Search Results for: label/what to wear when

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?
 
Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?
 
I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?
 
Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

I am not sure why the world thinks women over a size 12 don’t hold professional jobs. They must think that with the poor selection of career wear for plus-sized women. While quality suits and stylish business casual clothing does exist, it’s hard to find. Below I feature some brands who realize that just because you wear a larger size doesn’t mean you wish to sacrifice style, quality, or professionalism.

If you’re plus sized, I’m sure you already know about Lane Bryant, Avenue, Ashley Stewart, One Stop Plus/Woman Within/Roamans/Jessica London, and other retailers who specialize in plus size fashion. Below are some suggestions on brands I know who aren’t the typical shops, and who provide quality, well-crafted and stylish career wear in plus sizes

Nordstrom
I know, I know, Nordstrom again? Thing is, they offer a great selection of quality brands and style for plus sizes. MICHAEL Michael Kors, Rachel Palley, Calvin Klein, Karen Kane, Eileen Fisher, Tahari Woman, Vince Camuto, Kenneth Cole… all these brands and more are offered in plus sizes at Nordstrom stores and online.

Unlike many other department stores who think a woman in a size 22 dress wants a muumuu or a flowing polyester pantsuit, Nordstrom buyers find brands and pieces that are in the same vein of style as the rest of the store. Great colors, fun silhouettes, lots of options. Nordstrom has free shipping and free returns, will perform alterations onsite, and have personal shoppers that can help you secure a professional wardrobe for your job.

Macy’s
Macy’s is another department store who offers a fantastic selection of brands and styles for plus sizes. Alfani, Calvin Klein, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Jones New York, and then their in-house brand INC International Concepts are great resources for great plus size office wear. Like Nordstrom, Macy’s provides a good amount of real estate in most of their stores for plus-sized fashion.

Macy’s always has promotions for discounts and shipping deals. Macy’s has a great return and exchange policy, where you can return by mail or at any nearby store.

Talbots
Talbots Woman comes in sizes 12-24 regular and 12-22 petite. Each season they offer several styles of suit separates so you can mix and match for the perfect career look. Talbots also specializes in business casual looks, with tailored trousers, well-crafted skirts, polished knits and sweaters and even shoes and accessories.

While many retailers hide their plus size department in a dusty corner or keep it only online, Talbots often has separate stores just for their Woman line, or else it gets plenty of real estate in their mixed-size store. Talbots is phenomenal with customer service, seeking out sizes at other locations, taking returns in-store, and giving you honest feedback and offering suggestions at the fitting room. When I was a size 18, Talbots was my go-to store, where I knew I would find quality, style, and a supportive staff.

Jones New York
While Jones New York is a department store staple, they also have their own online boutique that has a large selection of career wear in extended sizes. Since you have to return by mail (they offer a pre-paid shipping label), it’s good to try out JNY in a store to know how it fits, and then go online to find a larger selection.

Kiyonna
Kiyonna knows how to dress a woman. They make well-made pieces that are stylish and flattering to a plus-sized figure. No muumuus and garish prints here, Kiyonna offers beautiful dresses, and also a beautiful selection of separates. While their bottoms are very basic, they are well-made and classic. Some of their tops can run on the sexy side, but many are great pieces for business casual environments or fabulous shells under suits. Their return policy is pretty standard but I hear their sizing is quite consistent so once you know how you fit in Kiyonna you won’t have to make as many returns and exchanges.

Ann Taylor
If you enter an Ann Taylor store, you may think they don’t care about anyone over a size 12. However online they go up to size 18 and XXL on the majority of their pieces. I also find Ann Taylor runs a bit large and many of my readers have agreed that their size 18 can often fit a size 20 woman.

Ann Taylor regularly has promotions for free shipping and percentages off select items – it’s smart to sign up for their emails or follow them on Facebook or Twitter so you stay updated. Their online selection can sell out pretty quickly when they have such sales, so shop early. While Ann Taylor doesn’t offer free returns, they do accept returns even of larger sizes in any store. And if you have to do a return, check out their sale rack where I have regularly seen larger sizes from other women who have made returns.

Lands’ End
Lands’ End may not be the retailer you would think for career wear, but they do have a pretty great selection of workwear staples. While their summer selection is more geared towards shorts and dresses, they always have a good selection of blazers and coordinating bottoms and come the cooler months have an even greater selection of suiting and work-appropriate pieces.

Lands’ End often has promotions for discounts and free shipping so sign up for their emails to get the latest news. Lands’ End also accepts returns at Sears stores which makes shopping with them even more convenient.

Eddie Bauer
Like Lands’ End, Eddie Bauer mainly focuses on casual weekend fashion. However, like Lands’ End they have a few stand-out pieces each season for career wear. Eddie Bauer often focuses on easy-care pieces, and you’re likely to find wrinkle-free suiting, no-iron button-front shirts, and machine washable trousers and dresses. Eddie Bauer offers free exchanges and accepts returns by mail (they will provide a pre-paid shipping label or you can send by your own method) or in store.

