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On Outdated Style Rules and More Magazine

Dear More Magazine,

I love you, and I’m one of your biggest champions. As a woman who loves style but could be the mother of many of the models in Lucky Magazine, I appreciate More for featuring articles and models that I can relate to. However, a web article from 2012 you shared yesterday on Twitter disappointed me greatly.

With style icons like Diane von Furstenberg, Julianne Moore, and Helen Mirren, we all can see that style doesn’t end at a certain age, and that the dated fashion rules have been thrown out the window. Maybe you shared this piece to add some controversial fodder to your social media feed, if so you have accomplished it. As soon as I saw it I had to offer a rebuttal. From your 21 “What Not to Wear, EVER” pieces, I only agreed on four, and that is because they were so ridiculous and obvious, no one would likely disagree. But I’d like to share how the rest are passé fashion rules, and pieces that can be worn by any woman, no matter her age.

Pleated Slacks. When I started this blog in 2007, I agreed with this rule wholeheartedly. No matter your size or age… heck no matter your gender, pleated slacks were a fashion no-no. No woman wants to add girth to her lower abdomen, no woman wants her legs to look shorter than they actually are, and such a detail was dated.

However, the trouser has improved in the past several years, and I must say I have been admiring pleated styles the past couple of seasons. Be they wide leg and higher waisted to create a Katharine Hepburn look, or slouchy and cropped, modern pleats are stylish, flattering, and quite wearable. As a curvy woman, I like the slouchy look, balanced with single-sole pointed pumps and a tailored blazer or a silky drapey tucked-in top.

Micro Mini Skirt. I must say, as I get older my legs do look far better with a skirt that is near the knee, but that doesn’t mean such skirts must be reserved for the under-25 set. Look at Jennifer Aniston, Diane von Furstenberg, or Sheree of the blog Not So Deep to see that women over 30 can rock a short skirt. And for those who are not long and leggy, a shorter flippy skirt can be far more flattering to a petite curvy woman than a knee-length pencil. The key to making this work is knowing your body, and that the best skirt is one that ends at one of the slimmer parts of your leg.

The Color Orange. I actually began my reply tweet to you as soon as I saw this choice. Orange is a statement color, one that makes the wearer stand out in a crowd. However, it can add a glow to one’s complexion and really make a positive impact. If you like orange, wear it as you would a bright shade of pink or red. Pair with charcoal gray or olive green for a fresh and modern take on the color, and orange looks fabulous with all washes of denim.

A few times I have worn orange on the blog

Orange is my favorite color, it was even our wedding color.  I regularly wear orange on my blog to prove that the old rules are wrong and that it’s a color to embrace all months of the year, by women of all ages.

Acid Washed Denim. It was popular in 1986… but it has come back en vogue in the past year. I do believe that if you wear a trend the first time, you may be better off not wearing it the next go-round, but I have seen some very chic looks of recent incorporating this wash of denim that make me think True Fashionistas could actually carry it off in 2013.

Capped Sleeves. Some people look far better in this sleeve length, especially if they have a large bust. Most short sleeves end right at the widest point of your chest, making one look wider. A variation can actually slim the figure.

Wide Horizontal Stripes. I could go on and on about how you should dress to have fun, not to force yourself into a little boring box where all you wear is clothing to make you look thin but I won’t (though you can read my thoughts on stripes here).

Fashion icons chic in stripes: Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Francoise Hardy, Audrey Hepburn, Jean Seberg, Brigitte Bardot

As a woman who LOVES herself some stripes (I own over a dozen striped shirts), I think if you wear the stripes intentionally, and there’s a light ground, the look can be quite chic. Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O, and Brigitte Bardot are all style icons for a reason, no?

Heels with Shorts. Again, incredibly dated advice. Yes, a decade ago anyone who wore heels with shorts was seen as tacky or desperate, but since then shorts have become almost as commonplace as skirts.

Shorts and heels seen on the streets, during Fashion Week, and on celebrities.

Be it an elegant take on a romper, a pair of black leather shorts with a blazer, or with a matching jacket for a summer suit, shorts are for more than just barbecues and they look best with equally stylish foot wear.

Christmas Sweaters. Well, duh.

Overalls. See acid washed denim. You won’t see me wearing them, I can still recall the last time I wore them. It was a Creed concert, I paired them with a white ribbed tank and a bandanna tied kerchief-style over my two pigtails.

Overalls are back – seen on the streets, the runways, and popular current style icons.

I won’t go back, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t in style and women such as Leandra Medine and Miroslava Duma have made them look downright chic.

Hair Accessories that Match Your Outfit. I don’t even know where to start with this one. Part of me wants to offer another “duh” as I did with Christmas sweaters, but the other part of me begs to differ. A turquoise paisley bow to match your turquoise blazer is surely passé, but such a look is rarely seen any more as such hair accessories are quite hard to come by, even in Claire’s. However with the Royal Wedding and Gossip Girl series, fascinators and headbands have come back on the scene and can really complete a certain type of ensemble. I also think of True Fashionistas (Zoe of Girl with the Flower immediately comes to mind) who totally rock matching hair accessories.

Boxy Jackets. Actually… today’s chic jacket shape is not just one silhouette. Tuxedo-inspired, slouchy boyfriend, tweed riding jackets, tweed professor blazers, oversized leather biker or denim jackets… you name it and the silhouette is pretty hot. If you’re not sure how to wear volume, a good rule of thumb is to pair boxy with slim, structured with slouchy to have some balance and show there’s a figure under all that fabric.

Flannel Night Gowns. Another duh, though really I find such a nightgown far better than your husband’s stained and ratty tee with flannel pants decorated with cartoon characters.

Clothes That Are Too Tight. I fully agree. If you don’t like the size on the tag, cut it out. Too tight clothes will kill all your style and destroy your figure.

Nude Pantyhose. Thank you Princess Kate for bringing back nude hose!

Princess Kate wearing sheer nude pantyhose

While I don’t wear them, they have become acceptable again for conservative work environments and more formal affairs. For us women of a certain age, it’s a blessing that will help cover veins, age spots, and the like and is far less messy than self tanner!

Stockings With Sandals. Another dated rule that has been broken by the most stylish women on the planet. While I wouldn’t condone anyone wearing their canvas espadrilles with opaque tights, all the hot footwear designers have been creating winter styles that have peeptoes, slingbacks, and plenty of straps and cut-outs to purposefully expose tights.

Celebrities and bloggers wearing sandals with hosiery.

Look at Olivia Palermo and Corinne Bailey Rae to see how sandals and hosiery can be a match made in sartorial heaven.

Chipped Nail Polish. Another duh, but with the return of grunge fashion, I do expect many a style icon to purposefully rock chipped black polish in the next couple of months. I myself will leave this to the True Fashionistas.

Leggings as Pants. With this rule, you and I agree.  I don’t care how many hours you spend in the gym, leggings are not pants!

Wide Wale Corduroys. I don’t believe in writing off an entire fabric or trend. While I do agree that wide wale corduroy adds bulk, so does velvet, thick wool, and many other popular fabrics. This isn’t really a fabric that is on trend or that has been for women for a couple years, so I don’t think it’s really an issue, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes back in style (I could see it as a narrow pant with riding boots and a fitted blazer or silk bow blouse). As for the sound, this is one reason why corduroy hasn’t been in my wardrobe since I was a tyke.

