Fashion Fix: Dark wash jeans, white before Memorial Day, finding the perfect jeans, swimsuits, work handbags, shoes for the Masters, more

Janet Bennett Kelly,Holly Thomas
Tuesday, March 23, 2010; 12:00 PM

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Janet Bennett Kelly:

Janet Bennett Kelly: Let's hear what's on your mind.

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Can I wear my white trench coat before Memorial Day?: Hi there! I have this nice white trench coat that I have been wanting to wear during some of these cool days in March (and April too if it warrants) but I wasn't sure if it was considered "too early" for white. But in April when I can kind of get "away with it" more it's often much warmer and I don't need it. So do I get it out of the closet or stuff it back in for a few more weeks? Thanks!

Janet Bennett Kelly: And you can wear it in early fall, too.

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Spring and summer hats: I got a reality check at the dermatologist's office recently and realize I need to start wearing a hat when I am outside to protect my scalp and face from the sun. I've never been much of a hat person and have no idea what is fashionable. Can you recommend some styles or models for the spring and summer (but not wide-brimmed) that can be casual but also nice enough to wear with business casual attire? Thank you!

Janet Bennett Kelly: I'd look at department stores for the widest selection. I'm fond of Helen Kaminski styles -- look for them on sale, like this one.

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brown cuffed Frye Boots: I just bought these incredibly awesome brown knee-high Frye boots with a cuff on top. I want to live in them, but I'm having trouble figuring out what to wear with them other than a jeans skirt. They're pull-ons and not wide enough for me to wear over jeans. Can I wear them with shorts? Too weird? If it matters, I'm pretty short.

Holly Thomas: First, I'd steer clear of knee-high boots and shorts, especially if you're on the petite side. I'd try your Fryes with brown/navy/black/gray tights and a pretty floral or printed dress, for starters. For weekends, pair them with a simple tunic and leggings. Once it gets warmer, ditch the leggings and tights and go with a dress (a crisp shirtdress or something more floaty/relaxed) or skirt (either a solid/print cotton option or denim) and basic top.

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Dark wash jeans: Hi Ladies! I just got some dark wash jeans and am planning on wearing them with lighter colored tops and shoes. Other than washing them until they retain no shade of their former selves, is there a way I can prevent the dye from rubbing off onto everything? Thanks!

Janet Bennett Kelly: I'd say try washing them inside out with cold water and a mild detergent; put them in the washing machine with other dark clothing. Anyone else have a suggestion?

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Washington, DC: I'm looking to beef up my evening wardrobe, but am finding nothing but ruffles and sequins. Could you suggest a source for injecting a little rock and roll into my Friday and Saturday attire?

Holly Thomas: It sounds like sophisticated draping is what you need, especially if you're turned off by ruffles and sequins. I saw some really versatile silk-blend skirts, dresses and loose-fitting tunics at H&M over the weekend -- they'll create a nice balance of chic + edgy when paired with tough ankle boots and a leather jacket. If your budget is higher, take a turn through Hu's Wear in Georgetown and Muleh and Redeem, both on 14th Street, to get some tough-chic inspiration. Keep an eye out for these designers (some of my faves!), who excel in that aesthetic: Vanessa Bruno, Rick Owens, Alexander Wang, Kaylee Tankus and Helmut Lang.

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Jeans for the average young woman: I graduated from college in the spring and I need to update my jeans. I have jeans from Old Navy, American Eagle, and Hollister but I am ready to grow up! I am looking for a flattering pair of jeans that says young woman, not teeny-bopper. Where do you think I can find a nice pair of dark wash, boot-cut jeans that are low-rise and have some stretch but hold their shape for $35 or less?

Holly Thomas: $35 is a very tight budget for new jeans that will wear well over time. You might want to start with the usual suspects: Zara, H&M and Mango, but if you can afford to spend a little more, try Gap, Levi's and Madewell for stylish boot-cut and trouser-fit jeans that aren't obscenely expensive. If your budget is set in stone, I'd suggest hitting up consignment stores near you -- look for low prices on high-end brands like Citizens of Humanity, Seven, J Brand, Joe's and Paige.

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Swimsuits: Where can a 40+ woman who still wants to look "hip" find a great bathing suit that's age-appropriate and flattering?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Sylene's in Chevy Chase carries a good, if not great, selection of bathing suits. Gottex makes a flattering line, as does Karla Colletto and Eres, but the last is very expensive.

