Fashion fix: Boyfriend jeans, chapped skin, plus-size tees

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Janet Bennett Kelly and Holly Thomas
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 9, 2010; 12:00 PM

Janet Bennett Kelly and Holly Thomas answered your fashion questions on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

You can browse and search previous Fashion Fix discussion transcripts and follow @WashPostFashion on Twitter.

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Janet Bennett Kelly: Welcome to Fashion Fix. I imagine you're all as sick of the snow as I am. Right? We're hoping for a balmier (ha, ha) weekend for Valentine's Day. And because it is Valentine's Day this Sunday, we've got two limited-edition Estee Lauder Kissable lip glosses and an edible massage oil and whipped body creme duo from Victoria's Secret Beauty. Want to win one? Then, let's hear what you have to say this snowy Tuesday.

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Boyfriend Jeans: Got some boyfriend jeans that I like - lighter wash, loose fit, not mom-ish, medium/lowish rise, length needs to be cuffed once (twice looks a little bit too Punky Brewster). Please advise on ideas for shoes and tops. Belt or no? Tuck in or leave out? I am 48, so nothing too crazy. Am a size 8 and evenly proportioned. How's the best way to wear this style jean? For rest of winter and into warm weather.

Holly Thomas: I love this look, but it does take a bit of extra thought to really pull it off. A snug blazer over a flowy, feminine top strikes a nice balance between the masculine and feminine elements, or you might try a white t-shirt under a long cozy cardigan and a pile of necklaces. If you go with a belt, make sure it's a slim, chic design that is strictly for show -- it shouldn't look like it's actually holding up your pants.

For shoes, stick with pumps and high-heeled sandals to keep the slouchy jeans from looking schlubby, and try cuffing them over heeled boots for especially cold days. If you're on the tall side, you might experiment with a metallic oxford or a ballet flat in a neutral hue. Lastly, if you need a bit of A-list inspiration, look to Rachel Bilson, Reese Witherspoon and Katie Holmes.

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15 and L DC: Hello,

A while back I asked about any rain/snow shoes for men. I see girls wearing these hunter boots and others similar and wondered if there was anything for men. I didn't get a response, however I found this great winter rubber boots made by Tretorn.

Unfortunately, their Georgetown location closed, but the online store is having a sale on these shoes. I got a pair back in December and could not be happier. These rubber boots keep your feet dry and warm and are fantastic for snow, rain, ice and also perform phenomenally during snowball fights.

Holly Thomas: For the wintry mix, this chatter suggests Tretorn boots, which are on sale online -- thanks (and sorry your first question went unanswered)!

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Washington D.C.: Where can a 50+ professional woman find clothes made the way they were in the 70s and 80s? By that, I mean clothes with classic lines/shape and quality fabric.

I am especially frustrated by the quality of the blouses on the market these days. For $100 or more, you get a flimsy fabric, crooked collar and a top button (when there is one) that does not align with the button hole. The end result is a blouse that looks cheap, because it is (in every respect but price).

What has happened to the women's clothing industry?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Hi, D.C.,

I tend to agree with you about the quality of clothes in general. I see it most glaringly in the stock of moderately priced retailers, whom you could once rely on for well-constructed pieces at reasonable prices. That said, last year I found some classic white shirts at Brooks Brothers (during a two-for-one sale) that I have been pretty pleased with. They're no-iron and they have a little stretch to them, which makes them a lot easier to wash, dry and wear.

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Arlington, VA: Hello Fashion Gurus! I have an evening wedding in Ohio this weekend. Brrr! Luckily, the ceremony and reception will all be in the same hotel where we'll be staying. After debating back and forth which of my fun strapless or sleeveless party dresses to wear with a cardigan, I decided to ditch them all and buy a long sleeve party dress, a first for me, and I found the perfect one! Black, 3/4 length sleeves with baubles at the hem and cuffs- and it's perfect for dancing. Sort of like this (but instead of sequins, picture black and rhinestone baubles) I'll be wearing the dress with patent leather black Cole Haan heels. Here's the tricky part- do I wear black hose, black tights, nude hose, or leg makeup? Normally I would go with leg makeup (I love the Airbrush legs by Sally Hansen for summer weddings!) but it's a winter wedding, and it's in Cleveland. Are black tights too much with the dress for a wedding? Also, are the patent leather heels ok, or should I go for something less shiny?

Holly Thomas: Patent heels and black tights sound like the perfect combo to me -- the opaque tights will serve as a nice balance for the eye-catching hem and shiny shoes.

