Fashion Fix: What to wear and where to find it

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Holly Thomas,Janet Bennett Kelly
Tuesday, August 17, 2010; 12:00 PM

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Holly Thomas: Happy Tuesday! Thanks for joining me for Fashion Fix -- we'll be flying solo today, since Janet Bennett Kelly is away on vacation. But as always, there are prizes for the best tip, suggestion or question! Today, we have two brightening face formulas from Lumene and a ticket to the upcoming District Sample Sale on Sept. 16. Excited yet? Let's get started!

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White shirts: I really like the look of a tucked in white shirt but it's always bunched up and looks bumpy on me. I figure that if I bought one that is higher quality and a better cut, that would make a difference. My question is, which brand makes great white button down shirts?Thanks for taking my question!

Holly Thomas: A few thoughts: Brooks Brothers, Thomas Pink, Club Monaco, The Limited, Theory and Eileen Fisher. Chatters, any other suggestions for a great white shirt?

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The End of Skinny Jeans: Please tell me this trend is close to playing itself out. I am so weary of people encasing themselves in these pants and looking like they have elephantitis of the knee. I'd honestly rather see everyone wear mom jeans.But if there is a cut out there that is on-trend and still allows the full use of one's diaphragm, I'd like to know about it.

Holly Thomas: Lucky for you, straight-leg pants are one of fall's big trends -- part of the industry's homage to the late 60's and early 70's (which I personally couldn't be more excited about). I'm burned out on the ultra-skinny look as well, and would be happy to never see another pair of jeggings. Look for styles that are slim but not ultra-slim -- think narrow stovepipe. Gap has a lot of these kinds of cuts available right now.

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Magazines: I've been reading my husband's GQs, and really like it--original reporting, criticism, and pop culture, with fashion opinions and clothes that you can actually buy in stores at a range of prices. In contrast, the women's magazines make me despair--no significant content other than indistinguishable pages of ads and shoots. Do you know of a GQ for women--a fashion magazine with a brain and a point of view?

Holly Thomas: You probably would have loved Jane, back in the day. The closest mainstream (ie widely available) counterpart I can think of would be Marie Claire -- I enjoy the original stories, plus it's one of the few fashion mags that treat fashion as a complement to life, not the center of it. SOMA is also good, if you can find it, as are Interview, Pop and Love.

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Dressing Up Denim: I teach a college class two days a week. For a variety of reasons, I have decided to wear nice jeans instead of dress slacks this semester. (And yes, my department is fine with this.) So I have two questions. 1) Any suggestions for nice, "dress jeans" and 2) Any suggestions for what to wear with said jeans to make them dressy as possible. My imagination is stuck at "blouse and a blazer," and I'm afraid that will get boring after a few weeks.

Holly Thomas: First, "dress jeans" should be a dark rinse -- the darkest blue you can find or a true black -- and a straight-leg or trouser cut (ideas are here and here). As far as dressing them up, a blouse and blazer are a safe bet. Other ideas to try -- a 3/4-sleeve sweater with a chunky necklace; a blouse and cardigan; or a basic crewneck tee with a tailored blazer and a few layered necklaces.

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Am I the only one with Cole Haan issues?: Please help me! I just bought two pairs of Cole Haan flats on sale. They felt great at the store, but after one day in them, my heels are bloody from rubbing against the shoes. They came so highly recommended, and I can't return them since they were on sale. I put heel liners inside them, but the pain is still there. Would a cobbler be able to do anything to save them?!? Thank you so much for your help!

Holly Thomas: The problem might be that your feet have been in sandals for the past few months, so the flats are rubbing against tender skin. Until you break them in, try Band-Aid's Blister Block stick or a blister-preventing lotion (I use one from Peaches & Boo-Boo). I also use a skin-colored athletic tape (NexCare makes it, you can get it at any drugstore) when I'm trying to break in new shoes, which tends to adhere better than a typical bandage. Those heel liners will help once the wounds have healed.