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Easter: Easter is coming, and in the mid-Atlantic, that means I need a dress that will work with both sandals and snow boots. Any suggestions on where to start?

Janet Bennett Kelly: A feminine floral or print dress will work with both boots and sandals, in my opinion. Boots give the dress a little edge and sandals make it more summery.

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Skirt length: After years of wearing very long, flowey skirts, I got tired of tripping over them and am trying to find a shorter length. There isn't a lot of shopping near me, so I tend to buy a lot online. Most sites give the skirt length, but I'm wondering what's an optimal length? I'm about 5" 5', with short-ish legs. So should I be looking for skirts about 25 inches or so? Thanks much; love the chats.

Holly Thomas: Good for you for ditching the long skirts -- they don't do any favors for a petite figure. For the most flattering result, your skirt should hit either just above or just below your kneecap -- create the illusion of longer legs by going just above the knee. Use a measuring tape to determine those two lengths, then shop around based on those measurements to find which works best for you.

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Red Peep Toe Heels: What color shirt should I wear with jeans and red peep toe heels? And is it appropriate to wear a button down shirt (feminine cut) untucked with work pants? It looks a little weird to be tucked in without a suit jacket.

Holly Thomas: For the jeans and heels question, you have a lot of options -- a crisp, classic white shirt is always in style, but you could also experiment with a navy or black blouse, or a soft sweater in ivory, taupe or gray. I'd treat the red as a neutral and choose among other neutrals for the rest of your outfit. Personally, I think work pants + button-down shirt = always tucked in. If you're putting in the effort to wear professional clothes, nice shoes and a belt, pull it all together by tucking in your shirt.

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Nude color shoes: I have a formal event on Friday. I am wearing a black silk halter dress and want to wear nude heels, so I want them to be appropriate for formal wear but also want to be able to wear them in slightly more casual settings. Any suggestions? I would like to purchase in a store since I need them by Friday and don't want to spend more than $100.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Look at lines like Nine West (there's a story in Gtown) and Via Spiga, which is carried by Bloomie's and Nordstrom. I'm thinking that a metallic strappy sandal could go both ways -- for formal and more casual occasions.

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Tanks for under cardigans: I'm seeking recommendations for sources for cute tanks that can be worn under cardigans this spring and summer. Thanks!

Janet Bennett Kelly: I've recently tried T-Squared Tees, which come in black and white and are made of a very comfy-feeling cotton. I'm also fond of Michael Stars, Petit Bateau, Three Dot and Splendid.

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Mixed media dresses: Hi Fashion Gurus! I love the look of the tank dresses I see about town. Top is a tank made of cotton with stretch , skirt is full and often 100% cotton, often with a stretchy waist (would look great belted). How do you feel about this look on someone 33 years old? Am I too old for this cute trend? Thanks!

Holly Thomas: You're definitely not too old! That full-skirted tank dress is pretty versatile -- it's an easy weekend option with sandals or flats, and you can dress it up for work or evening with a cropped jacket or a light cardigan and heels. I'd make sure the waistline hits at your natural waist (or just above, if you're petite), which will ensure that the top and bottom portions balance your figure.

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Help with vintage leather bag: Hello! I recently purchased a beautiful chocolate brown vintage leather bag and apparently the previous owner was a smoker. Short of dousing it in perfume, does anyone have any ingenious tips for getting unwanted smells out of leather bags?Thanks in advance for your help!-Thrifty in DC

Janet Bennett Kelly: I could never get that smoky smell out. Anyone have any ideas for getting smoke out of leather??

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Bathing Suits and Jeans: I swear by Gottex, they cover your derriere the best and they are good for grownups. They go on sale pretty early on at Bloomingdales or Lord and Taylor, both Bloomies and L and T are always doing coupons, there's a 20% off thing going on this week at Bloomies just ask a saleslady about it. You can also find Gottex at Loehmann's or other discount places.For jeans my teenaged daughter found Hudson's at Mustard Seed and J Brand at Filene's. For older women who don't want mom jeans, sometimes the department store bridge designers like Tahari have flattering jeans that are low rise without feeling like you have a lot of upper body hanging over.

Holly Thomas: Lots of good advice -- thanks! Hudson jeans are particularly good for tall figures, fyi.

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Re: Jeans for the Average Young Woman: I've been repeatedly successful at Loehmann's regarding jeans. They have a terrific selection of designer brands like Sevens, Joe's and Hudson. In fact, I was able to snag a $130 pair for $13 once!

