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Age, Size, and a Limited Wardrobe

The other day I was driving to work and thinking about Project 333. I was wearing my awesome fun printed maxi skirt, and sad that I couldn’t logically include it in a hypothetical 33 garments for three months because it’s not very versatile.

If I were thin and young, it could be versatile.

If I were 22 and a size 6, I could hike that maxi skirt up over my breasts, cinch it with a belt and wear it to a party. I could tie a chambray or white shirt over it for a summery look to wear to brunch with my girl friends. Heck, I could even pair it in that manner with a blazer or cardigan and sport it at the office.

But I am 38, and I am a very soft and curvy size 12, and I can’t carry those looks off and be seen as professional or polished, two things that matter to me in my lifestyle.

Lately, I have shared many capsule wardrobes on the blog. I do find thinking in a capsule mindset helps one to buy with thought and intention, to purchase quality instead of quantity, and have a hard working wardrobe that fits and flatters one’s body and lifestyle. But capsules aren’t always realistic for all women.

I am trying to pare down my wardrobe, buy what I need, quality that will last, styles that will survive more than a season or two, brands with ethics. But sometimes, you just need a crazy printed maxi skirt in your life. To me, the maxi skirt is the equivalent of nail art, vanity plates on a car, more than one pair of glasses. It’s flair (yes I had to link to that clip). It’s what makes me me, it’s what makes me happy.

For some people, joy comes from gardening. For others, they get such a rush from driving down an open road on a motorcycle. My husband gets great pleasure from cooking, especially grilling. And me? I like fashion. I like color and texture and shape. I like the creative and artistic aspect of fashion. I don’t have time to paint and do stained glass, my creative outlets are this blog… and my closet.

This doesn’t mean I will shop willy-nilly buying every cheerfully colored frock that fits this body, but it means that there’s nothing wrong with adjusting to accommodate not just my body, but my soul. I believe in shopping with intention, I don’t believe in going in debt for a wardrobe. I believe in purchasing quality over quantity, but I don’t believe in sacrificing your happiness to do so. I believe in honing one’s personal style to gain confidence, and I believe each person has a different path to get there.


My path is decorated with brightly patterned maxi skirts.

This will not be the last post on Project 333.  As you can tell, it’s giving me so much food for thought and it’s really forcing me to analyze my shopping habits.  Stay tuned…

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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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Unlock the Perfect Cup this Holiday with TASSIMO™: Review and Giveaway

Looking at how often I write and tweet about coffee, you’d think I was a coffee connoisseur. Notsomuch. When I hit my local coffee shop I ask for it plain and big because all the –inos overwhelm me. At home, Karl is the master of the coffee domain. I have no idea how to use the French press so I rely on him to fuel my caffeine fix. Lately I have been working more early mornings and I have to stop by the local coffee shop or fast food drive-through to get my cup of Joe because I just can’t figure out how to make a decent cup of coffee. You know what would be a perfect holiday gift for me? A super simple single-serve coffee maker that would make a great cup of coffee every time.

Enter TASSIMO™, who was awesome enough to send me the TASSIMO™ T55 Single Cup Brewing System JUST at the perfect time. I was working a lot of long days and hated spending so much on take-out coffee or watching Karl make me a cup still bleary-eyed in dawn’s early light. No needing to wait until the holidays to become a coffee-making expert!

Place the T DISC upside down so that the INTELLIBREW™ technology can read the barcode. Snap the lid shut, press Start and in minutes you’ll be enjoying a perfect cup!

The TASSIMO™ Brewer is super easy to use too. Add water to the reservoir in back, insert your TASSIMO™ T DISC in the top, and press start. The built-in technology INTELLIBREW™ scans the barcode on each T DISC to identify precise brewing instructions with the exact temperature, water, and time duration, so each and every drink is perfect every time. This Home Brewing System isn’t just for a cup of joe–the TASSIMO™ can also make cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolate, tea, and more. One of my favorite features is how quickly it heats water; for little energy you can have a piping-hot cup of water for soup or tea in seconds.

TASSIMO™ sent me a few T DISCS to get started, and it’s fun to make hot chocolate, cappuccinos, caramel latte macchiatos, or espressos by myself and know it will be delicious. With well-known brands like Twinings, Gevalia, and Maxwell House partnering with TASSIMO™ for their T DISCS you know the quality and the flavor is great. I love that there are great limited edition flavors like Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Peppermint Mocha for the holidays!

Now I’m a pro at making fancy coffee house drinks from my kitchen counter!

If you’d like to unlock a perfect cup with TASSIMO™ this holiday season, they are offering some great deals on their site. With Cyber Monday code TACYMON3 you can get 20% off T DISCS; you also get 20% off Brewers and with each Brewer purchase, you will receive two free packages of T DISCS (valid in the US only on TassimoDirect.com. Cannot be combined with other offers . Limit one coupon redemption per customer. 20% T DISC discount limited to 6 T DISC packages. 20% Brewer discount limited to two Brewers. Offer only valid on 12/2/2013 until 11:59PM PST).

If you miss the Cyber Monday Deal, brewers and T DISCS are also available at Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon.

Giveaway
Thank you for entering, the giveaway is now closed and winners have been notified.

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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!

How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips to Stay on Budget:

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

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



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

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Designer Fashion for Less!

I love discount stores. Nothing is better than scanning racks of junk to come across a designer piece in your size at a fabulous price. Some of my favorite wardrobe pieces have come from places such as TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, and I love them even more because I paid an insanely lovely price for them. When I hit my favorite stores in the mall, I usually hit the back of the store first because that is where most retailers hide their sale racks. I once got a cashmere sweater from Banana Republic for under $10… that’s a story I will probably end up telling my grandkids.

The thing is, just because it’s a great price and a great brand doesn’t mean it’s a great purchase. We get so caught up in the thrill of the hunt, often what we drag back to camp isn’t worth our time, effort or hard-earned cash.

