Search Results for: label/why I write about fashion

No Apologies

I am writing to let you know after three years I am unsubscribing from your blog. My friend recommended it as a fashion resource for women over 40 and while I have gained some benefit from your capsule wardrobes, I can no longer support a site that will sell out to the highest bidder. In just the past month you have sold articles to promote cookies, men’s watches, a dress from a retailer I have never seen you before promote, and now underwear to prevent as you put it, chub rub. Obviously you care more about the almighty dollar than your self-respect or the approval of your followers. Good luck to you, you will need it with the direction you are going.

And good luck to you, for you too will need it if you feel that your fellow women shouldn’t be compensated for their work and instead should worry about gaining approval from others.

In the past month (May 10 – June 10) I have published 22 posts on Wardrobe Oxygen. Five are outfit posts; while these posts may feature some gifted merchandise I chose to feature it because I like it and wore the merchandise in real life. Four are straight-up fashion advice posts, two are reviews of clothing or beauty products I purchased with my own money, three were by my monthly columnists, four were on non-fashion or outfit content (about blogging, retail, my arm surgery and one about weight), and four were sponsored content. Less than 20% of my content is sponsored.

Cookies? When I accepted the sponsorship, I was told the piece would be about self-care and “me time,” which I felt was completely relevant to the blog (I had recently written about coloring, written before about self care).  And while the final contract requirements expected photos and specific wording about said cookies, I didn’t feel the final post was in poor taste because I legitimately love those cookies. In fact, I had two Tuesday night with a glass of wine while finishing my newsletter.

Men’s watches? I may not write regularly about men’s fashion, but I do on occasion. I have also provided gift guides in the past and I truly believe a watch to be a great gift. And to be honest, the pay was really good for that one and I really like partnering with Nordstrom because while I am given guidelines (write about men’s watches, write about flats for summer, etc.), I am allowed to write whatever I want in whatever format feels authentic. I shop at Nordstrom, I love Nordstrom’s customer service and selection, I featured Nordstrom a TON before I ever was offered a sponsored post from them and I work hard to provide quality content, advice, and details in every Nordstrom-sponsored post I write.

Christopher & Banks? I think it was a smart partnership. When they approached me I was thrilled. The pricepoint for their collection is good, and many of you have complained in the past that I feature brands that are too expensive for your budget. The brand offers a broad range of sizes, which is refreshing to see. And honestly, that dress is amazing. I’ve worn it a half dozen times, thrown in in the washer and dryer and it still looks great. Many of you let me know you ordered the dress after my post and also adore it. I wouldn’t have known about Christopher & Banks if they hadn’t reached out to me; many of my favorite brands are ones I learned about thanks to this blog.

As for the Jockey Skimmies I will not apologize for getting paid to promote an that I love. Come on, I wrote a completely unpaid review last year and raved, why should I say no to being paid and given another pair? I legitimately wore them to that wedding and they legitimately saved my skin during the event. And while you may not approve of me discussing chub rub, I’m not ashamed to admit I experience it and I’m thrilled to offer a reasonably-priced product that battles an issue many many women deal with.

Writing this blog takes time. Time I could be spending with my family, hitting the gym, working my way up the career ladder, gardening, writing the next great American novel, sewing the dropped hem in Emerson’s favorite skirt (I really need to get around to that…). Being compensated justifies the time I spend (and enjoy) on Wardrobe Oxygen. If I were a professional wardrobe consultant I’d be paid by the hour. If I were a book author people would purchase my book. If I were a teacher I’d be paid a salary.  I have a day job so I can’t do most speaking engagements or have time to write e-books and freelance content.  I’ve made a choice to put my family first so I decline most sponsored activities like hosting events, going on trips, or speaking at conferences so I can be home to put Emerson to bed.  Sponsored posts and affiliate links are my income for the service I provide, and I work hard for the money. I strive to have quality content and a good balance of sponsored content and regular posts.

In the past I have taken on too much sponsored content, and I will admit some of the sponsored posts weren’t the best fit. I also had a few of you upset that you couldn’t tell posts were sponsored until the end so I have made a concerted effort to be clearer with the partnership.  I’m learning as I go, working to constantly improve this site and my processes to run it.

Once I made What Every Woman Wanted in Her Wardrobe dot Blogspot dot com into Wardrobe Oxygen, I considered it a business. That doesn’t just mean I made money, it meant I made a decision to be more professional with how I handled the blog.  More regular content, more on-topic content, higher quality images, a more consistent schedule.  I do that because I take pride in my job, and I consider Wardrobe Oxygen a job. Just because I don’t have a book deal or storefront doesn’t mean I should have to work for free.

I wish you the best in finding a resource that is a better fit for you. But please consider the effort put into making that advice that you benefit from; don’t you think everyone deserves to be compensated for their work?

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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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.

Age is But a Number

Age is but a number.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review and Giveaway: LiveTheLook

Here at Wardrobe Oxygen, I write about personal style instead of fashion trends. I believe in dressing for who you are, not what is on the runways. Usually, this goes against many of the fun promotions, shopping programs, and sample boxes that are popular right now. So when Live The Look contacted me and told me how their site lets you shop by your personal style, I was very intrigued.

When you visit Live The Look, you’re asked to complete a questionnaire. What wardrobe staples you’re looking to style, what style aesthetics you gravitate towards, what size you wear. From this information, Live The Look creates a collection of items that should appeal to you. But don’t worry, you’re still able to easily shop from any of the style aesthetics. As for what Live The Look offers, it’s also different from similar sites. Live The Look carefully curates collections of artisanal, unique, and quality accessories and separates, most made in the United States. Necklaces that will ask people where you got them, sunglasses that stand out from the crowd, novelty tee shirts that are mini works of art, pieces made by indie artists, and unique yet very wearable clothing.

As someone who is on the cusp of plus size clothing, I was disheartened to see the sizing stopped at XL/12, but was pleased by the extensive amount of accessories available. Live The Look offered me a credit to take their program out for a spin, and I chose to use it for The Destroyed Denim T-shirt (which I envisioned with my leather pleated skirt now, and with white jeans come spring), and the Flourish Sterling Silver Initial Necklace (I’ve always wanted one, and I loved that it came in silver and was a fancy yet readable letter). I loved that each product page gave a story about the brand, showing how LiveTheLook isn’t offering cheap mass-produced pieces, but quality crafted artisanal pieces from indie designers. I also loved how most of the designers and artists were based in the USA, made their products in America, and some even donated a portion of their profits to charity.

My pieces came quickly, shipped directly from the designers. The necklace came first, and it reminded me of an Etsy purchase, packed in a cute little gift box and tied with a red ribbon. I’ve worn the necklace by Juan Pablo Arango Cano almost daily since receiving it, you can see it on my Instagram and in this outfit post. The tee shirt from The Squad came a couple days later, and to be honest, I was half expecting me to hate it and not know how to write this post. Oh I was so wrong, this tee shirt is UH-MAY-ZING (see here on my Instagram account). How they can make a tee shirt heavy yet silky and drapey is beyond me. And it doesn’t look like acid washed denim, but is a dark gray-blue color that is perfectly distressed and perfectly drapey and makes me understand why some tee shirts cost so much. Not only that, it even came with a little evil eye pendant as an added gift. Again, it was packed in a small business-like way with tissue paper and personal touches like a notecard.

You can learn more about Live The Look by visiting their site (go ahead and sign up with an account, you won’t have to enter a credit card or anything, but take a tour around), visiting them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Fancy, or visit their blog.

Like what you read? Well one lucky Wardrobe Oxygen reader will receive a $150 credit to Live The Look!

Giveaway
One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $150 credit to LiveTheLook.com.  This giveaway is open only to residents of the United States. You must be 18 years old or older to enter. Giveaway runs from January 20, 2014 to February 2, 2014 at 11:59pm ET.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Random thoughts on a Tuesday…

I wear Burberry London as my signature fragrance. It is the first time I have had a “signature fragrance,” for most fragrances drive me insane or make me sneeze after a few weeks.

Because of this, a good third of my bureau is decorated with various perfume bottles. I just can’t rid of them because they are pretty.

I forgot to wear my wedding set yesterday… and today. I took them off after the beach because I was feeling stiff and sunburned and swollen from salt and heat and vodka tonics. I must remember to put them back on today.

I never take off my wedding set, not even for a shower or swim in the ocean. I only take them off when we are at a Bailey Banks and Biddle to have them cleaned. I’ve been married three years, I don’t clean them that often any more. It’s about the sentiment, not the shine.

