Capitol Hill Style: Ask Belle

Entries Tagged as 'Ask Belle'

Thursday, April 17, 2014 by Belle

Ask Belle: Racerback Cocktail Dresses

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Hi Belle,

I’m searching for a dress for a friend’s wedding next month.  I’d like something with a racerback silhouette, but all I’m finding are casual dresses and maxis.  I’d like to spend under-$100 so I might be asking too much.

Please help! Jen

Asking too much?  Never!  We have the whole Internet available to us, let’s go searching.

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Trouve Ponte Midi Dress ($98) // LOFT Tulip Skirt Dress ($89) // ASOS Pencil Dress ($85) // Amy Matto Becca Dress ($78)

Ah, racer back goodness and all under-$100.  Nailed it!  But seriously, given that it’s wedding season, here are my favorite places to search for party dresses at reasonable prices.

ASOS, always, ASOS.  This flirty, strappy chiffon dress from Warehouse is perfection.  I also love this Oasis dress with a gorgeous coral color and collar embellishments.  They also have a wide selection of plus, petite, tall and maternity dresses.

Bloomingdale’s offers an under-$150 section that’s full of good stuff.  This deep blue dress from Coast has an interesting shape and a great look to it.  And this Michael Kors one-shoulder is a truly unique LBD.

Zara.  If you need to spend under-$100, Zara offers styles and prices that will suit you perfectly.  This navy dress with frilly sleeves could do double duty, casual with flat sandals or cocktail with strappy heels.  This dress with a knotted back detail is pretty fantastic.  And if it’s drama in the back that you want, don’t miss this racerback dress in a bold red with cut-outs in the back.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 by Belle

Ask Belle Roundup Vol. IV, No. Seventeen

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Dear Belle,

I have a lot of weddings to attend this year, five in all.  Four of them are cocktail attire and one is casual.  I have dresses aplenty, but I need a pair of shoes to wear that will work with anything and everything.  Suggestions?

Carly

Metallics are always a good choice.  I like something with skinny straps so they don’t overwhelm the look.  Since you didn’t specify a price range, J.Crew offers both this ankle-strap pair and this Dirty Dancing-esque cage sandal in the under-$250 price point.  I also love these gorgeous, understated pewter Pelle Moda slingback sandals for around $150.

Looking for something less expensive?  Try these silver Caparros ankle-strap sandals or these Charles David Bezel sandals.  But my favorite are these  Steve Madden Dussty Sandals in gold, which have a very Kate Spade look to them.

Hi Belle,

I saw on the news that it’s spring where you are, but it still feels like winter where I live.  How long can I wear tights and boots before it becomes faux pas?  

Thank you!  KW

I usually hang up my boots and tights around April Fool’s Day, though with the unseasonably cold weather, I’ve pushed that boundary a couple of times.  But wearing tights and boots is more weather dependent than date dependent.  So here’s my new rule:

If you have to wear a winter coat to tolerate the temperatures, than boots and tights are fine regardless of the date.  If it’s just a bit nippy and it’s after April 1, whether you wear tights is your choice but, no boots.  If you most of your compatriots sporting bare legs, it’s time to hang up the leg wear until October.

Hi Belle,

I love the blog! Do you have some quick tips for getting my feet into sandal shape?  I’m on a tight budget and don’t want to fall into the pedicure trap.  Once you pop, you can’t stop on the pedis.

Luca

First off, I recommend a PedEgg to remove calluses and dry spots with minimal effort.  Secondly, to prevent calluses from forming, try a product like Bag Balm to prevent dryness and cracking.  Lastly, to get the skin in shape, I recommend Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil.

Once you have everything prepped, I recommend Deborah Lippman Gel Lab base and top coat for a long-lasting polish application.  It’s a great product that keeps your polish looking pristine longer.

Dear Belle,

I’m on an intern budget but need to buy clothes to wear to my new job.  Can you recommend a few stores where I can find professional clothing cheaply?  I went to the outlet mall to look around but everything was cotton mini skirts and ripped jeans.

