FASHION: DEAR ANNIE...

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Why is it so hard to find a decent range of running kit for women? Even specialist shops have a tiny range in very boring colours. You can get men's stuff but it's often too long in the leg and baggy in the wrong place/tight in others. In the US there are whole specialist shops just for female runners. Why are we so deprived?

Amanda, Woking

I'm not sure what you really mean by decent since I find it no problem getting running kit that I like and that is functional. In fact, one of the things I like best about running is that you can dress in quite plain (ergo stylish) stuff without having to have the labels and padding that some sports require. This isn't to mean that I think your problem is not valid, just that I am not sure how best to help you. I run, in almost any weather, in Marks & Spencer's (tel: 0171 935 4422) cropped sports leggings, proper sports bras by Berlei (tel: 01525 850088) and a capilene top by Patagonia (tel: 00 33 14 110 1818) but that will probably be too boring for your tastes. If you are a serious runner then you should put practicality before all else and buy the proper kit so that seams are in the right place and fabrics are hydrophilic and whisk away moisture. So I am going to suggest a few places that you may or may not have already heard of. They all produce catalogues so you can see the range and decide if it's right for you. Elle Active does an entire range of "proper" sportswear just for women that has a strong fashion element to it (tel: 0171 436 0222 e-mail: elleactive@aol.com); Ronhill (tel: 0161 366 5020) makes "serious" athletic wear for women; Body Control Pilates (tel: 01858 469588 www.bodycontrolclothing. com) does more fashiony stuff. If anyone else has found running kit for women that is a) practical and b) different then let us all know!

A good friend and I have both got very awkward bra sizes - 30/32E - and find it impossible to find anything that does not look like a shopping basket! Is there anywhere that we can find pretty, not too expensive (under pounds 20 if possible) but properly fitting bras? That can also be worn under strappy tops/dresses with narrow straps? We would be so excited if you could help us. Thank you.

Love M and R, Bristol

PS: Please don't print our surnames as we are students and will never live it down if anyone sees them in the paper.

Not only that, but I have not put your Christian names either. Although now that your letter is printed you'll wish your names were there because fame will have got to you. The first thing I must say is that you will either have to wear a properly fitting and supportive bra or wear a strappy one. There is no such thing in an E cup that is both. Sure you can get good bras in that size that have pretty straps but, to do their job they will have to have some substance to them. Having said that, there are few things sexier than an exposed bra strap. I would suggest you get the Bravissimo catalogue (tel: 0181 742 8882). They have a particularly nice style just in by Freya and it is very pretty in ice blue or a coral colour (although it is called "sasha orange") and certainly the straps would be no shame to show. It comes in sizes 30DD-38FF and costs pounds 26 which I know is a bit over what you wanted to spend but good bras cost. Bravissimo also has other styles that would suit your needs.

I like visiting gardens but find it advisable to carry waterproofs. The top half is no problem but I prefer a skirt and I cannot get a waterproof overskirt. (My last one was stolen last "summer".) Overskirts seem no longer to be made. Can you help?

Bridget H Poore, Warrington, Cheshire

I have searched high and low for you, Bridget, to no avail whatsoever. The only thing I can advise is buying waterproof fabric and making it up yourself or having it done for you by a dressmaker. You can get the fabric from Pennine Outdoor in West Yorkshire; they can send you fabric samples and a recent listings catalogue (tel: 01484 689100). They're very helpful: if you tell them what you want it for they'll be able to advise on just the right fabric. If anyone thinks they know where you can get a cagoule skirt, do share.

I'm desperately looking for a pair of skin-toned tights made with eczema sufferers in mind. What I need is something cotton or at least something which lets the skin breathe a bit easier than the usual nightmare nylons. Any ideas?

Tilly Victor, via e-mail

When you say skin tone I am presuming you mean tights that are a) skin tone and b) quite sheer. Sheer cotton rich tights are (as far as I can tell) impossible to find because cotton fibre is quite bobbly and does not make for a very attractive sheer hose. But Wolford, makers of some of the best tights, does an 80 denier Cotton Velvet tight that comes in skin tone (bearing in mind I don't know what tone your skin is but they come in lots of colours) that is 52 per cent cotton and that is woven right through (unlike some tights that say they contain cotton but actually just have a cotton gusset and foot bit), price pounds 22 from most department stores (tel: 0171 935 9202). John Lewis does its own brand Jonelle cotton- mix opaque that has 53 per cent cotton and costs pounds 4.45. Funn (tel: 01903 892 841) makes pure cotton stockings from pounds 6. Incidentally, anyone wanting to contact The Eczema Society can do so on 0171 388 4097 (www.eczema.org). It has a list of clothing manufacturers that make cotton- rich garments.

Send your fashion problems to: Dear Annie, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, or fax them on: 0171 293 2043. E-mail: annie@independent.co.uk

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