Fashion Fix: What to wear and where to find it

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Holly Thomas,Janet Bennett Kelly
Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 12:00 PM

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Janet Bennett Kelly:

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DC: Good Morning-I am a petite female in need of a tuxedo jacket or something close to it. Do you have any suggestions of where I could find one in DC?Thanks

Holly Thomas: It sounds crazy, but the boys' department is the perfect place to go -- the proportions should fit you nicely if you're on the petite/slim-to-average size. Try department stores and chain retailers (Gap, Target, J Crew and Brooks Brothers, for starters). If you're on a tight budget, you can find lots of tux jackets/blazers at area thrift stores -- I found an Oscar de la Renta boys' tuxedo jacket for $4 a few years ago and it's become a fixture in my wardrobe.

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Shoes for Short Legs: I love the look of the gladiators, ankle straps, booties and other shoes that have been fashionable now for quite a while... but I'm five feet tall with short legs. I try these shoes on and suddenly feel like I'm in Munchkin land. Is there any way to make these shoes work for me other than hiding them under pants? Or should I just avoid them and continue to look longingly at them from afar?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Try on a pair and see if that works better for you.

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headbands: I'm 26. Am I too old to wear a headband? May be something thin?

Holly Thomas: You're not too old for a headband -- just stick with something slim, understated and chic, like a thin metallic band. If you go with a wider style, keep the color neutral or close to your natual hair color, and try sweeping your hair up into a sleek ponytail. Save anything made of stretchy cotton for the gym; for going out, raise the bar with subtle embellishments, like this number from Forever 21.

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Picking shoes for navy outfits: I have a nagging question: what color accessories (especially shoes/tights/socks) do you wear with navy? As a fair-skinned redhead I look much better in navy than black, so I've got plenty of office staples (suit, dress, etc.) in navy, but I'm never quite sure if I'm pairing them with the right shoes. Cute, non-dowdy navy shoes are a) hard to find, and b) hard to match precisely, so I've just stuck with my black patent flats or black pumps, but I can't help wondering if I'm getting things all wrong. I have no problem picking out a great grey sweater or yellow scarf to wear with my navy ensembles, but the footwear choice always trips me up. Help!

Janet Bennett Kelly: keep in mind that French women not only have no problem wearing combining black with navy, it's considered tres chic.

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Blending in: I'm heading over to England this weekend for a week and a half. Any tips on what to wear to avoid looking like a tourist?

Holly Thomas: a pair of simple heels if you'll be doing fun going-out activities, or a pair of street sneakers (Converse, Keds, etc) if you're more of the exploring/sightseeing/wandering-around type. Keep your color palette mostly neutral and brighten up with accessories (scarves, jewelry, a handbag) and generally steer clear of sweatshirts, fleece jackets and gym shoes.

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Bat mitzvah dress: Any ideas about finding a dress for a thirteen year old's bat mitzvah for this fall? The usual spots (Nordstroms, Cloud 9) have been scoured! So much of the clothing for "tweens" is too glitzy, too tight and too tacky. The other extreme is the modest look of a styleless suit; dark and dull. There must be something in between, but where to look for it in this area? And while we're at it...any suggestions for Mom? Thanks so much!

Janet Bennett Kelly: I'm not sure they have regular hours quite yet, but this may be a place to try. The owner can also custom order.

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Handbag Repairs: Hi Ladies--Hope you can take this early question. Last year I purchased a Simply Vera Wang handbag that was big enough and shaped as a briefcase of sorts (it's made of cloth). One of the straps (faux leather) broke when I overloaded the case. Question: What's the point - financially- that makes a fashion item worth or not worth repairing? I've only had it a year, paid about $50, and still like it, but don't know if it's worth paying $20 to repair it or just chuck it and buy new (real leather this time). Any advice is welcome.

Janet Bennett Kelly: So, you pays your money and your takes your choice.

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Shoe Lover Wants Classic Pieces: I'm good at picking out shoes, but not so good at picking out clothes (or accessories - yikes). Any tips for classic pieces that I can buy to last for a while and accent with my love of heels? I'm 28 and my work is casual.Thanks!!

