Tuesday, Nov. 13, 11 a.m. ET

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Suzanne D'Amato and Janet Bennett Kelly
Deputy Editor, Sunday Source, Fashion and Beauty Editor, washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, November 13, 2007; 11:00 AM

Deputy Editor of the Sunday Source, Suzanne D'Amato, and washingtonpost.com Fashion and Beauty Editor, Janet Bennett Kelly, answered your fashion-related questions, Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 11 a.m. ET.

A transcript follows.

Suzanne D'Amato and Janet Bennett Kelly, talked about wardrobe questions for summer, Tuesday, July 24, at 11 a.m. ET.

A transcript follows.

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20037: Help! I'm two months into my first job where I have to wear a suit every single day. What kinds of tops can I wear underneath my jacket that don't require dry cleaning and aren't button-downs? I've been wearing shells, but now that the weather is getting colder, I need sleeves.

janet bennett kelly: Last time I was at J. Crew I noticed that they had a bunch of long-sleeve, lightweight "tissue tees." They come in tons of colors and get this -- they're washable. Because they're not inexpensive, I'd look for the same sort of thing at H&M and Zara.

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suzanne d'amato: Good morning, everyone. It's dreary outside today, no? For me, rainy mornings tend to come with their own set of fashion conundrums: Tights or jeans? Should I bother with a blowout? Well, I decided to wear some old leather boots (and tights)...not a good call. My toes are soaked.
What about you? How did you dress to weather the, er, weather?

And though it's rainy outside, many local stores are already a sea of skimpy gold sheaths and sequinned sweaters. Yes, it's holiday party time (well, almost). What are you going to wear to this year's fetes? Send us your tips and questions.

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New Jersey: My clothing goals are ambitious: to have people say "she always looks nice"; to have people feel at ease around me (i.e. not assaulted by a disturbing look or overt sexual dressing); and to dress so as to give myself multiple options for the day.

Do you know of any forums where this kind of dressing is discussed? Most fashion forums have different goals.

suzanne d'amato: I can't say that I think this forum has any one goal -- other than answering as many questions as possible, in a manner that's both informative and entertaining. (Well, we try). Janet and I haven't exactly worked up the ol' mission statement quite yet.
But I think what you want is what a lot of women are seeking to get from their wardrobes -- to dress in a way that makes them feel polished and confident, with pieces that are versatile enough to work for any number of occassions. But because those adjectives can mean so many different things to different women (depending on budget, age, lifestyle, body type and so on) -- that's why people write in to us!
That in mind -- if you have a more specific question, send it our way.

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Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: I bought a coat last year from Banana Republic and I really like it. However, I seem to have lost the belt that goes with it. I've contacted customer service and they say there are no replacements nor can I simply buy a similar sash (since these are not for sale apart from the coat). Any suggestions on where I could get a fabric belt/sash for a black coat or where I could have one made? Thanks!

janet bennett kelly: From the woman who tends to lose one earring or ruin the handle on her handbag, I understand. If I were you, I'd make a trip to G Street Fabrics for some material that you like that would go with your coat and then take it to a dressmaker. It shouldn't be too difficult a job. Good luck on it.

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Washington, D.C.: I am going to a wedding to meet my boyfriend's parents (and all his friends/family) for the first time, and am a loss of what to wear! Any good ideas?

janet bennett kelly: I know what you're feeling, but remember to keep in mind that they're interested in you, not your clothes. That said, what time is the wedding and where is it? Is it black tie? Need some information here to offer any suggestions.

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Washington, D.C.: Last week (or whenever the last chat was), someone wrote in asking about shoes that started showing what looked like cardboard on the soles. I've had the exact same problem, and it's not with my more inexpensive shoes. In fact, it's with my high-end heels -- the ones that acutally use real leather on the soles. The leather just wears away after a few wearings.