Last night I was at Annapolis Mall with my husband and we walked past Bailey Banks and Biddle and he asked if I wanted to go in and have my ring cleaned. He wasn’t happy to find out I didn’t have it on and had it sitting on my nightstand for 24 hours. He said the dog could eat it. I wouldn’t put it past my dog; he has eaten stranger things in the past.

At Annapolis Mall I found out I am old. I mean, I know I am getting older and this weekend my friends and I cried this statement a few times when we saw ridiculous young peep fashion and actions, but the mall made me feel truly aged. As you know I write about clothing here and on my other blog, but I like to think that I write more about style than fashion. There is a difference between the two, and there is a difference between fashion and trends as well. I looked at what was an attempt at fashion, and what was hot and trendy now and it made my head hurt. Jeans so bedazzled on the pockets, I wonder how people sit. Candy colored hi-top sneaks for men, tops that would hardly cover an areola, multiple layers of knits all cinched up with a faux pleather belt… the styles in the store windows were hideous and I knew I must be old if I was shuddering in front of each wall of plate glass. I felt like a senior citizen. Granted, I am a well-dressed senior citizen that got three compliments from strangers for my choice of shoe and a good looking man my junior looked me up and down in a way that made me feel a bit violated and a bit vindicated.

My husband noted that those who live in Annapolis LOOK as though they live in Annapolis. We were trying to break down the exact look and this was out list on the restaurant napkin:

  • Weathered skin – not just tan, but with freckles, creases and a bit of a leathery texture even on teens
  • Very casual hair – low ponytails and straight bangs on women of a certain age, curly mops on men of all ages, tangled long sun-streaked tresses on younger ladies.
  • Very expensive purses with plenty of hardware, or else Very Bradley satchels
  • Very old bottoms, be it cargo shorts, jeans, a chino skirt. Obviously well made to withstand salt and sand and sun and many trips through the washer.
  • No bright colors past lime, pink or coral. Maybe a wild French blue but never Crayola red or emerald green and gosh forbid if you tried to wear bright orange outside of a life jacket.
  • Very comfortable shoes. Flops, slides, sandals, boat shoes. Usually as weathered but well-made as the owner’s shorts or skirt.
  • Minimal makeup on the women – mascara, a touch of tinted lip balm, sometimes a smudge of eyeliner but that is it.
  • An obvious piece of expensive jewelry. It may be large diamond studs, a strand of real pearls, a right-hand diamond ring, or maybe a Tiffany bracelet for the teens.

I said I felt very Annapolis in my black top, white trousers and turquoise necklace. For once I too had the minimal hair and makeup.

My husband then reminded me that I was wearing the leopard-print stilettos that were complimented three times by strangers. Oh well, still have a bit of DC in me, even if I desire to be more Naptown.

I love great shoes. You can wear the most basic things, and your shoes will always take center stage. It is far easier to get away at work with crazy shoes than crazy makeup or crazy dresses.

I am allergic to blue cheese, but I asked for gorgonzola on my salad last night. How can you have field greens, champagne vinaigrette, pears and walnuts without it?

I hate admitting when I am disappointed to a nice waitress. The kitchen brought out our entrees before our appetizer, didn’t bring bread until our second request and never brought my lemon for my water so I had to steal my husband’s off his iced tea. Oh, and the chips with the spinach artichoke dip were stale as all heck, hence the need for the bread. But she was so darn cute and sweet I couldn’t complain.

I don’t think my husband could either, he felt guilty and left 20% tip.

Today he is sending a letter to Nordstrom to compliment them on our salesperson last night. I bought my husband some of those slip-on dress shoes (not traditional loafers, more sleek) a year or so ago and last week the seam busted out at the sole. We took them back to Nordstrom sans receipt in hopes they could fix them. They could not, so they offered to give us a replacement pair if I could guess the price. The same brand in a slightly different version were $130 so I said $130. He entered $150 into the register so we got a $180 pair of shoes for $30 plus tax. I felt bad because he spent a long time with us to have such a meager sale and like the waitress, for some reason we felt bad for doing what customers do and expecting those in the service industry to do their job, so we are writing a thank you letter.

People should write more thank you letters. Nothing makes a person’s day more than having nice sentiments on paper.

I have all my thank you notes and customer comment cards from my retail days saved in a binder in clear pages. I like to look at it when I feel like a loser.

I also save all the sweet compliments and thank you emails I get from readers in my inbox so I can be reminded of why I write and that I am not invisible in this world.

Speaking of which, someone walked by my cube and complimented me on my perfume. I smiled and said “it’s Burberry London” when asked the brand. “I guess you could say it’s my signature fragrance.”

Then I thought, “oh crap, they can smell my perfume from outside my cube? That’s not a signature, that’s a billboard!”

I promptly licked and rubbed together my wrists in an attempt to wear away some scent. Burberry London may smell nice, but it doesn’t taste nice.

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.

True Fashionista: Sheree

I must admit, I visit many blogs where it seems that women are not wearing fashion, but fashion is wearing them. They have a passion for the art, but they don’t know when to say no, or when a trend is just not appropriate for their personality, lifestyle, figure, or soul. So when I come across a blog where a real woman really knows herself and how to wear current trends well, I am addicted. And that is how I have been with Sheree’s blog, It’s Not That Deep. Sheree knows herself and her personal style; she knows how to stay true to herself while incorporating the hottest trends, and for that I find Sheree to be a True Fashionista.

Sheree incorporates thrifted pieces with designer with mall-friendly brands like H&M and Vince Camuto, brand new fashion splurges with pieces she has owned for a decade. I love the badass-ness of not just her ensembles but the attitude that comes through her photos.  I also love how she incorporates color – there’s no Rainbow Brite ensembles but carefully chosen pops that add edge, whimsy, and femininity.

Sheree knows fashion, loves fashion, and proves that you can be stylish and be a wonderful parent. Sheree may have a killer wardrobe and killer body, but she’s also a wife and mother to two adorable kiddos.  I love her inspiration posts – you can really see how her mind is working and often the outfit posts that follow incorporate the trends that inspired her. 

Sheree’s personal style is so clear and defined, I find it inspiring.  Looking at her blog is like looking at attainable style of a fashion editor.  Clean, crisp, modern but with a personal touch that makes it unique.  I can see images of fashion insiders like Kate Lanphear, Eva Fontanelli, or Giovanna Battaglia but know I couldn’t afford (or likely fit) a single thing on their bodies; Sheree makes such specific style achievable for the every woman. 

As with every other True Fashionista, I asked Sheree to answer the same five questions:

How would you describe your personal style?
I would describe my personal style as feminine with an urban edge.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I have been into fashion for as long as I can remember. When I was younger my bedroom walls were covered with pics of Kate Moss, I live an hour from Manhattan and I would always insist that my dad take me to the city to go shopping even as a teenager. I always insisted I have unique, modern pieces..even as a teen. It continued into my 20’s. I was a womanswear buyer in Manhattan before going back to school to get my Masters in Social Work,

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
My inspiration definitely comes from street style looks. I just search StreetStyle in Tumblr and get loads of inspiration. Designer wise I am obsessed with Phillip Lim and just seeing his runway collection inspires me to try different looks even if I can’t afford all of his pieces. I also love Christine Centenera, the Editor of Vogue Australia.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Fashion is fashion plain and simple. Your style is what distinguishes you from everyone else. To develop your own personal style is something that you evolve into over time. I also usually find that people with a true sense of style transcends into their home and other areas of their life. It’s about really knowing who you are as a person and being able to get that across.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
I think that developing your own personal style takes time. I used to constantly buy things, bring them home and ask “what was I thinking?” I rarely do this anymore because I know my style. I think that you have to pay attention to what looks you like via Pinterest, other blogs, etc and dissect what attracts you to them. Take that and add in what you feel comfortable in and what feels like you and there you go. I think it takes trial and error and trying things on and figuring out why this feel like me or why it doesn’t. I can appreciate really put together looks (ie, Atlantic Pacific) but it’s not my style, I have a more edgy casual street vibe. So it’s not necessarily just what you like but what is “you”. That’s why I said earlier it’s about knowing who you are. My blog is called “It’s Not That Deep” but I guess sometimes it can be 😉

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The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday for the next few weeks. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments!

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Showing the Love: ELOQUII

This month, the month of love, I want to celebrate you. It’s the tenth year of Wardrobe Oxygen, and this blog wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for your love and support. To show my love in return, I’ve partnered with some of my favorite brands to offer you some amazing gifts. These giveaways are not sponsored, I am receiving nothing in return for hosting them, I will not be promoting these giveaways on social media so to increase the chances of you regular readers winning. The brands know this, and have chosen to donate great gifts because they too want to show you the love.

