Talking fashion: What to wear New Year's Eve, fashionable watches, shopping Goodwill, nude shapers

Janet Bennett Kelly and Holly Thomas
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 29, 2009; 12:00 PM

Janet Bennett Kelly and Holly Thomas discussed fashion trends and answered questions on Tuesday, Dec. 29 at 12 p.m. ET.

You can also browse and search previous Talking Fashion Live Q&As.


Janet Bennett Kelly: We hope you have some fun plans for New Year's Eve and to celebrate 2010. We'd love to hear your fashion questions and offer solutions to any wardrobe woes you're struggling with. As always, we've got goodies for you. This week they're a new hair masque from L'Oreal and Melvita's Rose Nectar day cream. Ready when you are!


Washington, D.C.: I'm thinking of going to NYC for New Year's, but that means the outfit would require way more planning! Do you have any suggestions? I'm concerned about keeping warm and walking a long way, but I still want to look classy and feminine.

Love your chats!

Holly Thomas: Sounds like fun! If you're going to be walking a lot, I'd suggest flat or low-heeled leather boots, extra-warm tights (Wolford makes the best, in my opinion) and a cozy sweater dress that you can spruce up with a great statement necklace or some fantastic earrings. And if you're especially cold, you can always add a lightweight thermal top or tank under your dress. Have a great time!


Dupont Circle, D.C.: Hi Ladies,

Love the chat.

Any recommendations for a tailor that can keep the original hem on jeans near Dupont Circle? Thanks!

Janet Bennett Kelly: I've had luck with jean alterations at Georgetown Valet in Friendship Heights, but the locations vary in quality, I hear. There's one in Dupont Circle and there's another one in Glover Park. Any chatters had success with jean hemming at either one of these?


College Park, Md.: Where can I find cheap equestrian-style boots for wider calves? I tried Macy's but could only find narrow ones.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Zappos carries a number of boots for wider calves as does the site I checked and looks as if there are equestrian styles. Happy shopping.


Washington, D.C.: Hey fashion experts!

Do either of you wear a watch? If so, leather, fabric, or metal? I've kind of gotten tired of always checking the cell phone/bb for the time (esp. when I can't do it subtly in meetings), but I'm not sure if I'll get bored with the one I'm looking at: Citizen Women's Eco-Drive Corso Stainless Steel Watch (

I love the manlier styled watches, but agree with Tim Gunn's point about their not being very versatile and too overwhelming (in his column for Marie Claire a couple of months ago). But then when I looked online for examples of watches worn well, so to speak, all Vogue et al. had to offer were the latest trends (diamond watches, neon watches, etc.) that aren't super practical. Any advice for ideas?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I wear a metal watch for work and for everything but the most formal occasions. Because it's metal, it's practically indestructible; it's also waterproof and extremely practical for everyday wear. To me, it's well worth investing in something you can get so much use out of.


Laurel, Md.: Long time reader, first time poster here. I have a church winter wedding in February. I'm pretty curvy, with hips and things (size 10) what type of outfit should I get, what should I steer clear of and where can I find this fabulous frock?

Holly Thomas: Thanks for joining in! A wrap dress is a solid option for flattering a curvy figure, and they're available at a multitude of retailers and price points, from H&M to DVF. Opt for one in a dark neutral or a pretty jewel tone and personalize it with a chunky necklace or layered gold or silver chains. If the neckline exposes a bit too much cleavage for a church wedding, wear a simple camisole underneath.


Washington, D.C.: I just bought a long, jersey evening gown with a very flowy skirt for an event this spring, but it is too long (even in high heels). Do you (or any other chatters) have any recommendations for where to go to have it altered? I've been to some places that do an nice job with basic alterations, but I want to make sure I take it to someone who can alter jersey without it puckering or creating an uneven seam. Thanks!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Parkway Dry Cleaning, which has locations in Chevy Chase and Silver Spring, gets high marks for alterations, though, they are expensive. Any one have suggestions for a first-rate tailor in the area?


Bethesda, Md.: I'm attending a New Year's party at a wine bar in D.C. I'm not really one for dresses...any suggestions for an appropriate outfit?

