Search Results for: label/what to wear on vacation

Ask Allie: How to Dress for a Wedding Without a Dress Code

I have a wedding to go, and ever since the wedding where I dressed fancier than the bride (I wore a simple velvet sheath!) I have a horror of wearing the wrong thing. The wedding is at 4, with cocktails, dinner, and reception to follow, all at the same venue, an “event center.” Essentially a ballroom. I did email the bride and she just said “We don’t really have a dress code. Not black tie but not sweats and a t-shirt. Well, there’s a LOT in between there. Jersey maxidress? Sparkly mini? My feet are likely to be swollen so I’m leaning toward something I can wear flat sandals with, but other than that I’m kind of at a loss what to wear.

Event planners and brides to be… please understand that a dress code isn’t snooty or pretentious, it’s a helpful guide for loved ones who want to ensure your event is great. A specified dress code will reduce stress on your guests and ensure you don’t end up with anyone in black tie or sweats and a tee shirt!

That being said, this is the type of event where I pull out my black crepe sheath dress. Sleeveless, simple neckline, skims the figure, hits the knees; it’s simple and easy to dress up or down. For a wedding that starts at 4pm you can accessorize a dress in a multitude of ways to make it look festive yet appropriate for a crowd in khakis or a dancefloor full of sequins.  Of course, the dress does not have to be black, but it’s a color you often already have in your closet.

You mentioned the desire to wear flat sandals, and for a wedding at an event center I’d keep flat sandals to a midi to maxi length dress or skirt. While traditional jersey maxi dresses would likely be too casual for a wedding at this hour, one in matte jersey or with a chiffon overlay would be perfect and just as easy to fit in with a more casual or more dressy crowd.  Again, black is not the only color; a bright or pastel hue would be quite festive and appropriate for an August wedding.

Both types of dresses are extremely versatile. A lined sheath in crepe, triacetate, silk, or a blend can be worn to work, dressed up for a cocktail party with strappy heels and sparkly jewelry, or made more casual with nude pumps and wood accessories (see my post on how to style a black sheath four ways). A matte jersey or chiffon maxi dress can also lead multiple lives; I wore a black matte jersey maxi as the matron of honor at a relatively formal wedding, then wore to a garden wedding with gold flat sandals and even wore to a bridal shower with brown sandals and wood and leather jewelry. Not only that, these fabrics are seasonless making a dress purchased in the summer wearable for holiday parties on your event calendar!

Ask Allie: What to Wear to a Summer Funeral

I know it’s a somber topic, but I live in a hot climate and I have a relative who is ill and in hospice. I realized today that I have no idea what is okay for a funeral in a VERY hot climate.

what to wear to a hot summer wedding

The most important thing to factor when dressing for a funeral, is dressing out of respect. First, consider the religion of the service, then dress in a way that shows you understand the formality of the situation and that you know you are not the subject of attention. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t wear it to church or to an office where it’s Business Attire (not Business Casual), it’s not appropriate for a funeral.

These days, a sleeveless dress and bare legs is appropriate at most American funerals, especially when it’s a very hot climate. Consider a lightweight cardigan if there’s a service inside the house of worship and a hat to protect yourself from the sun at the grave site. If your shoulders are bared, your neckline should be very modest, the fit not too tight, and the hemline at the knee.

In your email, you mentioned a maxi dress and while it wouldn’t be inappropriate to wear a long skirt, many maxi dress styles these days are lightweight jersey and have low necklines. If you have one that is of a dressier fabric (cotton sateen, crepe jersey, linen, silk blend) and doesn’t show off your décolleté, it can work. Again, if you wouldn’t wear it to church or to work, I’d consider something else.

Pants are acceptable for less religious funerals, and can be far more comfortable in the heat. Linen trousers (not drawstring slouchy pants) with a silk or crepe shell is perfectly acceptable.

As for color, black is not necessary these days; as long as the color doesn’t scream “look at me!” it’s acceptable. Muted colors like navy, olive, plum, mauve, gray, taupe, and brown are acceptable. If you wear a print, it should be very subtle (watercolor prints, tone on tone). Again consider the religion before choosing the color; some only wear black, some wear white, and some encourage bright jewel tones.

As for fabric, as long as it’s not too casual (denim) or too formal (satin), it’s okay in such heat. Linen and cotton is acceptable if it’s in more formal of cuts and ironed before wearing.

Accessories set the tone for your outfit; keep the sparkly necklaces and statement shoes at home. A simple pair of leather shoes in a neutral, a delicate chain necklace or a strand of pearls, a leather bag free of adornments that complements the color of your outfit. If there is a grave site service, choose a wedge or flat shoe so your heels don’t sink into the grass. Though you may be seeing many people from your past, it’s not a high school reunion and not a time to show off your sartorial skills.

Finally, what you wear is not as important as your attendance. Few will even notice what you’re wearing; as long as you don’t dress to receive attention you will be just fine. My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time.

Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe for Cruise and Resort Evenings

I LOVE your wardrobe capsules. They are always amazing. I would love to see a simple mix and match capsule for evening. Specifically, I just returned from a 10-day cruise of the Caribbean. It was amazing, with one glitch. The evening dress code was smart casual; and on a cruise ship this is more dressy than I expected (I’m from California, where jeans are cocktail attire!). I was woefully underdressed with dowdy shoes. I usually travel with black and white clothing, but a color capsule would be awesome too!

While I haven’t been on a cruise for a few years, I have experienced the issue of “smart casual” and formal nights on cruise ships, and understand how hard it is to dress appropriately for the situation. Not only are you dealing with limited luggage space, but you have folks from all over the globe dressing in all sorts of different manners. I found it’s best to pack simple garments and statement-making accessories.

Three years ago, I was asked to be in my friend’s wedding and she let me pick any black dress I desired as my Matron of Honor gown. I got a black matte jersey maxi dress from Calvin Klein that had twisted straps that were thin but thick enough to cover my bra, a faux wrap skirt, and a self-tie belt. I wore that dress for the wedding with black heeled sandals and a statement necklace. A few months later I attended a destination wedding in Charleston, South Carolina and wore that same dress with flat gold sandals, gold dangly earrings, and an armful of gold bangles. I also wore that dress with beaded earrings and a weathered brown leather belt and brown leather thongs. My point is that such a dress is surprisingly versatile. Choosing a silky jersey (Rachel Pally dresses fit the bill, are a classic style and come in a broad range of sizes) or matte jersey (Calvin Klein continues to have great options season after season) maxi dress means you can dress it up or down with ease and it will travel well (few wrinkles, any you get can come out easily if in the room with a hot shower).

Here I took a simple black maxi dress and showed how a switch of accessories can completely transform it. I know you mentioned comfort shoes in a different part of your Ask Allie request, so I chose shoes that aren’t sky-high. The wedge can easily be lower or even flat – another perk of maxi dresses is that they look great with flat shoes and said shoes aren’t the focal point of the ensemble.

A black maxi dress is a great choice if you have a formal night, but many cruises and resorts just require “smart casual” or “festive” attire. This capsule wardrobe helps you pack light but with many options:

  1. Maxi skirt with sequined tank and black sandals
  2. Maxi skirt with orange top and gold sandals
  3. Maxi skirt with a simple neutral tank or tee in your luggage, gold belt and gold sandals
  4. Black jersey pants with sequined top and black sandals
  5. Black jersey pants with orange top and black sandals
  6. Black jersey pants with sheer top and black sandals
  7. White jeans with any of the three tops and gold sandals (add the hoops, bracelet, and belt for discothèque drama)
  8. Black jersey tee shirt dress with black sandals
  9. Black dress with gold belt and gold sandals
  10. Black skirt with any of the tops and either sandals

This can be dressed up with a different choice of shoe (a heel is always seen as more formal), switching the pants to a tuxedo or shantung cigarette pant, the skirt to something sparkly, the dress to something more form-fitting or dramatic in silhouette. However, I used this based upon my own experiences on cruises and at resorts, where some nights you will find folks in full-length gowns, the other nights in club attire or sundresses. Solid colors and fabrics like matte jersey and stretch silk look elegant while being travel-friendly and versatile. These pieces can also be worn during the day – the orange top would be adorable with olive chino shorts, either of the skirts with a simple tank top, the dress could even be a beach coverup.

Choosing a single concept for accessories lightens your luggage load – I chose gold jewelry because it’s easier to find decent-looking costume pieces and instantly adds glamour. I really believe in a long necklace of chain or sparkly beads like jet – it really changes the silhouette of any ensemble and can make the simplest dress look chic. The addition of a belt, be it a scarf cummerbund, a leather obi, or a gold chain can quickly change the shape of a dress, add definition to a monochromatic ensemble, or dress up a simple tank and maxi skirt. Using color sparingly and thoughtfully will give extra miles to neutral pieces – the skirt could easily be switched to a neutral or a bold hue, the orange top could be a print or another dressy fabric, all the black pieces could be gray or ivory. This just gives an example of how very simple pieces can create an elegant and festive evening wardrobe for a vacation.



 

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What to Wear for Family Portraits

We’re planning a family reunion to surprise my grandma for her 80th birthday. The big event planned is a professional family photo. We have agreed on jewel tones and solid blacks or grey, but I am not quite sure what photographs well, is stylish and won’t have me cringing 20 years from now. I am a size 14, busty and my style tends to trend a bit rocker chic. The color of the items is less important, but what do you think I should lean towards in regards to shape, material and style?

what to wear for a family portrait

You lucked out with the color scheme! Not only is this easy to find at any pricepoint, size, and personal style, but it’s also going to look less dated in a decade or two.

