| Ask The Style Chefs: December 2007 Archives

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December 2007 Archives

Q. I’m 5’1" and have just recently bought 2 pairs of knee high boots online that I absolutely adore. But because of my petite build, I have the following problems: one boot is too loose at the very top of the boot around my knee so it mimicks rain galoshes; the second is so tall it reaches an inch above the bottom of my knee. The first boot is leather, the second is suede. I know you can take boots to the cobbler to have them stretched, but can u also have boots taken in and shortened? I would hate to return these shoes.
-Boot Strapped

A. I’m 5’5” and the boot gap around the calf is not just a petite problem. It seems women are evenly divided between their search for boots that fit slender calves and those for larger calves.  I always start my search early in the season lest boots go on sale and my options are significantly diminished if they don’t have my size. I quickly get fatigued and disappointed going from store to store so I search the internet. I am a huge fan of and for their detailed information on boots including height, circumference or diameter of the top opening. I measure the largest part of my calf and then go shopping.

For a dressy pair, I look for suede pull-on styles that have a bit of stretch so it hugs my calf better. For casual styles, I look for details that list the smallest top opening and of course I purchase several pairs from sites that offer free shipping and returns. Why trudge through the mall or around the city when options can be delivered to my door?

For help when you’ve bought the boots you love, but need a bit of tailoring, you need a shoe doctor - a shoe repair person who specializes in leather goods. This may be the same person who tends to leather coats and handbags. Ask your local shoe repair guy for a referral. He may be able to do the job, but be sure he knows what he’s doing and has done this kind of work before. Consider asking a few leather/shoe repair specialists before you hand over your new boots.

You’ll find these boots in my closet. I adore them both:

Aquatalia by Marvin K. RanchStuart Weitzman

1. I’m loving these boots for casual days with jeans or a skirt. Bonus: they’re waterproof. Aquatalia by Marvin K. Ranch, $375 at
2. Pricey, but I take care of them. Stuart Weitzman Diamondback, $499 at

Q. I need to find an attractive yet durable gym bag that mimics a zip tote. Something that’s reminiscent of Longchamps style is preferred.
-Active Tote

A. Why not carry a Longchamps bag? It’s the style you’re longing for and it will carry your athletic gear in classic style. Gym bags don’t necessarily come cheap and you obviously want a bag that is simple in style and won’t compete with your handbag or coat.  I found multiple styles, many of which come in several color choices to pair with any other bags you may be lugging:

Longchamp Small Nylon Foldable ToteLeSportsac Small Travel ToteKenneth Cole Reaction "Sportster" ToteunXpected Hobo Tote LXSherpani MetaPinnacle Club Sports BagPUMA Fitness Sports BagLug Chocolate Puddle Jumper Gym Bag
Lug Chocolate Puddle Jumper Gym Bag

1. Longchamp Small Nylon Foldable Tote, $115 at
2. LeSportsac Small Travel Tote, $68 at
3. Kenneth Cole Reaction "Sportster" Tote, $38.25 (sale) at
4. unXpected Hobo Tote LX, $49.99 at
5. Sherpani Meta, $75 at
6. Pinnacle Club Sports Bag, $203.95 at
7. PUMA Fitness Sports Bag, $55.95 at
8.  Lug Chocolate Puddle Jumper Gym Bag, $72 at

Q. I’m such a huge fan of your website, please keep up the fantastic work!  I was wondering where I could find a classic checkered houndstooth coat very similar to the one Charlotte had in season six of Sex and the City. Most of the ones I see are modern variations of it, and I’d like a classic look.

A. While I am a big fan of Sex and the City, have seen the whole series and watch the reruns late night, I don’t know exactly which coat you are describing. I still went in search of a range of classic wool houndstooth coats that may appeal to you:

Plaid Winter Wool CoatCynthia Steffe Houndstooth Trench Charles Gray Belt Front Coat
 ABS by Allen Schwartz Plaid Trapeze Coat Mackage Wool Houndstooth CapeletSoia & Kyo Billy Plaid Coat

1. Plaid Winter Wool Coat, $99 at
2. Cynthia Steffe Houndstooth Trench, $210 at
3. Charles Gray Belt Front Coat, $290 at
4. ABS by Allen Schwartz Plaid Trapeze Coat, $407 at
5. Mackage Wool Houndstooth Capelet, $357.90 at

