Ask Belle Roundup: Vol. IV, No. Six

Jan 27, 2014

Dear Belle,

In April my boyfriend and I will be heading to Rome for 4 days followed, by 4 days at the Amalfi Coast. I am a chronic over-packer so my goal for this trip is to fit everything into a carry on.  Can you suggest some pieces and outfits that will be stylish, and appropriate for both locations?

Thanks! -Counting down the days

I like cotton maxi dresses for traveling.  They’re comfortable, somewhat dressy and can be styled to suit any climate.  I own this Splendid short-sleeve dress in navy.  If you prefer sleeveless, this Felicity & Coco dress is a nice choice, and I like this Gypsy 05 striped dress.

Looking to save money?  Old Navy has a large selection of jersey dresses in all styles.  I like this short, rugby-stripe dress.

Plus-size? Try this Caslon dress with a drawstring waist.  Petite?  This Gap tank dress is nice.  Tall?  Old Navy has a lot of choices in taller sizes.

Jersey dresses are easy to pack, don’t take up much room and can be worn for many occasions.  They’re all I pack when I’m on personal travel in the spring/summer.

Hi Belle,

To an upcoming wedding, I’m planning to wear a sheer yoke cocktail dress, similar in style to this. However, I’m a bit lost as to how to accessorize such a dress!  Would a necklace detract from the look of the sheer neckline?  Should I stick to a pair of larger statement earrings and forego a necklace altogether?  

Thanks! Kristen

While I prefer a simpler look sans jewelry, if you choose the right necklace, it will enhance the look of the dress.  The trick is to choose a necklace the lines up perfectly with the neckline of the dress.  You want it to look like the necklace is attached to the neckline.

In addition to length, color is critical.  The color of the necklace should complement the colors of the dress.  For a black-on-black look, try this Anne Klein crystal necklace.  This Vince Camuto necklace with mauve and dark stones is also a nice choice.  I also like this Cara tiered collar necklace, it could be worn with a variety of outfits.

Dear Belle,
I love the going out look of a fitted crop top with a pencil skirt, but I can’t find crop tops that aren’t too “Pretty Woman” (I’m looking at you, Forever 21). Do you have suggestions for affordable crop top and pencil skirt pairings that are sexy, yet classy?

Thank you! Alissa

Miss M and I were just having a discussion about wearing crop tops to evening events last week.  We’ve come to the agreement that they can be worn if they show just a sliver of flesh.  A hint of skin, if you will.  So you will need two things: a longish crop top and a high-waisted pencil skirt.

For the skirt, this black Express pencil is an inexpensive option.  I also like this midi-length Robert Rodriguez option.  If you want color, I like this pale pink Edea skirt from ASOS.

For the top, I like the look of long-sleeves best.  This Torn by Ronny Kobo top is a basic choice.  This boxy-cut, striped Alice + Olivia top is also a good option.  For something under-$75, this short-sleeve, striped Topshop top is cute, as is this quilted top from Solow.

Hi Belle,

I’ve been searching for a longish down puffer coat all winter but haven’t been able to find one that won’t make me look like the michelin man.  I’m looking for warmth but also some shape. Is that so much to ask for? Ideally, I’d like to spend less than $150, which might be challenging, but any help would be appreciated.

Thanks, Sarah

I’m not a fan of puffer jackets.  It’s more than you were looking to spend, but I own this Patagonia jacket with a down liner.  It has the look of a regular coat with the warmth of down.  In your price range, this Land’s End coat would be a good alternative (also comes in plus-sizes).

If you want to stay under-$150, there are some more fitted down choices.  This Ellen Tracy jacket has a belted waist for a slimmer silhouette.  This Uniqlo coat also has a smoother look.

Ask The Edit, Ask the Editor, Style

share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. anon says:

    hey i’d really like to see what you suggest for the crop top/skirt links but all the links circle back to your blog

  2. amanda says:

    All of your links all day have been bad….can you fix them?? I want to see all of your fantastic suggestions!

  3. Beth says:

    Sarah: I know it is above budget at $250 – but I have this Patagonia puffer (though it isn’t down, I think poly blend fill). I love it for North Carolina winters. It has a remarkably tailored look.

