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Throwback Thursday

There’s a lot of aspects of social media that I like, one big one is the special occasions like Follow Friday (#FF on Twitter) and Throwback Thursday (#TBT on both Twitter and Instagram). Throwback Thursday is awesome because you see pictures of those you follow from years ago. I especially love seeing fashion bloggers from when they were children, and when they are wearing outfits that could easily be seen today on any city’s streets. I must say I crack up when I see people wearing acid wash, pleated jeans, neon crop tops, fishnet, and many other trends I rocked in the ‘80s.

The ‘80s were a fun time sartorially, especially since I spent them in elementary and middle school (and the beginning of high school), just beginning to see fun in fashion and having the ability to make sartorial decisions. While I doubt you’ll see me wear acid washed denim or fringed tee shirts advertising Ocean City any time soon, the decade still influences and inspires me on a regular basis.

I catch myself being drawn to distressed denim, strong shoulders, off the shoulder sweatshirts, peplums, and touches of neon. I have to admit, I still love the fashion in the the ZZ Top “Legs” video!

Are you also a fan of the ‘80s? Then set your DVRs for Sunday, April 14th at 8pm for the National Geographic Channel. They’re having a six part series titled, The ‘80s: The Decade That Made Us; Sunday evening will begin a three-part miniseries to kick off the whole series.  Narrated by Rob Lowe, the series will feature a variety of ‘80s celebrities and pundits discussing all sorts of things about the era, from politics and technological innovations, to hit movies and TV shows, fashion, and how it continues to shape the world we live in today. I know I’ll be watching, and will be sure to let you know what I thought about it!

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Throwback Thursday: Prom Edition

When I was a sophomore in high school, a senior asked me to go to Prom with him. I went to a relatively small high school for the area (fewer than 1,000 students) and there wasn’t a Junior Prom, so going to Prom as an underclassman was a pretty exciting thing. It was also exciting to go with this guy, I had been crushing on him all year long.

I went all the way to Potomac Mills to look for a prom dress, and found THE ONE at Nordstrom Rack. It was ruched white satin, off the shoulder, and I felt like Marilyn Monroe in it. Shoes were easy – I bought a pair of white satin dyeable pumps from Payless Shoe Source, high enough heel so I could comfortably dance with my tall date. At the time, my head was shaved from ears down and I was growing out a blue-black dye job, so I wore it wavy like a bob, using a rhinestone clip to hold back one side. I remember buying some really sparkly dangly rhinestone earrings and a rhinestone bracelet from Afterthoughts.

When my senior year came around, I felt a bit too cool for school, and for proms. Not only that, but I had some high school drama earlier in the year where I didn’t have that many girl friends left and had no desire to spend a lot of money for an evening with frenemies. My boyfriend also felt he was too cool for school; he went to a different high school and had already decided he would NOT go to his prom. However, I read far too many teen romances and heard too many adults tell me I would regret it if I didn’t go, so I asked my boyfriend if he would be willing. He was a great guy and agreed to it.

I bought my first prom dress at Merry Go Round in Laurel Mall. It was a black velvet column dress with a pearl beaded halter collar from Zum Zum. Tres chic, and I can recall it being $125 which was an insane price. I vaguely remember either putting it on layaway or having them hold it until I got my next paycheck from my job at the florist. Then a month later, my friend who worked at Merry Go Round told me that our classmate bought the SAME DRESS for prom. This classmate and I did not get along, so I of course could NOT wear the dress, and the dress was not returnable. I went to TJ Maxx and found a short black sheath with a lace overlay. High neck, but the armholes cut out in a cool modern way. I decided I would channel Audrey Hepburn, with a French twist, black stockings, black pumps, maybe even opera-length gloves and a tiara. The dress was on clearance, I think less than $20.

A week before prom, I chickened out on wearing the super short, super tight lace dress. I went into a total panic, and my mom the superhero MADE MY PROM DRESS. We picked a cornflower blue moiré and I was imagining Madonna in the Material Girl video (had yet to see Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). With very little time, there wasn’t some crazy bow off the back, no time to search for a giant sparkly necklace, and my mom’s white opera gloves did not fit over my arms (always had big arms), so we took the rhinestone detail off the dress I wore to Prom in sophomore year and put it on the front of this dress for some shine. I loved the shade, it was not a trendy color and I believed I’d be the only person at Prom in blue.  Luckily Payless could dye a pair of 4″ heels (very tall boyfriend) and clutch purse on short notice in the same cornflower shade.

I had an appointment to get my hair done, still wanted a French twist. Still had a lot of my head shaved (by this time the sides had grown out but the back was still shorn). The woman at the salon had no idea how to make my hair look like anything, so she put it in a ponytail on the top of my head and hard curled it and pinned the curls like some sort of updo. It was dreadful, and so sprayed and gelled I didn’t dare go home and change it. I tried very hard not to cry and mess up my face. My mom helped, trying to make it look a bit better.

Prom was as terrible as I thought it would be. While I did have a whole table of friends to hang out with, there were people there who didn’t like me. And there was one other girl in blue, and of course it was a girl who despised me, the one I got in all that drama with (funny enough, she is one of the few people from high school I am friends with today). I remember dancing with my boyfriend, looking up at the mirrored ceiling and seeing another girl mouth, “bitch” to me and give me the finger. We got our pictures taken, and when my friend said she was ready to go less than two hours after we arrived, we were thrilled.

We went back to my boyfriend’s house where he spent an hour taking bobby pins out of my hair. We watched Beavis and Butthead and made out all night. I got back the pro photos, and saw my hair had fallen and the slit of the dress got messed up and the dress folded inside itself making me look like even more of a hot mess. I never gave out any of the photos, though my parents had one of the 5x7s on top of the family piano.

It all worked out though… that boyfriend ended up being my husband 11 years later!

And those two unworn prom dresses? I ended up wearing both of them (the lace one more than once) to sorority and fraternity formals in college!

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Throwback Thursday: Wedding Edition

I can’t believe that in June, Karl and I will have been married nine years. Nine years! Where does the time go? I’ve been thinking about our wedding a lot since the cicadas are set to return this summer and they were here for our wedding. I decided to take a walk down wedding dress memory lane for today’s Throwback Thursday.