Some colors just don’t photograph well, and one of those is red. Luckily, there’s a ton of other jewel tones available that are far more flattering. I recommend going with a true jewel tone instead of a primary – emerald or teal in place of Kelly green, berry or violet instead of purple, garnet or merlot over red. The color should be one that you like, as your relatives will likely be wearing all different shades.

I’d recommend a knit top in a saturated color – ponte knit, merino wool, silk knit, and silk jersey all hold color really nicely, drape well over curves, and will look better in a photo than a traditional jersey knit. When it comes to the top, neckline makes all the difference. The photographer will likely have some of you standing, others sitting, so the body will end up blending into a sea of jewel tones and black. Choosing an interesting neckline will flatter your face, elongate your neck, and possibly slim the look of your figure. Scoop, surplice (faux wrap), and v-necklines are usually the most flattering, but depending on your personal style you may prefer a square or boatneck.

For the bottom, I recommend black over gray. I bet most of your relatives will also wear black, so you will blend in. Not only that, choosing black pants or black skirt and opaque tights with black shoes makes current trends for hemlines, shoes, and cuts not as obvious when admiring the photo in the future. Keep accessories to a minimum for that is what dates a look the most. Maybe a small necklace or a small pair of earrings, but no statement pieces. A photograph like this is about your family, not your personal style. However, if you have a favorite piece of jewelry that was a gift from your grandma or a family heirloom, it would be a lovely touch to wear it for the shoot.

As for hair and makeup, no matter how classic you try to make it, it will still look dated in 25 years. I love watching historical dramas from the ‘70s and ‘80s and how they thought feathered hair or rust-colored streaks under the cheekbones looked historically accurate. Just be yourself, but the most polished version of yourself. This post on how to prepare for a professional headshot offers suggestions on how to do your hair and makeup for any photo shoot.

Finally, SMILE! Your grandma and your family for years to come will far more enjoy a genuine grin than a sophisticated pout or wan smile. They’ve seen your teeth, your gums, your cheekbones, your chin at Thanksgiving and your cousin’s wedding, this is not the time to be self-conscious or do weird faces in an attempt to look younger, thinner, or different. This is your family, they deserve the real and happy you. For there is nothing more attractive than a genuinely happy person!

What to Pack for Vacation

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

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

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

A list of possible ensembles from these 13 pieces:

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

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

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

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

A list of possible ensembles from these 15 pieces:

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

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


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

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Vacation Recap: What I Packed

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

What I Packed:

What I Didn’t Use:

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

What I Wish I Brought:

  • Another pair of workout pants
  • Water shoes

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

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

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

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

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Week-long Vacation – What I Packed

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

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

What I Packed:

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

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

What I Wish I Brought:

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

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

As for beauty products, I kept it pretty simple:

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

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

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

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

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What to Wear to Paris

Oooh la la I am tres jealous of the many of you readers who write to me asking for Paris packing advice! I can’t wait until I can return, it would be so nice to share the experience this time with Emerson. Until then I shall live vicariously through you… and my collages.

While I understand having nerves dressing for the City of Light, the way to look the most like a tourist is to try too hard. Parisians are known for their effortless style, and they don’t require huge wardrobes to be chic. It is possible to be comfortable, pack relatively light, dress for the ever-changing weather, and still be stylish. Here’s some tips:

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Sample Capsule Wardrobe:

Prepare for the Elements. Nothing ruins a trip faster than being too hot, too cold, and in the case of what often happens in Paris, too wet. Check the five-day forecast before you go. Bring layers, an umbrella, a trench that repels water as well as wind (the ones with removable linings are brilliant). A pashmina can be a wrap for a dress come evening, and during the day can tuck into the collar of your coat to ward off chill. Have shoes that can handle puddles and slush.

Focus on Shoes. You can be comfortable without wearing sneakers. I highly recommend anyone who is traveling to invest in a quality pair of supportive shoes that are versatile. A slip-on or Mary Jane style of shoe with arch support and a good sole will work with pants, shorts, skirts, and casual dresses year-round. Keep in mind that Paris has many cobblestone streets, so thin soles and thin heels can be uncomfortable.

I love wearing tall boots for travel – I waterproof them and wear them on the plane to save suitcase space and find they are comfortable for long days on my feet, especially if they end up soggy. A riding boot in brown or black looks smart pulled over dark wash jeans, with knee-length skirts of all styles, and makes cozy airplane fashion of heavyweight leggings and a knit tunic downright chic.

Keep it Simple. While Paris is known for fashion, its street style is not as extreme and wild as you will find in New York. More subtle colors, classic silhouettes, solid shades are a smart way to look chic and not stick out like a sore thumb. Black is always a safe bet because it can dress up and down with ease, hides stains, is less memorable and is eternally chic. Jeans are acceptable, but keep them a dark wash, a slimmer style, and free of overly trendy details and embellishments. Keep logos and prints to a minimum – not only is this more stylish but it’s far easier to re-wear pieces that are less memorable.

Unlike America where we have become famous for “more is more,” less is more in Paris. One accessory is plenty, be it a statement necklace, scarf, or cuff bracelet. Same with your beauty routine – a full face hides your natural beauty, choose lush lashes or red lips or flushed cheeks, not all. Don’t worry about the perfect blowout; a few bends, a low ponytail or a messy updo is chic and shows you’re not trying too hard.

If in Doubt, Overdress. I believe in this rule no matter where you are, but it’s especially good advice in Europe, where they dress more formally than we in America. Leather shoes in place of sneakers, trousers instead of jeans, sweaters in place of tee shirts. Dresses aren’t ridiculous for sight seeing, a simple boatneck tee-shirt inspired dress with anything from short to bracelet length sleeves is comfortable, travel-friendly, and chic. If chilly, pair with tights and boots, a pashmina and a trench or moto jacket. When warm, wear with ankle boots or flats. Wrap dresses are another versatile piece, pair with boots for day and pumps for evening.

And come evening, unless you know your audience and your personal style, leave the jeans and tee shirts in your hotel room. Even if it’s dinner in a simple café, a pair of trousers and a sweater or twinset is a better choice. No need to be decked out in silk and velvet, just have a bit more polish and care to your outfit. A scarf is a quick way to make anything look more polished, be it a printed silk square knotted at the throat or a cotton voile oblong piece looped around the throat.

Pack Smart Accessories. As I mentioned, a pashmina can multitask; a necklace with a ribbon closure can adjust length depending on your outfit; boots and flats can work with dresses as well as ankle-length trousers. A silk scarf can be tied to your purse for flair, around your neck for color, or even kerchief style on a windy day. A bag with a handle as well as a crossbody strap is on trend and great when you want your hands to drink a coffee or capture a photograph.

Keep a Simple Color Palette. There’s nothing wrong with dressing in all neutrals when on travel, it’s easier to rewear pieces, stains are less obvious, and pieces mix and match with ease. While I am one who loves hot pink and red and emerald green, when I travel my wardrobe is primarily black, gray, white, denim, and navy with only touches of color. A black boatneck knit tee dress is great for day with riding boots, but can work for evening with black pumps. A silk jersey shell with jeans and ballet flats is lovely for museum hopping; switch the denim for a black matte jersey maxi skirt and you’re prepared for your evening activities.

It’s okay to wear the same more than once, honestly it is! Take Tide to Go pens, a bar of Ivory soap, and spot clean your clothing. One thing nice is that travel-friendly fabrics like matte jersey are also quick drying – spot clean, hang up, and it will be ready to be re-worn the next day. The French usually have smaller closets than we and do this on a regular basis, to re-wear is smart and chic!

I always believe that the simpler the wardrobe, the more time you have to enjoy your trip.  Pack smart, and use your energy to see the sights and soak in the culture!





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On Vacation

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

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

Talk with you all soon, take care of yourselves!

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What to Wear on an Alaskan Cruise

Via your emails, comments and contact form submissions, it seems as though many of you are planning cruises to Alaska in the next year and are wondering what to pack. I have written about what to pack for a cruise before, but that assumes that you are headed to a warm tropical locale. While the same fashion can be worn for formal nights on a cruise or when spending time on the ship, the main thing to factor is excursions.

Unlike a tropical cruise where excursions include zip lines, kayaks, and private beaches; an Alaskan cruise will have excursions that will require you to be prepared for the elements. The weather can be very different depending on where you are and what you are doing, so it is best to dress in layers. My husband and I took a cruise through the fjords in Norway and at some points I was freezing and other times I was frantically shedding layers to be comfortable in the warm sun. From what I have read and from what friends have told me, it seems that it can be quite similar to Alaska, where it can be downright frigid near the glaciers and in the middle of summer can be anywhere between 40 to 70 degrees during the day. Some ports like Juneau are more rainy than others, and Alaska can also be pretty windy (as can the ship deck).