  4. Anon says:

    Sarah- check out corporette for suggestions of puffer jackets. There have been a lot of discussions/suggestions about those in the comments recently.

  5. AR says:

    I bought the Icon 10 down coat by Add a couple of years ago when I still lived in Chicago and it’s the best winter money I ever spent.
    They look to be sold out most places but you might be able to track one down on ebay. They’re pretty pricey but they hold up amazingly well and you’ll have it for years. True, in most DC or NY winters you can get away without down but with the belt and hood I think this is much more flattering than “tech” type coats (North Face, Canada Goose, etc) if you’re facing the type of cold where down is necessary.

  6. Anna says:

    For the traveller: scarves! April might still be a little bit chilly and scarves will help keep you warm and stylish. I would pack one and buy some there as souvenirs for myself :). And yeah, dresses are the way to go for easy packing. Comfy and can be dressed up or down. I’d pack 5, maybe 6 dresses, a light jacket (which you can wear on the plane), a scarf, maybe a cardigan, flats, sandals, and maybe a heel that you can pair with a day dress if you guys are going to go clubbing or something. Otherwise, skip it if you and the boy are just going to hang out or go to dinner at night. They take up a lot of space. Oh and under and sleep things. No sweat fitting it into a carry on with plenty of space for Italian goodies.

  7. Lauren says:

    My mom, sister, and I each purchased three different Lands’ End down parkas last season during a frigid trip to Chicago, and with all of the polar vortex days so far this winter, they have been put to good use. I recommend them! Looks like they’re pretty picked over online, but you can always look for a Lands’ End Shop at Sears.

  8. Anna says:

    I don’t know if they’re ever going to bring it back, but last year, I bought this coat in purple in petite for less than $100 (think I paid $98): Best. Money. Ever. Spent. Even when the temps have been below 20, I’ve been toasty warm with a long sleeve shirt, no sweater or anything, scarf and hat. I actually started sweating on my walk to work during the polar vortex. Even when it’s really cold and windy, I feel just the tiniest chill every once in a while, but otherwise warm. It’s pretty flattering as far as down coats go, and the only negative reviews seem to be about the zipper which has never been a problem for me.

  9. CH says:

    If you’re planning on going to the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica while in Rome, keep in mind that the dress code is, essentially, “covered” – no short skirts, no bare shoulders. It was being very stringently enforced when I was there last summer. Also, everyone has this idea of sunny hot Italy, but in April it’s typically on the cool side – you should consider adding a pair of jeans, a sweater, and a jacket to the packing list.

    And this always comes up with travel questions, but comfortable shoes. Seriously. Don’t wait until your vacation to break them in!

    • Ellen says:

      I was just going to make a similar comment. I was just in Rome this past summer and many of the tourist attractions are church related so you are going to want to make sure that your skirts cover the knee and that your shoulder are covered. One cardigan or even a scarf used as a shawl can accomplish this. It was scorching hot when I was there but that was July/August. I could see the Almalfi coast getting chilly in April. I was at Lake Como in the summer and it could get breezy and cool.

      As far as shoes, I hope this doesn’t shun me for mentioning this, but I LIVED in my various colored gizeh Birkenstocks. They were amazing (hence the reason why I never gave them up!) to walk my average of 10 miles each day. Also, which made me feel a tad bit better, they are omnipresent in Rome and also give the “ok” by Vogue this past summer. 🙂

    • SamW says:

      We went to Italy the end of May/early June last year and it was unseasonably cool (like 50’s) so layers are essential. I had a pashmina that I either used as a wrap or scarf, and lucked out at Zara in Rome and bought a nice cotton Macintosh-style jacket that was a savior. Pair those with some skinny jeans and you’re covered.

      Definitely bring sturdy shoes as the sidewalks are nothing like ours in the US. Converse are popular over there. I wore Grasshoppers — they’re like Keds and kind of mom-ish but incredibly comfortable even hiking on the Path of Gods in Amalfi.

      I also had a foldover crossbody bag and added these little zip ties where the strap met the bag but I really didn’t notice any pick-pocketers or anyone hassling us and we were in all parts of Italy. Just keep a hand on your bag as you walk through big crowds or crowded buses.