Overstock
I’m quick to head to Overstock to find a toaster oven or an area rug, but I have now learned to go to this site for fashion. Popular brands like Tahari, Kasper, Calvin Klein, and Ann Klein are featured by Overstock, and at nicer prices than at the department store. While some of the styles offered on Overstock are a bit strange, you can also find some gems – often pieces being sold right now at your nearby Belk or Macy’s. Overstock has customer reviews, ridiculously cheap shipping, and a reasonable return policy.

TJ Maxx
While most of my local discount big box retailers will have some plus size fashion, it’s usually a small section, messy, and full of strange pieces I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Not so for TJ Maxx, who usually carries higher-end brands than similar stores, and they usually have a larger and better organized plus size department.


Where do you find stylish and well-made plus size career wear? I’d love to know your suggestions!

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Wednesday: Lazy

Shirt: Target (similar) | Jeggings: c/o Karen Kane | Boots: DUO (similar) | Necklace: Years old (similar) | Silver cuff

I feel ridiculous posting this outfit on a fashion blog. I mean REALLY, I even have a hair elastic on my wrist!  I was so lazy this morning, I tried to straighten the placket of this shirt with my flat iron, and it’s pretty clear that it didn’t do that stellar of a job. I was planning on getting to work by 7am to work on a project before the office got distracting, but Emerson woke hearing me in the shower, Cindy started barking at some animal in the woods behind the house, I couldn’t find my iPhone, and well life happened so I ended up leaving over an hour later than expected and since Karl was driving me to the Metro… might as well take some pictures. So now you see what I wear when I wake up at 5:45 to leave the house at 6:20 and have no in-person meetings. Tres glamorous, no?? 

The one cool thing about this ensemble is the necklace. E from District of Chic recently wore a squash blossom necklace that is so amazingly gorgeous, but it reminded me that I too had a squash blossom necklace somewhere in the depths of my house. Over the holiday season, Karl and I did some serious cleaning and I found it in a rarely-used tote bag in the office closet.  I promise to wear it with a far better ensemble in the near future, it deserves it!

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LiveTheLook and Wardrobe Oxygen: #LTLStyleMe Twitter Chat

As a blogger, I have gotten to know a few companies in a more intimate way. Partnering with them, chatting with the CEOs and creators, I see the people in the companies, the heart, the effort, and it’s thrilling when I see them grow and achieve success. And LiveTheLook, a company I have partnered with in the past has been growing and changing, and a lot has to do with YOUR feedback! Seriously, your comments on previous posts about LiveTheLook helped LTL co-founder Francesca Helina develop the shopping site into what it is today.

LiveTheLook and Wardrobe Oxygen fashion twitter chat December 7, 2014 at 6pm ET #LTLStyleMe

LiveTheLook is a site that works with your current closet and offers pieces to help you achieve a stylish and cohesive wardrobe. It works very similarly to how I approach a wardrobe – buy classic staples and then use a few current trends and accessories to update and add interest each season. Upon signing up with LiveTheLook, you take a quick style profile test about what wardrobe staples are in your closet and what you consider to be your personal style. LiveTheLook takes this info and tailors its shopping suggestions for you.

While this is the same concept that I mentioned the last time I featured LiveTheLook, the shopping itself has changed. You asked for extended sizing? LiveTheLook now offers up to a size 20 and is currently working on partnerships with more brands that offer awesome style in plus sizes. You wanted more options, LiveTheLook has partnered with more retailers expanding their selection, pricepoints, and as previously mentioned, sizes. Gotta love a company who truly listens to feedback and truly wants to impress their customers! Register at LiveTheLook, take the quick profile quiz and check out the great new changes.

LiveTheLook and Wardrobe Oxygen Twitter Chat on How to Dress for the Holidays 12/7 6pm #LTLStyleMe

LiveTheLook is like a virtual personal shopper, completing your wardrobe. Well this Sunday, that virtual shopper will be ME! Come join me on Twitter this Sunday, December 7 at 6pm ET for a Twitter chat with @LiveTheLookNow and @Wardrobe_Oxygen. Follow the hashtag #LTLStyleMe where we’ll be discussing what to wear for all the holiday events on your social calendar. Want to know what shoes to wear with your cocktail dress? How to jazz up your favorite sweater for Christmas Eve at the inlaws? Tweet your questions with #LTLStyleMe and I’ll provide personal suggestions. If you tweet a photo of the item you need help styling (and are already registered with LiveTheLook), we’ll style you on the spot AND LiveTheLook will send you a free accessory. How awesome is that?

I hope you’ll join me this Sunday at 6pm ET on Twitter, I look forward to connecting with you and helping you look festive and fabulous this holiday season!

What I Wore: Cause for Celebration

myhabit silk maxi dress myhabit silk wrap maxi dress

Dress: Melissa Masse via MYHABIT (no longer available, more from the brand) | Shoes: SoftSpots (similar) | Bracelet: Had Forever (similar)

What do you wear to an outdoor wedding taking place during a public music festival when it’s hot as the dickens, so humid the air feels like pea soup, and there’s a strong chance for thunderstorms?  Oh let me add I am the wife of the photographer so while I am a guest and enjoying the event with Emerson at a moment’s notice I may be crawling under tables or running across the town square to assist Karl?

