Dear Answer Angel: I really, really want to wear blue jeans to work. There's no prohibition against it, but on the other hand, no one does. Any thoughts on when/if they're appropriate?
Dear J.T.: OK, you "really, really want to wear blue jeans to work," but do you also really, really want to get promoted? Then don't wear jeans to the office. Just because there are no rules against it, if nobody is wearing them, then you shouldn't either — not if you want to advance at your company.
Remember that old adage that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. So check out your boss and dress up at least as much as he/she does. A lot of people are confused by "workplace casual," and with good reason. For some offices that does mean jeans are OK, but for others it means nice slacks or a dress/skirt for women; pressed trousers and a business shirt for men (in short, everything but a jacket and tie).
How to tell what's appropriate? Look around at the people who are getting ahead. Copy them.
Dear Answer Angel: I would like some advice on how to shop at an outlet mall.
Dear L.T.: Short answer: Cautiously. I love outlet mall shopping. But I think our usual tendency is to buy things that we don't need because they're a bargain. That is not a good way to save money.
Have you wondered if the stuff in the outlets is the leftovers that didn't sell at the regular retail shops? The answer is sometimes. But increasingly, the merchandise in outlets is created for those stores and was never sold in full-price places. The recession has changed our shopping habits, says expert David Ober, the president of an outlet mall trade group, the Council of Developers of Outlet Centers and Retailers. He says surveys show more than ever that those who formerly shopped only at department stores are also shopping the outlets.
Bottom line: If you see something you like at an outlet store, don't presume you can buy more later at a department store. And a savings tip: Before you start shopping — whether at a full-price or outlet mall — always go to the customer service desk and ask if they're offering any coupons or daily deals.
Dear Answer Angel: I have bought my last pair of prescription sunglasses. I just lost another pair, and I just can't afford the $400 it costs to replace them. What are my options? I'm blind without my prescription glasses.
Dear Glasses-less: A man I know lost one too many pairs of sunglasses over the years while out fishing. Now he buys sun flip-ups at clipons.com for $19.95. They come in many different lens colors and sizes to fit your regular clear prescription glasses. The downside is they look a little nerdy. The website also sells sun lenses that use four little clips to attach to most regular lenses. These are a little better looking and cost $24.95. A detailed measuring chart helps get the size right.
Dear Answer Angel: I've been working out a lot and couldn't figure out why I developed ugly back fat. I realized I went up a bra size because of developing my back muscles, and the fat was just the result of being squeezed into too-tight bras. So now I'm stuck with a collection of expensive sports bras and regular bras that don't fit. Is there a way to stretch them a little?
— Fitness Queen
Dear F.Q.: This is an easy, cheap fix. Type "bra extender" into your browser and you'll find a wide array of inexpensive two, three or four-hook gizmos that will enable you to add several inches to your bra band. I've tried them and they even stay on in the washing machine. Problem solved.
Dear Answer Angel: My son and his girlfriend were visiting me from out of town and went shopping. She purchased a dress and when she got home she realized the security tag was still on it. There's no branch of the store in her small town. What to do?
Dear Anne: I had this precise problem a few years back. Since I wanted to wear the garment right away, I had to waste time going to several stores (with my receipt) trying to find a place that used the same sort of security tags (and therefore had the machinery to remove them). I did find a store that could remove the tag. But the other option is to call the place where she bought the dress, talk to a manager and arrange to send it back (asking the store to pay shipping since it wasn't her fault). Enclose a copy of the receipt (but keep the original). If no receipt, this will complicate things, but the store manager should be able to either trust you or tell you how to get a duplicate. Moral of the story: Always check that the security tag has been removed and save those receipts.
I'm confused and angry about the sizes of women's clothes! I am a 35-year-old woman who has remained the same weight for the past 15 years. But in the last few years, I have found that clothing brands that used to fit me well in a size small or extra-small now are too big on me. With all the vanity sizing I'm seeing now, it's impossible to tell what size I am. I used to wear size 10 pants and now sometimes I'm a 2. It's infuriating to go shopping these days. I have to take four sizes of the same thing into the dressing room just to make sure I'll have the right one to try on. And it's even worse ordering online and having to guess what size I am in this or that catalog. Is it the obesity epidemic that has led clothing makers to call a 10 a size 2 now? Why aren't sizes standard?