Talking Fashion: Are Uggs 'ugh' and can we just ban flip flops?

Janet Bennett Kelly and Holly Thomas
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 13, 2009; 11:00 AM

Janet Bennett Kelly and Holly Thomas discuss fashion trends and answer questions on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 11 a.m. ET.

You can also find previous Talking Fashion Live Q&As here.


Holly Thomas: Good morning and welcome to Talking Fashion! Janet Bennett Kelly is feeling under the weather today, so I'll be taking your questions and tips about fall fashion, new beauty buys, you name it. As ever, we've got goodies for you -- two holiday lip glosses from Estee Lauder and two sets of Go Smile Touch Up smile-perfecting ampoules.


Washington DC: I have about a 20 minute walk to work every morning. In the summer I'd wear flip flops then change into nicer work shoes just before I reached the office. But it's getting cold!

What would you suggest wearing on long walks in the winter? With an emphasis on comfort (even ballet flats start to hurt after a little while). I was thinking Uggs, but are those played out? I so don't want to look like the '80s women in sneakers! Thanks.

Holly Thomas: As everyone probably knows by now, I firmly believe that Uggs should be a last resort -- or better yet, reserved for the ski resort. What about a simple, inexpensive flat boot for your walk to work? I picked up a pair of suede Dr. Scholl's slouch boots from DSW a year ago and they're great for long walks -- plus they don't detract from all the thought you put into a great outfit. Otherwise I'd suggest investing in a good-quality pair of simple flats -- the Cole Haan +Nike Air line has gotten some rave reviews.


Winter coats: Time for a new winter coat. I just bought a long, cashmere coat with a portrait collar in camel. I'm a blue-eyed blonde with fair skin. Did I get the right color? (It was available in camel, black, charcoal, brown, and red.) I'm just so tired of black...

So glad you are doing the chats weekly now--they are the highlight of my Tuesday!

Holly Thomas: I think camel is a great choice with your skin and hair color -- just be sure to sweep on a bit of blush in the dead of winter, when the days are really dreary and gray. Your portrait-collar version sounds lovely -- glad you're enjoying the chats!


Ann Arbor, Mich.: Any suggestions for catalogs or internet places as to where I can find really high quality wool sweaters (e.g., merino, cashmere, boiled wool)? I'm looking for classic styles that I can wear for many years. I've looked through the usual suspects (e.g., Lands' End, J Crew, Banana, Bean, Ann Taylor, Talbots) and I'm wondering if there are other brands or places that I should check out.

Holly Thomas: You might try Boden (, which has some really cute cashmere-blend knit jackets and cardigans. The J. Jill website also has a good selection of classic pieces in Italian merino and cashmere. Chatters, any other suggestions?


Columbus, Ohio: Can you recommend one "must have" functional piece for the 40-something market?

Holly Thomas: My vote? A sharp, nicely-tailored blazer in black or charcoal gray. It pairs just as well with a classic white button-down and a pair of dark, straight-leg jeans as it does with a classic sheath dress for work. Plus, you can find them at almost any price point, from H&M to Neiman Marcus. Chatters, any other must-haves?


Fairfax, Va.: For the fall and winter, is it proper to wear a necklace over a turtleneck?

Holly Thomas: I think a simple pendant or a strand of chunky beads can look very chic over a turtleneck -- the secret is to choose a long necklace and wear it on the outside of your shirt, around the base of the collar.


College Park, Md,: I'm getting ready for an interview next week and I'm desperately searching for a new black blazer to throw over a gray shift dress. I'm running into some issues though as many of the jackets I'm finding make me look like I'm playing dress up! For a petite (5-2) college student, what shopping recommendations do you have?

Holly Thomas: You might try the revamped options from Ann Taylor -- Lisa Axelson, formerly of Club Monaco, has taken over the design reigns and the fall lineup is decidedly modern and super-chic. For a college budget, H&M or Zara might have some affordable options -- look for a cropped, ultra-fitted style to flatter your petite frame. See more of Ann Taylor's new look in this piece from last week's Express ...

_______________________ Express Night Out

Holly Thomas: The Express piece on Ann Taylor, et al ...


