Search Results for: label/swimwear

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!

Swimwear for Large Busts and Soft Bellies

Around this time of year, I am bombarded with reader questions on where to find swimwear to flatter their body. While one can find a triangle bikini anywhere from Walmart to Saks, it’s harder to find swimwear for a woman with curves. As a woman with a large bust and a soft tummy, I have a few recommendations for bathing suits that control the midsection and/or support and properly cover a large chest.

Aerin Rose
Aerin Rose was kind enough to send me their “Butterfly 335” suit for review and I have to say I am highly impressed. Not only are these swimsuits sized like bras (cup-sizes B through G and band sizes 32 through 44), but they also have shirred tummy control bodices to whittle the waistline. My tummy looked firm while I felt comfortable, and my breasts were well covered and supported in the flattering halter top. Learn more about Aerin Rose on their Facebook page and shop for their bra-sized swimwear here.

Swimspot
I wrote about Swimspot here, and I still agree that Swimspot offers attractive swimwear for large busts. They have fit specialists who will work with you to find the perfect suit for your specific figure. When I worked with them last year, they suggested the Athena Maldives Halter One-Piece for me; I still find it flattering, supportive, and sexy while properly covering and containing my bust and smoothing my middle. All Athena swimsuits have a Slim-Power lining to smooth the tummy, and their Support Group line offers sizes 32D – 38FFG. They also carry Next Swimwear which is a brand for the woman who has a larger bust and desires support during water activities – their Stand Up top has floating underwires and a racer back to keep your bust in place while surfing, swimming, or taking part in any other water activity.

No Show Active Top
For the woman who wants to catch rays in a classic bikini but desires support and coverage when swimming, surfing, or playing a game of beach volleyball, the No Show Active Top is a great option. Simply zip The No Show Active Top over your bikini top for the coverage and control you need for any activity. They come in a variety of colors and prints to coordinate with most any swimsuit. 

Lands’ End
You didn’t expect me to write a post about swimwear and not mention Lands’ End, did you? Lands’ End offer suits up to a DDD cup and I have found them to truly be supportive. Their fabulous Beach Living swimsuit collection has many tops and suits made for large busts including bikini tops.

Lands’ End also has Slender Suits which slim the middle without binding. Their Princess One-Piece Slender Suit is elegant, classic, has soft cups to support the bust, and Slendertex® fabric to control the midsection.

SPANX
To use SPANX‘s word, Bra-llelujah, they now carry swimwear! This is a perfect fit for SPANX, who has already mastered not only control garments, but supportive yet comfortable bras. Their Bra-llelujah! ® One-Piece is a classic style with underwire cups and adjustable straps – not only does is come in bra sizes (up to 18 D/DD) to properly support the bust, it also sucks in the tummy with the power of SPANX. Their Blue Nile suit is feminine, flirty, and comes in sizes up to a 16D/DD with all the control you’d expect from the brand.

Bare Necessities
Bare Necessities is one of the sites I go to for control garments and bras to fit my large bust, it’s also a site I turn to when looking for swimwear. Many of the lingerie brands that cater to curves also carry swimwear (Freya, Fantasie, Elomi) and Bare Necessities carries them.

As for tummy control, Bare Necessities carries the classics like Miraclesuit® and Magicsuit®, they also carry brand-name control swimwear from SPANX and Tommy Bahama.

Cacique
Cacique is a great resource for larger sizes of bras, and they are also a great resource for larger sizes of swimwear, offering styles up to an H cup. Cacique carries one-piece styles, separates, and also Miraclesuit® for control swimwear.

My Personal Swimwear Tips:
  • Skirts emphasize, they don’t hide. Skirts on swimsuits work in the same manner as a tunic or muumuu – they may cover, but they don’t fool anyone. A skirt is a great choice for modesty or a retro feel, but you’d do better with strategic shirring or a flattering leg opening to make your body look not only smaller but also younger.
  • Buy a size smaller than what you wear in clothes. Unless otherwise specified (Miraclesuit® often has specific fit tips, always read customer reviews), bathing suits stretch. What seems to be a great fit when dry can end up with a saggy rear and exposed busom come a dip in the pool.
  • Buy a cup size larger than necessary. Unless it is underwire and bra-styled, going up a cup size will give you additional coverage. When I was a D cup, I would always buy the DD cup style from J. Crew – it still fit great, but gave me a bit more security under the arms and between the breasts.
  • Don’t machine wash your swimwear. Not only are you dealing with a delicate synthetic fabric full of Lycra and compression materials, it is a fabric being beaten with salt, chlorine, sand, and concrete. Baby your swimsuit and it will keep its shape, elasticity, color, and fit for more than a season. Products like Roux Maison Swimwear Detergent will extend the life of your suit and remove everything from chlorine to sunscreen without fading or residue.

Where do you like to shop for swimwear?  What swimsuit brands have you found that flatter, support, and control curves?

Note: I did receive free product from No Show Active Top and Aerin Rose, but the choice to write this post is my own and all options are also my own.

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Review: Swimsuit Shopping with SwimSpot.com

Be you a size 6 or a size 26, it sucks shopping for woman’s swimwear. The fluorescent lighting in the fitting rooms, trying to gauge proper fit over your underwear, dealing with clueless shop staff, and being forced to examine all the trouble spots on your body.