Holly Thomas: Why not seize the opportunity to riff on a YSL classic, the women's tuxedo? (Do a quick Google search for "le smoking" for inspiration.) I would advise against taking the look too far in a "Victor/Victoria" direction, but instead choose a pair of sleek, straight-leg black trousers and wear them with a cropped tuxedo-style jacket and a feminine top in silk, chiffon or satin.


Reston, Va.: I have been in the process of losing weight, and am running into baggy clothing. Yay! However, as my current clothes start to be too big to wear, I'm not finished losing weight. But I don't have money to buy a full wardrobe.

What are your suggestions for how to frugally add items to my wardrobe as I lose weight?

Holly Thomas: Congratulations! I think the best option is a combo of cheap basics and well-timed alterations. Pick up essential pieces -- black pants, basic jeans and everyday tops -- in smaller sizes at budget-friendly places like Target, H&M, Zara, Mango, Forever 21 or outlet stores. For your existing wardrobe, choose a handful of pieces that you'd like to wear at your current size and have a tailor alter them -- favorite pieces and garments that are too expensive to replace should get priority.


Watch Suggestion: I have a watch I got just a few months ago by a company called Michele that I got at Nordstrom's. The face is metal, and you can get various straps, metal, leather, patent leather. Right now I am wearing a white patent leather band, but I could easily change up the look with a metal bracelet strap.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the watch tip!


Arlington, Va.: For the chatter looking for a good tailor for jersey, I used Millie's Tailoring in Arlington -- relatively quick service and not too expensive. I definitely recommend it!

Holly Thomas: A suggestion for Millie's Tailoring for the chatter with the jersey gown ...


Reston, Va.: I just wanted to thank the chatter who recommended Clinique's Black Honey Almost Lipstick a few weeks ago, for a lip balm junkie who wanted a little color. I love it -- not too much color and not sticky at all. The color is really beautiful and does seem to morph to blend with your natural color. It's a great compromise between balm and full-on lipstick.

Holly Thomas: Glad the advice is paying off!


Great Falls, Va.: A girlfriend and I are doing lunch and shopping on U Street on Sat and would appreciate suggestions on both fronts! Lunch where?

Boutiques with the coolest stuff 'not' found at the mall, appc!

Thanks, and Merry Sale Season to all.

Janet Bennett Kelly: I've been to Creme Cafe and to Etete, both of which I've enjoyed. Etete serves Ethiopian food; Creme offers short ribs and shrimp and grits. If you're looking for more atmosphere, try Creme. As for shopping, peek into Nana for consignment and new; Legendary Beast for cool jewels and gifts, Junction, also for consignment, Lettie Gooch for unusual women's wear. Also, don't forget RCKNDY, Goodwood and Home Rule for terrific home furnishings and accessories.


Falls Church, Va.: Hi there! Happy fashionable New Year to all! Suggestion for posters looking for warm-weather clothing to be out and about on New Year's; I found great tights on, very discounted. I also tend to check this site towards the end of winter, when the store is unloading tights and warm-weather gear, and then store away for the next winter season. I am really happy (and my legs are warm) with the tights!

Holly Thomas: Banana Republic for warm tights ... thanks!


Washington, D.C.: I'm a big fan of using watches instead of cell phones for checking time, and you can get subdued silver/metal watches just about anywhere. Go down to Macy's or even Target and try some on to see what the different styles look like on your wrist, then you can either buy there or go online for similar styles.

Janet Bennett Kelly: For the chatter who wants to wear a watch instead of relying on her cell phone, here's a tip from someone of like mind.


Clifton, Va.: D.C. looking for manlier watches try Omega if your budget allows. You can either go with a lady's watch or go with a man's.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Another watch comment -- try Omega for bigger, more masculine versions.


Snowy Colorado: Janet and Holly, love the chats. I could really use some advice on what to wear to a semi-formal, post-holiday holiday party. I have a couple of classic black cocktail-y dresses and a cute black faux fur jacket, but would like to look festive enough to blend in. To complicate matters, this is a first date, and it's the date's employer's annual party. Gulp. Please advise!

