Search Results for: label/what to wear on vacation

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Age is But a Number

Age is but a number.

Really people, it is. It’s not a euphemism that allows adults to wear Care Bear shirts and skip across the parking lot to Starbucks, but it isn’t a steadfast bar where you have to adjust your life to fit it.

I spent my lunch in Borders, pouring over fashion magazines while enjoying an iced coffee. Bazaar (which ya’ll know is one of my very favorite fashion magazines) had an article about Diane von Furstenberg (who is one of my very favorite designers).

Diane von Furstenberg is 60, beautiful, sexy and confident. She shows skin, wears her hair long, attends interviews with a face free of makeup and wears garments many would say should be reserved for her younger clients.

All of this, yet the woman exudes amazing style, confidence and class. Why? She isn’t adhering to a number, but to her self. She knows what works and what doesn’t by having a good relationship with her body and her mind. She doesn’t feel that since she hit a certain age bracket she now needs to dress in Chanel suits and sensible heels. Look at the pictures above – that is not “typical” attire for a woman in her 60s yet on von Furstenberg, it is perfect and stylish.

My friend is 29 and used to be a manager of a Talbots store. She was always amazed at the type of people who bought the different styles of clothing the company carried. It was as though once a woman hit 40, she felt as though she must own a pair of cropped capris with embroidered palm trees all over them. Pink polo shirts, quirky capris and uber-comfortable conservative slides and sandals seemed to be the expected uniform of that age, especially if she had children. She would suggest alternatives that seemed to fit the person’s figure and personality better – soft knits, shirtdresses, stronger colors but they usually refused, saying they were too old for anything but the standard conservative prep uniform.

Now for some, this look is cute and appropriate. However for most, it is stupid and well… corny. It’s the same with the over-50 set who feels she is now expected to dress completely in the Chico’s Travelers collection. The closet is full of slinky black pieces that drape all over, pulled together with an artistic and bold necklace or hip belt. Again, fabulous look on some, but totally wrong on many.

When my mom was growing up, she remembered very specific styles that every female HAD to have in her closet. A charcoal piped blazer, a circle skirt, a pencil skirt, a tucked in white blouse. All pieces that looked horrific on her petite curvy frame. Luckily, style is not so rigid anymore, and one can truly walk a mall (or surf the Internet) and find pieces that fit one’s personal style AND figure.

Age-appropriate dressing usually has to do with how much skin you are exposing. The thing is, a 55-year old woman who is a marathon runner and yoga enthusiast can better carry off a little silk sundress and strappy heels than a 21-year old woman who has a few more curves. A curvy woman in her 20s often has firmer arms and décolletage than a woman in her 40s, and then can more easily carry off a strapless top with a plunging neckline. So it’s not as much about how much skin you are showing, but what type of skin you are showing.

In my 20s, I was less concerned with my torso showing and often wore tops that hit right at the waistband. However I was less comfortable with my upper body and chose short sleeves over straps and wore higher necklines so not to expose any cleavage. I wore looser pants feeling that my bum was too round, and never wore skirts for thinking my legs were too thick. Now in my 30s, I wear lower necklines to elongate my body and accentuate my curves; I love skirts and dresses because they show off my feminine shape and find that slimmer fitting jeans make me look smaller and taller. It’s not about changing my wardrobe because I hit a new decade in my life, but changing my wardrobe according to my relationship with my current body, my lifestyle, my career.

There are some style I am drawn to but choose not to wear because of my lifestyle and profession more than my age (gosh if I was independently wealthy I think I may get a Mohawk and re-pierce my nose) but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be worn by anyone. I have a former coworker who is in her 40s. She loves working out and has a great toned body, a short spiky black hairdo, wears a lot of eyeliner, sports a few tattoos and looks amazing in jeans and a ribbed tank. Because of her personality and her lifestyle (musician and makeup artist) it doesn’t look foolish, it doesn’t look as though she is attempting to be younger, she seems comfortable in her skin and expressing her personality. I have an old college friend who is the opposite. She is 30 years old, wears very conservative and subtle attire. She looks at home in knee-length tweed skirts, cashmere turtlenecks, conservative suits and clothes often associated with a teacher or librarian. She is never without her pearls or her classic style of Coach purse and always looks confident, feminine and chic. She works in a conservative field and even in college when we attended frat parties, she arrived in crisp khakis, a button-down shirt and loafers. No one mocked her because this is what made her… well her!

One can be in beautiful clothing yet still not be considered well dressed. One can dress appropriately for her age group, but still look inappropriate. The only way to truly achieve style is to know yourself. A good way is by answering the questions below, then reading them aloud. You may be surprised by your answers…

  • Who is your favorite artist?
  • Why?
  • Who is your favorite musician?
  • Why?
  • Looking at all the colors in a box of Crayola crayons, what color are you drawn to?
  • Why?
  • What wardrobe item from your past do you remember most fondly?
  • Why?
  • What female celebrity’s style do you admire most?
  • Why?
  • Where would you go for a dream vacation?
  • Why?
  • What color did you want to paint your childhood bedroom?
  • Your first residence when you moved out on your own?
  • What is your favorite movie or play?
  • Why?
  • If you had a free weekend, what would you do with it?
  • When you are in a meeting or seminar, do you ever doodle or write during the lecture?
  • If so, what?
  • What is your favorite holiday?
  • Why?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What are the five most important things in your life (things being actual things, people, beliefs, anything)?
  • What item in your current wardrobe makes you feel:
  • Beautiful?
  • Fun?
  • Powerful?
  • Feminine?
  • Boring?
  • Uncomfortable?

You and your best friend could answer these questions and both have completely different answers. Your favorite shopping buddy, the one you always borrow clothes from will most likely have different answers from you. This is why though you may have similar frames and similar tastes, a dress will look great on her but not quite right on you. This is why a dress can seem slutty on one woman, and seem chic on another, even though they are the same age and size.

Take your answers and make them into a paragraph, a short story about you and only you. This is who you are, not who you are trying to portray, who you attempt to be at work, what your social groups expect from you.

Think about a woman you know who you think has great style. Why? Is it just because she accessorizes well, or is it what she accessorizes with? Is it the clothing, or the combination of clothing and her shape and personality? Often times, we are attracted to those who have style that is flattering to their figure, but also their personality. We admire the woman at church who always seems so feminine and pulled together. She wears soft colors and fabrics that match her sweet and gentle demeanor. We admire our hairdresser who wears combat boots, a vintage dress and a blue streak in her hair, yet walks down the street as though she is Grace Kelly. We notice the corporate powerhouse at the intersection on her Blackberry. Her perfect blonde highlights, the expertly tailored gray pantsuit accented by amazing snakeskin heels. Her whole demeanor exudes confidence and strength. Imagine what they would write in their short story, and think how your appearance is assisting you with your story.

Yes, one should respect social norms – don’t attend a wedding in a strapless bright red leather mini dress, don’t attend a cocktail party in cargo shorts, don’t go to a client meeting in flip flops and yoga pants. Also respect your personal beliefs – if you feel that as a woman you should and should not wear certain things, then by of course adhere to that – this is what makes up your personal story. But outside of that, respecting your figure, your lifestyle, your personality… those are the rules to having great style. Just ask Diane von Furstenberg!

My Shoes!

Reader Allyson asked about my shoe collection. She is trying to figure out what she needs versus what she wants. I am probably the worst person to ask about this for I have an affinity for shoes that match nothing in my wardrobe and will probably cause bunions and hammertoes before I am 40. I like them tall, I like them funky, I like the heels to be spindly…

Anyway, looking at the shoes that get a lot of wear in my collection, I see the not-quite-traditional ones get the most use. The classic black shoes are great in a pinch, but I often find an unexpected neutral like a camel, tan, red or a print like leopard (one with black AND brown in it) seems to work with the majority of the wardrobe.

So
here is my collection. You’ll see a few I never wear, and will wonder where some have gone (sold, donated or tossed – recently did some gutting of my closet – hello red patent peeptoes and pilgrim shoes). This is my current collection, all seasons combined:

1. Leopard peeptoe heels from BCBGirls. I actually own two pairs because I adore them so much. One pair is a bit scuffed and smelly; the other ones are reserved for more special of occasions. These are fabric, have a 4” heel and make me feel sexy and powerful. I bought the first pair I think late 2006 and then the second pair on sale in spring of 2007.

2. Brown croco peeptoe heels from BCBGirls. Same exact style as the leopard ones. Bought in spring of 2007

3. Black croco peeptoe heels from BCBGirls. Ditto. If you find a pair of shoes that are comfortable AND fit your style, stock up! I bought them the same day I bought them in brown.

4. Black satin peeptoe heels from Enzo Angiolini. Very similar style to the BCBGirls, but a wider opening at the toe, and evening-appropriate. I got these in summer of 2007 to replace my previous black satin dress heels that broke a heel.

5. Black city boots from Impo. These are actually pleather so they look a bit like patent leather. Side-zip ankle boots with a 1” or shorter kitten heel. I bought these in winter of 2006 to replace my 5-year old city boots that were just DONE.

6. Tan leather calf-height boots from Duo. These are the “Bern” style from their website. Very low heel, comfortable casual style. Got these in the fall of 2007.

7. Brown suede tall boots from Silhouettes. 1” kitten heel, pointed toe, slightly slouched/rouched fabric. I must say a pair in purple are en route to my house via eBay – got them for about $20 on there. Yes, PURPLE! The brown ones I received as a gift this winter.

8. Black low-top “Chucks” Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers. I bought these this fall, got them for my husband as well (yes we are the corny couple with matching shoes).

9. Red pointy-toed pumps from Steven. 2” heel, candy apple red and a sale price I couldn’t resist. Have had for a couple of years now, got them at Off Broadway Shoes.

10. Black heeled oxfords from BCBGirls. Super high heel, pointed toe, classic oxford styling. Can go with skirts or pants. Ordered these in the fall but they were backordered and didn’t receive until winter.

11. Black ballet flats from Target. A total waste of money. They have no cushioning, no support, no study sole and are pleather so they make my feet sweat. I keep these for emergencies, but have no clue what emergency it would be as that I haven’t worn them in months. Bought these in late spring of 2007.

12. Black leather flats from Naturalizer. Very simple style, rounded toe, soft leather, arch support and comfort sole. These were bought for comfort, but are nondescript enough that they work okay for style as well. Bought these in… I think late summer 2006.

13. Black open-work pumps from Steve Madden. I have had these for years (I beleive it was 2001). Classic pump style, but peeptoe and the front is a lattice-work of leather. I call them my Carmen Miranda heels.

14. Hot pink studded pointy-toe pumps from NYLA. Hot pink, dark metal studs and a dangerous heel. These are a bit scuffed in front (and where can you find hot pink shoe polish?) but still a blast to wear and get tons of comments and compliments. I think I got these in… 2004. Yes, I got them while trying to find shoes for my wedding. I couldn’t resist – also from Off Broadway Shoes.

15. Hot pink and orange suede peeptoe wedges from J. Crew. Tall wooden wedge, pink suede with orange trim and tiny bow. Super cute, got end of summer season 2007 so haven’t had the chance to wear a lot.

16. Black leather thong-style heels from Target. 1.5” heel, simple. My go-to shoe all summer long. I buy a replacement pair every other year; these were bought in the summer of 2007.

17. Brown stacked flip flops from J. Crew. Have had them since 2004.

18. Black stacked flip flops from J. Crew. Got at the outlet for a song in 2005.

19. Black “Sandy” flip flops from Reef. Replaced my old pair just this summer.

20. Purple Crocs. Only worn in the yard or to as music festival. I promise! I bought them specifically for Bonnaroo this summer.

21. Aqua flip flops from Old Navy. Thin and cheap, but the same color as my bathing suit! I bought them on clearance in 2006.

22. Black crocheted elastic-strap flops from J. Crew. A slightly dressier version of flops, but hardly ever worn because the elastic stretched out and they don’t stay too well on my feet. I bought these also on clearance back in 2004… they went with me on my honeymoon!

23. Black leather pointy-toed heeled mules from Steve Madden. Horribly uncomfortable and super tall heels, but make suite a dramatic look with pants so I keep them. But I haven’t worn them in years, bought them in 2001.

24. Gray and blue hiking shoes from L.L. Bean. Bought these in 2003.

25. Black and green hybrid shoes from Keen. These have Kevlar lacing, mesh so they can be worn in water, but lots of cushioning and support so they can be worn for long walks. I take them on every vacation. I bought them in 2004 for my honeymoon.

26. Gray and orange sneakers from New Balance. Purely for the gym, the sidewalk, activities. Not the style for street wear. I have had them since the winter of 2005.

27. Black round-toe “Henri” pumps from Jessica Simpson. They got a bit stretched out this spring so I don’t wear as often because they aren’t as comfortable as before. However they are perfect for fuller skirts and more retro of styles. I bought them in… I think spring of 2006.

28. Purple satin strappy heels with rosette. 4” heel, delicate straps and a fabric rose on the strap over the toes. Very fun and quirky; I usually wear them with a non-purple dress. I bought these in 2004.

29. Black and silver strappy heels from Nine West. 4” heels, delicate straps and a rhinestone buckle on the strap over the toes. Have had these for about a decade and adore them. Remarkably comfortable as well. I remember buying them at the Nine West store in White Flint when I managed that Express store so we’re talking… 1998?

30. Purple Birkenstocks. Yep, I have a pair. Haven’t been worn since… I guess the early 90s but I hold on to them because I did adore them so and they ARE comfortable!

31. Beige satin strappy heels. 3” heel tiny bow at foot, very delicate. Considered them as wedding shoes (my dress was ivory) but went with hot pink instead (come on, you must expect that from me by now). Very subtle style that works with any color of dress and are great for summer affairs. Have had since early 2004.

As for where I store my shoes – I have a canvas over the door contraption in my office that holds the majority of the heels. On the floor of the office closet are sturdier shoes like my boots, ballet flats and sneakers. Outside on our deck is a large Rubbermaid box. In there are my slip flops and Crocs. In my bedroom closet I have shoe boxes on the floor that hold my strappy heels/evening shoes so they won’t get dusty. The shoes I wear daily (like my Chucks and city boots) end up next to the front door and when they are out of rotation, they go back into the office.

UPDATE: I added the dates I bought these shoes because I wanted you to know I don’t buy a whole new shoe wardrobe each season. Yes, shoes break and get stinky and stretch out and get scuffed, but many can last season after season if they are a more classic cut (or an really unexpected style that doesn’t follow a specific fad). My pink pointy heels garner just as many compliments now as they did three years ago because they are so unexpected. When I buy my city boots, I usually get a half a decade worth of wear with proper care and maintenance because they are a very simple, streamlined style that works well with pants as well as jeans.

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.

