Ask Belle: Refilling the Well

Jul 25, 2011

This weekend, I was going through my reader e-mails and noticed a shocking lack of Ask Belles.  The few that had come into my inbox had either already been answered (some multiple times), and the rest were too specific to be of use to a wider audience. 

So I thought I would open up the comments section of this post to those of you who want to submit an Ask Belle, but don’t want to take the extra step to send an email.  Leave your questions below.

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  1. Elle says:

    @LauraB — I live in western Washington and can honestly say that you won't need anything more than a very light jacket for evenings and nights while visiting. It's not hot here like in AZ, but we have higher than average humidity which keeps it really temperate during the days. Even when it rains, it's not cold or particularly chilly this time of year.

    That being said, if you want something that's functional, neutral and cute (by Washington's standards), I would suggest a light fleece or shell from The North Face. I've seen various versions of a black North Face fleece on everyone from college students to business people in a suit who swap out the blazer/suit coat for something a little warmer. At this time of year, though, you really don't need more than a all-purpose cardigan. This JCrew cardi would be enough.

  2. Anna says:

    I stumbled upon a great Neutrogena self tanner last summer, and I can't seem to find it anywhere this year! Do you have any recommendations for self tanner, inexpensive or otherwise?

    Also, any recommendations for jeans for shorties? I'm 5'2″, but even most petites or short sizes tend to be too long. Bringing jeans to a tailor helps, but the knee break is usually too low as well.

    Thanks, Belle!

  3. B says:

    Belle, you really seem to know your neighbors. Maybe you don't know them well, but you occasionally mention them on the blog, and reference occupations, ages, and that you know a little about who they are. It occurred to me that I don't know what a single one of my neighbors does. I know the name of the girl who lives across from me, and met a Fred in the laundry room last week, who I had never seen before, but thats about it. I live on the ground floor of an old brownstone building (not in DC) and don't have any amenities (pool, exercise room, etc) where I would run into anyone. I do work in a state legislature, and during legislative session, I'm rarely home, but I've lived here for close to eight months, and haven't met my neighbors.

    You definitely wouldn't have to write a post specific to my situation; I'm just wondering how you've gotten to know your neighbors, and what the benefits to knowing people in your building are, etc. I would like to get to know a few people in my building, but don't want to come off as nosy or intrusive, especially since I rarely come face to face with them.

  4. ALC says:

    For whatever reason the link I used in my earlier comment about short hair isn't working. Here is an alternate:×494.jpg

  5. Sarah says:

    I was wondering if you could give suggestions on good salons in DC. I'm new to the area with chemical color and it's definitely time for a touch up! It would also be helpful if the salons were reasonably priced since I do enjoy eating during the month. Thanks!

  6. Emma says:

    Belle, I was wondering if you — or any of your readers — could recommend a shampoo and conditioner that produces a similar result to Pureology shampoos and conditioners. I tried Pureology — and LOVED what it did for my hair — but I have the world's most sensitive scalp, and after a few weeks of use, my scalp was irritated and itchy. I wasn't satisfied with my previous shampoo, however, so now I'm on the hunt for a new shampoo/conditioner that will leave my hair as glossy, healthy, un-weighted-down, and frizz-free as Pureology but that won't irritate my sensitive scalp. I don't know if this is an appropriate Ask Belle question, but I can't see to find the perfect combination of gorgeous hair and unirritated scalp, and thought you or your readers might have recommendations.

  7. M says:

    Belle, I work at public accounting firm and we are having a boat outing in a couple weeks. What would you consider to be an appropriate bathing suit for an outing with your colleagues? Are two piece bathing suits off limits?

  8. DB says:

    I was actually just thinking about sending in an Ask Belle. I impulse purchased a lip stain a couple weeks ago, mostly because I cannot stand the sticky texture of lipsticks and glosses. However, because I wear lip colour so inoften, I feel self conscious doing so. I was wondering if you could give me a little guidance into the types of outfits that can compliment an intense lip colour (or at least some guidelines for what to/not to wear when wearing a rich lip colour)?

  9. S says:

    I know I've posted this request before, but more guidance on jewelry would be great! What necklines can I wear statement necklaces with vs. dangly earrings, etc?

  10. CMS says:

    I was just thinking about posting one as well! What are your thoughts on cream/ gel eyeliners that are applied with a makeup brush? I just purchased one from Sephora, and I love it because it literally stays on all day and doesn't run, but it's kind of a pain to apply everyday/ requires more precision than a pencil. Also, it's ruining my favorite angled makeup brush – if I don't clean it with brush cleaner immediately after each use, it gets hard and crunchy. Do you recommend another type of eyeliner that stays on? I have no problem using waterproof.

