Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Looking clean and put together with kids

So how exactly does one get away with wearing a white sweater and light grey blazer with two toddlers?  Or, even more so, a Missoni scarf and a cream cashmere sweater?

I do a few things to keep my clothes looking reasonably clean, without weekly dry cleaning trips.

  • As much as possible, I avoid wearing my blazer until after I drop the kids off at daycare.  This may mean I'm cold in the morning - but I can manage.  I even have a "home jacket" which I wear instead if I need to be cozy.  This way my blazer stays crisp and clean, and even if I get something on my shirt I can hide it under the blazer at work.  Same goes for the scarf - I put it on only after dropping the kids off.  In the meantime it sits on the passenger seat.
  • I try to wear pants that I can rub dirt off of.  Good wool and synthetics work well for this.  Cotton usually does not.  Take a dry washcloth or even a rough dry paper towel, and you can usually rub off most dirt.  I almost always get dirt on my pants from carrying my toddler and her dirty shoes hitting my legs.  But I can dust that right off in the car or when I get to my office.
  • Spot cleaning!  Oh, the wonders of spot cleaning.  I keep a jar of delicate soap in my bathroom, so I can spot clean my clothes as soon as I take them off in the evening, or before bed.  That way they are clean and ready to go next time I want to wear them, and stains don't set in.  This is the soap I'm using these days, but I've used many over the years and they all seem fine: http://www.amazon.com/Forever-New-Fabric-Care-Wash/dp/B002USD5FC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416934861&sr=8-1&keywords=forever+new+soap.  I've done it so much lately that I can now wash, rinse, and lay out to dry an item in under 3 minutes.  I got something on the white sweater yesterday, but now it's good as new.
  • I change into "home clothes" as soon as I get home, if possible.  If hubby is home, we take turns watching the kids while the other one goes and changes.  If not, then sometimes I can take the kids to my room to change, or I can settle them in with dinner first, and then go change.  
  • If I can't change into home clothes quickly, I take off my sweater, shirt, or blouse, and walk around in a camisole.  And possibly a camisole plus home jacket if it's cold.  Hey - it works.  (This happened with the cashmere last week - the sweater sat on a chair at the back of the house while we had a family dinner in the dining room.  I was hanging out in a cami.)
What about the other little things, like having nicely manicured nails?  I've mostly given up.  I either do touch-ups at the office, to fake nicely manicured nails, or I keep my nails clean and short and leave it at that.  A few things that have helped: Get acetone from a beauty supply store to use as a nail polish remover.  It's faster than any other polish remover (and what the nail salons use).  Being able to quickly take off polish helps a lot.  Buy polishes that look okay with just one coat and that touch up well so you can just paint the tips if they chip.  I really like metallic polishes for one-coat-coverage. I feel they are more forgiving. And I like Revlon, Opi, and the Saks Fifth Avenue store brand for good application, opacity, and drying time.  And have a good quick-dry base coat.  It can work as a nice clear polish in a pinch (such as when you have time to do your base coat and no time to put the color on), and it protects your nails from discoloring so they still look good when you take your polish off.  I use Sally Hansen Hard-as-nails. 

Any tips to share, my fellow working-moms-of-young-kids?  :)

Blazer outfit done right

These are the pants that I wanted to wear with that grey with blue trim blazer.  Aren't they great pants?  The fabric is really fun.  Even though it's dry clean only, I can usually just spot clean it or rub dirt off, which is helpful since Nadia's dirty shoes leave dirt all over my pants every morning and evening when I carry her.  The sweater is comfy and simple.  These earrings are from my mom-in-law, who gives me some fabulous gifts.  They have a matching necklace, but that broke a while back and I haven't fixed it yet.  The earrings are that perfect balance of dangly and interesting, but still office-appropriate.

These pants usually look tighter on me than this...  I guess this is a thin week for me.  Huh.

(Blazer and sweater: J-crew factory, Pants: Reiss)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ugh, are they air conditioning in here?!

They are installing a new heating/cooling system here, and I need the leather jackets for *inside* my office.  Yup.  I figured the scarf would help too, and now that it's finally cool enough it gave me a chance to wear this fabulous new scarf.  One of my colleagues gave this to me as a gift!  Isn't it a nice gift? 

The sweater is one of my few 100% cashmere sweaters, and it's so soft and cozy.  As of a few years ago, most of the high-end department stores would have huge selections of cashmere sweaters that are not too expensive, and they all went on sale between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm guessing this is still true. I recommend going early in the season, but on a weekday, so that you have lots of selection but it isn't too crazy and you can try things on.

