Fashion Fix: Fall handbags, something blue, wearing scarves, plus sizes, consignment shops, more

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Holly Thomas,Janet Bennett Kelly
Tuesday, August 31, 2010; 12:00 PM

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Janet Bennett Kelly: I don't know about you, but I'm ready for fall -- not really cool temps, but cooler than today's 90-plus! What say you? We've got prizes as always -- an Oscar Blandi shine spray for hair and a Burberry eye shadow in taupe. Ready to talk fashion? Let's get on with the show!

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The gulf between teen hooker and gramma dowdy: It's struggle to find attractive, stylish clothes for the over 50 set. OK, over 60 set. Especially on a budget. Business casual leaves a lot of room for interpretation, but there has to be some middle ground between distressed skinny jeans and a severe black suit. I shop at the discount stores, TJ Maxx and Marshall's, at the Gap and Ann Taylor Loft. AND THAT IS IT. I want to purchase things that will have some staying power, but have trouble finding classics with a modern edge. On my list for this fall are a tweedy modern jumper, a leather jacket that can anchor separates, a belt to cinch thin sweaters - Michelle Obama-style, and some (not too awfully) high-heeled oxfords. I live in Montgomery, Alabama but can travel to Birmingham or Atlanta to shop. Thanks!

Holly Thomas: since the brand underwent a recent facelift? You might have luck at Banana Republic, too -- the in-store sales are usually pretty decent, and if you're comfortable shopping online, you can snag even better deals. For accessories that are current but not pricey, try Forever 21, Target, Charming Charlie (there's one in Birmingham) and H&M (your closest one is in Atlanta). For oxfords that aren't terribly high, your best bet is to look online at places like Zappos, Endless and Piperlime, which allow you to search by heel height. One last tip -- try an aggregator site like ShopStyle.com (which searches lots of online stores) to find the best deals on things like tweed jumpers and leather jackets. And Overstock.com might be another good place to try.

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Vintage clothes - need a consignment shop: I have some really interesting old clothes - my mother died recently, and we also have some of my grandmother's things. Do you have any consignment shops that would enjoy these things? Dresses, skirts, hats, some sweaters mostly. Thanks

Janet Bennett Kelly: Nana's on U Street takes some consignment, as does Secondi in Dupont Circle. Then there's Mustard Seed in downtown Bethesda and Second Chance, also in Bethesda. Hope that helps.

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Classic Trench coat: I'm starting to think ahead to fall/winter and realize I really need to replace my trench coat with a removable wool lining so it can be worn year round. Any sugestions on where to look for a ladies trench coat? Since I work in an office that requires suits I am looking for a 3/4 length. Thanks.

Janet Bennett Kelly: I have scored at both in the past. One season I bought a down coat for less than $100.

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Leggings and belt?: Hi! I am submitting early as I will be away tomorrow. I bought a dress to wear with my leggings, and I was wondering if it is a faux pas to wear a belt too? Thanks!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Defined waistlines are very much in vogue this season.

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Cambridge, MA: I have a number of scarves but I don't know how to wear them. I have long hair but they fall off my head. What am I doing wrong?Two of the scarves are about one yard square. Others are rectangular, about half the size. Some are heavier (also rectangular) and maybe more to cover shoulders as a wrap?They are various shades of browns. Some greens. One is a lovely large silk scarf a friend brought back from India, in red to pink hues. Another is a small silk scarf--almost a handkerchief--another friend gave me from China. But I have many.I would like to use them to accessorize my outfits, but I don't know what I'm doing. Please help!

Holly Thomas: This site from Hermes has some great ideas for tying scarves from young women all over the world. If you have trouble keeping a scarf on your head, just use a few bobby pins the same color as your hair and pin just behind your ears. Wear the square and rectangular lightweight cotton and silk scarves as headbands, headwraps or around a ponytail; save anything heavier for around your neck or shoulders. Tie a long rectangular scarf around the handle of a handbag; wear it as a belt; tie it around your wrist as a bracelet. And maybe try the small silk one from China as a pocket square in your favorite blazer.

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Trend Report: Cute girl in the Trend Report this week! I was glad to see your 'look for less' take on the style. I love the "anthro" look, but don't always have the green stuff to do it up.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the feedback! That one was fun to do -- stay tuned for more of that "look for less" type coverage in Trend Report in the future.

