Posts filed under 'Q&A'

Q&A: What to Wear to India

Q: I am going to India (New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur) in March for my honeymoon, and I do not have a clue what to pack!  I am especially concerned about what kinds of shoes I should bring and how to dress conservatively in warm weather.

by Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: How exotic to being to the "golden triangle" in India for your honeymoon - I’m quite jealous!  The weather should be lovely - March is Springtime there, so it won’t be too hot or too cold.

I suggest packing a small, colorful, flirty wardrobe for your honeymoon. As Indian people dress so colorfully, you will be sharing in the spirit of the country.  Don’t feel as if you need to bring everything - there are so many beautiful clothes to purchase - or have made for you. 

Do keep in mind India’s traditional culture.  As you suggested, conservative dressing is a must, especially in the towns that you will be visiting.  As such, you’ll want to dress appropriately (e.g. knee length or longer skirts, no exposed cleavage, respectful clothing for the holy sites).

Here’s what you need to bring to India:

Pleated Geo Print Dress | $150 at Banana Republic
A few pretty dresses that pack easily are always practical.  They can each be an entire outfit, and they don’t take up too much space.  Look for dresses with conservative necklines and hemlines. 

Grenada Palm Camisole | $160 at J Crew
Colorful, patterned tops in natural fabrics like silk and cotton are also key.  If you don’t bring these, you can also pick them up on your trip.  Indian clothing features beautiful textures and patterns - it’s no wonder why fashion designers are inspired by the country decade after decade.

Shawl Cardigan | $69 at Gap
Pack a versatile, neutral colored sweater for layering during the cooler evenings (and for anywhere with air conditioning).

Retro Chambray Wendy Skirt | $78 at J Crew
Knee length skirts in a-line or circle silhouettes are pretty, flirty, and allow you range of movement.  Leave the pencil skirts at home.

AE Military Pant | $44.50 at American Eagle
Casual pants are great for days spent exploring.  Paired with a flirty top, you’ll be as comfy as you are chic. 

Osa Signature Trench Coat | $150 at Martin + Osa
Finish off your vacation wardrobe with a lightweight trenchcoat that goes with everything.

With your wardrobe buttoned up, let’s talk about shoes. I suggest flats, perhaps in a somewhat edgy style to counter the feminine outfits.  Flats are the easiest to walk in and are so easy to pack.  Avoid open toe shoes or sandals if you mind having dirty feet (the streets can be very dusty).  One last consideration for shoes - select shoes that slip off easily as some sites do not allow you to wear shoes at all.

As you travel around the country, carry a bag that closes securely, as there is a lot of petty theft.  You can bring a little clutch for evenings when you dine out or go dancing.  Lots of pretty, sexy lingerie should round things out for a wonderful honeymoon.

Last thoughts?
  Save room in your suitcase for any beautiful silks or pashminas to bring home.

What would you wear to India? Share your style with us in the comments!

10 comments February 10th, 2009

Shopping Guide: Stylishly Professional Work Handbags

Q: I am a Wall Street Journal reader who is new to your site, which is fantastic. I am looking for a work handbag suitable for a 40+ professional–can you provide some recommendations that do not cost an arm and a leg or are worth the investment?

by Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: Thanks to the "it bag" craze of the last few years, the price of handbags went through the roof.  But despite this rapid price inflation, great bags can still be had for reasonable prices.  As a rule, you get what you pay for; a high quality investment bag is generally going to last longer and wear better than a lower quality (but much more affordable) bag.  But it’s also important to note that price doesn’t always correlate neatly with quality. 

For a work handbag with maximum versatility, you’re going to want to select a good neutral colored leather (black, chocolate brown, cognac, etc) in a classic shape.  Avoid overt logos, candy colors, and overly trendy styles that will quickly date your bag.  Another consideration as you choose your handbag: the scale of the bag should complement your size.  If you’re petite, for example, we’d recommend opting for a smaller sized bag. 

