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What to Wear When Working From Home

Many readers write to me, stating that my staples and many of my posts do not work for them because they either work from home, or are stay at home mothers or wives. As someone who never did work from home, I would always respond back that there is life outside of your house and you should be prepared; anyway you will feel better and be more productive if you are well turned out.

I often got responses back that I didn’t know what I was talking about; to be in your home comfort is key, style is not important.

Well I am now working from home, on semi-bedrest no less. As I type this I am in my bedroom, my laptop on a tray table. I have been like this for a bit and will be until my baby arrives. Once she arrives I have six weeks of maternity leave at home and a couple of transition weeks – working from home, part time working at the office until I return back as a full-time office employee.

As I type this, I am in black ponte trousers, a gray silky jersey empire-waist top, black socks and diamond stud earrings. My hair has been blown out, I am wearing tinted moisturizer, rosy lipstick and mascara. There is a good chance I will see no one but my dog and husband all day, and that the only time I leave this bed is to use the rest room or refill my water bottle.

However when I started working from home, I relished in the idea of not having to worry about my attire. I often worked the day in a variation of what I slept in – knits, sweats, garments better made for my Saturday yoga classes. It was fun, decadent to not put on a bra, not “do” my hair, and just be comfortable.

My schedule was one day working from home, next day working from the office. I started noticing that the days I had to go to the office, I was dreading them. I wasn’t dreading the office or the work, but the need to pull myself together and look professional. I started having more difficulty pulling together a decent outfit from the clothing I already owned and knew so well. The days I worked form home seemed to drag on longer than necessary – often because I would get distracted with a non-work Web site or the desire to do housework instead of payroll work.

I decided that each morning that I felt well, I would try to pull myself together. Shower, an easy wash-and-wear hairstyle (for me is letting the hair air dry with a tiny bit of product and then come back later to smooth the bangs for 5 seconds with a round brush and dryer), small bit of makeup to make me look alive (amazing what a quick swipe of blush and mascara can do for the face). As for clothing, well I wasn’t going to endure bedrest in constricting denim, but I could do it with dresses and leggings, and pants made out of knits.

My morning routine is less than ten minutes because for me, showering at night works better with my schedule. Those ten minutes each morning make me a more productive at-home employee, have less concern with having to leave the house last minute or sign for a package when the UPS driver comes to the door. With my exterior organized, my interior seems to be more organized as well. I feel less tired, less sluggish, and more receptive to visitors.

The easiest way to be polished at home, is to start with the purchases. Be careful with every purchase you make – can it handle time on the floor, in bed, and to be accidently tossed in the dryer by your spouse? Keep away from that which will fade, requires ironing or special washing instructions. Also keep away from that which resembles gym attire, sleepwear, or something that your husband would wear. It’s better to have less that is quality than more that is junk. As you find great durable and flattering pieces, donate those which aren’t up to snuff.

A few pieces I have found to be great while being at home:

Old Navy’s Stretch Ponte Mid-Rise Wide-Leg Trousers – I love love love these trousers. They look elegant, but they are made of fabric that is as comfy as sweats. The fabric is heavy enough to hide lumps and bumps and look work-worthy. They have a classic waistband and zipper, but they don’t dig into your tummy, even when sitting or reclining. They are machine washable – I usually hang them to dry, but they have also gone in the dryer when I have been in a rush and they haven’t pilled, shrunk or faded.

I usually despise slash pockets, but these lie pretty nicely. Best of all – they come in petite and tall lengths! $34.50, currently only available in black. Get yourself two pairs so you have some ready while the other pair is in the wash.

J. Crew Merino Sweaters – Their turtlenecks are cozy while looking elegant, the crewnecks are a stylish alternative to a sweatshirt, and the v-necks add femininity to your simple outfit. Unlike cotton, merino usually keeps it shape and color through many wears and washes. Unlike cashmere, it’s usually at a reasonable price point. The tight weave glides over curves, isn’t itchy like shetland and looks polished. Come winter, I often layer with a tencel, silk or fine jersey tee or camisole underneath (a silk undershirt is incredibly warm without bulk). Black and gray are always chic, but bright colors are always nice to see and wear. Consider a jewel tone that pleases your eye – it will go with black, gray, camel, denim and other neutrals just as nicely as a more subtle or predictable color. Though the sweaters usually say Dry Clean Only, I have always washed my merinos on the gentle cycle in the machine with Woolie or a gentle landry wash, and either hung them up on a padded hanger or lay them on a towel on top of the dryer to dry. This specific merino turtleneck has select colors on sale for $39.99 – not too shabby!

