Search Results for: label/why I write about fashion

Why I Don’t Write Here…

I still love fashion. I still find it terribly important to care about what you look like. I still feel that every woman can be stylish regardless of size, shape, age, budget or lifestyle. I still feel that more women who are my shape and are my income level should have style blogs.

But I am just busy… and I am uninspired.

When I started this blog, it was just for me – to make sure I didn’t wear the same suit when I saw a business client a second time, that I didn’t wear my pink J. Crew merino sweater two times in the same week. And then it caught on. And then MSNBC and other big sites found me and linked to me and for a while I had thousands of readers every single day.

Around that time was when I realized that I wasn’t all that special here at my blog. When I started in 2005 it was kind of a novel idea. I wasn’t famous, I wasn’t thin, I wasn’t a style icon. But now, well there are millions of us out there.

And I don’t have the time to keep up a cool looking blog template. I don’t have the time to set up my tripod and timer and take pictures of me twirling around on my back deck or throwing leaves over my head in the neighborhood park, or look forlornly at my vintage boots on a city street. I don’t have time to them Photoshop the hell out of said photos to make them look like wee little works of art, showing the detail in the lace of my thrift store frock, or the buttons on my designer coat.

I don’t have the time to contact companies and encourage them to send me swag so I can review it. I don’t have the time to take the swag that I do already receive and properly review it, posting about it and making plenty of little hyperlinks to give that company their much-deserved SEO. And honestly, I am not interested in a bunch of new makeup or hair products – I don’t have the time to play with products I can’t use easily and quickly on a daily basis. It’s clutter that fills my dressing table and bathroom and eventually a landfill.

There are two types of personal style blogs – the good ones and the crappy ones. And really, even if the person has great and real style and a gorgeous real body, if they have dark crappy photos and a cluttered dated template, I don’t like to go visit. And it sucks, because those who usually have the time to make their blogs all so purty… well they aren’t usually the type who have real bodies, real budgets, real lives. And a lot of personal style bloggers have become far too self-important. None of us are perfect. And really, any outfit can look utterly charming or chic with the right poses and lighting and crap.

So I will keep writing at this blog, but I won’t have my daily looks very often because I need my time for sleep, for work, for snuggling with my baby. For cleaning my house, cuddling with my husband, spending time in the real world with real people doing real things.

And if you want some inspiration from real women who do style blogs well (and actual style), I encourage you to visit, subscribe and comment at:
Already Pretty
Fashion for Nerds
Fashion Hayley
Fab Finds Under $50
Oranges and Apples
Clothed Much
Work With What You’ve Got
Frocks & Frou Frou
Euro Chic
Fashion After 40
Things a Boutique Owner Sees

Fashion: Why Does it Matter Anyway?

There are people dying and I’m spending my days writing about fashion. How pointless, how superficial and materialist. Come on, clothes are clothes. Why does it matter anyway?

It matters because we have a choice. You can buy a stiff cotton tee shirt with Las Vegas written on the front, buy a plain white men’s undershirt, or a soft jersey tee that flatters your figure and is in the perfect shade. You can purchase a hooded sweatshirt three sizes larger than your frame or for the same money purchase a tailored wool sweater that will keep you just as warm. Yes, people are dying on this planet, but we all need clothes and if you are reading this blog, this means you have at least a touch of privilege and have choices.

So why not make a choice that flatters your figure, showcases your personality, and provides the world with an accurate depiction of your soul?

You have to wear clothing, might as well make it clothing that makes you look and feel good.

Sweatpants feel good in the same way Kraft mac and cheese feels good. Both are warm, cozy, comforting, and great when on the couch watching The New Girl. But that isn’t the same good that you feel after eating a well-made, well-seasoned meal of fresh vegetables, lean protein, and quality ingredients. Your body deserves good fuel, and deserves to be wrapped in good clothing.

Respect your ability to make a choice, and a choice can be made at most any pricepoint. Be it Saks or Walmart, there are choices, and your body and personality deserve the best choice.

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Why I Care

It’s Saturday morning, and I am having a mild panic attack. My father-in-law’s memorial service is in less than two hours and I am the officiant for the service. The idea of speaking in front of hundreds of people while trying not to sob was not causing my anxiety… my wardrobe was.

I couldn’t find my black dress. Okay I could find one black dress – the matte jersey one with the tie-belt and the polo collar, but I couldn’t find THE dress, the one I imagined wearing. Lightweight black jersey, surplice neckline, empire waistband, blouson sleeves. Appropriate for an outdoor memorial service, but still stylish and flattering to my 32-week pregnant frame.

“Who cares what you’re wearing,” my husband said. “People won’t expect you to be stylish, you’re in mourning.”

But it’s not about what other people think, it is about what I think, and how I feel.

I put on the dress with the polo collar, tied the belt in a bow, untied it and did it in a knot. I hated it. The collar was limp, the belt hokey, my breasts looked strange, and the hem was now a bit too short this late in my pregnancy. I did my hair and makeup, hoping it would improve my reflection in the full-length mirror. I felt tacky, I felt awkward, and I felt wrong. I added black hose and the only black shoes that fit at 32 weeks – my Naturalizer flats. I didn’t look like myself. My husband came by the door, “you look beautiful Alison.” I knew he meant it, but I didn’t feel it. I got on my hands and knees and dug through the closet, hoping THE dress fell off a hanger and was hiding behind some shoe boxes or suitcases. No such luck.

Time was running out, so I wore the dress with the polo collar. I jazzed it up with a skinny croco belt with a pave buckle and my large silver cuff bracelet. A feeble attempt to make it more “Allie” of a look. I arrived at the service where friends and relatives greeted me, telling me I looked so lovely, and they were so sorry for my loss. I tugged at my hem, wishing it was closer to my knees and looked down at the swollen masses that used to be very cute feet.

I attended my 15-year high school reunion this summer. At the restaurant, I went to greet a fellow classmate who I hadn’t seen since graduation. I asked her how she was and how her life had been the past decade and a half. She told me about her travels and job and then said, “Well I already know how YOU have been doing.” I asked her how; she replied, “[Fellow classmate] sent me your blogs. Some days your hair is curly, some days your hair is straight. Not much else going on, huh?” She smiled and walked away. My first feeling was embarrassment. Then I stopped and thought, why should I be embarrassed? The only difference between me and she is that I put my daily look on the Internet. I looked at her sculpted hair, her lined lips and bold earrings – she had to spend at least as much time as I did this evening to look good for the reunion. How dare she belittle me for doing the same darn thing she does? I then felt pity for her – for someone to be so snarky to a person she hardly knew in high school and hadn’t seen in 15 years… well she must have some issues with her self worth, her self esteem or her placement in this world.

I am often teased for caring about how I look, and I get more emails and comments than I can count where people blast me for being superficial, for being clueless, and as one email said, “for killing everything women have fought for the past few decades.”

I don’t do these blogs to gain fame, to force my views on others, or to try to make Allie clones. I do these blogs because for me, clothing is armor. When I feel good in my skin and in my attire, I gain strength. I can stand in front of large crowds and officiate my father-in-law’s memorial service. I can feel pity, not fear for the classmate who teases me after all these years for caring about my hair. I can work harder, care more, and do more because my appearance is one thing that I know I have control over. I cannot control the weather, I cannot control other people’s actions, but I can control the armor I put on each day. I can walk, can talk, can smile and feel good about myself and concentrate on other things such as my thoughts, my beliefs, and how I interact with the world.

