Talking fashion: Tips for wearing skinny jeans, home hair coloring, colored lip gloss, local boutiques, presents for your wife

Janet Bennett Kelly and Holly Thomas
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 1, 2009; 12:00 PM

Janet Bennett Kelly and Holly Thomas answered your fashion questions on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

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


Holly Thomas: Morning chatters -- hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving! Now that the holidays are officially in full swing, let's discuss party attire, makeup trends and any other pressing questions you might have. As always, there are goodies for the best suggestion/tip/question: MAC's Possessed by Pink! holiday lip kit and an Estee Lauder eyeshadow quad in Black Smoke. And now ... fire away!


Arlington, Va.: Am I officially passe for not owning skinny or even straight legged jeans? I'm on the thin side but I just think they don't look good on the vast majority of people wearing them. I'm loath to say this, but I think they make me look fat. Why can't we stick to a narrow bootcut leg? It looked better. Am I missing something with the skinny jeans? I've tried many but end up disappointed.

Holly Thomas: You're certainly not passe! If you've experimented with a trend, decided it didn't work, and moved on to something that flatters your body, you're actually being smart AND stylish. You should certainly invest in narrow bootcut jeans if that's what suits your figure. But some people look great in skinny jeans -- note "skinny," not "so tight it's hard to breathe" -- so let's not eliminate them from the scene just yet.


Washington, DC: Janet and Holly-I could really use your help. I'm a clueless dude when it comes to fashion (just ask my wife) but I wanted to get her something nice for Christmas that won't break the bank. This won't be her main gift so I'm thinking something in the $50 to $100 range. Usually I get her a gift card but I wanted to wow her by getting her an actual item.

My marriage thanks you!


Holly Thomas: Hi David! I think the best gifts are the ones that say something about your wife and reflect what she really enjoys -- not just a sweater or a piece of randomly-chosen jewelry. What about an assortment of her favorite music? Or a basket of favorite DVDs, treats and a great bottle of champagne? If she's really into cooking/dancing/art/etc, maybe treat her to a class. But if you really want to get her something tangible, maybe consider small luxuries -- cashmere socks, an incredible candle (the options from Lafco NY are divine) or a pair of long leather gloves.


Basic black boot: Good morning chatters and hosts!

It may seem simple, but somehow it is difficult to find a knee high black leather boot, 3" heel and pointy toe.

I have been everywhere and even on the popular websites.



Holly Thomas: A quick search on for boots (searching by color and heel height) turned up pointy-toed options from Calvin Klein, Report, Kenneth Cole Reaction, and rsvp ... I think your best bets are the options from Vaneli, particularly the Zeola style.


Re: skinny jeans: I think skinny jeans look fabulous with a long sweater/tunic/short dress layered over, and boots. Boots are really the key, especially in this weather. Skinny jeans with heels (for me) don't work. Skinny jeans with Chuck Taylors (which I own and love) don't really work for me...a little too hipster in a "I'm trying to look hipster, not I'm a natural hipster" way). In the spring/summer, skinny jeans look great with flip flops. But again, you have to be comfortable in them and if you'd rather wear bootcut, then wear bootcut and rock them out!

Holly Thomas: I agree with the tunic/sweater/dress observation ... thanks for joining in the discussion!


Washington, D.C.: Do you think it's appropriate/fashionable for non-Indian women to rock a sari at an Indian dinner? To me it just looks silly-- like they are dressing up as an Indian woman. For an Indian woman to wear one (like Semonti, a deputy on Michelle's staff) is gorgeous and meaningful. For me (non-Indian) or a blond faux-socialite, it's a costume. What say you?

Holly Thomas: Having worn a sari for an Indian wedding, I think this ultimately depends on the environment. If a lot of other non-Indian guests are wearing saris (as they were in my case) or if the invitation encourages wearing one, then it's perfectly fine and you should embrace the opportunity to wear something really beautiful and special. But if there's a chance you'd be the only non-Indian guest wearing one -- and if that would make you uncomfortable -- then I'd say wear a colorful cocktail dress and some ornate jewelry and leave it at that.


