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: Machine Washable Business Casual Capsule Wardrobe

I’m 42 and just went back to working in an office after years being a SAHM and then a WAHM. The office is business casual and with three boys at home and a crazy schedule I’d like everything machine washable. I am petite and carry my weight in my hips and rear. I also have foot problems and need to wear comfort brands of shoes (Sofft thanks to your recommendation, Softspots, Naturalizer). I look best in blues and purples. Is it possible to look hip and professional or am I stuck in golf shirts and pleated khakis?

Do you have any suggestions for machine washable clothes that can be worn at a business casual office setting? I’m a pear shaped 40-year-old with small kids at home. I usually wear blacks and browns and creams and fall colors and flat shoes and have a tendency to end up looking either very frumpy or too “hiking casual” a la L.L. Bean catalog.

Oh my dears, please do not fall into the deep dark dank hole of pique golf shirt and wrinkle-free chinos. As for L.L. Bean, I adore the brand, but “hiking casual” is not the effect you likely wish to give off at the office. There are other options that are machine washable, kind to your feet, and will better flatter your figure and your personal style!

capsule wardrobe business casual machine washable

This is a very simple capsule wardrobe for a business casual office and all the pieces are machine washable. I know each of you provided the colors that you prefer to wear; please know that while this collection is brights with primarily black, it can be changed to other tones and I will break those down later in the details. However, I chose this color story to show the two of you the power of going outside your color comfort zone. Choosing a wardrobe of neutrals or sticking to just one or two shades you were told are flattering is safe and easy, but I’ve found that this is often what causes women to quickly tire of their wardrobe and also quickly get into a rut. You’re coming to me for advice, and my advice is to get a bit out of your comfort zone to reassess your personal style. You’re going to have to do a bit of self-analysis to prevent spending a ton and floundering each morning in front of your closet. The capsule wardrobes I provide are guides, not gospel. The work needs to come from you. Buy slow, feel out each piece, each new trend or shade. I’m one who was always told that she was a Winter yet I feel most alive when wearing orange. I can recall in 2000 despising skirts and proclaiming that I would even wear pants for my wedding; 15 years later more than half my wardrobe is skirts and dresses. I’m not saying throw out your entire closet; on the contrary. Just recall why you emailed me, and don’t be afraid to dip your toe into new-to-you trends, colors, silhouettes, and combinations. The results may surprise (and flatter!) you!

This capsule wardrobe for a business casual environment is classic, crisp, and quite versatile. Black and charcoal gray bottoms may seem heavy come the warmer months, but remember you are in an office environment with air conditioning. These colors are versatile, transition well from season to season, you have to worry less about matching shoes and belts, and best of all black and heathered gray and charcoal hide stains. For this capsule, I chose a skirt that skims over the hips and hits right around the knee, providing a flattering length that works well with flat shoes. Even if you’re not comfortable with skirts, one of this length is so easy; pair with a refined knit you already own and BAM! An office outfit. To keep it machine washable, look for matte jersey (has a nubby crepe texture but is stretchy) or ponte knit (heavier than jersey, has the same finish on the front and back of the fabric unlike terry or sweatshirt material, very tight weave). Even if the item says dry clean only, these fabrics can be washed on cold on the gentle cycle and hung to dry without a ton of wrinkles and no shrinkage. The pants featured are also in the ponte knit fabric – ponte has become quite a popular fabric because it’s heavy enough to give a smooth line on the body, is budget-friendly, and as comfortable as yoga pants yet appropriate for the office. One ponte piece often matches another so you can buy pants at one store, a skirt at another, a jacket at another and pull together a suiting collection. As for the pants, they are more traditional of suiting fabric, but unlined (linings often get wonky when machine washed) and of a washable material. I was envisioning my LOFT pants; I have them in every color available and they have been in the wash dozens of time (cold, gentle cycle, line dry) and still look like new.

If you cannot stand black and heathered gray, consider taupe, other shades of gray, cool olive, cream, and heathered brown. True brown is hard to find the right color – too warm and it can quickly look dated. Khaki, even if made of silk can still look like a pair of chinos if you’re not comfortable yet with your personal style. There’s something terribly chic about pairing warm neutral tops with crisp black bottoms, so don’t feel that adopting black pants means you need to build a wardrobe of cool tones or brights.

Even if you’re not used to dresses, you can’t deny how darn EASY they are. When you’re a busy mom, you can’t beat one-piece outfits! Again, I chose ponte and matte jersey because they are refined enough for the office but machine washable. The blue ponte dress is one of those cuts that flatters so many figures; elbow-length sleeves work almost every season of the year, the fit and flare cut flatters your figure, and the knee length is modest without being frumpy. The matte jersey dress has a wrap cut which creates an hourglass shape; the ruched waist whittles you even more and brings the eyes up. This concept could be with a skirt length anywhere from just above the kneecap to the bottom of your calf muscle; the sleeves could be anything from cap sleeves to flutter to long sleeves. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a dress like this in multiples – different cuts, different prints, different lengths. With a switch of accessories such a dress could be worn on the beach boardwalk for a stroll or donned to attend a evening dressy affair.

