Q The empire-waist frock: how to wear it?

-- Betty Pierce, Washington

A The key to ruling the empire is to think funky, not froufrou. The hippie-chic look may be having a field day, but don't overdo it: Gobs of gold jewelry and Earth-mother sandals turn Nicole Kidman's otherwise-dreamy dress, below left, into a fashion-victim nightmare. Jaime King, below right, gets it right by keeping accessories simple: a cuff bracelet, leather boots and voila! She's good to go.

Now that you know how to wear it, a note on who should wear it: The empire waist is great at camouflaging a tummy, but with wide hips it can have a tent-like effect. And if you're well-endowed, make sure you have a snappy comeback at the ready for all those folks who'll ask you when you're due.

Q I am tired of the painted-on pants look. How long before I can buy a pair of pants with a rise that doesn't give me an automatic wedgie?

-- Sally Blodgett, Falls Church

A You can do so now: These days, tight, ultra-low pants are more antiquated than the "Thong Song." The shift in silhouette started last spring, when Chloe's high-waisted trousers almost single-handedly rendered the R-rated rise obsolete.

As the trend trickles down, more affordable alternatives are popping up: J. Crew's lightweight jeans ($88 at Jcrew.com) and Lux's pique trousers ($58 at Urbanoutfitters.com) both offer runway-worthy slouch at real-world prices.

Q High heels are great, but it's no fun to slip in them. How do models and actors not fall on their behinds every time they walk in front of the camera?

-- Marissa Irwin, Washington

A They or (let's get real) their minions shuttle those pricey pumps to a repair shop so that rubber sole protectors can be attached pre-wearing. Not only do such safeguards improve traction and help shoes last, they also add a very thin layer of cushioning -- which can be important when you're standing in spindly stilettos for hours at a time, red carpet or not.

Sarah Cannova, co-owner of Georgetown shoe shop Sassanova, recommends clients schlep their slippers to Old Town Shoe & Luggage Repair (726 King St., Alexandria, 703-299-0655). Other spots suggested by local boutique owners: Corrective Shoe Repair (1502 21st St. NW, 202-232-9749) and Philip's Shoe Repair (808 Upshur St. NW, 202-726-5762).

Need a quicker fix? Head to a hardware store and buy sandpaper with adhesive backing; then cut it into strips and stick them on your shoes. This trick doesn't offer the comfort of rubber soles, nor will it look too pretty should you decide to kick up your heels, but it can help you keep your klutzy side in check.

Suzanne D'Amato

Wondering how to wear it? E-mail styleq@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and phone number.