Capitol Hill Style

Thursday, July 31, 2014 by Belle

Ask Belle: Tops on an Intern’s Budget

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Dear Belle,

Thank you so much for your blog.  I moved to DC four months ago and it helped me so much.  I work nights at a bar in Dupont Circle and intern at a think tank during the day.  

The office dress code is somewhere between business casual and professional.  I wear a pencil skirt or a pleated skirt every day, but I need to up my top game.  I tried the button-down thing, and they don’t look good on me.  Can you suggest some tops with short sleeves that cost under-$40 or so?

Thanks again! Ally

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Short sleeve blouses are a nice choice for your situation because you can layer them under blazers when the weather turns cold.  I recommend starting with neutral solids to start.  Then, you can incorporate more colors and prints.

I think the best way to help with your situation is to show you the three stores where you can regularly find tops under-$50 without having to wait for a sale.  But the good news is that all of the retailers have sales regularly, sometimes with deep discounts.

LOFT. This tie-neck blouse comes in a pretty powder pink.  I also like this bracelet-sleeve top with raglan and crochet details (though it is a long sleeve top).  And do not miss this black lace tee with a blue underlay–it would look lovely with a black pencil skirt.

The quality isn’t always the greatest at LOFT, but if you choose wisely and wash carefully, the tops can last until you’re tired of them.  Things to look for when shopping at LOFT?  Fabrics that feel nice to the touch and have reasonably good weight to them.  Also keep an eye out for seams that are snugly sewn.  If my inexpensive tops fall apart, it’s usually because the hem falls out due to poor seam construction.

The Limited. This ponte peplum top is $45 with another 50%-off, code BIG50.  It’s the kind of top that would look awesome with a little bit of tailoring, and spending under-$50 make a nipped seam an affordable alteration.  I also like this sheer overlay top in a pretty shade of blue.  This sleeveless blouse with a v-neck and a short, ruffle collar is perfect to wear under cardigans both colorful and neutral.

H&M. This is the best place to buy inexpensive work blouse.  Period.  End.

This flutter-sleeve top is a wonderful option for wearing under suit jackets and cardigans.  I also like this jacquard-weave top with an interesting waist line.  I also like this v-neck blouse with a cap sleeve, in your choice of black, white and blush.  And if you’re also looking for long-sleeve blouses, this white blouse with black trim is an awesome basic.

Thursday, July 31, 2014 by Belle

BPGP: A Double Dose of Disappointment

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The Product. CoverGirl Bombshell Volume Mascara ($12)

The Good. If you’re a person who hates heavy, clumpy mascara, the lightness of the Bombshell mascara will certainly appeal to you.  I have never used a mascara that provides a cleaner application.  And clean application = perfectly separated lashes.

Another good thing about this mascara?  It does not rub off.  Even in 90-degree temperatures, none of it ended up on my lower lids.  That was impressive.

The Bad. The mascara provides very little in the way of lash thickening.  Even multiple coats doesn’t result in that full, lash-rich look.  So while the lash separation is pretty and natural-looking, the thickness isn’t there.

The Terrible. As I looked in the mirror at the end of the night, I thought how awesome it was to have raccoon-eyes after a 16-hour day.  Then, I found out why.  Because removing the Bombshell mascara is harder than passing immigration reform.  Forget eye makeup remover.  Forget olive oil.  A chisel and hammer would be the only way to remove the mascara quickly.  And I’m not the only one who had trouble washing it off.

The Verdict.  Skip this product.  You can achieve a similar look by pairing a volumizing mascara with a rubber wand and a lengthening-separating mascara with a brush wand.

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The Product. Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Flawless Fluide ($48)

The Good. Since Laura Mercier is my favorite makeup line, I was incredibly excited to try this product.  The color selection is extensive, which is helpful if you have a difficult to match skin tone.

True to the brand’s claims, the foundation does define both high-performance and long-wearing.  You can wear it for 12+ hours with no heavy makeup feel and no creasing.  It also kept my skin perfectly matte, even on a 90-degree day when I wasn’t wearing primer. So if you’re in a business that requires long days, this might be the foundation for you.