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noisy shoes: Thanks for taking my question. I have a pair of shoes that I love. They are cute and extra comfy. The only problem is the noise they make. They are sandals wedges with a flip flop thong. They make a noise every time my foot pulls away from the shoe as I walk. I think a solution was brought up in a previous chat, but I can't remember what it was! Help!

Holly Thomas: An adhesive fabric insole might solve the problem -- try the options from Summer Soles.

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fashion fix: where to get leather boots stretched: Hi ladies! I have what most boot-makers seem to believe are gigantic calves - 15 1/4 inches around - because I have the WORST time finding any tall boots that can zip up all the way. I want to buy a pair of saddle-colored leather boots for fall and found a beautiful pair for only $100 at DSW. Unfortunately, they are a circumference of only 14 inches. I could zip them up all the way, but only after extreme pain and suffering - no way I could walk in them comfortably with my legs being squeezed like that! They just need to be about an inch wider! I read an article that listed some stores in NYC that did boot stretching and said that they could stretch boots up to two inches in the calf, and I was wondering if you knew of any stores in the DC area that did that kind of work? Thanks so much, and love the chats!

Holly Thomas: If you're downtown, you might want to check out Corrective Shoe Repair in Dupont. One of the Cobbler's Bench locations might be worth a visit, too. Just be sure to take them to a cobbler or leather repair shop, not a dry cleaner. Chatters, any recommendations for a place to have leather boots stretched?

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Handbags - Not exactly an obsession: I like to buy one good bag and carry it for years. Right now I'm coveting the Marc by Marc Jacobs Turlock Shifty in that creamy color. Would you say that a warm cream (richer than off-white) is good for year-round use? I'm hoping I can buy it and carry it almost every day of the year. What other trends are we seeing in handbags?

Holly Thomas: I think a warm cream handbag is perfectly fine for year-round use. As far as other bag trends go, the super-slouchy and heavily embellished carryalls are being replaced by more structured looks -- think doctor-style bags, sturdy totes and satchels. Take a look at the swoon-worthy options in the fall collection from Celine to get an idea.

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For a variety of reasons, I have decided to wear nice jeans instead of dress slacks this semester. (And yes, my department is fine with this.) : Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Have you never heard the expression about dressing for the job you'd like to get? Please don't do it.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for weighing in, and generally I'd agree with you. But in this case, I think crisp, dark, trouser-style jeans are suitable for a college classroom, so long as the rest of the outfit is tailored and professional.

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In contrast, the women's magazines make me despair--no significant content other than indistinguishable pages of ads and shoots.: But what about all those helpful how to keep your man happy articles!?

Holly Thomas: True! I've been sifting through a backlog of Cosmo mags recently, and I must say I'm a bit nervous to read some of those stories at work.

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white blouse.shirt: I like Banana Republic and J. Crew, since they have blouses/shirts with a bit of stretch and also good darting to shape them appropriately around the bust and waist. I also like their 3/4 sleeve options, since full-length sleeves are always a bit long on me, which tends to make the entire shirt look ill-fitting.

Holly Thomas: For the chatter looking for a white shirt -- thanks for tuning in!

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Body Glide for feet: For the poster with the Cole Haan shoes: I started running long distance races last fall and bought myself a Body Glide stick to put around my waist and under my sports bra. You can use it on your feet because it works like the BandAid stick. You can also rub it on your thighs while wearing a skirt and it prevents chafing. It comes in a deodorant size or a smaller size which fits in a purse really well.

Holly Thomas: I've recommended Body Glide to several friends, who've all had good results with it. Weird, maybe -- but if it works, it works.

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Larger calves and boots: You can search endless.com for wider calf boots. There are 3 different circumferences to choose from.

Holly Thomas: Thanks!

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asos.com: The subject of appropriate and fashionable clothes for larger sizes often arises in this chat and, while some are squarely in one camp or the other (smaller sizes or larger), some of us sit on the fence; depending on the outfit or maker, one could be a size 14 (in the "normal" range for most designers) or a 16 (usually tagged "plus" or "woman"). So we often have to choose between retailers or order from multiple retailers.I've recently discovered asos.com (nope, not a marketer, just a fan). It's a UK company (free shipping to and from the U.S. for any shipments or returns) and they ahve all sizes (up to 20 U.S.) on one site and the stuff is cute, fashionable and 99% of it is under $100.Anyway, I've discovered it, love it and wanted to pass it along to the chatters!

