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Updating Your Wardrobe for Spring 2008

I love the 80s; some of the most fun in music and even in fashion. I am one who does not flush with embarrassment when I see a picture of me decked out in mall bangs, puffy socks and shoulder pads. I thought at the time, the look was fun and colorful; fashion took risks. You could wear Versace, or you could wear vintage (though back then it was usually just a Joe Shmoe thrift store find) and still look totally tubular.

That doesn’t mean I like the resurgence of metallics, shoulder pads, boyfriend blazers, leggings and skinny jeans in weird washes. It was fun… 20 years ago. Not it makes the most chic of women look like a fashion victim.

So how can you get the new look for spring without looking like a leftover valley girl or a fashion victim? Here are some of the trends for spring that can work with most any wardrobe and survive more than one season of style:

Watercolor Brights
These aren’t quite the Crayola hues of the winter; they are a cherry spring version. Instead of orange, try tangerine. In place of emerald, a leaf or Kelly green offers pop without overkill. Instead of red, try hibiscus (has a pink undertone) or Chinese red (has an orange undertone). Yellow will also be a big color for spring – keep it bright and clear. These hues aren’t muddy, they aren’t neon, they aren’t muted. They have the pop of 2007’s primaries, but a feminine and sunny twist to them.

How to Wear Them: With almost anything! They are being shown paired with pale gray, black, denim, white and optic prints. Jazz up your boring suit with a silk knit tank in tangerine, consider a green handbag for the season (quite an unexpected neutral), or a pair of yellow flats to brighten up jeans or a black and white print skirt. I love the look of a basic khaki or tan with a bright crocus purple or a strong pink for the warmer months and am glad this is a combo easily achieved with this trend.

The Dress
Hooray, dresses are still quite en vogue for this spring! Almost every figure can find a dress that flatters, and nothing says spring more than a feminine frock and a pair of sweet flats or kitten heels. As for style, most anything goes. The day dress is still popular, with styles varying from the figure-flattering wrap in soft silks and jerseys to more structured s-line, sheath or polo-inspired styles ending right above the knee. After five, look for a return to femininity with frills, lace, sheer floaty fabrics, goddess-inspired cuts and a second year of the maxi dress going strong.

How to Wear Them: The day dresses can easily be worn now with tall boots and come warmer months with shoes that fit the style. If it is a structured style, a flat or pump will be a great choice. For the evening dresses, a feminine shoes with delicate styling and some skin (your peeptoes are still stylish) are the way to go. The skinny belt is still a strong look; try one in a metallic or black patent leather over your simple shifts to add a feminine flair. For solid-colored dresses consider a statement necklace or a scarf as your sole accessory – both are available in almost every price range at your favorite boutique right now.

The winter was a lot of solid colors, fashion has rebelled with a spring full of all sorts of prints. Love animal prints? You’ll be happy to know that there seems to be zebra prints in many stores already. Scarf prints and Pucci-inspired patterns are all over the place, and colorblocking is a very strong trend.

It is also the return of the floral print, and stronger than it has been in many years. Designers are mixing different patterns of florals, adding them to shoes, dresses, skirts and even the linings of coats and purses. These are not Little House on the Prairie calico buds; the look varies from luscious and full cabbage roses and flowers picked from a Victorian garden to modern-art inspired graphic patterns.

How to Wear Them: Like all honesty, this look isn’t for everyone. Printed cardigans and boxy short jackets add style to a simple tank and jeans; a skirt can add fun or femininity to wardrobe staples, and I love the a-line shifts where everything else is simple – minimal accessories, simple shoes, fresh face. Colorblocked styles can be quite flattering to the figure, but keep in mind that the light colors in a pattern will jump out so make sure they are not located where your least favorite body part is. If you wear a pattern, everything else should be solid and simple. The stronger the pattern, the less jewelry and cosmetics you should wear.

Yellow and orange dresses by Banana Republic; red and white print dress by Diane von Furestenberg via Nordstrom; skirt and jacket/shorts outfit by J. Crew; blouse by Kenneth Cole Reaction via Nordstrom

Updating your Wardrobe for Spring/Summer 2007

Each season I try to give you a few pieces that can be added to your wardrobe to give it a fresh look. Many seasons it’s pretty cut and dry – a chunky heel, a metallic sandal, a white sundress. This spring is not so specific. There are a few trends that seem big for this spring, but that does not mean you have to subscribe to them.

High waists are in style, but unless you have six-pack abs, you shouldn’t go anywhere NEAR this trend. Recently on Go Fug Yourself they featured a post about the lovely Jessica Simpson in this style and even SHE looked dumpy.

Leggings are still trendy under short baby-doll style dresses and tunics. The problem is that unless you are a hipster, you will look as though you are dressed for an 80s costume party. I recently went to a wedding where a woman with a slim, tall frame was wearing a black boatneck a-line mini dress with black leggings and pewter metallic flats. This is a look that could be seen on Sienna Miller, but on this 30-something woman, she looked a bit ridiculous. She had the body type, but when an outfit like this is put into regular society, unless you have the personality to be a bit quirky and artsy, it will look like a costume, not fashion. If you haven’t tried leggings since the 80s, I say there is no point in trying them now.

Skinny jeans are still all the rage. Tight, dark, stretchy and bunching at the ankles, they are seen with heels and flats on all types of celebrities. Unless you are built like these celebrities and again, have the personality to be quirky and trendsetting, don’t buy into this style. Like leggings, these can easily look like a costume. Also like leggings, this style of jean will only accentuate the negative. Tight jeans like this will make your legs look shorter, your hips wider, your thighs fuller, your bum rounder. Unlike straight, slightly slim or bootcut jeans, these stovepipes can only go with certain tops without you looking like a streetwalker or a lollypop.
Jeans from Saks Fifth Avenue

Babydoll dresses and tops can seem like great camouflage for a belly, but if you have curves elsewhere (especially the bust) you can end up looking larger, instead of smaller. These full tops often end just where your hip widens, hiding not just your belly but any feminine shape at all. Babydoll dresses also disguise any feminine shape and often look more muumuu than modern. A sleeveless babydoll can make the most waifish of arms and shoulders look as though they belong to a linebacker.

With all this negativity, you may throw your hands up and hide in your husband’s sweats. Not to fear, there are some really cute trends for the warmer months that look good on a multitude of shapes!
Dress from Nordstrom

Bermuda Shorts. The designers have modified this trend from last year so that it works for more body types. Last year they all seemed to be stiff, slim and hitting right at the worst part of the leg, this season there are more variety to the cut. I who despise shorts, found some very cute flattering styles at Old Navy – washed linen, lightweight cotton, straight cuts with a bit of give, a shorter hem and a lower waist were found to be awfully flattering on my petite curvy frame. A crease down the front slims just the way it does in longer trousers, and lighter weight fabrics don’t add bulk to the parts to the body that already have enough shape. Keep in mind that with longer trousers, a cuff will shorten and thicken a leg; if you have this problem look for a simpler style. As with skirts, do not have the short end at the widest part of your leg. Just above to mid of knee covers hips and thighs but shows that you have nice gams below. Stay away from heavy twills and denim; a lighter fabric like cotton denim, cotton blends and linen are more forgiving to the body. Also, as with skirts a heel on your shoe will add length and a slimming look to your leg. Many styles are appropriate for business casual; a pair of Bermudas with a blazer, shell and wedge slingbacks can be quite sassy. For a night out, consider Bermudas with a silky camisole, long necklace and some strappy heels. For the weekend, Bermudas can be cute with a polo shirt or scoopneck tee and wedge sandals. However if you have tried many styles and still feel as though they aren’t flattering, do not buy into this trend. Capris and skirts are still hot for this season, stick with what makes you comfortable.
Shorts from J. Crew

Contrast Brights. I am so excited for this trend, I think there is nothing more fun than a Crayola-pop of color in an outfit. A simple white shirt and black capris are transformed with a bright red belt. A simple khaki sheath dress is taken to a new level with Kelly green patent-leather heels. A gray suit gets a makeover with a yellow bead necklace or an orange silk-knit shell. The color I am happiest to see come back to stores is cobalt blue. This bright color is a fun accent to many neutrals and a real change to the basic red. A bright blue purse is an expected yet attractive compliment for gray, khaki, brown, black, white, cream and even navy. Consider switching out the belt on a dress or jacket with a blue patent leather one, or find a blue silk scarf to use as a belt, neck accessory or headband (a very popular hair accessory this season; use bobby pins to keep in place).
Belt from Torrid

Girly Touches. After many minimalistic seasons, the girly frills are back. Eyelet dresses and jackets in white, black and candy hues; rosettes on everything from dresses to purses to shoes, cabbage roses and other traditional floral patterns adorning dresses and even slingback heels. If you have a weakness for Laura Ashley, this is your season! If not, same-fabric rosettes can be a nice touch on the waistband a solid-colored silk dress and the floral-printed shoes are a funky accessory to pair with jeans and a simple white shirt. Eyelet can be surprisingly modern if in the shape of a solid white tailored blazer or black sheath dress with apple green lining. These feminine pieces are a great way to jazz up your wardrobe basics!
Shoes from Zappos, Jacket from Nordstrom

Polkadots. Polkadots are like animal prints, they never seem to go out of style if done in a subtle manner. However this season, there is no need to keep your polkadots reserved to accessories. They are seen everywhere from shirt dresses to heels to headbands. Polkadots look best when used with retro fashions – a dotted full skirt with a twinset looks fresh, dotted baggy cropped pants with a tunic does not. This season’s dots are small, feminine and mainly kept with traditional shades such as black, navy, red and white. A navy polkadot blazer can look hip with white jeans and tank, a black dotted skirt looks darling with a white short-sleeved sweater and black belt. Red polkadots look great on shoes and other accessories (and combine with the contrast brights trend). As with animal prints and other patterns, keep your dots to one piece only. Dotted shoes do not call for dotted scarf and purse. Too many dots can look costumey, keep it minimal and you will keep it stylish.
Dress from Nordstrom, shoes from Piperlime

In general, this season seems to be The Beautifying of the Basic. Fun and feminine touches to the classic dress, jeans, white shirt and trousers. Accessories such as belts, bags and fabulous shoes add interest and color. Feminine fabrics and patterns add a fresh spin to classic pieces and the amount of variety allows every woman to look attractive, stylish and most of all, HERSELF. So enjoy shopping, for this season there is a trend out there made just for you!

