Classic Style

Reader Q+As…

By: Jen Shoop

I so thoroughly enjoy receiving emails and direct messages from you (P.S. — I’ve started a new Instagram handle, @thefashionmagpie, that features more shopping finds and more musings if you care to follow along) and thought I’d share a couple of recent exchanges here…

Q: I was invited to a black tie Havana Nights party.  I already ordered the one shoulder Topshop dress and I am OBSESSED! I think that could work?  Let me know if you come across anything else.  It is at a fancy old school country club…

A:  I think that’s the perfect dress!  It’s hard to tell with black tie what you’re supposed to wear as a woman — you no longer need to wear floor length, so you can get away with a lot. I think your cocktail dress pick is perfection, especially since 80s are so IN for evening wear! I feel like everyone else will be wearing red (right? Havana Nights?) and you’ll stand out with that dramatic shoulder situation.  The only other thing that came to mind was Sachin & Babi; Outnet has a bunch of their pieces on sale and they are very CHA CHA CHA — sort of Johanna Ortiz-esque, like this one.  (Also, Johanna Ortiz would be the perfect label for this event, though her pieces are very expensive.  Something like this would be right on the money).

Q: I’m looking for a wall-mounted light fixture for the wide entryway in our home.  I’d like it to project a lot of light since the space is so big but am debating between something more traditional or more artsy.  Any recommendations?

A:  I like this one because of its large dimensions and it has a good balance of tradition and modernity to it.  I know you said your main concern is projecting a lot of light but I also LOVE this one — not sure if the shade will make it too dim for your taste, but it feels so finished and elegant.  The texture that the shade introduces would also make the room feel finished.  This is pricey but how cool?!  I love that it comes in different colors to add some interest to an area that is typically otherwise unremarkable.  (The green!)  I’m guessing this is just way too funky/modern, but see below image of a similar style in a traditional setting, and it looks amazing.

Q: I’m currently in the market for a bowtie for my beau. We went to a wedding recently and he borrowed a really nice artistic/hipster bowtie from a friend.  It was dark brown and had a bunny print on it.  While he was reluctant to wear it at first since it was his first time wearing a bowtie, he got a million compliments and loved it by the end of the night. I’d like to get him a bowtie for his birthday next month, and I’m having trouble finding a nice one. Do you have any bowtie brand recommendations that I could check out? I’m getting a little lost in the zillion options on Etsy. 

A: My first thought was Vineyard Vines — they are classic and have fun animal prints.  Mr. Magpie owns this crab tie as a nod to his Mid-Atlantic roots and deep and abiding passion for bluecrabs.  Something like this is a bit  more subdued but still has a fun print to it.  VV might be a little bit preppy based on what you described, though (not sure!), so a few other thoughts —

My favorite men’s clothing store for gifts is Paul Stuart.  They have the most elegant, timeless pieces and I’ve bought many special items for Mr. Magpie there.  Check out their selection, though they are a little pricier.
This one is on sale though and has a similar vibe to the one you described — darker/more fall appropriate colors and a small animal print.  Super handsome!
Finally, these ones from High Cotton are on the more “hipster” side of the spectrum and might be right up his alley.  Maybe this one with the mallards or this one with the flies, depending on his interests?

Q: Hey! I am in need of a dress for myself for my daughter’s baptism at the end of the month. I live in the South, so it will probably still be hot here. I love your taste! You have a knack for picking pretty outfits that are perfect for the occasion. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!  Thank you!

A:  This was a fun challenge.  I’m including a bunch of options I would consider, at a range of price points:

+I just ordered this polka dot lovely from Zara, and think it would look elegant with some simple black pumps for the occasion.  It looks like the designer Alexandra Rich!
+This fit and flare knit dress is pulled-together and chic, especially with pointed-toe flats.
+Another traditional option: this pleated skirt with a white cotton crewneck sweater or white button down blouse.
+I love the shape and button detailing on this navy or white Tibi.
For some reason I felt I needed to wear a white dress to my daughter’s Baptism (it was summer, though) — if you feel similarly compelled, I love this (under $130!) or this in chic, creamy off-white.