For many years, it’s been tough being plus-size fashionista. It’s as though retailers didn’t think that women size 12 and up wanted, or DESERVED current trends and fun apparel. Thank goodness the tides are turning, and one of the trailblazers bringing fabulous fashion in larger sizes is ELOQUII.

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Originally under the Limited Brand, ELOQUII relaunched as private company last year and they’re taking the plus size fashion world by storm. As ELOQUII states on their “About” page, “It’s time for fashion to move forward.” And forward ELOQUII is, offering fun and stylish clothing for work, play, and everything in between in sizes 14 to 24. ELOQUII keeps up with trends by introducing new limited product every couple of weeks and keeps your wallet happy with reasonable prices for the high quality and many great promotions (it’s worth it to sign up for their emails to know when sales are taking place). Not only that, ELOQUII believes in community – from sharing fan photos on their site to customer reviews on products to a really engaging social media campaign (hello a brand that comments on your Instagram photos and replies back to tweets!), ELOQUII is changing not just the look but the attitude of plus sized fashion.

And I have to admit, I have a soft spot for ELOQUII because my dear friend Sarah works for them. Sarah was one of my first “bloggy friends,” I met her through a blogging network in way back in 2006 and she’s one of the most genuine, loving and lovable people I know. If you love that sense of community, fun, and spirit that shines through ELOQUII’s social media channels, that’s thanks to my gal Sarah, their Social Media and Community Strategist.  And what’s great is she LOVES working with ELOQUII – it’s always great to know that a great company has great people behind it.

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And come ON, how adorable is their collection? Above are some of the pieces from their new arrivals that are making me drool. Fashion, fun, and heart describe ELOQUII, and that’s why I’m proud to regularly recommend the brand to you in advice posts and oh so proud to offer this giveaway to you! One lucky Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $100 store credit to ELOQUII! Giveaway is open to US and Canada readers and ends February 20, 2014. Read the widget below for additional details and good luck!

Wardrobe Oxygen ELOQUII $100 Store Credit Giveaway

Fight for Your Right to be Fashionable!

Two conversations this weekend led me to the same conclusion – most clothing made for women over a size 14 is CRAP. Why do plus-size designers believe that anyone who wears their clothes are the size of a typical size 8, just stretched in every direction? Not all size 18 women are 6’ tall with shoulders like a linebacker. Not every size 20 woman has size F breasts, and just because someone wears a larger size in jeans does not mean she also has a higher rise. The average size of an American woman’s dress may be growing, but that does not mean the height of an American woman is growing at the same speed. More often than not, that plus sized shopper has the same bone structure as her size 8 counterpart, just more curves and padding over those bones.

And another thing, why is it that the only choices for a plus sized woman is to look like a tramp, a dowager or blob? No matter our size, we should be able to easily express ourselves – our sophisticated, creative, feminine, chic self.

Walking through the mall, a woman over a size 12 has minimal options. Good old Lane Bryant may have some great pieces, but they are stuffed on overcrowded racks and rounders with utterly hideous polyester confections, gaudy prints and muumuu-like frocks. Avenue and Ashley Stewart rarely have the quality and current style of say, Bebe or Ann Taylor and I don’t even want to mention the majority of crap on the racks of Fashion Bug and Deb. Hit J. Jill, Coldwater Creek and Eileen Fisher, and if you are under 40 (or over 40) you may feel as though everything is wrong wrong wrong for your lifestyle and personality. The local department store may have a Women’s section, but it’s often small, limited and usually the worst maintained section of the whole store.

Why do we allow this? Why are we accepting this crap for our beautiful bodies? Just because we aren’t a size 6 doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve style, quality and proper service. We are professionals, fashionistas, women with just as much money (and money equals power) as our slimmer counterparts.

As I said in my Target article, vote with your pocketbooks! Write letters and emails and fill out comment cards at shops. Tell retailers when they get it right, and when they get it deathly wrong. If a company sees something sells, they will make more of the same. If it doesn’t sell, they will discontinue it. If you feel that the basic tees and tanks in a retailer are of sub par quality, let them know. If you feel that the sizing is all off (hello Lane Bryant and your new jeans sizing!) SAY SOMETHING! Get on message boards, write to plus-size magazines and forums.

The problem is that many plus-sized designers are not plus-sized, and are often not women. They don’t understand how weight is distributed, that we don’t want to hide under a swath of paisley chiffon, don’t always want to wear high-waist jeans and ponchos, that we may actually find our body beautiful and ourselves worthy of great style. They make great shoes in larger sizes, they make fabulous jeans in long lengths, women with curves deserve and should demand the same luxury.

Retailers see the success of Lane Bryant and make carbon copies of it, hoping to jump on the plus-sized fashion bandwagon. If Lane Bryant does it for you – style and figure-wise then I am happy for you. However if you are like most women I know who are in double-digit dress sizes, you wish there was more Torrid and IGIGI and Marina Rinaldi in the world, and less of this discount crap that is unflattering and unworthy our hard-earned cash.

As I always say, do not settle. You are better off with the same black pants worn over and over for now, than to buy crap and encourage these designers to purchase more crap. No matter your dress size, you should be a discerning shopper, hitting the fitting rooms and the internet to find the right fit, the right quality, the right style, the right price. High-end department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Nieman Marcus are getting progressively more diverse departments for sizes over 14 and the lower-end market is being saturated with plus-size crapola shops. What about the middle? We need more mall shops that are the same caliber as J. Crew, as Banana Republic, as The Limited.

Let your opinion be heard. Women often stay mute for seeming bitchy, pushy or rude. We feel we maybe don’t deserve it because of our shape. I say NONSENSE, every person on this planet is special and beautiful. Beauty is in all shapes and colors and maybe it’s the crap we are forced to purchase that makes us feel less than utterly gorgeous.

So to my sisters who are in the double digits, I will share with you a few beauts I have found online… to show you what you deserve for your fabulous body. If you want to see more of this… then you know what you need to do… (and tell them you want to see plus size women model those fashions too!)

Charcoal Shirt Dress from IGIGI – Shirt dresses are a stylish way to be dressed for work OR play. I love this one because it nips in the waist and has all the current details seen on other brands.

Purple Wrap Dress from IGIGI – Purple is a hot season for fall, and IGIGI seems to know how to make a wrap dress that works on many shapes without showing off too much in front.

Hot Orange Dress from IGIGI – Don’t hide behind drab colors; this dress will light up a room and your face!

White Tailored Shirt from Nexx – The tie detail and the French cuffs are elegant, not cheesy.

Denim Trousers from Kiyonna – I swear by my denim trousers – they work for business casual, dress up a simple top to make it work for a night out on the town, and the dark color is current and flattering.

Embossed Leather Jacket by Berek – How fun and daring is this jacket? with a white tank and jeans, or even with a shell and trousers for a night out or to work!

Mandeville Canyon Jeans from Paige Premium Denim – Paige cuts all their jeans for a real woman’s shape, and the quality is awesome. Plus, it’s always fun to sport some sassy designer jeans!

Freestyle Revolution Skinny Jeans in Smoke – the skinny jeans are still hot this fall, and this smoke color is fun and will look great with the fall’s brights as well as the darker colors of the season.

Giraffe Print Dress from Kiyonna – Utterly gorgeous and elegant, and a cut to flatter, not fight against your curves.

Dana Buchman Silk Charmeuse Wrap Top – Gorgeous color, gorgeous fabric – wear with denim trousers for a night out, with crepe trousers or a skirt for a party, and even with suiting pieces for work.

Royal Blue Jersey Cocktail dress by Tadashi – Gorgeous color, elegant draping, and perfect for all your seasonal holiday parties!

True Fashionista: Audi

Many readers contact me telling me that because of their job, they can’t dress to match their personal style. Many also tell me that once they hit 30, they don’t feel that they can show their personal style at work because it won’t be seen as professional or serious. When I get such emails, I often send these women a link to Audi’s blog, and that is a big reason (other than thinking she’s utterly fabulous and stylish) why I asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

Audi from the blog Fashion for Nerds is a scientist. She’s over 40. She isn’t one to fit in with the crowd. She loves to travel, loves living in San Francisco, and makes hats in her spare time. She has tattoos, and I am terribly jealous that she has been to Burning Man. She is able to have all this and be professional at work AND true to her personal style. She’s proof that you can be stylish and smart; a professional and a sartorial badass.