 

Seasonless Black Trousers

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

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

Examples of good trousers:

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

Here is a great example from Lane Bryant:

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

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

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

Dress Your Age, Not Your Shoe Size

I hate too many rules with fashion – it takes the fun out of it. I don’t think a certain age requires one to have a certain length of hair or skirt, and heck I think diamonds are too pretty to only wear in evening and when older. However, I think some fashion guidelines are created to help us from looking like fools.

Last week I was crossing the street in Washington D.C. and in front of me was a woman in a full-length mink coat and a shoulder-length sandy-colored bob. She was wearing black pants, black heels, had a very large black handbag and was walking with purpose. From the back, I assumed she was a successful and powerful woman in her late 40s to early 50s. At the intersection she went left when I went right and I was able to see the front of her and was utterly shocked to see this woman was in fact younger than I – probably early to mid 20s with a fresh face and a baby pink cashmere turtleneck.

This weekend I visited Miami, the land of flamboyant dress. I saw so many women of all ages strutting their stuff – be it money, creativity, fashion sense, love of a Bedazzler. What made many of these women great was that they wore their confidence as loudly as they did their gem-encrusted lounge suits. It isn’t my personal desire to wear lamé tunics and appliquéd jeans, but I respect these women’s desires – their style is appropriate for their environment and lifestyle and most had colors that flattered, cuts that fit and accessories to tell a little about the woman inside.

However I did also see quite a travesty while on my vacation – women dressing as children. My sister and I saw a woman at the Bal Harbour Shops in a pink spandex tube top riddled with beading and sequins, a white cotton ruffled micro-mini skirt, pink metallic wedges to match her pink metallic lips, and extensions that put Paris and Brit to shame. It was the look of a Bratz doll and was being worn by a woman in her 40s. Nothing wrong with a passion for pink and all things girly, but on this woman it looked like a costume… and it looked ridiculous. Later we saw a woman with her children who had a teased ponytail on top of her head, sequin-embellished cropped jeans, metallic heels with satin bows on them and pink glitter all over her eyes and lips. Her daughters were dressed similarly – too cute on a four-year old, but a bit desperate on the 30-something mom.

No one is saying you have to toss your Levis for wool gabardine once you hit 40, or that only “ladies of a certain age” can wear jewels, it is just being true to yourself. A four-year old dresses with what is shiny and fun, not needing to find clothing as a uniform, a social norm or communication device. The older we are, the more our clothing multi-tasks and is an extension of our personality and lifestyle. Our wardrobe needs to be as multi-faceted as our personality. Just as I recently made mention of animal-shaped hats and cartoon tees, wearing clothing obviously too old or young for you confuses those who meet you, not understanding your true nature and often pre-judging you. Dressing too adult can make you seem boring, old-fashioned, unstylish, uptight. Dressing too young can make you look unintelligent, superficial, promiscuous, annoying. It is possible to seem youthful and creative without raiding your daughter’s closet, and to look classic and conservative without dressing like your mother.

How to Add Youth to a Conservative Wardrobe:
Play With Color. Instead of donning neutrals and black, add some cheer to the mix. Pastels are feminine and subtle and great compliments to gray, camel and brown. Muted jewel tones like berry, teal and plum add class to a simple look and flatter most any skintone.

Walk the Mall. We often get comfortable with the brands we shop at; maybe we choose Boutique B because they have conservative hemlines and classic lines. The thing is you can often find items that fit your sense of style in unexpected shops. A classic pencil skirt could be found at Old Navy, a great suit in J. Crew, a lovely trench in Bebe. Be honest with the salesperson about your style and needs so you don’t waste either of your time.

Simple and Fresh. Keeping your hair and makeup simple, clean and fresh will help show your youthful side. Over-polished hair styles and matte makeup ages anyone.

How to Make a Whimsical Wardrobe Age-Appropriate:
Respect Hemlines. A skirt that is too short is flattering on no-one. Keep your hemlines just above your knee and you will flatter your legs and still look youthful. Keep this in mind also for shorts.

Leave Some to the Imagination. Short skirt, tight belly-baring top AND a low neckline? This is too much on anyone, no matter her age or figure. Choose one body part you wish to highlight, be is your fabulous décolleté, great gams, or a strong back. As for belly-baring tops, outside of a gym or beach they usually look contrived and desperate. We can tell you have a six-pack by your silhouette, it doesn’t have to be on display.

Chanel Fashion Wardrobe StyleChannel Chanel. Coco Chanel once said, “Before leaving the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” No one would ever find Chanel to be boring or fitting a mold. If you have on bracelets, large earrings, several necklaces, sunglasses, six chunky rings, a hip belt, a scarf and a headband… you look like a fashion victim, not an artist. You can still show your sense of whimsy or creativity with less embellishment. A strong necklace can be far more telling than a ring on every finger, a great bangle made by an artist or picked up on vacation holds far more interest than a mess of necklaces from any old mall store. You will receive more compliments and inquiries into your look or accessory if it gracefully holds the spotlight and doesn’t fight for it.

How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips to Stay on Budget:

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

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



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

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Tuesday Tip – Add Class To Your Wardrobe and Not Spend a Dime

  1. Remove all Logos. Would you ever see Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn, or even Ashley Olsen or Gwyneth Paltrow in a tee shirt with rhinestone appliquéd “Bebe” on her chest? I think not. The first problem with logoed shirts (be it says “sexy thing,” “American Eagle” or “Proud to be an American”) is they are busy. One is reading your chest, not your personality. Second, why are you paying to buy a shirt to advertise for a company? It’s not free advertising for them, it’s with guaranteed profit. Third, it’s tacky. Yes, some celebrities walk around in head to toe visible designer brands. However the style mavens, the fashionistas do not. Your clothing should accentuate you, not speak for itself. So you like a certain brand, or cannot afford it but for the logo tee. Wearing a designer logo tee will not make you look rich; if anything it makes it look as though you can afford nothing but the tee shirt. And as for your pride in your country/your corporation/your vacation spot? Well that’s just dandy. Again, state it yourself, you don’t need your shirt to state if for you. Fly a flag outside your home, carry around your business cards and frame a picture of you in the Outer Banks at your desk. Just don’t have it emblazoned on your breasts. As for those shirts with witty sayings? Keep them for the gym, the bachelorette party and around the house. A woman of style says what she feels, she does not wear it. Just removing logoed and message clothing from your daily ensembles, you will add much class, taste and a more expensive look to your existing wardrobe.
  2. Change your hair accessories. It’s hot out and you want your hair off your neck. It is possible to achieve this without resorting to a tacky hair accessory. Get rid of anything that is not hair colored or black. That means the rhinestone encrusted, the teal to match your teal sweater, the white, the gold and the animal pattern. Just because they are in the aisle at CVS does not mean they are fashionable. Secondly, pare down what you own. If you find yourself reaching for the scrunchie, “ouchless” elastic or butterfly clip on a daily basis, you need a haircut my dear, not an accessory. Hair accessories should be left to children, the gym, the garden and the salon white other sections are being blown straight. A few accessories are acceptable for everyday use. These are nondescript headbands (tortoise, elastic, accordion), nondescript barrettes (a clamp-style can hold up loose ends, brush back bangs and not take the focus off your entire look. Bobby pins are a must for updos and bangs that are not the right length – keep them hair colored) and maybe a hair-colored or black narrow elastic in your bag for hair emergencies. I cannot stress it enough – if you are wearing your hair in a clip or elastic more than two days a week, you need to consider your current haircut. And by all means, do not try to wear your hair accessories as fashion accessories – no claw clips attached to purse straps, no scrunchies or elastics on your wrist, no barrettes or bobby pins clamped to the hem of your top. This ruins the look of any outfit.
  3. Untuck the shirt. Say what? You were raised that a proper lady tucks in her blouse. It is the epitome of decorum and modesty to properly tuck a blouse, correct? Not always. In this day and age, many tops are not created to be tucked in. Also many of our figures are not flattered with a tucked-in shirt. If you have a bit of a belly, an untucked tailored shirt, polo or sweater can do wonders to camouflages that area without looking messy. A tailored, proper length shirt (no longer than your hips) will look more modern if untucked – if button downs have a scooped hem, they look great untucked; those with a straight hem are made to be tucked in.
  4. Iron your clothes. Seems like a given, but unfortunately we often do not have the time or full-length mirrors to really see what we look like to others. Creased pants will not sort themselves out in the commute to work, and wrinkled blouses from the dryer have a totally different look than shirts that got a bit rumpled through the average day. If you purchase cotton clothing, expect to iron. If you do not have time for ironing, take the pieces to the cleaners. Shirts usually are cleaned and pressed for less than $2.00. A properly pressed garment will add tons of class, style and an expensive look to your outfit.
  5. Protect the midsection. Again, let’s use the example of Jackie O. Do you think she would have ever visited the mall with her navel exposed? Be you a few pounds overweight and your clothes fitting a bit snugly, or be it you have the most amazing toned six-pack, there is never a reason for an adult to show her belly anywhere but at the beach or pool. If your shirt is riding up, this means it is at least one size too small. If you bend over and more than ¼” of your underwear is showing, your pants do not fit properly and need to be donated or tailored. If you ensure that your midsection is properly covered (even when you sit, yank your bag on your shoulder or raise your arm) you will look thinner and far more elegant.
  6. Don’t be a slave to fashion. Just because leggings have appeared on the runway after a 20-year hiatus does not mean you need to dash out and purchase a pair. Fashion is not black and white as it was of decades past. This means pick and choose what appeals to you and is flattering each season, and stick to your classics to pull the look together. If you are too short-waisted for thick belts, then by all means do not purchase them. I personally have thicker legs and do not plan on purchasing any of the stovepipe jeans or leggings that are in every magazine this season. This doesn’t mean I will be seen as unfashionable, it just means I am dressing for my figure, not for a fashion magazine.
  7. Accept your size. Also accept that your size in one store may be different from another. You will be the same shape be you wear a size 8 dress or a 10. If you are so self-conscious you can cut the tags out a la Mariah Carey. A size smaller in a blouse will actually make you look larger. On the other side of the coin, clothing that is too big for your body will make you look misshapen, sloppy and also bigger than you truly are. If you have trouble due to curves, purchase the larger size and take your garment to a tailor (many dry cleaners do tailoring) and have it adjusted to your shape.
  8. Check your bag. Is your bag overstuffed? Fraying? Covered with pen marks? If so, you are like many women in America. If you cannot afford a replacement bag, clean the one you currently have, snip any frayed areas with nail scissors and always keep it zipped up and only to 70% capacity at most. This will make your bag look far more polished than when you have a planner, sippy cup, wad of Kleenex and an apple popping out of the main compartment. Bag too small to stay at only 70% capacity? Gut it, lay everything out on your bed or dining table and really evaluate every item – is it a necessity? Is it easily found/accessible in your bag 9do you need smaller cosmetic bags to organize)? If everything is a necessity, it is time to either purchase a larger bag or a second bag for school/work papers/your laptop/toys and snacks for the rugrats.
  9. Chin up. The best way to exude class and style is to have good posture. Chin up, neck elongated, chest out, shoulders back and down. Think about your walk; glide, don’t clop. A graceful walk will make even ratty sweatpants look elegant.

How to “Read” Fashion Magazines

Pre-pubescent women below 100 lbs. showing off dresses in the thousands. Ads for Armani, Versace, Missoni, Chanel and any other brand you couldn’t possibly afford (and possibly couldn’t even find for sale in your neck of the woods). Crazy outfits of sheer blouses without camisoles, plaids with polka dots, turquoise false lashes and 6″ platform wedges. How are these magazines supposed to help the typical woman in America? How can Vogue, W, Bazaar and Elle assist you in your journey to the suburban shopping mall?

Some fashion magazines are more helpful than others. Lucky magazine not only tells you what is hip, but where to purchase these hip items. They categorize trends, with a page dedicated to the lace trend, a page dedicated to wedge shoes, a page dedicated to croco bags. While encouraging the shopper to visit New York boutiques, a few chain stores are mentioned. Even if you cannot afford the Prada skirt, you can see the length, fabric and cut and can look for a similar version at Macy’s.

Bazaar is one of my favorite magazines. They show celebrities and socialites in what’s hip for the next season, have all the hot new ads from the most luxurious brands, but also breaks fashion down for the Every Woman. So the trends for Spring are a bit of cowgirl, a bit of nautical and a bit of safari? Bazaar will show how a woman in her 20’s can wear the trends, a woman in her 30’s and all the way up to her 70’s. They also will have a spread informing the reader about the hot new trends. As always, they have a What’s Hot/What’s Not on the very last page.

Every fashion magazine can be beneficial to you, no matter your age, dress size or income. It’s not about going into debt for a Dior bag or even for trying to replicate a Dolce and Gabanna ad with pieces from Target. No, it’s getting concepts.

Look at the ads. Really examine them as you would a painting in a museum. What colors are being worn? What does the shoe look like? What kind of fabric? Is there a specific print that is the theme? Now flip the page and look at the next ad. Is there any similarity? Though each high-end designer has their own signature style, there is often a theme for each season that resonates on the runway and in the ads. Maybe it’s lace trim, maybe it’s wood heels on the shoes. It could be a lot of black – it sure was this winter. Don’t look at these ads and roll your eyes over the age or weight of the models, the astronomical prices and ridiculousness of the garments. See it as art, and then break it down.

Be Realistic. If the magazine says every woman needs the new Fendi purse, don’t buy the Fendi purse if you don’t make enough money to buy a Fendi purse for fun. The purse will be passé in a year. Don’t go on a street corner and buy a faux Fendi purse. It will look fake, and it will look tacky and desperate. Don’t wait two years and buy a cheesy knock-off of what the Fendi purse was shaped like from Wal-Mart. Again tacky and desperate. Instead, break it down. What makes that bag new and hip? Is it the oversized shape? Use of silver hardware? A short handle? Croco leather? White with black trim? Take those details with you when you go shopping. Look for something that is beautiful on it’s own, fits your lifestyle and needs, but may incorporate those details. I for one adored the Balenciaga Motorcycle bags that celebs like Nicole Ritchie and Jessica Simpson were sporting. I couldn’t afford the bag, and didn’t want to look like an idiot with a faux silver or turquoise pleather wanna-be bag on my wrist. Therefore I analyzed the look of the bag. What about it did I like? The hardware. The large size. The short handle. The way the leather looks a bit crackled and a bit glazed. When I went to buy a new purse I found a slouchy oversized purse with lots of hardware and metal detail in a similar leather finish and a color that complimented my wardrobe. Not Balenciaga, couldn’t be mistaken for a Motorcycle bag, but receives many compliments, holds all my stuff and keeps my image current.