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Minneapolis, Minn.: I'm a petite woman with narrow shoulders. And I tend to carry my purse on my right shoulder. Years of carrying the purse on the right shoulder has lead to the right shoulder being higher than the other (it would appear that I'm walking around with my right shoulder higher to keep the purse from slipping off). Any ideas on how to correct this?

Holly Thomas: First, you should start by switching shoulders -- if you have trouble carrying a purse on your left side, try a messenger bag or cross-body satchel, which will make it easier (keep alternating sides, though). If this is really bothering you, ask your doctor (or a physical therapist, if you have one) if there are any exercises you can do to even out your posture.

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Re: White Shirts: I also find Thomas Pink's woman's shirts to be very well made. The fabric is not at all flimsy, and they are perfectly made for women's bodies. I am pretty top heavy -- 36DD and normally have the gaping problem with button ups and have to use the double sided tape to keep them closed, but I have never had this problem with any of the shirts I have gotten from Pink. They are a little pricey, but totally worth it for the quality in my opinion. I still have some I bought over 6 years ago.

Holly Thomas: More well-made shirts to be found at Thomas Pink -- thanks!

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Anonymous: I'm starting a new job if the office ever opens after today's Son of Snowmaggedon (my first day of work would have been February 8. I'm still waiting...) How on earth am I going to dress to impress in this weather?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Congratulations on the new job. I ride the Metro to work most days, and I have to say I'm impressed with the way my fellow riders are dressing for the snowy weather. I don't know what they have on beneath their coats of course. A good-looking pair of boots goes a long way toward making your outfit work. And I've seen many -- Aquatalia, for one, that will work for both outside and in. If your boots are clunkers, take a pair of shoes and change when you get to the office. Pair your boots with a skirt and a dressy cardigan, a la Michelle Obama. Will that work for your work?

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Brookland, D.C.: Hi ladies,

I know you guys may disagree, but I've found a growing number of women who don't like the new creative turn Ann Taylor has taken. We are frustrated by the turn in Ann Taylor's designs over the past couple seasons and miss the former patterns, colors, cuts and designs. Like me they walk in and walk right out compared to spending hundreds each season for pieces that were professional and timeless. (I am 27 not 67 so it's not a matter of old taste versus young taste).

Anyway, I've found many new (with/without tags) items like skirts and blazers on eBay. I found at least 2-3 cute wool Loft jackets from Fall 2008 on at great prices. I hope it helps those of us who miss the former AT and ATL.

Holly Thomas: For Ann Taylor & Loft shoppers who miss the original designs, this chatter is finding great pieces on eBay ... you might also try local consignment shops like Current Boutique and Second Time Around.

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Just gotta say: It is a sad day for humanity when a woman feels like she has to put make up ON HER LEGS fer god's sake! I love to dress up and look pretty too, but take a step back and look at that objectively! We have lost sight of the goal when we feel we need LEG MAKE UP!

Holly Thomas: There's no doubt that sometimes beautification goes a little too far -- like using a glaucoma medication to lengthen your eyelashes, perhaps? But spray-on pantyhose (which is what I'm assuming the previous chatter is referring to) doesn't seem all that different from self-tanner in my mind ... I don't see anything wrong with a small, painless step that makes you feel a bit more confident. But I do see your point.

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Years of carrying the purse on the right shoulder has led to the right shoulder being higher than the other: Switch to a much smaller purse so you can't carry so much HEAVY junk! We tend to have enough no matter how small the purse, and to fill the purse, no matter how large. I stopped using my knockoff Birkin when I lifted it one day and realized how heavy it was! Crazy. Now I carry a small purse and my back feels better.

Holly Thomas: Good suggestion -- a smaller purse will definitely help lighten the load.

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Bowie, Md: Please recommend an online retailer who sells great plus-size tee-shirts in a wide range of colors. I prefer v-neck, short-sleeve, and a thinnish fabric. Organic materials would be even better. Thanks so much - love these chats!

Janet Bennett Kelly: American Apparel sells T-shirts in lots of colors in XL and 2XL; Land's End sells them in XL. Try those for starters.

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Construction of clothing: I'm a budget bargain hunter, but I've been impressed with the construction of clothes from Coldwater Creek: substantial fabrics that hang well, much better shape than most stuff I've been getting at Macy's. And not clothes, but my one Coach bag has lasted 20 years with little sign of wear--THAT is a bargain. the most any other purse I've had is a few years.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Here's a comment from another chatter on construction and quality of clothes -- obviously an issue!