1. Quality.
I was speaking to a friend this weekend, she loves The Limited because they make a style of jeans that fits her perfectly the “Cassidy”), as though they are custom-made. One day she walked into her local Limited and there in the sale department were three rolling racks FULL of Cassidy jeans, and at almost 50% off the regular prices. She was so ecstatic, she considered just grabbing a pair in each wash in her size and race to the register, but something made her try them on. She got in the fitting room, went to try on her beloved jeans and THEY DIDN’T FIT! The legs were so narrow, she could hardly pull them up, and the waist gapped in the back. Where was her custom fit? She tried on a different color and found the same issue. Asked a salesperson, she admitted that The Limited considered changing the cut of the Cassidy jeans but they didn’t sell well, so they are now on the sale racks. My friend left empty-handed.

Point is, often that which is on the sale rack is not as high quality as what is in the rest of the store. Maybe it was returned and has a run in the knit, maybe the zipper is defective, maybe it’s an irregular cut. Don’t buy just because you love the label and the price tag, sale items need to be looked over with a fine-toothed comb. Sit in the pants, raise your arms in the sweater, examine the seams. Sometimes you have hit the jackpot, sometimes you don’t find Jack. No matter how sweet the price, save your money for items that DESERVE it.

2. Style. It’s a designer name, your favorite celebs sport this label on a daily basis and you are finding a dress at a price you can afford at your local C-Mart. You can’t believe your luck! But wait… just because it’s a popular designer means it’s stylish. Remember clear vinyl totes? Team Aniston tees? High-heeled hiking boots? All trends that have happened in the last couple of years, but trends that should not be worn by ANYONE now. You will NOT look hip, stylish, rich, sophisticated, famous or sexy in any way of you are wearing something based upon the brand name and not how it looks on you (or how it looks in society). Often items are at discount places because they have been accumulating dust on the sale racks of the finer boutiques for a year or two. Just because it’s designer does not mean it’s fashionable. A good rule of thumb is if you found it at Target, would you buy it? If it’s ugly for Target, it’s ugly for Dolce and Gabanna.

3. Fit. So it’s a size small, you’ll diet. Right? WRONG. If you didn’t lose those last five pounds to be Maid of Honor at your best friend’s wedding, you surely won’t for that Chloe dress. A steal is still a rip-off if it sits in your closet for all of its days. And even though it’s a $700 dress on sale for $250 and a 30% coupon on top of it, doesn’t mean it’s going to look good bunching up at the waist and encasing your arms like sausages. You will not look chic, you will look like a girl in a too-small dress. Again with quality, check to see if the item is cut correctly for fit: are the sleeves the same length? Does it nip at the waist or at the hip? I have often found precious items on sale racks to find that the lining of the dress or jacket does not fit the same as the garment, having the lining suffocate my arm or bunch around my hips. Never leave without trying something on; brand clothing is mass-made by machines. Machines cut large stacks of fabric into patterns, machines will sew seams, machines cannot see when the fabric has slipped an eighth of an inch on the conveyor belt and is altering the entire cut, fit and hang of the future garment.

4. Need. It’s gorgeous, it fits like a glove and the price makes you faint. But really, do you need a plum taffeta ball gown with a six-foot train? If you do not plan on being invited to the Oscars in the next few months, do not purchase the dress. This goes for ANOTHER black v-neck sweater, the cocktail dress that would possibly be perfect if you are invited to a New Year’s Black Tie affair (though you have not ever attended one yet), the bikini that would be perfect if you just had the halter tailored, the power suit when you have been a yoga instructor for a decade, the stiletto heels when you are a flats person, and the amazing dress that would require a special bra and control garment to be allowed to leave the house without being arrested. If you don’t need it, if you can’t see it with three other items in your wardrobe and at least two events in life, don’t even take it to the fitting room. Your life won’t change to fit the contents of your closet.

5. Too Good to Be True. If you visit my other blog, you will see that I love Ann Taylor. Their clothes fit me beautifully, and the style works with my career and my social life. A friend emailed me about their current promotion – Buy One Sweater, get the Second 50% Off. Yay! I had also received this via email from my beloved Ann Taylor along with a coupon for free shipping. I race to the website and scan the sweaters.

There is nothing on that site that would work for my wardrobe now. I either don’t like it, or don’t need it. I know that certain styles do not go with my body shape, and certain colors either do not go with my skintone or do not go with my sense of style. I leave the website not adding a thing to my virtual shopping bag.

This is not to say that this sale is full of junky sweaters, it’s just that the sale offered nothing for me personally. Just because a sweater is on sale, does not mean I will buy something I do not absolutely love. This goes for eBay purchases as well; often we get sucked in by the great price, the great brand but KNOW it’s not what we really want or need or even like. Don’t buy three pairs of jeans just because of you buy three they will each be 15% off. This only makes sense if you REALLY NEED three pairs of jeans today. Just because a store has a sign in the window that says 40% off The Entire Store does not mean you have to enter – if you have gone in before and found the clothes not your style or size, why are the items going to be better for you now that they are on sale?

You are at the grocery and there is day-old meat. Sometimes there is a perfect steak there, the only thing wrong is it has yesterday’s date. It’s beautifully marbeled, fresh and juicy. Next to it is another steak; it’s brown on the edges, thin and smells a bit strange. Do you buy both just because they are an amazing price and you need to make dinner tonight? No, you buy only the GOOD steak. I mean, it is a great price, it will be eaten, you know it’s still fresh. It’s a good buy. The next time you are drawn to the sale rack, think about the day-old steaks. Then think about those sweaters. Are they fresh enough for consumption?

