Q My mother says that if a pencil skirt curves around your backside, then you're wearing it too tight. Well, I've been trying on pencil skirts, and they appear to have been designed to do just that -- curve around one's backside. Should I be buying the next size up?

Katie Raube, Centreville

A With all due respect to Mom, I'm siding with you on this one. You don't want a pencil skirt to be too snug (telltale signs: it strains across your hips or shimmies north when you walk), but it is meant to be fitted -- otherwise the result is just dowdy. If you want a skirt that errs on the conservative side, look for one in a non-stretch fabric. Wool or cotton that's been infused with Lycra tends to have a body-hugging (and, hence, bottom-defining) fit.

Q Do you have any advice on particular sources of shoes for narrow feet?

Carolyn Gray, Alexandria

A Extended sizing is where the Internet reigns supreme. I know many people feel it's less than ideal to buy shoes online because you can't try them on, but the selection that cyberspace offers is, for obvious reasons, unparalleled. Just as important: Many shoe Web sites have generous return and exchange policies.

Zappos.com is virtually unrivaled in terms of selection. A recent search turned up nearly 1,500 narrow-sized dressy women's styles alone -- that's not counting the site's athletic, casual or men's categories. Other superior sources include Shoedini.com, which stocks brands such as Anne Klein, Cole Haan and Jack Rogers, as well as the old standby, Nordstrom.com, which carries a great selection of Naturalizer and Stuart Weitzman in addition to its own surprisingly stylish house brand. All of these Web sites offer sizes as narrow as AAAA for women and AAA for men.

If your feet are only a little narrow, though, you may be able to get away with wearing regular-width shoes. It's all about shopping smart: Certain styles are better suited to narrow feet than others. Lower heels, for example, make a good choice because feet will slide forward in stilettos that are even a smidge too wide.

"Anything with straps and laces helps," says Jennifer Marfino, owner of Shoe Fly in Arlington. If you're still swimming in your shoes, Marfino recommends trying a foam insole or a product called Tip Toes by Foot Petals (www.footpetals.com), which is a cushion worn under the ball of the foot that can stop sliding while providing extra comfort.

Wondering how to wear it? E-mail

Suzanne D'Amato, Sunday Source's deputy editor and a former fashion writer at Vogue, at styleq@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and phone number.

Ralph Lauren's pencil skirt: too tight. Yves Saint Laurent's: just right.