Ask Belle Roundup June 11th Edition

Jun 11, 2012

It occurred to me last night that I had not drawn a winner for Belle’s Birthday Giveaway.  So without further ado, the winner of the Oscar de la Renta bagatelle notebook is commenter 76, Carolyn, who believes that “Happiness is spending time with the people who love you.”

Congratulations, and thanks to all who entered.

Hi Belle,

I saw your photo in TIME Magazine last month.  So are you not anonymous anymore? Could you start posting pictures of yourself on your blog now?


I’ve always been more pseudononymous than anonymous.  But in the year since I officially left the House of Representatives and the iron grip of the Committee on Ethics, I’ve definitely weakened the veil of secrecy.  I am attending this weekend’s Women’s Congressional Staff Association conference as a panelist.  I’ve been to a few events as myself/ my pseudonym, and I’ve had business cards made up with my pseudonym and my real name on them.  And yes, my photo appeared in TIME magazine.

However, I will always be “Belle” on this blog.  Why?

Because I see Belle as being the fashion equivalent of the Dread Pirate Roberts.  One day, hopefully, there will be a new Belle who will take up the mantle, and I will finally be able to buy that pair of Crocs that I always wanted. (Kidding.)

As for photos of me on this site, that’s unlikely but not impossible.  The barrier is that while there are many fashion bloggers who post lovely photos of themselves, there are a greater number of women standing in uncomfortable poses, fondling their hair and awkwardly leaning against things.  And I fear, that I would fall into the latter category. 

Also, who would take the photos and where?  As you know, I live alone and I don’t date.  Sure, I could pay Dan Schwartz from Revamped to come down to the Hill every day, but that sounds expensive. 

So who knows?  Maybe some day I will change my mind, but for right now, I don’t see myself posting pictures of my outfits any time soon.  And I will always be known simply as Belle.

Hello from a dedicated college student reader!

I am an intern on Cap Hill, and was wondering what your thoughts are on splurge vs. save for ballet flats. I wear flats nearly every day of the week for both work and more casual occasions, and I’m curious what your thoughts are on the best brands. My J.CREW ones often scuff up easily from so much wear, but I’d be willing to pay more (or less if possible!) for a quality brand that, above all, offers superior COMFORT for all-day wear.

Thanks! ZD

It is one of fashion’s great cruelties that just because a pair of shoes are flat does not mean they are comfortable.  Ever since Steve Madden stopped making a matte gold Koobba skimmer, I’ve given up on the search for an inexpensive, comfortable flat.  I tried Nine West for awhile, until one of the soles came off the shoe while walking down Pennsylvania.  So I raised the white flag.

I have no problem buying a pair of flats and then adding insoles to make them comfortable.  After all, Dr. Scholl’s isn’t a multi-billion dollar company for no reason.  So I buy the flats that I like and have them stretched, padded and mole skinned until they fit just right.  I’m the Goldilocks of flat dress shoes.

From Right, Clockwise: Kate Spade Heather ($225), Bloch Alia ($70)J.Crew Viv ($188), Aldo Parm Flats ($80)

Even when I wear flats, I don’t commute in my work flats.  I could, of course, but as you mentioned, I don’t want to beat up a nice pair of shoes and then have to pay the cobbler later.  If your shoes are patent leather and they’re getting scuffed, try nail polish remover.  If they’re regular leather, buy a shoe shine kit and learn to touch them up yourself.  Because if you wear your shoes enough to make them worth the money that you paid for them, they’re going to get battered from every day wear and tear.  So whether you spend $50 or $250 is up to you, since I have never found a truly miraculous pair in any price point.

I like J.Crew shoes, I have one pair of heels and one pair of flats and I find them to be fairly comfortable.  I also like Kate Spade flats, but their not as comfortable as I would like.  Aldo makes a decent shoe if you’re looking to wear them until they fall apart and then toss them.  And my former-coworker Virginia swears by Bloch flats, which she buys on Gilt Groupe to save a bit of money.

What are your favorite flats?