Holly Thomas: I'm a big fan of ASOS, too -- thanks for the tip about larger sizes.

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instead of stretching boots...: shop a little harder and look for extended calf boots. I know JCrew and Banana had them last year, and I got a pair from Macys on super sale. It was a relief to be able to comfortably zip into a great pair of brown riding boots without the struggle. And though your options may be limited, it will sure look better than a muffin top on top of your boots.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for the brand suggestions! Some targeted online shopping can help turn up extended sizes for boots -- Endless and Zappos provide calf measurements on the site, and I've heard good things about Duo Boots.

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Holly: Nice hair Holly. On purses - am I the only person in the world who is bothered by handbags with both handles and a shoulder strap? I get the utility - but I guess it kicks in my OCD - it just seems to messy.

Holly Thomas: Thanks! Handles, shoulder straps, pockets, zippers, buckles ... oh my. I agree that some handbag designers have definitely taken the "more is more" route of late -- but that will change come fall. Take a nice, deep, therapeutic breath and go peruse the ladylike, minimalist offerings from Celine, Chloe, Bottega Veneta and Marc Jacobs.

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Have you never heard the expression about dressing for the job you'd like to get?: Maybe she's at the job she wants to get already. I'm jealous. If I were in academia I'd do the tailored jeans for sure. I used to work in a very, very casual enviroment and the people who overdressed in skirts and suits were laughed at. Those who wore nice casual did great in their careers just fine.

Holly Thomas: Lots of opinions about this one! (But for the record, I don't think being laughed at for dressing professionally is the worst thing.)

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Professor wearing jeans: I agree with the poster who told the jeans-wearing prof not to do it. Why look polished and put-together only from the hips north? Why not a great-fitting, comfortable pair black pants/gray pants/tweed pants that go with everything from a blazer to a cardigan to a v-neck?

Holly Thomas: Good suggestion, thanks!

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For the white shirt seeker-: Express (usually online) and Victorias Secret sometimes sell the button down shirts that snap at the crotch like a body-suit. This eliminates the bunching.

Holly Thomas: More white shirt ideas ...

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Once your boots fit: Be sure to keep them in nice shape by storing them using hanging boot shapers. The shapers expand inside the boot and have a hanger at the top--no more boots sagging over on the floor, being colonized by dust bunnies. The Container Store sells the hanging book shapers. (I've also used the boot shapers to hang other things, like large rolls of wrapping paper!)

Holly Thomas: A personal-shopper friend swears by boot hangers ... note taken!

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Handles and shoulder strap: I love purses with both. It makes it easy to take it off your shoulder by using the handle and put it inside the car rather than gathering up the long strap, having it drag on the floor/ground, or swing around knocking things out of your hands...I say make more. My problem with shoulder straps is that they NEVER STAY ON YOUR SHOULDER! Why can't they make a leather strap with a bit of suede or some other non-slippery material on the underside?

Holly Thomas: Bag designers, are you listening?

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Teal: I'm in love with a teal bag but I'm not sure of its practicality. I tend to use the same purse most of the time. I wear a lot of neutrals (black, white, grey), muted colors esp. during the colder season. Would it go with most things?

Holly Thomas: As long as you have a few basic, everyday bags (ie black, brown, tan or gray), a purse in a fun, unexpected color is a great way to punch up some of those neutral, muted ensembles. This is a piece that you shouldn't spend a ton on (at least if you're on any sort of budget), so shop for them at places like H&M, Forever 21,Target, Filene's Basement, Loehmann's and the like. Just please don't try to match it with your shoes ...

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fashion for mature women: I am a youthful- looking senior who can't find any pretty clothes in the stores this season. I'm a small-busted size 10-12, and used to be able to find nice things in discount and department stores but now nothing looks on the hanger, let alone on me. Any suggestions?

