Tuesday, July 24, 2007; 11:00 AM
Suzanne D'Amato and Janet Bennett Kelly answer your questions about how to look and dress your best this summer.
Deputy Editor of the Sunday Source, Suzanne D'Amato, and washingtonpost.com Fashion and Beauty Editor, Janet Bennett, talk about your best beauty and clothing bets for summer, Tuesday, July 24, at 11 a.m. ET.
Janet Bennett Kelly: Hi, everyone,
Thanks for joining us this midsummer morning. And speaking of midsummer, are you as bored with your clothes as I am at this point? We'd love to know about ways you have to revive your wardrobe doldrums.
Are you thinking of avoiding dullsville by adding a colorful bag or shoes -- maybe something vintage? If so, your timing couldn't be better. This week we're doing a roundup of boutiques that specialize in vintage clothes and accessories, so be sure to check out the latest edition of our Summer Fashion & Beauty Guide to find out where to score the best deals.
Pink and White: I moved from Midwest to a small town in Georgia. The pink and white nail trend is big here. Is this popular in normal, large cities? I have not been to a large city in about four months so I dont know. It is so tacky IMO. Why a woman would blow a bunch of money for fake looking hands when some pretty looking polish and nice cuticles will get it done is beyond me. What say you?
Suzanne D'Amato: By pink and white, I'm assuming you mean pink nail polish with white french tips? Eeeesh.
French manicures always mystify me: Whose nails are so white in real life? And when they're coupled with artificial nails, which they often are, the resulting talons can be a bit scary. Beyond the not-so-small matter of aesthetics, there's a major function issue. Don't most of these women have jobs that involve writing, or typing, or dialing phone numbers, or any number of other things that are greatly aided by short, low-maintenance nails?
But I digress: You called it. Not a good look.
College Park, Md.: Submitting early because I have a weird fashion question that I don't want to forget about. I'm currently a female PhD student in Physics, and I'm scheduled to give my preliminary research presentation in about 2 weeks (i.e. middle of August). Because I work in a lab where I frequently have to crawl around on the floor checking electrical connections and chasing tiny screws, I don't have much in the way of professional attire. Most of my dresses and skirts are for weekend daywear, going tango dancing, or the occasional dress-up occasion.
I do have a Tracy Reese suit that I found on phenomenal sale last summer. The problem is that it's a wool houndstooth fabric that I think might be too much for summer. Could I pair the suit's skirt with a lighter summer blouse, or even a nice, short-sleeved tee? Grad student salary also means I have limited cash flow to get a new suit. It does get pretty frigid inside with the AC on, so it wouldn't be too warm; I'm mostly worried about it looking ridiculous.
Suzanne D'Amato: I do think that wool houndstooth is a bit much for the middle of August -- a lighter wool or a crisp polished cotton would be my pick. What about trying a consignment store, such as Secondi in Dupont Circle? They have a great selection of high-quality merch, and the stuff is organized by item and season -- so you don't have to pilfer through racks of winter coats and fair isle knits to find that one summer-weight skirt.
Good luck -- and congratulations on your academic achievements.
Sizing: Are clothing companies engaging in more vanity sizing? I am 5'6" and weight around 119-121. Yes, I am thin but there are many thinner women than me. I am buying clothes in sizes that are smaller than ever. At Old Navy, Gap, Banana and the BCBG line I am wearing an XS or S and 0,1,2 or maybe a 4. I have shopped at Gap for 20 years and I wore a size 8 in their jeans in like, 1992, for instance.
My other problem is stores that cut stuff too huge. I cant even shop at Macy's for their pleasant and inexpensive work clothes since the stuff is HUGE. Their size small would be a medium or a large at the GAP. Talbot's has nice, conservative things for work but the clothes are also huge and I look weird in their petite stuff since I am, well, not petite. Is the problem that I am shopping at the wrong stores? Does their target age group like baggy clothes? I want to look tasteful and polished but I want the clothes to fit my frame.