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  1. Meg says:

    Love you, Belle! So jealous of your ability to pay off student loans with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire money.

  2. Dallas says:

    1. I think you are very lovely!

    2. I love that you don't do outfit posts. I've been discussing why your blog is so refreshing with a friend and we both decided it's because your blog is about content, not a cult of personality or branding. Love what you do here!

    3. You and I are on very different sides of the political aisle but I really don't think that matters too much as long as we keep hating Uggs together.

  3. K. Hill says:

    Can we get a link of this TIME Magazine feature…or a scan of the actual article. I am curious….I've been a follower forever it seems and am curious about Belle's look.

  4. K. Hill says:

    And she was on Who Wants to Be a MIllionaire…THIS is exciting! Knowing your real name makes you so much more real to me and I now TRULY relate to all of the things you talk about (i.e. being short and pear, acne, etc) because I know you exist – call it weird but I just became an even BIGGER fan! Thanks for sharing a little bit about yourself with the world!

  5. Belle says:

    I suppose it would make a difference now that you have proof I'm not a 50-year-old man from Cleveland who lives in his mother's basement and prefers his Pop Tarts covered in a generous amount of Cheeto dust.

    What was really funny was all the people who I know in my non-Internet life who were surprised I was Belle…

  6. Jen says:

    haha I agree K.Hill! I feel kinda creepy searching Time magazine but Belle you are like a celebrity to me!

  7. Molly says:

    Someone post the link!! I can't find it 🙁 Help a sister out, Belle.

  8. Chelsea says:

    Agreed! Would love to see the link.

  9. Kate says:

    Naturalizer makes some very comfy flats, even in wide widths, that work for the office.

    PS: Belle, I prefer you anonymous. I may be in the minority but I like the “everywoman” feel that anonymity gives. You may be 14 sizes smaller than me and have completely opposite hair and skin type, but I can still relate. Keep up the great work.

  10. BN says:

    The Time Magazine website is terrible — can someone please post a link or scan in the article? Thank you!

  11. KJ says:

    Bloch flats are the absolute best… only shoes I've ever worn that are comfortable right out of the box. You can usually find them on sale at zappos/6PM as well.

  12. Ms. C says:

    Let's not place Pop Tarts and Crocs in the same category. The former is delicious and in no way affects my respect for a person.

    Belle (and readers), I have another question for you. A peeve of mine is self-centered re-schedulers. We all know the type — the acquaintance, colleague, or friend with whom you make plans and who, inevitably, cancels because of some “big project,” “insane meeting,” “crazy push for some deadline.” And I get it, scheduling issues abound and we are all bombarded with a million commitments every day but that's just it…we are all busy.

    Up to this point I have not found a graceful way to respond without sounding either inferior or spiteful. I would love a response that conveys a strong simultaneous message: I understand that scheduling is difficult but one should not undervalue another person's time. Belle do you (or any of your lovely readers) have suggestions?

  13. Cate says:

    No photos, but the full text article is here:

  14. LC says:

    I totally agree with Kate above – Naturalizer makes some very cute flats that are not only comfortable but fit wide feet 🙂
    Plus, they're affordable and really durable…I'm hard on shoes! Most of my work shoes are from Naturalizer. If you sign up for their e-mails they often have great sales (the best selection of styles, I've found, are online).

  15. Ellen says:

    Ms. C – I work in a field with those crazy deadlines, things really can come up that I have to drop everything thing else (or everything that I feasibly can) to tend to this one thing for my boss so I can keep my job. As someone who has been on both sides of this rescheduling I think the issue is when it's chronic or someone is not taking into account that you have a schedule as well when proposing a new time to get together. I am understanding if once every so often you have something that takes more precident than me, and I would hope others understand that when I have something that needs my undivided attention for the next 72 hours that it isn't reflective of how I value them, rather it's the reality of the beast. I think it can become rude or inconsiderate depending on how the rescheduling is handle when the manner in which they are informing you they need to reschedule is self centered. In such cases my reply is usually “So sorry we won't be able to get together because XYZ has come up for you, unfortunately I have other [fill in the blank with plans, meetings, etc] on the date/ time you've suggested we reshcedule. Here are times I am available” In that way I think the other person can appreciate that you have things going on in your life too.

