Charlie Harrington continues her occasional series with a rescue plan for a young woman who doesn't have the stamina to shop till she drops
The problem

Dear Charlie

I have a shopping problem and I'd love it if you could help.

I'm a 17-year-old girl and have had ME for three and a half years. For the past year, I have been house-bound. I am getting a little stronger now but shopping would still be too tiring. It's been so long since I've been able to buy any new clothes and my wardrobe is definitely in need of an overhaul.

Perhaps if I look good, I'll feel good, too! I am 5'9" and wear a size 14. I am quite slim but I do need clothes that will hide my slightly flabby tummy!

My morale needs boosting.

Can you help?

Quirine Robbins

The solution

First, the solution to all your shopping problems lies in mail order. If you are on the Internet, even better. Shopping by e-mail is beginning to get much easier and you have the choice from Australian swimsuits to American cK jeans, all at local currency prices. If you are still only using snail mail, the choice at your fingertips - courtesy of La Redoute, Freemans, Next, and Kays - is as good as at any shopping mall. You do not need to trudge around a city from shop to shop in order to look stylish. You will find all the names of your favourite high street stores in these telephone directory-sized catalogues. Warehouse, Miss Selfridge and Wallis are all there, next to labels like Jean Paul Gaultier, cK and Belgian designer Dirk Bikkembergs.

The secret to catalogue clothes shopping is to look for key pieces that reflect the autumn trends. Go for interesting textures and prints and always try to go for quality fabrics that are not going to look like a rag after one spin in the washing machine. You told me you have good legs and are tall, so you are luckier than most this autumn, because short skirts are back. I've chosen a rose jacquard skirt from Miss Selfridge, a short cheongsam dress - something that will instantly pep you up whenever you wear it - and, for a bit of luxury to spoil yourself, a pair of chocolate suede jeans by Joseph from La Redoute. To make a feature of your legs, or to wear under some jeans, there's a pair of knee-high stretch boots that will make you look so sharp and stylish you might even want to take a trip to your local high street in them to show them off.

If you are feeling drab and lacking in energy, I have put together a selection of accessories that can brighten up your look in seconds: a red rose hair clip from Johnnie Loves Rosie, and a diamante necklace from Agatha to make you look sparkling even if you don't feel it. Your friends will think you have been on a round-the-world spending spree and you won't have even had to get out of your armchair.

Chinese style, rose jacquard skirt above (pg.69 Ref. WP01922), pounds 30, by Miss Selfridge from Freemans, inquiries 0345-900 100. Rust coloured cotton shirt below (pg.34 Ref. 848.5666), pounds 13.50, from La Redoute, inquiries 0500-777 777; chocolate brown leather trousers (pg.112 Ref. 80.5977), pounds 105, by Joseph from LaRedoute, as before.

Black jeans above (pg.76 Ref.GA7144), pounds 79.99, by Calvin Klein from Kays, inquiries 0645-529 529; red long sleeve T-shirt, pounds 27, by Jean Paul Gaultier, from La Redoute, as before. Red rose hairclip below, pounds 16.95, by Johnnie Loves Rosie, inquiries 0171-247 1496; diamante necklace, pounds 17, by Agatha, inquiries 0171-495 2779.

Black knee-high stretch boots above (pg.258 Ref.BA4563), pounds 59.99, from Empire, inquiries ; camel suede bag (pg.95 Ref.ND07972), pounds 28, from Freemans, as before. Black and white check dress below (pg.33 Ref.M38354G20), pounds 44.99, by Next Directory, inquiries 0345-100 500.

Long chocolate brown cardigan (pg.112 ref.782.4378), pounds 74.99, by Joseph from La Redoute, as before

Chocolate brown floral dress (pg.90 Ref.KX09422), pounds 85, by Whistles from Freemans, as before

Black and gold short Cheongsam dress (pg.60 Ref.CU27642), pounds 70, by Warehouse from Freemans, as before