Summer Lingerie Must-Haves

When summer arrives, I don’t just switch out my sweaters and long-sleeved shirts for tanks and shorts, but I also switch out my lingerie drawer. Sweat, heat, and lightweight fabrics just NEED different underpinnings. My lingerie drawer must-haves for when the temperature rises:

Summer lingerie essentials

Tee Shirt Bras

Slub knits, linen and linen blends, and cotton voile are brilliant in the heat and humidity, but are prone to transparency. Tee shirt bras are a must with such fabrics as they are slightly padded, molded in shape, and free of adornments to virtually disappear while providing modesty. I always have a couple in a color close to my skintone for white and light shades, and a black one to wear under dark colors. My personal favorite is the Fantasie 4510 Smoothing Balcony T-Shirt Bra.

Nude Slip

Warmer weather is far more comfortable with lighter weight fabrics, but these fabrics (even in darker colors) can be quite transparent, especially on a bright sunny day. Having a nude slip can prevent embarrassing exposure, and if you choose wisely it won’t add too much weight or heat. I love this slip from Calvin Klein, which skims the body without adding bulk under slim dresses and doesn’t cling even in high humidity. Free of adornments, it won’t ruin the look or line of your summer frocks. Adjustable straps and plenty of stretch make the slip comfortable and well-fitting.

A little tip: For years, my favorite summer slip was the cotton lining of a dress I thrifted but didn’t like. It came with a beige cotton slip only stitched in at the shoulders, so it was easy to snip it out. It was breathable, the right length, and virtually invisible under my dresses and cost about $4.

Another tip: Check eBay for traditional slips. I find gently used, vintage, and never worn half and full slips of all colors and styles for pennies on the dollar.

Nude Thongs

I know some of you despise thongs, but I find nothing better to prevent visible panty lines (VPL) with white or lightweight pants. The Godiva Thong from Hanky Panky is a new favorite; the nude color is a perfect match for my skin and the fabric seems to mold to my body, preventing shifting, wedgies, or cutting into my waist without feeling grody on a sweltering summer day.

Black Briefs

If I’m not wearing a pair of bike shorts or slip shorts under my sundress, you can bet I’m wearing a pair of black briefs. Also my undies of choice with denim shorts. My favorite is Hanro, they really are worth the hype and the money. They hold up great and last eons longer than cheaper versions from Target meaning it’s a better value in the long run, also they fit like a dream.  Another favorite is Knock Out! Panties, which have a moisture-wicking cotton gusset to keep you dry and comfy even if the rest of you is a sweaty mess.

Nude Briefs

Same deal, for white and light colored shorts and sundresses.  I forgot to mention Hanky Panky’s Retro Vikini Briefs, some of the most comfortable undies I have worn, and pretty lace that doesn’t dig or chafe even on the hottest summer day.

Black Bike Shorts

Bike shorts are brilliant under dresses and skirts for preventing chub rub and offering modesty. I recently reviewed Jockey’s Skimmies Slipshorts which are great for this, but you can also use most any bike shorts. Check out the comments on this post for a ton of great options.

A little tip: Pettipants are a pretty alternative and easily found at online lingerie shops. I have found many on eBay; there are sellers who offer overstock and sellers who make brand new product.

Bra with Pretty Straps

I don’t think it’s stylish to purposely show your underpinnings, but summer clothes often cause bra straps to show no matter how careful you are. I’m not talking about wearing a straight bra with a racerback tank (PLEASE don’t do this, wear a racerback bra or buy one of these gadgets), but traditional tanks and camisoles sometimes slip and you get a peek. Instead of showcasing your nude tee shirt bra, having a bra in a pretty color and with attractive straps can make it less awful. This spring and summer I picked up this bra, but love the leopard straps on this one.

Strapless Bra

Comfortable and supportive strapless bras DO exist, check out my post on a bra fitting to see proof! Since realizing this, my summer wardrobe has grown exponentially. I recommend getting one similar to a tee shirt bra – very simple, smooth, one that will disappear under your clothing. As for color, it depends on your wardrobe. I choose one in nude (the Fantasie 4530) since I wear more light colors in the summer, but if your wardrobe is mostly dark colors a black one would be wiser.

What are your warm-weather lingerie must-haves?

Allie Update

I’ve become quite skilled at typing with one hand. It is a skill I’d gladly trade for never breaking my arm in the first place, but it does give me a bit of a surge of pride being able to craft an email… or this post.

Tuesday I had my third and FINAL surgery on my right forearm. My doctor removed the bone stimulator, the plate (it was so big he feared wrist issues as I aged), and did some fat adjustment and scar tissue removal inside to reduce the lumpiness that happened with the previous two incisions and healings.  For two weeks I’ll be wrapped up to ensure proper healing and a stretch-free environment for the sutures.  But after that… I’m free!

I knew this surgery was coming but I didn’t schedule anything for the blog. I have a few posts ready to go, a couple almost finished I may be able to complete with one hand, but things may be a tad light as I heal. While I can type with one hand, I can’t keep up with my thoughts and lose momentum before a sentence is finished.  I type this less than 24 hours after my surgery and while my arm feels as though someone sliced it open and dug around and I’m writing this because I can’t sleep, it’s not the same deep bone pain from times before and all in all I feel really positive.

I have reached the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel the warm sun on my face, and see how far I’ve come physically and emotionally since last February when it all began. It’s exciting, and I have a lot to be thankful for!

Ask Allie: Linen after Labor Day, Updating a Casual Wardrobe, Preventing the Muffin Top

Hi Allie:
I just ordered a pair of linen pants in dark brown. I eyed them all summer, and when they went on clearance, I pounced. My question is: When should the linen be packed away? I’d like to wear them a few times before fall/winter. Also, I live in Texas, if the scorching heat makes a difference!


Linen is not as much a summer fabric as it is a tropical fabric. It’s popular in the summer because of how well it keeps the body cool, and that is actually looks presentable when crushed and wrinkled.

I may be very conservative to many in regard to when one should wear white and most summer fabrics (eyelet, seersucker, cotton gauze, gingham, madras), but linen is one that can transition a bit from season to season depending on where in the world you live.

I have a pair of white linen trousers that have already moved up to the attic. However my olive green linen short-sleeved shift dress is still in the closet and in the Washington DC area, I believe it can still have a couple more weeks of life. I think a pair of brown trousers can transition as well.

There isn’t going to be a snowstorm any time soon in Texas, and I doubt you are already packing up leather sandals for sturdy boots. Certain pieces of summer fabrics in more autumnal colors and silhouettes can equally survive the next several weeks.

Brown, black, charcoal, navy, plum, dark red, olive green… these are autumnal colors that look great in tropical fabrics like linen. Paired with solid leather sandals or flats, quality knits and lightweight sweaters, a pair of brown linen pants can be quite nice in Texas all through October. Linen dresses can look more like fall with peeptoes in place of sandals, heavier wooden jewelry in place of delicate necklaces, possibly a belt or jacket over the piece to add some stability while still staying relatively cool.

Post-Labor Day linen look from Sutton Studio for Bloomingdales.

I have a question about rise in jeans. Is it true that if you have a poochy belly that at waist jeans are the way to go? I have been reading this lately in magazines as they say lower and mid rise sometimes makes a “muffin top” over the waistband of jeans. What are your thoughts? -Renee

As a woman who has had a poochy belly since she was 16, I disagree with this thought. The problem is, women are not built like mannequins, and not all “pooches” are equal.

I have found most women who have tummies usually have the most issue with that which is below the belly button. Childbirth, weight loss and gain ends up showing the most in the lower part of the tummy. By having a true-waist jean, you are less likely to have a “muffin top,” but actually having that zipper and extra fabric from pockets all in that already heavier area just adds more focus and thickness to a problem area.

If you have an issue with your lower half, a good way to prevent the dreaded “muffin top” and not focus on the tummy is to get a jean that is just below the natural waist, and with a wide waistband that sits flat on the belly. A wider waistband (often more like a denim trouser or a novelty style of jeans) will be less likely to dig into soft flesh and will actually provide a mini-girdle to keep things more in place and smooth under tops.

If your issue is with an all-over tummy (poochy from rob cage to groin), a true-waist jean may be a good choice. It will keep the whole torso smooth without cutting a line in the center (making that “muffin top”). Though many It Girls are running around town in high-waisted jeans and tightly-tucked fitted tops, a more classic and polished way to wear true-waist jeans is with an untucked shirt that glides over curves, or a shirt that is tucked in, slightly bloused out and paired with a belt through the jean loops.

This jean from Lane Bryant has a wider waistband and minimal waist and pocket details which is flattering to a woman’s tummy. Not only that, it has a secret slimming panel built into the jeans!

Can you suggest a few pieces that I could pull off (casual) for work that won’t break my budget? I am 6 feet tall and wear a size 12 to a 14. I love my jeans and T-shirts but I am literally bored to death with my clothes at this point.

If you have a very casual work environment, you will need some additions to my list of staples for every woman’s wardrobe. It’s possible to add a couple of basic and budget-friendly pieces that can quickly transform a current collection.

– A pair of trousers in black or charcoal gray. Amazing how a scoop neck or v-neck tee can be gym wear with some yoga pants, but look quite polished with a proper pair of trousers. A pair that are a straight or boot cut, flat front, no front pockets (or a small coin pocket), unlined and in a fabric with at least 5% lycra means they will be comfortable, most likely able to be machine washed (though hang them to dry to keep them looking great), and versatile. Pair with basic sweaters, tees with a more feminine cut (slightly fitted, interesting necklines), and cotton shirts.

– A pair of city boots. These are also called booties and ankle boots. It’s a boot that either has an elastic gusset or a zip up the side, a slight heel, and are usually of leather or microfiber. Look for a pair that is light on decoration (no perforations, variety of fabrics, studs, etc.) so it is versatile and will last more than a season. You can often find this style of boot at store’s clearance sales because it is in style year after year yet designers slightly modify the look each time. Sticking with a heel that is neither too skinny nor too chunky, a toe box that is not too round, pointy or square and a simple look will mean that even though they were at a bargain price, they will be a wardrobe staple for years to come. My suggestion is black because it goes well with denim, the above mentioned pants and can dress up a bit better than brown.

– A great blazer or casual jacket. Nothing can jazz up a simple tee and jeans better than a great jacket. Again, this is an easy find on clearance racks at stores because it’s a staple for every season, just slightly changing in cut and fabric. Due to your height, it may often be hard to find a jacket that is long enough in the sleeves. If you can’t find the right length, ignore a classic length all together and go with a three-quarter or bracelet length sleeve. As for fabric, your best bet is a twill or canvas as that it will keep with the casual vibe, be easy to clean, and work year-round.