  10. It’s funny, I’m a master packer when it comes to getting around for weeks on end with a carry on. But when I actually try to say what I do – it’s rather difficult to describe. In cities in particular, I think the easiest thing is just to wear black and stick with minimal jewelry and shoes. It can even be your palate for the Amalfi coast with a few fun accessories.

    • CH says:

      Agree that wearing black/neutrals is a great way to “blend in” when you’re traveling in a big city. The first time I ever went to Europe, in college, I packed two jackets: one yellow, one pink. I felt so goofy and self-conscious around all the sophisticated women in their skinny black trousers and classic trench coats.

  11. espie says:

    For the traveler: I second CH! If you’re planning on seeing any cathedrals or the Vatican you will need to cover your shoulders and have a skirt that hits your knees. If its quite warm, a scarf works well to double as a wrap but make sure that your skirt is longer. When I was there-this was strictly enforced as well!

  12. GoGoGo says:

    I’ve never been to Rome, but I’ve heard pickpocketing can be bad at the big sites. If you’re going siteseeing, you might want to be thinking about that when you decide what purse or pocketed outfit to bring.

    Some people also wear a money belt under their clothes for extra security. (Sexy, I know! But if it puts your mind at ease, why not.) If you’re doing that, don’t forget a flowy top to wear over it. You don’t want to have to reach up your dress every time you need to buy something!

    • Ellen says:

      I didn’t have an issue with pickpocketing in Rome but my mother in law, who goes once a year, was very mindful of it. A cross body bag is a must!

      • GoGoGo says:

        Good thinking.

        A cross body bag, maybe something with a finicky little clasp and an interior side pocket so it’s hard to reach into. Or, that seems sensible to me at least.

        • Phoebe says:

          Or, a slouchy hobo-type bag that is tough to unzip unless you do it yourself/straighten the bag out is a good choice.

          My mom carried one when we were going through Venice when I was a kid. A pickpocketer tried to open her bag, but because it was slouchy, it was tough to open and my mom ended up feeling someone tug at her bag. So she prevented the person from pickpocketing her.

          It was a pickpocketing team. The one man blew on top of my head to get me to look up and distract me while the woman went for my mom’s purse.

  13. MDH says:

    My husband and I honeymooned in Rome / Amalfi in April. I definitely 2nd Belle’s maxi suggestion because the weather can fluctuate. I would make sure you bring a couple stylish jackets and sweaters – I brought a field jacket and a couple blazers, and then a couple cardigans, and changed up the layers! Scarves would also be an easy, light way to change your look with these staple pieces. My biggest regret was not bringing better shoes. Ballet flats didn’t cut it walking all over the streets of Rome for 3 days (and we walked almost everywhere!). So my last recommendation would be a pair of J. Crew Minnie or Pixie pants, Supergas (comfortable but stylish sneakers), and then again, a cute jacket/sweater/scarf combo. I found that I preferred pants when we were in some of the dustier locations, and sneakers would definitely have been better for walking on the uneven ground of the ruins. Have fun!

    • Ellen says:

      I second the sturdy shoe comment. Rome does a number on your feet because of all of the cobblestones. I bought Supergas from their store near the Spanish steps when I was there. While you can get them easily here (and even on sale at Nordstroms Rack and on sites like Gilt) it could be a fun souvenir!

  14. Jess says:

    Sarah, I got this jacket from LE and it’s lovely. If you’re looking for a puffer coat with shaping, this is great. Like someone else said, try Sears stores if you can’t find what you want online. I have the grey and it’s gorgeous.

  15. Helena says:

    Maxi dresses will definitely work for Amalfi and probably Rome, but I’d bring something more fitted and sexy for night, as well. The denizens of Rome tend to dress up and you don’t want to stick out too much as a tourist.

  16. Megan says:

    In the upper midwest, it doesn’t matter if you don’t like down jackets, they’re the only option, and Land’s End is the place to go. I got this one recently:

    LE kids’ sizes run large, so if you’re on the shorter side and smaller than about a size 8, kids are an option. The navy isn’t nearly as shiny as it looks in the picture, and it has a place to write my name and phone number on the inside! 😉

  17. GingerR says:

    We were in Rome a bit earlier, over Spring break, and if the sun was out it was warm, if it wasn’t then it was cool and we had a few rainy days. We often ate in Piazzas heated with gas torches. You’ll be outside a lot, walking around, riding buses, admiring fountains…a light jacket with a scarf/sweater/hat/gloves to layer can be helpful in stretching a carry-on wardrobe.
    I felt that Rome wasn’t quite as stylish as Madrid, but people are dressed for city life and you’ll want to blend in.