I have been reading Audi’s blog for many years and one thing that I love about her style is that while it is unique, it is never a costume. Audi can wear knee-high lace up boots, a harness, a scarf decorated with skulls and it looks polished and sophisticated. She understands not only herself, but her environment and knows how to merge the two.

A big part of why Audi’s style works so well is because she wears it with confidence. I often think of street style blogs – what the subjects may wear may not conventionally make sense, but their posture, their stance, and their visible confidence is the finishing touch that makes the look perfection. Audi carries herself with pride and confidence and it makes her fashions even the more fabulous.

Audi is the queen of the carefully edited closet. While she never shows the same exact outfit twice, you see the same pieces being used over and over, each time getting a new look. Pairing a biker vest with skinny cargos one day and a maxi skirt the other, you hardly realize it’s the same piece. Audi carefully purchases, be it a Helmut Lang dress, a Botiker bag, or an H&M top. And whether it’s ASOS or Alexander McQueen, those pieces get much wear over the years, having new lives as her personal style evolves.

I was so thrilled Audi was willing to be a True Fashionista for Wardrobe Oxygen; here are her responses to the same five questions I ask to each woman in this series.

How would you describe your personal style?
It can be all over the map, but the outfits I feel are really “me” are those that could be described as rocker professional, by which I mean that they look polished and tidy, but have plenty of rebellious elements such as skulls or leather, or that show my tattoos.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
As a kid I used fashion as a means of creating a persona that I didn’t really possess; I was quite shy and reserved all though high school, and dressing in a bold way gave me an air of self confidence. By the time I hit my 20’s I had become genuinely confident, but my style only fully developed once I stopped working in the lab and was able to wear nice clothes to work without having to worry about being uncomfortable all day with my lab coat on over my outfit.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
Everywhere, really; other bloggers, people I see on the street, friends, coworkers, window displays, runway shows, magazines. Sometimes it’s just a color combination that I like, sometimes it’s an individual item that strikes a chord, and other times it’s an entire outfit.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Fashion gives us the individual elements: the colors, shapes, patterns, textures, and genres that strike our collective fancy for a particular period of time. Style is how an individual puts those specific elements together.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
I think the most important thing is to have an idea of what you want your wardrobe to say about you. If you want to come off as relaxed and approachable, then think of a few examples of people whose style appears that way to you, be it celebrities or people you know. Then start experimenting, understanding all the while that your style will morph over time as you find the garments that make you look and feel your best. The other thing to remember is that it’s one thing to admire a look on someone else, but it’s quite another to wear it yourself; before you buy a new item, ask yourself if you love it for you or if it’s better being loved from afar.

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The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday for the next few weeks. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments!

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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.

Being Colorful while Being Green

I believe it is important to care for our planet, and am always on the lookout for ways to live a greener life while maintaining a quality of life and of course, style. I haven’t written a Going Green post in a while, and realized I have been enjoying some wonderful eco-friendly products lately without reviewing them for you. This is a collection of things I have been loving lately that are not only green, but also quite colorful!

Scout by Bungalow
Last year, Scout by Bungalow sent me their Junque Trunk to try out; ever since I have been a major fan. I love the durability, the amazing colors, and the versatility. I use the Junque Trunk in my closet to hold clothes that are in need of assistance prior to wearing (ironing, button replacement, etc.). Now that I have a larger car, I am going to get another Junque Trunk to keep the trunk organized. I am also checking out the Rump Roost, which would be a perfect solution for all the toys in Emerson’s bedroom and the Original Deano which begs to be taken to the farmers market on summer weekends.

Scout by Bungalow was created by fashionable Washingtonian Deb Waterman Johns. Johns is also known in the DC area for Get Dressed, a wardrobe-and-home consulting company. Scout by Bungalow came to be when Johns was in New York and saw those big plastic vendor bags (often seen around DC being used to carry clothes to the laundromat). Johns then saw a similar (though obviously higher quality and better designed) bag by Helmut Lang while on a trip to Milan. Johns and her husband saw a niche for affordable, creative, fashionable and functional bags and started “Bungalow, House of Scout.” It was successful, and the brand began carrying a variety of storage solutions, insulated bags, and luggage. Scout by Bungalow’s durability and cute factor makes the brand a stylish and eco-friendly choice.

KeepCup
A big apology to KeepCup who sent me a cup at the beginning of this year and I am just getting to review it. The reason for the delay has NOTHING to do with the cup, for it is a major favorite and I often have to fight with my husband to get to use it. Why is KeepCup so awesome?

KeepCup is the first ever barista standard reusable cup and the number one choice for sustainable and stylish coffee consumption. Already making waves in Australia and the UK, KeepCup is ready to change the way US consumers drink their coffee on-the-go. BPA-free, lightweight, recyclable, and fashionable – KeepCup is available in 25,000 color combinations so you can design the cup that tells your story and, unlike other leading reusable cups on the market, is designed by a barista to fit under the heads of most espresso machines. Available in four sizes – extra small (4oz.), small (8oz.), medium (12oz.) and large (16oz.) – KeepCup proves that convenience, eco-consciousness and style can go hand-in-hand.

I spent a whole lunch hour playing on the KeepCup site, creating the perfect cup for me (colorblocking – shocker!). I have a Small KeepCup which is perfect for that morning cup of coffee that I didn’t have time to consume before heading to the Metro; I also take off the lid and Emerson uses it as a “big girl cup” that has a nice gripper ring for her toddler hands, and is flexible and unbreakable – perfect for a big girl in training. KeepCups are non-toxic, food safe, microwave- and dishwasher-safe. Coffee and tea kept in the thermal KeepCup also stays hotter longer than in a disposable cup by at least 20 minutes.

tarte cosmetics
I know I have mentioned tarte before, but I don’t believe I have taken the time to properly rave about this beauty brand. tarte cosmetics specializes in good-for-you glamour, makeup and beauty products that are eco-friendly and cruelty-free. tarte cosmetics was created a little over a decade ago by Maureen Kelly. Kelly believed in cosmetics that could be high-performance and glamorous as well as healthy. tarte is a socially responsible company that cares about the environment, supports cooperatives in the rainforest, helps reduce environmental waste with sustainable packaging, creates eco-chic reusable components, and offers unique customer recycling initiatives.

Oh, and they make really fabulous makeup. I made the mistake this spring of not buying a replacement Park Avenue Princess Amazonian Clay Bronzer and instead going with a cheaper brand. One swipe and I was placing an order for more tarte. Not only does tarte’s bronzer look good, it does good with vitamins A, C, and E and is cruelty-free and also free of mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, and artificial fragrances. I also love their Lights, Camera, Lashes Mascara which lengthens, curls, and volumizes while being nasty-chemical free as well as cruelty free. Oh, and the package is recyclable! I also have their 24/7 Lip Sheer in my bag, and love it for a hint of color, dose of hydration, and necessary SPF when on the run.

Note: I did receive free product from KeepCup and Scout by Bungalow, however all opinions are my own as was the decision to write this post.

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A Reminder: More Isn’t Better

Last night I was watching one of my guilty pleasures, How I Met Your Mother (if you haven’t seen it, it is a pretty witty show). Lily, the character played by Alyson Hannigan admitted she was severely in debt because every time she was unhappy (even being unhappy over a large credit card bill) she would go shopping. This is not just sit-com fodder, but a true situation happening with many women I know. We feel sad, or fat; we got dumped or passed on for a promotion; we shop. We feel that maybe a pair of new boots, a haircut with highlights, a dress even though we are more comfortable with pants will somehow fix us. That transforming the outside will in turn transform our inside.

No one has been a guest on Oprah because her new wrap dress helped her lose weight. I have never met a person who can claim she married her soul mate because a pair of leather boots, and though I do agree with the belief that you should dress for the work position you desire and not the one you have, unless you work in the fashion industry rarely will you be chosen for a position over another because your new suit for the interview was inspired by Karl’s recent collection for Chanel.

Having a wardrobe that fits not just your body but also your lifestyle and personality CAN transform you from the outside in. Wearing what makes you feel and look good helps boost your confidence, helps others see the real you and gives you respect in social situations. It very well could help you land that job, meet the love of your life or encourage you to lose those last few pounds because you have one less thing to worry about and stress over.

But the confusing thing about a great wardrobe is more isn’t better. Three bits of cheesecake is delicious, three slices of cheesecake is nauseating. A larger wardrobe can often make the owner sick with confusion. We buy more to make ourselves feel better, but instead make ourselves feel worse because our wardrobe no longer works for us.

