Ladies, Here's Your Go-to Outfit

One great holiday ensemble can take you far, say two of Cleveland’s top personal shoppers — from an evening event with colleagues to a casual after-work gathering with friends or from a daytime party with the kids to that luncheon with Grandma.

The secret is starting with a few basic pieces that can be accessorized appropriately for each event.

“These basic pieces can take you a long way, and one of them is a nice pair of full black pants,” says Liliane Richa, a personal shopper at Dillard’s at Beachwood Place. Choose pants in wool to wear them day or night, or satin if you’re attending mostly evening events, she says.

Pair those pants with an ultrafeminine blouse with a festive touch like ruffles or a French cuff, recommends Gailmarie Fort, a Nordstrom personal shopper. A statement jacket is another holiday essential, according to Fort. “When you put that jacket on, you’ve transformed that outfit and made it fun and interesting,” she says.

For occasions that warrant it, Richa says you can add that wow factor with dramatic jewelry such as a beaded necklace or belt or a distinctive purse.

And some good news for those celebrating around kids or spill-prone adults this year: “There are so many blends in fabrics available that clean up well but still look like ultrarich fabrics,” says Fort.

Finally, don’t feel tied to red and green combos. “Red is an option, or silver or gold coupled with black, brown or navy,” says Richa. “It works great for the holidays but you can also wear it all year round.”

Handled with Care
Shipping gifts to far-flung family members each year often means scavenging for the right box size and enduring long post office lines. But follow these shipping tips from United States Postal Service postmaster Earl Musick and you’ll get those gifts to their destinations safely, affordably and with no —or at least, less — aggravation.

Go online to avoid lines. It’s easier than ever to avoid a holiday trip to the post office altogether. Boxes, labels, envelopes and other shipping supplies are available free at Musick says they usually arrive within a week, and you can get discounts on your postage if you buy online, too. When your box is ready, just request a pickup online by 2 a.m. for next-day service. 

Pack your items with love. The biggest shipping mistakes Musick sees people make? Shipping glassware in boxes without packing material, tying string around boxes, sending to old addresses without a return address ... all big no-nos. Provide appropriate cushioning to the items in your box, mark your packages “fragile” or “perishable” if they are (it actually makes a difference, says Musick) and double-check the recipient’s ZIP code. “People should also include the mailing address and the return address inside the box,” he says, in the event that something happens to the exterior address label and the package is deemed undeliverable.

Consider flat-rate mailing options. Have a deployed family member or just want to send some holiday cookies to our troops abroad? The postal service recently began offering a priority mail flat-rate box that’s just $10.95 to send to any military APO/FPO address. “I think that’s the coolest thing, that you can send a laptop to Iraq for only $10.95,” says Musick. The same flat-rate boxes — measuring 12 by 12 by 6 inches — can be used for domestic shipments up to 70 pounds for just $12.95
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