Ask Belle Roundup, Vol. 12

Jul 11, 2011

Dear Belle,

I am e-mailing you because I have no idea what to do with my hair when at work that is both professional and slightly young. I have straight, medium length blonde hair and my fall-back options that seem serious enough are always a slick ponytail or a neat bun, both of which probably make me look ten years older and are quite boring. Is wearing your hair down unprofessional?

Best, Taylor


I don’t know where women get these ideas sometimes.  No, wearing your hair down is not unprofessional.  And buns and ponytails can be cute options for work.

If you’re looking for some hairstyles that are more fun, but still work appropriate, Joanna Goddard from Cup of Jo and her friend Caroline have some wonderful tutorials.  I’m a big fan of the Gibson Roll, the Three Twisted Buns and the Messy French Bun.  If you don’t have long enough hair for these options, YouTube is here to help.

Belle,

 I have recently doubled down on my fitness goals and joined a gym. I work out or take a spin class before work and need to shower and get ready for the day while still at the gym. I need an affordable bag that will hold a towel, a hair dryer, brush, all of my shower necessities etc – I don’t want to be traipsing in with a Vera Bradley but at the same time, I don’t want something that is SO nice it might invite sticky fingers.  Any recommendations?

C. 

I appreciate your attempt to stay away from Vera Bradley.  

In this situation, most women would suggest a Longchamp nylon tote bag.  But while I agree they are functional, and they’re not ugly, I find them to be SOOO incredibly boring.  Like wearing nothing but black ballet flats, every day, for the rest of your life.  Snore!

Cutter & Buck Duffel (Amazon, $115)

For something just a little different, but well within the bounds of classic tastes, I would suggest a weekender duffel.  This canvas and leather one for Cutter & Buck is perfect for the gym, and quite a bit more stylish than a simple nylon bag or a quilted monstrosity.  If you want something a bit nicer, you can also try a vintage leather bag from your local thrift store.  I no longer gym, but when I did, I carried my essentials in a cognac leather duffel similar to this one on eBay.

Dear Belle,

I am a recent college grad who is moving down to Washington, D.C. in August. As of right now, I am looking for work in the non-profit sector or on the Hill, and have a few leads for job opportunities that may just come through in time for my end-of-summer move. I just stumbled across your blog online, and love your DC fashionista manifesto! I was wondering if you could give me a list of a few “staple” items that I need to survive in the working world in D.C… clothing, accessories, shoes, the works! I am on a budget, but am totally willing to shell out for a few items that I know I will wear over and over, and can use for many different looks.

Keep doing what you’re doing!

K

It never ceases to amaze me how many topics I’ve covered on CHS in the past (almost) three years.  But since a lot of you are new here, and I know the search capacity on the site isn’t the best (working on that), I thought I’d post a little guide to some of my better posts on beginning a wardrobe and Intern Style. 

Welcome Interns! 15 Easy Pieces should give you a good idea of how to build a basic work wardrobe.  The individual pulls are from several years ago, but the general premise remains the same.  The same rule applies to the Five Shoes Even an Intern Can Afford post.  Use these posts as a guide as you try to build a closet of professional attire for an internship or a first job. 

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  1. Meg says:

    The link for short hair up-dos could not have come at a better time! I may be dreading the heat tomorrow, but at least I'll have nice hair.

  2. Dakota says:

    Love the Cutter and Buck duffel bag. The reader may also want to check out Lululemon for gym bags – they have several that have multiple pockets, are wipe-clean-able, and pretty durable.

  3. Jessica says:

    If you're on a budget for the gym bag, Target has a Reebok bag in a couple of different colors for $16. My favorite part is the expandable plastic zipper pocket for sweaty clothes! Easily fits everything I need for the workout-to-work transition.

  4. Govvie says:

    I disagree with respect to Longchamp bags – they are ugly. Carrying the same thing as everyone else (or that everyone else knows the provenance and cost of) is an exhibit of bad taste. I was hoping the bags were a DC phenomenon but I was heartened to discover on my recent travels that they are everywhere.

  5. Belle says:

    Govvie- Don't get me wrong, I hate them. But, many of these women would be carrying Vera if it weren't for Longchamp, so I'll take what I can get.

  6. Govvie says:

    Touche

  7. p says:

    I think long, straight hair worn down can definitely look unprofessional (said by someone with long, straight hair). I think if Taylor is going to wear it down she needs to make sure it looks like an intentional style, not like Jan Brady (don't know why that association came to mind first!). It shouldn't have split ends or look stringy. Sometimes pulling the front pieces away from the face with a couple of bobbie pins can make a big difference in how “professional” hair looks.

  8. Ellie says:

    Sometimes a lot of people do something because it's a good idea. Longchamps are a classic style, match a lot of outfits (notably the black and brown bags), aren't outrageously expensive, fit everything, and can be easily cleaned. Mine has lasted forever, and although I don't carry it every day, it definitely used to be a staple for me, and I don't judge people for whom it is.

  9. Amy says:

    I agree with Ellie (and respectfully disagree with Govvie and Belle)- there aren't a lot of tote bags out there that are durable enough for gym wear (or in my case, a combination of gym wear, a laptop, and sometimes armloads of books) but also stylish enough to take to work. I refuse to be one of those people who carries a green shopping bag (or worse, Vera!) to carry extra things. I've tried to buck conventionality by choosing some of Longchamp's more unusual styles, and in colors other than black, navy, or brown, but I understand that these work very well for some women, and honestly don't have the preppy garishness that the Vera bags do.

  10. gingerr says:

    Gym bags get icky, I'd go to Marshall's/TJMaxx and buy something cheap knowing that it won't last forever.

    Most fellows I know that tote gym bags just have something functional. Break the bank with a good pair of shoes or a better iPod and go cheap with the bag.

    Something that looks like a gym bag will provide explanation to co-workers if you show up at work with slightly wet hair or late because the showers were busy. It's not an excuse but if your bag looks like a gym bag you can get brownie points for at least making the effort to work-out.

  11. C. says:

    1) Love the gym bag suggestions (both Belle's and the comments), thank you so much, I am well on my way to owning a gym bag I can live with

    2) Also love the hair style suggestions.

  12. Laura says:

    Thanks for reposting those links, I was having so much trouble trying to find the posts!

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