Ask Belle Roundup Vol. II, No. Twelve

Nov 19, 2012

Hi Belle,

I have an unusual request for you. Two months ago I had hip surgery and now I can’t wear heels of any kind. My corporate holiday party is at the end of November and I’m at a total loss for what to wear. Ballet flats (even with an insert) don’t have enough support, so I’m leaning towards buying black glitter Tom’s and wearing one of the dresses I bought from Piperlime last year. I’m cringing at the thought of Tom’s though. Do you have any suggestions? I’m very petite and the event is in an art center, casual to semi-formal dress.

Thanks, Lia

Glitter Toms aren’t a terrible idea since you have a very specific concern.  I’d also look at a pair of glitter loafers like these ones from Pour la Victoire or these from Kate Spade.  But if I had to choose something with more support than a ballet flat, but still cute for the holidays, I’d look at these metallic oxford flats with ribbon laces.

For the rest of us who can wear high heels, these Nine West pumps are a total Kate Spade knock-off, but they come in so many glittery colors, you’re sure to find one who works for you.  I also like these muted metallic d’orsay pumps from DSW (under-$50).  And if you need something casual, these metallic accented, suede ankle boots from Victoria’s Secret are to.die.for.

Hi Belle – 
 
I enjoy your blog immensely!

Just wondering if you have a favorite “bargain basement” haunt such as TJ Maxx or Loehmann’s. Sometimes a gal just needs a little “candy” without being to spendy and am curious if you have a favorite spot for that type of frivolous purchase.

-Ann

I used to spend a lot of time at Filene’s, may she rest in peace, but now I do most of my bargain shopping online.  If I want inexpensive accessories, like this cool bead clutch or this knit infinity scarf, I head to ASOS.  If I’m looking for deals on clothing, I’ll try Neiman Marcus Last Call online, Nordstrom Rack Online or Bluefly.

Other than that, I will sometimes head out to Potomac Mills or to the accessories chain Lou Lou for inexpensive pieces.  I just find, that for me, it’s so much easier to find good deals online because I can use coupon codes, compare prices and get cash back with Ebates. 

Hey Belle,

I should be headed to an Inaugural Ball in January.  Any suggestions of what color/style to wear or anything in particular to avoid?  Last time I bought a formal dress was for high school prom, so I could use some new ideas for formal wear.

Thanks! Morgan

Shopping for the Inaugural can be difficult, but if you know you will be attending, buy a dress now.  Why?  If you wait until the last minute, you’ll be forced to shop locally, and you’ll wind up with the same dress 20 other women are wearing.  And any gown you buy will most likely require tailoring, so you need to give yourself lead time to get the dressed alter and buy accessories to match. 

I try to avoid black when attending black tie events because ev-er-y-one wears black.  I also like to avoid wearing too much sequins because it can make people look too young, or like they’re trying to look too young.  As for dresses I like, check out these:

 

BCBG Corima Tiered Dress ($628) // ABS Belted Tank Dress ($350) // Adrianna Papell Blouson Gown ($260) // Tadashi Shoji Lace Overlay Dress ($398)

How unbelievably gorgeous is this gown from BCBG?  I love the lace, chiffon and sequin tiers.  Obviously, it’s pricey, but if you’re size 4,6 or 0, you can pick it up for $358 at Saks

Want a strapless gown in a more realistic price point? This lovely navy strapless is $278 and this berry-hued Nicole Miller is $93.

This tank dress has some serious drama in the back.  It would be a great choice for a woman who wants to show off her arms (why waste all those bicep curls?).  Another good option in a more relaxed shape would be a short sleeve gown like this Robert Rodriguez gown or this under-$200 cowl neck dress.

If you’re not attending the ball for work, feel free to choose something a bit slinky.  I like this sequin, spaghetti strap dress because it reminds me of The Great Gatsby.  You could also go the other way, and add a little drama with a high slit.

