Got Plans? Fashion expert Holly Thomas returns to help you plan your seasonal styles.

Dec 22, 2011

Got Plans? Fashion expert Holly Thomas returns to help you plan your seasonal styles.

Welcome, chatters, today, we're lucky enough to have Holly E. Thomas, the beloved former Guru and current Refinery 29 editor to take your holiday fashion/NYE questions, while the rest of us tackle the rest of your going-out, dating and cocktail quandaries. As a bonus for those of you who are entertaining family this week, we're going to give away two VIP passes to the Newseum -- good only till Dec. 31. All you have to do is write one pithy, totally fictional headline you wished you'd seen this year.

Like, "Ke$hing Out: Pop singer Ke$ha to retire." (That full on British-tabloid gem was Fritz's). Okay, let's get started!

Have you guys heard any rumors about Wim Wenders' film for Pina Bausch making its way to DC? I doubt it'll hit a 3D theater but maybe one of the independent theaters we have will screen it for at least a week?

So far, all we know is "Pina" will be in D.C., beginning Jan. 27. We won't know which theaters for a little while longer. Somehow, Im betting on West End or E Street, but keep your eyes peeled as we get closer to the date.

Hi Holly, I am an attorney who only wears a suit about 8-10 times a year, mainly for meetings and attending conferences. Got any ideas for local stores where I can get a good, dependable, modern-looking (2 button, flat front) for around 250 or less? I'm looking forward to the after Xmas sales and will try shopping around that time.

If you want modern on a budget, you might want to stop by Zara, which has some nicely made, slim-cut suits -- plus, there's a big holiday sale starting tomorrow. H&M has some decent options, too. Note that $250 is really cheap for a good suit, so European fast-fashion retailers are your best bet if you're on a tight budget. If you're willing to venture online (and spend a bit more for something that fits you perfectly), I recommend Indochino, where you can get a custom suit starting at $379.

Hi Holly! My friend is getting married on New Year's Eve (late afternoon wedding in a church, dinner + dancing to follow), and my formalwear happens to be either summer-weight or black. I'm planning on buying a dress, and potentially shoes too; the only part of the outfit I have figured out is my necklace, a pink-and-gold flower on a pearl strand. Do you have any suggestions for me? Thanks so much!

I just posted about winter weddings, so you might find some inspiration there! But if you don't want to buy something new, you can definitely make a black dress work -- a cream tuxedo jacket or a faux fur capelet over a simple black shift would look stunning. Add some metallic pumps and a fun clutch, and you're all set.

Thoughts on Old Ebbitt Grill's casino themed NYE event? I only found one - short and unfavorable- review from the event last year. I've never done an all inclusive event - is it worth the ticket price? Thanks!

First, I'm going to throw in a link to our list of dozens of New Year's Eve events. There are tons of free parties in there, too -- more than I've seen in a long time.

I've never been to Old Ebbitt's NYE party, and, honestly, I've never heard anyone mention anything about it, good or bad. I think that about sums it up.

But my two rules for going out on New Year's Eve:

1. This is not the time for exploring. Expectations are always sky-high on New Year's Eve, but in many cases, lines are long and tempers are short. I almost always advise people to go to bars they've been to before, because the vibe is not going to change radically for one night. If it's a neighborhood bar with friendly crowds and cheap beer 364 nights of the year, it'll almost certainly be that way on Dec. 31 -- just a little more crowded. If a lounge has mediocre service and poor DJs most of the time, it's not going to turn into Cinderella on New Year's Eve.

2. When it comes to all-inclusive tickets, think about how much food and drink you're actually going to consume. Sometimes it's worth it: Think the $35 "all you can eat and drink" pork roast on Jack Rose's roof on New Year's Eve. But are you really going to drink $100 worth of vodka-tonics or Bud Light at Madhatter? Some people will. Some people won't. It's just something to consider.

For Holly: I only have a week left to find shoes to go with my NYE dress! The dress is gold sequins...I never wear gold, so I have no idea what colors are a good match. Help!

