This series of 8 easy-to-follow mini workshops takes you on a journey from discovering your personal style to building a wardrobe of flattering clothes that can be mixed and matched to create outfits for any situation.

Tailoring for the top half: What’s worth the money (and what isn’t)

By IN Advice, How-To Tuesdays

Tailoring for the top half

A reader wants to know about tailoring for the top half:

I’ve embraced tailoring investment pieces and work wear (pants, skirts, suits, premium denim), but have never dipped my toe in on blouses, casual weekend dresses, cotton tops. Possible to get good results? Worth the money?

The short answer is: yes and it depends. Let’s dive in.

When to tailor top half garments, and when not to

In general, there is one big reason to have something tailored: your body proportions don’t fit neatly into the box of most off-the-rack clothing. (That’s most of us, right?) That goes for items such as blouses, dresses and tops just as it does for denim, pants and skirts. Start by fitting the garment to the largest measurement, such as hips or length for pants and bust or shoulders for tops, then tailor the rest of it inwards. But just as you wouldn’t tailor every skirt, you shouldn’t necessarily tailor every top. Here’s when it makes sense.

  • Tops (when you’re busty). If you have a large bust, finding the proper blouse or dress fit can be an exercise in frustration. Buttons don’t close smoothly, or if they do, the rest of the shirt can seem too big. Rare will be the off-the-rack shirt that fits well; instead, buy one that fits in the bust (and ideally the shoulders) and have the tailor take the rest of it in. Note: This might require ignoring the size you think you are and trying on shirts until you find the size your girls are actually happiest in.
  • Dresses (when you’re a pear shape). Somewhat the opposite problem, some of us are much smaller on top than we are on the bottom. Unless the dress silhouette is loose and flowing, if it fits in the hips, it bags at the bust. Tailoring! (Just about every fit ‘n’ flare I own has been taken in. They just don’t make padded bras padded enough to fill out the top otherwise.)
  • Investment pieces (for all). If it’s made of high quality materials, in a classic style you can wear for years and a silhouette that flatters you, take it that extra step with tailoring. It will look and feel like couture–and you’ll wear it that much longer. One Core Wardrobe piece that should have impeccable fit is the white button-front shirt. Another is the blazer.

And when should you skip? When the garment in question is inexpensive, trendy or both. If you can’t imagine wearing it more than a year or so, or the tailoring would cost more than the thing itself, skip it. Wear it as is, or don’t buy it at all. You could opt for something less fitted, like a T-shirt, or fake a better fit with a belt.

Learn more about how to build capsule wardrobes for easier packing (and a less cluttered closet), in “No More Yoga Pants: How to Dress Better, Shop Smarter and Reclaim Your Style,” the Frantic But Fabulous style workshop. Get it today for a more fabulous tomorrow.

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Ballet shoe burnout? Try these alternative wear-with-anything flats

By IN Advice, Style Q&A

A reader writes for advice on alternatives to that staple of the footwear wardrobe, the ballet flat.

Alternates to the ballet flat as the go-to comfort, chic, work or weekend shoe for skirts and pants? I cannot bring myself buy another pair and yet I wear them all the time! I’ve done black, nude, leopard print, metallic, purple velvet, pointed, round toe, dress and sport ballet flats. I also suffered from “mary jane burnout” in the early 2000s.

Ballet flats are a staple in our wardrobes for a reason: they go with everything and they’re easy to walk in. But that does mean we can get a bit bored of them, as this Anonymous reader did.

Here are some flat-shoe options to try.

Ballet flat alternatives

Which of these options appeal most to you will most likely correlate to your personal style: Classic mamas will probably gravitate to the moccasins and loafers, while the T-strap D’Orsay should suit the Chic and Modern ladies, the athletic flats are for Sporty girls, the polka dot espadrilles might make a Romantic smile and the athletic Mary Janes have a more Boho vibe.

With some additional flat shoes in your footwear wardrobe, you may even find that you’re not as bored with your ballet flats as you were before!

Learn more about how to dress for your figure, clean out your closet and create outfits that are fab, not drab, in the Frantic But Fabulous style workshop—including a checklist of wardrobe essentials.

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What I got right (and what I got wrong) packing for a 2-week vacation

By IN Advice

What I got right (and what I got wrong) packing for a 2-week European vacation

What worked for a 2-week European vacation: Outfits that included layers; scarves;
and a variety of comfortable walking shoes.

No matter how much time you spend planning what to pack for that big trip, you don’t know if your plan is successful until you take it out on the road (or try to fit it in the suitcase in the first place).

So after 2 weeks of hauling my backpack through airports, on and off of trains, and up and down subway staircases, this is what I got right—and what I got wrong.

