Many modest dressers tell me their worst battles are with formal/evening wear.  And yes - this is definitely one of the most difficult areas to find something fashionable, current, modest, and yet timeless (so that you don't have to buy something new in a few years.)
I offered a few tips here and here.  Today, I have more visual examples for you.  On the Ideeli sample sale site was an evening wear section.  These were two of the featured dresses.
Left Dress = blah, bland, boring color and a terribly frumpy, unflattering length! (Remember, if you're going longer than your knee take it all the way to the tops of your feet!)
Right Dress = standard boring mother-of-the-bride dress that frequently gets passed off as evening wear. 
But further down on the same page was this PATRA beaded kimono sleeve dress.
The beading is a definite step up from the standard satin of the two previous dresses. It's a timeless, flattering shape. The kimono sleeves are interesting and at the same time, very forgiving on less-than-toned upper arms. 

As I mentioned in previous modest formal wear tips, neckline and "kneeline" are of utmost importance.  Two thumbs up here! At 40.25" it's long enough for nearly everyone. (If it's too long, have a tailor take it up at the waist to avoid ruining that beaded border.)  So it's just the shoulders we need to tweak and this dress would be incredibly easy in that regard.  Just a little addition to the underlining that any tailor could pull off in their sleep. Any reasonable sewer as well.
Do NOT try to fill in the full sleeve.  That would make you look like a crazy bat.
While black is a safe and solid choice, I personally love the navy above.  It also comes in a stunning royal blue and lovely blush.
At only $89 (down from $260!) this dress is a steal.  This dress may not be your personal style, but I hope this post gives you an idea of what to look for when searching for evening wear that can be easily made modest.
 
 
I frequently encourage you to cast a wide search net when you're hunting for items to round-out your wardrobe.  I certainly have my favorite stores, but I peruse lots of other places for new and interesting pieces. Shopping only from one or two places can often result in a wardrobe in a rut. So today, I'm reviewing the top 4 sample sale sites that you should definitely be checking out.
To join any or all of the sites (each is free) click on any logo below.

You might be asking - what in the heck is a sample sale site? Have you ever heard of designer sample sales in New York and L.A.? Did you see "Confessions of a Shopaholic?" The scene where all the women are let into the before-unknown warehouse location and duke it out for the few samples of highly coveted items? That was fairly accurate, and  these internet sale sites are the same concept, minus the fisticuffs. 
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  • In general has the lowest price point and least exclusive designers
  • Usually has the most daily sales for a great variety
  • Feature Sales- Women's, Men, Kids, Home, Experiences and the just-launched Travel section

Featured today on ideeli...
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Bass Loves Rachel Antonoff cream/pink saddle oxford heels for $65 instead of $109
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  • Mid-range price points, lowest number of daily sales
  • Great mix of high end with mid-level brands
  • Sales feature - Women, Men, Home, Travel, and Local Picks for Boston, NY, Philadelphia, Seattle

Featured today on Rue La La...
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Robert Rodriguez orange pintuck skirt for $69.90 instead of $242.
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  • Best offering of beauty items for women and toys for children
  • Next to highest price points and designer offerings
  • Sales feature - Women, Beauty, Home, Kids, Men, Getaways

Featured today on Hautelook...
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M by Marcus printed silk roll-sleeve blouse for $49 instead of $198.
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  • The original luxury sample sale site
  • Usually has the highest price points and most exclusive designers
  • Great for investment, own-it-forever items
  • Sale Sections- Women, Men, Home, Children, Gifts, Jetsetter, City, Taste

Featured today on Gilt...
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Pink Tartan stretch silk knit wrap dress for $159 instead of $395. Yowza!
A few other tidbits about these sample sites -
  1. They're a great way to branch out and discover new brands and styles, all on easy to navigate, secure sites
  2. You get incredible bang for your buck.  If you're going to buy a skirt, why not get the best you can, for less? I'd much rather wait for a great designer skirt to pop up on these sales than settle for lesser quality or style at the same price.
  3. There are new sales daily, usually starting at noon Eastern time. Hot designers and items go fast, watch out for those virtual fisticuffs!
  4. There are smartphone apps for each site, making giving the sales a quick glance at your convenience more than easy. You can also get email reminders about what sales will be featured that day.
  5. With so many different looks and designers in one place, they're a great way to grab a little outfit inspiration, even if you're not looking to buy anything new.
 