The Bad. Like many foundations, this one claims to provide excellent coverage for imperfections.  Unless your imperfections are small and barely significant, this is a lie.

The first morning that I used it, my acne was in check and I’d had a full 8-hours of sleep the night before.  After applying it, not one blemish, not one scar, not one under-eye circle was even modestly hidden by the foundation I’d just applied.  My skin was completely matte, but not even lightly covered.  It looked like I’d applied a veil of white, translucent powder to my bare skin.

The Verdict. If I’m going to spend $48 on foundation, I expect it to be awesome.  Life-changing.  Worth every penny.  This is not.  If you want matte coverage, Clinique makes a $23 foundation that keeps your skin perfectly matte for 12-hours (with primer).  The tube also lasts forever.  I’ve been using the same one for at least six months.

Thursday, July 31, 2014 by Belle

10th Commandment: July 31

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cn7853460Old Navy Block-Heel Sandals ($27)

Old Navy has some lovely, affordable end-0f-summer pieces right now.  I adore these sandals.  They’re simple, stylish and versatile.

I also found this sleeveless, jersey sheath in a gorgeous eggplant color (also in black).  I also fell hard for this suspended-neck sheath dress (add a belt to give it more shape).  This beige-blush drape cardigan is amazing.

Need athletic attire?  I like the compression tanks from their active line.  I also like their inexpensive burnout tees.

Everything at Old Navy is currently 25%-off with code SAVINGS.

Plus-size? I like this casual wrap-front dress and this drape knit cardigan in oatmeal.  Petite? This leopard-print cardigan is neat, and I like this 3/4-sleeve jersey dress.  Tall? This jersey tank dress comes in a lot of lovely colors, and I like this dark denim jacket.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 by Belle

Three Ways: Hot Pink Pencil Skirt

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Our Wednesday styling posts usually cover basics–navy sheaths, navy cardigans, etc.–but a woman cannot live on basics alone.  So when I spotted this Pinterest photo of a woman in a hot pink pencil skirt, I knew what I had to do.

rsz_screen_shot_2014-07-30_at_101411_amSkirt: Worthington Modern Pencil Skirt ($25)

I chose hot pink because I prefer brights to pastels.  If this color isn’t in your wheelhouse, all is not lost.  Dorothy Perkins has a berry pencil skirt with a herringbone texture.  Raoul has a skirt that is a delightful mix of coral and bubblegum.  Plus-size? JCPenney has you covered. Petite? Try Banana Republic.

Left, Earrings: Caitie Stud Earrings ($42) // Shirt: Iris & Ink Bow Blouse ($110) // Sweater: Land’s End Short Sleeve Pullover ($49) // Bag: Michael Kors Selma Satchel ($358) // Bracelet: KJL Open Cuff ($80) // Shoes: Michael Kors Serena Pumps ($147)

This is a recreation of one of my favorite outfits from the early days of the blog.  I love the femininity of the bow blouse with the boldness of the pink skirt, all balanced out with the navy sweater.  This sweater is Land’s End, so it comes in every size from petite to tall, misses to plus.

Because the outfit is so colorful, I kept to the “nude” shoes.  If you want a pair that are incredibly comfortable and under-$100, try the MK Flex Pumps.  And with a short sleeve shirt, it’s always nice to add a statement cuff.  I like this KJL cuff, but if you want something under-$25, try this hammered cuff from Saks Off 5th.

Right, Sweater: Collection Cashmere Tee ($99) // Bags: VC Owen Tote ($142) // Shoes: Willah Dress Pump ($60) // Bracelets: Fornash Enamel Cuff ($32) and Gorjana Teagan Cuff ($120) // Earrings: Kenneth Cole Hoops ($24)

Orange and pink are a combination for the bold.  If you like the thought of all this color, but you want something more subtle, try a mint top or a cobalt one.  Or if you want to keep it really basic, a white button-up.

The Vince Camuto tote featured above comes in several amazing colors.  So if you’re in a market for a leather tote with style and simplicity, definitely don’t miss this one.  I also recommend Fornash if you like bracelets.  They make theirs in a variety of colors widths and styles, all at affordable prices.