  11. LS says:

    Could you do a 'Three Ways' on the Cole Haan snakeskin pumps (or something similar)? I adore them, but I'm not very creative and would love to see some more ideas. Thanks!

  12. J says:

    Hey Belle,

    I was recently told by a (male) co-worker that I look very young, and it might be part of the reason I'm not gaining as much respect from co-workers and other professional contacts. For background, I'm 23 and work in media. I read your blog and others somewhat religiously, and attempt to buy quality pieces on my shoestring budget whenever possible.

    Any suggestions for how to dress for respect/take your look to the next level?

  13. MM says:

    Can you please explain wtf is up with pant/jean leg widths and what is currently supposed to be in style? Maybe it's just emotional scaring from when I suddenly realized I was the only teenager still wearing straight leg jeans after bell bottoms came back in (er, had been in for years…I was a very slow adaptor), but I'm paranoid about being behind the times on leg widths. I thought that wide leg pants (which I loved) were going out of style, but I still see them a lot, and I read somewhere recently that they were “coming back in” – did they really go out and come back in that quickly? And is boot cut (my favorite) still safe? Please make it all clear! Thank you!!

  14. Leah says:

    I'm making the jump from being a regulatory attorney to a lobbyist in the near future. Something tells me my plethora of navy, black, and grey suits for courtroom appearances won't cut it on the Hill. Can you offer some ways to add color, style, and flexibility to these basics without adding too many $$ onto my credit card statement?

  15. CiCi says:

    This is not about fashion or anything but I am just curious-what made you decide to post to your blog anonymously? I am guessing Belle is not your real name…

    I am thinking of starting a blog and I am trying to decide whether or not to present the 'real' me?

  16. Dr. Jean Grey says:

    I'm dying for maternity dressing ideas.

  17. Courtney says:

    Dear Belle,

    I'm getting married in January and I need to get my dress altered, but before I do that I need to know what shoes I'm going to wear. My mother and I are not seeing eye to eye on what kind of shoe. In her more traditional perspective, I shouldn't draw attention to my shoes, whereas in wedding fashion nowadays, the shoes can be a really cute and classy statement piece (some go as far as having their shoes be their 'something blue'). I don't want to go overboard, but I want them to stand out and go with the style of my wedding! It's a winter wedding, and gold is one of our colors. Any cute, stylish (but affordable!) ideas?



  18. Laura B says:

    Hi Belle,
    I live in Phoenix, AZ and at the beginning of next month I am taking a trip to visit family in Washington State, the western part. I have been searching your blog for cute travel ideas ( and have found tons), but it's so hot here, jackets are very hard to find and I need something cute and versatile, and something neutral that I could were a lot. I have a very tight budget as well. Do you have any suggestions? Your work is amazing, keep it up!

  19. ALC says:

    Fashion ideas for women with very short hair, like pixie cuts or cuts like this (×494.jpg), would be fun. I style my hair like the image I linked to and it can be difficult to “soften” my look enough to avoid appearing severe, moreso because I work in a conservative environment with extensive interaction with the public. Any tips?

  20. Katie says:

    I'm looking to move to DC (from Northern Virginia) and was wondering if you knew of any good neighborhoods that a 20-something would find affordable/cool/safe (not necessarily in that order). I work in the Tyson's Corner/McLean/Vienna area and currently commute 45 minutes to an hour and a half and I can't take it anymore. Could you suggest a few areas that might fit the bill?
    Thanks so much!

  21. W says:


    We all know that salaries on the Hill are not exactly cushy. However, many times you are expected to contribute to birthdays, baby gifts, etc. for coworkers. Sometimes it is frequent. Should a low-paid staffer be expected to give each time and if so, how much?

  22. Fan says:

    Im in a clothing rut. I tend to purchase a lot of “pieces” but can never figure out how to pull together outfits. I work from home and it is a struggle to pull on anything beyond jeans and a t-shirt. Any advice on how to step up my game? What are the basics every girl should own and how do you pull together “looks'?

    Thank you!

  23. MD says:

    What about a post on stylish walking shoes for commuters and people who walk to and from work?