Fun! I'd go pumps or ankle boots in black patent, suede, or velvet, to create interest with texture. If you want to add color, incorporate a single jewel tone, like emerald green or deep purple-- those deep, rich hues coordinate beautifully with gold. Just look in your jewelry box for proof! One more tip: Steer clear of anything metallic, unless you want to look like tinsel.

Help! I feel like the only way to go out on NYE is to shell out way too much money for a pre-fixed dinner or an open bar. Are there any places in DC a group of 8-10 20-somethings can hang out but not spend a fortune?

Here are two dozen free -- Free! -- events for New Year's Eve with more to come. Some are doing a NYE vibe without bells and whistles -- Smith Commons will have a DJ and a Moet toast at midnight, and drink specials throughout the night. Nellie's will have drink specials right up until midnight, DJs and other surprises. Others, such as Boundary Stone and Meridian Pint, will just be open, though you'll get a midnight toast in there.

Also, I'm seeing a lot of spots that are only charging a nominal fee and letting you pay your own way. El Centro DF, which has become one of Steph's and my favorite escape valves on 14th Street, will have a $10 cover charge, but also $5 margaritas on its tented-and-heated rooftop and a DJ spinning in the very cool basement tequila bar. The Passenger is turning the Warehouse Theatre into a dance club for the night, with a $10 cover. Lost Society has a $25 cover, which sounds like a lot, until you realize there are three cocktails included in that (regularly $12 each) and two DJs.

Help! OK, not totally alone. Friends who live here or who are not traveling to visit family are here. So I'm sure I'll break bread with someone this weekend. I visited my own family last weekend, though, which means I've got three days to spend where everyone else is with their families. I'm not boo-hooing, I just want to make the most of three free/quiet days. I live in Ashburn which means I can either head west (to wineries?) or into DC (museums, things going on, wandering, etc). Or volunteering! If you had three days to yourself, and many things were going to be buttoned up due to the hols, what would you do to amuse yourself? I am likely going to be going solo whatever I end up doing. Thanks!

I think there are a lot of people in your boat, actually, since Washington is full of youngish, ambitious types living far from home. I love that you're considering volunteering (check out Greater DC Cares and One Brick DC; I just searched and there are definitely volunteer opportunities for the dates this weekend). Wineries are typically operating on reduced hours or are completely closed this time of year (we're well past harvest season). Another option: Gyms and yoga studios are offering special classes that are a good way to feel good about yourself; I always go to a Christmas Day class at Washington Sports Club (they're typically longer, crazier, ambitious workouts, which makes them like one big team bonding thing). Yoga District has a Merry Yoga class on Christmas Day in Dupont Circle, for example. On Christmas Eve, I'd definitely spend the day catching a look at the Hirshhorn/National Gallery of Art Warhol shows, then treating yourself to a spicy, totally un-holiday meal at the bar at Rasika. (If you're looking for great places to dine on Christmas, we have those, too). And I'm going to put it out there: You could invite those friends who are here to a little holiday soiree at your place. Grab whatever booze and canapes you can from Trader Joe's, string up some lights, and have a little bash on Friday or Saturday. Why not? Then, try to get them to come volunteer with you.

Do you have any tips on styling a great wrap dress to make it "street style" worthy?

Wrap dresses are tricky, since they're designed to be a sort of all-in-one outfit, which doesn't make for easy accessorizing. A great statement necklace is an easy choice -- preferably something like a bold bib-style piece or a chunky short strand, to keep the focus near your face. (A long pendant draws the eye straight to your cleavage, which is probably not what you're going for.) If the dress fastens with a button or a snap, you can lose the sash and add a belt to change it up. Boots tend to look great with wrap dresses -- very Bianca Jagger -- or you could experiment with color-blocking through brightly colored tights and contrasting pumps.

I'd like to have a "Christmas beer" this weekend. Do you know of anywhere in Northern Virginia that serves Samichlaus beer? Thanks.

Samichlaus is one of the rarer Christmas beers around -- I guess that happens when you only brew it one day a year. I've only had it at Pizzeria Paradiso, and it's long gone. You might try one of the Rusticos; Samichlaus wasn't on their special two-night Festivus lineup earlier this week, but they might get it. I'd also try Fireworks in Arlington, or Tuskie's in Leesburg.

