Fashion Fix: What to wear and where to find it

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Holly Thomas,Janet Bennett Kelly
Tuesday, November 9, 2010; 11:00 AM

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Holly Thomas: Thank you all for joining me today for our last regularly-scheduled Fashion Fix discussion. In the coming weeks, Janet and I will be doing special Fashion Fix chats for the holidays; from now on, you can send me your fashion and beauty q's on Thursdays at 1 pm as part of the Going Out Gurus discussion. Now, to celebrate how much fun we've had chatting with you over the years, we're giving away some serious beauty goods! There's a holiday polish set from Essie, a rock 'n' roll eye makeup kit from Make Up For Ever, brushes from EcoTools and face wash from Caudalie. So let's get started!

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The Perfect Storm: My situation is dire. Help! I'm in a perfect storm of fashion disaster! I recently moved to coastal North Carolina after living in Hawaii for six years. In Hawaii, I only needs shorts, tank tops, and flip flops for every day wear. Plus, I was in the Navy and I wore a uniform every day. Now, I'm a stay-at-home mom. Additionally, I've spent 18 of the last 36 months pregnant. So.......help! I need a new winter wardrobe, one that's conducive to chasing around a 2-year-old and nursing a 3-month old. For Christmas, my husband is giving me a day to myself to go shopping but I almost don't know where to start. Should I go in with a set list and check things off or should I just wing it the day of? Budget will probably be $1000-$1500, if that helps. What items can I not live without (and will stand the test of time)?

Holly Thomas: Make notes about which brands fit you best, and note your sizes at the various stores. Then, on those odd occasions when the kids are napping, get online and hunt for deals on similar pieces from those brands/stores.

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Tights with pants?: Good morning, Ladies! I am a teacher and my winter wardrobe usually consists of twill pants and ballet flats or low heels. I usually don't wear anything over my feet, but am tired of them being cold outside. I don't think socks look very good with my dress shoes, but don't necessarily want to wear hose or tights under my pants. Any suggestions? Would thin socks look bad with ballet flats?

Holly Thomas: Thin trouser socks or knee-high hose could work and wouldn't add bulk. Personally, I'm a big fan of American Apparel's pointelle ankle socks for wearing with booties, oxfords and flats.

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€™m thinking of make it modern enough? Or should I try it as an a-line or straight skirt after all? Also, this is the first time I'll be trying to quilt fabric. I'll make a trial cotton piece first, but would appreciate any suggestions you or the readers might have about quilting.

Holly Thomas: A few thoughts, in no particular order ... Love the fall trend of mid-calf skirts, and the idea of making one yourself. However, this is a look that requires an attention to balance -- you need a slim, nipped-in silhouette above the waist to flatter your figure. On that note, a quilted fabric is going to be bulky and potentially unforgiving -- just check out look 24 for evidence. So I'd strongly recommend making one first out of a non-quilted fabric. Since you say you want to keep the quilted aspect no matter what, I'd aim for a slightly shorter length (either at or just above the knee) and keep the pattern neutral and as simple as possible. Chatters, any tips about quilting?

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Washington, DC - Jeans: Good afternoon, ladies. I'm begging you, please help me find a pair of jeans. I want straight leg (for tucking into jeans) that accommodate my curvy rear. Apparently, this is impossible (e.g., at The Gap, curvy fit has flared legs, straight leg gapes at the back of the waist). To make things even more interesting, I'm only five feet tall (size 4/6), so I need somewhere with petite sizes/heights. I really don't want to pay a specialty tailor to sew hems back on. Please, where in DC should I go (metro-accessible)?

Holly Thomas: Levi's Curve ID line seems like it would work for you -- the Bold Curve style has a higher-cut back to eliminate the gaping issue and the fit is skinny/slim. The shortest inseam is a 32", so I'm not sure if that will work for you, but if you're just tucking them into boots, you can always cuff them at the ankle and slip socks over the cuff.

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Jeans that stretch: I've had this problem now with a couple of jeans I've bought. I try on the jeans in my size, they fit me, I buy them and I wear them and after a couple of days they are stretched out and baggy, especially in the butt area! This happens with the "premium" denim as well as the regular old gap/levis jeans. Should I be getting a pair of jeans that are too small in hopes that they stretch out to actually fitting me? I there a way I can wash them so they wont shrink?

Holly Thomas: When buying jeans with a significant amount of stretch, they should be VERY tight when you first try them on. A few wears will break them in and make them comfortable (and respectable) enough to wear out of the house. For care, wash them as little as possible; use cold water and gentle detergent; and hang them to dry -- don't put them in the dryer.

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Re: jeans for curvy/petite girls: Joe's Jeans has a great petite line that accommodates curves quite nicely

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the info!

