End of Year Q&A: Part 1

Well, it’s here! Christmas Eve! I’m sure most of you are busy baking and wrapping and cleaning and all the things I should be doing right now (haha!) so this may not the the best day to post such a text-heavy post, but you can always save it and read it later. Or perhaps this is just the diversion you were looking for!

I had so many questions okay, let’s be real, I have so much to say about each question (brevity has never been my strong suit) that I decided to break this up into two posts. Today I’m going to tackle fashion/blogging related questions because they sort of overlap. Then one day next week I’ll tackle health/family/everything else!

Biz/Blogging Questions

I’m going to dive right into the nitty gritty.

Q: How do you make money as a blogger? How did you get started?

A: I actually wrote a post about this! It also explains briefly how I got started blogging. I highly suggest reading that post before going on to the next question. It will make more sense, especially if you don’t already have a basic understanding of affiliate links and sponsored posts.

How do you make money blogging?

I also want to elaborate a bit on the affiliate partnerships and brand sponsorships. I actually got into a discussion at the mall yesterday with a sales associate, and I realized that a lot of people don’t understand how this works.

There are various ways brands find bloggers to work with — affiliate networks, influencer marketing networks, PR firms who represent brands as their clients, and free-lance or in-house social media strategists who work directly for the brand.

Affiliate networks and influencer marketing networks operate as middlemen to connect brands and bloggers for sponsorships and affiliate relationships. They provide the contracts between brands and bloggers as well as the technology to generate tracking links so we earn commission on the products we recommend. In this case, I’m paid by the network, not the brand.

Many affiliate networks also offer sponsored post opportunities in addition to the affiliate revenue. For example, when I say I’m teaming up with Nordstrom to style a date night outfit, I’m actually working with the rewardStyle affiliate network, not directly with Nordstrom, and I’m getting paid a flat fee from the network plus any commission I make when you shop through my links. Rest assured, you don’t pay a dime more when you shop through my links than you would otherwise. Just consider me your virtual personal shopper! 🙂

I hope that wasn’t too technical, but I thought some of you might find it interesting, plus I believe in being completely transparent about how this all works. I would never want you to feel duped or taken advantage of.

Q: I follow your blog, along with a few others and you all feature many of the same items from Nordstrom and Loft.  Do the stores offer bloggers like you a curated selection of items to look over and decide which to style for your readers or do you just go in and shop their departments like we would?

A: Generally speaking, we shop just like you do. Occasionally we may partner with a brand who wants us to style a particular product, or to style something from a select group of products, but most often, we are shopping as you would and making our own selections. Even when a brand provides a stipend for me to purchase their clothing to style, I still pick out what I feature. (And I always mark those items c/o in the shopping links so you know those products were given to me.)

As to why you see duplications, I’m guessing you follow bloggers with similar tastes as yours, so that means we have similar tastes as each other and probably shop at similar stores. Plus we learn which retailers give us the best conversion and engagement, and we are more likely to feature those brands than others that don’t seem to resonate as well. Also, bloggers tend to work with a lot of the same brands because those are the brands that are active in the social media space and provide us the best partnership opportunities.

You’ve also probably noticed that Cyndi and I often have the same brand collaborations. That’s because we are both signed up with same networks, and when they have a new brand campaign to run, they often come to both of us because our styles are similar, our audiences are similar, and we both fit the marketing goals the brands have specified.

I do get asked a lot why bloggers feature so much Nordstrom. Nordstrom is very savvy to blogging, and they provide regular sponsored post opportunities on top of the affiliate commission that we make with them, so that is why you see so many bloggers working with them. Plus, their generous return policy just makes my life so much easier.

Plus the Nordstrom search engine is far superior to any other website. When I’m looking for a particular style or trend to link to, they are the first place I go because I can just search it and it will come back with a nice selection of relevant products, at a variety of price points. Their search engine is almost as intuitive as Google, plus there are so many options to drill down into specific features, brands, and price points, it is just super easy to find what I want when I want it.

