dear annie

Some years ago my wife gave me a navy blue pullover with a tasteful velour front. It's now nearly worn out, and I have not been able to find a replacement. I'm not too fussy about the colour - but the velour front is smart and yet relaxed enough for evening occasions.

Ronald Beasley, Edinburgh

I have scoured the shops but have found no velour-fronted jumpers for you. What I can tell you is that Marks & Spencer will be doing two types of jumper that might also fit the smart-yet-relaxed bill. The first will have suede trim and patches; no colours are confirmed as yet, but it will cost pounds 50. They will also be doing one in chenille (a type of wool with a sheen to it - so again, smarter than your average jumper). It will have a ''bagel'' neck (round, with rollover bit) and will cost pounds 35 and come in black and bottle green. Both are available from August, and if you'd like to check availability in your local branch ring 0171 935 4422 nearer the time.

In two weeks' time I shall be graduating and I'm having trouble planning what to wear. The university regulations state that ladies must wear plain, dark colours (or a dark skirt and white blouse) and that the outfit must have full-length sleeves. My gown and hood will be claret red and the hood will be lined with pale blue. Because of the way the front of the gown and the V-shaped band of the hood lie, I am unsure what neckline to go for with my outfit. Because of the relatively short length of the gown and its fullness, I am also in a quandary about length of hem and style of skirt. Please help.

Bridget, Southampton

I had a bit of difficulty getting my head round what your gown and hood look like once I got an image of Little Red Riding Hood stuck in my mind. Goodness, why do people insist on keeping certain traditions that make people look like extras from a costume drama? So the gown is full and short? I would definitely go for a tight and very simple skirt. It doesn't matter if it's long or short, that's up to you, but this will balance out the flounciness of the gown. As for neckline: either a collarless V-neck blouse or a grandad-style one (if that's not too informal). What you don't want is something with a fancy collar that will fight with your hood fastening. If you don't have any blouses in the styles mentioned, go for the simplest one you have. It sounds like a ghastly sartorial experience for you all round, really; best to keep it simple and lie low on the apparel front.

Thank goodness some kind readers have come to the aid of Mrs Crocker and her "clingy" dress (Dear Annie, 30 June). Here is one reply, more next week. Incidentally, Mrs C, I haven't heard from you in a while, please drop me a line and tell me if any of these solutions work.

May I suggest Mrs Crocker of Bath tries Mr H Berger, Dry Cleaners, Station Road, Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire. He is able to reclaim dresses of two materials that have been washed in the wrong substances. If she would like to try washing, there is nothing like Woolite in cold water. After washing, the voile skirt can be rinsed out and lightly starched while the underslip can be rinsed in warm water, wrung out, then dipped in a solution of warm water, two tablespoons of glycerine and two of gum arabic stirred together in a plastic bowl. Then wring and peg out. Ironing the underskirt and overskirt can be done while damp. Roy from Dover (Dear Annie, 30 June) can also starch and iron his shirt on the wrong side. Gum arabic was much used in the 1930s to give body to artificial silk. There are many useful hints on washing in 19th-century literature, particularly in Trollope, Thackeray, Mrs Henry Wood and L M Alcott.

Mrs Dobbin, Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire

Thank you for your fascinating tips. I think Mrs Crocker's dress and lining were attached so she may find it hard to follow your advice, but nevertheless, I had to print your letter. Can I call on you for more advice in the future?

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