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On Vacation

Hey folks, took a few days down south to visit relatives and chillax. I planned on blogging while here, but I have to admit it has been nice to take a break from everything, even writing. I’ll be back soon and will be sure to have plenty of pictures and a recap of what I packed and what I actually used.

Yesterday we spent the day on my cousin’s boat, Emerson went tubing for the first time (held in place by me or her Daddy), and we swam in the lake. Today we’re thinking of going to the zoo. I’m sharing photos from my adventures on Instagram, come on over and say hello!

Talk with you all soon, take care of yourselves!

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Vacation Recap

A little late coming, but here’s some pictures my husband took from our vacation the other week to South Carolina. Not a ton, because we focused on relaxing and living in the moment instead of behind the camera!

Emerson made new friends
Can you see the family resemblance? My first cousin (from my dad’s side)
On Lake Murray there is an island called Bomb Island where purple martins live.  Each evening at sunset they come home to roost and the sky is full of birds!
Relaxing sunset cruise with family and friends
For additional photos from my vacation and my life in general, follow me on Instagram!

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Vacation Recap

Last week’s trip to Vermont was just what the doctor ordered. I feel so much more calm this week, energized and raring to go. It was also such a special time because it was the first time since maternity leave where I got to spend such a long period of time with Emerson. I love working, but weeks like last week make me realize how much I miss with my busy schedule. I really think this vacation brought us closer and we understand one another more because of it.

This past week was so good for my soul. With the lack of consistent Internet and cell reception, I was forced to disconnect from machines. I went to bed when I was sleepy, and didn’t stay up watching some inane reality show or blogging. I ate when I was hungry, not in some mad dash knowing my next chance wouldn’t be for several more hours. I didn’t feel the need to perform as I do at work, with blogging, with many social situations. I also learned a lot by spending so much time with a two-year old. Emerson taught me many lessons while in Vermont:

  • If you’re feeling cranky or overly sensitive, you probably need a nap.
  • If you had a nap and are still cranky, you probably need a snack. A slow-burning yet satisfying snack like peanut butter and jelly on wheat bread will do the trick!
  • Base your wardrobe choices on your life goals. Want to play in the water? Wear blue! Wish you were going to a party? Wear a dress!
  • Everything is sweeter with a few magic words. Thank you, please, I’m sorry, you’re welcome…
  • There is something extremely satisfying about tossing a rock into a lake.
  • Say hello to people you pass on the street, it may make them smile and if not… at least it will let them know they are noticed and important.
  • There’s nothing wrong with laughing so hard you snort or cry.
  • No use crying over spilled milk… or kefir. 
  • When life gives you spilled kefir, make finger paint!
  • Music makes long car rides a lot more fun. Singing along to the music makes time fly faster.
  • Ice cream is a wonderful breakfast food.

And with that, here’s some of my favorite pictures from the week:

You see those little houses on the edge of the lake?  One of those little houses is where we stayed.  My husband took these pics from the top of Mount Elmore
And this is Mount Elmore, view from our rental house’s back yard
 The little ones at the house, enjoying the lake.  First two pics show our cousin’s son and his friend, and then Emerson ready for a ride in a canoe

We visited our cousins’ farm, where Emerson picked blueberries and gathered eggs.  What was collected was served at our cousins’ restaurant

One afternoon the college-aged cousins babysat Emerson (well really the baby monitor while she napped) so my husband and I could go for a canoe ride

My husband took a lot of pictures… usually with Emerson on his back (he took the pretty shots above of the lake and the boys playing)
I did break down and visit The Bee’s Knees once to take advantage of their wifi

We loved The Bee’s Knees so much we got all tourist and bought matching tee shirts. We even got one for Emerson! (see our cheesy self-portrait in the window?  Tourists!)

Emerson isn’t a snuggler or a cosleeper, even when she was a newborn.  However, on this trip she was cuddly, snuggly, and one day we even had a family nap.  I caught this just as she was starting to wake

The 12-year old boys were obsessed with the lake mussels, and the last night they cooked one in the camp fire.  My husband was brave enough to eat it, and lived to tell the tale!
Emerson loved the lake and the last day we had to pry her tooth-chattering self from it to warm her up.  She loved riding in the raft with us, and even jumped off the dock into our arms. We practiced swimming and she had no fear about walking on the mucky bottom of the lake.

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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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What to Pack for Vacation

Many of you have contacted me asking what to pack for a vacation, and many of you are looking to pack light, but with style and versatility. It is possible to pack light, but be stylish and ready for any occasion during a vacation. With luggage fees and restrictions, it’s best to try to pack everything into your carry-on bag. This can feel extremely limiting, but with the examples I provide below, you can see how pieces can mix and match to create a whole week of ensembles.

Sightseeing Vacation
Maybe you’re heading to DC for a week of monument-hopping, possibly you are traveling to Paris. Wherever you’re going, you need to be prepared for lots of walking, long spans of time away from your hotel, and appropriate attire for restaurants, museums, and places of worship. For such a trip, it’s important to dress for respect – leave your short shorts and tube tops at home and keep it simple, elegant, and with a least a hint of modesty. For warmer weather, tucking a pashmina or shawl in your day bag will let you wear a sleeveless top when trekking around town but have the coverage you need for cathedrals as well as air-conditioned restaurants. Below is a sample wardrobe for such a vacation.

  1. Black matte jersey dress. A dress of matte jersey can dress up or down with ease, won’t wrinkle in your suitcase, and because it dries quickly, you can hand wash or spot clean in your hotel sink and have it dry and ready by the next day. While black can be seen as gloomy, it’s quite versatile and can make a budget-friendly dress look more expensive and elegant. A solid dress is less memorable than a print, meaning you can wear it multiple times without being obvious.
  2. Black leather pumps. A very simple style with a slim heel so it can dress up and look elegant. However, be sure this pump can be worn long enough to walk several blocks, dance for hours, or stand all evening at a gallery opening. A closed-toe shoe is a safe bet if you will be attending a house of worship or a conservative family; if you know your destinations and who you will visit you can switch out pumps for a pair of peeptoes or heeled sandals.
  3. Black comfortable day shoes. This is your sightseeing shoe. The style will be dependent on your personal style and the time of the year. While a ballet flat may seem like a sensible choice, you will want a shoe with structure and arch support to have all-day (and all-week!) comfort. In the summer, it could be a flat or low heel or wedge sandal; come winter it could be a structured flat, low wedge, or athletic Mary Jane.
  4. Crossbody purse. This will be your day bag. A crossbody keeps your hands free and also gives you protection against pickpockets. While it may be appealing to buy that microfiber bag with 50 pockets sold in a travel store or catalog, a simple microfiber or leather bag can achieve the same thing without screaming “tourist!” You’ll want one big enough to hold a small bottle of water, your camera, a tourbook, and possibly a cardigan or shawl along with your purse essentials. While it may be tempting to carry a large tote, such a bag will be quite uncomfortable after several hours hanging from your shoulder – only carry the essentials in a bag that fits just that. If you know you will be shopping, consider a packable tote that you can open up once you have wares to carry home.
  5. Pashmina. A pashmina is a shawl for drafty museums, modesty for houses of worship, an accessory for a simple ensemble, and even a cozy blanket on the plane. Choose a signature color to jazz up your wardrobe basics.
  6. Clutch purse. A clutch purse can take a day dress and make it evening-appropriate. Not only that, it takes little space in your luggage. Choose a signature color or unusual fabric to add interest to your simple wardrobe pieces.
  7. Dark jeans with stretch. A deep dark denim wash looks elegant and sophisticated; a hint of stretch keeps the jeans fitting appropriately through a week of bus rides, plane trips, and walking several miles. A pair of dark denim in a straight cut that is free of embellishment is always stylish and is easy to find at most any pricepoint.
  8. Striped tee or sweater. A striped boatneck tee is a classic yet adds interest to a very basic travel wardrobe. Navy or black stripes on a white or ivory ground is surprisingly versatile, working with solids as well as prints and looking chic every month of the year. Choose a style that has a feminine cut and 3/4 or elbow-length sleeves for a chic silhouette as well as versatility.
  9. Knee-length skirt in a solid color. This could be a pencil skirt, a-line, or a full style – choose what is most comfortable and flattering on you. While a neutral such as black or gray would work, don’t be afraid to add color to your capsule wardrobe with this piece; just make sure it is a color that works with the other colors in your suitcase.
  10. Solid-colored tee with flattering neckline. This could be a hot pink tee with a scoop neck and puffed sleeves, a cobalt v-neck with elbow-length sleeves, an orange cap-sleeved crewneck, a mint green surplice necked jersey with flutter sleeves. Have it be a color and silhouette that flatters, but also will fit comfortably under a cardigan or jacket. Be sure the top has at least cap sleeves for modesty and versatility.
  11. Black soft blazer or cardigan. A deep, rich black jacket or cardigan can dress up or down with ease. Having the piece soft and stretchy means it can be shoved in a bag when it’s hot, won’t be crushed in your suitcase, and can create a makeshift suit with the next piece on the list.
  12. Black pants with stretch. A straight or slightly wide leg style will be the most versatile. I love Ponte de Roma (AKA ponte knit) for pants as it is a heavyweight knit, refined, and can dress up easily. Keep the style simple, free of embellishments.
  13. Sparkly top. A simple tank or shell with beading or sequins can be surprisingly versatile. Such a piece takes little space in your suitcase but may be a godsend for the unexpected night at a discothèque with new friends, or an elegant cocktail party.

