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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 Not to Wear Your First Week of Work

Whether you are starting a new job, changing offices, or beginning an internship on the Hill, it’s important to start your new position on the right foot. While it is important to be yourself, there are some things you just should not wear the first week on the job, no matter where you are working. While the individuals who interviewed you may have seemed creative and open-minded, that doesn’t mean the rest of the office or your clients have the same opinion. Before you start showing off your sartorial chops, it’s important to get a lay of the land, and let your work speak before your clothing. Here’s some things you should hold off on wearing until you fully understand your new office culture:

Satin. Today I saw a freshly-scrubbed young woman walking from Starbucks carefully carrying two drink holders full of lattes. She looked nervous, not just because she was walking quickly with eight hot beverages, but probably because she is a new employee at a nearby firm. While she may impress with getting all the bigwigs’ coffee orders correct, she may lose some points for her dress. Lately, there is a trend of dresses that are made to look like two pieces – what may appear to be a button-down shirt and belted pencil skirt is actually one garment. She was wearing one of these, a black high-waisted pencil skirt with wide patent-leather belt, and a hot pink satin blouse with rhinestone buttons and puffed sleeves. She looked like a cocktail waitress, even with her scuffed faux Tory Burch flats.

If this dress had a cotton or even silk top, it would have been far more acceptable. However, satin catches the light in a manner than no other fabric can replicate – maybe that’s why it is the fabric preferred by dancers, prom attendees, and pageant queens. True Fashionistas may know how to make satin appropriate for the workplace, but the rest of us should leave such a fabric for After Five.

Patterned Hosiery. This is a travesty I see on a regular basis. A woman in a conservative suit and classic shoes decides to jazz up her ensemble with a pair of black lace tights. I understand the thought process behind this – patterned and textured hosiery has come back en vogue and it’s a budget-friendly and dress-code friendly way to add personality, femininity, or trends to your boring work suit. The problem is that such hose creates the same effect as satin – it cheapens the look and stands out in a non-professional manner.

Again, True Fashionistas will know how to make such hosiery work for the office, and there is many the tutorial on how to make textured tights workplace-friendly. However, don’t try this the first week of your job – get a lay of the land, and have the uptight conservative CEO get to understand you and your role before you flash the lacy gams his way.

Denim. I don’t care if your new job’s dress code says denim is fine, it’s not a good idea to wear as the newbie. As an old supervisor told me and I still believe – dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Even if the president of the corporation shows up in jeans and a golf shirt, find business casual outfits that don’t include dungarees. Cropped twill pants, regular trousers with a knit top, a simple cotton dress with cardigan and sandals – these are casual ensembles that won’t have you sticking out like a sore thumb yet show you’re serious about your position.

Short Skirts with Opaque Tights. A pair of super-thick black tights does not make that micro-mini Modcloth frock more work-appropriate. You still end up looking like Zooey Deschanel (who may be adorkable, but doesn’t dress for the corporate world). We’ll still see that curve of your thighs that some may find alluring, but shouldn’t see the light of day in an office. I’m not saying wear the dress sans tights – instead keep the dress in the closet and wear it to the next party or concert on your schedule.

Black Bra with Anything But Black (or a super-dark color). In the light of your bedroom, you may not see your black bra under your red blouse, but once you are under the fluorescent lights of an office, your lingerie is out for all the world to see. Fashionistas may purposely rock the contrast bra, but that doesn’t mean the CFO knows about this trend. Visible lingerie in Corporate America is a no-no; invest in a skin-colored smooth bra that will be invisible even under knits and lighter-weight blouses.

Trendy Makeup Colors. Neons are hot, orange has come back en vogue, and thanks to Jenna Lyons everyone (myself included) is wearing NARS Heatwave on their lips. However, such colors should be kept off your face until you are established at your workplace and understand it’s unique culture. Stick to subtle shades and neutrals – soft pinks, mauves, and browns are best not just for your lips but your entire face. Once they know you and you know them, you will know if it’s okay to wear Tangerine Tango lips or teal lids.

Sexy Shoes. Platform stilettos, caged sandals, sky-high wedges, anything metallic… such shoes will not make the best first impression at standard places of work. Stick to shoes with classically-shaped heels and toeboxes, day-friendly finishes (leather, patent in a subtle color, snakeskin), and standard silhouettes until you get to know the company and its higher-ups better.

Final Tips:

  • As I mentioned before – dress for the job you want, not the job you have
  • Consider not just your direct supervisor, but also the upper management – not only how they dress but how do the people below them that they respect dress.
  • Remember you are a representation of your company. Even if you don’t meet with clients, they may pass you in the hall as they head to a conference room, see you in the restroom, or even share an elevator with you.
  • If you’re unsure, leave it on the hanger. Better to start off a new job in a conservative manner than to shock people with your fashion sense.
  • Fit is more important than style or fashion. A well-fitting 10-year old suit makes a better impression than a too-tight or too-long trendy suit bought last week.

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Ask Allie: Plus Size Wedding Guest Dresses

All my friends are getting married, I have six weddings already that I know I am or will be invited to and I know more are coming. I’m single and haven’t had a boyfriend in two years and on top of that I’m a size 20 while all my friends are tiny. I don’t want to go to these weddings and get stuck at the single people table and be the sad lonely fat girl but I know I need to go. Any advice on what to wear to boost my confidence?

It doesn’t matter what you wear to these weddings, if you feel you are a lonely fat girl and sit at that singles table looking sad you will look like a sad lonely fat girl. The best way to get through these weddings and life in general is to have a blast. When you live life completely it shows; it alters your face, your posture, your energy. So put on your favorite lipstick, slip on some heels (and a pair of ballet slippers tucked into your purse for the end of the night), and rock your fabulous self in a dress that is as full of life and joy and you and the event you are attending.

