Denim on Top

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Denim jackets are back. Wait a minute–did they ever go out? How many denim jackets have you had over the years? I cringe a little to remember one back in the mid-nineties and another back in 2001. Remember the roomy boxy styles that were really more like a coat? Yes, we all had them.

In recent years we haven’t seen such a drastic change in styles, so if you’ve had a denim jacket for a few years, it’s probably still very much in style. The styles are short, fitted and look great with a skirt, dress or colored denim.

Next, let’s discuss shirts. Denim and chambray are back! In the past, we didn’t wear a chambray shirt with denim. Now that is ok if you vary the washes between top and bottom so it doesn’t look like you have a denim “suit”. It will also work well if you wear a long tank in a bright color under the shirt.

I really like the look of different washes with the jackets and shirts. In fact, this year I bought a dark denim shirt AND a lighter wash that can be worn more like a jacket. There tabbed sleeves, vests, and embellished denim.

Denim on top helps “neutralize” all that colored denim we see out there. It makes a great combination.

Do you have a pair of colored denim? If so, have you paired it with denim on top?


Denim on Top

ONLY fitted shirt
$54 -

Madewell block top

Fat face
$74 -


Marc by marc jacobs jeans
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“Smooth” Wear

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It’s been a while since I wrote about Shapewear. At that time I highlighted the various brands and pointed out the differences in their ability to “suck it in” .

Now, I often refer to a few brands as “Smooth Wear”. I think there are several options that smooth the lumps and bumps but aren’t necessarily considered Shapewear.

One of the most common complaints about shapewear is the fact that it is too hot.

Here are a couple options that are not heavy duty, but they will help smooth inconsistencies in the back and help with the “muffin top”. They are comfortable and you will not feel totally bound in.

First on the list is the Shimera Cami found at Nordstrom. I find this is perfect to smooth  and add that layer under tops that come a little low. It also really helps smooth that area above the waistband of your jeans.  It comes in a variety of colors and the scoop neck is reversible meaning you have two ways to wear the neckline–one higher and one lower.

Next I want to point out Yummie Tummie as I did in that original post. Again, you will get light support. It will hold you in a little more than the Shimeras. They are also made from a fabric that regulates your body temperature so you won’t be too hot or cold. It is reversible so you have a V-neck or a scoop neck. Nordstrom has a number of styles, but the Yummie site has a whole lot more.


The next time you need a little smoothing action, consider one of these options!


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Organize/Prioritize your Clothing Needs

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As I continue talking about closet purging and starting over, I’m realizing how difficult it is to do in writing! It’s so much easier to explain all this when I’m talking to a client in person. I’ve discussed “capsule” dressing before and really that is where we need to start.

When someone needs help re-building I suggest starting with bottoms and third pieces in basic neutrals. Pants and skirts along with jackets and/or sweaters need to fit well as this is what typically gives the first impression. This is where you want to put your money. If you purchase good quality pieces, they will last for several years. Then you can switch out the tops, layering pieces and accessories. Since these are typically more affordable, it makes sense to replace these when you get tired of the same outfits.

Build your capsule according to your lifestyle.

Bottoms will include dress pants, skirts, jeans, cropped pants depending on what you do. Some of you that need “wear to work” clothes will want to build work AND casual capsules.

I suggest laying things out on your bed to really visually see what you have and what will coordinate together.

Neutral capsules will need to start with black or gray. I like to have both shades in my wardrobe. I have dress pants, denim, skirts and now cropped pants ALL in black AND gray. It gives you much more versatility so it doesn’t look like you are always wearing black. We all know that it often seems like we could wear black pants 4 out of 5 days!

Charcoal gray is perfectly fine for spring and summer. Here are some casual options. I think of dark gray as the “new khaki”.

Wit and Wisdom                                      Caslon

I like gray vs khaki because it provides a really great contrast with your bright colors and it does not show dirt as quickly.