  18. We have a brand here called TNA that sells puffers that don’t make you look like a Michelin Man..

    As a Canadian, I swear by a goose down jacket especially with recent temperatures of -20C or lower (-4 F or lower)

  19. Robin says:

    For the Italy traveler, I’d like to suggest to travel as light as possible. In Italy, it is notoriously difficult to move large suitcases around, whether at the train station or airport. There are few elevators & many stairs. Make sure you can easily move your own suitcase by carrying, not just pulling along. In the Almafi coast, the sea side towns are built into a cliff. If possible, find a porter to bring your bags to the hotel. We stayed in Positano and even at 5Euro per bag, this was a huge life saver. The porter was available near the parking garage. These towns are all steps and huge cobblestones down to the hotels from the top of a large hill. Finally, consider carefully your shoe selection due to the cobblestones and many, many steps as it can be a bit difficult to navigate.

    • SLG says:

      Seconded. For European travel in general, it’s a good idea not to expect escalators, elevators, etc — even in the public transit system. Be ready to walk up and down a lot of steps, while carrying your stuff. Rolling suitcases are great in airports, not so much in other places.

      A while back LL Bean carried luggage that doubled as a hiking-style backpack — with sturdy straps, back support, waist belt, etc. All the backpack-style straps could also be concealed/zipped inside the back so you could check it as needed, or carry it around like a normal duffel bag. Best. luggage. ever.

      I don’t see the exact one I have on their site anymore, but here’s something sorta similar (and you could probably call LL Bean to get recommendations):

  20. CG says:

    For the Italian Traveler – don’t forget to stock up on sample sizes of your favorite cosmetics before you go. These can be fantastic space savers. For other items try MUJI for small plastic bottles that you can decant your favorite lotions/cleanser/creams into.

    • Anon says:

      Sample sizes are not just space savers – they are necessary for the liquids restrictions if you are only taking carry-on. And don’t forget your adaptor plugs if you are bringing any electricals/phone or camera chargers/etc – we have different sockets over here(you can find out the requirements here:

  21. The Amalfi Coast and Rome should be warm during the day but may cool down at night. And if you go to Capri you will definitely have some breezes – and they pick up in the late afternoon/evening. A light jacket and scarves will help. If you like hiking you will have plenty of options on the Amalfi Coast and Capri so consider one hiking outfit and especially comfortable walking shoes.

Join The List

Stay up to date on the latest from Capitol Hill Style!


The Edition: No. 374

Yes, it’s back.



Recent Posts

Styling White for Fall and Winter

A white or cream business suit is a great choice in the summer, but who needs to spend hundreds of dollars on a suit that they can only wear three months of the year? Here’s how to restyle your white or cream suit for fall/winter. Cream Suits vs. White Suits // For my money, a […]



The Range: A Suit for Work

Have you ever just forgotten about a brand? Like had a brand completely fade from your memory, only to reappear and make you wonder how you ever forgot? For me, that’s LK Bennett.




Top Posts, Workday Reading | July 19, 2024

The Edition: No. 374

Yes, it’s back.



Career Style, Posts, Style, Work | July 18, 2024

Styling White for Fall and Winter

A white or cream business suit is a great choice in the summer, but who needs to spend hundreds of dollars on a suit that they can only wear three months of the year? Here’s how to restyle your white or cream suit for fall/winter. Cream Suits vs. White Suits // For my money, a […]



Features, Posts, The Range | July 18, 2024

The Range: A Suit for Work

Have you ever just forgotten about a brand? Like had a brand completely fade from your memory, only to reappear and make you wonder how you ever forgot? For me, that’s LK Bennett.



Features, Posts | July 16, 2024

What I’m Really Buying on Prime Day

I will probably not open Instagram for the next two days. The Prime Day madness is just too thick. 90% of the items being promoted are things that I’ll throw away in two months (or less). But there are a handful of things I will use and are grateful to grab at a discount, here […]