Your main clothing can be pretty typical – a pair of jeans or pants, a long-sleeved tee or lightweight sweater and possibly a base layer (camisole or undershirt). However, what you put over all this is what’s important. A fleece jacket is great because it is warm, water and wind resistant. A hood will make it all the more versatile and can be your lightweight jacket for the entire trip. While most cruises provide ponchos, having a proper raincoat can be a very good thing – much warmer and more durable. I have a packable hooded raincoat from Calvin Klein (not mine, but a similar version) that I adore because it’s waterproof, windproof, long enough to cover the rear when sitting, cinches at the waist to ward off chill and flatter the figure, but is loose enough to comfortably layer over a sweater or fleece. Since it’s packable, it can handle being stuffed in a bag when the weather warms. Speaking of stuffing in a bag, having a packable tote or backpack is great for excursions so you have somewhere to stuff your coat when you get warm or store your souvenirs.

Hats are an instant way to be warm and protected and they don’t take a lot of room. A fleece beanie takes up no space and can protect your ears and scalp from wind and rain; a crushable bucket hat can not only keep you and your camera dry when taking photos in drizzle, but it can also double as a sun hat. A pair of lightweight gloves also take up little space in your suitcase and will be nice to have if you visit the ice fields. There will be sun, even if it’s hidden behind clouds so be sure to apply sunscreen and bring sunglasses. Alaska is known for its mosquitoes, so be sure to pack a bottle of bug repellant.

Shoes can make or break your adventure, so be sure whatever pair you take is properly broken in before your journey. While they may be adorable, this is not the time for Hunter boots. A hiking shoe or boot that is lightweight will make for easy walking and fewer blisters; one made with Gor-Tex will also be waterproof. If you plan on doing a lot of activities, you may want a second pair of walking or hiking shoes. This is a good time to invest in proper hiking socks – they are shaped, padded, and from high-tech materials (or good old merino wool) to keep your toes dry and warm all day.

Not every part of an excursion will have you fighting the elements; use your raincoat or fleece with an umbrella tucked in your bag for shopping and sightseeing. This is also a great time to have that packable bag to hold your coat or new purchases.

As for the rest of your clothing, bring your bathing suit – even though it’s chilly on land, the ship is often warm enough to take a dip in the pool or hot tub. Instead of a gauzy pareo, a thicker terry cover up may be a wiser choice for poolside. For daytime, pants and shorts with lightweight sweaters and knit tops will be good – layers will also be good on deck (as well as a pair of binoculars!). For evening, standard cruise attire applies. A handful of LBDs, cocktail dresses, or sparkly tops with dressy pants or skirt will get you through dinners and drinks at a bar. Finally, don’t forget the workout gear! Cruise ships have wonderful gyms and a workout can help with the longer days and different time zone!

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What to Wear to a Concert

To some, music is a religious experience. While many houses of worship these days encourage a “come as you are” dress code, I don’t recommend doing so either for church or a concert. While I doubt neither a god nor a rock god would question your devotion based upon your attire, what you choose to wear is a sign of respect. This is not just respect for the artist, but for the venue, the staff, and the audience around you.

Saturday night, I went to the newly renovated historic Howard Theater in Washington DC to see Chuck Berry perform. The theater is gorgeous and elegant, a fine dining establishment as well as concert venue. Waiters in crisp black shirts and trousers served us delicious fare and signature cocktails at our table where we were just a dozen feet or so from the stage where a living legend would perform. For such an event, I felt it appropriate to dress as I would for an evening at a nice restaurant. My sister and I wore dresses that would have been appropriate at work or a party, my mother wore cobalt blue cropped trousers with a black drapey cardigan and bold silver jewelry.

I knew considering the venue and the entertainment for the evening, fashion would run the gamut from jeans to sequins. Figuring the artist would appeal mainly to those from his generation, I assumed that the crowd would be dressed nicely (trousers, refined jeans with a fun or fancy jacket, more casual of dresses) and with respect. Unfortunately, I was very wrong. A large percentage of the crowd was in worn jeans, faded band tee shirts and dirty sneakers. While a concert is a place to show your music devotion, to do so at the Howard Theater in a torn black Johnny Cash tee shirt washed so often it has turned a weird shade of gray-green is not how to do it.

The thing is, such attire can be appropriate to certain concerts and live music venues. Below I try to break down the different types of concert venues and when it makes sense to wear your beloved well-worn Johnny Cash tee, and when it should be left at the bottom of your dresser drawer.


The Coffee Shop
One of my favorite places for live music is a small café or coffee shop. While patrons sip their cappuccinos and discuss politics, a lesser-known (for now) artist or small band perform an acoustic set. It’s a great way to try out different genres of music, support local artists, and often experience a musician before they get their big break. At such a place, casual attire is expected and encouraged. Wear your favorite band on your shirt (or the artist on the stage), rock your well-worn denim, and choose attire that makes you feel like yourself. At such a place, most anything goes so you can go with jeans or you can wear a dress and heels. However, do remember you are more likely to be able to meet and chat with the musician – don’t wear your tattered tee and sweatpants; choose clothing in good condition to show your respect for the artist (and to be ready in case of a photo op!).


The Dive Bar
Another fabulous place to see an artist perform – the crowd is enthusiastic, the beer is cheap, and folks are more interested in the band than what you are wearing. You will most likely be standing most of the night, so choose your footwear accordingly. A bar is a bit more social than a coffee shop, so your attire can be more festive – trade the cozy sweater for a fitted tee, and wear your most flattering jeans but feel free to be more relaxed in your attire. Dress for a night out of fun and feel free to don the sequined tank, the smoky eye, or the wristful of bangles.


The Concert in the Park
Maybe it’s an amphitheater in town, possibly it’s a day festival in the park, or it could be the Louisiana Swamp Romp at Wolf Trap – such an event is relatively small in scale and relaxed in nature. Folks bring their kids, their picnic blankets, lie back in the grass and enjoy the wonderful combination of music and nature. You’ll often be sitting on the ground, so this is not the place for the Herve Leger bandage dress or stiletto heels. However, there’s no need to don sweats. Celebrate the wonderful weather and wonderful venue with cropped pants, shorts, or a fuller skirt or dress that will make it easy to sit and kneel without exposure. I don’t recommend jeans as they are usually too rigid for comfortable ground-sitting, but also don’t recommend delicate fabrics or pieces that wrinkle easily. Twill, crisp cotton, sturdy knits, and gauzy fabrics are your best bet for an outdoor event of this style. Wear flats or wedges so you can easily walk in soft grass or on gravel, and be sure to bring a waterproof groundcloth in case you end up sitting in a slightly muddy area.


The General Admission Club
As you know from my blog, I love the 9:30 Club in DC. I have been going since I was a teen and they were at their old location, and enjoy the energy of a GA crowd. The attire for such a venue is pretty similar to that of a bar – comfortable shoes for standing, and fun yet semi-casual attire. While jeans and band tee shirts are a common uniform at such a venue, it is also acceptable to wear dresses and the sort of attire appropriate for a night out on the town. Some venues like this are more trendy than others, I recommend checking out their website before attending to see if it’s a place for tee shirts, or one for more stylish garb.  I often wear dresses and boots to have comfort as well as style appropriate for any location. Keep in mind that there won’t be a place for you to store your purse – carry a crossbody or bag you can comfortably keep at your side yet still lets you dance the night away. I usually pare down my purse contents to just the essentials (lipstick, maybe powder, ID, credit card, ticket, phone with built-in camera) so I can have a small bag or even just store everything in my jean pockets.


The Theater or Historic Venue
Maybe you’re seeing The Jacksons Unity Tour at the Lyric Opera House, Blue Oyster Cult at the Howard Theater, or Ryan Adams at the Strathmore. These are venues that not only showcase musical artists, but also award galas, ballets, and special events. The décor at such a venue is elegant and refined, they occasionally have dining with waiter service or posh lounge areas to enjoy before the event or at intermission.

While you may be able to see the same artist the next night at a seedy GA club, that doesn’t mean you should wear the same attire. You should dress more for the venue than the artist. Such venues have dedicated staff and committees working hard to keep them looking great, and often go to great lengths for fundraising to cover renovations and upgrades. To attend an event in a place with chandeliers wearing a pair of filthy Reeboks is utterly inappropriate. No need to don a ballgown, but a pair of proper shoes, crisp jeans with a fun top, or a dress or pair of elegant trousers is fitting. However, if the event has a theme (it’s at Christmas, New Year’s Eve, the anniversary of the venue, being filmed for a live concert video), it would be appropriate to dress in a more formal manner.


The Arena
Maybe it’s Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland, possibly it’s where your local sports team plays. This is a large venue made to host big concerts from well-known acts, usually with big flashy sets. Such a venue is usually stadium seating with tickets assigned to each seat. For such an event, you can wear the same thing as you would to a GA club – jeans or dresses with shoes that let you stand up and dance for two hours straight. Though you will have a seat to place your coat, I still recommend a crossbody bag or at least putting your valuables on your person. The one thing to consider at such a venue is stairs – you will be climbing up and down stairs to visit the concession stand or bathroom, and will be sitting often at a strong incline (may not be the best for very high heels or very short skirts).

Such a venue is also the place for the True Fan. Here’s where Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters can get decked out in sequins and spangle, Marilyn Manson’s audience can wear crazy contacts and black lipstick, Further fans will be in tie-dye Grateful Dead tees from years ago, and you will see a gaggle of Katy Perry preteen fans in matching tee shirts and glittery UGG boots. Dressing the part of the True Fan is an accepted and fun experience.

