashion advice blog and I just wanted to delete all of them and run screaming from my laptop. At the time I was part of a monthly women’s circle and that month we met at my house. We were drinking wine and chatting about life and I shared my frustrations with them. One suggested I pare down, concentrate on just one, maybe merge them together. I couldn’t believe I had never thought of that, and within a month I had merged the two fashion blogs and dropped being a proper baby blogger. Gosh, it was so freeing, and it brought back my enthusiasm for the craft. I also have a group of amazing fellow bloggers I consider friends; they (especially my dear friend Alison) are there for Gchat, an email, a drink after work to vent about blogging, to discuss the technical aspects, and to reinspire. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns or frustrations, your loved ones or a fellow blogger may know just the thing to get you back on track!

And now I ask you, what do you do to stop writer’s block or get over blogger burn out?

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Shopping Karma

Everyone is getting on the Amazon bandwagon and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it. Everywhere I look, another online retailer is offering customers to rate and/or review previous purchases. The trouble with shopping online is that you can’t touch, feel, or try on your item before purchase. Even with easy (and sometimes free – hello Zappos!) shipping and return policies at many retailers, returns are still a hassle and take time.

Enter the beauty of customer reviews. Reading them, you can see that a fellow pear-shaped woman found the trousers flattering, but a fellow tall woman found they ran short. And look, that dress you are considering to wear to your friend’s wedding? Well some other woman bought it and admitted it was perfect for such an affair, and wore it to one recently garnering many compliments and feeling perfectly dressed.

One big reason Amazon is so successful is because not only do they have customer reviews, but they have so many. When I was searching for a convertible carseat for my daughter, I was able to weed through literally hundreds of reviews for each brand and style – reviews organized by rating, by date submitted. Reviews were rated by fellow shoppers for their helpfulness, and many reviews had comments on them providing additional insight. I had narrowed down my choice to two brands, and these reviews on Amazon helped me make the final decision – a decision I have been happy with for months.

Do you practice shopping karma? When you make an online purchase, do you return to that retailer to offer feedback? Often we read the reviews, make purchased based upon the reviews, and then never go back to offer our own feedback. Give that which you wish to have in return – lots of constructive feedback on your purchases.

Speaking of constructive feedback, think about your review before you hit the ‘submit’ button. When saying the dress was tight in the bust, did you also mention your shape, your size, and what size you purchased? If you think the pants run long, please be sure to mention your height and if you believe yourself to be long- or short-waisted. Did you end up having to pin the neckline or wear it with a camisole? Was the hemline too short for work but perfect for drinks with friends? Did the color state it was emerald green but you found it to be more of a muted leaf color? Let other people know. Your detailed, constructive feedback may encourage other shoppers to do the same. And their detailed review may be the very one that helps you pick that perfect something that has been missing from your wardrobe!

Online Shopping

I am a huge fan of online shopping. I work a lot, I have a home and family to care for, and really, malls often frustrate me. I head to malls at least once a season to really touch, feel and try on the new fashions, but often head back to my computer for many of my purchases. Shopping online, you have more variety, often times better prices and what is better than surfing the ‘net, looking at beautiful clothes and accessories at work between tasks?

Many of you readers have told me your favorite online shops. I try to update the sidebar as I receive new links for online shopping. I have most recently updated the links for fuller figured women’s clothing. Unlike many malls where you have department stores and 1-3 stores geared toward clothing over a size 14, the internet has tons of sites geared toward all shapes, curves, sizes and heights. As a woman who comes from a family of curvy women – very tall on my father’s side and quite petite on the other, I am happy to see that there are so many options for women on the internet. Plus size AND petite? What a wonderful concept! Not dressing a woman over a size 12 in a mu-mu? Fabuloso!

As you find gems of online boutiques, do let me know in a comment or email. I would love to offer reader-tested shops for those who are not exactly 5’7” and a size 4 with medium-width size 8 feet and a perfect B-cup chest. Tall? Petite? Narrow feet? Large breasts? Long torso? Where have you had success online? Let’s share our fashion successes! I will soon be updating this page to make it more reader-friendly and link-friendly. Would love to update it with many great sites!

Shopping With Mommy

Pictures taken in the Nordstrom Women’s Lounge.
It was my birthday, plan was to go to brunch at a favorite restaurant, head to the mall for some leisurely window shopping.

Black silk cashmere tank from Banana Republic. Ivory sueded cotton trousers from Ann Taylor. Denim blazer from Ann Taylor. Gold Chandelier earrings and gold bangle. Black Enzo boots.

Makeup is a touch of MAC’s Studio Tech on the face, a hint to Nars Orgasm blush, Fawn Pearl shadow from The Body Shop and black Zoom Lash mascara from MAC. On the lips was Sally Hansen gloss in a brownish pink color.

Hair was straightened, but it got all weird from sweaty trying on of clothes. These are pictrues from the end of our shopping trip. The luggage int he first pic is what my mom bought for her trip to Africa in February. $50 off at L.L.Bean!

Weekend Sale Shopping

Sales, sales, everywhere is sales… yes I am changing the lyrics to this song (which is a cover of this original) but there’s some insanely good sales going on this weekend that I just HAD to share with you.

Old Navy – 25% Off

At Old Navy, get 25% off your entire purchase with the code TREAT. Code is valid until the end of the 18th. A few restrictions: not valid on Everyday Steals, Hot Deals, Clearance (anything ending in $0.97 or $0.99) or Today Only Deals.  I think this top is an office attire staple and I love the variety of colors available; this chunky turtleneck would look great with skinny jeans or ponte pants for the weekend; I love the leather-look pockets on this dress (and love that it comes in regular, tall, and petite!).

Banana Republic – Up to $50 off Full Priced Items

Up to $50 off full price dresses, jackets, sweaters, and more. Note this doesn’t include their Monogram collection or leather jackets. No code necessary, deal through October 18.  I love their Gemma Wrap Dress and this print is something that would look great all seasons of the year; this lace pullover is fantastic – wear over a white shirt for the office and a camisole for a night out!  Other favorites on promotion:

Ann Taylor – 50% Off Tops, Shoes and Accessories

I know, right? 50% off? Get thee shopping, pronto with code STYLE50, this deal ends October 20th.  I think this bird print shirt is amazing, this faux leather pocket cape looks even better in person, and their buttoned-up boiled wool cape is so awesome, I wish I could justify the purchase (for the record, I’ve tried it on, it fits great, I am a Large Petite).

