Style + Ask the Edit

Ask the Editor: Vol. II, No. Seven

While I may never get my inbox to zero, let’s answer some reader questions.  From New Year’s Eve attire to non-retinol serums, there’s a little something for everyone in the mailbag.

Hi Abra,

I’m a longtime follower looking for some help! My brother in law is getting married on New Year’s Eve in San Francisco. The attire is cocktail.

I would love to find a festive dress that is less than $200 and appropriate for a mid-30s lady still carrying some extra COVID weight (particularly in my mid section). I can only find low cut, very fitted, mini dresses! I know it’s a bit early for New Year’s Eve talk, but any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you! -MC

The first decision to make is how you want to balance the wedding guest and NYE scales.  Tip one way, and you’re hunting for a flattering cocktail dress.  Tip the other, and you’ll go a little more glam, probably with a side of sequins.

When you’re looking for a dress that flatters your figure in less than ideal circumstances, I recommend wraps or draping.  On the high end, Chiara La Boni always has nice options like this raspberry-colored dress or this black one.  This Tadashi Shoji dress with draping and less is cool and dramatic.  I also like this black, one shoulder Vince Camuto.

Prefer to go full NYE?  This rose gold sequin cocktail dress is all the way there.  This Monique Lhuillier option comes in a darker sequin.  And this Adrianna Papell dress comes in several colors, all of them fabulous.

Plus-size?  The Adrianna Papell dress comes in plus size.  I also like the color on this Alex Evenings dress.

**The questioner asked for under-$200 options. I wrote this at 3:00AM and totally read over that.  Below are options in the requested price range.**

LOFT has a silver-sequin wrap dress right now that hits between a knee-length and a mini.  It’s very NYE, but not NYE in Vegas, if you catch my drift.  I also like the darker, gunmetal color on this & Other Stories sequin dress.  But for my money, this Ralph Lauren dress in antique bronze with a velvet belt makes sequins look elegant (which I didn’t think was possible).

For a cocktail dress, this boysenberry Dress the Population option has a great draped look.  And Badgley Mischka always has good options.  I’m especially smitten with this elegant navy dress.

Hi Abra,

Can you recommend anti-aging products (to correct wrinkles) without retinol? Due to a medical issue, I can no longer use products with retinol (at least for the time being).

Thank you!! BN

The hot product of the moment is called Bakuchiol.  It’s a plant-based, vegan alternative to retinol.  It’s also a bit gentler.

Bioassance makes a popular serum that contains Bakuchiol and Squalane.  The Inkey List makes a Bakuchiol moisturizer that’s under-$15.  Or give a mini-size of this Herbivore serum a try.


I feel like banana republic has really upped their styling game in their marketing materials. Do you know if it’s more upscale than I remember from ~2013?


I recently purchases a blazer, trench coat, and sweater dress.  Every piece is a winner — well-made, stylish, good-quality materials.  The trench coat in particular is stunner.


Love love your blog and wanted to pick your brain.  I haven’t been able to find a pair of flattering joggers.  Not a fan of ankle cuffs (I find they create a balloon-like effect) and I want something with a bit more structure in the butt (love the north face aphrodite shorts you recommended for this reason).  Could you recommend something that’s comfy but flattering?  Leg cut doesn’t matter – tapered or straight leg are both great!

Thank you, Erin

My Mom has a pair of pants from Athleta that sound like what you’re looking for.  Give their Brooklyn Lined Jogger a look.  It has a slight cuff, but I don’t think it balloons.  Also in plus-size.

She also likes their Wonder Hybrid Pant.  It would be the closest thing in style and substance to the Aphrodite shorts.

Hi Belle,

Very, very long time reader.  I am getting married in December (covid postponed wedding) in the mid-Atlantic area, and I’m really struggling to find a rehearsal dinner outfit that speaks to me.  We’re having a very small wedding, and our venue is decidedly casual (think food hall/beer hall).  I’ll wear whatever outfit to the church too.

For some reason, I’ve got these fun pants in my mind, which I saw at the end of last season but didn’t buy.  I also have no idea how I would even style them — any thoughts?