I’m the queen of the not-so-little black dress but I don’t think black is a good choice when picking a work dress. Especially in a business casual environment, a black dress can look too severe and serious, especially if you’re wearing it on a more regular basis. This is a chance to show your personality, so embrace olive green, pumpkin, plum, cobalt, or whatever color makes you feel great. While I recommend having at least one dress a solid (more versatile and easy to transform/dress up and down with accessories), the other dress can have a print or texture.

The tops all have something in common – an unexpected something. When building a small yet mighty capsule wardrobe, it’s tempting to buy basics. However, you’ll find those pieces with the little bit of interest will be the most worn and the most versatile. The teal top is in matte jersey and has a drape neckline that is modest enough for the office, yet provides interest, makes the piece dress up more easily, and balances a pear shape. The striped top has bracelet-length sleeves, a heavier weight, and a boatneck to keep it from looking like a basic tee shirt. The orange shell has pleating detail and a shirttail hem. And even the cardigan is a bold contrast color in place of basic black or tan. However, except for the striped top (which is still in very basic colors), everything is a solid. A solid is more versatile, and if in a stand-out color, will be a piece you love for many seasons. Prints can look dated quickly, are prone to looking cheap, and are far too memorable. That teal top can be paired with the cropped pants and flats, tucked into the skirt and styled with a wide belt, belted over the gray pants, or tucked into the gray pants and topped with the cardigan. You may have as much versatility with a printed top, but you (and others) may be more aware of the piece being worn so often and grow tired of it.

Shoes can be flat and comfort brands and still have style and elegance. Both shoes featured are by Sofft, my favorite brand for comfort, extended sizes, and classic style. A black flat is a great choice as it goes with pants and skirts; choose a style with structure and an almond (not round or square) toe so it feels graceful and is more office-appropriate. Leather is the most versatile and easiest to polish up if it gets dirty or scuffed. A soft metallic sandal is far more versatile than a neutral, is as leg-extending as natural or tan, but can also dress up more easily. This sandal has a subtle wedge that will likely prove more comfortable than a true flat shoe. If your office doesn’t allow sandals or the weather is cooler, you can switch this shoe out for a Mary Jane or flat also in a soft metallic; the goal is to have a different feel from the black and something that will look appropriate with pants as well as skirts.

Accessories are what gives a capsule wardrobe personal style. Since you both stated you were pear shaped, I chose accessories that highlight the smallest part of your figure and draw attention up. A wide belt is an awesome accessory to have in your closet; I love elastic ones with a leather (or faux) buckle. Consider wearing a touch above your natural waist where your torso is slimmest – this makes you look long and lean. A skinny belt in a contrast color is extremely useful. Belt an untucked top to give a different effect (I have done it here and here), belt a cardigan to highlight your small waist, or give a different effect to dresses. The color doesn’t matter – it’s better to contrast than match. Just be sure if there’s a metal buckle it’s the color you usually wear for your jewelry. For necklaces, I chose ones with a lot of impact, but available at most any pricepoint. A beaded necklace is fun, whimsical, and gives you much bang for your buck. Not only that, you won’t be too upset if one of your little ones accidentally tugs and breaks it. While you can buy your initial necklaces at the mall or big box retailer, keep an eye out for cool pieces when on your travels – it’s a wonderful way to remember your vacations and add a unique and personal touch to your wardrobe.

How to Keep Your Wardrobe Looking Like New

I wrote this post, looking at a huge mound on my dining room floor of clothes that need to go to the dry cleaners. A week ago, the mound was in the laundry room, and the week before that on the floor of my closet. Maybe today I’ll get around to bagging them and putting them in the trunk of my car and hopefully they’ll get to the cleaners before it’s July. I get you with wanting a machine washable work wardrobe. Dry cleaning is difficult, not as environmentally friendly, and costly. Here’s a few tips to keep you dressed for the office without having to go to the cleaners:

  • Invest in a Lingerie Bag. The problem with washing machines isn’t as much the water as it is the wringing and spinning. I have two lingerie bags and use them often; in one I put bras (with the hooks hooked so they don’t snag on anything else) and underwear, the other I put silk and delicate blouses. Using the gentle cycle on the machine, loading halfway but having the water for a full load, and choosing delicate detergent, I find this is a safe way to wash my work blouses. I then hang them on a plastic hanger off the shower curtain rod in the bathroom until they’re dry. If they’re wrinkled, often being hung in the bathroom during a hot steamy shower will do the trick.
  • Spot Clean. You do not need to wash your clothes after every wear. Usually if you let them air out they’re ready to wear a couple more times. I often spot clean clothing so I don’t have to launder or dry clean the entire piece. I always have a Tide To Go pen in my purse and I also have one in my pencil cup on my office desk. At home, I’ll use a little bit of Ivory Soap to lather a spot and then a clean rag or washcloth to dampen and then blot.
  • Go Liquid. Powder laundry detergents may be a better value, but often leave residue when using cold water and the gentle cycle. I use Biokleen for my gentle washes because it rinses clean and doesn’t leave any coating on my clothing. I find it does a better job than specialty detergents like Woolite.
  • Buy Peroxide and Dawn. This is the best stain remover ever. Seriously. While at it, keep an old toothbrush with the two bottles, it works well getting into the weave of ponte, twill, and cotton.
  • Baby Your Wardrobe. I had a high school boyfriend who as soon as he got home off the bus would change out of his Champion sweatshirts and Guess jeans into older rattier sweats and jeans. I found this so weird, but I gotta say he always looked so crisp at school and was the only person I knew who could keep white sweatshirts looking brand new. Take a lesson from this guy and take off your work clothes as soon as you get home. While ponte and matte jersey may be as comfortable as loungewear, babying it will keep it looking nice much longer. Fold sweaters; when placed on hangers they can stretch and get misshapen. I hang pants upside down, matching up seams and either folding over a bar or clipping to a hanger; this helps keep a crisp leg and a bit of a crease down the front, elongating the leg. Be careful when hanging so nothing gets creased or mushed.