Below is a photo of options for bottoms in black and charcoal. Pair that with what is above and you will have a great selection in bottoms in these colors. I need all of these styles in my wardrobe, but many of you will only choose pants and no skirts or no denim. When you begin building the black/gray capsule you may just choose one gray and continue to add gray slowly,


Black and Gray bottoms

Next: Jackets and Cardigans

Now, depending on your taste and lifestyle you will start choosing your third pieces in the SAME neutral tones as the bottoms. You have much more flexibility if you can wear separates instead of suits. Notice all the variety in shades of black/gray, different textures and of course different styles. This all adds interest.

Does it look a little boring? I think so. Now you can add your colors and patterns with tops, camis, tanks and accessories!

black and gray jackets


A Wear stripe blazer
$68 -

2nd day

Miss selfridge

Superdry jacket

Jersey blazer
$42 -

Rare London baseball jacket
$48 -

Vero Moda biking jacket
$86 -

Wallis black jacket

$91 -

I wear a lot of brown. I think everyone should have a brown/khaki capsule too. You can do the very same thing with those shades.

What about colored jackets and colored jeans? ABSOLUTELY! Next week I’ll show you some ways to wear those colored bottoms and pair the right colored jackets.

Keep sorting and evaluating. Make your lists and then prioritize. Make it fun and don’t stress. Rebuilding a wardrobe takes time and patience and it won’t happen all at once.

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Announcing… Tangerine Tango

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It’s official. In December Pantone announced the color of the year as Tangerine Tango. You may recall last year was Honeysuckle. When you click on the Pantone site you’ll be able to read a little more about this choice.

“Sophisticated but at the same time dramatic and seductive, Tangerine Tango is an orange with a lot of depth to it,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “Reminiscent of the radiant shadings of a sunset, Tangerine Tango marries the vivaciousness and adrenaline rush of red with the friendliness and warmth of yellow, to form a high-visibility, magnetic hue that emanates heat and energy.”

 I know what many of you are thinking… Orange… not ORANGE! I’ve found from working with many women that you either LOVE or HATE the color orange. Last summer I wrote about my journey with orange. The past year we have seen orange re-surface and we saw all sorts of shades. Personally, I’m partial to a softer coral rather than an overpowering fluorescent shade. But, I have to say that even the brighter shades are growing on me. I get so many comments when I wear orange.

Hands down, the biggest fear women have with orange is “it doesn’t look good around my face.”

I realize I cannot do an extensive color analysis with every person I meet when I am in a retail setting. However, I am often surprised at how quickly I can get an idea from carefully noting hair color, skin tone and eye color. Many women have warm colors in their eyes they have never noticed until I point it out. The trends in hair colors and highlights are definitely warm. Bottom line: Many of you will look great in the color orange.

Still skeptical? Here are some ways to work in tangerine tango into your wardrobe.

1. Start with very muted shades that do not overpower or separates with just a touch of orange.

2. If you have very fair skin, blue eyes, pink tones in your skin AND you are just scared of orange, start with a pinkish coral shade instead.

3. Add in orange with some accessories: handbags, shoes, a bracelet or even a little orange in multi-colored scarf.

4. Wear orange as a layering piece only

Are you getting tired or your winter clothes and need something to brighten your mood. Orange is the answer. Layer it under any neutral!

Caslon                                        Sanctuary                                  Bobeau

            Velvet Heart                                                                     Not Your Daughter’s Jeans

Nic and Zoe                              Trouve                                        Halogen

All photos from Search the brand name for these styles and many more.

What do you think? Will you give orange a chance?

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Stylist Confessions: My Fashion Faux Pas

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Congratulations to our winner Sandi–Comment #5. Sandi will receive a Free Cut/Style from Brenda at Nico Bella Salon in Camas. Remember all readers will receive a 10% discount if you mention my blog.

It’s been a little quiet in the comment area here. I thought this post might just get you all going again.