Our $ Picks:
Pyramid Croco Tote | $49.99 (sale) at Nine West

Jessica Simpson Alibi Large Shopper | $69.99 (sale) at Piperlime

Laptop Tote | $69.99 (sale) at Nine West

Our $$ Picks:
Francesco Biasia Erica Tote | $149.99 (sale) at Piperlime

Ibiza Convertible Flight Tote | $158.40 (sale) at Hayden-Harnett

Mina Leather Satchel | $195 at Nine West

Olivia Harris Turnlock Flap Hobo | $209.99 (sale) at Piperlime

Our $$$ Picks:
Vanessa Bruno Lune 2 Leather Satchel | $869 at La Garçonne

Chloé Heloise Hobo Bag | $1,610 at Net-a-Porter

Have a great work handbag? Share your find with us in the comments!

6 comments January 15th, 2009

Q&A: How to Layer for Cold Weather Days

Q: I would love some advice on how to layer clothes.  I live in Boston so it is important to be able to dress for outside temperatures and be able to quickly adjust once inside.  I’m especially curious about layering with jackets and sweaters.

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by Traci Tsai

A: Boston living is particularly extreme.  Outside, the winter weather can be brutally frigid,  and inside, the buildings tend to be highly overheated – so we feel your pain!

How do you keep warm in super cold weather? The key is to keep your core (e.g. your torso) warm.  If your core, head and feet are warm, your body will keep your extremities (arms and legs) warm too.  So—to keep warm in cold weather, you need lots of layers over your core, but you don’t need as many layers over your arms and legs.  This insight helps you stay warm without looking like you

The key to layer your clothes without looking bulky is alternating the length of your sleeves through the layers. Wearing a long sleeved sweater over a long sleeved shirt, with another long sleeved jacket on top, for example, can really bulk you up.  Here’s how to put together a chic layered cold weather outfit:

1.  Start with a solid base: a turtleneck sweater and a pair of jeans.  To give your waist some extra definition, try a belt over the sweater.  This waist definition is key to not looking bulky– especially if you’re wearing underlayers for extra warmth.
2.  Next, add one of my favorite layering elements: a puffer vest (preferably stuffed with down feathers). Down keeps your core very warm, and it gives you more options for your overcoat.
3.  Over the down vest, bundle up in a long wool (or wool cashmere) coat.  The wool coat will give you a more urban look than a more outdoorsy looking down coat—and it traps the heat generated by the down layer. As for warmth, the wool coat without the down layer would generally be less warm than a down coat. But by layering the down vest under the wool coat, you get the best of both worlds: the warmth of down, but the sleeker, more stylish look of wool.
4.  Accessorize for the cold.  180s earmuffs are a part of any stylish woman’s cold weather wardrobe.  Note that the faux fur lined hood on the puffer vest will also act as a hat/wind-blocker, which gives you an additional layer for your ears and head.

Style tip? If it’s really cold—or if you’re particularly sensitive to cold, you can also add a sleeveless silk thermal as your base layer.  For maximum warmth, wear a long sleeve silk thermal on top and silk long underwear under your jean).  Silk liner layers are ideal because they don’t add as much bulk as other underclothing.  Plus, silk’s a natural fabric, so it also breathes better than other synthetic fabrics.

Have a great tip about how to layer for cold weather days? Share it with us in the comments!

12 comments January 13th, 2009

Mens Q&A: What to Wear with Light Brown Shoes

Q:  What color dress pants go well with light brown shoes?  Usually, I see men wearing light brown shoes with navy or beige dress pants.  What else may work?

Light Brown Shoes with a Navy Suit.  Courtesy of The Sartorialist.A: Just as dark colored clothes are more versatile than their light colored counterparts, shoes are also more versatile when they are dark.  Darker shades of brown, for example, work with many more colors than do lighter shades of brown.  Because of this versatility factor, I’d recommend that your shoe wardrobe include a few good pairs of black and darker brown dress shoes in a variety of styles (captoe, bucks, wingtip, etc.) before expanding to lighter colored shoes.  

Even though light brown shoes aren’t super versatile, you still have a few good options.  As you mentioned, light brown shoes complement navy blue nicely.  And they also work with light sandy colored pants.  Beyond that, you may also want to try dark olive green dress pants with your light brown shoes.  Other than these three options, however, it’s going to be tricky.  I’m not saying light brown shoes and other colors can’t work; I’m just saying I haven’t seen it done that well (at least, not yet).

Photo Credit: The Sartorialist.

Have a great tip about what pants to wear with light brown shoes?  Share it with us in the comments!