Though I South Beached most of my engagement, I was still a size 10/12, which makes dress shopping hard. Most boutiques only carry sample sizes, which are in the single digits; no matter how many binder clips they use to attach that dress to your bra, you can’t get a good feeling for how it will actually look when the dress is several sizes smaller than you need. So my first stop in dress shopping was David’s Bridal, where I knew they would have all the popular silhouettes and also have many dresses in my size. I went, and thought I found THE ONE on the first visit. Came back a second time, took pictures and realized that while the dress did flatter, it wasn’t quite right. However, that trip to David’s helped me narrow down silhouettes and know what styles flattered my figure and fit my sense of style.

I ended up with a very similar gown I remember it was called the “Temara.” I tried on at a boutique in Baltimore, but found it for almost half the price online (thank you Bridal Bargains!). It had the a-line skirt and wrapped waist I found flattering on me, but was ivory silk shantung (always been a sucker for shantung) and Swarovski crystals along the top. Lace-up back so alterations were minimal (which was a good thing because I somehow LOST weight on my Bachelorette weekend of debauchery in Dewey Beach). I had my seamstress make my veil, the week before the wedding I decided I HAD to have a tiara and ordered one online. It was small yet sparkly and I must admit I still pull it out from time to time to wear around the house. My shoes were hot pink and found for almost nothing at the now-defunct department store Hecht’s. I went to a Chanel counter to have my makeup done; the artist was going to do my makeup that day but cancelled short notice so I did it myself.

My favorite color was and still is orange. We had orange invitations, orange flowers for the ceremony and centerpieces, the boutiques were predominately orange (with Kermit green flowers to represent my dad Kermit). Tables were named after places we had traveled to as a couple, written on shades of orange and pink paper; that same paper was used for the programs and cardstock in the same shades was used for placecards. We even had an orange signature drink – the Orange Crush that I had enjoyed many times with my friends during our Dewey Beach adventures. I wanted my bridesmaids to wear orange tea-length dresses but they vetoed me and wore a much wearable shade of bronze.

Our wedding was at an historical mansion that was just a few miles from where the two of us grew up. The plan was to have the ceremony outside on the terrace. The cicadas were in full force and we were considering all sorts of ways to deal with them (have catering sweep up the carcasses 10 minutes before people were to arrive, have the minister ask the audience to do a round of applause before we walked out to shush them long enough for the ceremony). Even though the farmer’s almanac said it would be fair weather, it rained all day and evening so the whole event was inside and cicada-free.

Looking back, I think the most dated parts of my look were the cosmetic ones – the shimmery silver shadow, the deep maroon lips, the very slicked-back updo. The dress still holds its own; in fact I went to the David’s Bridal site to look at their current dresses and found almost the same dress that I almost got (though the one I tried had a solid skirt and was a dark ivory/candlelight color). Like wrap dresses, pointed-toe pumps and dark straight jeans – some trends just don’t disappear because they are so figure flattering. I think my wedding dress could be rocked now, though I would likely replace the lace-up back with buttons, wear my hair down and cut down my makeup by a million. And the shoes? Oh I would still totally rock those shoes!

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Throwback Thursday: Junkyard Band

I was born in DC.  When I was a toddler my parents moved to Prince George’s County, right outside the city. I grew up in PG County, went to college in PG County (go Terps!), moved away for a bit after school but came back about a decade ago and have chosen to raise my child here. PG County often gets a bad rap, and while sometimes it’s warranted, you can’t judge the whole area by a few bad apples. The best part about living in PG County is the diversity. I lived near and went to school with people of all races, religions, cultures, backgrounds, and economic levels and am happy to have my daughter experience the same.

The second best thing about growing up in PG County? Being exposed to Go-Go! Since we’re right on the DC border we experienced all the DC-specific culture and absorbed it like a sponge. I can remember going to one of my first boy-girl parties in middle school and we played “Sardines” by Junkyard Band on repeat at least a dozen times, all dancing and singing along. Every time I hear this song I am transported back to being a tween.


Those not from the DC area may recognize the song from being in the movie Tougher Than Leather.

I recently read an article about DC not having its own culture, that with so many transplants thanks to the government, military, and colleges we’re more of a melting pot but I disagree.  If you get to know DC past K Street you’ll realize the city has a very clear, defined, and unique culture.  DC has a different fashion sense, innovative music, art, and food.  While I no longer live in the city limits, I still adore DC and am glad I work here so I can come visit every day.

And now I’m craving a half smoke

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Throwback Thursday: Midnight Showing

Oh the hair!

Oh the hair products!

Oh the Revlon Toast of New York lipstick!

Oh the Swatch watches!

My friend sent this to me and I just HAD to share!  It was the summer of 1990 and for a teenager the coolest places to be were the pool and the movies. The movie Dick Tracy was coming out and we decided to go to the midnight showing on opening night. I mean, hello Madonna and Warren Beatty! Our ticket was the tee shirt we were wearing; I can recall other midnight showings that were big to-dos with tee shirts and fancy details. I did some Googling to see if I could find more info on the shirts and found one for sale on Etsy.

I remember this picture being taken in the upstairs hallway of our house. That’s me in the middle, it’s hard to tell with the hair surrounding me, but I was growing out a short black Roxette-inspired ‘do. That’s my sister on the left and my friend Kim on the right. I believe Debbie and I were trying to do cool/sexy faces.  Happy to say we’re all still friends to this day, and we have MUCH better hair!

Random aside: I don’t remember much about the movie… knowing me I probably fell asleep 30 minutes into it.  For those who don’t know me IRL, I can sleep anywhere.  The louder and the more ridiculous, the more likely I will pass out.  I have slept through concerts, movies, fireworks displays, fraternity formals.  I remember doing a psych experiment in college to get extra credit for class.  They had me lie on a table with a blanket over me, turned off the lights and left the room saying they would be right back.  The experiment was to see how long it took for students to fall asleep; it took me less than a minute.  My husband always jokes about how we saw Jimmy’s Chicken Shack at some little hole in the wall in Ocean City.  The stage was about the size of a dining table with a bar along one side with stools, so close that the bassist’s elbow brushed against it.  I sat at that bar, and after one song I fell asleep.  I guess one of the band members’ mom was sitting next to me and she was NOT impressed by my amazing sleeping talent… 

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Monday

This weekend was pretty busy – Sunday I hosted a bridal shower for my best friend. I hope to have pictures from that event a little later in the week. I wore the same dress that I wore on Thursday, same shoes too. :)

Anyway, on to today…
my wardrobe todayAttire:
Old Navy – Two white ribbed tanks layered for opacity, black ponte trousers
Halogen – Teal knit jacket
Ralph Lauren – Silver necklace
Sofft – Black patent T-strap sandals
Silver hoops, cuff and chain with wedding band