The Mall and the SAHM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giveaway: The HSN Gift Store [Sponsored]

The holidays are a magical time, but they can feel pretty stressful when it comes to gift shopping. Fighting for a parking space at the mall, long lines, and trying to find the right gift for your Secret Santa can take the joy right out of gift giving. Consider HSN for your holiday gift shopping. HSN? Yes HSN! The HSN Gift Store makes it easy to shop for everyone on your list, breaking it down by who the gift is for, the price point, and whether it is eligible for FlexPay (a free and easy way to divide your purchase into monthly interest free payments, click here to learn more).
HSN Gift Store My favorite category in the HSN Gift Shop is “Under $25″–I always have Secret Santa gifts I need to buy that are at this pricepoint, and I have the hardest time finding good gifts. I was impressed by the interesting, useful, and stylish gifts for everyone that were under $25. My favorites:
Gifts under $25 for Her

Gifts under $25 for Newlyweds, Cooks, and Homeowners

Gifts under $25 for Him

Gifts under $25 for Kids

HSN Cares HeART Designer Ornament Collection

An ornament is a great gift for the person who has everything. Once again, HSN partnered with St. Jude and created an ornament collection where 100% of the profits are donated. The bear ornaments are adorable and are the perfect way to give and give back!

HSN Giveaway

To help you with your holiday shopping this year, one Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $100 gift card to HSN. To be entered for a chance to win a $100 HSN gift card, check out the gifts at the HSN Gift Store, then come back and leave a comment letting me know which item you’d love to give or receive this year!

Sweepstakes Rules: No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods: Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry. This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here. This sweepstakes runs from 11/25/14 – 12/26/14.

Be sure to visit the HSN brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

My Head is Too Big to be Hipster: A Warby Parker Review

Once I got new glasses, I wanted more. A pair of red frames to channel my inner Sally Jesse Raphael, a funky blue or green pair to jazz up all-black ensembles, a funky shape to show personality at the office. I had heard a lot of great things about Warby Parker and decided to try a pair of frames from them.

Me in my new glasses – Lafont’s Issy & La collection, the frame is called “Gloss”

Warby Parker Eyewear’s mission is to offer reasonably-priced fashionable frames. On top of that, for every pair of Warby Parkers sold, a new pair is given to someone in need. Warby Parker is also proud to be a carbon-neutral company.

Warby Parker has a try-on program where you can pick five frames and try them on at home. They will ship the glasses to you for free and offer free return postage; I decided to take advantage of this program and see if I could find a new pair of signature prescription frames.

The Warby Parker site is very easy to navigate; click on your gender and then whether you desire optical or sunglass frames. From there you can choose material, color, frame shape, and width. From experience, I know my face is pretty wide, so I stuck to the medium and wide styles of frames. Since I already have a pair of tortoiseshell frames, I stuck to more unusual colors.

The glasses arrived quickly in a sturdy shipping box, and then a lovely navy linen box. Each pair of glasses was in its own compartment, wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name. Each pair of Warby Parker frames has the brand and style name inside on the temple. I found the quality to be stellar, especially for the price. These frames rival the more expensive designer styles I tried at my nearby glasses shop. The return process is simple – peel off the self-adhesive UPS label and drop it in a nearby UPS drop box. I couldn’t be more impressed with Warby Parker and their process… except that my face is too big for them.

Maybe I should have tried men’s frames, but I felt that almost every pair I tried (except for the Bensen, and they just weren’t a style I was looking for) was just a hair too small for my face. I often have this issue not just with glasses, but sunglasses as well. In fact, when I got my new glasses, they were the only ones I liked after trying on about 20 pairs – each other pair seemed just a bit too small for my face shape, even some of the men’s frames I tried.

So if you have a normal to small-sized noggin, I encourage you to try Warby Parker. The Warby Parker at-home program is completely free so you have nothing to risk; if you find a pair you like you can feel good that not only will you look great, but your purchase will also be doing good. As for me, I will have to look elsewhere, my head is just too big to be hipster.

Note: Warby Parker has no idea I am doing this review and I was not compensated in any way for it.  I just decided to try the brand and share my experience with you!

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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!

Night at the Theatre

My sister and I always buy each other tickets to the theatre for our birthdays. It’s our way of infusing a bit of culture into our lives, and creates great conversation at the bar afterwards.

I knew the play wasn’t at the fanciest of theatres, more of a small and historic theatre. Considering the play’s topic and actress, I knew the crowd would run the gamut from velvet to denim, pumps to Pumas.

Raspberry merino v-neck from Ann Taylor Loft that I bought on Friday for $19.99. Black trousers from Ann Taylor’s Triacetate collection. My black Enzo boots (only shoes I could wear from all the blisters I got the night before from dancing!). Two berry colored beaded necklaces from Express. Black beaded earrings from the Limited.

Hair was straightened, a large-barreled curling iron used to flip up pieces. A touch of pomade helped it stay a bit. Really, it was a terrible hair night because I am waaaay past due for a trim. Have an appointment scheduled!

Makeup is i.d Bare Escentuals foundation and concealer. Mucho Nars Orgasm on the apples of the cheeks. Shadow is a shimmery white color from Clinique on the brow bone, in the corners of the eyes, aound the lash line. I took my crease shadow brush and swiped it in the crease. The tough of shadow left on the brush gave the amount of color I was looking for. Two coats of mascara, a think line of black liquid liner. On the lips is Maybelline’s Forever Metallics pencil in Berry Glossy. These lip pencils are chunky and creamy – not the best for lip lining, but great for a matte color. At the theatre I had a drink, watched the whole show, went to the restroom and my lips still had a lovely berry color.

Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?

Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?

I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?

Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Holiday Gift Guide for the Music Fan

Some people are easy to shop for at the holidays, and some… notsomuch. I had a couple of you contact me asking for gift suggestions so I’ve decided to do some mini gift guides for different types of hard-to-please folk, all items under $100 with free shipping. Today it’s for the music lover in your life.

gift guide music lover fan

1. No matter the recipient’s genre of preference, she likely has respect for the originators. Swissted is a book that takes rock posters from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s and recreates them through a Swiss modernist edge, creating a collection of farmable prints (or keep intact as an awesome coffee table book) that’s sure to impress. From the Sex Pistols to Sonic Youth, Green Day to Guided by Voices; there’s band art in here that’s sure to please. $30.40

2. I have a portable turntable and I can’t recommend it enough. This briefcase style lightweight turntable from Crosley comes in five fun colors, a cool retro style, and would be appreciated by teens and adults alike. $80.00

3. What do you get the music lover who has everything? The unexpected something that shows you know and respect his passion. These polyresin headphone-shaped bookends would look pretty sweet supporting his music books, or even a stack of vinyl. $70.00

4. Nothing better than a high quality Bluetooth speaker to play your music wherever and whenever. I have headphones from SOL Republic and find them high quality; this little speaker from the brand packs a punch and fits in the palm of your hand. Available in seven bold colors, water and shock resistant, and with an 8-hour battery life, this is a perfect gift for most anyone on your list. $69.99

5. I adore this little iPhone megaphone, it’s the perfect stocking stuffer. Great for the business traveler, this silicone amplifier increases your phone’s audio by 13 dB without the need for cords or batteries and it gets great reviews. $5.28

6. A music fan won’t want to sacrifice her fancy headphones for fashion or function. She won’t have to with these EarMuffies, which slip over her favorite headphones. $15.00

Being Cool

My family and friends I have had since childhood call me Allie, but I have introduced myself as Alison since high school when I decided to become cool.

Looking back, I was a pretty cool kid. I won art contests and made up lyrics to songs with my friends. In middle school I was very creative with fashion, wearing sweaters as skirts and using my bedroom curtain as a cummerbund. I would draw on my jeans and denim jacket, and had classmates who commissioned me to do similar on their clothes. However, I never felt cool. I always felt as though I was on the fringe – I wasn’t rich enough, thin enough, blonde enough, good enough.

I had three high schools to choose from – the neighborhood school, the science and tech school where I was accepted, and a magnet school for humanities. I chose the magnet school, not just because I preferred foreign languages and reading to math, but because I felt I could start new. I only knew a handful of people attending the magnet school, while the majority of my classmates went on to the tech or neighborhood schools.

Before 9th grade started, my mom took me on a shopping spree at The Limited so I would have “cool” clothes. I got a “cool” haircut, which in 1989 was a wavy bob with puffy bangs. Though I was of average size, I dieted so I was a “cool” size. On the first day of school I wore my beloved Guess? jeans with an oversized striped rayon shirt and matching oversized vest. My bangs were high, my lips were shiny and pink, I was dressed in a way where I felt I would be perceived as cool.

I was not cool.

Cool isn’t created by what you wear, but by who you are and how you interact with others. In middle school, I was blinded by Forenza sweaters and Benetton rugby shirts, parents in shiny new sedans and birthday parties at houses with great rooms and breakfast nooks. At this small high school that bussed in kids from all over the county, kids who were deemed cool were confident, whether they wore maypops or Reeboks. They weren’t easily intimidated, and never seemed ashamed of who they were, what they wore, where they came from.

I never fully “got” this notion, still thinking that my appearance would determine my lot in life. I went through many style phases over my years in high school, college, and beyond. I was constantly changing my costume hoping to find my niche, hoping to be accepted, hoping to be cool.

I wasn’t able to understand the role of style until I became a personal shopper for other women. I got to know them as people, and saw their shopping habits. I could see them buying items that I knew would collect dust in the back of their closet, refuse to purchase garments for being too “bold” or “crazy,” though they fit their personality and lifestyle better than what they had at the register. I saw women like me, who were trying to make themselves something they were not, hiding behind a designer label or a popular fashion trend. While I did my best to help them find their personal style, mine began to emerge.

I think our society encourages people to find happiness through consumption. A great pair of shoes will make you feel fabulous, these are the five must-have items in a closet to be fashionable, celebs use this face cream – buy it and you too will look younger than the age on your driver’s license. But happiness… and coolness don’t come from what you buy, but what you already possess.

You already possess personal style, you just need to find it. As a recent commenter said on this blog, try trends and “see what sticks.” Write down what you enjoy – colors, foods, artists, TV shows, books. Remember your passions from childhood, think about what you would do with your days if you didn’t have to work or go to school or manage your home. See the running themes in these lists, the connections. This is a map to your personal style. This map will have to be rewritten from time to time; as a street map has to change with the addition of new highways, so will your personal style with the addition of new experiences and outlooks.

I started this blog with a pseudonym; I called myself Dilly after a nursery rhyme my parents used to sing to me as a baby. As I gained confidence with blogging, I decided to use my real name. Though I am still known as Alison in everyday life, I chose Allie for my blog persona. While I chose it because it sounded similar to Dilly, I also chose it because it was my name before I lost my self on that journey to attain coolness. It’s normal to lose your way once in a while, but coolness comes from realizing that and finding your way back.

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Saturday

In the morning, I ran to get my hair cut and colored in the nearby town, and then run a few errands. Olive ribbed tank from J. Crew, white ribbed tank from Old Navy, Joe’s Jeans in “Provacateur,” brown stacked flops from J. Crew, silver hoops from The Icing, silver cuff.

Hair was brushed out but on the second day; blew the bangs straight.

Makeup was Body Shop bronzing powder in Light as face color, Max Factor Lash Perfection mascara on curled lashes, Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow.

Kathleen did her magic – all I told her is that I wanted to go darker and that I wanted heavier bangs. I trust her, and was not disappointed. Choppy layers that can work straight, wavy or curly, fun sideswept bangs, and a very rich multi-tonal color of dark brown that looks closer to what I was born with.

