Fashion Trends

Ask Magpie: Derby Dresses, Casual Shorts, + More.

By: Jen Shoop

Image via Cecilie Bahnsen.

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Q: On the note of chic and sharp…I have my very first business luncheon upcoming, but haven’t the slightest idea what to wear. I would greatly appreciate any recs for budget looks that are still somewhat chic, but are not a dress or skirt?

A: These Madewell Harlow pants (remind me of Favorite Daughter’s popular pant) with a striped button-down (you might consider the options from Alex Mill or Everlane). Chic. If you don’t like the striped button-down, pair with a little cropped sweater-jacket like this over a luxe-looking white tee. Add some inexpensive slingbacks and a great pair of $10 shades!

Q: Self tanners.

A: I don’t use self-tanners because they always make me look orange. I’ve seen them work well on other people, though, so think it might just be my complexion? I have, however, polled Magpies in the past for their recs — the top three upvotes are always Salty Face’s tanning water, Isle of Paradise tanning drops, and St. Tropez mousse. Beauty icon Courtney Grow also swears by Jergen’s Natural Glow self-tanner, which you apply in the shower. Temptingly inexpensive!

Q: Do you have a black dress you would recommend for a funeral for someone in her 60s?

A: I am so sorry for your loss. I would look at Theory — they have beautiful, timeless black dresses in various silhouettes. I love this one.

Q: Classic tan wool coat.

A: Splurge: any of the ones from Max Mara. More reasonable: Aligne! I own this one. She’s gorgeous. Runs long/tall/lean — great for taller Magpies. If you’re on the petite side, you’ll likely need to have it tailored. I also love this one from Toteme.

Q: You had mentioned using a Pilates subscription at one point. Could you share more if you like(d) using this? For example, did you have favorite videos/instructors/routines? I’m thinking of trying this out and appreciate any tips.

A: Leaving this here for the team, as I haven’t found anything that has really stuck. I tried Melissa Wood Health (so many of you recommended), and I like her energy and the variety of videos she has (you can filter/sort by time, focus area, etc), but ultimately did not end up using it very often and let my subscription lapse. I think this has more to do with building a habit/routine. I always thought of the videos as “secondary to” running/biking or “if I have time leftover…” which is never a sticky starter. I’ve been better/more consistent about doing the core exercise videos from Apple Fitness+ right after I hop off the bike. I think this is because I use the Apple Fitness+ cycling videos, and I’m already in the app, with the TV set up and streaming, so it feels effortless to toggle over to a 10 minute core workout afterward on the mat beside the bike. All to say — finding a routine/setup with as few barriers as possible is key.

MWH and Apple Fitness+ are not pilates, though – anyone have any pilates videos they love?

Q: An inexpensive mesh bag (ideally machine washable) to hold a few pool toys.

A: These $14 ones come in great colors! We own and like these little guys — the kids can use to collect shells or you can sort their toys/goggles so that they each child has his/her own. Note dimensions, though — they are pretty small. Maybe the teenage size (I think this is a new offering?) is better? More expensive, but I’ve seen a lot of these Bogg bags at the pool. Easy to hose down, but have the added benefit of structure (can stand up right on their own).

On the subject of pool toys: how cute are these? And if you don’t have these, you need them this summer. THE BEST. My children played with them outside in the nice weather this past weekend! They are self-sealing, reusable water balloons! You can just dunk them in a bucket of water (or pool) to fill and the kids can do them on their own. SO much better than the kind you have to fill at the sink, and then have littering your yard!

Q: Favorite picks for outdoor toy storage (I think I remember reading once about wheeled bins?)

A: Yes – this mesh bin is a godsend for holding balls, mitts, garden toys, etc. The kids can wheel it out of the garage on their own and the mesh prevents mildew.

Q: Modest, casual shorts – practical to care for popsicle covered children in yet polished enough to run errands.