French women are known for being very chic and stylish. They are also known for having the smallest of wardrobes. Many French stylists and authors will admit they have no more than 20-60 garments in their collection (including shoes, outerwear, and athletic gear). How do they look so chic and polished on such a tiny collection?

They purchase that which they need, nothing more. Additions to the collection are made to replace something that has worn out, or if a new aspect in life (job, activity) takes place. They buy the very best quality they can afford, don’t succumb to trends, and baby the garments they own with proper cleaning and storage. They don’t self-medicate with throwaway garments and don’t try to reinvent themselves every fashion season.

A couple of months ago, I provided a list of questions to ask yourself to define your personal style. That, along with classic staples should help you get started. As the leaves are turning and the weather is getting cooler in most parts of the world, now is a good time to reassess your wardrobe. Look at that list, and look at yourself in the mirror and go through your closet. Hopefully by now you have gotten rid of anything that does not fit, is in awful condition or harbors bad memories (so many women I meet have the back of their closet full of wedding gowns from previous marriages, dresses worn the night they broke up with their ex, suits they wore for their last job they hated, bridesmaid dresses with bows on the rear and clothes several sizes larger than their current size “just in case” they go back to that size). Now it’s time to look at the rest of the collection and see if it fits you here and now.

Does yellow make you anxious? Then why are you holding onto that canary cashmere sweater? It may be great quality and even fit nicely, but it doesn’t make you feel good. How about that conservative tailored pantsuit? You work in a creative field and haven’t had to don a suit in years… why are you still holding on to it? And that frilly dress you bought when you were feeling insecure in your relationship. You’re not lace and bows no matter how hard you tried – get rid of it.

Again, this should be done after getting your feel of your personal style, your interests, likes and dislikes. If so, you’ll find that the items you are removing are either gifts or items purchased on a whim or in an emotional state. The items forced upon you, or the items you purchased to subconsciously self-medicate for another situation in your life.

You’ll also find that the removal of these items will not make it harder to get dressed every morning, but easier. Less decisions – an arsenal of go-to pieces that make you happy, fit you well and work for you occasion. Don’t think of it as losing your collection – think of it as becoming chic and polished like the French. As you work with this simplified wardrobe, you will start to see what you really do need to add to your collection, and start shopping for needs, not wants. Find joy in texture and colors and the beauty of knowing that new garment will add life to many other pieces already at home and work with the true you, not the sad/bored/frustrated temporary you.

True Fashionista: Sheila

I hate the idea of changing your style or love of fashion because you’ve hit some age milestone. It’s utterly ridiculous, we don’t lose our personalities at certain ages, why should our style disappear? As I get closer and closer to 40, I’ve been more and more inspired by women in the blogosphere who have amazing, inspiring personal style and show that age is but a number. One of those women is Sheila from the blog Ephemera, and that is why I asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

I’ve actually been a fan of Sheila for many years; I can’t recall how I found her blog but it has been on my reader a while and I continue to be inspired and excited by her outfits. Sheila rocks color, print, unique cuts and silhouettes. She is a thrifting queen and creates the most unusual pairings. Her personal life is infused into her outfits – a bit of steampunk, accessories with sentimental value, garments she has swapped with other bloggers. And speaking of which, Sheila is one who truly loves the community created with style blogging – she has made many friends, has met many of them, and even trades clothing with them.

Sheila is proof that you don’t need to spend a million bucks to look like a million bucks. She thrifts and cosigns, she keeps things for years and brings them back into rotation when they fit current trends or her current personal style. She isn’t hesitant to get rid of something that isn’t a wise choice (and I love how she asks the opinions of her readers), and is always adding new secondhand scores to update the wardrobe.

Sheila’s blog Ephemera makes me feel as though I’m hanging out in her bedroom with a glass of wine, watching her try on clothes in her closet. She shares multiple views of the clothing (as you can see from my collages I adore her reclining on the stairs pose), her reasoning behind the garments and ensembles, and a peek into her life and where she wore the outfits.

Sheila’s style is creative, unique, yet extremely wearable. She is proof that one can still have fun with fashion (and life!) and look polished when over 40. She’s fun, inspiring, intelligent, and has amazing personal style. As with every True Fashionista, I asked Sheila to answer the same five questions; her answers:

How would you describe your personal style?
Um…crazy lady chic? Classic with a twist? Eclectic? Eccentric? All those kind ways to say, “Sheila’s a little “out there” with her clothes.” I love colour, pattern, texture, shine – even better if it’s all in one item! I’m a bit of a crow that way. I don’t like to look like everyone else; I want to stand out, especially the older I get (I’m 45). I refuse to disappear into drabness in my middle age – I have more confidence now about my body and myself in general than I did 10/15/20+ years ago, and I make a statement with how I feel by how I wear my clothes. I’m a supporter of Patti’sVisible Mondays” at Not Dead Yet Style, because it’s helping women feel better about themselves, no matter what age they are!

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I grew up surrounded by creativity – my mom is an artist, so I learned about colour very early in my life. I don’t remember ever not wanting to wear bright colours. My grandmother also dyed her hair bright red (I’m a blonde right now, but I’ve been a box-dye redhead for a good portion of my life) and wore bold jewelry, which was also inspiring. When I was 14, I met my great-aunt Ann – she must have been in her 60s, but she was wearing a flowered mini-skirt, hot pink heels, and a fitted top. Her black hair was scraped back and she had pink lipstick and bold make-up. I remember thinking, “I want to be her when I grow up!”

In my teens and experimenting with fashion, my mom gave me some excellent advice that I’ve never forgotten: “Never wear the same thing twice. Always keep them guessing.” She didn’t want me to get locked into a look/stereotyped and encouraged me to try on different personas through clothing. I looted clothing from her, from my dad, and shopped vintage and loved playing with people’s perception of who I was.

I struggled with my weight and my self-esteem in my twenties and thirties. It wasn’t until I lost 50 lbs 6-7 years ago that I finally felt like I was getting my life under control. I work hard to maintain my weight, and I am proud of my shape. I want to show it off!

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
Oh, gosh, everywhere! Afraid to mix colours? Look at nature for inspiration: irises for blue and yellow, cherry trees in bloom for pink and burgundy and brown. I love seeing what other people wear, both in the blogoverse and in real life. I always notice what people are wearing, especially if they’ve put some thought into it and are pushing the creative envelope. I like to look at fashion magazines to see what’s coming, and then I either shop my closet (I have a large closet and a big wardrobe!) or keep an eye out for it in thrift stores and consignment stores.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
I think fashion is inspiration and style is perspiration – you have to work at style! You can be a slave to fashion and end up looking good, even great, but constantly chasing the next new thing – fashion is ever-changing, fleeting and ephemeral (which is where I got the name for my blog, by the way). Style is taking what you like and what suits your personality and body type and creating an expression of yourself. When I really feel like “me” in an outfit, I know that I’ve hit my personal style just right. Style is always experimenting and trying something new, even if it fails – you’ll never grow if you don’t at least try! Style also changes, sometimes due to time and aging, or a change in circumstance (my job allows me to be fairly creative in my sartorial choices), or just through one’s own personal growth, but it has a timeless quality that never looks stale or dated like trendy fashions eventually do.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Don’t be afraid to try something different; don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Embrace who you are – right now! – and wear what you love, and to hell with what other people think! Be yourself and enjoy your clothes!

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The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments you never know she may end up being featured!

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The Glamorous World of Personal Style Blogging

Several weeks ago, there was an event at a local store. A blogger I like was hosting it, I emailed all my real-life blogger friends (and friends who would not want to slit their throats attending a “blogger event” with bloggers) to round them up. Let’s go to the event, support our friend, get our swag bags, and then go to a nearby bar or restaurant and consume something other than room temperature Korbel and mini cupcakes. Friends agreed, we set the date. The date came… and I had NO DESIRE to go.  I was tired, I was having a bad hair day, I didn’t like my outfit, I just wanted to go home.  And sometimes a blogger event just sounds like a lot of work, especially after a long day at the 9-5.  On top of it, Karl had to prep for a shoot the next day so I couldn’t leave him home alone all night. But these were real friends, and we’d balance the air kissing and Instagramming with gossip and cocktails. I psyched myself up… and then I spilled a cup of coffee all over my dress.