Janet Bennett Kelly: I feel your pain about sizing. I was just at the Gap searching for a pair of pants and found that a size 2 was too large. Yikes, I'm not that thin, either. Then at a dept. store I tried on a pair of cropped pants from Ellen Tracy in size 4 that was also way too big. I think that the problem may be that people are getting bigger, and it is a vanity kind of thing. I don't know what size shoe you wear, but if you wear anything less than a 6, you're in deep trouble. The same goes for narrow widths. Almost nonexistent.
Unfortunately, it's the more expensive designer lines that cut things truer to size. Have you tried looking in vintage stores? You may have better luck with sizing and pricing there.
22101: Help! I'm petite (00P) and seem to only find clothes at Ann Taylor and Loft because other stores tend to have clothes that are too big or too long. I need to add some prints, variety to my wardrobe. Any suggestions?
Janet Bennett Kelly: Saks Fifth Avenue has a petite department, again, and the Eileen Fisher stores also carry petites. Although the latter doesn't offer prints, they do offer some pretty colors.
Washington, D.C.: There have been a ton of sales on summer items recently, but what's next is fall. What are the top items to look and shop for?
Suzanne D'Amato: Whereas spring was very much about loose, babydoll shapes and empire waists, this Fall's silhouettes are more structured. The waist is "back," so you'll see lots of corset belts and slimmer cuts on dresses.
In terms of palette, pattern and so on, there will be a lot of tartan, neon hues (more easily worn on accessories, I think) and shiny fabrics such as patent leather and the genuis crinkled pieces shown at Prada. The schoolboy blazer will be a big trend (thank you, Balenciaga), as will crafty knitwear (handmade-looking caps, scarves and so on).
What spring and fall have in common: a mostly-neutral palette (by which I mean: gray, gray, gray and gray) and a continued focus on the dress.
Maryland: Good morning -- I am a forty-seven-year-old working mom, like to look nice, but don't have tons of money. Two questions -- I'd love to see an article in the WP about style for women my age, and I'm also always searching for places to shop that carry stylish clothing that I can afford. Do you have any ideas of places I can go, I'm really tired of the mall and chain stores. Thanks so much for your help.
Janet Bennett Kelly: Hi, Maryland,
The problem recently for people over 30 has been the way clothes are cut -- low waists, blouses that make you look pregnant, baby doll dresses. I think that you're going to see a change this fall in fashion -- for the better. Have you ever been to Wear It Well in Bethesda? They carry stylish clothes that are pretty affordable and not cut for teenagers only.
Washington, D.C.: I want to burn every single thing I own at this point, so I agree with you JBK. Vintage shopping is definitely the way to go. I've picked up some great stuff from Mercedes Bien in Adams Morgan, Listopad (they're new), Meeps and Annie Creamcheese. You'll always be wearing something unique that no one else has.
Janet Bennett Kelly: Thanks, D.C., and do tell -- where is Listopad?
Washington, D.C.: Folks, don't forget that a good tailor can be your friend!
Also, for the suit seeker, JC Penney has great suit sales. I got a few pant suits that were very reasonably priced. Of course, they were petite and still long (I'm 5-3, so not that short) and I had to have the pants shortened.
NY and Co. has decent work clothes and their sizes are pretty accurate.
Janet Bennett Kelly: Agreed, if you can find that good tailor. Thanks for the tip on NY and Co. and JC Penney.
Alexandria, Va.: As much as I dislike French tips manicures, I absolutely loathe the French tips pedicures. It makes no sense to me and it always looks ... off.
Additionally, where can one fine great dresses? I've had great luck at Filene's basement but was looking to branch out a bit.
Suzanne D'Amato: Re: nails, I agree (well, I suppose that's obvious!). There's a mod, pale nail polish trend right now that looks nice if you're not as pasty white as I am. Classic red almost always looks right. My favorite is short, unvarnished nails, buffed to a gleam.
As for dresses -- a bit more information would help me answer your question. Are you looking for wrap styles? Minidresses? Evening dresses? Any price range to keep in mind?
Washington, D.C.: I am definitely sick of my summer clothes. What's worse is that I've done very litte shopping this summer, so I'm really sick of clothes from many summers past.
So, on to fall. What are some key pieces that I should be looking for?