Click here to read about my experience of swimsuit shopping with SwimSpot…

Festie Frame of Mind

Dress: Seafolly Saltwater Crush Maxi c/o InStyleSwimwear.com | Necklace: Had forever (similar) | Sandals: Softspots | Sunglasses: Kentucky gas station (similar) | Bag: HOBO Bags (similar)

The weather is getting warmer, we’ve bought tickets for Forecastle and Americanarama and I can’t help but be in a festie frame of mind. InStyle Swimwear was kind enough to send me this fabulous tie-dye maxi dress from Seafolly and I just KNOW it will be worn to at least one festival or outdoor concert this summer! Lightweight cotton, comfortable, and adjustable straps to boot! I was also thinking it would look cute with my denim shirt tied over it, and I also liked it cinched with a vintage brown leather belt (expect to see that combo on the blog later in the summer!).

Update on the hair: what I am doing to get it like this is I am applying Paul Mitchell Surf Spray and Rusk Thick on my hair, blowdrying it in a haphazard manner or letting it air dry.  I then put big sections in my curling iron, curling away from the face.  Finger comb, and then a bit more of the surf spray to have it piecey and messy and more casual.  So far, so good and it works well in the heat.

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Fun in the Sun, No Matter Your Shape

When I swimsuit shopped for our Costa Rican honeymoon in 2004, I decided to go bold and leave my all-black swimsuit routine. I got a bright red halter tankini from J. Crew and felt terribly sassy… that was until I got back the pictures from that trip and realized the lighter color and lack of support made my breasts look droopy, displayed the indentation for my belly button, every lump, and every bump.

The only remaining picture from our honeymoon where I am in the red bathing suit.

After that experience, I was a bit more gun shy with swimwear. Strategic rouching, dark prints to camouflage curves, brands that specialized in slimming the figure. While I felt more secure in such suits, I often felt they looked too old and somber for my age and personality. After Emerson was born, I was so uncomfortable with my new figure I welcomed the black gathered fabric with strong mesh interiors to suck in my flesh. It felt like a suit of armor to defend me against…

…against what?

I sat on the beach in this frumpy bathing suit, and looked around. I saw women older and larger than I sunbathing in bikinis, women slimmer and younger than I in matronly too-large suits with too-long skirts, women built just like me in fun printed suits splashing in the surf and women built just like me in the same suit I was wearing, hiding behind strategically draped towels.

The biggest thing I saw was that no one was out there judging. Okay, maybe the teens giggling behind US Magazines were judging, but they were judging everyone, and I knew they would judge no matter what swimsuit I was wearing. Because no matter what I put on my body, it will still be the same body. The same cellulite, the same belly, the same curves, the same flesh. No swimsuit will make me look five years younger or 25 pounds slimmer.

And so this year, thinking about my beach experience and seeing phenomenal women like Gabi Gregg and Brittany Gibbons and Chastity Garner rock the heck out of fun and flirty two-piece suits I decided to do the same. There’s nothing wrong with a classic black one-piece that slims and flatters the figure, but there’s also nothing wrong with buying a suit that is fun and fits your personality and personal style. 

I have always had great success with Lands’ End swimwear – well made, doesn’t ride or stretch or fade. I also like that they have cup-sized tops going up to DDD. I decided to try a two-piece suit (the Beach Living Tahiti Paisley Floral Shirred Bikini Top in 12DDD and the matching Flounce Mini SwimMini in 12 Petite), and the Beach Living Bardot Floral Scoopneck One Piece Swimsuit with Tummy Control in 12DDD and see which I liked better.

The two suits arrived promptly and the prints were even prettier in person. I first tried on the one-piece which fit quite nicely. I loved how I could adjust the neckline with the drawstring detail. It fit, it flattered. The print created an optical illusion, you couldn’t quite tell what was print and what was spare tire. Sucked me in without causing intestinal distress.  Not too shabby.

And then I tried the bikini. Somehow the two-piece made me look taller. Boy did it make me look softer but it made me look curvy in a good way. No Lycra to hide the rolls, the stretch marks from pregnancy, how my tummy is a bit lopsided from carrying Emerson. But the top had underwire and adjustable straps to support my breasts even if I dove into the pool, and the skirt was flirty instead of matronly and provided a bit of fun as well as distraction.  And I liked it, I liked me in it.  I felt like me.

Whether I am in a black slenderizing suit, a printed one-piece, or a “fatkini,” I am still me. I am still a 38-year old working mom who wears a 12/14, should go to the gym more often, and should watch her portion sizes. But in this suit I feel sassy, I feel as though I have to walk with confidence since I made such a bold decision with my swimwear.

I wore the suit to the pool on a busy day. I played with Emerson, sat with Karl on the side of the pool watching the kids play, floated around in the deep end, gave Emerson piggy-back rides over and over in the 3′ section, sat on the ramp and watched E splash in the shallow section, had a great time. The suit held up well, it fit great, and I didn’t feel terribly on display. In fact, I don’t think one person even looked twice at me.

Often all the judgment we feel about our bodies and sartorial choices is in our heads. And for the judgment that may be real… who is it coming from? Does that person even deserve time or real estate in your brain? Some people will judge anyone about anything… might as well have a blast yourself while they’re wasting their time with their lame hobby.

Now go out there and have FUN this summer!

Note: This post was not sponsored by Lands’ End, I just think they’re pretty rad.

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Blogging Love – Interview!

I was honored to be interviewed by Elle of the new blog Label Ho. Elle’s discusses fashion and her personal style on this site. I love supporting fellow fashion and style bloggers so I jumped at this chance to have us get to know one another better!

You can check out the interview here.

I loved the questions she asked (and if you go back in her archives, you can see her answers to the very same questions!). The name of her blog cracks me up. It reminds me of when I was Editor of my high school yearbook. I had such the fight with the sponsor over the proper spelling of this word. “If you add an ‘e’ it’s suddenly a garden tool!” (Let’s not even get into why this word was in my yearbook – let me just state that my high school was a fabulous one where I learned Japanese and was in International Baccalaureate courses, but it wasn’t in the most chi chi of neighborhoods.)