Don’t be a Label Whore. I was in an elevator yesterday with a woman. A gorgeous woman with a gorgeous figure. Her beauty was not the first thing I saw. She was wearing a puffy Baby Phat coat with a faux fur trim in a weird olive/taupe color. She had on extremely tight Seven for All Mankind jeans that were too low on the waist and too long on her ankles. She had on a Tiffany bracelet AND a Tiffany necklace. She had on a Coach logo purse – quite large and quite pink. Under her coat was a black fitted tee with “Bebe” in rhinestones across the chest. She had on false eyelashes, very pink glossy lips and barely any other makeup. Her hair was in a formal updo with tendrils around her face, her hair obviously meticulously highlighted, lowlighted and streaked on a regular basis. And then on her feet were those high-heeled Timberland-esque dress boots. Her outfit probably cost a ton of money, but she looked terrible. Her clothes didn’t compliment her figure, or one another. She was a walking fashion victim, a slave to the name brands. By caring so much about the names, she lost sight of what the brands were trying to create – FASHION. I highly doubt you are going to the Academy Awards any time soon. No one is going to stop you walking down the street and say “Who are you wearing?” Even if they do, how cool would you be by saying, “This old thing? I picked it up at Target last season.” Think Sharon Stone when she wore a Gap tee shirt to an awards ceremony. No one wrote her off as cheap or tacky. Instead she was celebrated for that fashion move.

It is understandable to want to buy luxury, to splurge on designer. You work hard, you want to reward yourself. I respect that, and I indulge in that as well. Just when you do, think about the rules you hold for all other aspects of your life:
Does it fit into your life?
Does it flatter?
Will it work for the long haul?
Is it worth it?

If you got that promotion, go ahead and buy a Coach purse, but buy one that will go with your current wardrobe, and will still be beautiful next year. My friend has a Coach bag that she bought herself after getting her degree in 1998. She still carries around that camel colored tote, and still gets compliments all the time. She bought something luxurious, something obviously a brand name, but something that fit her lifestyle, fashion style and something that works in the 90’s as well as the new millennium. A few years ago I found a beautifully tailored black wool coat from Calvin Klein. I put it on and felt like a socialite. I felt elegant, tall and slim. It was at a discount store, but still out of my price range. It was the first item I ever put on layaway. When I made the final payment, I still adored the coat. Now a few years later, I still love the coat, it’s cut, it’s feel. To me, it was worth the money. I wear it and look expensive, but I am not shouting “This is a Calvin Klein coat from 2001!” I am whispering “I am wearing an expensive, well made garment and it is designer.”

Again, look in the magazines. Look at the spreads of celebrities at galas and fundraisers. Are they showing up in head to toe labels? Unless you’re Kimora Lee Simmons or Missy Elliott, the answer probably is no. The women who look polished, elegant, sexy and expensive do not flash their designer labels. They wear what is stylish, flattering and beautiful.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read. When a magazine totes a certain top or moisturizer as great, it’s not always because it’s great. Magazines receive free stuff all the time, and are encouraged in different ways to promote this stuff. These freebies end up in fashion spreads, articles about great new things for the season, or advice columns. Don’t take what one magazine says as gospel. It’s best to have something to compare it with. Don’t worship Vogue if you won’t also pick up In Style. Don’t read Lucky without W. By reading more magazines (even in the line at the grocery or at the pharmacy while waiting for a prescription) you get a more well-rounded view of what is hot, what is trendy, and what is utterly ridiculous.

Make it Age and Shape Appropriate. Anyone over 27 and a size 4 should not be wearing dress shorts. Mischa Barton and Nicole Ritchie and Lindsay Lohan are all wearing short creased shorts to red carpet events. Well good for them. Are you built like Lindsay Lohan? Are you the age of Mischa Barton? If you answered yes to both, God Speed and Good Luck. For the rest of us, STEER AWAY FROM THE SHORTS. Just because it’s hip, doesn’t mean to wear it. We don’t live in the era of cut and dry fashion. My mom speaks of circle skirts, piped charcoal blazers and cigarette pants while growing up. They weren’t flattering on her, but she wore them because EVERYONE wore them. That, and nothing else. Fashion has changed and has become more flexible and forgiving. If this season is all about olive green and you look terrible in olive green, then don’t wear it. If magazines are telling you that leggings are hot this season (which they are) but you are over 25, you’re over 105 lbs. and you wore in an office setting you shouldn’t pick up a pair your next trip to the mall. If the new look is nautical, that doesn’t mean you need to go buy a navy and white striped boat neck shirt to make your torso seem twice it’s size. Instead consider pieces that may be more appropriate. Crisp white trousers with a solid navy sweater. A navy blazer with gold buttons paired with a white shirt and vintage washed jeans. There are different ways to incorporate trends without looking like a fashion victim or worse… unflattering.

Make a List. So you like the polka dots featured in Bazaar. You like the new width of jeans seen in In Style. You love how navy is coming back into vogue on the pages of Vogue. Write these things down, or tear out pages from your glossy magazines and take them with you on your shopping excursions for inspiration. When you get overwhelmed in a sea of fabric at Lord and Taylor’s pull out your list. It will keep you centered and less overwhelmed.
And finally, See Fashion as Art. If you stop looking at fashion as the unobtainable, you’ll despise it. The majority of our country cannot afford a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes, a Prada dress, a Chanel suit. That’s okay. Just look at that Chanel suit or that Prada dress in the magazine’s fashion spread and try to figure out why they chose to display it. Is it the color? The cut? The fabric? What about makes it less insane (because much high fashion is totally insane and unwearable in normal society) and more beautiful? Take that one thing with you as you go shopping this season. If you try to see the beauty and detail in fashion, you will be more likely to buy what makes you look more beautiful when you wear it.

Saturday – Monday in Miami

Hello all! I am back from Miami. Due to the weather I am not sporting much of a sunkissed glow (it rained, it was cloudy, it was horrifically windy and never over 70 degrees or so) but we had fun.

For those who don’t know, I won this trip from Budget Travel magazine. I have been to Florida many times, but not to Miami. As that the reason I won the contest involved my sister and our vacation traditions I took her as my guest. We also planned it so that this trip fell on her birthday weekend!

Saturday morning, I took the Metro to Regan airport. I took a black pullman to check, and my HARDWARE Handbags and purse for carry-on.

I wore my black merino crewneck, orange crinkled scarf/shawl from Banana Republic, my dark denim skirt from Gap, my tan “bern” boots from Duo, silver cuff. Hair was washed and conditioned but left to air dry except for the bangs. Makeup was simple – L’Oreal True Match concealer in W1-3, Cargo Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife, Revlon Shiny Sheers in Sheer Cocoa Glaze and Cover Girl Lash Blast in Black on curled lashes.

We arrived at the hotel (located in Bal Harbour) around 3pm, got ourselves settled and switched into bathing suits and semi-streetwear to investigate the pool and beach. I wore my aqua halter-neck one-piece from J. Crew, my dark denim skirt and a jade green scoop tee from Gap with black flops from J. Crew. We walked to the beach, but it was so late in the day the highrises were blocking most of the sun. We dipped our feet in the Atlantic, and then spent a bit at the pool deck near the bar just people watching.

We then took a nap to prepare for our evening out. I showered and decided to wear my hair wavy, but the water in Miami was different from at home and I forgot my shampoo and used the hotel one so my hair was very limp. I ended up curling almost the whole thing, doing some backcombing and creative techniques to make it decent.

Gold and olive silk dress with pockets from Banana Republic (but purchased for far less on eBay), black croco peeptoes from BCBGirls, long gold necklace from Express, gold bangles from Ralph Lauren, gold hoops.

Makeup was Smashbox Photo Finish primer, L’Oreal True Match concealer in W1-3, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Cargo Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife, Body Shop eyecolor in Slate over lid and the black shade from the Pop Beauty for Brown Eyes set in crease and along lash lines. Lashes curled, two coats of Cover Girl Lash Blast in black with two coats of Imju Fiberwig over it. Bit of Sephora eye pencil in grey along lash lines. On lips was Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Glossy Rose.

We walked across the street from our hotel to the Bal Harbour Shops where the restaurant was located. We had a nice meal, did a lot of people watching and had a lovely bottle of champagne. After dinner, we caught a cab down to the nightclub which was closer to South Beach. We had VIP seating, which meant we had a seat in the center of the club where there was a section of white vinyl couches. They brought us a bottle of champagne and strawberries and again we had an awesome time people watching, and then dancing a bit. We’re not used to partying until 6am, so we headed out around 2:00.

The next morning it was raining, the wind was INSANE and it was the actual day of my sister’s birthday so we ordered Room Service for breakfast. We sat in front of the balcony overlooking the ocean, ate yummy food (felt very Sex in the City… you ladies know which episode) and watched that TLC reality show about Miss America.

The rain let up and we had some mandatory shopping to do so we got dressed. I didn’t do my hair from the night before because it was acting so strange; I just brushed out any tangles.

As for outfit, my trusty black merino shift from Banana Republic, my tan “Bern” boots from Duo, silver hoops and cuff bracelet.

Makeup was L’Oreal True Match concealer in W1-3, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Cargo Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis – ivory in inner corners, khaki on lid, chocolate in crease and along lash lines. Lashes curled and two coats of Cover Girl Lash Blast in black. On lips was Revlon Shiny Sheers in Sheer Cocoa Glaze.

The mall was ridiculous; honestly I had a hard time spending the gift card. We first went to Tiffany because my sister received a gift she wanted to exchange. She got a gorgeous enamel necklace and I used some of the gift card to cover the difference. We then walked the two flights seeing it more like a museum than an actual shopping mall. Chanel, Versace, Dior, Oscar, Fendi, Hermes, Prada… the gift card could maybe buy me a keychain in these places…

They had a Banana Republic and ya’ll KNOW how much I love that store! I thought wow, for almost $500 I could totally buy everything I hearted in the place, or maybe a new purse! Notsomuch; the store was kinda messy, very few items in my size and a lot of the new clothing looks prettier on the hanger than on my bod. I ended up leaving with a $9 clearance sweater and an $18 black cami. I know, boring.

I decided my best bet was either a sale purse (because these stores had purses around $1,500, not $500) or sunglasses and then spend the rest on cosmetics. I tried on sunglasses in every boutique and all looked stupid. This is probably why in the past five years the only sunglasses I have worn are crappy cheap ones from the kiosk in the mall or Target – sunglasses are usually too big, too small, or too rounded for my large and not round head.

Until Celine.

We went into Celine and I tried on THE SUNGLASSES. Not super flashy with logos, not overly trendy and obviously passe by next summer, not too round, too big, too small, too manly, too girly, too trendy. Just right. To add to it, the salesperson was one of the first who treated us nicely, and not like street urchins. I bought them!

We had shopped until we almost dropped so we headed out to our next destination – massages! My sister’s friends bought her a gift certificate to a day spa near our hotel for her birthday gift and so I asked my mom if my birthday gift could be a gift certificate towards the price of a massage so we could get them at the same time. The spa didn’t look too impressive, but my sister and I agree we received some of the best massages ever.

After our massages, the weather had gotten far colder. We caught a cab back to our hotel and changed for dinner.

Black cami from Banana Republic, black merino crewneck from Banana Republic, dark “The Flirt” bootcut jeans from Old Navy tucked into my tan “Bern” boots from Duo, orange silk crinkle scarf from Banana Republic, hair held back with my new Celine sunglasses. Makeup the same except for touchups, hair the same (and now kinda greasy from the massage).

We walked to Surfside and ate at an adorable sushi place that was full of friendly staff, happy locals and good food at a good price. We shared a variety of sushi and sashima and each had a nice glass of Pinot Noir to warm us up. After, we ran across the street to CVS for bottled water at non-hotel prices and were psyched to see they sold champagne there! We grabbed a bottle of Freixenet and headed back to the hotel.

The wind was INSANE at this point and we often walked backwards so we didn’t get sand in our eyes. Once back, we each settled in our beds (the beds at the hotel were sooo comfy!) with glasses of bubbly and watched Extreme Home Makeover. Glamorous, no? Didn’t matter, we had a great time, gabbed and giggled.

Monday we got up and were both sore from the massages so did a bit of yoga and then got ready for our day. It was still rainy and windy so we couldn’t go to the beach. Anyway, I still had money to spend on the gift card so we had to return to the mall.

I had showered the night before and let my hair air dry. As for makeup, it was exactly the same as the day prior.

For clothing, I wore my olive linen shift from Old Navy, my Duo boots, my orange crinkle scarf, silver cuff and hoops.

Then I went out on the balcony.

Oh

My

Goodness!

The wind was INSANE! I decided to put my Old Navy jeans on under the dress and boots so if my skirt flew up in the wind, I would be covered. This was also a good idea as that this is what I would be wearing on my flight home and it was about 20 degrees back in DC.

I decided to spend the bulk of the rest on a perfume. I have been wearing Burberry London for a very long time and love it, but was ready for a change. I already know what I wanted – Narciso Rodriguez for Her. I had received a sample at Sephora and had been coveting it ever since. We went to Saks and bought it up. We them went to a cafe for late breakfast/early lunch. I decided to sport my new sunglasses perrched on top of my head.

Sitting at the table (it is in a sheltered outdoor part of the mall) I felt something fall on then off my head. I look down and see a piece of metal. Pick it up and it says, “Celine.” It was part of my sunglasses! I grab the pair and realize the plastic part was cracked and the metal fell off and couldn’t be reattached. What the heck!?!? Glad that this happened while still in Miami, we headed back to the store after lunch.

OMG, I am so glad this happened in Miami and not back home. The DRAMA it took to exchange out these darn sunglasses for a replacement pair (and can I say the saleswoman remembered me from the previous day as well?) was horrific and left the worst taste in my and my sister’s mouths. I have worked retail and KNOW that it didn’t have to be so difficult. This plus drama I didn’t even mention the day prior when trying to use the gift card in their store… I won’t go into details, just letting you know I have received better service at Express, at Forever 21, at H&M and even The Gap in the same mall on the same day than I did at Celine and someone at their corporate office will receive my complaint, whether or not it will do any good.

So after what felt more like work than play at Bal Harbour Shops, we walked back to the hotel to have a pre-flight cocktail and then catch a cab to the airport. No time for the drinky-poo which was probably good because we were both grumpy and tired by this point.

We got to the airport, which is one of the most confusing and smelly airports I have visited; checked our luggage and headed to our gate where there weren’t enough seats so we ended up sitting on the floor in a busy thoroughfare. Oh, and it was like 80 degrees and humid in the airport and smelled like manure. This picture sums up our feelings by this point, and also shows off my new sunglasses and my sister’s new Tiffany necklace.