Logos. While I find the wearing of blatant brand logos to be a surefire way to lose class points, sports-related attire is quite trendy right now and not just for courtside. A quick look at street style blogs and photographs of NYFW attendees will show that this rule has been broken by many a stylish woman. I personally think such a trend is best suited for the sporting event attendee or a True Fashionista, but I can’t rule out all logos.

Your Husband’s Anything. I chuckled when I read this for this very weekend I saved a blue J. Crew dress shirt from my husband’s donation pile because I felt it could look quite chic cinched over a leather skirt with ankle booties. With “boyfriend” jeans, blazers and sweaters available in every store, it’s clear that you can indeed raid your partner’s closet and look quite stylish. There’s a huge difference between sporting your husband’s college sweatshirt and rocking an oversized button-front a la your example image of Rhianna. The key is to make it your own – cuff, cinch, belt, knot to show the look is purposeful.

Muffin Top. I think we’re all aware that this look is not only unflattering but uncomfortable. Thank goodness pant and jean trends are becoming more forgiving to those who are not 16 and a size 00.

I love you More Magazine, I really do. But before you post such pieces, I wish you would really look at who your audience actually is. We’re intelligent, we’re aware, and we desire real-world fashion advice, not rash judgement and outdated style rules. If you desire a fashion writer, you know where to look!

Sincerely,
Alison

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Ask Allie: How to Style a Kilt

I have a knee-length red plaid woolen kilt I picked up on a college trip to Scotland almost 20 years ago. I trek it out once a season or so, usually around the holidays, but I like it and am trying to think of ways to get more wear out of it beyond the expected “Going to the Nutcracker” kind of look. Any ideas?

Yes, that skirt deserves to come out more than once a year! However I do understand the issue with looking too holiday, as though you’re wearing a costume, or trying to be Mid Life Crisis Britney. The best way to wear accomplish this is to style it as though it is not a kilt. Steer clear of traditional pairings and add something unexpected and it will look fresh and modern.

how to style a kilt women

Gray will tone down the red and keep it from feeling Christmas-y. While a cashmere crewneck and white button-front is pretty classic, pairing the look with modern black leather ankle boots keeps it current. Hair and makeup can really make this look; keep both relaxed and a bit disheveled. Beachy waves and a bit of kohl will go a long way and look far more modern than polished hair and red lips.

how to style a kilt scottish woman

Add a bit of a tough edge to your classic kilt with leather. A black leather jacket and biker boots will be a modern contrast. Unlike the above look, style such an ensemble with very polished hair and face to keep it from looking like a costume; smooth hair with red lips and gently flushed cheeks will look fresh.

how to style a scottish kilt women

A bit of purposeful rumpling will take a look from prep overload to modern cool. A gray tweed blazer with a tailored fit is a great pairing for your kilt; roll the sleeves and maybe pop the collar to keep it from feeling like a uniform. A classic Breton tee is a pattern that will mix nicely with the plaid and also keep it from feeling too much like a uniform. A pair of tall boots with a solid heel will finish the look and keep you warm.

Some Rules are Meant to be Broken

I know, I bet you didn’t expect to hear this from me. Allie, the woman who will STILL not condone wearing white after Labor Day, can’t get behind socks with dress shoes, believes bras should always be under wraps. The thing is, there are a lot of style “rules” out there that just don’t make any sense. The biggest one is,


“You should never mix black with brown or navy.”

I was raised following this rule – gosh it took me a long time to even be comfortable wearing a black shirt with dark denim jeans! However over time, I have realized that there is a reason for this rule, but the rule was made seeing everything in black and white (or black and brown – heh heh).

Pairing Navy with Black
Yesterday I wore a navy sweater with a black and white skirt and black opaque tights. I have worn this navy sweater in the past with black trousers and a black pencil skirt.

Victoria Beckham and Jessica Simpson show you can look chic while mixing navy with black

I remember seeing a photo of Jessica Simpson from 2006 (see above) – she was wearing a fabulous navy trench with a black dress and heels.  It looked so chic, so simple, and far more elegant than if the coat were red, ivory, or gray.  This photo inspired me to start wearing navy with black.

The reason navy truly works with black is because there is no one shade of navy, the way there is only one shade of black (excluding those black knits in your wardrobe that have been washed far too many times). When your navy garment is closer to blue than black, there is enough contrast to have it look fabulous with black. A deep dark navy WOULD look wrong with black because the colors would be so very similar they would clash (think of that faded black tee in your wardrobe and imagine it paired with your brand-new black gabardine trousers). The more difference there is in the navy and the black, the better they look together.

Fabric variations also help when pairing navy with black. A navy silk cocktail dress with a black velvet sash would look amazing because the contrast in fabrics would add to the contrast of colors. The silk would have the light bounce off it, while the velvet would absorb it, giving new depths to these two colors. I like wearing a black patent belt with a navy dress to have a real contrast in textures, emphasizing the difference between the two fabrics.

Finally, make sure your combination looks purposeful. Wearing a black blouse with navy pants can make you look as though you got dressed in the dark. However if you do things like add a black patent belt and black patent shoes, or a scarf with navy and black in the print at the throat, the outfit is cohesive, obviously thought-out, and purposeful. Again I will mention my navy sundress – I wear a wide black patent belt at the waist and black patent peeptoe pumps so the combination of black and navy looks purposeful.

Pairing Brown with Black
Again, the point is to bring attention to the differences in the colors. This can be done with a contrast in fabrics or textures. I again have to mention a black patent belt – it’s the perfect way to make black work with a brown knit dress.

Gisele Bündchen and Anne Hathaway look great pairing black with brown

Brown and black are colors that are often combined in prints, especially animal prints. By having a piece with both colors in it added to your outfit, it really makes a cohesive look. I remember when I was a visual merchandiser, one of my favorite business/public speaking outfits was a dark brown Ponte de Roma knit pantsuit. I would switch out the self-belt for a black leather one and wear a leopard-print scarf at my throat. I also had a brown a-line tee shirt dress I would pair with black shoes and a necklace made of gold and tortoise shell beads. The necklace had a lot of black and dark parts in it, which made the black shoes look purposeful and the ensemble cohesive.

Brown leather is a very popular choice for footwear, outerwear, and handbags, so pairing a black dress with brown boots or a black turtleneck with a brown leather jacket is not as unusual as navy with black. The goal is to make the combination cohesive or purposeful – the brown accessory should be unique and able to stand on its own, and the black clothing should be pretty simple so the focus is on the leather accessory.

I would like to send out a BIG thank you to reader (and Facebook follower) Heather, who tracked down this exact picture of Jessica Simpson.  I searched the Web for eons looking for this photo to no avail, I almost thought I dreamed up this outfit.  Heather found it in less than ten minutes!  Another thanks to reader Annika who found a photo of Jessica a year later wearing this same trench with a white tank!  You guys are awesome!

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?

Guest Post: Which Necklace with Which Neckline?

Guest post by Rosana Vollmerhausen

I gave a talk recently about necklaces and necklines. It’s a typical question we get here at DC Style Factory: Go long? Go choker? Go statement?

The easiest necklaces to wear with just about any neckline is a longer one. The length of the necklace clears any v, scoop, drape or boat neckline. Whether you decide to go longer or shorter, you don’t want your necklace bumping up against your neckline. So either select one that is about an ½ an inch to an inch above your neckline or one that drops under your neckline at least several inches.

Longer necklaces, much like v-neck tops, lengthen your neckline, which in general is more flattering. Chokers shorten your neckline, which sometimes can sometimes be a more challenging style to wear. If you are petite, pay attention to how long the long necklace goes. Right below the bustline is good – grazing your bellybutton is too long.

