| Ask The Style Chefs: January 2006 Archives

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January 2006 Archives

Q. I just bought a pair of platform-wedge espadrilles that lace up the ankle with grosgrain ribbons. They’re lovely, I just can’t figure out how to tie them! I have small ankles and tying the ribbon into a bow looks hilariously floppy. Is it OK to just tie a knot? In front or back? Is there some other clever way to fasten them? Help! You’re the best!
-Tie it Up

A. I bought some wedge espadrilles last summer and waited two months after their purchase to finally put them on due to the tie-up issue.  Every time I put them on, I felt a little silly.  Ultimately, I wrapped them criss cross style around my leg and tied them in a bow in the back of my calf and skipped (sort of) out the door to receive many compliments.  Try tying them as expected and end with a bow, which you can double knot, so the bow appears smaller on the back of your calf (and so you don’t feel like a 5 year old with a bow in the front.) You can knot the ribbons if you wish, but you may end up with long dangling ribbons, risking the chance of stepping on them and tripping.

Q. Do you have any suggestions as to where I might find colorful, cute luggage?  I am traveling to France in the spring, and I would really like to find something that is not black or dark brown.  It needs to be large, as I will need to stuff three weeks worth of clothing and souvenirs into it.  I had a fuchsia DVF suitcase however, it broke and I need to find a replacement.

A. I traveled on 20 flights from Thanksgiving to New Years and that meant learning to travel light and finding the right carry-on bag for my book, magazines and pocket video recorder and a suitcase that’s easy to find on the carousel.   Black is a big NO NO for suitcase colors - unless of course you want to waste time at the airport or worry that someone with the same style walks away with your precious cargo. I watched a guy chase after a woman who mistakenly had done just that in O’Hare airport!
I’m a big fan of finding the big names and a big range of luggage for less at stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls.  There’s a fabulous new line of printed luggage pieces from Also, check out styles from,, and

Here are a few suggestions:

Delsey Helium Lite
100 Luggage Collection
$30 to $130 at


Polo Ralph Lauren
2000 Rugged Collection
$151 to $459 at


Atlantic Altitude 24"
Expandable Upright
$64.99 at

Q. I want to break into fashion, but I haven’t graduated school yet, and I’m married.  But for the past few years I’ve been wanting to design clothing and have others wear them.  Now that’s all I ever seem to talk about.  I get so upset because nobody will help me, and I feel that I’m so lost, it seems as though it’s completely taken over me.  Please help me on how I’m able to get my fashions out there.  Thanks.
-Fashion Break

A. First question: are you in school studying fashion design?  If not, why not if that’s your passion?  If you’ve just realized that designing is your dream and you’ve still got some courses left, meet with an adviser about taking some marketing, advertising or business courses that will help you develop a plan on how to reach customers or employers when you graduate.  Many colleges offer co-op opportunities that allow you to make money at a job and receive college credit as well.  Or how about an internship? Either way, next question: do you know how to sew, make a pattern, drape a muslin? This is where the co-op or internship fits in.  Work with a dressmaker, a tailor or seamstress in your city or town.  Buy some patterns and visit fabric shops and start making your own clothes and see if you get compliments on the fit, color choices and fabrics.  Take apart or reconstruct clothes you already own.  Pay attention to detail and check out what other designers are doing each season.

Also, realize that not every great designer creates their own collection; many work for other designers to learn the business and build a resume.  Many get those jobs with minuscule starting salaries.  And there are many people who hold regular jobs, but become custom clothiers (meaning they can create great skirts, tops, dresses, etc. each season in different fabrics or customers go to them with specific needs) on the side until they can financially sustain themselves.

It’s great to be hyped up and excited about taking on a new career or challenge and remember, it’s your dream so go after it, but don’t assume that other people are there to give you a helping hand.  Some people may be holding back on encouragement or giving support until they see you take steps towards actually realizing your goals. Do some research, good luck and stay jazzed about your dream.

Q. I just bought a pair of brown and off-white plaid capris and an off-white sweater to wear with them.  My dilemma is the shoes…what kind of shoes can I wear with them?  And do tights look ok with them?
-Putting My Best Foot Forward

A. I’m not a big fan of capris during the winter months unless they’re a true cropped pant or gaucho that you can wear with knee high boots, in which case you’ve got many choices. Unless they’re a short length, stick with flats, wedges and kitten heels - and preferably worn with bare legs.