Wrap Sweaters – This one is from Target. Wrap sweaters are great because they offer the layer you want, but flatter your feminine shape far better than a sweater coat or hoodie. This could work over a nursing tank, a cami, a tee, a turtleneck all with ease and look elegant and feminine. Sweaters and tops that wrap to the side give the illusion of a smaller waist; lightweight sweaters add warmth without bulk to your frame, and again this is a great way to add a pop of color to your basic neutrals. This specific sweater is under $25; I have found great wrap sweaters at Gap, Ann Taylor, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and more usually under $50. Another ting – if the sweater is layered over a cami or tank, you don’t have to wash it as often. Have a Tide to Go pen at the ready, and you can get more miles between washes!

Mossimo Ultra Soft Long-Sleeved V-Neck Sweaters – I learned about this sweater from another blogger and agree that they are fab! They are super cozy and soft like cashmere, but far less in cost. They come in a good range of colors and seem to flatter a variety of shapes of women.

Very nice with trousers, jeans or even with a simple pencil skirt for church or dinner out. Layer with a cami or tee, dress up with a strand of pearls or a scarf tucked into the neckline. You very well may find that a sweater like this will get more wear and bring far more joy than your most snuggly fleece pullover!

Lands End Fine Gauge Twinsets – Lands End is awesome – they have the best selection of colors, most of their pieces are made of great quality and are easy to wash, their pieces run a bit big, they have an amazing return policy and their styles are classic without being dowdy.

A very easy way to look polished is by wearing a twinset – the shortsleeved crewneck and matching cardigan from Lands End is a great choice. I was mine in the wash on the gentle cycle and hang it up to dry overnight. The colors never fade, the shape maintains, and it dresses up or down nicely. Pair the set with capris in spring, wool blend trousers in winter, a pencil or a-line skirt for brunch, toss the cardigan over a sundress on breezy summer evenings, wear the crewneck alone with trousers and pearls for a simple Business Casual look. Again, consider a cheery color that will bring sunshine to a dreary winter day. Lands End carries most styles in petite, plus, and other extended sizes. The cardigan is $39.50 and I think worth every penny. Keep up with the site, Lands End often adds pieces to this line of fabric so you can get things like sleeveless shells or 3/4 sleeve cardigans come summer and turtlenecks come winter.

Merona Black Leggings – Okay, the leggings under the dress look is gone and done. It was hip for a season and now it looks pretty dated and desperate on most. The thing is, the look is pretty awesome when you are at home. Suddenly you can get on the floor with the kids, chill in bed, hang out at the playground and more without worrying about a breeze. A dress in knit or matte jersey with black leggings and ballet flats is still more chic than a velour jumpsuit or your husband’s favorite hoodie. If paired with a solid color dress that has a simple silhouette, the look can be artsy and elegant. I love wearing my black leggings with a dove gray dress and a long scarf at the neck; my friend’s weekend look is a black jersey dress with bell sleeves, black leggings, red ballet flats and a long silver necklace with red pendant. She looks polished, but is jsut as comfortable as she would be in her pajamas.

These leggings are less than $10 and get the job done. They aren’t miracle workers, but they will last you through a season quite nicely.

What to Avoid:
Memorable Prints – It’s hard to wear the same things week after week if they are so unique. Find creativity in your going out pieces, or your accessories. Choose great colors, flattering neutrals, and then detail piecves to add personality.

Bedazzlement - Just because a tee shirt has fake gems at the neckline does not mean it’s fun or cool. In all honesty, most embellishment (embroidery, jewels, grommets, patches, accent fabrics, ribbons) makes the garment look cheap, not more stylish. Again, find your style with actual accessories to have versatility, style and polish.

Logos – A woman of style NEVER advertises what brand she is wearing. Style comes from the garment itself, NOT the designer.

Anything that Sheds, Pills, Fades or Creases – This means most khakis, cotton button-downs, angora blends, low percentage of cashmere blends, some silk blends, and cheap knits. If the black jersey already has a slight tint of gray or green, you can be sure that it will head further int hat direction after a few washes. Knits with at least 5% of lycra or a synthetic are less likely to shrink thank 100% cotton.

