Ask Belle Roundup: February, Part I

Feb 6, 2012

Dear Belle,

In the past, you’ve recommended owning a black and metallic clutch.  I really like carrying clutches in my off hours, but I never find anything really special in the sub-$100 price range.  Do you have some recommendations for others?  


From Left to Right, Encrusted Clutch ($89), Portfolio Clutch ($36), Small Striped Clutch ($59)

Well, K.A.W., you’re in luck because there are some lovely clutches on the market in that price range if you know where to look.  

First, let’s talk about shapes.  Minaudieres (often called frame or box clutches) come in many different sizes.  Try an oval, a tube or even something as daring as a shell or a flower.  If you want something in a different shape, vintage and thrift stores are the best places to shop.  When people dressed for evening in the 1940s through 1970s, they needed a number of clutches in interesting designs, shapes and colors.

Second, size.  I like a big clutch.  The kind of clutch that slides under your arm and fills the entire gap between shoulder and elbow.  This inexpensive portfolio clutch from Asos is durable, light weight and huge.

Lastly, think about color or pattern.  You could try a bright color, an animal print or a stripe.  Here, we get all three.  This clutch is really funky and special and would be the perfect addition to any little black dress or a good way to perk up a t-shirt and jeans.

Dear Belle,

With the crazy weather in DC this winter – windy and 35 degrees one day, 65 degrees and sunny another, and raining yet another, how do you suggest approaching the issue of tights or pantyhouse? I work in a fairly conservative office, with a dress or skirt and blouse dresscode for women with no casual days and no jeans, ever. In February, is it ok to go to work sans tights or pantyhose if its particularly warm or very muggy? Is there a temperature guideline that you or others follow?


Yes, the weather has been a bit nuts this winter and that creates a number of fashion conundrums.  I believe that bare legs are allowed year-round as long as your shoes are winter appropriate.  This means no open toe shoes, no sandals, and for the love of God, no flip flops.  Keep everything else seasonally appropriate and in my world, bare legs are fine.

That being said, if you work in a conservative office that requires nylons in the summer, then there is no time when they are not required.  If your Boss wants you to wear them during the heat and humidity of August, then I doubt there will be an exception made for a slightly-toastier-than-usual February.  And it sure sounds like you work in the kind of office where nylons are required all the time.


I’m an intern in a Senate office, and I would say that my style is eclectic.  I really want to dip-dye the ends of my hair hot pink like Lauren Conrad, but I can’t show up to work like that.  Do you know of a good temporary dye?  There seem to be a lot of brands, but if I choose the wrong one, I could wind up with bright pink hair forever.


Bright pink hair, huh?  I have to admit, that’s a new one.  

Honestly, I don’t think you should dye your hair.  Home dye jobs always have the potential to wind up botched and you’re right, I don’t think your Senate bosses would approve.

 Instead, try hair chalking.  You use pastel chalk from the art supply store, water and a curling or flat iron to add the pigment.  Sometimes it lasts a day, sometimes a week.  If you definitely need yours gone by Monday morning, wash your hair with a little laundry detergent.  Just make sure to deep condition afterwards.

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  1. BC says:

    I really have to disagree with Belle. I really think that bare legs in the wintertime is really unprofessional. I do work in a conservative hill office as far as dress goes, but I agree with the policy. I also think that there are enough people out there that share my opinion, so you never know who might be judging you for going with bare legs. Summer is a different story. When it's 90 plus degrees outside, I think it's okay to go without stockings as long as your legs look good (i.e. are tanned and blemish free). If people are wearing white and seer sucker, it's okay to go without stockings. In the summer, policies get relaxed.

    What I do is buy loads of these Hanes thigh highs: That way, if there's a run in one leg, I don't have to throw the hole set out. I hand wash them with special hosiery detergent, but that really doesn't take too long at all. And I keep an extra stocking in my desk at work, in case I catch a run during the day. Plus, my boyfriend thinks it's really sexy when I come home from work in a pencil skirt, heels and thigh highs underneath.

    I have this opinion because I've worked for several female Members, and all have remarked at one point or another about some girl who showed up to work without pantyhose on. I think it's just not worth having them talk that way about you.

  2. Montana says:

    BC – I totally agree wiith you. Bare legs in the winter make your entire appearance look unprofessional. Last week I saw two women with coats and bare legs?? Need I say more……

  3. Belle says:

    BC: I know we've beaten this topic to death, but I don't understand how bare legs can be professional 8-9 months of the year and off limits the others. If your office is so conservative that well-shaved, lotioned, lightly tanned legs are no-nos Nov-Feb, then I can't imagine that the prohibition just magically lifts one day because it gets hot.

