dear annie

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I'm looking for men's reasonably priced pyjamas with cord-tie waist - not elastic. I've found one place in Chiswick but at pounds 50 each I can't afford to buy them for my dad. They also only have two fabrics. This will be too late for Christmas, but I would very much appreciate some help.

Name withheld, Hove, East Sussex

I withheld your name lest your father sees it and guesses what he's getting. It's not too late, I have snuck your letter to the front, because I feel kind today. John Lewis (0171 629 7711) do 100 per cent cotton ones in striped green, blue or burgundy for pounds 37 (sizes M,L,XL); in brushed cotton in green/blue checks or red/navy checks for pounds 33 (M,L,XL); or plain cotton in light blue, navy or beige, pounds 25 (M,L,XL). The mail order catalogue Boden (0181 453 1535) do a classic style with breast pocket in sky blue piped with white or white piped with navy, 100 per cent cotton, pounds 45, sizes S,M,L,XL. P&P is pounds 4 and for an extra pounds 2 they offer a gift wrapping service. For anyone else with a bit more to spend, Higginbotham (mail order, 01379 668833) do some splendid pure cotton ones for pounds 56 in four different striped colourways: red/white; blue on white; green/red on white or white on blue. Sizes M,L,XL (they are very generously sized).

I really like to wear scarves tied around my head but never seem to be able to either make them stay in place or look very professional. Are there any books with instructions? I rather like the things Winnie Mandela wears on her head.

J Leggott, London W12

PS: Have I missed the dressmaker directory?

PPS: Are all the letters genuine? Sometimes they sound like adverts.

To answer your ps-es first. No you haven't missed the dressmaker directory; we shall be running a feature in the new year and the directory will be advertised then. Don't write in for one now! I cannot move for SAEs. And yes, all the letters in my column are genuine. Wouldn't my job be easy if they weren't. I spend hideous amounts of time researching the answers (each one takes about 7 hours) and at this very moment I have something like 80 letters waiting to be answered. Of course, not all of them will be. The thing is, if I recommend something, it will sound like an ad, but let me tell you that nobody pushes my pen. Okay? Hermes produce a scarf-tying brochure which is available upon request from Hermes stores (179 Sloane St, London SW1, 0171 823 1014 and 155 New Bond Street, W1, 0171 499 8856) but, and this is important, it is currently out of stock and will be available sometime in the Spring. However, I have passed your request onto the Hermes' head office who will forward a brochure on to you now as a special favour to me. From what I can tell of how Winnie ties her scarf, it is folded diagonally across with the long flat end placed on her forehead (ie pointy bit at the back of the head) and then the long bits are tied round the head. But I am most probably completely wrong. Smooth scarves tend to slip more than crepey or cotton ones. But the Hermes guide has lots of different styles with clear instructions so I hope this will help you.

My delight at the renaissance of the gents' 3-button jacket has speedily turned to irritation and angst ... I stayed faithful to the style even when it languished in the doldrums but always understood that the middle button only was to be fastened. Now every trendy presenter on the telly is going for the full house of all three. I'm convinced that this is vulgarism on a grand scale - the very faux-est of faux pas. Your thoughts?

Tom Gallagher, London SE7

I called Carlo Brandelli of super-stylish menswear label Squire, who is a bit of a know-all in the "correct" way of men's dressing and he said, "It is correct to have the middle button fastened at all times, you can have the top and middle one buttons fastened if you are feeling sporty, and have the jacket completely unbuttoned if you are wearing a waistcoat. Under no circumstances should you have all three buttons fastened as far as style is concerned. What do TV presenters know anyway." Thank you Carlo, give my love to your mum.

I am staying with my cousin in Antigua over Christmas and intend to lie on beaches, swim in the sea and find the man of my dreams. The problem is I don't have a swimming costume. I am 20 years old, skinny, about 5ft 5in, with a fairly non-existent bust. Swimsuits make me look like an ironing board and I wouldn't feel comfortable or confident in a bikini. I think I saw the solution in French Connection over the summer - a sort of vest and knickers set, in swimsuit material. It was ideal because it I wouldn't have to bare all or feel like my granny. Stupidly I didn't buy it and of course they are no longer in the shops. Do you know where I could find something similar? Please help. I am already panicking at the thought of swimming in shorts and a T-shirt.

Emma Brown, London

This column is rather London-heavy today. Sorry, it was not intentional, just how they come out of the hat. I tried French Connection for you just in case, but their swimwear is seasonal only. But Racing Green (mail order 0345 331177) do just what you are looking for: a fab bikini vest with shoe string straps (pounds 15 code AW019) and matching shorts (pounds 15 code AW043) or high legged pants (pounds 12.50 code AW031). Each piece is sold separately in lipstick (a bright corally pink), violet or navy in sizes 8-18. It is made of 45 per cent cotton, 45 per cent polyester and 10 per cent lycra and if you order before the 19th they guarantee delivery by Christmas Day. I hope this is in time for you, I didn't know exactly when you were going away and you didn't include a phone number (always useful in times such as these!). Have a good holiday and I hope you do find the man of your dreams. Young man!

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