Category Archives: asked and answered

asked and answered: boots for small calves

hurray, reader mail!  i’ll admit that this one has taken me a while to answer…extensive research was required.  but here we are, at last:

I was wondering if you could recommend some brands or styles of boots that are good for those with really small calves.  All the articles I read mention the problem of boots for people with large ones, but I am really tiny and like boots that hug my legs (hate that swimming feeling and look).  Also looking for fashionable rain boots that are good for small calves.  Any suggestions would be great…  ~ j.v.

excellent question.  not one that personally affects me, but i have plenty of friends that have this issue.  a few rules of thumb:  steer clear of pull-on boots, as they’ll be roomier at the top than one that zips.  and, some sort of buckle closure at the top or anything else designed to cinch the boot is probably a perfect option for you.

the truth is that you have to have a lot of hands-on experience with various brands to come up with really good options in this department.  so, i decided to call in the expert:  morgan wendelborn, style director at shopbop.  here are her words of wisdom:

As far as rainboots go, I actually buy mine a half size up, because they look best when they are a little clunky (plus you can wear a thicker sock!). As long as the rest of your silhouette is fitted or slim:  pair with leggings or skinnies (don’t wear a baggy pant tucked into your boots unless you are making a late night ice cream run!) and a fitted jacket.

If you have slim calves, you should definitely take advantage of the over-the-knee boot! It is really fitted all the way up to the knee and looks great with skinnies and leggings, AND keeps your legs toasty!

i tend to agree with morgan’s take on rain boots – i think a fitted option just wouldn’t look quite right.  but if you must, ugg makes a new waterproof boot with a zip closure ($180) that should stay about as fitted as any rain boot can.  this engineer rain boot from jeffrey campbell ($72) is another great option – i think this will be as close as you’ll get to a snug fit, particularly since it doesn’t go all the way up the calf.

as for the over-the-knee boots, if you’re not sure you can rock the style, keep in mind that most of these boots can be cuffed to allow them to work as standard tall boots as well – and that will keep the top much more snug against your leg.

a few of my favorite picks for you:

  • pour la victoire over-the-knee boot ($465):  i think this is a perfect option for you, as the zipper closure and toggles at the top will keep this one snug whether you wear it over the knee or cuff it.  if you’re really narrow, you should even be able to close the toggles when it’s cuffed, keeping the top snug.
  • twelfth st. by cynthia vincent flat riding boot ($276.50):  that buckle detail should keep this one looking perfect no matter your calf size.  
  • one last little tip:  european brands tend to run more narrow, so look for styles from designers like l’autre chose and coclico for particularly trim cuts.  i love this obama heeled boot (i swear, i picked it before i even saw the name!) – it’s on sale for $378, and should fit you like a glove.

j.v., i hope this helps out – let us know what you end up buying!

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asked and answered: chic from office to happy hour

we recently got a reader question about the dreaded “work-to-happy-hour” transition.  and truly, it is a serious fashion challenge.  so, we called in our resident hipster expert for some advice on pulling off the after-hours look seamlessly.

sometimes, an after-work cocktail is simply a must, whether you’re meeting your girls or that hot guy from accounting.  but how do you leave the office without looking like you just left the office?  i try to plan ahead if i am going to happy hour and wear something that’s easy to transition.

for me, a cute dress, like this knot print wrap dress from banana republic, is perfect.  at the office i would wear tights and a lower heel. after work, make a quick change (a la lynn, in girls just wanna have fun on the bus):  lose the tights, add some big hoop earings and higher heels.  you’ll be the hottest girl there!

for those who aren’t into dresses, rather than wearing a basic white blouse under your black suit, opt for a ruffled purple tank instead.  once you arrive, just remove your jacket and you’ll be right on with the purple and black trend.   

if you are dying to wear that white blouse, skip the suit in favor of a chic, high-waisted black skirt.  once you leave the office, layer a few long necklaces.  just make sure to add tights if you don’t want to look like a naughty secretary…you can always slip them off pre-cocktails. 

those are my best tips…what do you all wear if you are going out right after work? 

~ j

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asked and answered: the perfect brows

i recently received a question from a reader who’s about to go international – ooh la la! 