Janet Bennett Kelly: Hi, there,
I'm really looking forward to fall for a new look. You're going to see a lot more pants in stores than you did this spring, so that's one thing you should definitely put on your shopping list. The change is that the waist has gone much higher and the look is lean. Skinny jeans are nowhere near as popular as last season. Look for a belt for those high-waisted pants and a feminine-looking shirt (Libertine at Target, e.g.), and you're on your way to a fall wardrobe. Also, peek into Barneys Co-op.
Question: What is your "summer fashion and beauty guide?" Is it in the Post print edition?
Suzanne D'Amato: This is a great package that Janet put together. It includes stories on everything from summer stripes to cool jewels to the chicest beach towels under the sun. There's also a great "best of beauty" package with recommendations on tested-and-approved sunscreens, hair products, and more.
Link to follow shortly...
Washington, D.C.: Random question --
I'm trying to find black capris -- not the bermuda shorts I keep seeing around. I'd like to spend $60 or less and have not had any luck at Macy's or H and M. Do you have any other suggestions of places I can try?
Janet Bennett Kelly: I just saw some black capris at the Gap yesterday. I would guess that Banana carries them as well.
Downtown D.C.: I'm considering switching jobs. But my current office is business casual, and my prospective new office is very formal. Nobody seems to wear anything colorful or interesting. Just black pantsuits with a gray shell underneath. Ugh.
I tend toward a more bohemian, with a creative look. How could I dress appropriately for this office without going crazy with boredom?
Suzanne D'Amato: You don't need to reinvent the wheel, but it does sound as though it'd be good for you to invest in a few new pieces. I'd suggest a pantsuit (sorry) -- but go for one with a trendy cropped jacket and a skinny pant -- or whatever less-conservative details suit your style. Anything other than the padded-shoulder 1980s version!
Accessories are also a good way to spiff up an otherwise-boring ensemble. So maybe you choose a medium-high platform pump in of-the-moment patent to wear with the pantsuits. Or a chunky, funky necklace with that gray shell. You get the idea...
washingtonpost.com: Summer Fashion and Beauty Guide
Washington, D.C.: It's hard to be tired of summer clothes when your office is too cold to wear them! I'm freezing all the time here, so today am wearing pants, a button-down shirt, and a cardigan.
Janet Bennett Kelly: Overairconditioned offices are indeed a hazard. I regret it when I forget a sweater.
Reston, Va.: Good morning, ladies! I bought a pale, lemony yellow A-line skirt early in the season. It is super cute but I haven't been able to figure out what top to wear with it. White seams to wash it out, but I don't know what other color would work. Any suggestions?
Janet Bennett Kelly: I love pale lemon, and I think your skirt would looks smashing with a navy top or something in pale blue.
Ready for my Close-up?: Ladies.
I'm going to be featured in a local magazine for an article that praises my personal style. I've never posed for a picture such as this and need advice: hair, makeup, wardrobe, posing tips? I do know that the picture needs to translate as "fashionable woman" more than anything else. Help, I need your tips!
Suzanne D'Amato: What a fun question! Since the story is about you and your personal style, you're obviously doing something right already. That said, as someone who oversees "real people" features every week in TrendSpotter, I offer the following tips:
-- Wear something colorful with a shape that's more structured than blousy. You don't have to don a red dress if that's not you, but know that all-black or all-white ensembles doesn't tend to shoot that well.
-- Don't overaccessorize; one or two great pieces of jewelry is plenty.
-- Go light on the makeup, but do wear some so you don't appear totally washed-out.
-- Try to be photographed outdoors in natural light, if possible
-- Smile! (And practice good posture.)
Washington, D.C.: I'm beginning to notice a lot more colors on men, as I see avocado, tangerine and teal shirts on the subway. Trend?
Suzanne D'Amato: I hope so. Men look great in color, and if you go to a higher-priced store such as Barneys, or a knockoff shop for the more fashion-forward (such as H&M), you will see bright orange polos, lime green knits and the like. But I think that, even at these spots, there will always be a plethora of navy sweaters and khaki pants for the men who don't want to go there (which in D.C. appears to be the vast majority).
