AdviceStyle + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle Roundup Vol. III, No. Thirty-Two

Hi Belle,

I have been a devotee of J.Crew’s black Minnie twill pants for a long time, but I am fed up with how they do not keep their shape. I’m looking for a replacement to get rid of the saggy bottom look. Can you recommend a pair of slim, capri or ankle length black pants, ideally with a little bit of stretch, that would be a good replacement? I typically wear them with both flats and heels.

Thanks! Sealy
ps – Love the blog even out here in San Francisco!

Unfortunately, you’re not going to learn whether they stretch in a bad way until you wear them a few times.  But if you wear skinny black trousers a lot, it might be a good idea to buy a couple of mid-price pieces and test them out to find a favorite.

I keep seeing these WHBM Perfect Form Ankle Pants advertised everywhere.  They claim they stretch, while retraining their shape, and that they’re flattering.  So that’s where I would start.

I also found these Alfani pants that cost less-than $50 and have a pull-on style to ensure a smooth tummy, and these Gap true straight trousers, also under-$50.  I also like these Elie Tahari Verda slim pants.  Plus-size ladies should check out these INC straight-leg trouser, and petites should check out these Julie straight legs from LOFT.

Hi Belle –

I love your blog and am hoping you might be able to help me. I desperately need a grown up weekend purse that doesn’t look odd when I’m out in jeans and a sweatshirt or at the farmers market. I find that I have a lot of work bags, but nothing that I can use for the weekends.

Can you help? Thanks! MW

First off, thank you so much for this question.  I am a firm believer in having different bags for the office and uber-casual times.  It makes your work bags look newer longer, and it pulls a casual outfit together better.  So let’s find you some choices!

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The IIIbeca Thomas Street Tote ($198) is a great casual bag.  How do I know?  I own one.  It holds it shape, is a great size and the adjustable straps are always the perfect length.  Plus, it’s super durable and holds up to a lot of wear.  Need something cheaper?  In the under-$100 category, we have this Melie Bianco Aria tote and this vegan-reversible tote from Urban Outfitters.

 A hobo bag is a great shape for casual wear, and this Deux Lux Bowery bag ($49) has great details and a cool look.  I also like the shape of this round French Connection hobo, and this taller turquoise Kelsi Dagger hobo.

Lastly, this Fossil Crossbody ($126) has a classic shape in a bold color.  It jazzes up neutral basics and breathes life into casual duds.  Should you want something with a bit more interest to the shape and embellishments, try this faux-leather bag from Street Level for under-$50.

Hi Belle!

I’m obsessed with embellished sweaters, shirts and dresses. Can you suggest some cute pieces for fall? Also, are embellished dresses work appropriate? Daily reader!

Thanks, Alycia

Whether an embellished piece is work appropriate depends on a) your office and b) how embellished the pieces are.  Most embellished pieces are better for after-hours, but some subtle sparkle can work in a more casual setting or on a casual day.

Some of my favorite embellished pieces right now are sweatshirts with sequin details.  I like the juxtaposition between the soft, casualness of the jersey fabric with the sparkle of the sequins.  This Aqua sweatshirt has a cool, jeweled crown on the front.  But for something subtle, check out this BLU Pepper sweatshirt with some beading on the sleeves.

For the office, you could try a blouse with embellishment on the collar.  This Markus Lupfer sweater has a Peter Pan collar with sequins that would look nice with trousers or under a blazer.  I also like this jewel-embellished top from Rebecca Taylor.  I also like the sequin trim on the sleeves of this Club Monaco top, and on the shoulders of this Mango blouse.

Hi Belle,

I have been wearing cheap black ballet flats for years but am ready to invest in a nicer pair.  I’ve heard good things about London Sole.  I want something that is comfortable and has some support for my feet, while not looking like a grandma.  Any recommendations?
Thanks, Sarah
I don’t know anything about that brand.  Do you mean French Sole?  Either way, I’ve never owned a pair.
Regardless, if you’re looking for nice black ballet flats, there are lots of good options.  I have worn the Geox brand, known for their softer soles and breathable materials, and this black toe-cap flat is pretty spectacular.  My Mother is a fan of Frye flats, and these almond-toe Agnes shoes are nice.  And if you want a well-made flat under-$100, my friend K can’t stop raving about her Halogen Leesa flats.



