Ask the Edit Vol. IV, No. Twenty-Five

Is La Mer the best face cream? What do you wear to an office Halloween Party?  Finding the perfect cognac tote, and more style advice on Ask the Edit.

Hi Belle,

I just learned that my office is having a mandatory costume contest for Halloween. Mandatory meaning that everyone will be included in the voting whether they wear a costume or not. What would you wear in this scenario? A professional or office appropriate Halloween costume seems like a tall order!

Thanks for the help! – Cait 

My first thought was Pam from The Office.  But I think the key is to pick an identifiable character who wears “normal” clothes.  Wear all pink and be Elle Woods.  Wear all brown and a sash an be a Girl Scout.  Or buy a gingham dress and a picnic basket with a stuffed dog in it and be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.  The key is that with just one or two adjustments, you should be able to walk out onto the street an no one know you’re in costume.

Hi – Have you heard of the brand & Other Stories? I just discovered it and am wondering how the quality stacks up – the prices seem low. Thanks so much.

– Annie 

I own a few pieces from that shop.  Yes, consistently mid-level prices are pretty great, and the quality is good also.  The clothes are made slightly better than the wares at Zara, though they can be hit or miss (with far more hits).

I just bought this burgundy box bag from them to use on the weekends.  This crepe shift dress is the kind of piece you can throw on and accessorize to wear to anything.  I also just bought this black blouse with detailed sleeves and a high collar.  I’m really excited to wear it with my new DvF skirt.

Hi Belle, 

I use a cognac tote almost every day.  I’ve been buying inexpensive ones, but they make it through a year before they fall apart (my last tote was this one in tan). I’m nervous that spending more money won’t solve the problem – Is there really a bag of this kind that will hold up to daily use?

Thank you in advance for your expertise!  JT

Your fears are understandable.  Nothing is worse than buying an item only to discover the only thing they elevated was the price.  I can’t speak to all pricey cognac totes, but I can give you a few quality options.

People rave (rave!!) about the Madewell Transport Tote and Transport Zip Tote.  Buy them on, and you can return them if they start to fall apart too soon in their life cycle.  Another highly rated option is the Everlane Day Market Tote, which is as basic as it gets.  For something more modern (and in vegan leather), Matt & Nat’s Henna tote has a really cool, modern shape.

Hey there Belle —

I’m sick of grabbing my purse when I’m just running to a quick meeting in the Capitol. Is there a chic folio around that can keep all my things (personal and work phones, ID, note pad, pen) secure but not look bulky?

– Meg 

Mark & Graham make something called the Commuter Clutch that looks like it might be a solution.  This Truss woven folio is just plain cool.  You might also have a look at this folio wallet.

For something a little sleeker, I also love this tassel pouch from GILI (though you’ve need a small notebook).  If push comes to shove, just repurpose an old, overused clutch.  This one from ASOS would work well.

Hi Abra,

Do you think La Mer creme is the best nighttime face lotion out there? Does it warrant the price?

– Mary Ann Z

The answer to this question is, no.  First off, I’ve never been particularly impressed with La Mer’s products.  I bought their sample kit once (for like $115) and was like, “Wait, this is it?  This is all this does?” after seeing basically no change in my skin.  While it may work for some women, for me it was all hype.

Second, the best skin cream is the one that give your skin what it needs.  It takes a LOT of trial and error to figure out which cream that is.  Some that I’ve tried and loved range from the uber-pricey Tammy Fender Intensive Repair Balm, to the somewhat more affordable Ole Henriksen Nurture Me cream and Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whip Cream.

Your best play is to go to Sephora or Nordstrom, describe your skin concerns and get a truckload of samples.  If you like something, go back for seconds.

[image of London found here]

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  1. Liz says:

    Re: the office Halloween costume
    I’ve always found Flo from Progressive, Rosie the Riveter, or Holly Golightly to be the easiest, lazy, I’m-wearing-what-I-already-own costumes.

    Flo = White jeans, white shirt, winged eyeliner and red lipstick, updo, white apron with the Progressive logo. Remove apron after the party.
    Rosie = jeans, tucked in chambray shirt, some sort of brown shoe or work boot, red lipstick, ponytail and red bandanna. Remove bandanna after the party.
    Holly = black sheath dress and pumps, trenchcoat (optional), winged eyeliner, updo, white gloves and tiara. Remove gloves and tiara after the party. If you work in a more formal setting or need to meet with clients after the party, Holly could be a good option to quickly transition into professional attire.

    September 21, 2017/Reply
  2. Stephanie says:

    My go-to professional office costume is always pirate- black pencil skirt, white blouse (I have one that has a bit of a ruffle detail at the neck that works well for this), black boots (my normal fall ones) gold hoop earrings, and then I have a eye patch and red bandana that I can pop on for the “oh look, I’m in costume” moments and pop off super easily.

    September 21, 2017/Reply
  3. Jess says:

    I have the JCrew version of the Transport Tote. Be warned, they are one huge giant hole! It drove me crazy that I had to continually paw through my bag to find anything! I solved it with this $5 art organizer inside when I realized those fancy purse organizers were also fancy expensive!

    Now I love it and I can switch to other large purses with no problems!

    September 21, 2017/Reply
    • MK says:

      Wow this organizer looks perfect for a cheap way to organize the black hole! Thanks!

      September 22, 2017/Reply
  4. Pompom says:

    woMEN in black: regular suit, black shades, zap people’s memories with your usual pen.

    September 21, 2017/Reply
  5. Elz says:

    My go to Office costume is the Attorney General- I’m an attorney and I pin some of my husband’s old insignia on & add a hat. Voila. Rosie the Riveter is the fallback.

    September 21, 2017/Reply
  6. Jules says:

    Last year’s office costume was easy for me.
    I bought a black drapey cape thing from Walmart and a scary mask. I just wore it over regular black clothes and wore the mask when the occasion called for it.
    Or, use it as an excuse to wear PJ’s at work, and call it a costume 🙂

    September 21, 2017/Reply
  7. Kate says:

    RE Halloween party – I had luck wearing a black dress, cutting out jack o’lantern features (eyes, mouth) with orange construction paper, and using scotch tape rings to tape it to myself.

    Also have a somewhat subtle grey/black/white leopard print dress – got a headband with cat ears and was set.

    September 21, 2017/Reply
  8. Bethc says:

    For the Halloween no-costume costume, I’ve worn black pants/shirt/jacket/boots, then put on tiger stripe cat ears & a matching bow tie. It creates the costume without a major investment or being really obvious. Bonus: I’ve put the bow tie on my cat before for a great social media picture.

    September 21, 2017/Reply
  9. Allison says:

    I hated lugging my purse around the Hill for meetings. I switched to this envelop clutch from Rebecca Minkoff and loved it. Fit two phones, a pen, and small notepad without too much bulk. The quality is great and I still use it all the time.

    September 26, 2017/Reply
  10. Caitlin says:

    Kinda cheesy, but I’m going as the “Washington Wizards” this year – got a cheap Wizards t-shirt, reusing my s/o’s graduation gown for a cape, and am working on acquiring a silly wizard hat. Remove the gown and the hat and you’re just… a person in a Wizards shirt. You could modify for whatever your local sports team is.

    September 28, 2017/Reply