Many venues like this also have a field for general admission seating – if you have tickets for this portion of the arena, refer to the dress code for a concert in the park.


The Music Festival
I recently wrote about this sort of venue here. Pretty much, dress first for the weather and conditions, and then dress for your personal style and passion for the music.

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What to Wear for a Hospital Vigil

This morning I stood in front of my closet, feeling like a superficial, self-absorbed jerk. I was trying to figure out what to wear, and in a few hours my sister was going to have brain surgery. How could I be even THINKING about fashion at a time like this?

Then I remembered all the other times I have spent all day (and all night and sometimes the next day) in a hospital waiting room, anxious for an update on a loved one. Times when my poor sartorial choices distracted me from the situation at hand. Shivering in too lightweight of a sweater, sweltering in a wool turtleneck, gas pains from too tight jeans, aching feet in heels, constantly adjusting a wrinkled-beyond-belief button-front shirt. Remembering that no matter how somber or stressful the situation, taking a moment to think before you dress can make you far more comfortable, as well as helpful to others.

I decided on my black and ivory striped long-sleeve LOFT tee, a red cashmere pashmina looped around my throat (Christmas gift from my sister), my black MICHAEL Michael Kors thigh-length sweater coat, my NYDJ jeans tucked into my new black riding boots from DUO. I made my hair straight, knowing that when it’s that way it holds up better after napping, or if I can’t leave in the next day or so to take a shower.

I chose red, because it is a power color, and a cheery color. I chose a larger pair of jeans for the added comfort level (and possible bloating from salty snack bar meals and caffeinated sodas to keep me awake long hours). Boots which are as comfortable as sneakers, but make me feel more confident and look more pulled together. Every piece with spandex so I won’t be a rumpled mess by time my sister is in Recovery.

Clothing is armor, a way to feel strong and confident in uncomfortable or strange situations. Caring about yourself doesn’t mean you are a selfish person, but a prepared individual. By taking those few moments in front of the closet for myself, it made me far more ready to care for my sister and family the rest of the day. A half hour of self-care results in hours of care for others without a single thought about how I may look, how I may feel.

This is not a subject I like to be an expert in, but over the past couple of decades I have become quite the pro at waiting at hospitals for loved ones. I have learned that proper preparation in regard to my fashion has ensured I am helpful, quick to respond, comfortable, and not a burden. I feel comfortable seeing friends and family who come to visit, having consultations with doctors, and staying for long periods of time away from home. Here’s my tips for how to have a comfortable experience as a hospital visitor:

Wear Layers. Hospitals are either freezing cold or suffocatingly hot. It doesn’t matter if it’s January or July, it’s smart to wear layers. Start with a lightweight knit layer – a refined tee shirt that looks smart when worn by itself. Over that, I recommend a stretchy jacket or cardigan – something that can be balled up into a makeshift pillow or stuffed into a toe bag but can then be put on without looking like a crumpled paper bag. Finally, I am a huge fan of pashminas – a large scarf that can be looped around the throat for a pop of color or warmth, can be wrapped around the shoulders as a shawl, or can be a makeshift blanket.

Wear Stretch. Not only will stretch keep your clothes from looking crumpled over the hours, but it will also keep your comfortable after hours of sitting in an uncomfortable waiting room chair. Ponte de Roma trousers are as comfy as yoga pants but more refined and polished; a pair of dark denim with 3-5% Lycra will look great but also hold up throughout the day or night.

Pieces like button-front shirts and structured jackets will prove uncomfortable and awkward in a waiting room setting. Weirdly shaped chairs that force you to slouch, constantly taking off and putting on layers for fluctuating temperatures, and the random catnap sitting up will leave you with your bra peeking through buttonholes, strong creases in cotton, and you looking as bedraggled as you feel. While the idea of a crisp white shirt may make you feel strong at 8am, you will regret it by noon.

Wear Color. Red and pink me feel happy, feminine, confident so I wear them when I feel sad or stressed. If you are to be strong or cheerful, it’s far easier to do it when wearing a strong or cheerful color. While I don’t expect you to dress like a box of crayons, adding at least a pop of color to your ensemble will show you have a positive outlook on the situation.

Wear Your Heart. When my father was in the hospital just before he passed away, I went to visit him wearing my favorite sweater of his. It is a cobalt and magenta marled turtleneck that looked cool on him in the ‘70s and looked pretty cool on me with vintage jeans in the ‘90s. My dad was in and out of consciousness as I went into his room, I caught him at a lucid moment. He looked at me, winked and said, “Nice sweater, kid.”

Did your grandmother give you her strand of wedding pearls? Does your mother like you best in blue? Did your husband buy you an amber bracelet in Bermuda? If you even think of that accessory, color or garment when planning the day see that as life giving you a sartorial suggestion. Not only will it make you feel closer to that person during a difficult time, it will bring a smile to your loved one’s face when they get a chance to see you in Recovery.

Wear Comfortable Shoes. You will be standing a lot, sitting a lot, and depending on the size of the hospital campus you may be walking a lot. A sturdy shoe with a low heel and a roomy toebox will stay comfortable as your feet swell during the day or if you have to wear your shoes for an extended amount of time.

What to Bring:

  • A Reusable Water Bottle. Fill up your bottle with water at home for you may not have access to anything other than $5 8 oz. bottles and the public bathroom sink once you get to the hospital. Staying hydrated will keep you from feeling sluggish and will help with circulation during long hours of sitting or pacing.
  • Snacks. Some hospitals have wonderful snack bars and restaurants, others notsomuch. Even if you have access to food, it may not be the quality desire or the price you want to pay. Today I brought two FiberOne granola bars, two apples, a bag of microwave popcorn, and a bag of baby carrots for me and my mom, my mom also brought her own bag of snacks. Most hospitals will have at least coffee and a microwave available, but you cannot rely on filtered water or refrigeration. Find that comfortable balance between yummy comfort food and healthy choices – if you lean too far in either direction you may end up feeling miserable.
  • Entertainment. Today I brought my laptop, a journal, the latest issue of Bazaar, and a novel. It’s good to have variety because you may be too distracted to be able to focus on your book, or find the Internet overwhelming. I really encourage all to have a way to write down their feelings – when you are in a position where you need to be strong but don’t feel that way, writing or typing your feeling can help alleviate the stress and keep you strong for loved ones. It’s also a good way to journal the situation if you have a bad or wonderful hospital situation or want to let the patient know what happened while they were in surgery.
  • Basic Toiletries. Even successful procedures can go longer than expected; having basic beauty products on hand can make your stay more comfortable. Toothpaste and toothbrush, eye rewetting drops for contacts (I also encourage a case and travel-sized bottle of solution and backup glasses in case of an overnight vigil), and I really love Body Shop’s Vitamin E Face Mist for rehydrating skin after a trying day or to help reset makeup if you had a bit of a cryfest. 

    I also bring makeup for a touch-up after a snooze or some tears – in my bag is a travel pack of facial cleansing wipes, a tube of mascara, Philosophy’s The Supernatural mineral foundation (foundation and powder in one and a spill-proof container), and Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Rose (can double as blush). 

    If you take medications, bring them. You don’t want to have to rush home for your pills at a time like this.

  • Phone Charger. Nothing is worse than having your phone die when you need it. All day I have been using my phone to keep friends and family posted on my sister’s progress and when I’m not texting or emailing, I have it plugged into a USB charger cord connected to my laptop. A wall charger is the best choice – every waiting room has an outlet or two available even if it doesn’t have WiFi.
  • Calendar. Whether it’s on your phone, or your paper agenda book, have your calendar ready to help the patient schedule post-op appointments or plan out family get-togethers in the upcoming days.
  • Cash. Dollars to pay for parking, quarters for meters and vending machines – hospitals are known for not being credit card-friendly. Instead of having to search all over for an ATM with an insane user fee, be prepared with at least $30 a day ($10 or more in $1 bills and at least $2 in quarters).

***

I hope you never have to use this information, but if you do please know that caring for yourself and your personal style at such a time is not selfish. If you care for yourself, you can do a far better job at caring for others. Take the time to nurture and prepare yourself so you can dedicate yourself to the health of your loved one.

Note: Thank you to all who have shared this post with those who need this information.  My thoughts go out to you and I wish you strength during this difficult time.  My sister made it out of surgery great, they got all of the tumor and she is recovering nicely.  I wish the same to your loved ones.  Much love to all of you!

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What to Wear on Weekends?

Saturday my family and I went to an open house for the neighborhood nursery school. This is an amazing school – great teacher to child ratio, walking distance from the house, co-op, encourages parent involvement. The open house began at 10:00 but we didn’t arrive until after 12:00 because my husband teaches yoga Saturday mornings. While he was at his class, I got dressed for the event. We were walking to the open house, so I had to wear something that worked with my walking-friendly DUO boots. Too cold for a dress, and anyway it’s too difficult to crawl on the floor with a toddler in a shift. I decided on tucking a dark pair of jeans into the tan boots. Now for the top – I didn’t want to look too glam – they may think I am a distant mother who can’t handle a sticky finger handprint. I also didn’t want to wear a long pendant necklace that could hit Emerson or another kiddo if I bent down to help them with a toy. However I didn’t want to not look like myself, and I am not a woman who regularly leaves her home in hoodies or tee shirts. I ended up wearing a black and white Breton-stripe tee shirt with a short black coral necklace, and my Lands End black quilted coat.