LOFT – 40% Off Tops and Sweaters

No specific date that this is to end and no code needed. Do note it’s not valid on Lou & Grey merchandise, but it IS valid on in-store purchases as well as online.  It does feel that LOFT is constantly having deals, but they’re also constantly getting in new merchandise that doesn’t seem to last long online.  So if you see it and love it, get it while you can!  I’m loving this belted cardigan, and think this variation on the chambray shirt would look modern and fresh with jeans or a midi skirt.  Some other pieces I like that are on promotion:

Lands’ End – 25 to 30% Off

Lands’ End is my go-to for quality yet reasonably priced winter weather gear. They have two promotions going on right now. Get 30% off select “fall essentials” (not sure exactly what that is but seems like a lot) with code LEAF, PIN 9223 through October 20th. But you can also get 25% off all full-priced merchandise with code MAPLE and PIN 1610 through October 21st. I love my packable down vest so much, I’m seriously considering this packable down jacket from Lands’ End and can’t decide between the polka dots or basic black. I’ve also had this Sport Knit skirt in black in my shopping cart for a while and may pull the trigger now that it’s 30% off.  These and a few other pieces I’m admiring:

Madewell – 30% Off Sale Merchandise

Madewell continues to impress, and a 30% off sale prices makes it easy to buy some fab fall and winter fashion. Use code PICKMEUP, which is valid through October 20th.  I love the classic look of their Otis boot, the unique color and slouchy coolness of their Firelight Pullover, and the perfect color and shape of their Berliner Satchel.

J. Crew – 30% Off Sweaters and Outerwear

Code SHOPFALL will give you 30% off at J. Crew through the 19th of October.  Their Majesty Peacoat truly is perfection and a classic piece that will be chic for years to come; their Jackie Cardigan is always a popular piece and nice to get on sale; and I am loving the pale lavender shade and the cool size zips of this lambswool sweater.

J. Crew Factory – 40-50% off Outerwear and an Additional 30% Off Clearance Merchandise

One of my favorite stores for great style at great prices; 30% off clearance makes it even nicer! Use code YAY30 through the October 19th to save.  As for the deal on outwear and cold-weather accessories, no code is needed.  Some of my favorites like this camo tee (imagine it with something dressy like a sequined or lace pencil skirt or under a denim jacket), this adorable flared leather skirt in black or brown, and this pleated maxi which I own and adore.  As for outerwear, I love the color and details of this coat, find this long hooded belted puffer to be something any city commuter would love, and think the price is nice on these leather tech gloves.

Any sales I missed?  Share them in the comments!

Shopping with Intention and Changing Shopping Habits with #Project333

Reader (and friend after all these years) Linda made me aware of the blog, Project 333. Project 333 is a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for three months. Linda has been really interested in minimalism, and recently I have been as well. Linda asked me to think about what 33 pieces from my wardrobe I would save from a fire.

As the next three months are spring/summer, I had to get into the warmer weather state of mind. I went through my outfit posts from last summer and thought about what was currently in my wardrobe. I wanted to consider work of course, but also casual weekends and the occasional date night, concert, wedding, or other social occasion. What I came up with:

Gray leather hobo purse (Banana Republic) | Black leather clutch (HOBO Bags) | Black Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses | Vintage brown leather belt | Black leather and stretch wide belt (Lauren Ralph Lauren) | Black pumps (MICHAEL Michael Kors) | Tan sandals (Softspots) | Orange heeled sandals (Naturalizer) | Black flip flops (Reef) | Black silky slouchy tee (Leith) | Black and white striped shirt (Armour lux) | Printed V-neck tee (OBEY) | White ribbed tank (Caslon) | Chambray shirt (Target) | Gray V-neck tee (Old Navy) | Orange Ikat-print cotton sheath (Maggy London) | Black twill skirt (Limited) | Gold and white floral cotton skirt (Talbots) | Black blazer (Limited) | Orange matte jersey drapey camisole (Ann Taylor) | Black ponte dress (Felicity + Coco) | Pink jersey maxi dress (Gap) | Black cardigan (Only Mine) | Black trousers (Tahari) | Boyfriend jeans (Gap) | Black and white striped tank (Ann Taylor) | White jeans (Kut from the Kloth) | Distressed denim shorts (Target) | Silk Scarf (Liberty) | Cadet blue zebra-print long scarf (Nepali by TDM) | Silver cuff | Silver chain with personal charms | Statement necklace (Etsy)

Trying to use images available in Polyvore, this is only a representation of my actual items (for example the floral dress represents my orange Ikat-print dress). I have linked to the actual pieces when they have been featured on my blog or Instagram (the zebra scarf to the site, the pink dress to an image I found online). However I think this collage gives the right effect.

When thinking what to keep, the most important thing was to have appropriate attire for work. I am lucky to work in a relaxed business casual office, where jeans are acceptable on Fridays and colored denim can make a pass during the week if it’s crisp, saturated color, and dressed up like pants. With this collection, I was able to create 40 different work ensembles for a possible 60 days in the office during a Project 333 period of time.  (I know the actual project suggests swapping only three items at the end of the period of time, I am just trying it in this manner for now.)

What this exercise really did was make me realize how woefully inadequate my current wardrobe is. My body has changed, but I have also had a transition in my personal style. With the warming temperatures, I am finding my closet more and more frustrating, the pieces I currently own so mismatched. I’m trying to buy less, and just filling holes, but it feels as though there’s more holes than current wardrobe. This made me realize that instead of filling holes, I maybe need to start from scratch in some ways. Not buy what works, but what is right. Knowing that the whole season will only be 33 pieces (including shoes and accessories – even sunglasses!) is a relief. When you see it’s only 33 pieces, you don’t feel as much as though you’re going to go bankrupt to dress for a season. I looked at this collection above and felt I could really live with these pieces, and only needed a few minor changes to make it perfect.