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Snow-shoveling regimen?: What's a good skin regimen for someone who's shoveling snow a few hours a day? My face got so chapped that I got desperate enough to apply a thin film of petroleum jelly to my hands and face after showering.

Holly Thomas: Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream is perfect for this brutal weather, as it's specially formulated to protect skin from the cold and help retain moisture. For badly chapped spots on your face and hands, ditch the petroleum jelly and try a thin layer of Aquaphor (my new favorite winter must-have).

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Virginia: re: Minneapolis MN. This is a problem that many women have and it can cause more problems as they age. She should see a good massage therapist who can work on lengthening the ligaments on the short side and start doing yoga at a real studio. Oh yeah.. give up the heavy purse too - you don't really need to carry all that stuff with you. :-)

Holly Thomas: For the chatter with the shoulder problem, a recommendation for massage and yoga.

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Re: Ann Taylor: Really? I love the turn Ann Taylor has made and like that all the pieces don't look like, well... that you have bought them from Ann Taylor. For classic pieces have you tried the J. Crew suiting collection or Banana Republic? They both have classic lines that seem to change very little from season to season.

Holly Thomas: I'm also a fan of the new Loft look, but we've gotten a decent amount of feedback from loyal shoppers who aren't into it. J. Crew and Banana both have more classic suiting options ... thanks!

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Tysons Corner: I love the boyfriend jean look, per the chatter above, but I am also a size 8 hourglass and always felt like this look would just make me look stumpy (I'm 5'2"). Any time I am not wearing something with some kind of waist or fitting around the hips and thighs, I feel like I look 2 sizes bigger. Would you recommend the same tops for me, or should I just stay away from this all together?

Holly Thomas: Boyfriend jeans certainly don't slim the hip and thigh area, so the key here is to accentuate (or create the illusion of) two things: slim legs/ankles and a narrow upper body. You can achieve the former by wearing the highest heels you can manage -- now you know why so many celebs and uber-chic fashion-y types are fans of insane gladiator heels. Cuffing the jeans to the ankle and wearing a nude pump will make your legs look extra-long, and a snug-fitting blazer, cropped cardigan or moto jacket will make your upper body look smaller. But my advice to you would be to bring a pair of heels and a basic blouse when you try on boyfriend jeans, and make sure the look works (and that you're comfortable in it) before you buy anything.

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Long-sleeved cocktail dress: I'm intrigued by the previous poster's description of the dress she bought for the Cleveland wedding. If she's still here: Where did you find it? I've been looking for winter-appropriate alternatives to my sleeveless cocktail attire, and something like this sounds perfect.

Holly Thomas: Cleveland-bound chatter, are you still tuned in?

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Reston, VA: I bought a gorgeous long heavy knit sweater from a boutique in Old Town Alex. Now I'm wondering how to wear it. I'm 46, 5'3" and curvy, not rail thin. It comes to mid-thigh. I've worn it w/"dress" jeans that don't have any bulk around the waist, but when I went to tuck them into boots, it looked ridiculous. When I tried it with tights and asked my husband what he thought, he said it looked like I forgot my pants! LOL! Any suggestions? Maybe I should just not tuck in to boots? Am I too short for that look? or too old?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Hi, there, Reston,

Since you're on the petite side, think about proportion. I would not tuck in the boots. You want to think about elongating your silhouette. How about a pair of high-heeled boots and slim pants that match or nearly match the color of the sweater?

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Washington, DC: Do you know where I can find jeans without back pockets? I found some on the internet, but I want to be able to try them on. So far, I haven't seen them in any store I asked.

Thanks.

Holly Thomas: I shuddered a little when I read that question, only because jeans without back pockets have a tendency to make even the tiniest bum look ... um ... expansive. I'd start by trying on the denim leggings at Zara and H&M, which don't have pockets. But before you plunk down any of your hard-earned cash, take a good look at the rear view and decide if they flatter your figure.

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Virginia: Snow shoveling regimen: For those not already chapped... petroleum jelly works great as a preventative. Put it on exposed skin BEFORE you head out and then wipe it off once you're back inside. Skiers out west do this all the time to protect their faces (along w/sunscreen!)

Janet Bennett Kelly: Thanks for the suggestion. Petroleum jelly is a great emollient.