Holly Thomas: Lucky score! Thanks for sharing.

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For jeans on a budget and on jeans shopping: One more place to look - Martin + Osa. Definitely can't get them for under $35, but they occasionally have sales where you can get $90-100 jeans for around 50 or 60. They look great for the price!As for selecting jeans, I think people need to stick with what flatters their figure (this is a nice way of saying skinny jeans are not for everyone). And dark wash is flattering on everyone.

Holly Thomas: Martin + Osa is another good option -- the brand is going out of business, so if there's a store near you, it might be a good time to start looking for deals.

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Fashion Goof: Was at Tarjay (target) this weekend and went nuts over the "Liberty of London" stuff there. Bought what I thought was a cute, tunic-like, short-sleeved shirt. Turns out, its a swim cover up. Ha! It's a beautiful print, not sheer, and is too pretty to save for the beach. Do either of you think it's still okay to wear with a belt?

Holly Thomas: The Liberty of London was a huge success for Target, and the brand also just collaborated with MAC (in case you're not a LofL addict). I think it's perfectly acceptable to make your tunic do double-duty as a top until you can take it to the beach.

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Appropriate shoes for the season: I'm going to an event on Saturday night and have a great navy blue dress picked out. It's not a very fancy piece, as it has a floral print on part of it, but it has some details that dress it up.I'm confused as to what shoes are right for the event and the dress. I have a pair of strappy ivory heels, but is it too early to pull them out? My other option is a pair of coppery-brown peep-toe pumps. The dress has both ivory and brownish flowers on it.I'm stumped, help! It is an awkward time of year for shoes.

Janet Bennett Kelly: I'd go bare-legged and start applying some self-tanner now in time for the weekend.

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Where do you think I can find a nice pair of dark wash, boot-cut jeans that are low-rise and have some stretch but hold their shape for $35 or less: Levis when Macy's is having a coupon sale.

Holly Thomas: Thanks!

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Re: cool and lean in their jeans: I feel like you can never go wrong with (1) a dark wash to look lean (2) hemming to the correct length. The only problem with that is you have to still have to try loads of jeans on to see what shape looks good on you! When you find that jean, I'd get two pairs and hem one for flats and the other for heels. I've had great success finding premium demin at a lower cost at Nordstrom's Rack and Filene's Basement (are their still Filene's around?). These jeans have lasted 3-4 times longer than anything I've gotten at Gap/Express/etc.

Holly Thomas: Premium denim, when you get it for cheap, is usually the safest bet in terms of fit and durability, but the low-end chain stores are a decent alternative for those who loathe digging through the racks at discount stores. There are definitely still Filene's locations around town -- the Metro Center store is my haven for quiet, uninterrupted weekend shopping; avoid the lunch crush at the Dupont store at all costs.

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The Masters and cute shoes: I'm heading to The Masters in 2 weeks and can't figure out what shoes to wear. We'll be doing lots of walking on the course but I despise the look of running shoes with a casual outfit (think shorts or capris and a cute top). Flats don't seem all that practical considering the terrain and there's always potential for rain. Any suggestions?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Or you might try a pair of brogues.

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Jeans: Overstock.com also has designer jeans at reasonable prices, depending on their inventory at any one time. Maybe try on different brands at a store so you know your size and which ones look good on you, then order them if you see them on the site at a good price. I got Super Rifles for $12, and excellent Kasil's for $35 that way.

Holly Thomas: Great suggestion to try on denim brands to find your size, then buy online. A good tip for any e-shopper!

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Re: Red Peep Toes/Professional Attire: Depending on the wardrobe requirements at work, maybe the chatter could wear her button down blouse un-tucked, but finish off with a cute light-weight cardigan, and possibly even a thin belt at the waistline inside or outside the cardigan.

Holly Thomas: That might work for some people, and thanks for chiming in. I'm still of the opinion that an untucked shirt, when worn with nice work pants, just looks sloppy.

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Denver fashion!: Hello ladies! I'm submitting early since I have a meeting. I'm going to Denver in a few weeks and I have no clue what to pack. I'll only be there for a few days, but I'm there for pleasure, so I'll be exploring the city but I'd like to look fashionable, not touristy, but still comfortable enough to walk for miles in the city. I'm also debating between a big cross-body hobo (teal green) and a white (which goes with everything) satchel that slings over the shoulder. Should I sacrifice convenience (cross-body hobo) for fashion (white satchel goes with everything in the closet)?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I'm a sucker for black and white when I travel. So, guess that means I'd take the white satchel.

