Sep 14, 2010

Janet Bennett Kelly and Holly Thomas will be online to answer your questions about the latest fashions, how to make the runway trends work for you and how to shop wisely.

This chat will take place next Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Hi, everyone and welcome to today's Fashion Fix.  As the temperature cools,  I for one am thinking about my fall wardrobe.  Got questions, comments? Holly and I are on the ready.  Tell us about your solutions to fashion and beauty dilemmas, and we'll reward two of you with a Shiseido Collector's Edition makeup palette and a copy of "Nigel Barker's Beauty Equation. " Ready to chat?

Do you know where I could go to find bras with band sizes smaller than 32 (ideally smaller than 30). This can't be so completely uncommon, as I see plenty of petite women with smaller rib cages like myself around the area. Trosseau in Vienna lists 32 as the smallest size they carry on their website. I checked, but currently they only carry one bra in my size and it looks like it was made for a middle schooler, not an adult. My VS bras, all in the smallest size they have, all gape in awkward ways. Help?

I don't think you're alone; in fact, the New York Times ran a story about this predicament just two weeks ago. One of the places they suggested to look online for very small sizes was Eve's Apples. Hope that helps.

Sorry ladies. I have a hard time with this style. I was always told not to do this. Plus, open toes when the weather gets cooler..... Faux pas. This might ride with the younger set, but a woman on the verge of 40 should think twice.

I'm not a big fan of this style either. And open toes when the weather cools down, I also agree that that's not practical.  Although I'm sure we have dissenters among us.


We aren't in LA, but can we start wearing our boots over our jeans in 80 - 90 degree weather?

I'm sure you could, but the question is why would you want to? If it's too hot for boots over jeans, try a pair of ankle booties, brogues or desert boots for a look that feels like fall without making you sweat.

Quick question - what to wear to a job interview. Me: 55-year-old woman. Company: informal IT business. Skirt suit necessary? What about dressy pants, blouse and blazer? I need to wear flat shoes, even low heels hurt my feet.

I'm thinkingthat the culture at an IT business would be pretty relaxed, so I wouldn't go with the skirt suit, but your second choice. For a modern look, choose a pair of tapered pants.  Do you have a dressy blouse with a ruffle? Top it with a tailored jacket, and you're good to go. If your feet hurt in heels, wear flats. There's no sense limping into the interview.

Where should belt/ belt loops on dresses fall naturally when you're wearing a dress? I am only 5 feet 4 inches, pear shaped with a l-o-n-g torso. I have a very difficult time wearing pants that sit just below my waist (Think Talbots 'signature fit'), given that my hips tend to push a size 10 or 12, while my waist is literally about an 8. I experience similar issues with a lot of dresses, especially those that come with belts. The belt and loops feel like their closer to being under my arms than at or just above my waist. Are these types of dresses just not my style, given my proportions, or are styles changing? Perhaps I am being hard on myself, yet I feel like there really aren't any flattering dress styles out there for me. Can I ever wear a belt?

A belt looks most flattering when it hits at your natural waist (ie, the area where your torso is narrowest) -- don't worry about where a manufacturer has placed the belt loops. If the belt loops are actual strips of fabric, have a tailor relocate them to hit at your natural waist. If they're just the flimsy pieces of string to hold a belt in place, cut them off and find a belt that fits you perfectly at your natural waist. If the fit is right, it won't need belt loops to hold it in place.

I'm in the market for new, straight-leg jeans--and of course, I want my new pair to be a miracle--fit well, decent price, good quality. Where is the best place to start looking? Nordstrom? Levis? Loehmanns?

Those are all good places to start and offer a range of styles and prices.  Barneys Co-op also has a lot of different styles as does Denim Bar, which has locations in  Arlington and Bethesda.  You'll probably find the best prices at Levis and Loehmann's. You might also add Filene's Basement to that list.

hello ladies! i am an engineer, and hate the "stereotype" that we are all geeky, fashion challenged nerds . I feel I have a great fashion sense and take pride in always looking put together, feminine, and chic. when at the office, i am usually rocking slim pants, pencil skirts, feminine blouses, and fabulous shoes. my challenge is that my current role takes me into a plant environment a couple times a week. for safety's sake, there are strict wardrobe rules which include closed toed, low-heeled shoes, safety glasses, and a hardhat (tres chic, no?). how can i maintain my style and confidence within these restrictions? most of the people i deal with in the plants are big burly men in coveralls, so i need to be taken seriously, but i'm not ready to become "one of the boys". some added info, jeans are ok and we need to have long sleeves when in the actual plant (can wear short sleeves in the plant offices). can you help me?!?!?!