Holly Thomas: Without knowing your sense of style, it's tough to make recommendations, but for what it's worth, my mother is a fellow youthful-looking senior. She buys timeless, classic separates from Chico's (steer clear of the wild prints that scream "old lady"), nice-fitting jeans from discount stores (look for styles with a bit of stretch for the most flattering fit) and fun extras like jackets and scarves from H&M. She stocks up on jewelry at my new favorite shop, Charming Charlie -- there's one at National Harbor in case you're in the DC area. You might also want to give Talbot's another look -- the company is going through a rebranding and targeting a more sophisticated shopper these days.

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"Business Casual": Can you pass along any fresh ideas for 54 yr old manager? I generally wear a "uniform" of blazer or unstructured jacket, shell or tee shirt and pressed pants or knee-to-mid-calf skirt with close-toed sandals or low-heeled pumps, clogs or flats. I'm about 20 lbs overweight and 5 ft. 5 inches tall. I have several scarves which I rotate to brighten up the overall look.

Holly Thomas: How about swapping the blazer for a draped cardigan in a soft, flowing jersey? Or trying one of your shells or tee shirts with a simple cardigan in a fun, bright color? You're on the right track with scarves -- accessories are the easiest way to give yourself a boost. Try adding a wide belt over a button-down shirt and cardigan. And what about some new jewelry to freshen things up?

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*sigh* again?: I just noticed that I have - yet again - managed to brush my pants against the Metro escalators and now have distinctive black grease marks along the hem. Does this happen to anyone else? And has anyone had any luck getting the grease out of the hem?

Holly Thomas: A gentle dish soap might help with the grease stains ... just blot, don't scrub, or you'll risk damaging the fabric.

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baby clothes: I don't know if this is something you wish to address in this chat, but I'm expecting a baby any day now and I wonder if chatters can suggest good brands for baby clothing, and any good used/consignment shops in Arlington or D.C. I have been given a few things by friends and family members, and wanted to say yay to Carter's and Gerber for soft, cute clothes and a big boo to Baby Gap and Wal-Mart for including rough tags inside newborn clothes which I have had to cut out. What are they thinking?

Andrea Caumont: Producer here: I love the Genuine Kids line by Osh Kosh for my toddler boy. You can find it at Target. Really good quality and cute designs.

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RE: WHITE SHIRTS: It's not necessary a quality/price issue. If your shoulders are at all broad or even just slightly wider than average, there will be extra fabric around the waist to tuck in. Finding a good tailor may be your best option.

Holly Thomas: Good advice -- thanks!

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Straight leg pants a homage to late 60's and early 70's: How old where you then? Bell bottoms and flares yes straight leg no way. Mid 60's Beach Boys and awful surfer movies but not the late 60's and early 70's when you wore bell bottom jeans with your Army fatigue jacket.

Holly Thomas: That's the wrong side of the 60s/70s coin -- think more along the line of Catherine Deneuve and Jane Birkin. Take this amazing August Vogue spread for inspiration.

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Andrea Caumont: Going to publish a few of your great suggestions chatters!

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Suggestion for white shirt: To keep your white shirt from looking bunched up and bumpy, I'd recommend getting one that has just a little bit of lycra or spandex in it (just a few percent). Express has some good ones.

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For the Poster Looking for White Shirts: Eddie Baur makes an excellent wrinkle free shirt, and I've found that it is longer than a typical mall store shirt, helping it to stay tucked in better.

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For dressing up jeans: Don't forget fabulous shoes! I love dressing up jeans and the dark denim can really make brighter shoes pop. Sleek shoes with a bit of a heel can go a long way to making your jeans dressier.

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white shirt: These days many shirts are not cut to be tucked in. If it's got too much material below the waistline no matter how wonderful it's going to bunch. Look for one that's short and slightly tighter over the hip than what you'd normally wear. Also, try knits or silky fabrics.I think Banana Republic is a place to try as well.