I cared about what I wore this Saturday because I didn’t feel confident I could get through that service. I loved my father-in-law terribly so, and it hurt so much to see my beloved husband hurting so much. I knew I would be surrounded by people hugging me, kissing me, feeling for me and I needed that armor to get through it all, to present a service, to present a strong face for my husband and his family. Some drink, some smoke, some get angry, some withdraw, some make jokes. I find it far more healthy and intelligent to spend a little more time smoothing my skirt and fluffing my hair to gain that strength to get through it.

Women are amazing creatures. We are often portrayed as the softer sex, but studies have proven that we have a higher pain tolerance than men, we live longer than men, we are able to create human beings, feed them from our bodies, care for our loved ones while being able to manage multi-million dollar companies and even countries. Women are beautiful, and work so hard, they deserve to feel beautiful, know their beauty on a daily basis.

Beauty doesn’t come from having the perfect little black dress or pair of pumps. It doesn’t come from finding that perfect foundation that hides imperfections and is invisible on your jawline. Beauty comes from loving yourself, being proud of whom you are, and having comfort in your own skin. It’s finally falling in love with your crazy curls, getting off the diet train and understanding that maybe you are most wonderful at a size 14 instead of 4, respecting the heritage that gave your porcelain skin, and knowing that nurturing your body and it’s appearance is just as important as nurturing your soul and your mind.

And what’s wrong with a little armor to fight through the battle which is Daily Life? My goal with these blogs is to help every woman realize her immense beauty, and help provide her with a little armor to maintain that confidence and self-love. I blog because I care. I care about women, I believe in our worth, our strength, and that we are capable of anything we set our minds to.

Today I did a deep cleaning of my bedroom, and did all the laundry. It felt good, to wash away all the stress and anxiety and sadness of this week; to prepare my armor for the upcoming week where I have to return to the Real World, still mourning the loss of a very special man. I already feel the confidence as I look as my organized closet and neatly folded drawers; knowing I have what I need to go into Monday’s battle.

However I still can’t find that darn dress…

Why I Am Not Silent Today

As many of you know, a very large percentage of bloggers have chosen to go silent today, participating in For Japan With Love, created by the owners of the blogs ever ours and Utterly Engaged.

This is an amazing act by these two bloggers, and those who have participated – a selfless act that has at the time of this post raised over $38,000 for Shelter Box USA, a group that provides emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies for families around the world who are affected by disasters at the time when they need it the most. Each large green ShelterBox is tailored to a specific disaster but typically contains a disaster relief tent for an extended family, blankets, water storage and purification equipment, cooking utensils, a stove, a basic tool kit, a children’s activity pack and other vital items. A whole box costs $1,000 which means that by the end of today, I bet this event will give at least 50 families what they need to survive after this horrible tragedy in Japan.

I think For Japan With Love is a wonderful act and I am so glad that Shelter Box has received so many donations. It is so amazing to see the huge heart, the power, and the love within the blogging community, and how bloggers have rallied together to support such a noble cause. However I have chosen to NOT go silent on my blog.

Last Friday, I woke to hear the horrific news of the earthquake and tsunami. I raced to Twitter, knowing I could find the most up-to-date information on the tragedy and was disgusted to see my blog feed choked with tweets about runway collections, what pants to wear with flatforms, and how to rock nautical stripes. I chose to not tweet about anything not event-related that morning because I felt it was in poor form. It reminded me of when 9/11 happened.

On September 11, 2001 I was working as the visual merchandiser for the Express in Annapolis Mall. Our music system broke the day prior so we were making do with a boom box on the sales floor, tuned to a Top 40 station. I was busy prepping the store for 10am when the phone rang – it was my sister. She sounded strange, her voice high-pitched and a bit hysterical. “The Capitol is on fire. DC is on fire,” she told me. I didn’t understand and told her some of our staff never showed up that morning so I had to help the manager open the store. I hung up and continued with my business. When it was 10am, I turned on that boom box and had a hard time trying to find music. I then heard Tom Brokaw’s voice – Tom Brokaw is never on the radio so I stopped to listen and learned about the tragedy.

We made an executive decision to shut the store and go home to be with our loved ones. Our customers had a different idea. I remember getting into a shouting match with a woman who refused to leave, telling me she had a “big date” that night and MUST get a new outfit. I told her I doubted she would be going on that date, tried to tell her what had happened to the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. She brushed me off and said she didn’t care, she needed an outfit. I eventually got her out of the store, but not without her asking for my boss’ number, claiming that she would “have my job” for “ruining her day.”

I have felt this past week that many fellow fashion bloggers were like that woman in Express – aware of what is going on but refusing to dwell on it for fear it will “ruin her day.” This week, many brave bloggers have come out writing about what is happening in Japan, some mentioning how other bloggers had their head in the sand and were ignoring what was happening in the world. I considered writing about it many times, but knew I wouldn’t be as eloquent as they, and also worried that my post would look as though I was trying to make money/gain traffic from the tragedy. Instead, I retweeted the amazing posts, I donated to Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and Shelter Box my month’s income from the blog, and I prayed.

After some popular bloggers mentioned this “head in the sand” mentality of their peers, many bloggers started writing about Japan. Some wrote because it was the right time for them to voice their feelings, some wrote in defense. And some wrote because they saw it as an opportunity to improve their Klout score.

One of the many reasons I have chosen to not participate today is because I feel that some bloggers are doing it just for the “cool kids are doing it” factor. I see bloggers who completely ignored Tweets about the tsunami last Friday, now going silent today (but not silent on Twitter and Facebook). I see them posting about For Japan With Love, but using it as a way to promote their Twitter and Facebook pages.

I feel that this wonderful blogger event has become a Livestrong bracelet – my husband had testicular cancer at the time those bracelets came out; our friends, family and I all wore one in solidarity. Next thing you knew, it became a weird fashion piece with folks not even understanding the reason behind it.

That doesn’t mean all bloggers are this way, I know MOST are participating for honest, selfless reasons. I love the community of bloggers and how they will rally together to support an important cause. I support For Japan With Love because I KNOW it was created with LOVE. When I woke this morning to see a very quiet Twitter and a very quiet Google Reader, my heart swelled with pride at being part of such a community of amazing people.

However, I choose not to participate because I feel I would out of peer pressure, not because I feel it is important. What I do feel is important is for people to be aware, people to care, and people to do what they can, on their terms to help those in need. If you can give, please do. If you cannot, well I have seen the power of prayer and positive thoughts; I have seen great change happen from positive people with positive vibes. I ask you to give, I ask you to care in the way that seems most right to you.

Why Didn’t I Think of That – Volupties

These days, there’s a subscription program for everything, from tee shirts to lip glosses to statement necklaces. And for a long while there have been subscription services for lingerie and underpinnings, but they weren’t that nice of quality and never fit plus size women. As a woman with larger curves, I often feel left out of such programs – they all seem great but they don’t offer extended sizes. We women want fun and flirty and fabulous things in our mailbox too!

Enter Volupties, a subscription service that offers high-quality pretty underwear for curvy and plus-sized women. For just $17 a month (shipping included), you will receive three pairs of quality underwear delivered discreetly to your door. Each month you will receive different brands, different styles, different colors.  They are constantly adding new brands and manufacturers to their collection, providing members on occasion with undies that are valued at over $20 each in select packages!