Since she interviewed me, I decided to ask her a few questions as well. Get to know Elle!

Name: “Elle,” author of Label Ho, a fashion and personal style blog

Why did you start blogging? What could be better than writing and posting about something you love? I thought it would be a fun hobby and a great way to connect with other fashion-minded people.

Favorite item in your closet: An authentic vintage Gucci handbag circa the 70s. I love that its suede and doesn’t have the GG logo plastered all over it. I found the bag at a thrift shop and its in immaculate condition. Best of all, I got it for an excellent price!

Favorite Web site to visit: FabSugar.com. They have pretty comprehensive coverage of what’s going on in the fashion world, delivered in quick, short posts. I also like that they post great outfits that members of their community put together. I’m fascinated with seeing what people put together.

Top five items on your style wish list for this season: I can only think of three since I think I pretty much have most of my key pieces already:

1. Another pair of dark bootleg jeans. I’ve pretty much worn my favorite pair so much (Joe’s Jeans in the Honey fit) that the color’s faded significantly.

2. More dresses. I’ve purchased a few already, but I just can’t get enough. They’re so easy to pull on in summer.

3. A pair of wide-leg jeans. I’ve tried on a ton of different ones, but still haven’t found a flattering fit.

Ask Allie: Plus Size Tall Retailers

It is becoming easier to find stylish clothes in tall sizes and in plus sizes but hard to find garments that are both. Don’t the manufacturers realize a person can be both tall and fat? I find the perfect office trousers in a plus size but then they aren’t long enough. Or I find the perfect office trousers that are long enough but they aren’t big enough. Over a certain waist size, it is impossible to get a 34″ inseam.

The reason is supply and demand. While it seems simple to just have the same pieces with a couple more inches at the hem, a retailer needs to invest in stock in that size. If they don’t have a proven customer, they can see extra lengths and sizes as a financial risk. The reason plus size fashion has improved lately is because plus sized women have begun to speak up, and LOUD. Opinion pieces in reputable publications, more and more plus size bloggers, and social media have given plus sized fashionistas the platform to let the retailers know they DESERVE style and if it exists, will purchase it.

It’s time for those who need not just plus size, but petite and tall lengths to speak up! The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and it’s clear that not all plus sized women are comfortable with a 32” inseam. Let your voices be heard, and make change happen in the apparel industry!

plus size tall long clothing retailers for women

Luckily some retailers understand that many plus sized women are also tall, and have added long lengths to their collections. A few retailers who offer plus sized tall or plus sized long lengths:

Lands’ End

Lands’ End realizes that a tall woman doesn’t just need a longer inseam for her jeans, but more length everywhere. Offering everything from sweaters to swimsuits, Lands’ End has a pretty varied plus size tall collection. Lands’ End often has great promotions, I recommend signing up for their emails to get the scoop when they take place. Lands’ End also has a generous return policy making online shopping a breeze.

Eloquii

Eloquii just released long and short lengths in their popular Kady Fit ankle pant.  Ankle pants are so hard for tall women to find, and this one comes in a 31″ length.  I hope this is just the beginning of lengths being offered at this stylish fashion resource for plus sized women!

Talbots

Talbots is one of the few retailers who offers both Womens Plus Tall and Womens Plus Petite pieces. Their plus size tall selection is only pants, but each season they offer at least a dozen styles up to a 24W with a 35” inseam. Talbots is another retailer who has amazing sales and great emails to notify you of them and you can return and exchange online purchases in their storefronts.

Long Tall Sally

Long Tall Sally specializes in clothing and accessories for tall women. They offer up to a 38” inseam, size 20, and even up to size 15 shoe. Long Tall Sally is not just a great resource for clothing, but also activewear, providing athletic gear and swimwear for those with long legs and torsos.  While shipping isn’t cheap with Long Tall Sally, they do now have Click & Collect in their shops.

Torrid

Torrid is known for trendy, youthful fashion in plus sizes, but they also have great wardrobe staples. Their tall collection (34” inseam) has trendy denim as well as classic styles of jeans, work trousers, and ponte pants; their extra tall selection (36” inseam) is limited but still provides some great styles of denim.

NYDJ

NYDJ offers a 35” inseam on many of their popular styles up to size 16. While you can find classic denim looks in long lengths, they also have trendy looks like coated denim and faux leather leggings. NYDJ runs big and stretchy; I recommend purchasing a size smaller than you’re accustomed to.  NYDJ also has free shipping and returns, making them a great online shopping resource.

Lane Bryant

While their selection of plus size tall bottoms are limited, there’s some good office staples in there and Lane Bryant always has some prints and variation from basic black pants and the occasional trendy piece.

Old Navy

Old Navy has tall and long lengths; their long inseam is 34” and their tall inseam 36”. Not only that, they are another retailer to realize tall women need more than black pants and offer tops, activewear, and shorts in tall sizes.

Alloy

Alloy has quite an extensive tall collection and go up to a size 25 and 3XL. Alloy is a great resource for on-trend plus size tall pieces like jumpsuits, waterfall cardigans, maxi skirts, and dresses which are often unavailable in longer lengths.

Long Elegant Legs

Founded by a tall woman, Long Elegant Legs has a great selection of everything from jeans and pants to activewear and sleepwear. They have styles up to a 39” inseam and offer up to size 24 making this a great resource for plus size tall women.