  4. Belle says:

    If you have an opinion on this feel free to express it. But if I don't think tights will look right, I wear bare legs. And if anyone's looking that closely at my legs, that's there problem.

    My mind is unchangeable on the subject.

  5. BC says:

    I think Montana makes a good point. It's the contrast that's startling. Someone who piles on sweaters or scarves on top but then has bare legs on the bottom looks out of sync. I also don't think that bare legs are appropriate outside of the traditional May to September summer months. Like I said, if people are wearing seer sucker suits and white bottoms, I think it's fine to go without stockings. It's important to remember where you work and who you interact with when you're a staffer. It's less of an issue if you work in a different industry.

  6. RR says:

    Was that intentional that the only women's wear options are dress or skirt? I cannot believe that an office would prohibit a woman from wearing dress pants, guess I really need to wake up if that is the case.

  7. BB says:

    Belle, you're looking at the bare-legged issue backwards: you are assuming that bare legs are appropriate conservative attire except in the winter. I think BC is saying (and I agree), that stockings are ALWAYS appropriate conservative attire, but society is willing to turn a blind eye to bare legs during DC's hottest, muggiest weather (May-September, as BC pointed out above). So wearing stockings (or tights, or whatever) is the rule, and bare legs in the summer is the exception.

    So back to the original letter writer, even if temps are springlike, she should wear something on her legs in Washington in February. It's not like we get heatwaves of 100 degrees, and 100 percent humidity this time of year.

    Also, Soph, do not dye your hair pink. Just don't.

  8. e-liz says:

    the chalking link seems to be incorrect.

  9. Belle says:

    e-liz: It's fixed.

    BB: So you're saying then that bare legs are ALWAYS inappropriate in a conservative office, but people are just willing to look the other way cause it's hot. By that logic, why even have a dress code?

    Look, if you think it's unprofessional, then don't do it. I wear bare legs in the winter upon occasion, and I've never had a problem. Mostly because I don't think anyone ever notices, or they don't care if they do. I would put on nylons for a job interview only because I don't know what the dress code is in the office. But no one where I work notices or cares, and I hate wearing nylons so I don't.

  10. AD says:

    Wow. I would hardly call Amy's dress code “fairly conservative.” Maybe “Ultra-Conservative” would be more fitting. What could be more conservative than no jeans, no pants and no casual? i would hate to know.

  11. BB says:

    Belle, if you put on nylons for an interview because you don't know the office's dress code, you are essentially agreeing with me–that wearing stockings is the default most conservative option, and thus you are erring on the conservative side for your interview.

    AD, having to wear a suit everyday is more conservative than no jeans, no pants, and no casual. It sounds like Amy isn't required to wear a jacket on a daily basis in her office. I would agree this is “fairly conservative” dress code.

  12. Belle says:

    BB: I never said that nylons weren't the default for a conservative office. In fact, I said as much in my post. What I am saying is, if your dress code for your office says nylons, it means nylons. Not just nylons when it's cold, and looking the other way when it's hot. If my office was very conservative, I would wear legwear at ALL times, even August.

    My issue is with an exception to the rule, not the rule. I don't let my male staff just start skipping ties, or undershirts, or socks because it's warm.

  13. Belle says:

    AD: I know! I read skirt and dress dresscode and thought, “What is this, 1961?”

  14. mary says:

    I have a few spring/fall dresses where there is no possible way to do the 2 out of 3 tights rule because they don't sell tights that perfectly match the dress or the shoes. a week or two it was randomly 65 degrees out, a coat wasn't even necessary that day, so i wore the dress with a 3/4 sleeved cardigan and no tights. i do work in a more laid back private sector office, but i can't image that anyone had a problem with my bare legs. the next day when the temp dropped back to 45 i resumed wearing tights.

  15. SarahT says:

    Okay I'm definitely not trying to get wrapped up in the whole “fairly conservative/ultra conservative” debate but I do just want to echo Montana. Please please please do not rock bare legs if you're still wearing a wool coat and a scarf and gloves!!! Come on ladies, spring will be here soon enough…a few more days of tights won't hurt you 🙂

  16. Belle says:

    SarahT: While I feel that flip flops with a wool coat is just effing ridiculous, I just don't feel the same way about bare legs. Wore bare legs and a dress to dinner on Friday night with a wool coat. I was neither cold on bottom or too hot on top. And nylons/tights really don't provide much in the way of warmth unless they're fleece lined, so I don't really notice a difference. But I might if I were some place that's actually cold like Montana.