Hair:
Next day, brushed out

Makeup:
Estée Lauder – Double-Wear Light Foundation in Intensity 2.0
Nars – Blush in Orgasm
Pop Beauty – Shadow palette for Brown Eyes – the taupe and celadon blended
Cover Girl – LashBlast mascara in Rich Black
Maybelline – UltraLiner in Black
L’Oreal – Color Juice Stick in Berry Spritzer

It is tres hot and humid in the DC area, but my office is very chilly. Only way i can get away with layers like this! :)

How to Get a Sunkissed Glow without Sun Damage

We’re grown-ass women who know better than to slather on baby oil, cover a record album with tin foil and bake in the sunshine for a deep dark tan. Hopefully we all know that though a sunkissed face looks pretty now, it will just add wrinkles and pigmentation and possibly cancer in the future. Celebrities like Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, and Nicole Kidman prove that pale, sun-protected skin can be beautiful and fashionable but for those of us who still crave a bit of color in the summer there’s brilliant ways to achieve it without the sun’s rays.

sunless tanner review fair skin

While I was a tanaholic in the past (seriously, check out this Throwback Thursday pic I shared on Instagram, yep that’s me in the green!), I’ve learned that tanning is incredibly dangerous and damaging. Now I like to have a subtle glow, just enough to hide veins and get away with a bit less makeup. Here’s the products I use to get an artificial glow that looks natural:

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Glow Pads

I love me some Beauty.com; cash back from Ebates and cash back on future purchases on their site (and they’re the same site as Drugstore.com so I can get a box delivered to my door with Greenies for Cindy, laundry detergent, Claritin, a lipstick from Revlon and one from NARS!). All that and free samples with purchases. Well one free sample I received was one of these wipes from Dr. Dennis Gross. I took it on vacation (the best time to play with beauty samples) thinking it was just an Alpha Beta peel. Wiped it on my face and neck before bedtime and woke up tan!

But not a weird orange tan, or a dark tan that didn’t match the rest of my body. Just that glow I used to get back when I wouldn’t wear sunscreen on my face and spend a spring day at the park. Afraid it was actual sun or that next time I’d end up with a streaky orange face, I ordered another sample with my next Beauty.com order. Tried again at home… again a subtle natural looking tan that faded nicely into my pale body. So I bought a box of these pads and use one a week on the weekend so I don’t show up to the office Tuesday pale and Wednesday sunkissed. I also have found it best to put on while wearing a dark bra or tank so when you wipe onto your décolleté you have an ending point and don’t end up with streaks near an armpit or one shoulder tan and the other pale. The product can work anywhere; there’s always leftover product so if you’re skilled you can use it elsewhere on your body.

Jergens Natural Glow 3 Days to Glow Moisturizer

This stuff is so good, I can do it with just my left hand. Since I’m dealing with just my left hand and a cast, I stick to putting it on just my legs, but it gives a very natural and gradual glow, doesn’t smell horrible, and doesn’t streak. I apply a dime-size amount to my lower leg and begin wiping it up and down my leg and rubbing like crazy. I do most of my wiping up over my knee to my thighs, very little on my feet, and keep wiping up and in until it’s completely dry. Leave any places lotiony and they will end up darker; try to tan your feet and they will end up darker. My goal (and the final result) is a slightly tan leg from above the knee to below the ankle and a subtle fade to natural pale above and below that point. It doesn’t look false, even with a bathing suit or low-vamp shoes.

I find Jergens Natural Glow works far better on dry skin than damp, and also works best with a regular exfoliation routine in place (for me it’s dry brushing). I use the Light to Medium, apply every other day and it gives enough color to feel confident in dresses and shorts in broad daylight.

Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Leg Makeup

I reviewed the spray before, didn’t like it no matter what tips and tricks I learned from you folks or on the web. It was messy, streaky, dark, and just too complicated. Ain’t nobody got time for that! So when I saw the liquid version I decided to try it. And I love it.

Just like the Jergens lotion, I rub rub rub like a fiend with a wide palm until it’s fully absorbed, starting at the front of my leg below my knee and then wiping up and back and around to cover all places. The color shows immediately, and it’s very natural. You can also build up for a darker color. I chose the Leg Makeup in Fair, and the color is equal to regular application of the Jergens lotion but airbrushed. The same effect as sheer hose but without the layer and weird webbed toes.  The more layers you apply, the more airbrushing/coverage you get. It stays on really well; go ahead and sweat, take a dip in the pool, go to the beach. Some will fade but not in a weird splotchy way. I only apply it for special occasions and only lightly, and I can’t feel it on the skin. Get a dark washcloth to scrub it off, though I’ll be honest I usually let it stay on, wash normally and let it fade with time. Again, haven’t tried it anywhere but my legs so no advice on using it elsewhere.

Do you sunless tan?  What are your favorite products for achieving a natural glow without the sun?

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!

Thursday and Friday

Thursday:
Attire:
Ann Taylor – White Jeans, Gold hoops
Gap – Turquoise 3/4 sleeve tee
Tolani – Blue Zig Zag scarf
Lands End – Gold Sandals
Ralph Lauren – Gold bangles

Hair:
What I hate people doing – leaving the house with wet hair. But this week has been INSANE and I was running late and had to get to work tres early. It was pretty much dry by time I got to the Metro and I had ringlets by time I was at work. Wash, condition and Frederic Fekkai Luscious Curls Cream.

Beauty:
Estee Lauder – Nutritious Vita-Mineral Makeup in Intensity 2.0
Cargo – Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife
Stila – Lip Glaze in Fruit Cake
Pop Beauty – Shadow palette for Brown Eyes: The beige and celadon blended together
Maybelline – UltraLiner in Black
Cover Girl – LashBlast mascara in Rich Black

Friday:
Left very early in the morning and drove myself to the Metro, so no full-length shot.