For years my friends have always pointed out my ability to be “put together” at times–even in a casual situation. They think I do everything perfectly ALL the time. While some of these same women have also seen me without makeup, doing yard work, and working out, the situations that stand out in their mind are those times when I’m dressed up and “perfectly coordinated” as they would say. Some apologize for what they are wearing and how they look when they see me. To my friends who think I can do no wrong…This one’s for you!

It’s time for true confessions. I’m sharing a situation which was not exactly my finest stylist moment.

Several weeks ago on my day off I met a client to offer some quick advice. We talked briefly in a store and she sought my opinion on some things she had recently purchased. She recommended a store that had recently opened in this shopping center called Hot Mama. It’s a boutique for the stylish ”mom on the go” but certainly not limited to moms. I enjoyed looking and talking with the store manager and a sales associate as I browsed. We talked about brands, my stylist job, this new store and other fashionable topics. It’s a great store and I encourage you to check it out if you have one in your area.

They were very complimentary of my style and what I wore that day. I know from working retail that this is often a conversation starter when a customer comes in. However, it didn’t feel like a tactic–it felt genuine to me. I walked out of that store feeling pretty darn good. Nothing like a few compliments to put a little pep in your step.

I decided to run in Starbucks before my 40 minute drive home. In addition to my latte, they talked me into a free mini cupcake. Who could resist?

I stood in line for a few minutes, then waited patiently at the counter for my drink and briskly walked to my car. Just as I was stuffing that cupcake in my mouth, a woman waved at me to roll down my window. My first thought was I had dropped something in the store OR there was something wrong with my car. But no, she wanted to tell me that I had left the “size sticker” on my pants!! As I reached to feel, I sheepishly thanked her and was SO thankful I was in an area where I didn’t know a soul. I felt ridiculous for having walked around the last hour with a tag on my pants. I’m sure the ladies at Hot Mama laughed after I walked out the door.

Then I wondered how obvious it really was. The pants were VERY dark as was the tag. My sweater was quite long plus I had on boots. Truly not much of that sticker could have been in plain sight. Evidently the white numbers caught the light in Starbucks just right, or that lady was checking me out head to toe!

Now, I’m even going to admit that this was NOT the first time this has happened. Years ago I was at a convention with a new pair of pants and did the same thing. Luckily someone caught it before I was in a large crowd. Hopefully there will not be a third time!

Oh, it’s good to laugh. I thought you might enjoy knowing that I don’t get it right all the time.

Anyone else out there have a similar experience they are willing to share?

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Make a “Look Book”

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I would have written about a Look Book eventually, but wouldn’t you know it, In Style beat me to it in their “50 Best Fashion Tips of All Time”. By the way, I hope you have enjoyed how I’m incorporating these tips here/there. I doubt I’ll cover all 50, but hopefully it has been affirming. We are all doing many things right!

Do you ever put an outfit together and feel a real sense of accomplishment when someone comments on it? Then when you try to duplicate it or even remember what you did, you can’t come up with the exact same thing. Now some of that isn’t all bad–I believe in change. HOWEVER, when you are in a hurry to get out the door having a photo reference can be a huge time saver when you are getting ready to go. That is worth a lot.

These photos do not have to be top notch quality. They are only for reference.

The camera on my Smart Phone is better than other phones I’ve had in the past. I could have a handy log right in the files on my phone. Yes, I forget things too. Part of me loves the challenge of changing it up, but honestly there are times when I just want the photo reference.

Take a quick photo of yourself in the mirror OR lay out the outfit with accessories AFTER you arrive home and snap a photo. You might recall a post in which I shared the photos I had taken in the mirror. One of my friends who is a faithful reader told me “Karen, you really need to get a tripod and remote control. Then you can just stand there and push the button. You don’t have to worry about anyone being home to snap the photo or stand in front of the mirror.” She of course is right. I’ll get there.

