| Ask The Style Chefs: October 2007 Archives

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October 2007 Archives

Q. I live in the Boston Area and I found a cute pair of peep toe shoes. I was wondering if it’s still ok to wear peep toe in the Fall?
-Hide and Seek Feet

A.  This seems to be a very popular question lately, so let’s settle it once and for all: yes, you can wear your peep toes well into Fall and colder weather. Wear your legs bare until the temperatures drop and you get goose bumps and then slide on opaque tights and wear your peep toes into November and even December if the peep toes are a full pump and cover your foot everywhere else. Just be sure to wear opaque tights and not sheer hosiery and tuck the seams of the tights under your toes so they don’t show through the “hole.”

Q. I am a 28 year old from India. I feel like I am stuck in a style rut. I am 5’ 2" and weigh about 140. I have an extremely curvy body  - slim waist and "big" everything else. I want to know what are the basics I should have in my wardrobe. I have never worn a skirt or a sleeveless top before because I feel I am too fat. I want to try out something new, but I am terribly confused.
-Body Discomfort

A. Your basics are similar to most women, regardless of their size. You need a pair of jeans (look for a boot cut style), white button down shirt, v-neck sweater, black pants, a coat that hits just above the knee, and heels and boots for Fall/Winter that have a medium size heel. Dress in more monochromatic colors - same or similar colors from head to toe - to elongate your look. Skip chunky and heavy jewelry. Avoid anything with ruffles and bows or thick sweaters that may add bulk. And skip skirts that hit mid-calf you’ll only look shorter. Look for tops that hit below your waistline and embrace vertical lines in tops and pants.

Make a point of shopping in petite departments of stores and seek out designers who offer petite sizes like Liz Claiborne, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Lands End, J. Crew, Petite Sophisticate and J. Jill.

Here are a few items to consider adding to your wardrobe:

Petite Donegal Tweed Military JacketBr526769-08P01V01Petite Collection Silk Blend Box Pleat SkirtPetite animal-print skirt

1. Petite Donegal Tweed Military Jacket, $159 at
2. Petite shawl collar sweater, $68 at
3. Petite Collection Silk Blend Box Pleat Skirt, $128 at
4. Wear this skirt with opaque tights and solid pumps or knee high boots. It probably won’t be nearly as mini on you. You’re only 28 so don’t dress too old for your size yet. Petite animal-print skirt, $78 at

Petite Collection Embellished Voile Empire DressPetite floral faux-wrap dressPetite lightweight wool A-line dressPetite feminine military coat

5. Add a cardigan to this dress for cooler temps. The wide shoulder “straps” will hide bra straps and give your better coverage. Petite Collection Embellished Voile Empire Dress, $298 at
6.  V-neck styles are the most flattering for busty gals. Petite floral faux-wrap dress, $128 at
7. Dare to bare your arms in this adorable dress that can work for day or evening. Petite lightweight wool A-line dress, $148 at
8. Petite feminine military coat, $228 at

Q. I love your column and thought you might have some ideas for me.  I recently moved to Brooklyn and we are pretty much here to stay. We love the city and my husband and I are both in creative fields that have a lot of opportunities here.  Problem is, I am in the process of changing careers into a creative field from a business one. Also, very soon I will be in school so funds will be limited.  I am stunned by the kinds of clothes women wear in the city and how they can afford to have these amazing budgets, look totally unique and put together. I am almost reluctant to leave my house sometimes I feel so dingy. Any pointers on how to get out of this? A bit about myself - I am a confirmed minimalist, I have a lot of black and white in my closet, I have recently purchased some yellow and green tops but I am also trying to lose some weight so I can’t really go out and buy a huge wardrobe, maybe a few pieces that will last me through my last 10 lbs.
-Fitting In

A. Stop being a scaredy cat and get out and join the locals. Embrace your minimalist style and beef it up with accessories. Wear your black and white plus those new yellow and green pieces and pair them with a new pair of boots, colorful enamel bracelets, a printed scarf and a belt that has a cool buckle. You needn’t pay big bucks for all your new wardrobe pieces.  True New York chic gals mix up a wardrobe with good quality classics, a vintage piece or two and certainly super trendy, cheap tops from H&M and Forever 21.  Plus, make a few trips a year to Century 21, Loehmanns and TJ Maxx.  We’re willing to take chances!

