AdviceStyle + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle Roundup: Vol. III, No. Thirty-One

Just two posts today.  Working on some bigger posts for this week and needed the extra hours to put into those efforts.  Enjoy the Ask Belles, see you tomorrow.


My beloved Lululemon gym bag is slowly dying on me, and I’m searching for a replacement.  I would rather not spend gobs of money on another Lulu bag, but would like something functional and stylish that’ll fit sneakers and essentials but isn’t too big, since I’ll walk with it to work and don’t want to be jabbing into people or tripping over it at happy hours and such.  The Lo and Sons bags would be perfect but too pricey for me.  I’d like to stay under $90.

Thanks, A

There are two ways to handle a problem like this: 1) with a tradition, but chic, gym bag or 2) with an inexpensive duffel bag.

If you’re looking for a traditional gym bag, I found two that didn’t make me want to gag.  The Tannen yoga tote from North Face has a sleek style and a separate lap top pocket, in case you want your bag to multi-task.  I also liked the adidas Ultimate Club Bag, though it might be a bit too masculine for some ladies.

I prefer the look of a faux-leather fashion duffel like this Medium Weekender from Sole Society or this gray Imogen duffel from Need Supply Co.  Prefer a fabric like a Nylon?  Try this MYCHOICE tote bag from Yoox or this Herschel Supply Duffel.


All of my pencil skirts are looking worn out. Could you help me find some skirts under-$100 to refresh my work outfits?  Wearing black and navy all the time is getting old.  

Thank you, Cecily

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Ponte Perfect Pencil ($80) // LOFT Curvy Fit Pencil ($70) // Hinge Mixed Media Pencil ($68) // Style & Co. Pull-On Pencil ($25) 

When you’re buying inexpensive pencil skirts, you’ll often find choices that are a little on the snug side.  But that doesn’t mean they’re entirely off-limits.  If you need breathing room, buy one or two sizes up and have the waist taken in.  It’s not a particularly expensive alteration, and if you really love a color or pattern, there is a way to make it work appropriate by sizing up.

As for fall colors to look for, if you already have the dark neutrals covered, why not try camel or gray?

Looking for fall colors?  I used cobalt above because I think it’s an all-season color.  It’s also a great way to incorporate brights into a cold weather wardrobe.  And if you’d rather have a skirt that you can zip up, this cobalt pencil from The Limited is a great choice.

Above, I also mixed in a bold purple shade and a paprika color.  The LOFT skirt also comes in peacock teal and mustard.  My favorite burgundy skirt is this tabbed skirt from The Limited.

Plus-size?  The cobalt skirt and purple skirt above also come in plus-sizes.  I also like this eggplant, inverted pleat pencil from Macy’s.  This teal skirt from Jones New York is also chic (love the wider waistband).

Hi Belle,

I have been searching for a camel colored school boy blazer for fall  and I can’t seem to find one that won’t break the bank. Any suggestions?


I found two great choices for you.  First, this gorgeous Italian wool blazer from Club Monaco that comes in at $398.  More of a financial commitment, but the materials look like they warrant the cost.

Second, this $129 Jones of New York blazer that looks perfectly fitted.  Don’t like the gold buttons?  It’s easy to have your dry cleaner or tailor swap them out for tortoise or horn.


One of the reasons I read your blog is that you don’t go nuts for all the trends, but what do you think of flat ankle boots?  I’d like to find a cheaper pair, maybe $75 or less, to give the look a try.  Have you seen any that you like?


If you want to indulge in a trend piece, I support that.  Just make sure that you spend an amount of money you’ll be comfortable with provided you don’t wear the piece very often.  Also, make sure that the new item flatters your figure or suits your style.  Trying to work a fashion-forward backpack into a wardrobe full of business suits is probably too steep of a curve.

As for flat boots, I like these taupe boots with a buckle detail from Zara.  I also spotted these Amarillo Boots from Wanted that come in all the neutral shades you could hope for.  And if you don’t mind a heel, these Forever21 boots, in suede with a strap detail, are the best thing I found by far…especially at $37.

Hi Belle,

I’m hoping to find a white or ivory sweater dress to wear with black tights and boots.  I’d love some suggestions that cost less than $150.  Have you come across anything good lately?


White or ivory sweater dresses are a great choice for fall/winter.  Wearing one with black is a great idea.  In the autumn, also try cognac boots or a leather jacket.  And don’t ignore the power of grey and burgundy with lighter neutrals.

This off-white sweater dress from Ralph Lauren with chevron details is the greatest. Oh look, I just bought it.  Reader questions always unearth things that I never knew I always wanted.

I also found this great Club Monaco sweater dress that comes in tan or white with black shoulder detail.  I also liked this pale oatmeal Merona dress with a pleated skirt.  And if white or ivory just isn’t for you, this grey melange dress from Mossimo is a nice alternative.



  1. m says:

    Camel blazer — check out J Crew Factory for the schoolboy blazer in camel. $120 and you can get 30% off and free shipping with BUZZ before 2pm. It’s quality stuff for that price point.

    September 30, 2013/Reply
  2. kelly says:

    This Lug gym bag is incredible – soooo many pockets, big enough to hold everything you need, separate pockets for dirty clothes/shoes.

    September 30, 2013/Reply
    • Ashley says:

      I also came to recommend a lug bag. I had a green Lug bag in another style that I carried for the better part of three years. Mine got a bit dirty from carrying on the Metro nearly everyday but otherwise, it was great. I had no problems with the construction or overall quality.

      September 30, 2013/Reply
  3. Caitlin says:

    J Crew Factory has tons of pencil skirts, usually with a 30% promotion.

    Belle, I know you don’t *love* J Crew but the Factory wool pencil skirts have lasted several years for me (although I would be skeptical of skirts made from their trendy fabrics/materials).

    September 30, 2013/Reply
    • m says:

      I second that. Factory Pencil skirts also fit me better than retail.

      September 30, 2013/Reply
  4. Meredith says:

    This Augusta Sportswear bag is a great little gym bag. Has a separate compartment for shoes and small things like towels, but it functional and has nice clean lines. Comes in a slew of colors, though I own the maroon.

    September 30, 2013/Reply
  5. AJB says:

    I have an REI women’s gym bag (I requested it specifically for christmas after doing a TON of searching). It basically the size of a messenger bag, and I’m obsessed with it. It has a ton of pockets including a separate compartment for your shoes, a section for you to snap in your yoga mat, and a hook to hang your bag long-ways so it fits nicely in a gym locker. Plus the price is super reasonable at $60. There is also a tiny front pocket that was basically made for your SmartTrip and super easy access when commuting to and from work.,-gem-blue?preferredSku=8279970005&cm_mmc=cse_PLA-_-pla-_-product-_-8279970005&mr:referralID=f8c3d8c3-2a12-11e3-a8bc-001b2166c62d

    September 30, 2013/Reply
  6. Kit says:

    What’s a good way to judge when a pencil skirt is too tight? Is it good if it doesn’t crease across the front when you’re standing naturally? That can still be fairly snug. I find that, in several of my favorite brands, one size is a little snug in the hips (though still a little loose around the waist, but if I go a size up, I’m swimming in it. I was hoping to avoid having to do major alterations, but I also don’t want to commit a major faux pas.

    September 30, 2013/Reply