6. Soia & Kyo Billy Plaid Coat, $350 at

Q. I am attending a Business Holiday party.  I do not want to wear a dress. The party is at a very nice house with about 80 people and the dress code is holiday casual.  I have a black velvet sport coat, black velvet trouser pants and black open toed patent leather heals and a red patent leather clutch to carry but I am not sure what blouse to wear, I somewhat like to look sexy but not sleazy any suggestions.
-Festive Fun

A. Sounds like you have a festive holiday outfit to wear to the party. So all you need is a slightly sexy top that works with your velvet ensemble and red clutch.  I’ve found multiple tops that have shine, sheen, sex appeal and are attractive all on their own if you choose to take your velvet jacket off and get jiggy with it.

Ruffle Front Empire BlousePlaid TubeSilk braided halter topSolid silk Elizabeth halterAlice & Olivia Beaded V Neck Top

1. Ruffle Front Empire Blouse, $58 at
2. Plaid Tube, $39 at
3. Silk braided halter top, $78 at
4. Solid silk Elizabeth halter, $88 at
5. Alice & Olivia Beaded V Neck Top, $297 at

Diana Long Strapless DressQ. I just discovered your website and love it… My question is: I’m attending a black tie affair with my husband in January. I have purchased a long, strapless, satin black dress from Ann Taylor that I love for this evening event. We live in a very cold area- what kind of coat should I wear? I have several long, wool coats (one is a pea coat, another is plain) but they seem too casual. I won’t wear fur. Also, what length should the coat be?

-Coat Cover

A. I admit sometimes I have sacrificed warmth in order to wear the shoes or dress that’s best for the occasion. I figure, I’m going from the car or cab straight to the event. And I walk quite fast so even if I had to park a car, I can be quick to get into the destination.  That said, it doesn’t mean I enter looking like a schlub. I choose the best jacket or coat that works with my outfit. So say something nice to your husband and perhaps he’ll drop you at the door of the party while he parks the car and say thank you a few extra times. It’s hard to find a long enough coat to work with a formal gown and even if you bought one, I don’t know if you’d wear it enough to be worth the investment. So look for a dressier style coat whether long or short to pair with your gown and pretty gloves and scarf if needed.

 Tulle Funnel Neck Coat Kristen Blake Fluted Sleeve CoatMackage Cape
INC International Concepts® Double-Breasted Empire-Waist CoatJuicy Couture Faux Fur Swing Coat

1. Tulle Funnel Neck Coat, $78 at
2. Kristen Blake Fluted Sleeve Coat, $248 at
3. Mackage Cape, $369.99 at
4. INC International Concepts® Double-Breasted Empire-Waist Coat, $74.81 at
5. Juicy Couture Faux Fur Swing Coat, $448 at

Miss Dior Patent Peep Toe PumpQ. I love Ask Alison!  I have a question for you.  I recently saw a photo montage of Jessica Simpson wearing Miss Dior nude pumps ($515 at  They’re completely out of my budget.  Some additional options were offered, such as the Laboutin pumps, but they’re in the same price range.  Additionally, the Laboutin heels are almost 5".  Not something most of us can wear!  Do you have suggestions for some reasonably priced nude pumps with a 3" heel? 
-In the Nude

A. No need to fret! I found plenty of more affordable options that won’t put you in credit card debt. So slip into a pair of these sophisticated nude peep toes:

Bronx Cynthia PumpModa Spana UnaLifeStride AllieEnzo Angiolini Women's Jalene Platform Peep Toe PumpStuart Weitzman Sashay

1. Bronx Cynthia Pump, $54.99 at
2. Moda Spana Una, $88.95 at
3. LifeStride Allie, $48.95 at
4. Enzo Angiolini Women’s Jalene Platform Peep Toe Pump, $88.95 at
5. Stuart Weitzman Sashay, $280 at

Q. I really like the look of tucking my jeans into my boots.  However, whenever I try to do this I think it just looks wrong.  I feel like I always end up with a bulge from the jeans (even with my skinny jeans). Is there a correct way to get the look?  Also what boot do you recommend to achieve this look?
-Baggy Knees

 Images 200 3711A. We all have that same issue. Usually it’s easier with skinny jeans, but the moment we sit down and get comfortable the jeans start rising in our boots and suddenly it’s baggy jean syndrome when we stand. An old school trick that comes from the horsey set is to attach stretch clips under you foot to either side of your jeans to hold them down when you sit down or move around. It’s a way to get the look that comes from breeches without looking like a throwback from the ’80s. Check out for pant clips.