Here is quick, easy guide for selecting which necklaces go best with which neckline.

V-neck Top

Wear with:

what necklace v-neck top

Smaller drop/pendant necklace that flows into v of the top

what necklace v-neck top

Longer non-pendant necklace that clears the v of the top and flows with the draping.

Pass on: Wearing with a choker, which shortens your neckline and counteracts to the lengthening effect of the v shape.

Scoopneck

Wear with:

what necklace scoop neck top

A statement necklace that mimics the curved shape of the neckline covers expose neck/chest surface area.

Pass on: A choker that will leave too much empty surface area and not cover enough neck/chest area.

Boatneck Top

Wear with:

what necklace boatneck top

what necklace boatneck top

A longer necklace, which draws attention up and down, and balances the high, horizontal neckline.

Pass on: A choker/collar necklace that will bump up against with the neckline.  A statement necklace higher up on the neck that will grab and pull at the horizontal neckline.

Collared Button-down Shirt

Wear with:

what necklace button collared shirt

A statement necklace under the collar for a “brooch” effect.

what necklace button collared shirt

A statement under the shirt with some color peeking out.

Pass on: A long necklace that will compete with the vertical button placket on the shirt.

Crewneck

Wear with:

what necklace crewneck shirt

A longer necklace that lengthens your neckline since the high neckline of the crewneck top shortens it.

what necklace crewneck shirt

A statement necklace that “creates” a new, longer neckline. Select a statement necklace that covers the top of the crewneck.

Pass on: A collar necklace; it just further shortens your neckline.

Strapless

Wear with…

what necklace strapless

A shorter statement necklace that leaves about 1/2 an inch of space between the necklace and the neckline, a longer necklace that clears the neckline, or the two together as pictured!

what necklace strapless

Another fun option is to wear with a collar necklace.

There are a multitude of other necklines and variations on necklines, but just remember, you simply want the necklace you choose to make sense with the neckline of the top. If you are fussing with it too much or it just doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. But selecting the right necklace can really make a difference in adding polish, personality and finish to your look. Happy accessorizing!

DC Style Factory is a personal styling and shopping business based in the Washington, D.C. area. The company creed is that style is for anyone who wants it – regardless of size, age or budget. Clients include high-profile experts in the public eye who need polish for television appearances and stay-at-home moms juggling carpool. Our job is to prepare them to look and feel good for different events in their lives no matter how big or small.

Stylist and owner, Rosana Vollmerhausen, has had more than a decade of fashion retail and styling experience, including owning, running and buying for an award-winning boutique in Washington,D.C. She has styled local fashion events and photo shoots, and has written expert fashion tips for local publications. Her true passion, though, is one-on-one work with clients, building wardrobes that make sense for where they are in their lives. As a wife and mother of three, she is a firm believer that you don’t have to sacrifice personal style because life is busy. If key wardrobe pieces make sense for who and where you are, personal style can be accessible to anyone who wants it.

Learn more about Rosana and DC Style Factory at www.dcstylefactory.com or on the blog at www.dcstylefactory.com/blog.

Stacy London’s The Truth About Style Book and Tour

Thursday night I had the pleasure of seeing Stacy London speak at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in DC. Her book, The Truth About Style came out this past Tuesday and after seeing the book trailer I knew I had to be at the speaking engagement.


I met Stacy London a few months ago when she was at a local mall promoting the partnership between her company Style for Hire and Westfield Malls. The experience made me a London fan for life – she’s so real, and she truly cares about helping women feel beautiful and comfortable in clothing. Thursday night, I realized that she cares even more so about women feeling beautiful and comfortable in their own skin.

I don’t want to give much away about what she discussed or what the book is about because I truly think this is a style book that you should read. Borrow it from the library, loan it from a friend, sneak into a nook of Barnes and Noble or splurge on a copy – you won’t regret it. I can just say that Thursday night gave me such motivation regarding this blog.

When I started this blog, I wasn’t terribly happy about my body. I had a lot of opinions about fashion and style, a lot of rules, and a lot of snark. Through blogging, I got to know so many readers – you weren’t pageviews but people. I saw that I wasn’t alone in not liking the body I was in, and I saw that my snark wasn’t benefiting anyone. What’s the point of a fashion blog (or book for that matter) that dismisses those who don’t “get” fashion, that pigeonholes all women into one lump who needs a white shirt, tan trench, and a strand of real pearls?

Through blogging and through changes in my life (hello new awesome job and new awesome child) I began loving this body.  It’s not perfect… but then no one has a “perfect” body. I came to terms with it, and decided to work with it. And I also changed my voice on this blog – women don’t need another person telling them what they’re doing wrong, we need voices to give us food for thought and tips on how to feel comfortable, feel ourselves, and recognize our beauty.

 

I still have strong opinions on fashion and style, but now when I write I don’t just think about me and my little patch of Earth, but I try to make it more universal, more accepting. And Thursday night I learned that through her ten years on What Not to Wear, Stacy London has had the same experience. Dealing with real women has made her more sympathetic, sensitive, and understanding to others and also to herself. And her book The Truth About Style is about just that. This book won’t give you a list of ten must-have items in your closet, or tell you how to hide your hips or tummy. It won’t tell you what color to wear if you’re a brunette or redhead, and it won’t inform you of what items should be purged from your closet. But it will help you realize how fellow women have learned to find personal style… and may help you find yours along the way.

 

At the event with friends and fellow bloggers Nancye, Heidi, Alison, Chelsea, and Dana

And if Stacy London’s book tour is coming to a city near you, I encourage you to get a ticket to attend. She is funny, she is raw, she is honest, and she is inspiring. And she may just renew your faith in fashion, style, and yourself.

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Ask Allie: Career Wear on a Budget

I am a young professional without a “mentor” or any experience in the professional world other than the two years at my current job. I am getting a new boss in January and she is beautiful, powerful, and extremely sharp. I am the girl with the hot pink iPhone case, the ubiquitous plastic venti coffee cup, wearing Teva sandals with my work outfits, trying to pass black jeans as “dress pants,” and still wearing the same bangle bracelets that I had in high school. I desperately need an upgrade in… everything… but I’m broke.

Are there any suggestions that you can make about taking my college student wardrobe and upping my game while still being able to feed my family?

You are not alone. It’s hard to be new and rise the corporate ladder without going into debt. You come into the workforce already with student loans and then have to shell out a lot just to look as though you want the job you fought hard to get. Jobs are hard to get, so you want to show that you care and have the drive but you don’t have the money to build a professional wardrobe from scratch. A few tips:

Thrift It. I know from your email that you’re already hitting Goodwill, but it can be frustrating to weed though racks and racks of faded knit tees in hopes of finding one decent pencil skirt or blazer. Make it a weekly date – find out when they stock the floors and visit that day. Befriend the folks working there – it may just get you a new friend, or it may get you friends who will see pieces and hold them for you or give you a heads up when they are stocking the floor.

While there, consider going up a size or two. A thrifted pair of pants can easily be altered by the nearby dry cleaner, and the price for both is still going to be cheaper than a new pair of pants on the sale rack.

Join Freecycle. My local Freecycle often has people giving away large bags of clothing in a certain size. People who have lost or gained weight, passed away, retired. While a good portion of the bag’s contents may be wrong for you, you could end up with a real gem in the process. And that which doesn’t work, re-Freecycle or donate. Once you have established yourself on your local Freecycle as a person who gives as well as takes (great way to clean out the house of old toys, knick knacks, and that dusty treadmill in your basement), you can request certain things. I did this once and was amazed with the generous people who replied with items or suggestions on how to get what I needed for less or free.