A: Many, many Magpies are devotees of Agolde’s long short (also available in a hemmed format — Madewell has an inspired-by pair to consider, too). I don’t know what it is about my proportions but they do not hit at the right length on me (I’ve also tried the non-long style)! I would try something like these from Rails (upgrade pick: VB; budget buy: Madewell). I also have and love these utility shorts from Madewell — they might be the only pair of shorts I routinely wear! I’m not much of a shorts gal, but these are tailored and flattering.

If you’re looking for something more casual, love these striped Kules (especially worn as a set, with the matching top!) and these “sweat shorts” from Frank and Eileen.

Q: Crossbody bag for European summer trip.

A: I really love my Paris64 one — small, versatile, zips closed, and no one else has one. I love that this bag can be dressed up with a cocktail dress or down with shorts/jeans. Lots of different fabric/color options, too! Also still a fan of Celine’s trio bags — you can still find on TheRealReal. Get in a fun color!

Q: Derby dress.

A: Love all my Derby girls this year! Had a few fashion requests about this event. I love this Simkhai, this OPT, this Rixo, this Rebecca Vallance, this Julia Amory, this Anthro, this Coco Shop.

Q: Styling gauze pants.

A: I like them worn as a set, with matching top (e.g., top and pant), or paired with a simple white tee and strappy sandals. I feel like you have to pair with cotton — I find they are so dressed-down, they look off if paired with a dressier blouse.

Q: Recommendations for Derby dresses for those of us over 50 who don’t want a maxi, a mini. Nothing low cut, nothing sleeveless and it MUST be comfortable to wear all day long. And to make this even more difficult, I am 5’3 and 98 pounds. It is REALLY difficult to find something without spending $1000. Ordered an expensive Tory Burch silk dress to try. Love Adam Lippes but too expensive. Found a few on sale that I love from Saks but I cannot return so I am not risking. Think Roland Mouret (but suspect not comfortable to wear 12 hours and move in all day).

A: What about this, this, or this from Cara Cara? Self-Portrait also has some pretty lace options that might be up your alley, like this or this. (Or this one on The Real Real!)

Q: Vinyl letters for your daughter’s water bottle???

A: These! (10% off with code MAGPIE10) I just ordered an A-Z set (I also have sets with just my children’s first initials) so I can have on hand to customize water bottles as gifts for my daughter’s friends. While there, I picked up this stationery set for her Easter basket! My MIL gave her a set of cards for her birthday and I was charmed to see her write notes to her little friends on them, all on her own. I realized I usually keep her personalized stationery (<<this boutique is run by a talented artist and fellow UVA grad) in my closet so she doesn’t tear through it, but wanted to get her something less precious to write notes on of her own volition.

P.S. All of my promo codes in one place here. I just updated these yesterday with a few new codes from Greatness Wins (20% off with JEN20), OSEA (10% off with MAGPIE10), and more.

P.P.S. I’m always updating my Shopbop hearts!

P.P.P.S. Still making my way out of a book hangover from this book. (More on book hangovers, and how to get out of them, here.)

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15 thoughts on “Ask Magpie: Derby Dresses, Casual Shorts, + More.

  1. For Pilates, Move with Nicole on YouTube is free! Her videos are unfussy, not packed with ads and have a lot of different lengths and area focuses. She also does barre videos.

    I have a tricky shopping question for next time! I have an early June family wedding in Vermont. The wedding invite says “formal: fancy dresses and full suits”, which is a little more formal than usual in my family events (typically I see cocktail or semiformal) and what I’d normally expect based on the venue. So I’m trying to figure out what to wear without being conspicuously overdressed or underdressed among the other guests. I’d prefer suggestions under $200 since I’m not sure about my likelihood of re-wearing the dress and would prefer nothing strapless. I would consider Rent the Runway, but I’m petite and if it’s supposed to be a full length gown it will probably need to be hemmed. It’s still likely going to be pretty cold still and the wedding is partially outside, so suggestions for a coordinating topper/wrap would also be appreciated. Thanks!!

