Wednesday’s TPS Report: Floral Border Print Dress

Our daily TPS reports suggest one piece of work-appropriate attire in a range of prices.

Floral Border Print DressSheath dresses with sleeves are hard to find, and for some reason I’m really liking this black and white floral print dress from Ann Taylor. The contrast hem anchors it nicely, and while I normally don’t like exposed zippers, I think this splits the pattern up and somehow lends more structure to the dress. It’s $129, available in sizes 00-18. Ann Taylor Floral Border Print Dress

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Comments

  1. I love this dress. It would be great to wear to work ( we are biz casual) or on the week ends.

    Question for the hive….a few days ago, there was a discussion on what constituted “jorts”. Are these considered jorts too?

    http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/kut-from-the-kloth-natalie-denim-bermuda-shorts-dependable/3683612?origin=category-personalizedsort&contextualcategoryid=0&fashionColor=&resultback=885&cm_sp=personalizedsort-_-browseresults-_-1_2_C

    • I don’t know if they’re jorts, but they’re really ugly…

    • Eeeerrhmm…. I admit I’m projecting my own clothing constraints onto those bermuda shorts (jorts??) but I can see them being unflattering to many people. I think they’re as unforgiving as really tight jeans, but without the lenghtening (if one cares about that at all).

      They cut off at an awkward point, while hugging the knee area, but don’t have any flare shape to balance out one’s derriere. I’m neutral on the derriere – in that I don’t hate mine, nor wish to highlight it, but I can just imagine that these shorts/jorts would make my backview look like a giant lightbulb, bulb-side up. No thank you.

    • Yikes, those are bad. A combination of the wash and cut are very 40 something nanny (to me). I am a firm believer in the dark wash jean short, or even the white jean short, but anything in the mid blue range really risks jort territory.

    • I don’t wear jeans or shorts, but I think these would look good on someone tall and slim, provided the shorts hit just at the right spot. But most people would not be flattered by these shorts.

    • Oh those are awful, and yes, a version of jorts (jean shorts)

    • Thanks, ladies. I actually ordered a super dark wash from Kut but was curious as to what jorts were!
      Good I gave these a miss.

    • I think those are fine! I mean, they’re really casual of course, but a lighter wash goes well with summer pastel shirts and that length is flattering on me as a short, curvy person. I think of “jorts” as more of a men no-no, the kind that are baggy, wide and really thick material. I made my husband get rid of a pair when we started dating : )

    • These are definitely jorts. Step away.

    • These are fine – I probably won’t buy them, but they are pedal pusher/bermuda short territory. Denim shorts are not automatically awful. Jorts are wider legged, knee length men’s shorts. Often in stonewash.

    • Anon in ATX :

      I guess I am in the minority in that I would definitely wear these on the weekend, because the summers in Texas are too hot for long pants and there is no waaay I am going near a regular pair of (shorter) shorts.

  2. This is a really cute dress. The weather’s nice where I am, and I am looking to add to my spring/summer wardrobe, so this really fits the bill.

    On a related matter, I’m wondering how many of you work in an office that has a separate “summer” dress code. I do, and every year, it seems to cause trouble. Unfailingly, by the end of June or early July, an HR person has to mass-mail everyone to remind them that just because there’s a summer dress code, doesn’t mean people should push the boundaries too much. The mass email then lists things that are in violation of the dress code. Part of me is annoyed that this happens every year with no change; part of me is all: JSFAMO!

    • What is JSFAMO?

      We don’t have an official summer dress code, but we definitely get away with more. Not more skin, necessarily, but more casual. I love it, but I could do without the flip flops. Save it for pedicures and the pool, please!

    • Anonymous :

      We usually have to do a “what not to wear” posting in the summer, but we have a lot of young people in our office. Flip flops are never acceptable and it seems like everyone follows that rule at least.

    • hoola hoopa :

      I’ve never worked anywhere with an official summer dress code, but I worked in an office where there was a significant-but-unofficial shift. Old building, no AC, very large south-facing windows, no client contact. The understanding was that anything goes in your office, but that you must still look presentable outside your office – in hallway, main office, conference rooms, etc. Presentable was relaxed to include conservative-but-sleeveless tops (wide straps, high neckline, not body con, etc), “nice shorts” (twill, good condition, not too short) and sandals (not flip flops). I’d wear something light and loose on bottom and tiny on top with a lightweight cardigan or button-up to throw on over when I left my office. I also came in early and left early because by 2 or 3pm it was unbearable.

  3. I like that this dress has sleeves and a high neckline- however I don’t think it would be very flattering on many people. At least not me for sure. I need a more defined waist in a dress with my curves. But this would look lovely on my sister who’s very straight up and down and doesn’t need a more structured waist. I think I’ll send her the link this morning!

    Thanks to whoever recommended Shabby Apple yesterday! The dresses look gorgeous and I’m definitely going to be ordering from there in the near future.

    • I think the high neckline looks good on someone with a small chest, like myself, but not so much with a large chest, unless it is very well made. Somehow the high neckline always emphasizes the chest in a rather awkward way.

      • I don’t have a large chest, but I do have broad shoulders, and I find scoop or v-necks so much more flattering on me because it breaks up the wide expanse of fabric on my chest.

        • Same here. Can’t wear crew necks or similar cuts.

        • I have the double whammy of huge… tracts of land… and broad shoulders. V and scoop necks always. At all times.

          • Miz Swizz :

            +1 Any recs for nicer scoop neck tees? I need a wardrobe refresh.

          • I swear by Boden for scoop neck tees. Not super pricey and they hold up really well. The everlane/James Perse ones are too sheer for my personal taste. Gap/Banana republic’s are oddly baggy on me.

        • Seattle Freeze :

          Another with broad shoulders & flat chest here – I generally keep necklines below the collarbone & prefer deeper v-necks & scoop necks. A turtleneck might work in the winter, but only with short hair or hair up.

    • Yeah, it doesn’t look very flattering on the model, and something about the waist seaming doesn’t make me very optimistic. But I may pop over to the store to try it since it could be cute with a cardigan for work.

