— Q: I love wearing high heels and wear them five days a week to work. But some days, I just want to be a little more casual/comfortable. Can you wear ballet flats with work wear? At age 27, are ballet flats appropriate? — Dorinda, Okolona, Miss.
Dear Mrs. Sippi Flats,
I love that you love high heels but totally understand the desire to do a more casual and comfortable flat. You can wear flats in the workplace as long as your outfit is still work appropriate, and flats are appropriate for any age.
Ballet flats, however, may not be your best choice. Instead, look for a slightly elongated toe box, like a rounded point or an actual pointy toe. These shapes make a flat look more sophisticated, less "little girl" or "casual on the weekends" than a rounded-toe ballet flat. Plus, a longer toe box extends the line of the leg, which makes your legs appear longer. The longer your legs, the taller you look. Who says heels are the only way to get a little extra height?
Also, look for visually interesting fabrics, like a patent leather or faux snakeskin, or colors like deep purple or metallic, to make these shoes even more sophisticated for business hours. Avoid wearing opaque tights with flats. Even at 27, you could wind up looking bit matronly. Stick with a tailored outfit and bare (shaved and moisturized!) legs to achieve a casual and comfortable look at work!
Sweater-vest: Express $39.50, pink cotton knit available at www.express.com and select Express retail stores
Blouse: Banana Republic $69, fuchsia polka-dot silk blouse available at Banana Republic retail stores and www.bananarepublic.com
Skirt: Club Monaco $129, Sarah skirt jupe charcoal available at Club Monaco retail stores. www.clubmonaco.com
Shoes: Nine West $79, QUIRITA Viola multi suede available at www.ninewest.com
Earrings: Gerard Yosca Jewelry $80, gray stone and gold earrings available at Gerard Yosca, 212-302-4349
Handbag: Cynthia Rowley originally $425, on sale $212.50, Lydia steel patent-leather tote with front zipper detail available at www.Dillards.com
Bracelet: NOIR $79.95, NOIR for Patricia Field gold chain bangle available at www.HSN.com
Watch: Armitron $50, two-tone STYLE NUMBER: 75-2475MOP available at Kohl's Department Stores
Q: I am 5-foot-2 and just under 200 pounds. I am young and confident, so I am OK being a plus-size woman. However, I have a horrible time buying pants; they are always way too long, or fit my waist but are too big in the crotch area, giving me a pooch or a gap in the back. — Heather, Portland, Maine
Dear Plus Size in Portland,
I hear your pain, sister. Finding pants is a hard enough prospect but when you are petite and plus size, it can seem near impossible. It goes without saying that you will need a good tailor no matter what. (Well, it doesn't really go without saying ’cause I said it.) But here are a few guidelines to help you look for the closest fit and that will make it easier for you to tailor them to perfection.
First and foremost, pants must fit you in the rise, and by "rise" I mean crotch. The crotch of your pants should be as close to your anatomical crotch as possible without pulling, bunching or giving you camel-toe. Sometimes if the crotch is just a little long, you can take in the waist to pull the rise up to where it sits correctly. But if the rise is too long, that cannot be altered and your pants will never look like they fit. Make sure you are always buying petite clothes. The rise in a petite pant is more proportionate to your body measurements and height than that of a regular-size pant. Pants that are too long can be hemmed! Easy as that.
Just make sure you bring a shoe to the tailor with you that has a heel height you will most usually wear with the pant so that they can be hemmed to the correct length. Look for a higher-waisted pant. This cut will give you a longer leg line and that makes you look taller, plus it will be easier to take in the waist without affecting the rest of the pant line. When you are a plus size, you want to create as much balance in the body line as possible, so look for a pant leg with a little bit of width rather than one with a narrower or skinny leg. A slightly wider leg will help you to balance your top half and help to streamline the look of your body. Never give up hope — perfect plus pants can happen!
Q: I am 5-foot-1, 155 pounds and losing, but I can't seem to find a cocktail dress that is not made for a 21-year-old. I look much younger, but I'm still 55. Dresses I find are either for 21-year-olds or 70-year-olds! I need 3/4 sleeves though, just like the 70-year-olds! — Lynn, Chicago, Ill.
I think you bring up a very important point here. Hitting the right note at 55 can be tricky when it comes to cocktail dresses. Black can look boring or it can age you, so I suggest finding a really vibrant color that flatters your skin, eye and hair color. Make sure to look for a dress with a sleeve or a thick enough strap that you can wear a supportive bra underneath to keep the "girls" up and high where they should be (regardless of age)!
Hem your dress so it that hits at the top of your knee. Since you are petite, your dresses should be a bit higher than the middle of your kneecap to extend the length of your legs. Go any shorter, though, and it will start to look inappropriate! Now, I like 3/4 sleeves for cocktail dresses, but they are difficult — not impossible, but difficult — to find. Cocktail dresses are about showing some skin! Don't limit yourself by only looking at dresses with sleeves. Look for dresses that flatter your whole body.
If the dress is sleeveless, try a wrap or cropped evening jacket (in something like marabou or faux Mongolian lamb! You are a mature, gorgeous woman — make a statement!) to create a great outfit that also makes you feel less self-conscious. Focal pieces of jewelry are very important for women after 40: Bold earrings, a brooch, a cuff, a cocktail ring (all great choices but choose one or two, not all of them). Don't crowd your great dress (and your petite frame!) with big earrings and a necklace. Do one or the other. Knock ’em dead!
Dress: Adrianna Papell @ Lord & Taylor $180, Teal Taffeta Shutter #121849 available at Lord & Taylor Stores and www.lordandtaylor.com
Shoes: Nine West $79, Jiopa, available at Nine West Stores, www.ninewest.com
Earrings: R.J. Graziano $95, Gun Metal and Austrian Crystal Earrings, available by calling 212.685.1248
Clutch: Franchi $185, Mina gold pleated clutch with kiss lock closure available at: Handbags In The City, 410.528.1443
Bracelet: Lee Angel $275, Marilyn Bracelet antique silver w/clear cut glass available at net-a-porter.com
Bracelet: R.J. Graziano $65, Gun Metal and Austrian Crystal Bracelet, available by calling 212.685.1248
Bracelet: R.J. Graziano $195, Gun Metal Austrian Crystal and Hematite Bracelet, available by calling 212.685.1248
Rings: NOIR $115, white stone with rhinestones and white/black stone available at www.HSN.com