Fritz, A buddy of mine and his wife with their two year old are in town for the holidays. We want to get together for some good beer tonight. Any neighborhood is fine, but nothing fancy. Thanks!

Are you getting dinner, or just beers? I think Birreria Paradiso would be ideal -- they're used to families, and the dining feels more bar than restaurant. The Queen Vic could also work, if you like British beers. And I have a friend who brings her less-than-a-year-old son to Boundary Stone, and no one bats an eye, since it's such a community-focused bar.

My DC office is casual. Painfully, tee-shirts-and-flip-flops-and-cut-offs casual. What's an easy elevated outfit that doesn't look exceptionally out of place standing next go a team who is probably wearing dirty sneakers and a novelty tee-shirt?

Yikes ... this sounds more like spring break than a professional office. Jeans are an easy go-to in this case -- a loose-fitting pair with a poplin blouse or a slim ankle-length style with a basic sweater would look polished but not overly prim. You could also try slim or relaxed fit chinos as an alternative. Opt for simple ballet flats, brogues, a clean pair of retro sneakers (Chucks, Bensimons, Keds) to give the casual air you need to fit in with the group.

Merry Christmas! I have a fashion question. I have a dark green semi-casual dress which I've paired with brown boots. It's ok for 60 degree weather but what color tights can I wear when it get a little colder. I have a some what conservative work environment, so I don't want to go too loud but I don't know what will work. I appreciate the advice.

Merry Christmas to you! I'd opt for dark brown tights if you want to make your legs look long and lean; if you can experiment a little, try deep navy, burgundy or dark purple. And of course, you can always wear black opaque tights and add a black blazer to tie the look together.

Hi, I am trying to impress a girl I dont really know who is in town for the holidays. What can you recommend? It doesnt have to be superfestive

Hmm, first step is to find out what she likes, but there are always a few D.C. standards: I've never had anyone turn down my offer to show them the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and MLK Memorial by night (be sure to stop at the Lincoln Memorial and show her the plaque marking where Martin Luther King delivered the "I have a dream speech" -- it's the most amazing feeling to look out to the Washington Monument and imagine that moment). Stop by the White House tree if you feel like it. Then, hop a cab over to Tabard Inn for cocktails and bar snacks, which is mildly festive, but it's quiet enough to actually talk. And after drinks, you could skip over to Eighteenth Street Lounge to dance, or just walk around -- the neighborhood is lovely at night, and it's easy to kind of wander into places if you feel like it. Holly suggests slipping over to 14th near U and casually checking out places too -- luckily few to none have cover, and you can end the night eating late-night at any one of a half-dozen places, including our favorite, Fast Gourmet. Seriously, if a hidden gas station eatery doesn't impress, she's not worth impressing.

Hello! Thanks for taking my question. I'm planning to pop into the Willard lobby with some fellow (relatively cash strapped) grad school friends on Friday. We're looking for someplace in the area for dinner... or maybe even a reasonably priced happy hour menu. Any suggestions? Looking to spend less than $20 a meal (which can certainly be a challenge in DC). You guys are the best!

I read this question out loud in the office and people started shouting out answers.

You can fill up pretty well on Ceiba's happy hour bar menu -- half-priced apps from 3-6 every weekday, plus $5 cocktails.

Carmine's is a popular answer, since a meal for two people generally feeds at least six, family style, with leftovers.

A giant deep-dish pizza at Pi is a good bet with a group, and not too expensive, either. They also have happy hour snacks (plates of meatballs, mozzerella, etc.) for $4 each, and $4 beers.

The 1 year old bar The Blue Banana (anniversary party tonight with FREE DRINKS 6-8) is also open on New Years Eve with NO COVER and Free Champagne at Midnight! My friend bartends there and told me about that option last night.

Certainly shameless, but hey, free drinks!