      Would love to hear feedback on Shabby Apple – the clothes look lovely but I’ve heard varying things about quality in the past.

      • I’ll keep you posted. I think I’m going to order this: http://www.shabbyapple.com/shop/bass-strait-wrap-dress today but it won’t ship for awhile. I think it’ll be perfect for some weddings and graduations this summer. I’m hopeful about the quality but we shall see.

      • lucy stone :

        I ordered from there a few years ago and had a quality issue – the zipper ripped out of the seams the first time I put the dress on! I’ve been reluctant to order from them again but would like to hear an updated report.

      • A Nonny Moose :

        Also several years ago but I was very unimpressed with quality. One dress I got unexpectedly had a very long hemline (quite unflattering mid calf length). The other was made of fairly rough cotton and was totally unlined. Pretty pricey for the quality. Shame because their stuff is cute and unique.

      • I’ve ordered a few times, and only once have I kept the item. The problems have generally been that fabric quality is poor, construction is shoddy, and everything is unlined. I LOVE the designs, so I’m often tempted to try again, but they’re very expensive for what you get.

      • In my experience, the things I ordered from Shabby Apple were all poor quality: unlined, cheap fabrics, wrinkle-prone.

  4. J Crew Vent - Emmaleigh Dress Review :

    I am the poster who had to order several sizes of the Emmaleigh dress and 1035 120s jacket because South Coast Plaza does not keep suiting in stock.

    Everything arrived. In many sizes. Everything is going back.

    For those who may be considering this dress/jacket suit combo, be warned: the Emmaleigh dress is not really a sleeveless dress; it is a dress with two straps (one over each shoulder). In other words, it shows a lot of skin around the neck and shoulders. Too much for me to be comfortable in an office.

    The 1035 jacket is nothing special. It is a little long for my taste (I prefer the sleeves to be longer than the jacket hem).

    • Bummer! I hate when I get excited about ordering an outfit only to be let down when it finally arrives and I try it on.

    • Maybe I’m the last one to figure it out, but it just dawned on me that “Emmaleigh” is a variant spelling of “Emily”. I guess I need to start drinking coffee.

      • Woah. That never occurred to me! I just thought “geez that is a long name.”

      • Anne Shirley :

        Not in my pronunciation it isn’t! Those sound very different.

        • How is that even possible? Phonetically they should sound exactly the same.

          How are you pronouncing Emmaleigh? I’m curious now.

          • Hildegarde :

            When I say “Emily” the accent is on the first syllable, but when I say “Emmaleigh” the accent is on the final syllable (so more like “Emma Lee”). Also, I think when I say “Emily” I pronounce the “i” a little bit, whereas with “Emmaleigh” I just pronounce the “a” like “uh.”

          • Ah, very interesting Hildegarde. With my Torontonian “accent” and personal tone they sound identical.

          • I pronounce them differently as well, maybe because I’m Southern? But I pronounce Emmaleigh as two seperate words. Emma Leigh. Like Mary Jane. It’s not all that different, but there’s definitely a distinction.

          • Diana Barry :

            Ditto to Hildegarde, the “i” in Emily is slightly different than the “a” in Emmaleigh, and I also pronounce that one Emma Lee.

          • Anne Shirley :

            Emily, with an “i”, versus Emma-lee, with an “a”

          • In my mind, I’m reading the -eigh as the same sound as in “sleigh.” So it’s more like Emma-Lay. I’m not trying to argue that that’s correct or anything, but that’s what my brain says/hears when I read it. I could never mentally hear the name Leigh as “Lee” either, though.

          • Anonylicious :

            My name is Leigh and people always, always mess it up. :( It’s not Leia, Leah, Lay, or any of the other variants I’ve heard.

            And I think Emmaleigh is probably supposed to be a “unique” spelling of Emily, but I definitely pronounce it as two words. (Like Golfballs, I’m Southern.)

          • Not Southern, but would also pronounce it Emma Lee.

    • Thanks for the review. As a lover of long jackets, I might need to take a look at the 1035. Sorry your order didn’t turn out – good luck with the suiting hunt!

    • Diana Barry :

      Bummer! I got a dress from them a couple seasons ago that was more sleeveless than tank – perhaps they’ll bring it out later toward the summer?

      Alternatively, I just got the Bridget dress and it is still a tank dress, but very nice.

    • Sorry Emmaleigh did not work for you. I love that dress and get so much use out of it both for work and more social occasions. I can put anything over it — blazer, cardigan, jacket. It has a modest neck that works well with jewelry. I also tried it on and bought it at the South Coast Plaza store. Their suiting in stock varies a lot by season. Right now they dont have much but in the fall and winter they carry quite a bit. Emmaleigh is a better fit for me than the v neck sheath or the one with racer back arms.

      You might try Nordstroms for a suiting sheath. I like Lafayette 148 which they carry along with Boss and Classiques Entier.

  5. Diana Barry :

    Another no go on the search for black patent pumps for me – I got the CH Air Chelsea in a wide and they are not wide enough, but too tall on the foot (my feet are only wide side to side, not top to bottom!). They look GORGEOUS but are too uncomfortable to keep. Does anyone want to help me find one that would be better?

    OUTFIT QUESTION: what would you wear to a neighborhood organization c-tail party? The neighborhood in question is mostly older people with a lot of money (so potential clients to me). My DH reports that the one time he went to it, a few years ago, there were lots of older women in mother-of-the-bride type 2 piece outfits. I suspect that I may stand out because of my age regardless. WWYW? :)

    • I highly recommend Aerosoles Benefit or a similar style. Caveat – it’s faux leather, and there’s a peeptoe AND a bow. But I think you can find similar styles from previous seasons without the bow. These are incredibly comfortable and have held up well.

    • I’d wear a sheath dress or another office-appropriate dress, possibly with a blazer or cardigan over it, and an evening necklace (pearls or bling, depending on your style). Especially if you are looking for clients. You’re going to stand out, as you say, so stand out as a professional. If you wear a true c-tail dress, I think you will stand out as a cute young thing. I’d wear flats, but I’m tall, so idk what to tell you for shoes.