Attire:
Old Navy – Printed v-neck tee
Gap – Essential Jeans
Born – Orange leather thongs
Olive crocheted cotton scarf
Various silver necklaces and hoops
Ray Bans – Aviator sunglasses

Hair:
Next day, straightened while dry with round brush and dryer

Beauty:
L’Oreal – True Match foundation in C3 where needed
Nars – Blush in Orgasm
Stila – Lip Glaze in Fruit Cake
Cover Girl – LashBlast mascara in Rich Black
Revlon – ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis

This is a Casual Friday if I have ever done it – a silkscreened tee? But I have already put in seven extra hours this week and haven’t had time for laundry let alone hang out with Little Miss E. I am REALLY looking forward to this weekend, even though we have a sad affair tomorrow (burying my husband’s father’s ashes). It will be nice to spend time with family and loved ones and not be behind two computers with a headset on all day long! 😛

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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The Artist’s Way: Week 2 Recap/Starting Week 3

I started this week not too well. No internet at home, fighting a cold, crazy work week. Morning Pages (even when I tried them at night) seemed a burden. Then on Wednesday morning I got up, did some yoga, started my Morning Pages with gripe gripe vent vent boring boring then… BANG. I started writing furiously and couldn’t stop. All these ideas, thoughts, and coming out to clearly and beautifully and in such a positive manner. I needed Week 2, it came at a time where I was feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Yeah, the end of the week was hard, but I think it may have been so hard on me because I was finally feeling unstuck. The whole week was very educational and I think a good experience for my creative growth.

It was good how we were tasks to dip back into Week 1 because Week 1 was really a wash for me. It made me feel that Week 1 must be a wash for many (and I know it was for so many of you) so it’s already in there to revisit it. The tasks this week were fun and helped me remember what I enjoy, care about, and what inspires me. Sewing, stained glass, hiking through the woods. Back when I did The Artist’s Way the first time I remembered the joy of coloring with crayons and bought a box of 64 colors and did it again with joy; now having Emerson in my life I find myself coloring almost weekly even if she tires of it. When I felt frustrated at work this week, I drew a design in black pen in my notebook and took my stash of highlighters and colored it in and it calmed me. I also liked the Life Pie task, because it really wasn’t as unbalanced as I expected it to be, and it reminded me how wonderful my current life is. Also the Ten Tiny Changes was great, what I wrote surprised me and it made me see how very doable some of them are and how easy it was to scratch one off the list.

Week 3: Recovering a Sense of Power
I wrote a pretty personal post Thursday, and the response was overwhelming. One commenter asked if I wrote it just to get the positive comments, and I told her the truth, it wasn’t. It wasn’t even a factor. I kept thinking about that, blogging is about comments and we want positive reinforcement but it’s easy to ignore the positive and focus only on the negative. In the margin of Week 3 below the quote from Thoreau, in 2006 I wrote, “Is it serious if it’s all praise? Too much encouragement is worse than none at all for it loses its meaning.” And seeing my handwriting after what transpired Thursday on the blog was a big honking slap in the face. As Cameron states in this chapter, disinterest is a routine coping device employed to deny pain and ward off vulnerability.

In school, I would get poor grades not because I was a bad student, but because I wouldn’t complete assignments. I’d rather get a 0 than have my work criticized. So many times great opportunities have presented themselves and I haven’t jumped on them because I decide not participating is better than trying and failing. And that’s really why I am doing this again, to find the courage to be vulnerable. Cameron regularly writes about situations presenting themselves when we need them, and those negative comments may have been the world giving me a lesson on dealing with criticism.

The Detective Work exercise in this chapter was pretty interesting because I had written my answers in the book back in 2006, and rereading them makes me realize I am still the same person. Out of the 20 statements, I think I’d only change two or three in 2014. It’s a perfect way to go into this week’s tasks, which focus on ourselves as children, and positive people in our lives.

I’m sorry I wasn’t part of the conversation last week on the blog, with no home internet most of the week and a long week at the office there wasn’t much time to reply, and such heartfelt messages deserve more than henpecking typos on the iPhone. I will be more interactive this week and can not WAIT to hear how you are all doing!

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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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Out and About: Robyn & Röyksopp at Wolf Trap

robyn-and-royksopp-wolf-trap

Robyn and Röyksopp

Living in the DC area, we’re lucky to have several awesome music venues, and come summer there’s a type of venue for any type of music fan. One of my favorite places in the summer is Wolf Trap; it’s not close by, but they have a shuttle from the Vienna Metro station and it’s worth the trip. The acoustics are fabulous and they let you bring in picnic baskets and coolers of your own food and alcohol (no bottles, but these days you can find fab beer in cans and wine in boxes). We usually try to grab a weekend day festival there each summer, and it’s a great place to see classic artists, plays, and orchestras. However when I heard Robyn with Röyksopp were coming I HAD to go!

I’ve liked Robyn since the late ‘90s (yep, same gal), but after seeing her at Bonnaroo in 2012, Karl and have become mega Robyn fans. Our friend Nicole is a fellow Robyn lover, so the three of us decided to go. Nicole suggested we get pavilion seats and we decided to splurge. Gosh am I glad she suggested that!


Thursday, August 21 was the Robyn/Röyksopp show and if you’re from this area, you know it wasn’t the best weather. It rained in the morning, cleared up some, but the rain returned by rush hour. By time I arrived at Wolf Trap it was rainy, humid, steamy, and disgusting. We hid under a tree to enjoy a drink and then quickly retreated to our pavilion seats to stay dry.

The opening artist was ZHALA and well, I felt bad for the gal.  While she likely would be awesome in a smaller, intimate venue like the 9:30 club, performing on the big stage of Wolf Trap before sundown was a bit depressing and felt as though we were spying on someone dancing in her bedroom in front of her mirror.  She manned her own smoke machine and got down while the crowd was busy texting their friends, finding their seats, and chatting with one another.  We decided to take the time for a restroom break (the perk of a Robyn show is the crowd is primarily male so no line for the facilities) and get a drink (can’t bring anything but water into the pavilion so I ended up splurging on a $9.50 cup of Pinot Grigio).

When Röyksopp started we went back to our seats.  It was dark and they started strong.  While most of their songs are instrumental, they kept the crows riveted with a light show that rivaled Pink Floyd.  They got the crowd in the right frame of mind for the headliner, and when Robyn came on the stage the crowd erupted with cheers.

robyn royksopp wolftrap

Images via Robyn’s Facebook page

Robyn is just as animated and awesome in person as she is in her videos and TV appearances.  Her energy level is astounding, she dances all night long while maintaining a strong singing voice, which is even more impressive when you realize she’s 35, not in her early ’20s like most pop stars.  I love how she doesn’t give a fug and dresses how she wants and dances how she wants without trying to look sexy or cool and totally gets into the moment.  Robyn kept the crowd going all night and it was fun to see folks from all walks of life dancing with her, the energy was so positive and friendly.  I didn’t get any good photos because it was dark, and because I was too busy dancing!  We decided to leave just before the end so we could get out of the parking lot at a decent hour since the next day was work for all of us!