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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Ask Allie: Interview Attire to Cover a Tattoo

I’m graduating college in the next couple months, and I realized I don’t have any work appropriate clothes! My field of study was Graphic Design, so the creative arts is where I’m headed for sure….only problem is, I’m not sure if my new employers are all gung-ho about me having a tattoo on my arm. What would be a few outfits that would be decent for career hunting in the creative field, that would hide my forearm tattoo? I don’t want to look like a stuffy person with just suit jackets galore.

How exciting, what a crazy time for you! I wish you the best in your last semester and much luck on the job hunting process! I’m glad you are considering this; while tattoos have become quite common in all sorts of fields, there are still many who don’t fully understand or appreciate them. A first interview is time to dress to sell your skills, not your sense of personal style.

As soon as I read your submission, I thought wrap dresses! From Target to the creator of this style of dress, Diane von Furstenberg, a wrap dress is chic and office appropriate. Be it a bracelet-length sleeve that covers the tattoo but lets the wrists show, or a long sleeve, such a dress would be great for a creative interview and works all year round. An alternative is the shirtdress; if not too casual of a silhouette (keep the chambray and shirttails for once you have the job and look for something more tailored and polished) it can look sophisticated and stylish for your interview.

An alternative dress is the sheath or shift dress. A sheath has a more fitted silhouette, a shift can vary from a bit of tailoring to being more sack-like. If choosing a shift, I’d stick with one with a bit of tailoring for a cleaner and more professional feel. Either style of dress with bracelet or long sleeves is elegant and on trend. It can be left simple, or personalized with a great necklace or scarf.

Not all jackets are stuffy and suit-like. One of the best ways to relax a blazer is to break it from its matching skirt or pants. A white or ivory jacket with black pants can look modern and hip, a black jacket over a printed dress loses its boardroom feel.

But don’t feel you have to stick to classic suiting blazers. A cropped swing jacket, trench-inspired jacket, or a moto jacket can be a fantastic alternative, especially when interviewing in the creative arts field. I once interviewed a woman for my non-creative arts company who wore a gray knit moto jacket over a black sheath dress. Paired with tall black boots and a modern silver necklace, the look was stylish, unique, but still appropriate at my more conservative office.

 
For details on the specific pieces seen in the graphics, visit my Polyvore account.

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Ask Allie: Interview Outfit Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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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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Dressing for Your Interview

Job interview… those two words can create all sorts of fear and loathing in people. Having to sell yourself, but not too hard. Make a good impression, try not to have sweaty palms, fidgety hands, spinach in your teeth. And then of course, what on earth are you to wear???

Job interview attire used to be as predictable as a military uniform: a suit, preferably navy. For women, a skirt that came to a conservative length, sheer hose, sensible pumps. Little makeup, simple hair, one small accessory, no perfume. You are to show class, intelligence, sensibility and are of course selling your brain and skills, not your sense of style.

In this day and age, interviews are not so cut and dry. Yes, there are interviews that take place in a conference room where you are surrounded by bigwigs who are trying to stump you while seeing if you are a good fit for their company. Some interviews are still conducted on opposite sides of a large mahogany desk, but many are far different. Sitting in a Starbucks yesterday, I saw three separate interviews taking place. Went into the neighboring Barnes and Noble and saw a fourth. When I worked in retail we often had interviews as auditions – have the potential employee spend an hour on the floor and see how she interacted with clients and worked under pressure. When recruiting management, interviews often took place over a salad at California Pizza Kitchen or a latte at the Nordstrom Espresso Bar. With the variety of job and interview styles, so is there a variety of interview attire.

Just as with a wedding or any other special event, you often get fashion clues by the locale. You wouldn’t wear the same thing to an evening wedding at an historic mansion that you would for a daytime wedding at a strawberry farm, you shouldn’t wear the same thing for an interview at Starbucks for a start-up ad company that you would for an IT job with the government at the CIO’s office.

