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Holiday Dressing and Remedies for a Fashion Rut

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holly E. Thomas was online recently with Janet Bennett Kelly, fashion and beauty editor for washingtonpost.com, chatting with readers about inaugural style and winter must-haves. Here is an edited excerpt:

Q We are having a holiday party in the office directly following the workday. We are a business casual law firm, but I wanted to get a little more festive for the party. Any ideas as to what I could wear to be lawyerly in the day and more celebratory in the evening? Ideally, I wouldn't be ducking into the bathroom for a Clark Kent-Superman outfit change!

H.T.: If you typically wear a jacket and skirt or trousers, I'd swap the jacket for a cropped swing coat or a cardigan with interesting details: ruffles, sparkle, etc. A colorful shoe in satin or patent leather is another fun touch, and for makeup, consider adding a bit of eyeliner and a deep berry lip gloss, such as Benefit's Her Glossiness in Who Does Your Work?, at right. Avoid trying to create the perfect smoky eye in your office bathroom, though . . . fluorescent lights are not your friend!

I am attending the Texas State Society ball and have a lovely purple (not eggplant) strapless, flowing, floor-length gown. What color shoes and handbag should I look for to go with my dress? I want to accessorize with pizazz but also would like something that I might be able to wear again.

H.T.: Your dress sounds lovely! You can't go wrong with a metallic shoe and bag in bronze, gold or silver. But then again, if your goal is pizazz, you might try a great beaded vintage clutch and a deep, richly hued shoe in a contrasting color, such as emerald.

I'm in a fierce fashion rut. I work in a preschool as an administrator, but I'm also working with kids. I'm genuinely interested in looking stylish, but I don't feel any need to be overdressed. I'd just like some direction with defining a style and picking up some new stuff. I often wear yoga pants to work, and I'm looking for an update. I did score some sensationally fitting work slacks from the Limited, but please offer me more ideas to look casual, cool, professional or hip.

H.T.: First, kudos on replacing those yoga pants with smart slacks. I'd build on that look with a couple of feminine (but not too frilly) tops and some lightweight cardigans and V-neck sweaters you can layer with the tops or basic solid-color tees. It sounds like you could benefit from more in-depth style-searching, though, so I'd recommend skimming the latest advice books from Isaac Mizrahi and Tim Gunn.


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