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Ask Belle Roundup: Quick Fashion Questions

Hi Belle!

I started moonlighting as a waitress when I started working on the Hill as an unpaid intern, 10 years ago. I kept my second job for a variety of reasons. I’ve now “retired” as a waitress, and I want to mark the occasion. My thought is to take my last two months of tips (just under $1000), and buy something nice that will last a while. What would you get?

Thanks for all you do! — India

The first thing to do is think about what you will use, what you will wear, what you will cherish 10, 20 years from now.  Perhaps it’s not something for your closet, maybe it’s a trip or a piece of art.

If you do decide to choose clothing, many women will say, “Buy a good pair of shoes.” But if you wear the shoes hard, you’re probably looking at five to 10 years, tops.

For my money, I would say a good quality bag, a solid trench coat, or a piece of jewelry that you can wear every day are your best bets.  For the bag, I like this Sophie Hulme bag, this Burberry trench, or these diamond studs from Mizuki.

Personally, I’d put the money in my savings account and wait for something wonderful to present itself.

Hi Belle,

Can you help me find a navy dress for work? I need something with 3/4 or long sleeves.  I want to spend less than $175.  Thank you!

Sincerely, Rae

Navy is a great year-round color.  If you can find something in a mid-weight or lightweight fabric, you’ll be in good shape for all but the hottest days.  Here are a few suggestions.


Structured Knit Dress ($158, also in petite)


Boden Westminster Dress ($138)


Karen Zambos Navy Dress ($120)

Plus-size?  This Mynt 1792 v-neck sheath is a nice choice. I couldn’t find an under-$100 choice that I liked, so if someone knows of a dress that fits what the reader was looking for in that price range, leave it in the comments.

Dear Belle,

My new employer has a rule about colored nail polish.  Is this common?  Anyway, the firm only allows pale pink shades.  Do you have a favorite?

Good luck in law school! Katey

It’s not uncommon for professional employers to have rules about nail color.  I wasn’t permitted to wear black or dark shades at one of my previous jobs.  As for pale pink shades, I am a fan of Deborah Lippmann’s ‘Shape of My Heart’ and Nails Inc.’s Mayfair Lane.

Need to make your polish last?  I love Deborah Lippmann’s Gel Lab base and top coat.  When I paint my nails with the gel set, I get a solid 8-10 days with no chips.



  1. trench coat lover says:

    Years ago, at my first job out of law school, I got an unexpected bonus. I used part of it to buy a classic burberry trench coat. It seemed really indulgent at the time. But, now 11 years later, I still wear that coat 2x a week (I live in a temperate climate), and think of that accomplishment every time I put it on.

    March 16, 2015/Reply
  2. Chris says:

    I love the second navy dress from Boden. But I kind of wonder: I’m in my late 20s — is there an aging-out date on the short, fit & flare look? I worry a bit.

    March 16, 2015/Reply
    • Anonymous says:

      There is a woman in my office – mid 40’s – who wears dresses much like the Boden one above, and she looks fantastic. She generally keeps the colors neutral (like a navy), often adds a blazer, and generally keeps the jewelry understated. Kind of a Claire Underwood look. I think you are right to be wary of length, but the Boden dress looks like it hits right at the knee, with a long option as well.

      March 17, 2015/Reply
    • Elizabeth says:

      I just bought this exact dress from the store (I live in the UK). I’m 5’8″ and got the long fit, which really makes it less fit and flare, and more of a nice A-line. I may get it hemmed by and inch, just to get it to the most flattering length. It is a medium weight, so great for London most of the year, but having moved from DC I wouldn’t recommend it for the summer months.

      March 20, 2015/Reply
  3. BB says:

    For a navy dress with sleeves under $100, I got this dress on sale from Talbots for my birthday last month (misses, petites, and womens sizes all have the navy version on sale for under $100). I’ve already worn it several times and I can tell it will be a regular in my wardrobe!

    March 16, 2015/Reply
  4. Giggling Gourmand says:

    I’m surprised about the nail polish rule and curious to know what other sartorial rules your employer imposes.

    March 16, 2015/Reply
  5. Diana says:

    For a pale pink polish that’s neither too bubble gum nor too white, I like CND Vinylux in Lavishly Loved #126. If you’re unfamiliar, Vinylux is the 7 day polish – it lasts a full workweek for me without problems, and it comes off easily on the weekend for a reset. I got it at Ulta.

    March 17, 2015/Reply