Got home (yay!) to find out they lost my luggage (boo!) but they found it this morning (pending yay; haven’t seen its condition yet… to be delivered to my house and I’ll check it out this evening). Looking forward to the luggage coming back – thinking about it on the Metro home I wasn’t tooo sad because really everything is replaceable or expendable that was in there except my black merino shift from Banana Republic – I do love that thing. And I wanted to wear my new perfume and give my husband the shirt I bought him. Also made getting ready today SUCK because in the suitcase was almost all my makeup, my shoes, my curling iron, both my brushes, my Jonathan Silky Dirt, my best nude bra, my deodorant, my toothbrush… I could go on but you get the idea!

Closet Clean-out – The Woman Over 50

I may not yet be this age, but I am surrounded by coworkers, friends and family that are in this category. I have done many closet cleanouts and wardrobe consultations for women of this age and often times see the same themes in each of their closets, no matter their lifestyle, figure or age.

A woman over 50 has spent the greater part of her life taking care of everyone but herself. She may have worked up the career ladder to corporate success, raised several children, cared for home and spouse, was a leader in her community, and usually a combination of many or all of these things. To do all of this successfully, something often has to give and the first thing a woman is known to give up is herself – her time, her sleep, her budget for fashion and personal care.

This is nothing to criticize – we women are amazing creatures who have the ability to kick butt and take name in the corporate sector while nurturing a family at home and supporting causes close to our hearts. We can multi-task like nobody’s business and work beautifully with what life has given us.

The thing is, we often say it to our friends – we are no good to another if we are not first good to ourselves. Taking care of our exterior does a world of good in feeling good about ourselves and being understood and respected in the world. We can often feel taken advantage of by coworkers, children, significant others and peers; when you are over 50 it is time to reclaim yourself and show the world that you are still a successful and compassionate person, but you are no one’s doormat, you aren’t to be retired to a shelf, you are a phenomenal woman.

The quickest way to do this is by honestly analyzing your closet. Here’s a few things that every woman should toss from her collection:

Short-sleeved Camp Shirts. This seems to be the staple of many women’s wardrobe. In a poly blend, silky challis, actual silk or a cotton blend, these shirts have a boxy shape, a notched collar and are often worn untucked with trousers or tucked into skirts. They usually come in a floral or abstract print though they also do come in solids. They are wonderful because they are breezy on hot days, easy to wash and dry, resistant to wrinkles and seem to dress up a simple pair of shorts or pants.

Ladies, these are the equivalent of a man’s Hawaiian shirt. They are cheap looking, dated and a bit corny. They don’t flatter your figure, and they don’t honestly state to the world your personality and sense of style.

The Poly-blend Elastic Waist PermaPress Trouser. Again, these are popular because they are so easy – comfortable, easy to care for, work almost every season of the year. Black can look dressy in a snap, colors add pizzazz to outfits (usually with the camp shirts that are mentioned above).

I understand comfort and convenience, and I understand that it isn’t easy to shop for a figure that may not look or feel the same as it did 25 years ago. However that does not mean you need to succumb to what my dear friend calls Nursing Home Couture. You are not having someone else dress and bathe you, you have the ability to pull and zip up your own trousers, so you should invest in a few pairs that are easy to care for but look elegant and flattering.

Unlined trousers of cotton blends and synthetics usually can take a run on the gentle cycle of the washing machine with a gentle liquid detergent; drying synthetics is an overnight process from a hanger on your shower curtain rail. A tab-waist trouser will not dig into your midsection and lay smooth over your curves. A straight trouser or one that slightly gets wider as it goes down the leg is the most flattering to the majority of silhouettes. Black is great for dressing up; white is amazing with brights or pastels in the summer (look for lined or a heavier fabric with these to prevent VPL), and you will get more wear and look far more polished in neutrals for trousers – tan, camel, ivory, gray, brown will get you far more miles than baby blue or mauve.

The Man-sized Polo Shirt. They’re on sale at L.L. Bean and never shrink or fade. It was given to you at your company retreat. It’s comfortable/easy to care for/your favorite color/hides all the lumps and bumps/is simple come summer with a pair of shorts.

You are not a man, and you should never dress like a man. The oversized style went out a decade ago and we should be grateful. Oversized shirts actually make us look more lumpy and bumpy, and hide any curves we wish to showcase. A polo collar is not flattering to most, and those blousy-then-banded sleeves make everyone’s arms look like ham hocks.

I could suggest a feminine cut of polo shirt, but I find these styles of tops are not flattering on most women. If you are busty, curvy, or have a very athletic frame these tops usually accentuate the negative and hide the positive. If you have a slight figure with a few feminine curves and like the preppy style, go ahead and purchase some that are nipped in at the waist and cut to flatter your bustline. Stick with solids in cheery colors as that they look more expensive and elegant than stripes and prints. As for the rest of us women, a great replacement is a refined tee. Same great color choices, made of a silky yet sturdy jersey knit, with a flattering neckline and well-fitting sleeves it is just as easy to care for and far more flattering to one’s face and figure. No matter your size, look for one that glides over curves – no more oversized shirts!

Suntan-colored Pantyhose. Let’s add white, taupe, navy and ivory to this list. Not, I am not going to tell you to get rid of all your hose, but to be more particular with what quality and color your purchase.

Skin-colored hose can cover up a multitude of leg issues, offer some tummy control, help skirts glide better and make an outfit look more polished. However a leg that is obviously a different color from the rest of your body doesn’t look polished, it looks cheap. White hose should be left to nurses, and colored hose should be tossed or left to True Fashionistas.

Good hose will not be found at the drugstore – it’s best to head to your local department store where you can test out the colors against your skin, see the denier and feel the quality. You want sheer hose that do not have a lot of shine – are just a hair darker than your legs (should be the color of your face), and seem durable. Black hose are still acceptable for formal and conservative events if paired with black shoes – these should also be of good quality, sheer and not with a lot of shine.

There really isn’t need for any other color of hose – keep your selection minimal and then you can afford the higher-end brands. Care for them by gently washing and storing them and they should survive many wears.

As for knee-highs… they only work with trousers. There shouldn’t be a single skirt in your wardrobe that can handle knee-highs as well as walking and crossing of legs without the band showing. All hose should be above the knee or left to wear with pants.

Overly Matchy Matchy Anything. It’s nice to have your belt match your shoes, or even occasionally have your lipstick match the print in your blouse. What I am speaking of is the overly-matched set. The lime green shirt jacket and matching fabric capris with the same lime green printed tank, same lime green sandals, a headband of the same print as the top, and a lime green bangle to match your lime green hoops. I often see this with animal prints, unusual colors (lime, yellow, orange), and with novelty fabrics (corduroy trousers, jacket, purse and shoes).

Shopping channels and mail-order catalogs will often encourage this matchy-matchy obsession, telling their audience that it makes one look more polished, coordinated, festive. It doesn’t; it looks gaudy and cheap and tacky.

I remember a client showing up in her favorite outfit – a denim dress with leopard print trim, leopard print belt, leopard print pumps, a leopard print clutch with denim trim, and a denim and leopard printed fabric hair scrunchie. She even admitted when she wore this outfit, she donned her favorite leopard print bra and panties set. She said the coordination made her feel as though she was well dressed, strong, organized and powerful. She said she often got many compliments on the ensemble. When I asked her what type of compliments, she thought back and realized they were not about how she looked, but how coordinated and unusual the outfit itself was.

Over-coordination does not make you look better; you are the backdrop and this ensemble ends up taking center stage. One does not see your sparkling eyes, your engaging smile, but instead they are overwhelmed in a wash of candy pink or purple paisley. A matchy-matchy outfit is not an outfit, but a costume. A woman of style uses clothing to accentuate herself, never to hide herself.

You can usually keep most of these items, but pair them with different pieces. My client’s leopard shoes became a staple in her wardrobe and were paired with black, red, brown and rust colored garments. The dress was still worn with a black belt and heels. She did end up getting rid of the scrunchie and clutch because they were purchased more for the coordination factor, not because they were attractive or made of quality.

Toss the scrunchies, the headbands, the sun visors, the socks, the clutches and fabric belts that were not purchased out of use, but because they perfectly matched another part of your wardrobe (and do yourself a favor and do not purchase another scrunchie or fabric visor or headband again – these do not accentuate your sense of style). From now on, accessories purchased should be able to work with at least three ensembles from your current closet (this includes shoes). This may not be seen as “fun,” but fun can be found in quality versatile pieces as well. Animal print and red shoes are surprisingly neutral and versatile, an ornately beaded clutch in many colors will work with almost every cocktail dress in your collection, a colorful hand-painted wooden bangle will brighten up basics in your closet and become a conversation piece, not a costume.

The Silkscreened Tees. Yes, you may be the world’s greatest grandmother, #1 scout leader, a patriot, and you may have gone to Florida, the Bahamas, New York and Mexico this past year. This does not mean you need to exclaim this on your bosom. Many times these are gifts from others and I understand that. However that means you are the type that seems wanting of a silkscreened memento. My mother is over 50, one of my best friends, a world traveler, a ton of fun, and I would never purchase her a silkscreened shirt as a gift. That doesn’t mean I don’t buy her trinkets from trips and gifts for special occasions, it’s just that I know she is the type to far more appreciate a framed photograph, a dish towel (she collects them), a small bottle of her beloved Chanel No. 5. Does this mean she doesn’t own silkscreened tees? No, she has ones from her alma mater, various programs she has been a part of, one advertising the yoga studio she attends… but these are worn for yoga class, when gardening, and they are always in pristine condition.

See above regarding alternatives to the man’s sized polo for what can replace the silkscreened tee from your daily wardrobe. Pare down your collection, keep the ones in best condition and that hold the most meaning to you and donate the rest. A woman only needs a handful of these for times when she doesn’t want to get her higher-end knits soiled or sweaty.

The Buxton Purse. I don’t like to call out name brands, but felt this one gave the best description. Have you seen the advertisement on television that advertises this leather purse from Buxton? It is made to hold everything including the kitchen sink in various little compartments and has an adjustable strap so you can wear it across your body.

Buxton is a brand that has been around for years and makes good quality items. I have no doubt that this is a well-crafted handbag. However, these purses… these mobile command centers are not as useful as one thinks, and not very stylish.

The larger your purse is, the more you will stuff into it. The more compartments you have, usually the more you lose things, not the more organized you will be. Carrying a purse across your person is not the most flattering look (usually causes you to walk lopsided and cuts right between your breasts) and should be only used when sightseeing and being on vacation.

Anyway, back to the bag. Many women carry a mobile command unit – a bag with a cell phone, calculator, notepad, wallet for money, wallet for credit cards, change purse, checkbook, cosmetic bag with a full day’s look, panty liners, safety pins, a full sewing kit, tissues, snacks, receipts, eight pens, two pencils, a highlighter, a Sharpie, a hairbrush, pain reliever, stain remover, extra pair of glasses, two pairs of sunglasses, hand cream, a bottle of water, a book, a cardigan sweater, mace, three sets of keys and a separate key ring just for savings cards at grocery and specialty stores. Some of you are a Godsend to us, being able to quickly fish out just what a stranger or friend needs at that instant. More women I meet end up spending several minutes fishing through wadded up tissues and sticky cough drops just to find a pen or a ringing cell phone.

A handbag is a worthy investment. One of high quality, durable fabrication and classic style will offer you years and years of use. One that has handles that are comfortable for you (are you a hand-holder, an elbow-crooker or a shoulder-slinger?), a way to quickly retrieve that which is most important (designated spot for keys, cell phone, subway farecard/token) and offers structure so that not everything sinks to the bottom center. Buy a bag that is big enough to hold what you honestly need on a daily basis, but not so big that you can slowly add more to the collection. More than four pockets usually means for women a good two minutes more to have to search for something. This doesn’t mean we are disorganized, it’s just that we have too much stuff and too many options.

I have written before about a purse survival kit, I recommend reviewing it when replacing or reorganizing your purse. Once you have your current purse pared down or in possession of a new bag that fits your needs and your sense of style… take care of it. Don’t sit it on the floor of the public bathroom, use retractable pens so they don’t ink up the interior (or exterior), if it’s light in color be sure to not seat newspapers or rub denim against it, take it to a cobbler to have it repaired as soon as there is a tear or issue so it doesn’t worsen, and clean it out monthly.

Embellishment Overload. This goes hand-in-hand with the overly matchy-matchy ensembles. Tee shirts covered in appliqué and Bedazzlement, jackets with fringe and patches, holiday-themed sweaters, velvet and sparkle for daytime… these are not the garments of polished or stylish women of any age.

Keep the embellishment for scrapbook pages, the Christmas tree, even attire for your precious pooch. Removing the bling will actually make your clothing look more expensive, chic, and will stay stylish far more seasons. Find luxury in purchasing less but higher quality garments – cashmere sweaters, silk blouses, a handful of thin silver bangle bracelets, dangly earrings with a cocktail dress… these can provide as much shine and texture but in a more elegant manner.

Must Haves for Your Closet:
The LBD. Yes, every woman of every age needs a little black dress. Granted, your dress may not be as little as your daughter’s, but it still should be simple, hitting around the knee (just above to just below), could be sleeveless, have cap sleeves or ¾ sleeves – whatever you feel most comfortable in. Neckline can vary again with what is flattering and comfortable for you. Fabric would be crepe, silk, or some sort of blend that gives a very subtle shine, is free of texture (damask), embellishment (beading, chiffon sleeves, velvet or satin trim, etc.) and can be comfortable almost every season of the year. If black is too harsh with your coloring, a very very dark indigo, eggplant, gray or espresso can replace it; however this dress should be simple enough that you can wear it to every event in a year and no one would realize it is the same dress. This dress can work for day or for evening if purchased correctly: with leather pumps or silk heels, with a silk shawl or a wool coat. You’ll find that this dress seems too severe or too dressy for your lifestyle, but you’ll end up wearing it to holiday functions, evening weddings, religious events, and nights out on the town. If it’s well made and well fitting, it doesn’t matter if you wear the dress 20 times a year – style is in the garment, not the amount of garments.

A Proper Bra. I say this in every post – get yourself fitted, and get yourself fitted again every year from now on. The size bra you wore 20, or even five years ago very well may not be the size you wear now. We lose weight, we gain weight, we exercise, we change jobs, and we all experience gravity. Bras that lift and separate and shape take more years off you than the best facial in town, and they also often end or reduce back pain.

Non-VPL Underwear. Comfortable, breathable, yet invisible under pants? It is possible to have all three in a pair of underwear. Take your time, and venture out of the Big Box or Department store to find a pair. Many brands now advertise styles that are supposed to eliminate Visible Panty Lines (VPL); buy one pair and try them on (or wear your thinnest trousers shopping and try these on over your own panties and under said trousers). If they don’t work, don’t give up. And if you have found a company that does offer these sorts of undergarments, please mention them in the comments so fellow women can benefit from your find!

Proper Outerwear. One thing I love about my job is that I now use public transportation and see all sorts of people in all walks of life heading to work or out on errands. One thing I often see are women of a certain age who do not have proper outerwear. When it rains, they are wearing a yellow poncho or getting soaked under an umbrella. Come winter, they are wearing what looks to be their husband’s barn coat, or a puffy full-length parka that looks as though it has seen better days.