4 comments January 7th, 2009

Q&A: Youthful Sophistication for the Presidential Inauguration

Q: I’m going to visit my dad in Washington DC for the Presidential Inauguration in January and have no idea what to pack for the trip. I need be comfortable and casual while catching up with my dad, but sophisticated and classy, yet still young, while visiting museums and attending the inaugural activities.

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by Traci Tsai

A: We’ve said this before, but the key to winter style on the East Coast is layers, layers, layers.  The weather can be very unpredictable, especially during the winter, so you’ll need to be prepared for anything.  On top of that, you’ll be going between indoors and outdoors throughout the day, so you need to be able to adapt quickly. January in DC will likely have lows below freezing and highs around the 40s.  Here’s how to get a youthful-yet-sophisticated look for Inauguration:

1.  A nice coat is essential. The structured collar on this day coat adds a bit of sophistication while brighter colors keep the look more youthful.  Note that you’ll probably want to switch out this coat for a longer, warmer one for evenings out.
2.  A textured blouse will keep you young, but is a little more formal than might be your normal every day wear.
3.  Most buildings on the East Coast are pretty well heated, but in case you’re in a cooler room, you can pop on a shrug that shows off your blouse but keeps your arms warm.
4.  Skinny pants tucked into a pair of flat riding boots is a little classic and a little modern at the same time. The flat boots will keep you comfortable while walking all over town and through museums.
5.  You’ll want to keep the bag small, especially with all the security everywhere – but use it to add an extra bit of flair to your outfit!

Have a great tip about how to pull off youthful sophistication? Share it with us in the comments!

7 comments January 6th, 2009

Q&A: Warm and Waterproof Winter Shoes for Him

Q:  What are some good winter shoes that are warm, comfortable to walk in, semi-waterproof (unlike canvas converse sneakers that just soak up the snow), affordable, and fashionable - both his and hers.

Quoddy Trail Grizzly Boots
Pictured: Grizzly Boots | $320 at Quoddy Trail.  Other more affordable options: Suede MacAlister boots | $135 at J Crew, and Clark’s Desert Boots | $89 at Zappos.

A: I’ll address the “his” part of this question.  The “bad weather shoes” problem is much simpler if you’re not a white collar worker.  Without a doubt, the first pair of bad weather boots I’d recommend are by Quoddy, makers of high quality bad weather shoes.  As you can tell, however, they are for people who experience a few feet of snow in the winter.

Desert boots are another viable option if you live in a place with a less harsh winter.  Clark’s desert boots have always been around, but nowadays you can find stylish desert boots everywhere from J. Crew and the GAP (via Pierre Hardy) to high end retailers like Tom Ford.  The beauty of desert boots is that you can wear them while walking around the city as well; it’s a bit harder to “urbanize” those rugged Quoddy boots.

If you’re a working man, you have it a bit harder.  You have to wear dress shoes to the office, unless you work in a creative industry.  Certainly, you can wear galoshes, but that option is more practical than stylish (even though Esquire endorses it).  If you live in the city, where the streets are a bit more groomed (e.g. less snow on the sidewalks), you can try wearing dress boots, but again, at a formal, conservative type office, I’m not sure that would fly.  If you do decide to wear dress shoes or dress boots, do wear ones with rubber soles.  The snow and slush will wreck havoc on your leather soles.  If you absolutely must wear leather soled dress shoes to the office, do not wear them outside; instead, change into them at the office.

Last words?  Please feel free to beat up your shoes; in fact, I encourage you to wear them in.  A lot.  Tom Ford ran a series of ads a year or so ago in which a man in alligator shoes was walking through the mud.  I love this; “beat up the pretty things,” as they say.  Buy high quality things and wear them out.  This kind of nonchalance is the essence of American style, so embrace it.

UPDATE from Colleen Geary for women’s shoes: The tricky thing about winter shoes is that they’re often ruined by winter conditions - water, salt, ice and mud. I’d recommend purchasing a very inexpensive but good looking fake leather boot from Target or Walmart that can be worn with pants or skirts. Choose a pair with clean lines so that it’s inexpensiveness is not readily apparent. “Indulge” in a pair of black or brown leather boots that you love and can be worn for occasions or when the weather is not inclement. In Utah, you should have enough occasions to warrant two pairs of boots.