My personal recommendation is to steer clear of black unless it is a defining factor in your personal style. While black is versatile and acceptable at most American weddings these days, it can have one think you’re uncomfortable in your skin or depressed. Many choose black because they feel it looks slimming but it’s not going to make you look drastically different and can give the wrong impression. On the other hand, don’t wear anything too crazy flamboyant; the day isn’t about you and you can still look fun and vivacious without too much bling or cleavage. A bit of shape is far more flattering to the figure than a loose tent and shows you know style and you know your body. And I can’t stress this enough – don’t be afraid to spend money on this dress. If you choose wisely and it’s not the same exact crowd at every event, you can wear it several times over the wedding season and also bring it out for holiday parties. The harsh truth is those of us who are larger or softer need to take more care with our purchases. Buy quality pieces, invest in tailoring for a custom fit. We’re not built like mannequins and cheap fabric, unlined garments, and poor fit can make us look bigger and sloppy. If between sizes, go up a size and then hit your local bridal boutique to find someone to tailor it to a custom fit. A few dresses that have caught my eye and I would think perfect for weddings:

plus size wedding guest dresses

  1. Calvin Klein Ruffle Front Sheath Dress: The chartreuse color is phenomenal; if you think you’re too fair to wear such a color look up pictures of pale fashionistas like Nicole Kidman who have rocked this hue. Pair with hot pink or tomato red lips and nude heels, with a statement shoe in another bold color and lots of lashes, or go glam with metallic heels and sparkly earrings. The fabric is the type that can dress up and down with ease and work all seasons of the year.
  2. ASOS CURVE Premium Placed Nautical Mesh Insert Dress: I love the bold pattern of this dress, the flippy skirt, and the fresh color combination that would be so nice at an outdoor wedding. Let the dress make the statement with nude shoes and simple accessories, or pump up the look with a bold pout and shoes. No need to stick to a nautical choice of red; orange, pink, Kelly green, and yellow would all look fantastic with this frock.
  3. Carmen Marc Valvo Floral Jacquard Cocktail Dress: This is an elegant dress that will make a statement without shouting. Keep it simple with nude or soft metallic heels, make it more formal with a rhinestone belt, or add a pop of color with D’orsay heels or a skinny belt in a signature shade (hot pink would be awesome). This dress is also available via Rent the Runway.
  4. Adrianna Papell Gardenia Dress: Tailored without being tight, a pleated skirt that is begging you to be twirled on the dancefloor, and a bunch of customer reviews stating this dress is perfect for a wedding makes this dress a winner. Wear as-is with nude or soft metallic shoes or add a bit of shine with a sparkly or metallic skinny belt.
  5. MYNT 1792 Sequin Stretch Asymmetrical Drape Dress: Don’t let the description fool you, these tiny sequins give more of a look of liquid metal than Studio 54. The silver is surprisingly versatile and can be dressed up and down with a change of makeup, hair, and accessories. In the winter wear with a black clutch and shoes; come spring choose a nude shoe to lengthen the leg and let the dress steal the spotlight.
  6. Little Mistress Floral Placement Skater Dress: This sweet dress is feminine, flirty, and figure flattering. Perfect for a spring wedding, you can also pair with a cardigan and wear to the office. Don’t be afraid to switch out the belt for one that better fits your personal style or to dress up and down the frock.
  7. Marina Rinaldi Plissé-Panel Dress: I know, more chartreuse! But it’s a seriously versatile color. Wear this dress with the included gray ribbon, switch out for a metallic or sparkly belt, or choose a belt or sash in a bold contrast color like cobalt, orange, or hot pink. The cut of this dress is also very flexible if you’re like me and may gain or lose weight throughout the year.
  8. ASOS CURVE Hitchcock Pencil Dress: Va-va-va-voom! This dress will surely make a statement, and the color makes sure you won’t blend in with all the other frocks on the dancefloor. Adjustable straps give a better fit, and the dark green works year round. Wear in the warmer months with nude or soft metallic, but bring the dress back out this winter and pair with black or sparkle for holiday fetes.

If you are unable to spend for a dress, consider renting.

  • You all know I am a fan of Gwynnie Bee – they are like Netflix for fashion. For a monthly fee you can rent everything from jeans to blazers to sweaters to dresses for work or play. The customer reviews help you decide which piece will work best for your figure and personal style, and you can send back a piece quickly in the pre-labeled shipping bag and get a new one from Gwynnie Bee in a jiffy.
  • Another option is Rent the Runway who now offers plus sizes. This is an especially great option if you’re attending a more formal wedding and don’t want to drop hundreds on a gown you’ll likely never wear again. However, Rent the Runway has dresses appropriate for weddings of all formality and the rental price is that of a cheaper dress that may not make as great of a statement. With stylist notes and plenty of customer reviews with photos, you can get a good feel of what dress would be perfect for your occasion.

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 Wear to Paris

packing paris what to wear capsule wardrobe carryon

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:

what to wear to paris capsule wardrobe europe 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!

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).

What to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise

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!


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  

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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#Whole30: What I Ate and How I Made it Work with a Family

whole30 what to eat

My husband is 6’5” tall and naturally thin and athletic. He runs daily, teaches yoga and practices it daily, and does pushups and jumping jacks for fun and to clear his mind. My daughter is an active five-year-old with typical five-year-old picky tastebuds. I am a 5’3″ woman who has struggled with her weight for the majority of her life.  My husband and I were vegetarian for several years, even through my pregnancy and nursing of our daughter which I think may be a reason why she has been slow to try or like meats and seafood. My husband is lactose intolerant, but we always have goat milk, goat cheese, and coconut-based frozen treats on hand; our daughter drinks goat milk happily but lives off kid-friendly cow dairy foodstuffs like cheese quesadillas, string cheese, and strawberry yogurt. We don’t drink soda unless it’s in a cocktail and we’re out somewhere, we’re not a dessert after dinner family, and when we do buy chips and cookies they and/or natural ingredients.

