The first time I shopped there, I was with my Aunt Trish. I had spent the night at her house before babysitting my three cousins (this was so long ago that the oldest of those cousins is now one of my dearest friends). The next morning, we were at Gap and as a thank you, she bought me a pair of khakis. I can still feel how excited I was to carry that navy drawstring bag around the mall. It was like that purchase made me a better person.
A few years later, I was getting ready to graduate from high school and had an incredible opportunity to go to Italy. My mom and I were at the mall getting everything I needed for my trip. We stopped in Gap and bought so many things: a slim pair of navy cotton ankle pants, a sleeveless white button-down shirt, a white cotton cardigan to cover my shoulders for tours of churches and cathedrals. Isn’t funny the things you remember? Just like my first pair of khakis, I wore those pieces to death.
By the time I hit college, the goal was to shop at Express, and Abercrombie. Then came The Limited, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and the mothership, Nordstrom. Gap didn’t get much love and eventually fell off the radar completely. At this point, I can’t remember the last time I even walked into one, until I took a look at their early spring arrivals. So much of it is cute, affordable, stylish and wearable; I thought it deserved its own post.
Because Gap has a huge inventory, it can feel overwhelming to find the best of the best. We rounded up a curated list of recommendations, focusing on pieces that are different, versatile and affordable. You’ll notice jeans didn’t make the cut. If you are looking for a well priced jean option, we recommend Old Navy or KUT, both are available in our Denim Closet.
What I’m thrilled to see is true size inclusion. All of our recommendations come in sizes from XS – XXL and 00 – 20. Scroll below for our picks from Gap for spring.
I spent ten years as a personal stylist, schlepping up and down the east coast to work with clients. During busy seasons, I practically lived in the private dressing rooms at Nordstrom. Season after season, I knew every piece of inventory in almost every store.
By the time I stopped working with clients, I was pretty burned out, and if I never had to see the inside of a mall again, it would be too soon.
What are you supposed to do when you hate to shop, don’t want to go to the mall, but still need clothes?
Enter Stitch Fix, the subscription box service that sends a curated selection of clothing to your front door.
I’m often asked how to use Stitch Fix and if it’s worth it. As someone who built a business helping women get dressed, I think Stitch Fix is genius.
Is it a perfect service? No, but you can get a lot out of it, depending on your needs. Over the years, they’ve done much to improve, including expanding their merchandise to include plus and maternity sizes and offer men’s clothing. (I would have been all over this when I was expecting.)
How to Use Stitch Fix
Stitch Fix allows you to work with a personal stylist and receive a customized selection of clothes and accessories every few weeks. You can choose how frequently you want your “fix” to be delivered. Every time you schedule a fix you pay a $20 styling fee which can be used for whatever you decide to purchase.
If you chose not to make a purchase, you would lose the $20 – more on that later. From a pricing perspective, it’s a fantastic value compared to what you would pay to work with a personal stylist.
Note: It’s not the same as working one-on-one with a professional, more like having a relationship with a sales professional at your favorite store.
Once you create an account, you’ll fill out a fairly comprehensive style profile. Be sure to take the time to provide all of your information, from your size and budget to notes about your lifestyle. The best part is that you can convey your style preferences to your stylist by choosing from a selection of images, designed to help create a visual around your tastes.
I started using the service about two years ago, I stopped for a bit, and picked back up right before the holidays. My wardrobe is split into three categories: professional, activewear and casual.
Since my professional work is pretty vanilla, I keep it simple and classic. A few dresses and suits with heels and I’m good to go. Because I hit the gym and workout classes regularly, I have a lot of activewear – almost all black because I don’t want to think about what I’m wearing and also I don’t care.
The real struggle is in my casual wardrobe. Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like they are blowing through their casual pieces? I’m always replacing jeans and better basics, so those fun and trendy pieces are the last things on my list. Stitch Fix has helped fill that void.
Below are my tips if you are thinking about giving Stitch Fix a try (THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST:
Figure out what you need
Before you shop anywhere, make sure you have a good idea of what you like, what you have and what you need. Our 4 Weeks to a Better Wardrobe series (part 1, 2, 3, 4) walks you through a detailed process of defining your style and organizing your wardrobe.