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white button down shirts: I've had good luck with buying longer shirts to tuck in-- they seem to stay well that way. More friction? I don't know why.

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Button Down Shirts: I too have the same problem of shirts just looking bumpy. After years of being extremely uncomfortable and feeling bumpy looking in even very nice tailored shirts, I have finally recognized that a button down shirt worn alone just does not work with my body type. I still wear them with sweaters or vests on top, but there are so many different types of cute tops out there that theres just no need for me to wear something that makes me feel uncomfortable.

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White shirt: Try a bodysuit version of the button-down shirt. It stays tucked in (obviously) and never bunches. I have one from Victoria's Secret.

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boots extended calf: Another vote for looking for extended calf boots. I wanted a pair really badly last year, and started looking now with little success (not quite fall yet, I guess?) Just wait a bit, and more boots will hit the shelves soon. I found a pair at DSW for $100 that fit my calves with a little hidden elastic.

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For jeans-wearer: If it's the comfort and fit of jeans that you like, you may want to consider other options just to supplement your wardrobe. I am an inveterate jeans-wearer--I basically wear them every day--but I like to switch things up every once in a while with a very comfortable pair of royal blue pants (cotton, no stretch, throw in the wash) that I bought at Old Navy. In fact, I have to admit that they are even more comfortable than jeans in hot weather!

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shoulder straps on purses: Across-the-body bags stay in place and are very secure when both hands are busy, as, pushing a stroller or, in my case, a walker.

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Boot shapers: As a DIY alternative to hanging boot shapers, I like to use a rolled-up magazine (a thicker issue works well) inside each boot. This keeps them from flopping over, and expands to fit the boot, whatever the size.

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District sample sale: Is this going to be all sizes 0-2 or is there anything for us in the size 10-12 range? Are accessories, bags, shoes represented?

Holly Thomas: It's not a "sample sale" in the NYC sense of the term, so not just sizes 0-2. In the past, I've seen a fair assortment of sizes, but keep in mind that these pieces are coming from area boutiques, which aren't exactly known for accomodating sizes larger than 10 -- for shame. You'll find plenty of shoes, bags and accessories though.

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Why Denim: I posted the question about wearing dress jeans. My reason is my OTHER job has a very, very casual dress code due to the culture of our industry (construction): the CEO and Upper Management all wear nice jeans and polo shirts. When I show up in my professional slacks and heels, I receive a lot of unwanted commentary. I'm hoping professional denim will save me the hassle of changing outfits between jobs. (But in general, I do believe you should dress for the job you want!)

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boot storage: I've also heard of using empty wine bottles inside your boots to keep them upright while storing them.

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For mature woman: I always think that the Ralph Lauren stuff sold in the Macy's stores looks classic and appropriate for women of basically any age. The lack of pretty things on the racks may just be a function of current trends, so wait it out, look at pendants and other accessories for accent pieces, and look forward to the fall season's lovely sweaters in graceful shapes and patterns. Another place to look for "pretty" is in shoes--I know that embellished ballet flats are "in" and suitable for any age.

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Does this happen to anyone else?: Yes, but I always get marks on my sleeves from the bus. Yuck.

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For the youthful older lady: I'd highly recommend checking out Boden USA (they are a UK company). They have plenty of clothes that look great on your size & shape - which I am too! They are more expensive than a JC Penny, but the colors & patterns used really cheer one up. Nothing too "young", but well-tailored clothes that have a ton of colorful style.

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for White shirt seeker: I seem to recall the "Rebecca & Drew" shirt makers being suggested for a similar question. I haven't tried them, since they're a bit out of my price range, but they seem like a good bet for properly fitted shirts.

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youthful-looking senior: Chico's, yes, also J.Jill and Kohl's are my go-to stores for most all wardrobe needs/wants. Get to know characteristics of various lines Kohl's sells and find great things!

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I get the utility - but I guess it kicks in my OCD - it just seems to messy.: I agree but I got one that has a removable shoulder strap. I only use the strap when I know I'm going to need it (like going to the mall with my 2 year old in tow). Otherwise I take it off and use the handles. It's a Fossil bag and I love it.