Have you found plus size tall clothing at any other retailers? Do share in the comments!

Outlet Mall Shopping

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

Ask Allie: Week at the Shore with his Parents

Dear Allie, my boyfriend invited me to spend a week at the shore with his family at their beach house. I’ve met them before, but I’m nervous with what to wear when on the beach and at the pool. I’m comfortable in a bikini, but I don’t want to look inappropriate, is it okay to wear a bikini in front of his parents? What about a coverup? I’m at a loss, I want to look good for my boyfriend but I don’t want to look as though I’m flaunting my body or trying to be sexy for his relatives.

First and foremost, unless their religion or culture encourages women to wear more modest of swimwear (in that case I would wear it out of respect), you can definitely wear a bikini. However, there’s a lot of styles of bikinis, and I would steer clear from the really small ones and absolutely no thongs or racy cut-outs. But a two-piece that covers and flatters is appropriate.

I created this capsule to show that one can be on trend and wear a bikini and still look polished and sophisticated. While I picked a bikini, I chose one that has optional straps in case a day of sunbathing becomes one involving boogie boards or jet skis. I always believe in taking two suits on a vacation so one can dry while you wear the other; having the second one in a more substantial style means you can race his cousins across the pool or feel more comfortable if it’s a day on the beach with his mom and grandmother. Again, a style with a strap (this one is also optional) ensures you’re prepared if the day includes activities.

Having the accessories cohesive and subtle is elegant, achievable on any budget, and is more versatile if you end up with the country club set or with neighborhood folks around a beach bonfire. A straw bag will filter out sand but can double as a purse if you leave the beach to go shopping or have lunch at a nearby café.

I also recommend a variety of cover-ups for any vacation, in case there’s a chill in the air, you need to head into town, or go from beach to beachside restaurant. The navy wrap can be tied at the waist to be a skirt, wrapped and tied behind the neck for a halter short dress, or tied under the arms for a short strapless cover. It can also be a shawl or even a beach blanket in a pinch. The coral coverup can double as a dress, or be worn with cutoff denim shorts; the color isn’t too extreme but adds a pop to your beach ensemble.

Of course, don’t forget sunscreen – nothing ruins a trip faster than sunburn. A spray formula is easy for reapplication and there’s no awkward moments when you need your boyfriend’s relative to rub lotion on your back.

Take all this advice, but still wear what feels true and comfortable to you. If you’re donning a costume for this trip, it will only add to your anxiety. Be you, but be conscience of what the family is like, their religion and cultural traditions. It’s so nice that they have invited you, respecting their comfort level shows that you care about them, as well as their son.

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Wardrobe Oxygen and Maternity Fashion

Maternity clothing is surprisingly expensive. Items that would cost only $30 at your local Big Box retailer will be $45 or more at a maternity store. If they are a reasonable price, you are usually losing out on style and quality. A recent trip to a popular maternity chain store was a major disappointment – clothing I wouldn’t be caught dead in were being snatched up by desperate fellow pregnant sisters.

When you’re pregnant you still need to function in the Real World – you need appropriate career wear, clothing to keep you cool during the hot summer days, dresses that will let you look elegant and the next wedding or company function, swimwear and gym wear so you can stay healthy and active. Retailers know this and know they have you by the teat; they up the price, lower the quality and force you to purchase that which you would normally never touch with a ten-foot pole. It’s the same scheme they have for those who purchase plus-sized garments – want style? Well you will have to pay twice as much. Want basics at a decent price? Well you’re going to have to buy sub-par fabrics, gaudy prints and slipshod fabrication. Let’s not even start with the options if you are petite or tall!

Well if you don’t read my other blog, you may be wondering why I am even writing about maternity clothing. I am pregnant and due at the end of December.

I believe all women have the ability to look and feel beautiful within their budget – and I think that should hold true for pregnant women.
The days are gone where pregnant women are forced to wear polyester muumuus or pastel frilly confections covered with bows. Major retailers are starting maternity lines (hello Gap and Ann Taylor Loft), high-end department stores have extensive maternity lines, and hot designers are starting to see that there is a major market for stylish maternity clothing and are getting on the nine-month bandwagon.

However with all these updates, maternity wear, like plus-size fashion is still severely lacking. Women are judged to all be one height, with the same size of breasts and rear. Fashion is horribly basic and casual, or high-end and not budget-friendly for most parents-to-be who have to save their pennies for diapers, not Diane von Furstenburg.

Throughout this journey of pregnancy, I will be offering you reviews of items I have found are stylish, flattering and that fulfill the needs of a pregnant woman. As with traditional fashion, I hope my reviews will work for more than one shape, size, income or lifestyle of woman. I encourage fellow pregnant sisters to offer their suggestions in the comments (as long as they follow along these same lines). We can all learn from another during any fashion journey – maternity shouldn’t be any different!

To those who are not pregnant – have no fear this is not becoming a maternity or mommy blog. I am only adding this facet to Wardrobe Oxygen because of an obvious need on the Internet. The primary focus of this blog will still be providing style tips that can be used by almost any woman, regardless of age, size, income or lifestyle. I have reviewed a few products lately and plan to write about them, and will have some articles coming about hot topics facing women right now. I apologize in the lack of posts in the past several weeks but I hope this explains it a bit. My hope is to return to posting on at least a weekly, if not more regular basis. I thank those who have stuck through and hope to hear from all of you very soon!

Scrimp or Splurge – What’s Your Number?

scrimp or splurge

Tuesday’s post about white tee shirts got me thinking. I believe we all have a number, that price we won’t cross for certain items for our closet. I often read interviews with style icons and they’ll say how they scrimp for X but splurge for Y, and often I feel the complete opposite about those items. That our numbers are personal based upon our age, our figure, our lifestyle, our budget. They are as unique as our personal styles.