A wool coat that comes anywhere between mid-thigh and mid-calf will work with skirts as well as trousers for winter months. If you live in an especially cold climate, invest in a wool coat that has a Thinsulate or other extra lining. For rain and cool fall and spring days, a classic trench or Mac will work (a detachable lining may be a plus if you live in an especially cold climate). Both coats should be simple in style, free of adornments, buttons the same color as the coat, no chest pockets, and preferably no self belt (belts are only flattering on slimmer figures – tying a belt behind you usually is uncomfortable when sitting and can be a pain. If you don’t look good with a nipped/belted waist in a dress, pass on it for a coat). Depending on your personal sense of style, you can go with a classic black, brown or taupe… or switch it up with a Robin’s Egg blue, fire engine red, Kelly green or another color that makes cold and dreary days a bit more cheery. These two styles of coats rarely go out of fashion and can provide you years of wear.

The City Boot. The city boot is a short boot that hits just above your ankle bone. It usually sips up, but occasionally has an elastic gusset so it can be slipped on and off. The city boot is sleek, elegant, classic, and comfortable to, ahem… boot. It works with trousers and jeans from September to May, and can usually replace a third of the shoes you already have in your closet.

Invest in a boot from a company known for comfort and support, and this will be a great travel shoe too. Consider additional insoles for added support and cushioning, and keep them regularly polished. A low heel, a slightly squared toebox and no embellishments (fancy stitching, variety of fabrics, etc.) will make these boots a staple in your wardrobe for years to come.

Flattering Glasses. Do you wear glasses? When is the last time you purchased a new pair? If it has been over five years, get thee to a glasses shop pronto! These days, most insurance companies cover a portion of glasses – if not, there are so many styles out there at reasonable prices.

Other than hair (see below), the other accessory that can age and even disfigure a woman’s face quick are unflattering glasses. With the wrong glasses you can look older, heavier, have larger bags under your eyes, broader of a nose, wider of a face. Very small metal-rimmed glasses were quite the look several years ago but have gone by the wayside for people have realized they only looked flattering on the glasses models – the rest of us put them on and looked like Ben Franklin. Large plastic frames are best kept to hipsters and ‘80s-themed parties.

That being said, there are so many styles and materials for glasses these days, you are sure to find a pair that fits your budget, your face, and your personality. Take a friend or family member with you who has taste you respect. If you also own contacts, it’s a good idea to wear them on this visit so you can properly see your reflection and how you look in the sample glasses. Don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson if they can order a different size or color of frame, or if they have additional similar styles in back or elsewhere in the store. Most glasses boutiques are overwhelming – employees know the store far better and can search around for styles that you may have missed. Also don’t stick to just the women’s section – my most recent pair of glasses are actually men’s but they look far better on my face than any style I could find in the women’s category!

A Hair Plan. Have you been dying but now want to go to gray? Is your hair starting to go salt and pepper? Do you want it to continue, or do you want a way to gently hide it? This is not an at-home project. As hair goes gray, the texture changes. You may find your brown hair is straight, while the gray hairs are curly; blonde hair is fine while the white hairs are coarse. This greatly affects how haircolor, styling products and even haircuts work on you.

If you don’t have a stylist you trust, this is a good time to audition one. Remember – you are the one holding the purse strings. Ask around your community – women who have hair you admire, ask them for the name of their stylist. Read reviews in neighborhood magazines and papers – they often give annual awards to salons and other personal care businesses. Call them up and tell them your mane desires and ask them if you could have a consultation with a stylist best suited for the job. These consultations should be free. Come in wearing your favorite outfit, and style your hair as usual. Be honest with your desires – do you want a wash and wear look? Let the stylist know so you don’t get stuck straightening and moussing for 45 minutes every morning. Tell the stylist your regular beauty routine, your lifestyle, and your goals for your look. Your hair is the accessory you wear every single day – it should be given the utmost care and attention, and a great stylist will respect your desires and offer great suggestions to achieve them.

Please note that all photographs are taken from current online boutique or department store collections; do not think that just because they are selling it in stores right now that the style is current or stylish. Many companies sell that which will make money, not that which follows the trends. Read magazines (Bazaar and InStyle offer current trends changed to flatter a woman over 50, magazines like O and More regularly show models who are over 50, and “real life” looks can be seen far better in a parenting or lifestyle magazine than through a subscription to Vogue), watch television (sitcoms are a great place to see comfortable and easy-care fashion on women), and observe the women around you. If you see a woman with a similar figure in a garment you love, tell her and ask her where she purchased it.

You may also wish to visit:
Age is But a Number
The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe
How Does One Get the Polished Look?
Crimes of Fashion
Dress Your Age, Not Your Shoe Size

The Staples For Every Woman’s Wardrobe

I made this list a few years ago, and this list still applies to today’s trends. If you buy the correct pieces, you will have to purchase fewer pieces and you will have more options each morning as you decide what to wear. A rule to a wardrobe – QUALITY NOT QUANTITY!!! Repeat this mantra as you ponder over buying those pink pleather pants or that faux fur handbag. Will you like in in two months, let alone two years? Does it go with anything else in your wardrobe? Is it flattering? Comfortable? Versatile? Well made?

1. Black Tailored Pantsuit in Seasonless Fabric
Boy I use the term “seasonless fabric” a lot. This is triacetate, gabardine, crepe, something with a bit of polyester in it. Note that I wrote a BIT. This shouldn’t look like scuba wear, a bathing suit or a rain jacket. No more than 5% stretch. Look at the fabric of men’s suits. It’s a fabric that is smooth, doesn’t wrinkle easily, looks good in winter and in summer. You want an equivalent.

This is a suit that is right for work, or even for a cocktail party. I am a huge fan of the Triacetate line from Ann Taylor. It’s seasonless, classic, travels easily, and due to being synthetic, is slightly stain resistant. J. Crew has a few great lines of suits as well – it’s a good idea to buy from a reputable brand that is known for suiting so you can replace or add to this suit over the seasons. My Triacetate suit from Ann Taylor is now a skirt, two different cuts of trousers and two different cuts of jackets – all found on sale, different seasons but all the same color and fabric.

2. Black Seasonless Trousers
See above for the type of fabric. These really should be a separate pair from your suit because they will get more wear. These are pants for work, for dinner, for nights out.

Express carries a Microfiber pant called the Editor Pant. It is a stretchy crepe-textured fabric that wears well. Stretchy but not shiny, can dress up or down. They often sell coordinating suit jackets. These are a great choice for women up to size 10 or 12, as that they come in lengths and you can wash them in Woolite and hang them to dry.

You are looking for a pant with a slightly lowered rise, a straight to slight bootcut leg that is not too tight in the thigh. A classic fit. These are trousers that go with a fun top for a night out, with a twinset for work, with a cute jacket and tank for dinner, with a sweater for a jaunt to the mall. Sometimes it’s nice to give the jeans a vacation and dress up a smidge. You’ll find that the right black trousers will be more comfortable and as easy care as your favorite denim.

3. Jeans and I Don’t Mean ANY Sort of Jeans
I mean a pair of FLATTERING jeans. Jeans can be stylish, comfortable and flattering. It may take several attempts, but when you find the right jeans, both you and your butt will know. A lower rise is more flattering to the belly. Having the waistband start just below the belly button will flatten the tummy and lengthen the torso. This will also make the jeans bind less when you sit. The leg should be slim, but not tight. A slight bootcut leg opening is the most universally flattering. It lengthens the leg, looks great with sneakers or boots or heeled sandals, and it’s look won’t be going out of style for several years. The color should be a bit darker than stonewashed. Having the fading on the thighs often makes the leg look slimmer. A slightly vintage look is always flattering, and will be less likely to show wear as you wash and wear these jeans month after month. Darker means slimmer, and more stylish. Toss your faded jeans, your high waisted jeans, your tapered jeans.

Great and flattering jeans can be found anywhere from high-end denim boutiques to your local Old Navy. When you go to try on, plan to spend a good hour or so in the fitting room. Befriend a salesperson – I know they often can be annoying but they usually know their product. Tell them, “I am a size 8, but sometimes buy a 10 for my hips. I hate my hips, I usually buy a regular length, but sometimes they’re short on me…” and things like that. The more information, the better. Stores really push denim at Back to School time. They often have the biggest supply, largest selection, and most knowledgeable employees. I know stores like Express and Levi’s have “Denim Experts” who they hire at Back to School time to spew out denim information and find the right fit for everyone. I have had a lot of luck with Gap with having a good variety and tags to explain which jeans work for which figures. Same with Nordstrom and Old Navy.

4. Jeans Again – But These Have a Totally Different Purpose.
These are dressy jeans. Jeans are not just for everyday, jeans have become haute couture. Not all of us can afford a pair of $250 denim, but we can acquire a pair that is a bit more refined, a bit nicer, reserved for special occasions.

These jeans can have a similar cut to the above mentioned jeans, but you want to be more specific with the type and color of denim. Again, you want them darker than stonewashed. You want them to look a bit more… crisp. The hem not so frayed. Maybe even with a crease in the front. Many like jeans with appliqué and sequins on them, but I find those to be too trendy – they won’t be wearable in two years. A lot of denim is called “premium denim,” “ringspun denim” or “Japanese denim.” These mean a higher quality denim resulting in a more refined look. These are jeans that you baby. You wash inside out and dry inside out. Some don’t even dry, they let hang dry and then iron. Consider them dress pants. These jeans are for nicer nights out, going out with friends to a club, when you want to look a bit more dressy or sassy.

Another option is denim trousers. These are very popular now, and can be found in many stores. They are usually lighter in weight, sometimes have a cuff and/or a front crease. These are nice enough for business casual, yet look very sassy with a silk camisole to a club. If you go this route, do not get patch or flap pockets on the rear – this draws negative attention to that area and look dated. Slash front pockets are usually a poor choice for anyone with hips or a tummy. Look for coin pockets or go pocketless and reduce the bulk.

These jeans may seem silly, but trust me – once they are in your wardrobe you will find uses for them. I convinced my 60+ year-old mother to buy a pair, she wore them to a concert, to a church dinner and on a first date with a guy she met online. She even wears them to the mall when she wants to look sassy.



5. Black Heeled Boots
These can be knee high or ankle height. The point is to find a well-constructed, well-fashioned pair that look great with jeans, with trousers, for work or for play. Knee high is a great option because they can be hidden under pant legs, worn over jeans for an equestrian look, or paired with skirts or dresses. For those who do not find knee high boots comfortable, an ankle height is perfectly fine. You want a pair that covers your ankle when you cross your legs.

Heel should be at least an inch and a half tall. If you find heels uncomfortable, look for a heel of rubber, and look for a thicker heel. Heels may be hard to get used to at first, but they make you walk straighter, they make your clothes hang better, your butt looks better, your calves more toned.

The heel should be black as well. Many boots have the heel covered with leather, but this is prone to being scuffed and torn. If you can find black rubber or black stained wood, all the better. Otherwise, take your boots to a cobbler at the beginning of each season to have the heels cleaned up. The toe should not be overly round or pointy. You want a shoe that is comfortable, but stylish. A more squared toe or almond toe has been stylish for years, and there is plenty of room for all your tootsies. Steer clear of platforms – they occasionally have their day in the sun, but normal leather or synthetic soles persevere. Stay away from adornments. The more decoration, the more likely the boots will seem dated next fall. I have a pair of black boots I got from Nine West in 1999. They are 3 inch heels (I like ’em high), classic toe, ankle height with elastic gussets on the inner side of the boot. Each year I have them re-heeled and resoled. Each year I receive compliments on these years-old boots I got on clearance for $35.99. What a bargain! These boots have been worn to bars, parties, work, interviews, the mall, the grocery store, the zoo. They slide on easily, sit right at the front door in case I need to jet out at any time.

Why not brown? “Fashionable” browns change from year to year. One year it’s distressed, next year it’s glazed. It’s a reddish brown, then a chocolate, then more of a tan. It clashes with the belt, the purse, the coat. I realized recently that I own own one pair of brown shoes, and they are alligator pumps. I have not owned a pair of brown boots since college, and I am no worse off from it. You will see that black leather is more readily accessible, easier to match, blends with more of your wardrobe and is less likely to show age.  You can read more about my opinions of black and brown in this post.

6. Black Leather Pumps
These shoes should be able to take you from the boardroom to the ballroom. Leather, basic soft leather is the most versatile, and the easiest to maintain season to season. A simple pump with an almond to pointy toebox and at least an inch and a half of heel will be stylish for years to come. Like the boots, forgo adornments; they only age a shoe, and make it more memorable and less versatile.

It’s okay to go with comfort over trends with these pumps. Just don’t forgo heel height. Think feminine, think classic. Think “What Would Jackie Wear?” Jackie Onassis wouldn’t wear 4″ stilettos in patent leather, but she wouldn’t wear dowdy black microfiber elastic shoes with a clunky heel.

I take my black leather pumps to a cobbler every year to reheel and resole if needed. Every couple of months I sit down with all my black shoes and give them a shine with polish and a brush – just like my dad used to. When these pumps are not worn, I stuff newspaper in them and put them in a box in my closet to maintain them. These pumps have been worn to every job interview, every night at the theater, every funeral, client proposal presentation, Christening, or Bat Mitzvah.

7. Not So Little Black Dress
This is not a “hot date” dress, a “sexy siren” dress, yet not an “old fuddy duddy” dress. This is a classic, simple cut that would be appropriate for any season, in an easy-care, versatile fabric. One would look for a dress in crepe, silk, triacetate, matte jersey, gabardine or something similar in weight.

This dress is your “in a pinch” dress. With pearls you are ready for a day wedding. With a cardigan, it’s perfect for a christening or funeral. Add jet beads and dangly earrings and you are dressed for your company holiday party. A white oxford underneath some styles, and the dress becomes a sassy jumper appropriate for the workplace.

The dress should not be tight, but skim your curves. The most flattering length (and most versatile) is either right above the knee or right below it. A kick pleat in the back adds panache and the ability to walk effortlessly. If the dress is lined, it will be less likely to bunch, crease, or cling.

The neckline should be classic, yet flattering. A conservative v-neck or scoop, a slightly draped neckline, jewel neck or boat neck are all winners. The armholes should fit well that they don’t cut into the skin, yet do not show your bra even when boogieing on the dance floor. Sleeveless styles are the most versatile for day to night and winter to summer, but three-quarter sleeves are a good second choice if you are uncomfortable with your arms (or desire more coverage). I however do believe that fabric over arms adds girth and you notice the flesh more than others. Sleeveless is often more slimming than sleeves, and sleeveless is more flattering to larger arms than cap sleeves.

