Ask the Edit Vol. IV, No. Thirty-One

Hi Belle,

This is a very specific question but what shoes do you wear during your commute when it’s cold out? I live in DC and eventually, it will get too cold for flats. Winter boots don’t seem appropriate unless there’s snow on the ground but I also don’t want to beat up a nice pair of riding boots on my commute (I walk one mile to work). If I am to wear boots, do I tuck my trouser legs into them?

Thank you greatly! MB

This is a topic that comes up every year.  Commuting in inclement weather is not something you can understand until you’ve done it.  And then, once you’ve done it, all you want are solutions to this problem.

I wear mostly dresses and skirts, so when I’m in D.C., I wear tall Wellingtons with Smartwool socks under Hunter boot socks.  The only thing they’re not great for is ice, but usually, by the time it’s icy, I’m in my Sorels anyway.

If Hunters are too obviously rain boots for your taste, this Blondo pair and this Hilfiger pair have a sleeker look to them.  You might even be able to pretend they’re just boots.

If you are a pants-wearer, you can temporarily raise your hems with Style Snaps or Hem Clips.  I’ve also seen women using these magnetic CityClips.  In a pinch, you can tuck them in.  The trouble is that your pant hems may get wrinkled, so keep a bottle of wrinkle release spray in your bag/desk.

Another option is to commute in jeans, arrive 5-minutes earlier than usual, and change at the office.  I did that during the weeks after Snowpocalypse.  It was the only way.


Can you recommend a hair deep conditioner that isn’t going to make my hair board flat and boring for days and days?

Thank you, Oklahoma

You want a hair mask.  The only one I know of that doesn’t weight hair down is the Prenup Hair Spray Mask.  You use it in shower (so have a comb handy), and it works amazingly well for a 1-minute mask.  Use it once a week.  Just don’t be surprised if the first time you coat your shower walls in conditioner.


I was just staffed on a 5-month project in Portland, and I’ve only ever lived in the south. I own exactly 0 lined pants, fleece lined tights, or actually warm professional coats and have no idea how to fit all of that bulk in a carry-on. I think my “winter” clothes can get me though the fall there, but I’m worried that I’ll freeze in January if I don’t get a few good pieces. I’m especially clueless about which professional shoes to wear in the snow. If you suddenly needed a 2-week business (no jeans) rotation in a cold climate, what would you buy?

– Lauren

First off, have your winter clothes mailed to your hotel when you get there.  If you’re not going to need them, just buy the essentials and consider donating anything you won’t need.

Second, Portland is more wet than cold, though it snows there sometimes.  You will likely not need lined pants unless you’re working outside a lot.  Fleece-lined tights are a good idea.  A pair (or two) of good-weight wool pants would also help.

Third, keep your clothes in one color family.  Black works.  Add grey, white, and other colors as needed, but keep the majority black.  This will cut down on shoes and accessories you need to bring.

Lastly, as to the shoes, see the post above.  A pair of good looking riding boots, like these Cole Haans, are versatile enough for most offices.  If you must wear heels, try a high-heeled ankle boot sized up to accommodate socks.  Also, wear your socks under your tights or they won’t help at all.


I have long hair and I wear it down most days but I often need to pull it back for a short period of time. I find that hair ties can ruin the curls that I work so hard on in the mornings. Can you recommend a hair clip or other solution that’s acceptable outside of washing my face in the bathroom?

Thank you, Jen

They look a smidge ridiculous, but I know a lot of thick, long haired people who swear by these InvisiBobble Ties.  They look like an old-school phone cord from the 80s, but they say that they work without creasing the hair.  If that’s not professional enough for you, these Ficcare clips can be used to secure several hairstyles.


I’ve been reading your blog for years. I’ve been commuting with some type of backpack for over a year now- I live in NYC, and it’s been life-changing. Can you recommend a few affordable, classy backpacks for the workplace? I obviously wear a nice bag for client meetings, but day-to-day, I’d like to have something nicer than a Jansport, and chicer than a Herschl, which everyone has here. Bonus points if you can find ones that have smart side pockets for keeping the cellphone handy!

THANK YOU! – Stacie Smack

My boyfriend carries the Tumi backpack.  He grabbed it on eBay and swears it was worth the splurge.  But if that’s not in your price range, there are still plenty of options.

Matt and Nat make a number of “cool” faux leather backpacks in the $150-range.  I like the Katherine and the Brave.  I also thought this Nine West Nova bag was so cool I might actually buy it (and it comes with a pocket on the side).



  1. Leslie says:

    It’s not the cutest thing in the world, but I got a Timbuk2 backpack ( recently and it’s been great. It’s saved my back after carrying a heavy laptop around DC and airports, and is sleek enough to not look like I’m back in high school.

    October 26, 2017/Reply
  2. Lauren says:

    I recently moved to London, and all the European girls wear hair ties like the invisibobble. Though slightly ridiculous, they’re very on trend!

    October 26, 2017/Reply
  3. Nicole says:

    For Lauren, two additional Portland tips: Oregon has no sales tax, so you might plan to buy (especially) tights and layering items here rather than before you arrive. And secondly, I agree you likely won’t need lined pants (I live here and I don’t own any), but you *will* want a fairly warm coat. Even with scarves and sweaters and layers, our damp + freezing spells (whether or not it snows properly) can be the chill-you-to-the-bone kind of cold, especially for morning commutes. Welcome to town, hope you enjoy us!

