Transcript

Talking Fashion

Suzanne D'Amato and Janet Bennett Kelly
Deputy Editor, Sunday Source, Fashion and Beauty Editor, washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, June 26, 2007; 11:00 AM

Suzanne D'Amato and Janet Bennett Kelly, talked about wardrobe questions for summer, Tuesday, June 26, at 11 a.m. ET.

A transcript follows.

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Janet Bennett Kelly: Good morning, everyone, and thanks so much for joining us on this hot, humid June Tuesday.

What to wear when the weather sizzles always seems to present a problem, so if you've got any good solutions, let us hear from you. In the meantime, while the temps are soaring, the prices on summer merchandise all around town are plunging. I can't think of a department store or boutique that's not having a sale. It's a good time to pick up a bathing suit and some designer goods at much-reduced prices. Subscribe to DC Scout and we'll keep you posted on upcoming sales!

Suzanne D'Amato: Good day! It is indeed steamy outside today. One solution, depending on where you're headed, may be shorts. My story on the dressy short trend has already garnered some kudos and some... well, "harsh words" may be too strong a way of putting it, but let's just say that not everyone is in love with this look.

What's your take on shorts? Chic for casual Fridays? Ugly all the way around? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Arlington, Va.: Why oh why are the stores so full of empire waist tops? They make even the skinniest of girls look pregnant! I don't understand.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Arlington,

I couldn't agree with you more. This seems to me like a trend left over from Britney days, and just as Ms. Spears and her very low-slung jeans have mostly gone away, these empire-waist tops are not predicted to last very much longer. Feel better?

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BELTSville, Md.: So, are belts back after a long absence? Can you wear them with any pair of pants that have belt loops? And what kind of materials are hot this year?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Actually, belts have been back for a while now, but it looks as if they're going to be even more popular this fall for accentuating the waist. I like patent leather for spring and fall.

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Lusby, Md.: I own a pair of white patent Nine West slides with a buckle at the part that goes over the toes. What could I wear this with besides white pants?

Suzanne D'Amato: They'd look great with dark denim or black slacks, I think, as long as you have some white on your upper half to break up the look. In my opinion, the old adage that shoes and pants must match is just that: old.

Janet Bennett Kelly: I'm in total agreement with Suzanne. I don't mind wearing white shoes with white pants, but as Suzanne said, you need to balance it out so you don't wind up looking like a nurse.

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New York, N.Y.: Hi Suzanne and Janet.

Thanks for your advice and input on these chats. My summer-centric question is as follows: does hot weather give you any leeway to not wear a suit in a conservative environment? I frequently go to conferences and client meetings in the dead of summer when it is 85 degrees outside. Hopskipping from meeting to meeting requires dashing outdoors for 5-10 min walks which are often more efficient that cabs. Things get ugly very quickly.

What are my options? Am I wrong in thinking that a sharp cotton pencil skirt and elbow length blouse is better than a wrinkled linen skirt suit?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I think extremely hot weather -- like what we're experiencing now -- gives you some wardrobe leeway, depending on just how conservative your workplace is. As lovely as I think linen suits are, they do wind up looking as if you slept in them. So, yes, wearing a cotton pencil skirt and elbow-length blouse seems just right for skipping to and from meetings in sultry weather. Just because offices tend to be over air-conditioned, I would carry a jacket so you don't freeze indoors.
Suzanne, any thoughts?

Suzanne D'Amato: You might even be able to loosen up your look a bit more, if you want. For instance, a crisp A-line skirt can have all the polish of a pencil shape, while being a lot more comfortable on a sticky summer day. The same concept applies to blouses -- why go elbow-length when a short-sleeve shirt can pack just as much polish?

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Fairfax, VA: I am a petite 25 year old working professional. Sometimes I need to carry a large purse/tote, but my mom tells me large bags look bad on someone 5'3 and 100 lbs like myself. Is there anyway around this issue besides having to carry less stuff just because I'm petite? For instance, I loved that Chanel Coco Cabas Large Vinyl Shopper Tote, but aside from that fact that it's way out of my price range, apparently I am too small for it too! Is it true?

Suzanne D'Amato: That Chanel bag is indeed a bit gargantuan for you. Some women like to carry a too-big bag because they think it makes everything else look smaller (lookin' at you, Mary-Kate Olsen). But I think something more moderate would be better suited to your frame. The Chloe Paddington bag, the Marc Jacobs Stam bag (or the knockoff versions of these): they're plenty big without having that what's-she-got-in-that-garbage-bag look. Because when you're spending this kind of money, the words "garbage bag" should never enter anyone's mind.

