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

Nov 28, 2017

This week’s Ask the Edit features advice on affordable blouses for work, faux-leather leggings, regrowing eyebrows, and more…

Hi Abra,

My workplace is business-casual and I struggle to find the right balance with my outfits between work-appropriate and relaxed. I have found that my ideal uniform is a button-up single-color or small-pattern blouse and ankle pants. However, something has happened this season where all I can find are blouses that are off-the-shoulder, with bell sleeves, or have a hideous pattern. What gives?

Any leads on affordable ($50 or less) blouses that I can wear with everything would be tremendous. Bonus points for tall sizes.

Thanks!! IMP

An exaggerated sleeve is a trend I like, but even I am tired of all the cold-shoulder and bell-sleeve tops on the market.  I have two bell sleeve blouses, but I certainly don’t need to own 20.

Under-$50 is a difficult price range, but H&M has some nice tops in that price point.  This green and white dot has feminine look, as does this black and white dot top.  I also like this star print sheer blouse.  This stud-front blouse is also a stylish choice.

Another source in this price range would be LOFT (the tops usually run $59, but are often on sale). This red, ruffle front top is a lot of fun.  This dahlia-printed blouse also caught my eye.

I also enjoy the tops at Mango, though they can be a bit too trendy at times.  This basic contrast seam blouse would be a welcome addition to any wardrobe.


Your Instagram said that you’re growing out your eyebrows using a serum.  Mine were overwaxed for too many years and I could use some help reviving them.  Your video didn’t say what you were using, what brand is the serum?


I wish I had taken a before photo so that you could appreciate how much better the after photo looked.  It’s too bad.  Regardless, the serum I’m using is from Amazon.  It’s essentially a poor-man’s Latisse called Babe Lash.  I bought it to use on my eyelashes, but it gave me little white bumps on my follicles, so I repurposed it.

Good morning Abra!

I’m scouting for faux leather leggings. I tried the Spanx option because it was highly rated and didn’t like that they lacked a vertical seam at the back and front of the top.  It made them look more unnatural somehow.  My aim is to find a sheen that isn’t patent leather shiny.  Any suggestions?

Thank you! Sarah

I tried the Spanx leggings.  I like them, but when you’re trying to make a pair of leather leggings work, you need to feel comfortable.

LOFT has a pair of faux-leather leggings that might be worth a shot.  A friend owns these Club Monaco leggings and speaks highly of them.  You might also give this Halogen pair a try.  Plus-size?  These Seven7 leggings have a nice look to them.

Hi –

I am looking for the best layering tanks. Ideally, they’d be longer to wear under sweaters and shirts, lightweight but formfitting. Any ideas? Thank you!

– AF 

I still think Splendid makes the best tanks.  If you’re looking for something affordable, Kohl’s Sonoma Goods line has a few color choices.

Dear Abra,

My daughter wants makeup brushes for Christmas this year.  I didn’t know they would be so expensive.  I need to keep her gift in the $50 range, but when I went to Sephora, I could buy only one or two good brushes for that sum.  Can you recommend a brush set that is high quality but won’t break my budget?

With thanks, Louise

The It! Cosmetics brushes are excellent quality, and a set of five costs $58.  They’re cruelty free and quite fluffy.  If she keeps them clean (I recommend these Sephora wipes for in-between cleaning), they should last for several years.  If you must stay under-$50, these Tarte brushes are well made and come with the cutest holder.

Personally, I like Sigma brushes the best.  The rumor is that they make MAC’s brushes.  However, they’re a bit spendy at $84 for a basic set.

Ask the Edit, Style

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  1. Alison says:

    I’ve bought and used both the Real Techniques and EcoTools brushes recently and I have been much happier with the EcoTools brushes. There’s currently a rather large brush set of EcoTools for $50 at Ulta. I found that the Real Techniques brushes lost a concerning amount of bristles the first time I washed them.

    • SunnyIA says:

      +1 for EcoTools! They have several ranges of gift sets at Ulta right now. And Target carries them too (but not as many options). I’ve used several higher end brands of brushes (including Tarte). The EcoTools are by far my favorites. They hold their shape, are pretty, clean up great, and last.

  2. Jen says:

    IMP- Try Banana Republic Factory or JCrew Factory. You’ll find the blouses you’re looking for at that price point there.

  3. Michelle says:

    I just bought these from Old Navy as an alternative to the Spanx leggings. Even though they’re described as coated jeans, they’re definitely a legging material, but they have faux front pockets and real back pockets, which makes me feel more comfortable in them than I felt in the Spanx.

  4. Lisa says:

    The Wilfred Free Daria pant from Aritzia are a great faux leather legging. Thick, muffin-top-banishing waistband, non-plasticky sheen, and machine-washable! What else could you want?

  5. NEENS says:

    Loving these Blank NYC faux leather leggings – and they are currently on sale!

  6. e says:

    I swear by the Portofino shirt from Express. Figure out your sizing and wait until they go on sale, which they ALWAYS do.

    • Anna says:

      I have about 6 of these, and I love them. They always look professional (with a cami underneath) and I can wear them with ankle pants or tucked into trousers. But definitely wait for a sale, they are NOT worth the $60 price tag.

    • IMP says:

      Good call – thanks so much for the tip! The original is on sale for $29.99 – score!