Dear Ms. SMC,

As I head out of the country it is unclear what sort of resourcing I will find in the brow waxing field once I arrive in Switzerland. Any product suggestions to help me keep the brows in check if I have to do it on my own?


one of the worst parts about moving is having to find all new professionals to trust with your home, health and – most importantly – beauty.  it’s challenging enough stateside, but add a foreign element, and it’s downright frightening.

fortunately, this one’s an easy fix.  what you want is a brow kit from celebrated brow guru (yes, such a thing exists) anastasia beverly hills.  i’ve tried it, and i can tell you it’s as close to foolproof as DIY brow maintenance gets.  simply pick the right stencil for your brow shape, hold it over the brow, fill in the lines with brow powder, and tweeze anything outside the lines.  clean off the excess powder, use brow gel to put everything in its place, and add the highlighting pencil to make your arch look even more fabulous (my favorite part of the kit, by far – it’s fantastic!).  voila – perfect brows. 

all of the equipment you’ll need for the steps above is included in the sephora-exclusive brow kit from anastasia – it’ll feel like an investment at $75, but if you manage to skip 4-5 brow waxes, it pays for itself.  to be honest, i’d buy most of the products in the kit separately anyway, even if someone else was doing my waxing for me.  plus, i have to admit there’s some appeal to not leaving your brow shape completely to chance (or to the whim of your aesthetician).

i did find that i’m more partial to their stick-on stencils than i am to the sturdier, plastic stencils that come in the kit.  it can be a little tricky to hold the stencil still while you’re applying the powder, until you get the hang of things.

i hope that helps ease the transition, M – send us a postcard from switzerland (or better yet, a nice big piece of chocolate)!

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asked and answered: cool fanny packs?

it was bound to happen…a reader question that had me completely and totally stumped.

Is there such a thing as a “cool” fanny pack? Something that can be worn for a runner/jogger or traveling?  I was thinking about this the other day and of course, you came to mind.  A friend of mine has a cute LeSportsac one, but I don’t really know how “cool” it really is and who can really pull something like that off.  ~ A



well…i said i’d answer any and all reader questions, and i meant it, darn it.  

so, before we get into the fashion faux-pas issue, i don’t think a fanny pack when used for running has to be “cool” – i think it’s pretty much all about function at that point, and i’d hit up my local REI – you only want the necessities with you, and anything too heavy is going to cause chafing, which is definitely a fashion don’t.  though, for me, i think this arm band pocket by nike would be much less annoying than a waist pack if i was actually running…no jostling, and no risk of the aforementioned chafing.

for travel, that’s another matter entirely.  i’ve never been an advocate of “travel wear”, unless you’re wading through a jungle.  when i travel, one of my favorite pasttimes is pointing out the tourists – white tennis shoes, hawaiian shirt (regardless of climate), pockets stuffed with maps, cameras, and brochures from various museums…and a fanny pack (or one of those travel neck wallet things, possibly even worse than the fanny pack!).  so, i’d start by saying i think a fanny pack puts you at greater risk of being mugged, etc. than a regular purse, because it effectively plants a big “i’m a tourist” sign on your back.

besides the goofy tourist factor, i don’t know about you, but i’m not looking to add bulk to my midsection…and nothing accomplishes that like strapping a bag full of your daily necessities around your waist.

soapbox aside, i did manage to find a few non-heinous options, if you’re willing to suffer through the aforementioned challenges.  first off is the now-famous gucci belt bag, whose resurgence in popularity a few years back is due to an appearance on sex and the city, being sported by the lovely sarah jessica parker.  at $495, you need to love it – but at least you’re on trend while wearing the fanny pack, which is tough to manage.  and that silver is actually sort of cool, i must admit.  then, there’s also this posh turnlock belt bag from marc by marc jacobs, but it’s also pricey at $228 – and i’d much rather see you spend $250 on a handbag you’ll love than a waist pack you’ll constantly question. 

in terms of bang for your proverbial buck, the lovely writers of bunnyshop reminded me that there was one option i found long ago that i think is the closest to “cool” i’ve ever seen for a waist pack.  etsy seller bonspiel creations is a longtime favorite of mine, and they make several cute-as-a-button options, in two different sizes ($64 and $32), that i think one could actually manage to pull off without slapping that “tourist” sign between your shoulderblades.

does anyone have any other ideas for our darling reader?

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asked and answered: the gold watch

yay, reader mail!