 
Last week I got to accompany my health coach Amber to speak to a large group (about 500) of teachers about our healthy weight loss program.  In my pre-married-with-kids career life, large conferences were part of my regular routine so it was a lot of fun to briefly revisit that era.  Mom's out there know, breaks like this don't crop up often so I jumped at the request to go and cashed in some airline miles for my ticket.

It's about time I started showcasing the pieces I'm buying to rebuild my new skinny wardrobe, so here's what I wore the day of the conference.
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Loft cowl neck top - aqua (much deeper color in real life)
I accessorized the top with a really cool necklace that coordinates so great. I picked it up in Park City for my -15 pound reward. It has about 15 strands of tiny turquoise colored beads, anchored by a big dark wooden clasp. It's a substantial statement necklace and I dig it.
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Loft stretch cotton pencil skirt - black
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White House Black Market slingback oxfords (I also have these Double Diamond fishnets, but didn't wear them. Too muggy in Michigan!)
On the plane and to the BBQ that evening, I wore this:
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Loft tiered striped tank
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Banana Republic light short sleeve cardigan
I wore dark boot cut jeans and dark orange Nine West strappy sandals with gold accents that coordinated awesome with the orange striped tank. Tiffany blue polish on my toes that was hidden by the b/w slingbacks so I wasn't too matchy-matchy with my blue top, but went awesome when I switched to the orange outfit.
UPDATE! The above cardigan is the one I talked about in this Sucker Moment post.

I accessorized with a gold teardrop beaded necklace and large white Venice lace earrings that I DIY'd after seeing these in an Anthropologie catalog.
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Unfortunately, my 6:55 am flight out of Detroit was canceled (plane wouldn't boot up) which made me miss my connection in Chicago to Salt Lake City. After 13 hours hanging around the Detroit airport, I finally got a flight out. But it was delayed (weather) so I missed my rebooked connection to SLC and had to spend the night in Chicago. I was rebooked on an 8 am flight to SLC, but at 5 am I received an automated call that THAT flight had been canceled (couldn't crew it). I went to the airport anyway- ready to lay waste to O'Hare airport - and the American Airlines ticket counter agent got me on the next United flight to SLC.  I finally made it home Friday afternoon.  Fun stuff! I certainly didn't intend for my travel outfit to be put through it's paces, but it was a trooper and kept me looking put together, instead of crazed and exhausted like I felt.    
 