I chose this stretch silk maxi, a recent MYHABIT purchase.  With my referral credit (if you click on the links for MYHABIT in this post and sign up I get a $20 credit and then you can do the same with your friends) I was able to get this for around $40.  The dress has a built-in snap to keep the neckline modest, a self-belt, and pockets. With the heat and humidity, too much jewelry would be annoying so I stuck with my trusty sterling cuff.  Makeup was simple, relying on liquid liner, waterproof mascara, and Revlon’s Lacquer Balm in Vivacious for a pop of color to match the dress print.  Since I knew I’d get sweaty as soon as I walked out the front door of my house, as mentioned in my Friday Favorite post, I pinned back one side with a clip and sprayed with Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray and tried to not touch it.

The dress was perfect, it didn’t cling, it looked festive, didn’t show sweat stains, dried quickly, and the pockets made it so I could go without a purse (I totally was in Mom Mode though and safety pinned my pocket containing wallet-like things shut).  This was a total impulse purchase but I know it will get a ton of wear this summer!

IMG_1951 IMG_2053 11090960_10152892577423372_9199020732269765514_o

As for the wedding, it was magical.  The couple are talented musicians who host this music festival every spring.  Having their ceremony during it made so much sense, and it was awesome as a long-time resident of Greenbelt to see friends say I do in front of the historic Mother and Child statue. It was the first wedding in Roosevelt Center!  They sang during the ceremony and our friend Amethyst (featured in my True Fashionista series) was the officiant.  Their reception was in the New Deal Cafe, a restaurant and music venue in the town square, but they also had The New Deal cater a buffet meal for the entire community!  Tents were set up and neighbors brought baked goods and bands performed way into the evening as the entire town of Greenbelt celebrated their union.  Such a special day!

How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips to Stay on Budget:

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

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



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

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Tuesday’s Tip – Making the Clearance Rack Your Friend

When I go into a store, the first place I look is the clearance or sale rack. I don’t want to be tempted by full priced items when a good equivalent is available at half the price in the back of the store. Even when planning my wedding I first scored sample sales and discount bridal shops before even looking at a single full-priced gown. It is better to buy quality instead of quantity, but just because it’s on a sale rack does not mean it’s poor quality or lacking style or fashion.


Take Your Time
Clearance racks are a mess. Why waste good salespeople hours in cleaning up the back of the store when the real money making is in the front displays of new product? Because of this, do not limit your search to the section designated with your size. Take the time to flip through all the racks. You may find a size 10 amongst the size 2s or a great size Small blouse hidden amongst size 14 blazers. Grab everything that even remotely appeals to you, and a few things you would not usually consider. The best way to spend money on trendy pieces and unusual finds is to pay for them at a discount – less buyer’s remorse.


Sizes Can Be Deceiving
Sometimes items are on sale racks because they are missized. I have tried on size 6 jackets that are too big for me and size 14s that are skin tight. Don’t just look at the label – pull the item from the rack and see if it may possibly fit. Often the missized items are at a super reduced price because they are being looked over.


Consider a Tailor
I decided to write this post because of my clearance rack prize of yesterday. Sueded cotton trench, hip cut, gorgeous color, originally $179 on sale for $29.99. No obvious flaws but the coat was too large for me – I am petite and it is not. It is an XL and a generous cut, I am not. I bought the awesome bargain after trying it on and seeing that the shoulders were fitting decently, though the sleeves were past my fingers, the waist was too big and the length too long. I took it to my local dry cleaner and for $35 she is shortening the arms and hem and nipping in the waist. So for $65 I got a $179 jacket that is perfect for the upcoming fall.


Sleeves that are too long, hems dragging on the ground, gaping waists and baggy jackets can all be easily fixed by a neighborhood tailor or dry cleaner. They can also replace missing buttons, broken zippers and some torn seams. If the price is right, often the tailoring still keeps the garment at a discounted price. I have bought suiting pants 75% off just because the zipper is broken, a suede blazer at 80% off because the lining had pulled away from the jacket body.


Do not invest in garments that are stained (salespeople usually try to remove the stains with a cleaning fluid, if it’s still stained it probably won’t come out in the wash or at the cleaners), torn (resewing a seam may make the item fit differently), irregular (remember quality is key – no one should be wearing a sweater with two different sleeve lengths) overly large (tailor costs will be insane and the true look of the garment will be lost) or too small (don’t buy for the body you hope to have, buy for the current you. Also tailors can’t make things larger – there’s usually not enough fabric at the seams and if they attempt the fit of the garment will be compromised).


If You Don’t Love It…
Don’t buy it. Would you buy it if it were full price? If the answer is a quick “no” leave the item in the fitting room. Just because an item is cheap does not mean you can scrimp on cut, style or fit. A 50% markdown does not justify a gaping armhole, an unflattering color or even a staple that you really have enough of already. The world sees you and your outfit, not the reduced price. They don’t know if what you bought cost $200 or $20, they just know it doesn’t look good, doesn’t flatter your body or your personality. Every dollar in your wallet is precious, don’t waste it on crap. If you can’t imagine the item with at least two other things in your closet, it’s not worth your time or money.