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Gaithersburg, MD: Good morning ladies and thank you for these weekly chats. They really have become the highlight of my Tuesdays. I was wondering what you think about Spiegel and Newport News online catalogs. I seem to be inundated with email from them offering discounts. I realize they are low price, but some of the styles look cute. How is the quality? Thanks!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Any chatter out there had experience with buying from Spiegel or Newport News online catalogs?

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Glaucoma medication to lengthen your eyelashes: Is that what that is? Can it help prevent glaucoma? Good opportunity to remind folks that even if you have 20/20 vision, you should go to the eye doc every 2 years for a glaucoma test. Early on: VERY preventable. Caught too late: vision tunnel gets smaller every year with little hope (the medicine relieves pressure, but does not expand vision). I had a boss who is losing his vision due to glaucoma-- a simple blast of air could have saved his vision.

Holly Thomas: From what I understand, the current lash-lengthening treatments came about from the side effects of a glaucoma medicine. And thanks for your advice!

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New Mexico: What can I pair with a green/navy plaid kilt to make it appropriate for work? I want to avoid the schoolgirl look.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Then avoid going too preppy with the kilt. No flat shoes with bows on them. Toughen the look with a pair of boots and tailored jacket for the office.

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Northern Virginia: I was given a neon orange knit top as a gift and am not sure about the color...can I wear it without shame? Or should I tone it down by layering something on top of it?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I think your instincts about toning it down are right on. Neon orange is not an easy color to wear in big doses, like a knit top. I think of it much more as a color for an accessory -- a belt or a purse, or shoes.

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Looking ahead to spring: Hi! I'm 50. My legs aren't what they used to be (varicose veins and such) and I'm really disappointed that old-fashioned skin-colored hose are not "in" anymore. In the winter, black tights and boots can keep me in dresses, but spring and summer, I only wear pants! This year, however, I have two May events that will require a tea-length and/or knee length dresses. 1. Do I buy an ivory or pale dress and wear light colored "tights"? (I look best in bright colors.) If I did white hosiery with pale dress, how do I keep from looking like a 50s nurse? 2. What if I wanted to wear my colorful knee-length sheath dress (bright orange, blue, brown bold pattern), do I have any options for hosiery? Thanks!!!

Holly Thomas: A word about white hosiery: There's no way to wear it without looking like you walked off the set of M*A*S*H. Even light colored tights are a bit questionable. If you choose an ivory or pastel dress, I'd try nude hose in a subtle pattern or pretty lace, or a flesh-toned fishnet (which sounds racier than it looks). For the colorful dress, what about brown tights? If you ultimately prefer the traditional nude pantyhose, skip the cheap, shiny options and invest in high-quality pairs from brands like Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Falke or Wolford.

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New England: Help! I have a cream-colored, leather pencil skirt I bought years ago and have worn a few times. It's chic, elegant and classic, but these days, I am coming up short on what to wear it with both on top and bottom (tights? hose? tall boots?) Mixing textiles throws me off. I tend to think some sort of black top might complement it, but I'm unsure. Please help --the skirt is totally gorg and deserves to be worn!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Omigosh, sounds beautiful. I'm constantly bemoaning the loss of my leather skirt -- sad story. You have many choices to pair with that skirt because it's such a neutral color. What's the length of the skirt? If it's on the shorter side, I'd love to see it with black tights and tall boots and a black sweater. Classic, fool-proof look.

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Newport News: I have one item and from that I judge they're good for fad stuff you don't expect to last long. Find other places to get your investment pieces. The skirt I got isn't lined. More and more I look for better construction that not only lasts longer, but looks better on you because it hangs right, doesn't cling, gives structure, but is comfortable.

Janet Bennett Kelly: A chatter weighs in on the quality of clothing from Newport News.

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NW DC: Despite the snow, I'm thinking toward spring! I love the oxford-shoe look (thinking about splurging on a cognac- colored pair), but wonder about the possible longevity of this trend. Is it worth getting a pair for spring? Will it possible last through fall? Also, what can you wear with them? Many thanks!!

Holly Thomas: Love the oxford look -- I'm currently online-stalking pairs from Nine West, Steve Madden and Pour La Victoire. For spring, they look great with cuffed jeans, casual skirts and girly dresses, and they'll definitely carry you into next fall with opaque tights, knit skirts and dresses and slim trousers.

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Boston: I am writing to remind people of the great tip a reader from Montreal shared in December for cleaning salt stains off dress boots. Use a damp rag dipped in white vinegar, and dab at the salt marks until they are gone. Works like a charm.