 
Over Easter weekend Mr. Darcy, our girls and I drove a few hours away to visit some favorite relatives of mine; an aunt, uncle and cousins.  While there, my Aunt A. let my cousin H. (her daughter) and me give her a closet makeover. She told me she hated her closet, didn't like the outfits it was producing and was eager for the purge and subsequent style pump-up.
Once the rearranging began... here's what we found. 
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Huge pile 'o khaki's
35, that's right, 35 pairs of khaki's in varying lengths and tones of tan.
And 35 is just what was left after the first purge. I forgot to count at the beginning.
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scads of polo shirts
Enough polo shirts, mostly white, to outfit a golf pro shop. Second only to the number of polo shirts was the amount of white button downs.
What we did -
  • Organized everything by color. You can also choose to sub-organize by sleeve length.
  • Rehung everything so that it now faces her as soon as she walks in, instead of facing away. It also gives the clothing the best light. We made sure to button the top button of shirts (keeps the collars and shoulders from warping out of place) and remove any knit/sweater items that were hung. Big no no!
  • Freed up prime real estate! She has a narrow built in floor-to-ceiling shelf located right at the entrance of her closet and in front of a section of double hanging rod. Her shoes, nearly all of them still in their boxes, were stacked behind the shelves, completely hidden by the pants and skirts hanging on the bottom rod. She had to push aside the clothes any time she wanted to get to the shoes. Two long rows of shelves are above the double hanging rod but were mostly full of albums and other long-term storage items that were taking up prime closet space. Filling up the easily-accessible shelving unit were winter sweaters, jeans, and a few more long-term storage items. All the non-clothing items were moved out to a different storage closet, sheets were moved to a linen closet, winter sweaters were put up high (since they're seasonal), jeans were also put up high (they are easy to grab from higher up than shoes) and her shoes were liberated from the back of the closet to occupy those great shelving units along with spring weight sweaters. The boxes came in handy because she can now stack them several high and not waste shelf space. (A.- are you done with all that final rearranging?) 
  • Purged anything unflattering.  That means tapered ankle and pleated pants, boxy tops, worn out items, etc. These all went to the donate pile.
  • Created to-be-altered piles.  A. is smart and already has a talented tailor but some things, like hemming, she does herself. Items that could look nice with just a few alterations (and were actually worth altering) went into one of these piles.
  • Faced facts.  My dear Aunt A. is a beautiful pale blond, curvy, definitely on the short side. We took a hard look at what did and did not work for her in terms of flattering styles. Knowing what works help you avoid those, "Ugh! This just doesn't look good!" moments in the mirror.
What she learned -
  1. Organization = better outfits. As soon as A. walked in to the closet after H. and I had finished rearranging the hanging items, she was amazed! She said, "It looks so good! I can see what I have!" An organized closet is a happy closet.
  2. Lots of clothes do not always equal lots of outfits. Remember those 35 pairs of khakis and gaggle of polo shirts? Not much variety. Hard to build outfits you're happy with. She was quite shocked to discover how many of each she had. Now she knows what she sure doesn't need any more of, and can more easily figure out what holes in her wardrobe need to be filled.
  3. All your clothes should fit in one closet. Unless you're in NY and have a closet the size of a kitchen cupboard.  For many of us Western home owners, we have closets the size of NY living rooms! Parts of her wardrobe were scattered to other closets in the house and yet she was most often dressing from her main closet. When all your clothing isn't in one place and viewable, it's really easy to forget what you have. Forgetting what you have always leads to unnecessary shopping. Most importantly, it's nearly impossible to build outfits when your wardrobe isn't all visible.  You don't need a custom California Closet the size of a small bedroom. Just take advantage of the space you have. Gather all your items in one place as much as possible, and edit as much as possible to make them fit. I'm a huge proponent of the well-edited, quality wardrobe. Less clothing and better clothing.
Thanks Aunt A. for letting H. and I have so much fun.
I'm looking forward to the shopping phase.
MAJOR thanks to Mr. Darcy, Uncle R. and J. for entertaining our kidlets while we did chick things.
 
 
I had a personal Pride & Prejudice moment a few days ago.  The L.L. Bean catalog arrived in the mail.  I've only mentioned L.L. Bean on this blog one other time, in this Top 5 Banned Wardrobe Items post. And I used them simply as an example of style-assassinating mom jeans. Even though I have never ordered anything from them, the catalog has continued to arrive. And the other night as Mr. Darcy and I lay snuggling in bed, I pulled it off my nightstand to have a good snark-session and chuckle at the unflattering pants and boxy shirts.
Until I got to page 9 and saw this.
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Double L Rib-Knit, Elbow-Sleeve V-Neck Tee
Now, this may not be earth shattering to you. You might be thinking, "What in the world would make her pause on this?" Well let me tell you. A v-neck shirt with elbow length sleeves is extremely flattering on my particular shape. I think it's extremely flattering on many women, if not most. The v-neck draws the eye up to the face and opens the neck space to lengthen and slim much better than a scoop or crew neck tee.
But the sleeves are the real kicker. I greatly dislike t-shirts with short sleeves that cut across the widest part of my upper arm. That would be nearly ALL t-shirts that aren't long sleeve. It's infuriating. And yes, with all my recent weight loss my upper arms are much slimmer than they were a few months ago but there is still some under-arm waddle I'd like to keep under wraps.
So I stalk elbow-sleeve v-neck tees with great vengeance. If you also prefer these tees, then you know how difficult they can be to find! Hence, catalog pg. 9 stopping me in my tracks.
The next morning, I went to the LL Bean site to order one of these tees.
And lo and behold, I found a few other cute things.
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L.L. Bean Signature Rayon Wrap Dress


If L.L. Bean can do this...



(This dress is so mine. A wrap dress with vertical stripes?! Express shipping please!)

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Vacationland Blazer


... and this.






(Really cute edging on this blazer.)

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L.L. Bean Signature Stretch Denim Flare


... and this!









(I'm wanting to add a gray jean to my new wardrobe and these look good!)

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Then why do they also put out THIS?!?