– A necklace that can be a signature piece. Hit your local craft fair, jewelry boutique, or even mall kiosk and you can find some amazing creative necklace out there. You may be the delicate chain with pendant sort of woman, or feel best in a long strand of homemade clay beads. Bold metal, funky shells from the sea, or layers of turquoise… a necklace can take knits and denim to the next level with little effort. Best thing about a great necklace? You can wear it every single day of the week and no one questions you. As that this piece can be worn every day, don’t purchase unless you love it, it feels good on you, and the colors and style compliments your current collection. It’s easy to be sucked in by pretty baubles, but even $5 is too much spent if you never end up wearing the piece. If a necklace isn’t your thing, a similar concept can be had with earrings, a bracelet, a scarf or even a brooch. It all depends on your personal sense of style and what feels good!

This is a great example of how a necklace can transform a simple top and jeans – look by New York & Company

You may also wish to visit:
The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe
Wardrobe Hints for Warm ClimatesUnexpected “Staples” for a Summer (and beyond) Wardrobe
From Allie’s Mailbag…

Updating The Closet for Spring with Boden

I’m all for a wardrobe of workhorses; pieces that fit, flatter, are versatile and relatively timeless. However, I also find it important to update your closet each season with a couple new trends, fun colors or prints to add your personal style and keep your closet from being boring. Boden is one of my favorite places to go for pieces that infuse fun into a wardrobe without causing one to look like a fashion victim. Great colors, cheery prints, some of the best striped tops (and y’all know I love me some striped tops), but made with such quality and attention to detail that their fun pieces end up being wardrobe workhorses too.

One piece I have loved from Boden for a long time is their Ravello Top, a blouse that’s a classic yet makes a statement. A machine washable silk blend makes it a piece that can dress up and down with ease; traditional enough to be a blouse under your interview suit but can also dress down with jeans or get festive with a full midi skirt and heels. While the solids are great, I was immediately drawn to the Blue/Red Paintbox Floral print and knew it would be a great closet addition for spring. Thanks to Boden’s phenomenal phone customer service, I went with a size 12 and think it fits quite nicely.

This print is bold enough to hold its own with dark denim; I added leopard haircalf flats and a simple black leather clutch for a great outfit to grab cocktails with my girls or to go to game night at a friend’s house.

The top is perfect for the warming temps; while it looks great under a blazer or cardigan it looks professional on its own. For this look I paired it with white linen pants and used a hot pink skinny belt to switch up the blouse’s silhouette.

Expect to see a few more pieces from Boden on the blog this season; I think the line fits my curves nicely as well as my personal style and I found a lot of pieces that will nicely update my wardrobe this season but likely be favorites for many seasons to come!

This post was sponsored by Boden through their partnership with POPSUGAR. While I was compensated by POPSUGAR to write a post about Boden, all opinions are my own.

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What Every MAN Needs in HIS Wardrobe

Reader Valerie asked me to discuss what every MAN needs in his wardrobe. Like women, men are bombarded with tons of overly trendy, unflattering and plain bad options in fashion. Men get stuck in ruts too, and don’t find the time or importance for worrying about what they wear.

My husband is 6’5”, has a 36” inseam, but is slim (34” waist). For years he has stuck to one or two pairs of Levi’s jeans (he liked the baggy style from his high school days because he believed it covered up his slim build and “no-butt” shape), cargo shorts even in Summer, and plenty of tee shirts with band and surfing logos on them. When he dressed up he had a navy blazer bought at a Today’s Man Going Out of Business Sale and one pair of tan dress pants. He’d wear the same tie to weddings that he wore to his high school graduation over a decade earlier.

A few months ago he was promoted to a manager position in his company. This required him to wear collared shirts, ties, jackets and nice shoes on an almost daily basis (the off days he could downgrade to a polo and khakis). He finally realized that he was a 30-something professional dressing as a teenage skater boy. He needed a new wardrobe, but didn’t want to break the bank. What’s the point of a raise if it’s all spent on a new wardrobe?

We did our homework – men’s magazines, looking at websites of classically stylish men’s clothing websites, observing what subtly stylish celebrities wore.

1. Crisp white cotton shirt They do sell shirts that are not see-through; invest in one. This is crisp cotton, not an oxford. Take this shirt to the cleaners to keep it’s fresh look unless you want to spend forever sprinkling, ironing and starching. To have it the most versatile style, forego any detail on pockets, a button-down collar or any other trimmings. Unless he is a cufflink-type of guy, go with traditional buttoning of the cuffs. Where to wear: with suits for interviews and more dressy of events (weddings, theater, etc.), with khakis for a more casual affair, with jeans and a blazer for parties and social occasions.

2. Comfortable bootcut jeans in a semi-dark color – Confused? So were we when looking for new jeans for my husband. What works with a tucked in shirt or a casual sweatshirt? What looks modern without being overly trendy? The best color is darker than stonewashed. A traditional bootcut ends up being too tight on thicker men, and look awkward on tall slim men. Gap carries a style called “standard fit” that I have seen look great on tall men, short men, stocky men and slight men. It has the stylish cut, but the room in the thighs and rear so that they don’t look too cowboy or too hipster.

3. A black merino v-neck sweater A lightweight black merino sweater can look refined, elegant and even dressy. With a collared shirt and suiting trousers a man is ready for a party or dinner out. With a white tee and jeans or khakis, one is ready for a trip to mall or a business-casual office. The lightweight merino dresses up nicely and doesn’t get lumpy over collared shirts.

4. Flat front tropical weight wool trousers in gray – Black can be too severe, tan will look dated and cheap if not the right quality, brown and navy aren’t terribly versatile. Gray works all four seasons and compliments most other colors in a wardrobe. With a collared shirt, a blazer, a matching suit jacket, a sweater or even a polo, these pants will get much wear. Pleated pants may seem like a safe bet, but they add bulk to heavier men and look odd on slender figures. Pleats are passé, your best bet is to choose a flat front or no more than one or two pleats.

Your pants should make a bit of a bend where the ankle meets the foot. Many men wear their pants either too long or too short. If pants are too long, it doesn’t cost too much to get them hemmed at the local dry cleaner’s. As for cuffs, they are optional for all but the very short – short men should stay away from cuffs because they cut the leg and make one look even shorter.

5. A black suiting blazer Paired with matching trousers, a black suiting blazer creates an elegant ensemble for a formal event. With the gray wool trousers it’s perfect for a business meeting. With jeans and a collared shirt, it’s hip at a club or party. Keep it simple – no fancy fabrics, colorful or glitzy buttons, trendy details. The more subtle, the more stylish and the more versatile.

A three-button single-breasted jacket is a classic and flattering style for all shapes. A rule of thumb with buttons I saw once on What Not to Wear – Sometimes, Always, Never. Sometimes you can have the top button buttoned when standing, always button the middle button (your choice), and the bottom button should never be buttoned, no matter what.

6. A gray suit – Now you can cheat and have a blazer in the same fabric as the tropical weight wool trousers, or have a separate suit. Like the black blazer, keep it very simple and subtle. This suit should be able to be worn to a wedding or an interview. If there is a pattern, pinstripes or detail it will be memorable, and it won’t be timeless. Again, the jacket should be single breasted with two or three buttons.

7. Three solid colored polo shirts – Little boys and college kids wear striped polos. Adults wear solid colors. Look around you at the men who wear stripes, and those who wear solids. Who look to be in better shape and better dressed? You’ll see the more elegant and trim looking men are in solids.

As for colors, that is up to you. However I recommend one in gray, navy or black. This is a simple neutral that is flattering and classic and a bit dressier than other colors. As for the others, pick colors you enjoy. My husband has a sage green that looks great with khaki, navy and gray, and a dark plum that is an unexpected neutral that looks great with olive, khaki, gray and black. Wear with khakis or tropical weight wool trousers for business casual jobs, with cargo shorts for a summer cookout, with jeans on the weekend.

8. Flat front chinos in a khaki color (AKA khakis) – Please stop buying pleated khakis. They do not look good on anyone, and they make men look unfashionable. As for the khaki color – this is the most versatile and flattering. Lighter colors (often called stone) are not as popular and do not look appropriate past Labor Day. Darker and more yellow colors (British tan, taupe, sand) are memorable and often look more casual. As with the gray trousers, have them to the length where they make a bend (or “break”) where the ankle hits the foot.

Khakis look great with everything. Pair with a black blazer and white shirt for dinner, with a polo for work or a day on the links, with a collared shirt or sweaters for casual affairs. These pants will be so versatile, I recommend you buying two pairs. They are so neutral, no one will realize they are two of the same pants. You do not want these too stiff, or too tight. J.Crew offers a style called “relaxed fit” that is very flattering on many shapes and sizes of men. The chino fabric is lightweight enough that it doesn’t crease or bunch, but is refined enough for work, dates and social occasions.

9. A pair of sandals – I do not mean Birkenstocks and I do not mean those woven hurrache-style shoes. A simple sandal or thong in brown leather will be worn almost daily come summer. With shorts and tees, with jeans and a polo. There is nothing more attractive than a man in a crisp white shirt, well-fitting khaki chinos and a stylish pair of leather sandals in the summertime. Sandals will replace your Tevas and flops for casual affairs, sneakers with your shorts and jeans in the warmer months.

10. Longer shorts in olive or khaki – Get rid of the pleated shorts that are 4” above your knee, the faded navy and black chino shorts that you have owned since college, the beat up and threadbare stone-colored cutoffs. These shorts are a clean line without being too stiff, longer without looking sloppy. The ones shown have a 9″ inseam. The shorts should land close to or at the knee, but not below.

11. A casual sweater with a crew neckline – Keep it simple. No stripes, argyles, or overt details. A cableknit in navy, a Shetland in charcoal, a ribbed commando-style (featured) in a dark green. It should cover the wrists even when arms are extended, cover the waistband of pants even when stretching, and be a trim fit – not slim, but not overly baggy. Think refined, classic, simple. The color should be one you enjoy and you find flattering, without being too strong. Navy instead of royal, olive or forest instead of bright green, russet instead of red. This will be the most versatile with all your bottoms. These colors go with khaki, with gray, with denim. A crew neckline will look nice with a collared shirt or on it’s own.

12. Black leather slip-on dress loafers – The best buy I have ever made for my husband. Being a slip-on style, they can transition from dress to casual with ease; a laced-up oxford can often seem too prim. These shoes look great with an oxford shirt and khakis for Thanksgiving dinner at the grandparent’s house. With his suit for work, or for a wedding. With the merino v-neck and trousers for a party at a friend’s house. These shoes go with every pant in my husband’s wardrobe except jeans, and fit every occasion where pants other than jeans are appropriate. On top of that, they are comfortable!

13. A pair of Euro sneakers or rugged leather oxford shoes – These are what you wear when you can’t wear the black loafers. Euro sneakers are leather, subtle in color and sleek in design. They are a dressier version of traditional tennies. If Euro sneakers are not your thing, consider a pair of sturdy oxfords – my husband has a pair of brown lace-ups from Merrell that have contrast stitching, sturdy laces and a chunky sole. My good friend has stayed tried and true to his black Dr. Martens for the past two decades. Like Euro sneakers, these shoes can fill in where the black loafer cannot – with jeans and to dress down khakis.