Will I be taking part in Project 333? No, at least not now. My blog is my part-time career. I have made my outfit posts a way to offer inspiration and creative ideas for fellow women who may have similar figures or lifestyles. I also use the posts as a way to feature brands I like or have just learned about. However, Project 333 really forced me to look at what I buy and why I buy it; it has also transformed how I plan to shop and dress myself this year. You can expect to see a change in future purchases (as well as more items I will likely be selling on eBay – follow me on Facebook for updates when I am having sales).

The horrible tragedy in Bangladesh really got me thinking about what I buy. One can’t just blame H&M or Forever 21 for such situations, bargain basement to high end designer lines ship their manufacturing and/or fabric weaving to other countries where it can be done for far less. We expect to get more for less and to accommodate, retailers sometimes do shifty things to still make a good profit. Be it purchasing used, or purchasing darn near perfection to reduce how often I spend, I’m trying to make a difference. Project333 really forces one to shop with thought, with a plan, with intention. Imagine if we all shopped with intention instead of in desperation, purchasing good enough, using shopping as therapy or entertainment.  Imagine our wardrobes, they would be full of quality, well-fitting pieces, signature items, pieces that both flatter and inspire.

This won’t be my only post on this topic, I plan to think about what I wish was in my closet for the 333 Project, and how I plan on taking the lessons learned from this with me as I do shop, and how it will affect my fall/winter wardrobe.

What do you think of Project 333? How does it make it look at your current wardrobe and your shopping habits?

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My Personal Shopping Rules

When shopping for clothing, it is so easy to get off track. Maybe you need a new pair of trousers, but by time you leave the mall you have several bags and none of them contain a pair of pants. It’s also easy to get off track when it comes to your personal style. You are a hopeless romantic who feels at home in ruffles and flounces, but after some pressure from a very enthusiastic salesperson you find yourself at home with a very structured severe black sheath dress.

I have found the best way to stay on track is to have a list and take it with you. I have a small note pad I got at a drugstore that I keep in my purse. I date the sheet and write my shopping list. I never toss the list because looking at old lists help you remember not only what you own, but the style of your wardrobe and life. These lists for me are like a mini journal of my life – a list including a bathing suit and flip flops in August, a cocktail dress in December, silver shoes for when I was a bridesmaid in a wedding, a new pair of jeans to celebrate a weight loss.

In this little notebook I not only keep lists of what I need, but also what I believe. What fashion “rules” do I hold for myself? Each woman’s “rules” will be different. At first you may not know your personal style, but you do know what you will NOT wear. Making this list will help you leave the mall or boutique with only purchases that make you feel good – be it more ruffles instead of structured shapes, or leather instead of lace. Here is my list of fashion “rules,” ones that over time I have felt fit me, and fit many other women.



1. Color over Neutrals. Color makes me look thinner, as though I have a better complexion, am younger. Color makes cheaply made clothing look more expensive. When I feel glum, putting on a bright cheery color automatically makes me smile.

2. Never Let Lingerie Show. I was raised to never have a bra strap or panty line show. Trends come and go where it seems acceptable to have lingerie peek out of sweaters, jackets, and blouses. I have never succumbed to those trends and never will. On top of that, if an item requires a fancy-dancy backless/halter/strapless/zero-gravity bra that I do not already own, I won’t buy the garment. And if an item requires me to pin, tape, suck, squish or cover up part of it to make my current lingerie work, again I won’t purchase.

3. Prints to a Minimum. I am not a prints person. When I start buying printed items, I start finding I wear those items less often – so rarely they are not worth their purchase price. Prints are memorable, less able to be coordinated with multiple items in my closet, so they are purchased sparingly.

4. I Don’t Go to Cocktail Parties. This is something I have to say to myself on a regular basis. I am constantly drawn to sequins, beading, shimmer, shine. I love cocktail dresses, silky camisoles, contrast outfits like fitted tee with ball skirts and cashmere turtlenecks with sequined minis. However I do not have a lifestyle for such a wardrobe. I go to places that warrant such attire maybe twice a year, so I try to get my bling-fix in necklaces I can wear to work as well as play, and fun clutches and purses that I can use to jazz up my arsenal of LBDs that can work for a day wedding or that unexpected cocktail party.

5. Accept it, Your Arms, Breasts and Calves are Not Standard Size. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and demoralizing to try to zip up tall boot after tall boot, try to wiggle skinny rigid jeans up past my ankle or have a short-sleeved oxford or shirtdress fit over my limbs and bust. Even when I was a size 4 I couldn’t wear such items because my calves, breasts, and arms are just bigger than fit models. This doesn’t mean I am unattractive or deformed, it just means I should wear other items. And I have to remind myself that even if I can fit it, if it feels tight and awkward, it will look tight and awkward.

6. Don’t Buy it If It’s Not Comfortable. I am not one to live in sweats, and I despise when people tell me they buy items purely because they are comfortable. However I don’t believe in pain for the sake of style. There is a happy balance. I won’t wear something that restricts my arms, pulls on my back, won’t let me walk three blocks to and from the Metro to my office, forces me to suck in my stomach so that buttons won’t pop, when I take it off I have marks from where the item zipped or cinched.

7. You Aren’t a Girly-Girl. Yes, I am occasionally drawn to calico prints, ruffles, lace, flounce. A romantic blouse, a vintage-inspired dress. Then I get it home and realize I have no shoes, no jewelry, no other wardrobe items to work with it. I have to change my makeup, I need to change my hair, my purse doesn’t fit with the look. Instead of reinventing the wheel, don’t buy the wheel.

8. You Hate Black Purses. This is a weird one, and one I have learned over time. Black makes sense – I wear a lot of black and colors that look great with black. Most of my pants are black, shoes are black. However every time I buy a black purse I don’t like it for some reason – it’s too stark, it’s too somber, it’s too wrong. I currently own two black bags – a casual shoulder bag for day and a satin clutch for night. Both are collecting dust and are constant reminders for me to not make that mistake again.

9. Loose Items Don’t Make You (or anyone) Look Smaller. When I am between two size, I often catch myself choosing the larger one because I fear the smaller one will make me look like a sausage. The thing is, usually the smaller one fits, and the larger one is loose. Loose is comfortable, loose is safe. However, loose makes my unusually large arms look larger, my bust look bustier, my tummy look as though it’s wrapped in a diaper. As a petite woman, fit is of the utmost importance – a dress that is too long in the torso will make a hump in my lower back, show my bra under my arms, cause pants to droop in the rise. Slight adjustments – going with the smaller of two fitting sizes, choosing petite will make me look slimmer and make my clothes look more expensive.