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Something blue & something new: Please take my question as this is sort of urgent (I needed this item yesterday). Where in DC/VA can I purchase a blue garter for my friend who's getting married overseas? Thank you so much!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Also, try Trousseau in Vienna or Sylene's in Chevy Chase, Md.

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women's oxfords: Hi! I love your chats - they're pretty much the highlight of my Tuesdays. I was hoping you could help with something: I want some oxfords and can't find any that fit my big feet. I really like these but I wear a 10 1/2 or 11 and these only go to 10. Do you have any suggestions for a reasonably affordable (preferably under $100) oxford that would fit me? Thanks so much!

Holly Thomas: If you haven't already, you should pay a visit to the online shoe site Barefoot Tess right away -- the site carries some extremely cute shoes in extended sizes and widths, and prices are reasonable. How about these as an alternative to the Steve Madden oxfords? Looks like they come in gray, blue and black, as well as brown, and they'll only run you $69.

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foundation garment under jersey dress?: What is the appropriate undergarment to wear under a sleak jersey dress whenWeight nor bulges are an issue.Just want to maintain nice line, and avoid panty line. And I hate that some spanx-type garment leaves a "thigh line."Help

Janet Bennett Kelly: Have you tried any Body Wrap products? I noticed a few that I think would work and avoid giving you an unsightly panty line. The best thing is to go try on one and take your dress with you.

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In search of...: Straight leg dress pants. I'm looking for straight leg dress pants for work. I've run across a ton of skinny "dress pants", but most of these (I think) are too form fitting for everyday work wear, or they have jeans styling, and I'd rather not have a pair of knit pants that look like jeans. Any idea where to find a pair? Either wool blend or a more casual material works.

Holly Thomas: a great pair of tuxedo-style straight-leg black pants on sale at Zara back in July, so that would be my first suggestion, especially as fall clothes are starting to roll in. Then try Club Monaco, Theory and Benetton.

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Color of purses: What colors other than black are good for everyday purses? Camel, bone, deep purple, are some of the ones catching my eye.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Camel is huge this season, and it's the perfect neutral, meaning it goes with just about everything you choose to wear. I love purple, too, but it's not as versatile in my opinion.

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Dress shoes: I have a problem with work clothes in that I can't wear heels above 2 inches due to foot and back problems, and most pumps don't work because they are either too high or look too frumpy when they are low. I can wear a low-heeled loafer or ballet flat with slacks and pantsuits, but with skirts I can only wear them when they work with ballet flats or tall boots (and tights) in the winter. The problem I have now is that I'm starting a new job and want to make the right impression with a new skirt suit or two. I can wear pants suits, but I love the look of a nicely tailored skirt suit. Can you recommend any types of shoes that would work with these suits? Flats just don't look right and it will be too early for boots (both weather-wise and impression-wise). Thanks!

Holly Thomas: If you're able to invest a bit in your shoes, you should take a look at local boutique Simply Soles, which stocks a lot of low-heeled pumps and understated wedges. Some brands to look out for: Bettye Mueller, Taryn Rose, Butter, Chie Mihara and the in-house brand Lillybee.

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Middle Eastern Wear: I'm headed to Abu Dhabi for a long-term position, and I'm wondering if anyone out there has any advice for clothing essentials for such a hot climate! Recommendations for men/women's fashion staples are appreciated for both a professional and casual setting. Any sources to buy such items are also appreciated.

Holly Thomas: Opening this one up to the audience -- any suggestions for what to wear in Abu Dhabi? (My only recommendation is to stay far, far away from the wardrobe choices in the "Sex and the City" sequel.)

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Good article on plus sizes: Difficulty finding plus-sized fashion seems to be a hot topic in these chats lately, so I thought I'd share this article that explains why they are tough to find. Not surprisingly, it basically boils down to money-making, that is, which sizes sell best. A couple of findings that I found interesting: 1. Size 14 might be the size of an average American woman, but "size 14 is among the least purchased sizes out there for many manufacturers. So it seems that -being- a size 14 and -buying- a size 14 are in fact two very different things." 2. "It seems that women who used to be a size 8 or 10 and have gained weight often simply don't want to shop for a size 14 or 16. Consequently, they make do with what they have. Women sizes 20 and up, many of whom perhaps have been plus-size their entire lives, seem to be more likely to have accepted themselves physically and shop as frequently as single-digit sizes..." 3. "Because it's easier to fit a wide range of people in a size 2 to 14, most manufacturers target this market. Above a size 14, fit becomes more difficult, because of the varying proportions involved; i.e., people carry their weight in very different places."