  1. Rachel says:

    The Gap true straight pants stretch out a lot during the day (wearing them right now…they’re my “comfy” pants). I’ve good luck with Banana Republic’s ponte pants — I have a pair from last year that I wear all the time and have never stretched out, though they might be a bit casual for most offices. I think this is what I have:

    October 7, 2013/Reply
    • M says:

      I have a few pairs of these Banana pants as well and absolutely love them. The back pockets do make them a little more casual so I try and wear something long enough on top that will cover them.

      October 7, 2013/Reply
  2. Michelle says:

    London Sole and French Sole are the same – one name is used in Europe and one is used here in the US.

    October 7, 2013/Reply
    • Maria says:

      Ladies, London Sole =/= French Sole:
      London Sole is generally better. Most of French Sole is made in Italy or Spain, but have rubber soles. There is a FS outlet store in NYC, where you can buy them for as low as $50. In the same category is a brand called Pretty Ballerinas:

      If you are looking to really invest I would go with Salvatore Ferragamo Varas or Varinas. The Varas have a bit more of a heel if you are looking for that. They will last for years. J.Crew’s Kiki ballet flats feel very comfortable and right now with the 40% off of final sale you can get them for $60, which is great value for Italian leather.

      But whatever you do, please just don’t get the Tory Burch.

      October 8, 2013/Reply
  3. Kate says:

    I have had a pair of french sole before and loved them. They run a bit small but, once you break them, they are incredibly comfortable. They are often on RueLaLa.

    October 7, 2013/Reply
  4. Kaye says:

    She means London Sole . They’re awesome- I have 2 pairs. I bought the first about 4 years ago, thinking the thin leather would wear through in a year (I’ve been told I am ‘hard on’ my shoes, despite my best efforts)… they’re still going strong. I wear the newer pair (2 years old) as ‘dressy’. They’re expensive, but man, do they last!

    October 7, 2013/Reply
    • Kaye says:

      P.S. To address what was actually asked… London Sole is great for small and/or narrow feet. However, they do not have much support (they’re meant to be almost weightless). I’ve worn them for long walks and been fine, but I wouldn’t recommend them if you have to stand for hours on end or have knee/back problems. They’re more of a ‘pretty’ flat.

      October 7, 2013/Reply
  5. SM says:

    The Maria Sharapova for Cole Haan Air Bacara Ballet are by far my favorite. I literally own 10 pairs in different colors and am hoarding about 3 extra pairs of black ones in my closet, lest they stop making them. Right now, you can get the black ones on Amazon for about $105, much less than the normal $150

    October 7, 2013/Reply
  6. Nicole says:

    Check out Tieks for a flat

    October 7, 2013/Reply
    • CH says:

      I’m so tempted to get a pair of Tieks because they’re adorable, but oy vey they’re expensive! Are they worth the price?

      October 8, 2013/Reply
      • Belle says:

        I didn’t think so. I hated that you could see the turquoise sole the whole time and the gold color looked like dried urine.

        October 8, 2013/Reply
  7. Lisa says:

    Belle or anyone else who might be able to help:

    I’m going to Bangladesh for work, and was told I would need to dress business professional and be covered “collarbones to calves.” I should mention that the weather there is around 90F and 90% humidity.

    Save me from melting in pants suits. Where can I find professional skirts that won’t leave my calves available for ogling? (Or: Can I pair an ankle length pleated skirt with a blazer? How about a mid-calf a-line?)


    October 7, 2013/Reply
    • Anna says:

      I would think trouser leg pants with an airy blouse would be the most flattering and functional. Since they’re not tight, air can circulate and they won’t be sticky, but they also wouldn’t be as matronly as a long skirt.

      October 8, 2013/Reply
  8. CK says:

    I have the WHBM perfect form pants and really like them. I’ve worn them a lot over the past several months and they have held their shape. Plus, they are machine washable.

