I am unsure what nail varnish to wear this winter, is dark red still fashionable?

Amy, London.

Yes, it is. Chanel started this craze with its Rouge Noir, which was so damn popular that you couldn't buy it anywhere. Many other companies have also done good, dark red shades, try Boots No7, MAC and MaxFactor. Pale pink is also in, ideal to go with those spacey Sixties shapes. The colour that I think will take over from all these is darkest navy, which is almost impossible to find. Try specialist make-up shops or funky names such as Mary Quant. Chipped, pink nail varnish is also something you might like to try on bitten nails. Tasty.

I am always getting make-up on my clothes when I pull the garment over my head. I can't always get dressed before applying make-up. What do you do?

Rosemary Delamare, Swansea.

This isn't a problem I have because I have never managed to work out the difference between an eye pencil and a lip pencil. I eat off my lip gloss, when I think to apply it. Sadly, between bringing up four children and running a pig farm, make- up got lost along the way. But this is what models do on shoots when make-up is always applied before dressing. Buy synthetic georgette from your local depart- ment store, about half a metre. Then, put it over your head before you slip your clothes on. The georgette will protect your clothes but still allow you to get dressed easily (and still allows you to see, always handy to prevent claustrophobia attacks). If you're not too drunk when you get home, remember to do it when you get undressed, too. It works like magic.

I have a black sleeveless dress. Sometimes my bra (black) strap peeks out from under my dress. I think it looks quite sweet but my friend recently told me it looks tarty. What do you think?

Esther Connell-Turner, Taunton.

I agree with you - a bit of bra strap showing can look good, after all it is nothing to be ashamed of. In places like Spain and Italy women frequently have bra straps showing. Far better to be confident with a bit of peek- a-boo strap than to be constantly fiddling to tuck it in. Anyway, what sort of friend tells you that you look tarty with so little provocation? I'll bet she has washer-woman's upper arms and so never dares to show hers. Next time your friend comments on your bra straps mention that you have some sheets that need washing.

What are the correct colour socks to wear with a navy suit and should I wear navy shoes to go with it? And what about those thin, almost transparent socks?

Stefano Beluovo, Edinburgh.

Never wear navy shoes with a navy suit. Black shoes should be worn. As for socks, wear navy, a slightly darker shade than your suit. This way the colour gradually gets darker from suit to shoe. Be sure to match the colours; the socks should be a really dark navy. Otherwise, go for black socks. As for those hideous vom-inducing thin socks you talk about, No. They may be all right for Julio Iglesias but they smack of "international playboy lifestyle". Like men with red cars, women have been taught from birth to avoid men with transparent socks. Some fine-woven socks are best - understated and elegant. I am not a big fan of ribbed socks, but there is nothing really wrong with them.

Recently, when my clothes have come out of the washing machine they have had pinky red marks on them, usually under the arms. I am almost positive they don't have them when they go in and this happens even with an all-white wash. I'm baffled, why is it happening?

Mary Arndt, Tyne & Wear.

I am baffled too. You haven't dyed your underarm hair red by any chance? No, I'm sure not. Have you been wearing pinky red underwear that might react with sweat to stain your clothes? Or a similar coloured cardigan you wear over the top of these clothes? My only other thought is you have recently washed something pinky red in your machine and it has run and left a deposit around the rubber seal of the door (where water gathers). Have a look and if necessary mop out excess water and gunk with kitchen towel. You don't need to (in fact, absolutely do not) dismantle the door seal in any way, it should be quite obvious.

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. Annie regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence

FANTASY SHOPPING . . .

How to look chic when it's cold and you want to read the Sunday papers without getting dressed? If, like me, you have unsuccessfully experimented with walking around with a woollen blanket worn like a toga then you need this dressing gown. Rather more expensive than a woollen blanket, of course, but much easier to go to the toilet in. Once you've bought this, you'll also need to buy a house in the country with a leather armchair by an open fire. Margaret Howell makes lovely clothes: classic, classy and not always as expensive as this. She is one of those designers that never hogs the headlines but makes the stuff we want. AB

Margaret Howell cashmere dressing gown, pounds 895, in oatmeal and charcoal grey, comes in one size only. Available at her shops, 29 Beauchamp Place, SW1; 7 Paved Court, Richmond; 24 Brook Street, W1, tel: 0171 627 5587

. . . BACK TO REALITY

Although these shoes may be reminiscent of the sort of footwear favoured by Her Majesty the Queen, her mum, or her sister, they are in fact deeply trendy. Anyone who is anyone on the fashion barometer has, or wants, a pair. They've just arrived in the shops and are likely to sell out almost immediately. What glory then that Ravel is offering this splendid foot furniture for only pounds 46.99 and double glory that it has agreed to give Independent on Sunday readers a 10 per cent discount. All you need to do is take this column to any of Ravel's 60 branches between now and Saturday 2 December, or send it with your mail order request (same dates apply). AB

Ravel mock croc court shoes pounds 46.99, sizes 3-8, are available in patent brown, black and grey, as shown. Ravel 184/88 Oxford Street, London W1 and branches nationwide. For details of a branch near you and mail order call 0171 631 0224

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