Suggestions for presents for wife: Two ideas for the wife along the lines of a candle. A very soft, comfy robe is something most people won't buy for themselves but is a total luxury. Also if she's into exercising, lululemon has really wonderful stuff that I would never spend the money on myself, but would love to have.

Holly Thomas: Two very thoughtful ideas, thank you! A luxe robe is always nice to have on hand, and high-quality workout gear is definitely an indulgence for many of us.


Great Falls, Va.: Hello! Hoping you can help change up my shopping haunts.

I am sick and tired of shopping for clothes at the mall and am craving small boutiques that carry unusual labels but won't bust my budget. I know Old Town pretty well, but am wondering where in DC I might start.


Holly Thomas: I love these questions -- they justify all my obsessive window-shopping! Here's a quick list by neighborhood. Georgetown: Urban Chic, Wink, Sugar, Second Time Around, Annie Creamcheese and Fresh; Dupont: Proper Topper, Green & Blue, Betsy Fisher; 14th St: Treasury, Rue 14, Redeem; U Street: Nana, Junction, Shoefly, Pink November, Caramel and Lettie Gooch. Happy browsing!


Maryland: I usually don't wear any makeup--just some clear lip balm. I've noticed that, especially in the winter, my lips look really pale. I'd like some sort of lip color, but I don't necessarily want a lipstick that I need to reapply lots throughout the day. Are there any tinted lip balms out there that you would recommend?

Holly Thomas: A balm requires a decent amount of reapplication throughout the day, so it sounds like a lip stain is the thing for you. Benefit's Benetint is a makeup-bag staple, but the brand makes a balm version in a pretty red shade as well. MAC's Tinted Lip Conditioner is a personal favorite. Chatters, any others?


Washington, DC: Re: Basic black boot.

I snagged a fabulous pair from Circa Joan & David at Marshall's for just $40 back in August and I'm sporting them right now. I get tons of compliments.

You may not find anymore at Marshall's but I was in a Bandolino store and saw at least one pair there. They may have them on their website too.

Holly Thomas: Bandolino is a great suggestion for classic black boots with a pointy toe and 3" heel ... thanks!


State College, Pa.: Re: Basic black boot

I've had luck using - this provides a super-efficient survey of many online retailers. Instead of perusing the Zappos or Piperlime sites one at a time, ShopStyle will scan through many at once. You can refine your search by color, size, price, brand, etc.

Holly Thomas: Lots of praise for going around these days ... it's pretty handy!


Chinatown: It's getting to be that time in my life where the grey hairs are increasing at an exponential rate. Sigh. I want to start dying my hair, but for economical reasons I'd rather do it at home than at a salon. But where do I start and how do I choose a color? Any advice would be much appreciated.

Holly Thomas: I've had so many horrific experiences with home haircolor that I'm loathe to give you any advice. Instead, I'd say have an honest chat with your regular stylist and get a pro's recommendation for an at-home option.


Saving Money, Va.: Just wanted to share this tip with your readers. Instead of buying new winter/fall shoes, I took 9 pairs of my seasonal shoes from last year to a shoe repair guy and got all tips and heels fixed! They now look brand new. By the way, LOVE the Best Foot Forward guy in Pentagon Row.

PS Also love lipgloss (hint, hint)

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the advice -- I love the idea of sprucing up what we already own!


Corrales, N.M.: For great black boots, not too high, try Just ordered a pair of Indigos by Clark, perfect height for me at 2 1/2 inch heel! For great gifts for the dude or gal, try Lots under $100.



Holly Thomas: A vote for Piperlime for boots and Etsy for gifts -- thank you!


Shopping Haunts: Another fun option on U St. is Legendary Beast. I almost hate to recommend it because so much great stuff won't be left for me.

Holly Thomas: Seriously ... I could (and have been known to) spend hours digging through Anne's collection of amazing vintage pieces.