A few basics, no matter the type of interview…

Shoes:
Unless you are applying for a very creative field, shoes should be sensible – no spiky heels, straps, funky wedges or adornments. Unless you know the culture of this company, I suggest being safe and wearing a closed-toe shoe. I mention a classic pair of black leather pumps in my staples – these are the perfect shoe to wear on most any interview with any style of dress. If you are not a pumps person, a heeled loafer, a sleek boot with at least a kitten heel, or a closed-toe t-strap heel can look stylish and sophisticated. I would shy away from wearing flats with your suit – this is a time where you want to look confident and have great posture. Heels, even a slight one can provide that bit of lift that will add to your overall appeal.

Bag:
As for your bag, your best bet is a sleek and simple tote – large enough to hold your resume, planner, cell and lipstick for a touchup, but nothing so bulky that you look as though you plan on staying for the weekend. I have a black leather tote I bought on sale at J. Crew over five years ago – the straps are stiff and work well over the shoulder or held in the hand. It is an open-top style with a zippered center dividing compartment. It looks professional enough to double as a briefcase, but stylish enough to work as a regular purse and compliment my attire. Make sure your bag as well as your shoes are polished and in the best of shape – people do judge one on her shoes and bag. If you don’t have this sort of bag, consider borrowing one from a friend for the day. If you require a laptop for your interview, try to attend the interview with just your laptop bag (tuck your necessities in the side pockets and leave your purse at home or in the car) so you give off an efficient and low-maintenance vibe.

Hair:
Keep it simple, and keep it fitting with your personality. If you are a long layered lady, there’s no need to pull it into a severe bun. I have been the one to interview ISDs and Sr. Project Managers for the military and government agencies, and the one to hire a makeup artist or personal shopper. In every field, it is good to see you have a bit of personality and a human touch. Stay away from accessories like clips and headbands and bows, if you want to hold your hair back do so with a hair-colored elastic or very subtle barrette. Keep it soft – no severe slicked back styles, fancy bangs, super-gelled curls. You want to be attractive, but not look as though you’re trying to attract attention.

Cosmetics:
A bit of makeup finishes a polished look. If you are not one to usually wear makeup, consider a touch of concealer and a tinted lip balm just to look finished. If you are a cosmetic-holic like moi, tone it down a bit for the big day. Stay away from shimmers, sheens and metallics. Eye shadows should be subtle, and neutral shades like taupe and khaki. Blush should look like a natural flush and no more, mascara should darken and lengthen but not be obvious, and lips should be a natural hue – a pinky brown works on most every skintone and in a subtle gloss or dewy lipstick will be pretty yet professional.

As for perfume, I do agree it can be distracting and unprofessional. If you feel naked without your fragrance, consider a light body spray or only half the application of your usual fragrance. Nothing is worse than a stuffy conference room with the smell of dry-erase markers, coffee, carpet cleaner and Chanel no. 5. When I have had been interviewed or interviewed others, I have switched out my signature Burberry London for Bath and Body Works’ Breathe Energy body spray, applied only to my collarbone and upper arms. This gives enough so that there is a fresh, attractive scent but cannot be smelled unless in very close proximity to me.

Your hands will be on display, shaken multiple times, at rest on the desk or table and often times will be in motion as you speak. Keep them cared for – moisturize a few hours beforehand so they are soft but not greasy. Give yourself a mini-manicure but keep your polish colors very subtle. A soft pink is always a safe bet – your natural color, only prettier. The Americanized version of the French Manicure (stark white tips, pink or tan opaque nail) is not sophisticated. I have often wondered about a woman’s true personality when I see the long thick acrylic tips with the chalk-white tips and have heard supervisors snark on interviewees who have had such nails. It is considered the equivalent of a dark orange Mystic Tan, an anklet or frosted hair in many circles. Consider what impression you are giving the next time you go for your bi-weekly fill in and polish touchup. Sometimes natural is better.

Accessories:

Remember that what you are selling at an interview is you, not your outfit. Accessories should be kept to a minimum, having at most one piece that is strong. A necklace that compliments the colors of your outfit, a brooch, a solitary bangle, an elegant watch. For the interview, consider leaving at home your jingly charm bracelet, your multiple small necklaces you have received as gifts, your many rings, your toe rings, anklets and any timepieces that are very trendy or athletic-inspired.

What to Bring:
Bring your planner or Blackberry so you can schedule a possible second interview (or even your start date!) on the spot. Have a nice looking pen (no chewed ends or logos from your local Curves or Realtor) to use, and have a notepad either in the planner or separate to take notes and jot down dates and numbers. Bring a copy of your resume – the resume they may have received via Monster or another job search website will be covered with ads and weird graphics and it is always nice to receive a fresh copy (on nice resume paper) to review during the meeting. I place mine in a blank envelope to keep it protected. Bring your cell or Blackberry, but put it on vibrate or turn it off during the interview. Have powder and lipstick for a quick touchup in the car or lobby before entering the establishment. If you are asked to bring a portfolio, ensure it is in top-notch condition, current and professional. References aren’t asked for as often as they were in the past, but it’s good to have a second envelope ready with references if you are asked to submit them.

A few ideas for a few different fields and interview styles…

Interview at the Corporate Office:
This is the time for the true “interview suit”. Unlike the past where only certain suits were apropos, there is more leniency in what colors and styles are acceptable.

