Weekend Reads #73

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amtrak station
I don't recall which Amtrak station this was, but I looked up on the way to NYC and saw these amazing colors in the window I had to capture a photo!

Want proof that blog readers are a completely different crowd from social media followers? Wednesday I was on The Today Show. Within an hour I gained 1,000 Instagram followers from it. That day, I only had 500 more pageviews to this blog than Saturday and it wasn't my highest traffic day from the past few weeks. So I don't feel the need to do a “Hi new people, I'm Alison” kind of welcome here on the blog, but I probably should do one on Instagram!! The whole experience being on The Today Show was cool, and it was so interesting to see the behind the scenes. I am working on a recap of it to go live next week, hoping to answer all of your questions and share plenty of photos.

In the meantime, for those who didn't get a chance to see it, here is a link to the video from the segment on the Today Show website. Yesterday, they shared a video on IGTV of some outtakes from the taped segment; you can watch it at this link (can view on desktop, phone browser, or the Instagram app). Thank you to all who watched, cheered me on, and sent congrats. I was so psyched to be a part, I think it went great, and I feel I represented myself well and accurately.  I thank you all for your support, it really gave me the confidence to rock this opportunity!

September's Charity Contribution Recipient

Thank you to all who voted on which charity should receive a portion of the September profits from Wardrobe Oxygen!  The winner by a landslide is the Greenbelt Animal Shelter, a no-kill shelter in my city, and where we adopted Oscar.  I am thrilled to be able to support them and will be providing a monetary not product donation so they can use it in the best way they know how. My daughter's Girl Scout troop has regularly made this shelter a recipient of a portion of their profits from selling Girl Scout cookies so I have been able to see first hand how they use their donations and how it benefits not just the animals there but the community as a whole.  If anyone in the area is looking for a pet, I highly recommend Cecil who is currently at the shelter.  He was one of Oscar's “brothers.”  Not from the same parents, but Oscar and Cecil lived together at the same household until their owner passed away.  Cecil has cataracts, but he is very smart, very sweet, and is quick to get to know his surroundings.  He can climb stairs no problem and is otherwise in great health and positively adorable. They also have many adorable and sweet cats, if you're in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area I recommend you coming for a visit.  They regularly update their Facebook page with new animals and events.

Sale Alert

American Eagle, my go-to for budget-friendly but good quality jeans in sizes up to 20, is having 25% off your entire purchase if you buy one of their new arrivals at this link.  Use promo code FALLNEW at checkout. For New Arrivals, I'm partial to this sherpa hoodie, this sherpa pullover, this cozy oversized v-neck sweater, and this perfectly distressed denim jacket.  Also, their denim is buy one, get one 50% off.  I KNOW!  These are the wide-leg crops I have, just in a different wash.

Have you tried eShakti? I have had great success with this company.  Thousands of styles that you can buy in standard sizes, customize the length and sleeves to your desires, or even have custom made to your specific measurements.  They offer up to 6X and right now if you register with them you will get 33% off your order!

HerRoom, one of the best online destinations for bras, panties, and other intimates is having their Friends and Family event.  Get 20% off everything and an additional 20% off clearance!  HerRoom is especially great for those of us with a large bust; their selection of DD and larger bras is awesome.

J. Crew Factory has some good deals this weekend – 40-50% off sweaters, up to 60% off select styles, and an additional 40% off clearance with code SALEITUP.  J. Crew Factory goes up to 3X and some styles come in lengths.

  • This super soft sweater is machine washable, comes in six colors, and is on sale for less than $35.  The same sweater also comes in a pretty color combo of stripes, same price.
  • How can you resist a sweater with a dalmatian on the front, especially when the dalmatian is wearing leopard-print boots? On sale for $40.50.
  • The perfect sweater jacket to throw over a top and pants at work and still look polished, use as a lightweight jacket before fall really arrives, style with leggings and a tee on the weekend, even style belted over a dress. Four colors and on sale for less than $60.
  • J. Crew Factory has a lot of plaid flannels, but this one is the kind you can style with a pencil skirt, pair with some ivory wide-leg trousers, or leave open over a t-shirt with your favorite jeans or leggings. On sale for less than $35.
  • And if you're feeling fall but the temps aren't letting you whip out the sweaters and boots, this t-shirt is for you.

J.Jill has a fall event going on with 25% off your order or 30% off if you spend $200 or more.  Use promo code CHANGES.

  • J.Jill's ponte pants are perfect for work or weekend when you want to be comfy but not in leggings. They come in Misses, Petite, Tall, and Women up to 4X in five colors and two prints.
  • Fabulous price for a cashmere tunic, and I am lowkey obsessed with the green color (though the other colors are also fab)
  • I dig the asymmetric hem of this skirt.  Wear with a turtleneck sweater, a t-shirt and denim jacket, a breton tee, and so much more.