Holly Thomas: That's a lot going on in one event! A classic cocktail dress and a faux fur jacket sounds ideal -- maybe finish the look with a stunning necklace, a manicure in a deep, rich color and some fun satin pumps? You'll look great -- just relax and have a good time!


Charleston, S.C.: I am seriously considering buying a pair of booties... will these still be in fashion by next winter or am I too behind on this trend?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Hi, Charleston,

Good question. I don't think they were as big a hit with consumers as designers imagined. Personally, I don't think they're a flattering look with skirts or dresses. Have you seen a lot of them on sale -- that may say a lot about whether they're going to continue to be popular or not.


Omaha, Neb.: I am going to two parties on NYE -- one pretty dressy at a hotel and a more casual house party with friends. Any suggestions for an outfit suitable for both occasions?

Janet Bennett Kelly: A femme blouse with ruffles or a sequin T-shirt that can be paired with a sleek pair of trousers would work well for the dressy party. And you could dress it down for the casual house party by throwing a jacket or a cardigan over the top.


McLean, Va.: Hi, Holly!

Can you recommend any particular designers that are scaled rather small? I'm petite (5'2" and about 100 lbs) and have been having trouble finding well-made clothes that fit. I'm getting tired of the petite lines at J.Crew and Banana Republic and was hoping to move up to something like Max Mara. Unfortunately, though, alterations can't really address the basic scale of the garment (shoulder width, distance from shoulder to waist). Any ideas? Thanks so much!

Holly Thomas: Hi there! I'd suggest stopping by one of Proper Topper's locations to try out pieces from Tracy Reese, Ted Baker and Susana Monaco, which tend to run a bit smaller. You might also try the Nanette Lepore boutique in Chevy Chase, and the petite lines from Michael Kors, Calvin Klein and BCBG get fairly high marks.


re: What are your suggestions for how to frugally add items to my wardrobe as I lose weight?: I'm in the same boat. I've found that sweaters are wearable longer than many other items. So for work I'm wearing a lot more cardigans and V-necks rather than blazers. And wearing the same black pants twice per week. Jersey knit skirts tend to look okay, too, even if they are a little large. So one of those may last through several size changes that pants won't make it through. I try pants on with a control top shaper and buy the ones that fit. Wear them at first with the shaper. After I lose 5 pounds I wear the pants without the shaper.

I hit the discount places like Marshall's and Ross.

Holly Thomas: Good advice, especially the tip about trying on pants with a body shaper!


Silver Spring, Md.: WATCHES: Use my ladies' Movado with black dial for special occasions and swear by an inexpensive silver Kenneth Cole for everyday. Surprise: Nordstrom's service counter escorted me down one floor and replaced the watch I was trying to return to Fossil for repair under warranty, NO CHARGE. Love that store...

Holly Thomas: Thanks!


Silver Spring, Md.: I bought a casual hip-length one button khaki blazer from an outlet store, thinking the neutral color would be very versatile. I've never worn it because I can't think of what to wear it with. A white shirt underneath makes me look like I'm colorblind, a green shirt makes it too military....any suggestions?

Janet Bennett Kelly: It's a little hard to say because I'm not sure about whether the khaki is on the light or dark side. But I'll throw this out -- how about something in navy, like an embellished T-shirt. Or, for a preppy take, a blue-and-white pinstripe.


Reston, Va.: Hi, probably not the right place to ask this question but may be you know the answer.

I have a lot of clothes that I bought when I was heavier or thinner. Most of them are $30 to $40 range and I barely wore them. I feel bad donating them to Salvation Army. Maybe there is another place where career-oriented women looking for a little bit high-end clothes shop where I could donate? Any ideas?

I was tempted to try to sell to consignment stores, but I don't think I have the time or mindset for that.


Janet Bennett Kelly: would be the perfect place to donate those clothes. The mission of this great organization is to provide professional clothing to low-income women to increase their potential for both finding and keeping jobs.


North Carolina: Winter Wedding Question and Wrap Dress Suggestion:

I read the question from the lady who needed advice for what to wear to a winter wedding. She mentioned that she is very curvy with heavier thighs and wider hips. I used to be a size 10 (my heaviest was a size 12), and some of the wrap dresses did not flatter my curvy form. This kind of dress can actually make a woman look bigger and more "matronly," especially if the waist and tummy are not tighter/smaller.