    • Anne Shirley :

      Wrap dress/other dress with sleeves, expensive shoes, subtle real jewelry, neutral makeup, and simple hair. Like they would hope their daughters would be dressing. I’d own the age difference but try and look like I was going to grow up to be just like them.

      • Diana Barry :

        LOL, I have no wrap dresses or nice dresses with sleeves, nor expensive shoes (but I have Cole Haan air talis, does that count?) or real jewelry. It does sound nice though! :)

        • Anne Shirley :

          Those are expensive in my book! If no dresses with sleeves then I’d wear a sheath and a nice cardigan. If no real jewelry I’d wear something small and discreet- like little gold studs or hoops, little cubic zirconia etc. basically just not something that seems like it’s pretending to be uber fancy- simple strand of faux pearls even.

          Basic idea is that when you’re the youngest in the room, let your youth be your noticeable feature, and let your outfit blend.

          • Diana Barry :

            Thanks. I do have faux pearls – the rest of my jewelry (necklaces only) is all from Forever 21 or Jcrew/banana.

      • purplesneakers :

        Seconding this, it sounds perfect!

    • Anonymous :

      When is the party (weeknight or weekend)? If it’s a weeknight, I’d dress up a work outfit. Something like a sheath dress with a big statement necklace and heels. Especially if you’re looking for potential clients, the slight professional hint would be helpful. For a weekend party, I’d wear a conservative (nothing too short or with sequins) cocktail dress in a fun color.

      • Diana Barry :

        Thanks! It is a weeknight.

        Would you do blazer or cardigan with sequined lapel? I am always cold so will need something over.

        • It would honestly depend on the quality of the sequins. I agree with Anne Shirley’s sentiment that you want to avoid anything that would come off as garish or would undermine the image that you are a professional. If the sequins are too “NYE party,” I’d go for a solid blazer or cardigan instead.

          • Diana Barry :

            Tx. I think it is this one
            http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/281326632943?lpid=82

            Solid cardigan or blazer in black or another color? Now I feel like I am overthinking. :)

          • I’d probably shy away from sequins and do a colored blazer or cardigan.

            I know what’s it like to overthink these things, and I’m sure either way you’ll look great and come off professionally! :)

          • I would shy away from this one, too. I would do a nice blazer in a subtle color made from dupioni, however.

    • I bought these Nine West pumps last summer at DSW for my Dad’s funeral (so it was a quick “have to” purchase) and they are the best basic black pumps I’ve ever owned. I have a wide foot and narrow heel. I bought them a full size down from my usual size for heels and they fit me perfectly.

      http://www.dsw.com/shoe/nine+west+elise+leather+pump?prodId=dsw12prod3840064&brand=dsw11brand2800016&activeCats=women,dsw11brand2800016&isBrand=y&categoryName=women

    • Anon in NYC :

      Not sure what your price range / heel height requirements are, but I love the Kate Spade Karolinas in black patent. My feet are generally too wide for Cole Haan, but the Kate Spades are very comfortable.

    • A shorts suit, but that’s just me ;)

  6. Does anyone have the Kate Spade Saturday Weekender bag? If so, can you comment on quality and durability?

    • I do! I generally like the bag for its utility and that you can squeeze a TON into it, plus the separate shoe compartment. The downsides I’ve noticed are that 1) the fabric gets dirty easily (it’s canvas, so it seems to attract dirt when traveling – buy it in a darker color or print to camouflage) and the shoulder strap isn’t very comfortable on me.

  7. purplesneakers :

    I’m not a fan of floral patterns in general, but the black-and-white tones it down enough that I really like this.

    TJ: for all you ladies out there who fly long-distance on a regular basis, I have a layover question. I’m going to be flying to the US soon, and I have a choice of two flights, which are basically identical apart from the layover.

    Flight 1: Emirates, leaves [Home City] at 4,15 AM – Dubai- SFO, layover 1h 35 min

    Flight 2: Also Emirates, leaves [Home City] at 9.45 PM – Dubai, SFO, layover 7h 50 min

    I’m torn which flight to chose. On the one hand, I hate long layovers, and being in an airport by myself- even one as cool as Dubai- does not sound like fun, at all, especially since I have flying-related anxiety as is.

    On the other, I am paranoid about missing my flight, because the last time I flew international my first flight was delayed (sheer co-incidence the President happened to be flying into the same airport I was) and I only made my connection because I had a long layover.

    Thoughts?

    • purplesneakers :

      Choose. Whoops.

      Also this will be my first flight of that length alone. Fun!

      • YAY! I love Ann Taylor and this sheathe dress, tho the floral print I am NOT to much in love with. I would ask that they give me a different print then this one. FOOEY, b/c the price is good b/c of the funkie print, and a nice sheathe dress in a solid color is MORE with Ann Taylor!

        As for the OP, I just flew back to NYC from Pitsburgh, and it was a NON-STOP flight. Now I know that you are comeing from somewhere INTERNATIONAL, and whereever you are, you may NOT be abel to get a NON-STOP flight, but how about a “direct” flight? That way, you do NOT have to worry about missing your conection, b/c it is just sitting there while the peeople go in and empty the poopie from the bathroom and take out all the schmutz from the seat’s while you go in and buy food and clotheing and wine and drink at the duty free shop. Ask your secretary to get you on a DIRECT flight and you will NOT have much of any LAYOVER, b/c it is already there! When dad was overseas, he would NOT take a flight unless it was DIRECT, and when I traveled with my parent’s overseas on vacation, we alway’s took a DIRECT flight. If you get one of these, you should be OK.