In all honesty, I thought we ate pretty healthy. For breakfast, I’d have oatmeal with coconut oil and maybe some fruit and coffee. When Emerson wakes, I’ll make her a PB&J or toast with butter and a yogurt and a glass of water with her vitamins. When I pack her lunch for camp (and next week KINDERGARTEN!) it’s usually PB&J again (luckily she likes whole grain bread), a box of 100% juice, and two sides (string cheese, Goldfish, pretzels, fruit, a couple Fig Newtons, etc.). For dinner, we try to eat together but a couple times it’s often me feeding Emerson at 6:30 (leftover chicken, maybe some steamed shrimp, plain pasta, drained and rinsed beans straight from the can, maybe pizza, various veggies just steamed/nuked and water) and then Karl and I eating at 8:45 when Emerson’s in bed. Emerson’s snacks are usually fruit; berries are the preferred snack in the summer, winter is often apples with peanut butter and Karl often makes smoothies with goat milk, ice, and various frozen or fresh fruit.

Adult dinners are usually a protein, a vegetable, and sometimes a starch. My husband is famous for making every dinner seem like Thanksgiving with too much food. He’ll cook a beer can chicken on the grill AND steam shrimp AND roast potatoes AND steam green beans AND make a salad full of nuts and chickpeas and bacon bits and goat cheese. While this made for easy lunches the next day of leftovers, I would often eat more than I wanted to taste it all, and show appreciation for his hard work.

My biggest issue was what I ate when I wasn’t home. While I would occasionally gorge on table water crackers and goat cheese or a bag of organic potato chips or leftover pasta my breakfasts and lunches were my true downfall. I’d be running late in the morning from hitting snooze 100 times, so I’d stop at 7-Eleven of McDonald’s for breakfast and a sugary iced coffee drink and gobble it all down in DC traffic. I’d have another cup of java at 10am at the office, with vanilla coffee creamer and Splenda, and sometimes a snack size candy bar from my boss’ office. Lunch was what I could grab quick from the places within a block of the office – Subway, Chipotle, sushi, a premade salad from one of the cafes, or the pay-per-pound hot and salad buffet. There’s a drug store on the main floor of my building and I’d often go down there for a pick-me-up of a jarred Frappucinno, maybe a bag of candy, or if my day was really bad, a bag of Tostidos and a jar of queso. With a Starbucks on every street corner, it was easy to treat myself to a Java Chip Frappucinno (done light, no whip, but Venti please thank you) in the afternoon or on a Saturday after Emerson’s ballet class. When I went out with friends, it was a time to stop counting calories and I’d enjoy all the fatty brunch goodness, all the wine or Jack and Gingers, all the potato chips and nachos and midnight McDonald’s or Silver Diner runs.

So what did I eat when I went Whole30, and what did my family eat?


I planned two weeks ahead of time to do Whole30, and I didn’t ask my husband but told him I was doing it. If my doctor said I had to start a certain diet, I wouldn’t ask permission and I treated this as a health issue not a diet/weightloss scheme. To get him on board, I printed out recipes, PDFs from the Whole30 site, bought a cookbook, and regularly shared with him factoids I learned from reading the book. Karl is the primary cook and grocery buyer in the family, so I needed to win his support. By time I was ready to start he still thought it was ridiculous and complicated, but agreed to make dinners that COULD be Whole30 (like he’d make a separate side of pasta or eat his with a bun).

We already used mainly coconut and olive oils and we don’t fry foods very often, so that wasn’t a hard transition. The biggest change was smaller less obvious issues like Worcestershire and soy sauce, nitrates, carrageenan, canola oil, and the hidden bad ingredients in everyday condiments and snacks. No, can’t eat that can of soup, nope can’t eat that brand of smoked salmon though this one is okay, yep we need to buy organic hot dogs, nope can’t eat that potato salad or your fabulous salmon marinade. But having prep time, I could research alternatives – homemade mayo, coconut aminos, brands without nitrates.

We used the two weeks to clean the kitchen of a lot of non-plan foods and learn how to cook with new to us ingredients like coconut aminos or ghee. We didn’t try to be Whole30, but dip in a toe and realize these new foods weren’t so bad and some of the recipes could be downright delicious.

Grocery Shopping

There’s no way you’ll be successful with Whole30 if you don’t prepare by having your home full of delicious compliant foods. Delicious is key. Start off with things you know you’ll like; while Whole30 is a great time to try new foods, if you don’t have meals you can rely on you’re going to get frustrated. I made it MY responsibility and no one else’s to have the kitchen stocked with what I needed, even if that meant grocery shopping at 11pm after a long day at work.  What I bought to prepare:

  • Coconut oil
  • Coconut milk – my grocery had the Polar brand full-fat for $1/can so I bought 10!
  • Protein – organic ground beef, Italian sausage, chicken thighs, organic hot dogs, organic bacon (if it was on sale I bought extra and froze), smoked salmon (my local grocery has three brands and the mid-priced one had no nitrates/nitrites), frozen tilapia fillets, flash frozen mussels and shrimp
  • Avocados (I started with 4)
  • Eggs (two cartons)
  • Jarred and canned olives – the cheapy type, the fancy type, and everything in between
  • Sweet potatoes (my grocery has a microwavable bag of four sweet potatoes that makes things super easy)
  • Salsa (check the ingredients)
  • Marinara (check ingredients first)
  • Fresh vegetables – zucchini, a spaghetti squash, onions, cucumbers, fresh spinach, green peppers, celery, carrots
  • Frozen vegetables – chopped spinach, whole green beans, peas, broccoli
  • Ghee
  • Fruit – cherries, blueberries, raspberries, plums, watermelon
  • Regular as well as extra virgin olive oil
  • Sliced raw almonds

If your local grocery doesn’t have a lot of these ingredients, don’t despair and head to Amazon! There’s tons of grocery items on there with lots of reviews to pick the best thing. A few I ordered:

The Day Before

I cooked up ground beef and put it in the fridge. I cooked up a packet of bacon, drained the fat to keep for cooking and put the slices in the fridge. I hard boiled three eggs. I cut up celery, carrots, and peppers for easy crudité snacking. I poured one can of coconut milk in a mason jar to take to work, and two more cans in a jar to keep in our fridge at home. And I packed my lunch – no excuses! As for what I ate:


After my walk I’d be starving, so it was easy to make a big breakfast. Psychologically, pulling out the big frying pan seemed complicated so I’d take a small saucepan, coat the bottom with ghee or bacon fat (we pour it into a Pyrex container and keep it in the fridge for cooking) and cook up three eggs. My favorite egg combos:

  • Over wilted spinach
  • With half an avocado, bit of thinly sliced red onion and smoked salmon
  • Chop up two leftover pieces of bacon and a bit of chopped onion
  • Made into hash with a leftover already cooked sweet potato and some leftover protein from dinner
  • With green pepper, onion, and shredded leftover chicken
  • With ground beef, salsa, and sliced black olives

I’d drink a glass of water before my walk, one right after, and one with breakfast. Whole30 says to make coffee part of a meal, but it was really hard psychologically to not have my travel mug for the commute so I bent the rules and had mine about 30 minutes after breakfast, with coconut milk.  A big thing I need to stress is you need to get out of your head that only CERTAIN things are for breakfast. Veggies can be downright delicious with eggs or other proteins and I got to where broccoli before noon sounded awesome.


Once I went to Chipotle and got a burrito bowl no beans or veggies (wasn’t sure what they were cooked in), no rice, but got steak, guacamole, salsa and lettuce. Once I went to District Taco and got pretty much the same. Twice I forgot my lunch and went to the pay-per-pound buffet and made a big salad of veggies, crumbled egg, grilled chicken, oil and vinegar. Otherwise I brought my lunch. A few things I ate:

  • Shredded lettuce, tomatoes, ground beef, avocado, onions, jalapenos and a bit of ranch dressing
  • Leftover sweet potato with ghee, ground beef, fresh spinach (heat for 90 seconds so everything gets all delish and melded)
  • Smoked salmon, avocado, thinly sliced red onion and hard-boiled egg
  • Ground beef with marinara, black olives, fresh tomatoes and spinach, all cooked together
  • Spinach, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, cucumbers, any other fresh veggies, sliced almonds, avocado
  • Shrimp cocktail with a side salad


Dinner is Karl’s domain and he used this opportunity to get creative with both the grill and the crock pot. A few favorites:

  • Crock Pot chicken (just chicken breasts and a container of salsa, makes for great leftovers over lettuce)
  • Zoodles (Karl and Emerson had regular spaghetti, I’d spiralize zucchini, we’d share the same marinara)
  • Grilled mussels (melt a little ghee for dipping)
  • Taco Night (we’d grill chicken or make ground beef and have a station set up. Karl and Emerson would have tortillas and shredded goat cheddar, Emerson may have some black beans, and I’d just put meat in a bowl and veggies and olives and avocado on top)
  • Grilled or steamed shrimp (something Emerson would eat; Karl would roll into a wrap with veggies, Em would eat plain with a side of veggies, I’d eat often on a salad)
  • Steak and baked sweet potatoes and a veggie side (usually whole green beans since Emerson will eat them)
  • Coconut aminos glazed salmon with grilled asparagus (if it gets crispy, Emerson will even eat one or two! Usually we’d just give her a small bit of salmon, a handful of beans, and some green vegetable)
  • Grilled chicken thighs and roasted Brussels sprouts or another roasted veggie (often would just give Emerson some leftover non-roasted veggie, though we found she liked roasted broccoli and roasted baby carrots)
  • Whole roasted chicken with mixed potatoes (potatoes became compliant near the end of my Whole30 and we enjoyed it with the little bags at the grocery of baby white, red, and blue potatoes – Emerson would eat red and white and liked chicken breast) and usually a side salad or some sautéed spinach


Veggies can be the hardest things for many families to incorporate. We normally eat a lot but can get into a rut. Some of the fun veggies we ate during Whole30 that were far more interesting than microwaved green beans or peas:

  • Spray fresh asparagus with olive oil (I have a Misto and it’s great), sprinkle with kosher salt and put on the grill or roast until they get crispy and a bit blackened
  • Fresh Brussels sprouts, cut in half (or baby carrots, or broccoli heads), combine with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until done to your liking, stirring occasionally
  • Put a bit of olive oil in a pan and cook up some chopped garlic (your choice the amount), then add bunches of spinach, as they wilt down, add more, sauté and add if you wish, a touch of nutmeg or crushed red pepper.
  • Do the same thing, but with cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Spiralize zucchini, sauté with olive oil or ghee, garlic, finely chopped onion and crushed red pepper. If you like creamy spicy sauces, at the end add a couple tablespoons of coconut milk
  • Steamed artichokes with Whole30 Hollandaise
  • Zucchini cakes (there’s lots of recipes out there that use almond or coconut flour, we just did shredded zucchini, eggs, and spices and fried them up in bacon grease, though coconut oil would also be great) served with Old Bay mayo because gosh knows why, they do taste like crab cakes
  • We did this recipe for broccoli fritters because we felt terrible tossing the broccoli stalks, but with coconut flour and they were good!
  • Spaghetti squash; I liked it with coconut milk and crushed red pepper, it’s good cold with salsa, warm with marinara, or sauted with olive oil and garlic
  • Zoodled zucchini, squash, sweet potatoes (hello sweet potato baked curly fries!)

Whole30 and My Family

Getting my husband on board at first was a struggle.  I’ll admit the first week we didn’t eat together very often. I was so hungry once I got home from work I had to start cooking right away, while he liked to eat more like 8-9pm. So I would cook early, make enough for both of us and if he didn’t want it, I’d take it for lunch the next day. I never got mad at him because though this was for my health and our future, I didn’t let him have a say in the situation. So instead of getting angry or frustrated, I just made my own meals and bought my own groceries. But the thing is, Whole30 isn’t as complicated and crazy as people imagine it to be and after seeing me make delicious and uncomplicated meals, he got on board.