A list of possible ensembles from these 13 pieces:

  • Striped top, jeans, pashmina, day shoes
  • Striped top, black pants, blazer, day shoes
  • Striped top , skirt, pumps
  • Scoop tee, jeans, blazer, day shoes
  • Scoop tee, skirt, pashmina, day shoes
  • Scoop tee, black pants, blazer, pumps
  • Black dress, pumps
  • Black dress, pashmina, day shoes
  • Sparkly top, jeans, day shoes
  • Sparkly top, black pants, pumps
  • Sparkly top, skirt, pumps

Add variety to your capsule travel wardrobe with accessories. A silk scarf can be tied at the throat, made into a headband, used as a belt or can be tied to your bag as an accent. A statement necklace can transform your simple black dress into a chic and trendy look. Depending on the cut of your pieces, a colorful obi-style belt can completely change the silhouette and formality of your collection.

Tropical Vacation
Maybe you’re spending a week at the shore, possibly you’re heading to the Caribbean for a relaxing getaway at an all-inclusive resort. This is the sort of vacation where you will be spending quite a lot of time at the pool or beach, with occasional short jaunts to town or excursions to hike, bike, or some other athletic activity. The items below will ensure you’re looking chic while keeping your cool.

  1. Two swimsuits. One that makes you look utterly fabulous, one that will stay in place while surfing, kayaking, or swimming.
  2. Beach coverup that can be worn indoors. A coverup of cotton voile or gauze will dry quickly but offer enough opacity to double as a sundress for a beachside restaurant or boutique.
  3. Cotton Shorts. A simple twill Bermuda short is chic and long enough to provide protection when on a bike, moped, or zipline.
  4. Lightweight cotton shirt. A cotton voile campshirt can be paired with your shorts for an excursion, worn over your swimsuit as a coverup, or tied at the waist and used as a layer over sundresses and tanks.
  5. Maxi dress. Easy dressing for easy glamour. Somehow adding a few inches to the hem of a sundress makes it suddenly evening-appropriate. Such a dress can also be worn during the day over a swimsuit or with flip flops for variety. Many maxi skirts have a wide elasticized waistband making it double as a maxi dress.
  6. Sundress (or two, or three!). Nothing is easier for a day in a tropical locale. It easily slips over a damp swimsuit, is kind to sunburned skin, and can dress up or down with ease.
  7. Cotton skirt. A gauzy or cotton skirt that hits anywhere from the knees to the ankles is comfortable and provides easy glamour. It’s also an easy way to make a swimsuit look like part of an ensemble at beachside cafes.
  8. Cotton tank. A simple ribbed tank in a fabulous color will be indispensable on such a vacation. Slip over your bikini for a bit of sun protection, wear with the shorts for an excursion, or pair with a wrist of bangles and the maxi skirt for a festive ensemble.
  9. Athletic sandals. While such a piece may not seem chic, it will keep you comfortable for excursions, day hikes, and hours of shopping. These days there are styles that are far more elegant than classic Tevas, yet will still give you grip on slippery rocks, can handle getting dunked in the ocean, and will provide arch support.
  10. Flip flops. A simple pair of flip flops will protect your feet in the public shower, can tuck into a beach bag and be pulled out for lunch at a restaurant, and can handle being battered with sand and saltwater.
  11. Pashmina or wrap. Coverage on a breezy evening, a great travel blanket, and if made of silk or cotton it can be knotted and wrapped like a pareo for an additional beach coverup (or even an additional skirt!)
  12. Sun hat. Naturally. Have it big, and have it crushable so it can survive the plane trip.
  13. Two pairs of sunglasses. One could get lost. Have a lightweight pair for excursions and an oversized pair when on the beach or beside the pool.
  14. Clutch purse. Small yet dresses up any ensemble.
  15. Dressy sandals. These could be gold gladiators or tan snakeskin stilettos. Choose a style that will work with your shorter and longer dresses.

A list of possible ensembles from these 15 pieces:

  • Ribbed tank , shorts, athletic sandals
  • Ribbed tank, maxi skirt, metallic sandals
  • Ribbed tank knotted, sundress, flip flops
  • Cotton shirt, cotton shorts, athletic sandals
  • Cotton shirt tied, maxi skirt, flip flops
  • Cotton shirt, bathing suit, flip flops
  • Maxi dress, metallic sandals
  • Sundress, metallic sandals
  • Sundress, flip flops
  • Sundress, cotton shirt tied, athletic sandals
  • Coverup, bathing suit, metallic sandals
  • Pashmina, bathing suit, flip flops
  • Bikini top, maxi skirt, metallic sandals

Of course, these lists do not contain everything necessary for a trip. One must have undergarments, sleepwear, toiletries, and other clothing necessary for your specific vacation. These capsule wardrobes are merely guides and examples of how you can create multiple ensembles for multiple types of occasions with minimal garments. For additional ideas on travel wardrobes, check out my previous posts on the subject:

What is your must-have piece for a travel wardrobe?

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Back from Vacation!

After happy hour, I went home and did laundry. Hubby came home from a hockey game, we watched a movie and fell asleep on the couch.

Saturday – It was my husband’s birthday. We started the day off with breakfast with the parents, then the two of us took a short hike, then he went to see Tool in concert in the city with three of his best friends and I went to dinner in the city at a soul food restaurant with my sister and then to see a trumpeter at a jazz club. I wore the white shirt from Ann Taylor again with my denim pencil skirt from Gap and brown peep toe heels from Maripe. You can see I wore my Target tortise-shell necklace to complete the outfitt. No full-body picture as that I was running terribly late. I did take my black cherry merino v-neck to slip on if it got cool. I did wear it on the subway ride home. Hair was curly, in this picture my lipstick had worn off on my wine glass but I did the typical Revlon ColorStay shadow, a soft lipgloss shade on the lips.

Sunday – Some of our best friends are pregnant and are doing a lot of home renovations before the baby arrives. We spent the day at their house painting, moving furniture and such. Nothing exciting, old pair of Gap jeans that aren’t that flattering and a navy tee shirt that says Property of NASA that I got on one of my trips to Kennedy SFC.