Now, even if you’re not a blogger I think you can understand how awful of a situation that is. I burned my belly, my underwear was soaked, and I had a big brown stain on my light colored dress. This was beyond the capabilities of a Tide-to-Go pen. So I mopped up what I could, hid in my cubicle the remainder of the day, then skipped work half an hour early and raced to Ann Taylor, one of the few stores between me and the Metro with clothes larger than a size 10.

I raced around Ann Taylor in a panic. I had to be at the event in an hour, especially since I needed to leave at a reasonable time to get home to my family. I had a pair of leopard pumps under my desk, so I looked for something that would match them instead of my coffee-soaked sandals. In the fitting room I tried on a dozen different items, all looking awful. Did I mention I was wearing my Comfy-But-Makes-My-Breasts-Look-Wonky bra, the one that is so high cut that it peeks out of a v-neck? Yeah, good leading by example, Ms. Fashion Blogger.

Thanks to a lovely salesperson, I ended up with a dark red ponte dress with a peplum that covered the muffin top from my bad undergarments and a neckline high enough to cover my dreadful bra. I snagged a bracelet that coordinated, tried to make my sweaty so now curling hair calm down and redid my face, though it was still blotchy from stress my lips were all splotchy as though I finished a marathon makeout session. I did yoga breathing to try to cool my core and my mindset, shoved my coffee-drenched original outfit into the bottom of my (thankfully large) purse and headed to the blogger event.

I never was able to cool myself down, it was as though I had actually drank that cup of coffee and five more after it. I was stressed, I felt anxious. Why am I going to a blogger event instead of going home to put my daughter to bed? Why did I just drop almost $200 in Ann Taylor on a dress I don’t even really like? WHY DO I BLOG? WHAT IS MY POINT IN LIFE?? Yes, I started having a blogger crisis in the overheated Metro car.

I got to the event, and it wasn’t bad. Zero calorie pastel-colored drinks in place of Korbel (though still warm), iced cookies in place of cupcakes, A DJ playing pop music through big speakers, bloggers who are just as nice in person as they are on their blogs. Met some new people, tried to relax and enjoy myself and the good company, but it just seemed really warm and crowded and overwhelming. I was still sweating, and for some reason it was focused on my face and scalp.  Dry body, dripping from the neck up and it just wouldn’t stop.

FLASH FLASH FLASH there’s the pro photographer for the event. I’m flushed, I’m sweaty, and my boobs look as though they’re 400 years old and have minds of their own. I know that these photos will be used by the brand and be on a couple different blogs within the week, all linking back to my blog (which is good blogging etiquette but I’d be okay with bad etiquette at this point).  I go into a corner of the store and try to do some damage control, slicking back my hair into a low ponytail and adding more lipstick. I put the bottle of pastel water to my forehead, then back of neck hoping it will cool me. I then guzzle it, thinking maybe that will help. Straighten my wonky boobs and head back into the throng.

My friend Instagrammed a picture with me in it (yep, the one right above).  She adores me, I adore her, and I know she would never share a photo where she felt I looked bad (Yes we bloggers have a unwritten rule that we try to never share an unflattering photo of a fellow blogger we like or respect.  If a blogger shares a really unflattering photo, she likely doesn’t like that blogger, or is new to the blogging scene and is not familiar with the Blogger Code.).  I saw that picture while still at the event (because we were Instagramming like mad because that’s what we bloggers do to show off that we were there, to possibly win a prize, and sometimes because we promised the brand to be nice or to get paid) and knew it must have been a good look for how insane I must have been in real life.  I saw that photo and knew it was time to head home.   My style, my heart, and my mind wasn’t in it, I wanted to be home in air conditioning and comfy pants.  I gave air kisses to those I hardly knew, big sweaty hugs and kisses to those who loved me in spite of it, and headed back to the Metro.
 
On the ride back to the ‘burbs, I munched on an iced cookie in the shape of a corset and drank more lukewarm pastel water, ignoring the Metro rules about no food or drink.  It’s was late, this was going to end up being my dinner.  Luckily I got an air-conditioned car that wasn’t too full, I could have a seat to myself and let my sweat turn into icicles.  I thought about why I subject myself to such torture… and realized those who see such events from the outside probably think they’re pretty glamorous and fun.  And I thought… they CAN be fun, if I had the right mindset.

Maybe I’m jaded because I have been doing this for so long.  Maybe it’s because I have a family at home I really adore and feel I don’t see enough as it is.  Possibly it’s because I still have a full-time not blog related job that I care about.  But I find blogging events to just be more work, even if I am not the one hosting it.  I feel the need to dress a certain way, to look super polished because I know there will be flashbulbs all over the place.  It’s like attending a networking event where you get photographed a hundred times, wearing your highest heels and carrying your smallest or most expensive purse.

At the same time, gosh I have the coolest part-time job on the planet.  I feel blessed to be based out of DC where so many bloggers are really amazing human beings and friends.  That we do have a thriving fashion and social scene, where companies court us and pay to host events that we can go to.  That Instagramming like a fiend is showing our appreciation for them realizing that DC is just as influential of a shopping town as the other big cities in this country.  That some events are pretty darn spectacular (hello Goodwill’s Art of Fashion) and renew my faith in blogging and the community.  That with the growth of the blogging community, I find it even more important to support those I respect and believe to do a good job.  That it IS cool to attend an event and get free food and free nail polish, and to complain about such perks of the job is being a spoiled brat.

I think the life of a personal style blogger is very different from what most choose to share on their blog.  Many bloggers complain that we get criticized for just sitting around, eating macarons, sipping pumpkin spice lattes, and taking pictures of ourselves spinning in skater skirts and gifted ankle booties.  I think people feel that because they don’t know the actual work behind being a blogger.  Bloggers who who are the most successful create a fantasy world of white lacquer, gifted purses, and crisp Autumn days where they skip down cobblestone streets with their adorable puppy or boyfriend.  Brands want relaxed and happy and carefree.  Whether you realize it or not, most of you readers (as we bloggers can tell by our pageviews, subscribers, and affiliate income) also desire this aesthetic. The blogs with the largest bank accounts and the largest following have the most glamorous or enviable looking lives.

I’ve talked about the behind the scenes of blogging before, and I continue to do so because I think it’s important for readers to realize that be it a fantasy or reality, blogging is hard work and much of it isn’t glamorous.  It’s not just sweaty blogger events in place of family time.  It’s doing a photo shoot you are contracted to do even though you’re sick, you had a death in the family, your boyfriend just threatened, “it’s me or the blog.”  It’s working your 9-5 (which is often more like an 8-6:45) and then coming home to 70 emails from PR people and brands and potential advertisers, 20 new comments (half either trying to spam their company or telling you that you suck), three contracts to go over with a fine-toothed comb to be sure you’re not getting screwed or signing your life away, a handful of business calls, collages to create, blog posts to write and schedule, gifted items that take mega skill to figure out how to tastefully incorporate into a post or upcoming outfit, emails from readers asking for advice or to offer feedback or criticism on what you are doing.  Then you check your stats and find another blogger or a message board saying you’re lazy or you lack talent or you’re stupid or your blog sucks.  It’s constantly networking, constantly educating yourself about new technology and updates to Google and WordPress.  It’s being up on the latest social media, the latest brands, the most recent news about technology, fashion, and the blogosphere.  It’s working until 1am and still having a mile-long to-do list and you have to get up in four hours to take care of your family, go to your day job, speak at a conference, hit the gym to maintain your enviable figure, plot out three shoots before the noon sun ruins your light and you have race to meet a brand at their headquarters and then race home for a Skype interview.

Yes, there are crappy bloggers who make dough off of putting together mediocre outfits, Photoshopping them to death, and posting them with a short paragraph laced with grammatical and spelling errors.  The occasional collage to bring affiliate income and a couple tweets sucking up to brands and promoting their same blog post for the fifth time.  But the majority of bloggers I know… our lives aren’t that glamorous whether we lead you to believe it or not.  Blogging is a job, a sweaty, stress-inducing job that often costs us as much or more than what we make from it.  But we do it because we love it, and we hope you love it in return!

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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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Behind the Scenes

I don’t think people realize the behind the scenes of being a fashion or style blogger in 2013. While I don’t know how it is for other bloggers, here’s a peek into may daily life as a part-time fashion blogger.

I wake and grab my phone and head to the bathroom. While I pee, brush my teeth, and straighten my hair, I read emails, reply to comments and mentions on my blog’s social media channels. I need to stop after 30 minutes, because if not this could go on for over an hour. Time zones across the globe mean you can receive 20 emails at 3am asking to buy a text link, improve your SEO, or gift you with a scarf and ten more at 4am trying to spam your comment sections with links for cheap Fendi bags.