Find Local Swaps and Consignments. Twice a year, my community has a swap where people bring old baby clothing and equipment and trade for that which they need. It has grown to where this swap often has adult clothing. Local fashion blogging communities will often host or know of swaps where for a small price or a bag of clothes to donate, you can attend and pick up some amazing scores. Consignment sales are another place to find thrift-store priced clothing but a more carefully curated collection. At such events, you can also network with other frugal shoppers.

Nothing in your community? Set one up! It can be anything from a happy hour at your home with a few friends and neighbors, or you can set something up at a local community center.

A sample capsule wardrobe of simple pieces: how you can create over 20 different business casual outfits from just eight pieces of clothing.  Every outfit works with black pumps or flats.

Buy Simple. Simple blue oxford, gray pencil skirt, black blazer, plum cardigan, black pants… pieces like these can be mixed and matched a hundred ways to create completely different ensembles. Don’t buy difficult silhouettes that only go with one piece – create a bit of a uniform with few silhouettes so they are more versatile and less memorable.

Prints and bold colors are memorable; stick to neutrals and soft hues until you can afford a larger wardrobe.

Make a Priority List. What holes are in your wardrobe? Focus on those first. Don’t worry that this season is about oxblood or that a pair of leopard shoes would update your look. Get those basics you need to not be naked or in inappropriate fashion at the office. While I usually encourage buying accessories to switch up basics, at this point I’d say save your money. It’s better to go without any accessories at all than to try to make do with cheap pieces or spend your budget on a bracelet.

Unless you find one for an incredible price and it’s gorgeous, focus more on separates than dresses. Separates can mix and match for more outfits, and can better be tailored to fit (or made to look tailored with belts, Stitch Witchery, and strategically placed safety pins).

When you buy, stop and think what in your wardrobe can it work with. If you can’t imagine three outfits, don’t buy it. Even if it’s only $3 or only $5, that’s $3 or $5 you could save for the right wardrobe addition.

Know No One is Keeping Track. It’s okay to wear the same black pants two or three times in a week as long as they are clean. It’s okay to wear the same shoes every day until you can afford more. You can even carry off the same shirt multiple times in one week – one day on its own tucked in to a skirt, another day untucked under a sweater with pants. As long as the pieces are clean, in good condition, and properly pressed no one is going to care. The effect is far more important than the individual pieces.

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What I Wore: Against the Rules

Cardigan: LOFT (similar) | Tee: Old Navy | Skirt: Hinge | Shoes: Miss Sixty (similar) | Bracelet: Anthropologie (similar) | Watch: c/o WatchCo

Thick ankles and booties? Check. Thick over-35 legs and a short skirt? Check. Beat up tee shirt at the office? Check. Just call me a rule breaker today, I don’t care. I almost wrote that I don’t give a f*ck, but I promised Emerson I would say that word less often. Let’s just say, Emerson and a friend were at the playground, the friend said, “Let’s play car!” and they ran to the steering wheels that are part of the jungle gym. The friend said, “Beep beep!” and Emerson said, “What the f*ck!” Yeah, not the proudest parenting moment, and not the proudest driving moment either.  When Emerson was younger and would say a bad word, we would ignore it so she wouldn’t get a reaction. However, she’s old enough now to understand WHY such words are bad, and I am not the type to rant, “Do as I say, not as I do!” So last night we made an agreement that we both want to be nice people and polite people and together we will not use that word any more. Good news for those who have written me complaining about my potty mouth, guess in regard to language, I’ll be following the rules!

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Summer Sartorial Rules for Corporate America

These days it can be confusing when trying to dress for the office. With retailers showing “secretary” dresses that hardly cover one’s behind, painted-on pants paired with blazers, and cleavage-baring blouses with suits, you wonder what actually is acceptable these days. Add to this a sweltering hot summer, and one could easily stray in the wrong sartorial direction. From one corporate employee to another, here’s some rules on summer office fashion that apply to you whether you’re a cubicle dweller or reside in the corner office.

Even if they’re metallic or beaded, they’re still flip flops. And if they’re flip flops, they don’t belong in the office. Period.

A cardigan doesn’t make a strapless dress work-appropriate. Seriously ladies, we can still tell it is strapless. This also goes for low-cut dresses, spaghetti straps, and every other dress more appropriate for happy hour on the terrace than the boardroom.

If I couldn’t wear spaghetti straps when working at the mall, you can’t wear them to the office. When I worked in apparel, even at trendy companies like Express, we had a dress code. That dress code restricted many things like sneakers, but it also restricted revealing attire such as spaghetti straps. If I couldn’t be a 21-year old in Express with spaghetti straps, you sure as heck shouldn’t be an adult with them at work. It’s just not professional.

Even if your bra strap is the same color as your tank, it doesn’t make it invisible. A peach racerback tank with peach bra straps is still a shirt exposing bra straps. A navy x-back sundress with a navy traditional bra is still a dress exposing your lingerie. I commend your attempt, but it’s still not appropriate for the office.

Hemlines shouldn’t rise with the temperature. Your skirt should be near your knee, not near your rear. If you can’t bend down to pick up your pen or sit on a standard chair without fear of flashing, your skirt is too short.

A hoodie is not an appropriate layer for offices that blast the A/C. Even if it’s cashmere, if it zips up the front, has two pockets and a hood, it’s not professional looking. Switch to a cardigan, pashmina, or soft jacket.

White is almost always transparent. I personally think thin white cotton and twill and light-colored linen should not be worn to the office, but if you do, wear with skin-colored seamless undergarments. No lace, no bows, no stripes, and not even sheer (the better to see the cotton crotch and waistband, my dear). If it’s a dress, wear a slip, if in doubt, don’t wear it to work.

Cleavage isn’t appropriate, no matter the season. Somehow, those who understand office attire let everything literally hang out come summer. Low-cut tanks, deep Vs on wrap dresses, strapless tops under cardigans… and none of it is appropriate for the office. If you wouldn’t show your décolleté in December, you also shouldn’t in July.

Dress code still applies. If it’s business casual, that means nice pants and skirts with refined tops or a simple dress. It does not mean chino Bermudas, seersucker sundresses with flip flops, logoed tee shirts with capris, tropical printed maxis with beaded sandals, or super-short cotton skirts with ribbed tanks. This is your office, not a tiki bar. You can beat the heat without dressing for Margaritaville.

Dress for respect. Again, this is your place of work. This is how you pay your rent, buy groceries and gas, and where you should be striving to move up the corporate ladder. Dress the part, no matter how hot it is outside.

For some suggestions on appropriate office attire, please visit:

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What I Wore: Simple Isn’t Easy

mom fashion personal style blog handbag heaven molly review wardrobe oxygen

instyle essentials shirt NYDJ hayden jeans

Shirt: c/o InStyle Essentials | Jeans: NYDJ ‘Hayden’ | Shoes: Vince Camuto ‘Effel’ | Necklace: Tasha | Watch: Citizen | Bangle: Rebecca Minkoff | Stretch Bracelet: Nordstrom | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban | Bag: ‘Molly‘ c/o Handbag Heaven

Isn’t every woman supposed to have that crisp white shirt and dark pair of jeans in her wardrobe? Aren’t they supposed to be simple, versatile pieces you can throw on in a pinch? Yeah right, how many of us have actually found those things to fit and flatter not only our body but our lifestyles? Yet in the past year I have found both, and it’s pretty darn exciting. InStyle Essentials sent me one of their shirts last year and while it fit… it justfit. I learned that if you’re not just busty but soft and curvy, it’s good to go up a size to make it truly work. This year they sent me another one in the size up and I have been wearing the heck out of it. And as for the jeans, I adore the Hayden style from NYDJ. The petite is too short, the regular too long, so when I saw the Resin color on clearance and Neiman Marcus for $40 each (see don’t judge a department store by its reputation, deals can be found everywhere!), I bought two pairs of regulars and took them to the tailor to be shortened. Having these “simple” wardrobe pieces hasn’t been simple, but very much worth it!