Volupties let me try out the program and I received three different yet all pretty and flirty pairs – a cotton bikini by Intimate Basics in a gorgeous teal color with fun stitching and bow detail, a fabulous lace hipster from Vision Intimates in a gorgeous shade of hot pink, and a racy gray leopard of a stretchy silky fabric by Jennifer Intimates.  All three are high quality – better than what you can find in a big box store and far more fun than what you can usually find in a department store in larger sizes.  Packages arrive wrapped in pretty pink tissue paper.

Volupties has subscriptions in three size combos, XL/1X, 2X, and 3X. They have a size chart on their site to help you choose the right fit, and make it easy if you need to change your size or cancel your subscription. If you are smaller, try their sister site, Splendies. While I love a great lipstick or trial size of skincare, sometimes a new fabulous pair of undies can transform your outlook even more!

And just for Wardrobe Oxygen readers, use code OXYGEN when you subscribe, and you can save $4 off your first month with Splendies and $5 off your first month with Volupties!

Note: While I was provided a free month, I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.  I just think it’s a pretty fabulous program and am thrilled when companies recognize that plus size women deserve products to make them feel sexy and fabulous!

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Wardrobe Staples: Why I Promote Black

Ever since I wrote my original Wardrobe Staples for Women post in 2005, I get at least one comment or email a week asking, “Why black?” Why do I suggest black suiting, a black dress, and black shoes as the best choice for all women? Black is harsh, black is somber, black washes some people out.

Yes, black can bring to mind funerals and goth kids loitering in shopping malls. Black washes some people out, and is not the best color choice as you age. But black has so many perks and there’s not really any other color that accomplishes all that black can do:

Black is Stylish Every Month of the Year.

Some browns only seem appropriate in fall, others only appropriate in summer. The same holds true with grays, navys, and greens.

Black isn’t Trendy.

Maybe this year it’s a dark chocolate brown that’s hot, next year it may have more of a camel tint to it. Three years from now, both shades of brown can be seen as passé for it’s a gray-brown that’s the hot hue. This never happens with black – black is always chic. Black also hides trends better – a black blazer looks more on trend in five years than one in a color.

Black Matches Black.

Have you ever tried finding a pair of shoes to match a navy suit? What do you do if you damage your gray blazer for the suit you purchased three years ago? What do you do when you have a new position that requires pantsuits (construction, science, etc.) and your expensive perfectly-fitting brown suit only has a skirt? Point is, it’s easier to match black to black. It’s simple to buy shoes, bags, and accessories. It’s easier to match separates to build your suiting wardrobe, and you’re more likely to be able to replace a pair of pants that stretch out or a skirt that is no longer a current silhouette.

Black Hides Stains.

Not only does it hide stains, but it hides your attempt to get rid of the stain with Tide-to-Go, hides sweat, and even hides many creases and wrinkles. Black is a frequent-flier’s friend, and a good buddy of us working women with toddler grubby hands giving us a hug goodbye.

Black isn’t Memorable.

At my last job, I traveled a lot for business. I actually started blogging my outfits to prevent wearing the same thing twice to see a client. I started this… because I went to visit a client in another state and she said, “Oh you wore that cream suit again, it’s so nice on you.” I had only met her three times over six months, and twice I wore the same suit. While I wore different blouses and shoes, the suit was so memorable that I became The Woman in the Cream Suit. That wouldn’t have happened with black. When you have black in your wardrobe, you don’t need to purchase as much to look as though you have variety.

Black is Versatile.

A black gabardine pantsuit can be worn with a crisp button-front shirt and loafers to a client meeting, with a silk blouse and pearls to a business lunch, with a beaded camisole and silk heels to a cocktail party or wedding, with a bustier and red lips for a hot night on the town. You can’t do that with gray, navy, or brown.

Black Looks More Expensive.

Put a $200 black suit next to an $800 black suit, and you will see the difference, but those differences won’t be as visible from a distance. Put a $200 navy suit next to an $800 navy suit and you can tell the difference a mile away. Colors better show the quality of the fabric, the stitching, the choice in buttons and details. Black not only hides figure flaws, but also many manufacturing flaws.

Black Goes on Sale.

My Ann Taylor Triacetate suiting collection was all bought on clearance. A blazer this year, a skirt another year, a sheath on eBay, a pair of pants during a promotion. It’s far easier to buy suiting piecemeal from a retailer if it’s a color they offer season after season. Not only do colors change from season to season, but they sell out faster because they are a change from basic black. If you’re looking to start a suiting collection on a budget, you’ll have more luck with black than any other color.

Black is a Neutral.

I surely hope you’re not heading to a client meeting or a holiday party in a black suit with black blouse, black hose, and black shoes. If you do that, you will give off the funeral/death/goth/sadness/anger vibe, and yes, it may wash you out. However, if you pair a black pantsuit with a shell pink silk blouse, or a cobalt button-front shirt, or a peacock-blue print shell it will highlight your face and take center stage. With a flattering color, black becomes a frame and a platform for your ensemble. My mother regularly tells me that black washes her out, yet she wears it. She wears it with a colorful scarf at her throat, with a cheery shade near her face, with bold jewelry to distract.

Black is Budget-Friendly.

You can spot clean it, you can wear it year from year and season to season. You can dress it up and down. You don’t need a closet full of shoes and bags to accessorize properly for each occasion. Black doesn’t show wear as quickly as a color. With black you can have just one suit, one pair of pumps, one dress, one bag. You can truly buy quality instead of quantity.


So what do you do if you absolutely cannot and will not wear black? I recommend gray. Navy is the hardest color on the planet to match, brown can look dated and dumpy if not done correctly, and any other color is too memorable. If you buy gray in a classic menswear-inspired gray fabric, you will get a classic look that will complement pastels, neutrals, and jewel tones. It’s a fabric that will stay en vogue for a considerable amount of time, and you can find at all sorts of price points. However, it won’t be as versatile (can’t wear to a cocktail party, evening wedding, etc.) and may be hard to match later on down the line. But gray is chic, traditional, and classic.

And as with all my posts, these are suggestions, not gospel.  I am not expecting all the world to agree with me.  I just have learned from many years as a personal shopper, visual merchandiser, and employee in Corporate America that black is a great choice when trying to purchase versatile wardrobe staples.

Now I ask you wise readers, what do you choose if you do not choose black? How do you make it versatile, and where do you find quality wardrobe staples in classic but non-black colors?

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Why I Blog my Daily Outfits

I don’t take pictures of myself because I think I am beautiful, or young, or a fashion maven. I don’t think I am perfect. I take pictures of myself because I am not perfect. I share my daily outfits because there aren’t enough examples out there of women who are not a model size, or model height, or have a model face who embrace fashion. I take these pictures to show you don’t have to be any of these things to have personal style, to have fun with fashion, and feel beautiful. All women deserve to realize how fabulous they are, and clothing is a great way for women to express themselves and flatter their body. I hope with each outfit post I motivate a fellow woman to try color, to embrace fashion, and find her own personal style.

If you think I post my pictures because I am a narcissist, you’re dead wrong and obviously not reading the text that accompanies the photos on this blog. And if you think I’m in love with myself… well you’re correct and I am damn proud of that fact. If you stop hating on other people, you may have the time to get to know yourself a bit better and realize you’re worth loving as well!

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Tuesday, AKA Why I Love Dresses

Dresses rock for many reasons:

One-stop Dressing. No need to worry about your top matching your bottom, if your heel height goes with your hemline, and if you need a belt. Throw on a dress and you are good to go.

Comfort. Depending on the style, it’s easier to sit on one foot in your office chair, relax in the car on the commute home, and get around in general. This season’s a-line and babydoll styles make dresses the perfect go-to when feeling bloated or all around icky.

