Ask the Editor: Vol. IV, No. Ten

Jun 26, 2023

How was your weekend?  Mine was eventful.

My daughter recovered from her first cold just in time to teach herself how to stand.  She also moves like lightning, so the dogs are on red alert, and my nerves are frayed.  So why don’t we dip into the mail bag and take a rest?

From the DMs:

My Instagram feed is filled with wavy phone cases. The It Girls all seem to have them. Do you have one, do I need one?

Yes, I too have seen the onslaught of wavy, clear-plastic phone cases from TIBAL, the Sisters, Mally and others.  I also have one (coming in the mail) because I am not immune to the power of influence.  I bought the solid one.  I figure if I’m going to embrace a Gen-Z trend, it’s most safely done through my phone case.

Abra,

Sorry you caught a daycare cold.  They’re the worst.  

My husband and I are going to a housewarming for his newly married CFO next month.  I am told that attending the gathering is not optional, and that we are expected to bring a gift. I am also told (by the executive assistant) that the gift should cost at least $100.  

I know nothing about these people.  At all.  But setting aside how wildly inappropriate it is to ask your employees for gifts, especially when the house cost almost $3MIL, what would you bring?

E.K.

Wow. Most employers would just say “no gifts,” but okay.

Well, I am assuming you don’t know much about their hobbies or taste preferences and have probably never been to their home before.  So we are in the realm of generic wedding registry gifts.  Here are five that I think might work in the $100-$200 price range; all gifts are from Nordstrom for easy returns.

  • I have never met anyone who couldn’t find a use for a Barefoot Dreams throw.
  • That electric kettle you see in every influencer’s kitchen.
  • A piece of neutral Le Creuset cookware (she can exchange it for another color if need be).
  • For him, a whiskey decanter that would look good on any bar.
  • Or grab a gift certificate to the new, hot restaurant in town and write a card telling them how important date night is to keeping a marriage happy.

If you need something that feels a little more personal, I’ve been gifting people with these resin/burl wood cribbage boards.  They look beautiful on a coffee table or in an office, and they’re useful.

Hi Abra,

I’m so sorry to hear you’re not feeling well. Summer colds are the worst! If you’re putting together a Q&A this week as a distraction, I have a timely question!

I have an in person interview next week for a BIG job and I am at a loss on how to wear a suit in the summer. I reached for my pre-pandemic suits and nothing fits, but buying an entirely new suit to wear once feels wasteful, so I’m looking for advice to match separates from my closet that do fit. I’m also open to buying one piece that I could wear again. 

I feel like all black (my go-to) would be too heavy for the summer, but I also don’t want to look like I just stepped off a yacht. How would you recommend I match separates for summer while still looking professional?

Thank you! Kate

First, good luck on your interview.  I’m also interviewing right now, and woof.  I forgot what this is like.

Second, let me make the case for buying a suit.  It never hurts to have one suit that looks great and fits well in your closet.  Maybe you won’t need it next week, but you might need it in the future.  I recently had to buy a new suit because my separates weren’t right for a law firm interview.

If you’re interested, for a four-season suit, I recommend navy or gray.  Black feels a little heavy in summer.  Ann Taylor has their seasonless stretch line in both a dark charcoal and a deep navy.  You can pick up the pencil skirt and the blazer for under-$200 (also in petite and tall).

Also, T Tahari has a lot of great office pieces at wallet-friendly prices.  I like their one-button blazer with their v-neck sheath dress.  This surprised me when I tried it on, because I usually find a dress with blazer fussy, but this one is simple and chic.

If you really want to make the separates work, the easiest thing you can do is start with a sleek dress.  V-neck works best, but any style will do.  You want something fitted that you feel great in.  On top of that, add the blazer you feel fits you the best.  The more tailored the look appears, the better.  I recommend neutrals for this.

If you don’t have a dress, start with a neutral skirt or pants in navy or gray.  Add a silky blouse in ivory, light gray, light blue or black.  Then, match the jacket to the blouse.  So if you’re wearing a navy pant with an ivory blouse, wear an ivory blazer.  You can also reverse this and do a navy skirt with a similarly-hued navy blouse, then add a black blazer.  The point is that having two pieces in the same color looks more polished than three different colors does.