A Life, Replotted: Finding the Edge

chelsea henderson for wardrobe oxygen

“I’m not bound by time” I used to say in my 20s when asked why I didn’t wear a watch. Now in my 40s, I still don’t wear a timepiece, but to say I’m not connected to the unavoidable ticking of the clock is far from the truth.

I time nearly everything I do. Obviously, I have to keep meticulous time of the yoga classes I teach. They run for 45, 60, 75 or 90 minutes, and before class starts, I assign a “trigger song” on my playlist, a song to signal it’s time to wind my students down. For my consulting firm, I bill clients to the quarter of an hour and detail how long I worked on what project. I maintain a timesheet app for one of my projects; there is little I find more depressing than getting an email from the app asking if I forgot to turn off the timer when the answer is no. I may have the luxury of working from home, but part of what I’m adjusting to is I’m on all the time.

In yoga teacher training they taught us to seek the balance between effort and ease. That is to say, if your practice doesn’t feel like work, push a little harder. But if you find yourself struggling, take it down a notch. In yoga I embrace this lesson, but in the rest of my life I have trouble with the stepping back part of the equation. It all came to a head last week when I taught eleven yoga classes, billed 45 client hours and had the kids for all but two days. It took a minor breakdown to get it; in order to strike a balance, I have to know where my edge is. And once I recognize where the edge is, I have to respect the boundaries to keep myself off its ledge.

So as I write, this column is 36 hours late, I haven’t practiced yoga yet today and my laundry basket overflows. But I spent time in the garden, had a rained out barbeque with dear friends and watched Star Wars: A New Hope with my younger son. To maintain the point between effort and ease, I decided to not check email. My professional life abounds, but it’s just one part of who I am. And for other aspects of my life, I have to save time on and off the clock.

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

Basic Black and White

Blouse: Jones New York c/o Gwynnie Bee | Jeans: NYDJ | Shoes: Cole Haan | Necklace: Cameron Pendant c/o Kristin Biggs, Stella and Dot | Watch: c/o WatchCo | Bracelets: c/o Lifetherapy, Nordstrom, had forever | Glasses: c/o Coastal.com

This top is perfect for this weather – billowy and breezy for the commute, but enough coverage that I don’t freeze to death in the office. This is totally the kind of top I buy, wear once or twice, and tire of the print because it’s too memorable. Love that with Gwynnie Bee I can wear it once or twice, and then return it for something new without buyer’s remorse. Interested in trying Gwynnie Bee?  Use this link, tell them Wardrobe Oxygen sent you and get a 30 day free trial of the program.

I just got these glasses Friday evening but have already fallen in love. When I got new glasses back in December, I wanted something classic, stylish without being trendy, something appropriate for work as well as every day. My Issy and La “Gloss” frames are perfect for that, but now I want more frames, and fun frames. I love the bold look of these, and it’s exciting to find frames that are big enough for my ginormous noggin. I did get these frames for free (review here), but I would totally order from Coastal.com again. Great prices, good service, and shipping is lightening fast. In fact, if you go to this link (not an affiliate link, not getting paid to share, just me being jazzed about sharing this with you) and pick any of these frames and add your prescription and use the code FIRSTPAIRFREE you get… well your first pair free! You do have to pay for shipping (which is around $9.00), but what an awesome steal of a deal. It’s always good to always have a spare pair or a fun pair that gets you out of your comfort zone.

Speaking of great deals, I have been wearing my Lifetherapy bracelets quite a lot and get so many compliments on them.  They have offered Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off on ALL Lifetherapy products (body care as well as jewelery).  Use code WARDROBEOXYGEN at checkout; this code is valid until 7/1/2013.

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My Wardrobe Today – Tuesday

Dress – Eliza J (no longer available – similar. Also recently saw this dress at Ross for around $20)
Belt Another Line c/o Nordstrom Rack
Shoes – Nine West (no longer available – similar)

I miss my closet! It SUCKS trying to figure out what to wear every morning from a crowded rolling rack in my home office, with pieces monkey-hung six down. I have no clue what I own, I don’t have a mirror nearby, and I just get overwhelmed. Today they were to come and start repairing the roof, but it’s raining off and on, will be doing such for the rest of the week so I fear repairs will be delayed.

Not to be Negative Nelly all over this post, but the sound of rain falling on a tarp covering a huge hole in your roof is not pleasant. It made getting to sleep and staying asleep very difficult last night. I have been trying to stay positive about this whole experience (no one was hurt, little material damage, yadda yadda) but it’s starting to get to me. While it really isn’t a big deal (again, no one was hurt and my house is still liveable), it reminds me of when I was on bedrest for pregnancy. Everyone asks a ton of questions, constantly bringing it up, and they keep sharing their horror stories of missed water damage destroying a home, second hurricanes coming, etc. which just stresses me out more. I can’t wait until this is all over and done with (and note to all, if your friend is on bedrest while pregnant, don’t tell her stories of HELLP, placenta previa and abruption, and early labor and forced C-sections. Just bring her magazines and snacks and come by to say hi.).