  24. Sam says:

    The first of my friends is getting married in October. She's having her bridal shower/bachelorette party on the same day in about a month. What is the protocol on gifts? I will obviously give her a wedding present, but do I also need to buy her a bridal shower gift? Her wedding is outside the DC area, so I'm already paying for a flight, hotel, and rental car, making the prospect of multiple gift buying not so appealing. Is there are a certain time by which I need to purchase the formal wedding gift (in other words, is it tacky it arrives after the wedding?). Clearly, my experience and knowledge in nonexistent so any advice would be appreciated.

  25. Chelsea says:

    Ditto the swimsuit question. I have had this issue a few times this summer; I feel uncomfortable in a skimpy bikini, but it seems unreasonable to buy a one-piece just for work functions.

  26. Dr. Jean Grey says:

    Honestly, what kind of office has swim outings together?! Curious!!

  27. M says:

    You've posted your sunday beauty night routine, but is there anything else you do during the week? Is there a certain shampoo / conditioner, facial cleanser, every day moisturizer, etc that you recommend?

  28. k says:

    Could you go into combining belts and dresses. I'm trying to accessorize more, and see belted dress, or see people mention belting a dress to change the look. I don't have many belts to experiment with, and I'm trying to pick up some more. It's tough though, because it's hard to justify spending a lot of money on something that you don't know if it's going to go with anything, and 2) cheap belts to experiment with tend to be either ugly or look really cheap.

  29. VA Gal says:

    I was actually going to send in an Ask Belle. In honor of the Great Heat Dome over DC, what are some good outfits to wear to work in hot, humid weather so that we can look sharp and not die of heat stroke? Thanks!

  30. Amy says:

    Hi Belle,

    I second the belts comment, but need an even more basic post. Belts for beginners! As in, I don't own one single belt and I know I'm missing something, but I don't know where to start. Thank you!

  31. Maria says:

    Belle, I teach high school English. We have a new principle who does not like blue jeans. Our other principle didn't care. For some reason I can always find jeans I like, but I have a hard time finding pants that I don't have to wear with heels. I can't walk around all day in heels. I would love some suggestions for outfits that are not too dressy yet still professional. I'm kind of short too, 5'4″ and a small frame. Help, please!

  32. Erica says:

    Definitely love the idea of a “Belts for Beginners”-type blog post! I own a few belts but rarely if ever wear them because I'm not sure if they actually look good.

  33. Bree says:

    I am going to a formal wedding in September, and need to find a long dress to wear. However, I don't attend many formal events, so I want the dress to either be inexpensive, or, in my fantasy world, something that can also be dressed down and warn as a maxi dress on weekends.

    I have a slim hourglass figure, so I shudder at all the empire waisted, shapeless long dresses I've seen all over this season.

  34. S.E.M. says:

    Maria–just a note, especially if you teach high school English, the leader of a school is called a principal, not a principle. I understand we all make mistakes, so I just wanted to let you know, lest you accidentally pass this incorrect spelling on to your students. By the way, I teach middle school English, so I am not some kind of 'teacher basher'.

    Belle-A lot of the questions posed above are great! Hope to see some of them soon!

  35. Lauren says:

    I'm heading out to California (Carmel, San Francisco, Napa) for some much needed rest and relaxation. I'm a notorious over-packer–I've heard the advice to “pick a neutral color palette” to limit the need for 8 pairs of shoes, but I'm still at a loss. Any advice on some easy to pack and versatile pieces?

  36. S says:

    This one may have to wait awhile, but I've been considering investing in a pair of boots for awhile now. My main challenges are: 1) Brown or Black? I adhere to the no-dark-brown-and-black-together philosophy, and; 2) flat or small heeled? I'm extraordinarily clumsy, so this is a very real concern for me. Of course, I also want them to be comfortable for walking, versatile, able to survive harsh winters, and I'm on a very tight budget since I'm trying to pay back my student loans. Any ideas? Or would you recommend going with a less-nice pair of (faux?) leather boots that I wouldn't feel bad about losing in a year or so?

  37. Maria says:

    S.E.M— I'm well aware the head of school is a principal…apparently typing blog comments while riding shotgun with my husband is not conducive for correct usage. Forgive me for the error.

  38. Charleigh says:

    How to wear Leopard-print flats:

    A few months ago, (or maybe longer) you had posted about your must-have flats/sandals. You mentioned that a pair of gold flats that you could walk in, and a pair of leopard flats were absolute musts (among four others).

    I am happy to say that I own both pairs of flats, however I have still yet to wear my pair of leopard flats because I just don't know how to wear them!

