ready to wear: dear annie

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I am at my wit's end. I am 24, size 22 and 5ft 4in and I am finding it impossible to buy a winter coat. Although a lot of shops have good outsize ranges, they don't extend to a warm winter coat. I do hope you can help or it will be a very long, cold winter. My budget is around pounds 100.

Sarah Horne, London

Something very odd happens with supposed "outsize" ranges, either they stop at a size 20 or they do not do coats. Why is this? Well Evans have four fab coats for under pounds 100. The first is a black classic double-breasted one, in 70 per cent wool, 10 per cent cashmere and 20 per cent nylon comes in sizes 16-30 and costs pounds 95; a short black velvet swing coat in 100 per cent cotton velvet (might not be what you're looking for, but good for evening), pounds 99, sizes 16-28; black fake fur collar coat, sizes 16-30, pounds 99 and finally they have done a black wool swing coat with a scarf in 10 per cent cashmere, 70 per cent wool, 20 per cent nylon, sizes 16-30, pounds 95. Call 0171 927 3825 for stockist information. I'm sorry I can't give you more in your price range, but there just doesn't seem to be any. If there are any manufacturers or shops out there who can help Sarah, and I am sure many like her, get in touch with me and I'll pass the info on.

As a Pride and Prejudice addict, I was transfixed by the sight of Colin Firth's frothy white shirt collars. I am not sure exactly what they are called (stock, jabot or what?) but I cannot imagine any man would not be improved by a similar garment. Are such things still available and would you have to have a manservant to help you get into it in the morning?

Robert Millan, Putney

Well, a stock collar is like a strip of fabric worn around the collar (like in riding dress or a clerical collar) and a jabot is the spill of lace you would get in Highland dress or the frill on the front of a man's shirt. It is a most romantic style of shirt, conjuring up images of Mr Rochester and, as you say, Darcy types. In fact when I first met my husband he was wearing a frilly shirt, which, coupled with a bristly attitude was most attractive. Anyway, these shirts are not easy to get hold of. Angels & Bermans, costumiers to the entertainment industry, told me that it is a period shirt from 1810 and the collar is referred to as a Byron collar - not the official name for it, this is just how it was referred to at the time. They do one which you can hire (and thus you can see how it goes) for pounds 17.50 plus a deposit from Angels & Berman, 119 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2 (tel: 0171 836 5678). They do the costumes for various films, which you can hire for fancy dress afterwards (currently in are the ones from Braveheart and Golden Eye) so it well worth a visit anyway. As far as buying one goes, Romeo Gigli has one (South Molton Street, W1) for pounds 110 but it does not have the frilly bit, but I am sure you could customise it with bits of old sheet.

I have a pair of white leather loafers which I wore quite a lot in the summer, but am loathe to get rid of them, even though I know they will be quite passe by next summer. They are still in good repair, so is it sensible to dye them black, so as to get some winter wear out of them, and if so how would you recommend going about it? They have a one inch heel in pale, varnished wood.

Susie Thomson, East Sheen

You are right to dye them, dyeing, whether it be shoes or clothes, is an easy and cheap way to revitalise your wardrobe and a trick that not enough people make use of. Dylon Shoe Colour make a whole heap of dyes for shoes, in lots of colours to suit satin, suede and leather shoes. It costs pounds 2.99 and gives a long-lasting finish that doesn't crack or peel. Dylon have also given me a handy hint to create a mock croc effect which you may like to try, which involves painting the dye over an orange nettting bag. As for the heel, this will look odd if you dye your white shoes black, so why not either dye your shoes brown so that the heel can stay how it is, or dye them black and do one of the following with the heel. You could either paint them (get one of those little pots from your DIY or art shop, make sure it is suitable for wood), or you can stain them with wood stain, or you could try just brushing black shoe polish into them. I find this is sometimes enough to darken the heel.Dylon have a brilliant consumer advice line that can advise you on any aspect of dyeing shoes or clothes with their dyes. Call them on 0181 663 4296.

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