    October 7, 2013/Reply
  9. Abbey says:

    I just bought these and LOVE them:

    They are classy and super comfortable

    October 7, 2013/Reply
  10. Cheri says:

    I have the Gap Slim Cropped Pants in black. All of the other colors stretch out a ton by mid-day, but my black ones are a thicker, ponte fabric (they run a size smaller). I’ve now worn them 3 times and sent to the dry cleaner. They fit the same as day 1.

    October 7, 2013/Reply
  11. MeredithS says:

    I have the Jcrew minnies, and I love them. the thing about them, though, is that you have to size down like they say so that they wear well (because they do stretch).

    October 7, 2013/Reply
  12. LC says:

    I also recommend the Banana Republic Sloan Fit slim ankle pants. They come in a variety of fun and professional colors, has a good stretch, and doesn’t look too fitted. Quick summary: J. Crew Minnie pants are for the weekend but the BR Sloan Fit pants are for the weekday.

    October 7, 2013/Reply
  13. T says:

    Lisa: I worked in the Middle East for a while so “collarbone to ankle” covered. Most women wore pantsuits, however a lot of women in our offices also ended up wearing a maxi skirt (nothing too clingy is important) and and a top/buttoned blazer combo up top. If you’re clearly foreign (ie white) you’ll also have more leeway as long as you’re covered enough to show that you’re making an effort (make sure you’re still covered down bottom when you sit down).

    October 8, 2013/Reply
  14. Katherine says:

    As I understand it, French Sole in Europe is London Sole in the US. French Sole in the US is an unrelated company and is not as nice quality-wise as London Sole.

    How do Tieks run? If I normally wear 6.5, should I order 7?

    October 8, 2013/Reply
  15. VCS says:

    A third rec for the Sloan Fit pants at BR- I own four pairs and especially appreciate that they are work-appropriate, yet still casual enough for the weekend. Have owned the Minnie’s as well and agree, they stretch too much, too quickly.

    October 8, 2013/Reply
  16. Liz says:

    AGL’s are the most comfortable flats I have ever owned!

    October 8, 2013/Reply
  17. Iris says:

    There are two separate “French Sole” companies. One originated in New York (fs/ny, est. 1983) with its flagship store located in the Upper East Side. The other originated in London (est. 1989) and is trademarked globally except for the US, where it is called London Sole.
    No personal experience yet with either brand though.

    October 8, 2013/Reply
  18. Jennifer says:

    A fourth rec for the Sloan Fit pants at BR. I hadn’t bought pants there in a long time (couldn’t find anything I liked), tried on a pair in the new vermillion, and now want all the colors. I’ve worn them to work (where I sit almost all day) and also to a day-long beer tasting (standing almost all day), and they haven’t sagged too much.

    For black flats, I swear by the Bloch Arabian III flats. After I broke them in, I wore them traipsing all over Europe and never had a blister. I did have to size up quite a bit, though (I usually am a 7.5/8 in flats, and had to purchase the 39.5 [European sizing]). Well made – I’ve had them two years now – just added a rubber sole to protect the bottoms better. Some of the other styles of Bloch flats are NOT comfortable though. I have a lovely dove grey pair in a different style that I can’t wear long enough to break in, but the Arabians are fantastic.

    October 8, 2013/Reply
    • M says:

      Belated second of Block flats. I have two pair of the patent ballerinas that are awesome. They don’t seem to have more padding than other flats, but somehow my feet never, ever get sore in them. Also, the bow is a real bow made of the same elastic as in ballet shoes. LOVE. They’re expensive, but I bought one pair on Amazon for $45 and the other on for $70.

      The Banana Republic Abby flats are also exceptionally comfortable. The elastic trim makes them more casual, though. Wait for one of the 40% off sales to get them for $40 ish.

      I have narrow feet that measure as a size 9, but 80% of my shoes are size 8.5. I have the Bloch flats in size 39 (if my feet were wider I’d definitely go up to 39.5 though), and I have the Banana Republic flats in 8.5.

      October 10, 2013/Reply
      • M says:

        Bloch* Thanks autocorrect.

        October 10, 2013/Reply
  19. Janine says:

    My Me Too flats are the entire package – comfortable, well-supported, and attractive! I think I originally ordered them from Nordstrom’s, and they cost about $90.

    October 13, 2013/Reply