As an aside, this necklace is more awesome than it looks. You may recall I mentioned it was a good buy at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and how I wanted to buy it but was “good” and saved my money. Well a reader I have been emailing with for a while contacted me asking my opinion on some pieces she was considering for the sale including this necklace and she went and bought it for me as a thank you/get well soon gift! Not only is the necklace such an incredibly sweet gesture, but her card with it brought me to tears.

I wrote you a number of years ago because you revolutionized getting dressed for me. You made it expressive and showed me that a curvy woman could be fashionable and classy. I love getting it together to go out, no matter what size I am. Especially having lived in Europe for 9 years, everyone is always dressed up upon stepping out the door. Thanks for helping me give up the sweats and inspiring me on the daily.

Well S, thank YOU for inspiring me to keep blogging and loving it! This necklace, and your whole letter will be items I will treasure. I feel blessed to have connected with you, and with all of you who read Wardrobe Oxygen on a regular basis. THANK YOU!

P.S. I almost called this post I’m My Sister’s Sister because I couldn’t believe I had a picture with one eyebrow up. I didn’t think I could do it, but I did and I look JUST like my sister in that photo!

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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What I Wore: Pleats Please

Shirt: c/o InStyle Essentials | Belt: Vintage – Belonged to my Mom | Skirt: J. Crew Factory | Bracelet: Rebecca Minkoff | Shoes: Vince Camuto

I gotta say, style rules be damned, I love me a pleated chiffon maxi skirt.  I’m short, I’m overweight, and I don’t care.  I saw this one at J. Crew Factory and felt it was a perfect replacement for my beloved Ann Taylor maxi skirt, which now has a broken zipper, stretched to twice its original size and hasn’t held up well with time.  This new skirt is a 14, and I didn’t have to have the length altered.  I wore this skirt with the brilliant InStyle Essentials shirt (hello shirts sized by bra size!) for a more work-friendly look, but found it also looked fab with a simple gray Old Navy Vintage v-neck tee (see here on Instagram).  I love how skirts like this can dress up and down with ease and are nice and breezy for the upcoming warmer weather.

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Spring has Sprung in my Closet

Spring has sprung here in DC! Hooray for bare legs, packing up the hats and mittens, and being able to expose elbows and toes! With each change of season, there’s usually a change of wardrobe. I’ve found that closet organization has been good physical therapy for me; the pinching of clips to hang skirts, holding the weight of a full hanger, folding scarves and jeans. With my arm, this process has been extremely slow, but that time is great for really thinking about what is in my closet, what I really need, and what I really need to remove from my collection.

The trends this spring and summer are so refreshing; after seasons of bright and bold, fitted and funky there’s a move to subtleness, quality, detail, and drape. I saw it on the runways, I see it in the stores, and I feel it in my heart. I started gravitating toward simpler pieces and colors in 2013, but desire it even more in 2014, especially after my broken arm. After six weeks predominately in loungewear, I crave dressing, but simple, easy, yet elegant dressing. Here’s a peek into my Spring/Summer mindset:

For clothing, it’s not terribly different from the past, but now it feels more cohesive. I’m liking (1) midi-length skirts, but somehow they look more right on me when part of a dress. I have pretty much this same dress; last summer’s LOFT collection, and know it will get a ton more wear this year. (2) White feels really right this year, even before Memorial Day. I’ve been wearing white jeans, boyfriend jeans, and pants quite a lot already (if you’re new to white outside of summer, start simple by pairing it with black). Each season I end up having a signature color without even thinking about it and based upon my closet, this season it’s (3) orange-red.  I type this while wearing a linen sweatshirt of this color, and desire a shift dress like the one pictured.  I’m really digging classic trousers this spring, paired with everything, from blouses to sweaters to tee shirts; I’m on the hunt for the perfect pair in (4) navy.  I’m loving how there’s a trend towards draping and purposeful slouchiness this season and have been gobbling up things that are (5) off the shoulder; I’d pair a top like this with slim white jeans.  I also like the trend of purposeful draping, a top like this (6) can be worn with jeans for a night out, or slipped under a suit for the workweek.  I’m always happy when weathered, worn, and distressed denim (7) are on trend; they please my inner Lita Ford and love the contrast with more classic pieces.  And it wouldn’t be my wardrobe if it doesn’t have a few striped shirts (8) in it!

For accessories, I’m craving fewer pieces, fewer necklaces, and again am drawn to orange-red accents.  Thinking about my faves, I saw they are sort of lumped into three categories:

  • Vacation Inspired: I love white Panama hats and fedoras, I know they’ve been in style for a while and may be less trendy but I think they’re quite classic and these days I’m doing all I can to protect myself from the sun.  I love them with jeans and striped tees, I love them with sundresses, and I love that they hide bad hair days!  I’m also loving my new Converse Shorelines, which make Chucks finally comfortable for me.  With the elasticized back and lower profile, they’re comfy and easy to slip on and off.  Aviators are always my favorite, as are scarves.  Now that bandanas are back in style, I’ve been pulling out my collection of them and square scarves and using them to jazz up simple knits.
  • Bold Silver:  This is nothing new, silver is my signature metal and I’ve been wearing my big sterling cuff for 17 years.  Now I’ve added a pair of silver Birkenstocks to my wardrobe, increasing my silver.  I love mixing shiny silver with a more relaxed material; the bracelets from Lifetherapy are a fave of mine.  I have several of them and love looping one of their wrap bracelets (especially in this season’s signature color of orange!) over the cuff to switch it up. 
  • Classic Gold: When my arm was in a cast, I relied on a watch since pulling out my phone was more difficult.  I’ve come to really like the convenience and style, and adore my Citizen Ciena Eco-Drive.  I recently got this cuff from Rebecca Minkoff which is smaller than what I’ve been known to wear and I like it.  Again, been wearing a lot of square scarves, be they around my throat, tied in my hair, or hanging off my purse.  I got a pair of Nine West “Flax” pumps in Natural and they’re a great nude pump, a comfortable height and go with almost my entire wardrobe.

My makeup has also been influenced by my time with a cast; it’s hard to have precision with your non-dominant hand. While I spent much of the winter with bold lips and liquid liner, lately I’m more into a subtle smoky eye, bronzer over blush, and glossy lips in a more natural hue. Miracle Skin Transformer has become my go-to while dealing with a broken arm since it’s so easy and so many beauty products in one.  I’m a mascara junkie and I love Too Faced’s Better Than False Lashes enough to buy a second time. It’s not a product to use when you’re short on time, but they do make my lashes look lusher than any other brand.  I got the Urban Decay lipliner in Naked as a freebie with a Beauty.com order and I use it almost daily with a natural colored gloss (adoring NARS Viva).  And then the original Naked palette from Urban Decay is still a fave for a no-makeup makeup look, a soft smoky eye, or to even replace liner.


Has spring sprung in your closet?  What are you loving this season in regard to trends or new to you classics?