    October 26, 2017/Reply
  4. Sarah says:

    I live in Boston, so this struggle is real for me too about good commuting shoes when it’s cold but not snowy or icy. I usually wear these LL Bean Wicked Good Lodge Boots. They basically feel like slippers (OK, they kind of look like it too) and nothing keeps my feet warmer. They have a good rubber bottom that provides a surprising amount of traction too. They have an apres ski vibe that you can get away with when it’s super cold.

    I used to have a pair of La Canadienne boots that were waterproof and had a thin fuzzy lining. Those are much more of an investment but are good commute to desk shoes since they have a lot of styles that look just like regular riding boots but with the added waterproof benefit.

    October 26, 2017/Reply
  5. Jessica says:

    Everlane has sleek, professional backpacks:

    October 26, 2017/Reply
    • Margaret says:

      I second this. Everlane all the way!

      October 27, 2017/Reply
  6. Jennifer Fay says:

    Is the poster moving to Portland, Oregon, or Portland, Maine? As a west coaster, I immediately assumed Oregon, but all her concerns about lined pants and fleece tights scream Maine to me.

    If Oregon, I would also recommend a hooded rain jacket, or a waterproof trench. Not as much umbrella use out here as there is in DC, since it tends to consistently mist and not pour rain.

    October 26, 2017/Reply
  7. Jules says:

    I’d also check out the Men’s lululemon backpacks. Their styles come and go, but it’s very sleek, commuter-friendly, and often has tons of pockets/compartments. I find that the mens selection for backpacks is far better than the women’s.

    October 26, 2017/Reply
  8. Lucy says:

    I live in NYC and also commute with a backpack (usually walking a mile or so), and I LOVE my Dagne Dover backpack: It is so light and has a really simple look. It also looks good no matter if you just have a couple items or if it’s stuffed to the brim. And it has the smartphone side pocket you’re looking for!

    One warning: the thick zipper on the front pocket can stick (however, I sent them a note about this and they sent me a new backpack free of charge, and the new one has had fewer issues, though still some).

    October 26, 2017/Reply
    • KerryS says:

      I second the Dagne Dover backpack. I get compliments on it all the time and I love all the pockets. Agree, the zipper can stick, but its fairly durable so it hasn’t been a huge issue.

      October 27, 2017/Reply
  9. Amanda says:

    Hey Lauren, Seattleite here. Waterproof is the name of the game for PNW winter. Get a good rain shell that you can layer over other jackets (if you have any), will cost much less and be more versatile. For shoes, I’d recommend a cute waterproof boot/bootie with a non-slip, non-leather sole. I have a Blondo pair that you’d never know is waterproof.

    Depending on your specific job, don’t worry too much on the businesswear aspect (particularly for outerwear), it’s incredibly casual up here compared to other parts of the country.

    October 26, 2017/Reply
  10. C B says:

    I’m wondering if Lauren was asking about Portland, Maine? That would explain the fear about the cold weather and the snow (as opposed to Portland, Oregon, which is definitely milder).

    October 26, 2017/Reply
    • Lexi says:

      I was wondering that too.

      October 26, 2017/Reply
  11. Jessica says:

    These Rockport waterproof boots are one of the best and most used things I own:

    They look like regular black riding boots but are entirely waterproof, and warm enough that I wore them the whole time I was in Iceland (sometimes with Smartwool socks, but usually not) and had no issue.

    October 26, 2017/Reply
  12. Kelly says:

    That commuting in jeans idea is excellent. I’ll remember that one.

    And good to see all the backpack recs, I’m thinking about switching to one for my back’s sake.

    October 26, 2017/Reply
  13. Lexi says:

    Does anyone have the Bartaile backpack? Have been eyeing it, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. I like the look for a daily laptop bag. It’s $167 hence the hesitation with out a lot of reviews.

    October 26, 2017/Reply
    • Emily says:

      Thanks for posting that link! I had seen that bag a couple of months ago and then couldn’t remember what it was called or where I saw it. It looks too good to be true – I would love a review from someone as well.

      October 27, 2017/Reply
  14. Martha says:

    I love this Solo Executive 15.6 Inch Premium Leather Laptop Backpack, Espresso.

    October 26, 2017/Reply
  15. M says:

    I pulled the trigger on this backpack in black this summer because I wasn’t ready to go full backpack and loved how chic and versatile this is. I love it, it’s so light (compared to my prior work bags that were heavy even empty), fits a ton, and not embarrassed to have it in the office. That said – no side pockets or easily accessible inside pocket has left me relying on coat pockets for my keys/cellphone/subway card. (

    October 27, 2017/Reply
  16. Chloe says:

    OK, quick poll. So wearing waterproof boots or whatever to work is totally fine … but do you all wear flats/heels in the office? Do you keep them at your desk/bring them with you? What if you want to change out of rainboots to regular boots?

    Boston is cold, snowy and miserable! Help..

    October 27, 2017/Reply
    • Lindsay says:

      I have always kept several pairs of neutral flats and/or heels under my desk (out of sight) at work, and then commuted in weather-appropriate footwear like Bean boots or wellies.

      October 27, 2017/Reply
  17. E says:

    I recently bought these shoes for weekends and communting. I wear them with no-show socks and my feel are much warmer than in flats. They are fairly comfortable, and don’t look totally absurd with nice dress pants and skirts.

    October 27, 2017/Reply
  18. katherine says:

    I went on vacation to Stockholm recently and bought a Sandqvist backpack. I loooove it.

    October 27, 2017/Reply