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Southeast, D.C.: Recently on the rush hour Metro I've been seeing tons of beautiful short puffed sleeve blouses. Most are a blue/white stripe pattern, and some have a tailored waist. Where are people getting them? Are there any available for $20 or less? Are there any out there in bold, bright patterns and colors?

Suzanne D'Amato: This is a great style, but know that it has a very young elan. So if you're concerned about looking too girlish at, say, work, I'd take a pass.

If that's not a concern, I'd check out (no surprise here) stores that cater to young women. Like Forever 21, whose Web site offers a seemingly endless variety of shirts with different degrees of puff (and some cute puff-sleeve jackets as well). Or Delia's, which features a chicly streamlined version of the style online for $12.99. Vintage stores are great for this, too.

Janet Bennett Kelly: I've seen a couple of puff-sleeves in the most recent J. Crew catalogue as well. I'm pretty sure though that they're more than $20.

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Washington Post: Here are the links.

D.C. Scout Sunday Source Shorts

Janet Bennett Kelly: Everyone, here are some links we mentioned before!

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Rockville, Md.: I was so disappointed by Suzanne's article on shorts last weekend. I support a total ban on shorts, and I thought that Suzanne did too! I wear long pants and short sleeves to the gym, and skirts during the day. There is really no need for women (and men for that matter) to ever wear shorts.

Suzanne D'Amato: Sorry you were disappointed. I maintain that shorts are not the best choice for work (or any moderately dressy occasions, for that matter), but they are everywhere in stores, so we wanted to show people how to wear them well. They're not my personal favorite, style-wise -- but then again, the same could be said of a lot of trends that are still worth covering.

Janet Bennett Kelly: There are shorts and there are shorts. In my opinion, the shortest of the short are best for the beach et al. But my eyes have become accustomed to ones that graze the knee or are a little above and I think, if they're trim-fitting, they look very good on the right figure.

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Baltimore, Md.: Is the shirtdress here to stay? Any suggestions on where to get some cute day-to-evening ones?

Suzanne D'Amato: This came up in our last chat -- one chatter thought that the style was Donna Reed-dowdiness personified, while others quite liked it. I'd say that it's all in the shape of the dress. Look for something with a bit of stretch to play up curves, and know that a straight-cut (as opposed to full) skirt can do much to make this look more modern.
Now, where to shop? J. Crew has a couple of nice versions right now, though they're definitely on the classic side of the style spectrum. There are also some on sale on the Neiman Marcus Web site, by designers such as James Perse, Gold Hawk and Lela Rose.

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Washington, D.C.: Hello! Thanks so much for the chat! I have seen many girls in fun, bold, print, knit wrap dresses recently. Where do you find these at a reasonable price? I can usually only find Diane von Furstenberg, which is out of my price range.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Have you tried looking recently? I've seen these dresses (Furstenberg, Vince, Rebecca Taylor) on sale at places like Cusp and Barneys.

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Re: Low slung jeans going away?: I beg to differ, while the rises seem to be rising, thankfully. It is still all too easy to find nothing but low-waist jeans and woefully difficult to find otherwise.

Suzanne D'Amato: In the mass market, I'd say that the low rise is definitely still the dominant cut for denim. And for a simple reason: many women feel that it is the most curve-flattering, hip- and thigh-diminishing style. But in more fashion-centric circles, the high-waisted, Marcia Brady-inspired styles are really what's happening now. So you can expect to see those at less pricey retailers quite soon. I hope!

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Hot weather wear: For me, seersucker and linen never go out of style, and they look fabulous even when you're running through the outdoor sauna that we call D.C.

Janet Bennett Kelly: As I mentioned, I'm a big fan of linen, but not everybody can deal with the wrinkles. If you can, good on you. Seersucker is a first-class summer material because it's cool and lightweight and low-maintenance. Love that.

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Silver Spring, Md.: My husband just bought me a gorgeous pair of red peep-toe pumps. I love them but I'm clueless as to what to wear with them because I don't like red/white/blue combos. They feel too "4th of July" for me. Help!

Janet Bennett Kelly: There's no edict about having to wear red with white and blue. No one wants to look like a flag! I think they'd look great with dark denim or black.

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Washington, D.C.: What kind of shorts would look best on a short, rather stout middle-aged woman?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I would think ones that hit you above the knee. You don't want to go longer than that because they'll cut you off too much. That said, it's a matter of trying a lot of pairs on to see what suits you best.

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Re: Shorts: How do you know what the best kind of shorts are for you? I want to look cute, not like my dad. The short ones aren't exactly thigh friendly and the long ones can make you feel dowdy. Should I just stick to skirts?