        And one last thing, be carful in Dubai by weareing a long dress with covered sleeve’s. Even tho they are more progresive there, women are still looked at diferently, and NOT considered equal to men. You could get into troubel if you are uncovered and then aproach a man there, even to ask direction’s. You do NOT want to be acused of being some kind of vixen or something, trying to snag a rich guy. Even I do NOT want a guy who has money that will NOT treat me as an EQUAL, even tho I have advanced legal treaining and am admitted to the NY Bar, and in good standeing as an attorney at law. Men just do NOT care unless they get sex and I am NOT interested in having some guy do pushe-up’s on me pretending that he care’s about me then rolling off and walkeing away, like Alan did. FOOEY on that also! DOUBEL FOOEY on men like that, even if they are in another country. They are all alike. TRIPEL FOOEY!

    • Are both flights with the same airline? Do you need to go through check-in or baggage check or anything again in between flights? If they transfer your luggage and you just have to get from gate to gate, I would lean towards the short layover but call the airline and see what their policy is on booking you on the next flight if the first one is delayed. No airports are fun to hang around in for 8 hours.

      • purplesneakers :

        I’m actually flying from Home City to SFO, so the entire thing is on Emirates. I think that means no baggage check or check-in, since it’s technically one flight. Plus Emirates has its own terminal in Dubai, so there’s that.

    • Anne Shirley :

      I’d take the longer layover. I’ve missed long haul connections and had to wait a full day to get on a flight before and it was sad. Also, if the home-city to Dubai flight is the same, and the other flight hasn’t left yet, they may be able to bump you onto it if you don’t have checked bags.

    • Lily student :

      Do you have to fly Emirates for the second leg? There might be flights with other providers for the Dubai-SFO bit?

      I agree, 8 hours is a horrible layover to have, because it’s not really long enough to do anything (especially if overnight – although Singapore airport now do city tours if you have a long layover, which is cool) but too long to just read a book.

    • I would never even consider an 8 hour layer. You’ll probably be travelling almost a full 24 hours as it is! I regularly make less than 1 hr layovers in JFK, ORD and CDG by looking up the gates beforehand and figuring out exactly where I need to go when I deplane, and then just booking it past all the moseying vacationers.

    • Short layover, no question. The worst thing that happens if you miss your flight is they put you on a later flight, maybe the one that’s in 7.5 hours…. Why voluntarily sign up for your worst case scenario? And as far as luggage goes, if you’re checking a bag and somehow it doesn’t make the connecting flight, they’ll most likely be able to send it along on the next flight. I’ve had it happen and it was actually great – the airline delivered it to me 2 days later and I didn’t have to lug a suitcase from the airport. I’d just bring a spare change of clothes or two in a carry on bag with me, to be safe.

      • Woods-comma-Elle :

        Me too, but then I do appreciate that this isn’t for everyone. For me, the rewards of it working out outweigh the cost of it not working out ie. if it is on time, I will be there much more quickly, whereas if it doesn’t, well, then there is nothing I can do about it and will just have to wait. Then I won’t have a choice whereas setting myself up for an 8-hour wait from the start just sounds not fun.

        High risk, high reward in this instance.

        In terms of other things to consider – find out what the minimum transfer time is at DXB, would you need to go through immigration, change terminals, what the record of that flight is being on time etc. Could you get a hotel room for the layover period (maybe not if there is an immigration issue, but worth checking).

      • Lily student :

        +1 to bringing the changes of clothes in your carry-on bag, definitely. Along with more of any medications than you might normally carry (say if you take a tablet every morning, put them in your carry-on).
        I know you’re meant to always do that anyway but I’m generally pretty lax.

    • I don’t have any experience with the Dubai airport, but an hour and a half layover seems tight. But I’d probably risk it and hope to get put on the later flight if I missed the first one.

      If you choose the longer layover, can you think of a way to help you relax while you’re there – pay for access to the airline lounge or plan out what to do (shopping, restaurant, etc), or just save a particular book or movie trilogy or tv season for the layover? Just give yourself something to look forward to in those 8 hours.

    • I just got back from Dubai (emirates terminal) and if you are a shopaholic, you can spend 6-7 hrs there easily:) and it is ALWAYS crowded ….I was there at 3 am and it was packed with tourists.

      However please note that 1 hr 35 mins is actually 1 hr 15 min as you need to reach the gate 20 mins before they shut. So I would check with the airline if they can accommodate you on the later flight if you miss the connection. If yes, then I would pick the shorter layover but you may have to make a run for it,

    • Absolutely the shorter layover. The Emirates terminal in Dubai is easy to navigate and an hour and a half is fine. It will give you time to stretch out but not make an already long journey longer. Plus, AIMS is right – the long layover is your worst case scenario; don’t volunteer for it.

      • Woods-comma-Elle :

        Also – the airline obviously thinks that the amount of time given will be fine, so if it isn’t, it is their problem to accommodate you.

    • I forgot to add… Please fly both legs on the same airline. Otherwise you have to shuttle terminals as emirates has its own and you need to take the train there.

    • Matter of preference, but the Dubai airport is my all-time favorite so I’d have no problem with a long layover :) Great food and shopping!

    • Blonde Lawyer :

      Also keep in mind where you are sitting on the plane. If you are in the very back it will take you a lot longer to get off the plane and to your other gate.

      I sometimes fly US – Germany – Singapore and I prefer the 8 hour layover in Germany b/c it is in the middle of my night and I get a hotel room and sleep for 7 hours! If this is a mid-day stay awake layover 8 hours is def. long.

      • If you let the flight attendants know you have a short connection window before boarding, they will usually ask the other passengers to remain seated for a minute to let you get off the plane first.

    • A 1h30 layover is not too short to make a connection in my opinion – you’ll have plenty of time.

    • Yuck … hard to decide. I agree if it’s the same airline, go for the 1h 30, but you might be risking it. I had an experience where I flew across country on the same airlines, two separate flights, and ended up almost missing it due to the time difference. Got my exercise for the day.

    • Anon Travelere :

      Apologies if this double posts (received an error initially). There is a hotel in the Dubai airport that I would definitely consider using. You can pay by the hour (I don’t recall the rates, but I think they were pretty reasonable), and the elevator to the lobby is right in the middle of the terminal. I used it on a previous layover of about 7 hours and really appreciated having my own space to wash up, access the internet, watch some TV, etc.