(Sweater: from Bloomingdales, scarf: Missoni, Pants: Express, Shoes: Bandolino from DSW from a while back, jacket: Wilson's leather, also from a while back)

Thursday, November 20, 2014


One of my favorite things about cooler weather is being able to wear my knee-high boots.  And leather jackets.  And turtlenecks.  :)

Okay, so clearly I have to clean my camera lens.  Sorry about that.  But you get the idea.  (The colors in the first pic are pretty true.)

(Brown suede boots with a very soft thick comfy warm lining: Aldo (Aldo is great for narrow-calved women like me), Skirt: Forever 21, Sweater: Ann Taylor (Ann Taylor and Banana Republic tend to make the tightest highest turtle necks - I love turtlenecks, but only if the neck fits *perfectly* to the circumference and length of ones' neck.), Jacket: Arden B from back in the day when Arden B made quality clothes (real leather).  Unfortunately I don't think that's true anymore, but I haven't gone in a year or two...)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sweater season

The minus side of having a wardrobe as large as mine is that sometimes I just can't find things.  I really wanted to wear full-length black pants today, but I couldn't find the pair I wanted, so I threw these crops on instead. I really need to get my trousers re-hemmed so I can start wearing boots.  My ankles are cold!  :)

It has finally cooled down around here, so I've started wearing sweaters regularly.  I figured it's a good chance to describe my sweater-buying strategies:
- I buy colors that work on me: mostly black, bright colors, or flattering darks like burgundy. 
- I mostly buy thin sweaters.  Even in Boston that was true - they were a little thicker, but by using fabrics like cashmere, and wearing the right layers underneath, I could get warmth without too much bulk.
- I always wear something under.  Even here, where I don't necessarily need a warm layer, a tank can help smooth.  And in colder places, a nice fitted top underneath can add so much warmth.  I make sure the layer underneath is a slippery fabric so my sweater doesn't catch on it weirdly. 
- I usually try to have some sort of interesting detail.  On this one, that's the button cuffs.  On others it'll be something like studs.

I also love tight high turtlenecks, but it hasn't been cool enough for me to wear them here yet.  But every winter here I've felt colder, as I've gradually become more spoiled.  So maybe this year.  :)

(Sweater: Martin & Osa - which is no longer in business.  I recently discovered MNG Mango - I think they are a similar store to what Martin & Osa used to be.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Working with a personal shopper

I love below-the-knee pencil skirts, and to the extent that I have a signature look, they are probably part of that look.  But I *never* would have considered a high-waisted one (given my short torso and tummy) until my personal shopper made me try it.  And voila, I do have a waist!  (Or at least, the outfit makes it look like I do.)

Three years ago, a few months after baby #1 was born and I was going back to work, I needed work clothes for my larger post-baby figure, and I had no free time to spend shopping.  I called up Nordstroms, which offers a free personal shopper program.  They hooked me up with one.  We corresponded via email in advance and I let her know my rough measurements and guess as to size, what I was looking for, which included a few very specific items (e.g., a black suit), and a few more general ones (e.g., pencil skirts, work pants, work tops).  She pulled items in my sizes and price range and had them all ready for me when I arrived.  I went straight to a fitting room and tried stuff on.  Based on what I liked and didn't, she pulled additional items.  She brought the tailor to the fitting room to take measurements for adjusting two pairs of suit pants. It was incredibly easy and incredibly fast.  I ended up doing a second trip about a month later.  Based on the first trip she had a good sense of my style and size, so she let me know when a bunch of stuff that I would like went on sale.  That's when I got this skirt.  I already had the shirt and belt, and the shoes are new for this year (and help to keep the outfit looking super current).  She was able to do some combinations and pairings I never would have thought of on my own, or wouldn't have taken the time to put together.  It was really great.

Nordstroms has some really inexpensive clothing, which I think a lot of people don't realize.  But it has incredible service.  I highly recommend trying out their personal shopper service.  If you do, make sure to be really vocal and communicative - let them know what you're looking for, what you are looking to spend, and as they bring things let them know what you like and don't like and why - and they should be really helpful. 

(Skirt: Halogen, from Nordstroms (one of my favorite brands there for inexpensive but nice-looking clothes for a 30-something), Shirt: Ann Taylor, Belt: Cheapo belt that came with a juniors top I bought ages ago, shoes: Nordstroms)

The pitfalls of online shopping, and getting ready while carrying a crying toddler

I bought this blazer online because I liked the detailing - I love the contrast trim and the gold buttons.  But when it arrived, I wasn't thrilled with the fit, so I decided to return it.  Of course, that requires checking the box that says "reason for return: fit," closing the box back up, putting the return label on, and dropping it off at the UPS office.  I never did it.  30 days later, and the return period has expired, so I'm going to just start wearing the thing.  The fit really isn't that bad - it's just boxy, which can work - and it is a nice looking blazer. 