While I wouldn’t have spent over $30 for a tee shirt two years ago (maybe $45 if striped or embellished), I now obviously will drop $80 for a plain white v-neck to stop the hunt and finally be satisfied. I couldn’t imagine spending more than $75 on a pair of jeans (but owned over a dozen pairs), but now don’t even blink at a $100 pricetag; though I now only own a handful of pairs.

On the other hand, some things I won’t pay as much for now that I used to. I can recall putting designer wool and leather coats on layaway because I considered them a worthy investment; now I buy my coats on clearance in the spring and don’t care the label inside as long as I like how it looks on me. Most of my makeup bag contents are from CVS, and I’ve learned some natural budget-friendly products like witch hazel, coconut oil, and jojoba oil do just as well as the high-end skincare lines.

The part missing from the tee shirt conversation was lifestyle and budget. What are the white tee shirts worn for, and how much can you spend on clothing in general? For some people $150 is a drop in the bucket, for others it’s the food budget for a month. For some, a white tee shirt is a piece of fashion as important as an It Bag or designer jeans while others just see it as what they slip on under their sweaters or wear on weekends with shorts.

So I ask you, what are your numbers? What’s the max you’d pay for a pair of jeans? A winter coat? A pair of tall boots? A handbag?  A dress to wear to a wedding or gala event? Where do you scrimp and where do you splurge? I know there’s such a variety of people who read this blog, this conversation would be interesting to highlight your unique lives and personal styles, but also help me know what to share on Wardrobe Oxygen in the future!

Little Bits of Luxury: The Series

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

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

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





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What I Wore: Real Red

Dress: Belle c/o Dobbin Clothing | Bag: “Erin” Satchel c/o Fossil | Tights: Nordstrom | Boots: Ros Hommerson  | Bracelets: had forever, Nordstrom (similar) | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Coat: Via Spiga

Fossil was kind enough to send me this bag and I immediately fell in love with the color. It’s not cherry, it’s not tomato, it’s not ruby or oxblood or any other fancy terms. It’s as clear and true of a red as a crayon. I checked the bag’s label and it’s called Real Red. I like that, no crazy made-up name, just what is exactly is. This bag is pretty phenomenal, and perfect for a commuter like me. Two side zipper pockets to hold things like farecards and lip balm, and inside there is a zipper pocket on one side, and the other side five different pockets to hold anything from a Smartphone or your keys to business cards and a pack of gum. And in this bag I have my wallet, Kindle (did you enter my Kindle giveaway?), makeup bag, myAgenda, sunglasses, gloves, journal, and two reusable containers to hold my lunch. Impressive! The crossbody strap is adjustable to become a shoulderbag, or it can be removed. I know this bag is going to be used quite a lot this season!

I never understand why street style models and bloggers wear their coats on their shoulders like a cape.  How can they move their arms?  Why not just put on the coat?  Then I realized on cold days I do this very thing – I wear the coat like a cape from the house and over my shoulders until Karl gets ready to take pictures.  This way my outfit doesn’t get as rumpled and I’m less likely to mess up my hair.  Karl got this picture of me in the coat at the beginning of the shoot and it showcases the coat I bought last winter on a whim and still adore a year later (and it’s still available at Nordstrom and now on sale!).

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What I Wore: Issa for Banana Republic

I’m not a fan of designer collaborations. I don’t understand clamoring for a cheaper version of a designer piece. I don’t want a glued-together pleather bag or ill-fitting polyester blouse no matter what name is on the label. However, once the Issa Collection came out for Banana Republic I was intrigued. Banana Republic already has good quality and fits me relatively well, and the pieces in the collection were things I would buy no matter the designer. I liked the kimono dresses, and felt this print was one I would wear now and five years from now, in spring and in winter. For those considering this dress, I chose a 14, and yes, they do run short (it’s veering on not work appropriate and I am 5’3″). However it’s made extremely well, a heavy matte jersey that feels good and is a style that I think would work if I gained or lost weight. And you know me, I waited until it was on sale, Banana Republic was having a big sale, and I had reward dollars!

And how great is this bracelet? Wearing gold jewelery? No problem! Silver? No problem! Everything goes with this piece from Ruth Barzel, and I love that it’s rock and roll while still being elegant. I’ve been wearing this bracelet a ton lately (check my Instagram for proof), I like it mixed with other bracelets, but with such a bold dress, I felt it looked best all by itself.

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My Wardrobe Today – Monday

Tee - LOFT
Skirt – Ann Taylor (bought on eBay 5 years ago for $14.99, no clue how old, label style unfamiliar to me)
TightsNordstrom
BootiesCole Haan
Scarf – c/o Nordstrom Rack
BagSabina
Silver cuff

I forgot to set my alarm last night. My body woke me up at 7:15 (glad it wasn’t 8:15) and I had 45 minutes to get myself together and out the door. I had pulled this skirt out of my stash of potential winter things and a month ago it was just too tight, too short, and I thought I would re-eBay it. I pulled it on this morning since it was sitting on the cedar chest at the foot of the bed… and it fit! Only thing wrong is I guess the hem dry rotted and has fallen out while wearing (easy to fix). Very excited to have another leather skirt in my arsenal!

New bag – I had $40 in Nordstrom rewards, saw this bag for $129 and decided to try it.  I have wanted a bigger bag to carry my netbook and such, and wanted a soft black purse (currently have my Banana Republic one which is that textured hard leather like a football). Love the bag, so soft, holds so much, necessary front pocket (with magnet closure) and hey… gotta love such a quality bag for only $89!

