With Chic Simple authors Kim Johnson Gross and Jeff Stone
Thursday, July 8, 1999
Everyone has fashion questions, but answers aren't always easy to come by. What is appropriate attire for casual Friday? Will a brown shirt look right with black pants? How does a working woman build a wardrobe with a minimum amount of expense?
Kim Johnson Gross and Jeff Stone, authors of the Chic Simple series of fashion and lifestyle books, recently came online to discuss the basic items every man should have in his wardrobe, office casual wear and why you really can't wear a black belt with brown shoes. For more advice, check out their books. Recent additions to the line include "Men's Wardrobe" and "What Should I Wear? Dressing for Occasions." Written in a sassy, street-wise style, the books feature sleek design and gorgeous photo layouts that make the secrets of dressing well come alive.
Gross, a former cover girl with the Eileen Ford Model Agency, has served as fashion editor at both Esquire Magazine and Town and Country Magazine. Stone was formerly vice-president and pubisher of Bantam Books, after holding the same position at Vintage Books.
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Hi everyone, this is Kim & Jeff of Chic Simple and we hope to answer your questions about style, clothes and the meaning of life in the next hour or at least whether you can wear black and navy blue together.
Chapel Hill, NC: I've seen your books in the store. Lovely clothes, however they all seem geared to slim, tall white women. What if you are not so slim, short, and not white...or any other combination? Where should we look for advice?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: K: In Women's Wardrobe we address various body types and provide guidelines (there is a lot of info in the First Aid section). We will also be talking to more endowed women on our Web site this fall.
Washington, DC: I have had your "Women's Wardrobe" for years and still consider it useful. I am going right out to purchase "Men's Wardrobe" for my sartorially challenged husband, I hadn't realized there was a men's edition. My question is this: I am going on a ten day vacation to the beach next week and want to pack lightly. We will be dressing for dinner on at least two of the evenings, which can be cool. We will also be playing tennis and fishing. There is no laundry as we are staying in a somewhat primitive cottage. I ALWAYS overpack. Could you suggest a strategy for just one bag? Thank you.
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Thanks for your enthusiasm! Sounds like a wonderful vacation. We suggest you bring along:
Denver CO: I recently moved from Washington DC to Denver CO. I went from working in a very "stuffy" law firm, where very professional dress was required. I have started working in an internet company, where anything goes. And I do mean anything several people don't wear shoes! Shorts and t-shirts are considered normal, and most of the staff appears to have just rolled out of bed. The problem I am having is what do I wear? I don't want to dress quite so far down we are in a downtown location, by the way. I want to be taken seriously in this job, yet I can't take myself seriously in shorts and bare feet. And if I dress up too much, it will be very awkward. Is there some middle ground, where I can still fit in, yet not appear too stuffy? Can you suggest some items I might buy to start my "casual work" wardrobe? Thank you.
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: This question is rapidly becoming a constant query to Chic Simple. Unfortunately, we are having a bit of trouble answering your question because we don't know if you're male or female! However, we can offer you general advice. Stick with khakis (stretch khakis, if you're female), black pants, nice jeans , meaning dark denim, black or white (if you're female). Pair with a T-shirt in a wrinkle-free fabric (For females, try a lycra stretch or rayon; stay away from T-shirts with graphics or words). On your feet, wear flat sandals during the summer or leather loafers/oxfords in cooler weather. High tech athletic shoes can look great too, with denim jeans and fitted pants. For females, summer dresses and skirts with T-shirt and sleeveless shirts work well in warm weather. Stay away from shorts, especially of the cut-off variety, ragged jeans, baggy clothes. Always look well groomed.
Washington, DC: What is the dress code on wearing open toe shoes to work?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: This question is and has been under debate for some time now. It really depends on your corporate culture. More conservative institutions and many regions throughout the U.S. generally don't approve of open toe shoes for work. However, wearing stockings with open-toe shoes is a fashion no-no. If your office allows open-toe shoes but dictates the must-have-stockings policy, it's probably best to just stick with closed toe mules, loafers or oxfords. If you do wear open-toe shoes, make sure your toes are well-groomed.
Washington: Can I wear a brown shirt with black pants or a black shirt with brown pants? Isn't there a rule about that?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: No rules at all. That combination, especially for women, can be very sophisticated and chic. The key though is to match tone, the brown should have a gray or darker feel and keep away from orange and reds in the brown. Also try to keep an equal intensity in the brown and black if you are wearing them equally but if the shirt is smaller and more of an accent under a jacket then you can let the black go lighter or flat and punch up the hue of the brown.
Bethesda, MD: How do I move beyond black and beige?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Try navy, gray and white. Bottom line, you must have neutral basics as a wardrobe foundation-then its easy to add color and pattern. This summer is pink which looks great with black and beige. Camel is another classic that looks wonderful this fall. It really perks up (as does beige) when worn with another "fashion" color - orange
Washington D.C.: I'm going to New York in a month and I'm socking away money for a really cool, unique addition to my fall wardrobe. I have a pretty extensive wardrobe, but everything is from Ann Taylor, Nordstrom or Banana Republic. If you were to buy one or two things for fall, what would it be? I'm a 29 year-old female, and I work in the Web biz so my workplace is pretty casual-.
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Just a few suggestions:
Why don't professional men care what they look like? Sometimes it seems like the men in the office where I work just rolled out of bed and grabbed any old thing before they came to work, no ironing or anything.
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: They do all buy their suits from the same place. It's called Suits Me and they come in big cookie dough rolls that they bring home and just cut off what they need for the day. The mistake they are making is that today more then any recent time a sense of creativity and organization is essential in developing a career we have as a society embraced marketing throughout our society and if you can't even market yourself, then what hopes do you have in helping your company?
Houston, TX: Back to brown and black together...can you wear dark brown shoes with black clothes, i.e. black jeans and dark brown sandals?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Absolutely, just make sure that your belt matches in tone with your shoes tone not necessarily color, dark to dark, etc. British men wear brown shoes with navy and it adds a warmth that isn't seen in the black shoe counterpart. We would lean toward brown shoes with black slacks over black shoes with brown slacks but both can work.
Bethesda, MD: Is there such a thing as having clothes that are too fashionable for work?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: It depends on your corporate culture, your work role and what your day is like. There is always room for style, you just have to know your limits. Halter tops, fringe, beading, stiletto heels and sequins are all fashion items, but they are hardly appropriate for most office settings.
Arlington: As a recent college graduate, I'm not pulling down big bucks. What's the best, most cost-effective way for me to look like a young professional in a "dress for success" office? How much should it cost me to put together a solid, multi-purpose wardrobe?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Two solid suits, one navy and one dark gray with a black medium weight blazer to add an element of style and versatility, Add a pair of chinos and a simple pair of black slacks. These elements add the bedrock of a wardrobe and allow s a high degree of flexibility . Go with solid white or blue shirts in cotton with a mix of button down and straight collars. Make your ties simple and lean too discrete patterns or even solids pair of cap toed black shoes and matching leather belt and viola.
Do either of you follow the fashion scene in London? I'm moving there in a month and would like to know what's "in".
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: There are some great shops in London. It's worth the effort to walk around the city and explore to find out what your options are. The stores we particularly like include :
Rockville: Kim, how do you achieve a fashionable look without finding out next season that all your clothes are no longer wearable? I'm thinking of capris, cargo pants and drawstring pants. It seems like everyone is selling them how long before they'll be tossed into the back of my closet?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Capris are summer classics that were first designed by Emilio Pucci in the 1950's. They were worn by Audrey Hepburn and Jacki O., both of whom remain icons of style. You don't have to worry about capris becoming a passing trend. Cargo pants are trendy, so don't buy too many of them or spend a whole lot of money unless you plan to get a lot of wear out of them now. Drawstring pants are fashion items now, but they always look good in summer especially over a bathing suit. Clothes that are made with simple lines in neutral colors and are well-made are wardrobe basics that work well together with "fashion" items.
Rockville, MD: I am 4 months pregnant and I am growing out of all my clothes. How can I stay stylish during the expansion period? I'm too small for maternity but too large for my button up pants. I don't want to turn into those legging wearing slouches.
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: The fashion trend in maternity now is to show off that gorgeous tummy by wearing stretch clothes! Whether that's your style or not-looks for dresses without waists or skirts with elasticized waists and some kind of stretch in fabric. Don't tuck in tops. Consider a fitter jacket worn over these hems to give shape /definition to your overall appearance
Washington, DC: Ties with short-sleeve shirts: yes or no?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Only if you are looking at a career in a fast foods drive up window spot.
Potomac Mills, Virginia: How do you feel about designers like Gucci and Prada that are so into luxury and adornment?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Love their fabrics, quality and styles. Some designs are trendy, others you can wear for years and find yourself wearing a lot because of the luxurious quality, fit and feel.
Kim & Jeff ,
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Sweater sets, blazers, slacks and loafers.
Washington, DC: How do you keep your wardrobe from getting boring?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Give your wardrobe a face lift each season by adding something in the seasons hot color, shape, print or fabric. This fall red will brighten up your wardrobe, animal prints and pony skin are great for accessories.
Bowie, MD: What is appropriate attire for a woman when attending a 5:00 PM mid-August wedding?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: First, a couple of questions. Is it an indoor or an outdoor wedding? At home or at a hotel? Generally, weddings at a hotel or somewhere indoors are more formal than ones that are outdoors or at home. The general silhouette should most likely be a cocktail dress or a knee-high sheath. If it is very dressy, go for a simple shape in a dressy fabric. If you're not sure, go for silk and pretty jewelry.
Annapolis, Maryland: The heat is here. What can I do on casual Fridays besides the button-down-and-chinos look? Some guys in my office have worn T-shirts the plain, ribbed kind-, but I'm not sure if that looks TOO casual.
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Dress codes vary from profession to regions but your remark illustrates the importance of appropriateness. Your instinctive reaction of too casual means the outfit doesn't feel appropriate for your work environment and if you feel that way we wouldn't be surprise that somewhere management doesn't either.
Alexandria, VA: Your answer to the "Dress for success" on a budget question assumed that the question came from a male. Could you please give the female version of the answer?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Thats because I wanted to talk (Jeff) but the basic idea is the same, key quality items leaning to a couple of quality well tailored outfits is where to focus your budget, especially one light (beige) and one dark(black or blue) suit with both pants and skirt, a quality dark blazer and solid tops both knit and blouses.
Reston, Va: How do you feel about women who wear sweaters-shirts around their necks and-or waists as fashion accessories?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Wearing sweaters over necks and waists as fashion accessories are a great way to bring color into an outfit and can also be very practical. They keep shoulders warm and can hide tummy bulges.
D.C.: I bought a beautiful white Jones New York blouse several months ago and have worn it twice. It looks fabulous, but it wrinkles soooooo easily. Is there anything I can do to prevent this besides continually standing-?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Do you know what fabric the blouse is made from? That would help us with our response. Otherwise, we suggest that you bring the blouse back to the store of purchase and ask for care information. Or, contact Jones New York for care advice. If all fails and the wrinkles are much too bothersome to deal with, returning the blouse may be your best solution.
arlington, va: In a business casual environment where women wear sandals is it ok to wear capri pants or should we save those for the weekend?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: If you wear open toe sandals, capri pants are fine in a business casual environment.
Washington, DC: HELP! I am getting married next month in an incredibly chic hand-beaded silk shantung gown designed and made by my own fabulously talented mother- and have no idea what to give my maid of honor or other special wedding "helpers" both female and male- as thank you gifts. I want each gift to be unique, and keep getting the "earrings and cufflinks" sort of advice from the bridal magazines. Any ideas on a gift that's fashionable, personal AND affordable?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: One idea for a gift is a silver plated picture frame with the date of the wedding or initials of the person. Later, follow this up with a picture from the wedding. You can get a T. Anthony leather picture holder for travel, or a sterling silver open heart Peretti from Tiffany.
Can a saleswoman still maintain her professionalism if she wears Spectator pumps that have the heel of her foot exposed sling-backs-?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Yes. They're sexy but it varies greatly in the eye of the beholder.
washington, dc: I'm a 38 year old professional and mother of three 5' 8", 135 lbs and brought home a pair of black Levi low-rise stretch flares the other day. My husband a high school teacher, so I guess he sees at least teenage fashion-told me that flares are "out." Am I so behind the times that I missed this fashion, or are they still ok for non-teens?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Low rise are young fashion pants. It's better to stay away from low rise. Go for a more classic look by wearing clam diggers or capri cut, which were made famous by Audrey Hepburn.
Arlington, VA: I'm in my late 20s and later this month, I'm going to a Saturday evening black tie wedding. Is it appropriate to wear a "little black dress" or should I go with one of the full length styles that seem to be in a lot of the stores lately.
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: A little black dress is perfectly acceptable. Just pay attention to accessories and have a special bag or shoes. If you wear stockings, make sure they're nude.
tampa: Why do people think that brown shoes and a black belt don't go together?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: because they don't, you can cheat in an emergency if the tone is the same, i.e. dark, dark brown with black shoes but it still looks like you dressed in the dark.
I love the longer skirts and so does my sister, but she insists on wearing knee-highs with them. I guess she thinks that the skirt never gets hiked up.
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Not a favorite look but if she likes it God bless her.
Mountain View, CA: I am performing a large piano concert with an orchestra, but I am torn as to what to wear. My piano professor wants me to wear the traditional black tuxedo w- tails and bow tie. I don't mind the tails, but was hoping for something a little more modern looking. Are there more adventurous variations of the full dress tuxedo on today's market? Or can a modern look be achieved with a different vest, bow tie, etc? Thanks a lot!
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: A different modern look is to wear a solid black tie (long) and with a wing collar, a slightly Edwardian or teddy boy look with a dark vest, Issey Miyake makes a great pleated zippered vest that's reversable and very cool. Check out our chapter on formal wear in the CS Men's wardrobe book for more alternate looks.
dc: My husband always looks sloppy in his suits, even in expensive designer suits. Can you give me some simple tips on how to determine a proper fit, i.e., how long should the sleeves be, etc,
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Find a good tailor, he can become your best friend and save you a fortune. Check out a couple of them and ask to see their work. Once you establish a rapport bring your husband in his baggy suits and have the tailor go to work, if he still looks sloppy after that then its thinly veiled hostility on his part but you will have discovered an important aspect of building and aiding your own wardrobe. A good tailor can help breathe new life into clothes and save old out of date things for you, from just adding new buttons to taking in or letting out or removing unnecessary pads.
Annandale, Virginia: I am a 34 year old female. I would like to know what is a style of dressing that will never go totally out of fashion, both professionally and personally. What is timeless?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Classic cut suits in good fabric that's well tailored in a neutral color. Also make sure you have a great white shirt, a black dress, black pants and sweater sets.
Washington, DC: I will be attending my association's Board of Directors meeting at the end of July in Coronado, CA. It's for a week and I'm having a hard time thinking of what to bring to wear. The resort is casual but expensive. But, I work for a non-profit and dress is usually pretty casual. Also, I don't have a lot of cash to go out and buy a lot just for this meeting. I'm starting with a khaki wrap skirt, khaki capri pants, black pants, two big shirts in white and periwinkle. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!! P.S. LOVE YOUR WOMEN's WARDROBE BOOK. Bought it a few years ago...maybe I need to reread it for this trip!
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Also take white and black pants-they can be worn with anything. Sweater sets, a longer skirt or dress ( is relaxed but can still be dressy).
Rochester, NY: Due to the wonders of genetics I was blessed with my fathers football shoulders and my mom's, ahem, ample bosom. Can you suggest some basic styles for tops that won't make my woman sized body look like a barrel? I don't care that I'm not a perfect size 6, but I would like an idea of how to trim my look down a little without having to wear black year 'round. Thanks.
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Wear narrow shirt jackets or tailored jackets with absolutely no padding. Wear dark colors on top and light on bottom or all dark colors.
Washington, DC: Some people insist that you can't wear light hose with a dark skirt. Around here people wear dark shoes, light hose, dark suit. In NYC I've seen the same. Is this a horrible faux pas, as some writers would have us believe? Personally, I much prefer this to black hose, which often looks cheap. Black tights work, but are too hot for the summer. What should I be wearing with my short dark skirts?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Definitely nude. Off white and light colored hose make you look like you work at a hospital. Nude is the most natural and elegant if you do wear stockings.
i am attending a law school alumni happy hour tonight at kinkead's. i am wearing a brown suit with a skirt and do not want to wear nylons. what is the protocol for suits must one wear nylons?? i would hate to make a fashion mistake however nylons in general are a nightmare, let alone the dead of summer. we're also dining at morton's afterwards.
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: You're not going to be in a work environment so it's fine as long as your legs look good. If you want to dress it up a little, wear a camisole underneath and strappy shoes.
Washington, DC: What is your opinion of the current fad for capri pants? I abhor them on anyone who isn't stick thin, but I have been very frustrated at finding linen pants for summer in a longer length. Any ideas?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: We've liked Capri's since they were designed by Emilio Pucci on the isle of Capri in the 1950s. Style icons Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O. made them famous. You are right, the look best on trim women. Dockers have a long and comfortable cut linen pant.
Arlington, VA: How do you feel about dark, neutral-colored clothing for women? Are charcoal gray and black as popular now as they were a few years ago?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Yes, yes, yes! We love it. It's slimming, goes with everything and is easy to dress up or down.
Ohio: My friend prefers to wear brown shoes with her navy blue suit. She does not own navy shoes, but she does have a pair of black shoes. Wouldn't black shoes be preferable to brown ones in this case?
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: We believe navy and black is a very sophisticated color combo and prefer the black over navy because it can be difficult to match navy. Black shoes also make your feet look smaller when you're wearing navy-remember to wear nude stockings.
wash dc: how short can skirts get at work, and how high can heels get with the shortest of the skirts? it seems flats de-sexify minis.
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: Very short skirts and very high heels are for a date or special occasion. For work, it doesn't work because your message should be professional. Wearing flats is also fashionable now and look fine with skirts.
Kim Gross and Jeff Stone: hey, our fingers are falling off so we are stepping off line but we really enjoyed all your questions and we hope you got some information you can use. If you want to ask more questions or follow up or resubmit your question because we ran out of time just send them to email@example.com or visit our web site chicsimple.com and check out our column in InStyle magazine. Thanks again for all of the great questions and remember, "It's not about lifestyle, it's about style in life."
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company