Holly Thomas: That's a pretty broad question, but I can tell you a few basic pieces most women can't (or at least shouldn't) live without: Straight-leg black pants; trouser-cut jeans in a dark rinse; a classic white button-up shirt; a tailored black blazer; a few sheath dresses in neutral colors like black, gray and camel; a cocktail dress that flatters you and makes you feel fantastic; cashmere cardigans to throw over dresses and tees; belts (some to wear at your natural waist over dresses and tops, some to wear with jeans and pants); and soft cotton scarves to dress up simple tops and blazers. Hope that helps!

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Bat Mitzvah suggestions: I don't know what the attire is for the bat mitzvah (nor the size of the girl) but if you're going a little more on the casual side, I'd suggest Anthropologie. For Mom, I'd actually look into the J.Crew wedding collection--their bridesmaid dresses are adorable and not overly expensive.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the helpful tips!

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Cognac Shoes: I just bought these shoes...http://shop.nordstrom.com/S/3112211?origin=category&resultback=3692 in cognac and I absolutely love them! However, I don't know what to wear them with. Could you give me some suggestions?

Janet Bennett Kelly: skirts, suits, trousers, just about anything. And the color is very much in the neutral zone, so you can pair with navy, black, charcoal, olive, etc.

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tights: When the weather gets colder, I'm a total tights lover. However, weird as this may sound, I only know how to wear black/grey tights. What do I wear with a chocolate brown dress? What about a navy pin striped dress? And how does this affect my footwear? Help!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Just go to a department store like Nordstrom or Bloomingdale's and check out their tights department. Bring your dresses and see what you can find that you like.

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No more heels!: Help please. I pretty much wear heels everyday and need a relief (my feet are also tired)! Flats tend to be too narrow for me (I don't have wide feet but my toes are a bit spaced out therefore needs a roomier toe box). I'm looking @ brogues but feel they're too 'hipster-ish' for me. Any other suggestions?

Holly Thomas: You can certainly make brogues work for you -- I think these from J Crew would look cute with slim jeans, tailored pants or a basic dress and tights. If you're still not feeling the oxford look, look for low wedge booties and pumps, which are a major fall trend. Piperlime.com has a few of my favorites from Bettye Muller, Chinese Laundry, and Nine West.

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Navy shoes: I'm a fair-skinned redhead too and wear black all the time: black, red (hair) and white (skin) is pretty classic IMHO. But anyway, if you want to find colored shoes, blue or otherwise, all of the big shoe websites let you search by color: Endless.com, Zappos, etc. I have a great pair of blue suede Bandolinos that go with several pairs of blue pants I have, and I also got a pair of white, grey and blue patterned Nine West pumps that go well with blue dresses and pants. It wasn't that hard to find them. And they don't have to match perfectly, especially if the skirt is to the knee. As long as they're close I think it's fine.As for kids' dresses, not a parent but when I walk through the kids' section at Old Navy I see a lot of cute stuff.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for weighing in!

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shoes: Hi, I found a cute pair of grey patent-looking heels with an open toe; is it too late in the year to wear these with a black skirt for a nice dinnder party?

Holly Thomas: Definitely not! It's not chilly out yet, so make the most of them. And even when it does get cold, you can still get away with open-toed shoes and a warm, dressy coat, so long as you're just dashing from a taxi to your final destination.

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English vacation: For the chatter heading to Engand, I'm from there, trust me, it always feels colder than the forecasts predict -- between winds and the damp. I always take a super fitted fleece or decent cashmere sweater for an extra layer and I always end up wearing it.

Holly Thomas: Thanks! The weather forecast predicts temps in the low 60s/high 50s, and it always feels colder when it's windy and damp ... a few good layers of cozy cashmere should help.

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I Need, I Love Coats!: Last year, I had to throw out two of my heavier-weight coats (became ratty and had holes, etc). I am looking for two reasonably priced coats, one for the late fall/early days of winter and then for the freezing cold. I used to own one of those puffy coats but now I'm starting my first real job and think its time to look a little more grown up, even in my super-warm coats. Suggestions?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Another option, but more expensive, is to look for something in shearling, which is very warm and can be very fashionable.