Also, their variety of price points is helpful because I try to run the gamut here on the blog, and Nordstrom is basically a one-stop-shop. All of those things combined is what makes them my go-to retailer when I’m writing about fashion topics.

I don’t love LOFT as much as my readers do, LOL, but there is no doubt that my readers love LOFT, so that is why I feature them so much.

I could go on and on about how this works, but I hope that hits the highlights. Feel free to ask if anything didn’t make sense.

Q: Do you actually buy all those clothes you style? How big a closet do you have, anyway? And to be perfectly indelicate, how do you afford it?

A: I laughed out loud when I saw this question, but I’m game. I buy 80-90% of the clothes I style, but I do not keep it all. (As for the other 10-20%, as I explained above, some brands provide clothing as part of a partnership, and I always mark those c/o.) My closet is a modest walk-in, and I share it with my husband, so I am motivated to keep it pared down.

By the way, Nordstrom a stark exception to what I said above about how many brands provide product for a sponsored post. For some reason, it is their policy not to provide product, so I buy every Nordstrom product you see me post out of my own pocket (and it is not tax deductible, to my knowledge.) Same goes for the other bloggers you follow. So yeah, it adds up.

I keep my “blogging clothes” on a rack outside my closet, and when I buy new things, or brands send me things, I hang them on that rack. I only move things into my closet when I decided I’m going to keep them. This helps me be more selective because once the clothes are in my closet, it’s harder to part with them.

My rack is looking pretty empty right now because I’ve been clearing out, but here’s a picture. It sits right outside my closet. (And those shoes and the burgundy bag are keepers, they are overflow from my closet, lol.)

As far as what I don’t keep, if it’s still in pristine condition with tags on, I return it. The rest I either give to friends, donate, or sell on Instagram. I haven’t sold anything in a while because it’s so much work, but I’ll probably have another closet sale this spring.

It’s a lot to keep track of. I keep a detailed spreadsheet of all of my purchases and returns, and I spend a lot of time on bookkeeping and keeping track of what I jokingly call my inventory.

I think people feel duped sometimes when they realize I am getting rid of something I spoke so passionately about in a blog post just a few months prior, especially if they purchased it on my recommendation, but just because I don’t keep something doesn’t mean it’s not awesome. I simply don’t need all of these clothes, and I would rather someone else enjoy them than have them sit in my closet and collect dust till they’re out of style.

As far as how I afford it, like everyone else, I set priorities and a budget and shop according to my means.

Q: I am a new blogger just getting started and I’m amazed how long it takes!! I stand in AWE of your posting schedule. How do you do it? How many hours a day do you work on it?

A: Ha! Yes, fashion blogging is incredibly time consuming. It seems glamorous to some, and I do love it, don’t get me wrong. But to post daily as so many of us do is very time consuming. When people ask me what my job is, I laugh. This blog is my only job. I’m going to estimate I spend 30-50 hours a week on it, and I’m sure it’s closer to the latter (maybe more) but it’s never a chore. I would actually rather spend time on my blog than anything else… except possibly sleep. Haha! I do like my sleep.

Organization/Home

Q: How do you keep your clothes and shoes organized? Unfortunately I do NOT have lots of closet space and I tend to gravitate to the same items. As a fellow Pennsylvanian, I have distinct seasonal clothes. Do you rotate your warm/cold weather clothes out? And how to deal with accessories too.

A: I’ve always been one to rotate my warm/cold weather clothes out. I use plastic bins and store them in the attic. I hate having things in my closet that I’m not wearing, so I try to move things out (to the attic or the donation pile) as soon as I’m done with them.

As fas as organization goes, I keep all of my clothes and most of my shoes in my closet so I can see all of my options at once. I keep boots on a bookcase in my bedroom, and they sort of spill onto the floor beside my dresser. I don’t feel like I have a ridiculous amount of shoes, considering my profession, but I still can’t seem to fit them all on my shelves. I actually lost one of the shelves that goes on this bookcase, and it drives me nuts because that would give me another row that, as you can see, I would certainly use.