McLean, VA: I'd like to 2nd your comment about Nike Air flat shoes. I bought the Juliette version last year...a quilted ballet flat. They are as comfortable as slippers....I notice on that they are on sale on the Cole Haan website.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the tip -- on sale is always good!


Walking Shoes: In addition to the Cole Haan line, I would suggest Puma flats for walking. They are similar to ballet flats, but with the same support that is part of Puma sneakers. Nordstrom has them, but I've also seen them at DSW.

Holly Thomas: A recommendation for Puma's comfy flats for walking to work...


State College, PA: For chatter looking for cashmere sweaters: try the Garnet Hill website. Lots of choices in great fall colors.

Holly Thomas: For the chatter looking for good-quality sweaters, a vote for Garnet Hill.


Washington, DC: I have an amazing vintage dress that needs to be cleaned. Is there a dry cleaner in this area (metro-accessible preferred, but I'm willing to go anywhere for this dress) that specializes in vintage/delicate fabrics?

Holly Thomas: Parkway Cleaners in Chevy Chase gets very high marks in our chats, and I know several people who take their nicer pieces there. Chatters, any other votes for good dry cleaners?


Boston: I recently purchased a pair of snug-fitting, pull-on, knee-high boots to wear with skirts and dresses. I note many women wear them without hose. If so, what kind of socks are worn under the boot? Knee socks would show at the top of the boot, and I'm afraid short socks will bunch up in the boot, becoming uncomfortable. Any advice appreciated. Thank you.

Holly Thomas: A knee-high sock in a neutral hue can be quite cute peeking out over the top of a boot -- depending on the look you're going for, of course. Otherwise, I'd suggest a mid-calf-length trouser sock or a knee sock with strong elastic that you can wear just below the top of the boot.


Del Ray, Va.: Hey gals, hope you had a great holiday weekend! My question is this: Who do you think makes the best quality tights? Although I'd love to say I have an endless cash supply to fund a year's worth of Wolford's, reality bites and I'd like to get the most bang for my buck this fall/winter by investing in a couple of good pairs that are in the $20-$30 range. While I certainly am a fan of hitting Filene's, TJMaxx and Marshall's for bargain tights, I often find that they have irregularities, snags and other undesirable qualities (like ripping apart in the crotch upon wearing them twice, leaving me with a not-so-pleasant draft under my skirt). Thanks for your help!

Holly Thomas: I rely on Filene's and Loehmann's for tights, but those irregularities are a bummer. You might look for sales on tights at online retailers like or Spanx also makes a budget-friendly line, called Assets, which is carried at Target stores.


Re: Garnet Hill: I have to disagree with the suggestion to buy cashmere sweaters from Garnet Hill. I have 2 of them, purchased in different years, and they are mediocre at best. I'll be able to wear them for a few years but the quality is not what they claim it to be. If you're going to give them a try, I'd do it when they are offering free returns (do they even do this?) as the sizing is all over the place.

Holly Thomas: A difference of opinion on Garnet Hill ...


Silver Spring, Md.: This week, I'm packing for a trip to Europe. The daytime highs will be in the '60s and '70s. What 2-3 things do you suggest I pack to liven up a wardrobe of mix/match skirts, tops and pants? I'll be alternating between good flats for walking and ankle boots with a 2-inch heel.

Holly Thomas: Lucky you! My list, in no particular order: A few lightweight scarves in silk, cashmere or cotton jersey; a soft, drapey cardigan for the plane and cooler night temperatures; and a pair of your favorite jeans, ideally a straight or slim cut with a bit of stretch. Have a great trip!


Fall Date Night: So now that we are entering cold weather I am really at a loss as to what to wear for a date night. I am in my early 30s and trying to meet more guys... through Internet dating and other places. In the summer I wear a lot of fun dresses and sandals. But have no idea how to look flirty and girly while trying to stay warm.

Holly Thomas: Fun! I think date clothes should a) be an extension of your regular style and b) make you feel great about yourself. Try layering your summer dresses with tights and a cardigan or cropped jacket to get a bit more use out of your wardrobe. And a great pair of boots can go a long way -- look for a pair that gives you a boost of confidence, and wear them with a mini dress and tights (or bare legs, if you're feeling a bit more daring).


