Fashion Trends

Ask Magpie: Work Totes + Reunion Dresses.

By: Jen Shoop

*Wearing Ulla Johnson’s Nanette dress above; more snaps below. A great statement dress that isn’t too dressy or too casual.

Q: I want to buy a classic black shoulder/tote bag for work. Something classy, leather, and undestated. My dream bags are Celine micro luggage or St. Laurent sac de jour but I’m not yet ready to spend $$$ on a bag. I am hoping for under $1K.

A: Hi! Love this question — go you! If you really love the Celine or St. Laurent, check out The Real Real. Scour the listings because sometimes you can find one in very good condition for around $1K — for example, this one or this one. One bonus of buying a second-hand bag is that you aren’t as ill when you first scratch/ding it — hehe. But seriously, it’s a great way to get the exact look you want, and it’s sustainable, too. If you’d rather something new, though, I would consider the ones from Clare Vivier, Mansur Gavriel, Callista, Polene, Demellier, or Little Liffner. Also, this J. McLaughlin, which looks so much less Bottega’s Arco I did a double take.


Mansur Gavriel // Callista // Demellier // Clare Vivier // Little Liffner // J. McLaughlin

Q: 20th college reunion. Evening party/dinner. Want to look chic and great but not like I’m trying hard. For context, I lacked self esteem in college but feel good about myself now and am excited to see my dear friends who I see anyway but also to chat with people I knew but was intimidated by. At Yale in May for context, edgy > preppy.

A: Ahh! I love this so much — go you! I’m a fellow late bloomer and felt this way returning to my 20 year high school reunion recently. You got this! The first thing I’ll say is gravitate towards pieces that make you feel comfortable and like yourself. For me, it was a sundress — easy. I wore a joyful CeliaB dress — this exact silhouette but last season pattern (also so fun in solid red). I paired with flat sandals. It felt to me just right: no heels, a happy palette and playful details, but an easy shape. A few I would consider for this year: this Zimmermann, this Antik Batik, this Banjanan, this Farm Rio, this La Ligne. Taking your “edgy rather than preppy cue,” you might also look at Ulla or La Double J — their pieces always have a more global/sophisticated/traveled vibe to them. I actually just got this dress in (seen above and below) and it is really, really pretty in real life. She has such a knack for details; the sleeves are so fun and unexpected. I also have been eyeing one of these chic La Double J t-shirt dresses for awhile. Finally, so many of my friends own and adore this Staud maxi dress. It’s simple, chic, unfussy, minimalist, but it has a point of view. Like, can you imagine with flat strappy sandals?! It’s divine. If you’re not a dress gal, I would pair denim in a modern silhouette with a statement top like this or this.

You got this!

Q: Dresses for a series of spring baby showers.

A: I am loving the cheerful spring styles from Pink City Prints, and bonus: most are 20% off at the moment at Saks. I feel like they achieve the perfect balance of playful/sweet/celebratory but not too over-the-top. Especially love this one and this one. This brand runs big; I would size down. I swim in the XS (my typical true size). I also love this Anthro dress I just got in (you can see me in it here) — it is so comfortable, flattering, and chic in the blue-and-white stripe. I took the PXS and it is roomy — I could have gone down to the PXXS. Nice that it comes in a petite length, though, so the hem hits the ankle versus drags on the floor. Finally, this CeliaB is so fun!

Q: I’m introverted and would love advice on how to be engaging at social events.