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Breaking Fashion Rules – Patent Leather and Suede

Dear Allie,
I see you wearing your black patent leather Mary Janes all winter long – I was told that patent leather is a material that should only be worn in warmer months. I am from New England, maybe the rule is different in the South?

Hi Allie,
I am seeing lots of suede sandals, and I have several pairs of suede pumps, including peep toe. Is suede in summer OK? (I live in Florida, btw.) It always seems like a “winter” material to me, but maybe I’m wrong.

Ah, yet another situation where I believe rules are often meant to be broken!

When rules like these (and the ones about navy or brown pairing with black) were created, fashion was far more black and white. Trends were far more specific, there were fewer options available for purchase, and fewer True Fashionistas who pushed boundaries and changed the rules for the rest of us.

Patent Leather
Unlike what many fashion Websites and bloggers state, it was NEVER considered a material specific to fall and winter. The original fashion rule was that unless you were under six years of age, patent leather was only to be worn from Easter to Labor Day.

Women who wear patent in winter: Keira Knightley, Michelle Obama, and Mary-Kate Olsen
Via {here} and {here} and {here}

These days, patent leather shoes come in a variety of styles, many far more appropriate for the winter months. With patent leather, the style more than the fabric dictates whether the shoes is seasonally appropriate. I have a pair of black patent peeptoes that will not see the light of day until Spring, yet I wear my black patent Mary Janes with a dark red chunky heel almost weekly during the colder months. The difference is that the Mary Janes have a wintry feel with the heavy heel in a dark color and the closed toe.

Mary Janes are the perfect cold-weather patent shoe. In black they are a fun option for dresses and tights, and a dark color like plum or Bordeaux will add a much-needed pop of color on a dreary December day. Patent leather booties can add dimension to a monochromatic pants ensemble, and croco-embossed patent heeled loafers are a great contrast to tweed and heavier fabrics.

Pairing patent leather shoes with opaque hose continues the wintry feel and makes the shoe even more seasonally appropriate. This does not mean you can “winterize” any patent shoe with a pair of heavy tights – consider the silhouette first, then accessorize. A rule of thumb – if there is the opportunity for a lot of exposed foot (slingbacks, peeptoes, strappy, etc.), the shoe would probably look more appropriate come spring.

Suede
Suede was another fabric that collected dust in the back of the closet until the Tuesday after Labor Day. However the past decade has turned this rule on its head. Suede these days has become a big player in Spring runway collections and now the appearance of suede in stores usually means that spring is right around the corner.

Women rocking suede in summer: Kate Moss, Kate Hudson, Blake Lively
via {here} and {here} and {here}

The way to make suede look appropriate for summer months is to look to the designers who have made is warm-weather appropriate. They haven’t used suede willy-nilly, but have been very specific with the use.

For suede to look appropriate in summer, it needs to feel light. Colors like tan, beige, and light gray; strappy open styles that expose a lot of skin; lightweight suedes that drape on the body and are truly comfortable and wearable in warmer months.

I have a pair of nude suede platform peeptoes that I can’t wait to wear come spring – they are the perfect shoe for brightly colored sundresses, and look great with denim. I used to have a tan suede “denim” jacket that was my favorite spring coat – it was soft, lightweight, and looked great over dresses or paired with casual jeans.

This doesn’t mean all suede looks great for warmer months – again it’s about making it look seasonally appropriate. A pair of black suede boots or brown suede platform pumps would look terribly out of place when paired with bare legs and breezy cotton dresses – keep the silhouette appropriate to the season and the fabric will usually work as well.

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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Best of 2014: Style Purchases Edition

This year I think I made some smart purchases. I bought less (an arm in a cast can curb anyone’s shopping habit), and I bought smarter. While I narrowed the color story in my closet, I don’t think it narrowed my style or personality. The things I am most glad I purchased this year and why:

PicMonkey Collage

MICHAEL Michael Kors Poncho Sweater

I was wearing this sweater when I wore the Swag Edition of this series, and I’m wearing it now as I write this post. I wear this sweater at least once a week… okay I wear it all weekend long, just changing out the shirt underneath. This morning I wore it on a hike with Karl; I put a windproof top underneath and it was that perfect not-too-warm combo that let me sweat a bit, but also not be chilly when still. Every time I wear it someone stops me to rave about it and ask where I got it. It wasn’t cheap but it’s one of those sweaters that is worth the cost because of the ROI.

Isabella Fiore Leather Tote

Well, I did use MYHABIT credits for it so it was only $40 instead of like $150, but I did still pay for it. And I admitted in this post that I didn’t NEED it but man, it is the hardest working bag in my closet, rivaling my brown Banana Republic hobo that I know I’ll will own and love for many years to come. The funky mandala embossed on the front keeps it from being boring, the heavy rich leather keeps it from getting stretched out when filled to the rim, and it still smells like delicious new leather even though I have used it almost daily for many months. It’s the kind of bag that will still look cool when it gets worn and beat up, I look forward to the memories I will make carrying this bag.

NYDJ ‘Alina’ Stretch Skinny Jeans in Black

Skinny jeans rarely work on my frame. I can’t get them over my large calves, and they’re often a lower rise creating an uber muffin top. Not these babies. They’re more twill than denim which makes them dress up a bit better for the office, and they are comfortable over my thighs and calves. I hate when they’re dirty because I wear them so often. I like the sucking in feature of NYDJ jeans but haven’t found it in their pants or twill jeans… except for these. They do a bit of smoothing of the tummy without feeling like Spanx. Oh, and they’ve been laundered many times, sometimes accidentally being put in the dryer and they’re still in great shape and a saturated black color.

Nine West ‘Flax’ Pumps

I bought them last year in silver and peacock; this year I bought them in nude and black. For me, they are the perfect pointed-toe pump. A comfortable yet slender heel height, a pointed toe that isn’t too pointy, and a reasonable pricepoint. I recently found them on Amazon in black leather for under $50 and bought another pair because I know I’ll funk up the pair I have within a year and know I will want a replacement pair. I’ve learned over time that if a shoe becomes a workhorse and you can find it cheap, get a backup pair (hello Miss Sixty booties, I wore them just this week and am on my third pair). This style of shoe has been discontinued by Nine West, but you can still find it on Amazon, Zappos, and 6pm.

Silver ‘Arizona’ Birkenstocks

I totally succumbed to the trend and I’m not ashamed. When trends come that appeal to you, there’s nothing wrong in including them in your wardrobe. I loved Birks in the early ‘90s, I love silver, it made sense. And I wore the HECK out of these shoes all spring and summer long. I loved them with dresses, I wore them with boyfriend jeans, and they were my slip-on weekend shoe waiting at the front door for me to run errands or take Emerson to dance class.

Rebecca Minkoff ‘Major Laser’ Gold Cuff Bracelet

Why pay $56 for a piece of costume jewelry when you can find similar at Forever21 for $5.99? Because sometimes it’s worth the money. I don’t know why this bracelet called out to me, it’s nothing flashy or terribly unique. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it and bought it full price. And I have worn it several times a week ever since. I love how it’s simple but not, edgy yet classic, and that through the year of wear it’s still shiny, no fading or wearing of the gold. It’s small but it packs a punch and constantly gets compliments and comments.  The bracelet is discontinued though I have seen it since a few times on Gilt.