Trouser-cut jeans are one option, and look chic paired with a low-heeled boot or flat. A tailored blazer is a good option if you need to wear sleeves, as is a basic v-neck or crew-neck cardigan. It seems like your style is on the girly side, so my advice would be to tone it down just a little while you're at the plant -- no kitten heels or excessive jewelry. Use color, feminine details like ruffles and sharp tailoring to feel stylish without looking like style is more important to you than practicality/safety.

Good Morning Ladies, I'm submitting early due to a meeting...With this weekend's wonderful weather making it possible to think that perhaps Fall really will come, I bought a cute little sweater dress that will be fabulous when the air gets a little bit crisper. But, I'm at a loss how to wear it & would appreciate some help!! About me: petite (5'1"), small (size 2-4), hourglass/proportionate figure (a little big larger on top) About the dress: turtleneck, not a bulky knit, short raglan sleeves with an asymmetrical detail of buttons along the raglan seam on one side. It hits me about 2 inches above the knee. It's a plum/mulberry-ish color. Suggestions on shoes, accessories, etc. would be most appreciated! Thanks in advance!!

While it's still a bit warm out, I think a pair of flat riding boots would look great with this dress. When it really does feel like fall, try it with tights (match either the dress or your shoes) -- pair it with a black blazer, tights and pumps for work; for nights and weekends, try brown or plum tights with knee-high or ankle boots.

I was surprised (appalled!) that my handsome, smart, late 20-something son-in-law does not own a suit. As much as business casual rules the day, and he dresses well, I think he is doing himself a disservice not to have at least one well-tailored suit at his disposal. Whether he likes it or not (and we do get along quite well, even though I appear to be meddling in his wardrobe), I want to buy him a suit. Your thoughts on (a) having a suit in one's closet, and (b) which color and cut of a suit would work for all occasions?

Agreed -- it's high time he had a well-tailored suit in his wardrobe. There are plenty of life occasions that require one, even if he doesn't need it for his job.  You can't go wrong with dark blue or charcoal. I'd say that what has changed most about suits today is the cut.  The jackets are more fitted and so are the pants. Today's suits should fit rather than camouflage a man's body. As our colleague Robin Givhan pointed out in her column yesterday.

There's been a lot of discussion about large sizes and overweight women lately and I finally find myself in this category from taking steroids daily due to an organ transplant. In two years I've gained 50 pounds even though I work out 5 to 6 days a week doing cardio and weight training for at least an hour a day. I also maintain good nutrition and have great cholesterol numbers. I just wanted to get it out there that it's not always apparent what is causing people to gain weight and snap judgments and comments can miss the mark.

Point taken. Thank you for chiming in on that.

Hi, all. I just want to say that I found a great selection of jeans at Sears over the weekend. I've rarely ever shopped there for clothes, with the exception of a few basics at Land's End, but I went in a fit of jeans despair after trying everywhere else I could think of (Gap, Old Navy, True Religion, A&F, Macy's, Nordstrom's, Marshalls, Denim Bar, Forever 21, Express, Aeropostale, etc.). What I found would not satisfy anyone willing to shell out more than $100 for jeans, which I'm not, but there was a wide variety of styles in a wide range of sizes and, importantly for me (I'm shortish), lengths. I found a great pair that fit well and are the style I want (flared leg--hard to find these days!) for $20, on sale from $35. Again, not recommended for denim highbrows, but a surprising haven for those looking for an inexpensive weekend pair. Plus, petite, maternity, and juniors sizes seemed to abound.

Some very helpful tips for anyone looking for affordable, casual jeans -- thanks!

Do you have any experience with Land's End cashmere? The price seems too good to be true. On a related topic, how can I buy sweaters that don't pill? I'm replacing them every other season at this rate. Is there a brand or material that resists pilling? Thanks for your help!

I don't have any experience with Land's End cashmere -- any chatters out there own any sweaters? I would suspect that the quality or the ply of the cashmere Land's End is selling is only one-ply. The thicker the ply on cashmere, the more expensive it is and the longer it lasts.

I would love it if every sweater I have ever bought or will buy would not pill. I hate when that happens. And I dearly wish there were a way to tell.  Any one have an idea?

So, a relative passed along a black leather skirt to me, and I have no clue what would look good with it, or when would be appropriate to wear it. The skirt hits just slightly above the knee, is fitted (not loose), and has a high-ish waist. Ideas, please? I know it's an expensive item, and I don't want it to just gather dust in my closet...unless it's a total fashion faux-pas. Thanks!