    • Anon Traveler :

      Apologies if this double posts (received an error initially). There is a hotel in the Dubai airport that I would definitely consider using. You can pay by the hour (I don’t recall the rates, but I think they were pretty reasonable), and the elevator to the lobby is right in the middle of the terminal. I used it on a previous layover of about 7 hours and really appreciated having my own space to wash up, access the internet, watch some TV, etc.

    • applesandcheddar :

      Short layover – no question. This is probably a regular flight/layover for Emirates, and you will have plenty of time. You do not need to go through full security/customs to get on your flight to SFO. You will have plenty of time to catch your flight in Dubai. Worst case, they stick you on the next flight.

    • Alanna of Trebond :

      Probably too late for this, but I would take the long layover and explore Dubai — I have gone skiing at the Mall of the Emirates (or the other one, I always get them confused) on an 8 hour layover. I tend to make friends with the people on my flight and also have a friend in Dubai.

  8. Thanks everyone for bridesmaid dress suggestions yesterday. I’ve compiled a long list of potentials and sent them to my friend. She’s going to put together a short list and we’ll order them for her to try.

  9. Can we talk about smart casual? :

    What do you wear for smart casual? There’s probably 3 occasions I need help with: (1) non-work related meetings on the weekend (for a volunteer-type thing) where I’m still trying to impress since I’m junior, but people are in casual-Friday type outfits, (2) going out with friends to casual bars and (3) work on the weekends/dinners and “hanging out” with people when I’m travelling for work (not clients).

    I’ve got work clothes down. And I’ve got the yoga pants/sweatpants look down. And I’ve got the super casual summer day look down (coloured shorts and tank type thing). I think it’s maybe that I’m growing into a need for smart casual. I’m mid/late twenties and I never saw a need for “I want to impress but be casual and exactly on tone” clothes before.

    What I normally wear is just jeans and a sweater for this kind of thing. Maybe a blouse. But can people suggest some outfit ideas – maybe even with shopping links?

    • It’s all in the accessories – wear a statement necklace or scarf with your sweater. Or a blouse in a bold color or pattern that you can see under a cardi. Comfy but bold shoes help as well – this spring, pastel-colored flats seem to be very in.

      Also, are you comfortable in dresses and skirts? A nice jersey, linen, or cotton dress or a-line skirt would seem to be appropriate for these occassions as well.

    • I wear linen blend trousers with a nice blouse. And CH air tali wedges.

      Or a simple sheath dress in a pattern, not solid. With wedges or low sandals.

    • It depends where you are, but where I live, it’s already too hot to wear jeans during the day. So I live in simple cotton skirts during the summer. I’ll wear a lot of the cotton Anthropologie shirts that have interesting details/colors/ruching and cardigan with them. Then, maybe some gladiator or other strappy sandals.

      You also can’t go wrong with ankle-length pants and nice t-shirts, accessorized appropriately. I buy a lot of stuff like that from Gap/Old Navy.

    • Not sure what your budget is- if you’re looking for inexpensive options, check out the Express “portofino” line of shirts- you can get sleeveless or with sleeves- if you pair them with jeans or even nicer shorts, they make a great casual outfit for spring/summer and can transition into the fall as well. a necklace or scarf would also go great with the shirts.

    • That’s when I try to channel Audrey Hepburn and pull of the chic black ankle pants with nice tshirt or top and smart flats.

      I think the LE type casual ponte dresses work well for this as well. Although, last time I had a similar meeting I went in a wool type shift with leggings and mocs as I had a head cold.

    • Killer Kitten Heels :

      I think structure helps make casual look “smart” – so, if you’re wearing a flowy skirt or pants, you’re wearing a structured top or casual blazer on top, or if you’re wearing a loose shirt, you’re pairing it with fitted ankle pants. Same idea with dresses – some part of the dress needs to be structured/fitted to make it look more upscale (the Tracy Reese dress emeralds linked to to above is a perfect example of this, for me, because of the shirred waist).

    • Senior Attorney :

      This is where Pinterest and fashion blogs can be really helpful. Just looking at a lot of photos can give you some great ideas. Also Angie over at youlookfab dot com has a lot of outfit ideas — she posts one every Friday and a lot of them are smart casual. Go to the blog and click on “ensembles” to see them.

    • You sound like me exactly – same age, same hole in the wardrobe. Just this week, however, I discovered Keaton Row – which, if you’re not familiar with it, is a website that matches you with a stylist who will pull outfits together for you from items from nordstrom/asos/shopbop and then you just buy the items like you would online shopping through the keaton row website. I asked her to put together some casual outfits for me for meeting friends for lunch, running errands etc., that was a step up from my regular target t-shirts and ill-fitting jeans look and I was really happy with the options she showed me. She was also very respectful of my price point and everything she showed me was under $100 (and many under $50). I highly recommend giving it a try – there’s no cost to sign up or to have them put a “lookbook” together for you, and you don’t pay any extra for the items over what the retailer has them listed for. I felt like she put together some looks that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of but was still in my comfort zone. The stylists get a commission for what you purchase – they market them as the future Avon ladies. I liked that with the “lookbooks” you can see how each item works together in the outfit, which is what I always struggle with – “I like this shirt, but what would it go with?” P.S. I don’t work for them I’m just excited about my new clothes coming in the mail!

    • I always say the first staple “smart casual” item you need is a dark denim in a uniform wash (no whiskering or variations in color). My grandma used to joke that there’s not such thing as “dressy denim,” but nowadays I disagree. I’m not sure your body type or budget, but I really like JBrand Maria High Rise in Starless wash (I’ve bought these for a lot of clients, too). For mid-range, I like Madewell jeans. For cheaper options, Uniqlo has come out with decent denim. If you want a non-denim smart casual option, Club Monaco has some slim pants that are easily dressed up or down and look great with flats and pumps.

      I also agree that blogs and Pinterest boards are a good place to start to give you ideas. As you notice what you like, you can see some of the common pieces and pairings to make a shopping list that includes the most versatile items.