I try to figure out an outfit. I have that gifted scarf I need to incorporate before the end of the week, I have to wear that dress for that brand before the month is through but it looks stupid with tights and it’s only going to be 45 degrees that day. I already wore black for my last two outfit posts, if I do it again I’ll be hit with a dozen comments asking me if I’m depressed or gained weight or having marital issues. If I wear more than one c/o item in the outfit, will I be seen as a sell-out even though I really really like those c/o pieces? As I pull something together, I am thinking about what I will write, what the title will be for the post.

I go downstairs and start the outfit post – I write the title, get all the links for the products. I usually use ShopSense for my affiliate links because it’s profitable, easy to use, and they don’t harass me all the time with emails on how to improve my results or added widgets and giveaways and such. However, if ShopSense doesn’t have my link, I have to take some extra time to find that item online. I write a bit of the copy, just to get the ball rolling, tag the post, and do all the blogging back-end stuff.

On days when I don’t have to be at work super early, my husband drives me to the metro to save costs and reduce the number of cars on the road. He brings out his camera, I give him a memory card, pictures are taken in our court or the street nearby. He shoots about 12 pictures. Pose, pose pose, pose, pose, pose. Okay get up close for detail shots. I don’t see any of the pictures, he pulls out the memory card and I slip it in my purse and we drive off. While in the car or when waiting at the Metro for the train I may Instagram my outfit, and will again check emails and mentions on social media. Karl makes a joke about how I’m addicted to my phone, I laugh, guzzle coffee, and keep scrolling because it’s not something I can do once I get to work.

When I take my lunch break, I eat it at my desk so I can work on the blog. I upload the pictures to my desktop, delete the ones with my eyes closed or where I have five chins, and quickly use PicMonkey to adjust the color, clone out Emerson’s handprint on my pants, and resize. Load the pics, finish the copy, and post all within about 15 minutes. My posts are automatically mentioned on Twitter, but I have chosen to manually share on Facebook because I can then add a photo, tag brands or fellow bloggers and make it a bit more personal. I also share on Pinterest – I feel goofy promoting myself but I’ve found over the past year that many people have found my blog because of that.

If I still have some time leftover (I rarely get full lunch hours), I’ll check my Google Doc for comments from my comment form, check out blogs I follow on Feedly, reply to some emails, chat with folks on Twitter. In all honesty, this time is usually taken up with emails, and not emails from readers.

Can I write a guest post where I throw in a bunch of links for my brand but not pay you?
I will offer you $25 to write a sponsored post on your site with 50,000 links about casinos or weightloss products or a brand of clothing that is derogatory towards women.
I’d like to give you $50 to put a bunch of crazy code in your sidebar which looks like an innocent button ad, but will in fact destroy your SEO and improve mine tenfold.
I have a scarf I’d like to send to you (always scarves!!) for free, but you need to feature it within two weeks, share it on every social media channel under the sun, use a special hashtag and link to this specific page. 
Your price is too high for advertising, how about I give you $30 and some SEO tips for a giant ad in your sidebar that will be there for three years? 
Have you had a chance to try out the skincare you didn’t ask to receive in the first place and when can I expect a review on your blog?

Even though Alexa and Quantcast and my Advertise page exist and you sent me your stats in the last email, can you please again give me all the statistics on your blog for the past year, specific stats that you’ll have to dig up on Google Analytics so I can see if your blog is worthy enough for me to send you a bracelet? 
Sorry, we cannot send you a pair of our shoes to review, but here’s a high-res image of it, I’ll be sending the shoes to a blogger who may have a much smaller audience but is younger and thinner but I hope you will still write about us and be sure to mention us on social media!

At the end of the workday, I am often rushing out of the office to get home in just in time for Karl to leave to teach. The days where he doesn’t work, I’d love to leave on time so we can have dinner together as a family, but usually I stick around at work for another hour. I catch up on things without the office bustling with people, but I also get blogging done. All that behind the scenes stuff – updating ads and links, making new Pin-able images for old posts that still get a lot of traffic, creating Polyvore sets for upcoming posts, creating posts and scheduling them for the future. I don’t get time like this often, so when I do I try to bang out at least one or two posts.

As soon as the Metro is aboveground, I’m on my phone checking emails and social media. Again, writing myself an email of tasks to accomplish. I get home, put my phone on the charger and spend time with Emerson. I give her a bath, put her to bed, and usually go right to my laptop where I deal with 50,000 more emails of companies wanting text links, to send me stuff, do giveaways, have me mention their brands or events, or speak on their panel. It’s tempting to delete every single one, but you never know what PR person can give you your next big break. I delete the ones that are obviously sent to 500 bloggers at once, but reply to all that are personal or make an effort.

When I’m home, I try to answer all the emails from readers, but I’m trying to do that more on weekends because I’m finding the personal interactions before bedtime really mess with my sleep patterns. For every compliment, there’s someone telling me I am fat or tacky, my child is ugly or my husband is gay. For every email that asks an honest question about fashion or style, there is one where someone is pouring out their entire story and hoping I can fix their life. For every email thanking me for my advice, there’s someone telling me my advice is wrong, damaging, or offensive. It’s hard; I love how my blog helps women so when I get such feedback it’s hard to not take it personally or change yourself.

I rarely read books anymore that don’t serve a blog purpose. I read fashion and style books, fashion and lifestyle magazines. I need to keep current with trends, style beliefs, up and comers. You all will hit me with some major whoppers of comments and questions and it reminds me that to be a good blogger you need to be well-informed on your subject. Every so often, I throw in a chick lit or crime novel to keep the fashion and style reads from being work.

Saturday mornings, Karl teaches yoga and Emerson and I have an hour or two before her ballet class. We eat breakfast on the couch, she usually playing ABC Mouse on her computer or apps on my phone, me with laptop and a fashion-related show on the TV. Project Runway, Rachel Zoe Project, It’s a Brad Brad World, something on the DVR I saw when going through The Guide. I get a post done, this is usually when I do capsule or more creative posts because I’m fresh, I can see nature outside my window, and I have little cold toes tickling me under the afghan and a warm furry dog on my feet.

Sundays, I usually do administrative work on the blog. Update graphics, coding, my social media channels. I know I do a lot less of this stuff than many bloggers, as I don’t know PhotoShop, don’t know the intricacies of SEO, and hell, I’m still on Blogger because I’m lazy.  I’ll send invoices to advertisers, reply to emails I have been avoiding, and the emails from you readers that deserve a bit more time and thought. I try to stick to viewing my stats on Sundays because it can be quite addictive, depressing, and cause competition.  Sundays is also when I start crafting the True Fashionista posts. I take over a week to finish those, since I pretty much stalk the bloggers online, finding where they have been mentioned, where they get their inspiration, what makes them so interesting. I try to do this while Emerson sleeps and Karl watches his sort of TV (Dual Survival, Vikings, etc.). Sundays are also when I clean up my bedroom – it can get pretty trashed trying to figure out outfits in a rush (and planning ahead just never feels right to me), so I put all the rejects away and do a bit of thinking about what I will wear for the upcoming week.  If things are going well, this is when I take the time to truly visit other blogs.  I find that lately I don’t have enough time for this, and I miss it terribly.

For someone to blog consistently, it has to be a passion.  It’s not just posing in a park with a clutch purse, at least it isn’t any more.  I think of big full-time bloggers who regularly have events to attend, retail headquarters to visit, interviews to conduct and I think they must work more than 50 hours in a week to keep it going and to stay in the black. Being a for-profit blogger can be a very isolating, soul-selling, and exhausting profession, especially when to be successful you have to hide all that under a gleaming white smile and pair of covetable heels.  I can’t imagine how it is for those who have chosen to make their blog their full-time job.  When you start dissing a blogger for being too big, a sell-out, for turning off comments or being distant, realize you don’t know what is actually going on behind the scenes.

This will be the last post about the business of blogging for a while (at least until I get riled up again).  Thanks for letting me vent and share, but I want to get back to the fun stuff – fashion and personal style!  Next week I have a few more beauty reviews and I’ll have some outfit posts as well!  Thanks for sticking through!  

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Mr. Allie & Me

Back when I started these blogs, I was still a newlywed and had a link to my wedding “bio” from The Knot in the sidebar. I will be celebrating my fourth anniversary this June and the wedding is not as strong of a memory as the rest of the actual marriage that has taken place since.