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Fall Shoes: Hi Ladies,Love the chat! My questions is what to wear on my feet when it gets too cold for sandals, but its still too warm for boots? I'm thinking something cute and casual, but not ballet flats - I need a little heel. Thanks!

Janet Bennett Kelly: What about a pair of suede kitten heels or a pair in patent leather? Try looking on Zappos or PiperLime.

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black pants: I am in desperate need of a pair of new black pants. I have a pair of black wool work pants, but am looking for something that is a little trendier -- this is as close as I've gotten, but I'm worried about online comments that it unlined and there are 'panty line issues': http://www.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=57504&pid=760949&mlink=57504,2133889,3&clink=2133889. Any other suggestions? I need to order a tall inseam, so an online retailer would be great. Thanks!

Holly Thomas: A friend just bought a few pairs from Gap's Black Magic line and she loves them, so I'd say these are a safe bet. Since you're tall, the perfect trouser, true straight or boy fit versions will probably look great on you. And as far as panty lines are concerned, choose a seamless brief or thong and you should be fine -- I swear by Commando and Hanky Panky, but Target's Gilligan & O'Malley has some good seamless options too.

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Bridesmaid: I am looking for a bridesmaid dress in the burgundy/plum/wine color family. The bride is ok with us wearing anything in those colors, without all of us wearing the same dress. Any go to stores (brick&mortar/online) that I can check out? I am looking at Ann Taylor, JCrew, Macy's - but am not finding anything interesting yet.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Hitched in Georgetown recently opened a store that carries bridesmaid dresses. I'd look there and also try the online site: Threads.

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Mock turtleneck tops: I have seen nothing but turtlenecks or Vneck tops this year. I need to replenish my stock of mock turtlenecks for winter..any suggestions for shopping on the internet?

Janet Bennett Kelly: L.L. Bean has a slew of them in different colors.

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Re: Bat Mitzvah Outfit: Have you tried Nanette Lepore in Friendship Heights? I wore one of her suits for my bat mitzvah (which now seems like a lifetime ago), but they tend to be youthful without being inappropriate.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Good suggestion! For the woman searching for something her daughter can wear to her bat mitzvah, try Nanette Lepore.

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Men's Jeans: My husband is an unusual size (35 x 33). Finding jeans has been impossible - nothing at Levis, Nordstron, Gap, BR, Saks, Lands End, etc. Any ideas?

Holly Thomas: It sounds like your husband primarily needs a good tailor -- LL Bean has a few modern cuts that are available in a 35X34, and J Crew has a lot of great, straight-leg options (like these, which are a bit more modern -- not "dad jeans") in that size as well. A tailor can easily take them up an inch and leave the original hem intact.

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England!: Hi- to the chatter going to England - I lived there for a couple of years and one tip I can give is to pack interesting/fun scarves. A constant in European fashion on both sides of the Isles is a scarf. My uniform was a pair of skinny pants, ballet flats or trendy sneakers like pumas/converse, camisole, cardigan, scarf and blazer. Like the other chatter said, layers are key because its constantly misting and damp, so it feels chilly. Also, women in the UK love the boots trend, and city dwellers especially like the flat ones since they are constantly mobile, so another good idea for easy outfits that will make you feel like a local are skirts, tights, flat boots, blazer and scarf with an interesting bag.

Holly Thomas: All great tips for the chatter heading to England -- thanks!

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No more heels: I'm wearing a pair of Naturalizer loafers right now and they are AWESOME. They have a slight lift so that they work with most of my existing pants, plus they come in a wide variety of widths AND have a functioning buckle that allows you to tighten and loosen the toe box. The model is "Click" and I have them in taupe. I love them.(I first saw them in the wrong size at DSW. After a month of stalking them on various websites, I finally saw them for less than $30 on EndlessShoes. The sale is over, no doubt, but the shoes are worth three times that. I wear them every day.)