Emerson is at an age where we can say try, and if you don’t like it, that’s okay as long as you tried. Whole30 was excellent for this because she tried steak, salmon, potatoes, asparagus, and cooked carrots either for the first time or again and enjoyed them. However, we always had in the fridge already cooked pasta, drained beans, peas, and various fruit so if she wasn’t feeling adventurous there was a backup plan.

I didn’t stop buying her normal food, but I did choose to not buy that which would tempt me. Pasta is a weakness, but I like some types more than others so I’d get her plain spaghetti, farafelle, and ziti which aren’t my favorite. I can put a hurting on Triscuits, Wheat Thins, table water crackers, and Cheez-Its so I’d buy her Ritz and saltines which I don’t like. I bought her yogurt in small containers so I wouldn’t be tempted to take a scoop from the tub; the same for cheese – we only bought string cheese or goat cheddar so I didn’t grab a handful of mozzarella. Instead of ice cream pops we bought popsicles.  I taught Emerson to take her plate into the kitchen after she ate and run water on it, even if there was still half a piece of pizza, a bunch of veggies, or a pile of beans. If it was covered with water I couldn’t nosh.  Karl and Emerson don’t have a sweet tooth but like M&Ms, so they bought peanut butter ones (I don’t like) to prevent temptation and Karl had them be the only chocolate in the house. We also took a break from fig Newtons and stuck to pre-packaged sweet treats I don’t like, such as Bunny Fruit Snacks.

Karl helped me out by keeping potato and tortilla chips out of the house, and Karl was far more accepting of Whole30 dinners since he could eat whatever he wanted for breakfast, lunch, and snacks since I wasn’t home to witness it. We also decided that cutting down on dining out not only would make Whole30 easier, but save money for groceries.

If you don’t have family support for Whole30, you are NOT alone. The Whole30 community on Facebook, the Whole9 forums, blogs, and other message boards is immense and so friendly. Don’t give up before you have begun, do some online research, create a support system, it CAN be done!

Though Karl does 90% of the grocery shopping, Whole30 shopping was my responsibility. I couldn’t then be angry if he forgot to get avocados, and I knew the fridge would have things at the ready for me to eat. Sunday nights I would prep, cooking up ground beef or chicken, making sure I had coconut milk for work, cut veggies to quickly grab. I didn’t wait to eat with Karl the nights he taught because I knew late-night eating meant more chance for me to eat off Emerson’s dinner plate.

I was very careful to never say diet in front of Emerson. When she’d offer me a bite from her plate and ask why I refused, I’d say I don’t want any right now, I’m saving my appetite for dinner, something where I never said her food was bad or my body was bad or that there was anything different. When she asked to order pizza for dinner, I didn’t mention how I couldn’t eat it but suggested a place that had salads or plan-friendly entrees for me and something she enjoyed as much as pizza like chicken fingers or shrimp. In fact with Whole30 as a whole, Emerson hardly recognized the change. She never tasted the difference between ghee and butter, didn’t notice that she was the only one eating pasta or pizza. We didn’t mention it, she didn’t analyze it.

It’s easy when starting a new diet or lifestyle change to immediately see the problems with it. Oh gosh, I’ll be cooking for three!  What will I do for the post-swim meet pizza parties? I hate coconuts/avocados/red meat!  But honestly because Whole30 is simple foods and not a bunch of pre-packaged, pre-portioned foods, it’s actually easier to incorporate it into your family’s diet. I won’t get preachy about what your family eats, but the food you eat on Whole30 is really most of the food you should already be eating.  Like Karl and Emerson, it’s easy for them to add bread, rolls, tortillas, pasta, and rice to their meals without sacrificing your Whole30.  If they had dessert, I left the table to do something else (because we all know an apple is NOT equal to cookies or ice cream).  Yes, that’s added temptation but as the graphic says in my last Whole30 post, nothing tastes as good as healthy feels, and if you can hold off for just 30 days you can try those things again (and if you’re like me, after 30 days you may not miss them!).



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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Ask Allie: Vegas Bound – What to Wear

I’m heading to Las Vegas for my friend’s 30th birthday and I have NO IDEA WHAT TO PACK! I live in a small town where a night out is the local bar or Ruby Tuesday’s and I usually just wear what I was wearing all day. I’m not a skinny gal and am pretty freaked out by all I see online where it’s skinny girls in bikinis and little dresses and heels. Any advice for a fellow curvy married gal who wants to have fun but not look insane? THANK YOU!

There will be seriously every style and look imaginable in Vegas, so don’t feel that EVERYONE is dressing a certain way. No need to go out and buy an entire sequined-covered wardrobe for this trip.

Nightclub Attire
Most nightclubs have dress codes, so it’s better to dress up than down for the evening. That means leave your shorts, flip flops, and logoed tee shirts in the hotel room. Think of it as a festive version of Business Casual. You can’t go wrong with an LBD, it’s something you can re-wear, and you can amp it up for Vegas with more dramatic accessories and makeup. Color is great too – a fun cocktail dress with a bit of sex appeal and some fabulous shoes that still let you dance all night is a smart choice.

Evening Attire (Casinos, Shows, Nice Restaurants)
Again, leave the shorts, flip flops, sneakers, and tees at home. A sundress, a cute skirt or pants with a blouse, or even the LBD you plan on wearing to the club is a smart choice. Again, a concept of Festive Business Casual is a good rule of thumb and it’s better to err on the side of overdressed than underdressed.

Sightseeing Attire
During the day, you will be going from frigid air conditioned casinos to the sweltering hot temps outside on the Strip. A simple sundress or shorts are perfect; be sure to wear comfortable sandals or shoes because you will be doing a LOT of walking. To protect against the sun, wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, and reapply that sunscreen often. A crossbody not only lets your hands be free, but also is better at preventing pickpockets. Be sure to tuck a cardigan in your bag to be comfortable indoors.