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skinny jeans: for the curvy chatter looking for skinny/slim fit jeans in the DC area, I highly recommend the Tommy Hilfiger brand at Macy's. They are relatively inexpensive- I have a similar build and they have been my go to for years. Two things- go a size down, and make sure to get the ones from Macys. They are more generously cut through the rear than the Tommy Hilfiger jeans sold at the actual Hilfiger stores/outlets!

Holly Thomas: Great advice, thanks!

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Axxium OPI: Anyone used this stuff yet? I'm leery but it would be nice to not have to get a manicure every single week...

Holly Thomas: I haven't tried it yet ... anyone out there tried OPI's long-wearing gel polishes?

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For Tights with Pants?: Hue makes excellent knee highs which I wear during the winter with my ballet flats or heels under dress pants. As a bonus they come in great colors and patterns which you can either match with your shoes or use to add a bit of fun to your look.

Holly Thomas: Great offerings from Hue -- thanks!

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http://www.talbots.com/online/ecatalog/catalog.jsp?sku=028NovBook&catheader=November+2010: Good afternoon. I am attending a wedding in NYC in January, and have been told by the groom's mother that everyone wears black to weddings in New York. I have ordered the dress in the link above, and, providing it fits, would love suggestions for glamming it up a bit. I'm 61 years old, 5 ft. 6 inches tall and thin. Thanks for any suggestions. The wedding is at 5:00 pm in a restaurant and is not black tie.

Holly Thomas: I'm not sure from the link which dress you bought, but you should choose jewelry based on your skin tone -- i.e, if you own/wear mostly gold, opt for a bold statement necklace in that finish. A mixed-material necklace could look great as well, or you could try some great dangly earrings and a chunky cocktail ring as an alternative. I'd opt for a luxe cashmere wrap in a neutral color (not black) to avoid looking like you're going to a fancy funeral. But no matter what, make sure you're wearing what you feel comfortable in, not just what your daughter's future mother-in-law deems acceptable. It's a special day for you, too.

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Trouser socks: I just saw a great collection at DSW. A whole wall's worth.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the tip!

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Re:The Perfect Storm: I would recommend picking up a copy of Nina Garcia's "The One Hundred." It's a book of the 100 things every woman should have in her closet. Maybe you could look through that for inspiration on your shopping day! I've used it before to fill in holes in my wardrobe when I knew I needed SOMETHING but I wasn't quite sure what IT was...

Holly Thomas: A vote for Nina Garcia's book to fill those gaps in your closet ... thanks!

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re Jeans: I have always had similar jean fit issues (5'1", also 4-6, curvy hips), especially with the gap at the back. I've been pretty happy with Banana Republic's skinny jeans. (Though petites are now available only at the BR Petites store at Tysons and online.) They're a little low in the back, but not too bad (not risking actual rear-cleavage) -- so I wear a belt, and either a shirt or sweater that's a little long, or a shirt that I can wear tucked-in.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for this suggestion ...

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washing jeans: speaking of jeans, are there others out there who still don't wash their jeans? Much to my surprise I discovered my boyfriend has never washed his jeans. These are the jeans he wears all the time. Ick.

Holly Thomas: Confession: I rarely wash my jeans, and neither do a lot of guys I know. This is especially true for people (mostly guys) who spends hundreds of dollars on selvedge denim jeans and lots of time breaking them in. As long as you're not spilling stuff on them constantly, I can understand limiting the number of washes, as it preserves the life of the jeans. Here's an even weirder bit of info: Some people stick their jeans in the freezer to refresh them.

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grey booties: ladies, i have no idea what to wear with my grey suede booties. they were an impulse buy and now i'm wondering what i was thinking. i'm 5'6" with shorter athletic legs. what do i do?

Holly Thomas: Since you're on the petite side, you'll want to try your booties (which sound super cute, btw) with skinny jeans and dresses/skirts that are on the shorter side, which will maximize the length of your legs. Try them with gray tights, which will give you a a figure-flattering sense of continuity from the waist down. Gray goes with everything, so try it with other neutrals (ivory, camel, black), jewel tones and different washes of denim.

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The Lucky Shopping Manual: is another book that can help Perfect Storm figure out how to build a wardrobe. I have a copy and am using it for inspiration as I lose weight.

Holly Thomas: More good advice for the chatter needing a new winter wardrobe ... thanks!

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Axxium: I am wearing Axxium gels right now. My manicurist kept trying to get me to wear them but I thought they had to thin the nails like they do with fake nails but they don't. I had them done two Saturdays ago and will go back this Saturday to get a new color but they are looking perfect like I had them done this morning. They even had my go-to color, Bubble Bath. Worth a try and it doesn't seem to damage the nails. Granted, this is my first time but so far I really love them.