A skirt seemed to be standard and proper, but now women are able to express power in trousers as well. Do not feel that you need to wear a skirt; however if you prefer a skirt hose is a necessity. A sheer pair is a good choice year-round. Black hose can seem either tartish or dowdy – they are not as basic as they were a few years ago. If you wear black hose, I recommend that they are very sheer, with a gray or black suit and gray shoes. As for tights, they often look a bit too trendy or childish and think should be reserved for once you have the job and can dress more casually.

As for suit colors, a neutral like gray, black, navy, dark brown are always good. If your coloring allows it, a taupe or camel can be quite lovely as well. If you are interviewing for a creative job (arts, advertising, marketing, entertainment) you can often be a bit bolder with colors – an ivory suit with black accessories will be well remembered, colors like olive and red can look professional while still showing your personality. Keep the suits solid and simple – no funky contrasting-color lapels, decorative embellishments or couture details. Think Tahari, Ann Taylor, Theory, Jones New York. It can come from somewhere else, but it should have that classic, simple yet elegant style.

The shell or shirt under the suit is a great place to show your personality. Don’t stick with basic white or ivory, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of color, even in the most conservative of companies. I remember when I interviewed for a very serious government contractor, the woman who interviewed me wore a black suit with very faint pinstripes in white and teal. She wore under the suit a beautiful teal silk knit tee and a necklace of glass beads in the same teal shade. She looked very serious, professional, yet had a sense of style. I used to have a very dark olive suit that almost looked gray and would spice it up with a salmon-pink sleeveless tailored shirt underneath. A navy suit can still look serious when you replace the white shirt with one in a pale lilac or French blue.

Casual Interview or Interview at Coffee Shop or Café:
Are you meeting here because it is a virtual office, or because the interviewer wanted a convenient and casual environment?

If it is the former, I would suggest you dress a bit more professionally (suit) to show that you can be trusted to meet with clients and give the correct image of the company. These days many more companies are having their employees telecommute 100% with the corporate office hundreds of miles away. You want to show that you are professional, sophisticated and can sell the company perfectly.

Often interviewers decide to have a more casual environment to see a potential employee’s “true colors”. The concept of chatting over coffee sounds far more appealing and will often let one’s guard down to be more candid with her responses. For this type of interview, you still should maintain a level of professionalism, but can take it down a slight notch. A tailored shirtdress with closed-toe pumps, tailored oxford with suiting trousers and heels, a blazer with a shell and trousers; these would all be fine alternatives. Think of the level between true business casual and business attire. No need for the pinstripe suit and attaché, but leave your jeans, chinos and kicky sandals at home. Also consider solids and very subtle patterns (pinstripes, tweeds, subtle plaids) so you are not lost in the design.

As for accessories, you can kick them up a notch… but a very small notch. Maybe a beaded necklace that hits your collarbone, an artsy brooch on your lapel, a silver and turquoise ring you bought on your last trip to Santa Fe. Only one accessory should be strong, and it shouldn’t be so strong that it is the focal point of your whole look. With an interview, the focal point should be you and your face.

Interview at Fine Dining Establishment:
Be it lunch or dinner, some interviews will take place at an elegant restaurant. For day, I think it is safe to say the same attire for a corporate office interview will be appropriate; for an evening meal consider a more elegant version of your suit. Take your black suit and pair it with a solid-colored shell in maybe silk, or with a more dressy neckline (u-neck, surplice, etc.). Accessories should be simple but have a bit more glitz – a strand of pearls, diamond studs, a simple amber pendant on a delicate gold chain. Other than that, you should still exude professionalism before panache – don’t go overboard with shine, sparkle or strappy heels. Makeup should still stay subtle – this is a dinner, not a cocktail party.

Interview with a Creative Company:
Yes you want to look innovative and hip and current, but you also want to look reliable and driven and professional. You are able to marry the two in the workplace, not it is time to marry the two in your wardrobe. Cargos and witty tee-shirts may be commonplace in the office once you’re hired, but isn’t what you should wear to sell yourself.

Instead of the classic suit, consider a more adventurous jacket with classic trousers – a white jacket with black piping and a funky button closure, maybe a wide belt over the jacket, pairing a great skirt with a wrap top instead of a traditional blazer. Even if it’s creative, I suggest keeping at least one thing traditional – have a funky top with classic skirt or pants, a simple top with an animal-print pencil skirt. Then you are safe if the interviewer is a tad more conservative.

Creative does NOT mean sexy. Sexy never fits into the workplace unless you work at Agent Provocateur or Hooters. Keep cleavage to a minimum, trousers and skirts at a comfortable non-tight level, hemlines near the knee and absolutely no strappy tops (personally, I think sleeveless is inappropriate as well).

But feel free to wear the bracelet you made, your signature necklace, carry your metallic blue leather motorcycle bag… just don’t be artsy overkill so that you are a creative mess. Keep it simple.

A Few Non-Fashion Tips:

1. Firm handshake, eye contact, don’t fidget.

2. Always have a question or two ready because they ALWAYS ask, “do you have any questions?” A good stand-by is, “why do you like working for this company?” I know I liked being asked that because I can sell a different level of the corporation and I can read the interviewee, when her eyes light up, when she seems bored by what I am telling her.