Monday – We left for vacation. We had to be home by 3pm on Thursday so we just went o a road trip to a town 3 hours away. I packed:

  • Teal knit kimono dress from Target
  • teal suede wedges from Seychelles
  • denim trousers from Gap
  • white ribbed tank from J. Crew
  • Brown on brown striped kimono sleeve v-neck top from Old Navy
  • dark denim pencil skirt from Gap
  • black cherry merino v-neck from J. Crew
  • dark red scoop necked tee from American Apparel
  • sneakers from New Balance
  • black quick-dry activity pants from Target
  • light aqua tee from Mossimo
  • Black cashmere shell from Banana Republic
  • Large silver hoops and silver cuff
  • Hairdryer with diffuser and curling iron

On our trip we went to see some historical sites, hiked a bit, walked around town, went to dinner, went for drinks, went to a party, looked at possible vacation homes (decided against it). The wardrobe was easy to switch around and I felt appropriately dressed for every situation.

Thursday – after we got home we went to see a concert with the parents. Black tape yarn scoop top from Ann Taylor Loft, black and white print sequined-trim circle skirt from Marshall’s, black peep toe heels from Steve Madden and hair curly.

Friday – I was filmed for a video about bloggers. Yes readers, it’s a video for the FTC about bloggers, how they are affecting marketing and buying and online security and safety. We concentrated mainly on THIS BLOG! and it’s readers and how long I have done it and why I do it. A pretty interesting experience!

I wore an orange-red silk-knit tank from Banana Republic, navy twill blazer from Talbots, two coral glass chip necklaces, new Gap Curvy Flare jeans, my teal suede wedges, and my hair messy wavy. I do not have any pictures because we were moving furniture around in our house and the table from the foyer was blocking the mirror.

That night we had a wedding reception for friends who eloped. B y that time we had moved the furniture to it’s correct places and I could take a picture. Wore a green and white print knit wrap dress from H&M, my pink pumps, matching pink lipstick (Maybelline) and my hair in messy waves (raining all day and no point in trying to do my hair). Large silver hoops and silver cuff bracelet. A little girl at the reception said my shoes were “Glenda the Good Witch Shoes.” I bought this dress the day at the mall during the interview, but didn’t consider that I didn’t have any shoes to match it! I liked the pink as the contrast, though I think this dress deserves a wedge or a round toe… something more quirky and not so Mankiller. But it worked.

This was my first successful shopping trip at H&M. Every time I have gone I have been overwhelmed by the mess, haven’t been able to find my size, or find it but it looks horrible on the body. This time I found this and loved the $34.90 price! I also found a cotton kimono-inspired top, but they had my size in the color I didn’t like, and didn’t have my size in the color I wanted. I may consider visiting a different H&M for that top. This H&M I had never visited before, it is actually in the same spot as the 2nd Express store I ever worked in. So weird, I worked in that Express for a year. It was my first full-time managing position with the company so that store was like my home. To see it shaped the same, but menswear where fitting rooms once were and fitting rooms where the backroom used to be was a trippy experience. The store was well merchandised and organized and I had a pretty easy time shopping it. I didn’t find a lot that I would wear though. There are a few bargains, but a lot of their stuff is pure junk. Itchy shedding sweaters, see-through knits, poorly cut dresses… I just feel that I am too old to purchase such disposable clothing. But this dress… well I do love green, I do love wrap dresses, and I do love dresses that are cheap so I couldn’t pass it up!

Vacation Recap: What I Packed

My family and I left for vacation on a Sunday morning and planned on heading home on Thursday, but we actually stayed until Friday. We were staying with relatives in the south, who live on a lake. I knew I would have access to a washer and dryer but didn’t plan on using it.

What I Packed:

What I Didn’t Use:

  • Lands’ End white linen sundress
  • Chambray shirt
  • Lands’ End Canvas swimsuit

What I Wish I Brought:

  • Another pair of workout pants
  • Water shoes

The car ride was about nine hours; on the trip down, I wore the orange shirt and denim cutoffs and the tan sandals, on the way home I wore the gray tee, white jeans (yep they are that comfortable!), and tan sandals.

We spent the majority of the vacation at their house, where it really didn’t matter what I wore. We went to the zoo one day, and for that I wore the Soft Surroundings linen shift with the tan sandals; I used the yellow leather tote since it was my purse, Emerson’s bag, and also carried some snacks and water. We went to a nearby bar for beer and wings and I wore the white jeans with the vintage tee (pretty much this same outfit, but with the yellow sandals and the yellow tote). One evening they invited over neighbors for dinner and a sunset cruise on the boat and I wore this outfit. I thought I may use the chambray shirt as a swimsuit coverup, but instead used the J. Crew sundress or just a towel.

The lake shore was rocky and the bottom either rocky or mucky, my flip flops couldn’t hang and I really wish I had a pair of proper water shoes. Emerson had a pair from REI and my husband wore his Vibram Five Fingers and they both had a blast while I stuck to the bottom of the lake. I also wish I had brought more workout clothes – I know my cousin and his wife are athletic, but I didn’t know I would have free access to a gym every morning and I took advantage of it.

I brought more dresses than necessary. This was a very relaxed environment where a sundress looked quite fancy, even with bare feet and no makeup. I felt most comfortable in my orange shorts and Breton-striped tee, which was casual but true to my personal style. While I could have packed my entire closet for this vacation, I tried to keep the list short so fashion wasn’t something I had to think about while away. I wanted simple pieces that could dress up and down with ease and mix and match.

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Week-long Vacation – What I Packed

Amanda from Miskabelle Vintage asked me what I packed for my week-long trip to Vermont. I would love to say I made a very careful list and planned out all my outfits (and my sister would like me to say this as well since she told me a dozen times to make one so I didn’t forget anything). Well, in typical Allie fashion I didn’t make a list. I packed the night before, and just imagined the week in my head as I stuffed randomness into my mega-big L.L. Bean Boat & Tote. Good thing, I imagined the trip properly; I wore 99% of everything I brought and wanted for nothing.

Not my actual bag, mine is berry colored with teal straps and base and zips on top

What I Packed:

The house advertised laundry facilities, but I wasn’t going to rely on them. Was happy to find out that they did in fact have a washer and dryer, as well as detergent and a clothes line.

On the way down, I wore the pink oxford with the looser denim cutoffs and the tan sandals.  Most days I wore shorts with a tee or tank; come evening I usually switched into a dress. I wore the navy J. Crew dress a lot because it’s 100% cotton and not jersey – it dried fast if I got it wet near the lake, it was breezy, and it was low-fuss. I wore the tan sandals almost exclusively. The flip flops were too casual and not good if we walked long distances, and these sandals are incredibly comfortable. I was going to return them, and then took them by chance and now adore them. The oxford was a smart choice – I wore open as a beach coverup, paired with the white shorts for a more put-together look, as well as wearing them on the ride down with very casual shorts.

What I Wish I Brought:

  • A bathrobe. My husband’s family is the type that gets up, grabs a cup of coffee, and checks email or sits out on the deck in sleepwear. My nightgown is… well it’s pretty. I guess it could be seen as sexy since it has a low neckline (I bought it back when still nursing because it worked well for that while still being a style I found attractive). I ended up wearing it with my yellow cardigan, feeling a bit ridiculous. If I had brought my navy jersey robe from Lands End, I would have been a far happier camper.
  • Beat-up loose jeans. I have one pair… and they are too big. I don’t own any casual jeans right now, all my pairs are from NYDJ and are dark and fitted. We went to a farm, we spent a lot of time near or on the water, we stayed up until midnight around the dining table playing card games, we sat in the grass and looked at the stars – it would have been nice to do it in denim instead of yoga pants or a low-cut maxi dress.
  • My aviators. The sunglasses I brought were fine, but they are really big and a bit heavy. It would have been nice to have my trusty aviators; I have had them for three years and they are like a second skin when worn.

This was a very casual week – the one night we went out to dinner it was at the cousins’ restaurant and fellow diners were wearing jeans and Tevas (it is small-town Vermont after all). That night I wore the purple print jersey dress and the sandals and brought along the mauve cardigan for when the sun set. One day we planned on going to Montpieler and I put on the striped tee and cargo jacket with the more fitted cutoffs, and it was appropriate for going “into town.” There really wasn’t much need for fancier duds, and locals probably could tell I was a tourist from a mile away with my wardrobe.