Take your black turtleneck sweater (which I’m sure you own) and pair it with wide leg denim trousers, a fitted jacket and high heeled boots. Pair your white button down with the same denim trousers and add a menswear vest and pumps. Take your turtleneck and wear with a black pencil skirt or A-line skirt and add a wide belt cinched at the waist. And when you’re ready to discover some new designers, stop by Bird in Brooklyn for cool labels like Lover and Karen Walker. The key is to stay comfortable and not overdone while trekking between school and your new creative infused job.

Q. I absolutely love your column on StyleBakery. Here’s my situation: I work in an office with absolutely no dress code. People wear anything from flip flops and sweat pants to traditional business casual wear. I’m a 23 year old graphic designer, and one of the youngest ones here. As I try to advance in the company, I’d like my wardrobe to reflect that I’m professional and ambitious, and still be able fit in with the VP who wears golf skirts, or the Director who wears trousers and a button-down. Any ideas?
-Office Uncertainty

A. Sweat pants at work - really?  Clearly that person would rather be home on the couch.  Don’t follow that person’s lead for wardrobe cues. You’re in a creative field where many have obviously taken liberties with no dress requirements. Avoid the influence of others’ unfashionable wardrobes and make your workplace wardrobe consistently stylish with dark denim trousers, fitted jackets, cool sweaters, a sweater dress belted at the waist, wrap dresses or comfy jersey styles and add a tweed pair of pants as well.  Looking good and getting the job done well will advance your career further than just getting the job done in sweats and flip flops.

Tees for Layering

Q. Do you have any recommendations for which stores or brands have great layering tees for fall clothes?  I have seen a lot of examples of layering thin long sleeved shirts under dresses, sleeveless sweaters, vests, etc.  Where can I find shirts thin enough that they won’t bunch up under the other pieces?
-Tees Please

A. I’m with you on avoiding bulk this Fall/Winter. Layering is key and a great way to continue wearing some Summer pieces like sheer tops and dresses. Some of my favorites include J.Crew’s tissue thin or tops with stretch, Splendid, American Apparel, and C&C California. And thankfully many of these brands are cutting longer lengths to help give coverage when paired with lowrise pants.

Long-sleeve crewneck tissue teeBaby Rib 3/4 Sleeve Boat NeckSheer Rib 3/4 Sleeve V-NeckC&C California Basic Long Sleeve TeeStretch cotton solid turtleneck tissue tee

1. Long-sleeve crewneck tissue tee, $32 at
2. Baby Rib 3/4 Sleeve Boat Neck, $21 at
3. Sheer Rib 3/4 Sleeve V-Neck, $34 at
4. C&C California Basic Long Sleeve Tee, $55 at
5. Stretch cotton solid turtleneck tissue tee, $29.50 at

Q. I am going to France with my girlfriends in November and trying to figure out what clothes to take with me that are comfortable for travel/exploring, but also fashionable enough that I don’t feel like a total dork in France.  And I need boots that are comfortable yet stylish and maybe the same standards for a pair of walking shoes? I am 24, so I do not have much money to spend.
-French Fashion

A. Well you certainly want to be fashionable, but not overdone.  Stick to classics and you’ll be successful in fitting in with the French. Pack thin merino or cashmere turtleneck sweaters or v-necks to layer over button down shirts. Dark jeans, denim trousers, wool-lined pants like a nubby tweed pair and a dress that can easily transition from day to evening. Layer the dress with a sweater and wide belt for day and wear alone with great accessories at night. Add a fitted stylish blazer jacket, one that isn’t meant for a suit. Pack one solid colored coat for the whole trip with a hem that hits just above or a few inches below your knee so it will work with your entire packed wardrobe. If you choose to bring an additional outerwear piece, then go with a fab leather jacket.

Keep accessories simple—leather gloves, a pretty scarf and a wrap to wear with your dress at night if it’s chilly indoors. Pack a few fun jewelry pieces like an enamel bracelet, charm or beaded necklace and an oversized ring plus a few sets of varying size earrings. You’ll need a day bag with pockets inside to carry camera, credit cards, sunglasses, etc. and a clutch for evening. And certainly get ready to treat yourself to a few items over there. While the US dollar is not strong in France, a girl has got to do a little shopping when with girlfriends!

Here are a few suggestions for your feet that will look tres chic with just about anything you pack:

'Edie' shearling-filled boot,'Stella' bootKenneth Cole Reaction Make Love

1. ‘Edie’ shearling-filled boot, $225 at
2. ‘Stella’ boot, $248 at
3. Kenneth Cole Reaction Make Love, $159 at

Simple, toned down “sneakers” for walking when you want to give your boots a rest. These work while athletic sneakers won’t do.