Any thoughts on where (or how) this can be fixed?

janet bennett kelly: I responded to the question by last week's chatter by saying that they should take the shoes back to where they bought them. Especially, if they're high-end heels, the leather should not wear away after only a few times. I hope you still have your receipt, but even if you don't, the store should stand behind their merchandise.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm a 20-something professional who needs quality clothes at an affordable price. Are there particular stores I should be visiting?

suzanne d'amato: I'd suggest steering clear of spots such as H&M and Zara -- tempting as they are, that stuff just doesn't last, and what you want is a wardrobe of high-quality staples. Instead, consider shopping the sales racks at places such as Urban Chic, Sugar, Circle Boutique and All About Jane. Fashion has become increasingly seasonless, and the weather here increasingly wacky (thank you, global warming!). If you plan it right and look for items with sleeves and an unsummery palette, you can wear the off-season stuff right into February (topped with a warm coat, of course).

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Herndon, Va.: I have to say that when it comes to holiday parties, I always prefer simple clothes with bold jewelry. Rather than a loud dress, I think a simple black dress can be used over and over, but with different jewelry -- like silver, gold and pearls -- shoes, hose and boots.

janet bennett kelly: Thanks, Herndon, I think changing accessories to make a dress look different is an excellent idea, especially if you have several parties to go to. Plus, it's fun to figure out how you're going to change the look. Bravo.

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Bethesda, Md.: I have very thin calves and legs, and I am looking for a pair of boots that will fit snugly around my calves. Most leather boots that I have tried fit loosely and look awkward. What would you recommend?

janet bennett kelly: They can be expensive, but I've found that when I try on suede or faux suede boots, they tend to fit better around my thin calves.

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Washington: I need help! I am a fashion-clueless working twentysomething. I am fine with work clothes ... I have lots of nicely fitting dress pants and tailored shirts, etc. My problem is shoes. I know nothing about shoes and I have no idea what to wear to work that isn't heels! I find shoe stores/departments totatlly overwhelming. Where can I start? I don't like heels because I'm already tall and I spend my day running back and forth between two offices.

suzanne d'amato: I hate heels, so of course I love this question! I'll start off by saying that if you don't like a certain style of shoe/bag/dress/whatever, you shouldn't wear it, even if said style is the Look of the Season, all of your friends are doing it, so is Jessica Alba, blah blah blah. It just isn't worth the psychic pain.
Now, where to find new shoes? I know you say you don't like shoe departments, but I think you might do well to make an appointment with a personal shopper at a big department store such as Nordstrom, one with a lot of shoes at different price points. (Don't worry: This is a free service.) Tell them what you want over the phone -- to build a shoe wardrobe, as it were -- and give them your sizing and budget info. They'll pull a bunch of styles that you can try on in the calm of a private dressing room.

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Oakton, Va.: Suzanne and Janet: I found a great-fitting pair of Juicy Couture trouser jeans this past weekend. The fit/length/everything was perfect. The only thing that gave me pause was the $200-plus price tag. I know that the cost-per-wear probably would be low for jeans, but how long do you truly believe that the trouser-style jeans will be "in"? Would this be worth the cost (in your opinion) for one season for someone that does not have a huge budget for clothing? Thanks.

janet bennett kelly: I don't believe in buying clothes for a season, but that said, I think you can get much more use out of them than just one season. I also think that since it's never easy to find pants that fit perfectly, that when you do, you should go for it. They may be pricey, but if you feel and look good in them, in my book, the cost is worth it.

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Maryland: Hello Suzanne! Hi Janet! Love the chats. Suzanne, how do you choose the Trendspotter models? It's my favorite part of the Source along with the boutique owners, etc. I'm curious if it's friends and acquaintances that you use, or do you always carry a camera with you just in case you see someone worth noting? And will you ever put women in who are over 35?

suzanne d'amato: Good day to you, Maryland. And thanks for your kind words! The folks who are featured in our Street Style feature are definitely are NOT my friends or aquaintances -- not that they aren't all lovely people, I'm sure. But that would constitute an ethical issue for us.
The way we find them isn't terribly scientific -- basically, I and a photographer (the hard-working and intrepid Nate, most often) patrol the streets of an area with a lot of street traffic (Georgetown, any one of a number of local malls, the Howard University campus)and stop stylish strangers and ask to take their picture. They usually say yes, but not always -- we've gotten our share of rejections.
As for your comment about age -- we do feature people over the age of 35, but not frequently enough. Part of the problem is that we're often looking for people wearing new trends, and as people get older, they aren't typically seduced by bubble skirts/wedge booties/metallic corset belts in the way they once might have been. (This is a good thing, in my opinion, but it can be a problem when we're looking for ultra-trendy people to photograph).
The other problem -- and this is an actual one -- is that we simply don't go out nearly as often as we should. I'm to blame for that, I'm afraid -- we almost always shoot on the weekends, and sometimes I'd prefer to have my Saturdays to talk to my boyfriend, pet my cat and so on. But your point is very well-taken.