The best dress is one with little adornment. Your pizazz comes from the accessories. This is a dress that fits well, but is so basic you can wear it to event after event without people noticing. Simple, flattering cut, seasonless fabric, conservative yet not school marm-like hemline. This dress will last you for years and years of special occasions.

8. Silver Hoop Earrings
Gold is lovely and colors can be a lot of fun, but silver is a budget-friendly bit of flash for your wardrobe. Sterling silver can be found at the mall kiosk, your favorite boutique or the department store at a very reasonable price. With a bit of rubbing with a polishing cloth, these can look gorgeous for years. You may love gold, but most women cannot afford larger real gold hoops, and goldtone soon becomes green, copper or brown with wear and tear. These staples are about longevity and quality.

These hoops should be larger than a quarter, and if you ears can handle it, larger than a silver dollar. This may be a change from your norm, but these are not necessarily earrings to wear every day. Nothing jazzes up a simple outfit better than a visible pair of hoops. They add shine and sparkle, make a simple top and pants into a “look,” and dress up everything in your wardrobe. Wear with your simple black dress for your company’s holiday party, your merino v-neck and skirt for a date, with a simple tank and jeans for a night out with the girls.

These hoops should be slim, well constructed with a clasp that will hold tight through dancing and a whole evening out. If they are slim, they won’t be as weighty and be more wearable for long periods of time. Once you have these in your wardrobe, you will see how often you will end up wearing them to add flash to all your basics in your closet.

9. Black or Gray Merino V-neck Sweater
Merino wool is amazing – it’s lightweight enough to wear the majority of the year, it can be washed on the gentle cycle of the machine and hung dry without needing to reshape, it has a refined finish that is dressier than many other knits, it doesn’t pill or fade easily and it looks expensive even after multiple washings. What’s nice about this fabric is that it has give and it glides over curves without clinging or adding bulk.

This is a basic go-to sweater. Pair with jeans and boots for most any casual affair, with your seasonless pants for work or dinner, with a skirt, even with capris and cropped trousers in the spring and fall months. Having a basic like black or gray is a must – this is a color that will not go out of style. I have a merino v-neck in charcoal from J. Crew that I purchased in college and still wear a decade later. The merino v-neck will replace your sweatshirts, faded knit pullovers and bulky cotton sweaters; it is just as comfortable but far more refined.

A v-neck elongates the neck, makes one look slimmer, adds interest without being too trendy or flashy. The v-neck should be elegant – low enough to elongate the neck, but not so low that you are showing major cleavage. It should be wearable at work without raising eyebrows. As for fit, it should be a feminine cut without being too tight, and the length should end around mid-hip so you do not show off your tummy when raising your arm, but do not overwhelm your figure in a tunic of fabric.

Why not cashmere? Cashmere is an elegant choice, but cashmere requires more maintenance to launder and is often outside the pricepoint for many individuals.  Cashmere blends are known to pill and lose their shape over time; merino is known to keep its color and shape after years of wear and washing.

10. Trendy Skirt
This list is mainly of basics that one can wear from year to year. This description may seem as though it does not fit. On the contrary, it is possible to have a trendy skirt that spans the time of style.

Have a hankering for animal prints? Consider a leopard-print pencil skirt. Are you a crafty lady? Consider a twill a-line style with crewel work or felt embellishments and embroidery. Bit of a rocker? How about a dark denim slim skirt with stretch that comes to the knees. Love the classics? Consider your traditional straight skirt in one of your favorite colors or an unexpected textured fabric.

This skirt will jazz up your simple merino v-neck or tee shirt, it will add pizazz to your simple button-downs, sweaters and jackets. A fun skirt can add necessary humor, personality and even formality to a very basic wardrobe. Consider fabrics that have some give (about 5% Lycra), so they don’t wrinkle throughout the day, move with you and don’t get baggy with wear. A heavier fabric will hide the lumps and bumps and work better from season to season. If the fabric is more delicate, it should have a lining to keep the shape. Your lifestyle will determine what fabric is best. If you work in a conservative office environment, a straight skirt in a seasonless fabric would be a good choice. If you have a more casual lifestyle, a twill or denim may be a great choice.

A warning about twills, cottons and denims – they can easily look bummy or casual. This is a refined skirt that can dress up or down. A twill should have a slight sheen to its finish and have clean lines (no cargo pockets, drawstrings or flap pockets). Denim can be dressy if it has Lycra, a dark finish and fray-free edges. Cotton can easily wrinkle – consider an a-line or fuller style if you love this fabric and again stay away from adornments that make an item seem less like a skirt and more like active wear or fatigues.

11. Trendy Jacket/Blazer
Nothing pulls basics together and makes an outfit better than a jacket. A simple ribbed tank and jeans is appropriate for lunch with friends when topped with a blazer. Your basic black pants and a simple tee is work-appropriate when matched with a jacket. When it’s fun, funky, and “trendy,” it takes basics to the next level and adds your personality to your wardrobe.

I had a denim blazer that I wore to death. I wore it out on the town with a black cami and pants, a gold necklace and heels. I then wore it on Monday to work with a silk shell and suiting trousers. For a bridal shower, it was worn with white twill pants and a light aqua ribbed tank. In winter it was worn with a corduroy skirt and tights, in summer it was paired with white jeans and a lightweight shell.

For you it may be a stretch twill military-inspired jacket in your favorite shade of red, a washed velvet blazer in an unusual pumpkin hue, a collarless zip-up jacket in crackled black leather, a belted safari jacket in olive green cotton sateen. The point is that it can be appropriate for work or for play, it complements the majority of items in your wardrobe, and is a color and style that makes you happy. Sometimes the oddities in your closet get more wear than the simple pieces – this is a wardrobe piece where it’s okay to go outside the box and show a little flair. For a jacket to be versatile, it actually needs to be out of the ordinary.

Make sure this jacket fits well – even if you are tall if you have a short waist you may want to look at petites. Consider a tailor for a true custom fit. Unlined jackets are more forgiving to curvy shapes, adding less bulk and adding a bit of give. The jacket should button or zip comfortably across your body and not bind in any place. When you go to try it on, try it with a shell the weight you plan on wearing with it in the future.

12. Slim V-neck Sweater in a Signature Color
Don’t think you have a signature color? Look around you. What color is the wallpaper on your computer and phone? when you order Post-it notes, what color do you choose? What color are the towels in your bathroom, the undies you are wearing, your puppy’s collar, your beach towel? You’ll see that you are drawn to a certain color or range of colors. For me it is shades of bright pink and orange. My mom is always drawn to bright cobalt blue, and my good friend always seems to buy thinks in a pale shade of lemon yellow. this is the time to buy something that makes you smile every time you take it out of the closet or your dresser drawer. Don’t worry about what colors are en vogue, worry about what is right for you.

Since colors do go in and out of style, consider stores you normally don’t shop at for options. This is a simple garment (should follow the same rules as the merino v-neck in regard to fit), so you may have luck at the unexpected store or online boutique.

As for fabric, merino is always a great choice, but other fabrics can also work. A silk blend is nice for work and pairs well with skirts. A lighter weight cotton sweater, if treated well, can be a great choice. If your budget can handle it, consider cashmere for a long-term wardrobe investment. As with everything else on this list, look for quality – well made, well constructed, color-fast. This sweater will brighten the most gloomy days if you chose the right color. It can be worn with skirts, jeans, work pants, capris. With the right accessories it can work for a luncheon, work, the mall, the weekend, a cookout and even a cocktail party. Since it’s your signature color, you probably won’t ever tire of the color, making it a wardrobe mainstay.

13. Signature Accessory
Like the sweater, this is an item that makes you smile just looking at it. When others see it on you, they get a peek into your life and of your personality. For me, it is a wide silver cuff bracelet that I have worn almost daily for the past decade. I bought it after a job interview in a field that I always wanted to delve into. I bought this bracelet as a congratulations present to myself for having the guts to go out on a limb. I ended up getting that job, and consider this cuff to be a bit of a good luck charm for me. The bracelet fits my style – it’s bold, clean lines, modern with a hint of flash.

For you it may be a strand of pearls you inherited from your grandmother, a necklace of colorful clay beads you bought on a trip to Mexico, an amber ring that was given to you by your first boyfriend, a charm bracelet holding coins from all the countries you have visited. Maybe it’s a necklace you found in a local boutique and fell in love with because of the use of metal and glass or an Hermes scarf you bought with your first bonus check. Whatever it is, it should go with a good 70% of your wardrobe. On the days you feel a bit uninspired, putting that accessory on makes you fell more alive, more polished and more yourself. It should work with any other accessories you wear on a regular basis (wedding set, watch, earrings) without competing against it.

A signature piece has some heft to it – it is noticed by others and helps define your personal style. This is not a delicate gold chain with a small heart, it’s not the Tiffany bracelet that every other woman in America owns, and it is not your wedding set. This is something that you add to the picture, something that takes your staples and makes them a wardrobe.

14. A Sparkly/Evening Shell or Top
A night out on the town, a cocktail party, a company event, a date with your significant other… often these things come up unexpected and you scan through your knits and wovens trying to find the right thing to wear without any luck. Often you dash to the mall last minute and buy a dress you’ll never wear again or a cheap polyester top that “will do” for the event.

A great evening top will get miles and years of wear. Under your basic black suit, you are ready for a company event or cocktail party. With a simple black or ivory skirt, you’re dressed for a wedding. Pair it with black pants or dark jeans, you have a great outfit for a night of dancing.

I bought a top from Nordstrom a couple of years ago – it is blush-colored chiffon with flutter sleeves, a graceful v-neck and is covered in blush-colored sequins and tiny beads. The color is subtle, but the embellishment gives it pizazz. I have worn it to countless occasions with ivory trousers and pearls, with my black suit, with jeans and strappy heels. It’s not tight, so it works even when I am not feeling svelte.

Currently I have a dark red silk top – it is sleeveless, v-neck and an empire waist accentuated by a band decorated with a rosette in the same fabric. I have worn it with black pants, a black suit, with ivory pants, a black skirt and even jeans with great success. the silk captures the light and look formal, the color is flattering and looks festive, the rosette gives it interest.

Unlike your signature color, this should be a color that you like, but is versatile. Gray/silver, soft gold, blush, ivory, dark red, teal, bronze are all good choices because they are not exclusive to a time of year, they work well with a variety of neutral colors, and they are attractive without being so memorable that they cannot be worn again. If you choose to go with a lighter basic such as gray, ivory, blush or taupe, ensure it has beading or embellishments to make it look dressy and elegant. Brighter and darker colors can get away with being just of a more formal fabric.

You may not like your arms, but sleeveless is far more formal than sleeves (and far more classic). Often having sleeves accentuates the size of our arms, bare skin often recedes. If you do feel the need for sleeves for modesty or personal preference, consider flutter sleeves (loose short sleeves with a slit through them so they flutter from the shoulder), cap sleeves, or a more loose style (kimono or bat-wing). having the drape of fabric adds to the elegance, femininity and formality of the garment. On the other side of the coin, baring too much is never elegant and restricts the amount of places a top like this can be worn. Bustiers, tight tops, and low-cut tanks may be fun for a night out, but do not have their place at many other events. Tanks and camisoles are fine, as long as you can still wear foundation garments without them being seen, and you wouldn’t be embarrassed to see your in-laws, your minister or your boss in such a getup.

15. The Perfect Tee – or Two
This tee is not from Fruit of the Loom, it is not unisex, and it is most likely not 100% cotton. These are tees that are refined, feminine and flattering.

These shirts should hit mid-hip and like the sweaters previously mentioned, skim over your curves. It should not cling, it should not be see-through and it should be comfortable when you raise your arms, sit, and move around. As for a neckline, it depends on your personal preference, but do know that a standard crew-neck is not flattering on most people. A scoop or v-neck will elongate the neck and give a more feminine and flattering look.

If you can only get one, I suggest your signature color. I don’t recommend white because it isn’t a flattering color on most complexions, it gets stained easily, and can look old quickly. Same with black – nothing is worse than a faded black tee. However, if you do plan on buying a few, I recommend one white, one black, and two in happy colors, making sure to baby the heck out of them.

No pockets, no contrast stitching, no stripes or patterns or logos on these shirts. You are looking for true, clear saturated color free of adornments. Any detail, even that of a popular brand’s logo, will make the shirt less versatile, and eventually out of style. If you look at True Fashionistas, they are never wearing obvious logos or patterns. Clean, simple lines and solid colors are the foundation of a stylish and classic wardrobe.

When shirts have Lycra in them (and these should to ensure a good fit and a nice finish), they shouldn’t be thrown in the dryer. Heat destroys Lycra and your shirt will soon end up faded, misshapen, and thin. Treat them as you would your merino v-necks and you will have to replace them less often.

These shirts are your summer version of the merino and signature v-neck sweaters. They pair with most anything, and with an accessory prove to be a nice comfortable outfit. If they are of high quality, they can be work-appropriate under a jacket or cardigan.

16. Well-fitting Wool Winter Coat
Keep your parka for your ski trips and snowball fights in your backyard. You need a coat that will work for every other occasion in your life. We don’t all have the money or the room to house a closet-full of coats, so it’s best to invest in one coat that will work for every occasion that takes place in the colder months.

If you buy a single breasted lined coat that hits mid-thigh to just below the knee, you will be set. This length will work with skirt, jeans and trousers. the longer length is more elegant (and warmer!). A single breasted style is classic and far more flattering on curvy and petite figures. Look for simple styles – no epaulets, embellishments, decorative pockets. There should never be pockets at the chest (makes the style more casual and is not flattering to curvy shapes), the buttons should be the same color as the coat. the collar should be very simple – traditional or shawl style, also free of adornments.

As for color, you have options. Black is always a wise choice as that it can dress up or down, doesn’t show dirt, and is timeless. Ivory is a beautiful option – it also dresses up and down, is a fresh change from all the black in the winter, and can look quite elegant. Other colors can work depending on your sense of style – my personal preferences are camel, a very dark brown (works with black), dark red, robin’s egg blue, teal, and dark berry. these colors can be a great alternative, but if not of good quality can easily look cheap and dated.

To add a bit of personality to this basic, use accessories. I wear a bright turquoise pashmina looped as a scarf with my basic black wool coat. My best friend has a tangerine cashmere scarf and hat that she wears with her chocolate brown coat. Camel can look great with an unexpected bright like candy pink or apple green.

This is a worthy investment – a great wool coat can last you for decades, so take your time in choosing your piece. Look at discount places like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s – I found my Calvin Klein wool knee-length coat there for less than $60 in the mid-1990’s and it still looks stylish today.

17. Great Fitting Bras
There are bras for romantic evenings, bras that have pretty straps to wear with tanks. Bras that match your panties, bras to wear to the gym. This bra is not any of those. This is a bra that makes your bustline look fantastic. It may not be the sexiest bra, but when worn under a slim sweater, it makes you look taller, younger and slimmer.