A black leather pencil skirt is a great piece to inherit! Several designers focused heavily on leather for fall, including leather shift dresses, pants and skirts. Depending on your sense of style, your skirt could look great with a worn-in chambray shirt and some open-toe booties. If you're on the more conservative side, try it with a classic white button-down and pumps in a fun color, like cherry red or bright purple. And you can't go wrong with a black cashmere turtleneck and tall boots -- understated but really sexy.

I cannot rave enough about Bra La La in Maryland, up route 29. They carry everything from super small to the super large and everything in between.

For the chatter looking for small-size bras, try Bra La La. Thanks for the tip!!

DSW has several pairs of peep toe BOOTS on display. They didn't do much for me but I am sure someone will find a way to rock them.

Thanks for tuning in!

I'm so glad Detroit wrote in - I'm in a similar situation! I work in the corporate offices of a real estate development firm, which means business casual in the office, but having to be properly dressed to visit construction sites (heels are a bad idea, and, like Detroit, hardhats are often necessary). Guys have it so easy, as their flat shoes and slacks work well in both environments. I'd love to see an article about dressing for these types of jobs - we can't be the only ones!

Thanks for joining us -- hope you found that answer helpful!

Are scarves still going to be a fashion staple this fall and winter? If so, will the look be different than last year?

Yes, scarves are still a staple. The new thing this season is animal prints and faux fur.  I especially liked how Dries Van Noten used fur or faux fur scarves in his fall 2010 collection.

OK, this may be a dumb question, but what does "great-fitting jeans" actually mean for say a 50-ish, average-size (ie, 5'7", 130 lbs, pants size 8) woman?

Not a dumb question.  For me, it means that the jeans flatter the rear (uplift it is even better) and the waist fits (no gaping space). Any chatter have a definition of great fitting jeans?

I'm a top heavy size 10...would a motorcycle jacket (like this one from Banana Republic) be flattering?  I am trying to be better about only going for trends that would look good on me! Thanks!

The one in your link appears to be out of stock, but a motorcycle jacket looks good on most any figure. If you're worried about adding bulk, look for one in faux leather, which is more fluid and lightweight than the real thing. And as far as styles go, opt for minimal detailing (no notched lapels, zippers, pockets, etc) and a fit that hits at or just above your hip. I like this one and this one.

One place to look online is Bra Tenders <>. They dress many of Broadway's actresses, and know their stock well--and Broadway-caliber lingerie needs to be tough! Also try Orchard Corsets--they carry a variety of undergarments--I have ordered 30s from them in the past. <>

More sources to try for the small-chested among us.

I checked Eve's Apples and they only have bras that are small in band AND cups. I need a 30 D. Any suggestions for us with small ribcages but not-as-small "apples"?

One chatter recommended Bra La La in Maryland (on or near Route 29). Don't know if they can fit small ribcages and bigger busts, but worthwhile asking.


Its two ply cashmere and very nice. I gave some as Christmas gifts last year and my sister in laws loved them. Highly recommend and they sometimes offer special discounts near Christmas. I think they are called Nick's Picks.

Thank you for setting the record straight there. Good news for the chatter who thought they were too good to be true, and good news for the rest of us as well.

Grey suede ankle boots: check. Brown leather moto jacket: check. The next item on my to-buy list is a cape for outerwear. Is this a worthy investment for a twenty-something this fall/winter? I think it would look adorable with riding boots and skinny jeans or cords.

Yes, if you have the money to invest -- meaning you already have a practical winter coat. Capes are a major trend for the season, and in truth, a classic style/color will last you through a couple seasons. H&M has a few really great options coming down the pipeline in October, so stay tuned. Also Anthropologie already has a couple online that you might want to check out. Vintage is another great route for capes -- try Etsy and Ebay.

I worked as a meteorological technician for time, a job which entailed launching weather balloons in a muddy field and often maneuvering helium tanks and working inside a wind tunnel. That said, I found good-soled boots to be a staple of my wardrobe (the Frye Billy was my favorite), as well as the J.Crew bootcut cords in many colors, bootcut jeans, some sharper fleeces, blazers and cardigans for layering. Scarves can help an outfit look more polished without seeming overly girly, too!

Thanks for the tips!

Between a new baby and allergies, my under eye circles can probably be seen from space. Any suggestions for a good brand of makeup to help? Also, a good eye cream to help with the wrinkles that are starting to pop up? My daily sunscreen is not cutting it anymore. Thanks!

For eye cream, I like Dermalogica's products. But you might also want to try a product from Boots, which I have heard raves about. It's sold at Rite Aid, among other drug stores. I like Laura Mercier's camouflage product and am a big fan of YSL's Touche Eclat for hiding under-eye circles.