Be honest with yourself. If you don’t have time to blow dry your hair after a shower, will you have time to properly iron that oxford shirt? If the answer is no, then don’t buy it in the first place. It won’t smooth out from wearing or if you pull it down and press it between you and the car seat. Stay with knits and synthetics if your lifestyle doesn’t give you the time for ironing.

Polo Shirts – Unless you have a very slight frame or a slightly athletic build, these shirts are NOT flattering on women. Yes, they make feminine cut ones, but they still are not as flattering as a basic knit. The collar shortens the neck, the sleeve rounds shoulders and draws attention to larger arms, the neckline makes a large bust look matronly and a small bust look more obvious. The cut is usually too boxy or too tight at the belly, and the length is more often than not at the worst part of a woman’s body (somewhere around the middle of her bum or right at the love handles). Want to get away from the tee with a creative knit? Try a wrap style, one with puffed sleeves and a scoop neck, one with lantern sleeves or a notched neck.

Cropped Cargo Chinos – These do not flatter a woman’s frame in any way; the shortened length makes calves look bigger and legs look longer. The extra pockets add bulk (and usually end up wrinkled after the first wash). Want the cargo pockets for day tripping at the park or in the woods? Go with a jacket or a full-length pant or even a small backpack or sling. Want the cropped look? Consider a heavy jersey, a ponte fabric or a synthetic in the same fabric as a jacket or cardigan for something just as comfortable but far more flattering.

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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Ask Allie: What to Wear When Losing Weight

What do you feel is worth saving after weight loss? I have never used a tailor outside of formal dresses. I am in the midst of losing weight, but as I start dropping the pounds, I am curious as to if it is cheaper to tailor old clothes or just buy new ones.
-M

I am on a program of diet and exercise and have lost ten pounds. None of my pants or skirts fit (I have few dresses), and I don’t want to buy new ones until I reach my target weight. Do you have a suggestions for how to look professional during this transitional period? Safety pins are not working very well!

Thanks!

In the past year or so I have removed over 30 pounds from this frame, so I can really relate to both of you! I personally found it frustrating to have my wardrobe stop fitting – I couldn’t very well afford a brand new wardrobe, so it almost seemed to make sense to stop dieting to keep my pants from falling off.

Fear not, there are ways to extend your current wardrobe without sacrificing style or breaking the bank. Keep up the great work with caring for your body, and hopefully these tips will help you care for your style!

Find a Seamstress or Tailor
Alterations can be pretty costly, but so is a brand new wardrobe. A skilled tailor can alter most skirts and pants easily and for not a lot of dough. A little nip and tuck and simple cuts of pants and skirts will fit your shrinking figure for far less than a new garment. I have also had a tailor easily take in some of my shift and sheath style dresses to have them less baggy on my torso. With weightloss I found that while many pants and skirts still fit in the body, they were now far too long – even your local dry cleaner can do a pretty good job of hemming garments (be sure to bring proper shoes with you, try on the piece in the store so they can help find the right length).

Alterations Needed?


Some pieces can be pretty costly to alter – blazers and jackets, fitted pieces of delicate fabrics like chiffon, garments with decorative seaming. Also, many pieces will lose their shape and drape with extreme alterations. It is important to decide if the garment is worth it – can you find an equivalent that will cost around the same amount and fit better off the rack? If it’s a one-of-a-kind garment or a Holy Grail piece, of course it is worth it. However if you didn’t adore it in the first place or can find something similar at a reasonable price, it may make more sense to go shopping.

If you don’t currently have a tailor or seamstress, I have found the best way to find one is word of mouth. If your town has a listserv, ask on there. Contact someone from your community theater company and ask who does their costumes. Ask a fashion blogger in your city. Also troll the bridal boards for your area – those who alter wedding dresses often also alter streetwear. Once you find someone, have them alter a piece that you won’t cry over if it gets ruined. Test out the tailor, see the quality of work, how he fits you, how long it takes to get a piece back. If pleased, take in another piece or two.

Once you have a tailor or seamstress you trust and you have a good honest relationship, then you can better tell whether it’s more cost-efficient to alter that which you own or purchase new. Along with this, having a tailor means you can purchase thrift or clearance items that aren’t quite right, have them made to fit for a fraction of the regular retail price!

