dear annie

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I have quite large calves and would like to wear knee- length boots this winter. Riding boots are completely out as I cannot get them over my calves. Does anyone do elastic-sided boots?

Rita Bulaver, Tadcaster

5A great many shops do knee-length boots with elasticated sides or in elastic fabric, as this problem is not uncommon. Depending on how shapely your calves are, however, you may still find that you suffer from "baggy ankle syndrome" - ie, the boots will be tight round the calf and like paper bags around your ankles. You may wish to consider having a pair made for you by Jimmy Choo; prices start at pounds 455, but they will be made to your exact specification. Telephone him on 0171-249 2082. Russell & Bromley: flat black with elastic panels up both sides (like a long jodhpur boot), pounds 195; high-heeled in suede with elastic panel down back, and the same with a flat heel, black only, pounds 155. R&B sizes generally go from 3- 8. Inquiries 0171-629 6903. Sacha (London only, no mail order) do various styles - two with elastic from ankle to knee which I think would be ideal for you if you ever come to London. Prices from pounds 59.99. Elastic down the sides, with or without a buckle at the front, both about pounds 80. All in black only, sizes 3-8, inquiries 0171-434 1467. Ravel: black leather with elastic gusset and 2in block heel, pounds 69.99; black elasticated suede with satin side and back gussets, pounds 74.99 in sizes 3-8, from branches nationwide, inquiries 0171-631 0224.

I'd like to buy my girlfriend an engagement ring, but haven't a huge amount of money (pounds 400). I don't want to buy her one of those tiny diamonds, but thought you could recommend something unusual to make up for my lack of money!

Tom de Victor, London

5Oh, you sweet man for not just going and buying some apple-pip diamond from Argos and giving it to her over a Harvester dinner. If you want a variation on a diamond, then Jacqueline Rabun has done some wonderful rock crystal silver rings that look incredible; prices start at pounds 350 (see Fantasy Shopping for more information on Jacqueline Rabun). Dinny Hall also does beautiful rings, in cubic zirconia, which are clean and contemporary.

Dinny Hall will work to commission and make a ring to your design. This will mean a pounds 100 design fee, but if it is just a slight variation on a design she has already done, then it is possible to have something quite unique for the amount you have to spend. A silver engagement ring with a Siberian amethyst for a young woman came in at pounds 350. Gold is expensive, so silver is worth considering (and nicer, I think). An engagement ring doesn't have to have a stone (and remember that a poor-quality stone will not last). Also worth a visit is Jess James, which stocks loads of great jewellery designers' work as well as its own designs.

I am sure one of these jewellers will be able to help you. Jacqueline Rabun is stocked by Liberty, Regent Street, W1, and Jess James, 3 Newburgh Street, W1; inquiries on 0171-221 9820. Dinny Hall is at 200 Westbourne Grove, W1, tel: 0171-792 3913. Jess James tel 0171-437 0199.

I'd like a pair of flat shoes to wear this winter - something that I could get a lot of wear out of and wear with a variety of outfits. I had a pair of Patrick Cox loafers last year. Do you think loafers again? Or maybe brogues?

Rachel Matthews, Nottingham

5Loafers are really versatile and comfortable and they have been incredibly "in" for the last couple of years. I'm sick to death of them, so my advice would be to go for a pair of brogues. Look out for our round-up of the best brogues on 1 October.

Is it okay to wear navy with black? And what about blue with green?

Veronica Walsh, Lewisham

5Yes, yes.

I followed your advice on how to wear a bra under a cut-out-arm dress (Dear Annie, 13 August) and it worked brilliantly. I have a different problem: I have a great black Tactel short-slip dress with shoe-string straps from Marks & Spencer, but I have to wear a bra (I'm a 36C). This means I can never wear it without something over the top. I think strapless bras look terrible on me - they give me a sausage-type chest, and I cannot afford to go to a fancy lingerie shop and have a bra made for me. How can I ever wear this dress and reveal my shoulders?

Desperate, Dulwich

Yeah, it's great having bosoms, but don't you wish you could get rid of them when you want to wear slip dresses with spaghetti straps? Don't you get sick of having to wear cute little T-shirts under the dress to hide the bra straps, or being forced to wear a cardy? This trick takes only a little time, but it works and can hopefully be used with a bra you already have. What you do is sew together the back straps of the dress for about an inch, so that they come together at about the middle of your shoulder blades. This will make the neckline a bit higher, but will not make any difference to the dress you have.

Then do the same to the bra. Lengthen the straps so that they're so long that the metal "buckle" bit is hidden by the dress at the back. Then sew it together at the back so that it matches up to the dress. You need a bra with simple flat straps (none of those fancy ruched numbers for this) and you can sew it and then slip it over your head (the same goes for the dress). It lifts your breasts up a treat and from the back it looks like you have on a multi- strapped dress. When you're done, you just unpick the stitches. As in my other bra trick, you can't undress in a hurry or when drunk. But who cares?

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