You’ll be able to see what you’re missing, come up with a list and share it with your stylist. I use it primarily for casual pieces to wear on the weekend, drinks with friends, or weekly dates with Bri. If you need pieces for work, or special occasions, it works just as well.
Communicate with your stylist
Take advantage of your ability to correspond with your stylist, doing so makes all the difference in the world. You’ll have an opportunity to write to them before and after each order. When you receive an order, let them know what worked, and more important, what didn’t and why. Before an order, you can tell them if you are looking for something specific.
Additionally, you can connect with them on social media and share your Pinterest boards. Sharing photos is always the most helpful way to convey your style.
Try on everything
Try every item you receive on, or you might miss out on something great. A few months back I received these Liverpool black pants. I didn’t think they would fit or that I needed another pair of black pants, so I threw them back in the box. At the last minute, I pulled them out and tried them on. Thank goodness I did because they are one of my most favorite pairs of pants and (yay!) have amazing fit.
Only keep what you love
Trust me when I tell you that you will be tempted to keep something. Early on, I kept a lot because it fit well, not because I loved it. Now, my Poshmark shop has a few barely worn pieces for sale. As much as something fitting well feels amazing, avoid the temptation to keep it unless you L.O.V.E it.
Don’t fall into this trap
You’ll pay a $20 styling fee for each fix. If you make a purchase, your fee is applied to the purchase of the item. If you send everything back, you lose your fee. I’m pretty sure every box has something that costs $36 – $42, like an accessory or scarf, just so you say, “Well, it’s only $16 more!”
I can’t tell you how many times I kept a dumb scarf, which I didn’t like, only because I was going to spend $20 anyway. Instead, if you don’t love your fix, send everything back, pay the $20, work with your stylist to get pieces worth buying and keep the junk out of your closet.
Give it time
Have some patience with the service. My first order back was great. I took the time to update my style profile and wrote my stylist that I was looking for better casual separates to dress up or down for the holidays. I loved everything she sent. Because I kept all five pieces, I received a 25% discount on the order.
My most recent order was ok. I wasn’t crazy about a few of the pieces, and didn’t need others, but did end up with a new pair of jeans for the spring. I figure, just like when you stop in a store, not everything is going to blow your mind all the time. I also don’t need to always be spending.
Overall, I’m delighted with the service. If you are looking for casual, easy, well-priced pieces to update your wardrobe, and hate to shop, give it a try.
One of the most searched topics on this site is appropriate heel height for work. A statistic that delights me because, by the time I stopped working with personal styling clients last year, I felt like all anyone was interested in wearing was one step above an orthotic. Certainly, you don’t have to wear a heel. Flats are completely appropriate (we’ll follow up with a post on that soon). But you do want to consider your outfit choices if you are limited in your footwear options.
A heel can elevate your look by balancing your proportions while the wrong one can, quite literally, visually pull your look down. Take, for example, a long pair of wide-leg trousers, one of my most favorite looks. You cannot wear these with flats, or kitten heel. You need a heel to maintain the line of the trouser. Same with a midi length skirt, to balance your proportion (aka not look frumpy) you need some kind of height to your heel.
At work, there is a fine line between looking fashionable and wearing what’s appropriate for the office. Your industry and office culture plays a big part in how high is too high. Of course, if you work in a conservative, business professional environment err on the side of a lower heel. If you work in a fashion-forward and creative industry (lucky!) you can get away with so much more. Best practice, with rare exception, keep your heel hight at or under 3.5″.
You should also ask yourself, what can you manage in all day? When a woman struggles to balance in heels, she loses her sophistication and power. I’ve seen countless women in offices across the country stumbling down hallways like newborn fawns. No one is going to take you seriously if you are tipping over, and more important, you won’t feel confident.
We created a scale to help you get a visual around how high might be too high.
The Most Appropriate Heel Height for Work
Personally, I usually wear a 2.5″ heel, sometimes a 3″. After that I’m walking like it’s my first day with legs. To make sure your look is professional, remember these important tips:
Alter your pants and skirts to the specific shoe you plan on wearing. This makes all the difference in the world. If you have something tailored for a 2.5″ heel, and then wear a 3.5″ heel, you’ll look like your clothes don’t fit.