Belt It!
As recently as last week I used a belt to disguise the fact that a garment was too big. Since giving birth to Emerson I have had a wide black elasticized belt in my closet. I can cinch dresses at my smallest point for a retro look, can cinch blouses and cardigans to hide the fact that they are a bit too large, have even belted blazers to show off my slimmer waist and disguise the fact that it’s a size too big.

belts belts belts


A wide belt can hide far more than a skinny one – it can gather fabric in the back in a flattering manner, hold up pants that are a hair too large, smooth a skirt waistband that buckles from being safety-pinned smaller. Such belts can be found at most any retailer and pricepoint. Since falling in love with one in black, I added purple, brown and even a tan rope-looking one to the collection and still use them on pieces that are just a bit too big.

Purchase Transition Pieces
Purchasing a few key transition pieces can make all the difference. A well-fitting jacket can make slightly big sheaths and shifts look tailored, a new pair of trousers can offset slouchy sweaters, a fitted crewneck sweater will make large pants look like they are menswear-inspired. The current trend is mixing boxy with fitted, slouchy with tailored so by purchasing one or two tailored pieces, you can make the too-big pieces seem purposeful. Check sale racks, stick to neutrals so they are more versatile and can be worn more often without people thinking, “Oh THAT sweater again?”.

When I was losing weight, I bought clothing that was very simple, very classic, even boring. This way, I could jazz it up with accessories that would fit me now and 15 pounds from now. It may not be “fun” to purchase such basics, but they will be far more versatile now and in the near future, and you will get more miles of style without spending as much. I got far with a pair of black sale pants from Gap, a black 3/4 sleeve shift from Target, and a fitted black merino crewneck I had from my thinner days – if you look back at the two years after Emerson was born, you will see I wore such pieces over and over, but with different garments and accessories to always make them look new.

See the Glass Half Full
Your body is changing, and for the better! As with any change, there will always be some growing pains, and unfortunately this time the pain is in your closet. Stick with your healthy new lifestyle, and see new clothes as a prize when you cross the finish line (or at least hit milestones). While you may get sick of those same black pants or that same blue dress, it’s not a savvy decision to blow your wardrobe budget now. Take baby steps – a transition piece here, an alteration there, and soon you will become familiar with your new body and know better what pieces are worth it to buy.

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My Home Away From Home

Four years ago, I changed jobs.  It was a scary change, but a really great one. While my last company was a good one filled with great people, it just was not a good fit for me. This current company really feels like a home away from home. As the company has grown, my office has moved around a bit – I am currently in my third location, but have been happily residing at this desk in this office for about two years. I share my office with this awesome woman who is a transcriptionist – she’s only here once a week so usually I have this room to myself.

The only thing bad about my office is that my back is to the window, and I have a pretty awesome view of a main street in the city. Unfortunately the way this room is configured, there’s no way to adjust that.

This is what I look at every day.  I usually have two computers up at all times – I need redundant Internet for work projects.  Always have headphones plugged in – either I am listening to Spotify, or I am editing audio recordings.  Have a headset for my phone for crisp audio when I need to speak on projects.

The lamp is from my college days – a cheapy $19.99 torchiere from Kmart or Target.   It still works great, uses a standard bulb and has three settings.  Proof you can get quality at any pricepoint!  The chart on the wall is a list of to-dos I have created for my team – we’re getting into some pretty quiet weeks before the new year and I keep adding randomness we can do now to be prepared for 2012.

Do you think I have enough beverages?  The reusable Starbucks cup was my morning coffee that I drank on the commute.  The mug (a super cute gift from my mom two years ago) is for when I don’t have coffee from home.  I usually spend the rest of the day consuming 2-3 refills of my Camelbak bottle, but because it’s been a crazy week, today I treated myself to a Diet Dr. Pepper.  And now you know the truth – most of my bracelets and earrings end up on my desk within an hour of arriving at the office.  It’s hard to wear headphones and type with them; I do put them back on when heading to lunch or a meeting!

It’s almost 2012 and I still rely on a Rolodex.  I have had this same Rolodex since 2001 and carry it with me from job to job.  While I do have an Excel spreadsheet with the same information, I find a Rolodex to be faster and easier.

The picture is of my husband and I in 1994 when I went up to Great Lakes for his Navy boot camp graduation.  We were at the Hard Rock Cafe in Chicago, both exhausted but happy.  The print on the wall is from Ork Posters – they have these in a variety of colors for different cities all over the world.