Got home and had to dash to get dressed. Friday night I had a friend over so I didn’t have time to play dress-up and figure out my theater outfit. Thank you soooo much to everyone who wrote in suggestions, you guys are awesome and have good ideas! For the one who suggested my Old Navy dress… I completely forgot about it. I had set to wear my black cashmere tank from Banana Republic and my orange-red shantung full skirt also from Banana (seen here), but when I saw how spiffy and sleek my husband looked (flat front gray tropical wool trousers from J. Crew, white tailored shirt from some brand sold at Mens Wearhouse, black blazer from… J. crew? Not sure…, black slip-on sleek shoes from Ecco) I decided my outfit may look a bit like a costume. I tried a few different skirts, but settled on the black matte jersey dress from Old Navy, my red stone necklace, my leopard peep-toe heels from BCBgirls,silver hoops from The Icing, and silver cuff natch. :-)

Didn’t have to do my hair since it was done by Kathleen my talented stylist. She used the Pureology line on me, and swears by it for protecting color. I bought the shampoo and conditioner and once I can wash my hair (was told to go as long as humanely possible without washing) I will be using it and let you k now how it is.

Same makeup as earlier, just a re-touch of the bronzing powder, a bit of Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint on my cheekbones, a medium line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line, a quick swipe of Maybelline Great Lash waterproof mascara in black over existing mascara, Body Shop Lip and Cheek Tint with Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow over it.

We took the Metro and it was not even a block to the little restaurant (I don’t know if there are even 20 tables in the place). The menu seemed different from the one online and the only entrees that were vegetarian were spaghetti with tomato sauce (yawn) and a risotto with corn and truffle shavings. My husband and I chose the risotto, we shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio (not sure the label, our friend chose the wine) and had a nice, yet not inspiring or overwhelmingly unique meal. We then walked not even three blacks to the Kennedy Center where my friend and I sidestepped grates in our heels (she too wore a black sheath and heels) while the men tromped over everything and got there in time to marvel at the acre-sized curtains in the lobby and get a cocktail in the Terrace Bar prior to the performance.

The performance was great! As I said, I had never seen The Phantom of the Opera other than the movie. Back story – 1992, for Christmas I got my first boom box with a CD player in it, and with it two CDs – Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. For several months until I got my high school arsenal of REM, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I listened solely to these two soundtracks. Come 2007, I am silently singing along to this performance and even a tear came down my cheek at finally seeing live what I had in my head 15 years ago. I think also seeing Shakespeare in Love the night prior made the theater experience that more intense.

Our friends live in Virginia and parked at the theater; it was a gorgeous night and declined their offer to drive us to the Metro and decided to hoof it. All in all a lovely evening!

Tuesday’s Tip – Making the Clearance Rack Your Friend

When I go into a store, the first place I look is the clearance or sale rack. I don’t want to be tempted by full priced items when a good equivalent is available at half the price in the back of the store. Even when planning my wedding I first scored sample sales and discount bridal shops before even looking at a single full-priced gown. It is better to buy quality instead of quantity, but just because it’s on a sale rack does not mean it’s poor quality or lacking style or fashion.


Take Your Time
Clearance racks are a mess. Why waste good salespeople hours in cleaning up the back of the store when the real money making is in the front displays of new product? Because of this, do not limit your search to the section designated with your size. Take the time to flip through all the racks. You may find a size 10 amongst the size 2s or a great size Small blouse hidden amongst size 14 blazers. Grab everything that even remotely appeals to you, and a few things you would not usually consider. The best way to spend money on trendy pieces and unusual finds is to pay for them at a discount – less buyer’s remorse.


Sizes Can Be Deceiving
Sometimes items are on sale racks because they are missized. I have tried on size 6 jackets that are too big for me and size 14s that are skin tight. Don’t just look at the label – pull the item from the rack and see if it may possibly fit. Often the missized items are at a super reduced price because they are being looked over.


Consider a Tailor
I decided to write this post because of my clearance rack prize of yesterday. Sueded cotton trench, hip cut, gorgeous color, originally $179 on sale for $29.99. No obvious flaws but the coat was too large for me – I am petite and it is not. It is an XL and a generous cut, I am not. I bought the awesome bargain after trying it on and seeing that the shoulders were fitting decently, though the sleeves were past my fingers, the waist was too big and the length too long. I took it to my local dry cleaner and for $35 she is shortening the arms and hem and nipping in the waist. So for $65 I got a $179 jacket that is perfect for the upcoming fall.


Sleeves that are too long, hems dragging on the ground, gaping waists and baggy jackets can all be easily fixed by a neighborhood tailor or dry cleaner. They can also replace missing buttons, broken zippers and some torn seams. If the price is right, often the tailoring still keeps the garment at a discounted price. I have bought suiting pants 75% off just because the zipper is broken, a suede blazer at 80% off because the lining had pulled away from the jacket body.


Do not invest in garments that are stained (salespeople usually try to remove the stains with a cleaning fluid, if it’s still stained it probably won’t come out in the wash or at the cleaners), torn (resewing a seam may make the item fit differently), irregular (remember quality is key – no one should be wearing a sweater with two different sleeve lengths) overly large (tailor costs will be insane and the true look of the garment will be lost) or too small (don’t buy for the body you hope to have, buy for the current you. Also tailors can’t make things larger – there’s usually not enough fabric at the seams and if they attempt the fit of the garment will be compromised).


If You Don’t Love It…
Don’t buy it. Would you buy it if it were full price? If the answer is a quick “no” leave the item in the fitting room. Just because an item is cheap does not mean you can scrimp on cut, style or fit. A 50% markdown does not justify a gaping armhole, an unflattering color or even a staple that you really have enough of already. The world sees you and your outfit, not the reduced price. They don’t know if what you bought cost $200 or $20, they just know it doesn’t look good, doesn’t flatter your body or your personality. Every dollar in your wallet is precious, don’t waste it on crap. If you can’t imagine the item with at least two other things in your closet, it’s not worth your time or money.