As for beauty products, I kept it pretty simple:

Back in the days of Sassy magazine, I read where a girl had loose curls in her hair and she kept them glossy and slightly controlled by a small amount of Lubriderm. I have found that when I leave the DC area and experience well water or soft water, this works great for my hair as well. I will lotion up the bod, then a tiny bit more on my already lotioned hands, rub it in, and then touch the tips of the hair and work from the bottom up. Scrunch, let air dry and the small bit of lotion will keep frizz at bay, give a soft shine, and enough hold that my hair won’t be completely flat in an hour.

The Nature’s Gate shampoo and conditioner smelled great, and is sulfate-free so it didn’t ravage my hair.  I also love what Nature’s Gate is about, and how they use natural ingredients and work hard to be a sustainable company.  However, my hair is pretty finicky when I change shampoos and I could tell the difference in the way my hair acted and looked while in Vermont.  I think this shampoo would be good for those with very fine hair and those who don’t color and ravage their hair like I do mine.  My husband has become a fan and has taken over the bottles now that we have gotten home.

Fashion and beauty really weren’t on my radar while on vacation, and it was nice to have a vacation not just from work but also from being so concerned about my appearance. Since I have built up a useful wardrobe, I didn’t have to stress about what to take – I just took the clothes I wear on weekends and it worked out.

For a while after having Emerson, I was at a loss on weekends. It was either stretched out postpartum knits, or dressy work clothes. As I have come to find myself again, I have also found my casual self. I have figured out what types of clothes work for weekends and after hours that are simple, carefree, but still fit my personal style. I have found casual dressing to be far more difficult than social or corporate attire because there is so much gray area. If I go to brunch or the movies, I will have friends who will wear designer sundresses, and other friends who will wear tee shirts and cargo shorts. It took a while for me to find my niche, a style that is appropriate, but also me. A bit preppy, a bit boho, everything machine washable and everything works with the same pair of sandals, though can be dressed up with different accessories.

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Back from Vacation!

Key West was just what the doctor ordered.

The past couple of months have been pretty hectic, the type where you blink and a week has passed, where you need coffee three times a day just to get through the day, where you dream about work, where tension causes ridiculous and pointless arguments with those you love the most. I was feeling very on edge, stomach issues and sleeping issues and feeling a bit paranoid and on the edge of a meltdown. Then we had plenty of travel drama to get to Key West – SuperShuttles not arriving, flights being changed without us being notified, but we got there on time to beautiful weather and friendly people.

The weekend was a wonderful break. Emerson stayed with my mom, our neighbor watched our dogs, my Out of Office Assistant was on for work, and I decided to not blog (or even bring my laptop!) while there. The only task at hand was Sunday afternoon and evening – photographing our dear friends’ wedding. The rest of the time we could wander through Key West, sleep when we wanted, drink what we wanted.

And well… we drank. While we’re not teetotalers by any stretch of the imagination, I can’t recall the last time I was properly drunk. I may have a glass or two of wine with a meal, a cocktail to celebrate a much-needed weekend, get a nice buzz on a night out, but this weekend I actually got drunk, and I think it’s the first time I had gotten that drunk since before I was pregnant. And I didn’t miss it.

We ran singing through the streets, we met crazy and weird and wonderful people.  We ate oysters and did shooters and took a pedicab tour of the whole place.  We kissed at the Southernmost Point and saw the sunset and smoked cigars and did a LOT of sleeping and hand holding and taking of pictures.  We caught up with old friends, reminisced a lot, and shared a bunch of funny stories.  Did I mention that we drank (totally detoxing our systems this week!)?

We had so much fun with our friends and the wedding was both one of the most beautiful and most fun weddings I have ever attended. The bride was phenomenal – never got wigged out, never stressed, never got upset, and looked so beautiful and HAPPY and SURE the whole time. Since it was a destination wedding, there wasn’t a huge crowd and the couple was surrounded only by people who truly love them and wish them well – no obligatory relatives, distant cousins, and coworkers. We knew probably 80% of the attendees, many my husband or I grew up with. It was proof that you can have a dream wedding without being a Bridezilla, and that you don’t have to be addicted to Pinterest to have a perfect event.

Key West was a blast – the weather was amazing, the people so nice, plenty of fun bars and beautiful homes and the gorgeous water and sunsets. But the best part of the trip was coming home. While we found Key West a ton of fun and were so glad we had the opportunity to attend and for such a great reason, we realized we are NOT Key West people. We missed the changing seasons, the leaves on the ground, the dry air. We missed our home, our dogs, our own bed (yes, we like it more than a Westin Heavenly bed!). We missed Emerson, our friends and family back home. It made me miss my job, my routine, my responsibilities… all the things that stressed me out so very much.

Thank you Key West (and fab friends who chose to marry there) for getting me out of my funk, for rejuvenating me, for reminding me how very lucky and blessed and happy I am in this life I have. Thank you Key West for reminding me that there really is no place like home!

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Loving Yourself, AKA How to Spend Your Summer Vacation

This post is inspired by a woman who is a member of a message board I visit. She was mentioning that she is taking a trip this fall, and was hoping to be a certain size before the trip so she could pack differently. All too often we women hold off on situations, trips, life changes and yes wardrobes until we have the right conditions.

“I can’t justify buying expensive jeans until I get down to a size 8.”

“I told my friends I couldn’t find time to go to the pool with them, but really I don’t want to be seen in a swimsuit until I lose ten more pounds.”

“I didn’t go to my high school reunion, I didn’t want people to see how much I have gained since I graduated, and anyway I am way past due for a highlights touchup.”

“I figure I’ll wait on getting another haircut until my hair grows another 3-4”.”

“I don’t want to go to Paris on vacation at this size and with these clothes… they will laugh at how fat and sloppy American I am.”

“I am too pale to step foot on a beach, I’ll look like an idiot out there with all those bronze bodies.”

Have you ever said anything similar to this, either out loud or in your head? Well you’re not alone. Too often we women sacrifice our enjoyment because we feel we don’t deserve it. We decide to not buy any new clothes until we drop a size, not go out to social situations because we are embarrassed about our figure, our wardrobe, our selves. Do men do this? Not nearly as often as women. They make do with their outfits, lightly joke about their expanding waistlines, and put nothing in front of having a good time.

Stop and think about the last social situation you attended. Were you the heaviest woman there? The most unattractive? The worst dressed? I highly doubt it. Then also think about the women that stood out in a positive way. Was it because they had perfect bodies and faces? Elegant and expensive attire? Perfect hair and skin? Again, highly unlikely. The women who catch your eye are the women who are at home in their skin, have fun yet have class, who enjoy themselves, their life, and the world around them. The woman with the smile that lights up a room, the woman with the tinkling laugh, the woman who can cut a rug out on the dance floor. When you are comfortable in your skin, no one notices how old your dress is, if you are a size 6 or 16, if your shoes are Payless or Manolo Blahnik.

People notice if your clothes are ill fitting, gaudy, in poor shape. They notice when you slouch, fidget, slump in your chair and avoid interacting with others. They notice the scowl, the sneer, the frown. If you look uncomfortable, then people notice your weight, your scar, your roots, your one thing that makes you uncomfortable in the first place. They notice when you repeatedly decline offers to go out, complain about your weight or your diet or your outfit.