Sorry you're getting hammered with snow again.

Holly Thomas: I saw this tip (a solution of white vinegar + water) in action over the weekend, and it definitely works -- thanks for reminding us!

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Detroit, Mich.: For "curing" chapped skin, I swear by a yoghurt avocado mask. Do this at night, or first thing in the morning. Take a quarter cup full fat yogurt, mix in a tablespoon of honey, and a half a smashed avocado. Smear it on and wait about 15 minutes. Wash it off with lukewarm water and your skin will be soft and radiant. The lactic acid in the yoghurt brightens, the honey is a natural exfoliant, and the avocado is crazy moisturizing. And hey, it would make a great snack too :)

Janet Bennett Kelly: This isn't as easy as slathering on Vaseline, but it does sound fun to try.

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Ann Taylor: My friends and I totally agree with the Brookland poster about Ann Taylor. That said, we've moved on to mostly the usual suspects of J Crew and Banana Republic, but have also been surprisingly pleased by Talbot's. They seemed to have taken a turn for the better with their new designs. Yes, there is still some stuff that's better suited for your mom at the country club, but there is a lot of stuff that's new and stylish and work appropriate. On a whim I also tried their trouser jeans, and I have to say they are my new favorite pair.

Holly Thomas: A vote of confidence for Talbot's new pieces -- thanks for sharing!

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Re: Spiegel and Newport News: Don't do it. The price is low for a reason, poor quality and ill fits. They hope that since you can't just take it back to the store you will keep the stuff even though it sucks. Spend a little more money to get something that can last you more than a few wears.

Janet Bennett Kelly: More feedback on buying from Spiegel and Newport News.

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University Park, MD: Hope I'm not too late! I have purchased a long dress in midnight blue illusion and satin. Now, what color shoes and bag should I shop for? I usually wear black, but that would be kind of dull, I think. Thanks!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Dress sounds lovely. Midnight blue with either silver or gold makes a good combo, and it's also dressy and festive. You don't necessarily have to match the shoes and bag, but if you go with a metallic I would.

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Richmond: I have a few jackets that make me want a long pencil skirt, Sort of an inverted triangle profile. Where should I look? I like the 1940s midcalf length, I think it's very retro Hollywood. (p.s. -- I'm thrifty)

Holly Thomas: My suggestion would be eBay -- just be sure to take careful measurements of your waist, hips and thighs and ask sellers detailed questions about the fit before you bid on anything. A few words of advice: Beware of the stumpifying powers of a hemline that hits at mid-calf. Just below the knee is more flattering, but if you're set on a longer length, heels will help lengthen your silhouette.

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More men's rain/snow boots: Zappo's has several that are less colorful than the Tretorns. The Hunter Short boots look like a good choice.

Holly Thomas: Zappos.com for men's rain/snow boots -- thanks!

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Dreaming of spring: So I figure being snowbound, sick of winter, and having lots of free time to be online is a great time to do some online shopping! What are a couple of your favorite spring trends so I can get excited about something spring-y?

Holly Thomas: For colors, look for turquoise, coral and crimson; for shoes, think towering pumps and bejeweled sandals; dresses and blouses with cutout detailing ...

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Jeans that Fit: I just discovered the jeans at Lane Bryant. They fit great and once you figure out what size you need it works for all their pants.

Holly Thomas: Lane Bryant for jeans -- thanks!

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Arlington, VA: Re: Bowie, MD T-shirts

I've found the J.Crew tissue tees and slub tees are a great option for the lightweight, casual tee. They're versatile because the fabric is more luxe than your average cotton v-neck tee, but the cut is casual, so they can be dressed up with a long necklace or scarf. Also, they can be cheaper than American Apparel.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for chiming in!

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The skirt I got isn't lined: Wear a half-slip!

Holly Thomas: Half-slips are indispensable -- I have two and they've gotten plenty of use over the years.

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Holly Thomas: Thanks for helping us pass another snowy day with your great questions and tips! And now, the V-Day goodies: The chatter who suggested the yogurt and avocado mask gets the Estee Lauder lip glosses, and the chatter who recommended Talbot's as an alternative to the new Loft gets the VS edible treats. Email your info to fashion@washpost.com and we'll get them in the mail to you. And join us next week, when Fashion Fix welcomes a special guest: Daniel Lawson, costume designer for the TV show "The Good Wife."

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