Suzanne D'Amato: I agree that this trend is a tricky one. You might try mid-length shorts, which will give you a bit of coverage while still showing more leg than Bermudas. Look for shoes and a shirt that are decidedly un-dowdy -- colorful wedges and a top with some flattering pintucked or pleated details, for instance.
That said, if you're not comfortable in shorts, stick to skirts! I think that the way a lot of people consume trends is to blindly follow each one. But real style is finding a silhouette that works for you and then tweaking it periodically, rather than completely overhauling your wardrobe each season.

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Wrap dresses: I got a couple of nice sold and print ones (in petite, no less!) at Talbots on sale.

Janet Bennett Kelly: For the chatter in search of wrap dresses a la Diane von Furstenberg, make a trip to Talbot's.
Thanks for the tip.

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Quantico, Va.: No woman who wants to be taken seriously in a professional office environment should even think of wearing shorts to work. For that matter, neither should any man. Most office dress codes specifically ban shorts. Save them for the company picnic, but only if you have great legs!

Suzanne D'Amato: Thanks for your take! To paraphrase one of the industry analysts I quoted in my story: You won't see Hillary Clinton sporting a shorts suit on the campaign trail.

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Fairfax, Va.: Someone mentioned they are looking for "fun, bold, print, knit wrap dresses". Find them at United Colors of Benetton on sale! I saw them at the Tysons corner store and the Fair Oaks Mall store. And Benetton is affordable compared to DVF.

Janet Bennett Kelly: More choices for the chatter who's looking for knit wrap dresses.

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U street, D.C.: I cope with the hot weather by wearing jersey dresses to work. They are breathable, don't cling to my body, and never wrinkle. I just pair them with a blazer or cardigan in the office. Luckily, my office has a business casual dress code, and I don't have to worry about wearing suits- I think I would die.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Hooray for dresses. We think they're a great option for beating the heat, too. In fact, I have a sleeveless one that I'm tempted to wear all the time for the very reasons you just mentioned.

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Arlington, Va.: Where can I get a nice, classic women's seersucker suit?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I think Brooks Brothers is your best bet.

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Fairfax, Va.: Okay yeah, the Chanel Coco Cabas Large Vinyl Shopper Tote and the Garbage Bag analogy just totally killed any admiration I had for that purse. Thank you, I'm over it now and glad I didn't fork over the +1k for it!

Suzanne D'Amato: Sometimes I think designers just throw their craziest ideas out there and see if anything sticks. Like, "What if we made a garbage bag and charged $1000 for it. Would anyone bite?"
But seriously, for the whole garbage bag concept I must credit Morgan Hunger ford, who pens a fashion column for BrightestYoungThings.com. Morgan did a DIY project for the site on how to make this very bag at home, using two Hefty bags. I thought it was both a great knockoff AND a hilarious send-up of our consumption-crazed culture.

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Re: T-Shirts?: Sometimes I don't want a tight T-shirt or one that goes way below my hips. H&M used to sell really great shorter and looser t-shirts. I guess they are passe. Any suggestions?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I understand your frustration. There do seem to be a ton of T-shirts out there are tight and long. How about trying Michael Stars, Three Dot or Petit Bateau?

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Washington, D.C.: Hi ladies. What's a girl to do about painful shoes? I don't know if my feet are more sensitive than most or what, but most shoes hurt to at least some degree. Is there anything I can do short of buying loads of those different Foot Petals products to put in all of my shoes?

Suzanne D'Amato: Studies have shown that 88 percent of American women wear their shoes too small. Apparently, this issue is as loaded for many women as clothing size, or the number on the scale. Is it possible that sizing up could solve your problem?

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New York, N.Y.: Former DC'er now transplanted to N.Y.C. Just wanted to comment on shorts story. Up here, everyone is in shorts of varying lengths. I don't get where the harsh criticism is coming from down there in D.C., though. What's not to understand- longer shorts like bermudas for conservative offices or affairs and leave the shorter stuff to the more daring, young, those with better legs, fill in the blank. I work in fashion, so everyone around here sports very short shorts and no one bats an eye. It's all up to the wearer and the office. No one is trying to replace skirts, pants, etc. It's just another option for warm weather. Besides, unless you are in a very fashion forward/focused city like NYC, London, etc, you're probably not going to come across the same mini short/platform sandal look you see in the magazines. So just relax and enjoy getting some extra sun on those pale winter legs!

Suzanne D'Amato: Yes, in New York the shorts look has been everywhere for a couple of years. (And in L.A., it always has been.) Thanks for your take!

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Silver Spring, Md.: Do you know of any companies that make reasonably priced jeans that are higher-waisted? Because of my body type, I simply cannot wear low-rise jeans.