Play with proportions when you put your looks together. Pair long, drapey pants and mid-length skirts with a slightly higher heel. Ankle pants and above the knee skirts tend to look better with a lower heel.
To get you started, we rounded up some well priced options from a kitten heel, to a 3.5″ pump below. A couple are on sale so be sure to check them out, most sizes are still available.
I don’t want you to shop exclusively at AT. I have friends who would walk in and “mannequin shop” – meaning, they would buy everything on the mannequin and wear it exactly as displayed. Efficient? Yes, but head to toe Ann Taylor will always look a little uninspired. That said, currently, I could fill my shopping cart with dozens of options from their new arrivals.
Before we dive into the best of, let’s talk about sizing. I spend a ridiculous amount of hours writing these posts with the majority of that time focused on finding size options for as broad a range of women as possible. It’s not easy and super frustrating. Most of these styles are available in Petite and Regular (I hate the term “regular,” but that’s what AT calls it) in 00 up to and including a size 18. That’s pretty awesome for one store. Because I like so many pieces, I’m breaking down my favorites below and including even more in the links in the Shop this Post section below.
Ruffle Sheath, ($149) I really love a sleeveless sheath. I know they are limited and this one in particular is hard to put a jacket over, so keep that in mind. If you love your arms and don’t need to cover up, this dress will take you the office and straight into any dress up weekend event.
Shirt, ($70) A classic with a modern twist is always my jam. Wear this tucked into a straight skirt or black pants, or keep it casual by zhushing the sleeves and wearing your favorite jeans.
Wool Blazer, ($159) There is nothing like a camel blazer. Because the line of the jacket runs a little long, it works best with pants, ankle or full length and any jean under the sun.
Boatneck Sheath, ($129) To get the most out of your wardrobe I recommend looking for better basics in seasonless fabric. This is that kind of piece. The dress is so perfect and I love the interest at the neckline. Need a blazer? This one will layer beautifully on top.
Plaid Blazer, ($179) Looking for something fresh and different? Pick up this blazer and the coordinating pant, wear them together and break up the pieces with basic black staples for true mix and match wardrobing.
Turtleneck, ($90) A simple turtleneck with subtle feminine details makes this an easy piece to wear on its own. And for the readers who asked for non wool/cashmere knit options, this is one is a silk and cotton blend.
For more options, including shoes, take a peek at our additional picks below.
When I was a personal stylist, 99% of my clients had no interest in clothes, shopping or fashion. They didn’t know designers. They didn’t read fashion magazines or websites. Most of them couldn’t even name a stylish celebrity whose look they admired.
They simply wanted to feel good about what they were wearing, and look updated and modern.
One of the reasons I started The Well Dressed Life was to create a resource that filtered all the noise that comes at women, specifically about their personal image, and provide readers guidance about how to dress well, where to find appropriate pieces and how to tie it all together.
These days, if you lean toward classic, timeless style, it’s surprisingly difficult to find pieces to build a wardrobe. Just spend a few minutes looking through the racks at better department stores, and you’ll be hard-pressed to see enough options to create an outfit.
It’s frustrating and overwhelming for most women to shop. Sizes are inconsistent and prices are out of control while quality continues to dwindle.
If you can find a piece that is in your budget and fits, there is no guarantee that the garment works for your style. That’s why so many women have a closet full of clothes they only kinda-sorta like. Often we’re so glad something fits, and we can afford it, we try to make it work.
So it’s important to understand the fundamentals of getting dressed. But it seems like the rules and tips we’ve learned over the years are often broken and ignored by the “fashion crowd.”
So we decided to come up with our take on all the tips you can go ahead and ignore when you are trying to get dressed, at least if you want to keep things classic, timeless and sophisticated.
1. More is More
Except less is more.
God bless Rachel Zoe. I’m a huge fan. If I were a celebrity, I would have her dress me every single day.
She’ll tell you, casually, more is more, wear all the bracelets, rings and everything at once.
In all likelihood, you do not have a drawer full of Cartier and vintage Bulgari. If you do, go ahead and wear it all, all the time. The truth is her look is as unique as her glamorous, over the top lifestyle.
