Posts Categorized: reader requests

Reader Request: Navy Skirts for Winter

how to wear a navy skirt in winter

Reader Erika emailed me this request:

I have not historically worn navy or dark blue skirts, feeling they looked too preppy or stuffy on me. Now, however, I am finding navy skirts in the stores that are not only cute, but well-made. I am a bit lost on how to style navy skirts specifically, especially what kind of leggings or tights colors to wear with them, and how to coordinate a top without ending up looking like I’m wearing something that belongs on a schoolgirl. I prefer a more office casual kind of style, with fun or artistic accessories and touches, rather than polished or preppy.

I have to say, friends, that I am really enjoying wearing lots of pants and NOT having to figure out what color I want my legs to be for the day. (Meaning, picking tights that work with my outfit.) But since I’ve done skirts in winter for many long years, I do have some ideas to share for making navy skirts work in cold weather.

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Here are two examples with a palette I LOVE using for navy skirts: Burgundy, olive, and charcoal with cognac accents. I think charcoal/heather gray tights are the most versatile, and they work well with navy in a variety of mixes. Here, in the left outfit, they’re in a slightly more casual mix with tall boots, a pleated skirt, burgundy sweater, and field jacket. The scarf includes burgundy and olive, so serves as a bridging piece. The same palette is used on the right but with burgundy tights – another versatile color for hosiery – and cognac ankle boots with a pencil skirt, olive sweater, burgundy blazer, and that same unifying scarf. You could also rejigger the items and go for olive green tights.

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Speaking of scarves, there’s always the “wear a multicolored scarf and let it dictate the palette” technique. Any scarf with navy in the pattern will work with a navy skirt. On the left, the scarf includes navy, cobalt, black, and white, thus the black tights and boots and bright sweater. On the right, there are gobs of color in that scarf, with dark red and turquoise pulled out and complemented by cognac leather boots and a jacket. If red legs are too much for ya, charcoal would work here, too, and you could do a red or tan blazer instead.

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You can also play with patterned tights and simpler palettes. Gray – heathered/charcoal or otherwise – is a great bet with navy. Try a gray sweater and gray patterned tights with loafers and a long pendant. Or go for sheer, patterned navy tights with a pale blue sweater and multicolored scarf for a monochrome look. Gray ankle boots blend well without getting too matchy.

Those are some of my favorite combos. What other suggestions would you give to Erika?

Top images courtesy J.Crew

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Reader Request: Shoe Alterations

getting shoes altered

Hayley popped this question into the suggestion box:

I’d be interested in knowing if you’ve ever had any pair of shoes altered in any way, and if you have any tips. I’m considering getting a pair of leather boots taken in a bit at the top around the calf area.

Why yes, I have! Here in the Twin Cities we have two leather shops both owned by various members of the George family – George’s Hockey Repair in St. Paul, and George’s Shoes & Repair in Arden Hills. The latter is now my go-to – and the shop that helped with my fringe bag – since they do great work and aren’t as mobbed as the St. Paul shop. But I’ve had one pair altered at each shop. This first pair was done at the St. Paul shop.

tall boots shortened

These olive green Coclico boots were just a couple of inches taller than I’d have liked. The photos aren’t the greatest, but you can see how much more real estate that zipper takes up on the right (post-alteration) than it does on the left. And speaking of that zipper, its length and placement made these boots ideal for shortening: Since it doesn’t run the length of the boot, the zipper itself didn’t need to be lopped off at all.

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Here you can see that the boot is lined with a different color/texture of leather. The original finish was fancy, with rolled edges on both liner and outer. I was happy to have a slightly raw-er finish for the alteration since very few people get super close-up to my feet. I believe this alteration cost about $30. These boots have been languishing in the closet for ages now, but I’m not quite ready to part with them now that I’ve shifted to a more neutral, subdued palette. We shall see.

mmm work mocs

These are a pair of Maison Martin Margiela Work Mocs that I stalked on eBay for YEARS and finally nabbed for a fraction of retail. When I ordered them they were tan. I swear they were more of a yellow tan than this, but I never remember to do “before” photos, so who knows?

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I got them, drooled on them, and then spent several hours trying to build an outfit around them. And that’s when I remembered that tan shoes really, really don’t work for me. (Unless they are sandals. And these are definitely not sandals.) So I took them out to Arden Hills and asked if they could be dyed black. This shoe style was actually made in black, but the pair I found in my size and price range was tan and I was so excited that I bid before really considering the color. And, as it turns out, dyeing them was fairly straightforward.

can you dye leather shoes

But imperfect. I wanted the interior black, too, but with that raw, unfinished leather the experts told me I’d just end up with black dye rubbing off on my socks. And I was warned that the dye process was messy and some might end up on the soles. It did. No big, in my opinion. This alteration cost $45.

And these shoes, too, haven’t gotten much love. That heel is chunky but feels incredibly high, and I’m still tinkering with the proportions of these booties. And honestly? I’m starting to find that although I can generally get clothes and accessories altered more or less to my personal specifications, many of the ones that need drastic changes end up going unworn. Aside from a few simple shortened hems, I’ve ended up donating an awful lot of things that I’ve bought and had altered. Which isn’t to say that YOU will be the same way. Just something I’ve noticed about myself and am still mulling.