Think back to your college or high school days, your current church community or your daily office team. Think about the “popular girl.” Really think about her, not the possibly altered memory you have about her. Is she really the prettiest girl? The thinnest? The best dressed? I remember a girl I went to college with, her name was Charity. All the boys wanted to date her and all the girls wanted to be her. She had long blonde hair and a heart-shaped face and the biggest smile and the most infectious laugh. She was very short, a hair over 5’ and was not slim – probably a size 12 or 14. Her face was cute, but nothing overly striking. However, she was always friendly and welcoming, happy to see people. She wasn’t afraid to don a bathing suit at the pool or fail miserably (while giggling about it) at intramural softball. Thinking about her, I can’t recall how she dressed, just that she never seemed to stick out or look bad. I remember her pulling all of us on to the dance floor when her favorite song was played by the DJ, I remember her screaming at the top of her lungs and hopping up and down in the front row at a concert for her favorite band. I remember her being nervous for a class presentation, admitting her nervousness, but plowing through and finishing with applause from the whole class. And I remember her smiling and thanking the class for their support. She was not the best dressed, the best looking, the most enviable figure. She just was a great person to be around, who seemed to really like herself.

Life is happening, whether you are participating or not. You are not getting any younger, and those situations you pass on because of your appearance just may not happen again. What makes you an amazing personality is not your dress, your figure, your shoes but YOU. Creative, intelligent, bubbly, goofy, quirky, giving, loving, thoughtful, unique you. When you let the world know who you are, your exterior is just that – the packaging, not the present. As with any gift, we want it to be dressed in a beautiful and appropriate way, but like any gift, the paper and bows are admired, but the present itself is what lasts in memory.

Don’t wait until tomorrow, you may not end up having the second chance. Enjoy the last few weeks of summer in well-fitting swimsuits, sleeveless tops and sassy skirts. Take that trip to Paris – you are one person in a crowd and there is sure to be another American who is in the oversized tee and Crocs to receive the snickers in place of you. Go to that reunion knowing that yes you have gained a few pounds, but also a great education, family or life adventures. Get out on the dance floor if you love to dance, and enjoy yourself! Nothing is more chic, stylish or flattering than a woman who is happy in her own skin and life.

On Blogging Vacations

blogging vacationsI’ve had an Instagram account for two years and I just broke 1,000 last month. The only way I did that was by writing a post about my Instagram account. I have mentioned it before in posts, shared pictures on my Facebook page, occasionally share to Twitter, and there was even an icon (or two!) always in my sidebar. I hate when bloggers recap their Instagram on their blogs, come on people, we already SAW those photos! But now I know why – for each post they likely get a few handfuls of new followers, those who haven’t been reading since the beginning, those who missed that last Instagram recap post, those who read in a reader or by email and don’t see the icons in the sidebar.  The new fans.

Once I broke 1,000, the followers have continued to roll in. There’s a tipping point of sorts with blogging social media. Once you break 1,000 followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram you’re legit. If that many people already follow this blogger, they must be relatively decent. There’s another at 2,000 and the speed in getting more followers after that goal number doubles. When you hit 5,000 you can easily get 100 new followers in a day. You need followers to get followers.

Many of you have told me over the year to take a break from blogging. That if it isn’t fun anymore, I should have a blog vacation. However, I really enjoy blogging. While my day job is great and I work with wonderful people, it’s not my dream job or in a field in which I am passionate. Blogging is my way to do something I positively, absolutely adore. I love writing, I love helping fellow women, I love the community, love learning new technology… and I love fashion. When I have a bad day at work, coming home and opening up Word on my laptop is more soothing than a glass of wine.

One cannot take a break from blogging and still keep up. Blogging is constantly changing and becoming all the more competitive. To stay relevant, one must regularly provide quality content. One must maintain social media channels and be active on them. One must constantly improve, be it quality of photos, of content, methods of communication, usability of site. There’s 50 zillion blogs out there, one needs something to stand out.

And yes, with all this time and effort I put into this blog, I like getting paid for it. There’s a part of me that gets mega ragey when I see a shitty blogger who can’t even form a proper sentence win an amazing partnership with an amazing brand. I feel I need to perform not just for you who do read, but for those who may read in the future. Those who may tire of carbon copies with Starbucks cups who don’t proof their copy and don’t reply to comments.  Those who give blogging a bad name and are the reason for all the negative stereotypes.  I want not just to be great for you, but to prove that not every blog is the same.

I’m not thin, I’m not young, and I don’t own a pair of Valentino Rockstuds. I’m not the conventional blogger, so I won’t get the conventional audience and will never make the same money. But I believe that I offer something a bit different, and something that I would want to read. I believe future readers are as important as those who read now; I regularly receive messages from people who just found Wardrobe Oxygen and how they like it or were looking for something like it. So I continue to promote and blog and encourage any other blogger who offers something different and fresh and necessary. And often, I take sponsorships purely because I know I will be the odd one in the roundup – the only one over a size 10, the only one over 30, the only one who isn’t a full-time blogger. I feel it gives not just my blog exposure, but all of the blogs that don’t fit the norm. We have the power to change the face of blogging. All of us. We can’t stop, I won’t stop.

There won’t be a holiday from this blog, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I hope in 2014 to promote more great brands, more great blogs, and give the blogosphere more of what is missing/being ignored. And I hope you bloggers with a message that is more than dollar signs do the same. Don’t get frustrated, don’t compare yourself, be a trailblazer. We need you.


A Life, Replotted: Finding My Path

chelsea henderson for wardrobe oxygen

In my adult life, I’ve been an English as a Second Language Teacher, a school administrator, a Capitol Hill staffer, an environmental advocate, and an energy lobbyist. I’m also a single mother, a wannabe writer and an intermittent blogger with the best of intentions to post more frequently. I’ve toyed over the years with becoming a stylist and spin instructor, and I’ve interviewed (albeit unsuccessfully) for two CEO positions.

To say I was lost is an understatement.

A year and a half ago, driving to work one morning, the left side of my face and neck went numb. I thought I was having a stroke. A doctor friend I texted (yes, while driving) ran me through a series of tests.

“You aren’t having a stroke. You’re having a panic attack,” he determined. “You need to find a stress reliever.”

That numbing sensation returned every time I hit the same intersection in my daily commute. A friend suggested we go to yoga; I reluctantly said yes, kicking and screaming internally the entire way to the studio. Then, as I lay in savasana (corpse pose) at the end of the class, I started sobbing. Call it an epiphany, a reawakening or just a moment of clarity: the stress of my job was killing me, and I had to get out of it.

I left my lucrative high-pressure job and founded my own one-woman policy consulting firm. Between some strategic budgeting, a separation package and a few clients I picked up, I made the financial transition work for my family. But the tug to leave the career I’d spent eighteen years cultivating was strong; I found myself spending less and less time seeking policy clients and more and more time on the yoga mat and working on my novel.

Fast forward to today. I have written not one but two novels, both of which I’m in the process of pitching to literary agents. By the end of January, I will have completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training certification. I also manage a boutique fitness studio and get paid a small sum to write for an energy policy blog.

My income is not the highest it’s ever been. We don’t eat out much, and I didn’t take a “real” vacation in 2014. I’ve consigned many of my old work duds and the heels I used to don religiously Monday thru Friday. I don’t mind spending most of my time in loungewear. I write and practice yoga daily; hope to add yoga teacher and author to my bio; and I’m home when my kids get out of school.

What else do you need to know about me? Someday I will tell you about how my son got his name. Let’s just say it involves a certain handsome brooder from literature. I love wine, books, red lipstick and George Clooney, though I’m trying not to let his recent nuptials depress me. And whatever walk of life you find yourself in, I’m here to inspire, cheerlead and support. I recoil at the label midlife crisis. For the first time in my life, I feel authentic.

I look forward to sharing tidbits of my journey here.

chelsea hendersonChelsea Henderson is an aspiring novelist and recovering Capitol Hill staffer. When she isn’t sneaking time to finish writing her second book, she advocates on behalf of clean energy and environmental policy, reads, practices yoga, and single parents her perpetually hungry pre-teen boys. She also periodically contributes to her lifestyle blog, the Chelsea Chronicles and is intermittently good at Twitter.

Maui Jim Sunglasses Make the World Look Better [sponsored]

When thinking about the cross-country road trip my family and I took at the end of July, there were few things I wish I brought that I hadn’t. In fact, I think I could have done with far fewer things. But one thing I wish I had was a pair of quality sunglasses. Don’t get me wrong, my regular aviators are well made and from a reputable brand. But what I needed was lenses that didn’t just shade my eyes from the sun but reduced glare and improved the view.

