FASHION: DEAR ANNIE...

I have just spent several hours traipsing up and down Oxford Street in London in search of a T-shirt body but no one seems to do them anymore - not even Marks & Sparks! Is it because it's summer, or am I horribly passe? The only bodies I found were in lingerie departments and they looked too much like lingerie and had all sorts of girlie properties, which are useless to me as I'm pregnant. Can you help?

Kate, Stoke Newington, London

PS: In case your pregnant readers have not yet discovered them, can I recommend Mothercare's High Leg maternity knickers, three for a tenner. They are cut to sit under your bump. They are fantastically comfortable and don't make you feel like you've got your mother's pants on!

Thanks for that and of course you're not horribly passe, it's just that retailers have been too busy giving us floral shirts and sling-bags to concentrate on the basics. Levante does a vest-top body called Envy which costs pounds 25 and comes in either black or white, up to a size 16, available from John Lewis (tel: 0171 629 7711 ). It is made of polyamide (the European name for nylon) and elastane. It also does a a seam-free short-sleeve T-shirt style, called Allure, which costs pounds 29.75 and is made of 94 per cent cotton and 6 per cent elastane. Companies like Wolford and Christian Dior do bodies all the time (you'll find them in the hosiery section of major department stores) and they are lovely, but what I consider to be way too expensive - around the pounds 80 and upwards mark. Falke has just launched a T-shirt body that looks like a T-shirt (there's a false hem) - it's available in black, cream and grey, sizes S,M,L, for pounds 59, from Fenwicks (tel: 0171 629 9161).

Can you help with hatboxes? My daughter is about to move to the US to work and needs a strong hatbox in which to transport her large-brimmed hats.

Caroline, Reigate, Surrey

For your daughter to buy a really strong hatbox that can survive the luggage handlers, she will need to spend quite a bit per box. I don't recommend this unless she plans to travel the world frequently with her hats. Far better for her to put all of them in one hard-sided suitcase, and pad them out with tissue paper. At least she can then use the suitcase for other things as well. It will also be easier to carry than lots of boxes. This is how the milliners I know carry their hats to and from appointments. Hatboxes, lovely though they are, seldom really appear outside of Forties' movies. But while I'm on the subject, anyone looking for flimsier hatboxes, for say storage, can get them from the award-winning hat boy, Philip Treacy. Made from cardboard, they cost pounds 10 and pounds 15 (tel: 0171 259 9605). Harrod's also does some (tel: 0171 730 1234) for about the tenner mark - in fact you can find them in lots of department stores, usually near the haberdashery.

My five-year-old daughter seems to be allergic to the elastic used in underwear and swimming costumes. After wearing them for a short time (less than half an hour), she develops angry red marks where the elastic touches her. Until now we have managed by using traditional PE knickers (which have cotton binding around the leg holes) as underwear and for trips to the pool and beach. Occasionally we have tried a swimming costume again to see if the allergy has faded, but are always disappointed. This summer we had to abandon a particularly snazzy pink one with rainbow-coloured polka dots. My daughter is due to start swimming lessons soon and would be thrilled if she could have a "proper" swimming costume like all her friends. Please can you help?

Michelle Olivier, Manchester

I must apologise for having taken so long to reply to your heart-rending letter. You must have thought me so uninterested in dealing with what is a real problem for your little girl. But the real reason is more prosaic, one of my children (and of course each is blaming the other or maybe it was all of them) took a whole sheaf of letters and stuffed them down the back of the sofa and because I don't clean behind there every week, I have only just discovered them. (Of course I realise this is a protest of some sort on their part, but I think a diet of spaghetti hoops for a couple of weeks will sort that out.) There is no clear-cut answer to your problem, which is becoming increasingly widespread as we all pollute ourselves into oblivion. First, you should ring the British Allergy Foundation (tel: 0181 303 8525). It will put you in touch with some people from the latex support group (I have some numbers but can't print them as they belong to individuals). Also, have you heard of Greenfibres (tel: 018103 868001)? It makes organic cotton knickers that do contain elastic but no elastic actually touches the skin. Greenfibres is also very helpful and used to dealing with people with allergies so it is well worth getting in touch with them. Also try The Natural Collection (tel: 01225 442288) which makes all sorts of organic clothes, although I must say that "natural" is not necessarily less allergy-inducing as some poor folk are allergic to even the most planet-friendly cloth. One thing you have probably already tried but I'll mention it nonetheless. If you look for knickers that are more old-fashioned in their styling, without stitched-in elastic, you can remove the elastic quite easily and thread through a cotton drawstring for your daughter to tie (probably better when she's a little older!) Finally, the splendiferous Maureen Smyth of the swimwear made-to-order company Splash Out (tel: 01903 230861) says she may be able to help by making your little girl something to swim in that doesn't involve elastic, so give her a ring.

By the way, N Turner who wrote in on a little card illustrated with an elephant, requesting a dressmaker's directory. Thank you for the stamps but you did not include your address. Please write in again and I'll get one in the post to you.

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