In real life, we would look crazy. Like the crazy lady in the park feeding pigeons who just put her whole jewelry box on before she left the house.
Instead, keep your pieces strategic to create balance.
If you love accessories, keep it to about seven pieces. Earrings count as two, a bracelet, a few rings, maybe a scarf or necklace, a belt buckle would count as would any kind of detail on your shoes, or a bag with lots of tassels and zippers.
Mix your costume pieces with sentimental ones, and don’t be afraid to wear your better pieces every day.
2. Mix Your Patterns.
I know this is a popular topic. If you’re good at mixing pattern, go for it, but if not, don’t worry. It takes a lot of effort to do it the right way and most of the time you still look like you got dressed in the dark.
To pull it off you need to understand theory, tone, flow, and depth of color. You don’t have to learn this, and you don’t have to try to pull this off to be stylish.
If you want to fake it, add an animal print pump or flat to your look, or pair a simple striped top with a floral skirt or pinstriped bottom. Both patterns act as a neutral but add interest to any outfit.
3. Skip the Tailor
For the life of me, I do not understand the trend of oversized clothes. I spend my life begging people to go to a tailor. Now we’re seeing 10″ of pant hem dragging on the ground, drop crotches and tops so oversized women look like they are drowning in their clothes.
Perhaps 12 years of Catholic schooling left be a bit prudish, but this trend is bonkers and doesn’t seem to be going away. If you’re 21 and want to have a little lace bralette peak out of your tank at the beach – go live your life baby lamb.
Other than that, nope.
Aside from being silly, and unnecessary, you likely won’t execute it in a sexy way and will end up looking sloppy or like you’re coming down from a bender the night before.
Instead – get a proper bra fitting. Your life will change, or at least your clothes will fit better when your bra is doing its job.
Nordstrom’s is my favorite department store to get a proper bra fitting. Better yet, support local business by finding a lingerie boutique in your town.
5. Daytime Sequins
Unless you’re in Vegas for the weekend, where the time of day has no bearing, I would skip this trend.
I like the idea of it, but it rarely translates. Maybe I’m just getting old and don’t know how to have fun anymore, but I can’t think of a single daytime event I would rock sequins. I would save it for the night, and then, go big or go home.
6. Everything Needs to Be Designer
I read so many blogs where the author has a closet full of Louboutins, or a dozen Chanel bags. All I can think is, “Do you have any savings?” “Kids?” “Don’t you have student loans?”
You could buy three investment properties with the contents of some of these bloggers closets.
The average American household income is $59K. Where is this cash coming from?
Social media creates such a morphed reality and influencers are often presenting a false version of their lives.
There’s nothing wrong with Ann Taylor or Nine West.
There is nothing wrong with shopping sales or buying resale.
I consider myself fortunate to be able to splurge on a few “investment” pieces. I balance it with more affordable items, and keep my wardrobe small but functional. You don’t need a closet full of designer clothes to be stylish.
You don’t need to, nor should you, carry crippling debt to dress well. It might take a little time and effort, but if you make smart purchases, know your style, and buy the best quality you can afford, you’ll have a wardrobe you love.
I started receiving Stitch Fix again, and have been happy with the affordable, casual options I’ve received. I also really like Rent the Runway Unlimited, when I need a better piece for an event or meeting but don’t want to make a big purchase.
Keeping an eye on trends is important. Doing so helps you evolve your wardrobe, and your look will always be fresh and current. You don’t have to be a slave to fashion unless you want to be. A classic look will never go out of style, it might just be a little more challenging to find pieces that work for you.
At the end of the day, there are no steadfast “rules.” Dress however you please. But if you want your look to be classic, modern and timeless following a few guidelines will help you achieve your look.
Alterations are the single most important element in dressing well.
Think of the most stylish woman you know.
She has her clothes tailored.
It doesn’t matter where you shop or how much you spend on your clothes. I don’t care if you buy full price at Neiman Marcus or exclusively discount shop at T.J. Maxx. Alterations are necessary regardless of your body type. If you shop in the Petite, Missy, or Plus departments, you need alterations.
Alterations make you look slimmer and taller and your outfit, regardless of the price tag, look more expensive.
