READY TO WEAR: dear annie

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I wear a lot of black and am forever getting fluff on my clothes, which looks awful. None of those brushes advertised as de-fluffers work. Is there any way to look well groomed?

C Forbes (Ms), Bristol

5 Those brushes that promise all sorts of pick-up qualities are crap. The best, cheapest, and only way to defluff is to get some good old parcel tape (sticky tape will do too, but parcel tape tends to be more adhesive and covers more square inches at a time). Take a length of tape and wrap it round your hand and then just work your way over the garment. Easy- peasy and bloody cheap.

My boyfriend has unbearably smelly feet. This is a shame since he has beautiful taste in footwear, wearing bespoke brogues for work, but at home he wears those "Old Skool" trainers. I am unsure if the trainers are causing the problems because all his shoes smell. He won't think of wearing special insoles or anything like that. What can I do?

A Ellis (Ms), Penzance

5 This is a problem I sympathise with, having had a boyfriend whose feet smelled so bad I thought there was going to be a ghostly manifestation every time he took his shoes off. If your boyfriend can afford bespoke brogues, a suitable solution may be found from an Italian company called Ermenegildo Zegna. They make "shoe refreshers" that are basically little cashmere pouches containing herbs which evoke "the smell of the woods of northern Italy". They cost about pounds 100 and are available to order (tel: 0171-497 0001). Bodyshop also sell "Cedarwood Socks" for pounds 6.45. Or you could try washing the trainers (if they are washable) in vodka, said to neutralise all nasty whiffs. This is an old wives' tale I have never tried on trainers, and I would be interested to know if it works. Tell him to be careful dropping his cigarette butts, though. A smelly-footed boyfriend is a drag; a spontaneously combusting one is momentarily amusing, but ultimately not recommended.

I like to wear waistcoats, but how can I avoid looking too masculine and square-shaped?

B Hart (Mrs), Surrey

5 You're a woman and a mere waistcoat is not going to turn you into a man. If, however, you don't want to revel in this masculine attire, I could advise you to choose a namby-pamby girlie-typewaistcoat or to wear a silk blouse underneath. But I am not going to. A well-cut waistcoat with either (a) nothing on underneath (weather and upper arm flab permitting) or (b) a crisp white shirt and severe hairstyle will work wonders. The first option, when coupled with some well-displayed cleavage, will certainly shoot down any gender questions, and will not make you look square-shaped unless you are really unfortunately formed, in which case the cleavage will divert attention away from any sharp corners. The second, if correctly done, is very comfortable and can hint at the dominatrix in you, which, we are led to believe, some men find rather exciting.

How do I iron a shirt properly?

Mr Lewis, Bayswater

5 I defer to an expert for this. Iain Weir, general manager of London's premier drycleaners, Tothills, advises: "First, use a good padded ironing- board and a fine-mist water sprayer, in addition to a steam iron. Start with the collar, then the cuffs, then the sleeves. (This prevents the shirt from being crushed; if you do the collar last, you will crease the rest of the shirt.) Then, with the shirt unbuttoned and the button side up, iron the body of the shirt, working the fabric away from you as you do so. And always check the temperature of the iron is suitable to the shirt." Mr Weir's branch alone handles 600 to 800 shirts a week, more shirts than I plan to iron in a lifetime. For pounds 3.65 a shirt, Tothills will launder and hand-iron your shirt, and you will get it back either hung on a tissue-padded hanger or beautifully folded with tissue paper and cardboard neck support, and sealed in a cellophane bag. Cheap at the price, if you ask me. Express service costs extra. Telephone 0171-252 0100.

I have several posh events to go to and have bought two shift dresses, one in pink and one in gold. I can't afford much but would like one jacket to wear over both. I thought a smart cream jacket would be the best choice but cannot find one anywhere.

Polly Philips, St Ives

5 As you seem to have tried everywhere I would have recommended for you to buy one, the only solution is to have one tailor-made for you. This isn't as expensive as you may think. A local dressmaker would be able to adapt a pattern (see the pattern-books in your local department store) if you can't find one that is exactly right. But far simpler and cheaper is to consider ditching the notion of a cream jacket and buying two metres of chiffon or organza (about pounds 6 a metre for very acceptable synthetic versions) in whatever colour(s) you choose to drape around your shoulders. Very Romeo Gigli, and far more stylish and romantic.