About six or seven years ago, a dear friend made me buy a straw hat, which quickly became indispensable. It is made of very fine and flexible woven straw. It goes with everything I own and never blows off. Unfortunately it is really looking its age and in need of cleaning. Is there a remedy for this? Please help.

Catherine Rose, Olney, Bucks

Apologies for taking so long to reply to this (hardly the weather for straw hats any more, but thinking about summer might cheer us all up). I spoke to a friendly milliner, Lucy Barlow (14 Portobello Green Arcade, 281 Portobello Road, W10, tel: 0181 968 5333) who doesn't clean hats as such but suggested the following: pad the hat so that it isn't flat and is supported - you can use clean cotton "rags" or tissue for this. Then get another cotton rag and rub some soap on it, but you must make sure that the soap doesn't have bleach in it, otherwise the straw will go yellow (always do a patch test first, as the saying goes) and then gently go over the hat to clean it. Then, with the hat still padded out, put a clean piece of cotton over it and iron the hat. To do this it is really important that the hat is supported and not flat so, leaving the stuffing in, put one hand in the hat and use the other to press the iron (with the cotton in between hat and iron). Because you have this fabric to protect your hat (and your hands) the iron can be used quite hot. This will steam your hat back into shape. It is also really important that you don't get the hat too wet, otherwise you will ruin it. Then I also spoke to John Boyd's, a very traditional milliner's with over 50 years experience. They clean hats, so if you're ever in London you could pop in and see them. It's difficult for either of them to say what is possible or how much it would cost until they see the hat, but prices for cleaning start at pounds 15. You may decide the cost isn't worth it and instead want to buy a new one. But you obviously really like this hat so it may be worth spending more on revamping it than you spent on buying it in the first place.

I recently lost loads of weight - don't hate me, I just did (boyfriend problems, you know). My hipster jeans are now far from snug, in fact there is rather a lot of space in them. I have a hipster belt, but somehow they don't look quite right. Do you think I could still wear them?

Trudie Fenton, Bedford

Oooooh Trudie, you poor little chicken, I don't hate you. Now then, hipsters that are not snug. Well, a hipster belt is fine, but if they are really too big then the belt will have the effect of making your should-be-tight-troos into those baggies that soul girls wore in the early Eighties. And if you don't wear the belt then I guess your jeans will be in danger of slipping to reveal your pudendum, which is never desirable at this time of year. I'd leave the hipsters for the time being and concentrate on quaffing lots of those brandy cream things that have just started appearing in Markles & Sparkles in time for Christmas.

I'm going to a winter wedding, the reception of which will be held in a marquee in the garden. It should be quite warm inside but you never know with these things. Last time I went to similar function I ended up freezing and miserable. This time, I'm determined to be prepared. I'm wearing a full-length black crepe evening gown, so am rather at a loss as to what to put with it. I'd like something glamorous, but that will still keep me warm. The only thing I have is a black fake fur jacket and at the moment, I'm so desperate I just feel like turning up with that on - at least I'd be warm and happy. Up to about pounds 100 is what I'd like to spend.

Georgina Blackman, Cornwall

No, no, no. A fake fur jacket will definitely keep you warmer, but you will get some funny looks and it will kill what sounds like a fabulous dress. It is difficult, trying to bridge the gap between flouncing round looking gorgeous and yet not getting so cold that people start hanging their coats on your nipples. What you need is a stole and I have just the thing for you. It's from the Kingshill catalogue (01494 89055), by Jenny Packham, it costs pounds 125 so is a bit more than you wanted to spend, but I think you'll find it's worth it. The order number is J18067 and it is wonderfully soft and big so that you can wrap it round you or leave it to drape in the crook of your arm. Or indeed, wave it in gay abandon about your head when the dancing really gets going.

Bigger than average men, this is for you!

This perfectly delightful sounding man called Andreas faxed me his reply to Alexandra from St Albans's problem, published last week - the one about her larger-than-you-usually-find uncle. His advice will be most useful to Londoners, or to any fashionable male tallies who are willing to travel to the capital: "Maybe I can help. I'm 6ft 7in myself and like fashionable clothes so I've found quite a lot of shops that deal in larger sizes: Paul Smith (London and Nottingham), where XL means XL, trousers go up to 38in and legs are positively generous. Too expensive? Buy in the sale. Shirts are normally reduced to about pounds 30 in the last weeks because us tallies are still in the minority. William Hunt on Neal St (London WC2): fabulous stuff, from suits to shirts, really unusual but wearable. The best thing is that if it doesn't fit, they make it for you at no extra cost. They manufacture in London, so it only takes them a week or so. Brilliantly friendly staff. Byrne on Floral Street, WC2: their designer is 6ft 6in himself so clothes are generous. Best bargains are the samples after fashion shows. Some of my favourite stuff is from there. Anything from Destroy, John Richmond's label. Hope & Glory in the Thomas Neal Mall (Neal St, WC2): fab, comfy, great sweaters and jeans. The Sale shop on Wardour Street: loads of samples, worth popping into, just bought a lot of massive Kenzo shirts at pounds 30 a throw. Yes. Finally, The Sale Shop on Shorts Street WC2."

So, any shops mentioned should give this man a discount. His name is Andreas Duess, so look for it on his cheque book next time he's in! Thank you, Andreas, and I shall send you a big shoe directory when it's ready (yes, yes everybody, I know I'm taking a long time).

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