Packing Hits

  • Layers. I brought one lightweight cotton long-sleeve shirt, a last-minute substitution for a denim shirt, and one ¾-sleeve cardigan. I wore them almost every day at the beginning of the trip; you can see the shirt in the outfit on the left, above. English summer weather was even cooler than I remembered or had planned for; see “not enough cooler weather clothes,” below!
  • Scarves. Similarly, the two long cotton scarves I brought got worn almost every day, especially the one I picked up on sale from Kate Spade (in both outfits above!). They were just the right extra layer on cool mornings and overcast days with the bonus of an additional touch of style.
  • Packable rain jacket. I brought this one from Lands End; it was easy to put in the day pack and provided a barrier for drizzle without being too warm.
  • Walkable shoes. Not too surprising! For me, the hit was in bringing the right ones: one pair of sandals for the warmest days, slip-on sneaker style shoes for the coolest days and athletic flats for in between.
  • The backpack. Kudos to my husband for researching backpacks and picking out the Ospreys we wound up bringing. We had 46-liter capacity Porter packs with straps that could be tucked into the back of the pack when we didn’t need them, so they functioned as both backpacks and carryable suitcases. And you’d be surprised how much can fit into 46 liters.

Packing Misses

  • Too many T-shirts. In fact, the great capacity of the backpack led me astray. Instead of sticking to my original packing list, when I saw I had room for more, I put in more. And I put in more T-shirts. (Even worse, I took out the pair of long pants I’d originally planned to bring.) So not only did I haul around more than I needed to, I hauled around the wrong stuff. Because “miss” #2 was …
  • Not enough cooler weather clothes. I knew it would be cooler in England. I looked forward to it being cooler. But I imagined partly cloudy spring-like days of bare arms. We got those, but not until a week into the trip. There were several days early on that were quite a bit lower in temperature.

The conclusion? Next time I go (and we’re already dreaming of the next time), I’ll take fewer things of a wider variety—like I’d originally planned. The more room you leave in your bag, the more souvenirs you get to bring back!

Learn more about how to build capsule wardrobes for easier packing (and a less cluttered closet), in “No More Yoga Pants: How to Dress Better, Shop Smarter and Reclaim Your Style,” the Frantic But Fabulous style workshop. Get it today for a more fabulous tomorrow.

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Drab to Fab: Weekend day trip

By IN Advice, Personal Style

Drab to fab: Weekend trip

Summer is the season of travel, whether it’s 2 weeks in Europe or a day trip on the weekend.

For the latter, I like the idea of combining comfort with a bit of polish. You want clothes that will survive the ride without looking like a capital T Tourist when you step out of the car.

Trade that square, boxy T-shirt for one with a bit of shape and a cute pattern. And who says you have to wear shorts in the summer? A knit maxi skirt can be just as cool and easy to wear (and this one is only $20 at Target—score!).

Toss the fanny pack and try a cross-shoulder bag instead. Save the running shoes for the gym and try a pair of casual athletic shoes, like these classic French Supergas. White goes with everything, but I’m always a sucker for a happy, sassy red.

Your casual watch will fit right in; other jewelry is optional, but if you want to wear a necklace, a simple pendant does the trick.

Learn more about how to dress for your figure, clean out your closet and create outfits that are fab, not drab, in the Frantic But Fabulous style workshop—including a checklist of closet essentials.

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Personal style definitions: Sporty

By IN Advice, Personal Style, Style

Sporty is the personal style category of sportswear, activewear and all forms of easy dressing. Is this your style?

Can’t tell classic style from chic? Not sure what “boho” means, anyway? The Personal Style Definitions series cracks the code on some of the major style categories.

Confession time. How many of you, when you heard the style category “Sporty,” instantly thought of Sporty Spice? (I knew it!)

You’re not far off, though.

Born as sportswear at the beginning of the 20th century, the label first referred to clothing for sports, then by the ’20s came to mean informal and casual separates (a revolutionary idea after the days of corsets and full-length dresses). Later came the concept of activewear, again referring to clothes meant to wear for sports or physical exercise.

Sporty, then, includes all forms of dressing with ease: from activewear to outdoorsy, sportswear to menswear. It’s about comfort; comfort from your clothes and with your body.

(Sporty: also the best style of clothes to wear when escaping the Zombie Apocalypse.)

How to tell if Sporty is your style

Warning: generalizations ahead! There are always exceptions to these “rules,” of course, but it’s quite likely that if Sporty is your style …

  • you love natural fibers like linen, cotton, wool, plus fabrics with a bit of stretch
  • your wardrobe contains items with an easy fit and simplicity of shape, like boot cut denim, a knit maxi skirt, or a crewneck sweatshirt, plus athletic style flats, like the kind Puma makes. If you wear jewelry, it’s a simple chain and a sports watch.
  • your color palette is primary colors and muted neutrals
  • you shop at sites, stores or catalogs like Title IX, Athleta, Columbia, Eddie Bauer, J. Jill, Lands End or L.L. Bean
  • you love labels like DKNYpure, Gap, Madewell, Jil Sander, and Rag & Bone
  • you look to the style of such celebrities as Jennifer Aniston, Lauren Hutton, Christy Turlington
  • you love outfits that are relaxed without being baggy, body skimming without being tight

If she wears other styles, a Sporty woman may wear pieces that are Boho or even Classic.

