Style + Ask the Edit

Ask the Edit: Vol. V, No 13.

Hey Abra,

I’ve spent the last two years working from home and recently took a new job that will put me back in an office. My work top selection is minimal at best. Looking for suggestions under $100. Thanks!

– Kasey

Transitioning back to work is tough when your work wardrobe has been on a shelf for a few years.  I’d recommend starting with the basics.  This black Madewell crepe tee or this DR2 double v-neck top are both nice.  This long sleeve Kenneth Cole blouse is also lovely.  I also love this NYDJ pleat-back blouse.

Just looking for some retailers to visit?  I would start with Mango, Banana Republic, and Dillards.  Start with classic shapes until you build up a nice stable, and then add in some different tops.  I recommend this dotted, side-tie blouse from Talbot’s.

Plus-size? Try this modern Foxcroft blouse or this fun Audrey floral blouse.


I’ve been loving your blog since I started reading 6ish months ago – I’m a relatively new reader!

I’m the maid of honor in a June wedding with Mix and Match bridesmaid dresses. I was ready to go with my assigned color of pale pink, but the two dresses (check the links) I tried out from Bloomingdales first were horrible. I need something above the knee, without tulle or lace, that isn’t bodycon. Where would you recommend I look, and what do you think would work? I can spend up to $200~ ish.

Anonymous Assigned Pale Pink Bridesmaid

No lace and no tulle.  I didn’t realize that would be such a challenge, but let’s see what we can find.

My number one choice was this Betsey Johnson faux-wrap halter.  I like this simple, square-necked Nookie dress (to avoid a body-con look, size up and tailor).  I also like this Adelyn Rae dress if you’re looking for something with sleeves.  Plus-size? Try this Rachel Roy dress or this Adrianna Papell beaded dress.


Any suggestions for light to medium weight jackets? I live in Michigan so it won’t warm up for a bit, but I need something fresh to layer. I’m a jeans and a nice t-shirt girl but I need something to elevate it. Thanks!

– Carrie 

Right now, leather/moto jackets and bomber jackets are the trendy choices.  These BlankNYC jackets are very popular.  I really like this quilted Ralph Lauren jacket that blends classic chic with modern style.  For a more relaxed look, try a field jacket like this Nordstrom jacket or this LL Bean jacket.

When choosing a jacket, look at your lifestyle and chose accordingly.  I wear more professional attire, so I chose a trench and a moto jacket that fit with those pieces.  If you’re more relaxed choose a cooler, edgier jacket.

Belle –

I’ve never had spray tan before and I’m considering getting one for a big beach vacation coming up. I’m very pale! Do you have any dos and don’ts for spray tans? Thanks!

– Jessica 

Many years ago, I worked at a tanning salon to make ends meet while I was on the Hill.  So yes, I have many spray-tan tips.

First, a spray booth (like Mystic) works well, but the best spray tans are applied by someone wielding an airbrush gun.  But I know those can be a bit expensive and tougher to find, so a booth will usually do fine.

Second, exfoliate prior to your appointment.  Get some buffing gloves and body scrub and hit the showers.  You’ll also want to shave.  But don’t go to the salon freshly showered.  You want to give 6-8 hours between shower and arrival.

Third, make sure to wear loose fitting clothing to your appointment and remove deodorant before you step into the booth.  You don’t want anything to ruin your new tan.

Lastly, don’t take hot showers or use oil based lotions post-tan.  Both will cause your tan to wear off more quickly.

Just bought the Ann Taylor polka dot dress you posted a week or so ago (yay sales!)…and realized I’m not sure what shoes to wear with it. Thoughts?

– Emily 

I still love that dress. I wore mine with a simple skin tone pump.  If you want a more conservative look, try a navy pump.  The dress is really lovely on its own, so the simpler the shoe, the better.

Hi Belle,

Thanks for the great blog – it’s a hint of sanity!

I am going to Hawaii and I am looking for a good hat to wear while I’m there, preferably one that blocks harmful rays. I have struggled to find good, cute hats that prevent skin cancer. Any style is fine, but the more sun blockage area, the better!

Thanks! Theresa

Unless you want to carry your hat onto the plane with you, I recommend buying something packable.  This Land’s End straw visor is a nice option.  This wide Tory Burch hat is very chic and collapses to fit into a suitcase.  I also like this Sancho hat with a metallic accent.  For something under-$25, try this Sonoma hat.