Pool Attire
It may seem intimidating to imagine a poolside full of slim women in string bikinis, but do know there are people of all shapes, sizes, and styles in Vegas. Take a suit (or two!) that flatters your figure and makes you feel confident. I usually go with the LBD of swimsuits – something black that supports the breasts, whittles the waist, and makes me feel svelte and sexy. As with the LBD at the danceclub, if you have a simple dress then have fun with accessories – a big floppy hat, fabulous sunglasses, a festive coverup or caftan and metallic sandals.

Additional Tips:

  • In Vegas you can carry off things you may not be comfortable rocking at home. Caftans at poolsize, sequined mini skirts, giant floppy sunhats. It’s a good time to wear all those items you own but fear wearing in town!
  • It’s hot outside. Drink lots of water, especially if you’re drinking alcohol. Keep reapplying that sunscreen, and give yourself some breaks.
  • You’re going to walk more than you think. Get some comfortable sandals for the daytime (and that doesn’t mean cheapy flip flops) and consider getting a pair of foldable flats to tuck in your bag for your nights of clubbing.
  • Enjoy yourself, and let others enjoy themselves. This is not the time to be stressing out about your appearance. The goal of the trip is to HAVE FUN! Enjoy the experience with your girl friends, a great smile and laugh is the best accessory you can wear. One is more conspicuous when they are feeling awkward and trying to hide their figure than when they are just enjoying the moment. Your participation and experience is far more important than what you pack in your suitcase. Have a blast!

 Have you been to Las Vegas?  What are you suggestions for what to wear?

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What To Wear: Interviews, Conferences, Business Trips

After years in different jobs in the corporate arena, I have learned to have a staple career wardrobe.  These are pieces that are versatile, work with one another, and have me ready for whatever my job throws my way.  Below I address three common work situations and what to wear for these events.  You’ll see I reuse the same pieces – there’s no need for an enormous wardrobe to be stylish and professional.  If you shop smart, knowing when to invest and when to budget, you can have a hard-working career wardrobe that will support you through all work experiences, including the ones below.


The Interview
Each great job starts with a great interview.  While dress code will vary depending on the field of work, you can’t go wrong with a well-tailored black pantsuit.  Black is a versatile color that can then be used in other aspects of your life – you can dress up with silk heels and sparkly jewelry for a cocktail party or wear the pieces separately in your everyday work wardrobe.  A pantsuit is a safe bet that will keep you from stressing over hosiery and will be appropriate no matter the time of year.  Buy a suit free of adornments, embellishments, and memorable details so it can be worn over and over for many years to come.  Popular retailers like Ann Taylor and J. Crew sell quality suiting at reasonable prices – stalk their clearance racks and you may be able to find a classic and stylish suit for up to 50% off retail.

Don’t be afraid to show your personality in your interview ensemble – choosing a shell in a signature color with an interesting neckline will help your interviewers understand you better as a person.  A solid color is a better choice as it will also be more versatile in your everyday work wardrobe.  Be sure that no cleavage is showing and that you can take off your jacket without exposing lingerie or too much skin.  A sleeveless or short-sleeve blouse will be more comfortable when you’re sweating or getting hot with the stress of the situation.  This is a piece you could find at any pricepoint – as long as it fits well and is modest, you could find a great blouse anywhere from Goodwill to Target to your favorite department store.

As for accessories, keep them simple, polished, and classic.  A structured handbag large enough to hold a copy of your resume or laptop is a wise choice – as with the suit keep it free of too many details so it is professional and timeless.  As for shoes, any heel height can work as long as the shoe has structure, simple details, and a polished finish.  A leather pump with anything from ½” to 3” heel is appropriate, choose a closed toe so that it is appropriate no matter how conservative the office environment.  This is a type of shoe that can be worn anywhere from the office to a wedding to a funeral so it’s smart to invest in a pair that fits well and is crafted with care.  As for jewelry, feel free to wear it but be sure it doesn’t wear you – keep the bold statement necklaces, jangly bangles, and chandelier earrings for another occasion.


The Conference
Whether you are attending representing your company or attending to learn new skills, a conference is a regular aspect of corporate life.  While you want to look professional, this is an environment where you can be a bit more relaxed, and also truly showcase your personality.

Wearing clothes with stretch (stretch wool, ponte, heavyweight jersey) will keep you looking crisp after hours of sitting and socializing.  I recommend wearing color so you stand out in a crowd of gray, navy, and black.  A signature piece is also helpful so people will remember you as the woman with the leopard-print belt, the purple scarf, the green snakeskin pumps.  Wear layers or pack a cardigan in your tote for conference rooms can really blast the A/C.

Carry a structured bag, but one that is large enough to hold your iPad or laptop as well as all the swag you will collect from vendors.  A bag similar to the one for an interview is perfect, though in this environment a color would be acceptable.


The Business Trip
Often you will have to travel by car, train, or plane to another location and head right into a meeting.  It’s important to have on hand an ensemble that can survive hours of sitting and still look crisp for your client.

A variation of the interview ensemble is a great choice, and another reason to invest in a quality black pantsuit.  To be budget-friendly, I have kept the black pantsuit and pumps as the foundation.  The interview bag would also be a wise choice – it is already in your wardrobe and can hold all your meeting essentials while looking professional.  Since you will be traveling, it is wise to wear a blouse that has a lot of stretch to it.  Many knits can look too casual, a silk jersey or matte jersey will look professional while keeping its shape all day.  A blouse with at least a cap sleeve will be professional enough to wear on its own if it’s warm.  As with the interview blouse, this is something you can find at most any pricepoint as long as you look out for good fit, structure, and fabric.  This is also a piece you can wear time and time again – with trousers or a skirt to the office and even with jeans for a night out with the girls.  To keep your jacket crisp, I recommend not wearing it until you arrive at your destination; to ward off chill (and also have an alternate look if you wish to go out to dinner after the meeting), consider a cardigan or soft jacket in a complementary color.