This weekend I started feeling under the weather on Saturday night, by Sunday early evening I was full-blown sick. Chills, body aches, sinuses freaking out, eyes hurting, fever. Sunday Emerson woke with the same thing I had so we were sicky poos together all day on yesterday. Today I am better, though still sniffling and feeling grody. While Emerson’s nose is running like a faucet and she is pretty low-key, she too seems to be feeling better today.

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What to Wear for Family Portraits

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

what to wear for a family portrait

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dressing Like a Grown-Up

When I shop for clothing, I first look for clothes I can wear to the office.

Date Night clothes are usually work clothes with a pair of cool shoes and a bit more mascara.

I buy fewer prints because I don’t want people to remember that I’ve had that same dress for three years.

Because I shop planning on wearing the same dress for three years.

Because I know three years is here in the blink of an eye.

I don’t wear a lot of pants because pants stretch out.
 They emphasize the softness, saginess, and lack of crunches that happens when you’re over 35.
And had a baby.
And like sleep more than gyms.

Back to pants… they need to be pressed.
And have shoes the right height.
And pants seem to collect dog hair faster than skirts.

I buy trends, but fewer of them because I know that flatform/wedge sneaker/clear neon purse/feather hair extension is going to be seen as tacky in less than six months.

Or I already did the Doc Marten/army jacket/neon/creepers/culottes trend the last go-round and just can’t imagine bringing those years back into my closet.

But then, I’ll buy trends because I DO remember those years I wore them before and know I can rock them far more authentically than women 20 years my junior.
And I do.

My lingerie drawer is far less colorful and fun than it was a decade ago, but it’s the hardest working part of my wardrobe.

I realize I can’t carry off bedhead, yesterday’s makeup, oversized, skintight, or 5” heels any more.
The biggest part of the last sentence is the self-realization.

For every day I wear heels I have one wear I wear shoes below 1” in height.

I wash my face every night because I now see the results of not doing so.

I never buy anything if it will show a bra strap.

I love ponte, matte jersey, and merino because they’re stretchy but thick enough to hide lumps and bumps.
And they don’t have to go to the cleaners.

I have more disposable income but shop less often because I’ve learned that a “fun” closet is a surefire way to get back into debt.

And I’ve been there where my pretty closet is still full of pricetags come the end of a season.
I dress for me.

I make mistakes, and I own them.

I still have fun with fashion, but now I do it on my own terms.


I may be a grown-up with the kid, the semi-minivan, the mortgage and the wrinkles, but I still rock it.
In fact, I rock it better now than I did a 22.

You know what?  I love being a grown-up!

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Not all Pregnant Women Are Created Equal

When ordering maternity clothes, a basic rule of thumb is to order your pre-maternity size. This doesn’t always work – I am ordering items in Medium (though I haven’t worn a medium item since freshman year of college) and though I was a 12 petite pre-baby, I am ordering 10s, 12s and 14s and finding all sorts of fits. That’s fine, just as I found which retailers fit my body best pre-pregnancy, so I am having that journey with maternity!

One thing that is really irritating me though are inseams on maternity jeans and pants. Whether I am in my first or third trimester, I am still going to be 5’3”. Yes, as the belly (and bum and hips and thighs) grow with each month, fabric from the legs will be used up to accommodate this change. However, that doesn’t mean I need an extra 6” on my hems.

I have shopped at The Gap since I was 14. When I was thinner, I got away with the regular length of trousers and jeans. As I have gotten older and curvier, I flip flop between regular length (with heels) and ankle length or petite (which is too short for anything but sneakers and flats). The bigger my tummy gets, the less I feel like wearing heels (the less balanced I am feeling and the less strain my tootsies are willing to take) so I know petite or ankle-length bottoms is the way to go for maternity.

Gap and Old Navy both recently had major clearances so I ordered a bunch of stuff off their Web sites (gotta love free shipping with my BR card and free returns for all maternity wear). As that my job is changing their dress code to a more professional look (jeans only acceptable on Fridays) I was in search of short-length trousers, preferably in black. I found a pair of twill trousers from Gap for around $30 that were 12 Ankle, and a pair for about $20 from Old Navy, also 12 Ankle.

Here are the Gap trousers. IN 12 ANKLE:

I am not four feet tall. Usually I can purchase from a store off the rack. Ann Taylor, Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew, all the major retailers I can usually get away with a regular length in a pinch, but always find the petite or ankle lengths appropriate and ready for me to wear.
And here are the Old Navy trousers in 12 ankle:
Same retailer, essentially. Rise the same (though different type of maternity waistband), same sort of fit in the bum and hips. Everything the same except the length (and that the Gap trousers are a crisper, darker black which would look more professional and probably wash better).

WHAT THE HECK PEOPLE? When women get pregnant they don’t grow a foot in height! Who in the WORRLD would think this is an ankle length on anyone under 6’ tall?