Steve Madden Sybel
$63.95 at

165461Seychelles ´Habit Forming´ Pump
$74.95 at

Taryn Rose Bijou Flat
$380 at

Q. I am a fashion consultant and have a client who is large in the bust area.  She is size 38 DD, but says her bras just don’t fit well.  Her dilemma is she wears great suits but the wrong blouses and sweaters underneath.  I want to help her accentuate her bosom, not hide it.  She is a corporate secretary and has to dress business conservative.  She wears too much black.  What can I suggest as far as blouses are concerned to give her a polished look without buttons bulging in her blouses?
-Fighting Button Bulge

A. The first order of business is to find your client good fitting bras.  A good bra can lift her breasts, minimize her bust and make her clothes look and fit better.  Many department stores like Bloomingdales have bra fit specialists who can help your client find the RIGHT bra. 

With a large bust, she should choose v-neck sweaters and avoid turtlenecks and crewnecks. She may also have to buy one size up in a blouse so she can button without the pulling effect and then head to a tailor to have any extra fabric taken in.  Better to know your local tailor and spend a few extra bucks to look good than wonder about your appearance and the impression you’re giving at the office with ill-fitting clothes.  And if she thinks black makes her appear smaller or more slender, then let her know that even red and navy blue can too when it’s worn head to toe.   A solid colored suit that’s not black paired with a subtle patterned blouse or knit top can make others turn and take notice in a positive way.

Q. I’m going to a spring wedding, but I’m having a hard time finding dresses.  What are some good stores or sites that have dresses that are below $100?
-Dress for Less

A. I love, love, love any chance to wear a dress. It’s one of my favorite things, but they can end up costing a pretty penny.  I scoured several sites for dresses  that were within your budget and wedding appropriate. Also, do a little online budget shopping yourself at sites like,,,,, and the junior section of for inexpensive dresses.

1603_59592_dtsleeveless satin dress
$39.99 (sale) at

black double v
flair dress
$72 at

P201671bKimchi & Blue
Velvet Beaded Dress
$59.99 (sale) at

Q. I love leopard print shoes, but have no idea how to wear them. I work in an office, but don’t know how to wear them so that they aren’t too showy or inappropriate. How can I work this?

Sp05f2677cA. Isn’t the idea of wearing leopard print shoes a chance to add a little panache to your outfit? Simple tips for wearing your leopard shoes in a professional office:

  1. Don’t wear other animal prints
  2. Keep the rest of your outfit classic
  3. Don’t wear more than one other pattern or print
  4. Don’t be shy about showing off your style

A pair of animal print shoes can make a classic outfit like a black or chocolate suit look more stylish.  And don’t assume that your top has to be white—choose other colors like burgundy, deep green, bronze, black or chocolate in silky blouses with a bit of shine.

Check out some of our favorite animal print pieces

Q. I love wearing shrugs with camisoles, but I’m wondering if one can safely (and fashionably) wear a shrug over a white blouse?
-Shrugging My Shoulders

A. Do you think you need a license to wear a shrug safely? It won’t bite. You’ll only know if the shrug looks good if you try it on with the white blouse and YOU think it looks good.  My only advice is that the blouse should be fitted and not boxy, oversized or appear to add extra bulk to your figure when you wear the shrug.  There are also shortened cardigans and 3/4 length sleeve cardigans that can look good with a button down shirt and still give you a shot of color and another layer with your outfit during the cooler months.

72233_bk0001Q. I recently bought this black chiffon skirt with sequins from J.Crew.   I am planning on wearing it to a semi formal attire party where everyone will be wearing dresses.  Any suggestions of what to wear on top?  Keep in mind that I’m only a teenager and don’t have the bank account I would like to have. Thanks!
-Skirt SOS

A. We like coming to the rescue of stylish budget-minded girls like ourselves.  I went “window” shopping on several sites for you and found several party-worthy tops that would do your skirt justice and not make your bank account look suddenly bleak. I decided to stick with black tops to give the illusion of a dress since you believe many girls will be wearing dresses. And each top has something to be desired whether it be sparkle, shine or a great shape. Don’t forget a great pair of earrings to finish the look.

Yq3631_001deep v-neck tank
$49 at

Sparkle & Fade
Sequin Inset Cami
$19.99 at


Sparkle & Fade
Glitter Tank
$24 at

Q. I am wearing a knee length black dress to a wedding and party at night.  Can I wear nylons that are nude instead of black?
-Leg Cover

A. You can wear nude stockings instead of black, but you may need to spend a little extra time in the hosiery department matching up your skin color to make sure the nude stockings really do look like you are wearing nothing at all - since that’s the point. Or, if your can swing it in the cooler temps, go bare legged and perhaps use a sunless tanner on your legs.

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