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Washington: Last year around this time everyone was wearing cropped pants with high boots. Is that look still in this year, or should I save my high boots for skirts?

suzanne d'amato: Save them for skirts, I beg you. This look made me want to tear out my hair last year, and it hasn't improved with age.

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Skirt length: I just turned 50, and although I am slim with good legs, I look my age. (Dang gray hair -- but my vanity is exceeded only by my laziness.) Lately I have started to feel that anything shorter than knee-grazing length doesn't look right on a middle-aged woman, regardless of whether she has the legs for it. What do you think?

janet bennett kelly: A mini skirt may be going too far and make you look like your daughter, but if you've got great legs, you certainly don't have to stick to knee-length, especially in winter when you're wearing tights. Show a little leg and don't get caught up in the numbers game.

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Washington: I have a gorgeous silk skirt my mother sent me -- black with large creamy (almost butter-colored) flowers on it. What should I wear for a top? The skirt has a bow at the waist, so all these wrap tops look bad, and I haven't been able to find the right shade of white for a top.

suzanne d'amato: I wonder if you might consider a whisper-thin cashmere or wool sweater -- like a crewneck with a cap sleeve, or even a very lightweight turtleneck? The matte texture would offset the silk nicely, and you could tuck it in at the waist so as to really highlight your skirt's bow.
Colorwise, I don't think you need to go for a perfect match if it isn't working -- all sorts of colors work with black and cream. You could try a richer shade of cream, or burgundy, or even a subtly metallic thread -- bronze, maybe? Then look for accessories that complement -- shoes, a dramatic bracelet, or what have you.

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Washington: I wrote in about the missing belt on my coat. Any suggestions on a dressmaker? It's not a service I've yet had to use in Washington.

janet bennett kelly: Neighborhood cleaners often offer seamstress services. You can try that. Alternatively, there's Parkway Cleaners on Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase that does a lot of tailoring. Ask around.

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Washington: Re: Holiday party dressing -- I have a great pair of tall bronze satin wedge shoes with an open toe. Are satin shoes still in style? Would these be appropriate for evening parties and receptions? I love them so.

janet bennett kelly: Satin shoes are definitely in and I love that they're bronze because they can go with a variety of colors. And, yes, they're definitely appropriate for evening parties. Suzanne?

suzanne d'amato: Bronze is a great (and to my mind, underused) color option -- lovely with black or chocolate brown; surprising yet elegant with grey or plum. And satin shoes are a big trend this fall -- though many stores are stocking them in candy pink, bright turquoise, and so on, your shoes sound far more wearable to me.

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New Baltimore Professional: Hi and thanks for your help. I'd like to purchase nice, classy pair of business shoes (I'm a guy). The majority of shoes I saw while walking through the mall yesterday seemed casual. What styles tend to last the test of time? What should I be looking for? I don't mind spending extra money on a quality pair of shoes (or two) but I don't want to have to replace the entire shoe. Do most high-quality shoes come with replaceable soles? Thanks for all your help.

janet bennett kelly: Brooks Brothers sells high-quality, dressy and casual men's shoes, and I think that you can also bring them in when they need repairs.

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Maryland: What are the rules for tights? Let's say I am wearing black tights--can I wear any color shoes? Should I buy multiple colors of tights to wear with my black skirt? I like the look, but am having some issues working it.

suzanne d'amato: Rules, shmules. I think you need to think about tights and shoes as a great combo that is but one part of your overall outfit. So, black tights and purple shoes (for example) could work wonderfully, but you need to think about balance. If the rest of your outfit is all black, the shoes could look like a mistake. (And if the rest of your outfit is all purple, you'll look like Barney.) So maybe the answer in that instance is that you have a printed purple top (that also incorporates other colors) and a black skirt so your lower half has a long, lean line.
As for colorful tights -- I know they're everywhere in stores, but I'm not going there, personally. Chatters, what do you think?