I would think this is an error in labeling or from the factory, but this is only one of SIX different petite or ankle-length maternity pants I have tried on from FOUR different retailers that would require several inches hacked off at the tailor. This is what grates my nerves and makes me wonder why retailers just hate all pregnant, short, tall and overweight women. I now have to decide if they are worth it to take to the tailor to make wearable, or if I just return them. The Old Navy pants are not something I would usually wear (not too chic of a cut) but they are cheap and don’t require the annoyance and cost of extra alterations. Argh.

Ask Allie – Long Necklaces

Hi Allie —

I love both your wardrobe blogs — thank you so much for putting the time in to do them! Do you have a recommendation for where I might look for a long chain-type necklace that will come down past the bust, almost to the waist? I don’t wear much jewelry at all, so I don’t have a set of go-to stores or websites to look for something like this.

Amy

Hi Amy:

I love long necklaces because they elongate the torso, make the neck look longer and thinner, and don’t draw as much attention to the bust. Thing is, one can see all the celebs rocking long necklaces, but when we look in stores, we can only find 16″ or 18” necklaces, 20” if we are lucky.

Image courtesy of Rose Blossom Cottage

Best bet, before you even go shopping is to measure what length will work on you. What seems right in a picture or on a jewelry card may end up being far too long or short for your frame. Also know that most necklaces come in standard lengths – I often look for necklaces that have a chain at the clasp that will allow a necklace to be lengthened an extra inch or two – that often makes the difference on a necklace dangling from my bustline or looking lovely with my outfit. The image above gives a general idea of how popular necklace lengths will hang on a standard female frame, this site and this site also give great information on different necklace lengths.

As for where to buy them, well I personally have the best luck in the least expected places. For years, my go-to store for long necklaces was Express – I could find fashionable chains and other costume jewelry at reasonable prices. Most recently, I have become a fan of the Norstrom half-yearly sale (though really they always have sale, especially online). At Nordstrom’s sales, I have always been able to find long chains from quality brands for the price that one can find at Claire’s Boutique. Speaking of Claire’s – I shouldn’t knock the store because I have found some very simple chains there that have given me years of use. I have also found some fabulous long necklaces – chains and tiny silver beads at H&M – their accessory selection changes almost weekly so it’s best to check in from time to time to see if they have anything that fits the bill. Finally, I often go to eBay when I need just a standard chain for a pendant or charm. I sometimes wear my wedding band on a chain, and being the mom of a jewelry-loving toddler, the chain has had to be replaced. I will search 30” silver box chain on eBay and find a ton of retailers offering such an item, usually with free shipping and prices that beat the shopping mall. If you know what length and what material you desire, eBay can be a great resource for finding long chains.

Readers, do you have any favorite necklace retailers?

Ask Allie – How to Accessorize a Sheath Dress

I have received so many emails recently asking for fashion advice. I figured I would share the questions and responses with you readers – what helps one may help many!

Dear Allie:
I have found my figure looks great in simple sheath dresses and I recently realized I have a good 8-10 of these in my wardrobe. What do I need to accessorize them so I don’t look like “The Sheath Lady”? I don’t really own a lot of accessories right now.  Thanks!

I think a sheath dress is one of the easiest things for a woman to accessorize. The classic, no-frills silhouette can be completely transformed based upon what accessories you choose to add to it.  I too love sheath dresses and find them flattering on many figures.  Ones in crepe, suiting fabric, silk, cotton and linen blends and in solid colors can be extremely versatile.

Classic – A strand of pearls (18-20”) and glossy leather pumps. This can take a solid colored sheath and make it appropriate for work, for a wedding, for a date night, house of worship (depending on how conservative – pack a cardigan or pashmina), a luncheon… most anything. If all else fails, this is a perfect go-to outfit when you don’t know your event or audience.

Elegant – A long strand of pearls or a gold chain with occasional crystals, delicate strappy heels, a clutch and you are ready for an evening event.

Summery – A wooden bangle bracelet and some sandals with wood or cork heels in a skin tone. Simple, stylish, current.

Preppy – Top the sheath with a cardigan tied at the shoulders, or a square scarf tied at the throat. Add a canvas tote in a candy-colored hue.

Weekend – A necklace of plastic or wood beads in a complimenting color, and a pair of leather thong sandals. Add a floppy straw hat and you are ready for the farmer’s market or winery.

Double – duty – Try a fitted white button-down shirt or a sleek black turtleneck under your heavyweight solid-colored jumper. Just today I saw a woman on the street in a dark gray sheath of suiting fabric; underneath she had a white shirt with puffed sleeves and a stand collar. She paired it with black patent heeled Mary Janes and some fantastic dark framed glasses and looked professional yet stylish.

Cover it Up – A “boyfriend” or longer cardigan and a skinny belt can transform a simple solid-colored sheath dress into something completely different (and much more comfortable in an over-air conditioned office).

Blingy – Choose one to three broaches and place over the heart in a cluster, like a corsage. Have all the pins of a similar family – all crystals, all cameos, all enamel. Let it be the focus and choose simple pumps, flats or slingbacks for the feet.