Another gift suggestion: For the person wanting to buy his wife a gift: Ann Taylor has cashmere gloves with rhinestone buttons on the side in beautiful, bright that price range and they were on sale.

Holly Thomas: For the husband looking for a nice gift, a vote for Ann Taylor's cashmere gloves...


Foggy Bottom: For the woman hoping not to bust your budget... don't forget about all the great consignment shops the DC area has to offer. Secondi in Dupont, Remix in Capitol Hill, Current Boutique in Arlington.. Second Time Around in Georgetown. I scored a great pair of shoes and new pants for work just 2 weeks ago for a third of the cost in the store.. the pants still had the tags on. Just to keep in mind.

Holly Thomas: Absolutely! And a few more great vintage/consignment shops: Mercedes Bien and Meeps in Adams Morgan, Second Chance in Bethesda, and New to You in Falls Church.


Lip Balm: Bobbie Brown has a wonderful lip balm that feels smooth and in many colors. My favorite is "Brown" which is really only a shade or 2 darker than natural lips and provides enough color to warm up your face.

Holly Thomas: Bobbi Brown for the chatter seeking a tinted lip balm -- thanks!


Philadelphia, Pa.: I am wanting a pair of over the knee boots - suggestions for brands and how to wear them? They can be either leather or suede.

Holly Thomas: Definitely check the usual online suspects --,, -- as well as Nine West and Steve Madden for budget-friendly options. I'd suggest wearing them over skinny jeans or with opaque tights and a just-above-the-knee dress or skirt. If you really want to try going bare-legged with over-the-knee boots, make sure the top half of your look is a bit more demure -- think a long-sleeve tunic or a basic tee under a slouchy blazer.


Re: hair color: Hi Holly and Janet! And hi, Chinatown! I'm the same poster as "re: skinny jeans" but thought I'd jump in here since I've done the at-home dye job as well as salon jobs. To be honest, I've had better luck at home than in salons (for highlights).

I think your best bet to try things out with the at-home route, just to ease into it, is to try out Clairol's Natural Instincts. The coverage for grays is supposedly top-notch and the color lasts for about a month. As you get more comfortable with at home-dyeing, you can increase the level of permanence to semi and then to full/permanent.

Good luck and happy coloring :)


Holly Thomas: Advice for the chatter hoping to try out at-home haircolor ...


Tinted lip balm: I use Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer, which is exactly what this person wants. Very slight taste, lip balm, available in a real range of shades. It's widely available for about $4 near the cashier in many book stores, in the makeup area at Target, and at drug stores.

Holly Thomas: Great suggestion, thank you!


Fashion discussion?: Would it be possible to have a fashion discussion on the WaPo discussion board? Many times I read a question on the chat and think of a fabulous answer, but it's too late to post it. (Or has this been done?)

Also, it seems to me that these chats have lots of good information that gets lost when the chat is over. For example, I'm trying to remember the name of the lingerie store in Vienna that does fittings, but I'd have to troll through all the chat archives to find the name. I just don't have that kind of time. Is there anyway to collect all this in one place on the Fashion page? Like a "Tried and True Stores"? Or something like that?

Thanks--love the chats. I'm going to be adding a search function to the archive of Fashion discussions soon.

Holly Thomas: So glad you're a fan of the chats, and hopefully they'll become even more helpful soon! And the lingerie store I think you're referring to is called Trousseau :)


State College, Pa.: For Chinatown: -please- go to a reputable salon to get your hair colored. I used to edit/write for a salon trade magazine (Modern Salon) and I read many horror stories about women who'd colored their hair at home and then had to spend beaucoup bucks to fix it when it turned green, or whatever. You really don't want to screw this up. It's your hair!

BTW, I'm not trying to push you to spend more money--I've never colored my hair and never intend to. But it's worth a little investment to look your best.

Holly Thomas: Personally, I tend to agree. Having ended up with brassy, orange-tinged hair a few times and then having to pay to have it fixed at a salon, going that route the first time might be a better investment.


