Ask the Editor: Vol. III, No. 23

Nov 2, 2022

My creative well is officially dry.  The cupboards are bare.  So let’s head to the reader mailbag, and answer a few questions.

Hi Abra!

I feel like I am in a slump with work attire lately. I’m bored with my wardrobe and don’t feel stylish. Do you have any suggestions to update my wardrobe with pieces to make it feel fresh again? My office is business casual but leaning more towards casual.

Thanks! – D

This is a tough question, but one that I can certainly relate to.  Whether it’s the pandemic or postpartum or just a fashion rut, having a closet full of nothing to wear is the worst.  Without knowing what’s in your closet, let me make a few suggestions of things you can add to any wardrobe to freshen it up.

Color // Picking up a few pieces in of-the-moment hues can extend the life of existing pieces and give you something you’re excited to wear.  This sheer utility shirt from BR comes in a sumptuous wine color.  This gauze J.Crew top (plus) in dusty shale also deserves a look.  You could also try sweaters in goldenrod or acorn (plus).

Texture // If you’re looking for a versatile choice for day and night, what about a black lace blouse (plus) in a conservative cut?  Or how about an easy sweater in an eyelash texture?  And since it’s wintertime, perhaps something in velvet?

Statement Pieces // Pump up the volume on your wardrobe by adding a few statement pieces.  Perhaps a pair of cobalt pants.  A cool, vegan leather jacket.  A chic loafer with bold, embroidered embellishments.

Change It Up // Another option, and one that is a little more drastic is to change up your hairstyle or hair color.  Start by looking back at photos of celeb haircuts you thought were great, and see if maybe it’s time for a change.  Whether you want to try bangs, get extensions, or finally go red, sometimes a different hairstyle is what’s needed.

Abra:

Can you help me find a pair of dangly pearl earrings?  I lost mine on vacation and I need them for the holidays.  I’d prefer to spend less than $150. 

Thank you for the help. MS

Pearl earrings are an awesome choice for holiday wear.  When I can’t think of anything else, I grab a sleek ivory sweater and pearls.

How about this pair from MM LaFleur?  They mix the traditional and modern beautifully.  This pair from of pearls from Nura Keshi dangle from simple hoops.  I also love this pair from Astrid and Miyu.  Need a pair for less than $50?  These Layne pearl earrings from Verishop are the ticket.

Hi Belle,

I moved to DC from this past summer and am unsure what kind of winter coat I need. I’ve been told the average temp is about 40 degrees, which is barely winter to me (native Clevelander) and speaks to a cute but not that warm fashion coat. However, based on how miserably humid it was this summer, I’m assuming the winter weather is pretty wet, and that’s where I’m lost.  Where I’m from if it’s the weather is wet it’s also cold enough to wear a puffer/ski jacket/etc. Can you provide some guidance? Thank you!

Anna

Coming from Montana, I know cold.  So I can understand how someone from a place with lake-effect snow might not take the weather of the Mid-Atlantic seriously.  But D.C. is a weird kind of cold.  It can be damp and humid and it just gets into your bones.

When I lived there, I wore a waterproof trench coat in the late fall and a wool coat in the dead of winter (sadly, J.Crew no longer makes the Thinsulate lined version).  You might also keep a long puffer or ski coat for the occasional freak snowstorm.  I also wouldn’t discount the power of wool socks and fleece-lined tights.

The key in D.C. is to layer.  It might be 20-degrees when you leave for work and 55-degrees when you head home.  Pack a scarf and gloves, and which ever coat you choose, it can usually handle it.  Just unzip when it’s a little warmer, and bundle up when it’s not.

Hi Abra,

I’m attending a wedding in late November in the mountains of NC and need some guidance on what to wear. The venue (from what I can gather) is an indoor/outdoor space + the temps could be anywhere from 65-40 degrees. The invitation calls for a range of attire as well: “Semi-Formal: Tuxes and gowns are welcome, and so are suits and cocktail dresses.”