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Washington: What advice can you give a person, like myself, who avoids wearing skirts and dresses because the calves are too small. Can you also include what type of shoes would be appropriate to wear with the dresses and skirts?

janet bennett kelly: Wear a heel with those dresses and skirts you avoid -- it can do wonders for the look of your legs.

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New Year's Question: So, this year, I decided to branch out for New Year's and not buy a plain black dress. I found one at Nordstroms, on sale, and decided to buy it immediately. The thing is, the dress has a print on it (a Nicole Miller-esque kind of print). People had said that prints weren't good New Year's Eve dresses. Is that true? I don't want to buy another black dress!

suzanne d'amato: People? Who are these people? People who don't like prints shouldn't be allowed to live. Well, something like that.

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Tights: Please forgive this ignorant question, but what color are tights supposed to be? Is it best to match tights and skirt color? (I'm thinking of knee length or mid-thigh skirts.)

janet bennett kelly: Tights don't have to be any one color or pattern, for that matter, and you don't need to match your tights with your skirt color. If you have a plainish skirt, you can kick up the look with a pair of textured colored tights. On the other hand, if your skirt is busy, you may want to tone down the tights.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I just returned from London where I got some great fashion finds. One is a navy silk 40s-style shirt (satiny) with tiny white dots -- what on earth would you suggest I wear it with?!

suzanne d'amato: I think it'd look great with a pencil or A-line skirt (depending on what shape you feel you look your best in) in rich felted wool. J. Crew is not my favorite place to shop, but their Web site does have a "Felted Wool Schoolgirl Skirt" that could work well here. It's an A-line style with an inverted pleat, and it has a high waistband with 5 tiny side buttons -- almost nautically-inspired, but not at all costumey. And it's on sale! Happy hunting.

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Richmond, Va.: I, too, have had the leather wear off the soles of multiple pairs of my shoes -- including a pair of Marc Jacobs pumps, aargh. On some pairs, it happened only after wearing them a few times; on others, it seemed to happen almost right away. Is this something that a good cobbler could fix?

janet bennett kelly: Yes, a shoemaker/cobbler should be able to fix or replace the soles of your shoes. Sometimes they do half-soles, which means they only replace the top half, the part that I find seems to go first on all my shoes, especially the ones with the pointed toes.

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Lately I have started to feel that anything shorter than knee-grazing length doesn't look right on a middle-aged woman: I'm 46, doing OK as far as fit legs, but I have to say that seeing the knees at a certain age always looks wrong, just wrong. You can still look good and stylish without the knees. Part of beauty for a woman "of a certain" age is being okay with the changes and not pushing the limits on styles and fads, age and body approporitness.

suzanne d'amato: I couldn't agree more about choosing what works for you, independent of fads. And I would go so far as to say knee-length is one cut that works well on women of any age.

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Washington: I know last season footless tights and leggings were very trendy (and practical too in cold weather!). Are they still in for this season? I've seen a lot of them in stores but not out on the streets as much this fall.

janet bennett kelly: They were big at the start of last season, but, like you, I haven't seen many people wearing them lately. I think it was one of those trends that most people decided against wearing. Leggings are not a particularly flattering look except if you happen to be a ballet dancer.

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Re: Slim calves: I have found the customer reviews on Zappos very helpful in finding boots with slimmer calves (I have the same problem). And you can exchange to your heart's content for free! Personally, I found that Camper boots are slimmer in the calf, but the style is very unique and probably not for everyone (and a bit pricy).

janet bennett kelly: Glad that you have found Zappos to be a help. And for the person in search of boots that will fit slim calves, take note of this chatter's experience.

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Arlington, Va. What shoes go with a cornflower blue satin dress? lack and silver seems boring. Would bright orange or red go?

janet bennett kelly: Personally, I wouldn't wear red or orange shoes with a cornflower blue satin dress. With red, you risk looking like a flag; with orange, well, just no. Silver may sound boring to you, but I think it sounds just right.