  7. N says:

    I’ve had my Real Techniques brushes for years. I think they are great makeup starter brushes- would highly recommend. My makeup artist sister also uses them on clients.

  8. Rachel Bowes says:

    It! Cosmetics for Ulta don’t seem to be the same level of quality as their non-exclusive brushes. It! Cosmetics brushes for blush/bronzer/powder are great, super soft and dense. Their eyeshadow brushes aren’t as user-friendly, especially if you’re looking to do detail work.

    Definitely skip double ended brushes. They’re a pain to clean and store, and don’t last as long. Longer bristles usually mean a softer more ‘diffuse’ application. A good set will have a mix of shorter detail brushes for concealer, eyeliner, etc. and longer bristles for blending, blush, etc.

    Real Techniques brushes seem like a great value but they are really uneven, especially after washing.

    Sephora Collection brushes are generally pretty good but they’re at a similar price point to Sigma, unless you’re able to shop sales between now and the holidays.

    One option is to buy just eyeshadow brushes or just blush/bronzer/powder. She may not need foundation or concealer brushes. The beautyblender or one of a dozen dupes works better for most people, unless she’s looking for ultra high cover.

  9. Sara says:

    The best layering tank I’ve found is the Hinge Jersey Tank (from Nordstrom.)It’s lightweight and tight but not spandex-y/workout material. Long enough that it stays tucked in but not so long that it bunches. Basically it’s the Goldilocks of tanks. The scoop is deep enough that I can usually pull it down so it doesn’t show if I’m layering it under a v-neck or button down. Plus it doesn’t have spaghetti/adjustable straps.

  10. Lindsey says:

    The Everlane pima cotton tank is my gold standard. I own three, acquired over the last two to three years, and they have worn like iron (you know, except that they are soft). Just the right amount of stretch, and because they have thicker straps they look great worn alone.

    The H&M spaghetti strap tank tops work well for layering under other things and also are long lived, but they are pretty long (I like that with the right outfit).

  11. Ali says:

    IMP: I am in the exact same boat! It has been impossible to find work shirts that are professional and look nice without being trendy. I’ve really liked my Ministry of Supply Better than Silk shirt – it’s slightly out of the price range but might be a shirt that gets a good cost-per-wear.

  12. Cait says:

    I’ve never left a comment here, but I feel compelled to share these amazing brushes from amazon (link is
    I’ve used mostly MAC brushes for the last 10ish years, and these brushes far, far, far exceed anything I have ever used. They are soft, don’t shed brush hairs all over you, and make your makeup look perfectly applied. The first day I used them I got tons of compliments on how different my face looked. Seriously. They’re that good. I’m thinking of getting another pack just to have on hand in case. They rose gold on them is also beautiful. Only thing is they have a slight smell when they first arrive, but leave them out of the package overnight and it’ll go away. I would have paid WAY more than $13 for these!!

  13. Lexi says:

    I bought these leather leggings from Target and have nothing but good things to say about them. I was on the hunt for a while and tried Athleta and Spanx before I settled on these.

  14. Jenn S. says:

    Agree wholeheartedly with other readers who have mentioned Real Techniques or EcoTools, although build quality has declined slightly with RT recently. They’re economical and perform REALLY amazingly for the price point. If you watch Ulta, you can get them BOGO 50% off + use Ulta coupons. Alternatively, I have had good luck with Coastal Scents brushes. They have some nice, comprehensive sets that are inexpensive but decently sturdy. I own their Elite Brush Set which clocks in at $50 (they claim $99 but – lies) before coupon codes. Are they the best out there? No, of course not, but they are GOOD – I’ve owned mine for almost 4 years and used many of them when I did my own bridal makeup.

    You aren’t going to buy more than 1-2 good brushes are Sephora – or really any prestige brand. In fact, I wouldn’t bother shopping for brushes at Sephora at all; they’re good at product, not tools.

    Another commenter mentioned IT! Cosmetics’ Ulta-exclusive line is lower quality than their usual stuff (think like a diffusion line!) and I agree. Likewise, many of the ‘special’ or limited edition/holiday brush sets tend to be lower build quality (read: lower longevity! shedding! etc). A MAC 217 in a holiday set will wear out faster (ferrule damage, shedding, etc) than a regular one. It’s a shame, but that’s how they get you. Also agree on dual-ended brushes being suboptimal outside of a travel kit.

    • Mila says:

      I want to sort of disagree on the quality/value of the holiday sets. Agree that they might not be 100% the same quality, but with proper care they can still last a long time and it might be a good idea for someone if they’re still trying to figure out which types of brushes they really use or are worth the investment. If that’s not a concern, then maybe just purchasing one or two brushes (not a set) is a better buy!

  15. Mila says:

    Right now Nordstrom has a few different Sigma and MAC (both excellent quality) options at the $50 price point including this great starter set –

    Check out other department stores as well because the holidays are when beauty brands offer the best deals on brushes and tools!

  16. Amanda says:

    Abra, how long did you use the Babe Lash on your brows before you noticed results? A friend got me hooked on RF Lash Boost for my lashes (no side effects and I saw a difference within about 2 weeks) but it’s pricey so I don’t want to use it on my brows if the alternative is similar.

    • Belle says:

      I would say it was about a month of no plucking plus babe lash before I was like “Whoa, these are really growing back.”

  17. AN says:

    What tops would you suggest with leather leggings? Specifically thinking about something that could be worn on NYE. Thanks!

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