Holly Thomas: Very insightful -- thanks for sharing this with us!

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Finding the right show: Hello. I was wondering if you have any shoe brand suggestions. I notice when I try on heel, the heel and ball of my foot lie flat in the shoe but my arch deosn't. It's feels as if I am walking on my tip toes. Do you have any suggestions for brands that will snuggly fit my feet?

Janet Bennett Kelly: do you have narrow feet? If you're looking for a snugger fit, meaning a more narrow one, brands like Nine West offer slimmer shoes. But go to a big department store like Nordstrom, which carries many brands, and try them on to see which will best fit your foot.

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wearing scarves: If your hair is too slippery for the more delicate scarves, sticking a headband in your hair before putting it on helps the scarf hang on.

Holly Thomas: Good tip -- I wonder if you could fold the scarf over the headband and then put it on? Try it out and report back!

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clothing for abu dhabi: Stay on the modest side, and loose, natural fabrics that breathe are your friend!

Holly Thomas: For the Abu Dhabi-bound chatter ... thanks!

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Re: Low Heeled Dress Shoes: Sofft has some wonderful 2 inch and kitten heeled shoes that are extremely comfortable. As a bonus, the new Nordstrom Rack in Fairfax seemed to be swimming in them.

Holly Thomas: Another good brand recommendation for low-heeled work-appropriate shoes ...

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Stretched out shoes: Hi there! Most leather heels I own stretch out over time, sometimes to the point where they start slipping off my feet. These shoes are in good condition and I'd like to continue wearing them, so is there a way to shrink them again? Thank you!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Any chatter have any experience with shrinking shoes? I don't have any suggestions myself except the best way to avoid having leather shoes stretch out is buy some of those inserts that men often use to keep their shoes in shape.

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richmond,va: I finally found a pair of tall leather boots that I both like and can afford (it's only taken 3 years...). The come in several colors and I am trying to decide whether dark brown or a dusty black (both with brown soles) would be more versatile. I am also planning on buying a pair of oxfords in either black or brown. At this point I am leaning toward brown for both but I want to make sure I can cover all my bases as far having shoes to go with the clothes I already have. Palette-wise I do wear a lot of black, but also a lot of jeans and colorful cardigans. Thoughts? Thanks!

Holly Thomas: If you wear a lot of black clothing but don't currently own a pair of black boots, I'd suggest going with the boots in black and the oxfords in brown, as you'll get more use out of the boots once it gets cold. And a tall black boot is a wardrobe staple, in my book. But you should examine your handbag collection, too -- if you typically carry a brown bag, it might make more sense to go with brown boots.

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Help me get out of my rut!: My office is very casual (jeans are allowed), and as a result I've unfortunately stopped caring about what I wear. This summer's weather hasn't helped matters, as I try to be as cool and comfortable as possible. So I'm giving up on summer fashion, but want to get back in gear for fall. I have a lot of good basics - pants, cardigans, thin cashmere, flats and pumps. What should I be buying for fall? I'm in my 30s, 5'6" and slim. My budget is in the J. Crew/Banana Republic range but would allow for some splurges. Thanks!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Congrats on having the basics! If I were going to splurge on one item this fall, it would be a great coat that I could see myself wearing for several years to come. Camel is big this year, and a camel coat is a classic.

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Jimmy Choo: Not really a question, but I wanted to share that I tried on two pairs of Jimmy Choos on Saturday. I just happened to be in Chevy Chase with some time to kill and thought, "What the heck?" They were pretty, but even if I had it, I don't think I'd spend $800 on shoes (I'm more of a DSW sale rack kind of shoe girl). At least now I can say I've worn Jimmy Choos.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Good for you -- you satisfied the urge and discovered that mystique is costly!

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Fall handbag: I'm purchasing a fall handbag (Holly steered me towards Big Buddha, and I've decided on the Arlene model), but now I'm stuck on color. Available colors are red, black, and brown. The brown doesn't look very rich, so that leaves black and red. I'm kind of interested in the red; it's considered to be a classic color, yes? (FWIW, my winter coats are black and camel.) Thanks much.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Go for the red one. It not only works with your coats, but adds a pop of color, which is cheery, especially in the depths of winter.

