— Dear Cropped Jacket Junkie,
You are right: What looks cute on a hanger doesn't necessarily look good on you. If you are petite and curvy, cropped jackets, especially swing jackets, will not flatter your body proportions. Because these jackets are cropped, they break up the visual line of the body and make you look shorter and stouter instead of longer and leaner. Basically, it's like wearing a tent on your upper half.
If you have a large chest, this jacket only serves to exaggerate that area. In addition, these jackets have no discernible waistline, which is the key visual cue for creating a slimmer body silhouette. Instead, try a cropped trench that accents your waist — rather than adding volume to it — and hits at the hip. If you go for a more fitted silhouette in the torso and waist, you will look slimmer and your leg line will be longer, hence you will look taller in stature! And honestly, just as cute!
Dear Jean Hipster,
Of course you can wear skinny jeans at 40 IF you do indeed have the right body silhouette AND you wear them age appropriately. If you are naturally tall and slim, skinny jeans will flatter you. Dress them in a sophisticated, adult way. Don't try to chase your youth by wearing something JUST BECAUSE it's trendy. Skip the tank top and sneakers to avoid looking like an overgrown teenager and go for expensive-looking pieces like a silk blouse with boots and a luxurious camel coat. Make the jeans work for you both in fit and in age group. However, if you have a large chest, think twice. The bigger you are on top and the smaller you are on the bottom, the more you will have to use your clothes to bridge the proportional gap between the two. So, instead of a skinny jean, perhaps try a trouser jean with some width in the leg to BALANCE your top half. Otherwise, you are good to go!
Q: I was watching "What Not to Wear" when you appeared horrified by the idea of wearing hose. I know it's not really the style now to wear nylons, but I have terrible spider veins on my white legs. What do I do now that skirts are knee-length and those veins are so obvious? Any advice? — Jill Jones, Effingham, Ill.
Dear Pale Legs,
First of all, the only "hose" I really hate are the semi-sheer ones in "suntan" or "black." They look dated and remind me of a time when women would walk to work in their suits, those hose, white sweat socks and white leather aerobic sneakers. Blech. Might as well throw in a whole can of hairspray, too. Too ’80s! Stay away from anything that has a mid-range "denier" number that indicates the sheerness of the hose (10 is very sheer, 30 is semi-sheer and 50 is opaque).
I recommend a good self-tanner for the pale-leg situation, but also realize that won't help with spider veins. Look for opaque tights and try them in a subtle color, like a burgundy or deep purple, when wearing a neutral-color knee-length skirt or suit. They will hide your legs and add a visual punch to your outfits!
Q: I am 56, about a size 6-8. My daughter says never, unless tights. Sometimes in colder months I want something on my legs and tights aren't always the look I want. I understand in the summer with self-tanner, but what about the rest of the year? Thanks so much. — Barbara Rose, Charleston, W. Va.
Dear Great Pantyhose Debater!
First, there's no need to fight with your daughter! As I said above, not all hose are bad. When looking for something to wear in winter, heavy wool tights are not the only option. There are many lightweight alternatives. One of my favorites is a textured nylon tight that is not much heavier in weight than regular pantyhose but is opaque and has a subtle pattern. These are great for work and weekend wear. Pair them with a satin blouse and skirt for work and use texture and shine to create a visually powerful outfit. Or wear them with a sweater and a denim skirt and boots on the weekend for a more country feel.
Q: I'm in a wedding in December. We are wearing knee-length black cocktail dresses. Is it OK to go bare-legged in December? I hate pantyhose. — JoAnn Bryden, Lincoln, R.I.
Dear Bare-Legged in December,
I love bare legs in all seasons, so if you want to go with bare, go for it. However, just remember there are great options for covering your legs in the evening. Fishnets never go out of style for cocktail attire. If you feel like those weigh down your legs, try a nude sheer hose with a black back seam. They are endlessly sexy and alluring and a great compliment to evening wear, especially if your dress shows a lot of skin on top.
Q: I am a curvy, petite woman (I'm 5'2") who also happens to be five months pregnant. Finding affordable maternity clothes that fit is a big challenge. Do you have any recommendations for maternity clothes that would both fit and flatter the curvy, petite woman? — Kristin MacLeod, Chelmsford, Mass.
Dear Bun in the Oven,
Five months pregnant and petite and curvy? Make life easy on yourself and stick to dresses made with stretch materials that will grow with you. Many of the major maternity brands are now doing petite lines. And while mass retailers don't always do maternity for petites, you can find bargains that will be worth your while to take to a tailor for a few extra dollars and have them hemmed to the correct length! You don't need to buy oodles of stuff.
Remember that you can dress up plainer pieces with fun accessories. Wear stacked solid-heel boots for more support if you want to wear heels, and have fun with bags and jewelry. And congrats on your upcoming bundle of joy!