Lip color: To the woman asking for lip tint minus lipstick, I recommend Smashbox's O-Gloss. It combines the balm qualities you need for dry lips in the winter with a slight pinkish tint that is different on everyone. Highly recommend it -- I never wear lipstick, but love the O-Gloss.

Holly Thomas: A vote for Smashbox's O-Gloss for tinted lip balm ...


Gift for Wife: My advice for a spousal gift (that I followed myself in the early years, but it's hard to keep up) is to really put some thought and time into it.

Most women would love a bag or a pair of gloves, but those things might not last. Instead put together a photo album of things you did together this year (Shutterfly makes them for you if you upload the pictures). If you get a simple, classic piece of jewelry get it inscribed. If she likes Audrey Hepburn, get a copy of Breakfast at Tiffany's and a little gift like the coin purse.

Anything that makes her know you were thinking of her when you picked out the gift, it's not just a generic gift.

Holly Thomas: Very sweet suggestions! The idea of an inscribed piece of jewelry is so old-fashioned and romantic ... lovely!


Re: Haircolor: If you are just looking to cover greys that can be pretty easy. I've used Clairol nice and easy before and have good success. Or if you want a little higher upscale brand check out Frederic Fekkai's haircolor kit sold at Sephora. It is $30 but is cheaper than the salon, but you still get a high quality color and has good results.

The key to doing your own haircolor is stay within two shades of your natural color. If you want to go darker or lighter than that or add highlights, etc. you should see a stylist since they those processes require mixing of colors and your stylist is trained in that.

Holly Thomas: More advice for the chatter looking to color her hair at home ...


Shopping haunts: I had occasion past Friday to walk Connecticut Avenue from Dupont Circle to K Street and back again (on the other side). And while there are big names (Talbot's, Filene's), I was surprised to find as well some pretty good window shopping in smaller stores. I have a plan to walk the route again with a credit card before Christmas. I think sometimes a change of pace, new neighborhood, can inspire Christmas gift ideas or wardrobe updates, no? I might even Metro over to U Street.

Holly Thomas: Exploring a new neighborhood is a great idea if you're looking for some inspiration ... and U Street is definitely worth the trip, as are Old Town Alexandria and Bethesda Row.


Washington, DC: To the chatter thinking of dying their hair at home, if you really don't want to spend the money to get it done in a salon try one of the hair schools in the area like Aveda Institute in Gallery Place. It's much cheaper than other salons and in almost a year of going no one has messed up my hair color. Plus if you make your next appointment the day you are there they give you 20% off.

Holly Thomas: A vote for Aveda instead of at-home haircolor ...


Shorts in the Winter?: Hi, I bought a pair of wool shorts at Gap while on vacation in Puerto Rico: go figure. I'm definitely not stick thin (more of an hour glass figure). How should I wear them? I'm 5'5" if it matters. Thanks!!!

Holly Thomas: These could be cute with a cozy knit sweater, opaque tights and knee-high flat boots. Just be sure to experiment with the proportions to make sure they don't end up looking a bit dowdy.


Tinted lip balm: Fresh has a great "Sugar" lip balm with a hint of rose. It goes on incredibly smoothly and has a nice light lemon scent. It is a bit pricey ($22- I think), but a tube usually lasts me a season, and I use it ALL the time!

Holly Thomas: Fresh's sugar balm gets rave reviews from a friend, as well -- thanks for the tip!


Other State College, PA Reader: I like that PSU is maintaining a solid WaPo contingent. For lipcolor: Clinique Black Honey is a great "almost lipstick." Though the gloss appears very dark as a stick, it provides your lips with a nice light wash of color - not dark at all.

Holly Thomas: Thanks!


Holly Thomas: Thanks for all your great questions and tips today! For the chatter who suggested the different ways to wear skinny jeans, we have the MAC lip palette; and for the chatter who recommended a robe or nice workout gear as a gift, the Estee Lauder eyeshadow quad. Email your address to and we'll get those out to you right away. See you next week!


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