Sleek and simple is a look I haven't managed since I sat my A- levels, discovered boys and started eating normally. One minute I was slinking around in my Breakfast at Tiffany's-style black sleeveless number with my mother's black suede elbow-length gloves (and this was just for an English class) and the next ... things just didn't fit the same. Sleek is not a look that lends itself to tugging at your clothes or undoing your waistband. Sleek is also not a huge look this autumn - designers would rather we festoon ourselves with leaves, tooled leather shoes and stripey scarves. But sanity comes in the shape of the funnel neck. This is the neck shape to go for - forget polo, turtle or V-necks and don't worry because - unless you have an Anne Boleyn neck - it suits everyone. It is a gloriously understated detail, which is the trademark of the truly chic.

But there are various rules with even the most simple of looks. One: no fluff. Lakeland Ltd (tel: 015394 88100) makes some marvellous things called Sticki-Mitts, pounds 1.95 for 20, which you slip over your hand to pick up fluff and hair and leave your outfit super slick (parcel tape works too although these are easier to use). Two: think of your underwear (see opposite, below) - nothing ruins a good look faster than crap teeny pants and too-tight or seamed bras. I would avoid, at almost all costs, strapless bras under a pared-down silhouette. To stay in place they have to squeeze some part of you in, which means that another part will ooze out somewhere else. Bear this in mind also with "body control" garments - the payoff with a tummy-flattening pant is that it will give you a spare tyre or bulging thighs. This doesn't mean you can't wear them, just don't buy too tight. They're meant to flatten and gently control, not magically turn a size 16 body into a size 8. Finally, watch out for the first ever bra with stretch padded cups, which is launched in November - the Super Soft by Triumph. It will cost approx pounds 25, the stretch cups will ensure a perfect, wrinkle-free fit, and the light padding will hide nipple show- through.

Caption: Black sleeveless funnel neck top (sizes 8-14), pounds 65, Strenesse Blue, Harrods, London SW1 (tel: 0171 287 6767). Mink wool skirt (sizes 10-14), pounds 120, Godfrey, 44-46 Riding House Street, London W1 (tel: 0171 323 5050).

Cream boiled-wool dress (sizes 8-16), pounds 135, Whistles, 19 Hill Street, Richmond Upon Thames TW9 (tel: 0171 487 4484). Red leather ankle boots (sizes 4-7), pounds 249, Strenesse, Harrods, London SW1 (tel: 0171 287 6767).

Brown wool funnel neck top (sizes 8-14), pounds 365, Lanvin, Harvey Nichols, London SW1 (tel: 0171 235 5000). Cream moleskin trousers (sizes 8-14), pounds 170, Patrick Cox, 129 Sloane Street, London SW1. 81 King Street, Manchester (tel: 0171 730 8886). Black flat shoes (sizes 31/2- 7), pounds 99.50, Russell & Bromley, 24-25 New Bond Street, London W1 (tel: 0171 629 6903).

Grey fly front shirt (sizes 8-16), pounds 69.95, Press & Bastyan, 22 South Molton Street, London W1. 22 Princes Square, Buchanon Street, Glasgow (tel: 01622 763211). Pale-grey wool split skirt (sizes 8-14), pounds 80, Karen Millen, 22-23 James Street, London WC2. 6 Bold Street, Liverpool (tel: 01622 664032). Black leather kitten heel boots (sizes 3-8), pounds 415, Jimmy Choo, 20 Motcomb Street, London SW1 (tel: 0171 235 0242).

Cream cashmere diamante top (sizes 8-14), pounds 320, Patrick Cox, 129 Sloane Street, London SW1. 81 King Street, Manchester (tel: 0171 730 8886). Beige wool trousers with turn up (sizes 8-14), pounds 128, John Rocha, 60F Sloane Avenue, London SW3. Lynx, 20 West Park, Harrogate (tel: 0171 838 0017). Olive green leather ankle boots (sizes 3-8), pounds 325, Jimmy Choo, 20 Motcomb Street, London SW1 (tel: 0171 235 0242).

Red wool dress (sizes 8-16), pounds 70, Warehouse, 19-21 Argyll Street, London W1. 30 King Street, Manchester (tel: 0207 841 3000). Black faux ponyskin boots (sizes 3-8), pounds 225, Russell & Bromley, 24-25 New Bond Street, London W1 and selected branches (tel: 0171 629 6903).