You Can Wear Comfy Undies. Again, this season’s styles make it easy to wear a great pair that covers everything, sucks in if need be, or offers non-restrictive ease and comfort. I have on my Victoria’s Secret cotton briefs in a very fun stripe under my work-appropriate crepe jersey dress. Usually these panties with thick seams and edging are relegated to rigid denim and loungewear and the Hanky Pankies work the 9-5.

Boys Don’t Have the Option. Unless a gentleman works in a very liberal environment, is at a music festival or Scottish, he is rarely able to sport a dress or skirt in public. Hey, something women can do that men can’t? Take advantage and sport those frocks!

Working What You Got. Great curves? Matte jersey, various fabrics with stretch and wrap styles showcase them. Great legs? Go for a shorter style with some great tights. Nice arms? Wear a heavier coat outside and sport a wool tweed shift. Dresses don’t work against a woman’s shape but with it.

Being a Lady. Now I am all about comfort, being able to cross my legs and sit on the floor and climb a ladder (or a tree). However, there is something about a dress that has you stand a bit taller, walk a bit more gracefully, sit properly. People open doors for you, pull out seats for you and often shower you with more compliments than when wearing trousers. If we have this ability to get attention and respect by the switch of our wardrobe, why not use it once in a while? Again, it’s a special something that only us women own!

This morning, I got busy doing everything but getting ready for work and suddenly realized I had three minutes – THREE MINUTES to get ready. Hair was washed the night before and was a scary frizzy mess, but a few large sections around a curling iron (and used to smooth bangs) and some Jonathan Silky Dirt made it look reasonable and not at all Mad Scientist. Then I threw on my red crepe jersey dress from Maggy London, the first black shoes from my closet (BCBGirls croco peeptoe heels), a few gold bangles from Ralph Lauren for a bit of polish and quickly slapped on makeup (philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Nars blush in Orgasm, khaki shadow from the Revon ColorStay shadow quad called Neutral Khakis, DiorShow mascara, Maybelline UltraLiner liquid liner on top lash line and Revlon LipGlide in Rum Radiance).

Not as easy to look so polished in such a short time with a pair of pants!

Before I was a Fashion Blogger

I shared this link on Twitter and it brought up many memories of old music, old memories, and old fashion. I remembered going to a Creed concert in the ’90s (I KNOW!), wearing overalls and a bandanna over my two pigtails (double I KNOW!). It made me start to think about my personal style pre-blog – how was it before I started sharing it online.

I hit up my dusty MySpace page (too bad I didn’t keep my Friendster account) and found a few great sartorial blasts from the past.

Before I was a fashion blogger…

…I wore pastel pink to my rehearsal dinner (for the record the twinset was cashmere and those pants were brocade and cropped – all from Banana Republic).

…I wore a matte jersey maxi skirt in Paris (and took matching matte jersey pants, cardigan, tunic, tank, and short skirt to mix and match).

…and cargo pants in Norway (the horror!).

…I wore a lace tank with jeans to a nightclub (and had WIRE HANGERS in my closet!).

…and off the shoulder tees from Express to beachside bars.

…I loved Go Fug Yourself in the early days and purchased their tee shirt each year.

…I wore white shorts with sneakers.

…I always loved bright colors…

…and I loved anything with sequins or sparkles (still do!).

…I always wore my silver cuff (still do!).

…and wore boat shoes as grunge (that’s my dad with me).

…I wore denim vests and Toast of New York lipstick (and cut my hair like Kelly Taylor).

Going through these pictures, my personal style hasn’t changed that dramatically over the years.  While I did cave to a few trends (many that weren’t that awesome), I always liked strong accessories, black with bright colors, and solids over prints.  As I have gotten older, my style has become more refined (fewer flip flops and cargo pants, more pencil skirts and pumps), and more consistent (again, no cargo pants and definitely no lace tanks from Ann Taylor with distressed denim)

How has your personal style evolved over the years?

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We live in a time of excess, where the media will make us think if we don’t have a certain bag or brand in our closet we can’t be stylish. Style can be achieved by everyone, regardless of age, size, lifestyle, or budget. Not only that, style can happen while being true to your personality and interests. Wardrobe Oxygen is a resource to help women find their personal style.

Personal style is dressing appropriately for the occasion, understanding trends, but adapting them to fit you. Understanding your body, understanding your lifestyle and what clothing is best for it, staying within your means and always choosing quality over quantity. Infusing your personality into your wardrobe through color, silhouette, and smartly chosen accessories. Wardrobe Oxygen helps you figure all of this out and provides shopping tips, suggestions on how to style current trends and which ones deserve your attention, how to choose quality over quantity to create a manageable wardrobe of great pieces that will have you dressed to impressed no matter what occasion life throws your way.

Alison Gary has been writing Wardrobe Oxygen since 2005. Before creating Wardrobe Oxygen, Alison has years of experience as an apparel visual merchandiser, stylist, personal shopper, and retail trainer. Alison Gary has written for publications such as The Washington Post, Redbook, and the Huffington Post and has been featured in Washingtonian, Refinery29, StyleCaster, Racked, Lifehacker, and Forbes as well as mentioned in the books The Power of DRES and Living the Savvy Life.

Being a busy working mom and wife, Alison Gary understands the lack of time and busy schedule many women face. Offering real-life advice and tips to hone one’s personal style, Wardrobe Oxygen looks to help women over 30 realize their beauty and personal style and help them express it through their wardrobe.

To contact Alison Gary for partnership inquiries or ask a fashion question, fill out this contact form or email Alison.

Wardrobe Oxygen participates in several affiliate advertising programs. This means that if you click and/or make a purchase through certain links on this site or any related social media platforms, a commission may be made. Occasionally a brand will sponsor a post but that partnership or sponsorship will always be clearly explained within the post. I only choose to partner with brands that I respect and believe fit the purpose and audience of Wardrobe Oxygen and all thoughts are my own. Wardrobe Oxygen gathers data from those who visit this site. This information is kept private and never shared with outside parties other than affiliates and sponsors.

Stacy London’s The Truth About Style Book and Tour

Thursday night I had the pleasure of seeing Stacy London speak at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in DC. Her book, The Truth About Style came out this past Tuesday and after seeing the book trailer I knew I had to be at the speaking engagement.

I met Stacy London a few months ago when she was at a local mall promoting the partnership between her company Style for Hire and Westfield Malls. The experience made me a London fan for life – she’s so real, and she truly cares about helping women feel beautiful and comfortable in clothing. Thursday night, I realized that she cares even more so about women feeling beautiful and comfortable in their own skin.

I don’t want to give much away about what she discussed or what the book is about because I truly think this is a style book that you should read. Borrow it from the library, loan it from a friend, sneak into a nook of Barnes and Noble or splurge on a copy – you won’t regret it. I can just say that Thursday night gave me such motivation regarding this blog.

When I started this blog, I wasn’t terribly happy about my body. I had a lot of opinions about fashion and style, a lot of rules, and a lot of snark. Through blogging, I got to know so many readers – you weren’t pageviews but people. I saw that I wasn’t alone in not liking the body I was in, and I saw that my snark wasn’t benefiting anyone. What’s the point of a fashion blog (or book for that matter) that dismisses those who don’t “get” fashion, that pigeonholes all women into one lump who needs a white shirt, tan trench, and a strand of real pearls?

