dear annie

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Indy Lifestyle Online
My fashion/comfort problem is as follows, and the recent brief spell of hot weather has made it worse.As soon as the temperature rises I start to wear open-toed Birkenstock sandals (once worn, never forgotten for sheer comfort) on my bare feet. Where's the problem in that, I hear you ask? Well, first, I'm a man, and while it seems perfectly okay to dress like this in leisure time, I am uncertain about the reaction I would receive at work (a local government office) if I were to turn up exposing my toes. Employer dress codes are not helpful on this one. My girlfriend says my feet look good in sandals and that I should just do it. But I feel men in sandals still have slightly odd associations despite current fashion trends, so will I be mocked by colleagues if I take the plunge? Am I destined for another summer of looking enviously at female colleagues' cool sandalled feet while mine boil in their socks and shoes? I would be grateful for some advice. Thank you.

Mark Johnson, Bath

What odd associations do you have of men in sandals? Will your colleagues mock you? Only out of jealousy. I know what you mean about Birkenstocks, they are blissfully comfortable to wear (for those that would like to try them out, call 0800 132194 for details of your nearest stockist). I see no reason at all why you shouldn't wear them to work; local government offices aren't that strict on dress codes surely? I bet you'll start a trend - sometimes you men can be like sheep, it takes one with enough confidence to try something different and then you all follow. If you really can't wear them, or need something smarter for other occasions, try sandals that are enclosed but have bits cut out of them (how else can I describe these fellows? I hope you know what I mean). Ferragamo has done some very stylish, but expensive, ones (call 0171 629 5007 for a catalogue and details of mail order). The key to wearing these well is: never wear sandals (or shoes for that matter) that are lighter than your trousers - darker, yes, but not lighter, otherwise you will look like a prat. Where can I find a body with bust support that I can wear as a sleeveless top? Stripes would be great. All I can find are white lacy numbers or T-shirts that require a bra. Swimsuits, however, come in glorious colours and patterns - why doesn't a manufacturer just add poppers? Please help, I've tried M&S, BhS, Debenhams, Selfridges, River Island, Dorothy Perkins, Next and Dash. I'm a size 14. Do catalogues have any?

Caroline Currie, Salisbury

Well, I haven't found a stripey one but I can tell you, almost exclusively, that Marks & Spencer has just launched a "secret support" range which consists of bodies, camis and slips with a hidden bra to give support, um, secretly. Prices start at pounds 17 and they come in black or white. They're only available in selected stores, but will be on sale nationwide in September. Call 0171 268 4174 to find out if your local branch stocks them. And what's wrong with wearing a swimsuit? If you need to go to the toilet you just yank the gusset aside. Don't be horrified, everyone does it.

I need a few crisp white shirts and maybe the odd cream or pale blue one. I hate shopping and hope to buy a batch of shirts that will stay looking gorgeous for a long time. In the past I've had problems finding shirts that fit well because 1) all cotton shirts shrink, but not all by the same amount and 2) shops won't let you try on before you buy and 3) many shops don't do different sleeve lengths. I'm 45, slim and tall and spend most of my working day in shirt and tie with no jacket. I don't mind paying for quality but have no interest in labels for their own sake. Altogether I'm bewildered by the choice and hope you can help by guiding me to something really stylish.

David, London

Well, my personal favourites are from agnes b, who do a classic one-pocket shirt for men (and a similar style for women). They don't come in different arm lengths but, for me, it is the definitive shirt. The "handle" of the shirt is exceptional, due to the weight of the cotton used (it's meaty), its styling is simple and it wears well. They come in white or pale blue, cost pounds 79 and are available from the London branches in Westbourne Grove, Hampstead Heath Road, and Floral Street (tel: 0171 379 1992 for further information). They will certainly let you try on before you buy. I am also rather confused that your shirts shrink: because mine never do, even though I put my cotton ones in at a boil wash. What do you do with them? (And I mean that kindly.) For something a bit different, but extremely good, try the shirts in the Wealth of Nations catalogue (0171 371 5333). Although most aren't designed to be worn with a tie (but they are still most definitely worth a look) there is one: the Indian poplin shirt which costs pounds 35 and is made of pure cotton (in white or pale blue). It's very smart but has a very original gathered back yoke (although you might find this too wussy).

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