Remember, don’t worry about how you look in the photo. Their purpose is to jog your memory of clothes and accessories. Many women actually develop the photos and have them in their closet or on their dresser to refer to. Others keep them on their computer. I don’t recommend that method because it really defeats part of the purpose–saving time. If you have to run and look at your computer, it slows down the process, but whatever works for you.

Here are a few I’ve taken recently. I knew there was a way I could still use those photos of summer dresses! Sometimes you don’t even need the full length pose because you simply want to remember the accessories and other times you may want to show shoes.

I hope you will consider making a Look Book. I would be happy to help you put new looks together for you book. Let me know if I can help as you get out those fall clothes!

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I suppose it’s the former teacher in me. I like acronyms. I find them to be one of the best ways to remember facts.

Recently a client e-mailed me an acronym taken from Stacey and Clinton on TLC’s What Not to Wear. (Yes, I glean tips from clients frequently and am very grateful!)

I talk about all of these things. I’ve never put them into an acronym.

When shopping, consider these points.

B: Body appropriate I have written several posts on body types. It’s always good to review!

A: Age appropriate I find this to be a “hang-up” for too many women. It definitely needs to be considered, but do not become obsessed. It is one of the top 5 questions clients ask me. Is this too young for me? I’m not condoning you clone your twenty year old daughter. I believe your natural instincts will come into play here. Sixty year old women can wear certain trends–just depends what you put with it. I actually find that many women go the opposite extreme and dress older because they’re so worried about the “too young” factor.

S: Situation appropriate  Need I say more?

E: Expense appropriate  CPW (cost per wear) When making a decision, take into consideration the wear you will receive from the item AND what you currently have in your closet that you can coordinate with the new piece.

Now for a couple more In Style 50 Best Fashion Tips that fit so well with BASE:

Style Tip #11 Make a list before you shop. Don’t write what you WANT to buy, instead list the 10 favorite things in your closet. Try to look for other pieces to give your faves new life or help you duplicate a look you love.

I’m going to take this tip just a little further and give it a Style by Karen twist. ALWAYS have an ongoing shopping list in your closet. Go ahead and list those pieces you love. Also list thinking like this….If only I had_____to go with______the outfit would look better. 

Then write down anything that you see as a gap. If a certain layering piece is always in the laundry, you probably need another one. Force yourself to think–what other color will go with this besides  black or white!

And now even more on that age topic:

Style Tip #48 Dress for your body, not your age…Arms svelte enough for a sleeveless sheath?Legs tones enough for shorts? Show off what you’ve got, while you’ve still got it!

What do you think? Will BASE be helpful to remember when you shop?

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Shape Up Part 2

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Thank you for your comments and questions on Shape Up Part 1.

As mentioned previously, a main concern for many women is the comfort level when having to wear shape wear all day. Another concern is the heat. If you live in a warm/humid climate, suffer from hot flashes or have any sensory issues, the fabric from SPANX and other shapers can be VERY uncomfortable. I live in a cooler part of the country. Just days ago we hit over 90 for the first time this year. Even though that is unseasonably cool, I do not have to endure weeks of 100+ degrees.

Breathable, comfortable fabric is key. SPANX has two lines: Simplicity and Skinny Britches that might be a better match for you because of the fabric. The fabrics here are more in line with another shaper I discovered two years ago by DKNY. Unfortunately it has been discontinued, but I mention it because it was cooler.

I found the SPANX site to be more helpful than going to a store site because there is much more choice. They rate the support of each garment: Medium, Super or Super Duper. They recognize that each woman is looking for a different option based on the situation and body type. You’ll find the shapewear guide to be very helpful.

If you need to smooth your backside and tummy, consider two of the lighter weight pieces–much easier to get into! A slip is also a great option if you wear many dresses and skirts.