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the recommendation!

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Shearling and Black Pants: I swear by my shearling coat in the winter. I'm from Maine so I've had my share of warm coats growing up but the shearling is the warmest I've ever owned and absolutely stops wind in its tracks. Also, I love Banana Republic's light wool black trousers, particularly their Martin fit.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for tuning in! Plus, shearling jackets are another big fall trend ...

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Early evening wedding: I am going to a wedding soon on a Sunday evening at 6 with the reception immediately afterward and I can't decide how dressy to be. Red cocktail dress? Navy and ivory striped skirt w/ivory shell and lime green cardigan? Black skirt w/black sparkly top that I usually only wear on NY's eve? Help!

Janet Bennett Kelly: The red cocktail dress sounds appropriate, while the navy striped skirt, shell and cardigan seems a bit underdressed. Just my take. Do you know the other guests? I would talk to one or two and see what they're going to wear.

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For the chatter going to England: Do lots of layers, but a lighter-weight coat. If you're not going to be spending long periods of time outside, then it's just something you have to carry around when you're inside (or pay to check). I wore a leather jacket with only a nylon lining when I went for a week in February and was fine with my various tees and sweaters underneath.

Holly Thomas: Good call -- toting around (and keeping track of) a heavy coat is a pain. Lots of lightweight layers is the way to go.

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Black Pants: For the chatter looking for black pants, I also love Banana Republics 'Sloan' line. They are made of a cotton/spandex/viscose blend. They are not thin nor too heavy, and they keep their shape through the day but do not show any lines. The stretch makes them so comfortable that I feel like I'm wearing yoga pants, even if the office thinks that I'm dressed up! http://bananarepublic.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=770799&kwid=1&sem=false&sdReferer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Furl%3Fsa%3Dt%26source%3Dweb%26cd%3D4%26ved%3D0CCYQFjAD%26url%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.bananarepublic.com%252Fproducts%252Fsloan-curvy-fit-flare-pant-P770799.jsp%26rct%3Dj%26q%3Dbanana%2520republic%2520curvy%2520pants%26ei%3DBBuiTOHYAoT7lweBu-2vBA%26usg%3DAFQjCNEo5aQJhT3BO2N1JJM_FJf6x2eGxQ%26sig2%3DPsC7oJCm6RnlpY0fFhcHQQ#

Holly Thomas: Great suggestion, thank you!

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Inexpensive Coats: I have had great luck with overstock.com for trendy, inexpensive coats. They have some designer brands including DKNY, Michael Kors, and Kenneth Cole. I got a wonderful Via Spiga 3/4 length puffy coat a couple of winters ago, and it has held up wonderfully. Stay warm!

Holly Thomas: A tip for Overstock.com for affordable coats -- thanks!

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velvet blazers...: I love blazers and I especially love velvet blazers. I have a lavendar one that does not get much use, though - I think of velvet being a fall and winter fabric, but the color of this blazer is definitely lavendar and not plum. Should I put it away until April or can I wear it now? Thanks!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Wear something a little ruffly or lacy underneath in dark color if that makes you feel it would be more appropriate for the current weather.

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Camel skirt: Hello, I have a lovely wool camel skirt, and I don't know what to wear with it. I like to wear tights, but brown seems too dark. What colored shoes? Thanks!

Holly Thomas: Black opaque tights and black boots/pumps would look great with your skirt, and dark chocolate brown works too -- just match your shoes and tights for the most streamlined, figure-flattering effect.

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Tights: Are tights difficult to get into if one has a trickey back? I have been told not to try Spanx and don't want to buy a pair of tights only to find I cannot get into them. I love the look of tights and since I am short the continuous line under a skirt would be good.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Do you have a physical therapist whom you consult for your tricky back? He or she should be able to show you some good body mechanics that should help you when you put on tights.