One example of what I have seen work for me and for women who are in the curvy form is to wear an delicious suit dress or pantsuit that smoothes the curve lines a bit. I have an amazing winter white suit dress that sparkles when I put on my finest jewelry. I have found much success in wearing two-piece suits, very comfortable, that had a jacket that came just below my waist to blend in well with the curvy lines of my hips and backside. I had a horrible time finding clothes that did not make my backside look like an albatross. The result is a nice, chic, and "clean" look. While a wrap dress has a higher chance of creating havoc on a curvy form, to turn into "dumpy" instead of "va va va voom."


Holly Thomas: Thanks for the suggestions! I'm still voting for the wrap dress, but I agree that a pantsuit can look rather stunning if the fit is perfect (and if the chatter is comfortable wearing pants to a wedding).


D.C.: Is 35 too young for an Hermes scarf? Contemplating my first one but don't want to look like my grandmother. Suggestions for styles/colors? Will it last forever (i.e......, is it worth the $$)?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I don't think you're in any danger of looking like your grandmother. A Hermes scarf is a classic that you'll have forever. Wear it with attitude!


Space saving: Has anyone used those plastic bags where the air is suctioned out? I have some sweaters (e.g., Dale of Norway) that are bulky and not quite my style right now, but too good to give or toss away. Do the bags work? Will the plastic affect the wool during storage? Other ideas?

Holly Thomas: Space Bags = small miracles. I have several that I've used for the past 2-3 years and haven't had any problems with them -- just make sure your sweaters are clean before storing them, and tuck a lightly-scented sachet in the bag before you seal it up.


N. Virginia/N.C.: For Snowy Colorado -- the lady who is going to her date's employer's post-holiday party:

How will you wear your hair for the event?

Holly Thomas: A question for the Colorado partygoer ...


Good idea: Love the "control/body shaper" idea when trying on clothes (losing weight). And a shaper belongs in every woman's wardrobe, really. And, oh yes, buy beige -- not white or black. It goes under more items that either bright white or black.

Holly Thomas: Isn't that a great tip? And nude foundation garments definitely give the most bang for your buck.


Richmond, Va.: BEEN to Times Square, everyone should do it once. BUT, do NOT dress for style! You're OUTSIDE in JANUARY fer god's sake! You will NOT remove your coat, gloves, hat or scarf, so NO ONE cares what you're wearing. DRESS for the weather and the weather alone. And wear sensible shoes!

Holly Thomas: Some very strong advice about NYE in Times Square ... thanks!


State College, Pa.: Two questions:

1. I moved a couple of years ago and only recently found a box with a bunch of lipsticks in it. Some seem really old -- these should all get tossed, right?

2. I currently have my T-shirts folded on shelves and my sweaters hanging in my closet. Should this be reversed?

Thanks much. love the chats. Happy New Year!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Definitely toss the lipsticks. I'd stack both the T-shirts and the sweaters on shelves. Both lose their shape when they're on hangers.


Makeup question: I have always used a tinted moisturizer (SPF20) set with loose powder as foundation. Now that I'm in my 50's, I have more fine lines, enlarged pores and age spots. Do you have a recommendation of a foundation? I don't want to look cakey but I want a more even skin tone. Are mineral foundations what I'm looking for?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I would forgo the powder, which tends to emphasize fine lines and pores. Laura Mercier makes a good tinted moisturizer, and I'm particularly partial to Giorgio Armani's luminous silk foundation for great coverage.


Alexandria, Va.: I would love to wear more scarves to brighten up work (office) outfits. But now the silly part, I obviously don't want the big bow look, so any tips on ways to wear scarves? Or a good Web site with tying ideas? It seems so simple, but when I tie them around my neck, they just look kind of odd just hanging there. Thanks!

Holly Thomas: The Hermes website has a PDF document of tying ideas (it's rather tricky to find -- browse the scarf section in the online store, then click the link that says "playtime with your scarf" to download it), plus a quick Google search turned up tons of ideas. Let us know what you find!


Snowy Colorado: My hair? As if I don't have enough to worry about?!