  16. eduncan says:

    Can someone post the link? I am a huge fan of Belle's and this website and would love to put a face to a name!

  17. BB says:

    My sister and I figured out Belle's identity three years ago during a particularly boring day during August Recess. It took us about an hour, the internet and a yellow book. Point is, the information (including pictures) is out there (especially now that she is at her new employer), look it up yourselves!

  18. Belle says:

    BB: August recess is a killer, glad you used that time wisely 😉

  19. KJ says:

    Belle – On the flats, you mention that you don't commute in them. But you and I share a hatred for ugly flip flops plus cute summer sandals can be ruined/cost as much as the flats. So what are you commuting in? Would love to know, killing too many of my nicer flats but don't want to look horrific going home.

  20. Erin says:

    KJ – I don't know what Belle commutes in (I'm not a super sluth and haven't figured out hre true identity, hehe) but I have a couple pairs of ballet flats from Gap. They fold up into a little pouch so they are very easy to toss in your pruse without worrying about getting sidewalk and metro grime on everything. I have black and patent tan (that one is no longer available, sorry) anyway, they're great in a pinch:

  21. missy says:

    My favorite flats are Lanvin. /runs away

    Seriously, though. I'm the type who saves up for shoes I know I'm going to want to and be able to regularly wear for a few years. It helps that I tend not to go for things that are too on trend (leopard print shoes, for example).

  22. Erin says:

    KJ – Gap has some great ballet flats that come in a travel pouch in the $30something pricerange

  23. Sharyn says:

    I pretty much only wear flats, with the rare exception. Cole Haan flats are wonderful. I have 2 pairs, with 2 more on the way. I'll second (or third?) the comment(s) re. Naturalizer, with whom I've had good luck, as well as Bandolino (when they don't look too grandma-ish). One of my most comfortable & stylish pairs is from Sam Edelman. They are trashed yet I can't bear to part with them (or wear them). Nine West can be good, as can Franco Sarto. And like everyone else I want a pair of Tory Butch flats, but not yet owning a pair I can't speak to how comfortable or durable they are. I've been tempted to try Bloch so I'm glad to see them positively reviewed above. Zappos is calling my name, gotta run!

  24. amanda_l says:

    Bloch is originally a dance shoe and apparel company, and I trusted them with my dance shoes year after year. Being that their dance shoes are so comfortable and their thought processes are based around keeping a dancer's feet safe and supported, I would think their street shoes would reflect the same thought processes.

  25. KS says:

    Just did some sleuthing of my own based on that article… Belle you are BEAUTIFUL!

  26. E says:

    Wow, I totally guessed your political affiliation wrong (not that it affects my readership of this blog either way). Good job keeping your blog nonpartisan, I guess!

  27. Just recently discovered your site (particularly love it because I live on Capitol Hill), and count me in as one who's glad you focus on something other than outfit photos. I get the idea in theory — it could be helpful to see how other people put their clothes together — but the actuality is usually sooooo painfully awkward. Plus, I just don't care that much about other people's outfits. Your format of ideas and problem-solving is much more useful. Congrats on the publicity and keep up the good work!

  28. TMH says:

    Belle, you're a Jesuit alum, me too! And your new job, my hero =)

    As for comfortable flats, I'm still searching. As strange as it sounds, I find a low wedge more comfortable that a true flat, fwiw.

  29. loyalreader says:

    Belle I'm deeply disappointed to learn that you are a lobbyist for the NRA. I can't support someone who is willing to work for a cause that does so much harm to our country. You just lost one very dedicated reader.

  30. gingerr says:

    No contest for me – Cole Hahn. Get the ones with the air insert, the slight wedge heel makes them more comfortable. DC summer afternoons often have a late day downpour. Be sure you have some commuter shoes that can stand a total drenching.