Bottom, Earrings: Ippolita Disc Earrings ($195) // Shirt: River Island Print Tee ($35) // Necklace: Stella & Dot Sanibel Necklace ($69) // Shoes: H&M Suede Pumps ($50) // Bag: Rebecca Minkoff Perry Tote ($218)

For a more neutral pairing, I chose this black and white dotted tee.  I like the contrast with the skirt.  You could also indulge in a geometric print like this top from Tanjay.  Plus-size? Try this NYDJ blouse.

I chose the soft aqua Stella & Dot necklace to bring in a bit more color.  It’s reversible, so you get smoky quartz on the other side.  It also comes in gold.

The bag is blush pink to complement the soft necklace and the bold skirt.  If you want something cheaper, try this under-$75 London Fog tote. And don’t miss these cute and classic H&M pumps.  They pack a lot of style for $50.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 by Belle

Belle’s Workday Reading: July 30, 2014

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Especially in politics, you know you’ve made it when everyone knows your name.  Provided, of course, that it’s for the right reasons.

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1) The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful list came out yesterday.  The fashion choices left a lot to be desired.  Some dresses were too short, others were too tight (one bordered on indecent).  At least one woman wore glasses she doesn’t need in an effort to look more intellectual.  And, as usual, there were pearls.

Pearls for days.  Real pearls, faux pearls.  Pearls of every size, compilation and color.  Even pearls with dresses that didn’t need them. As long as I live, I will never understand the Capitol Hill obsession with pearls.

2) This blush and black, leaf-print skirt from NY & Co. is a dream.  It’s also under-$50.

3) Love pale nail polishes?  Hate the streaks you get with your at-home mani?  Ivory and Olive has a secret ingredient to prevent streaky paint jobs.  My favorite office-appropriate, pale pink? Deborah Lippmann’s ‘Shape of My Heart’.

4) If long hours at work are making your skin look sallow, this Sephora Pomegranate mask does wonders for tired skin.  It’s kind of amazing.

5) The New Yorker examines the wage gap and wonders, “Are Men Overpaid for Overwork?”

6) Work in a casual office?  Piperlime has some stunning toppers.  This slouchy blazer from Cameo is perfect.  This BB Dakota piece is the perfect mix of coat and cardigan.  And this $99 quilted moto-jacket is not to be missed.

7) If your name is difficult to pronounce, a new software program, Mivoko, allows you to attach an audio file to your e-mails and LinkedIn page to clue in colleagues as to the pronunciation of your name.

8) I recently purchased the Rebecca Minkoff ‘Knocked Up’ diaper bag to tote my laptop and school books.  It’s easily one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

9) Some good tips on “How to Ace Your Internship.”  The advice about knowing (and following) the office’s social media policy is very good advice.

10) Gilt has the best collection of sheath dresses right now.  This dark green Rosa sheath has a trendy faux leather sleeve.  This Ava & Aiden sheath has a gorgeous asymmetric neckline.  And this eyelet, short-sleeve sheath comes in white, navy and black.

11) If you spend a fortune on dry cleaning, you might want to look into Swash, a laundry appliance that lets you refresh and press your clothing in just 10-minutes.  It’s not cheap, but if you need to wear a suit every day, it might be worth it.

12) Pottery Barn has a fabulous travel jewelry case for sale.  They also make a smaller and less expensive jewelry roll.  With God as my witness, I will never sit in my hotel room, untangling necklaces again!

13) Woman Livetweets IBM Execs Discussing Why They Don’t Hire Women–their stupidity would be amusing if it wasn’t so infuriating.  It’s really too bad that women have to “keep getting pregnant again, and again, and again” in order to populate the human race.

Copyright © 2006, Capitol Hill Style. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed on Capitol Hill Style by Belle, a guest blogger or those providing comments are theirs alone. They do not reflect the opinions of Belle's current employer, Belle's previous employers or any groups or organizations with which she is affiliated.

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Updated for 2014