I'm torn between the probably more fetching look (down) and wearing it up, which will likely be better suited to what I'll wear (halter-style Betsy Johnson dress). Thoughts?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Updos are extremely popular and can be as fetching as wearing your hair down. Beware of something too severe, though. Go for a softer look with some wisps of hair hanging loose.


Penn Quarter, D.C.: Oh yes! To the chatter asking about the vacuum bags -- these are a huge space saver and really, truly work! I've used bags from Target and Container Store. I find that Target bags are great not only for storing, but also, oops...reopening once I realized I wanted to wear something I sucked the air out of and tucked away!

Holly Thomas: Another vote for vacuum bags ...


Clothes while losing weight: Skirts are a better interim buy because you can alter them down to a smaller waist fairly easily and cheaply. HOWEVER, you can NOT alter pants down because the seat area is baggy if all you do is take in the waist. To alter down pants would cost way too much.

Holly Thomas: True, skirts are a more practical purchase for the chatter losing weight . Thanks!


Losing weight wardrobe suggestion: I lost 110 pounds over two years, and was often confronted with the need to dress in a smaller size. I didn't want to buy anything new and nice (expensive) until I reached goal weight, and didn't want cheaper clothes that looked like... cheaper clothes. What I did: headed to the Goodwill, which stocks fabulous stuff (Ann Taylor abounds!) at its three Virginia locations, Falls Church and two Arlingtons. I still go there today and get can't beat it, as every 10-15 pounds meant a new size.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Good suggestion. Thanks much for the input.


Watch: It sounds like I have similar taste in watches to the poster (I love big leather cuff watches, but they're too much most of the time, so I just use my cell). I just got the Movado ONO in stainless steel for Christmas and I LOVE it! It's much more delicate than I would have thought, but it's such a great mix of classic with a little edge. I wear it every day -- it's a bit formal, but I work in a fairly formal office. It's a bit pricey (although less so if you buy from a reputable non-authorized dealer) and it goes office to party fabulously!

Holly Thomas: A suggestion for the Movado ONO watch ...


Anonymous: Hi,

I'm a pear-shaped girl with bigger thighs than arms and I'm wondering what kind of skirt would work best for me. I have a straight line skirt which stops a little above the knees, but feel uncomfortable wearing it because I feel like it makes my thighs look bigger when I sit down (it rises up).

Thanks and love the chats.

Janet Bennett Kelly: How about trying an A-line or flared skirt? This style tends to minimize bigger hips and thighs. Make sure it fits at the waist.


Fort Washington, Md.: Greetings ladies! I have a fashion question that may seem a little strange but I'm going to ask anyway! I graduated from Drexel last year with a degree in design and merchandising. I've been trying to work in fashion industry with no success outside of blogging. I've even tried interning at newspapers big and small. Any advice on fashion interships/journalism jobs in D.C.?

Holly Thomas: Long story short, there aren't many of those jobs. There are a few pretty successful local blogs/websites though, so I'd suggest blogging and building up a strong following, and maybe investigating some freelance work at magazines/sites outside DC.


Smooth make-up: I would also recommend using a face primer for the person asking about make-up applications...I like Bare Essentials and have heard great things about Smashbox's.

Holly Thomas: A primer is essential -- I'm a big fan of Make Up For Ever's SPF 50 version, and Clarins makes a spackle-type formula that is great for skin with signs of aging.


The burbs: Hi style gurus!

I hit the after-Christmas sales looking for a new black winter coat. I was shocked to find that nearly all the coats were 20-40 percent manmade materials. It got to the point that the first thing I looked at was the fiber content. Anne Klein was the only brand that was 100 percent wool, or wool-cashmere blends, and I found one of those that I loved. Why are so few designers and manufacturers going the all-natural route these days?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Hi, there, burbs,

Don't know for sure, but I would bet the answer would be the cost.


Holly Thomas: So many good suggestions and tips today! The chatter who recommended shopping at Goodwill for a weight-loss wardrobe gets the Melvita day cream; the suggestion for Bare Essentials face primer snags that chatter the L'Oreal hair masque. Email your info to and we'll get those out to you. See you next week -- same time, same place!


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