Holly Thomas: One answer about OPI's Axxium ... stay tuned for more.

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No washing: Actually, all clothes would greatly benefit from being washed in cold water (no need for hot, and lots of detergents--7th Generation for one--are fomulated for cold) and NEVER being (machine) dried. The only thing we dry at my house is towels. Everything else gets hung. Drying destroys fibers.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the info! I mostly hang everything to dry, too ... which is interesting in a 300-sq-ft studio apartment.

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re: Freezing jeans: Does freezing jeans tighten them up at all? I wash my jeans regularly, not because I spill stuff on them a lot, but because they stretch out so much that after 4 or 5 wears, they're all baggy and look terrible. Maybe I'm just not buying the right kind (I do tend to buy budget types, like Old Navy...) ?

Holly Thomas: Freezing them doesn't tighten them, that I know of ... just eliminates any sort of never-been-washed funk. You might try sizing down with your next pair, and maybe trying a brand without quite so much stretch.

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Petite jeans: JAG jeans come in petite sizes and are suitable for a curvy figure. They are sold at Nordstrom, which is currently running a sale.

Holly Thomas: Thanks!

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Tights with pants Again: Thanks for taking my question and the answers about trouser socks! That leads me to another question - should the color of the socks match the color of the shoes or the pants?

Holly Thomas: I say match the color of your pants -- that creates a continuous line down to your shoes, which makes your legs look longer.

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Re: Axxium: I haven't tried it yet, but my manicurist at Bliss LOVES it. She had been wearing it for over a week the last time I saw her and her nails still looked amazing (very unusual since she works with nail polish remover on a daily basis). I am eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Holly Thomas: More on Axxium ...

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Perfect storm: Before embarking on shopping spree, Perfect Storm would be wise to invest in a bra fitting at a specialty or department store, and the purchase of either some light control briefs or Spanx. Having a good "foundation" can help you build your wardrobe.

Holly Thomas: Very good advice ... thanks for that!

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Sizing Down Jeans: You've mentioned this a couple of times, and I'd love to try it except that the waist is way too tight. How do you avoid being cut in two when you sit down?

Holly Thomas: For starters, jeans with a decent amount of stretch should be less of a problem than those with none at all. And when you're in the breaking-in process, wear them on days when you'll be doing more standing/walking than sitting ... even wearing them for a few hours at a time will help.

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No drying: I love this thread on not machine-drying clothes. I hang most things, too, and I have an aunt who insists that clothes dryers were invented by the clothing industry to destroy your clothes and make you spend more money buying more. I have a little folding rack for hanging some things, and a long curtain rod in the basement, hung from the ceiling, where I can put clothes on hangers to dry.

Holly Thomas: Glad you're enjoying it! Another conspiracy theory your aunt might like: Using the hot water setting on your washing machine actually damages the rubber parts of the machine, guaranteeing that you'll eventually need to buy a new one.

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"Love the fall trend of mid-calf skirts": You used to rail against that length when posters said they liked it! Is the only reason you like it now that it's "IN STYLE"?

Holly Thomas: Good point, thanks for following along all this time! The issue with mid-calf skirts is that they can be very hard to wear in a figure-flattering way -- the ones we were wearing back in 1995 can't (or at least shouldn't) be resuscited. Mid-calf skirts hit your legs at the widest part, which means you have to pay extra attention to balancing the silhouette if you want it to look chic, not dumpy -- keep the top half sleek, wear heels to lengthen your legs. And if you're petite, it's just not a good look. The trend that I love from the fall runways is more 1950s/60s inspired, taking inspiration from Dior's New Look rather than conjuring up the cast of the original 90210.

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LAYERS!!!: For the chatter creating her winter wardrobe, I think non-bulky layers are the key for winter comfort. It might be a little difficult now since you're nursing, but layers will come in handy later on. Camisole, tee or light knit, cardigan or a similar combination, plus coat and scarf when necessary. Peel off the top layer as you get warmer from entering a super heated building (is it just me or are malls always too warm?) or from running after your toddler. You can keep wearing the cooler layers in spring and next fall if you want. And you can mix and match really easily with a few different colors of each layer.

Holly Thomas: Great tips, thanks ...

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Cute dress to where to a mixer event with party afterwards: What do you think? I'm a pretty curvy girl, short and love to wear high heels. I want to be modest but still show my funky fashionable side. What do you think if this dresshttp://www.kohls.com/kohlsStore/womens/dresses/casual/PRD634816/Chaps+Ponte+Empire+Dress.jsp

Holly Thomas: That could very cute with textured or colored tights and tall boots or heels ... I like it!

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We'll miss you!: Just wanted to thank you for all the great chats - they've always been a highlight of my Tuesdays. You'll be missed!

Holly Thomas: Aww, thanks. I hate goodbyes ... so everyone come join the Going Out Gurus chats on Thursdays at 1 pm!

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Ill fitting Jeans: After reading about so many problems finding jeans that fit and continue to look "skinny", it occurs to me that the trend is foolish. Why not start a "Fashion" for baggy jeans?

Holly Thomas: I think you've just stumbled on the underlying reasons for the boyfriend jeans trend.

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on having more athletic legs: I have a question about appropriate skirt length. To a previous poster you suggested shorter hemlines. But if you have more athletic legs, what does that mean? I thought you aimed to have hemlines fall at more thinner points of your legs to elongate them. But if you were to do say higher up, then would you be creating a wider illusion? I've always had trouble figuring out where to end my skirts/dresses. Thanks!

Holly Thomas: look better because it shows off as much length as possible. But a good general rule is to have your hemline hit at the slimmest part of your leg -- just above or just below your knee, in most cases. Ankle booties add an extra element of trickiness to the equation; they'll be less likely to stumpify your figure if you show more, rather than less, leg.

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Original Perfect Storm here: Thanks for the great suggestions! I'm really looking forward to my shopping day and now I can get prepped for it (you know, with all my free time!).

Holly Thomas: Glad we could be of service ... enjoy that day out!

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Why Not Start a Fashion for Baggy Jeans: I think looser jeans might catch on if they are of a sleek, trouser cut, but the baggy jeans a la Jincos from the late '90s just can't compete with how good a tailored skinny jean can make a woman look.

Holly Thomas: Trouser-cut jeans have looked fantastic since the 1970s ... let's just erase JNCOs from our collective consciousness, shall we?

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Boyfriend jeans: That fashion goes all the way back to the 40's when bobby soxers wore men's jeans with Dad's white shirt hanging out .

Holly Thomas: Nothing new under the sun, or in the stores ...

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Are these okay to wear with skirts?: I recently purchased these Frye boots on-line. Would the be okay to wear with Skirts? I'm 5'9" with fairly long legs. All my currect skirts are A-line of pencil and hit me about 2 inches above the knee. Thanks for your answer. I tool will miss these chats. http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/3033602?origin=related-3033602-6007676-0-1

Holly Thomas: Oh, I love those boots! Since you're on the tall side, I think an above-the-knee skirt A-line skirt would look just fine. They seem a little too cowboy-ish (which is not a bad thing) to go with a pencil skirt, but it's worth experimenting.

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Mom shopping: I would also tell the mom to get some workout clothing, even if she doesn't work out. Lululemon (also online) is not cheap but it's well made and feels good on the body, and she will have days when she does not want to put a real outfit together to run to the grocery store or pharmacy but she'll still look good and feel better than if she wore crummy sweats. Also, it's worth it to get really great underwear and a pair of go-to earrings. You gotta keep reminding yourself you're still a woman and not just mom.

Holly Thomas: I think everyone knows how I feel about wearing yoga/gym clothes outside of the studio/gym, but I do appreciate the idea here -- I'd say to pick up a few pairs of good quality leggings and simple tunic-style sweaters and tops for those I'd-rather-be-in-sweats days. Totally agree about the great underwear and earrings though.

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late 30s woman seeking fashion: Help! I'm approaching my 40s and have no idea what to wear! I want to look fashionable, but not too "classic" (grandma) and not too "trendy" (teenybopper). Basically can you recommend a magazine that can direct me to good fashion choices for my age?

Holly Thomas: InStyle, Harper's Bazaar and More are good places to start ...

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300 sq ft?: do tell how you dry your clothes! I live in 400 sq ft, and it's so hard to find space to hang dry!

Holly Thomas: Door knobs, cabinet door pulls, drawers, over-the-door racks -- anything that you can hook a clothes hanger on will work. It will look like your closet exploded for about 24 hours, but it's better for your clothes.

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Holly Thomas: Boyz II Men were right -- it's SO hard to say goodbye. (Can't believe I wrote that, but I'm sticking with it.) Let's divvy up some prizes: Perfect Storm, you're getting the Essie polish kit; the chatter who suggested Nina Garcia's book gets the Caudalie face wash; the one who told us about Tommy Hilfiger's jeans at Macy's gets the Make Up For Ever kit; and the faithful chatter who reminded me of my stance on calf-length skirt gets the EcoTools brushes. Send your mailing info to fashion@washpost.com to claim your bounty. From now on, you can chat with me on Thursdays at 1pm with the Going Out Gurus, and as always, you can get in touch via Facebook, Twitter or email. Thanks again to all of you -- you've been delightful.


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