Do you have any thoughts on other options/looks?  I’m relatively tall, early thirties, and don’t like fitted or short things.  Open to dress options as well. 

Much appreciated! Soon-to-be Mrs.

A sequin pant is a bold choice for a wedding look.  I would consider a few of different options.

First, a lace top with long sleeves or short sleeves.  Second, a silk blouse with a little drama.  But if this were me, I’d go with a silk tank with lace trim and a cashmere cardigan.  If you’re feeling spicy, try a corset instead.

Want to go big or go home?  This crazy good strapless bustier is quite a thing.

{this post contains affiliate links that may generate commission for the author}




  1. Terra says:

    Oh no! I’m feeling for MC on this one—her question asks about <$200 picks and most of the suggestions are almost hurtful in their conspicuously high prices. I'm going to do some digging and see if I can find some lower alternatives for you, MC! They exist! Will comment back with some finds soon, hopefully.

    November 4, 2021/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Oh my gosh. I totally missed that. I’ll update the post.

      November 4, 2021/Reply
      • Terra Arnone says:

        Easy to miss! That’s what I figured. I do really like the suggestion of wrap dresses—here in Canada, Hudson’s Bay carries some great DVF wrap dresses at a reasonable price point. I have to believe they’re available elsewhere at US retailers! Might be a bit on the casual side, but I think a black number with some jazzed up jewelry (tipping toward costume, even) could be great!

        November 5, 2021/Reply
    • Pam says:

      Another way to get some of those dress pics at a lower price point would be to try rent the runway!

      November 4, 2021/Reply
      • Terra says:

        Oooh great idea!

        November 5, 2021/Reply
  2. Maddy says:

    FYI – the Brooklyn pant at Athleta (which I absolutely swear by) comes in a version without even the slight cuff. Agreed, though, that cuff or no cuff it does not balloon.

    November 4, 2021/Reply
  3. jules says:

    For the SF Wedding reader – I went to a wedding in SF in January just before COVID hit. I was able to score a nice longsleeved sequined dress from Dress The Population for $70 on Poshmark. It might be worth scouring the site since I think a lot of people are selling their no-longer needed formal wear.

    November 4, 2021/Reply
    • jo says:

      I would second this – I had a few weddings in the early fall and was able to pick up some nicer brands for under $50 each via ebay (the best was a stunning $1000 gown in flawless condition for which I paid $20). The selection right now is fantastic. I use Poshmark occasionally, but ebay sellers are much more likely to accept returns, so I can take bigger risks on that platform. Enjoy the wedding!

      November 4, 2021/Reply
  4. k-t says:

    Erin – These might be too legging-like for you, but I sized up in order to wear them over fleece-lined tights (winter hiking) and they serve the purpose of joggers in my wardrobe. Soft and super comfy. Pockets that zip. Look like pants, not tights.

    November 4, 2021/Reply
  5. Katelyn says:

    Boden has a gorgeous Metallic Pleated dress that would be perfect for a NYE wedding and under $200.

    November 5, 2021/Reply
  6. Sara says:

    Looks like the link to the strapless bustier is broken in the last post. Thanks!

    November 5, 2021/Reply
    • Belle says:


      November 5, 2021/Reply
  7. Amelia says:

    Hi Abra – Are you working with BR this week? Not trying to take away from your reviews and have no issue if you are working with them, but I have noticed the glowing reviews suddenly and repeatedly popping up — and though I usually trust your recommendations it was enough to make me think twice before pulling the trigger on the trench :). Any insights? Or is the line really improving that much that quickly? Thanks!

    November 5, 2021/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I just bought some things and loved them. I think they are really taking improving seriously. I can’t tell you how much better quality this trench is than the BR trench I bought in 2013. It’s LEAPS and BOUNDS.

      I don’t work with brands. And if I did, it would say sponsored. But like I said, I don’t do sponsorships.

      November 7, 2021/Reply
      • Amelia says:

        Excited to hear this and I really appreciate the reply. I’m going to try out the trench – fingers crossed!

        November 7, 2021/Reply