Dear annie

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Could you please help me to locate, either by mail order or stockist, a wool coat, size 26 in either a taupe or creamy camel or similar range. My problem is that I am quite tall and the coat needs to be 52in long, full and swingy. In addition, I don't want to pay the earth and am looking for something in the pounds 200-pounds 300 price range, lower if possible. Waiting in desperation.

Gloria Wagg, Louth, Lincolnshire

LONG Tall Sally do one that is perfect in every respect, except that it stops at a size 20. The nearest I have found - but it is by no means ideal - is by Taillissime (0500 777 777), which is a subsidiary catalogue of La Redoute. They offer almost made to measure fashion, in a wide range of sizes - up to size 30 - and lengths. The coat in question is only 49in long, bit short of the mark I know. And it is not particularly swingy. Why, you may ask, am I telling you about it? Because it is the closest I found: it's wool/cashmere, double-breasted and has a tie belt (which you don't need to use) in a rather nice toffee colour, pounds 160. Others I tried had either done something in the size but not the length, or vice versa, or the style was completely wrong. The other pain in the butt thing is that a great many places no longer stock coats, having made way for spring stuff. My other idea is to get one made. Send a large SAE marked "dressmakers" and I shall send you a list of such. If you haven't already, our 16 plus directory might also be useful, so send another big SAE marked "16+" in for that. I am getting into bit of a pickle with all these directories, but I'm sure it will all work out OK.

From time to time my husband visits the USA on business and occasionally manages to do some shopping on my behalf. He has made several excellent purchases for me and has impeccable taste. However, the difference in UK and USA sizes remains something of a mystery to us both. On his most recent visit he bought me a stunning pair of Ralph Lauren black PVC trousers which the shop assistant assured him were the equivalent of a UK size 10. They are, however, nothing short of a size 14. As I am unlikely to be visiting Bloomingdales in the foreseeable future do you know of any way they can be exchanged for a size that fits? Can you also advise me on whether their subtle holographic effect design makes them more exclusive than ordinary PVC, or just makes them rather tacky, in which case, how can I get a refund?

Sarah, Bunbury, Cheshire

The holographic effect question first: yes it does make them more exclusive than ordinary PVC, and anyway, they are Ralph Lauren for goodness sake, so they will be well swanky. What a marvellous husband you have, he sounds like a treasure and a half. I rang Ralph Lauren for you and they said that there is no European stockist for these trousers. (So how exclusive can you get? Possibly no one else in the whole of Europe has them!) The only thing they can suggest is ringing Bloomingdales (001 212 705 2000), asking for the relevant department, then getting a contact name from them and sending the trousers (you will need the receipt, without this you can do nothing) back to them, quoting the contact name, for exchange. But they were from the Fall (as they call it) 96 collection, so be warned that there might not be any left. As for sizing, Ralph Lauren advise that a US 8 is a UK 10, a US 10 is a UK 12 etc.

Big shoe directory! Do you think I have forgotten or that it was all a big scam to collect lots of stamps? Fear not, I just haven't got it out yet, more info keeps coming in and I want to make it as comprehensive as possible (although don't expect something the size of the Yellow Pages). I'm pulling my socks up and going as fast as I can. Thank you.

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