Ask Belle Roundup: March 12, 2012

Mar 12, 2012

I receive a lot of reader mail.  Some of it I respond to directly, some of it I respond to on the blog, some of it gets deleted and some of it sits in my inbox forever, unanswered.  What can I say? I’m a fickle bitch.

Some of the mail I receive isn’t suited for a blog post because the responses are so easy/short, that there’s not enough to fill a whole post.  So I thought that today, I’d do a series of quick questions just to make some room in the inbox.

Belle, 

I read quite a few different style blogs including yours, and I am quite envious of the pieces that many have and would like to add them to my own closet. But growing up in the Midwest and living on a limited income, I still can’t get over the “sticker shock” of spending $100 on a pair of pants or shirt. What’s your best advice to over come the shock but still being a responsible shopper? 

Thanks!

Aly

While no one has ever called me a math wiz, I subscribe to the theory that fashion is about simple division.  If I plan to wear a dress for one season, then I’m not going to spend more than $180 on that dress.  If I buy a $180 dress, I want to get a minimum of 10 wears out of it.  10 wears over four-six months is pretty easy to do. Bringing my cost down to $18 per wear.  (I like to stay under $20 per wear.)

If I need a new, basic suit, that’ll set me back about $500.  I’ll wear the skirt at least once per week, the full suit at least once per week and the blazer once every two weeks.  That means I’m getting 10 wears per month out of it.  Multiply 10 by 12 and you reach 120 wears per year.  Divide that into $500, and you reach just over $4 per wear for the year.

The mistake that most women make is they spend the most money on clothes for special occasions.  They drop three bills on a dress for a wedding that they will wear two maybe three times.  They spend $200 on a pair of going out shoes that they’ll wear maybe ten times.  And then, they turn around and buy their every day clothes, the clothes that actually matter, at Forever 21 and Gap.  

Spend your money on the clothes you wear the most, not the ones for special occasions.  Then, factor in how much you plan to wear an item.  Look for a $5-$20 per wear average, if you don’t think you can get that out of a piece, it’s not worth it.

Hi Belle,

I have a question for you.  I work in an office that requires very conservative attire.  We wear suits Monday through Thursday and dress down a bit on Fridays (i.e. the men leave their ties at home; I wear a dress or skirt and blouse/sweater).  I just bought a DVF dress (the New Jeanne dress in navy) to wear on Fridays, and maybe even in lieu of a suit on days I don’t have to attend meetings outside of the office.  My question is: how do I accessorize it?   Do you have any ideas for how to give this basic dress “something”?  

Kathy

The DvF wrap dress is certainly a classic.  To spruce it up, you need to choose accessories that compliment the dress.  A scarf is out to do the collar, and a long necklace won’t work either.  Here are some accessories that can give the dress a little something extra.

Bangle: Marni for H&M (in stores, $39) Belt: Satin Stretch Belt (Forever21, $16) Necklace: Royal Flush (Threadsence, $24)

I would wear the chunky bangle one of two ways, I would either wear it over the sleeve or I would push up the sleeves and wear it on my wrist.  As for the belt, I would wrap the ties so that they lay flat and then secure them with safety pins.  This way you can wear the belt over the ties without having a tail hanging down.  Lastly, the bib necklace is the ideal choice for this outfit because it complements the neckline but has more forcefulness than a simple pendant.

Belle,

I was wondering if you had any thoughts on lipstick.  I feel like I ought to wear a lip color and not just lip glass to work but I hate lipstick.  Do you have any recommendations?

RR

I’m currently in love with the tinted lip treatments from Fresh ($22.50).  They have just the right amount of color and the right amount of shine.  They’re not too glossy, not too prissy, and they wear off evenly, so you don’t wind up with that “I was wearing lipstick but now, I’m just wearing lipliner” look halfway through the day.  They also come in a lot of wonderful colors, I definitely recommend them.

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  1. K says:

    THANK YOU to Belle for helping me choose outfits that are both stylish and appropriate. No matter if your office is super conservative or a little more relaxed it is never okay to show cleavage or wear mini-skirts- a concept many other fashion bloggers don't seem grasp but Cap Hill Style always gets it right. 🙂

  2. Alex says:

    I second the price per wear formula. The exception is the clothes that are all made in the same factory in China and just have different labels put on and are marketed at different demographics. If you can't buy quality, at least buy cheap rubbish not expensive rubbish. Quality is worth paying for. Also don't be so quick to throw away good quality garments. Pack them and they'll be wearable again in five years (which isn't long one you're out of your 20s.)

  3. R says:

    Wow you are completely right. I spend all my money on special occasion dresses that I feel weird wearing more than two or three times. The rest of the time – you guessed it, Forever 21 or Gap. New York & Co if I'm feeling fancy.

    I think you just changed my life.

  4. 202 says:

    A lot of times I head to eBay for lower-priced designer clothing. I've bought several DVF tops (new) for a fraction of the price. Same with designer jeans. I used to pay $200, but have gotten new 7 and Citizens jeans for $60 or less. I just can't bring myself to shop at Forever 21 or H&M. It's worth a little more money to spend than have something fall apart after one wear.

  5. Belle says:

    eBay is great. The majority of my suits are from eBay. I have also purchased a lot of Black Halo, Trina, Milly, etc. on there for 1/3 to a 1/5 of retail price. Most of it with the tags still on. Love it.

  6. Angela says:

    Sephora is giving away Fresh lip treatments during your birthday month this year! I just got mine last week and am in love.

  7. E says:

    RR- Try Clinique “Almost Lipstick” in black honey. Goes on like a gloss but isn't sticky or shiny. The color looks good on EVERYONE.

  8. SC says:

    RR, Belle is a known lipstick hater! 🙂 That fresh tinted moisturizer is fine for a lazy Sunday, but it's no substitute for real lipstick if lipstick is what you want. My favorite is Revlon ColorStay Overtime lipcolor. It lasts all day (even through meals) without drying your lips, and it comes in a variety of flattering shades. (I wear the Unlimited Mulberry as my every day color.) I've also had good luck going to Blue Mercury and telling them what kind of color I want and asking for help. They'll put you in a corner with 8 or 10 shades and let you play until you find the right one. The MAC lip primer is good for getting the color to last.

    Belle, this price per wear formula is genius! I am totally going to use this.

    202, I don't buy much from H&M but I have a few things that are still staples for me 5 years later. A simple black sheath dress that goes with everything and every season, and a bright pink jacket that I would never pay full price for but is fun to wear a few times a year.

  9. SC says:

    Oh, nevermind, I see RR said she hated lipstick…. I like the Kiehl's tinted moisturizer better than the Fresh for nonlipstick lip color, but it doesn't last very long.

  10. Belle says:

    SC: I do hate lipstick it's true. I just chew it off within 20 minutes, and I hate to reapply.

    Angela: I know! My friend got the bday gift and I was SO jealous!

  11. Mary says:

    So helpful! I never thought about clothes purchases in that way before, so thank you!

  12. XR says:

    DC has some amazing consignment places that I've had luck with for quality pieces that, with some tailoring, have lasted ages. Just last weekend I scored a Piazza Sempione suit (the pants were all wrong for my body but the blazer is EVERYTHING) for $19. I've learned to dissasociate quality with “brand new”, even if it's pricier. I find J.Crew pieces from years ago that were made a whole lot better than they are now.

    A good tailor really is your BFF. I think Bethenny Frankel once said “I would tailor my underwear if I could”.

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