Ask the Editor: Vol. IV, No. Thirteen

Dec 21, 2023

Today is my first day out of COVID quarantine.  This variant is brutal.  If you intend to get the new vaccine and haven’t yet, I implore you to get it soon.  And if you’re traveling for the holidays this weekend, mask up.  Let my week spent ill and isolated be a cautionary tale.

Dear Belle,

I bought this black velvet dress from Anthropologie to hopefully wear to holiday parties this year, but need some ideas for blazers/sweaters/jackets that can keep me warm without looking frumpy.  
Any recommendations? Diane

Ooh, I like this.  Have you considered wearing something underneath it instead of over it?  Spanx makes a product called Arm Tights.  They’re meant to be worn under sleeveless tops, so they’re very lightweight, but would offer some warmth.  Skims also makes a similar product.  If you want something festive, this sheer, sparkly mesh bodysuit or this lace layering top from Anthro are also a great option.

Committed to a blazer?  With the velvet material and the cowl neck and the dark color, it’s going to be a challenge.  Since it’s a party look, I’m tempted to go all in and commit to a look with sequins.  I know, it’s heavy.  But it’s intentionally heavy.  This sequin blazer with a tall, high heeled boot, a red lip, a big cocktail ring and a statement clutch is intentionally maximalist.  If you’re going to try this look, you have to be prepared to work it.  You meant to wear this, you planned it this way, and you’re here to carry it off.

If you want something lighter, I’m going either white or berry.  For the white, I want this ruched sleeve Khloe blazer, which easily falls into your work wardrobe later.  The single button look is key here — you need that slimming structure with a dress made of heavy material with a cowl.  If you choose a double-breasted blazer like this berry-colored one, you need to wear it open, push up the sleeve, and pull it together with a similarly colored earring or bracelet stack.

Hi Belle,

I need a quick gift from Ulta or Sephora for a 12-year-old girl.  My soon-to-be stepdaughters are in 7th Grade and their Mom has said no expensive skincare, but that’s literally their whole Christmas list, so she relented on more affordable options.  Suggestions?

Thanks a million! Willa

I recently encountered this problem as well.  TikTok has every junior high aged girl asking for $62 serum. For my gifts, I went with Tony Moly products.  The products are affordable, they have fun packaging, and they’re still fantastic skincare.  Even I love their Banana Sleeping Pack, which will make it look like you got a full night’s sleep even if you didn’t.

Dear Abra,

I’m headed to a conference in Miami in February.  Two events, T-W-O, require work attire to be worn outside during the day.  I mean sheath dress and heels work attire, business suit work attire.  How do I keep from getting sunburned?!  How?!?  Am I supposed to carry an umbrella?

Sincerely, Selena

I’ve been to Miami in February, worst sunburn of my life.  It was purple.  So I can attest, that sun is intense.

Tip No. 1: Buy European Sunscreen.  Did you know U.S. made sunscreens are regulated as a pharmaceutical instead of a cosmetic, meaning that the UV filters in U.S. sunscreen haven’t been updated since the 1990s.  European sunscreens are updated every year to provide optimal sun protection.  You can read more about it here.

To buy European sunscreens, I use Care to Beauty.com.  Some people claim you can get the products on Amazon, but I’m skeptical.  I cannot earn $1 from the sale of this product, but it’s worth it to prevent you from getting fried like a crisp in the sun.  I buy this La Roche Posay sunscreen.  I will never buy another U.S. made sunscreen again.

Tip No. 2: Consider a Hat.  To wear with a sheath dress, I want a dramatic, wide brimmed sun hat.  Is the look a little bit glam?  Yes, will it keep your skin out of the sun, also yes.  If you’re going to make my 41-year-old face stand outside during the workday, you better believe I don’t care if you think I’m overdressed.

This one from Mirabel is a girly dream.  This one from Neiman Marcus is more realistic.  I also really like this one from Madewell that gives relaxed glam.

Abra, 

I’m in DC and have a 40-something friend who just had her first baby in LA.  I want to send HER something special, I am sure the baby has been showered plenty at this point so the new momma may need a pick-me-up! 

Any suggestions in the $50-$75 range? Thanks! C.Lee

After Sloane was born all I wanted was a break.  Send $75 to cover a babysitter so she can have some time to herself.  Pay for a pedicure at her favorite place.  Buy her a few audiobooks on Audible to listen to while she washes bottles or folds laundry.  Or spend the money on a coffee card, trust me, she needs the caffeine.

Abra:

I need a new winter dress coat.  After six years, it’s time to retire the camel one I bought when I first moved to D.C. from San Diego.  Is it foolish to buy an ivory coat?  I just really don’t want basic black.

Thanks! ASU

I wore an ivory coat for years, while I lived in D.C. (even when I rode Metro).  The key to keeping it clean is to invest in some good stain-removing wipes.  Then, send it to the cleaner once a month.  That’s it.  This is all to say, not it is not foolish.

As for ivory suggestions, this belted wrap coat brings the drama.  Ann Taylor has an impeccably tailored Chesterfield coat.  And, of course, Mango always has a stylish option, or two.  Plus-size?  Try this one from Jessica London.

If you’re still sheepish about ivory, light grey is a great alternative.  This Abercrombie coat is nice.  I also like this silver-grey Karen Millen coat.

Can you help me find a new curling iron?  My trusty Drybar iron burnt out last week after 8 years.  Do you have a favorite?

Monica

I have used some version of this Conair Instant Heat curling iron since college.  They last 5-7 years each time.  I like the weight, the variable heat settings, and the fast heat up time.

If you want a higher end curling iron, T3 is the choice of most influencers.  You can pick one up for a reduced price at Nordstrom Rack.

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  1. Anna says:

    For the new mom, I suggest something that makes her feel human but doesn’t require much thought. It was like 8 months before I got a pedicure, because the planning required to make an appointment, make sure my partner was going to be home, ensuring it wasn’t during a feeding time, etc. was just too much. If there’s a mobile pedicure service, that would be AMAZING. Also, re:sitters, she may be uncomfortable with sitters at this point. Things like a luxe facemask or other fancy skin care, non-frumpy, silky pajamas, might also be nice.

    • Jules says:

      I’m going to echo this. Leaving the home, even for doctor check ups was SO hard. I had to make sure my husband took time off, etc. (Nothing wrong with baby sitters but I didn’t want to entrust a stranger, just my own preference). I didn’t drink either for breastfeeding (again I know you are allowed to, but just didn’t work with me). I would have LOVED something delivered to my door though, skincare, treats (from my favorite bakeries and local shops, not just meals, which I was very lucky that friends and family brought for me), and UBER EATS gift card was my fave 🙂

  2. Erica says:

    The Kristin Ess line (at Target and Ulta, maybe other places too) have great quality hair tools at a reasonable price. I have two curling irons and the curling wand and think they are all great. Her hair products are my go-to for drugstore options, too.

  3. C.Lee Cawley says:

    Thanks so much for answering my question! C.Lee

  4. Shannon says:

    For the new mom, I would suggest a little tabletop fridge and some drinks and snacks to fill it up. Protein shakes (like Carnation Instant Breakfast) are a drink AND a snack.

    Not having to leave my upstairs cocoon every time I got hungry or thirsty was a godsend when I was postpartum (especially since I’d had a C-section and the steep staircase was rough on me).

    And now I use it to store iced coffee for me, and fruit pouches for my kid.

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