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and this?!?
Elastic waistband. Shudder!

Maybe the key is to shop in the Signature section, though the pink blazer is from the regular side.  One thing that L.L. Bean is known for, and I'll be putting it to the test shortly, is their quality. At my old company when we were choosing company logo-embroidered shirts for conferences, several people wanted to get L.L. Bean Double L polos instead of the generic corporate versions. That didn't get approved but they raved about the quality of them and I do need a good polo shirt. I've shrunk out of all of mine.
So I put aside my prejudice against the Bean and placed an order. (They offer free shipping, no minimum order. That's nice!)
If the t-shirt fits the way I'm hoping, I'll be getting it in multiple colors. I'll let you know as soon as my things arrive. Keep your fingers crossed!
 
 
As requested, I am working on a post about how to correctly utilize coverage tees.  While you're waiting, study these examples I found today.
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Appropriate Application of a Coverage Tee

It's fine. The neckline is way too high, which has long been another gripe I have with these undershirts.  Modesty does not have to mean covering from your collar bone to your wrist!  But the overall look is fine.

She'd look much slimmer if the bottom of the white shirt wasn't poking out under the sweater.

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Criminal Application of a Coverage Tee


No, no, no, NO NO!!!
What the...???
On what planet is this attractive?!?
Nothing in this solar system.
Nor anywhere the Hubble will ever find.


As I said last week in "How NOT to wear coverage tees," some clothes just won't work.  This looks like she put her swimsuit on over her cover up because she's REALLY worried about sunburn.

These examples came from Apricot Apparel, a company I had not heard of until today. I'm sure they make a fine product (lower the dang neckline!) but their marketing campaign is par for the course with their competitors.

Yes, there was more head bashing when I saw this shot.

 
 
It's time to revisit one of my favorite rants.  If you would like the primer for today's post, quickly check out Summertime Snafu from two years ago.
It really should be required reading for all modest dressers.
Done reading? Let's discuss.

When you make the decision to dress modestly you MUST come to grips with the fact that there are certain things you can NOT wear.  Attempting to modify any and all apparel will NOT result in flattering, good-looking outfits.

Case in point...

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This display has been driving me bonkers ever since it hit our Costco. 
Please analyze it while I go bash my head against the wall.

Mr. Darcy has repeatedly had to hold me back from climbing up, ripping it down, and running around the store screaming, "THIS IS NOT ATTRACTIVE! If you attempt to wear this to a dressy function, people with a sense of style and half a brain will wonder what is wrong with you!"
Do I think there is a place in this world for coverage tees?  ABSOLUTELY!
Do I own a mod bod tee? Yep! And a Shade tee and a couple others.
Are there right and wrong ways to wear these tees? WITHOUT QUESTION!

And baby, that ain't it up there.
Nor down here.
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This one annoys me less but only slightly so.  It's the casual vs dressy thing. 
Casual-layering gone wrong is easier on the eyes than dressy-layering gone so very wrong. 

The basic fact of the matter is that the silky vest should not have been an option. Or if she was absolutely set on wearing it, a jacket/sweater/blazer should have been added to cover the arms.  The third layer would have demoted it from a first-degree murder of style to involuntary manslaughter.

In order to look our very best, we modest dressers need to come to grips with the fact that spaghetti straps, deep cleavage, and sleeveless/strapless/backless items are no longer  options.  And that's ok!! I do not understand why there is such a war to incorporate these clothes into a modest wardrobe. At least in this unattractive way. 
I have some sleeveless tank-style tops/dresses that I like, but they ALWAYS go under a jacket or cardigan. They are the base layers, never the outer layers.  

When coverage tees first hit the streets the marketing was very logical.  The ads featured women wearing the tees to help cover the midsection when a shirt might rise up too high when the arms were lifted.  Or under a slightly too-sheer shirt/dress.  Or to fill in gaping underarms.  The key? The coverage tee was never the focus of the outfit.

It doesn't surprise me that these companies are trying to evolve their product into more of a center piece but a line needs to be drawn. For the sake of all things stylish, a line must be drawn by each woman in her own wardrobe. If you need some motivation, how about the threat of me and my phone camera finding you and featuring you as a What Not To Wear? I'm on a crusade, people.  It has to stop.
 