14. A wool winter coat – The parka is great for cold days, and the fleece is an easy layer for weekends. However for work, for evening, and for special occasions you need something not made of Gortex. A wool coat in black, charcoal or dark navy will get years of wear. Consider a traditional peacoat style – it works well with jeans and tee shirts or with suits. A single breasted style will make a thicker man look leaner and a shorter man look taller. As with the rest of these wardrobe basics, keep it simple. Buttons should be the same tone as the coat, collars and shoulders should not have adornments. A simple lining is good for moderate climates, consider a Thinsulate lining for those residing in the more northern of states.

15. Black leather dress belt – you need something to keep up those khakis and tropical weight wool trousers. A dress best is not like your casual belts – the leather is stiff and glossy. The buckle is polished and minimal. The whole style is slim, sleek and refined. The rugged brown leather belts with the hammered steel buckle is fine for the weekends, but should never be paired with suits or nice trousers. Your belt should always match the color of your shoes – as that I have only recommended black dress shoes, you will only need a black dress belt.

Additional Items You May Need:

  1. A bathing suit in a simple pattern or solid that hits near the knees, without going below the knee
  2. A French blue dress button-down shirt
  3. Ties – stripes for work, solids for formal affairs, patterns for festive occasions. You should own at least two.
  4. Casual button down shirts – for work with khakis, for play with jeans. Look for wrinkle-resistant styles so they can be easily washed and dried. Subtle stripes, solids in colors you enjoy and fit your personality, muted plaids. These shirts should be tucked in, one button unbuttoned without an undershirt, two buttons unbuttoned with a tee shirt underneath.

What to Remove from Your Wardrobe:

  1. Any jeans with bleached out areas, sandblasted, or stonewashed
  2. Any classic fit, overly baggy or tapered jeans
  3. Short sleeved dress shirts – these look goofy on everyone. If you’re hot, roll your sleeves
  4. Plaid flannel shirts as work shirts – just because you tuck it in does not mean it is work or socially appropriate. Flannels are for casual affairs: camping, cold nights and weekends in the yard (my husband asked me to include Pearl Jam concerts)
  5. Tee shirts with witty logos/cartoon characters/lewd jokes – these are corny, crass and tacky. Silly shirts are for college kids, not adult professionals.
  6. White socks unless you are performing an athletic activity.
  7. Sports jerseys unless you are attending a sporting event, participating in a sporting event, or going to a sport-themed party. Rappers can carry off a sports jersey for a red carpet event; until you have the bankroll of a rapper, you cannot dress like one. You will look childish or goofy.
  8. Sweatpants with elastic at the ankle. Any sweatpants or athletic bottoms should be reserved to the gym and your home when you don’t have guests. However, traditional elastic sweatpants are horribly unflattering and tacky.
  9. That brown leather bomber jacket you have had since college. It was hip in the 90’s, it is NOT hip today.
  10. Athletic sneakers with shorts. Invest in some leather or athletic-inspired sandals. Sneakers with shorts look ridiculous and immature. Traditional sneakers are only for athletic events.
  11. Denim shorts. NO buts about it, there is NEVER a good time to wear denim shorts.
  12. Cliff Huxtable sweaters. Get rid of the jewel tones, the funky patterns and textures. Solids are safe and flattering. The crazy patterned sweaters look dated.
  13. Mock turtlenecks. Whoever invented these should be shot. The only version of turtleneck you should be wearing would be on the ski slopes or part of a chunky sweater. There is never an appropriate place for knit mock turtlenecks

What Every Man Needs in his Wardrobe: My Two Cents by Terry

what every man needs in his wardrobe

Many of you have asked for an update to my post, “What Every MAN Needs in his Wardrobe.” And I have been saying to myself that it’s about time I updated it.  Since the last update in 2010 (original in 2006), men’s fashion has changed pretty drastically, from casual footwear to the cut and wash of denim.  I began the process, but then decided it would be more authentic and accurate if written from the perspective of a man interested and aware of style.

When deciding who would be best for the job I immediately thought of Terry S., the man behind Terry’s Two Cents. Terry’s has real-life attainable personal style, he knows how to dress for the workplace and the everyday in a current manner without being too trendy or too out there. As a husband, father, and a job in higher education, Terry understands the sartorial needs of many men. Let’s see what Terry thinks of my 2010 list (click to read the details and the whys to each piece) and how he would adjust it for 2015:

what every man needs in his closet

The lovely Alison has graciously asked me for my “two cents” on updating her 2010 post of what every man needs in his wardrobe. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. Here is her original list, and my thoughts on whether I agree or disagree with it, as well as any changes I’d like to make.

1. Crisp White Cotton Shirt

ABSOLUTELY. Every single man should have at LEAST one of these in his wardrobe. Narrow and more tailored cuts are preferred.

2. Comfortable Jeans in a Semi-dark Color

I agree with having a dark wash jean, but I’d even say that also owning a pair of light wash jeans are great as well. Jeans are extremely versatile, and can be used to be casual, or even dressy. Some people may not like bootcut, so I always recommend going with what is comfortable to you. Slim, or even straight legs are great. Stay away from going too baggy.

3. A Black Merino V-neck Sweater

Yes. I’d even go to add a red and/or a blue one to this. Most men are a little hesitant to experiment with color, and a sweater is a great way to try it out. It can also give your look a little something extra when going with a color.

4. Flat Front Tropical Weight Wool Trousers in Grey

Agreed. I would go with a medium weight so that they could be worn year-round without worrying about being too hot or too cold. Flat front is definitely more modern than pleated, and grey is pretty versatile.

5. A Black Suiting Blazer with Three Buttons

A great blazer is ALWAYS a good choice to have in the wardrobe. Personally, I prefer two buttons instead of three, as it tends to look better on just about all body shapes and sizes.

6. A Grey Suit

Yes. A charcoal grey suit should be a great first (or even only) suit for men. It has a little bit more versatility than a black suit, and should be every bit as timeless and classic.

7. Three Solid-colored Polo Shirts

I’d even go further to say four: black, white, and two colors you like to wear. Usually something like red and blue are safest, but this is another great way to experiment with colors.

8. Flat-front Chinos in a Khaki Color

Absolutely. While the grey trousers are great for more dressy looks, khaki ones are great for more casual looks, and still look dressier than wearing jeans.

9. A Pair of Sandals

Definitely, especially for the summer months. What’s better than rocking a beach-inspired dressy look of your white button up shirt, sleeves rolled up partially, khaki chinos, and a good pair of leather sandals?

10. Longer Shorts in Olive or Khaki

Longer shorts are definitely great. I like to wear shorts that either to right to the knee, or an inch or so above the knee. Any shorter might make them look like they’re too small, and longer cargo-type shorts aren’t really that stylish nowadays. Definitely in khaki. I’d also lean more toward a grey pair over an olive pair.

11. A Casual Sweater with a Crew Neckline

Sometimes. To me, crew necklines for sweaters tend to be more limiting. If pairing them with a collared shirt, you will only be able to see the collar, so forget wearing a tie with it. If having to choose, I’d go with a v-neck sweater first.

12. Black Leather Slip-on Dress Loafers

Yes, yes, YES. Great way to even instantly dress up a fairly casual look, and also great to showcase some crazy socks (like I like to wear).

13. A Pair of Euro Sneakers or Rugged Leather Oxford Shoes

Yes. I personally prefer these type of sneakers over athletic ones, because you can dress them up and still look put-together.

14. A Wool Winter Coat

Absolutely. I’m a personal fan of either a peacoat or a car coat. Both are classic and timeless.

15. Black Leather Dress Belt

Agreed. I would even go further to add a brown leather dress belt as well. Or, even better, a reversible belt. Kill two birds with one stone.

What would I add to the list?

16. Trenchcoat

These are about as timeless as one can get. Super stylish, and they NEVER go out of style. It might be tempting to go for one in color, but I would recommend sticking with the traditional khaki color. If you can find one with a removable liner inside for the colder months, that’s even better.


Terry's Two CentsTerry is a husband, father, Apple techie, stylist, geek, gamer, Starbucks drinker, people watcher, fashionisto.

Read more about his two cents on life and style at his blog, Twitter, and Instagram.

What Every Man Needs in His Wardrobe – Updated for 2010

A few years ago, I wrote the post, “What Every MAN Needs in his Wardrobe.” Since then, I seem to get comments and emails about it every month, and it has been mentioned in many articles on sites all over the Web.

What Every Man Needs in his Wardrobe

Men’s fashion is so difficult because it is so simple. A man can’t feign style with trendy colors, bold accessories, or an It Bag. A man has a harder time making a Tarjay purchase cut it in the corporate world. Men’s retailers don’t help the situation – with women’s retailers we can tell that Mom Jeans are passé because they can only be found at cheaper Big Box retailers; men can find all sorts of Fashion Don’ts at the nicest brands and shops.

However just as with women, if a man has a very simple base wardrobe of staples, he can get away with adding some trendy or fun pieces to the mix without looking like a fashion victim. Purchasing quality, classic pieces means one’s wardrobe can stand the test of time and be far more versatile.

Re-reading my list of wardrobe staples for men from back in 2006, very little has changed. The good thing about men’s fashion is that it isn’t as quickly changing as that for women. Jeans you buy in 2007 will most likely be stylish in 2011, and silhouettes don’t change as drastically as those for women. However some trends have happened that aren’t TOO trendy, and can adjust the staples for any man. So let’s revisit that list.

Here’s a recap of the original list from 2006:
1. White dress shirt
2. Bootcut jeans
3. Black merino v-neck sweater
4. Flat front gray trousers
5. Black blazer
6. Gray suit
7. Solid-colored polo shirts
8. Flat front chinos/khakis
9. Sandals
10. Longer chino shorts
11. Casual crew neck sweater
12. Black slip on loafers
13. Euro sneakers
14. Wool coat
15. Black dress belt

1. Crisp White Cotton Shirt. This is a given. Every man needs at least one of these, as that they are so versatile and look best when very white, very crisp. Over the past couple of years, trimmer cuts have taken center stage. If you are a lean gentleman, do not let your white shirt balloon around you – this look will completely kill any style. European brands like French Connection offer narrower cuts, American retail favorites like Banana Republic and Gap also offer dress and casual shirts in fitted silhouettes.

If you are tall, look for brands that cater to tall men. My husband is a big fan of the Banana Republic line for Big & Tall men – the quality is good, and the cuts really do fit far better than standard brands. If you are shorter, you will always be better off heading straight to a shop like Brooks Brothers or a department store to get the right length of arms along with right size of neck.

