Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle Roundup Vol. 11

Dear Belle,

I am about to move to DC and start work on the hill shortly and while I have been scavenging sales and reading your blog voraciously to help get a professional wardrobe together, I am having issues coming up with an outfit for my first day of work. Congress won’t be in session when I start so I think a suit might be a bit much, but I don’t want to look under dressed either. Can you help me put together a professional outfit that says take me seriously but is still fashionable? 



Polyvore Set Here.

If you’re starting work during a recess, then I would definitely advise against a suit.  You could wear a simple dress or fall back on the old standby, the pencil skirt and silk blouse.  Obviously, I would choose the latter. 

Here, I’ve paired a coral blouse with a navy pencil and beige shoes.  I’ve also layered some simple rings and a small stud earring to accessorize.  And everything, except for the purse–which is a re-release of a vintage style from Coach–is under $100.  (Imagine, a Coach purse without the hideous monogram print!)

This outfit says, “I take my job seriously,” without being overdressed.  It also allows your to get a feel for the office so that you can dress accordingly for the remainder of the recess.  However, since it is your first week on the job, I would suggest keeping your style at the upper end of the business casual equation, not the lower one (e.g. Dear God, no flip flops).


It’s pretty simple. As much as I love fashion, shopping, and how having on a great outfit gives me confidence and helps influence what type of day I have, lately I can’t escape the crushing guilt that follows me around like a dark cloud when I feel like i’ve been shopping to much. But how much is too much?

I definitely spend more than I should on clothes (im sure most of your readers probably fall into that category), but like I always tell myself when I’m trying to assuage my guilt, I am a well-rounded person. If this is “my only vice”, and it isn’t affecting my personal or work life in any way, then what’s the problem? Seemingly nothing, but I still can’t shake the shame when I run off for a little shopping jaunt during lunch. It’s not like I’m buying skirts instead of groceries, but I do I wish I put more of the money I spend on clothes into savings.

Can you shed some light on your stance on shopping guilt?



It sounds like you have a bit more shopping guilt than your average woman, especially since it’s not causing you to slip into debt. And that may be something you need to work on, but as for my own shopping proclivities…

I keep a list of items I’m interested in purchasing on my desktop.  It lists the trends I like, the pieces my wardrobe is missing and the amount of money I would be willing to spend on each.  For example, “flowy, knee-length skirt in grey or blush <$100.”  Then, in a separate column it lists the date that this item must be purchased by to ensure maximum bang for my buck.  In the case of the skirt, that date is July 15th. 

Every month, I go through and review the items whose buy-by dates are about to expire.  Do I still want that item?  How much wear can I get out of it this season?  Will I still want to wear it next season?  And then I cull accordingly.

I rarely, if ever, feel any shopping guilt because I set a budget, stick to it and almost never buy anything impulsively.  I also keep every receipt for 28 days.  If I haven’t worn the item by then, I return it because I obviously didn’t love it that much in the first place.

Hi Belle,

I have always been a heels-wearing kind of girl. I have a myriad of season-appropriate boots, pumps, peep-toes, and strappy heels that I have always worn to work. Unfortunately, I now have a knee injury that will prevent me from wearing heels for probably four or five months. I am in need of flat or low-heeled (less than one inch) shoes that are office appropriate, and will work with my office attire (largely pencil skirts and sheath dresses). I have a few pairs of ballet flats, but I am having difficulty branching out beyond that. Any suggestions for office-appropriate flat sandals? Flat oxfords? Etc.? I should be happy to have a medically-necessary excuse to buy shoes, but the fact that they all have to be flat is making me sad.


A few years ago, I had a small procedure on my back.  Nothing structural, but it made wearing heels uncomfortable, so I “temporarily” switched to flats.  Now, four years later, I still wear flats at least three days per week.  Comfort is addictive.

That being said, there are a lot of cute flats that are appropriate for work.  I’m featuring an open-toed, black pair tomorrow in Three Ways, but here are some more suggestions to tide you over until then. 

Polyvore Set Here.

Low wedges, like these t-strap sandals, are good for casual Fridays because they don’t show too much of the foot.  You can pair them with a simple dress and show off your pretty pedicure while still being casual workplace appropriate.  And can you believe that their Clark’s?  They look too cute to be Clark’s.

Bright flats are great for adding a pop of color to neutral separates.  This pair even has on-trend perforations for a little extra something.  I’d wear them with skirts and trousers, but not black.  Black and orange always reminds of me of Halloween.

These metallic toe-cap flats are adorable.  They would make great commuter shoes if you weren’t walking too far (I can’t vouch for comfort).  And I love how they mix basic neutrals with a hint of sparkle.  They’d be perfect for the plane.

While I can’t wear them (thick heels), slingback flats are great for work.  They’re dressy but light, since you can see a hint of skin.  But if you’re going to wear these, you need to buy a foot file and some Aquaphor, to keep your heels callous and dry skin free.

If you want to try the flat oxfords you mentioned in your question, I’d wait until fall.  It might get a little hot having your feet trapped in all that leather.

If you have a question for Ask Belle, e-mail it to capitolhillstyle (at) gmail (dot) com. To see if someone has asked your question before, use the search bar at right to find out.


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  1. r says:

    Good advice to the person starting their first day on the Hill, but I'd advise you to wear flats on the first day. You'll probably be getting a tour of the office, and maybe even the Capitol. And since it's Recess, your coworkers might want to go somewhere “off campus” for lunch, which would be a lot of walking!

    June 27, 2011/Reply
  2. shoe envy says:

    I love those Clarks! Never thought I'd say those words….but I may have to bust out the old credit card and snap them up!

    June 27, 2011/Reply
  3. Tracy says:

    Love the Coach purse! You can order it thru a Coach store at the end of July too!

    June 27, 2011/Reply
  4. Chelsea says:

    Love this post Belle! Wonderful break from work, as usual.

    June 27, 2011/Reply
  5. ~M says:

    Emily, I'm probably reading too much into it, but here's a link on compulsive shopping disorder. It's a spectrum issue but it sounds like you might be on the light side of it. It has several helpful links at the bottom. Good luck.

    June 27, 2011/Reply
  6. Lizzie says:

    For Emily's question, as long as her shopping habit isn't standing in the way of achieving her financial goals, then she's probably fine. But if she wants to save more money, or her habit is causing her to fall into debt, she might consider taking a look at her budget and paying her savings accounts or debts BEFORE she goes shopping. Or setting a cash budget for her lunch time jaunts–and when that cash runs out for the month, she's done.

    June 28, 2011/Reply
  7. val says:

    Belle- great advice re: sticking to a budget, definitely keep posting tips like this. I've always kept “wish lists” of clothing I want to get, but putting an expiration date on potential purchases makes it a lot simpler…and definitely reduces shopping guilt!

    June 28, 2011/Reply