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winter coats: for the reader looking for a nice winter coat, I found an AMAZING cashmere blend coat at Burberry's outlet in Leesburg. They have several right now, and if you sign up for the Leesburg outlet VIP list, you can get extra discounts. While the coat was a little more than the J.Crew one I was looking at, I know that this was worth the extra cost. It makes me happy just thinking about it!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Hear that, chatter looking for a nice winter coat. Go to the Burberry outlet in Leesburg and sign up for the VIP list. Thanks for the suggestion.

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Hated Fall Trend: FUR VESTS!: Hi Janet and Holly: I've seen high end and low end fur vests (and faux fur), and already I hate this trend with a passion! It makes the torso look really bulky, and the arms look detached from the body. Besides, when did we all become Nanook of the North? I predict that most of these will be on the sale racks come December and January - and I still won't get one then. FUGLY!

Holly Thomas: Thanks for weighing in! I must confess to buying a girl's faux-rabbit vest last winter at the thrift store, and I wear it as a bolero over cocktail dresses ... but you're right, they can add a bit of bulk.

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Donating professional men's clothing: Hi ladies,I've seen the answer to this question for women but was hoping you might be able to help out my boyfriend. He was just cleaning out/organizing his closet the other night (love him!) and pulled quite a few new or barely worn ties, suit jackets, and blazers that he would like to donate. He was going to bring them to the Salvation Army but I figured there has to be a place in DC that accepts men's professional wear for those who are unemployed and seeking to start their career. Do you have any ideas? Points if it's somewhere I can drop off clothing after work. Thanks!!

Holly Thomas: According to their website, Martha's Table is currently looking for adult clothing, so you might want to give them a call. The site also has a long list of referral agencies, so it could also be worth taking a look through it and calling around to see which ones specialize in mens' clothing.

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Skinny Calves girl looking for boots : Please help!! Where can I find boots for my skinny legs. I was not born with beautiful curvy calves. Must I take the boots to a specialist to get fixed? If so, are there certain boots that are better for this cut then others?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Via Spiga and Nine West tend to make narrower cuts. On the expensive side, there's Ferragamo and Prada.

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re: mens jeans: Has the person who posted about the 35x33 size looked online? My husband is also a 35, and Gap, Lands End, LL Bean all have in-between sizes available online... I think Lands End even does fractions of inches!

Holly Thomas: Online is definitely the way to go for this -- so much easier than digging through piles of pants and hoping for the right size to turn up!

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Looking for a versatile clutch: Hi Ladies, I am looking a clutch that I can use for weddings and holiday parties. I wear bright colored dresses and also black. What would be a good color of bag that I could use with most outfits?

Holly Thomas: A chic metallic bag is an easy fix -- depending on what kind of jewelry you wear most (ie silver or gold), look for bronze, pewter, silver and gold. A python-print bag would look great with your black dresses, as would a jewel-tone clutch in satin or velvet.

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re: skinny calves: I have the same problem! While I think each boot is different, I have two pairs that fit snugly: one from Camper and one from Steve Madden. Try reading the comments on online sites like Zappos or Endless to see which tend to be smaller in circumference.

Holly Thomas: Great point about reading the comments when shopping online for boots!

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Thrifting : I've heard you both mention snagging some great items at local thrift stores. I love treasure hunting through the racks in these type of places - but haven't had any luck in this area, even in the 'burbs! Would you ladies be willing to share some of your favorites?

Holly Thomas: Quick answer, as we're running out of time -- but this is my favorite subject! I love the Value Village/Unique Thrift combo in Silver Spring; I have great luck at the Unique Thrift in Falls Church, though it's a bit pricier than its counterparts; Joseph's Coat tends to have good housewares; Look Again resale charity shop in Old Town for records and housewares; Second Chance in Bethesda for higher-end designer clothes/accessories.

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Holly Thomas: Thanks so much for joining us today! The chatter who hails from England and suggested a super-fitted fleece and cashmere sweaters for a trip to the UK gets the Body Shop face wash; the one who pointed us to Anthropologie and J Crew for the bar mitzvah-bound gets the Got2B hairspray. Email fashion@washpost.com with your name and mailing address so we can get those out to you. And we'll see you all again next Tuesday at noon!


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