Sorry for the delay in posting, work has gotten really hectic. Glad I stocked the office fridge with Lean Cuisines because that’s the only way I get to eat anything. The only time I have left my desk is to hit the printer or the bathroom (and refill my water bottle!). Whew, what a crazy couple of weeks!

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get to know chickdowntown.com:
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (twitter.com/chickdowntown)
YouTube (chickdowntownTV.com or youtube.com/chickdowntowntv)

Good luck!

Wednesday


Black cashmere tank from Banana Republic, black ponte jacket from Banana Republic Outlet, Chinese red shantung skirt from Banana Republic (definite theme here!), leopard peeptoe heels from BCBGirls, gold necklace from Express, gold bangles from Ralph Lauren.

Hair was washed and conditioned, dried with my Croc wet-to-dry iron. No products.’

Makeup is L’Oreal True Match concealer in W1-3, Benefit’s That Gal, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Nars blush in Orgasm, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis – ivory over whole lid. Lashes curled, two coats Cover Girl Lash Blast and one of Imju Fiberwig. Maybelline Ultraliner in black on top lash line and on lips is some Revlon Shiny Sheers in a sheer red that I left at home by accident so do not have to read the label.

I am not really sure what is going on with the layout of my posts; I have not done anything different so it must be that Blogger is being stupid again.

This outfit is inspired by Catie’s contest at Cuffington. This outfit makes me fabulous inside… though notsomuch when I walk past my reflection in a window. I adore this skirt, it is so much fun and the color is awesome. The cashmere tank is really thick and I have had it for years and got it for like $10 on the clearance rack. Jacket has given me many miles and I love its versatility and the shoes… oh I love these shoes so much I have two pairs of them! All that is missing is my silver cuff, this great green ring I bought at a Ren Fest and my wedding tiara and I would be wearing almost all my favorite things! :) Too bad this skirt isn’t the most flattering (the one my husband says makes me look like Mimi from Drew Carey) or I would wear it every week! :)

Thursday

Black stretch v-neck from Banana Republic, white twill cuffed cropped pants from Casual Corner, black leather thong heeled sandals from Mossimo, multiple skinny silver bangles from Ann Taylor Loft, black leather and silver necklace from Chico’s.

Hair is weird. In the shower I was considering loose messy waves and the front feathered out. Yeah, I watched Jessica Simpson’s stupid new video and was slightly inspired. So I added Frizz-Ease Dream Curls Spray, blew hair straight letting it do as it pleased, twisting some pieces. It ended up looking damaged and gross. I continued blowing, using a paddle brush, that made some difference. I then blew the front with a round boar bristle brush and then applied bioSilk so it didn’t look as much like straw…. not my best hair day.

Makeup is L’Oreal True match foundation in C3, MAC Studio Stick concealer, Physician’s Formula Magical Mosaics bronzer for color and powder, a bit of Nars Orgasm blush. Eyes is the ivory shadow from Revlon’s ColorStay Neutral shadow quad, then The Body Shop’s 08 (Granite) in the lids and along the lash line. lashes curled via Shu Eumura and two coats of L’Oreal Voluminous mascara in black applied. On lips is Sally Hansen’s diamond lipgloss in a hot pink (the label with the name fell off).

Friday Favorite: The Body Shop Satsuma Shower Gel

body shop satsuma shower gel

From fall 2001 to the beginning of 20014, I was a trainer for The Body Shop stores. After many years in apparel and merchandising I desired a change. I was making a concerted effort to get out of debt, and it would be easier without temptation around me and the need to be dressed in the latest and greatest (hello all-black dress code!). And it worked, I not only got out of debt, but I learned a lot about skincare and ingredients, how to be profitable and philanthropic at the same time, and finally how to properly apply eye shadow!

When I worked for The Body Shop back in the early oughts, we would burn fragrance oils in an aroma jar at the front entrance. I learned quickly that a blend of Satsuma and Exotic oils would bring in customers from all over the mall, and it would be easy to sell them a jar, bag of candles, those two oils and much more. After two and a half years with the company I couldn’t stand the smell of Exotic but I never tired of Satsuma. After leaving the company I’d still buy the shower gel and glycerin soap bars. It’s a sweet orange scent that doesn’t get weird, isn’t too fruity or pungent, and is a nice pick-me-up in the morning. But with time I forgot about Satsuma and moved on to new brands and different scents.

When my arm broke, I realized simple things like squeezing shower gel onto a pouf or washcloth were nearly impossible. I went on a hunt for spray and pump products that could be used with one hand and came back to The Body Shop. I ordered a bottle of Satsuma shower gel… and I don’t think I’ll go back to any other bath products!

Not only do I love the clementine scent, I love how it doesn’t dry my skin. It doesn’t scent my skin, so no competing with perfume or lotions but it does scent the main floor after a hot bath or shower. Even Karl uses it! A little goes a long way; I bought a 25 oz. bottle in February and just hit the bottom of the label and that includes all the times I indulged in very bubbly baths. While it’s a perfect summer scent, I know I’ll love it in the colder months too. A little bit of sunshine with every shower or bath!

Beating the Heat and Still Looking Chic

It’s hard to look your best when the elements are battling against you. Summer is here, whether or not the calendar admits it. Tomorrow in the Nation’s Capital it is supposed to be more than 90 degrees out, and the humidity just adds to the hot mess.