For more photos from the show, check out this post from my friends at This is Our Jam!

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.

Weight Watchers Update

It is getting progressively harder to find time for Thursday night Weight Watchers meetings. Work has really ramped up; I already have to leave by 5:15 on Mondays and Tuesdays to be on Emerson Detail since my husband teaches those evenings. I end up staying late on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and many Fridays to catch up. Also it seems every blogger event and concert I want to attend is on a Thursday night.

I want to look for a meeting at a different time… but I don’t know of any time that would be better. Life is just so darn crazy right now. I am typing this at 8:30am while Emerson eats oatmeal and watches a movie; I have the dishwasher, dryer, and washing machine going, have already cleaned a bathroom and the kitchen. We’re leaving in three hours for a cousin’s son’s 6th birthday in Towson. As soon as we get home, my husband is heading to a concert. Tomorrow I am hosting a CAbi party and between the end of this birthday party and 2pm tomorrow I need to clean my house, go to the grocery store, figure out food for the party and write an article. This is my life in a nutshell, and I am not sure there is any time better than Thursday nights for Weight Watchers.

I rant and I whine, and then this was the quote posted at this week’s meeting:

You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make time.
-Charles Bruxton

Work won’t always be this hectic, I just need to plug through. And I need to make time for Weight Watchers, and my health.

In this week’s meeting we were to write down our typical day. What time we get up, go to work, eat lunch, etc.

  • 5:30 – Hit snooze a couple times, put in contacts, floss, brush, take shower
  • 6:00 – Go downstairs, let out dogs, eat oatmeal and a piece of fruit, drink 22oz. water while checking email and possibly watching something on the DVR. Sometimes I get inspired and do an exercise video, crunches, or sun salutations. More often than not I don’t.
  • 7:00 – Head back upstairs – do hair and makeup
  • 7:30 – Get Emerson dressed if my husband hasn’t already
  • 7:45 – Get Emerson in the car, take outfit photos
  • 8:00 – Get to Metro, use commute to read The Express or a book
  • 8:45 – Arrive at office. Fill water bottle, get cup of coffee, begin checking email
  • 9:00 – 5:15 – The day varies. Sometimes I get a lunch, more often than not I eat at my desk during a conference call or webinar (or while updating my blog).
  • 5:20 – Get to the Metro to head home. Use commute to read
  • 6:00 – Husband picks me up from the Metro
  • 6:10 – Husband goes and takes a shower, I get Emerson’s dinner ready and feed her dinner while checking the mail, doing laundry, washing dishes or some other task
  • 6:45 – Hang out with Emerson. If it’s nice out, we go outside to play, if not we’ll hang out in the living room. Sometimes I have so much to do, it ends up being Emerson plays alone while I get chores done.
  • 7:45 – Bath and bedtime for Emerson
  • 8:15 – Begin making dinner
  • 9:00 – Eat dinner with husband, more often than not at the coffee table while watching TV
  • 10:00 – Go upstairs to get ready for bed
  • 11:00 – Lights out

We’re supposed to look at our schedule and see times where we can exercise or be more healthy. I can see right away that I can use my hour in the morning to actually exercise rather than watch TV (I can also stop hitting snooze and have more time). Many in the meeting said they use their lunch hour to walk, but I really don’t get lunch hours but just a couple times a month (and then I have to use it for errands). I have gotten better and bought a bunch of frozen meals and stocked the work freezer so I don’t grab a cup-a-noodles or Au Bon Pain when rushed for time. I also have healthy snacks in my desk for that same purpose.

As Emerson gets older, and as this new work project settles in, I will have more space in my schedule, more opportunities to make time. But for now, I am trying to do my best with what I have.

And this week I removed 1.2 pounds. So since my last Weight Watchers update, I can now fit my wedding band, wore a pair of size 10 jeans, and now officially weigh less than I did before I got pregnant!

It’s funny, before I got pregnant I was doing yoga twice a week, kigong twice a week, and hitting the gym from time to time. I was in far better shape, but wore the same size and was the same weight. I just think, if I MAKE the time for more exercise… imagine how much slimmer I would look and how much better clothes would fit me!

So the goal is to figure out how to make more time for me, my health, and my future. I feel I have the food under control (not really tracking on a daily basis, but creating systems so that I have easy access to WW-friendly meals and snacks), now it’s time for the exercise.

And for those who don’t attend Weight Watchers meetings, there was a fabulous recipe in this week’s Weekly I wanted to share. We’re totally making it this week!

Coconut Curry Shrimp
8 PointsPlus per serving
Prep – 10 minutes, cook – 8 minutes
Serves 4

2 sprays cooking spray
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp mild (or hot) curry powder, to taste
½ tsp table salt
3 medium scallions, thinly sliced, green and white parts separated
½ cup light coconut milk
1 lb. large shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 cups cooked brown rice

Coat a medium to large skillet with cooking spray; add oil and set over medium heat.  When heated, add curry powder and salt; cook, stirring constantly, until curry is fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add white parts of scallions; cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes more. Add coconut milk, stir to blend. Add shrimp; cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp turn pink, about 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with green parts of scallions; serve. Yields about about 5 to 6 shrimp, ¾ cup rice, and 1 to 2 tablespoons sauce per serving.

Notes: Add cilantro, hot peppers, or tomatoes for a completely different twist. Service this recipe with fresh pineapple, mango or papaya to cut the spice (will affect PointsPlus value).

Interesting fact: ½ cup of light coconut milk is 2 PointsPlus, while ½ cup of regular coconut milk is 7 PointsPlus.

How have you all been doing? What have been your setbacks, and what are your recent accomplishments?

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Recharging my Batteries

wardrobeoxygen1

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and after that, several days of the BEST SALES EVER!!! Even with the SALE SALE SALE madness I am taking a break from the computer. I don’t have any posts scheduled, and apart from some scheduled tweets and maybe a picture or two on Instagram, I won’t be on social media.

2014 has been a wild ride, that’s for sure. And I am so thankful for my health, my family, and all of you who have stuck with Wardrobe Oxygen through the highs and lows. And I want to take this holiday to slow down and enjoy it all.

While the blog has been doing phenomenal (hello all you new subscribers and followers, I am so psyched to have you on this journey with me!), the day job has also been super busy. We’re going through some big changes at our company which are exciting, a bit nerve-wracking, and adding more work to my already overflowing Outlook calendar. And while this blog is my passion, my day job is what pays the bills while also holding a very large part of my heart. And on top of it, there’s a 6’5” guy and a 3’9” gal at home who I want to spend as much time with as possible.