Through blogging and through changes in my life (hello new awesome job and new awesome child) I began loving this body.  It’s not perfect… but then no one has a “perfect” body. I came to terms with it, and decided to work with it. And I also changed my voice on this blog – women don’t need another person telling them what they’re doing wrong, we need voices to give us food for thought and tips on how to feel comfortable, feel ourselves, and recognize our beauty.


I still have strong opinions on fashion and style, but now when I write I don’t just think about me and my little patch of Earth, but I try to make it more universal, more accepting. And Thursday night I learned that through her ten years on What Not to Wear, Stacy London has had the same experience. Dealing with real women has made her more sympathetic, sensitive, and understanding to others and also to herself. And her book The Truth About Style is about just that. This book won’t give you a list of ten must-have items in your closet, or tell you how to hide your hips or tummy. It won’t tell you what color to wear if you’re a brunette or redhead, and it won’t inform you of what items should be purged from your closet. But it will help you realize how fellow women have learned to find personal style… and may help you find yours along the way.


At the event with friends and fellow bloggers Nancye, Heidi, Alison, Chelsea, and Dana

And if Stacy London’s book tour is coming to a city near you, I encourage you to get a ticket to attend. She is funny, she is raw, she is honest, and she is inspiring. And she may just renew your faith in fashion, style, and yourself.

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Blogger Confession: Why I Don’t Own Expensive Shoes

I don’t own fancy shoes.
Not until the past couple of years did I even consider a pair of shoes over $75, and you’ll never see me in boots over $250 or other shoes over $125.
Even if I won the lottery, I wouldn’t wear Loubies.

A few other DC bloggers (Rosa Loves, High Fashion for Less, Apolinnas, The You Finder) have a Blogger Confessions series and it inspired me to do the same today.

I confess that I don’t own expensive shoes and probably will never own expensive shoes for these reasons:

1. My feet smell. My feet have always stunk. I tried cotton socks, shoe liners, deodorizers, natural products to no avail. My mother said her feet smelled until she had children and I hoped and prayed that the same would happen to me. It did… until I stopped nursing. Gosh knows why, but the feet started kicking again a few weeks after I weaned Emerson.

I use Footpetals in most of my shoes to not only make them more comfortable, but to absorb sweat. I then can replace them when they get funky, leaving the shoes in relatively decent condition. However they still end up being a bit funky after 1-3 years and have to be removed from the wardrobe.

2. My feet sweat. I can put on a pair of shoes for an hour, sit the entire time, and stand up to squishy, slipping shoes. Again, Footpetals help immensely but this causes many of my shoes to stretch out over time.

3. I walk hard. I try to be a lady, but I walked on my toes all my life, which means I either bounce around, or a clomp around. I have my heel caps replaced several times a season and break at least one heel a year.

4. I am a klutz. I break heels, I break off heel caps, my heel gets caught in a grate or in the crack of a sidewalk. I trip, scuffing off the front of my shoe, or slip out of my shoe, stretching the toebox. Again, I try to be careful and ladylike but fail miserably 75% of the time.

5. I believe shoes should be worn. I am not the type to have commuter shoes, I want to actually wear the shoes I buy. For me, there’s no point in wearing a pair of beater shoes to walk from the Metro to the office, then put on fancy shoes which are hidden behind my desk all day long. The shoes I buy need to be workhorses, ones that look good, feel good, and can survive a morning commute.

6. My accessory tastes change faster than my clothing tastes. Five years ago, I felt the most classic shoe was a peeptoe pump with a slender heel. I had the same BCBGirls “Aria” pump in black snakeskin, brown snakeskin, and leopard suede and felt they were the types of shoes I would wear for eternity. After I had Emerson they no longer fit so I got rid of the stinky black and brown ones and gave the newly replaced leopard ones to my best friend and went on an eBay search for replacements (the style was no longer available at retailers). I found a pair in black patent, won the auction, had them delivered, put them on… and they just looked wrong. Not me. They went back on eBay the very next day.

I can wear a simple black dress for a decade without tiring of it, but a black pump I like to switch up with the trends. I have a pointed toe in my closet and have had a variation of it for years, but right now I am really liking a slight platform and a rounded toe. Next winter I may want a thicker heel, or a different texture to the leather.

7. I prioritize. People often ask how I afford my wardrobe. I don’t go on fancy vacations, I don’t drive a fancy car, I live in a very small home, I bargain shop, I love me some Freecycle and Craigslist (and eBay, obviously!), and I don’t buy expensive shoes. I choose to spend my money on what I care about, and for me, I prefer a wardrobe full of flattering versatile pieces than a wardrobe full of fabulous shoes. While I adore shoes, I get more pleasure from a dress or even a new necklace.

While I love me some Louboutins, think Manolos are pretty major, and celebrate the beauty of a pair of Jimmy Choos, I won’t have any in my closet any time soon.

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International Women’s Day (AKA Why I am a Feminist)

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.
– Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler

I am a feminist.

When I tell people this, I get many reactions. People roll their eyes, state that feminism is passé, tell me I can’t be a feminist because I care about what I look like and that I love my husband. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just like the quote above, being a feminist means I support women, and that all women should be treated as people. People who have the same choices, options, and freedoms available to men.

I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman. 
– Anaïs Nin

I believe that a woman can be a feminist and still care about fashion and beauty, love men, love taking care of her home and her family. As a feminist, I believe I am a person – I deserve to do what I want, say what I want, enjoy what I want, and love who I want.

You don’t have to be anti-man to be pro-woman. 
– Jane Galvin Lewis

I married a feminist, a man who sees women as people, finds me to be his equal, and we enjoy a great friendship and partnership.

I’ve yet to be on a campus where most women weren’t worrying about some aspect of combining marriage, children, and a career. I’ve yet to find one where many men were worrying about the same thing. 
– Gloria Steinem

I enjoy fashion, and find it to be an art form as well as a way for women to express themselves and gain self-confidence and self-love. Every woman is gorgeous, clothing helps them showcase their internal as well as external beauty.

Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress. 
– Coco Chanel

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day celebrates women’s successes across the globe, but also reminds us all of the inequities that still exist.

From the International Women’s Day site:

The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes.”
– Clare Boothe Luce

I find that younger Americans feel that feminism is dead, or should be. They feel that women have become equal – they are now CEOs, astronauts, running for office, and Secretary of State. However a recent study showed that female surgeons make on average $27,000 less per year than their male counterparts; the White House stated earlier this year that women in all levels of education still make 25% less than men.

The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation because in the degradation of woman the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source. 
– Lucretia Mott

In other countries, rape is still used as a weapon of war, and women are often seen as property. We women need to support one another, educate one another, free one another. Feminism isn’t hairy armpits and man-bashing, it’s treating humans – all humans with the respect they deserve.

Today I ask you to start with yourself. Respect yourself. Be proud to be a woman, and of all the accomplishments you have made.

We have to have faith in ourselves. I have never met a woman who, deep down in her core, really believes she has great legs. And if she suspects that she might have great legs, then she’s convinced that she has a shrill voice and no neck. 
– Cynthia Heimel

You are beautiful, and so incredibly talented. Honor yourself, and all that you accomplish. Know that who you really are is amazing, and should be celebrated.

We must trust our own thinking. Trust where we’re going. And get the job done. 
– Wilma Mankiller

We women often feel it is wrong to be proud of our accomplishments, take time out to pamper ourselves, seem the slightest bit selfish. However when you care for yourself, you are showing others that you deserve such care. You show subordinates at work that a woman can love herself and climb the career ladder, you teach your children that a woman can be smart and strong and still be true to herself and a great parent. When you love and respect yourself, those around you realize it and give you more respect.