As I mentioned in Part 1, Yummie Tummie was a great find for me several years ago. Their revolutionary concept encourages the combination of shape wear and clothing that can be worn every day. I’m generalizing a bit because I have not tried every Yummie Tummie garment,  but overall I’d say the support level is in the Light-Medium category. For some women, this is all they need. In fact, I often explain that just one light weight layer in a cami or tank under a top can smooth out a slight muffin top. No shaper is needed-just another layer.

Dislike websites or going to the store? Check out Essential Bodywear and locate a representative near you. They know their stuff when it comes to proper fit and their products are amazing. I highly recommend them! You can even have your own party to help your friends improve their look. Let’s get rid of that staggering statistic that 85% of women are wearing the wrong  bra!

To Summarize Part 1 and 2 on Bras and Shape wear:

1. Have a bra fitting one time a year (more often if you have lost or gained weight) and do NOT put it off! The proper bra will lift the “girls” to show off the smallest measurement on most women’s bodies (directly under the bust) If your chest and upper middle mesh together it is not a good look. When you get the proper lift, immediately it will visually take off the pounds.

In addition, the right fitting bra eliminates “ripples” in the back a.k.a. BACK FAT. The Spanx Bra-llelujah  is one choice that helps smooth the back. When you click on that link, you will see a short video which tells you everything you need to know about bra fitting. WATCH IT!

 Soma Vanishing Edge is another option and they are also known for the Cami bra!

2. Seek out shaper options that will work for you (or ask your favorite stylist for help) and do not give up after trying just one! The sales associates in the lingerie department can be helpful or clueless. If you don’t get the info you need the first time around, try another store or come back. You will be surprised to know that many of the associates wear shapers–even the really thin women. I know because I’ve asked!

The key is just that–ask questions. Find out what the best sellers are (I’ve only mentioned 2-3 brands) and what most women prefer. Tell her what you are looking for in a shaper and what you dislike. Once again, I need to compliment Nordstrom for their excellent customer service in this area. Time and time again they have been helpful and knowledgeable. They have helped my clients feel comfortable while listening to their needs.

I’d love to hear what you think!

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Shape Up

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I’ve been meaning to tackle this topic for some time. It’s a tough one. I see so many women wearing an ill-fitting bra. Oprah addressed this years ago and made great strides with the female population. There is still work to be done, but finally women understand that the proper fitting garments underneath your clothes make all the difference to completing a polished look.

I see lots of lumps and bumps. I have them too. We could call these “situations”. Let’s talk shapewear. In general, I feel it is fair to say that a certain percentage of women are against support garments or they have misconceptions about them. Ladies, this is not your mother’s girdle! Every week I meet women at the boutique where I work who complain about that little area above the waistband of their jeans. Women think that if they lose a little more weight, or work out a little more it will all go away. It might and then again it might NOT.

I’m convinced that the term “muffin top” came about with low rise jeans. I recall the first time I heard it. I stopped “dead in my tracks” because it described perfectly what I was experiencing around the middle. It wasn’t a pretty picture! When my clients complain about a muffin top I am honest about the 3 options they have.

1. Wear a support garment/shaper.

2. Wear a mid-to high rise jeans which help “reign in” that excess weight. (I am NOT talking “Mom” jeans. Let me clarify that Mom jeans were high waisted, pleated, and tapered.

3. Plastic Surgery

The last suggestion usually gets a laugh and I say it for that reason. #1 and #2 are reasonable and affordable.

SPANX, created by Sara Blakely, have become a household word. Sara created SPANX  by simply cutting off the feet of a pair of pantyhose. She wanted the smooth look created by hosiery, but did not want the “feet” when wearing her strappy heels with pants. Now, a decade later, Sara has expanded the line and had made millions with this novel idea. If you’ve never read Sara’s story, do so; it’s inspiring!

I recall the first time I saw the SPANX concept on a mini TV  in the hosiery department of Nordstrom nearly a decade ago. I was intrigued. At the time, another passing customer remarked that she did NOT need any such thing. After she left, the sales associate and I chuckled together at her rash statement. Back then I was just beginning to struggle a little with some excess middle weight. I was seeking out all the options to smooth those lumps and bumps.