Karl has worn Maui Jim sunglasses for years and brought a pair on the trip. Whenever I tried them on I was floored by how different everything looked. Colors were more vibrant, everything was so much more crisp and there wasn’t any glare. He drove while wearing them, even when it was cloudy or rainy because they so improved his vision. On one cloudy day he made a joke about the car in front of us having, “two long-haired ladies in the back seat.” I had no idea what he was taking about, the sedan’s back window only showed a reflection of the sky above. But when I put on his Maui Jims, I saw two tall Afghan Hounds in the back seat smiling back at me. I passed the sunglasses back to Emerson so she too could see the beautiful dogs.

maui jim sunglasses reviewWith patented glare, UV protection, and color enhancement from PolarizedPlus2 lens technology, Maui Jim sunglasses can truly make the world more beautiful. Seeing Palo Duro Canyon in Texas or the fields in Kansas through Maui Jim sunglasses versus mine was a game changer. I was so psyched to come home from vacation and find three pairs of Maui Jim sunglasses mailed to me to review. While it’s too late to experience my trip with them, they’re making the everyday more gorgeous and comfortable.

I had the opportunity to choose three styles and did it from my phone while on the road during my vacation. I find it tough to find sunglasses to flatter my face; I have a pretty large head and it’s quite round. Usually men’s sunglasses or oversized frames look best. The Maui Jim site has plenty of measurements and details to help me choose styles that likely would fit and flatter my face as well as detailed customer reviews. I chose Sweet Leilani in Gloss Black, Legends in Gloss Black, and Venus Pools in Blue.

All three pairs are surprisingly lightweight and make everything look more crisp and colorful.

Wardrobe Oxygen wearing Maui Jim Sunglasses in style Venue Pools in blue with rootbeerVenus Pools is a classic style, rounded with a subtle cat eye that would look great on a multitude of face shapes. The blue color is more of a navy, very subtle but a nice change from basic black or tortoise. They’re so comfortable and light, I hardly notice I’m wearing them. The HCL® Bronze lenses give a gorgeous crisp amber glow to everything you see; it’s amazing the detail in the clouds and how everything looks so sharp and beautiful, even on a hazy day. While the style of frame isn’t my typical choice, these would have been sunglasses I would have worn every day on vacation.

Wardrobe Oxygen wearing Maui Jim Sweet Leilani sunglasses in Gloss Black with Blue Hawaii lensesSweet Leilani is a modern style with a thicker frame popular right now, and cool mirrored Blue Hawaii lenses. Karl and I have been fighting over these sunglasses since they arrived; I’ll admit they look better on his angular face than my large round one, but I think they look so cool! All the style plus phenomenal Maui Jim lenses that are super light and make everything look so crisp and clear. To show you what I mean about crisp and clear, here’s some photos from a sunny day at our town’s farmer’s market. We go here many Sundays for brunch as there’s plenty of food vendors as well as shopping for the week’s meals.

Maui Jim Sweet Leilani sunglasses lenses crisp clarityThe same view of a row from the farmers market – the top regular, the bottom through one of the lenses of the Sweet Leilani frames. Glare is reduced, there’s more definition and clarity, and colors have an intensity that was lost in the sunglasses I took on my vacation.

maui jim 2As I was taking these pictures Karl showed up and I took this picture as he was walking to me. As you can see the view through the Maui Jim sunglasses has a crispness and intensity not found in basic sunglasses. A bright almost painfully sunny view was made colorful and crisp with these lenses.

Wardrobe Oxygen wearing Legends by Maui Jim SunglassesAnd the final lenses I received were the Legends… these are my jam! I have always loved Wayfarer style sunglasses but they always look too small on me or else too boxy. These are utter perfection on me. The Neutral Gray lenses at first look like typical lenses until you look around and see the crispness, the clarity and the intensity of colors. Made from MauiPure, the lenses are so light these are sunglasses I could wear all day without feeling them or having red marks on my nose. I am such a fan of them, I am seriously sitting in my living room wearing them while I type this and if you follow me on Snapchat and seen recent posts you know I’ve been raving about and wearing all of these sunglasses since I received them!

Thank you Maui Jim for this opportunity. Karl and I will both be enjoying the rest of the summer with more color, clarity and beauty while wearing your sunglasses. It’s true, the world looks better through Maui Jim sunglasses!

To learn more about Maui Jim, visit them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Special Events and Excursions: The Beach Holiday

Yes, you have built your standard wardrobe that will take you from work to the grocery store to happy hour and maybe a wedding, funeral or baby shower thrown in. Now what do you wear for those other moments?

Beach Trip

I just came back from a girl’s getaway to the shore. I realized by looking at the other women on the sand, in the bars, at the restaurants that many do not know how to pack for the beach or a vacation. I was aware of this on my last jaunt to Costa Rica where I stayed at a resort full of improperly dressed ladies.

The beach is hot. It is often humid. It is not the tidiest of places; sand and salt air wreak havoc on your hair, your skin, your pedicure and many fabrics. Unless you are a celebrity or having a holiday at a very posh resort, this is not the vacation for silks and chiffon. For most of us, a beach weekend is tromping to the sand with umbrella, blanket, chairs, toys for the kids, huge tote and possibly a diaper bag in tow. Dinner is often seafood in a place where tablecloths are replaced by brown paper. Evening events are often at a bar where the floor is made of concrete. Hotels or rental houses usually do not have laundry service.

I recommend easy clothes that allow the body to breathe yet look sassy.

You cannot go wrong with a skirt. Be it a denim mini, a gathered knee length piece of floral cotton, a calf-length sarong, skirts let you breathe, are gentle to sun and wind burned skin, look festive and pack up nicely. Again, this is not the place to bring out your shantung ballskirt or your chiffon overlay bias cut piece with beading. Even “dressy” affairs in this atmosphere are a bit more relaxed. Go for cotton, linen, lightweight denim or canvas, chino, rayon challis. This weekend I took a denim jean-style short skirt I picked up at Old Navy for a steal. This skirt became a beach coverup, a comfy thing to slide over my slightly burned thighs for brunch and looked sassy with a tank and funky necklace for an evening concert at a club. My friend had a gauzy drop waist gathered skirt that fell just below her knees. She wore it once with a ribbed tank and flops for a daytime brunch, and later with an off the shoulder top and chandelier earrings for a dressier event.

Tanks. You may hate your arms, you may think your bust is too big or too small. You are uncomfortable in more fitted clothing. Well at the beach, it’s not an issue. Planning for a beach trip I become overly conscious of how pale I am, how much I have gained, how large my belly is, how saggy my breasts are… and once I am there I realize how silly I was to worry. Women are there in all shapes, colors and sizes in various levels of undress. The ones you notice are not those whop have bad bodies, but those who have bad posture and bad fashion sense. That being said, you deserve to be comfortable. Tanks are a wonderful choice. Be it spaghetti strap with the built in bra, a ribbed “wifebeater” style, or something more refined, tanks will take you from sleep to the beach to the nightclub. They go with capris, skirts, jeans and even a towel wrapped around your waist.