3. You probably will be Googled. I highly recommend on a monthly basis to Google yourself and see if anything pops up that would embarrass you. If your Facebook/Friendster/MySpace pages are searchable by your name, consider making them private and the profile picture very innocent. Along these lines, I know my company loves it when they find a person on LinkedIn. It confirms that what you have on your resume is accurate, and being networked with current and past employees makes it seem that you are liked and respected in the workplace.

4. Don’t tell too much about yourself. The interviewer may be very personable and friendly and you may find out you have the same alma mater, grew up in neighboring towns and both did a semester abroad in Spain, but that does not mean you should tell about your partying ways in Madrid, how you despised your Econ teacher or what church you attended in your childhood. Feel free to tell them you are married, that you have children but don’t go into detail. Sounds terrible, but even a mother and wife when deciding between two people of equal caliber would choose the person who has a more flexible schedule and time to dedicate to the company. Unless asked, do not tell them if you are in school, never tell them your ethnicity or religion or political affiliation.

5. It’s not always the best idea to put your sorority on your resume. Now if in conversation you find that your interviewer was in ABC and you are in ABC, then by all means let her know. However, unless this is your first job out of college and while in school you were the chapter president while maintaining a 3.8 and being in a few academic organizations, it doesn’t have to be part of the interview. Those who didn’t partake in a Greek organization in college will often see those who did as more like the cast of Animal House than a respectable woman who worked hard in classes and in bettering her chapter. If you know your audience is one who would respect the philanthropy and dedication of being in a Greek organization, by all means include it. As a member of a sorority, I know that we aren’t all ditzy drinkers; my sorority experience made me the hard-working, multi-tasking personable employee I am today. If you do include it, also include all the community service, volunteerism and leadership roles you have taken so it helps explain why you feel it an important part of your experience.

6. When asked what you do outside of work (and this is a very popular question) be ready with intelligent and interesting responses. Shopping, hanging out with friends, spending time with your children and “I don’t know, I work so much!” are not good responses. If you scrapbook, then you dabble in various arts and crafts. If you blog, tell them you love to write and read. If you love to putter around your yard, nothing sounds more virtuous than weekend gardening. If you are active in your church or temple community, don’t talk about the church itself but what you do (work at a soup kitchen, mentor inner city children, fund raise for a local women’s shelter). If you have nothing to say… maybe you need to do something about it. Do you volunteer in your community? Even one night a month attending city hall meetings or supporting the Neighborhood Watch shows you can multi-task, you’re interesting and you’re eager to make a difference in this world and possibly in their corporation.

Interviews on Casual Friday

So today I am conducting three interviews – for an intern for me, a Jr. Coordinator for me, and a Programmer for my department.

It’s casual Friday, and I don’t feel like dressing up. I do want to look a bit polished for the interviews.

Hair is straightened, sideswept bangs. Did a very subtle smoky eye with a pale dusty mauve on the lids and a darker plum color around the lash line. Decided to wear my glasses instead of contacts – they are purple, a cool style from Gucci.

On the body is a pair of vintage Levi’s that are perfectly worn, perfectly weathered, and perfectly slim without being hoochie. With it I am wearing a white wifebeater from Old Navy and an ice-green stretch twill blazer from Nordstrom. Silver hoops, silver cuff, and a modern abstract silver pin on my lapel made by my Great-Aunt. Shoes are tan thong heels – my staple all summer long.

not an exciting outfit, but a way to look summery, casual and still polished enough for interviews on Casual Friday!

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!

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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Recent Purchases: Spring Clothing Shopping

Been doing a bit of shopping lately, a bit more misses than hits:

recent spring purchases clothing

1. Halogen Roll Sleeve Maxi Dress

This dress looked like perfection for spring through fall. I imagined it with my vintage brown leather belt and heeled sandals for the office, with my silver Birkenstocks for the weekend. I have pieces from Halogen in this fabric and knew it would be great for travel. Since it’s a maxi, I chose a petite. I went with XL since it’s not stretchy and I need room for “the girls.”

The arms were so tight I could hardly get it on, and the front placket bulged. However, the torso felt a bit too long, the waist was too big and the skirt was loose. The length was perfect, just like the model so I knew switching to Regular wouldn’t work. Sadly this was returned, but if you’re smaller busted or taller scoop this baby up; it’s very similar to dresses sold by brands like Vince for four times the price and the fabric is nice – feels and looks like silk yet is machine washable.

2. Madewell Raw Edge Denim Skirt

I swore I wouldn’t buy a denim skirt this season. I did denim skirts a decade ago, and did them five years before that and a decade before that. There’s a point when you just don’t want to do a trend again. But then I saw a woman around my age wearing one with a Breton tee and Chucks and Wayfarers and gosh she looked so casually cool and classic. I didn’t want it crisp, I wanted a casual version, and I wanted it to come down to my knees. This one from Madewell via Nordstrom looked perfect.