Lands' End is continuing their promotion of 40% off full-price styles with promo code COLORS.

  • Loving this winter coat – strategic seaming to work with curves, a fur-frimmed hood, long enough to keep your rear warm, and five gorgeous colors.  Here is the link for misses and petite, here is the link for plus sizes. And yes it's 90 degrees here but now is the time to buy a winter coat when there is full size and color selection yet a super great sale price!
  • Practical and sometimes goofy trapper hat, but make it fashion.  In Ash, this is a hat that will truly keep you warm but not make you look like a lumberjack. Don't be surprised to see me rocking this come winter!
  • Go ahead and hit the thrift store for an ugly Christmas sweater, but if you're looking for a cute Christmas sweater you won't be embarrassed to wear everyday, consider this one.  Every print is adorable! Regular, petite, and tall sizes.
  • I swear by Thermaskin pants.  I slip them under maxi dresses and boots, under leggings, under jeans. They're thin and silky and truly keep you warm without bulk.

Lane Bryant is having a BOGO event with buy one get one 50% off for clothing, shoes, accessories, and sleepwear!

Soma is having their Panty Event with their Embraceable panties, which are usually $11-$12, on sale seven pairs for just $37. Six different styles from XS – XXL, shop here.

Weekend Reads

The suit was once the uniform of the powerful and a requirement for every man. Now, they mostly wear suits when they’re in trouble. (Vox)

I was engrossed by this oral history of the Lilith Fair. (Vanity Fair)

And because I mentioned The Lilith Fair, have to do a flashback to when BlogHer sent me to the revived Lilith Fair in 2010, one of my first cool opportunities from this blog!  Not sure what happened to that full recap post I kept talking about, I wonder if it never got approved by BlogHer? Oh well, I still got to meet Sarah McLachlan!

Ann Taylor made a drastic decline in quality and style when it was acquired by Ascena.  I used to walk by an Ann Taylor on the way to and from the office and it was like overnight the windows went to walls of sad polyester fashion in not quite pretty colors.  And now Ascena as a whole is struggling and Ann Taylor is holding on by a thread.  Ascena did what so many struggling retailers did – they underestimated their customer.  And how stupid to dumb down fashion for professional women who are smart and dressing to rise up that corporate ladder.  Ascena you opened the doors for MM LaFleur and Argent and Pari Passu and all these other small companies that understand women are smart, savvy, and deserve fashion as hardworking and smart and sophisticated as they are. I used to be the biggest Ann Taylor fan, go through my archives and almost every outfit had at least one Ann item in it. Don't be surprised to see Ann Taylor going the way of Forever 21 within a year. What you SHOULD have done:

  • Offer fewer pieces instead of more from poorer quality
  • Gotten on the plus-size bandwagon early, and do a true plus line, not some weirdly shaped extended sizing that you didn't market
  • Work with influencers who were over 30 and over a size 2 and consider models who were real women
  • Create heritage items so each season you would come out with new pieces in the same fabric and color lot for the black and navy and women would automatically buy the new cut of pant or the new silhouette of jacket to add to their collection

Anyway, I can rant all day about Ann Taylor, Bloomberg recently wrote about this which inspired my rant, you can read it here. (Bloomberg)

Speaking of Forever 21, it is filing for bankruptcy and I say good riddance. (Vox) A timeline of this fast fashion company. (Business Insider)

Everlane has come out with a Western boot and it's pretty fabulous looking.  It's also perfectly on trend for this season, looking great with all types of pants and even with skirts and dresses, bare legs or tights! Three colors available.

If you're like many people over 35 you're wondering WTF is TikTok and why is the world talking about it and do I even care or should I care?  Personally, I think if you're asking those questions you shouldn't be on there.  My daughter has TikTok on my phone, she plays with it occasionally with me there, I get the appeal, and I think Reese Witherspoon joining TikTok looks like Steve Buscemi on 30 Rock.  But TikTok is a thing and you may be surprised by the wacky, witty, quick humor of these teens.  This piece shares the story of a semi-famous TikTok teenager and it's worth a read to understand the phenomenon. The videos in the sidebar can be played to see examples of TikTok videos if you haven't seen them before. (Vox)

For Your Entertainment

I was driving my daughter and a few friends home from Girl Scout camp last weekend and they asked to listen to “cool music” on the ride.  I put on Today's Top Hits from Spotify and heard this song by Tones and I and was intrigued to learn more about this artist.  Her real name is Toni Watson, she's from Australia, only 19, and her first song came out this year.  I was going to share the video for this song but this week on Facebook inspired a different video from Tones and I.  I had two different friends on the platform complain about “kids these days” not being political, not using music to start a revolution.  I say if you think “kids these days” don't care, you're not listening, at least through the channels they're using. Gen Z is more politically, socially, and environmentally active than Gen Xers, Boomers, and older Millenials ever were.  They don't need to use music to share their message, they have the entire Internet.  But some, like Tones and I, are also using music to show that “kids these days” care more and are making more of a difference than we likely did at the same age.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. ok i know i am very late to comment but i just have to thank you for explaining tiktok and for helping me philosophize/laugh my way through that steve buscemi meme article. i cannot get his kind of curated content just anywhere. xo