My husband came home and asked me how long it took for me to put together a look of jeans, a tee shirt, and my go-to boots. Um, about 30 minutes, and during those 30 minutes I tried on five different striped shirts.

It may seem ridiculous to worry so much about what I wear to such a small and informal event, but people are judged on first impressions no matter the situation, no matter the time. You could make a late-night dash to CVS for cough syrup for your little one and bump into your college sweetheart. You could be in line at Starbucks and meet someone who could offer you your dream job. While pumping gas, you may see your favorite celebrity at a different pump and have the opportunity to meet him and snap a photo. Who hasn’t bumped into a neighbor when shopping at the grocery store or picking up takeout at the nearby pizza parlor?

While deciding on a striped tee, I was glad that I had a pared-down wardrobe. No stained, oversized, or embarrassing items in the collection. If it’s not wearable, it’s repaired or removed. No “skinny jeans” taking up real estate in my drawer, no “bummy” clothes to wear lounging around the house. Just options.

I used to have a drawer full of “lounge” clothes. Faded yoga pants, old tee shirts, hoodies, fleece pullovers. These were clothes I would change into after work or slip on Sunday mornings. They were comfy, warm, cozy, and it didn’t matter if they got splattered with bacon grease or baby spitup. The thing is, when you have a collection of such clothing, it becomes very difficult to separate them from your gym attire, and your street attire. It’s easy to justify wearing old sweatpants and your husband’s windbreaker to the grocery store when it is readily available. If you start your weekend day in loungewear and then have to run to the bank or to take your child to a play date, it’s too easy, and takes less time to leave your attire as-is for such an errand.

I still have a drawer of “lounge” clothes, but they are all clothes that are in good condition. Two pairs of dark black yoga pants, and a few scoop-neck tees that nip in at the waist and are in bright jewel tones. Two hoodies – one dark black, one in a gorgeous shade of berry – both in great condition. A pair of padded bike shorts and two moisture-wicking tops for when I go for a ride with my husband. A couple band tee shirts – most with the neck cut out to have a more flattering silhouette. One sweatshirt – a navy crewneck from college. One pair of vintage jeans that are a length that works with sneakers and flat shoes. One pair of olive chino shorts.

That’s it. From this collection I have something to wear to the gym or a yoga class, something to wear when painting a piece of furniture on the back deck, something to wear when working in the garden or on the car.

On weekends I wear a pair of jeans with Lycra so I can crawl under furniture to dust, chase after Emerson and still look pulled together. On top I wear a tank or tee with a layer on top – a cardigan, soft jacket, sweater. The bottom layer keeps the top layer from having to be laundered after every wear; the top layer is of a flattering yet machine-washable fabric and usually of a solid color. Many times, the same sweaters and tops I wear to work with trousers and pencil skirts are worn on the weekend with jeans. Come summer, I spend most weekends in cotton sundresses – I find gems for less than $15 at shops like Ross and Marshall’s.

As previously mentioned, I don’t wear sneakers unless I am going to the gym. I have a pair of tall flat boots (the DUO boots) that can be worn under bootcut jeans or pulled over narrow denim. I add a waterproofing spray twice a year so they can survive spring showers and winter slush. In the garden and when doing dirty projects like spraypainting or getting in the attic, I must admit I wear a pair of Crocs. Come summer, I love leather sandals – each year Lands End and Lands End Canvas sell a flat leather sandal that looks great with shorts, skirts, and pants and is as comfortable as a pair of Old Navy flip flops.

When you have too many options, you have too much opportunity for error.

I encourage you to take an evening this week (or an hour or two of your weekend) and go through your comfortable garb. Do you really need eight pairs of sweatpants? How about those smelly Chucks you have owned since college? All those tee shirts from college – consider having them made into a quilt and head to Target or another discount retailer for some new tee shirts in feminine silhouettes and flattering colors. Base the size of your collection on the amount of activities you do where you can’t afford to ruin your street clothes. It’s appealing to save specific ensembles just for painting your home or washing the dog, but I bet the apparel for these events can be consolidated into one or two outfits.

As you would do with your regular wardrobe, make three piles – keep, donate, repair. Rarely can loungewear be repaired, but sometimes you can stitch up a loose seam in a pair of yoga pants or re-thread the drawstring on a hoodie. If the item is in condition where you wouldn’t want to be caught dead in it, it shouldn’t take up real estate in your wardrobe.

Often you will complete this purge and realize you don’t have enough of what you really need – well-fitting yoga pants when you have old terry sweatpants, moisture-wicking tops when you only have ratty tees, a rain-resistant pullover when all you have are old jersey sweatshirts. Make a list, carry it with you, and slowly buy quality pieces that fit, flatter, and can handle a beating.

Life is an amazing adventure, and takes place whether or not you are up for the ride. Being dressed well for the journey makes it all the more enjoyable. When you have a well-stocked wardrobe, you can spend your life living, not dreading the chance to bump into your ex.

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What to Wear to a Conference

At some time in your life you will attend a conference. It may be for your church, your blog, your job. These days it seems that everyone is sponsoring one, and everyone is attending.

So with all these conferences on your agenda, what the heck are you supposed to wear?

Yesterday I attended an industry conference and was surrounded by folks who drool over iPads and Droids instead of Manolos and Marc Jacobs. However I have attended conferences for blogging, for fashion, for charities, for previous industries, for my church. Even though the topics are different, the fashion is generally the same.

A conference is a place to learn about new trends, new technology, and brainstorm as a group. However conferences are most popular because they are a place to network. Think of a conference as a laid-back job interview – you never know, the person sitting next to you during one presentation could be your new boss if you play your cards right, or could be the person to take your current job from good to great. Considering this, it is important to put your best-dressed foot forward.

Image Courtesy Hole in the Donut Travels  

Basic Conference Fashion Rules:

  • Cleavage is not cool. Unless you are attending a conference of Hooters employees, it’s not cool to show off a bunch of cleavage. This doesn’t mean wearing a turtleneck in August, however a camisole with your wrap dress or v-neck sweater would be a good idea.
  • Have your clothes fit. A conference, like a job interview, is a place where a person can spend a lot of time looking at you. While you stand sipping your coffee or sit at a table in a ballroom taking notes, having clothes that fit will make you look more confident and more successful. It is better to have a cheap jacket button without gaping and have the sleeves at the right length, than swim in a designer jacket that is the wrong size or shape. Along with this, a conference is not the place for safety pins, Stitch Witchery or other makeshift manners of hemming and altering of garments. If you don’t have the time to take the piece to a tailor, don’t wear it.
  • Polish your shoes. Again, it’s not as much the cost of the shoe as it is the condition. A pair of black pumps from Marshalls can do just fine with a bit of polish and shine. Scuffed shoes, worn down heels, peeling soles don’t put forth a confident and professional appearance.
  • Don’t wear anything that can’t handle being worn for long periods of time, and be worn for that period of time while sitting. A conference is not the place to wear linen (unless it’s a conference at a tropical resort). So many times I see women in cotton sheaths or slim fitting trousers who stand up after a lecture and covered in a sea of wrinkles and creases. Also be sure what you wear is comfortable – there is nothing worse than spending hours at an event with a waistband digging into your belly or a shirt pulling at your shoulders each time you lean forward. Give your clothes a practice run – try wearing them while sitting, while writing or typing. See how the outfit holds up – does your bra peek through the buttons of your shirt when you lean forward? Does the zipper scratch your neck? Find out these things before you arrive onsite.
  • Bring layers! Ballrooms and hotel conference rooms are known for having the A/C on max – prepare by bringing a jacket, cardigan or even pashmina that can be wrapped around your shoulders when chilly, or tucked into your bag when it gets warm.
  • Have a bag for swag. Most conferences offer some sort of swag, be it logoed pens, tee shirts, or treats from the sponsors. Instead of being the goof walking around with a plastic bag stuffed to the gills, prepare with a bag big enough to hold your essentials plus what you acquire at the event (if you are attending an event where you know there will be lots of swag prepare with a packable tote in your primary bag).
  • Pack your bag properly. Don’t show up at a conference empty-handed. I like to bring my own note pad, several pens (one will always die on me), a fully-charged phone (and charger if you plan on Tweeting or using it to surf the Web), a camera (you never know who you will meet or what you will see that will inspire future work), basic purse essentials (check out my purse essentials for ideas). If you have a laptop, netbook or iPad, this is the place to bring it. Blogging, work-related, tech, and many personal topic conferences encourage their attendees to Tweet, blog, and Facebook post about the event in real-time.
  • Bring business cards. If you are attending a work-related event, bring your work cards. However even if you are attending a conference for personal reasons, it’s such a good idea to have business cards to pass out to new contacts and friends. VistaPrint offers free business cards (only pay for shipping – and get 50% off everything else if you first go to Ebates) – get some with your name, cell number, email address, and any relevant social networking addresses (blog, Twitter, personal Web site, etc.). These business cards will show their worth in a short time – you will find that you not only dole them out at conferences, but will pass them to people in line at the grocery store, at your son’s playgroup, at a bridal shower. My mom just ordered new personal business cards – they have an image in the background that she likes, and they have her email address and telephone number. She passes these out at all those situations where you’re ready to tear off a piece of paper and write down your digits, a Web site, a recipe, etc.