But of course, there's another problem with this outfit: There's just too much going on.  I should have worn a crisp white button-down, or a simple white sweater, with this outfit.  Instead, I'm wearing my white blouse with silver buttons and ruffles and things.  I had to get ready while carrying our inexplicably fussy one-year-old today, and this blouse was easier to reach.  I'm also wearing different pants than I had planned, for the same reason, but that worked out pretty well.  Take a look at how well the different navy fabrics match!

(Blazer: j-crew factory, blouse and pants: white house black market, shoes: target shoes that are *exact* copies of christian louboutin simple pumps minus the red sole (as I know now after having bought myself a pair of simples))

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Date night

I often wear my Herve leger bandage dresses for date night, but last night I wanted something a bit more casual and something blousy so my tummy was camaflouged.  After all, we were going for a seven course dinner.  I like this dress because it's loose up top, but still fitted in the skirt, and short enough to be really flattering for my legs.

(Dress: bcbg maxazria, purse: Versace couture, bought in Florence on vacation, shoes: Christian louboutin from lollipuff.com, necklace... Oh yeah, a shop at an airport - maybe Dallas? - where I went on a bit of a spree once, tied in a knot by me because I like that look better for me, earrings bought so long ago I can't remember, rings: cheapo accessories stores like charming Charlie's)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Skinny Jeans

Let's face it, skinny jeans are not flattering.  Well, perhaps if your legs are the exact same width all the way down, and you are slightly bow-legged, and you have a tendency to stand with your feet about a foot apart.  But otherwise...

But they are the style.  So, what is a gal to do?

First, let me say that I think we can still get away with flared/big-bootcut jeans with sneakers on occasion, like going to the park or zoo with the kids.  If your pants are very fitted through the top of the calf (which was not true of most boot-cut/flare jeans of a decade ago), and then flare out, they can still look current.  The top part has to be tight enough (requiring a stretchy denim), and the flare at the bottom has to be big enough, that you are virtually shouting "this is a style decision people, I'm not just wearing my old boot cut jeans from 10 years ago."

But, in most other circumstances, skinny jeans are the way to go.  So, how to make them as flattering as possible?  Here are my tips.  I don't always follow them, but I try to:

1. Make the bottom as not skinny as possible.  There are a few ways to do this.  Having skinny jeans that gather at the bottom, like my new Frame Forever Karlie jeans, does this.  Cropped skinny jeans work for this too, and crops that are rolled up slightly really work well for this since the cuff usually adds some bulk/width.  Some skinny jeans will be sort-of wide compared to the leg on that last 2 inches - that works too.  With all of these, we avoid having the jeans visually create a V shape that narrows to like 6 inches.  We create a V that narrows to 8 instead.  It may not sound like much, but it helps. And if you're really not sure about skinny jeans and that V shape, try straight-leg.  They are very similar, but taper a bit less over the bottom 10" or so.  Just make sure that they are at least a little stretchy and very fitted through the hip, thigh, knee, and upper calf.  Otherwise you'll look like you're wearing Mommy jeans (I know, I bought a pair that ended up looking like Mommy jeans myself). 

2. Wear the right shoes.  Obviously heels help to elongate the leg and make us look slimmer.  But who's going to wear heels with jeans on a regular basis?  Basically just celebrities and OC housewives as far as I can tell.  For the rest of us: Boots worn over the jeans, in a similar color/darkness, help to create a longer line and help to disguise the unflatteringly-skinny bottoms of skinny jeans.  In a dissimilar color (dark boots with light jeans or light boots with dark jeans) they are still cute, and I've done that, but it's not as flattering.  In the summer, when it's too hot for boots, ballet flats are best.  Again, it's about elongating (and not making your feet look super long and skinny).

3.  Make sure your top is not tight.  One of my friends somehow managed to look good wearing a tight-fitted striped top tucked into a pair of high-waisted skinny jeans when I saw her a few months ago (you know who you are).  I don't know how she did it, but I honestly won't recommend it.  I know I wouldn't look right wearing that.  Even the skinniest women tend to wear flowy or boxy tops with their skinny jeans, either tucked or untucked.  If it's winter and you're going to have lots of layers, you can wear slightly more tailored/fitted items, because the extra layers and things like scarves add the "not tight" look that we want.  The key is that skinny jeans are almost painted on.  If we wear a painted on top, it can look cheap.  And it can very easily start to highlight rolls and lumps and such.  (Again, I have broken this rule, because I just love some of my more fitted old tops, but I know that it looks a bit more dated and a bit less stylish when I do it.)