Hot or cold, arid or humid, we can look our best. Here’s a few tidbits to beat the heat and still be calm, cool and collected:

Change your hair, not your life

Nothing is more awful than lots of hair products on a hot sweaty day. The loveliest of coifs become a gummy mess with just a bit of sunshine, and the feeling is heavy and yucky on your scalp and neck. It’s really hard to fight nature, especially this time of year so consider altering your look for the summer months.

My hair is neither curly nor wavy – it requires hot tools to get it one way or another. In the winter, I can have a great straight shaggy cut or a head of ringlets with no problem. When it’s hot out, it’s near impossible to maintain either look. The warmer months encourage everyone to be more relaxed, let your hair relax as well. If your hair naturally wants to part in the middle, let your layers grow and let it part where it desires. Intricate bangs can look awful once damp with sweat, so consider growing them out a bit so they can either tuck behind one ear or get off the brow with a little barrette or a headband. As for the products, try to use as little as possible – people expect flyaways and frizz in the heat – make them work for you by creating a more “beachy” ‘do. My shoulder-length hair is not as hip or polished as I usually like, but I am accepting nature and letting my hair part where it desires, having casual waves accentuated by a bit of styling lotion, and letting the bangs grow so they are shaggy and easily blended with the rest of the head if they get too crazy.

Consider accessories if your hair is beyond control. This season headbands are huge – you can find tons of styles in a multitude of materials; there’s going to be one that fits your personal style and hair. Ponytails can look polished if done correctly; use a comb to ensure the scalp is smooth, and choose simple hair-colored elastics (or wrap the elastic with a bit of your hair) to make it less childish. Barrettes can be kiddie, or they can be chic. As with elastics, consider subtle types to hold back bangs, assist in perfecting the ponytail and adding interest to weather-limp locks.

Modify your makeup routine

Primer, concealer, foundation, powder, blush, highlighter, shadow, mascara, liner, lipstick, gloss… just writing them all down make me weary. Once you hit the blast of heat outside your home, your face will be tired too. Sweat makes most makeup slip and slide and the feeling of makeup on your skin is just as awful come summer as the feeling of styling products on your scalp.

To have great coverage and long-wearing color, consider mineral-based foundations. Bare Escentuals is a well-known line that is practically budge-proof even in the most humid conditions, and still looks and feels natural. There are a multitude of colors to match most skintones, and often the coverage of the foundation is enough that a separate concealer or primer is unnecessary. A great mineral foundation should be able to replace three products in your regular arsenal.

For those who have fresh skin, consider switching to tinted moisturizer or just spot-treatment with concealer to let your skin breathe. This gives a naturally dewy finish that is summer-appropriate.

Dress up in dresses
Nothing is simpler in the summer than to throw on a dress. We are lucky this season because there seems to be a million styles that are popular and flattering to women’s bodies.

The tee-shirt dress has returned and I couldn’t be happier. With heeled sandals and a necklace, it is Business Casual; paired with flip flops it looks right at a cookout or the beach. I have seen great versions at Nordstrom, Lands End and Banana Republic. Since these garments cover your whole body, I recommend babying them more than your favorite tee shirt so they maintain their shape – gentle cycle and line drying should do the trick and consider Woolite Dark or a similar product to keep your black knits dark all summer long.

The wrap dress is still going strong. For summer I have seen them with spaghetti straps, sleeveless, puff sleeves and all sorts of lengths down the arm. Matte jersey is a year-round choice because it dresses up and down, doesn’t wrinkle and doesn’t cling like knits when it’s muggy. Jersey is comfy, and crisp cotton or linen are always classic.

The shift is back en vogue, and it’s a cute style on many figures. An interesting neckline is a must if you are top-heavy so it doesn’t look like a potato sack, and go a bit shorter than usual so the volume doesn’t take over your shape. Stiffer fabrics like linen, canvas, cotton and silk blends will be more breezy in the heat and are more in line with the current fashion.

Less isn’t always more
With the temperature rising, it is tempting to strip down to the bare minimum to beat the heat. I encourage you not to. In regard to practicality, less fabric is not always cooler. Lightweight fabrics like linen and cotton can add a protective barrier and help keep the skin cool when the rays are on you (think of the clothing worn by those in the Middle east and parts of Africa – they (men and women) are usually wearing garments covering the majority of their body. In regard to looks, no matter how beautiful your body may be, it won’t look chic if it’s scantily clad.

Spaghetti straps are only appropriate for the beach, the cookout or a formal affair. In silk, it’s lovely for a wedding. In jersey, it’s great with a cargo skirt for a party on the back deck. It is never good for work or any other similar setting. A sleeveless shell will keep you just as cool without exposing your entire top-half.

This also goes for strapless, belly-baring tops, short shorts, overly tight pieces, anything that shows more than an eek of cleavage and anything that shows a bra. It doesn’t matter if Carrie Underwood is sporting red straps in her music video, baring your undergarments is NEVER chic. If you don’t own a bra in your wardrobe that will hide under a top, either buy the right bra or don’t buy the top. Panty lines, too-tight garments and visible undergarments are the three things that can take the most stylish and couture item and make it trashy.

Want to feel easy and breezy? Consider flowing pieces. A gauzy kimono-inspired top with capris, a linen shell with matching trousers, a cotton shift in a cheerful color, a sleeveless cotton shirt with crisp twill Bermuda shorts. All of these options can be just as comfortable as a spaghetti-strap tank with a shelf bra and a pair of denim cutoffs.

Accessorize

It’s too hot for a cardigan, a blazer or even a belt, how do you jazz up these simple dresses, linen separates and other summer basics?