Ever since the first man walked into the first store and purchased the first suit, offering men alterations has been standard retail operating procedure. Today, even men’s discount stores have an alterations department.
Yet, it is still not standard practice for women. Other than some better department stores and a few specialty boutiques, alterations are rarely offered to us. This means for women to get the tailored look they desire, we have to take it into our own hands. (Pretty much like everything else in life.)
One of my first jobs out of college was as the manager of a high-end boutique in Philadelphia. What set us apart from some of the competition was the fact that we offered in-house tailoring, something unheard of for most small stores.
It was that experience, all those years ago, that taught me the importance of alterations. The store’s seamstress taught me everything I know about garment construction. She was a master.
She was also wonderfully eccentric.
One time, when she wanted a pay raise, she built a fort out of cardboard boxes around her workspace and refused to speak English for a week. So, I not only learned how to reconstruct a blazer, but I also learned a few Portuguese curse words and an unconventional way to negotiate.
Have I mentioned it was the best job I ever had?
But I digress.
It’s hard for the untrained eye.
Years ago, I was in the closet of a dear client who purchased a light blue blazer on her own. When she put it on, I told her it was at least two sizes too big. She didn’t believe me until I pinned the blazer for alterations and had her look back in the mirror.
“This was what I thought it looked like!” she exclaimed.
That’s when I it dawned on me; most people don’t see how things fit them the way a professional will.
Finding a great tailor is a challenge as they are a rare breed of experts. Your best bet is to ask around your community. Use referrals or look online.
I love using community Facebook pages to find local resources. Any local Facebook moms group will have countless referrals – those women should rule the world.
Of course, there will be the occasional perfect fitting piece. But in general, the core pieces of your wardrobe will need a little nip and tuck.
A Simple Guide to Alterations
Practice the 10% rule.
Take 10% of your total shopping budget and set it aside for alterations.
Alterations should adjust, not recreate, a garment.
Don’t overcomplicate the process. Alterations are not meant to make a garment something that it’s not. Rather, you want to make it perfect for you based on what it is.
Darts and seams are your blueprints.
As you start to use alterations, you’ll begin to look at garments like a tailor. As you get familiar with what you can and cannot alter, you’ll see darts and seams as roadmaps. Remember, if you have a dart, you can use it to alter a garment. If you don’t have one, you don’t want to create one. That would be reconstructing a piece and is never worth it.
Fit your largest part and tailor the rest.
Consider your largest body part and fit from there. If your shoulders are broad, fit them first and alter down. If you have a full bust, make sure your blazer can button properly and tailor the rest of the garment, etc.
Listen to your tailor.
A good tailor will tell you if something is worth the cost of the alteration or not. For years, we had a wonderful tailor who has since retired. She would always tell us if the alteration was worth it, or if we were better off replacing the item.
For this post, we’ll break down what kind of alterations to consider.
By far, this is the most popular and useful alteration. If your hips are bigger than your waist, and that’s the case for most of us, fit your hips and fix your waistband.
Have your waistband hit you based on the rise of the pants. A shorter rise will result in a waistband that sits lower. A longer rise will allow your waistband to hit at about your belly button.
Hems on pants and skirts are another popular yet overlooked alteration. Of course, if your pants are too long, you can have them altered.
Less popular but just as effective is to have your hem let down. I’m 5’10 and often have to have the extra length in an otherwise great fitting pair of pants let out to give me an extra one or two inches.
Petite? Hems are particularly important for you. Petite sizes are not based on length but proportions. If you’re buying petite sizes because they give you the length you desire, you may get a better fit in the Missy department.
You can also be petite with long legs. In that case, purchase a petite size and have the hem taken down like I do.
When hemming jeans, be sure to keep the original hem.
As for sleeve hems, the best practice is for your sleeve to hit the top of your wrist.
Looking for skirt length guidance? Check out our recent post, “Best Skirt Lengths for Work.”
If you have narrow shoulders, take in the shoulders of your jackets, blazers and dresses. This will make a big difference in how your look comes together. When the shoulder of your blazer hangs over your natural shoulder, your jacket will look oversized.
This, in turn, gives the appearance of your clothes wearing you.
