Capitol Hill Style

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 by Belle

Work Wednesday: Styling Grey Trousers

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I don’t wear trousers often, but I love a sleek grey pair.  They’re an all-season alternative to black pants.  The Hutton trouser from J.Crew is the pair I own.  They’re not lined, but they fit well with a nice drape.

I also like this Classiques Entier pair, and for something under-$100, this Halogen straight-leg pair.  Plus-size?  These Anne Klein trousers are a good option.

Upper Left: H&M Bow Blouse ($29) // Topshop Double Collar Jacket ($95) // Kenneth Cole Hoops ($26) // Target Drawstring Bag ($50)

I like the classic look of white and grey together.  I especially like it with a pop of bright color.  It’s an outfit that works in any season, for most work occasions.

I chose the hoops and the more relaxed tote to give the outfit a little fun.  If you want something more staid, I would recommend pearl studs and a sleek red briefcase.

As for the rest of the look, I would stick with a grey, pointed-toe pump.  I like this ankle-strap pair with a bit of flair.  I’d also style my hair in a soft braided updo, and indulge in a sheer red lip.

Check out the rest of the items after the break.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015 by Belle

We Love Bags with Pockets. Yes, We Do.

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As you know, I don’t often work with retailers or designers.  The reasons are simple: If I love a product, I’ll buy it, kick the tires, and write an honest review.  Most brands aren’t interested in honesty.  Most want flattering language, hashtags, and tweets filled with concocted buzzwords.  But sometimes, a retailer comes along who isn’t afraid of honesty–Lo & Sons, MMLaFleur, etc..  So let’s talk about the latest brand with enough faith in their product to let me inspect it.

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Dagne Dover makes a line of simple, organized handbags that let working women carry our every day essentials in style.  They give you the look of a sophisticated tote with the functionality of a laptop bag.

Size. The bag’s dimensions are 16 x 7 x 12.  This photo gives you a better grasp of size.

The bag weighs a little under 3.5lbs.  It’s heavier than a Lo & Sons bag, but it’s not as heavy as a leather bag would be.  When filled, it was comfortable to carry for an entire day.

As for the handles, they give you an 8.5″ drop.  It’s more than enough to sling the bag over your shoulder.

Storage. The large tote gives you room for a laptop, tablet, phone, wallet, water bottle, notebook, pens, and other essentials.  The laptop sleeve holds a 15″ notebook computer.  And the key strap keeps your keys from disappearing into the bottom of your bag.  The bag provides enough pockets, but not too many.

Material. The bag is made of coated canvas with leather handles.  I like the canvas because it looks chic-er than nylon, but it’s not so precious that you feel the need to baby it.  It also makes cleaning up a cinch; I spilled an iced tea in mine and just wiped it right up.

The bag is also really sturdy.  The handles feel securely attached, and the liner can take a beating.  I look forward to having a work option that I can carry without worry that I will ruin it.  It’s a nice bridge between my every day Lo & Sons laptop bag and my Rebecca Minkoff leather Knocked Up.

Design. The bag comes in black, pale beige, and cobalt blue.  The seams and stitching are clean, and the hardware is good quality.  The bag has a very sleek look to it, and it’s perfect for a professional setting.

Price. At $265, the bag is not cheap.  But you can see the workmanship and feel the quality of the materials.  Also, since you can replace your regular purse and your laptop bag, it really is two bags in one.

Bottom Line. I like the Dagne Dover tote bag a lot.  It’s functional and stylish.  And I appreciate any manufacturer who knows enough about what busy women need to give you storage in a chic package.

Disclaimer: I received a tote from Dagne Dover to review, but I would happily spend my own money on one.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 by Belle

Morning Line: March 25

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Corner Office

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Joie Gudelia Blouse ($258)

Middle Desk

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T Tahari Driya Blouse ($87)

Intern Desk

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Joe’s Fresh Placket Blouse ($29)

Plus-size: Caslon Half-Placket Blouse ($48) Petite: LOFT Ikat Utility Blouse ($59)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 by Belle

The Workday Reading: March 24, 2015

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1) Do you ever get paralyzed when you have to much to do?  The Crew Blog has some thoughts on how to overcome the workload freeze-up.