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RE CONSIGNMENT : In my experience, Mustard Seed does not take vintage clothing. They only want clothing that is less than 2 years old and they are quite picky.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Thanks for setting the record straight. For the chatter looking for a consigment shop for her mother's clothes, Mustard Seed might not be the place. But do call first, just to check!

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Re: Good article on plus sizes: Great. So even if I lose enough weight to get down to a 14, there STILL won't be anything for me!

Holly Thomas: That's not entirely true, so don't lose hope! The Faith 21 line at Forever 21 has some very cute options in sizes XL-3X. How cute is this skirt? And this great batwing tunic? It's not easy, but taking the time to find the right brands and fabrics for your body type will eventually make for less-painful shopping.

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For Richmond: Please share the brand of boots you selected; I'd love to know of tall affordable boots!

Holly Thomas: Will the Richmond chatter with the great tall boots please stand up?

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folding the scarf over the headband: only on headbands that don't have teeth!

Holly Thomas: Another good point!

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Make-Up: My current make-up routine consists of lip gloss and perhaps some powder. I will never be the type of person that wears it daily, but now that I'm 30 and received a recent promotion, I'd like to look a bit more polished. Where can I go to get some good application and color tips and purchase some make-up in small quantities so that it doesn't go bad before I use it all?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I've had good luck at Bluemercury (there's one in Dupont Circle, Georgetown and Bethesda). The store frequently features makeup artists from the likes of Laura Mercier and others who come to the store and do free makeovers.

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Abu Dhabi: There are places to shop in Abu Dhabi and, once you've settled in a bit, I'm sure you'll notice local fashion as it relates to your profession/lifestyle. I was once sent to London for a six month contract and wound up wearing little of my US wardrobe. I bought locally and felt I fitted in better.

Holly Thomas: Very valid point! I've learned to pack very lightly when I go overseas, because once I get there, I tend to be inspired by what other people are wearing. Maybe bring a few lightweight cotton pieces, then do a bit of shopping once you arrive in Abu Dhabi.

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over 50s shopper: I too am an over fifties shopper wanting to avoid dowdy. I have shopped lately at J Jill and really like their things. How do I know when I am too old for a look? You have no idea how much I hate asking that question.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Totally understand. We all hate to admit to ourselves that we're too old to wear a look that we used to wear all the time. You need an honest broker -- a friend with good taste or a store owner. I'd trust Betsy Fisher, among others, to tell me the truth.

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For Something Blue/New: Try etsy.com for tons of garter styles. As a plus, most sellers could ship to your friend directly.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Thanks, great suggestion for the woman in search of a blue garter for her friend getting married overseas.

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Blue Garter: Lotus Blooms and Le Tache in Old Town would probably either have one or know where to find one.

Janet Bennett Kelly: More suggestions for the woman in search of a blue garter. Thanks for the tips.

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packing for travel: Hi, I'm vacationing in Turkey in October (yay!). It's my first trip off the North American continent in about 20 years, and I really don't know how to pack. I'll be gone 2.5 weeks. What are a few critical pieces that I must bring? I won't need anything dressy.

Janet Bennett Kelly: and a comfortable pair of shoes that can work for evening and touring. Have a wonderful time.

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Re: Good article on plus size: Holly says: "The Faith 21 line at Forever 21 has some very cute options in sizes XL-3X." Oh, Holly, Holly, Holly. I'll be 41 in three weeks. I can't get away with Faith 21! But thanks for the encouraging words. I do appreciate it.

Holly Thomas: Well, I'm full of encouragement today, so here's some more -- 41 is not too old to shop for basics (meaning classic jeans, jersey dresses, a plain blazer, etc) at the "teenybopper" stores -- my mom does it, and she's 72. But I'd suggest taking a look at the Land's End Signature collection if you want something more sophisticated -- sizes go up to 16 for most pieces, and the new fall dresses (especially this one) and skirts are quite lovely.

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I don't have any suggestions myself except the best way to avoid having leather shoes stretch out is buy some of those inserts that men often use to keep their shoes in shape.: Also, don't wear them 2 days in a row. The leather gets moist from your feet and they need to dry out before you wear them again.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Another way to make sure leather shoes don't stretch out.