Back and side darts
Jackets, blazers, and dresses often have one long or two parallel seams running down the back. You’ll also see two seams or darts on the front of the garment at the natural waist. These are there to create shape. If you find that a blazer fits in your shoulders and bust but feels full in your waist, have your darts taken in a tiny bit. This simple alteration completely changes the look and fit of your clothes for the better.
Fullness out of pants
Have you ever tried on a pair of pants and loved the way they fit except it feels like there is too much fabric in the legs? You can fix this by taking some of the fullness out. A tailor will be able to see how much to take out and how to balance it with the cut of the pants. Likely, they’ll start right below the hipbone and go all the way down the side seam to the hem.
If you wear a belt with your pants, keep your belt loops. If you never wear a belt, and sometimes tuck in, have your belt loops removed. You never want to see a belt loop without a belt. Super simple fix.
Do you hate it when you can see the outline of your pockets through your pants? Me too. You can have them removed. Along those lines, do your pockets pull open when you move? If you don’t need them, and the pants otherwise fit, you can have your pockets sewn shut for a smooth fit.
This is a repost from Feb. 2016. With so many new readers we thought it would be helpful to share it again!
This weekend marked the official start of Spring which makes now the perfect time to clean out your closet. Since we had a taste of spring-like weather earlier this month, there is no turning back for me mentally. Even though, as I write this, I’m wrapped in a shawl with my space heater blaring at my feet under my desk.
I love spring cleaning.
If I could I would take an entire week off and spend it moving from one room of my house to the next, clearing out, organizing and labeling. I’m hoping to get a little bit in this week, so we’re ready. Once spring break is over, we are in full-on softball and tennis season and there is little time to do anything else.
Your closet is a great place to start. You’ll get instant gratification; it will be easier to put laundry away and your mornings will be more efficient. Who doesn’t want that? The good news is you don’t have to spend a lot of time. Just one hour is all you need.
What you’ll need:
– rolling rack (this is the one I use)
– trash bags
– a dry cleaning bag
– laundry basket
– multi-surface cleaner and vacuum
– notebook and pen
– plastic storage container
– extra hangers (velvet hangers recommended)
– wine (optional, but helpful)
7 Steps to Clean Out Your Closet
1. Set up your workspace.
I love my rolling rack. It makes packing, season swapping, and cleaning so much easier. I like to have a few trash bags and my dry cleaning bag on hand so I can work quickly. If you plan on storing your winter pieces elsewhere, be sure to have your bins ready as well. Also, an extra laundry basket to collect items that do not belong in your closet is helpful. Finally, have a notebook and pen handy so you can jot down a quick shopping list as you notice new items you need or things you have to replace. (Total time: 5 minutes)
2. 15/15 game.
Take 15 minutes and pull any piece that is out of season, and place it on the rolling rack. Next, take another 15 minutes and pull out anything that is dated, damaged or that you just don’t like anymore. After, you’ll have just your seasonless basics hanging in your closet. (Total time: 30 minutes)
Care for your closet the same way you care for the other rooms in your home. Wipe down shelves and vacuum the floor, clean out the light fixture and sanitize the doorknob and any other surface. (Total time: 5 minutes)
Keep your space visually tidy by using the same hanger. We love huggable hangers. They save space and look chic. It’s amazing what happens when your space is perfectly organized. You’ll be calmer and see more outfit options instantly. (Total time: 5 minutes)
If you like to pack up and remove winter items for spring and summer, do that now. Plastic containers with some cedar are an excellent solution. Be sure to remove dry cleaning bags as they will hold moisture and can damage your items if you let them stay in them for too long. Unpack your spring/summer pieces if necessary and add them to your cleaned closet. (Total time: 10 minutes)
Note: Because I travel frequently, I keep all of my clothes in my closet. At the beginning of each new season, I move the old season to the back and the new season to the front. Doing so saves me loads of time and allows me to pack quickly for a tropical vacation in the dead of winter. To see how I organize my closet, check out this video.
Before you finish, gather up any trash and dispose of it. If something needs to be clean or mended, add to a pile and put in your car. Organize donations and pack them up neatly. Drop them off as soon as possible. Whatever you do, do not leave action items hanging around, or they will never get actioned. (Total time: 5 minutes)