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Richmond, Va.: Good morning, ladies. So, I just bought a pair of really wide-legged trousers, a lovely tan pair by Beth Bowley, and I don't know what kind of shoes to pair them with. Are pointy-toe pumps or (equally pointy) boots too delicate? I tried round-toe Mary Janes, but they don't look quite right -- they make my legs look stumpy, peeping out from under all that fabric. And I don't like those new high-heeled lace-up oxfords. So what's a girl to do?

suzanne d'amato: Pointy toes peeking out from wide-leg trousers can look fine, but I'd encourage you to reconsider the round-toe idea. The trick is to choose round-toes with a bit of -- how to put this? -- clunk. Look for chunky stacked heels, platform soles or topstitching, and fabrics with texture and heft, such as wool or suede. You need a shoe with some substance so it doesn't just disppear. I doubt they'll make your legs look stumpy -- the wide-leg look is quite lengthening as it is.

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Omaha Holiday: I like to spin the "little black dress" scenario and wear separates (slacks/shirt and blouse). One piece is black/dark and then the other is more colorful. I did a pearly-gold silk blouse last year with black slacks. It was adult without being depressing. And I love the idea about bold accessories, I might give that a try this year.

suzanne d'amato: Yes, this is a great way to go, and it doesn't require investing in a new wardrobe just to get through a couple of holiday parties. Both of the items you mentioned can be worn the rest of the year, too.

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Washington: Love the chats, and thanks for taking my question. I can't remember where,but I read recently that you should only wear boots with skirts that cover them somewhat at the top, so as not to "break the line." What are your thoughts on this? If I'm wearing tights, is it ever okayo wear a skirt that might be right at my knees or a tiny bit above with boots?

suzanne d'amato: Yes, it's okay. I'd just suggest that your skirt either completely cover the top of your boots, or end a couple of inches above them, so the combination looks intentional.

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Tights: No colored tights, please. We aren't toddlers or at a costume party here.

suzanne d'amato: But don't you sometimes wish you could be, just for a day?
Thanks for your take.

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Shoes: I'm looking for a pair of loafers. They need to have pretty significant support (anything less padded than tennis shoes gives me back pain) and I'd like them to be fairly attractive (e.g. not look like orthopedic grandma shoes). Any suggestions? Also, I just relocated to an area that gets a lot of tough winter weather (lots of snow, sleet, and frozen parking lots). Do you ladies have any suggestions for reliable winter boots? The "pretty boots" I had for D.C. are just not going to cut it. Thanks!

janet bennett kelly: Frankly, I have not seen any loafers with a lot of support that don't look orthopedic. The one exception could be something from Cole Haan. They're now making shoes with Nike air soles, so should be comfy and offer support. On the boots for tough winter weather, I love my Uggs. They're fabulously warm and I've been wearing them for several years now. There are lots of varieties of Uggs, not only the ones teens wear with minis. There are styles that I've seen recently with laces and fur, which would work well in your new cold location.

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Washington: You mentioned All About Jane, but I thought they went out of business?

janet bennett kelly: There's still an All About Jane in Clarendon.

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Washington: I also don't like to wear heels. I've been wearing flats all spring and summer, but now that winter is fast approaching, what do you suggest I wear? Suzanne: What style skirt do you wear, given that you don't wear heels either?

suzanne d'amato: A-line knee-length skirts, or miniskirts. You can go a bit shorter with your skirts if you wear flat shoes. Never a pencil skirt -- those require heels, I think.

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Print dress on New Year's: Go for it! You will stand out from the sea of plain black dresses.

suzanne d'amato: Thanks for chiming in here. Prints rule.

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I bought a coat last year from Banana Republic and I really like it. However, I seem to have lost the belt that goes with it.: You'll never match it; it'll always look off for a high price. I'd admit I can't match it and buy a plaid sash from the accessories department at Macy's for a good price.

janet bennett kelly: Here's a possibility for the person in search of a sash for her Banana Republic coat.

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janet bennett kelly: Thanks for joining us on this misty Tuesday and asking us all those good questions. We'll be back on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, so we wish you all a happy one and successful shopping, too. P.S. Read Suzanne's column this Sunday on Black Friday and keep your eye out for fashion advice in our upcoming Holiday Guide.

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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.


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