Above my desk is this board.  Tons of randomness – birthday cards from coworkers, pictures of my family, badges from conferences, etc.  The flowers are those decals you can put on windows – I had them up when my old office’s desk faced a window – it helped me recognize which office was mine from the street below.  The shoes are from my sister – in college she managed a shop near campus that sold them and I acquired quite the collection.  My coworker saw my collection and gave me the shoe keychains to the right to keep them company.  The blank space on the ledge is because two shoes have fallen behind my desk and I keep forgetting to go back there and retrieve them.

To the right of my desk is a tall bookcase and short file cabinet.  I have a second phone in my office for when I need to stream audio for a live web event.  A bit more Georgia O’Keeffe, a Picasso print that represents how I sometimes feel on busy days at the office, and a bit more plant life.  At my old job, a coworker gave me a small Christmas cactus; I brought it to this job and it’s still living.  I have broken off some of the long tendrils and put them in a vase to sprout roots – I need to bring in a larger pot and some soil to transplant them!

The frames are Liberty of London for Target – one picture is of me and my husband at Bonnaroo in 2008, one is of the three of us a year ago.  Two glass insulators (I have quite a collection of them at home).  The second shelf is a dust-covered pile of randomness – training manuals, HR binders, a vase from flowers my husband sent me almost a year ago… should be cleaned up.  Maybe I’ll do that next week when it’s going to be super quite in the office.  Maybe I would be able to find a smaller bookcase hiding at the office as only two shelves are really being used!

***

So now you know where I hang out from at least 9-5 every week day.  Where I gulp down Lean Cuisines while completing blog posts on my lunch hour, where I chat with you on Twitter and Facebook.  It’s a good place to be, surrounded by good people doing good things.  My home away from home!

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Friday: Work from Home

Sweater: Rafaella c/o Gwynnie Bee
Tank: Caslon (similar)
Brooch: Ann Taylor (similar)
Jeans: Gap
Shoes: Ivanka Trump
Lipstick: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Crush Begun

Friday I worked from home. While it’s tempting to stay in pajamas, I like to wear something appropriate so I can answer the door, say yes to a friend who asks me last-minute to lunch, or step out to run errands. On this day, I knew after work I would be heading out with my husband (and Emerson!) to photograph a friend for an upcoming True Fashionista post.

I decided to wear comfortable clothes that look put together; this ruffle-trim cardigan arrived in my most recent Gwynnie Bee box. This is NOT a color I usually wear but I always love. Good use for Gwynnie Bee – try out a new color! I ended up loving this color so much I bought another sweater in the same shade. This sweater is pretty awesome – it’s free of closures, so you can wear hanging open, belt it, or do as I did and cinch it with a brooch. I bought this pin at Ann Taylor a few years ago and love that brooches have come back en vogue so it can get more play!

This weekend was pretty crazy – we found out our hot water heater was slowly leaking so we had some major cleanup to do (and still do), and Sunday we helped my mom take down her 30-year old steel toolshed. But to make up for the weekend, tonight I am going with my friend to see Gossip at The 9:30 Club! Woot!

As a reminder, if you are interested in trying Gwynnie Bee (read more about it here), they are offering your first two months half-price!  Just mention Wardrobe Oxygen when signing up to get the promotion.  Deal valid until September 30, 2012.

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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!

Giveaway: Gap Skimmer Jeans – Save and Win!

Last week I featured the new Gap Skimmer Jean and how incredibly versatile and adorable it is. Many of you were interested in trying the Skimmer for yourself, well now’s your chance! From February 21 – 27, 2013, try the New Skimmer and get $20 off! When you try the New Skimmer at any Gap store, you’ll get an automatic $20 off any regular-priced pair.  What a fab promotion, I’m thinking I may have to grab a pair of their camo-print skimmers for spring!

Want even more encouragement to try these awesome new jeans? One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $50 AmEx gift card that you could use to buy your Gap Skimmers!

How to Enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Unlock the Perfect Cup this Holiday with TASSIMO™: Review and Giveaway

Looking at how often I write and tweet about coffee, you’d think I was a coffee connoisseur. Notsomuch. When I hit my local coffee shop I ask for it plain and big because all the –inos overwhelm me. At home, Karl is the master of the coffee domain. I have no idea how to use the French press so I rely on him to fuel my caffeine fix. Lately I have been working more early mornings and I have to stop by the local coffee shop or fast food drive-through to get my cup of Joe because I just can’t figure out how to make a decent cup of coffee. You know what would be a perfect holiday gift for me? A super simple single-serve coffee maker that would make a great cup of coffee every time.