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What to Wear and Pack for a Jam Band Concert

Last night I went to see Furthur in concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland. For those who haven’t heard of this band, Furthur was founded in 2009 by former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. It’s a jam band that performs music mainly from the Grateful Dead, as well as their own original music and the occasional cover of a familiar artist. The concert scene is pretty awesome – they have a Shakedown Street of vendors offering everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to Grateful Dead tapestries, everyone tailgates in the parking lot and walks around getting to know one another, and the concert audience is full of dancing and friend-making.

We had lawn seats, which meant sitting on grass (well actually, more like dancing on grass). There was a very good chance of thunderstorms and they day was over 100 degrees, so it was important to dress and pack for the weather to ensure a fun time.

me & my sister, with my husband, my VIP pass, with friends backstage

What I Wore:

  • My Lands’ End linen sundress (seen here), though this weekend I got crafty and dyed it blue
  • Softspots “Ventura” sandals
  • My two gray bead and cord J. Crew necklaces
  • My long silver chain with my “Emerson” pendant as well as a cartouche of my name I have had since high school
  • Silver hoops
  • My silver cuff
  • Tan suede J. Crew bag (it’s beat up, it’s big, it’s sort of my concert bag – seen here)

When going to such a concert, wear something that you can, in the words of Ron Popeil, set it and forget it. Something that doesn’t require you to constantly adjust your straps, to pull clinging fabric from your rear, to wear constricting underpinnings. Something that lets you lie or sit on the ground, spin in a circle, jump with glee. I learned a lot about such attire from my years at Bonnaroo and have actually created uniforms for such events. Crisp cotton dress with moisture-wicking bike shorts underneath (for modesty when on the ground and also to prevent chafing). Shoes that won’t slip off when wet. A cotton bandanna or scarf to mop the brow or wear over the hair to protect the scalp from the sun. A bag that can become a crossbody. I started the evening with my hair in a loose braid, but humidity got the best of me and I quickly changed to a messy updo. As it got more humid, I ended up using a barrette to hold back my bangs so I didn’t have to futz with them.

What I Packed:

Who wants to go to a concert with a week’s worth of luggage? Also, who wants to go to a show and be miserable? Live music is a passion of my husband and me so we have learned over time how to pack without it being a burden. Everything (even the chairs!) fit into my tote:

We were going to take a packable blanket (similar) since the ground could have possibly been wet, but we forgot it and I’m glad because it would have had my bag busting at the seams.


Many go all out with tailgating – EZ-ups, camp chairs, games and decorations. We do a pretty simplistic tailgate – we ate before we arrived, so we just opened the tailgate of my Kia and had a cooler of beer (and a bottle of champagne which was fun). You can’t drink out of bottles in the Merriweather parking lot, so my sister brought reusable plastic cups. When finished we headed to the lawn.


We had a lot of friends and neighbors going so we were able to find them via texts and set up camp a little left of the center of the field, halfway up. While we could see the stage from where we were, it was like watching ants perform, so I really relied on the Jumbotron. And really, while Furthur is a group of ultra-talented individuals, going to their show is more about the entire experience, not just watching them play instruments.

my husband dressing for the weather, not for the crowd


Speaking of the experience… this is not the type of concert to worry about how you look. I wore B.B. Cream, waterproof mascara, and tinted lip balm. After less than an hour I pretty much had a bare face from sweating so much. My hair was sopping wet from sweat and humidity, and it was important to have shoes that would give you grip on a slippery glass slope or in case of rain. No white, since it could get dirty with grass stains and transparent with rain and sweat. Nothing delicate or hard to launder, and nothing that would prohibit you from shaking your booty all night long. I saw a few women in the audience who were more concerned with staying polished and dry instead of having fun and I felt bad for them. The most beautiful women at concerts are those who were dancing as if no one was watching. And really, no one was watching, they were all there to enjoy the music and the energy. If in doubt, wear what makes you feel comfortable and free.

To say I had a great time would be putting it mildly. It never ended up raining and the temperature dropped to the 80s (though still quite humid). I spend the entire night dancing my butt off – that type of dancing that you do in your bedroom with the curtains shut. This was an environment where such dancing is welcomed and encouraged. Strangers would pass by and dance with you for a moment, guys would give you a twirl as you passed their spot on the lawn. By the end of the show I looked as though I had taken a shower in my sundress!

After the Show:

A friend of mine is friends with one of the members of Furthur so I was able to go backstage after the concert. I had the opportunity to go backstage at Merriweather for the Lilith Fair, but it was still terribly exciting sounding. In fact, we just hung out in a large screened-in porch drinking bottled water at picnic tables. A few members of the band joined us and we greeted them, those who were friends chatted them up more, and we left after a short bit to catch up with the rest of our crew.

Shakedown Street was still up after the show and it was where many congregated for a post-show snack or to buy various merchandise. By time we were out there, it was breaking down so there wasn’t much to see. However, by leaving late it was a breeze to get out of the lot and on the highway back home!

Merriweather for the Furthur show, via their Facebook Page

Jam Band Concert Misconceptions:

Everyone is on Drugs. Nope, this is not true at all. While there are people who do at such shows (and honestly at concerts for every genre of music), it’s not one big drug fest. Do not hold back from attending such a show because you don’t do drugs – I promise you that you will not be the only one and you will not feel as though you stick out in the crowd. In fact, I saw very few people who were “messed up,” be it on drugs or alcohol.

Everyone is Drunk. Also not true. I was designated driver, so after a beer at tailgate, I stopped drinking. I was definitely not the only one. Many take their families to jam band concerts because of the friendly crowd – I saw many a stable, sober parent with his teenagers, moms with babies, and gaggles of sober friends relaxing on the lawn drinking lemonade and having a great time.

You Need to Know the Band’s Music. While jam bands can have some fiercely loyal fans who follow them from venue to venue, it’s also a welcoming environment to those new to the artist, band, or scene. While I know a few Grateful Dead songs, I am surely not a Deadhead and this was my very first Furthur concert. When I told people it was my first Furthur show I was greeted with smiles, hugs, and those happy to share in my exciting new experience.