Holly Thomas: A removable shoulder strap is key -- thanks for joining us!

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For the Large Calfed: I too suffer from extremely large calves - 15+ inches around, so knee high boots were NEVER an option. I found DUO - its a shoe company out of the UK, and they make the shoes specifically for your size! I thought for sure it would cost a fortune, waited until I got my Christmas checks....wound up only costing about 170 US dollars,WITH shipping! I highly highly recommend them...and cannot wait to order my next pair...stretching usually won't be enough, this is a GREAT option. The only con is you have to do the cost analysis of pounds to dollars (just google it!)...but you save in that you don;t have to pair UK taxes!! Plus once a year or so they offer free international shipping which makes it totally worth it...

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For baby clothes: Try TJMaxx and Marshall's. They have a great assortment of really nice brands (lots of Carter's, which the chatter said she liked) for much better prices than department stores. And since babies grow quickly, it is nice to get a good deal on their clothes!

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Baby clothes: Wiggle Room in Bethesda has baby consignment...Also, Tea Collection has wonderful clothes (pricey) and BabyGap DOES have tagless stuff if you look! Good luck!

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baby clothes : For a newborn I'd suggest those Gerber side snap tees (they ran small, I thought) and jersery knit cotton elastic waist pants. When you change diapers 8 times per day it's nice to have something easy. And the side snap are easier to put on over the umbilical cord.

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small calf boots: Can the chatter chime in and tell us the brand of the boots that need to be stretched? I have the opposite problem, taller boots always gape at my calves, so I'd love to know who makes them with a 14" circumference!

Holly Thomas: We're running out of time, but hopefully you'll get an answer!

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Grease on pants: Try Dawn dish detergent. It works on grease on clothes too.

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mature women: I'm 53 and a 10-12 with a small bust.I say steer clear of Chicos and JJill for tops. They're all cut for women who put weight on in their chests.I was at Filene's Basement this weekend and thought they had some nice things.If you can't find pretty clothes I suspect it's more that you don't like the styles than that they aren't there. Try Jones New York or Ann Klien. They always have something pretty.

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Leather boot stretching: For the poster asking about where to get leather boots stretched, you can also buy shoe stretch spray at most cobblers. I used that to stretch boots that I'd bought online and were too narrow, and can now wear them with jeans tucked in.

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Over-the-knee boots: Are over-the-knee boots just for tall, skinny, 20-somethings? Could a 35-year-old mom of twin toddlers pull them off? I'm 5'5" and about 140 lbs... size 6-8 pants. Also, can otk boots be done with flat soles...or must they be heels? Help!

Holly Thomas: Here's my two cents on over-the-knee boots -- they were everywhere last fall and every blog/mag/store was touting them like they were the Greatest Thing Ever. This time around, they've dropped off the radar significantly. Personally, I'm glad I never got around to investing in a pair. But if you're really keen on the trend, I'd stick with either a flat or low-heeled option, in a high-quality leather (not patent!) or suede. If you wear them with a skirt, make sure the skirt isn't an ultra-mini -- jeans and leggings are probably the best, most age-appropriate choice.

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West vs East: I'm moving to Portland, and my East Coast clothes seem out of place. Any suggestions as to the fashion aesthetics there?

Holly Thomas: My tip, before you travel anywhere, is to investigate a few street-style blogs. Check out this one and this one, and you can also try sites like Chictopia, Weardrobe and Lookbook.nu.

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Boot circumference: Nordstrom's online always list it.

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Portland: I was in Portland for a week, and my impression is that anything goes. Wear your existing clothes in unexpected combinations, and wait until you get out there to add pieces.

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Holly Thomas: Thanks so much for joining me today -- your questions, answers and suggestions are always inspiring! Our winners today: the chatter who told us about boot shapers from the Container Store and the chatter who recommended Express and Victoria's Secret for the white-shirt bodysuit options. Contact us at fashion@washpost.com with your name/mailing address and we'll get the prizes to you this week. And join us again next week for another round of Fashion Fix!


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