One of the reasons SPANX were created was to reduce VPL (visible panty lines) I’m going to be blunt here. As much as women think that thong underwear is the way to go, you can still see the outline through some outfits. Sorry, but it is just not a good look.

I first began wearing Spanx for that reason–smoothing AND reducing VPL. Years later they came out with the “Higher Power” version which helped my upper middle. Spanx work for me in many situations. Take a look at this video and you’ll see that I’m not alone! Watch it all–highly educational and entertaining!

I do NOT wear SPANX seven days a week. I’m also fully aware that there are drawbacks. Comfort is the top concern followed closely by the fact that they simply are too warm for some women and in some climates!

If you carry your weight in your middle, but do not feel like you need the support in your thighs/hips, let me suggest these options.

I first discovered Yummie Tummie in a magazine several years ago. The top part works like a camisole. The middle is a panel that smooths and “sucks”, the bottom piece is like a tee so when layered, it can hang below another top. Yummie Tummie has come a long way since I discovered them. Oh the choices!

Next, Spanx has several top half options that could do the trick.

The first shown may be a little difficult to wear with certain sleeveless or low cut back tops, but it will work with many garments. The 2nd photo shows an example of Spanx APPAREL, thus alleviating another layer. This one in particular works on shaping the upper arms. Check out the SPANX website for many more options.

Last year I discovered a shaper by TC FINE, available at Nordstrom. Women complain that tank shapers squash the chest. This is the ticket if you’re worried about that. In addition one of my clients who was a nursing mom pointed out the benefits of this style!

I prefer the shaper in View #1,yet it limits you when it comes to some sleeveless tops. I tried the shaper in View #2 and it just wasn’t that comfortable for me. I’m still on the hunt for something to go under certain tops that gives the same support maximum support.

 Next up: Part 2 on Shapers I’ll discuss smoothing the bottom half, cooler options if you live in heat/humidty and the support level of popular shapers.

Subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss a post. Check out All Things Chic to find out what is hot for fall!

Over to you. What do you think? If you’ve written off shapewear, are you willing to give it another try? Questions? Jot me a note so I can address it in Part 2.

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Best Fashion Tips of All Time

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Once a year In Style  Magazine comes out with a special “Makeover” issue. It usually hits the stands the end of July. I believe it is actually an extra issue. This year Rachel Bilson graces the cover.

An article that caught my eye was entitled, 50 Best Fashion Tips of All Time. I thought it would be fun to start a new short series to take the place of  my, “Things I Love..” and feature a TOP ALL TIME TIP once a week. Not to worry, I’m not covering all 50 simply because I don’t feel that passionate about ALL 50.

I tried to find the article online for you to skim, but it doesn’t appear to be available. It seems that other fashion bloggers had the same idea when I did my search. There were many versions all In Style inspired.

It won’t surprise you that I chose to start with accessories. I’ve talked about adding color in several posts the last year.


Many women feel more comfortable in neutrals. They feel very conspicuous in bright colors and don’t want to stand out. I understand. Add your color with accessories. Add the color with 1-3 accessories but I would not add more than 3 pops of color. I like keeping some accessories neutral. For example choose shoes and a handbag in two different complementary colors. Start with a darker color that might appear to be a little more safe, yet still catch a little attention. Dark green, purple or burgundy might be a good choice. This is a good stepping stone before adding yellow or bright red.

I like to add color with jewelry, but for this post I kept it to handbags and shoes.

Hobo International                                Seychelles (love the texture!)

Indigo Elise Cully                                         Rockport Sasha

These selections came from Online Shoes which has a special promo going on right now: 20% off $80 purchase. Use the code 1Joy. I had fun searching their new arrivals. I sure am not ready for fall, but it is fun to look.

Have fun adding some color. What will it be for you Shoes, Handbags or Jewelry?

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