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2. Comfortable Bootcut Jeans in a Semi-dark Color. This is one of the items that has changed the most drastically since the original post. Jeans are a wardrobe staple for most any person on this planet and retailers know this. Styles in denim change faster than with any other type of garment.

The mentioned relaxed bootcut jean is still a decent choice – it’s not too trendy, yet not dated. However since then other cuts and washes have become classics.

A very dark crisp jean, often called “rinse” in color or described as “rigid”, “selvedge”, or “raw” denim has become a classic for men as well as women. This is not a dark wash, but a deep, even dark indigo where the denim looks untouched. Often the inside seams are stitched in red, and the denim is far heavier-weight and stiff than most jeans in the store. In a slim, straight or slight boot cut, this look can be a great staple for most men. Adding the slight bootcut or a more relaxed cut is a good choice for very tall and lean men, as well as for shorter or heavier men. You want to balance out your shape, so you don’t look top heavy. A great classic choice for this type of jean is the Levi’s 501.

The vintage jean is a jean that is supposed to look as though it has been weathered through use. This jean doesn’t have the pronounced whiskering I mentioned in the original post, but all-over wear. We’re not talking shredded jeans a la the Glam Rock days, but something that looks as though a farmhand took a pair of raw denim and wore them for an entire season out in the fields. This look can be a bit looser and more relaxed than the dark denim, but it is still not baggy or loose. Again, a straight or slight boot cut will be your best choice.

Jeans now can be cuffed, but you are treading into trendy territory with this choice. If you don’t feel confident in knowing how to cuff your jeans in a fashionable manner and only plan to cuff to achieve the proper length, I encourage you to instead buy the right length or head to a tailor to have them properly hemmed (ask them to keep the original hem or at least hem style so it doesn’t look as though Mommy did it for you). If you know your length, many online retailers offer extended lengths and waist sizes online so you can get the right fit from the get-go.

3. A Black Merino V-neck Sweater. Yeppers, this is still stylish. Just be sure it fits you, and isn’t overly baggy. The only thing that has changed in the past few years is that cuts are now more trim. If you have some meat on your bones, don’t try to hide it with an oversized sweater, but don’t go too skinny. A straight fit in your regular size will actually make you look more slim than something that is baggy.

In the original post, someone commented that cashmere is a better choice. Cashmere is always in style, but it requires a bit more upkeep. If your budget and lifestyle can handle cashmere, by all means choose it. However most men I know are better off with a sweater that can handle being thrown in a hamper or sent to the cleaners to be cared for. Cashmere is best cared for with hand washing and being laid flat to dry. If you don’t have the life for that sort of care, it’s okay. Merino wool is a wonderful alternative and holds its shape great, wear after wear.

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4. Flat Front Tropical Weight Wool Trousers in Gray. Another classic. My only suggestion is that if you are deciding between cuffs and no cuffs, go without the cuffs. Cuffs are being seen less and less and are becoming something that is trendy – let those pants be stylish for many years to come and choose to go without cuffs, or any other trendy embellishment.

The narrow pant has become very stylish in the past couple of years. If you are reading this for clothing advice, I recommend you do NOT go for the narrow pant. The narrow pant is a hard look to pull off and can only be worn with certain shoes, certain tops, and on certain shapes of men. Keep it simple, keep it classic, stick to a flat front, standard leg, standard length.

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5. A Black Suiting Blazer with Three Buttons. Classic. Simple. Just keep with current trends and keep it well-fitted. Get it properly tailored to fit your body – it will make you look more muscular, more fit, more trim if you have a well-fitting jacket.  As for figuring out fit, I love these tips from a Suitable Wardrobe and this link for sizing from SuitUPP – every man should bookmark them, print them out and take with you to the tailor when you get your jackets fitted (for no jacket fits properly off the rack – sorry to tell you guys, but it’s worth it to get them tailored.

When I originally wrote this, I chose black over navy for the same reason I choose black as the base color for my list of women’s wardrobe staples – it’s easier. You can’t get the wrong shade of black, and with black you always know what color shoes to wear. Navy is a wonderful choice for a blazer – it is classic and elegant, but the problem is navy can look more like blue if the wrong shade, navy will show the fabric better so if you don’t have high quality fibers it will be obvious, and often people pair navy with colors that don’t compliment well (hello black trousers). If you can find a dark navy of quality fibers, it is a worthy replacement of black. But if you’re unsure, stick with black for it’s safe and in this day and age, considered as versatile as navy.

6. A Gray Suit. Yep, this is still a classic. Far more versatile than any other color available, and more likely to look elegant in five years. Make sure it is tailored to fit you properly, and it should work for most any event that life throws in your direction.

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7. Three Solid-colored Polo Shirts. There are more hip, more trendy, more fashionable choices than polo shirts, but nothing that is as timeless, budget-friendly, and versatile. My only update is again about fit – keep it trim (not tight) and be sure the length is correct. I constantly see men who have polo shirts that barely cover their belts, and other men who wear ones that hang to their knees. The current look is no longer baggy, so even if you are short and stocky, you should be able to find a polo shirt that doesn’t look like a dress. Tall men, almost every online retailer offers long lengths – you can easily get a few polos on sale at J. Crew or Gap and replace your belly-baring tops.

Keep your polo shirts looking better for longer and don’t wash them with your jeans, towels, or any athletic wear with grommets or Velcro. My husband washes his with other knits and they don’t fade or stretch out as quickly.

8. Flat-front Chinos in a Khaki Color. Still a classic. If you wear khakis for work, keep one pair that is only for social events. Often I see men at weddings and happy hours with stained or snagged chinos, and it’s obvious they are the same ones they wear on the job.

Again I have to mention length. It’s better to get them too long and have them hemmed than go too short. Any drycleaner can hem your pants and get them back to you in a couple of days. J. Crew and Lands End are two of many retailers that sell unusual lengths online. J. Crew even offers a raw hem so you can have them hemmed by your own tailor for the perfect length.

9. A Pair of Sandals. Magazines and Web sites will talk about all sorts of other summer shoes, but if you are a Fashion Freshman, I don’t suggest many other trendy alternatives that are out there.  I recommend checking out Zappos, a site with a HUGE selection of shoes. When I recently searched for men’s leather sandals, they had 545 options. It is possible to find a pair of thong or slide sandals that look manly, will be comfortable, and be a great choice with shorts or jeans.

10. Longer Shorts in Olive or Khaki. I am not saying your shorts should hang past your knee. You’re looking for that happy medium that is between the thigh and the knee. The baggy look is out guys, so pass on the pleats, the millions of cargo pockets and any pair that can’t stay on your hips without a belt. A heavier-weight chino will keep a crisp, sophisticated look.

I mentioned cargo shorts as a good alternative, but since that original post cargo shorts have started going out of style. I really think every man need a clean, crisp pair (or three) of cargo-free chino shorts. It’s far more modern, flattering, and stylish.

11. A Casual Sweater with a Crew Neckline. There are a lot of thin cotton sweaters out there that end up clinging to your tee shirt, stretching out in the wash, blousing out weird at the hem. It’s better to have fewer sweaters in your closet and know that the ones you have fit well, launder well, and will keep their shape and color. If you buy quality, this sweater can still be one you love to wear a decade from now.

If you have this crew sweater, you can definitely branch out with necklines. More v-necks, a shawl collar, etc. Start with crew, a crew is a wardrobe staple and a good first choice to build your proper wardrobe.

12. Black Leather Slip-on Dress Loafers. These are so versatile, you may even want a second pair. Seriously.

And with the new dark, crisp looks in denim, these loafers can now be worn with that type of denim and look stylish.

13. A Pair of Euro Sneakers or Rugged Leather Oxford Shoes. This is probably the only item on this list that has really changed over the years and isn’t still considered a perfect wardrobe choice. Really, that’s to be expected – a shoe like this is more of a novelty piece and will change with the times and trends. You’re looking for a casual shoe – something more socially acceptable than an athletic sneaker, but not as dressy as the black loafer. .

A popular choice for this type of shoe is the Converse All Stars “Chucks” sneakers. In black, with a low rise, these are a wonderful choice to add to your wardrobe. My husband’s friend has a pair of loafers, but they are a dark brown with a more rugged sole that look great with his chinos and jeans. I love the look of engineer boots or chukkas – a great choice with this season’s trim dark jeans.

Pick a style that works with your personal style. Into the music scene? Consider some Doc Martens. A bit preppy? How about some Sperry Topsiders? Like sports? Instead of a pair of old Nikes, consider some Adidas “Shell Tops” (just be sure they stay in immaculate condition). Desert boots are a good choice if you have more of a beachy or boho sense of style.

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14. A Wool Winter Coat. Still a classic, and still a wardrobe essential.

15. Black Leather Dress Belt. If you own #12, you need #15.

Additional Items You Should Have in your Wardrobe:
1. Oxfords shirts in blue and white. These shirts are different from the dress shirt. They are more casual, have a heavier textured weave, button-down collars, and aren’t meant to be worn with a suit. Go for a trim cut, and you can wear them tucked in with jeans and pants, or even untucked with chinos or shorts. If you have a sense of flair, feel free to stray from the basic blue and white – real men DO wear pink, and other hues are hot and surprisingly versatile. This sort of shirt also looks great under a sweater come winter. For summer, here’s a great link that tells you how to roll up your cuffs.

2. Other casual button-down shirts. Right now, the button-down shirt is hot, as long as it’s the right fabric and fit. Shirts shouldn’t be blousy, and they shouldn’t have texture or shine. The vintage look is hot for casual wear. Plaids have come back in style, and we’re talking cotton, and not grunge-era flannel. Stripes are great too.

Before I stated that short-sleeved dress shirts are goofy. I still believe that. However, since the original post, fashion has made great strides with the short-sleeved casual shirt. For lean men, the semi-fitted button down in plaid is a nice look; for stocky men the more casual beachy short-sleeved shirt in chambray or a lightweight cotton looks great untucked with shorts or chinos.

3. A light blue or French blue dress shirt. Same rules apply as for the white dress shirt.

4. Ties. Just as stated before, solid for more formal events, stripes for work, patterns and more casual fabrics for festive occasions. Please get your ties cleaned occasionally, and especially after any event that includes cigars and/or large consumption of alcohol. Nothing worse than a stained or rumpled tie. And for some wonderful tutorials, here is a fabulous site that shows you with diagrams as well as videos on how to tie a tie with the four most popular knots (I recommend four in hand for pretty much any affair, Half Windsor for the more formal affairs).

5. Dress socks. Your black SmartWool socks are NOT a choice when wearing a suit. You should own at least two pairs of socks that are meant to be worn with suits. As a rule, have your socks match your pant, not your shoe.