Image courtesy IUAP 

Job-related Conference
Don’t be afraid to ask about the dress code – I actually found out the dress code for yesterday’s conference by watching the Twitter feed for the event. Another woman had the guts to ask, and I was happy to also receive the answer. Conference veterans often have their uniforms for such events and don’t even think twice. Men also have it pretty easy – a suit, or at least a nice shirt with trousers works for most any event. We as women have a harder time; don’t be afraid to email the event organizers and ask – it’s better than wearing a power suit in a room full of jeans (or jeans in a room full of suits).

Speaking of which, it’s always better to dress up than dress down. Yes, there were a few folks in jeans at yesterday’s conference, but at least 70% of the crowd was in business attire and the rest were in non-denim versions of business casual. I am not one who feels comfortable or myself in a suit; I chose to wear a sheath dress with a ponte knit jacket on top – it was comfortable and still business attire.

If you can’t find out the dress code, it’s best to dress in what you would usually wear to work (as long as your workplace expects clothes other than jeans and sweats). A nice tailored shirt or sweater with crisp trousers or skirt is a nice non-suit – pair with tall boots or pumps for a classic look that isn’t boring or dowdy. As women we can also wear dresses, which is a great way to look professional while still showing personality and flattering the figure.

As mentioned, I recommend wearing a closed-toe shoe for the same reason I encourage women to hide their cleavage – you don’t know who will be there, and who may be offended. Keep hemlines hovering around the knee, feel free to wear tailored but not tight clothes, and in most circles, better to be safe than sorry and cover those tootsies.

When it comes to personal style, I am all for letting it show a bit. Wear your favorite color, switch out the black pumps for one with a leopard print or a platform in a rich-colored suede. Instead of a suit, consider a cashmere wrap sweater or a leather motocross-inspired jacket with a simple pencil skirt.  Prints are a way to stand out in the crowd without drawing the wrong attention. Yesterday I couldn’t help but notice a woman in a tan and brown giraffe-print wrap dress – the dress fit her well, wasn’t too showy, but was beautiful sight in a sea of grays and blacks.

Also consider your accessories – keep them professional, but don’t be afraid to show a bit of your personal style. I overheard conversations between colleages speaking of another conference attendee. I heard people being described as, “the woman with the purple glasses,” or “the woman with the orange scarf.” If you want to network and make an impression, consider an accessory to have you stand out in the crowd. This doesn’t mean bring your Mac in a Hello Kitty laptop sleeve or wear a pair of lime green leather pants, but it’s a great idea to choose a red croco-embossed tote, a beautiful enamel pin on your lapel, a fabulous scarf at your throat. Be memorable without being outlandish.

Image Courtesy Flickriver

Creative Job-related Conference
There are creative jobs, and then there are all other jobs. When you work in a creative field, dress codes are far more relaxed.

Here, you could carry off lime green leather trousers or a Hello Kitty laptop sleeve. It’s important to show what type of creative force you are – whether you are great at design, photography, social media, fashion, or art. However keep in mind that the day is not about you, but about the speakers and topics. Think about how celebs and fashionistas dress when attending Fashion Week – they dress to impress, but never to outshine the fashion on the runways. Respect the event, but stay true to yourself.

Image courtesy Venus Vision

Personal Conference
Maybe you are a direct seller or sorority member attending your national conference. Possibly you are attending an event for fellow scrapbookers or bloggers. You could be attending an event supporting your church or political party. Personal topic conferences are becoming more and more popular; even if they don’t relate to your place of employment it is still important to dress to impress.

Consider a personal conference like a creative conference. Dress to show your personality, as well as the tone of the event. Again, don’t fear contacting the event coordinators to find out the dress code, and be sure to wear something that is comfortable for hours of sitting, standing, and sometimes trekking around a major city.

Personal conferences are often more casual – think casual Friday. I don’t believe in showing up to an event in ratty jeans, tennies and a sweatshirt, but do think that dark, stylish jeans are usually appropriate when matched with more polished pieces. Think jeans with tall boots over them, or jeans with a boyfriend blazer or Chanel-inspired cardigan and silk camisole. Dresses are always a great conference choice because they are flattering and comfortable. Pair with tall boots or wedges for a stylish walking-friendly look.

Image Courtesy socialmedia.biz  

The Multi-day Conference
Many conferences are more than just one day, and usually have events that take place before and after work hours. Be sure to go over the agenda and see what sort of events are taking place – is there a happy hour at a restaurant? Visit the restaurant’s Web site to see if it’s a place for jeans and Buffalo wings, or cocktail dresses and martinis. Also plan for events you don’t think you will attend – you never know who you will meet and befriend – they may encourage you to go horseback riding or to a nightclub when from the safety of your home you wouldn’t ever expect to do such things. It’s always a safe bet to pack and outfit that would work for an outdoor/athletic excursion and a LBD or sparkly top to have just in case you head to a more festive evening event.

Longer conferences are more likely to offer a dress code up front, and it’s usually a more relaxed attire than one-day events. Conference coordinators know that people are coming by plane and don’t expect you to pack three days worth of power suits. This is a time when dresses are great – they can pack into nothing, steam out usually by hanging in the bathroom while you take a hot shower, and are versatile.

Shoes usually take up the most space in a suitcase, so plan out your wardrobe where you can get away with the fewest pairs. I like pumps because they can be paired with skirts, dresses, pants and even some jeans. Also be sure to pack a pair of walking-friendly shoes – longer conferences often have tourist-friendly events like museum-hopping or a shopping tour.

Think of a multi-day conference as you would a trip overseas – pack versatile, multi-use pieces like black sheath dresses, dark jeans and black pumps, pack clothes that can withstand being stuffed in a suitcase or being sat in for hours on end, shoes that can be worn and walked in for an entire day, and layers to feel comfortable no matter the temperature. As with any event, be sure to show your personal style with fabulous accessories, your favorite colors, and your favorite signature piece, be it a paisley scarf, a pumpkin-colored velvet blazer, a print matte jersey wrap dress or vintage-inspired T-strap heels.

No matter the topic or length, a conference is a place to not only learn, but to network. Be respectful to the other attendees and the event, but always stay true to your personal style!

Ask Allie: What to Wear to India

I am headed on a 2-week trip to India. I want to be comfortable sightseeing and spending lots of time on trains and planes, but still stylish. Any ideas for a capsule wardrobe for keeping cool, covered up, and stylish?

I am glad you are asking this. While many first think of the temperature when traveling to other countries, the first thing you should be considering is the culture of that area and dressing in a manner to respect it. While women in the more cosmopolitan and touristy parts of India like Goa will be seen in jeans, sleeveless tops and even bikinis, a more conservative look is the best choice to have a versatile wardrobe for every stop on your trip to India.

We often think conservative in regard to length, but when packing for India, it also means fit. Clothing should cover at least the shoulders and knees and not have low necklines, but pieces should also be loose so the curves of your figure are not on display (loose clothing is also more comfortable in the heat). Consider the type of fabric and avoid those that may be transparent in the sun or cling when you sweat or walk. Cotton or cotton/silk blends are the best for opacity and comfort in the heat.

Wearing Indian fashion (appropriately) won’t make you look like a poseur, it will instead make it more likely that you won’t stand out or offend. But if you’re hesitant, this is something you can decide once you arrive on the ground and have had a chance to assess your personal comfort level. You can find ready to wear kurtis (tunics), kurtas (longer tunics that are around knee length), selwar kameez (kurti or kurta with pants and a shawl) in India at prices lower than here in the US. If you’re not an off the rack size consider finding a local tailor – pieces can usually be made in a day or two for a very low price. A Western alternative would be a dress that hits below the knee with leggings, a loose blouse with cropped or full length pants, a loose tee with a calf to ankle length skirt. In more rural areas, your bare legs will stand out more, so consider packing a pair of lightweight pants or leggings to slip under dresses to be more modest.

When it comes to color, anything goes. My capsule is mainly neutrals because they’re less likely to show dust and dirt, mix and match, and are comfortable in the heat. However don’t be afraid to pack an entire wardrobe of brights, pastels, or jewel tones.

Sample outfits from the capsule wardrobe featured above, click to see larger.

I focused on pants since they offer more modesty than a skirt. Don’t be afraid to pair a dress with a pair of pants; this is similar to a selwar kameez and will be conservative and comfortable. The black skirt is below knee, the navy skirt full length. Either can be worn casually or dressed up. For day, pair with an untucked top and sandals, for evening tuck in, add the gold belt and accessories. The olive dress can also be easily dressed up with the addition of gold accessories.

Speaking of accessories, it’s important to pack a few not just for style but for comfort in India. A scarf or dupatta will be your best friend on this trip. It can be worn over your head when entering Sikh temples, as a wrap when you’re wearing a short sleeve top or if you get a chill, and can protect you from the sun. Another great accessory to have is dark sunglasses; direct eye contact may present the wrong impression and a pair of shades will let you see all the sights comfortably.

Finally, focus on the experience, not your appearance. As long as you dress sensibly for the culture and climate, it doesn’t honestly matter what you wear. A stylish world traveler enjoys new experiences, delves into unknown cuisine and cultures, and lives her life fully, no matter her attire!