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Martin & Osa closing: Any details on when they'll close?? I love that store. Their sales were amazing but were a bit pricey otherwise.

Holly Thomas: Apparently by the end of the second quarter.

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Suede shoes: I have several pairs of suede wedges and a couple of pairs of pumps that mix suede and patent that I wear to the office (we are business attire). How long into the spring/summer season is it appropriate to wear suede?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Depends what the color of patent and the suede are and what you're wearing it with. I have pair of black suede pumps that I wear with a white skirt all spring and into summer.

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Handbags : Hi ladies! Thanks for your chat. My question is about work-appropriate handbags. I haven't given them any thought in the last four years because as a full-time worker and part-time grad student, I've been toting my laptop, books, lunch, dinner, etc. in a roomy messanger bag or backpack. Now that I am graduating in May and starting a new job, I would like some guidance on what to look for in shoulder bags. I have a nice black bag as well as a brown one but would like to add at least one more. I like the look of the bold kelly or spring green handbags, and also the pop of a patent bag in black or red, but are these too trendy? I would appreciate your advice. Thanks!

Holly Thomas: As for color, a kelly green, marigold or coral leather bag is an easy way to spruce up your spring wardrobe -- I'd recommend spending less money on this option and more on something timeless (like a patent tote), but if you love the color and style, there's no reason why you can't wear a brightly colored bag for a couple seasons.

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For dresses: I was just walking through Nordstrom at Pentagon City and saw some very cute dresses suitable for going out. The cuts were interesting, there was a lot of variety in terms of color and prints, and nothing was too expensive. I've had good luck there and found the salespeople to be very helpful. I'm 31 and on the border between petite and regular, so it can be a challenge to find fun dresses that (a) don't look too young for me and (b) fit properly.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the field report!

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Reston, VA: This is a bit of a strange question, but am hoping you can help. I'm 6 feet tall and have had pretty good luck over the years finding clothing that fits. But recently I've gotten a few pendant necklaces and the chains are too short. I have no problem with the chunkier necklaces, but the more delicate chains never look quite right. Are there are any sources out there for "tall" jewelry?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Don't think there's a source for "tall" jewelry in particular, but if you stick to the chunky variety rather than small, delicate pieces, you should be fine. Banana Republic carries a lot of so-called statement necklaces, and their prices are less than J. Crew.

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Fixing Leather Handles on a Coach Bag: I have a great coach handbag this is two years old and the body is in great condition. Unfortunately, the leather handles are starting to show some slight wear (the sides are starting to slightly fray). Is there a way to have the handles fixed? And if so, is there a place you recommend where it could be done?

Holly Thomas: Take it to your local Coach store and see if any sort of manufacturer's guarantee/warranty applies to your bag -- if it's only two years old, you might be able to get the handles replaced or repaired for free/cheap. If that doesn't work, a leather repair shop might be able to help.

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For the poster looking for tanks: Old Navy has some cute tanks with a lacy (but not overly frilly) edge on the chest. They also have lingerie straps, which is a great feature. They're very inexpensive and come in some nice bright colors to liven up more neutral cardigans and jackets. I do find that mine have stretched a little, so you might want to buy one size smaller than you'd normally wear.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the tip! I picked up a bunch of H&M's organic cotton tanks recently, and have been very impressed -- soft fabric, thick and thin strap options and a range of lengths to choose from.

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re: jeans for under $35: For the recent grad looking for jeans, Old Navy's Flirt jeans come in a dark wash, cost about $29.99 (but are often on sale), and are very flattering--I'm only 5'2, but they actually make my legs look long and lean--more than any other jeans I have, including expensive brands! They do tend to stretch after a few wears, so buy one size down from your normal size.

Holly Thomas: More jeans tips -- this time, a nod for Old Navy's Flirt cut.

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Getting Smoke out of leather: I have had luck with getting the smell of smoke out of leather (and faux pearls of all things... I LOVE eBay) by using baking soda and newspaper...I put the baking soda about an inch deep in the bottom of a plastic storage bin (depending on size of object, could be shoebox or larger size... key is that it has a tight fitting lid) then crumple newspaper in the box laying whatever it is that is smoky smelling on top of the newspaper. Close lid tightly and leave it closed for at least 3 days. You can repeat the process depending on how strong the smoke smell was to begin with.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for sharing!