You Need to Be a Hippie (or at least dress like one). I saw frat boys, gals in Lily Pulitzer, dads in polo shirts. No one cares what you do for a living or what brand you are wearing. The only thing that is not acceptable is a negative attitude or judgment on those around you. I wore clothes already in my closet – a simple sundress and sandals. In fact, you will feel more awkward if you dress in some sort of costume.

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Ask Allie: What to Wear for Family Portraits

I have a question regarding family pictures. We have an extended family picture coming up and we have been asked to wear any combination of khaki, white, and jean. Do you have any suggestions that will look hip yet appropriate? Thanks so much!

With a husband who occasionally shoots family portraits, I have seen all sorts of combinations of family ensembles in this color story – some that look fantastic, and some that make relatives all look like employees of Blockbuster. There are ways to make the family look cohesive yet still stylish. Here’s some outfit suggestions for a white/khaki/denim color story:

  • Chambray shirtdress. I love this one from Lands’ End, and you could pull in khaki with a woven belt, or be complementary with brown leather belt and sandals.
  • Khaki boatneck sweater with a denim pencil skirt or denim trousers. Clean, simple lines are always in style; add a bit of personality with a simple necklace (small pendant or strand of pearls).
  • Khaki twinset with pleated chambray skirt. You can do a variation of this with a white tank, or with a weathered blue cardigan and khaki skirt. Flatter the figure by putting a belt over the cardigan – a skinny belt is on trend and looks great with slim figures, a wider belt at the bottom of the ribcage flatters the smallest part of a curvy figure and creates an hourglass shape.
  • White scoop, v-neck or surplice (wrap-style) shell with denim blazer, khaki wide-leg trousers or skirt. A small amount of white will work in such a situation, and the combination of the lower necked shell and the collar of the jacket can be quite flattering. Keep the blazer tailored and free of shoulder pads, puffed sleeves, or dramatic collars so you look slim and classic.
  • White shell with khaki blazer or belted cardigan and jeans. Again, a peek of white is not a problem when you have a lot of other colors in the outfit. This is a combination where you can really show your style – you could do a fitted cargo jacket with the sleeves rolled, a ribbed v-neck cardigan with a khaki patent skinny belt, a cashmere crewneck with your grandmother’s brooch, a Chanel-esque tweed collarless jacket with a strand of pearls. If you do wear traditional denim on the bottom, either have it very dark and crisp, or go the opposite way with a distressed boyfriend jean. Anything in the middle can look dated quite quickly and can also clash with the other denim in the picture. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but stonewashed and novelty denim can come in such a variety of colors, shades, and styles there is much room for bad choices.
  • An atypical chambray shirt with khaki cropped trousers or skirt. This bow blouse from Brooks Brothers (on sale!) will keep with the color story without making you stand out or look like a Blockbuster employee. This chambray top from Gap (also on sale!) also sticks with the color theme but adds some style to your ensemble – it also would look cute with narrow jeans without looking like a Texas Tuxedo.  Pair this chambray tunic from J. Jill with khaki jeggings and a pair of tall boots for a chic casual look.

A color story is a good idea so that no one stands out or distracts. Having a variety of three colors is nice so while the look is cohesive, everyone has more ability to show their personality.
A few tips on flattering photographs:

  • Don’t wear white on top (unless everyone else is). White, black, and very bright colors can create a very strong contrast and make it difficult for the photographer to have a balanced picture. It can also reflect the colors around you. If the group decided to all wear white or all wear black it can work, but if only one or two are wearing such a color they can really throw off the balance of the photograph.
  • Wear sleeves. The eye is drawn to contrast, and a bare arm or leg can be more distracting than a busy print. Even if it’s warm out and you have two tickets to the gun show, a sleeve will be a better choice for a group portrait.
  • Wear stretch. During a photography session you may end up reclining in the sand, kneeling in grass, sitting and standing over and over. Make sure your ensemble looks as great with the first take as with the 50th with a bit of Lycra. While you’re at it, a few strategically placed safety pins inside a button-down can keep your shirt from gaping in various poses.
  • Remember the feet. Group portraits are usually full-length, so put as much thought into your shoes as your ensemble. No ratty worn-down sandals, gym shoes, flip flops, or uber-trendy chunky flatforms or platforms. A simple pump, flat, or boot is your best bet. If the group has decided on being barefoot, be sure you have a fresh pedicure.
  • Up the makeup. Natural light, flash photography, fitting multiple faces into one attractive photograph… all of these can wash your face out, and draw attention to ruddiness and shine. No need to look like Tammy Faye, but consider taking your beauty routine up a notch – if you usually just wear concealer consider adding powder, try a lipstick in a slightly darker or brighter shade, add a second coat of mascara.
  • Steer clear of patterns. Patterns can confuse and distract the eye; even a simple stripe can steal the show in a group photograph. The same holds true for shiny fabrics or bold accessories. This is a photograph displaying a family unit, not individuals – dress to support the team.
  • Test drive your outfit. Does it wrinkle easily? If you bend over is your bra on display? Does the blouse need to be re-tucked after each sitting? It’s best to find out these things at home and not at the shoot.
  • Let your hair down. You wouldn’t believe how many times I see women arrive for photo shoots with their hair in a topknot, ponytail, or some sort of half-updo. While this style may look great while you’re running around town, in a still photograph it can be quite unflattering. When you are photographed head-on in a group, that bit of hair in a bun or ponytail disappears into the background, leaving you with a small exposed skull decorated only by two very visible ears. I find it more important to focus on your hair than your ensemble – your outfit will blend in with your family, but your head is what will be remembered for years to come.
  • Think style, not fashion. This photograph will end up poster size over your Great Aunt’s fireplace for the next two decades, you don’t want to cringe each time you catch a glimpse of yourself with a Katniss braid, oversized glasses, orange lips, a mullet skirt and shooties. Even if your personal style veers towards the avant garde, take it down a notch for this situation to respect your family, and your reputation come five years from now.

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