Hi Abra,

Can you help me find some workout tops that aren’t terrible?  All of mine are basically see through or cropped.  I just want a real shirt.  Is that too much to ask?

Lisette

At this very moment, I am wearing the Uptempo top from Athleta.  The 2023 version is not as thick as the 2018 version that I have on, but it’s thicker than most of what you find in stores.  Their Momentum tee is also really nice.  It is very fitted though, so I size up for comfort.  Some colors also come in plus-sizes.

I also love Vuori’s feather tee.  It’s lighter weight, but it’s long and loose fitting.  I wear it too much.  Like, three times a week too much.  I had to buy another color, twice.

Prefer a tank?  This affordably priced one from Quince is breezy and long enough that I don’t feel like I’m trying to pretend to be 22.

Abra:

My MIL is getting remarried in a casual beach ceremony next month.  Last week, she decided that she wants my daughters and I to wear matching dresses “like an Instagram photo.”  She provided no further information and has acted exasperated every time my wife or I asks for color advice or more details. Help…

Just Along For The Ride

That is not a lot to go on, but having seen a few influencer holiday cards in my life, I think I’ve got it.

Since it doesn’t seem you need to dress any male attendees in matching attire, what about Hill House?  Maybe an Ophelia dress for you, and matching nap dresses for the girls?  That might be really cute and breezy.  Beyond that, Maisonette and Lilly Pulitzer both have Mommy-and-Me sections.

Frankly, since this is your mother-in-law, I’d ask your wife to choose. She would likely know her Mom best.

Hello,

I work in a small informal law office and wear jeans on Fridays. I am in a rut and reach for the same old couple of shirts. I need some new ideas for summer casual at work!

Thx. Diane

This is probably the easiest question of the bunch.  For the office, I would look at these six shirts:

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  1. AmandaG says:

    The being required to get a gift for the CFO… is… wow.

    • Jenn S. says:

      Yeah – spend the gift money on a resume consult package for your husband to get out of that place. That is absurd behavior.

      • Jill says:

        Agree. I thought it was strange to be asked to contribute for a group gift for the boss back in the day (staff was low paid). This is extreme. And a mandatory event with the boss is a work event — an intrusion into non-work time on top of the exhorted gift. Ugh.

    • Belle says:

      I was blown away. Also, if your EA feels comfortable telling employees a price range…wow.

  2. Courtney says:

    Ivy City has lots of bridesmaidish mommy and me dresses. https://ivycityco.com/collections/all-dresses

  3. Laura says:

    I have never been tempted to comment before now, but the CFO housewarming is beyond inappropriate. We are into toxic abuse of underlings territory. Even if the gift thing is a product of an extremely overbearing EA who was tasked with planning a party (hard to tell from the context) it still reeks of an environment where bad behavior is a cultural norm. Buy something less than $100 out of spite, stay long enough to get your faces seen, smile a lot, and then go home and work your network to get a new job.

    • Jenn S. says:

      I usually enjoy the spite angle, but these people should not get a dime of the E.K. and husband’s money even in the form of a spite gift. The CFO isn’t a feudal lord with a fiefdom. If they can buy a $3Mil house (and presumably had a similarly lavish wedding, at which they probably *also* got gifts), they can furnish and decorate it without extorting employees.

  4. WCEC says:

    Re casual tops, in the summer I wear the Isabel Marant Étoile Layona blouse a ton, if you’re okay with flutter-ish sleeveless. I am NOT a ruffles fan, but it’s surprisingly versatile and trendy/boxy without being too young. I actually wasn’t sure about it at first and am surprised at how much I wear it.

  5. CSDC says:

    The Vuori link actually goes to one of the Athleta tops. Would love to see the Vuori that you suggested – I need new tops. I have a drawer full that are old, misshapen, or just don’t fit right. Thanks! 🙂

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