Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle Roundup Vol. III, No. One

Dear Belle, 

I’m starting a new job soon, and I managed to gain about 20 pounds over the last few months, and many of my old pieces no longer fit (pants and skirts in particular).  I’m already dieting and exercising to get back to where I was, what’s your advice on what to buy now, when I’m at my largest? 

I recognize that I need to dress the size I am, not the size I want to be, especially in a professional environment.  At the same time, I’m hesitant to spend too much on clothes that (hopefully) won’t fit in a few months.  Any advice?

Best, Mary

Given the time of year, how to dress a (hopefully) shrinking body is a question on the minds of a lot of women.  And since I once lost more than 30lbs in less than a year, I know what a challenge it can be.

First, I recommend that you buy shift dresses and wrap dresses.  Wrap dresses like this one from DvF, or this less expensive one from Ann Taylor, can be bought just a little snug at first and then, cinched tighter as you lose weight.  If you’re worried about modesty, you can wear a camisole underneath to give you more coverage.

Shift dresses (esp. those with a slight a-line shape) are also great because they’re supposed to be a little loose.  When I was trying to lose weight, I bought two dresses one size smaller than the size I needed, and they looked fine when I wore Spanx.  Eventually, I didn’t need the Spanx, and after a few more weeks, they fit in a swingy-mod way.

Secondly, it is much easier for a tailor to alter skirts and simple dresses than jackets and pants.  Those are investments that you want to wait to make until after you reach a weight you’re comfortable with.  A simple pencil skirt can be taken in for a small amount of money, and it looks basically the same after alterations.  

Lastly, accessories like statement necklaces, scarves, bangles and cocktail rings can lift outfits that are otherwise a bit blah.  

Hi Belle!

So now that the weather has turned frigid here in DC (yes, I know, I’m a pansy, but I grew up in the southwest!!) I’m wondering what your head gear of choice is in the winter? I mostly rock earmuffs, but at 28 I’m wondering if they’re a bit childish especially for a professional in DC? Hats usually end up making my fine and thin hair a mess (and honestly I don’t know how women wearing beanie-style hats do it and are still put together for work!). Walking to work this morning I tried to take a visual survey of what women were wearing — and most were wearing nothing! I’ll also add that 75% of the men, however, were wearing hats. So what do I do to be fashionable, stylish, professional, and put-together and protect my poor, cold, southwestern ears?


It’s not pansy to want to stay warm in the winter.  I’m from Montana, and I’m colder here when it’s 35-degrees than I am at home when it’s negative five-degrees.  I think it’s the humidity.

Cloches are stylish, and they will keep your head warm, but they won’t keep it really warm.  For that, I prefer a skull cap (beanie).  A cute knit hat can be had for less than-$20.  Or you can choose a wool beret and wear it pulled down, instead of perched on your head like a Parisian.

If all you want to do is keep your ears warm, you can wear earmuffs or an earband.  If you don’t want to mess up your hair (that would be me), you can wear a pair of Ear Pops, which are basically earmuffs without the band.

Dear Belle, 

White button down shirts. I love them, I could live in them, but they’re a pain to keep looking clean, no matter how hard I scrub the collars and cuffs. What do you do? Do you toss them after a while and just buy new ones regularly? HELP!


Well, clothes aren’t meant to last forever.  At some point, they will become too dingy to clean or too worn to continue wearing.  So you need to evaluate, are these shirts old or are they just in need of a cleaning?

I like the Banana Republic button ups.  Their no-iron sateen shirt is a favorite, and their basic oxford is also lovely.

White clothes naturally yellow over time.  There are many ways to combat this.  Using bleach can sometimes accelerate the yellowing, so I would recommend Oxiclean instead.  You can apply it as a paste to any dingy spots and then wash it.  

If you’re looking to brighten the overall look of your whites, you should try Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing Liquid.  You add bluing to the final rinse and it increases how much light reflects off of your clothes.  Thus, they have the appearance of being whiter.

Lastly, if your issue is yellowing in the underarm area, you can get rid on that.  Just add white vinegar to your wash with your detergent.  It won’t save really yellow shirts, but it will clean up some of the damage.



  1. ww says:

    As someone who gained and lost 20 lbs over a period of two years, I wouldn't recommend wrap dresses. I felt like they always seemed to highlight a lower-stomach bulge. Shift dresses are great, though. As are fitted blazer jackets.

    You're not going to lose that 20 lbs in a few weeks, no matter how much you diet and exercise. My advice? Get what you need to finish off the season, and set your sights on returning to your old weight in the spring or summer.

    January 7, 2013/Reply
  2. AKK says:

    Belle, would you mind posting a discussion of your journey of gaining and losing 30 pounds in one year?

    January 7, 2013/Reply
  3. N says:

    I was in a very similar situation – gained 25 pounds while studying abroad & had to return to an internship without properly fitting business clothes. I was able to wear Spanx with some of my looser dresses & skirts that I already had, and still look appropriate, so definitely invest in a pair or two now to hold you over. As you lose weight, you'll be able to use Spanx to fit into more of your older clothes until you're back to your previous size.

