Help! I've been invited to the birthday party of a style journalist, and being a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of girl I do not have a thing to wear. In Nottingham, we don't have that much to dress up or down for. I've been through my wardrobe, and the only thing that looks halfway decent is a man's tuxedo of mine. Would that be acceptable without people thinking I was cross-dressing? Give me a hint about shoes too, please. It's either Doc Martens or stilettos with me, and I've a feeling high heels are a bit out of date.

Yours desperately, Michelle, Nottingham

n Well, as such, high heels are not at all passe. OK, this tuxedo business. This could look great, but not if you wear it exactly like a man would. Use a little irony: a very long white shirt, with tails left hanging out, cuffs pulled through the sleeves and plimsolls (or substitute the shirt for one of your T-shirts, unironed). Or be ultra slick, with a buttoned-up tux and a white or black polo neck (very The Saint). Only very foolish people will think you are cross-dressing. Neither Doc Martens nor stilettos are really right, but at a push go with the DMs. Of course, if you want to get dressed-up in the more conventional sense then go to M&S and buy one of their fab Tactel slips. Get the one in black, very long (it has shoestring straps), and wear it with biker boots. It only costs about pounds 20. Or buy the short version and wear with your high heels.

How do you care for buck leather? I recently bought a pair of black ankle boots which I sprayed with matt leather dressing before wearing. Now, after several wearings, they have become a little marked and I'd like to know the best way to keep them clean.

Val Bardsley (Mrs), Norwich

n Buck, or nubuck leather needs special care as it is more delicate than conventional leather and suedes. Try Meltonian's Suede and Nubuck Cleaning Block (pounds 2.45). It removes spots and stains, and is suitable for any colour. When suede and nubuck becomes worn, it is susceptible to shiny bald patches, just like tired old men, and this block restores texture (to shoes not heads). On lighter-coloured nubuck, you might try dusting with talc and then brushing off, or cleaning over a steaming kettle. You hold the shoe over the steam, moving slowly and brushing. In both cases use a very soft brush not a suede brush.

Hello. I've been watching reruns of the Avengers and now lust after a Victorian-style smoking-jacket. Who makes them?

Robert Ashdown, Dorset

n Thank you for your card. You sound a fine fellow. I feel I have failed in that I have not found any stockists near you. Try markets and antique- clothing shops. Favourbrook in London do a few styles you may like. I realise they are not near you, but if you call them they can send you a small catalogue showing you a selection of garments, including two smoking-jackets (0171-491 2337). Prices start at pounds 380. I hope you do occasionally come to London, or I shall have been of no help.

I was also very inspired by Pride and Prejudice (Dear Annie, 26 November). How can I add subtle Regency touches to my everyday dress without looking like I am in costume? And is it appropriate ever to show that much bosom during the day?

Paula Murray, London

n There should be no shame in displaying bosoms, but we live in a strange world. Show your tits and you are regarded as a loose woman. Strange then that in Jane Austen's day, when people didn't even kiss before marriage, so much flesh was shown. My advice would be to not show that much bosom during the day, save it for the evening. As for adding Regency touches, well, anything empire line will now elicit cries of "Oh, very Jane Austen". Try Ghost and Dorothy Perkins, where I bought a navy viscose empire line dress for under pounds 40. You may also like to try cutting old cardigans to just under the breast level. I did this many moons ago with an old putty- coloured scoop-neck button-front body. It was never any good as a body, so I cropped it, making it into no more than a pair of sleeves. This proved to be a most useful garment while lifting baby piglets. Then I started wearing it with my empire line dress and a new look was born.

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. Annie regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence


Would you dare to go to work wearing this outfit? Talk about commanding respect, the woman who wears this would brook no arguments and would relegate you to the wastepaper bin of mankind as soon as look at you. It is a devilishly sexy outfit, hinting at all sorts of naughty things, and has to be made to order (these things have to fit, nothing worse than baggy leather) in leather so soft that it will make your bottom lip tremble. Make sure you can handle the inevitable fwoarrs and catcalls you will get - there isn't that much flesh on show, and certainly no cleavage, but if there were such a thing as a body glove this would be it. It may surprise you to find that it's by Amanda Wakeley, purveyor of all things glamorous and ladylike. But we all have darker sides. AB

Amanda Wakeley spruce leather T-shirt and knee-length skirt, to order from 80 Fulham Road, London SW3 (Telephone: 0171-584 4009)


This is a true story. Many years ago, behind the scenes of my first catwalk show, a model stopped me and rested her ashtray on my head while, with one hand on my shoulder, she wrestled her shoe on to her foot. When she was done she said, "Thank you sweetie", and carried on. When you are ever so small, life can be tough. Not least with clothes: a great many things you can get away with wearing a trifle baggy; it can even look sweet. With evening dresses, however, it is not attractive to look like you shrank in the wash. This Jessica Rabbit dress, in red brocade, is from the Principles autumn/ winter '95 Petites Collection in a cotton- mix fabric. Bouff your hair up, knock back a Jack Daniel's and no one will rest anything on your head, save perhaps a tiara. AB

Red brocade Principles Petites bustier dress, pounds 70, sizes 6-14 (0171- 927 1443 for stockists)