The Flu

Yep folks, I got the flu.  Luckily I think I have the old-school version, not the N1H1.  So no tummy issues, but I do look like the Before part of a NyQuill commercial.

I started feeling off last Thursday.  Friday I was coughing at work and feeling a bit weak.  Not a great thing as that I was leaving for Charleston, SC the next day to officiate and attend a good friend’s wedding.

I woke at 3am for my 7am flight and by time I got off the plane at Charleston airport, I was sick.  I thought I would be okay – just that post-flight ickiness.  My sister picked me up (she had driven down the night prior) and we went to the hotel.  I changed, freshened up and went to meet the bride and groom to be and other friends for brunch.  I had to leave brunch early because I was feeling so ill.

I spent most of my Charleston weekend cooped up in my hotel room.  I got through the rehearsal, but ended up arriving late and leaving the rehearsal dinner early.  The next day I doped up enough on B6, Oscillococcinum and Motrin to be able to perform the ceremony and attend the reception without wanting to curl up into the fetal position.  I will have to visit Charleston again so I can see more than the interior of the Holiday Inn on Calhoun and the pharmacy aisle of the Harris Teeter!

Anyway, no real pictures of me but I did have some fabulous outfits.

Flight down: Dark Long & Lean jeans from Gap, black ribbed tank, my fuzzy gray cardigan from Kenzie, black city boots, silver jewelry and my ivory pashmina.

Brunch: Navy jersey dress from Soprano, silver flops from Havanias, silver jewlery.  It was a casual place (Poogan’s Porch).  I brought my black belt and black patent T-straps to dress it up but the flip flops were actually more appropriate for the event.
Rehearsal: Same outfit.  I was so sick, I came home from the brunch, took off the flip flops and my earrings and crashed right into the bed.  I woke up, brushed my teeth, washed my face, put on some mascara and Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm in Fig and headed out in my sick funk.  This is me sitting on the front porch of the hotel waiting for my friends to pick me up and take me to the rehearsal.
Rehearsal Dinner: I took a very hot shower and some cold medicine and thought I was feeling better so I wore my black feather print dress from Muse (I took a picture of me in it last week but it’s on my work computer), black patent T-straps from Softt, black patent clutch from Ann Taylor Loft and silver hoops and cuff.  I looked cute, but the good feeling didn’t last.  I was hot and stiff and achy and out of it.  So out of it, I walked up the stairs to the restaurant lobby where the restrooms were and passed some college kids on benches waiting for a table. I heard them say, “damn, she’s trashed!”  I didn’t at the time think they meant me until I returned and carefully maneuvered the stairs and they clapped when I got to the bottom.  It did make me giggle, though it also made me want to go back and cough on them. ;)
No picture of the FANTASTIC dress (I will be rocking the heck out of it this winter!), but here I am with my sister upon arriving at the rehearsal dinner before I felt as though I was going to die…

Breakfast: We had reservations at High Cotton and I knew I had to eat something that day so I took a hot shower and went.  I wore my red print dress from Max Studio with the black patent belt from Ann Taylor and my black patent T-straps.  The place was quite lovely, but I was still feeling poor so we made the meal short and went to Harris Teeter to stock up on drugs and Gatorade for me.  I then spent the rest of the day sleeping so I could be in decent shape for the wedding.

Wedding: I wore my black Calvin Klein maxi dress that I wore for my friend Shelly’s wedding, gold sandals from Lands End, all of my gold bangles, some gold dangly earrings and a black pashmina.  Hair was messy/curly, smoky eyes.  I wore the pashmina for the ceremony, pinned behind me so it worked like a shrug.  I took it off for the reception.

Trip home: I rode home with my sister in her car.  I was not feeling cute nor looking cute.  Wore a dark red nursing tank from Bravado so I could easily pump while on the road, my Gap jeans from the flight down, and my Kenzie cardigan.  The Havanias flip flops rounded out the sick girl look.

So I left Saturday morning, came home Monday night and have been sick ever since.  I have not been to work.  I hope to be well enough to properly work from home tomorrow, but my brain is really fuzzy, I am dizzy, achy, and exhausted from coughing.

The Weekend

Friday night we went to dinner with very good friends of ours. Had a wait for our table, so we went next door to the cigar shop; the boys got some cigars to puff (it was nice enough to be outside) and the wife and I chatted about the upcoming wedding of her sister-in-law (you can’t pull me away from wedding talk!). The place was really lovely – a new joint we hadn’t yet visited. After we hung out at Starbucks until they had to get home and relieve the babysitter. Ah, the wild and crazy life of adults!

Saturday started with yoga as usual, then a few errands. In the afternoon my husband’s cousin came over for a game of Rockband and then we three headed to DC to see Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at the 9:30 Club. There we met up with our good friends and had a great time. I only knew their music vaguely… but after that performance I am a FAN!

Hair was washed and conditioned in a rush and to the sounds of Rockband. Added a touch of Jonathan Silky Dirt while damp, blew it straight with a paddle brush and a round brush for the bangs and ends.

Dressed in a rush as well; black thermal top from Old Navy, burgundy merino shift from Banana Republic, tan “Bern” boots from Duo, silver hoops and cuff.

Makeup was Smashbox Photo Finish primer, Revlon ColorStay under eye concealer in Light Medium, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Cargo Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis – ivory in inner corners, khaki on lid, chocolate in crease and along lash lines. Lashes curled and two coats of CoverGirl Lash Blast in black. On lips is Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Glossy Rose.

Sunday, we did a whole lot of nothing, and it was great! We watched a few episodes from Season 3 Lost that my husband missed, a Netflix movie (Curse of the Golden Flower), took a nap, cleaned a bit, had Chinese for take-out… very relaxing and lovely. No photo outfits because seeing me in a black tank and pink-leopard-print flannel PJ pants ain’t so exciting…

The Weekend

Saturday started as usual – feed and play with the dog, head to yoga, and then had tea at the local cafe with my mom and hubby to talk about our week. Ran a few errands.