Washington, D.C.: I'm a fan of the head wrap trend that seems to be going around, like the one shown on Prada's runway or the simple turban-esque ones that seem to be more mainstreamed. What do you think about this? Is it wearable at all?
Janet Bennett Kelly: I'm going to hedge and say that depends where you intend to wear it. I certainly don't think it would work in most offices. When you say simple turban-esque, do you mean something that looks more like a big headband? If so, I think that look is much more wearable everywhere.
Philadelphia, Pa.: Toe rings. In or out?
Suzanne D'Amato: This question made me laugh so hard I almost spit out my coffee! So thanks for that.
Um, were toe rings ever actually "in"?
Washington, D.C.: I will be traveling this fall to Argentina for two weeks, and I was wondering if you could recommend stores to find great travel-friendly clothes. Due to air travel restrictions, I need to be able to pack as lightly as possible (less than 30 lbs), so mix and matching, wrinkle-resistant and quick-drying clothes (so I can wash at night and wear the next morning) are imperative. I'm looking for pants, a few tops, and a dress that I can "dress up" if I need to go to a nice restaurant. To make matters more complicated, I am fairly tall and need at least a 33" inseam, so finding pants long enough has been a challenge.
Any suggestions? A lot of the "travel" clothing out there is rather, um, matronly.
Janet Bennett Kelly: Lucky you. In the dress department, look for something in a jersey fabric, which is the most manageable when you're on the road. I've seen some dresses by Vince that could work. I don't know what the weather is like in Argentina in the fall, but could you possibly wear denim pants or skirt They're not washable, but they don't get dirty quickly and they go with everything.
Washington, D.C.: I generally find the fashion shots to be either hysterically funny or insanely puzzling -- do the designers actually expect women to actually put those items on their very own personal bodies? And wear them in PUBLIC? I was therefore extremely surprised (and pleased) to see the gray-black and red dress in Sunday's paper; I thought it looked sharp! I also liked the hat; being slightly off-center emphasized how sharp and stylish it was.
Then I saw the red thumbs on the gray over-the-elbow gloves.
Since you look at this sort of stuff all the time, do you find yourself becoming numb to it? Or does it tickle your funnybone -- or your sense of outrage? Or does it all just blur together?
Suzanne D'Amato: Many high-fashion designers show (or attempt to show) an artistic "vision" with these runway presentations -- and over-the-top styling, occasionally crazy hair/makeup, not-for-the-real-world accessories, music, set design, and so on, are all part of achieving that end. Underneath all those layers you have one wildly wearable sheath dress, but for some viewers it can be hard to get past the smoke and mirrors.
That said, I loved those gloves. And I hated the hat!
Shop in Vienna, Va., highlighted in the Post: Help!
There was a clothing shop on Church Street in Vienna, Va., that was the subject of a mini-article in the Sunday Source. I can't remember the name of it and I can't find the article. Could you help a girl out?
Suzanne D'Amato: You may be thinking of My Sister's Closet, a boutique in Vienna that sells, as our Sunday Source story noted, "an eclectic mix of designer jeans, dressy tees, spaghetti-strap sheaths and wear-to-work jackets, all cheek-to-jowl with sweet baby accessories and costume jewelry by Virginia artisans."
Here's the store's info:
111 Church St., Suite 203, Vienna, 703-255-4760.
Reston, Va.: Hi!
Last year I bought an Indian dress (not a Sari, but colorful with beautiful decorations on it -- mostly the hem and collar line) in Venice. I dearly wish I had bought ten of varying colors -- I cannot count the number of compliments I have received when I wear this dress. It is literally every single time I wear it and from all sorts of people -- men included! I have never had this much attention from complete strangers.
Would you recommend any place, online included, where I might find Indian-inspired clothing?
Janet Bennett Kelly: Hi, Reston,
Why don't you take a look at the Textile Museum shop? Although I can't really specify whether they're Indian or not, the store carries lots of shawls and scarves in beautiful colors and fabrics that are very appealing and will definitely get compliments.
Worse than toe rings ... : Ankle bracelets under hose. Bleh.
Suzanne D'Amato: Too true. Thanks for your take!
