dear annie

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I am 60 and love swimming, which I do three times a week. I have found it impossible to replace my now clapped-out swimsuits. I am looking for the heavier weight, regulation-leg (not up to the waist), good bust support (not wires), preferably black or similar (ie not patterns). I can only find thin beach-wear with either soft foam cups or nothing at all. I need the heavier material because of the wear and tear of local swimming pools and chemicals. I can't get much beyond central Manchester, Stockport, and immediate outlying areas. Have you any ideas? Is there a mail order firm which caters for proper swimming suits? I am 5ft 71/2in, 38in bust, 29in waist, 38in hip and a size 16. I am also long-bodied.

Josephine, Stockport, Cheshire

Don't dismiss thin swimwear because no matter how thick the fabric, it will eventually succumb to chlorine's destructive qualities. I got through swimsuit after swimsuit and did find a thicker than usual one in the children's wear department once (which go up to remarkably big sizes, believe me; I have a big bosom and not disproportionate hips). But now I swim in a top of the range Speedo, ("serious" swimwear available from department stores) which, although incredibly thin has lasted me longer than any other.

DuPont, the manufacturers of Lycra, invented the first chlorine-resistant Lycra 25 years ago, so make sure you look for Lycra in your swimwear as this will go some way towards helping your swimsuit last. My swimsuit has no actual support as such and I don't think it is really necessary. You might insist you do want some sort of bosom support but the more serious swimsuits tend not to have any and by rejecting these you are eliminating a great many suitable suits.

Triumph swimwear is available by mail order from the JD Williams catalogue (tel: 01793 722200) and you may also like to try the "Plain Jane" swimsuit by Racing Green (0345 331177), which is very simple and not high-cut, costs pounds 19 and contains Lycra. John Lewis also does a classic-design swimsuit suitable for you and there is a branch near you in Cheadle, which I hope won't be too difficult for you to get to (tel: 0161 491 4914). Bust Stop (0181 943 9733 for a catalogue) also do a few styles of swimsuit by mail order which might be helpful, although they do have either wire support or your hated "soft cups".

Capri pants! You've mentioned them in one or two answers recently and they are one of the things that I crave. But whenever I've seen them advertised they've turned out to be short leggings - too clingy. I want something to replace my favourite summer slacks - non-stretchy cotton with a waistband and a side zip; they do need to be short, I have a 28in inside leg and am a size 14. My budget is the Next sort of price range, but I'm not one of the Nation's Great Shoppers.

Susan Herbert, Ilford, Essex

Non-stretch capri pants are indeed very difficult to find, this is because capri pants should be fairly fitted to look good and the stretch element helps them look good and feel comfortable. Just because they are stretch does not mean they have to be clingy. For this reason (and for others who don't mind the stretch bit) I have listed stretch as well as non-stretch capri pants in my line-up. Next (0345 100500) do a couple of capri pants, their "classic" stretch ones (3 per cent lycra, 97 per cent cotton) come in three lengths (26in, 28in or 31in inside leg) with a side zip and in sizes 8-18, colours: stone / black / red, pounds 29.99; and a blue check 100 per cent cotton non-stretchy pair in regular or long length for the same price. Principles (branches nationwide) also do a black / cream stretch pair in sizes 10-16, pounds 38, and black satin ones, pounds 40 in their Petites range that come in 6-14 (these are shorter, too, so should be perfect for you). Jigsaw (branches nationwide) also do some great ones, both flat-fronted and with a side zip but one is longer length so will not be quite right for you (for those interested, these cost pounds 44) and their basic stretch cotton drill ones, pounds 44 in black, grey, cream, rust and navy. I am sorry only a couple of pairs of non-stretch were found (obviously I cannot trawl every manufacturer so if anyone knows different no doubt you will write in to tell me) but I think it might be worth having a look at some of those listed.

I am 5ft 6in and a size 18-20. The 20 comes on top, as I am very busty. I am totally bored with most clothes in larger sizes, as they either seem to swathe you in layers of shaplessness or make you look like a hideous bossy person, working in a building society, with no taste. Skirts and trousers aren't too much of a problem, but I would love to find somewhere that sells nice tops and jackets that would celebrate my magnificence rather than try to look like a trainee nun. As I play football and swim, I am a nice curvy shape. My partner adores me, and has threatened to tie me down and force-feed me Haagen Dazs if I go on a diet, but is also very interested in funding some new clothes. We regularly travel quite a bit around the UK, so distance is no object. I already enjoy spending lots of money on hats, shoes, etc and I really love nice things. Any ideas?

Elizabeth, Plymouth

With all this talk of foreplay and ice cream, HD might well sign you up to star in their next commercial. You sound like a glorious woman; my husband wants your phone number. This bigger size business really makes me cross, I get so many letters like yours and I can tell it's a real problem not being able to find nice clothes. A reader from Bath wrote the most brilliant letter in July (thank you) which was full of good advice which I shall pass on, not all of it will be relevant to your problem but I am sure there are many others it will help: "There is one absolute gem of an undies shop worth a trip from miles, Perfect Fit, 50 Temple St, Keynsham (west of Bristol) tel: 0117 986 0950. Their bras go up to 44H and if, like me, you need a bit of tummy support even the all-in-ones go up to 42DD. There is also Margaret Ann (01985 840520) who works from home and can get lusciously enormous undies / swimwear direct from Germany and Scandinavia, where it is not a disgrace to be buxom. Two of my favourite shops for the tall, big and bold are Base, 55 Monmouth Street, London, WC2 (0171 240 8914) - they have really smart designs for large and tall business girls - and Ken Smith's Designs at 6 Charlotte Place (off Charlotte St, W1); they are always so welcoming in there." Some other reader recommendations: Magnum, in Hampshire (01489 891900), stocks size 16-26. Dynamic Designs (0191 296 5035) manufactures ladies jersey separates in sizes 16-30 which most probably isn't right for you but they also offer a more personalised service. Charles Gray the proprietor says: "We will make whatever the larger lady wants to wear and would be happy to assist any of your readers in any way we can." DD also make skirts, jeans and tops in high gloss PVC for anyone interested. And along the same lines Libido at 1 Parkway, London NW1, tel: 0171 209 2292 do a bespoke rubber and PVC service and they have some great tight fitting shirts that I think would look fantastic on you. Finally, on the subject of hats, have you seen Philip Treacy's sublime designs? They are breathtakingly expensive but if you're interested call for an appointment on 0171 259 9605. He also does a much cheaper line for Debenhams.

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