A: Fellow introvert here! Two things that help me: first, I give myself a mini pep talk in the car beforehand. I specifically like to imagine myself radiating warmth towards whomever I meet. Like, “Jen, go in there and try to beam out / send out a happy energy. Smile, be open, ask questions.” Sometimes I also need to sort of rev up my own engines, e.g.: I am interesting! I am happy to be here! I am my whole self! For me, half the battle is mindset. I really try to put myself in a positive headspace — about myself, about the event, about the attendees. Second, I focus on asking questions of whomever I meet. I strain to avoid the “stock” type but sometimes you need them — “how do you know the hostess?” “how long have you lived in the area?” etc. My mom — who could talk to literally anyone on the planet and is the type to find herself in long, soul-baring conversations with total strangers — used to tell me: “Get the other person to talk. People love to talk about themselves!” She meant this lovingly, not judgingly, and it is so true. Bonus suggestion: if you are at an event where you know nobody (I found myself in this situation a lot in former careers), walk into the room and approach the very first cluster of people you see. Say: “Hi there! Sorry to interrupt. I’m Jen, and I know absolutely nobody here, and you all looked friendly.” I’ve leaned on this formula dozens of times. People are almost invariably welcoming and friendly, and you’ve not had to waste time circling the room fussing with your cocktail napkin. Just go in and rip off the bandaid!

I’m sure some Magpies have great intel — please share thoughts in comments!

Q: Favorite boy clothes stores? Baby and toddler.

A: Dressing my son has brought so much unanticipated joy into my life. I have had SO much fun. A few staples I love that I’ve often bought in multiple sizes over the years:











I’ve recently discovered the lovely children’s boutique Danrie and am IN LOVE with their curation. So many fabulous small labels I’d never heard of before! I just received these shorts from Arsene et Pipelettes (note the adorable bungee cord tie waist) and this tee from Barcelona-based Buho. I love when you find items you don’t see elsewhere!

Q: Summer bag, cute but realistic — mama of 3 littles.

A: Truly, the Naghedi is a winner (full review here). It’s lightweight, comes in punchy colors, and is made of neoprene so you can take it the pool/beach without worrying about destroying leather. It fits over the shoulder if you’re not wearing a bulky sweater / will be great with tees/dresses. I also love a simple straw/woven bag with straps long enough to fit over the shoulder. Of course love the Loewe, but you can get look for less with this Target steal. I’ve also recently heard that these Marni bags are actually great investments — hold their shape, hold A LOT, and hold up well. I love that they come with a strap.

Q: An interesting nightstand that isn’t just white.

A: Love this rattan one or a bone inlay one like this or this!

Q: Is there 1 dress that threads a 5-wedding needle between July and November. All warm weather/cocktail.

A: You need this Staud dress (on sale in select colors for 20% off here). It is SO flattering on and you can restyle tons of ways with different jewelry/heels/hair up or down/light wrap/scarf. The pink color (which I ordered) may be pushing it in terms of seasonality for a November wedding, but still — I think you could easily get four out of the five weddings done with that one. (I also found this VERY SIMILAR style at Zara in a chic apricot color — can’t speak to fit compared to Staud as I’ve not tried but worth a shot if you like the look but want to spend less.). You could also order in black or navy and could definitely wear to all five in that case, plus a million other events thereafter. This dress has a nice amount of stretch to it. I took a size down from my usual size and it’s PERFECT.

staud wells dress dupe


Other options: most navy/black dresses will suit from July through November, so you might consider this black Ulla, this navy La Ligne, or this Banana Republic (wowww). Have fun!

Q: Sandals recommendation for spring and summer.

A: If you’re on the fashion-forward/fashion-curious side of things, surprise yourself with some trendy dad sandals! I ordered these Guccis and they are SO fun. If you’re more of a classic gal, I live in my Hermes Orans all summer long, and you can get the look for less with these or these. I also love the look of those strappy The Row sandals that come out each season — they look so elegant and understated. You can get the look for less with these.

Q: Transitioning from the corporate world. Just left senior level product management job to stay home with my 1 year old for a few months and have more time for my toddler.