I was thinking something midi-length with sleeves…but I’m stuck and it seems there are so many options out there, especially this early. Thanks, Elizabeth

Many of the midi-length, sleeved cocktail dresses out there right now have cutouts.  If that’s your taste, I like this mock neck dress from Zhivago.  If it’s not, this might be more difficult than you thought.

This cobalt dress from Sachin & Babi is worth a look.  I like that the black metallic on this Ramy Brook dress isn’t overpowering.  For something more affordable, this moody off-the-shoulder dress in velvet is great.

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  1. Crystal says:

    @Anna: An important thing to remember about winters (or any season) in DC is that you may be spending much more time walking and engaging with public transit than when you primarily got around by vehicles — a lot more steps per day getting to/from work (if you don’t work from home), getting groceries, walking a dog outside, etc. So weather staples like trench, rain, and puffer coats; umbrellas (if you use them); and shoes need to both hold up to the daily miles and also keep you temperature-regulated for longer periods. I personally am a strong believer in coats with hoods and some level of waterproofing to provide the best protection against various elements.

  2. Laurel says:

    One note about DC winter is that you’re likely outside much more. Walking to/from the metro, waiting for the bus, walking a few blocks to a less crowded street to catch an uber, etc. That was the main thing I had to prepare for, that I needed outerwear that could keep me warm for being in 20-degree weather for 30 minutes to an hour at a time.

  3. Annette says:

    DC native here who frequently gets around on 2 wheels (thus waist length): my winter outerwear arsenal gravitates around:
    1) Uniqlo super light down puffer (40 F and above)- EXCELLENT for travel
    2) Thick down waist length coat (below 40)
    3) Wool waist length peacoat- (also good for 30-40 range)
    4) Something wool that’s knee length for fancier business (cashmere or alpaca are great investments). Don’t undermine the misery of going out to dinner when its in the teens! I mean you don’t want to have to do delivery for restaurant week.
    5) the Snow coat- knee length puffer/ down- for that snow dump we get every year or five. It means you can get outside, go to work (if its not cancelled/ work from home) and get survival groceries when Ubers are charging 5X

    • Michelle says:

      Second the fancier alpaca/cashmere/wool clothing for dining and also consider a more formal winter coat if you know you’ll be going to lots of business dinners, events or shows.

      I have a Ralph Lauren coat that I pray will still fit after my pregnancy. I’ve resigned myself this winter to a giant maternity lightweight puffer coat.

      • laurel says:

        Third! I had a BEAUTIFUL red Ann Taylor coat that was SO heavy but great to wear to holiday parties etc. when it was 20 degrees outside. When I moved back to Texas, i gave it to my mom who always runs cold.

  4. E says:

    Anna, agree with the other comments with DC winter advice. I just wanted to chime in as a fellow native Ohioan–despite the additional time spent commuting outdoors, etc, I don’t think I wore a real winter coat once during my first DC winter. I adjusted and bundled up in the years that followed…and then moved back to the Midwest a couple of years ago after a decade in the District. My body still hasn’t readjusted to midwest cold! 🙂 Happy outerwear shopping and enjoy DC!

  5. Michelle says:

    If you’re using the metro to get around D.C. keep in mind that they blast the heat in the winter. So if you’re on for a longer trip you will want to be able to easily remove coat, hats, gloves, scarves to avoid overheating.

  6. Kasey says:

    Elizabeth, I was in the NC highlands in Sept at a similar type of venue! Maybe look at Baltic Born? Lots of velvet options at different lengths.

  7. Erica says:

    A little late to this party because I was traveling, but if you are willing to spend a little money one way I spruced up my wardrobe was to Rent the Runway. They have a lot of great work clothes and it is a good way to try new things that you may want to add to your wardrobe, or just get excited about getting dressed again. I did it for a few months and found it helped me decide what I really wanted to add to my work wardrobe.

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