I have a job interview tomorrow with a conservative (as in traditional, not politics) cultural organization. I plan to wear a black pantsuit but need to know how much artistic flair I should give it. I have a blouse I can wear under it but it doesn't give much room for a necklace to show and I don't have any nice (or artistic) brooches. I have worn it with a nice, neat white t-shirt and a fun loopy silver necklace that looks professional but fashionable, but am concerned that a t-shirt, however nice, isn't professional enough. Scarves aren't really an option because I don't have any that look right with the suit. Any suggestions? My other option is a linen blazer in a nice orangy/red color with black slacks but believe that a suit is better for an interview.

First, definitely go with the black suit. A crew neck tee in a nice fabric, such as cotton jersey, can work, but opt for a color to make it a bit more professional. Or what about a silk/silk-blend shell? You can find them pretty easily at discount stores -- try Target, H&M and Zara. If a necklace doesn't work, try a bold ring and a pair of earrings -- nothing too big or dangly, just a bit of subtle sparkle.

Jeans that fit well balance the waist with the hip--both must fit without causing either waist bulge or creases in the hip. Rear uplift is great too. Trouser jeans or straight leg are great for this. If you can't find the pair that fits both waist and hip, buy to fit the larger area and bring to a tailor.

For the chatter looking for a definition of great-fitting jeans, here's what another chatter had to say about it.


Buy a sweater shaver! I bought an Izumi one (on Amazon) last year (it's one of the more pricey models but after reading the reviews I was satisfied that it was also the most well-made) and it is really one of the best purchases I ever made. It has made my sweaters look so much fresher and newer, and works even on the really small pills that develop on delicate fabrics.

The answer to sweater pilling. This chatter raves about it. For a less expensive route, there's also the Sweater Stone, which you can also find at Amazon.

Please tell me your opinion on sweater sets. Dated? Boring? A timeless classic? I have several and, if you feel they're OK for office and/or weekend, what would you suggest to make them look and feel more modern/less on the safe side?

Personally, I think sweater sets are dated -- but only if you wear them together. I'd split them up and pair the cardigans with pretty patterned blouses, embellished tees and simple tanks and wear the plain sweaters over blouses or under blazers for work. If you really want to keep them together, try wearing one of your sets with a patterned circle skirt or a tweed pencil skirt and a great, sparkly necklace for a "Mad Men" meets Michelle Obama look.

Re: your suggestion of tights with a sweater dress - how do you get the dress to NOT stick to the tights and ride up when you walk? Am I the only one who has this problem???

I spray with some cologne. Bounce also works and if you happen to have some hair spray, they all will keep the sticking problem at bay.

Jeans that flatter your hips and thighs. In other words, NOT jeans that taper down to the ankle. Resist the siren call of tapered jeans! They may be familiar, but they are NOT your friends!

If you're on the hippier side, really skinny jeans don't flatter, that's true.  But tapered doesn't necessarily mean skinny.

Calvin Klein sells bras in size 30D, as does Natori. I have found both at Nordstrom's.

For the 30D bra chatter -- thanks!

I'm in the same boat--try Especially the Chantelle and Fantasie lines.

For those who need a small band and bigger cup, this chatter recommends Chantelle and Fantasie.

I have a bunch of pencil skirts that all seem to need to be taken in at the waist. I've decided it's finally time to get these tailored, but don't have any idea of where to take them or how much this type of thing usually costs. I've looked around Yelp, but there aren't too many reviews for tailors. You guys always seem to have your finger on the good spots to try around DC. I live on the Hill and work around Farragut. Any suggestions for good tailors or what I should expect the hit to the pocketbook to be? Thanks so much!

Chatters, anyone have a good tailor around the Hill or near Farragut?

Hi Ladies, stay at home mom here. What are some essential pieces I can buy this fall to spruce up my yoga pants/ jeans ensemble? I can't afford to buy too much but I want to look put together as opposed to looking like I just picked up the same thing day in and day out. Thanks for taking my question

If you can manage it, try to retire the yoga pants unless you're actually going to yoga class. It's hard, especially when you're in a rush and want to be comfortable, but people call them give-up-on-life pants for a reason. Some nice-fitting jeans, black trousers, classic chinos and even basic leggings are all better options -- and you can find any of those on a budget. Try scouting Target, TJ Maxx, Old Navy, Gap and the fast-fashion staples (H&M, Zara, Forever 21) for classic, timeless pieces that you can perk up with a colorful top, tailored jacket or some fun jewelry. Jeans and a 3/4-sleeve crewneck sweater; chic trousers and a button-down; chinos, a basic tee and a cardigan; leggings and a long sweater or tunic -- that's four days worth of outfits already!