And it is almost perfect. So almost perfect I’m wondering if it’s worth alterations. For the problem with this skirt is that it’s completely straight and if you’re curvy like me, a straight skirt turns into a bell. From the front, it’s cute enough but the side and back view is dreadful. However, if the skirt was tapered about an inch on either side, it would be awesome. I love the soft denim, I love the raw edge and subtle distressing that looks authentic, not torn apart in a warehouse. And I tried it on with the striped tee in this post and my Converse Shorelines and I loved the concept on me.  I should have also checked it out on the Madewell site where it’s not pinned in back and looks more a-line.

So the skirt is sitting in a box in the corner of my room while I decide whether it’s worth additional alterations or if I find a better choice. If you’ve seen a similar skirt that’s more a true pencil, please let me know!

3. Gap White Linen Shirtdress

I’ve always wanted a dress like this – buttons all the way down, sleeves rolled, pockets, knee length, a self-belt that can be switched out for a different look. I’ve never bought one because white dresses are usually too sheer and they rarely end up looking good after a day of wear. But this dress got great reviews for opacity and wearability so I took a chance.

Again, I worked a hell of a long time trying to style this dress. Skinny belt, wide belt, raffia belt, braided belt, no belt, collar popped, cami underneath. It just isn’t flattering. The pockets are very bulky (why make the actual pocket of the same heavy linen? Use a lightweight cotton for gosh sakes!), there’s no loops for the belt so the belt slides around, and yes, it is too sheer to wear without a slip (though I have a cotton slip and that didn’t bother me).

4. Ann Taylor Stripe Shoulder Zip Cotton Top

I know, do I REALLY need another striped top? My gray striped J. Crew Factory tee now has a hole in it, and I wanted another gray stripe. I know, I know, but all my striped tops DO get regular wear!

This top is a heavy weight, the zipper detail adds a nice touch. It’s a structured top, too heavy to tuck in and far more substantial and less stretchy than a tee. I actually like that feature, it looks more polished when paired with jeans and can be worn in a Business Casual work environment. It was machine washed regular but line dried and turned out well. It’s not the best striped shirt I have ever had, but it’s a nice one that has already been worn a handful of times!

5. Gap Cinched Scoop Dress

I’ve worn the heck out of this dress from Lands’ End Canvas (RIP) and it got too worn out to look nice. This dress in navy looked like a great replacement. And it’s sooooo close. I ordered a petite because I feared the armholes would be too low and the skirt too long. And while neither of those were an issue with the petite, the problem was that the waist was at this weird point that isn’t empire and isn’t traditional. The elastic waist is begging to be covered with a belt, but is wider than all of my wide belts, and with the high waist, it just looked super wonky. I kept trying to make it work and realized that if a dress takes this much effort to style, it doesn’t belong in my wardrobe. But if I were taller and could carry off the regular, I think all the issues wouldn’t be issues. If you’re 5’6” or taller, don’t rule this one out as it’s that great fabric that can look good wrinkled or crinkled and will get softer with washings, it has pockets, is a classic style and quite comfortable. It could be dressed up or down and will dry quickly.

6. Banana Republic Brenna Slip-on Sneaker

I mentioned in this post that I purchased these shoes. I must say I really dig them. I have short toes,a high arch and a fat foot thanks to lots of padding on the ball from childhood toewalking, so slip-on shoes don’t usually work for me. However, I have had luck with Banana Republic in the past so I took a chance. Glad I did, these shoes are freaking awesome. The silver is shiny, but it’s clearly metal and not cheap. The fit is comfortable, and the leather has a bit of give. The perforations keep you cooler than a solid shoe, but you can slip a pair of peds underneath without them showing.

Wednesday, I created an outfit around these shoes and asked Karl how it looked. He agreed the shoes are badass, but do I NEED shoes like this? I have my silver Birkenstocks, I have my Converse Shorelines. I hate to admit it, he’s right, so the shoes are going back. But if you need such shoes in your wardrobe, these are even better in person! Do as I did, wait until Banana has one of their 40% off deals; while these are awesome I think the price is a bit cray for a trend piece.

Have you made any recent purchases? Anything we should check out? Anything we should avoid at all costs?

Winter Style Tips: Warm Fashion for Cold Weather

Many of you have written to me lately on how to handle very cold temperatures while maintaining your personal style. While it’s frigid right now by DC standards, I don’t deal with such cold temps on a regular basis and would never consider myself to be an expert on cold weather fashion. I know many of you live in far colder parts of the country and world than I and would love you to weigh in on what you swear by to stay warm and fashionable. Below are the winter style tips I use to stay warm when it’s super cold:

cold weather fashion how to stay stylish and warm tips

Have a Base Layer

Keeping your core warm will ensure you stay comfortable when the temps drop. Thin layers close to the body will do a remarkably good job without adding too much bulk to your outfit.

