Style + Ask the Edit

Ask the Edit Vol. V, No. Nine

Books for D.C. career women, first day outfits, laptop bags for work and more…

Hi Belle!

I have loved your blog for years. I am graduating from law school in May and I am looking for a nice work bag. I have pretty long arms so I like bags that have a long handle drop, at least 11″ or so, OR a bag that has short handles with a longer crossbody strap. I really like the Dagne Dover bags and their organization system inside the bag, but I’m pretty sure I’d hate the handles.

I’d appreciate any input you’d have! Thanks! – DJ 

I own two Dagne Dover classic totes.  I was actually surprised to see it only had a 9″ drop because I always found it comfortable to carry over the shoulder.  But if you’re looking for a longer drop…

Lodis makes a lot of great bags.  I like this Nikita tote (6″ drop, crossbody strap) and this Audrey zip-tote (11″ drop).  When I found a new job, I may reward myself with this Lodis bag.  This beautiful Cuyana satchel has a strap on the bag.  For something affordable, try this Matt & Nat bag or this one.

This men’s Ted Baker bag doesn’t have much in the way of storage, but if you’re looking for a slim laptop bag, this is it.  If you travel light, I love the look.


You mentioned on Instastories that you’re using a product to make your hair look shinier.  What is it?

Love your late night rants!  The one on self-care was my favorite. ~ Emma

I’m using two products to improve the smoothness and shininess of my hair.  Oribe’s super shine cream is a great product to nourish tired hair.  It’s floral scent smells like a Michael’s craft store.  I’ve also been using Living Proof Restore, a detangler and leave-in conditioner that protects my hair from heat.

Need drugstore equivalents?  I like this Not Your Mother’s heat spray and this Tresemme smoothing serum as replacements.

Hi Belle!

I’m starting a new job at a pretty big deal place. It’s a major step up for me and want to start off right. I believe it’s business dress. What’s a good first day outfit? I feel like a suit might be too much, so how can I look polished and professional while flying slightly blind?

– SR 

I don’t think you can go wrong with a fitted (but not tight) sleeved dress.  If you want to splurge, I recommend Black Halo or LK Bennett.  Choose something you’ll wear regularly.  LK Bennett has this simple black dress or this a-line navy dress.  This Black Halo Nuelle sheath and this v-neck sheath are both lovely.

Looking for something under-$175?  This Ann Taylor faux wrap, this Maggy London textured dress, and this long sleeve J.Crew sheath will all work.

Plus-size? Try this Ellen Tracy sheath or this Talbot’s ponte sheath.  Petite?  This red sheath is gorgeous.  Maternity?  This Rosie Pope dress is chic.


I’m going to Mexico next month for my anniversary.  Can you help me find cute sandals?  Seems like the wrong season to be searching.


For a pair of really cute, fun cheapies that just scream Mexico, try these Forever21 sandals.  These yellow Topshop sandals are great.  For something a bit more neutral, try these Steve Maddens or these simple Ancient Greek sandals.


This isn’t so much a fashion question but a clothing questions – how do you store T-shirt, jersey, and wrap dresses? Hanging them doesn’t seem right because the weight of the dress pulls down on the shoulder; however, folding them is a pain. Plus, not matter how careful I am, there is always a crease down the middle. Thanks!

– Rachel 

Some of them, the lightweight ones, I hang.  I find a wood hanger does a better job of distributing the weight.  For the rest, I keep them in drawers built into my closet organizer.  Before I had that, I kept them in a hanging organizer that had shelves.  To keep the wrinkles low, I used tissue paper when I folded them.


I’m in the market for a pair of slippers.  Our new house has all wood floors, and they’re pretty but cold. I just want something cozy.  Do you still love your Uggs?

Love the blog! Maya

Yes.  When I travel for work, I always bring them.  After a long day on my feet, my moccasins are all I want.  They’re a vacation for my feet.    I’ve never been so surprised by something as I was but how much I loved them.  They’re ugly, but they’re slippers, so they don’t leave the house.

Hi Abra,

I have some cousins graduating from college in a few months. They’ve both decided to move to DC, where I’ve lived for about 10 years. I came here for law school and hopped right into lawyerdom, so I don’t have much experience with job hunting outside of the legal market.

I’m hoping to gift them with some books that contain wisdom I wish I’d had when I was starting out my career. So far, I’ve picked “Mistakes I Made At Work” (which I really wish existed when I was starting out!), and “Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?” Are there any you might recommend? For context, one will be working on the Hill. The other is still job hunting, but is hoping to work for a nonprofit advocacy organization.

Any recommendations?  Thanks so much!  Jess

Both of your suggestions are good ones.  I also like “The Big Life” by Ann Shoket and “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois Frankel.”  Hopefully, other readers will share their recommendations as well.  I can always use a new book to read.

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  1. Mary G. says:

    To Jess – Other books you might want to consider:
    The Defining Decade
    The Confidence Code

    March 1, 2018/Reply
    • Abbie says:

      I second the Defining Decade. It’s less about job hunt advice, but gives really great advice about some things to think about in your 20s.

      March 1, 2018/Reply
      • Jess says:

        Thanks to you both! Going to pick these up for the cousins (and myself!) at the P&P sale this weekend.

        March 2, 2018/Reply
  2. SunnyIA says:

    Re the Lodis Audrey tote: I own it and it is BEAUTIFUL. The drop length is perfect (as someone who also struggles with this). BUT: it holds next to nothing. It holds a laptop or tablet and a few thin file folders. You can’t fit a water bottle in it, which to me is a deal-breaker, or much of anything else. It’s pretty but not at all functional for day-to-day. I haven’t even taken it on job interviews because it is THAT impractical. I replaced it with a canvas tote by Lodis that is not nearly as lovely but is indestructible, holds everything, and is comfortable all day long on my shoulder.