6. A leather wallet. Get rid of your Velcro-closure one from Billabong, and get rid of the one you have had since you high school graduation. A man’s wallet is like a woman’s purse – it should be well cared for, not overstuffed, and match your sense of style. Regularly remove receipts, business cards and other things that will make it be the size of a Dagwood sandwich.

7. Bathing trunks. Keep it simple – simple print or a solid. Trim but not tight, length similar to the abovementioned shorts.

8. An umbrella. This is not some swag you got from your last work conference. Get a travel one that will fit in your laptop bag, and can withstand fierce winds. My husband and I have a couple from Lands End that are classic, sturdy, reliable. Black is a safe bet, or you can add some color to your look with a muted plaid or solid color.  Any woman will tell you that she would find it terribly gallant for a man to pull out an umbrella to protect her during an unexpected rainshower…

9. Sunglasses. It’s time to retire the Oakleys (or keep them for sporting events and the most casual of situations). Variations of the classic Aviator or the Wayfarer are popular now, but I recommend you visit a high-end department store or sunglass boutique in the mall to try various styles to find what fits your face as well as your lifestyle.

10. White tee shirts. You should own a couple crisp, well-made white tee shirts to wear under things. Those Hanes ads with Michael Jordan are right – the cheap tees that buckle at the neck look terrible. Be sure to wash your white tees with other whites, use some oxygen cleaner or line dry to keep them white.

11.  Casual belt.  If your casual shoes are black, look for a more casual black belt.  If they are brown, look for brown.  My husband always has luck finding casual belts on clearance at Banana Republic that are well-made, timeless, and budget-friendly.

Since the original post about what every man needs in his wardrobe, I have added several Web sites and blogs to my Blogroll that specialize in Men’s Style.  Unlike me, their expertise is in men’s fashion, and I trust them for advice and input on new trends.  Do check them out.

Ask Allie: Plus Size Wardrobe Staples

Dear Allie, I found your wardrobe staples post many years ago and it changed my life. I cut my closet in half but finally had the right clothes for everything. Since then, I have had two children and some health issues and I’m now a size 22. I gave up on fashion the past five years but my New Year resolution is to get back in shape and in style. Thing is I go to the mall and I can’t find anything on your list, everything is so ugly and old looking and cheap in plus sizes. Help!

My first suggestion to you is to get the heck out of the mall. While more and more brick and mortar shops are offering plus size fashion, most neighborhood malls have pretty slim pickings. Shipments are done by a buyer, one who just looks at generic demographics and statistics for the store, mall, and zip code and makes general decisions on whether to feature more plus size or less, more suiting or more weekend wear, more formal dresses or cotton sundresses. While you could drive around town to find plus size fashion Mecca, you could also head to your computer.

I hardly ever enter a mall anymore because I find them frustrating, messy, and overwhelming. When I do visit, I plan out my trip and head first to my go-to stores where I know the clothes fit my body and my personal style. Then if I still have some energy left, I’ll investigate other retailers. However, I find far more luck sticking to online retailers. Better selection of styles as well as sizes, easier to find discounts, and I can try on pieces in my bedroom with flattering lighting and proper shoes and undergarments.

I did a little searching online and was able to quickly find all the wardrobe staples I suggest in plus sizes. These days many retailers offer free or near-free shipping and returns; I did a review of my favorite plus-size retailers here. Keep in mind that this time of year is awesome for deals, but awful for selection. We’re entering inventory season, and every retailer tries to have as little merchandise as possible for inventory to make the process easier. If you’re looking for bargains you’re likely in luck, but if you’re striking out in sizes, wait until mid-March when spring collections will be stocked in the stores.

In the collage above, I left out the wool coat and accessories from the staples list because I find them relatively easy to find and likely you have the accessories already in your collection. Here’s a list of some of my go-to retailers for specific plus size fashion:

I also recommend you check out some plus size blogs and forums. I personally am not part of any boards or forums so I suggest you lurk some and find a good fit. While there are so many blogs out there who showcase their fabulous plus size personal style, here are few plus size-specific blogs I find to be quite helpful in reviewing lines and offering fashion suggestions. I also recommend reading their blogrolls and comments for additional blogs and online resources:

I’m so happy that you are using this year to care for yourself. Everyone deserves to feel fabulous and you’re gorgeous no matter your dress size. Dressing to flatter your current figure and personal style makes you feel confident and helps showcase your beautiful self. Don’t let the malls get you down, head online and you may find just what you were looking for!

Readers, I look forward to your comments on this subject, as I am not an expert.  Where do you find plus size wardrobe staples?  Who are your favorite plus size bloggers?  What online resources do you recommend?  

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Allie Update

Well hello there everyone, from the snowy Washington DC region! Heading into my third week with my arm, last week I was approved for six weeks short term disability. Today I was supposed to go to the orthopedist for my checkup but with the ice and snow we got last night and today, the office called this morning to reschedule for a later date.

I am SOOOOO glad I’m off painkillers! As soon as I mention my broken arm I get jokes about getting “good meds.” Well while Vicodin and Percocet helped me sleep and be more comfortable physically, they were awful mentally. I was whiny boo boo kitty, had a hard time forming coherent thoughts, couldn’t handle loud noises or lots of activity, and always felt a bit ready to throw up. I’ve been reading The Goldfinch for a while and decided to finish it while out of work (Kindle FTW, perfection for one-handed reading!), and I don’t want to ruin it for you, but there are characters in the book who abuse prescription drugs, one mainly using Vicodin, and the combination of the awful feeling and the book made me stop the drugs last Monday. After a couple days I was able to sleep up to six hours without waking, feel so much more alive and positive!

And have to give the biggest of props to Karl, who has been an utter rockstar through all of this. Making sure I took my meds, taking me to appointments, doing all the dishes and laundry and cleaning, putting Em to bed and bathing her, bathing ME, feeding us, and being so zen through the crazy. My sister has also been so fantastic, helping with Emerson and me, giving Karl a bit of a break. My mom has been so helpful, offering to watch Em during appointments and coming over to help.

And the wonderful people I have met through blogging have also been wonderful. It has made me tear up to see how brands I started partnering with a year or so ago are now friends, reaching out, sending well wishes, offering help. I’ve gotten so many sweet comments and emails from you all, I wish I could type better so I can let you know how much your messages mean and how glad I have connected with you. And my virtual friends, be you IRL friends who are also bloggers or have moved far away, readers who have become friends, or fellow bloggers I have gotten to know well, you have been so great during this time.

Speaking of those friends, I reached out to them and asked if they could help out a bit while I heal. So every so often I will be having them guest post on Wardrobe Oxygen. I have reached out to those who I think can provide content that you would enjoy, and will be a nice complement to the content I provide and the conversations we have here in the comments and on Twitter and Facebook.

While having my arm broken sucks big time, it has been so great to have this time to spend with Emerson and Karl. I type this with Emerson cuddled up on the couch next to me watching Pokemon 4Ever (I’ve seen this movie eight times since Friday, but it means eight times I have snuggled with Emerson without having to rush off to work or a blog thing), Karl in the kitchen making breakfast, soon coming to join us. I realize how busy I have been, rarely at home and when here, usually attached to a phone or laptop. This down time has been a great exercise in reassessing priorities, and a great time to connect with my family on a deeper level. I miss writing desperately, but I feel blessed that it was only my arm and I am recuperating surrounded by such love.

Much love to all of you, miss you!
– Alison

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Weekend Update

Friday night Karl and I went to bed before the sun set. My body woke me at 6am, I got up, brushed my teeth, stretched some… and then went back to bed until Emerson came in to wake us around 7:30.

We got up, Karl went off to teach and Emerson and I had our Saturday morning routine. We ate oatmeal and blueberries, she watched Veggie Tales (girl LOVES this show, more than any other show or movie, not even sure where she saw it for the first time), I read my crappy but addictive book (above and review soon). I gave her a new glitter tattoo (she wanted to look like Daddy).

We went to Emerson’s dance class. She showed off her tattoo, I chatted with the great parents of her classmates, she listened to her teacher and learned new things. I’m really glad they all signed up for the summer, it’s a nice group of kids that get along so well, and we parents get along too.

We then went to Starbucks. I usually get coffee, but I had accrued 12 stars on my Starbucks app so got a free drink and splurged on a Caramel Light Frappucinno. Emerson had her standard pink cake pop and cup of water.  We chatted about class and what she wanted to do that weekend.

We came home, Emerson changed into play clothes, and I headed out for some time alone. Finally got my hair cut and colored (first cut since the disaster cut), then went and got my brows waxed. Sitting all foiled, I read People and Us Weekly and all kinds of junk I normally don’t read.

Karl grilled salmon and made massaged kale salad for an early dinner. Emerson started yawning at 6pm so we went up early for a bath and bedtime. Karl and I snuggled on the couch and started watching Sherlock but I started getting sleepy around 8:30 so we went upstairs and read in bed and I was asleep before 9:30.

Sunday, we spent time with friends and family, I went to the farmer’s market for the first time this season and even got in a 30 minute power nap later in the day.

I’m feeling better, and I am so thankful to all of you. Your sweet words, advice, personal stories have truly helped and I know I am not alone. I truly love you guys, and feel so blessed that we have connected through this blog. Thank you.

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Vacation Update

Greetings from Elmore, Vermont!

I have no cell reception in this town and only a couple bars in the neighboring town; Internet is terribly spotty except at 6am, when our college-aged cousin and her friend aren’t gaming/on Tumblr/Twitter/Facebook/some sort of chat. And for this I am eternally grateful. Don’t get me wrong, I love blogging and miss the community with you all here, on Facebook, and Twitter. However, it feels so darn healthy to take a break from it all. I have read two books, taken naps, written just for myself and not for the blog. Yesterday I spent almost the entire day in the lake, teaching Emerson how to swim. 90% of the time this week I have no clue what time it is, and have no need to know.

Come on, how can you NOT love a place that has local produce and meats, self-serve popcorn machine for 50 cents a bag, a post office with PO boxes, and a great wine and beer selection right next to the motor oil?  I want to pack it in my suitcase and take it home with me

We’re staying in a house right on Lake Elmore, which is an itty bitty town. We walk to the general store for provisions, which sells bottles of wine right next to bottles of motor oil, and is also the town post office. We can drive to nearby Morrisville to visit the cousins’ restaurant and farm, but even that town is pretty small – lots of sporting goods stores, little cafes, and churches.

The TV rarely is turned on, and if so it’s usually an old VHS tape of a Disney movie to entertain Emerson early in the morning or while we are prepping dinner. Lack of cell and Internet reception means more time for family card games and just sitting on the deck, staring at the water. My husband is doing yoga and chi gong classes for us each day, and I feel weird aches deep in my triceps and hips from the regular stretching. I haven’t worn any makeup except mascara all week, and that is only the days when I know I am actually leaving Elmore. My hair air-dries to its Kip Winger fabulousness, parting in the middle and feathering to the sides and I don’t really give a damn. When it’s in the way, I pull it up in a messy ponytail without glancing at a mirror. Denim cutoffs with hoodies, cotton sundresses with the same beige leather sandals every day, I occasionally get crazy and add a pair of silver hoops or my cuff bracelet.