I became a feminist as an alternative to becoming a masochist. 
– Sally Kempton

And take the time today to support your fellow women. Mentor an intern at the office, send an email of encouragement to a local female politician, teach your child about a famous female trailblazer, donate your time or money to a program that promotes support for women in your community or another part of the globe. Doing this will help fellow women, but also make you feel even more amazing and strong than you already are.

I can promise you that women working together – linked, informed and educated – can bring peace and prosperity to this planet.
– Isabel Allende

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The Old Fashion Blog She Ain’t What She Used to Be: Why Blogs Change


You’ve been a blog reader for a long while, long before every single girl in America with a Rebecca Minkoff Mini MAC started one. You’ve had favorites who really spoke to you, but lately their blogs are disappointing. What happened to that awesome blog from 2007, 2009, or even 2012 that you loved so much? I’ve been blogging since 2005 and have made friends with many fellow veteran bloggers. We all hear this complaint from old readers that our blogs have changed, they miss the old us. Here’s some of the reasons why our blogs ain’t what they used to be:

Audience Growth

It’s easy to be brutally honest and candid when you’re writing for an audience of 30. But when that audience grows to 3,000 or gosh even 300,000 you start questioning what you choose to share. On top of it, it gets weird when your blog life merges into your real life: work clients mentioning they read your blog, local politicians emailing an “Ask Allie” fashion question, distant relatives “Liking” your blog on Facebook, the mom of your daughter’s friend asking if the birthday party the two of you are at will end up on Instagram.  Suddenly those pageviews become real people who have influence on your day job, your child, your community, you and your family’s future.

It’s not always easy to realize when your favorite blog has grown in popularity. Sure, they may have a few more sponsored posts or followers on social media, but sometimes when the increase in traffic is viral (Google searches, a link on a popular site or feature in a newspaper) that traffic can be hidden to the average blog reader but can cause the blog writer to have a minor freakout when she sees her Google analytics and make her more careful with what is shared.

Personal Growth

When I started my blog I was 29 and thought I knew everything. I had a very definite opinion and voice on this blog, a voice I created envisioning my posts someday becoming a book. As my audience grew, I occasionally did things to be controversial to increase traffic because that bit of growth was so addictive. With time, I’ve gotten to know many of you as people I care about instead of exciting numbers, and my voice and direction for this blog has changed because of it.  I also feel that with age comes wisdom and experiences that have changed who I am, my priorities, and my voice.  A lot can happen in the years you’ve been following a blog: marriage, divorce, children, job change, religion or spiritual change, moving to a new location, weight loss or gain, health issues… all of these changes will affect not just the blog’s content but how content is delivered.  As a blogger grows and experiences things, her voice will change with that personal development.

Life Changes

When I was pregnant I started a baby blog. I thought it would be a great way to journal the journey into motherhood, and maybe I’d publish it into a book that my child could enjoy when she was older. I shared all the vegetable and fruit she was supposed to resemble in my body, a very detailed birth story, problems with breastfeeding, experiences with cloth diapers and baby led weaning. It was all fine and good until she got to the age where she was being potty trained and I realized… this isn’t a sweater, this is a human being that is being raised in the era of the Internet. Do I really want to be sharing her bodily functions with the world? Should I be sharing ANYTHING about her for that matter? She doesn’t really have a say, and I’m here writing posts about her to garner attention and income. I made the blog private, and soon after shut it down completely.

My fashion blog also changed because of Emerson. My personal life no longer belonged just to me. While many readers had become friends, I knew there were a lot out there who were complete strangers, and I knew some readers didn’t like me very much. It felt very wrong to put my family and personal information out there to the universe, not knowing who was reading it and what they were doing with it. It’s a very weird experience being a blogger; the most intimate posts and details are the ones that get the most feedback and “likes.” It’s tempting to share more to get more positive feedback, but there’s this weird point where you wonder if you’re having special family moments for your family or your readers; if you’re infringing on your loved ones’ privacy by sharing that which involves and affects them.  I’ve chatted with many bloggers who also struggle with this balance.

Lack of Comments

The old blog commenter, she ain’t what she used to be either. With RSS readers, mobile phones, and social media, comment areas have become a wasteland of, “Cute shoes, check out my blog!” and spam for Viagra and Louis Vuitton. While my subscribers have quintupled in the past three years, the comments on many of my posts have dwindled down to a trickle. It’s hard to be real when you feel you’re talking to a wall. I’m grateful to you readers who do leave comments, and I’ve built up my Facebook community to have a platform to get real with those who use it to follow me and other blogs.  But because comment fields have become a place for trolls, spammers, and self-promoting bloggers instead of a venue to interact and get to know readers, many bloggers are shutting down comments all together. I never wish to do that, but the longer I blog and the larger my audience the more I understand their choice. And this gets to my next reason…

The Anonymous and the Creepy

I’m not talking about the activist group, I’m talking about the ability for blog readers to be unknown. Anonymous comments, fake email addresses, tools to hide IP addresses and where they clicked from to get to your blog. Having anonymity gives people a feeling of power, and they sometimes abuse it. This isn’t about the anonymous comments or emails that say you’re ugly or fat; I’m talking about those who take it to the next level. Many of us deal with strangers who have threatened our lives, our careers, or our families and some have acted upon it, contacting places of work, blog advertisers, spouses, and neighbors to harm us in some manner.

Some other readers don’t try to be malicious, but they cross the line from loyal and loving reader to downright creepy. There’s a difference between being a fan and being a Stan, and this doesn’t just happen to the more famous bloggers. I know from experience and conversations with my peers that this happens to bloggers of all size and genre of audiences. We don’t talk about it because we don’t want to look ungrateful or as though we have a big head but it still creeps us out.

When you choose to be a blogger, especially one who works to grow her traffic and monetizes her site, you’re choosing to be a public figure. However, when things start getting upsetting and you’re not famous enough for an entourage to filter out and protect you from it (or have the bankroll to justify dealing with it), you can’t help but have it affect what you choose to share on the blog.

Numbers Don’t Lie… or Do They?

We bloggers have a kazillion tools at our disposal to know about our blog traffic. We can see general demographics, location, and we can see which posts are shared the most. If you see that posts about a certain subject perform better (more shares on social media, higher traffic that day, other bloggers linking to it, more sales from your affiliate program, more traffic from search engines), you of course are going to write about that subject more often.

With the reduction in comments and an increase in traffic, stats are what bloggers go by to gauge the temperature of their audience and choose the direction of the blog. If you feel a beauty blog is writing too much about her home décor, it’s likely because her home décor posts are getting the most traffic. Most bloggers try to be authentic, but provide content they believe their audience desires, and we have to use our numbers to figure that out.


When I started blogging, I’d maybe change my blog’s background or font color but that’s about it for admin work, and that was more for fun. But blogging’s come a long way baby, and to stay relevant you’ve got to keep up with the times. This means templates that are clean, easy to navigate, and mobile-friendly. Images that are high quality but not so big it takes ten minutes to load a page. Ways to connect on social media and by email. Maintaining content not just on the blog but on social media. All of this takes time and some know-how. That know-how takes more time to learn, or a very nice person who will do it for a very nice price. Oh, and that awkwardly long URL has GOT to go, which means hosting fees and all that jazz. There’s gotta be a return on investment to make it worthwhile to successfully blog in this day and age.