10. If you Love it, Buy Two. I am not ashamed to own the same item in multiple colors. I have been known to buy the same trousers in threes – one in gray and two in black. No one is keeping tally, seeing how many different pairs of black pants you own. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I have the same wrap dress from Ann Taylor – one in solid black and one in a blue print. I have the same trousers from Gap – two pairs of white and one of oxford gray. Same with a pair of trousers from Semantiks – one in black, one in brown. When I worked retail and my employer expected us to wear all black I had five pairs of the same pants – they fit great, held up well after a long day, and could be thrown in the washer and dryer.

11. Unless it’s Formalwear or a Suit, if it’s Truly Dry Clean Only, Leave it on the Hanger. I have items in the trunk of my car that need to go to the cleaners. They have been there since Emerson was four months old. If I do actually get to the cleaners, I then forget the items are there and don’t pick them up for months. Many items (merino wool, synthetic fabrics, matte jersey) claim to be dry clean only, but aren’t. You won’t see me in much wool, silk, heavily embellished items or delicate fabrics. I don’t have the lifestyle for them. Not worth to buy if they spend most of their life in my car or at the cleaners!

What are your “rules?” What do you follow to stick to a wardrobe that fits not just your body, but your personality and life?

Tuesday and Shopping Update

Sorry for pics before my hair was dry.  Running a bit late today, and with this humidity, my hair was still a bit damp even by time I got to the office!

 Now it’s all full and beachy waves and goes far better with the dress.

Dress: LOFT, picked up during their Friends & Family event last week
Belt: Vintage
Shoes: Sofft
Bracelet: Twisted Silver

I actually bought quite a lot of stuff from Ann Taylor & Ann Taylor LOFT for their Friends & Family event.  And all is going back except this dress (which I honestly think will look better next week when I’m not all PMS-y bloated).

What I got from LOFT:
Petite Abstract Waves Woven Dress – This is the dress I am wearing.  I have to say if I didn’t have the F&F discount and a store credit, this dress wouldn’t be worth it.  It’s polyester, and that weird textured crepe polyester that from far away may look like silk but once you touch it you know it’s synthetic something.  Super super simple pattern, no fancy details.  The waist is elasticized and covered with a black grosgrain ribbon which on its own looks very much as though something is missing.  The dress has side pockets which is what made me consider returning this dress – the pockets make the sides stick out a bit weird, and make it look as though it’s junk in my trunk and not extra fabric.  I may use Stitch Witchery to close them up.

However I kept this dress because it’s lightweight, it’s summery, I know it will look better if I lose weight or bloat, and my husband told me I look hot in it. :)

Petite Flutter Silk Dress – I saw this in several magazines and thought it looked gorgeous.  Also thought it could be a nice red wardrobe replacement for my “secretary dress.” 

First, the dress doesn’t flutter.  It’s packed so those ruffles lie completely flat.  Smooshed flat, and the ruffles have raw edges so it just looks as though the dress is inside-out.  I tried hanging the dress in the bathroom while I took a shower, thinking the steam may help flutter up the ruffles but no, they still looked awful.  Oh, and the dress is see-through, like could see the lace on my skin-colored bra.  And petite?  I actually had to double-check the label and packing slip because this “petite” dress hot me mid-calf.  FAIL.

Pleated Collar Shell – This doesn’t seem to be still in stock, and may be because it was on sale.  Anyway, it is a lightweight cotton voile (like my lovely JNY top), looked to have a deep notch v-neck with a multi-ruffled stand collar.  The color was called Poppy Red, which looked more like hibiscus or watermelon to me.

This was NOT petite but it fit like it.  Raised my hands and you could see my belly.  It fit nicely over the bust, but was tight over the midsection (when does THAT happen?).  The collar didn’t stand as well as I would like because the fabric was so soft.  And the neckline didn’t fall open so it looked like a high-necked shell with a deflated clown collar.  Another FAIL.

What I got from Ann Taylor:
Denim Pencil Skirt – At the time of my order, they didn’t have 14 petite in stock.  And after the skin-tight scary denim skirt I recently got from Gap, I was thinking maybe I should stick with 16.  No 16 petite.  So I ordered 16.

Yep, I am a 14 petite.  This skirt is far too big.  Even though I was swimming in this skirt, and even when I pulled it up to my ribcage it still hit below my knees, I knew it was a good choice.  So good I am going to exchange it.  The denim is heavy enough to not be clingy, but not so heavy that it looks stiff.  It has fantastic seaming that enhance a curvy figure, a tiny kickpleat, a gorgeous dark hue that looks like real denim, but is totally work appropriate.  I hate that my local Ann Taylor doesn’t offer petites over 12 in their shop, so I have to order online.  But I really think the 14 petite will be a great fit and just what I have been looking for.  WIN.

Petite Cotton/Silk Blouse - No longer online but it was on mondo sale at the time of Friends & Family.  Anyway, it is a gorgeous bright pink, is a non-stretchy cotton/silk blend shell with size zipper at the bottom side.  The scoopneck is trimmed with small stiff ruffles.  Fully lined.

If I wore suits on a regular basis, I would keep this top.  The neckline is super flattering, the color and fabric gorgeous, it fit well, slightly loose in the body but no bra showing under the arms and more of a conservative fit perfect for Corporate America.  However alone, it looked like a suiting shell.  It is seamed, very tailored, and I couldn’t make it look fun with trousers, skirts, or jeans.  Not a FAIL, but not an Allie WIN.

Coralized Micro CZ Pendant Necklace – The one I got is no longer online, but it’s sorta similar to this.  The one I got has a longer, thinner chain and is solid gold with little CZ dots, no mother of pearl in the center.  I think it’s a cute pendant, like the old brushed gold look, and can totally see it this fall with simple dresses and come winter it will be fab with a merino turtleneck and a pair of dark slim jeans.  the chain is adjustable, which is always a big plus with me.  I always have major success with Ann Taylor jewelry!