  2. I have used the Down Dog app for 4 years, 4-5x/week and highly recommend it: there are separate modules for: running, HIIT, barre, meditation, yoga, pre-natal yoga, Workouts can be tailored for time, difficulty, focus,type of music, type of instructor/voice. For Pilates, I have used Pilatesology and the online classes from my favorite DC studio, Fuse. Will be checking out some of the Pilates recommendations listed. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for the recs for the luncheon attire! That J Crew jacket is right up my style alley – structured, classic, put together…perfect! You’re always right on the mark!

  4. I just had a Max Mara shopping spree (someone bought me a coat at Christmas 2 sizes 2 big, and I don’t live somewhere warm enough for that coat, and the credit was about to expire). My sweet son loved playing in the dressing room, he’s never been shopping with me before. For the exorbitant price of one coat, I got a beautiful white double-buttoned blazer, chocolate brown faux leather wide leg pants, two cropped sweaters with white piping (one camel, one black), and an elastic waisted pair of black popelin shorts. I feel like a new woman! Postpartum is a tough season for me because so little fits and I’m hesitant to buy something for this window, but I am so so happy with all my purchases and the difference in my mood is unreal, just knowing that I have something nice for the few special occasions coming up. I’ve been living in just Zara/H&M/Amazon the last few years except for shoes, between 2 babies. And in my younger years I was less sure of my own taste and would never have returned the thing I didn’t like, because surely the person who could buy designer knew better than I did. So these are some of the first big ticket items I’ve chosen myself! And it’s my first time figuring out what my personal style is just for fun, not trying to dress to impress in an office setting. A blazer feels right! That’s always how I’ve felt my best, but I wasn’t sure how to bring that into my life as a stay at home mom/writer. Seeing your outfits is always an inspiration! Not just in terms of what you put together, but in taking that time for myself, and letting myself wear the special thing instead of athleisure.

    I’m more of a barre gal than Pilates, but I like The Belle Method on Instagram. I don’t pay for her content, just the free exercises are excellent. She focuses on pelvic floor health. I also love expecting and empowered and MamasteFit, which are more straightforward workouts, but my French pelvic PT says their content is excellent and super informative!

    1. I love your Max Mara moment – and the attendant thoughts! Go you! I feel like post partum is such a time of self-discovery, re-discovery — “who am I underneath it all anyway?” You can feel like such a means to an end sometimes (putting it crassly) during that period: the one to feed, to diaper, to soothe. It was easy for me to lose track of myself in those days. I’m SO glad you had a moment for just you, to figure out what you feel like. (Even with a little boy playing at your hem!)

      Sending you love —


  5. I really like Pvolve which is Pilates-adjacent – not quite Pilates, not quite Barre, but somewhere in the middle. Their streaming membership is inexpensive and includes weekly virtual classes on Zoom, which I find so motivating – the instructors have great energy, provide form corrections, and there are loads of times to choose from (ranging from 30-75 minutes).

    Follow-up shopping question for a future round-up: what would you recommend wearing (travel set?) for an overnight flight to Italy in July? Ideally something comfortable enough to sleep in, but that won’t look too rumpled upon arrival.

    1. Thanks for the Pvolve rec – I’ve seen ads for that! Thank you. Filed away for next winter…

      On it re: travel outfits! Will share thoughts in next installment!


  6. I do Pilates on the peloton app. It’s fine but lacks a little something compared to irl Pilates classes I took years ago. Less emphasis on coordinating breath and movement. Fewer leg series than I’d like. But it’s enough for me right now, plus the convenience is key!

    Also, the only jean shorts I’ve worn for years and years are from Gap. They offer different lengths AND different rises – I like the mid rise 5” version, I have at least 3 pairs.

  7. A suggestion for Pilates online. I have been using Amanda Blauer Pilates for over a year. It is not fancy but excellent instruction and cueing. The emphasis she puts on form makes everything more effective. There is a free 7 day trial.

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