Dear SMC,
Sometimes I like to wear gold jewelry for fun (like Carrie said on Sex in the City). While I don’t want a gold engagement ring, I like to play with the gold trends. Problem is, my watches are all silver toned. Can you recommend a gold toned watch that a. won’t break the bank and more importantly b. won’t make me look like an extra on Snoop Dog’s tv show.
The girl without a matching watch

wow. didn’t even know snoop dog had a TV show, so that shows you where i’m coming from. but i digress.

the gold watch is a little tricky, but i think it can be done very tastefully (ie, in a way that does not make you scream with terror, like this D&G watch did when i spotted it).

the easiest way, of course, is a leather band on a watch with gold trim. it’s probably wrong to start with my favorite pick, but this one’s it. this version is incredibly classic, incredibly chic, and looks infinitely more expensive than its $170 pricetag. i can completely envision audrey hepburn sporting this beauty. (a little tip: this has a reversible face, but i’d just ignore that feature – the white face is so much more feminine!)

a variation on that theme would be this lovely tortoise version by michael kors. the gold trim on the face is just enough to tie it in with your yellow gold jewelry, and if you like your watches oversized, this is a great way to pull off that look in style. if the color is too dark for you, check out this horn version, which is equally gorgeous.

i normally run screaming from two-tone jewelry, but somehow, i think it works on this juicy couture watch. the fact that the gold band is leather softens the look, and the silver-tone face will make you feel better about mixing white and yellow gold jewelry.

last, but not least, if you’re set on a gold bracelet for your watch, just make sure you keep it delicate. you want it to look like a piece of jewelry, not necessarily a timepiece. so, look at the band that way – would you wear it as a bracelet? if so, go for it…if it’s too big/bold/bright, just say no.

one trick with yellow gold is to look for vintage pieces (or at least, vintage styles). the older styles seem to soften the overall look, and keep it from being too “bling”. on this version by bulova, i also love the slight rose tint this piece has – you’ll have no trouble mixing white gold with this one, if you want to.

this bulova is pretty without being overly girly, and has just a hint of art deco style to make the yellow gold really work. plus, the shape stays slim enough that the gold doesn’t take over your look.

ditto for this gorgeous burberry version – though it’s definitely the priciest of the bunch, it has amazing style potential. i love the pocket watch styling, and the subtle check print on the face is just the right amount of brand ID.

i hope this gives you some fantastic ideas – let us know what you end up with!

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asked and answered: summer party dress

hard to believe, but i’m already getting reader questions about summer wedding attire. is it really that time already?

no matter – i have a fantastic solution to this annual dilemma. this darling dress by theory just screams spring to me. i love the ruched bodice, love the length, love the pockets – i would wear this beauty to every wedding, baby shower, and bar mitzvah between now and september.

the color is fantastic, flattering on pretty much any skin tone, and perfect for warm weather. the silhouette is forgiving enough to allow for that second piece of wedding cake. and the style is simple enough to allow for multiple wears without anyone pointing at you and screaming “hey, you wore that to nancy’s wedding last month!” after one too many trips to the open bar.

to restyle this piece and really make it your own, try adding a huge, chunky necklace in cobalt blue one day, and a dainty strand of pearls another. cardigans, blazers, sure…but i’d even consider layering a white button-down over it, and using the belt to tie the whole thing together (no pun intended). or, scrap the belt entirely, and substitute a gorgeous scarf.

that’s a lot of mileage to get out of a dress for $250. oh, and free two-day shipping (hurray for avoiding their notoriously slow-boat shipping) with code NMFAST.

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asked and answered: cover-up for a wedding guest

Today, we’re tackling reader questions, and this one rolled in just in time for wedding season:

I am wearing a dress in a wedding that’s spaghetti straps. I need a shrug/sweater/jacket/something in black that would look cute but not totally ruin the look of the dress. The dress is black with mushroom color swirly/flowery things on it. It’s empire style with a v-neck/mock wrap. And it’s slightly gathered around the waistline with a tie in the back. (from Max Studio – if you’ve looked there in the last couple of months)

I’m assuming for the moment that there’s a reason you don’t want to go with the simplest option, which would be a classic black pashmina….either you want your arms covered for the duration of the evening, or you just want to jazz the dress up a little & infuse some of your own style. But if you hadn’t considered the pashmina, it’s a great investment piece that you might as well own anyway, if you don’t already.

I’m a big fan of pairing a tailored jacket with an evening dress – particularly if you find something in a tuxedo style or jacquard fabric, so it has a bit of an evening flair to it. I think the structure is a fantastic counterpoint to a slinky evening dress.

If you’d like something a little less structured, a kimono is a great alternative. It’s a little fashion-forward, so it’s not for everyone, but the shape is easy enough that it won’t take away from the silhouette or the print of the dress.

If you’d prefer more coverage, consider a sheer-sleeved cardigan – the sheer sleeves add enough of a dressy quality that it works for evening, but it’s still warm, and a great shape. (You’ll find even more fantastic options here.)

And if neither of those rings your bell, a wrap cardigan is a solid option. Think of it as a super-thin pashmina with sleeves. I love that you’ll have the ability to style this in different ways – it would fit the bill perfectly!

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