Thanks for your help and your blog, Amy

H&M would be a great place to start.  They make a wide variety of types and styles.  This chiffon blouse is perfectly appropriate for work in comes in several colors.  I also like this black fitted blazer, it’s a great basic.  And don’t miss this printed teal dress for something a bit more unique.

I would also try Zara for blazers and Nordstrom for under-$100 skirts.  Limited has great suits for the price (please take a pass on the capri pants).  And if it’s dresses you’re after, LOFT has a few nice options, like this tulip skirt dress, as does J.Crew Factory.

Lastly, don’t forget to keep an eye out at Target.  Their Merona and Mossimo lines often have basic blazers, skirts and dresses for under-$50 prices.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 by Belle

Ask Belle: Finding Under-$200 Handbags

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Hi Belle,

I need a new handbag, something that I can wear to work or on the weekends.  I’m looking in the $200 range, so something nicer than my Limited tote but not as expensive as Rebecca Minkoff or Coach.  

Thanks for the help!

If you are searching for bags under-$200, I think Nordstrom has a great selection.  To answer your specific question about a professional bag that is relaxed enough to be carried during casual times, I like this Michael Kors Jet-Set Chain Tote (great colors) or this Elliott Lucca satchel (a great mid-price brand.

Looking for something under-$100?  I think Zara has the best selection.  This Mini-City Bag is lovely, as is their City Bag with Zips.  It’s also a great place to buy fashion-forward bags like the bucket tote.

Monday, April 7, 2014 by Belle

Ask Belle Roundup Vol. IV, No. Sixteen

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Belle,

Can you suggest a teeth whitener that actually works?  My smile is dimming under the influence of my four latte a day habit.

Love the blog! Glo

My first choice is GoSmile’s Whitening Light System for almost-professional results.  If you’re looking for something less expensive (and labor intense), Crest Whitestrips in professional effects whitening.

Dear Belle,

My navy suit blazer is kaput, and I’m shopping for a new one.  Do you think wool is okay for summer?  Should I buy a cotton blazer instead?  Any you can recommend in the $150 or less price range?

JB

If you only plan to buy one suit or one blazer to wear in every season, I suggest buying a year-round wool (some people call it tropical wool).  This navy blazer from Banana Republic is $198, but with a promo, it’s a great buy.  J.Crew is also having a sale on suiting pieces like this navy Schoolboy blazer.

Need something under-$100?  I would recommend the Anne Klein suit pieces, they’re good quality for entry-level work suits.  Want cotton suiting?  J.Crew has the best cotton suiting in the price range, but Tommy Hilfiger also makes a nice blazer.

Plus-size? Jones New York always has a wide selection of pieces.  Petite or Tall? I think the size selection is better at Banana Republic than at most stores in the middle price range.

Hi Belle,

I’m emailing with a shoe question — I’m getting married in the fall, and I’m starting to worry about shoes. I’m a flats girl with narrow feet, so I’m planning on wearing flats all day, but I’m looking for something with a strap and some fun bling/color. Ballet flats are fine, but they tend to slip off my feet after a long day.

They’ll be basically invisible to everyone but me, but I still want something fun. I’m looking to spend under $200. I’ve been looking at Bloomingdales and scouring Zappos, but I’m not finding anything too exciting.

Thanks, Lily

For ballet-style flats, try a satin flat or an embellished flat.  These Nine West flats have some shine and come in either gold or silver.  I also found these Betsey Johnson flats with little crystals and an able strap.

These satin and crystal flats are a little more than you wanted to spend, but they definitely qualify as wedding shoes.  Want something cheaper?  I also found these Nine West flats with a peep toe and bow and these Nina Pepper flats.

Lastly, if you find a pair your really love, but you aren’t sure you’ll be able to keep them on, there is a fix.  Take the flat to your cobbler and have him put a 1″ wide piece of elastic to the shoe to make it more of a Mary Jane style.  Then you can add rhinestones or whatever you’d like to the elastic.  You can also find elastic in any color you’d like, so it might be a solution for your problem.

