Dear Answer Angel: I need to update my fall-winter wardrobe but have almost no money to spend. So, no big purchases for me this year. I thought maybe a new hat and scarf to dress up my winter coat, but I can't figure out what would freshen a pullover sweater or wool skirt or pants. Any ideas?
— Cas/h/-Strapped but Curious
Dear CSC: A new scarf and hat are good options to freshen up last year's winter coat. But steer clear of matching sets which are a little predictable. I just saw a photo of myself at an event with some friends lined up in our winter wear. Three of us are boring in our basic black coats but a bright raspberry scarf on the fourth friend makes her a total standout. So when you're shopping, think about a color pop instead of a neutral.
For other suggestions that would work on outerwear and on sweaters and jackets indoors, I asked Susan Swimmer, fashion features editor of More magazine. She recommends a grouping of three eclectic costume jewelry brooches (for just a few dollars at Forever 21, forever21.com; Claire's, claires.com; flea markets; and thrift shops). Another idea from Swimmer is a tie-on faux fur collar that works for coats and sweaters. I spotted a great one by Rachel Roy at Macy's, macys.com, on sale for $39. Not a bad price for making something old look new again!
Dear Answer Angel: There's a beautiful black velvet jacket hanging in my closet that I never wear because I decided I don't like the prominent label on the breast pocket. It's stitched tight on four sides so I'm afraid to try and cut the threads. Maybe others think it's high status but I don't like advertising "who" I'm wearing. Any suggestions?
Dear E.P.: I'm totally with you. I really hate being used as a walking billboard for some designer whose clothes and accessories I paid good money for. The designers should be paying us to walk around with their names plastered on our purses, scarves, shirts, jackets and sunglasses! That's why there are no Coach purses or Polo Ralph Lauren shirts at my house. Don't get me started on the crazy process that makes us pay a premium for logo'd merchandise that shouts the designers' names.
But, back to your question: A black permanent Sharpie is what you need. I use mine all the time to obscure smaller labels. In fact I just did precisely that on my black Puma shoes. I also use a Sharpie to cover scuffs on my favorite black pumps and nicks on belts and the like. Also, a seam ripper — they cost only a few dollars at fabric stores — can remove the tiny stitches on many labels although I wouldn't try it on delicate or easily snagged fabrics.
Dear Answer Angel: I fly a lot and think by this point I've seen everything in terms of what people wear on planes (including a guy who went into the bathroom and changed into his pajamas on a long haul flight, then returned to his seat and continued wearing his jammies until close to landing). I realize we're long past the point when flying was an adventure you dressed up for, but these days I'd like to see people just dress, period. Am I just being old-fashioned?
— Anguished Aloft
Dear A.A.: You're not old-fashioned at all. I'd call you civilized. We all know that flying these days is worse than a trip on a packed cross-country bus. People slopping carry-on smelly food all over; no place to put your luggage much less your arms and legs. And then you find yourself sitting almost on top of somebody wearing an outfit that should have never left the house. And, oh my, the body parts revealed when people are stuffing their belongings beneath their seats and in the overheads. My eyes hurt!
You can (and should) be covered and comfortable, travelers. We're all in this together. No pajamas. No midriffs. No plumbers' cracks. No low-cut tops. The only thing you should be showing is some class.
Dear Answer Angel: I'm wearing a simple black dress to an evening event and wonder about hosiery. Should I choose nude, black — or what?
— Judy R.
Dear Judy: Some stylists have a "never nude" policy. I'm not quite so dogmatic, but I do think that black or pearl gray sheer hose is a better choice — especially for evening. And, in my opinion any hosiery looks lousy with open toe or peep toe shoes — even if the hosiery toe is not reinforced. So if you can't go bare-legged, wear closed-toe footwear.
Dear Answer Angel: I'm still not sure whether, at my age (over 50), I should be wearing bell bottom, straight leg or boot cut jeans. Or any jeans at all. I want to be fashionable but not ridiculous. Help!
— J. Lynn
Dear J. Lynn: You bet you can wear jeans. It would be ridiculous not to. I don't understand why anyone would buy jeans that already have holes in them, but that's a particularly bad look for those of us on the other side of 30. Stick with undistressed jeans in a dark wash (and to keep them that way turn them inside out when you wash them in cold water).
All jean cuts, from skinny to bell bottom, are in fashion these days. Some stylish people I know think the boot cut, with its slight flare, is the most flattering for curvy women. I prefer straight legs. Work up your courage, bring along a friend to give you a candid second opinion and then try on 20 or 30 pairs to find out what looks best on you. One more thing: You do not need to spend gobs of money. There are plenty of good looking jeans for under $100. Lee, Levis and Not Your Daughter's Jeans, among others, have flattering styles at a decent price.
Shop, drop, get help: You have problems? Don't we all. But here's the difference: You have an angel (with attitude) on your shoulder. Send your questions — on style, shopping, beauty and makeup to firstname.lastname@example.org.