  • Fleece and wool tights are my jam; I’ll wear a regular pair of tights under for extra wind and cold protection, and have even worn them under jeans and work trousers.
  • The same holds true for fleece and wool leggings. Check athletic departments and brands for great ones; while some may have reflective strips others will be solid black which will fit perfectly into your work or weekend wardrobe.
  • Wool socks keep your feet warm and dry and also help prevent foot odor. The chunky cable or marled versions are back in style and look cute peeking out of ankle booties or tall socks so they add style with warmth.
  • A silk or heat-keeping fitted tank or cami is a must-have in winter. Brands like Lands’ End carry these in a broad range of sizes and colors so you can find one to fit and become invisible under your clothing.

Wear Smart Accessories

When it comes to accessorizing in the winter, choose pieces that have fashion as well as function. It’s possible for your styling accents to keep you toasty in the winter.

  • I’m such a fan of pashminas. In wool, cashmere, or a blend these scarves are toasty without being bulky, stylish, and versatile. I will cross a pashmina across my body in front before putting on my coat; it will fill the neck area but also add an additional layer of warmth to my core. Once at my destination I’ll loop it around my throat for a pop of color to my outfit. Pashminas are also great when it’s not freezing; they can act as a shawl with a dress and I take them on travel to be my plane blanket as well as to ward off strong A/C on planes and at conferences.
  • A cashmere beanie is in style right now, so it’s easy to find a color and weight that appeals to you. I have a black cashmere beanie that I’ll put on in the morning and not take off until I go to bed. I style my hair around it, intensify my lip color and it’s a chic look that also keeps me warm. Adding a hat when it’s cold can really do much for increasing comfort; in fact I am writing this while wearing my cashmere beanie and am quite comfortable even though it’s around 60 degrees inside.
  • Gloves are a must-have and my favorite are cashmere-lined leather gloves. They are super warm, wind repellent, keep you dry when scraping off your windshield and look quite chic. Right now is the perfect time of year to stock up on leather gloves as they are on sale everywhere after the holidays. I always have a pair of classic black but when I can find fun colors like purple or green on clearance I snatch them up so add a pop of color or fun to black outerwear.

You Need Proper Footwear

When it comes to inclement weather, function always trumps fashion. A pair of warm boots that provide traction on slick sidewalks is a must-have for cold weather. Come winter, I keep a pair of black pumps at the office and wear boots on my commute. When out and about, slim jeans and pants look great peeking out of tall fur-trimmed winter boots for ski lodge style. Tall leather boots (especially if they are waterproof) are wonderful for when it’s cold but there’s no snow or ice; the leather is a wind breaker and an extra layer of warmth. I’ll wear tall leather boots with a dress or skirt, fleece tights and wool knee-high socks and be toasty while still maintaining my personal style.  FYI all the boots featured in the carousel below are waterproof and ready for all sorts of frightful weather!

Choose Outfits with Layers, Length, and Warm Fabrics

If you plan on getting away with a long-sleeved tee and a pair of jeans you’re going to be shivering all day.

  • Layer: I’m a fan of sweater coats, puffer vests, and ponchos come winter because these are easy layers to slip on and off depending on how high the heat is cranking inside. Under, I’ll wear a long-sleeved tee or fitted merino or cashmere sweater and a silk tank under that so when I slip off the topper I am still pulled together and warm. Chunky knits are popular this fall and easy to layer over a silk or knit tee. I’m also known to slip fleece tights or silk longjohns under dress pants or jeans come winter and no one is the wiser except my warm self!
  • Length: Winter isn’t the time for mini skirts and crop tops. I pull out the midi skirts and wear with fleece tights and tall boots, longer tunic sweaters over slim pants or sweater dresses over fleece or wool leggings and tights, and thigh-skimming sweater coats keep my rear and upper legs warm.
  • Warm Fabrics: Wool pants are truly warmer than synthetics; look for a pair with lining to stay itchy-free and add some wind repellant. As mentioned a thousand times already, fleece and wool tights and leggings are a smart choice with dresses and skirts. Leather is wind repellant and warm; I wear a lot of leather skirts come winter for fashion with function. This year sweater and sweatshirt dresses are on trend and look great with tall boots and leggings or thick tights.

Longer Coats that Repel Wind

Many years ago I wrote that women don’t need puffer coats and can be just as warm and more stylish with a wool coat with Thinsulate lining. And now that I commute in a city, ride public transportation in the snow, and walk longer distances I agree with many of you who thought my advice bunk. Buy a coat that keeps you warm. When it comes to frigid temperatures, first look for something that will keep you as warm and dry as possible, then look for stylish touches. A quilted or puffer coat with a longer length is brilliant because it’s wind and water repellant, will keep your bum warm when sitting at the bus stop, prevents gusts from slipping up inside the coat, and is often machine washable. I like styles that at least cover the rear and have a belt which keeps you from looking like the Michelin man. While I wear a hat almost always, a hood is an additionally nice feature when you’re waiting for the train or it begins to drizzle. Buy from a company that is known for outerwear and get one that is made for the climate you experience. Companies like Patagonia, Lands’ End and LL Bean often give temperature ratings for their outerwear helping you make the best coat decision for your lifestyle.

And now I pass it back to you, what are your tips for staying toasty when the temperature drops? What are the best items in your wardrobe for winter weather? What brands or items do you recommend to those who are trying to stay stylish in the cold? Thanks!

 

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!

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!