Bored with Summer Clothes!: I was terribly bored with my summer work clothes and all my black and brown suits were making me sweat just looking at them. So I went to Coldwater Creek's Web site (the clearance part) and got GREAT deals on a couple new, summer, colorful jackets. They have really great, original jackets, which are not right for a super traditional workplace, but are great for my office (a government agency). Anyway, just a tip ... towards the middle-to-end of the season (I did the same thing last winter), they always have great deals! (like a $120 jacket for $19!)
Janet Bennett Kelly: Thanks for the tip. A jolt of color can really change things up and lift your spirits.
Washington, D.C.: Please help! I bought a Coach purse that has an off-white shoulder strap, and a beige background with ... tan Cs (I guess). I don't know what to wear it with, or during which season to wear it. (I'm thinking I should take it back, because clearly I'm not a designer label kind of girl.)
Suzanne D'Amato: It sounds like more of a summer item to me, given the white shoulder strap? Maybe good with printed tanks, strappy dresses, etc. in pale, summery hues?
That said, summer is on its way out, so if you're having doubts I'd definitely return it. (Or at least exchange it for a bag in a more seasonless color combination.)
Annapolis, Md.: Are headbands appropriate at work? I wear cloth-covered wrap headbands, as well as scarves that I thinly fold, but sometimes feel as though they are too casual for a financial instituition. Any thoughts?
Janet Bennett Kelly: Hmmm. Remember Hillary Clinton in the days she was first campaigning with her husband? I don't think a neat-looking headband is too casual looking.
Washington, D.C.: I recently found a great BCBG silk shirt dress that has a simple tie at the waist. It's fairly structured and in a monotone slate grey. Is this office appropriate or does the silk negate that?
Suzanne D'Amato: It sounds viable for work to me, as long as the silk isn't too shiny. I'd choose matte accessories if you're worried, but BCBG makes a number of items that are appropriate for the office, so I'm guessing you're fine.
Washington, D.C.: I just moved here from Atlanta. Down south there were a few shops that would buy back in-season and lightly worn clothes for cash on the spot. Is there anywhere around here where I can do that?
Janet Bennett Kelly: I really don't know about the cash-on-the-spot part of the equation. But have you tried Secondi or Alex or Inge's Once Is Not Enough, all in D.C.?
Help for Traveling to Argentina: For the traveler to Argentina ... check out the Travel Smith catalog and website ... their stuff is just what you describe as your needs.
Janet Bennett Kelly: Travel Smith offerings are on the conservative side, but you can always jazz them up with some fun costume jewelry and shoes.
Things always too short: All these complaints about things being too long are a bit funny to me. Things seem to be sized for a 5'7" woman and petite things for even shorter women. Plus, if it is too long it can be shortened! I'm 5'9" and have a horrible time finding pants, sleeves that are long enough.
Suzanne D'Amato: It all speaks to the flaws in the women's sizing system. 6, 8, 10, 12 and so on don't do much to account for people's vast differences in height, proportion, and so on. The best most women can do is to find a brand that caters to them and stick with it, which doesn't allow for much in the way of experimentation.
Best Second Hand: Hi,
What have you found to be the best second-hand stores in the area? I love Secondi and Meeps. Are there others worth looking at.
I don't like Annie Cheesecake.
Suzanne D'Amato: I myself like Annie Creamcheese -- it's expensive, but they have some really lovely, high-quality items. Georgia Avenue Thrift and Mustard Seed are also worth checking out. And I've heard good things about The Remix, which recently relocated from VA to Capitol Hill.
Glover Park, Washington, D.C.: I have a small fashion crisis ... I am attending a wedding in late August outside of Boston that I just found out was black tie optional. I was planning on wearing a silk wrap dress that I got at Anthropologie a couple years ago, but now it doesn't seem dressy enough. I've been looking for something, but many stores are beginning to only carry fall clothes. The summer dresses that are on sale are picked over and too short (I want something at least knee length). I've done the boutiques in Georgetown and Nordstrom, but I haven't found anything that isn't super short. Any other suggestions?