  17. SarahT says:

    Oh Belle, you take me too literally! I think we're definitely on the same page here. I was just saying that I hate seeing someone dressed for a ski weekend on their top half and for a Memorial Day BBQ on their bottom half! (Trust me I saw it the other day…I swear)

  18. Belle says:

    SarahT: Yes, I agree. I saw a woman in shorts, a ear flap hat and rainboots on Saturday. Weird.

  19. Sarah says:

    Answer: Do what makes you comfortable. If you have to ask, you should put pantyhose on. If you are reprimanded, you should have known better. Be an adult. Geez.

  20. VA says:

    I think the best advice for the tights conundrum is to observe what other professional women in your particular office are doing. Because really, dress codes are about office culture and every single office is different. So pay attention to how the successful women above you dress – if they are always wearing hose, no matter the season, that says something about your company culture and sets an example for you. If they go bare-legged when the weather is warm, take your cues from that. And if you're not sure, just ask someone in the office whose style and judgment you trust.

  21. KD says:

    Question: Why do legs have to be tanned at all? This is a sincere question, because I don't understand how tan skin relates to how professional you are. I am naturally pale, and have never tanned (and don't plan to because it is extremely unhealthy). Yes, I know a lot of people use fake tanner, but I don't have the inclination to do that for several reasons. Is it really a faux pas to have the natural color of your legs show, as long as they are well cared for?

  22. E says:

    Personally, I am a pantyhose-in-the-winter, bare legs in the summer gal. Right or wrong, I totally judge women for not wearing hose or tights in the winter because a) it looks funny to be so bundled on top, naked on the bottom (the same way i feel about shorts and uggs) and because b) DAMN those girls have white legs! I just don't know anyone in DC who gets enough color in the wintertime to make white legs with a dark suit look presentable. Then again, if you just got back from a winter getaway in the Bahamas, be my guest.

  23. Amy says:

    I actually asked Belle this quesion, and just to clarify, my office does allow pants. We're a bit ahead of 1961 🙂 I am definitely more of a dress or skirt kinda girl, so that's what I normally choose to wear to work. And on a slightly related note, I don't notice women in nude nylons around my office, only in pants or colored tights.

  24. Belle says:

    KD: I don't mean “tanned” so much as exfoliated and not pasty (an effect easily attained with proper moisturizer). If you like to be a paler shade, that's up to you.

    E: Maybe you can clarify this for me. Nylons don't keep my legs any warmer than if they were bare, so why are they considered essential in cold weather?

    Also on the note about skin tone, I use lotion with a little bit of self tanner in it, so my legs are lightly bronze year round.

  25. B says:

    Belle – what lotion do you use, and do you recommend it? I'm going on vacation somewhere warm in a few weeks and my pasty white legs could use a little bit of color!

  26. EK says:

    I'm completely with Belle on this one. Nylons provide nothing in the way of warmth. They may make a difference in your look, they may make it look like you spent a few more minutes getting dressed, and they may change the color of your legs if, like me, you are pale. But they are not a winter weather staple.

    Furthermore, I couldn't care less if my pale skin is considered unattractive. As Belle said, moisturizing and exfoliating are just good grooming, but I burn in the sun regardless of season, and I refuse to apologize if my natural opacity offends someone who prefers that my legs more closely match my skirt suit.

  27. Katy says:

    Thanks for the link to the chalking – cool idea!

  28. EAC says:

    And besides, isn't the goal to choose pantyhose/stockings that match your skin tone as closely as possible and to pick a fine denier, so people can't tell that you are wearing hosiery? Do fair skin women actually choose hosiery that makes their legs look darker? I thought the days of “suntan” pantyhose were over.

  29. BC says:

    EAC – Yes! You should pick hose that matches your skin tone. You shouldn't be able to tell you're wearing hose. But you can always tell when someone isn't.

  30. KC says:

    Just beware: bare legs + long coat = flasher. At least wear a short coat. I am definitely warmer in nylons/tights than bare-legged. I don't have as strong of preferences of nylons in the winter as some, the one time I tried this last week and wore a long-sleeved wrap dress with bare legs, my husband commented that I looked “summery.” Maybe it just seems out of season, like sandals or other summer shoes. I think that a mantra of no-bare-legs-in-winter is no different than saying no-summer-shoes-in-winter. If one can wear bare legs in February, why not peep-toed shoes?

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