Oroblu Fleece Tights

I bought fleece tights last winter and they were… fine. I felt they looked pilled right out of the package and the crotch was by my knees after an hour or two of wear but it seemed from reviews online as though that’s what you get with fleece tights. This year I ordered a pair from Oroblu and I am a fleece tights convert. I ordered an XL fearing knee-crotch, but would have done better with my height by choosing L or even M. That being said, these are comfortable, warm, a rich black color, and don’t sag. They are opaque enough that I can wear them with shorter dresses and not feel half naked. I also wore them over a pair of traditional tights for Halloween and I was toasty warm all night, even when outside.

Gap Real Straight Jeans

These aren’t skinny or stovepipe or slim or narrow. They’re not a bootcut or a baby boot or a flare. No stretch, no embellishment, no funky details. They are just classic straight jeans and they are my jam. The 12 Ankle is a great fit, the length that works with flat or low shoes. I have a classic wash and a distressed pair and both get worn on a regular basis. Finally, a pair of non-stretch jeans that fit and flatter my curves!

LOFT Custom Stretch Trousers (Marisa Fit)

I have them in black, navy, and ivory tropical wool and I adore them. They have a flat, straight look but flatter my curves. No pockets jutting out, no cuffs or pocket flaps or anything to make them stand out. Just a simple work trouser that looks great with untucked or tucked tops. A 14 Petite hangs perfectly, not tight, completely work appropriate. The fabric matches some blazers in my closet. Oh, and you can machine wash them!

Converse Shoreline Sneakers

I’ve been wearing Chucks since middle school, but I have never found them comfortable for a long period of time. They always rub on my big or pinky toe, and dig into the curve above my heel. That is until I tried Converse Shorelines. They look just like Chucks but have a different shape which gives my toes more room, and an elasticized back that makes the shoe have a lower profile, more comfort, but a more secure fit. They look classic, feel great, and will be worn quite a lot once the weather improves!

On Cyclists and Style

Yesterday at rush hour, I was pulling out of my parking garage onto a very busy street in the middle of DC. I checked the round mirrors before exiting the garage, slowly eeked out to be sure I didn’t accidentally cross with a pedestrian, and was about two feet from the street, watching a cab go by and was ready to pull out right after him. I hear, “HEY! HEEEEEYYYYY!” and a bike slams into the right front of my car, right where my tire is.

“WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM, LADY? WHAT. IS. YOUR. PROBLEM????? Do you just drive without looking? YOU COULD HAVE KILLED ME! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM? WHAT. IS. YOUR PROBLEM????” He slams the hood of my car again, rides over to my driver’s side and stares me down. I apologize for not seeing him, but I must admit I am in shock. My tire is past the sidewalk, lined up with a tree surrounded by flowers and a short iron fence. I did look, and I didn’t see him. He again screams, asking me my problem, I again apologize, he rolls his eyes at me and continues on. I pull onto the street and head home.

I think about this interaction the entire ride home. I think about the guy, think about how he wasn’t wearing a helmet but was wearing headphones. How he was riding on the sidewalk and I swear I didn’t see any bicyclist when I looked in the mirrors or after I pulled out and actually looked left and right. That I was in the CBD where bicycles are prohibited on sidewalks. He must have been flying down the sidewalk, and he must not have seen me. I get angry – yes, one should yield to those on the sidewalk, but how am I supposed to account for a bike flying directly into me, I’m not a mind reader, I can’t see the future. I think of the times when I am a pedestrian on that very same sidewalk and have practically been steamrolled by bicycles who go as fast as they would on the road. I wish I thought faster on my feet, had a good comeback for this guy.

As I continue to drive, I calm down. And I am grateful that I am not quick with the comebacks, that all I could think of saying to this man is, “I’m sorry.” I think about how he just looked so shocked, so angry… but also so sad. He never swore at me, he didn’t call me names, he just kept asking me what was my problem. Maybe he had a problem, maybe he had something troublesome or upsetting happen to him and he was lost in his thoughts when it happened. Maybe he was in a rush to get somewhere that was upsetting or stressful, and all this emotion came out on the hood of my car. Maybe it was a good thing, he could yell at me instead of his boss, his mother, his partner.

Or maybe he’s not from DC or unaware of the DC sidewalk laws (honestly, I wasn’t either until a month or so ago). Maybe he was just in a hurry, and got a bit too comfortable riding down that smooth wide sidewalk. Maybe he caught a block that was relatively free of pedestrians and was caught up in the moment of smooth sailing, nice weather, a good song on the iPod, and my Kia ruined it.

I realized… it didn’t matter. I didn’t know his story, and having a snappy comeback wouldn’t improve the situation for either of us. He was scared and angry, I was scared and surprised, and the best thing either of us could do is what we did. He got to vent yet it made him more aware of his surroundings, I got yelled at because honestly you can’t be too aware as a city driver.

What does this have to do with fashion?

Often we judge others for what they wear. Ew, that woman is way too fat to wear that. Did she steal that dress from her daughter’s closet? Is she heading to work or to a clown convention? With that skirt you can tell what she’s looking for tonight. Doesn’t she care what people think?

When I get into judgy judge mode, I always recall an experience when I was working in apparel. A woman came in the store, greasy hair pulled up in a messy ponytail, wearing a blue work shirt and pants with dusty boots. She was ignored by almost every salesperson in the store who assumed she wasn’t a customer with money, just someone wandering the mall. One employee greeted her warmly, and asked if she could assist her that day. Come to find out, this woman in work boots had won the lottery and was looking for a full wardrobe makeover. That employee who didn’t judge a customer by her appearance ended up having a sale in the thousands, and that customer told us that our salesperson was the first person in the entire mall who greeted her and treated her with respect.

You don’t usually know why a person acts, or dresses the way they do. You don’t know their story. Judging, making snarky comments, and whispering to your friends isn’t going to help that person, and it doesn’t help you either. I started this blog back in 2005 with a lot of judgment and strong opinions, but through the years I have gotten to know the women I judged, got to know their stories, their reasoning. And with it, I have worked to transform this blog into a resource, a way to help instead of snark. Sometimes I lose my way, and sometimes I need a slap in the face… or a slap on my car hood to get me back on track.

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Style with Substance: Karen Kane

One of the best parts of blogging is getting to know brands on a different level. Not just a label in a boutique or department store, you learn the story behind the name, their purpose, their history, and sometimes, they become friends.

I heard of Karen Kane before I started blogging, it was a brand I’d see at the mall, just like all the other garments wearing some woman’s name. The alliteration was catchy, I figured it was made up to represent the ideal customer for the brand. But thanks to my blog I got to know that Karen Kane is a real woman who cares for and designs for fellow real women.

karen kane history

A little Karen Kane history, learn more at this link

Karen Kane has been a California Girl since she was 9 years old, attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in LA, and after graduation got a job as a pattern maker for a sportswear company. In 1979 Karen and her husband Lonnie begin the clothing brand Karen Kane out of their garage. After just one year the company reaches $1 million in sales. In 1986, their son Michael was born. To combine work and personal life, they brought Michael to work with them every day. Michael is now the Director of Marketing and the super nice person I work with when partnering with the brand (he even “likes” my Facebook page!). Karen and Lonnie still run the business. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to work with a company that sees me as a person, not just a blog, and who understands how Wardrobe Oxygen’s readers are different from another blog with different interests and needs.

karen kane blog love

My favorite Karen Kane outfits that have been featured on Wardrobe Oxygen

Before many other brands, in 1999 Karen Kane launched a Women’s division after hearing requests from their customers. And as of 2013, over 95% of Karen Kane’s collection is manufactured right here in the United States. The clothes are high quality, comfortable, true California style with a touch of femininity and sex appeal. Many of my wardrobe favorites, such as this dress, these pants, this dress, and this jumpsuit (sorry for the bad photo, I’ll have to do an outfit post in it soon, they still have it in stock!) are from Karen Kane.