Reader Question – Shopping for Swimwear

Reader Laurie asked:

I am wondering where you shop for swimwear. I have a body type very similar, although I’ve got quite a few years on you (55). I am in decent shape, would like a tank suit with medium high cut legs, but need a D cup underwire, if possible, or at the very least, good support for the girls. I don’t want to look 18 but I also don’t want to look 80 – difficult to find that middle ground. Any suggestions?

Hey Laurie:

Swimsuit shopping can be one of the most horrific experiences for a woman. Suits that have proper support often make one look heavier and older than reality, and cute suits usually don’t have the proper fabric or cut to flatter anyone but a pre-teen. As with any purchase, I recommend going for quality with a swimsuit so it fits, flatters, and maintains its shape and condition after many seasons in the sun, sand and chlorine.

My favorite place for swimwear is Lands End. They have a really extensive collection; you can shop by body type (minimize shoulders and bust, tummy control, minimize hips and thighs, plus size, petite, tall, maternity, even mastectomy suits) or by cut (leg height, bra type silhouette). I bought one of their faille tankinis in 2002 for a trip to Jamaica and that suit still fits, has maintained its shape and elasticity and also the color. Can’t say that for many suits these days!

I love this adjustable bandeau swim top from Lands End; it can be strapless, halter, or regular straps. The side rouching is adjustable so you can have a gathered top or more of a swim dress. UPF 50 swim protection and specially made for a D-cup figure. This is part of a mix and match line so you can easily find a bottom that flatters your figure. Black is a safe bet, but I think a color can be more fun and less looking like “I wear black because I don’t like my body.” Try a hot pink or aqua for a pretty yet not teeny-bopper hue.

How about a custom suit? This halter tank can be made by Lands End to your specifications. I am adoring the Coastal Green color too!

Another place I have had luck at is the store Everything But Water. You can shop by designer, silhouette or even D-cup online, and I have found the stores to have a very good selection year-round. This pretty black one-piece by Christina with a flower design is quite elegant.

In the past I have found many cute suits from J. Crew, however this year their D-cup line has dwindled to boring one-pieces and a handful of bikini tops. Pretty unfortunate and surprising as that so many companies are starting to see the need for the not-your-average-size suit.

I have been pleased with the suits at Athleta. Known as a place to buy activewear, Athleta also has a large selection of street wear and swimsuits that are great for kayaking, or even lounging at the pool.

I love Athleta’s halter one-piece. Simple, elegant, flattering and made for the larger busted woman with a floating underwire and shirring. Their quality is awesome; a suit like this can give you years of wear.

Hope this helps, good luck with your search!

Outlet Mall Shopping

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

Ask Allie: Tips on Wearing and Buying Prints

I find prints so much more appealing than solids. If a shirt is offered in black, red and floral, I’ll inevitably get the floral. But then I find I love individual pieces but have a hard time combining them. So I just do the whole “printed dress and cardigan” or “printed shirt and jeans” thing.

I’ve been buying more solids to build my basic wardrobe but find too much solid action is just not me! Do you have some advice for print-a-holics like me? How can we get more wardrobe mileage out of prints? What are some good rules of thumb for buying prints?

I know you read my blog regularly, and you know I don’t promote prints because you can’t get as much mileage out of them. They show age faster, they are more memorable, they don’t dress up and down as easily… but they really are a ton of fun. Just mentioning that you mix prints shows that you have a pretty defined personal style, and I think a person who knows herself, her lifestyle, and her personal style can totally rock prints.

Again, let me say I don’t suggest prints if you are starting to build a core wardrobe or trying to simplify your closet and purchase a few quality pieces to span many years. But prints ROCK when you want to show your personality and add interest to a closet of staples. I love me some prints, and if you look in my closet you will find many of them. Here’s some tips for buying prints:

Find a Neutral Print and Make it Your Signature
Yes, prints can be a neutral. Leopard print, stripes, your family tartan, or something subtle like houndstooth or tweed. I personally love leopard print because it mixes both black and brown and is accented so nicely with the bright jewel tones I adore. I wear leopard print so often, it has become a neutral for me – a shoe to wear when nothing else seems quite right, a belt when a solid seems too harsh, a scarf when an ensemble is too severe, a skirt when the sky is blue (seriously, I could own a dozen leopard print skirts and still desire more). I also do this with stripes – I seriously have an entire drawer of striped tops because I find them so versatile and more interesting than a solid tee or tank (and they do look quite spectacular with leopard print!).

Be it Black Watch or polka dots, once you have a certain type of print that is your signature, it becomes easier to mix it with other prints. You become so comfortable in that print you end up wearing it like a neutral, and it comes across as such. Just as one may find unexpectedly beautiful combinations with olive or camel, you will find it easier to mix Breton stripes with cabbage roses than another because you know the print so intimately. Not only that, those around you will know that print is your signature and find it to be a bit of a neutral, and your choices of pairings more interesting and less like dressing in the dark.

Mix Big with Small
Cabbage roses with a tiny dots looks adorakable, cabbage roses with giant polka dots can veer on clown costume territory. I have found much success in mixing a bold and large print with a smaller, more subtle one. I have a pair of skinny jeans with subtle polka dots that I love mixing with printed tops. The jeans are more interesting than a solid and I believe give a better backdrop to a large striped jacket or Ikat-print blouse. A small dot, subtly colored stripes, and watercolor prints are great partners to bolder and bigger patterns.

Have an Underlying Color Theme
I’m not saying you should pair pink gingham with pink paisley and pull it together with a pink polka-dotted scarf. The pairing should be more subtle – a navy paisley dress with a hint of teal cinched with a teal plaid fabric belt. An orange, purple, brown, and olive Ikat print skirt paired with a purple snakeskin blouse. I like to pick the least obvious color in a print and use that to choose accessories or contrast patterns – it makes people analyze the combination more closely and adds depth and thought to an ensemble.

Accessorize
A plaid skirt with a floral blouse can make you look as though you dressed in the dark, but if you pull it together with a smart belt or a fabulous pair of shoes, it makes the combination more purposeful. I have a ton of skinny belts in candy colors just for this reason, and I find adding a third print with my shoes (I own six different pairs of leopard-print shoes for this very reason) makes pattern mixing look more cohesive.