My sister and my husband’s friend came over and we hung out until the evening, when we headed to Columbia for our friend’s birthday.

I was sad about the J. Crew dress, then Friday night at Target I found this dress on clearance for about $20; it’s from the Isaac Mizrahi line. Made of a heavy pique knit, it is the same silhouette, but a kangaroo pocket in front instead of the band with buttons. Score! Paired it with my trusty “Bern” boots from Duo, my seaglass necklace from Ross and my silver cuff.

Hair washed and conditioned, added pureology’s PureVolume Blow Dry Amplifier and then dried with a paddle brush, a round brush to smooth bangs.

Makeup is Smashbox Photo Finish primer, Revlon ColorStay Under Eye Concealer in Light Medium, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Cargo Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis – khaki on lid, chocolate and olive blended together in crease and along lash lines. Lashes curled, a coat of Cover Girl LashBlast in black with Imju Fiberwig over it. On lips is Revlon Shiny Sheers in Sheer Cocoa Glaze.

We ended up hitting a local pub to celebrate my friend’s birthday with about 25 of his other friends and loved ones. It was a very fun and chill evening.

Sunday, I went to breakfast with my sister, mom and husband. No pictures; wore my dark denim skirt from Gap, my black merino crewneck sweater from Banana Republic and my Duo boots. Hair second day, makeup minimal.

The rest of the day was pretty boring: chores around the house, some yoga in the living room, watched Layer Cake and 3:10 to Yuma with the hubby and had leftovers for dinner. Changed from the denim skirt to a pair of black yoga pants from ProSpirit for such festivities.

The Backstory…

Maybe it’s the time of year or my recent new product reviews, but I am getting a ton of emails about my personal makeup and skincare routine and my makeup collection.

So here you go, a peek into my makeup box (if you click on the image you get a big honking picture showing all the detail and all my foundation fingerprints on everything)! I have a traditional train case used by makeup artists. I got mine for about $50 at a Nordstrom Half-Yearly sale and it was one of my best purchases ever. Instead of little boxes and trays everywhere, I have all my product in one carrying case – easy to move around, slide under the sink out of sight, etc. As you can see by the size of the products inside, this is a lot bigger than those Caboodles you can pick up at Wal-Mart.

You can also see I have a lot of product, but if you read my posts, you see I use most of what is in there. I try to never purchase anything that doesn’t seem to work on a regular basis. I toss what I don’t use and check regularly for products past their prime. The only things I keep that I don’t use at least once a week are lipsticks or eye shadows in kooky/fun colors. I may not wear electric emerald green shadow on a daily basis, but it’s a fun thing to have for St. Patrick’s Day. Same with things like bright red lipstick or sparkly hot pink gloss – I don’t buy it often but when I do I usually keep it “just in case.” I rarely ever do this for my wardrobe, but a little lipstick doesn’t take up much space!

I try to clean this box out once a season or whenever I am in need of new product. Just as I always say to shop inside your closet, also shop inside your makeup drawer before you buy more. No point in having three half-empty bottles of the same foundation. When you have too much or your product is stored in 50 different places amongst clutter, you often end up purchasing more than you need and often not wearing it all.

So a breakdown of my collection:

FACE:
Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer – two travel-sized tubes (bought one then got one as a freebie)
philosophy The Supernatural Airbrushed Canvas foundation (my current product)
L’Oreal Bare Naturale mineral foundation (will not be replaced – not worth it – doesn’t hold up nicely or look as nice on my face as b.e.)
L’Oreal True Match foundation (worn often with moisturizer as a tint, more of a winter shade)
Bare Escentuals mineral foundation (worn when need flawless face, will be sweating, etc. Have in two colors because got one as a gift)
Bare Escentuals concealer
MAC Studio Fix foundation (same purpose as the Bare Escentuals, but a summer shade)
L’Oreal true Match concealer (the only one I use)
Chanel pressed powder (my winter shade – for summer I have MAC’s Blot Powder, which is in my purse)

FACE EXTRAS:
Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion
Benefit’s That Gal
Smashbox Soft Lights highlighter/color
Cargo Matte BeachBlush
Body Shop Bronzing Powder
Nars blush
Maybelline Whipped Mousse blush
Benefit’s Dr. Feelgood (freebie)
Bare Escentuals Warmth (bronzer)
Bare Escentuals Clear Radiance (highlighter)
Maybelline brow powder
Body Shop clear brow gel
Tweezerman tweezers (hot pink, natch.)

EYES:
DiorShow mini mascara (freebie)
Imju Fiberwig mascara
Maybelline Great Lash (my waterproof mascara)
Body Shop’s Eye Definer pencils in white, black, slate and dark brown
Sephora’s chunky eye pencils in green, silvery-blue and blue-gray
Shu Eumura lash curler
Maybelline UltraLiner waterproof liquid eyeliner
Revlon ColorStay shadow quad
Maybelline shadow quad
Pop Beauty shadow set
Trish McEvoy shadow set (under the gold Pop Beauty set)
Body Shop Simmer Cubes of shadow – three different sets of color
About a dozen individual shadows from Body Shop
Individual shadows from L’Oreal, Clinique, Garden Botanika
Every sharpener size I could need – I think I have three.

LIPS:
A good 30 different lipsticks, glosses and stains. No preference for brand – drugstore and high-end and everything in-between. Unless it’s special or good for a costume/event, I toss it if it hasn’t been worn in three months. I have two lip pencils – a nude one from L’Oreal and Beech from The Body Shop (same color as MAC’s Spice but far cheaper). I hardly ever wear them though.

NAILS:
Opi’s I’m Not Really a Waitress and Coney Island Cotton Candy, a white polish in the offchance I get a French manicure and need a touchup (last used for a wedding where I had to have a French), a clear pink from Orly that is a great non-manicure manicure look in a jiffy.