A: Hang in there, mama! I know these transitions are really hard. First, let yourself feel everything. No feeling is wrong or final. You may grapple with a sense of compromise, or loss of potential even, and those emotions are natural. It goes both ways — moms who work outside the home feel like they’re “missing” their children’s lives; moms who work inside the home feel they’re “missing” their potential careers. We’re all struggling with the same bear of an impossible challenge. Personally, I push myself to own my decisions in this general domain. I choose this change. I’m going to enter into this arrangement with an open heart and a positive energy. Nothing is permanent; I can change my mind if something does not feel right after, say, six months or a year. All that said: I can tell you with confidence you will never regret this time with your child. I anticipate you will be so happy you had this time with your little ones at home. Not to say it’s going to be all sunshine and roses — it is hard and exhausting caring for little ones, and you have so little time or physical space to yourself! On that note, find some mom friends who are also working in the home that you can connect with / vent to / bond with / be vulnerable in front of. Bonus: you can get together during the day, go on picnics, hit up the playground or library circuit, etc. Many hands make light work, and it’s so nice to pass an afternoon in companionable (if often-interrupted) conversation. Hang in there, mama! The transitions are really hard. You’ll get into a groove, though.

Q: Denim shorts.

A: I am loving the styles that are sort of narrower at top and flare out a bit that are trending? I think they can actually be quite flattering on the leg. The Citizens are fun. Also love these Mangos and these J. Crews.

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8 thoughts on “Ask Magpie: Work Totes + Reunion Dresses.

  1. Re: work bag: I heard good things about Cuyana’s system tote! I have a different bag from them, and have seen their other leather goods in person in their store. Their leather and workmanship in general is high quality for the price point!

    1. Ooh – thanks for throwing Cuyana into the mix! I also have one of their totes with the zippered top and found it so helpful for work travel!


  2. regarding your advice for introvert. I have a mentor who graciously told me, “when in a situation with people you don’t know well, be kind and be curious.” It is advice that has served me well.

  3. For next time: I’m looking for a dress. I’m hosting a surprise party for my husband to celebrate an important career milestone. Evening in springtime NYC; cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, then a seated dinner; mix of friends, family, and business associates. I want something that makes my husband proud to have me on his arm 🙂 Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

    1. What a sweet thing to say about wanting to make your husband proud — I know he will be. I will get to work on this and share answers in the next installment!


  4. Love these posts (always!) Chiming in on a few things – YES to the Staud Vincent dress for the q above. I have it in black with brown leather trim (one of the options last season) and sized up to wear throughout pregnancy, had it taken in afterwards, and still wear it constantly. I’d consider myself on the line between edgy/preppy, generally trending towards classic cuts in neutrals, and that specific dress is fantastic. Would also recommend Mara Hoffman for this! Lots of chic silhouettes and interesting fabrics, but still on the neutral/lowkey edgy side. Also heavily influenced by your rave reviews of the Staud Wells dress. I wish I thought to order it in time for Easter (instead, panic-ventured over to Ann Mashburn today and scooped a few new favorites. Phew!). May need it for an upcoming baby shower…

    Just went through a work-tote-odyssey as well and ended up getting the Naghedi in olive. Perhaps not the most seasonal color but I plan to use it year-round with, again, lots of neutrals, and it’s already proving an excellent workhorse. Chic and polished enough to bring to/from the office, but also big enough/not too precious, so I can throw in all of my daily snacks, change of shoes, gym clothes, laptop, etc. and not fret about spillage.

    Lastly, I have a job that forces me to walk into rooms full of strangers for political events several times per week… I always channel my sorority recruitment persona, in case anyone else anxiously slogged through those days of performative confidence and extroversion in college; I find no natural ease in these types of situations, either! If all else fails, I do exactly as you mentioned – fully lean into approaching a small group of strangers and saying something like “Hi, I’m — and know nobody here – how is your day going?/any fun travel on the horizon?/etc.” I always try to remember that everyone else is likely feeling just as desirous of connection and a place to land in the room!

    1. Oo thank you for this gold mine of intel! Hadn’t thought of the Naghedi for work but you’re right — in the darker colors, it definitely looks work appropriate, and it’s highly functional! Love.

      Finally, you are so right about “everyone else feeling just as desirous of connection / a place to land in the room” at these events. Yes! It is WAY easier to be approached than to approach, so you’re doing your fellow partygoers a favor by handling the approach!


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