Send your fashion problems to: Dear Annie,

Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square,

Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, or fax them on: 0171 293 2043/


My daughter has told me about a "compact towel" which is very small but serves its purpose. I am going camping for the first time (aged 47!) - does such a thing exist? If so, could you tell me where I might get one and do they really work? Is this in your remit?

Mrs Joanne Cooper, Dorset

Not really but sometimes I do answer questions that aren't strictly fashion. Compact towels do exist and they do work, some better than others. They are excellent for the gym, short holidays or camping. I used to have one by Speedo but it went rock hard when it dried and altogether wasn't a pleasure. Now, I use a superb one by Aquis that is available from the Conran Shop (branches in Marylebone and South Kensington in London) or by mail order from the Beauty Quest catalogue (tel: 0541 505 000). It costs pounds 19.50 plus pounds 2.99 p&p. Field and Trek (tel: 01277 233122) also does one - although I've never tried it - in two sizes: hand-size costs pounds 4.50, shower-size costs pounds 11.50.

Do I need shoe trees and if so are the plastic ones all right or should they be wooden? Wooden ones cost about pounds 30 a pair, almost as much as the shoes!

Catherine Amely, Liverpool

In an ideal world, every pair of shoes would have their own shoe trees. They really do help keep shoes in good condition because as you wear them they crease and bend upwards. Shoe trees straighten them out. But you can get away with just one set and give each pair of your shoes a turn with them if that is all you can afford. Yes, wooden ones are better because they are more absorbent - useful if you have sweaty feet - but you can get nearly as good ones in velour foamy stuff. John Lewis (tel: 0171 629 7711) sells wooden ones for pounds 17.50, velour ones for pounds 5.50 and plastic ones from pounds 2.85. The Holding Company does shoe trees in cedar (a natural moth repellent so useful if your shoes live in the same wardrobe as your clothes) that cost pounds 24.50 (tel: 0171 610 9160 for a catalogue).

As I sit at home, yet to regain my pre-pregnancy figure, I have had to focus away from clothes and find some other form of retail pleasure. Bags, bags and more bags. My current object of desire is roughly A4 size with a wide shoulder strap, worn across the body. The strap also has a slot for a mobile phone. I saw one on a very trendy young person, but didn't pluck up the courage to ask where it was from. Can you help? Also my mother is desperate to find a perfume called Evening in Paris which she wore years ago, made by Bourjois. She has an empty bottle of it which she is very proud of (sad eh?).

Jackie, via e-mail

I too love those bags but they do not suit my shape (large bosom), but I think they look fab on young, sporty types. You don't say where you live Jackie but Top Shop does a variety, starting from pounds 15, in lots of colours (tel: 0800 731 8284). As for your mother, two companies should be able to help her. Both specialise in difficult to find/discontinued fragrances. Direct Cosmetics, Long Row, Oakham, Rutland LE15 6LN, (tel: 01572 724477, fax: 01572 756948) or Parfum'elle, 6441 Southwest Boulevard, Fort Worth, Texas 76132, US (tel: 001 817 731 6633, or email: parfumelle@ Please make a note of these readers as I get inundated with "lost" perfume requests.

I pay a fortune for my Independent on Sunday and do wish you would include an ADDRESS (snail mail, not fax, not e-mail) for your sources. There is a five hour time difference between here and the UK and a telephone number is NOT helpful. That said, how about an address for "Mrs Pickering" the doll clothes person (21 Feb)? Also, PLEASE, does anybody - with an address - sell little (2-3 inch) china dolls with moveable arms and legs, such as I remember from my childhood, that I could order?

MB Hogan, Somewhere with a five hour time difference to the UK

Well, well, well. I am being thoroughly told off, aren't I? I cannot always print an ADDRESS as there just is not the SPACE. And whilst I appreciate that a telephone number is NOT helpful to you and others that live far away it is HELPFUL to many others. However, I do take your POINT and just for you I have printed just about every available detail I have for the two companies listed in the latter part of the above problem. Mrs Pickering's address if you wish to have it is: The Pines, Decoy Road, Potter Heigham, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk NR29 5LX (you must enclose an SAE). If anyone can help with little china dolls and you have an address, write in to me and I'll make sure this disgruntled reader learns to smile again.

I need, urgently, an antique Edwardian/ Victorian style, cream/white blouse for my graduation.

Michelle Quinn, Blackburn

The best place to look is in vintage/second hand shops, but as you don't have that much time, ring Nightingales (tel: 0870 601 2415 for orders, 01588 673 673 for enquiries) and ask for the C56 blouse which has short sleeves and a pintucked front with high neck and frilly collar. It costs pounds 18.50, in 100 per cent cotton, sizes 10-18, and if you don't like it you can return it within 10 days if it's still in perfect condition!

Readers! Lots of you have written in with comments on pop-socks, wellingtons, and all sorts of stuff. I shall print all your replies to replies in a forthcoming column. Could be as soon as next week. Watch out!