Have a great tip about great bad weather shoes–both his and hers?  Share it with us in the comments!

7 comments December 17th, 2008

Q&A: How to Match Shoes with Work Clothes

Q: Can Omiru provide some basic guidelines about pairing work shoes and pants/skirts?

How to Match Shoes with Work Clothes
Shoes with Work Clothes, courtesy of The Sartorialist

by Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: To understand how to pair shoes with clothes, you first have to look at silhouette.  Shoes should complement the lines and proportions of an outfit, particularly the bottom that you’re wearing.  We’ll start with the basics—regular trouser pants and a knee length skirt—and then we’ll expand out into other options:

Regular Trouser Pants
For regular width trouser pants, the classic choice is a medium height (approximately 2” tall) shoe.  You can wear pumps, loafers, two-tone shoes…and you can also experiment with different toebox styles.  For a sophisticated look, try pointier toed shoes.  But for a more chic, casual look, you can try a round toe.  If you’re not a fan of heels, you can also try a more subdued kitten heel (usually around 1.5” tall).

Knee Length Skirts
The perfect shoe for a knee-length skirt is a heeled shoe.  Most women prefer to wear a medium height heel to visually elongate the leg, but a shorter kitten heel is also a common choice.  Women who are blessed with extra long legs can also get away with flats, but the rest of us should steer clear of them. 

Wide Trouser Pants
To balance out the width of a wide trouser pant, you’ll need to wear a high heel (3” or taller).  The high heel visually (and physically) elongates your leg line, and it gives your bottom half balance.  If you’re blessed with long legs, you can also try a medium height heel.  But for optimal figure flattery, no low heels or flats allowed!

Skinny Pants
Channel Audrey Hepburn when pairing shoes with skinny pants.  What did Audrey wear?  Ballet flats, of course!  When you’re wearing tight pants, you want a shoe that’s not overly sexy.  So steer clear of high heels and shoes with “toe cleavage.”  The ballet flat (or even really short kitten heels) will do the trick.

Short Skirts
Short skirts are best paired with a kitten heel or ballet flat at work.  If you’re wearing a revealing skirt, you don’t want to go overboard with an overly sexy shoe.  That said, the woman in the miniskirt pictured above made the sexy shoe and miniskirt look work.  How did she do it?  She wore tights to cover up her legs (and tone down the miniskirt), and she wore a heeled bootie.  Because they provide more coverage, booties are a less risqué shoe option than an equivalently high heel.

Long Skirts
Because long skirts and wide trouser pants share similar characteristics (length and width), long skirts require the same shoe options as do wide trouser pants.  So the same rules apply: high heels are best, and no flats are allowed.

I’ll leave you with two parting thoughts on shoes: 
(1) Shoes can be the sole point of interest in an outfit by providing a point of visual interest with design or color.  This is particularly true for work clothes, which are often restrictive style-wise.
(2) Shoes do not need to match the colors of your clothes or your handbag but they should enhance your overall look.

Have a great tip about how to match shoes with work clothes? Share it with us in the comments!

9 comments December 16th, 2008

Mens Q&A: How to Transition Your Style From Work to a Night Out

Q:  I’m 27 years old, and I’m working for the Dubai government. Would you please give me some tips for how to dress to transition from the office to after-office parties with friends?

Spurr: What To Wear to Work…and Beyond
Pictured: Spurr’s variations on formal workwear, courtesy of

A: If you’re reading blogs like this one, then you must be dressing much better than a typical government man in a sack suit, in which case, you’ve already won half the from-work-to-a-night-out battle.

First, if you’re going to more…intellectual…events such as museum exhibit openings or galas, feel free to keep wearing the suit.   Chances are most guys will be wearing one, too (well, at least I would hope they would be).

There are also a few quick things you can do to “casualize” your suit.  Go ahead and loosen your tie to add a nice bit of sprezzaturra to your look.  You could always just lose the tie (and belt, perhaps) altogether.

If a full suit is too formal for you, you could try the dark denim and suit jacket look, with or without the tie.  Make sure you tuck in your shirt though.  Warning: this look is rather cliché, but at least you’ll fit in, right?

