I am a 28-year-old college lecturer and would like to change my dress style on a budget, but still need to look "smart". My shoulder-length blonde hair looks good if worn "up" and I also wear dark suits with pinstripe and mid-length skirts. Will they look OK if I change from low to high- heeled courts and from sheer "tan" tights to seamed stockings? If so, what shade? And do you have any tips on how to get really straight seams that stay that way all day?

Vanessa Markwell-Symonds, Suffolk

I am not sure why you would want to wear seamed stockings for work. I have nothing against them, being a bit partial to "serious" underwear myself, but do you really want to be worrying about whether your seams are straight when you're at work? And, although I hate to admit this, seamed stockings do brand you as a particular sort of girl; grossly unfair, but such is life. Anyway, the only suggestion I have for keeping the seams straight is to wear a really good suspender belt, by which I mean one which has substantial fabric to it and not just a one-inch strip. When you put the belt and stockings on, try walking around and bending down a few times and then check that the seams are still straight, as sometimes what seems straight when you first put them on doesn't stay that way when you move. Longer-length skirts, such as those you mention, will look good with seamed stockings and you could try wearing chunky heeled courts or lace-up Louis-heeled shoes, which will look smart, and quite Forties. I would avoid "normal" courts at all costs, these are boring and naff and do nothing for a chick of 28. If you continue to wear nude tights then you can wear any sort of shoe really. Square-toed "Queen Mum" shoes are really in, so you might want to try those (Ravel do some great ones). As it gets warmer you might also like to try dresses with a mid-tone jacket over the top, and nude tights with sling-backs. If you want more particular advice about what garments to buy, write back telling me what size you are, what sort of things you are looking for, and give me an idea of your budget.

Although leggings and longish winter-weight tops are thoroughly established, I have not been able to find anyone who has produced an under-garment to act as a lining to prevent these tops from hitching up and "catching" on the bum. What I need is a micro-slip with adjustable shoulder straps. As it is I am driven to try to convert a non-cling waist slip into a shift.

Cynthia Reavell, East Sussex

Oh dear Cynth, we can't have you walking round with a waist slip pulled up a la boob-tube. What you need is Marks & Spencer's cling-resist lingerie, something I have mentioned before but which is obviously worth mentioning again. The secret behind this collection is a unique yarn called Setila, which is knitted into a fabric and is exclusive to Marks and Sparks. Believe it or not, "normal" slips are not necessarily cling-resistant but in tests these new ones performed well. They do a full-length slip, a camisole and three waist slips. What I suggest you do is try the camis, maybe buying a bigger size than usual so that the length suits you, or buy the slip and chop it to suit. They don't feature adjustable shoulder straps I'm sorry to say, but I feel confident that one of the two aforementioned solutions will stop your tops catching your bottom. Colours are black, white and cream, sizes 8-10 to 20-22 and prices are: pounds 5 for the waist slip, pounds 13 for the full-length slip, and pounds 8 for the camisole, from your local branch of M&S.

I would very much like to buy a pair of low heeled, black pumps - not flat, but not high-heeled either. Do you know anywhere which sells a simple, unadorned shoe of this kind?

Mary Evans, Kent

Just for you, I spent this lunch time going round the shops. I hope I have found a pair that you'll like. They cost pounds 45, have a heel of about an inch, and are by Cable & Co. They are black and patent, which I think is nice because they look smart, simple, but effective. They also do the same pair in cream with a black toe cap, which is lovely for spring. Both have a softly rounded square toe which is a) very comfortable and b) very trendy (although who cares about the second part, eh?). The cream and black pair also comes in a slightly more pointed toe version which costs the same, and sizes are 3-8. Call 0116 280 5146 for your nearest stockist.

I'd like to buy a couple of blouses in definite colours such as jade, coral, aqua or lemon. I'm sick of the wishy-washy pinks and blues, and of boring black, beige and navy which seem to fill the shops at present. I don't mind polyester and I have a budget of pounds 40 per blouse.

Margaret Kerrigan, Retford

I know you mentioned that you were coming to London in March and I am sorry that I was not able to reply in time. I know what you mean about wishy-washy colours. I don't know how old you are, but what you tend to find is that in more "grown up" shops they seem to think that women are frightened of bright colours. You need to head for places such as Oasis, which does great shirts: satin polyester with two breast pockets (pounds 34.99; in orange, green or red); jersey fitted (pounds 26.99 in orange or green); jersey with two pockets (pounds 26.99 in green or orange), all in sizes 8-14 and from Oasis branches. Marks & Spencer do a polyester shantung (this is like a raw silk finish) turquoise blouse for pounds 25; a short-sleeved cropped jersey blouse in lime, pounds 25; and a linen shirt, pounds 30 in lime. Fenn Wright & Manson (stocked by Jane & Dada in St Christopher's Place, London W1 and branches of Fenwicks) do some wonderful coloured shirts that don't come in your price bracket but are worth checking out.

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