 
After posting last Friday about defrumping with fancy earrings, Leah requested some links to the earrings I featured.  While creating the collage for that post I had simply grabbed pictures of earrings already clipped to Polyvore but I did a quick search and was able to find that almost all of them are still available!


A few of them are available at different shops than originally listed. 
I added the adorable owl and bow earrings, because who doesn't love owls in the fall! 
And bows pretty much any time.
The one pair that is no longer available is the pearl chandeliers.  The bottom row above features other similar options.
You can simply click the picture for an easy way to link to all the featured earrings.
 
 
This week's "Frumpless Friday" tip is unbelievably simple -
kick your earrings up a notch to defrump your whole outfit. 

Let's say this is your outfit...
It's going to be a jeans & t-shirt kind of day, which for many women I know is every day. That's fine.  And if you have a T and jeans that flatter you, it's a perfect basic outfit that, depending on how you accessorize it, can go from cleaning the house to date night in a blink. 
But let's say we're spending the day mostly at home, maybe running a couple of errands.  To defrump your jeans and t-shirt simply add a great pair of earrings!
Either colorful, ornate or both.
With the earrings you're instantly defrumped! You've stepped straight into stylish.  And who knows, the earrings my inspire you to add some bracelets and a cool pair of shoes.  But if not, you're still in the land of "I look simple but great." instead of the land of, "yes, I've been cleaning and mothering all day. What of it?"

I know so many women who say, "I just don't wear jewelry around the house." Or "I save my jewelry for special occasions."  To which I ask, "Why??"  You're missing out on so much fun!  The earrings don't have to be heavy (I hate heavy earrings and don't own any that pull at my earlobes.)  Accessorizing is truly the exclusive playground of women and we should enjoy it.  It's your opportunity to personalize your ensembles.  I understand saving the super delicate diamond necklace but I'm betting everybody has a great pair of earrings they aren't using nearly enough.  And if you don't - you have my permission to shop!

Click here if you'd like to view the tip about defrumping with an apron.  And stay tuned - there's a delicious post coming up about defrumping your drink, as well as mixing leather and lace.  And I've hit another milestone! I'm excited to tell you all about it.
 
 
For a while now I've been wanting to post de-frumping tips on Fridays but I haven't hit upon a suitable title. Anti-frump Friday?  Frump-free Fridays?  Nothing is grabbing me yet but here's a little tip all the same.
A few months into the chaos called "newborn twins" I realized I was beginning to count the months, not merely the weeks or days, that I'd spent in schlumpy clothes.  I discussed it in a post about why I blog back in September.  As my babies have been turning into bonafide toddlers (how is that possible?)  I was noticing that it was still awfully easy to stay in my workout clothes, long after the workout was done. That I was reaching for the lounge pants instead of any of my other, just-as-comfortable, better-looking clothes. 
The thought process was that I didn't want to dirty my nicer duds, to spread kid-schmatza on clothes I wanted to "keep nice." 
But I ALWAYS feel better about myself on days I "get dressed."  When I catch my reflection in the mirror and I see the pulled-together wife and mom instead of the drained and dragging one.  I ALWAYS accomplish more because that little happy feeling that comes from looking good radiates through my whole day. 

But I also get grouchy if a top I particularly like gets creamed, literally, by the kids.

So as I began pulling out my nicer clothes more frequently, I also started regularly employing a handy little schmatza-deflecting device.  My apron.
 
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Now you may have planned to first employ a daily apron at this stage of your life.

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But there's not a darn thing wrong with channeling your inner Donna Reed!

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flirtyaprons.com


This is how I tap into mine. 

And I grant you, there are occasions when I wish I had put on a Hazmat suit to deal with certain messes.  But no clothing has been damaged beyond what a little washing can't take care of.

The days of saying, "I'll be able to dress nice again when the kids are older." are long gone.

A simple Google of "retro aprons" yields untold numbers of options.
The following are just a drop in the bucket.
And none of these apron designers have any clue who I am.
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jessiesteele.com


Jessie Steele aprons are adorable.

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jessiesteele.com


I can see this one during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.  It's even called "Mrs. Claus."

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daisyshoppe.com


These with the cute lapels are also feminine and fun!

Whether your bent runs to the the straight-laced bistro style or an over the top cupcake and ruffle adorned frill-fest, just grab yourself an apron and end the excuses for truly getting dressed each day.