I really love vintage clothes, particularly dresses. They're so unique and interesting and it's fun to not be wearing the same thing as everyone else in DC. My problem is with the styling. I always read/see that you should keep the styling modern, but what exactly does that mean? Is it hair, jewelry, shoes? All of the above? Any advice, help, suggestions would be wonderful! Thanks!!

It's best to keep vintage to one or two pieces, not an entire ensemble.  That's what makes it look dated, like you're back in that era. So, if your dress is vintage, pick some bold accessories -- a chunky necklace, dangly earrings, tough boots -- that will make the look look modern.

A slip! Sometimes I feel as though I'm the only woman under age 60 who still wears slips, but I swear by them for certain skirts and dresses, and not just those that are on the sheer side. A good slip will eliminate static cling and will help smooth out any lumps and bumps.

You're not the only one -- I scoop up vintage silk slips (and half-slips) whenever I hit the thrift stores and get lots of use out of them once the weather makes life static-y.

I have Boots night cream for my face and while I don't have any wrinkles yet so I can't tell a difference there, the smell is slightly weird. So definitely smell the product first since you'll be breathing it in all night.

Thanks for tuning in! I love Boots creams, but I agree that a weird smell can ruin a product ... this is especially true for me with lipsticks.

Can one wear nude pumps in the winter, or only during the bare-leg season? If it's OK in winter, with what stockings?

Nude pumps work well in summer because with bare legs, you look as if your legs go on forever. But that doesn't mean you have to wear them for summer only. Make them work in winter with a pair of patterned tights.

I'm 25 years old but have been cursed with my father's wonderfully genetic dark undereye circles. Thanks, Pops. I've spent much of my life investigating products and concealers (thank YOU Laura Mercier!) and recently picked up the Garnier eye roller to see if it made any difference. I can't really tell if it's lightened up my circles but the darn thing has managed to completely dry out my under eye area! Do you have any suggestions for a good eye cream that's not super heavy as my young skin is still prone to adult acne that might help reverse the damage of this product?

Sorry to hear that! One of my fave drugstore brands, Vichy, has a new Aqualia Thermal roll-on eye formula for puffiness and dark circles that you might want to try.

I asked the original question (and submitted last week not knowing the chat was canceled). In the intervening time I visited Trosseau and discovered that they do carry smaller sizes. I found that Nordstrom carries the brands Trosseau pointed out as well - and they carry bigger cup sizes for smaller band sizes (yay).

Thank you for following up! (And sorry we didn't let you know the chat was cancelled.)

Posting early due to a lunchtime meeting. I really want to find a classic trench coat this fall--and all the coats I can find that fit my torso have sleeves that are far too short and sometimes also too tight in my somewhat broad shoulders. My go-to place used to be Eddie Bauer, but really want something a bit dressier than they offer. Any ideas for where to find coats in what usually winds up being a large/tall or a 14 tall (note: "plus" size stores don't come small enough - I'm not a 14W)? I'm only 5'9", but I must have ape arms.

Try Land's End Canvas collection. I saw a lovely-looking trench coat on their site, and it comes in size 14.

I've taken a dress and heard good reviews about Sammy Lee at Capitol Hill Tailor Shop on Penn, near the Eastern Market Metro. I took a silk evening gown there a while back to have the length and straps shortened (he may have had to take it in too, but I don't remember) and it cost me about $60. He did a great job, especially given the delicate fabric. If you call ahead or drop by, he can probably give you an estimate.

Great info, thanks!

Are shirtdresses, tunics, or long sweaters with capri length tights still going to be trendy this winter? I let the trend pass me last year, but it does look like an awfully comfy outfit for grocery shopping or grabbing coffee on the weekends.

I feel the same way about capri-length tights as I do about capri-length pants -- don't do it! A full-length tight/legging/pant is much for figure-flattering than one that cuts you off mid-calf (and leaves you with cold feet).

Thank you all so much for joining us! The chatter who told us about Bra La La gets the Shiseido palette; the one who suggested Sears for affordable weekend jeans gets Nigel Barker's book. Email us at and we'll mail those prizes out. We'll be taking a hiatus next week, but we'll be back with another Fashion Fix discussion on Sept. 28. Mark your calendars! In the meantime, keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter.

In This Chat
Holly Thomas
Holly E. Thomas writes "Trend Report," a weekly fashion and beauty column in the WP Magazine.

Fashion Q&A's Archive
Janet Bennett Kelly
Janet Bennett Kelly is the online fashion editor for The Washington Post and the editor of DC Scout.
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