As blogs have become more popular and more professional, it takes even more time to make a blog successful financially. Advertisers don’t just pick a blogger who writes about their brand. They look at the numbers, see how influential a blogger is on social media, and yes, how pretty the brand will look on that blogger and her blog. They don’t just contact you and offer a free dress, now there are expectations for number of photos, word count, Pinterest boards, shares on social media, videos and content for their sites and social media. A regularly updated media kit and plenty of contracts and conference calls.  Things that worked great in 2013 are archaic in 2014; advertisers want their brand featured on the latest and greatest and expect more with their partnerships.

And the ways to make money on blogs have changed dramatically. Two years ago, most of my income came from sidebar ads. Took only a couple of minutes to install the code, and it didn’t interfere with my content.  In 2014 though my traffic is much larger than it was in 2012, I make a third of what I did with sidebar ads. Money is now from affiliate links and “native advertising” (sponsored posts and partnerships).  And sponsored posts continue to be more complicated – create a corresponding Pinterest board, lead a Twitter chat, create a DIY tutorial, make a video, have X amount of original photos and a minimum word count of Y.  All of this used to be handled with a couple emails, now brands request phone calls, Skype sessions, proposals, and contracts.  This means we bloggers need to work more hours and change our content just to make the same money we used to.  To keep a blog from being one gigantic ad, you need to work extra hours to fill the space between sponsored content with authentic stuff, which makes that ROI harder to achieve.  Vicious cycle, no? And you wonder why all the “good” blogs shutter.

In Summary…

If you are still reading a blog you read five or more years ago, it’s because that blogger is passionate about blogging. They’re still here because they love it, and because they love you.  In the internet world, if you don’t keep up with the times you might as well be Geocities, Friendster, or LiveJournal. And in the real world, if you’re the same exact person you were five years ago, you need to step away from the computer and live the real life. Blogs are special because they’re (usually) written by humans, not corporations. And humans change and grow, make bad decisions, feel pain and sadness, and learn from mistakes. Our blogs grow with us, and I’m pretty sure my peers would agree that we’re so honored that you have stuck with us through it all.

As for me, I’d love to hear from you. Wardrobe Oxygen is NOT what it was even a year ago, and it will continue to change. But let me know what you love, what you hate, what you miss, and what you wish I’d start including. With Disqus (the tool I use for comments) you can sign in as a guest and use a fake name and email if you wish to be anonymous; I also have a comment form where you can put in a fake email and name if you wish. I also take feedback on Twitter and Facebook. There’s no point in having this site if you don’t enjoy it. I look forward to connecting with you, and I look forward to the future of this blog and your part in it!

What I Wore: Spring Green

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

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I am a Feminist Fashion Blogger

Up until this past summer, I didn’t really advertise that I was a blogger, especially a fashion blogger. Yes, most of my friends and family knew about the blog, but I didn’t really show it off. I feared the repercussions – folks finding me superficial, jobs finding me unprofessional, acquaintances feeling uncomfortable around me if they weren’t dressed in their very best.

The Summer of 2010, I had some very deep thoughts about blogging and my life in general. After having Emerson, my priorities have changed, and my “me” time has nearly disappeared. It seemed stupid, selfish, ridiculous to continue blogging. I hated my body, hated clothes on it, and cared more about things like expecting women being educated about their childbirth rights than what colors were hot for the season. I remember I hosted my monthly women’s circle, I was sitting on the floor talking to them about my blog, stating how I felt more passion for women’s rights than I did about fashion. One of my friends looked at me with a face that I knew was true compassion, understanding, and a bit of concern and it hit me. She was looking at me that way because she knew I loved to write, I loved to blog, and if I stopped blogging I would stop a passion.

That look reminded me that my blog was never about the latest runway style or how to get the look for less. It was always about women – empowering women, helping them see their true beauty and majesty. I wasn’t a fashion blogger, or a style blogger, I was a feminist blogger.

At first, I didn’t really want to write about feminism. To many, this is a dirty word, an outdated word, a word associated with women who hate men, hate fashion, and just plain hate. Over the past five an a half years I have gotten to know my reader base, and I know that we don’t all share the same political or religious or cultural beliefs. I respect your personal beliefs, and don’t want my personal beliefs to stop you from finding benefit to my blog. I have tried very hard to keep my opinions to myself so that I won’t offend or anger anyone.

However I think that the word feminism has a negative connotation because many do not really understand the term. As that the goal of Wardrobe Oxygen is to help fellow women find their personal style and realize how gorgeous they are, it really is a feminist fashion blog. Clothing can be a way to suppress women, but it can also be a way to empower them. I often call a wardrobe a suit of armor because it is a way for a woman to express herself, to feel confident in social situations, to define herself without having to say a word, to feel and be strong.

As a feminist, I believe women should be treated as equal human beings (see my post last week about being a feminist). Women are not men, but women have the same intelligence, creativity, ingenuity, business savvy, quick-thinking, resolve, and ability as men. We should have the same opportunities available to us, and be given the opportunity to decide what we want in our life, instead of having it be decided for us. I think Wardrobe Oxygen is a perfect platform for educating women on the true meaning of feminism, and how one can be a feminist without going against one’s personal beliefs (or hating fashion).

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Forecastle Fashion: What I am Thinking of Packing

When we decided to attend Forecastle last year instead of Bonnaroo, I thought it would be a one-time thing. My Morning Jacket was curating and headlining the event, we were ready for a change, and I hadn’t been to Louisville since college for a trade show. But we went, and we fell in love. A smaller festival, staying in a nice hotel just a couple blocks from the festival grounds, the gorgeous views and the friendly city. We loved being able to leave and have oysters for lunch or Eggs Benedict for brunch. I loved being able to take a nap in air-conditioning mid-day or change into pants for evening. I also loved not having to pack my car to the gills with survival gear and plan months in advance how to dress for comfort and long days.

Even though Forecastle is far more cushy of a festival, it’s still important to dress properly. Clothes that can hold up if you are in fact roaming around the grounds for 12 hours straight. Clothes that won’t drag on a porta-potty floor, stick to you when you get caught in a mid-day sprinkle or when you have sweat coming out of every pore. An outfit that can handle sitting on the ground, being yanked on and off in a hot porta potty, doesn’t chafe and doesn’t make you look like a goober. Because while I do desire comfort, I also desire style.

Last year I took sundresses, but spent almost the entire festival in beat up denim shorts and band tee shirts. Big aviators, a bandanna around my neck and old boots and I felt like a veteran festie goer, a festie survivalist. This year though, I’m not totally feeling that. Not only is this a festival, but it’s also a vacation for me and my husband. Last year was pretty awesome for the two of us, and I want a bit of a romantic or feminine vibe to my look.

So while I will pack the denim cutoffs and my old Ramones tee shirt, I have the desire to go back to dresses. Not short little cotton babydolls of my Bonnaroo days but something more sophisticated and more like me now.

So what I am considering:

  • This dress from LOFT is not what I wanted. It’s jersey, which clings in sweat and humidity. The straps are too thin to wear with a standard bra. But man, it’s a pretty fabulous dress. The straps are adjustable, the skirt is the right amount of fullness for mobility but doesn’t make me look huge, and it has pockets! I bought it just for life, but think I’ll take to Forecastle and wear with bike shorts so it won’t cling too much.
  • The second dress is from Cherry Velvet and I received it from Gwynnie Bee expecting it to look costumey on me, but ended up loving it. Great fit, cute print, nice cotton that doesn’t cling. There’s a double neckline that’s not really my style, but my sister also borrowed this dress from Gwynnie Bee and told me she pinned the halter straps inside the dress and it worked great. I tried it myself and she’s right!
  • The third dress you saw recently on the blog. It’s a dry clean only dress and considering the fabric I figured it was because it shrinks so I threw it in the washer and dryer. Yep, it shrank to almost the perfect length but the hem did not shrink. I took it to the tailor yesterday to have it hemmed in time for Forecastle. Don’t know if I will wear it during the festival, but may wear it for brunch or during off time.
  • This printed top is gorgeous and also via Gwynnie Bee (original brand Eloquii). I haven’t received it yet but I’m imagining it with distressed denim and gold aviators and liking it.
  • And then of course a trusty band tee with shorts and boots… always a safe bet!