Change the Silhouette – Add a skinny belt and your sheath can end up looking like a completely different dress. Depending on the shape, you may also be able to do the same with a wide elastic belt either at the waist or right under the bust.

Dancing Queen – Planning on painting the town red tonight? Pair your sheath dress with some animal print or metallic heels and either a chunky bangle bracelet or a pair of dangly earrings. An envelope clutch will finish the look.

Switch up the Shoes – Always wear your sheath dresses with black pumps?  Consider a chunky heeled sandal for summer.  When it cools, try pairing your dress with a pair of tall (or even ankle!) boots.  Always wear heels?  Why not try a pair of flats with a girly feel?  A quick change of footwear can often times make all the difference.

How to “Read” Fashion Magazines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Wardrobe Today – Thursday

Black 3/4 sleeve sheath – Mossimo for Target (no longer available)
Black crocheted tights – c/o Coccolare Boutique
Blue suede heelsJessica Simpson “Evoni”
Silver cuff

I am such a chicken when it comes to hosiery.  I stick to what I know – opaque black tights.  I have a pair of dark gray ones, but I usually last-minute switch them out for black because I think black looks better on me. I like to accentuate the positive, minimize the negative and I know I have very large legs and ankles and feel that creative hosiery accentuates that.  However Coccolare Boutique, DWJ from The Art of Accessories, and Wendy Brandes forced me out of my hosiery box.

Coccolare Boutique contacted me, asking me if I would like to check out some of their luxury Italian hosiery.  I visited their site, saw some gorgeous legwear, but was terrified to try anything other than black tights.  I took a deep breath and decided to try a couple styles, including the Sebille Crochet Sweater Tights.  They arrived and looked more amazing than on the site – so soft, well-made, fit like a dream.  I tried them on with a few things in my wardrobe and everything felt wrong to me.  I felt as though it looked like HELLO LEGS!

Wendy Brandes has been showcasing fashion bloggers who rock the red leg – red tights or trousers.  I was chatting with Wendy and DWJ on Twitter this week about how I love the look of a red leg, but personally don’t think I can rock it.  Last night leaving work, I bumped into DWJ.  She admitted she stopped by Ann Taylor because of my recent posts about my great scores there.  We got to discussing my fear of creative hosiery and she really encouraged me to take the leap.  I hopped on the train, thinking about how I could really get a great look with my newly acquired crocheted tights from Coccolare.

Got home and found these shoes waiting for me.  I had seen them online in red and loved them; I know Jessica Simpson shoes fit me pretty well and are consistent with sizing so I decided to check on eBay and see if I could find the same pair for less.  I couldn’t find red but was excited to find them in this amazingly bright cobalt suede.  They were retailing online for up to $100, I got them for over 60% off, new and in original box (still wrapped up in original tissue and such).  Gotta love eBay (also yesterday got new, still wrapped bottle of Burberry London from an eBay seller at 1/3 the retail price)!

These shoes were BEGGING to be worn ASAP.  I tried them on with yesterday’s tights and liked the look of them with hosiery.  As that I am down to only one pair of black tights, it meant that to wear the new shoes, I would have to wear them with my Sebille Crochet Sweater Tights.  I decided with such an intense shoe and attention-grabbing tights, I had to keep it uber-simple on top.  I swear, I think this is the first time in the 21st Century that I have worn any hosiery that wasn’t opaque and black (or nearly black).  So what do you think of my first foray into creative hosiery?

And if you too would like a pair of luxe Italian hosiery at lovely prices, check out Coccolare Boutique.  If you join their fan club, you can get 20% off your purchase with the code “WARDROBE.”

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My Wardrobe This Weekend

Oh the weather was FANTASTIC this weekend! I love weekends in fall that are so crisp and clear and have weather mild enough that you can go outside and enjoy the beauty of the season!

Saturday, our friends Nicole & Ryan invited us over for a cookout. Very casual affair, didn’t change from what I was wearing earlier in the day to the playground and for being around the house.

Sweater – Ann Taylor (no longer available)
TeeLands End Canvas
JeansNYDJ “Marilyn”
Boots DUO
Necklace – Vintage (have had the pendant for about 20 years, used to wear on a necklace cuff)
EarringsArgento Vivo
Silver Cuff
Beverage – Woodchuck Hard Cider (so appropriate this time of year)

Emerson is totally taking after her father and is all legs.  Her 2T dresses and pants are too big, but her 18-24 month clothes are getting pretty short.  I have been putting her in dresses with jeans lately so that she can get wear out of these clothes I bought her, she can stay warm, and not look bootylicious.  This is what she wore to the cookout on Saturday.

Sunday was another beautiful day.  We started it at the farmer’s market where we stocked up on dark leafy greens and Zeke’s Coffee.  No full picture of me, here’s a self-portrait with Emerson (who is wearing another dress over jeans).