And that is it. Nothing crazy out of the ordinary, may seem like a lot to some, and surprisingly little to others. I promise other than my powder and my Nars’ Dolce Vita and Revlon Super Lustrous in Glossy Rose, everything else was in this case.

I also have a decent collection of brushes. High-quality brushes rarely need to be replaced if cared for. Nothing classy, these brushes are stored in a coffee mug from my college sorority.

Among the collection, you see a bronzer brush from Sephora (front) that I use to apply bronzers in summer and Bare Escentuals mineral foundation come winter. The other big brush is my blush brush from Trish McEvoy – gives the perfect application to the apples of my cheeks. To its left is one of my favorite brushes – a little soft sable brush also from Trish that gives a great smudged shadow look along the lash line. In the center are two rounded brushes from Trish – these two are used daily for my lid/crease look. The flatter one applies color to the lid, the rounded one fits nicely into the crease and with a window-washer motion applies a nice shadow. Behind them is a foundation brush from MAC that I only use for special occasions and when I wear MAC’s Studio Fix, and a few random shadow and slant brushes from Body Shop. To the left you will see a white stiff brush – this is also from Trish McEvoy and when full of a dark shadow, wiggled along the lash line it gives the look of liner.

I was my brushes around once a month with baby shampoo and lay them flat to dry. To remove color between washes, I use Body Shop’s Chamomile Makeup Remover and a paper towel.

Questions Answered…
I’m curious to have to wax personal about your feelings on liquid vs pencil liner, powder vs. cream blush.
I don’t like pencil liner. I am a klutz and find them hard to manage. The only time I wear them, I rub them back and forth against a taut lash line for a “rocker” look. I find liquid liner to be easy to manage (prefer brush to felt tip). Maybe this is because I paint and the tool makes more sense to me? More often than not, I use a dark shadow and a slanted or stiff brush (see above) and wiggle it right against the lash line to mimic the look of a pencil liner.

As for blushes, I have a cream one (the mousse by Maybelline) but rarely wear it because I usually wear a powder-based foundation and the two do not mix well. I usually do foundation or powder, then blush or bronzer. This gives the effect I like best.

Regarding cosmetics… Do you own more than you use? Do you use exactly what you own? Do you buy new colors for a season, or do you stick with what works for your coloring, etc.?
I don’t purchase specifically for a new season, only if what I see that season inspires or intrigues me. I suppose I do own more than I “use” (see above), but I don’t purchase randomly. I know what colors I like on me, occasionally will get creative with a shadow or lipstick but rarely venture too far out of my comfort zone for any other product. I’m 32, I have a relatively conservative job, there are very few places in my life where I can wear a lot of the creative and funky new cosmetic styles. And I like the traditional smoky eye/glossy lip for a night out on the town. My husband said once I like my makeup to look like it belongs on a Playboy Bunny. I guess he’s right – I love thick lashes, liquid liner, smoky eyes, flushed cheeks and glossy pink lips. I always have and luckily it looks decent on me as well.

How often do you wash/exfoliate/moisturise? You have good skin, wondering what exactly is your routine?
I only wash my face once a day, usually at night (unless I pass out on the couch and forget). I wash with a multitide of items – it may be a new product from the Body Shop, something on sale, something a friend recommended. Right now in the shower I have St. Ive’s Apricot Scrub and Noxzema (I know, old school!). In the medicine cabinet I have Body Shop’s Moisture White Cleansing Powder (and love it), Body Shop’s Vitamin C Exfoliating Wash and Body Shop’s Vitamin C Cream Cleanser. I wash at night, apply eye cream (currently Body Shop Vitamin C Eye Reviver or Neutrogena Eye Brightening), any treatments (Body Shop Vitamin C Intensive Night Repair and/or Clean and Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment) and then night cream (Body Shop’s Wise Women – LOOOOVE it!). Oh, I use Body Shop’s Chamomile Makeup Remover for liquid liner and waterproof products before washing.

In the AM, I use Body Shop’s Moisture White toner to remove any leftover moisturizer, then use Body Shop’s Vitamin E SPF 15 for my lotion and the same eye cream as the night before (sometimes putting it around my lips a la Josephine Esther Mentzer.

I try once a week to give myself a facial, but it is more like once a month. Cleanse, exfoliate (usually with a face brush or else with the Neutrogena Microdermabrasion kit), sometimes do a mask, steam and then hydrate (Body Shop’s Vitamin E Face Mask is awesome).

How do you maintain your brows?
I get them waxed maybe once a year, then maintain almost daily with my Tweezerman slant tweezers. It’s far easier to grab one or two hairs daily than to pluck for half an hour every couple of weeks. It also helps me maintain the shape. I then use a short slanted brush (Trish McEvoy) to fill in my sparse and short brows with Maybelline brow powder in Dark Brown, then set with Body Shop clear Brow and Lash Gel – brush the hairs up, than out. I used to trim long hairs, but now I just keep them groomed with the gel.

How do you apply concealer and where on your face?
I am so not elegant with this. L’Oreal True Match is a liquid and has a brush applicator. I take the brush and draw a circle around each eye, then a dash under each nostril, then a dash on the bow of my lips and a slash on either side of my mouth. I then may spot dab on any zits. I rub in with my ring finger. The bow of my lips is a tad crooked and has a scar so the touch of foundation seems to make it less noticeable. Sides of my mouth have some weird scars and veins from living and having teenaged skin, so a little bit of concealer airbrushes it. Under the nose, I have the normal-person little red veins. And then I have allergies, so i wake up with purple eye sockets most days out of the year. A yellow-tinted concealer seems to work with all these skin issues.

Concealer before or after your foundation?
If I am wearing a liquid foundation – after. Powder or mineral – before.

I think that’s it for now! :-)