Hi Belle,

You mentioned a long time ago that you wear men’s deodorant.  I have really bad stress sweat and none of the women’s brands seem to work (Degree, Secret, etc.).  Can you tell me which one you use?

Loved meeting you at the M.M. LaFleur event, thanks for the resume help.  Kate

I wear Old Spice Red Zone stick in the “fresh” scent because it’s the most subtle fragrance.  It’s the only deodorant that has ever worked for me, all the rest seem to fade halfway through the day.  For summer, I also wear spray deodorant from Dove on my inner thighs, stomach and lower back to prevent sweating when I’m walking to and from meetings in the heat.

If you have “stress sweat” though, I’ve seen them advertise for Secret and Degree products that are designed specifically for that problem.  Other readers may have suggestions of their own for this problem.

Lastly, there are two mistakes that women make with their deodorant the diminishes its effectiveness.  First, dry your underarms thoroughly before you apply it.  If it’s really humid in my bathroom, I’ll use my hairdryer on the cool shot setting to ensure that it’s dry.  Second, don’t apply too much deodorant.  One swipe or two is plenty. Any more than that and you’ll get that terrible, treacly deodorant smell, and you’ll get product all over your clothes, which just makes the smell worse.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 by Belle

Ask Belle: Stealthy Interview Attire

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Dear Belle,

I’m in the process of applying for a new job and I need your help with a problem.  My current office is business casual, most of my co-workers wear jeans and polos, and my interviews are all in professional-dress offices.  How do I dress for the interview without giving away to my co-workers that I’m on the hunt for a new job?

Sincerely, Gwen

I receive different variations of this question frequently, and it is a conundrum.  So I put the query to a group of ladies at my resume session last weekend, and they had some great suggestions.

Timing.  If you need to be dressed in a certain way, but you don’t want to run the risk of being caught, try changing the time of your interview.  Most reasonable hiring managers will understand if you need to come in first thing in the morning, over the lunch hour or last thing in the evening.  They should understand that you have commitments to your current employer, so see if you can move it to a different time.  So see if you can come in late one morning or leave early one day before you play James Bond with your attire.

As one of the women put it, “Do you really want to work in an office where they won’t move the interview a few hours?  Are those the kind of bosses you want to have?”

Tissue Paper.  One person suggested wearing a blazer and blouse with jeans, then packing your pencil skirt/trousers in tissue paper.  The paper will prevent wrinkling, and then you can change in the bathroom on your way out.  If you can’t change in your office, I once ducked into a nearby store and asked a very accommodating sales clerk if I could borrow a dressing room.

Bait and Switch.  Is the blazer the dead giveaway?  Wear it with jeans the day before your interview, and then hang it up in your office or cubicle before you leave for the day.  The next day, wear the pencil skirt and blouse with a pair of flats, and simply grab your jacket on the way out the door like it’s no big deal.

The Buddy System.  One of my friends had an important interview at a K Street firm.  Her boss would have gone ballistic if he knew she was interviewing three-months post-promotion, so she had to get creative.  A good friend worked in a nearby building.  So she gave her friend the suit a few days before, then went to the friend’s office over the lunch hour to change in their restroom, went on her interview and returned the suit.

Tell Your Boss.  There are situations in which telling your boss you’re looking for other work is not possible.  There are some employers that become territorial and insecure about their employees, and they just don’t take that news well.  If you’re in this situation, then wardrobe stealth is required.  But I would wager that the majority of women are not in that situation.

Perhaps, I’ve been lucky, but with the exception of one jackass, I’ve always been able to be honest with my employers about my intentions.  In fact, telling them has helped me find open positions, get the best references and line up interviews.  So don’t just assume that you can’t be forthcoming with your employer, really take the time to determine what her response might be and whether telling her will be beneficial to you in your search.

Any tips to share on how to look like you’re not interviewing when you are?  I recommend not leaving your resume lying around.  You’d be shocked how many resumes and cover letters I’ve found in copy, fax and printing machines.

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