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What to Wear to a Spring or Summer Wedding

The colder months are easy for most any affair – whip out your little black dress and heels and you’re good to go. However once the weather gets warmer, an LBD can sometimes seem too harsh or somber, especially for happy events like weddings.

That being said, with the extensive array of dress styles and cuts available, it can be hard to know what is appropriate for a wedding, and what is not. While different cultures and religions have specific beliefs on colors and how much skin to show (I always recommend contacting a member of the wedding party of extended family if you are unsure about the couple’s traditions and sartorial expectations), below are some ideas that can be worn to most weddings and be seen as stylish yet appropriate.

The Daytime Wedding
I used to advise women that for a daytime wedding, wear what you would wear to your house of worship for services. That doesn’t seem to be appropriate anymore as many houses of worship are making their dress codes more casual to make the experience more welcoming to all folks. Even I grew up attending church services in jeans and sneakers. So I recommend wearing a dress, suit, or pantsuit that is festive yet has a conservative touch. Skirts that end around the knee, no plunging necklines, steer clear of backless or cutouts. Fitted is fine, skin-tight is not. Consider fabric – sequins and satin are better for evening and more formal of affairs. This is a happy occasion so go ahead and wear cheery colors and prints.

This green dress is from Muse Apparel; I own it and think it’s even more lovely in person. The jade color is cheery without being overwhelming, the ponte fabric has a slight sheen making it more dressy, and the fun flower appliqué of plastic and gems catches the light without having you resemble a disco ball. Pair with nude heels for an elegant yet fun look. The tan floral dress is from Eliza J, a brand that I find flattering and budget-friendly. While the main color is subdued, the coral bow at the waist and the flirty high-low hem makes the dress festive and fun. Pair with some strappy heels and a great bracelet to finish the look.
Daytime weddings is when you can carry off a bold print – this poppy print dress from Bespoke is cheeky without being too extreme; make it more subtle with nude pumps or amp up the fun with some retro-inspired heels. A daytime wedding is a great time to try a trend, be it a Pantone-approved color of the year, lace, or peplum. This dress from Donna Morgan incorporates all three trends into one chic yet festive frock. With a demure hem length and full back, the dress doesn’t veer into Fashion Victimville; keep it subtle with neutral shoes or add an extra punch with pumps in a contrast color.

The Evening Wedding
Evening weddings can be tricky – are you dressed up enough? Too much? A safe bet is to dress in cocktail attire – a daytime wedding sort dress but made of a dressier fabric like lace, silk, or beading. While a little black dress is a perfect choice, feel free to wear a dressy suit or a frock in a cheerful color. Current trends make hemlines anywhere from just above the knee to the ground appropriate, but unless the invitation specifies Black Tie, don’t make your maxi a formal gown, sequined, beaded or otherwise overly dressy.

The blue dress from Kiyonna is a great way to show a little skin while still being tasteful. Pair with nude or metallic dressy heels to amp up the evening look; a sparkly accessory will be perfect for an after-hours affair. The pink gown from Donna Morgan is surprisingly versatile – with flat metallic sandals it could be worn to a destination wedding; with silk heels and a sparkly bracelet it’s perfect for an evening affair and the bright color keeps it from looking too Black Tie. The peach flapper-inspired dress from Simply Be is the type that could be worn for a wedding with nude or metallic shoes, pair with more casual shoes for a night out, or even be worn with a black blazer and tights come winter. With the beading on the dress, keep the rest of your accessories to a minimum and consider a more dramatic eye to add a formal flair. The magenta dress from Kate Spade is a feminine and classic silhouette yet the fabric makes it evening-appropriate. The accessories is what can take this dress from day to evening to even a more formal wedding.

The Destination/Beachside Wedding
Such weddings are usually far more casual because of the sand and wind factor. It’s hard to walk down to the shore in a satin pencil skirt and 3” heels. However, the casual environment doesn’t give one permission to show up in a Hawaiian shirt and cargo shorts. A dress of matte jersey, silk, or a refined cotton or knit is a great choice because it will be flexible and comfortable in the heat. I specifically featured longer dresses for such a wedding because of the tropical breezes during such an event; no one wants to be worrying about doing a Marilyn in the middle of the vows, and a longer dress also provides modesty if you end up sitting on the sand or on blankets in a field. Longer dresses can seem more formal, so look for styles that do not graze the ground, are of more relaxed fabrics, and have a celebratory color or print.

I love this dress from French Connection; while I am not a big fan of strapless for weddings I think this one works because the color and fabric is more demure and the bodice quite structured. This is also a dress you could wear again – pair with tan sandals and tie a Western-inspired denim shirt over it for a party or barbecue back home. The colorblocked chiffon maxi from Calvin Klein is cheery, modern, and easy to personalize. Pair with gold sandals and accessories, or switch out the belt for a brown leather one and have an armful of wood and beaded bangles. Come cooler months, pair with a denim jacket for a cool outfit for a night out on the town. The turquoise dress from Eileen Fisher is simple elegance; Eileen Fisher is expert at draping and bias cuts and this dress is no exception. I’d style in a similar manner with a beaded necklace and flat-bottomed sandals, or it can be glammed up with a bold silver necklace and gladiators. The watercolor-inspired dress from Ivy & Blu for Maggy Boutique is romantic, tropical, and very on trend with the unique hemline. With such a pattern, you can keep accessories to a minimum. If you want to switch up the look, consider replacing the self belt with a metallic one or a skinny patent belt in a color that’s part of the print.

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Ask Allie: What to Wear Under Fitted Knit Dresses

I have been following your blog for awhile now and bought many things from your recommendation; the latest one is a dress from Dobbin. However, I need the correct undergarments. I put on the Jockey shorts (also your recommendation) but the seams show. I have tried Spanx and they are a bit too constricting. Any advice as to what I can wear under dresses so I can incorporate them into my wardrobe?

fitted dress underwear control garment

As I write my response to you I’m wearing a wrap dress I bought from Old Navy that needs just the right light control garment to smooth my figure, gently hold me in without gas pain and without visible seams. Like you, I find I need underpinnings like this in my arsenal to wear under my Dobbin ponte dresses, my Karen Kane jersey dresses, and other frocks that need that special something. Here’s my favorite light control garments that I wear under fitted and knit dresses:

DKNY Under Bust Bodysuit

This is what I’m currently wearing with my dress. I have three of these babies – one in nude for light colored dresses, one in black for dark colored dresses, and one in the most gorgeous fuchsia because it was on clearance and I couldn’t resist. While this suit has seams, they are in logical places that match up with seams of most dresses. The rear has a wide lace band so there’s no VPL, and I LOVE that it can be comfortably worn with any bra from my lingerie drawer. The straps are adjustable, which is a perk for my short-torsoed self, and it’s actually PRETTY.

The crotch has a hook and eye opening that I find utterly ridiculous to try to maneuver, especially when in a public restroom trying to handle heels, strangers’ germs, and a fitted dress hiked up around my waist. I don’t unhook it with each visit to the lavatory but instead just slide the whole garment to the side, hold in place as I take care of business. But really that’s the only negative aspect of this garment.

This is not a Spanx-like control garment. In fact, it doesn’t do a lot of gut sucking. What it does do is smooth the figure. No indentation of a belly button, no segmentation from the waistband of panties or tights, no VPL. My body is the same size, but it appears to be firmer and smoother under clothing.

DKNY ‘Lace Curves’ Shaping Brief

I’ve written about this garment before because I’ve been a fan for many years. This is pretty much the same thing as the bodysuit, but it ends at the waist. Same lace back, same smoothing but not gut-sucking capabilities, and same ability to not look like Bridget Jones scary pants. Seriously, pair with a pretty bra in the same color and you feel retro bombshell.

Unlike the bodysuit, the shaping brief does have a waistband, and depending on your figure and softness, it may show. I find this piece best for skirts or dresses with a defined waistband. Also know they do stretch out with time; pairs I’ve had for a year still look great but slowly get bigger even with careful laundering. I buy a new one when Nordstrom has them on sale (not on clearance now but have been part of their Anniversary sale), and have found them at a nice price on Bare Necessities.

Spanx Tight End High Waist Tights

I’ll tell you a little secret; one of the perks of durable tights is that you can go commando under them. They’re opaque enough for it, and they can handle being laundered so often. This really reduces the segmentation and lines that can happen under garments.  I wear these tights on their own quite often because they suck in a bit but not nearly as much as the brand’s actual control garments, and the waist is high enough that it doesn’t cut me in the middle. If you’re someone who doubles up hosiery for extra opacity, control, or warmth; this is a great pair as they don’t shift and they can handle it without stretching out. And as I mentioned at the beginning, they’re super durable and can handle being machine washed on gentle in a lingerie bag (or even a run in your stockinged feet across concrete to catch a dog chasing down the mailman).

DKNY High-Waist Control Top Tights

I also like these tights from DKNY, and for all the same reasons mentioned for Spanx. These do run a bit tighter in the elastic top, but I actually like that because it gives an even smoother line from ribcage down. DKNY’s tights come in Plus Petite which is a nice feature that I wish more brands would embrace. But these tights are durable enough that this fall I’m wearing a pair I purchased in 2012.

So now I ask you readers, what do you find works best under fitted knit dresses?

