dear annie

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I would like to find a reasonably priced outlet for a shalwar kameez. I have decided that this is exactly the kind of outfit which would suit me best. They look comfortable and practical, cover all the troublesome parts no matter what the shape of the woman inside, and manage to look elegant into the bargain. I would like to be able to purchase a few such garments for everyday wear and perhaps one for evenings. In fact, if I could find a pattern for one, I could even make some up in warmer fabrics to accommodate our cooler winters. Thank you for any guidance you can give me in this matter.

Mary Brydon-Miller, West Sussex

PS: I want you to know that I had already formulated this idea before the Princess of Wales was photographed in one and I rather feel she has stolen my thunder.

Shalwar kameezes (long tunics over trousers with a shawl) are wonderfully stylish. I don't know where you could get a pattern for one, but there is a designer called Ritu Kumar who has just opened her first shop in London (16 North Audley Street, London W1, tel: 0171 491 4600). I know this isn't in West Sussex but she does do mail order. My trendy colleague Mel on the fashion desk calls her "the Calvin Klein of India". She has shalwar kameezes starting from pounds 130-pounds 170 for something in simple cotton with some embroidery; pounds 160-pounds 280 for fine cotton with embroidery; pounds 150- pounds 200 for tassar silk with embroidery; pounds 200-pounds 500 for crepe de chine with embroidery and pounds 400-pounds 2,000 for something really spectacular (like the shalwar kameezes a mother would hand down to her daughter). It's an absolutely beautiful idea of yours - and a very good choice. Of course everyone will be wearing them soon.

I like wearing fairly see-through blouses and am careful to wear ''matching'' bras, ie black for black, cream for cream. Most of these shirts have shoulder pads which you can see. Someone at work said this was highly tacky. Is it?

Wanda, Shropshire

I'd say. Although I am mellowing in my old age and think people should essentially wear what they wish to, I can't help thinking that a see-through blouse is the woman's equivalent of a red sports car. And why were you wearing such a thing at work? Anyway, you have asked me one thing and I must stick to the point. Shoulder pads are suspect things at the best of times (although some people who know far more about fashion than I say they're making a comeback) so visible shoulder pads become very suspect things indeed. If you must wear blouses that show your bra, please take the shoulder pads out. If necessary, wear them as blinkers.

What colour tights should I wear with a longish denim skirt? I normally wear black or brown shoes (which I know you don't like) and an assortment of coloured tops. Please advise on the brown shoes in particular.

B.Wilson, Cheltenham

A denim skirt of the length you describe would look best with bare legs and some sort of thongy sandal, plimsolls or casual brown shoes in the summer, and boots in the winter. Otherwise, to fit in more with the shoes you have, I'd wear it with black tights and flat black shoes or (this is my second choice) natural tights and flat brown shoes. I don't like smart brown men's shoes, but casual brown shoes with bare legs is a nice look if the rest of the outfit goes with it. It does depend on the style of shoe. Just remember that anything in denim is a casual garment, so don't dress it up too much.

More kind readers come to the aid of Mrs Crocker (Dear Annie 30 June) and her clingy dress. I think that's enough now, thank you.

I had a loose silk top from M&S which began to cling desperately after it had been washed. When I took it back, M&S recommended washing without fabric conditioner. Since then it has been OK. Maybe if your lady tries washing her dress without fabric conditioner it will help.

Gill Kotschy, Cambridgeshire

Thank you Mrs Kotschy. And how did your daughter's graduation dress go? (Dear Annie, 9 June) ... But another Gill, recommends doing the opposite ...

Nothing to lose by washing it again and then rinsing it in a strongish fabric softener solution. This really does seem to cure static. She could, if the dress is not in need of another wash, simply rinse it in the softener solution. Don't tumble dry, but allow it to hand dry. Or she could perhaps remove the offending lining carefully and replace it will a non-static lining, or she could remove the lining and wear the dress with a slip, dyed if necessary.

Gill Lewis, Tilford, Surrey

If her problem is caused by static I would suggest she uses Go-Stat anti-static spray which prevents materials from sticking to one another. The product is distributed by Coats Leisure Crafts Group and I purchased my can from John Lewis for pounds 2.10.

Michelle Metz, Royston, Hertfordshire

And Alison from London (Dear Annie, 7 July) might find her search for a ''suede stone'' has ended. Mavis Griffiths from Gwent says that Dasco makes a Suede and Nubuck Cleaning Block. I rang Dasco, which said it still makes the product, and it costs pounds 2.99 from branches of Ravel and Selfridges and lots of other places (tel: 08450 760760 for further details).

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