    If it helps, I bought two pairs of bigger sized pants & two A line skirts to hold me over while I lost the weight. The A-line skirts still fit now that I'm back to my standard size, they just sit a bit lower on my waist.

    January 7, 2013/Reply
  4. Parker - Boardroom Belles says:

    In Europe wedding dresses are cleaned by a soak in “curtain wash”. Several central European countries used a to traditionally adorn all windows in white lacy curtains. There are several specialized detergents for that purpose, which are great for all kinds of sensitive white fabrics. Take a bucket of hot water (or the bathtub), empty the correct amount of detergent and dissolve it. Then throw in your shirts and let them soak for 24 (!) hour – a very mild way of removing the dirt and getting them really white. This is done by professional wedding dress cleaners in Europe to preserve the delicate fabrics.

    January 7, 2013/Reply
  5. ALF says:

    Belle – thank you for being the blog I most enjoy and look forward to reading. Feels like we are all in this together. Would love to hear more about your weight loss over a year as well if you don't mind.

    January 7, 2013/Reply
  6. Kate says:

    I just started wearing beanies to work because i like the way they look and they keep my head so toasty 🙂 I've found that if i give my hair a quick spritz of dry shampoo before, i can pull the hat off after my 20 minute commute, and shake my roots out to get the same volume i had when i left the house. I also splurged on a cashmere beanie this year, which seems to be less static-y than other materials (like fleece). This doesn't work quite as well with updos though 🙂

    January 7, 2013/Reply
  7. Dakota says:

    I lost 30 lbs last year and let me tell you the clothing issue is a real challenge! My observations: 1) only spend money on stuff that is worth getting altered once the weight loss is complete, 2) be friends with places like H+M, Target, etc – not the best quality stuff but it will get you through a season because 3) it takes a while and you probably won't be back to your fighting weight after one season and you need stuff to get you through. Find a good tailor and have fun with blazers!

    January 7, 2013/Reply
  8. CReed says:

    Belle, I have a quick question….totally not related to this topic. But if you can answer that would be great….when attending ANY ball during the inauguration does your dress have to formal (ankle lenght)? Please advise. Thanks.

    January 7, 2013/Reply
  9. AD says:

    DCQ – When I moved from Louisiana to DC and needed some cover for my ears without flattening my teased Southern hair, I wore 180s. They wrap around the back of your neck and cover your ears without flattening your hair. Just fix your hair like normal, clip it up on top of your head for 2 seconds, put on the 180s, unclip your hair and go.

    I found ordered mine from Dillards, but you can sometimes find them at Target.

    January 7, 2013/Reply
  10. Beanie says:

    The best solution to hat hair in my opinion: wear a hood. I either look for coats with hoods or wear a light hooded jacket or sweatshirt under my coat and take it off once i get to the office. As long as the hood isn't too tight or fitted it doesn't mess up your hair, can be easily removed, and keeps you almost was warm as a hat.

    January 7, 2013/Reply
  11. Carlene: Healthfully Ever After says:

    Thank you for addressing this question! I see so many clients who forget that they can still wear functional and well cut clothes, regardless of where they are in their weight loss journey.

    January 7, 2013/Reply
  12. Whitney says:

    DCQ – I second Beanie's comment to buy a coat with a hood. When I lived in DC, I had a 20 minute walk from my apartment to the Metro and 5 minutes of wearing a hat destroys my hairstyle for the rest of the day. I went to Macy's during their post-holiday sale and bought a below-the-knee black wool coat with a loose hood and it turned out to be the perfect solution.

    January 8, 2013/Reply
  13. Anon says:

    To Mary re: weight loss clothing,

    I was once in your shoes, and my best recommendation is to check consignment stores. I built a great wardrobe for a fraction of its retail cost.

    Also, if you know what size you wear in recognizable brands, search ebay for them. I've gotten gently used Ann Taylor pencil skirts on ebay for $10. (I call pencil skirts “ebay proof” – if you know your waist and hip measurements, they'll always fit, no problem.)

    I bought lots of cardigans instead of jackets. You can belt them to define your shape as it changes.

    All of these things meant that I didn't feel bad hanging the items in the back of my closet when I stopped wearing them 3 months later. GL!

    January 8, 2013/Reply
  14. sbd says:

    I had been frustrated with yellowing too (especially under the arms of my shirts) and found that soaking them for at least an entire day (if not 2) in Charlie's Soap worked wonders. It's an all natural, no frills detergent powder. Every time I soaked things in it that were gross and yellow that Tide wasn't cutting through (like my husband's swim trunks' waistband and the aforementioned armpit stained shirts) the water gets nasty and stinky from everything it's releasing from the fabric and they come out clean in the wash. TMI I know, but I feel like I had a laundry breakthrough this summer and had to share. I still use TIde for everyday laundry (it's a great stain fighter and I need that with a 15 month old), but pull out the Charlie's when necessary.

    January 13, 2013/Reply