My older sister is getting married (hooray!) in the next two weeks. I'm giving a reading at the wedding, but there are no formal bridesmaids per se. I want to know if I can wear a lovely, modest (Talbots!) black cocktail dress to the wedding. Also, if I can wear that, do you have tips for making it more festive somehow? Thanks and Happy New Year!

Congrats to your sis! I think you can definitely wear the Talbots cocktail dress -- glam it up with some super-sparkly earrings or a statement necklace, or get a little artsy and group a bunch of vintage brooches near the neckline. A cardigan with some matte sequin detailing would look great, too, if you're worried about it being too much black.

I know Macy's usually has some good suits for men in a lot of different styles and cuts. The full price of the suit may be a bit much, but Macy's often has good sales and coupons.

Thanks for the tip! This is definitely a good time to hit up the chain-store sales, and always hit the internet beforehand to look for printable coupons.

Hi gurus - is Zoolights just for kids? Or would it be a lovely date to stroll through and look at the lights? Do you think it will be totally mobbed the week between Christmas/New Years? thanks!

So, a year or two ago, I suggested this as a great date, but heard some feedback from readers that it was too kiddy; it all depends on you, I think. If you can let down your sophisticated armor and just enjoy the lights and the walk, by all means go. Go later, and you'll run into fewer little ones, for sure.  Not too far away,  you can slip into New Heights' gin bar afterward or Open City for coffee or a drink or dessert. No, I don't think it will be  mobbed -- all of Washington is feeling a little slower right now, and I think after Christmas in particular, interest in Christmas lights will wane a bit.

Don't forget the submarine races on the Potomac!

Okay, this one I haven't seen. How do you watch the races if they're under water?

Hello Gurus. Since Tom is off this week, I will ask for your recommendations. Where should my friend and I treat ourselves to a delicious lunch on Friday? We want to be pampered and are willing to spend a bit more than usual. Anything except Ethiopian, Mexican or sushi please. Thank you!

We asked Justin Rude to tackle this one -- a budgetless D.C. lunch?! -- and here's what he said: Oh man, and here I was about to recommend Ethiopic, Oyamel and Sushi Taro. Seriously, though, for a lux lunch splurge, I would look to Fabio Trabocchi's soul-warming regional Italian at Fiola, the elevated classics at Bourbon Steak, the skilled contemporary American cooking at 701, anything Tony Conte cooks (or even stands near) at the Oval Room or the pan-Asian excellence at the Source. And now I am both hungry and jealous.

Hi Holly! Pls take this question about non-NYE fashion! I am an attorney who will be working in a business casual environment. Not really sure what that means for women, since I wear suits daily for my current job. I have about $1k that I can spend, and I want to make sure to spend in on what matters. Thoughts?

I think you can get away with wearing your current suit pants and skirts sans jacket -- a couple button-up blouses, cardigans and sweaters should give you plenty of different pairings. I'd grab some simple shift dresses, which you can wear with a blazer or cardigan for meetings and work events. Don't forget the closed-toe pumps, flats, and dressy ankle boots to wrap up your looks. To make your budget go as far as possible, I'd hit up the outlets and fast-fashion chains to get a good variety of basics on a budget -- now's a great time to scoop up some serious deals.

I went there last year and definitely not worth the money you pay. The casino games were fun and the open bar wasn't that bad; however there was no countdown to the new year nor any sort of announcement that it was about to occur/occured, which I found disappointing.

Here's some first-hand reporting about Old Ebbitt.

They're having their Young Professionals night tonight. I'm hoping that means lite on the kiddies.

Fingers crossed! Follow it up with cocktails at Ripple or Dino, or hot Irish coffee at Murphy's in Woodley Park.

Due to a last minute change of plans, I need to find a place for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Brunch/Dinner, yikes! Only 4 people but two are young teens who don't want to have to dress up so I need places that are nice jeans appropriate and hopefully won't break the bank. A traditional meal would be nice but not necessary. DC or MD are preferred, possibly even Baltimore for one of them. Thanks for saving my weekend once again!