  2. I remember when Ann Taylor used to carry silk blouses every fall. I had some beautiful ones and bought a new one each year. As a thin layer under my sleeveless sheaths. well it has been years since they offered those, right around the time they were acquired. A shame. Tried some polyester bow blouses this season and they looked and felt cheap. Returned. Also they used to have real leather and real suede skirts and jackets. Not anymore. I continue to like and purchase some of their styles so I don’t agree that it’s all downhill but there’s a clear difference, and it’s not positive.

  3. So, as I expected, most of the comments were about my former favorite women’s apparel store, Ann Taylor. I became a customer in 1998 the year before I moved to NYC from Orlando. I bought one suit for my interview then, before I knew it, my entire wardrobe consisted of pieces from Ann Taylor, including my handbags, outerwear and jewelry. I knew the sales staff of the three closest stores by name and they knew me on sight. I never left without a bag in tow. When I traveled to different cities for business, I always planned a stop at an Ann Taylor. Then, in 2015, things began to change. I would walk in, browse around and walk out. This happened so often that became convinced that my taste had changed or that I had grown out of their styling. But, I soon realized that it wasn’t me; it was the brand. It had changed and not for the better. Your postings confirmed this. Several of the local stores have closed. I don’t recognize anyone when I visit the mall store. I too wouldn’t be surprised if the entire chain disappears.

  4. I’m somewhat echoing what a few others have shared, but you have finally said aloud what I’ve been thinking about Ann Taylor! I used to shop there all of the time when I was starting my professional career. When I gained weight, I absolutely could not understand why they didn’t stock enough larger sizes-everything sold out fast online, and I could never find above a 12P/LP in store. In downtown DC, with tons of professional women of all sizes, you’d think they’d have a more inclusive range in store. Now that I’ve lost a few sizes, I’ll pick up the occasional petite staple there, but the lack of color selection and quality material, and the reminder that I wasn’t a valued customer at a larger size, make me less likely to shop there. It’s sad, because their petite sizing has fit me well, and it doesn’t stop at a 10, like some other brands. So much potential squandered.

  5. I loved seeing you on the show. Well done! How wonderful that you had that opportunity–both for you, and for everyone who saw you.

  6. Love your Weekend Reads posts! I look forward to them each week and usually learn something new and interesting.

    You’ve talked in the past about “twee” prints, and have mentioned Talbots in particular. And so whenever I shop Talbots – I’m 37 – I categorize it by “classic” or “Ali would call that twee” 🙂

    My question is – where do items like the JCrew Dalmatian sweater or the LE Christmas sweaters fit on the “twee” spectrum? The Dalmatian is almost sold out, so clearly popular.

    Talbots has a sweater with a beagle on it wearing boots, and I think it’s really cute. But I have a hard time wearing a critter on my chest and not feeling like I match my 3yo daughter.

    Thanks in advance if you can provide some insight!

    1. Some people love twee. They love ducks on their blouses and puppies on their pants. They like cutesy styles that verge on being juvenile. That dalmatian sweater doesn’t feel especially twee because it’s a bold color (no pastels), no wacky embellishment (a fake dog doesn’t need a 3D lifelike collar with a bell), and it could be styled in a non-twee manner (imagine with a leather pencil skirt or a pair of dark jeans with a leopard print calfhair loafer or some cool sneakers). Twee can be the garment (pink floral puffed sleeves with a bow at the ruffled neck) or it can be in the styling. And some people… they rock that twee and I support them. I just won’t join them! 🙂

  7. I have finally found tall size pants that have the right proportions, and sure enough, they’re Anne Taylor. I guess I’d better stock up.

  8. The comments about Ann Taylor really struck for me. I remember when they launched in Canada all the sales staff were in their 60s but the bloggers they were using for the launch were in their 20’s. I just didn’t understand why they weren’t using older bloggers who actually had experience working in an office. I also didn’t understand all the polyester. Although I have found that Banana and JCREW are doing more and more polyester these days too. I just want some wool trousers for the office. I want natural fibers. I never really got on the Ann Taylor train and I think it is because they came here after already compromising their product.