Tadashi Shoji is a great choice for women of all ages and sizes, they make red carpet worthy dresses that even the public can wear.  This criss-cross tulle number is to die for and this chiffon dress would flatter many figures.  They also make several of their gowns, like this pretty ivory number, in plus sizes.

As for short dresses, if you’re going to a party or ball that isn’t one of the official balls, you can easily get away with a short dress.  If you’re going to an official ball but want to show off a little leg, make sure you choose something stunning like this dramatic plunge sequin lace dress or this origami strapless dress.

You can also rent a gown, but that could be problematic if dozens of other women do the same thing.  Better to borrow from a friend or hit up a consignment store if you really need to save money.

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  1. Hey Belle — since you answered the one about the inaugural, any ideas for a WH Holiday Reception where I have to come basically straight from work?

  2. Lia says:

    Thank you so much for answering my question!! I love those oxfords

  3. Cara says:

    My niece was on a tight budget last year from Prom so she wore her black glitter TOMS with her dress. The dress was floor length so they couldn't be seen unless she lifted the hem but I was surprised by how cute and charming they were. Then again, a 17-year-old may be able to pull that off better than an adult.

  4. Anna says:

    I'll be doing Rent the Runway this year. Last Inauguration, I spent $200-$300 on a gorgeous gown for the the Florida Ball that I've worn once since. I'd much rather rent something designer for a third the price. Also, if you're going to an unofficial ball, check the dress code, venue, etc. Some are definitely black tie, and you'll be out of place in a short dress.

  5. AC says:

    I also second the Rent the Runway recommendation. They have excellent customer service, and are very flexible with making sure you get your dress on time and contacting you if there are any issues. Browsing their long gown selection makes meI wish I had a formal event to attend requiring a floor-length gown!

  6. Ellen says:

    I am also a fan of Rent the Runway. One thing to keep in mind is that many of the times you are thinking about renting (holiday party season, Inauguration) lots of other ladies will be doing the same. Last year I waited to rent some accessories for my husband's holiday party and got shut out. This year, I rented for December a few weeks ago. That way you have your pick.

  7. Lia says:

    @Cara
    Glad your niece looked cute! I'll be wearing a short dress and I look very young, so the Toms are definitely not going to do me any favors. I miss my stilettos, but there's nothing I can do. Luckily, I'm going to my own corporate party so almost everyone knows I had surgery.

  8. Cara says:

    @Lia – yeah, if you look young, it probably isn't the best choice. Good luck finding something you like.

  9. ~M says:

    Lia,
    I am almost out of physical therapy after breaking my ankle this summer so I completely understand your predicament. I wouldn't be so quick to write off ballet flats. I was in DSW at Pentagon City this evening and found some cute (Kenneth Cole?)flats that were almost if not as supportive as toms, particularly if you get heel strips etc. as necessary. Depending on color they ranged from 70-109 and you could get much more use out of them than you would glittery toms.
    Good luck, I truly feel your pain.

  10. gingerr says:

    Don't forget what the temperatures were at the Inauguration 4 years ago! While it's not likely to be that cold this year it will be chilly. Look for a dress with a jacket or sweatery top so you don't have to wear your coat the whole evening.

  11. Jenny says:

    Consider shopping at BHLDN. It's designed for weddings, but they have dresses for bridesmaids and wedding attendees that you might like. All of their dresses and accessories (including lovely hats!) are unique and vintage-y, so you will definitely stand out.

  12. anon in tejas says:

    for the person who's looking for cute flats… have you tried Earth shoes? I wear them in my downtime (away from the office), and they are very comfortable.

    https://www.zappos.com/earthies-valla-black

    they have some cute styles, like the one above.

  13. K says:

    @ Lia,

    I love these flats at Nine West. If you have inserts you want to wear with them, take them to the store with you when you try them on. I love the mirror finish on the heel and the animal print.

    https://www.ninewest.ca/product.asp?productid=8418

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