Janet Bennett Kelly: You're right, summer stuff is very much on the way out, and the dress selection is on the thin side. However, since the wedding is in late August and in Boston, instead of looking for something strictly summer, I'd look for something that you could also wear in the fall. Something in crepe maybe??
For Reston, ISO Indian dresses: There are many ethnic fabric shops in Langley Park, Md., at the intersection of New Hampshire Ave and University Blvd. Some of them are Indian and many do tailoring and custom work. I'm sure that you could take your dress in and get something similar made.
A few store names I can remember offhand are India Sari Palace, Anna Fabrics, Lily Fabrics and Vina Fabrics. Just google/yahoo addresses for those and you'll find other shops in the same strip malls.
Janet Bennett Kelly: For the Reston reader in search of saris/Indian clothing, here are some more local suggestions.
New York, N.Y.: Plus-sized women's suits. High quality. Sophisticated. Not frumpy. I'm only 28! Please help!
Janet Bennett Kelly: Marina Rinaldi is one manufacturer I'd check out.
Crofton, Md.: I like the idea of the open-toed flat for summer, but when I try them on I look ridiculous. Any sugguestions of brands, or store locations for this style?
Janet Bennett Kelly: I've seen some at Macy's in the past. Also, try Nine West. They have a good selection.
Pet Peeve: I really like and appreciate your fashion and style coverage, but I have one pet peeve, which is not limited to the two of you but to fashion writing in general. So often, fashion advice consists of "Just throw on a great top with Seven jeans," or "Wear a structured dress with some great jewelry" or "All you need are a great pair of shoes." First of all, "great" doesn't TELL me anything about what these pieces should look like! Should the jewelry be chunky or slim? Turquoise or amethyst? Gold or silver? Earrings or necklace? Second, aren't there other adjectives besides "great" that you can employ?
Those of us who need actual help in the fashion arena would appreciate more specific guidance!
Suzanne D'Amato: Thanks for writing in. You're right that "great" is terribly unspecific. But I think that part of the issue is that what looks "great" on me and what looks "great" on you are probably two different things entirely. Which is, in itself, great: Fashion isn't about assembling a wardrobe out of trendy "must-haves" and following some rule book dreamed up by an editor. It's about trying new things (and old things, if you like vintage), figuring out what works for your body/lifestyle/budget, and from there determining which trends to partake in and which to leave on the rack.
Which is why, to my mind, the best advice isn't overly prescriptive ("skinny belt + high waisted skirt = great"). But you're point is still well-taken: I'll work on mixing up my adjectives a bit more!
The second time around: Is it my imagination or do all of the clothes at Urban Outfitters look like my senior year homeroom in 1984? I saw short ankle boots, leggings, skinny pants, off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, etc! Are shoulder pads next? I thought I was Belinda Carlisle for a minute!
Janet Bennett Kelly: I make it a practice not to throw things out because in fashion everything old comes around to being new again. Leggings have come back, although I'm not a big fan, and I'm not sure they're a keeper even if you saw them at Urban Outfitters. And skinny pants are not as popular as they were last year. But yes, short ankle boots are back and may stay. Did you see Keira Knightley wearing Frye boots in Vogue last month? Shoulders are back, if not shoulder pads.
Toe rings: In at the beach, out at the office!
Suzanne D'Amato: Another chatter's take. I did spot a couple at Rehoboth this past weekend...
Bethesda, Md.: Are there any consignment stores that offer professional clothes at reasonable prices? Most the ones I've found sell $300 suits for $175 ... I'm looking to spend $30-$50 on a suit ...
Janet Bennett Kelly: Have you tried Meeps in the U Street area or Mustard Seed in Bethesda?
Suzanne D'Amato: Thanks so much for joining us today -- I hope you had as much fun as we did. We'll see you again in about a month.
If you'd like to chat in the interim, please join my discussion group, TrendSpotter & Co., at washingtonpost.com/trendspotter. It's a place to talk about anything and everything related to shopping and style: which stores have the best service, which fall trends have staying power, which celeb's style is over and out, and so on. You know, all the good stuff. I'll be the one without a toe ring.
washingtonpost.com: Trend Spotter
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.