Dear Answer Angel: As the cool weather arrives, I find myself with a familiar problem. Belts are often recommended as a way to add shape to bulky sweaters. How do you wear them without bunching? Instead of sleek like the pictures, I look puffy around the middle. Not flattering.
Dear J. B.: Bunchy and puffy are two words that no woman wants in her fashion life. One of the savviest style resources I know is Gregg Andrews, a fashion director for Nordstrom, who advises, "The bulkier the sweater, the wider the belt. A wider belt is going to help conceal and control all that puffiness." Also, he says, you might be pulling the belt too tight. "The tightness can make a big difference."
Another solution is to pull the excess bulk to the back and create a pleat on each side. For fuller figures consider a flatter, lighter knit. Also, a longer sweater — knee length — is more slimming .
Dear Answer Angel: What's the difference between leggings and jeggings and what are the "rules" on wearing either of them?
— Need Something New for My Legs
Dear Answer Angel: I have totally avoided leggings. But what about the jeggings? I even saw a woman on one of the shopping channels announce they are the fashion item of the decade. I keep wondering am I missing out on a hot fashion trend?
— Carol F.
Dear Needy and Carol: I hear this question a lot. The most important thing I can tell you on this topic is leggings aren't pants! They're like tights without feet and you should always wear them with a dress or skirt that covers your rear. ALWAYS. Jeggings (jeans + leggings) are similar to leggings but thicker and with details like contrast stitching to create faux "pockets" or zippers, buttons or other embellishments so they sort of look like skinny jeans. Women wear them instead of jeans because they're stretchier and more comfortable. However, they're dangerous. If you're over about 40 or curvy below the waist, I implore you to skip this trend. A nice trouser will be much more flattering and work-appropriate and you won't look like you forgot to get dressed from the waist down.
Dear Answer Angel: I have a lovely one-of-a-kind sweater that a close friend has long admired. Truth be told, I'm getting a little tired of it, though it's still in great condition. More truth: I have very little money for Christmas presents this year. Would it be beyond tacky to have it dry cleaned, wrap it up and give it to her for Christmas? Obviously she'd know it was "previously owned" but she's always liked it.
— In a Gift Quandary
Dear Q: Go for it! The bottom line at holiday time is giving something you know the giftee will love. You already know she covets the sweater. Case closed. Just make sure you prep her before she opens it by saying, "I know you've admired this …" so she understands you're parting with a gently-used treasure. I totally endorse gifting from your closet (or china cupboard, etc.) for close friends who have admired something you own. But otherwise stick with a card or a tiny (new) token gift if you're strapped for cash.
Dear Answer Angel: A good friend has a dog she adores and I'd like to get the pup a Christmas gift. Problem is he's allergic to almost everything. And he chews up furry toys. Any suggestions for such a rambunctious pup? (I thought about lessons with a trainer, but that seemed a little rude).
— Godmother to a Dog
Dear Godmother: A cute seasonal collar. A silly holiday sweater. A cash donation in the pup's name to an animal shelter.
Dear Answer Angel: I have a work friend, in her early 30s, in a visible position, whose wardrobe consists of everything black but faded and worn-looking. Many of her friends have spoken to her but all to no end. In addition, she often comes to work with wet hair, still dripping down her back, and I shudder when I see her trying to lead a meeting. She gets little respect based solely on her wardrobe. What can we do besides submit her name to "What Not to Wear?"
— A concerned co-worker/friend
Dear Concerned: Clearly your friend is not willing to take advice on this since other friends have tried and failed. From your letter it seems her clothes and wet hair have not held her back so far. Harsh but true: It is not your problem. Until she asks your opinion, butt out.
The holiday clock is ticking and your questions and complications are mounting! Fret no more. It's Answer Angel to the rescue. You've got problems of the season? I've got the answers. Whether its gifting, style, entertaining, fashion, etiquette — or a neighborhood Christmas outdoor lighting feud, send me your questions. I'm an angel with attitude and I'm here to help. Get used to it. chicagoshopping.com/answerangel