I only keep pajamas, sweatshirts, workout clothes, and tank tops in my dresser. Oh, and shorts during the summertime.

I have a modest walk-in closet that I share with my husband. It is not grand, but it is adequate. It forces me to keep things organized and pared down, which I appreciate. Here is how it looks right now. (My husband’s stuff is all to the right of the drawers/shelves.)

You see a lot of short sleeve and sleeveless shirts. Those are basic tees and tanks and layering pieces and tops that I figured I might wear under a cardigan of blazer, although I rarely do. Since I have room, I left them in, but normally they would go to the attic with summer stuff. The top right shelf is scarves, and the other 4 shelves are sweaters. Also, have some scarves hanging behind my jeans, so those aren’t all pants. I really should find a better place for my iron. Ha!

Here are the other two walls in my closet. Dresses/skirts/jackets on the right, with my larger handbags above. And obviously shoes are on the left.

As far as accessories go, I have quite a few (I would say I’m better about clearing out clothes than jewelry… maybe because I’m a Stella & Dot rep, lol!) so I have them in a few spots. I hang my long necklaces on the wall over my jewelry armoire (which, ironically, I barely use.) I have a necklace hanger on my dresser where I hang smaller necklaces, and I have a bracelet bar for my bracelets. Here’s another option. I didn’t take pictures of those. Sorry! I know I have taken some before, but I can’t seem to find them.

Q: Do you ever stand in your closet, not liking anything you see? I would love suggestions on how to work through that.

No, not really. I used to, but over the past years, I’ve purged so much and started shopping more intentionally. I feel like I finally know what looks good on me and what doesn’t, and I’ve managed to curate a closet that I truly love. It’s a great feeling!

If this is something you struggle with, and I know a lot of women do, I highly, HIGHLY recommend taking the Adore Your Wardrobe Class in January. Kelly is actually having a one-day sale on 12/26 so stay tuned for more info on that! (Note: this is my referral link. I do get a commission when you purchase her course, but I PROMISE you will not regret it. SO worth it. I wouldn’t steer you wrong.)

Fashion Questions

Okay, let’s dive into specific fashion questions.

Q: I would like to hear about any bra recommendations you have. I’m in my 50s and need a hoist if you know what I mean.

A: Oh, girl. Do I ever!!! My favorite bra is the Wacoal Embrace Lace Underwire Molded Cup Bra. For a pretty bra, it does the job better than any other I’ve tried. I’ve been wearing it for years, although I do update it frequently. Bras are only supposed to be good for 6-12 months of regular wear, and you shouldn’t wear the same bra two days in a row. Allow it to rest, and it will last longer and do a better job. (Or so they say…) I can tell by the look of my bras when they’re getting worn out, and I replace them when the are getting stretched out because they don’t give me the support I need when that happens.

Q: I have purchased a pair of Jimmy Choo pointed toe nude heels patent leather (a real splurge for me and am very proud of them.) Now I don’t know what to wear them with. I don’t really wear a lot of dresses, but occasionally I will. Could you show some photos shoots with a nude pointed toe leather heel? Or maybe some suggestions how to wear them.

A: Girl. The answer is, you wear them with EVERYTHING. If I had Jimmy Choos, I’d wear them with dresses, skirts, skinny jeans, bootcut jeans, dress pants, and probably my pajamas. I might even wear them to bed.

Okay, seriously, though. WEAR THEM WITH EVERYTHING. 🙂

Here are a few posts of mine wearing nude pumps… with white jeans and a champagne sweater for holiday, with white jeans and pink blouse for a summer date night, with a summer sheath dress, with blue jeans and a silky blouse for another date night look, with a printed sheath dress for Easter, and with black jeans and a striped top for spring.

You can also wear them with a white tee and boyfriend jeans, with a chunky camel sweater and distressed black jeans, with a blazer, blouse and jeans, and of course with about any dress.