What I Wore: Spring Green

I am such a fan of green and this blouse from Dobbin Clothing is the perfect Kelly green for spring.  This is a tunic length blouse, so it also looks adorable untucked with some slim pants.  With wearable heels (seriously these shoes are uber comfortable all day) and a hat to sheild myself from the sun, I’m ready for outside brunch with my girl friends!

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The Bandana is Back!

Some trends come on the scene that make me wonder what designers and street style icons were smoking or ingesting when they decided on them. And recently, a lot of trends were impossible to recreate on a budget. I’m loving how so many trends this spring and summer are honestly achievable on any budget; it’s less about the logo and more about the look.

Bottom Row, Left to Right: Louis Vuitton via GQ | Stockholm Street Style | Vanessa Jackman | The Blab

And one of those trends is the bandana. That white-pattered cotton scarf you can pick up at the dollar store or take from your college Halloween costume is now an on-trend accessory. I’ve always loved the classic bandana print and prefer a cotton scarf to a silk one, so I am thrilled about this trend. But how do you wear a bandana without looking like an extra from a John Wayne movie?

    • Create a Contradiction. A bandana with a chambray shirt is cliché, a bandana with a leather moto jacket or a silk blouse or a crisp blazer is unexpected.

 

  • Keep it Crisp and Classic. For now, keep your pink and purple bandanas in the drawer and stick to classics like navy, red, and black. These should also not be the weathered, worn, and torn bandanas you use to mop sweat when gardening or to hold back your hair on a camping trip. The classic color and the crisp finish makes the bandana purposeful and not a leftover from cleaning out the garage.

 

 

  • Simplicity is Key. Leandra Medine’s all-white outfit with the bandana tucked into the collar of her shirt is a fabulous example of how to wear a bandana this spring. Minimal color, no competing prints, use the bandana as you would a silk Hermes scarf and let it take center stage.

 

 

  • Get Creative. A bandana doesn’t have to be worn knotted in back and draped in front. Check out The Not Vanilla’s post and how she wore it knotted around her throat, and even as a purse and wrist accessory. I recently rolled a bandana , wrapped it twice around my neck and had it peek out of a white button-front shirt; I think it’s fun to spice up a monochromatic look with a bandana tied to a single belt loop at the front of a pair of trousers; don’t be afraid to use a bandana as a headband, kerchief, headwrap, or tied around your ponytail.

 

Last week when I shared my outfit featuring a bandana, I received a few styling questions from you folk:

    • When You Have Short Hair. If you’re draping the bandana in front and the “ears” are peeking out making you feel as though you’re wearing a bib, consider a bit of fashion tape to hold them down. I keep all those tiny safety pins that hold garment hang tags and find them great for a situation like this (I pin the “ears” to the underside so they don’t ruin the line of the scarf).

 

  • When the Bandana is Too Stiff. A brand new bandana can be as stiff as a piece of paper, and often have hard creases in it. Before trying anything, wash it and throw it in the dryer, preferably with bulky items that would make it bounce around a lot. This often does the trick. If it’s still too stiff for you, an overnight soak in fabric softener or vinegar will soften cotton without fading the fabric. Rinse and tumble dry.

 

 

  • When You Want a Bigger Bandana. I desired this very thing to have more variety (and to double-look around my big neck). On eBay I found “Texas Size” bandanas which are 27” (most are 22”). If you search for 27” bandana, you’ll find that many online stores like Amazon offer them, which will give you the length you desire.

 

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Ask Allie: What to Wear as a Wedding Coordinator?

I am starting with great excitement and a bit of fear a new career of being a Day of Wedding Coordinator. I have a figure like yours, but am taller (5’8″) and I have serious foot problems- heels are a no go. I have been wearing a uniform of either [work uniform] or all black for years and I have very little colour in my current closet. Got any advice or help for how to look professional, polished and glam in my new role?

What a fun and exciting change for you! When I was planning my wedding, I befriended a few women who were getting married at the same venue and we did day-of coordination services for one another. After our weddings, one of these women started her own coordination business and I assisted her for many events. Since then, I attend several weddings a year as an assistant to my photographer husband, usually falling back into that day-of coordinator role steaming trains, collecting family for cake cutting, and fixing hair. Sometimes we even sell me as a separate day-of coordinator for weddings he shoots.  I have learned how to create a uniform that is professional yet comfortable.

When I do day of coordination, I really like wearing pantsuits. I find that I can take off the jacket and scramble around in the pants and shell, and then put on the jacket and look pulled together. Also there’s the benefit of many pockets. Though black is a somber color, as you know from your job it’s really great for hiding stains and it always looks professional. I find when coordinating weddings I get pretty dirty – I crawl under tables to plug in lights, pull chairs out of dirty cob-webbed storage sheds, even climb on roofs to secure bunting and wreaths. Black also hides sweat, and sweat is something I do quite a lot when coordinating. To keep a suit from being too somber or too much like the catering staff, I choose a shell that is more interesting and festive, be it a surplice tank in a cheery hue, a ruffled chiffon blouse, or a sequined or beaded tank.  The style of the shell can make the suit look appropriate for a more casual day affair or a swanky Black Tie evening event.

When I don’t do suits, I really like wearing shirt dresses with a fuller skirt. I find as a coordinator or photographer’s assistant, I can’t be running around everywhere with my bag of necessities. I usually tuck my emergency bag (stain removal, safety pins, Tylenol, batteries, sewing kit, that sort of thing) in a hidden corner, but pack my pockets with what I may need immediately. A shirt dress is charming, in cotton it will be comfortable in the heat, in silk or a dressy fabric can look retro-adorable for a more formal affair. Best of all, shirt dresses look cute with flat shoes. With dresses, you can be more creative with the color, but still don’t wear a shockingly bright color or print that draws attention to you. Choose a style that hits middle of the knee or longer so you have coverage when you need to crawl under a table or up a ladder. I like wearing such a dress so much for coordinating, I have considered hiring a seamstress to recreate my favorite full-skirt shirtdress in different fabrics and colors and even a full-length version for more formal weddings.

When it comes to shoes for such a profession, flat or almost flat shoes are a must, even if you don’t have bad feet. You’ll rarely get a chance to sit, and you will be walking on soft wet grass, cobblestone, gravel driveways, and slick dance floors. I have a couple pairs of shoes that are dedicated just to working weddings. One is a very low thick heel T-strap with a retro vibe that looks great with shirtdresses but I can wear for 12 hours without pain. Another is a leather sandal with thick soft straps that never dig and a very low wedge with a grippy rubber bottom that is great for garden weddings. For pantsuits, I have a pair of black flats that have arch support, and a pair of black ankle boots with a very slight wedge and nice grippy sole. The only non-black shoes are my T-straps, and they are patent leather so it’s easy to clean them off after a rainy day. Because I do wear a lot of black, my black shoes sort of disappear with the outfit, don’t show when they are splashed with mud, and can easily be polished and cleaned at home with a tin of Kiwi and a rag. I highly recommend getting shoes comfortably worn in before wedding to an event. Keep in mind your feet will swell with time and standing, so choose shoes that can handle that. While any color can do, it’s important to look professional and successful and to me, that means well-cared for shoes over trendy shoes. And if you wear open toes, you have to have a pedicure to have the whole look complete.

Speaking of beauty products, this is a way for you to look glam, festive, and polished. I choose long-wearing formulas of makeup and waterproof mascara so it stays in place when I don’t have time for touchups, and doesn’t run when I tear up during the vows or on a sweltering hot day. In your supply bag, tuck in powder or blotting sheets for when you can freshen up; I usually choose a tinted balm, gloss, or chubby stick for my lips that I can put on without looking in a mirror. I’ll stick my lip product in my pocket for quick refreshes on the go.

As for hair, I usually start with my hair up because I know it will end up in that manner after a few hours. By starting off that way, I can control how it looks. I often do a purposeful messy updo and hold with plenty of barrettes and humidity-proof hairspray, or else a topknot with sideswept bangs bobby-pinned in place. I then will myself to not fiddle with it so it remains polished throughout the day. Just in case, I usually tuck one of those elastic headbands and an extra hair elastic in my supply bag so if, hypothetically speaking, I have to reattach bunting to a rose-covered trellis and my hair gets caught in the thorns and looks as though I stuck my finger in an electric socket (oh no, this never happened to me, completely hypothetical), I can dash in the bathroom and pull the hair into a ponytail or bun and use the elastic to hold back wisps and bangs.

Though I know you are tired of having a work uniform, you may find having a new version of a uniform may make your days easier. Once you decide what sort of ensemble is perfect for you, consider a variety of that. I used to have three pairs of the same black suiting trousers because they had perfect drape, didn’t cling, and had pockets that could be filled without making me look lumpy. I had the same blazer in black, cream, and gray-blue because it fit perfectly, took well to Tide-to-Go pens, and again had pockets that could hold a lot without making me look lumpy. I’d love to have a wardrobe of shirt dresses with a wide belt (great for holding walkie-talkies), deep pockets, and in a variety of sorbet shades in silk, shantung, and cotton (and a couple black ones too!).

The overall goal is to look like someone who has taste, knows style and current trends, knows how to have a good time but still gets the job done. You don’t want to be a delicate flower who is afraid to get her hands dirty – I have gotten many new jobs from wedding guests who saw I was willing to go the extra mile to ensure perfection and an easy day for the couple. Control, confidence, class (and comfortable shoes!).

Best wishes on your new job!

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