The only think that sucks about this vacation is that we are sharing a home with a large quantity of other people. We’re sharing a bedroom with Emerson, which means we sneak in to bed at night, trying to be as quiet as possible. The bedroom has two walls of windows and only thin cellular shades so when the sun rises, so does Emerson. The latest she has woken is 7am. My husband and I hardly ever get a moment alone, so while we’re having an amazing time as a family, the romance department is lacking (save for a quickie in the laundry closet the other day while everyone went to the Ben & Jerry’s factory and Emerson was napping… may be TMI but hey, we’re all adults here).

But what sucks is also what is great – all this family having fun together. Enjoying one another’s company. Growing up, my sister and I were alone a lot. Both my mother and father were much younger than their siblings so I have cousins who are the same age as my parents. Family vacations, usually the only people our age were each other and this gap in ages I think is a reason why we aren’t closer with our family. However, my husband’s family is closer in age. His dad’s sister has two daughters who are around our age with children close to Emerson’s age. This week we are staying with relatives from his mom’s side – his two cousins are less than a decade older than we so we can enjoy hanging out together, have similar interests, and they all have childhood memories they share of family vacations together having fun.

Emerson at her cousin’s farm with one of her cousins (right) and “Moose,” her new idol (left)

It has been a really cool and unique experience for me, and I am glad to be able to offer this opportunity to Emerson. Emerson will most likely be our only child, but she is blessed to have a very loving family on both her mother as well as her father’s side. To give her the chance to spend a week with these awesome folks, to play in a lake and idolize a sweet little 12-year old boy she has decided to call “Moose”; to eat ice cream for breakfast and learn how to swim; to truly get to know her family – her history and where she comes from… it’s pretty awesome.

So while I miss the blog and I miss all of you, I am having a pretty memorable week in a tiny town in Vermont. It’s giving me a really great outlook, helping me prioritize things in my life, and giving me the energy to come back to “the real world” next week and tackle it with a fresh set of eyes.

And don’t worry, those eyes will again be accented with mascara!

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A Nordstrom Update

The day after my previous post about Nordstrom, I was contacted by their Corporate Communications department via email and then by telephone. Today Chris from Nordstrom and I had a lovely call during my lunch hour and I have more insight concerning the change in shipping styles and policies for the company.

Before, if the Nordstrom warehouse didn’t have your Via Spigas or Rachel Palley in stock, you would be told that. Tough tootsies, mamacita. Now what Nordstrom does is their system will check all the Nordstrom stores to see if one of them has your item in stock. This means you have a better chance of getting the item you desire and not seeing the dreaded “Out of Stock” message. Also, Nordstrom is working with some retailers so they can deliver the item directly from THEIR warehouse, instead of having it shipped twice –first to Nordstrom, and then to you. Think

This process has been going on for about a year, and Nordstrom is working hard to improve and perfect the process. However in the mean time, if you order five things, they could possibly come from five different stores (or a mix of stores, warehouse and the brand’s headquarters). Chris from Nordstrom asked for the order number for the order I referenced in my post. He was able to see from his computer that the tights and bracelet came from headquarters, the shoes from a store, and the earrings directly from the manufacturer (what they call a “drop ship vendor”).

When Chris realized that big box only held that tiny jewelry box and knew that the shipment came from a “drop ship vendor,” he said he would be contacting the vendor to comment on this and hope that they will use less packing materials in the future to be consistent with Nordstrom’s style and beliefs.

Yes, Nordstrom has Green methods and beliefs. They work hard to be eco-friendly and are proud to be a landfill-free at headquarters. Chris informed me that Nordstrom has ordered some new shipping materials – new box sizes and even some small shipping pouches for accessories and other small objects. We Nordstrom customers will be seeing this change in the future.

And in the future, the shipping process should be streamlined – they will be able to comingle store and warehouse items in shipments.

Thanks Nordstrom, for taking the time to contact me and answer all of my questions. I am still a loyal customer and look forward to the changes in the future!

Posting Update

So we have gotten word that my company is installing a sort of spyware on the computers. The goal is to help control bandwidth, but it means I need to be far more… thoughtful with what sites I visit on work hours.

I don’t plan on stopping with blogging. My plan is to write up in Word on my lunch hour, email to myself and post once I get home. Posts will be delayed but not stopped. I just wanted to give you all the heads up, and thank you for your understanding!

Wardrobe Update

As the weather changes and the body continues to change (and change and change…), so the wardrobe changes.

New additions:
Leaf green fine gauge jewelneck cardigan from Lands End (not exact sweater – one I got is sold out). This color was on sale, which is why I picked it. However, I love this color. It is the color of new grass in spring – not eye-popping apple, not Kelly or emerald, and not olive. Just a fresh color that is an unexpected neutral and looks fantastic with tan, white, cream, navy, brown, denim, and colors like pink and orange. This weekend I wore it with my Seven jeans, brown croco Sofft heeled sandals and a white ribbed tank for brunch and Twilight movie-thon at a friend’s house. Yesterday I wore it with a navy jersey dress and my Duo Bern boots for work.

Denim trousers from Gap. Gosh, this is what, the fourth pair of these pants that I have purchased? I just love these pants. Right now I fit in a 14 regular when wearing a bit of a heel. This is exciting because this time last year I wasn’t even able to look okay in their size 16 trousers and was between petite and regular and feeling frustrated. I love denim trousers – I am allowed to wear them to work (wearing today with my black deep cowl sweater from Ann Taylor and black city boots), and they are more polished and flattering than classic jeans.

More Banana Republic Pima Tanks. They are like $15.99 right now online, and this weekend there was 30% off Gap, Inc. stores. I bought every color they had in my size. Haven’t yet received them, but they should be arriving this week.

More Caslon ribbed tanks. Two white, one gray, and one black – nice and fresh for spring.  Man, this is the best tank I have ever tried – thick, stretchy, the right length, bra doesn’t show in the neckline, doesn’t stretch out, doesn’t fade…

Long strand of turquoise stone beads. I adore turquoise and this strand is long enough to double to hit at chest-level, or triple up and have a short necklace. The beads are lumpy and bumpy and natural looking – I expect to be wearing the heck out of them with sundresses and sandals this summer.

What I Need:
Nursing tanks. I have one I halfway like from Bravado, but it’s starting to look old. I would like one in white, one in black, and one in some color.

A couple solid-colored dresses. I ordered one from Lands End but I ordered petite and it is too short. But thinking black, gray, navy, that sort of thing. Dresses I can wear with flip flops in summer, or be able to dress up enough for work.

Black pumps. The black patent Mary Janes I have I despise – the straps stay closed with Velcro and they pop open while walking. I need some shoe that would work for work, but also if I need to go to a nicer affair (house or worship, daytime wedding, etc.).

At least one funky jersey top. We’re talking dolman sleeves, drapey neck, something interesting to it. Solid color, and a color I adore (blue, purple, berry, pink, aqua…). Something that will work with black pants or jeans. Lightweight enough that I could go dancing and not overheat.

A maxi dress. I don’t care that they are on their way out. I want a jersey or cotton maxi dress I can pair with flip flops or sandals and wear to a friend’s party. Or I can wear it to a music festival or to walk down to the farmer’s market. I bought one over the winter but it was a bit too boobalicious. I never wore it, left the tags on and after a few weeks in my closet I just had to return it. I don’t think I would have worn it anywhere except on a vacation to a tropical locale.

This weekend I plan to go up in the attic and look through what is up there – any clothes that may fit this spring/summer and what MUST be swapped/donated/Freecycled. Speaking of which, thinking of doing the blog again where I sell some of my old clothes that are in great condition. Another blogger who has a similar sense of style to me (J. Crew, Maggy London, Banana Republic, Gap, etc.) contacted me and has a few things in her old size (she has had great success with Weight Watchers) that she would also like to include in the sale. Not trying to make a big profit, just want our good stuff to go to a person who will appreciate it and wear it well (meaning not with sandals and pantyhose). Will keep you posted!

An Allie Update

So, to let the cat out of the bag… I am starting a new job the week after Thanksgiving.

alieblue wardrobe oxygen washington DC city nations capitalIt’s a different field, but similar job description and duties. I have been at my current company for almost three years and while it is a very good company full of very nice people (who do on occasion wear Quacker Factory), I was ready to move and grow in a different direction.

The new job is in D.C. proper (arial view is stock photo, not where job is) and in a different field, so you may see a slight change in my attire and outlook – from my past working in the city, the life and even the air is so much different from the suburbs of Maryland. I am looking forward to it.

I was instant messaging with my friend yesterday who is on the hunt for a new job and we were discussing to questions we wish you could ask during the interview process…

1. Will you stick me in an office or a cube?
2. If it is a cube, how tall are the walls and how much privacy will I get?
3. If it is a cube, do your current employees understand and adhere to cubicle etiquette (not using speakerphone, using headphones for music, not taking off their shoes or bring tunafish sandwiches for lunch)
4. If it is an office, is it an actual office or a converted supply closet?
5. If it is an office, will I be sharing it with another person (or a 10’6’ stack of file boxes)?
6. Do you provide us with goodies like coffee and snacks? Cuz it’s nice when I don’t have to go to Starbucks every morning… my wallet likes free coffee, especially if it’s good
7. Describe your most annoying and disgusting coworker and let me know his proximity to my future desk, in inches.
8. Do you recycle? If you say you do, do you actually recycle the stuff or have the cleaning crew toss it with the rest of the trash (I do not kid, a company on my resume used to do this, saying the recycling boxes and bins helped employees “sleep better at night” but they didn’t want to front the cost of actual recycling).
9. Am I allowed to decorate my desk area, or do you like things sterile and uniform (another company would not even let us pick our calendars for fear of them being offensive to colleagues. Sucks to be in a gray box all day without a picture of family, a goofy cartoon pinned up, a calendar my mom makes every year from Snapfish)?
10. Do you have a holiday party? How fancy, how much does it cost and can I bring a date?

I didn’t ask any of the above, but did find out the attire at this job seems to be even more casual than my current company (except when meeting with clients) and everyone seems to genuinely like one another and joke around and hang out with each other. Staff varies in age, but seems to have far more employees near my own age and it’s in a central/good part of the city where I will be able to meet up with lots of my friends for lunch and after work. So, yay! Just had to share with you guys!