Christmas Day dinner plans are covered: Check out one of these places, not super-traditional, but you can make it up to them with a traditional brunch over at the new Founding Farmers in Potomac. For Christmas Eve, a few options: Bourbon Steak is doing Christmas Eve dinner, while Fiola, PS7s, Dino and Vermillion are doing Christmas Eve feasts of the seven fishes.

How can I get over my fear of accessorizing? Women whose style I admire always look put together and always have accessories -- I'm always plain and boring. I buy things, but then I shy away from wearing them as I fear for some reason that I'll look like I'm trying too hard!

Here's a trick (I can't take credit for it, though -- it's Coco Chanel): Get yourself ready, put on the accessories you've picked out, and then before you walk out the door, take off one accessory. The best thing to realize is that the people you see day-to-day don't think of you as plain and boring -- why would they? -- so you shouldn't worry about their judgments. Just put on what makes you feel good, and be proud of how you express yourself! (Also, browsing street style blogs is a good way to get inspired and see what works, and what doesn't.)

Ha! And I thought that was a Long Island thing. We used to go to the marina in Bay Shore or Babylon.

So, I actually to work in Lawwwng Island,  not far from Babylon. I can't believe I missed submarine races!

Michelle Bachman selects Ted Turner for VP Nomination; campaign now in overdrive!

This one caused chills.

There's not a woman alive whose legs don't look shorter and fatter when they wear ankle boots. Please don't recommend them.

I respectfully disagree. Yes, they're the most flattering if you're tall and thin, but in a lot of cases, the heel makes legs look longer, which is more flattering than certain other options, like a ballet flat. But they're not for everyone -- you'd be hard-pressed to find any single shoe that is.

Looking for suggestions for an Arlington couple for New Year's Eve. Since Wife is pregnant, going out for drinks is right out. We had considered going out for French food for lunch (not brunch). Any ideas for night-time activities?

I'm guessing you're looking for something to *do*, rather than just hang out in a bar all night, huh? If you like the blues, Mad Fox Brewing Company has a pretty cool deal: Tom Principato is performing from 9 to 12:30, there's a full dinner buffet, and the beers (for you) are some of the best around.

You could always do a day in Old Town: Late lunch at Bastille or Virtue Feed and Grain, then explore first night with live music, swing dancing, etc. all over the town. It's all alcohol-free, and there's the trolley to drive you around if you don't feel like walking. Plus, you know, fireworks over the Masonic Memorial at midnight, plus a laser show.

We've gotten the gift card for professional wear, a lovely pair of earrings ... but now are looking for some fun (for a 22-year-old) stocking stuffers. Any ideas?

Beauty goodies are always fun -- try some OPI and Essie nail polishes, Sally Hansen nail strips, cucumber eye pads, an eyelash curler, cute bobby pins, etc. Also, plenty of candy and snacks is always a good idea.

Looking for a budget friendly casual place to have dinner tonight near Eastern Market- Barracks Row, any suggestions?

Ted's Bulletin has you covered for burgers, meatloaf and American classics, plus some of the best shakes around; Seventh Hill is the spot for pizza. And there's Tunnicliff's for old-school grilled cheese and club sandwiches in a saloon-cum-dive atmosphere.

Went to zoolights last weekend with my boyfriend and we had a great time! Lots of families, but also lots of couples strolling around. Very cute and fun light displays and music. Don't expect anything fancy, don't expect to see all your favorite animals, and don't expect to plan more than an hour tops, and you'll be fine.

Great advice, thanks.

Thanks to everyone for joining us, and special thanks to our fashion Guru Holly Thomas. Special note: We're going to give away those Newseum VIP tickets on Facebook later this afternoon. Check out for more details.

We'll see you back here next week for the last Got Plans? of 2011, when we'll be joined by Post pop music critics David Malitz and Chris Richards, who will be talking about their favorite artists, albums and concerts of 2011, and what they're looking forward to in 2012.

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The Going Out Gurus
The Going Out Gurus are the experts behind The Washington Post's Going Out Guide. They write about restaurants, bars, movies, the arts, special events and visitor attractions, and they're out every night to keep you on top of the D.C. entertainment scene.
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