Q: My friend has been trying to get pregnant for years and is finally through the first trimester.  Is there any gift I can give her?  

A: So sweet of you.  My go-to gift for moms to be is Clarins body tonic oil.  I slathered it on religiously during my pregnancy and have zero stretch marks.  I know that stretch marks are partly genetic, etc., but there’s still something so lovely and extravagant about receiving a self-care beauty product like this that you might not otherwise splurge on yourself.  I’ve also gifted a friend a few pairs of these maternity underwear which I know sounds weird but they are HEAVEN when you get to your third trimester!  I was so reluctant to buy a pair of $23 maternity underwear that would only be worn for a few weeks, but the days these came out of the laundry were always happy days for me.  HA!  The little things.

If those two gifts feel too intimate (I get it), I also have sent friends caffeine-free tea samplers from David’s Tea along with tea bags and measuring spoons.  I got into such a tea ritual while pregnant; it was such an indulgence after dinner when I’d usually have been enjoying a glass of wine.

If you are really looking to splurge: these jammies were the best thing that ever happened to me in the final few months of my pregnancy.

P.S.  Things I am currently eyeballing:

+This Alice McCall gown.  10 out of 10.  Ice blue!  I am SO into this color right now.  I wish I had an event to wear this to…

+This satin hair bow.  My hair is currently chopped into a bob so I don’t think it will work for me right now, but it would look adorable in longer tresses.  I might opt for this velvet headband instead…

+This fun limited edition MZ Wallace tote by hip line Lingua Franca.  It reminded me of this Banana sweater I recently lingered over.

+These fun thermal jammies.

+J. Brand denim is my all time favorite, and they are running 25% off all purchases through tonight.  If you are preggo, I strongly encourage you to consider investing in a pair of Mama Js.  A friend recommended these to me, and I have recommended them to at least a dozen other expecting mamas since and they are AMAZING.  So comfortable and so flattering.  Not preggo: I absolutely love J. Brand’s photoready line of denim.  It has just the right amount of stretch and creates a killer silhouette.  I’m intrigued by their new photoready HD variation

P.P.S.  More Q+As and thinking back on our move to NYC almost a year ago.

P.P.P.S.  Still love these products.

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4 thoughts on “Reader Q+As…

  1. Hi! Always love your gift picks. Any ideas for what to get my husband for our first anniversary? What did you get yours? I’m stuck. Thanks!

    1. Hi Julie! I think the first anniversary gift is historically “paper” and if I remember correctly, we got one another stationery with our new initials on it? No particularly flashy but so, so nice to have elegant paper with your new initials on it. If you like letterpress, check out Dinglewood Design on Etsy. We used them for mini’s birth announcements and were very impressed, especially given that they charge less than most letterpress stationers!:

      Alternately, something like this is timeless:

      If stationery is just too stodgy (I get it), I would probably buy something for the home — what do you like? Are you cooking enthusiasts? Coffee snobs? Etc? I might start with a mutual passion/interest and investigate buying the best equipment for whatever it is. My kitchen guide might spark some ideas:

      As an example, I invested in a Bonavita electric kettle and we use it at least two times a day — for coffee in the morning and for tea in the afternoon/after dinner. It brings us such joy! It works like a charm and pouring out of that gooseneck spout is weirdly satisfying.

      You might also revisit your registry — what did you register for but not receive? Anything that he insisted on registering for?

      Finally — you can’t go wrong with an experience, like a one-night staycation at a fancy hotel in your city, or dinner plans at that hard-to-get-a-reservation spot, or a football game, or an opera, etc, etc.


    1. Hi Tina! Sadly, the chic snap above is not of me — I found it on Pinterest! BUT those shoes are J. Crew from a few seasons ago; I remember because I eyed them! You can still find new pairs on eBay, like these: — just search for J CREW CALF HAIR T-STRAPS!


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