(this also explains why I had a few weird fashion days lately and a Friday with no pictures but a pinstriped pantsuit)

Ask Allie: An Active Casual Capsule Wardrobe for a Woman Over 60

I am about to retire and would love to have advice about a capsule wardrobe to fit my new situation. I am a young 62 and pear shaped. I’m planning to focus on travel, enjoying grandchildren, blues festivals, yoga and walking. I like classic styles and love blues and greens.

Congratulations! That sounds like an amazing way to spend this new point in your life. And I love that you’re considering a capsule wardrobe so you can focus on life instead of what to wear each day. Purchasing carefully, slowly, and while considering all you currently own can get you to the point of having a small quality wardrobe of hard-working pieces that have you ready for whatever comes your way.

capsule wardrobe casual active over 60

For this casual capsule wardrobe I didn’t focus on yoga and walking as I figure you have gear for those activities; however I did try to create a collection that will move with you, be comfortable for long spans of time outdoors taking the grandchildren sightseeing or to the park, or sitting on a blanket in the grass enjoying live music.

As a pear-shaped woman, it can be hard to find bottoms that fit and flatter. For skirts, those with an a-line, a flare from the waist, or that are softly gathered will flatter your figure. A skirt at or below the knee not only balances your frame but provides modesty when chasing after little ones or sitting on the ground. While many women avoid shorts, they’re so practical and so many lengths and styles are now available making it so any woman can find a cut that she likes. For a pear shape, a straight short that hits right at the top of the knee is best. Here I offered a stretchy denim style with a cuff, and a stretch twill Bermuda that can dress up or down nicely. A “boyfriend” jean is great for pear shapes because they’re more relaxed in the hip and thigh area and the cuff makes them have just the right amount of taper and color contrast to not shorten the leg like traditional cropped pants. Many women choose dark bottoms to minimize their hips and rear, but a pair of opaque white jeans can be quite chic and flattering (and it also makes primary and jewel tones look so luxe). It’s not ridiculous to pay to have jeans tailored (if you purchase them from Nordstrom they will tailor them on-site); go up a size for a comfortable fit in the hips and thighs and have the waist and hem adjusted for a custom fit. A straight jean is on trend yet will still be stylish next year; such a cut also balances hips nicely.

For tops, I kept things simple but incorporated elements to balance your curves. Boatnecks, cap sleeves, and gathered necklines add interest and also balance the bottom half of your figure. Choosing tops that highlight the slimmest part of your torso are also great; look for empire waists, built-in belts (or add one at the waist or at the ribs over an untucked top), and details like ruching and knots that define. Notice I kept prints to a minimum and those prints quite classic – prints can look dated very quickly. Sticking to solids and classic simple prints will keep your wardrobe from looking passé or frumpy. Breton stripes are a classic and look chic on women of all ages; while florals can be seen as mumsy this simple white and blue print in a stretch silk or synthetic will look quite modern, especially when paired unexpectedly with boyfriend jeans or shorts.  A graphic print in your favorite color can easily be switched out for the floral.

With dresses, I incorporated the same concepts from the skirts and tops.  Fit and flare styles, cap sleeves, details to emphasize the waist, and skirts that hit at the knee or lower.  Do know that models are often taller than average; a dress that looks thigh-high on a website may be knee-length on you.  Consider the measurements offered as well as the photo (and customer reviews, if available) before judging a dress or skirt.

While a shoe with a bit of a heel will balance a pear figure, I believe in function over fashion and a flat shoe will do you better with your new lifestyle. Choosing shoes that match your bottoms or are low contrast to your legs will be the best choice; a metallic flat is a great way to dress up casual pieces but they’re also a great way to get away without wearing heels to a wedding or other social event.

Accessories are what take a capsule wardrobe from ordinary to extraordinary. Statement necklaces are a great way to draw attention to your face, add personality and also a youthful touch to your outfit. A silk scarf can look matronly, but in a bold print it adds personality and class to simple knits.

As for bags, choosing a crossbody means you have your hands free to hold on to your grandchildren, take a photo, or grab a pair of drinks for you and another at that next blues festival.  I can’t stress the importance of accessories enough, especially with a pared-down wardrobe of staples.  Accessories show your personality, show that you are young at heart, and that you are aware of current trends and care about style.  Don’t be afraid of a sparkly necklace, a metallic slip-on sneaker, or a statement watch or bag from a popular brand.

A pair of black plastic sunglasses are a classic; I recommend purchasing a classic yet popular brand and a style that is pretty classic to show you are aware of the trends but wearing them in the way that is best for you.  While I featured the classic Ray-Ban Wayfarer in the collage, other styles are equally chic; I chose a few that caught my eye and have them in the widget above.  With sunglasses and bags, I recommend buying the best quality and brand you can afford.  These are accessories you likely will wear every day; quality will last and also elevate your basic wardrobe staples.

Weight Watchers Update, Lingerie Update, and Some TMI…

I would like to thank Weight Watchers for making thongs comfortable again. I don’t think I mentioned this much on my blog in the past, but pre-pregnancy I was a thong sort of gal. Never worried about VPL, didn’t show through light colored trousers, didn’t ride up and cut my butt cheeks in half, thongs were great. I especially loved my thongs by Hanky Panky – they were cute and comfortable and Nordstrom always had some deal on them during their Anniversary sales.

Then my belly expanded with a developing fetus, and my little stretch lace and mesh thongs couldn’t handle it. They rolled down below the belly, which caused the back to either roll down or give me a wedgie. I switched to boyshorts. By third trimester I was wearing good ‘ol cotton Granny Panties – a nice high cut brief several sizes larger than my Hanky Pankies or Cosabellas.

After giving birth, the belly shrunk… a bit. When you give birth to a baby, the belly is still there, it’s just not firm. So instead of a basketball, I had a FUPA. FUPAs and thongs do NOT mix. They get caught in that weird space between the postpartum belly and the rest of you. And getting REALLY TMI, the last thing you want after having a baby is a wedgie or anything even slightly resembling such a thing.

So for the first year of Emerson’s life, I mainly wore cotton high cut briefs. After a few months, I did buy a couple lacy boyshorts, but they usually sat at the most awful place on my belly, and I found that they would often be too tight in the waist to accommodate my new hips and rear, and if it was comfortable on the bottom, it would fall down at the waist.

Over the past few months I have been able to find pretty underwear that isn’t Granny Panties. A few microfiber, silky and lacy numbers, still covering the rear and front, but a bit more feminine. The body was seeming to settle in, and I could find underwear that I could really really wear!

And then I started Weight Watchers, and these semi-feminine undies started looking weird on me. So I went up in the attic, and just for giggles pulled out my Hanky Panky “Retro” high-waist thongs (which never were that high waisted on me). A couple weeks ago, they were wearable but not comfortable and rolled down when I sat. They went to the very very back of the lingerie drawer.

Today I started off thinking I was going to wear a dress so I slipped on a pair of black microfiber briefs that would be VPL-free and also good coverage in case of a strong gust of wind. Then I switched to my denim trousers, and feared VPL. So I tried on a pair of my thongs. I figured that the trousers would at least keep them from rolling down all day long.

I just went to the bathroom and realized… these thongs are comfy! No wedgie, no rolling, no digging anywhere! So a big thanks to Weight Watchers for letting me become a thong girl again!

Fashion Fantasy Closet Update

An update to this post about my fantasy fashion closet:

Wow, you all are AMAZING! Thanks to helpful comments, emails, and messages on my comment form I have already found some fabulous options for those pieces I desire in my closet… and some pieces I already own!

Sequined Peplum Top
I am still on this hunt for this. Will find one but its sleeveless, another and it doesn’t come in my size, another and the peplum seems to start up at my ribcage and make it look like a maternity top. Figuring I will have more luck as the season progresses and people start planning for holiday parties.

Olive Anorak-Style Jacket
So many of you suggested Kohl’s and I stopped by my local location and yes, this is the place to go for such a jacket. Unfortunately none of them were quite right for me – either a detail in the wrong place to emphasize the negative, or a strange fit on some part of me. However, just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you – Kohl’s is a great source for such fashion with variety, decent style, and great prices! I will continue to look, and use reader Laurel’s suggestion of checking thrift stores, though the more I think about it, the less I think this type of jacket works with my winter wardrobe and maybe it’s fate telling me to hold off until spring.

Black Wedge Booties
Still searching!

Black Photography Dress
I ordered this dress from Lands’ End but can’t tell if it has pockets. If so, I am willing to alter it, change the color of the buttons to make it my new photography dress. If not, thanks to reader Bridget’s suggestion I may again try eShakti. I didn’t have the best experience with them, but if I use true measurements this time I may have success.

Black Photography Pants Ensemble
No luck so far on separates, but I did get this sweater from Ann Taylor which looks cute with my skinny black ponte pants and tall boots or with a regular-fit pant and flat shoes. Plenty of room for memory cards, a couple AA batteries and business cards!

Black Photography Shoes
Reader KP suggested this bootie from Franco Sarto, and I will have to try it to see how it works with my thicker ankles. But it’s a good idea to wear with pants. Reader Kiki Bee suggested the “Air Talia Lace” from Cole Haan, which could also be good but is sold out (though I may check my nearby Nordstrom Rack).  However, with her suggestion I found these Cole Haan wedges. I have two pairs of Cole Haan Air Talia shoes – high-heeled booties which are pretty comfy for such height and style, and sandals which I often wear for photography shoots in the summer.

White Cotton Shirt
Reader Sarah suggested Ann Taylor and a tailor; I have had success with Ann Taylor before with their silk shirts but haven’t bought any cotton ones. Will have to check out this season. Reader Nobodyssister suggested the Coldwater Creek No Iron collection. My last experience with Coldwater Creek was lackluster but I am willing to try again, especially with a positive review from a fellow busty lady! Reader KP reminded me of Eddie Bauer’s great shirts – I had one back when I worked retail and loved it – will have to go check them out again!

Pleated Leather Skirt
Reader Dawn informed me about Make Your Own, a site where you can… make your own jeans! Choose your style, your fabric, give them your measurements and you can get a custom pair of jeans at a reasonable price. While they carry jeans, they also have other custom pieces… such as pleated leather skirts! And for only $110! I haven’t tried out the site yet, but this gets me very excited!

Black Taffeta Party Skirt
I got this one off eBay (the circular style). I must admit I was nervous dropping the cash, but two of you said you bought one of these skirts and was pleased. While the “taffeta” is more like the acetate that one uses to line a skirt, it is quite perfect in style and looks more expensive once properly steamed and pressed. Since I was unfamiliar with the brand, I sized up with a 14 and it fits comfortably. Smooth waistband, not too full, hits below the knee and has pockets!


So thank you THANK YOU for all of your suggestions! I’m getting there and with your help think I will be able to fill the holes currently in my closet!

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