Janet Bennett Kelly: There's a Levi's store in Georgetown and Tysons Corner. They sell jeans that sit at the waist. Give it a try.

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Short/loose t shirts: If you are looking for "boxier" T-shirts, try something like LL Bean, which still has those styles.

Janet Bennett Kelly: For the chatter looking for looser T-shirts, here's a suggestion to check out L.L. Bean.

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Re: Red Shoes: I have red shoes and wear them with everything, even if it seems to clash. They're red shoes; there are no rules. Be modern and celebrate your style.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Here's an opinion about what to wear with red shoes!

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Rockville, Md.: Where can guys get affordable men's clothes that are not too trendy for the office? I usually buy stuff on sale at J. crew or Banana, because their regular price stuff is way too expensive. H&M's quality is not what I'm looking for either. Any other suggestions?

Suzanne D'Amato: What about trying off-price retailers such as Filene's, Ross and so on? I was just at the Filene's on 14th and F St (NW) a few weeks ago and was impressed. Lots of nice dress shirts, ties and so on. And I hear the Connecticut Ave men's selection is even better.
Janet, any suggestions?

Janet Bennett Kelly: The Filene's in Chevy Chase has a large men's selection, as does Loehmann's across the street.

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Penn Quarter: What's the best way to get rid of nice bags (mostly LV)? I'm willing to put up with the hassle of eBay if it's worth it, but I'd prefer to just drop them at a consignment shop and wait for my check.

Re: shorter T-shirt, I have that problem too. The American Apparel ones aren't too long.

Suzanne D'Amato: Consigning is a great way to go. When I moved here from New York a few years ago, I had a lot of designer clothing and accessories that I realized pretty quickly I no longer needed. I sold them off and made a tidy profit!
In terms of stores -- Secondi in Dupont is great. If you have high-quality vintage, you might try Annie Creamcheese. And in this Sunday's Source, we'll have a review of Current, a new-ish consignment store in Arlington.

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Red shoes only with red purse: I think a woman looks put together ONLY when her purse and shoes match. I don't buy shoes if I can't get a matching purse or a purse that is similar in style and does match color wise.

It drives me nuts when I see regular women wearing an all black outfit and a brown purse or a celeb wearing bright green shoes and a black purse (I have seen a photo of this). Regular women should not do this and celebs should really not do it since they have oodles of money to spend.

Suzanne D'Amato: I agree with you in that I think wearing all one color head-to-toe, with just one non-matching accessory, does look a little random. But if your outfit plays with hues and patterns a bit, there's no reason your accessories can't as well. Hard and fast rules about appropriateness have never really spoken to me.

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20005: Hi Ladies. I'm in need of some advice on the swimsuit front. As a 38D, finding a swimsuit that covers and stays put on top as well as being reasonably priced has me stumped.... Any ideas?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Okay, don't laugh, all you fashionistas out there. I'd at least look at Land's End. They're not as dowdy as you'd think and they might work. Their Web site divides up the world into anxiety zones -- and then picks styles that work for your particular body worry. Also, Sylene's in Chevy Chase carries a varied selection of bathing suits -- not particularly inexpensive, though.

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Arlington, Va.: I purchased a babydoll dress about a year ago from Bloomingdales. The dress is gray and black with spaghetti straps. It's a little above the knee. I was thinking about purchasing some bermuda shorts, but I can't find any that looks good because I am bottom heavy. My dilemma is what should I wear underneath the dress; I have a "booty" and I don't feel comfortable if I wear it with anything underneath. Also what type of shoes should I wear with the dress?

Any suggestions would be deeply appreciated.

Suzanne D'Amato: For shoes, a platform pump of some sort would look great -- either a slingback or a closed-toe version with some chic cutouts.
Now, as for "underneath": Are you asking a shorts question or an underwear question? Since your dress only ends a little above the knee, I'd guess the latter, but your mention of Bermudas has me a little confused....

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District Heights, Md.: I'll be attending a wedding in Dallas later this summer (hot and humid). The wedding is at noon. I plan to wear a linen/silk sundress with jacket and strappy heels. Will bare legs (toenails polished) look tacky?

Janet Bennett Kelly: If you were planning to wear stockings in that kind of weather, I'd seriously question your sanity. So, no, in my opinion, bare legs won't look tacky. A little bit of a fake tan and moisturizer will help, though.

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Shorts in D.C.: I am a 43-year-old woman who is a big fan of shorts. I haven't worn them to the office, but I love my mid-length cotton shorts from J Crew, with a fitted T-shirt. I wouldn't go shorter than mid-thigh, and I think above the knee looks best if the shorts are more fitted, but I agree with N.Y.C. that they can be a really great look.