Enter TASSIMO™, who was awesome enough to send me the TASSIMO™ T55 Single Cup Brewing System JUST at the perfect time. I was working a lot of long days and hated spending so much on take-out coffee or watching Karl make me a cup still bleary-eyed in dawn’s early light. No needing to wait until the holidays to become a coffee-making expert!

Place the T DISC upside down so that the INTELLIBREW™ technology can read the barcode. Snap the lid shut, press Start and in minutes you’ll be enjoying a perfect cup!

The TASSIMO™ Brewer is super easy to use too. Add water to the reservoir in back, insert your TASSIMO™ T DISC in the top, and press start. The built-in technology INTELLIBREW™ scans the barcode on each T DISC to identify precise brewing instructions with the exact temperature, water, and time duration, so each and every drink is perfect every time. This Home Brewing System isn’t just for a cup of joe–the TASSIMO™ can also make cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolate, tea, and more. One of my favorite features is how quickly it heats water; for little energy you can have a piping-hot cup of water for soup or tea in seconds.

TASSIMO™ sent me a few T DISCS to get started, and it’s fun to make hot chocolate, cappuccinos, caramel latte macchiatos, or espressos by myself and know it will be delicious. With well-known brands like Twinings, Gevalia, and Maxwell House partnering with TASSIMO™ for their T DISCS you know the quality and the flavor is great. I love that there are great limited edition flavors like Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Peppermint Mocha for the holidays!

Now I’m a pro at making fancy coffee house drinks from my kitchen counter!

If you’d like to unlock a perfect cup with TASSIMO™ this holiday season, they are offering some great deals on their site. With Cyber Monday code TACYMON3 you can get 20% off T DISCS; you also get 20% off Brewers and with each Brewer purchase, you will receive two free packages of T DISCS (valid in the US only on TassimoDirect.com. Cannot be combined with other offers . Limit one coupon redemption per customer. 20% T DISC discount limited to 6 T DISC packages. 20% Brewer discount limited to two Brewers. Offer only valid on 12/2/2013 until 11:59PM PST).

If you miss the Cyber Monday Deal, brewers and T DISCS are also available at Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon.

Giveaway
Thank you for entering, the giveaway is now closed and winners have been notified.

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Ask Allie: When is it Time to Wear Makeup?

When should one wear makeup? I’m not looking for an “it’s your prerogative, no woman needs to wear makeup” answer, I want an honest answer from someone in the professional arena. I have great skin, teeth, and get my brows groomed, but the only time I wear makeup is when I am in a friend’s wedding or when I went to Prom. I work at a job where they don’t care if I wear makeup or not, but I wish to move up the corporate ladder, take on more clients, and am wondering if makeup may improve my standing or make me look more professional.

I know I will get flack for this, but I am glad you asked this because I do think proper application of makeup provides a professional edge. No one is going to tell you that you need to wear makeup. Your boss won’t tell you, your coworkers won’t tell you, your friends won’t tell you. Because honestly… no person needs makeup to be a successful professional. However, if you feel you’re being passed up for opportunities, treated as though you’re in a more junior position than you have, surprise coworkers with your age (“I thought you were so much younger!”), or notice that the successful folk in the firm and in your field step it up a bit more with their professional appearance, it’s likely time to add makeup to your professional look.

This doesn’t mean you need to go full-on glam. An overly done face is actually less professional than no makeup. One just needs a bit of something to have your face as polished as your professional ensemble.  Maybe a dab of concealer to tone down redness and dark circles, a light touch of blush or lipstick to help you look more awake, possibly some powder to fill in uneven brows or mascara to darken fair lashes. Just something to finish your look, like a perfectly tailored suit. Start small, with a bit of liquid concealer dabbed here or there or a mascara like Maybelline Great Lash (the famous green and pink tube) that darkens but doesn’t add a lot of volume (or clumps). See what you think, and see what reaction you receive. If you do it well, you won’t receive a compliment on your makeup, but people may say you look rested or happy, or may compliment you on an outfit you have worn a dozen times prior.

Several years ago I wrote a post titled, “Fashion is Stupid” where I used a coworker as an example of why how you look in the workplace does matter. And I still receive comments on that post saying I am a superficial jerk. But I do work in Corporate America, and have for a while for a variety of companies and fields. And in this time I have seen that a polished, professional and confident appearance will get you further than a really impressive looking business card or fancy website for your resume.