Poetic Licence Desert StarCole Haan Air Kayden SneakerCole Haan Air Keegan Slipon

4. Poetic Licence Desert Star, $70 at
5. Cole Haan Air Kayden Sneaker, $152.06 at
6. Cole Haan Air Keegan Slipon, $168.95 at

VELVET SWING JACKETQ. I really liked this velvet swing jacket I found on sale at and the price was so great I clicked! After the fact, I wondered how I’m going to pull this look off considering I’m only 5’2" tall. Another factor is age. The jacket is obviously "youthful" which I do like, but I’m in my 40s, so I want to keep the look age appropriate.
-Grown Up

A. Give it a sophisticated kick by pairing it with a pencil skirt and opaque tights that perhaps have a slight pattern. Or pair with high-waisted or mid-rise trouser jeans and a soft, thin turtleneck sweater. For cooler days, wear a button down shirt with a v-neck sweater layered over it and add a narrow scarf that wraps around your neck several times. Since it’s velvet, you can dress it up with a beaded top and dress pants and finish it with dressy brocade heels. See, there are plenty of options for a 40ish gal to pull off this major sale item, now just go raid your closet or pull out your credit card and select a few of my picks:

Aqua Sweater with Bow BlouseCashmere mini-argyle cardiganYoana Baraschi Jewel Silk TopGibson Ruffled Washed Silk BlouseFire 'Hillary' Wide Leg Pants

1. Add a skinny belt across the waist and wear with a pencil skirt or trousers. Aqua Sweater with Bow Blouse, $78 at
2. Go preppy. Cashmere mini-argyle cardigan, $178 at
3. Dressy and hip when worn with the jacket.   Yoana Baraschi Jewel Silk Top, $278 at
4. Paired with the velvet jacket you get a color injection.  Gibson Ruffled Washed Silk Blouse, $78 at
5. Wear with a boot or pump that has a heel. Fire ‘Hillary’ Wide Leg Pants, $42 at

Formal Dress Code

Q. I have a black tie wedding in Chicago.  Do I have to wear a long dress?
-Formal Fear

A. Black tie does not require wearing a long gown anymore, but the invite does expect you to wear a sophisticated, elegant and feminine dress. Think upscale cocktail dress, with a hem that hits around the knee or just below it. Skip animal prints, white dresses, mini lengths, chunky jewelry and your everyday handbag. Carry a clutch, put on your best jewelry that works with the dress, pull on your heels, walk with good posture and smile often.

Seven For All Mankind
GINGER LIGHT WEIGHT MERCER TROUSER JEANSQ. I love the new high rise jeans.  The majority of those that I have found are trouser cut with wider legs. I live in my Minnetonkas, which look cute with the jeans, but living in Chicago, they aren’t going to cut it in the winter.  What type of shoes do you suggest I wear with them? 
-High Rise Wonder

A. The key is to keep the illusion of a long tall body even if you’re not model height.  Make sure your wide leg, high-waisted trousers are hemmed at a length that doesn’t drag on the ground or cover your foot completely, even when wearing boots or shoes. Keep your tops fitted, wear thinner layering pieces or belt cardigans at your waist.  Pair your new jeans with everything from heels and flats to boots. Of course, when you hem them, you’ll have to make a decision of which shoe you’ll wear most—flats or boots with a heel —since that will make the difference on the final length.

Seven for All Mankind Ginger Lightweight Mercer Trouser Jeans shown here with heels at the perfect length. $143 at

Q. I am looking for a thin, fitted black turtleneck that I can purchase online. Can you help me find one?
-Slim Thin

A. The black turtleneck is one of those classic items you always want to refresh in your closet with a new one each year. With constant wear and perhaps fading, you can find plenty of options online to replace your old one. Look for thin silk or cashmere, merino wool or Lycra blends. You want to look for one that can be layered under sweaters and jackets without adding bulk and is stylish and chic enough to wear alone with dress pants or your favorite dark jeans.

Diane von Furstenberg Carlos TurtleneckAdam + Eve Ribbed TurtleneckLauren by Ralph Lauren Zoe Jersey Turtleneck Sweater
Cullen Ruched Turtleneck Sweater - Merino BlendTheory "Leola Stay" Novelty Turtleneck

1. Diane von Furstenberg Carlos Turtleneck, $100 at
2. Adam + Eve Ribbed Turtleneck, $72 at
3. Lauren by Ralph Lauren Zoe Jersey Turtleneck Sweater, $89.50 at
4. Cullen Ruched Turtleneck Sweater - Merino Blend, $59.50 at
5. Theory "Leola Stay" Novelty Turtleneck, $110 at

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