    • I’m posting late but you might look through some of the posts on the blog Putting Me Together. She has a lot of good outfit formulas that often work even if her examples aren’t exactly your style or level of formality, you can adjust to fit your style. A lot of her business casual (leans more casual) examples seem like what you’re looking for.

  10. Shopaholic :

    Vicarious shopping help!

    I’m looking for a black shift dress (not necessarily for work) that I can dress up and down for all sorts of events. I bought a silk colorblocked shift dress a couple years ago (and did not buy the black or cobalt ones they had because I thought they were too expensive to have 3 of the same). I am amazed at what a workhorse my colorblocked dress is and would love to have one in black? Any suggestions? I’m petite (5’2) and usually a size 2-4. TIA!

  11. TJ: heading to the beach for Memorial Day weekend Girls weekend and as a surprise treat I’d like to pick up some wine locally (DC) before getting there and paying elevated prices/limited stock at the beach liquor stores – loved the recs recently & would love some recs for cheap(er) (<$10 bottle) wines to satisfy wider range of tastes – red & white – and maybe champ/prosseco/cava recs for mimosas in the AM! Would like to take 6-9 bottles down.

    • Miss Behaved :

      My favorite white wine is jlohr chardonnay

    • Vinho verde is my fave summer white. Hit up the Total Wine in Laurel, McLean, or Alexandria and ask for a rec that is $10 and under.

      If you’re looking for really cheap, I drink a lot of Rex Goliath pinot noir and cabernet from the grocery store ($5-6/bottle in Virginia).

    • Lady Tetra :

      Trader Joe’s! They have a big selection of <$10 wines. I like any of the "__ Moon" ones, they're all $5.99 I think but they aren't terribly cheap-tasting.

      • Yup. Trader Joe has the best cheap wine. Their $4 Malbec is good (can’t remember the name), but the Dark Horse Big Red Blend for $7 or $8 is my standard table red. I’m obsessed with it. It’s very juicy and dark fruit-forward, but not too heavy on the tannins. Loooove. The Dark Horse Cabernet is also a good option, but I don’t like it quite as much. Overall, I’ve found the Trader Joe’s wine people to be well-informed and helpful, so I’d also just tell them your price point and ask for recommendations.

        Agree that Vinho Verde is great for the summer. My favorite brand easily available in the US is Casal Garcia. I think it’s in the $6 range.

        And if you’re looking for mimosa fixins’, my wine-snob self weeps sad tears to admit it, but the peach-flavored Andre makes the best damn mimosas. Add some grenadine and a couple of raspberries if you want to be faaaancy.

    • New Age is my favorite cheap white. I’m pretty sure you can get it for around $10, and I think it would be perfect for a girls weekend! Very drinkable and a little bit bubbly. For red, Bogle’s merlot is inexpensive and surprisingly good (I know, merlot, but it really is good!).

    • Lily student :

      For reds I love Italian wines like Primitivos and Montepulcianos. In the UK they’re both around £6-8 including our very high alcohol tax so should be in budget.

    • Fairview Goats do Roam- fun South African blends (the red and rose are my preferences).

    • Trader Joe’s has a good under-$10 prosecco! Their true champagnes take you up to around $25-30, at least in my state, but the prosecco that I bought there for around $7.50 was just as good as the $30 champagne they carry.

      For a white to offer to those who are not in the chardonnay camp and prefer sauv blancs and crisp, grassy notes, I am a HUGE fan of Patient Cottat Le Grand Caillou Sauvignon Blanc. It is hands down my favorite white and I just ordered a case consisting of solely that for summer. It’s Loire Valley and is as Sancerre-like as you can get without the Sancerre price. Depending on the store, it can be under $8 or closer to $12. I just did a search for it on wine searcher dot com recently because my local stores are out of it, and I know there was a place in DC that carried it.

    • For a cheap, summer bubbly, I like Louis Perdrier Brut Rose. I’m not sure I’d put it in a mimosa, but I like it on its own.

    • hoola hoopa :

      For cheap, I like Columbia Crest Grand Estates. Not Twin Estates – big difference. Barefoot does a good job with the fun, soda-pop wines that are fun for girls weekends.

      Many of the wine stores here have a curated <$15 section. And our local whole foods-ish grocery store chain has a really great selection of <10 with recommendations. Maybe something like that near you?

      • Anonymous :

        Oh man do not bring Barefoot. Might as well bring Franzia–the box at least makes it easier to transport.

        -signed, someone who didn’t even like sweet wine cooler-type wine when I was 15.

      • Anonymous :

        Yeah no barefoot. Barefoot is terrible

      • I’ll sign my name to this one to agree with the Anonymouses. I like plenty of bottles in the $10 range for whites, and Barefoot is undrinkable to me. I’d rather be sober.

      • Anonymous :

        I once worked a wine tent that offered Barefoot and was given multiple bottles as a parting gift. While technically drinkable, it’s not good. When asked to describe the “pink” wine, all I could come up with was “Well, it tastes exactly like you’d expect a sparkly pink wine to taste like.” For free drinks, it was nice free buzz, but it’s not something I’d ever pay for.

  12. I’m on edge all week because I had the second interview at my DREAM JOB in my DREAM LOCATION on Monday. They told me I may find out this week. I can’t concentrate!

  13. Baconpancakes :

    What to wear TJ: Friend’s law school graduation is this weekend, and I completely forgot to plan an outfit. It’s a pretty intensive schedule, with a BBQ Friday, a hooding ceremony, the champagne farewell (business dress), and the actual graduation exercises. The dress code given for most of the events is “regalia,” which I’m obviously not wearing since I’m not the one graduating. And to complicate matters, it’s in North Carolina, 80′s and 90′s all weekend, chance of rain. What on earth do I wear?