    The ones I have are these: with the faux-pony fur, and because they have the buckle, and the shiny black, I feel they are just a wee bit too fancy to wear with most of the outfits I have. Could you please enlighten me with what you piece together with your leopard flats? Considering the link and how fancy they are, could you enlighten me about what would make good outfits? Also, work outfits!

    Thank you! Your answer will actually allow me to get some use out of these! (I do realize that leopard is more a fall than a summer print though).

  39. Danae says:


    I keep passing Blue Mercury and cannot work up the willpower to wander about aimlessly until I decide what may be a good starter purchase. Can you spare me the torture of an hour circling the store and tell me exactly what I should get from this great store? Just one or two items that are a must buy would be great.

  40. j says:

    I was also wondering about wearing bathing suits around colleagues. I normally wear a bikini but I travel often to other cities for work,usually with at least 1 or 2 coworkers. At the end of a long day it's not unheard of to unwind in the hotel pool with coworkers. On my first business trip I brought a bikini, not really thinking that it might be innappropriate, and when I got to the pool i was surprised thay everyone else was wearing a one piece. I didnt know if its just because they are 10-15 years older than me or because its innappropriate. So I bought a one piece and I hate it. Can I go back to the bikini or is it really that innapropriate? Also, one time we went to lake Michigan instead of the pool since it was nearby and I couldn't tan my stomach.

  41. Belle says:

    B- I have a front desk lady. You know her, you know everyone. Plus, we have a pool and a workout room. But really you just have to take the time to get to know people. Say hi. Join Book Club, etc.

  42. mz says:

    Work/life balance on the Hill! Not just the basics, but how to balance a workaholic personality with the most work friendly place on the planet without being a hermit and without burning out!!

  43. L says:

    I'm not Belle, but I am a makeup aficionado. My particular weaknesses are for products with sunscreen and/or long-lasting claims.

    In response to your question, I recommend an angled eyeliner brush. My EcoTools angled eyeliner brush (I bought mine at Target; it's about $7 including shipping on Amazon) is just as good as the expensive version I purchased at Sephora. While I find that using an angled eyeliner brush is easiest, others love bent eyeliner brushes. The Sonia Kashuk one ($5.99 from Target) offers professional quality at a low price.

    The nature of the product means that your brush will be crunchy if the product dries on it; however, with the brushes I mentioned above you have two options. First, they're cheap enough that you can buy two and only need to wash them every other day. Second, the brush can be a bit damp when you apply the product, so you can wash it (I use Cetaphil) right before you apply your eyeliner.

  44. Kathryn says:

    Hey Belle!
    I've got a few questions- I'm hopeless with accessories! Is it okay to match gold and silver jewelrey? I have a silver necklace that, for sentimental reasons, I've worn since I was fifteen and I've literally never taken it off. However, I have some great gold earrings and I've never been sure if it is okay to mix and match the gold and silver tones (so i usually stick to silver balls, or diamond or pearl studs since I cannot wear wires). Also, I know you hate Vera Bradley, but how do you feel about tote bags? Such as the Lands End/L.L, Bean canvas totes? Are they ever work appropriate? Thank you!

  45. Linds says:

    Dr. Jean–

    As the mother of 4-month-old who has now gone back to work and has to develop a wardrobe appropriate for nursing, the website Zulily has been my friend (and there are often ads linked from here). Lots of great deals on nursing and maternity wear, although most are final sale. I was also a fan of Japanese Weekend (often on sale at Nordstrom online) and I did pick up some basics at Gap Maternity as well as Destination Maternity (superstore carrying Pea in the Pod and Motherhood brands). Since I was mostly pregnant in the winter, I wore a lot of black tunics and long sweaters, and just accessorized with fun jewelry and cute flats to keep things interesting. A maternity LBD is a must…mine was Pea in the Pod and could be dressed up or down pretty easily.

    Also, Belle's fellow blogger Capitol Hill Barbie was recently pregnant as well, and had some great posts on her blog, especially one breaking down many of the different maternity retailers:

    Best of luck to you! 🙂

  46. Lindsey says:

    You talked about the dreaded visible panty line recently. Following up on that, do you have any suggestions for strapless bras that won't flatten me out? I'm pretty petite up top and normally wear bras with a little padding to help fill me out. I feel like all the strapless bras I've found just don't cut it.