I’m betting a lot of you can relate to this. Everyone I talk to has mentioned how crazy life has been. Where did the time go? How is it already the end of November? Omigoodness it’s almost CHRISTMAS and then 2015! It’s going to be go time from now until the kids go back to school in January (and for me, not until February thanks to January being the month of almost my whole family’s birthdays).

Last year I was go go go and figured I could rest once Valentine’s Day arrived. And then Valentine’s Day weekend I broke my arm which affected the rest of the year not just for me but my family, my friends, and my job. You can’t predict your future, you can’t rely on reaching that light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes you just need to force a stop, a recharge of your batteries.

So Wardrobe Oxygen will go dark until Monday so I can slow down and enjoy the holiday sans blog and sans day job. Thursday we will spend at my mom’s with almost 20 friends and family (my family and Karl’s together!). This weekend we have no concrete plans and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I hope to sleep until a crazy-haired little person in Hello Kitty pajamas crawls in bed with us and finally wakes us with too many jabs in the back with bony elbows and knees. I look forward to watching a movie, either in a dark theater as a trio or curled up on the couch under an afghan crocheted by my mom. I want to wash all the laundry in the house and finally get the summer clothes out of the office and into the attic. I want to take a walk without a scheduled end time, having it during daylight so I can see nature around me and maybe go off the path and roam into the woods. I want to have a cup of coffee go cold in my hands because I got lost in thought. I want to waste some time and not feel guilty or stressed. Even if it’s five minutes wasted, I want to waste those five minutes with delicious abandon.

You can’t properly help others if you don’t help yourself first. I’ve always said that, but I learned that lesson completely this year. Thanksgiving is a special holiday for us Americans, a time where we should stop and count our blessings. Let’s use this holiday to be thankful for the beautiful things in our lives, but also take a bit of time for ourselves to recharge and refresh. Whether it’s waking an hour before everyone else so you can sip a cup of tea in silence or putting the kids to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual to have some moments for a bubble bath, see if you can find a way to “waste time” and recharge your battery this weekend. You deserve it, and those who love you will benefit from it.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Love,
Alison

DC Sip and Swap

Image via So Much to Smile About
 
Last Thursday I attended the DC Sip and Swap, hosted by the lovely Amy & Melissa of The Swapaholics and Swap.com. For those who didn’t attend, you purchase a ticket (between $10 – $20 depending on when and where you got it), bring a bag full of gently used clothing, shoes and accessories and then get to grab all the donated items that work for you.  Anything leftover was donated to Goodwill.

Image via The Feast

Have you ever seen footage of Filene’s Running of the Brides? This was like that, but with less stripping of clothes in the center of the room and more black clothing.

I brought an XL LL Bean Boat and Tote overflowing with lots of great pieces – clothes from my now-defunct Shop My Closet as well as a few other pieces that no longer fit or no longer fit my personal style. While the Sip and Swap team organized all the donations, we attendees got to enjoy downtown Clarendon. Then we came back for the official beginning of the swap.

Images via Fasshonaburu, DC Goodwill Fashionista

I was excited to meet many bloggers I have respected and read for a while, such as District of Chic, Megan Nielsen, Fasshonaburu, Cardigans & Couture, whippedSTYLE, and La Rue Neuve. I also got to catch up with DC blogger buddies like Heart Print and Style, So Much to Smile About, and MartaFacts. We sipped wine, chatted, caught up… and didn’t realize that there were some rabid swappers in attendance.


I love this video from Quarter Life, which shows what the swap was like when they opened the doors. Since I was wearing a blue maxi dress, it’s pretty easy to see me in the video (I am in the center left, and it takes me a while to come in because I wasn’t expecting Running of the Brides). There were rolling racks along the sides of the large room, tables separating jeans from blouses from skirts from trousers. The stage at the back of the room held jewelry, scarves, shoes, and other accessories.

By time I got into the room, it was packed with women who were throwing anything they could reach into their bags. Fabric was flying, a few were stripping down to bike shorts and sports bras to try pieces and throwing back into the crowd the pieces that didn’t work. It was crazy. I headed to the stage, figuring I would have a better chance finding good jewelry than clothing that would fit. I grabbed a mother of pearl bangle bracelet and a strand of pearls, turned around to apologize for bumping into someone, turned back and 90% of the jewelry was gone. I figure someone must have swept it all into a bag. I grabbed some bright purple beads, figuring I could take off the thread and repurpose, or give to Emerson as costume jewelry.

Image via The Feast

The crowd started thinning, I saw women with those giant blue IKEA bags overflowing, women crouched in corners hugging their scores. A woman walked by with two huge totes overflowing and a few items tucked under her arm. I guess I was looking with my mouth agape because she defended herself by saying, “What? I have three kids I need to dress.”

This was the swap in a nutshell. Many women who were there to donate, hope to get one or two good things, and mingle. And then there were those who were out for the kill, leaving no prisoners. I didn’t let it get me down, I went expecting to not find anything, so I ended up being pleasantly surprised. I met some awesome readers of Wardrobe Oxygen (so great to meet you, I love it when readers introduce themselves!), some awesome bloggers, and the fabulous women of The Swapaholics and Goodwill. And really, I didn’t go for the items, I went for the experience. And the experience taught me that I would definitely attend next time… but next time I’ll be sure to put down the wine glass and wear flat shoes!

What I got:

  • A gold beaded frame clutch – when I got home I realized its actually a wallet, but I can fit my cell in it and it will still snap shut and not look ridiculous
  • Navy twill pants from Ann Taylor in like-new condition, wide waistband, flat front, straight legs, very classic
  • Dark denim sailor-inspired jeans from LOFT that will fit like a dream in five pounds
  • A strand of 30” small ivory pearls that look really nice (quality costume)
  • A slim gold bangle with mother of pearl panels
  • The purple necklace (which Emerson sported this weekend)
  • A pair of perfectly faded and distressed Levis 515s that do not fit and probably will never fit so I will be passing on to someone else
  • A black LOFT jersey dress that must have been shrunken in the dryer because it hardly covers my rear (will be re-donated)
  • A black jersey MICHAEL Michael Kors top that looked cute but wasn’t my style – I gave it to my mom who totally rocks it
   
Have you ever been to a swap?  What did you think?

