Dear Answer Angel: I've let myself go gray naturally and completely. But now, I want to go back to being a brunette without making a radical (too obvious) transition. Any suggestions for a gradual way to do this?
Dear Tee: This is doable. To find out how to subtly, slowly turn back the clock, I talked to colorist Elea Yaksich, who suggests asking your stylist to use foils, with fine weave strands of your hair, applying a semipermanent color in several shades of brown not too far from your natural color.
"Start a little bit at a time," and at first just have color added around the top and face — the areas you see when you look straight in the mirror. Semipermanent is "noncommittal," says Yaksich, because it washes out over time. If you like the way it looks, then move to permanent, more foils each time coloring more hair.
The process could take as long as a year if you really want to do it gradually. And it will cost you. You'll be going to the salon every six to eight weeks at $100 or more each visit for the foils. And, once you're totally a brunette, to cover your gray roots you'll need to color every three to four weeks at $50 or more per visit.
Customarily, men's hair is too short for the foils treatment. So, what's the answer for men with gray hair? I have a guy friend who went prematurely gray and wanted to go darker as he looked for a job. I saw the results of a drugstore product, Touch of Gray from Just for Men, and it really worked. It looked completely natural, but much of the gray hair is darker — and he looks younger. Start with a shade that is lighter than your natural hair color for best results.
Speaking of job interviews …
Dear Answer Angel: So my younger son had a job interview, and apparently his shoelaces were a little ratty, so he boosted the ultra-thin laces from my good black shoes (unbeknownst to me). And then he headed back to campus (Tennessee) having conveniently forgotten to return said laces. I've demanded them back, of course, but the reason I want them back is the same reason he stole them: Replacement dress shoelaces suck. If you need new laces for your sneaks or for hiking boots, you have all the options in the world, but the hunt for dress laces always finds me at the drugstore, eyeballing the much-hated flat laces that are the correct length, or the one pack of thin black laces that are never the correct length. So I ask you: Is there a place to find "real" dress laces?
Dear Phil: Yes. You need waxed dress round laces, and those and about 2,000 other options await at shoelacesexpress.com. Yours will cost $4.99 for two pair. Other options? I dropped by Nordstrom and it, too, has the laces for $3 a pair, but I had to ask. (They weren't on display.) And many good shoe repair shops carry a decent array of laces, better than what you'll find at the drugstore.
Dear Answer Angel: What is the best dress shoe for women who can't wear stilettos but still have pretty good legs?
— Toni D.
Dear Toni: Two words: kitten heels. They're only 11/2 inches or so, with a curve similar to a stiletto but, unlike those tall monstrosities, you can actually walk in them. They're a favorite of first lady Michelle Obama, which gives them some fashion cred. I love them because they can look dressy (unlike flats) and they flatter the leg. I've found cute ones by Nine West and pricey ones that I yearn for by Sigerson Morrison, and once I got incredibly lucky and found a pair of black faux suede ones for less than $20 at Forever 21. I wish shoe stores would wise up and realize that this fashionable alternative is a great option for women who actually have to use their feet to get where they're going.
Dear Answer Angel: This is not a question but an observation. We need clear and large print on hair product bottles so they can easily be seen in the shower without glasses.
Dear Miffed: Agreed! When we run the world …
Dear Answer Angel: Where do you stand on wearing turtlenecks or other long-sleeved layering tops under sleeveless or short-sleeved dresses to make them more wearable through the colder months? And is one ever too old to wear socks of any height with a skirt?
— Doctor Deb
Dear Dr. D: My prescription for getting the most wear out of your lighter clothes is, by all means, go for layering! I do it all the time. But the long-sleeve T or turtleneck should be a thin material that doesn't bulk up under your lightweight dress. And the color should not be harsh or show through the lighter fabric. As for the socks, anklets or knee-highs are a schoolgirl look, and the longer you're out of school, the harder it is to pull off. Tread carefully.
Dear Answer Angel: How do you feel about pairing black and brown? Most of my pants, except for jeans, are black — various fabrics, but black. Can I wear a brown jacket or short coat with them? What shade of brown? I'm not talking about a golden brown mink (wish I were!) or bittersweet chocolate, but more of a milky chocolate shade. Or grayish brown, like dark chocolate that has melted and then cooled off in the fridge.
— Chocolate Lover
Dear Chocolate Lover: You bet you could — and should — wear brown and black together. Love that. Any of the shades you mention would work for a jacket or a top of any kind. And don't forget camel. It's totally chic with black. If you're iffy about it, pull the outfit together with a scarf that has shades of brown and black. The only caution here is if your brown top is so very, very dark that it looks as if you're trying to pass it off as black. That's a no.