Choose Classics
There are some prints that never go out of vogue. Leopard print, Breton stripes, polka-dots in a classic color combination and size. Mirror prints, Ikats, photo prints and such will come in and out of favor. Extend their life by mixing with classic prints, and veer towards classic prints to have pieces that can be staples for more than a season or two.

Befriend a Tailor
to be a successful print-a-holic, it is imperative to have good fit. Too small or too large is far more obvious when you have a garment screaming for attention. A well-fitting garment is also a sign of purposeful styling, which makes prints more stylish and understood.

Along these lines, have silhouettes that are as signature as your prints. When you show up one day in skinny jeans and a tailored blazer, the next day in a circle skirt and twinset, and the day after in distressed boyfriend jeans and a stretched out band tee shirt the prints may not make as much sense. Own your prints, and choose them in silhouettes that flatter them and you. Always buy for the full package – the fit, the cut, the relevance to your personal style as well as the awesome pattern.

Go Big or Go Home
If you’re going to be known for your prints, do them well. No shrinking violets, have your closet full of bold patterns that demand attention. A bright blue print will make more of a purposeful statement than one in a pale cornflower hue, black and white dots make more of an impression than those same circles on a tan ground. When you look at fashion icons who rock patterns on a regular basis, they are wearing jewel tones, strong patterns, and bold contrasts. Own your personal style and wear it with confidence!

Collage made with Polyvore.

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I Went Shopping…

Yesterday was pretty hectic at work. I met my good friend at the mall for some retail therapy.

At Aldo I got a silver pleather clutch for $9.99. It’s funky, kitchy, and perfectly adorable with a black outfit and my trademark silver jewelry. They had a great sale on shoes and bags.

At Ann Taylor (who I ADORE) I headed straight for their sale section. The black merino turtle I have been sporting lately I found in a dusty rose/salmon color. $29.99. I also found some tweed pants to match – shades of cream, brown, tan, coral and rose. $34.99. I also bought a pair of ivory crisp trousers. Flat front, creased leg, stiff sueded twill. I know, I know I own like 50,000 pairs of ivory/cream/winter white trousers but they always look so smart and there is always a pair at the cleaners! They were $39.99. Then I had my Love Cures card which gave me 15% off the purchase. Score!

Today I am wearing the merino turtle with the tweed trousers. Camel pointy pumps on the feet. Sivler hoops and silver cuff.

I forgot my camera at home, so you get the picture of me in the office elevator at the end of the day.

Makeup is the usual foundation, concealer and blush. Pale dusty pink shadow over the lids of my eyes, Damson in the crease and along the lash line. Another of the mini lipglosses I got for Christmas on my lips – this one is a brick color. Ended up looking like a darker version of the sweater. Hair is straight, deep part for sideswept bangs, tucked behind one ear. I used a good dose of BioSilk in my hair as that the winter is wreaking havock on my tresses. BioSilk is a great product, good glosser for the hair that doesn’t look greasy, and a great moisturizer for the skin too! I got mine free with purchase at Trade Secret about two years ago – a trial size bottle I still haven’t used half of (a little goes a looooong way!).

Today we are leaving for the beach. I plan to trade the tweed trousers for a pair of vintage Gap jeans and my black boots.

What if I Hate Shopping?

I think one reason women are famous for loving shoe shopping is because no matter what mood you are in, how many extra pounds you are carrying, what hips you inherited from your mother, shoes fit and are sexy, fashionable and fun.

Woman can not live on shoes alone, so how does one make the trek out of the shoe department and into the rest of the mall more appealing? How does one survive the fluorescent lights, the snooty salespeople, the tiring hikes from one end of a mall to the other?

PROPER ATTIRE. Yes, there is proper shopping attire. What you choose to wear can make or break your shopping experience.

1. The proper undergarments. The best undergarments are those that are the most flattering under clothes, and the most invisible under clothes. A seamless bra with great support in a nude color is a wise choice. It’s hard to really know the tranparency of a white shirt when you are wearing a black bra. Same with your underwear. A skin toned pair that does not show panty lines, and give a smooth look under clothing is a good choice.

2. Comfortable shoes in a height you regularly wear. You may look positively fabu in those spiky heels, but your feet will be very angry after just a few stores. A pair of casual flip flops are not the best option either. If you plan to shop for trousers, wear shoes with the heel height you would wear most often with trousers. If you are shopping for skirts, it’s not the best idea to wear boots and socks – it is pretty much impossible to know how shorts, capris or a skirt will look when wearing socks. A great choice is a mule, a slide, or a pair of pumps – shoes with a comfortable fit, a familiar height, easy to slip on and off and would flatter your legs as you try on clothes.

3. Wrinkle-resistant attire. Not the best idea to wear linen trousers when you plan on pulling them on and off over and over again in stuffy cramped fitting rooms. After two stores, you will look like a discarded shopping bag and grimace every time you catch a glimpse of yourself in a shop window. Knits, matte jersey, synthetic blends – you cannot go wrong and you will feel comfortable all day.

4. Dress to impress. I have over ten years of retail experience and though I hate to admit it, salespeople do judge their customers by their appearance. If there are ten customers and only one salesperson, that salesperson will approach the best dressed person first. Usually those who are well dressed will spend more money. This doesn’t mean you need to wear a dress or suit to the mall. A nice sweater and a pair of trousers, capris or fashion denim will suffice. They will hold up through many changing rooms, and you will maintain a polished look.

5. Accessorize! Wearing the jewelry you would normally wear with an outfit will help your try-on seem more realistic and appealing. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing these pieces to the mall, bring them in your purse. If you are shopping for a job interview – bring your pearls. For a wedding… bring your chandelier earrings or wrap.

6. Do your hair and face. Without a polished face, those fluorescent lights are even more brutal. Somehow a greasy ponytail and a blank face in a department store fitting room can make you look like a convict. Also, it’s hard to see if a color is good with your skin tone, or a neckline is flattering if you don’t look like how you normally look when wearing that type of clothing. Bring powder and lipstick to reapply after multiple trying-ons.

I promise that if you follow these suggestions, you will have a more pleasurable shopping experience once you actually find clothes worthy of trying on.