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Seasonless Black Trousers

A pair of black trousers in a seasonless fabric is a necessity to any woman’s wardrobe. What deems a fabric “seasonless?” This means the pants are not wool, they are not cotton. They are most likely a blend of fabrics, usually a good portion synthetic. Ann Taylor has a seasonless fabric they call Triacetate. Express’ seasonless fabric is called Microtwill. J.Crew (and many other brands) calls their version Gabardine. All different fabrics, all seasonless. Maintains it’s shape, often has a bit of stretch, has a slight texture or sheen (great for dressing up and dressing down!), and sort of blends into the background. Not only should these tousers be seasonless, they should be eventless (if that is a word). You want trousers that can go from work to a happy hour to a cocktail party to an interview, to a night club. What cut achieves this? A bootcut leg, not tight, but not Palazzo pants (those pants that look like a skirt on each leg). A tab waist if often a good choice. You never need to worry about a belt, it lies flat under fitted, untucked shirts, yet looks smart with a tucked in oxford. Due to a tab-wait trouser having a wider waistband, it is less likely to cut into the torso, creating a spare tire above the waistline. Very flattering on women with hips, bellies, rears, or straight shapes.

These trousers should not have front pockets. I do not care what your body shape is, front pockets ruin a smooth line and make trousers look more casual and less versatile. These pockets often bow out, wrinkle under the tousers, and look messy. They can make Kate Moss look like Kathy Bates. Back pockets are okay, as long as they are small besom pockets, and not patch pockets (again, detroy the versatility and make the trouser more dated and casual).

Examples of good trousers:

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Yes, I said these trousers should be black, but I chose a lighter color so you could see the detail. The bootcut leg adds a modern look to the pant, elongates and slims the leg. This is an example of a tab waist. See how it is a wider waistband, less likely to cut into the middle. The lack of pleats, seaming and pockets in the front minimizes a belly and gives a smooth line. The strong crease down the front elongates the leg and gives a long, lean look. See how you could see these pants with an oxford and matching blazer with pumps for work, a beaded camisole and pointy toed heels for a night club, a cotton v-neck sweater sweater and some boots for a jaunt to the mall. These pants are from Ann Taylor, and are a cotton/rayon/spandex blend (rayon gives it the seasonless fabric, strech gives it the smooth fit wear after wear).

Here is a great example from Lane Bryant:

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These pants are a seasonless nylon/rayon/spandex blend. They are cut just below the waist (reduces the look of tummy bulge), have a bootcut leg, and smooth lower torso. These pants would look great with strappy heels, a beaded shell and matching jacket for a cocktail party, or a merino turtleneck and some crocodile pointy boots for lunch with the girls. At the time of writing this, these trousers are on sale for $20, regularly $45. You really can find stylish classic pieces for a steal at your local mall. I cannot stress this point enough.

The point is that with the right black trousers, you can dress for almost any event. I have black trousers I purchased five years ago, and still wear weekly. They do not have to cost a lot, most of the trousers I buy on sale and get for less than $50.00. Do keep in mind that though a bargain is always great, black trousers is one thing you do not want to look cheap. They will be worn more than most anything else in your wardrobe, so don’t settle for a chintzy fabric with a cheap sheen, a pair that wrinkles easily, isn’t lined, isn’t the right length, the right cut, the right anything. I do believe in buying in bulk. If you find the trousers of your dreams, you may wish to invest in a second pair in black, and possibly a third pair in another versatile color (gray, brown, tan, white). Consider this especially if you buy the matching suit jacket. I purchased a pair of amazing trousers and the matching jacket at Ann Taylor four years ago. I often wore the trousers without the jacket. One day my dog jumped up to greet me as I returned home from work, his claw got caught in the fabric and ended up snagging and tearing the thigh of these coveted trousers. Ann Taylor no longer makes pieces in this same fabric, so I have a lovely well-fitting jacket and no trousers to match. Since then, I always buy two pairs of pants for every suit jacket, allowing one pair for every day wear, and one pair to preserve to wear with the jacket or for special occasions.

As for care of these pants. I will let you know ahead of time that often these pants say “Dry Clean Only.” I DESPISE spending money on dry cleaning. I end up taking my clothes to the cleaners and forget to pick them up for two weeks. Most of the knits and sweaters I purchase I ignore this “Dry Clean Only” label and wash in Woolite on the gentle cycle of my machine and hang to dry. I have tried this with trousers, and rarely have had good luck. They end up wrinkled, losing that nice front crease and long line. They look cheaper, they often get tighter, the legs shorter (often leaving the lining the same length, which is NOT a good look!), the threads weaken, leaving the potential for an embarrassment the next time you sit down. I have a stain remover I actually purchased in the lingerie department of a department store. I spot treat with that or a Shout! Wipe (always have 5 or 6 in my purse – available at your grocery store in the detergent aisle) and then take them to the local discount dry cleaners. Every so often, they get a better cleaning at the higher end dry cleaners. This may seem like a pain, especially if you have children, a busy schedule, a tight budget. I must tell you this is an investment. If you take care of your clothes correctly, they will take care of you in return, looking gorgeous and lasting for years. Though it may be more appealing to buy all clothing that can take a tumble in the washer and dryer, you lose that polished look, that classic look, the look that shows you care what you look like and others should as well. If you can’t go beyond Tumble Dry Low, you will have a hard time following the closet rules of this book.

Ask Allie: Fashion Advice for a Petite SAHM

Dear Allie,
I am currently rocking the awful “mom” look aka yoga pants and huge t-shirts and I am so over it! Could you direct me to a few classic pieces to start my wardrobe? I am a stay at home mom with two under two, so I need a practical look. I live in Ohio where the weather is always changing. I am very petite (5’ and less than 100 lbs). I also have trouble finding comfortable shoes that look stylish and fit my size 5 feet. Any advice?
– Megan

Dear Megan,
I am so glad you realize that one can be an active mom while maintaining style. I recently wrote an article on Savings.com about new mom fashion, but will offer some basics that should get you on track without looking like a mom, or like a college student:

Dark Straight Jeans
A dark straight jean is classic, can be worn any season of the year, looks more polished than lighter washes, and doesn’t need a fancy label to look chic. Having a straight leg means this jean should work with most any length or style of top in your wardrobe – simple tanks and tees, longer tunics, blazers and cardigans, blouses tucked in or left untucked. Add a bit of spandex so that you won’t be showing your undergarments or cutting into your stomach when crawling on the floor after your little one.