    • Clementine :

      I would bring:

      -Casual Ponte knit dress
      -Cropped or ankle length lightweight pants
      -Sleveless silk shell
      -Blazer
      -Cardigan
      -Tailored sheath or suiting dress (lightweight material)
      -Lightweight scarf or statement necklace
      -Comfortable sandals (I would personally do a wedge) and neutral pumps (I would do nude-for-you)

      Personally, I would pack all these pieces and just mix and match or sub in as necessary. I would do- cropped pants plus top for the BBQ, either ponte or sheath dress for the hooding ceremony, sheath dress plus blazer for champagne farewell, and either the ponte or sheath dress for the exercises. I’m assuming that some of these things happen on the same day, so I would personally wear the sheath to the farewell plus whatever other activity is closest to it and the ponte for the other event. Blazer and cardigan are key in case you get frozen out by AC and I’ve found that a lightweight scarf is something I never regret packing.

  14. Need to Improve :

    Shopping help needed. I adore maxi dresses but often have trouble finding dresses that accommodate my b**bs. My situation is a little deflated after years of breastfeeding, and I am not small-chested, which means I need to wear a bra at all times. One with straps. Most maxi dresses are not very bra-friendly. Do you know of any that are, and/or that are supportive on top? I am jonesing for a new summer dress! One with a pretty pattern. Also, I am 5’6″ and find I need a petite or shorter dress because I wear flat sandals with maxis and the hem drags otherwise. I found a great one at H&M a few summers ago but it has run its course and I need a new one.

  15. Wedding Guest Dress? :

    Halp! Vicarious shopping needed! I need a dress to wear to a Saturday evening wedding (church ceremony, hotel reception) in east Texas at the end of May. I ordered this Adriana Papel from Nordie’s but I hate it on me (link in reply). I am a pear but with a little extra belly pudge and would prefer short sleeves to cover my upper arms. I’m about 30 so I would like to look age appropriate too. Budget is under $200. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  16. Travel + Working Mom :

    Anyone who has children and travels for work speak to how they handle it? Do you have in-laws close by? Does your husband/partner also travel for work?

    I have a toddler and my job is involving more and more travel. 2-3 trips per month, 2-4 days at a time.

    • I have two kids and husband frequently travels. Mine is infrequent travel so we try not to travel at the same time. We have live- in nanny so it is a blessing. Family is in a different country. If we both must travel at the same time, we ask friends to be the emergency contact and nanny has all the numbers …they are on the fridge. We skype with the kids and call many times during the day. Lessens the ache a bit.
      Apart from that, no tips. Sorry!

      • Lorelai Gilmore :

        How do you manage paying the nanny when the nanny is working around the clock? Do you pay overtime for all of the extra hours? If you pay off the books it’s no big deal, but I can’t figure out how to do this while paying on the books and paying overtime.

        • Need to Improve :

          You need to pay overtime (if you do things on the books) but at least in some states you do not need to pay while she is sleeping. Different states have particular labor code laws about how to compensate for idle time, but my rule of thumb is that I pay for all waking hours (even after kid bedtime when she is watching TV) plus a small stipend for being willing to sleep in my house. I pay overtime after 8 hours and time and a half after 12. it’s a lot!!!!!!!

    • My husband travels around one week at a time once a month, with 1-night trips here and there. I travel occasionally for depositions, hearings, etc. We have both sets of grandparents in town. The kids go to day care each day and when one of us travels, the other just takes care of the kids. Case in point: my husband is out of town this week, so I’m in charge of the kids all week. I make sure that I don’t plan anything after work this week.

      On the few rare times when we both had to travel, my mom watched our kids (who are now 2 and 9 months). But we put each other’s travel schedules on our calendars, so I can go out of my way not to schedule trips when my husband is out of town and vice versa.

    • Maddie Ross :

      I do, and we do a combination of husband handling it alone, or my MIL or mother coming in. Mostly the plan is for husband to handle, but if we look at the calendar and realize that he’s got a lot going on, we ask for some backup help. Both MIL and mother are retired, which helps, though neither is local (both at least 2.5 hours away) so we usually need to give at least a week’s heads up. My husband does not travel, but he does have early/late meetings, which is what causes the rub with daycare pickup and drop off. So far we’ve made it work just by planning everything WAY in advance. I don’t know how we’d manage at this point if we had trips pop up suddenly.

    • During the height of my work travel I do 2-3 trips/month for 2-3 days at a time. We don’t have a nanny, so having a sitter and/or family helps quite a bit. I’m lucky enough to be able to generally time my departing flight for after daycare drop-off, so I suggest if you can, try to time your departure for after daycare drop-off or your nanny’s arrival. That gives family a bit more flexibility in their arrival time.
      I’m also not shy about writing lists/instructions of what needs to go to/from daycare, what needs to happen at home while you’re gone (laundry, shopping, etc.). My son tends to do better if I don’t facetime while I’m gone, but your child may be different.
      My husband also travels, though much less frequently, and we do work very hard to make sure we don’t have overlapping trips. Sticking to a normal routine as much as possible helps. And brace yourself for the possible issues when you return. We had to re-sleep train at about 14 months because my son realized that mommy was gone and wasn’t coming home for a few days and would refuse to sleep without me in the room. Brutal, but we got through it, and so will you.

      • Maddie Ross :

        Agree as to facetiming. I do facetime with my husband, if I can, while I’m gone, but not until the baby has gone down. She finds it really confusing and we’ve found it’s easier for her just to do her normal after school/bedtime routine with dad and not to try and interject the iPad into it.

    • My mother lives a mile away & handles child care when I travel. My husband will help as he can, but he leaves for work at 6 am so he can’t do mornings, so either the kids stay at my mom’s or she comes here at 6 am. I bring a copy of my mother’s schedule with me when I am planning meetings, depos, etc., and make a huge effort to avoid scheduling travel when she is out of town. I know I’m very lucky about this, but even so, it’s really hard to travel. It just messes up everyone’s schedules.

    • ContractsinTX :

      My husband stays home, but I take over when I get home in the evening. When I’m on travel, he either goes 24/7 or will make a trip to his parents for the help. The best thing that helps my toddler (and selfishly, me) is Facetime. He’s loved it since before he was a year old. We have not had to deal with it confusing him. A lot of times he carries around my husband’s phone or the ipad around the house, which kind of feels like you’re watching the Blair Witch project being filmed in your house. I also see only his forehead for about 30% of the call. Still, it’s nice for us both to see each other.