Now, how do you find clothes? It is an awful experience walking into stores and not finding a single flattering or properly fitting article of clothing. Nothing is more depressing than taking a huge handful of clothing into a fitting room and none of it fits. Here are some tips to having more shopping success:

1. Judge a book by it’s cover: The look of the window displays, the marketing throughout the store, the type of music playing over the speakers, and most importantly – the attire and style of the salespeople will tell you quickly what type of clothes are sold in that store. Why even waste your time walking into a store playing loud club music, salespeople in electric green eye makeup, store window mannequins in leather micro minis and halter tops when you are shopping for an interview suit for a government agency? Yes, you may find a gem in an unexpected store, but save that gem hunt for days when you have your base wardrobe, feel good about your collection and are looking for great pieces to accent.

2. Map out your journey. Before wandering aimlessly through the mall, getting frustrated by the step, start out with a map or a directory of a mall. Circle where the stores you want to visit are. This will give you focus and a goal. You will waste less time too.

It’s great to online pre-window shop before heading out for a day of shopping. Websites usually set the tone for the type of clothing that is sold in a store, the color stories they plan to focus on that season and the major trends that they will be showcasing.

3. Make a grocery list. It is so easy to get off track in malls if you don’t have your priorities clearly defined. For each store you enter have your mantra: “Black pants, pencil skirt. Black pants, pencil skirt.” This will help you search harder for said needed items, and help prevent spending your budget on that awesome green sequined mini skirt that goes with nothing and will do nothing for you except blow your budget and stuff your closet with yet another item that will go to the Goodwill in ten years with the price tags still attached.

A bikini wax is not fun, but necessary if you want to look good on the beach in a skimpy bathing suit. A gym workout is not always fun, but necessary to fit into that great dress for your high school reunion. Underwire bras are not the most comfortable things, but necessary if you have medium to large breasts and want them to look perky and well-shaped. Same with shopping. There may be 50,000 things you would like to do more than spend the better part of a day at the mall, but it’s necessary to get the wardrobe you need and deserve – a proper collection of clothing that will flatter, support your lifestyle, and make you feel more confident and attractive.

What I Wore: Shopping Local

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Shirt: c/o InStyle Essentials | Skirt: buythedress on Etsy | Shoes: Fitzwell | Bracelet: Had forever (similar) | Rings: Etsy, Argento Vivo (similar)

One trend I am LOVING this season is the full midi skirt (those of you who follow me on Facebook already know this). However, I don’t have the budget to afford one from Tibi or another designer. When I see a trend I love that I think can be easily recreated, I don’t go to Forever 21 or Zara, I head to Etsy. This way I know that I am supporting a small business or independent artist while getting the designer look for less.  While I was desiring a solid color, I found this gorgeous wax print print skirt from buythedress. Even better, this Etsy seller lives just a few towns from me!

And I know some of you are thinking… what is this white chick doing wearing Ankara?  Actually, some of you may just find it to be a pretty print.  Many mass retailers these days are taking Ankara, also known as Dutch wax print and silkscreening it on all types of fabrics and all types of garments and calling it a “floral” or “tribal print.”  It’s hard in the land of fast fashion to always know what exactly you are wearing and if it’s cultural appropriation.  Ankara has gained popularity in the past seasons, and has been seen far more often on celebrities and runways so here’s a few links providing the history and origin of Ankara:

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Morning-Saving Tips… AKA How to Get to Work on Time

We’ve all been there… we look at the clock and realize we are 10 minutes late and still have sopping wet hair and our bathrobe on. As a blogger who posts her outfit daily for all to see, has a dog, a decent commute for work and a ton or responsibilities that pile up each day, I have worked hard to streamline my morning routine so I can get to work on time and still be polished and prepared. Here’s a few tips:

1. Don’t hit the snooze button. I know it is sooo tempting, a few more minutes under that comforter all snuggly and cozy. But really think of what you could be accomplishing in those extra nine minutes. Also hearing your alarm TWICE in one morning makes anyone a twinge more grumpy.

2. Be realistic with your tasks. This coming Monday, really see how long it takes for you to feed the cat, take the dog for a walk around the block, put out the recycling, pack the lunches. Also be realistic with what HAS to be done in the AM, and what could be done at a different time of day. When you over-schedule your morning, you set yourself up for failure. Consider packing lunches at night, laying out your clothing, even showering before bed.

3. Keep the TV off. If you want to hear the news, listen to the radio. When you have the TV on, you are more likely to sit down “for just a minute” and wait to leave the house or hop in the shower until a commercial break.

4. Invest in your hair. If you have a great cut and color, you will spend less time cursing your mane and torturing it under hot tools. I have difficult hair – thin but lots of it, not fully wavy but not straight and it seems to never curl in the front and curl too much in the back. And the cowlick? But getting my hair properly cut, trimmed every 6-8 weeks and my color maintained has made hair styling each morning almost product-free and a breeze. It really is possible to get a good cut for ALL hair types. It may not be what the It Girl of the week is wearing, but if it is flattering to your face and hair, then it is stylish.

5. Gut your closet. Take out all your out-of-season pieces, hide in the back the things you don’t wear on a regular basis (interview suits, cocktail dresses) and leave in the forefront only that which fits, is clean, pressed, and looks good when on your body. Donate that which depresses you, doesn’t fit quite right or is not in optimum condition. Remove any item that requires repair and don’t let it back in the closet until it is fixed. Now after this if you only have one pair of pants hanging there… well heck it’s going to be much easier to dress in the morning! Less options means less time to fuss over what to put together. It is far better to own one pair of black pants that fit like a dream and wear them every day, than to have a closet full of ill-fitting, stained and ugly trousers that make you wince each time you catch your reflection.

6. Do your laundry. Often times we fret over what to wear because what we want to wear is balled up at the bottom of the hamper. You should be doing laundry at least once a week. If you only have time (or the quarters) for one load, stop and think about your coming week and what takes precedence – is it jeans and tees for casual events, or is it sweaters and trousers for work? I often put a load in the washer before I go to bed, in the morning throw it in the dryer while the dog is doing his thing in the yard and then fold and put away when I get home from work (this works best for things like towels and workout clothes that can handle being a bit wrinkled).