No matter your size, underwire gives you the best all over support and shape. Straps should not be overly stretchy, or they will wear out and start to have your breasts sag. The bra should fit best when secured on the middle set of hooks. The cup should cover your breast entirely and not allow “quad-boob.” If you haven’t been fitted for a bra before, or ever you should run, not walk to your closest lingerie boutique or high-end department store. These places are usually better than Victoria’s Secret or the frantic messy lower end department store lingerie department – the employees are better trained and know not just how the measure, but what styles would fit your figure best.

If you can afford only one of these bras, get one as close to your skin tone as possible. The bra then can be worn under white, light colors, and even black without show-through. If you wish to pick up a second, I recommend black for dark colored tops (in case of showing at armholes or with flash photography).  Be sure to get fitted each year – your bust will change with age, weight gain and loss, and pregnancy.

18. Panty Line-free Underwear
Nothing ruins an outfit more than the wrong foundation. You now have the right bras, you also need the right underwear. Baggy, wrinkled or binding underwear DOES show, even through jeans, and can ruin your figure as well as your outfit.

Thongs are not the only style of underwear that provides a smooth line. Microfiber fabrics have seamless edges that are virtually invisible under even the thinnest dresses. Boyshorts are a comfortable style that has the hems below the bum, removing the chance of seams cutting into your back view.

As with bras, you may be wearing the wrong size of underwear. We gain and lose weight over the years and our shape changes drastically with exercise, children, and life changes. Consider trying on underwear before you purchase, either trying on over your thinnest undies you own or using one of the disposable panties that are found in most lingerie and swimwear stores. Underwear should not bind or dig into the skin. It should not give you the quad look to your bum. It also should not bag, and should be cut so that it will never show over the waistband of your pants.

A few facts to consider with underwear:

  • White is not invisible under white pants. In fact, it is often more obvious than a color. If you are wearing white pants or a skirt, invest in underwear that is as close to your skin tone as possible. Only this will provide a clean look.
  • If it is fraying, is stretched out or losing its elasticity, it has no place in your wardrobe. I may sound like your mother, but think about how much time and money you have invested in your wardrobe to end up at a hospital in your ragged and stained underwear. You deserve to look and feel great from head to toe; even if they are the cheap three-pack at Target, you need new underwear.
  • If you are wearing a dress, wear appropriate underwear. Us curvy women often do best with a boyshort or brief under a dress so that fabric doesn’t get caught in our rear curves. A high rise will make sure the tummy is not cut in half, and always consider that a draft could make you like Marilyn Monroe for a moment, so think before you dress.

19. A Pashmina or Wrap
Think this doesn’t fit your lifestyle or personality? Think again. In the right color and weight, this item may get more wear than your favorite pair of jeans. With sundresses to ward off an evening breeze, with cocktail dresses year-round it’s a great coverup. I usually use my pashmina as a scarf with my coat in winter, then have it to drape over my shoulders if it gets chilly inside. A pashmina around the neck adds intrigue to a simple sweater and jeans set and can be looped or knotted in a multitude of ways. When on a plane, I always take my pashmina – it’s small enough to toss in my carry-on bag, wards off chill and is far more cozy than the standard-issue airplane blankets. Once at my destination, it works for nights out, cold conference rooms, a light coverup when sightseeing and adds warmth and coziness when in your hotel bed. Make sure the fabric feels good against your skin, is lightweight enough to loop around your neck, and is in a color that you love (you’ll find a color is more versatile than basic white or ivory).

20. Clutch Purse
A clutch purse will add instant chic and formality to your outfit. Switch your day purse for one of these, and your suit is now cocktail-party worthy. Your simple black sheath is fine for day, but with a clutch it is evening attire. Black is a safe bet for a clutch, but this is a great chance to show your personality. A beautiful printed silk, a quirky beaded design, sequined Pucci-inspired pattern, vintage brocade… you’ll find an interesting fabric or print will get more mileage and be more versatile than a basic piece, and doesn’t then have to coordinate with your shoes.

Make sure the bag is big enough to hold your essentials – for some this is only your phone, your ID and a lipstick. For others, it may be reading glasses, a notepad, tissues, medication. Remember for a social affair, essentials are all you need – get a bag to fit your entire wallet, cosmetics bag and day planner and you are no longer able to be a social butterfly. Ensure the bag closes with everything in it without looking as though it strains at the seams. Treat it well, store it properly and you will have this bag for years to come.

21. Daily Purse
Most of women have a purse we carry every day, but how often do we really think about it? Your daily purse gets more exposure than anything else in your wardrobe and it’s often the least cared-for item. It gets the most wear, the most time, works harder than anything else you wear, so it should be purchased with care, maintained and replaced when past its prime.

I find that leather bags seems to wear better over time, but there are some great microfiber fabrics out there that are sturdy and easy to clean. If you are not one to change your bag with the seasons, go for a seasonless fabric like leather or microfiber. Black or brown is a safe bet, but like your winter coat sometimes a color can be a more versatile choice. Red, camel, purple, green are all great colors that will go with your gray suit as well as your favorite Levi’s.

Your bag should never be more than 70% full – more so and you will ruin the line and condition of the bag. Once a week or so, you should go through you bag and remove all the superfluous things that get caught in there – ATM receipts, gum wrappers, the 20 pens and 15 lip glosses that collect through a week, lint-covered tissues… you get the idea. Your daily bag should have what you need on a daily basis and no more. It’s great to have a purse survival kit, but you don’t need to keep all the contents of your kitchen’s junk drawer.

22. Sexy Shoes That Can be Worn for at Least Five Hours
I promise you, they really do exist! These shoes are sassier than your traditional leather pumps. Maybe a strappy heel in a matte gold, possibly a peeptoe heel in black satin. These shoes will take your basic black dress from day to evening, make your work suit suddenly cocktail party-appropriate, and even jazz up jeans and a sparkly top for a night out on the town.

Don’t get too creative with this selection – you want them to work from season to season. I have a pair of strappy heels that are in a Pucci-inspired pattern. The straps are very slim, the heel is slim and about 2″. The shoe is free of rhinestones, fancy bows or baubles and have gotten compliments every time I have worn them over the past five years.

Be careful with ankle straps – they often make your leg look shorter and thicker. A peep-toe or slingback style adds drama and formality to a usually conservative style. yet maintains support through the evening.

Unlike the other shoes, these shoes may be more versatile if not in traditional black. For strappy heels, a matte metallic can be quite beautiful with a multitude of colors. A contrast color like purple, red, or teal or even an animal print can often complement more pieces in your closet than a neutral.

23. Sunglasses
Every woman needs at least one pair of great sunglasses, and great sunglasses does not equal expensive sunglasses. I have some great metal aviators that are classic and chic that were found for less then $10 at a mall kiosk, and some Jackie O-inspired black plastic frames for a song from my local Target.

Sunglasses protect your eyes from glare and from sun damage. A large pair is good because they will also protect the skin around your eyes from the elements. Sunglasses are far more chic than squinting, and they pull an outfit together. Somehow that bit of mystery does really add to one’s appeal! I have written more about finding flattering sunglasses here.

Are you new to Wardrobe Oxygen? If so I also recommend you read:

My VERY LONG Review of Bonnaroo… and a Little News!

Bonnaroo – this would be our second year going. For those who don’t know what Bonnaroo is, it is a four-day music festival on a 700+ acre field in Manchester, Tennessee. As for the type of music, well that is extremely varied. Rock, electronica, bluegrass, blues, soul, hip hop, rap, indie, heavy metal, jam bands, and even famous comedians. Over 100 artists are at Bonnaroo but a few names you may know that were in attendance this year were Pearl Jam, Metallica, Kanye West, O.A.R., Death Cab for Cutie, Vampire Weekend, Cat Power, Lupe Fiasco, Jack Johnson, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, and Chris Rock.

Bonnaroo is 11 hours from my home in the Nations Capital – each year we drive down to Bristol, TN and stay overnight and then head out the next morning for the festival grounds. This gives us a last chance for a hot shower and a cool room to rest for when we do the Roo, we do it in General Camping. This means tents, no electricity, porta potties and the only water available is freezing well water from water stations (a fancy term for troughs with spigots in a trailer). Last year four of us went and with much research and help from message boards like Inforoo, we were prepared with a decent camp setup and all the necessities to survive the heat and long days of music and activity. This year our party grew to be seven folks with an even more awesome camp setup and plan of action to get the most out of the fest.

I was ready for the heat, the possible dust or rain, the long days, the lack of sleep, the need to stay hydrated, to stay up until sunrise to catch the best shows, the ability to be comfy without a hot shower or a shave for almost a week. I just wasn’t prepared to go at it pregnant.

Yes pregnant. I am three months With Child. Knocked Up. Preggo. There’s a bun in my oven.

This was not an accident – my husband and I decided to start trying this past Christmas. However with his medical history (think Lance Armstrong) and my almost two decades on birth control, I didn’t think it would be so… swift. We were trying but not trying. Not charting, temping and “baby we better have sex NOW!” sort of stuff, but just not using protection and being a happy married couple. We thought it would be a couple more months… heck even a couple more years before we got pregnant. I joked with a few about how I could be pregnant at Bonnaroo but didn’t really think it would actually happen.

I was 11 weeks along – long enough to have the morning sickness subside, my need to pee not be every 15 minutes and me start to have a twinge of energy again. For that I am eternally thankful. If Bonnaroo were two weeks earlier, I may have spent the entire time crying or sleeping in the fetal position in my tent.

So with this information… here’s my review of Bonnaroo 2008!

As I mentioned, seven of us went together. It was me and my husband, his best friend and my sister (the four from the 2007 group) and then two close girl friends and one of these girls’ boyfriend. They were all Roo Newbies, but music fans who had been well prepped by us regarding what they would experience when once on the farm. We considered shoving into two cars to save on gas, but decided to take three so we would end up with a larger campsite (you park directly behind your car) and not want to strangle one another before we hit Virginia.


Traffic in DC was a beast on Wednesday morning; it took over an hour and a half to get from my house in the DC suburbs to my sister’s apartment in DC to Route 66. We ended up not getting on the highway until around 10:30 am. Two cars headed to my sister’s place, the other started their commute from near Baltimore at 10:30 and still caught up with us in time for lunch. We stopped at a little pizza joint in BFE, Virginia where I had an awesome mushroom calzone, refueled the cars and got back on the road. We arrived at the Bristol La Quinta around 5pm.

Our friend’s dad lives only about 20 minutes from Bristol so we met him and his wife for dinner at Chili’s. Did you know there is literally only ONE vegetarian entrée on the entire freaking Chili’s menu? WTF! I was so not in the mood for a black bean burger that evening so I got super Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally on our waiter and made a custom meal. I didn’t feel too bad when he then admitted he used to go to Bonnaroo too, but stopped “when all the crappy commercial MTV bands started taking over.” I hate jam band snobs – there were still TONS of original Roo artists there (Umphrey’s McGee, Widespread Panic, Disco Biscuits, Yonder Mountain String Band, Phil Lesh, etc.) so those snobs drive me batty.

After dinner, we hit the Wal-Mart for some necessities. Got some awesome battery-operated fans for $5 that were lifesavers at Bonnaroo, some Clorox wipes to prep the porta potty seats, eye drops for my allergy-prone and contacts-wearing eyes, and my husband got a water gun and a Frisbee. After, my friend and his girlfriend went to his parent’s house for the night and five of us went back to La Quinta. Four drank beer, one drank water and we all played Roo-themed Pictionary and wrote goofy raps (sounds lame but we were giggling for hours).

We headed out a bit later than expected the next day, but with some advice from our friend’s parents (construction in Knoxville, use Route 55 to get into the festival) we made great time and ended up in a very short line (less than an hour from highway to campsite) and funnily enough only about 100 yards from our camp location the previous year (Pod 6/Camp Dr. Rumack for those who went). Not a bad spot – like a 10 minute walk to Centeroo where all the events took place and less than a block from porta-potties and right near a main road so it was easy to find camp in the middle of the night.

Camp setup was pretty painless with seven people. Unfortunately it was near 5pm which is when I seem to get my Morning Sickness. I was really dragging, but trying to be helpful. Drank lots of very cold water, had some protein and plugged through. Soon we had our phat pad set up – two EZ up shelters, four tents (one for me and my husband, one for my friend and her man, one for our guy friend and one for the two gals), tarps over all to block from heat and pounding rain, a mini kitchen made from a grill and folding table, a bunch of tailgate chairs, Christmas lights around the shade shelters and even a shower/toilet tent!

We all cooled off with some beers (me with some Vitamin Water) and headed to Centeroo. One friend had a couple he knew who were also there and they suggested we start the evening with seeing Grand Ole Party. Never heard of this band before, but knew I would like them once I found out the lead singer was a woman AND the drummer! They totally rocked and put on a good show. After we took a quick walk through Centeroo to get our bearings and headed to see a few more shows (Grupo Fantasmo, Back Door Slam, The Sword). I would have LOVED to stay up to see Vampire Weekend and Dark Star Orchestra but the kumquat (that’s what size the books say the baby was at the time of Bonnaroo) wasn’t having it so back to camp I went. I was knocked out by midnight.

Day Two – Friday. Started the day with a makeshift shower at the Water Station. This entailed me tossing on a pair of cargo shorts holding a hair towel, bar of soap, shampoo and a razor. Got in line with all the other campers with my own spigot of well water and washed my hair, shaved my pits and washed what was accessible. This year I had no fear and stripped off my shirt to just a solid hot pink cotton Victoria’s Secret bra so I could really feel clean. For the rest of the body, I went back to the tent and made do with Tea Tree cleansing wipes from The Body Shop and some Target brand personal cleansing wipes. I must admit I did add some girliness to the day – brought my Matrix Curl.life Contouring Milk to add to my air-dried hair and Cover Girl LashBlast waterproof mascara (BTW like it just as much as the non-waterproof version). Packed the Camelbak with Life Water, regular water, granola bars and fruit for snacks after slathering on tons of SPF 30 and donning a sloppy straw hat.

We started the day by attending a brunch for members of the message board Inforoo. May sound dorky, but it was totally awesome to meet so many people I had corresponded with for the past two years. We didn’t stay long because only half our group were members of the board and felt a bit left out. We also wanted to catch some music! We began the day’s music with Steel Train which I liked okay but found it more to be background music to my conversations with friends and People Watching. We then caught the end of Drive By Truckers’ set, which was pretty fantastic. We then headed to the Which Stage (second largest stage) to see Umphrey’s McGee. My husband saw them at Caribbean Holidaze this past December and we have a good friend that is a pretty rabid fan of theirs, but I had yet to experience them live. While half our group went near the stage to see the band, I stayed with a few friends near the back of the crowd under a tree to get shade and to relax. Still loved them and had an awesome experience. We stayed put for Les Claypool, who was on next. Another great performance.