  17. hellskitchen :

    TJ – I need to find a formal Vietnamese dress for a close relative’s multicultural wedding. I believe it is called an “ao dai”? Has anyone had experience with buying one online or getting it tailored? I am in Chicago and there seems to be a Vietnamese market here but I have no idea what to look for or how much I should expect to pay. I am excited about getting to dress up, but this will be one of three ethnic outfits I am getting for the wedding so would like to keep my costs under control. Any advice?

    • Ask your relative what to look for and expected price ranges?

      • hellskitchen :

        Can’t. I am from the groom’s side and don’t know the bride very well… she’s Vietnamese. Plus both her and the groom are in a different city – she suggested that I go to a tailor but doesn’t know about costs in my city, since she has a family tailor in her city that they have been using for ages. I am trying not to put this on her or the groom as they are both swamped with wedding prep.

        • Got it. This isn’t advice, but I think it’s sort of unfair for them to expect you to find a specific ethnic garment without any help. IMO if they are requiring you to wear something, they should include finding it in their wedding prep. Good luck.

          • hellskitchen :

            I feel the same way :-) But trying to start a new family relationship on a positive note and all that jazz…

          • If I were in your shoes, I’d go have lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant and ask all the women working there what shops they’d recommend.

          • hellskitchen :

            Anon, that’s actually a great idea. It’s one of my favorite cuisines so works out brilliantly.

          • Meg Murry :

            Yes, I’d also ask what colors or patterns you should or shouldn’t wear, if the bride hasn’t already. Chances are there are colors that are reserved for the bride only, or that are considered lucky or unlucky.

          • Don’t wear red. That is for the bride.

    • Is wearing an ao dai absolutely required? Someone very close to me in my in-law family is getting married, wearing cultural things, but we as guests aren’t expected to wear them. We just wear something nice.

      • hellskitchen :

        Yep. The groom is my husband’s brother and he and his fiancee would like us to wear traditional outfits for the Vietnamese ceremony. They aren’t throwing a fit about it or anything – they asked nicely and I don’t mind doing so, unless it becomes too expensive or too much of a hassle. They would help if they could but as I said, the bride doesn’t know much about shopping in my city. That’s why I was hoping someone here has had experience with these outfits and could give me some pointers on buying off of ebay versus getting them tailored.

    • I would honestly look on ebay. Often these are custom-made, but you may be able to find one in your size. Etsy may also be a good online possibility.

    • Getting an ao dai tailored can be quite costly because you have to buy the fabric and then have it tailored to your specific measurements. If you are only wearing it once for the wedding, I would suggest renting one. I have no clue what kind of Vietnamese stores are in Chicago but there should be a store that is specifically for wedding supplies and outfits.

  18. Can anyone recommend a good cardigan for someone very curvy/hourglass shaped to wear with dresses (primarily A-line, but some sheaths as well). I know this is pretty basic, but I feel like most of them just bunch at my hips, cover my b**bs in a weird way or just don’t look right in general. Similarly, can anyone recommend a good business casual blogger with similar curves who I could look to for inspiration?

    • and I generally prefer to stay in the Banana Republic/ J. Crew price range.

    • If you can get your hands on a J.Crew “Jenna” cardigan I highly recommend it. They’re sold out online but are made for wearing with dresses. They hit above the hips and are perfect. I’m wearing a black one right now and love it. I’m pear shaped.

    • I’ve had good luck with Boden for long (boyfriend-length) cardigans that skim nicely over dresses/skirts and could easily be belted.

    • your shape twin :

      V-necked cardigans are your friend. A winning combination for me is sheath dress + v-neck cardigan (Madewell, Banana Republic have worked well for me) + belt on the outside + opera-length necklace to tie it all together. I also recommend three-quarter-sleeved wrap cardigans (my favorites were finds at Ross) + belt, etc. . . . although sometimes the effect of a belted wrap cardigan on my short waist leaves me feeling a little like a Star Wars character (think Luke Skywalker’s odd tunic outfits).

      Blazers have never worked for me.

      As for bloggers, I like Putting Me Together. Her outfits skew more casual, but I learn a lot from the color combinations and layering effects.

      • hoola hoopa :

        In addition to Putting Me Together, I like Franish for shape and style. She also leans casual (she’s a med student) and isn’t as instructional as PMT, but she dresses up enough that I’ve gotten good inspiration for business casual. She wears fewer trends and more classic basics with a trendy spin, so it’s a good match for me.

    • Meg Murry :

      I know opinions on Lands End range differ widely on this site, but this cardigan was intended by LE to go with their sheath dress – and if you want it a little shorter you could get it in petite. Just make sure you read the measurements on their size chart – a LE Medium might be a Large or XL in some other designers.

    • I am an hourglass and often have the same problems with cardigans. I agree with the previous posters that v-neck is the way to go.

      I just purchased a v-neck cable cardigan from Lands End and it doesn’t bunch at my hips or fall in a weird place over my chest. It’s substantial enough that it lies/drapes properly without being too heavy for spring or summer. I’m not sure how versatile the cable would be for wearing over dresses, but it has a lot of good reviews: http://www.landsend.com/products/womens-long-sleeve-cotton-cable-v-neck-cardigan/id_265032

  19. Any suggestions on how to repair a scratched leather purse that isn’t black?

    I have been using a gray-ish (it’s a unique color) leather handbag for the last 18 months and noticed that three small white horizontal scratches on the front of the bag this morning. Any suggestions on how to fix it at home or a place to get it fixed? It is a designer bag, so I’m willing to pay a decent amount to have it repaired and keep it in good shape.

  20. Hive, can you help me with some dress suggestions? I have three upcoming events (graduation, a medium-formal wedding, and a work event). I’d like a dress that fits the bill for all three. Is that crazy? I love the link-to-follow dress, but it’s white so it’s out for the wedding.

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