And with that notice I did not mention
Shorts. I think shorts are the most unflattering thing ever created for women over the age of 21. Yes, shorts look positively adorable on a child, or on Jessica Simpson in a music video. However, in real life, adult women never look flattering in shorts. Be you small, tall, with a fabulous figure… shorts are not made for social events. They are made for driving kids to play group, gardening in your yard, working out and playing sports. I know many of you are getting angry reading this. You live in warm climates, the summer gets hot, shorts are comfortable…. Well I want every woman reading this to do an experiment. The next place you are in warm weather I want you to people watch. More specifically, people watch women in shorts. I did this at the beach. Beautiful tanned, lithe bodies around me. Every woman in shorts looked… wrong. Be it one leg hiking up, the shorts causing a mild wedgie, the outfit looking too casual/slutty/grungy for the event, or just that shorts cause bulk in an area that women do not need more bulk. It makes the flattest tummy look a little paunchy. The slimmest thighs a bit heavier. The roundest firmest tush a bit saddlebagged. Short shorts may elongate the leg, but shrink the torso so you look a bit deformed. Longer shorts cut off the body. Tight shorts are restricting, loose shorts add girth. Please, send me a photograph of a woman looking great in shorts in a “normal” situation (no music videos, red carpet walks or Hooters restaurants) and prove me wrong. I would love to be proved wrong, but until then, I highly recommend you keep your shorts for exercise and manual labor, and catch a breeze from a skirt or a pair of capris.

Update: With Bermuda shorts back on the scene, I do feel that these can look quite lovely on ladies with slim, long legs and small hips and thighs. However the best Bermudas are those that are crisp and pressed. This is the antitheses of beach attire so they should be left at home for cookouts, trips to the mall and sightseeing.

And back to what you should bring to the beach….
Jewelry. I don’t mean diamonds and pearls and feather earrings. I mean something to jazz up an outfit. This last beach trip I brought a strand of chunky wood and tiger eye beads. Wore it with a little tee shirt, previously mentioned denim skirt and flops and looked smashing. I had compliments from both women and men. Without the necklace? I would have faded into the background. Bring that crazy necklace you usually wouldn’t dare to wear. Those hoop earrings that are a bit too big for everyday use. That hip-slung belt you haven’t worn since the last time they were in fashion. Somehow a bit of sun, a cold beer, a gaggle of friends and that lovely salt air will give you the strength and the courage to go a bit more daring. I say go for it! Show some personality to your outfit!

Flip Flops. Be they the $8 ones from Old Navy, high performance leather ones from Merrell or something in-between, these are a must-have. Not just for trekking over hot sand, flip flops (or thongs, or flops) are the standard footwear. A stacked pair or a beaded pair is totally appropriate for a dinner out. They dry quickly, don’t hold the smell of stale beer and saltwater, and are pretty comfortable for long periods of time on your feet. I do take a pair of nicer heeled sandals on each trip, but usually they don’t leave the suitcase. My favorites are a pair of stacked flops from J.Crew in black. The platform gives them a bit of panache and separates them from the Eckerd Drug peers. They go with everything, are very comfortable between the toes, and hose off at the end of the day.

A Flattering Bathing Suit (or two!). I don’t care that the fashion is hip-slung bikini bottoms or boy leg shorts or halter tops… the important thing is to have a suit that is flattering and won’t fall off with the next wave. The most flattering suits are usually solid colors. Yes magazines will tell you that strategically placed stripes can fool the eye and prints can make a bust look larger. Honestly, a person can see your body, whether it’s hidden behind hibiscus, a bar code or a swath of black lycra. It is tempting to choose black if you are insecure about your figure. I encourage you to do the opposite. Again, color will not hide anything, it will just act as a mirage from very far away. If you wear a great color, people notice that more than the body around it. Also color looks better on both pale and tanned skin.

There are some very wonderful companies and stores out there to make the bathing suit shopping process less painful. Water Water Everywhere is a year-round swimsuit store in many malls across America that sells separate bottoms and tops for a more expert fit. They also have a multitude of one piece styles. I was able to find a strapless one piece suit for my pre-wedding beach holiday that held up my large breasts, sucked in my tummy a bit and did nice things to my rear. J.Crew sells individual pieces and also carried D cup styles. Lands End has an amazing array of styles, colors and fabrics. My suit from them has held up for three seasons of chlorine, saltwater and even the clothes dryer and still looks brand new. Newport News carries suits in a Long Torso cut – no more ride-ups! Though the department stores may have a huge selection, you rarely get the attention, the flattering lighting or the sizes and cuts you desire. I highly recommend doing your suit shopping in specialty stores or by mail order. It’s much nicer to try on a suit in the comfort of your own home with a mirror you trust.

Get what you like, not necessarily what you feel you have to wear because of your shape or what fashion magazines show. A tip: skirts on suits do not cover up your legs. A short flippy skirt can look quite sassy and retro, but the longer skirts do similar things to what shorts do for a woman – they make you look bigger than you are. You may think you need to wear a skirted suit due to age or size, but I disagree. These types of suits make you look older and heavier than you need to, or really do look.

Look for a lined suit (Less likely to show things you don’t want to when wet. Also holds in a bit like control top hose), a suit that supports the breasts (Underwire is often available in suits. Look for soft cups, strong straps, back straps to assist with this.), a suit in a fun and flattering color (I am partial to red, various blues and aquas and leaf green), and a suit that works with your body type, doesn’t fight it (one should not look naked, like a sausage, saggy or lumpy in your suit).

A Beach Coverup. You have spent time on finding the perfect suit, do not cover it up with an old college tee shirt of your husband’s. Or, gosh forbid, a dreaded pair of shorts where your wet rear drips through and darkens the back. Beach coverups can make you look elegant, slim, stylish, tall, fun or sexy. Luckily cover ups are quite hip right now and there is a great selection out there. Sarongs are great with a bikini. Caftans and their shorter counterparts look amazing over any style of suit and can often go from beach to bistro with ease. These come in sheer organza, cotton or my favorite – a wrinkled gauzy linen-like fabric. Just a hint of transparency, these coverups can be smashed into a beach bag, have a wet towel placed on top of them and can still come out looking great. I have a berry colored one that was actually a dress I purchased a few years ago and thought was too short.

A beach coverup doesn’t have to have a label in it saying “made for coverup use only.” As I did with a too-short dress, you may have items in your closet that already fir the bill. My friend likes to wear a crisp white oxford of her husband’s. She wears large black sunglasses, that and flops and looks like a movie star. My sister has a terry cloth a-line mini skirt. Probably meant for street wear, the color compliments the trim of her favorite bathing suit and looks quite sassy.

Sunglasses. Gosh this should be a given, but yes, even fashionistas can forget the essentials. I went to the shore sans shades. My sister, the ever prepared fashionista brought two pairs so my contacts did not have to dry out on the beach.

Sunglasses are worn 80% of the time when you are in a sunny locale. Do not get by with those free plastic wanna-be Ray Bans that pharmaceutical companies used to give out – the ones with the neon earpieces with logos screenprinted on to them. Also, one should not wear broken, scratched, obviously dated or unflattering sunglasses. These will be worn more than your bathing suit. This doesn’t mean they need to be expensive, they just need to be worthy of sitting on your face for long periods of time.

A few tips for successful sunglass purchasing:
1. If you can see your temples on either side of your sunglasses (meaning your face) when looking head-first into a mirror, the sunglasses are too small. Nothing can make you look more out of touch with trends and nothing can make your face look wider and fatter than too-small sunglasses. Too large is safer than too small. You know you have seen those women in the tiny black cat-eye sunglasses and they look as though they have borrowed them from their prepubescent daughter.
2. If you are unsure, go with black or tortoise shell. Usually fair skinned folks look better with amber or tortoise plastic shades and darker complexions with black plastic. Do not always adhere to this. I have a very fair skinned friend with strawberry blonde hair that has a huge pair of black sunglasses that look smashing on her. However, if you are shopping alone and clueless, this is a safe rule to follow.
3. Ask the opinions of others. I know what pants looks good on me, I know what haircut will flatter my face, but I am clueless when it comes to sunglasses. I ask a friend, a salesperson, but find the best suggestions from perfect strangers. Strangers seem to be more honest about accessories than clothing when their opinion is asked. I suppose they don’t have to judge your figure or your personality when it comes to sunglasses. The most favored sunglasses of my past were picked out by complete strangers who happened to walk by as I was trying to peer into those incredibly tiny mirrors on the tops of sunglass racks.
4. Don’t be a slave to fashion. Everyone is wearing rhinestone encrusted frames? Doesn’t mean you need to. Fashion is not as cut and dry as it was several decades ago. You can wear all types of things, styles and trends and not look terribly dated or tacky. If anything, trends change so rapidly in this day and age by purchasing a very trendy pair, you will only be able to wear them for 2 weeks before they are considered passe. Think about those frameless sunglasses with the rhinestone heart in the corner. Those were all the rage 4 years ago. Now? Fashion victim.
5. Look places you wouldn’t usually consider. The grocery store, the kiosk at the mall’s food court. Clothing stores that sell clothes you may not usually fit or be caught dead in. My friend has a pair of sunglasses I drool over. Great shape, great color, stylish without being trendy. Fit her perfectly. She got them at a kiosk at the mall, 2 pairs for $10.00. Look so much cooler than the Gucci shades I bought in a drunken stupor the last time I visited Italy.