Now. In terms of having a tall boot taken in at the calf? It is possible, especially if you have a relationship with a truly skilled leather worker, but it will be costly and potentially imperfect-looking. I’ve asked for this specific change on several pairs of boots and been told they’ll look quite odd afterwards. I’ve also had leather workers just refuse to even attempt it. Curious to know if any of you have had tall boots slimmed in the calf. I imagine it will be easier on styles with lots of built-in seaming.

I also know that, in some cases, heels can be slightly shortened by a shoe repairperson. You can’t turn towering stilettos into kitten heels, but you might be able to make a 2″ heel into a 1.75″ heel.

Most of the rest fall under “maintenance and repair,” in my mind. Heel tips, resoling, replacement of buckles or eyelets, getting shoes stretched to fit, reinforcing worn-out bits of leather. But I’m sure there are things I haven’t even dreamed were possible! Have any of you gotten shoes altered in significant ways? How did they look in the end? Was it costly? What would you recommend and warn against?

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Reader Request: Handbag Basics

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Melinda dropped this question into the suggestion box:

I’d be interested in a post on purses and bags. I always feel ridiculous carrying any kind of purse. If it’s big, I imagine myself as a 4 year old girl playing dress up. If it’s small, it just seems too twee and fiddly. I admire women who can carry contrasting colored or interestingly structured bags as if they are natural parts of their wardrobe (instead of, oh-god-I-need-somewhere-to-stick-my-wallet-and-phone). So I’d like to see sort of a “Getting Started for the Bag Wary” post.

I am simultaneously excited to tackle this request, and extremely daunted. I am still fairly new to a multi-handbag lifestyle and all things bag still thrill me, so I’d love to share my tips. But even with my thoughts here and yours in the comments, I’m not sure we can cajole Melinda into overcoming her bag reluctance. Well, let’s try and see how we do.

What do you need to carry with you?

Most of us take things with us when we leave the house, and many of us take more than can fit into our pockets. So if you’re curious about adding a bag or two to your life, the first thing you need to consider is the specific things that you need to cart around. How big and heavy are they? Are any of them awkwardly shaped? (For instance, do you carry a tablet with you? Is your wallet the size and shape of a brick? Do you need to keep a pair of flats on you at all times?) If you are curious about the multi-bag route, can you compartmentalize your stuff so it can be switched easily and quickly between bags?

Your stuff will help you determine how big your bag needs to be, how durable its material needs to be, and which shapes just won’t work.

What do you want your bag to do?

Carry your stuff, I know. But secondary bag considerations may include: Look corporate and professional, work with your winter coat, enhance your outfits, go with everything you own, express your creativity. This bag is going to travel with you wherever you go. What is its visual job? What elements of your body or style does it need to work harmoniously with?

What are your comfort priorities?

Since this bag is going to travel with you wherever you go, it would be great if carrying it didn’t irritate the hell out of you. Do you need to have both hands free? Shoulder bags only for you. Back or neck pain? A lightweight crossbody or stylish backpack, perhaps. Can’t stand fighting with your parka and purse strap? Try a hand-held design. If you’re not currently a handbag person, think about other bag styles you’ve tried – messenger bags, school knapsacks, briefcases. Which of these felt natural and comfortable?

I’ll use myself as an example: I can do a handheld bag, but am much happier if it also has a shoulder strap in case I unexpectedly need my hands free. I generally prefer a bag that has a wide strap so it doesn’t cut into my shoulder, and ideally it would be long enough to sling over my shoulder but short enough that I can carry it in-hand without dragging it on the ground. I have one rectangular bag (this style), the rest are flat. I don’t care if bucket bags are all the rage, if a bag bonks against my side like a tetherball I see red. I need my bag to hug my side.

Which bag styles appeal to you?

Hobos, satchels, totes, crossbodies … got a favorite design? Try not to think about this until you’ve considered your stuff-hauling and comfort priorities. You may love the look of a frame bag, but if you can’t wedge your stuff into it and need a shoulder-slung style, you’ll have to love it from afar.

And then? There’s gonna be some trial and error. If you haven’t habitually carried a handbag in the past, it will take some time to get used to it. And once you’ve gotten used to it, you’ll probably discover a few things about your bag that drive you bananas. You need to know your use patterns before you can really hone in on the perfect bag. (Having to deal with top zippers is my pet peeve. Trying to unzip a bag to reach a ringing phone while simultaneously balancing the bag makes for an odd little jerky dance. For me, anyway.)

So what should Melinda do? I’d highly recommend either borrowing a few bags from a bag-loving family member or friend, or thrifting a couple of promising shapes and sizes. Explore a handful of styles, and try to carry each for a couple of days before passing judgment. Before you can start making your bag an element of your outfit, you need to find out which style suits your needs and get used to carrying it. And honestly, people who incorporate bags as outfit elements generally LOVE handbags. That route is not for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with having one versatile purse for 99% of your life and a sparkly clutch for the other 1%. (Clutches can be thrifted!)

Hopefully that was helpful, but I’d love your input, too. Do you remember how you became accustomed to carrying a handbag, and which styles you tried before you found your ideal? Or are you just now trying to figure all of this out and have other tips to share?

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Image via 6pm.com

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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