  47. Brian Boitano says:

    I realize that this is “Ask Belle”, not “Ask Brian Boitano”, but I need to jump in on one thing for time's sake:

    @S–tall boots on a short budget: Nordstrom has a pair of BP tall boots with a small, walkable, wedge heel ( Get them in cognac, and you can wear with both black and brown. They are $80 during the anniversary sale, and most sizes are still available.

  48. Ellen says:

    It seems that t-strap shoes are coming back? I found a pair that I love, but dont know what wear them with. A 3 ways to wear post would be great

  49. Kat says:

    Knowing your opinion on flip-flops, I'm curious to know what you think about these Toms shoes I'm beginning to see everywhere. For the record: I told my interns if I catch them wearing those shoes anywhere but on the way in/out for their commute, they will be sent home. Yes, some of them seem to think they're office appropriate.

  50. Sabrina says:

    Belle: Will you please discuss current hairstyle trends and/or ways to update one's hairstyle? I want to maintain a professional look, but am bored to tears of the sidepart, long-ish look. Based on my perusing of blogs, celeb style sites, a middle part with beachy waves looks modern and feminine but I just don't know how to translate this to my Hill office… any advice appreciated. Thanks!

  51. p says:

    i'd love advice on what to wear to events around dc. like, what to wear to a ceremony at the white house or a ceremony at the white house lawn? (recently i went to one and everyone was in sundresses and cute sandals, so clearly it's not cut and dry “always wear a suit”). what to wear to pride of the south, or on a tour of the white house gardens, a fundraising dinner…you get the picture!

  52. Emily says:

    In case you don't have enough ideas here to blog on – I do have one style challenge coming up… Work retreat on the Oregon coast in September. It's supposed to be casual – and it'll be a bit chilly. Any ideas on stylish outfit ideas that are casual, yet appropriate for sipping Chardonnay with the bosses?

  53. Brigid says:

    Hi Belle,
    I know you don't wear pants often to work, but with my working situation right now I have to wear pants every single day! I feel like I've been hitting the repeat button on the same old slacks with a blouse or cute top look (especially cardigans…..) Any ideas to feel better about the same old same old slacks?

  54. KRF says:

    Hi Belle,

    Thanks for the open request for “Ask Belle” questions. It was nice to see Dr. Jean Gray also request ideas for maternity dressing. I am expecting my first child in December and am 5 months! While this is an exciting time, it is also a time where the body is doing some incredible stretching, growing, etc. and I could use a boost in clothing and accessories to help adjust to these changes. I recognize the majority of your readers may not be ready to start families but perhaps you could recommend some blogs that feature maternity wear. I am sure post December I will be looking for ways to dress my new body. Best, KRF

  55. Rh says:

    I would love to see a post on do/don'ts for larger chested ladies. Thanks Belle, love your blog!

  56. E says:

    Posted this before but don't think it went through. I'm a bit late to this, but can you recommend your dermatologist? I've been looking for one to treat adult acne. I filled in my email address so you can contact me off the blog if you prefer. Thanks! (Also posted on the face wash thread.)

  57. Aran says:

    Where can I find the best work jackets on a budget?

  58. Alison says:

    I don't know if someone has already asked this, but what is up with the mismatched swim suits? Am I supposed to just close my eyes and grab a bottom and a top and call it even or is there some thought going into this? I just wanted to make sure my 'matching' bathing suits are not out of style!

  59. L says:

    Dear Belle,

    So I recently moved to D.C. and began work on the hill after graduating college this spring. At school I never once had a problem not having friends or someone to go grab a bite with or getting a group together to go out on the weekends. It seems though that I've lost my ability to make friends (sadly none of them moved to DC with me). I've tried being friendly with my office and have gotten drinks after work a few times with them but they aren't the most social bunch (or at least not to me). I'll take any advice! I'm desperate, thankfully not desperate enough to go out with the mail guy that hits on me everyday, but I'm getting there. In theory I like DC and my job, but the lack of friends is really starting to get to me. I swear I'm not an ugly leper or super bitchy, just a nice smart mid-western girl who can sometimes be a bit shy.

    Thanks so much,

  60. Zara says:

    One of my favorite blog features is a “suitcase posting” including all of the items someone may pack for a trip and the various pairings of the items. I have a bachelorette/girls weekend in Charleston at the end of the summer — part tourist ventures, part beach, part dining, part shopping, part night out on the town. I rarely vacation and would benefit from a collection of items (sans pink boa or rings resembling male body parts) that can be reused to accommodate my one suitcase requirement.

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