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Ask Allie: When to Wear White, Tucking in Shirts

I bought this. I really like it, and am anxious to wear it. The thing is, it is white. Really, really white. Do I have to wait until Memorial Day? Or can I add strategic accessories and do it earlier? I was thinking of adding a cardigan or a jacket and a red necklace to tone it down a bit. And of course, I can belt it, which is what I was planning on doing anyway. Ideas on styling (for both now and later)?

What a super cute dress! I love Lands End Canvas and that dress looks to be so versatile.

Many people would tell you that wearing white before Memorial Day is totally acceptable these days. I disagree when it comes to white shoes and white bottoms and white pieces out of very summery fabrics like linen. Usually I would say that wearing white eyelet is not really appropriate for pre-Memorial Day, however I think you can accessorize it to make it spring-appropriate.

Looking at the dress, I can imagine it with a denim jacket, hip-slung belt and a pair of boots (Frye Harness boots, which would be a perfect choice). This way, the white is broken up and not so obviously “Hi I am a white summer dress!”

Inspiration from the blogger Death By Platforms

I could also see you tempering the cutesy eyelet with black engineer boots and a biker jacket for a “tough but sweet” ensemble.

Once summer has arrived, you can do so much with this dress. Add color with a brightly-colored cardigan and/or skinny belt. Keep it simple with tan flat sandals and a few brushed gold bangles. I love turquoise with white – a chunky stone statement necklace and nude wedge sandals would make it look fresh yet still modern. Lands End Canvas shows it with a hip-slung belt, however I think this style of dress offers real belting versatility – a belt at the ribs, natural waist, or hips will all work; you can also try wide or narrow belts and find success with either size.

I would love to start tucking my shirt/blouse into skirts/pants but tummy issues make me very conscious. My skirt/pant size is between a 14-16. Do I go with a bigger size bottom and tuck?

I was absolutely terrified of tucking in shirts for all my life – I have always carried my weight in my lower belly and felt that this did nothing but emphasize my gut. However lately I have found it can actually be quite flattering.

I find it has less to do with the size of the skirt or trousers, and more the cut and fabrication. A stiffer, heavier or lined fabric keeps its shape and will help smooth the tummy. A wide waistband also does a great job of keeping the tummy smooth, and the doubled fabric of the band also keeps the garment from stretching out during the day.

Inspiration from the blogger Style IT

I find a very straight or slightly wide-leg trouser or a straight or slightly a-line skirt are the best choices to wear to hide your tummy. Flared and fuller skirts, or very body-con styles can cling to the curves, accentuating the tummy (an exception is a midi-length gathered skirt – the length gives weight to the fabric, making a fuller style work on many figures without too much fullness at the tummy – example).

Adding a wide belt to the ensemble and wearing it a tad above your natural waistline will elongate your leg line, highlight a smaller part of your torso, and break up the line while also making it look more complete.

Be very conscious of where the skirt ends on your leg. Since you are already accentuating your curves with a tucked-in shirt, you want to be sure the skirt hits at a flattering length on your leg. Have it hit at a small part of your leg – just above or just below the knee are usually flattering on most women.

Don’t fear control garments – I have a high-waisted thong control garment that is my go-to when I wear a pencil skirt and a tucked-in blouse. It’s not super restricting, but does enough to keep the tummy looking smooth under clothing.

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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 and a Giveaway – Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design

Shirt: c/o Foxcroft | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Halogen (similar) | Necklace: c/o Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Bag: Brahmin (similar)

Accessories can transform the most basic wardrobe staples and make pieces a cohesive outfit. I just received this necklace from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design and while it is BEGGING to be styled with an LBD for the holidays or worn with a beautiful silk blouse, I thought it could really make a statement with a simple white shirt and dark jeans. I haven’t carried my Brahmin bag in a while, and I thought the bright blue really made the emerald necklace pop!

Giveaway:

If you like this necklace and the other beautiful pieces I have featured from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design, well today’s your lucky day! One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $100 store credit to Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design!

Ruth Barzel makes all her unique pieces in the United States and is a local-yokel to me.  Not only that, she’s an awesome human being!  While I love the Emerald Quartz Nugget Statement Necklace I’m wearing here, I also love wearing her Blue Quartz Pendant Necklace and wear her Mixed Metal Chain Bracelet on a weekly basis. Ruth has offered all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off her entire store, just use code OXYGEN20.  This discount will be in effect until the end of November, 2013.

