Ask the Editor: Vol. II, No. Six

Oct 7, 2021

This week, we have questions from readers about lightweight laptop totes, bridesmaid gifts, and what to do when you have to attend an event and you feel ‘meh’ about your appearance.  So let’s get started.

Dear Abra:

This weekend, I have a cocktail-attire event for my work.  It’s outdoors, on a rooftop, and our company has made every effort to require vaccines and socially distance groups.  

I’m sending this question because nothing in my closet fits, and it’s too late to find something off the rack.  I went to the department stores and it was just loungewear and ballgowns.  I’ll have to wear whatever is available, but do you have any tips for feeling more confident?  I tried on everything in my closet last night and it was just not feeling or looking good.  Any help is appreciated.

Thank you, Beleaguered in Boston

Honey, I feel this so hard. You reach into your closet for your favorite dress, and it doesn’t fit.  You try on the others, and they look different.  You blame yourself and you feel bad, but really, there’s no reason to feel crappy.  We all need to offer ourselves a little grace right now, even though I know that’s easier said than done.

As for how to feel better about yourself, I have one fail safe tip: An outfit you feel ‘meh’ about needs good hair and good makeup.  If you can hire a service like GlamSquad to come, great.  If you need to look up TikTok tutorials (this is my current favorite), that’s good to.  But I’ve found that unless you’re wearing something that really wows, wearing something basic and neutral with fantastic hair and makeup is even better.

Also, while shapewear is not something I recommend lightly, a pair of Spanx can help in this situation.  Spanx OnCore are the strongest compression they make; I wear them when I need help.  You can also choose a less restrictive option if you just need a little smoothing.

Another great brand of shapewear is Nancy Ganz.  It’s prettier than Spanx, and I like the feel of the material a bit better.  They’re standard short is a nice option.  If you don’t like shorts, her slip dress shaper is really fantastic.

Belle,

I need a gift for my bridesmaids.  I have seven of them (big Catholic family) so expensive gifts are not really an option.  I was thinking about a nice gift basket.  What did you do?

 J

I covered my Maid of Honor’s expenses (her dress, hair, childcare, etc..) for the weekend, since I just had one bridesmaid.  But one of the cutest gifts I’ve seen is the embroidered sweatshirts from Etsy.  You can do people’s names, a slogan, their initials, whatever you want.  This one is my favorite for bridesmaids.  I also like this one that uses Roman numerals for a date.

Hi Abra,  have loved your blog for many many years.

So this is a very specific question that maybe your or your readers can help me with. I have a nice Cuyana leather bag when I am going into the local office. (Thanks for introducing me to the brand – it’s lovely and I got it monogrammed in person!)

However, for my 40 year old back the leather just too heavy when I travel for work. I’ve had the black on black Longchamps Le Pliage forever and could just re-order but thought I would ask if you have run across anything similarly lightweight, good enough for a semi-formal office environment and if a girl can dream with a bigger internal pocket.

Thanks, Liz

My Cuyana laptop bag is only used if I don’t have to haul it.  Halfway through the legislative session, I broke and started carrying the new Lo & Sons laptop bag.

Nylon laptop totes are tough to find, but Dagne Dover and Lo and Sons have a bunch of nice options.  Dagne Dover’s neoprene backpack is a very popular option.  Everlane also has a nylon weekender bag that has a nice look to it.

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  1. Julianne says:

    For lightweight laptop bags, I have a nylon backpack by Knomo London that i love. It looks professional for a backpack and is very comfortable to wear with enough pockets for small items. That said, they run a bit slim so you may want to size up if you want to carry more items with you.

    • Lexi says:

      Same! I switched to nylon backpacks to carry my laptop and pouches of rims I need instead of a purse and/or tote. My back problems disappeared and I have both hands free. And the pouches I use are nylon or clear plastic. Leather is just to heavy for daily use. Another benefit is that it’s easy to wipe down and keep clean.

  2. Erica says:

    I had seven bridesmaids. Etsy has a ton of jewelry that can be custom engraved. I got each a bracelet with the geographic coordinates of their hometowns engraved on the bracelet. Simple, unique, but meaningful.

  3. Samantha says:

    I can 2nd the Dagne Dover neoprene backpack. I had men’s button down shirts monogramed for my bridesmaids (cliche but practical) and we all still wear ours to this day.

  4. Emma says:

    I use my OG2 from Lo & Sons daily. My office has a business casual vibe.

  5. Lauren says:

    Have you looked at Tumi for professional-looking nylon bags? I have one from there that I love that has held up very well.

  6. susie says:

    MZ Wallace makes the best nylon bags for professional woman. Almost all the women I went to business school with and my fellow consultants who travel every week have one, Its not the metro tote series but the one with all the pockets. Worth every penny!

  7. E says:

    I did a lot of looking for grown-up but functional backpacks last year and settled on the Dagne Dover Indi DIaper backpack. I first bought their traditional backpack but returned it for the Indi, which felt a little more chic and a little less back to school. The only “diaper bag” feature is a changing pad which you can easily set aside. I do a lot of traveling and it has become my go-to backpack. It fits my 13 inch laptop and other necessities very well. Lots of good organizational pockets, too.

  8. Holly says:

    I had eight bridesmaids and did gift cards to kendra scott. I wanted them to be able to buy something they wanted. Then I put the gift card in a clutch from Target’s dollar section. They all loved it.

  9. Betsy says:

    I got my 8 (!!) bridesmaids monogrammed totes from LL Bean and jewelry from J crew factory (earrings and a bracelet) for the wedding. I still see them with the bags and earrings five years later!

  10. Elizabeth says:

    For work bags, I have a Tumi Voyager backpack I use when I travel. It is black nylon, and the bright gold zippers really elevate the bag. There are lots of options in the Voyager series. I especially love all the compartments for organisation. It also is pretty indestructible. If you want more of a tote, my fav light bags are the Anya Hindmarch “I am a plastic bag” tote in large. You can get it without the text for a more professional look. The bags are made of recycled plastic and very light. Another good option is the Goyard totes. The St. Louis is the lightest, but there isn’t a zip top. They’ve got other options too. If you don’t have a Goyard near you, you can call a store and they will ship you what you want. I have both of these totes and use them for work all the time.

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