Suzanne D'Amato: Thanks for writing in. From what I can tell, most people seem to feel that shorts and work don't mix well in Washington.

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Re: Wrap dresses: Tell D.C. who likes DVF dresses that JC Penney has cheap versions that may be in a more reasonable price range.

Janet Bennett Kelly: DC woman who wants DVF lookalikes, JC Penney has them!

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Arlington, Va.: I seem to be having a lot of trouble these days finding knits to wear to work that don't fall apart after a few wears. I mean, practically all the cute little sweaters and shells I got at Banana Republic and J Crew in March are unwearable because they're covered in little pills. Looks terrible. Any better places to shop for sleeveless tops and cardigans?

Suzanne D'Amato: Hmm, I think of both of those places as having decent quality. (I mean, isn't that largely what they're selling, since the styles aren't terribly forward-thinking?)
Could it be the way you're caring for your knits? Are you washing them in a gentle detergent or hand-washing, and either laying them flat to dry or drying on very low heat? If not, that might have something to do with the pilling.

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Washington D.C.: I'm attending a "black tie optional" wedding in New Mexico

(where it'll be as hot as anything) next month. My first question is: what does that mean for girls? And any ideas for a cute dress? Thank you!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Black-tie optional gives you choices. You can wear a long dress, but if I were you, I'd go for something short and sleeveless in a dressy material. Try BCBG.

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Virginia: For years now I have sent questions to magazines informing them that the elderly see nothing in the papers or magazines on fashions for people +60. Everything is about the young and thin. Even make-up. Is there is a magazine out there for them, please inform me of it so I can buy it, or where I can find things for our age instead of the young.

Janet Bennett Kelly: More magazine caters to women over 40. Harper's Bazaar usually runs a feature every month giving style choices for women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.

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Affordable men's clothes: You really can't go wrong with Js. A. Bank for reasonably priced, well-made menswear.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Here's a vote for Jos. A. Bank for reasonably priced men's clothes. Worth a look.

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Centreville, Va.: I'm a petite woman (5'0) and in desperate need of some shorts! I've been looking but haven't been able to find anything that I've liked. I don't like cropped pants and walking shorts- what I'm looking for is your basic short, mid-thigh length. Any suggestions on where to look? Believe it or not, I used to buy all my shorts at Abercrombie and American Eagle, but their shorts are so short now that it could be deemed indecent exposure.

Suzanne D'Amato: We featured a nice pair by Diane Von Furstenberg in Sunday's story. They aren't cheap, but they're beautifully tailored, with a chic wrap belt. You can buy them at Neiman Marcus and Barneys Co-Op.
I've also seen some great mid-length ones at French Connection. Chocolate brown, three buttons at the waist. They were so cute that when I spotted them, I momentarily re-considered my own no-shorts policy.

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Washington D.C.: Re: Red shoes

I think red looks lovely with a nice charcoal gray. Also, if you're wearing a print or pattern that has a bit of red in it, the shoes will pick up the color beautifully.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Yes, thank you, for sending that in. Red looks smashing with charcoal gray and you can definitely wear red shoes with a print that has a dash of red in it.

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Fairfax, Va.: Oh I have a very pressing question. My husband won't wear leather shoes for religious reasons, so I have been searching high and low to find some young professional shoes for him so I can throw out his really old sneakers, but I haven't had much luck besides canvas loafers (Lacoste style with the white rubber trim). Any idea where I can find nice non-leather shoes? Thanks!

Suzanne D'Amato: There are many, many vegan shoe companies that would be a good option for you. Like, um, Veganshoe.com. Or Mooshoes.com, or Alternativeoutfitters.com. Just Google "vegan shoes" and see which Web site offers styles you and he like.

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Alexandria, Va.: In the past few years, I have tried on literally hundreds of pairs of pants and cannot find any that fit me- all are 6-8 inches too big at the waistband. Clothes I bought 7 years ago still fit, but are getting worn out and are out of style. I really don't know what to do. Any advice for where someone with a full butt and small waist can find pants?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I have a friend who has a similar problem. For jeans, at least, I know she has had success at Be Scene in Potomac, which is a bit out of the way for you, but ...

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Suzanne D'Amato: Thanks so much for joining us today! As always, we had great fun and hope you did too. We'll see you again in about a month.
If you still want to talk shop, please join my new discussion group, Trend Spotter & Co. It's a place to chat with me and other members about anything and everything related to shopping and style. Hope to see you there!

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Washington Post: On behalf of Suzanne: Trend Spotter & Co. Discussion Group

Suzanne D'Amato: Here's that link.

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