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Wear to Work Jeans: Hi, my office allows us to wear jeans on Fridays. What are the best brands/cuts out there that are 'formal' enough, yet still fashionable for the office?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Stay away from distressed-looking jeans and light colors. Stick to dark washes and wear them with heels and a jacket for casual Fridays to look fashionable but not too casual.

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Sun hats: Check out Coolibar.com for all kinds of UV protection including many hats. My good British friend who must avoid sun loves them, and she dresses impeccably.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Here's a suggestion for the chatter who was looking for fashionable hats to wear to work.

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Keeping Jeans Blue: To keep my jeans alive as long as possible I do what you suggest - cold water, delicate cycle, inside out, and go one step further: I insert them into a pillow-cover, tie it off tightly and then wash. (The pillow covers are made of cheap material, so you can untie them when the wash is done.) Maybe I am obsessive, but I think this prevents rubbing. I use pillow-covers like this for other delicates, too.

Holly Thomas: A very DIY approach -- I like it! One more thing: Hang jeans to dry, instead of (eek!) putting them in the dryer.

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More Suggestions for Age Appropriate Jeans: Don't rule out J.C. Penney's, as they have many name brands, such as Levi's and Lee for Women, and include and dark wash, and boot cut. Can also find great deals and coupons for J.C. Penney, as well.

Holly Thomas: JC Penney's for figure-friendly jeans ... thank you!

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For Master's shoes: Saw some adorable multicolor boat shoes/loafers at Rockport. They are true boat shoes so they have the rubber sole and are waterproof, but they are also really cute and stylish and have a little bit of a platform or wedge in case you are worried about looking too sporty or stumpy. Lots of colors to choose from and they would go great with khaki shorts/capris and a polo or whatever else you want to wear to a golf course. All are around $80. Lusting after them!

Holly Thomas: Good idea -- thanks!

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RE: "Tall" Jewelry: If you don' t have an aversion to shopping at plus size stores (Ashley Stuart, Lane Bryant. etc), their necklaces and earrings are just a tad longer to accomodate larger figures.

Janet Bennett Kelly: A suggestion for "tall jewelry." Try Ashley Stuart and Lane Bryant.

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Statement jewelry: If you are looking for JCrew or Banana Republic type statement pieces, I would suggest taking a trip over to Eastern Market. I was there this weekend, enjoying the lovely weather, and picked up a black bib necklace and a feather headband for only $30. Its well worth a look, especially for the price and the variety.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Great suggestion and so much fun in good weather. Thanks.

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"Tall" jewelry: I sometimes have this problem--the chains that come with pendant necklaces are often too short for me. I buy chains separately--a jewelry store or the jewelry section of a good department store should have a selection of chains that you can wear with pendants, so you can find something long enough/substantial enough.

Holly Thomas: Great suggestion! I've had great luck finding long chains/pendants at thrift stores, too.

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Work Appropriate Bags: For the woman looking for work appropriate bags... definitely try Target. I've found some great looking tote bags in bright spring colors last year that have been great for carrying my work shoes and metro reading material every day. It's been very durable and held up well over the past year. Also, Loehmanns, TJ Maxx and Filenes always have some great deals on bags.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for tuning in!

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Tall jewelry: There's also the option of extending the chain with a necklace extender, which I believe you can find at most bead stores. Basically, it's like clipping a bracelet-length chain onto the existing chain. Also, the necklaces at Forever 21 seem to be really long.

Holly Thomas: Crafty advice -- thanks!

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Jeans on a Budget: If you catch a sale or have a coupon, try Loft. I've picked up several dark wash pairs there over the past few months on sale for around $25--both bootcut and skinny. They have a little bit of stretch and retain their shape.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Thanks for that Loft tip!

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untucked work shirt: What if the blouse is well-tailored/fitted and has a straight-edged bottom that looks meant to be untucked? (i.e., no shirttails)

Holly Thomas: That could work -- I'd still accessorize with either a thin or wide belt, just so that the styling looks intentional, not accidental.

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Holly Thomas: Thanks for all the great questions and tips today -- you all have brightened up our Tuesday! The chatter who recommended using a pillow case for washing jeans gets the MAC line filler; the one who suggested Eastern Market for statement jewelry gets the Make Up For Ever lipstick. Send your mailing info to fashion@washpost.com and we'll get those out to you. If you're on Twitter, follow @WashPostFashion for more weekly giveaways -- and we'll be back next Tuesday!


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