Ask the Edit: Vol. IV, No. Twenty-Six

Solutions for dry hands, boots for fall, cocktail dresses for a conference, and more…

Dear Abra,

I am a longtime reader and a lawyer who needs fashion advice. Help! I need dress/outfit suggestions for a cocktail reception I am attending a national conference for judges. I would prefer not to wear a black suit or black dress, so I would appreciate your help. Please advice. Thank you!

– Alex

I agree with your instinct not to wear black.  While a chic LBD is a great piece to own, for these types of events, I think it’s helpful to stand out.  Plus, it’s fun to have a reason to get dressed up from time to time.

My first instinct would be a jewel-tone dress like this amethyst Karen Millen sheath.  It’s a work-appropriate length but has a feminine ruffle sleeve.  Other options include this green sleeveless sheath, this navy jacquard dress, and this $50 cobalt dress.  Plus-size?  This Leota circle-print dress is a nice day-to-night number.

You could also go with a printed wrap dress.  The RealReal has a huge selection of lightly used DvF dresses in many sizes.  I also like this Steffen Schraut dress in a blue and black print.

Another option might be a nice skirt and top.  This brocade bell sleeve top from Bloomingdale’s and this sharkskin grey skirt would be nice.

Hi Abra,

You posted about booties last week, but I need boots for work.  I’m looking for something tall with an under three-inch heel that I can wear with tights.  What have you seen?

Love the blog. Kay

There are fewer options in this category this year, probably do to the prevalence of booties.  Let’s see what we can find.

This Vince Camuto Estiva boot has sleek lines and a chunkier heel.  These Ralph Lauren wedge boots might also work, depending on the office.  And for something under-$75, this Impo Norris boot is a good choice.

But out of all the boots I saw, these Sam Edelman Olencia boots are the best.  They have a clean, sophisticated look and classic style.  The one hitch is a 3.5″ heel.  Though if you buy a half-size up, you can add an insole for more comfort and stability.

Wider calves? Lane Bryant has a cute pair of kitten heel boots in wider widths.

What is Squalane?  My skincare obsessed SIL keeps telling me I need to try it, but I don’t really want to ask her about it.  Please help.


Squalane is currently the must-have beauty buzzword.  It’s an antioxidant that hydrates and replenishes skin.  Like most of-the-moment skincare ingredients, I’ve heard everything from brighter skin, to fewer wrinkles, to no acne.  I tend not to believe any of it, until I see it on my own face.

The most popular brand is Biossance, which sells straight Squalane oil or adds it to eye creams and your Vitamin C serum.  For something more affordable, try The Ordinary’s Squalane serum.

Hi Belle,

Love your blog! I need your advice on styling pleated midi-length skirts (specifically a maroon one). I love the skirt, but am at a loss with how to wear it to work. Is it possible to wear it with flats? I work in a pretty casual office, but I like to occasionally wear skirts/dresses.

– Abby 

If you like midi skirts, this is your year.  Midis are everywhere, especially pleated midis.  Let’s take your styling questions one at a time.

Yes, you can wear flats.  However, they must be pointed toe.  Round toe shoes are going to look dowdy and matronly.  For a maroon skirt, I would try a dark grey shoe or a navy one.

For tops, I would try a cashmere sweater, Everlane has some nice ones.  I would recommend ivory, beige, camel, navy, or grey.  An ivory tie-neck blouse would be another nice choice.  Or think a little outside the box, and choose a blush-colored blouse.

The one thing to really avoid would be to add any more bulk.  A pleated skirt has a lot of weight to it, so don’t add an oversized cardi or a bell sleeve blouse.  Just stick with something sleeker and slimmer to balance the skirt.

In the mood for a maroon pleated skirt?  Try this one from Boohoo with box pleats.

Hi Abra.

Can you recommend a hand or cuticle cream?  It’s only September, and mine are already dry and splitting. Yuck.


I like O’Keeffe’s working hands.  It’s made for people who wash their hands a lot so it works well with dryness.  For something more natural, Burt’s Bees makes a good cuticle cream.  If it gets really bad, try a pair of moisturizing gloves.  I wear mine while I clean the house.

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  1. Diana says:

    For question 5- I recently purchased Aesop’s Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm and love it. It is a bit pricier for a hand balm ($27 for 2.5oz), but I keep it in my desk at work to use as a moment of luxury during a blah days. The citrus smell is not overpowering and fades fast, and it absorbs quickly enough that my keyboard doesn’t get greasy. This is my first foray into the brand, and I’m quite pleased!

    September 26, 2017/Reply
  2. Erika says:

    I have these boots and love them so much I buy a new pair almost every year. They are THE MOST comfortable boots and look super elegant with tights. They are amazing with DvF dresses etc. The heel looks much more expensive than it is and I can’t underscore how this boot goes for hours (and I am super sensitive in heels):

    September 27, 2017/Reply
  3. A.J. says:

    I used the Biossance squalane cleansing oil and it burned like hell (my eyes, that is). Plus it only did an okay job of removing eye makeup so I would not recommend. Pretty green bottle tho.

    September 27, 2017/Reply
  4. Cw says:

    I tried O’Keefee’s Working Hands a few years ago while living in the cold, cold Finger Lakes area and it left a tacky residue on my hands. Thick lip balms (anything with a vaseline-like consistency–I really like Glossier’s Balm Dotcom) work better on my dry knuckles and cuticles.

    September 27, 2017/Reply
    • Kelly says:

      In winter I use the O’Keefee’s nightly, or at least try to. If I slip up and things get worse (cracked/bleeding territory) I really like Yu-Be Skin Cream. It’s kind of pricey, but a little goes a LONG way. I use it for any dry or flaky skin (hands, lips, face, etc.) and it gives pretty quick relief.

      September 27, 2017/Reply
  5. SunnyIA says:

    For dry hands: Neutrogena Norwegian Hand Creme (fragrance free). I live in Iowa and I’m a dentist – I wash my hands dozens of times a day PLUS have to content with Midwest winters. I keep a tube in my car, one on my desk, and one in my purse. It’s cheap, a bottle lasts forever, and it doesn’t irritate my eczema.

    September 27, 2017/Reply
    • Justine says:

      +1 for Neutrogena Norwegian Hand Cream. It has an almost vaseline type consistency, but absorbs completely. It really does last through hand washing. I didn’t have a particular problem with dry hands before, but now my hands are SO SOFT. Works better than shea butter hand creams. It is also ridiculously inexpensive and you can get it at your local drugstore, Target, etc., so it doesn’t hurt to try.

      September 27, 2017/Reply