A perfect Sporty weekend casual outfit is a scoop neck T-shirt worn with a knit maxi skirt and athletic flats, paired with a simple necklace and sports watch.

Sporty mamas, does this sound like you? What would you add to the description of this style category?

Still not sure which style is right for you? “What’s My Style?” is the fast, fun workshop that will teach you how to identify your personal style—and build your own signature look. For less than the price of a lipstick, learn how today!

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Personal style definitions: Romantic

By IN Advice, Personal Style

The Romantic style aesthetic is characterized by soft lines and delicate details. Is this your personal style?

Can’t tell classic style from chic? Not sure what “boho” means, anyway? he Personal Style Definitions series cracks the code on some of the major style categories.

The most traditionally feminine of the different style aesthetics, Romantic is soft, floral, sweet, playful and even whimsical. As a category, in fact, it’s a bit wider in definition than the others. One end of the Romantic spectrum is lacy, almost Gilded Age; the other end is girly in a Gamine way, with tiny patterns, like florals and polka dots, and bow accents; and somewhere in between is Shabby Chic.

(The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style replaces Romantic with two categories: Gamine and Bombshell. Little girl and hot mama, if you will.)

A Romantic style lover is not afraid of a little volume, a lot of details or color, both washed out and candy bright. This lady knows her way around a tulle skirt.

How to tell if Romantic is your style

Warning: generalizations ahead! There are always exceptions to these “rules,” of course, but it’s quite likely that if Romantic is your style …

  • you love decorative details, like lace, ruffles, ribbons and bows
  • your closet contains such items as a bow-tie blouse, floral skirt, loose knit sweater, a lace top, espadrilles and lace-up boots and a cameo necklace or fine chain with delicate stones
  • your color palette is full of whites and either soft pastels or candy colors
  • you shop at Modcloth.com or in vintage stores, where you hunt for items like silk blouses from the ’30s or full skirts from the ’50s
  • you love labels like Kate Spade, Betsey Johnson, April Cornell and, for the fierce Romantic mamas, Rodarte
  • You look to the style of such celebrities as Vanessa Paradis, Kirsten Dunst, Penelope Cruz or Zooey Deschanel
  • you love outfits that accentuate your femininity; you’d rather wear a maxi skirt on the weekends than a pair of denim

If she wears other styles, you’re most likely to find a Romantic woman in pieces that are Boho.

A perfect Romantic Client Meeting outfit is a floral silk wrap blouse that ties at the waist and a full circle skirt, accessorized with delicate gold jewelry or even a vintage piece.

Romantic mamas, does this sound like you? What would you add to the description of this style category?

Still not sure which style is right for you? “What’s My Style?” is the fast, fun workshop that will teach you how to identify your personal style—and build your own signature look. For less than the price of a lipstick, learn how today!

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Capsule wardrobe: Casual Fridays

By IN Advice, Personal Style

capsule wardrobe: Casual Fridays

In its original form, Casual Friday was the chance for workers in offices with formal dress codes to wear slightly more relaxed outfits. Be-suited professionals were allowed the freedom of separates and a thousand polo shirts and khakis were sold.

In some offices, meanwhile, Casual Friday is the standard dress code. And Actual Fridays are a sartorial free-for-all.

So maybe it helps to think of Casual Friday the concept as a level of dressing that’s the least dressy and most casual you can be at work while still looking like you’re dressed for an office.

Casual Friday pieces tend to split the difference between casual and formal in color, fabric or shape; if it’s a dressier shape, like a pencil skirt, the fabric is more casual, like denim. Create the same pencil skirt in crepe wool with a silk lining and now it’s ready for a client meeting.

10 pieces to wear on Casual Fridays

This Casual Friday capsule wardrobe, then, contains a few basic pieces that are dressier than weekend wear (whether casual or chic), but less dressy than you’d wear to meet with a big client or customer.

And if the dressier pieces are still more “formal” than you typically see in your workplace, well, who says you can’t be the best dressed one in the office?

You can combine them to make outfits that are the farthest toward the casual end (denim + T-shirt) or closest to being Proper Office Attire (blouse + skirt + blazer).

In warmer months, trade the corduroys for a lightweight cotton trouser, either ankle length or capri cut, and swap the longer-sleeved bright blouse for one with short sleeves or even sleeveless.

I’ll keep the blazer and cardigan, though; my commute is toasty, but my office can be Arctic. Layers to the rescue!

Learn how to build capsule wardrobes in the Frantic But Fabulous style workshop—including a checklist of closet essentials. Love everything you wear, starting now!

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