I think they might feel “showy” at first, but if you wear them once with one of your typical outfits, you’ll be more comfortable pairing them with a lot of your other wardrobe staples the next time. I hope that helps! (And congrats! They are on my wish list.)

Q: I would also like to know what you like to run in: brands, tops, leggings/capris, jackets vs. vests.

A: I’ve done a few posts on workout wear, and I have a few more coming for spring. Lately I’ve been into the Zella brand at Nordstrom. I LOVE their high waist leggings. In the past, I shopped a lot at Athleta.

Q: When wearing a black dress, do I go with bare legs (and show off my lovely veins!) or are black opaque tights OK?  Seems I mostly see bare legs but like the look of tights.

A: I believe black hose are perfectly acceptable. Check out this post: What Hose to Wear with a Cocktail Dress.

Q: My question is about shapewear, specifically up top. I’m in pretty good shape, but still have some bumps😉  when I wear anything form fitting.

A: Ahhh, yes, the bumps. I hear ya there. This post, Look 10 Years Younger and 10 Pounds Lighter, has a lot of info on shapewear.

My favorite piece of shapewear, the Kymaro Cami, was discontinued, and I’ve bought up a few on Ebay to have on hand, but they’re even getting scarce on Ebay. (I wear the Size 2/Medium, and it is the one with the CLEAR straps, if you’re trying to find it.) It is just for the midsection, and the straps are removable so you can just tuck it up under the band of your bra, and the it tucks into your pants, and it smoothes out the middle. I LOVE IT, and I used to wear it almost daily. Now that styles aren’t quite as body-con, I don’t wear it daily, but I do wear it anytime I feel I need a little extra help, and especially with more form-fitting tops. I also tuck it into my shapewear shorts when I wear dresses. I’m so sad it was discontinued. I guess I need to see if anyone else makes something similar.

Q: I can’t wait until this boxy/flowy top trend takes a hike! So, anytime you find tops that are more fitted with darts and shape, please let me know!

A: I am so right there with you with the boxy/flowy top trend. I do see that trend changing some. I have found some more traditional styles at Banana Republic and Ann Taylor, and I’m hoping they come to other retailers soon.

Q: What are the spring trends?

A: I got this question several times. I will be doing a blog post on 2017 spring trends next month. I looked back at last year, and that was my most popular post for both January and February!

All Things Denim

There were a lot of questions surrounding jeans and skinny jeans in particular, so if I don’t quote you, it is because I feel like I answered it with someone else’s question.

Q: How many pairs of jeans do you have vs. how many do you think are really necessary? In your opinion, what are the key jean styles right now?

A: It really depends on your lifestyle. I can’t say a number that works for everyone, but if you’re at home and wear jeans 6 or 7 days a week, as I do, I don’t see anything wrong with having 6 or 8 pairs of jeans. That includes black, white, bootcut, skinny, distressed, non-distressed, a color or two, and maybe a faux leather or coated denim pair. It’s easy to have 10 if you count all those. I think I have closer to 15, but I truly wear all of mine on a regular basis, and I only have 2 pairs of non-denim pants. Again, I can only answer this from a personal perspective. If you work and wear professional attire or a uniform on the weekdays, you may not need as many.

I still think the key jean style at the moment is the skinny jean. Whether I’m looking at the moms in my neighborhood or prominent 20-something fashion bloggers, they are all wearing skinnies for the most part. I see flares occasionally, but usually for a more dramatic look. I don’t see as many boyfriend jeans these days (thank goodness, I hated those!)

The real cutting edge bloggers are starting to style cropped flares (ugh!) and high waist “mom jeans” — do I need to change my tagline? (Friends don’t let friends wear mom jeans… ha!) I don’t know if those styles will trickle down to the mainstream or not.

While skinny jeans aren’t the most flattering silhouette on every body type, most of us can make them work with the right top and shoes, and they’re just so easy to wear. I think that’s why they’ve been trending for so long. Most of us don’t want to give them up.

Q: Are bootcut jeans ever going to come back in?

