Ready to wear: dear annie

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I desperately need to stock up on bras, but the type I need just isn't to be found anywhere in Scandinavia, England or the US. I have rather sloping shoulders and have problems with straps slipping down all the time, so I need a v-backed model, but the only ones I can find are heavy sports bras with broad straps like safety belts. Do you know of any company in London which makes or sells an ordinary, elegant Y-backed bra? It could be just a plain lycra model or something lacy, it really doesn't matter. As long as it doesn't look or feel like a medieval torture instrument or something for hauling sacks of coal!

Lovis Holm-Jorgensen, Copenhagen

I'm honoured to have a reader from so far away. I'd have thought the easiest option for you - as it gives you more choice - is either to tie your back straps together with a little piece of ribbon or to sew the back straps together for an inch or so. This is easy and comfortable, just adjust the straps, allowing extra length so that they don't cut into you when they're joined and sew at about the point where the straps would rest in between your shoulder blades. Another option is to buy a multi-way bra so that you can have the straps cross over at the back. Berlei does one in black, white or pearl, which is a very simple, underwired satin style and comes in sizes 32-38 ABC (Euro size 70-85 ABC) and costs pounds 13.99. Berlei is sold in most department stores, but call 01525 851007 for further details. Warners also does a lovely, simple one in their Not So Innocent Nudes range. It is called the Racing Back bra and comes in 32", 34" and 36" (no cup sizes), costs pounds 15 and is available in skintone and black, from department stores, tel 01159 795796. Triumph also does lots of Y-backed bras, some are a bit "beefy" as they are for high impact sports, but four styles which are slightly more "delicate" are as follows. The Tri-Action 4002 (pounds 26; white, black; 32-42 BCD) and the Tri-Action 4003 (pounds 20; white, black; 34"-40") are both more like cropped tops. The Tri-Action 5001 is a very simple bra (pounds 16; white only; 32"-40" BCD) and the Tri-Action 5002 has pretty lacy inserts (pounds 19; white only; 32"-38" AB and 32"-40" CD). All are available from department stores, tel: 01793 720330. Incidentally, it has come to my attention that a lot of heterosexual men, with no interest in fashion at all, read this column (yes Rob of London, I'm talking about you and your friends) for mentions of lingerie and hosiery. So, this is especially for you boys: cups, straps, stockings, suspenders, bras, fastenings, lace, silk, front fastening, back fastening, no fastening, seamed. PS: there's a big wide world out there.

Further to your answer about woollen tights: I have worn them for 20 years and always used to buy Elbeo brand (50 per cent-60 per cent wool) which were in rib and plain styles with good colour range and a reasonable price. But recently they stopped making them. Perhaps you could find out why? The other solution is to go on a holiday to New Zealand in the autumn, as a wool-producing country they have a good selection. I am especially happy with Forme brand (50 per cent wool, 47 per cent nylon, 5 per cent lycra) plain knit. They are made by LWR Hosiery, PO Box 2087, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Mrs C Howe, Co Tyrone

I contacted Elbeo and you are right, they have stopped doing them and have been replaced by a new range of cotton rich opaques which they found more versatile as they crossed the seasons. But thank you for your tip on Forme.

I have been looking for a coat recently but I can't find the type I want. The coat I would like is like the one Julia Ormond wears in the film Captives. It's a long (mid shin) black coat and looks more like a very long cardigan. It looks as though it is made of wool and is fairly thin and straight. If you could tell me where I could find a similar coat I'd really appreciate it. I wouldn't mind if the coat had a slit at the back or not, but I'd like it to be black and fairly light-weight.

Pearl, Brighton

My, my - you do all watch a lot of flicks out there. I know exactly what you mean and luckily this is a big look for autumn (we shall shortly be doing a "big cardi" feature, so look out for that). I am also fond of unstructured coats. Nicole Farhi has a gorgeous knitted wool boucle single breasted one which costs pounds 449 and comes in earthy colours and charcoal (although not black). Your nearest stockist is Chauvinist, 46 Oxford Street, Southampton (Nicole Farhi's number is 0171 499 8368). Joseph (0171 823 9500) have done a slimmer fitting one in black or ecru alpaca, it's a wide rib wool and costs pounds 260. Maxmara have a tweed knit very long one, again slim fitting but it only comes in brown boucle and costs pounds 465 (0171 287 3434 for nearest stockists).

Annie needs you!

I have received heaps of letters from people with bigger than average feet (thank you to Diana from Nottingham for the lifesize drawing of your right foot). If you manufacture or sell larger sized footwear, for both men and women, or if you have big feet and have found a solution, please write to me at the address below. Diana and those like her, please be patient. I'll reply soon. Watch this big space.

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