The Lee Slender Secret 5-pocket Jean is a classic style that is great for women who may have a bit of that baby pooch still left. Oprah recently rated them as a top jean, and reviews state that these jeans in petite are not needing of hemming for those who are 5’ tall. $29.99

 


Levi’s 512 jean is a straight, classic style that is made for a woman’s shape. Their Perfectly Slimming 512 Jean has the Lycra to keep your body looking smooth, and giving you the flexibility you need to keep up with your children. Again, this jean is rated great for the really petite woman – they run short so you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg on alterations. $40.00

A Versatile Trench
When the weather is chilly one day, hot the next, and rainy the third it’s hard to be prepared. A simple trench or mac in a water-resistant fabric that is lined will keep you looking stylish yet comfortable on those in-between days.

The Sunshower Coat from Lands End is a favorite – it’s a classic style, breathable, and wrinkle-resistant. Lands End is known for their quality and service so you know you will get a great piece that will give you years of wear. Khaki is a safe bet, but a more memorable color like their Wine Grape will look great with neutrals, make your skin glow, and will give you a sunnier outlook on the day, even if the sky is cloudy. $99.50

Macy’s Style&Co brand offers great style for a reasonable price. This double-breasted trench has a shorter length that won’t dwarf your petite frame, and the soft sage color will look great with neutrals, but be a fresh change from beige and black outerwear. $79.00

Solid-colored Seasonally-appropriate Tops
Toss the oversized tees and stiff striped button-downs. It’s easy to be comfortable, get dressed in an instant yet look great if you have an arsenal of flattering, well-fitting knits in your size and colors you adore. Wash on the gentle cycle, line dry and these pieces can give you years of great wear. Look for pieces with 5% spandex or more – they will be more likely to keep their shape, not need to be ironed, and maintain their color longer than 100% cotton tops. For winter, I love merino wool because it acts like a knit in keeping its shape and flattering the figure, and can also be washed on the gentle cycle.

Ann Taylor LOFT is a fave of many petite women thanks to their extensive collection, reasonable prices, and truly petite sizing. Their Petite Twisted Boatneck Tee is a fashionable version of the comfy tee shirt. The neckline adds drama to a casual day look, and would fantastic under a cardigan or casual twill blazer. Great colors like Balsam Green and Ocean Depths will complement dark denim, khaki, white, gray, and black. $19.50

I love Nordstrom’s Caslon line – great wardrobe basics of great quality. The petite Caslon Ballet Neck Tee is a feminine and flattering twist on a simple knit top – the ¾ sleeves make it wearable almost year-round and a scoop neck is lovely on most every woman’s figure. $24.00

A Casual Blazer
A great way to jazz up simple tees and jeans is with a casual blazer. If it’s unlined and has a bit of stretch, it’s as comfortable as a hoodie but with far more polish.

 


Ann Taylor LOFT’s Petite Urban Twill Blazer is a great choice. The grosgrain trim gives it a unique, higher-end look, and in navy it would go with most any color tank or tee in your closet. $69.99

The striped blazer from Banana Republic would look amazing with neutral tanks, tees, and bottoms. It would also look quite chic with a pop of color underneath – try candy pink, blood orange, or apple green. The standup collar elongates the frame, making you look taller. $149.99

A Trendy Knit
Right now, striped tees are a hot look – this is a great way to add some variety and current fashion to your wardrobe without looking passé in a season. Striped tees look great with a simple denim or twill skirt, under a blazer, with shorts, capris, jeans, and even dressed up with a fuller skirt or with trousers. Add a bit of contrast with a turquoise or coral necklace, or a cardigan in a color like leaf green, tangerine, or yellow.

This black and cream striped boatneck from Lauren by Ralph Lauren isn’t your ordinary tee shirt – the silver buttons and boatneck make it a refined piece that would look great with jeans, and also with a white twill skirt for spring outings. $59.50

 


I own the Striped Sailor Tee from Ann Taylor and adore it – the scoopneck is flattering, the knit heavy and durable, the epaulets give a bit more style and panache. It comes in three colors. $38.00

A Not-so Little Black Dress
I have a black wrap dress from Old Navy that I bought years ago on clearance. I wear it with leggings and flats around the house, with heels for a wedding or funeral, with tall boots to work. It’s so versatile, and the matte jersey is a fabric that stretches, gives, washes easily, and looks timeless and seasonless.

The Petite Gemma Wrap dress from Banana Republic is a great choice – ¾ sleeves work year round, and a true wrap style means you can cinch the waist for a more custom fit. $98.00

 


Merona for Target has really come a long way in the past year – the quality has improved immensely, and the style is quite on-trend yet classic. The Merona Petite Faux Wrap Knit Dress is a great choice – the empire waist hides any post-baby pooch, and makes it dress up or down with ease. $20.98

Shoes
It often impossible to find size 5 footwear in stores, however the selection is pretty impressive online. Sites like Nordstrom and Zappos have a great selection of smaller sizes that are still stylish and comfortable. I recommend investing in:

  • A sandal with a low wedge heel (more comfortable than heels, able to wear with shorts or with a dress).  The “Amber” wedge-heel sandals from Munro is a great summer choice – uber comfortable, thin elegant straps, will look great with skirts and dresses of all lengths, as well as shorts, trousers, and cropped pants. Munro is known for comfort and quality – these shoes should be wearable even for a day of sightseeing or a trip to Disney World. $179.95
  • A pair of ankle boots you can slip on with jeans and a sweater (low heel, brown or black depending on your wardrobe – more versatile than flats as that they can dress up and also be waterproofed for rainy days).  The “Wisteria” by Merrell has a wedge heel which is comfortable when standing or walking for a long period of time, but can still be paired with casual trousers. They get great reviews for comfort. $140.00
  • A pair of tall riding boots (wear with dresses, over jeans and you will be amazed how they will transform wardrobe basics into something stylish – waterproof them for more versatility).  These riding boots from La Canadiene are so classic – waterproof Italian leather, moisture-wicking lining, memory foam insole, low heel, elegant styling. These are boots you buy now and will still be wearing a decade from now. $256.00
  • A pair of simple black leather pumps for those times when you do need to dress up (they work with pants, dresses, and even with your dark jeans for a Date Night or drinks with your girl friends).  The Nuncio pump from Nine West is a classic pump that will look elegant year-round and years from now. 2.5” heel, elongated toe, and available in narrow and wide widths. $69.95

For additional petite inspiration, check out: