Jul 13, 2010

Janet Bennett Kelly answered your questions about the latest fashions, how to make the runway trends work for you and how to shop wisely.

Hi, everyone, and welcome to today's Fashion Fix. I'm flying solo since Holly's on vacation, but I'll do my best to answer as many of your questions as possible.  Speaking of questions, I have one for you -- what's your go-to accessory or accessories, the one (s) you choose most frequently to make your outfit? Send us a link to a picture, if you can. As always, we've got prizes -- a Tigi Bed Head shampoo and a mixed bag of nail polishes.  Ready to chat?

I bought a great maxi dress last week. Since I'm on the shorter side, I'm going to have to have it hemmed. My question is: what's the "correct" length for a dress like this? A few inches above the floor? Higher? If it helps, this dress is a step above casual (but not super-dressy). I'd like to wear it to an upcoming wedding.

Hi,  glad you're happy with your purchase.  There's no "correct" length, but I prefer a maxi to fall just around slightly above or at the ankle.  I'm not a fan of dresses that hit the floor -- not only because I don't like that look, but also because very long dresses make it harder to get around -- gracefully. Hope that helps. 

How gauche is it to wear suit separates that are clearly from different suits to an interview? i.e. black pants with a charcoal gray blazer?

If you can pull it off successfully, I see no reason not to. That said, the biggest problem is not the color; charcoal and gray go quite nicely together. What I'd be more concerned with is  proportion, does the length/ style of the jacket go with the pants? A skinny, straight pant will look better with a long jacket, while you'd want to pair a short jacket with fuller pants.

I'm a big fan of the chats, but I have to disagree with a few of last week suggestions. For starters, a strapless dress for work is a big no no where I work. In fact, it's not even a question. It doesn't matter if it's covered by a jacket or cardigan, it is flat out inappropriate. Plus, you never know when you might spill on the cover up, or when the AC is going to break, then what? You also recommended to the chatter traveling to London for business "easy summer dresses paired with casual blazers," again where I work this would be inappropriate for a business meeting. My office isn't even that stuffy, but business attire is expected for important meetings. It's especially important for a younger woman to try to convey some authority. Maybe it's that you are used to a field that is more lenient and some fields such as finance and law are just not like that. Something to keep in mind. Thanks!

Thanks for your comment. It's important to dress appropriately for the office culture you're in.

Help! I need to find a rehearsal dinner dress. I've checked out all of my usual go to's (ann taylor, macy's, bloomingdales, anthropology, limited, jcrew) and nothing appeals. Where to next?

How about Cusp in Georgetown -- their choices are not inexpensive, but they have (last time I looked) a large selection of dresses.  Would you wear vintage? If so, check out the options at Annie Creamcheese.  There's Nana's on U Street, which carries a mix of new and vintage clothing, and in Old Town, there's Hysteria. Good luck finding something!

Does perfume ever go bad? I have several scents that I alternate, and I use them sparingly, so it's not unusual for it to take years for me to go through a bottle. Do my fragrances have a shelf life that I should be aware of?

In my experience, perfumes/colognes do turn or at least they don't smell the same way when you bought them oh so many years ago. Do you store them in a cool, dry place?

Hi- I just got a pair of silver ballet flats. What can I wear them with, besides jeans?

Sooo many things. They'll look great paired with black, navy, gray or white pants or skirts, to name just the few shades that come to mind. In fact the only color I wouldn't really wear with them is khaki.

Hi - Thanks for taking my question. For the life of me, I can't manage to copy the blow dry I get in salons after a hair cut. I have wavy hair that frizzes very easily, but a salon blow dry keeps it smooth and silky feeling. I have purchased the same products used in the salons, and I copy the technique my stylist uses. So what gives? Can a brush make that much of a difference? Is my CVS blow dryer not hot enough to lock in the style? Thanks for your help. Any advice would be appreciated. This summer is doing a number on my hair.

The frizzies are a particular problem this summer given the extraordinary heat and now the humidity which has been added to the heat this week.  Copying a professional's blow-dry ability is not as easy as having the same equipment. It's the experience. Several friends and colleagues of mine have gotten so fed up with the time it takes to blow dry their hair themselves that they've decided to have a keratin straightening treatment.   Most are happy with the results because it saves them tons of time.  You might want to think about it.

I understand that much of D.C. dresses very conservatively and that many offices would be inappropriate settings for casual, summer attire. However, I want to agree with your response about different cultures, different rules. I work for a digital marketing agency -- a big international one, not a little boutique -- and almost anything goes here. This isn't always a good thing & there have been times when people have even pushed that envelope too far (in my opinion), but it's not true that strapless, for example, is an automatic no-no. On the other hand, those with more ambitious career objectives should probably err on the professional side. I guess it all comes down to common sense and good judgment, huh?

Bingo. You nailed it.  You may not realize, but the clothes you wear send a message. You have to decide what that message is going to be.

I have a pair of bright pink sandals that I bought from zappos at the start of the season. When they arrived at home it wasn't what I was expecting but they're so comfy I couldn't get rid of them.... I still have yet to wear them so help!! What can I wear them with? It's a wedge heel (maybe about 2 inches), with bright pink ribbon that forms a bow across the toe bed. Usually for work I'll wear black pants or a skirt but I don't even have the accessories to match the shoes, is this a hopelesss cause?

You didn't mention what your workplace is like, whether it's informal or conservative. If the latter, I'd save those sandals for weekends and pair them with cropped denims or white pants or a denim or white skirt. I think the shoes are bright enough; you don't need any other matching accessory.

My go-to accessories are lightweight scarves. They can instantly dress up jeans and a tee shirt or add a little color to a plain blazers or other work clothes. I have a few from Ann Taylor Loft, Banana Republic, etc., but one of the best resources I've found is Target! The have a huge variety of scarves that are inexpensive and lightweight.

Agreed. Scarves are a great way to perk up a simple T-shirt and jeans or work clothes. Thanks for the tip on Target.

I decided to take the plunge and go bare. Are there any salons that are known for their brazilians within the area? (pref. DC, but will travel if it's metro accessible). I have heard of hard wax vs the normal wax, which is better? Any advice of what to do/not do before and after the wax? Thanks. I'm pretty nervous about this..

Many folks give the thumbs-up to Skin Beauty Lounge in D.C.  I'm not sure do's and don'ts before a wax. Any chatters have advice?

My go to jewelry are pearls. A set of pearl earrings like these 


but in gold. And a pearl pendant which was custom made by a local jeweler from a pearl I got a Sea World when I was about 14.

Love pearls, they're so versatile, and I think they're going to become even more popular come fall. Thanks for sending on a pic!

I don't have a picture of it (because I'm at work), but my best summer accessory is a vintage Vuitton Noe bag in Epi leather. The epi bags are indestructible (this one is over 20 years old, I've owned it for five years and it looks great), it's slightly nautical in shape, it will hold all my stuff and then some, it can dress up or down and the blue color with green trim is very summery. Plus, they were designed to carry champagne bottles, and you never know when that will come in handy. Here's a picture of what mine looks like:


What a beautiful-looking bag! I can see why you love it. And interesting fact -- they were designed to carry champagne bottles. Thanks so much for sending this picture.

Hi. I have a "fear" of wearing white t-shirts, even though I love how it looks on me especially during the summer when I'm a little more tanned. I'm always concerned about the see-through issue of white shirts. What can I do? What stores/brands sell white t-shirts that are not too thick but don't show through? thanks!

American Apparel sells loads of T-shirts. The Gap and J. Crew sell ones that I know don't show through. If your have some white Tees that you're concerned about, put a lightweight nude tank underneath, and you'll solve the problem. Any chatter have a T-shirt brand they like that doesn't show through?

Do you think sandals are appropriate at work? I have some issues with my feet (bunions, neuroma) that make wearing most shoes painful - even most flats pose a problem. I cannot find any summer shoes that don't look orthopedic that I can walk in. During winter I've got some flat boots that do the trick, but for summer the only shoes that work are sandals. I just got a promotion and I want to convey the right image, but I also want to walk without wincing and screaming every step.

I've heard good things about Naot. They have an assortment of sandals that might work for you. Also, take a look at Aerosoles; they've updated some styles so as not to look too grandmotherly.

Belts, belts, and more belts! I experiment with skinny belts and wide belts, and they really go a long way to changing up the look of a dress or skirt/blouse combo. I can wear the same few pieces of clothing, but make them look really different. There are always a lot of belts for cheap at thrift and consignment stores, so you can experiment. Here's a pic - this dress came with a matching tie belt, but I switched it out for a blue/cream woven belt to mix it up a bit.


Belts, yes! They're a fine way to change a look. Look at Michelle Obama! Thanks for sending this picture!

Trim ahead of time. The longer the hair, the more it will hurt when they yank it out (but don't trim too much or the wax won't be able to yank it out). Also, take an Advil about 30 min before if this is your first time. The first time is usually the worst. It won't hurt as much for repeat waxings.

Here's some before-waxing tips for the chatter who wanted to know what she should know. Thanks for passing these on.

Public Service Announcement: plenty of brands will be fine, as long as you DO NOT wear a white bra underneath! It will show through almost as clearly as a black one! Nude, nude, nude. (With a thicker fabric shirt I can also sometimes get away with heather gray, for whatever reason.)

Thanks for the PSA. Good point. And btw, the same goes for undies -- wear nude ones when you're wearing white pants.

I know this doesn't work for everyone, but my go-to accessory is my glasses. I feel like they're my power source -- I feel smart, put together, and feminine when I wear them. Not every day but when I have a big meeting, I'm always rocking them. (you don't have to have bad eyes to buy glasses either :) )

Absolutely.  And particularly when there are so many choices for specs these days.  Love those multi-colored readers that are sold in almost any gift shop.

I will be attending a conference in Washington in early August. The dress for the conference is "academic casual", which means that there will be everything from dresses and pantyhose to jeans with rips and tears. The "special evening activity" is a Potomac River boat tour. Will it get chilly enough for a sweater?

The weather in Washington has been particularly hot this July. However, when you're on the water in the evening, it's always to bring a lightweight sweater or something to keep you warm should the breeze pick up and make the air chilly.

This isn't a fashion question but I need help. I'm looking for a place to get a facial at Friendship Heights. I don't like Arden, Saks, Georgette Klinger or the Dessange salon -- they're pricey and I hate being sold products by an aesthetician when I'm on the table trying to enjoy the facial or the really heavy sell afterwards. I had been going to PR@Partners but their last aesthetician left and her replacement can be a bit rough. Got any suggestions? Many thanks.

The Georgette Klinger is no more; it's been replaced by a place called Hela Spa, which is pretty pricey as well. Are you limited to Chevy Chase? There's an Aveda in Bethesda, and a place called Jolie. Any chatters have ideas?

I wanted to pass on a couple of summer tips I've found very useful. For fly-aways along the hairline on humid days, I like to use clear mascara- it keeps everything inline, and makes those hairs glossy. Also, if you have new sandals that rub your feet or give you blisters, rub the parts that are blister-prone with deodorant before you put your shoes on, and it keeps the shoes from sticking to your feet.

Good tips. I have to try them!

Vintage bakelite bracelets. I have a ridiculous number of them (if I was at home I'd snap a picture of them all on their paint rollers - which, by the way, is the best way to store bangles, but that wasn't the question, was it?). Lots of colors, lots of combinations, lots of compliments.

Thanks. I see lots of women rocking bakelite, and it looks awesome.

Years ago, I found a great necklace at an antiques fair, although the jewelry itself is not antique. It's a thick silver link chain with large freshwater pearls dangling around it. The necklace is rather long, so it works worn as a single or double long strand, or I can wrap it around my neck 3-4 times for a different look. It's so versatile and works with almost any outfit - dressing up a t-shirt or complementing a dress - that it's the one necklace I pack when traveling. It's the only one I need.

I love having a necklace, bracelet, bag that I can rely on, especially when I'm traveling and can't take a bunch of options. Thanks for chiming in.

I bought a couple black dresses from Target for work. The dresses are of a cheap, stretchy material but they fit really nicely due to the built-in shaper underneath. And they're machine washable! Here are a couple of pictures: 



My question: How do I liven it up? I'm not really good at accessories so I don't have a lot of stuff to work with. Should I wear a pair of pumps? A belt? As for scarves, I have a couple long silk ones with a fringe on both ends ... when I wrapped one around my neck this morning it looked really odd. I seriously need a fashion intervention ... I wore one to work today with black flats and I look like a nun ...

 The neckline of the dress is lovely, and I think you could play with it by wearing a short necklace -- you want it to hit close to your neck.  Something gold or something with turquoise would add some gleam/color.  The other possible is a pair of long, colorful earrings.

We're publishing out some of your helpful tips chatters!

A blazer, or jacket. Can be in any color, any fabric (denim, twill, poplin, velvet, silk, wool - you name it) and can be extremely casual, business appropriate, or dressy, but all MUST have one characteristic - fit extremely well and flatter my shape. That is the most important thing. They add polish & finish to my outfits and I am always on the prowl for new ones for the collection!

I just wanted to thank the person who recommended Arina's on Fenton in Silver Spring for repair of my Tory Burch flip flops. I handed over the broken flop, he looked at it, took it to the back for a few minutes and handed it back over to me, in perfect shape. He even refused to let me pay him! It looks like he does luggage repair too - I have a suitcase with a broken zipper that I'll be bringing over this weekend. Thanks for the tip!

A skinny patent leather belt in a neutral or timeless pattern, such as leopard always does it for me. It brings my outfits together and can add that one extra oomph or color to my outfit. Tailored clothes and clean looking simple makeup doesn't hurt either.

I love my bezel pendant. Adds a touch of class to any outfit!

My most spectacular piece of jewelry is a triple-strand necklace of pink and ivory pearls, with tourmaline accents. I wear it with simple pink pearl drop earrings and whatever outfit I'm wearing becomes special. Lots of compliments and inquiries on the necklace!

I can't recommend Tammy at Polished in Georgetown enough! She's efficient and inexpensive, and you're in and out in 10 minutes max. I've been going to her for 3 years now, and she is by far the best waxer I've ever had.

My bracelets, I try to semi coordinate hues, shades, etc with clothes or shoes. Everywhere I go I'm always looking for the next "favorite" of the week!

Hi, Janet: Whenever I go out West, I can't resist buying good turquoise/silver jewelry (Indian Market in Santa Fe is a shopper's paradise!) Of course, you get back East with the stuff and muse, "What was I thinking!!" But, I wear it anyway -- in a reserved way, not like out there, where they pile on everything they have. Guess what? People stop me to admire my pieces and reminisce about trips they have taken.

I also have foot pain, sometimes severe. I have found Clark's to be very comfortable shoes, and to provide me with sufficient support. If you are in the NoVa area, look at Montague and Sons - they have a very good selection, and are in Herndon Vienna, and Old Town Alexandria

In the summer, I like to keep the lines clean and simple; so my go to accessories are earrings and shoes. I have tons of both. A big pair of hoops or wonderful shoes can totally transform an outfit.

My go to accessory is a straw tote in a hobo shape. It is more purse like than the straw bags you see at the beach and I love the softer shape, rather than the hard boxy straw bags of my mother's generation. There is something about it that just screams summer and I've yet to find a weekend outfit I can't wear it with. The best part is that it was on sale for $8 at the Gap.

I've already posted once, but when my grandmother passed away, I inherited a gorgeous selection of vintage scarfs from her. I don't love the scarf around the neck, but when I use them as headbands or belts, I look more pulled together and I think of her.

Thanks, everyone. You all kept me busy, and I loved hearing from you! And now for today's prizes. The chatter who suggested taming flyaway stray hairs with clear mascara gets the Tigi Bed Head shampoo, and for the chatter who gave us the PSA about not wearing white bras under a white T-shirt,  you'll get the mixed bag of nail polishes. Send your name and address to fashion@washpost.com, and we'll get those out to you. See you next week, same time!

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Janet Bennett Kelly
Janet Bennett Kelly is the fashion editor of washingtonpost.com.
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