There are also things you should not take with you on a beach holiday:
1. Evening or going-out purses. A black satin clutch is perfect for a date, a cocktail party, the theater. It is not perfect for the beach. Throw your necessities in a small tote or canvas bag. I prefer to shove my ID, money, lipgloss and gum in my pockets. My dear friend relies on a small backpack. My sister uses a mini L.L.Bean Boat and Toe bag. Like any other event, consider the situation when you dress.
2. Spike heels. Okay, they may look fab with your outfit, but most often you will be on grass, sand, boardwalk or damp concrete. In college there was a bar called the Rendevous Inn. For short we called it the ‘Vous. Well this place was dirty and always had an inch of stale beer on the floor. We girls all owed a pair of shoes we called ‘Vous Shoes for when we visited this watering hole. These were shoes that could handle being hosed down if need be. These are the best kind of shoes for the beach. Flip flops, wedges, sandals. Nothing with beading, sequins, delicate fabrics, spike heels or complicated lacings. You never know when you will want to take a romantic walk on the beach, when a kid may dump a sand pail of water on your foot, or when a drunken frat boy may spill a Corona on your perfect pedicure.
3. Hosiery. Okay, socks for your sneakers are fine. Knee highs, stockings, trouser socks, tights… all are no nos. The only people who wear hosiery at the beach are the waitresses at Hooters.
4. Anything that looks bad when you sweat or get rained on. I own this gorgeous silk top from Ann Taylor Loft. Got it for a steal off their clearance rack. Fits great, flatters my figure, the color is so great with my skin and hair color. Looks good with jeans, with black pants, with a skirt. Even with these amazing facts, I did not pack it for my trip. Why? I wouldn’t want to sweat in that silk top. I would not look cute with damp ringlets and that top. That top does not belong at a “taco toss” outdoor happy hour with a chance of rain. That top is meant to sip cocktails in a nice club or bar. Or maybe be worn on a date with the hubby.

So along with fabulous silk tops, I will include complicated tops, anything made of lame, or delicate crocheted lace, leather or suede, expensive jewelry (other than those standards you always wear and possibly sleep in), intricate makeup (heavy shadow, dark lipstick, heavy foundation, false eyelashes…), debutante quality dresses (yes this sounds weird but at my last beach trip I saw an adorable woman in a strapless dress with a satin sash at the waist and a full skirt held up by a crinoline), complicated shellacked hair (humidity, wind, sweat and salt air will ruin that look, don’t even try!), or anything else that will require maintenance throughout the day. Enjoy yourself! This is a vacation, right? Let your mind and your wardrobe take a rest!

The Mall and the SAHM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


Blogging Love – Interview!

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

You can check out the interview here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outlet Mall Shopping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boot Scootin’

Shirt: Gap | Skirt: c/o Soft Surroundings | Boots: DUO | Bracelets: c/o lifetherapy, c/o Soft Surroundings, made by fellow Inforooster | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

Another day that started with rain. Too hot for tall boots and skinny jeans, so I decided to whip out my festie boots. I bought these from DUO Boots in 2007 and I still adore them, though now they have become more of bum around boots. They have gone to a few Bonnaroos, parties in the parking lot at several concerts at Merriweather, went with me to Forecastle fest and are often the boots I slip on when going out in the yard to hang laundry or play with Emerson. Not really typical work footwear, but it’s Friday and they’re pretty well hidden under this skirt and will keep my feet dry as I stomp through puddles!

Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the crazy holiday season and crazy beginning of 2013 but I am craving a vacation right about now and yesterday I got a fabulous care package from Lifetherapy with some products from their “Vacation” line.  This morning’s shower was with the Vacation body wash and then I used the Vacation lotion and added the matching Pulse Point Oil Roll-on Perfume to my wrists and behind my ears. It’s a warm but feminine blend that smells a bit like vanilla, a bit like sandalwood, a bit like coconut, and makes me want to sip a fruity drink while under the shade of a palm tree on a beach.  It’s one of those fragrances that works when you get hot and sweaty – some fragrances smell too strong or too wrong in the heat of summer, but this one just seems to get more… mature and right.  I liked it when I put it on but it felt a bit too girly for me (I usually wear Burberry London perfume and Neutrogena Body Oil for moisturizer), but by time I got to the office I was quite the fan, and I love the travel-friendly perfume oil bottle!

Can I just say I wish Ray-Ban made more of the fun versions of their aviators in the 62mm size for us big-headed folks?  I want the fun green lenses, but they’re only in the normal-headed size.  However, I did find the all-black ones on eBay for a sweet price and just got my email yesterday that they have shipped out.  Can’t wait for them to arrive!  This is my biggest tip for designer sunglasses – if you know the model number, the size and details check eBay to see if you can find them for less.  There may be some sketchy folks on there, but there’s also a lot of companies that sell overstock or old styles on there for really good prices and some people who are just selling things they no longer want that are in almost-new condition.

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Tuesday: Keeping Cool

Dress: c/o Soft Surroundings
Necklace: Ann Taylor (similar)
Bracelets: Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, c/o Soft Surroundings
Shoes: Born “Myndy”
Bag: Boutique in Rehoboth Beach (similar)

This week is going to be a scorcher in DC, and I am looking to stay as cool as possible while looking appropriate at the office. This dress from Soft Surroundings is 100% linen so it is breezy and comfortable. I took this dress on my vacation and wore it to the zoo in Columbia, SC on a very hot day and felt breezy and cool. I usually shy from linen because it does end up looking so crinkled and wrinkled, but with this weather I don’t care and embracing my rumpled side!

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What I Wore: Third Time’s the Charm

Wardrobe Oxygen in a dress from Charlie Jade with aa vintage Coach bucket bagdress | bag | sunglasses | shoes

Wardrobe Oxygen in a Charlie Jade dress and Coach vintage bucket bag Wardrobe Oxygen in a silver and turquoise cuff bracelet Wardrobe Oxygen in a Charlie Jade boho dress with a vintage Coach bucket bagDress: Charlie Jade (L) (similar) | Shoes: Vince Camuto (similar) | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban | Bag: vintage Coach (similar) | Initial Necklace: Etsy | Longer Necklace: Chain with charms picked up over the years | Bracelet: Bought from a vendor at Four Corners Monument (similar concept)

This is the third time I’ve worn this dress on the blog (previously seen in this post a little over a year ago, and this post from this spring). The dress itself is sheer silk chiffon, and came with a turquoise satin slip. However I’ve been able to change the look of the dress by changing the slip. I’ve worn it with a black slip to make the colors look more intense, and think it would look great with a slip in the salmon pink to make that brighter. It’s such an easy piece and one I look for when I need to get dressed in a hurry or don’t feel especially fabulous but want to. Dresses like this feel the most me – a bit boho, a bit glamorous, and not to fussy.

This is the bracelet I got when on our road trip.  I loved it as soon as I saw it but was hesitant since I have my regular silver cuff which I’ve been wearing since 1997.  But I’ve been switching them depending on the look and sometimes wear both, one on each wrist.  I think it goes well with my wardrobe and each time I look down at it I remember the great memories we made on that vacation.  The best jewelry is jewelry with a story or history!

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