This season I’m admiring the Studded Wrap Dress, Safari Jacket, Gold Sequin Front Dress, and can’t wait for this spring when Karen Kane will be offering jewelry and hats! I know I will be adding more Karen Kane to my closet this season and for many seasons to come.

I had a Small Business Saturday series before my surgery, but since then have realized how I love many brands who aren’t small but still have heart. I’m changing this series to Style with Substance and will be featuring brands who offer great fashion with great ethics or goals.

Sharing Positivity and Style

Last Tuesday I went to one of the most fantastic fashion events in all my years of blogging. I entered the beautiful venue to a room glowing with the setting sun streaming through the large windows, live music, and stylish people milling about, drinking signature cocktails and enjoying appetizers served by waitstaff in tuxedos. Art on the walls was created just for these event. There was a pop-up shop where fashionistas (and fashionistos) could purchase beaded cocktail dresses, fur coats, and designer suits. After shopping and socializing, we were led to silver chiavari chairs where we viewed a runway show of hot fashions, models walking to a live DJ and saxophone player. It was all so posh… and all for a good cause.

That event was the Goodwill annual Fashion Gala, this year the theme was The Art of Fashion, and it took place at Artisphere in Arlington, Virginia. Those fashionable attendees? When I spoke to them I found that many were wearing gems they found in a local Goodwill. The art? Lichtenstein-inspired Pop Art relating to the Goodwill fashion. The pop-up shop was brimming with hot trends and designer labels all found at Goodwill stores across the area. And the runway show featured some local celebrities as models, strutting their stuff in clothing and shoes all found at Goodwill.

While this was all amazing, the most inspiring part of the evening was the presentation that took place prior to the runway show. The lights dimmed, and the large screens around the room showed photos of Goodwill employees and those who benefit from the charity and their stories. Individuals who take five different buses to get to school every night but are never late, adults who are proudly donning a cap and gown for the first time in their life, older individuals who lost their retirement years ago and are trying to not have to depend on their children, people who thanks to Goodwill who won’t have to sleep in their car tonight. Just writing about this presentation is bringing tears to my eyes, it was so powerful, and such a good reminder of how you shop, and where you shop can do more than improve your own personal style. How one person can make such a major and positive change.

If you could walk in someone else’s shoes for one day, would you help them?

This statement was part of the presentation and it hit me like a ton of bricks. We get so caught up in our own drama – our issues, our problems, our frustrations that we often don’t realize those around us. By reaching out and helping others, it not only improves their lives but improves our own.

I love that Goodwill not only is a place to find clothing and homegoods at great prices and reduce landfill waste, but your purchases help others. This gala proved that you can look good and do good at the same time. I left the event wanting to share the positivity with everyone around me. It’s like The Best Part’s campaign, positivity is contagious, and when you put it out there it can’t help but grow!

The Best Part is an online community that’s dedicated to brightening your day—every day. How? By spreading optimism, one share at a time. The Best Part posts inspirational stories, encouraging quotes, good news and other upbeat items on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—and encourages fans and followers to share that optimism with their friends. Because when optimism is shared, it grows, making an even more positive impact on our world. Check out what others are sharing on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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Foxcroft Style Stars: The Reveal

I’m still smiling over my experience this summer with Foxcroft. It was so fun to have them bring me up to New York City and help style their 25th Silver Anniversary photo shoot! As I mentioned in my last post about Foxcroft Style Stars, the models for this shoot were actually teachers from PS 159; Sally (from the blog Already Pretty) and I had such a blast working with them!

A makeover shoot is nothing without the before and after photos! Granted, these women were utterly gorgeous from the get-go, but it’s always fun to have someone do your hair and makeup in a different way and get dressed in new clothing. It was an honor to be part of the “glam squad” for these hardworking and talented teachers!

Marlene was the first teacher we worked with, and she really set the tone for the whole day. I think she was a bit nervous, afraid she’d end up looking like a 1980’s Glamour Shot, but Sal and I put her at ease, and the makeup and hair artists, Chrissy and Constantine, were geniuses. Marlene’s complexion looked amazing with the bolder black-based prints from the Foxcroft Silver Anniversary Collection; we balanced the crisp button-front with a ladylike ponte pencil skirt and kitten heels. Marlene loved the finished result; she said she couldn’t wait to get home and show her husband, he’d think he was dating a different woman!

Maggie was the second teacher we worked with, and she was equally as wary. Maggie had her own personal style, and feared being dressed in a manner that would make her look older or more severe. Constantine and Chrissy did their magic, giving Maggie a cool half-updo, teaching her new ways to style her thick curly hair. A bright lip kept her look youthful and fresh, and we styled her more casually with one of Foxcroft’s fabulous cardigans and dark wash denim.

Janice brought sunshine to the photo shoot the instant she entered its doors. Cracking jokes and laughing, she added such positive energy to the day and put everyone at ease. Speaking of ease, Janice was unfazed by the makeover process and just saw it as a fun outing. We kept Janice’s look simple to let her personality shine through – pretty polished skin, soft hair, and the gorgeous Foxcroft Silver Swirl Wrinkle Free Shirt over her own camisole and narrow jeans.


“What a WOW experience. You created memories I will cherish for a lifetime.”
       
Janice

Susan was a blast to work with, she was so curious about the process and asking us how and why we were doing different things. As someone who doesn’t do styling gigs on a regular basis and is often a bit too shy to ask the questions I wish to, I admired Susan’s attitude and found it even more fun to style her. Chrissy and Constantine showcased her gorgeous thick hair and beautiful skin with a simple polished look; Sally and I flattered her adorable figure with a sophisticated pairing of a pencil skirt with a crisp button-front shirt with the sleeves cuffed.

“The clothes were so comfortable and pretty–you definitely have a new customer here! My kids thought I looked so pretty when I came home! Thank you again!” 
       – Susan

I think Tanya was the most nervous of the group. I felt her nervousness, and completely related to it. I’d be the same way, having strangers dress my body! I immediately gravitated to Tanya, and wanted to flatter her amazing figure and gorgeous face. I felt a soft floral scarf tucked into the neckline of the crisp shirt would soften the look and highlight her beautiful porcelain skin. With her second outfit, we styled her in the Foxcroft Animal Print Grandfather Sweater with black pants and a cami; I loved it on her so much I want that sweater in my closet this fall!

“We were all talking about how much fun we had at the photo shoot. It will be a day to remember!”
        – Tanya

Eileen was the last teacher we styled, but the perfect ending to such a fun day. As everyone was getting a bit tired and stressed, Eileen arrived adding a calmness to the studio. So patient, so cheery, Eileen was a pleasure to work with. To not overwhelm her lovely complexion, we styled her in a soft floral blouse, and in her second shoot tempered a bolder animal print sweater with a soft lavender camisole. Chrissy and Constantine enhanced her natural beauty with soft shiny waves and rosy shades on her lips and cheeks.

I was so honored to be part of this project. It was a pleasure getting to know the lovely people of Foxcroft better, and a pleasure getting to know these amazing public school teachers. I was thrilled to be part of their fun day of beauty and fashion!

If you’d like to be your own Foxcroft Style Star, Foxcroft is offering Wardrobe Oxygen readers 15% off their first order with the code FXBLOG2. This discount works on the entire site, including the Foxcroft Silver Anniversary Collection. Happy shopping!

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