  9. I loved that you talked about becoming a mother, and learning to dress your changing body! That is one of the most difficult experiences for so many women, and you talked about it as it is – a matter of fact, with no judgment attached. That reminded me why I love your blog – you talk about things honestly and you have shown me ways to dress my own body that make me feel good about myself, no matter what size I am at that time. Keep up the good work!

  10. You were fantastic on The Today Show. “Armor”… I loved that answer. As always you were real and authentic and fabulous. And you rocked that suit and sneakers!

  11. Totally agree with you on Ann Taylor. I worked there about 15 years ago, when I was in law school. It was the only way I could afford the professional clothes I needed. I ended up spending more than I made! But those items lasted me for over a decade. Now, I hardly ever look at Ann Taylor. The prices are way too expensive for what you get.

    Also want to say that I love the look you wore in the Today segment. You have inspired me to try a longer blazer and wide leg pants with sneakers! I already have a nearly identical blouse and it is one of my wardrobe staples.

  12. I remember when Ann Taylor was aspirational for me. Then it became a go-to store with nice, tailored suiting and stuff I could wear to work. Then I “outgrew” their line, and it began to look sad.

    Is Today doing a special thing with online influencers this month? You were the first person I follow who announced an appearance, but now 3 others I follow on SoMe are getting ready for appearances. I’m at work and never see these live, but this is more than I have heard about Today in years.

  13. I’m so glad you’ve discovered Tones and I – she is a fantastic singer/songwriter with an amazing back story. If you like The Kids Are Coming you have to check out Johnny Run Away (about a friend coming out to his parents), and – apologies for planting the ear worm but it’s such an awesome track, my kids love it (as do I) and I think you/your daughter will too – Dance Monkey!

    Johnny Run Away:
    Dance Monkey :


  14. So funny, I heard Tones & I on the radio in a cab on the way to the airport for a work thing and was instantly intrigued! I even looked her up when I got home – couldn’t convince my partner or daughter, but I think she’s great.

  15. Hi Allie! Thanks for another great edition of Weekend Reads. The kids are coming and thank goodness for that. The picture of the Amtrak station is one of Metro Park in NJ – that’s my station. Have a wonderful weekend!

  16. Good morning! It just starts my Saturday out perfectly when Weekend Reads is in my in-box! Alison, I finally watched your Today show segment last night & loved it! You looked beautiful and did such a fantastic job. Bravo! I truly think your “look” was the best of the bunch, and I loved so much your talking about how our bodies change after having kids. Thirteen years after having my son, I’m still struggling, but I want to wear clothes that I love, feel good in, and still feel somewhat stylish. Thank you for acknowledging that & helping us with that.

    Slightly off topic for today but related to clothes…your post the other day mentioned your bad luck with Madewell. I love that store even though much of their vibe probably skews too young for me but have had good luck w/ jewelry, purses & shoes from there. I’ve also had terrible luck wearing their skinny jeans; my hips & calves just do not work in those skinnies. However, I’ve got a pair of boyfriend jeans from a few years back & love them. So comfortable! I also discovered their Stovepipe pants this past month & want to recommend them. Straight legs, high waist (still getting used to that), very comfortable & just easy to wear. They are expensive, to me, so I’ve only got one pair but I wish I had more—I’d wear them daily. I think lots of your readers might like them too!

  17. Can you please do another MM review? They no longer have the Bento program, but since you live near DC, maybe visit the showroom and write about that experience?

  18. Another successful company destroyed by the mergers & acquisitions mania. Ascena paid $2B for Ann, far more than any of its prior acquisitions. That $2B included a $21 per share premium.

    So they loaded the company up with debt & cut quality to try to pay the debt load. Didn’t work for Sears, Toys R Us, etc, etc.

    And in the meantime they also shut down brick & mortar Dress Barn (Ascena’s original business) & are looking to sell Lane Bryant & Catherine’s.

  19. Good Morning- always look forward to your posts, especially. Weekend Reads. I now understand why I sometimes walk right by Ann Taylor…it was never “my store” as the colors were always off for some reason but occasionally I would would find something there…in past year or two..horrible, nothing I want at all, even during the many 50% sales. I took a look at the sites you mentioned that I was not familiar with: Argent and Pari Passu. Both def. over my price point…liked a wrap skirt but my budget does not allow $300.00 for a skirt. Size range for Argent did not go over 14 and XL…I am closer to an XXL or Size 16 depending on the cut. Are there any lower priced options for someone my size that loves clothes and happy to pay i.e $150.00 for a dress or skirt and like classics. I am familiar with stores like Nordstroms, J Jill, J Crew, Anthropologie (do not get me started on Macys…STRONGLY dislike that store for more reasons than I can list)….am I missing some small, not as well knows hidden treasures that sell my size and I can afford? Thanks in advance.

      1. I have not and maybe I should. I get so tired of buying/returning and as much as I love pencil skirts…they never seem to work on my hips/thighs

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