A: I’m not sure what to say about the bootcut jeans. All the fashion authorities have been promising skinnies are on their way out and flares making a comeback for the past few seasons, so I think it’s pretty funny how most of us are hanging onto our skinnies for dear life. I follow a lot of younger fashion bloggers, and they may feature a pair of flares once a month, but it is pretty much all skinnies all the time. I think it’s because they’re so easy to wear and go with every type of shoe. I’m not proclaiming the death of skinnies anytime soon.

That said, bootcut jeans are not out of style, and if they look good on you and you like them, wear them! Just make sure your shoes are the right height so the jeans don’t drag on the ground, or sit up too high. I personally think bootcut jeans looks best with a heeled, pointy-toe shoe or boot.

Q: Is there anywhere on the planet that sells jeans that do not slide down? 

A: Yes, but you may have to pay a pretty penny. As you know, I’m a jeans snob, and I love PaigeAG and DL1961 (25 % off with code DLFRIENDS25) for jeans that do not stretch out or slide down, but you must buy the right size. Many women buy their jeans too big. My best advice is to order 2 sizes, and wear the smaller one around the house for a few hours and see how they feel. If you look or feel like a sausage, try the bigger pair, and do the same thing. If they don’t stretch out after 3-4 hours, you’re probably okay.

If those jeans are way out of price range, consider trying some on and then buying used jeans through ThredUp or a local consignment store. If that’s not cool with you, try the Wit & Wisdom Ab Solution skinny jeans at Nordstrom. For the price, they look and feel great, and I didn’t feel that they stretched out too much, but I would recommend sizing down.

For an even more budget-friendly option, I discovered Riders® by Lee® Bounce Back Denim through a brand partnership. They promise not to sag or bag, and they did not disappoint. They don’t have the super soft feel of premium denim, but they look good, and they don’t stretch out. For the price point, I think that’s pretty amazing, and I highly recommend them if you’re looking for jeans in the $20 price range.

Q: I’ve tried many skinny jeans in the past year or so. Most start out comfortable, but after a few hours of wear…not so much. Not only do they sag in the rear view, but while sitting they put stress on the abdomen. I know you style many jeans, but which denim skinny is your absolute favorite for the issues I mentioned?

A: I realize this is similar to the question above, but to get super specific, I think DL1961 jeans are the best for not stretching out or bagging in the rear (and they are 25% off right now with code DLFRIENDS25, and many of their styles are marked up to 40% off at Bloomingdales.) AG is a close second, but DL1961 tends to be less expensive and go on sale more often. Paige holds up well for me too. I do not like Hudson – they get baggy and slide down. They seem to be larger in the waist, so if you’re an apple or straight figure, maybe you’ll like them. I’ve decided to stop buying them, though. I also feel that Joe’s Jeans stretch out, but I know Cyndi loves hers. My Frame jeans slide down on me and make me cranky, but I think maybe I should have sized down.

When it comes to jeans, there are so many factors, and every woman’s body is different, so what works for me may not work for you, but those are my favorites for comfort and style.

Size-wise, I find that Paige jeans run small, and I usually size up to a 30. I am true to my usual size 29 in DL1961, but recently I’ve been sizing down to 28 in AG. I never hesitate to order two sizes if I’m unsure (especially when they’re on sale) and I’ll return the one that doesn’t fit.

WHEW!!!! I think that’s it for fashion/blogging questions! I probably should have divided Part One into two posts, but I don’t know how many Q&As y’all want to read so I lumped it all together. Stay tuned for Part Two next week!

Merry Christmas!

I hope you and yours enjoy this weekend. I’m aware that this is a very hard time of year for some. If you’ve lost a loved one or are feeling lonely or depressed, I hope you find comfort in your faith and manage to see some glimpses of joy in the shadows.

We celebrate my daughter’s 14th birthday tonight, and then tomorrow I’m looking forward to worshipping with my church family in addition to our typical Christmas celebration. I may pop in tomorrow briefly to say hi and merry Christmas, but this is pretty much it until Monday.

Wishing you all a blessed and very merry Christmas!

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