As for shoes, I will have at least my Softspots Ventura sandals and my DUO Bern boots, but I will likely bring flip flops and possibly Chucks.  I’ll also bring my army jacket, a pair of jeans, and maybe a maxi dress (such the perfect thing for a sleepy Sunday brunch!). With Forecastle, since we’re staying in a hotel and don’t have to fill our car to the brim with camping equipment, I can take a couple extra things in case I change my mind and in case the unexpected comes up (since the festival doesn’t start until later in the afternoon and we’re staying in a hotel, we have a bit of time to explore Louisville).

I went and bought a new bag for Forecastle… and then returned it. I have my Kelty backpack which has done me well to all my previous festival experiences. It’s not “cool” but it’s small, comfortable, and can hold all I need. I’ll also bring a crossbody bag for mornings before the festival – likely my Latico. And then of course my Ray-Bans, sunscreen, and a bandanna to cover my head if it gets too hot.

As I did last year, I will be sharing my outfits on Instagram and will do recap posts on what I packed and what I wore and of course how it was!

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What I Wore: Pleats Please

Shirt: c/o InStyle Essentials | Belt: Vintage – Belonged to my Mom | Skirt: J. Crew Factory | Bracelet: Rebecca Minkoff | Shoes: Vince Camuto

I gotta say, style rules be damned, I love me a pleated chiffon maxi skirt.  I’m short, I’m overweight, and I don’t care.  I saw this one at J. Crew Factory and felt it was a perfect replacement for my beloved Ann Taylor maxi skirt, which now has a broken zipper, stretched to twice its original size and hasn’t held up well with time.  This new skirt is a 14, and I didn’t have to have the length altered.  I wore this skirt with the brilliant InStyle Essentials shirt (hello shirts sized by bra size!) for a more work-friendly look, but found it also looked fab with a simple gray Old Navy Vintage v-neck tee (see here on Instagram).  I love how skirts like this can dress up and down with ease and are nice and breezy for the upcoming warmer weather.

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A Life, Replotted: Finding the Edge

chelsea henderson for wardrobe oxygen

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Allie: SAHM Capsule Wardrobe

Dear Allie, any suggestions for a stay at home mom’s capsule wardrobe? I left the workforce two years ago when my second child was born and I have a terrible wardrobe of cocktail dresses and stained sweatpants and never seem to have the right thing to wear anywhere. While most days are spent in comfortable knits playing with the kids or working around the house, I’d like a wardrobe that could get me back out of the house and not look a mess. Clothes for volunteering at the school and church, wearing to book club or an unexpected night out with my husband or the girls or just basic clothes that won’t make me look like a mess when running errands. Clothes have to be comfortable, be washable, and be versatile since I don’t have an income any more. Any suggestions?

This sample capsule wardrobe will have you ready for everything from your husband’s work party to book club to the market to the playground. Stretch denim, ponte black knit separates, and colorful knits keep you looking polished even when you’re spending the day on the floor with your little ones. Choosing solids makes the pieces less memorable and more versatile; fabrics like ponte and merino wool look luxe but are machine washable on the gentle cycle and hold their shape through washings and wears.

Twenty Possible Ensembles (though you can make many many more):

  1. Black leggings, striped tee, cardigan, boots
  2. Black leggings, black turtleneck, boots
  3. Black leggings, chambray shirt, boots
  4. Black leggings, gray tee, pashmina, boots
  5. Jeans, striped tee, pashmina, boots
  6. Jeans, turtleneck, flats
  7. Jeans, gray tee, pink cardigan, statement necklace, flats
  8. Jeans, purple sweater, boots
  9. Jeans, chambray shirt, statement necklace, boots
  10. Black pants, black turtleneck, pumps
  11. Black pants, purple sweater, flats
  12. Black pants, gray tee, statement necklace, pumps
  13. Dress, boots
  14. Dress, leggings, flats
  15. Dress, pumps
  16. Skirt, scoop tee, flats
  17. Skirt, striped tee, cardigan, pumps
  18. Skirt, purple sweater, boots
  19. Skirt, turtleneck, flats
  20. Skirt, chambray shirt, flats

Black ponte leggings are thicker than jersey knit, making them look more polished, are more opaque and better hide any lumps and bumps. With a boyfriend cardigan and tall boots, comfy leggings and a tee can look downright chic. The same holds true for dark narrow jeans with stretch – the added Lycra keeps the jeans in shape when you’re active and keeps them comfortable. A dark wash will look more sophisticated and stay stylish longer than a trendy wash. A pair of trousers in black ponte dress up easily but have the stretch and machine washability that makes them practical; pair with everything from a tee shirt to a silk blouse for a put-together look. For ponte, even if it says dry clean only, it can be washed on the gentle cycle and hung to dry.

A black ponte dress in a simple silhouette can be worn with leggings and flats for a weekday casual look, with tall boots for Date Night, or with pumps for a social engagement. Dress up with a statement necklace, dress down with a pashmina. A gathered or pleated skirt in cotton blend (100% cotton may need ironing, a bit of poly will keep the wrinkles at bay) or a heavy knit like ponte gives you the fabric you need to be able to get on your knees to retrieve your child’s toy from under the table but still looks polished. A skirt can make simple flats and an old v-neck tee shirt look chic and purposeful and a lightweight sweater sophisticated.

A mix of different necklines keeps your wardrobe from looking like a uniform and makes layering a breeze. A black turtleneck sweater is insta-chic when paired with everything from trousers to jeans to a fuller skirt.  Merino wool is a great alternative to blends or cashmere as it doesn’t pill and can be washed on the gentle cycle of your machine.  A striped knit is an unexpected neutral which looks great on its own or with a sweater or shirt layered over it. Stripes also do a great job of hiding spots that are visible even on dark colored solid knits.  Chambray is also an unexpected neutral which can add interest under the dress, alone with jeans, or tucked into a skirt.  Unlike a white shirt, chambray looks okay a bit wrinkled, gets better with time and wear, and easily hides stains.

A big slouchy leather bag in a statement color can hold everything from your Kindle and bottle of water to a bag of Goldfish crackers and change of clothes for your child.  No need to be matchy-matchy with your bag, choose one that you like the color and shape and it can become an accent to the rest of the hues in your wardrobe.  Steer clear of metallics, suede, crinkle glazes or patent – all show wear and stains much faster than regular leather or a microfiber. Owning a sleek purse and pair of comfortable pumps in classic black leather will make dressing up your staples simple and they’re easy to polish up for special events. No need for a ton of different shoes – tall boots are surprisingly versatile and quickly add polish to simple knits and jeans. A pair of flats in a print like leopard are often times more versatile than a solid. Simple black pumps are there when you need to dress up.  If you’d like another pair of shoes, some ankle boots with a low heel or slight wedge would look great with all the pants and if they have a Western or engineer look, can also work with casual skirts and dresses.

Update: I created some sample capsule wardrobes for the summer months, you can check it out here!

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