I love weddings and after my own worked as an assistant wedding coordinator for a dozen events. My husband is a wedding photographer and I love my role in the day – sort of a mini coordinator, being the eyes for the bride to catch that which the photographer may miss (stray hair, crooked hemline, changing the height of the bouquet, etc.). Candice asked about my wedding today and I have gotten many requests to see wedding pictures and to know the history between me and Mr. Allie.

I think I have mentioned how we met before on here – it was 12th grade and I was being set up on a blind date by my friend Adam. As with many high school dates, it was a group of about 15 of us who were going to the movies and then a diner afterwards. My friend Shawn came to pick me up and then told me we had to pick up his friend as well who lived in a neighboring town (Mr. Allie). Shawn’s car was a 2-door, so I had to get out of the car to let this friend into the back seat. I already knew about this friend – he was a very “cool” guy, a real party animal and went to the high school I was supposed to (I instead went to a magnet school across the county). I turned around in the car to ask this guy why he lived in this town but went to my town’s high school and…

BOING!

Ohmygoodness, this guy was CUTE!

His eyes were so striking and at that very moment I said to myself, “I am supposed to marry this guy.” He told me about his parents divorcing and he moving to this town with his father, and I couldn’t stop staring at him. He didn’t seem fazed by my stare, just gently smiled back. At the theater, I wiggled through the line so that I could sit by him during the meeting. At the diner after the movies, I sat next to him. I took my pickles off my cheeseburger and he asked why I took them off. “I don’t like warm pickles,” I told him. He told me that was good because he did and he’d be happy to eat my pickles. For a 17-year old girl, that was the most romantic thing EVER! (by the way this picture is from the night we met – I had a disposable camera in my purse and begged a friend to get a picture of me with “the man of my dreams”)

I went home and told my mom all about him. I remember being downstairs in her office, I remember where I was standing. “His family can be traced back to the Mayflower too, and his mom is a teacher too!” Kismit, we were MEANT to be!

Except he had a girlfriend, and a popular girl we both knew that was waiting to get her fangs into him. I told my friend Adam I liked this guy, he told the guy and he gave me a call. A few weeks later he was without girlfriend, without Popular Girl, and with me. That was January 26, 1993. We were both 18.

An exact year later, he left for the Navy. I was in college and we worked hard over the years to maintain a long-distance relationship. It didn’t work too well and in 1997 we broke up for a few months. We did get back together, seeing our second attempt at a relationship to be The Real Deal.

We have survived the death of his mother, death of my father, him getting and surviving cancer, his time in the Navy, us having conflicting schedules (old readers may remember when we really only saw one another an hour a day with his old job – he worked nights, I days).

Mr. Allie proposed the night before Thanksgiving, 2002. He called up my mom and sister that day and asked them to go ring shopping with him. I had worked a 16-hour shift (back in my retail days) and came home sweaty and tired and stressed that I needed to head to the grocery to buy supplies for my dishes for the next day’s meal. I said I wanted to take a shower, he said we didn’t have time. “Just slap on some deodorant and let’s go to the store.” He pointed to the coffee table and my deodorant was on there. I was so exhausted, I didn’t find that to be strange and went to open the bottle and something flew out across the room. I crawled under the table to get what it was and found my ring. I know… corny proposal but he was planning on waiting and just couldn’t. I called on the way home and this was the first thing he could think of. I found it so romantic that he couldn’t wait, he had to give it to me as soon as I opened the door.

We married June 5, 2004. We had the ceremony and reception at an historic mansion right down the street from where the two of us grew up. The ceremony would have been out on the terrace if it hadn’t rained, but was quite lovely in the atrium.

The colors were orange and hot pink. I did everything orange, from the invites to the place cards to the cocktails passed out after the ceremony to the water bottle favors I made.

Okay, down to the CLOTHES!!! My dress was ivory silk shantung with Swarvoski crystal trim; it was by Maggie Sottero and a style they no longer make (Temara). I tried it on at a boutique in Baltimore and loved it, but found it half price from an online retailer. I bought the crinoline from a fellow bride I met on The Knot – I think I paid $20. My shoes were hot pink and bought from the clearance rack at Hecht’s Department Store. I wore a pair of earrings I got at Lord & Taylor (I believe also on sale) and a bracelet that had been passed down several generations on my mom’s side. My tiara was purchased a week beforehand because in a panic I felt that if I didn’t wear one I wouldn’t be a REAL BRIDE (brides are insane!). My veil was made by the local bridal boutique who also did my alterations. I wanted to wear my hair down but my old stylist said I would regret it and put it in an updo. I still wish I had worn it down, but was thankful that the style stayed in place all evening. I did my own makeup.

Here’s a few pics from the day…

Mr. Allie is the greatest guy I could ever ask for. As the years go by we seem to become better friends and become a better couple. He is very understanding and respectful of my blogging, seeing it as a way for me to feel confident about writing instead of finding it superficial or silly. He’s a great fashion consultant and through this time blogging, has realized that fashion is a true form of art. He’s a good egg, dealing with me blogging during dinner, and even offering ideas for post topics! I’m a lucky gal. :)

True Fashionista: Beth

There’s a part of me who wants to be preppy. To be that fresh faced, girly, outdoorsy, classic. To be that gal with the breezy highlighted hair, crisp chino shorts, who knows her way around a boat and a horse. As I was growing up, I tried to embrace this trend a few times (college friends can recall my blonde bob/sweater tied around my neck phase), but I realized it just wasn’t my true personal style. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love it, and get very inspired by those who wear this look so naturally. Women like Beth, whose blog s e e r s u c k e r + s a d d l e s shows her effortless classic, preppy, and nautical personal style. Beth continues to inspire me with her clear vision, passion for fashion, and understanding of both fit and personal style and that is why I asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

Every outfit Beth features on s e e r s u c k e r + s a d d l e s is consistent to her classic style, yet exudes fun and nods to current trends. Be it pairing leather leggings with a plaid flannel, a neon satchel with a cargo jacket and distressed denim, or a trendy shoe with otherwise classic pieces, Beth adds edge to a colorful, clean, and sporty wardrobe. Thanks to talented photographer Kristen Tatem, Beth’s blog constantly features clear and inspiring outfit photographs

s e e r s u c k e r + s a d d l e s is a great resource for the woman who doesn’t have the lifestyle for flatforms and fishnets; Beth regularly gives me inspiration for my weekend and Casual Friday ensembles. She mixes sequins with denim, plaid with polka-dots, canvas with silk in a way that makes sense and looks fabulous. Beth is proof that that flats are quite chic and dress up nicely, and how a closet of well-chosen separates can give you far more options and style than a closet overflowing with current trends.

Like me, Beth finds leopard to be a neutral and I am always excited to see how she incorporates it into an ensemble, be it a skinny belt or a pair of brogues. She mixes colors like a pro, never looking like Rainbow Brite. As a working mother of two, she is proof that you can be stylish and still lead a very full life. One of the most interesting things I learned about Beth through this series, is as you’ll see in her answers, she too envisions herself at times with a different personal style!  As with every other True Fashionista, I asked Beth to answer the same five questions; here are her answers:

How would you describe your personal style?
I would say my style is a mixture of classic & girly with a bit of quirk.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I think I was born with this innate passion for fashion. There are pictures of me when I was 3 dressed up in my mother’s clothing, all accessorized from top to bottom, handbags, baubles, heels—you name it! It has truly always been my creative outlet.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
I think I’m just like all of us gals when I say I gather my inspiration from the mags, Pinterest, other bloggers, street style—I’m always looking for it everywhere I am!

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Sometimes I believe fashion to be unattainable for us everyday folk. Say for instance, if you don’t have an endless budget where you can drop a ton of cash at a time and have to be conscious of your spending. Or, if you’re like me, and don’t live in a bustling city with high end boutiques and designers on every other corner…that’s where Style comes into play. It’s about taking a play on the high end fashion and making it your own. Investing in the key pieces like handbags but playing with the of-the-moment pieces that you can find at your Targets, Gaps, J.Crews, etc. Style is defined by YOU!

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
I still struggle with not jumping on every trend bandwagon. I would totally love to do the urban, boho chic thing, but I would look & feel unnatural. Not to mention I’m no longer in my 20s, have two children, and live in the South–basically that aesthetic doesn’t gel with my lifestyle. So there it is, I think the process of finding your personal style is one that is ever evolving, but ultimately comes down to finding what YOU look & feel best in. I also think you need to be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s with color, a print, or a new cut of pant–just TRY it. It will help you get a better sense of what works for you.

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The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments you never know she may end up being featured!


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