    March 1, 2018/Reply
  3. SSC says:

    To DJ — I got that Cuyana bag for Christmas, and it’s holding up really well so far. Can’t go wrong with that one, IMO.

    March 1, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      My weekender I got is holding up really well too. I was reticent because I always get nervous with “blogger brands,” and the shirts are just better than average, but these bags are the s**t.

      March 1, 2018/Reply
    • AP says:

      I second this. I’ve had my cuyana work bag since it first came out (September 2016) and it’s help up really well with almost daily use – and I am hard on my bags. Sometimes, I wish it was a tiny bit bigger. However, I do manage to fit my laptop, wallet, small makeup case, and water bottle. The long shoulder strap is very handy.

      March 1, 2018/Reply
  4. OM says:

    Great choice with Who Thought This Was A Good Idea! I highly recommend it! Have recently ordered The Big Life and am intrigued!

    Re: your job-hunting cousin, I work in the non-profit sector here in DC, and the best way to get out there and meet people from different organizations is events. Devex (which also has a careers section), CSIS, Brookings, and Council on Foreign Relations are all great places to start as they regularly host events.

    Also there’s something to be said for them both to head to Front Page on a Thursday night and get talking to other recent grads to find their tribe in DC!

    March 1, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      This comment is why I started this blog. Women sharing information with other women to help each other out.

      March 1, 2018/Reply
    • Jess says:

      Jess here. Thank you! This is great and so helpful. I’m compiling all of these helpful comments into a little guide for my cousins. I really appreciate this.

      March 2, 2018/Reply
    • MALLORy says:

      I’m in the same sector, but in NYC. I’d suggest that your cousin look for job hunting groups on Facebook. They should also talk to professors and administrators at their school (not career services!) to see who they remember headed to DC recently. I had a office manager in my grad program that knew EVERYONE that had come through in the past 10 years and she gave me a list of the people that worked in NYC. I reached out to a lot of the women for informational interviews and that helped a lot with building my network. I also used a Facebook group for my sorority alumnae, so if they have other affinity groups they’re in they should tap those to get to know people.

      March 2, 2018/Reply
      • Jess says:

        This is great advice. Thank you!

        March 2, 2018/Reply
  5. Melanie says:

    RE Hanging delicate dresses, I have a few items like that and had tried everything – wood, padded, and flocked hangers – and still got the shoulder marks. Then I found these hangers on Amazon and they completely solved the problem.

    They work so well that my husband now uses them to hang his sweaters. For the price, I’d say they’re worth a shot.

    March 1, 2018/Reply
    • Beth says:

      I’ve never seen hangers like these! I’m so intrigued!!

      Usually, I just hang my stuff folded over the bottom of the hanger at the armpit level of the knit dress/top/sweater. This looks like a great alternative 🙂

      March 2, 2018/Reply
  6. RLM says:

    To the person looking for slippers:
    I highly recommend Giesswein ( I have a pair from a few years ago that isn’t available currently. They’ve got a rubber sole (so I can make brief sojourns outside) they’ve held up really well, and they are super comfortable. As someone with problem feet, the latex and cork insole, similar to a Birkenstock, is ideal. They may not be the most fashionable, but they are amazing.

    March 1, 2018/Reply
  7. Kelly says:

    The Ted Baker bag is so beautiful.

    Re: hair, I picked up the Kristin Ess blow dry accelerator (Target didn’t stock the Not Your Mother’s version Belle rec’d) and it’s AMAZING. Totally lives up to the promises to cut drying time and makes my hair look great. (So shiny!) Plus it’s 1/2 the price of the Aveda product I had been using.

    March 1, 2018/Reply
  8. Mlksal says:

    Re: job hunt books. I love the Ask A Manager blog. She has a free job prep e-book that I recommend to all our interns. I also recommend her ebook “How To Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager”

    March 1, 2018/Reply
    • Jess says:

      Thanks! I’m familiar with the blog (I think because of this blog!), but wasn’t aware of that eBook. Awesome resource. Appreciate it!

      March 2, 2018/Reply
  9. Ana says:

    I used the Tory Burch York tote for years. It doesn’t have a zip top, but has a laptop sleeve and comfortable handle drop length which is adjustable. More recently, the Parker tote has replaced the York tote and should comfortably hold a laptop, wallet, phone, laptop charger, and sometimes even a change of shoes.

    March 1, 2018/Reply
    • Betsy says:

      Did you use the large or small York tote?

      March 6, 2018/Reply
      • Ana says:

        The large York tote! It has a laptop sleeve for up to a 15 inch laptop.

        March 8, 2018/Reply
  10. Jess says:

    For work bags, I also treated myself when I graduated from law school. I’ve had the Kate Spade Chrystie Street Large Anisha in black for 8 years now. I loved it so much I bought it in tan a few years later, and I use the black in fall/winter and the tan in spring/summer. It’s held up great. I send each bag in to Rago Brothers in New Jersey (Kate Spade’s recommended leather goods repair shop)every year and a half or so, and it’s been great to refresh the bags and also ensure I can keep them longer.

    Sadly, KS doesn’t make the bag anymore, but there are a few available on Ebay. It’s a great, versatile, classic and chic bag. It has snaps inside so that you can expand it if necessary. I’m able to fit my laptop, a redweld full of files, as well as my wallet, makeup bag, water bottle, and umbrella. I get tons of compliments on it still.

    Congrats on graduating!

    March 2, 2018/Reply
  11. Orla says:

    Belle, i’d actually really like some suggestions for a chic work backpack with lots of pockets. I love the Matt & Nat brand, but their backpacks do not have enough internal organizer pockets for me. Oh and it has to be vegan.

    March 2, 2018/Reply