2) The Limited has some really chic, affordable handbags right now.  This lock-accented dome satchel is incredibly versatile.  This metal trim satchel is a basic with flair.  And if you’re looking for a bright color for summer, the flap-front satchel is a great choice.

3) How to Take Long Showers and Still Save the World from Drought.

4) Nip + Fab is quickly becoming one of my favorite skincare brands. I am loving this Dragon’s Blood Firming Serum.  Their $10 detox bath gel with tea tree oil is really helping the acne on my shoulders.

5) Facebook is trying to stay relevant as young people abandon the site. Their latest idea, hosting media articles from major outlets on the site.

6) Prepping for summer, I am loving this Gap eyelet shift dress.  I also like this casual, military-style anorak in navy or olive.

7) Marc Jacobs is closing his mid-price diffusion line, Marc by Marc Jacobs.  Why?  The brand has decided that they can make more money selling “advanced contemporary” clothes, pieces with a starting price point over $500.

8) This discounted Theory blazer from The Outnet is everything you want in a sleek black jacket.

*image found here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 by Belle

Why J.Crew is Faltering, and How It Can Recover

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Several readers sent me The Washington Post article, “Sorry, J.Crew. Female shoppers just aren’t that into you.”  The article discusses J.Crews continuing downward spiral.  Apparently, sales fell during the busy holiday season.  The article identifies several problems with the brand, including this quote:

And yet the biggest problem of all, Drexler said, was one of J. Crew’s own making: It filled its stores with clothes that women really just weren’t into.

“We’ve made some mistakes,” Drexler said, including “missteps in our iconic classics.”

My quarrel with J.Crew has been going on for at least three years.  From 2008-2010, nearly every post on this blog featured a J.Crew item.  The store was my go-to, my staple, there were whole weeks where I didn’t wear a single item of clothing that wasn’t J.Crew.  So what happened?

First, a catastrophic decline in quality.  Garments would rip or fray on the first wear, or during the first wash.  Hems fell out after a week or a month.

Fabrics that once felt luxurious–Super 120s wools, cashmeres, silks–were suddenly rough or artificial.  T-shirts, sweaters, and blouses were made from such cheap fabric that they were practically translucent.  The sleeve seams of most of my J.Crew blouses are frayed because the thread literally tears the cheap fabric.

Second, just as quality was plunging, prices were rising.  The J.Crew Collection features laughably priced garments that cost thousands while the rest of the site is constantly on sale.  Like so many mid-price retailers, the store is making clothes that earn a profit even when discounted 40-percent.  So you’re not getting a blouse that’s $98 quality, you’re getting a blouse made with $60 quality.

Finally, J.Crew is like the pretty, unpopular girl who ditched her old friends for the cool kids table and is struggling to stay there.  Working women, prepsters, Basic Bettys, we were the J.Crew market base.  We wanted good quality staples at a fair price with the occasional bit of flair.

Then one day, Jenna Lyons shows up and our favorite brand is in Vogue, InStyle, etc..  But after a few years, the shine is wearing off.  The brand is losing it’s foundation customer base, and the fashionistas it so desperately courted are moving on to the next hot thing.  So what does J.Crew have to do to get us back?

Brands like Cuyana, Everlane, and the like are thriving by producing quality pieces that justify their mid-price.  J.Crew needs to ditch the sale-priced, mass-market model and go back to the days of quality pieces.  If I can see and feel the quality in a piece, and I’m confident it will last, I don’t need it to be 40-percent-off final sale to take the plunge.

Finally, they need to remember who their audience is.  Working women need blouse and dresses with sleeves, and waistlines that aren’t more suited to a 14-year-old girl.  We need shirts that aren’t sheer.  We want blazers and cardigans that can last for multiple seasons.  And we need a size guide based on fact, not fiction.  If the average waist on a size 4 dress is 28.5″ instead of 27″ (based on the unscientific study in my own closet), just say so.

So ladies, what do you think J.Crew needs to do to find its groove again?

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
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