With the pants and skirts being shorter, your feet are even more on display. Show your personality with your footwear. A brightly colored sandal will match your wardrobe more than you think – nothing like apple green, canary yellow or classic red to jazz up a black dress, basic khaki shorts or white capris. These bright colors also look great with other colors – pink heels with a green sundress, royal blue flats with a teal babydoll top and jeans, red sandals with a black top and white cotton skirt.

As for the top half, nothing jazzes up simple pieces more than necklaces. Summer is a time to try out the bold beads you shy from the other times of the year. A simple ribbed tank and Bermuda shorts look fun and festive with a red beaded long necklace. Dress up a linen shift with a chunky pendant and coordinating bangle bracelet. Try the wood and plastic baubles – they may seem cheap and cheesy in the cooler months, but seem fun and sunny come this time of year.

Accept your body

So you have knock-knees, heavy arms, no bust, big thighs. That doesn’t mean you have to live in black muumuus all season long. Covering your arms won’t make them disappear, and voluminous long dresses won’t make your thighs disappear and no matter what the books tell you, dressing in all black can often make you look just as large, just in black instead of another hue. By overcompensating for your body with your wardrobe, you spend the summer feeling bad about yourself and looking the way you feel. This doesn’t mean it’s okay to run around town in spandex (see above), but you deserve to feel comfortable and look stylish, no matter what body you live in.

Monochromatic outfits are always chic – a great way to look polished in the summer is to get your tops to match your bottoms. Many stores will sell same-color coordinates in the warmer months because it’s such a great look. A navy tank with a navy linen short-sleeved shirt jacket and pants is breezy and still office-appropriate. Dark red silk-knit shell with the same shade of Bermuda shorts is chic. An olive cotton sleeveless shirt with same shade of cuffed capris can be smashing. Khaki is classic when a feminine-cut of tee is matched with the same shade in a cotton skirt. By making the outfit monochromatic, you can often get away with simpler of pieces, and the eye sees the color, not your waistline or your legs.

Also don’t shy away from white. White can be a very powerful color in the summer. White tops are hard to wear for many skintones, and if a bit too small or sheer, it can make the most expensive top suddenly seem bargain-basement. However a white tank under a jacket or cardigan can add a crispness, and white bottoms (capris, pants, Bermuda shorts and some styles of skirts) take black and brights to a whole new level of chic. Many women feel that white pants will accentuate the negative parts of a lower-half, but if the fabric is sturdy, crisp and the garment’s cut is flattering, white can be surprisingly attractive. Keep the white crisp – twill, cotton, denim are all sturdy enough to prevent show-through and won’t bag and bunch throughout the day. If the style permits, consider ironing a crease down the front of the legs to elongate the body and add a level of sophistication to the look.

If you love your face, play it up with fun hair, a bright pink lipgloss, a great necklace. If your legs are your best feature, take advantage of summer fashion and wear all the skirts, capris and Bermuda shorts your heart desires and jazz them up with fun shoes. You have womanly curves? Don’t fight against them with crisp poplin shorts and shorts. Embrace them with soft knits that float around your frame.

As for swimwear… wear it! I remember one summer a bunch of us girls went to the beach and a friend brought her cousin. This woman was no rail-thin supermodel, but she had a natural and feminine shape. While we all laid out on the beach and frolicked in the surf she sat it out in shorts and a tee shirt, claiming her body was too ugly for swimwear. Do not be imprisoned by your body. Do you stare at people on the beach? You probably give them a glance and then keep going about your business. I know myself that I notice color more than shape. If you hate putting on a swimsuit, then at least make it in your favorite color. A glorious blue or red is perfect for the pool or beach, and you won’t look like the unhappy imperfect woman who hates her body, but a fun-loving lady who is enjoying her day. Either way you look at it, you have the same body. Let your body have fun, people will notice your smile much faster than they will your hips.

Do your homework
Obviously you have internet-access if you are reading this. After reading this get on Google (or the wonderful Good Search) and check out shops online. If you are plus-sized, you are not limited to Wal-Mart and Lane Bryant. There are amazing stores and online boutiques that carry tons of great styles and one that will look perfect on you. If you are very petite, do not walk past the Girls and Boys sections. You will be amazed at what simple pieces you can find there that will fit your frame and cost half the price in the women’s department.

Low on cash? That doesn’t mean you can’t afford quality. Quality can be found at Target, and reasonable prices can be found at the ritziest of boutiques. Look at the stitching, try on a garment before you buy it (or do a fashion show in your home in front of your full length mirror), stay away from the extra embellishments, accessories and prints they seem to feel are musts on plus-sized and many lower brands of clothing. Extra frou-frou makes an item look cheap and dated. Take your time, get reviews from your friends who always seem well dressed and don’t be afraid to return things that seem wrong once home.

Look around you, people watch. Nothing is better than sitting in a mall or at an outdoor café on a busy thoroughfare and watch what people wear and how it looks on them. You learn a lot about yourself and pre-conceived notions about fashion. Think shorts are great? Really look at people in shorts – walking and sitting and standing. Look at people bigger and smaller than you and you will see that shorts (except well-made Bermudas) rarely look good on people. Notice that a woman with your similar build looks cute in a wrap dress, and a woman with your similar build looks awful in a sleeveless poplin shirt tucked into capris. If someone has a to-die for outfit or item, tell her. It will make her day and provide you with information to make your next purchase. Yesterday I was stopped three times about my dress, and every person was thrilled to find out it was less than $30 and from Old Navy. Don’t be afraid to pass out compliments, it may help you hit fashion jackpot!

Dresses by IGIGI and Banana Republic, swimwear by Swimsuits for All, black and white outfit from Talbots.