After Les, I had great expectations. I wanted to see Swell Season, Rilo Kiley, M.I.A., Willie Nelson and Chris Rock. However Kumquat was exhausted so I headed back to camp for a late afternoon nap. I ended up sleeping until 9pm. Most of our group had left to go see Metallica; my friend Shelly and I chilled out, changed clothes, repacked and headed later into Centeroo to get good seats for My Morning Jacket.

My Morning Jacket is the reason we even went to Bonnaroo in the first place. My husband wanted to get his best friend a DVD for his birthday that showcased an amazing guitarist he didn’t know too much about (his friend is a guitar player). After doing some Googling he decided to get My Morning Jacket’s Okonokos DVD. We watched it together and I was addicted. I started researching MMJ and found they were regular performers at Bonnaroo. Though they weren’t performing in 2007, it still sounded like a cool festival so we decided to go. So this year they were performing and it would be my first time seeing them live and I was very excited.

We got a good spot (to the left of the beer stand for anyone who attended) and chilled out listening to Metallica’s set (not sad that I missed it) over the trees and enjoying the cool temperatures. Then it started to rain. Just a bit of drizzle, not too terrible. After Metallica, my sister, husband and my friend’s boyfriend caught up with us and it really began to rain. No worries, we were all prepared with ponchos and trash bags!

MMJ didn’t disappoint. It was so good, the vibe of the crowd and being with my favorite people and yes, even the rain made such a magical moment that I teared up. Definitely the highlight of the weekend. However the rain started getting to be very strong and my friends wanted to head out to see the Superjam (rumors were flying that Ton Waits was going to show up) so I regretfully left MMJ and headed with them to a different stage. We stopped at a tent selling hot tea and coffee to warm ourselves up. The barista told me my herbal tea was very hot, but I didn’t realize HOW hot it was. It was so hot, the cup collapsed on itself and spilled all over my left hand. I burned myself so bad the skin today is all leathery and wrinkled on my ring and middle fingers and I can’t get my wedding set back on. That, plus the rain, leaving MMJ, being tired and pregnant… I started to cry. No romantic tearing up, big heaving sobs. Friends got me ice for my hand and we all agreed it was a gross wet and very late night (around 2am) so we headed back to camp.

I was till a bit sad about how the night ended, but as I snuggled in next to the love of my life I heard MMJ perform “One Big Holiday” as clear as day and I smiled and knew things happen for a reason.

The next day, it was still raining. We trudged through off and on showers to get ready that morning. I can’t recall whether I took a shower or not – think that day due to the rain and mud I just washed with wipes in my tent. I decided to wear my Duo boots since I waterproofed them prior to Bonnaroo. I had brought Crocs as my main footwear because they are perfect for such a festival, but didn’t want nasty Roo mud seeping in through the air holes. As with the previous day, clothing of choice was a lightweight cotton sundress (Saturday was Old Navy, Friday was Target).

We started the day with an acoustic set by The Two Gallants at the Sonic Stage. Not bad, but I was distracted and spent a lot of time taking pictures of the crowd. We walked by and caught a few songs by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and then headed to the What Stage (largest stage) to see Ozomatli. I knew NOTHING about this band, but heard great things from friends on message boards. I again was not disappointed – had an amazing time and danced my booty off. It was a true Bonnaroo moment – fun music, good weather (rain had disappeared), good friends, thousands of friendly people dancing with me. We stayed for their entire set and then headed to the Which Stage for Gogol Bordello – another band I heard was amazing live. Maybe I was worn out from Kumquat or Ozomatli, but I wasn’t enthralled with Gogol Bordello. I pretty much chilled out (brought a Crazy Creek stadium seat which was phenomenal for field seating at these shows and easy to bungee to my Camelbak) with a frozen lemonade and People Watched. I then headed back to the big stage to see the legendary B.B. King. I stayed long enough to hear “The Thrill is Gone” and then found my friends at the That Tent where Zappa Plays Zappa was ready to perform.

Was never a fan of Frank Zappa, though I respected his talent. However I heard it was a must-see show and had a mini crush on Dweezil when I was a kid (I can still recall an interview with him on Nickelodeon where he said he hated making left turns while driving). They started and they sounded great, but I knew it was just the wrong scene for me. It was hot and dusty under the tent, a few guys near me smelled of BO and weed, a chick in front of me was smoking a cigarette, Kumquat was getting restless and Morning Sickness was starting (surprise, surprise it was a little after 5pm). I left my friends, wandered a bit and then decided to head back to camp to have a semi-healthy meal (as good as you can do with a 5-day cooler) and a quick power nap.

That power nap ended up being a doozy for I didn’t wake up until almost 10pm, completely missing the Jack Johnson set. Oh, no worries, I figured Jack would be kind of chill and I really was needing high-energy music to keep my own energy going through these long days. I changed into some long linen pants, a tank and a hooded long-sleeved tee and found my friends who were at the What Stage waiting for Pearl Jam.

Yes, Pearl Jam! One of my favorite bands and by far the most favorite band of my husband. Eddie and team have never disappointed us, and I was super excited to see them here were they would be more likely to play rarities and really jam out. Again, my expectations were exceeded. The show went over schedule, they played really rare songs, they jammed out, got personal with the crowd and sounded phenomenal. My Morning jacket made me tear up? Well my husband’s were shining during this set. Totally fabulous.

We then packed up and headed across Centeroo to see Lupe Fiasco at The Other Tent. We got a spot to the right of the tent. Standing, my husband and friend could see the stage pretty well. I was tired so I pulled out the Crazy Creek and had a seat. Lupe was pretty amazing and had the entire crowd wrapped around his finger. I was trying to get in a nap but couldn’t because the beat was infectious and the crowd so pumped.

We then headed BACK to the What Stage to see Kanye West. This was another must-see for me because I wanted to see what Kanye would pull out. There was much controversy about him even being at Bonnaroo – was he the right “feel” for the festival? Why did he get switched from a day spot on a smaller stage to a late night spot on the biggest stage? Would he be a primadonna? Would he live up to the hype? Rumor had it that he would performing the act from his Glow in the Dark tour which would have been pretty awesome to see.

We got a spot almost where we were for Pearl Jam – to the left side of the stage and a third from it. Good view, and good access to beer and porta-potties. I think we were settled by 2:30am and Kanye was supposed to start at 2:45am. I was pretty pumped, as were some of my friends. Others were starting to get sleepy. They were playing popular hip-hop tunes over the speakers until the show started and I was singing Rob Base and Beastie Boys with my girl friends. I was really shocked that no one in the audience knew all the words to Paul Revere. Is it because were are old? Because we grew up near DC? I feel that Beastie Boys’ Paul Revere is a rap classic, one that all ages would know all the words to. Anyway, us old ladies sand all the words and shook our booties!

3:00 and no Kanye. We get a message on the big screen that the show is delayed until 3:15. At 3:15 another notice of delay until 3:30. At 3:30 we get the message “Kanye West up Next!” There were a BUNCH of angry hippies by this point. People were booing, throwing things at the stage and many were chanting, “Fuck Kanye! Fuck Kanye!” I had pulled out my Crazy Creek again and got some shut-eye. I wasn’t going to miss this show, no matter how late it started. People started leaving and at 4am three of my friends gave up and headed back to camp. We persevered. The show FINALLY started at 4:29am. About 20 minutes into it, my husband and sister left because they were falling asleep standing up but somehow my one girl friend and I had a renewed sense of energy and stayed and even pushed forward so we were pretty near the front of the stage.

If you Google this show, you will get many mixed reviews, most negative. Most people were angry from the get-go for the show being almost two hours late. His show was also 30 minutes shorter than scheduled. It was NOT the Glow in the Dark tour performance, but one I had also heard about where he acts out having his space ship crash on an unknown planet.

Personally, I loved the performance, the cheesy parts and all. I knew many of his songs casually but found myself singing along to all of them. I wondered if the delay was purposeful when he began singing “Good Morning” right when the sun was rising, but honestly I didn’t care. I was pregnant, sober and up with the sun dancing my heart out to Kanye West with a good friend and a thousand new friends around me. I was damn proud of myself for sticking through. Kanye sung his heart out and I found him to be a powerful and talented rapper and singer (though his acting skills are SEVERELY lacking). The screens really added to the performance and I loved the lights, the video, the dancing, the whole effect. My friend and I were super pumped and glad to have had the experience.

The show ended around 5:30am and we trudged through Centeroo to head back to our camp. We were so physically and mentally exhausted we could hardly speak. However we were both so psyched by what we just shared.

Surprisingly, my body woke me up around 7:30am. Well maybe not so considering I rarely sleep past that point even on a weekend. Got up and got a burrito of egg and cheese from a nearby vendor. Sunday’s music started a bit later, so it gave me time to have a makeshift shower, even take another nap before heading back for our final day of music. It may sound disgusting, but I put on my same boots (new socks) and the same dress as the day before. I know, ME of all people! However I was going to be gross no matter what I did and the dress was so perfect – it was airy, not lined, super comfortable and my dress I had for Sunday had a lining that I KNEW would stick to my legs. Not only that, my breasts had grown a lot since I bought it and it just didn’t fit the way it was supposed to on top.

We started back to Centeroo around 2:30pm to catch Robert Randolph. He was phenomenal, and others thought so too. He was at the That Tent which is not a huge stage and the crowd spilled out from the tent to the side grounds, over an access road and into a common area. The sun was blazing and there was no heat and after about four songs I had to cry Uncle and move on. I think they put him on a smaller stage because he was with The Revival and not The Family Band, but honestly, he could have filled the What Stage just as well as Ozomatli the day prior.

I headed to the What Stage to catch Yonder Mountain String Band. The sun was insane, I was reapplying sunscreen every 30 minutes and kept wet bandannas on my neck and head. Guys were dancing around with misters and spray bottles which felt like droplets of heaven. I finished a two liter of water and had to go get more. My husband and I sat with our backs to the stage for a while so that the sun wasn’t beating on our faces. The rest of our friends met up with us just in time for the band to start.

Another Bonnaroo hit with Yonder Mountain String Band. Not my typical choice in music (bluegrass) but they were incredible talented, personable and the audience was energized. We were along the gravel access road on the left side of the stage and the road was full of dancing people – hippies, wookies, preps, rockers, ladies with hula hoops, tons of bouncing dreadlocks. It was an awesome sight and you couldn’t help but dance as well. My friend commented, “now I see why Black people say that White people can’t dance” and it cracked me up. It was true, the majority of the people had NO rhythm and seemed more to be doing a jig than traditional dancing, but they were so happy and full of life, it was beautiful! (picture depicts the feelings the next day by many festival attendees)

 We left and headed to get some sustenance and caught a few songs by Solomon Burke. Pretty talented man. We then went to catch O.A.R. It was 5pm and yet again, Kumquat was getting restless so I was feeling anxious, hot, sick and miserable. They were cleaning nearby porta-potties at this time and the smell almost knocked me over. There was no sun anywhere so we just tried to find a spot where we could hear the band and not smell sewage. My sister tells me she got a weird call from my mom on her cell. My mom was dog sitting and when she stopped by my house that morning, there was an alarm going off in my home. It wasn’t the smoke detector or a house alarm and she didn’t know what to do. By time we got the message and called her back, she had called my father-in-law who was also on vacation but called a neighbor of ours who is a handyman. He came over and helped my mom. Come to find out our water heater overheated and a bit overflowed onto the floor, where we have a moisture detection alarm. They cleaned up the bit of water, turned off the alarm and turned off the water heater’s circuit breaker and all was fine by time I called but to have that on top of Morning Sickness and heat and exhaustion… well I wasn’t as patient and nice to my mom as I should have been. I had to walk from my group of friends to hear her and when I returned I couldn’t find my camera. I totally went ballistic screaming that some wookie stole my brand new camera and then my friend found it under his backpack. I knew at that point I needed a major break from it all. The heat, the noise, the ridiculous crowds (65K in attendance), the music, the everything. It wasn’t bad being pregnant at Bonnaroo, but I did have a much shorter fuse than I usually would.

We headed for some food and some shade and I chilled out by myself regrouping. When I finally cooled down, my husband and I decided to go see Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, but find a spot in the shade away from the crowds. Eventually my friend and sister joined us. I lay down and relaxed and sort of vegged out. Honestly, I don’t remember much of that performance except that Alison Krauss’ voice can soar like an angel, and I heard Plant wail a la Led Zeppelin and it sent chills down my spine and made me glad I toughed it out.

After a bit, my sister and friend went to check on other shows. My husband and I decided to roam Centeroo alone, checking out various smaller tents and vendors. It was nice for when you go with a group of seven to a festival attended by 65,000 there’s little couple time available. We held hands and walked slow and it was a nice finale to the day.

At 8:00pm the whole crowd reconvened at the karaoke tent to see our karaoke-obsessed friend perform. This was not any old karaoke tent – this tent offered you to perform with a LIVE BAND. When we showed up it was a hard rock band all decked out in lycra and crimped hair and bandannas. It was fabulous, and T totally rocked the house with her awesome rendition of Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer. The karaoke tent shut down soon after her performance; a few went to see other shows, my husband and some went back to camp, my sister and I decided to get a trip on the Ferris Wheel. It had just gotten dark and we were able to see all of the camping and festival grounds lit up. It was a nice way to end the fest.

After the ride, my sister headed to see Widespread Panic. I was planning on seeing them but really felt it would be pushing myself too far. I instead kissed her goodbye and walked back to camp alone. I got myself a last Bonnaroo treat – an ice cream cone for the journey and took a long leisurely route so I could People Watch, Camp Watch, and see all the cars already leaving Bonnaroo.

I got back to camp and two friends were up drinking beer. I attempted to stay up and chat with them but soon started falling asleep in my tailgate chair. Said goodnight and was in bed by 10pm. I was so tired; I slept through all the fireworks and craziness of the last night of Bonnaroo. My husband did as well – we remarked that we had a surprisingly restful night of sleep!

The next morning my husband and I were up by 6am and we immediately started packing. I believe we were on the road by 8:30am. We stopped around 10am for breakfast at Cracker Barrel, made two pit stops and were home by 10pm.

All in all it was a wonderful and actually quite a restful experience. Four days without Internet, TV, newspapers, bills, work, and life drama was exactly what the doctor (and the kumquat) ordered. Finding nutritious vegetarian food was really not a problem – I brought plenty of snacks and there were many food vendors that offered healthy veggie-filled vegetarian and vegan meals. I really enjoyed being sober for the whole time because I didn’t miss a thing and never woke with a hangover or regrets. It was fun to have this crazy experience this summer, knowing next summer I will be caring for the new member of my family!