7. Save the beauty treatments for the weekend. You don’t need to scrub, steam, mask and bleach every day; find a day (or evening) that isn’t the AM to get these things done. My weekday shower consists of shampooing, conditioning, leaving it in as I wash my body, do a quick swipe with the razor to the underarms (and anywhere else if I am wearing a dress or have a special event), rinse hair and go. I wash my face at night, I do the fancy shaving and the scrubbing and the foot polishing on weekends. If your hair, face or skin require special treatment, consider switching your showers or routine to evening.

8. A place for everything, and everything in its place. Your mother probably said this to you multiple times as you grew up, but if you took the time to put things back after using them, you would spend less time later cleaning up your mess. Same holds true for your morning routine – take the time to put back your brush, hang up your bathrobe, store away your cosmetics and you will spend less time searching for something or digging through piles to find what you need. If your moisturizer, your contact lens solution, your deodorant, your shoes, your earrings are always in the same place, you can easily assembly-line through getting ready each day.

9. Keep it simple, stupid. Who needs three concealers, a mattifier, a primer, a foundation, powder, highlighter, four shades of shadow for a weekday? On a day when you have time, play with making a simpler face uniform (hopefully you have started to make a bit of a wardrobe uniform based on previous posts). There are so many new two-in-one products on the market that you may be able to consolidate. For me, I found a powder foundation that does triple duty for all day wear, good coverage and shine control and a shadow quad of long-wearing colors that go great with my entire wardrobe and look great for day wear.

10. Make time for breakfast. Even if it’s a piece of toast as you head out the door, eat something. You may not be hungry now, but you will be ravenous later and it will ruin your whole day, your appetite, your diet, your metabolism and your mental clarity. Instant oatmeal, a whole wheat tortilla with some cheese and leftover meat or veggies from last night’s dinner (fold and cook for like 40 seconds) is a great dine-and-dash solution. Get your breakfast to be a routine and it won’t end up being left out due to lack of time.

Tuesday’s Tip – Quick Tips to Look and Feel Great This Summer

1. Replace your facial moisturizer with a lighter weight or oil free version. Your skin doesn’t require as much nourishment in the hot and humid months. This change will make your makeup apply and last better and help keep your skin clear. Of course your moisturizer should have at least an SPF of 15!

2. Give the flat iron a break. In all the magazines models are sporting beachy waves. This is easy for most types of hair, just scrunch in some styling product, let the hair air dry or use a diffuser. This will give your hair a holiday, you will look hip and you won’t stress out about the humidity causing havoc on your ‘do. There are many products out there geared towards achieving “beachy waves,” often containing real sea salt water or synthetic versions. Try it out, using a curling or flat iron for any unruly parts. Your hair will thank you.

3. Add salmon to your diet at least once a week (or if you are a vegetarian try to fit flaxseed and flaxseed oil into your diet – great for salads!). Salmon and flaxseeds have large percentages of Omega-3 fatty acids. After three weeks you’ll see a difference in your skin tone and texture. Feel your elbows – you won’t recognize them, they will be so much softer. And don’t be surprised if someone says you seem to be glowing, your skin will feel good from the inside out!

4. Buy a new pair of sunglasses. Even if it’s a pair under $20 from the kiosk in the mall, if you like them, you’re more likely to wear them. The more you wear sunglasses, the longer you keep crows feet at bay. Think about it, when you go out in the sun without shades you squint, and squinting does nothing but crease the skin. That plus the sun’s ability to break down the skin’s elasticity can do some severe damage. While protecting your youthful appearance, you are also protecting your eyesight. Seems worth that $20, huh?

5. Stay refreshed with a spritz. Hot weather and sweat can make you feel sticky and gross in no time. Companies like Evian and The Body Shop sell face spritzers of water or lightweight moisturizers that quickly perk you up, freshen you without ruining your makeup. I keep The Body Shop’s Vitamin E mist in my purse and at my office desk – it’s light rosewater scent is calming and the mist perks me up, hydrates my face and doesn’t make me feel greasy. For an extra hot weather pick-me-up, place the spritzer in the fridge – what a welcome treat at the end of a hot day!

6. Make sunscreen more appealing. We all know we should use sunscreen, but it’s such a hassle. It’s sticky, it’s hard to rub in and how the heck are we supped to properly coat the backs of our knees and our shoulders? Several companies (I like Coppertone) have come out with aerosol sunscreens that don’t need to be rubbed in. The scent is mild, the texture is light and easily absorbed and you can easily coat your whole body without assistance or a Charley horse.

7. Lighten up your fragrance. That lovely floral or musk can be a bit too heavy in the summer when your skinh is hotter. The scent gos from being mysterious to overpowering. Consider switching to a body spray. The allover scent is light enough to reapply before a night out but heavy enough to leave a fresh scent and feeling all day. Bath and Body Works has several to choose from, I enjoy their “Breathe” collection. Breathe Energy has a grassy crisp scent that smells clean, Breathe Delight smells like orange blossoms and is delicate and juicy and not too candy-smelling or strong.

8. Drop the foundation. Even if you are dedicated with the sunscreen, your skin will get a touch of color this season. That and the humidity in the air will help your skin retain a nice glow. Consider using just concealer, or switch from a heavy foundation to a sheer tinted moisturizer. Your skin needs to breathe, and foundation doesn’t stay put when you sweat anyway. Why fight nature? Instead try a bronzing powder to keep shine at bay and provide coverage and color.

9. Flavor that water. Having a hard time achieving the recommended eight glasses of water a day? Why not make it more appealing. Companies like Crystal Light have created individual packets to flavor a bottle of water. Emergen C is a product with the RDA of Vitamin C as well as many other nutrients; it too comes in individual packets. Even a small drop of lemon or lime juice in a tall glass of water will give it a bit of zing that will keep the water from being boring. Drinking plenty of water is even more important come summer, so drink up!

10. Watch your posture. Come summer we don’t have bulky sweaters and coats to cover our figure. The quickest figure fixer is standing and sitting up straight. Use a small pillow or a rolled up towel in the car or at your desk chair to help you sit upright; placed in the small of your back it will force your spine to stand at attention. While standing in line, be aware of your posture. Pull back and down your shoulders, pull your chin away from your neck. And smile! It takes less muscles to smile than it does to frown, and we know the more facial muscles you use, the quicker the wrinkles appear! Stand tall and smile and you will look five pounds thinner and five years younger!