How to Enter:
Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. This contest is open to both US and international readers. Contest ends November 30, 2013 at midnight ET.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
As a reminder, if you can’t wait for the giveaway to end and want to get yourself some jewelry from Ruth Barzel, use the code OXYGEN20 at checkout for 20% off your order!

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What to Wear to Paris

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

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

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Sample Capsule Wardrobe:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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Monday: Milkmaid

Dress: c/o eShakti | Cardigan: Ann Taylor (similar) | Shoes: Ivanka Trump | Bracelets:Emerson” c/o Kristin Biggs, Stella and Dot (other two are from sets I purchased this past year from Nordstrom)

Two years ago, I tried out eShakti and didn’t have the most perfect of experiences. So when they contacted me last month asking me to try the line again but do a custom fit dress, I was excited. Many of you said the fit of the dress was bad because it was a straight size, so the idea of a custom dress appealed to me. At home, I had my husband measure me and entered it all into the eShakti site. Less than two weeks later, the dress arrived. And yes, the fit is MUCH better. No bra showing under the arms, the waist is at the right place for my petite figure, plenty of room for my bust and no chance of a strap slipping throughout the day. However, I just don’t think the dress is very flattering on me; my husband said I looked like a milkmaid or a beer wench.  The fabric is very stiff and the entire dress including the bodice sticks out from my body making the dress look more like a costume. I think such a fabric may work better on a taller person who can better balance the volume.  The dress doesn’t seem to be on the site any more, it has a square neckline in front, a v-neckline in back, a size zipper (though I didn’t need it to get it on), and pockets.  The black are ribbon stripes sewn onto the navy dress; there is one of these ribbons defining the waist which is sits just above my belly button.

While today is springlike in DC, there’s still a chill in the air. I tried a traditional cardigan and it looked a bit too twee on me; this wrap cardigan not only make the ensemble fit better with my personal style, but also cinched in the dress. I have to say, this dress will be pretty awesome in the hot humid months of summer but I’ll have to do some tinkering with it so it is a bit more flattering. The fit issue could be my fault – maybe the measurements weren’t accurate, and maybe I chose the wrong style dress. Have you used eShakti? What have you thought of the experience?

UPDATE: eShakti is sweet enough to offer all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off their next order!  Just use code WRDRBEXYGE at checkout for 20% off.  This code is valid until March 20, 2013.

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What to Wear on an Alaskan Cruise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What to Wear to a Concert

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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Home

The past couple of weeks have been very busy, stressful, and overall exhausting. But thinking of spending my weekend here with my family immediately lowers my blood pressure. We moved into this house Spring 2001, married three years later, January 2009 marked the birth of Emerson and the completion of a major renovation confirming that this is not a starter house, this is our life home.

Last night Karl grilled steaks; I sat on a bench at the foot of the deck stairs outside those double doors and looked up into this living room all lit up and thought, THIS is my dream home.  The old couches that sag and creak, the mismatched wood furniture decorated with nicks and some crayon lines, the bookcases jammed full with no rhyme, reason, or color coordination.  Every square foot represents the three of us (actually four, can’t forget our dog Cindy!), and every square foot represents love.

Saturday mornings, I wake up before everyone, go for a walk and then and enjoy a cup of coffee and a chapter of my latest book in that crazy chair I bought from the Annapolis Mall Structure when it was closing.  The rest of the house wakes, Karl heads off to work and Emerson and I sit on the couch together and watch TV with our twin bowls of oatmeal, or lie in the hammock (that’s what that rope is to the right, the other part of the hammock is hiding behind a curtain) and watch the woods, pointing out birds and squirrels.  Later in the day day you can find us working on a craft at the coffee table or lying on the floor playing.  In the evening after Emerson is in bed, Karl and I snuggle on the couch and watch an episode of Vikings or Once Upon a Time (we’re catching up on Once, currently on Season 2 via Netflix so no spoilers please!). This room is called a Living Room for a reason.

I sometimes get caught up in the land of decor blogs and Pinterest, but a home is one of the most personal things in one’s life.  I like how it’s becoming more and more odd and mismatched and worn in, how there’s no real theme or concept except us.  When I start feeling off, I look at our living room and get grounded.  Home IS where the heart is!

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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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