4. Take advantage of strategic fading, or go dark. A lot of high-end jeans, and some lower-end jeans that were smart enough to copy it, have stretegic fading that is very subtle, but that makes it look like your thighs are a bit slimmer than they really are.  That upper inside part of the jeans is super dark, making the big parts of our thighs visually disappear.  Whiskering can also be flattering - it is on me, but maybe not on most?  I don't really have hips, so I don't know how it looks on people that have hips.  If you don't want a pair with fading, then darker pairs are more flattering.  Even if you're going for colored jeans, you can take advantage of this by going for a color like burgundy, dark purple, or cobalt.  Something like yellow, pink, etc., will show all the lumps and make the legs look bigger.  Finally, coatings (coated denim has been big for a couple years and is continuing to be big) can also help.  When I wanted grey jeans, I found that most were unflattering.  But then I found a pair of grey/silver jeans where the coating was essentially painted on in slimming vertical strokes.  They were perfect.  A lot of the current coatings are more even, but they are subtle, dark, and just add a little shimmer.  My guess is that they will be pretty flattering.

And here are some pics of celebrities and bloggers following all 4 rules:

Now, suggestions rather than rules:
  • Solid or simple patterned tops tend to look best.   
  • Choose the rise that works for you.  If you have a short torso like me and will be tucking *at all*, get low rise.  If you have a longer torso, or are not planning to tuck, a higher rise can be more flattering - it definitely works better to smooth/avoid lumps and muffin top.  
  • Consider the "half tuck" that my friend Cathy raves about.  I'm not a fan for myself, but I can see how it works on others.
  • Make sure that your tops hit at a point that is flattering on you.  I've found for myself that my tops either have to show a few inches of zipper or they have to be full out tunics covering a few inches of upper thigh.  In between (e.g., crotch level) looks awful on me.  But you can see that it looks perfect on Kim Kardashian above.  So find the lengths that work on you.  Wear your jeans and go shopping and try on a bunch of tops of varying lengths to figure this out.  You can do this at Target before picking up the kids' mac'n'cheese, so you really can squeeze it in.  Making it to a store can be hard for me, but Target always works.

Finally, specific brands that I like for myself right now:
  • Frame: the current big new designer brand.  It is soft and stretchy, so it is comfortable.  But it's not *too* stretchy, so it still shapes the legs a bit (very soft stretchy ones won't provide shaping).  These designer jeans can be expensive, but most high-end stores will have 25% off sales online, so you can watch for those to save a little.
  • Old Navy's "The Rockstar" jeans.  They're a bit more papery than the high-end brands, but they still have that right amount of stretch that makes them comfy and provides the great fit while still providing a little shaping.  And they usually (but not always) have that ever-so-slightly-less-skinny last 2 inches which is very flattering.  They also come in different rises and different lengths (petite, short, regular, long, and tall!).
  • New York and Company (!).  I was surprised, but I found a couple pairs there that had fabric that felt a lot like the higher-end jeans.  Again, a bit more papery, but super flattering. This store is a bit more hit or miss though, so I recommend trying on, possibly even trying on a few high-end pairs to see what you like and then going to NYandCo and trying on some there to see what comes closest.

Please share your skinny jeans rules and tips, brands you like, etc.!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Comfy work dress

This dress is really soft and stretchy, so it is very comfortable, though less flattering than some other dresses I have.  I got it 2 years ago and today is the first day I am wearing it!  Pregnancy and nursing/pumping made it so I couldn't wear this the last two falls/winters/springs.  

And I got to wear my red earrings and red pumps again.  

(Dress: whbm)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Simple casual suit outfit

I bought this suit as an easy-to-wear work outfit for days when I don't really need a suit, but want to wear a blazer, and am too lazy to match a pair of pants or skirt with a top and blazer.  Suits are so much easier.  The cropped pants, looser-fitting blazer and camel color all make this more casual than most of my suits, but also less classic, so I have to make sure to get a lot of use out if it in the next year, before cropped-pant-suits with boxy jackets go out of style. 

The thing is, I really bought it to go with my new nude/taupe Christian Louboutin Simple pumps.  But I can't bring myself to wear those!  It turns out I have a serious mental block against wearing X-hundred-dollar shoes to work.  (And yes, I did wear almost-as-many X hundred dollar shoes to Vegas, but apparently my mental block does not extend to Vegas.)  So in the meantime, these shoes are not ideal with this suit since they make my legs look shorter.  But I've got a decent amount of leg to work with, so I'm just going to go with it.  And try another pair of shoes next time.

(Suit: j-crew factory, sweater: j-crew factory, tank: forever 21 from a while back, shoes: macy's)