Cardigan SweaterAnn Taylor LOFT (not same but similar style)
Tank – Caslon for Nordstrom (not available now but will be available prob come spring)
Jeans Ann Taylor LOFT
Boots DUO

Necklace – Vintage
EarringsArgento Vivo


One of the vendors had some turkeys there and Emerson was totally entertained by them. They made me even more certain that I am going back to being a vegetarian. I know the purpose of their visit to the farmer’s market was to show how happy and healthy their turkeys are, and those turkeys looked very well cared for and relatively calm and confident, but it just made me feel even more guilty.

Last night I used this recipe to make collard greens.  I never ate collard greens growing up, I think the first time I had them was in high school when having dinner at a friend’s house.  I found them gross – very greasy, all brownish-green and weird.  Collard greens are healthy, and CHEAP at the farmer’s market so I bought some yesterday to try cooking. 

It was GOOD!  In place of the crushed red pepper, I added three mini hot peppers from the bundle we also bought that AM at the market.  I didn’t add the tomatoes, added more garlic than asked (think I used four cloves), and used chicken broth since there was an open carton in the fridge that needed to be used before it expired.  I also added a splash of cider vinegar.  If you cook for about 10 minutes, they greens end up a bright emerald shade and are still a bit crunchy but delish.  If you like the classic buttery-soft collard greens, you can cook from 40 – 60 minutes.  I did half at the 10 minutes, and then the rest we simmered for over an hour for two different options.  Quite delish, and not at all bitter!

Accessories Make the Woman

“You always look so put together!”

“I love your sense of style!”

“What a cool necklace, where ever did you get it?”

“I wish I could put together outfits like you.”

“What a great outfit!”

I received 23 compliments on my outfit or a piece of my outfit today. No, I am not trying to brag about my sense of style. I am trying to make a point.

Want to know what I was wearing today? I was wearing a slightly faded black cotton sweater with a round neck, a bit stretched out from multiple wearings. With it was a pair of cream pants I have owned for too long. I have resewn the hem multiple times, and the lining in the pants had torn and raveled so much I finally tore it out in a fit of rage.

Why the compliments on such a mediocre (at best) outfit? I bet most of you women have similar pieces in your wardrobe. What made it special enough to compliment the person wearing such lackluster garments?

Accessories.

I wore a necklace. It’s long, hangs past my breasts and is made completely of shells. The shells are pretty much the same color as my pitiful cream trousers.

On my feet are a pair of $40 pumps I bought last season from Nordstrom. Slightly pointed toe, but not so much that they look overly trendy or are overly painful on the toes. 2″ heel. A classic, yet stylish look that was so flattering, so comfortable, and priced so nicely, I bought them in three colors.

Black leather purse in finish similar to shoes that I picked up at Marshall’s for $19.99 three years ago.

Soft eye makeup, blush, concealer and subtle lipgloss.

These accessories are not particularly fancy, and far from being expensive. What makes them work is that they have… personality. They help express my personality.

When looking for accessories, do not adhere solely to what the magazine pages tell you is hip. True fashion is timeless and is creative. Anyone can buy the “right” pieces. What matters is not what you wear, but how you wear it.

Shell necklaces are not considered “hip” or stylish. I found the necklace in my mother’s house in a box of costumes. I believe it was used one year when one of us kiddies was a hula dancer. The shells were beautiful, the necklace makes a cool clinking noise when you walk. Long necklaces help elongate a short body (moi). No one else I knew had a necklace like it. I decided to take it as my own, wear it with a subtle outfit that would not compete with the necklace.

Accessories are art. Clothing can be the canvas, while accessories are the medium.

Each year I buy a new purse. I don’t buy an expensive one, or a designer one. I buy one I like. A purse is carried with you every day, it should match your personality, compliment your wardrobe, but most important it should make you happy. A pleasing shape, a cheerful color. Something to make you love it, make you proud to fling it over your shoulder. My sister bought a turquoise vinyl purse from Payless Shoe Source this Spring for less than $20. She got more compliments on it than the designer purse she received as a gift. Why? Because it fit her personality, it was fun, it was pleasing.

Accessories can add to an outfit, can detract from an outfit, can overwhelm an outfit. See fashion not as a chore, but as art. Like music, painting, home decorating. See it as lines, shapes, color. Fashion is more than just covering skin. It’s more than trying to imitate celebrities. It shouldn’t be about your hips, your belly, your breasts, your budget. It’s about making your body a work of art, an extension of your personality.

Sounds daunting, but it’s not. Go with your gut. Color Me beautiful says you’re a Winter, yet you love orange. When you wear orange you feel happy, powerful, sassy. Then darn it, wear orange! You see a necklace that catches your fancy, but you fear it’s too ornate, it’s too flashy. Well then, don’t wear it with a silver lycra mini and pink maribou heels. Like a fine work of art that you wouldn’t hang on walls papered with cabbage roses, a great accessory should not compete with your outfit.

The right bracelet or necklace can take a faded sweater and a pair of pants too worn to donate and make it a stylish outfit. You may not have the budget for a new wardrobe every season, but a few key accessories picked up every few months can add live and vitality to your closet.

Seasonless Black Trousers

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

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

Examples of good trousers:

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

Here is a great example from Lane Bryant:

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

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

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