I’m stumped on a gift and hoping you can provide some insight. My roommate of nearly 4 years is leaving for law school on the West Coast. I want to get her something special to celebrate our friendship and support her taking this big next step in her career. For the past few years, she’s asked her family to get her a calligraphy set for Christmas ad they’ve never delivered so I was thinking of getting her that.  Otherwise, I was thinking maybe a nice ring or other jewelry? But since you also left the DC area for law school out West, I’m wondering if you had any suggestions?


If she’s been asking for a calligraphy set, then that would be a nice gift.  She won’t have much chill time in her first year, but when she does, that might be a great distraction.

For a gift that most law students will use, I’d recommend either something useful or something comforting. My first semester of law school was one of the most difficult times in my life (for a lot of reasons).  I felt a bit like I was riding a dragon, blindfolded.  A cozy pair of slippers, a faux fur blanket, a sound machine — anything to help relax — would have helped me.  As for useful gifts, try a leather notebook, this tech Commute Clutch, a Cuyana travel case set.

If none of these gifts appeal to you, my advice would be to save your money to go visit her.  When you sgo off to school as an adult, you leave a lot behind.  It takes a long time to feel like you’re settled, and visits from friends really ease the loneliness.

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  1. CeeCee says:

    Wanted to add to the Spray Tan advice. I exclusively use booths:

    1. Go immediately post “surgery shower” as I call them- scrub every bit of yourself with exfoliant and shave legs and underarms- no post shower lotions or deoderants, don’t wash your hair (conditioner is greasy!). I throw up my hair in a top knot with a headband and go straight to the salon. I have a very loose maxi and flip flops I always wear for this. No bra or undies (personal preference).

    2. Bring makeup wipes for your palms. The blocker doesn’t work that well, but if you wash your hands too soon, it takes color off your wrists.

    3. Buy the $1 sticky feet. Make sure the caps they give you are behind your ears and not covering your forehead or neck. Make sure you have no loose hairs at the nape of your neck.

    5. Remove barrier cream with towel, wipe palms with wipes.

    5. Go to bed after and wake up to a fab glow. I usually sleep in a really loose shirt. Try not to sweat.

    I’m super pale and usually do the medium and it works very well with these tips. I prefer my tan on days 2-3 as opposed to day one, so I usually do it a couple days before an event, wedding etc. Good luck!

    March 20, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      True, the blocker does not work that well.

      March 20, 2018/Reply
  2. Hilary says:

    I highly recommend either of these hats:

    Both are extremely packable. In fact, I have both in my suitcase right now for my upcoming vacation. The 2nd one is especially great because it allows you to wear with a high pony/bun.

    March 20, 2018/Reply
  3. Jessica says:

    There’s been a lot of talk about jackets here lately so I’m hoping someone can help. I have a great maroon leather moto jacket but no matter what I put on with it I am never completely happy with the look. Any styling suggestions?

    March 20, 2018/Reply
    • Anna says:

      I’d think browns or dark grays would go well with it.

      March 20, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      A light gray blouse with jeans. An ivory blouse and ivory pants (or white if it’s jeans). A navy dress that has a feminine flare to it. A maroon or purple piece in a slight different hue, but not lighter. A mauve blouse and dark denim.

      March 20, 2018/Reply
    • e says:

      I think it would look chic with white jeans and a grey t-shirt.

      March 21, 2018/Reply
  4. KATEL says:

    For Maggie: Seconding Abra’s advice to go visit, it was one of my better uses of vacation time/money when a friend was PhD candidate in Boulder. Also snail mail and/or care packages for your friend will be highly valued. A group of us who knew our friend collaborated on a package as our friend was settling in.

    March 20, 2018/Reply
    • Sara says:

      I came to say the same thing about a care package! Going through my first year of law school very far from home right now, and the hardest thing has been feeling out of touch with my friends back home. A care package midway through the semester would probably mean more than a gift right now.

      March 21, 2018/Reply
      • Belle says:

        Hang in there. That first year is the roughest.

        March 21, 2018/Reply
  5. Anna says:

    Why do you not want to go right after showering?

    March 20, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Your skin continues to slough off post shower for a couple of hours. You want time for your skin to settle. When people would come into the salon I used to work immediately post-shower, they’d almost always end up with spots on their back and joints that were peeling.

      March 20, 2018/Reply
  6. AVV says:

    For the person looking for a hat, I highly recommend Coolibar. If you go for the straw-esque/woven styles, they are quite packable and have a great “I have enough money to need resortwear” vibe. They’re also certified as UPF 50, which is nice peace of mind.

    March 20, 2018/Reply
  7. Katie says:

    Wanted to add to the bridesmaid dilemma. I have been in the midst of one myself. Here are a few pale pink ones that I found in my search. And all have free returns!

    March 21, 2018/Reply