Tights: Every fall/winter I always stock up on GAP or Banana Republic tights (same parent company - though GAP tights are cheaper). They are the best quality, and are not too sheer. They have both the opaque and the sweater type weights. I thinks, the best place to get them is at an outlet store. The quality isn't sacrificed and often they are on futher sale than the regular stores. I even spotted some of the textured and woven styles this weekend in Leesburg.

Holly Thomas: For the chatter looking for affordable tights -- try Gap and Banana Republic.


the Burbs: With every bra I buy, the underwire manages to work its way out within 6-9 months of purchase. Not fun. I used to think it was because I bought cheap ones on my student budget, but bras from Victoria's Secret? C'mon, they should be better made than that. Any idea where I should go to find some that are sturdier but that won't completely break the bank? Thanks!

Holly Thomas: Definitely check out the stock at upscale discount retailers like Filene's Basement or Loehmann's -- you can typically find well-made bras from Elle McPherson, Calvin Klein, DKNY, etc, for about $20 each.


Omaha, Neb.: This seems silly, but I'm looking for advice on tights. I love the look, especially ones with subtle designs, but have never owned a pair (I've been religiously anti-stockings for the past few years.) Any ground rules I should follow?

Holly Thomas: Not silly at all. Since you're just getting started, I'd look for charcoal gray and chocolate brown tights with a subtle pattern -- start at and check out the Textured & Patterned Hosiery section.


Michigan gal looking for wool sweaters: For the woman from Michigan looking for a good place to shop for wool sweaters, the UK-based Wool Overs ( is a great option for cute, quality sweaters at reasonable prices. Their website is really user-friendly and actually gives specific measurements (in both centimeters and inches) for each garment they sell. I think this cardi-jacket in the flannel gray is adorable, especially with the bold, jewel-toned silk scarf tied around the neck: Cashmere Womens Knitted Jacket | Ladies Merino Cardigan | Wool Overs Good luck!

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the excellent tip on wool sweaters!


Rant: I hate seeing "flip-flops" in the city. (Unless you're coming back from a pedicure, there's no reason.) Too many other foot-friendly and commuter-appropriate options available. Perhaps Janet and Holly can address this before next summer's in full swing. Sorry for the rant.

Holly Thomas: I agree -- everyone needs to be comfortable, of course, but nothing ruins the trifecta of a great hairstyle, perfect outfit and pretty makeup like a pair of flip flops. Ballet flats, driving shoes, oxfords, wedges, flat boots ... anything would be better!


Hope this isn't too late. . . : I have a first date this weekend that I'm really excited about. I want to wear my new dark uber-skinny jeans and heels, but I don't know what to put on top. Suggestions?

Holly Thomas: I'd complement the body-hugging lower half of your outfit with a relaxed silhouette on the upper half -- strike a balance with a flowy tunic or blousy top and some great, statement-making jewelry.


re: date outfit: Don't wear a jacket - wear a sweater. That way, he'll feel invited to throw his coat over your shoulders! Also, wear comfortable shoes, like sturdy boots. Men don't want to hear you whine about your feet on a first or second date.

Holly Thomas: Advice for the chatter getting into the dating scene ... very crafty with the sweater suggestion!


Washington, D.C.: Hello!

Where can I get curvy fit dress pants that also come in tall sizes? I have two pairs from Banana Republic that are nice, and a pair from Eddie Bauer that are incredibly poor quality. I'd like to replace the Eddie Bauer pants ASAP.

Also, thanks for the tip on personal stylists. Margaret Lilly went through my closet last week and is so much nicer than the folks on "What Not To Wear." And she definitely knows her stuff.


Holly Thomas: I know Gap's curvy line gets good reviews, and you might also try The Limited. Glad you had a good experience with Margaret!


Holly Thomas: Thanks for joining me today -- it was great talking fashion with all of you! The Estee Lauder lip glosses go to the chatter who suggested Puma flats for walking to work, and the Go Smile Touch Up kits go to the chatter with the recommendation for Wool Over sweaters. Email and we'll get those goodies in the mail right away. And come back next week at 11 to chat with Janet Bennett Kelly (while I'm on vacation, hooray!).


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