If you wear a three-piece suit to work, you can lose the jacket altogether, so you’re just sporting a waistcoat over your shirt and tie. Or, replace the jacket with a sleek, leather bomber jacket, with or without your waistcoat.  Black leather jackets make for very sophisticated, urban nightlife wear, and when they’re done right, you look great.  Switching out your trouser pants for jeans (and keeping the waistcoat) will give you a refreshing take on the dark denim look (and one that I favor at the moment).  You may look like you stepped out of a Spurr catalog, but that’s really a good thing.  Keep the tie in all these outfits.

All these things mentioned are basically variations of a formal suit, but don’t be fooled: they will dramatically transform your look.  I actually like the idea of going from the office to a night out, because it forces men to keep their look polished.

Have a great tip about how to transition your style from work to a night out?  Share it with us in the comments!

1 comment December 3rd, 2008

Q&A: Three Simple Ways to Wear a Scarf

Q: Since you mention scarves in a lot of your articles, I decided to buy three really cute scarves. But now I don’t know how to wear them. I mean, I can guess with what - but how exactly are scarves worn right now? Whenever I see celebrities wear scarves I wonder how they make it look so effortless.

by Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: Scarves are a versatile, inexpensive accessory that can add color, pattern and dimension to any wardrobe.  Here’s three super simple ways to wear them:

The Fold and Loop

Diamond Gingham Scarf
Diamond Gingham Scarf | $22.75 (approx) at Topshop

My favorite way to wear a scarf it to take a long one, fold it in half, and wrap it around your neck.  Take the side with the ends and pull it through the loop created by the other side.  I love to wear a long scarf on a windy day and have the breeze catch it and make it flutter.
Best For: Lightweight pashmina-type scarves.

The Basic Neck Wrap
AE Multi Check Scarf
AE Multicheck Scarf | $19.50 at American Eagle

Simply wrap the scarf around your neck once and then just let the ends drop where they will.  I think this method is appropriate for indoor wear, as it adds color without overwhelming the wearer or the outfit.  Keep in mind though that it does look pretentious to wear a big cashmere scarf wrapped once or twice around the neck when one is inside.
Best For: Long, narrow scarves.

The Square Tie
Buckle Satin Scarf
Buckle Satin Scarf | $7.80 at Forever 21

With a square scarf, you can place one pointed side down in front of your neck, and then take the ends and wrap once around your neck ending with a little tie. 
Best For: Small to medium sized square scarves.

Bonus scarf looks?  Try wrapping a scarf around your head à la Jackie O.  Very 60s chic.  Or tie a short scarf around a ponytail for a refreshingly youthful look.

How do you wear your scarves? Share your style with us in the comments!

14 comments November 25th, 2008

Q&A: How to Dress Up a Plain Button Down Shirt

Q: How do you dress up a plain black or white button-down shirt?

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Clemence Poesyby Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: While I appreciate the idea of dressing up a plain button-down shirt, the expression "you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear" comes to mind.  A plain cotton button down shirt is a workhouse garment; it’s not really meant for dressing up for going out at night.

For casual wear, however, I recommend emphasizing the sleek simplicity of the shirt by pairing it with a dark rinse jean and a pair of heeled boots.  Layer on a great looking jacket to keep the look long, lean, and simple.  Bonus points for topping off the outfit with a long scarf, like Clemence Poesy (pictured, left).

To make a plain button down shirt a little more dressed up for daytime, here’s a few ideas for standout accessories:
Necklace: Layer on a bold necklace—or two, or three.  Don’t hold back.  The bigger and bolder, the better!
Scarf: It’s amazing how a scarf can turn a simple outfit into one that’s simply stunning.  Give your plain shirt some personality with a patterned scarf.
Belt: To jazz up a plain shirt, take your belt to the extremes.  Either wear a belt that’s wide or one that’s super narrow.  If you go for the narrow option, consider wearing a two or three belts for a very downtown cool look.
Necktie: Do as men do and don a necktie.  Wear it loosely knotted for a casual menswear-as-womenswear look.

Last words?  However you choose to wear your shirt, do as Clemence Poesy does, and let your own individual beauty shine through.

Have a great tip about how to dress up a plain button down shirt? Share it with us in the comments!

2 comments November 13th, 2008

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