  31. Shelley says:

    Thank you for this blog, Belle! : )

  32. sara says:

    i kind of love the idea of “belle” becoming like the dread pirate roberts. what a fun way to carry on a legacy!

  33. Belle says:

    Meg: not all, but enough to give me some breathing room. Never was making money so much fun.

  34. Sofie in dallas says:

    Repetto, French Sole (the suede are luscious), Bloch. And, amazingly, some of my absolute favorite ballet flats came from TARGET (!) a couple of years ago, for $10 a pair. Still wearing them, and, yes, they're still comfy. I just checked the Target site, and they have quite a few ballet flats right now. $14.99 for most.

    And I prefer to keep you my dear, anonymous Belle.

  35. Clare says:

    @ loyalreader, really? It's a shame that you would let a disagreement of political beliefs affect your reading of a style blog! You better be careful, if you like the blouses and face creams Belle posts about soon she'll have you brainwashed to her political views, ha!

    Belle, secret identity/pseudononymous or not this is an awesome blog!

  36. CynthiaW says:

    Well, if it helps any (not that I think that you care what other people think about your views) finding out that you are a lobbyist for the NRA and worked to help veterans in your last post makes me love you even more. Even though I, too, usually come from the other side of the political aisle, 2nd amendment and veterans rights are two causes near and dear to my heart.

    That being said, even if you held views that were completely anathema to me, it wouldn't change how I felt about your fashion advice – part of what makes this country great is the ability for us all to hold differing opinions, still function as a society and find common ground.

    “I tolerate with the utmost latitude the right of others to differ from me in opinion without imputing to them criminality.” –Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 1804. ME 11:52

    And on a lighter note – you are adorable! And I covet your hair.

  37. Cara says:

    To echo everyone else, I like the way you display outfits. The only other fashion blog I read regularly uses a similar format. It's easier to imagine myself wearing something similar.

    As for your photo, you had given enough hints about your appearance (hair color, type, skin tone, size) that it wasn't a surprise but you look so much like Ellie Kemper from Bridesmaids and the Office! I mean that as a compliment.

  38. helixy says:

    Pseudonymous or not, you're an inspiration to me. I neither work close to the Hill nor in a closely related industry (an office in a Pittsburgh suburb with a business casual dress code…my coworkers' interpretations of of what is work appropriate is often appalling). My particular field is very much so male-dominated, and there is a dearth of role models here. Thanks to you, I'm on track to look more put-together–and I am very excited!

    I'm glad that you will be keeping things the way they are. Your insight and snark make CHS a daily read for me.

  39. Maharani says:

    AGI (Attilio Giusto Leombruni) flats work well for me-pricey, but they are the only flats I've tried that dont hurt and they also take a lot of hard wear but keep on looking good. I have 2 pairs-black with a patent toe and pewter ditto. Most flats kill me-Ive tried Sofft-horrible, Naturalizer and other brands and am sticking with AGI for now. My black flats are well into Year 2 and Ive had them reheeled and polished and get them fixed up regularly-well worth it. They can take a gel insole comfortably if you need extra support.

    The nail polish remover tip works like a charm! I have a pair of red patent slingbacks with a large black scuff that I couldnt remove whatever I tried, until I tried Belle's tip-the shoes look like new again!

  40. C says:

    As a GU alum who transplanted to DC in the fall and was turned on to your blog by another GU girl (who I am pretty sure didn't know you were you) within days of arriving… what a small world! 😀

  41. Catherine says:

    For anyone curious who couldn't see the TIME article:

  42. YellowRose says:

    I love love these Vince Camuto flats! super comfy – not the best looking – but they are like wearing slippers!

  43. qp says:

    oh no i wish i hadnt looked…. moved from the hill to a lobbyist… for the NRA!!!

  44. Beth says:

    Belle — you mentioned that your Goldilocks routine with stretching and padding your shoes makes them comfortable — any hints on products or suggestions for a DC shoe repair shop that's helpful in getting to comfort? Life's too short for feet that hurt, and I'm on a quest for tricks to make the pretty shoes in my closet feel good!

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