Q. Can I carry a black patent leather handbag in the winter?  My mother said only in the Spring.

A. Where have you and your mother been hangin’? Have you not had access to magazines, TV or walked in a department store lately?  I’m not trying to be harsh, but patent leather has saturated the runways, magazines and is available in some form or fashion in just about every store. So let your mom know what the old rules no longer apply and you can sport your black patent leather bag all year long.

Q. I love your website- and especially love reading your advice.  So here’s my question for you: I will be traveling to Iceland in May. During this trip I will also be traveling to England, Scotland and Ireland. Can you recommend what to pack for such diverse climates, an easily totable bag since I will be frequently on the move, and a stylish jacket that will keep the wind out and keep me warm without looking like the marshmallow man?  I’m in my early 30s-and certainly do not want to look like a tourist! 
-Don’t want to pack a million bags

A. I’ve been to all of these countries and I can attest to a need for a coat in all four, though you will need more protection in Iceland. I visited Iceland several years ago during the month of July when they had finally cut a path through the snow up to the ice covered lands and glaciers. If you stay in Reykjavik, you can get away with a warm wool or cashmere blend coat and warm layers. Stick to a 3/4 length coat that hits just above or below your knees so your butt is covered for more warmth. Cashmere or wool blend knee socks, thin layers that insulate like silk long underwear, tights and cashmere turtleneck sweaters  are a must to pack.

For the European countries, you’ll get a chance to enjoy Spring. Bring a small umbrella (there’s a reason it’s so green, it rains for short periods often.) The coat design should be simple so it matches more of your wardrobe and can be worn open in warmer temps. Keep it out of your bag so you have more room for clothes and toiletries. Pack only essential toiletries. Wear your boots or sneakers on the plane so you again save room in your bag. A blazer style jacket or short thin trench can work double duty as an indoor jacket when worn with a t-shirt or button down and as outerwear when layered with a sweater underneath.

Here are some coat options including a parka with a zip out lining to help you temperature adjust:

DKNY Coats Double Breasted Wool Coat Steve Madden Metallic City Parka with Removable LinerLarry Levine Single-Breasted CoatKenneth Cole Notch-Collar Trench Coat

1. DKNY Coats Double Breasted Wool Coat, $209.98 at
2.  Steve Madden Metallic City Parka with Removable Liner, $148 at
3. Larry Levine Single-Breasted Coat, $141 (sale) at
4. Kenneth Cole Notch-Collar Trench Coat, $255 (sale) at

I’m assuming since you’re looking for a totable bag, you plan to do some laundry along the way since you’ll be visiting so many places. Here are some options:

Gloria Vanderbilt Luggage Lightweight 21" Expandable Carry-On Rolling UprightFilson Extra Large Outfitter BagA. Saks EXPANDABLE 21" Expandable Carry On

5. Gloria Vanderbilt Luggage Lightweight 21" Expandable Carry-On Rolling Upright, $59.99 at
6. Filson Extra Large Outfitter Bag, $365 at
7. A. Saks EXPANDABLE 21" Expandable Carry On, $59.95 at

Q. Can you give me a few ideas of current fashion trends that work for those who are short-waisted? I’ve heard that wrap sweaters and dresses are good choices. How about wearing longer tops, or using one of the many options for wearing belts?
-Lost on Length

A. To start with, avoid this season’s high-waisted pants. Instead, choose pants and skirts that are low-waisted, hip huggers, hipster pants and low-slung.  Also, pants and skirts without a waistband will usually sit lower. Don’t hesitate to choose pants that have details like cuffs or decorative taping along the sides that will bring the eye downward and create the illusion of length.

Pair shorter skirts with longer jackets to balance your proportions. Wear tops like sweaters, tunics and jackets that hit below your waist, but hit above your behind or you risk shortening the look of your legs.

As for accessories, choose skinny belts that are the same color as your top and wear them below your natural waist to further lengthen the line of your upper body. Dresses are a great choice since they can create the illusion of a longer torso, especially wrap dresses in a pattern that keeps the eye moving. Generally, the wrap part around the waist will sit lower on your body.

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