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Over the knee boots and work?: If i work in a K Street law firm, is there anyway to wear over the knee boots to work? I don't want to spend that kind of money if I can't get wear out of them. I love them with skinny jeans but that's not enough. Is there a way to wear them in the work place?

Holly Thomas: If you're on the fashion-forward side, you might be able to get away with over-the-knee boots and a knee-length skirt or dress. For daytime, don't go any shorter than just above the knee (check out French Vogue's Carine Roitfeld for some great examples of this look) and keep the boots and skirt in the same color family. But this is a very tricky look to pull off professionally without looking, well, "professional," and I'm not entirely sure the partners at a law firm would approve -- wear a work-appropriate skirt/dress when you're trying on the boots and be sure you feel comfortable before you part with the cash. Pairing them with opaque tights when it gets colder will tone down the look, as well.

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re: Dress shoes: For anyone with foot issues I recommend going to Richey Shoes. They have a pedorthist on staff who can help you find something appropriate. I have a neuroma and bunions and they found some shoes that worked for me, and gave me advice on what to look for when I'm shopping. There's a store in McLean and one in DC.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for this!

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For chatter with minimal make up: I've had good luck with the Bobbi Brown line; the look is subtle and that's good for those of us who wear minimal make up. One tip: if you get a makeover, be sure to tell the make up artist that you don't wear much make up. They can help you much better if you're really clear about what you will and won't wear.

Holly Thomas: A vote for Bobbi Brown for a natural makeup look ...

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plus size getting down to 14: DO IT, if you can! I have, and it's really nice to be able to shop at a regular store. I still can't fit into most stuff a Neiman's but I can't afford them. I got such a kick out of going into Ann Taylor and being able to try things on for a change!

Holly Thomas: More encouragement ... thanks for tuning in!

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For the Turkey Vacationer: I just visited Turkey a couple of weeks ago as a stop on a Mediterranean cruise. Remember that while visiting mosques and other cultural landmarks, hemlines should be knee-length and below, and your shoulders should be covered. Also, Turkey has wonderful bazaars with great deals on cashmere and leather! It is a great place to hone your bargaining skills, and pick up a few great pieces for your wardrobe back home.

Holly Thomas: Great tips, thanks!

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Faux Fur trend for Autumn: Hi, love these chats. They make my Tuesday. I really like the faux fur collars I'm seeing in the fashion magazines this season, especially the fox and olive green look. Unfortunately, I have a rather large chest and don't want to add extra bulk to that area of my body. What are some other options for fur? Are faux fur hats or hand-muffs (think 1700's ladies' fashion) possibilities? And, how do I pull it off without looking like Daniel Boone or a Cossack?

Holly Thomas: For starters, look for jackets with fur cuffs and ankle boots with fur trim. Shearling is another big trend for fall, and you should be able to find a trim leather jacket with a shearling collar that won't add bulk to your chest area. I'd steer clear of the faux-fur hats and muffs, just so that you don't appear costume-y.

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DC: For shoes on-line, I really love 6pm.com. They have great discounts on designer brands. I used to love Zappos, but find that I can no longer get bargains there, and often theie shoes are a bit more expensive than other outlets. That said, if you know EXACTLY what you want they can be a good resource.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the tip!

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Re: the arch not lying flat on the shoe: I have narrow feet with high arches and I have this exact same problem. Some shoe brands are better than others. Although, I have discovered some gel arch pads at some CVS stores. They stick to the shoe with tape and they make high heels more wearable by supporting my arch.

Holly Thomas: Very helpful advice for the shoe-shopper with high arches ...

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Maternity dress to attend wedding: I have a wedding to attend in October, and I"ll be 7 months pregnant. It's an evening wedding (not black tie) wondering where I can get a nice maternity dress suitable for a wedding.

Andrea Caumont: Producer here...there's a new kids and maternity consignment shop in Del Ray called Bellies and Babies that does formal wear rentals. You could also check out Appleseed in Old Town.

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Holly Thomas: Thanks for spending your Tuesday lunch hour with us! The chatter who suggested Etsy as a resource for a blue garter gets the Oscar Blandi shine spray; the one who just visited Turkey and shared wardrobe/shopping advice gets the Burberry eyeshadow. Email us at fashion@washpost.com with your mailing info and we'll get those out to you. And in the meantime, keep up with us on Twitter and Facebook!


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