dear annie

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I HAVE great difficulty in getting a bra to fit. I am a 32E, the rest of me is a size 10. All my bras are white pieces of scaffolding! I'm only 25 and would like to look in a mirror and not turn away in horror - let alone what hubby thinks! Am I doomed?

Sandra Maguire, Gosport, Hampshire

NO, OF course you are not doomed. Luckily bra manufacturers are getting better. First: Markles & Sparkles now do a Glamour Extra range, their style T81/2578 gardenia lace bra comes in your size (plus 32F-40E/F) which comes in black and costs pounds 18. If your nearest branch doesn't stock it, they can order it for you if you quote the style number. Bust Stop (0181 943 9733), do heaps of lovely bras (and swimwear) - call for a catalogue. Ditto Bravissimo, another excellent mail order firm on 0181 742 8882. Triumph have done a very pretty black lacy one called Amourette, pounds 22.50 (enq: 01793 720330). Warners do three different ranges that go up to your size, encompassing such pretty colours as ink blue, yellow, cappuccino as well as black, prices start at pounds 20, stockist info: 01159 795796. Your nearest John Lewis Partnership store also stocks several styles by Warners, Gossard, Ballet and Charnos - all very reasonably priced. Get shopping and you'll soon be prancing around looking in mirrors, with a misty-eyed husband not far behind.

WE HAVE recently moved from a cosy London terrace to a draughty, cold heap and I am desperate to find a really WARM dressing gown. I don't want one of those horrid cheap fluffy ones that go bobbly straight away, or anything quilted like my Grandma had. I would like wool or wool mix if possible, ideally with a button up neck rather than wrap-over and neat sleeves rather than huge turn-ups as these get in the way. I could pay up to about pounds 120 or so. Maybe a dressmaker could make me one?

Sarah Hollis, Sunningdale, Berks

YOU'LL get exactly what you want if you get a dressmaker to make one for you, send me a large SAE marked "dressmakers" with about 60p worth of stamps and I'll send you a copy of our dressmakers directory - I haven't divided it up into regions yet, but it's still jolly useful. My thoughts are that a button-up one will invariably look mumsy; wrap-around is far nicer. You can stop it flapping open by sewing a length of fabric tape into the inside and another one at the edge of the side that you tuck in, so you can tie them together - am I making myself clear? What about fleece? It's very warm and snuggly and not nasty and bobbly. Victoria's Secret, an American mail order company, has an Alpine Fleece Robe for $49 (page 39), sizes XS-SL - it will be converted into sterling for you when you pay, which is very simple and the sleeves are fairly neat. It comes in ten colours - call (USA) 001 614 337 5122 for a catalogue. However, perhaps the best thing for you is an idea sent to me by Janey Bruce in Devon: she bought a beautiful winterweight kimono from Asahi (0181 960 7299, 110 Golbourne Road, W10) and wrote to tell me how happy she was with it. Asahi do fabulous vintage ones, in silk or cotton (silk is very warm remember) from the 1920s-1960s - from under pounds 20 to pounds 70, cheap and you will have something totally original. They can also do mail order if you describe what you want, and if you don't like it, you can return it. Fabulous.

MY PARTNER and I are street flower sellers in Manchester City Centre. We have been saving for the past six months for new wardrobes. Our budget is limited to around pounds 1,000. We shall be in London in early February and wish to know where we can buy quality second-hand 1930s-50s suits, or second-hand designer clothes, unusual and exotic accessories, especially cravats, cuff links, shirts and shoes? Alternatively, we know a good tailor in Manchester; are there drapers' shops with an exciting and unusual range of suit cloth?

Gerard McDermott and Bennett Mott, Manchester

WHEN I'm next in Manchester I shall call on you and pick up some flowers which I hope you will give me a jolly big discount on. Shops to visit for all your requirements: Steinberg & Tolkein, 193 Kings Road, SW3, tel: 0171 376 3660; Cenci, 31 Monmouth Street, WC2, tel: 0171 836 1400; then try Blackout II, 51 Endell Street, WC2, tel: 0171 240 5006; 66 Fulham High Street, at that address, SW6, tel: 0171 736 5446; High Society, 46 Cross Street, N1, tel: 0171 226 6863; Crazy Clothes Connection, 134 Lancaster Road, W11, tel: 0171 221 3989; then Merchant of Europe, 232 Portobello Road, W11, tel: 0171 221 4203; lastly, Bertie Wooster, 284 Fulham Road, SW6, tel: 0171 352 5662. As for fabric shops: try Berwick Street, W1 as they have a few good shops; Harrods, Selfridges and Liberty. There are other fabric shops around Oxford Street (one is on Duke Street just by Selfridges but on the other side of the road) so keep a look out if you go round there.

I AM DESPERATELY trying to find a bikini for my holiday in March. I wear a size 16, but having a 32F bust and 38in hips this does nothing for my figure. I've found bikinis in bra sizes but the bottoms that go with a 32F top are far too small. The few styles that I've found where tops and bottoms are sold separately have been in sizes 10/12/14 etc, but I really need a top that's the correct size.

Jane, Greater Manchester

WHAT'S going on this week with all you Mancunians. Bad news, I'm afraid - no one does mix and match swimwear that also comes in cup sizes. The only useful thing I can suggest is ringing Bust Stop (number above) who will advise you what size to get so that you get the best possible fit. John Lewis, Markles and Sparkles and Knickerbox, to name a few, do mix and match but it is, as you say, in standard sizes like 10/12/14. This is because the swimwear manufacturers say that there are a million permutations and that it is just not financially viable, although there is talk of introducing a second pair of briefs to be sold with bikinis, although this is someway off yet. Alternatively, Rigby and Peller can alter any bikini you buy from them for you, at additional cost, but they are in London (tel: 0171 589 9293).

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